27 August 2013

Puppies Round 2

So after much internal debate and about 11 months of talking with the breeder about the upcoming litter, I have decided not to get a puppy from Strafe's mother this time around. Strafe is an amazing dog and I could not have asked for better, but I think the timing is just a little too soon, due this winter, and I have so much fun travel I am hoping to do next year. I'm a little concerned about not giving the pup enough time. And even though they will be over 3 years apart in age, I am also worried that they will compete for attention and for the same teams later on in life (OK, I realize that is totally a first world problem, having too many amazing dogs, but I'm being optimistic here) - I would not want to either postpone that dog's career, or retire Strafe from that sort of thing too early either.

Two other ideas I admit to tossing around are to keeping one of Strafe's pups when he is finally bred (probably this winter/spring), or getting an unrelated female pup with the future hopes of her being just the right  match for him down the line. I'm not sure which of those options I will go with. Or maybe I will try again for a sheltie - that thought has crossed my mind as well ;)

So, if you are looking for a great dog and live in Europe, or really want to go to Denmark and get one (if you're American that is not cheap), I definitely recommend this litter. Strafe is VERY MUCH like his mother in so many ways!


For more information go to Jane's website

26 August 2013

SMKC and Kiba

First, SMKC: Strafe did pretty well, I didn't bother to get video. 4 Q's out of 6 runs, didn't hit any bars till the last class on Sunday, picked up 95 points towards Nationals and his 4th QQ.

Kiba: Took her in to my vet today. She has arthritic changes in some of the joints of her toes/foot


I have added the circles and text to show where the changes are. If you look at the neighboring toes you can see what a nice clean joint looks like, then look back at the affected ones and you can see how they have jagged edges and small protrusions, and even how the skin seems to be sticking out like it is swollen.

Her toenails are every which way because we took the x-ray with her awake and she was trying to hang onto the slippery table surface, don't worry, they don't usually stick out like that!

So... nothing really helpful. But at least I can explain all the little things I've been seeing over the past year that I've only now added together in my mind. I hadn't realized they were all connected until the chiropractor said something about the little "swelling" and flattened look of her foot.

Here's what I've seen, with slowly increasing frequency over the past year:
Last summer her shoulders got inexplicably tight.
Last fall she was lame on her wrist/foot for a few days, seemed to resolve.
Over the winter I noticed that occasionally after jumping off the bed she takes a few lame steps before walking out of it.
Licking her feet and wrists obsessively after dinner every night. (I chalked this up to her being weird, which she is)
Just generally looking slightly "off" up front, on occasion, even when the PT can't find anything.
And then of course limping again the other week, leading up to the chiro's comment and my decision to shoot x-rays.

What will I do? I'm not sure. I think I need to run her in a little bit of agility to see whether it makes her sore or not. I will probably need to test how she feels before she runs, after she runs, and at night several hours after she's finished running.
I will cut back her training considerably. Not that she trains a lot anyway, but our days of practicing aframes or weaves are done. We probably won't exceed 1 or 2 in a session, and only to practice for an upcoming trial.
I will keep turning over jumps in training to a minimum, as the vet said this is usually aggravated by lots of digging in for tight turns.
I will put her on a slightly higher dose of joint supplement, just in case that helps.
And if she is sore, she will get a painkiller, since there's not much else I can do.

If running agility consistently makes her sore, I will stop. If it seems to have little to no effect, we will persevere for a while.

I also wanted to mention that I have a theory that dogs without dewclaws have a worse time of it regarding toes and arthritis. Dogs are meant to use dewclaws to dig in around a corner, and when that foot tries to dig in, and the claw isn't there, it just makes sense that added torque is added to the foot. I am glad my 2 younger dogs have their dewclaws intact, as I'm hoping that will lessen their chances of arthritis in their feet and toes.

Kiba in Brussels last year with our travel buddy Tiki

22 August 2013

Sigh.

A few months, I noticed that after dinner each night, Kiba was obsessively licking her wrists and upper feet. I thought this was odd, but then Kiba is odd, and has many little obsessive habits, so I didn't think more of it. A few months ago, she came up lame in the front on a wrist/upper foot strain. And now Kiba started limping last week. Same place on her foot/wrist. A week later, after a chiropractic adjustment, she's better but still not right. I can see her standing with her foot shifted a little so there's less weight on that toe. The chiro (also a vet) said the upper part of the foot looked swollen, and I had to agree. So Kiba is going into my regular vet on Monday to shoot some x-rays, hopefully to figure out what is going on. Whether is is an avulsion fracture, strain, or possibly arthritis. Her other foot which has not bothered her also looks a bit wider/flatter/swollen as well, which could just be age related but I will ask them to x-ray both if possible. My vet is usually pretty compliant about these things. Looking back, it is possible the licking was because the joints were sore.

So Kiba is not running at the trial this weekend or next, barring a vet diagnosis of "nothing, she's fine", although I probably would not believe that anyway. If the diagnosis is something that takes a long time to heal, then AKC Nationals is almost certainly off the table for us, as she still needs about 1/4 of her Q's/points and 2 QQ's left to gather. And I don't trial all that often. I was crossing my fingers for some good cues this weekend and next.

If it is arthritis, we will just have to see whether it can be managed. If she can't compete without pharmaceutical intervention, she will retire.

Strafe and I are trialing this weekend, Kiba will stay home with my mother. Cross your fingers for us on Monday, to receive some good news!



16 August 2013

I made a really fun video of my and Strafe's experiences on our EO trip with music and everything, but Vimeo is being awful tonight and basically just sat on my video for several hours without even processing. So maybe I'll wait until Strafe's birthday to post it ;)

instead, here's Strafe.  He will be 3 years old on the 7th of September. He's one of those really confusing dogs, who I simultaneously believe should be both older and younger at the same time. "How can he possibly be 3 years old already!" coupled with "I can't believe he's ONLY 3 year old!"

Funny how that works.





little Kiba D, and a physical check on the dogs for some reason

(sometimes I start writing about one thing, and end up writing about another)

Poor little Kiba is getting older. A few months ago she sprained a toe somehow, and then yesterday she did it again. I have no idea what she's doing, as neither time was on agility equipment. She hasn't even done agility since mid-July. Which I was hoping to remedy with at least a couple brief training sessions this coming week since she is entered in an AKC trial next weekend!! I am going to have to give the toe a few days before deciding whether she will be able to run or not. Sucks getting older and more fragile! She's 8 and 1/2 now, nowhere near ancient but certainly old enough to be less resilient than she used to be. That's one of the reasons I am so against running dogs that get to be too old; it has nothing to do with whether the dog enjoys it or not, but if the dog's body is less resilient, then any injury that may occur will be so much worse that it might have been had the dog been younger, and I just don't want to risk that. Drifter retired at 10 primarily because he has several arthritic toes, and I felt that it was throwing his balance off on the dogwalk. I can't imagine how awful it would be to run him and he missed a step and fell off the dogwalk at 10 years old, at full speed! No thanks! He is happily enjoying lounging on the couch, growling at me for clipping his toenails, and biting the grass when we go for walks :) Other than the loss of some of his super agility condition muscle mass, he's feeling great.



Kiba is really strong still and I am sure she could compete for a few more years at 16" jump height but with her weird vision issues, tight back, and now this toe thing that is recurring, I am pretty happy to stay on the track to retire her next spring after AKC Nationals. She may still play around in some local shows, but she won't be going to either National event the following year, they are both too far away.



Seri is doing really well. She really super enjoyed her vacation at Camp Val while I was gone, and I was really happy that her wrist is now holding up to all activities again even without the support wrap. She will never compete in agility again, unless I throw her in, say P3 Jumpers or something just to play around. I feel that with the reduced strength in her wrist it is not worth the risk of injury. She does regularly enjoy hiking, swimming, running in the field, playing with toys, and the occasional agility training session where I do a few small things at a time and reward before she picks up enough momentum to hurt herself.

And of course Strafe feels great!


15 August 2013

EO - a few last video links

Here is a training course from our off-site training on Wednesday.
I was skipping the dogwalk because it was not rubber, and Strafe being so young, he has almost zero experience with non-rubber contacts and I did not want to risk him hurting himself right before EO, since I knew EO would have rubber contacts :)

Here is our bad run from Team Agility.  My head and Strafe's head were both in the wrong place! This run was a disaster for us, but at least our contacts were good, right!? And it gave me fuel to come back with a vengeance afterwards.

Here is a comparison of my run versus the 3rd place run. You have to wait through part of an ad to watch it, but it's still very interesting. The 3rd place dog was ahead of me all the way up to the dogwalk, where Strafe's higher dogwalk speed allowed him to catch up, and then I had a slightly better turn from the tunnel to number 20 which put Strafe just slightly ahead at the end. Very close between all the top finishers, as this dog was 0.12 behind me, and I was only 0.072 behind 1st place! Thank goodness for electronic timers!!

13 August 2013

On Puppies.

Now that I'm home from THE big trip that I've been looking forward to all year (and have spent some time looking back on already, which is one of the reasons I enjoy keeping a blog), my thoughts are turning forward again. And one of the things I'm planning for the next year or so is a puppy.

Seri at 8ish weeks
Wait, really, a puppy? Yeah. I know it is a bit nuts, I still have 4 dogs which is a handful. But I really enjoy having 2 dogs to trial at local and national trials. And with Drifter and Seri both retired, I currently run Strafe and Kiba. Strafe is almost 3 years old, and obviously has a lot of years left. Kiba, on the other hand, will be turning 9 this fall, and with her weird vision-related issues I have no idea how much longer we can continue to be successful. I would love to run her at AKC Nationals next spring, and that would be her last big event. But I am not 100% sure she will even qualify for that, as we are still having trouble with consistency and getting QQ's is not so easy for us. Even so, after that both National events go far west, and she won't be traveling cross-country at 10 years old. So that leaves Strafe. And for a year where Nationals is not nearby, I suppose it is nice to have only one dog to focus on, but I know that, for me, that will get a bit boring after a while, and I will want to have another dog.

Newborn Strafe

To that end, I have been discussing possible stud dogs with Strafe's breeder, and there is a good possibility I will end up bringing home a half-brother or sister to Strafe, from the same mother. But it is not easy, trying to match up 2 dogs to produce the exact type of puppy we want for agility! There is an exhaustive laundry list of things to look at: structure, size, temperament, jumping ability (yes, even that), and then with health you have hips, shoulders, elbows, epilepsy, eyes, general soundness.... 

With all the border collies in Europe, you would think it would be a really easy matter to say "oh, breed to that one and you'll definitely get what you want", but it is not nearly so easy. Find a nice dog that is lovely, and he has less than perfect hips. Or a dog with a wonderful strong hip history, but he has a jumping style that makes me think he may have a mild vision issue like Kiba. A dog who is throwing lovely jumping but his father has some puppies with OCD in the shoulder.... it goes on and on! And at the end of the day you have to prioritize. Is size more important than jumping style? Is hip history more important than shoulder angle? 

12 week old Kiba

I am still contemplating some of these things. I know some priorities, to me, will always be epilepsy and temperament. And since I focus a lot on agility, jumping talent does matter to me, but you have to learn to see through handling mistakes, as many potential breeding dogs are not handled by expert handlers, and that is totally ok! 


10 week old Strafe
And on a related front, I am also talking to a few people about breeding Strafe, so I am dealing with priorities there as well. Strafe, as every other breeding dog does, has his potential "issues" to be wary of. He is an exceptional dog in a lot of ways, so I'm going to allow his use at stud. And then that brings up the question of whether I want a puppy from one of these breedings. Currently my thought is to wait, let his first couple litters grow up, and then potentially keep a puppy off of him later on, or collect him for later use. But who knows, my plans are definitely not set in stone yet!

Pretty is, and pretty also does.
So anyway. That's been the majority of thoughts circling my mind the past week or so when I've been at home. 

I've got this coming weekend off, slightly unexpectedly but it's nice anyway, as I've got some longer travel trips coming up to teach in September, along with another online class beginning as well.


07 August 2013

EO Trip - Monday - Brugge

After we finished walking around Gent and managed to get out of the city immediately without accidentally bowling through pedestrians, we decided to make the trip up to Brugge, which was not too far away and farther up towards the coast of Belgium. I had never really heard of Brugge before, but several team members told us it was beautiful and worth seeing, so off we went!

This time Ashley got smart and used the GPS to locate a parking garage just outside of the main part of town, and we got there nice and easily without almost running over anyone! Hurray Timmy! (the name of my TomTom)

Everyone was right. Brugge was beautiful. And it had plenty of people sight seeing but yet still felt quiet and less crazy than many places we had been (at least until we got into the very center of town). I would have been happy to set up shop and live there!

Brugge (apparently pronounced "Broozh" if that makes sense;)

We contemplated doing a boat tour, but were a bit afraid that Psi would jump off the boat!



Weather was a good deal cooler on Monday so the dogs were much happier!


Brugge had LOTS of chocolate shops but by the time we got there I was all sugared out!







I love how the shadows and clouds came out in this picture!
After this we drove back to Brussels and checked into our hotel for the night. We had a bit of a scary moment when they tried to tell us they had changed our reservation to their other hotel in the middle of downtown but after some insisting that with our dogs and needing to get to the airport, we could not move, they finally got us a room. It was SO luxurious to have soft beds and air conditioning, we cranked it all the way down and after a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant, we passed out.

Tuesday morning we got up, packed up our stuff, and went to the airport. The car drop off, check in, and flight home all went uneventfully, and while my drive back from Ashley's house was a bit long due to traffic, it sure was nice to be home!

I've spent the last week just relaxing and enjoying. This weekend I am teaching again, back to work!

EO Trip - Monday - Gent

Breaking this post in half by town.

So Monday we slept till "whenever" which ended up being around 7am or so. We had our last breakfast at our adorable and friendly but warm and uncomfortable hotel. Then we set off for Gent. It took us about 2 hours to get to Gent. The boys only slightly resented our suitcases taking up some of their huge amount of traveling space in the rental car.

When we got to Gent my GPS had its first massive failure (it had a few minor amusing ones) and took us right into the center of pedestrian town. SCARY! After a white-knuckle drive through town we managed to find a parking garage under a mall. Whew!

Several people told us Gent was a "must see". And there were certainly some great sights, but overall I was a bit disappointed with Gent. It was also in the throes of some festival. There were tents and urinals everywhere. So weird.

Gent:

Courtyard of the Castle of the Counts. No dogs allowed, so we didn't get to go in.



hmm I may have accidentally driven through here ;)


Castle of the Counts, nice view of the tents.

Castle of the Counts, weird how it ended up right in the middle of town, bordering a canal on the back








The boys were fascinated by this guy paddling down the canal

Yup. Public urinals everywhere. I guess it prevents people from peeing on the street/walls. Yes, we did see a guy using one of them.


EO Trip - Saturday/Sunday

I will try to finish the trip recaps tonight, I realize I've been dragging it on a bit!

Saturday morning dawned bright and early. Once more, we were in the very first group to  walk a course - this time for individual jumping. We had some fun trying to guess the course, and happily this judge decided to put the numbers down early enough that we could think about our handling for a while before we had to get out and walk the course.


This course was a long running course with some very tricky parts. The footing was eating up my momentum every time I turned and so even though in the walk through I walked an ambitious plan, I ended up going with a less exciting plan involving rear crosses on 10 and 11. Then I just lost it a little bit on jump 19 in the corner, totally forgetting to do either a Jaakko turn or to send and run away, I stood there yelling for him to come back, then had to do a very ugly front cross to get the backside of 21, but we pulled it off, and half a second under the very tight time too! We were in the top 10 for a while and so I was pretty sure we'd stay in the top 25 at the end of the day - this course was eating dogs up left and right! Only 31 dogs finished under the course time of 38 seconds, with no faults! We ended up placing 18th, at the end of the day.

The Agility Course in the other ring was much more forgiving than Jumping, and in fact ran faster, with the fastest dogs running around 35 or 36 seconds. Still not a super easy course, especially with the tunnel aframe traps, the broad jump to the weaves, and then the long run at the end that had a lot of dogs touching the dogwalk behind the handler or ahead of them.


I was feeling pretty relaxed about this course, since I was pretty darned sure our Jumping run would get us into Finals. I still felt some pressure to do well, and I still handled like it mattered, but I was not really pushing like crazy either. Strafe and I had a nice pretty clean run. We had no way to check our placement in this course, except when I left the ring about halfway through the day we were only about .3 of a second from the 5th place dog who was on the leaderboard, so I figured we would probably stay in top 25 here as well.

We were done running by early afternoon on Saturday, and having had 2 really nice clean runs, I was pretty happy with that. I walked around, watched some other dogs run, Strafe got worked on again, and we just tried to enjoy the atmosphere.

I found out at the end of the day that we finished 14th in Agility, so that class took precedence over Jumping for seeding purposes. I was really proud that on our very first trip to the EO, Strafe and I not only made the Final, but made the Final in all 3 ways possible - we placed in the top 25 dogs in both Individual classes, AND we were top scoring USA Large dog! (Because Strafe was already in from Agility run, they moved down and took the 2nd place Large dog which was Dudley and Jack).

Sunday morning of course I woke up excited but also oddly relaxed - the one ring format for Sunday meant that I had to wait until the very last class of the day to even walk a course! So we went to the site, I watched the various Relay Finals, walked around, checked on my dog, and cheered for my teammates in the Small and Medium Finals. It was a fun, exciting environment, although I have to say that they needed more stands for the audience, as it was hard to get a view of the ring with all the people crowded around it!

Eventually in late afternoon they finally got around to setting our course! I was in the 2nd walk through group so I did not have to rush to get into the ring, so I was able to watch them build the course and put the numbers down, and think about handling for a little bit before going into the ring.



This course was huge, first of all. The judge stated that it was about 200m on Facebook, and I totally believe it! By the time I got to 20 I was like "holy crap where am I?!"

Strafe and I had a great run. Sure, there's a couple spots I can pick out and say "I could have saved a bit of time here" but overall I really cannot complain about this run. We laid it on the line and I'm happy with the result. I'm even happy that Janita is the one that beat me, I really enjoyed working with her last fall and hope to do so again. I gave them my dog food bag.

Here is video of all my clean runs, in order. I don't have video of my bad run Friday morning yet!



Getting my serious on during the Final walk-through

Recalling to the backside! 

Running aframe, boy I had to work to get up to the next jump!
 



That's MY TIME! At the top of the leaderboard! (at least until Janita ran)

Victory lap - I kept having to slow down, Nancy and Karen weren't running fast enough for me! ;)


And so that is how I won the biggest trophy, ever, in the history of me winning trophies. In 21 years of dog agility, nothing touches this trophy! Or the excitement of winning it either! I can't wait to go back next year!