Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just a Day in Paradise ...

rough life

meet up with Lucy and Walter's Mom and the Cheerful Complainer in Cherry Valley and headed down to Point Petre - a true corner of paradise ...

7 dogs: Jasmine, Fannie, Walter, Lucy, Brody, Sampson and the incorrigible Sally .. the dogs were great - they had fun smelling new smells, rolling, playing in the water and Sally eating disgusting things!

The humans had a lot of fun too - what could easily have been a half hour walk turned into a 3 hour gab fest and walk ... it's a funny thing this blog land ... meeting people you don't know in person but know well in cyberspace is a little odd. Lucy and Walter's Mom is just lovely - every bit as humble about her awesome dogs and self in person as she is on the blog, every bit as nice as she seems. I didn't "know" the Cheerful Complainer (her name- not mine - I don't think she complains much at all - but the name is cute and so's she!) nearly as well but she is a treasure in her own right too -and she runs a small dog in agility - so that was fun for me too! I am so very glad we connected and would love for it to happen again.

Everybody should sleep well tonight!

word free wednesday ...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

where to go from here?

While this picture was taken when I asked Sally what we should do after she missed a last weave pole and hit the teeter so fast (on course and DRIVING) that she completed it beautifully before I could think it sums up my current thinking quite well. (What I think I love most about this picture is that Sally held a very nice stop at the bottom of the teeter but the photographer took their time and caught this goofy moment! Knowing my big mouth they could probably hear me asking Sally if she knew what to do!)

I stop and think and Sally carries on (yelling at me to run faster!). Brody curls up and has a nap while I think.

I had a chat with an agility coach I have a lot of respect for yesterday. He reminded me that qualifying two dogs for any national competition is something to be pleased about and to qualify two such very different dogs** is especially noteworthy. We talked a lot about the issues in running Brody and Sally on the same courses. He said some very nice things about me and the dogs. It felt good to be thinking through issues and the future with  two brains.

I'd like to do Rgionals again next year. Nationals will be out of the question but I think planning to attend Regionals is reasonable. CPE Nationals would be fun too but I'm not sure I can get the 3 requisite standard qs with Sally. I will have to look at that as I don't think I'd just take Brody - he's had a CPE Nationals experience of a lifetime back in '08 .

I think should sit down with a calender and plan a trial a month between now and May.
I've been asked if I'd like to help with House League again too. That is good for my brain. I think one reason I get so much from agility is because it is good for my brain. In my little happy fantasy world I'd find a great indoor space close to home and set up my equipment in it and work twice a week all through the winter too. Unlikely to happen but wouldn't it be fun?

** they are very different  - just look at a picture of them and you'll see it - but the one similarity they share is a very very solid work ethic. I think they work for different reasons but they both love to work. I am SO lucky.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sampson's summer holiday

and I think he had a good time!

same video -I  just gave you a couple of ways to view it
his table is  completely automatic -you whisper the word table at him and you get what you see ... until he is released even! Actually the whole video is a pretty good example of what Sam does with his day - you should know he eats at least 6 cups of food a day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

revisiting goals: finding motivation ... Part One

Last time I formally goal set on this blog was way back in January.
Obviously I had goals for Regionals and Nationals I think I alluded to them  - very pleased we accomplished them (and more!). Now it's time to look forward again.

2010 goals ...
Brody - get that last elusive jumpers Q; finish level 3 CPE titles; work on distance a little (for fun like); run happy and quick; and perhaps attend Regionals

Considering we had exactly 1 AAC trial between then and now I'm delighted Brody earned the jumpers q - I think all he needs in level 3 CPE is two jackpots - just because we have hardly seen them ... he's puttering away in level 4 very happily as well. His placements at Regionals (both in individual classes and overall) surpassed any goal I would have set. His work at Nationals and overall placement was way beyond my goal setting but lovely. He is running happily and quickly and just such a pleasure to play with.

Thea - work on getting 200 more level 1 CPE points; get another starters AAC Q (snookers most likely given she doesn't weave, do the teeter or like chutes); get another advanced jumpers Q
if Brody doesn't attend Regionals ~ attend them

Thea has done NO AAC and very very little agility. She has earned every q but one she was entered in which considering she usually just does agility at trials and house league blows my mind. She is so much fun!

Sally - earn a starters snookers Q (or 2!), fix the %^&$ aframe contact; earn another 2 advanced jumpers Qs; run advanced gamblers; earn level 1 CPE standard title; finish level 2 games titles (if I can find enough classes); run steeplechase and standard once aframe is working
Regionals? maybe .. need to give this some serious thought .. but I would like to have a dog there ...

Snookers q? done. Aframe - life long project I think but coming. No missed contacts at Nationals and One standard Q in CPE make me feel better about this one. She has jackpot classes left in level 2 (haven't been able to find them to enter) and is otherwise in level three( if I have done my math right)
Steeplechase is not an immediate goal of mine at this point. Regionals was amazing and Nationals was wonderful. She is an exceptional dog.

Sampson - continue to backyard train him .yup. introduce 2x2 weaves and contacts, nope challenge him with short sequences  this, this is too much fun! Loving  fooling around with this silly, nose driven fellow!

Me - participate in Regionals; continue having fun in this game I love; trust I will know when Brody wants to retire; tighten up my technical skills handling the variety of dogs I run; get the agility field up and operational; host something at the agility field; represent myself, my dogs and AAC well wherever I am playing

Fun? check..Trust myself with regards to Brody? check.. improve my skills? need coaching for this one... agility field? bust...represent well? I hope so...

Friday, August 26, 2011

a little agility ....

Sally is a tidy jumper. Natural talent? I'd say so but I think the work we do helps. It certainly helps me be in the right place at the right time pulling my wieght on our team. We have had maybe 5 rails in trials. most of which are when I do something FUNKY and she is trying to translate for me and jump what's in front of her at the same time. Poor dog.

I did a lot of the exact same work with Brody when he started out. We still work but for every 5 jumps Sally does now Brody might do one. Brody is also an excellent jumper (he has pulled exactly one rail in his life - a 12 inch jump at CPE Nationals in 2008).

Sally has had a full week off any formal agility but as the summer draws to a close I know I want to put some decent work outs in the bank for those horrible fall/winter days when it's impossible. We decided to do jump work today. Collecting, stretching and listening. She was amazing.

She is amazing. My first time just leaving the camera in place- it worked fairly well. I held the camera during the warm up - apologies - take gravol to watch!

This is also a very typical example of what one of my lawn agility sessions might look like! I did not include our full warm up nor our cool down ( some spins, some sit/down sequences and a couple of recalls as well as a nice rub down).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coach me, show me, teach me ...

I'm an educator by trade ... it's how I make my living and I'm lucky enough to have fallen into a job I  love.

Pedagogy fascinates me. How can I be a better instructor? Facilitator? Teacher? Trainer?
How do people really learn? How do dogs and other animals really learn?
Finding solid coaching in my animal world has made me look at education from both sides of the coin.

Some things I know are true:
  • everyone learns differently
  • positive instruction leads to better learning
  • perfect practise and opportunities to try things for yourself lead to best results

further; a good educator:
  • will help you set realistic goals
  • will also push you beyond where you thought you could go
  • will let you learn
  • will ground you
  • will offer CONSTRUCTIVE suggestions when you struggle but let you find your way
  • will keep you safe (physically and emotionally)

I have worked with a few different trainers and coaches in the agility world but my own lack of coachability interferes with making the most of opportunities.
A online assessment tool I used last fall had this to say:

Coachability This is about how well you handle criticism and your ability to make changes to improve your performances.
0-4 Below average - Improvement during training is slow, you have trouble managing your emotions when criticized.
5-9 Average - You benefit from your coach's comments but can lose motivation during practice if there is a lot of criticism.10-12 Above average - You make adjustments quickly and enjoy the challenges of training with a demanding coach.

Your Score: 8 / 12

My coachability is directly influenced by my knowledge of pedagogy. I want to learn but I want the premise behind the educable moments clearly laid out as well. Frustrating for the brave suckers who take me on as a student I'm sure.
Asking me to blindly so something new is sure fire way to provoke a discussion. Not ideal in group classes for sure. Telling me that there is only one way to do something also tends to push me to prove the other ways something can be done.

I'm a lousy student for teachers to work with. I feel badly about that.  I beat my own path and think through puzzles for myself.

I wish I was more coachable.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

of course ....

We go away for three days (five nights - just the way flights had to work) and everybody but Sally was fine

Sally's normal nose

Sally? not so much ...

Sally's nose today :(

I've never left her this long and while I knew she'd be safe I was also pretty sure she'd get bored and make some kind of trouble. The world thinks I'm crazy when it comes to Sally. This I know. I also know I'm not. Sally got 2 leash walks, a cuddle time, 2 plays in a play yard, 3 trips to an outside run and a stuffed kong given to her as well as breakfast in an all day dispenser each day. That is at LEAST 15 interactions a DAY with her ... and it wasn't enough ...

It took a friend,  a boarding kennel, a vet clinic, my dad and his wife Jean,  and my mum to replace us for our visit with our godsons .. that's some crazy math ...

the trip was lovely, wonderful, fun and the godsons are delicious ...

but I'm glad to be home with time to hopefully get Sally's sore raw nose healed up - what a dog... what a whole lot of dog!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

By the time you see this ...

Baby Quiz will be in her new home.
I'm happy for them and very very sad for Sally and me.
I put together this compilation of video and pictures (most of which you've seen probably if you've been here in the last week) for her people to enjoy. It's all about Quizzical!
Love fostering. Hate fostering. Love Quiz.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tug Tug 3 dogs and Three Tugs

All the talk this summer about being the cookie, working for free and having variations of rewards has made me think about tugging quite specifically and my expectations for tugging. I don't think a dog has to tug to be any good (Brody is a fine example of that) but I do think tug is a fun interactive way to reward a dog who enjoys it. It is a relationship building activity that is fun plain and simple.
Three of the dogs here like to tug. I have taught all three of these dogs to seek out tugging for fun. (Actually Thea really enjoys tugging sometimes too). Making the video was interesting as I couldn't direct tug and film at the same time. The dogs seemed to cope OK and you see their different tugging styles. I deliberately brought out three different toys to tug so you could see that they will all tug what is offered. I did not bring Sally's ultimate favourite tug out as I was quite sure I would not be able to control the camera and the flyer together.
The filming is a little crazy but you get some sense of the way tug works here. Sally couldn't believe it was all about tugging - she jumped a jump, ran through a tunnel, did right and left turns and pounded on various toys with glee. You may see me switch toys on both Sally and Quiz - who are both happy to tug what is presented. Sampson is too but he was having so much fun with the fuzzy I couldn't bear to make him work!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Keeping it real ... and some rambling ...

Run Sally
Balancing my natural optimism, pragmatism and realism (in life not just agility) can feel like a bit of a juggling act. I don't want to be pollyanna-ish (from the World English dictionary: Pollyanna:n. a person who is constantly or excessively optimistic) and annoy those around me but by nature I'm pretty take it as it comes and make the best of what you have. That isn't to say I can't be plunged into a funk or completely situationally overwhelmed but I can often get my groove back reasonably quickly. I'm very very fortunate that way - and believe me, I do appreciate that!

Animals ground me. They give me an outlet for emotion that is non judgemental and positive. They allow me to be entirely true to who I am (or think I am) which allows me to rehearse being true to me. That means I can bring that sense out when something is difficult. I have a bit of a reputation at work for speaking my mind no matter who I am addressing (apparently Superintendents are rarely told they don't quite get an issue and then educated about it- whoops!).

Brody keeps me real.

When I reflected on the brand that is Susan Garrett last month I left something out. I left it out on purpose because while this blog feels private (or shared in a small circle now)  it is very public. I also have not gone to Say Yes because there are people who would pay to attend the same workshop as me in the hopes that Susan would go after me publicly. They think that would be entertaining to watch as I am not easily intimidated. I didn't include this info in my last post as I don't know SG personally at all and had no clue if she knew there was a perception of her that included a yelling, losing it side. She wrote a post last night that makes it obvious she does know she has this side so I can include it as a further demonstration of my mixed up personality.

I am a great believer in capturing a good feeling and holding it so you can bring it back when you need it. I use this technique in life and agility often. I am also quite committed to the notion that you can and should plan interactions. Rehearse and visualize success but be prepared to adapt if need be. Stands me in good stead doing lawn agility and in the classroom.

Agility NOW please - enough talking - more action!

Quiz will be leaving us this week. It's taking some deep pulls from my fatalistic what will be will be side to be OK with this. She is going to a fabulous home that is part of the larger extended family of the rescue I work with so all is good but will Sally and I ever miss her. (The boys not quite so much).

Have been paid some very nice compliments during and since Nationals including "you have more just plain fun with your dogs than anyone I know!" from a fabulous handler/judge running fabulous dogs. That means more to me than just about anything*. I hope the dogs have fun with me too!

Pay somebody a compliment today - you may never know the power you give them!

Speaking of which - I am very proud of Sally's sister Sophie. She ran steeplechase at Nationals and did a heck of a job in a very distracting new environment staying right with her mom! They both were a pleasure to watch and be with. Nancy -you've done me proud! And I can promise you neither Brody nor Sally would have made it nearly as far in the weave ole challange either!!

* including being, forgive me, NATIONALLY ranked! Still blows me away!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


he really is a handsome boy - even covered in pond sludge!

Yes, the bottle came for a nice long walk at the world's best private dog park too!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

lovely lazy days ...

Mum is not a fan of being photographed. Wilkie didn't mind at all.
We had a pair of guests today - lovely afternoon hanging out on the front lawn with the dogs, Mum and Wilkie. Tried my new to me camera in lots of different ways. Still loving it!

Really have done hardly a thing with the dogs this week .. walking, stretching, some rub downs but taking it easy has worked well for us all. Sally has had her usual fetch games and some jumping but nothing complex or particularly challenging.

Sally discovered the new cushions on the bench ~ apparently she approves
Should start the puppy on some new manners I guess but she's so darn good as she is it's hard to get motivated!!
She's so cute! She's so good! She's so funny!

Sampson hardly stopped moving the whole time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

sometimes words fail me..

I had a five hour drive on Sunday to get home, then a lazy rainy day Monday; and a pouring day Tuesday; then a relaxed day Wednesday too. Lots of time to reflect, watch videos, read the thank you posts and blogs from the Nationals  and contemplate my own condition.

It still seems amazing to me that the dogs qualified for Nationals. Two of them. One old. One young.
One wise. One foolish. We ran at a national level in a sport we love. Freakin' unbelievable. But I have the bumper sticker to prove it now!

Sally had exactly 4 aac trials under her belt collar since the comeback tour started. Then Regionals and then Nationals. Nationals was her 6th aac trial. She has a few CPE trial miles which certainly help but I think they wouldn't take all the fingers on one hand to count. Brody had one extra CPE trial. So I'm pretty sure the dogs had 8 and 9 trials respectively in the last 13 months. For both of them the trials were usually just 2 -4 classes.

Best Things
  • one bar all weekend (Sally's last bar in an otherwise very nice standard class)
  • every contact hit -every dogwalk and teeter done well slightly alarming aframe from Sally
  • nice start lines (again only Sally crept one line, the second last one, a little - sneak!)
  • seeing amazing dogs and handlers work hard and well
  • watching people handle success and failure well
  • the amazing volunteers
  • the beautiful site

Things I Learned

  • Brody can still have a melt down on course
  • I was right, Brody does not run well in the heat, Sally could care less
  • cooling Brody off by soaking him helps a lot
  • Brody tolerates his cooling coat
  • Sally can stay in an xpen with a cover happily
  • 13 week old puppies are great stress relief  
  • I really don't have nerves even at a National competition
  • I had wonderful supportive people with me: thank you!

Between Regionals and Nationals Brody had one off course that he did; one off course that I steered him to and one refusal. He ran 3 clean jumpers  courses, and 3 clean standard courses. Pretty darn impressive. He isn't a gambler nor am I so we didn't even try one mini gamble. We made honest efforts for the main gamblers but that wasn't happening in any of them.

Sally had some weaving issues in the high stress fast entries of Nationals but that's an experience thing, I have no doubt it will come. Her entry in the last standard class was amazing  - she checked a half stride then caught her entry and blasted away. Very cool feeling! At both regionals and Nationals she and I weren't in the exact right places to make a couple of tricky lines work but all in all she was amazing. She bobbled past 4 jumps in total for 4 refusals; she had one off course tunnel; she had that weird non completion thing where she stepped through the jump and a non completion of weaves where she was so quick to the next obstacle I couldn't fix it; at regionals she needed a couple of times to hit the weaves in the first standard course and that was it. 8 errors in total in 8 classes. She also had that smoking, incredible jumpers class! Her gambles classes really showed me her potential. We didn't do minis but she got the basic principal for each of the four main gambles. She wasn't entirely successful (once she just ran out of time, twice she missed something in the weaves, and fourth class I can't recall what the error was) but she was amazing.

What good, incredible, nationally ranked dogs I play with.

the real question

is why is she still here?

Might as well celebrate!

Two of the gambler's runs (same Sunday course) and Brody's 'orrible standard ...
lots to celebrate in them and lots of groans too :)

my first effort to string a video together- forgive the glitches!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Quiz Does Nationals

I was, to be frank, worried about taking a 13 week old puppy to Nationals. I was staying in a strange place, and routines were going to be thrown to the wind. It was my first Nationals ever and I was a vendor and volunteer, and running two dogs. It was already busy enough thank you. But then a great lead came up for the puppy's home and they could meet me at Nationals. So I packed her up and we never looked back.

Quiz was perfect. I should have expected no less. She hung in her crate, she rehearsed leash walking, tugging, chilling in an x-pen. She met playful puppies, and lots of gentle adult dogs. she met hundreds of people (especially after the announcer told the world she needed a home! Thanks for the shout out!)

She snoozed, she ate well and she was a great stress relief. Sally was thrilled to have her little buddy along for the ride and Brody wasn't bothered by her at all. She practised her tunnel skills as the best tunnel vendors on the planet were tabled right beside us. She practiced her charm skills on Keith from Crash Test Toys too.  She played at charming a whole lot of people and did it very well!

We met lots of wonderful people and one who may be where she ends up but the timing isn't right for them right now - so this lovely little puppy is still officially looking for her forever home.
And, after watching many many of them at Nationals there is no doubt Quizzical is part Kelpie (does that make her Kelpish some folks wondered?) The most commonly heard breed guess was Kelpie x Corgi ~ but still all I can say is Adorable.  is the group I am fostering her for.

Monday, August 08, 2011

We made it home .

15 ) Brody - ON / All Canadian 6 Inch                                385.2

Gamblers 1 66.00 50.63 23 27.60
Standard 1 74.00 70.08 0.00 0.00 0.00 103.92
Jumper 1 58.00 45.95 0.00 0.00 0.00 87.05
Gamblers 2 66.00 48.18 22 26.40
Standard 2 74.00 87.32 13.32 25.00 38.32 61.68
Jumper 2 56.00 52.45 0.00 0.00 0.00 78.55

He's 8th of the Ontario dogs  ... we brought home a 6th place standard ribbon and a 9th place jumpers ribbon too - what a boy!

Saturday was coolish and Brody didn't mind his wet wet feet very much at all

our first run was jumpers - a nice warm up

Brody ran it nicely - though he was quite slow from 1-4 he handle the serp at the end like a pro and he was quick. Quick enough to earn a 9th place ribbon.

Next up for us was gamblers  - never ever my favourite .... and not Brody's strong suit ... but that was OK  - it was a nice course

I opened with a serp of tire, tunnel double then zipped up the outside line, repeated the four pointer then played in the middle til the whistle went .. he very happily did jump one - ignored the tunnel so I didn't waste time leaving happily!

Final class Saturday was standard

Brody was a superstar out there - I got lost a couple of times- just slightly but irritating as it slowed us WAY down -that said he made up for me well enough to earn a 6th place in the class. What a rockstar!

Sunday was not our day. He was very slow in gamblers earning 22 points instead of the 30 he could have quite easily. Our standard run was the worst run we've had in years - close to forever- keeping me real I guess. He did the opening fine - then stalled at jump 4. Stalled so hard he wasted a good 4 seconds and spun (for an R) before he restarted. I was ticked so did the wrong jump on the way to the finish line. The sun had just come out and we were both hot and cranky. His jumpers run was lovely 3.5 yps - good enough for 12.. too bad as that would have been a nice ribbon run! I can put it in my bank of runs to replicate that's for sure.

114 ) Sally - ON / All Canadian  22 Inch                            320.78

Gamblers 1 60.00 57.52 7 7.00
Standard 1 58.00 50.91 0.00 10.00 10.00 90.00
Jumper 1 39.00 43.37 4.37 20.00 24.37 50.63
Gamblers 2 60.00 58.99 29 29.00
Standard 2 57.00 55.93 0.00 40.00 40.00 60.00
Jumper 2 45.00 35.85 0.00 0.00 0.00 84.15

As I said before leaving,  experience was the name of the game for Sally here - I'm pretty pleased with her .. *the 7 point gamble was me insisting she do 12 24' inch weaves as she hasn't seen them since June ...  she nearly got both final gambles ...
*her first jumpers run would have 5 faults (instead of 20+) had I known what to do -she went between the top and bottom rail of a jump (#16) - there was a striped fence- and bleacher backs and she just couldn't see the bar .. weirdness but I've never had her do that before so I doubt I'll see it again
* first standard run was a big bobble wide (me in wrong place as usual) and the last bar down because I was SO thrilled to see the finish line I think  - pretty awesome mistakes .. given all the options out there!
*second gamble

was OK .. should have been able to do the mini but I changed the direction I tried it from first without walking it and I should know better than that now
on the same I should be cluing in note - I also could have tried to get the weaves again - Sally found them but blew the entry in the final gamble - there was no whistle but I was so pleased she found them at all I just made up a little gamble and ran out! Doh

* second standard

 she missed the last pole in the weaves and was so quick to the teeter I had no chance to correct - she ran a little wobbly to that point - it was a wicked fun, wild course .. and I honestly thought she only had a refusal on a jump (11 after the tunnel under the dogwalk)  but looking at our score maybe she back jumped the run past jump to get to the right place ... or maybe the judge didn't see us do it? Again it didn't matter so I obviously didn't look at the scribe sheet that carefully

* last jumpers,

 I was wiped out, I had watched a LOT of errors - the tunnel entries were closer in real than on the map- I decided to run for broke and see what happened  - I nearly got lost, I didn't lead out as far as I had planned, I was not smooth and even but Sally made up for all my errors and more. She ran 5.2 yps and was clean. She was 28th in the class with 9 seconds between her and first place... unreal  - what a fabulous heart of gold dog

it was a great learning experience and a wonderful weekend!  Much more to come I suspect...