Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Giant inflatable lawn ornaments....

Tis the season for twinkling lights strung carefully along rooflines, down pillars, over hedges and around tree trunks...I'll accept holiday lighting as a custom of the season - beginning years ago with the really big bulbs, now morphed into neighbor out-does-neighbor, war of the cul-de-sac where the winners spin their electric meters the fastest.

In the last few years though I've observed a frightening trend...instead of silhouetted reindeer (moderately tacky), plastic manger scenes (observant but tacky) or giant plastic foot soldiers from the nutcracker (don't get me started) the new "thing" to install on your December lawn in order to show how "christmasy" you feel (and thus want to push down your neighbor's throat) are giant inflatable snowmen, snow globes, santas, reindeer or - the worst so far - a giant inflatable nativity scene - 8' tall with optional inflatable wisemen. (sigh)


You too can have your own GIANT INFLATABLE JESUSThe commercialism of Christmas is one thing - not that I am a deeply religious person because I'm not, but I am completely flummoxed that someone with a moderate amount of decorum, intelligence and common sense would go out to a retail outlet, walk down the aisles and actually spend money for a big plastic pool toy. Then - oh then it gets better. Those people pack their cars, drive home to their raised ranches, capes, colonials, etc and think to themselves - "hey, you know what would really make my house look great? That giant inflatable snowman I just bought at WalMart for $9.99!!!". So they inflate Frosty, stake him to the ground and step back to admire their creation...what a look! What a fantastic conversation piece! What a tribute to their own Christmas spirit. Wow, you know what Frosty really needs (besides a run-in with a nail gun of course)? Frosty needs a friend - how about we go back to WalMart and purchase the giant inflatable Santa wearing Mickey Mouse ears too! Now one hideous lawn ornament isn't enough - we must have three, four - FIVE of these damn things.

If these abominations were limited to Christmas I think I might not mind them so much - but it's not just Christmas. There are ghosts, scarecrows (what ever happened to making them with old clothes and straw or newspaper?), witches, goblins, etc for halloween, giant inflatable hearts for valentine's day, inflatable Turkeys, leprechauns, and who could forget Uncle Sam for the 4th of July...I even saw one 10-15foot tall inflatable Iwo Jima flag raising inflatable for memorial day...Oh - it so gets worse...

So remember, the next time you think Christmas - think inflatable. It's what all the cool kids are blowing up for Christmas this year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Big Snow...

It's been snowing pretty much all week, an inch or two here and there. Today was the big storm and it didn't disappoint the snowbuffs. We had about 8" by 11:30 this morning then a bit of a break until round two socked us in again around 4pm. I think we've got about 14" out there now and it continues to snow a bit.

Teller galloping in the snow

The boys were mostly cooped up in the house today as it was pretty windy and nasty out there...they don't seem to mind but I don't want them getting cold and wet and then potentially sick, so when they went out I went with them and then gathered them back up and inside after their business was finished...OK, maybe it's me. There's something about snow days, watching cartoons and eating chicken noodle soup from a can that's ultimately appealing to me once in a while. Sure, I make a helluva homemade chicken soup, it's so easy to make and there's of course something to be said about soups with more than teeny pieces of chicken bits and bloated egg noodles (you know, like vegetables) - but there is also something so satisfying about the campbells brand...maybe it's childhood, maybe it's simplicity, maybe it's because it's so damn easy, maybe they put something addictive in that yellow concentrated broth (to which I never add water). I guess it's just MMM, MMM, Good.

Murphy strikes a pose

We did make it out briefly to let Teller and Murphy play with Quinn from next door. Teller and Murphy spent 20 minutes or so chasing each other around in circles - why they needed Quinn's inspiration to do that, I'm not sure...If it hadn't been 8pm and pitch black I would have taken pictures - I love watching them have so much fun...

Teller with one of the few toys not buried under 2 feet of snow....

So I didn't get a lot accomplished today, even with the best intentions. I cleaned the kitchen, bathrooms, changed the sheets on my bed and sorted the mail - but then ran out of steam. With any luck the snow will stop and we'll be bailed out in time to head to work tomorrow. There's no doubt at this point that we'll have a white Christmas this year!

Murphy (left) and Teller pause to listen for the big mean earth-shaking plow truck.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Teller's Canadian Adventure

Teller is now 11 months old (on December 6th) and is becoming quite the show dog - and he seems to enjoy every minute of it. How he can be so wild and bouncy all of the time yet he can stand like a champion when the judge goes over him in the ring. Thanksgiving weekenend we were in Montreal (making three day trips between home and Montreal - about 2.5 hours each way - longer with border delays). I was up and driving during hours I generally choose not to recognize as legitimate waking hours, I even saw the same border patrol man at the Canadian border every morning! The show was at the Olympic stadium - what a HUGE place!! In addition to being a dog show, it was a pet expo event for the public. There were two bouncy castles (one right next to the grooming area and the other next to the obedience rings), ponies (yes, real live ponies) just outside the breed rings, snakes, rabbits, fish, birds, hamsters...you name it - and all of the accessories that go with all of those critters. It was a mad house - so loud, so chaotic - a lot of dogs didn't handle the building very well at all. I left Murphy at home with my parents each morning and while he was pouty about it....but he would have been so stressed up there in that building.

This was Teller's first weekend going into the ring with a handler - Graeme came highly recommended to me by a few people and while the first day was a little bumpy - Teller totally warmed up to him and worked really really well for him. They had 6 rings of conformation two rings of obedience, flyball and agility - Like I said - utter chaos!

I thought the ponies were going to be an issue for Teller - I also thought the bouncy castles would be an issue - I needn't have worried - honestly - Teller continues to shock and amaze me, every step of the way. I brought him over to the ponies and he looked at them and then looked at me with the funniest "yeah so?" look. The ponies winnied and he just looked at them - again, what's the big deal mom? So we moved on to the bunnies - no biggie there either. Birds were interesting, but no more so than the throngs of people milling about. He seemed to enjoy watching agility, but basically took everything in and nothing phased him. So I brought him over to the handler's setup to drop him off and went over to sit in the stadium seats near the breed rings. From where I was seated I could see the handler's setup and the rings - the grooming area happened to be setup 10-15' away from one of the bounce castles. Teller is getting groomed on the table, they had 2-3 dogs going at any given time and each member of the team moved from dog to dog - everyone who worked on Teller ended up giving him a smooch on the nose - though I didn't see them kissing the other dogs :-)

As I watch the castle inflate (and the walls flop all over the place) I notice that some of the other dogs aren't handling the moving castle very well - Teller was between people and just sat there on the table, watching the castle and watching the other dogs freak out. He never flinched. My brave boy. Saturday just as they were heading into the ring the loud-speaker came on screeching something in french - almost all of the dogs freaked out at the screeching - I leapt out of my seat - but again, Teller didn't care. Teller rocked the ring - he was 2nd out of 6 on Saturday - really moving nicely, stacking nicely.

Sunday we got robbed - the judge was AWFUL and put up the red dogs - Teller was 4th of 6...Teller worked his best on Sunday (figuring the handler thing out) and was really brilliant - and I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom - he really was super - and we had so many nice compliments on him all weekend. The folks up there really seemed to like him: his temperment and personality - loved that he did what he was asked to do - once he figured out what the expectations were he just got better and better. The tail was an interesting development - when he's happy it goes up - when he's really happy...well, let's just say that it looks like a big bushy white peace flag in the air. Teller really liked all of the folks on the team as a matter of note - as he stood with me holding the leash he's looking up at Graeme - smiling and doing his best standing still wiggle. So different from my Mama's boy Murphy who would never ever work with someone else he didn't know. Just a different dog I guess. Teller makes everything look so easy - he really really really wants to work and I find myself asking for things I haven't taught him and more often than not he does them...a right finish (sitting in front come around behind me and sit in heel position)? OK mom - and he does it - I swear I've never taught him to do that!

In Murphy's world, he is really enjoying his work as a therapy dog - now that we're not trialing every weekend, we've been trying to get to nursing homes twice a month - and then he's been reading with kids when it doesn't conflict with something else we have committed to. Therapy work is really his forte.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The first significant snowfall of the season...

The first "big" storm is underway - we've got about 6" so far with another 6" or so on the way. The boys LOVED the snow this morning and afternoon when I unexpectedly came home early - It was still light outside even!

C'mon Murph! Let's PLAY!!! Murphy (left) zooms as Teller (right) bows...
Teller with his special training woobie - I let him have it for the sake of pictures....here he is showing some nice extension - hard to tell with the snow though.

Catch me if you can! Murphy in the lead and Teller right on his heels! Murphy is faster than Teller - but Teller is famous for cheating and taking shortcuts to catch up...


Teller and his Woobie...

Teller strikes a pose...

Teller...Who Me?

Another shot of Teller...


Murphy looking handsome.

Teller again.

Mr Murphy takes a break from snowy zoomies.

Another Teller pose...

Teller taking a break from harassing Murphy...

More posing...


Lots going on and I'm WAY behind on my blog...I'll get an updated post together shortly...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rainy night and bored dogs...

Another Indian summer day, the boys and I slept in this morning then packed up and headed down to Amherst. Now we're all fed, pottied and in theory relaxing before bedding down for the evening - figures that as soon as we get here the sky opens up and the rain seems relentless - no walk tonight. The boys are so bored they're WILD - feeling the need to include me in their wrestling - I've been scratched, stepped on and bitten (and Teller is on his 4th time-out of the evening). I'm pretty full of nervous energy at the moment, Murphy is entered in Open B tomorrow, hoping that the mixed-up order of exercises combined with two weeks vacation from obedience training has relaxed him a little bit. I personally can't help but feel a little like the student who goes into the exam without studying - it's not like me to do anything unprepared so I admit to feeling a little exposed at the moment. Time will tell - we'll either qualify or not...and in the end either way is OK - though I do wish I was traveling with the pack this weekend, I (not unlike the dogs) could really use someone to bounce off of right about now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cheshire Kennel Club Agility Trial

We spent the weekend down in Keene, NH - the weather broke and it finally felt like fall - I was one hurting camper leaving the hotel at 6am when it was only a hair over 30 degrees - Brrrrrrrr! There was frost on the ground and on the contact obstacles - I was quite relieved that the trial ran little to big both days. This was Murphy's first agility trial since the Golden Retriever Club trial in July. The cool weather certainly agrees with him - he's had some pretty lousy practice runs over at Ruth's when it's been 80 degrees or so - he's got the beginnings of his winter coat now and he gets really hot pretty easily this time of year.

We tried the new AKC FAST class for the first time - interesting rules - once I really understood the strategy it's not so bad. We missed Q'ing by one point (I wasn't where I should have been when the time ran out) on Saturday so on Sunday I planned a little bit better - go out, get the points and the Send (gamble) and then get out and be done. The net result was that on Sunday we racked up 53 points in about 26 seconds - good enough for 3rd place over some really talented excellent B 24" dogs - so I was pleased.

Speaking of being pleased, Murphy came out and played the game every single run - he enjoyed himself, he stayed with me, listened to me and made time all but one run. Heck - look at that power and the smile on his face - that's a happy dog! We did seem to have trouble with the weaves this trial - which is weird because he's been making his entries consistently in practice and staying in the poles - this weekend he either missed his entries or popped out at pole 8 or 9. I didn't bring him back - obviously we have work to do or we wouldn't be missing them in competition - I think part of it was speed - he was really moving out this weekend and I'm not sure that I move as fast in practice (yep, that would do it wouldn't it) as I do at a trial. Definitely something to work on - as well as more reps - he's been doing a lot of obedience work lately and not so much agility so that's certainly a factor too. I was concerned that if I brought him back to correct the weaves that I'd lose the enthusiasm that I had across the board - plus I really wanted to see where we were from a course time perspective - if we can fix the entry problems over the winter then we'll be in super shape.

I also got to spend some time with my Nana and my cousin Brandi - I don't see either very often so it was nice to actually hang out with them during the trial. Nana brought some coffee cake (yum) and she got to see Murphy run a couple of times...in fact the only run Murphy didn't make time was when Nana arrived 30 seconds before his run and he was quite distracted looking for her. Everyone had a great weekend - lots of ribbons all around the tents - it was a great way to cap off the agility season....

Oh and some pictures of Teller (Photo credits to Ruth):




Thursday, October 04, 2007

Action shots and training updates...

Murphy has had some time off this week. No obedience, no heeling just some simple agility sequences and some play-tricks. This seems to have had an improvement in his work ethic. Today we worked a couple of go-outs and some directed jumping....



Teller never ceases to amaze me. I started him over baby jumps a couple of weeks ago - nothing serious and even then a couple of jumps a couple of times a week. Last week I did some ladder work with him and the next day was able to put together a short sequence - jump, tunnel, ladder, tunnel - that kind of thing. Teller did two obstacles more enthuasically than one - and loved the game. I love that he loves the game and am thrilled that at this point he doesn't much care about which game he plays or what he's working for. I didn't have a whole lot of time today to work anything serious (nor am I in the right frame of mind to do so) so we worked some baby-start lines (wait and release over a jump) - what fun! I think Teller likes to jump as much as Uncle Murphy does!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hanging with the boys....

Murphy (left) and Teller

I wrapped up another week oncall. It was a long week - a lot of nuissance pages, a few actionable items and a lot of disrupted sleep. Fridays of my oncall weeks leaves me feeling a bit like a drunk zombie and the afternoons are almost always unproductive. That generally carries over to the evening as well. I knocked out a couple of things on my punchlist and then turn into something that resembles a vegetable. I did take a few minutes to work with the boys - just a little bit of heelwork, then I went out to throw the ball for Teller...an hour later he finally resembles a yellow furry vegetable...Murphy on the otherhand took one look at the ball and fetch routine and went in the house for a nap.

I was working stays today and thought I'd take a picture of the boys - Murphy is now three - and baby Teller....the baby is now eight and a half months - hardly a baby I suppose.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How time flies...

I found this video the other day - Murphy doing a rally run-though when he was 6 months old. I'd forgotten what a shining star he was back then - he really was very cool. How can I get back to that enthusiasm? All these bobbles we've had recently have made me think of retiring him - I'm not sure that's the answer - but I do know the question is how to get back to the dog in the video below even if he never puts another paw in the competition ring...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shelburne Museum goes to the dogs...

After last weekend's diaster at Carroll County I wasn't looking forward to obedience demos at the annual "Shelburne Museum goes to the Dogs" event. I hadn't planned on participating but got roped into it as part of BOTC public education. Anyway, picture 3000+ dogs (of all shapes, sizes and temperments) and their owners - pet owners. A couple of observations - pet people are out of their minds! No, your dog can't "say hi" to my dog - I don't care "how friendly" you say he is, his body posture is telling me otherwise. Yes, my dog does walk nicely on a leash, yes he does sit when I stop - no, he didn't come that way he's got hours and hours and hours (and months and years) of training under his belt. How long would it take me to get my dog to do that?Honestly? There's not enough time left in the universe - seriously, you put a prong collar on your friend and yank him around - that's why you can "only walk him on the prong". Or my favorite - if he's not on the prong he's aggressive....swell.


Only one guy really flipped me out - walking a GSD (yeah my favorite) on a 20' flexi - dog is 20' in front of him and comes barreling at me (and Teller), I body block his dog from getting to Teller with my knee up (which keeps the dog the maximum distance from my body and dog) then I hear the words that make me cringe "he only wants to say hi" - Well he can say hi to someone else you idiot...I didn't say it of course - the dirty look and continued body blocking should have been his hint...hey dude "here's your sign".


Anyway, I learned two things - the first is that Murphy is an enigma, we must have covered 10 miles wandering around the grounds being social, doing heelwork, just getting him out and about (I did another 5 with Teller and man are my hooves sore tonight!). Today, with all of the dogs and all of the people Murphy wasn't stressed in the least. Walking around the grounds like he does it every day - no stress. No stress in the demos either.....yeah, I'm ready to kill him...He's either on or off and he was so damn on today. He worked three open routines and two rally demos. The third obedience demo he was DONE, but sucked it up when I broke out some turkey bacon (smoke flavoring added).


The second thing I learned is to not take Teller for granted. Teller is so cool in so many ways - I forget sometimes that he's a baby and still learning. I have to keep remembering that. Don't rush things, let him be who he is and everything else is going to fall into place with him. That's the kind of dog that he is....He does these things that are so awesome sometimes - occaisionally doing things correctly that I haven't taught him - he learned a right finish while I was warming him up for the rally demo - in 4 reps he went from a lure, to an exaggerated hand movement with a "catch me" cookie, to just a hand motion. We've worked formal heelwork maybe 6 times and he's really getting it - but - and I should know and expect this - he can't put it all together yet for any length of time. I had been thinking about entering him in a rally trial at BOTC in November - this demo day was really helpful in helping me make that decision. He's going to be an awesome worker - he already is - what is the point in rushing anything with him. He can come to the show, he can do heelwork and rally moves outside the ring - but he doesn't have to go in the ring now - there's plenty of time for that when he's really really really solid and ready. I want him to be my three for three dog not just my "we qualified" dog. No pictures of Teller today...Next time I promise.

The group stay from today's demo - Left to Right: Sophie (poodle), Minna (poodle), Taris (golden), Queenie (lab), Rah (sheltie), Higgins (golden) and Murphy (swamp collie). Click for the full size image.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Meerkat Manor..


Teller fixated on the meerkats...Also know as "Teller-Tube-ey"


Teller watches TV, I've noticed this for a while. I won't pretend that I think he understands what the images are - but he has started reacting to what he sees on TV. A week ago I was flipping through channels and stumbled upon an episode of "Honey we're killing the kids" - at the part where they were aging the children. Well, this pudgy but cute 10 year old boy morphed into a pediphile in mere seconds - Teller protested with his best big-boy bark, walked over to the screen and continued to bark at the "offender" until the image left the screen. I couldn't help myself to laugh - even though barking is in fact frowned upon in this house....



Fuzzy family of Meerkats

Today we had just come in from swimmies and a walk around the block and I put Animal Planet on while I started making dinner. There's this show that features tribes of little rodent critters called Meerkcats. It's presented a bit like a soap opera more than a nature show - though there are defineatly harsh animal realities for the characters who have cutsie names like "Flower", "Bubble", "Squeak" and "Sparkle". The various tribes are always at war with each other over resources and the baby meerkats, well, let's just say that they have a pretty rocky childhood with a low survival rate. Some of the older critters wear radio collars for tracking - tracking what I'm not so sure, the cameras seem to have the varmits in sight all the time. Regardless, they're cute and the move fast - all the things that make tv watching enjoyable for Teller.




Teller looking handsome.

And completely unrelated...Here's a cute head-shot of Teller looking away from the TV for a moment...

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Peace is two tired dogs...

Awww, the joys of a lazy Saturday. I shamefully slept until 11 and then after the dogs were fed and pottied we all climbed back onto the couch for another nap - I woke up at 4:00 and realized I'd napped the day away. There are certainly worse ways to spend a weekend - but it was a waste of a beautiful late-summer day. I'll selfishly claim that I needed it - it's been a rather long time since I've had a day to myself - just me and the boys and a nice long nap :-)


I did get out and work with Murphy some, he's always game to play a little. Steady progress towards next weekend. Murphy has been working pretty well these days - his heelwork is decent - steady...it always is though isn't it. If we can manage to leave the baggage outside the ring we just might make it through next weekend. I hadn't been working anything else with him and I felt like I should make sure that he remembered all of the other puzzle pieces. As expected the rest of his open work is nearly flawless, he's got a slow drop sometimes - but he's consistant and I know that he will drop when asked to so I'm honestly picking my battles - if we can get through the heelwork without one or both of us stressing I'll be a very happy camper...

The past couple of nights I've brought Teller and Murphy next door to play with Melody's puppy (a couple of months older than Teller) Quinn. Quinn is one of those dogs that was shipped up from the south for a fresh start. Who knows what Quinn actually is - Melody was told that she was half golden retriever - I don't see any golden in there - something brindle - maybe boxer? Lab? A wee bit of pitt bull or Am Staff? They said that her mother was a golden, my guess is that she may have been half golden, half something else and Quinn the product of quarters...Anyhow, what Quinn missed in her formative weeks Melody has actually more than made up with. The "broken" puppy she brought home at 16 weeks of age - who didn't want to play with other dogs and was pretty leary of people has absolutely blossomed into a stable outgoing and even tempered little (40lb) dog. The only remaining sign that Quinn hasn't always lived a life of ease is the missing hair on her tail where she was likely burned by a muffler when she was a young pup - the hair hasn't grown back and probably won't ever come back - it's like one of those marks that will always remind us that her life started out very different from that of Teller and Murphy's life of entitlement...

Teller is absolutely smitten with her - and they play SO well together...alternating between running full speed and playing bitey face. I always like watching dogs make up their own games - Quinn has dug herself an impressive hole in her backyard, she'd run and lay in the hole and Teller would bite her bottom, she'd then get up and run around ending up in the hole and the cycle would repeat - FOR HOURS. Needless to say, Teller is pretty much passed out cold now - occaisionally stirring to make sure that Murphy and I are where he thinks we ought to be.

Murphy is still my nervous nelly, even though he's just next door from his house he's worried, doesn't settle, doesn't play with the other two - preferring to hang out with the people. He's always been this way I suppose. But I think he's becoming more concerned about his surroundings not less - and that worries me a little. I know that his sister Molly is indeed a worry-wart - it's not unlike her to walk around drooling from stress - the two of them are a drooling riot. Murphy was better tonight than last night on the worrying front - I think part of what worries him is when Teller plays roughly with Quinn - I'm not sure I'm ready to say that I think Murphy thinks Teller will be hurt because I don't think that dogs think that way - but it's the same "something is wrong" reaction that he gets when Teller and Q (the cat) play roughly too...It'd be easy to dismiss the behavior as jealousy - but it's not. Anyway, Murphy too is doing his very best rug impression this evening...waiting to hear that it's "bed time".

Saturday, August 25, 2007

GMGRC Picnic



Murphy galloping around the grounds grinning.

Well the annual golden club picnic was this afternoon - not the turnout that I think we had expected - but it was humid and ninety degrees and we were twice interrupted with thunderstorms so I can't say I blame people for staying home - especially since most of the club would have traveled over an hour each way.

The best part of any gathering at Ruth's place is that she lives on 10 acres of pure golden retriever heaven - just heaven. A GIANT backyard that on one side slopes down into an immaculate agility field and on the other into a gorgeous man-made pond (apparently without turtles). While the turnout seemed small it is always impressive to me when you can let 15 dogs who have never met loose to run with each other (and 5-6 of those were intact males) and aside from a bitch reminding a rude boy to stop smelling her fanny everyone got along (and even the fanny reminder was nothing more than some noise - at which the rude offender backed off and left her alone).

Teller helps with parking control.

There were plenty of tennis balls to play with and they all took turns stealing each others TBs, galloping around the yard and cooling off in the pond. All of the dogs stayed with their people, with the exception of one young lady prone to zoomies who went on a brief excursion and when mom didn't follow came trotting back looking a little embarassed that she had thought to go on an adventure by herself.

Murphy and Teller enjoying a swim.

The usual club business - we actually made money on our agility trial this year - YAY! It seems like we agree on most things we want to change for next year and then a really deep divide about a couple of somewhat key points. As trial chair for this years trial and chairing two other trials this year I'm feeling "done" as far as trial chair work goes - I've done my share and it's time for someone else to step up and take some ownership. I would do it again of course but I won't repeat the same mistakes we made this year and until that matter is settled we are a trial without a chair....


Whirl of gold whips by

Some cool things, as a club we've been somewhat dysfunctional - twice annual meetings, a large trial, a supported entry and a board that basically gets things done. Brilliant really - for such a small group we get a lot done, but we need more membership and we as a club need to do more together - or at least have something to offer members. At this point there isn't a benefit to being part of our club and that has to change to attract membership.

As always the discussion of breeder referral gets messy. Everyone has their own way of doing things I guess and while we have a code of ethics from our parent club not everyone agrees that those codes are enough - and not how they would do it...I don't think we'll ever all agree - though we all agree that each person believes they are doing the "right" thing - scientific data backing both sides - it's the old chicken and egg question isn't it....

More Action shots on pagesculptor: http://www.pagesculptor.com/gmgrc

Monday, August 20, 2007

Teller: One dog wrecking crew

There's an interesting thread that is going on the Work_Gold mailing list over the past week or so…essentially there are three camps "arguing" about the breed standard - people who breed for the conformation ring, others who breed for field, others who breed for agility/obedience and still others who breed specifically for pet homes. The fierce beliefs on the list echo what we see in goldens as a breed - the dichotomy between "types", health and temperament problems - disagreement over what is "breed type" and what is "golden temperament". The hunt/field people swear that first and foremost a golden retriever is a RETRIEVER and must be physically able to carry large foul moderate distance over ground and water - the measure of this varies from person to person, but essentially this camp believes that a golden should have some sort of field/hunt title behind it's name before it is ever bred...The breed people insist that it's structure and gait and where there's form there MUST be function - even if they don't test their dogs on birds you need a skull of X proportion to muzzle, depth of chest, etc etc. The pet people stress temperament over all else - must be a creature that gets along with everyone, breed a structurally deficit animal that doesn't retrieve just because he is a big lovable goof. Then there's the last camp: The people who are breeding border collies in golden suits, conformation is not high on their list, temperament isn't high either - it's fast and trainable - bidability - but no one uses that word. These are the dogs that come from parent, grandparent, etc etc etc - OTCH, MACH,etc.

All potentially valid goals, that backfire occasionally: the gorgeous breed or agility dog that has to be kept under thumb not to eat another dog in the ring (this seems to be pretty common now in the breed ring, with dogs making contact with other dogs and still placing), the field-type dog that physically falls apart at a young age, the cancer that is so prevalent in our breed, dogs with zero interest or drive to retrieve anything or dogs that covet what they "get" and won't return despite the best training attempts to correct the possessive behavior. Then there are the breed dogs with so short a muzzle are unable to fit a chuckar in their mouths - let alone the chest and neck required to carry a full-grown Canada goose back from dense cover. One of the reasons that I feel very strongly if Teller ever gets to reproduce he's got to get out there and learn to be a retriever - dummies don't count - he's got to be able to work ducks (geese scare the crap out of me - so I think we'll stick to ducks - maybe big fat ducks).

Anyway, my point here is that being the "conformation" dog that Teller is, he's got a fantastic work ethic - he'll retrieve back to hand until he drops (that's my guess, I don't push him). He's shown interest in wings and birds though I'm hesitant to do too much with them for fear of "breaking" him - we finally found a field trainer who will work with us without the use of e-collars. We start in September - anyhow…I keep re-reading the field breeder argument "must be able to physically retrieve a full grown goose" - to me that means, find the dropped bird,pick it up and return it to whomever sent him to get it. I've studied Teller's muzzle, the shape of his head, the length of his neck and the depth of his chest - yes, I think he's got the structure - the form to work with a large bird. Yes I think he has the instinct to return it to me - he's got adequate form to that function and the boldness (he's cheeky) to bring it back and be rather pleased with himself for doing so.

Tonight I'm in the kitchen making lasagna, it's cool enough that I can leave the back door open and let the boys go in and out as they choose. I put the lasagna in the oven and pause - there's Murphy…where's Teller? Uh-oh, it's awfully quiet - where's Teller…then there's a clunk on the deck, and a crash in the doorway. In walks Teller carrying a shovel - Yes, a 4' spade with iron shovel part. He's holding it a foot from the handle (meaning he's not even close to balancing it) the metal shovel bit only briefly delays Teller's entrance sticking on door jam while Teller wiggles to get his "prize" into the house. With a whoosh Teller is in the house and the end table is cleared by the spade (remotes, box of tissues, a soda can, my laptop,digital camera, phone, cell phone, pager) - everything falls onto the floor with a thud, Teller turns around to inspect his damage and clears the coffee table and takes down the grooming table - the grooming table comes as a bit of a surprise to dear Teller who is startled by the chaos that "just happens" to be going on around him, he heads back out the door, not before hooking the side of a crate which he drags out the door with him (still holding the shovel) - now the real fun begins - SLAM (clay flower pot with impatiens - cracked in half), WHACK (solar lantern), CLANG (my stainless steel grill), BOING (the side of the pool) - meanwhile his tail is wagging so proudly and he's doing the most expressive gaiting I've ever seen him do - all while carrying the damn shovel. So, what do you guys think - can he can carry a goose?

Meanwhile, I'm still picking up the pieces and trying to convince Uncle Murphy that the sky is NOT falling...oh and the laptop, camera and pager all survived the fall - the pot of impatiens weren't so lucky...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Who are you and what have you done with my Murphy?

We just (as in moments ago) wrapped up the three day Green Mountain Golden Retriever Club agility trial. I was trial chair for this trial - so there were a lot of balls in the air - lots of trial work and then having my two boys at the trial - double the potty breaks and such. Plus the weather was horrid - beautiful pool days - hazy, hot and humid. We were inside - no AC but we had fans which helped a little but we had to watch the dogs closely. I resorted to some of that nasty Iams gravy (meant as a food topper) mixed with water. Murph's hydration was OK - gums were good, but I didn't think he was drinking enough - little bit of gravy slurry and the water went down quickly ;-)

Anyhow, I'm pleased to report that Murphy is now: SunKissed Karat Cake CD RA NA NAJ CGC TDV. Murphy had three fantastic standard runs - he was cheated out of his bumper leg when the judge called the dog walk contact - I know he got it - but, to be fair I was physically between him and the judge and it was close - plus I was trying some things out with distance and speed and he took FOREVER on the table. Regardless, I'm thrilled.

Open jumpers is a whole different ball of wax, but - and this is a biggie, we got around the courses nicely all three days - though we didn't Q. First let me say that I had some really cool speed fom him this weekend - he made or was under time all three days. Friday we had two refusals on the weaves, Saturday a knocked bar and today I caused a refusal when I got in his way and he had another at the weaves when he hit his entry with too much speed to hold it.

The big thing I saw this weekend was a confident, secure dog. I didn't see any stress from him at all - no tail chasing, no scratching, he didn't for even a moment think about leaving the task at hand, didn't roll, didn't sniff, didn't bite my shoes, happily came back to restart the weaves each time he was asked - I am SO pleased with him I just can't stand it...He's a different dog than the one I had at Westfield - or even two weeks ago at the Essex cluster. This is a dog that is trying for me, working with me and is a joy to play with - THIS is the dog that I train with - it was such a rush to bring THAT dog to a trial with me.

Next weekend Teller is entered in breed and Murphy in open obedience...I'm hoping for the best - from both boys...Then they both have some time off - Murphy's next agility trial is in October and who knows what we'll do next in obedience...a lot depends on next weekend.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

News from the breed ring...

Sort of our "official" debut in the ring - home turf, people we knew and just a big deal I think. Teller won his puppy class 6-9 months for the three days - and showed BEAUTIFULLY in winners all three days. The judges went with the professional handlers in all the classes - it happens and it's not entirely unexpected. Was it disappointing? Yes - was it unexpected? No. The sweeps judge really really thought about him in the sweepstakes class, but went with the older dog - I got to talk to her about it and she said some really nice things about Wooie - but in the end she went with the more mature dog. I don't love that answer - but I can accept it.

Here's Teller with the sweeps judge - doesn't he look like a big boy? He's six months and 1 week.
Murphy's sister Molly (whom we adore) won her class on Friday and Saturday and also went into winners and showed her heart out. She's looking better than I've ever seen her - great coat and head and that hallmark golden expression and soft eyes. One of the times I really wished that the judges looked more at the dog than the handler - Molly should have done better and it's a darn shame that she didn't.

Diva took her class over Truly and Lyric on Friday and Saturday - today Truly rocked taking best of opposite in sweeps and the puppy bitch class in regular classes. Truly also held her own today in the winners ring but again the points and reserve went to the handlers. She's going to be another one to watch in the future - she's going to knock 'em dead when she grows up a little.

The light litter trio: Teller, Diva and Truly. Watch out for these three - they're going to make ripples out there pretty soon.

Dr Jekyll and Mr. Murph

Updates from the Scenic Cluster this weekend...

So much fun hanging out with Linda, Kara and Donna. We went out to my favorite Italian restaurant a couple of nights - yeah, it's that good. Best pizza in the world - seriously yummy stuff. Friday night I grilled a pork tenderloin on the grill and invited everyone over for dinner. Last night Kara, Linda and I were up until 1am laughing and swapping stories - I love these guys - this is why I got into showing dogs - it's all about people like them. Win, lose, place, NQ, or knock one out of the park - they are there for me and I could never do it without them.

As for results - it's a mixed bag in the obedience world. Murphy continues to flummox me. He is either a nutcase or he's phenomenal and there's just no in between with him. I've threatened to retire him, I've threatened to leave him home and focus on Teller and I've always decided to give it one more try.

Friday he was naughty - just so naughty. He got into the ring and immediately disconnected from me. Poof! He was gone and when he was gone he melted down on me big-time. We were excused moments after we went into the ring - he just wasn't into playing the game.

Saturday we walked into the ring and OWNED the place. His heeling was tight, he was with me, played the game and was accurate. We had one bobble when he stood up on the DOR exercise - which is substantial points off - but didn't kill us. He completed everything else with flair - some friends watching said they got goosebumps he was so good. He held his out of sight stays and we qualified with a 189.5 and 4th place over some really really good teams.

Today we had a conflict with Teller's sweeps entry, so I asked the judge to move us and she gave us the option of going first (or not at all). That was 10 minutes before the start of class (e-gaads) so I had to rush more than I wanted to, Murphy got less warm-up that I would have liked and we were just rushed. He wanted no point of heeling with me, but completed the other exercises flawlessly. He was also the only dog in his group that held the sit-stays, I came back and everyone was laying down, Murphy was looking around second guessing himself I think. So something to be proud of - but not that last leg that we were eagerly hoping for...

I've got to figure out what will make Dr Jekyll stay home and walk into the ring with Mr. Murphy more often. That is the key and will determine whether Murph ever goes for a UD or UDX.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Whew! What a weekend - Wooie's first dog show. He was entered in the 6-9 month puppy class, having turned 6 months on Friday the 6th. That made him the smallest by far in the ring - and lacking in maturity as well. The difference between a 6 month old dog and a 9 month old dog is like comparing a 12 year old boy with a 16 year old boy - a few weeks makes a huge difference. The judges went with the older dogs - but I'm very pleased with him, he trotted out beautifully, he stacked beautifully he was fantastic about letting the judges touch him and look at his toothies. Just fantastic.

I bought him a new show lead at the show - I'd been using a parachute nylon choke or a resco martingale lead and neither made me particularly happy. I bought him a gold snake chain (won't snag hair) and laughed as I tried it on - we'll have to call him Mr. T from now on with his snazzy gold chain. Maybe doggie mohawks will come into fashion and we can really mix things up :-)

Yes, I know if Mr. T (the actor) were a dog he probably wouldn't be a golden retriever - but hey, a pup can dream huh?

On a side note, Murphy wasn't entered this weekend. Which is just as well - I did take time both days to work him on grounds - just outside the obedience rings - heel work, some drops on recall, some stays...I got some really nice work out of him and I'm pleased. We'll see what happens on Friday...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Getting there...

Happy Independance day to anyone who might actually be reading this - I've never been a diary sort of person, but I must say that it's been helpful for me to put notes of our progress in writing (or pixels). There's sanity in the process and that's a really good thing these days.

I was up late last night first working on a client issue and then publishing the Golden Club website. Well, the good news is that the golden club site launched last night - http://www.gmgrc.org
It's a pretty simple site at this point - but it's a long time coming for this club and I'm glad that we finally have made some steps towards revamping the club and its image...

On a really SUPER note I took Murph out to a park to work him and I'm pleased to report that he was fantastic - he did everthing I aske if him - including a runthrough of the open individual exercises. I'm actually looking forward to taking him into the open ring next weekend. He'll train Thursday and Friday of this week, play agility on Saturday - maybe Sunday too (things are up in the air regarding the Springfield shows), then he'll work Monday and Tuesday and have Wednesday/Thursday off...really high rates of reinforcement at what I hope are truly random rates - some rewards during a heel pattern, sometimes just a jackpot at the end - keep him guessing.

Teller seems to be pacing again and I'm trying to figure out if it's something I did - or if it's him - he'll move along so nicely with me now - but pacing. Did I click that and thus he's doing it on purpose? Is he growing a little bit this week and is a little off? Is he just being lazy? I don't know. I did discover that if he gallops and then slows that he trots out of the gallop - so I need to experiment with that. I've got a stick with a clip on the end that Celeste Meade uses for drop work - I'm going to try it as a lunge line and get Teller moving out a bit and click the trot steps...I'll update with progress on that front.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Progress and some super sessions

Coming off two straight weeks of oncall and MS updates to my critical customer servers, a major datacenter move of one of my customers which was an all-nighter, my primary work laptop napping with the fishes and scrambling to get myself connected again - just makes life really crazy all around. It was a relief to get Friday over with, sleep in on Saturday morning and just spend a peaceful weekend with my boys - interruptions - for sure - but they were my decision, not the pager's. There's a big difference!

Murphy had two days of agility this weekend - I backed off the obedience a little and he was just AWESOME both days - great contact equipment, table, weave entries - and he was fast and totally tuned in - I love it. It's such a joy to run with him when he's on like that. There was no hunting, no sniffing, no rolling - just a "lets bust this out". He put down 5 runs at waggles yesterday and 4 at Ruthies today. I'm thrilled - and I don't feel quite so bad putting him back to work in obedience tomorrow and upping the ante to see what I have.

It's humbling to have to go backwards and work basics. I mean c'mon we've been doing this for how many years? He should know how to reliably do X Y and Z. I used to believe that - not that he was failing to spite me - there are a lot of people who DO seem to believe their dogs are naughty or stressed to get back at them - I just don't believe that dogs think that way. Manipulative - yes, vindictive? No.

Anyway, I'm seeing the basics really paying off - but the proof is in the pudding and the pudding needs to cook a couple more weeks before we know how the recipe is going to turn out.

Now for the Teller-man. He's still hot and cold - and such a baby still. It's hard to see the consistancy go back and forth. I don't want to compare him to Murphy - but when Murph was his age he was getting ready for the rally ring - I know it's not the same - but it's really sort of shocking to me to think about it. Teller is getting a puppy-hood. I'm probably not working him as much as I should - but I'm not feeling guilty about that. He's got lots and lots of time. What he has gotten boat-loads of is mileage at trials - he just doesn't see a show as anything other than where we go on weekends. Indoors, outdoors - he's seen it before.

Going into the ring will be interesting - I'm not entirely sure what to expect there. He goes from being somewhat composed to being a wiggly puppy who is SO EXCITED that someone is going to come pat him! It's a matter of exposure - and I just hope that judges will be able to see past the silly puppy antics and see him for what he really is. In talking to someone with Aussies today I was reminded that it's a whole lot easier to bring a social butterfly down a bit in terms of zealousness than it is to bring a fearful dog out of his shell and let strange people touch him. That is wise advice, and the wiggles are something I likely created - all those people he met those first few weeks - he just loves everyone,I need to come to grips with the fact that he's Ok that way. I guess I just need a dose of Auntie Linda - leave him alone he's the perfect Woo.

The numbers are in for the Essex cluster - and they're way down. The Canadian national specialty for goldens is right over the border (that doesn't help) and with gas prices jumping all over the place I can understand why people wouldn't want to travel so much. We're in the single points for dogs and two pointers for bitches. That's OK - it'd be nice if we were majors up here and I don't think Woo is going to take points, but we don't need our butts handed to us either. It's interesting, the sponsored sweeps class appears to be mainly Kara's dogs - we'll keep it in the family for sure.

Obedience entries seem to be pretty level - that I don't understand - perhaps its the indoor shows? There aren't that many indoor shows around here this time of year and I can understand not wanting to go for OTCH points in 90 degree July weather...

Anyhow, onward and upward. We've got a short week this week - Monday in the office, Tuesday at a customer site, Wednesday off, Thursday in the office and Friday traveling for Teller's first show - Murph has the weekend off still - the first time he's traveled to a show and not gone in the ring - I wonder if he'll notice the change in routine...I might try to take Thursday off too - wouldn't that be just sinful!!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Progress....

Another week of training under our belts (collars). I'll start with Teller because I think he's made the most progress...

Teller is so different from Murphy - which is good and it's bad. He's such a quick study that sometimes I forget that he's still a baby and is just learning all of this stuff. So while it's great that he's really coming along on so many fronts. His training for the breed ring is really coming along nicely - he's figuring out he's supposed to trot, he's looking ahead and he's not charging ahead like a bull in a china shop. I'm pleased. His free-stack is amazing and will be our saving grace. He's got this presence about him and it's contagious - everyone who sees him falls in love with him and in true golden form he falls in love equally as quickly. Any lap is a good lap and there's never too many pats. I do love that when it's time to not have attention he's good about that too, passing out on the floor or couch until he's called.

We've been doing a lot of puppy obedience stuff - little things - intro to scent articles, go outs. I've started him over little jumps (4") and he's enjoying himself. I've heard of a few puppies getting put up recently by various judges - not that I think Woo is going to take points - but it's theoretically possible and that's enough to justify flipping some entries into the pot.

Murphy - my little goober. He had a couple of really great working sessions this week. He's working nicely for pretty frequent reinforcement. My next step is to try to lengthen the time between reinforcement and get the food off me for moments. So we're done with babysitting every few strides - lets up the ante. It'll either fall apart or it won't - ahhh....life with dogs.

We went out to agility today and Murph was equally good at waggles on the agility field. This is after hitting his dog-walk contact at Ruths and grazing (sigh) while sitting on the contact.

So net positive. And the Essex cluster doesn't seem so far away anymore...

Erica

Friday, June 15, 2007

Regrouping and taking a break

We've been going out flat for a few weeks - where to start?

Memorial day weekend was a bust. I went off to a three day show by myself (suck suck suck) and Murphy's work ethic went down the tubes, yeah OK maybe it was my work ethic too. Too much trialing and not enough training - it's hard to trial Saturday and Sunday, give Murphy a day off, then train two or three days and then start trialing all over again. Add in the demands of work, being oncall and the other things I'm obligated to do every week and the net result was burning both ends of the candle pretty quickly. I just never felt like I was catching up on so many levels.

Last weekend was the So Berk golden trial - three days. Murph was distracted and gave me varying levels of attention on Friday and Saturday...Friday was hotter than heck (90 and humid) and Saturday we were rained on. On Sunday he blew me off to roll and I left the ring without him - let Kara catch him and put him away - no attention, no cookies...just back into his crate. When I took him out for his jumpers run he was fantastic! He worked with me, didn't sniff and if it hadn't been for sending him to the wrong tunnel entrance he would have Q'ed. Oh well - we've got time and for what it's worth I really like the fact that I got to make the mistake for once!

So we're looking forward to some obedience work - working towards another CDX leg. Murphy has a month off before the Essex Cluster. Plenty of time to really polish our heelwork. He is capable of the most gorgeous heeling - and he's sucked, been distracted, sniffy, etc. Let's get it right. I'm trying a few things - one of them is basically shaping foundation work - I'll detail the progress as we make some...

As for the Teller-woo, we're getting ready for his AKC debut at the Essex Cluster. Kara might take him the weekend before to Springfield - but, we'll see what happens. Some shots of Woo from the weekend...




Friday, May 25, 2007

Ominous start to the weekend...

We're in Granby this weekend for a trial - we almost didn't come for so many reasons...My trial buddy's dog is in season so we're here alone - poo - My birthday is tomorrow, so woe is me it'll just be me and the boyz this weekend and there's only so much take-out a girl can take after all.

My parents' dog Monica went downhill fast the past two days - playing normally on Wednesday, in the critical care on Thursday and to the rainbow bridge today. She rallied a bit last night but apparently the big C got her in the end. A tumor in the heart and she just went downhill so quickly. I guess that's the way to live - live every moment to the fullest and go quickly when the time comes.

Even before Monica's illness I was on the fence about trialing alone - it's just not why I do this...well the trial gods haven't been kind so far. It was blistering hot today driving down and as I lugged my tent out to the agility field I was melting. My tent thats supposed to go up easily with one person broke - that's a $250 tent - broken. I used it once. I plan to call the company on Tuesday - I was so pissed I just left it in a heap - hopefully no one will walk off with it. Oh well. At least there's a pavillion building and I found some room for two crates - so at least the boys will have shade tomorrow - we'll see if there's hope for the tent.

So happy birthday to me - Murph are you listening? I'd like a standard leg please :-)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Teller's day at the B Match....

Indulge me if you will...I took Teller to his first 'B' match today (we met Kara and Jean there) - he was entered in the puppy class 4-6 months old. Teller not only won his puppy class, but took best of breed as well! He went on to a sporting group 2nd after a really nice wiem bit*h.

I couldn't be more proud of this little guy! He was such a trooper going back into that ring three times, letting the judge look at his bloody mouth (he's teething badly this week) free-stacking and trotting around that ring like he owned the place. BTW, lest anyone think I've done this before the judge had to tell me to trot him at her on the triangle - and the fact that Teller did ANYTHING is a testiment to his ability to stack himself, his natural showmanship and the fact that I hadn't trimmed him (poor Murphy).

These pictures were from the last class - when he was pretty "done" and sick of stacking. Everything went so FAST! I wish there had been more time between the breed and groups. At one point the judge looked at him and said "wow" - I looked at Kara - "is that a good wow or a bad wow?" Obedience judges NEVER say wow.


He was more than a little tired after a long day and sacked out the entire way home...Here is Teller posing with his very first ribbons and he's quite pleased that he too now has a rosette on his kennel in the car - just like Uncle Murphy. He was soooo sick of doing the show dog thing but he did it once more for Kara - as if he knew that he could be done afterwards :-)


My mom came down for the show - her first ever. She had a good time I think and drove me home (I slept almost the whole way too). I think she might be talked into coming to another show some time in the future - no overnights though! We got to see Diva and Casa (I haven't seen Casa since he was 6 weeks old) - it's amazing to see all the widdle puppies so grown up now! They don't stay babies for long - love and cherish every minute of puppyhood, it goes too fast.