31 July 2013

EO Trip Day 1

We left for Brussels on Saturday the 20th of July, and landed on Sunday morning. The flight was uneventful, as was customs. We grabbed some breakfast, got the rental car (a bit of a process but worked out OK), and headed out of town to our hotel. Our hotel was in the very edge of the Netherlands, located just over an hour or so from Brussels and only about 15 minutes driving from the site, De Warre equestrian center. The hotel was kind enough to let us check in early, at around 11am, for which we were very thankful! I don't sleep well on planes, and had only gotten about 45minutes of spotty napping on the flight.

View of the inner courtyard of the hotel from our room

adorable bathroom, lots of neat sloped roof rooms at the hotel
After checking in we went for a little walk around Roosteren, the town the hotel was located in. It's just a cute little town, pretty quiet. After work hours there are lots of people taking the family dog for a walk, so we all felt pretty at home walking our dogs on the streets every day.

Walking in Roosteren:


Our traveling companions, Ashley and Psi, waiting for me to finish taking pictures ;)

Strafe also waiting for me to finish taking pictures!





After our little walk around town we went back into the hotel and "sat down for a minute" which then turned into a 2 hour nap. Which we needed. After that we made ourselves wake up and get back out to sight see for the afternoon. We decided to take a quick trip over to Cologne (also known as Koln - sorry, I do not have an umlaut on my keyboard!) in Germany. The Koln Dom, or Cologne Cathedral, is a huge, stylish, imposing, and amazingly detailed church. Koln was amazingly easy to drive into, and we parked at a parking garage that just happened to exit right into the square in front of the church, so we walked up stairs to an amazing first view.

And promptly took a picture of our dogs in front of it.





There were skateboarders.


And a guy levitating..


But Psi was not impressed with any of it.


Strafe didn't care about the amazing architecture

The fountain water, on the other hand, was fascinating!
Our first view of the Rhine River 


Walking around town

The cathedral from "below"

Strafe was a bit worried about the random bagpipe player along the Rhine!

A train station
After we finished our circuit around the Dom and down to the Rhine and back, we got back in our car and drove back "home" to the Roosterhoeve, and slept.

At this point I'd like to note that the Roosterhoeve is an adorable, friendly, and wonderful hotel. However, like most country hotels in that part of Europe, there is no air conditioning, and not all the windows have screens in them. It was quite hot most of the week, and despite a desk type fan, the room got very hot during the day, and so several nights we were all a bit too hot to be comfortable. I don't recall Sunday night being particularly hot, but we were pretty tired so perhaps didn't notice! The lack of screen on half the window also meant I came home with bug bites on my feet, a very inconvenient place to have them. I LOVE LOVE LOVE traveling in Europe and would move there in a heartbeat if it were easily possible, but the lack of AC and bugs in my bedroom are not something I particularly enjoy ;)

The beds were also unfortunately hard and uncomfortable, and my back was aching pretty badly most of the week. It felt very good to sleep at home last night! I would do it all over again, for sure, but I do sometimes miss the comforts of home!


Back!

We returned to US soil yesterday. It is a long day of travel, and I can't imagine how much more tiring it must be to travel back to the West Coast versus here. We woke up in Brussels, got to the airport about 2 and 1/2 hours before our flight, then had an 8 hour flight, another 1 hour to clear customs, a 15 minute ride back to Ashley's house to recover my car, then a 2.5 hour drive back home through traffic to get here! So this is why I didn't post last night ;)

It's going to take me a while to process all the photos I took of sight seeing.

Here's a brief recap of the trial, I will go more in depth later:
Wed we had off site practice, which went great. Thursday was on site practice, very brief, only a couple minutes in the rings, which also went great. Opening ceremonies were thankfully quick since 700+ dogs in the arena was hot and crowded and noisy, although also amazing and exciting!
Friday was Team Agility first for us, and Strafe and I were ALL over the map for that one. Off course, THREE times, not our best effort at all. So for Team Jumping in the afternoon I came back vengeful and we did pretty well, our first clean run for 12th place. Our Team was strangely consistent with each other - all 4 dogs went off course in Agility and all 4 dogs were clean in Jumping, this finished us in 54th place out of 104 teams, right in the middle. Oh well, none of us can blame anyone else for our placement!!
Saturday was Individual runs, I was really excited for these, and we did great. Jumping was a really technical course, and by then I was realizing that while the footing was "OK" for the dogs, when it got even a little bit deep I as a handler was having trouble pivoting and re-accelerating, so I aborted my super aggressive plans and just gutted out a clean run in Jumping for 18th place, we finished under time, one of only 31 dogs to do so clean! (there were over 400 dogs in the class) In Agility I didn't go crazy but we had a lovely solid run and finished 14th place. Only Large dog for USA to go double clear, so we actually would have made the Final round in all 3 ways possible - Top 25 placement in Agility, Jumping, or top USA dog! Cool!
Sunday's Final was a really fun course, we pretty much nailed it and I was really thrilled with our run even before I saw our time and my name on the leaderboard! I am also completely happy to get 2nd place to Janita who is a fabulous handler and trainer! I gave my giant bag of dog food to her and the Finnish team as well, no way I could bring that prize home. The trophy I stuffed in my suitcase.

Our 4 clean runs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2XfoCoKLMU

In the Final

After our victory lap (Strafe is watching Janita run her winner's lap)


Terry Smorch (who finished 10th in the Final also with a clean run!) holding my giant bag of dog food,
 and me holding my giant trophy

19 July 2013

Tomorrow

Yes, we leave TOMORROW.

Both of our suitcases are mostly packed now, just a couple of electronics and chargers left to throw in there.

I will have some internet access while in Europe, however, I am certain i will not get around to updating the blog till I return. If you'd like to keep tabs on me then Facebook is the way to go - I will try to post once a day or so, and will definitely put our run results up there. Videos and photos will have to wait till I return since I am not bringing my laptop, and uploading via phone will eat up all my data coverage!

Photo by Carrie DeYoung
The heat here has been terrible all week and it's only getting worse. It is only 7:30am and it's already 83F and "feels like" 93F due to the extreme humidity. Strafe and I are both excited for the Belgian weather, where it is predicted to be about 80F as a high and a lovely cool 55F or so at night. Ahhhhh, we can have windows cracked and everything!

Photo by Kathleen Oswald
Today we went for a short walk at 6am. Around mid-day we will go to the local creek swimming hole and play for a bit, and when we return Strafe will get a bath and a brushing. Toenails will get clipped. Thanks to a friend, his feet are perfectly trimmed up already.

Final preparations are under way!


18 July 2013

Last course before EO



Set this course up last night and it was so hot this morning that we already went out and trained on it by 8:30 this morning. Ridiculous heat we've been having all week - really looking forward to escaping to Belgium ;)

As planned, Strafe and I ran it clean on the first try. Then I went back and did a few aframes "into nothing" for a frisbee, and changed a couple pieces of the course and ran them as a short alternate segment, including turning both ways on 18, adding the backside of 17 between 6 and 7, pulling to 16 versus pushing around it with a blind, and changing 12 and 13 both to the backsides of the jumps. Strafe handled everything I threw at him, including nailing his weave entries in both directions on the first try (not really a surprise;)

Tomorrow or Saturday I may dig out the old obedience broad  jump because he needs to see a variety on that, rather than assuming they are all tall and striped like our USDAA one. Aside from that we are finished training. He looks and feels great. I believe Ria's comment when she looked him over yesterday was "I wish all my clients felt like this!"

Strafe's suitcase is mostly packed - mine is not. We leave SATURDAY, so soon!


14 July 2013

Toes

Strafe's foot looks completely healed and his shoulders have been stretching out really well too, so Friday after the trial (that he is not entered in) I went out and did a little bit of weaves, jumping, and see-saws. Well, just to keep me on my toes, Strafe slid off the see-saw sideways. Seriously!? It didn't look bad but yesterday I went to take him for our morning walk and he was every so slightly lame in the rear. I rested him and checked out him out (stretch/massage/check range of motion) and didn't find much - what I do find is a small scratch by his one hock, and what I think is a bruise on his inner thigh; a little bit of swelling and it looks a little darker than usual. Today his limp is gone and he is stretching out really well now, so I'm going with the bruise theory till he sees Ria on Tues or Wed to get checked out. Time to whip out the bubble wrap! No more agility training till we get to Belgium! I will probably do a few sets of weaves and a few jumps sometime next Thurs or Fri, nothing dangerous; the rest of our time will be nice easy walks and swimming.

Tomorrow is our vet appointment to get our paperwork for entry into Belgium. I have to then send it down to the government office for approval. The trip is feeling "real" now, kind of crazy how being so busy makes it come up so quickly for me! 

This weekend I was at an AKC trial with Kiba, she qualified in one run each day, so no QQ's for us, but we are significantly past halfway on the 500 points necessary to qualify for Nationals, so there's that, I guess. Still encountering a few quirks as I learn how to run her with her vision issue, but we are getting better, I think. She only hit 1 bar all weekend, which is good.




11 July 2013

Strafe

yeah, my life basically does revolve around this dog.


His foot is almost completely healed, I'm so relieved! He's been off pain/anti-inflammatory meds since Wed and I haven't done anything at all to it since then, and it looks great. Today we got brave and went for a 1 hour hike that involved about 15 minutes of walking on gravel - he did great, no limping or head bobbing or caution of any kind. Hurray!

Pic by Kelly Muller! from the Regional last month

And because I wanted to, I made a long, somewhat sappy (for me) video about Strafe, and our journey from puppy to AKC EO Team Member. Our uniform came in the mail yesterday!


Strafe; Journey to EO from Rosanne DeMascio on Vimeo.

06 July 2013

points

Well Kiba picked up some more points this weekend, going 2 for 4, no QQ's. I am still not 100% sure about her consistency regarding AKC Nationals, she may or may not be able to qualify. Her good runs were fabulous and left me exhausted from chattering at her, she needs a lot more verbal assistance now. Her bad runs weren't "bad runs" per se, she just hit a bar in each, but it was what I would have thought was an "easy" bar. The courses were pretty tight, so I am wondering if having the next jump coming up already inside her comfortable visual zone might have made it harder to judge the jumps... who knows. She's also been a bit naughty on her dogwalk contacts lately, I foresee some practice on that when I return from EO.


Poor Strafe had to sit this weekend out. He is probably OK to run but with EO coming up so quickly I saw no point in risking his injured foot or the shoulder that was tight (but is now doing SO MUCH better). He got worked on by one of our PT's, a little bit both days, and his foot seems to be healing quickly now. I don't feel bad about not running him though - the courses were tight and NOTHING like what we will see at the EO. No big loss, except we'll still have a lot of AKC Q's to collect after we return.

We have been practicing a little bit on our weaves and a single jump, every few days or so. I want to make sure his muscles stay adapted to the motions involved in the obstacles, and I actually use a jump or two as "gymnastics" sort of strengthening. He probably won't run a course until I know his foot is all healed, so at least another week. But we can still stay in shape! and I have been playing around with proofing his poles, he is really fabulous on those now, I can do almost anything (even tried cutting through the middle of them today, he stayed in).

I decided to skip the trial tomorrow. It is a holiday weekend so traffic will be at its worst tomorrow afternoon. And it is hot. We will go to the swimming hole and play instead.

03 July 2013

Another souvenir from Practice

We went to see the vet this morning to check on Strafe's foot, which got caught on the chute barrel at Practice about 10 days ago. I was not happy at the lack of complete healing by now. The vet said it looked a little ulcerated and sore, like he had been licking it. No sign of any puncture or foreign body, and it is not currently infected either. So Strafe is on painkillers/anti-inflammatory meds for about a week, and we have a medicated foot soak to do every day to help it dry out and prevent infection as well. Since he's already been tolerating soaks in epsom salts and ice, Strafe has gotten pretty good at dealing with the bucket. (the first few days he was a weenie, curling on my lap and refusing to look at it while I dangled his foot in! LOL!)


Dogs in the mist (more pics from San Francisco)


Strafe and Psi (who will also be our EO travel companion) overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge

Strafe is not impressed with the view
Strafe and Psi did a good job of posing together. This used to be a huge gun site!

02 July 2013

EO, preparing


OK, all set for Belgium travel - I've looked up this road sign which baffled me last year and discovered it means "yield to the person on your right", which perfectly explains why the guy on my left was waving and yelling at me ;)

Yesterday I made a few calls to make sure all was in order to get Strafe into Belgium and out again, and all seems well. We have our appointment to get a health certificate, then we have to send our paperwork to the government office for their stamp of approval, then we are set to go! I am looking forward to traveling with a Pet Passport this year - it should be much more easily recognizable by the customs people in Brussels!


We have a vet appointment tomorrow as well, just to check his foot to make sure everything is well. It seems to be healing more quickly the past few days, and the swelling on his toe webbing is slowly going down. He still wants to lick at it though, so we are still going to go to our vet appointment and check on it. We've been icing, lasering, and soaking in epsom salts at various times throughout the day. I also started loosely wrapping it at night so he can't lick it then.


We have also ramped up the conditioning a bit, getting up early to go for a nice walk (up a hill and down again), then doing some strengthening work with the Bosu ball or disc, some various strengthening work on the ground, and swimming 15-20 minutes in the creek every day that weather allows it.


Now that my whirlwind June is over, it is really, really sinking in just how quickly we leave for the EO. The list of participants is out, with our names on it! 

We are getting our hotel plans and sight seeing plans set, looking into rental cars, etc. I actually really enjoy the experience of driving a rental car across a new countryside. It's fun and exciting! We are hoping weather and time will permit us to see a bit of Germany along with maybe Amsterdam, and then Gent before flying back out of Brussels after the event. Ambitious, maybe, so we will keep a relaxed plan and wing it a little bit if we are extra tired or extra energetic!



Between now and when we leave, I have 2 AKC trials. I had entered Strafe originally, hoping to knock out some Q's, but when his shoulder was a little tight and then he whacked his foot at Practice, I decided not to run him. So I will just be focusing on making Strafe as fit and healthy as possible, and running only Kiba at the trials.


I have to say, I've had a very interesting run of international competitions. 2010 and 2011 I competed for IFCS and WAO with Drifter, both at the same location in England. 2012 I brought a brand new dog, Kiba, to WAO in Belgium. And now for 2013 I have yet a third dog, at a new-to-me competition EO, but at the exact same location as WAO last year in Belgium. Some things change but some stay the same, I guess! I'm pretty proud of myself, as a handler, for making 4 different "world teams" with 3 different dogs over 4 years. I would have been highly amused if I'd made WAO Team as that would've really been something - 3 years at the same event with 3 different dogs - but that was not to be. EO will be MORE fun, I'm sure! (I'll make sure it is, anyway!)


01 July 2013

Home


We are actually living at home for the next 3 weeks, no flying on planes, no driving out of town, hurray! I enjoy traveling but boy, June just sort of ran away with me! This past weekend I was down in Raleigh, NC, teaching. I got to stay with a friend for this one which was more relaxing than rental cars and hotel rooms, but it's still nice to be home. Even if we do seem to have magically relocated to a swamp-slash-rainforest zone of some sort. (rain. all it does is rain.)

Photo of the teams at Practice stolen from Team USA's Facebook page!
Practice certainly was a ton of fun, but Strafe whacked his foot going into the chute barrel on Sunday, and after coming home and spending a week on partial rest (no agility, basically) he still has a bit of swelling in an odd spot - the webbing between two of his toes. The toes themselves seem fine, no pain response at all, but we are still icing and lasering the sore spot. The swelling seems to be smaller after a week so we will continue as is for another few days and see how it goes. I already decided not to run him in the AKC trials the next 2 weekends. Instead we will go for walks up and down hills, work on his core and other targeted strengthening exercises, and swim, swim, swim!

Less than three weeks till we depart for Belgium!