Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oh Banchor...

 Hello, Little Boy. It's been too long. I'm sorry for not letting myself think of you much this past year. I thought that eventually it would be easier, that I would be able to think about you without missing you so much, but it seems there is still that space in my heart that will never completely fill. A girl's first dog is like that, I suppose. 

I remember being 12 and crying at the thought of you being gone someday, wishing it would never come to pass. I told myself then that it was years away, and that when that day came, we would both be ready and it would be OK.  The idea fell into the back of my brain, categorized as a "never" event on the spectrum of Things That Happen In Life. When you're 12 that's how you deal with scary things. 

But then I was suddenly 26, never was now, and it was not OK. The 'right' thing, yup. But not OK. One of the saddest moments in my life was this time last year when I learned that my impossible wish made as that 12 year old, that you could live as long as I would, was not going to come true. And one of life's hands most unfairly dealt: that I should be the one to make to make this decision ultimately- me, the one who loved you most and wanted you to be gone the least. But thank you for making it easier, like you always did in life. You showed me it was time, so I could have some relief in that regard.   
A little more tired, but so YOU still

It's more sad because we had such an amazing time together. It was pretty perfect, so I hated all the more to lose what we had. I hated losing you to some unnamed illness and having a year of sad memories. But I am eternally grateful for the memories from before that time. Now, a year later, I am finally beginning to be able to focus more on those wonderful experiences and less on how you were sick. For the first time in years, since you started to age noticeably, I can remember what you were like as a baby and what it was like to run with you as a young dog.
Banchor and Tory, brothers if not by blood
I appreciate the amount of heart you had and that you always gave everything you had in the game we played. You were a little 14 inch boy, running against these comparatively monster Shelties, but you often still won anyways.  (Your thinking you were a Border Collie probably had something to do with it.) Of your many accomplishments, I am most proud of your showing at the 2000 USDAA Nationals. You were having the weekend of your life and hit the Aframe wrong on the second to last day. You ran the rest of the day like a  trooper, but I know you didn't feel right. I pulled you from everything but the Grand Prix Finals. We went into the finals in first place and it was a 'run clean and win' situation. The refusal was my fault. You did exactly what I asked. At the time it was a very painful thing to think about; it had been 'our year,' but I now know, regardless of final placement, that I had the best little dog there.

Lexington 1999
I loved your natural running Aframe. So much more now that I know the trials of trying to actually teach it! I miss the ease of running you in general.  You may not have had a lot of skills, but you got the importance of teamwork. With that, everything else just sort of fell in line for us.  I think people are still pondering over our lines of communication- especially in Gamblers. My pegged-on-the-line, arm-waving and yelling style was understood only by you.

Happy boy
I miss your unintentional comedy. I still crack up thinking of you stealing the entire angle food cake from the counter and eating it ALL, then poking your belly later as you lay on your back like an overstuffed turkey.  Or the time we were shooting that commercial. You were annoyed by all the retakes and eventually gave up to go join the volleyball game at the other end of the park. The time you helped Runner dismember the rabbit is still disgusting, but the look on your face; when did you ever look more please with yourself?

Eating tasty fake snow to celebrate at Lake Placid
Mostly, you were the perfect first dog. I credit you to our success and to giving me a love of agility. More than that though, you were a good companion to me. Whatever I did, you were game for, whether it be practice, having drinks with my friends, or napping.  You were not demanding or fickle and you were never fazed by anything (except thunder).  And whenever I was sad, or sick, you were there. No dog has ever been quicker to comfort me than you. I can only hope I repaid you in kind.

Because I was a bratty teen when we ran (and I certainly didn't have the perspective that I have now) I probably didn't tell you quite enough, so let me say it now: Good boy.

I miss you.

November 21, 1993-December 31, 2009
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. But do be sure to hug your dogs as you ring in the new year.

(The rest is just for me to have... I found myself forgetting these things, so I wanted to have a record, somewhere.)

2004 MACH (Wow I think this took five years!)
2003 GCH- Gold; SACH-Gold
2002 LAA Bronze- 3 Qs short of LAA Silver!
2002 FMCh
2001 ADCH Silver
2001 SCH-Gold
2001 NATCH- Superior
1998 ADCH

Moments of Brilliance:
USDAA Top Ten in multiple categories in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 (As of 2010, still ranking 17th for Gamblers in Lifetime Standings and he retired from Championship in 2004!)
1997- 1st place Round One of Grand Prix at Nationals
1998 DAM Team Nationals:  2nd place Team overall, highest pointed dog in tournament overall with two individual wins
1999 2nd place USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility
                1st place NADAC National Championship (1st place Team)
2000 6th Place USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility
                                1st Place Individual Snookers
                1st place NADAC National Championship (1st place Team)
                1st place ESPN Great Outdoor Games Small Dog Invitational
2001 2nd place NADAC National Championship
                4th place ESPN Great Outdoor Games Small Dog Invitational
                1st place Lexington Steeplechase Regional 
Frequent finalist in Grand Prix Regional and Steeplechase competitions (including Steeplechase Nationals); including multiple 1st Place finishes.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do You Dream Agility?

I had a dream recently that I was running a Grand Prix round at the Nationals. It was so real! I walked the course, sat and watched the course eat dogs alive, then walked a mile and back to get The Dog. Then we rocked it! I woke up with a start, a bit breathless, and thought "THAT was a fun course. We need to try it for real."

So I designed it on paper as best as I could. Granted, the dream course had the tunnel nearly IN the poles so it is significantly easier on paper.  Also my Word program is not exactly the Clean Run Course Designer.  Close enough though:

So what does this mean? Dog agility isn't in the dream dictionary. If you dream up a full fledged realistic course are you meant to be a judge? Or, if you run it well, are you oozing confidence in your team via your sub-conscience? Am I telling myself I do this TOO MUCH? Not enough? Or desire MORE from it?

Or maybe I just had too many Christmas cookies before bed. Either way, I have our next practice course ready to go, so thanks for that brain, no matter what you're trying to tell me from your deepest recesses.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Because I Failed At Cards...

I want to make sure everyone received the good Holiday Vibes I sent out yesterday. I will continue to send these throughout the week, so don't worry if you haven't felt it yet- I am sure the airwaves are inundated with good vibes at this time of year so transit may be a bit laggy. Rest assured though, we wish you ALL a warm holiday season and hope you already experienced a cherry Christmas.

At the very least, we want you to feel as though you've been a part of our holiday exploits. Enjoy!

Holly jolly ornament to get you into the right frame of mind...

A happy little Go Dog showing off her favorite presents from Boyfriend and a festive new bow:

Posing with her new doppelgänger Pillow Pet.
Yes, I really, REALLY wanted a Pillow Pet.
This is awesomeness defined for me.

The 1000th iteration of an effort to get ONE nice holiday shot of all the girls together. This is the best. Ugh. Lacey either stared at the camera in mortal fear or gazed into oblivion. Thought oblivion was more Christmasy.

Black Dog being So sweet and keeping her mom company. All night. And trying to bite anyone who attempted to usurp her position. Truly the meaning of Holiday Spirit.

Holiday Cat! Quite cute when not trying to maim and destroy.

And here is The Dog gearing up for playtime with our new toy that Santa brought. She thinks it is slightly better than the bath kit she also got.

May this be the first of many automatic downs!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Songs for Dogs- I get all philosophical here.

We've played this game for all our dogs for as long as I can remember: If the dog was a song, what song would they be?  In other words...Rather than try to understand the minute neural firings and cause and affect implications that drive the thought process behind their behaviors and moods, we try and think of our dogs as a whole and guess what song they might have as a driving force instead. In our imagination, this song IS their thought process, and it plays through their brains like a chain of thoughts would in yours or mine.  When we think we've got it, it helps us understand what they output in life a little bit better .

We've had a John Denver song, "Wild Montana Skies," one "Flight of the Bumble Bee," and one "Happy Birthday to You." These songs are so the very definition of these dogs, musically, lyrically, in body and meaning that if you've heard them before, I think you would really understand the kinds of dogs we had. 

And whyyyy am I thinking about this now? I had a REAL practice tonight (finally, yaaaaay!) and ended up running all three of the girls: White, Black and THE Dog. It's been awhile since I've run them in succession, so I had fresh eyes ideal for comparison. So naturally during my long drive home I fell into thinking about the differences between them. On the surface, they seem more or less alike. Three bratty, excited, eager border collie girls looking for a good time but after all that they are still so different to run. It got so complicated trying to weed through the "why?" and "why nots?" that I gave up and switched over to our old standby game- what are their songs?

White Dog. I love to run her. It's ... easy- I'll say it! Just be honest in your handling and you have a girl who will seem to read your mind.  She is better than predictive texting while driving (not that I do that).  Her song would be the duet by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, "Islands in the Stream." It's simple, but there is a depth to it that is kind of beautiful. You appreciate the two separate parts coming together for a brief time. It's nice and classic and makes you feel good. 

Black Dog, on the other hand, is new and fresh and fun. She IS pop, constantly keeping you on your toes. I wouldn't say she is difficult to run, but she has some 'rules' to be followed.  It's more complicated, like using a mixer instead of just playing acoustic. And it's fast. But there is an upbeat rhythm you can dance to. Warning though- if you are going to try and keep up with her beat, be prepared because you'll fall out of sync pretty quick if you aren't up to it her pace. So for her? Usher all the way. I'm going with his new song "More." Because that's what she wants.

 And then there is THE Dog. Ever heard of this little ditty called "The Planets?" Yeah, I DO mean the full orchestral suite from Holst.  She is complex in all parts of her life. She shifts, from one movement to another, sometimes so subtly you might miss it. There is a range of emotion to boggle the senses. Some parts evoke beauty and some are just plain ugly (usually this is the tunnel vortex syndrome).  There are rules: note for note, one must play with technical precision.  Down to the shortest 'ting' of a triangle, you have to play every second. No forgiveness, only a sour chord if there is a mistake.  But if you can master it you can have something wonderful.  You've just got to go through some Mars to get to Jupiter though.
So what about your dogs? Having an issue understanding their motives, or actions? Well, try and play our game.  Figure out the tune stuck in their heads and maybe you can get inside there for awhile!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Plan of Attack

Time for some strategy. We've got a show coming up and then it. Just. Doesn't. Stop. after that. So. Obviously we don’t want to wander into 2011 unprepared so we have to figure out our plan of attack. First step: Define optimal targets.

The Dog met and surpassed every milestone I had set for her last year, accomplishment-wise. This means we get to coast next year. No goals! Yay!  See you in a year!

Just kidding- I'm not quite that lazy. Though I think that having the trialing goals that we did lent to some of the problems we were having (emphasis on maximal qualification equals doing what it takes to get by, not what it takes to be awesome). So next year we are really aiming for quality not quantity.
Performance over milestone.

The Dog is 10 various Qs away from her Bronze ADCH.  Definitely a goal. Beyond that, she would need a further 45 for her Bronze LAA which is probably doable.  Not going to worry about it though. I don’t trust myself not to get hung up on it and fall into The Trap again, so I will hold off on obsessively tracking results in hopes that it will just happen and that I will get a super surprise. (Does USDAA mail cakes along with the LAA certificates???)

I want to qualify her for the USDAA Nationals.  We need to try that again. Also going to hit the close Regional for fun.  In those I want to… compare. I think that is reasonable!

I think more than anything I want to see if I can break her into the Top Ten in something (I'd like it to be Standard, but I am not too fussed.) at some point in the year... or the year after (let’s call this the Long Term Goal). If she keeps picking up in speed this should be realistic to work towards.  I think it is a great goal for us- not just about qualifying, but about being competitive.  Seems to be in the spirit of the whole Project.

I haven’t told our Number One Travel Companion (mother) this yet, but I kind of sort of want to go to the AKC Nationals.  We never did end up taking our boys there because, while they were awesome, fast boys, they didn’t fit the AKC requirement of consistency. (50% weekend? Yep. 75%? Maybe. 100%? Nope! Never!)  Meanwhile, our girls are pretty consistent and I think we could actually stand a chance of qualifying  in 2011and not having a miserable time there! So I will sneak the Experience onto my list of goals- maybe we will blog live from the 2012 AKC Nationals?
Lastly… show in obedience. Ugh, talk about new frontier. That will be scary! I have to psych myself up for it so I don’t psych The Dog out.

Second step:  We need some clever tactics for meeting those targets.  

For one, we will continue our obedience classes. I may try and schedule some privates; we have areas in need of fine tuning.  (Recall, you are the Nemesis.) And anyways, obedience only helps in the other realms of dog sports and overall Good Dogness.

In agility, most of my goals seem to circle around having a successful Standard run. My favorite class, alas, the most likely to see issue.

First, we are starting a retrain on the teeter. I have to start over on this to help her feel better about it. I don’t like how she occasionally runs around it or does it with such varying speed- those can’t be examples of confident dog performance, can they?  So far we are playing the BANG game where she jumps on the end of the board and gets clicks for BANGing it and just added having her run to the end of the high suspended board Tower of Terror style. FUN!

Also on deck are training a run on the dogwalk into a wall. This still makes her very sad. I have to convince her that she will not die if there is a wall. I will turn her before she hits it. Probably.  But at least she finally gets what the point of the obstacle is other than that. Just heading towards elusive consistency now.

I was going to add something about training lead-outs. Now, not so sure it's necessary. Yeah, I may be disadvantaged, competitively speaking, in a Snookers lay out every now and then but on the whole? Not an issue.  If my goal is an overall faster, happier Dog, then maybe I should throw in the towel and literally just go with it. I will focus instead on practicing starts that would be unfriendly to our style, to tamp down any surprises in a show.

Talking about handling, we are working all manor of tight fast turns. I am trying out every style out there to see what works best.  Gotta say, the 'grab the nose' trick I picked up at the Nationals has been the most successful!  Add this to our acceleration work and you have one fine tactic for competitive success. 

Lastly, continuance as always on speeding up the auto-drop on the table and her weaves. The table IS improving (She is offering the behavior occasionally! And not looking like I am beating her into submission! OMG!), but the weaves… eh.  She still has only one or two good sets each day, maybe.

Since that could be caused by lack of strength in the right areas, and not just a lack of muscle memory, we are doing lots of exercises. I think I will share those in a future post (with pictures to illustrate) so look out for Dog Yoga on a screen near you soon! 

My Christmas list for Santa included:
A Table
Adjustable Teeter Base
Plank (to be used as teeter board AND to train dogwalk bottoms off the table)
Adjustable Weaves.
Come on, Santa! Tactical Skill Training is counting on YOU!

I'd say all this combined could result in some conquered targets. Here we come, 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Day After Tomorrow Was Right!

Or, "Why all Minnesotans need a snow blower."

Not much to say about it- the blizzard came, we have no blower, the Boyfriend's arms are now tired from shoveling. And is it any wonder?? 

Mr. Six Foot Privacy Fence, meet Mr. Snow Drift.
 The Dog says... where did the backyard go? Whaddaya MEAN we can't get outside to go potty?

We decided that it might be prudent to try and take a dent out of the accumulation around 4 pm on Saturday- right in the middle of the blizzard.  Here's the view from safe inside the garage:

You may be thinking, geez, that's not very nice- you just took pictures of the Boyfriend as he slaved away with what might as well as have been a tweezers for all the difference the shovel made in trying to move all that snow??


But, technically, I am the Project Leader. My job is leading. Not shoveling. Someone has to direct the snow removal. And provide historical and anecdotal documentation for future reference.

So, I took a pretty picture of our wreath. Which somehow got snowed on from inside the storm door?

Saturday was a futile attempt. We resumed the excavation Sunday. 
The Dog wanted to come assist me in surveying the removal job. Until she got cold. And bored. Then she started leaning back towards the garage.
"If we aren't going to play, can we go in an get a snack??"
Oh wait, she didn't want to go in. She wanted to attack my camera.
Seconds later, she got a hold of that dangling strap. Oops.
I distracted her by reminding her how much she loved jumping on the banks. Sorry for ruining your edge work, Boyfriend.

Ok. That was fun. Now what can we do to avoid work??

Hey, Dog, check out that drift in front of the house!
"All I see is a bunch of snow... what am I looking at?"

Taa-daa! It WAS over the front windows, but my job was to clean them off. Yay me.

Checking in on the Boyfriend...still shoveling! Looks like he is repairing those edges.

While he worked hard at that, The Dog continued to attack the camera so I took off her collar and let her play with it, ruining the edge of the banks again. It was a fine toy!

The Dog enjoys Blizzards.
Oh Boy! Look who finally finished!! Ooo, I think you missed a spot on the left- you get that, the dog and I are going for some cocoa.

See you next Blizzard!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Pork Giving Tree Christmas Miracle

I think I have an idea for a new Christmas Special: The Pork Giving Tree. It's all about wishing and miracles and the Power of Christmas.

See, once upon a December Night there was a hungry little Border Collie. She wished she could have more than her regularly prescribed boring dinner for dogs. The little dog gazed longingly at her person as she chomped on her much more awesome dinner of Chinese Fried Pork. The little dog had heard about Christmas Miracles because her people had been watching non-stop Holiday movies. The dog understood that miracles can happen when you are the most in need and if you wish hard enough.

So, she stared at the Christmas tree and made a very special wish for pork.  Santa heard the little dog's wish- since he sees AND hears you when sleeping and awake- and felt so bad for the little dog that he granted her wish. He sailed some Christmas Spirit her way and *POOF* the Christmas Tree became the Pork Giving Tree. A piece of pork danced out of the branches and the little dog jumped at it with joy and gulped it happily down.  The dog was happy and full and had  learned the meaning of Christmas. The End.

Or at least, that is what happened from The Dog's point of view.  She looked so sad that I tossed her a piece of pork. My aim is poor; it went into the tree next to her and bounced off the snow globe ornament into her mouth. However, since she hadn't seen me throw the treat, she assumes it came from the tree. Now we can't get her to stop poking her nose into the tree or licking the ornament. All the glitter is gone.
Pork Surveillance
In other news, we had the AKC show last weekend. Both goals were accomplished- have FUN and finish her OA.  The Dog did such a great job; she was really booking!  Very technical courses on Saturday and she did great on both (And even had an awesome time in JWW- that is saying something! We work so hard to be competitive in Jumpers!). On Sunday she had a slip in JWW, but ran clean, though it stunned her momentarily since she rarely falls. Then her Standard run had a silly teeter bypass (not the first time for that certainly), but her Aframe and Dogwalk were amazingness defined. I am betting that minus the refusal she would have had a killer time.  We are having so much fun running lately! BOTH of us! I can't even describe how happy it makes me to see her run this happily. We are all happy. Another Christmas Miracle! Happy.

Arg! Make way for my return!
Badish news- I have so done something to trash my wrist. So much pain and limited use now.  I think it was exacerbated by course building. Should have seen that coming. Not sure what triggered it though. I had a yucky cyst earlier this year that went away... he better not be coming back! Although I sort of miss his company. Yeah... I gave him faces depending on our mood for the day. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Don't ask me why he is a "he" though. No answer for that one.

Anyways! I am thinking that in the spring I will try to get The Dog on some sheep. I know she is not exactly from herding lines (it's there, but buried. Deep. But we have hope since Brother Dog is a lean mean poultry-herding machine!), but it would be fun to at least check out her instinct and see how she reacts. Then I will go from there.  My secret wish is to have one pet sheep and have The Dog herd it around the yard. A super cute one... like this little dude. Wish I knew what pasture he was frolicking in. He would be mine.

They stay this size... Right?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tryptophane Trip and Subsequent Rant and Recovery Program

Ugh, where am I? How can it possibly be December??
Hey...New sweaters... unnecessary gadgets...10,000 DVDs still in the wrapper...where did all this STUFF come from? And why can't I find a clean fork anywhere? Most importantly...


The answer to all of these questions lies in the trash can- turkey bones are everywhere. One glimpse into that gristly, gizzardy container tells me Thanksgiving has once again come and gone in a gravy-soaked flash.

Here is my theory on the recent mysterious events:
The farming industry is in cahoots with the retail giants!
Per the genius Alton Brown, the first Thanksgiving most likely served wild deer, elk, pheasants, corn, lobster and fish. As time passed, those original ingredients faded and were replaced by TURKEY.  Turkey became the big Thanksgiving food cash cow for farmers and the reasons behind this monopoly are many; I am sure turkeys are stupider than other more authentic Thanksgiving critters therefore easier to procure, and perhaps they take to fattening for the feast more than other birds. But the main reason, surely, is due to the discovery by the farm and retail industries that turkey is a source of tryptophane. Simply put, we eat gobs of turkey that the farmers place before us (since they get quite the kickback from retailers, I bet), laced with nature's sedative which puts us into a hazy fog of sleepy compliance.  THEN once we are in this vulnerable state the retail industry  goes out hanging shiny signs up to entice our enfeebled brains spend money.  Black Friday? More like BlackOUT Friday.

The real kicker is that the farmers have grown turkeys so BIG that leftovers are inevitable (and- let's face it- munchies are inevitable on this kind of mind-altering substance so you WILL eat more turkey), hence the drugging of John Q. Public AND the sales are extended for the length of the turkey leftovers in a sick circle of meat and commercialism(!!).  Think about it- the size of turkeys over the years has had a direct positive correlation with the amount of post-Thanksgiving sale days! The plot- like the gravy- thickens? This cannot be a coincidence.

It's all a wicked conspiracy to separate me from my money by taking advantage of my love of shiny signs and eating turkey. Bastards.

Oh well. At least my Christmas shopping is finished, plus I have some fun new things for me! Sleepy, turkey-drugged Project Leader has a good eye.

AND, when trying to recover some memories of the past few days now that I'm in my own mind again, I found this picture when searching through my phone:

Looks like I discovered that Go Dog has launched her own line of products. Either that, or she is going to have to sue someone.

Oh, and because I want to be the best Leader ever for Go Dog, I am trying to be fit and stuff. So naturally I wanted to know what my Thanksgiving day munchie fest cost me as far as Project Fitness. Based on this cool/awful site, I had (including leftovers): 2145 calories. Accordingly, I needed to walk 21.45 miles, or 42900 steps, assuming  one mile is 2,000 steps in order to make up for the binge. So the finale to my Lost Week means recovery program. At the gym. I still owe... 9 miles. Bleak.

Maybe one last helping of sweet potato casserole before I get on that. It's the same principle as the Dog's Pumpkin Diet...right?