Saturday, June 27, 2015


School's out for summer!

The agility field got cut the other night!

I have some workshops to pull together and some online teaching to do but my time is MY time.

The list is long of things to do for others, to get ready for fall. We have guests coming to stay.

It's all good.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Growing Confidence ....Tincture of Time

When Dora arrived she was sweet as sweet could be. Except when she wasn't. She terriered like a boss at times but also shivered and shook and was scared of so many things it was close to impossible develop a plan to start "fixing" her.

The first time she met Wilkie she hid behind me and SCREAMED for a solid 10 minutes.

She's lived with us over a year and I had ambitions to "solve" her issues with a program of careful desensitization and classes. Then I realized I lived in the middle of a lake, on a large farm, and had too many jobs already.

Little Dora was going to have to carry more than her fair share of the weight for fixing herself.


Blow me over with a feather ... not wholly, not to my usual standard but Dora is learning despite me.

She swims, She plays nicely. In the last month she has coped with lots.  Her Aunt Sheila came and stayed the night with dogs she has loved but struggled with (mostly her brother!) and she loved every minute of it. Two other overnight guests and my mum and aunt - also tick tick check check after a little yelling about being a terrier. She is accepting Thea yelling her rather than sharing beds and rarely rolls Yen even if overwrought. Her recall is quite incredible and her manners around farm animals and equipment improves daily. She sits, and crates without issue. She likes scenting and loves to play train. She has strong personal, toy and food play skills. She lets me trim her nails without eating me and I've recently started hand stripping her and still have all my fingers accounted for. We spend less than half an hour a month on anything but handling skills and perhaps 2 minutes three times a week on those. But we spend time together. She is walked daily, and does chores with us. She is handled in bed and fed in her crate. All those interactions in a safe consistent way add up it seems.

We had an emergency trip to the vets last week and while terrified and VERY wiggly Dora never once threatened to eat anyone even with our fingers and various implements stuck in her mouth.

She does the dogwalk and aframe confidently and  can ride the end of the teeter happily. She is booting through jump standards and driving forward. Some cut grass and some training time and I may have a young agility dog to play with. Who might even be able to play in public. As long as the judge and crew are quiet and still anyhow!

It's a pleasure to watch her confidence grow - it's quite funny to see it happen with so little conscious intervention from us.  

No great wisdom here. Just remember when things are tough a plan is important, consistency counts but when time can also be quite magical in the right situations.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


It really could arrive any time.

This was 15 days ago, Now it's mud and snow patches. 

Brody has decided it is here. He came bouncing along on a walk with us for the first time since Christmas and was so happy. He charged through puddles (by mistake) and got caught in a thorn bush - which was actually horrifying as he screamed and started spinning in mad circles getting himself so tangled Big T had to uproot the bush by hand while I held Brody still while pushing a way too interested Dora off us. That part wasn't fun. At all. Thea is waiting for even better weather thank you very much.

The agility equipment is visible and that field is pretty high so hopefully soon we won't do damage if we play on it. I'm taking Fenzi's stay course - did the first few things but haven't done much this week, It's tough balancing working full time outside the farm, farm stuff and training stuff. Housecleaning? What's that?

Maybe the garage will have non farm/workshop. stuff in it next winter. Well the canoe lives in there too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crossing a line?

Online learning is WONDERFUL. In all it's different formats: Recallers;  Puppy Peaks; Agility U. ;Fenzi Dog Sport Academy;  Building Blocks Academy; Handling 360. You are a dog sport person who wants to learn from the comfort of home? There's a way to do it.My view for many of my recent classes:

That said there are times I shake my head. One example? Charging to read a blog.
I get it. I hope this blog is special. But. In reading a blog there is no interaction. No chance for meaningful dialogue.

Sure the model that has me shaking my head works out to 91 cents a day. Less than a buck. Less than coffee. But is there a blog posted daily? A meaningful educational blog? I doubt it. If they are able to post three times a week, which is a pretty rigorous schedule to maintain for six months that works out to about $2.50 a read. Sigh.

Will there be lots of cute puppy pictures? Doubtlessly. I loved the Clean Run series that tracked a puppy's maturity and training over a year . I found it fascinating and educational and fun. I knew it was coming every month and it was often the first thing I'd read.

Will there be value in the blog? I suspect so. Will I be signing up? Nope. No sir. My blog started as a way to goal set and record keep a little. It's evolved into a platform on occasion and a connection to a broader community (thanks Steve for our Blog Days). It's introduced people to me and me to people  some of who I don't even know know me. (Funny aside - a very big name trainer(bnt), world athlete told me the other day she has known me longer than I have known her. She found this blog ages ago. Made me laugh and also made me wonder about the hundreds of people who read Agility Addict. I always suspected they were computer robots of some sort but they are real! Cool! Thanks so much. )

I feel like quite the curmudgeon today.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

when I turned 30

I knew everything the year I was 30.

I had experienced death, too much death,  loss of tragic dimensions, a successful career in which people were priming me for leadership.  Animals of all types had come through our door and gone out our door. I had done enough local media that I was (rarely) randomly recognized by complete strangers. I had this thing called life well in hand. I was called as an expert on all kinds of odd things.

Then I turned 31 and somehow everything I knew as absolute slipped gently away. I realized as I meandered through my thirties that appreciating what I had was much more satisfying than fussing about what I didn't have. That loving the people around me was going to give me more gratification than longing for them to be different. Grasping that co-workers who weren't tagged for greatness still had lots to offer me (and our employer) was monumental and has changed my approach to everything.

I've realized that the animals I assumed were challenging because other people couldn't live with them were often pretty normal, and that there are animals and people with scars so deep and issues so gargantuan they are beyond my help. I've learned sometimes all I can offer is a safe place to lay a head and a listening ear.

I learned to reframe things that bug or upset me (from little to big it works: my car needed a boost - how lucky I am to have a car; someone I loved die - the grief is this profound because the love was that deep) and be grateful for the opportunities and challenges that continued to shadow me. Gratitude. It's where it's at people!

I wish I still had a magic wand for all situations for friends, students and animals.
It was a simple year.
It was a great year.

I am grateful for it but I am glad it was only a year.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bystander Busybodies ...

Heard the adage "if you can't say anything nice say nothing at all"?

Pretty much the way my family worked, at least in public and I had no idea how grateful to be for that education until I started dog sports. I know inappropriate nosy comments happened at horse shows I attended as a youth but somehow I obliviously sailed through most of them. That was  probably a good thing as showing horse was very stressful at times for me. It would not have helped my zen approach to have been worrying about the things people said. As an instructor, adult and friend I am much more aware of them now. I care less personally, and hear more.

When I first started agiliting (why isn't that a "real word yet?) I heard comments in passing but knowing no one I assumed people were asking for feedback or good friends with the people offering thoughts out loud. Sometimes I'd drive home and reflect on a comment that seemed mean spirited rather than constructive and what the person's motivation for making it might be. Rarely could I figure it out. So I went with trying to be helpful.

As I taught more and worked with more diverse groups of people, developing a little more self confidence and assurance, I developed a mantra for dealing with difficult people. I embraced the concept "it's not personal". Sitting at hospital bedside's advocating HARD for loved ones I was careful to separate the person in front of me from my frustration. Doing so forced me to realize all the times people likely don't acknowledge it's not personal.  Issues in other people aren't about me. They are about them. I mean that with no attempt to deny responsibility for errors. In fact now I find it easier to accept responsibility for errors I make. My mistakes aren't personal; nor an attempt to sabotage anyone. The reverse is likely also often true.

However, and it's a BIG however, the nasty snarky comments that are not my issue, nor personal (they are often freely dispensed over the course of a day) are still thoughtless and often cruel. They are disrespectful and  hurtful and often cause pain.

As a person who may want to help someone THINK before you speak.

If it isn't any  (or even better ALL) of the above. Stop. Re-think. Re-phrase. Or walk away.

If you are on the receiving end of a comment you have a few choices  Some apply best if you know likely "hot zones" others work anytime anywhere. Test em. Comment if you have other great strategies to try.

  • ignore the comments (so easy to say and hard to do)
  • plug in earphones so you can be occupied
  • solicit a friend to chat to you if you pass through a "hot spot" of comments
  • line up a distraction for them before you enter the ring - have someone distract them during or after your run 
  • pre-empt them - that is if you get asked "what did you think?" answer " I really loved X Y and Z" 
  • try honesty "I'd rather debrief with my coach - thanks" " I need time to process" "I suspect my goals for the run were different than yours would be" 
  • put yourself in their shoes - what might their motivation be?

You got this. I know it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Treatise on Fenzing ...

It's true.
I fenze now. That is to say,  I teach online classes through Fenzi Dog Sport Academy.

I fenze in the morning, at noon and at night. It's pretty consuming this fenzing stuff. If I'm not responding to student's homework assignments. thoughts or questions I am reading, researching, hunting for notes I've made from conferences and workshops years ago or I'm writing lectures, proofreading lectures, and differentiating lectures.

If I'm not doing any of that actively some fenzing is happening in the inner recesses of my brain. My learning makes me sure I know that even when I am not aware. In my non-dog, non-animal life (you probably didn't even know I had one of those did you?) I have done years, decades actually,  of work with teachers and students around a wide range of things including anxiety reduction, goal setting, planning,  changing negative patterns, brain research as it applies to those topics and improving teaching skills. Guess what? All of that applies to the horse and dog world if horses and dogs are in work or being shown or trained.

There are times our brain is our worst partner. And often that response from our brain is a learned response so simply wishing we didn't think that way is going to change exactly nothing. We have to unlearn and relearn healthier approaches. And guess what? It looks like not only am I successful in teaching that kind of thing in a classroom setting. My online students are also seeing success already. Just 5 weeks into the first ever class of it's kind at Fenzi Dog Sport Academy they are self reporting happy runs, relaxed drives to events, and reaching stepping stones in planning and goals.

I am as proud of them as I am of my physical, sitting in a desk, playing in a hall, working in an arena, in front of me students. Fenzing is intense work on both sides of the screen. Students have to make a commitment to be proactive and ask the questions, try the homework so they can ask the questions, not be shy about sharing the blips as well as the successes. They have to be strong self advocates to make the most of the class it seems. And instructors? Well they have to be passionate about their subject. Care about their students enough to be gentle if an assignment is off track (so so hard online sometimes - I am by nature very direct - luckily for me and my students usually kind and direct) Able to redirect and re-engage when things go amuk. A little bit of mind reading also helps.

One challenge I have is my natural brevity. By nature and experience I believe in letting people work things out themselves. So my comments often add a bit, make a suggestion but aren't not nearly the length the student's reflections are. I hope they don't feel ripped off- I am happy to answer with more detail - but I don't want to bore anybody either. Always this balance that is life. The other challenge for me is the bronze level students. They audit the course and don't participate but I want to know! Are they having the same success as the golds? Do they have questions they wish they could ask? Am I meeting their needs? Sigh, every once in awhile a little bit of feedback gets to me and I am grateful for it (and thrilled by how positive it is) but I wish there were more silvers and more general questions. Our class discussion forum is fun  - and I'm grateful to those who participate there as well as in their own thread. Fenzi school is a time suck no matter which side of the screen you are on it seems. When I'm a gold student I can rarely keep up with my own work let alone other threads. As an instructor I keep up with my students (barely sometimes) but there is so much more I want to do. Sigh. Reality check.

I love fenzing though. It's like having 14 in depth private lessons on the go at any time. Fourteen! No wonder I fenze morning, noon and night! On both sides of the screen I love being able to fenze when it suits me. Online learning is not for everyone. And I truly don't believe it replaces face to face interactions but the right course at the right time is SO MUCH GOOD.

I was very very honoured to be asked to teach for Denise Fenzi. The moment I first read her blog and thought OH MY someone, in a different sport mind you, but SOMEONE thinks like me ... it was eye opening, affirming and gave me strength and courage to stick to my guns, (Which, given Sally, is likely either a very good, or bad, thing) It was this specific blog that made me go AHHHH . I too had read Control Unleashed and thought - ahhh so good, thanks for clarifying my thinking (Shaping Success had the same effect in many ways - from a different direction). When Denise asked me my background in the "head stuff" and how I connected it all  in person for my students I realized fenzing it would be very possible. We talked about doing a silver only version and it's a possibility for some courses  going forward but for this introductory course doing it in sync with the other classes has worked beautifully. I am very grateful to my golds for giving their all to making it work for them! And to Denise of course for making it possible to get my message out there!!

heart full of

as always!