Saturday, November 07, 2009

Body Parts Not Getting With The Program

SUMMARY: Ouch ouch ouch. But at least we're still at Disneyland. For another half a day.

So I've been hiking with the sierra club every week for 4 or 6 miles. Briskly. Well, maybe not every week lately. Every other week. And I try to get out with the dogs for a mile or two walk every day. Well, lately, maybe not every day. Maybe 4 or 5 times a week. Or three. And I have agility class every week. Except not a couple of weeks ago because of Instructor Prior Engagements and not this week because I'm not there. And I put probably somewhere between 8 and 10 miles (nearing 20,000 steps) on my pedometer every agility weekend, and I do 20+ weekends of that a year. Except, well, maybe not lately because I'm trying to cut back. Maybe 15 this year? Maybe one every 4 weeks.

But the point is I cover a lot of ground on my very actual feet on a fairly regular basis. Two years ago I came to Disneyland and I had no trouble at all covering miles of ground from park opening to park closing every day, and I can assure you that I wasn't in nearly as good a shape as I am now. In theory.

But this year? Icing my knee every evening. A couple of times. Blisters on my feet. The latter I blame on bringing the wrong darned shoes. They are my bumming around in general shoes, maybe my walking 1 or 2 miles with the dogs shoes. They are not my covering 10 miles a day shoes.

Maybe that's what's doing in my knee, too.

I finally took my tripod into the park tonight and went off on my own to take all those photos I've been wanting to take, and my knee told me repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that it would really prefer to be lounging around in the hotel room snuggled up to a nice cozy ice pack.

So here I am, 10:30 p.m., park doesn't close until midnight (well--the rides anyway--then it stays open "for you shopping convenience for our profit making convenience" for another hour or so. But I am here with a progressively more chilly knee and a whole slew of unshot photos in my head.

Tomorrow we're heading home midday. Dogs and dogsitter will be glad to see me, I'm sure. There will be much rejoicing. Yaayyyyyyy.

And sometime, maybe this century, I'll get to post some photos. And we're already planning our next trip. January 2012. I promise I'll walk 5 miles every day for two months before that. Plus bring the right shoes.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009


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

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

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Health Myths Debunked Here

SUMMARY: A public service announcement with an agility slant.

While we bate our breaths in anticipation of tomorrow morning's appointment at the car repair facility--whereat I will also receive probably a RAV4 as a rental car for hauling dogs around in--I bring to you some useful agility news from Consumer Reports on Health.

This month's (March 2009) issue's cover story is "Accepted medical advice that misses the mark." Try these on for size, you dog-agility readerships out there.

1)You need to drink the eight 8-ounce cups of water a day. Fah! False! CROH says "that erroneous advice seems to have originated some 70 years ago from a misreading of government recommendations for total fluid intake from beverages and food, not just water." (The emphasis is the mine.) (Several people seem to be using the the recently, so I'm going with it.) Even the Weight Watchers (with whom I am intimately familiar, thank you very much) have embraced the revised information and clarified that that liquid comes from ANY source--e.g., that orange you had from the free breakfast at the agility trial, that latte that you drank to wake you up for that 7:30 start-line lead-out (but tsk tsk no more than 1 caffeinated drink can count, because as we all know, caffeine is also a diuretic--just it's not as bad as the Conventional Wisdom has led us to believe).

2) Everyone gets enough Vitamin D. Way false!
While all you clever agility people are wearing big floppy hats and long pants and long sleeves and slathering on the sun lotion so that you can avoid the skin cancer so that you can keep doing the dog agility, you may also be cleverly depriving your bodies of Vitamin D. CROH says "Even in the sunniest climes, there's now evidence of widespread vitamin D deficiency [as a result of avoiding sun on the skin]." They (the infamous "they") have linked "a host of illnesses and conditions" to lack of de D. Including depression, cancer, osteoporosis. So, many people will need supplements. To avoid the depression that makes you think you'll never be a good agility handler and you might as well give your dogs away to any random person because they're likely to be better than your pathetic self is. Which none of us ever think, really. Am I right?

3) Stretching prevents injured or sore muscles. False also! It is now an old wives' tale, assuming that the wives are teaching aerobics and basketball and such, that has been debunked. It prevents neither. But stretching IS good for you for the limberness, the coordination, the range of motion, balance, and posture, all of which we know are critical for being the best agility handlers that we can be, although I'm not sure about posture (except how about you hunched-over little dog handlers, though?). So DO stretch, but do it AFTER exercising when your muscles are warmed up. 'Struth!

4) Arthroscopic surgery eases knee pain. False oh falso! You may all have read, as I did, about the recent study where they TOLD people that they were doing the arthroscopic knee surgery and put a little incision in the knee but didn't ACTUALLY do it, and the people got exactly the same relief as when they did the real "clean out the joint and repair the torn cartilage" thang. Now how stupid do I feel about having had arthroscopic surgery and then my knee got (mostly) better? Was I one of the test cases and they didn't tell me? And how about all those dozens of other agility people who've done the same thing? You know who you are--I talked to you all after I had my surgery and we had a whole big reunion thing there next to the agility ring. So I'm thinking, gee, maybe what fixed my knee wasn't the surgery--it was the enforced rest, the super antiinflamatories, the ice machine icing my knee constantly day and night (yes really!) for a week or more that really did the trick. So you might want to consider that instead of surgery if that's what you think you're facing to be able to keep doing the agility.

OK, the article also talks about angioplasty, flu treatment, cough syrump, dental x-rays, blood pressure, and antioxidant pills. But the agility link is not so clear there. So you'll have to go read the article yourself. Be informed!

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Updates and Bits

SUMMARY: CPE coming up; pricey dent; knee fine; distance work (Gamblers); lost youth

I'm swamped lately; hence, not a lot of personal posts. Just some notes for today:

CPE Coming Up

It's CPE this weekend, one of only 4 CPE trials I'm planning on doing this year.

Boost needs one Colors leg to complete her Level 3 title. Then, to finish Level 4, it's 7 Standard, 4 Colors, 4 Wildcard, 3 Jackpot, and 3 Snooker. It could concievably happen this year with 100% Qs and/or trials doubling up on a couple of games. Or--in other words--ain't going to happen. Then, AFTER that, it's 40 legs in everything to her C-ATCH. If I keep concentrating on USDAA and cutting back on total weekends, she might never get there.

Which is how I'm starting to think of Tika's CATE. We're fully capable as a team of finishing it, especially with her recent Q rates of 90-100% in CPEs. But we still need 2650 points, which is well over 100 Qs. Let's see, 10 Qs/weekend at 100%, 4 weekends a year--I'm still thinkin' we could get it by the end of 2010 or 2011, by which time she'll be 10, if still competing. Sigh.

To fulfill our minimum requirements in each of the classes, she still needs 1 Standard, 7 Colors, 6 Wildcard, 1 Snooker, 9(!) Jumpers, 3 Jackpot, and 3 Full House. We always always Q in Full House, and frankly I love this game for the challenge to have the highest score of all competitors at the trial, but I don't always enter because I'd rather get the harder legs first. Like Jumpers, where you have to keep all the bars up! Knock on wood with Tika for this weekend; I've not been doing bar-knocking drills, she's no longer in class (except a couple of runs in Boost's class), and my jumps have been set lower because we're practicing handling in tight quarters. Living on the edge--

It'll be a very small trial--only about 240 runs a day, of which we're 10. I'm also the chief course builder this time out, and my dogs are the only 24" dogs. So they should both be getting a lot of first places. I'll be so proud.

It Costs HOW Much?

The estimate to fix that little ding in my door is over $1700! Plus rental car if I need it! Glad someone else is paying for it.


Is holding up just fine.

Gambler Practice

I've yet to get a Masters gamble with Boost, so I've been practicing more "Out"s and actual gambles in my yard. We'll see whether it pays off. Two CPE trials coming up but not another USDAA until April.

Lost Youth

And that youth is Kevin Gast, a Bay Teamer whom I knew only slightly, but he is--was--younger than I am. I complain about the pains of growing older, but I'll try to remember that there's something in that joke that says growing older beats the alternative. Don't take your friends for granted. Sigh.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Knee Bounces Back and So Does the Other Car

SUMMARY: A bad day and a good day yesterday

By the time I had to leave home, I could get up the stairs two-legged using the railing (instead of step/drag, step/drag). The driving itself went better than I had expected; shifting from brake to accelerator didn't bother me at all. Stiff-legged it into my meeting, but the knee had stopped throbbing by then.

What was a problem was the guy who backed into my car in the parking lot. Sigh. So, in my copious spare time, even though it's his fault, I have to get my car inspected, arrange the body shop, then do without it for however long. And the insurance company does not reimburse me for my time and inconvenience. The least the guy could've done would've been to back into my passenger door, which already had a ding in it, but nooo, he had to be different!

At least he was insured, and pleasant, and actually called Geico in the parking lot and we got the "paperwork" done standing there. I also took pictures of the environment, just in case. (As I've said before--always carry a camera! Always!) And it seems to be just the driver's door. Which might not be too bad.

By the time evening classtime rolled around, I thought I'd be able to at least practice some distance work or maybe get someone else to run the beasts, so I went up. My first "run" was a walk and a little iffy; the second one I jogged a bit, then forgot myself and turned sharply at the end, which hurt equally sharply but receded very quickly. By the third or fourth run I was moving out onto the field between runs to help set poles. By the end of the evening I was even running.

We did a timed run at the end. Boy, that Boost is one fast puppy! We missed beating Ash & Luka's time because I didn't want to push it with my knee and so couldn't get to a 180-into-a-pinwheel turn and she went wayyy wide. Still beat everyone else's times by a second, even Steamer's, and we'd have had Luka easily with a tight loop. It's a thrill to watch The Booster run on a straight-out jumpers-with-weaves type course!

This morning my knee feels almost normal. I'll just keep icing & drugging & babying it a bit for the next couple of days. And maybe practice some kneeling so this doesn't happen again.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008


SUMMARY: OK, that's pronounced like "irony" except that "iron-knee" gives the wrong impression, because it isn't, it's a mess.

Ah, yes, She-Who-Will-Be-Tempted-By-Irony must have been reading my blog about The Big Hole In The Ground, because, yes, my knee is hosed.

I have this waterfall-pond thing in my yard that I must periodically suction gunk from so that it continues to look beautiful. I do this with a little manual suctioner, with which I kneel by or on the pond edge for, I dunno, maybe 5 minutes once or twice a week to do the cleaning. With the clouds keeping the sun off it (less algae), the rain (flushing things out regularly), and the cold (dogs don't need to get into it to cool off as often), it hasn't needed sucking out in a few weeks.

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day and I could see the gunk accrued, lurking on the bottom, begging to be suctioned. So I did the same thing I've been doing for years. Except, when I then tried to stand up, I discovered that my knee had frozen into an agonizing rusted-shut mess. It hurt like Brittney Spears to stand. I almost couldn't put weight on it.

I hobbled into the house. Iced it. Took a couple of ibuprofen. Waited. Iced. Took a couple more (4 is prescription-level relief per my doctor for when I need it). Iced. Waited. By bedtime, I could still barely walk. Moving it at all caused me to yelp.

I tried sleeping, but it throbbed throbbed throbbed, and of course every time I'd start to doze off, I'd move slightly, and wake with a pained yelp. This is not fun. In case you were wondering.

At 3:30 I hobbled yelpingly into the bathroom to see whether I might still have vicodin left over from December 2006 (post-knee surgery). This wasn't a decision made lightly--I mean getting out of bed and trying to walk-- because walking really hurt. I did have some left, and it hadn't even expired yet. Don't like what it does to me otherwise, but my knee really needed it.

Also decided to brave the misery of descending the stairs to ice the bejeesus out of the knee some more. Still hurt like heck to get back upstairs. Still didn't fall asleep till 5:30.

It is marginally better this morning, but whether to take a step somewhere is still a major life decision. And I'm supposed to drive to Mountain View later this morning for a meeting. No more vicodin for me until later today. AND I have my only remaining weekly agility class tonight.



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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bodily Function

SUMMARY: Me knee hurt. Grunt. Me hip hurt. Grunt. Me go doctor musculoskeletal.

Another agility blogger's post got me pondering the function of certain of my bodily parts.

The knee has been deteriorating again. Could it have anything to do with failing to keep up the exercises with which I had made great progress on strengthening my quads? Nah, I'm sure it's mere coincidence. Have been having trouble even getting up stairs the last couple of weeks.

My short-term solution? Ignore it, feed it drugs, keep doing agility, curse and fume and grunt every time I stand up, and hope it gets better.

OK, common sense finally prevailed and this week I've started those physical therapy exercises again, AND icing it at every opportunity. Although it hurts a bit just doing quad sets and leg lifts, Lo! already today I can feel a difference. How odd.

Two weeks ago I woke up with my opposite hip in pain. Could very well be from the recent increase in adjusting my movements to try to avoid hurting my knee. Not so much an ache as feeling that it was out of position and pinching something. Felt like it needed to be yanked and torqued. Hard to do to oneself. So I ignored it, fed it drugs, kept doing agility, cursed and fumed, and hoped it would get better. (Since this has been an unsuccessful strategy in the past, I figured it's worth another shot.) It actually did get a bit better over a week, then a week ago I could barely walk in the morning again.

So I made an emergency call to the chiropractor recommended by my housemate/renter. I haven't been to a chiro in years. Last time was one visit when my hip was so bad suddenly that I could barely walk (sound familiar?) and after one painful and uncomfortable visit, pop! it was better. I didn't like the treatment but I liked the result. And before that, a different one for a while for a wrist problem. Might have helped, might not have.

Unlike many of my athletic compatriots, I don't go in for regular appointments to get "adjusted". If I could do it once a year like I do for a regular physical checkup, maybe I would, but it always seemed to be "you need at least 6 visits to get reassembled properly." And without anything specific, I just haven't seen the point.

But in this case, I couldn't see going to my regular doc or even an orthopedist and expecting them to yank and torque anything, ever. Anyway, the guy fit me in to his schedule. In his office, I, who have been living in my body for a rather long time, fumbled around trying to explain where I thought it hurts, and meanwhile he put his thumb against a spot in my lower back and said "here?" and Yowp! it sure was. We had a long discussion, he took xrays, and he sent me home with instructions to ice it and to come back Monday after he'd had a chance to look at the x-rays.

Felt much better the next day. And all he did was take x-rays and poke my back once with his thumb. What a genius! But it's not perfect, still; I could tell when I started my quad sets and leg lifts--that hip is still not in kilter. On Monday, we went over the x-rays. My L3 and L4 vertebrae are completely out of whack--the L4 out of line front to back, the L3 side to side. And I've got quite a bit of degenerative disk disease there. (Yes, known; that's the area pinpointed on MRI for my bout with horrific sciatica.)

He wanted to know what sort of accident or trauma I'd been through maybe 10-15 years ago. Same question the docs wanted to know with the sciatica disaster, and I still got nuthin'. So he says he's going to stay away from my lower back entirely and just deal with the hip.

Chiropractic yanking and jerking--and especially in the neck--have always frightened me a bit, and especially with the latest studies shown that chiro neck-cracking can be dangerous. I was very glad to discover that he doesn't touch anything that doesn't need touching specifically, and our long discussions reassured me about his knowledge and approach.

So he did some work on my hip Monday, and it was NOT painful or scary, and it has helped a bit. Still icing. Still going back today and probably at least a couple more times until it's happy again. He thinks I need at least 6 visits to get reassembled properly. At the moment, he's covered by my Kaiser insurance, but that apparently ends in early June, so I'd better experience a rapid cure or I won't be able to afford it anyway. Meanwhile, I'm supposed to be icing it and resting it.

Icing, OK... but, man, I have *agility* to do! So it's off to class with Tika tonight, Boost tomorrow, training in the yard... I'm nothing if not foolishly in denial.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Poo Dog, Poor Dog, Pooped Mom, and Weekend

SUMMARY: Boost's habit of rolling in smelly stuff; Tika's anal glands; my hip & knee; more USDAA coming right up.

Poo Dog

Boost's only major flaw is her propensity for rolling in what some, more particular, people might refer to as "poo". Tika's in most particular. The first couple of times she did it, I was properly horrified, rushed her carefully upstairs into the shower, and gave her a nice bath with warm water and gentle shampoo and all that. The next three thousand times--ferget it. It's the hose in the back yard, with the nozzle set to "shower." Even though she loves to play with the hose spray when it's play time, she's not so keen on the hose dominating the interaction for however long it takes to remove the noisome globs of offensive material.

The other evening, I spent 3 hours down at city hall to try to ensure that dogs like her can continue to be born--San Jose is considering adopting a new animal ordinance that includes limiting litters to one per female per lifetime unless you're a Commercial Kennel, in which case all kinds of inspections and regulations and licensing fees and restrictions such as "must not occur within 250 feet of another dwelling" apply. Since Boost is from her mom's second litter, she might not have been born if such an ordinance had existed. (Maybe more on that topic some other time.) However, sometimes I wonder--

When I got home--late--long council meeting--she greeted me very briefly albeit enthusiastically at the door and then vanished. I didn't think about it while I had a soft drink and talked to my housemate and scritched Tika a bunch, but then realized that Boost had not been around. I went looking to see where she was, and she was lying in the cubby under my desk. Huh, thought I, that's really weird; why is she hiding? "Booster," said I, "why are you hiding under my desk?" She put her ears back, tipped her tail briefly, and scootched back into the dark recesses among the computer cables as far as she could.

My fatigued mind began to make connections. "Oh, you didn't--" I reached under and put my hand in her collar, and felt--something--on her face that shouldn't have been there. I started to withdraw my hand and I didn't have to take it very far before the odor confirmed my dawning suspicion.

I had thought for quite a while that it was my tone of voice or body language when I saw that she had enpooed herself that would make her turn and run, but in this case I had had no clue until after she had already turned, and run, and hid. So she has clearly made the association between being covered with poo and getting hosed off. And yet--and yet--she cannot help herself! It's like the worst kinds of addictions! You rue it after you're done, but the next time the temptation occurs, whammo! there you are indulging once again.

Poor Dog

Over the last 3 or 4 weeks, Tika has been licking more and more insistently at her anal area. Not all the time, but when she begins, she doesn't want to stop. I thought it might be her anal glands, but since I've never had to deal with them before (only one of my 6 dogs ever needed help emptying them, and then the vet had to do it), I really didn't know what I was looking for. Plus she's extremely sensitive about being touched anywhere except in a petting sort of mode (which makes going to the vet a major source of traumatic stress disorder right on the spot). Plus she can lock her little remaining tailbone down over her netherlands so tightly that a hydraulic jack couldn't lift it. Plus all that thick, thick fur.

I finally decided that something had to be done since it was obviously bothering her. So I took her to the vet, along with a clicker and a huge bag of cut-up goodies. Did a lot of tricks and lying down and settling and stuff in the waiting room, and every time I'd go for another handful of goodies, she'd throw herself against the exit door, desperately trying to escape. Her respiration rate doubles or triples--and for Tika the always-over-the-top-dog anyway, that's an accomplishment. Fortuately she's very food motivated, so as long as I had a piece in my hand, she'd hang in there. But so agitated that any attempts to get her to take it gently (read: leave fingers attached to hands) were unsuccessful.

The vet has never, ever, heard her normal heartrate. They always say it's quite elevated. But they can also see that she's about to hyperventilate and then explode from the stress. She was really very good for a dog who normally shrieks when the vet tries to look in her ears. She's never shown signs of trying to nip at anyone during this kind of ritual torture, but she is by far the most-stressed vet-visting dog I've ever had.

Anyway--her anal glands are infected. So I need to try to get some ointment under the locked-down tail twice a day, and give her an antibiotic pill twice a day, for about a week, and then take her back in two weeks for another stimulating visit.

Pooped Mom

My knee has been bothering me a bit. I try to walk normally, not favoring it. But my opposite hip has been flaring up for the last week, off and on. Feels more like something's out of alignment (my thumb sometimes does that, and if I kind of twist and yank it, then instantly it's better--but I haven't found a way to twist and yank my own hip) than merely sore. Feel like I need a chiropractor, not a doctor. Last night, by bedtime, it was so bad that I had trouble falling to sleep, and then it woke me constantly, probably every time I moved in my sleep, all night. I might have gotten 3 hours of sleep.

When I finally dragged myself downstairs around 9 a.m., it hurt with every step and I really was using the handrail to drag myself to the computer to try to find more info about chiropractic care on the Kaiser Medical web site. I sat at the computer for about half an hour, and apparently it rearranged itself during that time, because I was then able to walk, and shower, and dress, and even go to Boost's class, with only minor discomfort.

I haven't been to a chirpractor in many years--hmm, last time my hip was bothering me, in fact. Went to a new one recommended by my renter. Doctor seems nice, and competent, too. Also has 2 dogs and knows what dog agility is, which in my book is always a plus. But he didn't want to do any twisting and pulling until he had done xrays, and it was the end of the day and he was already staying late to see me, so he'll have the xrays processed over the weekend and I'll see him again Monday morning.

But meanwhile that leaves me with ice and antiinflammatories to get me through the weekend. What a pathetic body!

This weekend

Which brings me to this weekend: More USDAA. And a very rare trial in which there is not a single Tournament (national qualifier) class. Just double everything except Relay.

I've managed to work on Boost's weaves only once so far this week. Who knows what the weekend will bring. The scary thought is that she *could* get 2 more standard, or 2 more Snooker, or one more gamblers, this weekend, and move up to Masters in any of those. We are SO not ready. Her AAD (intermediate title--Advanced Agility Dog) requires just 2 Standard, a jumpers, and a relay. We are so so SO not ready for masters. But if she keeps failing to do weaves, the standards aren't likely to come any time soon. On the other hand, if she has fits of perfect weavage like she did this past weekend, we could conceivable finish that title this weekend.

Nope, don't even think about it.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

CPE Trial This Weekend

SUMMARY: Local CPE trial in Sunnyvale.

Both dogs are in 5 runs each both days at Twin Creeks in Sunnyvale. The nice thing is that it's only 20 minutes from home. The other side to that is that it's my club's trial (The Bay Team) and I'm the über score table czar. Revised all our score-table cheat sheets for the newest scoring rules, stuffed the score-table binders with the latest rulebooks, schedules for this trial, judges' SCT calculation worksheets, handicapped handler timing instructions, and so on.

Normally I'd be setting up on Friday afternoon, but the site has just raised its prices so much that we can't afford Friday afternoon any more and they're charging us $800 or something like that to allow us access after 8 p.m. after a soccer game finishes to start setting up. It's outrageous and we won't be able to afford this site except for our September super-regional any more. Our May USDAA has already moved elsewhere. Anyway, I'm also working away from home this week and have more things to print (printer was jamming last night), so with all that, I think I'll probably just have to plan on getting there at 6 a.m. and setting up then, bagging any assistance with site set-up this evening.

Any my knee has been bothering me this week. It should be interesting. But the weather should be lovely. Supposed to be sunny to partly cloudy, temps in the low 70s. There's usually at least a breeze (sometimes quite a wind, which can be bad) up that close to the Bay, which helps keep the temperature down, too. They're currently saying a possibility of showers Sunday night, but with any luck it really will wait until night.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Checking In

SUMMARY: Good gods, has it really been almost a week since my last post?

Nothing much to report. Should have been working on exercises for my quads and knees and getting back into shape for everything. But no. Should have been working on Tika's dogwalk ups. But no. Have been doing a wee little bit of work on Boost's weaves, but that's it. I dunno, haven't been much in a training mood the last few days. Plus very busy otherwise, which might account for it.

I moved my Aframe over the huge space where the lilac shrub used to be, and promptly broke a sprinkler head. At least I'm not having to irrigate at the moment, but that's just one more annoying thing to add to my to-do list.

Went with some photography friends out to Ano Nuevo on the coast to see the elephant seals on Monday. Very cool as always. Took lots of photos that I'm still sorting through. It's a 3-mile round trip walk, and although I managed it without any great difficulty, I did find that it was a working effort to keep pace with the crowd (went with an Audobon society group, so all outdoorsy types used to covering ground). Knee was slightly achey by the end and I had a hitch in that hip, although I really couldn't detect any favoring of that leg, still there must have been. Andit was an easy hike, too, so yet another clue that I'm not where I need to be.

Furthermore, when I realized that I had sent the friends back to my van with the keys but hadn't mentioned that I had set the alarm, I had to jog to catch up to them, and THAT was hard. So I really do need to be doing more jogging and sprinting, not long sessions because it's too jarring for the knee, but enough to be comfortable at it again.

Saw Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night last night at San Jose Rep. Very intense.

Have been slowly working on infrastructure to convert my agility club's web site to primarily a wiki, making it easy for other club members to update info pages and maybe even to create a cool interactive agility wiki for the agility community at large. Lots still to do before we get to that stage.

And of course there's--(ominous music)--work.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Weaves, Pushing the Envelope, and Getting Old

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves--huh? Tika and me--how far can we go? Getting old: Me and Jake.

Boost's Weaves

At our last 2 weekends of trials, Boost got all of her weave entries (except once where she didn't see them at all and went past the whole thing), and stayed in all of them except twice when I tried to get ahead & she popped out at last pole. At home, I've been working on fixing that last issue by getting farther ahead, racing her to the end, doing distractions, etc. And have been working on weave entrances with a short set of poles from various tough angles, sometimes just across the lawn but more often from a tunnel or over a jump.

Today in class she couldn't do weaves worth beans. She hit the first pole entry every time but then just started skipping randomly, often the 2nd pole but just as often staying in for a few poles & then skipping here and there. Jeez! I'd even just load her in manually to the first pole and still she'd skip. I wasn't racing her or anything. Finally towards the end on one troubled attempt, Nancy had us just go to the other end and weave back towards where we came from, and she did it fine. Then she was OK going the right way if I loaded her in carefully.

Then, after class was all over and Nancy "left the building," telling us all to do the exercise one more time, Boost not only made a difficult entry in flow, full speed, but stayed in the weaves all the way through very nicely, thank you very much.

So I blame it all on Nancy.

But seriously--what a frustrating experience! Hope it doesn't remanifest itself at a trial.

Tika Pushing the Envelope

I've said before how much I like my current class. In particular, Ken with Apache the Terv and Jenn with Kye the Aussie, all of us jumping 26", and Ash with Luka at 16", and all of us pushing the limits of our handling skills. Of course, Ashley and Luka are rapidly working their way into being in the top teams in the entire country in both USDAA and AKC, and I just can't compete with his vast stores of energy and long legs, but I can feed off of that drive to succeed. We talk about "The Cool Factor" in class a lot. That's one of Jim's seminar jokes--why would you choose one handling option over another? The Cool Factor! Because everyone will think you're totally cool if you can pull it off! What it really is, is stretching what we think we're capable of. All one of us has to say is, "I'm going to try it!" and the others of us are right in there, not wanting to be uncool. :-)

I'm finding that it's hard for me to pull up a lot of energy or to move my legs and arms really fast, though. Some of it, I'm sure, is just being out of shape from the months of knee issues and post-surgery. And I'm not doing much about it, either. Like--hmmm--I could've been doing the exercycle instead of typing this blog entry. But what fun is that? (Not.)

Getting older

And some of it is just getting older. Things just don't work the way they used to. Things come up sore that not only didn't used to be sore but that I didn't even know existed. How can I be feeling the effects of aging when I don't THINK I'm getting older? It's just not right!

My knee isn't perfectly better yet. After I've been sitting for a while--say, driving to/from class or at the computer--when I first stand up, if I try to take a good step immediately, the knee half the time collapses under me with a small bit of pain. I have to stand for a moment and let the knee loosen. I'm hoping that this is a transitory phase in its healing.

The original Border Terrorist (Terrier), Bobbi, who was quite the competitor when I started agility but who has been retired for quite a while now, celebrated her 15th birthday just last November, same time as Jake. We just got word now that she's passed away. It's always too soon! And Jake's been doing pretty well, just the usual complaints from me that sometimes he just won't come out in the yard and play fetch. (But annoying me immensely because if I take it into the living room, he'll run forever as I bounce his toys off collectibles, priceless heirlooms, glass cabinets, and windows.) So sometimes I just insist. Yesterday afternoon, of 2 days of him looking at me eagerly but then trotting back into the house, I wouldn't let him go past me, and of course then he turned around, got his toy, and plunged full-heartedly into an enthused, tail-wagging all-out game of fetch. And then suddenly, after not really all that much running, he dropped his toy in the middle of the lawn (*never* does that) and just came over and stood next to me, panting and wagging his tail. Usually he wanders off with his toy to take a dunk in the pond or wander through the shady shrubs or something. It struck me as a little odd.

Then he trotted up the stairs to the porch, turned around, and just about fell right back down the steps. He started after Boost, blaming her, I guess, but when I came over, his back legs kept falling out from under him. Still, he managed to go back up the steps, but as I stroked his back, he started staggering, then would stand OK, then stagger off to the side again like he was losing his balance. Almost fell into the water bowl the couple of times he started to take a drink. But didn't want to lie down. So I just balanced him against my leg, stroking him gently, and in a minute or so he was fine again.

But it was scary; thought I'd be spending the evening at the emergency room. He's been fine ever since. People in class last night, who've had old dogs, said it sounded like a ministroke and that there could be more. So I guess at some point I'll take him in and talk to the vet about it. Argh. I'm just not ready for this.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Health Milestones

SUMMARY: Things is lookin' good.

I realized today that, sometime in the last week, I crossed the threshold where I can now stoop or kneel to get at things in low cabinets, without pain, and get back up again (there's been the rub!) without hardly even noticing my knee. This is excellent, and it's been just 2 months and a not quite 2 weeks since my surgery.

The flu thing I think is mostly past, although the cough lingers. Today's the first day all week that I haven't still been very droopy and low-energy and needing to nap or at least lie down and rest for a while. And I think last night was the first night in at least 2 weeks that coughing wasn't an issue during the night. Huzzah!

Now if only I'd keep up on that exercycle work I keep promising I'd do--

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Random Musings

SUMMARY: Random notes and thoughts accumulated over the last 2 days.

Tika's Next USDAA Titles

By the way, that Super-Q also finished Tika's Snooker Master and Snooker Champion titles. Next up (if we want something to chase):
  • Snooker Bronze: 1 snooker Q
  • Gamblers Champion: 1 gamblers Q
  • Tournament Silver: 2 DAM team Qs

Next USDAA trials: March 17/18, April 12-15, April 28-29, May 5-6.

Barrelling Forward Mere Inches From Death

I was barrelling down the Sunol grade Sunday night at nearly 70 MPH with the flow of dense traffic, firmly gripping the steering wheel with hands determinedly at 10:00 and 2:00, surrounded by vehicles, when it struck me. There we were, each of us encased in nearly two tons of nearly paper-thin metal, rocketed down a slope at a speed of over 100 feet per second. That's the entire length of a football field in the time it takes you to take one breath. Do you realize how fast that is?

And furthermore, there are four lanes, with vehicles in each of those lanes, on either side of me feeling close enough for me to reach out and touch if I dared to take a hand off the wheel to roll down a window. And the road is not only going downhill, gravity propelling us even faster, but it's curving, so every one of us, side by side, hurtling along at speeds unimaginable for most of human history, must judge the exact curve of the road for hundreds of feet ahead, as the slightest twitch in the steering wheel or momentary relaxation where the wheels would find their natural path of going straight, not arcing, would send the vehicle slamming into the neighbor, or into the concrete K-rail sitting less than a foot beyond the outer lane marking, to carrom back into traffic, taking out multiple lanes of cars. In the dark, with only our headlights to guide us.

It's amazing that anyone survives. It's amazing that there are as few accidents as there are.

Boost's First Advanced Weekend

Wow. I knew we weren't ready for Advanced, but we looked even less ready than we did previously, and it wasn't all simply because they were advanced courses. What a mess! Oddly enough, we did better in the Grand Prix and the Steeplechase than in any of our regular classes, although we didn't Q. We survived the Steeplchase with no faults on a course where more than a third of the entrants were offcourse, but with too many bobbles to make time. And we Eed in the Grand Prix just two obstacles from the end on the place where I knew we'd have trouble (and where many much more experienced dogs also Eed), on a hard wrap from a tunnel going away from the dog walk onto the dogwalk without going back into the tunnel next to the dogwalk. If she'd made that, we'd have qualified.

She left several contacts without a release, she knocked bars, she ran past Aframes and dogwalks and tunnels, she kept turning back to me instead of pushing forward over lines of jumps, she popped out of weaves... argh. (Although she did some of all the same things very well, too. Still, more bobbles than I had expected.)

Back to the drawing board.

What's scary is that, in watching video of the only run I have of hers from this weekend, it looks like she's stutter stepping some of her jumps, which I didn't notice in person at all. Yikes.

Health In Agility

I wasn't as recovered as I had thought I might be from last week's flu. I coughed and hacked and blew my nose all weekend, feeling badly as much about possibly spreading something that I thought I was over as I felt about being there and not feeling in my prime. I tried to always smother my coughs in my jacket rather than my hands or the air, and carried a little bottle of Purell hand sanitizer around with me to slather on my hands every time I touched my nose or lips. I sure hope I didn't spread anything.

Survived the days, but had a cough that rattled in my chest and just wouldn't clear all night Friday and Saturday nights. Sat up for several hours in the middle of the night in the Motel 6 in Turlock Saturday night, because sitting seemed to reduce the hacking, which gave me a chance to watch the film "Three Wishes", a just all-around feel-good film with the most interesting mixed-breed cute but almost alien terrier dog costarring with Patrick Swayze.

Before that, and despite Tika's ADCH and other good showings for the day, what kept running through my head were all the things that we had muffed all day long. Seems that my mood follows my physical state in more ways than one, and I was tired and weak and coughy and achey and so were my thoughts. By the time the movie was over, I felt good about life and myself and my dogs and that's when I really began to enjoy having finished Tika's ADCH.

Odder things have happened.

Knee's Good

My knee, meanwhile, held up fine. I iced it on general principles when I got to the motel, but it didn't bother me all weekend and seems not to have any puffiness or soreness afterwards (aside from what had been there before post-op already). That's very promising.

DAM Team News

Tika's team, Three's A Charm did well at the Nationals in November, but now it turns out that Skeeter, our third, is losing her vision and is apparently now retired from agility. At first they thought it was PRA, but turns out it's glaucoma, and just heard today that with treatment she actually seems to be doing better, although her depth perception is iffy. In any event, looks like they probably won't be competing any more.

So Brenn and Tika decided to go an unusual route and asked a 12" dog, a papillon named Roxee, to be our third for the April Haute TRACS team event. (Photo of Roxee, her handler Rob, and her owner.)

Now we just need a team name. Roxee's owner (different from her handler) had some possible suggestions that I didn't have the presence of mind to write down, so we'll have to find out again.

Qualifying for Nationals

Tika earned another 5-fault Grand Prix Q, so she's now GP qualified for the Nationals. She turned on the rocket fuel for Steeplechase and didn't even pretend to stick her contacts although I came to a full stop expecting her to, too, so she got way ahead of me and then turned back to see what I was up to, wasting time, but the killer was when somehow I managed to push her PAST an entire tunnel and had to run back for it. So technically we were clean but about 3 seconds over time.

So Tika still needs 2 Steeplechases and a Team, and Boost still needs everything. Gah.

Knocking Bars

After 5 runs on Saturday and 3 on Sunday during which Tika did not knock a single bar--not one!--I dared to hope that we could manage another Jumpers Q. Well, she was fast and felt smooth, no bobbles on this course, although still coming in a second and a half behind first place--but with TWO bars down, I guess to make up for the rest of the weekend. Sigh. So much for sticking around to the dire end instead of heading home early. But one's gotta hope. Only 4 of the 16 26" dogs who stuck around managed to qualify on this course, so we were in good but frustrated company.

What Was Your Last Q?

Got to wondering over the weekend whether anyone had ever done a study to see whether there was a predominance of one type of class that most often held people back from a key title. For example, Tika had moved up to Masters Standard before she finally earned her first-ever Jumpers Q for her AD (novice title). Then it was a Gamblers Q that kept us from our USDAA MAD, which seems to me to be pretty common. And it was a Jumpers Q again that kept us from our CPE C-ATCH for so long. So it's been my surprise to discover that it was a Snooker Q that kept us from our ADCH.

With Remington, it was Standards that kept us from ever earning our MAD.

With Jake, it was a Gamblers leg that kept him from his ADCH, a Standard for his NATCH, and a Snooker for his C-ATCH, but the latter really wasn't much of a delay, it just happened to be the last Q needed (compared to alllll the others, which were significant delays after the last preceding Qs).

So, even based on my dogs, I can't make any general statement about the most-common class to be last.

How about for everyone else? Feel free to drop a comment here.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Agility-Related Goals for This Week

SUMMARY: Some realism, some extreme optimism.

  • Today: Walk around the (long) block--about 2/3 miles. Exercycle briskly 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Jump-knocking drills with Tika and Boost. Finish removing plants around lilac in hopes it will be taken away later today--then another 15 feet of usable length in my yard! Woohoo! Go to class with Tika, my cold be danged.
  • Thurs: Walk around the long block. Exercycle 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Go to class with Boost. Go-on drills with Boost. Bar-knocking and snooker practice with Tika.
  • Fri: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. Pack & load car for the weekend (usually takes 1-2 hours). Snooker and bar-knocking drills with Tika. Go-on drills with Boost. Get to bed early.
  • Rise at the crack of 4am, drive 2 hours to Santa Rosa, ice my knee after every run (5 with Tika), earn Tika's ADCH with a Super-Q, don't freeze my buns off. Night at Motel 6.
  • Sun: Ice my knee after every run (5 with Boost), earn Boost's AD with a Standard leg. Don't freeze my buns off. Remember to do stuff with Jake. Drive home, stopping for nap if need be.
  • Mon: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. I dunno, that's 5 days from now!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007


SUMMARY: Agility blogging, agility training, agility entries, agility knee

Saw my orthopedic surgeon Tuesday for the last time; he said there's absolutely no fluid in the knee which is awesome considering where I'd been for months before the surgery, and gave me a 100%-go-for-it rating (no restrictions of any kind), just suggested that I keep on with my physical therapy to build those danged quads.

Went to class with Tika last night for the 2nd time since arthroscopy. Knee is still a bit stiff but the big problem is that I don't feel that I'm moving anywhere near full speed. I need to practice running, but of course running is the worst thing that one can do now that one has had confirmed that one's knee has begun arthritis. Just HAVE to get back to walking, at least, and maybe jog around the back yard a couple of times a day--I'm sure that 100 feet of jogging will be helpful--

Tika, however, did very well. She was even pretty close to trial-fast. (Where I can't normally get her revved to full excited speed in class, then she takes off like a rocket at trials. It's exhilarating at trials but wish I could practice our living-on-the-edge running a bit more often.) I had trouble with a couple of trick round-about-front-crosses-after-270s kinds of things that we were doing, but Tika had no trouble with some tough weave entrances that others were challenged by. So I guess we're all getting something out of the class.

Agility blogging, for me, was solely an attempt to keep my own diary of my dogs' lives and progress. It has turned into this social thing. People actually read it. And of course I'm intrigued by the thoughts and experiences that other agility people go through, especially in different parts of the country. In class and at trials we don't usually talk about our day-to-day experiences, our fears, our hopes, our deepest challenges (well, ok, I talk about my deepest challenges all the time to anyone who'll listen, usually right after I've screwed up another run). One of the blogs I've been reading for a while (Flirt the Squirt) just pointed me to yet another agility blog, this one Colorado based, and the writing is entertaining: Days of Speed and Slowtime Mondays: How Not to Train for Triathlon and Dog Agility. Just what I need, more blogs to follow. :-)

It's been 2 months since I was last in class with Boost, and today's the day (if we don't get some surprise rain or, they're predicting for san jose, snow flurries (!!). At the moment it's sunny and 30 degrees, quite cold for 9 a.m. She's been blasting around the equipment in the back yard, where I mostly send her rather than run with her, looking ever so much like her superstar mama. But our problems on courses were showing up to be my inability to judge when she had actually committed to an obstacle and pulling her off constantly, and not signalling soon enough on tight turns. I mean, Tika's fast, but-- well, I think Boost could beat Tika, and Tika's speed is right up there. Maybe Tika and I have just gotten used to each other, and Boost's still just a baby competitor. Although she'll be 2 in just 3 weeks! Can you believe it?

So anyway I said "yes" (with some arm twisting) to a classmate's suggestion that we try for a two-dog private lesson with Nancy on Sunday. I can use all the field time I can get with The Booster for now. Especially since I've started sending in those entries with the highest hopes, and wanting to get Qs instead of feeling like I'm wasting my entry fees.

And there's where the money comes in (aside from lessons, I mean). Bay Team's first trial is one day Masters, one day Starters/Advanced, and I had two $50 gift certificates, so I had to pay only about $20 for that weekend (plus I guess I'll need to stay in a hotel; no sleeping in my minivan in this weather). But I also sent in my entry for the following weekend for VAST. Five runs per dog Saturday, four-per Sunday, for a nondiscounted total of--gulp--$248. PLUS gas to get there and hotel in cold/wet weather. This is why I have no money. This is why there aren't very many younger competitors. I'm signing up for trial committee jobs that earn me free entries left and right, but that still covers only a small portion of my entry fees.

If it weren't so much danged FUN.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Progress--And Back to Square One

SUMMARY: Knee is good. But about those November Nationals--

I started making a point of doing a little bit of sprinting with the dogs in the yard during training this week, and it worked fine. Took Tika to class Wednesday night for the first time since before Christmas and only the second time since November 15. She seemed happy to be there, ran off to explore only once on a missed tough weave entry that I didn't handle very well, and actually paid attention on the down contacts instead of snuffling for food.

course map showing layering challengeI went ahead and ran full out where I could, and it felt good to be doing it! The knee is still marginally puffy and I could feel that it didn't bend quite as nicely as my good knee, and I felt like a lump of lead trying to accelerate, but at least I was able to make the effort. I even tried for a really tricky send-dog-to-tunnel, layer-the-aframe, get ahead of the following jump for a front cross and actually made it--barely, as Tika's turn before I captured her on the front cross was very wide, but I got there and made the turn and was very pleased that my knee didn't complain. (It wasn't an official class exercise but I wanted to see whether I could do it. The diagram shows Tika's path in red solid, mine in blue dotted. Squares are 10 feet. Distances are my rough recollections from 2 nights ago.)

By the end of the evening it was feeling a little achey, though, so I didn't stay for the last run, but I have no complaints--except that I really felt those additional 6 pounds I've put on since my knee surgery (from being sedentary AND eating too much crap).

Boost's Thursday class was cancelled due to rain again, so I haven't had class with her for 2 months, argh! Instead I went to physical therapy, and walked nearly a mile at a brisk pace in 15 minutes on the treadmill, then did 6 minutes of exercycle but knee was starting to complain then--plus there had been all the other assorted quad exercises before that. But I did all kinds of things that I wasn't able to do without pain the last time I was there--gee, a whole month ago, December 7--and haven't been able to do even for a couple of months before the surgery. So i guess I really am making progress.

It was sore and stiff Thursday night/Friday morning, but just a very little bit--I want to emphasize that--and by afternoon it felt fine, and I worked out with the dogs a little in the yard and did fine, and walked into the Home Show and was on my feet for 3 hours working the Home Composting Education booth, so I'm getting so close to normal! Wahoo!

Dogs are dying for more exercise and entertainment, though. So, instead, tomorrow I'm taking Tika and Boost to get tattoos, which I'm sure they'll love. They'll be big hearts that say "Mom". OK, kidding, they'll be ID numbers as additional backups to their microchips and ID tags. I really want my dogs to come back to me if they get out.

Meanwhile, I'm already starting to fret about whether we'll qualify for the Nationals again! Tika has one Grand Prix qualifier and needs one more; needs 2 Steeplechases; needs Team. Boost needs everything. And we had to cancel out of two trials in October with GP and Steeplechase because of my knee, so our opportunities are fewer and fewer... argh! I hate this! We just hardly got back from Scottsdale and already I'm thinking about next November! Sighhh

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Agility Goals

SUMMARY: I always have goals that I pay more or less attention to. Here are some current ones.

One of the only 2 or 3 agility blogs that I follow (Training Journal for Devon and Jaime) stated her 2007 agility goals and challenged readers to share their agility goals for 2007. I responded with a summary of the following:

I don't really set New Year's goals; my agility goals evolve and I try to keep them current based on our current issues.

My current goals with Tika are to practice jump-knocking drills 20 times 3 times a week and practice serpentines 20 times a week. And to fix the dogwalk up contact by practicing touch-n-go drills, crud, I hate these, 10 times a day, 3 days a week. I hope that's enough. I had intended to work on the dang dogwalk while we had all this down time, to really develop her skill and muscle memory for it--we've done no agility since the Nationals at the beginning of November--but look, here it is January and only 3 and a half weeks to our first USDAA trial of the year! (I'm not doing any CPE this month because I'm still not running full out as I continue knee recuperation.)

My current goal with Boost is to learn how to do serpentines and threadles. (I should have been working on these all along--they're a big gap in our skill set compared to our classmates.) I have some excellent notes from Nancy from class that I need to dig out and review, because I've been trying to reproduce from memory and am not succeeding. I don't know why I'm willing to try 20 or 30 times to figure it out on my own but not willing to walk out to the garage to get my training notebook from the car. My laziness manifests itself in odd ways. And our first class since before Thanksgiving is this Thursday! So I want to be ready to go...

And my goal for my knee recovery is to get back to doing my exercises for my quads--at least 30 minutes of exercycle a day (snoooorrrre) and at least 15 minutes of other exercises, and to keep walking more every day to build up to a mile a day again. I did actually do exercycle and leg lifts today, and I have been walking more and more all the time, have gone back to parking my car way far out in the parking lot and walking into the store and all that, and the knee is holding up better and better for just walking. And I need to start working in some jogging around the yard and a little tiny bit of working up towards sprinting, to really confirm where the knee is still painful and where it's just stiff or getting out of condition.

I think I'll be fine for the Jan 27-28 trial. At least it's low-key: Saturday is only Masters, so that's 5 runs with Tika, and Sunday is only Starters and Advanced, so that's 5 runs with Boost. But the following weekend is a full-scale USDAA trial out in Turlock--4 runs plus Steeplechase EACH on Saturday; 3 runs plus Grand Prix EACH on Sunday--and I just filled out my entry to run in everything for both Tika and Boost.

And, oh yeah, speaking of goals that I don't have specific control over: I want to finish that one Snooker Super-Q for Tika's ADCH and that one Standard leg for Boost's AD! ASAP! (But the former will be helped by bar-knocking drills, and the latter should be immensely helped by all the weave-entry practice we've been doing.)

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Agility Class At Last!

SUMMARY: Took Tika to class last night and we did fine.

The last time I went to agility class was November 15. Took Tika last night for one last shot before another week off for Christmas. They've already cancelled Boost's class for today because of anticipated rain and the holiday rush, dang it all.

We both did well. I never ran full out, although after some experiments, I did rather a Goucho Mark glide, to get some speed without actually pounding my knees. Tika handled just beautifully at a distance. I am so pleased with her weave poles, both her entrances and her willingness to stay in while I veer off sharply in an entirely different direction. She made some very difficult entrances last night with me at a distance (that a couple of other people had trouble with even being there to manage their dogs into the entrance), and I really pushed the limit on veering away--the instant she was in, I took off at nearly a 90-degree angle past a couple of other obstacles to the next one 40 feet away while she finished the poles. (Normally I'd drive her through the contacts for maximum speed, but in this case I was trying to move around a large course without having to run, so I took any distance maneuvers I thought I could get away with.)

She even stayed at the start line! Without standing up or skootching! Which she's normally very bad about. I guess practice does help, eh?, and we've been practicing that in the yard lately. Except once she did stand up early and I let her go because I didn't want to walk back to her (BAD handler! this is why it deteriorates...).

The only issue was, as usual in training, that she stands at the end of the contact, having made a very nice 2on-2off landing, and roots around in the grass looking for microscopic bits of goodies that previous people have left on the ground when rewarding their dogs. It's so hard to practice real-life contacts with her. In competition she never does that (because there's no food in the ring). I've been trying to reward her for releasing off the contact and coming with me, but the challenge is getting her to release and come with me! Even when she decides to recognize the "OK", she strolls off in any random direction with her nose to the ground looking for more goodies. We're still working on this...

But I felt good, my knee felt good, Tika handled beautifully, we had some lovely end-of-the-year brownies baked by Tracy in honor of Flash's triple-double at their recent 3-day AKC trial and various pastries provided by Ashley in honor of Luka's ending up in the top 10 in all 5 categories in USDAA for the year--at last look, they were in something like 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and 8th (gamblers?). How far they've come in 2 years! It's very exciting to have seen them progress and succeed.

And I might have mentioned it before, but I'm delighted to have Ashley in my class because I really feed off of his enthusiasm and determination. His legs are much longer and faster than mine and he's more coordinated and naturally bubbly than me, but it gives me something to strive for. Our Wednesday night class this time around is generally very inspiring for me. I've seen Tracy improve in confidence and willingness to try challenging handling moves with her fast little sheltie. Ken and his fast Terv, Apache (aka Bubba for who knows what reason), have inspired me since Tika and Apache were both novice dogs and I'd always be looking for other dogs who could come close to Tika's time on course (faults aside), and Apache was one of only a couple of dogs there, so I was thrilled when they joined our class. And Jennifer and her fast aussie, Kai, are fun to watch, too. While Ken and Tracy are more like my age, they still know how to move around a course, and meanwhile Jenn and Ashley are younger and more athletic and I love watching them run and trying to get my body to do what theirs do--not in an unrealistic way, but on the theory that an excellent way to learn how to do something well is to watch experts do it.

And we all feed off of each other at stretching our handling skills, with Jim helping by throwing in frequent challenges ("here's how you might handle it, but if you really think you can get there, then here's this option--"). If even one of us says, OK, we'll try the double-layered, distance send, double-reverse front-cross halfway across the field for major Cool Factor points, then by golly we all end up trying to do it, and we all cheer and whoop wildly as the others try it and so often succeed. It's especially helpful with Ken and Jennifer because their dogs also jump 26", so we're in a minority in training classes in general.

It's a great class. Thanks, Jim and Ashley and Ken and Tracy and Jennifer and Bobbie and Kathy for helping me to challenge myself to be an even better handler--somewhat humbling, with my 12 years of experience, being propelled onward to greater things by all these folks with much less experience.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Really Truly Getting There

SUMMARY: Knee is happy. Dogs need practice.

Last weekend I walked through Oakridge mall from my favorite parking out back all the way through to the front, slowly, using crutches as extra support. Today, I strolled cheerfully although not quite full normal speed through the same mall without a crutch in site. My knee stiffened up during the movie--maybe from just sitting still for over 2 hours, maybe from that long walk, maybe both, so I had to slow down some and I felt a bit of pain along the sides. But I wasn't visibly crippled. Yay!

So I came home, iced the knee, and went out back to practice doing some actual sequences with the dogs. This meant maybe 4 or 5 obstacles with me moving a few brisk walking steps, but that's more than I've done since before the surgery. I haven't been doing jumps with them because their training issues with jumps involve me moving, so today I set up a jump and discovered that Tika still knocks bars and Boost is so used to NOT doing jumps after 3 weeks that she just completely ignored it. So we worked on both of those as well.

Then I dared to move some equipment around. I never move my dogwalk--just can't be done in my yard (other than that there's only one place I can put it anyway. And the A-frame almost never moves--again, it takes up so much real estate and it's very hard to move. And the teeter doesn't tend to move far. Unlike Jim Basic, I can't just grab it around its middle, lift, spin, and drop it again.

But it's been so long since I've moved anything for fear of aggravating my knee--other than adjusting the angle of the weave poles and realigning the tunnel ends after the blasting dogs pull them out of alignment--that I moved 2 of the 3 tunnels AND the teeter AND the weaves (now perpendicular to the direction they've been most of the last couple of months) AND the one jump I have up. Knee didn't bother me while I was doing it, either, but I need to be careful that I don't do in my back while trying to save my knee.

It sucks, getting older and fragiler! But it's exciting to have a different set-up to try for a few days, and to feel that I can once again drag 20-foot double-walled competition tunnels around on my own. Small victories every day.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Good Day

SUMMARY: Knee good, dogs good, yard good, good good good.

Part of my yard with leaves begging to be gathered.

Hard to believe that, by the time I went to bed last night, I could barely walk without pain again. Had to ice my knee a couple of times when it woke me up around 11 and 1 or so. And then--today--I feel great! Except for a few twinges on the sides, and having to be careful about twisting kinds of movements, I'm walking normally, going up and down stairs, having just a fine old time with no aching or difficulty. I'm really not sure what the difference is. Today I went to Longs, the Post Office, OSH for lamp-repair parts, the gas station, and home again. Played with dogs in yard and sent them to some agility obstacles. Got out the leaf blower and cleared my lawn (it's SO hard to find dog messes to avoid stepping in when there are little round yellow and brown leaves all over the grass). And I still feel fine.

Living with dogs does force one to do certain things. I wouldn't have felt obligated to clean up the lawn leaves if it weren't for the dog-mess thing. (And there are a ton more leaves on the mulched parts of the yards that I still need to get to.) And, funny thing, in the doctor's office yesterday, when I went to change back into my pants to go home, I grabbed them wrong and spilled dog treats from my pocket all over the floor. Normal people don't have that kind of issue...

Boost's weave entries are looking better and better. But her nose touches as she blasts down the teeter are veering way off to the side when I'm behind her. I spent several minutes working on convincing her to use the target on the ground in front of the teeter rather than inventing her own spot on which to touch. I hate clever dogs.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

No Knees Is Good Knees

SUMMARY: Well, crap.

Saw my surgeon this afternoon for the first time since the surgery. He said that he found essentially nothing, no major meniscus tears or folds or little bits of loose cartiledge or nuthin'--just arthritis. He said that there were a few little ragged edges on the inner (left) side of my meniscus that he cleaned up and that will probably help the knee some, but mainly it's just arthritis.


So the main thing is strengthening that naughty quadriceps. And he confirmed that I just need to let my own interpretation of my pain be my guide: I need to decide what's reasonable and bearable; there's nothing inside the knee that needs healing (little bit of swelling left it just irritation from the scope poking around inside, basically) so I don't have to worry about tearing anything loose. He gave an example of stubbing a toe--sure, it hurts, but it's nothing to worry about, but he can't really give me guidelines on pain because it's a personal thing. Huh.

So meanwhile, my knee is jabbing and throbbing again (sympathetic pains, I suppose) so I think I'll go ice it some more to teach it a lesson. (And let those dogs who are chomping at the bit because I've been down all day keep stewing. Fortunately housemate played with them *some* this afternoon.)


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Monday, December 11, 2006

Down and Up Again

SUMMARY: Yesterday exhausted; today exercycle

Oh, hmmm, I thought I had posted my notes about the Fun Match I attended on Nov 25 (right before my surgery week), but they seem to have been stuck in limbo. So I just reposted "Out of Condition" for November 26.

Yesterday I went out to a movie, during which my knee throbbed off and on, then felt really tired by the time I got home. So I lay down briefly, then prepared some green beans (a really strenuous chore indeed) for dinner at my sister's, drove up there, had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, and didn't get up til the next morning-- oh, wait, sorry, distractaed there. Had a lovely pot roast dinner. Watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was good as always, and then a 1992 Charlie Brown christmas special (on DVD) that we never even knew existed--and after watching it, now we know why we never knew it existed. But I was so exhausted still, and my knee just wouldn't let up its mild throbbing. So I drove home and I was so exhausted & sore that I thought I was gonna die right there. So I used the ice machine in the evening for the first time in a few days while collapsed in a little heap on the couch, watching TV in a barely conscious state.

This morning I felt much better.

So I did the exercycle today for the first time since physical therapy last Thursday (it hurt then), and I did it for 10 minutes on a pretty easy setting and everything felt fine! Huzzah! Also raked some leaves in the yard and mopped the kitchen floor lightly (not on my hands and knees).

Dogs are helping by periodically crashing into my leg for various not-very-good reasons.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tootling Along

SUMMARY: So far so good, still

Housemate's cooking fan club
Housemate gets Tika and Boost lined up for some good fetch.
When tug-of-war isn't good enough--Boost learns to fly.
Yummy home-made cookies from Saturday night's party.
That's me at Saturday's party, rather blurry, oh, well, but the only photo I asked anyone to take. Really, I only just met the guy five minutes before and his wife was sitting right there.

Things are progressing fairly uneventfully. Boost chose two of the coldest, frostiest mornings to go outside first thing and roll in poop, covering herself with gobbets of stuff head to tail, making us both miserable as I had to spend considerable time hosing her off with icy-cold water. I've always wanted to install a hot-water spigot to the back yard for dog care, but have never had the budget. Someday...

Jake has been eager to play fetch lately, which is grand.

All the dogs want more attention and excitement than they're getting, but they're surviving. I am going outside with them most days at least once and at least throwing a toy for them to bring back, with just a wee bit of basic agility that I can do while essentially standing still. Have worked on some basic tricks with a clicker inside the house on a couple of occasions for a change of pace, and have occasionally fed them their meals in Buster Cubes (which they have to roll around to get to dispense the kibble). It's been raining or drizzling the last two or three days, which makes me want to avoid having them run around in the yard--gets them all muddy and tears up the lawn.

But I haven't taken them ANYWHERE in a couple of weeks--no classes, no visits to the park, no walks, nuthin'. Really need to do something, anything, as soon as I can manage.

Fortunately, the renter/housemate always plays with them daily anyway, but has been making a special effort to get at least Jake and Tika well-run. And they love him for it--plus they're rather fond of helping him finish off a few scraps left over when he makes his daily sandwiches or otherwise cooks. Tika's not fond of fresh broccoli, but even she will munch a few pieces when she sees the other two gulping them down.

The knee mostly gets better. I had my first post-op physical therapy Thursday morning, where we did almost nothing (because my knee hurt at least a little with most things, and therapist doesn't want to start the pain cycle with even a little aggravation). On the way home, I stopped at Rite Aid briefly, and discovered that, even being able to park right in front of the store, I was tired and sore and my knee ached and it was quite strenuous. I slept two hours when I got home. That evening, I reverted to crutches around the house, which I hadn't used in probably 4 or 5 days.

But the next day, Friday, I felt my best post-op so far, even forgetting from time to time as I moved around the house that there was anything wrong with my knee at all. Saturday I went to the movies and did so by walking ALLLLLL the way from the back parking lot through the huge Oakridge Mall to the theater, the most walking I've done post-op, even including a couple of grocery shopping trips. I did take my crutches with me and used them just to give me a wee tiny extra bit of weight-bearing support for that leg, trying to walk normally, just braced with the crutches. I think I did fine.

I haven't used the icing machine in 3 days now, so that's been 3--hmm, maybe 4--nights I've gone without it overnight. The first of those nights I did get up in the night (towards morning) and ice it for 20 minutes, as it ached enough to be bothersome after I got up to use the facilities, and then it was fine again.

So I'm just icing for 20 minutes off and on during the day, and am doing a very few exercises when I remember to do so. Need to do some more; the weight is already creeping on (but I'm eating crappily, too--usually the exercise I get helps to accommodate that). Tried the exercycle in physical therapy briefly and couldn't do much; I'm going to try it again today and see what I can do.

Last night I carpooled with a friend on a lonnnng drive (over an hour an a half) to Pacific Grove to an agility club party/meeting. I survived the drive and the party and managed to snap a bunch of photos of club members, and although I was tired when I got home, I attributed it more to the late-night hour than to anything knee-related. So, yes, progress is occurring.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

So Far So Good

SUMMARY: Life is becoming slowly more normal

Last night I carried my own ice machine (about the size of a 6-pack cooler) upstairs to bed and again downstairs in the morning, working on walking stairs up & down normally. There's just a little twinge occasionally there, but mostly it feels OK.

The knee catches or pops often when I'm just walking--in a completely different place than it did. Doesn't feel good, but doesn't hurt like the catch on the side that started a couple of weeks ago. That's on my list of questions for the surgeon, although I don't know how many answers I'll get til I see him at my appointment a week from this afternoon. He (or someone) apparently forgot to fill out the referral for continued physical therapy, so I'm waiting for them to get back to me to be able to schedule that.

Dogs are waiting impatiently for me to come outside and throw something around the yard for them.

Leg with indelible writing, indelible yellowish substance, indelible purplish substance?

Bruised left hand.

When I was able to shower on Saturday, it was such a relief! In real life, I don't always shower every day; I don't perspire (therefore don't accrue odors) all that much normally, so I thought that a mere 3 days would be trivial, since I was lying around most of the time anyway, not getting sweaty OR dirty. But, wow, it felt so good after 3 days to take that shower!

The thick yellowish (and purplish?) stuff on my knee and leg didn't come off, even the part I could scrub at. (Can't scrub the two tiny places with a couple of stitches in them.) And the writing on my leg--which I can't interpret but probably means "this is the correct knee"--also doesn't come off with scrubbing. Now I've had two showers and it's still there!

And my left hand, where the nurse had trouble inserting my IV tube, is quite discolored now, although, thankfully, not painful--just colorful.

Will be trying to get in some hours of real desk work today.


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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Recovery Moves Along

SUMMARY: Each day shows notable improvement in the knee. But sleepy!

Today I hardly used the crutches at all, and have even been bending my leg/using it almost normally going up and down stairs, although trying to be cautious without limping from mere concern about not wanting to do any damage (a tricky balance indeed).

The knee is definitely swollen, although not hot or inflamed-looking, it's not oozing or turning red, and it's not extending down the calf or up the thigh. And it's less painful and achey every day. So I'm hoping that the swelling is normal. I'm keeping it elevated above the level of my heart as much as I possibly can, even when sleeping, and using Karey's icing machine almost constantly, and taking 800 mg of ibuprofen 3 times a day. But when I wore my stretch jeans today to go out to the movies, I had to keep reminding myself that the reason they were tight around my joint was not because I was wearing an Ace or any other bandage, but simply because of swelling.

What surprises me is how much more tired and loafy I feel every day even as my knee improves. The first day I was quite alert and peppy. The second day I was mostly awake and coherent although nauseated and in pain for a good part of the day. I'm sleeping well at night (I'm sure the vicodin helps a lot there) but also getting woozier and woozier with each vicodin I take--or not-- For example, I took one around 10 last night and another around 8 this morning (it was aching a we bit and not relieved by the ibuprofen), and within an hour I couldn't keep my eyes open. Slept for another 2 hours and woke up only because one of the dogs again started gnawing on a bone in the same room. Even so I really dragged myself out of dreamland.

Haven't had another vicodin since, and I'm still draggy and bleary-eyed. Certainly was perky enough to be driven out to the movies with a friend, had no trouble staying awake for the film, but by the time I got home--nap time! And I'm still not feeling alert.

I haven't had the mental energy to do anything except read, not even more than a couple of partial crossword puzzles here and there. Don't know how I'm going to concentrate enough to do actual work, which I really need to be doing. In fact, I'm almost at the state where all I'll have energy for is watching TV, which is a REAL low point for me (haven't fallen to that level yet, but perhaps this evening--).

I'm trying to be up and moving around as much as reasonable, too (striking that balance with keeping the knee elevated), as I'm sure that some kind of exercise should help, as well. But I'm a little limited in what I can do. Not clear from the doc's instructions whether I should be trying the exercycle again now or wait until I meet with him in a week or so. Sigh--another item on my list for monday's phone call.


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Friday, December 01, 2006

Much Better Today

SUMMARY: The title says it all.

Yesterday, the merest movement caused intense agony. For example, if I decided that I wanted to move my leg an inch to the right, I braced myself, gritted my teeth, girded my loins, grabbed the leg of my sweatpants to try to move the leg with my arm instead of using the leg itself, moaned or grunted or yelped in pain anyway, then lay back exhausted to decide what I could manage next. You can imagine that getting up to go to the little patient's room was quite an expedition.

Today I'm so much better, much more what I had expected from their descriptions. Knee is a bit sore and stiff, but I can get around, I can, say, roll over on my side with only a little agitation, I can even walk a little distance, cautiously, without a crutch if I need to do challenging things like move liquid from one place to another.

This morning I meandered out into the back yard (yesterday morning I wasn't meandering ANYwhere, thank you very much), traded one crutch for the pooper scooper, ambled slowly around the yard picking up poop, and then played a bit of fetch and did some agility with Tika and Boost.

Now, let's define "doing some agility"--another exciting episode in which I discover that the dogs don't understand what I thought they understood. I lean the crutches on the teeter (it's convenient) and step away a step. I stand facing a tunnel that's 20 feet away from me.

Picture the set-up: teeter is to my right, weaves are ahead of me and to the right of the teeter. Tunnel is U-shaped, one end straight ahead of me, other end 10 feet to its right. Line up dog on my left side. Put my left foot out straight towards the left end of the tunnel, hold my left arm straight toward the left side of the tunnel, face my shoulders and head towards the left end of the tunnel, and say "through."

The dog makes a u-turn in front of me and does the weaves.

Gradually we work our way to where the dog does the right side of the tunnel.

Finally, with patience, the dog does the left side of the tunnel. Lots of excitement and play (well, as much as I can manage without actually moving, protecting my knee all the while) and praise and do it a couple more times for reinforcement.

Turn in the opposite direction. Now the teeter is to my left. There's another u-shaped tunnel, left end directly in front of me and about 20 feet away, right end 10 feet to its right. There's another tunnel whose entry is ahead of me and to the right about 10 feet.

Line up dog on my left side. Aim foot, arm, shoulders, head towards left end of tunnel straight ahead. Say "through." Dog crossed in front of me and goes into the tunnel to my right.

Eventually we get them into the right side of the correct tunnel. And, finally, into the left side of the correct tunnel.

Yow. Something else to work on. Does it never end?

But on a more exciting note, I was sending Boost out through a tunnel and giving her an "out" to weaves, and she was making the entries and staying in! Progress has definitely occurred there.

So, anyway, I'm feeling much better today. Just woozy from the Vicodin, but calm and mostly pain-free. Life is good. Dogs are calmer today, after their exercise and brain work.

Yesterday was filled with gratuitous barking, Boost chewing on the Xmas tree skirt, dogs poking noses into trash cans, all those things that get active dogs turned in to the pound for doing because they're not getting the mental or physical stimulation they need. And I don't think I was out there with them more than 15 minutes max, so it really doesn't take much.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yesterday Was the Honeymoon

SUMMARY: Today, miserable pain.

Woke up a couple of times in the night with the leg aching some, took my Vicodin, lost a few short hours of sleep. By the time I got up, absolute misery. Every movement hurt tremendously.

I made it through the morning, managed to sleep after my midmorning Vicodin, despite ongoing feelings of nausea as well (pain-induced, I believe--if I'd lie completely still for a while, pain would die back to a mere constant ache and nausea would subside), then called the doctor's office to say that this didn't seem right.

The simple changes of removing the thick dressing a day early so I could get icing closer to my skin and adding megadoses of ibuprofen seem to be helping; nausea's been completely gone, pain is somewhat reduced although still have to walk (with crutches) very slowly and methodically. I am hopeful that I'm on the right track now.

All kinds of people are offering aid and sympathy; it's wonderful to know that I've got a support group if I need it. I've turned everyone down, though--I hadn't felt up to socializing, and my needs are really so simple at the moment that it makes no sense to have anyone hanging around waiting for me to need, say, a drink (can get it myself every couple of hours, just slowly and carefully) or, say, a trip to the restroom--rather a solitary kind of activity, really, at least in my experience. And my renter/housemate comes home after work and plays with the dogs and does the half a dozen collected things I need doing and then I'm fine again.

And--tomorrow's another day!


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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Out of Condition

SUMMARY: Many muscles sore from fun match.

Dang, why do I never think of taking photos until after I'm home?

The fun match was at Workin' Paws in Hollister. This is Susan Paulson's back yard, but not a back yard like you find in most of Silicon Valley. All of the houses in the neighborhood are on their own giant lots--I'm guessing at least 2 acres each, maybe more like 3 to 5. Many people have horses. Workin' Paws has a duck coop (what do you call a building in which you keep ducks? Chicken coop, dove cote, turkey trot--or something--), a huge fenced area for pottying and running dogs that's larger than my back yard, a pretty-close-to-full-sized agility ring in grass, and another ring under construction, plus their house and personal yard. And I have no idea whether the neigbhoring pastures with sheep and llamas were theirs or other neighbors'. Pretty cool. But a long commute from most jobs up here (just under an hour from my place in south san jose, so estimate at least one and a quarter hours--in good traffic (ha!)--to Sunnyvale or Santa Clara).

I ran Jake in 3 Jumpers runs and he seemed pretty happy to be there. I believe that I did 4 Jumpers runs each with Tika and Boost, and two or three Standard runs each. But they weren't straight through--they were most like practices, and we were allowed up to 90 seconds each in the ring, so I redid sections that I felt would be productive.

So I did quite a bit of running with my knee brace on, and my right knee got to feeling pretty tired by noon. Today, all the muscles in all of my legs (at least 2 of them) are bone-tired. This is bad. This means that I'm really very much out of condition. That's really not a lot of being on my feet for me normally, but apparently it is a lot for me NOW. I realize that I haven't been going for my daily mile walks for quite a while now, and I'm doing less and less with the dogs overall, but boy, I'm going to have to be careful after the surgery to remember that I'm not going from peak condition to surgery to peak condition.

Boost and Tika both didn't want to carry on to the end in the Jumpers courses with 4 or 5 straight jumps in a row. Bother! Something I worked on with both of them a lot and just assumed that they'd do. So we worked on that a bit. Worked with Boost on going over jumps and not going around them when she's trying to catch up to me. Worked with Tika on the start line stay. And worked. And worked. She got up and ran only once, but boy, she skootched and skootched and SKOOTCHED and skootched--

I've toyed with the idea of putting her in a down, since that's what she seems to want to do as an alternative to taking off early. Seemed to keep her in place better, but in fact she went into full relaxed position with one front leg tucked under, which isn't what I want, either.

So much to do--

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