Monday, August 29, 2011

We Are Not Amused

This could be the theme for the last week.   

I feel like the dogs have been being grumpy teenagers, with lots of attitude and eye rolling going on.

Or maybe one teen and one toddler. Guess who is which.

So first, yeah yeah, it was hot last Tuesday; I probably shouldn’t have bothered with class. The Dog and I don’t do hot.  We two were a couple of sullen teen-like creatures, whining heavily and blowing raspberries at anyone who tried telling us what to do- including each other.

Not a great practice. I tried leaving Mr. Ball at the sidelines while we ran- which has been fine by her lately- but all of a sudden she was unable to focus for more than a few obstacles before she would start gravitating to where the ball was, eventually just ejecting herself from the exercise to go sit by him stubbornly.

Eh, like I said: it was hot. I did the same thing with the ice cream bars someone brought.
But then magic nice temperatures came back for the following day and we had a lovely toyless practice where The Dog WORKED FOR FOOD.  She hasn’t done this in years.   I don’t know why she will now all of sudden.  And let’s just clarify that she was running BETTER than normal Practice Dog. For food.

Then The Pup played contacts and decided the Aframe was super cool at the new high height so why not ‘Superman-it’ just a little. Not amused, Pup, not amused. No Marvin mouth to mouth for you on those reps!
After this we decided to let the lessons from practice stew a little and have Fun Dog Be Dog time. Phase one involved merry bone chewing, a nice activity which entertains doggies independently so that I may watch multiple Doctor Who marathons.   

Ok, so not so merry.  Phase one of Phase one starts out merry…

And quickly degenerates into rampant bullying and unnecessary shows of power via hoarding…

Then culminates in a super whiney whine fest from the victim, who is not amused, though The Dog was pretty dang happy with herself.  

The Pup just lies there poking her feet at The Dog, whining one long continuous whine.  Even though her original bone lies just inches away, untouched.  Eyeroll. Wait, what did the Doctor just say? 

So we had to try Phase Two- a nice walk in the pretty day. 

The Dog’s rule is that she MUST have a toy on a walk, or walks do not happen.  Considering this is HER rule and not mine, it falls to her to carry the toy.  The Dog, it seemed, had overexerted herself in her fits of bullying earlier and was being careless with her toy-carrying duties.  I can’t handle two flexis (one of which is attached to The Pup, let’s remember) AND Wobbly Nobbly (the toy) so my solution was to attach it to The Dog to give her mouth a rest. 

She was not amused. 

However, I was.  She seemed determined to ‘carry it’ anyways, but since it was attached to her she was crab walking all over the path.  She eventually looked at me like, WTF? as she had ended up in some bushes and not somewhere straight down the path, where she evidently had thought she was headed. 

The Pup was also amused.  By the way, look at the gianty tongue on this animal:

I swear, it came with some super Staffy expansion mode. It just doesn’t look this gianty when she’s behaving like a BC, only at Terrier times.

I’d say at this point we were all annoyed with Dog Being Dog time (SO many eyerolls) and wanted some Dog Being Awesome Practice time.  The Pup had definitely stewed enough; while she wasn’t really in jump mode that day, she sure was in contact mode.   She decided she was cool with the full size Aframe and Teeter, and that they were fun enough on their own without adding fly-offs and fly-overs.  I’m really happy with her Aframe. I do need to continue with a target out as she does love a good curl in to me, but all the dogwalk work has obviously carried over; she goes up and over and all the way down.  I swear it just doesn’t occur to her to leap… YAY!

And her teeter is exactly what I envisioned. I am proud of me for training something properly.  Sometimes I do a bit of corner cutting or mind changing and I won’t say I always give every obstacle or behavior the tender loving attention it needs at the foundation level.  But I think we did ok with the ‘4on’ teeter.

I think her dogwalk is looking better each time too. She seems to have cut one stride out, which means that confidence is coming up.  I’d like to see her permanently lose one more on the down side; we’ll see what happens as she opens up her stride even more though.  I’m still letting her work it out.  The important thing is that she is still doing well with running and again, doesn’t even seem to think about leaping off.

Goodness though, I REALLY need to go back and work through LM’s jumping program from ground up now.  It’s clear she just needs value building on jumps.  Food equals love all the way with this girl.
The Dog had an exceptional practice over the weekend too.  We practiced whole Standard courses and she was an angel.  We tried putting the dogwalk in every imaginable sequence and she was awesome on nearly everything.  We stuck in one with a turn back into a tunnel and she did it really well.  Unfortunately, she expected it for the next rep and dove off from the blue into the tunnel when I hadn’t planned for her to take it.  Then the one after that was ‘careful’ (I won’t call it sticky, but she hitched her stride down a notch).  But after that back to normal.  I’m feeling a lot better on her figuring that dang thing out.  Most of her reps are very nice (low, not leapy); the only time we run into trouble is if she doesn’t really run- that’s when her head comes up. I’m trying to help by running fast too, but sometimes the whole ‘me ahead’ thing hurts more than helps.   But at least we’ve moved on from the crutch of a toy.  Baby. Steps.
Oh yeah, The Pup ate one of my shirts.
Not amusing. Not at all. It was a PINK one! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Step in the Right Direction

It seemed fitting for some reason that this past weekend’s trial was held on a test track.  Kind of helped get me into the right mentality looking at all those banked turns and upside down cars.  When I first got out of my car, I thought… on your mark, get set….GO! Let the 2012 tournament season begin!

Yes, for whatever reason, our qualifications for next year are starting in August this year. OKfine. Gives me plenty of extra stress free time to get those scary Grand Prixs.  Since its August and since outside and me and The Dog are not usually friends in August I decided to just enter the first day with the tournament classes.  Good move I think, and we were even rewarded with some unusually decent weather.

Good move, because although I felt a bit sad to not be coming back for day two, I ended up having two pathetically exhausted dogs on my hands Sunday.  Based on their extended tours of duty on the couch yesterday, I can’t help but feel that two days of up early, long car ride and tons of runs would have been too much and counterproductive to the whole ‘funpositiveagilityexperience’ which was the ONLY goal after the dreaded Regional. 

That being said, I think The Dog and I both had fun and maybe we won’t all quit agility to go join the circus after all. 
We began the week with some really amazing practices. Tuesday I decided we would go to class and run our sequences and that was it- no toy, no babysitting, just go.  Result? She was perfect on her dogwalks. PERFECT. It even rained and she was still running.  Perfect on everything, actually.  I didn’t worry about her doing her thing for one second.  Wednesday wasn’t *as* good- I think class gets her far more excited and I can get more out of her then solo practice time.  But she still hit/ran all the dogwalks.  Friday I took her out and set a course, warmed up and walked in as though it was a trial. Perfect!  No looking for the toy after the dogwalk, good reps, happy dog, it was a blast.

So I was really confident that THIS time, THIS trial, we would surely get SOME level of transference of behaviors.  Not just on the dogwalk, but also hopefully on our other scary spots (weaves, starts, controlled sequences).

You know what? I think we did.
We started in Jumpers.  Normally, I can’t get a good “GO DOG” worthy run if we start with Jumpers. She’s not as into the class (where are the CONTACTS???) and it’s harder for me to focus too until I get the 5 Hour Energy coursing through my veins.   I was extra concerned this time because she was first dog in the ring, which she has never been.  I like letting her get revved up watching other dogs; I’m pretty sure that is her Zen moment. Without that, it was just me worrying about forgetting the course and her with zero excitement level/agility focus.  So we went, and it was surprisingly nice for all it could have been.  Then I heard the timer didn’t start.  Another first- she’s never had to rerun.  And we had to go again immediately.  I literally walked away from the line asking for advice as to whether this rerun would crush her soul. Which sort of put me out of position and forced me into my original plan B for handling. Which was actually kind of awesome. How often do you get the chance to try a course again with the alternate plan? And how often does that plan totally work and end up being the winning run? For us? It’s a first.

Next was Snookers- it was a crazy plan, one that could go either way as far as shut down/over excite. Happily- over excite.  Unfortunately I dropped the ball and fell into ‘watch the pretty doggy’ mode for a second when I forgot my plan. NOT the course to forget your plan on.

Next we did Gamblers, Grand Prix, Steeple and Standard all boom-boom-boom (…boom).   I decided, for the first time EVER, to throw the Gamble to work the dogwalk (gasp, shock!). I needed a good set up, which meant negating the Gamble, and I knew that if she happened to do the dogwalk even remotely close to how she should I would need to finish up and reward pretty dang quickly. No time to bother with the gamble there. (Plus, really, we’d had a bit easier version of this gamble a few months ago and we failed that one.)  Tragically, she apparently lost a leg off the dogwalk going up and spent some time scrambling which killed the speed, but considering that? Her recovery and end performance were really good. So we ran out and got the ball.  Happy dog.  Then in Grand Prix she had probably the closest thing to home performance yet. It was a little high, but worthy of much woo-hooing anyways.  In reality she probably missed it, but my woo-hoo was very convincing so the judge gave it to her. What is given may then be taken- followed up by a glorious refusal (totally my fault… stupid tiny invisible wingless jump! I knew I would miss it!). 

Steeple was lovely and clean with a nice time, so at least we are down one qualifier for next year.  Standard was also clean, even with me getting LOST (WAY too similar to GP!).  Not an amazing time- she was weaving sooooooo slowly.  Kind of all day. But definitely noticeable there.  This dogwalk was ‘in’ by a lot, but more of a collected stride. I *think* that was the combination of running into nothing and me cueing a front cross.  I’ll take it though because she COULD have leaped (which, into nothingness is pretty common still) but was very certain that she had to finished the plank.  Foundation peeking out? Maybe!   

Here’s a montage (sorry, no kicky 80’s song to accompany) of her dogwalks: 

I’m going to take this as a sign that we are on the right track for now and keep on keepin’ on.
So yeah.  Overall, very good courses for her- certainly they were interesting for me. Footing was really hard on the dogs though. Especially for a full day of running. 8 runs (pairs was in there, but it was a disaster), two bars (both absolutely me), NO missed contacts, NO off courses, NO sad dog. Except for the weaves.  I’m choosing to blame the footing- it was very pokey and slopey and she is a sensitive soul about footing in the weaves.   And since she didn’t seem sad anywhere else I think it’s a fair guess. 

Oh, and after some careful R&D recently, I’ve designed a new motto.  It seems to have helped.  It certainly encompasses a lot of thoughts and realizations I’ve had lately.

“Worry about the course- not the dog.”  

Really, it’s quite deep.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

When did that happen??

Is it just me, or is time simply flying by lately? Maybe this always happens when puppies are around- the first year or so is measured in spurts and breakthroughs and benchmarks that all happen so fast.  One after another, something is always changing.  That’s life I suppose. Change is the only constant. 

But having a puppy sure does throw that concept into sharp relief.

Here I was having a nice weekend of training with the girls and realized that I don’t have a Pup and a Dog anymore, but two dogs.  Two demanding, pushy, eager dogs.

Sure, she’s still wiggly and naughty and gets into everything, but I think that might just be her nature.

She is part terrier, you know.
So the dogs and I had some very surprising and eye-opening sessions this weekend. The Pup’s was surprising and eye-opening because of the sheer fact of her being all mature and intense about working now. I suppose I started to notice her commitment level changed drastically last week, but the past few days have been somehow exponentially better.

The two most noticeable changes: obstacle drive and pre-run attention.   While she has been doing pretty well on sequencing one thing to another, she’s now starting to have some confidence. I guess what I thought was running before…not so much. Hello, Speed.  Nice to see you there between those jumps.   I don’t necessarily need to baby sit every step of her path now, either.  I’ve been gearing myself up for a long struggle with de-Velcroing her but it might not be the issue I had previously thought it would be.  She has officially started seeking out things besides the table and contacts- sends to tunnels and jumps are now on the books. 

The other thing, pre-run attention:  This has changed in that we have it now.  Before there was some ‘sniffy sniffy clover eating ok I’ll come do something I want to do now’ but at this point I just have to give her the cue to line up on either side and she’s magically there. Poof. Ready to do whatever is in front of her. 

Someday I will take video of all that magically grown-up cuteness. For now though, here is a little video of her full dogwalk.  This is the second session, all reps (as seen on FB).

 I think she is solid on the idea that Thou Shall Not Leap.  I don’t think that she has worked out her stride for the full obstacle.  It looks to me that she is very ok with the going up part, but occasionally being cautious across the top (she HATES crosswind), definitely changing strides for the down, probably in an effort to not lose control.  She has a tendency to balance her weight back whenever going downhill.  I’m thinking this will fade with time and confidence and she will run extended and head down the whole length, but has anyone else noticed this with their babies?
As for The Dog, I think I may have figured something out.  I’ve been racking my brain on why there doesn’t seem to be a lot of carryover recently with the running dogwalk.  I know a lot of it is courses and confidence and all the normal variables, but I thought there must be something basic that I was missing causing the rift between beautiful running in practice versus a show.  Wouldn’t you know, I think it’s the lack of toy.  Can’t get much more basic than that.

I was working on a course without carrying a toy, which I normally do in practice.   We got to the dogwalk and suddenly had a totally sticky show-like performance.  Did some experimenting and sure enough, she would only have the motivation to run if the toy was with me.  Huh. 

So yesterday we went out and tried some weaning.  I did get a few right away without a toy (having her natural high at the start of practice work for me there) and with a friendly set-up.   Then to keep her attitude in the right place we started hiding the toy around the course and asking for two nice dogwalks before she could go find it.  I always marked the dogwalks, but asked that she carry on a bit after the nice ones and then she had to stop and get praise and pets from me and THEN she got the toy.  I’m hoping the break up from our previous routine will help with some transference to the ring.  I’m sure the absence of reward/motivation in a show was probably not helping much.  We will see!   
Aside from interesting training breakthroughs, we had fun swimming and hiking both days.  The Dog was all kinds of naughty and refused to leave the lake yesterday.  Even The PUP came when called before her.  Naughty. 

Lastly- behold, two seemingly boring studies in dogness:
The Dog. 
The Pup. 
Why share these?  Would you believe that these are photos of two exhausted dogs?? No, really. Please bear witness to The Pup's first ever time being tired enough to lay down and not start destroying something. Amazing. 

Of course, ten minutes later she got a hold of her new special toy compliments of her sister and started going to town.

Pup Says...Riot has good GOOD TASTE!!! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feel Good Time

I’m not a very huggy wuggy person, perhaps my parents over-instilled a fear of stranger danger or germs, but if I were the sort to dole out hugs I would be doing that now.  

I’m really not that sort though.  Let’s just have a nice, long distance, no-contact-necessary moment here where I say thanks instead. 

Thanks for being supportive. For offering commiseration. For being pushy.  For giving feedback. For having a laugh. 

I really needed that.

I was a bit shocked- though why should I be? Dog people are the best people- at the help I’ve gotten in one form or another since yesterday.  Because of people taking the time to give that help, I’ve got a better outlook, I’ve got ideas, I’ve got a better understanding.  I’ve got a great dog, and I’ve got hope again.

So we can probably cancel the suicide watch at this point and get back to our regularly scheduled program which references Velociraptors and crack way too much.

Speaking of…
Crack Puppy!  And here is a shot of her with the seldom seen Crack Ducky (he’s been shrouded in mystery due to the fact that she engulfs him in her giant mouth).

He’s seen better days.

Lucky she has a short attention span (which you can clearly see waning above) or he wouldn’t have lasted this long. 

Case in point: Give it two minutes and...

Pup and Ball. Friends Forever. Who’s Crack Ducky??
 I was taking my monthly side-by-side to chronicle Pup Growth and became a bit alarmed. Um. Is she bigger than The Dog now??? I’m not sure I can blame this on tricky lighting… 

One thing is for sure though- I obviously need her to learn to stand like a slinky BC and not a proud terrier.  The Dog looks positively diminutive. 

The Pup has no time for silly things like crouchy stands though. She is all about agility now.

I’m sad to say her crate suffered some substantial wounds due to her…um…enthusiasm… while waiting to work though.  Oh well.  At least I know she wants to play?

We had a really good practice with her last night. I am pleased to report that the short turn alternating is working really well for BOTH girls.  It’s harder for me to bust up the party once it gets going, but I’m learning.   It’s helped me become more focused and plan better too so we are getting a lot more out of our hour.

Anyways, so The Pup worked some on the Aframe, I think it’s about 4 feet at this point?  She seems to adore flying the apex. Her stride is a natural one to put her into the yellow so I don’t think I will need to do much more than train her to go up and off straight.  Which is awesome since I am The Anti-apparatus.    We also started really working on the full dogwalk.  I wasn’t sure if it was too soon to go full height- if she was too young? But she seems sure footed and pretty sturdy.  Plus she has a Helmut Head.  For protection.   So we back chained up and over and everything held up just fine.  She’s already doing the adorable leap from the top board to the middle of the down plank (flying the ‘apex’ of the DW!) so I think that tells us her speed and confidence are good.

We also started on some more sequences.  I was too into it to stop and video, but here are some tiny maps to allow you to use your imagination: 

Tunnel, tunnel, jump, table, A! In case your imagination is broken.

Tunnel, jump, tire, jump, teeter! Because it's not really that obvious, huh.

She was all about working out and seeking obstacles last night so I took advantage to start working a bit on sending. We used a TOY for the first time really and she BROUGHT IT BACK! And TUGGED!!! This was pretty huge.  SO much easier to train with toys, I am glad she is starting to get that part and especially get that part about playing WITH me.   I’m seriously going to send presents to all the dogs that have been demonstrating good tugging skills for her.  I really think that helped far more than anything I’d been doing.

Just when I think she’s had her agility ‘lightbulb’ she keeps getting better and better.

Now if only I could get her to stop eating toilet paper. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Here we come, Quarterfinals!

Ok so the NC Regional.

On Monday I was all “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Tuesday was still “Yeah no thanks can we talk about something else?”

Today…ehhhh. Okfine. At first I figured if I skipped the written record it would be pretty easy to pretend it never happened, but admitted that overall that isn’t very good for posterity‘s sake.  Remember, one of the key originating principles of the whole ‘Project Concept’ was that I could also be able to look back and see what went wrong. So here we go.
Let’s just go there- not our best weekend.  Probably a top two lowest low actually (no weekend will ever be worse than the Great Lawrenceville Confidence Crusher of February 2010).  I’m still struggling a bit deciding on the WHY but here are the theories:

Too much AKC, not enough USDAA. I’ve been showing much less this year and more AKC than USDAA recently. I felt, the weekend prior and last weekend, very out of sorts and really out of practice.  I think that my little team noticed quite the change moving from one to the other- jump heights, spacing, endurance, course technical difficulty and range of skills needed all differ between the venues.   Reasons I think this is a valid theory:  We didn’t hit our stride until day three.  Day three felt normal again. Like our snow globe had been shaken and the glitter had finally settled.  Or maybe more like fitting a puzzle together- we had pieces but it wasn’t until we worked away at it for awhile that you could see the picture.  But reasons I dunno:  We flip back and forth all year, every year…don’t we?? And we train at higher heights and we train all the games and we train the spacing. Hmm.
Structural problems. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not the disastrous first day was Unpredictable Dog Attitude rearing its head or if she was really just that ‘out.’   Problems we were having were her deciding to wing out (China!) as opposed to coming in to me resulting in sad WHISTLE! or running Really. Slowly.  Reasons I think this is a valid theory:  We had a TOPS appointment for Saturday morning, they adjusted a LOT in her head, neck and shoulders turning her into Dog Jelly and she had no issues with not turning into me or running really slowly after that. But reasons I dunno: She DOES have her preferences and Day one was especially against those preferences.  And she DOES run more slowly when she doesn’t get her way or when she perceives that she chose wrongly.  Running slowly ensures correctness in her mind. 
Courses.  It is rare that I don’t enjoy a challenging course. Very rare.  Usually, we fare exceptionally well the more challenging and impossible the course appears.  But I didn’t love too many of the courses. They were very challenging, but really not in a fun way.  Many challenges were exactly opposite our strengths.  Reasons I think this is a valid theory:  We didn’t do very well on these courses.  The challenging courses I did like or that at least we could use our Super Powers on we did well on. But reasons I dunno: Mmm, none. I think this is pretty valid. At least as an excuse. (Insert smiley winky face)
In a general rundown of events, Day one was Master Gamblers, Team Snooker and Jumpers, Steeplechase and ICH Jumpers.  Gamblers was pretty impossible with the noise and chaos and impossible gamble- 2% Q rate in Performance and maybe 9% in Championship.  It was also the start of horrible non running dogwalks, as the theme for the weekend seemed to be dogwalk into nothingness. So that was the first thing to go downhill.  Snookers was funny- our team showed why we are called Solidarity: all three dogs made it to 6 with the same opening and bombed 6. Go team!  Jumpers was nuts, The Dog had her sad WHISTLE here and it was a mega disaster. The rest of the team fared well luckily.  Steeple was next and was the Very Slow Dog’s turn to make an appearance. So very heartbreaking to see that side of her.  Might have made it through anyways, but she had a runaround on the broad jump clenching that NQ.  Needless to say I skipped ICH Jumpers and went to the hotel deeply depressed.

Day Two was Masters Snooker, Grand Prix and Team Standard and Gamblers.  Snookers was terrible- she didn’t want to leave the line, didn’t want to do my plan; I changed on the fly to give her an easier (fun) tunnel plan. Ran out of time. Very depressing. Went to TOPS. Grand Prix after was actually lovely but one bar down on a wild rear cross. No byes for us (hence, Here we come, Quarterfinals). Very nice time though, even with a horrible slow dogwalk.  Then I flubbed my opening a bit in Gamblers, losing a few points, but all three dogs managed well enough.  Team Standard they all ran without Eing and The Dog and I finally pulled a clean run- but with the stickiest dogwalk I’ve seen in ages and overall it was pretty dirty for being clean.  Day Two ended again at the hotel in cranky depression.

Day Three was Masters Gamblers, Standard and Jumpers, Team Relay and IHC Standard.  Gamblers was ok as a warm up, again I messed up the opening and lost about 10 points from my plan but she did get the gamble at least. Standard was clean too, with another sticky icky dogwalk but a great listening dog and a really nice auto-drop on the table.  Jumpers was probably the one run I truly, truly enjoyed from the whole weekend.   She ran beautifully and fast and responsively and ended up in 8th with all the placements within a second (I think?).    Relay was deceptively hard- it really thinned the herd but resulted in far more teams getting a Q then before the class ran.  Our team ran a lovely clean relay; apparently it was also very fast as they ended up winning out of 70 or so teams.  We are still scratching our heads over that but we will take it!  It also bumped us into a final overall placement of 6th which was really encouraging.   

We ended on the IHC Standard course- crazy hard but in that fun way.  She ended up in 10th, 8th for time, with the last bar down and about 1.5 seconds left out there on two turns.  Given that, I was really proud of her for keeping up with or besting the times of the actual ‘contenders’ and for just plain surviving the course.  Oddly, this was her best dogwalk of the weekend; no idea where this one came from other than the course was so engaging to her that she didn’t have time to stress.  And boy, was she engaged- normally a tight controlled course like that would put her into Thoughtful Dog mode, but this one seemed to crank her as she went.  Very nice to see at the end of the longest up-and-down weekend ever.
Ok, maybe it doesn’t sound (read?) that bad- but it was more the inconsistent nature of things that had me so depressed.  If you run a dog that goes out and runs predictably every time, consider yourself very lucky. Even if it isn’t lightening fast, or consistently clean, it is still better than the alternative of never knowing what you will get or how long you will have it.  I would love to get to the point where Practice Dog and Show Dog are the same Dog. Sometimes there are flashes. But we’ve got a long way to go.
On a light and fluffy note, The Pup had the most amazing time ever. She reunited with all seven or so of her siblings that were at the Regional.  She played with anyone that would have her. She screamed and screamed at the dogs running and only knocked one little gate over with her baseball head.  She is very grateful to her friend AMP who showed her the joy of watching dogs run and then the part about tugging on stuff when it gets too exciting, and to her other new puppy friends who let her actually tug with another dog for the first time (The Dog doesn’t tug so much as staunchly freeze in a position until The Pup tires of trying to wrest the toy from the statue’s mouth).  She worked on the practice jump for toys for the first time and stayed engaged. She only ran away one little time, and only because she was really obsessed with the skinny girl from Jersey for no explicable reason.  And she came back so there. 

I love that she is learning to thrive in a show environment; she’s seen from day one that shows are exciting and to embrace the energy. At this point, she works for me better in the high intensity settings than at home where it’s quiet. I don’t think there is going to be any problems with show stress in this one.  She might lose her mind, but she will have a wonderful time doing it. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Maybe We ALL Need Bags on Our Heads...

We’re leaving soon for…dun, dun, DUNNNNN, the Regional.

I’m trying to be positive. Trying. Very. Hard. Tobepositive.

Also trying very hard not to hyperventilate.

I think it’s fair to say I’m feeling a bit unnerved at this point.

Once upon a time I worked really well under pressure.  Big events were ridiculously exhilarating for me.  My little dog loved them too.  The two of us, we never understood why people would look so green before a run.  Why dogs tried all means of avoiding these owners during warm-ups.  Or especially why some handlers seemed to live in the bathroom during a trial.  It’s like, fun, right?


Oh how times have changed.  Before, I had certain expectations.  If I handled the sequence with maneuver A, then the result will be B.  Sure there were some tiny blips of ‘oops’ but in the scheme of things, those were anomalies.  Extraneous variables making mayhem.  I had no reason to give way to the nervous ‘what if’ thoughts- I knew ‘what.’ 

Now, there is a whole host of ‘what ifs’ swirling around:

Does her shoulder hurt still?
Will she be able to run?
Can she manage 22” jumps?
What will she do on the dogwalk?
Will she decide to weave this weekend?
How will she handle all the runs?
Is the excitement going to help/hurt her attitude?

Any number of possible outcomes. Statistical probability of me correctly predicting any one outcome? I believe in clinical terms this percentage would not be considered ‘significant.’ 

Sigh. The good news is I'm so worried about the internal components, I haven't even started in on feeling external pressure from competition. But what I would give for the confidence to have a few expectations this weekend.   I don’t feel that I can ask for much, given that I will be lucky to have her whole enough to actually run. And of course, given the huge training unknowns we are working with currently (ahem…talking about YOU dogwalk).  This makes setting goals…difficult.  But I can’t imagine running without ANYthing in mind, so here we go:

I will make sure she has a good time.
I will not converge on her line on the contacts.
I will find the good in every run (unless we have a no point run in Snookers. Then I am exempt).
I will trust in her skills and will handle normally so she can trust in mine. 

If we manage that much, it might be a successful weekend. 
Thank goodness I have The Pup.  No one can snap me out of a funk better than her.  True, that’s usually accomplished by destroying/stealing/hiding/alloftheabove something of mine.  No one can say she doesn’t get the job done though. 

Why, just the other day she stole a jewelry box off my nightstand and chewed it up.  I salvaged the earrings stored inside quickly, but then noticed the necklace was absent.  I was sure she ate it.  I spent so much time looking for the necklace and watching her go potty just in case that I completely forgot to hyperventilate about The Dog’s dogwalk.  Thank you, Pup! (P.S. Don’t worry- she had just hidden the necklace for safe keeping…and NOT in her colon.) 

Pup, convinced rawhides are NOT all gone.

Pup, getting brain damage making SURE they are all gone.

Pup, making her own substitute chew toy.
Must be nice to be her. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Debbie Downer: Guest Blogger.

Well, this has been an interesting week. 

Not necessarily in a good way, either.

So last Tuesday The Dog looked a bit off at class to start. Not limping, just moving a little uncomfortably on the ground. Slightly awkward over some jumps.  She smoothed out well by the end so I assumed the ground and clumpy grass in the one area were throwing her off a bit.  Wednesday for practice she looked great, despite the heat, and was moving very well, jumping beautifully.

Then she fell off the dogwalk.

It could have been worse- she landed well balanced on all four feet with minimal twisting and did NOT hit the dogwalk support (thankfully, close call there).  She was unscathed; not so much a real fall in my mind as a slip.  But her mind was the one that counted more, so after checking her out and walking her around I sent her up and over once more. Her opinion was ‘NO WAY am I going to run this thing, thankyouverymuch.’   OK. Don’t blame you. So we went home and decided to ignore agility for 48 hours. 

Friday we ran out and did five minutes of dogwalks and they were all perfect. Every single one.  She didn’t appear mentally or physically broken so I was back to having some confidence for our one day of showing Saturday, having been nail-bitingly nervous the past two days over what damage may or may not have been done.

So Saturday.  Sigh.  I had three reasons for entering:

1)      Try and get a GP bye for next weekend
2)      See how her dogwalk looked ‘in public.’
3)      Remind her how to jump and me how to handle at 22”

Really a big fat fail.

The layouts couldn’t have been more ‘helpful;’ they were lovely courses for her with fair approaches and exits to/from the dogwalk.  She has trained at the facility for two years and has never had an issue with the footing; I’d say it’s historically her best surface actually.

Gamblers to start- did three dogwalks, all leaps, deceleration on the descent.  Gamble was an afterthought which she got with barely enough opening points. Lucky for me she took several jumps that weren’t in the plan?

Grand Prix next- I really liked this course. I had a good plan for her dogwalk so was pretty confident.  Wouldn’t you know, winning time by a second, pretty nice dogwalk actually (probably still a leap but no visible deceleration) but a bar down. An easy bar.  Just…deflating.

Same story in Standard after that, one easy bar down, except in this run her dogwalk was pretty horrible. It was her bad side, but she came off towards me rather than fading away which she normally does on the right. It was ‘in’ but really weird. Hoping that the wooden dogwalk had something to do with her lack of confidence (she slipped off a wood one, and this was VERY loud in the building) and that rubber will prove more successful in the future?

Snookers was a REALLY fun, exhausting course with a crazy hard 4-5-6 sequence.  She had a lovely opening- I led out through the whole course and recalled her through to the tunnel.  I haven’t tried that start since February maybe and she was infinitely better this time- she ran! Woo!  She did the crazy hard pull from 5a to 5b (passing by two inviting jumps) really well…and then knocked 5b.

At this point I was starting to be reminded of a few weekends earlier this year: all these uncharacteristic bars, strange movements earlier in the week, major crabbiness when playing with The Pup… shoulder?  So I checked her out and sure enough it was unyieldingly tight- a huge difference from stretching out earlier.  Took her for a massage and found a knot was hiding in there.  It made sense; the bars were coming down on that leg. 

Since she had a massage and a huge break between Snookers and Jumpers at the end of the day, I decided to run her.  I waffled for awhile but she was peppy and eager and her gait looked balanced.  Really bad call. She looked unnatural out there, sort of tossing herself over in a huge effort, not extending out at all. She ticked about 6 or 7 jumps and while none came down just…ugh. I felt awful for running her.  Considering how much she has been enjoying Jumpers again lately it was a pretty big sign as to how she was feeling. 
It was a terrible run to end on. It didn't get much better after, with me needing to ice her and her still subtly favoring her arm a day after. At this point I have really very little positive thinking left for next weekend.  I’ve been telling myself ‘no expectations’ for the Regional all summer aside from doing our very best and having fun. So while we haven’t been out there training for the big win, we’ve at least been working towards our own personal ‘A game.’   If her shoulder issue has decided to stage a comeback now, I don’t think we can even do that. I'll be lucky to run her in Team I think. So yeah. I’m depressed. I don’t want to break my dog. I don’t want to break my dog right before a show I’ve been looking forward to all year, when we’ve been so careful to NOT break her and condition her to be strong and UNbreakable.  

But I really, really just don’t want to break my dog. It makes her sad because then she has to rest and doesn’t get to play with the balls. And that makes me sad.
Speaking of balls though, a bit of good news... sort of? The ball that was lost over the fence the night The Pup killed the blinds was finally returned. Um… again, sort of. He just isn’t the same anymore…

He used to be a bright orange spiky ball.  He was The Dog’s favorite toy that week.  When he disappeared over the fence, it was a sad moment. The next day I had intended to ask for it back.  However, when I peeked through, he was…gone.  I figured they had tossed him back into the wrong yard. The Boyfriend went to the store and bought a whole flock of replacement spiky balls. While The Dog enjoyed Pink and Green Spikey Balls, she ignored Orange Replacement Ball.  At least the girl has some loyalty.

Replacement Ball... just not the same.
But anyways, the other day, we went out in the yard and there he was, waiting. The Pup found him first and rejoiced. Then The Dog.  But when I went to see what they were playing with, I couldn’t help but recoil a bit.  Old Orange Spiky Ball was not so much orange anymore. He was totally see through.  It was…creepy. 

And he doesn’t act the same anymore. He just sort of sits around, not wanting to join in on Toy Basket Molestation Time with the other Spiky Balls.
Toy Basket Molestation Time.
 Staring. Creepy.

Ah! Oh it's you... you scared me!
Naturally I assume ABDUCTION.  The Boyfriend thinks he went into the neighbor’s pool and got bleached. But the dogs and I know the difference. Alien abduction. Obviously.  He’s gone clear from the trauma. Or the experiments. We aren’t sure. He’s not talking.
Staring at the pool? Or into space? 
Oh, and I got cute new running shoes (really, they ARE cute, this picture doesn't do them cute justice).  So in the event that my dog isn’t broken beyond running, we can run really fast.  They are as minimal as I’ll ever get. And they are PINK! 

Spending money is excellent therapy.  I'm still a Debbie Downer, but at least I'm a Debbie Downer in cute new shoes. That's the first step to starting down the path to recovery.