Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cross Training ... work it baby

The dogs around here have a pretty easy time maintaining fitness - they get, in all but the most exceptional of cold, road walks of at least 1.5 km a day (Sam and Sally usually get 2 road walks), runs at the farm (shorter now but generally I walk 3 km and they run for the full 45 mins+) , training time (every day, every dog does SOMETHING for their brain), and at least half an hour outside keeping me company while I do outside chores. They run up and down stairs, do balance games (tho I don't have a balance ball or peanut). We end up balancing working cardio, muscle and brain fairly well. If somebody comes up lame they go on moderate rest - ie leash walks and walk and brain work only until they are sound. Luckily around here lameness seems to last a day or two at most and doesn't happen often. I think it noteworthy that Thea and Sally are the most likely to come up lame - they are hard on themselves always!

You'll notice I'm sure that the dogs have a variety of ways to stay fit.  They work all their muscle groups and I make sure there is variety on their off leash runs - one day might be flat work, another may include swimming  in the pond, another will have a gradual incline or  a steep one, another may be through a woods where there is lots to clamber under over and through, a half hour of vigorous fetch gets worked in whenever Sally has choice! Grid work is part of life when the ground is appropriate as well.

I've got the dogs cross training down to a fine art.

My fitness? Not quite as organized! When at work I used to open the student weight room for 90 mins once a week after school and ride the stationary bike while the teens worked out. Here I walk, I wood (mainly loading and unloading - I'm literally not strong enough to lift the splitting maul over my head), I garden in season and recently have started riding. I'm also trying to much out 4 stalls twice a week as part of my fitness plan. That uses muscles not commonly used in daily work and gives me an aerobic push taking the cart to the muck heap. I need to remember to take care of my fitness as well as I do the animals if we want to have the most fun playing together. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Common Sense

Lori Bergman wrote the following (excerpted here)
"Three yards of black fabric enshroud my computer terminal. I am mourning the passing of an old friend by the name of Common Sense.
His obituary reads as follows:
Common Sense, aka C.S., lived a long life, but died from heart failure at the brink of the millennium. No one really knows how old he was, his birth records were long ago entangled in miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape.
Known affectionately to close friends as Horse Sense and Sound Thinking, he selflessly devoted himself to a life of service in homes, schools, hospitals and offices, helping folks get jobs done without a lot of fanfare, whooping and hollering. Rules and regulations and petty, frivolous lawsuits held no power over C.S.
A most reliable sage, he was credited with cultivating the ability to know when to come in out of the rain, the discovery that the early bird gets the worm and how to take the bitter with the sweet. C.S. also developed sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (the adult is in charge, not the kid) and prudent dietary plans (offset eggs and bacon with a little fiber and orange juice)....
As the end neared, doctors say C.S. drifted in and out of logic but was kept informed of developments regarding regulations on low-flow toilets and mandatory air bags. Finally, upon hearing about a government plan to ban inhalers from 14 million asthmatics due to a trace of a pollutant that may be harmful to the environment, C.S. breathed his last. Services will be at Whispering Pines Cemetery. C.S. was preceded in death by his wife, Discretion; one daughter, Responsibility; and one son, Reason. He is survived by two step-brothers, Half-Wit and Dim-Wit.
Memorial Contributions may be sent to the Institute for Rational Thought.
Farewell, Common Sense. May you rest in peace.

Often unattributed this has made the rounds with  variations since first published in 1998. I thought of it today as I browsed the newest edition of Clean Run. 

Many great articles and well worth the read but one that really me wonder was an interesting reflection from Susan Salo about being connected to other beings. Her explanation is much deeper than mine but ultimately she points out the way two animals run together often fall into a natural rhythm. When I was working with driving horses we always did our best to match a pair so this would be easy for them. They were going to move together so why not take advantage of it?  Knowing this in agility is important as well. People talk about driving  dogs around the course, and the benefits of having great distance skills, both important no doubt. That said there is nothing like running in a coordinated manner with your dog to both improve your running (I'm a lousy runner generally speaking) and to improve your dog's running and jumping. I pulled out 3 tiny clips from one trial compilation I had to show you what I mean. This is not done with any great forethought  it just is what happens when I run with the dogs. You can see how getting out of sync would  have a detrimental impact on jumping and running form.

Common sense? Apparently not as common as I thought.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


As humans we make choices every time we interact with our companion animals. A  standard catch phrase  of training is "every interaction is training". That is, don't expect your dog to sit at a door as it's being opened if you don't teach him or her to sit at a door every time it opens. 

Positive trainers believe that working with companion animals who are choosing to stay in the game is the best way for real, and meaningful, learning to take place. It builds understanding, duration, the ability to generalize and all kinds of good things when the animal can make the choice to participate freely. 

This neat little video reinforces and explains how this principle of choice works when you are playing training flighted wild birds. If they can do it surely we all can?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I wish I wasn't an expert ...

but loss has been part of my life (across species- including human) for many years now.

In light of that, and in light of the recent grief with Wyn, in the hope it might help somebody I present to you the following pointers on grief:

you are going to miss them
You may miss them more than you thought you would, or less than you thought you would, but you will miss them, sometimes at odd times or in odd places. Everybody who loved them will miss them. Knowing that may help if you are blindsided by grief unexpectedly. (Music has a great deal of power to do this for many people).

you may think you are obsessed with the loss 
The loss is going to hit you at weird times (and at perfectly predictable times too!) and you may be concerned that you "aren't getting over it'. Let me be completely honest. That saying, " Time heals all wounds"? Not my reality - time gives me scars that let me live life happily it heals nothing I miss my friends and family every time I think of them (which is often).  Grief distorts time in my world. One aunt died 4 years ago and another died nearly 20 years ago, I think about both of them nearly every day. Only you can decide when to put away articles that you connect to the departed one. Some people react quickly, some need the physical reminders. Sometimes it's a mix of both - Wyn's crate was taken down that night yet the leash I got for him as his prize for the calender picture is still hanging on the hook - I haven't used it with anybody else but I can't bear to put it away.

you are going to forget they are gone
It's been at least thirty years since our Irish Setter died and yet on the right kind of path, in the right weather conditions I can still hear her tags jangling as she runs with me. I don't think I hear them, I do hear them. Weird? Yes, but true. This is one place Kelly often joins us.

you are going to be angry, in denial, possibly wracked by guilt, and so on (aka an emotional mess)
That's natural, to be expected and totally normal - if you aren't familiar with Kubler Ross's cycle of grief check it out, especially if you are worried or curious about your emotional state. The cycle isn't the same for everyone or for each experience of grief but there are enough similarities to help you make sense of a world that is likely making no sense. Depression and sadness are natural but if they interfere with your ability to cope with life for long please seek help.

people are NOT going to understand
Some of the kindest people may make comments that make you wonder what has possessed them. When my paternal grandmother died I heard, from someone who I was pretty sure knew me well enough to know how shattered I would be, "Well she was old, what did you expect?" so, so not helpful to me in that moment. But true really.They were trying to offer comfort, as angry as it made me at the time. When people don't understand do not engage them. Bite your tongue, say thank you and walk away. They are trying to help. Appreciate they care enough to try. (I've tried every variation possible for these comments - trust me here!)

people ARE going to understand
Even though you may feel very very alone in your grief, in many cases you aren't. People will either empathize with you due to their own other experiences with grief or they may have their heart broken too. Just yesterday I was chatting to someone who works in a shelter so sees sadness every day; she cried when she heard about Wyn. Not because she loved him particularly (though lots of people cried very legitimate tears for their loss), but because it made her sad. Deeply heart-wrenchingly sad. When people do understand they may want to share why they get it. If you can bear it listen. In a month, day, year, or decade, you might want to share your story and be heard. While you listen you might learn something that helped them, r something about them. If you really can't bear it it seems to work to say, gently, "Thanks, I am sure you do understand but I can't go there this minute, maybe you could share this story later?". That shuts people up without shutting them down.

cherish memories
Look at pictures, print some off,  share your favourite stories, hold things that belonged to the one who is gone, Smell things deeply while you can can. Memories are very very powerful and should be treasured

hang in there 
Make yourself eat, get out of bed, shower, do all the normal things possible - even if it doesn't feel normal. it helps. Seriously. I take my day job pretty seriously and in a run of pretty awful stuff (culminating in my beloved step-father's death) I sat through many a meeting mighty close to dysfunctional but I was there doing my part as best as I could. In fact I took minutes at many of those meetings as a way to force myself to stay present.

Grief does not get easier with multiple exposures but you begin to understand that life truly does go on. Its like a pair of ill fitting shoes that you have to wear sometimes - you know they'll hurt but you know you have to do it. So you do.

If you aren't the one in the direct line of grief there are many things you can do that help both concretely and emotionally. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

One Hundred and Forty Four Months

Or four thousand three hundred and eighty days,

Or perhaps one hundred and five thousand one hundred and twenty hours?

Heck 6,307,200 minutes captures the magnitude of Brody's time in my heart and life best.

12 years ago Brody moved into our house. I have celebrated his anniversary before but that in no way lessens the need to stop, reflect and appreciate all that Brody is.

He has tolerated foster beings of all sorts in that time .. puppies and old dogs, healthy, silly animals and sick and extremely needy ones. A real mix of species too. In our humane education days he tolerated all kinds of public appearances and he's always been a gentleman for media and other public gigs.  He has had fun trying out various sports and training activities. He enjoys chilling at the beach, running at the farm, and sleeping in his home away from home, aka the car.

I am happiest with him at my side; and it seems that makes him happy too. Fortunate for us both eh?

I grateful to him for the journey he has taken me on; and the education he has gifted me with. He continues to help  me learn, as demonstrated today playing with scent work for 27 seconds.

He is one very good, fine, wee dog.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Funny Thing Fate ...

Yen came into our life by fluke .. I was missing Wyn  and a friend saw a little one in need of a foster home on  Facebook. A Zuckerberg dog through and through, she landed and stuck here. She was the public face of my participation in the Play course and did a super job teaching me how to blend rewards and play. 

After Brody I don't think I have ever been as sure as fast that a dog would not be leaving us. (When I agreed to take her I really hoped she might be the perfect second dog for Mum. Now? Hands off Ma!) Perhaps it's her sad history of bouncing from home to home. Perhaps it's the glee she finds in play. Maybe it's her cute little face although it's not usually my favourite look. 

She's too small, too anxious, too hard to house train (tho it's better - much better) and the wrong breed (not that I have clue what the right breed is mind you).

As  far as I can tell, if she does agility, she will be the first Toy American Eskimo to do so in the AAC- though there are 98 American Eskimos with AAC numbers - I'm sure some are toys. There are 53 chihuahuas registered, only one with an ATCH. By comparison Sally and Brody are All Canadians, over 300 dogs of that "breed" have their ATCHs.

Will she do agility? She certainly will at home - I have no real sense of if she'll want a competitive career in the sport though! She thoroughly enjoyed her first exposure to it in a tunnelers class this fall. 

She is fearless, bold, saucy, engaging, interested in life and a great snuggler. Like all of the rest of the dogs here I would likely not have chosen her as a member of the permanent crew however I'm delighted Fate had something else in mind. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reflections of Self...

In many ways 2012 was a year of great growth for us- Team Agility Addict came together in some expected and unexpected ways.
With House league, and CPE last winter and Spot On Trials over the summer we had quite a bit of agility. Working on Saving Dinah was a project of growth for me personally; and being on sabbatical has been profoundly life changing so far. Raising Wyn was a challenge and an honour. Being introduced to scenting would make the year significant in and of itself.
So many wonderful teachers both human and canine, a tiny taste of Jessica Martin, coaching calls with Lynda Orton Hill (how I'd love to work with her in person!) and Susan Garret, an incredible week with Webb Anderson then the chance for feedback at a trial with him, Karin Apfel's awesome introduction to scent detection. A year of sadness too, watching Brody age, and Sally's health fluctuations and losing Wyn. Every year has sadness it seems; balance in everything.
Until the CPE page is updated I don't know how many Q's or titles we earned - but we sure (all of us!)  had fun in that venue. It was simply awesome to come back to AAC with Sally. She earned both her ADC and SGDC (the starters level titles) and a number of Qs. She had one trial that was Qless but she ran so so well through the whole season. She has always been fun to run but we have embraced the partnership aspect and work together ( one point snookers ). Looking forward to next year at advanced and masters levels.

Looks like we may be in hibernation for awhile though!