Monday, October 31, 2011


There are gauzy ghosts with eyes, floating around the trees in our neighborhood.  Riff is like:  "Wow! What is that?  Is it scary??"   We've had many training opportunities during our walks this week.....and we've only been out during the day....  

....because those ghosts are the simple decorations.  Is Halloween the new Christmas?  I've always enjoyed carving a pumpkin or two...but lots of folks around here string orange lights around their rooftops, and set up giant figures, fake doorways and elaborate scenery.   Weird white stuff covers many large trees and bushes, trailing giant spiders.  One giant spider crouches over a life-size skeleton that hangs upside down, wrapped in cheese cloth ala Alien.  Mouth screaming.  Giant zombie pumpkins look like they're munching on little screaming pumpkins.  Bloody eyeballs are hanging from mailboxes.  Witches are coming out of chimneys.  Vampires and caskets and pirates are everywhere.  Skeletons are climbing out of flower beds.  A few blocks from here, you can even find an amazing re-creation of an alley from Jack the Ripper's London.  Holy cow!  If I was a kid today, I'd have to screw up my courage just to leave the house....and then, to decide which walkways are safe enough for Trick or Treat?  Ooooooooooooo. 
Nice kitty.   Kitty kitty kitty.....    Ni-i-i-ice kitty....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Handler Motivation

Recently, I've heard a few handlers talk about how discouraged they feel.  These are handlers who've been playing the game for more than five (or ten, or fifteen) years.  Most of them have competed with several dogs and they've all made good progress.  Their dogs earned multiple titles, from multiple venues.  Some of these handlers have won so many ribbons, they long ago stopped picking them up.  And yet....they're feeling de-motivated. 

        "Why am I doing this?!"

I get like that, too.

For one thing, it seems difficult to be both highly competitive and totally satisfied.  You often want more.  Thanks to "Livestream Video / FaceBook / YouTube," you can watch more super runs than ever.   You want to be able to run your dog like THAT. 

Your agility instructor has watched many of the same videos, or he's heard his students talk about them, or his students have flat-out asked him to work the more challenging aspects of agility.  He builds trickier courses.  International style!  He asks more of his students.  He wants to turn out some winning dogs, too.   

But what if you're not making visible progress toward your goals?    *Sigh*    Back to work you go...

Practice, practice, practice, train, train, train, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

.....and if you're still not getting there????

Practice, practice, practice, train, train, train, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

.....and if many months (or years) have passed, and you still don't feel much closer.... spite of workshops, seminars, instruction videos, etc etc....

What then????

Little things, like 'changing economy,' 'aging,' 'bad knees' and/or 'inherent clumsiness' (in both you and your dogs) may start catching up to you, chipping away at your resolve.  You begin to think....'well crap, maybe I can't do this'....or.....'maybe I'll look for something else'....  

So you take a few weeks off, to just run and play or go on hikes with your dogs.  And, after your big break??   ..................your motivation is still at an all-time low.

So you look at your dogs.  After all, they are the end-all, be-all of your agility life.  Are they having fun?  

They are!  So you find motivation through your dogs.  There's nothing quite as wonderful as working through an agility course in sync with a happy dog. 

You can ride the dog-happiness-motivation train for quite a don't even have to compete or attend class to feel it.  You can rent some field time, and just enjoy being with your dog.   

But...if you're like may miss the feedback from your agility friends.  

It feels great when people clap for your run.  Recognition helps! 

When we get recognition, we realize that all the workshops, the spiral notebooks filled with training plans, the early classes, the private lessons....the practice, practice, practice, train, train, train, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.... worth it. 

How do you know?  Your agility friends told you so.

So here's how I see it: 

Agility is getting more competitive.   The standards are higher and the dogs are faster, and the training is more challenging. 

We can help one another stay motivated, by making an effort to watch each other's runs during practice and trials.  Clap!  Holler! Say YAY!  Offer positive feedback!  (Even if all you can think of is "What a beautiful dog!")

It works for our dogs....can it work for us?

[And, if all else fails....bake a few cookies?]

A Pumpkin Party Tradition

Joanie's annual pumpkin party goes back - over 15 years, for me. 
I should ask Joanie how long she's been hosting it.
I'll bet she says 'close to 30 years...'
These photos make it seem like only gray-haired folks carve pumpkins,
but there were some 20-to-40-year-olds, a handful of teens,
and couple of little kids.  Everyone made a pumpkin.
Everyone enjoyed homemade chili and corn bread, and yummy desserts. 
The pumpkins were lined up on Joanie's front porch, where the carvers
(and the neighborhood) admired them.
Can you pick out the one I carved?
The creme-de-la-creme, featuring intricate scenes, were
still being worked on when this photo was taken.
My personal favorite  : )

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Things I Love


Toys.  Tugging.  Fetching.  Carrying. 


My human Mom and Dad. (i hardly remember my doggy ma...not sure i ever met my pa)
My human Auntie Lauri.
My doggy BFF all-time favorite girl Wit.
My human Auntie Channan.
My doggy Older Bro Charter and his human mom KK. 
My doggy Bro Rampage.  (we get to RUN together)
My doggy adopted Older Sister Keeper.  (except when she's mean to me)
My agility classmate Izzy.  (maybe...we've never been let off leash to play together)

Running.  FAST.

Toys. Hide and Seek with toys.  Hide and Seek with people.  Hide and Seek with people who have toys.


Toys. Toys. Toys.


Running.  Faster.

Tracking squirrels in the backyard.  Running. 

The nice people at Occupy Santa Rosa.
(but not those violently drunk thieving transients)

Treats and Toys and Running and Jumping.

Learning a new trick. Yummy treats.

Watching birds fly overhead.  (but i advise against trying to take a walnut away from a crow)

Spring Lake.  Annadel Park.  Riverfront Park. 

Anyone who draws my picture.
(even if the picture is funky-looking, like those my mom draws.  must admit i've actually looked funky before - but only for a lifetime total of less than 3 seconds....)

Anyone who draws any picture.  Drawing is cool.  Painting is cool.  So is writing on the computer.  Pens and notebooks are cool.  Singing in the shower is great.  Dancing is exciting.  (stumbling and falling on me....not so much.) 


Tug toys.


Getting up early.

Peeing on plants in the backyard.

Going places.  Sniffing and peeing at new places. 

People singing. Especially when they clap, too.

The sound of vegetables being chopped up.

People sneezing.  The louder the better. 

The cupboard where Mom keeps our food.

Baseball on TV.  Any pitch.  Especially homeruns.   Especially Giants' homeruns.


Running faster.



The back door opening. 

Jumping on people I love.  (i can sit pretty, but it's not as much fun)




And my super-comfy bed.  (anytime after 8:pm)


Thinking about entering Keeper in USDAA Veteran's classes.  She'd jump 16" instead of 22".    Would she hold up well on the lower 5' Aframe?     I'll bring her to a couple of practice sessions and check it out....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Although Earth is ART, in and of itself. 

Earth has given us beauty, symmetry, surprise and wonder since Day One.  Inspired by all forms of life on earth, we celebrate it in our own ART.  All kinds of art!  From the spoken word to the splashiest dance.  From a knitted cap to an abstract oil painting.  From the well-trained dressage horse to the happy agility dog to the tiny flower seed. 


Last week, with a couple of friends, we explored the local ArtTrails event.  About 100 artists, all located around the Santa Rosa area, opened up their studios for a weekend.  It was great to check out what some of these folks have been up to. 

I bought this small print - an artist's rendition of sandhill cranes (not a very good photo, but you get the idea)...

 ...and asked the artist if she'd be interested in working on a portrait of one of my border collies.
She is!  Hopefully, one of these days, I'll be able to share that adventure with you.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Serp Conundrum

So.  Do I continue to serp Derrett-style, with my off-arm coming up to cue the jump (turning shoulders back toward the serp-jump as I'm moving past it) or do I incorporate a Mecklenburg style, keeping my body straighter, and using the near-arm to encourage Riff to take that middle obstacle?    The old back says:  "Do NOT twist me!" so it's become a conundrum in my brain.  


Do we practice both methods?   We've used the Derrett method almost exclusively.  Riff is pretty darn good when he's on my left.  It's that twist to the right that really bites me...and I've noticed he's not as good serping when he's on my right.  He has a tendency to run by the jump entirely.  Does he know I'm hurting?   Or is my cue too late?  We've tried the Mecklenburg method a couple of times.  At first he was great - then he seemed to get confused, so I stopped...  

....  ....


.... ....

Having been told by my doctor that it could be another six months (damn!) before I'm ready to RUN (and twist)...I'm tempted to bring some Mecklenburg back into the mix.  Can I do it without confusing my young dog?  I don't want to teach him anything I won't be using for years to come.  Will I use it?  (We could really need it, someday.  And I'm a big believer in the "whatever works" long as it doesn't confuse my dog...)

Argh!  What should I do???  Train both methods?   Can I pull it off without messing up something else?
Run all courses without serping for the next six months?  AND without running??
Give up agility for a while, and take Riff to sheep?   [ooooof....that makes my addicted-to-agility genes wince...]   

I feel like an Occupy protestor, trying to decide what to put on my sign. 

"Decide already!  Then....move...smooth and steady as you can!  Let's go!"

Smiling Dog

Riff is one of the the smiling-est dogs I've known.  He's got them all...from the smirk to the sly grin to the big goofy smile.  One of these days I'll try to capture a photo of his huge "Hello, Aunty Channan!" smile.  What a charmer he is....

Riff also has a very definite frown.  Luckily we don't see it too often.  Once in while, if Keeper gets after him for bugging her too much, he'll frown.  Or if he's agonizingly bored because no one will get up to let him out, or play with him.  Maybe I'll grab a photo of his frown some day.  It's tougher to capture, because he thinks cameras are great fun.  I'll have to keep the "spy camera" handy, and try to sneak up on him....   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal!

Riff and I will head back to the rental field tomorrow morning.  We plan to expand on the work we did during "patio practice" yesterday - serps and wraps and threadles.  Riff was terrific on the patio, working tight jumps (with the bar on the ground), and paying close attention to my cues.  It's when we pick up a little speeeeeeed that it gets interesting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 a fine wine?

Our "birthday group" is made up of a few friends who celebrate one another's birthdays by going out to dinner together.  This week some of us got together to see the movie "Ides of March," then enjoy a rather spirited political discussion at a Mexican restaurant.   As often happens, the subject of age - and health - came up.  They noticed I was limping [just a tiny bit!] after the movie and wondered aloud how my back is doing.  "Fine!" I said, "Getting better!"  [Sitting still for long periods of time does bother it - then the leg starts hurting...]   They looked at me with the knowing eyes of women-of-a-certain age, so I added, "Mostly."    Because mostly, I like to think positive.  If you think "I am well!" you will be well.  Right? 

Then I distracted them by pointing out the buffalo painting on the side of a van.  "The painting you see on cars these days!  Is it some kind of photographic process?  It must be..."

Yesterday, on our way home from Riff's weekly group lesson, we were stuck in traffic for an extra 20 minutes or so - resulting in a back-ache that flared from "nagging" to "nasty."   Today, I am taking it easy.  Rest.  Ice.  Recumbent exercise bike.  Ice.  Rest.

Perhaps trying to jog during class added to the aggravation?  Not being able to move out of a goofy long-strided walk is frustrating beyond words, when you're trying to work through a master's-level agility course with a talented young high-drive Border Collie.  We enjoy working "bits," but we love running courses.  Patience is not my strong suit.  So I've been trying to jog lately.  Just a little, jog-like stride.... 

But the back has continued to bother me, pretty much 100% of the time.....week after I dropped a quick email to my back doctor, asking for advice about jogging.  Her surprise reply:  "It can take a year to recover from the kind of injury you had [a YEAR...?!!!] and you should not be jogging at all until your back doesn't hurt any more."  Last time we talked about prognosis, she said six months.  Crikey.  

She also said, if your back still hurts and your leg bothers you, you have several options - 'a new mix of medications, one more epidural (but it would be your third, and last), or surgery.'  Her advice is to talk to a surgeon now...because surgery is 'more successful earlier than later.'   

What I'd like is to just age like a fine wine, with my bottle intact (so to speak) and no need for additives or adjustments.   Now I have a few things to think about. 

Ah, well. 

So I'll leave you with one of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes:
"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."

Ever onward!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Train People

Admiring PASSION - of all stripes and shapes - we decided to check out the Train Show at the fairgrounds.  Train people are not the same as Dog Agility people.  Mostly middle-aged men, they don't seem to get a lot of physical exercise.  But the gleam in the eye is similar, and so is the dedication.

This was the largest train at the show.
Some women (wives?) were showing their paintings, in one small building...but trains seem to be largely a male pastime.  Is this because women are/were not allowed to become train engineers? 
Must admit I've never been on a train, except at Disneyland. 
It's on my bucket list.
A huge hall, full of train models.
There were a few kids, too.  Kids like model trains. 
Perhaps because they're like tiny dolls and action figures?  Or is it specifically a TRAIN thing?
Trains mean travel, travel means adventure, adventure means excitement.
In the middle of the hall sat a huge model, tiny trains (with whistling steam engines!) winding their way
through forests, tunnels, and turn-of-the-century mountains and villages. 
Looked like California's "Gold Country" to me.

This is the man who built that glorious tiny world. 
How many hours?  How much passion about trains does it take, to build something like that?
I wanted to quizz him for a while, but all I said was,
"It's breath-takingly beautiful...thank you so much for sharing it." 
Maybe if I'd played with dollhouses as a kid, I'd already know what it takes. 
Still - it sure looks like ART to me.  Passion and dedication.

 Below are a couple of the many scenes that were included in this one model.

Miners camping.

A burial at the cemetary.
A feed lot.
Downtown, saloon and outhouse.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 USDAA Nationals....Random Notes

Watching the LiveSteam of the 2011 USDAA Nationals (aka. Cynosport World Games), I jotted down a few notes:

Post Turn - Keep Moving!  Do Not Stop! If you stop, your dog may think you're doing a tight front cross and back-jump.

8" this what I'm headed for, as I get older?  A tiny little dog that I can keep up with?  Some sort of wire-haired rat terrier?  Oh, my.

Stand up straight!  Leaning over cann "push" your dog off the line.

Efficient blind crosses are AWESOME!

Remember to take an extra step outward if it sets up a better, faster line through the next two obstacles.


Tight turns win, too!  Although....a faster dog CAN beat a tight dog.  (ie. 22" winner - an AUSSIE!)

Groundspeed ROCKS!

Waving at your friends in the stands as you approach the start-line in the Finals - looks like FUN!

Quite a few of the performance dogs are young.

Get Keeper ready for Veterans?  Can she handle 5' A-frame?  She's great on 16" jumps...

These days, dogs are thinking twice about taking the next obvious obstacle, due to increasing number of approaches from the the dogs need CLEAR CUES.

Quote from 12" winner...."I don't remember any of it.  All I remember thinking is RUN!!"

Find one of those cool-looking halters?

The best handling = WHATEVER WORKS.  Try to make sure your dog is used to a variety of situations.

Keep your eye on your dog!!!  

If you go off-course - keep going!  Don't give up on your dog.  Have FUN, and share the fun with your dog!

Try to find a nice polo shirt with dark stripes down the side and over the shoulders.  They look cool.  Would they make me look thinner?  Heh heh. 

Stand up straight to cue tight turns!

Fort Worth TX May 9-15, 2012....IFCS.

Ashley and Luka - you did it again!!!

Channan and Icon - awesome run!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Smorgasbord Saturday (and Cynosport)

We love empty Saturdays.  We can fill them up with Whatever We Like.
For instance:

We finished the spare room floor....
.....finally got the baseboard and thresholds DONE!
A late breakfast at Mac's, downtown.  One of our favorite places.

And, of course, we had to check out the Occupy Santa Rosa crowd, down at City Hall. 
These are the early folks.
The speakers began at about 2:00.  More people showed up.  YAY!!
We didn't stay at the protest, though.  Riff and I wanted to get some "patio practice" in....

....and we had to get back for the USDAA Nationals, Live Stream broadcast from Kentucky!
We have a few friends competing there. We wish them The BEST. 
And we hope to learn something, watching these splendid handlers and dogs.

Free Hit Counter