Friday, December 29, 2006

Winter Wonderland My Ass

Last week's blizzard was a nice novelty but enough already. I spent 1/2 hour last night shoveling 3" of snow off the driveway only to spend and hour this morning removing a foot of snow from just half the driveway. I slid off the road just a few blocks from my house on my way home from work yesterday when I tried to turn onto my sidestreet. Luckily I was going about 5 mph and managed to steer clear of the stop sign so there was no harm, I simply slid to a stop and got back onto the road with no problem. I didn't even try to go to work this morning, huge SUV's and pick-up trucks were sliding all over my street and I decided it wasn't worth it. I just finished a project a week and a half early and I'm way ahead on my other project so I didn't feel too bad working from home. Looking on the bright side, Eldora ski resort got 16" of new snow so the cross country trails should be wonderful tomorrow. Whether the road up the canyon to get there will be so wonderful is another matter. I suppose I shouldn't complain, my mom called last night and said she had no power for the last 8 days because of terrible wind storms. I guess that's the downside to living on a small remote island.

Aside from the general pain in the ass to daily life the snow has prevented me from any agility practice. The indoor drop-in practice at Boulder County Fairgrounds has been cancelled for 2 weeks because of the holidaze and Biscuit Eaters is buried as is most of my yard except for a few paths that Jonny dug for the dogs. My house is too small to practice indoors so I'm out of luck until classes & drop-ins at BCF start back up a week from next Monday. The USDAA trial next weekend will be interesting. I pulled Lola from the trial because of her injury so it's just me & Cody. We'll see if I'm any more focused/less frazzled with running only one dog. I really wish I could practice though. Even in winter I seldom go weeks without practicing before a trial as what little snow we get usually melts in a few days at most. Oh well, no use fretting over something I can't do anything about.

I finally got Lola in to see Antke for a physical therapy evaluation. She did an exam similar to what the vet did and found a latissimus darsi strain in her right shoulder (the ortho vet didn't even check her right side since she was limping on her left). She couldn't find any problems with her left bicep tendon but that was likely because of the cortisone shot. It's not healed by a longshot but now she has no symptoms so it will be harder to judge her recovery. Antke agreed that the cortisone shot was not the best thing but what's done is done and she won't get any more. On top of the evaluation, Antke showed me how to do some massage and stretching of Lola's shoulders and recommended having her balance on the Buja board while I move it for strength training. That will be difficult because Lola's not used to standing still on the Buja board. It'll take a little work to help her figure that out. Her stretching/massage routine takes me 1/2 hour and I'm supposed to do it twice a day on top of 2-3 fifteen minute walks on top of training and exercising the other 2 dogs. I have no idea how I'm going to find another 1 1/2 hours out of a day that already has too few hours in it for all I have to do but somehow I'll have to work it out. Thankfully Strummer is nearly 2 and finally calming down a bit so he doesn't need quite as much exercise and attention as he did at this time last year. Still, I'd like to get him going with his agility training and finding time for this will be tough. At least the days are finally getting longer so once the snow melts I should be able to fit some practice in after work. However by the time all this snow melts it will probably be time to set the clocks forward anyway.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The sun came out and the main roads were clear at 2:30 so I headed over to North Boulder Park for some cross country skiing. I haven't been on skis since my knee surgery last Feb. so I only went out for 35-40 minutes but it felt great. The Boulder Nordic Club grooms trails around the park for the skate skiiers and there were 2 sets of tracks for the Nordic skiers (that would be me). I was surely the biggest dork in the park, stopping after one lap to wax my skis at the side of the street. This is my first pair of skis that require waxing and I have no idea what I'm doing or when I need to do it but the skis didn't feel 'grippy' enough so I figured it couldn't hurt. I think the problem was that the snow was a little icy, yeah that's it, nothing to do with my crappy form. I heard people griping about the trail conditions but I thought they were fine. Sheesh, how many cities have groomed Nordic trails you can ski on for free right near the heart of town?? Boulderites are so spoiled. Back to work tomorrow, ugh.

Snowed In

I measured 20" of snow on the table on my deck this morning and the snow is still falling. I left work yesterday at around 1:00 pm and it was slow going but still my 20 minute drive took me only 40 minutes or so. I lucked out and got right behind a plow for a good portion of the drive and the rest of the way had magically been plowed with the exception of my side street which was just passable. There were buses and cars stalled and in ditches all over the place so I was very lucky to get home with no problems. A bus got stuck going up a hill on a main arterial 6-7 miles outside of Boulder and traffic was backed up all the way into town. Luckily I was going the other way.

Today I'm working from home and what a luxury that is though it's a little hard to concentrate with a hyper Border Collie and husband, both with major ants in their pants. They've gone off for a snowshoe hike around Wonderland Lake. Later I'll go skiing, probably right out my front door around Wonderland Lake. North Boulder park usually has a groomed ski trail but it's about a mile away and I'm not getting in the car. I doubt I could get out of my driveway and down my street anyway. I've yet to see a car come down my street. I can't wait for the weekend, the snow up at Eldora will be awesome for cross country skiing.

Poor Lola missed her PT appointment AND she can't play in all that gorgeous snow, one of her favorite things. She's in a major huff. Poor girl, I hope I can get her moving soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

So Lame

I've decided to go with the person I know for Lola's PT rather than the fancy pants place. She's got an appt. for Weds. night, we'll see how she goes. She's still limping here and there, for a while she was worse than before the stupid shot, and she seems a bit depressed & fed up but just a couple more days then we'll see what she's allowed to do.

I'm afraid I'm not doing much better as far as running goes. I had a good run on Weds., 3 mins. running/1 min. walking for a total of 15 minutes running. No problems, felt great. Then tried again on Sat., upping the running to 4 mins. and my knee started feeling crappy in the same area that was hurting a couple of weeks ago after only 3-4 minutes. I went back to 2 mins. running then got up to 4 by the end of the run (16 mins. running) but I felt tired & gimpy afterwards. Then tried biking on the trainer on Sun. since it was cold & nasty but managed only 40 minutes. I tried doing a shorter, higher intensity workout since the trainer is so boring and the PT had suggested this would be the best way to build up strength but after a few sprints, a 5 min. seated hill climb and a few more sprints my 'good' knee was complaining, probably compensating for the bad knee. I suppose 40 minutes isn't so awful when I think about how little I've been riding and how I haven't been doing speed work but still, it seems pathetic. Swimming is going well though, if only I could get my butt to masters more than once a week I'd probably even see a little improvement.

Sunday afternoon I took Strummer out to Biscuit Eaters to work on his foundation jump training and his weave poles. He's to the stage in the lessons where I'm walking him through the field and rewarding him for taking jumps we walk past. I'm also rewarding him for walking with me and doing front & rear crosses on the flat before and after jumps. I also sent him into the occasional tunnel just to break things up. He did really well, the only problems being that he backjumped a few jumps and knocked a couple of bars because he was focused too much on me and not paying attention to the jump. He was also starting to jump with a little too much extension. Right now he's still supposed to be jumping with a lot of collection. I suspect he's going to be a very flat jumper if I don't train him properly in the beginning so I'm going to stay at this stage for a while and maybe even go back to the single jump for a bit.

We're still working on his weave entries with 2 poles though I do have the 2 sets of 2 poles side by side. I was working my way around the entry in a circle and he was great for the on side entries but started having problems when I got near the 12 o' clock position (right in line with the poles). I had to stop before he got too fed up.

Table is going great, he hops right on and gets in a down with no cue from me. He sniffs the table and pauses a bit before lying down but I think that will stop once he's really clear on what to do.

Chutes and tunnels are no problem. Tire jump has to be low for now and I have to step in to direct him or he runs through the space between the frame and the tire. After a few reps. he got the idea and I could back off of the frame a bit.

I stood by the baby teeter to see what he'd do and the crazy dog jumped up on the high side and rode it to the ground. He looked a bit startled but I gave him lots of praise & treats so he wouldn't freak out. I lowered it way down and he came back and pushed the board down with his nose & paws. That's exactly what I want right now. I don't want to teach him the teeter formally until he's solid on the dogwalk. I finally painted the boards I'm using for contact training as well as his Buja board last weekend so now I have no more excuses to not get going with his contact training.

In all, a busy week/weekend with little down time. While it feels good to be productive I'm looking forward to the 3 day weekend.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

I've gone from puzzling over how to deal with Lola's rehab to having a couple of good options to choose from. A fellow agility friend suggested Alameda East (the vet hospital featured on Animal Planet's old Emergency Vets show) down in Denver. It turns out they have a state of the art canine sports rehab facility and a PT with lots of experience in rehabbing canine athletes. Then there's another agility friend who has started a career in canine sports rehab and works at another rehab facility that also has fancy equipment. Not sure if it's as fancy as Alameda East's though. So I have to decide and it feels a lot better having to choose between 2 really good options than having no idea what to do or where to go. Do I go with the friend who doesn't have a huge bank of experience but who knows Lola, competes in agility so knows exactly what stresses are involved with each obstacle, and is a very bright, competent woman? She's gone through some kind of training program and been certified, she's simply lacking the hands on experience that the other person has. On the other hand, Alameda East sounds pretty cool and their PT has tons of experience healing injuries like the one Lola has. Their Biomechanics Lab seems way more high tech. than anything I've ever seen at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine for crying out loud. I like the idea that they could pinpoint her ailment in a more scientific way than the vet did. On the other hand, I feel bad not going to my friend and in the end I'm sure she'd do a great job. It's a huge plus that she knows Lola and I completely trust her in handling Lola. What will I decide? The suspense is killing me.

Lola seems much better finally. She had a terrible reaction to the sedatives, both the ACE and something else (Butorphonol? I'm going to find out for sure). She finally seems her old self, now the challenge is keeping her quiet for a few more days. She was limping yesterday, way worse than before the stupid shot but she seems better today. The vet said that would be normal but still.

I took Cody all on his lonesome to Biscuit Eaters this morning for course run throughs and I felt terrible leaving Miss Lo behind. Then when I got there one of my former teachers and a really great person who's helped me tremendously through the years broke down into tears over her Border Collie. He has epillepsy that's been under control for several years but now the drugs aren't working anymore so he has to start on more severe drugs that are going to leave him doped up all the time. On top of that he has an enlarged heart and is on medication for that so she's in constant fear that he's going to drop dead from a heart attack. Needless to say she's had to retire him from agility but what she was really broken up about was that the drugs are going to alter his bright, alert personality. It's heartbreaking, esp. since he's such a wonderful, happy dog always full of energy and life. He adores agility and it's so hard for her to retire him. And on top of that she's such a nice person that she feels bad for feeling bad about this in light of some of the other terrible things some of her friends are going through and the horrible things going on in the world at large. A couple of us tried to comfort her and assure her that she surely is entitled to her pain and we totally understand, but there really aren't words and I know because if it was me I'd be inconsolable. No it's not tragedy on the scale of Darfur or Iraq but it's still very painful and she's certainly entitled to feel however bad she wants to feel as we all are about the various crappy things life throws at us.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I've spent just about every spare moment researching bicep tendonitis treatments, prognosis, etc. and I'm having big regrets about letting the vet give Lola that cortisone shot. He never even mentioned ultrasound, accupuncture, etc. as a possible treatment avenue and I can't believe it didn't occur to me to ask about, esp. considering all I've been through with my own ITB issues. I wouldn't let the doc near me with a cortisone shot, why did I let him give one to Lola so easily? On the other hand, I did some research on this vet and he's had a long, distinguished career full of accomplishments and awards and he's even co-authored a book on orthopedic injuries so why can't I just calm down and trust his judgement? Surely it's occured to him to review all the pro/con research on these shots and treatment of this ailment? I have to admit to getting lost in some of the medical jargon of the articles I found and got tired of googling every other word so it's possible I'm misinterpreting the data. Nonetheless, I'm against giving her any more shots and I'm trying to look into some other options.

The vet admitted he knew nothing about agility or how/if she would be able to do it again. He said I would have to cut down long term on her activities and as an example said if I was running 5 miles with her I could now run only a mile. An 80% reduction in her physical activities???!!! I'm sorry but that's crazy, it's like those doctors who don't deal with athletes and tell you never to run ever again when you have a simple injury. Or maybe not. Maybe it is that serious, I don't know. I don't want her to develop arthritis. I did find one person whose agility dog had a couple of bouts with this and he was able to cure it completely with ultrasound and other non-invasive treatments. The dog is currently doing agility with no problems so that's encouraging.

Agility aside, I can't retire Lola to the couch at 6 years old. Her big love in life is chasing tennis balls and I can't deny her that for evermore. Hopefully I can find a vet with more experience treating canine athletes because there has got to be some way to rehab her so she can still play.

In the meantime I've decided to step away from the computer for a bit because there's no point getting in a tizzy over a bunch of medical articles I may or may not have understood correctly. Really, why DIDN'T the vet provide me with any sedatives?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Birthday-Not

It's Lola's birthday plus or minus a few days and she got a rather expensive and not too much fun present in the form of a trip to an orthopedic specialist up in Loveland. On Sunday morning Jonny heard a 'yipe' from the yard where she & Strummer were probably playing and after a session of hard running out at the Rez she ended up limping by afternoon. It was a faint limp, I had to videotape it to be sure, but it was there nonetheless. I thought I'd noticed the same slight limp a couple of weeks ago and she's been gradually slowing down in agility (though this could be due to age, difficulty of courses, motivation issues, etc.) so I decided to have her checked out sooner rather than later. I went through this with Cody who had even less clinical signs of trouble and he ended up having shoulder surgery.

The 50 minute drive up to Loveland this morning brought back all the bad memories of Cody's surgery, recovery etc. It was successful in the end, Cody's doing great at 8 1/2 years but it was a whole year process that was not easy on him or me.

Of course, Lo wasn't limping today but I showed the vet the video and after a thorough exam he diagnosed her with bicep tendonitis and recommended a cortisone shot today with a possible second shot in 3 weeks. If that doesn't work the next step is arthroscopic surgery, which is what Cody had. Ugh. I was leery of letting him inject her with cortisone but he assured me that simply resting her likely wouldn't help and would take a very long time so in the end I agreed. She was so good for the vet and didn't need to be sedated for the exam (Cody, ahem, did indeed require sedation for his) or an x-ray (that was clean, phew) but since the shot was going to be painful they gave her a mix of painkillers & sedatives including the dreaded ACE drug which I truly dislike. She's lying under my desk in a zombified state that's rather disturbing but I've gone through this before so I'm pretty sure she's o.k. Every few minutes I have to look down to check her breathing which is very slow and there's a tiny moment of panic while I wait for her chest to rise then she takes a tiny breath and I know she's o.k. Frankly, I think they should have given me the sedatives.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday Bloody Thursday

The cold snow/ice that won't seem to leave has been wreaking havoc on the dogs' feet and today Strummer finally tore a nail on our early morning walk. I noticed some blood on his foot about a mile from home but couldn't do much about it and since it wasn't gushing I didn't worry too much about it. When we got home he went tearing around the icy yard in his regular post walk state of demonic possesion and I had completely forgotten about the bloody paw. I rushed him in the house so he wouldn't hurt himself or Lola only to find him leaving a trail of blood all over the house. Trouble was he was still flying around at warp speed and was completely out of his mind. I called him to me and he came flying full bore like a freight train into my shins, then kept on going for several laps all over the house, blood flying everywhere. It looked like Freddy Kreuger had been fingerpainting on my floors. It didn't take too long to get him under control, clean up the paw and put him in his crate but yeesh, what a mess. Somehow the blood managed to come out of the carpets, probably because I caught it right away, but it seemed like I was on my knees scrubbing forever and it was not the sort of thing I wanted to be doing before a full day of work.

On a more positive note I went running with Cody at lunch time and managed 15 minutes total pain free running doing a 3 min run/1 min walk pattern. I was up to 21 minutes total last week but I was trashed after that and decided to scale back a bit, esp. since my poor quads have only just recovered from last weekend. I went on a dirt/gravel path that circles a soccer field by my work which was booooring but I was able to let Cody off lead and didn't have to worry about making pit stops for him. He was SO happy, flying around full speed with ears pinned back and a big stupid grin on his face. He looked so fit and fast for an 8 1/2 year old dog.

Hopefully the snow will finally be gone this weekend so we can practice some agility and I can hit the trails on my bike.

Annie Get Your Frisbee

Sibling Rivalry

Monday, December 04, 2006

Losing Contact

Let me just say, spending the entire weekend cooped up in a dusty horse arena really sucks. I don't know why I signed up for every possible class (5 per day). It seems like fun when I'm filling out the application forms but somehow by 3:00 pm I've had enough. I should have gone home in between the longer events (ie standard) since I was only 20 minutes away, I'm sure I did that last year, but somehow it didn't occur to me this year. Even if it had, it's not like I can do much of anything with just a couple of hours and it was so freaking cold this weekend I would have spent the time indoors on my butt anyway so I guess I should quit my whining.

I was hoping for some speed and enthusiasm this weekend and boy should I be more careful about what I wish for. Cody was absolutely flying all weekend long which was great except that Mister Hyperpants felt it a waste of his time to hit his contacts. Most of our blown Q's were because he was launching & flying off contact equipment left and right. Silly boy was so amped up he couldn't quite keep it together. On the plus side he was more or less paying attention to me on most of his runs, didn't seem stressed out in the least the whole weekend and was having a yeeha time running those straight open courses. Lola seemed to be having fun as well though she wasn't as speedy as Cody. I'm starting to fear that she may have an injury. She was having some trouble with the weaves during one of her runs and it should have been fairly straightforward. She was poking through them during the warm up for the same run so maybe something was sore. I thought I saw her limping for a few steps early last week so I'd been resting her all week and hadn't seen any other signs of lameness but I know how well these dogs hide their pain. I may try a chiropractor before going to the full on orthopedic vet.

The Elite courses were really simple even by NADAC standards yet we still managed only one standard Q for Cody and none for Lola. Mostly this was due to the various distance challenges as most of them involved contacts and neither dog will handle contacts at a distance during a trial. Cody sometimes will, but not this weekend. Both dogs got Q's for both their Jumpers runs, Cody was booking so fast he even mananged a Q despite a refusal and wide turn. He finished up his 'Outstanding Elite Jumpers' title (100 points or 10 clean runs at the Elite level), whoop de doo. Even the Chances courses which are the distance tests were fairly easy, I was surprised Cody didn't pull them off. Even Lola managed to get a Q. Lola had a beautiful Tunnelers run but I walked the course wrong and left out a tunnel, DOH. She had a nice Touch & Go run too (all tunnels & contacts) but she launched off the last A-frame just a tunnel away from the finish line. Argh.

Overall, I was pleased with speed & motivation for Cody. Lola was faster than she's been but still lacking the drive she used to have. I'm going to have her checked out just to make sure nothing's wrong physically. She's getting older and she's a big dog so it's natural for her to slow down a bit but still I'm a bit worried. I was not at all pleased with Cody's launching contacts fiasco though Lola had a few nice dogwalks. Still some balking & barking on the A-frame though. This will need to be my main focus in training for next month. I felt very unchallenged by the courses, even for NADAC. They seem to be getting so easy, I'm not sure how much more I want to do. I'll probably do a few classes and only one day of the NADAC trial next February just to keep in practice for competition. I wish we had more USDAA!!! Can't wait for the USDAA trial next month but then there isn't another one until April. I suppose it's just as well, I should be spending more time practicing anyway.

Friday, December 01, 2006

10 Things I Like About NADAC

I have a NADAC trial this weekend and I'm actually a bit excited for it. I've gotten really down on NADAC over the past few years and after attending NADAC Champs. and USDAA Nationals I've decided to try to focus more on USDAA even if it means driving farther. However, there are limits to my insanity and given the choice of driving 7-8 hours over the Continental Divide in December to Utah for USDAA or less than 20 minutes to Longmont for NADAC, well, it was a no brainer. I don't hate NADAC that badly. Also, it will be a nice mental break after those challenging USDAA courses at Nationals since NADAC courses are usually pretty easy by comparison. Lots of flat out running for the dogs with a handling challenge or 2 sounds good right about now.

Going to NADAC trials in the past with a ho-hum, I could care less attitude has proven to be not very productive so I'm trying to think of all the things I like about NADAC and put aside the many things I don't. I've paid a lot of money in entry fees, it's important to go in with a good attitude and a plan for what I want to get out of it. So in light of that, here's my list:

6. We've got our Elite Standard & Jumpers titles and I don't care about anything else so there's no pressure to qualify and I can try handling moves in trials I normally wouldn't if I was worried about a Q.
5. I get to run a lot more so I'll get a better workout
4. Easy-ish courses means I'm less likely to get lost
3. Tunnelers-yee ha
2. No stinkin' table!!!
1. Dogs love to run those relatively straightforward courses

O.k., so I can think of only 6 things. Goals for the trial:

1. Mainly to work on speed & motivation. Let's see how fast these pups can fly and still keep their heads about them (me too).

2. Try some handling moves that are going well in practice but I wouldn't normally risk during a trial, if the opportunities present themselves. I'm not going to do anything that isn't going well in practice.

3. Work on those contacts. I'm going to try not babysitting so much, except for maybe Cody on the dogwalk because that stinker has bailed almost every dogwalk in the past year of NADAC trials. I want Lola running over the contacts, no stopping or creeping. I'm letting her run through the bottom right now until I can get some speed and retrain her stop properly.

4. Mayyybe practice some longer lead outs for some runs, then start right from the line on others.

That's it, best to keep the list short & simple. In general, I'm interested to see how they'll do stress/attention wise after being at Nationals, esp. Lola. I was thinking that Lola would probably be great at a local trial after working through her issues at Nationals (she was running pretty good the last 2 days). We'll see.

Have a great weekend.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mixed Bag







A strange conglomeration of activities this holiday weekend, how I ever got interested in such a bizarre range of hobbies is beyond me. We hosted Thanksgiving this year for a group of friends so we spent the day cooking & cleaning with a very small break for a quick run/walk. I'm a disaster in the kitchen but there are a few things I can make, one of them being roasted rosemary potatoes which I make almost every year. I can also sort of, kind of bake if I have a detailed enough recipe and thanks to cpg from the Taper Madness boards I had a nice easy recipe for Chocolate Truffle Tart with Vanilla Marscapone Topping. Sounds fancy but it was so simple a monkey could make it. Still I had a few hiccups in that I didn't read the directions closely enough beforehand and missed the fact that it needed and hour to cool and 4-6 hours to set in the fridge, not the sort of thing you want to discover at 1:30 pm when you have guests coming at 4:00. All worked out fine in the end, it was set enough by the time people were ready for dessert and it was so popular I had only a 1/2 slice left by the end of the night despite having 3 desserts. It looked kind of messy but tasted so good there were words like 'crack' and 'heroin' being bandied about. All in all a fun night with good friends and we didn't send anyone to the ER.

Friday saw another little walk/run. I'm up to run 3 minutes/walk 2 minutes for a 2 mile loop with 15 minutes total of running. No pain so far other than the general nagging in my knee that occurs anyway. I'm staying cautiously optimistic.

I also spent about 20 minutes working with Strummer on his jumping and weave poles. I'm still working with just one jump and he's doing so well, jumping with a nice round arc from all angles with me standing in different places. Still working with the 2x2 weave pole method and today I added a second set of 2 poles. He was doing o.k. but I think I need to work on the different entries a little more before progressing. 20 minutes was probably a little long to work him straight through, I got a little carried away.

I finally managed to build the Buja board I bought the wood for last spring. Actually Jonny built most of it, I just held wood in place while he sawed & drilled. Neither of us are very handy and we don't have to proper tools so it came out a little messy but it'll work just fine. Now I just need to paint it.

Saturday was a trip to the Rez in the morning with the dogs so they could run their monkeys out then a nice bike ride for me in the afternoon. I cut around 12 minutes off my time from a couple of weeks ago for a 16 1/2 mile ride without even trying so the legs must be getting a leetle bit stronger. Nice to be out in the sun on the trails. Boulder clears out during most holidays so the trails were wonderfully quiet.

Saturday night was the long awaited Bouncing Souls concert down in Denver at the Gothic Theatre. Last time I was at the Gothic was around 12-14 years ago, the place was a pit and a bunch of skinheads from the Ku Klux Klan (including the main ringleader) showed up with the express purpose of beating the crap out of the lefties at a Fugazi show. People were supposed to bring cans of food for admissions and those bastards peeled the labels off their cans of food. The cops caught them drinking in an alley before the show and let them off with a nod and a wink (not all that uncommon for cops to be sympathetic with or member of the Klan). I stood up in the balcony and watched while those meatheads beat the crap out of everyone they could get their hands on while the bouncers stood idly by doing nothing. One of the bouncers had the nerve to come up to me and tell me to get down from the old broken down theater seat I was standing on 'for my own safety'. I pointed down below and asked him why he wasn't down there worrying about some other people's safety who seemed much more in jeopardy than my own and he went into a long speech about the ringleader skinhead that was a mixture of fear, awe and a weird sort of reverance. In the end I got off the seat and he remained in the balcony making sure noone else risked dire injury from falling off a seat while the carnage raged on below. I swore I'd never go back to either Englewood or the Gothic after that and for 14 years I didn't. However the Gothic got bought over and renovated and as for the Englewood cops, well, there are racist cops everywhere, probably even in Boulder and I wasn't going to deny myself a chance to see the Bouncing Souls.

First time I saw the Bouncing Souls was 12 years ago when they opened up for Rancid. It was a great show all the way around and the Bouncing Souls blew me away. Great musicians, tons of energy, fast catchy songs, what wasn't to love? I liked them as well as if not more than Rancid. However many years and albums later I'd lost interest in them. We saw them again 5 or 6 years later and they seemed kind of boring and cocky, the music fairly generic and not in a good way. I forgot about them until the release of their latest album 'Gold'. Wow, what a great release and seeming to come out of nowhere. How many bands release their best work some 12 years after forming? I was pretty excited to find out they were coming to town on a Saturday night, perfect conditions for me to haul my old lazy ass to a club.

Our old dog walker who shares a love of punk rock came along with us to the show. It's a rarity to find anyone in Boulder anywhere near our age group who has an interest in going to punk shows so I was thrilled he wanted to go. Sharing good music with friends is one thing I do miss about living in Chicago.

I was off to a good start with security as the ID checker, a guy half my age, takes one look at us and says, 'Are you sure you're at the right show?' Then follows it up with a laugh and, 'Oh I don't need to see your I.D., I'll spare you the humiliation'. Cheeky bastard. Then the woman checking for WMD's tells me I can't bring in my video camera. How unpunk is that. So back to the car, put the camera away, back through the line and she pats me down. Go to give them my ticket at the door and duh, I've left it in the car when I dropped off the camera. Back through the ID line a third embarassing time, patted down again and finally I'm through the door. What a carry on for a stupid punk rock show. I miss the days of $3 cover at the door and nobody cared what you smuggled in.

We were too late to get good seats in the balcony but there was tiered flooring with railings at all the levels on the main floor so I could get closeish to the stage without getting sucked into the pit. First band was Left Alone and we missed about half their set but they were good. Kinda generic, melodic punk but in a good way. Second band was Whole Wheat Bread, again pretty generic Epitaph punk but really good, powerful musicians. Only trouble was I really wanted to pull the guitarist's pants up. Dude, I don't care about your huge biceps and 6 pack, I do NOT want to see your undies. He clearly had a wee tad of an ego problem but a great musician nonetheless. Third band (yes, third band-3 warm up bands is too many, my knees hurt already and I'm getting sleepy) was Street Dogs which included the singer and somebody else from the Dropkick Murpheys which isn't one of my favorite bands in the first place. Musically they were awesome but everything else sucked big time. The singer said 'Denver, Colorado' about 30 times, 'Put Your Arms in the Air' about 20 times and 'Put your arms in the air Denver, Colorado' about a dozen times. What is this, a cheezy stadium arena rock concert? Worst part was was that the crowd ate it up, cheering and throwing their fists in the air raising their arms and clapping. It was downright creepy and I was a bit icked out. I couldn't get past the whole schtick enough to enjoy the music which wasn't my bag anyway without all the hokey theatrics.

FINALLY, Bouncing Souls took to the stage aaaaaand-meh, they were o.k. First thought to come leaping into my head was 'Holy crap the singer looks old. And I'm older than him.' Kind of depressing, I don't know why. Had the same reaction watching the movie 'American Hardcore' a few weeks ago. Duh, we're all getting older but it's still shocking when you see someone you haven't seen for a long time. I suppose I'll get over it the more it happens. His age wasn't the issue though, it was that he was up there just going through the motions like so many bands that have been together for eons. The bassist & guitarist still had a lot of energy but the singer seemed like his days of bouncing all over the stage were long gone. I could almost forgive him if it wasn't for Alkaline Trio, somehow those guys still make it seem exciting. The other problem was that I was too close to the crowd/pit on the main floor. I don't know when this business of throwing your arms in the air to clap or gesticulate became so popular but it was incredibly annoying. What an uncreative way to express emotion and the fists/arms kept blocking my pictures (they let me keep my regular camera). It got too crowded where I was standing and I started to get a bit claustrophobic. I went up in the balcony toward the end and it was so nice up there, even without having a place to sit. Even a few tiers back on the main floor would have been fine. Duh. Overall I'm glad I went but not the great time I was hoping for, mostly my own fault for not moving sooner. I'll bet I would have had a blast in the balcony without all the fists waving in my face.

Today, a nice relaxing day. Maybe a run, maybe a ride, a little dog training and hopefully I'll get that agility stuff painted. Do I really have to go back to work tomorrow? I could so get used to this life of leisure.

Oh, and special thanks to Phil for coming all the way down from Fort Collins on Wedsnesday afternoon and arranging a little lunch with Dan, Nattu and me. It's fun to get together with the Tapir crew but always seems so hard to coordinate everyone's busy schedule.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I Am So Bad

I've been taking some time off of just about everything except swimming these days. No agility until class on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Well, I cheated a little and went to Biscuit Eaters on Saturday because they had the Steeplechase Finals set up and I wanted to give it a go. It was way more fun to run than it looked from the stands, nice and fast/flowing. Both dogs had some weave pole problems (Cody way more so than Lola) and some trouble with a turn to a tunnel but otherwise a fairly easy course. Easy enough for me to say, I'm glad I didn't have to do it in front of a grandstand full of people. But in general I'm giving the dogs a break. Both dogs seem thrilled to be out there, esp. Cody, so I think the break is a good idea.

I started back up with running over the weekend, mostly because I didn't have time for a nice long bike ride. 2 minutes run, 2 minutes walk for a total of 6 minutes running on Saturday and 10 minutes running on Sunday with plenty of warm-up/cool down (o.k. stop laughing, cool down from what?). I have been having some general knee pain in the bad knee, who can say what it's from, but it didn't bother me any more or less after running and didn't bother me at all while running. I'm going to take it easy until it goes away but doing nothing doesn't seem to be helping. However, the possible stress fracture injury seems completely gone so that's something to be happy about.

Why am I so bad? Aside from agility practice and running the highlight of my weekend was watching Cesar Millan get bit by a bulldog on his own show. I don't normally watch his show because it turns my stomach so maybe he's always that bad but this particular show was reaching new levels of inhumanity from what I've seen in previous shows. It bothered me all day and is still bothering me. I'm surprised he didn't get bit worse than he did, he's so lucky that dog had good bite inhibition. It was giving him plenty of warning too. Anyway, I did a little snooping around the internet to see if I could find any info. about what the long term results of his training are. Near as I could tell he was creating a time bomb with that bulldog, 'curing' it enough for the cameras but leaving the owners with an even more potentially dangerous dog. That's my opinion of course and I'd rather see some facts. I couldn't find much other than a lot of arguments/discussions about him but was pleased to see the American Humane society had sent a letter to the National Geographic channel condemning his methods: letter

If I had more time I'd research it more but, eh, it's not worth it. I'm off to play with Lola and feel grateful for all the wonderful trainers in my area who've shown me the alternatives to force and intimidation.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Belated Nationals Post

It was hard going back to work this week. I was tired, cranky and in need of some down time. Luckily for once in my life I didn't come back to a huge pile of work, emails, etc. Or maybe not so luckily. The economy is not looking so great for the construction industry.

Day 3 of Nationals was the biggest deal for me, we had our Team Standard, Team Jumpers and the highly anticipated Performance Grand Prix Semifinals. I was thrilled to have both dogs qualified for the GP Semi's, that in itself was a huge accomplishment for us. I had to walk the GP course first at around 7 am and didn't run it until around 3:40 pm, the last run of the day for us. Standard was the first run of the day for us and it went o.k. Cody took an off course tunnel but had an otherwise lovely run on a very technical course. Lola had 2 refusals and a knocked bar, the result of ring stress. Poor girl wasn't coping too well with the atmosphere and/or maybe I was more nervous than I thought I was.

Jumpers was the hardest for me to remember, all those jumps start to blend together with no other equipment out there to use for markers. Cody missed a weave entry but had an otherwise beautiful run until I sent him right off course near the end (DOH!!!). Lo uncharacteristically popped out of the poles, even after redoing them 3 times or so. Otherwise she was running o.k.

Unfortunately we had to run the Grand Prix at the very heat of the day with glare from the sun hitting the ring right at the weave poles. And it was only an hour or so after our Jumpers run so I didn't have time to take the dogs back to the RV to cool down. My one mistake was bringing only one crate. I never anticipated I would have runs so close together and that the RV would be so far from the rings. So I put Lo up in the crate and had to find a shady spot to hang out with Cody until the GP. By day 3 they finally put some hoses out for the dogs but no baby pools which was fine for Cody who loves to play in the hose but no good for Lola who's terrified of it. I tried cooling her down by scooping water out of the dock diving tank but it wasn't very effective. Bottom line, she was stressing as soon as I released her from the start line, turned around sniffing again then ran past the first jump putting up right out of the running. Cody had a lovely run except for the weaves as already mentioned. I can't help but wonder if the sun right in his eyes had something to do with the weavepole problems. Hard to say since he has issues with them anyway.

Initially I was disappointed about not making it into the finals, esp. since the semifinal course was a really nice, flowing, doable course for us. However, it turned out to be a mixed blessing since the finals most likely would have been a nightmare for both dogs. They were held at night under lights with the loudspeaker blaring and the bleachers packed with loud, cheering spectators. It's hard to say how the dogs would have reacted but I'm guessing it wouldn't have been good. I'm not sure I would have liked it either, being in the spotlight in front of all those people, it's not really my thing. I had a blast watching and cheering from the stands, to be honest. Several Coloradoans had made it to the finals and I got a kick out of watching them. Only one dog, a Golden Retriever, ran clean in my jump height and it looked like a tricky course. In the 16" height class the winner won by .01 of a second, very exciting.

We had only Gamblers to run on Day 4 and it went very well for both dogs. This wasn't a traditional Gamblers class with a distance challenge. There was no line for the Gamble. Instead you collected points like normal in the opening (25 seconds) but the Gamble was 2 sets of 6 weave poles parallel to each other with a perpendicular jump in between. You had to work your way through it in a figure 8 as many times as you could. For each obstacle the point value went up so first set of weaves was one point, then the jump was 2 points, next set of weaves was 3, etc. The gamble part was that you had to go over the finish jump before a set amount of time (I think 14 seconds) or you lost all your gamble points. You could start the gamble at any point in the opening so the smart thing was to time your opening so you could head to the gamble just before or while the horn was sounding so you could rack up the most amount of points and not go over time. I timed this perfectly with Lola but mishandled the 2nd set of weaves and headed to the closing jump with only 3 gamble points. I misunderstood the rules and thought you only got one point for each gamble obstacle, otherwise I probably would have risked going back for another try at the weaves. We finished with 3 seconds to spare so we might have gotten it. We came in 13/44 and if I'd gotten the extra 3 points we would have been 10th so I guess it wasn't a huge deal. Cody ended up 21/44 and again I should have risked trying for the 3rd gamble obstacle which was a jump. We had almost 2 seconds to spare so might have gotten it.

Best thing about the runs though was that both dogs were happy and running really well, esp. Lola. I spent some time with her beforehand playing ball with her to relax her a bit. I think a bit part of her motivational issues was that I couldn't really use the ball for a reward since it was so crowded in the exercise area and so hot. Once I started to trust her in the exercise area and let her play before and after her runs her attitude improved.

Our runs were in the late morning so I had the rest of the day to check out the other events. Herding, lure coursing, flyball, dock diving and frisbee-it was too much to take in but I enjoyed it all nonetheless, esp. the frisbee. Steeplechase Finals ran at night and that was my favorite event of all the finals. Those dogs were flying with the crowd cheering them on. It was so much more fun than even the Grand Prix finals which ran during the heat of the day on Sunday.

Sunday was a bust. Power and Speed was our only run and unfortunately it didn't last past the first obstacle for both dogs. You had to make it clean through the Power part of the course in order to go on to the Speed portion which was a nice, fast jumpers course. I started off with the A-frame and Lola missed her contact (the only missed contact called for all of Nationals) so we were immediately whistled off. Cody got his contact but took too wide of a turn and went over an off course jump, TWEET, we were out of there. How demotivating, esp. for the final day. I'll never enter that again.

The Championship Grand Prix finals were held in the afternoon. I was debating whether we should stay for them or hit the road. People were telling me they typically last until 5:00 pm and we were packed up and ready to go by around 12:30. In the end I decided to stay-how often would I have the opportunity to see something like this in person? There were some Colorado folks in the finals too so it would be fun to stay and cheer for them. Jill, my team partner for Lola's Team (Lo's Not the Moss of Me) was in the Veteran's GP Finals with her BC Fey (her BC Moss was Lola's team partner) so it would be fun to see her too.

The finals were o.k. and I'm glad I stayed because I'm really enjoying watching the video I shot after the fact but I can't say I would stay again if I ever return to Nationals. It was the heat of the day, I was hot, tired and burnt out. There wasn't enough seating in the bleachers so we had to sit on the floor right at the railing and I didn't have the best view though I was right at ringside. They were blaring appallingly bad music in between runs and the whole thing seemed like such a circus.

The worst part though was that the judge was being so lenient with the teeter calls, esp. for Rhonda Carter who ended up winning the 22" class. You can see photos of the obvious fly off here: Flyoffs

You can also see video of the flyoffs here: Flyoff video

I realize that the judge is under tremendous pressure and that it's hard to make those split second decisions but Rhonda's teeter wasn't even close, in fact it looked outright dangerous and very bad to the spectators. I'm willing to acknowledge that from the judge's viewpoint maybe it wasn't so obvious but I don't know, I left the finals feeling icky about it, like the top pro handlers are getting special treatment. I'm not saying that's necessarily the reality, but that's the very obvious feeling I was left with afterwards. Even Jonny thought it seemed wrong. On the one hand we all have calls that are either gimmes (I'm pretty sure I had one in Cody's GP Quarterfinal run) or take aways that shouldn't have been but that teeter performance was so over the top and this was the finals.

The other dark side of this was the reaming that the agility vision guy got for posting these photos and videos and bringing up the suggestion that maybe it's time for instant replay in agility. I was thankful he posted those videos/photos to confirm what I was sure I had seen and also that he brought up a very good issue but some people got so bent out of shape about it and I don't see why. He never said the handlers should have their awards stripped or that they didn't deserve to win (the judge is always a factor in agility and though I don't agree with her calls I do feel those that won did win). I can't understand why some in the agilty world get so defensive about everything, sheesh.

Overall I had a great time and I'd like to go next year if we can qualify (they're having it in Scottsdale again). Things I'd do differently:

1. Bring my bike! The RV was between 1/4 to 1/2 mile from the rings each way. It doesn't sound like a lot but all that walking back and forth adds up. I borrowed Jonny's bike when I could but sometimes he was off riding.

2. Sign up for crating space and bring 2 crates. I was warned about the bad crating situation (big tent with lots of dog barking & close together) from previous years but this year they had rows of separate tents and they were very cool, relaxing & quiet. Even the closest RV spaces are too far from the rings if you're running 2 dogs in the same height class.

3. Bring a collapsible pool for Lola and maybe my own hose in case they forget to hook them up again.

4. Leave Sunday morning, forget about Power & Speed and watching the GP finals.

5. Bring less clothes-I had way too many warm clothes and all the extra gear was a nuisance.

6. Buy extra camera batteries and tape for the camcorder. I had to download stuff off the camcorder because I ran out of tape and that was a pain to do during Nationals. Also, the camera battery kept running out.

Otherwise things went very smoothly. The RV was a great idea and I'd do that again. Traffic in Scottsdale was awful, esp. the area we were in, and the drivers were some of the most obnoxious, dangerous, horrible drivers I've ever seen in my life (and I'm a native Chicagoan). I'm glad I didn't have to haul back and forth to a hotel during rush hour.

USDAA Nationals is definitely something to experience. Extremely well run event with plenty of stuff going on at all times. I was really impressed with a lot of the runs I saw from regular, non-professional people who I'd never heard of. It seemed like everywhere you looked there was some amazing run going on. At times I felt like USDAA was money grubbing-they charged a whopping $10 for people to get in on Friday-Sunday on top of parking fees ($5? $10?). They charged parking fees for the competitors too which I thought was awful. Our entry fees were outrageous, we shouldn't have had to pay for parking on top of it (didn't effect me since I was in the RV but still). I heard the food vendors had awful food for huge amounts of money (I didn't buy any). The goodie bag had nice stuff but was pretty sparce (a hat, t-shirt and a frisbee), esp. compared to NADAC Champs. I had 2 dogs, paid 2 full entry fees (over $300) but got only one bag and one t-shirt. Same for the GP Semifinals, I only got one shirt even though I had 2 dogs. And the poor Speedjumping finalists didn't get ANY shirts. They went to Walmart at the last minute and bought their own. Shame on USDAA for that! The ribbons were pretty chintzy for a National event and there were no placement ribbons for the GP Quarterfinals (maybe semi's too, I'm not sure). Sure, it's only ribbons but still, this is Nationals for crying out loud. How much more money would it have cost them for some big fancy rosettes? I can't help but wonder how much $$$ USDAA pulled in from this event, esp. when you consider the huge volunteer force they had out there.

This is all minor whining though, overall I had a great time and am very thankful to all who made it possible. My only serious, big time gripe is about some of the judges whistling people out of the ring. That sucked big time. I'm very grateful to the judges who let me finish my runs even after I'd E'd. Otherwise the event was wonderful and I'd urge anyone to try to experience at least once.

I'll leave you with some video from the Steepelchase Finals. If anyone wants the .mpg file to view in a bigger format I'll be happy to email them. I also have footage from the GP Finals, I'll be posting that later and I also have a .mpg file. You can email me at One other thing about the Steeplechase footage, you can fast forward through the lengthy walk through part at the beginning by moving the little 'button' forward on the player where the elapsed time is listed. I thought footage of the walk through would be interesting to the non-agility people and I had edited it down to a few seconds but I couldn't upload the edited version somehow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Home From Nationals

Obviously my plan to provide up to date reports, video, etc. didn't work out. Friday & Sat. nights they had the Performance Grand Prix Finals and the Speed Jumping/Steeplechase Finals so I went to see those and had to get right to bed afterwards so no time for blogging. I thought I'd have a lot of down time but I didn't.

Overall I had a blast, WAY more fun than NADAC Champs. These 2 events aren't even in the same ballpark. Saw some great runs by the 'pros' and amateurs alike. Had some great runs and not so great. Semifinals were a disappointment as Lola was stressed right on the startline. I released her and she turned around sniffing then ran past the first jump incurring a refusal and putting us out of the running for finals right off the bat. Once I got her going she was o.k. but got an off course at a trap and was pokey on the A-frame. Otherwise her run was nice but I could tell she was a bit stressed. Cody had a beautiful run but we had some problems with the weave pole entry and though he made it he just kept on going, missing the second pole. I got him back in but that refusal and the time lost also put us out of the finals. He then popped the final poles and I didn't bother to redo them, there was no point. He had an otherwise beautiful run, no stress at all. Overall, he didn't seem the least bit stressed the whole trial and Lola never seemed to quite relax though she had a lovely gamblers run and I think we were close to getting a placement.

More details, video, etc. later including runs from Steeplechase and Grand Prix finals when I have more time. For now I'll leave you with my favorite run (of my dogs) from Nationals, Cody's 4th place, qualifying finish in the Performance Grand Prix Quarterfinals:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

USDAA Nationals 2006 Day 2

Highlight for today-Cody had a beautiful clean run in the Grand Prix Quarterfinals earning him 4th place and a spot in the Semifinals. Looking at the video it looks like we got a gimme on his dogwalk contact and he had a wide turn at a place where he got lured by a trap but an otherwise great run. He was focused on me and having a great time. The judge for the course, Scott Chamberlain, was the judge at Cody's first trial so it felt fitting that he had such an awesome run under him at Nationals. And he's a great judge too.

Team Snooker went o.k. for both dogs. Cody had a nice run and made it up to 6 in the closing but knocked a bar on the 6 point jump combo in the opening so we lost a chunk of points there. Lola made it through the closing to 3 and took an off course trap at 4.

Probably the less said about Speed Jumping the better. Cody got an off course at around the 9th obstacle and poor Lola was having stress issues, stopping to sniff after the first obstacle or so. She turned around and started sniffing when I released her off the start line in Snooker too though she was fine once I got her going. She's not severely stressed out, just a bit and hopefully tomorrow will go a little better. She seemed fine yesterday too, go figure. Anyway, I led her off course in Speed Jumping since I was a bit rattled by her being stressed and I'm probably going senile as well. I could blame it on having to remember 3 courses at once but to be honest I simply got a bit confused and took the wrong jump. The judge was terrible, blowing his whistle about 6 times, in essence saying get the hell out of my ring right now. That's one of the only things I hate about USDAA, esp. at the Masters level, if you get an off course the judge can whistle you right off the course if they want. Sheesh, I drove all this way, spent $20 or so for each of those runs, at least let me finish.

I have video of Cody's Grand Prix run but I'm not having much luck uploading it at the moment and I must get off to bed, I'll try to get it posted tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

USDAA Nationals 2006 - Day One

I was fourth in line this morning to sign in, am I a complete dork or what. I was also about 40 minutes early to walk my course and got the dogs out about 40 minutes too early. Aside from having a nightmare last night about missing my run I was having flashbacks to NADAC Champs. and all the chaos with last minute changes. Well this is not NADAC, that's for sure. There is a schedule for walk throughs and when the different groups run and they keep to the schedule-what an amazing concept. USDAA sent me this schedule along with the running order well in advance so I know more or less where I will be and when for the whole trial. Of course there will be changes but today went so smoothly considering the huge amount of people/dogs.

The only event running today was the Time Gamble which was a short, easy course set by the judge. There were 3 places where you could choose which obstacles to do, making the course either longer or shorter. I had 32 seconds to do my course which was way too long. I took all the longest paths, the only thing I could have done was chosen the weaves rather than an A-frame tunnel combo but I didn't want to risk faults at the weaves. If you got a fault it added 3 seconds per fault to your score. You had to have a pretty slow dog or some faults to do well in this class which seems kind of backwards to me.

Both dogs ran really well, I was so thrilled. I had complete focus, little to no stress and beautiful clean runs, esp. from Cody. Lola had some delays on the dogwalk and A-frame, not sure if it was stress or simple distraction with all the commotion around the ring. We had the same issue at Regionals. I had Sandy helping me proof for distractions the week before but it's a long process and hard to do at the practice field. If that's the worse problem I have all trial I'll be ecstatic. The weather was o.k., could have been a lot worse. It was 79 with some breeze and cloud cover when we ran so heat wasn't too much of a problem. Forecast is for 79-81 the rest of the week and this will be so much better than the high 80's originally called for. Lola ended up in 4th place, in part because her stalling on the A-frame wasted some time. The second place dog had some big time wasting glitches on the course and Cody, who ran beautifully, was much too fast to be anywhere in the running. Strange as it is that it was for the slower run, we'll be taking home at least one ribbon, way too cool. There were 18 dogs in our ring in our class plus the dogs from the other 3 rings in our class so I'm thrilled to take 4th.

Dock diving started today too. I'm not sure what the deal is but lots of the dogs didn't want to jump in the water and worse some of them didn't know where to go to get out of the tank and panicked. Above is a photo of one of the dogs who did know what to do.

I have video of my runs today but for some reason it looks pretty bad on vimeo. Can't mess with it now, must get some good sleep in for tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It Was Grand and It Was a Canyon

The Grand Canyon was o.k. We started at the east entrance of the South Rim and worked our way to the west entrance, stopping at just about every pull out there was to take in the views. By the 4th pullout I'd about had enough but we stopped at them all anyway. The thing is so massive that it doesn't seem to matter what angle you look at it from, it all looks the same. It's beautiful and impressive but even when we hiked down a bit below the rim it still all looked the same to me. I liked it and I'm glad I went but it wasn't the coolest place I've ever been. I think the best part was seeing a tarantula crawling around at one of the pull outs.

After spending 2 days at the Grand Canyon we proceeded on to Sedona which was way cooler. The drive down Oak Canyon to Sedona was spectacular-big towering formations of red and white rock surrounded by bright yellow trees for miles and miles. We stayed up in the canyon just a bit out of Sedona and I was glad for that. The town itself seemed crowded & busy, full of endless art galleries and stores peddling all sorts of overpriced, useless yuppie crap just like Boulder. We went into town for dinner & breakfast & that was about it. We spent both days hiking in the red rocks with the dogs. Yesterday we hiked in both the Grand Canyon and Sedona so I had some tired legs but it felt good after sitting in the car for so long.

The trail today was in the Red Rocks Wilderness area so we could take the dogs but oddly enough we were the only ones with dogs on the trail. At first I thought it weird that there were so few dog people in a place like Sedona but it turned out most of the people on the trail were out of town tourists unable to travel with their dogs. We had to stop quite a bit so the dog sick tourists could get their doggy fix. Strummy ate it up, he loves attention from anyone, Cody tolerated it and Lola acted the princess that she is. The trail itself was beautiful, winding past loads of red rock formations and working it's way into a wooded canyon surrounded by more red rock. I have lots of pictures, I'll get them posted to an album eventually.

Right now I'm in our groovy RV at Westworld, the site for Nationals. They haven't let us down by the rings yet but I took a walk over to see and it's quite a circus. There was an ESPN truck driving around too, apparently they're filming parts of it. I'm waiting for America's funniest home videos to show up for us. While walking around the site the first people I saw were some folks from Colorado that I don't know that well but see all the time at trials. They're really good and have a chance of placing. I think last year one of them won or placed in the Steeplechase. Anyway, it was great to have a little chat with a familiar face after being on the road for several days.

Tomorrow there's only one event-the Time Gamble. According to the premium it's a course set by the judge and you're given a specific time that you have to complete the course in. The one who complete's the course closest to the time given wins. I've never done anything like this before, really it's meant to be a fun warm-up for the big events starting on Thurs. I don't run until around 3:30 or so so I've got plenty of time to check out everything else. Yeeha, can't wait for it all to start!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Too Much Drive

If these dogs are so smart and have so much drive why can't they sharing in the driving? Today we drove and drove and drove some more-8 hours 20 minutes total driving time and 11 hours total travel time. It was beautiful though. The Colorado mountains were covered in fresh snow but all the roads were dry. The snow on the red rocks on the western slope was spectacular. Utah was gorgeous as well, bright yellow trees agains the fiery red rock formations and a blue blue sky. The pictures taken at sunset are of Monument Valley, I think in AZ. The daytime picture is in Bluff, UT.

We stopped in Glenwood Springs, CO and Moab, UT for meals and to let the puppies stretch their legs. They're being to awesomely good, esp. Strummy who isn't used to travelling though he did travel across Nebraska to Colorado when they discharged him from the shelter.

We're spending the night in Kayenta, AZ which is 30-40 miles past the UT/AZ border. I was a bit nervous about this since after I booked the hotel room I did a little search on the place and found out that there were 55 gangs (the town has 4900 people) and even worse, lots of stray/semi feral dogs running loose. Jonny asked a coworker from AZ about the place and she became emphatic that is was a terrible place and we absolutely shouldn't stay there. She even called her mother and other relatives to see if they'd been there recently since it had been a while since she was there. Well, so far it's not so bad though the police have been through the hotel parking lot at least once already and we were immediately greeted by several stray dogs as soon as we got out of the car. There was a good sized pack of them gathered in a nearby field. So far they're staying away from us, hopefully we'll get out of here without incident. Seeing those dogs was heartbreaking, many of them were limping and they looked in bad shape. The tourists feed them which makes the problem worse. Not much I can do about it except feel bad.

There was a punk band playing next to the hotel but I was way too tired to even think about it and to be honest they sucked anyway. I forgot that I sometimes get sicky/dizzy from too much driving and my head is spinning just now. Tomorrow we're off to the Grand Canyon.

Friday, October 27, 2006

All My Bags are (Over)packed

Seriously, I have way too much crap packed and my task tonight is to unpack at least a third of it. Just how many pairs of socks does a girl need for a week and a half?

I'm pretty excited about USDAA Nationals but must make sure to keep it all in perspective. If I get too nervous/excited the dogs will shut down in the ring or run around like loons. If we do as well as we did at Regionals I'll be thrilled to pieces and I think the key to that was my ability to stay calm. This is a whole different thing though. There are 998 dogs entered in the agility competition and they'll be running 5 or 6 rings at the same time. Plus there are flyball, frisbee, dock diving and lure coursing competitions going on. It would be great if we could have some nice, steady focused clean runs and that's what I'm shooting for. I'm not going to push for speed or worry about placements, I just want to have fun and do the best we can. I'm most looking forward to Lola's run in the Grand Prix Semifinals. Just being able to run in them is a pretty big deal to me, going through to the finals would be a dream come true but if we don't make it it will be o.k. It would be fun to make it through to the Speed Jumping Finals too, we'll see how it goes. I've got both dogs entered in every event but it's spread out over 5 days so shouldn't be too hectic. I think the most runs I have in a day is 3 and some days I have only one run for sure, maybe more if they make it through to the finals of the various events. It will be exciting to see the top handlers in the county running their dogs as well. Oh and the shopping, I'm sure there will be tons of vendors selling cool doggy stuff. Must remember to leave space in the car.

We're stopping at the Grand Canyon for a day and a half on the way there and I'm pretty excited about that too as I've never been there. Maybe a day in Sedona as well. The drive through Utah is supposed to be very scenic, hopefully we'll reach the hotel before dark so we can enjoy it.

I'm going to try to post updates with pictures, video, etc. but we're renting an RV at the site (Westworld) and I don't know if they have wifi access. I've never stayed in an RV before, this should be interesting. Wish there was more space in the car, I'd bring my pink flamingo to put outside the front door. Course walk throughs start at 7 am and I thought it would be a great luxury to be able to roll out of bed and walk the courses rather than have to pack up and travel from a hotel every morning. Then I can have a leisurely breakfast after walk throughs rather than having to get up early and force food down before leaving the hotel. Plus we can cook our own meals and not have to worry about finding veggie food or eating junk for a week. Of course we'll eat some junk, this is our vacation and all, but I hate eating out every day and I always feel queasy after a few days of it. The dogs will have a place to chill out away from the overexcitement of the rings too and I'm hoping this will help with their stress levels.

Can't wait to leave but for now I must return to my nervous breakdown brought on by packing, worrying and a hectic week. Have a great weekend.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Snow Good

The cold weather and snow we're having is no good for staying heat acclimated for Scottsdale but what can you do. It sure is purty though and the dogs go crazy mad in it. After a crazy busy week where I actually managed to get a lot done it felt great to sleep in and have a leisurely slowtime walk with Cody & Lola around Wonderland Lake yesterday morning. Then it was back to the yard for some mad frantic dashing around and general shenanigans.

I'm hoping Biscuit Eaters will be relatively dry today so I can get some practice in. Monday's drop in at Bldr. County Fairgrounds didn't go all that great. Cody seemed a little wild & unfocused, not terribly so but enough to cause me some concern. I was pushing him a bit, having him stand close to other dogs & the ring while waiting his turn with lots of rewards for focusing on me of course. There are 989 dogs entered in Nationals and there will be 5 or 6 rings going at one time so I need to work on him focusing in the face of chaos and drop in's at a new place are a great place to work on this. It was a difficult Jumpers course and the dirt was not compacted properly so he had a hard time keeping his footing in the weaves and I think we had an off course. Worse of all he went flying off the A-frame set up at the end of the course, a sure sign of stress. I sent him over again and he slid down the backside on his butt to try to control his speed at the last moment for the descent. Ugh, it wasn't pretty and I'm more concerned with him hurting himself than anything. I left after one run. I took him to B.E. during the week and worked on the front cross exercise circle from the Steve Frick seminar and he wasn't as focused as I would have liked. Ho well, not much I can do at this point but hope he pulls his head together.

Lo had a great practice on the same exercise, lots of focus but also lots of barking and sassing back at me. I don't think she likes it much but it's good conditioning and good for building focus. She had beautiful contacts, weaves & table so I didn't push that point. She's getting much better with her creepy dogwalk.

Strummer got another try at the tunnels and some flatwork at B.E. and he was much better this week. Of course, the horses weren't charging up & down the fence line in a big herd so that helped. He ran off when someone started lunging a horse but I quickly got him back and was able to work him a bit. It's great distraction work for him. He was flying through the tire but balking at the tunnels, probably because he's not sure he's supposed to go in. Once in he flies through so fast he sounds like a herd of thundering buffalo. I'm going to need a strong foundation with this dog or he's going to leave me in the dust. His one jump training is going well too. He can jump his full competition height (22") with a nice collected arc. Time to move on to the next step. The highlight of it all was the table. I'm shaping the table, just standing there and rewarding him for interaction with it. Ultimately I want a fast, automatic down. I had to wait him out a bit while he tried all kinds of things but finally he laid down and boom, I gave him a huge jackpot in the form of a pile of treats, lots a happy praise and a release to play with his tennis ball. Second time he laid down much quicker and by the fourth time he went down right away. This was only our 2nd or 3rd session with the table. Wish I'd trained Cody & Lola that way, shaping is so cool and works so well.

My right leg injury (stress fracture? who knows) is finally feeling way better. No point starting to run this week and risking injury right before Nationals so I'll wait until I get back & slowly start up with running again. I'm finally getting some speed back in the pool. I can keep up with the intervals and I'm down to 50 seconds or so for 50 yards. It's starting to be fun again as well. I'm a fair weather biker so probably no biking this weekend with temps. in the 40's and snow on the trails. Maybe I can sneak in a lunchtime ride next week but I doubt it with the way my schedule looks so far. Must start back up with those stupid strength exercises, where will I find the time? Perhaps I should get off the internet and get something done today.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why am I so crap??!!

It seems like I spend my non-agility weekends madly playing catch-up with household chores & stupid little projects that never seem to get done. I face each such weekend like a deer in the headlights, so much to do in so little time that I don't know where to start. Also, after a hard week of work and squeezing in all the other activities during the week I need some time to relax and unwind or I'll lose my mind.

I had plenty I wanted to get done this weekend and once again couldn't quite get through my list. I did manage to tackle of bunch of the household clutter, find my RV space reservation for Nationals (that was a big, important one), give Cody a good brushing & nail clipping, vacuum the dog hair, hang on the walls some things that have been lying around for months, work on some of Strummer's tricks, and go for a wonderful bike ride. Unfortunately the list of things I didn't get done is about twice as long. The big things I didn't do-clean up the inside of the car, start packing stuff for Nationals, paint the agility equipment I've been supposedly building for months, sand and repaint my A-frame which was damaged during a hailstorm in JUNE, rake the leaves off the deck, go to the anti-war protest/march (I actually flat out forgot about that until several hours after it had started, DOH!) and get some agility practice in for all 3 dogs. I didn't practice at ALL this weekend, oh bad me. And I'd been constantly reminding myself about that protest for 2 weeks. Bottom line is that I need a wife to take care of some of this crap for me.

Last weekend was even less productive because on top of it all I wasn't feeling well and needed a weekend to decompress. So this weekend was meant to be twice as productive as normal but didn't quite get there. I talked to my grandmother this morning and to add insult to injury she tells me 'Your life is so simple'. Uh yeah, right. I'm not complaining, I choose to take on most of the crap that I do, but sometimes it gets overwhelming. I've been swamped at work for the past few weeks and will be for the next couple of weeks which doesn't help matters.

On the bright side I had a gorgeous bike ride today on the trails and dirt roads near my house. Almost 20 miles of pure bliss despite getting a flat and getting lost. It was worth every bit of guilt I'm feeling now over not getting everything done. Beautiful sunny skies, not too hot, not too cold, trees still turning yellow and gorgeous trails, what could be more important?

Well, o.k., practising with the dogs before Nationals is up there but my heart wasn't in it this weekend and I've learned that there's no point dragging my ass out to the field when I'm not in the mood because the dogs can tell right away. I took Strummer to Biscuit Eaters Friday night to work on the tunnel and some basic handling on the flat which was going o.k. for a few minutes but he soon became more interested in chasing a herd of horses that was running back and forth right on the other side of the fence. When he ignored his recall I left him alone in the field, something that always worked with Lola, but he never even noticed I was gone his brain was so far away so I leashed him up and took him straight home. I was so aggravated that somehow I didn't feel like going back all weekend, even though Cody & Lola aren't too bothered by the horses. I'll probably go to drop in run throughs at Boulder County Fairgrounds tomorrow and try to make it there a few more times during the week. It's such a shame there are no course run throughs at my practice field until Nationals but the people who set them up are in Switzerland watching the FCI Agility World Championships. I'm on my own for the next 2 weeks so I'll have to start getting creative. On that note, better start going through Clean Run to pick out some good exercises. No more slacking, this week will be productive, oh yes it will.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fostering an attitude

I've never fostered a dog (and I can't because I'm legally full up in the city of Boulder w/ 3 dogs) but I loved this piece that I got from the woman who runs the local BC rescue.

My Foster Dog
by Unknown Author

My foster dog stinks to high heaven.
I don't know for sure what breed he is.
His eyes are blank and hard.
He won't let me pet him and growls when I reach for him.

He has ragged scars and crusty sores on his skin.
His nails are long and his teeth, which he showed me, are stained. I
I drove two hours for this.

I carefully maneuver him so that I can stuff him in the crate. Then I
heft the crate and put it in the car. I am going home with my new
foster dog.

At home I leave him in the crate till all the other dogs are in the
yard. I get him out of the crate and ask him if he wants "outside."
As I lead him to the door he hikes his leg on the wall and shows me
his stained teeth again.

When we come in, he goes to the crate because that's the only safe
place he sees. I offer him food but he won't eat it if I look at him,
so I turn my back. When I come back, the food is gone.

I ask again about "outside." When we come back, I pat him before I
let him in the crate; he jerks away and runs into the crate to show
me his teeth.

The next day I decide I can't stand the stink any longer.
I lead him into the bath with cheese in my hands. His fear of me is
not quite overcome by his longing for the cheese.

And well he should fear me, for I will give him a bath.

After an attempt or two to bail out he is defeated and stands there.
I have bathed four legged bath squirters for more years than he has
been alive. His only defense was a show of his stained teeth, that
did not hold up to a face full of water.

As I wash him, it is almost as if I wash not only the stink and dirt
away but also some of the hardness. His eyes look full of sadness
now. And he looks completely pitiful as only a soap covered dog can.

I tell him that he will feel better when he is cleaned.

After the soap, the towels are not too bad, so he lets me rub him

I take him outside. He runs for joy . . . the joy of not being in the
tub and the joy of being clean.

I, the bath giver, am allowed to share the joy. He comes to me and
lets me pet him.

One week later I have a vet bill. His skin is healing. He likes for
me to pet him ( I think). I know what color he will be when his hair
grows in.

I have found out he is terrified of other dogs, so I carefully
introduce him to my mildest four legged brat. It doesn't go well.

Two weeks later a new vet bill for an infection, that was missed on
the first visit. He plays with the other dogs.

Three weeks later his coat shines, he has gained weight.
He shows his clean teeth when his tongue lolls out after he plays
chase in the yard with the gang.

His eyes are soft and filled with life. He loves hugs and likes to
show off his tricks, if you have the cheese.

Someone called today and asked about him. They saw the picture I took
the first week. They asked about his personality, his history, his

They asked if he was pretty. I asked them lots of questions.

I checked up on them.
I prayed.
I said yes.

When they saw him the first time they said he was the most beautiful
dog they had ever seen.

Six months later, I got a call from his new family.
He is wonderful, smart, well behaved, and very loving.

How could someone not want him?

I told them I didn't know.
He is beautiful.
They all are.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Drop In

Last night was one of those nights where I couldn't decide what to do after work until I was in the car driving. Swim at masters or drop in agility run throughs at Boulder County Fairgrounds? decisions, decisions. In the end I went to run throughs. On the one hand I don't want to burn Lola out before Nationals, on the other hand I was still feeling bad about how slow she was going at the trial 2 weeks ago and was curious to see how she would run indoors on a freezing cold, rainy night. I gave her an entire week off from agility hoping this would renew her enthusiasm and allow her to rest up a bit.

There were 2 courses to choose from, novice and masters level nested with each other, and the entry fee allowed for 2 runs so I decided to do one of each. I got there a little bit later than I wanted because of an accident blocking the road so I was a bit rushed walking the courses. I figured this would be good practice for Nationals where I'll have to keep a whopping 3-5 courses in my head all day.

We started out with the masters course and Miss Lo charged through it beautifully. We had one knocked bar and some hesitation going down on the table but an otherwise perfect, fast enough run. She even booked it on the dogwalk, slowing only a little on the down side. It wasn't quite yeeha fast but it was way better than at the trial. The novice course didn't go quite as well, I think she popped out of the weaves and I got a bit lost. Didn't go off course but handled things not so smoothly because I forgot where I was going. Doh. She was still fast and happy though which is mainly what I was hoping for.

Moral of the story is that I'm convinced the hot weather and demotivating courses were responsible for her slow performances 2 weeks ago. Bad news about that is that Nationals will be held in similar weather and she'll be sporting her winter coat. Not much I can do about it but do the best we can with what she's willing to do. There were no hoses to cool her down at the local trial and I'm sure there will be hoses or something at Nationals so that might help. She has run much better in the past when I've cooled her down with water beforehand. Must remember to pack her cooler coat.

Tonight I'll go to masters. Promise.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Today is Cody's 'Gotcha Day', ie the day we adopted him from the shelter. Actually I think it was yesterday but close enough. We took him and the other dogs out to the Boulder Reservoir for a nice long romp, one his favorite things to do. Later I'll take him for a walk, just me & him, and let him sniff all he wants which is a luxury he seldom gets because the other dogs and I are usually in a hurry and don't let him dilly dally.

We've had Cody for 7 years now and he's been quite a challenge but he's an awesome, freaky dog and I wouldn't trade him for anything. I'm still a little floored that he's going to be competing at USDAA Nationals in 3 1/2 weeks considering the out of control, barking lunging mess he was when we first brought him home from the shelter. He's the first dog I've ever trained for anything, unless you count the horrible yank & crank choke collar obedience class I took with my old Akita Roscoe which I stopped going to after 3 or 4 sessions because it was making him neurotic. Anyway, Cody and I were fortunate that the local humane society had switched to positive reinforcement/clicker training and offered obedience & agility classes. Cody was star of the class in obedience & agility but had a hard time with the stressful atmoshpere of the competitions when we first started out. It took a lot of time, patience and psychology but he's finally to a point where he can go in the ring and strut his stuff most of the time. Best of all, he can go off lead just about anywhere and pass loads of dogs on the trail without any fuss at all. He's turned out to be a very sweet boy without losing his crazy freakiness which I adore so much.

Here's a video of his final qualifying Grand Prix run for Nationals as well as a video of Lola on the same course. Cody came in fractions of a second ahead of Lo, beating her out for 3rd place.

Background music courtesy of Bouncing Souls ('Lean on Sheena' from the Gold Album) for Cody and Alkaline Trio ('Mercy Me' from the Crimson album) for Lola.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Night and Day

When the alarm shrieked into my ear at 4 am on Sat. morning the first thing running through my brain was a long string of bad bad words. The next thing was the thought that there is NOTHING worth waking up this early for. The fog finally cleared a bit and I got everybody up and loaded into the car by 4:30 for the 2 hour trip down to Fountain, a small town outside of Colorado Springs. This is the first USDAA trial of the 2007 qualifying season and the first year that both dogs are in all masters classes and thus eligible for top ten and lifetime achievement points. It's too much for me to start thinking about qualifying for next year's nationals when I haven't even been to this year's yet, don't know if I'll enjoy it and don't know when/where next year's will be so I was fairly relaxed about the Grand Prix and Speed Jumping tournament events. I was so wound up about the Grand Prix last year because I wanted to qualify for Regionals so badly that it felt good to have no pressure on me for once.

I'm not a morning person at all, my temperament is a mixture of foggy confusion and hostility. Driving is not my favorite activity either and once I get to the trial site it's all I can do to get the EZ Up up and the crap unloaded and set up so when a perky morning person type hopped out of her Beemer all shiny, happy, cheerful with actual questions for me it was all I could do not to bite her head off. This was her first USDAA trial so I did want to be nice to her but once I'd politely (I hope) answered the one and only question I knew the answer to I was not at all in the mood for chitchat. Pleeze lady, for the love of dog, I'll chat all you want, even explain Snooker to you, just let me wake the hell up first. Oh and did I mention that I don't have any caffeine during trials because it winds me up too much? Yes, this is another thing that does not help with my morning surliness.

Once the fog cleared, everything was set up and the dogs had done their business I was starting to feel good about the day. This would be perfect practice for USDAA Nationals just 4 weeks away. The judge in the masters ring is going to be a judge at Nationals and the weather (sunny, 80's) is very close to what I'm likely to see in Scottsdale. I'm hoping things will go well so that I have some confidence going into Nationals.

Long story short, things did not go quite so well. The courses were tight and trappy with lots of weird, depressed angles on the jumps and both dogs were going way slow likely in part because of the heat. Lola managed only one Q from the whole weekend in Master Jumpers and it felt like she was running so slowly. Her first run of the trial in Gamblers wasn't bad, it was first thing in the morning and not too hot but she didn't do the gamble and it wasn't that hard. She ran clean in one of her standard runs but was over 3 seconds over course time partly because she refused to lie down on the table and stood there barking at me in argument. I finally got her to lie down but it took too long and we lost the Q to time faults. Her Grand Prix run was going well until I got lost and led her right off course. Doh. Cody fared a bit better, picking up Q's in Gamblers, Snooker and Jumpers. He had a lovely standard run with just a refusal that was my fault and would have had his first Super Q in Snooker if he hadn't missed his weave pole entrance on the last obstacle. Doh. Both dogs had a terrible time of it in the weave poles of the Speed Jumping course, Lola in particular completely lost her rhythm and was fighting her way through, it looked awful. I was flummoxed by this until tonight when I spoke to someone else who'd been at the trial and she told me the poles were spaced at 17" apart which is just barely legal and way way tight for the big dogs. Her large dog had a big problem with them too. She also said the courses were so tight and trappy that they were very demotivating and that could have gone a long ways toward slowing Lola down so much. I feel a lot better tonight after talking to her (she had only one Q as well and she's really good with a pretty good Q rate normally).

Up until tonight I'd had my confidence for Nationals rattled a bit from the weekend, esp. after how well NADAC Champs. had gone, but now I'm starting to feel better about things. USDAA is a world apart from NADAC and hopefully the courses at Nationals will be a little more reasonable. I'm going to focus on short sequences to build speed and motivation in the next few weeks.

One good thing from the weekend-not a single sign of stress from either dog except for Cody on his first run of the trial and that was likely because I rushed him into the ring when I didn't realize my turn had come up. He had some start line stress and launched off the A-frame & dogwalk but that was it for the whole trial. Both dogs were very steady and focused all weekend. If we can keep that part and add some speed back in we should have a blast at Nationals.

I've got a bunch of video to post but I'm pressed for time so it will have to wait.

Oh one other good thing to report, I swam 3150 yards at masters last night, the farthest I've swum in years. It wasn't pretty but I did it. This was on top of a 2 mile walk in the a.m. and a 1 1/4 mile walk at lunch. I've still got a sharp, isolated pain below my bad knee that's been there for about a month now so I strongly suspect a stress fracture. It feels only slightly better than it did a month ago. I'm going to continue not to run (except agility) at least until Nationals are over in November and if it's still bothering me I'll go to the doc. Swimming, biking and walking will have to do for now. Not sure if the strength training exercises will hurt it so I'm going to lay off of them for now (like I was doing them anyway).