Monday, November 29, 2010

Jade’s Birthday

We had a lot of reasons to feel grateful over this past Thanksgiving weekend, not the least of which was celebrating our first dog Jade’s eleventh birthday on Sunday.

jade bday bone

To our eyes, Jade is a little grayer around the muzzle, a little quicker to tire than he used to be, and more content to flop in his favorite dog bed for longer amounts of time.  But for an eleven-year old Lab mix, he is still in great shape.  He walks with us every day, keeps up with the younger dogs, can catch any treat or ball no matter how bad the toss, and is still agile, fast, energetic, and healthy.  All of which we are very grateful for.  As I often say, Jade is the dog that changed our lives.  If his whirlwind of energy hadn’t entered our home ten years ago, who knows if we would have had all the fun experiences and met all the great friends that we have today.  His energy and exuberance caused us to find new ways of having fun with him, and has led us on a wonderful path that continues to bring us much happiness.

We tried to decide what Jade would like most for a birthday toy.  He loves big, plush toys, which he likes to destroy within minutes, so we decided to let him do just that:

jade ball1

jade ball2

jade ball3

jade ball4

There was indeed a lot to be thankful for this weekend.

jade bone2

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Django Plays Agility for the Daddy

I’m still nursing a very tight calf muscle from last weekend’s 5K race (with another race in one week, yikes!).  So, Lowell was asked to handle Django in our agility class last night so I could rest on the sidelines.  They’ve successfully run one whole Jumpers course together in the past, so I figured it would be fine.

Lowell and Django lined up at the start line, Lowell led out to the second jump and gave Django his release word.  Django continued to stare intently at his daddy for about another second, before giving him the vote of no confidence, turning around, and walking over to me.

So, I hobbled around a couple courses with him, and during the down time used Django’s tennis ball to try and massage out the resulting muscle spasms.  Something better work soon – we have two days of trialing in the next week plus the race.  And the plan to have Lowell do all the handling apparently isn’t going to work (especially once I remembered that we are his and Maebe’s Pairs Partner – oops). 

In all my years of running, this is the first injury I’ve ever had, and quite frankly it is pissing me off.  Seriously, you probably don’t want to be around me when I have to take a “rest” day, much less three or more of them in a row.  There’s a reason I’m drawn to Border Collies after all.  Fortunately, after reading the amazing book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, earlier this week, I have a new plan for revising my running once I’m back to health:

toe shoesToe shoes.  Barefoot (almost) running.  It’s the next big thing, man.  But honestly, the evidence against most modern running shoes is quite compelling.  Who knew that Nike was systematically crippling us and working against the centuries of evolution that made us the perfect endurance runners that, by nature, we are.

But I digress.  All I know is Django had a rough night last night.  He has another hot spot forming on his flank, his mommy was hurting and not happy as a result which always gets him upset, and he was feeling crabby and didn’t want anything to do with anyone but me.  Poor DJ.  Mom’s trying to get back on her feet as soon as she can for you, buddy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Django Day

CIMG0034 Today marks the seven-year anniversary of a very special day – the day we brought my heart dog home to live with us.

Django’s backstory is a bit of a mystery.  He was picked up as a stray in the Detroit area, spent some time in a shelter, and finally was brought in as a foster by the Almost Home rescue organization.  He weighed less than 30 pounds, and his dark red coat was sun-bleached almost blonde in places, meaning he must have spent a lot of time outside. 

He was lucky to go home with a very loving foster mom who saw what a special guy he was, and wanted the very best for him.  She brought him to a companion obedience class being taught by our flyball teammate, Karen, who was impressed that this little stray was so biddable, quick-learning, and eager to please.  Karen suggested that his foster mom bring him to our flyball practice that weekend.

When Django walked in the door, our eyes met and he grinned at me, and I knew he was going to be ours.  It was love at first sight.

I can’t express how much I adore this dog.  Obviously, I love all our dogs, and have a special relationship with each one, but something about my connection with Django seems like a once in a lifetime thing.  The best way I can describe him is that he always wants to be right, and would try to do anything I asked of him. 


Django watches me in a way that none of the others do.  He is always in tune with what and how I’m doing.  If I look around in the house, in the yard, wherever, his eyes are following me, waiting, watching, wondering what I need of him.  Dogs, God love them, are by nature a self-interested lot.  They primarily are interested in when we might give them a treat, when we might take them for a walk, when we’re going to throw the ball.  Django, as much as he loves tennis balls and food, feels somehow like he is watching me on a different level – wondering what he can do for me, how he can make me happiest.  He never does anything wrong, is never a bother, and is always easy and delightful to be with.  We could go anywhere together.

Many don’t know the source of his unusual name.  He is named after Django Reinhardt, a jazz guitarist from the early 1900s.  Reinhardt was born into a family of Romani gypsies, and at the age of 18, his left hand was badly injured in a fire, leaving his third and fourth fingers partially paralyzed.  He was told he wouldn’t play again; nevertheless, he went on to become one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time.

The name “Django” is a gypsy word meaning “I awake.”  I have always thought it was a fitting description of the way my shy boy who was looking for a home came to blossom into the wonderful dog that he is. 


Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Agility

 django cpe costume We spent Halloween weekend having fun with the dogs and friends at a CPE agility trial – the first we’ve been at since August.  At the end of a busy summer of agility, I thought Django at least could use a little break.  He did some goofy things in the ring at our last trial (getting the “zoomies”, refusing the A-Frame – pretty atypical behaviors for him), so I wondered if he needed a physical and mental rest.  He ran agility just once back in mid-September, otherwise he’s just been having fun running and hiking with us and hanging out being a dog.

Not knowing how old Django actually is, sometimes I worry that he might be nearing retirement sooner than I hope.  He looks awfully gray around the muzzle lately, and I wasn’t sure what to make of his odd behavior at the last trial.  Still, he has just as much energy as ever on our morning runs, and at a recent annual check-up, our vet commented that he looked great and in fact looked younger than the 8-9 years old that we estimate he is. 

This weekend I entered him in three runs each day, and decided this might be the test of whether he still wanted to be playing this game.  I had hoped the break would give him some enthusiasm again, and I was pleased and relieved to find that I had my old Django back after all.  All I can say is his weave poles are a little rusty, understandably.

On Saturday, he qualified in Standard with a nice, steady run, if not blazing fast.  We also had a nice, smooth Colors run, and a great Jumpers run – we had the second fastest time in our class (Maebe had the fastest) against some very fast dogs, but he knocked a bar during a late rear cross on my part.  I was very pleased with his run though.

On Sunday, we had maybe the best NQ we’ve ever had.  I got him fired up before our Standard run, so much so that he blew every contact, but I hardly cared because he was running fast, following all my cues, and we felt like a good team.  We had fun on our last two runs of the day as well.

Maebe and Lowell had a great weekend.  She ran a Standard course in 33 seconds, going at a rate of 6.1 yards per second.  Which is fast.  Tristan even got to play a couple times, and looked good and qualified both times.  He needs 13 more legs to get a CS-ATCH – a goal that he may or may not attain.  We’ve stopped really striving for it and are just happy for every run that he gets to have.  He loves it so much, and I hope his body continues to let him play for a bit longer.

Jade and Cadence were good troopers being brought along for the ride.  Cadence worked with me at a practice jump between classes – which was a big milestone as the trial environment is so stimulating for him that he usually has just wanted to stare at all the passing dogs and has a hard time sticking to the task at hand.  His focus in the presence of distractions is definitely improving, especially as he gets more and more excited about actually playing agility.  I was very pleased with his progress. 

cade cpe costumeAll in all, a very fun weekend.  We had a great time visiting with friends we hadn’t seen in a while, and enjoyed the special touches that the host club provided this time, such as Saturday’s costume contest where Django and Cadence got to don their Superdog and Pumpkin costumes again.  I think that they will be glad to see the Halloween season past, and those costumes put safely back into storage for another year though!