Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Surviving the Wasteland

AKC show over the Memorial weekend. I worked really REALLY hard at not thinking about the fact that we are in a QQ wasteland (and remain there still, hint hint). I worked really REALLY hard at dismissing the NQing runs and recovering positively.  Since I got a lot of practice in over three days I can say it is all getting easier.

In fact, I held on to a pretty nice mental state all weekend.  Despite the fact that tempers ran hotter in correlation with the temperature, I did not let crabby people ruin my fun.  (Seriously though- SIDE NOTE- what the heck? Dog show equals dogs which equals some amount of barking. Stop giving my Pup the evil eye! She didn’t even display her full lung capacity. You got off EASY! And please don’t further suggest I move her outside when it’s either a tornado watch or 90 plus degrees.  I’d have had a quiet corner for her if there weren’t so many saved spots for people who didn’t even come until Monday. True fact! Side note done.)  I turned it around and just decided to make it all about me and my little Dog.

Let it be known that while we are in a QQ wasteland, I’m ridiculously happy with how she is running.  I’d be an idiot to be any less than pleased at this point.  Her jumping was very good. Back at 20” she is making nice choices about her take off points and I’m making better choices about motion and location.  I decidedly spent zero time worrying about ‘supporting jumps’ and instead focused on just handling regularly.  Clearly, something is working. No bars!

Other fun results- I tried a new (to me) concept for walking courses. Usually, I walk lines and try to handle in the way that gets the most efficient A to B line.  And then I find the challenging points and figure out the multitude of survival plans so my backups have backups. These methods have been leaving me horribly disengaged from the average AKC course for a lot of reasons.  And also, left me working WAY too hard.  Basically I have been trying to get places to collect when I don’t really need it, and in doing so was not always  ‘there’ to cue the true collections points.  So my new challenge to myself was to walk and then find the true collection points. Imagine my surprise when I found one or two ONLY per course. WOW.  So I worked on being at those points and relied on my motion and location for the rest. And wouldn’t you know- brilliant! And because we had an excellent balance going on, she was super tight- even at the times when I felt like I was letting her shoot clear across the ring. She went, but no further than necessary. And no hesitation!  Ahhhhh…synchronicity! It was awesome, totally enabling me to get downstream. I only felt unintentionally behind once all weekend.

AND (the best bit comes now). After struggling on start lines for what feels like years (oh, wait, it HAS been years), we may have found something that works to get Squishy Start line Dog up to full speed before hitting the timers.  She was boiling hot and looking dead on Sunday before our last run, and since it was FAST I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try something to wake her up a little. We went on course; I put her in a stay, moved ten feet behind her (she said WHAT?? Ok I am awake now!) then took off without her, eventually releasing when I was well into the course. She approved. Highly.  I employed this maneuver Monday and she was so intrigued she forgot to squish in her desire to race. So grateful to our friend who has been using this start line for giving me the idea!  

I put many of our runs in here to mostly show the difference between the old and new start lines.  Typically, starting with JWW bums her out to no end. Especially on Day Three. ESPECIALLY when there are no tunnels in JWW on Day Three. But the third day, no tunnel JWW course was her absolute best run of the weekend and her time really reflected it.  In general, in fact, she was much a Dog on Fire for her runs. And really, the NQs were so WEIRD that I’m not worried. Next time.  I feel the edge of the wasteland nearing. 
Pupdate- nothing to report. Pup sad. AKC hates Frankenpup and the people were readying their torches and pitchforks.  Pup, much like the original Franken Monster, only wanted to get out a little bit but NOT to eat anyone.  She was just a smidge unhappy being crated SO CLOSE to a tunnel, but never being able to take it.  Actually, I’m not sure WHY but she definitely was pretty high anxiety. I can guess that she was sad about not playing, or wanted the tunnel, or was bugged by all the traffic in front of her crate.  But who knows. All I know is that I left her home yesterday, but now she is sick and I really think she is sick from anxiety- too much stress.  From the being there, or being left though?  Not sure what to do with her now.  Snuggles sound like a good idea. 

More media seems required, I've been QUITE lazy with that recently. 

Dog park the other day (after I finished my 5k- without stopping! I am totally awesomeness. The dogs were unimpressed since they ran a marathon from lake to lake at the park that day. Pfff.). The Pup swims next to The Dog like a baby dolphin. Cutest. Swimmer. EVER. 

The Dog's butt AFTER the dog park. POOF.
Yes Dog, that fur DOES make your butt look big. 

Koi fish trying to eat my pal at the tattoo parlor! Ok, so they SAID they are friendly and want pats, but do they have to swarm like that??
And my new little tattoo. 

Yes, it's in Kryptonian. 

Yes, that is the language of Superman's home planet.

Yes. I am a nerd. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Building an Agility House

No, I’m not making a super cool facility that I can sleep in AND play agility in.


This is about what I’m always trying to impart on students. FOUNDATIONS.  You need them. You can build your agility house any which way you like.  But you have to have a foundation set.

A good foundation will keep your agility house from crumbling during the slightest bit of inclement happenstance. 

Like for example when the teeter you are using pulls off the hinges and starts rolling about wildly on the pivot point eventually bouncing your little dog right off before the whole thing collapses. 

Inclement. Happenstance. 

Roughly translated: bad coincidence.

Now we have two possibilities here:

One:  The little dog is traumatized and never does a teeter again. What crazy dog would ever go near some wildly unpredictable, easily collapsing wood scrap heap again- let alone get on it???  Not this little dog.


Two:  The little dog tries to figure out how to put her butt on the wildly unpredictable, easily collapsing wood scrap heap and gets EXTREMELY put out when it won’t stop falling over so that she may do so. 

Luckily, the little dog was The Pup, and she was all over option two. The Pup’s agility house started with a foundation.   Before she ever saw a teeter, she learned four on position on a wobble board. She learned to skateboard. She learned to walk a ball with her feet, balance on a peanut and a bosu and on every item in my kitchen cooking set, slam every door and drawer in my house, walk a board, run a board and, oh yeah, she learned how to learn, to problem solve, and to “fail” without getting discouraged.  Her agility house was built on a foundation of confidence, awareness and conditioning.  So when the teeter fell apart underneath her, yep, she got sassy and started trying to figure out what the new game was rather than run away and hide.  And when we encountered a non broken teeter two days later she threw out some of her finest teeter performances to date.

So, dear students, THIS IS WHY WE TRY TO GET YOU TO DO THOSE “SILLY TRICKS!” THIS IS WHY I DON’T WANT YOU TO HAUL YOUR DOG OVER A FULL SIZE TEETER WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING!!  And this is why I’m not surprised that your dog has chronic teeter problems when you tell me your method of training the teeter involved hauling the dog over, tipping it for them or holding the drop and you give me a blank look when I ask what you did before training the teeter.  Your agility house is a shack in the quicksand- what did you expect?

Sigh. Ok, I’m done with shouty caps now.  But I am really happy that my little Pup was duly prepared to meet the challenge of scary teeter and was SO not traumatized.  Or squished.

At any rate I feel like it’s been 1000 years since I’ve updated on her at all.  So for the record, she is still alive. And horribly naughty. Same old, same old. Her new thing is trying to destroy the cable box.  At least she is giving my plants a break.   Also she hogs the bed.

On the training front, we hit a slight road block moving outside. Day one she was utterly unfocused (“Nom nom grass! Bugs! Dandelions!”) and it took five time out trips to the crate before she would do the DOG WALK.  Days two and three were better, with only a few swipes at the dandelions and this time managing to sequence. Day four involved very little grass eating though had the added challenge of being in PUBLIC in CLASS with FAST DOGS.   I’m totally proud that her head did not spin around a la the Exorcist… though it was close.  She was SO over stimulated. But we ran some sequences and she left the other dogs alone and even held a down stay while I walked once (reallyreallyquickly). It was exhausting. Steam poured from our ears, so over taxed were our puny brains.  She ran fast, though occasionally entirely in the wrong direction. 

And that’s ok.  I’m so focused on keeping HER focus that I’m handling like crap so when she runs around things I can’t exactly stop to correct. CONSTANT MOVEMENT.   So when she does what is in front of her- GREAT! I bet I put it there with my bad position cuz I was looking at the pretty doggy. Do it fast and we have a deal, baby.  

It’s just so clear that she has a million miles to go before she reaches any kind of maturity.  So since she is in her wild and reckless teen years, we can party it up.  We might try trialing after the summer again, but I won’t bother until she exits the party phase.  I enjoy her antics much more this way- and why shouldn’t I? She’s dang funny and cute, especially when she flashes her staffy face (the true sign that the party is ON).
Besides, I’m moving into the enjoyable ‘mature’ dog phase with The Dog.  Now that we are on the same team it’s so much fun to play together.  Her antics are kind of running out and we think the same things are fun (er, she may like tunnels a wee bit more than I do…); she has very little urge to go backpacking in China or rebel to chase doggies.  So she deserves my focus now.

With that, I really did have to rethink what that focus would be. After our FEO experience I had many complicated thoughts that were somehow barfed out here last week.  Somewhere in that jumble was my two options- work REALLY hard at 26” and have nice, clean, middle of the pack runs at next year’s tryouts, because that’s really what I could hope for given her size, temperament and structure OR take what I’ve figured out trying to run her at 26” and apply it to 20”.  I get her timing needs, I get why she’s been jumping less cleanly, and when I apply what I get  to runs at 22” or 20” she isn’t just nice, she’s kind of amazing.  And now I’m working on getting me up to caliber too- no more ‘safe’ runs with trying to hold back. What’s the point??  So there you go, why settle for nice when you could do amazing?  

I don’t know. I suppose the main point is that I love my dogs and I’ve really learned a lot recently, mostly about appreciating what I have.

Even if one of what I have likes to eat the cable box.

At least she has a nice teeter.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Awaken to Opportunity

The theme of life lately.

The Dog and I, we had a fabulous fun time running FEO together. Make no mistake. It’s been awhile since there were moments of just us two and being able to have that made it even more special.

It was exciting, educating and ever so humbling. Some of those teams- wow! No guts no glory- no regrets. You could see it in their faces and feel it in the emotion afterwards. I had a unique opportunity to be at the heart of it, where everything was so real and raw, the good and the bad all flowing at once. And me wondering if I could do that, could I be so brave? Could I ever put myself out there in that way? No guts no glory- no regrets. Something to think about.

By definition, my being there and running didn’t mean anything to anyone but me. A nice safe little place to work from. But I still wanted to try hard and do our best. To see what our best was. Now I’m not sure I did, not sure my motivation was there for it. Not in the way it was for some people. I thought before that I wanted to do well. But I did it on a whim. For a bunch of floating reasons- nothing concrete, not an ‘aim’ in mind. But if it was ‘for real’ for me, I might have done things like practice. Like find a way to work courses when I knew it was what I needed. Be in shape. Or you know, figure out for myself what the motivation was.

Basically I feel like I need to get some things figured out. What I want, where I want to go and then how will I get there. I do want to have something to put on the line and then put it there. I want no holds barred, no regrets kind of moments, not safe little places to work from where I have excuses and nothing to answer to but lots of things to hide behind.

It was just for fun, but I don’t want it to be that way. I don’t mean, take the fun away please. But why can’t we have fun and meaning? Fun with a purpose? I want to learn to have fun in these moments where what I want is there for the taking and I can enjoy the attempt to snatch it, not one or the other moments.

Anyways. Like I said, humbling. Educating.

But despite this, regardless of how I feel about myself and whether I am going to get on the bus or off… I am just so proud of my little dog. My unpolished gem. She is made of stronger things after all. And if she can do THAT well, maybe I can learn to be brave too.

"I knew that in the silence that followed, that anything could happen here. It might be too late again. I might have missed my chance. But I would at least know I tried, that I took my heart and extended my hand, whatever the outcome."