Saturday, December 30, 2006

Where are we going?

Wow, where to begin. A new year is like a new car - it smells good, it's clean, there are no dings, dents or scrapes, the tires still have those little rubber whiskers, there's no dog hair on the seats and no soda cans on the floor. OK, lots of things to work towards next year...In no particular order:

In Agility:
  • I need to get solid contact behavior without having slow contact obstacles. I think that's going to work out to be a sit on the dogwalk and a touch on the A-Frame and I need to think more about the teeter. Murphy isn't fast enough to blow that contact - and he's long enough to have a foot on the contact where he pivots. I've got the behaviors back for the A-Frame and the dog-walk but now I've got SLOW dogwalks and A-Frames. This too will settle out.
  • Distance, Distance, Distance...Another aspect of the speed factor - if I can send to a tunnel from 20' away - or to a jump and then a tunnel at 30' for that matter I can get ahead of Murphy and be where I need to be for the next line. This means distance on flips too.
  • I'd like to have a more solid startline behavior. I haven't trained it as much as I should because it seems to break my obedience waits. Yeah, I know - train don't complain.
  • Titles of course are secondary - but...I'd be happy if we can button up our NA/NAJ titles and get through OA/OAJ. I'd like to come out in 2008 in Excellent. If we can make it there this year - that's fantastic.

    Obedience:
  • Heelwork, enthusiasm in heelwork, focus in heelwork - consistancy.
  • I need to get off the cookies. I know it's my problem, not his. I'm using the cookie (or cheese) because it's easy. Shame on me.
  • Staywork - I'm not sure what happened - we went from amazing stays 3 months ago to problems now. I've got to work through the bunny-hop waits and the position changes on the stays when I leave. If I leave and he holds position he'll stay there without a problem. If he breaks it's going to be in the first 10 seconds. I don't understand what that is happening and obviously I'm struggling to fix it. One of the things I start tomorrow are fieldtrips for stay work. I don't want to blow another Q because of stays.
  • Titles: CDX by summer. I know that utility is called futility for a reason, but I'd sure like to be frustrated in Utility next fall then still farting around in open. We've got all the utility pieces, it's a matter of putting them together.

    Tracking:
  • Let's get certified and sign up for a tracking test.

    Therapy:
  • Stay out there, stay committed and make a difference - it's not a lot, but it's what I can do. I'd love to find a kid and get Murphy involved in reading with kids, but I'm going to let Murphy tell me which way he wants to take this. With puppy coming I want the therapy work to be Murphy and Mom time.

    For me:
  • I need to get in better shape.
    Time is our issue in agility - it's not Murphy - it's me. I need to lose weight and speed up. That means eating better, sacking lunches and getting out there. Enough with the snoring and heartburn too.
  • I need to remember that dog sports are what I do for fun.
    Murphy doesn't fill out entry forms, he doesn't drive to the training center. He's for the most part pretty happy hanging out on the couch with Q. All of these games he plays for me, he enjoys spending time with me and he plays the game because it makes me happy and it's time with me (the cookies help too). I need to remember to not take things so seriously. I'm competitive and I like that quality about myself, but I WILL NOT become that ultra-competitive "If I don't win my dog hates me and I'm a real bitch to be around" person. I've seen people turn into that over the last year and they're no fun to be around - not at shows and not at home.
  • I need to chose my stressors and let everything else go.
    Working 50 hours a week and answering pagers at 2am is fine - it's part of the job, but I don't need to take that home with me when I'm not on the pager.

    In General:
  • Have more fun with people that matter. I'm looking forward to really enjoying the agility and obedience circuits this summer. Getting out there, tenting, camping, BBQing - mixed drinks coming out of the mini-van, getting pizza delivered to a tent in the middle of a fairgrounds somewhere in Mass...Fewer hotels, simpler weekends. Bring on the wipe-ies :-)
  • Chris Zinks says that a canine athlete (in any venue) needs to be fit - fit defined as 20 minutes of trotting three days a week - running around after a ball of playing with another dog does not cut it. Galloping is not the same, chasing a tennis ball is not the same. So we've got to break out the bike, the lungeline, something...fitness means less injuries; and fewer or decreased rick of injuries is important. Murphy's weight is only half of the picture...
  • I'm hoping for a happy, healthy and beautiful baby boy in January. I've got a list of all these things I'll do differently than I did with Murphy - I need to remember though that he's a baby too - being a puppy is cool and he should get to be a puppy for as long as that lasts. One of my greatest mistakes was rushing Murphy out of puppyhood.
  • I would like to get puppy into the conformation ring for the Essex Cluster - again, the running thing :-) I also want to get a better idea of what UKC is, from a conformation standpoint the owner-handled/no professional handler aspect is really cool. Something I need to try at least once or twice.
  • More housework, more dusting - less cartoons and computer games.
  • Where have we been?

    I think it's helpful to everyone to stop and pause at some point and reflect on the path that has brought us to this point and impetus that leads us to our next path - whatever that may be. To know which path to take is to know where one has been, so what was 2006 for Murphy (and me).

    January:
    Some of the baby behaviors continued to plague us in the novice obedience ring - we had mouthing and silly stupid puppy behaviors. Murphy goofed off (or stressed) both days of the Schenectady trials in 06. We were hoping to button up our novice title at that show, we (I) went in too confident and it was more than an ego bust to leave there without legs and with a naughty dog.

    February:
    In February 06, we shifted gears and dove into agility in preparation for our local spring trial. We backed off obedience work and I found myself with a stronger dog, a better relationship and a better understanding of what I needed to do to be as strong of a teammate to Murphy as he was to me.

    March:
    We began cross-training again for the Novice ring - with two legs under our belt from '05 we strengthened the heeling and tried to boost Murphy's confidence.

    April:
    On April 1st we traveled to Amherst, NH for a one day trial. Murphy kicked butt, didn't stress and put in a really really nice performance to earn his CD and second place. It was a high for us - the next day Murphy turned 2 years old. The following weekend Murphy took high score at the waggles versatility match. The following weekend Murphy ran in his first ever agility trial - he had problems with the chute (he didn't know what it was) but got around the course confidently.

    May:
    Murphy's first outdoor agility trial - some sniffies, some inattention - but it's clear he's enjoying the game. Murph manages to pull off his first jumpers leg - over time but clean to win the class. We had some nice runs at a UKC trial in NY, silly mistakes by both of us - anticipation, not enough obedience work...Murphy and I start to work towards getting into the Open Obedience ring, meanwhile hitting the agility road almost every weekend.

    June:
    Ring stress in agility manifested by visiting ring crew - but coming back to play and then disconnecting again - ain't this fun! We keep plugging. One very hot weekend in June we come out Open O in Topsfield - as a match more than anything else. Murph showed me that he's a green dog and where our holes were - he was honest and credible but his inexperience showed...

    July:
    I decide to counter the ring crew sniffing by leaving the ring when he left me and simply putting him away (in his crate) when he blew me off no matter how slight. This makes Murphy mad, he doesn't like coming out of the ring and not getting cookies and fanfare. At the same time I'm working a lot of obedience in prep for a local three day show. I stepped up my expectations and came down hard on Murphy when he did something wrong. The net result was that when I said "oops, my bad" on a jumpers course in NH and he knew he was wrong (even with it being my fault) he didn't want to play the game anymore. It's not fun to play if you're wrong and it's not fun to play if mom gets grumpy when you make a mistake. In open obedience I saw a dog who didn't have the stamina to make it through an open routine. He'd start strong in the heeling, but would envitably shutdown by the end and make one stupid mistake each class - that's OK - green dog stuff. I spent the rest of July repairing the "wrong factor" eating a lot of agility runs. We'd go in the ring and just run - if we got an obstacle we got it - if we didn't - we didn't. I didn't go back and fix stuff - we just ran - confidence stuff.

    August:
    All of our run eating and no-fault system pays off at the Golden Ret trial, we had some nice runs, no stress (and our share of mistakes that we ran around) and we got another jumpers leg and first place. The following weekend in Westfield we blew a contact on a brilliant standard run and made a few time mistakes. In Stowe things really came together and Murphy came through on some really brilliant NADAC courses. It seemed like we were back to where we needed to be.

    September:
    We took all of September off from competition. It was a nice respite that we used to train a lot of open obedience work.

    October:
    Two weekends at Amherst - our lucky trial facility. The first weekend Murph blew his retrieve over high - both days. Both days the high jump was on the aisle side of the ring, and both days the dumbbell was thrown into a "crowd" and a bunch of dogs waiting to go into the rally ring. The pressure of all of those dogs were too much for Murphy and when given the command to retrieve he sat there - defiant - I'm not going down there...My submissive doggie, I can understand. We proofed and proofed for it. The second weekend in Amherst started with the mouthing again (I HATE THAT) and a DQ before we even got to the figure 8. It's so frustrating after all that training to have a perfectly nice and experienced judge tell us "just more training". Gee thanks.
    On the agility side of the world, Murphy started blowing contacts - they hadn't been a problem in the past, but the darn dog-walk cost us twice at the Keene, NH show - that made three dog walk contacts that cost us three legs (the title). So back to the drawing board.

    November:
    I chaired the local obedience trial, Murphy entered in open both days. The first day I was in a hurry to rush into the ring and add that to the chores I was supposed to be doing - the long and the short of it was that Murphy's attention in the heelwork SUCKED. The rest of the exercises were solid. We were looking at 2-4 points (total)lost on the last four exercises (drop, retrieve on flat, Retrieve over high and broad) and a big fat DQ on the heelwork. Bleck.
    We entered the Thanksgiving cluster in Springfield, MA. Three days of agility: inside on sand. The first day was the best of the three - some sniffing on the livestock sand, but coming back to me to play. We blew both runs on time - but, there was an amazing moment in that first jumpers run where I was worried about running into a post and was late calling Murphy and he literally pivoted and took a 24" jump from the pivot. I was impressed - and totally forgot that there was another jump after that one - whoops! The rest of the weekend got worse, Murphy got stressed, he wasn't getting enough romping time elsewhere and the confined space and roughly 900 other agility dogs (plus 500 rally/obedience and 3,000 breed dogs) were too much. On a bright note: Murphy passes his therapy dog test and we make our first visits to the nursing home.

    December:
    Ah, the month where nothing gets accomplished! A mild fall into winter was great - it was warm enough to work outside, but it was too dark to really get anything accomplished. Training has been limited to agility run-throughs (emphasis on contact behaviors and distance) and a couple of nights each week obedience run-throughs. I need to step things up as we're entered in Schenectady again next year.

    SO! That's where we are in the final stretch of 2006. I had intended this to be one post and focus on our goals for 2007, but as you can see I had more to reflect on than even I thought I had. So there's 2006 in a nutshell. I think I'll sleep on 2007 and get back to y'all on the flip side.

    One of those moments...

    Murphy had a therapy visit at the nursing homes today - one of those "golden moments" that everyone with therapy dogs talk about when they are asked why they do it. It was a lousy drive over this morning, several inches of snow and unmaintained roads - a bit treacherous to get out there. We made our rounds asking if people would like a visit from a therapy dog. A couple of the residents are afraid of dogs or highly allergic so we stand in their doorways and do some tricks: high 5, spin, wave and take a bow. Sometimes it makes them smile, sometimes it doesn't and they remain fearful or they are too sick to be lifted by silly yellow dog antics.

    One woman about my mom's age asked if we'd hang around and wait for her mom to get back into bed and then make a visit. We waited for a moment doing some tricks in the hallway for some other residents and when she was settled we went in for a visit. The woman was pretty non-verbal and obviously had some motor difficulties as well. My Murph went in there and rested his chin on the edge of her bed and sat down looking at the woman. The woman's daughter put her mom's hand on Murphy's head and it stayed there for a moment, then the woman slowly began moving her hand a bit back and forth - "soft" she said, Murphy moved just inches closer and sighed softly, closing his eyes. The woman began talking softly while stroking Murph's head. The look on her daughter's face was as priceless as the look of joy on the patient's face. The woman asked me about Murphy's training and we talked a bit about the long-gone dogs of her youth - she had grown up with farm dogs - who apparently looked a lot like Murphy (my guess is that she may have had border collies which were sometimes called swap collies or farm collies - some people are trying to "recreate" farm collies by crossing Aussies with Borders - for whatever that's worth - my guess is that they were less a breed and more of a type of working dog bred down from generations of working stock - and their ancestors well represented in the working border collie population of today - but I digress.)

    Each time the woman said something Murphy's tail would move ever so slightly (wag, wag) while the rest of him remained completely stationary - listening to everything she had to say - as if he understood what she was saying and knew it was important that he not miss a word. Its interesting to me to see my goofy boy become so serious. The innate quality that makes him so suited for this kind of work - the moments when it's not about training - you can't train empathy, it's about dogs doing what they do best and then getting out there and sharing that quality and making a difference for someone else.

    If you ever think about doing therapy work with your dog do it - train for it. It's a legal high and a beautiful way to make a gift to someone else. Each visit is different and those moments don't come every time, I remember Kasei having similar breakthroughs with kids while he was on duty - and remembered why it used to be so much fun.

    Saturday, December 16, 2006

    Murphy's idea of heaven...

    We had a holiday party at our training center this afternoon, it was a potluck affair with simple agility and rally courses for people to run. It really wasn't meant for staff - I brought Murphy because he always goes with me - when I got there one of Murphy's favorite people was there - the granddaughter of one of our regulars - Paige. She's 10 and Murphy adores her - absolutely adores her - and she is so good with all dogs, but seems to have a special place in her heart for Murphy.

    So I asked her if she wanted to run Murphy through the courses today - one was half agility (jump, tunnel, jump) then table where the dog had to sit on the table while the handler grabbed an ornament out of a bucket, then they had to heel through a rally sequence. I was so proud of Murphy who left me (he's a momma's boy) to play the game so happily - AND as excited as he was to be playing with his friend (off-leash in a room full of other dogs and bags and bags of cookies on the sidelines) he didn't get naughty or mouthy - didn't even think of it.

    The second course was three tunnels, L called it barrell racing - basically the barrell racing pattern with the dogs running through tunnels and then across the finish line. Again Murphy pulled out his best behavior to play not only with Paige, but then again to play with Mardi (who lost her golden last week) - she wasn't clear about what she wanted him to do, but he did everything she asked of him with glee.

    After games people gathered for some lunch type stuff, Murphy was still hanging out with Paige, I helped clean up the big room and came into the front room to find Murphy, with Paige and two other girls her age all snuggled up on the couch - I offered to put Murphy away so they could have some lunch and it was so funny to see Paige INSIST that Murphy remain with her.

    Murphy's ideal afternoon: 1) play obedience and agility and get lots of treats while not working hard and taking nothing seriously; 2) share the buffet plates with three gorgeous and lovely young ladies, who alternately slip him bites of noodles and cheese and kisses on the muzzle; 3) Belly rubs by above stated lovely young ladies and finally 4) coming home for an undisturbed nap on the couch with Quincy to dream of another perfect afternoon.

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Why we train...

    One of those stupid moments - Q had his face in my pint glass full of egg nog - I squirted him with a water gun, he jumps off the side table and takes the glass with him - which shatters on the tile floor - egg nog and glass shards everywhere. Murph sees spilled egg nog and of course goes for it - Q sensing victory also trots over to the dangerous mess. In one motion I tell Murphy to sit (sit on recall anyone?) and stay while scooping up the cat and tossing him in his kennel. Murph is seated 5' from the mess. I leave the room to fetch the vaccuum and mop while Murphy sits there. I get everything cleaned up safely and think to myself - THIS is why I do all of the work, this is why we train, this is why education is important. Titles don't really matter - it's having a dog you can live with and you can keep safe.

    Unfit blogger...

    Wow, I am way behind in my blogging. When last I left you Murphy and I were headed off to Springfield for the Thanksgiving cluster. We had some success there - some nice runs - but also some stress - it was a big show - a lot of hurry and wait - the waiting was painful...Anyway, we're back and focusing on obedience whilst we work our way through the holidays...


    PS: Our Christmas card this year:

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Starry Starry night.

    I haven't blogged in a while - too busy I suppose. Too many things undone these days. And the list grows. There are things I should make time for and this is one of them. The BOTC trial is over - went off without a hitch. I am so grateful for the people who stepped up to help, it made my job so much easier and I haven't yet taken the time to get thank you notes out (sigh).

    Lee is back from Michigan, it was a last minute decision for him to come home this year. I entered the Thanksgiving cluster so I'll be leaving town shortly after dinner. I feel badly leaving town on his only annual visit.

    Life with Murphy has been up and down. He blew - and I mean sucked rhino butt - both of his open runs at BOTC. The first day the awards in the other ring was too much for him. The second day he was just naughty.

    On a positive note Murphy passed his therapy dog test and has already completed his first visit to a local nursing home. He seemed to really enjoy it so we'll keep going and find our niche.

    On another note, I went outside tonight to put spam in the freezer (Murphy's favorite trial treat) and noticed the stars. It's a completely clear night - cold as heck - but clear. There are so many stars the sky almost looks artifical, like a trip to a planetarium. Makes me think of the Don McLean tune...One of my very favorite soul-seeking songs.


    Vincent
    Starry, starry night.
    Paint your palette blue and grey,
    Look out on a summer's day,
    With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
    Shadows on the hills,
    Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
    Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
    In colors on the snowy linen land.

    Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
    How you suffered for your sanity,
    How you tried to set them free.
    They would not listen, they did not know how.
    Perhaps they'll listen now.

    Starry, starry night.
    Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
    Swirling clouds in violet haze,
    Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
    Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
    Weathered faces lined in pain,
    Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

    Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
    How you suffered for your sanity,
    How you tried to set them free.
    They would not listen, they did not know how.
    Perhaps they'll listen now.

    For they could not love you,
    But still your love was true.
    And when no hope was left in sight
    On that starry, starry night,
    You took your life, as lovers often do.
    But I could have told you, Vincent,
    This world was never meant for one
    As beautiful as you.

    Starry, starry night.
    Portraits hung in empty halls,
    Frameless head on nameless walls,
    With eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
    Like the strangers that you've met,
    The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
    The silver thorn of bloody rose,
    Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

    Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
    How you suffered for your sanity,
    How you tried to set them free.
    They would not listen, they're not listening still.
    Perhaps they never will...

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    In through the out door...

    I didn't train last night - still recovering from my overnight work. Damn. I'm not as young as I used to be - plus all of the sleep issues I have I think it takes me twice as long for half as much recovery. Q has discovered that climbing up on my nightstand and knocking off my can or glass (plastic now) from the top will always get my attention - just like a golden retriever - he'll take bad attention as easily as good attention. It worked because it woke me up enough to get the day moving which ultimately fills his food bowl. I get to the office actaully early for a change - and can't get onto the 4th floor because the elevator knew it was only 7:48 and I didn't have my pass-card...stupid elevators!

    I decided to take tomorrow off - good for my sanity I think. I can sleep late and get the house cleaned for my guests and the party...that just makes today hellish and chaotic - oh well!

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Sunday and Monday...

    I got home last night and went to bed prompty at 8pm - yeah I know grade school right?

    It was a long day even after sleeping in a bit at the motel and then leaving right after we finished. The good news is that Murphy was a lot better than on Saturday - and the judge who had been so horrid to us last year was actually a reasonable human being. Murphy flunked the heeling again when we did an about turn into another team doing an about turn in the other ring - Murphy made faces at the cutie lab in the other ring and then generally lost his heeling focus. We've had worse for sure. We also got through the rest of the exercises with minimal problems - a couple of points here and there...

    Tonight I had to work on a server upgrade from five in the afternoon until 3:30 - it made for a long evening...Quincy is upstairs bouncing off the walls now that I'm home and Smurf has an upset tummy, I grabbed McD's from a 24 joint and it sucked butt - nothing like a burger sitting around for hours and fries from yesterday morning...

    Three days until the CCA event!

    Saturday, October 21, 2006

    The first snow...

    As I made my way through NH yesterday the rain in Burlington turned into snow. It's early for snow - even in Vermont. Most of the leaves are still on the trees and it apparently was havok on my property. The old apple tree in the front of my house is gone, last summer with a heavy load of fruit 2/3 of the tree broke. This time the snow and fruit was just too much for it. Mom and Dad - always so quick to bail me out when homeownership crises arise already took the tree down and hauled it away. It's probably better that way - I don't have time to mourn the tree's loss - I do things like that - cry over an old apple tree that already lived on borrowed time - brought back only slightly after I cleared the ants out of it the first summer I owned the place. At least I don't have to come home and be surprised by the damage - I'll have to check the lilacs too - I'm not hopeful.

    Naughty Dog...

    Murph had fun today - I only wish he had included me in his fun! Two weeks ago the high jump was the enemy - he didn't want to jump into the crowd - fair enough. So we worked high jump retrieves for two weeks. Today Murphy got into the ring, got distracted and took the high jump for fun. Swell. Heel work marginal - possibly passing - probably not. Figure eight - Murph takes the high jump again - literally going out of his way (20') to take it. He had the crowd in tears of laughter. Oh and the mouthing is back - swell. We've got tomorrow under a judge that I don't like so all bets are off. I'll take a chill pill and just go with the flow.
    On another note, I saw my biggest fear develop in the Open A ring - second group of sits. A mastiff got up and went over to the golden next to him - not sure what happened, but the golden squealed and bolted out of the ring.. The mastiff - not standing starts staring down a collie (who starts barking alarm). The GSP on the other side of the mastiff gets up and looks worried as the mastiff makes eye contact. An english cocker also gets up and runs towards the stewards, the Mastiff goes to give chase. A well-meaning steward grabs (and I mean grabs) the mastiff by the collar - a miracle she didn't get bitten. She's not holding the mastiff and cocker with the Mastiff growling at the cocker. A pointer breaks as well - visibly stressed. The Norfolk gets up and hides behind the gating - between the gating and the wall. The judge tries to coax the norfolk out from behind the gate. It won't come out, so he grabs it by the scruff and slams it into a down. Only at this point are handlers brought back into the ring and the mastiff is excused. The collie held and there was a little
    Chihuahua at the very end who hid his head and stayed. Everyone else got the chance to try the down stay again.. It was a small wonder no one got hurt.
    Lastly, It was sad to see an open B dog - multiple OTCH top 10 nationally dog working off a 200 go down in the long sit. The gasp from the crowd and the look on the dog's face when its handler came back said it all - it knew it was in serious do-do and it sucked to be her today. Now my dog is sometimes naughty and I try to accept that with whatever decorum I can muster. But I have never ever heard anyone joke that someone had better dig a hole in the parking lot because poor X (dog's name withheld) isn't going to get to go home tonight - a half-truth of course, but when I left a couple of hours after this team had finished the dog was still working or being worked. That's Utility B, Open B (and the warm-ups that go on before that) and two hours of schooling and correcting. Maybe it's because of the way I was raised - but that kind of rogue drilling just doesn't seem right to me. I don't learn that way and I don't expect my dog to learn that way - and here's the big secret - you have to have a border collie to do that. I don't know any golden who would take that constant work with zero positive reinforcement and still want to play the game.
    Naughty dog is sacked out on the bed, he's had his bone and he's very content. I went out and worked him a bit before dinner - let's cut the food bribes, work for me now and the spam will follow. I deliberately set him up to be stupid and corrected him from doing so. A friend of mine here with me with her utility dog had some good wisdom - she's a soft trainer too - with a soft dogs - if we were talking horses she'd have a light hand. She suggested we put him in a down when he's naughty - we'll see what happens tomorrow. I'm nothing if I'm not optimistic.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Time flies...Another week goes by

    Well another week is over and we find ourselves once again at the Motel 6. This place is becoming home. Murphy is a professional hotel dog, he walks in the room - looks for the motel 6 soap on the side of the tub (for some reason motel 6 soap is yummy - he doesn't eat hilton soap, holiday inn soap has no appeal, never thought about econolodge soap - but motel 6 soap is money). I've gotten pretty good at twarting the soap eating and I beat him to it again today. Murph did his business, had his dinner and is snoozing peacefully on the bed while I catch up with all of the electronic comminucation I missed while on the road.

    So it was an interesting week for us - first, we got a new puppy. It wasn't planned and it's not staying. It's a sheltie baby - one of Cassy's - and she's just hanging with us while the perfect home is found. It's interesting living with a sheltie - I told Cassy it's like dating a gay man: it's fun having her around, I like her a lot - more than I thought I would...I truly believed that I could only live with a golden and now I can see that I could live with her I think - but it'd never work out long-term. I don't do barking and the princess act that I find cute today probably won't be cute when she's older :-) The first night I had her I took her out to potty and she was three-legged lame. Yep - I've just broken Cassy's puppy. I bring her inside - she's fine. I bring her outside because she hasn't peed and she's three-legged again - only this time on a different leg. Sheeeeesh! Last night we spent 20 minutes out in the rain because she was so mad that she was getting wet that she couldn't even think about potty. So we both stood there (I let Murphy go in as he's not a particularly big fan of rain either), getting soaked in a battle of wills. She eventually peed btw. I'm not sure either of us learned anything though. Diana's adorable - just a big fluffy cutie. She's adaptable, Murphy loves her and the Q-man thinks she walks on water. Diana and Quincy were instant friends and Murphy seems pretty content to watch the two young'ens wrestling. Quincy is getting some of his dues paid back in spades and it's wonderful to watch the "kids" enjoying being kids. I call her princess and I hope that she finds a wonderful home where she will be treated like the royalty that she is.




    So Murphy and I had to switch gears back to obedience for this weekend. I think we're so close. It's just a matter of putting everything together. I have to keep two very important things in mind this weekend - regardless of score - I need to keep positive. I need to make sure that Murphy doesn't think he's failed. If he thinks he's wrong he's still getting worried on me. That's OK because there's virtually nothing I can fix in the ring anyhow. Just have fun Murph and we'll be OK. Smile Erica and have fun - that is why we do this afterall isn't it?

    One more week until goldenfest at my house. I can't wait to see Linda, Molly and Siena again. Kara will be up for the weekend too - I've got so much planned for big fun!

    We're not on until 11 tomorrow morning - that means a pretty leisurely trip tomorrow morning, relaxed, happy, smiling and fun Open A :-)




    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Cheshire Debrief...

    Quincy had his snip-snip on Friday before I left town. My mom was an excellent kitty caregiver and made sure his recovery was quiet and that he was well fed in my absence...If I didn't know (and hadn't paid the bill) I wouldn't notice anything different about the Q man. Cats are truly hardy critters.

    It became clear to me that fall is not only on its way - it's here and it's COLD. The frost on the car this morning was thick enough to have necessitated scraping if I hadn't decided to waste fossil fuel and just let the car warmup.

    Ah, the trial. Nice site - sort of weird rituals. I've never been to a trial where they let you tape off your reserved parking spots - seriously - it's a thinned out forest in a park where the trees are spaced out in such a way that you can park between them. People set up their tents and canopies and then use liberal amounts of surveyors' tape to mark territory for their vehicles. Honestly one of the strangest things I've seen. This behavior wouldn't fly at any other trial, but everyone did it here.

    Murphy's runs were average this weekend - not what I hoped. His jumpers runs were first - both days and they were both pretty crappy. I got him out too early on Saturday and today he just wasn't with me. His standard run on Saturday was great - but we had a refusal and a blown dog walk contact. Today's standard run I revved him way the heck up and it turned out to be too much - he got ahead of me on a straight line and ultimately got mouthy with me - boom! Done. Disappointing from a competitors point of view, but it was a nice weekend overall.

    First I ate better (or worse depending on your perspective) this weekend than I have in a long time - lobster topped sirloin on Friday and the Olive Garden on Saturday night (pumpkin cheesecake to die for). Secondly some of my friends finally got legs they've been working so hard for all season. DJ and Tegan got their first Open Standard leg after an entire years worth of trying - DJ is already in Excellent Jumpers. It was an outstanding run and she has so much to be proud of - I admire DJ's patience and positive outlook. She can have an awful run (we joke that Tegan can take down an entire course - and she has in the past) and still come out of the ring beaming about the one piece that went well. DJ can see the faintest glow in the middle of a hurricane and every run Tegan puts down is rewarded with all of the pomp and circumstance of a MACH winning run. So when she really lays down that great run the emotion is contagious. Lori and Hannah nailed down their AXJ title after a season of coming so close to the apple on every occaision. If it can't be us, I'm sure glad it was them - well deserved ribbons this weekend.

    Obedience next weekend. I did some dumbbell work with Murphy this weekend with some dogs and some pressure and I'm not replicating the problem. I'm going to email Lori to see if I can crash her rally class on Tuesday - maybe just show up at the end of class and ask people to hang out and create some pressure with dogs he doesn't know so well...

    On an unrelated note that feels a bit like a "cave-in", I turned the heat on tonight - didn't need much, but man, the house was chilly and I'm nothing if not a sucker for comfort.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Forgot...rule out the physical problems

    I asked the dog obedience list about our difficulties with the high jump - everyone mentioned physical stuff. Is he sound, his he in jumping condition, is he moving funny, any dificulties with motion or jumping? And they were right to ask that question, that would be my first thought too - if I didn't have my hands on this dog every day. There isn't an ounce of fat on him and he's an amazing athlete.

    We all watched him tonight in agility. His trotting is clean and sound - equal reach on both sides. Murphy was jumping cleanly, no stutter steps, no hesitation, no chipping, no compensation AND he's still clearing the jumps by 8" or more above the top bar. The one thing we all saw was that on the indoor footing is that as he's galloping he's doing a more collected gallop on the footing - he's got his hind legs underneath his body - the same motion he does when he has the puppy zoomies - it's collection and extension all at once and it's very normal for him - what would be out of character is full out galloping without regard to his footing - Murph's too smart for that.

    Lessons learned...

    Ah, the corporate debrief - the place where the business casual meets the whiteboard. I've put together some lessons learned from the weekend in Open A...and the learnings are surprising - at least to me.

    1) Murphy understands the exercises now - he didn't in July, but he does now. In July we had focus issues - big time. Murphy ran out of gas half way through the class, that doesn't happen any more. We've got a pressure bubble problem for sure - I actually think it has more to do with ring gating than people based on some experimentation yesterday and today. He happily jumped towards Demi and Cassy tonight, but was really nervous about jumping towards the gating yesterday when Lori and Hannah were working on the other side of the room - Or Hannah is incredibly scary and Demi is not...



    First Kiss

    Demi and Murph share a moment way back when they were both baby dogs


    2) Murphy is far less reliant on food than I am. Holy cow, I'm so hooked on using food rewards. Murph doesn't need it - I do. That's lazy handling on my part. It's just as effective to be an animated handler between exercises as it is to reward the behavior with a wad of cheese. You'd think agility would have taught me that already: teach the exercise, the dog knows the exercise, let the dog do his job.

    3) Don't snack on chocolate between out of sight exercises - you dog WILL catch you and won't be pleased.

    4) Lastly, Novice looks like a lot of fun now - damn, open is complicated! So many pieces..

    We've got an agility trial this weekend - talk about multi-tasking and cross training! Murphy ran agility tonight and he did really well - some really nice speed and defineatly a good work ethic - his weaves were blazingly fast and accurate - I really just can't believe how awesome this dog can be - and he just keeps getting better and better.

    Some goals for the weekend - run fast, run clean - ideally I'd LOVE to finish Murphy's novice jumpers title this weekend - and I'd really love to be greedy and pick up a standard leg as well - GREEDY GREEDY GREEDY!

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    The joys of Open A....

    Well, for the second day in a row the retrieve over the high jump killed us. Same problem as yesterday: I set Murphy up, tell him to wait, throw the dumbbell and send him (all on the judge's orders of course). Murphy sits there, not moving when sent - ditto for a double command. Today's judge called exercise finished as soon as I issued the second command (no chance to help him today). We were qualifying up until that point today...Lost 4 points on heeling (mouthing), 2 points on the drop, 1 on the retrieve on flat and 1 on the broad jump. We got full points for the stays - so we were working off a 192 - suck, suck, suck.

    A whole new kettle of fish. I don't think it's physical - he hasn't shown any reluctance to jump and he continues to "over jump" each obstacle - he's easily clearing 24" with at least 6" to spare. His retrieve on the flat was fine - absolutely no hesitation. No hesitation on the broad jump either. I did some new things today in the ring - lots of pump-ups. Some hand touches, some cheerleading - The best thing about the whole weekend was that today he stayed with my between every exercise - he remained engaged and he remained focused - though I did rev him up slightly too much before going in and got some mouthing, but I used my "second command" in the heeling to tell him to knock it off - and he did - and didn't stress about it either.

    Some of my thoughts on the high jump problem:
    Pressure - as in spacial pressure. The high jump was 3' from the ring gating where people were walking by, he would be jumping into a corner and back side that had probably 10-15 dogs and 20-25 people who were watching rally and utility. I do know that Murphy is very submissive and will yield whatever he has to a dog that wants it - we've been trying to work through this - but he still won't retrieve an object that is contested. Perhaps having the jump where it was and jumping into a crowd was too much for him. The retrieve on the flat and the broad jump put him into space in the middle of the ring or on the side against a physical wall where there wouldn't be pressure from spectators and other dogs.

    Not understanding the exercise - I'm not sure this fits but I always have to raise the topic when something goes wrong. He's been pretty solid on this exercise, in previous trials he's gone out to the dumbbell around the jump and jumping on the return - he's made mistakes but he's always moved when sent. He didn't even move today. He didn't give me the look like he thought he had done anything wrong either - and he gamely moved onto the broad jump when asked. If he thought he was wrong I think he would have made that obvious - his being wrong in the past has resulted in a stress meltdown - there was no stress today.

    Sport confusion - Does he have this exercise confused with agility and was waiting for me to move and then release him. Yesterday when I moved towards the jump to help him he was ultimately successful - however, the agility picture would never look like that to him where I'd only take two steps and send him to a dumbbell. Plausible..

    Too many stays - we had a problem last week where he was breaking his stays as soon as I stepped away - this after a long run of really successful stays with variable reinforcement but we had solidly moved into the 7 minute sit and 15 minute downs without any problems. I'd ask for a sit (or down) and he would stand up as soon as I moved away. If I walked away and he stayed in position he'd stay there forever... This didn't affect our "waits" - it only affected his "stay". I didn't work him the last 4-5 days before the trial on anything other than some baby stay stuff - position, walk away, immediately come back and treat..really heavily rewarding the initial 10 seconds. His stays weren't a problem this weekend - with the exception of a really slow down when I came back from the long sit smelling like chocolate cookies (I got busted - "you've just eaten chocolate - I some before I go down"). If the problem was a product of too many stays, wouldn't I have seen this with the retrieve on flat and broad jump? Even more so I should have seen this on the drop on recall...

    I keep going back to the pressure thing - I need to start recruiting crowds and their dogs to help.I should also up the reinforcement history on that exercise. Perhaps backing up and clicking the initial jump? Murphy will have a few days off of obedience, we've got an agility trial this weekend. And then another obedience trial in two weeks...

    Off we go again!

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Close but no Q

    I'm as pleased with Murphy as I think I could be today - he was a good boy and came very close to qualifying in open today. I'm optimistic for tomorrow.

    There were some difficult surroundings today - three little girls hanging over the ring gating (ack) and several dogs on the other side of the ring gating in the direction that we were sending the dumbbell for both the flat and over the high jump.

    I still need to work on transitions - it hasn't been an issue at home training so I know it's a matter of comfort level - his and mine. I need to be more animated between exercises and I need to be better at keeping him engaged with me - more hand touches, more spins, more stupid pet tricks.

    Murphy's heel work was nice I thought - a slow sit, and he forged on the fast which I compensated for by moving faster, the ring gate about turn always re-connects us. I had some inattention on the fig 8, but he was there. His drop was perfect - on man he was brilliant. No problems with the retrieve on the flat, we rean into a bump on the retrieve over high. My throw could have been better - for sure. I try to throw left, this one went right - into the corner of the ring where the rally people had gathered with their dogs - waiting to go in and waiting for scores. Murphy does have issues with competition for his dumbbell - in that he won't compete for it. If another dog wants his dumbbell - or he thinks someone else does he will yield it to them without question.

    So we position ourselves in front of the high jump, I throw the dumbbell, Murphy waits, I send him and he sits there - "this is a test", I'm not leaving (argh!), I give him a second command - he sits there. So we've just NQ'ed - what do I do? I decide to help him aka schooling in the ring. I move with him and bowl him over the jump (the judge - a lovely very very very nice lady) gets a bit flustered: "You touched your dog!" - yeah, by accident - the schooling part was on purpose - the touching was accidential. The judge rushed in towards me after I "schooled" and Murphy debated whether or not to return over the jump - the judge though - and that's what she's such an awesome lady - noticed this and backed off so Murph came sailing over the jump and fronted beautifully. :-)

    His stays were prefect - no problems. What a good boy! So, the lessons learned - there's always something. ALWAYS something. Murphy seems pretty tuckered out at this point. I'll order some dinner and go to bed early again tonight. The show starts at 9am tomorrow. We're "on" at 11:15 so I figure we'll mosey in around 9 tomorrow.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Greetings from Motel 6...

    I slept in a bit this morning and awoke to Murphy chomping on something (not unusual as he has 24/7 access to chewies). For some reason the chomping sounded differently and sure enough he had the remote control in his mouth. He has NEVER done anything like that so I was more puzzled than pissed - though I am pissed.

    I packed slowly, we really weren't in any hurry to get here - we played agility a bit this morning - not a lot - enough to get Murphy moving without burning him out. I had debated whether or not to run him - I didn't have a strong "gut" either way so we ran.

    The foliage was peak the whole drive - seems a bit early for that. The Stowe and Woodstock exits were backed up onto the interstate and both exits have long ramps too...The drive took me about 2 1/4 hours - not bad, especially when I was really careful about speeding on a holiday weekend - the state boys in both states come out for the tourists this time of year. Surprisingly enough I didn't see any troopers in the traps, a couple with cars pulled over though.

    So we're here, Murph and I took about an hour to relax and settle and then we went out to get some dinner. I'm pleased to report that I remembered to beat Murphy to the soap - for whatever reason the motel 6 soap is the best tasting soap ever. He nearly always gets the one on the side of the tub, woofs it down and smiles the remainder of the evening. The site wasn't open for setup tonight which means we'll have to leave early tomorrow to get a crating spot. I'm actually feeling pretty good. I feel like I've worked through the stay stuff we had earlier in the week and I'm really looking forward to seeing exactly where we are with the individual exercises. There are two fantastic judges here this weekend doing Open A which is always encouraging - if we NQ we're not going to get raked over the coals...

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Repairing the stays...

    For whatever reason Murphy's stays are broken. Not the stay per se - duration is not the issue. Its when I walk away, Murphy has started standing up. So close to our fall show season - Souhegan is on Sunday - it's dissettling to say the least.

    So I've backed way the heck up and we're drilling baby stuff. Three steps and return. Walk away, hide, come right back. Rebuilding whatever confidence we've lost. It's going well - though Murph is clearly tired of all of the testing - if he hadn't given me the scare I wouldn't need to test him would I? We'll work stays tomorrow night with the gang and that'll be that.

    We haven't schooled any of the individual exercises since Tuesday - and unlike the July shows I used as matches - I don't feel compelled to cram for them either. Which must be a good sign. Over all I was feeling pretty confident, a week ago I couldn't wait!! There's going to be nothing worse than blowing the stays after a nice round of individuals. Let's just go and be credible - if we flunk, let's flunk in style. It's my lucky show venue, our lucky hotel and heck, I'll wear my lucky shoes - no matter how badly they smell after the summer agility season :-)

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Mixed Bag.

    Went out and worked Murphy in obedience today. This was supposed to be our last schooling session before the show this weekend. There were very good bits of our session and some very bad parts of out session and I frankly don't know what to think. For one, Murphy's heeling, his drop, his retrieve on the flat, his retrieve over high and the broad jump were great. His stay work sucked butt. He got into this thing today where he decided to break every time I left him - no not 30 seconds after I left - 2 and a half steps after I left he was standing up. So a 30 minute training session (I played some agility after our run-through) became an hour training session - I KNOW his brain was gone, but I just had to work through it. So what do I do now?

    I think I'll work him a bit tomorrow morning before work - just stay and a few steps - a couple of steps backwards to rebuild some confidence, then I'll proof some more at waggles tomorrow night. It's hard not to get frustrated a bit - and that's the last thing he needs to read from me. So suck it up and try to fix it without stressing anyone out (especially Murphy).

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    A clean garage is good for the soul

    I asked my dad to take a load of stuff to the dump this morning, I had a ton of recyclable stuff in big plastic bags - well, some of it has been there for a long time. With my schedule I just don't get to the drop-off center often enough. The garage has become chaotic as a result - stuff everywhere. Well, we loaded up the stuff I had bagged and my dad wasn't satisfied with the garage so we spent an hour (Mom, Dad and I) cleaning the garage. Dad went into his super organization mode: "dog stuff over here - camping stuff over here" OK, but Dad doesn't really understand that the camping stuff really is dog stuff, I tried to mention that but it went on deaf ears - plus never critize free labor.

    Went out and ran agility with Murphy - he was really good again today - but surprisingly is falling out of the weaves in the middle...this is upsetting. But, I think I have the answer...In both courses today the weaves a straight on entry - and we hit them with speed (yay). Murph made his entries but I think he had too much speed to maintain them - falling out at the 6th or 7th pole, popping right back in and accellerating again. So, the fix I think is to drill the poles with speed and to check him a bit when he's coming full tilt at a straight on entry.

    Since I'll spend most of October on the road (weekends at least) I bought Quincy a littermaid...I wondered if he'd use it - but it turns out it's his latest game - so I needn't have worried too much. I also moved him out of the guest room - I suppose he can still eat in there and he'll have the whole upstairs while I'm gone during the day, but with guest season coming up pretty soon I suspect that Linda wouldn't enjoy a kitty roommate.

    Tomorrow is an obedience day if it doesn't rain (though it's expected to be a wash-out) I might lay down a track or two...

    Took this photo of the boys the other day, one of my favorites:

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Dreams from the past.

    I don't remember many of my dreams, maybe it's because I wake up so many times during the night, I feel like I don't hit my REM sleep until the early morning. My dream this morning was so real, so fresh so vivid. I found myself in Scotland - a place I've never been and a place that I would never expect to find a familiar soul. I found myself in a marketplace that was less Scottish and more Arabian, I can't describe the atmosphere other than it was peaceful, the crowd seemed to be intent on their own missons as though they didn't expect foreigners or tourists. I was shopping for a gift for my grandmother of all things I was looking for a rug template, Nana enjoys knotting and latching large wool rugs and has been looking for a particularly large kit. As I was leafing through burlap canvases I looked up and saw his eyes. Oh my god - those eyes. His eyes always got me, blue and deep I always felt like I could see into his soul and likewise he could see into mine. Then there was another woman in my dream - exotic, beautiful, she was brilliant - you could tell. Curly dark locks and those Italian green eyes that little girls wish for their entire lives - this was the kind of girl he'd go for. But his eyes met mine and stayed there - There was the embrace of old friends long separated by time and life. It was warm, it was comfortable, it was safe and I never wanted to let go. As the alarm pulled me from his arms I could still feel the closeness - the strength in his arms around me.

    So what does that mean? I don't honestly know. I was tempted to pick up the phone and call him tonight - just to see how he's doing. He's a million miles away not just geographically. He's probably married with children of his own by now. We had fallen apart long before we stopped talking to each other or got involved with other people. Lives diverged, we both took the high road in opposite directions. So what does it mean that I had this amazing dream where everything was great - and I thought life was good before. I can't help but feel a little empty right now. Is this a sign to go forward or to go back? Time is a wicked captor sometimes.

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    Procrastination...

    Something about having undone jobs "out there" that makes them feel larger than they really are. Carrying the weight of undone tasks is more exhausting than actually doing them. But alas, the tasks on my list are still out there.

    I got up with the best intentions, went out and had a good breakfast - there's truly something about eggs that is uniquely weekend-esque. Murphy and I went out to play agility this morning and laid down some really awesome runs. Murph was fast and on the ball today. I'm so pleased with his work the last couple of days. Tomorrow we switch gears and we'll do an obedience run-through, I'll be extra pleased if the obedience work goes as well as the agility has the last couple of days.

    We'll see! Maybe I'll even get the house cleaned before practice tomorrow :-)

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    Things that go bump in the dark...

    There's something living in my garage. I have no idea what it is, it only makes noise at night. Yeah, it freaks me out - a lot. I go in the garage to get Murphy's stew out of the freezer and something is moving around in there hiding behind recyclables and under the junk car that hasn't left the garage in years...On a side note if the house goes on the market this fall that car will have to leave :-)

    The critter was there last night too. Argh - I hate not knowing what's in there. A squirrel I can live with, a skunk not so much. The good news is that it's probably not a skunk - first there'd be some residual odor of skunk, secondly a Skunk would panic (I think) and let off their stink bomb when I went banging around in there last night trying to flush whatever it was out of there. The flushing was unsuccessful again tonight - obviously. Guess this makes garage cleanout a priority. I think I'll ask my dad to come over next weekend and take a load to the landfill - just throw stuff away en mass, fill up the truck and cleanse the garage. Cleanse the garage and cleanse your spirit...OK maybe not - but maybe a wee bit of my conscience.

    Went out to train tonight, had intended to do obedience stuff but Marilyn and Val weren't able to come out tonight and after the stickies on Wednesday night I figured that we should do some distance work. The agility stuff was setup so we played agility. For all that was sticky on Wednesday I didn't expect our session this evening to go well at all, but Murph was on. He's back to saving my butt and handling like a sports car. OK he's not a Lamborghini but he's a solid Peugeot. I got some distance work on a serpentine that I wish folks had seen. Oh well. I wonder if some of the sticky was our first indoor practice in many moons - thats certainly something to think about - we do a lot of obedience indoors and very little indoor agility in the summer.

    It's supposed to rain all weekend, heavy rains tomorrow - so we'll be indoors for agility tomorrow. I'll have to watch for the stick tomorrow, perhaps after tonight he'll only be tacky - silly obedience dog.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Tilting at Windmills

    I had one of those days at work where it seemed like the harder I tried and the more I was able to cross off my list the further I sunk behind. Disheartening to say the least. Fighting battles against invisable foes only to have those same foes turn around and bite me in the kiester.

    Murphy and I were supposed to meet Marilyn (and Sampson and new baby Colby) for practice tonight in Hinesburg - I just wasn't able to break away from work stuff in time to meet them and Marilyn's schedule is so booked these days - which is disappointing on so many levels. I want to meet the baby in the worst way (I hear he's a wicked cutie) and I spend far too much time training by myself already - I need distractions and eyeballs on what I'm working on - especially now that we're at the stage of proofing our open work.

    It ended up working out OK anyway. There were a few neighbors who were outside and one had their dog - one of Murphy's doggie friends. So working around a misbehaving bouncing "I want to play" lab was a nice distraction. I had an interesting observation though - the more Jack wanted to play, and the more out of control Jack was about wanting to play, the better attention I got from Murphy - and today we worked without food. A paradox right?

    Not so much - training and attention usually leads to good things. Play with another dog is rewarding, but it ain't meatballs - or the promise of potential meatballs.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Sticky Dog!

    It's been a few weeks since Murphy and I played any agility, we went out and did some pretty simple sequences today and while Murph was gung-ho about the game it was clear we were pretty rusty. We've been working a lot of obedience lately: heeling, with me, fronts, finishes - all stuff that may be working away from me - but ultimately is close work. I forget sometimes how hard it can be for a dog to work close and far at the same time. I found myself having to do more babysitting than I would have a month ago when Murphy really seemed in top form (agility-wise).

    Tomorrow is an obedience day so we'll see what happens when I actually want him to be sticky...

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    One more thing...

    From the seminar last weekend  and this sounds awfully Milan-ish. There was insistence that there is no such thing as a shy dog. Shy dogs are really anti-social creatures who can be taught to accept the company of other dogs and people. Great, let's force dogs out of their comfort zones. Let's tell people with shy dogs that their dogs are anti-social and encourage them to "socialize" them. People unknowingly then over expose their dogs to situations and other dogs that are scary, turning fear into reactivity. It sounds great on the surface, but like any popular theories it'll be misused and treated as gospel for masses. I love it.

    Saturday, September 16, 2006

    Long day at the seminar...

    Murph and I are one day into a two day seminar with Celeste Meade. Number one border collie team in the country for obedience. I find it fascinating how perception differs from reality when it comes to folks who label themselves "purely positive" and their perspective on what the top obedience trainers do to their dogs in training. A couple of tidbits that surprised me: 8 of the top 10 obedience dogs in the Northeast are trained with e-collars. Yep, that's right - using e-collars to train and perfect go-outs, etc. I find that shocking (and I didn't intend to use the pun) but I guess not surprising. According to Celeste e-collars are making a comeback - the latest re-fad in training, people have seen them work SO well for imaginary fencing stuff that they've reinvented them for performance events. Celeste is NOT a fan of e-collars and won't allow them in her building - not even for herding. She feels they have a place in field work however, as it's not practical to go into the water to correct a dog.

    One auditor mentioned that her dogs LOVE the ecollar, when they come out of the cabinet her dogs jockey for position on who gets to put it on and go work. Celeste pointed out that the dogs are not jockeying for the collar so much as what the collar means for them...oh boy, we're going to go swim, we're going to go get some ducks - they are in drive and what happens in drive - true drive - is different than what happens outside of drive. One of Celeste's border collies is a peel 'em off the ceiling type of high-drive dogs - that is a different critter than the casual mellow fellow that her OTCH dog is - granted, I've only just met him and he's 11 - but he's a pretty casual dude.. Learning the key to your dog's drive is so important.

    Back to perception vs. reality. Celeste is by and far a positive trainer. She doesn't use the word correction, she uses the word reinforcement instead. Hence my deduction is that there is positive and negative reinforcement. This seminar is focused on motivation - motivating the dogs to want to play the game. I've read Terri Arnold's books (and that's where Celeste started her training) and I've spent a great deal of time trying to prevent "poop face" in my dog. That's great, but I've done little to make every effort to prevent my own poop face.

    Heelwork should be an aerobic exercise. Celeste (who is in good shape) came off a 3-4 minute heeling demo markedly breathing hard. I thought I hustled before - I've got to step things up even more so. I also need to put more thought into what each foot is doing...the idea is to help your dog - some of the things like stopping with your left foot puts you into your dog's space. Murph doesn't have a space issue, but I do think I got faster sits when I remembered to brake on my right foot (then another left step and bring right up to it).

    Also interesting - in the first few minutes of the seminar Celeste asked us who played in what - meaning who did agility and who did tracking, etc. Celeste made an interesting point about agility runs. If you are aiming for a 200 run in obedience you're riding a fine line between NQ and that 200. To get a 200 your dog is always on that edge of control and motivation. I had never thought of it that way. Another slice of that apple is that when we have a fantastic agility run - you know the ones that make your weekend - but a bar was dropped or a contact blown - BUT the rest of that run was unbelieveable. You leave the ring after those kinds of runs and you don't care that you didn't qualify. Why should an obedience run be any different? Seriously - why is it any different if you have a great open obedience run and a tap on the broad jump? It's all about perception.

    Why should we treat obedience runs differently than an agility run? In agility we've got an advantage - we're running. The mere movement and running the course makes the game motivating for the dogs. What can I do as an amateur non-poop face to make the obedience ring as much fun as the agility ring? I've got some ideas. One of the things I learned at Essex was that I lost my dog inbetween exercises and getting him back was tough for both of us. Celeste stresses "pick-ups" like in agility where you drop your dog off one side and pick up on the other: Flips, switches - whatever you call them. It's an interesting concept. I've got a few weeks to figure out what is going to work for us.

    Another thing Celeste stresses is pet obedience - pet manners, pet "stuff". She won't allow people to move into her competition class until they've passed three levels of "pet class". When people approach her for private lessons she often tells them to go back to the pet classes and save some money - get the basics down - get the fundementals down. She stresses this over and over again, saying that she never ever gets upset with a student or dog having competition issues, she has HUGE problems with people who don't work through the pet issues before trying to do X,Y and Z. Pet stuff: Walk on a loose leash, wait, stay, social manners with other people and other dogs, sit, down, attention - really the basic stuff.

    Celeste also has an interesting perspective on dog-to-dog interaction - let dogs be dogs. In her classes the dogs are off-lead running around with each other - one simple rule - no greeting other dogs in front of the withers. Smell all the pee-pees you want but nothing ahead of the withers. Her solution to dogs and puppies doing this is to take the dog's collar and lift (saying nothing) - a puppy time-out if you will. There was no emotion in this at all - no verbal cues and it was really effective with the couple of dog-aggressive in the crowd. One terrier in particular went from visablly looking for trouble to being totally relaxed and in the flow after perhaps three of these reinforcements. It's all a matter of leadership skills - pet stuff I think she would say.

    Oh, and she won me over right away with the Cesaer Milan is full of crap bit. He's got two tricks in his bag - choke and pull. He might have some logical ideas of canine behavior but his toolbox is lacking and old-school - and if you really look at what he says and what he does they are almost two different things. But, like any other celebrity he's drawn into his own hype. I'm still not sure if I had to listen to him in person that I wouldn't smack him though...

    One of my biggest reliefs is that constant eye-contact attention is not part of the program. Attention when you're working, yes. But the style is overall let your dog be a dog - not a four-legged robot.

    So that was day one a lot of information to process. Murph is sound asleep and ready for bed and it's only 8:30 - truth be told I picked up the phone to call my folks and thought "it's too late to call them" - it was 7:30, so yes. I'm ready for bed too! So far I'm pleasantly surprised with the seminar so far. I'm impressed with a "dog" person who communicates as well with people as she does with dogs. I'm surprised that her methods are more modern than I had expected from someone in the game so long - but I think the major message here is that whatever is in fashion for training styles bits and pieces still have merit. The key is figuring out what works for a given dog.

    Whew, off to bed for us. Another early morning for us tomorrow as well. I'll summarize the second half tomorrow.

    E

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Where were you when the world stopped turning?

    I'm not one to dwell on awful things. I'm generally living in the moment with an eye to the future. However, todays bombardment of 9/11 images has me remembering back five years ago...I think Alan Jackson's song sums up the collective feelings of that day.

    It was a beautiful, warm, calm morning. I had driven down to Yankee Nuclear power plant in Brattleboro the previous day for a consulting gig - I stopped to see Nana and Baa on the way home - and was so shocked that the security at the plant was so lax - I walked right into the building without ID.

    Crystal blue skies, I had noticed them when I took Kasei for a walk at 8:30. We came home and I was watching the today show - at that point today ended at 9. They broke off one of those stupid beauty segments to say that that a plane had hit one of the towers. I watched the events unfold as if I were in a trance. My brother was home from school that term and I called the house. My dad had flown into Newark that morning, the old continental route from Burlington to Newark used to fly directly over the twin towers. It was a route I'd flown many times going to New Jersey for work years before. Lee had tried to call my dad's cell phone only to find it ringing on the dining room table a few feet away. Before the second plane hit and before we knew that it was a large plane (not a 20 seater commuter jet) that had hit the tower Lee was convinced it was Dad's flight. That thought never occured to me until he mentioned it. It was of some comfort then when they announced the flight numbers and points of origin (Boston).

    It was some time later that I became aware of the national guard activity at the airport - it's 2 miles as the crow flies from my house - the airport was silent and blaring at the same time - an eerie feeling. I went outside to get away from some of the pixels of horror. For the first time in a long time I felt alone - lonely even, somewhat empty. I had Kasei of course and he was as loving as he could be in his own way. I called a couple of friends on the phone, tried to get in touch with some friends I had in the city and failed. I was trying to remember where they lived in proximity to the trade center. I had interviewed at a firm on Church Street and had spent a Friday afternoon in the city on their dime - looking UP at the twin towers while listening to a concert in the plaza on a late August afternoon. I actually accepted my first job after college from a pay phone in the bowels of the trade center mall on that very day after deciding that NYC was not the place for me at that moment in time. If things had been different, if it weren't for Kasei I might have taken that job. I just couldn't imagine making him into a city dog.

    Months after 9/11 the sounds of F-16 fighter jets became a predictable part of living here - taking off and heading south on patrol every 6 hours: 5am, 11am, 5pm, 11pm - like clockwork for 6 months after the event.

    That day and week I was completely sucked into the news coverage - the horror, the thirst for revenge and the feelings of helplessness. Five years later the topic is still prime for discussion - where were you, what did you do, how did you feel, did you know anyone - It was the birth of 24 hour news, it planted the seed that we weren't so isolated - we weren't totally safe and invincible and we could never be naive to world terrorism ever again. We learned the lesson we should have learned in 1993 when those same buildings were attacked.

    On the 5th anniversary of those events it's also the eve of primary elections here - it's an interesting juxtiposition - heartfelt testimonies of people who've lost their husbands and wives cut to a bitter senate race commercial. It's almost comical in a way. I notice that none of that ads tonight mention the war in Iraq, Oil, terrorism. All the politicians are sticking to health care and amber alerts...

    And the world isn't the same - but time is change, time is heelng and we're stronger because of it.


    Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
    Alan Jackson

    Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
    Out in the yard with your wife and children
    Working on some stage in LA
    Did you stand there in shock at the site of
    That black smoke rising against that blue sky
    Did you shout out in anger
    In fear for your neighbor
    Or did you just sit down and cry

    Did you weep for the children
    Who lost their dear loved ones
    And pray for the ones who don't know
    Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
    And sob for the ones left below

    Did you burst out in pride
    For the red white and blue
    The heroes who died just doing what they do
    Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
    And look at yourself to what really matters

    I'm just a singer of simple songs
    I'm not a real political man
    I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
    The difference in Iraq and Iran
    But I know Jesus and I talk to God
    And I remember this from when I was young
    Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
    And the greatest is love

    Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
    Teaching a class full of innocent children
    Driving down some cold interstate
    Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
    In a crowded room did you feel alone
    Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
    Did you dust off that bible at home
    Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
    Close your eyes and not go to sleep
    Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
    Speak with some stranger on the street
    Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
    Go out and buy you a gun
    Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
    And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
    Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
    Stand in line and give your own blood
    Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
    Thank God you had somebody to love

    I'm just a singer of simple songs
    I'm not a real political man
    I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
    The difference in Iraq and Iran
    But I know Jesus and I talk to God
    And I remember this from when I was young
    Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
    And the greatest is love

    I'm just a singer of simple songs
    I'm not a real political man
    I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
    The difference in Iraq and Iran
    But I know Jesus and I talk to God
    And I remember this from when I was young
    Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
    And the greatest is love

    The greatest is love
    The greatest is love

    Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day

    Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Trying to be good...

    I'm trying to be a better planner and a little more economical. The first step is to avoid buying lunch every day - partly inspired by the government approving the use of viruses to eliminate the listeria that can be found on cold cuts. They call the viruses "Bacteriophages" and honestly it creeps me out. The article on CNN is here: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/08/18/edible.virus.ap/index.html

    I'm perfectly OK with the bacteria in yogurt and I don't particularly care about genetically modified fruits and vegetables. For whatever reason though putting a virus on meat that may or may not have a bacteria on it crosses a line in my comfort zone. Then there was the fact that buying a sandwich every day and showing most weekends was really draining the ol' pocketbook - it just doesn't make sense.

    So today I converted last week's pot roast to barley and beef soup, made a batch of corn chowder, made a batch of chili and put together a chicken casserole. Ambitious maybe - let's hope I actually remember to bring the lunches to work!

    On the training front I went out and worked Murphy for a while, he was very good - I've got to make it more fun for him, now that he's "got" everything 100% it's my job to keep it fresh and fun. We've got a seminar with Celeste Meade next weekend, she's focusing on the "want to do it" vs the "have to do it" - man, that's exactly what we need right now! I've got high expectations for this seminar - it's just that we need so much to get an experienced eye on what we're doing.

    I did pull out the scent articles again tonight and we were back where we were three months ago before I let them slip - Murph got the right article three out of three times with a full 12 articles in the pile. Yeah, I know I should have dialed back the expectations since we haven't been working them regularly and that we had trouble last time we did the articles. Shame on me, yay for Murphy.

    I'm up late for server work tonight, I remembered only as I was climbing the stairs for bed (Murphy and Quincy are very confused). Another late night - it's been too many late nights lately.

    Saturday, September 09, 2006

    Fall is in the air.

    It seems like April was yesterday and July just a heartbeat ago. Yesterday while I was stuck in the office all day the temperatures soared into the mid-80's. Today the 80's were gone and temperatures dropped all morning, then a hard rain and now that the sun is down it's pretty darn nippy out there! They are warning of frost tonight - something about that first frost warning that sends a chill of regret down my spine. It's no longer summertime - my most favorite season. It's getting dark earlier each day, the bird no longer wake me chirping at 4:30 in the morning - only one of these things I'm upset about of course.

    It's getting to be casserole and homemade bread weekends, you know those crisp and damp Saturday afternoons where the smell of baking bread is the ultimate comfort. Time to get back into the habit of cleaning the house Saturday mornings and freeing up Saturday afternoons.

    For the first time in many weeks I found myself with a Saturday morning and absolutely nothing to do. No shows, no run-throughs, no on-call work to be done. So Murphy and I headed over to the annual "Iron Dog" event put on by the state police. It's an event meant to test the police canines but they've opened it to the public in the last couple of years. It's a 1.5 mile course with obstacles...things like climbing through a car - through the front seat and out the back door. Another test required the dog to stay while the handler crawled into the back of a tractor trailer and grabbed "evidence" (a key ring). Handlers - civilians remember, had to shoot (paintballs) at a target and carry their dogs 25 yards. Fortuneatly for our pride we overslept and got there too late to register and run in the event (awwwww). But we did get to play some agility in a demo that NOMAD had setup. Murphy's agility runs were decent - not stellar - small tight area and we both seemed to know it wasn't for real anyway :-)

    The photos from the Green Mountain Golden Ret club trial finally came in the mail yesterday. It's an indoor event and the photos aren't great I bought the package because I liked the weave pictures and there was one super expression picture.

    Here's the expression picture, likely the one I will refer to when non-dog people ask me how I know Murphy likes playing the game with me:


    I love this one too - Murph closes the eye closest to the pole he's weaving around - blink, blink, blink:


    And one more for fun:

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    They call it futility for a reason...

    I worked Murph some tonight - just a bit of the open routine. Didn't work stays tonight - worked the heck out of stays yesterday when he did a 15 minute out of sight down while a little yorkie had a private lesson and then a 10 minute sit-stay while the puppy class filtered into the training center - all of the puppies walked by him - straining at their leashes to play. They all know Uncle Murphy from playtime at the end of puppy class.

    So tonight we worked a lot of heeling - figure eights with imaginary posts - don't want to know what the neighbors think about that. He worked well, nothing spectacular, but he was a good boy.

    We came in and played some house ball - then for whatever reason - for so much insanity...I decided to do some scent article work. I don't remember the last time we worked them - and it showed, MAN it showed. Kitty wasn't even impressed. I had previously worked through the leather article affinity (he prefers the leather articles - though he has no problem with the metal ones). We had gotten over that problem months ago when we last worked articles. So the lesson here is don't expect too much when you haven't practiced a trick in a while and just when you think you've got that obedience girdle all tucked in and buttoned, a bit of tummy is going to poke out where you least expect it.

    Fortuneatly, we've got time before we've got to put our scent articles to the test for real...now that fall (and old man winter) is coming we'll have more time to work it anyway (too cold and dark outside to play in the front yard). So many pieces.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Backup your Backups...

    As someone who makes their living working with computers, data and connectivity, I have no excuse to lose data when a disk goes bad - no excuse. Except one must remember that even the best laid plans (lenny, I's gonna have me some rabbits) can go horribly wrong. I thought I'd run a routine defragment job on one of my systems Sunday night - the job ran for 10 seconds and barfed. This isn't normally a big deal, except when I went to access a file on that disk several moments later and got the dreaded "disk isn't formatted, would you like to format it now".

    Crap. Crap. Crap. OK, the only thing I care about on that drive is my money file - my checking account info from the last eight years - I depend on that program. No sweat, I've got a backup, every Wednesday night I back up the file and overwrite the previous version - if you sensed a "gotcha" coming well, there it was. My backup on another disk of that file was corrupt - don't know how, don't know why. So 11pm Sunday night I kick off a chkdsk on that volume and head to bed - tossing and turning with dreams of data loss fresh in my head.

    I wake up the next morning, labor day - fittingly - and chdsk is still running. Crap. I reboot the damn machine and it's dog slow coming up - too many apps and drivers trying to read a dead disk. So I bring my old pIII out of the closet an old SCSI RAID 5 machine purchased when a former employer went out of business (dot-bombed) and had a fire sale. This machine has no problem booting up without reading the bum disk. To save pixels, I ran chkdsk a total of 17 times for one stinking file - but I got it back, in fact it appears the whole disk is back for the moment - don't know how I got THAT lucky. Don't worry, I have no faith in that drive anymore, I'll place an order for a replacement.

    So, the moral of the story - backup your backups. Test your backups and it pays to be persistant...

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    The crickets are back.

    The crickets are back. Well, I suppose they never left. The county fair has been going on for the last 10 days. Each night a concert, tractor pulls, demo derby, loudspeaker cackles, loud music...we're about a mile away as the crow flies but it's been a loud event this year. Its a sign of fall - sure as the schools re-open and the pencils fly off the shelves at staples. Every time I walk out of the house I smell the fair: dough sometimes, but always the strong smell of onions sauteed in animal fat - ummmmmm. I went to the fair on opening day. I'm not much for rides, something about the characters that assemble them 24 hours before the event and then how they "advertise" for help taking everything down at the end of the event $8/hour to take the crap apart.

    I generally go and visit the animals - makes me miss being involved with horses. This year there was a "Morgan Sporthorse" on display - I wasn't very good at hiding my contempt. OK, I'm a snob. A sporthorse is a talented equine - one that excels in multiple disciplines and I really don't consider gymkanas to be "sporting" events. Give me a warmblood sporthorse any day - a horse over 16 hands and then we'll talk.

    Opening day is the only day you want to go through the poultry building - especially if the fair coincides with warm weather (stink). I love the sheep - I remember my three sheep I had as a child: Inky, Blacky and Snow White...silly names. My mom was pregnant with my brother when we had them - well she had them. I was 6 and got to pat them, she had to clean up sheep poop :-) She was about 8 1/2 months along when she fell face first into a pile of sheep poo, that was the end of the sheep. She gave them to my Uncle (they were living in his barn anyhow) who I presume sold them for meat - I don't remember seeing them again. Yeah, I know - disposable pets what an awful message to teach your kids - I don't even remember missing them, they were there (rescued from meat in the first place) and then they weren't and I had a baby brother and we moved to VT.

    Ironic isn't it - folks at the fair wander between the food vendors, the barns and the rides. For the sarcastic it's easy to notice that all of the animals in the barns are represented just 200 yards away in the deep fryers... Bessy on a stick and clucky in Buffalo sauce.

    So the crickets are back to being the loudest noisemakers in the neighborhood, the kids (most of them) are already back in school and in another 10 days (give or take a day or two) the first crop of "fair flies" will infest our lovely village. Annual rituals all spelling the end of summer and the beginnings of fall.

    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Is that a show dog?

    It's a funny distinction isn't it. Show dog vs. Purebred vs. couch potato. To the average non-dog person the fact that a dog is a "show dog" means he is different than the average fido. The dog is elevated, highly regarded - to most of the folks that walk by anyway. I'll take all of that with a grain of salt and a wee bit of satisfaction, it means two things: first we've moved on to training "impressive things" and secondly we're doing them well (for the moment). Yeah, we're back to working obedience pretty hardcore - running through our Open stuff - doing a lot of heeling and stay work. Most days it's easiest to do this in my front yard - very few cars, but walkers and bikers every couple of minutes. In novice the dog is on a leash, heeling might look fancy but it's all pretty boring for the spectators to watch. People watching the novice class look at their dogs and think - hey, that's easy. My dog can do that no sweat. The open work is different - it might look easy (because we've trained forever), but people don't leave thinking - "darn, my dog can do that too". Heeling around small children (off leash) in the road (no cars) is impressive for people. The figure 8 is Murph's specialty - then there's the really fun stuff.

    A couple about my folks' age walked by this evening while I was working the retrieve over the high jump. I sent Murphy over the jump and the woman cooed at him, "ouuuuuughhhh, he must be a show dog", Murph landed and forgot for a moment what he was doing - stood there for 2 seconds regarding the woman, then his brain re-engaged and he got the dumbbell and returned over the jump. I took the dumbbell and finished him back into heel.

    "How did he know to come back over the jump?" I explained the exercise and the retrieve over the flat - and it was simply what he had been trained to do - and rewarded for doing successfully. I started to talk about reinforcement history and I "lost" them. They went on their way and I setup for some out of sight stay work. People find the stay stuff most impressive, people will literally stop walking and stare at Murphy while he sits there. He stares back, blink. blink. blink. Some people initially think he's lost (ever seen a lost dog sit patiently in one spot) and try to call him "here puppy puppy" (blink), some people eye him cautiously as if he's sitting there thinking about evil deeds he can do to nice families out for evening walks...

    I often tell people that their dogs could do all of this - they don't have to be "show dogs" to have some basic obedience skills. Certainly Murphy's AKC papers don't help him sit there through distractions. And the greatest irony of all, is that this "show dog" (after he's had all of his daily requirements met) is the biggest couch potato that you'll ever meet - most happy crashed on the couch with a chewie bone.

    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    House Guests...and you get what you live with...

    No, not the two legged kind - two legged guests require that the vaccum come out of the closet, the guest room linens changed, guest bathroom cleaned and the blankets on the couch removed (none of those things happened this weekend - unfortuneatly, because the house is a bit of a wreck). There's something about being away every weekend for 12 weeks and not keeping up the house the way I'd like to. So on this first weekend at home in a few months what did I do? I went out to pick up Cooper (our four-legged guest) and run a puppy play group on Saturday morning, then I played a bit of agility later in the morning - napped around 2ish, and went to the fair to eat bad stuff...I didn't even eat a lot of bad stuff - which puzzles me, because that was part of the grand goal.

    Anyway, the point of this post was to talk about guests - two legged and four legged. Give me the option most days I'd take almost any four-legger overnight than a two-legger, there are several exceptions to this of course but not the topic of this afternoon post. Perhaps the difference between 2 and 4 legged guests comes down to who has to do the entertaining. Murph does all of the 4 legged entertainment, with little or no facilitation from myself. I have rules and they are enforced (no wrestling in the house) but it's Murph's house and his games - he's yet to be anything less than a proper gentleman and host extrodinaire. This weekend of course was no exception. We had Cooper with us, she is a 9 month old little yellow cutie, belongs to a co-worker of mine. When I picked her up on Saturday she hopped in the car with Murphy and went to sleep on the bed in the back. The two dogs were like vanilla and vanilla - like they'd lived together forever. They played nicely in the yard, they walked nicely around the block. Cooper walked into the house like she had been here forever and never showed any inclination that this wasn't totally normal for her (though she objected to having her ears cleaned - ha ha).

    This is all relevant because as much as Murph has seen the world, as wonderful as his temperment is with people, dogs, cats, babies, skunks, etc - I'm not sure he would be able to just go home with someone else and be boarded for a night. I left him once overnight with a housesitter. Lee was graduating and we brought my parent's two labs over here and had a friend of mine deal with the four of them - Kodiak didn't get to stay as Kasei and Kodiak were oil and vinegar. Murph spent the night crated and my friend came over several times a day to feed and potty them. The report card said that all four were good, and that Murphy was a cutie. No surprises, though I can still feel the worry in the pit of my stomach as I sat on that plane waiting to take off - wondering if my dogs knew I was going to be thousands of miles away from them. Worrying, overthinking, overplanning, stressing - it's what I do...

    I guess it comes down to the fact that we all do our best to raise our puppies, we correct what we can't live with and we live with what we can well live with. I worry about Murph walking loosely on a leash and I don't tend to care if he brings in dirty paws when it rains. A stay is a stay is a stay and you don't break that stay, but sure you can get up on the sofa. My food is my food when I'm eating dinner, however if you wait patiently I'll share my left-overs.

    So the house didn't get cleaned this weekend - but the beauty of the situation is that Cooper couldn't care less and I've got a whole week to get ready for next weekend's excuse not to clean - the dust bunnies aren't going anywhere are they?

    Puppy Tantrums...

    Today was stew day - that would be the one day every 6 weeks or so that I prepare ungodly amounts of dog stew and freeze it in 3-4 day quantities. I bought chicken thighs at the grocery store because they were $.33/pound - got 15lbs of them instead of one or more entire chicken…they've got the bones in so the boiling process pulls the same minerals and such from the bones that would happen in a full carcass - maybe more so because the bones are cut? Dunno, I should research that. Cut bones vs whole bones, which leech more minerals, vitamins and good stuff into water when boiled for several hours?

    So I've deboned the chicken and put the lentils in the chicken broth in one pot, 10lbs of ground beef in another pot, a pot of barley and two pots of veggies. Then what I do is take a third of each pot and mix them in 60 cup batches in a big bowl and then portion them out into 8 cup containers…over time this seems to be the best way of doing things - I tried mixing everything in the gladware but it was messy and didn't end up mixed very well I don't think. So that's my process… What is my point?Seems like boring and useless process of dog food preparation right?

    Here's the point. Murphy typically eats dinner at 5pm. Sometimes later during the work week. On the weekends it's possible I'll feed him earlier - depending on what is going on. Anyhow, at 5 I had only removed the chicken bits from the pot and put the lentils in the broth to cook. Sure, there are three or four containers of food left out in the freezer - but why thaw one when I'm making a batch now - just doesn't make sense to me…so I get everything else cooking (an hour or so later) and debone the ckicken (that was a lot of work - more work than an entire chicken, but ultimately more meat I think). At about 6:00 the looks of "you know I haven't eaten yet" began - despite the fact that I'd been feeding samples as I cooked knowing that his dinner was late…by 6:30 the looks had evolved to some pacing and some "woe is me" whining…meanwhile I was in the process of moving a third of the ingredients from each pot and putting them in the "big bowl", at 6:45 as I started to mix - it happened. THE TANTRUM. It started small with the retrieval and throwing of his food bowls. Then a favorite stuffed toy "bit the big one" (rest in peace star man - you were loved even if that love was fleeting and ultimately deadly), then it was the dog bed's turn to suffer as Murph gripped it and threw it across the room - then digging on the bed and another throw - THEN the howling while throwing the bed, then howling as the bowls were thrown - peppered in here were several "throw your body on the ground as hard as you can and look at mom". Yep - full fledged tantrum time. The really hard part was not laughing at him and the ironic part was that by 6:50 I had pulled out a serving for him and popped it in the fridge - it was effectively his for the eating, but not in tantrum mode - he carried on for about 10 minutes and then finally threw himself on the floor (again) and settled. Then I fed him - he gave me this look like "why didn't you just feed me an hour ago when I asked nicely?

    Oh poor Smurf.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Ribbons aren't everything - but sometimes they help

    Murphy and I were at the NADAC trial this weekend - getting up at 5:30 on Saturday and on the road by 6:00 was a tough shock to the body…Murphy's too. First class was jumpers, in NADAC there's no weaves - just jumps and FAST course times. We had a couple of bobbles but managed to pull a 3rd out of a class of 20+. Then we had touch and go - all tunnels and contact obstacles - what a rush. NADAC equipment is slightly different - no slats on the a-frame or dog walk. I thought the a-frame was going to be an issue - Does Murphy use the slats to go up or down on the contact obstacles? Turns out the answer was no. He didn't like the slatless dogwalk though - which is interesting. Cassy pointed out that the teeter never has slats…from a dog's perspective maybe the up portion of the dog walk looks like a teeter? I've never seen Murph think about bailing from a contact obstacle - he thought about ditching off the dogwalk in touch and go. Anyway, he made all of his contacts which was good enough for 2nd place (a LOT of dogs blew contacts).

    Next two standard runs - back to back - instead of breaking down novice, setting up open, running open, breaking down open, setting up elite, running elite, breaking down elite and setting up novice again….The novice course stayed the same, we just ran it backwards the second time. Murph got all of his weave entries (yay) all of his contacts (yay) and both of the distance discriminations (handling several obstacles from behind a tape line). Both runs were nice, the second one was awesome - Murph saved my butt at one point and got a "whooooo" from the crowd (he liked that). We placed 3rd in both of the standard runs. So four ribbons and a long day...after his second run I found my water sandals and took him down to the river that runs through the grounds (from the top of mansfield - cold, clear, beautiful water - there was one spot that was chest-deep and I made Murph stand there for a little whil e until I was sure he was all cooled off and comfy - then I let him do some fishing :-)

    On Sunday We slept in (relatively speaking), not leaving for the trial until 7! It was clear at home but as soon as I got into Stowe the rain started. Rain, rain, rain and more rain. First priority: Sure up the tent. I bought an ez-up on Friday instead of bringing my 12x17 camping tent. It's great in the sun - wrap some shade cloth around it and it's blissfully cool in there. In the rain though they tend to leak at the seams...so I took the "floor" and put it over the top - leaks stopped. Next to put tarps all the way around three of the sides - whew, we're dry - actually I was soaked, but because of the way my car is packed I had to unpack Murphy (in the way back of my wagon) - below him is my "permanent storage: extra jacket, a pair of jeans, a sweater, tarps, first aid kit, rain poncho, umbrella, etc - so out Murphy goes into his warm and dry crate (I had wrapped the floor tarp over and around it like giftwrapping), and I go back out to get my gear. Man! It was wet!

    I watched the Elite and Open dogs very carefully to see how they handled the wet equipment (remember - no slats) - the fast dogs got into trouble, but the slow and thinking dogs did fine - Murph is neither fast nor slow - but I decided to run him in the standard runs anyway - let's see what he thinks - I trust him to tell me when something isn't OK. So we ran two standard runs back to back - both runs were outstanding - he really put down two very nice runs - we had one bobble on a "multidirectional tunnel" - I didn't know such a thing existed so when he went in the wrong end of the tunnel (or what I thought was wrong) I turned him around and sent him in the other way - which was good for a wrong course. Murph got his weave entries in both standard runs - and worked with me the whole time. I tried some things today - first was putting distance on our runs - Cassy had noted he seemed more confident when he was working further away from me (not a typical obedience dog). But, looking back on all of the bumps we've had along the way one of those was he didn't like being wrong - when he's working away he knows his job - when I try to help him he isn't as confident. So something to work on. Murphy took 4th in both of his standard runs (his classes were about 15-20 dogs so I'm happy with that).

    We had good runs in jumpers and took 4th in that class as well. It was a pretty wild weavers run (just weaves and tunnels) again Murphy got all of his entries and put down a clean run - good enough for 2nd place. Then came tunnelers - for those who don't know this is a course of just tunnels - 8 of them to be exact for a total of 15 obstacles. Murphy is somewhat confused by tunnelers...he just doesn't understand why the next obstacle after a tunnel is another tunnel. My boy likes two things in agility - jumps and weaves - tunnels are fine - but they don't fire him up the way that jumps and fast running does - that and I have a lousy sense of where his point of committment is for a tunnel - in front of a jump it's about 10' away, for weaves about 5' contact obstacles about 5' - tunnels for him are probably about 3'. Note to self, need to increase his tunnel reinforcement history. We finished first in tunnelers - despite the fact that I no longer had any dry bits (parts) left. At one point I was caught mumbling to myself about wrinkled fingertips (bathtub fingers).

    I've really got to say how proud I am of Murphy - I saw ZERO stress this weekend. I LOVE that. He had a blast in the sun and he had fun in the rain - he is really an adaptable fellow. We've never done a NADAC trial before - I entered the "costco" package - all 10 runs of the weekend - five runs a day. In AKC we run two runs a day - separated by sometimes 5-6 hours...In those same six hours he ran five times this weekend. I thought about "saving" him - scratching from this or that - but I got greedy and didn't scratch anything. I was watching him to make sure that he was willing and wanting to play and to his credit each and every time I pulled him out of his crate for a run he pottied quickly and got right down to business. He got all of his weave entries. In the weavers class he saw a 12 pole set of weaves - his first in competition - he stayed in the weaves for all 12 - both times. He held his startlines, and he sat at the startline the first time every run - none of the scratchies that we've been trying to work out. We (I) made some mistakes this weekend but we got over them in the moment - whoops, we missed that tunnel entry, lets go back and do it. There was no begging (me - shamelessly), there was no tagging or biting at my shoes (him) - we just ran.

    So the ribbon count from the weekend, 10 classes, 9 placement ribbons:

    Saturday:
    Touch and Go: 2nd
    Standard 1: 3rd
    Jumpers: 4th
    Standard 2: 3rd

    Sunday:
    Standard 1: 4th
    Standard 2: 4th
    Tunnelers: 1st
    Weavers: 2nd
    Jumpers: 4th