Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Conundrum

At course run throughs this morning one of my agility friends left a nice bag of holiday treats for me in my car while I was out running the course. They look like Biscotti, or are they Biscuit0tti? She didn't leave a card and you never know with dog people. Guess I'll give one to my husband and see if he makes a face or not.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Barking Thru the Snow, Rudolph Ramble 5k

This was a spur of the moment thing, on Thurs. a coworker told me dogs were not only allowed at this race but they were having special awards for the first 5 dogs across the finish line. Not that I felt there was much hope for that, but you never know. I'd just set a goal for myself for less than 29 minutes at a doggie 5k next April so I thought it would be fun to see what my time would be today and how much I could improve by April. Plus I love any opportunity to race with Lola.

It was 9 degrees and cloudy/gloomy when I left the house, how stupid am I to trek all the way to Denver (45 minutes or so) so I can run on snow covered, icy streets in air that it hurts to breathe? On the other hand, what else have I got to do? Go to the mall? Uh, no thanks. I nearly got into it in the overcrowded yuppie whole foods megagrocery store yesterday with some arrogant yuppie jackass, what chance would I have for civility at a mall? It's gift certificates and shopping online for me I'm afraid.

My coworker showed up for the race with her little Jack Russell Terrier Ernie and another coworker's dog Max, a Golden Retriever she was dogsitting. Her friend showed up with a lovely black retriever mix so it was doggie chaos heading to the startline as Ernie's kind of cranky and Max was freaked out since he clearly doesn't get out of the house much. I was particularly proud of Lola, who can get cranky with certain dogs in her face but she did great, waiting patiently for me while I signed up & got my number/chip.

It was freezing, probably around 12-14 degrees, so I was VERY happy when the gun went off. Since I had a dog and still consider myself in recovery mode from my car crash injuries, I lined up at the very back but quickly found myself getting hauled by Lola towards the front. After a few minutes Lola started limping on 3 feet and I had to stop to wipe the salt off her paws, poor girl. After that I tried to keep her in the snow to the side of the road when there seemed to be salt on the road but it was a little hard since she's got a mind of her own. Almost the entire course was icy & snowpacked so I had to watch my footing. At one point Lola looked like she'd spotted a squirrel and I thought I was done for. If she took off after it I'd have no traction and go skijoring across the road/ice right behind her into the trees. Luckily it was a false alarm and we stayed the course.

Most of the race was a blur, it was cold, I was breathing hard and Lola was pulling me along like she had some important business to attend to and I was holding her back. With the finish line in sight, Lola came up limping with salt in her paw again and when I stopped to wipe it off 2 women and a pack of men that I'd passed a few minutes back repassed me. THEN Lola decides it's time to make snow angel puppies and lies on her back rolling in the snow. Normally I think it's very cute but not with the finish line in sight, especially when it looks like I'm going to make the time goal I set for April! I ended up crossing the finish line in 28:22 by my watch (28:32 official race time but I'd started at the back) and they announced 'Here comes another doggie winner!' and handed me a beautiful gift basket filled with fancy gourmet dog treats. We were one of the top 5 dogs! We weren't 5th either since a dog right behind up got announced for a prize too. It's not a great time or a PR but considering the icy conditions and the fact that I've been doing about 9 miles max. of running a week I was thrilled. I'm a little sore in the injured areas but nothing too terrible and it sure felt good to 'race' again.

In the end I was 2/11 for my age group, 12/44 overall women and 34/96 overall (there was a walking division scored seperately). They only gave awards to the top 10 women/men runners overall so no hardware and the 2 women that passed me toward the end during Lola's roll around put us out of the money (I was 15 secs. off 10th place) but that's o.k. We had a great time despite the cold, Lola was so well behaved and got herself some biscuitware, and it looks like I need a new goal for April.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I should probably just keep my mouth shut but I'm going to rant anyway. Nels posted a link to an article on the genetic nightmare humans have created in the breeding of purebred dogs. Now, I know all about this and the reality is even worse than the article makes out. I hate the AKC which is a very conservative, good old boys club that perpetuates the inbreeding of dogs to look a certain way, health and temperament concerns be damned. Many people think AKC papers are valuable but all they mean is that according to the AKC's records, both parents were the same breed of dog. By their own admission, the AKC is a record keeping organization, nothing more (though they do lobby Congress to keep any kind of animal welfare legislation from passing so they're a political organization too). Dogs can come from puppy mills (most puppies sold in pet stores are from puppy mills), have hideous health & temperament problems and still have AKC papers. So far I've resisted the urge to compete in AKC agility trials, even though they are the most common & popular around here. They don't allow mixed breeds (how snobby is that?) but Lola could likely pass for purebred and I could get an ILP for her to compete. Cody might even pass if I took the picture right. But so far, I can't bring myself to give them money and support their agility program. Anyway, it's a touchy subject, esp. amongst the dog people because they have fondness for their various breeds and for some of them speaking badly of a breed, or purebred dogs in general, is tantamount to insulting someone's religion.

Purebred dogs, esp. those that are bred by so called 'responsible' breeders for the breed ring, are seriously inbred and consequently can suffer terrible health & temperament problems. Epilepsy seems to be one of the most common diseases and plagues many breeds. Unfortunately even getting a mix doesn't guarantee a healthy dog because you can end up with the worse traits from two poorly bred purebreds, but in my mind you cut down on your chances of diseases common to certain breeds. The popularity of 'designer mixes' like Labradoodles (Lab + Poodle), Puggles (Pug + Beagle), BoJacks (Border Collie + Jack Russell Terrier) are more examples of humans playing mad scientist but at $1200 a pup they won't be going away any time soon (there are tons of mixes sitting in shelters at a fraction of this cost but they lack the trendy name). None of these is technically a breed and any halfwit can produce them but people are scooping them up nonetheless. And for the record, there is absolutely NO clinical proof that Labradoodles are hypoallergenic and in fact many of them are not.

There are also breeders out there breeding high drive versions of their chosen breed for agility and other dog sports. This is really a disaster because there are very few homes out there that want such a high energy, high maintenance dog so where do the unsold/returned pups end up? Do I need to spell it out? These dogs are awful pets for the average person and I speak from experience. Never mind the health and behavioral problems you start having when you start selecting for just one trait, like drive.

Now I know quite a few people who've bought designer agility dogs and they're very nice people, I don't mean to be dissing them or anyone else who chooses a purebred dog from a breeder. Personally I prefer mutts though Lola is possibly purebred and Strummer is for sure, no ifs and or buts about it. But I don't think I could ever support a breeder or spend that kind of money on a dog when there are so many great dogs sitting around in rescue. I can't control the mad scientists out there but I can try to be part of the solution.

One interesting thing to note, the article mentioned that humans 'tamed' dogs from wolves, an idea that is not so widely accepted anymore. Ray Coppinger, a Phd in Biology, and his wife Lorna (I forget her credentials at the moment) wrote a fascinating book on dog origins and the developments of the various types of dogs (herding, guarding, etc.) from a biologist's point of view. In short, he believes dogs are the result of natural selection. Wolves are typically shy of humans and the ones that were genetic anomolies hung close to human camps & villages, eating their leftover scraps & garbage. The less shy wolves started breeding amongst themselves, creating tamer and tamer versions that eventually led to dogs that humans could approach and take into their houses. Then humans started interfering, breeding for specific traits (behavioral and physical) creating the different dog breeds.

O.k., I'm done ranting. Not that I had much of a point other than that humanity sucks when it comes to the way they treat other species but, well, duh.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Set Your Goals

I'm finally feeling good enough about running to think about setting some race goals. Right now I can run almost 3 miles somewhat fairly comfortably and consistently. I'm thinking of shooting for the Canine Classic 5k at the Boulder Rez in April. I signed up for this last year and was taken out by my accident a week or two before so I thought it would be somewhat fitting. Also, it's become somewhat of a tradition for Lola & me to run it together. A 5k in April doesn't sound like such a lofty goal but I'm going to try to run it under 29:00 so I can get a qualifying time for a seeded wave in the Bolder Boulder 10k which I think might be my next goal race after that. I'm not really big on 5k's and I hate 10k's but I like doing the doggie races and every couple years I do the Bolder Boulder just because. Really what I'm shooting for is being able to do an Olympic distance tri by July/August and the running will be my limiting factor so having little goal races to keep me motivated will get me more organized and focused about my running. Maybe I'll even think about a fall half marathon but I'll just have to play that by ear.

Agility wise I really want to qualify for the USDAA Regionals which will be in Denver this year over July 4th weekend. This is very doable but I don't want to get too wound up about it and put too much pressure on the dogs. Even if we don't qualify for the tournament events we can still enter the regular classes and watch all the top handlers that will come from around the country to participate so I'm pretty excited about it one way or the other.

Strummer is finally settling in a bit though he's a handful. I think I'm suffering from some yet unnamed form of madness to take on a hyper 8 month old Border Collie as a third dog in the middle of winter. That said, I'm off to obedience class with him. Too bad he's smarter than me.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gratuitous Puppy Pictures

No, I wasn't TRYING to take a picture of his butt. That's all that was left in the viewfinder by the time the shutter clicked. I'm still having trouble with my digital camera. Maybe if I actually bothered to read the manual... In my defense, 8 month old Border Collie puppies are not the most cooperative photo subjects.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

-4 degrees

It was -4 degrees this morning and my yard is full of snow. You know that tv show on Animal Planet-America's Funniest Animals' (or something like that) where people send in videos of their dogs chasing laser pens or their cats boxing w/ themselves in the mirror and they get $100? If I'd had the video camera out this a.m. and if they accepted multiple entries I could have made enough to retire. Or cover a nice extended stay at the mental institution of my choice, which is what I'm going to need if the temps. don't go up so I can take these crazed, hyper dogs out to really RUN.

I think Strummer really needs to live on a ranch w/ some sheep. Lola sez I ain't no steenkin' piece of mutton so quit trying to herd me and Cody will have none of his nonsense at all. I'm going to try to have him herd tested. Like I need another dog sport to aggravate myself with.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

No entries for a while, I've been busy with a new foster puppy we've named Strummer. He's an 8 month old smooth coated black & white Border Collie puppy and he has LOTS of energy. We got Lola when she was 8 weeks old and I must have mentally blocked the entire experience because I don't remember her being this crazy at 8 months. The BC rescue people are letting me foster him for up to a month to see if he gets along o.k. with the other dogs and to make sure we can handle 3 dogs. So far he's doing o.k. but occasionally he snaps at Cody or Lola when one of them have something he wants so we have to be careful about leaving toys lying around and doling out treats. The alarming thing is that he goes right for the face. I'm not sure if he's even making contact but I can't have him freaking out my dogs who already have fear issues. He also freaks out at other dogs when he's on leash and can't go up to greet them. He was a handful at obedience class and he only lasted a couple of minutes at the agility trial before I decided it was way over his head for now so he was exiled to the car. I'm willing to work through those issues if he can learn to be nice to my dogs. He's got a couple more weeks to settle in so we'll see how it goes.

The agility trial went great, we came home with 3 new titles and a huge stack of ribbons. Best of all, neither dog seemed stressed at all the entire weekend! Highlight of the weekend was that both dogs let me leadout for 3 jumps at the start line of the jumpers course, something I can't do if they're stressed out. Cody especially seemed to have his game face on and had one of his best trials ever. Lola and I had some communication problems, she missed quite a few weave pole entries and was stalling at the top of the A-frame but other than that did a great job.

It was a NADAC trial and Cody has his Elite (highest level) standard & jumpers titles so we're working on points toward his championship title (NATCH) in those classes. He picked up an Elite gamblers leg so only needs one more for his title. NADAC is constantly making sweeping rule changes which makes it a frustrating venue to compete in, esp. if you want a NATCH since the requirements are forever changing. As a result both dogs are way behind in the 'games' classes because I don't usually enter them all since I never imagined they would become a requirement for a NATCH. Cody finished up his Open (middle level) Tunnelers (course with only tunnels) title but has no points in Touch n Go (A-frame, teeter & dog walk plus tunnels) or Weavers (weave poles plus tunnels). I'm not sure I even want to pursue a NATCH with Cody since NADAC is starting to piss me off with their changes and I don't want to start over in Novice in those games classes. We may have our own private celebration if he gets all the points he needs according to the old pre-games requirements. Lola is younger so I'm planning on entering her in more of the games classes for now but if NADAC keeps this crap up I may just give it up altogether.

Lola finished up her Elite Jumpers title and picked up some standard points toward her NATCH and her first Elite Gamblers leg. She got her first Touch n Go leg and took third place in a huge Novice class of 33 dogs and finished up her Novice Tunnelers title, taking second place out of another huge class of 33. I don't think we had a single off course all weekend which must be a first. We had quite a few refusals though which is rare. She's finally starting to watch me more and is becoming unsure of herself and my cues. I need to make sure I don't move on to the next obstacle until she's committed to the current one. Before the trial I was working a little bit with precues, ie giving her a slight cue of what's to come while giving her a stronger cue for what she's meant to be doing first and it was hard for me to strike the balance just right and not confuse her. We just need more practice but that's easier to deal with than stress issues.

Overall, I was thrilled, esp. since they'd had a week of disruption due to the new pup and I couldn't practice all week for the same reason. I think those fun matches really made a difference. There's one this weekend that I'm going to try to get into.

Puppy training is going well too. Strummer already knew 'sit' when we got him and he's had one obedience class. We're working on eye contact/focus, down, leave it, and find it. He's so darn smart, he learns really quickly but he has the attention span of a fruit fly so it's exhausting trying to keep him interested for a whole hour in class. I've been keeping training sessions at home much shorter. I started working on recalls on a long line in the fields outside my work. We've been playing tug too which is good foundation work for agility. Now if only the little brat would learn some manners with my dogs.