28 June 2012

Trial in the heat, starting tomorrow

I'm excited to be back trialing this weekend, but not excited that the forecast is for 95F (35C) and humid and sunny all weekend. We are not trialing outside, so that's good, we won't get too sunburnt. however, we are trialing in a big canvas building with no air conditioning and poor ventilation.... better than outside, I'm sure, but not "cool" in any way! The building gets hot and feels "stuffy". I knew this trial would be a risk that way, but I need to get running in AKC in order to get both Kiba and Strafe qualified for AKC Nationals. Kiba has only been to a few trials in this qualifying period, and Strafe has been to a few more, but he started in Novice in December, and was off for half the spring due to my travels with the older dogs. So no skipping this weekend due to heat, we're just going to sweat (and pant)! I have fans and a shade cloth for the car, they will get better airflow there than they will inside the stuffy building.

Luckily I didn't enter any extra classes, just standard and jumpers each day, so less chance of overheating and *bonus* - FAST runs first each day so I don't have to be there super early. Which is good, since the commute varies between 90min and 2 hours, depending on traffic.

Oh, and I have definitely decided that Ryze is not an easier puppy than Strafe after all. Ryze, at 6 months, has suddenly entered a teenage rebellion stage. When he does something I don't like, and I yell at him, he may stop, but he may not. He may sit down and glare at me. He may run the other direction! He's a bit of a brat, and he's feisty! I've been saying that because he's a sheltie, I prefer a tougher sort of temperament, but my gosh, he is not really soft at all! He is more like Drifter than my other dogs - he sort of looks sad when I yell sometimes, but as soon as he knows I'm done, he's right back at it again! He even wants to bite the grass just like Drifter when we're out on our morning walk, which aggravates me to no end... he's a wild man alright! As of last week he was still holding at 15.5", so I'm pretty sure he'll stay under the FCI cutoff unless he decides to throw in a very large, late, growth spurt. So I'm beginning to relax a little regarding height! I would love him to land right at 16.0", since that puts us in the right height class for every organization in which I compete - USDAA, AKC, and assuming we made the team, also for EO, WAO, and FCI purposes. If he goes over 16", he will be too tall for USDAA and probably for WAO as well, unless he is just barely over 16".

Kiba's back and shoulders have remained tight this week, so I have been spending 45min or so each morning massaging, stretching, and lasering her carefully. She really enjoys these sessions, and I think she will be OK to run this weekend. She is not limping, and I'm pretty sure nothing is "out" chiropractically. She's just tight in her back and shoulders. I will definitely warm her up and cool her down properly, and keep an eye on her though.

Picture, for picture's sake! Love this one!

26 June 2012

Stuff, and a pretty picture

Had a good weekend, taught workshops on Saturday, relaxed on Sunday, now I'm looking forward to trialing this weekend with Strafe and Kiba. I'm hoping to finish Strafe's AX and AXJ. He only needs 1 more leg for AX, and it's a 3-day trial, so it seems likely he could finish. He  needs 2 more for AXJ so I am hoping we can pull it off but 2/3 is a higher goal for Q's and I won't be upset if we don't pull it off.

Here's a pic someone got of him at the last AKC trial we attended, a month ago. This was actually the trial where he popped out of the weaves twice, but this is the coolest weaving picture anyone's taken of him so I asked if I could have the picture and she gave it to me! Thanks Tammy!

from TBAC AKC Trial, May 2012, he's 20 months old

Yesterday Kiba's back seemed stiff and a little warm to me, so stretched and lasered her and then let her hang out in her Back on Track coat all day. This morning's walk was mostly on leash for her - it was cool outside and they all felt rowdy! I will stretch and laser again today. It seems to be a different part of her back from the pinched nerve/rotated section last week; this is more of a normal stiff/tight part for her, the upper back behind the shoulder blades. So I'll work on it the next few days and take my time warming her up over the weekend at the trial and see how she does. I'm very glad she's entered at 16" rather than 20" for the next month though. I was really happy with how she held up physically for the WAO competition, but it seems that if I don't actively keep her in super peak condition, her back doesn't hold up as well anymore. She's just not a super sturdy dog, despite her lack of "injury" during her career. So now I am thinking if I cannot keep her back super sound I will not offer her for WAO Team for 2013, despite how well she did this year. We shall have to wait and see.

22 June 2012

Rapid Fire Posts

Quick training session with Strafe before it gets any hotter today (I did get up at 5:30am just to take them for a quick 20min walk the past 2 days before the sun got all the way up!)

Here's what we worked on - really hard weave entries and rear crosses on them. In watching and competing on really tough International type courses, I am seeing more and more difficult weave set-ups, so I've been concentrating on Strafe's independence in the poles lately. We spent a couple weeks with a channel slightly open, driving to a toy at the end. I have it closed back up now, but I do place a toy at the end if he has trouble driving away. In the following set-ups, the second two behaviors he failed the first try without a toy placed (popped out looking for me), I placed a toy once for him to drive to and he succeeded, then the next attempt he succeeded without the toy (I tossed it straight to him after he exited the poles).

I should note that Kiba could do the first one, but the second two sets would probably be beyond her current abilities. I did not attempt them, however, due to her funky injury the other day. (She is now taking walks off lead and I will allow her to swim for 5min today.) This is an example of why, even though Kiba has a lot more experience, Strafe will be a better "World Team" dog. Kiba is not stupid, by any measure, but when she gets something wrong she gets upset. She used to quit and run away but now she just gets frustrated and doesn't think straight. Strafe's response when he gets something wrong is to slow down a little and think harder! I love that ability - it makes training SO EASY.

Strafe's entries for today:

No cross, just an independent entry

No cross, just a very difficult entry and I follow him around the corner

A VERY difficult rear cross on the weaves
Also, the bottom of the picture is not really correct, our fence is about 3 feet from the bottom end of the poles, which made it even harder! Such a good kid, that Strafey!

Waffles. Again.

No, not to eat; I usually have a bagel for breakfast. Waffles referring to me waffling over my decision not to attend Cynosport in Denver in September. I had made the decision because it is money and time I don't want to spend in order to get to a trial that is outside, at a moderate altitude which is just high enough to affect me... and financially I just didn't want to spend the money.

But. Then Strafe was fully qualified. He qualified in 2 out of 2 Steeplechases, 1 out of 1 Team events, and 2 out of 4 Grand Prix's. That is not half bad at all for such a young dog. He is so easy to run, I am looking forward to running him more aggressively as we begin to mesh together. So then I though... well... it would be a good experience for him to go to a big event like that. And it would be good for our teamwork as well. .. (did I mention he's qualified?)

I have enough airline miles to fly for free (well, a $5 fee only). I can share a hotel and rental car. And I'm looking at helping out my PT's with their vending and scheduling more in order to trade for their services in working on my dog(s) so I won't have to pay for that. Traveling with only 1 dog is easy and doesn't require a huge rental car either. So the cost is shrinking as I look at it.

And so... I waffle...

it would feel a little silly to leave Kiba home - after all she won both the PSJ and the PVP Overall event last year (with Kate/Driven), but she does not enjoy travelling that well, and bringing 2 dogs makes the trip a lot more expensive for me. I think it would be fun to go and just run Strafe. It's been since 2006 that I only ran one dog at a big event. And it will be Strafe's only chance to make an impression before WAO Selection, and possibly before EO Selection - although that may occur after AKC Nationals as well.

ETA: Forgot to add, today is officially the Sheltie Boy's 6-month birthday. I can't say he's "well trained", but he IS well behaved. Easiest puppy to have in the house that I've probably ever had - he and Strafe were both easy but for a couple months when I first got him, Strafe would try to go to the door to tell me he had ot go out, and leave a little piddle trail along the way. Wasn't his fault, he was TRYING, but it did mean I had to clean up more for him than for Ryze! (He grew out of it by 3 or 4 months, but his nickname was Mr. Tiddles for a while!)

I know his breeder wants me to go!

20 June 2012

catching up

I realize that before yesterday's Seri-centric post I hadn't been on for about a week. That's mostly because I've been at home and nothing really exciting has been happening. I have been teaching workshops both at home and away, meeting new people and having fun and getting sunburned. So much for getting rid of my farmer's tan - instead it's gotten even worse!

This Saturday I have more workshops here at home, then Sunday off, then the following weekend begins a long stretch of FOUR AKC trials in a row. Several are 3-day trials so I think it is actually 11 days of agility trials in one month's time. That's more than i usually do so I'm both looking forward to, and dreading it. Looking forward to it because I'd gotten used to the hectic schedule and being at home so much feels strange now, and dreading it because let's face it, AKC trials are not so very exciting. But I need them - Kiba has only been to perhaps 2 trials in the current qualifying period for Nationals, and I think she only has one QQ from that. Strafe is still in Exc A so they both need a significant number of Q's to qualify for Tulsa, and I want to take both of them, so off to shows we go!

Yesterday Kiba pulled up lame, with a strange limp that I wasn't able to diagnose by myself, and that added to a couple other minor things I've seen her over the past week added up to me taking her up to NJ to see my PT this morning. It's a 2.5 hour drive each way but it was worth it - she had torqued/slipped/twisted at some point, unknown to me, and a good section of her lower back was rotated, her lumbosacral region was a mess, and several other odd findings. Because of the segments being rotated in her back, they were pressing on the nerve, and she was not standing properly on her back left leg. This was taken just after the worst limping yesterday afternoon. No, I didn't like that one bit!

Kiba wasn't really even limping anymore by this morning, but my awesome PT fixed her up and told me after a few days of partial rest and lasering, she should be perfectly fine. That's a relief! We couldn't figure out what the heck she had done - my dogs live a very supervised and guarded life. We got for a nice walk every morning, and my thought is that even though she's not allowed to run full-tilt during this time, she does go out cantering here and there, with a couple short running stretches mixed in, and maybe she slipped or got knocked into by the sheltie and I didn't realize it. (sometimes Ryze does a flyball cannonball type leap...). 

Speaking of Ryze, if you missed it on facebook, here's a little video I made of his agility training. Because he came to me in a busy time of my life, and so close on the heels of training Strafe, I have been more lax in his training. He knows Sit, and mostly knows Down. He is started on Stay but it is not solid enough for a group picture or anything. He has not a clue what Heel might be.... but he can do this!

19 June 2012


That's the day after Drifter won his first Regional Grand Prix and started on the track to the "big time". It's also the day Seri was born! As usual, I wasn't looking for a puppy when I decided to get Seri - she is only 18 months younger than Kiba. But I stumbled across the breeding plans and couldn't say no.

Seri started out a very normal border collie. She has a nice temperament, sweet and enthusiastically friendly. She ran her first trial at a USDAA Tournament only trial at 18 months old. She did quite well, although I had forgotten to train the chute, oops!

That first year, as we trialed a few more times, Seri's extreme love of agility began to show. She started to scream on course. She started to GO GO GO and not always pay attention to me. She freaking loves the game though, can't fault her for that.

Seri had trouble getting out of the Novice/Starters and subsequently the Open and Advanced levels. It was usually just one thing; she had trouble keeping bars up. She would fly off the see-saw. But sometimes she would just GO GO GO and after a few repeats of her just picking an obstacle and going, I would have to walk her off. She's not an easily upset dog though, so this didn't really bother her very much.

When she was going on 4, she injured her wrist. I don't know exactly what she did, it was during a regular training session. But the PT tells me it was hyperextended and twisted at the same time. This injury took 4 months to heal, and at the end of that time I had her spayed due to the fear of health issues popping up her in her family tree. But as she's gotten older and the "crazy" hasn't really settled down, I don't regret spaying her. I love her and she's a great dog, but she will never reach the upper eschelon of agility. She is just too excitable.

Seri came back from the injured wrist and ran pretty well for about 6 months before her shoulder was jammed. We fixed it, and it jammed again. Then it started to subluxate. I gave her a few months off, then trialed her again. This time she threw her pelvis and sacrum out rather spectacularly. I gave her another break, and before I could even trial her she did it again. Since last July she has only run 3 runs in a trial. She finished her AAD title in USDAA this spring and I'm very pleased with that, it feels like a huge accomplishment! She also has her AX and AXJ, so she is in the top level of every organization, but she will never have her ADCH or MACH.  She did attend USDAA nationals twice, and even placed in a few classes in 2010, but she still had these "moments" where her brain just goes WEEEEEE! . . .

I do still train Seri once a week or so, on short sequences usually. I take her to seminars and use her for a demo dog sometimes. But I have to be very careful with her or she will hurt her shoulder, wrist, or in the process of guarding those she will throw her rear end out. And she is not a cautious dog. She is reckless to the extreme, and this aggravates everything.

Luckily she's a great house dog (when I'm home!) and gets along great with all my other dogs. So she's here to stay, even if she'll never be famous or a Finalist or a World Champion. My crazy girl is 6 years old today!

ETA: wanted to add that she was the cutest stinking puppy ever, although she was also NAUGHTY...

One of her favorite puppy games was tugging on the couch cover. 

10 June 2012

warm sunny weekend

yesterday I taught a couple workshops here at home. I do enjoy teaching skill focused workshops like that; it is really cool to see both dogs and people make huge leaps in understanding and application over a relatively short time period. It's a much more targeted way to learn things than a generic "masters handling" - although I enjoy teaching those too! Anyway, that was Saturday - i think I got a bit more sun than I intended, which will make my "farmer's tan" even worse (I don't really ever wear sleeveless shirts).

Today, Sunday, I had entered Strafe in a local USDAA trial, in Starters Standard and Steeplechase. I debated whether to go or not, since I had made the decision not to go to Denver, but I figured since I had already entered it, it was worth it to go and get the ring experience with Strafe. Sometimes I forget he's only 21 months old! And with all the AKC trials coming up over the summer, I won't have as much opportunity to be relaxed in the ring.

We started out with Starters Standard (for Europeans, this is the USDAA equivalent to A1 level), where he had a nice run for a Q and 1st place. Then I hung around a while and ran Grand Prix, and he ran great, qualified, and won the class for his very first bye voucher!

(In USDAA you have to have 2 Grand Prix Q's, 2 Steeplechase Q's and 1 DAM Team Q to compete in those events at Nationals, which is in Denver CO in September). So this means he is now qualified to run in all events at USDAA Nationals, should I change my mind and decide to go. And so, of course, I drove home wondering if I had made the wrong decision, and perhaps I really should go; maybe fly out and just take Strafe, since Kiba doesn't like to travel that much and I've already made her go on long trips twice this year. . . it would be a great experience for Strafe, and if he did happen to do well, it might give us a shot at being considered for WAO Team next year (or EO Team if they have to select dogs again).

Then again - money! I am not made of money, and while I do think I have enough teaching lined up to afford the trials I want to run, adding another trip is always hard. Plus I'd be leaving 4 other dogs home for 6 days without me. Anyways, I am still in the camp of "not going", but if I could find a cheap hotel and rental car I might still be persuaded to do so. I have enough Miles accumulated that I can fly for free, so that's not an issue at least.

Here's Strafe's runs from today!

07 June 2012

A Miscellaneous Personal Post

First off, the other day I went out and tried once more to get a stacked photo of Strafe. In the end I had to hold him and use the timer on my camera. I know it seems silly to even try, since most people aren't good judges of structure anyway and I'm not even sure if he'll ever be bred (he's too young to make such a decision) but I do think he has really nice structure and I'd like to share that with you:)

He definitely has a much more mature coat in this version than the one from last summer at 10 months old. I don't really feel that his structure has changed much, he's just a much more "adult" looking dog now. And yes, the camera was tilting slightly in the above photo. Best I could do!

10 month photo below, for comparision:

I am a bit obsessive about structure, just as I am obsessive about all things that interest me. This doesn't mean I won't take a puppy with imperfect structure, it just means that I "see" structure when I look at a dog, and I analyze it, sometimes without even meaning to. I try to see how it affects the way they run and jump too. It is a very interesting exercise at an agility trial, when I'm bored between runs.

Structure is not the "be all end all" single trait that defines agility dogs' success. It's not even the primary trait that defines success. That would be attitude/temperament/personality. Followed by soundness/health, which ties into structure, of course. So I look for a dog with balanced structure, and there are, indeed, a few flaws that would prevent me from taking a puppy due to their strong effect on a dog's movement. Certainly none of my dogs have perfect structure, even Strafe. But he is definitely the closest one!

Now onto the other random stuff:
Yesterday I actually splurged and had my dog PT (who is a human PT with a lot of experience before switching to mostly dogs) work on me for a full hour. She loosened a bunch of tight spots related to my shoulder issue, and reiterated what she and another have told me - the left side of my rib cage was not mobilized properly. I have felt "twisted" and like I really needed to "crack" something over there for a while. She did what she could to mobilize everything, and I'm hoping to start going to a chiropractor and massage therapy a couple times a month to try slowly normalize everything. I am also diligently doing my strengthening work with weights and a peanut. Which leads into another random thing - this spring I had no less than three people tell me I looked thinner. I am always wanting to be more fit, but I am fundamentally a lazy person who would rather read a book than work out, so it's been hard to force myself into a more active habit. I think all the crazy traveling jump-started it, because I have felt more restless at home lately, leading me to actually be more dedicated to working out a little - mostly focusing on my arms to help strengthen my shoulders and back. However as of the winter I have been traveling a ton and walking 45min or so every day to keep my dogs fit, and that combined with the fact that I've been on the road a lot seems to have done something because when I finally weighed myself the other day it turns out I have lost about 10 pounds in the last 6 months, without really "trying"... so I'm going to keep at the strengthening regime, the walking, and my usual habit of "grazing" for meals. Seems to be working well. I have also, at the request of my PT, added some new stretching into the routine, and I'm trying really hard not to sit like a twisted up person. That's actually quite hard for me, I'm wondering if I need a stiffer chair or something...

This weekend is the start of 3 weekends of teaching. i am happy about that; it means I get to work with people teaching them new skills, not to mention the boring goal of making money so I can actually afford the AKC trials in July that I have entered...

I have also decided that since Seri is working on 5+ months of total soundness, if Kiba gets qualified for Tulsa, I will stop entering her and start entering Seri in AKC, on the outside chance that she can keep it together and get some QQ's. We will see what happens. Seri is going to be an aunt soon. . . I am very curious to see how the pups turn out.

Ryze the giant sheltie is still holding somewhere between 15 and 15.5" tall. But his body looks more "adult" suddenly so I'm hopeful his growth is almost done. He's not quite 6 months yet, so I can't be sure!

I leave you with happy Strafe. Always smiling!

03 June 2012


I realized I never embedded my WAO videos! All of my videos from WAO are courtesy of KineticDog. George kindly videos every single run by every Team member, isn't that great?!

Anyway. I'm going to start with a non-WAO video. Here's Seri, playing her favorite game with me. She's always loved doing this, and it's a stupid-easy-fun game, but whatever floats her boat, right? There were long stretches where I didn't allow her to do this because of her shoulder and/or wrist issues but she's been pretty darn sound the last 5 months so we've begun playing this once in a while.

And now onto WAO videos. Here are the uncut videos of all of my runs, organized by class at the competition. Each has ups and downs, but i'm most proud of Individual Pentathlon Jumping 2 and all of my Team runs!

And finally, because I had no chance of any individual overall medals this year after mucking up both Individual Agility 1 and Snooker, first thing in the morning on Friday (talk about a bummer!), I decided to make a highlight reel video. I don't usually do this, but I felt that all of the good moments from my runs needed to be viewed together. I had trouble with Movie Maker saving a couple of times, and hopefully YouTube will leave the music alone or you'll be getting one without music, as choosing that is one of the hardest things for me ("what sounds good? what will YouTube allow? what doesn't have swear words in it??")