Monday, February 22, 2010

Powder Day out at the Rez

The sun finally came out so I treated the Trouble Twins to some fun out at the Boulder Rez.

It was a perfect powder day, no crusty snow/ice in sight.  It was slow going for me in the deep powder (maybe 5"-6", more in some places where it had drifted) but these guys had no problem.

Cody stays at home these days for most of my Rez excursions.  It's a lot for him physically and the footing hasn't been great out there and it seems he's always coming up gimpy after being out there.  He also has a bad tendency to quietly wander off and it's hard for me to keep tabs on him and the Trouble Twins when it's just me.  I can do it of course but it's hardly relaxing.  So instead Jonny takes him on solo walks and little excursions to different parks around town.  I tried playing with him in the yard when I got back and he was game for a bit but he was more interested in playing treasure hunt in the snow for poop to eat.  I guess even after all these years I'm still not as exciting as poop.

Blogs in the fake stock market?

Did you know that there's such a thing as a fantasy blog stock market?  And that people can buy/sell shares of your blog without you even knowing?  Who comes up with this stuff?  My blog has it's very own listing with stats and everything.  Some guy called Jonny Sprout owns 50% of my blog, apparently.  I'm not sure if I should be irked or flattered but I guess if some total stranger has to pretend own my blog I'm happy that he has a name like 'Jonny Sprout'.  He's got 2 blogs of his own, one that's writing and the other that's photos of random places in Chicago.  The photo blog is part of a wider network of 'Oh, The Urbanity' blogs which are blogs of photos of random places in various cities.  There's even one for Golden, CO.  I should do one for Boulder but I won't.  Maybe I'll start having 'Oh the Urbanity' Fridays.  Or maybe not.  Or maybe random Fridays when I happen to remember this idea.

Anyway, I'm not sure if his investment has turned out to be a good one.  My blog's 'valuation', whatever that means, started out at just under $210,000 on Sept. 11, 2008 and has plummeted to $7745 on Feb.6, 2010.  On the other hand the share price has gone from $48.73 to  $268.31.  The stock market makes my head hurt.  My retirement money lives in the stock market but my real money lives in the bank in a nice easy savings account.  I know, I'll never get to retire using this type of financial planning but at least I don't wake up at 2 a.m. fretting about my money being plundered by the next Bernie Madoff.

Now if only there was some way to make real life money off my blog in the real life stock market.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taxes and hot chocolate

This is a good day to snuggle up inside with a nice warm mug of hot chocolate and my taxes.

Normally this lovely view from my living room includes blue skies and mountains but today not so much.

Here are some things that are not so helpful when you're trying to do your taxes.

Best thing is to toss them outside and hopefully they'll amuse themselves.

Or maybe they'll just express their displeasure at being dumped outside, much to the delight of the neighbors, especially the ones with the new baby.

Some might try the more subtle approach of hypnosis/mind meld to get back inside and maybe score a mug of hot chocolate.

It can stop snowing any day now folks, really, I won't mind.  I saw a robin yesterday and he looked pissed off.  Sometimes the early bird gets frostbite instead of the worm.

On the bright side I'm getting a boatload of money back, easily enough to pay for a trip to DOCNA Champs and lessons/training field fees/trials for the rest of the year.  That is unless those pesky mortgage payments get in the way.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Get your goth on-DOCNA trial videos

I'm uninspired with the videos I have of our runs this time around.  It's not Jonny's fault, he stayed at the trial way longer than he wanted to so I could have some precious video but sometimes it works out that you don't get the best runs on tape.  Strummer's are particularly annoying to watch because I decided to run him past the weave poles rather than struggle with him redoing them over and over until he got his entry.  He's had some kind of ridiculous meltdown with the weave poles and the trial is not the place to address it.  Unfortunately I didn't walk the course with the idea that I would be so far behind at the poles and this led to awkward confusion after the weaves in both runs.  I should have put him in a sit/stay at the end of the weaves, led out a bit and then carried on with the course, darn that hindsight.

Strummer-DOCNA-Feb 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

During the Strategic Time Gamble I did the teeter twice and forgot, did it again and when the judge called out 'zero' for points I thought it was because she was faulting his teeter so I had him keep doing it over and over.  Once the horn blew for the closing she finally counted the points since the obstacles 'reset' for the closing and you can get points again.  Only reason I realized this was because someone eventually told me.  I also handled Strummer  through a beautiful Masters Gamble performance for Traditional Gamblers (has a distance challenge like USDAA).  Unfortunately he's not yet in Masters and the Advanced gamble was different.  I thought he'd got called on his A-frame but once again somebody set me straight.  I had missed the briefing because I was cooling Lola down and I heard someone say the gamble was the same so I never bothered to check the cone numbers.  Unfortunately it was the gamble line that was the same, not the gamble.  I have a brain, really I do, but sometimes the games throw me for a loop.

Strummer was also on a Trigility team (relay of sorts) with a Chihauhau and a Cocker Spaniel.  I entered mostly to see how Strum would do in that sort of situation.  We went first for the Jumpers portion and the Chihauhau went second which I thought would be the best case scenario for him since the dog is so small but it's a fast little thing and the motion did get him a bit excited.  I had him leashed though so he didn't cause any trouble and he didn't get to the point of a barking fit but he was lunging for a few seconds.  I was able to put a stop to it but I had been hoping for better.  He's running pairs in April with a wonderful steady, quiet Aussie named Meiko who trains at my field so we can practice a bit beforehand.  I don't care all that much about pairs but it's a good self-control exercise.  Meiko's owner does my hair and she does an awesome job, if anyone local needs a good hair stylist her name is Peggy and she works at Zumo in North Boulder.  She will even give you lessons in blow drying.

Lola was giving me a lot of barking and attitude out there.  I didn't notice it during her runs but yikes that video is loud.  I tried to drown her out with some nice goth music.  Huge 'too cool for school' points go to anyone who can name the band.  I don't think you can Google your way out of this one but maybe.  I know one person who can name them but I think I scared her away a long time ago with all the dog stuff.  She has I think a month's worth of cool photos of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as a nice photo of the Bahai Temple so you should go check out her blog.

LOLA-DOCNA-FEB. 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I had some bonus runs for the weekend with my friend's Cattle Dog Ritz.  She had to work and couldn't run him so he got to hang with me for the day.  He's not the fastest at trials because he worries but he's a fun guy with a great personality.  He started out the morning worried, looking all over for mom, tail between his legs but I played some games with him, found some people at the trial that he knew so he could say hi, and didn't make a big fuss over his stressing and by the afternoon he was walking around all happy and waggy, tail in the air.  It's great when they realize that yes, they really can cope on their own.  I have some video on the Vimeo site, if anyone's interested they can click on the 'colliebrains Vimeo' link above and it's there.

No trials for me until April so I have plenty of time to work on those weaves.  Now if only the weather would hold out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If you see a piece of lung out there on the course it's probably mine

Fun DOCNA trial this weekend.  Strummer finally got out of baby dog Jumpers with 2 clean runs, one at 6.82 yps, the other at 6.81 yps.  4 jumps in a straight line heading out of the course for one of those runs and I managed to keep up.  There was a box at the end so I had to keep up to keep him in a straight line and I don't know how but I did it.  So glad to be out of Starters Jumpers.  He's now in Advanced (Intern in DOCNA speak) in everything except the 2 games Trigility (a team relay) and Snakes and Ladders which I typically don't enter.  Lola picked up 2 more Jumpers Q's, a Standard Q and a Time Gamblers Q so we inch ever closer to her championship.  She needs 1 more Jumpers (easy), 3 more Standard (do-able) and, ahem, 6 more Gamblers.  Time Gamble is easy enough but Regular Gamblers that has a distance challenge is harder for her.  Maybe we'll get lucky with some easier-for-her ones in the future.

No video of the blazing Jumpers runs but I do have some video.  I'm working on it but I have an actual job interview later today so it'll probably be tomorrow at least until I get to it.  This is a second interview and I could have written a funny post about the first interview but I didn't think it was a good idea, at least until the interviewing process is over.  There are only 3 of us at this point and on the one hand that sounds like I have a good chance but on the other hand it's only 33.33% chance which doesn't sound as good.  I ponied up the money to have my hair done yesterday and spent a good bit of time preparing calculations and other info. that they asked me to bring to the interview.  Even reviewed some old college text books since they asked me that kind of thing and even gave me a written exam in the first interview.  It's a really good, interesting, stable job doing valuable work that's good for the community but it's down in Denver which is a not so nice commute but at this point it would be worth it.  Went to a meeting of a professional structural engineering group that I'm trying to join and everybody who still had work sat around moaning about how they have no work in sight for the future.  Scary.  Anyway, once it's behind me I'll get to the dog stuff.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mary Ellen Barry/Jennifer Crank Seminar

Wow, my head is full.  It was full after only 1 day so you can imagine how it feels after 3 1/2 days.  Hopefully I can retain a bunch of it.  By the third day some stuff from the morning had fallen out by the end of the day but I think I remembered the bulk of it. 

I'm not a big joiner of groups, follower of gurus or fan of dichotomies.  Tell me someone is a guru of something and I'm immediately suspicious.  I think the notion of handling systems in agility creates something of a divide and some of the people involved in one system or another seem almost creepy in their mawkish, cult-like devotion which turns a lot of people off to the notion.  Plus all the work involved in learning the system, it seems so much easier to learn handling moves and combine this idea with that idea as it suits your needs.   But I think some people pull off the 'mix and match' method better than others and there's a lot of value in consistency when you're dealing with dogs and having an organized way to learn handling is a huge help to me.  By the end of the third day I was able to analyze and run the most ridiculously technical International style course with crazy challenge after crazy challenge with only one or two mistakes (if you want to count getting lost as a mistake : ) ).  There's no way I would have had the slightest clue what to do at the very start of the seminar.  So I'm now even more convinced of the value of taking the time and effort to learn this stuff.  If only these two instructors would come back so I could learn more. 

So much stuff.  Deceleration Rear Cross, baby.  That kind of blew my mind.  I was auditing when we learned about that and didn't get a chance to try but I'm going to give it a go on my own.  I finally learned how to do a Backy-Uppy properly and was able to figure out where to use it on several courses.  Backwards motion is not the same things as running backwards.  I also finally learned all the intricacies of a Forward Motion Front Cross.  Lots of jargon and it finally makes sense to me.  I'm not a fan of complicated jargon either but it was so helpful to have names to these handling moves.  When I initially went through this stuff on my own I didn't pay close attention to the names of all the moves so I had a bit of jargon to learn this weekend and in the end I think it was worth it.

The thing I like best about the APHS system is that the dog is cued prior to commitment to the next obstacle so in theory they know where they're going before they take the obstacle and prepare a lot better for the turn (or whatever).  Obviously this makes it easier on their bodies in the long term and one of the instructors even said her dog had a decrease in some chronic soreness after adopting this system.  Strum doesn't always heed his collection cues and sometimes if I'm early with my cues he'll pull off of an obstacle so we have some practicing to do before we're to the point where I'm cueing and he's responding before commitment on a consistent basis but after this weekend I think I have the tools I need to get him there.

I really liked both instructors.  They both explained things clearly and in detail, answered questions without making you feel stupid (seriously, we had someone come through here that seemed to relish in making you feel like an ass), and had a good eye for what was going on during an exercise.  I especially enjoyed watching Mary Ellen working out training issues with shaping because we don't get a whole lot of that around here, it's mostly luring, targets and props which aren't my favorite ways to train.  She had been to chicken camp and trained with Bob Bailey who's 5-disc DVD I'd recently waded through and it was great to be able to see examples of the training concepts in action in a number of different scenarios.  I wasn't expecting to get to see that sort of thing at this seminar and it was a pleasant surprise.

I took a working spot for only 1 day and it was all with Jennifer Crank.  The morning session was Master's Handling using the APHS system and the afternoon session was advanced handling techniques to handle highly technical, International/World Team style courses-threadles, taking jumps from the back side, wraps through tight spaces.  We started out with small, 3-obstacle exercises and worked our way up to longer sequences and eventually a course and this format worked really well for me & Strummer.  I especially liked the short exercises because I could focus on getting every aspect of the one handling move correct then later it was a simple matter of inserting it into the course.  By midway through the morning session I felt like I was finally able to slow my brain down and watch what was going on with the dog and my movements and not just be running around in a blind panic trying to keep ahead of Mr. Crazypants.  By the end of the day I had a much better feeling for when to slow down and be patient and when to run like Jehu.

I also audited a Master Handling session (not system specific), the APHS Foundation session and a Weave Pole/2x2 Fix-It session all with Mary Ellen Barry.  So much stuff.  I almost didn't go back for the weave pole session on the last day  because it was a cold, snowy day and the roads weren't great, not terrible but not great, and 3 full days is a lot already but I'm glad I did.  Like I said I got to see a lot of great dog training in action and she gave me some suggestions for trouble shooting the 2x2's for Strummer.  She does them slightly differently from the DVD that Susan Garrett put out and I'm eager to give her method a go.  It was funny, some of the suggestions I'd figured out for myself already but I felt much better having them confirmed by someone who knows what they're doing.  The big mistake I was making that she pointed out that I didn't work out for myself was my 'handling' while working the exercises.  I think I was probably facing directions that were inconsistent with the dog's motion and confusing him because this causes the mistake of the dog missing the entry and diving in past the 2nd pole which is exactly the mistake he's making.  Sometimes he even dives in after the third pole.  Anyway, I'm excited to give the 2x2's one final go.  It's been bugging me to no end that I can't figure them out and I hope these are the final pieces to the puzzle that'll help me get it.  Also, her variation on the original method is a lot simpler to me in that she only rotates the poles at the very beginning.  The pole rotation part seemed to confuse Strummer and I know it confused me a lot in the beginning so I'm eager to try this without the rotation.

We have a DOCNA trial this weekend and I feel a bit more confident about it.  Will be interesting to see how much I remember without a chance to practice.  Darn field is snowed in again.  Even more so though I'm eager to get to practice and work on a bunch of the stuff I learned.  Got to love a seminar that leaves you with a renewed enthusiasm for your training.  And huge thanks to Morganne for bringing these 2 to town.  It was a unique opportunity to be able to train with them.  If only they lived closer.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Running dogwalk/training update

The practice field finally dried out and I've had a few practices with both dogs.  Lola isn't working on much, mostly distance and sending work since that's our weakness right now.  I'm mostly using her to help Strummer learn to control himself while other dogs are running agility and because she loves to go to the field to play.

I've also had a chance to see where we are with the dogwalk.  First session was not so great, it had been weeks so it wasn't surprising.  It wasn't awful but not as good as I was hoping for.  Second session was nearly perfect though and I've got that video posted below.  There was one miss (and I think also one hit) that doesn't show up on the tape because he was going the other way and it was off camera.  All the others were hits.

Running Dogwalk 2-3-2010, Strummer from colliebrains on Vimeo.

 And here are some short clips of where Strummer is at with his self-control issues.  Not very exciting, mostly for my own reference.  I missed shooting a lot of this training because I kept thinking the camera was on when it wasn't or he was out of the shot.


Untitled from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Untitled from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I'm finding the filming distracting to the training but it's so helpful to have video of the training.  More practice with dealing with it all I guess.  I long for the days when I went to the field with a ball and some treats and we ran around and did whatever and I didn't spend so much time worrying over the gizmos-video camera, tripod, remote treat gizmo, sheesh, I feel like I'm filming a documentary.

Let's not even talk about how Strum's weave poles went.  I think I pushed him way too much this session.  Each little session was too long and not enough rest in between.  It's so good to be out there practicing I got carried away and forgot my good dog training skills.  The weaves were at the end and I think his poor brain was fried.  The self-control stuff is very difficult for him and it fries his brain.  I've been doing a lot of stuff at home but few distractions rival another dog doing agility.

The next 4 days are an agility seminar which includes a weave pole session so hopefully I'll have some good training ideas for next week.  I've been wanting to do a post on Lola's table training and I will get to it but probably not for a week or two.