Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Groundspeed / Tight Turns

My two dogs are examples of each.  Riff has shown some decent groundspeed, and Keeper specializes in tight turns.  I used to think Keeper was both tight and fast, but Riff changed my mind. 

Keeper is good.  She is still moves along at a respectable rate.  She's does not reluctantly trot, for instance.  She does not mosey along, looking at distractions.  (Personally, I would quickly find something else for my dog to do, if he moved that slowly on an agility course.)  She is actually running, and running with  enthusiasm. 

And she used to be fast, I think.  At least, people told me she was fast, when she was younger...and I thought of her as fast.  She looked fine in videos, and she won her fair share of classes (especially Gamblers), considering she was my first agility dog.  Admittedly she wasn't all that great in the weaves....her shoulders convinced her she needed to keep her head up and her front feet together...and nothing I tried ever changed her mind.  That's the way she weaved, and she taught me to just shut up and appreciate it.

Keeper 2009

Keeper 2007
But her questionable shoulder and hip structure taught her a thing or two, during the last couple of years, about the comfort of moving more carefully.  She either slows way down (especially in the weaves and on contact equipment), or she pays the price.

She still works hard at being tight around turns, though.  Last night, due to a funky late front cross on my part, she worked so hard at correcting her path that she lost her front legs and took a nasty little sliding header into the grass.  She looked like a plow, and the peanut gallery gasped.  Ms. Keeps popped right up though, and said, "Jeezus, clean up the cue, Dude!" and we went back through the exercise correctly.  Happily, all she came home with was a grass stain.   But I'd been running her in class for an hour by then, and decided to take the girl home before I made her well-and-truly sore.    When you only do agility once every couple of months - even if the jumps are 10" lower than you used to jump, even if you aren't doing any A-frames - you need to take it easy.

Riff, on the other hand, can be fast.  But he has plenty to learn about turning tight.  He's all about striding BIG, and jumping BIG.  So I take him out for five minutes of "patio practice" a couple of times a day, every few days or so, in order to help him figure out how to wrap around the stanchions of jumps.  I keep the bars on the ground (although he starts out jumping a few inches of air), the jumps fairly close together (we don't have much room), and the sessions uber-short.   

Patio practice makes a difference.  At least, I try to convince myself that it does.  "Your dog will never get trained unless you spend some time training."  Once we're on a field, though, he sails loooong over jumps.  I like to imagine that he's getting more collected, and turning tighter.  Maybe?  A little bit? 

Riff loves to stretch out.  If the jumps are set up just so, he will bounce-jump them.  He loves flying.  He wants to stay in the air.  If he were a disc dog, he'd jump way higher than the frisbee, then come down to catch it from above.  He'd give his eye teeth for a handler who can REALLY RUN.  Well, maybe not his eye teeth.  He'd give a lot of doggy kisses, though.

Did you see the Aussie that won the 22" class at the USDAA 2011 Championships?  That dog did not turn tight.  He had a hella lotta groundspeed, though....and the young lady with him could run. 

As much as I admired that Aussie (and I'm not a big Aussie fan), I'm still holding out hope for a fast and tight dog.  My advantage with Keeper was that all she ever wanted was to please me.  She's a prime example of a one-person border collie.  She wants to turn and quickly as she can, and catch up to me.  Riff, on the other hand, loves everyone.  He gets distracted.  And it doesn't help that I can't stay ahead of him on an agility field.   I do love watching him run, though - the faster the better.  One of my favorite things is to turn him loose in a field and watch him boogey. 

MY DREAM is to be able to SEND Riff out to obstacles and REEL him back in - all at a good fast clip.  It can be confusing, though, when he looks elsewhere - like at other obstacles - even obstacles that seem too far away to think about (or so it seems to me)....

Heck, I wish I was a better dog trainer.  (Sigh.)  But hope springs eternal! 

Perhaps the month of December will be "Riff's my buddy" month.  I'll take him out alone more often.  We'll have more frequent "just you and me" hikes.  As much as I love going out with both of my wonderful dogs....maybe Riff and I need even more "alone" time than I've been giving him.  And I'll try to teach him another trick or two.  Keeper thinks tricks are kind of dumb, but Riff loves them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Lesson

The lovely Ms Keeper, retired agility dog, is going to go with me to our lesson this afternoon.  We'll practice with 16" jumps (or 12", depending on what the little dogs are jumping), and without A-frames.  Hopefully she can help rekindle my "agility fire," which has been burning at a low ebb this week.  Keeper LOVES agility.  Her excitement is contagious, she's fairly well-trained, and I think I can handle her speed, which is slower than Riff's, even though my leg is aching....

Riff will wonder why he's not going, but I promised him a hike around Riverfront Park this week - just he and I, so we can explore the redwood path.  Or maybe we'll sneak into Annadel, the back way.  I believe Annadel has been officially "closed" by the State.  Heh heh.   I'd have to keep him on-leash, and hope we wouldn't run into too many 'yahoo' mountain bikers up there - I imagine they're pleased as punch there are no park rangers, these days.  Hmmm.  Maybe we'll stick to Riverfront. 
I stole the photo below from Channan's FB post.  This is Riff's littermate Rampage, wearing a new backpack.  Isn't he pretty!  And the backpack looks great, too.   Rampage can now carry his own water on hikes.  Good dog! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

What now?

                                                                                (photo from FB...)

Amen.  (Have you seen the movie Margin Call?  Decent movie.  Have you read the book The Big Short?  Good book.)

I just watched a YouTube video of the Occupy Santa Rosa folks being "evicted" from the City Hall lawn.  Lots of police in riot helmets lined the entire block - close enough they could link arms, if need be.  Shields nearby, billy clubs in belts.  Many looked tense, a few looked bored.  They barricaded the surrounding streets, too...just in case.

Just in case....what?  The only folks left in those tents were a few lucky(?) homeless people who had managed to ride the protest movement into a 15-day camping permit.  Active protestors left days ago.  Even I knew that, and I don't keep up with this stuff much. 

During the video, I could hear the cameraman's footfalls, and he made a couple of remarks to the police (in an ordinary speaking voice), but that was all I heard.  Quiet conversations among the police.  A couple of cars driving by.  No crowd noise at all.  No yelling.  No one was in the video except the police and a very few passers-by.  

The Occupy encampment looked like a small, sad ghost town of 15 or 20(?) poorly-constructed tents, sitting in the dark, surrounded by troops with billy clubs and security vehicles with mobile spotlights.  Absurd.  What made the police force act like this?  Why was this kind of major "eviction" action taken?  Who paid for it?

There is also a compilation video of the kinds of police actions that have been taken, all around the country, against peaceful Occupiers.  The pepper-spray incident at UC Davis, for instance.  Several columnists claim (some with pride, some with disdain, some with understandable fear) that those actions were orchestrated/coordinated by Homeland Security, during a Multi-City Mayors Meeting some weeks ago.  Wow.  Did all the city mayors get a memo, or something?   


And:  Where did the Occupiers go?

And:  I wonder how can we support and protect our young people, who are trying so hard to CHANGE the blatant inequalities they see all around them? 

I tend to bury my head in dog agility activities, family gatherings, arts & crafts projects, gardening, work, reading books, even housekeeping.  Politics is waa-a-ay off my radar.  But every once in a while I  lift my head and look around, and listen...and I begin to wonder....

What next?  What now?  What can I do?  Anything??

Saturday, November 26, 2011

15 Things That Can Still Surprise Dog Agility People

1.  The canopies on either side of yours looked fine after a gust of wind ripped yours to shreds.
2.  Eazy-Up was just a name.
3.  Bars dropped.  ( the bars stayed up.)
4.  Your dog took off when the timer said "ready."
5.  The Gamble buzzer.
6.  The back side of a jump.
7.  A judge calling "up" contacts.
8.  Your dog forgot what 2o2o means.
9.  The other left.
10.  The gate person kept yelling your dog's name even though you were standing right next to him.
11.  Another dog has the same name as your dog.  (Oh.)
12.  The course maps were printed in 06 pt. font and you left your reading glasses at home.     
13.  The turkey panini was worth the wait.
14.  A 6-pound dog can jump the yellow contact zone on the dogwalk. 
15.  Red meant "recording" and Green meant "stopped."

Hidden Strength and Beauty

He was just outside our backyard fence, watching me play with the dogs.  So well-hidden the dogs never noticed him.  (In their defense, they were focused on their toys...)   He got me to thinking about the hidden strength and beauty the earth constantly offers us.  We just need to slow down a bit, and set aside enough time to really look around....                .....and then we need to notice the GOOD as much as we notice the bad.  Sometimes, for me at least, that's the tricky bit. 

For instance - after I got home from my last agility lesson, I wrote a list of all the things that I need to "fix." Then I prioritized them, so that I might work them into a cohesive practice plan.  Then I got depressed. 

What I needed to do, perhaps, was to write a list of all the things that were GOOD about the lesson.  Everything that Riff did well.  Decorate it.  Then frame the list, and hang it on the wall for at least a week.  And smile every time I look at it. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank-full Thanksgiving Day

Last night's small family dinner was a success.  Brett and his lovely wife Emily and my youngest son Wesley were able to join us.  The turkey was tender and flavorful, the pumpkin cheesecake was a big hit, and I actually remembered to serve everything I'd planned to serve (which is a minor miracle).

Riff was pretty sure I was supposed to put the turkey platter on the ground for him....

But of course the dogs had a super nice dinner, too.  :-)
Today we head to Joanie's house for dinner with friends.

GRATEFUL for all life has brought to us:  All of the challenges, the love, kindness and laughter, our cherished family and friends....and good stories. 

Wishing you the Best Thanksgiving Ever!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve

But first:  The (difficult) Decision. 
After a weekend workshop and our Tuesday night class, I've decided that Riff and I will need to wait until January for our USDAA Debut Part Deux in Starters.   :-(
But we plan to drop in and visit everyone at the December trial.    :-)  And play at the practice jump. 

And now for Today!
My little local family is coming over for Thanksgiving Eve dinner tonight.  The apple pie is in the oven.  Next I'll make the stuffing and get that bird into the oven.   Woohoo! 
Yesterday I made my first-ever marbeled pumpkin cheesecake.  (Next time I'll "crush" the crust ingredients more.   So, yeah....we might be serving this with a spoon.  But it will taste good.) 

The table is started.   (Micky - using your straw flowers!)

By the time I fill this gravy boat (one beautiful item left to me by my mom), we'll be ready to sit down and enjoy our turkey dinner.  YAY!

And the kids will be gifted with plenty of left-overs.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dear Riff,

Thank you for the warm hugs today.  Somehow, you knew I needed them.

Love, love, love....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November LeapDog Workshop

There were eight students (maximum allowed) at our workshop this morning.
It was cold (California style) - mid 40's. 
We were lucky it wasn't raining.
I wore my long johns and a hat.
It was a FUN group. 

This was my favorite drawing.  Geometry.  Symmetry.
Have I told you that my next puppy might be named Symmetry, and called Sym?
DIBS on that name!  ;-)

LP used her little stuffed dog as a visual aid.
Fawkes wasn't sure what it was.
She tried to figure out
what the little guy was looking at.

"No problem! All is well!"

LP used ropes on the ground to help us visualize the line of refusal
and/or the dog's best path through the obstacles.
She also used red feet, to help us see our target positions.
Of course all this stuff disappeared after the walk-thru.
We were very happy with our morning weather.
Some ominous clouds moved in during the afternoon.
Beautiful, but cold.
Here is a snapshot of the "timing grid" used for one of the exercises.
We concentrated on front crosses today.  This exercise was an attempt
to see which approach worked best for each team.
The exercise involved going around the back of the #2 jump.
There were four jumps, pretty well spread apart. 
Which approach was faster?
For Riff, it was the "push to the back of the jump, with a rear cross."
His time was either 4.46 or 4.66, I can't tell. Probably 4.66.
Either way he seemed on the slow side to me.
I can't run much and he wasn't sure what I was up to.
Little Crush, jumping 16," was the fastest dog! 
She wraps tight around jumps, and is fast.
Wonderful dog.
Riff was the only dog schooling at 24." 
He'll have to jump 26"if we enter the USDAA show in December. 
He has a tendency to launch, and to land long,
but he seems happy, and has plenty of drive.
I was very proud of him today.
Go, Riff!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To Enter or Not To Enter (that is the question)

It's time to decide whether or not to enter the Bay Team USDAA trial in December.  It would be our first trial since April 10.

A few months ago, I decided "when my back stops hurting, I'll enter a trial."  Well, silly poo-dunky idea.  I have an achey back and boo-hoo, get over it.  So a couple of months ago the deal evolved to "when I can jog through a course, I'll enter a trial."  I can slowly jog the length of the dogwalk now, and the length of the weaves.  Can't keep it up - the old body breaks back into walking pretty quickly.  But progress is progress!  So about a month ago, I thought "when Riff and I can get through a whole course during our Tuesday lesson, we'll enter a trial." 

Well that hasn't happened yet either.  We have made progress - we're up to half-of-a-course.  We can get through 7 to 10 obstacles before....something seems to happen.  Usually it's an off-course, with Riff way the heck ahead of me, deciding on his own which obstacle to take next... 

So - yes! enter the trial! or no?  On the plus side - we've made progress.  Progress!  Riff needs the exposure.  (So do I!  I feel nervous just thinking about it.)  Riff's startline-stay has been solid at the practice field.  (You may recall that back around February/March, and at the trial in April, we had to walk out of numerous classes, due to &$#@@! broken startlines.  And then Nancy helped me work on them at the trial, and LP helped me remember how to train them at home...)   PLUS:  The Bay Team trial is local and I could show out of my car, which means I wouldn't have to ask someone to help me schlep all my canopy stuff around and set everything up. 

On the negative side - Saturday I was setting up a new little table for my flower-picture projects - nothing really, just a small plastic table, and I leaned over to pull up the table legs and boom! my right leg nerves suddenly screamed for about five minutes, just like back in April, and I had to lay on the couch and ice the back and heat the leg for the rest of the day....    Which was a total bummer because I'd planned to take Riff to the AKC show and work the practice jumps.  We didn't go.

But hey, life is short.  Everything is good.  You gotta make hay while the sun shines. 

Riff is jumping well, and enjoying himself.  He's becoming a better distance-dog every week.  He's amazingly willing (and forgiving), while I try to figure out how to handle him.  [You've got to show him what you want EARLY...but not too early.  Stop and turn at the right time, keep your feet moving when you want him to keep going...etc etc etc.]  The courses we are on during our Tuesday lessons are Masters level courses, and often feature "international style" challenges.  Love the courses.  We can't get all the way through them without a correction....but we're doing okay, all things considered.  Last night our instructor said, "Riff is doing incredibly well on these courses.  You should be very happy!  He's been through a lot, you know..."
So, yeah.  Like that. 

Riff competes at the Starters level in USDAA.  (Except for gamblers, where he is at the Advanced level.) 
Starters courses are a lot easier than Masters courses....aren't they?  Simple, flowing courses with only one or two little switchbacks or discriminations.  Maybe we can get through them. 

So....shall we enter a couple of classes?  Just dip our toes in the water....?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Riff POV

A stroll through the backyard (from Riff's point of view):

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