Sunday, February 21, 2010

Truest Birthday Card

SUMMARY: At least, I hope it's true. Made me laugh, anyway.

(Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

(Apologies to friends who DO have cute small dogs that they dress up and carry in their purses--your dogs are, of course,  cool, it's just that YOU are not ME.)

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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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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Things To Do When Not Doing Agility #83

SUMMARY: Go to the garden center.

Having large, active dogs and a not very big yard don't mix well with having lush gardens like we used to like having before we had, like, large, active agility dogs and most of the yard cleared so we could have large, immovable objects like Aframes and dogwalks ensconced. So any pretty kinds of plants that we want (vs. large shrubs that can handle themselves in a scrap with an agility dog) go into pots, not beds.

Taj MuttHall especially likes hanging plants because they are mostly out of the way of the Squirrel Patrol. But inexpensive plastic planters, after they've been hit enough times by flying Jolly Balls or flailing agility handlers practicing their moves, plus being too busy to actually water the pots, makes them start to look less than optimal.

Plus the big houseplant that's eating the desk needs a bigger pot, since no one is eating his roots any more.
So off we go to the garden center. Now, the dogs don't go into the garden center, but they inspire me in terms of not buying delicate plants that won't last more than one direct hit of the Jolly Ball. What a surprise to be greeted at the garden center with a sign for dog food! Apparently gardens and dogs DO go together.

In fact, there is an actual genuine dog department here in the garden center with toys and leashes and beds and clothing for dogs who don't like to be completely in the buff when out in the garden, and like that.

If you're light on actual dogs, you can even buy your own, complete with breed-appropriate accoutrements, if you like them on the stony side.

Uzza wuzza wuzza, how could you almost not take those faces home with you?

If you want to know what your setter or maybe springer spaniel looks like surrounded by hummingbird feeders, this is pretty much it.

I note that there are no CAT sections in the garden store. Cats are not really friends to gardens. Obviously Mr. Garden Center knows that. Too bad for you, cats. But if your agility dog selection isn't sufficient to make your garden feel occupied, you can purchase a wide variety of additional occupants.

But, OK, on to the pots. Wow. I love looking at pots. Wonderful colors.

Today, though, we are looking for indoor pots. OK, not quite as bright, but still catches the eye.

We make our selection (a couple of the bluish ones) and start to head out towards the flowers. But look who has come in to the garden center to decide on her next stage of exterior decor: Daisy! Daisy is very busy examining everything in the store, too busy to have her picture taken by paparazzi who admire her little wire-haired dachshund eyebrows.

Fortunately, Daisy brought along Bob and Pam--apparently the chauffeur and the gardener--and they positioned her on a convenient table for some portraiture with a cheap snapshot camera that likes taking photos of pots, which hold still, but not of actual animated beings. (The SLR camera is too snobby to go to a mere garden center with me; it consents only to go along to actual, say, actual conservatories, where it can take artsy photos.)
Then daisy moves along--thanks, Daisy!--and we do, too, to the actual plantage area--and wow again, Taj MuttHall always has trouble deciding from among all those alluring colors. Easier pick: Which ones will die the slowest?

We had hoped that, since our lawn needs mowing again already, there might be some spring/summer plants. But no, it's still winter annuals. Which we decide is OK. But how come I'm all of a sudden craving coconut sorbet? Weird. Huh.

We pick from among the violas and the primrose and head home to throw the Jolly Ball for our own dogs into a pot or two of daffodils or maybe hyacinths.

And maybe someday soon I'll post something about agility again.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Long Portland Walk in the Poo Capital

SUMMARY: Hybrids everywhere. Of course that's what I meant.

Here's my friend and her dogs, Beppé the Maltipoo (Maltese/Poodle) and Rio the Standard Poo(dle).

They actually have a little off-leash grassy area, right near downtown! How non-Californian is that! Rio seemed pleased.

We walked for a lovely 3 miles--and then back again--along the Willamette.

We saw a lot of dogs on our walk. Didn't identify all of them--a Boxer, a probably Shepherd mix, maybe a MinPin. But there seemed to be an inordinate number of nonshedding type Poo dogs--besides Rio the PooDle and Beppe the Maltipoo, we met this GoldenDoodle:

And a Labradoodle (whom I did not photograph) and saw half a dozen other dogs of various sizes who might have been Poo(Dles) or FillInYourFavoriteBreedPoo mixes. I don't think I see this many Poodles or hybrids in our area. Portland seems to be a hotbed. At least along the riverfront on a crisp, cold, sunny winter day.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's About Time! Saving Purebred Dogs

SUMMARY: British Kennel Club makes it unacceptable to breed dogs whose features make them unhealthy.

The RSPCA (British version of ASPCA) pulled out of Crufts (the major purebred dog show) last year over concerns about the bad effects that breeding for exaggerated appearances have done to dogs. The Kennel Club (British equivalent of AKC, but older, possibly first in the world) has since revised its standards somewhat, among other things now disallowing incestuous breedings to be registered. Mixed reviews, not surprisingly. Read the article.

North America (and AKC) is already far behind Europe, where most laws now prohibit docking of tails and cropping of ears. We'll undoubtedly be way behind in this, too.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Of Christmas Trees and Grocery Clerks

SUMMARY: The dogs helped me get a tree.

Well, not really; the dogs just happened to be in the car when I picked out a noble fir at an amazing price--less than $40 for a 7-foot tree when it's usually close to $100. Either it was a good year for nobles or the economy's really bad.

With Boost's blue merle coloring and droopy ears, even people in the agility world sometimes mistake her for an Australian Shepherd. People in The Real World almost never figure out that she's a Border Collie. And most don't know what to think about Tika.

So it was interesting to me that, when two grocery clerks were tying my tree to my van's roof rack, and one saw Boost in the passenger seat so was hesitant about opening the door for better access, the other said, "She'll be fine, she's a collie; those are good dogs." Of course he was right on all counts, although I'm not sure that I could guarantee that all BCs would sit calmly and watch.

It surprised me even more, when Tika popped her head up from the back seat, that he also said, "Oh, you have a Border Collie AND an Australian Shepherd--or is she an Aussie?" In my experience, the guy putting the Christmas tree on your car doesn't know nuthin' about no herding dogs. Turns out he has a BC and an Aussie mix. I didn't ask whether he does agility with them--I'd probably know if he did.

But it was fun to have the experience. And now my house smells WONderful with the scent of evergreen wafting in from the living room. Maybe I'll even get around to putting lights and decorations on it this year.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008


SUMMARY: Oh, yeah, and we dog-sat this husky last night.

That was THREE grayish and whitish dogs whose ancestry is blatantly wolfish (except Boost's floppiest ears) in the yard simultaneously! Yoiks!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On the Road--Or Trail

SUMMARY: I've been to Havasu Falls!

I'm at the lodge in Supai, Arizona. Just got back from Navajo, Havasu, and Mooney Falls. Tired. Dehydrated. But what gorgeous falls!

Who'd have thought we'd find a computer after 8 miles in, 1900 feet down, the only way in by foot, mule, or helicopter?

Left Saturday morning from San Jose. So far we've visited the SanLuis Reservoir visitor's center, the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery and Korean War Veterans Memorial (with a hike up the hill to the flag), a cool little local museum next to Los Banos Park in--guess it--Los Banos, a really apallingly broiling rest stop somewhere between Somewhere and Somewhere else, Calico Ghost Town, the Historic Route 66 Museum in Kingman, and now Havasu Canyon.

Tomorrow we hike out. Fortunately the weather has cooled considerably from the last 2 days and it's supposed to continue this way, more overcast (although it's completely clouded over now at about 5 in the evening), and we're hoping to be on the trail by 4:30 tomorrow morning. And I thought getting up early to drive to dog agility was a challenge!

The Havasupai dogs are everywhere and just hang out loose around the village, or decide to follow horses or hikers up and down the trail to the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop. They're all very friendly; some have collars and tags but most don't. Don't look badly treated except overfed, and they're all very dusty from the dusty walkways. But some very cute dogs in the bunch. One I could swear is an aussie but he was too busy allthe time for me to get a good photo. One looks like a St. Bernard mix. One that looks like a big miniature pinscher. I took photos of several to show the wide variety--no two alike! No hoity toity breed standards going on down here.

No way to upload photos here because I didn't think to pack in my card reader. Might not see another computer until I'm home Saturday or Sunday.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Big Show Statistics

SUMMARY: Haute TRACS 4-day trial is coming up; how big is it? And a comparison with our smallish March CPE trial (well--what Bay Team considers small). And a comparison to the February Turlock CPE trial (which was really tiny for around here).

April 10-14 is the mongo four-day Haute TRACS trial (technically, two 2-day trials hosted by Haute Dawgs and by Two Rivers Agility Club of Sacramento). This event is huge, even though it's not a regional. It's LIKE a regional but with a whole extra day! These people are insane! I signed up for only three of the four days because it kills me!

I'm always fascinated by trial statistics. (Well, you knew I had a sorry excuse for a life anyway.)

TrialHaute TRACSBay Team March CPEVAST Feb CPE
Dogs entered407201100 (est)
Number of runs / scribe sheets4,6301,383600 (est)
Most common breeds173 Border Collie
42 Australian Shepherd
39 Sheltie
24 All American (under assorted breed names)
12 Jack Russell Terrier
36 All American
33 Border Collie
28 Australian Shepherd
10 Welsh Corgi (Pembroke)
8 Sheltie
Most popular dog names4 Piper
3 Callie
3 Chase
3 Maddie
3 Murphy
3 Sadie
3 Sydney
People entered267155
Number of judges/rings5/43/31/2

I'm meeting with the secretary and friend(s) to assemble those scribe sheets this weekend. That's putting 4,600 stickers on individual sheets without getting anything out of order. Oh--and watching the Iditarod on TV! And eating! (Agility is all about the food. Contrary to what you might have ever heard me say before.)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Border Collie Intelligence and Fame

SUMMARY: This dog has some interesting cognitive abilities.

There's a Border Collie on the cover of this month's National Geographic! (And it's not Rico, for those who are tired of the same dog used over and over for animal intelligence articles). This border collie not only recognizes over 300 objects by name, but learns words for new ones "as quickly as a human toddler," and can recognize the items by word or by photograph! So, when shown an object, can pick out the matching photo; when shown a photo, can pick out the matching object.

But they didn't say whether she does agility.

(Read the article here.)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Friend at Westminster

SUMMARY: Elliott makes the trip.

Elliott the Frenchie, with whom Boost played wildly as a puppy (and the two of them still play enthusiastically when given a chance), went to Westminster this year! They didn't win any awards according to their results page--although Patty Hearst's (!) Frenchie came in 2nd--but they show up pretty early in this official video; she's the third one in line at the beginning, in the pale peach suit. (There are videos for all the breed competitions, in case you know anyone there. Or in case you want to be amazed at the fat Border Collies, all of whom look like they could afford to lose 10 pounds. Can those guys actually WORK?? OK, OK, don't go there--)

Wed, Feb 13, 10:45 a.m: Wait, OK, sure, let's go there. Here are comments so far:

Blogger wishy the writer said...

How can we be sure those are border collies in the video? I didn't even see the sheep in the ring. Were the sheep hiding behind the gal in the suit and high heels? I'm confused.

9:04 AM

Blogger Elf said...

The AKC breed standard starts out saying "the Border Collie's intensity, energy and trainability ... are features so important that they are equal to physical size and appearance." To which I ask: "So why are those items then summarily ignored in the rest of the breed standard?" and "What makes anyone think that *appearance* should be anywhere near *equal* in importance?"

Boost is AKC registered. Because she was eligible and because AKC has dog agility. That's my excuse, even if I'm never likely to compete in AKC agility.


9:17 AM

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Monday, October 08, 2007

More Weekend Notes and A Course

SUMMARY: I'm discouraged about Nationals. And an interesting Standard Course on Saturday.

  • Of the 52 dogs entered in Saturday's 22" Masters Standard class, there were 6 Aussies, one Aussie cross, one Australian Cattle Dog, and one over-the-top Tervuren. The rest were Border Collies. Somehow this depresses me, even though one of them is my own sweetie, The Booster herself.
  • Of the 23 in 26", a "mere" half were Border Collies. More variety here: Three Aussies, a Rough Collie, a Whippet, a Terv, a Catahoula Leopard Dog, a German Shepherd, a Golden Retriever, and three mixed breeds.
  • If Tika's Top Ten Standard points were on the USDAA standings page right now, she'd be tied for 21st (with 25 points). But the stats are a month behind at the moment, and I know for a fact that at least 3 of the people on that list have had at least 3 more weekends of placements (including this weekend's Sunday Standard). So we're still soooo not there.
  • Why am I bothering with Grand Prix at Nationals? Tika almost never runs clean. When she does, the gap between her time and the winning times is getting slowly wider and wider. I don't think that she's slowing down much--her times are still fairly consistently in the 4.5 to 4.9 yards per second range. But her time--while excited--on this weekend's course was 5 and a half seconds slower than the fastest dog. That's nearly 20% slower. Twenty percent! I think that the younger, faster dogs keep coming in faster and faster. The only reason that we earned a 1st in Standard was because all the other 26" dogs knocked bars or crapped out. Sure, running clean on that course was a good thing. But she was still 6 seconds slower than the fastest dogs. Six! That's an eternity.
  • On the other hand, we can do Team. Because, in team, bar-knocking matters so much less than off-coursing, and we're pretty good about staying on course. And because we can usually rack up points in gambles by picking good strategies and executing smoothly. Still, I think that last year's Finals appearance was a fluke--that, once again, we lucked out that the fast teams happened to hit courses where they crapped out, and we just kept plugging along and got lucky that none of us had a bad run. Seems SO unlikely that that will happen again this year.
  • So why the heck am I going and spending all that time and money? This weekend has only discouraged me. That, plus the fact of having been unable to qualify Tika in Steeplechase, and of having only one dog to run for the first time out of my assorted 8 Nationals appearances. Instead of looking forward to a relaxed week, I'm feeling like I'm slipping, my dogs are slipping, my expectations are too high.
  • Maybe I'm just tired. Exhausted. It was SO hard to drag out of bed and do Boot Camp this morning, but I did it.
  • Are local people NUTS? While I (and I'm not the only one I've heard say so) am burning out on so much agility and time and money, local clubs, including mine, are working FOUR more USDAA trials into the yearly schedule! One argument was that there will be "only" three DAM team events in the Bay Area next year, so a fourth would be good. Jeez--I remember when there used to be one every other year in the Bay Area. One of the usual September trials hereabouts actually LOST money this time--it was the last qualifier of the year, and I suspect that people (like me) had either qualified already or just wanted a break between the Labor Day regionals and the other 3 USDAA trials running alternate weekends from now through Nationals. Can this area really support that many USDAA trials, on top of the CPE, AKC, and ASCA? And now a couple of clubs are doing DOCNA, too!

Saturday's Standard

So, what was Saturday's Master Standard that wiped out so many dogs? Here ya go.
  • There were some problems with bars, offcourses, and refusals from 3 to 4 because of the sharp turn. Some people pulled and rear crossed 4 or ran behind the tunnel, others got ahead on the teeter and front crossed between 3 and 4. That worked nicely for both of my dogs; I think that was the better option if you could do it.
  • Some offcourses shooting out of #4 and getting a paw onto the dogwalk before the handler could get to the end of #4 or call the dog off.
  • A lot of dogs coming off the dogwalk headed for the tunnel instead of the tire. I don't think that anyone expected that, but probably because of the extreme angle of the tire, dogs coming of the dogwalk, with the handler running behind trying to catch up, really didn't see any obstacles except the tunnel. After watching a bunch of those, I ran on the left side of the dogwalk, figuring that then she'd be erring toward looking at me. Instead, when she didn't stick her contact or wait for me (argh, she *also* took a couple of steps towards the tunnel, but at least I was in a position to call her off instead of trying to handle it from behind.
  • The 8-9-10 seqence vexed many people; quite a few popped weaves because the handler hung back to make a break for #9; knocked bars or runouts on #9; offcourses after 9 or around 9 onto the Aframe (yes!) or into the wrong side of #10.
  • There were quite a few knocked bars in the 11-13 sequence, particularly 11, I believe (it wasn't a straight line from 10 to 12).
  • Problems of many varieties in the 16-19 sequence. It was mu subjective opinion that people who could put a front cross between the chute and #17 and therefore push out to #18 had a better chance of avoiding knocking 17 or having a runout when the dog pulled inside #18.
  • Seems to me that there were issues in the 18-19-20, as well, but I don't recall anything sticking out in particular. Some people got a front cross in before 19 (I did) and I thought it worked more smoothly than sending to #18 and running on the chute side of 19, because if you were behind your dog there, you risked a bar down when trying to push or pull from behind--unless the dog is really accustomed to working like that.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mixed-Breed Dog Genetic Testing

SUMMARY: Is Fido really a Shepherd/Labrador mix? Now you can know for sure!

At a recent agility trial, I discovered this interesting thing: For a small fee, you can send in a swab from your dog's mouth and find out whether your Dachshund/Sheltie mix is really a Border Collie/Beagle/Chihuahua mix. Doesn't that sound like the stuff of fantasy? Or at least science fiction? But no--it's happening. And they are discovering, contrary to what I had read several years ago, that they can distinguish specific breeds from their DNA. (Previously, I read that they couldn't even distinguish dogs from wolves, because the DNA was so similar. Either research techniques have improved or I got the wrong info--)

I knew that DNA testing of puppies among purebreds is frequently used--yes, you can have more than one father in the same litter; yes, there are reasons why a breeder might make more than one father available to their bitch in heat; and, yes, before AKC started requiring the genetic testing, they were discovering an error rate among reported paternity of about 14% ( !! -- because people could lie, I suppose). They tested Boost's litter because Tala was bred to two different dogs. The possibilities for what can be tested for grow greater all the time.

Another friend is one of those researchers who are mapping many interesting things in dog genomes: Physical traits, diseases, even behaviors. She says, sure, do the testing for your mixed-breed dog's ancestry if you want to, but be aware that, although there are many hundreds of breeds of dogs known to mankind (OK, really, who else would know breeds of dogs? horsekind?), not all breeds have been mapped yet. So if you are pretty confident about at least one specific breed in your dog's ancestry, but it's not a mapped breed, save your dollars until it's done. I said that I guessed that, if Tika isn't all Australian Shepherd, she might be part Husky or Malemute. She said that Aussies haven't been mapped yet. Dang.

In any event, it seems unlikely that they'll get around to mapping breeds such as the Tornjak or the Smalandsstovare any time soon--but, then, it seems unlikely that any random dog anywhere in the world (except Bosnia or Sweden) would be one of these breeds, anyhow. But, for example, MMI Genomics (according to one article) has a test that looks at 96 points and can identify 38 breeds that encompass 75 percent of all dogs." (And they do note that testing on dogs outside the U.S. could give incorrect or useless results.)

Some articles on the topic:

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Internet, Club Members, Big USDAA, and Dreams

SUMMARY: Site's been down, where Bay Teamers live, upcoming Haute TRACS four-day trial, and how ABOUT all them Border Collies?

  • Internet: has been mostly down for a week. I hope that they've finally got their server fixed. Since I've spent 10 years (maybe more) trying to convince the entire universe to use for my email address, I have been cut off from a large part of the universe since last friday. It has been frustrating for me and probably even more so (and very confusing) for the rest of the universe. Well, there ya go, universes are easily confused by daily trials and tribulations.

  • Club member locations: My agility club (of which I am Webmaster For Life, past President, past Member-at-Large, past Archivist, blah blah) has roughly 150 members spread mostly around the San Francisco Bay area. View a map with our distribution, each box has a number per city saying how many members are there. (For some reason it doesn't display full size--but my Mac's cursor automatically turns into a magnifying glass to enlarge it. Don't know what Window does or what other browsers do.)

  • Big USDAA trial in a week: The annual Haute TRACS 4-day USDAA trial starts next Thursday. Once again, I signed up for only 3 days, which means that if either of my dogs Q in Steeplechase (which I'm hoping fervently for), I'd have to stick around all day Sunday with nothing to do but work to get our chance to run in Round 2 for money and glory. Don't know whether I'd do that. And we haven't managed to Q at Haute TRACS the last 2 years, so who knows.

    (Note: Technically, this is two trials; one is Thurs/Fri hosted by Haute Dawgs and one is Sat/Sun hosted by TRACS; they just happen to be consecutive, which allows dogs to move up between trials.)

    This is one of the biggest trials out here because it offers double or more of everything AND offers qualifiers for all three National Tournament Events (Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and Team). People come from all over. Mostly California north and south, but we also have entrants from Canada, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Mississippi, and New Mexico. If you want to see all the stats, including how many by breed, dog name, level, class, and so on, see this PDF. (Full trial info here.)

  • Dreams: I woke from a dream Wednesday night that left me disquieted: I was at an agility trial, and for some odd dreamlike reason all the competing dogs had to be with their owners, on leash, out on the field at the same time. There must have been 300 dogs all together, a veritable sea of canine agilitage surrounding me and my blue merle Boost. And they were, with only a half dozen reddish brown or yellowish exceptions, black and white border colies. An ocean of black and white border collies. A vast plethoric assemblage of black and white border collies. And my thought was, "Oh, no, it's all over, no one does agility with anything but black and white border collies any more." It was a strong enough disappointment to wake me.
    Interesting that this was immediately after class wherein we celebrated Luka the little black Pyrenean Shepherd's victory at the AKC Nationals and Breed Invitational. And also where I found out that FCI has apparently banned all dogs with dockings or croppings from World Team events. More in a separate post.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Classmate As National Champion

SUMMARY: Ashley and Luka win again.

Just got word that Tika's classmate Luka (and therefore my classmate Ashley) have won the 16" AKC National Championships. This follows their December win in the AKC Invitational. They are on quite a roll. They seldom seem to misstep these days.
Luka and her family at the USDAA Nationals in November after a run.

One of the things that has been both wonderful and hard for me here in the San Francisco Bay Area is that my "peers" have so often been at the top of the agility heap. For a while a few years back, I was in one class where it seemed that almost everyone in the class and the instructors were current or past national champions or multiple-times-over Top Ten teams or both simultaneously. It's motivational in some ways because you always know that you have to push yourself to be anywhere near the top finishers--which I hardly ever have been. But at the same time, I always also found it a bit discouraging--these were almost all experienced dog trainers, excellent athletes, people with credentials a mile long and I was just me, not always that agile, not always that coordinated, not always that quick at figuring out how to communicate with my dog.

This is different I think because Luka and Ash are new to agility; Ash isn't an experienced dog trainer (I think this is their first dog, and he and his wife have also been experiencing their first child at the same time that all of this is going on and they're also inspriational as a supportive, cheerful, and loving family); he doesn't have years of experience behind him. And while we're usually quick to point out that he's naturally athletic and long-legged and fast, at the same time he's just a regular guy who has just worked very hard with himself and with his dog and taken advice from anyone who'll give it (not just the superstars) and learned from it, and you can still see that he's learning things as he goes--every once in a while their lack of experience still shows. But more often than not they're winning, winning, winning. And with times and performances that are usually right in there with the national-class and world-class BCs and handlers in this area.

It's just so much fun to see. AND as I've mentioned here before, it motivates me more rather than discourages me, because I can see that you don't have to be a dog-training expert or a long-time canny competitor to find ways to succeed with your dog.

And the last thing that inspires me is not only that Luka isn't by nature a bold, driven, full-pedal-to-the-metal dog, but she isn't even a Border Collie. It's wonderful. Watch videos of some of their AKC runs.

And revisit my December comments about our Wednesday-night class.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

More about the AKC

SUMMARY: Various comments, observations, and posts.

Another blogger's thoughts about the survey

"I feel so dirty".

Questions in and about the survey

Some of my observations on a few (not all) survey questions:
  • What is your relationship to the AKC? (Select all that apply.) One advantage to having registered Boost with AKC is that now I have the feeling that they'll consider my opinion to be worth something, because I am in fact now a purebred dog owner. I already know from my experience with Amber (OK, nearly 30 years ago, but still smarts) that they think that non-AKC dogs and non-purebred owners aren't worth much.

  • Should mixed breeds be restricted from qualifying for the AKC Companion Events' national championships and/or invitationals? (Yes/ No /I don't know) This is my main reason for voting for this, to allow mixed breeds to compete here. AKC gets to pick who's on the world cup team, and they do it primarily based on results of these events, and non-AKC dogs aren't eligible. Now, there's nothing in the survey about world cup specifically, and it might not be up to the AKC, it might be up to the FCI, and even if it is up to the AKC, they'll probably make it impossible for a non-AKC dog to be on the world cup team. But at least we'll have our chance to prove that we could be.

  • Please rate your agreement with the following statements (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree).

  • Kennel clubs should serve owners of all dogs - purebreds and/or mixed breeds. Well, duh, a dog's a dog. Strongly agree. I realize that that's not AKC's charter--it is to promote purebred dogs. But you don't know how long it took me to figure out, back in my early days of agility, that when I got a premium for an "all-breed" competition, they didn't really mean anything like "all", by a long shot.

  • Expanding mixed breed dogs' participation in AKC events will lessen AKC's commitment to the purebred dog. Doubtful. You can read their stance in their presentation about why they're proposing adding mixed-breeds: To prove once and for all that they're inferior to purebreds.

  • AKC would abandon years of tradition by allowing mixed breed competition. How do you respond to that? Fact: yes. Inference: Who knows? If you agree with this fact, will they consider that to be a negative thing? Do they realize that they have a true/false question that's not soliciting an opinion?

  • Exposing mixed breed dog owners to AKC Companion Events and educating them about AKC breeds may encourage them to make their next dog a purebred. Well, duh, exposing anyone to anything may make them act differently in the future.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to people without breeding and/or exhibiting experience joining clubs and influencing policy making. The first of two trick questions. Well, another duh, of course it will. Is this a bad thing? I think not. But AKC probably thinks it is.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to animal rights activists joining clubs and influencing policy making. Second trick question. This sounds like a good thing, right? Isn't everyone for animal rights? But nooo--I know from previous AKC statments that, to them, "animal rights activists" means "PETA extremists". But the question doesn't SAY "PETA extremists," so I can't respond to that inference. I can only hope that yes, indeed, animal rights activists who feel that it's a travesty that puppy mills can churn out AKC puppies in deplorable conditions and promote them as desireable offspring will in fact influence policy making. In any event, I'm pretty sure that if they get a lot of "agrees" on this one, they'll think that's bad.

Comments from fellow Bay Teamers about the survey materials

  • (Referring to her mixed-breed agility dog:) I would have put [my dog] up against any purebred. She may not have got 200s in obedience, but the 197/8s sure beat enough other people. Many people do get a purebred, after having a mix breed so they could compete in events.

  • (Long-time rescue foster home, agility with a variety of dogs:) I suggested the playing field be level, and may the best dog(s) win! Now, WHO would be afraid of that?

  • (Mandy, long-time boxer & golden owner, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA, AKC:) This is also a group that planned to allow puppies to be sold in pet stores last year until there was a huge uproar from their base. Not sure why I would support a group whose purpose in inviting me to participate is to 1) demonstrate that my dogs are inferior to purebreds and 2) generate more income for them while not allowing full participation. Thankfully, I don't need the AKC to give me its blessing to compete with my dog.

  • (Katie, owner of Labs, all rescue dogs:) Rome wasn't built in a day, and I welcome the opportunity to tell the AKC that I would like to see all dogs participate equally. The AKC is in a position to do a lot of good on behalf of all dogs, or a lot of evil on behalf of unscrupulous breeders. The more their constituency can help to drag them kicking and screaming in the right direction, the better.

  • (Jennifer, owner of a variety of dogs including border collies, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA-- In response to AKC packet statement: "Purebreds consistently score better than mixed breeds in head-to-head competition. The U.S. Dog Agility Association has given 63 lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance, and only three of those have gone to mixed breed dogs.") One thing I noticed is that their information packet is very disingenuous, not to mention wrong in places - USDAA has 150 lifetime achievement award winners listed on their website, with the number of mixed breeds in the double digits not 3 or 4 or whatever number AKC gives. Also the vast majority of the winners are Border Collies (surprise!) and most breeds have no winners at all - so that doesn't really translate to purebreds always beating mixed breeds when they compete together . . I added in the Comments section that I read the numbers to indicate that mixed breeds beat most purebreds when they compete (just to be wicked - I really don't care who beats whom). I won't switch from my present organizations no matter what AKC does.

The cheating mini-Aussie

(email from a purebred-owning friend who has competed very successfully in AKC, USDAA, and CPE at least:)
So a 12" jumping Aussie (Willow) won the top Aussie of the year awards, as well as winning the 12" class at the AKC invitational.

The Aussie parent club has complained, because Willow is an ILP, and she and her parents are registered as North American Shepherds (aka mini-Aussies) with the North American Shepherd parent club.

As a result, AKC has changed its ILP rules as follows (forwarded AKC posting):
As you all probably know, a formal complaint was filed with the American Kennel Club in November, identifying the North American Shepherd, Blue Moon Shine on Willow, as being ineligible for Indefinite Listing Privileges with the AKC because she is not a purebred Australian Shepherd, but is the offspring of two NAMASCUSA- registered North American Shepherds.

As a direct consequence of the formal complaint, the AKC Board of Directors discussed the matter at its January Board meeting. The AKC acted in record time to amend the rules for applying to receive Indefinite Listing Privileges.

Beginning immediately, persons applying for an ILP are required to attest that neither the dog on the application nor its parents has been registered, *or identified, anywhere* as a breed other than that stated on the application.

That means from now on, people who register their dogs with MASCA and/or NAMASCUSA (and/or NSDR-MA, etc. etc. etc.) or compete with their dogs as Miniature Australian Shepherds or Toy Australian Shepherds in MASCA/NAMASCUSA, ASCA or any Rare Breed events, or even identify their dogs on their own websites as Miniature or Toy Australian Shepherds, will be out of luck if they think they can cheat their way into competing in AKC performance events.

If an owner of a Miniature Australian (aka North American) Shepherd or Toy Australian Shepherd knows that it or its parents have been registered - or even just identifed *anywhere* - as a Miniature Australian Shepherd (North American Shepherd, Toy Australian Shepherd, etc. etc. etc.) that dog is explicitly *excluded* from Indefinite Listing Privilege eligibility.

Personally I think this is pretty sad. The mini-Aussies are very few generations from being Aussies, and they are awesome dogs. It is a shame that they are being removed from AKC competition because they don't satisfy the breed standard as far as the parent club is concerned. Of course, I think mixed breeds should be able to compete in AKC events too, and I keep hearing AKC is moving that way, which makes this decision strange.

You can see the complaint here.

Response 1 (Gail, purebred owner at top of both AKC and USDAA agility):
I'm ambivalent about this issue because of the special way in which dogs qualify to compete in the Invitational. If Willow won the 12" class at the regular Nationals I would have no qualms, because she'd get through to the final purely on the dog's merits relative to many other dogs. But that's not the case for the Invitational.

Qualifying for the Invitational is based on your AKC speed points in ExB Std and JWW plus 10 points for each double Q. You have to be among the top 5 in your breed to be invited (or if one them declines, #6). This system greatly favors dogs that measure into a lower-than-normal jump height because they tend to earn more speed points due to the slower SCT. In addition, if you barely measure under, you will be one of the longest-legged dogs in your class, so you'll often place, thereby getting multipliers for your speed points.

So Willow, who is barely under 14" (if she really is; a lot of the dogs at the Invitational looked like mis-measures), is at an advantage compared to regular Aussies who have to compete with BCs etc. and won't always be at the top of their height class. The two very small Aussies owned by the Carruzos were also at the Invitational for the same reason, but in the 16" class. So most of the Aussies that attended were not good examples of the breed standard, and since the whole point of the Invitational is to highlight the breeds . . .

The same thing was true for BC; at least 3 were in the 16" class.

All the pems that went to the Invitational were 8" dogs. That's because they are at the top of that height class, and it's a less competitive class than 12" where the larger corgis compete. I watched these dogs. A couple were good; [my corgi] at 11-/12 would have done much better than the others, but of course he never places anymore and racks up fewer points. Plus a lot of the little pems don't do USDAA because they'd have to jump 12", so they spend all their time at AKC trials, again racking up more points.

Beyond the way one qualifies to go to the Invitational, there is another rule that gave Willow an unfair advantage. Only one dog of each breed could go into the final in each height. So that means only 1 sheltie could go through to the final. The shelties were all in the 12" class, so one had to not only run clean all four rounds, one had to be the fastest of 5 shelties. Willow had no competitors.

Because the Invitational is explicitly not about identifying the most athletic agility dogs or the best teams, but rather is about highlighting all their approved breeds, I think that what AKC did makes senses. That's a separate issue from the Nationals, where I wish they'd let any dog compete, because that is a true skill competition.

My question (not so much in response to previous post but to original AKC): So if the dog hadn't registered elsewhere as a "Miniature Aussie", then AKC's "cheating" complaint would go away? Odd.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It All Ties Together

When I was just a little tyke (yes, I, too, once attended junior high), I decided that I wanted a job working with dogs. There was a spread on Stelling Road in Cupertino that I occasionally rode my bike past with a little sign saying something like "Phydelma and Lyle Gillette--Borzois, Salukis, Whippets, Beagles". (Yeah, sure, Beagles go right along with tall sighthounds!) There was probably a kennel name, but I don't remember it. The folks' names stuck in my mind, however, because they struck me as being amazingly unusual, and also so clever for having a couple with "Y"s in the middle of their first names. How often does that happen? Really!

So one day in 1969 or thereabouts, with my parents' permission, I rode my bike that huuuuuuge lonnnnng way down to Stelling, up the long driveway, and knocked at the door to ask for a job. They invited me inside while they thought about it. There were dogs and dog hair everywhere. Their couches and chairs had dog-print blankets on them, also covered with dog hair. I remember thinking that I wasn't going to do that when I grew up and had a lot of dogs of my own.
Phydelma and Lyle Gillette, undated photo from this site.

My parents report that the couple, to my recollection grayhaired at the time-- but then, at the time, everyone over 30 was pretty grayhaired to me-- were somewhat taken aback at what to do with this youngster about whom they knew nothing. My whole resume consisted of "We have a dog, too." They called my parents to check up on me and, when they were satisfied that I wasn't a dognapper or worse, they put me to work with really really simple chores.

First, they had bred a 9-year-old Borzoi named Zonn and they weren't sure whether the breeding had taken, but apparently her hips were starting to have troubles and she needed a nice long walk every day. So I walked her a few blocks down Stelling and back again.

They also had a litter of Saluki puppies. They were pretty big already, and I'm guessing that they must have been at least 3 months old, but what did I know at the time about puppies or anything about dogs, really, except that when quizzed I could name all the dogs in the AKC working group, the sporting group, the nonsporting group, and a good portion of the terriers (but who really cared--all terriers look alike anyway). They put me to "work" playing a bit with the puppies and maybe grooming them. I used a comb that I found but they put a quick stop to that and said that brushing was a much better thing to do. I don't remember why any more; I still prefer combing my dogs in most cases, even if it's with an undercoat rake. Maybe I just have the wrong types of dog coats.

Anyway, after they decided that Zonn wasn't going to have puppies, they gave me $5 (which I hadn't expected--I had said that I was volunteering) and said Thanks A Lot Kid, Now Scram (except much nicer than that). I was disappointed about not having a job any more, but at the same time, that lonnnnnnng ride down to Stelling was getting pretty tiring.

Highway 85 now runs through what had been their property. I never saw them or talked to them again.

So we pop forward to today, when I'm trying to find (for Wikipedia) a list of sight hounds that the AFSA (American Sighthound Field Association) allows to compete in lure coursing. And, poom, I bump into the name Lyle Gillette.

So it turns out that he wasn't merely some guy in a dog-hair filled house down on Stelling in a house doomed to be paved over for another 6-lane freeway. No, he was the "father of the sport of lure coursing in America" and the Lyle Gillette Memorial Trophy is awarded in the Gillette Stakes lure coursing event every year, even now. "The Gillette Stake is a premier event held annually at the International Invitational. This competition is to showcase form and function in our finest sighthounds and to honor the father of the sport of lure coursing in America, Lyle Gillette."

So I started doing a search, and he also apparently wrote some definitive articles about Borzois and lure coursing and so on in the 1980s. The Colorado Lure Coursing page says that "Lure Coursing is a performance event developed in the early 70's by Lyle Gillette and other California sighthound fanciers who hunted jackrabbits in the open field, which risked the harm caused by barbed wire fencing." The Borzoi Club of America says "The individual who really believed in lure coursing and took the effort to get the sport going was Lyle Gillette, who in 1971 went around the country demonstrating the sport to groups of Borzoi owners interested in coursing their dogs."

Phydelma ("Phyl"?) was also a writer; published a book in 1977, Life with Borzoi, that's apparently still in print.

Amazing what a small world this is--

UPDATED LINKS: March 11, 2008:
History of Rancho Gabriel (their Kennel)

Sample of Borzoi Action Gazette, magazine founded by Phyl Gillette

Brief note about their presence in Oregon in the '70s

Mention of Phydelma's death and trophy in their honor

Brief mention of Gillettes as inspiration

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