Monday, December 24, 2007

It's Just Avoidance

I'm typing up the jumping workshop, and things to do with ACWA and Greg Derrett and other personal writing projects and when I come to the point of having to actually get on with things on my TO DO List I invariably fall back on silly things like this;

Your Vocabulary Score: A-

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!
You must be quite an erudite person.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Card

For all my blog readers and random friends
Click for big version
This background is taken from a photo Tim took around
Jan 07 - Swedish Lappland. Check my archive to see what our
sled dog holiday looked like.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ambivalence at the trial


1.uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.

I was afflicted by the above tonight. Our last trial of the year - Dobe Club ran it. I wanted to do well and be competitive but at the same time this air of indifference came over me causing me to handle in a rather lacklustre fashion. Bad handler. I don't know what I was thinking. In Masters Jumping Cypher knocked the first bar.....grrrr. We finished the course anyway - and he listened well. He kept that up for his Open Agility run - ran clear with 6th place. In Masters Agility he was away with the fairies. He missed a dogwalk contact - shock horror! First one in what feels like forever! That was the first sign of neural disengagement, the second sign was he pulled out the second last pole of the weavers. Third sign - heading towards the tunnel, I signal tunnel with arm, body and mouth, he heads all the way to the entry and then decides I must have been bluffing, turns around and comes with me. Weirdo. In Open Jumping I was the weirdo - he's going the right way, I'm squinting at this number next to a tunnel thinking perhaps I'd walked the course wrong so I call him off only to realise that in actual fact we were going the right way. He was a good kid though, kept all his bars up and did as I asked.

Raven...well she had fun tonight as did I when I ran her. Open Agility she received a very generous clear but came in 11th (gives you an idea of how generous it was), Masters Jumping I did that thing where I play peekaboo with a jump. As in 'get in close around me on a post turn but SURPRISE! There's jump for you there Raven!' She knocked it, we kept going, she kept the rest of her bars up and I had a ball working her distance skills. In Masters Agility it was all good until I'd neglected to tell her about a turn coming up after she'd accelerated into a nice shallow bend line of jumps. Ahh well she had fun and I enjoyed the run. She knocked one bar after I relaxed my handling a bit. Who am I kidding - my handling has pretty much been in relaxed status all night! Then in Open Jumping I did what I lecture all my students not to do - took my eye off my dog for half a nano second. Hence we did a lovely run on this course with two extra jumps in it for fun. She and I both decided the course needed more obstacles.

And that, as they say, is that for 2007. No more trials now till the end of January. Lots of training to do...and I really have to work on putting some condition on them. I have been slack with their exercise regime. But yay - that's what holidays are for.

PS Saw this tonight (someone emailed me the link) pretty fascinating what Orcas can do. Read here after watching all the way through to the end.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Self Criticism Vs Critical Reflection

Just back from first session with Cathy Slot from Queensland who is over in Perth conducting a jumping workshop based on Susan Salo’s teachings. She has worked with Susan a couple of times now, including 7 days last year in Canada, lucky girl! Anyway this will only be brief as we are back early tomorrow morning for the practical side of things. I was just struck by an observation I had made about something she was talking about. It was regarding how we probably underestimate the power of watching our dogs and others run in trials as a tool for improving our own training in terms of how our dogs jump. It made me realise there is a difference between self criticism and critical reflection. Maybe it’s my edu-speak jargon coming back to haunt me, having been a teacher for seven years now but the word ‘reflection’ to me implies something you do in order to fix things or make them better or to try and improve. I’m not sure about other handlers but quite often I come off a course in trials in full on self criticism mode, able to articulate stridently to all around me (whether they are even remotely interested or not) exactly how I managed to stuff up that run and what a complete doofus I was in not seeing something early enough and what a pity it was because it was all going *so* well up until that point. I hardly ever (in fact never) take the time to watch any videos of my runs, or think about what happened or what I saw taking place in a reflective mode that is constructive rather than negative or completely destructive. Oh sure I go home and write down what happened in each of our runs, what bar dropped and where or what other errors happened. I have the acronym HE in my trial record keeping. It stands for Handler Error. Sadly it has a depressingly regular appearance. But I digress. All I’m trying to say here is that I really need to start applying more critical reflection and less self criticism to my runs. I know Agility is simply a fun sport we play with our dogs and I have managed to get much better over the years at not holding onto those self criticisms for too long. I know there are those out there who would insist such reflection is probably over thinking things but I am of the firm belief that if we don’t try to improve or make things better or become more skilled at what it is we enjoy doing then really, what’s the point? I’m sure people can appreciate that this self improvement can and should happen on many different levels depending on the persons’ perspective. Whether it’s a brand new agility person who simply wants to achieve attention from their dog as they are walking up to a start line or a world champ level who wants to shave those extra milliseconds off their run by tightening up a particular behaviour performance. It is all relative as they say. So I’m looking forward to this weekend with a view to becoming a more critically reflective agility handler/trainer. Jumping seems like a great place to start as no matter what venue you run in or even what event you do (with the exception of tunnellers I guess) there are always going to be jumps, and they are a whole puzzle by themselves that need to be solved before you can broach the whole agility course problem.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Evening Trials and Sprint Photos

Last night Southern River held its' last trial for 2007. Raven was pretty much as feral as she was last week, two bars in Masters Jumping, one bar in Open Agility, and then we took a jump from the wrong way on Masters Agility (my fault), she also knocked a bar after that (her fault) and then in Open Jumping I didn't actually get to walk the course and thus ended up on the wrong side of the line of jumps home and she went off course but absolutely jumped every bar clean as you do. Totally my fault once again!
Cypher - well to be honest I wasn't expecting much from lughead last night. Spryte's at Day 14 of her season and he does seem to be somewhat distracted by her - he has alot of nervous energy that keeps him checking in on me or Tim to see if we're going to let him at her or if he is confined, to whining and squeaking his needs to us. He's getting more and more stressed about it as the days go on, I'm sure he's checking his internal calendar and is freaking out because he knows somehow in that fuzzy brain of his that the girl won't be for the taking very much longer!
So with that in mind I would have beeen grateful to get him round the course without losing focus, and I am pleased to say he went clear in Masters Jumping for 3rd place in the 500 class, he went clear in Open Jumping, and I thought he'd gone clear on a really tough Masters Agility course when I looked up as I got his lead and saw a bar on the ground. He'd knocked it and I didn't even notice! That was a bugger as it was a very challenging course and he did very well on it. In Open Agility he knocked the last bar jump - a spread. Roll on jumping workshop!!
Today we took Rave and Cy down the park and took some flat out sprinting shots of them with the view to getting a good one of each made up into a sticker. These are what I have so far to choose from but I'm not sure if I will try and get some more.

Look at that face! Fangs hanging out, flews flying....
there's definitely a roadrunner somewhere.

The Cypher sprint...
there's a frisbee up ahead.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cancer Check Up

Raven and I saw Dr Ken yesterday for her first post-chemotherapy check up, one month on from her last treatment. Raven was pissed. She thought I was leaving her there. She was quite okay with the liver treats at the reception counter though. Ken was very pleased with her, he checked her over thoroughly feeling her nodes in her neck, in front of her shoulder blades (pre-scaps for those in the know) and behind her knee or the pre-popiteals? He looked down her throat and did a general full body check. All was good. He said he couldn't be happier with the way she was physically. Weighing in at 16.4kg she was still at her normal weight and he assured me that new hair/coat and whiskers were growing 'just on the inside' at the moment and so they will take a while to come back. She certainly does have a thinner coat and seems to still be losing it. He told me he was happy to see Raven as regularly as I wanted
him to but at this stage he felt that due to the fact that I was quite on the ball with keeping a check on her (read that as 'obsessively checking nodes every day') that it wouldn't be necessary to see her any more than once every three months or so. That made me a happy camper hearing all that, plus the fact that she has now moved up in the statistics game to possibly being one of those 20% of dogs who are doing really well at this stage after diagnosis and who never have to come back in for more chemo. Of course there's a big bunch of 80% of dogs who do drop out of remission too but as Ken said - someones' dog has got to make up that 20% :-)
He basicially recommended I carry on exactly the way we have been doing, keeping her balanced diet up, ensuring she does her agility and gets her exercise, and just being very hands on with keeping an eye on her. So that was very assuring to hear. He told me they'd done about 10 Bone Marrow Transplants since Raven had started chemo, that there was also a new protocol they used for dogs dropping out of remission involving double the dose of cyclophosphamide and of course bone marrow being reinserted, and that he was still frustrated by the prohibitive cost of it all and that I shouldn't get him started on the pet insurance debate as we'd be there all day. I got the impression that Pet Insurance and Oncology treatments didn't really see eye to eye.
So fingers crossed now - that Raven is one of those precious 20%. Although he did say if she didn't happen to be and she had to have a repeat course of chemotherapy that the effectiveness and remission times the second time around for a dog doing this well currently was virtually the same.
Anyway as Ken said, no point in worrying about what you can't control the best thing to do now is just to savour every moment that she is well and with us and being loved. That, I think, was the most important piece of advice I took from yesterday's appointment.
*I can't believe I used the phrase 'got to be' THREE times in my last post. I think it comes from teaching 12,13 and 14 year olds for too long.

For those who appreciate SCRUBS

Hehheh. I love this show. It has got to be some of the wittiest dialogue ever written.I'd love to see Dr Cox in a room with Stewie from Family Guy. Family Guy is also funny but usually only when Stewie speaks. A quote from Scrubs (only appreciated by those who know the characters)

CARLA: "Why is your mouth red?"
COX: "Duct tape, two hours in a morgue drawer, don't piss off the Janitor, end of story

But wait there's more....

J.D.: (to Keith) "Keith, you've got to stop paging me for totally unimportant things!"
[Noticing the patient]
"Ohhhhh! That man's chest cavity is completely open! I can see his heart beating!"
Keith: (to J.D.) "He sneezed and all his surgical staples popped out!"
J.D.: (to Keith) "Good page, Keith. Good page!

Ahhh...funny TV remember that? Scrubs has got to be the only show apart from Seinfeld that has had tears of laughter coming down my face....and that kind of laughter has got to be good for you. I have to close with one more...

Julie (drug rep): "This drug is the best one on the market. The only side effects are nausea, impotence and anal leakage."
Dr. Cox: "And, I'm getting two out of three, just from having this conversation."

Dr Cox - you rock!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


A friend brought this Christmas silliness to my attention....I am passing no comment as to its accuracy ;-)

You Are Vixen

Sexy and sultry, you're the one all the other reindeer dream about.

Why You're Naughty: That fur pulling spat you got into with Dancer over Santa.

Why You're Nice: Because even when you're nice, you're still delightfully naughty!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Long time no update!

It’s been so long since I’ve updated real life just simply does not cut it for me these days! That’s not to say no news is bad news it’s just to say that things like work and club and committees and house and stuff is just taking over right now!

Raven had a good evening at the Perth Trial the other night. She won both Open Agility and Open Jumping with a couple of really nice, smooth connected runs. In Masters Jumping I withdrew when she knocked a bar. I kept going in Masters Agility when she knocked a bar simply because she was having a ball and I wanted to make sure she did good contacts. She nailed all contacts with great running and didn’t drop any other bars. It was a tricky course and I was pleased at how well she was listening and the way she was controlled. I really just felt very connected to her and that was great. So a good night in all really, which was nice after 0 from 4 at the last trial.
Cypher had a different story each run it seemed. He did a cracking good Masters Agility round making it through all the hard parts with just one bar down. Yay for Jumping workshop next month maybe we can figure out what’s going on with this one bar thing that’s nothing like Raven’s or Spryte’s jumping style but yet is becoming a consistently annoying habit! In Masters Jumping I didn’t push in on his line enough and my voice kinda gave out and he went in a wrong course tunnel entry. Open Agility we had a bad approach to the distance challenge which led to all sorts of confusion for the poor boy so I helped him out eventually but kept all bars up and did wait on contacts. Finally last run of the evening Open Jumping and he runs clear with no help from me yelling ‘Out’ at just the wrong moment. Luckily he saved my butt and came in to the right jump just splicing it. Good dog Cy! Also had success running Janice’s Dexter – Excellent Jumping we finally finished off his last leg with a 4th place so she was very happy with that, think I’m happier because now I can stick to memorising two course instead of three at once since he now moves into the Masters Jumping class. That’ll keep me busy – running three in 500 MJ. We’ll see if I ever get to qualify all three on the same course *vbg*

So all in all not a bad night and I did a bit of work with Spryte on the side. She has a tendency to get really revved and not just a little feral when she sees fast dogs running agility so that’s something we’re keeping a close eye on. She still immediately gives me her attention when I ask for it even if she is bouncing around on her hind legs like some African meerkat at the end of her lead straining to join the dog in the ring. So I figure it’s a good opportunity to train for attention. She’s rather hilarious though when she’s hopping around on her two back legs using her collar to counter balance her ability to stay up like that really tall for extended moments. Hmmm maybe she has small dog syndrome heh.

Went to training the following Tuesday and all was good. Did quite a bit of work with all three for a change. Let Spryte out at the end of the night to run off some steam with Cypher and it was like bug central at our training grounds. Some nights the lights are literally impossible to see for all the moths and flying type insects around – it’s an etymologists heaven. This was one of those nights. Anyway let Spryte out and she does her usual thing goes chasing after Cypher who has his Frisbee in his mouth and she latches onto the side of his big white ruff and tries with all her 13 kilo might to bring him down. Cypher comes back shaking his head with his right ear a bit flat. I check him over immediately making sure she hasn’t grabbed him too hard or that he’s picked up a grass seed. Nothing there. So I figure it’s probably temporary see if he sorts it out himself. By Thursday arvo I wasn’t happy. He’d trained a bit Wednesday night and done demos all day at my school on Thursday happily doing the same course several times over during the day not missing a beat – keeping all his bars up. I’d flushed the ear with some epiotic and massaged it a bit, shone a torch down it and even smelt it and it all looked fine, no muck, no smell and no redness. He wasn’t whining when I touched it or anything. Yet still by Thursday he was still having it a bit flat and shaking his head still. So I bit the bullet and rang the vet and got an appointment that afternoon – mostly for my peace of my mind. We had a four hour drive to the trial that weekend and I didn’t want anything to get worse. So took him in round 5.15 and she had a look down there. She noticed it was all red, inflammed and swollen looking much farther down but really couldn’t see anything except for a bit brown wax. She flushed it through with Epiotic to try and loosen it and had another look. This time it did look like something was stuck down there. So I held him firmly and she put the forceps down there and managed to pull out the body of some sort of bug at least 3cm long! Urgh! I nearly gagged at the thought of that stuck in there. But then there was more….she pulled out a large wing, then another wing and then she found the other half of it’s body. She flushed it again and then managed to pull out about 6 black legs! It was quite frankly disgusting!!! And all the while he just lay there and let me hold him yet those forceps were going in such a long way it must have been painful. He whined and struggled a bit to begin with but then just must have figured we were trying to do something to make him feel better because he just let her do whatever she needed to. The vet was stunned, 11 years working and she’d never pulled anything quite like this bug out of a dog’s ear. She kept it to show the other vet! She was also impressed with his good nature to let that happen, she said 95% of dogs would have needed at least sedation to get all that out. I was so impressed with him he was very spoilt that night. I can’t believe it was in there for that long and he didn’t even whimper or carry on at all. I think I would have been screaming blue bloody murder if I’d had something like that in my ear canal! I certainly appreciated his absolutely trusting nature at that point, he’s certainly a one in a million Border Collie.

So we went away for the weekend to Albany – had Spryte in her first show since Minor puppy I think and Cypher in his first show since 2005 Royal if I recall right. Also entered the Obedience trial. We did absolutely no good in the show (man that’s a lot of palaver really for what at the end of the day is a totally subjective opinion…perhaps this is why I am not as enamoured with the show ring as I am with agility. All that prep work on the day and pfft! No pay off if the judge doesn’t happen to like your type). However at about 6pm when there were close to cyclone like winds (at least that’s what it felt like) Cy went into CCD and picked up his second leg with a ho hum score of 88. His first pass was 94. Raven started UD well. Finished the seek back nice, I gave a bit of weakish command for the first directed jumping box especially considering the wind and she took the jump out on the way to the box. She did fine on the second part. I began to wonder if she’d be blown out of the ring the wind was that strong. I had doubts about doing the scent discrimination in this wind yet there was no hesitation on her part – went straight in a picked up the right one each time bringing it back. The last article – leather, was so light though it blew out of her mouth and she had to go and grab it and bring it in to me. Not bad signals exercise and we made it through to the sit command this time. She missed the drop at her last trial but this time she did the drop promptly and forgot what the sit up signal was. Did a really nice directed retrieve no problem. So bits of it were nice, they’d probably be nicer if I cared more and put more time into her training but I’m just not that motivated. I was having kittens in Cy’s CCD stays as several dogs were in there who hadn’t passed and one that lurched up just as we were about to leave. Luckily he made it through unscathed but I thought to myself – why do I do this? I am certainly not enjoying it, in fact I felt rather worried. So far in his short trialling life he’s had a GSD charge at him as he was in the middle of weave poles from another ring, a GSD stand over him in his first ever trial stays, an Aussie charge at him whilst he was playing tug with me at training and he is getting a little concerned about dogs that appear to be moving towards him at speed. He didn’t start off reactive and whilst I have faith that he won’t do anything it’s not a situation I would like to place him in where it could possibly happen. So far he is all noise (or all piss and wind as I like to say) and not really inclined to follow through on it as he responds the second I tell him to down. So I don’t know that we will go much further than CCD in Obedience the way I feel about the sport now. I can see why Agility is definitely drawing people away from Obedience, it actually makes complete sense to me. That’s not to say I don’t see any merits in training Obedience. On the contrary I think it is an excellent idea. But the way trialling is set up these days – it’s a tough call to ask experienced handlers put their green dogs in the ring when they could quite potentially ruin their dogs for stays by simply doing the stays as they are on a pass next to dogs who really should not be there, I do like the idea of stays for dogs who have passed and stays for those who haven’t. It has definite merits. I am not saying that experienced handlers/trainers always have perfect stays on their dogs. What I am saying is that usually experienced handlers will not put their dogs in stays unless they have passed (usually that decision is made so that there is no risk being run of their non-passing dog putting a passing dog off in the stays) and they will not put their dogs in stays until they are absolutely ready. If most experienced handlers feel there may be a risk of their dog being too interested in the dogs near them they won’t enter until that is fixed. I don’t know why I’m continuing my diatribe on this as I did say Obedience holds very little appeal right now however little things like that are probably not difficult to rectify. Anyway onto the fun stuff.

The agility trial was held early Sunday morning. Masters Agility was one of those courses where you had to work every single obstacle and you could not let up for a single second. Challenging yet doable. Cypher vagued on me after going over a jump and missed the weave entry – well actually technically he got the entry but came straight through it without actually doing any weaving. He was quite simply a tosser….I kept going till he dropped a bar and then withdrew. Raven was a star, listening really well, she actually held her seesaw for the first time in ages, ran clear and won the class. I did quickly check her lymph nodes after our run…just wondering at that held seesaw, but no worry required she was all good! Made the whole trip worth while really! I do wish judges wouldn’t try to be too encouraging whilst on course though – I’m totally grateful if they give me a hint when I’m lost but telling me to just Go go go go! when we are on the home stretch down a curly line of jumps fairly close together is not encouragement I’m going to heed with a CBK like Raven! CBK? Chronic Bar Knocker….hopefully in remission…heh!

Cypher redeemed himself with clear runs in Open Jumping and Open Agility. Raven was saving the CBK version for the rest of her runs so no more clears from her. But hey…first in Masters is plenty good enough for me! Cy dropped a bar in MJ frustratingly but only a few more days till our jumping workshop now!

So we get home Sunday night and Spryte has decided to come in season. Must admit Cypher had been showing a renewed interest in her nether regions since Thursday but no signs till Sunday night. At least I know she’s a regular 6 monther then. Suits me well for the major events of the year. She probably won’t be mated until well into 2009 after the next Border Collie Nationals. Cy did good on the weekend considering how good she probably smelt!

SO that is about it on the trialling/training front. Lots of seminars coming up, all close together too, which is a shame but can’t be helped. We have a Cathy Slot Jumping one in a couple of weeks, then in the beginning of January Stacy Peardot, at the end of January Greg and Laura Derrett. Good things to tide us over in the trialling hiatus. Last trial is on the December 15 this year – first one back is on the 19th of January. A little over a month.

Work has been full on, with reporting time and various assessments, lots of marking and trying to make sure the kids stay manageable till the holidays. ACWA is gearing up for it’s big Christmas wind up night, we’re having some courses up and some presentations of awards, a big raffle and even a very simple jumping course for our non triallers soon to be trialling hopefully. It has been really rewarding to see a number of the handlers in my class progress so well. Also to have some younger handlers start their trialling careers this year very successfully too was pleasing to see. I love it when I see other people who started off with ACWA get the trialling bug. Looks like Cypher’s got another son too coming down to ACWA, a boy by the name of Taj. You can see photos of him here

Here's a portrait shot of him from the above website:
He’s a handsome lad and is joining half brother Chase in the baby puppy class.

Wow huge blog entry really….that’s what I get for leaving it so long. Latest obsessions? Facebook, love that idea. Still Smallville (now on my IPOD which is soooooo cool). ITunes, Reading various graphic novels and comics such as Watchmen by Alan Moore, Midnight Nation by Straczynski, Smallville Season companions, Visual guide, still trying to do my tax and yes I have to vote in our Federal election tomorrow…hmmm wow, so not bowled over by the plenitude of choices there. Can I vote for Al Gore? I saw him on Inconvenient Truth, I like him, or Robin Williams from Man Of The Year. Or perhaps Kevin Smith?
Politician and breath of fresh air.
Will those two terms ever meet?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The end of a journey

Well here we are at the end of October 2007. It also represents the end of Raven's chemotherapy treatments - she had her last one today. Cyclophosphamide aka Cytoxan, apart from needing to pee a bit more often she is as bright as usual. Dr Ken Wyatt and Dr Amy Lane and the Onco nursing staff gave her a card commending her on her bravery during treatment and wishing her wellness for a long time. Raven was 'meh' about the card but thoroughly relished the milky dental chews instead. She will go back for a consult with Ken in one months time. Her WBCs were at 3.5....which sounds low but is the norm for her. Her specialists have decided that she is one of those dogs who has a naturally low WBC so around 3.5 is the norm for her...she's had treatment when they've been 0.8 so I was pleased to hear today's count.
I can't believe we've made it....technically speaking she should have been finished around the last week in September...missed treatments due to chronic low WBCs meant she added around a month. So now we just observe, monitor and go in for check ups. I am always checking her lymph nodes, I do it now without a thought so no way are they going to change without me noticing. For me Raven's agility is the biggest clue to how she's feeling. If I'm getting complete and total perfect behaviours on start lines, contacts and keeping bars up I know she's feeling off. As much as that's great for qualifying and doing well I know really she is not feeling the best and that is a good heads up or warning for me that something might not be right. They say the key to beating cancer or this type of Lymphoma in particular is that you catch it early. We caught it early before...and we'll catch it again if it ever dares to raise its head a second time. I will keep Raven's fitness up and keep using her diet/nutritional intake to keep those mutated lymphocytes at bay. We'll keep running agility and enjoy every opportunity we get to play this game together. I don't set goals for how much I want to do with her before her time is up but I do want to make sure we appreciate every day we have with her. She deserves nothing less.

Nothing like a happy Raven face to make you smile

My Sister's Near Brush....

My sister obviously thinks my parents needed a burst of adrenaline to spice up their lives....
Her Kia was not longed for this world, thankfully she is....her time was not up, which is really very good because she's only 24. Bruises, cuts and concussion and that was all. Oh and thanks to the man who got her breathing again at the scene of the carnage.

Monday, October 29, 2007

GSDA Trial Photos

These photos are thanks to Paul Burton - see his website here;

Taken of Raven October 20th 2007. This was the run where she kept all her bars up, did the distance challenge with ease, I got to all the right places and was where I meant to be and she went into the 2nd gap of the weavers! It was still a very nice run so I'm glad he caught pics of it.

How on earth she kept the above bar up I don't know, but she
must have done some fancy hip swivel because that's the same
bar below.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Happy 15 months old!

To the Spryte! She is fifteen months old today. What did she spend the day doing? Coming to a trial of course. Where any self respecting Border Collie in training for an illustrious career in the best sport in the world would find herself. Heh. Here's a pic of her doing the weaves at Rockingham today.
Hard to believe she is this age already. Seems like only yesterday the little tacker who beat up on her much bigger 6 brothers (and they are still...*much* bigger) was romping around at Robyn's place sucking me in very quickly with that cute as a button face with two almost black shining eyes that took everything in. Of course all this does is serve to remind me of all the things we haven't trained yet. I dare not make a list - we may never make it into the ring. You can see more pics of her weaving (and her brother Flyte is in there too...just look for the handsome, flashy looking black and white BC in there) here -
Quick trial update from today at Rockingham - Raven 1st place Open Agility, 2nd place Masters Jumping (Open Jumping and Masters Agility FHS struck wickedly *see previous post) Cypher - Clear in Open Agility and Masters Jumping, both 4th places and clear and 6th in Open Jumping. And just because people should know it's not always my fault - he made the first error in Masters Agility by missing his A Frame contact....*waits for the howls of protest from those who know better that it is never the dog's fault*.....ok, ok I'll admit that not holding him on any of his a frames for at least the last 6 trials *may* have something to do with it, but I'm going with the "he missed the contact *not me*" argument and besides he should know I'm working on developing his 'running a frame', it (the argument) should be good for at least till the next trial.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Trialling, chemotherapy, training updates

It's been a while since I posted, went back to work this week which may have something to do with it but more than likely it's other obsessions that have taken over. Forgot to add in about the Royal - Raven, who has attended the show every year since 2002 (FIVE years) and has never pulled a clean run, actually managed a clean run this year in the Master Gamblers class and managed to win it as well. I'm not sure what this says about our agility career as a whole (the fact that this is the first year she's been called 'chemodog') but I'm glad she can add the Royal Show to her list of wins finally. And look! Photographic evidence!

Cypher recently grabbed a 1st place in his first Excellent Snooker debut last Saturday, Raven finished the day off nicely with a 2nd place in Masters Snooker for her first leg in there. Today we had the GSDA trial and Cypher was a star and picked up a 2nd place in Masters Jumping and a quallie in Open Agility. I stuffed his run in Masters Agility by not really letting him see a jump till the last microsecond, hence he pulled that bar and in Open Jumping I completely misjudged the opening line and caused him to have a refusal on a bar. So Cy himself was virtually perfect dog today, handler was far from it!
Raven took 3rd in Open Agility today and also had FHS in both Masters Agility and Jumping. FHS? (Flawed Handler Syndrome). In Masters Agility I for some reason thought I was safe to take my eye off my dog for a nano second....HAHAHAHA!!! Raven was convinced weave poles had to be done twice in this course and before I could get the 'Come' out she had slipped into the first gap of the weaves. It was a definite ARGH moment. In Masters Jumping I got lost. Getting lost on a course has to be really high up there on the list of the top ten mistakes handlers make that just make them want to kick themselves across the conveniently provided grounds. What made it worse was that roughly ten dogs before I had run Cypher perfectly on the same course without missing a beat! So with FHS afflicting her handler Raven decided she'd do the weaves quicker in Open Jumping if she just went straight into the 2nd gap...I figured payback's a bitch...then I realised she probably has no clue I stuffed up the other two courses but I like to anthropomorphise! As they say there's always another trial so we head off again tomorrow to Rockingham Dog Club.
Spryte is now doing 12 weavers straight (set on bases used in competition). She turns 15 months tomorrow. She does them but not always perfectly obviously so we'll keep repeating, repeating and then repeating more! We are still working one jump most of the time during the week, although she has done some grid work now. I train her on 500 plus even though she'll be jumping 400 in competition. Given that all the signs all point to her being a little speed demon I see no harm in teaching her a strong foundation, perhaps more than required, in jumping. A Frames are coming along - I do two sessions on this a week (at club). She's missing maybe 3 out of a 12 runs of the a frame. And never more than twice in a row when she does. We are working on running a frames using reward placement, I bounce the food off the bottom of the a frame and she's hitting the colour no worries. I'm simply going to rely on muscle memory here for now. I may change to a four on the floor with her later. Dogwalk, well she hasn't been on a plank for a while as I work her targetting. She's a body swinger in that she likes to see my face when she performs a behaviour that she knows gets rewarded. Thus she runs out to the target and puts her front two paws on it and swings sideways so she can see where the treats are coming from. She's hitting the target very confidently but that is just useless for a when it gets transferred to a dogwalk plank. We're working on this by using some channeling via the small green wire flower bed border fencing. This fencing is in an archway shape and comes to just below my knees and just sticks into the ground. Perfect height for Spryte. I set the channel up and put target on the ground at the end of it. Hence she can't swing around unless she does a full 180. I also release her from behind to hit the contact/target as I lean over the top to feed her as soon as she gets in the right position. The most we've put together is a couple of jumps. Or a jump and a tunnel. I haven't taught her the collapsible tunnel yet - need to get onto that. As always we work our starts every day, she still has a long way to go with her waits in terms of me proofing them. We also do a few table sessions each week. When I say 'sessions' I'm talking 5 minutes here and there no more than 10 minutes max. Not that she's not keen to carry on but I always stop with her when she's showing me the best behaviours. It means I can keep that enthusiasm and drive happening each time she comes out. Something I really must get onto though is the bringing the toy back thing. She's a girl who likes to chew toys, so whilst she'll happily play tug with me if it's a thrown toy reward she loves nothing more than doing a victory lap round the back yard with the toy in her mouth and then settling down to have a good chew on it. That's no fun at all! I never had to teach Cy this so I better not assume it will all click with her one day, I'm going to have to deliberately shape it.
So that's the agility dogs update. Chemo dog? Well she's doing well - she had her last Doxorubicin treatment (the most lethal drug) on Tuesday (her WBC's had recovered from 1.5 to 4.5) and she has one more Cytoxan to go on Tues Oct 30th. Then that will be the end of her chemo cycle, what happens from there I don't know. I guess we'll meet with Ken and he'll let us know how we proceed. I've heard of dogs being on maintenance chemo - which is a lot more spaced out (once every month or 2 or 3 months). And I've heard of dogs who simply just carry on their lives without going back unless they drop out of remission. I hope we fit into the latter category.
We'll see...stay tuned.
My parents have been married for 34 years yesterday, my mum informed me that *my* father had forgotten. Hence I think they went out to dinner tonight. Flowers may have been involved. I did briefly consider ringing Dad and giving him a heads up. But I'm not that nice ;-) 34 years is a goodly number....I don't think they're bored with each other yet *g*
My other obsession lately (and there has only been one other) is the TV show Smallville. I've been looking for something to fulfill the Buffy/Angel vacuum for some time. And whilst I love shows like House, NCIS, CSI, Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, Desperate Housewives, Scrubs and Criminal Intent nothing seemed to be filling that void. Smallville has fixed all that! Just spent the holidays watching Seasons 1 through to 6. That's 22 episodes times 6. And thanks to the hallowed 'torrents' I'm watching Season 7 eps a day after they screen in the US. I have no inkling of what the world was like *before* the Internet. I'm not that young either - I was at school during this inconceivable period but it's all a blur now. I digress - Smallville - great show. I have a perfectly logical explanation for why I didn't switch onto it before now. I thought Clark Kent just looked like a nancy boy who was far too pretty to get the superhero job done with any kind of credibility. And he was all that in Seasons 1 and some of 2, but then the actor and the character improved, got a bit rougher, a bit tougher and a bit more worldly wise. And now I cannot get enough of Smallville, I'm viewing previously watched eps, reading the stories online, speculating on forums, checking out the episode stills and screencaps, seeking out Youtube clips made by fans, I'm even getting the magazines. It's all good though, there are worse things to spend one's time, money and thoughts on. I'm sure it'll dissipate after a while. Every series has to end somewhere. I'm hoping we get a Season 8 out of them before they pull the pin. For now I'm content to just enjoy the eps as they come out. That and Reaper....this show hasn't screened in Australia yet - but keep an eye out for it, it's very quirky and will have you laughing.
Righto time for bed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Strategic Pairs fun….if you can get it!

Just recently I was made more aware of the difficulty for some dogs/handlers with regards to entering and competing in Strategic Pairs. This game started in Australia Jan 2006 and it is probably the most popular game of all three (SP, Snooker, Gamblers) available because as you know sharing the fun is twice as good as being out there by yourself! Whilst it is the most exciting and spectator friendly game I do not envy the judges’ job one iota. In fact I have said that I will do my hardest to avoid the appointments altogether if and when I ever do become an ANKC judge much further down the line. It is extremely hard to judge it with a huge amount of accuracy – being able to watch the changeovers like a hawk as the teams get more slick and proficient shaving off milliseconds by having the best changeover means that there are some very tight calls to make plus ensuring that the more complex obstacles are done correctly would be a nightmare in my book. I tip my hat to all the brave ANKC judges who take on these appointments. But I digress. What I wanted to discuss was the unintentionally self limiting rule written in black and white that states;
A dog can only be entered in one team for the competition, whereas the Handler can compete different dogs in the same competition.
Now I have no issue with this rule at all, fair’s fair we all should have the same chance to gain one qualification at one event/competition. But what about the scenario I had on the weekend at the Royal with Cypher – his entered partner could not make it. Now I had paid the $20 entry fee and I asked the organisers if I could find a dog to fill in could I have a Not For Competition run with him at the end of the class. They said yes and I asked Sue with Nifty (who had already run with Raven) if she would mind being a ‘fill in’ dog for Cy’s run. It was fine, they did great and went clear with the quickest time on the day. Thinking about it later – several people asked if that run could count for a qualification for Cypher (not for Nifty as he had already had his competition run). The answer of course is no. Then I got to wondering well why not? If I had asked Nifty to fill in then I would automatically make myself ineligible for any placings (fair enough as he had already run) but why couldn’t I pick up a qualification? An argument may be that I had an unfair advantage running with a dog who had already had a go on the same course. However Sue and I deliberately swapped our sequences, that way Nifty did the part of the course that he had never even seen before. Cypher and I did the parts that Raven and I did not do previously. So nobody could argue that Nifty had been patterned to the course so no advantage there. So what’s stopping us from allowing a dog without a partner to qualify in that respect? Why can’t we get a ‘fill in’ dog on the day? Of course the fill in dog would have to be from the same level or lower. (for example if this was at Excellent level I would not be allowed to get a Masters dog to fill in – just an Excellent or Novice level dog to fill in, this of course does not help Novice competitors but there’s more of a range of Novice dogs to partner up with). They (the fill in dog) wouldn’t necessarily have to be entered in the SP comp but probably 99% of the time they would be. Now to counteract the argument that this gives an unfair advantage to the dog trying to qualify you would have to stipulate that the fill in dog only does those sequences that they have not previously done in the competitive round. This would make it like a completely new pair on the course. By allowing this to happen this would make life much easier for those dogs who have partners who cannot compete for whatever reason (handler couldn’t get there, dog injures itself etc) and will not deny them the chance to pick up a qualification card at what appears to be a rare opportunity to qualify (14 games trials all year – not always offering all three games either - when you need to qualify 15 times to get all three titles that doesn’t leave much room for error!)

So I’m hoping even with that rule quoted above there will be flexibility to allow this to happen. Indeed a dog can only be *entered* in one team. You do not need to enter if you are a ‘fill in’ dog, so therefore we are not breaching any rules as far as I see it. Others may feel differently however this is one rule interpretation which I know will progress the sport rather than let minority height groups and limited entry numbers be disadvantaged in competing.
Thoughts? Comments? Diatribes? Feel free to respond.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Polite-li-ness and Blog-li-ness

It has come to my attention that there is probably a whole plethora of people who read this blog that I am not aware of. Stands to reason I suppose that once you put something up here on the world wide web and pretty much give a free reign to all and sundry to access, then it follows that there will indeed be others reading this blog apart from myself and any immediate family I manage to direct here. I’ve come to the conclusion that, frankly, this does not bother me in the slightest. However I have been remiss. *Ponders the term ‘remiss’* Yes, remiss is correct in this context. I realise with my last post that my comment about ‘substandard equipment’ may have been somewhat dismissive of the efforts of a few who work hard for the Royal Show Agility competitors. I take my hat off to those few who, without complaint or compensation, transport, lug and put up the equipment used. In no way did I intend to imply that your efforts are unappreciated. Indeed some of the equipment is brand new and in some cases we should be just grateful that we have easily adjustable and sufficiently functional equipment. So please, you know who you are, don’t be offended by my somewhat poorly placed sweeping statement of frustration towards the powers that be of the RAS, take it as ammunition to help compel the RAS ptbs to make an effort to make your time and efforts be well recompensed.

On a lighter note it was the final day of the show today and also Cypher’s 3rd birthday. I simply cannot believe that the boy is 3 today, feels like a heartbeat ago that I was reaching to open the door to his airline crate and out came this bundle of fluff and fur, 8 weeks old and absolutely gorgeous. His full on personality and happy demeanour has meant that he has been an absolute treat to train and a joy to live with. There’s nothing quite like the Cypher Happy Feet dance either, I’m sure Disney got that penguin idea from him. He just doesn’t feel he’s greeted you properly unless he’s shoved his head between your knees and you’ve given him a quick rump massage whilst his back feet tap and dance up and down on the spot for you. His vibrant and energetic impulse to play can always make me smile even when I’ve had a crappy day at work or I’m muddling through some problem or issue. Sure he has his flaws but unlike us humans I could count them on one hand. He has a zest for life that is highly contagious, I wouldn’t swap him for the world even though there have been moments where I could have cheerfully throttled him. So here are some pics of Cy from today, at 3 years old and of the little 8 week old who had us suckered in from the get go. Happy birthday Tosser – here’s to many, many more!

Having a nap after getting off the plane - make yourself at home
The dreaded first bath!

I am Raven - Miss Raven Bitch to you!

So the cute face grew...

Into a handsome lad...

Who qualified in Excellent Gamblers today at the Perth Royal Show

and generally showed how Strategic Pairs could be run

Pictorial Rationale 1: Why we scratched from Obedience this year!
I said "Ready?!" Cypher thought "Sniff harder cos I gotta go in a

Hind legs at the ready? Or start line funk?

Yay! Success at the Perth Royal again! With a little help
from his team mates of course (thanks Terra, Riot and Jess -
oh and your handlers too of course!)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007