Saturday, December 22, 2012

Joe Strummer Day

Today's 'Joe Strummer Day' is the 10th anniversary of his untimely death at the age of 50.  This gives me an unpleasant jolt as I fill out my race applications for next summer with the race age of 49.

I could post some maudlin tribute thing that will have me bawling by the end but screw that.

Lola sez you should go put on 'London Calling', turn it up to 10 and shout along at the top of your lungs.

Strummer prefers their debut album, way more punk.  And don't forget to bring a toy.

I've got a soft spot these days for his later work with the Mescaleros.  So sad he had to go while he was still treating us to such great music but at least we can enjoy what he left behind.

'Johnny Appleseed' live on David Letterman

 'Coma Girl'

Rock On.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rabbit Mountain

First time on these trails even though they're a mere 20 minutes or so away.  Probably the last time too, so rocky, eroded, unpleasant to walk on.  Great place to twist an ankle.  We only saw 4 people in 2 hours and 2 of them were a couple on their way down, woman was crying and could barely walk.  I asked if they needed help and the guy said, 'No, she's probably just sprained her leg', but her leg was jutting out at such an odd, unnatural angle and she was crying and looked in such pain, I'm guessing more likely it was broken.

Nonetheless, some pretty views.

Taking in the views.

Silly dog breaks out in stress dander a lot these days when we go hiking.

You would think most dogs would love to go hiking but Strum gets worried if Jonny and I separate on the trail by as little as 20 feet.  When one of us catches up to the other he wags his whole body and jumps on the straggler as if he hasn't seen them in weeks.  Or sometimes he breaks out in the dander for no apparent reason at all.  We were sitting on a bench taking in the views when he broke out in that dander.  Such a freak dog.

I love his goofy ears.  So many people tell me it would drive them crazy but I think they suit him perfectly.

It was nice to go somewhere new, I had been here biking a million years ago but I was on a smooth dirt road, not the super rocky trails.   Probably won't ever go back but glad to have hiked them the one time.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

'This American Life' Goes to the Dogs

For those who missed it, last week's 'This American Life' featured stories that were compelling, upsetting and thought provoking about 'what animals sacrifice for us and what we sacrifice for them'.

The website has photos to accompany the story about the war dogs including upsetting (to me anyway) photos of dogs wearing bomb vests to be sent on suicide missions.  I realize attitudes towards dogs and war and the government were way different back in the 40's but I still have a hard time imagining sending the family pet off to the U. S. military to let them do their bidding.

But I'm not so sure what I would do if I was in host Ira Glass' shoes as the owner of a fear aggressive pit bull with serious health and behavioral problems.  On the surface I can't imagine going to the lengths he goes to to live with and care for a dog that might bite me at any moment, especially knowing that there are so many great dogs out there that need a home.  But I've never been in that position so it's hard to say what I would do when you factor in the animal.  At the very least it makes me feel not quite so crazy for the energy I put into my own pack.  Who, let's face it, are spoiled rotten by 1940's standards.

But thank goodness I'm not to the point of riding an hour each way on a subway to buy them kangaroo meat.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Flipping Out in the Backyard

I've not been doing much backyard training lately because my yard is very small and only good for working on foundation type behaviors and we're at a point where training sequences is more important.  I've found that with a fast, big strided dog the backyard foundation stuff is not enough, I need to take it to somewhere where he can stretch out and run and learn to execute the obstacles at speed, especially the weave poles.

However I do want to participate in Blog Action Day and after last weekend's DOCNA trial which had many dogwalk - 180 degree turn to tunnel scenarios, I had a few people asking about Strummer's flips with the running dogwalk.  He was 5/5 with that dogwalk/tunnel scenario at this trial and you can see a few of his runs in the post below.

So I thought I'd re-post the backyard portion of the training I did for that.  I also have posts about taking it to the full dogwalk and you can find those by clicking on the 'running dogwalk' label and looking around October 2010 or so.  The following are 2 posts from October 2010.


I've been on a mission to get the 180 degree flip from dogwalk to tunnel on a verbal.  I thought I mostly had it but DOCNA Champs showed me that oh no I don't.

Even though I have a practice tunnel I decided to use a plastic lawn chair for him to run around because for one I could get in a lot more reps without having to wait for him to run through the tunnel and also because it's a wider turn and easier on his body.  In theory anyway.  That silly dog refuses to have any respect at all for his body no matter how I try to help him.

I've been working with the chairs for a few days now, several quick sessions a day and it took a good 3 days before he seemed to have any clue as to what I wanted.  After he failed for the third time in a row I'd give him some physical cues to help him then take them away and he'd be back to making mistakes, ie not turning away on the verbal cue and running straight ahead.

Yesterday's last session saw over 80% success though as did this morning's so this afternoon I broke out the tunnel and he's been near perfect.  Sort of.  After watching the video I'm not entirely happy with the performance.  He's not running to the bottom and turning but rather turning before reaching the end and sliding down the plank a bit.  He hits the yellow but if he takes to diving in the tunnel before running through the bottom of the plank he could easily start missing and in fact he did this on the A-frame at Champs.  He wasn't running to the bottom either with the chair and I was rewarding it.  The last rep isn't too bad and part of the problem I think is that I need to repaint/resand my contacts.  Glad I finally shot some video before I got too far along.

Some of the reps were straight ahead runs to a jump that was off screen.  My camera doesn't zoom out far enough to catch all the action and my yard is so small I can't place it farther away.  I had a lot of reps go straight because I don't want him learning to automatically dive into a tunnel whenever he sees one under the dogwalk.  He was starting to do that last summer.

Though I want the turn on a verbal I have been helping him out by remaining stopped and facing the side of the dogwalk towards the way I want him to turn when there's a turn and facing straight and moving forward when I want him to go straight.  If I want him to turn towards me I call his name and face the direction I want him to turn and indicate with an arm.  I'll get some video of that.  I didn't think he was having problems with that but now I want to see for myself on video what's going on.

Dogwalk Turns 10-2-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.


After some thought I decided to try using the prop of the pole to help Strum run all the way to the bottom before turning.  As I said in the comments on a post below I'm not fond of props and this is largely because I'm so crap at both using them and fading them.  I don't have a lot of faith in them either so I avoid them for the most part.  But I thought I'd take the opportunity to learn how to use them.  I wanted to use the running dogwalk experiment to improve my training techniques and here is one that could use some improvement.  Well, you can see from the videos below how that worked out.  In short, the pole only seemed to confuse and cause leaps and jumping off the side early to avoid it.  So after giving it the good old college try for a grand total of 2 days/training sessions I said adios to the prop. and the next session I had perfect turns.  I did have a training session on the A-frame/tunnel with my training partner but the mechanics of that turn is very different from the dogwalk.  Still it probably helped some.

Monday's session with the pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-4-2010 AFTERNOON from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I had a theory that he was cueing off my lack of motion and shoulder position (ie facing the direction I wanted him to turn) rather than the verbal so I tried running forward and saying 'turn' and sure enough he went forward the first time.  I tried it again with a little less forward motion and he surprised me by taking the turn.  Maybe he is learning the verbal after all.

Tuesday's session with the pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-5-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

This session saw even more goofiness with the pole.  After that I decided I'd leave the poles to the strippers and figure out something else for next session.

Tuesday evening I met at my training partner's house to practice teaching verbal discriminations and turns for the A-frame/tunnel.  He was 100% with his turning cue, even with some forward motion on my part.  He was not 100% on his verbal for the tunnel vs A-frame so I helped him out with some physical cues but by the end I think he was starting to get the idea.  Verbals are hard, it'll take a lot more work but what I saw was encouraging.  I still question his ability to ever learn to process a verbal that doesn't have some physical cue to back it up during a course when he's flying full speed.  I think where it might work are instances where the physical cue is weak and the verbal will be extra information, like when the dogwalk and tunnel entry are close together and the physical cues to indicate one over the other are subtle and maybe not all that clear, the verbal can help him out.  In theory anyway.  We'll see how it works out in practice.

Wednesday's session, no more pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-6-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I cheated a little here and positioned the tunnel opening so it was next to and a bit forward of the dogwalk plank.  This was to encourage him to run all the way down.  I'll inch the tunnel back a bit over more sessions to make sure he doesn't start to dive in from the side given the opportunity.  This session he started anticipating the turn and even turned with forward motion on my part for one rep.  And I rewarded it with a yes!  Next rep he started to do it again then stopped himself.  Third time was a charm and he went forward no problem.  I need to remember to put a lot of forward reps into each session like I did when I was starting out.

This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day.  You can go here to see more posts on Backyard Training.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Almost Perfect DOCNA Weekend

I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful weekend.  Weather was sunny with temps. in the 60's, maybe even 70 on Sunday, a wonderful indoor Farmers/Holiday Market next door to the trial and the little Stinkbutt managed to Q on 8/9 runs, got 8/9 dogwalks and missed only one weave pole entry.  The only run he didn't Q on was Traditional Gamblers and it was a difficult sort of gamble for him, something we don't train and not a lot of people Q'ed anyway.  But he had a fabulous opening and I didn't feel the least bit bad about missing the gamble.  The rest of the runs were focused and fast and fun.  A few handling blips on my part but nothing bad enough to cause an off course (except for an accommodating run I was doing for Trigility).  Not sure what else to say about the weekend other than I was thrilled. 

And I had fabulous homemade tamales on Sat. and crepes on Sun. from the Farmer's Market.  This is one of my favorite trials because I always get a wonderful lunch.  And the bonus of a friend unexpectedly dropping in to watch.  I came out of the ring after one of my Standard runs and there she was.  She had been at the Farmer's Market and saw the dogs warming up outside so she came in the arena building and happened to come in right in the middle of one of our runs.  What are the chances of that?

Somebody else had some big fun too (photo from USDAA Nationals)

There was even a tricky part to one of the Standard courses:

The tricky part was the line of jumps after the #13 tunnel through 18.  I tried to do a perpendicular rear cross between 16 and 17 but I think I rushed it a bit and was too far ahead, stopped too soon and didn't show enough motion for the #17 jump so Strum stalled a bit but he got it eventually.  The only people who I noticed had a smooth run through there were folks with little dogs who put a front in between 16 and 17.  I thought about a front there but didn't like the line it set for 17 to 18 since I'd have to push a bit to get the turn between 16 and 17. 

Jumpers was uneventful.  Yet more pinwheels into pinwheels with a little bit extra challenge provided by a box.

Here's some video of a few runs from Saturday for the course maps shown above.  No video at all from Sunday since I was 2nd-3rd dog on the line all day and didn't have time to ask people to tape me.

DOCNA JUMPERS, STANDARD, SNAKES from colliebrains on Vimeo.

After the embarrassment of riches from the weekend I decided to check Strum's records to see how far we were from his MEX (DOCNA's version of ADCH, MACH, NATCH, etc.).  Last time I checked it seemed like we were half way there, especially in Standard but after this weekend he needs only 1 Gamblers and 4 Standard (requirements are 15 Standard, 10 Gamblers, 10 Jumpers).  Not too bad considering we only did 3 DOCNA trials this year and only 1 day of 1 of those trials.  Our next DOCNA trial is in Feb. and they're only offering 3 Standard classes so even with 100% Q rate we can't finish it then.  The next DOCNA trial I have planned after that isn't until August and the next after that in October so it could easily be another year until he gets his MEX but it's funny to think he's so close.  There are a couple more DOCNA trials in May and July but I wasn't planning on them for various reasons and the MEX isn't enough incentive to get me to go since we're in no hurry.

Final Stats

 Specialist Standard 1 Saturday Q - 1st place

 Specialist Snakes and Ladders Saturday Q - 1st place

Specialist Jumpers Saturday Q-1st place

Specialist Standard 2 Sunday Q - 2nd place

Specialist Standard 3 Sunday Q - 1st place

Specialist Time Gamble Sunday Q - 1st place

Specialist Jumpers Sunday Q-2nd place

Specialist Sunday Trigility Q - 2nd place


Specialist Jumpers Agility Merit Award (10 Jumpers legs)

Bronze Specialist Trigility Merit Award (earned at last trial in October)


8/9 (89%)

10/10 (100%)

9/9 - 100%, though the first one of the day was iffy

Weave pole entries
7/8 (88%), 1 missed entry, my fault, handling error, no pop-outs

1 bar down - my fault, handling error in Gamblers

No off courses (except an accommodating run for Trigility, came over the A-frame and was supposed to flip to a tunnel but put a few paws back on the A-frame before eventually going in the tunnel)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Helpful Tips

Here are a few lessons from this morning's Kangoo boot camp class.

1.  Don't wear your 12 year old sports bra that you normally reserve for dog walking and lawn mowing to Kangoo class.

2.  If you insist on wearing the 12 year old sports bra, don't put it on inside out.

3.  It's best to get up early enough for some pre-workout caffeine (see above).

4.  If it's cold out and you're the only one who shows up and you didn't have time for breakfast and the instructor informs you that she's feeling especially energetic it might end up being a challenging workout.

5.  'Now let's go do some intervals' is not exactly what you're hoping to hear after the Kangoo calisthenic/dance session where your main goal was not to puke on the fancy pants tennis courts.

6.  'One more interval and we're done', are the sweetest words in the English language.

5.  Ooooh my abs.  Because after the dancing/jumping and intervals there's a mile cool down run in regular shoes and an ab workout.

6.  This is maybe not the best idea when you have an agility trial the following day.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not.  It was great to have a hard, 1 1/2 hour workout and I love the Kangoo boots and there's no way I would have pushed myself that hard on my own.  Not because I'm unmotivated but because I have a strong sense of self-preservation and don't like to push myself to the edge of puking.  But something about the hyper sped up dance versions of 'Billie Jean' and 'My Sharona' makes you want to keep going, fast as you can.

The best part though is that I'm finally starting to have some rhythm and coordination.  Even the instructor noticed and commented that I'm doing much better than when I first started so it wasn't just in my head.  Though I did have a chat with myself before going to class about acting like I knew what I was doing and not thinking too much about it and that helped a lot.  I'm doing yet another sports hypnotist training right now, can't ever have too many techniques and this instructor has some innovative stuff, and it reminds me that I can do this stuff for myself as well as my clients.

This weekend is a DOCNA trial and sore abs and quads aside, I'm looking forward to it.  I've been practicing regularly twice a week after pretty much taking the entire summer off and I'm starting to see some good results, especially with the weave poles.  So much awesome with the weave poles at both practices this week.  Seemed like we'd turned a corner after a practice session last week.  Probably still a bit of work to be done before I see the improvements in a trial but I'm hopeful for tomorrow.

No ambitious goals for tomorrow, just run and have fun and pretty up those weave pole entries and nice smooth handling.  Haven't been practicing dogwalks, those will be what they will be.  Trial is less than 20 minutes away so I can sleep in but still I'll have to wake up in enough time to get some caffeine.  And I'm throwing out that 12 year old sports bra just to be on the safe side.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

USDAA Weekend

The big suspense for this weekend was whether or not we'd get our final Starters leg for our AD title and our ticket out of Starters.  I've been unwilling to spend too much money on Starters games classes, hoping to get our minimum in the games but those Standard legs have been stubborn - a missed dogwalk here, a knocked bar there, so many 5 fault Standard runs.  We had titled out of Gamblers and needed one more Snooker leg so I entered those classes but I didn't want to blow the money on Starters Pairs and Jumpers so only entered 1 class - Standard - on Sunday in case we didn't get the Q on Saturday.  Kind of putting  all our eggs in the Standard basket.  But I was about in tears at the thought of hanging around until the end of the day for Starters Jumpers.

Saturday's Standard course, well, it wasn't looking good for the dogwalk.

The dogwalk and weave poles are our 2 worst obstacles so of course the main challenge to the course is a difficult weave entry off of the dogwalk.  The masters and advanced courses had this same challenge and most everybody struggled with it.  Even many dogs that made the entry struggled to hang on and popped out.  It looked like the kiss of death for a running dogwalk.

Thankfully the Gamblers course had the chute through the weaves set-up so I was able to practice the sequence ahead of time.  And Strummer missed both the dogwalk contact and the weave entry.  I was behind and he curled to the left and nearly took the chute, a fate that several dogs suffered in all the classes.

So for Standard my plan was to be way ahead.  I thought about a blind or front cross at the end of the dogwalk but thought I'd likely end up blocking his view of the poles.  In the end I stayed near the end of the up ramp as he exited the tunnel, stayed still and kept eye contact just long enough to make sure he made it onto the up ramp and then ran like hell, thankfully making it to the weaves before him with him on my right.  He still missed the entry but got his dogwalk contact and I was able to quickly bring him around and send him back in to the weaves.  No refusals in Starters so we were o.k.  I managed to keep my head for the rest of the course, even got some nice collection and a tight turn into the tunnel at Jump 11.  A front cross between 13 and 14 and we were out of there.  And out of Starters at 7 1/2 years old.  SO happy.  I was tempted to ask the judge if I could have a victory lap.  1st place as well, icing on the cake.

And as if my cake needed any more icing, the club offered next day move-ups so I was able to enter Advanced Standard on Sunday.  And the little stinker got another Q and 1st place, putting me into diabetic shock.  Maybe we'll even make it to masters before it's time to retire.

The course was fun, very similar to masters, just a couple of angles tweaked on a few jumps but otherwise the same course.

Strum missed the teeter to weaves entry but no refusals in advanced.  I don't often practice contact to weaves and this is the second trial I've seen a challenging dogwalk to weaves entry in Starters (the other one was even worse) so it's a good reminder that I need to practice that sort of thing.  There was also a challenging dogwalk to weaves challenge in Grand Prix Semis at Nationals this year.  Not something that typically occurs to me to practice.  Most dogs got this entry o.k. though some were lost to the tunnel.

The judge's counting at the table startled Strummer a bit.  I told him he was a good boy and he seemed o.k. but that's another thing to practice.  Might have to start going to my club's course run-throughs to practice that.

In all a fun but short weekend for me since I had only 1 class on Sunday morning.  The trial had a very small entry, only 16 dogs in master standard and 11 in P3 standard.  Can't ever remember such a small masters class.  There was an AKC trial going on so maybe that was part of it.  The trial was done before 4:00 on Saturday and I was done just after 9:00 a.m. with my one run on Sunday.  Don't know if Strummer has ever Q'ed both Standard runs in a weekend so I was very very happy and so ecstatic to be out of Starters.  Not too much difference typically between masters and advanced so we'll finally be able to enjoy some more challenging courses.  I really enjoyed the judge and her courses this weekend.  She was awesome with the nesting so the course changes moved quickly and she had some fun, creative challenges.

The only downside was that the club didn't turn on the heat.  It was warm enough outside, 50's and sunny, but freezing inside the arena, even at mid-afternoon.  It was fine while you were running but the rest of the day . . . brrrr.  And I jump set for 4 classes on Saturday but was still cold.  Thankfully only had the one run on Sunday.  I'm hoping enough people will say something that they'll put the heat on for the Dec.-Jan.-Feb. trials.  I know the club is trying to save money but this is a false economy if everybody is miserable all day long.  I'll bet most people, myself included, would happily have paid and extra $2 per day to put the heat on and if Dec. is bad as well I may pull my entry for Jan. and skip Feb.  Hard to pass up trials that are just 20 mins. away but agility is not worth being cold like that all day long.

Nonetheless looking forward to DOCNA at the same venue in 2 weeks.  Maybe we're on a roll with this dogwalk thing.

 Trial Stats

Starters Standard  Q, 1st place

Advanced Standard Q, 1st place

Titles:  Starters Standard

Dogwalks:  2/3 (67%) 

A-frames:  4/4 (100%)

Weave entries:  0/3 (0%)   didn't pop out at all

Knocked bars:  None

Teeters:  3/3 (100%)

Table: 2/2 (100%) fast, perfect table, worried with judge's count though

Off courses:  1 in Snooker, 1 in the opening of Gamblers

No refusals or run-bys except at the weave poles.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Some Things Never Change

Found this old file folder and it's from right about the time we got Lola at 8 weeks old.  As you can see by her little puppy prints she was 'helping' me with my taxes.

She turns 12 next month and is still as 'helpful' as ever.

Sassy Lassie

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Fun Day In the Dirt

Started the day off with an early morning agility practice.  I've got two people to practice with now and this morning's practice was at an indoor barn on dirt.  Half my trials are indoors on dirt and I almost always train outdoors so this is a nice opportunity.  Plus my training partner is very focused on the details.  Getting around the course isn't enough, she wants to tighten up every turn, get the lines right, fractions of a second matter.  Normally I'm mostly focused on merely getting around the course so this will sharpen up my handling for sure.  Plus it's so important to have precise handling for Strummer.

I love practice.  You get all the do overs you want plus you can try it this way then try it that way.  Fun.  We worked on a course courtesy of Agility Nerd.  We didn't do the big course but rather the 4 small exercises at the bottom of the page.  Very challenging and lots of fun plus the bonus of we only had to set up 5 jumps and a tunnel.  Because the equipment has to be pulled out and put away every time so the horses can play when we're through.  Lots of great stuff over at Agility Nerd but duh, I'm sure I didn't have to tell you that.

I didn't have any clients this afternoon so I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather we've been having and hit the Boulder Valley trails on my bike.  It was shorts and t-shirt weather, high 60's I think and plenty of lovely warm sunshine and blue skies.

I tried to get a photo of this coyote but he had moved quite a distance away by the time I got my camera out.  It looks like he's trapped in suburbia but really he's on a big field of open space.  He went towards the houses to avoid me and a woman with a dog who had stopped to watch.

That's it for the photos, too busy enjoying my ride to stop.  I've got a backlog of photos from some hikes but I'll get to them eventually.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Okay, OKAY, I voted already

Sheesh.  You would think voting in a swing state would make you feel good, like for once your vote actually counted for something.  But the barrage of attack ads we've been drowning in since last spring has me numb.  I didn't do early voting this time around for no good reason other than I did the math and figured it would be easiest to wait until election day and simply go to the polling place that's a short walk from my house.  In theory this was a good plan.  I had a nice walk on a beautiful, sunny fall morning and there was no line at all when I got there.  Much easier than driving somewhere.  The problem is that the Democrats have been hounding my house for days to make sure I vote, yesterday they even came twice, and the dogs go off their heads every time they knock on the door.  They even came to my house today after I'd already voted.  Now I get it, and really I should be thankful that they're out there pounding the pavement, fighting the good fight, making sure, among other things, that we don't roll the country back to the 50's and I can continue to get birth control pills through my husband's employee health insurance.  Because endometriosis is a bitch people, and birth control pills aren't cheap.  But I'm oh so weary.  And so is Lola.

I beg of you, please to let it be over.

As for the dogs, Strummer is an anarchist and doesn't vote because, 'it only encourages them'.

Lola votes but always writes in her own name.

And good luck getting Cody to move.

I'm tempted to plaster signs all over the house that say, 'YES, I voted, please for the love of my sanity and my eardrums do not set my dogs off.'  Or I could take advantage of all the door knocking and actually do some training but probably I'll just stuff earplugs in and hunker down for one more day. 

I'd almost be relieved with less than a day to go but now I have to make it through the hell of Christmas which not so mercifully has started already.  Is it January yet?

Monday, November 05, 2012

You Know You've Hit Rock Bottom

when you're pilloried on South Park.  I haven't laughed this hard at t.v. in a long time - South Park takes on Lance Armstrong and hits everything right on the head in hilarious fashion.  This episode has everything - Jesus on HGH, Dr. Seuss, the farmers in Belarus - pure genius.  A welcome relief from all the grating election coverage/commercials/cajoling, etc.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Ride That Pony

Friday at boot camp is Kangoo Jump Day and this is my very favorite day of boot camp because the Kangoo boots are all sorts of bouncy fun.  But it's also my most challenging day of boot camp because it involves learning dance moves and having rhythm and these are not strong points for me.  However these days I'm all about challenging those self-limiting beliefs and I would like to have dance moves and rhythm or at least a little bit of coordination and motor skills.

However this is a process and Kangoo class is outside in a place for all the world to see and I live in fear that someone will break out a camcorder and next thing I know the horror of me trying to figure out Hip Hop Dance Moves in bouncy boots will be going viral on Youtube.  Because how could something like that not go viral on Youtube?

And speaking of viral on Youtube, this week the instructor said she had a special surprise for us, something about Gangdom something and I figured it was more Hip Hop moves.  But it was not Hip Hop moves and I actually had a lot better time with this funny dance and after class she explained it to me again, this time slowly and spelling it out - Gangnam Style - and it's all the rage, go Google it on Youtube.

Turns out it's some kind of Korean techno dance music, sort of.  Probably many of you have heard of it and you're laughing at how out of the loop I am but I'll bet I'm not the only one.

Holy Earworms Batman.  This is one of the most powerful earworms ever, someone should alert Oliver Sachs.  And it's not even like you get the song stuck in your head.  I ended up with, 'Ehhhhhhhh, Sexy Lady, Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoop Whoopa Gangnam Style'  stuck in my head for 6 straight hours yesterday.  Over and over and over.  And I'm pretty good at getting rid of earworms but somehow my brain didn't want to get rid of this one.  It sunk its teeth in and wouldn't let go.

Then this Xterra version appeared on my Facebook.

And I now I do not feel so bad about my lack of rhythm. 

I suppose it's only a matter of time before we see a dog agility version.  Not from me though, I'm not a wacky, show off my complete lack of rhythm for the internets sort of person. 

And this is what it looks like on Kangoos from a guy who has some rhythm and is not shy about sharing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

First Snow, Sort Of

Technically the first snow was a few weeks ago but I was in Chicago and missed it.  Not sure how much if any snow stuck on the ground back then.  This time we had a couple of wimpy storms that amounted to only about 3"-4" of snow by the time we were done.

Wonderland Lake -one day it looks like this

And the next day it looks like this.

The sun had just come out and the storm started to clear when I took these.  The snow will be gone tomorrow, those fall snowfalls melt quickly.  I'm just glad the sun is back - 3 days of clouds and damp is depressing.  But it's very good that we got some moisture, hopefully it'll be enough to put out the wildfire up in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I'm tired of driving home from agility trials and seeing smoke over the mountains.

I don't have any good snow dog pictures.  It's a wet mushy snow and not enough of it that the dogs want to run and play in it.  I'm sure we'll have plenty of photo ops in the months to come so I'm not complaining.  There's still plenty of fall left to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


A nice weekend for Strum and me, nice smooth runs, a great site with wonderful cushy matting, and that easy breezy low key atmosphere at your typical DOCNA trial.  Not too many opportunities to try anything too fancy pansty but a fun weekend for Strummer no less.  He loves to let loose on those flowy open courses.

High points were a couple of nice Jumpers runs where Strum did such a nice job of collecting, sending ahead, reading my turning cues, and generally being awesome.  But sheesh, yet more courses that were just pinwheel to 360 to pinwheel.  Lots of running down a straight line of jumps and a box to negotiate but otherwise nothing too crazy.  No wraps so no chances to practice a Ketscher.

Jumpers Round 1

Jumpers Round 2, the reverse of Round 1

Jumpers 1 & 2 with some goth music in honor of Halloween.  And yes I know it's after Sisters of Mercy went all crappy, poppy, commercial but I don't have any of the cool old school stuff on mp3.  And this particular song is a guilty pleasure.

DOCNA SPECIALIST JUMPERS, OCT. 2012 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Another high point was that Strum got 3/4 of his dogwalks including both Standard runs.  Unfortunately he had uncharacteristic off courses in tunnels for both runs.  Round 1 he did that weird thing of running across my feet to take the least obvious entrance.  This mysteriously cropped up in a practice session several months ago.  He seems so sure of himself when he does it, I'm sure he's interpreting a cue in some way.  Wish I knew what he was cueing off of.  Round 2 was probably a case of me rotating too slowly out of a front cross and he took off for the wrong tunnel while my shoulders were facing it coming out of the cross.  Hard to say from the video and during the run I was shocked to have lost him so I'm not sure exactly what happened.  Otherwise some nice runs, especially Round 2 where I managed to hustle up a straight line to get a front cross in a couple of jumps after the A-frame.

Standard 1

Standard 2

Standard Rounds 1 & 2 and Strategic Time Gamble.  Missed that stupid time gamble by .08 seconds.  If only I hadn't stepped on my poor dog and caused a face plant.  Was a nice run otherwise and he got his dogwalk.

2012 DOCNA OCT STD TIME GAMBLE from colliebrains on Vimeo.

And here's our Snakes and Ladders run, perfect except for the missed dogwalk.  I'm mostly posting it because I found a cool version of Rocket Man performed by a band formed by This American Life from the classifieds for the purpose of doing just the one song.  The musicians included and indie rock drummer/bassist, a theremin player, jazz singer, acid funk guitarist, electric violinist, you get the picture.  Little Stinker got all his weave entries, over the moon about that.

DOCNA SNAKES & LADDERS OCT 2012 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

In all a fun weekend.  The indoor arena at Denver Dog Sports was so nice, felt great to go home without hacking up lungfuls of dirt and I love the cushy surface.  Strum's first 2 runs were a little crazy but it's hard to say if it was due to getting used to the springy surface or due him running his monkeys out.  After those first couple of runs though he settled in and ran so nicely on that surface.

The site is very near the site for USDAA Nationals so I knew where all the good food places were and I had a good lunch both days which always helps with energy levels.  Didn't have that exhausted feeling waking up Monday morning.  Plus I was done with my 4 runs by 2:30 or so on Sunday.  Hope they use this site again next year.

Next 4 trials are only 20 minutes from my house at Boulder County Fairgrounds, alternating USDAA and DOCNA one per month.  Such a relaxing thought after all the running around I did that past 2 months.

Final Stats

Specialist Jumpers Saturday Q-2nd place

Specialist Jumpers Sunday Q-2nd place

Specialist Trigility Q - 1st place

No titles that I'm aware of.

3/4 (75%)

5/5 (100%)

 5/5- 100%, though all were iffy, not what I wanted, could have been the particular teeter

Weave pole entries
6/10 (60%), no pop-outs

Bars down
None.  Yay!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Question for Any International Readers

I'm curious about the types of dogs that compete in an average agility trial on those technical, international style courses.  I ask this because an interesting discussion popped up on my Facebook about making courses in the U.S. more 'interesting' like the courses in Europe.  And there were a surprising number of people saying they wouldn't like to see this because agility should be for all breeds of dog and their Flooferhound couldn't possibly do those types of courses.  I don't know because I've never been to a typical European agility trial but I have a feeling there are all sorts of Flooferhounds kicking butt on those types of courses on any given weekend.  I realize there are lots of countries with different courses, rules, etc. and the answer may differ from country to country but if anybody out there has information/opinions about this I'd love to hear it.

You can leave info. in the comments and I'll add any comments to this post.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Last year at this time I knew exactly what my goals were for this year.  Now it's this year and I'm resting and rebuilding after finishing up those goals and wondering what's next.  Because at some point I have to turn off Honey Boo Boo, get off the couch and get back to pursuing something.  The big question is what to do about agility goals.  I'm not going to Tennessee for USDAA Nationals and even if I do decide to go to DOCNA Champs, Strum's already qualified and it's not a super challenging goal.  Chasing titles is not an appealing goal either.  Can't quite muster up enough 'give a damn' about them.  Of course I want to get out of Starters/into Masters in USDAA but aside from training dogwalks until I'm blue in the face there isn't much to work on because that's the main thing holding us back.  Wish USDAA would let everybody into the Masters Challenge events but they don't and not every trial offers them anyway.  So wish we had UKI but I'm stuck with USDAA Starters and DOCNA.

I think for now I'm going to play around with trying more handling moves at trials that I'm not 100% sure of.  There were 2 places at USDAA Nationals where I think a Ketschker turn was a great handling choice but because it was Team at Nationals there was no way I was going to take a risk with it.  Time to start testing the things I've been training.  I have a DOCNA trial this weekend and I'm not optimistic that there will be many opportunities for trying stuff out but you never know.  Maybe I'll see if I can make up some challenging courses for myself in the 2 Gamblers classes.

As for triathlon, it'll be a couple of months before race dates start getting announced and this may determine goals for next year.  Would love to return to Utah for Xterra Nationals if it's in Utah again.  Definitely won't schedule so many races so close together, that was the biggest lesson of the season.  For now, I've gone back to fitness boot camp with a vengeance.  Weights, track work, Kangoo boots, I'm so sore right now but it's a good kind of sore, a 'my muscles are getting stronger' kind of sore.  Haven't been back to masters swimming because my arms are so sore but for now I'm not too worried about swimming.  It's nice to take a little break and do something different.  I think a big weakness of mine, especially on the bike, is lack of muscular strength and muscular endurance and it's hard to build this up during the regular training season.  I think boot camp will be good for agility too, especially the plyometrics.  I've been having fun with it anyway.

Went for an easy 3 mile hike in the high country and it felt positively decadent not feeling like I had to be on some marathon expedition.

Snow on the high peaks, Mud Lake in the foreground

And still a few bursts of color left

Somebody had a lot of fun

For now I'm shifting my energies into my hypnosis practice.  I've got a lot of plans for the website - videos, articles, etc. and I'll post links here as I get stuff up that might be of general interest.  I'm doing a talk up at the University for the psychology club and that should be fun.  More on all that as it develops.

Monday, October 08, 2012


I am so so SO glad to be home.  When I finally saw the mountains off in the distance out of the plane window my heart filled with such joy.  And I know how hokey and cliche and cheesy that sounds but I don't care because it was so much the truth.  It was funny, it was all I could do to restrain myself from excitedly pointing out the mountains and saying how happy I was to be home to the guy in the fancy pantsy business suit sitting next to me.  I spent the flight watching video on my laptop of Strum and me from an agility seminar last February and realized with a certain degree of embarrassment that I was currently wearing the exact same outfit of grungy dog clothes that I was wearing in the video.  And I mean the exact same outfit down to the big klunky trail running shoes.  Driving from the airport I could hardly wait to get home as the mountains got closer and closer.

I got a very big greeting from some crazy off their heads monkey dogs.  Even Cody got up to shuffle over and say hello.  I wondered if he would notice I was gone and miss me and I think he did.

There was some excitement on the home front while I was gone.  Jonny ran into a bear just a few houses down the street from ours while walking Strummer.  He saw the bear before Strummer did and stopped until he'd moved along but when Strummer caught a whiff of it he turned tail and tried to pull Jonny back to the house.  Then Lola had the best day of her life and by that I mean she finally caught a squirrel.  Like had it in her jaws.  Jonny's panicked screams caused her to drop it and miraculously it got away and presumably lived and has a good story to tell to his squirrel buddies around the water cooler.

Usually whenever I go out of town a celebrity dies and miraculously none did even with 3 weeks of in and out of town.  Andy Williams died while I was at USDAA Nationals which is sort of like being out of town but not really so it only kind of counts.  I loved Andy Williams when I was a little kid, was sad to hear he'd passed away but to be honest was sort of surprised he was still alive.

Normally at this time of year I start getting excited about next year's goals but right now it feels so good to be done with this year's I can't even begin to think about next year.  Plenty of time for that in the coming months.  For now I'm going to hunker down and enjoy my time at home for the next few months.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Hanging at the Lake

I haz wifi's.  Who knows for how long but maybe long enough to get out  a quick post.

Went down to Lake Michigan today for a quick visit.  It was not so very nice out.  Grey and windy and not freezing cold but that penetrating dampness that I so don't miss living in Colorado.

The lake looked more irritated than angry.  You should see it when it's angry.  But don't go in it when it's angry, trust me on this one.

I tracked a ton of sand into my aunt's car after tramping around on the beach in my trail running shoes.  Oops.

Nice view of the Bahai Temple from the Wilmette Harbor.  More pictures of the temple here from a trip 2 years ago.

The Village of Wilmette loves rules.  Lots of signs everywhere to remind you of the rules in case you forget.

They especially like rules when it comes to dogs.  Dogs, even on leash, have not been allowed in any Wilmette parks since the 70's.  Now there is a dog beach that you can take your dog to but there are lots and lots of rules and you have to take your dog on a designated route to get to the beach.

There were even more signs about stuff you'd better not even think of doing but the pictures came out too blurry.  I think my poor point and shoot camera is starting to go.

Wilmette is also very particular about businesses, signs, etc.  This is what a Starbucks looks like in Wilmette.

Do not even think about opening a Walmart or Target or McDonalds in Wilmette.  Though maybe it's a good thing that there are some places somewhere that don't have a Walmart or a McDonalds.

Today's big family drama was all about timeshares.  My grandfather bought a bunch of weeks of timeshares up in northern Wisconsin during times of the year that no one in their right mind would want to go to northern Wisconsin.  Like in February or the end of November or I don't even know when.  And the maintenance fees on these weeks . . .  yikes is all I have to say.  Nobody in the family wants to inherit the timeshares and pay the maintenance fees and go to northern Wisconsin, well, ever, let alone in February.  You cannot even give these weeks away and we know because my aunt tried.  She gave away 2 of the weeks that weren't in February but the others?  No way.  And the other aunt is telling me I'm going to eventually be responsible for my share of the maintenance fees even though I haven't been to northern Wisconsin in 20 years or so and I argued vehemently against buying the timeshare back in the 70's.  Because even as a teenager I could see this was a bad idea.  But my grandfather fancied himself a genius investor and I was just a dumb teenage girl.

Anyway, after much searching for 35 year old pieces of paperwork and going around in circles about this and freaking out by me because I'm having enough trouble right now with my own mortgage let alone property that I don't even want and why on earth would I ever go to northern Wisconsin in February and good gravy people, I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.  So I googled and according to the internets I don't have to inherit anything I don't want to, especially not timeshares with ridiculous maintenance fees in the frozen tundra no matter what sort of genius agreement my grandfather entered into.  Now I know googling in the internets is maybe not as good as consulting a lawyer but since we can't find the paperwork that the lawyer needs I'm going to assume the internets knows what it's talking about.  Unless any of you would like a free week or three in the frozen tundra.

Two more days.  I wonder what adventure awaits tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Wheels Up in 24

Tomorrow morning I fly to Chicago for yet another few days of adventures.  If you want to know the truth I've had enough with adventures.  I love my life of quiet routine and at this point I'd like nothing better than to slip back into it.  Two weeks of driving and racing and poor night's sleep and beating my brains out over race strategy, mountain bike courses and agility courses has been plenty.  So tired right now.  A good tired but ready to go back to real life.  I contemplated going back down to Commerce City to watch Grand Prix Finals on Sunday and in the end I ended up having a nap from 1:00-3:00.  A 2 hour, out cold, deep sleep in the middle of the afternoon is unheard of for me.  I'd like to say it was great but I only woke up feeling groggy, a feeling that still persists 3 days later.

Normally I would not have scheduled my yearly trip home to Chicago on the heels of 2 nationals but I wanted to coordinate the trip with my out of state aunt who works weekends and this was what we came up with.  Plus I figured I'd be tired and unproductive anyway.  Just didn't figure on being this tired and unproductive.

I've been trying to gear myself up for it, at least get to the point of not dreading it, but it's been a challenge.  Every year it's a challenge.  But it makes my grandmother happy so I do it.  And it'll be nice to see her and my aunt and a good friend that I've had since high school.  But leaving home and Jonny and the dogs and my routine yet again is not something I'm looking forward to.

On the other hand I called my aunt last night and she sounded so exhausted.  She's in her 60's and works as an ER nurse and was probably working some insanely long shift for days in a row so she could get this weekend off.  You want to talk about exhausted.  So I decided to quit my bitching.

4 days in the suburbs with no car or internet though.  At least there's a coffee shop with internet a mile away so maybe I can walk there and deal with any business related stuff if it comes up.  I have phone internet but I'm not good at it, can't use the onscreen keyboard very well, can't get the apps to work, so slow.  Hopefully any potential clients will call rather than email.  I'm sure I'll survive.

It's so nice here in Colorado right now though.  Sunny blue skies, crisp and cool in the morning warming to the 70's by the afternoon.  I saw my last clients for the week yesterday so today I think I'll treat myself to a mid-day swim outside at masters and then a hike to enjoy the last of the fall colors in the high country.  Because heck, what's a little more exhaustion to add to the pile?

Miss Lola.  Just because.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

USDAA Nationals Days 3 and 4

Strum and I had a great few days at Nationals.  And I ended up having a lot more fun in general than I thought I would.  Both the site and the layout are so much nicer than Westworld in Scottsdale.  The crating is way closer to the rings, the parking is way closer to the site, the grass is lush and green, nothing like the dry slippery stuff in Scottsdale.  And the artificial turf is great.  Other than the late evening/overnight rain the weather has been perfect.  A little warm the past 2 days but high 60's, low 70's is so much nicer than 85-95 degrees.  If they had set all the rings up on the turf then they wouldn't have had scheduling issues due to rain saturating the grass fields but I guess they wanted to try to please everybody so had a mixture of grass and turf.  Still not happy about the 22" weave poles and Strum (and other dogs) struggled with them this weekend but oh well.

Lush green fields

Fresh snow on the mountains in the background.  They look a little hazy, maybe there's still lingering smoke from the wildfires in Idaho.

 Didn't take many photos, somehow not much seemed interesting enough.  Or maybe was burnt out from all the picture taking in Utah.  Forgot to get shots of the turf rings.

Day 4 was Team Gamblers and Team Jumpers, both events that I was looking forward too.  We usually do well in Gamblers as long as it's not a distance challenge and luckily this time it wasn't.  And I love Jumpers, my favorite class.

This course didn't give you a lot of options for the gamble though.  The opening was 25 seconds (for 22" dogs) of point gathering then when the horn went you had to go over the Gateway jump then take 1-3-5 point obstacles, any order, and only those 3 obstacles then cross the finish jump in 15 seconds (22" dogs).  Since the teeter was the only 5 point obstacle near the finish you were pretty much stuck with that.  I didn't see anyone attempt any other contact.  Also the jump before the teeter was pretty much the only jump that made sense so the only choice you had was which tunnel to take.  I took the tunnel by the Gateway jump then jump then teeter then out.  Lots of people chose this option and many had dogs take the off course tunnel on the way out.  The other popular option was jump-teeter-tunnel to the right of the teeter and out.  Pretty much the only other variation I saw was jump-teeter-tire and out the long way around.  And the handler only did that because her dog went racing off the teeter and took the tire before she could stop it.  Kind of a boring gamble for Nationals if you ask me but I shouldn't complain because I got it.  I chose a boring course for the opening to avoid the dogwalk and weave poles.  If it wasn't Team and Nationals I would have chosen a more challenging course but instead I went for maximum points given Strummer's strengths.  We even ended up with 3 more points than I had planned for.

Team Gamblers

Ran Gamblers at around 11:20 then didn't run Jumpers until 5:00 or so.  Jonny and I went out for lunch then I sat around forever beating my brains out over the Jumpers course.  It was a very technical, international style course and I was probably one of the few people who thought it looked fun and was excited to run it.

I made it through with refusals between 1 and 2 and of course a missed weave pole entry.  Such an easy entry too.  I walked the course with a front cross between 10 and 11 and then again between 11 and 12.  Seemed like no problem when I walked it.  Then I saw practically no one run it that way.  Most people did rear crosses.  Most people also had wide turns with those rear crosses and refusals, run bys, back jumps at jump #11.  I also debated back and forth about which way to turn Strummer over jump #9.  I was leaning towards turning him to his right because it gave a much better line to the broad jump which he'd sliced in Steeplechase quarterfinals due to jumping wide and me not bringing him in enough.  But a friend pointed out that if I was going to do the fronts, wrapping him to the right would put me too far behind.  In the end I turned him to his left and waited every so briefly until he came into me and still easily got my fronts in and nice tight turns through that serp. (at least relative to most other folks who did rears).

The pull through the gap after the #17 tunnel was also a challenge.  My initial plan was to do a blind cross after the tunnel and finish 18 and 19 with Strum on my left but in the end I chickened out, pulled him through on my right and did get the anticipated turn towards the broad jump but at least it wasn't an off course.  I hate taking the safe way but Team at Nationals is not the place to take chances.  I was so happy to get through with only 2 refusals and the wasted time.  Lots of really good handlers had E's.

So pleased with the run, what a good boy Strummer was and with a dog running in the next ring as well.  Once again, was beaming all the way home.

Team Jumpers

Day 4 was only Team Standard and thankfully we ran just after noon so I didn't have to sit around until the end of the day.  This was another technical course and again I was excited to run it though we've never done anything close to such a complicated course in a trial situation.

The only handling blip was after the #9 jump.  I didn't support the #10 jump enough, turned my shoulders too soon because I wanted a tight turn to the weaves.  Some people didn't cue the turn soon enough and got the #3 off course jump or an impossible line to the weaves.  For once he got his weave entry then mysteriously popped out far into the poles.  The only thing I can think is that he was struggling to hold on with the spacing.  Then we got called on the dogwalk but it was a very solid obvious hit with 3 paws in the yellow so I don't know what the judge was thinking.  I even pulled a photo off of the video.  You can't see it from that angle but he had his back feet hit on the yellow as well so it's not as close as it looks.  The judge was at such a bad viewing angle too, probably from having to judge the stupid up contact.  Oh well.  Until they get some sort of contact zone sensor pads for National events we just have to live with the calls we get.

Nonetheless, I was thrilled to get through that course with only a couple of blips.  Strum was such a good boy, so pleased with him.  Again, lots of E's on that course.

Team Standard

My awesome teammates didn't E on Jumpers or Standard either, just some minor faults here and there and Team Here for the Party ended up in 50th place out of 170 teams.  They take the top 30 teams for relay finals so we didn't quite make that but still I'm plenty happy with our result.  Was so glad to be on such a great, low pressure team.

In all I had a great time at Nationals despite all the down time.  Strummer did so well, so calm and focused.  He did start to lose it before his Gamblers run when a loudspeaker kept feeding back right next to the ring.  This caused him to start freaking out at the Gamble horn and loudspeaker but I managed to work him through it and he had a great Gamblers run.  He was also getting a bit wound up before his Jumpers run probably because it was so late and he was overtired/overstimulated.  But I worked his focus like crazy before his run, having him heel at my side which is something that he likes to do and calms him down.  Again, he was great once he got into the ring.

I also got to meet Steve, the one and only Agility Nerd.  He was in our rotation and I got to see some of his awesome runs with his Border Collie Meeker.  Such a wonderful, smooth team to watch.

Was happy that they weren't calling fault limits and whistling people out of the ring for E's.  At least they weren't in my ring or any of the rings I watched.  That was my biggest complaint with that Nationals I went to at Scottsdale.  I did get more of a feeling that USDAA was trying to accommodate people and cater more to the competitor this time.  They even gave us really nice t-shirts and schwag this time.  The picture frame is so nice, can't wait to get the photos I ordered.

I hope they'll bring Nationals back here.  The facility was so nice for agility and for a Nationals type event.  Don't know why they aren't doing it 2 years in a row like they did in Kentucky but I guess I should be thankful enough for having had at least the one opportunity.