Friday, June 29, 2012


Today Nika had some milestones:

It was the first time she went up a full flight of stairs on her own.  So big and strong.

It was the first time she went swimming.  It might have been an accident on the way in, but then she swam beautifully.

It was the first time she had an accident in the house.  Bad, bad us.  Luckily we were right there and picked her up to whisk her out to her potty spot before more than a few drops came out.  I think we were too permissive, assuming that when we brought her home she'd be where we left off with the potty training.  The week away from home, though, seems to have been a slight setback.  We'll get there, though!

The Ups and Downs of Puppyhood

It's good to have Nika back after our trip.  Yesterday after Jonah's class she came to our frisbee game and met lots of friends.  I love having the ex-pen.  She could see us, we could see her, we could leave her happily, and other people could come visit her happily.  She got to play with four children (one of whom she'd met previously) and lots of adults.  I think she had a great time.  She was truly pooped at the end of things.

So...then she slept through the night...maybe.  Neither Dave nor I heard her get unhappy in the night, and with the crate right next to the bed it's a little hard to sleep through her being upset.  But when I picked her up when the alarm went off, she had peed in her crate.  Yarg!  Bad us.  I guess maybe we should set an alarm half way through the night rather than depending on her to tell us when she has to go out.

We had an excellent training session this morning.  It was the second time I'd used the clicker.  Yesterday (the first time), she was uninterested in her food, so I had to bring out the big guns:  string cheese.  She thought that was most excellent.  This morning, she was hungry, so her puppy kibble did the job.  First I spent a while charging the clicker, and then we did sits and downs.  Nothing fancy, but I worked on changing my body position.  I started sitting with her, then sitting beside her, then standing in front of her, then standing next to her.  She was excellent.  Numerous times I tried ending our session and playing with her, but her focus was right there and she just kept wanting to play the training game.  So, we did 4 mini sessions with some running around in between.  We switched locations for the sessions, too.  I was super pleased.  What a good girl.

Then a couple hours later she peed in her crate again.  She'd peed outside just an hour before, and I was right there next to the crate but I didn't notice.  Another bad me moment.  The whole crate training thing sort of depends on the puppy not soiling the area they sleep in, but today she doesn't seem to be following that principle.  She was lying right in it--it's not like the crate's too big and she went to another corner.  I hope she doesn't have a UTI or anything.  She doesn't seem at all uncomfortable.  Now she's asleep but as soon as she wakes up she's going out!

She is getting very good about peeing each time we take her out, though.  That's a major plus.  She still hasn't had any accidents in the house other than in her crate, which is very much appreciated.

Back to School

Jonah, Nika and I all headed to DogStar yesterday for Jonah's class.  We're back in a group lesson after our session of doing privates.  I hadn't wanted to bring Nika.  I was hoping I'd be able to get her napping just before we left.  A work conference call went long, though, and she'd just woken up 10 minutes before we had to leave.  Bad timing.  Oh well, I thought, she can just nap in the car.  Well, it turned out it was really hot, so I actually brought her into the AC.  She and Jonah shared a crate.  It worked out fine.  She whined a little while he ran, and she had her first accident on her way in.  There was a lot going on.  Dogs were warming up, new place, etc.  She almost made it, but then it was too much and she peed, nervous.  oops.  Luckily dog places are prepared, and it didn't turn out to be a big deal.  She got to meet a bunch of new people and two new dogs.  It was good for her to just hear new sounds and all.  It took some juggling to make sure the right dog was in the right spot, but it worked out alright.  Next week I'm going to try the sleeping plan again, though.

Jonah was AWESOME.  It was SO.MUCH.FUN!  Our first run had a flip left off the A-frame to a tunnel.  He read the "left" cue beautifully had a really lovely tight turn.  The whole course he was just flying!  His dogwalk was gorgeous.  His weaves were speedy.  He raced through tight jump portions.  There was a jump right next to the peanut gallery that I didn't cue enough and he missed it, but that was totally my fault and I was good about just continuing on, not fixing it.  Then the last obstacle was a tunnel/A-frame discrimination and we missed it, but again I was good about not letting him know the mistake.

The second time through I pushed myself to try different things.  We started with a big slingshot start to the backside of a jump.  It was enough of a challenge that he slowed a step, but he figured it out, and once I gave him a big "good boy" he raced on to full speed.  This time I handled the A-frame to tunnel turn on the other side.  He got the turn again but was a little slow in the tunnel.  Not sure why.  Then we were flying again, and I pulled off the weaves to layer a jump and get a FC in after he exited.  No problem.  He was focused and fast.  This time I sufficiently cued the jump by the crowd, and we cruised quickly through to the end, where I also handled the discrimination sufficiently.  A gorgeous, fast clear round.  That's my boy!

Then we moved on to the second course.  We only ran it once in full, but I ran a few sections a couple times.  I actually tried leading out, which I rarely do anymore.  Well, it didn't work the first time (he misread my cues and had an off course), but then we got it going after that.  I handled another section as a gamble.  It worked well.  Then another gamble section.  I pushed and he went out, but then I didn't call hard enough and he went straight ahead instead of coming back to me.  Tried again, and the result was beautiful.  Then I layered the dw with a set of weaves in between me and the contact.  He didn't blink.  Beautiful jackpot contact.  He's awesome.  By layering the contact I got enough ahead that I pulled off a nice blind cross through a jump line.  It worked great, and we sailed through the finish.  He's the best.  Even if he never runs well in another trial, it's just so much fun to play with him in practice.  Such an adrenaline rush.  I kept reliving it all afternoon long.  Jonah=superstar!

We're Back!

For the last week plus, Dave and I were in Yosemite National Park.  Jonah stayed home with my parents.  Nika went back to her breeder to play with her siblings.  Everyone had a great time.  I can't help but recount the trip a bit.

We spent all nights backpacking, and all days hiking save one when we decided to take a rock climbing class (we still logged 7 miles hiking that day, even if it was our day off).  Overall, we covered 75ish miles, climbed up to almost 11,000ft, experienced a 70 degree temperature swing from 27 degrees to 97 degrees, and had lots of fun.  We were hoping to get 100 miles but Dave sprained his ankle and we had to cut back, eliminating all our planned runs and shortening a number of hikes.  Still, it was a great trip. Here is a selection of pictures:

Meadows near lower Gaylor Lake.

SNOW!  I was so happy.

Upper Gaylor Lake and Gaylor Peak.

So pretty.  Near the Gaylor Lakes.

There were lots of dogs in the valley, but no dogs were allowed on trails.  We saw lots of these signs.

Clouds resting on Cloud's Rest (left), and Half Dome to the right.

Mount Hoffmann from May Lake.

May Lake again (we spent a few nights here)

Our home for a week.  This was our first night, above Chilnualna Falls.

Tree.  In case you couldn't tell.

Tunnel View (El Capitain on the left, Could's Rest and Half Dome in the background, Bridalveil Falls to the right).

The Valley, Upper Yosemite Falls.

Vernal Falls, from the Mist Trail.

Dave in front of the Half Dome Cables.

Us at the top of Cloud's Rest.

Nevada Falls from the John Muir Trail.

So you get was beautiful and lots of fun.

Meanwhile, Jonah and my dad went running a bunch, which was great for both of them.  Usually when we're gone Jonah sleeps in the kitchen waiting for us, but this time after a couple nights he stayed in my parents' bedroom.  Glad he was comfortable.

Nika went back to her breeder.  When I picked her up there were two puppies left (one is the one the breeder's keeping, the other is going home this weekend), but when I dropped her off there were still 6! So, she played with lots of her siblings.  The breeder kindly send us pictures during the week and we saw her playing, meeting goats, 'swimming' in a pool, tugging, and practicing her sits and downs.  What a good girlie, and it was such a comfort to know she was in a great place.  

When I picked her up, she screamed a lot in the car.  She doesn't like being alone in the crate in the back.  It wouldn't have been safe for her to be up front loose with me, though, so we got through it.  Somehow she got me to sing soothingly to her, and she stopped making noise.  She never slept, though, and whenever I stopped singing she'd start yelling again.  I don't know how she's already got me trained :).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nationals--The End

Sunday morning we woke up and I got the course maps.  Snooker was first, and there was literally NO flowing course to be made.  I took Jonah out for a walk while I was pondering a plan.  Jonah made the decision for me.  We were no where near the agility, just walking around the campground.  He was happy and jogging around, sniffing and having a good time.  Then, though, I started towards a trash can that was in the direction of the rings.  He stopped.  Then he started walking with me, tail down and ears back.  I threw out the poop in a different trash can and tried going that way again.  Same reaction.  I got it, Jonah.  This is supposed to be fun, but clearly it isn't.  Ok, we're done.  Forget the fact that Standard and Colors look like awesome courses and we "need" those Qs.  If you're not having fun, we don't need to do this.  I scratched from Sunday's runs.

It was hot, but I don't think that was really the crux of the problem.  He played in the kiddie pools before and after his runs and got good and wet.

He's been slightly off for a while.  He prefers his left lead, and sometimes he cross canters for a step or two.  He runs around the yard like crazy, though, so I don't know how much it can be bothering him.  I took him to the chiropractor on Wednesday.  I'm not sure if it made much difference.

I think the whole 6 ring environment was just stressful.  A lot of people and dogs were not respectful of his space (I wanted to kill one guy.  He was walking 5 shelties.  I had Jonah up near a fence playing with him before we went in the ring, the fence protecting 180 degrees of unwanted distraction.  Then the shelties see Jonah and start barking at him.  The guy proceeds to walk towards us, I guess thinking the shelties wanted to play.  Jonah did not want to play.  He was in total meltdown mode, unable to escape because of the fence.  Poor guy).

I am disappointed.  We'd been looking forward to nationals for a long time, and I'd been working all the agility aspects to the point where I'm quite pleased with how he's running.  We even have a brand spanking new, beautiful running dogwalk.  But when he's not himself in the ring, we can't show off our abilities.  Most of all, though, I'm really upset that I pushed him to the point that he looked that miserable walking towards an agility ring!

It's like when we went hiking in the white mountains.  Jonah followed us up steeper terrain than he was comfortable with, and he slipped and fell.  He'll do things he doesn't want to do just because he loves us and wants to please.  But that's not what agility is about.  It's about fun.  If he's not having fun, he's never going to run well.

Also I have this pressure because so many people didn't get picked in the random draw.  Other people could have done a lot better than we did.  I do know, though, that he runs well most of the time, and those other dogs could have been stressed, too.  We had as much of a right to be picked in the draw as anyone, and I'm sure we stil did better than a bunch of people, too.  Plus, lots of people didn't come to the trial on Friday at all, and that was their plan all along.

I think we're going to take a break from trialing for a little while.  I want to work more on his reactivity, thinking that having all the other dogs around is stressful for him.  I'm looking at a Control Unleashed class, but they don't have any that work at times I can do for a little while.  We might start in late July.  Jonah loves agility, but I don't know how much he loves trials.  I love trials, but that's not enough.  I also love weekends with my husband, so maybe it's time for agility to be a once-a-week class for a while.  That will be fun.  For both of us.  And that's what matters--us having fun together.

In other news, the puppy was fantastic all weekend.  She got hot in the sun, but otherwise she was picture perfect.  Slept 7+ hours every night in the tent, met tons of people and tons of dogs, watched agility, practiced tricks, and didn't get bothered at all by all the sights and sounds of the most stressful trial I've ever been to.  If you didn't see the video I posted earlier, here it is again.  I think I watched it about 10 times in a row when I got home.  It put my nationals woes in perspective.  This is what it's all about :)

Nationals--The Middle

Round 4:  Standard Level 4
     This course was much tougher.  Once again Jonah was a little slow off the start line.  The course started with two jumps and then a tight 180 degree turn back to a tunnel.  Jonah took the jumps and then read my deceleration, turned, but didn't see the tunnel right away and missed the entrance.  I had to point him back towards it.  Then he got a tough weave entry and started to pick up a little bit of pace, but he was still pretty darn slow.  A pinwheel slowed him down again, but probably helped us nail a dw/tunnel discrimination.  He was a little faster on the dw than on Friday, but then I was so busy watching his contact I didn't pull hard enough to the next tunnel entrance, and he took the wrong one.  Normally he pulls really easily, but he was distracted and the off-course entrance was straight ahead.  Oops.  Then he missed a weave entry, but once he was in correctly he was fast!  He finished speedy but then was immediately looking for his dad instead of being happy and playing with me.

Round 5:  Jackpot Level 5
     I was not super pleased to see the jackpot.  It looked like this:

There were lots of off-course possibilities:  lots of dogs came out of the tunnel and took the back side of 2.  If you pulled too hard and picked your dog up on your right, dogs took the tire.  If you picked your dog up on your left to flip out to 2, a number of dogs saw the other tunnel and went to that.  Fun stuff.

Being worried about the teeter (probably Jonah's least favorite obstacle to do at distance), I decided to do it in the opening.  I got there through the jump and tunnel fine, tried to layer the tunnel from just on the other side of it, and Jonah wouldn't do it.  I went over and did it right next to him.  Then I pulled left to the tunnel.  What did he do?  He went straight to the jump, of course.  Negated the gamble right then and there.  Yarg.  I did pretty well creating a new course, and when the buzzer rang I figured I'd give it a go even though it wouldn't count.  He did the first tunnel, and I picked him up on my left next to the tire.  I tried to flip him out to the jump, but he didn't read my cues, despite our practice on the practice jump seconds earlier.  I called him back over the line and sent him from my right.  He went out, jumped it, and of course went straight to the teeter.  He did it nicely and ran over the jump.  Bugger.  I was good about being super happy with him.  I was legitimately very proud of him for doing it even if it didn't count.

In other news, I later was talking to someone who said she'd been told ahead of time that the gamble would be a teeter.  That really bothers me.  It's like how no emails or anything went out when the signups for run-thrus, seminars and the like were available.  Only people with the "in" got the benefit.

Round 6:  Jumpers Level 5
     Ok, this was a novice course.  A level 1 course.  Whatever you want to call it.  It was easy.  I was so pumped that our third run of the day was going to be fast and furious like it had been the day before.  I got him super excited before we started.  He was barking and leaping and grinning.  But the excitement didn't transfer.  We started down the opening line and he was running, but not full speed.  Then, we were on a straight line towards a tunnel.  I said tunnel, and he veered off to the right towards the other end.  I tried to call him off it--I saw it happening--but he kept going.  Sigh.  The rest of the course ran as easily as it should have, but still not full speed.  For the closing line, I just left him and sprinted to the finish.  He followed, but trailed behind.

So, day 2 was not so good.  I think the hardest thing about it was that I was actually doing really well with my mental game.  A few other people commented on it, too.  I was doing everything I could to get him excited before he started, to run with enthusiasm, not to let my body language show him when we went off course, and to have a mega party at every finish line.  Nonetheless, he wasn't enjoying it.

Nationals--The Beginning

Well, we're home from nationals and I'm exhausted.  Here's a brief look at how things went:

Thursday we left midday and made the trek out to Altamont, NY.  The puppy rode beautifully in the car, and we set up our campsite with no trouble.  That night I walked Jonah around all the rings just to get him used to the area a little bit.  He seemed very relaxed and happy.  There was a lot of noise in the campground so we got to bed late, but I was feeling great.

Friday morning dawned early (check-in was 6:30), and I headed up to get my maps.  They didn't look bad.  Standard was especially easy looking.  The briefing seemed to take forever, but I finally got to walk my course and watch some dogs before going to get Jonah.

Round 1:  Wildcard Level 5
     This was not a pretty wildcard course.  The opening line was a straight line across the diagonal of the ring, with weave poles on either side of that jump line.  You started at one corner, ran across the ring, changed directions in the tunnel, and then came flying back down that line.  The weave poles were the "B" obstacles, while the tire in the middle between them was the "A".  The other A/B choice was a teeter or a double jump.  The approach to the teeter was nasty--you had to wrap a jump, go straight back about 10 feet and still have a 90 degree entrance to the teeter.  I took one look at that and thought it was too demotivating.  Jonah's not fast on the teeter anyway, so I went for the weave poles.  He started out well, and got the first weave poles nicely.  Then, coming out of the tunnel I was late with a FC and I don't think he could see the weave poles early enough.  He missed the entry and got a little flustered.  We got them done, though.  Then we were jumping the line towards Dave and Jonah got a little distracted, slowed down, but still finished the course alright.  Since it's a game, we weren't faulted for the weaves.  He was less than 1 second under SCT, which is very unusual for us.  So, it wasn't pretty, but we got the Q.

Round 2:  Standard Level 4
     This course was really really good looking on paper.  I was so excited to run it!  Yet, Jonah didn't get excited at the start line.  I kept trying to rev him up but he wasn't having it.  We went on ahead and he started alright but slow.  Then, 6 or so obstacles in there was a nice bending line of jumps near the scorers table, and he got distracted and ran past the tire.  I got him back going, and then was hoping the dw would get him going again.  Nope.  He trotted nervously across it.  His A-frame did look nice a few obstacles later, but then he ran past another jump.  We fixed it and then finished up the course.  He did speed up for the closing line.  This time we were 3 seconds under SCT with another messy Q.

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 5
     Since he was being sticky, I planned the most wide open, running and flowing course I could find.  It wasn't a high point course--there were lots of jumps in it that are only worth one point.  It did its job, though.  He started a little distracted again, but then he really picked it up!  He was moving very well and finished the course quickly.  It wasn't enough points for us to place, but it was a Q I was really proud of.

Friday night we all slept very well.  Not our best work, but 3/3 Qs at nationals ain't bad.

Jonah Likes His Puppy

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's in a name?

Well, the puppy high is dampened now.

Last night I got this email:
Please share... this is Elicia Calhoun and her dogs... Nica and Tobie are missing...  Update on border collies in accident: In case you haven't been following, six dogs were thrown from the car of an internationally known agility trainer this morning after the vehicle they were riding in clipped an 18-wheeler and rolled twice. I don't know all the details, but 1 dog was killed on impact, 3 are at a clinic being treated, and 2 are missing in the desert. We are trying to find the two missing. There are several people out searching the deserts right now along the stretch of I-10 near mile marker 351 outside of Wilcox, AZ. If anyone else is in the area and can help, I'm sure they would be very grateful.   The owner has checked herself out of the hospital (against orders, I'm sure) to find her dogs. The two missing are Tobie (far left) and Nica (2nd from right). I will update as I hear new information, but for now we just need to get people out there to help
 find them. It's a huge, vast area with temps soaring past 100 degrees, and I don't think the dogs are snake-trained. Time is of the essence! You can email me for more information at Here is the pic once more and thanks for all of your amazing support in sharing and getting word out so we can find these beautiful animals!

Terrible.  Gut wrenching.  Terrifying.  I already hate cars and am in constant fear of accidents.  I was in a horse trailer accident as a kid--the truck and trailer flipped down the side of the highway.  It scarred me.  A few weeks ago an olympic equestrian lost some horses in an accident.  Now this.  Geez.  Elicia and her dogs are deeply in my prayers.  I hope you'll think of them, too.

Then there's the name issue.  It turns out this email isn't quite 100% accurate.  "Nica" is actually an Aussie with a tail, but the real kicker is that her name is actually spelled Nika.  Just like our little girl.  Oh wait, there's more.  This dog has represented the US in international competition.  Then she lost an eye, but still kept doing agility.  They called her Nika the one-eyed pirate dog.  I watched a video of her running.  She reminds me a lot of Jonah.  It made me cry.

I could just think of her alone and scared out there in the heat of the desert.  Awful.

Well, they found her.  Dead.  She got hit by a car on I-10.  It's just so crazy.  One minute you're an international agility dog, pampered by an excellent trainer.  Then, hours later, you're hit by traffic.  Who knows if the person even stopped.  Probably not.  Maybe it's best that way.  I'm sure it was unavoidable, but man.  The guilt of having hit and killed any dog...and then a dog of that caliber.  And for her.  Not the way to go.  Fear, noise, lights, pain.  

So where does that leave us?  Here I am with an adorable, happy, bouncy little puppy.  Should we change her name?  I mean, I haven't filled out any of her registrations yet.  Change the spelling?  Nica would be more appropriate to her namesake, Thessalonica.  My superstitious side wonders if it's an ominous name asking for a sad ending.  Or are we honored to share the name with a fantastic champion?  I think the later.  It's just a little reminder of sadness right now.  Luckily when she's awake it's hard to be sad in her presence.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I Love Laps!

Here she is:

...she likes laps.

Welcome Home, Nika!

Yesterday we went to pick up Nika!  All seven puppies were still there--we were the first to pick one up.  It's quite the crew.  They're all just so wiggly and happy and making cute little noises.  Good stuff.

We did a once-over on the puppy.  I took a look at her hernia, glanced again at her conformation, did a little playing with her, and it was clear that she was looking great.  We got all the info and paperwork from the breeder, and headed off.

She was absolutely perfect in the car.  I started driving while Dave held her in his lap.  She was alert and looking around, but looked confident and happy.  After about 45 minutes she got fidgety so we stopped and let her out at a gas station.  Sure enough, she peed pretty quickly.  When we got back in the car, she went straight to sleep and slept for the next hour.  We switched again at a field pretty close to home.  She got to run a little bit, and then got hot, so she turned and just dove into some tall grass.  Silly.  She was quiet the rest of the ride home.

We first took her to her new potty area and then we let Jonah out to meet her.  He was very polite but soon decided his yard was more interesting than she was.  Molly was good meeting her too.  Since then, Jonah gets a little upset when we spend too much attention on the puppy, and he'll tell her to get off when she jumps on him.  He's appropriate, though.  She so wants to be his best friend, and he's just not sure he's interested yet.  He thinks she's fine, but wants to make sure we still love him best :).

Her first night went very well.  I went to bed around 10.  Dave went to sleep at midnight and took her out then.  She woke up at 3 but didn't have to potty.  She cried for 15 mins or so, but then slept through the night until 6.  Not bad.

I guess a few things have surprised me:
-She was much better in the car than I'd expected
-She's I can't always tell when she's peeing!  A couple times now I've thought she was just sitting but then she'll get up and there's a little wet spot in the leaves.  Sometimes it's more obvious, but I want to be 100% so I can reward her appropriately!
-She's very brave.  We had her out by the agility equipment and she just started getting on things.  So, now she's been on the A-frame and dogwalk.  She didn't go too high, but I'm worried about the teeter and might put it down or block it off or something.
-Her breathing is a little panty.  It's warm, but not enough that I feel like she should be panting as much as she does.  We're keeping an eye on it.
-She's even more adorable than I could have imagined.  She's fantastic about being adventurous but then checking in with us frequently.  She loves following us, and is super excited to interact with us.

What fun, what fun, what fun.

Pictures soon.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

June Goals

I just realized I never did June goals.  Oops.  Better late than never.

Here are our goals for the month of May:

1.  2 Qs at our USDAA trial.  I've entered 2 Standard runs, a Snooker, and Steeplechase (all S's). 
     Not at all!  This was super disappointing.  I'm still bummed about it, but I think it will help my attitude for nationals, reminding me that making Qs the goal isn't the right approach.

2.  Full height running dogwalk.  Ambitious, but if things keep going the way they have been, I think it's doable.
     Yes!!  It's looking really good and pretty consistent.  I'm sure we'll still miss from time to time, but I'm very pleased.

3.  Practice discriminations and contact-to-tunnel turns.
     A little.  We did do this, but today in practice they weren't looking good, so I think we could have done more.

4.  Work on teeter performance so he's faster and also doesn't consider flying off.
     Yes.  I didn't retrain it or anything, but it's looking good, fast and confident.

5.  Keep tugging.  I'd like for him to tug at both DogStar and the USDAA trial.
     Yes.  I'm pleased with the tugging.  It's going well, and we've tugged at DogStar, the USDAA trial, and a bunch of other away-from-home locations.  Good boy.

So, as we look forward to June, things are going to be different.  We've got nationals, which I had assumed we'd treat like a big 'peak,' with lots of training leading up to it, but Jonah's enthusiasm has been low so I'm actually stepping back before hand.  Then we've got the puppy coming home on Sunday.  Then we've got Dave and me going on vacation at the end of the month.  Things will be all over the map.  I think it's time to split up our goals.  It's not just about Jonah anymore, and I have a big part to play.  We'll see how I like this format:

Goals for me:
1.  Each day at nationals, go out of my way to have a conversation with someone new.
2.  Compliment at least 2 people/dogs a day at nationals.
3.  Make sure to give Jonah the attention he deserves while we have a new puppy.
4.  Treat nationals like a time to play with Jonah, not like a competition (hard to quantify, I know).
5.  Verbally reward every (good) running dogwalk contact at nationals.  

Goals for Jonah:
1.  Have at least one great run at nationals, defined as running happy and fast from start to finish, whether or not that's the correct course or whether there might be a dropped bar, etc.
2.  At least one jackpot running dogwalk contact!  
3.  Being able to relax at the fairground.
4.  Tug at the fairground.
5.  Practice focus games away from home.

Goals for Nika (!!):
1.  Get used to her crate.
2.  Get accustomed to a schedule of potty training.
3.  Practice sits, downs and tugging.
4.  Meet a LOT of new people and dogs.
5.  Play with LOTS of new objects--we'll see how long a list we can come up with by July!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blog Action Day: Positive Attitude Acrostic

Once again it's time for a Blog Action Day post (when lots of dog agility bloggers post about the same topic on one day).  As always, thanks to Steve at for organizing.

One of the things I love most about agility is that I feel it is constantly pushing me to be a better, more selfless person.  Thus, I was pleased to see that the topic for today's post was attitude.  Of course, attitude is very broad.  As I was thinking about it, my ideas were kind of scattered, so I figured I'd try doing a little acrostic of the word "Positive," which was of course, in true cliche form, what I first thought of.  The acrostic was fun--I encourage you to try it.  Which words would you use to describe your vision of a positive agility attitude?  Would you use positive as your stem word, or something else?


Patient.  For me, patience is one of the hardest and most enduring lessons of agility.  I've had many moments of impatience--when our beginner classes went at a slow pace, when Jonah is nervous and runs slowly, when he's a little off or the weather's bad and all I want is to train-train-train, and more recently when I set my sights on Qs and titles and we don't earn them as quickly as I'd expected.  Now that I know Jonah can run brilliantly in a trial, I want him to do so all the time, and I constantly need to remind myself to be patient and enjoy the journey even if it means some NQs along the way.  (What do you think?  Would you choose "patient" for your P word?  Is it more important to be "prepared" for anything?  "Proactive" about handling and looking out for your dog's safety/interests?  Something else?)

Optimistic.  I'm generally a pretty optimistic person, but Jonah keeps me on my toes sometimes!  At our last trial when we came out of every run with something to be disappointed about, I knew that I had to put on a happy face and go have a party to make sure his confidence in the ring stays high.  So it's all about spinning things around.  Slow down on the table?  Sounds like time for the table game!  Nervous about people around the ring?  In class, we can see how silly we can make our classmates/teacher act to try to distract us :).  Jonah has his issues, but he's also very talented.  There's so much to be optimistic about in our future together.  (What's your O?  Sometimes we have to be "outrageous" to motivate a less-than-confident dog.  Or "outgoing" with peers to keep learning, or to find partners for pairs or DAM team.  We have to be "organized" to keep track of lots of trial premiums, health schedules, training plans, etc.)

Supportive.  This is one of my big current projects, and it has to do with people relationships, which are often harder than dog relationships.  When I first started agility, I was of the mind that I should be learning as much as I could, but that I had little to offer.  Now I know that everyone has valuable experience, and that we owe it to our peers to lend a hand, offer advice, rejoice together or simply be present with those having tough times.  Two of the people who started trialing at the same time I did have lost talented, young and promising dogs.  I felt at a loss at how to help them.  Some members of our class have had trouble teaching running contacts, and I want to be more supportive of their hard work.  I love agility because it allows us to all run for the Q and not as much against one another.  We're all in it together, and we depend on one another for support.  (What do you like for "S"?)

Innovative.  This is the fun part!  I love that agility, especially with a low-motivation dog, requires you to be creative.  You don't want to be drilling the same things over and over, so we get to mix it up.  I love handling in different ways, setting up wacky courses, doing short sequences, and then sometimes doing 'training' in a totally different atmosphere--like going to the beach and finding random obstacles to play with.  It was truly freeing when I got to the point where I really believed that whatever was best for my dog was what I would do, even if it wasn't what everyone else was doing.   What's your favorite innovation in training?  Or in trialing?  Do you prefer a different "I" word?

Thankful.  We could never do it on our own, and so many things need to come together for agility to be successful.  Around the world, most people would think our pampered pets are totally outrageous.  I am thankful that I am able to feed my dog quality food, give him veterinary care, and spend leisure time with him, giving him exercise and mental stimulation.  Sufficient food, health care and leisure time are luxuries that millions of people around the world lack, let alone dogs.  So let's be exceedingly thankful for our situations, and let's think about how we can contribute to changing the systems of injustice in the world around us, too!  (If not thankful, do you prefer "trusting," "trustworthy,""timely," "truthful," or something else?)

Insightful.  For me, this is all about knowing your dog, reading the environment, and being perceptive about how to make the most of any situation.  How can you make your dog have the most possible fun?  It's been an amazing process for me to get to know Jonah more deeply.  Now I can predict what he's thinking a lot of the time.  I know when he's going to get a drink of water, when he's ready for bed, when he's about to jump from one side of the couch and onto my laptop if I'm not careful, or when he's uneasy about another dog.  I still have lots to learn, but this insight is really very special.  I'm often a little dense, but I like to think I'm getting to be more aware of my dog!  (What about "intuitive," "interested"?)

Victorious.  Jonah has made me redefine victory in every run we do.  Basically, it's always a victory, and I just have to figure out a rationalization to make myself believe it :-).  I'm lucky that we rarely have an entirely bad run.  Yes, he had an off course, but he charged off that start line like lightning--victory!  Sure, he missed a weave entry, but he ran that closing line better than anyone I watched--victory!  Spectacular running contacts--another victory!  Really any time I see his happy grin, his bouncing excitement and his sparkling eyes, it's a victory.  (If you come up with a better V, let me know!)

Efficient.  If V was hard to come up with a good adjective, E is just hard to choose.  I went with efficient because it's a little different from what I've written so far, but things like "enthusiastic," "energetic," "entertaining," "engaging," or others are probably closer to the central theme of positive.  Anyway, efficient has three main ideas for me.  First, it's important to train in efficient, well-planned sessions so the energy stays high the whole time.  Second, I really love handling courses with dog efficiency in mind--the shorter the path, the sooner you get to party at the end!  Third, efficient training means less pounding on a dog, which is good for long term health.  

I can't wait to hear any comments you might have, and I'm looking forward to reading all the other 'attitude' posts, too!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More Pictures

Here are a few more pictures from our visit on Sunday:

FoxHill's Thessalonica

Maybe we're being unwise, but we decided to go ahead and get the little girl with the hernia.  Very exciting!  We heard from friends who are breeders that it's not a big deal, and the vet encouraged us not to be concerned, although the quote for the repair ($300) was more than I'd seen online (more along the lines of $50-$100).  That was for the hernia alone, so when we do it with the spay we'll save by only doing anesthesia once, but still a chunk of cash.  Obviously worth it, though.

Until now I hadn't let myself get fully invested that we were getting a puppy, but now I'm starting to.  We'll pick her up on Sunday.  Her name will be FoxHill's Thessalonica, and we'll call her Nika for short (we'll pronounce it like knee-ka).  Thessalonica is a city in Greece that I did but archaeological research on last year.  In scholarship I like to refer to it as  Thessalonikē (Θεσσαλονίκη), but Thessalonica is another spelling alternate and sounds more feminine :).  Anyway, it's a beautiful city with both modern and ancient appeal, a lovely waterfront, and excellent pastries!  I was going to upload some pictures of Thessalonikē, but it turns out all my pictures are of dorky archaeological things like Greek inscriptions, acid rain-damaged monuments, and the remains of old mosaics.  Not impressive pictures.  Here are some prettier shots from my trip, though, to give you an idea of why we might name a puppy after a city out there:

This is Mount Olympus, home of the gods!

So, 5 days and counting!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Puppy Picking Stress

Well, yesterday we went to meet puppies!  I was so very excited, but honestly it turned out to be quite a stressful adventure.

We pulled up to the farm and it was a great place.  They had lots of animals around for herding, etc.  There was a sign for fresh eggs (duck or chicken) at the foot of the long, winding driveway.  Welcome to rural western MA (which I love...almost as much as VT).  As we got close to the house we saw them.  There was an ex-pen set up, and when the car pulled up a whole little crowd of fluffy critters came over to see what we were all about.  So.darn.cute!

We met the breeder who seemed very nice and knowledgeable.  She had answers to all my questions.  She's also a vet tech, which was a nice thing to hear.  After a few minutes of general oohing and aahing over the puppies, we got to meet the dam and sire.  I was impressed.  Bill, the dad, was super friendly.  He came right up and gave me kisses and wiggled happily at me.  Nell, the mom, was a little bit more reserved at first, but soon she had her head in my lap being petted to the point where I wasn't sure I would be able to get up.  Both looked very nice structurally.  I love Bill's conformation.  Nothing I can pick apart.  The one thing about him is that his coat is curlier, and I like the smoother coats.  Nell was a little bit heavier than my ideal dog, but still quite lovely.  She doesn't have the long, thin nose that I'm more used to with Jonah and growing up with a collie, but her angles both in front and back are quite nice.  A little bit straight behind.  She also just had puppies, so I don't know that it's fair to be too picky about her.  She moved a little less gracefully than Bill, who was beautiful to watch.  But again, probably the fact that her teets were clearly hanging down had something to do with that!

So then we went back to the puppies.  There was a deposit in on one of the males already.  He was handsome and the breeder said 'the most laid back of the group.'  Not what we were looking for, anyway. Then there were two girls, and the breeder was deciding between those two if she wanted to keep one.  One would go to someone else.  I was a little bummed to not have first pick of the girls since I'd come the very first time she'd offered us to visit, but apparently others had come before.  Oh well.

In general, the puppies were hard to keep track of!  They're all black and white, and moving around so fast.  They all look to be nice puppies.  I brought out all four of the girls and stacked them as best as I could to look at their builds.  One was noticeably straighter behind.  That's out.  Other than that, though, they all really looked nice.  One was a little thicker than the others with slightly less layback in the shoulder.  Not ideal, but still a nice puppy.

There was one girl who Dave had commented on right from the beginning.  She's a real darling.  Her structure looks quite good (possibly a tiny bit toed out in the right hind, but her body was curled to the right while I was looking at her, and it was hard to tell how consistent that would be).  It is not easy to get a little puppy to stand and stay standing square!!  When I picked her up, she was the most confident of the group.  The others were quieter and a little wary of me putting them up on the table and poking around at them.  Not anything bad, but they had their heads down a bit and were less perky.  This girl was happy to be there.  Very alert.  Some of the boys were pushy.  She wasn't pushy, but very interactive.  We played a little tug and she seemed to enjoy it.

When we asked about personality, the breeder said overall it was a little hard to tell.  They were similar dogs and that's why she was having so much trouble with her own decision.  She talked about the most laid back male, whom she had placed with a family with two young boys.  Another she said was consistently a little more assertive, getting in front of/on top of the others.  The girl we liked she said was always the first awake and the first to catch on to things.  She was the first one to play.  Very aware, very smart.  It sounded great.


She has an umbilical hernia.

In fact, the breeder said that this was the dog she had wanted to keep, except that the hernia made her unsuitable for breeding.  She says that the hernia can be fixed at the same time as a dog is spayed and that it's not an issue for someone who's not going to breed the dog.

So, we are tentatively going to get this puppy.  I've called the vet, emailed Grace, read lots online, and I am rather stressed about the whole thing.  It can be caused by trauma or can be inherited.  Some say definitely pass on a dog with one.  Some say it's a sign of a bad litter--stay away from the whole batch.  Others say it's no big deal at all, and may even go away on its own.  So right now I don't know what to do.  Maybe we should just take one of the other girls.  I'm sure they'd grow up to be lovely dogs.  But this one seemed special somehow.  The jury is currently out.  Chances are good we're getting a puppy (we put in a deposit), we're just not totally sure which one.  Here's a quick peak of what we MIGHT bring home next weekend:

Cutie, eh?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rest and Other Things

We haven't done any agility since Wednesday's lesson.  That's pretty weird for us.  Jonah just hasn't seemed so enthusiastic about it lately, though.  If you had asked me how I would prepare for nationals, I probably wouldn't have said I would take time off.  But if that's what he needs, that's what he needs.

Today was the Gemini trial that accepts day-of entries, but it's pouring out.  I really only wanted to go to get good, confident and fast runs in, and rain doesn't help with that.  A standard Q would have been nice, but it's better to make every trial a good one than push through and take a step back with confidence.  So, our next trial is nationals.

I have been taking Jonah for more walks around the neighborhood.  We're spoiled having a huge yard, and going for walks really doesn't get him much exercise, so we usually don't do it.  It's good for him in other ways, though.  We've been working on not getting excited by cars.  Then I tried tugging with him at the elementary school down the street.  He tugged quite quickly, actually.  I was impressed.  What wasn't so impressive was how he didn't hold his attention on me--when a bunny hopped out of the bushes he switched his focus entirely over to it.  Oops.

Today instead of the trial we went to watch my dad's triathlon, and we took Jonah.  I was super pleased.  There was loud music.  There were crowds.  There was rain and wind.  There were children.  There were other dogs.  There were runners.  There were bikers.  There were cars.  There were emergency vehicles.  There was the beach.  It was, to say the least, a stimulating environment.  We had a few 'oops' moments.  I was tugging with him and accidentally stepped on his toe.  He yelped and then another dog nearby reacted to his yelp and he barked at the dog.  He barked at one child who ran towards him.  He was a little over-interested in some cars.  Still, I'd give him an A-.  He was nice and friendly to my whole extended family (my uncle and aunt were there), and was polite meeting new friends.  We did tricks, tugged, and then spent some time just hanging out.  It was great.  I need to do more things like this with him.

Tomorrow is a big day.  We're going to meet the litter of puppies!  They aren't ready to come home yet, but if we're happy with the sire, dam, and choose a puppy we like, we'll go ahead and put in a deposit.  Very, very exciting!!