31 May 2012

WAO update

WAO Press Release here

Main points: after much argument last year over jump heights, they decided not to change them after all. Same cutoffs for next year. So cutoff for 525mm jump height stays at 500. Which I think is a very interesting decision and I can't quite decide how I feel about it. One one hand you've got a height which is low enough that "small" border collies can compete over it, but on the other hand they have left all the "medium" sized border collies in there too, and the jump height is pretty easy for a 19.6" tall dog. I do think it is hard to create the perfect category - I'm not sure this is it, but I am sure that 525 is a much better height for a dog of Kiba's size than 550 would be. If they had not lowered the height, I probably would not have even considered applying with her. The 25mm/1.5" doesn't sound like much, and really Kiba might have been OK at 550mm, but it would not have occurred to me that it was a viable option if it weren't for all the arguments FOR including the smaller section of border collies, kelpies, etc - and it was the WAO organizers who made those arguments. At the time, a year ago, they argued that the dogs who garnered placements were all right near the cutoff, and therefore the category was unfairly skewed towards dogs at the 500mm shoulder height. This year, I think it was no longer true that dogs near the cutoff won the most placements, and so perhaps that is why they left it the same.

Another issue with lowering the shoulder height cutoff is that you will severely limit the number of dogs that slot into the category. On our team, I think 2 out of 5 dogs in the 525mm jump height would be too tall if it was lowered to the originally proposed 485mm cutoff. That would also effectively make the 650 height larger, and it is already the largest height.

So I think leaving it the same is an acceptable solution, although for border collies and similar size/shape dogs, having 525mm for a 500mm tall dog is a pretty easy jump. It sounds like a tiny change, but maybe something like a 490 cutoff might be a good answer, that should be around 19.25" or so. But then, I still don't think a 19.4" dog should be *required* to jump 26. So again, no easy answer, I have lots of thoughts on the subject, but their current solution is not awful, and seems more fair towards smaller dogs in the category than the old height did.

Another thing that changes for next year is that the win-on dog must be entered in both Pentathlon and Biathlon. This means the team can either take one win-on spot dog for each jump height and enter both those classes, or may have TWO win-on spots, and enter one dog in each of those events. Since our USA win-on spot is at the UKI US Open, and lack of qualifiers and location of the final makes this event difficult and expensive for most of the east coast to attend, I think it would be a bad move to give 2 win-on spots to that one event. I should mention, if I wanted to go to a qualifier, I would either have to drive multiple days each direction, or fly to one. For a USDAA equivalent, that would be like flying just to go to a local Grand Prix qualifier. Just doesn't make sense. Too much expense. I will take my chances on being selected, as will most of us in the eastern half of the country. So if they assign 2 win-on spots, then that's almost half the team... and may rule out too many good dogs who weren't able to attend, simply because our team would be too gigantic to include everyone who deserves a spot.

Anyway, just my thoughts. Word on the street is that the Selection Process document for 2013 will be out possibly as early as next week. I am eager to see what it says. I expect most of it will be similar to last year, but with new management coming, I can't be sure.

Not my dog, and has nothing to do with the post, but I liked the picture. Thanks Joy!

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30 May 2012

come take a walk with us!

I took a bunch of gratuitous pictures of my dogs today. If you like that sort of thing, you will enjoy this post!

We're going for a walk in the field because it's still cloudy and not too unbearably hot yet.
First we go out through the "dog yard", which is actually probably in the nature of 3 acres all by itself. Ryze trots around and eyes me to see whether I'm going to take them out or not. He usually tries to walk under my feet and I've been trying to teach him not to, so I get the hairy eyeball instead.

Our "dog yard", fully fenced. 

He does have a nice trot!

Seri wonders if this is a potty break or if we're really going for a walk. "Hurry up lady!"

29 May 2012

Heat+Humidity

Disgusting weather today. Hot, humid, sunny. around 90F. I woke up at 6am (without an alarm, apparently this is my new wake up time since returning from Belgium) and walked the dogs, but it was not "cool" - it was already like 75F out and no dew, no sharp morning feel to the air. The dogs only lasted about 15minutes (we walk off leash but they don't run much).

Strafe is also spending about 5min each morning working on his weaves. I want more forward drive and independence, so we are doing a short "drive harder!" program with him. I don't have channel weaves, so I used 6 sets of 2by2's to make one. I opened it about 2 or 3" down the center line, and sent him to a toy tossed out 20 or 30 feet past the end. He got the idea right away - weave faster for a toy! I'm trying to improve his footwork a bit, he is consistent with a two-foot hop but he is almost too big for that style, he really needs to push harder and single-step with his front end, at least sometimes. But more than that, he just needs to drive to the end and not be distracted by whatever I'm doing. He has very reliable entries but he is a little too focused on me while he's weaving down the line. He's my first 2-by-2 trained dog that I felt needed a little more forward-focus work, but then he's really my first dog to need more of that, period! I don't mind. it's a good problem to have, asking for more "forward" instead of asking for "tighter" all the time. The boy came with "tight" and "decelerate" already pre-installed.

I'm waiting to teach class today. Supposed to start at 6pm. It is still hot, and there are thunderstorms headed our way. half the class has said they aren't coming due to various reasons but we've had to cancel so much for weather that i don't want to do so if I don't have to. So we're hoping to beat the storms....

Also, sometimes when I'm stuck inside now I get the itch to write. So I've tentatively starting a book. Yep, a fiction book. Like a creative writing project fantasy type book. No, you can't read any of it. I've got 12 pages of story so far, plus a similar number of "about the world/people" pages, and even a map. We'll see how long it takes for my ADD to kick in and me to drop this project too.

Maybe I should write a dog book?

Just now the TV started telling us that people in eastern Pennsylvania should stay inside away from windows because of the storm.... I'm in Maryland. Guess that's OK then...

Today, I miss snow.

28 May 2012

TBAC + One Decision Made

Strafe was pretty good at TBAC, despite only coming away with one Q. To be fair, the last 2-3 months haven't really been focused on him; he's gotten only short, basic training sessions, and while he's going on walks with me, he isn't really what I'd call "super fit".

The first run he knocked 2 bars, and I did slow down (right before the weaves, in the first run on the video) and tell him off a little for that. The 2nd run I did not get on video, as I was the very last dog to run in Excellent, and he got a lovely Standard Q, so he only needs one more for his AX. Yay!
Sunday he made a couple minor mistakes, 2 of them with the weaves, so that is a project I'll be working on over the next month. Here's our 3 NQ runs from the weekend:




And the decision - I have decided not to attend USDAA Nationals (Cynosport) in September in Denver. I do feel a desire to go, but weighing that against the time and expense involved, I just cannot justify the trip. Especially with the weather and footing being an uneven factor. I will take this year "off" and focus on getting Strafe and Kiba qualified for AKC Nationals and Tryouts. I'm even going to take a shot at teaching Kiba to stand shorter. She will be 8 this fall, perhaps I can teach her to be shorter and run in FCI Medium! Worth a shot anyway...  gives me something to train indoors when it's hot outside.

This will give me the ability to put extra money aside towards WAO or EO next year, instead of worrying about paying for Denver, Tulsa, Minnesota, AND a european trip... cutting one out helps! I will focus on teaching people and training my dogs. Perhaps even finish unpacking from the move 15 months ago!


24 May 2012

Waffles.

They're what it's all about, apparently....

Still pondering USDAA Nationals. I entered Strafe in a Grand Prix to try to get his final Q for Denver, just in case I decide to go. Right now I am leaning towards not going, but will take this weekend to finish thinking about it. I am thinking the money saved from staying home could go directly towards my "european trip" fund for next year, whether that be WAO or EO (or if I don't make either, then it can go towards Tryouts or Tulsa or whatever).

I am very curious about what the WAO will do with their jump heights and cutoffs next year. Last year the jump height was 550mm (~22"), and the cutoff was 500mm (19.69"). The organizers felt that this was an unfair competition for smaller/medium sized BC's and other breeds, the dogs in the 17-18" range. So they lowered the jump height to 525mm (20.6") and planned a jump height cutoff change to 485mm (19.1"), however, there was a bit of an uproar last year about it (because they initially wanted to change the height cutoff starting in 2012, after they had already invited dogs who medalled to return and compete). So they pushed that till 2013, but now what they are saying is that they "don't know" what the cutoffs (and jumps heights?) will be next year. Now that I'm not running Drifter, who is basically on the cutoff, it doesn't directly affect me anymore. But if they raise the jump heights back to 550mm, I probably won't reapply with Kiba, as I feel that the 525mm height is really her limit of comfort, and she was indeed competitive there. If we had gone clean or had only minor faults in all Pentathlon rounds, I'm sure she could have won a medal. When she ran clean in Jumping she was 7th and 2nd place, which is nothing to sneeze at with over 50 very competitive dogs in my height.

If they do lower the cutoff to 485, that will mean more dogs forced up to the 650mm height, and less dogs able to apply from every country, so the jump height will be smaller, which I'm not really happy about - I want MORE competition so the win is more meaningful, not less so the win is easier. However, I have to say, I don't really like the current old cutoff with the new heights - 500mm as a cutoff is a little too big for a 525mm jump height. I don't know about making it 485, but something in the middle might be reasonable, something like 490 maybe? Should be about 19.25" or so... I don't know. I'm curious to see what they do.

I unpacked Kiba's nifty folding travel bed I used in Belgium and layed it on the floor (it's a nice thick comfy polyfill bed), and Kiba immediately went over and slept on it. Does she miss the excitement of the trip? Who knows.


23 May 2012

Decisions to make

Some big decisions are bouncing around in my brain about what events I want to attend (or attempt to) in the next year or so. I had to make the unfortunately decision not to attend EO this year due to financial concerns, and it turned out to be a good decision because for the first time, the USA had too many Large dogs apply and had to select dogs, and with Strafe being so young, he probably would not have been selected anyway, so I did not have the stress of worrying if I would be chosen.

First decision - USDAA Nationals in Denver at the end of September. I haven't missed a USDAA National event since it was in California in 2001. I really like this event, the Finals are always exciting and the difficulty of the Team classes is always exciting. However. This is a long event, probably 5 to 6 days long, which means a lot of hotel (or rental house) nights, a long car rental, a lot of food eaten, and of course travel costs for me and the dogs. Added to all that, it is outside. Yes, a large national event is outside in Denver. I do understand that snow is highly unlikely, but even in "good" weather, it will be colder in the morning, warmer in the afternoon, with changing levels of moisture in the footing and changing angles of sunlight. It might rain. It might rain only for the afternoon and not in the morning. Did I mention it's also pretty far away?. . . .

Whereas, if I stay home, I may be able to coordinate a fun weekend of running WAO Tryout courses with some former members/coaching staff.... and that sounds fun. And cheap.

Second decision - WAO 2013. I had thought originally that this might be Kiba's only year going, but she handled the jump height really well both mentally and physically, and as of right now, I'd be pretty comfortable with taking her again. Adding to that my anger about going off course and not getting a chance to do well in Individual Pentathlon overall.... however there will be a management change for next year, so I have to wait and see how that shakes out, and if selection criteria change, what the new jump heights/cutoffs will be (if there is a change?)

Third decision - EO 2013. Right now I am thinking that if I do want to apply for WAO, that I will wait and see how that goes before applying for EO. The EO is planned to be at the same site we were just at for WAO this year, which was a nice site. However, it was warm and humid on Sunday - in May! So I am imagining that end of July will be quite hot in that area, which makes me think WAO 2013 in northern Spain may be more comfortable. Also, once again, Strafe will be pretty young with little experience to his name when I apply, especially if I don't go to USDAA in Denver....

anyway, that's what I'm pondering today while I finish mentally resting from my trip. This weekend Strafe is running in a local AKC trial to work on finishing up some Exc A titles.


22 May 2012

Belgium in Pictures - Day 2

We were so exhausted Monday night from the time change and several miles of walking that I actually slept pretty well and woke up feeling pretty good. After feeding and walking the dogs, we ate breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and walked over to the Parc du Cinquantenaire (boy I didn't realize there was so much French in Brussels!). What a beautiful Park it is! It has a couple museums and a gorgeous archway. We didn't get a chance to walk up and inspect anything because there was rain coming in.


Kiba posing with her new friend Tiki. They got along GREAT!

Belgium in Pictures - Day 1

After the first 2 days I was busy and didn't really take pictures.

We arrived Monday morning into Brussels Airport, rented the car, got some coffee (I had tea), then drove into the city to our hotel for the night, which kindly allowed to check in even though it wasn't yet noon. We were up on the 6th floor and had a beautiful view out the balcony windows:




**Lots more pictures after the break**

21 May 2012

WAO recap

I'll go more in depth when I upload pictures and videos. (Videos will be a bit since I have to get them from George who kindly recorded all our runs again this year).

Travel: Everything went smoothly meeting Monique and flying out from Newark to Brussels Sunday night. We were on a large 777 that seemed brand new on both flights (there and back) and the takeoff, landing, and entire 7+ hours airborne were very smooth and comfortable. We had Economy Plus seating and it was fabulous to have footspace. Car rental went well, I didn't spin the tires or stall it out even though I haven't driven a manual shifting car in more than 3 years. We did a bit of sight seeing on Monday between naps to catch up on sleep.

Tuesday we drove the hour or so to the hotel for the rest of the week. Wed/Thurs we had practice at the site, check-in, vet checks, and measuring. Kiba measured high for her, at 460mm. They still "don't know" the cutoff for the 525mm jump height next year, but I'm absolutely sure she fits into it. Practices both went well, aside from proofing my aframe a bit, we didn't encounter any snags.

Friday we started with Individual Pentathlon Agility 1 and I don't know exactly what cue Kiba thought she saw, but it wasn't the one I was intending her to see, and we incurred an unfortunate elimination right there in the first run of the weekend. This was a bit of a shock to my system, as Kiba and I are usually pretty reliable about staying on just about any course. A bad start to the weekend for sure. Our other morning run was Snooker, and again we had a weird miscue where she went behind me despite a side cue which lost us some opening points and flustered me a bit (had to remember which jump was 2 for the closing!) and then I mishandled the weave entry for her and we ended up with only 25 points.
Friday afternoon started with Individual Pentathlon Jumping 1, which was a nice course, and we laid down a solid clean run for 7th place (among more than 50 dogs in our height class). Next we ran Team Jumping 1 for Team USA, which was a very difficult and twisty course. She hit the wall and the extended double, but got around the course with no other faults which wasn't bad for the Team. I discovered she had thrown her neck out on a silly faceplant in another run, and once that was fixed she didn't knock any other bars all weekend.

Saturday morning started with 2 Individual Pentathlon runs. Unfortunately we started the day with another mishap involving an E for our score, so sadly our chances of doing well were totally shot by 9am. Oh well. We did ace the Jumping 2 round though for 2nd place (a ribbon yay!) on a very tough course which I was very happy to have run nicely. We also ran Team Agility 2 this morning, and put in a solid clean run (.72 over time because I held contacts and we had a bit of a detour on the way to the weave poles).

Saturday afternoon was Gamblers, and since our 25point Snooker put us out of contention for a medal, I decided to go ahead and go for the podium for the individual class at least. (more ribbons!!!) This meant little Kiba would have to do 4 extended spread jumps (20.6" back bar, 16" front bar, 20.6" apart!) Luckily, despite her dislike of spreads, I had put in a lot of work on this jump leading into the event, even teaching her a distinct verbal cue to remind her to look at and gauge the jump. And she did great! Didn't touch a bar, even though she had to jump 6 spreads between the opening and closing, and we ended up 3rd place with USA sweeping the 525mm height for Gamblers.

Because I didn't make the Pentathlon Final for Individual due to my 2 E's (we were 3 dogs below the cutoff!), I was concerned that i wouldn't get to run Sunday, but the Team Relay Final ended up being a twisty, difficult course that required a combination of speed, skill, and "cool under pressure", so Kiba was selected as the 525 dog for the Relay. I was happy knowing I would get to run that day, as I am very bad at being purely a spectator! It was fun watching the Individual Finals all day, but I was anxious to run myself. And the Relay was a lot of fun, I ran last with all the pressure on, and I loved it! We ran fast and clean, and our Team won the Relay and got 3rd overall in the Pentathlon for a bronze medal!

So Kiba came home with:
7th in Ind Pentathlon Jumping 1
2nd in Ind Pentathlon Jumping 2
3rd in Gamblers
11th overall in Games Combined
Clean run in Team Agility 2
Clean run in Team Relay
3 solid runs contributed to 3rd in Team Pentathlon Overall for Team USA

balanced out by the bad - 2 runs with an E and a 25point Snooker. So I guess the good definitely tips in that direction and overall I'm happy - but there was room for improvement. I am on the fence about next year. I will wait and see if Team Management changes (they are concerned about focusing on their own dogs next year), if selection criteria seems reasonable, and if travel seems doable....

I had a great time with the team, it was a fun group of people who tried to include everyone in their cheers and good times, and I had some nice conversations with people I didn't know well or don't see often.

Tonight i will try to stay up until it's at least night time (or close) and get back onto a decent sleep schedule. I definitely had more trouble sleeping on this trip than I did to England both years, which is odd since that's not usually an issue for me more than the first night in a new place.

Here's a picture of Kiba. not in Belgium, but she's the star right now and deserves to be on here.


12 May 2012

An unusual thing happened today. Kiba got bathed! And her foot hair trimmed. And her toenails clipped (well, that part isn't unusual). And she got brushed! I'm sure that's not unusual for many dogs, but for a smooth-coated border collie owned by myself, it is VERY unusual. She didn't really understand all the primping and preening going on, but she is a really good sport and withstood everything without complaining. Now she smells nice, and is so sparkly in the sun that she made me think of Edward Cullen out on our walk! (I laughed at myself for thinking that one!)

I think I have every single thing packed now, except for my hairbrush which will go in tomorrow morning. I leave mid-day tomorrow. It's a 2.5 hour drive up to the airport, then once we get on the plane it's 8.5 hours to Brussels. We are staying in Brussels the first night and doing a bit of sight-seeing - at least the easy stuff that we can walk to from our fancy hotel. Tuesday we'll head over to the hotel near the site and meet up with the rest of the Team as they arrive. Wed is our first practice!

Drifter during closing ceremonies on a "time out" because he was so excited by everything

11 May 2012

Last practice before the trip



Kiba ran this very well, including the extended spread (set at 18/22 instead of the WAO max of 16/20) both times. Also, I'm happy to report that baby Strafe aced the white circle course on the very first try with no faults! What a good kid!

10 May 2012

Tryouts

Here's video of Trig, I am very happy with how we did - if she was just a wee bit faster I think we could have been in true contention, as I feel like our handling was rock solid (aside from the minor weave issues...)





And now after our 6 month adventure, Trig goes back to running with her true mother (my mother as well!) - she will have to work her contacts a bit, and Trig will have to adapt to a handler who is not ahead of her and/or in her face constantly, but I think she'll be fine.

And my focus now shifts to Kiba for WAO, and once I get back it also shifts to Strafe. I am really eager to get his career going. He will be going on a strict conditioning and training schedule so that we can qualify for AKC Nationals. I am strongly considering skipping USDAA Nationals in Denver this fall so that I can instead put the money i would have spent on that trip towards more AKC trials and possibly training (seminars?) as well. I really enjoyed the 2 seminars I've attended this year and would like to possibly go back out to Linda's again with Strafe as my primary dog this time. I enjoy running difficult courses that *someone else* makes up, since when I make them for myself, I am sure I unintentionally tend to focus on similar challenges over and over. Strafe also needs to learn to apply his skills around other dogs, in exciting environments, on varied footing....

Yesterday I got Kiba's paperwork stamped for Belgium. Can't believe how fast this trip is coming up - probably due to being so freaking busy through all of April and May. I have pretty much everything in order, and I'm almost packed as well. It's about an 8.5 hour flight to Brussels from Newark, and just a little over 7 hours return, so not too bad really. Similar to the flight to London or Copenhagen. Our schedules and procedures for WAO are coming out and reading through those is getting me excited.

Sadly, several individual countries' kennel clubs are banning competitors from participating again this year. Which is really just ridiculous - the reasoning being that WAO is not held under FCI regulations. Why that matters, I have no idea. It doesn't conflict with any major FCI events, and WAO does not even pretend to be replacing FCI championships. It is a different event, not affiliated with any agility clubs whatsoever - it is truly an OPEN event, and it's just ridiculous that kennel clubs would ban competitors from running (or even volunteering to help!) I don't doubt that eventually this behavior will stop, as it has in the USA and Canada. Clearly, FCI does not ban competitors who participate at WAO or even IFCS (which is an actual competing organization!) since quite a few dogs have run at all 3 of these events with no consequences.

Anyway, the WAO was a great fun event last year, with a fairly high level of competition, and I look forward to an even bigger, more fun event this year!


09 May 2012



As the dog food recalls continue expanding, all I can say is that I'm glad that when I do feed kibble, I feed only kibble that I researched extensively, and is produced in their own factory from US- sourced ingredients.... And though my dogs have generally been eating locally-made raw food, these past 2 months have been so ridiculously busy that they've mostly eaten kibble, especially while I'm away and others are feeding them for me. I like Fromm, they make their own stuff in Wisconsin. I will also feed Acana (made by Orijen) but it is more expensive and my dogs actually do better on the Fromm varieties. Once I am back from Belgium and my life is more "normal", I will get back to feeding them 90% raw food (one or two meals a week of kibble).

Ryze is holding in a pattern of more slowed growth. (he is now around 14.75") I am so, so crossing my fingers that he stays under the FCI cutoff! HE is a super easy puppy in the house, if you are busy he will entertain himself and then take a nap. Super easy to housetrain, gets along great with other dogs, good structure. AND he loves to tug and play - the most important things for an agility dog, in my opinion!

Today I took my vet paperwork down to the USDA APHIS office and got their stamp of approval for the Belgium trip with Kiba. I have begun packing as well, just need to get all my clothes in order. I am going to go sans cell phone on this trip, and just use my Kindle Fire to hook into wifi and check my email once or twice a day. (If that doesn't work, I'll borrow someone's laptop for 3 minutes!)

And to finish the post, here's a great picture taken by a Facebook friend at the Regional, of Strafe lifting off for a jump. He looks a bit like the Granting Pleasure side of the family here, with his front feet all tucked up:)

Photo by Kelly Muller

08 May 2012

Tryouts Recap

Well it was a long but thankfully uneventful drive out to Minnesota (and back). I'm not going into a ton of detail here, but Trig ran really well for me. We had zero off courses; our only course faults were one bar and 2 botched weave entries. Our handling was spot on for every course, I made great decisions for handling Trig around the courses, even when it was a choice that was different from what I might do for Kiba or Strafe. We did incur a lot of time faults, since Trig isn't super-crazy-fast. When we ran "clean" we were usually within about 1 second of the time cutoff, but unfortunately at Tryouts no matter how much over time you are, you automatically get 5 faults. And the times are VERY tight - it's 10% added to the average of the top 2 times, and with 40 Large dogs, there were a couple of super fast runs in every class that made the times very tight. For instance, we ran very nicely in the last round (Standard) with a time of 41.8 seconds. We got time faults because the top 2 times were both 37 seconds! And again, it's an automatic 5 faults, not 1.8 faults. I'm not sure what the reasoning is there, since at FCI they use a 1 for 1 basis (meaning I'd have 1.8 faults), but whatever - even though we ran well and looked great, I am certain we won't be chosen for the team, as there are other dogs who ran well, looked great, and did NOT get time faults.

I did hear a rumor that because FCI is scheduled to be in South Africa for 2013, that the AKC (and many other countries) may not be sending a team due to the time and money involved in the long travel to get there, along with the problem of it not being considered an "open" travel country for the US. This makes me sad, as I'm sure Strafe will be ready next year! We'll just have to wait and see!

01 May 2012

Last practice before Tryouts

I wanted to run a couple of courses today that forced me to work a couple of Trig's weaknesses inside of a full course layout. Just for fun, I created them in CRCD so I could share them here. I don't feel that they are insanely difficult in a snooker-like fashion - they are fast and have some flow, but each presents its own challenges. I feel that these are the level of difficulty I expect to encounter at Tryouts. Trig ran them well, the only snag we hit was not finding the tough tunnel opening in the white circle course (under the aframe). I also ran them with Kiba for training, and she did pretty well too. She's very different from Trig so it's good for me to work hard at staying mentally sharp and connected to her after running Trig. Each dog has their own strengths and weaknesses...


it is warm and humid here today, after several weeks of cool dry weather. Oddly, even though it's still pretty cool inside, the dogs have been very sleepy this afternoon as if they were outside in the heat all day (they haven't - they went for one 15minute walk this morning, and Kiba did some agility).

I leave TOMORROW for Tryouts! I'm finally getting excited - it helps that I have most of my Belgium trip organized finally, so some of that stress is off my shoulders now. I won't really be *excited* for that until I land in Belgium safe and sound though...