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).