30 April 2014


Yes, blog silence followed by a quick succession of posts. It's how we roll.

This morning Ven went in for his 3rd set of Distemper/Parvo shots. I will wait 2 more weeks then do his Rabies, just to avoid stressing his system by doing them at the same time.

This morning I got the email from the airline and checked in for my flight to Minneapolis tomorrow morning. 

I am really excited about Tryouts this year. I have been doing agility for 21 years, and while "AKC World Team" was not even in existence yet when i started, and then was not of interest to me for a while after it did exist, it has been a dream of mine to be on that team for the last probably 8 to 10 years now. This is my 4th year attending Tryouts, and Strafe's 2nd time.

Last year Strafe won 3 of the 5 classes, but I did not sign up to try out for the FCI AWC Team, and so of course we did not make it. This year I did sign up - I would love to travel to Luxembourg as part of the AKC FCI Team this year. I think we have a good chance of making it but of course I would never be ridiculous and jinx us by saying "of course we'll make it!"

I am FINALLY over my ridiculously long on and off coughing illness. Strafe has been off his antibiotic for about 3 weeks now and is eating very well and looking and feeling great. We are READY.

I have packed most of my clothes, a mat and a pop-up crate for Strafe, my running shoes. We leave early in the morning for an 8:30am flight from BWI.

And so we are off on the beginning of what will hopefully be our next 2 adventures: EO and AWC. Wish us luck!
 I am staying in Minnesota after Tryouts to teach for 3 days, so we will actually be gone for a week, which is why my suitcase is a bit larger than usual;) Today will be spent teaching my morning class, then preparing to send Seri and Kiba off to their temporary homes for the week I am gone, and last minute packing preparations. Then we are off!

29 April 2014

on wagons.

First, I'd like to say that while it's raining and chilly today, the last few days here have been absolutely beautiful. I got a new phone on Saturday and my perpetual cold finally seems to have dissolved, so Strafe and I went for a few nice hikes to enjoy the beautiful weather.

This area of the country really is beautiful when we're not being frozen over by a freak polar vortex. Right now everything is green and blue. And dry, up until today's rain began. But it's spring; it rains. I'm not one to be depressed by something as straightforward as nature being nature.

I wanted to very briefly discuss how I view handling systems and how I handle my own dogs. I've been involved in dog agility for over 21 years now. I've seen trends come and trends go. But the past 5 years or so has seen an almost exponential increase in the talents of handlers and dogs, both in training and handling overall. It is such a fun time to be involved in our sport! There are now multiple full-blown "systems" on offer. Each is unique from the others and has something to offer its adherents. If you are new to agility or are a person who really enjoys following someone else's rules in order to achieve consistency, then one of these systems is a fabulous choice. I'm not going to discuss the advantages or disadvantages (as I see them) of each. That's for every individual to choose. I have an opinion, of course! As does everyone!

Currently my handling most closely matches the OneMindDogs system. This is to say that I handle lines the same way they do. I use most of the same handling maneuvers. I train with them occasionally when they are nearby (or in a warm location in the winter). I think they have a great eye for seeing lines and helping people learn to set the dog on the right one and get the heck out of the way themselves.

But I am not a "certified" OMD trainer. I am friendly with Janita and Jaakko. I would train with them again. But I still would not consider myself 100% OMD style. I train all of the  moves but some of them I keep as "back pocket" maneuvers for if I can't figure out a better way through the course. I am pretty sure I think about the dog's line just slightly differently than they do - neither of us is wrong, just different ways of seeing the same thing. I know I prefer different handling for certain situations over what they usually do. Some of my foundation training is different. Some of my wraps are handled differently. My obstacle training doesn't follow anyone's printed layout. I believe there is probably more variability between dogs than most people allow for - I try to get handlers to adapt to the dog they have (in addition to some training to improve) rather than forcing the dog to adapt to the handler.

I have followed other systems in the past, but I am really not ever a person who says "This system is for me and I will follow it 100%!!!" I enjoy experimentation and innovation. I enjoy pushing the boundaries. I enjoy studying and recording the results. I like the technicalities and the why's and the wheretofore's. I try to understand how basic principles of physics apply to agility. I constantly seek to improve my cues to eliminate any inconsistencies (and thus confusion which equals off courses or lost speed).

So if you would like to come train with me to learn more about OMD techniques, I can certainly help you. But if you really have an open mind, some questions, a notebook, and the desire to just GO FASTER(without looking frantic) then I can definitely get you on the right track! My teaching (and my own handling) is geared towards trying to help each handler learn to get their individual dog(s) on the right path, with good turns and acceleration and collection at the right times. I am pretty flexible.

No jumping on wagons of any sort here. I know what i like, I know how and why it works, and I know how to adapt it for dogs of all kinds.

photo by Watts Photography

26 April 2014

My voice is louder today. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to speak normally by Tryouts next weekend. It's been so long since my voice was 100% normal that I've almost forgotten what I sound like...

I realized I never shared any pictures from Crufts here. I've been so busy since I got back, with Strafe's illness, followed by Nationals, then my illness, then a big trip traveling, along with trying to work with Ven and posting on HIS blog regularly....

Below the break are a bunch of lovely pictures from Ian Watts from our first (and hopefully not last) trip to Crufts to represent the USA in the International events!

25 April 2014

Busy April.

So after my last post, I recovered fairly well, although it did take almost a week to feel pretty normal. Then I left on a 12-day trip with Strafe to go teach seminars! I started in Vancouver, and while I was a bit worried about teaching in a dirt indoor, the dirt was good, not dusty, and I continued to recover day by day. Strafe finished up his doxycycline on the day before we left, and while he skipped dinner on the first full day of the trip (after an extra long day of teaching, and before we had adjusted to the time zone), I'm happy to say he's every single meal since then, for 2 weeks, in addition to various treats and cookies and such that he's been offered. He seems back to normal, happy, hungry Strafe. Anyway, I had 3 lovely days in Vancouver area, really nice weather, good people and dogs. Then my friend came up from Washington state and we drove south across the border back into the USA, and I stayed there for a few days, did 2 short days of Tryout prep style workshops, which I also ran Strafe in. I am glad I worked him there, as we both felt and ran pretty well. I only had a bit of a lingering cough from my crud.

I had fun in WA, it was fun and interesting to hang out in person with someone whom I talk to online an awful lot. Her dogs are really excited, as you can see.

After that Strafe and I were off to southern California. The weather there was maybe a little bit TOO nice, as in too warm for me, really, as the weekend went on, but I have to admit I kind of enjoyed the sun despite the bit of burn (now resolved to tan) that I acquired.

SUN! Eucalyptus trees! Allergies?

Well. The very first full day I was in California my lymph nodes swelled back up a bit, and over the weekend that progressed into either some weird form of allergies or a Crud Redux. I was really leaning towards allergies but now as I am home and it is healing up again, I am going through the same annoying coughing spasms I went through as I healed from the original NAC Crud. So now I'm not sure.

I had a great time everywhere I went on this trip, even if I did come home a bit sick and exhausted and sunburnt. I got home Tuesday morning, and then yesterday, Thursday, I flew out to Cleveland for a 1-day teaching gig with a repeat group I've seen several times over the winter. I admit my voice is still scratchy from all this talking on top of the cruds I've had, but I did have fun. As I've gotten older (no, I'm not claiming I'm "old"!) I've learned that I actually enjoy traveling and teaching and working with people. I definitely still need my "alone time" in between, and rest of course, and there's several good reasons I'm doing absolutely nothing constructive this weekend. But I had fun, and I'd consider doing again too.

For now I get to hang out with all 5 of my dogs, train the puppy, and make last minute preparations for Tryouts which are coming up SO SOON! Strafe and I are off on Thursday morning. We are trying out for both EO and AWC this year, and I'm actually pretty excited about both.

06 April 2014

NAC. then crud.

The 2014 AKC National Agility Championship was enormous. As usual it was well organized and any problems that cropped up were addressed as quickly as possible. For example, on Thursday the main arena was super dusty - by mid-day I saw AKC staff out there with hoses watering it down and the rest of the weekend they had the arena staff keeping it damp and it made a huge difference.

I wore a fitbit Thurs to Saturday. I walked 10 to 13 miles each day. Yes. That's a lot. It was a lot of walking on concrete and so I was quite sore afterwards but I'm not worried about the dogs because 95% of my walking was done without them - checking rings, running orders, walking courses, going to restrooms, going to watch, etc. The dogs actually held up great.

I ran Trig for my mother, and she had 3 clean runs out of 4. She isn't a super speed demon dog so I was really pleased with her for getting 9 points in Time 2 Beat, placing 26th in JWW (out of about 480 dogs), and being only a couple seconds off the lead time in Hybrid. She would have easily coasted into the Finals with those times except that in Standard she popped out of the tenth weave pole and dived through the tire. That was odd. I was right next to the poles, too, not lateral or ahead or anything, she just kind of went "oh, tire!" and left me. Oh well. A good showing nonetheless!

Strafe performed pretty damned well considering I wasn't sure whether he'd be well enough to run, up to about a week beforehand. And while we did those few runs at UKI the week before, he was basically on "rest" other than that, just a few short walks otherwise. He placed 2nd in Time 2 Beat, just a hair from 1st, and I hadn't really intended to try to win it, so that was a great start to the weekend. Then in the first round I made some conservative choices about which way to turn and how to handle, opting for the easier weave entrance and a boring rear cross, knowing that with the way Strafe's been running if I could just run 3 clean we'd make Finals. So we got 4th in that run - JWW - because while I wasn't pushing, it certainly was a nice efficient run. In standard I didn't like the ending, a back and forth affair that involved hard turns on the tire, the parallel double (Strafe's worst jump), and the panel. Well I chickened out on a front cross I wanted to do, and held back for the rear, and Strafe knocked the panel. So in Hybrid I put on my big girl pants and ran clean AT ALL COSTS (to the tune of a rather slow time, for us, 2 seconds or so off the winner) in order to make Challenger round. And we did it. On to Challenger!

Kiba was super fabulous for what was almost certainly her last national event. A huge brain fart in T2B meant no placement there (what 12th weave pole?)... But then she ran clean in JWW for a 5th place, and clean in Standard for 3rd, I tried really hard to keep her clean in Hybrid but she misread my cue and turned the wrong way on a jump, knocking the bar. This meant I had both dogs in Challenger round...

Challenger round was hectic and exciting and frustrating and exhausting all at once. I've actually had 2 dogs in this run before, way back in Tulsa 2010. But the location of the ring they were using for this, and the lack of announcements happening in the crating area, meant that I was feeling a bit hassled and confused about when I needed to walk and how long I had to prepare my dogs, etc. It all ended up working out in the end but I am sure i logged an insane amount of miles on the concrete that day.

So Challenger round was, as usual, the most fun course of the entire weekend. I knew when I saw it that it was a good course for Strafe. I wasn't as sure about Kiba, as she has some special handling requirements due to her minor jumping issue, and if I don't respect those she will knock bars or go off course. So I had just slightly different plans for the 2 dogs. Kiba ran first, and I was pleased with the turn she started to give me on the hard wrap at 7 but then at the last second I chickened out on the blind cross following it because I was sure she was going to back jump if I did, so I ended up pulling her and then doing 2 rear crosses in a row, however, she was still so tight and fast that she won! With Strafe everything went much more smoothly, he laid down a very nice, steady, efficient run and also won his height. I'm not sure if anyone's ever won 2 different heights of Challenger Round before, but what a crazy rush that is!

The disadvantages of taking the Challenger Round route to Finals are multiple though. First and most importantly, both you and the dog are more tired. Normal Finalists get to rest and watch Challengers (I've done that too, it's way more relaxing). I was running and walking and warming up and cooling down and planning. And then of course I had to take whatever size Finalist shirt was left over. I know, a super #FirstWorldProblem if ever there was one, but it can be distracting, running in what is essentially a tunic rather than a well fitted shirt. And this year Finals ran quite late. I admit, I am not a night person. I had been going non-stop all day from before 5am. I was TIRED for Finals. The Finals course was alright but it inspired no excitement from me as the Challenger Round did. It was not actually a good course for Kiba with her jumping problems. I had to rear cross the see-saw. There were a lot of weird little traps. It was an OK course for Strafe but not super. The spacing was really tight in a few places. I had to trust his see-saw too. Of course none of this means I did not TRY to win with both dogs! I really would have loved to run Kiba clean, especially. That little dog has tried so hard for me. 6 AKC Nationals, and now 3 Finals runs. But it was not to be. We were doing pretty well but then off the dogwalk she got her eye on the see-saw and ended up on the wrong side of the next jump when I called her off. Not her fault - I did not even notice that trap. And that's something I have to remember a lot with her, to look for traps, as she really looks ahead at stuff. With Strafe he knocked the 3rd jump so we were out right there! Then he missed his weave entry as my German turn was sloppy, then he flew off the see-saw. I'm just happy to make it there. He's still only 3, and I'm happy with our showing this year, we got 1 step farther than last year when we placed 3rd in Challengers.

So we came home from Nationals EXHAUSTED but happy, even though neither of my dogs ran clean in Finals, I was really happy they both GOT THERE with me.

Then on Wednesday I started to get sick. Lots of people are sick after this NAC - I think it was just SO MANY people in dusty conditions in an enclosed building with a heating system. Prime for viral spreading. Mine is something upper respiratory, bronchial, and I ended up missing all 3 days of the local trial this weekend trying to heal from it. Tonight I think I'm getting better, going to continue resting and hope I am over this by the time I leave for Vancouver on Thursday morning!