Monday, December 14, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Which Django Learns What Those Poles In The Ground Are For

It is a small wonder that Django has proven to be such an honest agility dog given the on-and-off patchwork of classes and lessons that laid his foundation training in the sport. When Django came into our household, Tristan was approaching a year of convalescence for his knee problems, and Jade was making it clear in no uncertain terms that while he was a stellar flyball dog, he would only do agility under his own rules and conditions, thank you very much. I had the agility bug though, and wanted a competition partner, so hoped to quickly get Django up and running. Fate had other plans for a while though, and his education had a lot of fits and starts. We had become disenchanted with the instructor we'd been going to who seemed to be resorting to throwing water bottles at dogs as a training method. We chose to go to another instructor who we enjoyed, but who at the time only taught a class slightly advanced for Django's skill level. We faked our way through it as best we could . . . but then we bought a new house and moved, I broke my arm, etc. Finally, a couple years ago we were ready to really enter competition with him. With only one little issue.

He remained rather flummoxed by the concept of weaves. If he concentrated real hard, and I stood right next to him and showed him the straight path to the entry and didn't rush him, he could slowly wiggle his body back and forth through a set of six poles. If he were on my left side, that is. If he was on my right side, he would come to a grinding halt at the first pole and stare at it perplexed as if he had absolutely no idea what to do with this strange white stick in the ground.

We took some weave classes, worked weaves in the backyard, and within the past year got to a point where I could usually pretty much count on him knowing what to do with the weaves. He still would pop out on occasion, and really was better if he was on my left. He wouldn't drive ahead or out to the side to find weaves by himself so I really needed to be there for him. I would risk off-side weaves if I really had to but usually tried to find ways to set him up as best I could. And he did not weave fast, by any means, in a trial.

So, sometime this fall apparently somebody abducted this dog and managed to train him what I had been unable to in the last 5 years or so.

We entered a CPE trial this past Sunday, and saw that the first run of the day was a traditional Jackpot that involved a set of weaves in the gamble. I figured chances were slim to none of him hitting weaves at that distance and angle. So no one was more stunned than I was when he became the first dog of the day to qualify, hitting the weaves perfectly, and actually kind of fast. As I gathered up his leash, I asked him "Whose dog are you? Because mine doesn't weave like that. When did you learn how to do that?" He was pleased with himself as always, but was not telling.

After that performance, I decided that, dammit, clearly the dog knows what to do and I have just been babysitting and hand holding way too much. So I planned to run the rest of the day's courses in the most efficient way possible and not worry about managing his weaves. I did off-side weaves at least three times. I sent him ahead to find the entry on his own. I didn't slow down and let him think about how to do them. Every time he nailed them. Charged ahead, found the entries, single-stepped the poles, kept driving through them, didn't look to me for guidance . . . and he finished the day perfect in all five runs with three first places and two seconds.

It pleases me to no end that at this age and after this long, Django is still continuing to improve his skills and is actually getting faster and showing more drive. So, to whoever had been training my dog behind my back, many thanks!!

Having some video upload issues at the moment that should hopefully be resolved later this week, so hope to have a few of the runs up eventually. His Standard and Snooker runs especially made me very proud!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Milestone

Been a weird couple months around here, but life is hopefully getting back to normal and we have had a couple significant events in recent weeks.

On October 17-18, we attended Canine Express's annual flyball tournament with Django. Maebe had been signed up for an agility jumping seminar that weekend, but a lesion on her toe that kept getting irritated prevented her from going and participating, so she had a weekend off. Django entered the tournament needing about 480 points for his ONYX title, and I am happy to report that we accomplished that goal during his second-to-last race on Sunday afternoon. As I got Django as an adult, he had a pretty late start to his flyball career, so I was very pleased that he was able to accomplish this.

While most of the gang stayed at home for the weekend, we did bring Cadence up on Saturday to participate in the annual Halloween costume contest. He was the Great Pumpkin.

He looks relatively happy in these photos, but they don't capture all the wiggling and scratching and throwing his body to the ground that he was doing during the parade. I think he got off pretty easy - he should talk to Jade about when we dressed him up as the Tin Man for a Wizard of Oz theme. His suffering paid off though as he won "Cutest Costume"!

The true highlight of the weekend came as a big surprise. Every year, the Canine Express team honors a rescued flyball dog with the Brenda Bailey Inspiration award. The award has been given for the last three years, in memory of a teammate who died from cancer. Teams can nominate eligible rescue dogs for the award, and I was touched that our team captain chose to nominate Django. I was asked to write up a description of Django, so I retold his story a bit - how he was picked up as a stray on the streets of Detroit, and bounced around through shelters and rescue foster homes before he found his way to us via his wonderful foster mom, Chris. I mentioned how Django means "I awaken" and how much he has truly done that over his time with us. I always love sharing Django's story, but I did not expect for a minute that we would be chosen for this honor. I know there are a lot of great rescue dogs out there with other great stories, but I was extremely touched and honored when they read my and Django's name out on Sunday afternoon. Being recognized in this way is probably the best achievement I think I've received with one of my dogs. It really put the point- and title-chasing in perspective and reminded me that the true reward is the bond we form with these canine partners and companions.

Good old Django - I can't wait to see the photo they took for the plaque. He had no idea what the fuss was about and I'm sure he'll look terrified in the picture (any uncertainty tends to cause Django to get a really worried look in those green-yellow eyes of his - it looks much more dramatic than it actually is as far as I can tell from his behavior).

We followed up that exciting weekend with a nice day of agility this past Sunday. Django ran 5 for 5 all day, and placed in every class. He does seem to actually be speeding up even this late in his career, but I think I will move him to "Veterans" for our next trial. He clipped a bar with a toe in his last Jumpers run, which is odd, so I'll give him a little break for a while. He's been a great little athlete all year, and achieved a major title in both of the dog sports we participate in. I think he has some well-deserved pampering in store for him now as we enter in to fall and winter!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Learning Opportunities

Been a busy few weeks here lately, with lots of travel and training opportunities. It has been taking me a while to process some of our recent experiences, and have been thinking and planning a lot lately around my training goals.

Two weeks ago, Cadence and I headed to his homeland (Canada) for a three-day weekend at Susan Garrett’s Puppy Camp. The focus of puppy camp is to learn skills and exercises to set the groundwork for agility specifically, but good “life skills” in general. As Susan stated early on, the same characteristics that make a great family pet make a great agility dog. So, relatively little of the weekend was actually spent on agility-focused activities. Instead we worked on relationship-building, impulse control, building drive and enthusiasm, and developing our skills as trainers. I have been drawn to Susan’s books and DVDs for years, as I appreciate her focus on operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, and her basis in actual learning theory. With Cadence, I am really trying to break my old “luring” habits, and to develop my skills in shaping. It really is fun to watch their little gears turning as they offer different behaviors and figure out what you are looking for.

We returned home from that weekend with heads spinning and carrying a long list of things to work on in the coming months. But, as if our list wasn’t long enough, we set off last weekend to Midland, Michigan to attend a two-day “Get Connected” workshop with Brenda Aloff. This was not necessarily an agility or performance dog-based seminar, but was very much about building a strong relationship and ability to communicate with your dog.

I have seen Brenda speak almost every year for the past 7 years, but have never worked with her. I could listen to her lecture for days, she is so engaging and insightful and humorous, but working with her this weekend proved to be even more of a thrill. She is truly delightful, and Cadence and I had a blast.

While there were occasional slight differences, it was interesting how many of the themes were consistent between the two weekends. Impulse control, structure and consistency, and focusing on your relationship with your dog first and foremost were the common threads that were emphasized again and again.

I learned a lot about my little noodle over both weekends, and am really grateful for these opportunities as I see where our strengths are and what I need to continue to focus on with him. So, I feel good that Cadence is getting off to a good start, and am excited to try some new things with the adult pack as well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Williamston CPE

This weekend we entered Django, Maebe, and Tristan in the Williamston CPE trial put on by the Capital City club. This is always one of our favorite trials each year. The site is a YMCA day camp for kids, and is really a pleasant facility. There is a ton of area for setting up tents, and a nice little hiking trail along a river for walking/swimming the dogs during down time. Plus, this club is filled with friendly, fun members who put on a great event and spoil the workers with an amazing spread of food! As always, we had a wonderful time.

I would say this is perhaps the best weekend I have ever had trialing with Django. I was so proud of him. He qualified in 7 out of 8 runs, and even our NQ was a very successful run in my eyes as he surprised me by overcoming some things that have been challenges to us in the past. He earned three first places, one second, one third, and one fourth.

Since Django isn’t a super-high-drive Border Collie and can be sensitive at times, I think there have been some points in our training that I have tended to baby-sit and not challenge (or trust) him to develop. A main example is the effort I often go to prevent having to do off-side weaves, since they aren’t his strong suit. Consequently, I sometimes play things safe and probably end up slowing him down rather than risking making an error. This weekend I decided to trust him and to trust in the training and teamwork we have and to see what we could do together. He surprised me multiple times, and we had some of our nicest runs this weekend. It makes me realize that it is never too late to keep learning and training and improving together, and I am excited to see the ways he continues to get stronger in his performance.

The biggest landmarks for us were successfully performing off-side weaves multiple times and (essentially) completing the Jackpot gamble, which requires distance and obstacle discrimination and often gives us problems. Technically, he got his one NQ in Jackpot as he missed his A-frame contact (which is fairly rare for him), but he still performed the sequence correctly and at distance, so I count it as a big step forward for us as a team.

Maebe was entered in all the games, but we are keeping her out of Standard runs until her A-Frame performance improves/becomes less terrifying. She had her only NQ in Jackpot, which did require an A-Frame this weekend. As we didn’t want to rehearse a poor performance, and as it was raining and Maebe’s speed + wet contacts scares the hell out of us, Lowell intentionally ended the run early and omitted the A-Frame. Otherwise, she ran great and is definitely keeping bars up and spinning/barking much less and following Lowell’s line better and better. She really is a lot of fun to watch.

Tristan’s Q rate was not as high as the others (about 50%), but he had some very nice runs. He cleaned up on the Jackpot course, and got the maximum number of possible points in Snooker (which is always Lowell’s goal). He was weaving great this weekend, and, most importantly, held up for 8 runs over two days just fine. Since starting his acupuncture visits, he has been moving better than he ever has – it really is amazing the effect it seems to have had.

Cadence and Jade were able to go for some walks on the trail and Jade even took a dip in the river over the weekend. Cadence got to socialize with some friendly dogs and lots of people, and we had some little training sessions in between runs. He really is doing great. He handles trial environments very well, and is able to focus and play with me when I bring him out on breaks. I am very pleased with the drive, motivation, and attention he has been showing me, plus he is the silliest, cutest thing ever and he cracks me up constantly.

We came home Sunday evening tired but feeling happy for the great dogs and great friends that we have, and very grateful that we got to spend a weekend having such fun with all of them. I will spend this week getting ready for next weekend’s excursion, as Cadence and I leave for Puppy Camp with Susan Garrett at Say Yes! on Thursday evening. Should be another fun experience and I am looking forward to learning a lot over the three day camp as I lay the groundwork with my next agility partner.

Monday, July 27, 2009

C-ATCH Django

This weekend, we competed at the Stony Creek Canine Academy CPE trial. We entered Saturday and Sunday as they were offering Jackpot both days, and so Django had two chances to earn his C-ATCH.

Saturday's course was a traditional Jackpot and particularly tricky, with a challenging send out to off-side weaves. Not Django's strong suit, so we had fun, gave it our best try, but I wasn't surprised with the NQ. Still, we had another try Sunday.

Sunday's course was a non-traditional Jackpot. The team had to earn the required number of points (44 for Level 5), and also in the process successfully complete three designated obstacles at any point before the time limit. The three required obstacles were an A-frame, tunnel, and jump. So, not too bad of a Jackpot course. The main risks would be blowing the A-frame contact, dropping the bar on the jump, or not getting enough points in the time limit. I planned out a nice course that would get us enough points, so just had to keep fingers crossed for a successful contact performance. Django is pretty reliable with his A-frames, and rarely drops bars, so as long as there was not too much silliness in his first run of the day, I felt optimistic.

As we stepped to the line, I kissed him on the head and whispered to him that I loved him and that we should just go have fun. I led out past the tire, and was happy to look back and see him intent and focused on me (sometimes I look back and he is making googly-eyes at the leash runner or something). The A-frame was our fourth obstacle, and he solidly hit the contact zone. I breathed a little easier at that point, but still had a lot of points to get so couldn't relax yet. Overall, the run continued to go smoothly, with just a little Django silliness with a dogwalk/tunnel distinction. He REALLY wanted to do the dog walk for whatever reason, but I called him off as I just couldn't diverge from my plan. Of course, the couple seconds spent there felt like an eternity, but we just needed another jump, teeter, and one more tunnel after that. Once back on track, the ending went smoothly and as he came out of the final tunnel, I cheered him on telling him what a great boy he is. We took another jump for good measure and headed to the table to stop our time with still a few seconds to spare.

He hit the table, sat and looked at me. I said to him, "Good job, boy - that's your C-ATCH!" and gave him a hug before taking a quick victory lap. As I leashed him up afterwards, I gave him a big hug, buried my face in his beautiful red fur, and told him how proud I was of him. Then we proceeded out of the ring to get him a big reward of chicken!

The great thing about dogs is that all he knew was that he was having fun running with his mom. It was just another run to him, though when it was over, it became obvious to him that everyone was making a big fuss over him, coming up to congratulate and praise him. He didn't know why, but he knew he was quite pleased with himself and lapped up all the extra attention.

This trial marked the two-year anniversary of what I think of as our serious agility career. We had trialed some with our first dog, Jade, in the past, but he always preferred flyball. Tristan and Django had started to compete a few years ago, and earned up to about Level 2 titles. Then in 2006, we took some time off when we bought a new house and moved. After a few months we were preparing to get back into it, but then I broke my arm and so was sidelined for another few months. Once life settled down a bit, we had to re-hone our dogs' now-rusty agility skills for a few months, and returned to showing again at Stony in July 2007. So, it was fitting that we were able to earn this title at one of our favorite venues, under a judge that we trial under often.

Django may not always be the fastest agility dog out there, but he is reliable and forgiving on the course. More than anything, Django has the greatest desire to please that I have seen in any of our dogs. He wants to be right, and will not stop trying until he gets there. I believe he would do anything I asked of him. He has come a long way from the shy but loving street dog we met a few years ago, and he makes me proud and happy every day. I absolutely adore him.

Many don't know that he is named after a famous jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt. Reinhardt's hand was seriously disfigured in a fire, yet he went on to become regarded as one of the best jazz guitarists of all time. The name, "Django," is a Gypsy name that means "I awaken." I have always thought that it was a fitting name for my guy, as he has come out of his shell and blossomed so much more than I even could have hoped since he won me over with his playful grin years ago.

Titles aren't what it is important, by any means. I treasure all the time I spend with my dogs having a good time with them, and the wins, points, Q's, and other achievements are really just nice things to strive for. But, this weekend's milestone represents to me a lot of hard team work on both of our parts, and I will always treasure the time and fun we have on the journey for a title.

Here is the video of Django's C-ATCH run. As you see, there is a little snag as I have to convince him that we are not, in fact, doing the dog walk, but otherwise he ran very nicely. What a good boy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Camp

This year marked our eighth year of taking the dogs to DSA camp for a week in July. It has become a fun tradition, where we get to spend several days visiting with old friends, making new friends, and just training and spending time with our dogs. Every year is a bit different - some years we are focused on participating in all the new activities and training opportunities, sometimes we work on our own training goals, and other times we just spend time hiking in the woods and swimming at the lake with the dogs.

This year, we mostly did our own thing as far as training. Lowell spent a lot of time working on Susan Garrett's Crate Games with Maebe, Tristan and Jade. We did some agility work with the adults, and got an introduction to competition obedience with Tristan and Django one evening. It seems clear that obedience may be a great activity for Tristan when he can no longer compete in agility. He loves the rules and structure of it and loves heeling. I think he would really enjoy Rally-O one day.

It was a great week for Cadence, filled with new experiences and people and dogs. Our campsite neighbor had a new Lab puppy, Indi, who was born on the same day as Cade. They became fast friends, and would start up an impromptu wrestling match at every possible opportunity.

Cadence also became a "Pup Scout." To do so, he had to pass a little temperament/obedience test. He had to demonstrate that he knew sit, down, and come, he had to show that he could interact with other dogs appropriately, that he could be handled by other people, that he would accept grooming and body handling, and that he could remain calm when I left him alone with a new person. He passed with flying colors. I thought about testing him to become a full "Scout", but wanted to wait until his heeling, "leave its," and stays are more reliable. They are coming along nicely, and if I got him in the right moment we might have passed, but I didn't see the need to rush it.

I also learned what Cadence's nutty Border Collie obsession is: water. His brain just switched into another place at the beach. All my dogs are devoted water dogs and love nothing more than to swim, but even our Lab took a bit longer to become crazy about the water than our little noodle did. Apparently he is fascinated by splashing. He started making splashes with his front paws, then snapping at the spray, and would continue farther and farther until before he knew it, he was swimming. Snapping at the water all the way. It was a bit crazy, and rather lacking in form, but he made up for it in enthusiasm.

Maebe got to try Puissance Jumping, and easily cleared 36 inches - over twice her shoulder height. She also accompanied her dad on the overnight backpacking trip that he led this year, and somehow managed to not be completely eaten alive by mosquitoes. I think it was close though. Apparently she was not terribly pleased with the tent accomodations in the woods at first, until she discovered one of the other campers had brought along a tennis ball and all was well with the world again. She also got to flirt with Brutus, a 130-pound Rott(?) mix, who is the gentlest giant you'd ever want to meet. They make quite a pair. Still, when she returned to the camper the next morning, she curled up on my pillow immediately to tell me all about the hardships she endured for the previous 12 hours in the woods. She is forever the princess.

All the dogs did a ton of swimming, running, hiking, and playing and we all had a great time. We returned home exhausted from all the revelry (and especially from the late-night campfires that Lowell would tend - we had quite a fun and raucous group of fire-goers this year). Already looking forward to camp number nine in 2010!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dog Sport Weekend

Busy holiday weekend this past weekend, filled with all sorts of dog activities.

On Friday, we kicked off the long weekend with a day of CPE agility in Dexter. I was very excited about this trial, as they were offering Jackpot, which is the last class Django and I need to finish his C-ATCH title. Of course, Jackpot was the last run of the day, so we had many hours of waiting for the big moment. Since Jackpot requires speed and distance, I decided to only enter Django in one other run that day. On long days of trialing, Django sometimes will start to work pretty close to me in the last couple runs, so I have more luck with Jackpot if he is fresh and full of energy. We started the morning with a "Q" (and fourth place) in Full House, then let him rest up the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, Tristan and Maebe each got a few runs in with their dad, and had some nice performances. Tristan was well on his way towards having another beautiful Standard run, when his handler forgot the course . . . again. So, still a nice run, just not technically correct. :-) Maebe had a blazing fast Standard run (24 seconds), but demonstrated that her contacts are not, in fact, fixed as we had hoped. In fact, she showed us that she can do the A-Frame while missing the down ramp altogether - not something I hope she ever does again! Nevertheless, she continues to command attention on the course, and Lowell had hours of conversations with other trainers with ideas, suggestions, compliments, etc. The little girl can move, that's for certain.

Django's big run came at the end of the day. I was nervous stepping to the line, but tried as much as possible to relax so he wouldn't feed off my stress. His opening sequence went beautifully - he was moving fast and following me perfectly. In fact, we actually ended up ahead of where I thought we'd be when the whistle blew - rare, as I have developed a good sense of how much we can do in the opening time. When it came time to do the Jackpot (a jump, A-Frame, far end of a curved tunnel, and jump), we started off strong. He came off the A-frame nicely, but headed to the wrong end of the tunnel. I pulled him back, re-sent him, and he headed once more to the near end. Called him off again, but he decided then that clearly he was not supposed to do the tunnel at all, and cleared the last jump. I didn't care though, I was so proud of how nicely he worked for me. I knelt down, hugged and kissed him, and told him we'd just try again next time. A spectator near the exit gate said to me "You couldn't have tried any harder for that - that was a nice run and you should be proud." I agreed completely. Lots of friends patted us on the back, and though Django still can't yet add those five letters before his name, there is always next time. Looks like the Stony trial in three weeks has TWO Jackpot offerings!

After visiting with lots of friends, we packed up the dogs, went home to hook up the camper, and headed down to Sandusky, Ohio for two days of flyball racing with Django and Maebe. When we arrived, we learned that there was an empty back-up spot on a team with some green dogs, and do to various injuries, etc., the team was short. We decided to let Jade step out of retirement for a weekend, and listed him as the back-up, so ended up with three dogs on teams.

Django and Maebe got to race on the same team together, which was very fun. The team was a nice one, with very reliable, consistent dogs. Unfortunately, we were seeded towards the bottom of the division, so had to really fight. And fight we did, running some nice close races and putting in some good times. Maebe ran several 4.3's with passes (over 10-inch jumps, not her favorite), and Django ran a couple 4.4's with passes, even towards the end of Sunday. The team ended up third, but the dogs all earned a lot of points for one tournament, putting Django even closer to getting his ONYX.

Jade had a lot of fun warming up a couple times and running in a few heats, but thankfully the novice dogs held up all weekend, as my decision to retire him was confirmed to be the correct one. Of maybe a half dozen runs, he only carried his ball past the line once or twice. After earning over 40,000 points, I know he knows how to play the game, and physically he still looks great, but somehow his heart isn't in it the way it used to be. I think his stamina just isn't what it was, and he is tiring quickly. Nevertheless, it made me happy to take him into the ring a few more times, and to know that we are making the right decision for him. He has had a great flyball career, and he has earned the right to spend his days now lounging on the couch and barking at squirrels.

The Noodle (Cadence) had a nice weekend as well. He saw flyball for the first time, and handled it well. He was a little surprised by the noise at first, but relaxed quickly. When the racing started, he looked up like "Oh, running dogs, cool" then instantly turned his focus to playing with me. Which, since I was not armed with a tug toy, meant trying to rip my watch right off of my wrist, but I appreciated the sentiment - that even in the presence of high-level distractions he is choosing to play with me.

Overall, a fun weekend of playing with the dogs, camping, and visiting with friends. However, I may re-think doing a tournament on July 4th weekend again, as Saturday night was spent holding Tristan while the fireworks were being set off. He held it together pretty well though.

Lots more camping, trials and tournaments in the coming weeks. Going to have to try and rest up this week in preparation!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


On June 5-7, we made a road trip to Greenfield, MA with the three Border Collies in tow, in order to compete in the CPE Agility Nationals competition. All in all, it was a successful weekend and great vacation, with all of us achieving some goals, making new friends, and having a good time.

The highlight of the weekend, however, was Tristan placing in two standard runs at Nationals, and receiving the High in Standard Veteran award for his level. It was a proud and poignant moment when they read his name off at the late-night awards ceremony Sunday. Tristan has had quite a road to this point – he is a dog with the drive, determination and work ethic of a champion, but sadly with a body that has often limited him. I’ve frequently been moved and inspired by what this dog has taught me about strength and courage, and this weekend felt like the reward for all that he has been through.

When Tristan was about a year and a half old, he started to become intermittently lame on his right rear leg during exercise. He would often come up non-weight-bearing after running with us or playing flyball. We rested him, tried various therapies, and consulted with various vets and specialists. In April 2003, he was diagnosed with a partially torn cranial cruciate ligament in his right knee, and underwent a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy Surgery. We were told he would have six weeks of strict crate rest, and then could slowly begin normal activity again. We were also told that a TPLO would give him the best chance for returning to performance eventually.

The six week recovery went fine, and he appeared to have healed beautifully. Unfortunately, as we started trying to take him for short leash walks again, we found he could not tolerate even a 5-10 minute stroll up the block without coming up lame. Thus began a year-long struggle to figure out what was going on with him. To make matters worse, he was not only coming up lame on his surgery leg, but would at times limp on his left rear leg or his front legs.

For months we sought out second opinions from other orthopedic specialists. We had complete spinal and hip x-rays taken and reviewed by surgeons and radiologists. We took him for a neurological evaluation. We had a second surgery performed to remove the hardware in the knee. Unfortunately, all this was before there was much interest or knowledge in veterinary physical therapy and rehabilitation. We only really had veterinarians at our disposal, and they eventually were stumped.

Finally one day I learned of a clinic that had opened a new physical therapy center at their facility, complete with an underwater treadmill. We took Tristan for an evaluation by the PT there, who immediately pointed out that Tristan had lost 40% of his muscle mass on his right leg during his recovery period, and consequently was very weak and was having his whole body thrown off balance.

For three months, we would drop him off at the rehab facility three times a week to spend the day working with their therapists. This meant 4+ hours of driving each day, but the clinic was wonderful about letting me drop him off before they were technically open, and picking him up late after work. We also had several exercises to do with him at home, and Lowell especially was very faithful about making sure T did his “homework.”

Finally the happy day came when the PT noted that his leg had regained its normal muscle mass. Tristan was once again able to go for walks and exercise without lameness. We continued to ease him into higher-impact activities, and in March 2005, almost two years since his surgery, Tristan competed in a flyball tournament again. Eventually we got him back into agility, and had to do a lot of “catch up” work, as he was pretty novice at the time of his initial injury. There were some wild runs at his first few agility trials after his long hiatus, but we ironed out the rough spots, and he has proven to be a very nice-running agility dog.

Tristan only competes in CPE agility, as they have lower jump heights and allow him to run as a Veteran since he turned six years old, meaning he can jump 16” instead of 20”. I have been very grateful that this organization exists, as otherwise I wouldn’t be comfortable asking Tristan to do the heights that would be required of him in other organizations.

Flyball continued to be difficult for T’s body, and he slowed down quite a bit after his surgery so we limited how much we ran him. But in agility, our bionic dog continued to amaze us. He frequently places in competition, and several times has been the fastest dog across all levels to complete a course. He is extremely willing and attentive, and a blast to handle. For a few years, Tristan continued to compete soundly, without injury or lameness.

In June 2008, he and Django competed at CPE Nationals in Mason, MI, and Tristan surprised us by earning Reserve High in Standard Veterans (basically runner-up) in his level. As we made plans to attend 2009 Nationals, we assumed that I would bring Django and Lowell would bring his up-and-coming dog, Maebe. We were proud of Tristan and would continue to run him, but thought Maebe would be the one most likely to shine at a national competition.

Luckily for T, Maebe decided to take about a 6-month break from coming anywhere near the yellow zone on the contact obstacles, and consequently was not eligible for entry in Nationals. Tristan was still holding up well, so we decided in the winter that he could come instead, while we focused on fixing Maebe’s contact issues for next year.

In late winter, after the entries had been sent in, Tristan started limping on his front right leg. We assumed he slipped in our yard, which was an ice field at the time. It took a while to resolve, and we were increasingly worried about him being healed in time to be ready for Nationals. We couldn’t do too much high impact training with him for several months, so Lowell focused intensely on flatwork with him.

By this April, Tristan was moving OK, but seemed a little “off” still. We had been hoping to get him to his flyball ONYX title, but sadly decided to retire him about 4,000 points shy of that milestone. Still, he had earned about 12,000 points since his surgeries, which made us proud as we once thought he would never run again. Flyball just proved too hard on his body though, and he has always been a much better agility dog, so we decided to work on preserving him for that.

In May, Lowell took Tristan for a structural evaluation by Debbie Gross-Saunders, a leading expert in veterinary physical therapy. She noted that he has very limited mobility in his lumbar-sacral area, which may be due to a genetic spinal condition. Though painful to hear, it also explained a lot of Tristan’s ongoing problems over the years. Lowell asked if Tristan should be retired. Debbie responded by asking if Tristan loved agility and lived for it. The answer was an obvious “yes,” so she recommended we keep at it. She gave us some home exercises for strengthening and stretching, and suggested acupuncture to keep him running strong for a couple more years.

Though I admit to being a bit of a skeptic initially, we took him to his first acupuncture appointment a week before Nationals. Right away we thought he was moving much better – was no longer “crabbing” when he ran and seemed quite smooth and balanced.

Feeling optimistic, we headed to Nationals. On the first day, Lowell and Tristan ran the nicest standard course I have ever seen them run. Tristan had barely been on obstacles for months, and hadn’t competed since December, but he did everything perfectly. I don’t think I took a breath the entire time I watched the run – which ended up earning Tristan a third place ribbon.

Tristan continued to do excellent the rest of the weekend. He only had three NQ’s, but two of them were due to Lowell forgetting the courses! In his final run of the weekend – another standard course – I waited anxiously to see how he would finish. We realized that this could be his last time running at a national event, and really wanted to go out on a good note. This run again was virtually flawless – Tristan turned a little wide on one corner, but overall was perfect and earned a fourth place ribbon for that performance.

Do to computer glitches, the awards ceremony was delayed for several hours as results were calculated. We were still camping on site though, so wandered down for the ceremony to cheer for the successful teams. Lowell was stunned to hear Tristan’s name called when they got to the Veterans’ awards (I admit I was less surprised – I knew how great they performed all weekend and thought it might pay off).

Tristan had another acupressure treatment while at the event, and continues to look good. We are optimistic that we are on a good path now to maintaining him physically, and hope to have many more runs with him to come. Still, we know that his body may eventually tell us one day that it is time to ease up, at which point we may try his paw at Rally Obedience. Ironically, the new worry is not so much his knees or back, but rather his eyes. He was diagnosed with juvenile cataracts years ago, and last year our vet noted that they were worsening a bit. She stated that she was “pretty sure he can’t read” as his fine detail vision is probably pretty impaired at this point. In recent months, as I watch Tristan jump I worry that he is not judging his timing as well as he should be, which can indicate vision problems. Then again, yesterday he was tracking a bug moving along the upper part of our living room wall, so he may be doing OK.

It has been a long journey for Tristan, and he has continued to amaze and inspire me over the years. Today his two plaques sit on our mantle as proud reminders every day of his tenacity and heart. I’m grateful that we got to experience this Nationals event with him, and will always be proud of our little dog that doesn’t give up.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Flyball Fun

We had our first outdoor flyball tournament of the season this past weekend, and it was the first time we’ve played since mid-April. Flyball was the first dog sport that we became involved in, and has been a love of ours for almost eight years now. In recent months, however, I have been sad to find that I just haven’t gotten quite as much enjoyment out of it as I typically do, even though I was still having fun with our dogs and our friends. We did make the tough decision to retire our first two flyball dogs back in April, which has been hard, and I’ve also been struggling with some of the things I see occurring both on and off the ring that I am not particularly happy with (but that is another topic!). Overall though, the dogs love it, I love having a good time with them and with friends, and it usually makes for a fun-filled weekend. I really needed a good tournament to remind me of that.

This weekend happily proved to be a very pleasant and enjoyable one. The weather was perfect, we saw lots of teammates and friends that we hadn’t seen in a while, and the schedule wasn’t too grueling. We also made some important decisions this time around, which I think really impacted our experience of this tournament.

A few weeks ago, Lowell attended a Debbie Gross-Saunders seminar on conditioning the canine athlete. He came home with a lot of great information and ideas, and we have been incorporating a lot of her recommendations into our daily care, training, and exercising of the dogs. Although we’ve only been doing this for a few weeks, we believe we already saw some positive effects on Django and Maebe’s performances this weekend . . . but more on that at a later date.

One of the most important recommendations she had though was to incorporate a good warm-up and cool-down ritual before and after every race. Flyball people, us included, have been very guilty of pulling their dogs out cold after being crated for a couple hours, expecting them to perform in a very intense, high impact activity, then tossing them back into their crates after maybe a quick dip in a kiddie pool, while the handlers rush off to the next race. Not a good strategy for preventing injury and maximizing performance certainly. Plus, as I found this weekend, we miss out on a great way to connect with and enjoy our canine companions/teammates throughout the weekend.

This weekend, Lowell and I both made sure to get Django and Maebe out 15-20 minutes before each race. Django and I would spend 5-10 minutes just walking, then would lightly jog some off-leash figure-8s. I would have him switch directions, turn to each side, and weave between my legs to help stretch him out some. Django loves doing flatwork training and tricks, and so this really seemed to make him happy and pump him up pre-race.

After racing, I would cool him down mostly by having him wear his damp Cool Coat (as Debbie Gross-Saunders warned that jumping into cold pools immediately isn’t necessarily great for the system), and would walk him out for another 15 minutes or so. Afterwards, we would return to the tent, do some gentle stretching exercises, then Django would flop down contentedly while I lightly massaged him a bit. These little rituals resulted in me feeling very connected with my furry buddy, and were the best part of my weekend. After all, the reason we do this is supposed to be to have fun with the dogs that we love, not just to win little ribbons for their crates or to put titles after their names.

Django was happy and feeling good also. Django is probably 7-ish years old, and was running as start dog this weekend, which meant re-running after all the false starts. Still, he pulled several 4.2 second runs, even into the day on Sunday, which was pretty impressive given that his fastest times even as a younger dog were in the 4.1’s. His box turn was looking better than in recent months as well, and he ran without a bobble all weekend.

Maebe also did great. She ran a 4.2 with a pass, and kept up consistent speed all weekend long. Running with Lowell and doing her “Get On the Ball” exercises really seems to be boosting her endurance. Agility is her true passion in life, and she would give 100% until she dropped on the agility course. But while she loves flyball, I do think she sometimes “phones it in” a bit in later races if she starts to tire, and you will notice her times drop slightly. This weekend she kept very consistent times both days though, so we were quite proud of her.

The other guys had a great weekend also. Jade and Tristan got lots of breaks to play ball or take walks with us. This was also the new pup Cadence’s first tournament experience, and he did great. He was able to meet tons of people, lots of children, and many other friendly puppies and dogs. He quietly took everything in when we arrived Saturday morning, but before long was getting ready to take on the world. On Sunday, we brought home a very happy and exhausted guy after a long weekend of wrestling with other pups and socializing with lots of humans.

It was good to get priorities straight again, after a stretch of feeling pretty disconnected from the activity that got me into dog sports in the first place. Once again, I am looking forward to a summer full of racing!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Puppy Love

Week One with new pup, Cadence, could not have been any better, and we are completely in love with the little guy. He has been such a good puppy. He sleeps through the night already – in fact on Memorial Day I awoke after having slept in an extra hour to hear him awake in his crate but contentedly gnawing on his chew toy until we woke to take him out. He doesn’t fuss at all when crated, and is happy and wagging his tail all the time. He loves to play, and will tear after us, tug on toys, and even retrieves a tennis ball already, but is also happy to be sweet and lovey and just hang out with us. He is a very cool little man.

For the first several days, we mostly focused on name recognition, getting acclimated to the new home and surroundings, accepting handling and a collar, and playing with us and learning that we are lots of fun. We made sure he met someone new every day, and had plenty of friends and neighbors stop by to pet him. By Friday, we decided to take him out in the world, and took him for a healthy puppy check-up with our regular vet. He was a real trooper, and enjoyed a visit to the neighboring pet supply store afterwards. Met lots of people there, and was very happy and friendly with everyone. His only annoyance was with his collar and leash, but he is gradually accepting that as a fact of life.

Saturday we went downtown to another pet supply store, where he met several people, including quite a few children. The children were all polite and asked to hold him, so we sat down on the floor and passed him around. It was a great experience for him to learn about kids, and he handled it all perfectly.

Sunday we walked/carried him down to the nearby canoe livery and park. By this trip, I think he was really starting to learn that excursions into the world can be fun adventures, because he was downright full of himself. We hung out at the park for a while meeting strangers, watching canoes go out, and watching geese on the river. He had his tail up and his happy grin on his face the whole time.

Over the weekend, we introduced him to the clicker, and started training “sit” and a target nose-touch to my hand. He has picked up both concepts in just a couple sessions, and is already looking to me ready to work and learn when we go out.

His first interactions with the other four dogs have gone well. He spent much of the first week in an ex-pen in the living room when the others were loose in the house, and everyone would get treated and praised whenever they were near the ex-pen. All are starting to associate good things with being in close proximity to each other. He has had supervised one-on-one sessions with the adult dogs for the last couple days, and all go smoothly. He seems to have very good social skills and body language for a pup, and Tristan especially will play quite gently and nicely with him. The others are less impressed with him as a playmate yet – still a little small to be much fun – but are tolerating him politely.

This week we will continue the socialization experiences, “sits”, and target work, and add in “down” and working on his recall. We’re also working on basic crate manners – not barging out the door when it is opened and going in voluntarily – but he is already quite good about both those things.

All in all we couldn’t have asked for a better first week with a pup, and are looking forward to all the fun to come.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


OK, so he isn’t actually red, but our newest family member is still pretty darn cute, and a great little guy.

This weekend, my dad and I made a road trip into Ontario to pick up a new addition – a 7-week old male Border Collie from Rival Kennels. With credit to our friend Jill for coming up with the registered name, we are calling him Rival’s Drum Roll, Please - “Cadence.” I have been thinking of the name Cadence for a few years, as I wanted something that conveyed balance and rhythm. Plus, it is also a cycling term, and as bicycles are my other great love, it seemed right. I think it fits this little guy very well.

Since I recently made the decision to retire Jade and since Django is at the peak of his career, I figured this summer would be a good time to add on my next performance dog. I thought a lot about what I wanted in my next dog, decided I really wanted another male Border Collie, and decided to look into a breeder that has produced some of my absolute favorite dogs that I’ve seen around here. I discovered there were puppies available from a Spur/Beren breeding, and as I learned more about those dogs and their lines, I grew very excited that this could be the pup I was looking for.

I’ve always felt that all our pets were sort of fated to be ours. I remember seeing Maebe’s litter when they were two days old, and being immediately drawn to her. Likewise, when I first saw photos of this litter, I felt drawn to “Male #2.” He had a very large white collar, a somewhat asymmetrical blaze, a cute little black spot on the top of his head, and a little tuft of white fur in the middle of his black back. Maybe it helped that he was distinctive and easy to pick out in the photos and videos, but as I watched him week by week, I kept noticing him and feeling drawn to him.

As it grew closer to selection time, I learned more about his personality and looked at photos of his structure. He was built very nicely – good shoulders, lots of rear angulation, and a nice topline. The breeder said he had a great stride length and will cover ground fast. She told me he was a cool pup, very eager to please, and had lots of drive, yet very sensitive and sweet. He sounded like a great fit for what I was looking for, but I vowed to keep an open mind when I went up to actually meet the boys.

The big day came, and I had great fun meeting the whole litter. They were all happy, friendly, wild little pups, and I sat on the breeder’s kitchen floor getting mobbed by puppy kisses. As expected, we left a couple hours later with “male #2,” and his littermate, Spy, who we were taking to Ann Arbor to be picked up a couple days later by his new owner from Indiana.

The boys did great on the car ride. We stopped at my dad’s for another hour so they could play a bit before the last leg of the trip. It was there, away from the frenzy of the litter, that I really got to see Cadence’s personality come shining through, and I fell madly in love with him instantly. He would chase me all over the yard, dive at my feet, play tug with any toy I picked up, and confidently marched around checking out his new surroundings. We had another quiet car ride back to Ann Arbor, and by the time we got home all of us were ready to drop.

We spent Sunday and Monday just playing with the two boys, and couldn’t get over what cool dogs they are. Monday afternoon, little Spy was picked up by his new mom, and while Lowell, Cadence, and I were all very sad to see him go, we have now been enjoying bonding and playing with little Cade all on his own. He is an absolute blast – always ready to play – and the sweetest little thing you could hope for.

I am so excited about my new little companion. I have been immersing myself in videos, literature, training seminars, etc. while making plans for his socialization, training, and care. I think I have been keeping Clean Run in business for the last several weeks with all the DVD purchases, and am planning on being rather strategic in how I raise and train this pup. I am determined not to give in to the desire to rush into performance training right away. I have lots of time for that, so for now we are going to focus on foundations and obedience, and developing into a healthy, happy little guy.

So, this blog will probably follow a lot of our journey together over the coming months, and will help me track my goals and our progress, as well as just being a nice journal of our time spent with him and with all our “fur family.” We are looking forward to both the challenges and all the fun ahead.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mud Dog

We spent last weekend camping and competing with the dogs at the Dutton, MI CPE trial. Django and Maebe were entered both days. We chose to enter this trial as it was offering many of the classes that Django still needs for his C-ATCH, and we are happy to report that he made great progress toward that title.

The weekend did not seem promising at first. We had planned to bring the camper and stay a few miles from the trial site, but our camping plans fell through on Thursday. Friday morning I was looking frantically for another campground in the area that was open this early in the season, when I learned that the trial chair was looking for someone to stay on-site at the park to keep an eye on the agility equipment. We jumped at the opportunity – free camping and couldn’t get a more convenient site after all. So, Friday afternoon we quickly loaded up the trailer and headed for Dutton.

Saturday started out great. Django qualified and got first place in his first Jackpot run, and just barely missed qualifying in his second Jackpot run. Pesky A-Frame contact zones. It is pretty rare for him to blow a contact, but occasionally it happens. He kept up the good performances though, and qualified in Standard and Wildcard, even though his Wildcard run was done in the pouring rain.

The real story of the weekend turned out to be rain. It rained, and rained, and rained from mid-day Saturday all through the night and morning Sunday. We stayed cozy and dry playing Scrabble in the trailer all evening, but awoke Sunday to find an agility field covered in standing water and MUD!

Things got to a slow start due to the course conditions, but Django ran a perfect day on Sunday, getting a Full House leg and two Standard legs. He is now only four legs away from his C-ATCH! I was extremely proud of my big guy. He slowed down a bit in the mud on Sunday, and it took a little persuading to convince him that he could go into the tunnels even though there were pools of water forming in them, but he was a trooper. Plenty of seasoned dogs were having none of it in those conditions, but Django surprised me with his focus. It is also a relief to run a dog that has the sense to slow down a bit in poor conditions. I would have worried about running a dog like Maebe on the contacts in that much rain and mud, but Django clearly was watching his footing and being careful which I appreciated. Don’t know how you train for that though – certainly he is probably the only one of our pack to have that much common sense and regard for his own body.

The weekend easily could have been a disaster. We lucked out with the camping situation, and having the trailer there made the trial much more tolerable in the awful weather. We headed home Sunday very proud of our dogs and happy that we could have so much fun together even when things weren’t perfect.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Importance of a Healthy Breakfast

We ran Django, Tristan and Maebe in a CPE agility trial in Dexter over the past weekend, and had a great time. Django showed me that even though he is in Level 5 and only a handful of Q's away from earning his C-ATCH, he can still surprise me.

Django, for some strange reason, still needs one more leg in the Full House game. Full House is probably the easiest game CPE offers - basically you have about 30 seconds to run around and do as many obstacles for points as you can. Great for beginner dogs. For some reason though, the last several Full House runs we've entered, something completely random goes wrong. It is beginning to feel ridiculous that we can't get that last leg.

On Sunday, Full House started the day out and Django was the first dog on the line. We had a very fast, efficient course plotted out and it seemed like nothing could go wrong. Django took off great and was running fast. We rounded the last corner toward a set of weave poles, after which we just needed to do one tunnel and hit the table to Q. It was in the bag. Until Django's breakfast decided to make a reappearance at the third weave pole. Apparently the single bite of donut hole that I shared with him that morning did not sit well. Once it was urped up, he was happy and ready to go again, but, understandably, puking in the ring is grounds for an NQ.

Nevertheless, Django got a few steps closer to his title, and Tristan and Maebe tore up several of their courses, both getting multiple first places. On Saturday, Tristan had the fastest Colors run of the day, except he dropped the bar on the first jump so NQ'ed. Still, it never ceases to amaze me that this bionic dog can move around the agility course so quickly. After his knee surgeries, he slowed down in flyball quite a bit, but somehow they never hampered his agility performance. After two years of thinking he may never run again, it is always great to watch him out there.

We also learned that we got in to CPE Nationals in June, so are excitedly planning our road trip to Massachusetts with the two BCs. In the meantime, I am planning on going back and spending some time on basic flatwork with Django to get him reading my movement cues better. Got a lot of goals to work on in the next two months, so hopefully the spring weather continues to move our way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jade FG40K

We attended a flyball tournament over the past weekend with the crew. While a variety of issues kept me from fully enjoying myself as much as I usually do at these events, the dogs had a good time and did well, and that is what was important. Plus, Jade received his plaque for earning 40,000 points in flyball, a feat he accomplished back in September.

Jade is our first dog, and the one who started all the craziness. He was so full of energy and eager to learn, and we were having a blast finding new things to do with him. We signed up for a 6-week flyball class at a local dog training club, taught by our current team captain. At the end of 6 weeks, Jade had already learned the basics, so the instructor invited him to a team practice. After only two more practices, Jade ran in his first tournament!

Jade was 2 years old already when he started flyball, but has still been able to reach the 40K mark and is currently the 15th-highest point scoring Lab in NAFA. In his prime, Jade was running an average of 4.1 seconds, with his best times being 3.9 seconds (I think he did that twice). He has been a valuable addition to our club's Mix team over the years, and helped them be runners-up in the Multibreed Division in our NAFA Region last year.

Jade turned 9 in the fall, and it seems that his stamina just isn't quite what it used to be (though he still has more energy than many dogs half his age). On the second days of tournaments when he would start to get tired, he began dropping his ball more and more. So, we are now running him part-time and sharing spots with other dogs, which is working out well. It is keeping him happy and active, and not setting him up to make mistakes.

It is a little bittersweet putting the new plaque on the wall. I don't expect we will earn another 10K in his career, so this will probably be the last title he earns. It is an impressive one though, and I am proud of all he's accomplished and feel fortunate to still have more days ahead of us on the racing lanes together.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Since one-half of our human family had Presidents’ Day off as a holiday, I decided to take a vacation day myself, and we attended a one-day agility trial on Monday. We just brought Django and Maebe, and only entered them each in a few runs, but they had a good time.

Django had a goofy Jackpot run to start off the day. Often his first runs of the day are silly as he burns off a little steam. Our first Standard course was pretty fast and flowing though, so I was optimistic about it. The run itself went nicely, except that Django blew his A-Frame contact! Django NEVER blows contacts – I couldn’t believe it. We still had one more chance for a Standard Q, but the second course was considerably more difficult, with some tricky obstacle discriminations, and a few tunnel entries that were not terribly obvious.

Of course, Django does tend to actually do better on the more difficult courses, and he ran the second course very nicely, earning 2nd place and a Q! The only slight wrinkle in the performance was my fault. As we approached the final tunnel, I got worried that he would choose the wrong entry and get an off course, negating our perfect run to that point. In my concern, I basically called him off the tunnel, even though he was heading for the correct entry. At that point he started to head over to the wrong entry, since I had inadvertently made it clear that his first choice was incorrect. Being the good boy he is though, he turned around again when I called him, and I directed him back into the correct entry. Our biggest hindrance lately has been my not trusting him and babysitting obstacles more than I need to, which slows us down and causes unnecessary confusion. I know I am getting worse about that lately, as we are only about 12 legs away from earning our C-ATCH title, and I think in my excitement I am just trying to make every run count.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Up North

We spent a long weekend with the dogs at the Winter Outing at Dog Scout Camp in St. Helen, Michigan. We try to get up to camp about three times a year to visit with good friends and spend a lot of time with the dogs. There are plenty of trails to hike around on, and a lot of dog activities to do. It is always a good time.

We arrived mid-day Friday, and took all the dogs for a hike, then took Django out skijoring. We knew we had to get some time in on the skis early, since the weather was expected to warm up drastically on Saturday. It was ironic, given the low temps and high snowfall that we’ve had in Michigan this winter, that our skiing and sledding weekend would be affected by thawing. We made the most of it though. Lowell got Jade out with the kicksled on Saturday morning, but by noon when I took Django and Maebe out, the ground was already becoming exposed on the trails. We turned back, and spent the rest of the weekend hiking through the woods with them all, which is always a peaceful activity.

The dogs all had a great time and came home very tired and happy. Plus, we came home with a new toy: a training-sized dogwalk that we won in a fundraising auction. It is the perfect size for our yard (too many trees back there for a full-length one), and we’re hoping will be just the thing for fixing Maebe’s contacts.

Now I’m looking forward to the warmer weather predicted for this week. With the snow melting, we might actually be able to pull some equipment out in the yard and do some more training than we’ve been able to in the last month.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Speedy Girl

Last night Django and Maebe started their new session of agility class. It is our usual Thursday night routine; however, this night I had to handle Maebe, since her usual wrangler (my husband) was out of town on business.

I have handled Maebe on occassion in classes and a handful of times during trials. I am well aware that she is fast. But, I'm a runner, and I've handled Tristan plenty of times before, who is consistently one of the faster dogs out there. I know it is a struggle to keep with her, but I didn't figure I would get so completely dusted on the course. That dog is just insane on the agility course.

We started out OK, then had a tunnel/chute combo, which basically just provided a straightaway for her to gain speed. Out of the chute were 12 weave poles - not bad, you can usually catch up to the dog in the weaves, so I was counting on that. But I swear, she hit those poles and freakin' ACCELERATED. Those led to a curved tunnel, so I quickly crossed behind her and ran like hell past the next two obstacles - two bar jumps - and headed toward the dog walk. She caught me in no time, clearing both jumps, hit the dog walk and was past it before I was anywhere close to the up-ramp. At which point, I just stopped, doubled-over laughing because - really - how do I possibly handle when the dog is almost the width of the building ahead of me? Keep in mind that Maebe screams continuously the entire time as she runs, so I can shout the commands at the top of my lungs, but odds are slim she'll hear them at that point.

The sad part of all this is now I can't really give Lowell all my armchair-coach handling advice like: "Don't try to race her," "Stay calm," "Don't get frantic and rush," etc. I think the only hope is to teach her to read and show her the course maps beforehand. I think all I can say to him now is "Yeah . . . Good luck with that."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Farfel, and another CPE Weekend

We had a dog-filled start to our new year.

On New Year's Eve, we had pretty much decided to have a quiet evening at home, cook a nice meal, and attempt to stay awake until midnight this year (not an easy task for people who normally get up at 5 AM even on the weekends). We failed on all accounts. At about 6 PM, we decided that it might be nice to actually get out for a bit and go in to town for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

On our way to town though, we caught out of the corner of our eye a brown, furry tail cruising at top speed down the sidewalk. Then, a little brown dog darted into the middle of the intersection we were approaching, came to a stop, and stood there in the road wondering what to do. There is a lot of traffic at this intersection, and we were sure the little guy was going to get hit. Cars slowed down around him though, fortunately. My husband got out of our car, at which point the little guy made a bee-line for him, looking happy and relieved that someone was there to get him out of this predicament.

We tossed the dog into the crate we keep in the back of the car, and drove back in to the neighborhood, feeling sure we would come across frantic owners searching for him. No such luck, and though he was wearing a collar, he had no tags. Since the Humane Society was closed for the holiday, we realized we had a house guest for a couple nights.

We called him Farfel, after the Seinfeld episode "The Dog", where Jerry unexpectedly has to take care of a stranger's dog for a few nights. Unlike that dog, though, Farfel was a perfect little gentleman, and about the friendliest thing I've ever seen.

On Jan. 2, when the Humane Society opened, I took him there to see if there were any lost dog reports or if he had a microchip. They recognized him right away, said he had been there before, was a "repeat offender," and they had already been contacted by his owner. So, Farfel got to hang out there for a bit to wait for his owner. I hope this time they keep him contained and put identification on him. I hate to think what could happen if he got out again - he came awful close to being squished during this adventure.

We also had another weekend of agility on Jan. 3-4 with Django and Maebe. Both did very well. Maebe especially was tearing up the courses. She especially excelled at Jackpot, which is a point-earning game where you complete as many obstacles as you can within a certain time limit in order to gain points. In order to qualify, the highest levels need 44 points. Maebe earned 71!