Sunday, September 21, 2008

Update #2 - Spryte's Success and the Nationals

So finally I get the chance to do some updating of this blog. The last post was written two months ago but only posted today. My only excuse is that I've had other stuff to do and this blog is not so high on the priority list right now.

So going back to after the hip dislocation. Within three weeks Raven was going for fairly lengthy on lead walks with me. She had several weeks of massage and stretching and heat packs. Plus crating. The crating wasn't a huge hit with her I must admit. But no way was I going to be giving her the opportunity to reinjure the hip. She was pulled out of all the trials leading up to the Nationals except for the one on August 24th where I put her in one NFC Novice Jumping class run. We started some pretty intensive swimming sessions as well. Intensive in that they happened every couple of days. She only swam for five minutes sessions initially and we worked our way up to 15 minutes. She stayed on the Rimadyl for three weeks.

Spryte had some good results during this time. She is now officially known as Winpara Out Of Sight AD JD JDO HT.
At that July ACWA Trial she managed to WIN the Open Jumping class against quite a large number of dogs, and in Open Agility she picked up a 3rd behind two very fast, experienced much older dogs so I was very impressed with how she ran even if we couldn't get it quite together for the Novice classes.

The following weekend we drove up to Geraldton (me, Cypher and Spryte - Raven got to stay home and look after Tim, not sure that she would have chosen that option but there was no way I could take her without her doing her nut in the back of the car when I ran the other dogs, with my luck she would have done her hip again) to compete at a double header trial over the Saturday and Sunday. It was quite a fruitful weekend giving Spryte a little taste of going away and competing on different grounds, like a mini National practice I suppose.

Cypher picked up a 4th in Open Agility, 5th in Masters Agility, 8th in Open Jumping, 4th in the second Masters Agility, 9th in the second Open Jumping and a 4th in the second Masters Jumping. Six qualifications from eight runs was a good result for him, especially with some top 5 finishes.

Spryte won the first novice Agility for her first leg, picked up a 4th place in the second Open Jumping behind some very fast, experienced dogs again, then came 2nd in the second Novice Agility for her 2nd leg behind one of her pairs partners, the very fast, very exciting to watch Guirmere Snazzy and Cathy. At the conclusion of this weekend she only needs one more pass for her Open Jumping title (JDO) and one each for her AD and JD. So I was very happy with how the weekend went, it's good to have all that effort pay off because the four hour drive home can seem very long when it's one of those weekends where nothing goes right!

The next weekend was the GSDA trial and this turned out to be a more expensive than usual training session for Spryte! We had the novice dog weave popping issue and some disagreement about contacts again. As in I wanted her to do them and she didn't. :-) Totally my own fault. I have been a bad bad trainer when it comes to contacts. Wait let me rephrase that. I have been a bad bad TRIALLER when it comes to contacts. As in letting her go if she happens to get them even if she doesn't give me the two on two off behaviour. I know as I'm letting it go in trial runs that this will be all bad. I think really I am just engaging in a form of procrastination again. Yes I know, it's a shock to me too. Heh. But anyway...I keep putting this whole "must insist on trained contact behaviour in the ring" approach off. She runs through a contact and I think "Hmmm next time I'll fix that". Funnily enough it's an oddity of dog training that once a dog does something (and really enjoys it, I mean literally you can see the GLEE on their faces, I kid you not) they tend to do it again. And again. And again. Of course this is not a new concept to me. *Sigh* At least Cypher was good old Mr Reliable again giving me two clears in both Masters Agility and Masters Jumping. I mishandled him in both Opens but was very pleased with both of those runs too.

CAWA Double Fundraiser Trial August 10th
Cypher was a good boy for this double trial. Picking up a clear round in both Open Agility and Masters Jumping in the morning and in the afternoon for four qualifications for the day. Spryte? Well we had eight practice runs. *vbg* I figure it was all part of our strategy, we didn't want her peaking too early before the Nationals. Well that's my theory and I'm sticking to it. From what I can remember there was the odd bar down and disagreements about contacts again. The following day at the Teams and Strategic Pairs event Nifty and Cypher paired up (Nifty's partner Raven being out of action and Cypher's partner Sage being out of action as well) and managed to go clear for a pass in the Masters Strategic Pairs class.

CAWA Fundraiser Trial August 24th
Spryte was back in form for this one, which was good considering we were leaving in four days for the Nationals! She won the Novice Agility class in the morning and that gave her her AD title. Cypher picked up a qualification in Open Jumping as well and did a beautiful run for SECOND place in Masters Agility. Very pleased with that as getting into the top 3 in Masters here is not easy. This was the trial where I tried Raven out for the first time with a Novice Jumping run in the NFC class. We had been doing single bits of equipment for the week before, single bar jumps etc, the ends of contacts. I really thought it wouldn't be wise to take her over to the Nationals without some sort of course under her belt in nearly two months. She held her startline, I led out and ran the entire course silently, she managed it fine knocking one bar when I did a lazy rear cross on her. I was handling conservatively I must admit that but it will be some time before I feel she might be up to a bit of excited handling. She goes quick enough without me pushing so we'll see. She pulled up fine from that run, having had plenty of massage and stretching before hand and a decent warm up. I walked her out afterwards and she was fine, no signs of stiffness at all. I'd pretty much decided by that evening she would be attending the Nationals.

ANKC AGILITY NATIONALS Friday, Saturday and Sunday August 29th, 30th and 31st
This National was an eye opening experience for many reasons. Overall I was absolutely over the moon with how my guys went although in retrospect I think taking three was slightly over ambitious. That said though I managed to get each of them into a final and for that I was immensely proud of them. Nearly 4000 runs took place over the three days. The first day was a teams event plus games and the first qualifying heat for both Open Agility and Open Jumping. The second day was the fullest with another teams event in the morning followed by two qualifying heats for every class - Novice, Excellent, Open and Masters Agility and Jumping. The third day was the last qualifying heat for Novice, Excellent and Masters plus the finals. So the schedule was very tight and packed and to be honest I think the next Nationals is going to have to span four days. Anyway onto my results:
Day One (Friday) - This was the best day really for us, as Raven is now the

2008 National Masters Gamblers Champion

2008 National Masters Strategic Pairs Champion with her pairs partners - Sue Hogben with Nifty

I was stunned to tell the truth. Here's this dog with a dislocated hip less than two months ago and a full bone marrow transplant back in June and she doesn't just compete at the Nationals. She wins! Not much would have been able to wipe the smile off my face after finishing those courses with her.
Yet still it seemed as if more good fortune was due our way. Little miss Spryte in her first run of the day in the Novice Strategic Pairs class with her partner Spice and Andrea Patching (who was very tolerant I must say as I basically had numerous courses to remember so I simply asked if she could do this part and that part and that's how we were going to do it!) took out first place there too. Spryte is now the

2008 National Novice Strategic Pairs Champion along with her partners Spice and Andrea.

This all took place in the morning so I was kind of wondering if that was going to be it for our successes of the weekend because really - how much good luck can someone have? If I'd had to go home at that point I would have still been extremely happy with how we had gone.

Anyway in the afternoon we took a hike out to the back paddock to the Open Jumping course. It looked quite tricky for the baby dogs but I figured I'd get Raven and Cypher through it. I ran Spryte first in the 400 height and was stunned to see us finish the course clear. The distance challenge was not easy for the baby dogs so I was very impressed than not only had she run clear at the Nationals she had also finished her title. What an excellent way to finish the title and how odd that she gets her JDO BEFORE her JD. I ran Raven and she was going great guns until I just did too much of an exciting front cross way in front of her which always causes her to accelerate madly and bars came down. I withdrew her immediately figuring A: I had enough running to do that weekend and B: Wanting her to conserve her energy as much as possible. Cypher ran it and ran clear as well too so was very pleased with him. Now to get into the finals you needed to finish in the top 7 out of something like 180 dogs. Needless to say I didn't think either Cypher or Spryte would have a chance. Cypher is just not quick enough and whilst Spryte is quick I don't think you can afford to have even the slightest wobble at the Nats and she had one going into the distance challenge. And yet at presentations that night Spryte's name got called out! In 6th place! I was just as stoked about that as I was about her first place in Pairs. My baby dog at her first nationals makes a final of one of the most hotly competitive classes there. What a little star! Open Agility - what happened there....I'm trying to recall it. Well Raven had decided that two months without out any kind of training meant she could break her startline so she was through tyre, up the dogwalk, down the dogwalk running through the colour and flattening out over two bars before I'd pretty much got past the first up plank on the dogwalk. Yeah we withdrew from that one. Cypher qualified in this but it was a generous clear I thought since I pretty much caused a refusal of a bar and had to bring him round to do it again. Idiot handler strikes again! And Spryte? Hmmm...I think we had an off course into a wrong tunnel entry or was it a missed contact. No wait. I remember. She dropped a bar in the distance challenge. That's right I remember now, she was going great guns too, but on memory I don't think I was able to call her off the wrong tunnel entry in the distance challenge as she was just so far in front of me.

So that was the Friday. We won some stuff, got quite a few clears and went home tired but pretty happy with the results. More importantly Raven had pulled up fine and no sign of any stiffness or soreness after the days events. If anything she was a little too UP! I slept like a log that night. A solid six hours.

Day Two (Saturday) - This day was a mixed results day but still one that left me feeling good about our achievements so far. I had gone to this National with Raven just absolutely thrilled to be able to be there and compete. To win or qualify was just icing on the cake as far as I was concerned. So when Raven pulled off a clear run in the hardest Masters Jumping course I've ever done and managed to finish in 6th I was absolutely chuffed with her. Honestly this course was so challenging that word spread ike wildfire around the grounds (and these grounds were huge by the way - to walk from one ring to another sometimes took like ten minutes!!) and the course became known as THE TUNNEL ONE. I have never run a design like this before and I hope to never again. In fact it is so unique I feel the need to post the course design right here. I think there were 8 qualifiers in about 170 dogs. Raven had made a Masters Jumping final. I was more than thrilled with her. In the morning the Masters Agility course looked to be quite challenging as well but much more in the way of could be do-able type challenging. Raven just knocked one bar and I withdrew. I then ran Cypher and we did a pretty solid run and I got him through it clear. We were early on in the running order so I thought nothing of it, lots more dogs to run and no doubt lots more clears as well. Spryte had some hard luck stories - although that said some of those stories did involve contacts and me not being able to walk the course because I was involved in three other rings at the front of the grounds whilst the walking was taking place down the far end of the grounds. She did a beautiful Open Agility run at one point and just missed the a frame contact by a toe and it was in the distance challenge so that didn't help. To be honest with her first run of the day in Novice Jumping I was completely stunned by her speed. It seemed like she had shifted up about 6 gears and it caught me by surprise my reactions definitely not quick enough in giving her the information she needed quickly enough. Then I mishandled a rear cross with in another Novice Jumping run. The Novice Agility courses were more challenging than I was used to, with some strong call offs and sharp turns for the youngsters which left very little room for error. And in my case no room at all! So no clear rounds for her all day. Cypher had a couple of qualifiers and one that I count as a qualifier - a very nicely run open Agility course that was speedy for him and without a single wobble. However the judge decided to give me a penalty because whilst I placed him on lead immediately I lost hold of the lead when he tugged with me as we left the ring ropes. Yeah. Not going to talk about it except to say that there was some rather extreme interpretations of the rules at this event (over the whole weekend in fact) that were not necessary by a long shot. Agility is supposed to be fun people - stop sucking the fun out of it! Where was I? Oh yes Cypher. Turns out by the end of the day he finished in FIFTH place in the Masters Agility class and had therefore qualified for a final. Good old Mr Reliable....though I really shouldn't call him old, he's only just about to turn four! I was very pleased with how he ran all weekend actually, he tried his best, did everything I asked and is the most consistent dog I have ever had the pleasure of owning and training. I know I bag on his speed sometimes but really he goes as fast as he can and enjoys his agility and the tugging afterwards, can't ask much more than that.

Day Three (Sunday) - Today was the last chance to qualify for the finals and yeah my guys didn't do anything in the morning. I had pulled Cy from Masters Agility and just focused on Jumping. I had pulled Raven from Masters Jumping and just focused on Masters Agility. And Spryte was in both her Novice runs. Cy ran clear in Masters Jumping but so did about 26 other dogs I think so he finished in 18th or something like that. I prefer that to the 8th place we finished in Open Jumping Saturday afternoon! It's great to know he nearly made it into a final like that but sometimes you just go perhaps I don't want to know he missed out on a finals run by point nothing of a second! Raven did an absolute ripper on an Agility run that would have made the finals easily time wise but she just knocked one bar. This course I didn't withdraw on thinking that this could possibly be out last ever run in a Masters Agility class at a National! Spryte? Well Seems like Idiot Handler had been missing in action for a while and chose her Novice Jumping course to come out on. Firstly I got lost. Yes. Lost. On a bloody 16 obstacle course. Unbelievable. So unbelievable in fact that I was completely flustered by this and tehrefore forgot to handle her properly for an off entry tunnel. So there went that chance! In Novice Agility? You know how I said that contact thing always comes back to bite you in the ass at some point? Well this was our point. Big time. Missed the a frame contact by about a toe length. Perfect other than that. *Shrugs* What can you do? I had pretty much sealed that fate with all my fart arsing around with her contacts in trials so I took it on the chin as you do and still gave her the biggest hug at the end of her run. She was in a final already - no point being greedy. :-)

Finals - There were 8 finals to be run. I was in three ofthem. The last three. Open Jumping, followed by Masters Jumping and followed by Masters Agility. So I got Spryte out eventually to get her ready for the OJ final. When I walked the course I realised it didn't matter how many times I walked this she would would be very unlikely to get the difficult distance challenge. She was third into the ring in 400 height class. After all my doubts about her she went and bloody did the distance challenge! I was absolutely stunned as the spectators could tell by my tone of voice. We were five jumps from home after the weavers and I hadn't anticipated the sharp turn and thus call off for the angle home. She took a jump off course. Bugger! My fault entirely but to be honest I didn't feel the slightest bit disappointed. She did exactly everything I asked and had completed a challenge that it turned out only ONE dog out of the entire finals class could manage to go clear on. She's just turned 2. She's gonna have a few more goes at Nationals in her lifetime. I can't wait to share them with her. Raven in Masters Jumping was up next. This course was pretty much as hard (and in some places harder) as THE TUNNEL ONE. Heh. And by this point our start line behaviour was non existent so I'm quite sure that we didn't get past just three before we had a fault. I withdrew after a bit because by that stage the grounds were wet, boggy and muddy and very slippery. So we thanked the judge and left the ring. She had made it to the Masters Jumping finals startline. It was more than i could have ever hoped for.
Cypher in Masters Agility - by the time it was his turn I think there was maybe one clear round. I revved him up something chronic with his tug toy and he was buzzing on the start line. This was a nice course to run but really to be honest, none of the handlers felt particularly safe running on the grounds as they were incredibly boggy and slippery by then, you did feel that you could land on your ass very quickly if you weren't careful. Cypher did a cracker of a run, he was going great guns and we had about four obstacles left when I opened my mouth and said 'Out'. One tiny word. And of course he did it. He went out just like I said. When he didn't need to go out he just needed to turn with me into a tunnel. With the way he was running he would have finished in at least 4th if not 3rd place. Ahhh well. This was disappointing because I had made the stuff up here and this was a Masters final that he could have quite easily gone clear on, unlike Spryte who I wasn't expecting to do anything with in the OJ final. Cypher of course was none the wiser, tugging like mad at the end of his run. He had done me proud, ran well, ran fast and did everything I asked. And this from a dog I was wondering if I should bother with the expense of taking!

And so that was it. The end of the Nationals. As a last note I have to make mention of Western Australia as a state and how well they did - we walked away with FOUR out of the eight finals wins, we had a couple of runners up and top 6 finishes in the finals. As a state we did very well, we won FOUR out of nine possible Games classes and had top 5 finishes in the rest just about. I am proud to be part of our WA Agility community because we can say without hesitation our dogs are some of the fastest, best trained and best handled out there. To live and compete in WA is to set the bar high for our agility standards and that has to be an asset anyway you look at it.

Roll on 2010 and the next Nationals - to be held here in sunny Perth at the end of April.
I will post some pics and some courses in the next post.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Update #1

It’s lucky I am a fairly positive sort of a character really. Most of the time. Otherwise I feel sure by now I would have just about been contemplating some serious drug usage or other potentially high risk escapism behaviours. It seems Raven is a bit of a dramatic attention seeker. Either that or she is just really one of the unluckiest Border Collies in the world. She had her final weekly blood test around two or three weeks ago. She only needs to visit Murdoch once a month for blood tests now. So quite clearly Raven felt like life was a little dull, or distinctly lacking in some veterinary attention.

On Saturday Raven managed to dislocate her right hip whilst running in a Masters Agility course. Albeit the ring and the grass surface in general was a bit wet and soggy but well over a hundred dogs ran in that ring and NONE of them managed to dislocate a hip. She had done her usual running contact on the dog walk gone over the next jump and turned the less desirable way around (it was a 180 degree turn back to a tunnel under the dog walk) so I stepped in to shape her line to the tunnel which it turns out she didn’t see till she was running flat tack and realised it was there at the last possible split second and tried to throw her little body in said tunnel. Most sane dogs would have probably just gone past it realising what a futile exercise it would have been by that stage. Her ass end went out from under, she hit the ground and landed on her right hip let out an almighty yelp and then peered round the tunnel at me as I turned back to her with her right back leg well off the ground.

I think at this point all the blood drained from my face as we soon established this wasn’t something she was going to walk off. We had no idea if it was a foot, hock, knee or hip issue at this stage so I carried her back to the car and started icing that leg and rang home for Tim to bring the 25mg tab of Rimadyl I had left over from her BMT. I gave her some food and some Rimadyl and we gave her a half hour lying down to see if that helped. She initially kept the leg tucked up fairly close to her body and were concerned that it was cruciate damage.

Within an hour and a half of the accident I got her into the local VetWest where the Vet had a look, by this stage she had stopped her intermittent shaking and her leg was dangling. She showed no signs of pain on the cranial draw test of the cruciate ligament and none on palpation of the hip but she would not let the vet extend her leg back behind her at all.

The vet suspected dislocated hip and wanted to do a GA asap in order to xray and replace it if indeed her suspicions were correct. Once a hip is dislocated the quicker it gets replaced the better and it’s virtually impossible after 12 hours. She explained what she would do and that she would strap it and that the strapping would be on for 10 to 14 days etc. She topped up Raven’s Rimadyl dose with an injection and then gave an injection of Temgesic (Sp?) which is a more powerful painkiller drug.

Then the Nurse is there getting me to sign the form and waiver and they are working up an estimate of the cost and I’m trying not to laugh hysterically as I explain to them exactly what Raven has been through in the last year and after sixteen thousand dollars worth of treatments for lymphoma I really don’t think an extra few hundred is going to make a difference somehow. I must admit I was pretty upset by this stage and worried about her going under another GA as it was less than 2 months since her last one plus she had eaten that morning, but with a friend’s help I managed to pull it together, give them my mobile number, leave Raven in a cage out the back (by this stage she is looking somewhat pissed about the change in environment) and drive back to the trial grounds.

They would call me as soon as they knew what was what. So I get a call around 2.15 explaining that all has gone well, Raven is awake from the GA, they x-rayed and it was a dislocated hip and it was put back in without too much trouble, can I come pick her up at 5.15. Of course I asked if it could be any earlier but that was a no go. So I was there at 5.15 on the dot and saw the vet who had treated Raven. She took me through and showed me the x rays. I have included them below, the last image is obviously after the hip has been replaced. The vet informed me that this was a rather unusual dislocation as rather than up and above the pelvis the ball had been pushed down out of the socket.

Typical Raven always does things her own way! So we looked at the x rays and she told me that it went back in easily and didn’t cause any problems with popping back out. This is the risk apparently with dislocated hips. That they can pop back out at any time during recovery period. Usually the dogs are strapped to the point that it can’t physically pop out (so they are on three legs) and everyone holds their breath at the end of the two weeks when the strapping comes off but because Raven’s was different she has all four legs on the ground and is weight bearing. Right now completely normally weight bearing I might add. The dog wants to trot everywhere and the hobbles don’t stop her from doing that! She can still cock that leg on that hip when she wants to pee as well! So I am going to try and get a referral to an Ortho specialist and try and confirm whether this strapping is doing the job or if it needs modifying. Also to enquire about her recovery therapy and what I can do to make sure it’s the best she can get. It’s a little different when you are talking about a sports performance dog as compared to your average pet dog I think. Long story not so short I don’t know at this stage if she will be going to the Nationals. Looking at her right now I feel 70% confident that she will be sound by then but you just never know. I will not be making any decisions at this stage. So that was my drama for the weekend. And now Raven is bored out of her skull and wondering what all the fuss is about. Below is one of the xray images they took.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Raising Awareness

Been a while since I’ve updated and I have a fair bit to blather on about so feel free to skim and scan as they say. So the Fundraising trial hosted by Eden Hills Dog Club actually managed to raise over $600 for Dr Ken Wyatt and Murdoch Veterinary Oncology Research. Plus they gave me a very generous donation of $570 towards Raven’s treatment bills which has helped more than they know.

The day was an excellent success due in no small part to the hard working and extremely giving instigators of this idea – Nicole Ford and Sandra Yearsley and their band of club supporters. These two ladies went above and beyond the call in terms of putting their own time and efforts into this event and I shall always be thankful to them.

The weather was beautiful and we had a good turn out of nearly 20 teams demonstrating that the WA Agility community fully supported the cause. There were many donations for prizes and cash donations on the day towards the research. Ken and his wife attended and they were fascinated to actually watch the machinations of an agility trial and were surprised about all the different breeds in attendance. Raven initially said a rather reserved hello to Ken, clearly remembering him, but then started to turn on the charm once she realised he was not taking her anywhere for some injections or any other physical examinations.

Ken spoke to the group gathered about exactly what kind of treatment Raven had been given and one phrase that stood out for me was that he said that the bone marrow transplant she had been given is essentially the best treatment in the world currently available for Canine Lymphoma. It’s heartening to know in the end that we have managed to give Raven the best possible chance to beat this disease. It wouldn’t matter if we moved to Europe, the States or anywhere else we were fortunate enough to have access to the latest and most successful treatment on the planet. He explained about the research, looking into the genetic maps of dogs with lymphoma and the chips that contain the data on each dog costing around $500 each due to the extensive genetic mapping that had been done. They’ve compiled data so far from around 50 of these chips and the more chips they can purchase the better because it will give them very specific and detailed information that will allow Oncology specialist to better diagnose the stage, advancement and which particular drugs will be most effective in treatment. It will allow them, in the end, to give very specific treatments and drug doses designed just for that particular dog alone based on the knowledge they can glean from this massive database. So he expressed his thanks on behalf of himself and the other specialists involved with this research and stated that these funds will help the cause in a significant way.

Raven enjoyed herself too that day. She did a run just for Ken because he’d missed her first run that morning and was having a ball. It was hard not to smile at the thought that I had my Raven back...Raven pre May 2007 that is. She got lots of treats and pats that day and was quite impressed with herself by the end I think, managing to con many a hand into a pocket for even a little something with just an alert and persuasive expression on her face as she looked at each person expectantly.

I enjoyed the day for many reasons, it was good to see the people I choose to hang out with on a very regular basis at agility trials come together to support a cause, it was great to play agility again and even better I got to run a healthy and vibrant Border Collie who will never understand how amazing she is simply because she has an attitude that never quits. Raven is my heart dog and always will be. We took a few shots of the day and I have posted a couple or three here.

So that happened back in June and then we had a two week break from trialling. Of course it dawned on me that really there is now less than eight weeks till the Nationals. A rather large WA contingent will be attending which is fantastic I must say. More so than even Adelaide last year and this time we’re all getting shirts to show our team spirit. When it comes to Individual events here in WA the competition is always very strong and we like to push the bar for our sport. However get us in a group over East and we become a very unified and loyal bunch that wishes nothing but the best for our fellow competitors against the rest of the country. But back to the rather looming fact of less than 8 weeks to go. Due to the different time frame it’s not really logical to swim the dogs like I did before last year’s Nationals so we have been walking and semi-hiking I suppose you’d call it, up sandy hills and across bushy and scrubby terrain at the Jandakot Regional park. We’ve found a sand quarry that’s very useful for climbing to the top of and letting the dogs run up and down it in search of the never –ending fetch a stick game. Great for rear end muscle development and fitness...of course if I had a personal trainer then I’d probably be the one running up and down sand hills. Oh well. At least I try and walk briskly, in soft sand that’s no mean feat! I wonder if I could add that to my resume? Personal Trainer – Canine Specialist.

July commenced and it’s trials just about every weekend starting with last Sunday at Cloverdale. It felt like we haven’t trialled in ages. Raven was first up in Masters Agility and it was a nice course which ran well but she just tipped a bar. I didn’t stop her and withdraw because I didn’t hear it drop till she was over the next obstacle. I nearly got Deb’s Jasper around too, I am handling him in Masters right now as she is just hanging out for his last leg to title. But I think he knocked the same bar as Raven. Cypher was the most frustrating – not because of him, he ran really well and was focused but the third last bar from home he took out the spread. It really is a momentary annoyance when that happens. Next up was Open Agility and this time both Cy and Raven had bars seems I have not been doing enough grid work with them. Cy did lovely contacts though, very pleased with how he is running them now. By then the Masters Strategic Pairs course was being set and I had Cypher in that with Steve and Nicola Thompson’s girl Sage, and Raven was in with Nifty. Steve and I managed to walk the course in between runs but Sue and I never really got to walk it together and by the time we were both available to walk the course I had not really got my plan fully in my head and neither of us felt like rescuing so we made the decision if a bar goes to just quit. Well it was a bit of a stuff up! I ran straight into Sue’s path trying to get out of her way, Raven decided Nifty had to be chased in case he thought this was his course for a second, and the Nifty dropped a bar so we both said stuff it and retired! Cypher and Sage got round for another pass and third place but we still have heaps of passes to go before finishing the title. I think we’ve had two shots at Strat Pairs this year and that is it. WA would have to be one of the most least practiced states when it comes to games it’s quite a surprise that they do so well at the Nationals in them!

By that time Open Jumping had been run as well. I had been on first with Spryte. She was in competitively and I wasn’t expecting a pass really as there were some tricky angles. I didn’t handle her the most efficiently either but we still got round for a pass and came 4th or 5th overall so I was very happy with her. She really looked like she was enjoying herself too. Cypher did a lovely run, very happy with his run, he ended up in 7th or thereabouts and we had a great game of tug at the end. He had been on the ball the entire course and did not lose focus for a moment. Raven was going great till I did a crap handling move and caused a refusal on a jump then we retired after she knocked a bar. I’d be pretty safe in saying that she is indeed back to how she was like prior to the cancer. Back to the I have to go so fast I can’t possibly slow enough to keep every bar up attitude. We’ll be working on that for a while again I think.

Spryte was up next in Novice Strategic Pairs and we ran that with Cathy Snook’s Snazzy (Guirmere Snazzy). We had a plan and it mostly was followed apart from a slight hiccup where Spryte thought they were her weavers not Snazzy’s, I think one rescue was required which took all of two seconds and other than that it ran quite well and most of all was absolute FUN! Turned out we won that class.

Photo by Robyn Evans

So Spryte has her first SPD pass and two passes towards her JDO now plus the two JD passes. She was in Novice Agility next. I can’t think why I entered her competitively when she is in all three trials at Geraldton soon for competition. So she did a lovely opening with a great two on two off on the a frame and then we were at the table when I realised we may go clear here. So I gave her a pat for dropping on the table and then continued on our way. Her dogwalk contact was nearly there. Just a few centimetres more and she’d have had a two on two off position. Other than that very pleased with her run.

Masters Jumping to finish and Cypher was up first going very well until some awkward spacing on a fast curve of jumps was his undoing and he knocked a bar. I dropped him, replaced the bar and withdrew. I know he is not a chronic bar knocked like Raven but still I think he needs to know that we can’t continue if a bar drops. He is not the type of dog to get all soft and sulky over that, I’m not sure if he gets why we leave, but I do know that he realises we stop because a bar drops. Whether he cares about that is another question entirely. But I don’t believe in letting them go ever....unless you have a dog whose temperament will shut down if he/she gets worried about making mistakes. Some dogs really don’t like making mistakes but neither Cypher or Raven fit that category!

And that brings us to this week. First week of the holidays and here I am at Friday already. Why the hell don’t the weeks pass this fast when you are at work I ask? It’s ridiculous how fast time seems to be moving sometimes. For brief foray into non-agility related matters we went and saw Hancock last week and I liked it. I liked the humour and I liked the premise although it left me asking questions about back stories that never got answered but I’m thinking this was probably deliberate. Saw a new trailer for The Dark Knight as well and was surprised when I felt a pang of sadness when watching Heath Ledger’s Joker on screen. It just seems like such a waste. The man had such a talent and so young as well. I’m sure this swansong will be a fitting tribute. There are a few others on the list though – Wall-E is supposedly the best ever animated film from Pixar/Disney and I have heard nothing but praise for it. Wanted – a completely indulgent action sci-fi flick that looks to have some very cool CGI, plus James McAvoy, I’ve heard he’s good. Then there is Prince Caspian – which I am not sure I’ll get to before it a couple others. And I have books to read like it is going out of style. I may just have to ring work and postpone my return until I get all my holiday reading out the way, in between training, trialling and walking the dogs of course.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

All Clear

This was one happy Raven owner yesterday afternoon when I took Raven for her second blood test after the marrow transfer on the 5th of this month. Last week there wasn’t any movement in her white blood cell count and that was to be expected. This week Ken anticipated that the marrow should have kicked in and starting churning out some white blood cells. Yesterday he came out with a big smile on his face and let me know that the marrow had taken and was now working well. Her WBC was up to 2. Which isn’t a lot for most dogs but for Raven who has always had low WBC counts this is normal. Her platelets were at 33 which is fine, a little low for a competitive agility dog but he was more interested in the fact that the count had increased from 25 last week to 33 this week.
Everything else in normal range and he said that in terms of her marrow transplant the time frame for when there were going to be serious complications or risks had passed and that she was now essentially just a normal dog. He did say that her immune system could still be compromised but that things like that were easily identified and treated with medication.

I don’t think I stopped smiling all afternoon, it was really a big relief to have got through this and to know that she has no more chemotherapy to go through and that this, really, was it. Apart from some regular blood tests Raven is pretty much back to the dog she was before this disease ever latched onto her.

So I was kind of quietly ecstatic to take her to training last night. She attacked all her obstacles with her usual enthusiasm, decided to test me on my start line rules and had fun barking at me when I got in her way. She barked her head off when left in the crate when I trained the others and was most pleased with herself whenever it worked and she got taken out again to do some work. Although I’m quite sure she doesn’t see it as work.

She is running in a team on Saturday at the fun agility teams event to raise funds for cancer research. I have sent her team at Murdoch an invite, it would be great for them to share in the joy she gets from agility and to see what they have helped her live for.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Raven Update!

So it has now been ten days since the marrow transfer. We haven’t been incident free unfortunately but by the same token the incidents have all been manageable.

Raven is doing ok. Today has been an off day for her. It’s odd she kept her dinner down all night and then for some reason the food wasn’t moving from her gut and she threw it up this morning (a good 8 hours later) and has had a bit of a heaving episode around lunch time today. She’s still keen to eat and drinking well and is fine apart from this little upset.

Yesterday she was great and I took her out for the first time since the transfer and we went for an hour and a half walk with the other two. They enjoyed themselves immensely and came home tired for once.

The only other minor panic we had was on the Wednesday of last week, 6 days after the treatment. She was not interested in food at all Tuesday night and felt like she had a bit of a temperature. I wouldn’t have worried too much about this but late that evening Spryte started making a huffing noise. No coughing though. But at 5am she woke everyone up with what sounded very much like the Canine Cough cough. This is where Simone started to get a little worried because Ken has specifically said ‘Don’t take Raven near any ill or coughing dogs’. Great! There were quite a few expletives running through my head then I must admit. I spoke to my colleague at work and then emailed Ken at about 6am, taking the day off from work in case I needed to take her in.

Ken got back to me around 8.30 and asked me to take her temp. I did so and it was 39.4 so she had a fever, not a bad one but one that prompted Ken to ask me to bring her in. So I did and by about 10am she was admitted and I’m not afraid to say I was quite concerned at this stage.

By 11am Ken had emailed me to say her fever had dropped and that she was eating. Yay!! By 2.30 he emailed me to say her temp was normal and that could I come and get her because she was eating too much! Needless to say I was very relieved. He cancelled my Thursday appointment and took bloods from her whilst she was there to do a full blood chem. Analysis and check her kidney function. As far as he was concerned everything was as he expected, low RBC virtually zero WBCs and Kidney function all normal. He couldn’t tell me when the marrow would start functioning…or rather he couldn’t give me an idea about when the WBC were going to start to show up again, he just stated that by this time next week he would expect a difference in the WBC count so that she showing a closer to normal count.

Turned out Spryte did not have CC, she coughed once more that night and then that was it. Nothing else. I kept her separate from Raven to be sure but it seemed to have passed. I think maybe she chewed or eaten something that didn’t quite agree with her throat.

So far so good…once we passed the 7 day point I did relax a bit more knowing the chances for complications occurring were becoming more unlikely each day that passes. So she has an appt 4pm Wednesday just to get some blood from her to do the same test. This will go on for a month and then once a month for a year. A small concession really in the face of everything else she had been through.

She is is just twitching to get out and do some training and I will take her back next week and see how she goes. According to Ken she should be back to normal by now and should be doing all the usual things she normally does. So can’t keep her away from agility for much too longer!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stages of a Canine Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant - An Owner's Perspective

Autologous meaning that the marrow is provided by the patient not a close relative. These are the only BMT’s that Murdoch Vet Oncology do so there was no debate really about which approach to take.

Stage 1

Tuesday May the 27th.

Raven goes in for what Dr Ken Wyatt described as the biggest stage for the dog in terms of the fact that the dog is under a general anaesthetic and is worked on for two hours by two vets. So Raven goes in and I am hoping all those injections I gave her have boosted her neutrophil count considerably. She is given a blood thinning injection early in the day and by 10.30am is under anaesthetic. Her neutrophil count went from an average of 1.5 to a count of 42. I was kind of expecting more, Ken had mentioned anything from 70 to 100 could be expected but then I realised that in terms of Raven she has never been what you call ‘average’ when it comes to her WBCs. And Ken was happy with 42, confident that that was high enough for what they needed to do. So he shaved a small patch on her right shoulder blade and with Amy’s help removed 165ml of marrow blood from her bone. She was then given her usual dose of chemo – Vincristine. She came trotting out with Ken on the end of the lead at 3.30 when I picked her with a small puncture wound on her shoulder and looking very happy to be going home. Ken said it all went well, no hiccups and he gave me some pain medication to take home and give her. He did say it took a bit longer than he anticipated but that she still came under the 2 hour mark which was good. Some dogs can apparently get that much marrow removed in half an hour. So she came home and we took it easy for a few days, did a little bit of training on Friday afternoon which she was VERY keen for and then we competed on Saturday at a trial. A trial at which she did very well however my head was obviously NOT on the job at hand because I managed to stuff her up several times. But she was still barking and carrying on like the agility obsessed dog she is…although I did notice that she was pretty tired instantly after a run, yet picked up pretty quickly whenever I made a motion to get her lead clipped on for the next run.

Stage 2

Tuesday June the 3rd.

So today she went in and it seemed like any other chemo visit. I dropped her in at 8am and she went through to have double the normal dose of Cyclophosphamide, the drug that attacks the marrow cells. Effectively this meant that all her marrow and thus her immune system was completely destroyed. The whole idea of this is really quite hard to grasp for the lay person I think. You would think that such a vital part of you being destroyed would be absolutely fatal but apparently it’s only fatal after a time and if you are not rescued of course by new marrow being injected back into you. So I went there to pick her up this day expecting a dog who could barely hold her head up and was hardly able to walk. She trotted back out same as usual at 2.30 looking like nothing particularly unusual has happened. She had an injection of antibiotic and anti-cystitis medication and I was given antibiotic tablets, anti-cystitis drugs and also anti nausea/vomiting wafers to give her. She was tired and a little subdued but was happy to be home. I kept looking at her marvelling at the utter war that was going on inside of her and yet on the outside, here is this to all intents and purposes normal healthy looking dog who has just been injected with a fatal dose of chemicals. I think it helps not to dwell on such thoughts and this would be the first time I was glad that we can’t understand dog because if she could communicate with me so explicitly I’m sure she’d be telling me about how absolutely crap she feels and there’s not a damn thing I could do about it apart from also feeling incredibly guilty for putting her through this. She was ravenous that night and ate a full meal which came back up at about midnight unfortunately. Seems her gut wasn’t quite back to normal. I was concerned about A: Not getting enough nutrients into her and B: The antibiotics/anti-cystitis not getting absorbed. But she was drinking well, toileting well and very bright and keen for food so I wasn’t too worried. Wednesday I tried some plain cooked chicken with her about 3ish. A tiny amount really and she kept that down for the most part until I tried to give her some more around 9. I obviously pushed her gut to far and she brought the whole lot up again at about 10. Again nothing else had changed – she was still keen for food, drinking well and toileting fine. So I tried not to worry too much.

Stage 3 – Final Stage – Thursday 5th of June

Today I dropped her in at 8ish explaining about the lack of food intake and how the anti-nausea/vomiting wafers were not having an effect. She hadn’t lost too much weight so that was good. I went in and picked her up at 2.30 and Ken saw me and answered my questions explaining that because of all these other factors (still wanting to eat, drinking well, still toileting fine) he was not concerned at this stage. He would be if by Sunday she still hadn’t managed to keep food down and that I should contact him if that’s the case. He was happy with how the marrow reinfusion went, they got the drip into her at about ten after taking bloods and it stayed in till about two. They ran some extra fluid through as well to help with hydration and making sure every marrow cell got put back. She did come out looking tired today, I think she’s pretty much fed up with being taken there and will be very happy to never have to spend another day there. We go back in Thursday next week for blood tests but that is just a revisit. Ken asked me to try with plain, low fat foods that are given in very small amounts. To split her meals into 5 or 6 very tiny amounts no more than a tablespoon or so and to maybe try broth if she’s keeping liquids down well. Which she is….she’s keeping all the water that she drinks down. So I will try with that tonight. And now all the procedures and treatments are done with. With all that we’ve done and with a bit of luck Raven is now cured of Lymphoma….or she at least has a very good chance of a long remission. It’s been a long and not altogether pleasant journey particularly for her. It’s interesting watching her interact with the staff at Murdoch, she knows them now, quite well and so they usually get a few wags of her tail with her ears back in greeting but that’s tempered by her very obvious recall of all the things they’ve had to do with her so she always greets them and then makes sure she heads towards the exit just so they know she’s not that enamoured with them to want to go with them. So by this time this week Ken is expecting Raven to be back to her usual self and carrying on her life like she was never afflicted. Fingers crossed it all goes that way for us.

Raven with Dr Amy Lane, Geoff, Dr Ken Wyatt and Merilea - last day of treatment.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Of Agility Champions, Bone Marrow Transplants and Puppies

Wow. You know it’s been a long time between updates when you have to check back on your blog to remember what you last wrote about. Things have been busy I must admit.

So trialling update first:

Saturday April 27th was the Southern River Dog Club Trial – Spryte did three cracking good runs, going well in Open Jumping apart from redoing the weavers (NFC), and did two very nice runs in Novice Agility and Jumping, all still NFC with a couple of small errors in each. Raven had a bar knocking day I believe, taking a bar down in each run apart from one where I think I may have pushed her over a wrong bar. Cypher had a couple of clears and a couple of bars down. Highlight of the trial was WA finally has another Agility Champion – in the form of a tri coloured Border Collie named Terra, owned by Kriszty Cumming. Terra also turned 4 this day as well as acquiring an addition to her name Agility Champion Bellview Foxy Lady.

May 11th – this was the Thankyou Trial, put on by the CAWA Agility Committee which involved two trials, you entered the morning one and then had your entries mirrored for free in the afternoon one. I asked Kriszty if she would handle Raven for me in Masters Agility. I had been feeling a little frustrated with our lack of success which I felt was mostly due to my inadequate handling. At Southern River Raven seemed like she’d had a shot of caffeine prior to our Masters Agility run and I felt like I was about 10 steps behind her in everything. So Kriszty ran Raven in Open Jumping to warm up first and ran a respectably clear 3rd place although we both noticed Raven was being very polite and not going at her usual speed. We were not sure if this was gonna work because if Raven runs clear in Masters she does need to do it at her usual frenetic speed if we were going to finish off those passes needed for Agility Champion. Kriszty then took her in for Masters and Raven suddenly broke her start and I *knew* then and there she was back to her usual speed, they made it around half way before Rave had an off course and took a couple of bars down. I had pulled Raven out for bars down in Masters Jumping and Open Agility that morning too. In the afternoon trial we’d decided to try again since her speed had picked up with Kriszty. She ran her in Open Jumping first and pulled her out when she dropped a bar. We then walked Masters Agility and decided that because it was a fairly free and flowing course of the simpler variety which usually meant a lot of clears in the class that I would run her since if we were going to try for first place we would need her at her maximum speed and she does run the fastest when I handle her. The course was going great till the fourth last jump from home when she knocked a bar. I pulled her out, frustrated but quite pleased with how I was handling her better. Spryte had some cracking good runs today, she did have one bar down in each of the Novice Jumping but was posting the fastest times which I was very happy about, at one point she did a 136m 16 obstacle course in 14.77 seconds so I was quite pleased with the confidence that showed. She’d gone clear in the morning too in Open Jumping, just about equalling Raven’s time which was great as the distance challenge wasn’t easy (big brother Cypher couldn’t do it!). Cypher managed two clears in Masters Jumping, one clear in Masters Agility and a clear in Open Agility. AGAIN the highlight of the trial? Raven's SP partner Nifty picking up his final leg for Agility Champion - Sue Hogben and Nifty finished it in fine style with a 1st place in Masters Agility in the morning: Another tri coloured Border whose name now reads: Agility Champion Guirmere Nifty Lad.

May 17th and May 18th – Geraldton trials. On the Saturday both the older dogs ran well in the final run of the day Masters Jumping, both Cy and Raven going clear in it, however I handled Raven quite conservatively and she was quite tired I think, it had been a long day so we picked up 6th. Raven had knocked one bar in each of her other runs (I withdrew her each time) and Cypher knocked bars in two and went off course in another. Spryte was in the competition Novice Agility class and she ran very nicely but missed the weaver entry, it wasn’t an easy angle for the baby dogs so I was still happy with her run. She had one bar down in Novice Jumping and in Open Jumping we got a little mixed up on course. Sunday went better for us. First up was Open Agility. I had made the decision that day that I was getting kinda tired of Cypher’s slow arse contacts in trials, aware that I had very nicely caused these to happen. Cypher’s contacts in training are near perfect four on the floor contacts. His times are all low and within the times for top level trialling dogs. There is no hesitation, he just drives straight into the spot and holds it until I say the release word. In trials I have released him early, as in I say ‘Ok’ as he gets his paws into the contact area. This has caused him to change his behaviour performance in the trial ring, he doesn’t drive, his body is a lot more upright, he doesn’t get down low, he slows down, he puts extra strides in, and I have had a few missed contacts. I released early with a view to getting his times on course quicker. What it has achieved is the opposite, I now have a dog who is not quite sure what he is doing in the trial ring on contacts, he’s wondering if I’m going to say ‘ok’ or if he has to lie down or maybe something else might happen. His confusion about what I am going to expect has led to slower contact performance at trials. So this day (Sunday) I’ve made a decision. For the next 6 months I am not going to care about his times on Agility courses I am going to insist on the four on the floor position before moving on in any of the contact courses. I started it today. The results were amusing initially. His first contact was the A Frame…I gave the command ‘Contact’ and as he was feeling fairly fired up he ran through the colour straight at me growling, barking and carrying on like he wanted to play tug with me. I stopped dead, he realised I’d said ‘Contact’ and promptly lay down facing the opposite way to the direction we were going. Heh. I moved off sent him into the weavers with an ‘Ok’ and kept running. He ran straight into four on the floor with the dogwalk and in Masters Agility his contacts were noticeably faster and all straight into four on the floor position. I’m hoping for the same thing tomorrow at GSDA. What I hope to achieve by doing this is having faster contact performance which will only rarely get released early at big events. We’ll see how it goes. In Masters Agility I found out that tugging with him as we walk up to the start line is probably a little too much stimulation for him, he took off like a bat out of hell and was so revved up felt the need to come in and bark at me close, like he wanted to herd me or something causing a refusal on a very simple bar, the fourth obstacle in. He did go clear in Masters Jumping and Open Agility though.

I’d made the decision with Raven that I was really going to try and focus more on my handling, making sure I was not distracted, that I had a concrete plan that I was going to try and execute without any regard for her bar knocking issues. It had been noted that perhaps I wasn’t treating course walking seriously enough leading to sloppy handling which then led to no clear passes. So…with that in mind I did my best to try and run the course exactly how I’d planned it. Raven was holding her start lines nicely today, she’d kept all her bars up in Open Agility I had front crossed in the wrong place though and caused an off course but I was still happy with her run. We went out and ran Masters Agility and it ran perfectly apart from the seesaw collapsing under her as she left it and a slight wobble on the last obstacle. But these weren’t enough to slow her down too much and we finished with a 1st place. One less Agility Champion pass to go. In Open Jumping there was a diagonal line of jumps down the centre of the course which had a very fast approach to them, too fast for Raven and she took a couple of them so we withdrew. Masters Jumping was our last run and again I walked it purposefully and set out to run it the exact same way. It worked beautifully and we finished with 2nd place to Sue’s Nifty, not by much so that was pleasing as Nifty is an awesome dog in Jumping, very efficient. Spryte had weaver woes in Novice Agility again unfortunately, just popping the last pole in what was otherwise a cracking good run. We scratched Novice Jumping preferring to be home before 9pm that night.

So all in all a good weekend, and worth the trek to Geraldton. We’ll be back in July for their triple header.

On the chemo front things are ticking along smoothly, Raven had her hopefully last ever dose of Doxorubicin on the 13th of May and she did experience a touch of colitis a few days later but nothing she couldn’t handle. We went and saw Ken Monday afternoon and he explained about the drug I was to inject her with for the next seven days so that her white blood cell count is elevated. I have to give her injections morning and night of HGFSH, Human Granulocyte Follicle Stimulating Hormone which is a synthetic hormone that tells the stems cells to reproduce at several times their normal rate. I was given four syringes of 0.5ml each and they obviously contain synthetic ingredients which can only be found in the bowels of some massively volatile volcano or perhaps on the moon because each 0.5 ml syringe is worth around $424 Australian. I kid you not. This stuff is more expensive than gold and probably high quality heroin truth be told. I panicked a little when told that i had to give her four doses from one 0.5ml syringe ARGH!! What if I slipped and gave the whole thing? Ken assured me that it would not have any affect on Raven’s health just that I may have lessened the effectiveness of the drug by not spreading it out as much. Which is also something I’d like to avoid given how much this stuff costs! But it’s all good, the injections have been going smoothly, I have been giving the right dose each time without any dramas and Raven is a very patient patient with me.

Theoretically her neutrophil count should go through the roof, normally for her it’s around 1, after seven days of this it should be up around 70 Ken said. So this Tuesday coming (the 27th of May) she goes in for the big procedure. Ken and another vet will work on her for around 2 hours, shave off a considerable amount of fur from her shoulder and extract around 160ml of marrow from her shoulder blade. This is of course done under a gaseous general anaesthetic, after that several tests will be commenced on the marrow extracted whilst Raven who is still under is given her usual does of Vincristine (hopefully the last one ever…this is the drug that has whacked her around the most). She goes home at 3.30 apparently as if nothing ever happened, just like a usual chemo day. She does have pain meds though because whilst dogs don’t tend to reveal it, in humans we know it is quite a painful operation so Ken automatically administers pain meds regardless of whether the dog demonstrates any signs of pain. Knowing Raven and how stoic she is she’d never tell anyone if she was in pain! This day will cost around $2,500. My credit card will need pain meds too I imagine.

The following Tuesday (June 3rd) is when I will probably start to freak out a little. This day she goes in and has double the dose of Cyclophosphamide than usual, At this point in won’t matter if her WBC is very low again. It is the dose that effectively wipes out all her marrow, every single cell and pretty much destroys any immune system she has left. I will be taking this day and the following Wednesday and Thursday off from work. The day for her goes exactly the same as any other chemo day. I drop her off in the morning and pick her up in the afternoon. After I drop her off in the morning I will head round to Robyn’s and drop Cypher and Spryte in for boarding for a few days. Then I will head home and, with a view to completely trying to distract myself from thinking about the possible complications that could arise, I will be cleaning the house from top to bottom, disinfecting, sterilising, trying to rid the house of as many kinds of bugs and germs as possible all in the hope that she doesn’t come down with anything whilst she’s got nothing to fight it with. I then go and pick her up, they give me a 2 week course of antibiotics to give her to help fight any infection. This day will cost around $600.

The risks are as below:


  1. Immune mediated thrombocytopenia (the immune system attacking platelets that help your blood clot) – 15%. This is rarely problematic other than requiring treatment to control it. It typically resolves after months. It typically occurs weeks or months after treatment.
  2. Sterile cystitis – 15%. This leads to irritation and pain in the bladder. There is no treatment other than pain management. It typically resolves by itself in days, weeks, or months, and occurs soon after the double dose treatment.
  3. Sepsis – 10%. Infection without an immune system is a serious complication and may require hospitalization. Theoretically a potentially fatal problem, most dogs recover quickly with antibiotics and intravenous fluids. It occurs approximately 1-2 weeks after the double dose treatment.
  4. Mild to moderate nausea
    1. 10% following the double dose treatment
    2. 40% following the marrow transplant
  5. Allergic reactions during marrow transplant – 5%. We will monitor and treat these as they occur. They are rarely serious.
  6. Others <5%>


Approximately 40% of the dogs appear to be cured by this technique.

Fingers crossed Raven is in that 40%.

So that is all rather daunting and could be cause for some worry and concern but I’m taking a positive approach and believing that it will all go smoothly, Raven is one tough cookie who has heart enough to see her through this. I have sent off her Nationals entries this week, confirming my faith in her propensity to overcome adversity and will be so thrilled to be there in Melbourne at the end of August stepping up to the start line with her. It will mean more to me than just a competition, the mere fact that we just made it there will be so significant.

Cypher’s babies are now going on 6 weeks old and you can see them here at this page;

Girl #4 is staying with Robyn, the rest all have homes and I really hope their owners appreciate their puppies naturally inbuilt desire to play! I had a visit with them this week and even at not quite 6 weeks they were all mad keen tuggers and chasers and picking things up in their mouths. Girl #4 is quite the little madam and I think Robyn is a little concerned about the prevalence of little monster-like behaviour! I may have to have a play with her when she’s older *g*

Spryte came into season that Monday after Geraldton which was great because she really is like clock work. That is her 3rd season so far and pretty much 12 months to the day of her first season, so she is 6 monthly on the dot! Make planning things so much easier. I told Robyn she now has a year to decide who she wants to breed her to as she will be having a litter for Winpara next year after the Border Collie National. It will take her out of competition for the last half of 2009 but apart from possibly missing a Royal it’s no big deal.

On the more non-dog related front went and saw Ironman the other week….thoroughly recommend it to anyone for some entertainment. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was and yet it thoroughly impressed. Off to Indy 4 tonight…we shall see – I don’t have huge expectations I must admit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Random musings...

Because I can. I'm on holidays. Savouring every last hour of freedom. By posting here.
So - Things I have established this week.

1. I've used the target far too long in Spryte's two on two off dogwalk training. No more target. Now just work on rewarding the position she gets in. Which is always two on two off when I don't run the whole thing. Work on the position becoming completely independent of me.

2. Slippery Elm powder works great for dogs stomachs. When they're know....the kind of unpickableup poop that needs a bucket of sand over the top of it.

3. This blog here rocks. Team Small Dog. Funny and dog related and agility related. And clever without trying - I am so not good at that.

4. I still love this show (BLACK BOOKS) even though I've watched every episode of all three seasons through twice. Bernard Black makes a delightfully grumpy Irish bastard. It makes me laugh in the kind of way that has dogs running to check you're ok, stomach hurting and tears rolling down my face. Not every episode but most.

Bernard Black trying to do his taxes

This could be me at tax time

Brain going offline

5. Raven kicked chemo arse this week with a 2.4 WBC reading and is still on track for everything. She has three more treatments in total left. Not sure of the time frame exactly but she should be having the BMT in the beginning of June.

6. Every year and every holiday I manage to perfect the art of procrastination to the level of PhD. I swear that I could achieve a PhD in Procrastination with both hands tied behind my back.
I like to talk about that like it is a good thing.

7. Swiss Miss is the best hot chocolate you can buy from a Supermarket. How do I know this? I drank some the other day...WITHOUT MILK. Whoever heard of good hot chocolate *without milk*? Well folks it can be done. Woolworths. Check your hot beverage aisle.

8. There are no decent movies out right now. Well none that I'd want to part with 16$ to go and see. Bring on the superhero flicks - Iron Man, the Dark Knight, Hellboy2.

9. I've established that at the age of 33 a person can discover comics. Superman/Batman comics to be specific. The art and medium of comics is not appreciated enough I've found. I've spent 33 years underappreciating it. I have much time to make up. Yay for downloadable comics. Is there anything you cannot download? No wonder Southpark went into a post-apocalyptic state when there was no Internet.

10. ANKC Agility Rules Revision Submissions are due this week in WA. I put in NINE changes. Because folks we need to change. Not a lot of things but some things definitely. Get your submissions in now if you have ever caught yourself standing at an Agility trial thinking - "Well, that's just not right"

Sunday, April 20, 2008

State Titles & SuperSpryte!

Despite the absence of work it would seem that so many things have been piling up recently that I haven’t had the chance to notice I’m on holiday. It shall be definitely noticed Monday morning though. I’ve not updated for a couple weeks now so there’s been a few happenings to report on.

Saturday before last was the Perth Training Club Agility and Jumping Trial and there I was very pleased with most of the runs I did. Spryte did a lovely clear round in NFC Novice Agility (her first one at a trial so far) and then in NFC Novice Jumping she just mistimed her take off for one bar, crashing and face planting through it. Other than that she did a lovely clear round.

Cypher did quite well picking up 5th places in both Masters Jumping and Masters Agility. In Open Jumping he knocked the very last bar on the last jump – a spread. Other than that the run was smooth. Open Agility he missed the distance challenge, an unusual angle on the broad jump causing him to splice it. So all in all very happy with his runs. Raven did a cracker of a run in Masters Agility and I was extremely pleased with it – she got a tough call on the seesaw which I felt she had done correctly so I kept running like we were clear and she handled the course beautifully. Masters Jumping I wussed out on the lead out and let her go before I should have causing all sorts of problems. Open Agility I pushed her over a wrong jump, admittedly because I was caught on the back foot with her speed, she seemed to step up a gear and I just wasn’t ready for that. Open Jumping I did a crap front cross on her and pushed her over the wrong jump.

I joined up with Linda Mecklenberg’s AwesomePawsHandlingSystem email list last week and have found the posts to be extremely interesting in terms of discussion about handling and what we have been training our dogs to do with regards to understanding the combination of cues Linda uses when she handles. Great stuff and very high volume so I’ve flicked it to digest now.

I am still not happy with Spryte’s dogwalk contact and this week will get the contact board out again and do reinforcing sessions of her 2o2o position. Her weavers also need lots of proofing. I know these are all issues with baby, green dogs just starting out in Novice but it’s something you just can’t let slide if you don’t want to have to be paranoid about things when you are out in the ring competing. She had a glitch a couple weeks back with standing up on the start line and of course I drilled the sit/waits every day for two weeks to help overcome that little startline behaviour.

I think avoiding that chronically bad habit (and very hard to kick) of handling to cover gaps in training is one of the keys to success. I handle Raven like this quite often. Just the other night we couldn’t seem to get round a simple oval circuit of 6 jumps with a u shaped tunnel at either end unless I slowed off a little with my driving/running forward. Always bars kept being dropped. The minute I stopped running flat out she kept bars up. That really pisses me off no end. Clearly, there are and always will be, huge gaps in Raven’s jump training. Handling to protect bars or to ensure all the weavers get done or to ensure your dog hits that contact is completely restrictive and will never allow you to handle to your maximum best. So Spryte’s DW contacts will get a work out this week as will her weavers and some handling drills to extinguish this occasional occurrence and extremely irritating little behaviour she has of shooting off behind me from time to time.

Onto the State titles. The Agility Committee of the Canine Association of WA hosts the WA State Titles each year and this weekend the two qualifying trials took place Friday night and Saturday morning with the Finals being Saturday afternoon. Friday night was cold and windy but thankfully not very wet. Spryte was entered competitively in both Novice Agility and Novice Jumping. The older two were in their usual four runs. Spryte did a cracker run in Novice Agility (despite a very tempting contact just asking for her to shoot behind me at one stage of the course) yet I didn’t have enough faith in her for her weaves and my hesitation meant she halted in the weaves (after finding the entry beautifully) causing her to pop out. Her run in Novice Jumping was so smooth it went just how I planned and she came in clear with a 2nd place and a time 19 point something seconds. First leg of JD accomplished and spot in the Final!

Raven had Open Jumping first up and when she knocked a bar we withdrew. In Masters Agility she pulled out a full effort and we ran clear albeit with a few hairy moments, she came in 4th and thusly qualified for the Finals Saturday afternoon. Cypher was really disconnected in Open Jumping – it really seemed like he got halfway round the course and thought we had finished as he headed back towards the start gate! Not sure where his head was at there. Then In Masters Agility we were going great guns until I didn’t cue a turn soon enough and he pinged off over an off course jump. My fault entirely there – he went exactly where I told him! Open Agility and Raven was first in. She did a blinder of a run and the whole 28 seconds felt very smooth, she ended up with a clear round and a first place and a spot in the Final. Cypher was also switched on but had one bar down. We redeemed ourselves with Masters Jumping, quite a technical course and he ran clear in that one. Raven had a bar down in Masters Jumping which actually happened just before I got the course wrong and pulled her off the wrong jump. It is one of those rare occasions where you are actually grateful for a dropped bar.

Saturday morning was fresh and a little chilly, the grass definitely being a little slick till the sun came out fully. Spryte’s first run was in the Novice Agility and instead of handling like I had no worries in the world I got paranoid about the weavers and completely stuffed her up again. *Rolls eyes to heaven* yes I do sense a pattern. Of course every other part was perfect. No Novice Agility final for us! Raven was next up in Open Jumping and we were nearly home when she knocked the second last bar from the finish. Not happy! I did quite vocally express my disappointment when the bar dropped I must admit. Raven, who likes to give everyone who expresses such opinions the furry finger, obviously took it a little to heart because pretty soon we were in the Masters Agility ring and she didn’t put a paw wrong! Another clear round, very fast and I was over my little internal hissy fit on the OJ course. We humans are so mercurial. We ended up in 2nd place (less than half a second off first place and an Agility Champion leg ARGH!!!). Cypher missed the weave entry on that course, I’m pretty sure I stood in the wrong place but he did a really nice Open Jumping run and his Open Agility run was even better. That run earned him a spot in the Open Agility final due to dogs who had double qualified. In Masters Jumping Raven dropped a bar and this time we did withdraw, it wasn’t a bar that had any difficult angle on it and I was running quiet and without any confusion in my signals. Cypher decided that he really couldn’t pull off an inviting spread jump which DQ’d us but I finished the course anyway. Novice Jumping Spryte and I did a really sweet run together and she ran clear to win first place and gain her second leg of Novice Jumping title. I was extremely pleased with the run as everything went to plan.

That afternoon the finals were held and Novice Jumping was first up. I think there were about 8 dogs in the Final. Spryte and I ran the course clear with one slight glitch in direction towards the finish line but other than that smooth and clear. I think a couple of other dogs went clear but it turned out that Spryte’s time had won it. She was the State Novice Jumping Winner – not bad for a little pipsqueak! I was more than just a little proud of her performance over the two days – she handled the environment and the courses really well and seemed to enjoy herself as much as I did. She is certainly a little rocket to run.

Raven and I had a bash at the Masters Agility run but unfortunately I just didn’t get into the right spot on course and caused an off course into a wrong tunnel entry. Apart from this she handled the rest of the course well and was still rocketing through her contacts like she was as fresh as the morning.

Open Agility and it turned out to be a tricky entry onto the seesaw (multiple dogs getting refusals on it) and also the distance challenge turned out to be too difficult for some. My two had no problems with the distance challenge but both had seesaw entry issues.

And that was it – another State over and done with. A tiring but ultimately fun weekend – some of my runs felt really good, others not so much but most of all I was happy with Spryte’s first taste of a full on competition weekend. Raven is feeling really very good and it’s hard to believe I have to take her into Murdoch Tuesday for her chemo, to look at her you would never suspect the stuff she’s gone through. Her whiskers have grown back from when they all fell out at the conclusion of her last round of chemo. Now I wonder if these newly grown ones will disappear as time goes on. Hopefully after another couple of months this will all be over for good.

2008 WA State Novice Jumping Winner -
Winpara Out of Sight HT - Spryte (20 months old)