Monday, August 30, 2010

Focusing on the Positive

What I really am tempted to write about this morning is a long rant about the irresponsible dog owners and their off-leash, untrained dogs that seem to have overtaken our beautiful neighborhood parks, making our morning runs increasingly stressful and potentially unsafe, and my dismay that we are probably going to have to alter a routine that had become one of my favorite parts of my day.  But I’m in a bad enough mood about that this morning, so thought it would be more helpful to relate some of the nice things from the weekend.

ex pen We spent Saturday and Sunday competing at the Capital City CPE Club’s agility trial in Williamston, MI.  This is one of our favorite trials of the year, and is on a beautiful site.  The site is a YMCA Youth Camp, and has a lot of grassy, shaded area for setting up crates and tents, and during our down time we can walk the dogs along the trails or let them splash around in the river. 

The weekend started out a bit rough for Django and me.  We had two standard runs, the first of which was completely bizarre.  Django did the first three obstacles fine, and then just lost connection to me running around and taking off course obstacles.  He was happy enough galloping around the course, but was operating on his own program for some reason.  Nothing like that has happened before – he might do something goofy and random from time to time but always gets back on track as soon as he realizes that wasn’t part of the plan.  We cut the run short, and I was pretty flustered and confused.

Our second run went better, but at the A-Frame/tunnel distinction mid-course, he simply would not do the frame and kept going into the tunnel.  After about the third time, I had to consider that maybe he was telling me something, and we went on.  The frame can be a tough obstacle on their bodies, so I wasn’t going to force the issue if he was trying to communicate something. 

We wrapped up Saturday with two clean runs where he did the A-Frame fine without any hestitation, though he was running rather slow.  It was a hot weekend, but I left a little concerned.  I don’t know how old Django is since he was a stray, but he has to at least be about eight or nine.  He still looks great physically, just a little grayer around the muzzle, but I know one day he will probably start to tell me that retirement is approaching.  I hope it is still a ways off, but I want to be sure I don’t miss any signs that he needs a break.

Sunday, thankfully, I seemed to have my usual Django back.  He ran clean all four runs on Sunday.  He wasn’t blazing fast by any means, but for the second day of a very hot trial, he held up fine and kept moving.  Lots of reliable dogs were figuratively “melting down” in the heat, but Django followed my handling, ran clean, and placed in three of the four runs including a first place in Snooker.  I was very proud of my teammate.

We are only entered in one day of agility in September at this point, and then I think I am going to give him a little holiday for a month or so.  He loves agility, but we’ve been doing a lot of it, so we’re going to spend time this fall just camping, hiking in the woods, going for runs, and hanging out.  I think a rest will be good for him.  He tries so hard for me all the time that he deserves some free time for a while.

The rest of the family had a nice weekend also.  Maebe had some super-fast runs as always, and Jade, Tristan, and Cadence got to take some walks in the woods and splash in the river a bit.  Cade is continuing to have better manners in the trial environment.  He was very quiet in his crate – just a couple barks of protest when we’d take Django or Maebe to the ring – and we were able to have several good training sessions in the presence of a lot of distractions.  We played some of our recall games, did the practice jump a few times, and shaped some new behaviors with the clicker.  I can even call him out of the water now, which is a HUGE accomplishment.  As recently as mid-July, he forgot anything else existed once he was splashing in the water.

Overall, it was a nice weekend spent with the dogs and friends, and I am grateful that Django’s weirdness from Saturday morning seems to be an isolated incident.  So this morning I am focusing on being happy for these successes (and trying to forget about all the less-than-nice things I would like to say to the owner of the pack of not-entirely-friendly dogs that were running amok through Barton Park this morning)!   

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