Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Nose Knows

Took Keeper to her first Introduction to Nose Work class last night.  We left the house a bit late, and took the wrong road in.  Darn it!  I didn't want to be late, but it was all so new I was sure our instructor would be forgiving.   I tried to just sit back, drive slowly, and enjoy the scenery.  And not chew my nails.     
The Keeps was very quiet as we drove, and drove, and drove, winding our way through foreign country roads, somewhere between Sebastopol and Cotati.  She was quiet as a church mouse....until we were about 1/4 mile from our destination.  Suddenly she perked up.  She started whining her "Oh, boy!  We're almost there!" whine, which surprised the heck out of me.  Why would she whine so excitedly, for a place she'd never seen before, in an area she's never been in before, and didn't know anything about....?
Dogs are amazing.

The Grange is a pretty little building, nestled in the country.  It reminded me of watching my parents square-dance, back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. 

The National Association of Canine Scent Work trains dogs to sniff for "stuff" in four elements - containers, interiors, exteriors and vehicles.  

Everybody starts with boxes, and treats or toys.  Our homework is to acquire at least 8 boxes of this type, and continue to work the exercise we learned.

Boxes, boxes, boxes

Caleb, a classmate
I decided to train Keeper using her toy, instead of treats.  She was very excited to find her toy in the toy box, amongst all the other boxes (and good at it), but not too thrilled with her inability to RUN on the slippery linoleum floor.  Legs akimbo!  Poor sweet Keep.  Caleb's mom suggested that I trim the extra fur off her feet.  I've never trimmed a dog's paw fur before.  I've always been of the mind that dogs grow fur there for a I'll have to mull this one over.

We'll be working our way from using a toy (or dog treats) to using the scents recommended by the NACSW...birch, anise and clove.  And of course the hiding places will get much more difficult. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NPR and Channel 7

The drive down to our main agility field takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on red lights, school buses and construction projects. Sometimes I listen to CDs or iTunes (rather loudly, when I feel like singing - poor Riffle). We most often listen to the radio. When we lose the KRSH signal on Petaluma Hill Road, we switch to NPR. It's great - we learn so much about topics we never considered before. I love the passionate knowledge of many of the speakers....

Yesterday we heard more details regarding Fukushima, in a news report that segued right into a special on Chernobyl.  It reminded me that plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years. And informed me that the Ukraine needs $800,000 to build another "sarcophagus" around the Chernobyl reactor, because the old one (at 25) is developing tiny cracks. Wowsers.

So I went to our agility lesson feeling stunned about the challenges facing our children, and our children's children, for so many generations to come.... ... ... ... ....and promptly went off-course during our first exercise. Flat-footedly forgot where I was going. Riff waited for me. He held back, looked me in the eye, and encouraged me to play. What a good dog!  I tried to sweep the cobwebs out of my head and concentrate on the task at hand. One of the many reasons I love agility, especially with a dog like the Riffster, is that it puts you in the NOW.

After we got home I made spaghetti, and warmed up French bread. (We'll diet...tomorrow.) We caught the last few minutes of the Channel 7 news. What a switch from NPR.  So light! Like some sort of Americanized fluff.  It was all about Britney Spears, the weather, and the Giants. (I know, I know!  The Giants are not fluffy.)  By the time Jeopardy began, I was ready to tackle the questions.


It's true!  People actually do stuff like solve crossword puzzles and watch Jeopardy, to help keep their brains intact.   So I thought I'd give it a try....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dog Names

(Riff at 12 weeks old...)
(NOTE: I'm not getting a new puppy yet. Keeper and Riff are Dogs o' Plenty!)

Hmmm....which is my favorite? Which is yours?? ;-)

Ammo, Banksy, Beamer, Beauty, Bender, Bingo, Binky, Bliss, Breeze, Broonzy, Buddha, Busy, Chaos, Classical, Cool, Dare, Depot, Dream, Drive, Early, Echo, Energy, Envy, Ever, Fern, Flicker, Flirt, Frenetic, Friend, Frisson, Gentle, Giggle, Ginger, Google, Gypsy, Happy, Harkle, Heart, Honey, Hoover, Hopper, Hyphy, Jake, Jazzbo, Jib, Jolly, Josh, Jot, Kaboodle, Kind, Kooza, Lassen, Loop, Love, Lucid, Mabel, Magic, Marvel, Music, Painter, Pi, Pick-up, Player, Quest, Quirk, Radiant, Reckless, Rufus, Sambuca, Scribble, Scruffy, Shaker, Singer, Skipper, Slam, Snippet, Spark, Spooner, Story, Stretch, Sugar, Swift, Swing, Swig, Tempo, Thrill, Thrum, Traveler, True, Turbo, Twizzle, Way, Watch, Whisker, Whiskey, Wick, Wild, Wonder, Zeal, Zeitgeist, Zenith, Zoloft, Zoomer, Zorro

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Practice

We were able to sneek over to LeapDog and practice for 1/2 hour this morning, between cloudbursts.

The sand arena was smooth as silk when we arrived. It made me think of fresh snow. (Thankfully it doesn't snow around here.) I left the jumps at 20" because wet sand can be hard, although this sand/mix is a really good one. We put some tracks down, working on Riff's 180s.

We practiced a few weave sets. It was so pretty I pulled the camera out. I tried a lead-out at the end of the weaves, thinking I would get a good picture, but he just ran by them and jumped on me.
(NOTE TO SELF: Work on lead-outs around the weaves...)

It was a lot easier to send him through. He's good at that! But who wants to see a photo of a dog butt going through the weaves?

And then..."Hey, weren't you supposed to throw that toy after I got all the way through? Where's my toy?!"

Having fun with the camera, I called him over the a-frame once. This time I had his tug-toy with me, and we played....
Riff was happy out there. The air was glorious - clean and crispy.

We did some flatwork, too. Even running in circles seemed thrilling...!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Decisions Must Be Made

According to the weather guy, today is the "12th day of measurable rain" in the San Francisco area. I think it might be about the 500th here in Santa Rosa.

I heard some Santa Cruz areas were being evacuated because of flooding. Good thoughts going out to my agility buddies. (Stay safe, everyone!)

Trying to stay upbeat, in spite of the gloomy weather. In spite of Libya, Liz, Lanford, Lack of Agility Equipment, Loneliness, et al. Played indoor games with the dogs. (And yeah, we got muddy outside, too. How can we not go outside??!) Read two magazines (can't get settled on a book). Cleaned the family room.

[Got completely angst-ridden about whether or not to go to the AKC trial, which was moved to an indoor horse facility, a one-way drive of about 2.5 hours. My original plan was to take Riff to Dixon, and get him used to being there, prior to the big HauteTracs show in April. Scratch that plan. Do we go to Sacramento just for the fun of showing? Hmmmm. If Riff were better trained...if I felt more ready....if I liked driving in the rain.....if...if...if.....]
Worked on the spare room.

The ceiling and three walls - DONE.

All the doors, all the trim, and the window....DONE.
(Thank god, because painting with semi-gloss is painful. No one will notice the boo-boos. Right?)


Just one wall left. The "color."

Next, we'll pick out some flooring, and hire young men with strong knees to put it in.
After that, we decide what to put into the room.
Will it be a library? An exercise room?
PS. It seems impossible to be DECISIVE today!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sand and Trees

We ♥ the LeapDog sand arena. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥!

Riff and I were able to squeeze in another agility class yesterday afternoon, in spite of drizzling showers and the threat of rain. All of our Tuesday classmates were excited to be at the field. We practiced on last week's course, which included many front crosses, and a couple of good fast serps. Riff can get quite a head of steam going, and I have to really hustle my bustle to get into position ahead of him. I felt completely safe running on the sand, though...that helped a lot. It also helped that we'd run it on Thursday. We felt almost like an "excellent" team, for a minute or two...

I'm not sure we're going to make it to the AKC agility trial in Dixon this weekend. By all accounts, it is a Mud Pit. Some years ago I took Keeper to a four-day USDAA trial there that became known as "The Woodstock of HT." I stuck it out (I can get stubborn) but my feet were constantly wet, my canopy and chair puddled up, my knee got twisted, and my dog slipped off the top of the dogwalk and went home slightly lame. It seemed like A Brave Adventure, at the time. In retrospect, it was nuts.

At o-dark:thirty this morning, listening to the wind and the rain, I heard a big tree crack and fall. I wanted to jump up, get dressed, grab a flashlight and go look for it. The "CR-R-RA-A-CK" was impressive, but the "THUMP" was obviously on soft ground. The dogs stayed quiet. So I stayed put...for about two minutes. I got up and looked out all of the windows, but couldn't see anything. I wanted to go outside, but the dogs were still in their beds ("no, ma'am, we absolutely do not want to go out there...") and the husband looked warm and cozy, sleeping so sweetly. So I waited until it became light.

A California bay laurel had fallen, next door. We have quite a few of these trees around, mixed in with the oaks. Some of the bay trees are huge - maybe 60 or 70 feet (?) tall. The tree that fell was worked on by a tree company just a few weeks ago. Watching that fellow with the chain saw hang from the top of that tree took my breath away. The tree itself took bits of an oak tree with it, during its fall, and squished a dog run. ("Boo" the French bulldog was safe inside the house). It also smashed a flock of about 40 plastic pink flamingos. I like to think any squirrels or birds nesting in those trees got away quickly enough.

Our neighbors won't have as much shade on their deck this summer. The deck itself was only nicked, it seems. Lucky.

This beautiful bay tree, bigger than the one that fell, seems impervious to the weather. (Knock on wood...) You can barely see our back fence in this photo.

Here is a better look at the fence.

And this is the seasonal creek that runs behind our house. "Poppy Creek" is quite a noisy little bugger these days. It tumbles down the hillside, runs over rocks and through driveway culverts, forging a deep creekbed, before it gets shunted under the city streets. It resurfaces at a little park in town.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conflict and Combat

"Conflict is inevitable. But combat is optional."

Don't know who said it, but it does have the ring of truth.
Whenever my sister and I disagreed about something, I'd go to great lengths to avoid climbing, as quickly as possible, to the top of a tree. I skeedaddled up there because she nearly always won, if the disagreement got physical. And I hated it when things got confusing, messy, or painful. I would stay really quiet. I would hide for a while, if need be.

Riff is a bit like I was, as a kid. And Keeper sometimes reminds me of my sister.

We see Riff's pearly-whites once in a while, when we're playing...
..but that's the only time. Keeper's big warning snarlies show up fairly often. Several times a week. Several times a day, sometimes. She doesn't seem to like Riff much. Her attitude towards him reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
She was interested in his puppiness for a couple of days when he first showed up, but when it became evident to her that he was staying, she basically turned her back on him. She made it abundantly clear that she didn't want to be bothered, and he has (nearly) always respected her boundaries.
I had imagined owning two dogs that played together all day, and cuddled together when they slept at night - but it hasn't happened.
They do play together, a couple of times each month. It generally ends when Keeper has had enough and turns away, but sometimes she just flat-out attacks him. She turns into a snarling mass of teeth and fur and he becomes yelping-young-dog-trying-to-disappear. I know dogs do these things, working out their hierarchy, but..... No!
Is he challenging her in some undetectable doggy way? Will they figure it all out?
Or is this as seemingly unsolvable as the Sunni / Shiite conflicts? (Crikey!)
Their relationship is great when we all go on a walk, a hike, or when we're playing at the field.
But something happens at odd and unexpected moments. Although I've watched closely, I don't know what sets Keeper off. I don't think Riff knows, either.
--Riff has learned to be cautious around Keeps (but still seems happy to see her)
--Keeper continues to post warning signs (and basically ignore Riff)
Which makes me sad, but there it is. We do the best we can to keep both the fur-kids busy, happy, self-confident, and peaceful.
Thank god no one has resorted to this:

(Which would, of course, be preposterous.)
We go on a lot of walks.

We play every day. We have one-on-one time, and "family" time. We've developed some very fun games, during which everyone gets along famously.

It may be that I missed some important piece of doggy information. I've read a boat-load of books, about dog training and dog behavior, and even about the history of dogs. I've watched dogs interact during agility lessons and trials, at random dog parks, dog shows, and at friends' houses. I still can't figure out why my two dogs don't love each other more. I wondered if I was doing something wrong...but a couple of Keeper's "Riff attacks" occured when I wasn't even there. So. Don't know.
At this point, the best we can do is be even-handed. Be as tolerant as necessary, and always be fair. Give each dog their own space. Work through antagonistic differences. Spend time together. Play together. Try to understand each other. Try to follow the "golden rule"....
(Why can't they do these things in the Middle East? Sadly. Don't. Know.)
In general, we have a lovely, harmonious household. Which makes me happy! It isn't the 'my-dogs-are-best-friends' paradise I thought it would be, but we're good. We're doing well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cafe Cream

You would think they were the ones who were painting all afternoon.


I love Behr Premium Plus Ultra (Eggshell Int.) paint. Three walls in the spare room are now Cafe Cream. (Of course I had to drink coffee while I painted.) I'll work on the Agave wall next, plus three doors and the window trim. Once we get the floor done....voila!

Painting took me back to theatre days, and building sets. So I painted AS FAST AS POSSIBLE - drinking coffee, listening to loud rock and roll, splattering paint all over, and telling myself to slow down...

But I needed to get outside! SUNSHINE today. Yes!!!
Riff and I practiced Accel / Decel, on the flat. (Which called for a few good startline stays. All 100% - what a good boy.) Keeper, Riff and I played 'Hide-the-Rings' and 'Find Daddy' games.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011


Drawn right-handed, with a mouse. I'm left-handed, and I would say "Hey, cool! I can draw with either hand!" except for the fact that I can't draw at all left-handed, with a mouse. (Which is weird, if you think about it. So I try not to.)
Sometimes I start doodling when it rains relentlessly. Or when I'm procrastinating.
Perhaps I need to find a good book. Or get off my lazy ass and finish painting the walls in the spare room.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wearing the Green

We were so darn lucky today!
It was raining when we left the house, but class wasn't canceled, so off we went.....
...and the sand arena was beautiful! The rain held off for an hour-and-a-half.

Everyone in class showed up. Were any of them wearing the green? Hmmm. Didn't notice. Didn't look for green socks or earrings. No one even thought about the tradition of pinching people on St. Patrick's Day.

And I didn't hear a single mention of leprechauns, gold, or beer. But I'm sure the luck of the Irish was with us. My "green" was a shirt...hidden under a jacket. See? I was just a subtle as the rest of them.
Our lesson was great. We concentrated on front crosses (with 180s, serps and a few other obstacles thrown in). I'm such a "rear cross" girl - still clumsy with front crosses - it's really good for me to practice them over and over.
As you know, Riff and I have a lot to work on.
We'll concentrate on 180's for a while. With some serps mixed in. And we'll continue looking for a few good weave-entries, whenever we can.

For the rest of the day, it's all about Wearing the Green.
Even our backyard is into it.

Riff-the-redhead is doing the best he can....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday Rain Break

We got to go to an agility field today.


Riff was very happy to be out. We practiced weave entries and 180's. Our instructor invited me into her house to watch a couple of our Open Standard videos, and get some feedback. She diagnosed a few of our problems. (There are many.)

Watch yr startline...make it REAL....add some TIME between turning yr head back to yr dog and yr release. Give yrself a sentence to recite? Practice practice practice.
Work on laterals, sends and serps.
WORK IT MORE when the obstacle "goes to nowhere."
If yre restarting an obstacle, take more time to regroup. Guide yr dog with your feet, and work on clarity of motion.
Riff thinks a restart means "blindly bolt in front of my handler." Practice!
Celebrate the good stuff.
Use a stronger cue, sooner, on big sweeping 180's.
U might need to RFP in a desperate "rescue it" situation. Think!!
Make sure yr feet are facing the direction u want yr dog to go.
Work the table exit. Let yr feet do more.
Practice more with yr dog having a lot of momentum. Yre losing it on the "momentum" sections.

But she also pointed out (more than once) the areas in which we've improved. She was encouraging! (Insert WARM & FUZZY here.)

So when I went back out to the sand arena for the second half of our practice time, I was filled with hope. Sometimes I'm pretty sure that HOPE is what makes the world go 'round.

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