Monday, February 15, 2010

Danged Super-Qs!

SUMMARY: New championships for fellow Bay Teamers from this weekend's VAST trial.

(Yes, it seems to be a catch-up day on blog posts. I posted a slightly shorter version of this to my club but wanted to also post it here to remember parts of my weekend.)

What a wild weekend at VAST--at least from the Masters score table's perspective! We fit in a full 5 masters classes in ring 1 on Saturday (and steeplechase ran in ring 2); and 4 masters classes plus Grand Prix on sunday in Ring 1 (and Steeplechase Round 2 in Ring 2).

I woke at 4:30 to dense fog in San Jose and dreaded the 2-hour drive to Turlock, because the Central Valley can be the King of Pea-Soup Fog in the early morning.

Fortunately it was thick enough to slow me to 50 or 55 MPH in only a few places (but not the folks whipping by me at 65-70! Sheesh! No wonder we get 30-car pileups in the fog!), so light-enough fog most of the way that I could see clearly far ahead.

Cold fog enveloped the trial site briefly Saturday and again well into Sunday morning, but it warmed up nicely to shirtsleeve weather for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Having TWO Snooker classes and TWO Gamblers classes gave wonderful opportunities to fill in Qs that prove challenging for many handlers, in particular, Snooker Super-Qs. [Three Super-Qs are required to earn a Championship. To earn one, your score must be in the top 15% of dogs competing in your height. This makes the competition fierce and the super-Qs hard to come by in this highly competitive northern California, even for many excellent dogs.]

Saturday Super-Qs

Saturday's Snooker required that you attempt all 4 reds, which were spread out around the outside of the course. This meant that people chose a variety of paths through the course with many off-course opportunities, and it was virtually impossible to earn the highest possible score (although I think one dog might have done it), so scores were unpredictable. At the score table, we had the usual cluster of people praying for Super-Qs and still in contention hovering nearby and waiting to see how many Super-Qs would be awarded and whether they'd be on.

The pressure sits on the score table to double-and-triple check all the scribe sheets and the accumulator sheets, because there are lots of numbers involved and there's nothing worse than having to tell someone later that we've taken away a super-Q they thought they had earned (which we had to do saturday due to a math error, fortunately not one needed for a title and handled graciously by the handler, thanks Barbara).

The 22" class, as usual, had a huge number of entrants--over 30--so 22" handlers had to wait forEVER for us to finish marking the scores.

Linda Greene, seeing me put an "SQ" on her score, asked about 4 times was I absolutely positively sure about that, and I confirmed that yes, I was, and she said, "Thank goodness I don't have to worry about Super-Qs any more." What she DIDN'T tell me was that it had been the only thing standing between Kiwi and her ADCH! (championship title)

I was delighted to see them take a victory lap with their new ADCH pole shortly thereafter to cheers and applause.

Saturday ran very late, until after dark, at least 6 or 7 p.m.

Sunday Super-Qs

Sunday was similar, except that Snooker was the VERY last class of the weekend, and 22" was the VERY last group to run, and it was well after dark so people ran under artificial field lighting rather than daylight, and the cold began creeping in, and many competitors abandoned ship. We had *so* many scratches that it wasn't clear how many Super-Qs we'd be able to give until we had completed the running order.

Furthermore, this course had only 3 reds right next to the 7-point obstacle, so we knew that you'd have to do the highest-possible 51 points AND be among the fastest to do it to earn a super-Q. All of us remaining to do score table also had to run 2 dogs each, so the score table seemed chaotic at times, but we kept at it, double-and-triple checking as we went. [Special thanks to those who stuck it out to the bitter end to help me at the score table--Sandy Zajkowski, Holly Newman, Karey Krauter--]

It astounded me how many 26" and 22" competitors remained for their runs after 6 p.m. on a Sunday, amazing hardy super-competitive NorCal peoples! Still, between trying to verify scratches and keep track of scribe sheets raining in on us, we made it through to 7:00, when competition ended. We sat there, working, with half a dozen people tearing down the field and half a dozen people and one judge hanging around waiting to see the final scores. I was cold, tired, pressured [but revved high with the excitement of the class], and so I think moving more slowly on confirming scores than I might have earlier in the weekend.

Sure enough, almost every group had multiple 51-point scores, so they weren't all going to get Super-Qs. In the end, several of those took themselves out of the running by touching their dogs before crossing the finish line, so they still Qed but, because they had no valid course time, they ranked below those who earned a time at the finish line.

The very very very last individual mark I made on the accumulator sheet was "SQ" for Dave Bennett and Zack. About 40 people (OK really only 2 or 3) kept asking Are you sure are you sure, he's had one taken away from him before?! And I double-checked with Karey looking over my shoulder and, sure enough, it was a Super-Q for Zack, and holy cow, another ADCH for the weekend! So, with the remaining dozen of us cheering and screaming and applauding as loudly as we could, Dave and Zack took their victory lap around the field, and then we all went home.

Other titles

ALSO earning an ADCH this weekend, Lauri Plummer and the delightful pointy-eared Lark ;-), who's one of those dogs about whom you think, "What, they don't ALREADY have their ADCH?" I missed that entire escapade, so I can't fill in the story.

And two others, Katrina/Maddie and Jeanne/Brandy Mae [OK, which is the dog and which is the handler in each team?!] completed their Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) Silver and ADCH-Gold this weekend.

I Was SO Busy That--

Dang, I never got to sign *anyone's* ADCH bars! I hope they reappear at the next trial--

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodbye Little Black Dog

SUMMARY: R.I.P. Scully
Scully the little black dog, whose breed is listed as Verwende Prinses ("the spoiled princess"), was going strong until just a little while ago. She made it ten days past her 14th birthday, still competing in a few agility classes here and there. Scully's human mom adopted her as a rescue because she was cute, but this cute little mixed breed (sometimes mistaken for a Tibetan Terrier) went on to phenomenal success in a wide range of canine sports.

Scully was, as I understand it, the most-titled dog in the history of the Mixed Breed Dog Club:
  • In USDAA, she earned both her regular and performance Championships (ADCH and APD), but went wayyyyy beyond that. She very nearly earned her Bronze championship (triple the ADCH), before moving do performance and doing it all over again, even getting all the way to a Gold Snooker championship. She was so utterly reliable in doing gambles--age made it hard for her to make time or get opening points (and she had such SHORT little legs!) but she always looked like she was flying through the gamble part at a distance, her long hair flowing and hiding those little legs.
  • In CPE, she earned her championship (C-ATCH) three times over and had made a noble stab at earning the C-ATE (like earning 10 championships but with more rigid requirements) before her aging body slowed her down enough to gradually withdraw from collecting more Qs.
  • In obedience, she earned her U-CD (UKC) and MB-CDX (MBDC).
  • In conformation (yes, the mixed breed dog club has conformation classes, too), she earned her championship.
  • She also earned Rally titles and participated in all kinds of activities.
  • As a result of all her activities, she earned her Mixed Breed Versatility title five times over, which required achievement in seven different areas.
But of course, more than that, she was a good girl who could be left on her chair while her Human Mom went out and about at competitions, and she'd stay there, waiting and watching. She loved being fed treats from a spoon, and often was. She was a cheerful and willing girl. She was hard to get photos of because of those little black eyes in that long black fur, often turned out to be a cute little black blob. I was always pleased when I could get a nice photo of her.

Goodbye, Scully; in so many ways, there's no other dog like you out there.

Gads, I hate it when dogs get old.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

PVP Silver Team

SUMMARY: Photos from Labor Day USDAA Regional

Just got these lovely photos from a friend. This is Tika and her Performance DAM Team (AKA Performance Versatility Pairs) partner, Brenn, with their silver medals after coming out 2nd of 36 teams after 5 rounds at the Regionals. One of the high points of our agility career.

P.S. The shirt I'm wearing is our team shirt from when Tika, Brenn, and Skeeter went to the final round at Nationals in Team a couple of years back. Another high point. And I'm SURE that shirt is why we did so well on this day.

(Thanks, Erika, for the photos.)

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best Corgi Christmas Photo Ever

SUMMARY: Just go look.

Corgi channels christmas tree.

Oooh, thanks! many muddy paws for permission to repost it here.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Going To Agility Class

SUMMARY: I love going to agility class and here's why.
Agility class is way across the valley, up a winding road into the hills. At certain times of the day, the commute is a bear. And that long and winding road is, well, long and winding. When I first started (1995(!)), I desperately tried to get anyone at all to make that drive with me, it was SOOO long and SOOO far away.

After all these years of driving it once, twice, or even three times a week, I no longer think anything of it. Really, if weather and traffic are at their best, it's only about a 20-minute drive.

And I love going. Oh, sure, so very often these days I am stressed about how much I have to do and how little time I have, and if I were to stay home for 3 hours instead of going to class (10 minutes to close up the house & computer & get treats & such, 25 minute drive there, 15-20 minutes to potty the dogs and get set up, 90 minutes class, 15 minutes to take off shoes, put away dogs, etc., 25 minutes back down the hill... it adds up) then I'd be able to get so much more done.

But saner heads prevail (as in dogs who will be INsane if I don't go). Plus I pay for it whether I go or not. Waste not, want not.

No matter how stressed and overwhelmed I am before class, how tight my chest is on my drive up the hill, by the end of the evening I am relaxed, breathing easily, cheerful, imbued with a feeling of having accomplished something of value.

The evening is structured, so I don't have to make major decisions. I have to listen and watch and learn. I have to figure out how to handle a course--but with ample confirmation and assistance from the instructor.

Sometimes I'm frustrated with my dogs or myself. Like last night, that serpentine into the tunnel with Boost where she knocked the bar every time no matter what I did. Or coming out of the tunnel and wrapping over the jump, where she knocked the bar every time no matter what I did. Shades of some of my futile bar-knocking exercises at home! But I had an expert watching and helping who could confirm that I was doing the right thing, and identify what the dog was doing, and give some suggestions for later.

A safe, helpful, useful environment.

The view from Power Paws is stunning. Last night, instead of seeing miles and miles of sparkling valley lights, we saw only a swath of lights around the valley's perimeter surrounding a mysteriously dark center. We gathered at the edge of the field to observe, and realized that low-lying fog had obscured many square miles of homes and businesses. The instructor talked about some of the things he's seen in the weather patterns from their aerie on the top of the hill as we stood together, wondering and admiring.

And there are the friends. We chitchat a bit, we joke in class, we laugh often--far more than I do in my regular everyday life.

Last night we had a reunion of our old Wendesday Night 8:15 class, who got to be so tight together. Then Lisa's dog broke (structural issues), and I couldn't manage 2 classes a week any more so dropped that one, and Jenn got a new puppy and decided to focus on him instead of her older dog, and Ashley moved to the world-team class on a different night...

But last night we all came up to celebrate Ashley and Luka's triumph from last weekend's AKC Invitational. (He not only won all four preliminary rounds, but won them with the fastest times of any dogs in any height at the event; then he won the final round with the fastest time of any other dog in any other finals group. Pretty big achievement.)

He brought his crystal bowl engraved with the 16" Winner title, and his gigantic blue and purple ribbon, which I could hardly take my eyes off because I looooovvvve blue and purple. Classmates brought food that nearly overflowed the small tables out in the field that PP keeps on hand for the occasional treat. We feasted on grasshopper pie, tamales, crackers, various cheeses and sausages, guacamole, chips, a variety of drinks...gosh, only 24 hours later and I can't remember it all.

We ate and chatted and congratulated Ash multiple times. Now I know how a small town feels when the boy next door becomes the starring Superbowl quarterback. We're all so proud, even though we really had nothing to do with his success, which was all his own hard work. Makes us feel good. Maybe we hope his skill and success will rub off on us. We all fondled the ribbon and the bowl, and he didn't even try to stop us.

As I drove home, I realized--dang! how could I not have taken any photos!-- but also how lucky I am to have such a wonderful place to go with my dogs, such an excellent opportunity for bonding with my dogs and my friends, for learning something new, for getting some exercise and fresh air, for relaxing and stretching and getting back in touch with the reality that there's more to life than just getting things done at work and around the house.

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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, October 03, 2009

Head for the Hills

SUMMARY: Short hike with the dogs instead of agility
We're taking this weekend off from agility. There's a CPE trial going on, at which Boost's younger half-sister Quas ("kass") just finished her C-ATCH (championship). We're not going much CPE these days, as much as I enjoy my CPE weekends. I am working hard at cutting back on agility, and on enjoying my weekends reclaiming the life I used to have.

So, in that vein, when today broke sunny, clear, and cool, I scooted around doing various chores and errands (recycling: check! bank: check! (bank--check--ha ha?) flu shot: check! (H1N1 shot not available yet) basic blood test: check!) and then headed for Santa Teresa County Park again.

This time around, instead of starting out close to sea level and climbing 1000 feet, I drove up to the parking area in the middle of the park and we did a couple of loops for about 4 miles with cumulative elevation gain (and drop) of maybe 700 feet.

The weather was gorgeous, this park is basically right in the middle of our urban area with gorgeous views, and yet the trails were nearly abandoned. In our 2 hours there, I saw exactly 3 other hikers (and they all had dogs! what does that tell you about dog owners?) and maybe a dozen bikers. The parking lot with MUTT MVR is virtually empty.

Admittedly, climbing 200 feet up a trail in the direct sun was pretty warm, and everyone wanted a drink when we came to a good resting point. Me, of course, using my Salinas/Monterey Agility Racing Team agility water bottle.

Most of the hillsides were monochromatic golden, summer-dry mostly nonnative grasses and thistles. But that just made the splashes of color more brilliant and the seedheads more attractive.

Dogs had to be on leashes, and for a lot of our hike, this diagram was a pretty accurate depiction.

We had a lovely hike, which tired out the merle girls for approximately the 30 minutes (with stops) that it took to get home again. Ah, well. 

And since I don't want to upload and describe all the photos twice, go here to see the complete set of photos from today.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scully Retires

SUMMARY: Scully--Verwende Prinses--treats her friends to ice cream and it's COLD out there plus going nuts with the camera
You'd never guess that Scully is closer to 14 than 13. She's been mostly retired, trying to get just 1 last Q for her lifetime bronze but just not quite fast enough any more most of the time. Plus she's a LITTLE dog. Plus a princess. Scully's class-time retirement party was last night, so we visited the class and took photos of everyone there to celebrate.

OK, maybe they were mostly there for class. But Scully's human dad came up for the mini-party, too; he made awesome ice cream

and it was still excellent but would've been even more excellent had it been 2 days ago and 100 degrees instead of last night at 60 with a brisk and icy wind. Yesterday: Summer. Today: Winter. Gotta love california.

Scully could hardly hold still, she was so excited. This is about the only shot where she's not in full hyper motion-- with her human family, waiting for some ice cream.

Mostly the Little Black Dog looked like this in all the photos.

You would hardly believe that this little active fluffball, multiple agility champion and possibly the most-titled dog in the Mixed Breed Dog Club's history (to be exact: ADCH APD SACH RCH-Bronze SCH-Bronze TM-Bronze AKD-Gold AGD AJD; C-ATCH3 ExSN ExJP ExCL ExFH ExWC ChSN ChST ChJP ChCL ChFH ChWC ChJU U-CD MB-CH MB-CDX MB-RA MB-VM5; EAC EGC EJC CGC), spent the weekend in the hospital being treated for just-discovered kidney disease and a tetch of pancreatitis. She will be getting IV fluids two or three times a week for the rest of her life. I guess if you get ice cream with that, it's not so bad.

Other guests/students:
Sparkle (Scully's Little Black Adopted Sister):

Bernie the Beagle:

MinPin Belle:

Porsche the Wonder Corgi:

Savannah who whupped everyone's butts in 22" Masters Gamblers last weekend:

Dylan, who looks perfect in sunset lighting:

Sooner,  the Papillon whose ears drape gracefully down the sides of his head instead of standing upright in a butterflyish manner, and who was curious about everything except what it would be like to hold still for the camera:

Boost and Tika had to wait in MUTT MVR until the 2nd class of the evening. Tika demonstrates that a really good shake, when in a freeze frame, looks pretty dorky:

Still dealing with my little crappy point and shoot, which likes neither motion (great for photographing dogs) nor any kind of darkness (great for photographing around sunset). But as long as I was there and the lighting and sky were beautiful and the nearly full moon was up--what the heck--get artsy and all that.

Waiting their turns.

Walking the course.

No hamming it up for the camera from the instructor demonstrating push-throughs, nope, not at all:

Tunnel. Moon. Agility handler. What could simpler?

Moon. Field light. Instructor. Successfully finishing a course. What could be better?

More photos uploaded here but mostly of interest to class attendees.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nothing Is Happening Here

SUMMARY: Here we are. Yes. [Twiddles thumbs.]

There is a USDAA trial this weekend and it's within my limit of 2 hours from home, but we are not going. Part of my program to cut back on agility and reclaim my Real Life, which I can barely even remember preagility, it was so long ago. I am doing more hiking. I like it. I am doing crossword puzzle tourneys. Well--one, anyway. I liked it. I am even thinking about doing some yardwork this weekend. After all, I've been in this house 9 years this month and it's probably about time.

I will be home to celebrate my dad's birthday with the family. How weird is that, that I should be not at agility on a family celebration day?

Around me, the world is full of happiness and light, darkness and sorrow.

Just before the last trial, Knack the Border Collie, a really nice, fast Border Collie, who had been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma--same thing that killed Remington--crossed the rainbow bridge. Knack was not that old. Maybe Remington's age, but I think younger? (Rem was 9 and a half.)

Radar the Rodent Pointer, who was in our class many years ago, suddenly became really ill last week. He went to the vet and they discovered a huge hemangiosarcoma tumor on his spleen, which ruptured catastrophically while he was at the animal hospital. Just like that, Radar is gone. He was 12 and a half, but the day before, he was a healthy and active dog.

Last week, Tika's Nationals DAM team teammate from last year, Apache the Terv, had found himself a totally awesome team, because among other reasons I am not going to Nationals this year. His Human Dad didn't really want to go last year, but I twisted his arm and they went and had a great time and Apache did so well that if we had all done that well, we'd have been in the finals. This year he had a team to make that happen.

A few days ago, Apache suddenly became really ill. He went to the vet and they discovered a huge hemangiosarcoma tumor on his spleen, which had ruptured but not quite catastrophically but has metastasized into other organs. I visited him Wednesday night and his Human Dad and I talked a lot about everything related to losing dogs and getting dogs and life with dogs and disappointments and successes, and we ate ribs and I took a bag of freeze-dried liver treats and fed most of them to Apache.

They are not going to the Nationals. Apache is ten and a half and was still running great Masters USDAA agility at 26".

We are all hugging our dogs tighter and tighter every day. I cannot lie that it is a downer, especially because it so strongly brings back Remington's illness.

But, OK, all is not despair. Apache's and Tika's classmate, Luka, is off in Austria at the FCI World Championships, with two other very local dogs, the amazing Bay Team border collie Icon and the steady-under-fire sheltie Wave. And our instructor is the coach and it's very exciting to have so many people we know out there.

Tika and Boost are healthy and happy. They both ran well in class this week. They are running well in the yard, but we're still doing a lot of simple things just to have fun, mostly running from one tunnel to the next and over some jumps in between. Because we don't have another trial until, oh, say, NEXT weekend.

The lawn is growing in a spurt of autumn enthusiasm. The local fresh fruit at the grocery seems particularly wonderful right now--nectarines, pears, strawberries. Yum. Eating lots of it.

I am going now to hug my nonhuggy dogs again and go to bed with them alongside.

We are here, with not much to report about our own lives.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Focus Pocus

SUMMARY: Nancy Gyes graciously allowed me to post her tribute to Focus. (I was going to excerpt from it, but there's nowhere to shorten.)

"Focus Pocus"

Geri Hernandez' incredible dog Focus died this morning here at Power Paws. He would have been a very young five years old in just a few days.

It was a nice morning, Geri and a couple other friends were here to train, we walked the first course, Focus got warmed up, and Geri ran him through half the course. He did not take a cue to get into a tunnel, and while were laughing at the error, he just dropped to the ground and was gone. We did CPR all the way to the vet, but there was never a moment that he showed any life after that point.

He was such a cool dog; friendly, silly, intelligent, sensitive and curious. When Geri would come for training he would come into my home and like he did anywhere he visited, he had to poke around all over the house, just being nosy and checking out every piece of furniture in every room and stick his nose in every closet. That done he would return and sit in Geri's lap while we visited. It was just so "him".

He was one of the most remarkable agility dogs I have ever met. He read Geri's mind usually and was as biddable and willing a working dog as I have ever met. That is rarely combined with the athleticism, speed and teamwork that he demonstrated every time he competed or was trained.

I never ever saw him miss a weave entry or exit, but I was told he did so once:) And he never failed to make Geri laugh at the occasional errors. He was a star. At 4 years old, and Geri's first time on the World Team, he took 4th place at the FCI World Championships in Finland last year. He was her first border collie, and her first real agility dog. The 4th place finish was the "best ever" for a first time world team member. This was after he won the AKC Nationals at barely 3 years old. He had a couple MACh's, an ADCh, and a lot of friends and admirers in the agility world.

Geri was his biggest admirer, and the rest of us were close seconds. No one was luckier than her to have been owned by a dog like Focus. No one is sadder than her at his loss.


Nancy Gyes, friend to Focus

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Very Sad News

SUMMARY: Focus, Geri Fernandez' world team dog, died today.

We just got notice from the world team coach that Focus dropped dead on the agility practice field this morning. They said that he went from alive to gone, in half a second, no sign of life.

Focus, last year's (?) national AKC champion, is one of only four dogs on the U.S. Large Dog World Team (through AKC). World championships start Sept 18.

Focus, an amazing Border Collie, was slightly older than Boost is now. I can't imagine Geri's heartbreak in so many ways.

This is the third Border Collie around here in the last year or so who is gone just like that. A younger dog, out for a hike and swim, dropped dead on the spot. Another friend's older border collie bounded out to the start line, staggered, and collapsed.

In the last case, they found a ruptured tumor on the spleen, likely hemangiosarcoma, same thing that took Remington (and so many other dogs I've mentioned, including Knack, another agility friend's border collie, just last week). I've heard so many stories about dogs with hemangiosarcoma literally dropping dead with no warning. But I don't know that we'll know what causes all of these sudden deaths.

I knew Geri and Focus only slightly, as they're from SoCal. They came up and practiced in our class just a couple of weeks ago. None-the-less, once again I'm gut-punched by another sudden loss.

Here's a video of their amazing collection of runs at the AKC nationals last year. [Sorry for the repost, those who already got this via email.]

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Special Dog on a Sunset Hike

SUMMARY: Skyline Ridge Sierra Club hike and Rhubarb.

Most of the trails that we hike don't allow dogs, even on leash. However, assistance dogs are allowed. Rhubarb ("Rhu") hasn't been along for a while, but he and his avid hiker Human Dad joined us last night. I love the fact that he's a mixed breed.

For a dozen photos or so about our hike-- with brief comments--visit my photo page.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Hiking Among Other People's Dogs

SUMMARY: Blurry photos of the day, with exercise.

Here's the plan for Aug 22:
* Meet friend in Hayward (40 minutes, elevation ~10 feet) at 6:30 a.m.
* Drive to Yosemite Valley (4 hours, elevation 4000 feet).
* Hike up the trail to Glacier Point (4 and a half miles, elevation 7000 feet). (It's called "four mile trail" but it's longer than that.)
* Hike back down.
* Drive home.

That's dang ambitious for moi, up 3000 feet and back down in one day. I was tricked into agreeing to it by another dog agility person whose name we wouldn't mention if it didn't happen to also be Ellen. The dogs will stay at home.

You want to know what 3000 feet straight up a granite cliff looks like? Here's a photo from Glacier Point looking down into the valley where the trail starts. That's a lonnnnng way.

With this in mind, on Friday evening I walked a brisk 4 miles around the neighborhood with the dogs--no uphill/downhill, though. Then yesterday hiked at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (hopefully not one that will be closed due to budget crisis) in the Santa Cruz Mountains with 2 other friends. About 6-7 miles round trip, cumulative elevation gain about 1000 feet (and back down again). It was a perfect day for a hike among the redwoods, but unfortunately, dogs weren't welcome on the trails we wanted to do. Fortunately, they were welcome on some trails, so I got in a few shots of dogs.

With my crappy point and shoot, which doesn't do well in low light (can you say redwood forest?) and particularly not with motion (can you say dogs?). But here ya go anyhoo.

Borzois. Turns out my friend's son was once a student of the borzoi owner. Small world.

Labrador. They zoomed past, playing tug, to distract the lab from the borzois.

Cattle dog. Following along with a group of people on horseback. Didn't matter whether it was trail or water; faithful doggie.

And finally, an eager Siberian Husky who had better things to do than posing, or even slowing down.

Then there's me at the obligatory redwood forest cutaway with historic dates. Left hand, birth of Christ. Right hand, 1066 and the Norman Invasion. Didn't have another limb that would reach out to the early 20th century.

The full photo essay (about 40 photos, with captions, crawdads, snakes, and more trees), here.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fair is Fair

SUMMARY: TMH takes a break from the TMH dogs and visits the county fair.

Have cameras, will travel. To the really really scaled-down urban Santa Clara County Fair. A mere shadow of what it was 20 years ago, barely hanging on by its fingernails. County supervisors want to sell off the land for housing and/or business. We seem to be the only county in california that can't put on a successful Fair. This year, parking and admission were free, and STILL almost no one showed up. Sighhh--

Apparently dogs were allowed onsite, as we saw several on leash. But the chaos with Tika and the livestock would have been--uh--distracting. So they stayed home. But plenty of doggishness going on anyway!

We arrived at 11:30, to discover that "dog demos" occurred from 10-11:00. I had spent 20 minutes trying to find anything at all of use on their web site. They told me that (a) there is a fair, and the dates, and (b) the concert times. NOTHING else, NO...THING. I wonder why no one comes to the fair?? Had I known about the dog demos... well... So onward.

Most of the goats and sheepies looked like dogs in their x-pens: Snugged up against the side, keeled over, snoozing their little heads off. But this goat couldn't get enough attention. He liked his face and throat scritched exactly the same way that Tika does! And wouldn't let me go for hours! The beast!

It was kind of like agility--people walking around with handfuls of ribbons. Except in their pockets.

At the midway, dogs of diverse breeds hung around everywhere!

And there was dog food aplenty, too.

Whoaaaaaa! Now here's a probably non-dog-related unexpected dead celebrity encounter! Do you think that this helped them attract more kiddie customers?

In the building containing all the various student's submissions in zillions of categories, I particularly liked this prize-winning container garden:

And here we see that my sisters with their Very Large Dogs(tm) as reported in an earlier post do not in fact have a monopoly on riding in style.

Finally, last thing before we left, we met this gorgeous critter who, it turns out, is NOT in fact Boost. His mother was [something like] an Aussie/Border Collie mix and his father was [something like] a Kelpie/Cattle Dog mix. This would have been my PERFECT next dog, absolutely perfect!

Blue merle. Mixed breed. Smallish (a bit smaller than Boost). Short hair. Apparently extremely energetic and driven, based on how he was described (although here he just wanted to keel over and snooze his little head off, probably after worrying about all those unherded goats and cows and sheepies all day). What are the odds I'd find something like that if/when I'm ready for the next one?? But this gives me hope that he/she might be there--someday--

Meanwhile, if you'd like to peruse ALL the County Fair photos, including piggies and fun with photoshop, with captions, go here.

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