Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Happy Happy

SUMMARY: I'm still likin' this no-agility thing.

This weekend is my club's--The Bay Team's--CPE trial in Santa Rosa. About 2 hours from here. Would've meant another friday gone (packing, going to bed early), getting up at 4 a.m., competing all day, staying overnight--you know the drill.

Well, for one thing, I'm glad I had already decided not to go, because I've been so sick this week that I'd have had to cancel at the last minute and lost my entry fees.

But, well, it's a custom-made gorgeous spring day out there. Other than the fact that I might have an ear infection on top of everything (off to the doctor's office shortly--why this week?! why everything?!--), it is SO nice to just hang around, comb the dogs a bit, practice some tricks and some handling (of the dog's bodies), mow the lawn a little at a time (still a little tired), catch up on the computer, read the paper, take a leisurely shower--

--well, like, have a life! I am really liking this; it's taken several weekends off from agility for me to start relaxing into my weekends. And I'm not regretting being at the trial in any way at all. Sorry I had to tell them at almost the last minute (well, maybe 2 weeks ago) that I wouldn't be the score table czar after all. Once again, though, better 2 weeks ago than last night!

Lazing around. Getting backlogs of chores done. Doing some extra things that otherwise would be too-low-priority. Not really doing anything strenuous or ambitious while I'm still recovering.

Liking, liking, liking. And after this weekend, still 3 more weekends off. Then--the 4-day Haute TRACS, followed immediately by two weekends from my own two clubs, Bay Team and SMART. I dunno. I really don't want to skip those, but I find some little collection of synapses clicking out "oh, yes, you do!"

Ah, me. Just enjoying this beautiful weather, eating jello; renter is making vegetable soup for us for later. Happy happy happy.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Now What?

SUMMARY: Losing it about agility. A longish and introspective post.
Friends know that I've been saying for several years that I'm doing too much agility and I miss my old life and I'm going to cut back on the agility.

Well, I have...from a high of 23 weekends in 2003 down to 18 last year. Last year was tough because a couple of those weekends were because the dog or dogs were injured or other oddball reasons, and I was sad and frustrated at the time.

But, as weekends have gone by, with and without agility, and has the "without" weekends have at first hurt but then became gifts of free time, I have come more and more to realize:

  • How much I hate getting up at 4 in the morning.
  • How much I resent agility taking almost all my vacation days.
  • How stressed I am trying to get in full weeks of work around agility weekends; there is no time for me, ever, it seems.
  • How much I like being around my house and yard with NOTHING SCHEDULED except maybe a movie with a friend.
  • How much I can catch up on, or just relax and enjoy, in a weekend at home.
  • How relaxed I feel during the week when there's no trial the following weekend.
  • How much I enjoy doing things OTHER than agility, like I always used to BEFORE agility.
  • How much happier I am to have money to spend on something other than agility once in a while.
  • How tired I am of fine-tuning dogs' agility performance. I mean, I *tried* to start Boost right, like with Susan Salo's approach to learning jumping. Maybe didn't do as much of it as I should have, because at some point she started knocking those bars, and now it's drudgery for me to try to fix it. I know all the advice that says that you should make ways to make training fun for you as well as for the dog, but, well, OK, it isn't.
  • How crushed I was at deciding--because of Tika's on-again off-again pains and aches-- not to take Tika to the nationals in Performance although she'd had an excellent year...and regretting it and regretting it and regretting it... until she came up injured at that trial just a couple of weeks after when Nationals would have been, completely justifying my reluctance to go. And suddenly it was like I'd been let free from something I'd thought I was chasing. Of course it helps that the USDAA Nationals aren't within driving distance any more.

I've felt that I was coming to this point for a very long time, and I'm starting to think that I'm actually here: I want most of agility out of my life.

We'll see how I do when the USDAA trials start coming fast and furious later in the year. I still want to do some, just REALLY not 18 weekends a year of it!

Which leaves me with the question: So, what do I do with these crazy driven dogs who love agility for so many reasons? I mean, I love agility, too. I've developed such an amazing rapport with all of my agility dogs that I never had with them as pets--and I was pretty close with my "merely" pet dogs. Agility keeps me physically active, which is crucial for me. It burns off their energy. It gives us an excuse to really focus on each other individually. And I've met so many wonderful people whom I now consider my friends--although I almost never see any of them except at agility events. Because they're all always doing agility! There are a lot of laughs and good times in agility.

I'm thinking that, if I take a weekend and don't do agility, I should do somehting else with them. Like, drive an hour to a park where they can run off leash and spend 2 or 3 hours hiking and drive back. Of course, there goes half a day of my weekend right there, and it might very well be a solitary effort rather than with dozens of friends who are all interested in each other and each other's dogs.

Conversely, there's a lot of pain in agility. Dogs die. People's goals are thwarted (mine, too). People and dogs injured. This is all really a very small part of agility, but at times now it feels constant constant constant, and maybe that's a sign of where I am, that the pain grows instead of simply being dips in the background from which one recovers.

I had decided not to do any agility in March... easy enough because it's just 2 of the 4 or so CPE trials I had figured on doing for the year... and now I find that I am looking towards the 4-day trial in April both with excitement (it's a big, fun, exciting event) and trepidation (it's four frigging days of agility).

I dunno. I'm trying to take some time off from agility. I'm trying not to think "but my dogs are getting older and their agility lives are short." I'm trying to remember that, by the time these dogs are gone (gods willing), I'll be in my mid-60s. My arthritic knees aren't getting any better. MY life is going to be short enough, no matter how long it is. I have so much else I want to do in my life and I'm not getting it done.

I think I'm thinking out loud. I think I'm coming to where 230 weekends of agility competition (not to mention seminars and fun matches and classes) over 14 years have just worn out their welcome.

I started agility classes for something fun to do with Remington because he needed more exercise and more of a mental workout than simply tricks and playing in the yard were giving him. It certainly did that. I had never intended to compete, just keep going to classes every week for the fun. Don't know whether I could go back to just that.

Anyway--feels like I'm at a crossroad and I'm not yet entirely sure which direction I'm headed. There will be agility--heck, Tika and I could try again this year for Top Ten!--heck, Boost might actually someday earn a Jumpers Q and her MAD title! (I've almost given up on a championship)--but, like any addict, I'm trying to find a way to do it in true moderation without going cold turkey. Don't know whether that's possible.

Ah, well, yes, Scarlett, tomorrow is another day!

List of competition weekends and number of runs each

Click to see larger images.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Statistics and Patterns Lie. I Hope.

SUMMARY: I'd like to break this particular pattern among my dogs' lives.

Six years after Amber died, Sheba died.

Five years after Sheba died, Remington died.

Four years after Remington died, Jake died.

It has now been three years since Jake died.

I'm just sayin', I'd prefer not to continue this pattern, thank you very much.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Best Dog Quotes

SUMMARY: Well put, from Roger Caras.
"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."

“If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”

"I am as confounded by dogs as I am indebted to them.”

“Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place in museums; others, we take for walks.”

From Wikipedia:
Roger A. Caras (May 28, 1928-February 18, 2001) was an American wildlife photographer, writer, wildlife preservationist and television personality. Known as the host of the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Caras was a veteran of network television programs including “Nightline,” “ABC News Tonight” and 20/20 before devoting himself to work as president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and to becoming an author.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Rueing the Day

SUMMARY: OK, I knew it would hit sooner or later. About not being at the Nationals.
A dog whom Tika beats regularly in the Performance Grand Prix made it to the finals at Scottsdale. I don't begrudge them the success--they're very consistent performers and deserve to be there. It's just--well--


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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Disneyland Versus The World Championships

SUMMARY: Me to Disneyland. Everyone else to Scottsdale. Musings.

Today's Facebook status:
Ellen Finch wishes the very best of luck to all of her friends who are heading out soon for the Nationals aka world championships in Scottsdale--while *she* bags out this year and goes to Disneyland! Woohoo! Maybe not tons less expensive than Nationals, but not nearly as stressful! Such as I don't have to get up at 5 a.m. to walk and memorize 6 different courses. Enjoy!

It feels so odd not to be going, after all those years of attending. Tika is completely qualified for everything this year, and in fact has done extremely well in all the Performance Tournaments, placing in several Steeplechases and Grand Prixs, and taking gold with her partner Brenn in team at a big SMART trial and then silver even at the Regional championships. She's done so well in Performance uin general, despite not starting Perf until late spring, that she's in range of Top Ten in both Gamblers and Snooker right now. This could be her big year.

BUT--She's also had to be scratched from several runs or even full days this year when her neck comes up sore. Like that heartbreaking Steeplechase finals at the Regionals where she ran half of it beautifully and then yelped and came out of the tunnel limping, and that was it for the rest of the day.

I couldn't stand the disappointment of getting to Scottsdale (all that time and money and hope) and have to scratch her from her runs. I really couldn't stand it if we got lucky and made it to the finals and that happened. Not that I think it's super likely--which is another reason for why I'm not really missing the nationals this year. We're good, but we're not great. Sometimes we get lucky. But that's an expensive hope to pursue.

And Boost just still isn't ready. She Qed in Team by the skin of her teeth thanks mostly to her two teammates (I think we were just a couple of points out of 1200 or so above the cut-off), and that was her ONLY team Q this year out of all our tries.

She hasn't Qed in Grand Prix since May of 2008.

She did somehow Q twice in Steeplechase this tournament year. Twice. Out of 12 tries. Sure, those 2 qualified her to run at Nationals, but the one time of those two when we actually ran in Round 2, she ran past a jump for elimination.

I will really miss watching all the final rounds. There is nothing like being there in the stands, on the edge of your seat, watching the clock as the finest competitors in the country (and even in the world) try to peel another hundredth of a second off the clock to take the prize. The runs are blazingly fast and the handling is on at the extreme edge of human capacity at times--watching some of these handlers get to position and make a front cross (in which their body turns 180 to 270 degrees or more at a full run) with impeccable timing is something that videos just can't do justice to.

I'll miss not being there to take tons of candid photos of all of my agility friends, as I have at the previous seven Nationals I've attended. But on the other hand then I won't be looking at hundreds of photos to sort and label. (Never did finish the last couple of years' worth, for example.)

But in the larger scheme of things, I'm generally glad I'm not going. The stress is off, the push is off, the managing of two high-energy dogs for a week out of town is off.

And I'm going to have a blast at Disneyland without them. And, OK, I'm sure I'll still have a squillion photos to sort and label when I get home anyway.

So I'm off to Disneyland tomorrow through Sunday, and many many of my agility friends will be dribbling out of town between now and Monday to make their way to Arizona for next week's competition. Most likely the last time it'll be on the west coast for a very long time.

Ah, well, Boost, if only you'd become the Super Agility Dog a bit faster!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Competitive Dog Sports -- Another Pass-Around Thang

SUMMARY: About me & my dog sports.
Found on Facebook. I'm posting here because I've answered many of these questions before and I'm just going to link to 'em. If you want to do this note on facebook and tag your dog-sport pals, copy & paste these instructions as well as the rest of the content:
Copy and paste the content below, then erase the other person's answers and put in your own. Tag as many Dog Nuts as you can think of, including the person who sent it to you as "first tag." Don't be shy to make your answers long, if need be.

NOTE: This will be a very long read if you also read the links in which I answer some questions at length. Don't you have something better to do with your time?

List the dog sports in which you compete. If you have a particular favorite please tell us, and tell us why!

Is there anyone you'd like to thank or BLAME for getting you into competitive dog activities?
My obedience instructor started taking agility classes and recommended it to me. For my active, eager dog. Who is also clearly to blame.

Please tell the story of how you got started in dog sports. Where/when (year please, don't be shy!)/why/etc.
Remember, you asked. (First competition: January 1996.)

What is your FAVORITE thing about dog sports, and what is your LEAST FAVORITE?
One answer, from June 2009, on "why agility?"
What I hate about agility? Disappointing myself, sometimes; the expense; the amount of time it takes away from everything else in my life.

What breeds or mixes thereof do you/have you owned? Please list their name, their breed (or mix thereof) and then their BEST quality as a sport dog and their WORST quality as a sport dog.
Whoa, can you believe I've never done a post on this? (At least not that I'm finding.) This would make a good future blog post. Summary:
  • Remington, Squirrelhund (Lab/Shepherd probably). Almost never dropped a bar. Loved to learn. Could be pretty fast. Extremely sensitive to my moods and shut down a lot.
  • Jake, Semidachshund (sheltie mix probably, maybe beagle?). Took forever to learn anything new. But once he got it, very reliable.
  • Tika, Craussie (Aussie cross, maybe Husky?). Pretty darned fast, loves doing agility, easily distracted, fights the "rules" every step of the way. 
  • Boost, Border Collie. Extremely fast and driven. Loves to learn. Very focused. Wants to do agility. Light on the concepts of keeping bars up and doing weaves from beginning to end.

How many dog beds do you currently own and what did you pay for the most expensive one?
  • Double-thick bathmats once were primary dog beds. (3 or 4, bought on clearance for about $15 each in the early '90s. Tucked away now or used at trials when sleeping in the van.)
  • Official dog mats, thick pile fleece with blue border. (3, one in kitchen, one in crate in bedroom, one for trials. About $15 each at pet stores through the years.)
  • Raised PVC bed frames with rip-stop "hammock". (3, one in office, two in kitchen. Bought one at giant February AKC dog show at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds. Two bought at USDAA Nationals in Scottsdale. $55 each in 2001. )
  • Big thick dog bed cushion with zippered cover. (2, both in office, one on a PVC bed frame--which the dogs take turns using--one from Costco about $20, one won in agility trial raffle.)
  • Down-filled bed with stuff bag. (1, stored in closet, won in raffle.)
  • Giant fleece/fabric sturdy throw used as dog bed in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Smaller fleece rectangle with raised sides in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Spiffy actual nice plush dog bed, bought for Jake with a Christmas gift certificate to PetSmart (so it was either free or $79.99, depending on your viewpoint, which could make it the most expensive). (Jake died only a month later, but he loved it while he had it. Tucked in the corner of my office, Boost uses it all the time. Tika sometimes uses it.)
(Short post in which this photo originally appeared.)

What is the most you ever paid for a large bag of dog food? Probably $55. Same thing sells at a discount at nearby Pet Club for $35.

What is the most you have ever paid for a dog toy, and what was it?
No clue. Probably in the $20 range from time to time.

List the vehicles you have bought specifically for traveling to and from dog competitions.
MUTT MVR! Read my 2005 post about it in the Quintessential agility car.

What is the furthest you have ever traveled in order to attend a dog event?
Scottsdale, Arizona (USDAA Nationals 2004,05,06,07,08).
Second furthest: Either San Diego, CA (USDAA Nationals, 2000 and 2001), or Eureka, CA (2002, chasing the last gambler's let for Remington's NATCH).

How many dog-related pieces of clothing do you currently own?
As of March 2007.

How many dog toys do you own? Don't forget to include the ones in the car and in various closets and at your in-laws' house.
As of November 2008. (Remember that you can click on a photo to see a larger version of it to make out more details.)

(Read the original post that goes with the photo.)

How many dog-related books do you own?

Remember that you can always click on a photo here to see a larger version of it if you want to browse bowser titles yourself. (Read the post that goes with the photo.) Here's the list of the books as of 2006. (Read the short post that goes with the list.)

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? If so what were the circumstances?
Accidentally when Jake and Remington got into a fight between me, the couch, and the coffee table.

Has your dog ever peed/pooped/barfed someplace that they really shouldn't have? If so, tell us what happened!
Are you kidding? I own dogs! Duh!

Has your dog ever stolen a major item of human food? Tell us!
Not that I recall.

When competing in dog sports, did you ever admire someone else's dog from afar so much that you will always remember that dog? If so, please tell us all about it.
So many dogs! Several Border Collies stood out, including one who would eventually become Boost's mom. Several mixed-breed dogs! I love their distinctive looks and how well they do even against Border Collies.

Of all your friend's dogs, which dog would you like to take home and keep if you had the chance? You can list three, just to be fair...or just one if you're ruthless!
I've had such a wide variety of my own, I now know that there is no perfect dog. Any one will have its issues and its successes. I don't covet others's dogs.

What has been your most embarrassing moment thus far while competing in dog sports?
Probably a tie between:
  • Me and Jake running a beautiful first half of a Pairs Relay course, to have our partner cry, "Where's the baton?!" as I came racing in, empty handed. (That's an automatic disqualification.)
  • Running into the teeter totter. Read about it here.

What has been your most shining moment thus far while competing in dog sports?

Oh, so very many! Jake's MAD (the first I ever earned). Remington's NATCH (my first dog's championship, FINALLY). Winning Full House with zillions of points over and over in CPE trials with Tika and Boost. Boost doing the weave poles correctly! Winning a ribbon at USDAA Nationals with Tika in an individual event. Making Team finals at the USDAA Nationals with Tika. Finally getting Jake's 5th Gamblers Q for his ADCH. Finally qualifying for Grand Prix semifinals with Tika with a smooth and beautiful and aggressive run. Having a Perfect Weekend with Tika. Earning a trophy at CPE Nationals with Tika--one Q away from a perfect 3-day Nationals with 1sts or 2nds in everything (and I mean of everyone competing, not just her class). Remington getting excited about agility again and running like when he first started. Jake jumping into my arms at the end of a run. I dunno--I could go on and on. 220 trials over 14 years--lots going on in there!

What are your goals for the future with your dogs?

Not sure any more. Once upon a time it was to win More First Places and Make It To the Nationals Finals. But now, I dunno, I'm thinking "retire and do a lot of hiking."

If the Dog Fairy could grant you one wish (sky is the limit), what would it be?

I love my dog family the way it is now. Love the dogs, love how they get along together, love how they've come along in their training. Don't want to have to start over again. Keep them around and healthy and active for many many years.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn confidence

SUMMARY: In which something about my true nature is revealed.

Sometimes I practice exuding confidence as I'm walking. Usually it's when I'm by myself, when I'm not likely to encounter anyone else I really know. At the mall. In another city. Walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood. And without the dogs, who are a major distraction from exuding anything except "stop pulling, dangit!"

It's early autumn in California. Leaves are just donning their autumn colors and have barely begun falling, but enough have dropped that, sometimes, when you walk along, they crunch beneath your feet. The air is cool, clear, and crisp, just the sort of air that makes you think that anything is possible.

As I take a stroll, I put my shoulders back, raise my chin slightly. I imagine that I am supremely confident in my ability to handle anything physical or mental that comes my way. I imagine that I am physically stronger and more agile and better trained than anyone I am likely to encounter. I imagine that I am the unbeatable world champion in dog agility, fencing, sprinting, chess, aikido-- I imagine that I am keenly and hypersensitively aware of everything going on around me, before me, behind me, in line of sight in all directions.

This is not just your average supreme confidence. This is confidence at a mythic level. I might look like everyone else walking down the street, but I am so much more. Indeed, I am Bruce Wayne. I am Strider. I am Bourne. I am Corwin.

Hear me, demons and wizards and serpents of sin! I am here, and I am invincible!

And then I realize, as I'm Strider/Bourne/Wayne/Corwinning down the sidewalk, that I am unconsciously--but with great precision and determination--adjusting my stride to step on every crunchy leaf within my path.

Perhaps I'll practice my supreme confidence on a less autumnal day, so that today I can dispatch all those crunchy leaves threatening the very fabric of humanity.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Ex Pertinacia Victoria (We Can Only Hope)

SUMMARY: (Translation: From persistence comes success.) Well, can't say I'm not persistent.

  • Attempts at USDAA Masters Standard Qs: 41. Earned: 1 (we had been retraining contacts when he succumbed to cancer)
  • Attempts at NADAC Elite Gamblers with no Qs: 23. 
  • After that: Earned 10 of the next 25 to complete his NATCH.
  • Attempts at Gamblers Qs after moving up to Masters: 10 with no Qs.
  • Then earned 4 of the next 8.
  • Attempts for the 5th Q after those 4: 10 with no Qs.
  • After that: Earned the 5th Q to complete his ADCH. Earned another 7 in Performance.
  • Out of first 17 NADAC Elite gamblers attempts: one Q.
  • Eventually: Earned 29 Elite Gamblers Qs before retirement.
  • Attempts at a clean Jumpers run in USDAA Novice before her first Q: 12.
  • Attempts at a clean Masters Jumpers run before her first Q: 13.
  • Out of her first 42 Jumpers runs in NADAC, CPE, and USDAA combined: 3 Qs.
  • Eventually: Just earned her 25th Masters Jumpers Q to complete her ADCH-Silver.
  • Attempts at Masters Jumpers Qs: 34. Earned: 0. And counting.
  • Attempts at Masters Snooker Super-Qs: 32. Earned: 0 super-Qs, 4 plain Qs. And counting.
  • After that: Hope springs eternal--

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Thursday, October 08, 2009


SUMMARY: Who would you save, and at what risk?
Many years ago--many many many years ago--I was in maybe 8th or 9th grade--I liked to hang out at the planetarium at the local Junior College. The people there were fun to be around, the planetarium gear always fascinated, and I loved sitting back in the chairs as the Cove Blue faded and the sky darkened and a few meteors shot by overhead. Spent quite a bit of time down there with all the regular planetarium crew.

The Boss, however, was seldom seen. I didn't know him well at all. He was much older than everyone else there, and definitely more Grown Up. Here's what I don't remember about this particular evening: How on earth we got onto this subject.

Here's what I do remember: I said that, if my dog were drowning and a human who was a complete stranger was drowning at the same time, I was pretty sure that I'd save the dog because she meant so much more to me. I couldn't be completely positive, but I was pretty sure. And the end of the conversation was that he told me to never show my face in his planetarium again until I had straightened out my priorities in terms of whether a human's life or a dog's life was more important.

For some reason this came to mind tonight, as I listened to the news tell of a house fire last night, in which the mother and child escaped safely but separately, but the father went back into the house after he had been outside safely. They don't know why; the speculation is that he didn't know that his daughter had gotten out onto the roof and had been rescued. He never came out again.

I started thinking, what if I were safely out of the house, and realized that my dogs were still in there. What would I do? I know--I KNOW--that it is extreme folly and incredibly dangerous to return to a burning house. Firefighters with all the proper equipment avoid doing it if they can possibly do so. And yet, my dogs are so important to me that it would be agony to think of them being trapped in the house and unable to get out. I would live with the guilt of not saving them and the pain of their absence probably for the rest of my life. I think I can imagine what the man must have been feeling.

This led back down the circle of: If my dogs are so important to me that I might actually think about risking my life to save them, are they also so important to me that, if one of them were drowning at the same time as a human who was a perfect stranger was drowning, I would first rescue my dog?

I don't think that most people understand that relationship. Even people who have dogs, or have had dogs, but haven't become a team with them, felt like part of their family, can quite understand. One gentleman I recently met, who is a former dog owner, expressed surprise when I said that an agility friend's dog had just died and I had sent a sympathy note. "You'd send someone a sympathy card because their *dog* died?" he asked. Not in disgust at all, just pure amazement in that it was something it would never have occurred to him to do, nor understood why it might be important enough to do.

I've worked so closely with my dogs, lived so closely with them, developed a teamwork and understanding so far beyond what I ever had with my family's dog or even with my first dog of my own, with whom I was very close and whose death devastated me. Competition and training agility and tricks and everything else has built this relationship; we've learned how each other thinks and reacts and what we like and dislike and what motivates us and how to communicate, and I've learned how to appreciate what my dogs do and how. (Some people say their kids make them laugh every day; my dogs make me smile or laugh sometimes many times a day.)

Sure, they're just dogs. They're not human. They're not like having a significant other, or children of one's own. They're a different species. We anthropomorphize them, but I know that they think and act differently from humans and have different motivations and needs.

And still: Would I go into a burning building to save my dog's life? Would I rescue my drowning dog before a drowning stranger?

How about you?


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Monday, September 07, 2009

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The--Not Best of Times

SUMMARY: southwest regionals personal results

A summary because I'm very tired and need to go sleep. (OK, I lied, this is turning into more than a summary.)

Tika the down side

Tika ran beautifully this weekend--ALMOST perfectly. Out of 14 runs, she Qed in 10. Two of those four were completely and totally my fault; she ran perfectly what I asked her to do. OK, I can deal with that. The final two were sad and then almost heartbreaking.

That danged last 26" Jumpers leg, the one that Tika needs for her silver ADCH--knocked the first bar again! Jeez, she ran so smoothly the rest of the way!

Then, last run of the weekend: Steeplechase Round 2. At the Regionals! We've done great! I think we can beat almost all of the dogs in the class if all goes well. I'm revved and excited; I think it's our kind of course. Two Aframes, which Tika can gain time on with her "modified running contact" if she gets a foot into the yellow zone, and the course is laid out such that I can be right there to add emphasis. I've got her revved and excited, too. I lead out only a couple of steps and then release her for added excitement rather than a longer ideal lead-out. I sprint for the first front cross and make it, and we're on our way! We make it through the first 13 obstacles of a 19-obstacle course, including a gorgeous legal running A-frame. She is HAULING and I am feeling good!

#14 is a tunnel. Tika blasts in--then yelps in pain and hobbles out on three legs. Oh, poor Tika! Oh, sad me! The judge looks inside the tunnel to see whether he can see anything--nothing. No idea what happened. Did she slip and fall? Stub a toe? I jollied her up a bit, since she can be a drama queen at the slightest little thing, and she looked perky, but then when I tried to get her running again, she wouldn't. Took her off the course, rubbed her a bit, then tried walking her around. Definitely, definitely limping.

Took her back to her crate, more massage. She relaxed and enjoyed it, but stood up and limped again. Left her in the crate for half an hour, came back to get her out again, and she came out hunched over--like the sore neck/back/whatever it is that she gets--and favoring the same foot. Gave her some rimadyl. An hour later, she still wasn't comfortable coming out of the crate and wanted to lie down.

But 2 hours later, after I'd packed everythign up to go, she felt fine and wanted to run run run and was disgusted with me for holding her back. I'm sure it was the rimadyl kicking in. Will have to see how she feels tomorrow.

I guess I'm glad that she held up so well for three and a half days of agility. I'm always watching for any sign of soreness with her now, and there was never anything. She was in full form right before that run.

And there's yet another reason not to go to Nationals: Tika actually has a good chance of doing well in all the Performance events. BUT. It would REALLY suck to get down there and then have her come up sore again, unable to run.

Tika the up side

Tika ran clean in Pf Pairs Relay; her partner's not the fastest but they Qed, completing Tika's performance relay title.

Tika ran clean and very well in Team Standard, for a 4th out of 20 dogs.

Had an excellent opening and OK closing in Team Gamblers, for a sort of average 12th of 20.

Got the highest possible points in Team Snooker, placing 4th of 20 only on time vs other dogs who got the same points.

Ran a gorgeous clean Team Jumpers run, placing 3rd of 20.

And popped her dogwalk in the Performance Team Relay, but between Tika and her excellent partner Brenn, after the cumulative 5 rounds, they place second! for a silver medal! among 36 teams at the Regionals. Human Mom is proud and pleased.

Tika's Performance Grand Prix Round 1--I couldn't have been happier; she placed 1st of 19 dogs! And only 3 dogs Qed! It was a tough course.

On Sunday, Tika's Perf Gamblers run was excellent, missing 1st place by only a point, so placing 2nd of 21 for a Q.

Her Performance Steeplechase Round 1 was gorgeous. Not a high placer; one dog had a stunningly perfect run and beat Tika by 3.5 seconds. The times of the 2nd through 7th place dogs ranged between about 39.75 and 40.5 seconds! Yes, in good competition, the times are so bloodly tight that a tenth of a second costs you. But it was plenty good enough for a Q to go on to Round 2.

She did well in Grand Prix round 2, although I didn't signal a threadle well enough, and she veered wayyy away from the correct path, barely missing an off course, and wasting probably 2-4 seconds (hard to tell); still, she placed 4th of the 10 dogs in that round, off 1st place by about 6 seconds. WHich is really an eternity. But I'll take it.

And on Monday, although we didn't quite get all the points we tried for in Pf Snooker, neither did almost anyone else, and our points were high enough for 3rd place out of 32 dogs and another Super-Q. Yesss!

Other than the Jumpers and the Round 2 Steeplechase, the only things she didn't Q in were the two Standard runs--which are proving to be as elusive lately as Jumpers Qs--and they were both so pathetically my fault:
* We were clean almost to the end, then I noticed in periphery that the jump she was about to take didn't have a number on it, and I second-guessed myself on the correct course and pulled her off it. Turns out, of course, it was correct--the cone had just been knocked away from the jump. So an otherwise perfect course marred by a 5-point refusal.
* I left Tika in the weaves and went out for a jump off to the side to manage a tighter turn, trusting her usually awesome weaves to finish the last couple on her own. Apparently took my eyes off her and moved too firmly, because I didn't know that she had popped the last weave until the judge blew the whistle. Other than that, the run was perfect. Sighhhh--

So, summary for Tika: What a wonderful agility girl she was this weekend! Very happy with her. Very sad that she was sore, because usually she loves to play the game.

Boost's weekend

The baby dog (who is now over 4 and a half) is doing SO much better! Continues the last 3 weeks of sudden "I get this game now!" behavior.

Friday night, Pairs Relay, she teamed with her mom. It was very cute--reported that the two of them waiting on the start line to go were like bookends, not only physically resembling each other but with exactly the same eager, ready-to-go pose. Boost knocked one bar near the end of her half, for a 5-second penalty, but between the two of them, they had the 4th fastest time of ALL SIXTY! teams and still placed 6th even with the faults. An awesome way to start the weekend.

Boost's Team runs weren't steller, but OK. Worst one was Snooker: She hit the first red and I froze, ready to push her off the next obstacle if the bar fell. The bar didn't fall, it kind of bounced. So I turned and put her over the next jump--and as she was taking off, the *#&@( bar FELL! So we were whistled off, for 0 points.

(One partner also Eed in Jumpers, and with all of our assorted missteps and issues, we were sure that we weren't going to qualify. What another heartbreaker to discover that, after all was said and done, our total 948 points missed qualifying by 6 points! Oh crap! Just four successfull obstacles in that Snooker run would've qualified us. Or just about anything else that any of us missed on, anywhere in our 5 runs. That's almost worse than missing by a mile.

On Sunday, Boost's Jumpers run was SO ALMOST wonderful; she kept up all her bars but earned a refusal when she ran past a serpentine again. That would be the OLD Boost, but keeping the bars up and not having other refusals or runouts is the NEW Boost.

Her Steeplechase Round 1 was kind of a mess. Oh, well.

Her Gamblers opening was nice although she startled me by missing her weave entry big time, and I had to stop and put my hands on my hips for a moment, so we didn't get as many points as planned, although it would've been good for a placement with the gamble. BUT--She actually did the hard part of the gamble but then was too busy looking at me to take the next jump right in front of her. Sighhh---we'll keep working on that.

But she delighted me by doing fairly nicely on her Standard round--only a few gotchas, like coming up off her elbows on the table, delaying the table count by a few seconds, and a couple of other bobbles that I don't remember--but none of them fatal! So we Qed and even placed as high as 14th out of 94 dogs. Human Mom pretty happy with that Border Collie!

On Monday, we blew Snooker early because I tried to do a wrap and she turned the wrong way then backjumped. But she did keep her bars up.

Then she redeemed herself with a completely flawless Standard run. She went down on the table immediately and stayed down. She stuck all of her contacts AND didn't veer around at the end, so I didn't have to either make her down or try somehow to get around her, so she had to hold them for only a fraction of a second before I released her. Kept her bars up. NO runouts, NO refusals, NO turns in the wrong direction, NO turning and waiting for me to catch up to her. Placing 6th of 79 dogs! Yowza! VERY happy Human Mom! Very talented looking Border Collie!

And so the trial sinks slowly into the sunset--

My knee help up just fine; weather was lovely; rotation groups worked great in keeping the trial moving well without conflicts. The only other bleahhh thing was Boost having diarrhea Friday night, keeping me up a good part of the night, then ending up soiling her crate partway through the day, poor puppy. But she never acted ill; it cleared up just fine, and I slept fantastically Saturday and Sunday night.

Speaking of which--goodnight!

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grumble grumble sighhhh

SUMMARY: not the best weekend

Well, what I can say is that the dogs love doing agility, and they love doing it with me, and they're happy, and they're healthy, and the weather was great.

I'm trying very hard to remind myself of all that to try to yank myself out of feeling miserable about how our runs went. So--good night.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Insurance Thing is NOT Finished After All

SUMMARY: Insurance companies are not your friends.

I finally received my final check from the insurance company a week or so ago and started looking more seriously at cameras and lenses. But wait--my annual renewal notice just arrived--

I'm trying hard not to be brokenhearted, but really-- Travelers Insurance pays me $1400 for a $2500 loss and now my premium goes up by $350/year for the next 5 years? This = $1750! How can this be right? Thought I could maybe afford a replacement camera but guess I can't. Have to save the insurance money to pay insurance premiums.

The lady on the phone was sympathetic but explained, "We're insuring you for a total loss of your home, not smaller losses." She said that (a) I lose the no-loss discount AND (b) I get a penalty for making a claim! Isn't that double jeopardy?

I haven't made any kind of claim in maybe 25 years. And this was someone ELSE breaking into my car, committing a crime against me! And *I'm* paying a penalty?

It is true that my policy says that I get a discount, but it doesn't in fact say how much, nor does it spell out a penalty for making a claim. So I had NO CLUE that it would cost me that much--and in fact it never occurred to me to ask (doh! you'd think at my age I should think of these things with insurance companies)--but it bothers me immensely that the insurance person with whom I dealt never even hinted that it would cost me more in the long run than I would ever get out of the claim.

Here's the catch--now no one else (so far with a couple of samples) wants to insure me except at about twice that much because--ka-ching!--I made a claim! For an amount less than 2 years of premiums!

Today I feel more violated than when the original break-in occurred. Then, I cried a bit here and there. Sometimes these random acts of evil fall on your doorstep and what can you do. Today, I bawled my heart out. Then threw up. Then found that I couldn't do anything for about an hour and a half after the [long] conversation with the insurance company. Couldn't read. Couldn't work. Couldn't think. Couldn't blog. Nothing. Shaking. Betrayed. Stunned. Angry. Shocked. Hopes for a new camera dashed. This is not a random act of evil; this is a systematic, institutionalized screwing of customers.

The other thing that really hurts is--I spent SO many hours getting the claim processed, for which I will never be reimbursed. And now I have to spend more hours checking with other insurance companies and/or trying to get this claim removed from the record, if that's at all possible. Hours for which I will also not be reimbursed.

And no camera. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm sure I'll think of something eventually.

THANK YOU SO MUCH TRAVELERS INSURANCE. Funny that just last night I was commenting to my renter that Consumer Reports rated them the lowest in customer satisfaction for homeowners insurance, and I said I wasn't sure why, mostly I was satisfied with how they handled my claim. Today--well.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Don't Get Me Wrong, I Love the Game

SUMMARY: --but sometimes--

I've been trying hard this year not to spend time bemoaning my failures in agility and instead celebrating the successes and forming plans to overcome our weaknesses. Boost and Tika are so much fun to run. I love their speed and their drive and the way their eyes light up and their ears perk and their tails rise when we're out running in the ring. (Compared to my first dog, Remington, who loved it--as long as we didn't do too much of it or as long as I wasn't too stressed about it; I never knew whether I'd have the happy fast dog or the slow distracted dog--.)

But, OK, sometimes this overwhelms me: Tika has run 624 runs in USDAA at the masters level (including P3 and tournament); she has earned a blue First Place ribbon a paltry 11 times, 5 of those since moving into P3 this spring. If we were a major league pitcher, we'd be SO outta there.

And so, sometimes, I feel like this (click image for larger size):

[Source: (Aug 2, 2009; originally printed Jul 29, 1962)]

I'm sure that I don't work as hard at it as those who do win. Probably not as hard as Charlie Brown practices. So I probably shouldn't ever feel like this--but sometimes I do. There ya go.


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Monday, June 29, 2009

Ooooh Noooo!

SUMMARY: Agility trial angst.

Wait--how is it possible that I'm already almost at this weekend's 3-day USDAA trial in Prunedale? Starting FRIDAY morning! Ack! Have we practiced ANYTHING that we need to practice? No! None! Nothing!

And I just realized that of COURSE we're not having class Thursday night this week because half the class will already be down there camping out and the rest of us will be going to bed very early.

Need to practice Tika jumping at 26"! Need to work on Boost's bar-knocking exercises! Ack! No time! Too hot! Boring! [wait--subtract that last one--one is supposed to MAKE the things that you have to do FUN so that you do them. ... OK, BORING!]

Ack ack ack!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Crisis of Conscience

SUMMARY: I don't know what I'll do next time. Rats.

First Story

Cursed vermin! A plague of rodents invaded my attic sometime last winter and I didn't deal with them right away this time. The vile things could be heard gnawing inside my expensive-to-maintain real estate and it seemed like only a matter of time until they'd gnaw a hole in my roof, or through my electrical wiring, or even into my living quarters or cabinets in my kitchen.

Gross horrible beasts, peeing and defecating profusely everywhere in my attic, tearing up the insulation for nesting, and if you don't think that replacing that is miserably uncomfortable--and expensive--work, then you've never been in a 100-degree attic covered with protective clothing and gear and breathing through a filter mask, hunkering down beneath the low roof, balancing on the beams and trying not to fall through the ceiling into your living room. S**t.

Hate them. Why can't they stay out in the fields where they belong? Tika will hunt them down in my yard between episodes of agility training; the problem is that she tears apart everything that stands in her way--flower beds, hot tubs, you name it. More destruction to blame on the rodents.

They are just bad news. As the Santa Clara County web site says, "these rodents can infect humans directly with diseases such as tularemia, leptospirosis, arenavirus, Hantavirus, ratbite fever, lymphocytic choriomeningitis and salmonellosis (food poisoning). They also may serve as reservoirs for diseases transmitted by ectoparasites, such as tick-borne relapsing fever, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, plague, murine typhus, rickettsial pox, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and tularemia." Jeez, you don't want to be breathing their waste or having it come anywhere near you, and heaven forfend they don't have plague-carrying fleas. Remember the Black Death? Rats with fleas. Gah.

Damned things are too smart for their own good, too. Put up traps with bait. Caught nothing. Called rat guy and paid him money to set traps in a professional manner. Set several; caught one. One afternoon I counted 8--eight!--damned rats scrambling to escape when I opened the attic door. And those are only the ones I saw. So they're breeding like--rats--and I hope they don't run at me when I open the door. Gah, yuck, awful, I suppose they could carry rabies, too.

Put in poison bait blocks. Not my favorite method because I worry about the dogs getting poisoned rats, although I've never known any of my dogs to eat dead rodents. Carry them around, yes; eat, no. Still. Anyway, they nibbled at them some and then left the bait alone. The hellspawned creatures learn about traps and become trap shy, and they'll sample bait, wait a while, get sick, and never go near it again. Curse them all!

But finally we thought we were making progress. Saw many fewer rats. Rat guy came back again to close up the hole in the roof they were going through (I suspected as much) and we didn't see any rats at all beforehand, so hopefully they were all already dead or had scrammed when we started mucking around in the attic.

But at least one was still in there, curse it! Gnawing away. Finally got caught in a trap. Had to clean out the mess. Good riddance.

Second Story

I had hamsters when I was a kid. And various friends all my life have had rats as pets. They're very smart, very curious. So warm and delicate, sitting in your hand, their teeny little toenails skittering around. The way they sit up and look at you with cute little faces, bright eyes-- And smart, too. Can learn tricks. You can start seeing different personalities, just like you can with any other pets--cat, dogs, whatever.

And I hate killing things if I see an alternative. I'll carry spiders outside and let them go. Rats--challenging. If I catch them live and turn them loose outside, they'll be back in my house or someone else's house or breeding like crazy to spawn more invaders. Dead is probably better. The thing I always preferred about snap traps is that it's really quick. Usually. So I set out a bunch of traps.

I crawled up into the attic a few weeks back to check the traps, and my perspective made a 90-degree turn: I pulled back a massed-up mess of insulation--and there was a nest of baby rats, still mostly pinkish, barely any fur, just innocent, tiny, living infants, all clambering around on top of each other to get away from the light, nowhere to go, not understanding what was happening to them, probably frightened half to death.

Which meant that somewhere there was a mother taking care of them. Mother dies, babies starve slowly to death. Or ther rats will kill them and/or eat them. OK, rats might be cute, but this isn't so much. Of course, male lions do that to other male's cubs and we still like lions.

But, anyway, all of a sudden they were no longer foul vermin. They were like my pet hamsters, like my friends' pet rats, like my dogs. They were families of smart, soft, cute, active, feeling animals.

I felt like crying. What was I doing? How could I contribute to this? Could I scoop up the nest and do the whole litter in? How, for crying out loud, drown them? Given that that's one of my phobias (possiblity of drowning), how could I do that to another critter? Stomp on them? You've got to be kidding. Wring their little necks? I'm afraid I'd just hurt the hell out of them long before dispatching them.

I still felt like crying. I backed out of the attic and called the rat guy. He said, "Awww, babies, gee, I hate doing that! But that's what I do for a living, I guess I have to deal with it." He came over, but we couldn't find the babies again. They were moved or dead. I didn't ask what he'd have done with them if he had found them.

A week or so later, I went up to check the traps again. Pulled aside another lump of insulation, and there were the babies--still really too small to be leaving their nest, still struggling against the light, but now definitely furry with that soft, downy fur common to all young mammals--puppies, kittens, rats.


I backout out of there again really fast.

The rats just weren't going for the traps. As i understand it, if one gets caught in a trap, the others figure out that traps are bad and just stay away. Traps worked for me in the past, but apparently these were geniuses among rats. Nothing. And still a half dozen or more rats every time I went up there. And gnawing away at my house still.

I finally put up a bunch of rat bait, seeing no other alternative. You don't want to close up the holes in the house until the rats are taken care of, or then you have rats inside looking for other ways out. So we have to make sure there are no rats.

The rats barely touched the bait. I kept checking. And the traps were getting set off but not catching anything. How do they do that? But eventually there were fewer and fewer rats and then I didn't hear any for a couple of days, and so called the rat guy to close up the hole in the roof. It was a bear to do--way down at the base of the roof, very difficult to get to. But I hoped that meant no more rats coming in, so I wouldn't have to kill any more.

And then--the final sea change in my emotions. Because there was apparently at least one rat left, maybe two, because that evening when he woke up and tried to get out, he became frantic. I sat in my kitchen and listened to him overhead, smashing and thrashing and banging and grabbing and gnawing and clawing to get out. I thought he was going to come down through the light fixtures or dig or gnaw right through the drywall ceiling. I'd never heard activity so desperate.

And that's what I heard--the desperate attempts of a living being, shut off from food, shut off from water. Maybe shut off from family. Do rats have a sense of family? I don't know--certainly the young rats huddling together in the nest and the mother caring for them have strong affinity for each other. And how would I feel, trapped, no food, no water, not understanding what had happened, wanting desperately to get out?

I hardly slept that night. I heard him all night long, trying everything everywhere to find a way out. Desperate. Scared. Frantic. Gnawing at anything, even the solid wire mesh sealing the old entryway, I could hear the metal reverberate. And it wasn't the noise so much as the guilt--what have I done? What have I done?

It continued well into the morning, then silent as the day brightened and things warmed up.

Midmorning, I stepped out into the garage for some reason, and a movement caught my eye. I turned and looked. A young rat--not an infant, maybe half grown--hesitated in the walkspace near the back door, sat up, paws tucked in, and looked up at me, nose twitching to catch my scent. Just like the little guy in the photo. "Are you my mother? Are you a friend? I can't get into my home and now I'm here and I'm alone and not sure what I'm doing." Jeez, how can a damned rat break my heart like that?

Then I moved towards him, and he moved briskly, not terrified, matter-of factly, back behind some boxes. I peered back there. I had left a mouse trap set from a mouse infestation, oh, maybe 3 years ago, and there was another young rat, same size, probably a sibling, dead with his head caught in the trap. I could hear the other one hovering nearby. Were they companions in this strange world that they'd been forced into, and one had been caught and the other hanging nearby, not knowing what to do, alone for maybe the first time in his life?

Am I anthropomorphizing?

After dark the noise in the attic started in again; not so desperate, but now determined and with a plan. Gnawing very very hard, very persistently, not in random places and small occasional bits like normal, but solid, determined, constant, very hard, very loud gnawing in one place.

Not only have I trapped a living creature in a sure-death situation, I have forced him into a position where he is destroying my property even more. But really foremost in my mind was a moving story I read years ago, "The House on Cemetery Street" by Cherry Wilder--in the attic, tiny scratchings and scratchings and tappings, trapped, slowly starving to death, running out of water, dying of thirst--

Again, I had trouble sleeping, listening to the persistent, determined, constant gnawing. Knowing that he did have things to eat in the attic: The bait blocks. The bait in the traps. And him knowing, knowing, KNOWING that those things were dangerous.

The next day, I inadvertently left the door to the garage open, and found that Tika had dispatched the other young rat.

The third night, persistent gnawing, still, but with breaks. As of desperate exhaustion. Must rest. Must keep going.

Sometime during the day, found another dead rat on the lawn, obviously had been dog-carried. Tika has been going overtime the last week or so as if the yard is suddenly full of rodents. Probably is, now that they can't get back into my attic.

The fourth night, very light, very weak gnawing. Not much at all. You could tell it was weak, weaker than all the normal gnawings and sounds from an attic full of vibrant mammalian life. Quiet. You could almost not hear it.

The next day, another young rat, even younger, dead on the lawn.

Then, that night, from the attic, nothing. And a day or two later, oh, a not so pleasant smell.

I donned my gear, hauled plastic bags and things up to the attic. Found a recently deceased rat in a trap. He had gotten desperate, needed to eat. Needed something. No matter how dangerous. Afloat in the ocean in a raft, desperate for something to drink. You know that if you drink the seawater, it will kill you. And yet--after a while--it seems like the only alternative.

I started hauling out the damaged insulation. Found another rat under the insulation. Poisoned? Don't know. Gone. Found a nest with two young, fully furred babies, curled up, so tiny, so sweet. Gone.

Don't cry into your filter mask. Harder to breathe.

Pulled out a lot of badly damaged insulation, but not nearly all of it. How many more families are up there, dead? Individuals, dead? Not dying cleanly.

How did I get to be this age, and dealt with invasive vermin several times through the decades, and only now have been so torn up by everything? If only I hadn't SEEN them alive and cute and close up.

Next time, it's live traps and I'm setting them loose in the field. I just don't care whether they come back. I'm still having trouble sleeping, thinking about it. I'm crying right now.

Damned rats.

Photo credits:
Evil rat, cute rat

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ex Pertinacia Victoria

SUMMARY: Agility and the classics.

There are many useful online tools for helping with one's agility. Like this Latin Motto Generator. You have to use their selection of words, but I was able to choose an apt combo for what I have learned about agility training through the years:

From determination comes victory.

Plus it must be significant that "Ex pertinacia victoria" starts with "EXPERT."

I also found this extremely useful site for generating your own Shield with motto and icon and everything, or soda cans or church signs or movie marquees or many valuable display media. So that you can proclaim your love of agility or promote your favorite agility dog. Unfortunately, most of the generators are broken at the moment and have been since late May, and I'm tired of waiting. I wanted to put the whole shield up along with the motto, but, dang, oh well, I might sometimes be determined but I am not always patient.

And that's one of my challenges, I guess. As long as I feel that I'm making progress, I may continue working on an issue. If, however, I'm not getting anywhere--or backsliding--and I've tried a few different things--as long as they're easy things to try--then, ah, crap, faggataboutit. Impatient for results.

Impatient for the shield generator to work. Because, after all, agility is all about the fun stuff you post on your blog.

And speaking of "to work"--off I go, to determinedly earn some $ for more agility.

From persistence comes agility entry fees.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Get Uncomfortable

SUMMARY: Thoughts on moving out of your comfort zone.

The last couple of weeks, I've been pondering my comfort zones--what they are, why they're comfortable, how to move out of them, and what it will get me. Started from a couple of workshops I'm taking that have nothing to do with agility.

The point is that moving out of comfort zones is the only way to improve. That's how you learn. That's how your body builds itself. That's how your income grows. For example, you didn't learn to walk by doing what was comfortable--crawling. You struggled to stand on both feet. You struggled to take a step. You fell. And fell. And fell again. And again and again. And then, a whole new world opened up to you...OK, maybe in the short term where you could pull fragile china from tabletops, reach hot pans on the stove, and other fascinating opportunities such as those, enabling you to learn even more. But where would you be today if you were still crawling? Front crosses are hard enough to do on two legs; managing one on all fours would be a trick.

When you want to build muscle, you don't keep doing things that you can do easily; you do exercises that break down the muscle fibers, make you tired and achey, and allow the muscles to rebuild themselves into something better.

Sometimes it's hard to identify one's comfort zones. OK, I do well at work, I get pretty good performance reviews most of the time. But I'm already pretty good at what I do, and it hasn't made me rich yet, for example. I'd have to step into something that I know much less about, and risk my investment of time (at the very least), and possibly ego, and possibly status, and possibly money, to do something very different.

It's hard to do, and we don't LIKE moving out of our comfort zone. In fact, our brains fight against doing it, because in some ways it goes against the "rules" that we've built up for ourselves that say "this is how the world works, this is what's right, this is who you are." Like, "only really tall, long-legged people win the USDAA nationals" or "I am just not championship material."

Here are some everyday examples of what happens when I start to move out of my rule-based comfort zones:

  • Seatbelts. I always wear seatbelts in the car. Always. After agility class late in the evening, the last person out is supposed to close the gate to the driveway. It's a long driveway, maybe 500 feet? I have to remember ALLLLL the way down that I'm supposed to stop and close the gate, not just breeze on through like I usually do. So I leave my seatbelt off because it's a good reminder, and there is absolutely no safety or legal reason why I need it on during that time. But--it just about makes my body crawl out of my skin to leave the seatbelt off. Even as I'm sitting in my car thinking "Leave the seatbelt off," my hand is reaching for the seatbelt. Even after I've started moving and my hands are on the wheel, the back of my mind is yelling "Danger! Danger! Danger! Something's really wrong here! Wrong wrong wrong!" all the way down the driveway.
  • Sleeping. I can't sleep unless I have covers over me. I don't know why, but it makes me feel extraordinarily vulnerable. I become hyperconscious of the fact that there is nothing covering me. On very hot, sweaty nights, this is a bit of a problem. Through years of occasional hot, sweaty nights, I have gradually learned to sleep with a corner of the sheet draped over my hips. Then I am still secure and safe and can drift off. But if I roll over and the sheet falls off, boom, I'm wide awake, my mind yelling "Danger! Danger! Something's wrong here!"
  • Shaving in the shower. OK, not to gross anyone out, but through many decades of showering, I have inadvertently fallen into a pattern of what gets washed in what order, with a little shaving of the armpits and legs thrown in. If I switch anything for any reason, I suddenly can't figure out how, fer crying out loud, to finish cleaning myself! Maybe I want to check if the razor is still sharp enough, so I do a little shaving first. Now my habits say that I'm already done with what's normally done before the shaving, and I continue cleaning from that point. Making a conscious effort to back up and start at an earlier point of cleaning makes my brain scream "Wrong wrong wrong!"

I'm not talking about phobias or obsessions here. Just patterns that my mind has established as "normal" and that I feel uncomfortable about when I dare to breach the pattern. It's OK. I deal with it. I figure it out. I leave the seatbelt off. I get to sleep at night. I come out of the shower clean.

And in none of these cases is what I'm doing ACTUALLY wrong or dangerous or risky; it's just DIFFERENT, but it enables me to (a) remember to close the gate, (b) allows me to sleep on a hot night, and (c) lets me deal with things like an injured hand that has to be kept dry.

There are other things in life that are even less comfortable, and might indeed have some kind of increased risk, but have the potential for greater reward that are also not inherently wrong or actually dangerous. The trick is being able to identify when your mind is giving you incorrect information because it is out of its comfort zone and it doesn't know what to do next.

I mention all this here because I've also been thinking about it in terms of my agility training and competition. I'm not quite sure what it all means yet. Maybe you have similar minor experiences like mine in your own life, or have made great leaps forward in agility by finally doing something that you hadn't dared to do before. Stepping out of your comfort zone.

I'm just thinkin', it's time to get uncomfortable.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

News and Notes

SUMMARY: stuff..

Yesterday I did just a wee bit of agility with Tika in the yard. You have seldom seen her so excited to be doing agility! Wow was she fast--on the contacts, in the weaves, in her table down. Fast fast fast! Maybe it was good to take a couple of weeks off. Not that I usually practice that much, but we did usually have class every week and I'd do SOMETHING on the equipment with them almost every day. Maybe she will keep it up this weekend. Maybe I'd better put her over some jumps today (still too wet and slippery on the ground yesterday).

Boost wanted to go, too. So I set up a completely straight tunnel so she wouldn't slip (wet wet wet) and set it so that her exit put her in line for the dogwalk, which I figured wouldn't be hard on her backside. This was one happy dog! You can tell because she starts going into a superfrenzy on her toy afterwards. I dunno what I'm going to do with her all weekend! At least at this trial there's a huge fenced field where she can run loose and we can throw a toy or practice obedience or tricks or groundwork or something.

Daylight savings time starts Saturday night! Always interesting on a trial weekend to see who shows up at the wrong time on Sunday. I feed my dogs usually around 10:00 and 6:00. And they know it. They start hanging all over me and mooning around until I feed them. My dogs have NO PROBLEM adjusting to daylight savings time for their meals. But it takes them about 6 months to decide that it's ok to wait an extra hour when standard time rolls back in.

For some mental exercise, I've started teaching the dogs to bring me their bowls for meals. I worked really hard last week for several days just trying to associate the word "bowl" with the object and having them get it from a short distance with nothing else intruding. First time I put them out on the deck and said "bring me your BOWL," tika veered off to the side and brought me her BALL. Doh! OK, back to square one, associating the word DISH with the object. Silly trainer.

The price of everything dog related seems to have shot up. For several years I've paid roughly the same for my 40-lb. bags of kibble--somewhere between $25 and $30 regular price but you could often get it on sale for the low $20s. Last fall, BAM!, shot up to $40 a bag! It does last about 4 weeks, so I'm feeding my dogs on $1.50 a day, which is way less than *I* cost to feed. But still, wow, what a jump, and it feels worse because it was so sudden. Same thing with bully sticks. Could get a dozen at Costco for $12.99 for the longest time. Then, overnight last fall, BAM!, $20. I'm less eager to pay almost $2 each for a chew that lasts about 20 minutes. Although I *do* cut them in half usually; scarfing down a whole one usually gets me dog vomit sometime during the night (like, say, last night for example, when I didn't cut them in half).

That's all for now. This weekend: CPE. Next week: Boost visits the orthopedist.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Preparing for CPE Agility This Weekend

SUMMARY: the rain...with no practice... riding along with my train of thoughts this drizzly morning...

Since I haven't been going to class and haven't been working on agility with Boost, that means (by various contorted TMH logic) that we also haven't been doing agility with Tika. So it has now been at least 2 weeks since I've done ANYTHING with agility equipment.

And now there's a competition coming this weekend. And the yard is sopping wet and muddy, and it's raining, and looks to keep that way most of the week. Maybe I should get out there and do it anyway; good practice for Tika to run in the rain in case we have to do so this weekend. Maybe just a few bar-knocking drills and contact drills. Maybe some weave entries. Maybe some gambles. I dunno. I'm almost entirely unmotivated.

Tika is gradually working on her C-ATE in CPE. That's roughly equivalent to the ADCH-Silver: around 250 Qs at the top level of competition. That's a lot of Qs when you're doing only 3-4 CPE trials a year, with a maximum of 8-10 possible each weekend--with a trend lately towards 8 rather than 10--and you know that we won't get all the Qs every time.

I was more interested in Boost trying to get a few more CPE titles and work on her C-ATCH, since that's more within range (Tika needs about 130 Qs still but Boost needs only 45), but the next 2 weekends are 2 of our 4 or 5 CPEs for all of 2009, and she's not competing. Sigh.

Now that Tika's 8, I'm wondering whether we'll ever get the C-ATE; if she gets 7 of 8 Qs (pushing it) per trial at 5 trials (pushing it) a year, that's another 4 years, and I'm thinking it's unlikely she'll be competing that long (although in CPE she will be legal to jump at 16" and even 12" if I really wanted to be extreme--oh but I have to check whether moving her to Specialist or whatever resets the count on the C-ATE? Gads, I hope not!).

And I'm not sure that I want to give up USDAA trials for CPE trials.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Sense of Forboding -- Can We Hurry On Into March Please?

SUMMARY: This certain month has some bad juju.

I am not a superstitious person. Really. But still I'm looking at the dates and feeling uncomfortable.

* Feb 8, 2009: Van run into.
* Feb 26, 2007: Jake put to sleep after violent seizures in the night.
* Feb 28, 2008: Van run into.
* Mar 8, 2003: Remington put to sleep after violent seizures in the night.

I'm sure there must have been other bad things in my life at other times, but these are particularly standing out at the moment.

I'm sure I'll be better after I get a little sugar into my system.

Glad I could add a little cheer to your day.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'm So Busy Memeing I Can Hardly Think Straight or Ten Or More Things I Learned From My Dog

SUMMARY: Another Facebook tagging fantasy: "Ten things I learned from my dog(s)."

  1. To get everyone's immediate attention, roll in something disgusting.
  2. Squirrels are the devil.
  3. If your ancestry is questionable, claim to be purebred and let them prove otherwise via expensive DNA testing or asking your mom--who'll never give away your secrets and doesn't speak English anyway.
  4. Life is like hunting gophers: Dig and dig and dig and dig until you realize you're not going to reach that goal, then go do something else and let other people clean up the mess.
  5. Roofrats are the devil.
  6. The boss doesn't like to lie in a bed covered with dog hair. Shed everywhere, and the whole thing is yours.
  7. If it fits in your mouth, it's edible.
  8. The mailman is the devil.
  9. Bathing is overrated. (See also #1.)
  10. Photographers love it when you show them your butt.
  11. "No!" means "yes!"
  12. Even though your keen sense of smell reveals what bully sticks are made from, it doesn't really matter because they still taste darned good.
  13. Don't mess with Jim Basic's lawn.
  14. The devil hates it when you bark like a rabid wombat and throw yourself against the plate-glass picture window, so do it as often as possible to drive him away. Everyone will thank you for it in a loud and excited voice.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


SUMMARY: How I can tell that I haven't given the dogs what they need yet for the day.

Because this is what I see when I look over from my desk through the sliding door into the back yard.

And this is what I see when I look up from my desk through the railing into the kitchen.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008


SUMMARY: Winter doesn't stop agility in California--but it might stop me.

I've heard people say how nice it is to have a break from training and trialing dogs during the off season. However, as I've noted here before, there is no off season for agility in my world.

We have a USDAA trail in two weeks, and it's an off-the-wall combination of events: all the Tournament classes (DAM Team, Steeplechase, Grand Prix) with also Jumpers, Gamblers, and Pairs. (No Standard, no Snooker.) AND--because some people really like the old games from back when trials were small and finished early in the day--Strategic Pairs.

I've decided that I need to refocus Tika's contacts on hitting her 2on/2off, and refocus Boost's contacts on STOPPING AND WAITING AND NOT TURNING TOWARDS ME. Boost's were so good for so long but have just started getting sloppy this summer.

So I've done a bit of nose-touch work to targets, on and off the dogwalk. Not a lot, just some, on days when I'm in the mood. And the mood is holding me back; maybe the rest of the world doesnt' take a break, but I feel like *I* need a break.

For instance, I haven't had jumps up in my yard since we came back from Scottsdale, and that's been almost a month, and I know that I need to practice lateral lead-outs and serpentines and keeping bars up. But I just don't wanna. The weather this year isn't encouraging an off season, either; it's supposed to be possibly into the mid-70s (F) today.

The dogs are going nuts because I've been ignoring them a bit while life goes on around me. Plus no class this week--for some reason the instructors didn't want to schedule classes on Thanksgiving day, go figure!

So, OK, I'll go do the agility trial but I might not shine because we're not practicing that things that we need to practice. And is that a waste of money and time? Torn. Conflicted. But it's a beautful day. Maybe I'll take the dogs hiking.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008


SUMMARY: I'm just glad.

Backfill: (Posted Sunday morning.)
My family's all alive and we're all getting along and we love each other. My dogs are healthy and alive. I can afford a house and food. I have a job. I try to remember it's just the basics, just the basics.

Family at the dinner table. Twenty of us--only the niece & nephew in Baton Rouge weren't here.

(Clockwise from bottom left featuring assorted related hair: Brother-in-law Martin's hair, Bro-in-law Doug, Dad's cousin Carol, Dad, Mom, sister Sharon's main squeeze Mark, sister Sharon's hair, sister Linda's hair, Bro-in-law Paul, my cousin's spouse Simon, sister Ann's hair, niece Katie's hair, niece Elizabeth, my ex Jim, his mom, my chair, nephew Alex's hair, sister Susan's hair. Not in photo, me, cousin Dawn, niece Kate, or any of our hair.)

Jamela (cousin's dog) gets some Thanksgiving loving:

Annie (cousin's mom's dog) gets some Thanksgiving loving, but really she was more interested in the food.

The food guest of honor: Mr. Turkey.

Uncle Marty teaches his nieces the finer arts of computer gaming. (Oh, really, they can probably out-geek him any day of the week.)

Mom. Can you believe she turns 80 on Sunday? Her mom didn't look nearly so good on her 80th. No, she doesn't color her hair. I hope I'm so lucky!
But noooo, the hair in front of my ears is already fading...fading... But I'm thankful anyway!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Uninspired and Still Reliving Scottsdale

SUMMARY: Postnationals Tropical Depression

I am SO uninterested in practicing anything related to agility. Maybe it's because I worked on it so much more than usual before Scottsdale. Maybe it's because it's finally raining in San Jose worth mentioning and the lawn looks gorgeous (how can that possibly happen overnight?) and I know that dogs rampaging around on it will tear it even more to shreds by spring way beyond what the grubs did to it this fall and the barometic pressure is hosed.

Maybe I'm still still still getting over that nasty cold from Arizona.

Maybe it's that everything in my life is full of challenging transitions at the moment: So much to learn, so much to process, only so many hours in the day. Pursuing photography more. Want to get back to writing more--November is NaNoWriMo again and again I have friends pounding away at their keyboards and again I'm missing it; agility season never ends in California (but girl don't they warn ya...) and we've got a trial this weekend and I'm looking for teams for both dogs for our December trial because my Scottsdale teammates aren't available; trying to get rid of Stuff From My House; eager to help my parents with some things; Boost wants me to throw the tennis ball throw the tennis ball just throw it; Tika is bored and chasing around after the crows in the sky; not enough chocolate; not enough hiking.

I need some ommmmmmmmm time I think. Or more sunrises like this one Sunday morning over the kenneling area in Scottsdale.

I thought I'd type up more notes from our competition at Scottsdale but am feeling uninspired there, too. Have sort of sorted through the photos at a quick first pass. More work to do. I like this one of Robert and Cap in the Grand Prix finals, making sure they get that danged dogwalk contact after 10 of the 24 22" finalists got called on it. And the judge is looking to make sure he does, too!

Here's my World's Most Expensive Polo Shirt! (I'm wearing it over my other shirt, which is why I look a little bulky in the upper vicinities.)

Here's my traveling companion, Dogg, with her Grand Prix finalist shirt, wearing her finalist Team shirt as well. Looks pretty danged happy to me! I'm delighted that she's done so well, as this is the first time at the nationals with her new corgi after 3 years of absence after her last one died so suddenly (see here and here).

Her license plate is apparently pretty accurate; in addition to being in two of the three finals, Porsche was the overall highest-scoring 12" dog in the team event over four individual classes. Not bad for a wee shy doggie.

And here's d star corgi her very self.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Really Really Bored Dogs and Agility Schedule

SUMMARY: Pesterful dogs and agility coming right up.

The Bay Team is hosting a 3-day USDAA trial locally in Sunnyvale this weekend with regular classes and all the tournaments, and I didn't sign Tika up for team because I kick myself so hard when I mess up, plus she's Qed twice in team already this year. And who needs to spend the extra $50.

But I've been working away from home a lot the last few weeks, and we've had no trials, and of course only Boost's agility classes (in which Tika gets just a couple of runs) and I'm just not getting out and walking them every day and she's going stir crazy and driving me nuts--following me everywhere, leaning on me, hugging up close to me, staring at me, and she looks SO MISERABLY CRUSHED when I stop playing in the yard and go inside--so now I regret not entering her after all. That means that Boost has 5 runs on Friday and Tika has none.

Oh, well, maybe someone will have to pull their dog at the last minute and we can sneak in. Otherwise I'll just have to make a point of spending time playing with her when I'm not running Boost and remember not to just dash back to the score table--which, as usual, I've signed up as Chief Czar for. And which can suck up all my time shwooooooooofff just like that. And try very hard not to kick myself repeatedly if I make a mistake, which can ruin my weekend in Team.

It feels as if it has been ages since I've done any agility. And, in terms of my "traditional" agility life, it has been! Five weeks since our last trail! Then it'll be two weeks to our next one, then another 4 weeks after that. THEN it gets nuts: 6 USDAA 2-day trials in 9 weeks (oh, one of those is really a 3 1/2 day Regional at Labor Day), which should make the dogs happy, but I'm not sure I really want to--or can afford to--do that much.

Then it's probably nothing until January (since I'm skipping Nationals), unless I go to Elk Grove on Thanksgiving weekend for my usual fun CPE trial. Maybe just a day this time instead of 2 days. And Bay Team is hosting yet ANOTHER damn Team tournament in December, which I skipped last year and I just can't see getting excited about at that time of year, out of town.

The dogs will REALLY go nuts with months of no agility!

And what do I really want to achieve this weekend? Team Q for Boost! (Why, if I'm not going to Nationals?? Well, eventually it'll be useful for her ADCH. I hope.) Steeplechase Q for Boost! Ditto for Tika! Because I want to win it all and bring home big checks! (Oh-oh, there goes the idea of doing agility BECAUSE IT'S FUN! fffffoooooop, right out the door like that!)

And of course SOME day it would be nice for Boost to get a Standard Q and a Jumpers Q and actually earn her MAD.

But I am also feeling, like Days of Speed and others have posted in recent months, feeling still amazingly Been There Done That at the moment. It'll be fun while I'm there. Mostly probably. And it's always nice seeing my friends

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How to Win At The Nationals

SUMMARY: In which I explain my strategy for not being at the top of the game and whining about it.

My post about not going to the USDAA Nationals the other day drew several off-blog responses.

My parents do their best to follow my agility blather, and, like very good parents, they've come to watch their kid compete a couple of times, but really the hiking and nature posts are more along their lines of interest. But also like good parents or friends who want to understand more, they often ask questions about things that I take for granted but that, in fact, are not obvious to anyone outside the small agility community (or, sometimes, outside my very head).

Here's my dad's queries and comments about my post:
It's too bad that only Elizabeth Taylor could take a horse to the Nationals, and win. Perhaps Hollywood could get Drew Barrymore (or her ilk) to the agility nationals without anyone but her hoping to do well. And win.
It sounds as though you're being rational about the whole thing. But what are the things that you have to do to go, successfully, to the nationals? Love the dogs you have, but acquire champions?
Because you probably can't get winning coaches to take your dogs through the courses and have them do better than with you. And it would be disappointing if they could and did.
"Do thousands of repetitions" sounds like someone who doesn't have to do some wage-earning. Or who earns enough so that they can hire a full time trainer.

And here's my final response:

About "agility nationals": There are different flavors of "agility nationals." USDAA national championships (really, the Cynosports World Championships) is a very different animal from CPE national championships (the other venue in which I compete). At the last CPE National Championships that I attended, Tika won 5 out of 9 classes, Qualified in 8 of 9, earned High-In-Trial in her category, and missed by about one foot of distance in a gamble being in the running for high-in-trial over all. So there are some agility national championships that we are plenty qualified for. However, most of the top competitors in USDAA (and AKC, and the world) don't bother with CPE. So--we're good, but we're not in the top tier over all.

Tika's chances: 4-5 years ago, I'd have said that Tika had a moderate chance of making it to the finals at USDAA Nationals in either Steeplechase or Grand Prix. She wasn't winning anything locally, mostly because of knocking danged bars, but her *speed* was in the range where, if I could avoid making foolish moves on course and she could avoid knocking bars, I could see us being there--assuming that enough of the topmost dogs collectively had problems with those things, giving us room to squeeze in. I would never have said that she had a chance of winning, though; too many very good dogs for them ALL to crap out.

However, every year, the dogs get faster and faster and more accurate and the handling gets better and better. It's been an evolving sport and the increases in performance of people and canines has been amazing to watch. So--Tika is much faster than Jake or Remington were. She can do 12 weave poles in around 3 seconds, which is much faster than either of the boys could do them, and that seemed fast to me. But now--Boost can do them in 2 seconds!

And Tika might be slowing down just a little bit. Maybe not much. But consider that the time separating the top 8 dogs in Boost's height of the Steeplechase finals last year was about 1.5 seconds total; the difference between 1st & 2nd in Tika's height of Grand Prix finals was .02 seconds.

So something like having weave poles that are 1 second slower just about puts us out of the running right away. Could I speed up Tika's weaves? I dunno. Some methods have been suggested, but at her age, it seems unlikely, and her running style is just enough different from those low-to-the-ground border collies that it also seems unlikely. AND, OK, I'm too lazy to want to spend the time to try retraining.

Get a champion dog: Boost is champion-quality, even in today's tough competitive environment, in these terms: Speed (she is physically just incredibly fast; she's built for it). Drive (desire to do it and to do it at the utmost of her body's ability). Agility (she can turn on a dime, she can do any obstacle at optimum speed, that sort of thing.) With the right handler and training, there is no physical or mental reason on her part why she couldn't win at the top levels.

And there's the rub. I've never been the most coordinated person in athletics. Maybe better than the average bear, but not by much. I can think I'm doing one thing, but watching the video shows that I'm doing something completely different. If I were really determined to win, I'd make a concerted effort to videotape all my runs, and probably some specific sequences at home or in class over and over to figure out where I'm going wrong, and work at it, reviewing the videotape, until I got it right.

And, even more, I don't have a good training regimen. I practice what I feel like practicing when I feel like it. The truth is that I want to have a chance at winning without really putting in the work in that's required to do it today.

About those "thousands of repetitions"--the sequence that my instructor suggested would take maybe 15 seconds including a reward. I could do it ten times, three times a day, and it would really hardly be a blip in my schedule. But, like, OK, boring. See? I'm not Olympic champion material, and so my world-class dog performs like a neighborhood-class dog if you just look at the final results. (On any given shorter sequence or single obstacle perforance, she's world-class. 2-second weaves. 2-second dogwalk. Runs full speed across the teeter and slides to the end to slam it to the ground. World-class. There are very few dogs that are much better than that. Just--there are many dogs who are in the *same* class. And, yup, the difference is the handler and the training.)

One example of dog vs training vs handler: Several years ago, there was a world-class Border Collie competing in USDAA. He was in the Top Ten (in the nation) categories. He won events. He was at the top of his game. Then his owner died. A friend kept competing with the dog, since he was still in his prime and eager to go. But basically he became an Ordinary Dog. Oh, they did OK. They earned qualifying scores (meeting the minimum requirements) and thereby eventually earned a championship in one agility organization. And he always looked like he was having a generally good time, so it was a happy ending, really. But the new handler didn't have what the old handler had. So it wasn't the dog, and it wasn't the training (at least, not of the dog).

So, sure, if "the right person" were handling my dogs, maybe they'd be in the Top Ten and winning local Steeplechases left and right. So I've got the right dog(s). I couldn't ask for better than Boost, certainly.

Other handlers: But, no, of course I wouldn't have someone else run my dog! There are a very few cases of people running other people's dogs. Like, when I was injured and couldn't, some friends ran my dogs for me to keep them in practice. Like, there's a local woman who can train her dog in small sequences, but physically cannot do the running required in competition. So she works regularly with a friend who also trains with her dog and runs it in competition for her. But she's there at the start line and at the finish line and she does all the other work with her dog.

But, it would drive me nuts to have someone else run my dog and do better than I could.

Plus--all the best competitors already have plenty of their own dogs to run. MAYBE if I offered to pay someone enough, they'd consent to work my dogs. But why would they do that? To compete with a dog who wasn't their own companion and training partner? I know that it's done in horse racing and in dog conformation shows. Bummer! And I know of one handler who gets paid specificially to run other people's dogs because she can earn Qs with them and their owners can't. But thank goodness dog agility isn't like that for the most part. Agility continues to be about me and my dogs doing things together, bonding, getting to know and love each other.

I wouldn't say that world-class dogs are a dime a dozen, but now they're certainly very available, now that people know what to look for in an agility dog (rather than how most of us--and the sport--started, with whatever dog happened to be hanging around in the back yard looking bored). So the question is--am I a world-class handler? No. And, really, I don't have any right to whine (although I will, regularly), because I know perfectly well that I don't put the time and energy into being a world-class handler.

So how many repetitions of that agility drill could I have done while editing this blog? There ya go.

The world-class dogs stretch out for their morning nontraining session:

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