Sunday, January 10, 2010

Good News/Bad News

SUMMARY: To start the year running, I've got good news and bad news. And more good news. Etc.

Gratuitous dog photo: Dogs love riding in the car around the neighborhood when they don't have to be in crates.

  • Good news: My house appraised for much more than I thought it might in this market.
  • Bad news: That means my property taxes will keep going up, not down like so many other people's.
  • Good news: That might mean that it's a shoo-in for my refi application to go through. Just waiting to hear when closing should be--I think--

  • Good news: Paid off the last 73 cents on MUTT MVR last week!
  • Bad news: It's wayyyy overdue for its xxx,000 mile check-up.
  • Good news: Passed its smog check again.

  • Good news: Tika has been running around like a lunatic without her bootie and no signs of a sore foot. Ran her two runs (jumpers courses with weaves) and she was fine. Haven't tried contacts again yet.
  • Bad news: She continues to look, every once in a while, like she's sore for a few minutes or more.
  • Good news: It goes away again. But I wish I knew--our next trial is in just under 2 weeks, and she's signed up for a day of agility.

  • Good news: Boost loves doing agility.
  • Bad news: In class last week, after we've done virtually no agility for 3 weeks, she popped out of the weaves EVERY time at the 10th pole as I moved away from her. Instructor said, well, I had to support in in N following ways, and I was maybe rude and said, no, I don't have to, this is why we practice weave distractions down to the bone at home until I can't get her to pop for any reason.
  • Good news: When I finally just picked her up, carried her off the field, and put her away until the next run--then the next time, she did the weaves all the way through.

  • Bad news: Shattered tooth down into the root. Happy New Year! The dental surgeon I had to go to to get it excavated said I didn't *quite* win the prize for the most pieces of tooth to be dug out.
  • Good news: Didn't hurt before, hurt afterward more than I had hoped but less than I had feared, and only for that first evening, and it's been fine ever since.
  • Bad news: I dread finding out how much an implant is going to cost. No dental insurance.

  • Good news: Doctor says, Those things? They're harmless. They're called ruby spots (cherry angiomas).
  • Bad news: Yeah, you'll probably keep getting more. Yeah, they can get bigger.
  • Good news: Can burn them off with liquid nitrogen. [Like warts, I guess.]
  • Bad news: THAT's not a fun procedure. And it can scar. Either way, I'm going to end up looking like a giant polkadot by the time I'm 100.
  • Good news: Remind myself: they're harmless.

Tika sees another dog while on leash:

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    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Tika's Happy Toe

    SUMMARY: Update on Tika's toe: Doing great!
    Somewhere over a week ago, I put the doggie door back in so that Tika could go in and out on her own again. No sign of problems with the toe. (Just a problem with Boost whom I spent 2 weeks unintentionally teaching to tap at the door when she wanted to go out or in. Now guess who taps ALL THE TIME even though the doggie door is now available once again!)

    I'd been putting a little bootie on her left front foot whenever we were out in the yard, and I continued to do so. Then earlier this week I started letting her run and chase the toy when we go out to play, instead of holding her collar while Boost chased it, like we've been doing for weeks now. (And, yes, that was as much fun as it sounds.)

    And the toe was fine. So we went to the park and played frisbee with the bootie on. (The bootie on tika's foot, not on the frisbee or not the frisbee on tika's foot...) And the toe was fine.

    This weekend we went up to the mountains and Thursday we played a bunch in the snow and she was SO happy butt scrunched under leaping ears back running running running grabbing my feet, with bootie on. And the toe was fine.

    With much ecstatic growling and tugging:

    Then on Friday we hiked for about 3 miles in the snow, and her bootie came off after about 1/4 mile and I decided fagedaboudit so she was unbootied. And she ran ran ran happy foot grabbing happiest. And the toe was fine.

    Then Saturday we hiked over 6 miles on sometimes extremely icy sharp cold snow. She slowed down quite a bit but so did Boost. And the toe was fine!

    I'm thrilled. Happy new toe year!

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    Friday, December 25, 2009

    Christmas at Taj MuttHall

    SUMMARY: It's a beautiful morning.
    • Frost on the grass that melts the moment it's touched by the sun. The sky is brilliant blue; not a cloud to be seen.
    • The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has declared this a Spare The Air Day. We must restrain ourselves from burning that Yule log as long as the weather conditions insist on trapping everything in the valley for us to try to inhale. It's still SO much better than it was 30 years ago.
    • The Merle Girls took Human Mom for a walk to the park this morning and rejoiced in frisbee in the dew-laden grass until even Boost didn't want to run any more. Tika wore her bootie on her erstwhile sore foot and there's no sign of soreness at all. HOOOOOray.

    • Gifts are wrapped (although some still don't have ribbons or bows).
    • I get to see my WHOLE family this afternoon! Two years in a row--it's a miracle. Might try for another photo if they're actually all in the same building at the same time.
    • I say: "Dog bless us, every one."
    • Daneen says: "Wreck the halls with Dals and Collies!" (Or: "Wreck the halls with cows on dollies," for those absurdists among you.)
    • Mallary says: "Hope you're having a great dane!  All the best for the howlidays and the new year!"
    • Tracey says: "Fleas Navidog!"

    Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and the best of everything to all of you.

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    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Dang and Tree

    SUMMARY: No agility for Tika. So we found ourselves a tree instead.

    Tried Tika over just a few obstacles, jumps at 16" and then 12", in class tonight. Boom, came up limping again. So that's it for her for a few weeks; obviously this isn't going to recover quickly. Scratched her completely from this weekend's trial.

    Boost: Knocked bars bars bars. Must do drills the next 2 days. Argh. Cold. Wet. Grumpy.

    So, as a pick-me-up, guess what we grabbed on our way home this afternoon?

    Boost helped.

    But guess who still had to drive.

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    Saturday, December 05, 2009

    Purple Foot

    SUMMARY: In honor of Tika's sore toe.
    Tika has been wearing a little purple and gray hiking bootie on her sore toe since Wednesday. I've been taking her out on leash into the yard, trying to keep her from running and pouncing, but still playing tug of war pretty enthusiastically, which probably still puts a lot of pressure on that toe.

    I've been throwing the purple jolly ball for Boost, who brings it back, then I play tug of war with each dog, then throw it for Boost again, hanging onto Tika's collar. Tika has burst into a run a couple or three times when I'm not expecting it (off leash, pottying, then a squirrel or alien invasion or whatever catches her attention). But I've seen no signs of limping.

    Did the same this morning. After our play session, decided to take a purple photo. Came inside to get the camera. Went back out with the dogs not on leash--because this is the boring part--and the tripod and the camera; Tika became very excited, did the sproingy antelope thing with about four leaps in a big circle and came up with her paw in the air looking distressed. Curses, egads, and zounds.

    I took her bootie off, put it back on, gave her some treaties, did the photo thing, and she stopped looking so pathetically miserable, but with still a distinct hitch in her giddyup. I'm thinking she's not going to be competing next weekend. Me not happy.

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    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Morning Update on Tika and Her Foot and Vet Bills

    SUMMARY: Not broken, but sore. Budget a little broken, though.

    The vet took 3 x-rays to be sure of what he was seeing but charged me only for the two he said he'd take. He sees nothing broken or chipped, so it's soft tissue of some sort, but without an MRI to determine whether anything is ripped to shreds, we treat it with rest and antiinflammatories and see what happens.

    Vet suggested wrapping it in a little padding to give it a bit of support and protection, but said that if the padding gets wet at all, I need to take it off immediately because damp wrappings can cause other problems very quickly.

    I put the still-sedated-looking but happy-to-see-me Tika into MUTT MVR just after 5:30, drove up to Redwood City for our Silvia Trkman tricks seminar, took her out to potty in their little gravel potty area around 7:30, and she found the only puddle in the place and put her foot right into it.

    So the wrap comes off and instead I'm going to use one of our little hiking booties.

    Vet said no food last night until 8 or 8:30, so at 8 I took her out of her crate and quickly taught her the first trick for the seminar. (We're auditing only, so we hid in the back of the room while the participants did their thing.) Despite her eyes still looking like she's halfway in another universe, she had no problem at all responding to click-and-treat shaping. (I used "yes!" as my click.) Then I took Boost out and got most of the way through teaching her the trick, too. I love "operant" dogs! (Dogs who know they're supposed to do something and keep trying until they get a response.) And I love knowing that I've got a pretty good eye for what to look for and how small the pieces of progress sometimes are in order to quickly put together a successful whole. (If you try to use too big chunks, it takes longer!)

    I digress.

    Tika also had her anal glands expressed; one was very full and one only partly. But with 3 infections already in her history, I wanted them checked while she was there.

    Home at 10:30, she was happy about having half a dinner although still looking weirded, then went straight to bed without wanting to go outside.

    This morning, still looks a bit sedated to me, which worries me a bit. She has shown no interest in coming downstairs, even for the morning treats ritual. ...Well, she did get off my bed and come to the top of the stairs to look down at me. Then after a couple of tossed treats, right back to bed. It's now 9 a.m. and still no interest in coming downstairs.

    Vet bill--compare and contrast (to your own expenses or whatever you'd like)--my vet rates in a local consumer rating group as "good at keeping costs down."

    Exam/consult: $57 (My vet will give me detailed info about everything and talk to me as long as it takes; I never feel rushed or pressured. It's well worth the cost.)
    Heartguard, 6 months  for 2 dogs: $72
    Rimadyl, 20 tablets (40 doses): $44.50
    Half a day hospitalization: $28
    Technician/nursing for half a day: $35
    Two foot x-rays: $184
    X-ray interpretation: $30
    Sedative: $59.50
    Bandage/padding left paw: $13.50
    Surgical pack/suppplies: $8.50 (Hmm, not sure how that's different)
    Express anal glands $28.50
    Toxic waste/environmental fee $5

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    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    Tika Tika Tika

    SUMMARY: Dang sore toe.
    Tika is at the vet's for the afternoon being sedated (well--MORE sedated, since I've been giving her a light sedative the last couple of years just to go to the vet's for any reason) to try to do good x-rays of her toe.

    There goes another $350 bucks towards the athletic animals. If the next trial weren't going to be for another month or more, I might have postponed the x-rays for a week to see whether the toe got better on its own. But now I'd really like to know ASAP what its status is.

    In any case, she's going to be on thorough rest for the next few days at the very least.

    Vet says, yes, it's swollen. It's sore but not so sore that she can't stand on it, although she shifts her weight off it when just standing there. Not so sore that, with a blast of adrenaline, she can't run full rockets to the far end of the pen to chase the sheep on the other side, although she comes back limping again.

    Could be sprain or strain. Could be torn ligament. Could be dislocated. Could be a bone chip or a hairline fracture (vet doesn't think it's a larger break but with the swelling it's hard to tell).

    So I asked him to go ahead with the xray as best he can with just a sedative. If that doesn't work, will have to take her back in a few days for anesthesia to get better angles on the foot. In that case, I probably will put it off for a few days to see how the toe goes on its own.


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    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Mice and Men Got Nothing On Us

    SUMMARY: Sometimes things (let us say, just off the top of my head, CPE trials the day after Thanksgiving) don't go the way you planned, hoped, expected, or even imagined.

    Here are some photos with circles and arrows on the backs of each one explaining what each one is to be used as evidence against us.

    Agility as a weight loss device

    I swear that I took barely more than a forkful or two of anything on Thursday. ...Well, of *everything* on Thursday. Friday morning, 4 a.m., scale shows three (!) pounds heavier. Good thing I'm going to agility, where I'm physically active, have two dogs to run, and tend to eat lightly.

    First thing in the morning, near the check-in window, there are huge stacks of really tasty-looking chocolate chip cookies. Well, what the heck, if I have just ONE that's not so bad, because I'm at agility and tend to eat lightly.

    A while later alongside the course maps that I was picking up sat a really tasty-looking cake--not sure what for, but I don't often have a chance for cake (and frosting, which is what I *really* like), and what the heck, I'm at agility where I'm really active and so what if I have just one piece?

    Then, middle of the day, WAG had a big birthday bash for one of their key helpers--he'd be like their estate manager--with an amazing-looking carrot cake with the thickest cream cheese frosting you've just about ever seen. Well, I'm fond of carrot cake and I really like cream cheese frosting, and really, OK, I know what's going on here, but I don't get carrot cake or c.c. frosting often, so I'll just have one piece of that.

    In the worker raffle, I usually put most of my tickets into the bags for the free trial entries because I already have more beds, toys, books, bags, and so on than I know what to do with. But I usually look for something that I might kind of like to have that doesn't have too many tickets in it as a possible consolation prize for when I don't win the free entries and I'll put one of my tickets into that bag. So there was this huuuuuge tin of Almond Roca--

    On the other hand, my pedometer did indicate that, in one day of an agility trial. I covered enough steps to equate to 12 miles! I'll tell ya, after several years of doing mostly score table at trials, where what's involved is mostly sitting, at this trial I did leash running, scribe running, pole setting--all kinds of things where what's involved is mostly NOT sitting.

    Maybe the day was a wash in terms of actual calories inhaled/exhaled.

    One day of agility as a way to burn off bored dogs' energy

    I get up at 4 in the morning, am out of the house by 4:30, drive 2 hours through occasional drizzles, arrive at the agility place, take the dogs over to the field for a little frisbee warm-up and pottying, and Tika turns sharply on the wet ground, yelps, and comes back to me on three legs.

    I have several single-word comments on how I felt about that, most of which aren't printable here. Entry fees for 5 runs, down the tubes. Opportunity to burn off some mental and physical energy, down the tubes. Opportunity to win the Turkey Trot again--well, there's still Boost, but Tika's been my winning dog before and I had high hopes for her. Five chances to earn those precious CPE Qs since we don't do much CPE and Tika has a long way to go to her C-ATE, down the tubes. Damage to dog--don't know, but guessing that'll be more money down the tubes.

    I couldn't find anything. Didn't do the hunchy-over thing like she does when it's her shoulders or neck, seemed clearly to be in her foot. Gave her a rimadyl and an hour's rest. Let her out of her crate. She hopped down from the van with no sign of problem. Stretched fine, did figure 8s around my legs fine, played tug-of-war vehemently. Trotted alongside me out to the field with the practice jump. Sent her out around a couple of posts. Everything fine. Sent her over the jump, and she flew over with enthusiasm, turned tightly towards me with bright eyes, yelped, and came up on three feet.

    Scratched her from her first run and found the vet who is also an enthusiatic CPEer and is pretty much always there at WAG competing with her dogs. Waited for her to do her run with her dog, and then she looked Tika over. She saw pretty quickly what my inexperienced eyes didn't detect--the knuckle of Tika's left front little toe is swollen. She doesn't think it's broken, unless it's a hairline fracture. No way to tell without an x-ray.

    I thank her for looking (hopefully profusely enough) and ponder what to do. Tika is on leash, has been over the practice jump, and despite now walking again with a limp, she is acting eager and excited to be near the agility ring at an agility trial and clearly WANTs to run. I ponder what to do.

    The next class is Full House, which is like a Gambler's opening with no gamble, so we can do almost anything we want to. There are some tunnels and 6-pole weaves on the course, so I decide I'll try to have her just do a couple of those *gently and easily and slowly* to see what happens. So I line her up next to me in front of a straight tunnel, don't put her into a stay or anything, just release her gently and say, quietly and calmly, "Through!" (we don't say "tunnel", we say "through". There's a lady in our class with grayhounds who says "Be small!" it's very cute. They really do have to hunker down to get through the tunnels).

    OK, anyway, those of you with driven, enthusiastic dogs just KNOW what happens--Tika blasts full throttle through the tunnel, and because I'm trying to be calm and sedate, I'm way behind her. So when she blasts out of the tunnel, she careens into a sharp U-turn to see what I'm up to (eyes wide open and bright and ears up and looking SO happy to be out there)--and suddenly halts and comes out of the turn limping.

    I try once more a couple of hours later, in Snooker, with the judge's dispensation-- just one straight tunnel, which she does fine, and one gently curved tunnel--which she comes out of limping. And still bouncing back and forth (mostly on 3 feet) trying to get me to tell her which obstacle to take next.

    So that's enough stupid attempts to satisfy both of our desires for her to do some agility. She's scratched for the rest of the day, including (sob!) the Turkey Trot.

    The up side to this was that it completely vindicated my decision not to go to Nationals two weeks ago because Tika keeps coming up sore at random times. I was deadly disappointed today, but imagine how awful it would've been for this to happen in Arizona.

    Tika as the Mondo Q-Earner in CPE and Boost as the also-ran

    I hate going to trials and coming home with few or no Qs or placements. ESPECIALLY CPE, where Tika has quite the record of not only massive Qs and first places, but often THE highest score/fastest time of all dogs at the trial. It's an ego boost for me, who is obviously pathetic in her need for ego boosts like this, but there ya go. After Tika's injury, I was fully prepared to come home with next to nothing.

    First run of the day was Wildcard (I am not explaining games today), in which a dropped bar is fatal. I pick a pretty darned simple course--it's essentially an M-shaped path, how hard can it be? We will have to successfully negotiate one rear cross, which isn't Boost's strong point.

    Boost runs past one jump on the second leg of the M and I barely call her off the tunnel after it (but in fact she does call off and I get her brought around without backjumping), and she turns entirely the wrong way on the rear cross ( but I get her turned around and on course again with no faults), and, wow, we're CPE-clean and have a Q! But lots of wasted time.

    The thing you have to know about "clean" in CPE is that there are never faults for refusals or runouts. AND, although not clean, at level 4 and 5 in CPE (which is where Boost competes now), on many courses you can still Q even if you have certain kinds of faults.

    But now Boost has one CPE-clean run and a Q for the day. Not to my surprise, we don't win--but, jeez, with all that wasted time, we're still 2nd place.

    Next up is Full House. I love full house with my dogs. Just get as many obstacles as possible (with a very minimal number of rules) for points. And this one was particularly juicy--I could do a course with basically two very smooth loops and one rear cross and pick up almost every possible point on the field--
    6 out of 6 5-pointers
    7 out of 8 3-pointers
    5 out of 14 1-pointers (maybe more depending on how smoothly things went).

    So--she breaks her start-line stay, so I immediately put her into a down-stay and walk calmly around her and then release her when I'm ready. Probably means we'll loose the final 5-pointer because of the wasted time. On the first loop, she ran PAST the tire (drop 3 points). Then she missed the weave entry (drop maybe 5 seconds to get her lined up and back in, so probably that means drop the other 5-pointer off the end. After that, she flew, but sure enough the whistle blew as she flew towards our last 2 obstacles, both of them 5-pointers. Ah, well, crappy run but a Q.

    And, to my surprise, a win in our group (Level 5, which is almost the top leve). Not the highest points of the day by far if you compare to all other dogs, but I'll take a Q and a 1st anyway.

    And, guess what! That's the last Level 5 Q she needs in that class, so now she's eligible for her first Level C ("championship") entry (just in that class) at our next trial. Yowza!

    Next is Snooker. It's a very tight little course (really--laid out on a 70x70 field which is literally half the area of a typical USDAA course) and really fast long-jumping dogs--and especially the ones who aren't always the best performers--could have a tough time. I decided, what the heck, we IN THEORY have the skills required to do a three-7 opening and get through to the end. It requires that she hold her sit while I lead out, then pull her between a jump and a tunnel to the first 7-pointer--and of course that she keep all her bars up.

    Anyway, once again she turned the wrong way on a rear cross, and it was almost a disaster, but we held it together and completed the course in well under the allowed time.

    Turns out--ta-da!--she was the ONLY dog out of all dogs entered at the trial who earned the full 51 points! What a good girl. Pleased with that, indeed.

    Next up was Jumpers. Man, some weird sequences in that one AND it would require a ton of running on my part to be in the right place at the right time. And then there's the bar-knocking issue. OK, so she ran past one jump--I pulled hard to keep her off a tunnel trap and she responded too readily--so wasting time turning her around and getting her back over it, and then there was the tough push/turn out of the tunnel that I just handled wrong, so we wasted SO much time on course, but in fact never went off course and no bars came down. So: Another CPE-clean run, another Q, and this time merely 4th place. (Slower dogs definitely had advantages on this course.)

    And, finally, Standard, our only regular class of the day with contacts. Thank goodness, all of her contacts were spot-on perfect, and she handled a tough tunnel-dogwalk discrimination with aplomb, AND kept her bars up. So, OK, she ran past yet ANOTHER jump and it took a lot of effort to get her back to it, because I had been trying to send so was a long way away, and she turned the wrong way on a rear cross (sensing a trend here?), and fer cryin' out loud was headed straight at the weave pole entry but turned back to me to see what I was doing, wasting yet MORE time, but it was CPE-clean, so a Q. And apparently it was a tough-enough course that she managed her third 1st-place of the day.

    So, for the day, five out of five Qs, three 1sts, a 2nd, and a 4th. Way better than I had expected.

    Boost knocking bars everywhere

    In CPE, she's jumping 20" instead of 22", and that seems to make a big difference. She didn't drop a SINGLE bar all day, out of 6 runs!

    Turkey Trot

    I so wanted to win! It's just a fun game, it has no meaning whatsoever, but since my dogs have won 4 times so far, I just really wanted to keep on winning. Plus you get these really cool embroidered Top Turkey awards and a goodie bag.


    The game this year was 21. Your team had two minutes, and dogs took turns trying to earn 21 points EXACTLY. There was this simple little 4-obstacle gamble that of course our experience masters-level USDAA dogs should have no troulbe getting, which gave us 21 points automatically, rather than trying to accrue 21 points on the rest of the course.

    There was an alternative good route of 7 obstacles (including 2 aframes) that was pretty fast for 21 points if you thought you could do that exact course without popping the aframe or knocking a bar. (And of course many other choices on the course.) But we figured we could just do that 4-obstacle gamble over and over one after the other and rack up multiple 21-pointers. Piece of cake, right?

    We were all so fast that we each got 2 shots at it and not one of us did it correctly even once (4 times into wrong side of tunnel, one teeter flyoff, and boost who couldn't even do the dang weave pole entry one of her times), which meant that we then had to take an additional 3 obstacles each time to make our 21 points. And then of course two of those runs the dog didn't quite do what we wanted, so it was more than 21 points.

    Anyway, we ended up with four 21 pointers. Several teams had 4 or 5 and one had 6.

    Then your team drew numbers out of a pot, one for each 21 you earned, and the sum of those numbers you drew determined the winner. (That's the element of luck. The skill is in getting enough 21s to earn the right to draw more numbers.)

    Boost's team ended up in 2nd place out of 8 big dog teams, dang. So close. But oh well. Disappointing but not nearly as disappointing as not being able to run Tika in it. (And I don't want to act too disappointed because I LOVE the fun of the turkey trot and the different games each year and don't ever want Susan to stop doing it.)

    However, the only other person I know who had 4 Turkey Trot wins going into Friday, a Bay Team friend (and was Jake's teammate on at least one of his wins, as was one of his teammates) DID win in the small dog division, so now he has 5 wins. Pretty cool indeed.

    So--awake at 4:00 a.m., crawl into my own warm bed about 10:45 p.m., lights out!

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    Friday, July 17, 2009

    We're Ready

    SUMMARY: Friday night thoughts for the weekend.

    It was still 88F outside at 7:00 Friday evening. Strawberries & whipped cream for dinner.

    Reports from early arrivals at the trial site, Quail Lodge in Carmel, report that the site is gorgeous and the temp was 65 and slighty foggy. Awesome.

    Both dogs did some bar-knocking drills and some serpentine drills. Too hot to do much else, or for very long.

    Tika seems fine in most respects today, except that certain things make her yelp. :-( Still, she's running full out, jumping cleanly, tugging of war in her most fervent manner. More rimadyl, more massaging.

    My showerhead just broke. Aughhh! In a heat wave on a friday night before an agility weekend! Sheesh. I have a hand-held sprayer alternative, but I have just learned that one must be coordinated to avoid continually spraying oneself in the face. Sputttppfff!

    Tomorrow: Gamblers, Standard, Jumpers (both dogs need Qs! Really!), Steeplechase round 1 and 2, and Pairs.

    Sunday: Snooker, Grand Prix, and Standard. And home early? One can dream.

    It's 8 p.m. as I write this, and I need to be in bed *now* for that 4 a.m. arising. It will be to *#&@ hot for me to get to sleep right now. I would be lying there, oozing sweat into my sheets. Eh, sleep is overrated.

    Boost's ears occasionally start to stand up, giving her a puppyish charm. Never lasts long. Maybe the heat makes them rise.

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    Training Progress

    SUMMARY: As usual, some things get better and some get worse.

    Yesterday morning, we went for a long walk, played frisbee in the park, and did our usual chase-the-toy games in the yard. More of the same in the late afternoon, with some running/jumping exercises.

    Because we're doing USDAA this weekend, and because Tika needs Jumpers legs #24 and #25 at 26" (while everything else she's in is a Performance 22"), she ran last night in class mostly at 26". I warmed her up pretty good, got her pretty excited. We've been doing the same bar-knocking drills as for Boost, and she's been just about perfect. Last night in class, she knocked several bars and seemed slow to me (but maybe that's in comparison to Boost).

    We got home, had dinner, relaxed a bit--and when I got out the prunes for their evening treats, she grabbed one, hunched over, and exited rapidly upstairs to the bedroom. Zounds! (a) Tika never leaves the vicinity of food except in dire straits. (b) the sign of not feeling well or being in pain is beelining for the bedroom.

    So she got some rimadyl and a nice massage.

    As for Boost, who desperately needs Jumpers leg #1 (!!! still !!!), she knocked bars but not so badly (I know, I know, a knocked bar is a knocked bar), BUT (a) instructor said, wow, she's really working to avoid knocking them, and they're mostly because you're talking to her when she's right on top of the obstacle, and she didn't knock any with her hock (which was the main perceived "lazy" problem); and (b) she was really running, not doing runouts and refusals while looking at me the whole time, continuing the trend from last weekend's trial.

    Our biggest remaining runout issue is coming in to me on *#&@ serpentines! Back to work on those, too.

    This weekend: Should be near 90s in San Jose. Should be near mid-70s at the coast in Carmel, which is where the trial is. Whew! It's a 75-minute drive (per mapquest; I've never been there before), and I'm going to hoof it home overnight rather than spending the night there. So: Up at 4 a.m. or thereabouts once again Saturday morning, an hour later Sunday.

    Better pack! And get some real work in! And one final bar-knocking practice!

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    Tuesday, July 07, 2009


    SUMMARY: Random things, agility, blog, life, and a Boost shocker.

    • Still waiting for my final insurance check from the MUTT MVR break-in. I think they said that they have 60 days to "conclude their investigation" or something like that. THEN I can go camera shopping.
    • Boost just gave me quite a shock--because she gave herself one! She was lying there quietly next to my desk, chewing on a stick, when she suddenly yelped and leaped away, tail down, to hide under the desk. I looked--and she had given up on the stick and had switched to the end of my extension cord, for crying out loud! That thing has been there all winter for my heater to plug into. Why now? Isn't that supposed to be a puppy kind of thing, not a 4-year-old dog kind of thing? Jeez, Boost! Well, maybe that taught her--
    • I try to keep my "Complete Archive of Posts" (link under Archives on the right side) but sometimes forget. Just updated from May through today.
    • I also forget to update my "Complete list of labels" (link at bottom of each post). Just updated for the last year! Ooops!
    • Maybe I'll get around to updating the photo album sometime soon, too.
    • In this post, I uploaded actual digital versions of the photos rather than scanned from the prints. They look better; thanks again, Erika.
    • In this post, I added a couple of other clarifying comments in [square brackets].
    • Updated this post with the course map of the course in my yard that I was using last week (just now got my updated CourseDesigner activation code).
    • I just realized that Tika has now competed in 7 Performance tournament events (3 each Steeplechase and Grand Prix, 1 DAM Team) and has qualified in every single one of them--AND placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in all except one (competing against 10-20 dogs usually)! How amazing is that? She really likes that 22" jump height!
    • My knee held up beautifully all weekend despite my pedometer showing about 8.5 miles covered each of the 3 days, 15 courses walked repeatedly (but not obsessively), and 28 runs with my dogs. So it's not just the activity that sometimes aggravates it; it's got to be how I'm moving it, and I'm suspecting more and more that it's certain kinds of twists, turns, torques, pushes, or pulls.
    • Tika looked fine all weekend, and I never even gave her any rimadyl! We middle-aged ladies are hanging in there.
    • On the other hand, Tika never gets up into the 6 yards per second range any more, even on jumpers courses, so I know that she's slowing down gradually. This weekend's smooth, lovely jumpers was at just 5.2 yps; winner's time (the amazing World Team tryouts winner Icon) came in at 6.12.

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    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Dog Health and Hiking

    SUMMARY: Both dogs seem fine. Did some nice hiking with dogs and wildflowers today.

    Tika's still taking rimadyl twice a day per vet's suggestion. Haven't heard a yelp or whine of pain out of her since maybe Monday last week. Boost of course has never indicated that she's in pain. Dang dogs.

    I've been doing some of the Pilates for Pooches exercises and some additional ones that the physical therapist suggested. The DVD is interesting and useful. At least, it'll be useful if I can stick with the exercise program. Like I'm good at that. Hah.

    It's weird to be surrounded by agility equipment and not be using any of it.

    So today we went for a nice off-leash hike instead. (Also suggested by two or three dog-medical-type people as being excellent for both dogs.) Challenge is that we have to drive 45 minutes one way to get to such a place, then $5 parking plus $2 per dog. Not something I'd do every day, or even every week. Sigh.

    Friends who live up in that area constantly post notes on facebook about all the cool offleash hiking they do with their dogs. If I ever had any urge to move again, I'd consider moving more up thataway for that reason. So we met today at Sunol Regional Wilderness to go trekking.

    The dogs loved it. The people hiked maybe 3 miles; the dogs must've covered three times that.

    And how long did the energy burn-off last? For the whole 45-minute drive home, at which point they were well rested and ready to play. It didn't last NEARLY as long as the horse and/or cow manure in which they both rolled enthusiastically. We did a lot of hosing off when we got home.

    I've got some photos almost ready for viewing but there are some issues with my photo site. Will post the link when they're ready.

    Hope everyone who's going to the 4-day Haute TRACS extravaganza trial enjoy it without me. [sniffle] I'm sure it'll be difficult for them.

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    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Tika Status

    SUMMARY: It's the neck. Now what?

    Tika is soooo wired and frantic when we go to the vet. I have to give her a sedative an hour before we go. Even so, she's soooo wired and frantic. Vet couldn't get the tiniest reaction from her; says Tika's probably so pumped on adrenaline that it overrides anything else she might be feeling.

    But vet is pretty sure it's pinched nerve. Review x-ray notes from a year ago and said "narrowing of disks" in neck and back in about 3 places. Doesn't think it's worth taking more x-rays right now. Gave us more rimadyl to take for a couple of weeks. And take it easy for 3 or 4 weeks.

    Of course, we did that in February, and Tika still managed to be sore at VAST.

    So now... I have to decide what I'm going to do about agility with her. Although I'm still not entirely sure whether it's the agility that aggravates it (after all, we'd do an entire evening of class agility and never have a reaction) or the extra running around that we usually get to do in an open field at agility trials.



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    World Good. Facebook Good.

    SUMMARY: Tika gets a vet appointment through facebook.

    Facebook is interesting. It gets a lot of flack for the banal things that people post. But, for the most part, the people I know post interesting things. And I find out stuff that I wouldn't have known otherwise. Like, a distant friend's mother-in-law died. Like, another distant friend just had an operation. Like, who among my facebook friends are at the AKC nationals this week. Who got a new puppy. Who lost a dog. Who's working on running contacts.


    Yesterday, I posted this in my status:

    Tika is in so much pain (tbd what exactly--arthritis?) that Ellen has scratched both Tika and Boost (technically still in rehab) from the whole 4 days of Haute TRACS. [sags despondently]

    I got plenty of sympathetic comments. One person asked when she'd be seeing the vet. I replied:

    Scheduled vet for Monday. Regular vet gone this week, so only one vet in office, already overbooked, said I could come sit and wait however long it took until a few minutes opened up and I decided it's not that much of an emergency. I hope.

    Another of my facebook friends just happens to have the same vet that we do. And she just happened to have an appointment for this afternoon. And she just happened to decide that she could wait until next week and offered the spot to us. And I accepted with pleasure.

    This would never have happened without facebook.

    Tika is feeling above average today; running around like normal, just sometimes forgets and does something forceful or twisty with her front parts and yelps. Not completely debilitated like she was Wednesday. Hopefully we can pinpoint where the problem is and then decide where to go from there.

    I'm floored and grateful for the gift of a vet appointment 3 days earlier. It doesn't cost her anything except time to set up the changed appointments, but it feels wonderful and it feels like a huge gift. I know how hard it is sometimes to get appointments at times that are convenient. All is right with the world.

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    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Think First, Thow Toy Later

    SUMMARY: Of all the stupid--

    So the dogs wanted to play and run. The physical therapist had suggested that, if I want to throw a toy, I throw it into the bushes or other areas where they can't see it right away and have to hunt for it, to avoid that crashing, twisting leap/pounce putting all that weight onto their front parts in that special frantic way that they do.

    So I've been casually tossing the toy into the corner among the potted plants behind the tunnel. Worked fine until Tika--yes, that one--in her furry wisdom, takes a very common shortcut: OVER the tunnel. Lands on her front feet. Shrieks, hunches over, scootches into the house whimpering, nubber tail plastered down onto her backside. Poor girly! Her Human Mom just didn't think about that shortcut, even though it's not an unusual one. Dumb dumb dumb.

    It's just that, usually, when Tika has been so sore, she has these remarkable recoveries and nothing shows up again for months. So, she was better this morning, therefore, she's better. Right? Doh.

    What I find interesting is that, when she's feeling sore or ill, Tika runs upstairs (isn't she SORE?) and leaps onto my bed, which is quite high (isn't she *SORE*?), and lounges up there all day, not down here on any of the doggie beds near me. Funny.

    But you know that she's hurtin' when she won't come downstairs when I rustle the pretzel bag. Poor girly. Maybe I'm NOT going for a long hike with the dogs this Saturday.


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    Tika Is Fine Today

    SUMMARY: Only a little sore.

    Tika was still miserable at bedtime last night. But this morning, she's almost as perky as ever. I tried to pick her up one more time, and she still whined painfully, so it's not all gone.

    My regular vet is gone this week, so there's only one vet there and she was booked even including the emergency slots that they reserve, and I decided with much angst that Tika's situation wasn't enough of an emergency to go down there and sit for however many hours it took until she could squeeze us in for a few minutes. (OK, I tried to make the sentence longer but couldn't.)

    I've had mail from a friend whose dog has a compressed disk in his neck, with exactly the same symptoms. They have treated with prednisone, which made the symptoms go away, and continue with chiro and acupuncture, but are still in process of trying to figure out how bad it really is and what their options are.

    Soooo that could be it for Tika, too. I had her x-rayed after the first couple of times this happened at my regular vet, and he and x-ray expert said she's got a tiny bit of arthritis in the neck that shouldn't generally cause problems but if things get in the wrong position, it could be very painful. I'll have to look up how long ago that was and decide whether I want to drive to a specialist to do xrays again. Sighhhhh-- just dropped $500 and a day off work taking Boost up to the orthopedist north of San Francisco for evaluation. Can't they space it out better?

    I've heard from one 3-dog person who suggested that "a pair and a spare" would be a good number of agility dogs to have (thanks, Team Small Dog), and another 3-dog person who ended up with one who physically can't do it, one who just isn't interested, and one who is a fabulous agility dog but is so reactive to other dogs that she's retired him from agility because the stress on both of them, and the risk, is too much.

    Someone else said "That's why I have 4 dogs." So then there's my agility instructor who for a while had 4 dogs--one whose leg kept getting broken (not during agility), one who had repeat injuries to --toes? ankles?, one who started having exercise-induced seizures... Jeez, before you know it, I'm going to have to have a kennel full of back-up emergency dogs for when my main canines are out of commission.


    Meanwhile, am trying for an appointment with my regular vet for Monday. Tika'll probably be fine then and we won't be able to tell what was causing the problem. (But I guess I'd rather that than Tika being miserable all weekend.)


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    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    It Isn't Supposed to Work Like This

    SUMMARY: Tika and Boost both out for the count.

    See, I have two agility dogs of different ages so that I'll always have at least one in working order so that I can do agility anytime, anywhere. That's the way it's supposed to work, right?

    With great frustration (and worry), I have just scratched both dogs from Haute TRACS (the big 4-day USDAA trial in 2 weeks).

    First, you knew about Boost. Boost has tender, probably pulled, muscles in her lower abdomen/groin/leg area. I entered her in HT against her physical therapist's advice because I was going to be there anyway, running Tika, and I figured--what the heck, I can scratch her from some runs if I needed to, and at least she'd have had 4 weeks of rest if not the full recommended 8.

    But, now, Tika. Tika's issue with coming up sore seems to be getting worse. At the VAST CPE two weeks ago, I wrote about how she was suddenly sore after her first run but reasonably functional (slower and more careful and hitting the ground hard over jumps and missing weave entries and like that, but happy to still be playing the game) . She's had rest and doggie aspirin and massage from me in the meantime.

    This last weekend at the Bay Team CPE she was awesome--also jumping 20" for the first time--very fast, very happy, no sign of the VAST problems. However, by the time we got home, she was doing the hunched over thing and exited her crate from the car very gingerly. Yesterday she yelped occasionally with certain movements or contacts with people. Today she is in just plain goddamned misery. Can barely walk. I had to talk her into having breakfast--and if you know Tika, you know that this is very serious indeed. I don't know what it is--arthritis in her neck acting up? Pulled something? Broke something? Cramped muscles? Aspirin and massage have done nothing for her all day.

    So--really--neither of my dogs is in a state to be able to do even 2 days of agility in just two weeks, let alone 3 or 4. So I pulled out. This'll be the first time I've missed this 4-day extravaganza.

    Since I was earning free runs by signing up for crew chief two days and chief course builder the other two days, this leaves the clubs in the lurch. Not to mention my DAM teammates (only Tika's--I did show SOME restraint and didn't enter Boost in the 5 DAM events.)

    I figured it was better to pull out now and give everyone two weeks to find replacements. Tomorrow I'll take Tika in to the regular vet to check for any basic things.

    I'm just about at my wit's end--having 2 dogs is supposed to prevent me from ever having a weekend where I can't do agility! How come it's not working like that?

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    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Tika Pops The Weaves

    SUMMARY: Video from two weeks ago.

    At the CPE trial two weeks ago, I commented about Tika being sore and having trouble with the weaves although she's usually a superb weaver (makes entrances, doesn't pop out), and also landing heavily after every jump. Turns out that a friend videotaped her Wildcard run. She doesn't ACT sore, does she! But none-the-less I have nothing else to blame the weave issues on. (And it's hard to tell that she's landing heavily after the jumps unless you really know her.) Anyway, here she is, just a cutie altogether, having a good time running despite everything, and her handler being OK but not perfect as usual.

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    Monday, March 09, 2009

    Ribbons and Choices

    SUMMARY: Tika does well but is sore; Boost runs a lot; TMH can't make up its mind.

    These March winter mornings in Turlock started with frost on the grass but the sun rising bright and clear. By early afternoon, people had stripped off their coats and some had started hosing down their dogs to keep them cool. But when the sun set--Brr!

    With Boost's agility career on hiatus while I figure out whether she has a physical problem, all my hopes for the weekend rested on Tika. If Tika can keep her bars up, she usually excels in CPE events. This is good, because I'd like to eventually earn enough Qs for her C-ATE (250 about), and she has a long way to go. We do few CPE trials any more, so every run counts because Tika is 8 and comes up sore more and more often.

    We had 10 runs this weekend, and I promised myself that I would take Boost out after every one of Tika's runs and do something physically and mentally stimulating with her in lieu of a run.

    First thing in the morning, we always play a bit of frisbee to loosen up the dogs and burn off the edge so that they'll relax in their crates. We did so Saturday. Then, on our way off the field, a friend with border collies that Boost loves to chase headed out to the playing field, so we went back out and ran a bunch more.

    I try to keep the frisbee low so that the dogs aren't leaping and torquing their backs, but a couple of times I missed and I cringed seeing Tika's leaps.

    Tika Sore? About 2 hours later, when I took Tika out of her crate for her first run, she emerged hunchy and stiff. Well, crap! I've driven all this way, paid my entry fees for the weekend (which are now nonrefundable), have only one dog to run, and this is one of the few CPEs for us this year. Plus when I've scratched Tika in the past, she often then goes blasting around the field full speed after squirrels, so how sore can she be? She is a known drama queen when it comes to injuries, too, so I have to take that into account.

    I massage her, stretch her a bit, try to get her spine and shoulders mobile the way I was shown. (I'm not very good at this.) First run is Colors, only 11 obstacles, so what the heck. She runs fairly well, keeps all her bars up, but I can see that she's catching herself roughly when landing after each jump. But she's bright-eyed and eager and fast. Ends up 3rd fastest of all 58 dogs, all heights/levels, on the same course.

    She's the ONLY dog in her level and height--24"--so she's guaranteed first place every time unless she eliminates, and there's not much chance of that. But I'll take the ribbons only if we've earned them.

    She gets a doggie aspirin, more rubbing, and then I take Boost out for some running and training.

    Boost Play and Training. I manage to keep my promise to Boost 8 out of the 10 runs for the weekend. I start and end every session just as if we were going into competition, using the right leash, the right toy, the right warm-up, then the right back-to-the-crate routine with treats and all. While she's out, we practice a variety of things:
    * Sit-stay and down-stay, including with lots of excitement and toy throws. Even did a little out-of-sight stays, which we've never worked on before. Only 5 seconds, but she held it.
    * Down from a distance while she's moving. Took her a couple of tries to realize what was going on, but then she got it and did very well. None of my other dogs have been able to do that without a lot of work, and even then reluctantly. But Boost has a super-fast down and seems comfortable doing it.
    * Lateral lead-outs. Goal was to ensure that she was looking at the jump, not me, before I released her. We've done these before, but obviously not enough. It took her a very long time the first couple of times before she stopped staring at me and looked in the general direction of the jump inadvertently, at which point I released her and threw the toy. What a quick study she is!--By the end of the weekend, she was back to doing it pretty reliably.
    * Sends to a jump from various directions (just a jump frame with a bar on the ground).
    * Lateral "out" commands (around garbage cans) while we're moving together.
    * Sitting up on her rear legs.
    * Rolling over.
    * "Close"--command for running next to me instead of ahead, until I say "go".
    * Various running and moving ground exercises.

    She seemed to enjoy it and didn't look disappointed or confused when I put her back in her crate, since I was following the same competition routine. (Unlike Jake who was quite disturbed and sulky about doing the agility that he expected.)

    Plus she got to Run With The Border Collies for about half an hour at the end of the weekend while I packed my car.

    Tika Still Sore--Or Not?
    Tika came out of her crate with the same hunchy look for almost every run, although she always perked up completely when i presented treats. Did lots more massaging and stretching than I usually do with her. She loves the attention.

    I couldn't decide whether to scratch her from the rest of the weekend. I really didn't want to, for my own sake, which is not how you're supposed to make decisions for your dog. On the other hand, she was always excited about running, enough so that we were having troubles with our start-line stays, and she always did the over-the-top grab-mom's-feet thing at the end of every run. And this is a known issue, not some mysterious malady.

    Tika not looking at all wonky:

    So I ran her all weekend, although she was landing heavily and grunting after her jumps and turning wide the whole time (except for one run), not her usual effortless flowing jumping and tight turns.

    That Dang Snooker. The only run of the weekend where she didn't come out of the crate looking sore--and didn't keep her bars up--was the last run on Saturday, Snooker. The sun had already disappeared and it was much cooler. Maybe she liked the coolth.

    Snooker in CPE is different from USDAA Snooker, in that you MUST successfully complete three reds to be able to earn a qualifying score (if you then go on and earn enough points in the closing). There is a fourth red on the course, but you can (must) take it ONLY if you knock one of the other reds. I explained this to a few people during the briefing.

    Tika was the last dog to run of the class and of the day, so we ran a couple of hours after the briefing. I put her in a down stay and started my long lead-out to get into position. Next thing I know, there she is right next to me, bright eyed and bushy nubbered.

    I set her up about 12 feet off the first jump to give her the right strides to get over the jump without knocking it. What she does when she decides she's going to self start is to stand up, slowly creep forward until she's right up before the jump, then takes off without enough space.

    I looked back and, sure enough, the bar was down. I had hoped for a 51-point (perfect) run, but that was out of the question. And then my 12 years of USDAA experience kicked in: If I did just the two additional reds and the closing, I'd still have enough points to qualify. So that's what we did, and we did it quickly and smoothly. And we got to the end, and the judge comes over and says, "Did you realize that you could have taken the fourth red and still earned a qualifying score?" Oh--well--crud. I can't even remember my own advice for two hours! So we got no points for the closing at all and no Q.

    You Know What Happens When You Assume. Our only other non-Q for the weekend was the preceding Standard run, which Tika did nicely all the way to the 2nd to last obstacle, which was a dogwalk-tunnel discrimination. I yelled "Climb!" and raced ahead, assuming that she'd do it because her arc from the previous obstacle led there--but Nooooo! Silly mom, tunnel much easier when mom's ahead. Body language takes precedence over voice commands.

    Tika--Yes--Still Sore, But Happy.
    In Snooker first thing Sunday morning, we had short weaves in the opening for for 7 points. Every time, Tika--my superb weaving dog--either went into the weaves on the wrong side because it was closer or went into the correct place and came right back out again. Wasted a tremendous amount of time in the opening, so we missed our perfect 51 points by less than one second! Argh! It was a qualifying score, but still, I didn't understand.

    Until, before the next run, I had her do figure-8s around my legs, and the first time, she yelped and stopped! OK, sore side-to-side, too. So we added additional manipulations and stretchings and bendings, and she was decent after that, although still slower in the weaves than usual. And I didn't try pushing her speed during our runs, which I usually would do, to get her more excited and driving.

    Qing and Firsts.
    In all, Tika earned 8 of 10 Qs. It's always better for me (I feel better about my first places) if there are other 24"-jumping dogs in my height and level. But the two catahoulas weren't there, the BCs Annie and Django who sometimes jump 24" weren't there, and BC Brenn has moved down to 20".

    As a result, to make me feel that we've earned our first places, I compare our scores and times to every other dog, all heights/all levels, who have done the same course. This time, Tika was never the top dog, but out of 50-60 dogs, she was still between the 3nd and 10th fastest or highest-scoring dog, so I felt that the 1st were earned.

    Note that, in USDAA, if we weren't feeling well and were making mistakes on the course, we'd be wayyyy down in the rankings somewhere, but here in CPE, Tika is still near the top.

    The only two dogs who beat us consistently all weekend were a fast little sheltie who has running A-frames and--in point accumulation classes--5 more seconds than we do, and a Border Collie in the 20" group.

    The Horns of Height Dilemmas. Now, Tika is eligible to run 20" in CPE. I do 24" because she has to jump 26" in USDAA. So I could move her down to 20" for future trials to see whether that's better. Here's my personal dilemma: Because the 20" BC made no mistakes this weekend, and is also at Level C, if Tika had been running at 20", 7 or 8 of those 8 pretty blues would have been pretty reds. As much as I like competition, I must admit that a guarantee of not getting 1st is rough.

    When Tika is 100%, we can almost never beat those other dogs on speed, so in timed courses, we usually win only if they make mistakes. In points courses, we can win when we create a cleverer, more efficient way of collecting points than the others, which is possible sometimes but not always.

    Here's the second dilemma: in USDAA, I could move Tika to Performance and jump her at 22" instead of 26". But: I've already signed her up for the next two DAM Team events with 3-dog teams, with Tika at 26". And they'd be fun teams. We already have our team names (not always easy) and one even has a logo already. And I'd like to run with them. But if I go to performance, I'd have to find different teams. And closing is only a week away for one of them, which would leave that team stuck without a 3rd. But I want to do these teams!

    So I'll probably stay at 26" at least for those. Maybe move her to Performance in some other things. And stay higher in Steeplechase and Grand Prix until she earns her 50th tournament leg.

    I hate this. Dogs shouldn't get older and sorer.

    But I Had Fun. In all, though, it was a good weekend. So I wasn't even particularly annoyed when I left the grounds around 7:30(!) Sunday evening. Especially because Boost got to romp with a ton of other Border Collies the whole time I packed.

    Here's Bump, Dig, Boost's half-sister Quas ("Kass"), and Boost--who always just watches and outruns the other BCs:

    Never thought I'd be able to tell one black & white BC from another, but over time, I've gotten to know some reasonably well. Here are housemates Bump, Dig, and Styx (with Cattle Dog Skeeter in the back), then blue merles Boost, sister Bette, and Quas.

    It seemed like a lot of dogs milling and dashing around! (Easier to count when they're in a snapshot.) So sometimes we hardly noticed when other random dogs joined the crowd.

    Skeeter is largely blind due to glaucoma; has only one eye left. But her Human Mom can get her to leap and play by shrieking and doing monstery things with her arms. It's very cute. While Boost sits, poised, waiting intently for a border collie to start running.

    Tika kept rushing back to the van and looking hopeful. That's because they usually get dinner right before we go home. And we know who's the chow hound.

    And I wasn't even annoyed when, while heading to the freeway, the car felt funny handling, and I wondered whether I had a tire problem, and then the tire-pressure light came on. I pulled into the Jack-in-the-Box, and sure enough, one tire's pressure was 5 lbs lower than the others, and it had this little ding.

    Safe to drive? Dunno. Don't want to have blow-out on the way home; that WOULD annoy me. So I called AAA to have them look at the tire. Took less than half an hour to get there, but it gave me plenty of time to enjoy my healthy french fries...

    to watch the moon come up over JITB...

    to take endless sunset photos...

    Here's a scenic one of the sunset reflected in my minivan's window. Glamorous, huh?

    Then AAA arrived. He said: Dunno, but he'd replace the tire to be safe rather than sorry. He had the right tools to do it in about 3 minutes. Amazing.

    Got home VERY late and slept VERY well for many, many hours.

    Had These Photos And What To Do With Them? But lastly--just for you, gratuitous barking grassy Bump photos:

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    Friday, October 24, 2008

    Really Prepping for Nationals

    SUMMARY: Trying to clean up the small list of things that it's good to review.

    This week's training focus has been on things that I can work on in the yard, that review issues that we've had problems with lately, and just a broad spectrum of things that we might encounter at Scottsdale.

    Because Tika was sore last week/weekend, I don't want to do much with her to jar her neck, but since she's enthusiastically running and playing tug with no signs of pain this week, I'm doing some training but being selective about it.

    Last night I took only Boost to class. For the second week in a row, we've been doing only Jumpers work (by popular demand... how'd we get a class with no contact worries but lots of jumping issues?! Didn't the world used to be the other way around? Like Tika, for example...) And, wow, where did I get a dog who can DO JUMPERS COURSES?! We did not have a single refusal all evening, and the only runout was one where others had trouble, too. She's still knocking a lot of bars, but, man, she was flying! And even doing rear crosses! And serps! And wayyy lateral lead-outs! And everything! What fun!

    • Boost: Assorted exercises to get her to focus on obstacles ahead of her instead of on me.
    • Boost: Lots of jumping long rows of jumps (well... what I can fit in my yard). Thanks to a friendly reminder from an online friend, I dug out my Susan Salo notes from wayyyy back--which is how I worked with Boost when we first started-- and set up some sequences. It's very interesting to see how rough she really is over these things, but how very quickly she figures it out and starts bounce-jumping everything without knocking the bars. But every little change I make is almost like starting over. For example, on one sequence (about 6', 8', 10', 11', and 12' apart with various low heights on the bars), after she had run it smoothly 4 times, I went through and bumped the distance about 2 inches between everything--and she was back to double-striding and knocking bars the first couple of times. But she very quickly got back to bounce-jumping cleanly. Clearly I haven't done enough of this kind of work with her. Silly me. But based on class last night, I think that this plus the focus exercises are making a big difference. Keeping my fingers crossed!
    • Boost: Tires. I hauled the tire out from behind the shed, because at 2 of the last 3 trials she ran under a tire. Incorporating it into sequences, running ahead of her and behind her, approaching from different angles, turning afterwards, and so on.
    • Boost: Broad jump. Because we haven't done many of them (although there was one in class last night on a slight angle) and I know they're going to show up in a tough place again at Nationals.
    • Boost: Table. Still working on the staying down and not doing the hydraulic elbow-lift thing. Although I think the best solution is still to work on it right before we go into the ring.
    • Tika: Because her contacts have become so iffy, I'm just trying to do a ton of dogwalks and Aframes every day. More on the dogwalk, since it's not so hard on the neck and shoulders. I figure that if she has 100 good contacts in her memory when we get to Scottsdale, that she'll think more about doing them right while we're there.
    • Tika: Low-stress jumping, and not much of it. Using a couple of Susan Salo-type drills, with the bars mostly at 8" and 12" with some 16". Just so she stays in the groove and gets in a relaxed jumping mindset.
    • Tika: Snooker and Gamblers kind of moves, with tunnels, very low jumps, and occasional 6-pole weaves.
    • Boost: Start-line stays. Because she broke hers a couple of times last weekend. I used to try to be sure to reward staying at least 25-35% of the time, but I've slacked off because she's been so good. Never give up, never give up!

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    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Well Things Are Interesting

    SUMMARY: Another Tika title, some soreness, some progress, some nationals musings

    (top 10)
    1st plc
    min pts
    our faults note
    SatBoostGrand Prixn
    secEa mess
    SatBoostMas Gamblersn17th of 3233+047+2518+25pts
    Nice opening
    SatBoostMas RelayQ5th of 2155.1953.3276sec10bar
    SatBoostMas Relay-61.5453.2276sec20a mess
    SatBoostMas Standardn21st of 2956.3839.7753sec18.38probs
    SunBoostMas Jumpersn
    secENice! Bar, serp
    SunBoostMas Snookern9+24+2737pts
    Too hard
    SunBoostMas Standardn16th of 2645.2939.7854sec10Nice! Bar, up DW
    SatTikaGrand Prixn6th of 1244.5033.6949sec10Aframe
    SatTikaMas GamblersQ3rd of 12 (3)26+2533+2518+25pts
    SatTikaMas RelayQ7th of 2160.9053.2276sec10handling
    SatTikaMas StandardQ4th of 1044.7039.0253sec
    SunTikaMas Snookern24+224+2737pts
    SunTikaMas Standardn

    The weekend started with a promising-looking sunrise.

    It's so weird to have a Lowe's and its parking lot looming over the field--that's on top of where this site used to have room for a 3rd and 4th ring. Not no more.

    Tika seemed mostly OK Saturday. She ran nicely and Qed in 3 of 4 classes, missing only the Grand Prix where I tried a tricky maneuver that failed, pulling her past the Aframe for a refusal and then because I was behind her after I got her onto it, she flew right off the other side. She also placed in those 3 classes, and finished her Relay Champion Silver title (25th Q).

    On Sunday, she ran happily outside the ring but acted gingerly when jumping. In her first run, Standard, about 2/3 of the way through, she yelped landing from a jump, but we were so close to the end and she kept going without slowing down--but then I was watching her and starting to try to take it easy on the course, and I pulled her past an obstacle just about 6 jumps from the end, so we just ran quickly off course.

    Before her Snooker run, she looked reluctant to get going, but I did a bunch of warmups and stretching, and then she took the practice jump with no obvious sign of problems. But, once we were out on the course, she started landing heavily after jumps and saying "oomph" or the equivalent--not a yelp, but obviously not comfy, but still she kept going, although slowing down--once again, I started watching her more than the course and once again pulled her past an obstacle, so we just ran quickly out of the ring again.

    So I scratched her from Jumpers. I'm sure she'll be fine before nationals with R&R&R (rest, relaxation, rimadyl).

    This was my view most of the weekend.

    Boost managed to Q again in Pairs Relay, where it's OK to knock a bar. We ran it twice, once as an accommodating dog, and the 2nd time (different half of course) was a mess--didn't stick start line, so got a refusal as I was dealing with that, a bar, two more refusals or runouts, Bleah.

    Her Saturday standard was a bit of a mess: ran under the tire again (did so 2 trials ago, different tire, different site), ran past a very easy jump, ran across the front of another jump, and a couple of other weird bobbly things, plus not sticking her contacts very well.

    In Gamblers, I found a really lovely flowing high-point opening that I thought she did perfectly, but instead of having 45 opening points (which would've been 2nd highest of all dogs all heights), she was missing a 7 and a 5-pointer, with no inidication why, and the judge didn't remember. Ratz. It's just for the glory, because we missed the gamble on a stupid handler thing, but still...

    Grand Prix didn't look so good, either; didn't stick her contacts and so got out of place for following obstacles for at least one refusal and a lot of wasted time, missed weave entry (although a lot of dogs missed that entry), some other disorganized stuff and I ended up just running her off and not doing all the last jumps.

    Sunday looked up a bit. Both her Standard and Jumpers were smooth and fast. I worked the contacts for a long time in Standard, so her time was slow, and she had a bar down, but otherwise it was beautiful--except she got called for the dogwalk up contact. And jumpers she had a bar and then ran parallel past a tough serpentine that I didn't work well, but wow it felt and looked good otherwise.

    We tried a complex Snooker course to try for a Super-Q, but it was way beyond our skill level and not a pretty thing to watch.

    On the very positive side, she went down and stayed down on her table in both Standards, with just a wee tiny bit of down-stay work outside the ring Saturday and none sunday because I forgot, so that's a nice change of pace. And I'm starting to feel very confident about her weaves; I know that I still have to watch the entry and not get ahead of her, but I don't have to babysit or worry for the most part any more.

    Here's Roulette, a full sister from a repeat breeding of Boost's mother and father. Look familiar? Even has a two-tone right eye.

    And here's Dash, of Dash and Ash, who periodically appeared and did all the obligatory very-cute-puppy things. He's so TINY!

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    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Sore Points: 270s and Tika's Neck

    SUMMARY: This week's training and Tika's sore, again.

    This week in the yard I've been concentrating on 270-degree turns with various angles of approach and departure. Both dogs need more practice at it. Just not something I've concentrated on in a long time.

    Wednesday evening, Tika came up sore. Yelping when doing her usual excited-about-food leaping, so didn't even want to leap for that. No practice yesterday during the day and I tried massaging her arms and neck and back. She loves that! So relaxed, eyes half shut. She'd make a good princess.

    But she ran around the yard after the toy and random evil squirrels full-speed just fine and played tug-of-war, so it's getting out of the horizontal movement that's hurting. However, last night in class, wouldn't play tug of war at all. Went over a 16" practice jump just fine, and 22", but when I tried to just run her on a course at 22" (4" lower than usual), she went over the first jump and then hunched up and stopped. Crap.

    So last night it was a rimadyl and today we'll just try more massage and stretching and a little bit of distance work with tunnels and maybe very low jumps, to keep her warmed up. I don't need this right before a competition weekend! Crap again.

    Also for Boost have been practicing just running full-speed down a straight line of jumps. Which, in my yard, is 3 jumps about 15 feet apart, which is nothing--I can keep up with her easily, so I have to deliberately hang back and not run that fast. Which is very different from what we encounter in competition.

    And that showed very well last night in class, when there were 4 jumps going all the way across the field and I was about four thousand feet behind her by the second jump and then she's veering right and left and starting to want to spin while she's ahead of me.

    So in a few minutes once again we're going up to Power Paws to use their field for an hour to practice long series of jumps in a row, working with various things to have her focus on going rather than waiting.

    She did have some very nice runs last night, although rear crosses are also still a bugaboo. Got more advice on working on that from World Team Coach, so there's more for today.

    This weekend's pretty light for a weekend of USDAA agility. But, still, if Tika's healthy, she could earn her Silver Pairs Relay title (that's 25 Qs); Boost could earn her Standard Masters title (that's 5 Qs), and if we could get that dang jumpers leg, her MAD (requires 3 Standard legs and one of everything else).

    So here I go...

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    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    No Practice Makes--What?

    SUMMARY: Lack of classes, lack of practice, but Tika's fine.

    As of this week, we've had no class for 3 of the last 4 weeks. Yikes. And that's after I cut down to one class a week, so I'm sort of sharing Boost's class time with Tika, so it's not superly sufficient anyway.

    And just not motivated to work on jumping drills in the yard. Bor. Ing. Would be more interesting if I had enough space for the dogs to open up and actually practice something, but now I can set up two jumps 20' apart--and then we're out of room. Makes it hard to trick them into thinking we're doing something else.

    So we have a CPE trial in Petaluma this weekend, and who knows what's going to happen.

    Tika's anal gland, meanwhile, looks just fabulous, to my inexpert eye. She's had oral antibiotics for 10 days, plus twice-daily cleanouts of the gland with antibacterial ointment and hot compresses and massages. She wasn't thrilled with the process, but we came to a working agreement. Went much better than any kind of work at the vet's would have gone, I think.

    Gave her painkillers for about the first 3 days, rimadyl as an antiinflammatory for about the next 5 or 6, and she is just absolutely frisky and happy the last few days. So she should run fine this weekend (says here), if she can keep her bars up. It helps that, in CPE, she jumps 24" instead of 26"

    And I entered Boost at 20" instead of 24" this time (she's actually eligible for 16", but since she has to do 22" in USDAA, I prefer to stay in that range), which might or might not help with her bar knocking.

    And we'll just concentrate on making sure we do weaves correctly, and contacts correctly, and I hope have just a grand old time.

    If only this smoke would go away. It's been weeks, now. California's just burning up. I guess I'd rather deal with mere smoke than with a fire creeping up on my house. Oddly, my allergies and asthma seem to be far more subdued than usual, although my throat's a wee bit scratchier. Anyway, it's mostly just ugly stuff.

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    Tuesday, July 08, 2008

    Tika Progresses

    SUMMARY: Doing better.

    Sometime between the emergency vet Sunday evening and the regular vet this morning, the abscessed anal gland ruptured all by itself so is draining some. The vet told Tika that she did a good job but it didn't prevent her from screaming and thrashing when he tried to really get in and check it out. Last time this happened, they tried sedating her and it took three people to hold her still enough so the vet could try to clean it out a little and it worked only partly and later they completely anesthetized her. She's one strong, panicked dog at the vet's.

    It would help if she had a tail that you could grab and lift, but you're also fighting this little tiny nubber tail that you have to grab right against her buttocks (do dogs have buttocks?), right where it's already sore, and try to pry it up. Gads.

    So I said, let me try the home treatment. I have to try to get antibiotic ointment into it twice a day for a week. This might be like tilting at windmills. Very strong, very panicked, very drama queen windmills that shriek and thrash if you just look at them wrong.

    Also the yelping around her head, the vet thinks it's her neck again and I'm not convinced again because she keeps holding her head to one side and kind of shaking it, but her ears look good and it's really hard to get in her mouth (remember the shrieking thrashing windmills) to look but nothing appeared out of whack, so who knows what it really is.

    But she's playing fetch just fine, and tugging of war, so we're getting there.

    Now I'm off to the chiro for a pinched something in my right arm. Aren't we the healthy bunch?

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