Monday, December 31, 2007

Crazy Dog Lady Episode #182,497

The look of disbelief and horror on the Ethan Allen saleslady's face was priceless when I told her I was looking for a sofa that was good for repelling dog hair. Apparently people who shop at Ethan Allen don't let their dogs on the sofa. I suppose at those prices I can understand why. I had no business being in there in the first place because I certainly was not going to drop 3 grand on a sofa but I thought just maybe they would have some heavily discounted funky unwanted sofa sitting in a lonely corner somewhere. As it turns out they did but it was still twice the price that I was hoping to pay and it was a horrible drab green pattern that made it look like a cow had barfed on it. Sofa Mart is more our price range but the sofas were all too soft and ugly and the Christmas music they were playing was giving me a facial twitch. No sofa was going to look good with 'Little Drummer Boy' worming it's way through my brain. I hate Christmas music with the heat of a thousand hot white burning suns and Christmas music being blared in a public place a full 5 days after Christmas is completely intolerable and just plain wrong. So it was off to Scandanavian Design which was an adventure in itself since we had no cell phone or phone book and were trying to find the place based on Jonny's spotty memory of where it was 12 years ago. Of course it was no longer there and the closest one was the opposite direction and not too far off the highway on the way home. In fact I'd passed it a dozen times last winter taking Lola to her swimming therapy and it never registered. Doh. We did finally find a somewhat reasonably priced dog friendly sofa and Scandanavian Design was the only store where the salespeople didn't hover over us like creepy, desperate vampires. Of course the sofa I really liked was $1500 and purple and not at all dog friendly but cooler heads prevailed in the end. Now if I only had a few more weeks off so I could paint this place and get some new flooring installed the joint wouldn't look half bad.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Snow More

It can stop snowing any time now, really, I won't mind. My yard had finally melted down to a few bare patches and the weaves were almost useable when bam we got hit with 2 storms a few days apart and now my yard is buried again. There's at least a foot or so out there which means it'll be another 2 weeks or so before I have any chance at all of training out there or at Biscuit Eaters. I've got a trial in a week and Lola's had no training since Nationals in Nov., Cody's had one run at a course run through and of course the workshop last weekend. I tried bringing 6 weaves into the house the other night but I don't have enough room anywhere in my tiny house unless I start moving the sofa. I tried anyway in a cramped little space and it was pure chaos. I'm glad all the dogs are so enthusiastic about training but agility is simply not an indoor activity, esp. in a 1000 sf house. On top of it whoever of the boys wasn't getting a turn had to pitch a fit which Jonny didn't particularly appreciate and Lola barks her head off when she runs so when I tried working her all 3 dogs were going mad at once. I'll just have to wait for the thaw and hope for the best for next weekend.

I've been working Strummer on his plank of wood in preparation for teaching contacts and I've reached a stalling point. I want him to run to the end of the plank and lie down facing straight, back legs on, front legs off. He'll do this no problem as long as I'm ahead of him but if I try to send him he goes to the end then plops down on the board at an angle with his neck curved around to face me. I've tried standing at the end of the board but as soon as I get even with the board he comes down on an angle to face me. I've tried shaping him looking straight ahead but he gets frustrated way too easily. I can't seem to break it down any more, it's a matter of a tiny step between him lying straight or at an angle. He seems to think the correct behavior involves facing me and it's been hard trying to convince him otherwise. I suppose I have at least a month before he can get started on any equipment anyway.

His jumping's coming along o.k. though it seems I've got a bar knocker on my hands, something I've never had to deal with before. Hopefully it's just because he's learning but sheesh he's dropped more bars in the span of a couple weeks than Cody & Lola have dropped in their entire agiltiy careers, combined. Weaves are on hold of course. He was having trouble with the transition between 4" to 5" partly because I was using a mixture of striped and unstriped poles. He'll have to be proofed for that eventually but for right now I need to remember to use striped poles until he has the basics down.

I slipped on the ice (again!) a week and a half ago and caused a good bruise and goose egg on my knee and a gash on my hand. They're finally feeling better but I haven't been doing much training. Tried a long run on Sunday but there were so many patches of ice still left on the streets that I grew frustrated and gave up trying to run any more after that. We took the dogs on some long 1 hour, 45 minute long walks over the holidays and got 5 laps of skiing in at N. Boulder Park on x-mas day but no swimming or biking. I can't bear the thought of getting on the trainer and I've been using my gjmpy knee as an excuse. On top of it all my foot has started bothering me to the point that I'm considering surgery. I have a bunion that I've been living in peace with for years but it's finally starting to hurt to the point of being horribly painful. It bothers me most at night when I'm trying to sleep and last night woke me up 2-3 times or so throughout the night. Unfortunately I have no time or interest in surgery and if I did the ideal time would be a week from Monday but I haven't even called the doctor about it yet and it would probably be weeks before they could get me in. I hoping to gut it out until this time next year but we'll see. Of course I felt fine this morning and the thought of surgery seemed silly but I'm sure tonight I'll be singing a different tune when my foot starts throbbing again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Close Shave

Johnny & I went to see 'Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber of Fleet Street' on Christmas Eve because nothing screams 'the holidaze' like throat slitting and cannibalism for profit. I didn't think Hollywood could top Jonny Depp as sarcastic pirate (though that was one of the most abysmal movies I've ever seen) but they've decided to give it a try with Johnny Depp as murderous barber. Add in Helena Bonham Carter as the industrious meat pie mogul Mrs. Lovett and Tim Burton as director and what could possible go wrong? Well, for one thing it's a musical and that is terribly terribly wrong. And by musical I don't mean 10-15 minutes of dialogue and then an annoyingly catchy song. About 70-80% of the movie's dialogue was delivered in song form which took a little getting used to and got a bit tedious at times but in the end wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. Despite the musical format the movie was really good. Tim Burton delivered the goods and Johnny Depp is always fabulous but I think the real standout this time around was Helena Bonham Carter. Unfortunately I was noticing far too many similarities between her hair and mine when I'm having a bad hair day.

Jonny brought up a good point as well. Anybody else out there think Johnny Depp is channeling the spirit of Dave Vanian from 'The Damned' circa 1984?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Old Dog, New Tricks

I went up to Stacy's place on Saturday for an all day workshop on Body Language. The workshop was supposed to be in two parts on different Friday nights but the first part got cancelled due to a snowstorm. Her place is up a steep, winding dirt road that's challenging enough when it's dry. So thankfully when the snow hit she postponed until this past weekend and decided to have it all on one day. This was good for me because it saved me 3 hours of driving and I would be way more relaxed and rested on a Sat. morning than I would after driving an hour and a half in rush hour traffic and climbing a snow covered hill in the dark. Though a lot of snow had melted by Sat. and there were bare patches of dirt on the road there was also plenty of snow & ice still left over and a few steep icy spots that were going to be difficult to get up. There was a bit of drama as I got stuck behind a minivan that couldn't get up the first steep bit and I had to back down a steep snowy single lane road for about a quarter of a mile. Then I had to wait 20 minutes for the minivan to back down and heard from the people in the van that the big SUV ahead of them had made it up but slid on the ice in the process. I was nervous about trying to make it up but someone convinced me to give it a try and can I just say how much I love my Honda Element? I made it all the way up and back down again with absolutely no problem. I'm not a car person, as far as I'm concerned they get me from here to there and that's where my interest in them starts and ends but my Element has allowed us to get to some pretty cool places in the mountains that we otherwise couldn't have gone and for that I'm very grateful. Never mind being able to haul a husband, 3 large dogs, a huge pile of crap and 2 mountain bikes from here to Scottsdale and getting 25 mpg.

Anyway, I learned a few cool handling moves that I'm not sure I can exactly explain. I'm glad I signed up for a working spot because I needed to practice one of the moves over and over (and over and over) before I finally got it right on about the eighth try. I didn't take many notes this time around because I wasn't sure how to verbalize what I was being shown. It's probably the same reason I have such a hard time learning this kind of thing from books & magazines. I need to have someone show me then I need to be able to try it and have someone tell me what I'm doing right/wrong.

One handling move that worked nicely was to bring the arm down and in the bring the dog in. I've been using the off arm technique that I learned last spring at the Marco Mouwen seminar for this, when I remember anyway, and it works nicely with Cody but it still feels so awkward, esp. if I'm trying to move forward with any speed to get in position. Cody hates to come in to me, it's always been a problem but he responded to the arm coming in right away. The other move was sort of a like an RFP but not quite as extreme and didn't involve the opposite arm or an extreme turn into the dog but rather moving the inside arm low and behind your body a bit to get the dog to come in. This took Cody longer to understand and I kept rushing things and moving forward rather than stopping and holding my ground until he came in to me. I had to practice a few times by stopping completely and having him come in to target my hand. Luckily he knows how to do that, it's a strong default behavior when we're out on walks and he wants to lunge or react to something. In fact he bumps my hand with his nose constantly trying to work me for treats as we're walking along and it drives me crazy. So he was quite happy to run up to my hand for a treat once he figured out what I wanted. The move feels weird though and it's going to take some practice to get used to it.

Another interesting point was that we tend to watch our dogs at traps to make sure they don't go into the trap and if we happen to glance at the trap even briefly it's enough to send the dog right into it. There was a spot on the practice course with a tunnel trap and I didn't even notice it when I walked it. I ran the course first time through and neither Cody or I even glanced at the tunnel. But after watching other dogs go off course and much discussion about it sure enough the second time through I started worrying about it and watched Cody too much, glanced and turned ever so briefly to the tunnel and sent him right in. Doh. After that I gave him the cue to come into me, ran in the appropriate direction and trusted him to follow and he did, no problem. It's hard to trust Cody though because if he gets too far ahead of or behind me he's prone to making his own choices. Heck, sometimes he makes his own choices even if I'm right there. Frustrating but not much I can do about it other than to not reward him.

One surprise was that Cody had a hard time with an exercise that involved several rear crosses in a row. Rear crosses aren't typically a problem for him but thinking about it I only do them in places where I know he'll be successful with them and I seldom do several in a row. One of the crosses involved having him come in to me, run across my feet then turn away and do a wrap over a jump. He had a hard time understanding this but Stacy gave me a good exercise for practicing on the flat and I think it'll be a handy thing to teach all 3 dogs. Only problem is that it involves using the inside arm to turn the dog away which was something I'd decided I was going to avoid with Strummer. I guess I could use a verbal turn cue to accomplish the same thing. Something to practice.

In general I was happy with how well Cody held out for the day and how quickly he picked things up. The old guy is 9 1/2 after all. It took him a bit to get used to the carpet surface and I think it slowed him down a bit which made him easier to handle. I loved the surface for myself, the padding was wonderful on my knees. I wish trials could be on that stuff, nice & springy for the dogs and you're not choking on dust all day. Yeah, I know, dream on.

In all we had a great time, Stacy's place is out in the country up in the foothills a bit and it's so relaxing to be out of town. I wish I could live in the mountains but it's completely impractical for me because of my job. I couldn't stand driving to town every day esp. in winter, never mind the pollution/gas. Every once in a while I think about moving to some land out on the plains, I could do that and commute with no problem but part of me likes living in town. I hate driving and if I lived out in the sticks I imagine I'd be driving all the time to get to the pool, grocery store, trails, etc. Still, it's a nice treat to spend the day away from the city and if I get to learn some agility and play with my sweet old dog it's all the better.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Can Has 4 Day Weekend?

Apparently so and 2 of them in a row no less. My boss announced today that we can have the next 2 Mondays off, something I suppose most people probably already have but traditionally we don't get any extra time off at the holidays unless we take vacation days and who wants to take vacation days in December? I really need this time off as well, I'm tired and burnt out and it will feel good to have this time off with no particular plans, esp. no agility trials. Well, I have an all day agility workshop tomorrow up at Stacy's if the weather holds out and the road to her place isn't too bad but those are my only set plans except for a holiday party on Sunday and Christmas dinner at our house with friends but that's pretty laid back. All that time off and nothing set to do feels positively decadent.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Duh, Really?

The amount of companies violating my email box with their screechy ads usually reaches fever pitch right about this time of year and I got the absolute best one this morning. The header read, 'Reminder: Christmas is next week!'

I'd love to know what planet these people think I live on that I need that kind of a reminder even with my crappy memory. Oh and can I please go live on that planet, at least during November and December?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Out Out Damn Bugs

Jonny's sick which means of course that I will not be far behind. Monday was a scratchy throat that gave way to sneezing on Tuesday and today my nose is leaking worse than Scooter Libby at a Vegas press corp junket. I skipped swimming yesterday and tomorrow practice is cancelled for a high school swim meet. Damn kids, get out of my pool! Hopefully if I take it easy I can fight off the bugs and be ready for skiing in the mountains by the weekend. They've been getting slammed with snow so conditions should be mahvelous.

Monday night I took Cody to course run throughs at Boulder County Fairgrounds and he was pretty darned excited about it. That place drives him batshit for some reason but in a good way. He was flying around the jumpers course, happy, focused and full of himself. I botched a wrap causing a back jump and forgot to call him when he was in a tunnel so he came flying out, 'where are you, where are you?!!' and I was behind him. Other than that a lovely run, some good distance handling where it made sense and fantabulous weaves. Made me feel better about our lack of practice. I put in a couple of blind crosses at tunnels, something I don't normally like to do esp. w/ Cody but he was in the curve of the tunnel & couldn't see me when I did the cross so I figured I'd save some time and some wear and tear on my knees. If you do a blind cross in the middle of the woods while your dog is in a tunnel and noone can see you is it still a blind cross?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I finally got off my butt and registered all the dogs with DOCNA. In a fit of optimism I even registered Strummer. May as well get started with getting his measurements. I've been putting this off forever because there are so many grandfathering forms to fill out and so many levels to compete in and the whole thing was hurting my head (there are 14 pages of title descriptions). But one of the local clubs is having a DOCNA trial in Feb. just 20 minutes from my house and they're using slatted equipment so how could I pass that up? Some cool things about DOCNA-no table, you can grandfather your points from other organizations so you don't have to start over on your Championship title (great for older dogs), and yes Virginia they have a Vet class (this is a huge peeve of mine with USDAA) and you can even opt to take 2 height drops. Cody could jump 12" if I wanted him to. I don't want that right now but it's nice to know he has a place he can play well into his old age as long as he's sound. Also the jump heights are way more reasonable than USDAA, Cody actually measures into the regular 20" class. There are strategic games aplenty though I'm a bit disappointed that there's no Snooker type class. There's regular traditional Gamblers as well as a Strategic Time Gamble class which sounds fun. I love plotting my own course, so much more fun than a judge telling you where to go. Snakes & Ladders is tunnels, contacts and multiple sets of weaves poles. You choose your own course but you have to do all the contacts and weaves once, fastest clean run wins. This sounds like fun but I'll skip it this time around, all those contacts and weaves probably aren't the best for either dog on top of all the other classes. There are 6 runs on Sat. and 5 on Sun. which is too much for my crew so I need to skip some classes anyway. There's also a 3 dog relay with 3 separate courses-gamblers, standard and jumpers. I'll skip that for sure, I hate team events. It's bad enough if I screw up and let one person down, I don't need to be letting 2 people down. Anyway I'm looking forward to the trial, otherwise there's nothing between Jan. and April.

Woke up this morning to another 5-6" of snow and 2-3" more predicted by days end which will mean about 14-15" stacked up in my yard by tonight. No agility for a while I'm afraid. I slogged through the 5" of fresh snow on the Wonderland Trail this morning with Cody & Strummer. A normally easy 2 mile run took for freakin' ever but the snow was falling while we ran and it was a beautiful morning. Strummy took me down on some ice just a few blocks from home but I seem to be o.k. I came down on my left thigh & knee and it doesn't hurt now but I'm sure I'll have some lovely bruises to show off at the pool. One of my lane mates is concerned I'm the victim of domestic violence and I have to convince him it's my dogs and my own clumsiness. Most of the time I don't even know where the bruises came from. I'm still sore from skiing on Sun. but I was thinking about going after work instead of going to the pool. Did I metion about how I was biting my lip this morning to keep from screaming while I lifted my leg to put on my pants? Nope, it appears I never will learn.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Busy Week

Not too much posting here lately, been too busy. Lots of my own training and Strummer's been getting a good share of attention, at least until the snow hit on Friday. I bought some portable all in one jumps at Nationals and I've been working on Strummer's jumping with 1 jump on my lunch hour in a field next to my office building. Right now we're on week 4 or so of Linda Mecklinburg's foundation jumping program that was published in Clean Run. I don't like learning out of magazines but that's what I'm stuck with at the moment for a variety of reasons. So far I haven't run into any problems or questions with it but I have noone overseeing me so who knows if I'm doing it right. I feel like I'm seeing the results I'm supposed to so for now that's good enough. He's learning to jump in a nice collected fashion and turn tightly around the jump standard. I may have to make myself some jump wings but for now we're doing fine without them. I've also been reviewing Susan Garrett's One Jump DVD and introducing some of those exercises too. Her groundwork exercise for a rear cross is good and Strum can easily do it but she doesn't go into a good explanation of how to add the jump and he has no clue. I'm starting to come around to her idea that you shouldn't use your inside arm to flip your dog away from you at least for Strummer because he's so sensitive to it, he's flipping away from me on the ground and the slightest motion when we practice our heeling stuff. I still feel strongly about wanting a verbal for turning away/switching leads though so I think I'll fade the flip motion and only use the verbal. Cody & Lola have never had a problem with that arm flip and it's been a handly move but I can see how it might be a problem for Strummer. But that's how I taught rear crosses and now I'm not sure what to do about it, I guess simply wait until the verbal 'turn' cue is stronger and use that.

Cody & Lola have had no agility practice since Nationals and now the practice field is covered in snow so I'm stuck going to course run throughs at Boulder County Fairgrounds but that's only one night a week and not the sort of practice the dogs need right now. I want to practice short little drills and slowly reintroduce Lola back to the equipment and this isn't possible at the course run through format where you only get 90 seconds in the ring. It's better than nothing though and with a USDAA trial coming up in 4 weeks it'll have to do. I may go out to Biscuit Eaters over the weekend and shovel a small area if it doesn't look too bad out there but with 5-6" of snow from this weekend's storm and more on the way this week I'm not sure how practical that will be. Maybe I'll just shovel a spot for the weave poles in my yard, that's all Cody really needs at the moment. His only mistakes at Nationals, except for one missed A-frame contact, all had to do with the weave poles. I think this was true last year too. I did the best I could beforehand but I can't overtrain him or his shoulder will go.

I went out for my first cross country ski session on Sunday since Boulder got enough snow for the Nordic Ski Club to groom a loop out at North Boulder Park near my house. Each loop takes 8-9 minutes and I did a solid 4 loops and decided I should call it a day since I could start to feel some leg/groin muscles I seldom use start to act up. I do this every year, I overdo it the first time out skiing then I can't move for the rest of the week. I felt like 32 minutes wasn't enough so I went out for one more easy cooldown lap and even stopped halfway through to take some pictures. I felt fine all day then of course woke up a bit stiff this morning and now I can barely move. Yowch. Will I never learn?

Took Lola out for her first run on Saturday and she did great, about 40 minutes in the snowstorm. I think the soft snow helped soften the impact a bit. Cody came with and had multiple fits in the snow. He's always gone crazy in the snow and that outing was no exception. Lo and the other dogs had some off leash running in the snow on Sunday. Jonny and I called her back and forth from opposite ends of the park. She loves that game and it's great recall practice plus she's running in a straight line so she's not harming her feet with sharp, sudden turns. So far she's had accupuncture, lots of supplements & Rhymadil, a massage (that was a free house call from a doggie massage student) and a session on an underwater treadmill. The treadmill didn't go so well, she was freaked out and couldn't get into a good rhythm. So no more water therapy for Lola unless she's got a serious injury and there's no other option. It's too traumatic for her. At her treadmill session Lo's PT found that her neck was out of alignment so I have an appointment at a doggie chiropractor for her. She's turning into quite an expense account but I need to keep her sound so she can be active. If he's a good chiro I may take Cody too, I suspect something may be up with his back.

Some good masters practices last week too, 5400 yards or so in total. The coach kicked my ass on Thursday, I'm surprised I was able to drive home. Ran 5 days which is a lot in one week but it was only 11 miles or so. Some walking as well and of course the 42 minutes of skiing. Must put some air in my Swiss ball so I can do my strength training, ugh.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Patchouli Breath

There's nothing like starting your day with a call to poison control. I came home from an early morning run with Cody & Strummer to find that Lola had swallowed a bottle of insect repellant. Luckily it was 'all natural' non-Deet hippy type stuff and there were no warnings about ingesting it on the label but still I thought it best to check with poison control. The first number I found was for people, not the special one for dogs but the woman on the line said she could probably help me anyway and her services were free vs some ridiculous fee for the doggie service. I read off the ingredients and she told me there was nothing to worry about, a couple of them were heavy laxatives so other than some extraneous pooping and maybe some puking from the essential oils I shouldn't see any problems. So far she seems fine but there was patchouli and lavender in the mix so every time she opens her mouth to yawn I get a nice blast of the smell, like one of those air fresheners that gives out poofs of fragrance every so often. The end result is that my office stinks of hippies and I have to explain to my coworkers that I haven't joined a commune or recently inherited a stash of money and turned into a Boulder trust funder.

Monday, December 03, 2007

An Encouraging Weekend

I took Strummer to a NADAC trial 20 minutes from my house this weekend to work on his barking/lunging issues. It was a one ring, indoor trial, no pressure atmosphere so ideal for him. I've been working on click/treating him for watching other dogs in the ring without reacting but if I sense things are too much for him and he's going to go over his threshold I'll reward him for staring at me too. He started out o.k. at around 15 feet from the ring but after 5 minutes or so he went into a lunge so I marched him out right away. On the way out of the building I ran into some people I knew so I stood chatting for a good 15-20 minutes, clicking and treating Strummy all the while as he sat calmly by my side. (As an aside, I was making a quiet clicking sound with my mouth, not using a real clicker). Then I took him back ringside and he was absolutely perfect for the entire Novice class. It was as if he had suddenly located his brain. Maybe the crazy boy is finally growing up. A couple people who've known him since I got him noticed how much better he was being in general so that was encouraging. I left after that, no point pushing my luck.

Sunday I took him back again and this time he was perfect the entire time he was there, no problem walking around the arena with all the other dogs or sitting ringside while all the other dogs waited their turn. We hung out about 5 feet from the ring through the whole Elite class and he did great, no barking, lunging, staring, etc. and his pupils were only a bit bigger than normal. He was hardly the picture of relaxation but what a huge improvement. There was snow fencing up around the ring so maybe that was blocking his view enough so that the motion of the other dogs didn't set him off. Also, the contacts had the rubber surface so there was no noise of toenails running down sandy plywood which sets him off. Plus no teeter banging, that had to help as well. I suppose NADAC's wacky rules are good for something.

I need to see quite a few more weekends like this before I'll start to have confidence in him but it sure felt good to see such a marked improvement. Sometimes I think the behavioral training successes are more exciting than the agility successes.

I've also been working daily on his weave poles. I've abandoned the 2x2 method in favor of the channel weaves, mostly because I have a set of channels and a DVD detailing a specific training process that's easy for me to follow. I thought it would be fun to learn the 2x2 method just for the sake of learning something new but it's hard when all you have is a book to go by and noone you know who's ever done it to help troubleshoot. I was stalled at a certain step in the process and couldn't seem to progress past it so I decided to take the easy way out and go for the channels. So far Strummy thinks it's pretty fun and he gets less overstimulated and stressed than he was getting with the 2x2 method. In just 2 weeks he's gone from the poles being wide open to the poles being 5" apart. I spent a lot of time at the start with the poles wide open because I think the hardest thing for him to understand was that he was meant to run all the way through the channel. Once he figured that out and we had a 100% success rate for several days in a row I started closing the channels inch by inch and he's breezing through it now. When I got to 5" he had 100% success the first and second days. Tomorrow we'll try 4".

Still working on proofing his contacts on a practice board. If I stand in different positions he'll go into his down facing me rather than facing forward on the board and he's getting frustrated because he's not getting rewarded for it. Still need to work on that before I put him on the dogwalk or A-frame. I want that end behavior perfect, I figure once I get it just the way I want it on the board it shouldn't take all that long to get it on the contact equipment. I'm tired of having dogs with contact issues and I'll take however long I have to to get it right this time.

Lots of running and swimming last week too. I finally made it back to the pool after a whole month off and it wasn't as awful as I thought it would be. In all about 4800 yards or so for the week. My long run last Sunday was awful as that stupid Turkey Trot had taken more out of me than I'd thought and I got out too far before realizing I didn't feel so great. I couldn't even walk home because it was too cold and I wasn't dressed for walking so I had to gut it out. This Sunday was much better though, ran for an hour and a bit and I finally had some spring back in my legs. Probably put in around 12-13 miles for the week plus 5-6 miles or so of walking. No biking, weather was too cold and I'm a wimp. Need to start on a strength training regime. Yep, gonna start any day now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Yesterday was Strummer's Gotcha Day. However I thought it was last Monday so he got his day of spoilage last week and yesterday was nothing special for him. We've had him 2 years now and I guess we'll keep the little snugmuffin despite all his shenanigans and monkeyshines.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes

Pablo Picasso Was Never Called An Asshole
-Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

Friday was a cold, cloudy miserable day with a horrid dampness in the air that we seldom feel here in semi-arid Boulder so we decided that an indoor activity was on order for our day off. We went to the Denver Art Museum 16 years ago when we first moved here and it was so lame that we never went back. Admittedly both of us are spoiled as I grew up going to the Art Institute of Chicago and he lived in Edinburgh, Scotland where you can't go more than a block or so without running into an art museum. But some years ago they built an addition to the Denver Art Museum so we thought it was worth the 40 minute drive down to Denver to check it out. Plus we were able to have lunch at our favorite little breakfast place downtown as a bonus.

As you can see from the photo above the addition is, well, interesting. Here's a link to some other photos of the building. It's even more disconcerting from the inside. In fact both Jonny and I were getting such bad cases of dizziness/vertigo that we ended up using the regular fire escape staircase. One room was so horrible that I couldn't even look at the art. The walls rose up at such a sharp angles that I had to put my hand on a wall to steady myself. I hate pretentious, non-functional architecture. We kept running into a tour of the building's architecture and basically the tour guide kept saying how crap the building was, 'This room is particularly challenging for displaying art because of all the shadows cast by the angles of the walls' etc., etc. It made me want to never vote to support these types of civic projects with taxpayer money ever again. The whole hideous building is a tribute to someone's big, fat overinflated ego. Oh and the art sucked too but I'm not a big fan of modern art in the first place.

There was one good exhibit of American art in the new building but that was about it. The most interesting/controversial painting was George Catlin's 'The Cutting Scene'-a portrayal of the Mandan O-Kee-Pa religious ceremony that was fairly brutal (the reproduction in the link pales by comparison to the original which is more graphic and vivid). The old building had most of the same old stuff we'd seen 16 years ago-floor after floor of pottery, clothing & other artifacts that in my opinion belong in the Natural History Museum, not the art museum. I suppose technically they are art but I want to see paintings and there were very few of those. There were a couple of good pieces, my favorite being American Indian Gothic, a send up of the famous 'American Gothic' painting that sits in the Art Institute of Chicago. Another good one was a painting of John Wayne with one of his lesser known quotes written below: 'I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves. '

One other interesting find was the tack the Native Americans used on their horses. One bridle was nothing more than a single piece of heavy twine looped around the horse's muzzle with a single rope for the rein. They must have been very good at training/handling if that's all they needed to control their mounts.

Also interesting to note was the way the dogs looked in the older paintings. None looked like any of the modern breeds and their builds looked so much healthier than what you see in modern breeds.

It was fun to have a day out in the city but I don't think we'll be returning to the Denver Art Museum anytime soon.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

CU Turkey Trot 5K (Strummer's Racing Debut)

I don't do many 5K's, it's too short a distance for me and they hurt start to finish if you're doing them right. But every once in a while I get in the mood for one and lately I've been thinking it would be good to see if I've improved any over my race from last April. I don't care all that much about doing well at 5k's but I think they're a good indication of fitness. Last April's time was 30:06 by my watch. My official time in the published results was 29:45 but I don't see how that could be. I decide that anything under 29 minutes would be a good goal, maybe a bit on the wussy side but I can't see breaking 28 so 29 it is.

After a bit of shopping around I decided on the CU Turkey Trot. How can you beat a $10 entry fee and a 12 minute drive from home? The 10 am start time meant I could sleep in too. It's a no frills race-no t-shirt or post race feed but I don't need that stuff. I've already got way too many t-shirts and let's face it most 5K post race food sucks anyway. Races are so expensive these days, I found one at Red Rocks that was a whopping $35. For a 5K! Crazy man crazy, I can run up at Reds Rocks for free any time I want.

This race isn't billed as a dog race but I've heard of people doing it with their dogs in the past so I figured I'd take Strummer along and if it was a problem I could leave him in the car. When I got to the start line I saw people with enormous baby joggers, some 2 babies wide, and I figured if those were o.k. the dog should be fine. Normally I flat out refuse to do races where strollers are allowed because a woman ran one into my Achilles tendon once at a race and the pain was excruciating. I decided I'd take the risk since I was already there but I'd try to avoid them as best I could. Eventually I saw a few other people with dogs as well. None of us were quite sure if we were officially allowed to run with them but in the end it turned out to be no problem, none of the racers around me looked annoyed and no race official said boo the whole race.

The course is 2 laps on roads around the CU Research Park. It's not exactly a scenic trail run in the mountains but there is some nice open space on one side and beautiful views of the snow covered Continental Divide when you head west. The course is about as flat as it gets in Boulder so it's a good race for people seeking PR's or qualifying times for the Bolder Boulder. Still, I couldn't believe how crowded it was. I had to do quite a bit of weaving at the start and though it thinned out eventually there were pockets of congestion throughout the race.

I set myself up at the back of the back at the start line since I had the dog and I'm so slow anyway but this was a mistake because I didn't realize so many people would be walking. I got stuck in the crowd for a bit but nonetheless the first mile ticked off in 9:17 and I was plenty happy with that. If I could keep that pace up I'd easily make my goal. Trouble is apparently I couldn't keep that pace up and the second mile came in at a disappointing 9:52 for a total time of 19:09. I'd have to go 9:51 for the final 1.1 meaning I had to pick up a pace I was already having trouble maintaining. My main problem was cramps which in my case is a sign of lack of fitness. A 9:30 pace would mean the last .1 mile would take 57 seconds which would put me at 29:36, well over my goal. Calculating it after the fact, I'd have to have gone to a pace of 8:57 per mile to hit 29 and there's no way I had that in me. I didn't know that at the time of course, I just had a general feeling that the goal was out of reach but I picked up the pace anyway and started passing some people. Near the end of the course you pass the finish line going the other way for a short out & back before you actually finish so I had a good idea of how far I had left to go and picked up the pace on the final stretch back. Just after the turnaround for the final stretch I passed a woman who was running with her husband who was pushing a double wide SUV sized baby jogger. The baby jogger was behind me but she kept speeding up/slowing down so we kept repassing each other. I was nervous enough about the baby jogger being behind me but then with the finish chute about 15 yards away she started encouraging her husband and trying to pass me. I hate when people do that anyway, ie cut you off right in front of the chute. I'm sorry but if you're racing with me you're well out of the hardware and there's no need to be rude/dangerous about the finish line, esp. when you're pushing a giant baby jogger. I decided there was no way in hell I was letting these dorks pass me and/or ram into me and I managed enough of a kick to easily beat them into the chute. Final time was 29:40, well off my goal but at least it gives me an idea of where I'm at and that was the point of the race. There aren't any results posted yet but my time puts me in the middle of the pack for my age group in last year's results.

Race conditions were good, temps. in the 20's which sounds bad but really it's not a bad temp. for racing a 5k and remember here in Colorado it's a dry cold. Despite the bout with stomach flu a week and a half ago I was feeling pretty healthy and well rested, no major health issues or niggling injuries so I think this race is a very good indication of where I'm at.

As for Strummer, he was an awesome boy. I had him on about 3' of leash and he didn't pull or get in anyone's way. He was on task for the first 22 minutes but then got a playful fit and started tugging on the leash and bouncing around. But I told him 'enough' and he stopped and got right back on task, running just a bit to my side and ahead of me. Best thing though was that he was nice & relaxed both during the race and waiting in the big crowd of people at the start. When we first got him we couldn't get him near an event like this because the music/loudspeakers freaked him out so badly. He would go into full panic mode, completely out of his head. It was a wonderful feeling to see him with his pupils a normal size and sitting fairly relaxed by my side at the start line while the speakers blared away and the people crowded around him. He had a few quiet, nervous growls for a couple of dogs that were also waiting at the start line and sitting at the sidelines of the course but I easily got him focused back on me and there was not a single lunge/bark out of him the whole time. Most of the dogs he saw he stared at for a few seconds then ignored, even a couple who were playing rambunctiously off leash. I didn't even bring any treats with me other than a few loose pieces of kibble in my fanny pack.

Overall a fun race though I doubt I'll make a tradition of it. Big, short crowded races are o.k. once in a blue moon but they're just not my thing. I don't think I'd take a dog if I did do this race again. I didn't have any problems this time around but it's too crowded in general. I've got a good idea of where I'm at and what I can realistically expect with my training for the next few months. I was thinking about entering a winter duathlon series but I'm having second thoughts about it now.

I couldn't be more pleased with Strummer, what a good boy! Looks like he's finally growing a brain.

A well deserved post race nap:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fall In Colorado

75 degrees on Monday, 5 inches of snow on Wednesday. Strummy doesn't care either way as long as someone will play with him.



Cody looks handsome no matter the weather and if there's a rock to pose on all the better:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Don't Wanna Be A Pinhead No More

I took Lola for her first accupuncture appointment today and it was all I could do not to laugh at the poor girl. She looked so funny with all the needles sticking out of her, especially the one on her head. She'd move her ears around and the needle would move around as well, like some funny sort of antenna. She became fairly relaxed and sleepy looking after about 10 minutes, something the vet said was normal so I'm starting to eye up Strummer and the pins in my sewing kit. Maybe a few pins in his head would be just the ticket.

Friday, November 16, 2007

You're So Lame

I've had a bit of a rough time since coming back from Nationals. First I got some kind of stomach flu my second day back to work. Of course I was up in Winter Park doing framing inspections on a busy construction site with a 2 hour steep, twisty turny drive through the mountains before me in order to get home. Most of the stairwells to the upper floors of the condo complexes hadn't been built yet so I had to climb up & down a bunch of ladders and hop in and out of windows from the roof below. Lotsa fun when you're dizzy & nauseous. Let's not even get into the joy of being sick in a porta potty on a construction site. I'm not quite sure how I made the drive back but I did. Well sort of. More accurately I made it to downtown Boulder about 8 minutes from my house. Let's just say thank heavens for rush hour traffic and I need a new hard hat. Anyway, it took me about a week to get over that and I'm finally back running at least. I'll start back at the pool next week and it will not be pretty.

Then on Tuesday Lola started limping on our morning walk. I had all 3 dogs and by the time I realized she was limping amidst all the chaos she promptly stopped and hasn't since. It was only about a dozen steps or so but still I'm one of those people who calls the vet at the first sign of any trouble. If Lola is limping she must be at a pretty bad stage of an injury and I was especially concerned that her bicep tendonitis had flared up. I pulled her from an upcoming NADAC trial just to be on the safe side. At least she had the courtesy to start her limping the day before closing.

Yesterday I drove an hour up to Loveland to get her in to see the ortho specialist. The good news is that her bicep tendon seemed fine and her shoulder joints in general were nice & stable. The bad news is that she has arthritis in her fifth toe on one of her feet and probably the other one as well. He couldn't tell me exactly what was wrong with the toe, only that there was degeneration in the joint. They would have had to sedate her to get better x-rays and given her poor reaction to sedation in the past we decided it wasn't worth the risk. Treatment would be rest & Rhimadyl either way. She also has either a disk injury or a muscle strain in her neck, again to be treated with R & R and some massage. She also has a tight muscle on the underside of her leg, sort of where her leg meets her body. He told me to massage that as well, that it's a common area of injury in agility dogs and that it's often not diagnosed. Poor thing, so many sore places but at least nothing sounded horrbily serious though I am really worried about her feet. I'm going to try to get her to an accupuncturist the bring the inflammation down in her toes and she's on 2 weeks of complete rest. I was going to schedule her for some swimming sessions but I'm afraid that will be hard on her neck. I was planning on giving her & Cody a couple of weeks of rest after nationals anyway as a preventative thing. I almost made a double appointment to have Cody checked out as well but I'm thinking I don't even want to know what's possibly up with him. I was tempted to ask the place if they would give me a punch card between all my crazy dogs that have no respect for their bodies. I can't wait to see what Strummer comes up with, he's the worst of all.

The vet thought Lola would be fine by the January USDAA trial she's entered in so I'm not pulling her from that just yet. After that there's nothing for 3 whole months so we'll all get a little break from trialing. We may end up doing more NADAC this year because the slatless equipment will be better for her feet and unlike Cody she doesn't seem to have a problem with it. Or maybe we'll just cut way back on trials, my heart's not into NADAC these days and I refuse to travel overnight for it. I have a slatless A-frame at home but it's been out of commission for a year because a hail storm trashed the sand/paint surface. Guess I'll be sanding and painting this weekend.

Hopefully next week will be a little more normal and I can get back to my tri training. I also want to focus on Strummer's training in the next few weeks. I'd love to have him ready to compete by this time next fall.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

USDAA Nationals 2007 - The Mega Report

I was hoping to do little reports during Nationals but I couldn't get an internet connection this year in my RV on the Westworld grounds so you'll have to suffer through the ginormous report in one post.

First off here's a link to all my videos: USDAA 2007 videos I"ll put links to the individual runs in my report so it's easier to follow but it's handy for me to have that link to everything at once.


Grand Prix Classic

First day of Nationals, not sure how the dogs are going to react. The only event today is the Grand Prix Classic which is a Grand Prix course from 1988 designed by USDAA founder Ken Tatsch and judged under 1988 rules. It’s a weird course with straight lines of obstacles like you’d see in NADAC but spaced much more tightly then a weird technical bit in the middle with a hideous weave pole entry and another 2 lines of straight obstacles finishing on the line you started on. The A-frame was performed twice and there was a hogback broad jump which is a broad jump with the highest point in the middle, something you don’t see these days in USDAA, thankfully. It’s a horrible jump because the dog can’t see the back part of the jump to judge how long to jump. And in this case the obstacles were placed so tightly with the tire right after the broad jump so the dogs naturally wanted to collect as much as possible to make the next jump. I saw dog after dog after dog tick the far end of the broad jump on the way out and on the way back to the finish.

I thought my dogs would have no problem with it but like so many before here Lola ticked it on the way out and on the way back. This was her only mistake though other than a refusal at the weaves which was not called under the 1988 rules. I did have some confusion over the table though. I noticed the judge was allowing a sit on the table which I thought was bizarre but figured it had something to do with the 1988 rules. Just to be sure I went up to him personally and asked him not just about the sit but also what happens if the dog goes from a down to a sit. He said that was fine. I asked him 3 times to be sure because that sounded bizarre but he insisted it was o.k. if Lola laid down and first then moved into a sit. Well, o.k., you’re the judge. My plan was to put her into a sit if she seemed stressy about the table which is just what I did during the run. And the judge says to me it must be a down. Huh? Wuh? O.k., I put her into a down but we lost a lot of time as she jumped off the table while I was talking to the judge. We had 10 faults anyway so I didn’t make a stink about it but sheesh, how can the judge change the rules like that, esp. after allowing other runs at my height to do a sit? Someone standing at the sidelines told me he came over right before he started our rotation and told a small handful of people that he had checked the rules and he was wrong, it must be a down. But what good is that to most of the people who were off getting their dogs warmed up?
And what about the advantage the other people had that got to do the sit? I also heard a judge in one of the other rings wasn’t calling the broad jump at all, even dogs that ran right over it. I’m just here to have fun with my dogs but I don’t know, it’s Nationals, you’d hope the judges would have been briefed on the rules before the competition.

Cody had no problem with the broad jump and other than missing the weave entry and having to come back and redo it and a couple seconds lost to running off in the wrong direction after the A-frame for no obvious reason he had a nice, fast clean run. Because of the time lost to the bobbles I doubt we’ll get a placement but it was great feeling to have such a nice run right off the bat. Our runs were at around 5:00 p.m. and it was nice & cool with part of the course in shade so I’m sure that helped. I hope both dogs run like this for the next 4 days.

Grand Prix Classic Lola


Today was Team Snooker, Team Jumpers and Grand Prix Quarterfinals.

Team Snooker

We ran at 9:00 a.m. while it was still nice and cool. The course had only jumps and one tunnel which was perfect for us, finally a Snooker course with no weave poles. There were 4 reds and the 4th was optional. We had 45 seconds in the opening, plenty of time to do 4 reds on a course of only jumps and tunnels. I chose a nice flowing course that I thought would give us the best chance of no off courses. The opening points were 4, 5, 6, 7-not terribly ambitious but I was pretty sure we’d make it through to 7 in the closing. No need to get too crazy in Team Snooker, better to make it through to the end then do crazy stuff and risk an off course to get a few extra points.

Cody had a beautiful, fast run and even saved my butt at #6 in the closing when I briefly forgot where I was going. He had one really wide turn that was my fault but otherwise his turns were fairly tight for him. Joy’s helping me tighten up his turns but it’s going to take some work though it seems the little bit of work we did with him last week helped a bit. It was a fun, yee ha run and we made it through to #7. Lola’s run was much the same but I remembered my front cross at #6 in the closing and set her up better at #7 to take the jump that stopped the clock. She looked great out there, fast, happy & relaxed. Lola’s teammate also had a nice Snooker run, I think she got the same points as we did.


Team Jumpers

It was hot by the time we got to our Jumpers runs at around 11:00 a.m. or so. Not horribly hot but hot enough to slow the dogs down. This made Cody easier to handle and we were having a really nice run through all the technical bits until we got to the weave poles. I set him up nicely for his entry but he missed it yet again. Are we going to get any entries at this Nationals? When I tried to bring him back around to restart he took an off course tunnel. Argh, we made it through all the hard bits, just the weaves and a simple little jump sequence until the end.

Lola did make her weave entry though and had a nice clean run. We had a little bobble at the end of the weaves which cost us a second or two but the main thing is we were clean and she was running really nicely. She was slow because of the heat so I’m sure we were out of the placements but I was still pleased.


Grand Prix Quarterfinals

This was the event I cared most about at Nationals this year. I really wanted Cody to make it through to the Semifinals like he did last year. It was a tricky course but something I felt sure he could do. It was hot with the sun beating down at 1:00 p.m. so I knew he wouldn’t be fast but as long as he went clean I was sure we’d make it through. I soaked him with the hose, which he loves, and spent loads of time with him beforehand working on focus and attention. He seemed relaxed and focused outside the ring but he was a little stressy and distracted on the start line. He started out o.k.and made it through the tricky opening. Again I had him lined up nicely for the weave poles and again he not only missed his entry but took one look at the poles and took off in another direction. Again, he took an off course jump when I tried to get him back. Whistled off the course at the 5th obstacle, double argh. I don’t mind agility mistakes but it drives me crazy when he goes flaky like that because there isn’t much I can do about it. Oh well, he’s my sweet crazy boy and he is who he is.

After our runs were over for the day I took Strummer out to walk around the grounds and get him used to the crowds & noise. Last year it was a few days before we could even take him into the grounds during the day because he was so freaked out with the crowds and loudspeakers. Today he was fine until we got too near the agility rings. He was able to stay sort of calm at a distance for a few minutes then started losing it so we had to take him away.

I decided to let him try the dock diving because I thought some physical activity and the opportunity to swim and cool down would relax him. Uh, yeah, right. We did a practice run first where he went up a ramp and into the pool and since he was fine with that I decided to take him on the dock to see if he’d jump. He got completely overstimulated watching the other dogs while waiting for our turn. I started him too close to the end of the dock and when he went in he just sort of plopped off the end of the deck into the tank. He swam to the end and with a bit of struggling we got him to come out on the ramp rather than leaping out of the side of the tank. All that for $10. We won’t be going back there this weekend. I may try him at the sheep herding, we’ll see. Last year I decided against it because it was expensive for what you got compared to what I can get back home but we’re here, he needs something to do, and the sheep herding place back home is a 50 minute drive which is a long way to go for him to run around a sheep pen like a crazy man. He’s matured some in the year since I last tried him on the sheep and I’m interested to see how he’d do. I’m concerned that Nationals might not be the best atmosphere though. I’ll see what the set up is like before I make a decision.


Today was Team Standard and Speed Jumping Semifinals. Lola’s team was in 17th place out of 115 teams after yesterday’s events as her teammate also ran clean in Jumpers with a good time and both of them had 53 points in Snooker out of a possible 59. This put a lot of pressure on us for Team Standard. Cody’s team was in 79th or so thanks to my E. His teammate had a clean Jumpers run and a good Snooker run so I felt bad but what can you do.

Team Standard

I finished walking my courses at around 8:40 a.m. and had to wait around until 2:45 for my first run so I had a lot of time to obsess about it. I had plans and counter plans for Team Standard and after watching about a million dogs run the course I had even more plans. In the end though I decided to run it as I’d walked it except for one part at the end. It wasn’t a great course for Cody or for big strided dogs in general because there were lots of tight turns and traps.

The heat wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. The sun was beating down a bit and I had to work very hard to keep Cody’s attention on me. He started sniffing around the warm up jump and ignoring me, taking the jump then wandering off to sniff. I took him away from the jump and worked him on the flat, getting him to simply run in a circle following my hand. Then I ran around, did some front crosses on the flat, all the while having him follow my hand. He liked this game at that got his attention back on me. It took a bit of work but I got him to stay focused on me until our turn and then of course there was a delay in the ring so I had to stand at the gate with a zillion other wound up dogs & handlers and try to keep his enthusiasm and attention up. When we finally got in the ring he was distracted and stressy at the start line again and refused to sit down at first. Finally I got his attention and he started off just fine. I set a line for him at one part to avoid a demotivating call off which sort of worked, no off course but still a wide turn. He was doing fine until those stupid weave poles and once again missed his entry. I called him back and he started to stress sniff for a moment then decided he did want to play and came back to eventually get the weaves. He blew his A-frame contact but made it through the rest of the course nicely. Phew! 10 faults but no E and he ran nicely considering his state of mind.

Lola was also a bit distracted at the practice jump, I think maybe lots of people had dropped treats by that point so I did the same with her, working her on the flat and she also liked that game. She seemed fine on the start line and I led out one jump, took my eyes off her and started to run the course assuming she’d taken the jump right in front of her. The judge blew his whistle right away and had to tell me that she’d missed the first jump. Argh!!! Who E’s on the first jump??? I’ll bet I was the only dog in all of Nationals to do that. Do they have a special award? Looking at the video it looks like I led out in a bad position and cued her right past that first jump. Ugh, how stupid. I was so frustrated, not only at the E but also at not being able to complete the course. Fault limits suck, especially at an event like this where you have so much time, money and emotion invested. I’m not going to win even if I run clean, at least let me finish the course. If they don’t have time to let everyone run then make it harder to qualify. I’d rather not qualify and stay home then waste my time sitting around for 7 hours to get whistled off after 3 obstacles. Suckorama. Last year only certain judges were calling fault limits, others were letting people finish. This year everyone’s getting whistled off. I seriously doubt I’ll go to Nationals next year simply because of this, it’s just not worth all the vacation time and money. Anyway I found out later that Lola’s partner had only 5 faults in her standard run so I felt bad yet again.

Team Standard Lola

Speed Jumping Semifinals

By the time Cody’s Speed Jumping class rolled around at 3:50 p.m. there was some very slight cloud cover and the heat had abated a bit. He was much more excited and raring to go then he was for Standard. I barely had to work with him at all to get his attention. The course was very fast and straight forward and I’d seen lots of dogs in previous rotations in our height group have fast clean runs. I doubted we’d get through to the finals but I really wanted a nice clean run. Since Cody seemed fine at the start I decided to lead out 2 jumps to make the course a bit easier and the stinker broke his start line and came sailing past me taking me completely by surprise. I should have maintained eye contact with him, then he holds his stay no problem. But I’d turned my back and he decided to go. While I was pleased that he felt sassy and motivated enough to blow his start line I had to think on my feet pretty quickly. The third obstacle was the dreaded weave poles and the crazy boy finally got an entry and weaved all the way through. The rest of the course was fast & furious but I let him get away from me a bit and had a wide turn costing us precious seconds. The rest of this turns were nice though and we had a lovely clean run in 36.xx seconds, about 5 seconds too slow for the finals but I was thrilled with his run and happy to have at least one nice run for the day.


Watched the Performance Grand Prix tonight and there were quite a few Colorado people that made it in. It was a fun evening but for a very rude woman who showed up late and expected me and the person next to me to move because we were sitting on her blanket. I told her she could have her blanket but that she wasn’t allowed to reserve seats (this was stated in the premium) and I wasn’t moving. It was starting to get ugly as the woman was loud & obnoxious and I’m pretty stubborn about loud, obnoxious people pushing me around but the other people in the row scooted over and made room for her. You would think she would have let it go but when I stood up to video someone I heard her ask her friend if she wanted to scoot over so that when I sat back down I would have been sitting in her enormous lap. Thankfully her friend had the good sense to decline. The 2 of them sat there the entire time making catty remarks about the handlers and the Performance program and didn’t clap or cheer on a single handler. One of them was an agility instructor too, can’t imagine how that works with her stellar people skills. Tomorrow the seating will be even tighter for the Speed Jumping/Steeplechase Finals so I’m going to get there early and remove any and all blankets from wherever I end up sitting so nobody hassles me.


My only run for the day was Team Gamblers at around 3:00 so I decided to take Strummer to check out the herding in the morning. Last time I tried was about a year or so ago and his brain completely disappeared the second he got in the pen with the sheep. He was way too overstimulated and ran around in circles, biting at the sheep when he could and not doing anything terribly productive. The woman doing the ‘lesson’ told me not to give up on him but that he needed to grow up a bit. I’m not all that interested in herding but whenever we go to the training field and he spots the sheep in a neighboring field he slinks over to the fence line in that border collie crouch, staring intently at the sheep. No barking or lunging, just that BC stare & crouch. I feel a bit bad that he has such strong herding instincts and no chance to use them.

I brought him over to the herding area and he stared intently at the goats with no barking or lunging so I decided to give it another try. They were using goats instead of sheep because apparently the goats can’t jump the fence of the pen like the sheep can. Somehow I felt more comfortable with the goats as well, they seemed calmer or something. We had to wait around for an hour in the hot sun for our turn and Strummy got fairly wound up if we got too close to the agility rings but he calmed right back down when we went back by the goats. Beforehand I was a little nervous that he’d run around like an idiot and we wouldn’t get much of a turn for our $20 (I can get a full hour for $20 back home) but when he got in the pen he was a very different dog from a year ago. He was still very excited and running in circles but this time he was actually using his brain a bit and trying to change the sheep’s direction when he was supposed to. After a bit the guy doing the herding test had me come right next to him and the goats and he held my arm while he moved the goats around to see if Strummy would try to change their direction. It was all very confusing to me, I don’t know much about herding or what he was looking for and being so close to the goats was a little weird but it definitely seemed like Strummer was doing something and the guy ended up spending a decent bit of time with us. In the end he said Strummer was overexcited but that he was doing a decent job and had good instincts. He needs more obedience (I had to intercept him and get right in front of him to make him lie down) but the guy said it was worth pursuing herding with him. He gave me a certificate saying that Strummer had passed his instinct test and I thought it was some hokey thing they gave to everybody but someone later told me I should hang onto it because it’s a real thing that I’ll need if I ever decide to compete with him. I can’t ever see myself competing but you never know.

Strummer was much better in general at Nationals this year. He wasn’t at all freaked out with the loudspeakers and walked around the crowded grounds behaving himself for the most part. I had to watch him carefully though as he would occasionally run into a dog that freaked him out and start to growl. He was still over the top near the agility rings though and I decided that Nationals was no place to work on that so I gave up and kept him away.

Team Gamblers

Saturday was terribly hot, worse than any of the other days so far so I chose a nice easy Gamblers course and didn’t worry too much about points. Lo’s team was about middle of the pack and Cody’s was way down as my partner also had an E. It was a time gamble, not a traditional gamblers course. You had 25 seconds in the opening then after the horn sounded you could only take jumps. You had 12 seconds to take as many as you could and each one was worth 3 points. If you went over 12 seconds you lost all your gamble points. If you took anything other than a jump when the horn went off you had to leave the ring and got no gamble points. So yes, I did find a way to get whistled off a Gamblers course. The horn went off as Cody was barreling toward a tunnel and there was no way I could have called him off even if I’d wanted to so we got the whistle yet again. Cody was going so slow because of the heat that I’d slightly mistimed our opening. He also flat out refused to do the weaves and I wasn’t going to push the point. I wasn’t sure if he was sore/injured or having mental issues about it but either way I was not going to try to encourage him. Otherwise it was a nice enough run.

Lola was moving a bit faster though still quite slow for her, especially her weaves, and I set a poor line to the teeter so she ran around and we lost those 5 points but I managed 4 jumps/16 points in the gamble, not bad. The most I saw any of the big dogs get was 5 though someone somewhere might have gotten more. I saw some little shelties get 7 jumps but they had more time than the big dogs and they turn tighter. This event was o.k. but I like games that require a bit more strategy. The course for the opening was straightforward and didn’t allow for too much creativity but it was great for my dogs to be able to run a nice easy sequence given the terrible heat (90 degrees or so).


Saturday night was the Speed Jumping and Steeplechase Finals. I enjoyed the Speed Jumping and the smaller height classes of Steeplechase but the 22” Steeplechase class dragged on and on. BC after BC after BC and I didn’t know very many of the people so I got a bit bored. Then to make it drag out even longer they had interviews for local t.v. with every person who ran faster than the person before and they held up the ring for several minutes for each interview. Ugh, talk about a cheesy waste of time. Bruce Jenner was doing the t.v. interviews which I found kind of funny and kind of sad. The 26” class was a little more interesting, not every single dog was a BC. I think I was tired and cranky by the end of the evening which I felt had been dragged out way too long or maybe I would have enjoyed those final classes more. They wasted a bunch of time at the start with some stupid event that had judges & celebrities running other people’s dogs. I don’t understand the point of this at all, some of the dogs were clearly stressed out and some of the judges were either awful handlers or the dogs they were running had no idea what their cues were. One dog ran right out of the stadium into the fields beyond. Last year they had this cheesy event before the Grand Prix and I was looking forward to missing it. Just my luck they moved it up a day.

There were lots of Colorado people in the Speed Jumping event which was partly why I enjoyed it so much more. Susan Anderson (Lola’s teammate that helped up qualify for Nationals) and her sheltie Jenny won the 12” class, very exciting! Reggie Rogers and her BC Joplin came in second in the 16” class just .01 second behind the winner. Stacy Peardot took second in the 22” division with her BC Able. Lola’s teammate for Nationals missed the cutoff for the finals by less than a second. I didn’t realize I had such a competitive group that I compete with on a normal weekend. It’s a wonder Cody ever got those Speed Jumping Q’s. No wonder our qualifying time is often faster than 22” Championship.


Steeplechase Classic

It was already hot by 7:45 a.m. so I was glad I had only one class that I was scheduled to run at around 9:15 a.m. The final course for me was Steeplechase Classic and it was a fast, easy course, perfect for ending on a high note. If I could just get the dogs through a fairly straightforward weave pole entrance I figured it would be darn difficult to get whistled off the course though with Cody you never know. Cody was up first and he finally got a weave pole entrance on the first try only to pop out of the poles about halfway through. I had him redo the poles until he finally got them right because I wanted him to gain the confidence to realize he could do them. I kept verbally encouraging him until he finally did it right. I probably should have taken him out of the ring right there to give him a bunch of treats but I wasn’t thinking clearly and I really wanted him to have one final yeeha run before we left, which he did.

Lola somehow managed to miss the easiest weave pole entrance of the whole weekend (in fact it was the only entrance she missed all weekend) then she popped out at the last pole. Normally I would have gone on and taken the E but if I didn’t ‘fix’ it we would have been whistled off at the third obstacle so I had her go through the last pole even though she was very confused. But it meant we got to go on and finish the course. I pushed her for speed so she’d have fun and she blew her A-frame contact at the end, the first time all weekend, but it was my fault because I’d run out way in front of the A-frame and she’s not proofed for that sort of thing in the ring. She had fun though on her last run and that was the most important thing.

Not sure what the rules were for Steeplechase back in 1988 but in my ring the judge wasn’t calling refusals and in another ring the judge was calling them. Again, USDAA needs to get all the judges on the same page. It’s Nationals for crying out loud.


I was finished and back at the kenneling area by 9:40 so we packed up the crates, headed to the RV to pack up the car, had lunch and hit the road at 11:10. I had no interest in staying for the Grand Prix, never mind the fact that it was shaping up to be a terribly hot day and there was rumor that it was going to run late this year. We drove the whole way home stopping twice for gas and once for dinner/gas/doggie break. All 3 dogs were so good about traveling, we only stopped once to let them out and feed them dinner and they were fine, not a complaint out of them. We got home at 1:40 a.m. and I was so glad to be home.

Final Thoughts

Jonny said he thought the dogs looked much better this year, especially Lola who seemed very solid the whole time. Cody seemed more nervous this time but the only issue he had, other than one missed A-frame contact, was the weave poles. He listened really nicely, didn’t have too many flaky moments except at the weave poles and had some nice solid runs as long as no weaves were involved. Lola did great, the only issue I had with her was my handling. If I hadn’t sent her past that first jump in Standard our team might have done fairly well. She was so much more relaxed and happy this year, she was trotting from the kenneling area to the rings for her runs with her head up and her tail wagging. Overall I was really pleased with the dogs, I’ll just have to keep working on those darn weaves with Cody. We did quite a bit of practice before Nationals but I didn’t want to rush our training because I didn’t want him to end up injured.

This will probably be my final Nationals with Cody & Lola if they continue to have fault limits. It’s too demotivating for me not to be able to complete the course and I hate having to repeat obstacles or bring them back after a refusal just so I don’t lose my chance to finish the course. It screws with my handling/training and with my head. If I’m going to drive all that way, take all that vacation time and spend all that money I want to be assured of my time in the ring. It’s not like I’m gunning to win, I just want the experience of competing at a national level and how can I get that if I’m not allowed to finish the course? This was especially frustrating in the Grand Prix Quarterfinals because our ring finished early and sat idle for about 45 minutes. Why couldn’t I have taken an extra 40 seconds to finish my course? Some people take even longer to leave the ring once they’re whistled out because they stop running and walk very slowly, sometimes to the start line then they realize their leash is at the finish so they casually saunter to the finish and take more time than if they had finished their run. All of this looks terrible to the spectators too.

I’d love to know how much money USDAA makes off this little shindig. I heard several people going on about how money grubbing they are when it comes to Nationals, trying to gouge every last penny they can from the competitors. I can see their point. You spend a ton of time and money to get to Nationals and show up on the first day all excited. You go to your kennel space and realize you’ve spent $50 on a teeny tiny sliver of real estate barely wide enough for 2 crates. Then you walk to check in and realize the rings are even farther than they were last year because they’ve put the vendors in between kenneling and the ring. Got to make sure you spend your money on those vendors, that’s more important than how far competitors have to walk. Then you stand in line to get your goody bag and you find a t-shirt, cheesy little pin, rubber zipper pull with USDAA corporate logo of course and a cheapo little nylon bag to hold I.D. cards or something. Oh and that’ll be $10 for a parking pass. Never mind the endless advertisements over the loudspeaker all week long reminding you to spend spend spend. I guess it’s sort of like the Chicago Marathon, supply & demand, etc. They have something that enough people want to pay for and they’re going to see how far they can push to make as much money as they can. I felt a bit bad for all the volunteers out there, cheerfully working so hard for free in the hot sun to make it a nice event and meanwhile USDAA is raking it in, taking us for whatever they can and relying on people’s good natures to work for free. Oh well, maybe I’m just cranky because I’m overtired.

Despite my whining I’m glad I went. It’s great experience to compete at a national level and it was fun to watch all the high level competitors. I loved watching the Colorado people in the finals and cheering from the stands. It’s doubtful that I’ll ever go again but it was worth the experience this time around.

Performance Grand Prix Finals Video

Here's some video I shot of the Performance Grand Prix Finals.

12" Class

16" Class

22" Class

It's mostly Colorado people except for the 22" class which I filmed the most runs from. I have video from Speed Jumping and Steeplechase Finals too but I still need to upload it from my camera. Hopefully I'll get that done tonight or tomorrow.

I finally got all of my videos uploaded and my report done so I'll post that after work tonight.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Back From Nationals

Phew, finally back. 14 1/2 hours, 13 hours driving time and 1 1/2 hours of stops. Got home at 1:40 a.m. but it was worth it to spend the night in my own bed and I couldn't bear the thought of another night in a hotel.

Sorry for the Nationals blackout, I had no internet access at Westworld this year. I have lots of stuff to post but need some time to download videos and I need this day to relax and do other things.

In short, dogs did better than last year, I had fun overall but this is probably my last USDAA Nationals. They had fault limits across the board this year (last year it was up to the judge) and there are few things more demotivating than sitting around agonizing over a course for 7 hours only to get whistled off after 3 obstacles. I'm afraid fault limits are a deal breaker for me.

In general the courses were nicer and more fun than last year's. The Classic Grand Prix and Steeplechase were way more fun than the Time Gamble and Power & Speed classes they had last year.

It would be really really nice if someone from USDAA would brief the judges, especially the international judges, on the rules before the event. It is Nationals after all, is it too much to ask that the judges know the rules?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Can You Say Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

I spent way more time packing today than I should have. I found myslef obsessing over the most ridiculous details. This is partly why I hate traveling. Did I take an entire day to pack last year? I can't remember and last year was more complicated because we went to the Grand Canyon and needed warmer clothes plus had more complicated travel arrangements. Why did I sign up for this? What a hassle. I know I'll have fun once I'm there but I truly hate traveling-the packing, driving, hotels, etc. I loved traveling when I was younger and lived in a place that I hated but now that I live in a place I love I've lost all my wanderlust. I could easily fill a week doing things within a 2 hour radius of Boulder. Whine whine, moan moan, poor me going on a nice trip to Scottsdale to compete with my dogs. Yeah, I know how it sounds.

A hyperactive border collie 'helping' with the packing and a caffeine and sugar laden mocha at lunchtime did not help my nerves today. Strummy kept unpacking things and enticing Lola into crazy out of control wrestling matches that literally involved bouncing off the walls. It seems I spent half the day breaking them up and repacking things that Strummer unpacked. Let's not even get into the barking. I think Strum & Lo were probably wound up because I was wound up and the packing was upsetting their routine. And yeah, they had plenty of exercise this morning, both of them were overtired if anything. Or maybe it's the full moon.

By 4:30 I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown (apparently it doesn't take much). I was planning on one more practice at Biscuit Eaters but decided I was too fried and that a run would be much better. My running goal for the fall is to complete the Hogback trail which is a loop that branches off one of the trails near my house. In all it's around 8 miles or so round trip from my house and previous to today I was up to about 5 1/4-5 1/2 miles, or about 5 minutes up the trail. Well, I was having such a good run and grooving out to the mp3 player and most importantly was not home packing so I got in into my head to do the whole loop. This was incredibly stupid for any number of reasons but somehow I couldn't stop myself. It's been a good 10 years or so since I've done the Hogback so I couldn't exactly remember what the whole loop was like other than that there were some steep steps down that backside on the return. Well, the trail climbs gently for a while then climbs very steeply to the top of the hill. Once on top, the trail gets very rocky, so much so that I decided to walk so I wouldn't twist an ankle or fall. Even more importantly the trail goes through prime mountain lion territory with big stacks of rocks right next to the trail. I turned off my mp3 player though I don't know why. Do I really want to hear the lion rushing towards me so I can experience a brief moment of pure abject terror right before he rips my head off? Wouldn't I be better off enjoying some nice music and not knowing what hit me? It was so stupid for me to be up there so close to dusk on my own. I picked my way along with my heart in my mouth for a while then I heard a snort. I froze in my tracks but thankfully it was another runner who appeared coming from the other direction before I needed a new pair of shorts. I figured if no lions had gone for him I was probably o.k. Nonetheless a few minutes later out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a large, tan animal moving through the tall grass. I had a moment of panic then realized it was a deer.

Finally the trail smoothed out a bit and headed back down away from the rocks. Once I made it past the big steps I was able to run again. I passed a few large bucks lying in the grass right off the trail but they seemed uninterested in me. A minute or two later I came upon their harem, a big group of females and babies who were on either side of and on the trail. I slowed to a walk and they gave me some curious glances but didn't run away. Some were right next to the trail, so close that if they sneezed I would have been covered in deer snot. Very cool.

The rest of the run was uneventful, I took a little shortcut home but it only cut off maybe 1/4 mile. It was downhill so it went quickly. My legs and knees are sore, it was a stupid thing to do from a training perspective. And do I really need to risk injuring myself right before Nationals? But sometimes you just gotta run. Oh yeah, and I guess I need a new running goal.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nationals Schedule

Here's my schedule for Nationals this year. I'm posting it more for myself so I can reference it later if I lose my hard copies but maybe someone somewhere is interested in what a typical day looks like.


12:30 pm Walk – Ring #2, Grand Prix Classic

3:46 p.m. Run (P12, 12, P16, 16, P22, 22, 26) (85 dogs)


7:00-7:10 a.m. Walk – Ring #4, Team Snooker
7:28-7:38 a.m. Walk – Ring #6, Team Jumpers
8:10-8:20 a.m. Walk – Ring #2, Grand Prix Quarterfinals

9:00-10:20 a.m. Run – Ring #4, Team Snooker (P22, P16, P12, C12, C26) (78 dogs)
11:00-12:30 a.m. Run – Ring #6, Team Jumpers (C26, P12, C12, P16, P22) (78 dogs)
12:35-2:15 p.m. Run – Ring #2, Grand Prix Quarterfinals (P8, P12, P16, P22) (42 dogs)


7:28-7:38 a.m. Walk – Ring #6, Speed Jumping Semifinals
**7:56-8:06 a.m. Walk – Ring #2 (verify) Grand Prix Semifinals
8:10-8:20 a.m. Walk – Ring #3, Team Standard

**11:05-11:55 a.m. Run – Ring #2 (verify), Grand Prix Semifinals (P8, P22, 22)
2:00-3:25 p.m. Run – Ring #3, Team Standard (P16, P12, C12, P22, 26) (78 dogs)
3:30-4:10 p.m. Run – Ring #6, Speed Jumping Semifinals (C22, P8, P22) (30 dogs)


8:38-8:48 a.m. Walk – Ring #5, Team Gamblers

2:55-? p.m. Run – Ring #5, Team Gamblers (P22, P16, C16) (71 dogs)


7:30-7:40 a.m. Walk - Ring #2, Steeplechase Classic

9:15-11:30 a.m. Run – Ring #2, Steeplechase Classic (P12, 12, P22, 22, P8) (65 dogs)

**if we qualify

Kennel Space #K12

The gibberish in parenthesis is the run order for the heights (mine is P22). I'm in rotation C with a lot of other Colorado folks which is nice. One of my teammates is in my rotation but the other is a different height and in a different rotation. It will be hard to watch my teammate's runs though because I'm running 2 dogs in the same height in team and it's a looooooong way back to the kenneling tents plus I really need to be totally focused on whatever dog I'm about to run, esp. in that highly charged atmosphere, so nobody shuts down on me.

This may be my last chance to post for a while, I'm squeezing in one last agility practice tomorrow morning then a bike ride with the girls plus packing, packing and more packing. I'm going to try to post during Nationals, hopefully some video and photos but I can't promise how good I'll be about it. Last year I started out o.k. but after a day or two found it difficult to come home and post after watching the finals events at night. I was too tired and wanted to go to get some good sleep for the next morning. I'm planning on watching the Perf. Grand Prix on Thursday night and Speed Jumping/Steeplechase Finals Friday night but I'm not hanging around on Sunday for the Champ. Grand Prix Finals. I really didn't enjoy it all that much last year and I'd rather hit the road for home as early as possible.

We're planning on spending a couple of days hiking in Sedona before Nationals and hopefully a little detour to Petrified National Forest on the drive in so it feels more like a vacation. I'll have my bike this time so I should be able to get around a lot easier and won't get so tired. The kennel space will be nice too, I'm one space away from a fellow Coloradoan and Lola's teammate that helped us qualify this year. She wanted to be on a team together for Nationals which would have been very cool but she asked me after I'd already committed to other teammates.

My teams are 'Cody Sees Stars' (Cody and a BC called Star) and 'Lola Blasts Off' (Lola and a Golden Retriever called Blast). My teammates came up with the names, my options were pretty bad. My favorite team name was 'Lo's Not The Moss Of Me' (Lola & Moss) from last year's Nationals. Don't ask me how I ever thought of that one and I thought my teammate came up with better options but she liked that one and I didn't care. I never met Cody's teammate from last year which was kind of a bummer. We tried to get together but kept playing cell phone tag and never managed to meet up. I know both my teammate's this year but not well. In fact I don't know very many people who are going to Nationals this year. Only one person from Biscuit Eaters is going that I know of. Oh well, it'll be fun anyway.

Good luck to everyone who's going! And if you see a short, blondish, harried looking woman with a crazy brindle mutt or enormous, long legged red & white BC say hello by all means.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hobbes, Sept. 1990-Oct. 24, 2007

I had to say goodbye to my cat Hobbes last night. He was 17 and was having major health problems. His kidneys were starting to go though that was still treatable but his heart and breathing were in bad shape and he'd completely stopped eating. We could have gone through lots of expensive diagnostic tests (cardiologist, x-rays) but even with a best case scenario he'd need to be on daily medications which the vet warned could be difficult to administer and Hobbes was difficult when it came to pills. But I felt that chances were high we'd go through all the tests only to learn that yep our 17 year old cat was on his way out. He was barely eating more than a few bites a day last week and stopped eating entirely a few days ago so we decided it would be best to have him put down since I didn't want him starving to death. He had a good long life and was seemingly healthy up until the past couple of weeks but still it's always a tough decision to make. Why can't they ever go peacefully in their sleep?

I can't remember the exact date we got him but it's probably within a week or so (if not to the day) that we got him from the shelter, sort of. It was bedlam in the shelter and we'd been waiting in line forever for someone to arrange a meeting with some kittens we were interested in when a woman came in with a box of 3 kittens she wanted to surrender. We told her we'd happily take 2 of them off her hands. The shelter staff weren't thrilled but we saved ourselves some red tape and cash and the kittens never had to spend a night in the shelter. I've since donated plenty to the shelter so I don't feel at all bad about it.
Hobbes was good natured for a cat, he never tried to bite or scratch anyone even the vet, except when I tried to force feed him drugs. He was also a little bastard, destroying untold number of screens, blinds, knick knacks and our sofa. He loved to wake me up at unspeakable hours in the night by screaming in my ear and head butting me.

In his younger days he loved climbing trees but he wasn't so great at climbing down and I'd sometimes find a group of neighbors gathered by a tree and laughing their asses off as he tried to get down by shimmying himself down butt first and crying his little head off the whole time. I don't recall ever having to rescue him but I could be remembering that wrong.

He was great with all the dogs, putting up with Lola's puppy shenanigans and Strummer's crazy herding behaviors. I think his favorite was our old Akita Roscoe whom he'd often curl up next to. When we'd take him walking through the park behind our house both cats would follow along, also earning laughs from the neighbors. He was a terrible mouser, I don't think he ever killed anything in his life. He brought a live baby mouse into the house and set it free and we also caught him catching a live mouse and lying on top of it (the mouse eventually got free unharmed). We locked him in a room once where we knew there was a mouse and he cried incessantly to be let out then ran to his food bowl and scarfed up his dinner.

In the past few years we felt like the dogs had overshadowed him as he'd slowed down quite a bit and spent most of his time perched on the back of the sofa swatting at us to be petted or catting around the yard & lying in the sun. So we were surprised by how empty the house felt when we came home last night and at bedtime when he didn't come up to me for his bedtime scritches. 17 years is the longest I've ever had any pet and for such a wee felly he's sure left a pretty big hole.