Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Agility Skills - Thursday July 29th, 2010

It seems as though the field is most often mowed on Thursday afternoon. So I won't even try to use a nested course working off the Tuesday night setup this week - I'm learning! I plan on running the following sequence tomorrow night (outside). This is your heads-up to familiarize yourselves with the sequence ahead of time :-)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Sequencing - July 27th, 2010

I expect a busy evening tonight with preparations for the local AKC trial this weekend! Here's the sequence for tonight's Summer Sequencing drop-in.
The Open/Excellent option:


And a nested Novice option:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sedona Burn-out.

While I'm still coming to terms with my new life as a van-owner (the dog's crates are loaded and I'm slowly working on organizing my gear and supplies), I stumbled upon this video from "TeamHallNass" on YouTube - a review of a 2010 Kia Sedona. My dad had a similar experience as a passenger on my Sedona test drive as I punched the acceleration a few times. It may be a van - but it's got a good sense of get-up and go - and while I'll miss some of the creature comforts of the Saturn Outlook (so far I miss the thermometer most)its not going to be a bad trial vehicle.


Our setup so far:
Murphy (right) does not deal well with change. Now that I have more space Teller has a 42"x30"x21" crate on order to match Murphy's larger accommodations.  I'll eventually have a platform under the crates for storage as well. This gets the dogs out of the "crash" zone, but it also frees up other space for storage and organization.

The Kia Sedona has a built-in Mommy mirror - I presume moms need to be able to watch their litter of small children throw cheerios around the back seat of the van. I can peek on the boys.

Ground level - Murphy (left) and Teller. Once I have the crates properly tethered in the back I'll remove at least one of the two center-row seats.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the topic of agility equipment...

A couple of my intro students are at the point now where they're deciding whether or not to take the agility plunge and buy equipment. They're doing a bit of goal evaluation, where they are in training and what they want to work on at home between classes. There's a temptation to feel overwhelmed and there's always the danger to get over-equipped right at the start. Most of us can't (and shouldn't) go out and buy a full field of agility equipment after a six-week introduction to agility class - and a lot of us that have been doing agility for a while don't own a full set of equipment. I have an adjustable teeter in my backyard that I plan to re-finish with a rubber skin this summer, a few jumps (agility and obedience jumps) and a couple of sets of weave poles (metal bases).

I don't think you need to invest a lot of cash buying or time building equipment to have enough things to work on between classes. I generally don't want students to buy or build anything during their first six-week session. That first class is about safely exposing dogs to the equipment. I take great care in controlling the environment for my intro classes so that dogs and handlers have positive experiences. Outside of class I want folks working on relationship issues and very specific handling (mostly on the flat) skills.

When students ask me what they should buy or build first I know that they're hooked! My answer is always weave poles. Once you've got the basics of how to train weaves (I teach a shaping method - but this is true regardless of method) I think it's time to make or buy weaves. BUT they don't need to be gorgeous competition quality weaves. They do need to be at least a set of six (12 is better) and you do need to have the spacing setup properly. There are a few options for making or buying weaves:

Stick in the ground weaves:
Depending on the type of dog and their weaving style, stick in the ground weaves (like THESE from Affordable Agility) are a really economical way to have your own weaves. A landscape spike inserted through a drilled PVC Cap with a capped 36" PVC pole attached gives you a pole with a spike. Do yourself a favor and buy (or make your own) a measuring strip like this one from Max200.

Now all you have to do is roll out the strip and stick the pole spikes through the grommets. EASY. All dogs can start with stick in the ground weaves - but as your dog becomes more a more confident weaver you might end up with a dog that drives through the poles physically you'll find yourself resetting the poles after each rep (particularly with sandy soils). This might not be an issue with smaller dogs and even with the larger dogs by the time the pole movement of stick in the grounds becomes a problem you're probably already addicted and can upgrade as necessary. A 24" grommet strip will set you back about $12, six stick in the ground weave poles can be made for about $20 (if you're handy). If you're so inclined a set of 6 stick in the ground poles (pre-taped with a color of your choice) can be purchased for about $45 from Max200 or $38 from Affordable Agility. The obvious disadvantage to stick in the ground (SIG) weaves is that they can't be setup inside if you're one of those types who want to weave in your dining room. 

PVC Weaves:
There are plans on the Internet for building a set of PVC weaves or the folks at affordable agility have a pre-made set (at right - $55). To be honest, I can't recommend that anyone try to build PVC weaves - My first weaves were made from PVC and I ended up scrapping them after struggling with them for a couple of sessions. In my experience PVC joints move and you end up with weaves at weird angles - unless you glue them, When you glue them you can't take them apart. If you can't take them apart you can't travel with them. On a positive note if they're glued they won't move if you have a physical weaver.

If you'd like to try building your own - here's a plan for a PVC weave base.

"Competition" quality/Metal Base:
Not all so called competition bases are what I would consider competition quality. I have a set of the competition weaves from Affordable Agility - which are essentially a six piece base (2x) that are bolted together. I have mine setup as two sets of six. These work for me because it's MUCH easier to travel with six 48" pieces of base than two 12' bases. I actually have a 20" set as well (also from affordable agility) in a 3-3-3-3 configuration - currently taking up space in my garage. I'm no longer training 20" weaves, but the set of three 20" poles traveled just as easily as my 24x2 bases. I wouldn't use them as "competition" bases - though they have held up nicely to all of the daily abuse that waggles throws at them. Some of the more expensive "competition bases" are solid sets of six - usually with a slide that secures the two halves into one solid piece - not so portable - even if they are hinged.

After weaves, I think the next thing to add is a jump or two. You don't need a lot of jumps - even at the higher levels of training. Check out my "four-jump" series for some ideas. You just need to challenge yourself to think outside of pinwheels and straight lines.

There are two main styles of build it yourself jump designs. One with a solid "fixed" bottom bar and the other with two individual jump standards. From a construction standpoint the fixed bar version is the least expensive to build - you'll need two "T" joints per side. The downside of this design is that in competition you will see jumps with single bars - the picture changes for the dog. The second problem is that for little dogs it might be that your ONLY bar is a fixed bar. There's a potential for injury if your dog can't displace the bar he's jumping over - but it's possible to teach your dog not to be careful BECAUSE they don't have to keep bars up - not to mention the safety factor of getting hung up on fixed bars.

My preference is to have separate jump standards (no fixed bar). These cost a little more ($65 from Affordable agility) but are worth it in terms of flexibility and ease of storage. The bases can be setup to "nest" along a wall in my garage - Very helpful for winter storage. I also have 4' and 5' jump bars and can use them interchangeably depending on where we're working. When I go out to the school I generally bring the 5' bars. When we're working in my smallish backyard I use 4' bars. You will need a 5-way PVC joint to build your own - which are available from Clean Run. I bought jump cup strips (also from clean run) which gives me 2" increments from 4" through 26". One of my students mentioned that they bought the same strips, but cut them in half for their terriers who will ultimately jump 16". They were able to use the other half on another set of jumps - essentially stretching one pair of jump strips over two jumps! The same could be done with larger dogs too - just mounting both halves at 16". Other options include single jump cups - which are fine if you never want to move jump heights, but aren't terribly accurate or practical if you're moving them up and down all the time.

If your preference is to buy pre-made jumps Affordable Agility and Max200 have some great options. You can also look for local agility trials - very often clubs rent equipment from an equipment vendor - and that vendor will sell the "gently used" equipment after the trial is finished. Especially for contact obstacles there's HUGE savings on shipping if you can take delivery at a trial, but even the equipment used only for the weekend (maybe 300 runs) will be discounted as much as 30%.

Tunnels:
Tunnels can't be made and are relatively expensive. There are some less expensive fabric options, but know that they won't hold up like the competition tunnels. This is the time of year when Bed Bath and Beyond and The Christmas Tree Shop have collapasable hampers (for dorm rooms). Cut out the bottom and stitch a few together and you have a suitable practice tunnel. These hampers tend to be 18" in diameter which is smaller than a regulation tunnel - but for most dogs (those shorter than 20") they'll work well (in the initial learning phase) as a practice tunnel at home. Again, tunnels are a great thing to buy at a local trial as they are expensive (heavy) to ship - but will also fit in most personal autos.

If you don't have room for equipment - or can't decide what you want to buy - don't despair. There are always facility rentals where you can use all of the equipment for an hourly rental fee. At Waggles (for example) rentals require an annual membership - but can be booked several weeks out. You can plan for "Wednesday Afternoons" all year long to work what you need to work on that week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bat-Dog

I don't often post content that isn't mine - but this one CRACKED me up!!! Meet pug "Teddy Almond Turtle" singing along to the "Batman." theme. BATMAN!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Agility Skills Class - July 22nd, 2010

My plan for tonight is to leverage the setup from Tuesday nights Summer Sequencing course - figuring that since it was POURING rain last night that Wednesday night classes worked inside and everything is where we left it Tuesday night. These days I don't reinvent the wheel unless I have to! For folks looking at both sequences, there are two obstacle tweaks between the two setups: in today's sequence Jump #1 pivots about 15 degrees clockwise and the teeter spins 180 degrees.


**Update** Leveraging previous setups only works if the mowers haven't torn down all the equipment to mow the dog yard (sigh). On a bright note, I actually had a chance to work Teller over the courses (Tuesdays and todays) quickly, run both dogs home and get back in time to teach. Love it when things work out like that!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

A couple of weeks ago I finished Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". It was excellent. Well written, engaging, expertly narrated. It is highly recommended reading from Team Magica. I immediately (and eagerly) downloaded the second installment of the trilogy "The Girl who Played with Fire". It's a three part audiobook that runs over 18 hours - a substantial listen even in many fragments. A credit to Mr Larsson's skill was that there wasn't a single moment that I felt was wasted - the writing and plot was that strong from start to finish.

There's almost nothing I can write about this novel without giving away spoliers to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"...And you know that I won't spoil plot lines in my reviews - not here anyway.

A few points of discussion however - With Dragon Tattoo I really needed a family tree/flow chart to understand who the individual Vangers were and how they were related. That complexity isn't there in "Played with Fire". Some of the police detectives have names that sound alike - but many of the original Dragon Tattoo characters are back this novel.

Again Stieg Larsson surprises the reader with making connections that were unexpected - I won't go into more detail - but the last hour of "Played with Fire" kept me on my toes. The narration of "The Girl Who Played with Fire" was well narrated. I've found that the more books I listen to, the fewer mistakes I'll accept from narrators. There's a clear distinction between good and bad narration and I don't have much patience for the mediocre productions. The one downside to Simon Vance's characters is that a few of them seem forced. The voice of  Dragan Armansky (head of Milton Security and Lisbeth's former employer) at times sounds like the Sesame Street's Count (ONE - EH EH EH EH EH EH, TWO - EH EH EH EH EH EH EH EH), then the voice of Zala's strongman sounds a bit like a falsetto Jersey-boy. The effect is slightly irritating and detracts from the context of the characters.

Finally, I'd encourage anyone who reads "The Girl who Plays with Fire" to have "The Girl who Kicked a Hornet's Nest" close by - there isn't a lot of closure at the end of "The Girl who Plays with Fire". You'll definitely want to start Hornet's Nest right away. Now that Hornet's Nest has been released (May 25th, 2010) you don't have to wait for the next release - but I wouldn't have been pleased to wait a year for the third book in the trilogy.

The Girl who Played with Fire was written by Stieg .Larson, narrated by Simon Vance and published by Random House Audio. The Audiobook release date was July 28th, 2009. The Girl Who Played with Fire (unabridged version) has a runtime of 18 hours 38 minutes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Sequencing: July 20th, 2010

The course from tonight's Summer Sequencing class...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Obedience!

Teller and I have been focused on agility this spring and summer - which hasn't left a lot of time to work other things. More recently my schedule has been pretty busy with work and teaching four nights a week. Nevertheless, I couldn't resist entering the local obedience trial - Teller was sitting at one CDX leg from our last obedience weekend in July of 2009. So I double entered - an agility trial in NH and the local obedience trial. The NH agility trial was really over-priced (even factoring in nice footing) and while it was indoors it wasn't air conditioned - the last time we went to that trial (two years ago) it was hotter inside than out with virtually no ventilation. So I pulled my agility entry and decided to try for another CDX leg (or two).

Then we had this massive heatwave - high 80's and 90's with high humidity for the last two weeks. The net result is that we didn't have a chance to train anything at all - too hot to work the dogs outside - and even hotter inside at the training center. So as I drove down to Tunbridge on Friday (and it was already 80 degrees at 7:30) I was thinking (knowing) that I was crazy - poor Teller hadn't worked any obedience in 6 months at least! Friday was inside, in a arena building with a concrete floor. All the doors were open but there wasn't a lot of ventilation - not so comfy! I pull Teller out to warm him up and he's ON - really on. We go in the ring and his heeling was nice, his retrieves were nice, broad jump was fine, stays were stays...what wasn't so nice was the drop - normally his best thing he dropped about 2' from me. Too close - not a drop on recall! So an NQ, but what would have been a nice score excluding the drop.

Saturday we were in the air-conditioned (cold) expo center for day two. Teller continued to surprise me and put in a super effort earning a 185.5, losing the run-off for 3rd place (thus 4th) for his second CDX leg. Teller celebrated with a cheeseburger from Al's French Fries!

Today's run was as good as Saturdays. Heeling was better I think, Drop was pretty, Retrieve over high was nice - as was his broad jump. On the retrieve on the flat I threw the dumbbell, sent him and he apparently didn't hear me as he sat there waiting for a release. He went promptly on the second command but it was an NQ. Oh well!

My lesson from this weekend is that Teller knows what he knows. He's so bloody honest in his work - he gives me what I ask for every single time I ask it of him. Out of the ring he'll leap on people's heads and act silly, but when there's work to be done he absolutely does it. Teller is maturing a lot too - his work was more focused this year over last year. We lost points here and there for crooked fronts and finishes - but since we haven't trained for obedience I can't fault him for that. He stayed connected between exercises this year - he ignored the judges and the stewards carrying his dumbbell in and out of the ring - this is HUGE considering how much the Teller-Woo likes his dumbbell!

So we need another CDX leg. I'll have to look at where we are in agility and then look at weekends we might be able to go try for another leg....Good Woo, Atta Boy. Thank you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

September is right around the corner!

I just mailed off an entry for my first "new regulation" trial in September...It seems like a fitting time to revisit some of the new AKC agility regulations that will take effect September 1st, 2010:

Wait Lists
--Clubs may now offer a wait list that can be filled after closing. 
So if you find yourself wait-listed for a trial and it's after closing, depending on the club you might still get in off the wait-list!
A-Frames for the little dogs
--A-Frame set to 5'0" for 4" and 8" jump heights. AKC regulation  
A-Frame is now within one inch of 5'6" (which means 5'5" through 5'7"). All other heights will continue seeing the 5'6" A-Frame.
Dogwalk UP contacts
--Dogwalk up contacts are no longer judged. 
I am relieved for the judges on this one! This will save footsteps for tired feet. 

Teeter Calibration:
--Teeters must be calibrated prior to the start of every trial - clubs are responsible for having calibration materials. 
I'll have to watch for this one. I've NEVER seen a teeter calibrated. Prior to the start of the trial leaves some room for interpretation though - if the folks at Max200 calibrate the teeter before they load it in their trailer does that count as "Prior to the start of the trial"?
Table Behavior
--Table behavior is now position-less. Table count begins as soon as four paws are on the table. 
This is certainly an advantage for dogs that don't have trained table behaviors (or fast behaviors) and a disadvantage for the folks who had super-fast table behaviors (downs and sits). Those with fast sits and downs on the table often had a time advantage over those dogs that were slower to get into behaviors on the table. I've already switched to training exclusively for a down - and am asking my students to do the same.
Weaves
--Dogs must restart weaves at pole one (can't fix pop-outs in the middle of the poles) and limited to three attempts. 
I'm a pretty spacial person - but I never knew how people knew where to put their dogs back in the weaves - and I've seen NUMEROUS times where handlers put their dogs back in incorrectly and weren't called on the fault (so judges don't know either). This means judges can look for entry and exit and not worry about where the dog popped out.
Panel
--During windy weather a panel jump can now be replaced by a bar jump. 
Of course - what a great idea!
Tire
--Tire heights now are 4" lower than the standard height. 24" dogs will jump a 20" tire. 
I'm worried about this one - not for Teller per se - but for some of the faster, looser less careful jumpers out there. I'm even more disturbed to hear AKC judges say things like "yeah we know that there will be MORE tire crashes for a while with the lower heights and people will have to consciously retrain the tire". Of course they will - but to expect MORE crashes for a while? I'm hoping that the weird tire heights will encourage more judges to put the tire as the first obstacle for a while. I still think the better answer is a break-away tire.
Time
--Changes in YPS requirement (slower pace) for the 8" and 24" dogs - in Standard and JWW.  
I've done some math on this based on Tellers runs. In JWW this will net us an additional two points (on average) in standard this would be another 4-5 points (again on average) per run. Dogs that are truly 24" height dogs aren't built like 20" dogs. I'll be curious to see what results/points look like for other 24" dogs.
Training in the ring
--Handlers may now reattempt contact obstacles (and the chute) if a dog falls off. After the one reattempt the dog will be excused. 
I think handlers have always done this - if a handler was thinking quickly they got back on the obstacle right away then partied out of the ring. Letting them do so legitimately is a good thing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Agility Skills Class - July 15th, 2010

The sequence from tonight:

It's official....

We're van owners now. Not quite sure how I feel about it at the moment. The boys seem to have settled right in. Now to get it all fitted up with shelves, crates and other various supplies....No small task!



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Sequencing: July 13th, 2010

After the heatwave last week, the forecast for this evening looked good (80 degrees, breeze, not as much humidity) through about 2pm then it looked to be pretty stormy - we're still scheduled to have some good storms tonight. If I hadn't canceled class I'm sure it'd have poured and rained us all out - but I did cancel and of course it's gorgeous out there - though some menacing looking rain clouds the pleasant weather has held all evening. Anyway, here's the course that I had planned for tonight...I may still set it up at some point in the future though.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Murphy earns his keep...

OK, so it's not exactly a paid gig, but it's "work" for Murphy anyway. I usually use Teller for my trick pictures and when I need a thumbnail image of a pose for graphics work or illustration purposes. Teller jumped into the pool five minutes before I needed this picture, so Murphy - by virtue of being dry (mostly dry) had to be my model. This month's trick is "Sit in the Box" - it's back to a shaping challenge for Wagglers this month. Yes, the box is photoshop'ed onto Murphy's bum - out of necessity. Would you believe we don't have a single golden retriever sized box in the house?


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mayflower Corgi Club Agility Trial - July Edition

Whew! What a weekend! I'll keep the update short and super-sweet. First things first - it was a 4am start on Saturday morning - scratch that, it was a 3:30 wake-up call before we even left the house! Another Whew!!!

Teller was 3rd or 4th dog on the line for JWW - JWW is Teller's specialty (apparently) and he didn't fail me - even early in the morning pulling off a 2nd and Q for another JWW and his first multiplier! We had a 1st and Q in FAST with two (yes two) AWESOME A-Frames, then came out an hour later for our standard run and nailed another a-frame and a 1st and Q in excellent Standard. Yep - that's an Excellent QQ!

The Sunday courses were nice too - Teller had a good Standard run (but blew his a-frame contact) and managed a 3rd and Q in JWW...That's four Q's out of five runs - all four with placements! Go Wooie

I was impressed with the quality of Robert Kripaitis' courses all weekend. Both standard and JWW courses were challenging, but insanely fun too. Fast and flowing, they worked well for the big and little dogs.

This was also our last road-trip with the Saturn Outlook. It goes back on lease in a couple of weeks - to be replaced with another steed in the stable. I did note the irony as I packed/repacked/organized the rig on Friday night and tried packing things a little differently to see if I could better utilize the space :-). I'm nothing if not a through packer and a little on the Obsessive-Compulsive side! I will miss OnStar - it's been a helpful service, but unfortunately couldn't make another GM vehicle make sense from a dollar (payment or lease) or a configuration standpoint. Oh boy DO I miss those GM employee discounts!!! I also need more space without going up to a full-size van (cargo or passenger) or a Suburban - GM just lacks that flexible cargo/people hauler option. The Chevy Traverse (Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia) are the same platform as my Outlook - and I just can't get a third crate configuration that works on a semi-permanent basis. Farewell GM. I've enjoyed the rides - maybe I'll come back in another 3-5 years.

Anyhow - our runs from the weekend!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

HOT HOT HOT

I confess. I'm a weather wimp. I know - shocking. I'm equally displeased with heat as I am with cold - I have a very narrow comfort-zone. If I could find a place that was always 50-70 degrees year round (with no poisonous snakes please) I'd move there, live there and would promise never to complain about the weather.

Since Saturday temperatures here in Vermont, New Hampshire and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard have been in the 90s. It was slightly humid over the weekend but has since sweltered into gross, stagnant, icky, sticky oppressive heat and humidity. I've canceled classes so far this week - and will probably cancel tomorrow night's classes as well. it's just that hot. Even my dogs who enjoy their daily swims have not had much (any) opportunity to go outside and swim. In addition to the lousy air quality (fine particulates) - the humid air is just too oppressive (heat indexes of 105-110 degrees) and with the pool water in the mid to upper 80's it's not at all refreshing for them (or any warm blooded mammel) - which reminds me, 80 degree water eats chlorine like jelly beans at Easter - I'd better go dump in another bag of pool shock.

So no training, no swimming, no runs at the school or romps in the field - going on day four of laying low (and in the AC) just trying to stay comfortable and healthy...It looks like this weather should break on Friday - at least at that point we'll have some storms which will hopefully make everyone feel better...but for now we're lying low and staying inside where it's cool(er).

Oh and car shopping...but that's a tale (tail) for another post I think.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Agility Club of New Hampshire

Teller and I (Murphy too) went down to ACNH's very first agility trial this Independence Day weekend - what a fun show. The cheering and clapping (and yes, some heckling) was amazing - in stark contrast to the somewhat subdued environment of the last few trial weekends - this trial rocked and was raucous fun! It helped that the courses were consistently good all weekend - making even the long days fly by. With temperatures in the 90s and high humidity I was incredibly grateful to be INSIDE this weekend - in air conditioning- and it was fantastic air conditioning! Oh! And check out these MACH and PAX ribbons - they're GORGEOUS!!!

A few general observations: Teller likes air conditioning - to be more specific he likes to run when it's cool. I'm going to have to pay attention to that. I already know that I prefer to play when it's cooler - but he runs so hot it makes sense that he's more into the game when it's cooler. He also really likes the footing at AK9C -  his runs were more forward than I think we've had in a few weeks. Footing or temperature? Probably both. On my drive down Saturday AM I decided (Hey, I had a bunch of time to THINK while commuting at 5am) to really push myself out of my comfort zone this weekend - to really see what we had and to push for points. To that end I put in front-crosses in places I've never been brave enough to put in front crosses - and I got where I needed to be and it worked out - amazing how that happens sometimes! Dogwalk contacts were fine this weekend - A-Frame contacts were not there this weekend. We lost another Standard leg because of a missed a-frame contact (otherwise clean). I thought baby-sitting them was going to help - it didn't help this weekend with Super-Woo in quiver on the start-line mode.

As far as Q's - there weren't many this weekend. NQ in Saturday STD with an off-course and an A-Frame contact, NQ in JWW with a wrong course that was 100% my fault. Sunday we had a nice FAST run with a 1st and Q, a A-Frame fault in STD on a really fun course and an NQ in JWW with a wrong course on the last two jumps. Nothing ventured, nothing gained ;-) And it's back to working a-frames!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

It seems like everyone I talked to over the last couple of weeks has been reading "The Girl" series (aka Millennium Trilogy) published posthumously by Stieg Larsson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's nest (his most recent release). I was warned that "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was "good but gruesome" - not exactly what I was looking for so I passed on the download - especially after listening to Baldacci's "Deliver Us from Evil" which was so brutal, gory and needlessly violent that the listen felt abusive. . Then as more and more people urged me to read it (listen to it) without going into much detail other than "YOU MUST" I relented and spent the Audible credit.

I'm happy to report that "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is not entirely gruesome. Mature content - very much so: Rape, Murder, Domestic Abuse, Torture (though not graphic and detailed) - "R" rated scenes. If you can sit through an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit you won't have a problem with the particulars of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".

Translated from Swedish, there are several names that all sounded alike - I'm not at all sure if this is my "American" ear listening to Swedish names or the enunciation of the narrator. It took me a bit longer than usual to distinguish between the characters - and even longer still to understand the relationships of the characters. There are a lot of "Vangers" and outlining the geneological relationships between the clan was difficult. As I was listening I had to work out a family tree to keep track of who was who. So my gift to the blogosphere (still not s spoiler):  Harriet is the Daughter of Gottfreid and Isabella. Martin is Harriet's brother, Henrik is the family patriarch, former CEO of the Vanger Corporation - brother to Harald and Uncle to Gottfried Vanger, Ceclia Vanger and Anita Vanger are Harald Vanger's daughters (and cousins of Harriet). Other characters: Mikael Blomkvist - journalist, on the losing end of a libel suit - hired by Henrik to investigate the disappearance (and murder) of Harriet Vanger nearly 40 years earlier. Mikael's existence is complicated by his role as partial owner of a Magazine called Millennium and his relationship with Erika Berger the other part owner and editor of the magazine. Lisbeth Salander - genius, researcher, contractor for Milton Security - also mentally "handicapped", living under Guardianship of the state. Dirch Frode - Henrik's lawyer, friend, confident.

Following the libel suit (and legal loss) Mikael is facing credibility issues and jail time. Henrik (in his 80's) hires Mikael to make one last attempt to solve the disappearance and murder of his niece Harriet some 40 years earlier - promising both a huge sum of money and a chance to defend his name and reputation against Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (the other half of the libel suit against Blomkvist). Henrik has dedicated much of the last 40 years to the search for Harriet's killer - he's got one last chance to find some answers - can Mikael solve the mystery?

The first few hours were somewhat slow - lots of introductions and in my mind figuring out who was who (see above). The story picked up in part three - once Lisbeth and Mikael finally get together on the case. There were twists and turns that were pure brilliance...Some I worked out ahead of the characters - others that took me by complete surprise. I enjoy "being wrong" when I'm engrossed in fiction - surprise me, thrill me, lead me along - I am continually frustrated when I figure out the end of the story and then have to work through several hours of content while the author eventually gets there. I understand that the movie is available on NetFlix - I've been on the fence about subscribing for a while - this might push me over the line...OK, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Lost" (which I only recently discovered).

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was released in hardcover on September 16th, 2008, but was originally published in Swedish in 2005 as "Män Som Hatar Kvinnor" which I'm told translates to "Men Who Hate Women". The audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance and published by Books on Tape with a release date of 9/16/2008. The unabridged version has a runtime of 16 hours 19 minutes. The abridged version was narrated by Marton Wenner and has a runtime of 7 hours 26 minutes. I listened to the unabridged version and recommend that version - if only to better understand the characters and their backgrounds.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Agility Skills Class - July 1st, 2010

Tonight's sequence:


And as promised here's the supplemental stuff that we worked on. I added another jump (#1) to give you a reference point where to start. For the blue numbers start with the dog on your right. For the red numbers start the sequence with your dog on your left.