Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Time Flies

August 2009

March 2010

April 2011

March 2009


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Two Words

enough: (adjective) occurring in such quantity, quality or scope as to fully meet demands, needs or expectations / sufficient to meet a need or to satisfy a desire / adequate

unless: (conjunction) except on the condition that / except if

Monday, July 18, 2011


During our private lesson today, I decided to stumble-bum our way through this week's standard course.  LP helped us figure out how to handle it.  For instance, we decided to try a couple of different methods for the opening, and let Riff show us which one he liked best.  

You needed to get your pup over the #1 jump and through a DW/tunnel (#2) discrimination, then run the red line (in the drawing below) to get into position for a front cross from #3 to #4.  You probably wouldn't need to run if your dog didn't need any help getting into the tunnel.  And of course you wouldn't need to zig-zag either. 

Riff needed a little help, so I ended out running (ie. walking briskly), to the front cross position.  After the FC, I turned again, as quickly as possible, to keep Riff in a tight turn off of #4 and set him up for a good entry into the #5 weave poles (which were not as close as they look in the drawing!).  At first Riff landed wide and went in the second gate, but we soon got it worked out.       

However, I've never been comfortable with a turn followed by a turn...or - um - any kind of 360 that involves quickly moving my feet into new positions.  I often get disoriented!    

So I tried facing Riff - Mecklenburg style - to bring him laterally over #3 and into #4, then turning tightly into #5.  180.  The drawing below is pretty crummy, but - since my handlers have feet (yay, feet!) - you get the idea. 

Riff got it.   We've been practicing 'Mecklenburg' lead-outs, so he got it right off the bat, even though it wasn't a lead-out.  Yipee!  And we got a nice tight turn, too.

These are two very basic maneuvers, and in the world of competitive dog agility they are No Big Deal.  But - sometimes - being able to do even this much is sweet. 

While working our way through the rest of the course,  I learned when to send little prayers to the dog gods, thanking them for solid 2o2o contacts.   That we have some work to do to build a little more speed back into the DW - our first dogwalks since April.  I learned we could use some polish on our rear crosses. 

I realized I can now get a good long lead-out from the table.  [Why couldn't I trust him before?  What's different?]   He seems to be pretty great with layering, too.  If I don't notice the obstacles that are between us, he doesn't.   If I do, he does.  He seems to be a pretty neat distance dog.  [Lucky me!] 

The biggest KEY...the most glorious eye-opening magical KEY that I took away from today's lesson was given to me by LP, right after we celebrated our final "run" [aka. brisk walk/romp]. 

Thank you, Lauri!

She said because I'm so far behind him on the course that I'm more intently focusing on what I want him to do, because I can't get up there and show it to him.  And I can feel it, too.  It feels like I'm willing him to go in the proper direction, and to keep going.  And he knows it...he can feel it!  He knows which way I'm looking from 30 feet away.  And because I'm concentrating, and spending all of my energy on keeping my balance and walking as fast as I can toward the most efficient positions I can reach, I'm not confusing him with extra movements.  PLUS he wants to do it right.  He is so sweet.  He is amazing

It could have something to do with trust, too.  I'm trusting my dog.  My dog is trusting me.   It could have something to do with spending a few months mostly playing with him, and not worrying about competition.   It could be that I have a simply amazing dog. 

But she's right about the concentration.  Concentration is the only thing I have left to communicate with, over the kinds of distances we're experiencing.  And it feels good.

We have a long way to go.  We haven't worked agility around any other dogs since April.  We haven't really tackled any fast jumpers courses.  We haven't been to any trials.  I may someday want/need a really good "Left" and "Right" (if only I could tell the difference)...  Yep.  We have a lot to figure out. 

But it all feels possible. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Back At It

Okay!  So, we're back at it, thanks to epidural spine injection #2, July 8, 2011.  Injection #1 lasted over a month.  #2 will hopefully last.....forever!!  As before, I will obey all physical therapy rules, and do all of the exercises as often as possible.  Yeah!  Will use my recumbant exercise bike faithfully.  Will continue to work on my new hybrid handling system, aka. "Lumbar-Friendly Dog Agility for Ladies of a Certain Age."   Hopefully will not confuse my young doglet, Riff.  

Riff was happy to play at the field today.  We got some nice distance work done.  I'm still all jazzed, because I could walk with a pretty long stride!  Still can't jog AT ALL, but Riff seems to be getting used to me falling behind, and cutting across the course to get into a new position.   Which, in some circles, is known as layering.  Layering is regarded by many as a mortal sin.  Has Riff even noticed the layering?  Is it still layering when your dog seems so far away?  I need to give the whole concept some serious study....

Riff is also getting use to giving me the toy after I've tossed it for him, instead of playing tug.  (Rule # 1 - no tugging.)  'No tugging' is pretty weird for me, too, after spending two years encouraging a good STRONG tug.  I liked playing tug.  He's a very powerful boy, though, so no more tugging.  We play "touch" games now.  (Whenever I remember not to grab the toy, as if I were going to play tug.  He trained me well.) 

So! I'm working on training him to stand on his hind legs and drop the toy in my hands after our goofy little touch game is over.   (Rule # 2 - no leaning over.)  I want him to put his front paws on me softly, even when he's revved up and excited.  The only draw-back is my shirts are getting pretty darn dirty, pretty darn fast.  I take solace in the fact that most agility people don't seem to care too much about appearance.  Paw prints on boobies isn't too bad, is it?  Heh heh.  This is not a fashion-oriented sport!   Except maybe for shoes.   People really care about shoes.  And I've seen some mighty cute socks, too.  With paw prints on them. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Riverfront Rejuvenation

We needed some spirit-food today, so we headed out to Riverfront Park.
It was cool in the redwood grove.

We discovered a nice path to a good fishing spot.

Keeper showed off her new USAgility - Go Team! harness.

Go, Riff!
We found a side-path that leads to the river.

The Russian River was not "rushin'" today, but it was beautiful.

Nice view of the lake.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

This is My Brain on Diagrams

Riff and I had a lovely private lesson with LP today.  Gorgeous day.  We wanted to work on angled weave entries, and then learn a couple of distance exercises.  Great lesson. 

Finally perfected the art of picking up a dog toy by using a golfer's stance.  So awkward at first!  Golfers lean on their golf clubs to do this.  Should I put my hand on top of Riff's head for leverage?  Teach him to only drop his toy next to a jump stanchion?  ;-)  I ended out bending my knee a bit further and touching my out-stretched toe to the ground, for balance.   Is that good enough to save the old back?  Maybe I need to carry around a big black frame, like this guy does. 

Still working on how best to throw a toy.  My PT suggested a plastic-ball-thrower-thingy, but I don't use balls while training, since we want that toy to land in a specific spot.  He also suggested I throw over-hand.  Really bad at that, so far.   

You would not believe how well Keeper has trained me to lead with my shoulders.  Turning my shoulders causes a twist that my back cannot handle, so now I've got to lead with my FEET.  Wow, is it ever hard to switch!  For one thing, my feet often act like they belong to someone else.

So today I practiced a new-to-me handling maneuver, learned while working my dog's path from a distance.  Crab-walking!  You keep your shoulders in line with your hips while you move your feet sideways, sort of like this:
And I practiced doing a front cross, leading with my FEET.  (For some reason, I've always just floated through front crosses without thinking much about my feet.  What exactly is it that they do??)  

The Hokey Pokey came into my head.  And stayed there.  "You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out...."  But I persisted.  If the dogs can do goofy tricks even when they're distracted, then so can I!   


Beginning to realize that I'll have to figure out which way I'm going to face, and how I'm going to get from one position to the next, on each course we attempt to run.  Maybe I'll dig up a few courses and start mapping them out, for homework.  I took a peek at my trusty Mecklenberg text, for some help.  

I don't think anyone who publishes agility-course diagrams draws feet on their handlers.  Which makes me imagine the average handler's feet getting dragged along behind her shoulders, scrambling to keep up.  Ah, well.  I'll have to diagram a short sequence featuring a handler-with-big-feet, some day.  First I need to figure out the exact right-foot, left-foot sequence of The Front Cross Waltz.  (To be fair, Laura M-Derrett showed it to us during a workshop, and other folks have showed it to me, and we've all practiced it quite a few times....but....somehow I've forgotten...and I can't find my notes....and...what's wrong with me?!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Day with Neighbors and Friends

We spent the morning of July 4th playing with the dogs.

In the afternoon, our neighbors-on-the-flat held their annual July 4th parade, open to all kids with decorated wheels.  Approximately one-bazillion children showed up.  

These were my two favorites.  I also liked the old guy dressed as Uncle Sam, riding a Harley.  He sure was having fun!  (Sadly, no photo...)

We spent the evening at the annual Turner BBQ.  It was wonderful to visit with everyone.   

Every year BT does a "Sparkler Dance," but due to the strict new anti-fireworks laws in Sonoma County, her dance has evolved into something else entirely.  This year she acted out The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, complete with church tower, a boat on a river, a bridge, and (of course) a stick horse.  It was brilliant.  We all wished Sarah Palin could've seen it. 

After the performance...flaming cherries jubilee.  (Which were fireworks, of a sort!)

We made it home before dark, so the dogs and I could kick back in the bedroom with a good book.  Keeper gets really nervous on July 4th.  Riff stays relaxed....unless they launch a rocket to the moon.  Some neighbors set up chairs in our driveway, and kept Jeff company.  It's a terrific way to watch the fireworks at the fairgrounds. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Walking with ChartyPants and BossyPants

iPhone pics

On a romp down the trail.

Riff and Charter make sure they're still friends.
Big brother Charter, Auntie Spree, and Riff.  Sitting pretty!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Riff and I need distance training!  Hopefully we'll come up with a good plan during this coming week.

Keeper pointed this out to me during our practice session yesterday.  Keeps is not the fastest dog on the block, but makes up for it by being efficient.  I would describe her style as Quick and Tight.  (Except she's not very fast in the weaves, where she's always held her head high and kept her front feet together, no matter what kind of training we tried.  I think that weave style is due to her being straight in the shoulder, so I let it go.) 

Keeps is basically retired now, due to having a physical structure that can't hold up to the rigors of tall-dog masters-level agility.  (You might point out that I could learn something from that, too...but, whatever.)   I took her to the field precisely to see what we could do on a 20-obstacle jumper's course.   I kept the jumps at 12" and we stayed away from the contact obstacles.  She was SO happy to be there!   It's been many months since we've played, but for these dogs - these wonderful dogs - getting back to the field is like getting back on a bicycle.  They don't forget! 

With a lead-out to the fourth obstacle, and did my best to stay well-ahead of her on course.  We were golden, until we hit that long fast line just after the weaves...a triple, double, single, right-side-of-the-tunnel run all the way across the field.  Even though I could get well-away from her while she finished the weaves, and position myself between the triple and double, she had a strong tendency to pull up after the single jump and turn back to find out where to go next.  I couldn't keep up to save my life....certainly not enough to get her into the correct end of the tunnel.  Tried running (, no, no...not yet), then did a bit of "go-on!" training.  In the end, it worked best when I walked briskly (which currently means a bit faster than a shuffle) across the course, cutting all corners, straight to a better position as she approached the tunnel.  'Course by then she knew the course pretty, duh.  

Can you teach on old dog new tricks?  Perhaps we need a verbal "left" and "right" after all.  I've always resisted this idea, because - bummer - I barely know the difference. 

Keeper was a super good Gambler, in her day, because her lateral and distance work is quite nice.   Now I need to remember how she learned it, and come up with a few exercises that will help Riff figure it out...

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