Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Today Riffle and I went to the sheep ranch ML recommended to us.  So happy that a break in the weather allowed us to go - what a pretty sky!   Riff got a whole new look at sheep, and he seemed to enjoy it. 

Look, ma!  I can fly!

Of course the entire pasture was puddles, big and small....but the grass was green green green, and the little woolies were so clean they looked like they could be in a commercial.  Karen, the lady at the ranch, is an interesting character, and quite nice. Riff seemed to forget how "discriminating" he usually is, and walked right up to her to be petted.   We could tell she's been around a lot of border collies...she knew just what to do to make friends with him.  ML was nice enough to meet us there (Riff was happy to see her, too!), and stood by the fence and watched for a while.  :-)

K used her small female BC "Dickens" to bring in the sheep, penned up most of them, then kept about 10 head out for us.  She took Riff and I right out into their medium-sized pasture, since the smaller pens were way too muddy.   She used Dickens to keep the sheep fairly close to us while Riff, on a long-line held by K, sized-up the situation.   It didn't take K long to decide Riff would be fine without the lead.  When she let him loose, Riff was ready to chase some sheep around.  At that point, I just did my best to stay right next to Karen, and grab a few photos. 

Well...Riff was almost ready.  First he thought about chasing Dickens (but for only one half-hearted moment), then he thought he'd gobble up some sheep poop.  K said that eating poop is a stress-related behavior, and that we'd be working on building Riff's confidence.  She discouraged him from lingering over the poop, yelling "eh eh!"  and  "leave it!" and at one point threw the lead at him.  That action startled both Riff and I...but it did seem effective.   She said behavior like stopping to eat poop could get a dog run over by sheep. 

ML, the sheep, and Karen

Dickens holding the sheep
Riff checking it out

Riff ready to rock and roll!

Sometimes he veered away and ran around the whole little herd.
Sometimes he just chased a few.

...but he did actually make it all the way around them several times. 
Good boy!
Riff was a tired puppy when all was said and done. 

And the sheep were ready to get back to eating grass.

Afterwards, Karen asked if I had any questions - but my brain was out to lunch, so I didn't come up with much.  She said Riff "didn't do anything really wrong."  And - like most sheep people - she said the agility training will work against us a bit.  Ah, well....such is life. 

I noticed she didn't say he did anything really right, either...but progress is progress, and Riff definitely showed progress today.  So I was pleased. 

She invited Riff and I to come back tomorrow, if the weather is still good.  Of course the more often we get out there, the faster we'll learn.  Crikey, I need to start counting my pennies.  I need to figure out how to cram more activities into each day.  I need to find more energy. 

Tomorrow is packing-for-Reno day!

Monday, March 26, 2012


Getting excited about being a spectator at the AKC Nationals!  This weekend!!  So grateful I get to go.  So sorry to have to leave the pupsters behind.  But they get to stay home with their pops, which will be most excellent, for all three of them.  We'll be texting a few photos back and forth, I'm sure...

RENO!  It's been quite a few years since I've been to Reno.  My ex and I used to go to the Snaffle Bit Futurity there every year.  I loved riding horses at that facility - even though all I did was "warm up" and "cool down."  Our first trip to the Reno Futurity was made two weeks after our oldest son was born.  A trip to remember....

And now....AKC NATIONALS.  I hope to meet some "friends" from FB and/or this blog.  Please do walk up and say Howdy, if you see me there...!  

PLUS we'll get to watch some terrific agility.  And go shopping!  Okay, I'm not a shopper...but I look forward to shopping there.  Something about "all dogs, all the time" is appealing....

Might even go shopping today...because it's important to have the correct bag for an adventure.   Not too small...not too big.  Enough room for a camera, my phone, Advil, bandaids (why do I always need bandaids?), a hair brush, notebook and pens, Kleenex, a bottle of water, a paperback book...

Maybe this bag:

Eagle Creek Nelly Backpack  (12x8x3...)

Or something similar.  But of course it all depends on what they have in the store.   For sure I don't want to carry my old canvas Safeway bag around in Reno. 

Anticipating the Nationals has me thinking about trialing again.  Is it time to enter Riff in another trial?  I can hardly believe the trial I got hurt at last season is being held again in two weeks.  It's been almost a full year since my injury!  We've always loved the USDAA Haute/TRACS trial in Dixon.  Bummer to miss it this year. 

So..yeah.  Maybe I should enter Riff in a trial.  What's coming up in April?  May?  Anything within a reasonably short driving distance?  (Sadly, driving is still a pain in the...back.)  Time to print a copy of Karey's Calendar, and check it out.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting Rid of the Chills

Took the pupsters out on a walk this early morning, to get some exercise before the next real rain.  Running the dogs up and down and around our backyard is fun...but it can get tedious after a couple of days.  Even though we love our yard, and we love the rain... 

...we needed to get out into the neighborhood!  Of course I wore my baseball cap and hoodie, as I always do when it's drizzling.

Suddenly noticed a guy, who was driving by in a pick-up truck, giving me a long slow stare, twisting back in the driver's seat to look.  Usually I assume folks are admiring my two beautiful dogs, which makes me smile.  (And sometimes I make sure my jacket isn't on inside out or something.)  But this morning, wearing my hoodie, I started thinking about Trayvon Martin and the folks in "Stand Your Ground" Florida, and I got the chills. 

I started thinking about an incident that happened here a couple of weeks ago.  I had been driving down the boulevard, on my way home from agility practice.  I came up to an SUV that had stopped to make a left turn onto my street.  There was plenty of time for both of us to turn left before the oncoming traffic got too close.  He made his turn very wide, and very slowly, while I made my turn on a more efficient line....suddenly in a bit of a hurry to get out of harm's way.  Perhaps I shouldn't have tried to turn.  I didn't realize his turn would be so slow!  This put my van directly behind his SUV when our turns were complete.   He immediately slowed even further, to less than 5mph.  I braked, of course, hoping not to get hit from behind, and wondering if he was going to turn into one of the driveways.  He swerved right, and then left, and then right again.  I thought "uh-oh" and slowed even further, nearly stopping.  He put on his right-turn signal and came to a complete stop, so I carefully went around him.  I heard him yelling, but I kept driving...easing up to 20, then 25mph...which is the speed I normally stick to on our street.   

He followed me.  I wasn't sure that's what he was doing, but because of his yelling I worried about leading him to my house.  So I turned at the next block.  He did too.  After several turns, taking trips around various blocks, it was absolutely clear that he was following me.  Made me nervous.  So I kept driving all around the neighborhood and he kept after me...until finally I pulled over and started frantically digging in my bag for my cellphone.  He pulled up next to me, and started yelling.  "I bet you live on the hill!  I bet you do!  You can't fool me, you b_____!  You hill people think you can do whatever the hell you want!  You think you're better than everybody else!  You can't tailgate me and get away with it!  You're gonna be sorry!"  etc. etc., while I called my husband...I was definitely frightened by then.  I held my phone up and told the guy, "Stop stalking me!  I'm calling the police!"  Actually, it was stupid of me to even talk to this person.  You never really know what out-of-control-angry people might do. 

In retrospect, since I couldn't find my phone while I was driving, I should have driven directly to a police station.  [Note to Self:  Keep cellphone within reach.]

The man started yelling again:  "Stalking?!! I'm not stalking you, you stupid b_____!  I'm protecting the neighborhood! I'm a protector!  It's my duty to protect our neighborhood from a__h____ people like you!!!" and, as I spoke to my husband (pretending he was the police - my voice shaking with fear), the guy quickly drove away.  Crazy vigilante nutbag.  My husband, who was very upset, did call the police (who basically did nothing). 

My point, however, is that something like this (being followed by a stranger who seems threatening) doesn't only happen in Florida.  And it doesn't only happen to young men wearing hoodies.  We ALL need to pay attention.   

With these kinds of thoughts crowding into my mind during our walk this morning, I was feeling some major chills...even though the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds, and budding daffodils lined the street.   

But, as you know, it's a huge mistake to live a life based on fear.  I suspect that it is actually fear - a twisted kind of weird, uneducated, unrelenting fear - that is the basis for the angry actions of people like Zimmerman, and that guy in the SUV.  I definitely don't want to live a life based on fear, so - to get rid of the chills - I petted my pups and started singing a little song under my breath.

A bit of singing (even as off-key as I am) always helps to lighten the mood.  It gets Riff rev'd up, for one thing.  He starts grinning and prancing and wagging his tail.  Keeper starts pushing her nose into my hand, and trotting faster.  And it helps me pick up the pace.  I try to choose a good upbeat song....this morning it was the Beatles' ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.  And if you sing it at a good clip, you'll find yourself getting some really good exercise....a great stress reliever....

And I reminded myself to look around!  Learn from the past, but enjoy the present - look around and enjoy this day.  This is a very special day...a wonderful day to take a brisk walk in the fresh spring air.  

Giving thanks to the stars, my friends, and all the people I love...and hoping more people in the world will feel love - both the giving and the receiving....

and...wishing you the best....


Friday, March 23, 2012

National Puppy Day...

Just found out today is National Puppy Day.     Sweet! 

Although....I'd bet money that just about every day is "National Something-or-other Day."  Didn't the Hallmark Card Company invent all kinds of "holidays" over the last fifty years?  Still - who can't get excited about a Puppy Day?  Okay, maybe cat people aren't too excited about it. 

Wait a sec...let me Day.....

Well, there you go!  Today is also "Cuddly Kitten Day"...."Kick Butts Day" (anti-smoking)...."National Chip and Dip Day"  (yum!)...."Melba Toast Day" (meh)....and "Near Miss Day" (which commemorates this same date in 1989 when an asteroid narrowly missed hitting the earth).   And there may be more. 

Are you tempted to google "National Holidays" for your birthday now?   

The holidays on my last birthday included  "Name Your Car Day," "World Farm Animals Day," "National Custodial Worker Day," and "National Fried Scallops Day"...

But let's get back to puppies!

Riff and I were excited to see LP's puppy Clever out at the practice field today.  What a beauty!  She is leggy...very nicely put together...and energetic!  Riff wanted to say "hello" but quickly remembered that Clever is the pup that likes to jump on his head.  So what did he do?  He scooted into the nearest open crate and continued saying "hello" while Clever jumped on the wire sides...    You always hear about how smart BCs are.  Believe it!   He was also smart enough to get back out of the crate before she joined him in it.  ;-)

These are iPhone pics, so the quality isn't great, but you'll see how pretty Clever is.

Riff sees the puppy coming to visit....
Clever was busy training LP how to give her treats for behaving on-leash.

Clever has the cutest little white chin.
Riff totally impressed me by laying down quietly to watch the puppy play with a tug toy.
He usually wants the toy too badly to stay calm and quiet.
I think he was tired after our practice time.
(We had a lot of fun, and he was a star!)

Clever tugs really well...even while she's checking out the camera.
Gr-r-r-reat puppy!
And two more photos, from Puppy files.  This is RIFF, taken when he was about 8 weeks old:

and KEEPER, when she was about 9 or 10-ish weeks (rescued from the county dogpound):

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Sheep

Sadly, this is not a video of Riff working sheep.  It does show part of the new flock out at the sheep ranch.  Aren't they pretty?  (for sheep?)

These are the lambs from last year, newly moved to the big pasture.  They are not "dogged" - not used to dogs, so ML wasn't sure we should let Riff give them a try.  She is generous and kind, and really wanted to give him a chance....if she were handling him.  Which was fine by me!  (The older ewes had been moved back to ML's place for lambing.) 

If you watched the video, you could hear Riff panting in the background.  He wouldn't leave the fence near where I was standing.  Even after I put the video camera in my pocket, told him to go play, and turned my back on him.  (Which feels sort of like turning your back on a crying child...awful!)

So, after a couple of minutes, ML brought me into the pen, and told me to hang onto her hand and move around with her.  Sounds easy, yes?  Not!  Especially considering the fact that, once Riff got the green light, he started chasing the sheep right away.  He lasted less than 30 seconds on the poor sweet things.  The pen turned into a staging ground for "sheep fireworks."  Sheep were bouncing off the walls of the pen and exploding into the air!   We sure didn't want to see any good, fresh sheep get hurt while trying to jump out of the pen, so we told Riff to 'lie down' (which he did, right away...good dog) and called it a day.   

Which means, pretty much, no more sheep at ML's least for a while. 

But she gave me the name and number of a local lady who might be willing to work with us (not everyone will work with beginners).  She thought it would be good for Riff to go somewhere else for a few sessions with good "dogged" sheep.  Maybe, after that, we can get back to her place....or....?? 

I'm not sure where this adventure will take us next....but it sure is FUN. 

Ever onward!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vernal Equinox!

 Although today was cloudy and chilly, it is officially spring, so YAY! 

Riff was pretty darn good during our agility class tonight.  I am proud of him.  The courses required us to get our dogs over some speedy / tricky jumps without letting them go over the "line of refusal" of nearby obstacles...and Riff collected and wrapped with the best of them.  These manuevers haven't been easy for this long-strided young fella....but he looked like he knew exactly what to do...AND he looked like he was having a lot of fun during our runs.  Wow...every once in a while, I almost feel like a dog trainer... 

Another fun thing:  my husband bought me a new DVD - "First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training - From Chaos to Control."  Can't wait to watch it!  It's by someone named Andy Nickless.  I suppose sheepdog DVDs are like agility DVDs, in that you have to consider the source, take them with a grain of salt, etc etc.   But I'm sure, with a title like "chaos to control," we're bound to get at least a few useful words of advice. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Paddy's!

'tis a good day to have a wee bit o' the Irish.  We'll be wearin' the green, tellin' stories at Turner's annual 'friendamily' dinner, enjoyin' a touch of the whiskey or beer, soda bread and corned beef....and laughter!  laughter!  laughter! 

The red-headed Rifflet o' Hob Nob posed with a shamrock for me.  What a good young lad! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Singing in the...

Rain!  DAYS of rain!  My garden is excited.  Rain, glorious rain! 

What about the dogs?  We usually keep them happy by jogging laps around the backyard.  Keeper sticks to the porch more often than usual.  She'll "sit out" a lap here and there, now that she's older.  Riff ducks his head in the rain, and blinks his eyes in a goofy way, but is totally willing to do as many laps as we can around the yard.  We play a hide-and-seek game with the toys.   I jog on the little flat section of our trail, and across the patio...but I'm pretty careful going up and down the steps.  Riff runs as fast as he can everywhere he goes. The rain feels fresh and wonderful. 

Since the round pen at the sheep ranch is a lake, and the agility fields are bogged down, we run around the backyard instead.  Sometimes we'll put on rain gear and hike with the dogs through almost-empty regional parks.  You have to be ready for the 'wet dog' aura that will grace your vehicle on the way home.  Doggy smiles make it worth it. 

We wash a heckalotta muddy towels, these days....

My favorite rainy day activity?  Once the oatmeal cookies are baked, I like to sit in front of the fireplace with a good book, and with a couple of tired, fluffy dogs at my feet.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Well, poodinky. 

After our practice yesterday morning must admit that Riff and I are still having trouble with rear crosses.  Our discriminations were working really well...YAY!....but he did a loop-de-loop the wrong way during several rear crosses from right to left.  I wish I could say our trouble is one-sided...that we're fine going left to right...   (I can almost say that...but not 100%.)

Riff corrects himself very quickly...but we definitely need to get rid of that spin, and tighten up the line. 

Am I crossing too late?  Maybe I'm adding an extra half-step, waiting for Riff to go by ("After you, Sir!") and, since he has such a long, ground-eating stride, that half-step is costly.  And/or maybe I'm decelerating just after the first jump, and he reads it as a possible wrap? 

So I did my best to get through the sequence with a correct, smooth and timely cue.  Hmmm.  Why didn't that work?

I added a verbal, "Riff!"  Was my verbal too late?   Shoot. 

SO...You'd think I'd know this by now:      Those questions marks would disappear if I'd had my video camera out there with me!!!

Ah, well.  Next time.  Hopefully...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shifting Gears

Friday morning Riff and I worked on contacts. He needed a little help with his 2-on, 2-off.    He was totally ready to play!  What a sweet dog. 

The agility dogs out at LeapDog Ranch get used to geese flying low overhead. 

The weather has been fabulous!  But I still wish it would rain. 

Saturday morning I was invited to the sheep ranch to watch members of RESDA (Redwood Empire SheepDog Association) practice working their novice dogs.   

Still not sure how easy it might be for Riff and I to shift gears between agility and sheep. 

One of the handlers at the practice ( I mean 'shepherds'?) is an "Open" level competitor in the USBCHA.  (United States Border Collie Handlers Association)   The other folks there said that B had been working sheep for twenty years...because "that's how long it takes to get to that level"...and they laughed and scuffled their feet. 

As it happens, B was a fellow student in one of my agility classes, years ago.  She was very friendly, and carefully described what some of the sheperds were trying to get done, out in the big field.  She was also a bit discouraging.  

B said that for a beginner to try to train a beginner dog that was already three years old (old for getting on sheep) and trained for agility (used to 'being told what to do every step of the way') - is "really, really, really hard."  Apparently a lot of people that are serious about the game buy an older "finished" (completely trained) dog first, in order to learn how to work with a beginner dog.   And when they buy a beginner dog, they closely study the dog's bloodlines, trying to get a dog that is a "natural" (inherently talented and easy to train).  They also buy sheep. 

It wasn't a good time to get into my dog's whole story (he has a working dog background, but was scared of least at first) but I did tell her that I won't be buying a dog any time soon.  I have two dogs and that's it for me.  She was a little more encouraging after learning I'd spent quite a few years around cattle and horses.  "Well, at least you'll be able to read the livestock..."

I liked that most of the folks were "of an age"....and that none of them were doing sit-ups, hamstring stretches, or running in place.  I liked that they all wore blue jeans, and I loved their casual footwear  - old boots and "mudders."  Plus they were funny and friendly.

The fancy lanyards and whistles are totally cool.  Although since Riff doesn't know any verbal commands yet, I imagine it would be quite a while (years?) before we'd get a whistle...

And, of course, the dogs.  MARVELOUS dogs.  The best dogs....!

Being out on a roomy ranch was lovely, too.  And...(drum roll)....someone brought DONUTS!  And offered me one!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


As of yesterday afternoon, I can
a-a-lmost say that Riff really IS a sheepdog.  Yeah!!  But of all the days to leave my camera home, I picked yesterday.  So you might want to drag out your Colander of Imagination, put it upside down on your head, and picture this:

About 15 head of sheep were in the pen this time, more or less.  Definitely more than we had in the pen the last two times.

ML brought out a "stick" to use with Riff, since he ended last week's session by enthusiastically (but respectfully) chasing her sheep.  She thought he might be scared of her stick (he gets so nervous sometimes), so she left the flag off the end, and quietly introduced him to it.  The stick is about four or five feet long, semi-flexible, plain white...some kind of plastic, I think.  See, Riff?  Nothing to be afraid of.  It goes "tap, tap" on the ground, that's all.  She described the stick as an extension of her arm and a way to turn the sheepdog back the other way.  It helps the dog learn how to gather and herd the sheep instead of just chase them.   Riff was so happy to jump all over poor ML that he barely paid any attention to the stick.  So, okay...into the pen they go.

And Riff stays by the gate, looking at me.  I'm standing about 10 feet away from the pen, holdling ML's little terrier in my arms.  Her BC Pete, finished with bringing in the herd, is sitting on my feet.  I can imagine how this looks to Riff.  Is he thinking that maybe he should be in my arms or sitting on my feet?  I hate to do it, but I turn my back on him.  I sneak little peaks over my shoulder after he finally gives up and crosses the pen to check out the sheep situation.  Of course ML has been calling him the whole while....

It didn't take too long for ML to decide that Riff would not work sheep for her.  She came out of the pen and introduced me to the stick.  I was a little afraid of it (hahah!), but I let her hand it to me anyway, and she told me to go on into the pen. 

Riff stood there, looking at me.  I called him over to the sheep, they scattered, and I tapped the stick on the ground to turn the dog.  I was trying to act like a shepherd, and get into the right position for the sheep to quietly come up to me, and gather around me.  Then I could either walk through the standing herd, or back up and let them slowly follow me.  Riff went over to the gate.  Riff and I both looked around for ML.  She was across the pasture, checking on a fence.  We were alone.   So Riff came back and we took a couple of comparatively quiet little passes by the sheep.  I held out the stick and pretended to know what I was doing.  I wasn't sure I was holding it correctly.  I you switch hands, or just point the stick the other way?  Riff looked at me like, "What the heck are you doing?!"  I started feeling even more confused than usual.

At that point Riff decided to chase the sheep.  FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN!!!  I tried to use the stick as an extension of my arm, tap the ground, turn the dog the other way...and help him learn how to control the herd.  Riff jumped over the stick, gave me a quick dirty look (jeezus, lady!) from the apex of his jump, and continued running after various individual sheep.  He obviously didn't want to get close enough to bite them, but he was definitely getting closer than he ever had before.  He came to within inches of their heels.  He was showing them his teeth, his head held low while his tail was high, and he looked happy.     I held the stick further out and tapped the ground harder, and then held out my other hand...trying to tell him "this way, Riff!" and Riff jumped the stick again.  And again and again.  Pretty soon sheep were RUN-running all over the pen.  They seemed to be running straight at me, from all directions.  I started to feel like a bowling pin in the middle of a swarm of giant furry bowling balls.  "Down!"  Aren't you supposed to say Down when the sheep get too wild?  "Down!"  "Down!"  "Down!"  "Down!"  Did I sound hysterical?  I hope not.  But goshdarn it, it worked!  And ML was back by then, too...I could suddenly hear her voice, telling me that it's okay for Riff to get closer to the sheep, and warning me not to shut down Riff's fledgling enthusiasm. 

Riff was laying down in the middle of the pen, listening to our conversation with his tongue lolling sideways and a smirky little grin on his face.  The sheep had had me running me in crazy little backwards circles, knees akimbo, completely unmoored.  And while I was trying to keep track of the dog [man, is he quick!] and all those sheep, I didn't even know where I was in relation to the fence.  Or, for that matter, in relation to the rest of the world.  Pretty much all I could see were the sheep that were right in front of me.  And I could feel sheep all around behind me, too.  I could hear them running and panting.  During those panicky moments I even forgot I had a stick in my hand.  What was I doing with my stick during that half-hour (read: moment or two) of absolute chaos?  I have no idea. 

Everything started out okay.  I felt foxy!
ML let me be in a pen with a stick, a young sheepdog, and some sheep.
Then I noticed how much bigger the sheep were getting.
What happened to those cute little woolies I was petting?
The more my dog chased them, the bigger they got.

And they multiplied.
I knew there were only a dozen or so sheep in the pen, but...
....the more my dog chased them, the more sheep there were.
Hundreds.  Thousands.

We have a lot to learn.

The rest of yesterday's lesson went something like this:

Riff took a break, and I went into the pen with ML and Pete.  My instructions were to stay with ML and get a feel for where to be and what to do.  Somehow I couldn't stay with her...she changed directions often, I had no idea where she was headed next, and the sheep were coming right at me.  I think I'd have to hold onto her arm to actually stay next to her. 

We decided I'd leave the pen and just watch.  When I reached the gate and opened it slightly, suddenly the sheep badly wanted through that gate.  Too many sheep heads were in the way and I couldn't close it...I found myself being pushed slowly through the gate - those sheep can press pretty hard - even though I was holding it as shut as possible, and pushing and swatting at sheep noses.  I may have even been yelling at them.  See, here's where you need a camera.  What actually happened?  That's the way I remember it.  Happily, ML sent Pete to my side and he rescued me from the sheep.  A good dog makes all the difference.

My next effort was to try to work Pete by myself.  We tried, but he wasn't too keen on the idea.  I was too far into Stumbling Bumpkin mode by then. 

Then Riff and I went back into the pen alone.  This time things seemed a tiny bit more under control.  I even heard ML yell "Good! Good!" a couple of times.  Cool.  On that happy note, my story ends.

Verbal and Physical Cues

On Monday Riff and I made it out to the AARF field for some practice time.  What a beautiful morning!

We worked on rear crosses for a bit, but concentrated on discriminations.  I'm using verbal "Out" and "Here" cues, along with a flat palm up for "out" and a modified RFP for "here."  It seems to be effective...Riff has been hitting the requested obstacle well over 90%.

Speaking of Verbals:  I also decided to try "Round" for sending him to the backside of a jump.  That verbal cue is still very rocky...I'm concentrating on the physical cue so much I often forget to say it! 

In the long run, my goal is to be in good enough shape to run my dog with physical cues only...but in the short run (and you know it may turn into the long run) I'm thinking some verbal help is needed. 

NOTE:  I believe that body language trumps verbal cues any and every time.  My physical presence either needs to be clearly helpful, or neutral...I think. 

Our Tuesday agility class was fun, although that last long diagonal run across the field absolutely took my breath away.  Jump - Jump - Jump - long straight Tunnel under the A-frame, through a jump box and - Jump.   Riff loved it...the faster he gets to run and jump, the better.  But I fell well behind him, right away, and had to veer to the left, running around the A-frame.  He took the left-side jump in the box.  So I tried again, without the veering.  I decided I needed to stay on a parallel, lateral path. 

Early in the sequence I was able to cut corners by layering a jump, but I still couldn't catch up to Riff, for the life of me, even on the lateral path.  And Riff still took the left-side jump.  Didn't he hear me saying "Go on"?  Doesn't he know that means "go to the next obstacle straight in front of you"?   Is this a good example of the physical outweighing the verbal?  Well, we obviously need to practice a bit more box work anyway.   I had to set him up in front of the tunnel and take a lead-out to get him through the box and over that last jump.  (He also becomes patterned rather easily...)

Adding "going through a box" work to the list!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I Knew Then....

My first dog was not exactly "my" dog.  Taffy belonged to the family....but my sisters didn't seem as excited about her as I was.  We got her for a Christmas present.  While she wiggled around the Christmas tree at my grandparent's house, whining and pawing at presents and looking as cute as can be, everyone in the room wrote a name on a piece of paper, and all the suggestions were put into a hat.  "Taffy" was a good name.  She looked like a dachsund/spaniel cross. 

I wanted to teach her tricks.  She learned to "sit up."  But I didn't really know, back then, how to teach a dog tricks.  Back then dogs were "just dogs" - many of them ran loose in the neighborhood, and no one bothered to pay too much attention to them.  In the 50's you couldn't look up "dog tricks" on the Internet.  These days Everything-You-Ever-Want-to-Know-And-Then-Some is on the Internet, and many elementary school children are totally wired in.  

But back then, if we were curious about something, we had to get information from our parents or school teachers, or from our friends and neighbors.  Or the Encyclopedia Brittanica (although we were not lucky enough to have a set), or the downtown library.  

Sometimes I wish the Information Highway was still the same way.  Talking to friends and neighbors...asking them questions....can be wonderful.  Heck, my own kids might ask me more questions.  I'd like that. 

Taffy was your basic SoCal Suburbia backyard dog.  She was kind-hearted and eager to please.  If I knew then what I know now, I would've taken her more places, and played with her more often. 

But she managed to teach me how to love dogs.  Both love and be loved by them.  So maybe I wouldn't really change a thing. 

One of my "chores" was to take her on walks around the neighborhood.  I felt so proud, walking down the sidewalk with Taffy on the leash.  Sometimes I wished she had longer legs, though, because some of our neighbors thought she was funny looking.  Some of the neighborhood kids laughed at her and called her names.  If I had known, back then, that it didn't matter what they thought, it wouldn't have bothered me enough to fight with them.  Taffy hated yelling. 

Back then, one of the neighborhood kids had a beautiful TALL tri-colored dog named Wags.  I wanted Taffy to be more like Wags, but I never said so outloud.  If I knew then what I know now, I never would've even thought it. 

One day, when we were delivering Girl Scout cookies around the neighborhood, we tried tying Wags to a little red wagon so we wouldn't have to carry all those boxes.  Taffy was too little.  It worked great for about five minutes, until Wags gave chase to a cat.  We were really afraid of getting into trouble, because when we picked up the boxes we could hear a lot of broken cookies.  We kept it a secret, and delivered the boxes anyway...but it wasn't a secret for long.   If I knew then what I know now....

Taffy was a good dog.  So good that we could give her a bath in a little wash tub.  Would I do such a thing today?   

I remember one time Taffy came home from the vet with a new haircut.  They'd left a pom-pom of hair on the tips of her ears, and on the end of her tail.  She looked like she was trying to be a poodle.  We laughed and laughed.  I wouldn't laugh like that today.  Poor Taffy hid under the bed for a week.    

As we grew older, we got busier with school activities.  Like boys and clothes and dances and - sometimes - studying.  Through all of it, Taffy quietly kept an eye on us. 

That sweet little dog lived to be eighteen years old.  After my parents divorced, and we girls high-tailed it out of town as quickly as we could, her daily care fell to my father.  He lived in a small upstairs apartment, and carried her up and down the stairs several times a day, so she could do her "business." 

If I knew then what I know now, I would've visited them more often.  I'd go see my dad in his little apartment, and talk to him about his life.  I'd sit in his kitchen, and ask him all kinds of questions, and I'd lift little Taffy up onto my lap, and pet her.  

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