30 November 2008

Thoughts on Modern Agility Training

Sometimes I think agility trainers are too caught up in speed. Training dogs to run as fast as possible over a plank just so they "associate" it with speed when it's raised up. Weave, weave, as fast as you can. There are one-jump drills, sure, but most other obstacles are all about speed and getting the dog to run manically across.

I don't like that thinking. I don't like the "see wood and run" training. I don't like using lots of jump sequences to train weaves. I don't use purely positive methodology, although I do use modified operant conditioning. I do like to utilize my dogs' brains. I encourage them to think, but allow them to be wrong. I've been training like this for years. I gave up clickers entirely 5 years ago when I realized that as good as my timing is (and I'm good) I could never be fast enough to properly catch a running contact. Instead I relied on my dogs' ability to understand what I was rewarding. And it works great. Dogs are smart. They've been bred to work with people over many many years and uncounted canine generations.

I believe that dogs can work using mostly reward, with some positive punishment (corrections) thrown in. I mark things when my dogs do something wrong, and if they persist in doing something I cannot tolerate, I will correct them for it. No barbed wire or 2-by-4's involved, but punishment nonetheless. But dogs must be trained to tolerate punishment, just as much as they should be trained to understand how to offer behaviors. Many people don't understand how to properly work with a soft dog. A soft dog DOES need rules. A dog who craves being correct more than anything in the world will succeed if given strict definitions of correct vs incorrect. Because they will be able to choose the right behavior. A soft dog who is rewarded for everything, including contradictory behavior, will soften further and lose drive, as they will become unsure of what is wanted from them. When I get a pup who seems soft, I take care to instill drive to overcome correction in them. I correct them gently but firmly, then ask them to perform the task again and reward for appropriate attempts. Believe it or not, this eventually builds drive. Kiba used to run away when I so much as looked at her wrong, now she is beating Drifter's times on some courses.
I do also believe it is much harder to start correcting a soft dog who is already grown up and confused and lacking drive.

Another belief of mine is that confidence is the greatest builder of speed there is. I do not babysit any obstacles for safety reasons. Instead I teach them to get on properly from any angle, starting from a standstill and working out. I do not encourage my dogs to run flat-out the first time they get on something. I do not work on weave entries in long speedy sequences. I start slow. On leash. Walking back and forth on the dogwalk or aframe till the dog is confident and relaxed. Only then do I work off leash, and understanding always comes before speed. Another thing I do differently is weave entries. I do not work in a sequence and gradually make it harder. I start with 2-by-2's (again, modified to fit my purposes) and once the dog is comfortably weaving 12 poles unassisted (I despise props of any kind) for a month or so I work on entries. And I start slow. I start with the dog's face pressed right up into the first few poles at a right angle. I am asking them to learn the mechanics and the visuals involved with finding weave entries. And they can learn incredible things. Once my dogs are trained they can generally send from one end of the poles to the other and make the entry.

I don't put out books or videos. Perhaps I should. But I don't. But I also don't follow anyone else's precise methodology. I don't know how many people know how I train. It's a very individual and intuitive thing. Another belief of mine is that every dog is different. All 4 of my dogs get different reward and correction structures applied to their training. A glare that melts Kiba is a severe correction, while that same glare might make Drifter wag his tail (he's a bastard like that).

I may use the winter to consolidate some of my training exercises that I've been using a while. I've certainly had enough young dogs lately to refine them.

Wet again

Well with DJ gone most of the time I've been home, I've managed to blast my way through 29 episodes (45 minutes each - 1 hour on TV), plus 2 Christmas specials (60 minutes - 90 on TV) of Doctor Who. I'm on the 3rd disc of Season 3 :-)

I certainly can be obsessive. When I used to watch anime all the time I would blast through a 50-episode boxed set in 3-4 days (those are 22-24 minutes per episode, 30 on Japanese TV). Less if I was home (like now). Once I finish up the 3rd series I'll have to buy the 4th to watch it properly and make sure BBC America didn't cut anything (or Scifi Channel, which had the original air rights last spring).

It's raining today. There go my hopes of the yard drying out. I had to spend some times tossing toys for my dogs inside, always a dangerous task in my rather tiny living room/kitchen area. I managed to get them all panting at least.

It was very nice to have most of 4 days home (I was home by 9am Thursday morning). I'm not generally able to be sedentary for that long without going a bit mad, but I did it quite easily this week. And so did the dogs, surprisingly. I think Drifter and Kiba are still recovering. Poor things. Drove all the way out to AZ and back via Austin (a 6,000 mile trip, according to my poor van), then 3 days later started trialing again. They really need a week off. And they'll have it. Of course I'll still get them out to run and play, but no work for those two for a few more days. Seri, on the other hand, really needs to get her ass in gear. I'm trailing her with a "serious" mindset this year, and I expect her to step up to the plate and be my team-mate. She started out pretty wild at class last Wednesday so I know she needs some work. I enjoy her though, it's not a task I'm disliking.

Work this week should be ramping up, I may blog less often. We've had a peak season remarkable so far only in its unremarkability. We haven't been slow, necessarily, but we haven't been as slammed as we usually are by now. But we are expecting to receive some diversionary flow from the Home Delivery division Tuesday this week, so that should bury us a bit.

I like pictures, and I have a ton on my hard drive (some completely unsorted). So here's a picture of Drake, still called Coal back then, at 3 and 1/2 weeks:-)

28 November 2008

My camera doesn't like to zoom on frosty mornings. . .

Well I thought it was light out, but camera had other ideas. If I stayed zoomed out it took decent shots, but zooming in gave me a horrible low-light look. One day I'll learn how to use the thing properly (it's a fairly fancy SLR type camera). Here's some pics from this morning. My yard is muddy in the middle so the hard freeze was good because the dogs could play without sinking and making my tiny apartment a total mudhole (I just vacuumed yesterday). I didn't actually kick/throw anything for them because I didn't want them running too hard on the frozen ground, but they got out long enough to putter about and work off their excess frenetic energy.

Drifter is out too, but when I'm not actively entertaining them, he grabs his own toy and just runs around the back corner of the yard. Seri likes to stare at me. Drake putters around. And Kiba wants to KILL the TOY.


Seri's trademark "tell me to do something" stare.
I had to wash it out to see this pic, but isn't she pretty anyway?

Kiba, the delicate flower. (also lightened considerably, sorry).

In this one, Drifter passed by with "his" toy, and Kiba made a grab for it. She missed. Drifter turned his head at the last second. Didn't realize I'd gotten this pic but it's kinda cool!

27 November 2008

Marathons, Slaughter, and a Timelord

I realize that there are more people home on holidays, but do all those extra people really want to watch 12 episodes of the same program? Why are marathons of TV shows a holiday tradition? I don't get it...

I was watching some DVR stuff and then flipped on the NFL game. Great game. (said with a larged dollop of sarcasm). It's the NFL's best team versus the NFL's worst team, also arguably the worst team in the NFL - ever. It's near the end of the 4th, and the score's 47 to 10. I'm surprised Detroit managed 10, actually.

I am pleased, after all, with my decision to stay home. It feels good to laze about, and my dogs are looking like they are pleased as well. Seri, Drifter, and Drake keep piling onto the couch in various arrangements and looking quite content. DJ is off cooking at his parents' today so it's just me till later tonight. Very relaxing. And I think that I am ready for a Doctor Who marathon. Yeah, I know I just made fun of networks for putting on marathons, but it's a little different when you pick the show yourself and play it with no commercials or cuts. I was very disappointed just now watching a DVR'ed show and figuring out halfway through that it had been cut for time. I really really really despise that. If the show is too long for an hour slot, then don't try to cram it in one. Jerks. Anyway. Doctor Who's Fourth Series (that's British for "season" here in the states) just came out on DVD. I haven't purchased it yet, but I am going to work my way back through the first 3 series first. Love this show. One of my absolute favorites on television right now. I could never get that interested in the older series, really they are from before my time, but this newest incarnation is really terrific. It's got great scifi, great "human" stories (yeah so what if some are about aliens!), and a really engrossing undertone of sorrow to the latter episodes.
Oh, and did I mention the 903 year old traveling guy that is quick on his feet and with his tongue? (plus the actor who is currently in the role is kinda cute, for a 38-year-old Scot)

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Good luck to those who are out chasing their last double Q's this weekend!

Holiday Traveling?

I've never been a big fan of holidays. Thanksgiving? To me that means an acknowledgement of the foundation of our country up in New England, and a day off of work (used to be school). Well here I am at work (working today so I can have off tomorrow). And when I get home I have to clean out the car, add the 4th crate back in, do more laundry and pack. No turkey for me, unless I grab a turkey sandwich at Wawa on the way back. Then around 4:30 I plan to leave. I have a hotel in Harrisonburg, about 4.5 hours into the drive, so I only have 3 hours left to cover tomorrow morning.

I have to admit I'm still not sure I want to go. I've got it all planned. I just printed all my directions. I have my reservation and my friend's house lined up. The entries are paid. But I don't know, honestly, if I'd rather drive down there and have fun running my dogs, or stay home and have fun, um, doing nothing for 3 days straight. I checked my calendar. It's been 3 and 1/2 months since I had a full weekend home doing nothing. That's a looooong time and the longest stretch of trialing I've done in several years. The last pseudo-weekend home was mid-September, where I had entered Seri in a local USDAA but she came in heat so I only had the first 2 classes on Saturday with Drifter, then went home.
And now that I've got one day of a trial at least in mid-December (only 2 weeks till I get USDAA again YAY!), I'm not feeling like I'm going to die of boredom if I dont' do this.

Can you tell which way I'm leaning this morning? The prospect of 3 days of blissful NOTHING is starting to look really good, versus a total of 15 hours of driving at a cost of 880 miles to the car (which I assure you, it doesn't need) and about $80 in gas plus $50 for one night of hotel plus gas cost and shuttling 4 dogs around..... all for 6 practice runs? Hmmmm

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ETA at 6:35 I have decided to stay home. I am one to follow my intuition as often as possible, and it's telling me to stay home this time. I can tell I should - thinking about loading up, packing, driving that far is not making me excited. Thinking about lazing around and just letting the dogs run and watching some movies or TV does make me excited.

While I'm at it, I'll explain how I view my own intuition. I am always one to follow a hunch or feeling if I think it makes sense. I feel that my brain often works things out in the back before it delivers the answer to the front, and sometimes the reasoning doesn't make it all the way through. If I have a hunch that I should do something, and I do it, I'm rarely disappointed. This is how I've chosen some of the pups I've gotten as well, and I'm certainly quite happy with them. I chose Drake on a hard to define intuitive impulse. I'd liked him all along, but most logic was pointing to Detour as the proper puppy to take. Detour even resembles his daddy. But no, I was drawn to Drake, and I'm absolutely thrilled I took him. He's perfect. Well, so far.

Anyway, I'm going to take TWO weekends in a row to recoup, recover, relax, and possibly reconnoiter! (sort of like a long recess!)

Sorry.

26 November 2008

A little about me

I haven't taken this test in probably over 10 years now, but it's still a very applicable profile of my personality and habits. Supposedly you don't change much once you hit puberty.
(I did take the entire, full, professional version of this test - called the Meyers-Brigg - not a crappy online one)

Also check out the demographics and political affiliations.
Interesting stuff.

vacation

I got 18 days of vacation from work this year. Not really so bad for a rather mundane clerical job. I've been there over 5 years so I get 3 weeks plus 3 floating holidays (we have no designated sick/personal days since we run a "lean" operation - no extra staff). Our fiscal year runs from June 1st to May 31st, so we are right in the middle right now. This means that all 2008 Regionals and Nationals have all been eating at my vacation days.

Well now I discovered I'm going to be "forced" to use another one. Christmas is on a Thursday this year, and since most people and stores aren't really going to be interested in delivery that Friday, FedEx Ground has decided that they will not be delivering that day. Which means. . . no inbound (morning) shift at work. We are still going to be picking boxes up if anyone specifically requests it, but that's it. So we only need people at the terminal from about 4pm to 9pm. Now, our manager has offered anyone who is interested to come in that day, work a few hours, and go home and get full pay, BUT. . . I have to drive down to MD for the MADness New Years trial that evening. I can't work 9pm then drive 3 hours. No way. So I am taking that day off. It will be NICE to have 2 days in a row of doing nothing, followed by a fun 2-day USDAA Tournament trial, but at the same time I hate to waste vacation days. I may be able to work a day or two extra in December to gain them back. We'll see. Our crazy peak season has not been so crazy yet this year with the economy being down. We're still busier than July, but not as busy as usual for November.

Motel 6, you may be my new best friend

I have never been fond of dirtbag cheap ugly hotels. But Motel 6 may be my new best friend. I was definitely pleased to find that the cheap one last weekend was reasonably clean and comfortable (actually it was pretty damn clean, but reasonably comfortable, which is all I could hope for!).
So this weekend I was thinking I might actually go down and run all 3 days. It will be fun to run all 3 days pushing my dogs and not worrying too much about Q'ing. And I can cheer on my friends.
If I can't find a friend's house to stay at, I may end up in another Motel 6! Or possibly a Super 8 or Red Roof, but I have to say that Red Roof's don't seem to be the "clean, cheap alternative" anymore - their prices are pretty close to everyone else's lately.

Also, the Ohio trial in January that I'm looking at has a Motel 6 nearby - for a whopping $35.99 a night! holy crap! We don't have hotels that cheap around here! So I'm not too worried anymore about finding a room-mate for that trial if it's only gonna cost me $70 for both nights.

I drove the van into work today because DJ is off doing other stuff after work. I listened closely to the engine and didn't really hear whatever I thought I heard the other day. I'm convinced now that I was just used to hearing audiobook up loud + highway noise, and when I slowed down the slight humming that accompanies acceleration sounded "different" somehow. Anyway. I'm not worrying about it. Today I have clean out the car, including all the accumulated odds and ends from the last month (including bits from AZ that I still haven't gotten out) and put the 4th crate back in. Traveling with 4 dogs is definitely a little bit of a challenge, but doable. Just walk in shifts and hope the youngster doesn't puke in his crate!

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I decided to enter the TNT Canines trial in Dillsburg in 2+ weeks. It doesn't have any tournaments, and I only entered Saturday, but they do have double games so Saturday has every single class. Seri will be running ALL of them - so excited to run her again, she's such a blast! I entered Kiba in 3 classes and Drifter in 2, just to get them out somewhere. I couldn't afford to enter 3 dogs in 5 classes each. I'd go broke. Plus I'd die of exhaustion. 15 classes in 8 hours? no thanks! We don't have those sorts of trials around here often. I hope they don't overfill and run till 9 or 10. The indoor has a few heaters, but I couldn't really call it "heated", and it's kind of dirty, so I'm thinking without the tournaments it shouldn't draw too many extra people.

25 November 2008

Smoking is Stupid

Sunday at Springfield, following my "did he or didn't he? he did!!!" standard Q in the morning. . . They were setting the JWW course. I was standing ringside planning out my handling. I had just finished packing my crates and stuff in the car, along with the dogs - the sun outside was strong enough that the van (dark blue) was keeping warm. So I'm standing there, trying to decide where to front cross on a 180 or if I should rear cross down the first line to put less pressure on the bars, and suddenly there is this annoying squealing/screeching alarm sound. So the majority of competitors who are just hanging around stop and look up, and sure enough, there are flashing lights and a horribly loud high-pitched alarm going on. So we all kind of stand there for a few seconds, looking for smoke or fire or something. Nobody saw anything. But then someone from the trial came on the loudspeaker and told us we had to evacuate. Surprisingly everyone stayed very calm, people who had dogs inside walked over and quickly got them out, and we all left the building. I was very glad i had already put mine outside so I didn't have to worry about it. I went out to the car and read a book for a few minutes. About 5-10 minutes later word passed around (and I could see in my rearview mirror) that people were being allowed back in. So we went back in. They made an announcement that the rings would start up again in about 10 minutes, giving people time to get back in. They also said the fire marshall was impressed with how quickly and calmly we evacuated. He had checked the building and cleared it. I heard later on that some idiot (spectator perhaps?) had been smoking in the bathroom and set off the alarm.

All I could think when I left the building was "I'm going to be SO pissed if I lose a double Q because the damn building burns down!!!"

24 November 2008

Addendum

I have rather painful shin splints today. Started feeling them yesterday. Walking on the concrete of the expo building all day was part of it, but I know they're mainly from running with Drifter outside. AKC (and the expo center too) has strict rules about dogs being off leash. Basically it's not allowed unless you're on the warm up jump or in the ring. So, feeling energetic, I took Drifter outside (in the frigidity) and jogged/ran with him for a while 10-20 minutes before our run in the ring. Helped him warm up and burn off the edge without wearing him out. I felt pretty good. I actually do enjoy running a bit now and then. But I was running on concrete and very frozen flat dirt. So yeah. Shin splints. From what I've read, they are aggravated by weak ankle muscles - another problem I have. My ankles turn occasionally just from weakness.

This is the reason why when I do go out and run, I go to a park to do it. The grass or dirt surface is better cushioned for me than pavement. If I were to run on pavement I'd get shin splints way before the rest of my muscles would be tired (which is what happened this weekend - the whole rest of my body is FINE).

Another painful incident - Saturday after I was done I reached up and grabbed the hatch of my van (no fancy auto-closure on my beast) and I gave it a swift tug - and forgot to step back out of the way. The damn thing slammed onto my left shoulder and left quite a nice bruise. Ouch.

I started listening to Eragon on the way up, and finished the 5th disc on the way back. I don't normally listen to audiobooks when I'm on my own but I don't have any new music CD's and happened to have the book in the car. It's pretty interesting, although certain fantasy cliche's are a little obvious. That's OK. If I go to Danville I should be able to finish most of the book on the way there and back. I should probably get the van serviced this week first. I was worried it was humming a little "off" when I got home last night. Could have been my imagination though.

Springfield Recap (wow!)

Apparently all he needed was some Alone Time. Drifter went 4/4 this weekend, I believe for the first time ever - that's it, he's Q'd for Nationals now. I'm SO relieved! After 3 days of driving him down to the field alone (something I never do) and really working hard with him.

Anyway, I drove up Friday afternoon/evening, got to the site around 6:30 or so. They were still running ISC Jumpers which made me very jealous as I wished I could have run it. It looked like a really fun course. But no. Anyway, I set up (thankfully I thought to ask someone to save me a crating space!) and went back to the hotel. It was a Motel 6 that was cheaper (by half) than most of the hotels in the area, but despite my fears it was not overly dirtbaggy. It was definitely "cheap" in that there wasn't even an alarm clock/radio next to the bed, but it was clean and not too uncomfortable, so I survived. I did have an interesting issue with the heat though. It worked. But it didn't seem to have any thermostat settings. I could turn it on high, low, or off. And if it was on, it stayed on. All the time. So by the time I was falling asleep Friday night at 10 I was roasting and turned it off. Dumb move, it was 18 degrees outside overnight. I woke up around 4, freezing cold. Kiba was shivering. Drifter was curled in a ball. So I got up and turned the heat back on and pulled Kiba under the covers (which made her very unhappy with me, but warmer). I never did fall back asleep.

Saturday night I determined I would NOT turn the heat off again, so then I roasted most of the night till I couldn't take it anymore and got up at 4 (again) to turn it off. I figured an hour or two of heatlessness wouldn't kill us. Then I fell back asleep and had a horrible dream about oversleeping and missing my run Sunday morning! So when I woke up from that there was no going back to sleep and I was awake before 5am, again.

On to the runs. Both days started with standard. I was pleased to see that both rings of Excellent used the same course (I didn't know if they would, never been there before!). So I could walk and concentrate on Drifter's, then run Kiba without worrying about learning a new course. The standard course Saturday had the single most difficult weave entry for Drifter. I was a bit agitated about that. It was very hard, many dogs were missing it. You could either pretend you weren't going to the weaves and really pull them back, then flip back into the weaves; or you could run up with them and force a really bad front cross, then have to hustle to push the other way out of the weaves. Despite my misgivings about Drifter's history with this weave entry, I decided to pull. I really held my ground and acted like we were wrapping back and NOT taking hte poles, then at the last second I "changed my mind" and threw him in. He did it great! I was so relieved. He downed within about 2-3 seconds on the table, and had a great DW contact. Whew! Won the class, despite his slow table.
JWW I ran very conservatively, with mostly rear crosses so I would be out of his landing area. He has never double Q'd on the first day of a trial before (going through my records confirmed this), so I was definitely worried. But he was great. We had some wide corners and my conservativeness put us in 5th place. We were about a second behind 1st.

Sunday again we started with Standard, a nice course this time with a reasonable weave entry (well, a doable one - it was a weird wrap back out of a chute with a dummy jump nearby, but I could get there so I wasn't worried). Drifter still made me work though - when the judge said "Go" on the table he jumped off the WRONG SIDE (away from me, away from the way I was facing, and away from the next jump - DUH!), and I had to quickly swing him back around me, the table, and get him to the next jump. I was really worried we'd incurred a refusal there (by crossing the plane) but with the DW next I wasn't able to glance at the judge to see. He gave me another beautiful dogwalk, then the see-saw was at the end and he REALLY pushed it, shoving the board down as he jumped off and forward, and again I wasn't sure if the judge would call it or not. So I was not celebrating quite as much as before (I'm a subdued celebrater anyway) until I got my scribe sheet and found it was CLEAN again! Woohoo! Luck was FINALLY on my side with an AKC judge! So relieved! His time with his weird table bobble was only .1 off of 1st place, so he took 2nd. He was also really wide out of the chute - he's always like that.

JWW was a course that required some front crosses with me in his landing space, and initially I was nervous about bars, but then I thought back to the last few weeks about the bars he HAS hit, and none of them were on front crosses. So I relaxed a bit and just made sure I was very precise about my position and timing, and he was FANTASTIC, just a beautiful run. He should place in that one - I didn't stay to find out, just checked my scribe sheet and left. He had a great time, but he's not as ridiculous in JWW since there are no contact obstacles to blow everyone away on.

Kiba had a couple issues with weave entries over the weekend that will need to be worked on. 3 times in the last 2 weeks she has tried to enter from the wrong side of the entry when I pushed her past the plane. Weird. I thought she understood how to wrap the first pole pretty well, but apparently with her newfound speed she's forgetting to do it. She had THE fastest time in JWW on Saturday but hit one bar. I was pleased with that though. She's doing well. No legs for her, so still no MX or MXJ. I am going to be laughing if she doesn't finish and ends up the only dog at AKC Nationals who only has AX AXJ behind her name.

I have to decide what to do for next weekend. I am entered all 3 days at Danville down on the edge of NC, but I may just drive down Fri morning and not worry about running then. Or I may decide to skip it entirely and just stay home. I'll think about it.

21 November 2008

Springfield and Snow

This afternoon after work I'm driving up to Springfield for Saturday/Sunday of the giant Springfield Cluster trial. I've actually never been there before, but I've been assured it's big, dirty, and crowded. OK. Whatever. I asked somebody to save us a crating spot, hopefully they remembered.
It's AKC and Drifter can Q. That's what I'm focused on. I got a room at a Motel 6 for like $50 a night and I'm REALLY hoping it's not a dirty/fleabag type of place, but I have my suspicions for sure, since most of the hotels in the area, including the Red Roof, are close to $100 a night. We'll see. I can deal with small rooms and worn-out carpet and old TV's, I just don't want dingy moldy bathrooms and toilets that don't work. And bugs.

Wish us luck. Send Drifter some "Q" vibes!

And hopefully I won't get snowed in! This morning we had a full inch of snow on the ground and it took me 5 minutes to scrape off the car - the first layer on the car had iced a bit. This is nuts! It's pretty, but it's nuts!


ETA at 7:50am - it kept snowing here and now there's a good 2-3 inches on the ground. Radar looks spotty for the rest of the day. Crazy! And it's still snowing.

Luckily even though I am going north for the weekend, it looks clear up there.

Here is a pic from nearby that I stole off NBC's webpage (I don't have my camera at work so it's not mine):






Snow is really accumulating! Another stolen pic:



20 November 2008

Some AKC Stats from this year

I spent the last few days collecting info on all my Q's for Drifter and Kiba (Excellent B only) from this year.

Kiba qualified in Standard 9 times and JWW 9 times. Of that, she had 6 double Q's. So only 3 days of single-Q's. Which means she only needs one more of each leg for MX and MXJ which I didn't realize. I hadn't counted, I just figured well how many dogs get 6 double Q's and still don't have their MX yet?? Crazy!

Drifter qualified in Standard 10 times and JWW 12 times, combined at 20 (March/April) and 24 (July-November).

When Kiba Q'd, she won the class 12 of 18 times. She also had one 2nd place finish, one 3rd, two 4th's and two 6th's.

Drifter won 18 of 22 classes he Q'ed in. He had three 2nd's and one 3rd.

Kiba garnered a total of 595 points. Drifter got 837.

I did not count the total attempts/days in AKC, but I know that Drifter only ran 3 more days than Kiba in Excellent B because I didn't enter him every day in the spring (regretting that now? Yes!).

Of Drifter's 22 Q's, only 8 of those were double Q's - 4 days.
Of Kiba's 18 Q's, 12 of them were double's - 6 days.

So in general, Kiba either NQ's in both classes, or Q's in both classes. And also in general, Drifter Q's in one class, per day. Drifter is a dog who would greatly appreciate a qualifying structure like "400 points and 8 Q's in each class" for Nationals. Or hell, 10 Q's in each class. We can do that. Just apparently not on the same day!

One JWW class in early spring when I had him at 20" - Drifter ran at 6.47 YPS, which I believe is his high for the year. I don't have my spreadsheet at work. His (calculated) average usually stays around 6.18-6.3 for JWW, and he averages around 4.7-5YPS in standard.

Kiba's speed definitely increased as the year went on. At this point in time, I am never sure who will have the faster time on any given AKC course; Kiba at 20" or Drifter at 24".

Kiba has started to beat even dogs with "real" running contacts.

I don't think Drifter missed a single Aframe or Dogwalk contact in AKC this year. He did, however, get one or two see-saw flyoff's.
Kiba got called for one aframe that she didn't miss, and did not get called for several that I thought she did miss!

What I see out my door



I am in the basement. It looks out on the backyard. We live in a housing development but there's a strip of "woods" between us and the next one behind us, so I actually don't have a horrible view out my back(front?) door. This is what I see today. Well, except that as time goes by it's sticking to the ground.

Can I just say, WTF? It's November 20th! The earliest measurable snowfall that I personally remember was 6 or 7" in the 2nd week of December. And they're saying we could get more tomorrow!

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Edited at 4:30 to add: A few minutes ago there were these GINORMOUS flakes falling and adding up real quick. Hard to take pictures of even with my slightly-fancy camera. But here's sort of what it looks like. Yes, it's starting to get dark already. No, I don't think that's sad. Dark early means I can go to bed early and get lots of sleep! Yay!

Chips?

This follows with my 26/22 post from earlier. I'm trying to analyze why I, personally, feel like Drifter should be on the World Team. And it's tough. Actually it's simple. I feel like he is THAT fast and that talented. And I have a chip on my shoulder. Something to prove. Why? I have no idea! That's just the way I am, I guess. I want to go beat everybody. And it's not just me. I want Drifter to beat everybody! I guess what it comes down to is that I feel that he is fast enough to win or place at FCI, and if I don't ever take him then the world will never know. But if he goes and knocks a bar in each run, the world won't particularly care. See how hard this is? Maybe not, but it is! I will recover - I'm not an emotionally wrecky person or anything.

Some thoughts/facts:
I love how he runs at 22.
I like how he runs at 24.
I am uncomfortable with him at 26.
Conclusion: keep him at 22.

More:
He is really fast.
He is not as consistent as a WT dog should be.
Conclusion: keep him at 22. WT handlers should be able to expect their dogs to run clean all the time.

Another one:
He's faster than WT dogs.
. . . . when he's clean.
ARGH!

So my unfortunately conclusion with my 6-year-old boy has to be that he is not consistent enough for me to take the extra toll on his body of keeping him at 26. I am happy that he's been fairly consistent at a Regional/National level - BUT looking at what he's done there is plenty of room for improvement. I feel like a dog who is ready for WT should be clean most of the time, with a fault being unusual. Drifter is not that dog. Not yet. And if he isn't yet, then he probably won't be while he's still young enough to handle 26.

Summer stayed late but Winter's here early!

So apparently a direct effect of global warming is going to be the loss of spring and fall! We had summer-like weather up until October and then suddenly it's turned into winter!

It's snowing pretty hard outside right now!

26 or 22

When I started showing Drifter in the spring of 2004, I knew he was something special. I don't generally believe in working young immature dogs at high jump heights, so I started him out at 20" in AKC for a couple shows, then at 22" in USDAA. By September 2004 when he was turning 2, I had moved him up to 26". Why? Because he is World Team Fast, that's why. And I'm World Team good as a handler, I'll tell you flat out and that is not just me being a big ego. I can count the number of times one of my dogs went off course on one hand for the entire trial season. Anyway, I went to USDAA Nationals in '04 at 22" simply because that's what he was qualified at from the spring. But he was already doing 26" at local trials by then. I left him at 26 from late '04 through 2005 and 2006. In '06 he even won Northeast Regional at that height, and got 3rd in the Grand Prix Finals as well. Obviously he is not BAD at jumping 26. But he's not as consistent as some dogs. He has, his whole life, been a dog who hits ONE bar. That's just him. In 2007 at the age of 4.5 he was beginning to throw his pelvis out now and then. That was an IFCS qualifying year and he hadn't such a great couple of Regionals so I decided to move him down to 22 and give up on World Team with him. But then in 2008 he was jumping so well overall, and being more consistent overall, that I thought perhaps it wasn't too late to try again. He has just turned 6 this past September, so he should have a good deal of trialing time ahead of him - but should it be at 22 or 26? He is too tall for IFCS at 22", unfortunately. But if he cannot be consistent, even in training, in keeping the bars up at 26, then I probably should not be trying with him. And to be honest, he really doesn't look like 26 is all that easy for him. He has to judge much more at that height, and while he isn't getting under the jumps like he did as a youngster, he is now leaning the other way and taking off a touch early sometimes. He can do that at 22" and easily get away with it - 22 is comfortable and easy for him.

So my dilemma now is this - is it right to ask him to jump a height that is somewhat uncomfortable for him, on the off chance that he may make a world team? Or should I stick with the height he is very comfortable with, and give up on it altogether? At this point I am not confident of his ability to be pushed on courses at 26 and leave the bars up. But I know he can at 22. Can you see which way I'm leaning?

I think perhaps the most telling thought in my head right now is that if I picture myself stepping to the line at FCI Worlds with Drifter, I would be very nervous that he would hit a bar. I like to think he could do it. But I can't say I'm sure he could. When we step to the line at 22, I am very sure of him. Perhaps that is how I need to decide?

If I do leave him at 22, I have a different dilemma. I will almost certainly be trying to qualify for IFCS World Team with Kiba, who is small enough to jump 22". And if the set-up is the same as 2007, then she would be earning points by placing at Regionals and Nationals. So if Drifter is in the same height, and he beats her, I am essentially taking points away from myself! How badly does that suck! And no, it isn't the same for everybody, because some people will go to Regionals where neither of my dogs will be in attendance so it's not like Drifter beats ALL the dogs trying for WT. See? Maybe they'll change the criteria this year, who knows. I think instead of a standard amount of points per placement, it should be more like Top Ten points - based on how many dogs you beat. If you go to a Regional and beat 65 dogs, that should be less points than beating 85 dogs, regardless of which placement it was. Although maybe 1st place could be the same. I don't know. Anyhow.

Lots of food for thought. Maybe no Tryouts for me till Seri is ready in 2011.

19 November 2008

Worked Drifter in class today. Again hit some bars, corrected, ran some good stuff too.

I am not sure I like him at 26". I think he is working too hard. I may scrap my plans to try for IFCS with him and keep him at 22". I've been toying with the idea for a while but after 3 days of hard work at 26 I am really not sure he belongs there. He just doesn't look *comfortable* at that height. He looks GREAT at 22, GOOD at 24, and JUST OK at 26. He still has trouble doing a full (difficult) course (on a slight hill in rough grass) without hitting a bar. But at 22 he hardly ever touches one.

Food for thought. It sure would save me money not to travel to Tryouts too. I'll think about it.

Wordy today I know - on health testing

I have several intact dogs, it's true. Drifter, luckily, already has all his health clearances. His breeder kindly did BAER testing on his litter (they were all fine, contrary to their behavior sometimes!), and since then I've had him CEA DNA tested, OFA and PennHip all done. I had him CERF'ed once but unless I get an inquiry to breed him from someone who really wants it done again, I probably won't bother. And if I never breed him again I won't feel bad. I got my one pup from him. I'm leaving him intact for now because I really don't have a reason to neuter him. He behaves himself most of the time. And the beefy testosterone muscles are a plus too:-)

Anyway. Kiba, my next in age, is spayed. I never did any health clearances on her, although if I had the extra money I'd have liked a PennHip eval. She isn't super strong in the rear and has an odd swinging/toe out motion in the back when she runs. But she is physically good, and her PT says she's fine everywhere, no problems anywhere, and she muscles very evenly. She has several relatives who seize, and she is a pain in the ass behaviorally, so that is why she is spayed.

Seri is on a co-own contract, but my plans for her right now are to maybe breed her when she's about 6 for my next puppy. The stud is undetermined right now, and I have 4 years to figure it out (maybe Drake?). Anyhow, because her breeder was new to the area and had trouble with vets, her litter did not get BAER tested. So far as I know she has no hearing issues in her lines, and I certainly don't think she has a hearing issue, so I don't know if I'd bother having her done. She was eye checked clear as a pup, and is CEA Normal by parentage. I had her PennHip scores done at the age of 19 months, and she came out 90th percentile at .33/.33 with no evidence of DJD (Degenerative Joint Disease). Now I have to decide whether I want to bother with OFA for her or not. Originally I thought I would, but I've had dysplastic dogs before, and Seri certainly does not move like one, and the odds of a dog with .33 hips turning out dysplastic are pretty damned small. So I may not.

Which brings me to my next point. I want to get Drake's PennHip done over the winter (if he's bad I'll neuter him and maybe his daddy too!). But to pay for his PennHip AND Seri's OFA seems a bit excessive, considering that I already have a good score on Seri's hips. So I'm trying to decide whether I need to get an OFA on Seri or not. I know plenty of people would be more than happy with a PennHip in the 90th percentile, but I really like to have both scores for information. Her mother and father are both OFA Good, her aunt is Excellent. I don't know of any other relatives with PennHip scores.

Anybody have feelings on the subject? .33/90% good enough or do most people only want OFA? I'm not planning to breed her for money or even multiple times, but I don't want to end up with 3 homeless puppies either. Hypothetically. And assuming her co-owner agreed in the first place (I have to say I won't co-own again, it's kind of a weird situation).

Ohio?

I wasn't going to plan anything in January, but there is a Tournament trial in Columbus area of Ohio which has Grand Prix and Steeplechase. It's in an indoor, heated, dirt floor arena. So I am thinking about going. Google says it's just under 8 hours, so probably more like 7 and 1/2. Not too bad. I would probably just leave mid-day Sunday so I wouldn't get back too late.

So, anybody want to share a ride or a room with 3 BC's in January? It's the 17/18 weekend.

I was thinking that instead of trying to pay for 3-4 trials in the rush of May, it would make more sense financially to spread them out more. I am trying to plan for approximately 2 trials a month, on average. But if I can do 1 in Jan, 2 in Feb, 2 in March, etc, that makes it a lot easier than having to pay for 6 all in a row. I know the actual cost is the same, but for me, who isn't wealthy or anything close to it, this does make sense.

Anyway, if anybody's interested in heading out to Columbus for a weekend in Jan, let me know!

Practice

My teeth feel 3 times better this morning :-D Yay!

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Yesterday despite the on-and-off snow showers (some quite severe-looking!) I took Drifter down to the field again. I feel a little bad for working him hard every day; I don't usually work him more than 2-3 times a week. But this is a crackdown. It's only going to last another 10 days or so. Anyway, I took just him down again, wanting him to focus on me and wanting me to focus on him. This time we did 3 tough standard courses. Again he knocked several bars and I was able to correct him for it. I do think he understands what I'm correcting him for. We even got a drill down. He hit the bar, I said "AAAAAH!", and we marched over to the car and stuffed him in the backseat to watch pathetically while I marched back out and re-set the bar back up. In order for a correction to be meaningful to Drifter he really has to be physically removed from the "field of play" and put in a penalty box of sorts, so he understands that "X = No more agility!". I told him "If you hit a bar, you go in the car!". And we finally got a pretty good run on our 3rd course. I actually hit a few handling snags on known weaknesses too (not sticking tight to me on shoulder/post turns, which I've mentioned before is a problem) and got to work through those. So again, a productive practice session.

Today we will be going to class and working around other dogs. The sequences shouldn't be as hard as what I work on when I'm alone, but the excitement of other dogs often makes him turn into a blithering idiot so that's a great thing to work on too.

I may even turn up early (despite the C-O-L-D) and work Drake in the puppy class beforehand. We'll see how I feel. I really want lots of good bonding alone-time with Drifter.

18 November 2008

Single Tri Female seeking weekend partners!

Seri's team for the New Years MADness trial fell apart. One has to work, and the other has family obligations that she just found out about.

So Seri needs a team! She will be jumping 26". She's doing a good job of getting around the courses lately, and even survived 4 of 5 Fair Hill courses in October! (tried to go last in Relay and it fried her brain, but that WAS a hard relay!!) I'm looking for team-mates who will try to Q, but will understand if she has a moment of WEEE and does something goofy and 2-year-old-ish. She is a 2-year-old.

Anyway, please email me if you know of anybody seeking a 3rd! (or if you don't know my email just leave a comment and I'll get it)

Jumping and teeth

Yesterday was a fairly nice day (a little cool) so I stuck Drifter in the back of the Civic and ferried him on down to the field. I really want to work on just Drifter and Me for the next 2 weeks and try to resolve this silly one-fault-a-day issue. It IS silly. He's not miscommunicating, he's just carelessly misjudging one bar. If we can get rid of that one bar, we should be golden. His other little issues really don't happen often enough to prevent us from getting our 2Q's.

So anyway, I set up a JWW course, set all the jumps to 26, and ran 3 different difficult sequences. I really focused on getting speed changes on a turn - like running down an open line of 3 jumps into a pull-through or tight serpentine. He did indeed knock several bars. I am going to be very consistent with him from here on out, if he knocks a bar, he leaves the course. Period. Normally I'm not that harsh but this one-bar nonsense has got to stop. He's 6 years old now, he's a talented, athletic dog. He has no excuse for hitting one bar in half his runs. I'll excuse him if he falls on his head or something, but no more "oh well" for carelessness. So he got walked off a few times. I found a couple trouble spots that caused him to hit a bar 2 or 3 times in a row, worked through those. Overall he did very well and I felt it was a productive session. I may not get to go back today if it rains/flurries as they've been saying, but I will definitely go tomorrow (despite the predicted mid-30's temperatures!).

Also, remember the weird facial pain I mentioned previously? I never did bother a doctor. It was so sporadic and the nature of it kept changing, and then I wasn't sure if I needed a doctor or a dentist! Anyway, I took decongestants and advil for a few days in a row to help drain myself, and aside from a few brief episodes of pain, usually concentrated around my cheekbone (where the maxillary sinus cavity is located), I've been doing pretty well. As of today, Tuesday, I've had no facial pain since one very brief throb on Friday afternoon. But. Sunday morning my back left teeth began being sensitive to impact. It's really the teeth, it doesn't really go that high into my gums. So I looked up local dentists that take my insurance, but I also got good sensitive toothpaste and I'm going to wait a week or two to see if they get better. It's not horrible, there's no constant throbbing, and it seems better today than it was Sunday night. With the pain now being constrained to "my back left molars hurt when I chew really hard", I've stopped taking the decongestants and am only taking advil when I actually hurt. So I'm 90% drug-free now, and the pain is staying the same. If it stays the same for another week or so I will go to a dentist and mention the sinus/cheek/nasal pain as well to see if it could be connected. But for now it seems like maybe it was a sinus infection (remember I DID get sick on the way home from AZ) that lingered, but perhaps the tooth thing really is a tooth thing? So confusing!

Anyhow. I'm somehow still feeling optimistic about Drifter's chances of Qing. He can do this. I need to be serious. He needs to be serious. His handling was superb last weekend. If he hadn't hit one bar in JWW Sat and one bar in Std Sun, he would have 2Q'd both days. Bastard!

17 November 2008

A "win"

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

I do see people using quotation marks for emphasis and I have to admit, it drives me NUTS! I use caps or italics or some combination thereof.
In the bathrooms at work, where they've had some clogging issues, there is a sign that starts with "DO NOT" - in quotation marks. Is this a quote from someone? I think NOT! I mean, I'm sure the janitor says it, but I don't think he stops there. I think he says the whole sentence.

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On Friday it rained, contrary to the weather forecast which told me it would be sunny and 67. So I did not get to train my dogs at the field (apparently they could have used it). But we DID run down to King of Prussia and see a movie. We saw "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" - love Seth Rogen type movies and I also like Kevin Smith, so this was a promising combination. Turned out to be a great movie. Absolutely hilarious through-out (IF you don't mind dirty jokes and sex scenes). There are some pretty graphic sex scenes, but they do a good job of not really showing "private bits" during those. The only time a "bit" is seen is at the end, where a guy walks into a room naked (no sex in that scene). There is definitely some toilet humor, but overall its just a cute, funny story about best friends who figure out that they've been in love for years.

Afterward we weren't quite ready to eat so instead of getting dinner we wandered around the King of Prussia Mall (2nd largest in the US) for a while. By the time we got hungry, unfortunately, it was getting into dinner rush around 6pm. I didn't want to leave the dogs home all day alone so we headed back. DJ got a couple shirts and we saw a store one of our drivers wasn't able to find, and it was fun just to go hang out for once.

16 November 2008


This is Drifter. He did not double Q this weekend. Again.


Saturday he knocked bar #4 on a simple shoulder turn. It was nothing I did. He over-collected and tipped it trying too hard to turn too tight. Then he ran standard beautifully (and won). Kiba missed a weave entry in JWW (I pushed her past it by accident BUT she didn't try very hard to make the entry, so it was both our faults). Kiba then won her height of standard.

Sunday big dogs were first. Standard this time. A fun course. Drifter knocked bar #3 this time, the panel. Again on a turn but I don't think he was all that collected. This time I'm thinking he was on his forehand still from his lovely fast DW (the judge actually said "wooo!", I was laughing in my head). Grrr. I had not gone out with the resolve I had on the 2nd run Saturday - that of "if he knocks a damn bar I'm leaving the damn course" and so when he hit the panel, I didn't take him off. For two reasons - one I was still thinking "wow what a GREAT dogwalk", and two that by the time the panel fell to the ground he was already over the next jump and heading for the aframe, so I would have to be ONTHEBALL to grab him right away. So I finished. He did the rest of the course very nicely although I was grumbling at him all through the weave poles. Spun once due to me being behind, but I wasn't trying very hard. So I ran JWW later with him with my resolve to walk him off for bar-knocking in place. And I deliberately walked the tightest handling plan with 4 front crosses and serpentine. I even put in a FC I didn't need at the end. And he was perfect! Very attentive, very careful with his feet. Working hard. So I really made a happy fuss over him at the end and hoped he got the picture.

Kiba ran REALLY well in standard in the morning Sunday but got robbed on her aframe. For some reason my pet peeve of people bitching about contact judging has come back to bite me, because now I seem to be the one bitching. This judge had no problem judging Drifter or Catcher, but for some reason she called Kiba on her aframe. I was in front of the aframe, staring right at it, and I had 4 people ringside tell me she hit exactly where I thought she hit - which was a full FOOT into the yellow, before I turned her for the weaves. But she ran REALLY fast and wonderfully and beat Drifter's time, so I was happy with her. 20" had 111 dogs so I did not stay to run her in JWW, but she ran 3 very nice classes with only the missed weave entry. KIBA did not knock ANY bars:-)

I will be going into crackdown mode with Drifter this week. I will be shuttling him down to the field and working the toughest jumping sequences I can come up with, with lots of speed changes at turns at 26". He's only got FIVE days left to get TWO double Q's, and I am determined to get them.

14 November 2008

Alcohol, a Public Service Announcement

I work in the Quality Assurance division of FedEx Ground, at a terminal in Exton PA.

Today I am pissed off (yes, already). Pennsylvania has some odd rules regarding shipments of alcohol. Because I have a head for rules, I happen to know all of them (at least as pertain to our branch of FedEx). Did you know it is against PA Law to ship wine from out of state directly to your house? Yet some wineries in other states will let you choose this option. What does this mean? Well, it means that if it gets delivered that the FedEx driver has delivered an illegal shipment and now the recipient of the delivery unlawfully possesses alcohol from out of state. If you want wine from an out of state winery, you must go to your local Wine and Spirits store and either just order it online and have it delivered to the store, or order it through the store.

People don't want to do this because if they "fly below the radar" then they avoid paying lots of fees and taxes. The problem here is that FedEx drivers or workers should not have to take part in consumers' illegal activities. I have a REAL problem with this behavior. Some of the shippers are aware of this rule. You can tell because invariably the box will be shipped "incognito" - no big label declaring that it contains alcohol. Which is required, by the way. If you ship alcohol in an unlabeled box that is a BIG NO-NO and again, I will catch it if I see it.

If you do any of those things I just mentioned that you can't do, and I catch it, I will send the box back to the shipper and hand in a form to my boss, who enters it into our system to go to our Legal Department. I'm assuming if they get several forms all pointing to the same shipper that they will contact that shipper.

Here's my big issue right now. We find a package that is not only improperly labeled (missing the CONTAINS ALCOHOL sticker), and besides that, it is from New York, and being shipped directly to a residence. So yesterday we sent it back. But the recipient called and said "don't send it back, I want to pick it up!!!". So my BOSS who is supposed to know this stuff, says "well OK then" and the guy is allowed to pick it up. WTF??!! It is UNLAWFUL to POSSESS alcohol not purchased from a store in PA. Why does she think it is OK as long as he picks it up at our terminal instead of taking delivery from a driver? Those are essentially the same thing! It was still "delivered" by us. Legal says all improper shipments MUST BE RETURNED. I think she just doesn't want to say "No" to the customer, but in cases like this, it MUST be said. So this morning I will talk with our "big boss" about it and politely try to get a consensus on whether or not these packages can be picked up. I say "no" and so does one of our Admin crew who spoke directly to the PA Liqour Board (whatever it's called).

Rant for the day!

13 November 2008

Rain Rain

It's been raining all day and is not likely to stop soon. I may be able to get the dogs out for a quick, slightly muddy run in a light spell, but no training for me today.

Tomorrow I may run down to the field and work some courses with the boyo. After that DJ and I might actually do something normal and nice like dinner and a movie. What a thought!

"Drifter" and "Consistent" do not have to be mutually exclusive terms!

So my next big project is to get Drifter to be more consistent. He has 7 more days of AKC left in November, and he needs 2 of those to be Double Q's if he is going to attend Nationals. I know he can do it. He had 5 clean runs in a row out at USDAA Nationals, and while those courses were not the same as AKC courses, they were definitely difficult. So this indicates that he was paying attention to me, keeping his feet up, and generally being a Good Dog. He CAN do this. It is actually a good part of his nature to be biddable. Consider our usual faults: one bar, slow table, see-saw flyoff, the occasional minor off course or missed contact. Most of his NQ's have been a whole day with one bar being knocked. Last weekend he went off course for the first time in a while. For all his insanity ringside, he is not a dog who usually gets on the course and explodes. He is actually pretty easy to handle (for me) - he is very, very fast, but he is also very responsive. He is like a finely tuned European sports car, responding properly to my every input. Last weekend he just honestly thought I was done pulling around the awkward corner and even though I say he went wide, it wasn't that wide and he put on a good show of looking sad when I picked him up and left. He wants to be right. He certainly isn't "crushed" when he's wrong, but he does try to do what I want.

Last spring we qualified in 8 local Grand Prix's. Out of 9 tries. And the 9th is one where I wasn't happy with his contact so I walked him off (he had hit the yellow though and was clean to that point). Only 2 of those 8 Q's were clean though. The other 6 all had 5 faults. What does this mean? What were our faults? Well, a mental review of those GP's gives me this list:
1. Artful Dodgers had 5 faults but I can't remember what. A bar maybe?
2. missed a hard "soft side" weave entry into the crowd at Fair Hill (over a year ago now)
3. Won the GP at Keystone - clean
4. MADness he missed his dogwalk
5. VA Ruff Riders he missed his aframe, of all things (unusual)
6. Artful Dodgers again, I think one bar
I can't remember the rest of them. But regardless. It is all different faults, usually. Or one bar. The jumping I think has come a long way in the last year and it has become much less usual for him to hit bars. Last weekend I think he just needed a class to adjust, both to the soft dirt footing and the 2" higher bars. I have been training this week at 26", focusing hard on strength training and mechanics of getting over the bars. I want to build up his muscles a bit so he doesn't have to work over the jumps, as that makes a big difference. Today if it doesn't rain I will do some handling, focusing on running hard into a speed change with several tight corners where I expect him to stay at my side and not "wing out" or "outrun" away from me. That's his biggest handling weakness, overall. He is constantly seeking to move away from me when I pull him around a corner, sometimes to the point where I will choose a rear cross/front cross rather than a straight pull.

So how do we become more consistent? Well I have to admit I'm a bit stumped with the boy. He steers well, overall he jumps well, he hits 90%+ of his contacts (I think he's 100% in AKC this year, actually). He handles very nicely as long as I'm quick on my feet and stay ahead of him mentally. I think for now jumping exercises and the sort of handling exercises I mentioned are it for us. I considered actually going to a "trainer's trainer" type of person (she lives in OH) for a bit of advice, but I am not changing my handling at this point in time, and I don't want to spend the money to travel only to be told that I need to change lots of things. So I will keep pushing myself on. So far our personaly history has proved that when I decide to work on something, it gets better. I don't generally flounder for years with the same problem. I enjoy solving puzzles, so this is another one. But it's a tough one. 2 for 7 is a tough number to ask for, with little time to train. Unfortunately I have to be a little tougher with the boy too, since I can't accept "silly" types of mistakes from him anymore (don't worry, I'm not gonna beat him or anything, I'm just asking him to do the things he knows to do, and removing him from the course if he doesn't do them). I need him to rise to the occasion and really be my partner. Overall though, I'm trying to use a more positive attitude in training and really ask him to involve himself mentally in this partnership, rather than just running for fun. Wish us luck!

Kiba's new focus is going to be Speed and Fun for the rest of the month, now that she's qualified. I will be running her off all her contacts as fast as can be, and working her corners, and asking for a little more on her weave entries. I don't think I'll ever get great running contacts from her, she's the wrong kind of dog with the wrong kind of foundation (my fault), but she's pretty quick already and I think she can be quicker.

12 November 2008

Pain?

So yesterday I stopped at the store and picked up some generic Mucinex D type stuff (Guiafenisin and Phenylephrine) and I've got myself of a regimen of one of those and two Advil every 4-6 hours. And when I go home (after I work/play with the dogs) I will lay down again for the better part of the afternoon and take a hot steamy shower to facilitate drainage. Because today I feel great. No pain at all, very little pressure. I do still have "sniffles" but my nasal passages are not blocking like they were and I don't feel like someone is poking their fingers in my cheek bone.

So here's hoping I can shake this thing. At this point I'm thinking some kind of blockage in that sinus cavity, but not an infection. With an infection I should be getting fluid, a fever, weird drainage, something. I have none of those things. If I've had an infection for 2 weeks I'd think I'd have something!

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I am a stickler for spelling. But still. When I am here at work (FedEx Ground) and I see a box with "FRAGIL" written on it 4 times in purple crayon, I'm a little disturbed.

News Feed 11/12/08

So I actually heard this announcement on Monday, but those of you who don't pay attention to the business may not have heard yet. DHL finally announced it's pulling out of the US market. FedEx has actually known about this for the last 5 or 6 months, but DHL hadn't made it public yet.
Off our FedEx Intranet website:
"DHL to Discontinue U.S. Express Operations
DHL announced Monday, November 10, they will discontinue U.S. domestic-only air and ground products on January 30, 2009, to focus entirely on its international offering. A total of 9,500 jobs at DHL Express in the U.S. will be cut as a result of the measures on top of the approximately 5,400 positions already reduced since the beginning of the year. "

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More news, Mary Ellen announced that Keystone will be holding the Northeast Regional again next year, but the location has changed. From her email to the USDAA Sounding Board:
"While everyone is talking about planning for 2009 and when/where nationalsare going to be, I thought I'd take this opportunity to let everyone know thatthe Northeast Regional will be hosted by Keystone Agility Club, June12-14th, 2009 at Northampton Community College, Bethlehem PA (New site). Thesiteis convenient to Philadelphia International Airport and Lehigh ValleyInternational Airport."

The use of that date means that the Southeast Regional (traditionally held in Perry, GA) must be scheduled for the first weekend in June this year, June 5-7. They are usually the 2nd weekend but with the 1st weekend being so late I wondered what would happen. This may mess up a few local trial schedules.

ETA: Chris Danielly just came onto the list and confirmed that the Perry Regional will indeed be June 5-7. It's so great to get this info NOW so we can plan!

(did you know there's a 4-year event calendar on USDAA's website? I didn't! If you go to Group Service on the left-hand menu, then click Forms & Policies then scroll down for the Four Year Event Calendar - ignore the thing about 2005, it has 2008-2011 up right now!)

11 November 2008

More Pain

Sorry to post so much my first week back, but I find that I have a lot to type about lately. This is actually an addendum to my trip log, since it is something that started just before I left and is apparently still ongoing.

The day before we left for AZ, Sharon and I went to train at a friend's field. While we were there, I noticed a dull ache concentrated in my upper left tooth/jaw area. It was a dull pain so I figured I must have chewed my gum too vigorously earlier in the day. After I got home and had lunch the pain escalated from dull to stabbing, and I actually was laid out for a while; ended up taking a nap. When I got back up a couple hours later I felt fine and figured it must have been a one-time thing. Keep in mind I left the next day on the trip, so I didn't exactly have time to go to a doctor. The next morning I also felt fine, went to work, then headed south towards Austin with Sharon. Sometime late in the afternoon I started to get pain again. The pain started in my upper left jaw/teeth (but not any specific single tooth) and ran through the left side of my face into that side of the bridge of my nose. It made me feel as if my glasses were digging into the side of my nose like a sharpened toothpick (I've been wearing these same glasses for several years with no problems). I took some Advil and most of the ache went away, although I still got a brief stab of pain here and there. This sort of pain continued in a very on and off fashion for the rest of the ride out - there would be a day where it didn't hurt at all, then it would ache on and off for several hours the next day. I spoke to Sharon and our other housemate Vanessa and they both had facial/jaw pain the past that was caused by night time tooth grinding, leading to jaw issues. But both had fierce headaches and misaligned jaws. I had neither, just very specific facial pain. Still, I thought it a possibility and figured I would speak to my (and my dogs') PT about it on Wednesday. When I spoke to her she said the location of the pain didn't really sound like a jaw/fascia issue to her, but more like sinus pain. She told me to clamp down on the pressure points around the bridge of my nose for about 5 minutes to see if that would drain my sinuses. Since I had previously found myself holding down there unconsciously when I had pain, I thought that made a lot of sense and tried it. It did seem to help, and from Thursday to Sunday I (fortunately!) had very little pain. I also started taking a Tylenol Sinus/Cold every morning to help keep any congestion from blocking me up. By Sunday evening though, it was becoming clear that I was, in fact, coming down with a cold. I was becoming truly congested and starting to cough. On the ride home I slowly fought more and more phlegm and my voice got scratchier and scratchier. Again though, I noticed that whenever I had taken decongestants (now necessary for my quality of life!) I had no facial pain. By the time I got back to work Thursday I could barely talk and was coughing/sniffling fairly badly. By this last Sunday (at the AKC trial) I was almost back to normal, with most of my voice and only occasional sniffles. But the facial pain is coming back. I had assumed by now that the pain had been some sort of blockage that was caused by the beginning of the sinus infection that caused my cold and loss of voice. But apparently I was wrong. Today it is hurting again. The pain center has shift somewhat, and I am feeling a more generalized jaw/cheek area pain that once again creeps up into the bridge of my nose. Advil is not really helping much. Later in the morning I will be contacting a local doctor and making an appointment because I want to have my sinuses checked before I try a dentist. I'm not convinced it's a dental issue even though the pain seems generally centered in my "jaw" area.

Any thoughts? It's always on the left side.

Update at 8:30am: After being bothered by pain all morning despite the generic Advil I had taken, I tried some cold medicine from the first aid cabinets here at work (it's decongestant and generic tylenol). That was less than half an hour ago and already I feel better. This has absolutely GOT to be a sinus issue. Grrr!

USDAA Responds!

The USDAA Sounding Board has been awash in comments about Cynosport Games moving (I didn't start that, but I sure did contribute). Ken Tatsh (USDAA President) finally came on and responded to it. Here is his response, in its entirety:

"First, I want to thank Karen Gloor, Jane Burlison and the multitude of volunteers from Phoenix-based groups who have once again stepped to the plate to enable more than 900 dog/handler teams to enjoy a great 4-1/2 day weekend in Scottsdale for the USDAA agility championship finals, despite an unseasonably warm weekend. Our volunteers held up marvelously and are a credit to the sport andUSDAA. They continue to "raise the bar" (no pun intended).

On to what has proven to be the topic for the week each year about this time, it never fails that the first question I get asked each year at the Championships is, where will the event be next year? Nor does it fail to hit the discussion board immediately following the event. And it is unfortunate that some inevitably diminish the discussion to a feud or threats, instead of trying to be constructive. The only thing that makes a difference on whether the event moves is constructive suggestions and volunteerism to do some ground work, which I'm sure Karen Gloor will testify is how the event landed in Scottsdale to begin with.

We genuinely share the disappointment of those who cannot attend each year, regardless of where it may be, but we place high value on the quality of the event, which takes into account the facility, the volunteer support and a host of other factors that give rise to the disappointment experienced by people who cannot attend. As such, we were pleased when we learned late in the game this year that we would be able to provide a live web stream of the event over the Internet.

Without question, despite continued support from local and long-distance travellers alike (including many from the East who tell usnot to move it), we are constantly seeking out quality facilities that will accommodate this event in other parts of the country for any future year. We would like nothing better than to have a number of proven facilities with open calendars to handle an event of this stature.

In so doing, we recognize that the majority of folks attending are always from out of town, with many driving and many flying. No more than 10% are typically local, and this would be largely true, no matter where the event was held. We recognize the difference in travel days and mileage for those who drive the greatest distances,and flying is getting no easier nor more affordable, though thankfully, gas has dropped in price by more than 50% from its summer highs.

We are always looking at facilities that we can book into the future. I've made five trips this year alone in investigation of such facilities, and finding a good location that can accommodate the needs of the event are our top priority before announcing a move to another location. Any one of these five could be possible future locations, but it is not as easy as signing on the dotted line.

As announced at this year's Welcome Dinner, we feel we are getting close to having a couple good sites in areas where we believe we will have adequate volunteer support, but unfortunately, we must wait on these facilities to explore, clear or rearrange calendars, and get answers to questions on needed resources. There are other locations who are ready to host us, but they each have other conditions that require more research before we can commit to those.

So that you may offer something constructive to this process, following is a summary of some of the key elements we seek in a site:
1. Facility surface – sod or quality arena dirt required; if outdoors, suitable weather as well as a contingent indoor facilityfor tournament finals
2. Facility space and appeal (minimum 90,000 square foot competition area, plus equal area for kenneling and services, and additional space for vendors; in total, approximately 250,000 square feet; no dusty pole barns)
3. 6 – 8 day availability for the facility in the time frame from late September to mid-November, depending on geographic locality
4. Local volunteer availability & support (workforce of 150+)
5. Available equipment within the region (six rings of obstacles)
6. Affordability of facility and resources in the local market
7. Sufficient parking to accommodate vehicles of 600+ competitors, as well as spectators
8. Proximity and availability of sufficient hotel rooms for duration of the event (400-500)
9. Proximity and availability of sufficient RV spaces for duration of the event (100-150)
10. Availability of major (hub) airport (transcontinental airport is ideal, though not required)
11. Internet facility to facilitate streaming
12. Sufficient electrical and other essential services
13. Overall cost of facilities and services
14. Reasonable proximity to media market

There are other factors, but the ones listed above are mission critical. No one item is inflexible or a deal breaker; we assess the package as a whole, and remain committed to providing a quality event.

So if you are serious in your desires to see the event move, or you simply would like to help out, feel free to contact me directly and I'll be glad to discuss the above list.

Congratulations to this year's winners."

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Again, that was from Ken Tatsch, none of that is my words. I did go on and thank him for giving us some real information. It's great to know that USDAA really IS looking into moving the location. Several rumors I heard in Scottsdale indicated that was not the case. For now I will leave the petition to circulate. I may not actually send it to USDAA, but I'm sure they'll be made aware of it (the internet is amazing). I am using it as an awareness tool. I want to make competitors aware of how each other feel, and also I would like USDAA to be aware that a LOT of competitors feel that way, not just the vocal few.

I also must say that some of what he says seems to be a lame attempt to excuse them for using the same location (why does the lower gas price matter? I don't think that was a factor in who attended or not - and live web streaming is great but doesn't really make someone who couldn't afford to go feel better). And 10% local is a nifty number BUT I would consider anyone within one day's drive time to be "local" for such an event - which includes ALL of California, really.
But it IS nice to know he'd consider an indoor or non-grass facility. In the past I've heard that it would only be on grass (not that we had much of that this year!).

10 November 2008

Pictures of Drake at 9 and 1/2 months!

Some pictures of the pretty fluffball. I realize most of you have never met the boy, as I travel a lot without him. He's a very sweet, generally laid back guy, who really loves to work when it's time. He likes to play "bang the teeter" which is what's in that one pic.







I've done it.

I started a petition. I think because very few of us are vocal, USDAA may not realize just how many people think the Cynosport games should move. Please sign it if you believe the Games should move every few years. I'm not saying where they should move TO, just saying they should MOVE so that people all over the country have to share out travel expenses, not just the same set of people year after year. Did you know there were 200 less dogs this year and 30 less Teams? Doesn't that say something? There were 150-some competitors from California and only 11 from Pennsylvania!! Agility is huge in my area, but this is not reflected in the number of people who make it out to Nationals.

Sign it!

09 November 2008

One Hooray! and one Oh No!

Today Kiba ran two beautiful runs on a couple of twisty courses to finish her qualifications for AKC Nationals! Hooray! I am SO relieved! I've never qualified a dog for this before, and now I've done it with a dog who was in Open in April, with time out for 3 USDAA Regionals and Nationals. yay! Kiba's such a good little girlie. She's not even 4 yet (her birthday's December). If she was 3" taller she'd be a great FCI Team candidate (at 17.75" I'm not doing 26" with her though).

Drifter, on the other hand, was a total dork today. He waited till 2pm to run because big dogs ran last, and there was a hard turn off the dogwalk where I had to duck around a jump, make another hard turn, then rear cross the see-saw. Well he did the opening and the dogwalk and the first turn GREAT then on the 2nd turn he went out wide and took a tire. So sad. I gave him my Disappointed Voice and picked him up and left. Didn't bother with JWW since he only needs doubleQ's now. And honestly, my dogs are still recovering from the trip back from AZ. Poor crazy boy is lying on the couch sleeping like the dead. I'll give them both two days off before training again.

Cynosport Games

For the last five years (2004-2008) USDAA Nationals (now known as Cynosport World Games) has been held in Scottsdale Arizona. The reasons are many; good weather (well, no rain anyway), lots of volunteers, the coordination with other events, a big flat field. Rumor has it that Ken wants the event outdoors on grass as well.

Now, personally I like the site. Hotels in the area are expensive because its an expensive resort sort of area (focus on GOLF), but renting a vacation house proved an enjoyable and affordable experience. My problem with the site is this; it is VERY FAR in the western half of the country. I know the event is no longer called "USDAA Nationals", however that is still what it is. They hold "National Finals" in 3 events, and name a "World Champion" in each. That site? 2,365 miles from me. Yup. And people who live farther than that have to go there too. Can I fly to that site? Sure, I CAN, but it's much scarier wondering if the dogs are on the flight, it's expensive (my ticket, the dogs' fees, rental car, etc), flights are being cancelled and changed willy-nilly right now, and the dogs who fly are more tense and tight when they arrive.

I would happily deal with those expenses - driving that far or flying - if it was every few years. My problem with using the AZ site over and over is that the eastern competitors are paying those expenses YEAR AFTER YEAR while the western competitors aren't paying them at all. Someone from my area probably paid $3000 to attend, while a competitor from California who drove probably paid a third of that. I put SIX THOUSAND miles on my car in 2 weeks. It needs an oil change already. Next year I will have no choice but to drive since I will be running three dogs. I won't leave one home. So I'm driving.

Many people are defending the use of the Westworld site, claiming it would be too difficult to coordinate volunteers and such at a new site. My answer is this; someone had to coordinate all that the first time we used the site, so clearly it IS possible to drum up 200 people to work at a new site. It is HARDER but it would sure be a lot more FAIR to move the site. Someone on the USDAA Sounding Board suggested that every single person thinks the site should be near them and of course we can't ALL have our way. Well, no, we can't - but most eastern competitors I know would be happy just to have one less DAY of driving, while the western ones think it should stay EXACTLY where it is (within a day of their houses, for the most part).

I hate to compare, but AKC Nationals move EVERY SINGLE YEAR and they seem to drum up the needed people. Sure, they don't have as many events as we do, and they need less rings - but it's still a big agility event and they move EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

I don't think USDAA should or will move their event every year, but I think it would be a much more fair "World Championships" if it at least moved around the country every 2-4 years. I don't make a ton of money. Neither do lots of people in this area - I scrounged and (with some help) managed to make it out to AZ this year. Others did not. Do they deserve to get shafted every year just so somebody doesn't have to find more volunteers? No! Everyone deserves the chance to attend these games every few years without the extensive driving or expensive flying that the few dedicated competitors like myself have endured.

Let's estimate what it cost me to go:
Entry for 2 dogs: $382
Gas for 5,000 miles in a minivan averaging 23mpg: $490 at $2.25/gallon
Rental house per person: $550
4 nights in hotels on the way out/back: $300
Food on the way out/back, assuming $20/day: $120
For a bare bones total of $1842, not even mentioning miscellaneous expenses while we're at the trial. Even just comparing expenses for driving: $920 alone. A one day drive would be a third of that or less - no hotel fees, very little in food, much less in gas and wear and tear on the car. It's just no fair to ask the SAME group of competitors year after year to pay these expenses.

So I am asking USDAA to STEP UP and ensure that these remain NATIONAL FINALS and don't turn into WESTERN FINALS. There are two ways to do this, in my mind. Either start reimbursing competitors from the eastern half of the country - offer a discount on entries and tenting, or a refund check. Or MOVE THE EVENT!

08 November 2008

Success


I have noticed this year, and especially out in Arizona, that there are many more good dog and handler combinations than before. Just 2 or 3 years ago I could lay down a good run and my dog's ground speed and obstacle speed were enough to place us high. This year I ran Jumpers clean but wide - and was worse than 20th place. I put down a good strong Standard run with only very minor time wasting and got 4th. I had one wide corner in Grand Prix and still had the 2nd fastest time. 3 years ago that would have been the fastest (running contacts gain you a bit).

Is agility harder than it used to be? I don't particularly think so. Compared to the great growth in instruction and handling styles, I think it is still the same difficulty. The courses are getting harder because the handling is getting better, not the other way around. There are just more and more really great handlers with really great dogs out there.

To me, this is a trumpet calling challenge. I love to be dared, pushed, told I can't beat someone. Because I want to. I want to beat them. I want to lay down the fastest time and know that I have the fastest dog in the country. Oddly I tend to focus more on the dog, even though running multiple fast dogs over time means it has to also be my handling and training. This year I had one dog run the 2nd fastest GP Finals time and land 7th place, and a different dog win the Team Relay and get 2nd overall in Team. That's consistency in handling. So I feel that I am "there". But the challenge is getting bigger. I already eat, sleep, and breathe agility. Sometimes I dream it. When I have free time I sit around thinking up new ways to train things. I analyze my handling system, looking for inconsistencies or weaknesses. I come up with training plans for my dogs. I think, to be nationally and internationally successful in this increasingly popular and competitive sport, that this is the way I need to be. If you consider agility a hobby, a recreation, well there is nothing wrong with that. But those who consider it to be more; a career, an obsession, a professional sport - we will win. Hobby competitors can have tons of fun with their dogs, maybe even win locally here and there. Serious competitors like myself and the "big name" trainers though - we spend lots of waking moments formulating and conceiving and processing information and theories and ideas. I have been known to grab a scrap piece of paper and start sketching out contacts or jumps on it. I used a notebook while working through Drifter's contact training before he ever touched a target.

Being successful in a national and international sport of this type takes many talents. Sheer running speed is not all that necessary. Timing is of more import. The handler must be mobile enough to get to the right position at the right time, but if the handler's timing is slow, or early, then running speed is useless. Body language, dog training, problem solving skills, along with knowing where your body is when you twirl around blindly, these are all things you need. Also patience, and the ability to just shrug off a bad run. No matter HOW talented the handler or trainer, this is still DOG agility, and the other half of each team of dog&handler doesn't know when they're laying it all on the line or just on a training run. Dogs are dogs, and thus we must be prepared for just about ANYTHING sometimes.

Also as handlers, luck helps sometimes but if you look at which handlers do consistently well, they are prepared. Luck helps but if you can anticipate for what your dog will see and do, and plan accordingly, then you can know before your dog does what they will be thinking and seeing. Great handling controls what the dog THINKS on course. Seeing all the options shouldn't be an option. A great handler prevents the dog from even thinking the off course might exist.

There's nothing wrong with being a recreational competitor. But being a serious one takes a lot more work. For some of us, the reward is worth it.

Today's AKC recap

Today I went to Garden State Norwegian Elkhound Club's AKC trial in the edge of NJ. I did not want to enter this trial, the weekend after I got home from a very long drive, but I also don't want to miss qualifying for AKC Nationals. The qualifying period ends Nov 30th so these are my last 4 weekends in AKC. This trial is indoors in a dirt horse arena. Good thing, since it rained off and on all day. The dirt was that real fine stuff, and while it wasn't dusty, not really, it also stayed pretty loose. It would pack along the handler's path as our big flat-footed sneakers tamped it down, but the dogs were trying to turn in beach sand in a couple spots. Both Drifter and Kiba knocked a bar in JWW (the first class) although they ran well. Drifter hit the first bar, probably since he forgot to check the height and has been jumpin 22" for the last 2 weeks. He hasn't seen 24" since October 4th. Kiba just honest to goodness slipped in the dirt. I also took my mom's JRT Schiz with me and ran her, she went clean in JWW and took 2nd.

Standard was another nice course, and Drifter just aced it. Even laid down on the table. We had a generous judge who allowed us our one "sorta kinda down" elbow (down in 3 points not 4). Then I almost pushed him past the aframe (I was looming over the table and lost track of my position). But he was great. Even stayed on the see-saw till it hit the ground (as long as he ever stays on).

Kiba had a real nice run but knocked one bar again. She's only jumping 20 so it's not a jump height issue - it was a bar after a tight 180 turn so I'm sure she slipped. Oh well. She only needs one more double Q for Nationals, and she'll need to learn to adapt to deep dirt sooner or later. I didn't stay for Schiz' standard run as it would have been 2 more hours.

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I have to say overall that my dogs are running very well. I was pleased with both at USDAA Nationals last week, and although Kiba has a few rough edges I need to smooth down a bit (the rear cross anticipation thing, and a bar here and there) I'm feeling like they may both be ready to try for IFCS in 2009. No word yet on the qualification process, but I'm assuming it will be similar to last year (points for placements at Regionals and Nationals). I will need to speak with my PT about strengthening exercises for Drifter's iliopsoas and pelvic region. He did put his pelvis out once last week somehow, but if I can strengthen those muscles I'm thinking he would be OK at 26 for the year. He does 24 really well, with only the occasional bar.

I am dearly hoping next year's Cynosports Games (USDAA Nationals) will be closer, but I'm certainly not betting the farm on it. I have to decide how to get out there again. I loved renting the house, but of course we can't arrange that till we have dates and a location (waiting on USDAA for those). And if I'm going to bring Seri I HAVE to drive. But that's 3 dogs all on my own. On the drive home I realized though that I am perfectly capable of such a drive by myself. I can go several days with little stopping. I am not really sore after that at all (suprisingly!). And I don't know if I want to travel with someone or not. It's great most of the time but if one of the people has a great trial and the other does not, it's hard to get along all the time (one person bitching and one person celebrating). I'd love to fly and be there in 6 hours but that is just not going to work with 3 dogs, even if I did think it was a good idea. My (very well known) PT says that even the dogs who've been in the car for 3 days ALWAYS feel better physically than the ones who flew. She figures the flying ones must be bracing in their crate the whole way out, while the driving ones usually are still but more relaxed. So I really don't feel bad about driving them that far. And very little stomach issues this year - I brought WATER with me and only gave them bottled or filtered water (we had a filter in our rental house so we could refill).

Anyway, my monthly schedule right now looks like this:
November - finish up AKC qualifications
December - take a few weeks off, start working Kiba's aframe and Drifter's jump heights. One USDAA trial.
January - NOTHING (more training)
February - 1 or 2 USDAA trials
March - 1 or 2 AKC trials, then AKC Nationals in NC
The rest of the year will be USDAA, including Southeast, Northeast, and North Central Regionals.