Monday, January 30, 2017

Buyer Beware - Border Collie 'Shopping'

And then there was one.

I got Ruby at the beginning of May last year and if you'd told me when I got her that she'd be the only dog I had left by January I'd have been in pure disbelief.  And yet here we are.  For the first time in 18 years no Border Collies tearing around the house.  So weird and quiet.  Ruby is happy to sleep in until whenever.  Definitely a hard starter.  The parade of zillions of dogs past our living room windows is greeted with some interest but no hysterical barking and scrabbling of front paws on the upper window sills.  Which I have to admit is a nice thing.  I can leave the house without someone flying around my legs in a flurry having a barking tantrum and come back in the house if I forget something without more barking and tantrums.  I would happily take it all back to have my dogs back.  I'm finally getting used to the quiet and it's turned from nice to boring.  Neither Jonny nor I are ready for another dog right now but both of us would like to get some crazy energy back in the house at some point.

I had been keeping my eye out on the various rescue sites and Petfinder for the past couple of months.  There was a Border Collie that sounded like a good possibility that came into the rescue I volunteer for but I didn't want to subject Lola to a new dog.  She deserved to live out her life without that extra stress on her.  Unfortunately the rescue has since disbanded, the dog was taken to a rescue on the other side of the state and was promptly adopted.  Yay for that dog!  Another dog will come around, no shortage of dogs in rescue.  And it's puppy season, loads of puppies in rescue right now though none of them locally seem to be Border Collies or even reasonable mixes of some herding dog.  And they've been spayed/neutered at 8 weeks old which sadly is a deal breaker for me.  If I get a puppy I'd like to wait 1 1/2 - 2 years to get it spayed/neutered.  Unfortunately this is a deal breaker for most rescues.  I get it but it makes getting a puppy from rescue problematic for me.  And yesterday I was entertaining the idea that maybe I'd like a puppy for a change.  Been 16 years since I've had one.

So I went down the rabbit hole of checking out Border Collie breeders.  And after about 40 minutes I had a stomach ache that literally sent me running for the bathroom.  I like the criteria that the working Border Collie forum sets for choosing a breeder, their list of red flags is here.  There are obvious red flags like don't get dogs from pet stores or over the internet or from the Walmart parking lot.  Or breeders that emphasize the colors of dogs or register with the AKC or won't give you their address. or have too many litters and breeding pairs of dogs.  Additional obvious red flags for me are breeders that are selling more than one breed or won't let you come out to their facility.  Photos from conformation shows and a listing as an AKC Breeder of Merit or AKC breeder of any merit are deal breakers for me.  The agility/sport lines are filled with epilepsy, hip problems, behavior problems and other weird health problems so I shy away from those lines.  These things are easy and obvious to spot on a website.

But some things are not so obvious.  On the one hand responsible Border Collie breeders should be breeding for working ability on livestock.  I'd like to support this idea.  But to be honest I have no need for a dog that can work livestock nor am I a good judge of a good working dog.  AKC herding titles and herding titles in general are red flags, according to the Border Collie forum:

"Breeders who don't know enough or care enough to breed for herding excellence may point to titles (letters before or after the dog's name) acquired in dumbed-down AKC or other multi-breed herding trials. These trials are designed as ways to have fun with your dog rather than as true tests of working ability, and because they have to provide fun for many breeds which have little or no herding ability, they are no measure at all of the quality of a real working breed like the Border Collie. Where a Border Collie sire or dam is advertised as having title initials before or after its name, you can be pretty sure that neither the dog nor the breeder is accomplished enough to compete in "real" Open level sheepdog trials. Ironically, therefore, these titles prove the exact opposite of what they are intended to prove. The same is true of "herding instinct certificates," an easy, meaningless credential that no serious breeder of working dogs would bother to get."

O.k., so alphabet soup listed after a dog's name is a red flag, got it.  So how can a novice like me evaluate herding ability?  How do I know if I'm supporting the real deal?  How do I even find these breeders?  A simple Google search of 'Border Collie Breeders Colorado' brings up a 100% failure of criteria on the first 2 pages.  In fact the first listing is for Wildblue Border Collies, the breeder who sold Jon Katz his dogs and if ever there was a red flag . . .  Plus that 'AKC Breeder of Merit' stamp on the first page of the site.  Ugh.

Anyway, there was one sort of useful link that came up at the bottom of page two, 'Ranch World Ads'.   Some of these breeders seem sketchy.  But one seemed like a possibility.  No initial obvious red flags and a video showing the male dog working.

'Save money, save time, save stress' - get a Border Collie.  That made me laugh.  And laugh and laugh and laugh.  Because 10 years with Strummer was the exact opposite of saving money, time and stress.  Maybe if I had a herd of cattle . . .  Anyway, to a novice this looks like a reasonable level of herding skill.  And when I clicked on the 'Previous Litters' button the first thing I saw was a testimonial from an agility friend that I'd just been talking to a couple of weeks ago at a USDAA trial.  I saw her husband working with the dog and it seemed like a very nice dog.  This seemed promising.

No mention of the female dog's herding abilities and none of the testimonials from people with pups from previous litters mention herding ability but at this point I'm willing to let that slide.  I don't personally need a dog with herding ability and after hours of searching this is the only breeder in Colorado that I've found that comes even close to satisfying the criteria for supporting the working Border Collie community.  The male's pedigree looks o.k. as far as inbreeding goes but when I check the female's pedigree - ugh - some pretty serious inbreeding.  And this is a huge red flag for me.  I'm already cynical about the whole concept of 'purebred dog' and to know I'm getting one that's got significant inbreeding (grandmothers of the female are sisters, not sure if they're littermates though) is probably a deal breaker.  I'm not willing to compromise my priorities of health and temperament for herding ability.

So I'm back to square one which is rescue which means there's a good likelihood I won't be able to get a puppy unless I can find a rescue willing to work with me on the spay/neuter thing.  And when it comes to puppies, rescue is the riskiest place to get one.  We took that risk with Lola and it was totally worth it but is it worth taking the risk again?  The surest bet is a grown or nearly grown dog from rescue.  You know what you're getting temperament wise and the size and structure of the dog.  And I prefer mixes to purebreds.  In the next week or two I'll start the application process.  Lots of different rescues in the area.  One of them has a most ridiculous application process, intimidating even to me and I worked for 10 years for Border Collie rescue.  I get what they're trying to do, so many idiots out there with dogs who haven't got the faintest clue about behavior and training.  But I'm not sure I can be bothered writing essays on my training techniques and reading all the pet level behavior books and articles they require you to read.  Ironically and unfortunately the rescue I volunteered for has recently disbanded.  As I recall they had a policy of allowing puppies to wait until at least 7 months to be spayed/neutered.  And their application process was a good balance of thorough but reasonable.  But there are no shortage of dogs that need homes out there so I'm sure the right dog will come along at some point.  Funny, I've always had dogs falling in my lap, it's odd to be in the position of actively looking for one.

On a related note, I checked out the Border Collie epilepsy database and wow there are a lot of sport lines there and irresponsible breeding.  A couple of dogs come up four times or more in various lines and pedigrees as parent or grandparent of an epileptic dog.  One agility competitor turned breeder even bred the exact same parents that produced an epileptic dog 7 years later and surprise surprise, they produced another epileptic dog.  Another male dog produced epileptic dogs with different females and still was being bred as well as his offspring.  Seriously dude, in the name of DUH quit breeding your dog.  You know who you are and anybody willing to take 10-20 minutes to peruse that site can figure it out.  There was another case of someone breeding siblings together (not sure if they were littermates).  DUH people.  Who buys these dogs?  What's the point of knowing the pedigree if you're going to ignore the red flags?  So much emotion involved, I think people put logic aside both on the buying and breeding side.

Ah well, the search begins.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

RIP Lola, December 2000 - January 2017

We decided to let Lola go yesterday.  Her mobility had taken a turn for the worse over the weekend and we decided it was time to let her go.  She had a good long happy life and we miss her terribly.  The only dog I've ever had from an 8 week old puppy.  The house is so very quiet.  It's the first time in 19 years that I haven't had a Border Collie knocking around.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I'll Feel Like An Asshole If I Don't Go

When I did Xterra Apen Valley a few years ago I ended up walking a good portion of the challenging bike course with a group of women.  Two of them were first timers and inexperienced mountain bikers lured to the race because inexplicably it was marketed to beginners.  The course was 2 laps and during the first lap they said they were going to quit at the end of the lap but after I started my second lap I heard them come up behind me.  'We'd feel like assholes if we quit', they explained.  For some reason this has stuck with me whenever I fee like quitting something.

I woke up early yesterday morning to meet some folks to go to the Women's March in Denver.  I'd had a fitful night of poor sleep and nightmares and to be honest I was a bit worried.  It was going to be crowded and I hate big crowds let alone big crowds where there might be violence and tear gas and at the very least there would likely be ignorant, mentally deficient assholes yelling sick and stomach churning things.  I don't go to a lot of protests but every once in a while I'll think something is worthwhile speaking up about and while I've never had to deal with tear gas I have had to deal with, and by deal with I mean ignore, mentally deficient assholes.  It was cold and I was tired and I had a long morning of driving and possibly lots of traffic and hassle ahead of me.  It would have been so easy to crawl back into bed with Ruby and a warm cup of cocoa.  Would the march really miss me?  But it kept running through my head, 'I'll Feel Like An Asshole If I Don't Go'. 

So I went.  And it was awesome.  A friend of a friend drove a group of 7 of us down there, a diverse group including a 16 year old girl and her father.  Nobody else was worried, in fact the woman who was driving had been up throughout the night out of excitement.  And this is the best way to deal with fear and anxiety - reframe it as excitement.  I was with a good group of people, I knew lots of other good people who were planning on going and the bonus of heated seats in the car.  There was no problem with traffic or parking and she had reserved a space in advance for only $11.

The crowd turned out to be no problem.  LOTS of people.  So many people.  100,000 or 150,000 or who knows.  So not my scene.  But it was fine, I never felt panicked or even worried.  There was no tear gas and no mentally deficient assholes.  Well, not that I saw.  But someone did post a photo of a mentally deficient asshole with a sign that said, 'You Deserve Rape'.   Which made me all the more glad that I went.

But more importantly it was the uplifting feeling from it all.  So many people out there determined not to let the forces of racism, sexism, hatred, elitism, rich vulgar loud mouth guy-ism take over this country.  It was inspiring and gave me hope for the first time since the election.  I feel like there are plenty of us out there that have each other's backs.  So many people worldwide speaking out peacefully, no violence, no tear gas, no fear.  It was amazing.

I didn't take this one but I love it.

Photo Credit:  Wanda Brown from Facebook

I found this one on the internet, don't think this was the Denver March but it made me smile.

Feeling so much better and empowered about things now.  Still lots of work and vigilance to be done moving forward but at least I feel like there's hope for the future and that's a good feeling.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Keeping It Local

The mountains have been getting hammered with snow so Jonny and I decided to go snow shoeing up at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, just under an hour's drive on a good day.  But Saturday was not a good day.  At 11:30 a.m. Boulder Canyon was already mobbed with people coming down from the Eldora Ski Resort so we made a quick detour up to Betasso Open Space, a mere 20 minutes drive.  Because it was going to take a lot longer than an hour to make it through all the ski traffic.  Ski Traffic!  In Boulder Canyon!  If that's not a sign of Too Many People I don't know what is.  We got caught in Leaf Traffic this fall too.  Crazy times.

Anyway, we had a bunch of snow in town too so the snow shoeing was good and shockingly the trails were quiet.  I guess everyone was on I-70 or Boulder Canyon heading to and from the ski resorts.

How now Brown Cloud?

It was a beautiful, peaceful day on the trails, saw only a handful of people in 3 hours and saved ourselves an asston of driving aggravation.

Woke up on Monday and the snow was pretty much gone.  The strong warm Chinook winds blew in and kept overnight temps. well above freezing and warm into the next day.  Ruby needed her coat and booties on Saturday.  She wasn't happy about them but she was happy to get out of the house.

Is there anything cuter than a wee dog in booties?

Her agility training is coming along.  My goal is to have her sending to a tunnel, sending to a cone and doing a wrap and doing some short jump/tunnel/cone sequences before the seminar next month.  And to that end I rushed her training a bit going directly from a straight tunnel to a curved tunnel.  Poor thing was a bit confused.  Today I set up an almost straight tunnel with a bit of a curve to it and she had no problem.  Dog Training 101.  How did I forget how to teach the tunnel?

Or maybe the other dogs all loved the tunnel and it was no big deal to go directly to a curve.

The weave poles are getting closer together but still not enough to cause a weave.  Poor Lola, a sudden burst of unpredicted snow came.  Poor me because there goes my nice dry yard.  Supposed to get a bit more tomorrow, less than an inch but enough to shut down training for a day or two.

Probably a few more sessions before the poles will be close enough to cause a weave.  I'm getting some 2x2's this weekend to work on entries.  She still ignores the channel altogether and heads straight for the treat gizmo if I don't set her up right in front of the channel so practicing entries this way is not working.  I'll work on entries with the 2x2's then try again with the channel.  Hopefully the snow will melt by the weekend and I can get started on teeter training.  Fun with baby dogs.  Think I'll take her to the USDAA trial this weekend to hang out for a bit and pick up my 2x2's.  I always have agility dreams the few nights before a trial and even though I'm not competing I still had one last night.  I was going to run Ruby in the International class even though I hadn't walked the course and she still hadn't done a sequence yet.  Thankfully I woke up before my run.  Stupid neurotic agility dreams.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Fleece Weather

Poor Ruby, she's not a fan of cold weather or snow.  We've been having some weather - single digit and subzero temps. plus around 10 1/2 inches of snow.  I keep forgetting she's from Texas and this is only her second winter in Colorado and her first winter with the Border Collie People/Endurance Sports People who go out in all sorts of weather.  She's been happy to spend the past couple of days like this.

The biggest, hardest thing about 2016 apart from the election was losing Strummer.  Over 6 months later Jonny and I are still a bit shell shocked and trying to adjust to the absence of his crazy energy.  For 18 years we've had some form of energetic Border Collie or mix thereof in the house.  Some dog getting us up out of bed early for walkies or agility trials or hikies or something.  Up until a couple of weeks ago even Lola would protest loudly if she didn't get her breakfast in a timely fashion and insisted on morning walkies, even if they were slow and not very far.  But now she's leaving bits of her breakfast and is not so insistent on a morning walk.  And Ruby is a Good Girl, she's a happy Go With the Flow sort and on these cold mornings she's happy for a long lie in.  I shoveled some goat paths for her and it's all I can do to get her to go out and pee.

On the other hand Jonny and I spent a good hour yesterday shoveling and I spent another 20-30 minutes later in the day when the plow blocked the driveway with another foot or so.  Have to get that stuff right away or the freeze/thaw cycles turn it to heavy concrete boulders.  Plus a quick 6 minute walk to the grocery store and back in the frigid.  I'm feeling so sluggish, need  to get back into a routine but winter always has other ideas.  Temps. are rising to the upper 50's next week so I'll have some slushy/muddy/ice pack to deal with. 

Should really spend the time focusing on weights and strength.  Finally work on learning a handstand.  Balance stuff.  I was having a great trail run last week, thinking about how great my knee has been doing, how well I tolerated this season of racing, set a goal for the run of no stumbles or falls on a narrow, overgrown singletrack trail that I normally stumble on a lot because it's smooth enough to lull you into not paying close attention and then rocks here and there that pop up out of nowhere and cause a stumble.  I made it out and back and to about 40 seconds from the trailhead and just before I began the short steep descent to the end of the trail I twisted my bad knee and landed funny on my other ankle and twisted my ankle.  Or maybe it was the other way around, it happened so fast.  Best I can figure the sun was in my eyes creating a glare as it was setting behind a hill and I was distracted for a moment and missed sight of a rock.  Had a painful 2 1/4 miles to get home in the cold (low 20's and getting colder as the sun went down).  Walked some, ran some, got home eventually.  It felt like the meniscus had turned over and sometimes it turns back quickly, sometimes it can takes weeks or months.  The dog/human chiropractor that can fix it easily no longer lives in Boulder, maybe is in Crested Butte which is a 4 3/4 hour drive, longer in the winter with snowy roads.  Thankfully it was only painful for a couple few days, was running again a week later and it feels fine now.  Phew.  But a wake-up call for a return to balance work, maybe some parkour stuff to keep it fun.  Mobility work has been non-existent as well, need to bring that back.

I have no triathlon goals at the moment.  I've given up the idea of USAT Worlds in Penticton Canada.  That was to be my big goal for 2017 but since I went to Maui for Xterra Worlds I'm going to give USAT Worlds a miss mostly for financial reasons.  The big goal for the year is to move off the Front Range, preferably before the housing market collapses again.  My property tax bill went up 20% from last year and my aggravation at the Too Many People problem has gone up around 60%.  I'm also having a sort of crazy idea of teaching agility lessons when I move.  There's only one other commercial place that I can find out there and they're only doing NADAC which I have no interest in.  I could even eventually put up a building to have an indoor facility or maybe even find a place that already has an outbuilding.  Lots of places out there with land have such buildings though many are pretty small for agility.  Or even a covered open air structure a la Silvia Trkman.  Many places have these for hay storage.  We'll see. 

I saw this great TED talk about polymaths and had the lightbulb moment of wow I'm a polymath and didn't realize it.

Well maybe sort of a polymath.  I do get obsessed with things and go deep down rabbit holes but unlike this person I seldom get bored.  I was an engineer for 20 years after all and it's not like I quit because I was bored.  But once I was removed from that world I realized I had so many other interests and life is short.  And it seems like that's the way to make your way in a rural area, do lots of little things rather than one big Career.  Not that there's anything wrong with that but I've been there, done that and I'm excited to move on to other things.  And I suppose I'm thankful for being grounded by the Fleece Weather so I can spend some time and thought on these next big moves.  I think 2017 will be good and bad and exciting and scary in many ways both personally and nationally (and globally).  Nothing for it but to prepare and jump into it and brace myself.

Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 In Numbers

I'm not sure how much these numbers mean but I've got a Garmin and I'm not afraid to use it.

Training totals for the year are:


306,944 yards (174.4 miles)
129 hours, 55 minutes

About 90,000 yards/32 hours were in open water (Strava reports 86,686 yards/29:30 hours but I forgot my Garmin for a few workouts)

Mountain Bike

1056 miles
135 hours, 5 minutes
89,180' elevation gain
73 rides


333 miles
83 hours, 52 minutes
29,120' elevation gain?


72 miles
28 hours
12,179' elevation gain?

Cross Country Ski

14.6 miles
4 hours, 47 minutes

Strength Training

16 hours, 35 minutes

I've also got 28.4 miles and 15:52 hours for walking on my Garmin, not sure what that's about.  I'd guesstimate I walk an hour a day on average between the dogs and errands.  Probably more.  So another 365 hours and say 900 miles of walking assuming 2.5 miles per hour which might be optimistic considering how slowly Lola goes these days.  Maybe more like 600-700 miles. 

This is the first year that I've had a Garmin for the full year (got it the third week of March of 2015) so it's the first time I've had a full year of numbers at my fingertips so I have nothing to compare it to.  From last week of March - December 2015 I had 345 miles/80:33 hours of running, 942 miles/118:18 hours biking, 263,999 yds/109:33 hours swimming and 17:41 hours strength training.  So running volume and strength training were lower this year for sure.  Probably didn't do too much biking from Jan. to March.  Did a lot of swimming though and almost certainly some weight training.

The only number that really stands out to me is the very low hours of strength training.  Can't believe it was so small.  I missed a few weeks in Feb/March due to a neck injury from overdoing the snow shoveling and cross country skiing but still.  This is a huge area of improvement for this year.

I'm pleased with the swimming numbers.  Running numbers are low but that's intentional.  Not sure I can handle much more volume and many of my run workouts have speed work.  This is where numbers can become a bit meaningless.

And as long as we're talking meaningless stats . . .

For the Xterra rankings I finished 47/443 women all ages, 5/68 for the female 50-54 age group and 2/20 for female, 50-54, Mountain Region.  Xterra gives you points based on your finish placement.  So people who do a lot of races finish higher.  This year will be even more so because previously they would only count 4 races but this year they're counting all your races.  So if I really REALLY wanted to be Regional Champion I could spend the summer traveling around doing zillions of races and it mostly wouldn't matter how fast I was unless others in my age group did the same thing.  Obviously Xterra is trying to make more $$$ by enticing people to enter more races.  And that's fine for the age groupers.  But I don't think it's a good way of determining who's really the best if that sort of thing matters to you and if you're a pro it sure matters.  A lot.  Probably not such a big deal for the age groupers except for those trying to qualify for Worlds because the Regional Champion gets a slot at Worlds.  And no, I'm not going to spend the summer going to zillions of races.  Not sure if I'm going to do any for that matter.  Maybe Nationals.  Probably Nationals.  No way I'm going back to Maui.  One and Done baby.

According to USAT rankings I finished 17/24 of all the ranked women in my age group.  In order to be ranked you have to finish 2 races.  There are a lot of unranked athletes but I didn't bother to count all that up.  USAT has a funny ranking system that I don't understand because it's based on some fictional finish time that they compare you're time to and there's no way to know what that time is.  This probably works o.k. for the road triathlons but for off-road it's not so bueno.  Worlds was a very tough race because of the conditions, super slow times, 1 - 1 1/2 hours slower for many people who had done it before.  The woman who won my age group at Worlds finished way behind someone in the overall USAT rankings whom she'd beaten by almost 1 hour 15 minutes at Worlds because the other woman had done some other races where she hadn't had such a relatively slow time compared to the fictional comparison time.  I finished ahead of someone who had beaten me in the only 2 races we'd done together and I finished behind someone I'd beaten.  So I dunno, kinda screwy.  But I guess it's better than ranking people by who has the most time and money to race.

And in totally unrelated news, some photos from today's hike at Meyers Gulch.  Because I can't do a post with no photos or videos.

Poor thing, the camera stresses her out.  I tried not to torture her too much.

It was stormy looking over the Divide.  We have some snow coming in a couple of days but I don't think this was it.

Small but Mighty Mountain Dog

A nice meadow with a bit of winter color.

On a mission.  Always.

Nice view.