Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lolly-Gagging and Librivox

WOW!  Exactly 7 weeks since my last post.  I haven't exactly been lolly-gagging, just musing, coasting, groping my way, "seeing through a glass darkly".  After watching Maxie's agility performance deteriorate these past 8 months or so (poorer times, skipping the weaves), and observing his erratic behavior at home (skulking off into other rooms and hiding in corners to sleep), I have known something is wrong.  I took him to the doggie chiropractor who said several things were out of place but she said she put them back and gave me the green light to continue performing, with the admonition not to let him jump off the king-size bed any more!

But I lolly-gagged in getting him checked out further.  Plenty of other things intervened.  Finally I had to bring FoohFooh in with an infected toenail and bad limp, so Maxie came along, got some bloodwork done and a general checkup.  I found out he has inflamed gums and a few loose teeth, and perhaps a few compressed disks!  I scheduled a tooth cleaning for the next day. They ended up keeping him overnight because during the cleaning, 8 teeth fell out and they had to pull 8 more.  Little 7 lb. Maxie was on a morphine drip overnight, and lost 16 teeth!  I was absolutely sick.  Also, they put him on some liver meds to see if his numbers there might clear up in a month or so, otherwise they will have to do more!  And he's going back to the chiropractor this weekend, since one will be at our trial.

This has taken the wind out my sails.  I didn't realize how much I feed on Maxie's enthusiasm.  His comportment has always been "teach me something, Mommy, teach me something NOW!".  Most of the time nowadays,  he's just content to rest or look at me. He still runs, plays and eats well, but not with the same intensity.

Of course, there is still Lucky Lucy, always wanting to tug and retrieve, go for walks, etc.  Depending upon me so much for her entertainment.  I throw the ball for her and she stays in shape leaping over the 30" fence several times a day to retrieve her ball.  (Retrieving is great when the dog brings you back the ball -- all you have to do is stand there!)  But it's not enough.  She needs more.

And then there is Pepper.    What a sweetheart, but I'm not sure I can go the distance to train him as an agility dog.  He does all the full height equipment, and we play around, but he just doesn't get the sequencing.  He loves to tug, and to chase the ball, too, but doesn't bring it back.  And, he doesn't beg to be trained like the other two.  It is not imperative to me, I'm realizing, to have a third agility dog.

And then, my vegetable garden has kept me occupied, plus making jellies and pickles.  I'm working on a single post that will cover the entire season's harvest in pictures. Here's one day's worth.  Isn't it beautiful?

And then I've discovered how much I love to record audio books.  That sucks up a lot of my time, but it's so fascinating.  In honor of my deceased father, an avid sailor and seaman, who treasured Moby Dick, Treasure Island, and all the old sea adventure books, I'm solo recording Jules Verne's  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea for Librivox.  It is a HUGE project, a real challenge, and I'm only half-way through!  It will probably take me through December to complete it.  I also record short stories and segments for several of Librivox's collaborative projects.  What fun, to record, also to listen.  I stream free audio books on my iPhone (through iTunes) almost every night, while driving, in the dentist's chair, etc.  So does John.  I can listen while washing dishes, sweeping, weeding the garden, etc. FREE Librivox audio books have supplanted Netflix as our entertainment of choice!  We are having a blast catching up on all the classic literature we never found time to read in our long working careers. 

For my dog loving friends, here's a wonderful Librivox recording I listened to recently, Jack London's White Fang.  Man, what a dog story! You can download it to your computer, or to iTunes then stream or download to your iPhone, iPad, or mp3 player.  Best of all, it's free!

In any case, this weekend is our local dog club's agility trial and both Maxie and Lucky Lucy are entered.  With little practice under our belts due to heat and so many rainouts, we'll just go and see how we do.  I'm feeling very relaxed and comfortable about it, no matter what the outcome.  But I wouldn't mind a few Q's!

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dog Club Aging, and Mentorship

This is Blog Event Number 7.  Read other agility bloggers' thoughts on Aging here.

Yes, I'm aging and slowing down. My dogs are aging, which at their young ages of 4 and 6 translates into "maturing", which is a good thing.  We hug more and train less and do about as well as before.  But what I want to talk about is dog club aging.

People start dog clubs.  They get fired up, invest in it heavily, create their niches, love their jobs.  It becomes an integral part of their lives.  They open up and invite new members in, but the club always really belongs to them.  It was their dream.  They have history, loyalty, habits . . . . . and set views. And the same people with those same views do the same jobs year after year -- trial chairman, trial secretary, gate steward, chief course builder, instructors, decision makers about equipment purchases, equipment maintenance, equipment storage, where to spend the club's money, who teaches, and what methods are acceptable.  The other members are allowed to scurry around hauling equipment, setting bars, running errands, cutting grass, etc., but they never really get "in".  They are never actively trained to the more challenging positions.  They aren't privy to the decision making process, and especially aren't encouraged to introduce anything new. Those who want to, need to, be more involved, those who thrive on giving and being creative, don't get the chance, so they tend to drift off to more rewarding, fulfilling pursuits.  This goes on fine for quite awhile, but then, the older club members start aging, and the club starts aging.  Without transfusions of new blood, everything ages.

I join clubs to learn, and to share what I've got to offer.  It is as fulfilling to give as to receive. The motto of the computer club I belong to is "sharing the knowledge", and that motto, to me, can't be beat.  To me, clubs are all about sharing knowledge.  Most people, like me, join clubs to find like minded people, also to learn new skills, be useful, and to belong to something I see as culturally important.  I want to improve my community.  In the case of dog agility clubs putting on trials, this includes, well, putting on trials.  If the more experienced people don't take on eager, younger protégés and groom them to those important positions, aging clubs are courting the very real danger that they will eventually, imperceptibly, little bit by little bit, fizzle out and die.

Thus, I recommend dog training clubs turn serious focus towards the concept of "mentorship", not just teaching people how to train their dogs an hour a week, rallying them to wash and load equipment in the truck for trials, set bars, and otherwise just be pleasant and not complain.  Those in charge may not feel themselves to be responsible for passing on the important skills.  I've heard more than one of them say "Nobody taught me.  I just got in there and did it."  And that's true.  As pioneers, they had to build something from nothing, they got busy and did it, and loved it.  But most of us are NOT pioneers, and can't be.  The club already exists.  The positions are already filled.  AKC doesn't allow more than one AKC club within a certain geographical radius.  You can ask the trial secretary or other top brass to mentor you, but if they won't do it, you are stuck on the outside, looking in over the fence . . . . Kilroy style.

My advice to dog clugs. Grab ahold of your younger members, and actively teach them how to run your trials and your club.  Give them leaway to ask questions and challenge your methods.   Breathe vitality into your clubs.  Then maybe in a few years you can sit back and just show up for classes, sip your Poweraide, set a few bars, straighten a few chutes, and run your dogs around the courses trying to Q, in ignorant bliss of the heart of the sport like the rest of us.

Upwards and onward,