29 December 2011

A Comparison

Here is Seri's shoulder x-ray:

Compared to a normal shoulder x-ray (not Seri). Please note this is the opposite shoulder, and a slightly different angle/view, however you can clearly see the difference in the shape of the scapula.

In the top (Seri's) photo, you can see how the scapula appears to be missing the ends. It doesn't appear to be an arthritic type of change, it just seems to have been put together poorly. Since the shoulder joint is already very reliant on muscle to keep it together, this just means that Seri's shoulder is even more sensitive to muscular soreness and instability than a normal dog.

Seri update 29 Dec 2011

Today Seri went in for some x-rays. Happily, the weird tail and lower back kink to the right has almost totally resolved, and I think it was probably just due to her pelvis/sacrum being "out" for a bit, because that particular oddball symptom seemed to resolve within a few days of her adjustment. But just to be sure, I went ahead and had him x-ray her spine to check for spondylosis.. .

Well, that is a lovely spine! No spondylosis, no disk issues, nothing. Everything nicely spaced and well shaped. Hurray!

Just for curiosity's sake, we took a shot of her wrists:

I know this is not the source of most of her problems, but her wrists have definitely been one of her issues. Here we can see there are no obvious bony changes going on, no arthritis. Some fibrosis perhaps, and on the zoomed in x-ray (they're fully digital) the doc thought he saw some very small changes beginning on one of the small bones in the middle. But overall, not bad. (also, her elbows are very pretty!)

And the shoulder. I had him specifically check for OCD which meant looking for lesions and/or chips of any kind. To get a good shoulder x-ray, poor Seri had to be knocked out a bit, so she got a light dose of a reversible anaesthetic. This guy allows me to be very hands-on with my dogs, so I got the weird experience of holding her while he injected it, then helping her to lie down when it kicked in, and helping pick her up to put her on and off the x-ray table. Poor limp little Seri!

Anyway, here's the shoulder:

There are no visible lesions or chips, which is fabulous. However, the scapula (the upper, flatter bone) is not well-shaped where it meets with the other bone. The upward/inward curve should continue farther down on the right (as you're looking at it). It's almost like a shallow hip socket - it doesn't "cover" the head of the other bone very well, and so that is probably what is leading to the instability in that shoulder. It is entirely left up to her muscles to do the job, and so when she's totally fit and doing well, she is sound, but she is so reckless with her body doing agility, that she can easily mess herself up again.

For now I'm just sticking with a "no agility" routine. She is now swimming twice a week with my other dogs and I've got her back to a normal conditioning schedule with core work and walks, etc. I will discuss the x-ray with my PT and we will make a decision about Seri's ability to stay sound in agility. I don't think staying sound for "life" will be too difficult, at least.

And I have some answers, which is nice. Interestingly, they pretty much confirm everything I already know!

27 December 2011

Kiba D Update

Well I'm glad I let my dogs swim a little bit of extra time today, since it was pouring rain and windy all afternoon. As shown by this photo, they were perfectly happy to have the rest of the day off. Gosh, she's tiny when she curls up! She was only 26.9 lbs at the last vet visit - which is the other reason I posted again today. Urine culture results came back with zero bacterial cultures. So basically, she's perfectly healthy. I don't think it was the kibble since after a week of 100% raw I still see the drinking/peeing elevated. Current theory is that it's the dry air from the heat in the house. At our old place we had electric heat - which meant radiant heat from the electric-powered coils along the wall. Here we have oil heat which blows hot air out of the ventilation systems, so the air is probably warmer and more dry than Kiba's ever dealt with before, and it's possible she's trying to adapt by drinking more. I'm going to try buying a small inexpensive humidifier and running it in the living room for a while to see if that helps. She certainly is acting perfectly normal (for her).

I booked my flight to Reno and Belgium over the last week or so. Money spent, but trips to look forward to!

Strange Brain

I've known for a long time that I have a strange brain. I can obsess about certain subjects for weeks on end, while at the same time completely and unintentionally forgetting to perform some other task. I am introverted, bright, but not emotional.

Here is a good description of my personality type according to a very exhaustive type of testing. This is not a predictive test; it is a descriptive test. It describes people with a certain collection of social and thinking traits, according to the Myers-Brigg profiles. I am sure I have mentioned it before on here, but IF you happen to be interested in delving into my type of psyche for any strange stalker-related reason, or maybe you just like psychology (as I do), here is my personality type: INTJ, and here is another description as well.
And if you're interested in hearing what INTJ's have to say about dealing with INTJ's, read this;)

And as non-politically correct as it is to suggest that certain people have differing levels of intelligence, I happen to know I am also "gifted". This means not only high intellect, but also yet another layer of what I call "strange brain" is associated with it. Once again, emotional interpretation can be difficult, along with the obsessiveness and difficulty dealing with things we interpret as unjust or wrong. I couldn't find a good description off-hand that fits my weirdness, probably because I often feel that I may have a touch of this as well: Asperger's. And I am not at all certain on that one, but the whole "feeling like an outsider pretending to have the same emotions that others do" is definitely how I feel sometimes. Especially when dealing with certain emotions. I often find that I use humor as a refuge and a way to connect, and when that is out of the question, my brain sort of slides sideways and I have to pretend to go along. I am also extremely bothered by certain sounds and textures, and can be easily distracted and sometimes even repulsed by such. The obsessive bits and lack of social cue bullets definitely fit my strange brain issues, however I don't think I was ever uncoordinated physically. And obviously, if I do have a touch of it, I am very high functioning and I would never imply otherwise. I "get by" in the real world without counseling, but the older I get, the more I am able to recognize and admit to myself that no, I really don't feel the same way that "normal" people do. And I'm OK with that.

Anyway, this has been a public service announcement in reaction to another misunderstanding triggered by my bluntness and lack of social ability. Luckily a very minor infraction this time! But still. Sometimes my Vulcan tendencies (but, the LOGIC!) overcome my human ones! So, if you're bored, feel free to read some of the INTJ stuff and learn more about me. . .

And just so this post has a picture, here's Kiba, who has a strange brain too, but in other ways:

PS - please don't think all of this is in order to say that I can't deal with people on a regular basis, or am incapable of it, just to say that I am weird. I know it. But I enjoy teaching, as do many introverts and probably plenty of people with "strange brains" as well ;)

26 December 2011


I love this picture, even though it's not new, shamelessly stolen from Jane's Facebook page. It is a picture of Strafe's family in Denmark, 4 generations all lined up in a row. From L to R:  Zoya at 9 months (Strafe's litter-sister), Jiggy (Strafe's mother), Simic (grandmother), and Froken (great-grandmother). 

No mushy holiday posts from me. That's a guarantee. None. Ever. We watched a movie yesterday. OK so it was kind of a mushy movie - War Horse - but that's the extent of mushiness from me on holidays. Today I took some dogs for a walk at Fair Hill, then this afternoon we did some garage/barn (all one building) cleaning out and took down the canvas from our shade tent in the agility ring. Then I worked some agility since our footing is still OK out there for a little while longer - unless it freezes really hard again soon. I ran Kiba at 22" and she only hit one bar, then I ran Strafe on the same courses (sort of "AKC Excellent" level, hard enough for the dogs to pay attention but not so tough that we were drilling new skills or working our butts off or anything, just a review session). I put Strafe at 26" for the first time in course work. He's done little bits at 24/26" before but this time I ran the whole courses like he'd done it before, and he pretty much did the same, didn't even touch a bar, just floated over everything. I also worked Trig who is running well for me.

Seri's weird little tail kink seems much improved after a week of rest post-chiropractic adjustment. I've been allowing her to walk free in the field now and she'll start swimming again tomorrow.

Drifter's officially in "semi-retirement" and I'm pretty sure we'll finish his MACH2 and then that will be it for him. He's not even entered in anything right now as I'm focusing so hard on Strafe, Trig, and Kiba right now.

Kiba.... over the past few weeks i've seen a slight increase in her water consumption and frequency of urination. Last week I ran a basic blood test and urinalysis, which found nothing aside from a very slightly low white blood cell count. I also had them draw urine to do a culture, so I'm awaiting the results of that which should be in today or tomorrow. She seems 100% fine aside from the increase in drinking/peeing. I've switched her back to 100% raw as of last Wednesday and she's also on amoxicillin proactively but I still see her drinking quite a bit. Remaining theory is just that maybe the heat vents in the house make her thirsty?? Or....? I'm open to ideas. I had them run Lepto titers on her blood but I don't expect that to be positive. Now I'm thinking either some sort of low-level infection, or it's just a new behavioral quirk (she IS quirky!) or the only thing left that I can think of is diabetes but I think the glucose levels should have been noticeably off in her blood test last week.

Who knows. Weird little dog. She is running fabulously even at 22" in training now, so I think she feels great!

22 December 2011

With my SO's stuff being moved out, I have extra shelf space. I made a mini-trophy case out of the trophies and medals I had handy. Most of them are still packed away from the move last winter.

Today my dogs got to be evaluated at the indoor, heated swimming pool that's only 20min away. They will be going twice a week all winter long to help keep them in shape even when the ground is frozen! Very happy about that, it's great exercise for them.

I also got a 3rd crate into my new car. It fit pretty well, and is supported nicely too. I used a board to keep it level on the slightly slanted seat. So my little Hyundai now has two 20"x30" crates and one 19"x30". I also bought this cargo box to use on top for when I travel with 3 dogs and don't have a lot of room, or travel with another person.

So not too bad, I can fit 3 dogs in crates and all their trial gear into a compact car. I am so happy about it! I hated have extra space in the van. I liked how it drove and it was a reliable vehicle, but I didn't like the upright seating position and I felt like I was being wasteful having such a large vehicle. Now I feel more European;)

If i needed to, i could also just take all the crates out and shove a ton of dogs in it. Or put 2 dogs on the backseat with seatbelts on and use the cargo area for gear instead. Or put 2 seatbelt dogs on the seat and one crate in the back. There's a lot of variations possible. For now I'm leaving all the crates in, as I often work out of the car at shows and this is the easiest way to do that.

My car is like the Tardis, bigger on the inside:

20 December 2011

Seri update, again

I ran some bloodwork and urinalysis on Kiba because I've seen an increase in her drinking/urinating in the last few weeks. Not enough to think stones or UTI, but definitely noticeable. So while I was in I had them check Seri. Anal glands TOTALLY fine, not impacted at all, very healthy.

So yesterday after having the pelvis/sacrum/back/neck adjusted she did seem more happy-go-lucky this morning. I still see the weird right sided twist/bend here and there though. I'm keeping her on semi-rest until it resolves, in case it is a strange muscle pull of some sort. She goes out in the yard unsupervised and she goes on walks in our field BUT on leash so she is restricted to walk/trot. Otherwise, she is her usual happy self. I had a good conversation with someone who had a dog with adult-discovered OCD lesions in the shoulder, and it was interesting and useful. It seems her dog didn't often SEEM to be in pain but definitely was, because now that she's been fixed surgically, she is very different - faster, happier, less tentative in many ways. Seri is fast/happy but when she's sore she is quieter. But it's the on again/off again shoulder tightness and soreness that make me wonder about her shoulder maybe having a lesion or bone chip. Late next week I'm getting some x-rays at my vet, I will do shoulder/elbow and mid to lower back regions, just in case there is a back issue like spondylosis or something that we may have missed. She does have an aunt with that issue...

19 December 2011

Seri update

Took her down to a good chiro who happened to have a same-day opening today. As I suspected, her pelvis was out. Also, her sacrum, entire lower back and TL region, right side of her neck, her hock clicks and pops, and as usual her left scapula was "tight". She worked on her back a bit and she loosened up enough that she was mostly standing straight. She still wants to curl to the right with her tail and butt/extreme lower back area though, which is a brand new and STRANGE behavior. I am keeping on "loose in the yard to potty + leash walks" only right now until we figure out this weird kink. She does look much better with her pelvis straightened out and her back loosened up, but she's still doing it. The chiro did tell me she's seen dogs do weird stuff similar to this because of an anal gland impaction, so I'm taking her in tomorrow morning to get that checked.

Next step will be a set of x-rays at my regular vet who sort of specializes in ortho stuff. He's not VOSM level specialist but he is competent to take shoulder/back/pelvic area x-rays I think. We can at least make sure there are no bone chips anywhere or major arthritic changes. If she clears those, then she sees Ria next week, and assuming she's doing as well as she was before this set-back we have a new plan in place involving the agility and rehab. We are going to try actually increasing the frequency of her agility sessions, but keeping them short. Trying it on the theory that perhaps she needs to build up specific agility-related muscles that can't be done by regular rehab and strengthening exercises. Anyway, we'll give it a shot for a while, once we've looked at x-rays and had a clear check from Ria again anyway.

If Seri CAN be brought back to the point of being to show in agility once every month or so, I would be thrilled, as she is so fast she's competitive even with wide corners. If Seri CANNOT be brought back into agility competitions, then so be it. She is who she is and I won't force it. I am certainly going to try though. As difficult as she is, she LOVES the sport (too much, sometimes) and I enjoy running her, even if she can be frustrating at times...

So yet another setback. I am finding it is useless to make concrete goals with Seri, it is better to just go at her pace.

18 December 2011


First the non-sigh part of the post - I had a great time teaching in White Plains, NY again at PCOTC. Love being in a heated, clean (matted, not dirt) facility with a nice group of people. And it's only a 3 hour drive each way, so i'm home at a reasonable time and I get to bring dogs with me.

Now the "sigh" part of the post. A couple days ago I noticed Seri sometimes holding her tail off to the right, for no obvious reason. She would also curl her rear end slightly to the right as well. It was strange. But on initial examination, nothing obviously wrong with her. She stretches out OK, I pulled her tail, no reaction, I checked for hot spots or knots in her quads, hamstrings, etc. Nothing. Her right hock does click a lot now when flexed and released, which it shouldn't be doing, but that alone doesn't explain the weird tail kink behavior. I brought her with me and since she looked OK most of the time I did a demo or 2 with her at the seminar and ran a couple quick courses with her. She seemed a little stiff at night after doing demos on Sat which is not unusual (not good either but not new), but when I got home today I think I found the problem - I'm pretty sure her pelvis is out. And it seems to have flared forward on the right, which might explain the slight curling to the right. I am also getting a twitching pain reaction under her shoulder too. So, heaving a big sigh once again as I am putting her on indefinite layup from trialing. I just don't want to risk her making herself worse; as crazy as she is at home, she is two or three times more reckless and wild at a trial. And I would like her to be comfortably sound into old age. If that means no agility competitions, then so be it. She MIGHT be able to compete if I paid for expensive surgery to tighten up her shoulder, but I do not want to put her (and my wallet) through all that when she can be sound enough to live a good life without it.

Oh Seri!

On a brighter note, I ran Strafe on a couple sequences at 24" and he did great... he wasn't sure what to think about the see-saw being right next to a big mirror though! He did it, but he was quite tentative, not driving out to the end properly. No big deal.

17 December 2011


First, Linda has published another article about ETS. This time she details her personal research into how the problem runs in "lines" of dogs. Most of us who can "see" dogs with the problem will agree - whatever causes it is definitely heritable. Article here!

And speaking of jumping, if you like to watch long videos of my dogs working on jumping exercises for skills and fitness, here you go!

16 December 2011

What we did today

This morning I got some anti-fatique matting and cut it to fit under the therapeutic beds in the dogs' new car crates. I also got a black sheet and folded it over top of the crates like a crate cover, to block people from staring in and to block part of the dogs' view out as well. I left the front side facing the vents/windshield totally open.

Then we loaded up in the car and went to Fair Hill for a walk. I walked around a loop trail that I know isn't horribly long. It was chilly and windy today. We walked through a really pretty tree branch "tunnel" that I enjoy because it looks very fantastical...

While I was out walking, Tracy posted the entire WAO Team on Facebook (see my previous post for the entire list). Wow, what a huge team full of great talent! That's a lot of dogs/handlers. We're gonna take the WAO by storm, looks like!

Anyway, then we got back to the car and I snapped a pic of Kiba looking sad and distracted in front of my new wheels. I'm kind of liking the "carbon grey" sort of color on the wheels. Sporty!

Tomorrow I prepare for my short day-and-a-half of teaching in NY. In a nice heated facility, on nice clean mats! Relaxing! Will also be my first trip in the brand new car. I have AM/FM/CD as usual, and I also now have XM and an iPod connector that allows me to control the iPod through the radio display! Love it, very cool, high-tech and modern!

I haven't used my iPod in several years, so I'm sort of enjoying going back through and listening to albums I haven't heard in quite a while. Yes, including System of a Down, although I think Metro is off a soundtrack to something...

2012 World Agility Open Team USA

I actually found out yesterday but was under a "no public announcement" order. Kiba made the team!!!

2012 WAO Team USA:
The Team:
300 division:
Sandra Rogers and Quill
Ivette White and Zip
Monique Plinque and Tiki
Daneen Fox and Masher
Mike Padgett and Kona

400 division:
Anne Kajava and Manja
Karen Holik and Sizzle
Jenn Crank and Blaster
Nancy Kleinhans and Jimmy Dean
Jenn Crank and Salsa

525 Division
Moe Strenfel and Kindle
Dudley Fontaine and Sweet
Mary Ellen Barry and Maizy
Jeannette Hutchison and Rumble
Rosanne Demascio and Kiba

650 Division
Lori Michaels and Solei
Linda Mecklenburg and Wonder
Daisy Peel and Solar
Terry Smorch and Presto
Dudley Fontaine and Maverick
Stacy Goudy and Maze

The Reserves:
525 Division
1st Reserve: Elicia Calhoun and BreeSea
2nd Reserve: Vanessa Mortarino and Habit
Addtl Reserves: Strenfel/Kyna for Kindle, Barry/E-Z for Maizy

650 Division
1st Reserve: Mary Dougherty with Trek
2nd Reserve: Ann Zarr with Skylar

The Development Team:
400 Division
Delaney Ratner and Jonesy

525 Division
Susan Crank and Seeker
Kerry Stevens and Mesa

650 Division
Blake Stafford and Beamer
Jennifer Crank and Sonic
Kelly Chaffin and Pete
Delaney Ratner and Kelso

15 December 2011


Well we spent several hours at the dealer today and came home in my new car! I hope to keep it for at least 5 years, and Hyundai has that nice "Assurance" thing where they guarantee trade-in value which is great, so i know it'll be worth *something* when I'm done with it. They gave me a great trade-in value on my other car so overall I'm happy with the deal. Affordable, has all the options I wanted, and nice low monthly payments.

it's raining, so here it is parked in the garage.

it just *barely* fits the two 20"x30" crates I bought for it. Good size for the BC's, not for long trials where I'll set up an x-pen for them, but for regular half-day AKC trials and driving they'll be fine as they usually curl up and these crates are totally fine for the size of my dogs (not enormous).

14 December 2011

ok seriously?

i am at our indoor for class today and for some reason my droid wont allow me to edit my last post. Perhaps its my aspergerlike insensitivity, but i dont understand why my comments in the last post upset people. This is my blog. I record my thoughts here. And my thoughts are that it felt kind of like teasing us to post "coming soon" on a Monday and not say when the announcement would be. I do realize its not intentional teasing or being mean. I am downright shocked that people actually emailed Tracy and complained about what i said. I think thats silly. Am i not allowed to care about making a team i applied for??? clearly i am not a part of the emotional society that reads so deeply into such statements. basically, chill out people!!!

ETA: I edited the last post. So it doesn't say anyone was "mean". i had no idea how touchy people are. I am a blunt person, so uh, sorry I'm me! I realize a lot of people read this, but it is still, and will continue to be, a JOURNAL. Please keep that in mind.

Nondog, even though the first picture has a dog.

So I wanted to wait a bit to let it sink in. My "SO" has left, citing my crazy travel schedule and other things, and so I am single again. That's OK, as dogs eat up all my time and generally my thoughts anyway. He was and still is, a really nice guy, but I am just not a super-emotional person (sometimes I actually think I may be a very high-functioning Asperger's type). Looking on the bright side, that does mean i get a new car, very soon, since he owned the van I was driving, and I owned the commuter car he was driving. Luckily the commuter car is worth about $5,000 on trade so I can get a new wagon and still keep my payments pretty darned low, which is what I want with my variable income. I am really liking the downsizing idea, I can get something that is easy and fun to drive, more efficient than the van (although my '05 Odyssey was getting 25mpg average on the highway which is not bad), and more comfortable for my (very bad) rotator cuff tendonitis, which always seems aggravated by driving a more upright vehicle. So looks like I'll be getting one of these. I measured the cargo area, and it's pretty big between the wheel wells so i can actually fit 2 crates across and then if I travel with a 3rd dog I can either squeeze a smaller Kiba-sized crate in the middle, or the 3rd dog can ride loose with a seatbelt.
2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Today, though, I am teaching class and still have the Civic sedan, so I'll just be taking 2 dogs that can ride on the backseat loose (anybody but Kiba can do so).

ETA: forgot to mention, on Monday Tracy teased us by posting that a Team Announcement for WAO was "coming soon" so "stay tuned".
2nd EDIT: apparently it was mean of me to say it was mean to tease. So OK, it was misleading posting it Monday, since apparently the plan is to announce it "by the end of the week". So I can stop obsessively checking Facebook now. Maybe.
 I'd really like to make it with Kiba, but I have no real high expectations since she doesn't jump 22" which seems to be the expected Tryout height. But if she's not on the team I'd like to know so I can enter her next trials at 16" instead of 20". She can DO 20", but she needs extra conditioning and jump work for it.

12 December 2011

Strafe's debut weekend

Yes, that's right, Strafe is already old enough to run in AKC trials. While I'm not a big fan of overworking a young dog, I felt that Strafe was educated enough to run in Novice AKC. he knows all the obstacles and understands handling basics. And he did great! He measured at 20 and 5/8" tall, and ran at 20" (a little over 50cm) jump height. I will be working slowly up to 26" (65cm) after this, but didn't want to start out that high so young. Over the course of the weekend, Strafe had the fastest time in the Time 2 Beat class but knocked the last bar. He qualified in Novice Standard 2 out of 3 days, and qualified in Novice JWW once - the other NQ's were almost all single-bar-knocked runs. On Saturday I managed to stop him to mark the knocked bar, and after that he didn't hit any more. He is VERY careful about bars at home, so I suspect the excitement was just too much for him. All the bars he hit were cases where he just ran too close to the jump before taking off, which is just a factor of him rushing to go places. The mild correction of stopping to mark the bar on Sat seemed to be all the reminder he needed to pay attention.

Drifter and Kiba each ran 2 of the 3 days of the trial, and each did OK but neither got a QQ. I messed Drifter up once by almost running myself into the table which pulled him off a jump. And Kiba won JWW one day but hit a single bar in Std the next due to severe sun glare coming in the windows by the roof... overall they just ran a bit "off" due to lack of being in tune with me and lack of strong conditioning routine the last few months.

Videos of Strafe:
Friday, all 3 runs:

Saturday and Sunday Novice Standard runs:

And Sunday's qualifying Novice JWW run where I didn't support a jump by accident:

06 December 2011

Trips Finished and Trips in Planning

Well I'm home from my last "far away" seminar for 2011. Actually my last "far away" seminar for quite a while, I have others planned for the next few months, but all are within a few hours driving distance of my house, which makes life a lot easier. Coming home from far out west really takes a whole friggin' day..

i had fun in Portland. it was cold. like frosty cold. And it was foggy. i saw the sun briefly;) But it was Ok because all the people who came to the seminar were really nice, and their dogs were good too. I hope to return in the summer when it isn't frosty cold fog weather.

On the agenda for this week.. . Ria is coming to work on dogs today and tomorrow. I teach classes tomorrow afternoon/evening. Thursday is going to be catch-up day for laundry and various other errands. Then Friday is STRAFE'S FIRST TRIAL! WOOHOO!
Also on the agenda but for the more ambiguous timeframe of "soon" is planning my trip to Reno for AKC Nationals at the end of March. I am still deciding what to do with Kiba. I am taking her and my mother's Trig, who will be flying in cargo. I'm still deciding whether Kiba will be Ok with that, or if i need to work out a way to get her in the cabin with me. My strong original feelings for her have been that she is so bad in the car that she might come out of the plane a total wreck (or dead!) but the more I think on it, the more I am leaning towards going that direction. it's not illegal (always a bonus), and the things that make Kiba really nervous are the windows/movement of the car, and I don't really think that the mostly-dark cargo hold of the plane will have the same effect on her.

So here's my request. I know a lot of people read this blog, but very few people comment. But if you have a dog who is nervous in the car - panting, spinning, bracing in the corner, something like that - please comment if you have flown your dog in cargo. Did the dog come out of cargo OK? Dehydrated? Sore? Anxious? Relaxed?

Help me decide how to get this dog to Reno so she can kick some butt!

01 December 2011

Strafe enjoying our large window

Tomorrow morning VERY early (not so bright) I am headed off to the airport. Again. I've never ridden so many airplanes in such a short amount of time. I am only teaching a normal 2 days of seminars this time, then coming home Monday. However coming all the way east across the US pretty much takes a whole day unless you can get a direct flight (not really possible from PDX to BWI). So I get back late Monday. But really the travel doesn't bother me. I have always enjoyed reading books and I don't mind being by myself for periods of time, so flight days are really just "reading days" for me. Luckily I have some good books packed and ready to go. The only thing I'm concerned about is on the way back my connection time is fairly tight in Denver so hopefully the PDX - DEN flight will be on time or maybe early...

Looking forward to being back in the PNW again, even if it's only for 2 quick days! Nice people out there, and I've done a lot of teaching since the last time I was there and I hope (and expect) that the people who come will enjoy it even more this time than last. After all, if I didn't get better over time, what would be the point?

Today is devoted to my car, getting it inspected, tires, insurance change, DMV, etc. Not really exciting, but necessary stuff.

Yesterday I ran Strafe in my Masters class for the 2nd time. He's still jumping 20" (about 50cm) but he is doing really well. After I get back from Portland on Monday night I only have a few days left till his AKC debut!

29 November 2011

On Science and Scare Tactics

For some strange reason that I don't quite understand, the more scientific advances our civilization makes, the more some people start hunting for old, non-scientific methods of doing things. This ties into the "persecution complex" that many majorities mistakenly harbor, for instance the "war on Christmas" or "doctors are out to get you, not help you", things of that nature. For instance, if doctors (and veterinarians) are "out to get you", you will start believing that drugs are not helpful, only harmful. This is pure bunk. Being a skeptic myself, I believe science and scientific studies over "Mary Sue's friend's sister's dog turned into a raving aggressive maniac RIGHT AFTER he got his Rabies Vaccine!"

And so we talk about vaccines. Did you know there is NO GOOD study that says vaccines of any kind cause long term adverse reactions? Sure, there are some reactions to vaccines, such as a bump at the site, and certainly some dogs can have very strong reactions to any disease or ingredient in the vaccine. However, those dogs are having what basically amounts to a very strong allergic reaction.

Do you know what a vaccine is? It is a small amount of (usually dead) disease, injected into a dog's or human's body, so that the body can build up a good immune response to that disease without the risk of the (dead!) disease killing them. I do not understand how anyone can think it is better to risk their dog DYING of parvo or distemper or rabies rather than introduce this small element into their immune system. Do you know why I think this? Because over the last century people and dogs both have begun to enjoy much longer lives with much lower risks of disease. Why? Well a big part of the reason is vaccines. Get a small innoculation against something and enjoy an almost zero-risk of ever catching the actual disease later in life.

All of that said, I certainly do not vaccinate my dogs needlessly every year. They get puppy shots according to Dodds' recommendations at 8/12/16 weeks or so, they get Rabies after 16 weeks, then they get all their booster shots between 12-18 months. Then I just do Rabies every 3 years as required by the law in my area. That's it. Why? Because real science tells me that vaccines last longer than a year, in fact most of Parvo and Distemper studies I found said they lasted at LEAST 7 years, with strong indications they carried immunity for (a dog's) life.

Anyway, this post was inspired by an online magazine I see posted around Facebook a lot, called Dogs Naturally. This magazine has some good articles, but a lot of pseudoscience is also included. Lots of scare tactics. Lots of "rabies vaccinosis!!!! ZOMG!!!!" type stuff. I've lived with vaccinated dogs all my life. None of them seem to have any strange "rabies vaccinosis". They all seem the same before and after their vaccines... one got a bump one time. It went away after a couple weeks. I told the vet before the next one and he injected a different site that has more loose skin and no bump followed. I do not think magazines like Dogs Naturally really have a dog's best interest at heart. By encouraging people to believe in pseudoscience and quote mining real scientific papers for the single scary line or two, then emphasizing and blowing that part way out of proportion, they are simply invoking an emotional response in readers who are trying to do their best. Another tactic is to tell the reader a lot of bad things about vaccines, but have no link to source material proving the listed information.

I have important news for people. Vaccine companies, veterinarians, doctors - none of them are out to get you. Some of them are out to make money, this is true, but most health care professionals got into that profession specifically to help people or animals, and oftentimes that money is recycled straight back into more advances in the field. My vet does not live on a yacht, laughing at the foolish masses who paid the extra $30 for a vaccine they didn't need every year. I'm sure he does own a car. He's a nice guy. He enjoyed showing me the digital x-ray machine and how it worked. He didn't try to steal my wallet.

So the next time someone tells you that a magical plastic bracelet changed their life, look for the real science before automatically believing it. You will find that magical plastic bracelets have a lawsuit pending in Australia for false advertising....

As skeptics have been known to say "many anecdotes do not equal data".

28 November 2011


Here's a few runs with Trig, mother's dog. She did pretty well for me, 5 out of 7 Q's, including 2 QQ's towards Tryouts and an Exc A FAST Q as well.

And here's Kiba. She did not Q quite as much but had two really stellar JWW runs, winning the entire huge 20" class (I think it was about 100-120 dogs) on Saturday.

27 November 2011

KESSC AKC Day 3 wrap-up and a note about travel

Day 3 of KESSC today. My mom's little girl was a rockstar again today and got her 2nd QQ at 26" in a row. Already halfway to the 4 we need for Tryouts! Just have to finish garnering our "8 and 8" after that. Trig runs a little differently from my dogs, but she is not *quite* as fast as they are, so it's not a stressful challenge for me to run her, I just have to remember that she's better with me in front, and that if I have to rear cross I need to get her to check in with me first, since once in a while if I just do a regular rear cross without asking for a head check, she will bend in the new direction I've asked for, but then just take the first thing she sees...

Drifter got QQ #35 today. He Q'd in JWW each day with lovely runs, but had a couple goofy mistakes in Std each day. Friday he did one of those weird one-hit down ramp dogwalks that he started occasionally doing last winter. I am pretty convinced it's due to his crooked feet and not-working toe, so i just ignored it and the next 2 days his dogwalks were fine. I have to make sure i don't overextend him on the top ramp though, which is not something I ever had to watch before. I think with his crooked feet (left foot leans inside, right foot leans outside) landing and running on the downhill narrow slope is getting trickier for him and sometimes he'd rather just leave for the ground. This just reinforces my original thought to finish his MACH2 and then retire him from most competition.

Kiba got 2 really nice JWW Q's this weekend, beating Drifter's time in both of them and winning the entire 100dog 20" class on Saturday. The other runs were all nice except for one bar. Today I corrected both bars by marking them verbally and pausing briefly. I think she just needs more work at 20" - we haven't worked much since USDAA in KY 6 weeks ago, just a few courses here and there. She needs some good grid work and difficult handling exercises at 20 and 22" to get her to remember what she's doing. She's also not as fit as she was 2 months ago...

Which of course is because of all the travelling I've been doing. I've got one more weekend "away" until I hit a stretch where all my teaching is only 1 or 1 and 1/2 days, all within driving distance for a while. Which means I can take a couple dogs with me. Which makes it easier to keep them in shape, and makes it easier for them to be watched by my mother when I'm gone.

I met a rescue papillon this weekend that I really liked... made me rethink my "sheltie in a couple years" puppy plan. If it looks like he can be registered with AKC (with pedigree) and he really is the height I think he is (right around 13 and 3/4", mammoth for a papillon but *perfect* for 14" FCI) I am considering taking the little booger. he's currently 10months, which is really close to Strafe's age, but this little guy knows absolutely nothing, so while Strafe is ready to start novice competition now, this pap wouldn't be ready for probably a year.

Just a thought ;)

Videos from the weekend will be uploaded tomorrow.

26 November 2011

first 2 days of KESSC

Keystone English Springer Spaniel Club that is...

Yesterday and today Kiba and Drifter both Q'ed in JWW, yesterday and today Kiba beat Drifter's time. Both are jumping 20". Drifter is a little fat still, a pound or two overweight. And also both days, Kiba hit one bar in Std and Drifter had at least one moment of "WAHOOO I AM NOT AN EDUCATED NINE YEAR OLD DOG!" and basically ignored some blatant cue that I gave him.... so yeah. Hopefully one of the two will get a double Q tomorrow... neither needs it for Reno but it would be nice! Despite the single knocked bar each day, Kiba actually looks GREAT at 20" and I'm still crossing my fingers we'll get picked for the WAO team, as I have no real worries about her health at 20, she just has to get back in the swing of trialing at that height again. She hasn't run at 20" in a trial since late September.

i also ran Trig for the first time at 26" to start garnering Q's towards Tryouts this spring. Yesterday I didn't run FAST, we had one "disconnect" in JWW and she broke her stay in Std so I walked her off (I didn't even get past the first obstacle before she got up). Today she stayed like a rock, Q'ed in all 3 classes, not a "triple Q" technically because she's still in Exc A Fast, but she got her first QQ (of 4 needed) towards Tryouts, and her first of her "8 and 8" each of Std and JWW as well.

One more day of trial.

24 November 2011

CO, yep I was there, I had fun, I survived

With the rush to explain the ETS video I posted before leaving for CO, I didn't actually mention how teaching in CO went.  I had fun, it was a really nice group of people, no "sour grapes" types and everyone really seemed interesting in hearing what I had to say and at least trying things out. Everyone had a great attitude, the group asked good questions (I like questions; they keep me on track!). And I survived the altitude just fine. I had no immediate effects on landing, no "altitude sickness" type issues. I'm young enough and healthy enough overall that I really shouldn't have those types of problems. I did recognize that the air was quite dry and at night my nose had that "dry congestion" type of thing going on, but nothing too bad. And I definitely did feel myself getting a little out of breath when I got on a roll and talked for a few minutes straight. However, I think I'll be fine to run a 30 second agility run, as long as I don't enter the ring already out of breath. I also talked to the friendly locals about the weather, and while they did agree there was a slight chance of adverse weather (as in precipitation of some kind), they said generally it should be chilly in the morning and quite likely warm (like 80's possible) in the afternoon. The sun there is very strong and they assured me that any frost should be long gone by 9:30am start time....

So yes, i am still tentatively planning to attend the USDAA Nationals event in CO in September. My first qualifer isn't till January, and Strafe isn't old enough till March. However, I ran Strafe in my Masters class yesterday and he did fabulously. Not to say he ran everything perfectly on the first try, but his mistakes were minor, he handled being around other people and dogs just fine. He weaved no problem and his aframes continue to be very consistently in the contact. Only 2 weeks till his debut now!

Today is Thanksgiving. I don't really celebrate holidays. But it's nice that everyone's off from work. I'm about to go on a hike at Fair Hill with Seri and Strafe, who aren't entered in the trial tomorrow.

ETA: we went for a nice, slightly sidetracked, winding hike at Fair Hill in gorgeous weather. Here's Seri showing off her "Don't Shoot Me" hiking gear:

22 November 2011


Early Takeoff Syndrome.

No, I do not believe there is a true medical syndrome that is defined by "bad jumping". But I do believe we need a name for this strange collection of symptoms that affects some dogs. I had a dog such as this. Many people won't remember her at all, because I retired her early and allowed her to go live with a nice retired couple and be spoiled. Freeze was a highly intelligent dog, very athletic. But she was a poor jumper. I have worked on jump grids and lots of 1 and 2 jump exercises with my dogs since the dark ages of agility in the early 90's. Freeze did many a jump grid and lots of exercises. She was fit. She passed her CERF exam. She was smart, she was well-trained. She achieved her ADCH title relatively quickly, qualified for USDAA Nationals every year I ran her, made a few Top Ten lists, and even got an LAA-Bronze award.

Freeze had ETS. It is a painful problem to work with. And no, it isn't JUST a matter of training, it isn't even JUST a matter of agility. There are a lot of situations where a dog needs the ability to judge a horizontal "bar" of some sort in space, and she had trouble with all of the. Open types of stairs scared her a bit. She was quite concerned about entering and exiting small crate doors, and always flew through them at 90mph.

Like many ETS dogs, Freeze had a softer personality type, and if I even THOUGHT about correcting her knocked bar, more bars were sure to fall. Also like many ETS dogs, she was highly sensitive to my motion while she was jumping. If she knew I was about to front cross, the bar fell down. If I tried to lead out too far, the bar came down. If I did anything in front of her, basically, the bar came down. So I used a lot of rear crosses (which unfortunately led to people thinking I was unable to handle using front crosses, when in fact I generally prefer to work in front of my dogs!)

Linda is continuing her work with ETS and has been updating the information, adding a new webpage with some newer video links. Because I am now considered a "big name" agility handler (woohoo I guess I've made it!) and I had an ETS dog, i was asked to put some video together showing the problem. I gladly complied. I think it is a sad state of affairs when other "big name" trainers claim that ETS is just an uneducated dog, or one that's rushing. Clearly these people are blind to the obvious anxiety that can be seen on the dogs' faces as they attempt to figure out where the jump or tire is. Many of these dogs have a big heart, and enjoy working with their handler so much that they continue to try, but clearly the dog is just unable to judge things properly. Training can not overcome physical issues, whether they are due merely to vision problems, or to some strange connection between vision and brain.

Here is the video of Freeze. Some of it is quite cringe-inducing and looking back, I am very glad that I allowed her to retire before she got any worse.

ETA: I want to clarify that while I don't believe "bad jumping" is an inherited issue, I absolutely do believe that the collection of traits which lead to this problem ARE inherited. i think it's undeniable that some related dogs, who were bred by different people and raised in different homes, still develop the same problem. ETS is caused by something which is genetic.

18 November 2011

minor blackout

I'm off to CO this afternoon to teach for 3 days. I haven't been in CO since I was about 9 or 10 years old. Several of my friends love it though. I am just looking forward to a brand new group of seminar participants.

Anyway, I'm not bringing my laptop so won't be updating till I get home, and then I'll be brief due to still having other things to do - a friend is visiting, then after Thanksgiving I have a 3-day AKC trial, local to home but still taking up the majority of the day.

So, more air travel today for me. I'm flying on 2 different airlines, one out, one back, in order to get a decent nonstop flight at the right times of day/night. I'm going to try carrying on my luggage this time rather than checking it, just so I can avoid waiting at the baggage claim. I really don't mind, normally, but last time when I was returning from TX it took forever to get the bags on the carousel and on the way home, especially, I get very impatient. So hopefully the overhead bins won't be jampacked when I board so my rolling carry-on will fit... we'll see!

This will also be my first hotel stay without a dog in a long time. Relaxing but strange. I have a deep-seated compulsion to "go walk the dog" when I return to a hotel or before I go to bed. I even experienced it strongly when I was in the bed and breakfast in Denmark last year. So strange to be dogless. I've NEVER lived in a house without dogs, my entire life! Anyway, I will survive 4 quick nights in a hotel. Really more like 3 and 1/2 nights, since I'm leaving early Tues morning. The shuttle comes to pick me up in the wee hours so I can make my flight out of Denver that takes off at 7am.

17 November 2011

By the way

Sometimes when people come to see me for a private lesson, they will tell me they had a friend who said they shouldn't bother to come because "Rosanne only does X..." and X changes, sometimes it's "Rosanne only does rear crosses" - that's what I used to hear, because I had a dog with ETS who couldn't jump well if I was in front of her. Lately it's "Rosanne only does distance" or "Rosanne only does front crosses"

Seriously? I *only* do distance? WTF are these people smoking? I'm sorry... this aggravated me a little. And I'm glad the people who hear this don't let it deter them. And yes, this is a bit of a snipey post, but still. It's basically impossible to succeed at National and International level agility these days if you "only do distance" or "only do rear crosses" or "only do..... " anything!

So to whomever is telling people I don't do anything but distance, here's some videos! And if you already know I work close to my dogs when necessary, but ALSO utilize sending when necessary, here's some videos you can enjoy too. They're all old ones, reposted.

So, sorry to rant a bit. I just think it's very bad manners to say things like that about other people. I certainly hope it is clear that I do not use "distance" exclusively any more than i use any certain type of cross exclusively. In fact when I teach I usually make a point of helping the attendees to find different options. And yes, my dogs do have great sending skills, that is how I GET AHEAD OF THEM!

not as controversial...

If you wondered where all the obsessive "dogwalk training" videos of Strafe went, well, we just don't need them anymore. It seems the bit of work we did on it a couple months ago did the trick, and he's been sequencing it since then with great consistency. He's missed one here and there, but the very great majority of them have been spot on. He goes with me to seminars I teach (when I drive to them), and I get him on the equipment, and often I find that the very first dogwalk he is a bit hesitant but still hits the contact easily, and after that he gets lower and better. Yesterday he actually gave me a nice deep hit the very first time, possibly because I didn't "show it to him" first - I just made up a course and threw him at it, and he did great. Nice deep, fast, dogwalk hits. I am very pleased. I even did a turn off one to a right angle weave entry and he was great. I haven't worked a ton of turns yet because I wanted consistency first, but i don't get the feeling he's going to be tough to turn later on. He's just not a "lock onto things" sort of dog; he's always easy to turn. Only 3 more weekends before his debut!

Not being home to exercise my dogs every day has led to Drifter's continued chubbiness. It is rainy and windy today but I got them for a nice 20min walk/run this morning before breakfast. I also dug the big peanut out of the spare bedroom (from when we moved) and will work on that this afternoon. i want to make sure the older dogs don't get lazy, and I want to make sure Strafe has built up a good core as I start raising his jump heights up from 20" to 26" later in December.

15 November 2011

On jump heights. USDAA and WAO.

Does this jump look too small for Kiba? She's definitely jumping it. It's only 16". At AKC Nationals we don't have a choice, we have to jump this height.

Jump heights are difficult to get right. In most places in Europe, they only have 3 jump heights, and because I'm american, I'm going to use inches for this post. So for FCI/EO type competitions, the only heights available are 14"/18"/26". Do you see a gap there? Let's see, maybe 22 is missing? Yeah, in FCI every dog over 16 and 7/8" tall has to jump 26". That's not right. But FCI is slow to change. For some reason they seem to like having twice as many "Large" dogs as Small and Medium dogs. I'm not sure why. Makes a lot of sense to split that class and have a 22" height for smaller "Large" dogs.

But alas, I have no say in FCI. I really wanted to talk about the USA anyway. Here in the US, we have 2 major organizations (I am ignoring all the smaller ones that don't strive to create dogs/handlers that can compete at a National/International level). AKC has a lot of jump heights. Possibly too many, but it's probably better to err on the side of "too many options" than on the side of "not enough". In AKC, each jump height includes all dogs within the range of 2" above and below the jump height, with the sole exception of the 8" class which goes up to 11" at the withers. So for the 16" class, dogs from 14" to 18" tall jump the height. For 20", that is dogs 18" to 22" tall. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm pretty sure dogs on the high end of the range have a really easy time with the jumps most of the time, and I think a 22" tall dog competing against a 18.25" tall dog isn't quite right. But at least I understand this system. Luckily for me, in this system, Kiba falls into the high end of the range, and so she can enjoy jumping 16" which is very easy for her, and puts her at an advantage against 14.5" dogs.

In USDAA they have chosen to create a system where every dog jumps higher than it's own height at the withers. This is a problem. Especially because their heights are 12/16/22/26" - and once again there's a large gap, not as large as the FCI gap, but 12 and 16 are 4" apart, and 22 and 26 are 4" apart. So why are 16 and 22" half again as farther apart at 6"? In USDAA, all dogs between 16" and 21" tall are assigned the 22" jump height. I don't think this is at all fair. When you're assigning jump heights, you need to look at the typical body types of dogs within a height range. And dogs at the 16-17" tall range generally do not find 22" to be a very easy jump height. Many of these dogs choose to run in Performance because they feel that jumping their small dogs over 22" jumps is too hard for them.

Another problem in USDAA is that many people feel that the small dog divisions are driving small dog competitors to compete in AKC where the heights are friendlier. Again, in these heights, the body types of the dogs involved do not make higher jumps easy for them. There are a lot corgi's, valhunds, and terriers. Jumping 3" over their shoulder is quite difficult for some of these.

I have a solution! Here is my proposed "ideal jump heights" for USDAA. Not that I pull any weight with them, but perhaps my solution will go viral and create an uproar and perhaps SOME kind of change will happen.
I would use these divisions: 10"/14"/18"/22"/26"
This division has a lot of advantages. You create a smaller Championship height for dogs who have trouble with 12", but without going so low to 8" that the jumps seem like tiny speed bumps. You create 14 and 18", drawing the crowd of competitive FCI and EO hopefuls who would really enjoy having an american organization with those heights available. You keep the 22/26 which I do think are good, competitive jump heights. but you can slice off that section of dogs under 18" or so and stop forcing them to jump 4-6" over their shoulder for the 22" height.

My cutoff's for such divisions would be as followed, and are based primarily on my anecdotal but extensive observations of body type and height of dogs I've seen over the years:
10" jump height - dogs up to 11" tall.
14" jump height - dogs up to 14.5"
18" jump height - dogs up to 18.5"
22" jump height - dogs up to 21.5"
26" jump height - dogs over 21.5"
While some of the heights include a very small slice of dogs who would be slightly taller than the jumps, no division includes dogs that are a LOT taller than the jumps, I think every division forces dogs to actually jump, not just step over speed bumps. It will raise the heights for some dogs, and lower them for others. The dogs who will have a raised height will be brought in line with international standards at FCI, and while I know USDAA likes to pretend they don't exist, just like AKC, the reality is that they DO, and that is the standard that most people look to when they look for the ultimate international competition level.

I would also go the route of AKC and force Performance participants to jump the lower jump height. But that is a personal peeve of mine and I know many disagree with me. I, personally, feel that if your dog is no longer capable of jumping spreads or doing a higher aframe, you probably should just allow the dog to jump the lower jump height too. But I am very conservative in my views on taking care of my dogs' bodies.

As far as WAO, hell, I think those heights I listed would be great for them too but they want to differentiate themselves from FCI by trying to create small and medium heights that are not "border collie heights" as they put it.

I have applied with Kiba for the USA Team for WAO. I think it would be the ultimate irony if I was denied a spot on the team because I didn't compete in 22" for the last year. Considering that WAO created the 20" jump height specifically to try to be fair to smaller border collies and lure the FCI Medium dogs into coming to compete...it would be extremely ironic if I was left off the team for refusing to jump 22" with my small border collie and compete against larger ones. Isn't that sort of exactly the point the WAO was trying to make, after all? Anyway, if we don't make that team, I'll either see  if I can afford the EO, or just skip international competition this year, aside from taking Trig to Tryouts for FCI Team. I expect she'll do fine at Tryouts but I have no urgent feeling that she'll actually make the team. She's not even my dog, after all...

That's how Strafe sleeps in bed. He doesn't really sleep upside any other time, just in bed. I'm pretty sure it's because he likes the belly-cooling effect of the ceiling fan which we leave on most of the time. he DOES take up my foot space though....

Today I'm off to NJ. Yes, never still, my wandering feet (and tires). This evening I'm teaching some privates at a private indoor, and tomorrow I've got a day of privates for a club in NJ. Then Thursday is a day home to prepare for Friday, when I leave for Denver CO to teach all weekend. Then the following week I return home on Tuesday, a friend comes to visit, then Thanksgiving (something I really don't care about, sorry), a 3-day AKC Trial which is my first chance to garner some Q's towards Tryouts with Trig at 26". Then the following weekend I'm off to Portland OR (hopefully I'll get weather as nice as last year!), then the weekend after that is Strafe's first trial! He's actually ready now, somehow. I've never had a dog fully trained at 14 months. And while he's definitely not ready to go win Nationals or anything, he is confident and happy with all the equipment, his jumping is solid, his handling basics are all solid. And it's certainly not because I work him every day. Or even every other day. Or even every week! But he picks everything up very quickly, and he has been to more different places than most of my young dogs, since I take him to seminars with me whenever they're close enough to drive to. So he's been on at least 4 or 5 different sets of contacts and weaves already. He's also experienced a myriad of different types of footing, from slick turf to packed dirt to rubber matting to grass.

14 November 2011

Long Island

While my mother has lived and gone to school in NY, I know little about the city area. So this weekend was my very first trip to Long Island. I discovered that it's a really neat place and it was a great group of people, but you have to cross Staten Island to get there. And any time you go onto Staten Island, you pay a toll. The toll for the bridge is $13. Yes, $13.00 to cross a bridge. And because you cross one island to get to another, you pay a toll each direction. $13.00! Now, the group paid for my mileage so it's not a big deal, I was being paid for it, I just couldn't believe it. I drive in the great Philadelphia/Wilmington and Baltimore/DC areas a lot, and I've never seen a toll over $6.00 for any bridge or tunnel, except for the 26mile long Bridge Tunnel down over the Chesapeake, but that's an enormously long monstrosity that goes on forever, not a 2-mile bridge across a river...

Verrazano bridge from above:

Lots of confusing exit ramp swirly shapes. This bridge has them!

no, that wasn't the best bit of the trip. There were nice people and good times, I do enjoy creating a good course set up that can both push people a bit and also let them be successful, and I'm getting better and better at meshing those things together. And of course it's always nice to be inside in a climate controlled building, although the weather outside was actually pretty nice all weekend.

Friday I leave for CO, should be fun too. Will be a whole new group of people, I have no idea if I know anyone who's coming or not... This group has me doing lots of short workshops, so I will have to spend Thursday reviewing and perhaps creating some new material if necessary, because tomorrow and Wed I'm back in NJ teaching private lessons. Yes, I am one busy little bee lately!

Verrazano bridge at night, pretty cool looking actually...

09 November 2011

Strafe again!

It hasn't quite been a year since I flew to Denmark to retrieve this little stinker, but we are officially entered in our first trial! It was a draw so I didn't know till last night, but the trial didn't fill so we got in. Hurray! I did enter him at 20" because I didn't want to be rushed getting him up to 26" - he is still so young. We've done 24/26" a few times on individual jumps or in very short sequences, but I think he will do better with another month or two of running courses beginning at 20" and slowly working our way up to 26". He continues to jump anything I put him to without any issue at all, so I'm really not concerned. i also want his first trial to feel "easy" for him so he will be confident. Our 2nd trial will be New Years weekend, and I entered that one at 24" as a step up for him. Then when we go to FL at the end of January we will probably go ahead and run 26". Makes for a nice step by step timeline.

08 November 2011


Yesterday we went for a hike at Fair Hill. It was the first time I've gone since after the really big 3-day event in October. Lots of cool horse jumps around, including this one, apparently the world's largest hammock.

As of yesterday, Strafe is officially 14 months old! Such a strange feeling with him. It is going really quickly now and I can't believe he's grown up. But also he learns everything so quickly and acts so grown up in training, that it's hard to believe he's ONLY 14 months old... strange dichotomy.
Thursday he goes in to get his hips done with Pennhip.

07 November 2011

Drifter. And jumping.

Drifter winning the Mid-Atlantic Showcase Triathlon final round this past spring. Yes, he's got a line of spittle hanging from his mouth even at 8.5 years old...

I made the decision about WAO. I am only sending in an application for Kiba, and not for Drifter. I just don't like the idea of ME being stressed about his health the whole time I'm there. Kiba is younger, she's fast, reliable, can turn on a dime, and has no health issues to worry about. She also has the advantage of being clearly under the 2013 cut-off for the new 525mm height, so we could go 2 more years if we get chosen. With WAO out of the equation, that leaves Drifter's single goal for the next year as "finish MACH2 and qualify for 2013 AKC Nationals in Tulsa". Which means just doing some local AKC. He needs 6 more QQ's for MACH2, and then he'll need 6 total starting in December. But that will not take long. He's not going to Reno, he's not going to Denver, he's not going to Belgium. That leaves.... well.... no big events for Drifter in 2012. At all. That is a REALLY strange feeling after having him as my "main dog" pretty much from 2004 onwards. We've had our ups and downs, but he's proven himself well in his career. I am holding out hope that USDAA will move down from high altitude and not all the way out west for 2013, in that case I would run him in Performance (something I was looking forward to for 2012 but will not happen 6,000ft up with his heart murmur). So I guess it is really truly time to focus on Kiba as my "main dog"! She's been an "also ran" for a long time, and though she's done REALLY well in her time, she's also easier to run than Drifter so I never have to work really hard to run her. It's a nice feeling, I am always relaxed stepping to the line with her. She's predictable - she stays on the start, she turns tight, she runs her heart out, and if she hits a bar it was an accident, not laziness or carelessness.
And of course Strafe will be the "secondary" dog as he tries to come from Novice all the way to qualifying for AKC Nationals and Tryouts for 2013.... wow what a strange year, focusing on my 2 "easy dogs" all the time!
Seri will come out and do a little bit, but if I decide not to go to Denver (still a real possibility), she won't be doing any big events either. My main goal for Seri is just to be able to trial her once a month without her body falling apart...

And jumping. Here's a short jumping exercise from yesterday. I worked on the SAME exercises at the SAME heights with all 4 dogs. Here is a video showing some of the similarities and differences between the dogs. Sorry, no fancy music, just me talking to the dogs and quiet slow-mo sections.

06 November 2011

MACH daughter

Forgot to mention this on here, but Drifter's daughter in NY earned her MACH already! They aren't even 4 years old yet, so that's really fabulous. Here's a couple pictures of her and my mom's littermate Trig, they were practically twins as puppies and still have a lot of similarities. These pictures were taken by Kaitlyn Dreese and I hope she doesn't mind me "stealing" them from Facebook to post them here....

Here's Keeley looking unimpressed with her absolutely enormous ribbon

And here's Keeley on the left, posing with Trig on the right. Trig is the one I may take to Nationals and Tryouts this year.

05 November 2011

Dogs are not robots.

Of course this seems ridiculously obvious. I feed my dogs, they eliminate, they have personalities, they age. Of course they aren't robots. Each dog is a living, breathing, different individual. I have trained quite a few dogs already in my life. My methods have changed a bit over the years, but one thing is clear - each dog is DIFFERENT! I have success (or not) with any given dog because I learned how to adapt my methods of training and handling to suit each individual.

Why, then, is it somehow taboo to suggest that any given dog seen out running agility might be easier to train in some way than any other given dog? Let's say I observe "Sally" running "Bobo", and I notice that Bobo is a very nice natural jumper who seems fairly forgiving; he doesn't knock bars even if Sally is crossing right in front of the jump or saying something surprising while he's in the air. I think to myself - "I would like a dog like Bobo!". But for some reason if I say in public that Bobo seems easier than, say, my dog Seri - this is construed as insulting to Sally, as if I am saying Sally is a bad handler and Bobo makes up for it. As if I just don't understand that Sally is an amazing trainer. That Sally does jump grids with her youngsters, etc etc. You get the point.

But the truth is, some dogs really ARE easier than others. OF COURSE! They are individuals, just like every other animal on the planet. Some dogs will intuitively understand the concept of straightening up for a jump in order to turn tighter, some will never get it. This doesn't make them bad dogs or the handlers bad either, but it does make them harder to turn and more prone to knocking bars. Some dogs naturally have more impulse control than others. This is evident with things like start line stays and stops on the contacts. I admire dogs who stop on the contacts in the ring! Those who stay on their see-saw so easily. And of course the handlers have worked hard to train this, but the truth is, some dogs just have an easier time controlling themselves than others.

Some dogs, no matter who is training them, will never be fast enough to win Nationals. Some will be fast enough no matter who trains them! And then there's a lot of dogs in the middle, who have the potential to win if trained properly...

Some dogs will require motivating at a young age, I call these dogs ones in whom you must "install the gas pedal". Some will have plenty of motivation and will require lots of impulse control and deceleration work - I call this "installing the brakes". But then sometimes you get a lovely dog who comes with both gas pedal AND brakes, pre-installed! Strafe seems to be like this. Perfect! But if you had to install one or the other on your dog, no big deal! Train what you have, of course. But a dog who came with both is just lovely. These dogs more easily understand both ends of the spectrum - impulse control AND driving forward. Deceleration AND crazy tugging games.

If dogs WERE robots, we'd just order up the type we like, perhaps add some apps for higher speed or better turns, and be done with it. In the real world this would be things like training drills and even conditioning - but underneath all the personal add-ons each dog will always be an individual that you are building on. There is NO SHAME in admitting your dog was easy to train. Even easy to train dogs require a good handler to do well. In agility, timing is everything, and a handler with bad timing will not be winning too many large events, even with an easy dog! If you've got a difficult dog to train in some way or another, just appreciate what you are learning in the process of teaching this dog, and don't worry, plenty of difficult dogs have won large events with good handlers too.

I just hope that eventually the stigma attached to suggesting that "so-and-so has an easy dog" will fade - I don't say that as a way to disrespect the handler, it's really quite honestly a bit of jealousy. I think I finally have one of these mythical easy dogs, and I'm really enjoying it, and am looking forward to going places with him!

Click on the picture for a large version:)

So appreciate that dogs aren't robots. There's no pre-ordering. Every one is different. And while I'm not a big "Positive Thoughts!!!!!" type of person, I do think we learn something from each dog. They aren't teaching us, rather, it's what we learn from teaching them. 

04 November 2011

Segmented Post, catching up

I've been busy this past week. Last Wed I flew down to Austin TX and taught seminars and privates for 4 and 1/2 days. Got totally lucky with the weather and while it was chilly in the morning and sunny in the afternoon, and one day it was windy, it was generally really great outdoor agility weather. It was fun but tiring to teach that many days in a row - I've never done it before but I found that I handled it pretty well. I wasn't flat out exhausted at the end of the last day, although it was nice to fly home on a direct flight... the dogs were happy to see me when I got back Monday night.

He is officially running like a grown-up. He's going to be 14 months old in just a few days, and he can now run full courses at 20", including all the obstacles. His dogwalk looks pretty good. He mis-strides it every now and then but it's not common. I haven't worked turns yet since I wanted to get some consistency first. His frame looks great. His see-saw is also solid - again some inconsistency in that sometimes he drives right up to the end of the board, and then sometimes he stops a little early, but I'm Ok with that. He will even out as he gets more sequences with it. His weaves are not perfectly reliable, he will pop out if I get too exciting or too far away, but he's only been doing them about 2 weeks without a lot of practice so I'm sure he'll get better in time.

Ria Acciani was at our house working on dogs Tues/Wed (busy, like I said), and I am extremely optimistic about Seri's future as an agility dog. A few weeks ago I began running courses in training, including all 3 contacts, at speed. And she still looks good. Her shoulder is looking fabulous and holding up well, and her wrist is doing OK - it will always be something I have to watch, there is no 100% healing that will magically happen there, and she will probably have arthritis in it when she's old, but that's OK. She is functionally sound and it only bothers her on extreme flexion. My tentative plan is to keep working at home in training, and then try running a few classes in USDAA in January and see how she does.

As he's gotten older he's gotten hungrier. Now with the addition of being neutered almost 2 months ago, he is now getting fat for the first time in his entire life. He looks great though, he held up really well over the long USDAA week in KY.

Some great pictures of her from USDAA, she has a very photogenic expression, but it is quite clear that she realy does take off early for jumps. This is part of the reason I've put her in P16" rather than making her jump 4+" over her shoulder at 22" in USDAA. She has a lot of ground speed, but doesn't carry a lot of speed over jumps at a high height. At the lower height she is more capable of it. I ran her at 20" in practice again, and she did just fine, so I am not ruling out WAO, she would just need a good deal of jumping practice at that height.

speaking of it.... WAO
Drifter ran so bloody well at USDAA that I had a mini-crisis about not putting his name in for consideration for the WAO Team for this coming year. He is clearly still competitive, and his body is holding up really well for a 9-year old dog. However, he did have one day where his feet were clearly painful, and he was limping quite badly on Friday evening. His toes and feet have slowly become more of an issue, as I remember his toes all being sore after practice day at WAO this past spring as well - I soaked him in a few inches of cold water in the tub at the hotel to help, and after that day he seemed fine. But, clearly, his feet hurt sometimes. This will not get better - he is getting old and having old dog problems now. Ria says he would probably be absolutely fine to compete, however we might need to bring painkillers in case his feet begin to hurt. My general thoughts on WAO are - I would love to go! I have 2 dogs to put up for consideration. Kiba has the advantage of being easier to handle, she stays on the start line, she doesn't have full running contacts so she's a little easier there - I don't have to run like a maniac just to get a turn off the dogwalk. She stays on the see-saw. She eats when travelling! (though Drifter might now, who knows!?) But the big thing is - Kiba, when fit, holds up quite well over a longer competition. She has no major physical issues, no past injuries to watch, she doesn't get sore feet. Usually her back gets a little tight, but with Ria there to help out, she will be good to go. I would have no qualms about running her in 2 or 3 classes a day, for 3 days in a row. Kiba doesn't "argue" with me. I would love, for example, to run her in Individual Pentathlon, Biathlon, AND a Team class or two.  But Drifter would not be in that many classes - I would have concerns about his feet getting sore. I also worry that his sore feet will affect his running contacts. That he will fly off the see-saw. That he will get hot and have trouble cooling off (a side effect of his heart murmur, and the reason he won't go to Denver CO). In other words, Drifter COULD go to WAO, but I will be more stressed running him. My only concern about running Kiba is that she doesn' hit bars. . .

I'm busy busy busy again for November. This weekend I am home, thankfully, but after this I'm teaching 2 weekends in a row, trialing, then teaching again 2 weekends in December. And hopefully a trial that will be Strafe's debut! I am excited about that!

AKC Nationals - Drifter and Kiba are both qualified, but I am still adamant that Drifter is not going. Too much travel. If he is still running great next year maybe I'll bring him to Tulsa. We'll see. It does look like I will be running Kiba AND my mom's Trig, possibly at 26", and possibly also take her to Tryouts in May! I am happy to do that, it will be fun to go, even with a dog that isn't really mine. Trig is a nice solid little dog, and jumps 26" pretty easily (she's 20.25" or so tall). Plus it'll be fun to go with Drifter's daughter. Back to Nationals though - the other Nationals, USDAA, has changed their date. They moved it earlier, to the end of September. That should help with fears of snow and hopefully even frost. It does nothing to alleviate the issue of BSL though. And then apparently that Sept 26th is part of Yom Kippur, an apparently very important Jewish holiday. I don't really celebrate any holiday, I think they are kind of silly and I'm not religious, but I can see how it's kind of insensitive to do that. I'm pretty sure they wouldnt' have picked Easter for this event...

There was something else I was going to post, but I forgot. I should add that I keep up this blog in a journal type format because it helps me track my own thoughts, as well as share them with the creepy public world. So stalk away, just don't be too creepy if you see me at a trial ;) I don't want this to become a commercial, instructional, pay-to-play type thing. I am a person, I have thoughts, and if they aren't too offensive, I'll continue sharing them here...