Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Yearzzzzzz

Somebody please tell me I'm not the only one staying in tonight. I do have a party to go to but last night Jonny and I decided not to go. We both get up early and a lot of stuff gets done in a day and we're both tired by the end of it and you want us to stay up how late? The party is way up in the mountains, about a 45 minute drive on dark, twisty mountain roads with the drunk people and various furry woodland creatures jumping out in front of you at the last possible moment to have a gander at your headlights. And the party is starting right about the time I usually start nodding off to sleep on the couch. Then there was the fiasco last year when Jonny got really really drunk and I was the designated driver which was fine except that he was the only one who knew how to get to the main road and we were driving around and around and around on icy skating rink mountain dirt roads in the pitch black, high winds drifting fresh snow onto the ice and no signs on any of the roads and way WAY past my bedtime and about -20 degrees outside on the freezing cold mountain. I was not happy and I was not shy about letting him know. He was lucky he was drunk and did not remember much of the not so nice things I had to say or the volume at which I said them.

So this year we'll be fighting the dogs for the couch and watching a movie and nodding off to sleep while our friends are only just starting to whoop it up. Can't even blame it on being old since many of them are older than us. Oh well, throw some confetti and make some noise at midnight for me, I'll be happily snoozing away.

Like something out of a movie

But tragically for real. The general manager of the Eldora Ski Resort was murdered yesterday by a troubled employee. The murderer had been ranting about religion and asking his fellow employees, including the victim, if they were Christian in the days before the murder. Yesterday he showed up to an early morning staff meeting with a gun, shot into the ceiling and threatened to kill anyone who wasn't the same religion as he was. The victim burst into the meeting wanting to know what all the noise and shouting was about and was promptly killed. The pscycho freak fled the scene by car and was later killed by a cop at the side of the road in a gun battle.

One of Jonny's bike friends works at Eldora and luckily had the day off. The day before he had been talking to the victim who had been telling him how great things had been going and how happy he was. He left behind a wife and some kids.

Eldora and the neighboring scenic mountain town of Nederland are not the sort of places that you picture when you think of crazy psycho murder scenes. I can't imagine what a horrible shock it must have been for his family and friends and the Eldora staff and Nederland residents. Jonny and I were talking about going up to Eldora a couple of days before but decided not to because the weather was inhospitable. We go cross country skiing up there all the time, it's just a 40-45 minute drive and I did a triathlon up there 2 summers ago. The whole freakish thing is so hard to believe. It'll be weird going up there, of course there's no danger but still weird to think about what happened.

To add insult to injury, the local news programs had the firing of the Broncos coach as headline news (I'm sorry but why is this even news?) and ranted on about it for a good 8 minutes or so before reporting on the Eldora shootings. Good to see the networks have their priorities straight. Can we go back to the 70's when the news was actually news and sports and weather little after thoughts at the end of the program?

Obviously you can't go through life worrying about the psycho freaks of the world but these little wake up calls do make you appreciate the notion of living in the present and enjoying every moment that you can.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lazy Holidaze

We all had a nice relaxing 4 day weekend.

Great Cody, now you've got Strummer yawning too.

Strum sez 'when exactly do you go back to work? I need my beauty sleep'.

Lola, of course, doesn't need beauty sleep but she'll steal a nap when she can nonetheless.

I was out at the training field in all kinds of crazy, freezing, windy, sofa king cold weather this past week. 16 degrees one day, -5 degrees wind chill and 20-30 mph winds another day. Stupid running contacts. Stupid trial coming up next weekend and old school dogs have had no practice for weeks and weeks. Stupid obsessive compulsive handler/trainer can't make herself sit still for 2 seconds. Stupid knee won't behave so I can't redirect excess energy to running, have to obsess about stupid running dogwalk instead. No it was a relaxing break, really.

I discovered that the trick to a successful dinner party is to fill your guests with wine right from the start. That way maybe they won't notice the horrible carpets or the smoke from the food that was burned 20 minutes prior to arrival (that was Jonny for once, not me. Well, I did burn a tray of potatoes but that was after Jonny caused the smoke detectors to go off) or that the placemats, plates and silverware don't match. For some reason the most we have of any one pattern of anything is 3. We lose plates and silverware like normal people lose socks in the dryer.

The only downside to this plan is if you've asked one of your guests to take stitches out of your head which is probably already an inappropriate thing to be asking your guests on Christmas night but I have the sort of friends who will argue over who gets to do it. No bathroom surgery went down though because the stitches were deemed too tight and I realized that too much pre-surgery wine had been consumed. I got them out myself with my Swiss Army knife the following morning. Jonny was duly impressed. I was happy that I didn't have to drive to Niwot and back (20-25 mins. ea. way) and sit around in the doctor's office on my day off and probably have to pay another $20 copay.

I've been enjoying my life of leisure, sleeping in, walking the dogs in daylight after the sun has warmed things up a bit, mid-day naps-what a luxury. Not looking forward to waking up early tomorrow and scuttling around in the dark with my headlamp and 9 million layers of clothes and dogs going crazy at the slightest thing because everything looks weird in the dark. It's supposed to be 58 degrees tomorrow too, I should steal just one more day but I know that I won't. Hope you all enjoyed your holidaze too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Garlic in my soul

I've been trying for years now to stop Christmas from coming, at least to my house. I'll save you the long winded 'I Hate the Holidays' rant because either you're already on board here and you've been undergoing your own personal hell for the past 6-8 weeks or you love the holidays and can't bear to have them spoiled by grinchy whiners like me. So if you want a good rant you can go over to Violent Acres and read the most excellent post, 'Christmas is consumer gluttony masked as religious sentimentality' because I don't think I can say it any better. This quote sums it up for me.

Hallmark and Kitchenmaid and Toy R Us have hijacked our holidays to the point where there is nothing actually enjoyable about them anymore. There’s just this vague, almost overwhelming urge to buy, buy, buy until we run completely out of money.

The very worst part is 90% of the shit we’re buying is crap that no one needs or wants. I mean, how many of you have ever sat around thinking, “You know what I could really use? A basket of salami and mustard…”

For years I've been begging my family for a truce on Christmas. We all have more Stuff than we need and the ability to buy whatever Stuff we want so why stess over it all? We know we love each other, why do we need to express it with Stuff? Most of the Stuff they give me goes straight to the Humane Society's thrift store because I have a small house and not a lot of room for more Stuff. At one point I gave up and starting giving checks and gift cards then last year decided that's it I'm opting out and didn't get anything for anybody (except my grandparents because I will never in a million years get them on board with this). I figured that that would be that, finally they would all realize I'm serious and leave me out of it this year. But sadly like the Grinch I find myself standing on top of the hill listening to the damn Who's singing away down in Whoville. Or rather my family still gave me gifts, checks, etc. Even my aunt who was on board with the moratorium last year and in years past. Sigh. My plan foiled yet again. I don't understand this compulsive need to give Stuff at this time of year (my family is mostly Jewish for chrissakes) and I hate getting gifts without giving something in return so I'm in something of a pickle. I can hold firm and not give anything again this year in hopes the message will finally get through and feel bad about all the gifts I've gotten or I can cave in and send last minute checks/gift cards again but then the cycle continues.

On the bright side the one thing I do really like about Christmas is getting together with my friends and this year we're having the festivities at my house. This means we've been cleaning and cleaning and cleaning which is not a bad thing because things were getting dire. The dust bunnies were starting to turn evil.

I'm no Martha Stewart but I'm pretty sure it's frowned upon to have dust bunnies threatening your guests.

I guess it's also bad form to serve wine in regular drinking glasses. Or so Jonny informed me on Sunday. The Sunday before Christmas. Because everybody who hates crowds and shopping and stressed out mayhem loves to go to Target on the Sunday before Christmas to buy glasses that they're going to use maybe once a year and probably break in the dishwasher anyway. We barely have space for the 3 wine glasses we already have, where are the new ones going to live? Jonny assures me there is a home somewhere for them and that it's important to serve wine in proper glassware even to our friends who aren't the sort of people who typically fuss over this kind of thing.

I'm unconvinced but I see that if I volunteer to go to Target maybe I can convince him to go to the grocery store to buy me some salad stuff for next week's lunches. Because I HATE Christmas music. To the very depths of my being. It sends me straight to Crazyville in 30 seconds or less. Last Thursday night in the grocery store I was at my breaking point and ready to claw my eyeballs out as well as the eyeballs of everyone around me. Because they've been playing this insipid repetitive treacly crap in the grocery store since before Thanksgiving and frankly I've had enough. It's very hard to avoid the grocery store because of needing food for survival and all. Now the other part of the story here is that Target, at least the one in Boulder, does not play Christmas music or music of any kind for that matter. I love you Boulder Target. So I decided I'd brave the chaos of the parking lot and stressed out last minute shoppers on the Sunday before Christmas if only Jonny would buy me some food so I'm not a danger to myself and others in the grocery store.

In the end it was not so bad, I didn't even have to wait in a line to check out. I hit a bit of speed bump when I discovered that apparently you need different glasses for white wine and red wine but I decided screw that noise, I have no idea what sort of wine we'll be having and at this point people will be lucky not to be drinking out of novelty Scooby Doo glasses.

I'm looking forward to a fun night with friends, a relaxing 4 day weekend and the day when I can safely return to the grocery store. Now if only someone could do something about the bad 70's music they play in there the rest of the year. Hopefully the rest of you are not as cranky as me and enjoying your holiday season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Stacy Peardot-Goudy Timing Workshop

I went up to Stacy's place today for a 1/2 day workshop on timing. This is a weak point for me so I'm always happy to get help from someone with a good eye when I can. I had a great time, I always love going up there. It's a beautiful facility as you can see from the video. The floor is so nice and springy, great for my gimpy knee, great for the dogs. I thought Strummer was struggling a bit with the footing, more so than Cody did last year but I think the small loss of traction is well worth the cushioning.

Strummer was such a good boy, I was so pleased with him. He was mostly quiet in his crate, a few bits of barking here and there but no hysterical out of his head screaming/lunging/etc. at the dog in the ring. He had a few lunges when I was trying to get him outside and a dog was running but only 2-3 and no screaming and I got him back quickly enough. He had no problems with any of the other dogs and the only time he ran off or broke focus was during one of the first runs where Stacy said loudly 'Oh what a good boy' just as he was running past her and he had to run over to flirt with her. He held all his stays and had great focus and enthusiasm.

Holy smokes people, it is hard to handle a dog like this, so little margin for error and at times my brain was a blur. It was like 13 degrees or something outside first thing in the morning and only minimal heating inside with a few space heaters so Strum was super speedy. I'm so glad I had someone tape me, just like the swimming I can't believe what a spaz I look like at times out there. Front crosses have never been a strong point for me so it was good to be able to practice so many. I did only one rear cross the whole workshop and that was only because I was out of position and behind with Strum blasting out of a straight tunnel and I was working purely on damage control. Stacy made a good point that if that happens the best thing to do is to stop and reward the dog and try again rather than try to salvage something gone wrong. It's a hard thing to remember in the heat of the moment but it makes good sense so I'll have to try to drill that into my brain.

I'm forever forgetting to use a quiet little 'Strum' to get his attention. It works great and once I finally remembered to do it I was able to keep him out of multiple tunnel traps. I use very few verbals when I run so it doesn't take much to get his attention.

I felt totally hopeless when we ran the first course the first time and by the end after we'd beaten it to death it felt so easy. Now if only Stacy could follow me around the course at trials and tell me what to do and I could have multiple do-overs I'd have no problem. I'm getting better at working it out myself but somehow it feels like I should know what I'm doing by now. I wished I could have stayed for the afternoon workshop but the one workshop was already a huge splurge. I suppose I have enough stuff running around in my head for one day anyway.

There were no course maps so it's hard to discuss the video but I thought I'd show off my baby dog anyway. It's a nice documentation of where we're at in our training right now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Somewhere in my soul, there's always rock-n-roll

Saw a great movie courtesy of Netflix last night called 'Young at Heart'. So good I managed to stay awake through the entire thing. It's a documentary about a group of seniors (ave. age of the group is in the 80's) called the 'Young at Heart Chorus' who sing all manner of rock songs-punk, alternative, new wave-you name it. The movie starts out with a rousing rendition of The Clash's 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' and showcases the bands live performances, videos and practice sessions as well as their lives. They're not a funny novelty act either, they're awesome and some of their versions kick butt over the original (give me their version of Sonic Youth's 'Schizophrenia' over the original ANY day). They tour (been to Europe even) and sell out huge concert halls. They performed in a prison and reduced a field of inmates to tears with a song dedicated to one of their members who had died that morning.

I hope I'm rocking like that when I'm in my 80's. Heck, I wish I was rocking like that now.

Here's a link
to one of their videos, a cover of The Ramones 'I Wanna Be Sedated'. Not the best example of their singing abilities but I love the Ramones so there.

Monday, December 15, 2008


It was -12 degrees this morning with a -36 degree wind chill factor so needless to say nobody got their morning walkies. Strummer rushed outside to do his business and came back in limping after less than a minute or 2. All the dogs have trouble with their feet in the extreme cold. Cody & Strum have booties but Lola doesn't. I bought her a pair a long time ago and they lasted not even 5 minutes. I'd try again now that she's older and not quite as crazy but we have so few days that she needs them and they're so expensive. Cody wears them on his back feet but gets pissy when he has them on his front feet. Sometimes he'll get 20 minutes into a walk then stop and refuse to go any farther. Strum tolerates his booties but only just. At some point I decided it was easier to wait out the bad weather than deal with their foot fetishes. And there's the weirdness that the extreme cold brings on as well. This morning Strum broke out in his stress dander and had his tail tucked on the short walk from the parking lot to the office. Is there nothing this dog won't react to?

But today I have Strum with me at work and it's warmed up to -1/-1 at lunchtime and the sun is shining brightly so I put on his coat and booties and we managed almost 15 minutes of walking. His feet were cold when I took the booties off so I was glad I didn't try to go much further. I was fine bundled up in layers and layers of fleece & down and what have you. Several years ago I bought a neoprene/fleece face mask and that makes all the difference. Still it's the kind of weather where it hurts to breathe the air and I don't see the point of hanging out in it if I don't have to. Supposed to go up to the 30's tomorrow so hopefully we can get back to our normal exercise/training routine if it's not too horrible first thing in the morning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

SwimLabs session and arctic agility

I'll go out in most weather because I fancy myself a tough Chicago native and most of the weather here in Boulder is so mild by comparison. I'm fine as long as I'm moving. But I don't think it got much above 6 degrees today with a -12 degree wind chill. For our non-American readers 6 degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius translates to freakin' cold. Too cold for skijoring despite 5 inches or so of fresh snow. Yes, you Canadians can laugh at the wimpy Chicago native but I wasn't going out in that. O.k., I went out in it for a bit when the sun came out-shoveled the driveway and a good portion of my backyard so we could continue running dogwalk practice and took a short 30 minute walk with the dogs but that was it. I swear it took more time to get the dogs in their coats & booties and waxy stuff on the feetsies of those who won't wear booties and all my jackets and fleeces and heavy boots and Yax Trax than it took to take the walk.

I decided to work up to a 4' height plank/table in the backyard which meant another trip to Home Depot yesterday for more PVC and more sawing and PVC shavings everywhere. Good thing I never cleaned up the first batch, I'll wait until Strum's dogwalk is perfect then clean up the mess. I'm going in 6" increments rather than 4" from 2' to 4' because he's doing so well in the backyard and I think he can handle it. Sure enough he was 10/10 yesterday afternoon for his first time at 2'-6" and was again 10/10 today. I haven't had time to cut the 3'-0" legs so he'll have to stay at 2'-6" for a few more days. Plus it's such a hassle to change the legs out. I put grease on them each time but even so they get jammed in so tight it takes 2 people to pull them out. This will be even more fun with temps in the 10's-20's at night this week when I get home from work.

I'm still having trouble with him at the practice field. Some days he's 90-100% and I feel like a super training genius and other days it all falls apart and I want to tear my hair out. He's not been able to progress past the top part of the down plank of the 2' lowered dogwalk. As soon as the place he hits the down ramp changes he can't/won't adjust his stride to hit the bottom. I do think he understands he's getting rewarded for something about the bottom because he'll get lazy and run halfway up the plank then turn around and run back down. Or maybe he thinks the treat gizmo is randomly rewarding him and he's in a hurry to get back to the gizmo in hopes it'll spit kibble at him. And don't get me going about the gizmo. It's started not working again, especially at a distance. I changed out the batteries in the remote and the gizmo but still it refuses to dispense sometimes. It's o.k. if I stand right next to it but that defeats the purpose.

At least we can still practice in the yard. There's a bit of snow still on the ground where I shoveled but not enough to be a problem. Only trouble is that the plank gets slippery with snow that Strum tracks back on it if I do too many reps so I have to brush it off or stick to 10 reps. This will be the only sort of agility I can do all week with any of the dogs since the practice field will be snowed in. No indoor drop in or classes at Boulder County Fairgrounds this week either so I'm stuck. Poor Cody and Lola have a trial in 3 weeks and have had practically no practice in how many weeks? Lola has had nothing and Cody went to course run thru's at Boulder County Fairgrounds on Monday for a special treat but I couldn't do a whole lot of training. Oh well, no point fretting over it, not much I can do short of going out to Biscuit Eaters with a couple of hair dryers and an extension chord. Hmmm, maybe that's not a bad idea.

I was supposed to go up to Stacy Peardot's place for a 1/2 day seminar but thankfully she canceled. The highways were terrible and the steep dirt road up to her place is no fun when it's icy. Plus the cold people. If it was 6 degrees down here who knows how cold it was up at 1000 ft. or so higher and her arena is indoors but not heated save a few space heaters. I was SO happy she canceled, I can't imagine that would have been much fun. Plus it probably would have taken me at least 3 hours each way. I think we're rescheduled for next Saturday and hopefully the weather will be better.

Since it was too cold to do much of anything we spent the day cleaning the house since we'll be having people here for x-mas. What a nightmare, Morticia Adams would be jealous of all the dust, cobwebs and assorted grime. The worst part is once you start cleaning you start noticing dirt you didn't even know existed and it all seems so hopeless. Every year we clean the house for holiday guests and every year we can't believe what pigs we are and we're going to be better and every year it doesn't happen. Would be nice to hire a cleaning service. Not going to happen unless we win the lottery but I can dream. Surely someone can design a vacuum that a dog can push. I have all this boundless energy bouncing around my house, there must be some way to put it to good use.

Yesterday I went down to the south suburbs of Denver for a training session at SwimLabs. My masters group arranged a group session so for $25 I got a 20 minute evaluation in their fancy pants endless pool with mirrors on the bottom and sides and underwater video cameras. They film you, play the video back on a big screen, give you suggestions on improving your stroke then let you try them out and film you again. In the end you get a DVD with Dartfish analysis to take home so you can remember everything from the lesson.

I know, every 44 year old woman's dream to be videotaped from all angles in a swimsuit. But it was a real eye opener for me. The instructor didn't tell me anything that my masters coach hasn't already told me over the past few years but it was something else to see myself swimming and see all the mistakes right there. Every once in a while the instructor would switch over the video to footage of a top swimmer as comparison and the first time he did it I didn't realize and thought 'wow, I improved so much with that one little tip and hey I don't look so bad in a swimsuit after all.' Then I realized the real reason my stroke was so perfect and I had suddenly lost 10 lbs. I knew my stroke needed work but I had no idea what a complete and utter spaz I am in the water. I need to practice more drills and he gave me some good ones. I'm going to try to get to masters a little bit early so I can work on them before practice. I'm happy to have the DVD too, it's so much easier to remember things when you have a visual. Maybe I'll take my video camera to Stacy's seminar next week and beg someone to tape me. It makes such a difference when you can see what you're doing.

We should get temps. at least back into the 30's next week, hopefully won't be too bad in the morning so I can at least walk everybody. I hate messing with the booties and Cody is a pain in the ass about them sometimes flat out refusing to walk but it's the only way we can go any distance without their feet getting too cold from the snow or sore from the deicer on the streets & sidewalks. I'm glad we don't have this weather all the time, I'd go crazy with all the hassle. Hew many weeks until spring?

Friday, December 12, 2008

That's what I'm talkin' about

If you ever needed a reason not to attempt an ultra-marathon:

I'm sure this has been all over the web on the ultra sites but I only just found it on somebody's blog and I can't help sharing the love. If that's not gross enough for you perhaps you'd like some tips on how to make your own toenail necklace. The perfect gift for that special someone this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Silly lawn statuary.

Was in shorts riding my mountain bike on the trails on Sunday and woke up this morning to skijoring weather. Just got all my harnesses, towlines, etc. in the mail last night but the custom made harnesses don't fit quite right so they'll need to go back for adjustments. I was all set to head out to the park at 6:15 this morning and thought it would be better to wait and get the harnesses just right. Much to Jonny's relief. He's mega busy at work today and didn't want to have to deal with a trip to the hospital. He was furious when he saw the towropes, etc. last night. I'm sure I told him what I was up to and he just wasn't listening. That's my story anyway. Temps. in the 40's and 50's this week mean it'll be a while until I have the chance to try again plus who knows how long it will be until I get my new harnesses. I can feel it though, this will be the year I finally get to try it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Strummer's First Trial

First off can I say what an awesome husband I have? He came to the trial at 2:00 to videotape us and cheer us on. We didn't have our Tunnelers run until around 4:40 and our Jumpers run was at 6:40. Now he likes watching agility and was especially keen to see Strummer's debut but he doesn't love it that much that he wants to sit around for over 4 1/2 hours to watch less than a minute of Strummer in the ring, especially when they turned the heat off at 5:00 and it got so cold he was shivering and he had hardly eaten all day, etc. Heck, I don't love agility that much either.

The highlight of the trial for me was Strummer's behavior. I worked so hard on that and yesterday it paid off. He had absolutely no problems around the crowds of other dogs, had wonderful focus on me, no lunging at the dogs in the ring, nothing even approaching an outburst, what an awesome boy when I think about how far he's come. I realized I need to teach him a few more tricks and improve on the ones I've already taught him so he has more to do while he's warming up and waiting his turn.

His first run was Tunnelers and it was a bit wild. He had a zillion run-bys, not entirely sure why. On the one hand you could argue that we never practice a whole course of just tunnels so maybe he was confused but I can't shake the feeling that maybe it was something with my handling. I was mad at myself afterwards for having him go back and redo every tunnel that he missed. My plan, as it always is, was to keep going if he missed a tunnel, not sure what gremlins took my brains hostage and made me do otherwise. Honestly I could care less about a novice tunnelers Q. I'm not sure how much NADAC we'll end up doing anyway, I only signed up for this trial because it was 20 minutes from my house at the arena where Strum takes classes and goes to practice run-throughs so I thought it would be a great opportunity for him to get some trial experience. And it was.

After that crazy Tunnelers run I was determined we were going to do better in Jumpers. The course was easy, no side changes for the way I chose to handle it and only one trap. He had a beautiful fast run and I had a stupid timing error with my handling, pulling him off a jump. At least I was early with my cue and not late but in essence I ended up calling him off a jump he was supposed to take. Poor guy did it too, he's such a good boy. I felt terrible about confusing him. Highlight of the run was his recall to heel on a 3 jump lead out. We've practiced this a zillion times with 1 or 2 jumps but not so much with 3. He collected perfectly and had a nice turn. What a nice startline stay too, I was most nervous about that. He broke his stay at the warm-up jump a couple of times which was unusual, I think I've been careless about pairing too much motion with my arm and his verbal release. He was solid in the ring for both runs but I'll have to proof that stay a bit more so there's no confusion in his mind.

I thought his jumping looked nice for a baby dog, no ticked or knocked bars and nice take-off and landing points for most of the jumps. Still I think I need to work more jumping drills. I've been slacking off of those lately because of the focus on weave pole training. I hate to work him on too many strenuous things at once.

I didn't hang around to find out what his placement was but even with the 4 seconds lost to the refusal he was 6 seconds under course time. Technically it was a Q because NADAC doesn't charge refusals but again I don't care all that much and it didn't feel like it should have been one. Didn't even think to pick up his Q ribbon. Jonny thought I should have since it was his first but oh well. It would have ended up lost in a pile somewhere anyway.

Poor guy was exhausted when we finally got home. I'd taken him and Cody for a 3 mile walk/run in the morning before the trial. I left him in the car rather than bother with a crate inside where it was noisy and crowded but I have no idea how much he rested. He seemed calm enough when I went to get him out of the car but who knows if he slept any.

Can't wait for our next trial, he's a kick in the pants to run. I signed him up for a DOCNA trial at the same venue in February. Not sure if his contacts will be ready for the ring but I figure we can run past them if we have to. I'm more interested in getting some ring experience at this point and I want to take advantage of the opportunity to do it at a laid back one ring trial on his home turf.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Bee's Knees

This guy cracks me up and I'm supposing that anyone who's been through knee surgery can relate to this (I know I can). I've been going through PT since, oh, June or something for my knee which has been screwed up even further as a result of the foot surgery and my husband takes every opportunity to laugh at me doing my silly exercises some of which involve me hobbling with an elastic band around my ankles back and forth across the living room like that old Frogger video game.

I don't know Helen so I'm missing out on part of the joke but I get the gist of it. If I was her though I wouldn't take that smackdown, I'd have some words for that smartypants.

Strummer's first trial is tomorrow, just a round of Jumpers and Tunnelers at a NADAC trial less than 20 minutes from my house. I started us both on the Vallium last Tuesday. Goal is not to get banned from NADAC for life.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Crazy Dog Lady Fashions Presents...

I went a little crazy this weekend with the running dogwalk practice/video thing. On Saturday I decided to try Strummer out on the full dogwalk lowered to 2'. He had a great week in the yard with the 22" table, the reps went something like 20/21, 24/26, 30/30, 28/30 all with the treat gizmo for reward so I figured I wasn't pushing him hard enough and that the 24" table wouldn't be much of a challenge. I was so sure I'd have rave reviews of his first time on a full lowered dogwalk but I'm afraid the results were dismal. 1/9 hits (11%) (one was iffy and I didn't count it) and I rewarded 3 of those misses though one was the iffy one. Luckily my timing with my clicks was way off for the misses and good for the one hit but that's about the only positive thing to say about the training session. Well that and his speed. How awesome will his dogwalk be when I finally get it right? The clicks for the misses were probably late because I wasn't sure and decided to reward in the end. Jonny shot some video for me and I feel obliged to post it even though the results are not at all what I wanted. But it's important to document the bad stuff as well as the good. The best part of the video is the start where my snarky husband says, 'This video brought to you by Crazy Dog Lady Fashions'. Unfortunately this is a common dog outfit for me for winter and in fact it gets worse. I knew it was bad but I didn't realize it was quite that bad. It was snowing while I was taping so every once in a while there's a white streak on the video, couldn't do much about that.

Saturday's training session w/ the full lowered dogwalk:

Yesterday's performance was still bugging me today so I decided to run Strum back to the field to try some backchaining. I'm not sure if he was having problems because he still doesn't understand the concept of adjusting his stride to hit the yellow zone or if he understands but couldn't figure out how to control himself to do it. He's so fast and big strided, there's little room for error. Or maybe he simply didn't generalize the idea of the plank/table set-up at home to the dogwalk at the practice field. I've worked the plank/table set-up at the practice field but not all that often and not recently that I can remember. I put the table next to the up side of the down ramp so he had a way to get up on the dogwalk and I tried some reps. Then I gradually moved the table back so he would have more of a running start. The further back the table went, the worse his results. I made a big mistake of doing way too many reps. I should have stopped at 15, his success rate would have been 14/16 (89%). Instead I did a whopping 34 reps for a final tally of 21/34 (62%). The good news was that my timing with my clicks was much improved and I only rewarded one miss (by mistake of course). Toward the end of the session when he was starting from further back and having more misses I decided to move him closer so he could have some success and he did. I didn't have the patience to edit 7 minutes worth of training video so I included the reps at the beginning of the session and the end. It's mostly to document the process so I don't feel like I need every single rep recorded for posterity.

On a positive note, his weave entry training is coming along really well. I don't like to work him 2 days in a row on weaves but as we were leaving I couldn't resist doing just a few reps and he was perfect, getting entries that were plaguing him at the beginning of the week and flying through a set of 12 poles after a tunnel. Whee.

The other people that train at the field must think I'm crazy because I was leaving at 10 am with Cody & Lola when they arrived then returned again at around 12:30 just as they were leaving. I took Team Old School out there in the morning to do the weave and contact exercises that were set up. They did fairly well, no missed contacts at all (maybe some dogwalk ups, I wasn't paying attention to that) and I think only 1 or 2 missed weave entries per dog. It was cloudy and nice and cold-low 30's I'd guess-and the dogs were running wild. Fast, happy, excited hyperpants dogs, I love winter agility. I was overdressed in that puffy vest and sweating by the end of it. Now if only the serious snow will hold off for another few weeks so I can get that darn dogwalk perfected.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cody Baloney Mascarpone

A bummer of a Thanksgiving as our friend whom we normally celebrate the holiday with was in CA visiting his mom who had to be rushed to the hospital at the start of the week and likely will not live to see the end of the week. His wife flew out on Thanksgiving day to be with them. Not a happy time for them.

This left Jonny and me to fend for ourselves since the house was in no condition for last minute dinner guests. Of course this didn't stop Jonny from asking a friend inside who was walking the next door neighbor's dog at 8 am. I'm still in my jammies like a common Boulder trust funder. Do you know what usually goes down in this house on a workday before 8 am? I'll give you a hint, a lot. But there I am in a pair of pink fleece jammy bottoms with reindeer on them and an ancient sweatshirt, can't recall if I've brushed my hair yet, definitely haven't brushed my teeth yet and when was the last time I showered? The house is in an equal state of dishevelment and confusion and a bit fuzzy around the edges. Of course this friend has a beautiful perfect house in the mountains that looks like something out of a magazine with all fancy appliances and cabinets and floors and furniture not covered in dog hair even though she has a dog. And she always looks perfect too, perfect hair and fashionable clothes, never the crazy dog lady look even though she walks dogs for a living. Thankfully she is very nice and says, well, she would be in her jammies too if she didn't have to work. Jonny gives her coffee, good coffee, and where else is she going to get good coffee at 8 am on Thanksgiving morning so I think she's happy enough for that and never mind the dog fuzz and my frightful appearance.

It goes without saying that Jonny will do the cooking because he's an excellent cook and I can make frozen pizza. Usually. Last time I was cooking something, and by cooking I mean boiling up water for pasta and opening up a jar of pasta sauce, Jonny had to pop out to the store for a few minutes and leave me unattended at the stove, which I'm pretty sure is a violation of our home owner's insurance, and his final words to me were, 'Please don't set anything on fire.' But for some reason I can bake and baking's not Jonny's thing so I decide to make 'Chocolate Truffle Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Topping'. Also known as 'Chocolate Crack Pie'. The fumes from the melting chocolate, butter and sugar mixture for the filling alone are enough to put you in a diabetic coma, never mind the evil topping. You don't want to know what's in the topping. You just eat it and never mind the sugar fits.

The other fun thing about this dessert is that it sounds fancy pants and snooty and difficult to make but it's so easy a monkey could do it. You can even make it while in your underwear, a pair of green smartwool hiking socks, clogs and a grubby sweatshirt while shaking your bumpy to Dag Nasty's 'All Ages Show' played at full volume. The other fun thing is that I get to use both the Cuisinart and the fancy electric stand mixer that my grandmother bought me. I'm still trying to figure out what the big hook attachment that came with the mixer is for. I use it for playing practical jokes on my husband but I suppose that's not the traditional use for it.

Now I'm not saying there were no victims here. Strummer ended up covered in graham cracker crumbs in the morning and later that night had a fair bit of mascarpone in his fuzz but we have plenty of spare dogs to clean him up. I also very nearly did start a fire but that was in the process of boiling water for tea and Jonny saved the day so all was good.

Not the most appetizing photo but you get the idea.

We had a nice Quorn roast (I can't tolerate soy all that well so no Tofurkey in our house) a green bean/brussels sprouts casserole, some stuffing, nothing too fancy or extreme. Neither of us are into making a big fuss, we'd rather spend the day off relaxing.

Friday we took a little trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike up to Lake Haiyaha. I was surprised to be greeted with 5" of snow on the trail at the very start. I figured we might find a dusting on the upper portions of the trail but didn't think we'd be sliding on snow and ice right from the get go. If only I'd thought to bring my Yax Trax. Still, it was a beautiful day, not too cold and no wind. It started out with gorgeous blue sunny skies and ended with a fairly good amount of snow falling. The trail starts out with a steepy steep climb up to Nymph Lake where you get a short break then it's back to huffing and puffing up to Dream Lake which is as far as most of the tourists go. Today we had to the lake to ourselves, a rarity. Then it's some more steep climbing through the woods the the trail opens up to some exposed areas that offer both a breathtaking view of the valley below and a steep drop-off from the narrow trail, especially harrowing when the narrow trail is snowy and icy. 2 1/4 miles or so later you end up at Lake Haiyaha where the wind is howling and the snow is whirling and you don't want to spend too much time taking photos or your hands will freeze solid.

This was the only place on the entire hike where I was cold.

Here's what Dream Lake looks like in summer. And here's what it looked like on Friday.

Do I look 'sporty' or 'crazy dog lady'? Could go either way if you ask me.

There were flecks of snow whirling around in the air even when the skies above were bright blue. It was like being in a snow globe. Then it started to snow for real, so beautiful. What a great way to work off the crack chocolate pie, which is gone as of Saturday afternoon. Anybody got a spare bottle of insulin?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Running Dogwalk, 11-22-2008

Finally had a chance to shoot some video. Light was terrible in my yard at that hour and I had to shoot from that weird angle or I'd be shooting into the sun but oh well. I started out the session as normal with the treat gizmo and he was 12 hits/13 reps, 92% (missed the 5th rep). Then I put the gizmo away and put his tug under the flower pot. I mixed in some reps where I had the toy on me. He was 8/9, 89% (missed the first rep, definitely overexcited) for the toy under flower pot and 6/6, 100% for the toy on me (32/34, 94% for the whole session). BUT he was looking at me for all but one of each type of toy rep. Of the reps where he was looking at me with the flower pot/tug for reward he was looking at me at the very end of the board for 7/7. Of the reps where he was looking at me and I had the toy on me he was looking at me as he was coming down the board for 4/5, looked at me at the end of the board for 1/5. None of this is terribly surprising but it's interesting to see it all broken down into numbers, at least for me. The moral of the story is that he's going to look at me if I use a toy. I imagine if I use the flower pot/toy more often he'll start looking ahead again but then I have the same problem of fading it away. One answer is to stop rewarding the hits unless he's looking/running forward. But I'm not sure I can bring myself to do it, it's taken me so long to get that hit at the bottom. On the other hand I fear we'll never progress if I don't up the ante a bit. The other option is to add a jump or tunnel after the plank and reward him after that and I like that option a lot better but the problem is that I have no more room in my yard, I can only do it out at the practice field. So I'm back to thinking that maybe I'll stick with the treat gizmo for 2 more weeks and wait until he's solid on the low dogwalk before I worry about proofing and fading the gizmo. At some point I'll have to work on proofing/fading in the yard too just to get enough reps in but I'll start out at the field where my options are more practical.

Here's the video. Feel free to 'tsk tsk' all you want at my late clicks, wow my timing was bad for some of those. I need to tape more often so I can keep tabs on any bad habits I'm getting into.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pure Mania

Had some more practice with the dogwalk plank this morning and I'll get to that but first can we discuss the chaos that these morning training sessions are turning into? This morning I came back from walking the dogs and tried to go in the yard to clean up before training and Strummer was so out of his mind excited about the prospect of training that he charged out the door from behind me knocking my legs out from under me and landing me on my ass. I must have had murder in my eyes because Jonny looked concerned and said 'Dont' hurt him'. Well of course I didn't hurt him but I was furious. Do you know how much we practice sitting at the door and waiting for a release word before you go out? He so knows better. But obviously not. I think Jonny is not sticking with the program and since Jonny was there at the door too he thought it was o.k. to charge out. Yeah, that's it, when in doubt blame the husband.

He had his training session and Lola was barking her head off but that's nothing new. Then I put him in the house and Lola was still barking her head off and rushing at the door so I told her I don't think so missy and gave Cody his turn since he was being a good quiet boy. And that's when the mayhem twins exploded into a hysterical barking fit at the window looking onto the yard. I've been letting Strum watch out the window as long as he's doing it quietly and he's been good for weeks now but Lola was mad and she pushed him over his threshold.

I went in the house to shut off all access to windows that open onto the backyard. I shut one bedroom door and leaned a gate up against the other one rather than shutting it because Strum's crate blocks the bedroom door so I have to move it which means the mountains of stuff on top of it go spilling onto the floor. I go back outside and within seconds I have mayhem again. Strum has said, 'phffbbtt, you have got to be kidding me' to the gate leaning against the bedroom door and Lola is at the back door bark screaming. Let's try it again. I say to heck with the mess, move the crate and shut the bedroom door and put the gate up against the doorway (no door to shut) leading to the mudroom so Lola can't get to the back door. I go outside and once again within seconds I have hysterical barking. This time I see a little black and white head at the other bedroom window and Lola is at the back door again. I go inside to see that Lola has jumped the gate and Strummer has busted through the bedroom door which doesn't shut properly. Sigh. I got up how extra early in the morning for this? I give up on Lola at the back door and move the gate to the other bedroom door that won't shut properly. Go outside. Sigh again. There's that little black & white head barking at the bedroom window. I swear I can see the devil horns sticking out of his head. I go inside and Strum has busted through both the gate and the door. I've run out of both patience and swear words. I don't want to crate him because I'm afraid he'll hurt himself. So I get another gate, one that will squeeze tight between the door frame, put up the second gate and shut the door. Finally this works. I'm pretty sure Susan Garrett doesn't have these problems at her house. I'm going back to being a cat person.

Training, yes, there was actual training before the mayhem ensued. I started off with the treat gizmo as per usual for about 6 reps. Strum got all but one, missing the 5th. This was the only miss for the whole session. Then I put the gizmo away and brought out a tug toy that he hasn't seen for awhile. I played with him for a bit then put the toy under a heavy terracotta flower pot located where the gizmo would normally be. He had solid hits for all the reps and was looking at me for maybe 2/6 reps. For the most part he was focusing ahead on the flower pot. I also mixed in some reps where I kept the toy on me and threw it for him for reward, still keeping the flower pot in it's place. Again I had maybe 2-3/6 reps of him looking at me instead of ahead. At least when he was looking at me it was at the very end of the plank instead of most of the way down which is what I've had in the past. I think the secret to having the toy on me is to throw it before he's too close to the end of the plank so he doesn't have a chance to think about looking at me. Of course I have to be careful with the timing so I make sure he's likely to have a hit before I throw. I'll try to get some video this weekend so I can get a better idea of what's going on in case I'm missing something.

This weekend I move the table up to 22". Getting close to being ready for a lowered regular dog walk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Running Dogwalk Update

It's been a while since I posted any updates on Strummy's contact training. I've got some new video on the camera but who knows when I'll have time to upload it.

I raised the table up to 20" on Sunday and so far his training for the week looks like this:

Sunday - 19/20 hits, 95%

Monday - 19/20 hits, 95%

Tuesday - 19/20 hits, 95%

Wednesday - 17/20 hits, 85%

The misses occurred at varying reps though usually in the first 10 reps. Today's were #3, 4 and maybe 5 or 6.

My plan is to go to 22" then 24" then introduce him to the lowered dogwalk at the practice field which I think is 24".

My biggest dilemma at the moment is when/how to proof. This week's practice sessions were all the plank on the table with the treat gizmo for reward. I can stand still anywhere around the plank/table or run beside him, run past him, etc., body position/movement don't matter as long as the treat gizmo is there. If I take the treat gizmo away and use a toy for reward, he watches me all the way down the plank-NOT what I want. He's usually successful in that he hits front feet in the yellow but he sometimes comes off the side of the plank and I don't want his eyes on me the whole time. Some days the toy gets him amped way up and success rates go down. Other days he's fine with the toy. The one thing that seems to work is to leave the gizmo out but switch off rewarding with the gizmo and a toy thrown right where the gizmo is. He's completely obsessed with the gizmo now, I think watching the treats come out is more reinforcing than the actual treats (I'm only using his regular meal kibble for treats) and I do feel he's targeting/focusing on it too much. This was my main reservation with using the gizmo, I have to figure out how to fade it and when. Do I wait until I have really solid behavior on the full sized dog walk or do I start now that I have fairly solid behavior on the plank? I'd like to start him on the dogwalk next month and in a way I think he's ready but I don't know, maybe I should do more proofing on the plank first.

One thing's for sure, he loves the training. Crazy dog was foaming at the mouth at the end of his session this morning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Class #3

We survived yet another Monday night class, this time without a single hysterical fit. I won't say Strum was ever calm per se but at least no lunging or screaming. Now I had to manage him the whole class which is super fun let me tell you but at least he managed to control himself for the most part. I had a little angry barking from him when I tied him up to walk the courses but he stopped after a few seconds when he realized it wasn't getting him anything. I tried going over to him and rewarding when he was quiet but then he'd start up with the barking again when I left him and he didn't bark after the initial outburst so I decided I could live with a brief tantrum right when I left him and not worry about trying to teach him to shut up for now. I think he'll soon grow out of it (at least I hope so) and his fit doesn't last very long. The one mistake of the night was taking him outside for a break and playing reverse tug/fetch with him. This only got him more riled up and he seemed twice as jeeped when I brought him back inside. After that I took him outside for calming walk breaks rather than rousing play breaks.

He did great with the exercises except some of the weave pole stuff which was way over his head. This week I begged off of the weave stuff I knew he couldn't handle. He needs a boatload more training and I've got a whole plan worked out and it needs to be done away from class.

The exercises were from a Nancy Gyes seminar that my instructor Rob had just attended. We did them one way, then another. Thankfully Rob let us substitute and off-arm cue for an RFP and we had our choice of lead-outs, didn't have to do a lead-out pivot. The rest of the handling was all front crosses, no rears for some reason, probably not intentional, just the way it worked out. I had trouble with one exercise because there I was, running backwards on a front cross again. Rob pointed out that this was o.k. for a few steps but loses it's effectiveness when you do it for 3/4 the distance between 2 jumps and he was right. I had a terrible time working out the footwork on that one but had a bit of progress after trying it a few (zillion) times. The rest of the exercises and front crosses were mostly fine. Some turns were wide and Rob had me tighten them up but otherwise the Strum man did great. Only two bars down the whole night and at least one was likely a handling mistake. He might have been a bit wound up for that second one though.

One more class in this session but I'm going to sign up for the next session since I think these classes are helping Strum a lot. I also signed him up for a 4 hour seminar on handling/timing up at Stacy Peardot's place next month. Hopefully the little monkey brains will behave himself. Maybe I should start stocking up on Valium now.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Wait for it

Not just yet


Just a bit of Friday entertainment on my lunch hour. Carry on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

USDAA Nationals Grand Prix Finals Course

The Grand Prix Finals from Nationals is set up out at my practice field so I decided to give it a go with the older dogs. I didn't think it was a super challenging course but I had the advantage of having watched the big guns run it on the live streaming so made a handling choice that I'm not sure I would have figured out on my own.

Unfortunately they've taken down the video from Nationals and I couldn't remember how they handled the opening. I was thinking most people had led out past Jump #2 but I couldn't get that strategy to work for either Cody or Lola. Maybe it'll work with Strummer, I'll try him out tomorrow if time/weather permit. Anybody remember how the opening was handled? I ended up leading out 3/4 of the way or so to Jump #2 then putting in a front cross between #2 and #3. Worked a treat for both my dogs but not sure that's the fastest way or if it would work for a super fast rocket dog in the finals at nationals. I kept the dog on my left through #7 then front crossed between #7 and #8. I think that was fairly straightforward and most people handled it that way in the finals.

I can see why a lot of dogs were missing that dogwalk contact, if you stayed back to work the contact you got behind at the chute and it was a push to the #10 double. Lola ran the course perfectly except for running past the #11 tire and I had to work to pull her in to the #12 jump before the A-frame but this is a Lola issue. Cody ran it no problem as did most of the dogs in the finals I think. The A-frame was where I cheated and stole a handling move from the video. I saw a few people putting in a blind cross after the A-frame, picking up the dog on the left hand and sending to the #14 jump. I don't think this would have occured to me and if it did I probably would have dismissed it and aimed for a front cross after the A-frame. But I gave the blind a shot with Lola and it worked great. I was able to get into position easily for a front cross between #16 and the #17 weaves and got a nice tight turn through the pinwheel and into the weaves. I put in another front cross between #19 and #20. Some people handled that section with the dog on their right coming off of the A-frame and rear crossed at #15. I didn't like this strategy but gave it a try with Cody to see what would happen. I ended up with wide turns through the pinwheel and couldn't get into position for the front before the weaves so I had to keep him on my left at the weaves. He missed the entry too. Then I had to rear cross the #18 jump and ended up with a wide loopy turn and almost an off course at the #2 jump. So I didn't like that strategy but there were people in the finals who pulled it off nicely. Could be that I had a bad feeling about it so wasn't as precise with my handling as I could have been.

A couple of other variations I remember-Stacy Peardot managed to get a front cross in between the #12 jump and the A-frame. I wish they still had the video up to see how she pulled that off because wow I don't think I could have done that especially without a good independent dogwalk contact. I also saw some people putting a front cross in between #18 and #19 and I liked that option but I think you needed to be able to leave the dog in the weaves and run way ahead to pull that off.

Was fun being able to try the course out after watching all the pro's run it. Of course I'm sure it wasn't set up exactly the same but, eh, close enough.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Strummer Rock Star

Strum was an awesome boy at his second ever group class last night, such a huge improvement over his first class. He made it a whole hour and 10 minutes without losing it then after his last turn he was a bit wound up and the next dog was a super fast BC and the noise of that dog flying through the tunnel was too much for him and he had his first fit of the night. This was the tail end of class though and he'd been so good up until then that I couldn't get too upset about it. He required a lot of treats and management but at least I was able to keep him occupied and under control, no screaming or barking or up on his hind legs lunging expcept for that one little fit at the end of the night. He had a few little lunges where he either stopped himself or I called his name and he snapped out of it before he got crazy.

He also rocked most of the exercises but this was because they happened to be stuff that played to his strengths and things I've been working on with Joy, in particular cues for front crosses and collecting for turns. We had a bit of trouble with the serpentines and it was an exercise I'd worked on with Joy before and had worked on on my own for homework over the summer. Strum was not collecting as he should and as we've practiced but this was a newish place with big time distractions and by the time we got to the serpentines it was the end of the night so he was a combination of fried and sky as kite. He got it in the end though I know if Joy had been there she'd have insisted on it being better and broken it down until he was collecting properly. Something for me to continue to work on at the practice field.

Only one bar down the whole night at class and not a single bar down at our practice session yesterday. I've not been doing jump drills either. I think he's finally settling down a bit and thinking more about what he's doing.

His weave poles are coming along nicely. I finally have him easily weaving 12 poles in practice and he's starting to understand how to collect for entries. He missed his weave entry in class though several times and in the end I had to guide him in with more assistance than I would have liked. In retrospect I should have let it go, I'd rather work on this away from class and not use my body language to help him find entries. I want independence in the weaves right from the start rather than having to fade my body cues later.

He was rock solid on his start line stays and never even thought about leaving me to join the dogs running a standard course in the big ring adjacent to our class. Overall lots of nice progress, hopefully he'll keep it up next week.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

DOCNA Champs Video-Day 2 and Finals

Finally got the rest of the DOCNA video uploaded. I know, you've all been watching the video from USDAA Nationals and here I come along with video of my vet dogs and amateurish handling. Oh well, at least my music is way better. Who's in charge of the music at USDAA Nationals anyway? Awful!!! Sorry, but it is appallingly bad. Subjecting an entire stadium full of people and who knows how many people on the web to Alphaville's 'Forever Young' at the end of the Veteran's Showcase was cruel and unusual punishment and wrong on so many levels. And don't even get me going about 'Luka', one of the worst songs ever and a terrible ear worm. Nothing says 'Congratulations on winning USDAA Nationals' like a horrid soppy ballad about child abuse. That gets stuck in your head for your long drive home.

Anyway, where was I now? Oh yes, my own videos. Course maps are here if you want to follow along. First up is the North American Challenge which is DOCNA's version of USDAA's Grand Prix. Lola's run was clean and went well except for the part where I got lost for a moment and nearly sent her up an off course A-frame. Cody's run is pure comedy. Or tragedy. Depends how you look at it. He starts off by popping out of the weaves at 10 then I over rotate my shoulders and send him into an off course tunnel. After that he's running wild, flying leap off the dogwalk, runs behind me to take an off course jump at the serpentine then completely bypasses the A-frame.

Next we have Day 2 Standard and Jumpers. Cody's Standard run is not bad aside from popping the weaves again and a few wide turns esp. on a turn after the A-frame. It's clean anyway and combined with his Day 1 run it's good enough for 2nd place and to get him into the Finals. Lola's run is both blurry (camera malfunction) and a bit problematic at the start. She's not at all happy with my handling of the tricky opening and has some words for me. Once I get her going though the rest of the run is nice and clean. No refusals in DOCNA and the vet course times are very generous.

Cody's Jumpers run is so nice except for a botched front cross at the start that somehow sends him over the wrong side of a jump. If not for that he would have made the Finals. Oh well, a nice run anyway. Lola's Jumpers run is clean but on the slow side. I barely got her off of the start line because she was freaking out over a dog in the practice area which was right next to the start line. Poor thing but she got over it and did the run though not with as much speed or confidence as I would have liked. Still, can't complain about a clean run especially when it looked like she wasn't going to run at all.

Oh and they made us wear those tie dyed shirts. Tie dye is not normally my thing and I thought I'd be horribly embarrassed having to wear it but the shirts were actually pretty nice and I've even worn it since of my own accord. In front of friends no less. They were shocked and teased me mercilessly but oh well, I gotta be me.

Finally here are the runs from Day 3 Finals. Lola's runs were both clean and very nice. Was thrilled to pieces with her. Cody took an off course yellow tunnel in Standard but otherwise was running with a happy enthusiasm that I could hardly be upset about.

Next DOCNA trial is in February with the same judge we had at Nationals which I'm very happy about, she was a great judge. Also should be Strummer's first 'real' trial if I can get his contacts down by then. Better stop typing and get back to training.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Day Rising

People in my normally comatose neighborhood are out in the streets cheering and lighting fireworks. Crazy man, crazy. Poor Lola is hiding in the bathroom like it's the 4th of July.

I'm cautiously optimistic that hopefully Obama can pull the country out of the crapper.

Strummer finds his brain

Strummer's Monday night class has been cancelled for the past 2 weeks since instructor Rob is at USDAA Nationals so I decided to take him to the course run-throughs at the same arena instead. He's only been to Boulder County Fairgrounds once for class and a couple of times when I took him to work on his manners during trials but he was whining his head off when we pulled into the parking lot so I figured I'd have my hands full again.

I left him in the car while I walked the course which was jumpers with jumps only, no tunnels to break things up. I chose the novice course which had only one change of side though there were some turns and pinwheels to keep things interesting. The club had set up contact equipment next to the ring in the area where we normally have class so people who weren't running the course could practice and I realized that Strum would come around a turn and be heading straight toward the practice area. Darn, I was hoping we'd be able to run without the distraction of other dogs doing agility (the sound of dogs running on contacts is the thing that sets him off the most) but I figured we'd give it a try anyway. It would be tough for him but I thought it was a challenge he could handle, especially if I kept him focused on me and the course.

With 10 dogs or so to go I took him behind the arena to a grassy, lit area where he could run around and play with me a bit to warm him up and run out some of his crazies. We did a few recalls and he came flying right to me though admittedly there weren't any distractions to speak of other than being in a new place. I have a spikey rubber ring that I toss to him then play tug when he brings it back to me so he can run and catch then focus back on me. I'm not a big fan of tug, hurts my arms/shoulders/back, hurts the dog's neck and teeth so I move toward him with a light pressure on the toy rather than trying to pull the toy away-reverse tug I guess. He has the fun and interaction of playing with me but with only a little bit of force on the toy.

Once I felt he was focused on me I took him into the arena, about 5 dogs and a height change left until his turn. He did great in the arena area, didn't even blink at the other dogs and not a single lunge or bark out of him the whole night at the dogs running in the ring. I never had to ask for his attention either. He got a boatload of treats for both calmly watching the dog in the ring and turning his attention to me. We worked on his tricks and some obedience stuff to keep him calm. I didn't use the toy at all inside before his run because I wanted him calm and focused. We did a few recalls to heel over the practice jump then it was time for his turn.

I couldn't recall if Strummer had ever run a full course before so I wasn't too concerned about making it all the way around in one shot but at the same time I wanted to give it a go since he has that NADAC trial coming up in just a month (yikes) and didn't plan a stop anywhere. The $7 entry fee buys you 90 seconds in the ring and I knew he would run around the course in maybe 20-25 seconds but I didn't want to do the course twice or keep him out there for too long so I decided to spend the time rewarding him for his startline so I led out a jump, came back to reward, led out 2 jumps, came back to reward. He seemed fine on the startline and held his stay for all the reps until I finally led out 2 1/2 jumps and released him. I surely need a solid startline stay on the little rocket launcher and I'm not sure how I would have handled the course if I couldn't lead out. Novice courses are hard with the big long line of jumps all in a row! A rear cross would have worked but leading out so I could get a front in worked much nicer and he had a nice smooth turn/cross. He came around the turn to face the contact practice area where other dogs were running, I called his name to keep his attention and he never gave it a second glance-woo hoo! Then he proceeded to run past a whole line of jumps in a row without taking them but I didn't care. I brought him back to the start of the line of jumps and he took them then completely missed out the pinwheel. I brought him around again and he finally finished the sequence, more or less, and we were outta there. He was so happy after his run, came running right up to me wagging his tail and waiting for his treats. What a good boy! I don't think we had any bars down either. He's been getting much better about that in general.

Overall I was thrilled, a huge improvement over his class 2 weeks ago, not a single lunge or bark or scream the whole night. He seemed perfectly comfortable around all the other dogs too, didn't seem the least bit interested in them or worried by them. That's taken a lot of work as well, I haven't written about it due to lack of time but I've had some great people helping me in part with the help of their well socialized dogs. He'll make it around a course eventually, that part will be easy and will come soon enough. Novice is not so easy, trying to keep up with a rocket dog on those big long runs of jumps and we've been working on mostly more technical, masters type stuff.

Class is back on next Monday, hopefully Strum will keep tabs on his brain until then.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween People

I love Halloween. Probably because I don't live in Chicago anymore. Halloween in Chicago, at least in my old neighborhood, not so much fun. But in Boulder it's pretty harmless and kind of fun as far as holidays go. My neighbors put up funny, creepy displays and the kids are entertaining and well mannered. I love passing out candy and the kids with the grossest, creepiest costumes get extras at my house. Sorry to the princesses, ballerinas, cowboys and Spidermans but Halloween is for the freaks, or at least it should be.

I've missed out on Halloween for the last 2 years because I've been at USDAA Nationals so this year I'm looking forward to it. Unfortunately for like the first time ever I tore into the candy before Halloween and now I have to buy more on my way home. I only ever get Reeses peanut butter cups on Halloween and I guess since I missed the last 2 years I was a bit overeager. Plus I think I'm losing all my impulse control in my old age.

With temps. in the 70's and Halloween falling on a Friday night and no school for the kids today I'm expecting a larger crowd than normal. Maybe I'll even get pranked again this year. We got pranked a few years ago and I had a good laugh. Here's the story below. It's a rerun for those readers from the old Training Peaks boards but I'm not sure how many if any are left so I'll post it anyway.


I have to confess I got pranked pretty good last night. We usually don’t get many trick or treaters, anywhere from half a dozen to none if the weather is bad, so I usually make a bit of a fuss over the few we do get. The weather was terrible last night, rain that turned to a heavy wet snow. The dogs loudly announced our first guest at 7:45 pm and it took a little time to usher them out of the room so I could open the door without terrifying anybody. I finally opened the door to a kid wearing a creepy costume that looked like a cross between a ghost and a scarecrow. The freaky thing about it was that there were no holes cut for the eyes, nose, mouth, the sheet went to the ground so you couldn’t see any feet, and the kid was wearing sunglasses. I was a bit taken aback but started apologizing for the delay and the dogs and making a fuss over the costume. The kid just stood there, absolutely no response. This started freaking me out a little so I threw some candy in his bag and shut the door, figuring some kids are just shy.

I settled back into the Vincent Price movie I had been watching and soon noticed that the freaky kid was still standing at the door. I tried to get my husband to do something about it but he just waved me off, telling me to ignore him & he’ll go away. Except he didn’t. I was really unnerved and finally got my husband to go to the door. Being Scottish his natural response was to hurl all kinds of sarcastic remarks at the kid. This had no effect so his next response was to steal the candy out of the kid’s bag. Still no response so he started to pretend to strangle the kid which knocked him over and revealed a suitcase and other props underneath. A bunch of teenagers emerged, laughing their asses off at us. I have to admit, it was a pretty good, creative prank, had me freaked out but was ultimately harmless. The teenagers had some pretty creative costumes too so I gave them a bunch of candy and they went on their way. I even felt bad that my husband had disheveled their dummy a bit. Gotta love those wacky Boulderites.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Video from DOCNA Champs, Day 1

Finally some more video from DOCNA Champs. Here's Day 1 Standard and Jumpers for both dogs and Gamblers for Cody. His Gamblers run wasn't all that stellar and for the gamble when I tried sending him back out to the jump he retook the tunnel instead and then did the gamble perfectly. I only included the video because he looked so happy and pleased with himself at the end of his run.

Cody had a nice Jumpers run. Lola stopped to sniff somewhere along the way and initially I thought it was because I'd stressed her out with an ill-timed rear cross. However when I transferred the video onto video tape and watched it on t.v. on a bigger screen I realized there was a dog running in the warm-up area right near where she stopped. I also realized that the following day when she didn't want to leave the start line for her Jumpers run there was also a dog running in the warm-up area right next to the start line. I'd initially thought she was tired and had had enough since her run was around 6:00 p.m. For some reason that warm-up area and having to run while other dogs were running in it freaked her out. She's fine at the practice field with other loose dogs running courses on other parts of the field but I guess this was way different for her somehow. She's such a sensitive little girl considering what a bossy loud mouth she is at home.

The tricky part of the Standard course for me was the opening. Lola had a bad tire crash at a USDAA show some years ago and I can't lead out on the tire or she runs past it so I had to run with her and front cross. Most people did some kind of lead out. Cody broke his stay so I couldn't even get the front cross in for him. I had to run with him and do a rear cross which worked out fine. I've been experimenting with front crosses at a serpentine instead of staying on one side for a proper serp and I'm not sure I liked that option for this course. Lola had some wide turns but maybe this is a timing issue with my handling (was late with the front crosses). This is a handling system thing, not sure I agree with it for the older dogs who have no trouble with serps but we'll see how it goes with Strummer. Nothing like experimenting with handling at Champs, like wearing a brand new pair of running shoes on marathon race day.

Course maps are posted here or just scroll down a wee bit too see them, I'm too tired to repost them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vote Early and Often

I did the early voting thing this morning. Did the same thing last presidential election and was very glad because the lines in Colorado were hours long on election day and many didn't even get to vote. This year 57% have opted for mail-in ballots so hopefully things will go a bit smoother on election day. I don't trust the mail-in ballots and sure enough there was a guy at the polling place this morning who claimed he never got his. They were going to do something for him so he could vote but it sounded like it was going to be a big hassle. The polling place was busy but I didn't have to wait and aside from the nuisance of having to fill in every little box with a pen that didn't work so well it was no problem. I miss the old voting machines where you punch a card. I know, hanging chad and all that but still it was so much easier and quicker. I read all the ammendments and filled out the cheat sheet they give you beforehand otherwise it would have taken forever. Still it took about 15 minutes to fill in all the boxes by hand. There was a computer option but I don't trust those either. Supposedly last presidential election there was a big problem with them and I don't trust that they've fixed it. Old school pain in the ass paper ballot in person for me.

My grandmother is big on voting, I turned 18 about a week or so before I left for college and she nagged me incessantly to register to vote and get an absentee ballot before I left. It was a pain in the ass with all else I had to do to get ready to go but I did it and was probably the only person on my dorm floor to vote in that election. You know those little old ladies that give you your ballot on election day? She was one of them. She can't do it anymore but she did it way past when she probably should have. It's a long and exhausting day for those little old ladies and they are volunteers so be extra nice to them when they give you your ballot.

Being the voting fanatic that she is she's trying to get my grandfather out to the polls this year to vote. Trouble is he's pushing 91 and has Alzheimer's. He has no idea who Obama and McCain are and even if you were game enough to explain it to him it would fly right out of head just moments after it went in. I'm not even sure he's capable of filling out a ballot. Some states will not allow you to vote if you've been declared mentally incompetent by a judge. Other states don't care. Not sure about the one he lives in and anyway who in the family is going to go to the bother to have him declared mentally incompetent never mind how badly this would upset my grandmother? I have to wonder how many people out there are 'voting' and have no idea who for or why never mind all the old folks in nursing homes and mental facilities who's caregivers are voting for them by mail. I suppose no system is perfect and we have to do the best with the one we've got. Better to let a few votes slip through the cracks than to be too strict and take voting rights away from people who might really be competent or are borderline. Too much grey area there I guess. Though I suppose it goes a long way towards explaining the last 8 years if the problem is more rampant than I think.

Happy voting people.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Strummer's got class

Well I survived Strummy's first group class, just. It started out a bit crazy because I didn't realize they would be running dogs in a ring right next to our class. I knew they would start about 45 minutes into class with run throughs with the general public but I didn't know the club members would be running right at the start of class. While I walked the course for class I had tied Strum up with a full view of the other ring and first he started barking his head off because he didn't like being tied up then he completely lost it when a dog started running in the other ring. Poor guy. I moved him away from the other ring but he kept barking and a couple of people in the class expressed their displeasure (geez, do you know how many classes and seminars I've sat through with barking dogs? You'd think they could cut me a little slack and he shut up pretty quickly when I ignored him. Sheesh, it's a baby dog class.). After that I walked the course with him on leash next to me and he was fine. I'd bring a crate for him but I think he'd pitch a fit in it. He's o.k. in a crate at a trial but not with the types of distractions at class, we need to work up to that.

Anyway, the class is all handling with just jumps, tunnels and a set of 6 weaves. We handle a sequence first one way then another to see what works best. For me though the main point of the class is to get Strummer to be able to work around other dogs. His first run was crazy, he held his stay but had huge wide turns and then caught sight of a dog running in the other ring and ran over. I called him back though and the first 2 times he was so good, came right back but the 3rd time he made it onto the other course and I was very lucky that the other dog didn't care. Strum didn't cause any trouble and came when I called then never ran off again for the rest of the class. So a rocky start but some good success in the end as far as his focus while running. He held all his start lines and aside from that very first crazy run he handled like a dream. He got his weaves more than he missed them and had only one bar down the whole night I think and that one was right at the start during that first crazy run.

It took a little troubleshooting to work out how to handle his crazy lunging at the dog that was working. He would be o.k. for a bit then lose it. I settled on keeping him in the equipment trailer which divided the run-through ring from our class ring. That way he could hear all the commotion and hopefully get used to the chaos without having to watch. I gave him treats while dogs were running but nothing when they weren't unless I sensed him getting ready to lose it then I asked for something like attention or a down first. He never truly relaxed but he didn't bark or lunge while in the trailer and I let him look now and then when I felt he was calm enough to handle it. Another dog and handler were sitting next to us and he was fine with it. He got much better as the evening wore on and his last runs were really nice.

Overall it was a lot of work to keep him from losing it but I was encouraged that he improved as the night wore on. Gives me hope that with time he'll be able to handle himself. By the end of class I even caught him starting to lunge then controlling himself without me asking and that was really encouraging. Got to start somewhere. Gonna be a long road to haul. Geez, why can't I ever have a normal dog?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ah, the 70's

BBC America broadcasted a great show last year called 'Life on Mars' about a police detective who falls unconscious after an accident and wakes up in the 70's where he solves crimes and tries to figure out how to get back to the present day. Last night I was comatose on the couch after surviving a full masters swim workout and found that there's an American version of the show out just now. It was on one of the major networks running at the same time as ER. It's hard to watch the American version of shows after watching a full season of the British version (took me forever to get into the American version of 'The Office') because the characters seem all wrong and not as interesting somehow but it was still good, better than 90% of the drek on t.v. (how wrong can you go with Harvey Keitel as a crazy hard boiled 70's police detective?) though admittedly I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of it.

ANYway, they played the old 70's song 'Get Down' and I thought wow, that would be great background music for an agility video showing a bunch of downs on the table then Lola standing on the table and barking at me for the 'you're a bad dog baby' part of the lyric. But, uh, yeah, I've got time to put that together, I'll get right on it and in the end it would have been oh so hokey. Then I found this video on You Tube and realized I was 35 years too late. So here's a little Friday amusement for you. It's both funny and disturbing, just like the 70's. My favorite part is the dog at the beginning that says, 'Screw you guys, I'm outta here. I'll go sit in the corner for a few years and wait for the Ramones to invent punk rock'.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I've not written about the wee Strum man for ages. We've been taking private lessons with Joy all summer, just handling stuff on jumps and tunnels and a little bit of work on weave entries. These lessons are mostly for me, I need a lot of help with my handling. I think my main problem these days is that I get all in a panic while I'm running Strummer since he's so freaking fast, I forget to think about where I'm running or how fast I'm approaching an obstacle and where exactly the crazy rocket dog zoomed off to on course. Joy had to put a bar on the ground last week to keep me from running to close to a jump. I'm getting better about keeping my arm up all the time and the flailing is getting better but I still revert back to the old habits now and then. So much to think about all at once while running and trying to keep an eye on a black and white poof of smoke. He's like those cartoons where one moment there's a dog there and the next just a puff of smoke in the shape of a dog.

I set my sights on a Feb. DOCNA trial for his first trial just so I have a goal to shoot for, otherwise I'll mosey along forever with his training. Then I thought what the hey, let's embrace the madness and enter him in a NADAC trial in December. Just Jumpers and Tunnelers. Just to see what will happen. I know, I'm nauseous about it already. Both trials are one ring at an indoor arena less than 20 minutes from home. Also, they have drop-in courses set up once a week so I can practice there well before the trials. Also I'm seeing about getting him in his first group class there but we'll see. I sent an email to the instructor that basically said 'hi, my dog doesn't know all the obstacles and is a bit crazy, can we be in your class?' How could he refuse? Actually I know the guy and he knows Strummer so we'll see what he says. These classes are at the same place as the drop-ins and trials so it will also be great practice for him. We were splitting some of our lessons with Joy with one other dog and that went great so I'm hoping he's finally ready for a class. Got to start somewhere.

Weaves are oh so close. He's still having problems collecting when he's excited and he either misses the entry or gets the entry but skips the second pole. I finally got him up to weaving 12 straight poles but he has to be in a sit right in front of them with me standing at the very end of them facing him.

His contacts are doing great, we're up to a 16" table at Biscuit Eaters and a 12" table at home. The plank at B.E. is a proper sturdy dogwalk plank with slats and the one I have at home is just a 1x12 with no slats and it's not nearly as sturdy. I'm going to see about reinforcing it a bit this weekend and maybe making another plank so he can run up and over the table then down the second plank like a mini-dogwalk. I don't have room in my yard for a full size and probably only barely have room for what I'm proposing. Maybe the up ramp will have to be short. He's at 80-90% accuracy so it's time to move up the heights. Sylvia Trkman recommends moving up at 2"-4" intervals and I discovered that 4" so too much of a jump so I'll need to cut some more table legs this weekend. I was reading a training journal where the person was increasing in 1/2" increments but that's too much sawing for me I'm afraid. She was using a different sort of setup too so I'm not sure it's a fair comparison. We'll see how it goes at 2", hopefully I won't have to go to 1". I'm hoping to start him on a low dogwalk in 4-6 weeks depending on how things go. His teeter needs some work too. He does it no problem but he's not stopping at the bottom. He's not flying off either but I'd like a stop so I'm working with him on a very low teeter for now. He won't focus forward and I think I may experiment with using the treat gizmo.

So much to learn for a crazy little border collie. I'm giving Team Old School a bit of a break from agility to focus on the Strum man. Hopefully I can finally get him up and running.