Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Field" Training

We spent the morning out at Stephanie's yesterday.  What a beautiful place!

The view from the "training culvert."

Several dog/handler teams showed up for ECS "field training."  It was fun to be "on location." 

G, our esteemed Training Director, announced that Crush, Molly and Kona have been named (by head-honcho Scott) as Team A dogs - so good at the job they are almost ready-to-certify.  I'm not sure what else they have to learn.  How to wear an ECS vest?  How to fill out paperwork?  :-)  Maybe they need more time training in a "real job" situation.  Scott submitted a bid for some work in S C.  If that bid is accepted, I imagine Team A will be sent down there.  All three teams have been competing in NoseWork trials for at least two years, so they have a good head start.  Can we say they are a-head by a nose?...haha!  

Team B is made up of Five, Paula, Tea ("Taya"), Aida and Riff.  Although someone said Aida may need to drop out (because she is "too calm" during the work), and Tea (sp?) is preggers - their handler is excited about the project, and a really good teammate.  LL already pulled Poppy out of the mix (because Poppy wasn't very enthusiastic about it). 

Five, Aida and Paula have been doing NoseWork training for several months, and their handlers have competed in NoseWork with other dogs.  Stephanie (Kona's handler) also played around with "Max," her older Malinois, on a couple of the exercises.  And G brought out her very young BC puppy, whose name I forget.  He reminds me so much of B's "Kype" (aka 'Kuiper') that that's the only name I can think of right now. What a cutie-pie! 

Riff and I got through the exercises in decent shape.  (Yay, Riffle!)  We did a couple of "paired" searches involving a number of crates, set out on the driveway.  ("Paired" = pairing an odor with treats, then hiding them in an object such as a crate.)

Setting up a line of crates.

We also worked a "paired" alert at the end of a culvert, and an alert in a pipe in the middle of a creek.  Riff was brave and only mildly confused, at times (due to handler confusion, as always).  And he walked right into the creek like he was walking into the living room, and made straight for the pipe.  Good boy! 

Lucky Riff gets to work with me - the proverbial "fish out of water" - basically unfamiliar with NoseWork handling techniques and terminology.  One of my flippers is still "lame," and I'm pretty out-of-shape after being laid up....but it's a surprisingly fascinating adventure....

I've never seen a NoseWork trial in person or on video, and have never trained a dog in scent work, so I'm entertaining the group with a bunch of beginner questions.  Thankfully, they're a really nice bunch!  (Someone mentioned that the NoseWork organization doesn't allow video equipment at their trials, or their training sessions.  Why would that be?  Proprietary about their methods?  ECS is not as paranoid, thank goodness.) 

Ever Onward!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Motivation Mantra

Must get off caboose, look at calendar and decide when to go to another agility trial. 
Must get out of bed earlier in the morning and walk dogs farther - work harder at getting back into shape.
Must start jogging soon - go faster, stride longer.   
Must do PT exercises more often.
Must get back to agility training and get back to renting practice time at agility fields.
Must find a way out of the "take it easy" mode.  (Feeling so sl-o-ow-w and slee-ee-eepy...)
[Does someone need to poke me with a sharp stick?]

TODAY'S MOTIVATION MANTRA - Move  Move  Move  Move  Move!

Thank goodness a couple of border collies are waiting for me to Wake Up and Get With It....

And they're not always patient!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Good Movies

Have you seen these yet?  Good movies!


BEASTS:  "The film is about how you survive and combat the loss of place, the loss of a culture, and don't let these things crush you."  (Zeitlin) 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nose Depot

A few of us spent our early Sunday morning at Home Depot, helping our dogs become comfortable doing nosework "in the field."  

Five is wondering which shed the odor is hiding in.  Hmmmm....

Riff says, "Nope, not this one..."
C says, "Are you sure?  Oh...yeah.  You're right.  Of course!"

Molly wants a turn!

Riff was quietly attentive while waiting for his turn.  What a good dog!

The game got harder when "The Essence"
was placed next to the stacks of mulch and fertilizer.
Molly likes a good game, though.

Five, ready to work.

Five says, "Here? Is it here?"


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday, Bookended

Ever since my broken arm was released from its "shoulder immobilizer," I've been playing with a CANE - as demonstrated in the Kaiser Physical Therapy handout, below.  

Working hard to get some Range of  Motion back....and muttering a few expletives while I'm at it.    It's not exactly a song-and-dance, but the exercises are little easier each day.   

This morning I met a friend at the downtown Peet's, to chat about mediation.  Meditation isn't as easy as one might think! I'm lucky to be able to sort through my questions with an experienced buddy. 
Is coffee good for meditation?
For instance:  Should I try to meditate while doing physical therapy exercises?  (Then Riff wouldn't have to listen to all my bad words...ha! ha!)

I'm a new convert to the whole MEDITATION thing, but I know enough to wish that young man in Colorado had tried it.  What in god's name was he thinking?  My heart goes out to the victims and their families...and - yes - even to the suspect, and to his family.  So, so sad...and praying for recovery.... 

Yesterday I took the dogs to the agility field to play, and Riff was - yet again - a "no-mistakes wonder-dog" during the short sequences we were able to get through. 

Riff has a naughty spot, but he is a GOOD dog!

Speaking of good...just finished a good book - "Looking for Alaska" by John Green.  Sure, it's written for Young Adults...but I really liked it. Isn't "age" a state of mind?

And, to "bookend" this blog, we watched Giant's pitcher Matt CAIN on TV today, pitch to the Phillies.  [Giants won in the 10th!] I'm not sure what the temperature was in Philadelphia, but it got up to 97 here, so we were happy to laze around the living room for most of the afternoon.....

Matt Cain

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Woohoo!  I don't have to wear the shoulder-immobilizer anymore!!  The "bone bridge" repair that a body amazingly undertakes, in order to fix itself after a fracture, is now strong enough to carry the weight of my moving arm. 

Ahhhh.  Thank you, Universe. 

Now the RUBBER HITS THE ROAD.  ie:  Physical Therapy

This poor shoulder currently has the range-of-motion and muscular-strength of a gnat.  My left hand, free at last, wants to resume Normal Life.  (I'm left-handed.)  But - ouch - maybe not right away.  My upper arm is still lumpy and bruised from slamming into that darn step, and they say the muscles and what-all in there - also injured during the fall - need more time to recover...     

The therapist said:
"This will take time." 
"Be patient." 
"No, it will be a while before you can begin jogging.  Weeks.  Maybe months."
"Don't push yourself too fast or you'll re-injure it."
"You don't want to fall again, it will re-break." 
"It will take you six months to a year to get back to where you were."
"See you next week."  

But of course I'm thinking I can heal faster than that.  That old saying "no pain, no gain" comes to mind, and I want to do all the exercises every day, as much as my arm can stand.  Obviously the PATIENCE LESSON remains a big part of my I'll be careful....


But dig this bottom line: 

We'll be back on the agility field soooon!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nosing Around

Riff and I had to skip the USDAA trial near Carmel this weekend.  :-( 

But it sure is fun to read about it on FB, and in a few blogs.  We also love the YouTube videos folks are posting.  Thank you!

[Can't wait to get the Rifflet back on a nice, fast-flowing USDAA course...]

In the meantime:
Riff and I spent the weekend at an Environmental Canine Services workshop.  It's amazing, to me, how much fun the dogs have, alerting their handlers to certain odors.  Mister Riffster was The BEGINNER in the group, having had exactly three short nosework lessons in his life.   Most of the other dogs were seasoned competitors.  The other two Beginners had already had a few months of training.  I was hoping we wouldn't flunk out of the group within the first five minutes. 

Not only was Riff a Good Nose Dog (even in a "blind" exercise, and even when transferred to a new odor), he was also a Very Friendly Boy.  He wiggled and wagged, grinned and charmed everyone. 
:-)  I was proud of him!

Saturday We spent the day in class...watching a PowerPoint presentation and sharing stories.  At the end of the day we went on a walk along Santa Rosa Creek, and checked out the water situation there.

Nice place for the workshop!

Sam the cat kept us company during the PowerPoint presentation.

SR Creek

Scott, from ECS, tried to figure out what the heck that pipe was for.
The creek meandered by, hunkered low in its bed.

Sunday We spent the day testing our dogs.  The "expert" dogs had some tricky tests!  Everyone did really well. 

Crush was a STAR!

Kona, during the garage search.  Good dog!

Riff and the other two beginners didn't have to search the garage.
They set up a line of boxes instead.
I had Riff on a long line, because he likes to Move Quickly,
even during nosework.

His nose said 'whoa!' and he slowed at the 4th box...

...where he took a quick look, and then knew for sure.... was the 3rd box!

If I get a short video from my iPhone into acceptable blogging format, I'll share the next test with you.  During that test, I had no idea where the scent was (a "mini-blind"??), but Riff literally ran down the entire line of boxes, straight to the second-to-last box...Bingo!  After that, they let him do more difficult exercises.   He acted like an old hand.  I pretty much didn't know what to do (we're both beginners) so I just let him 'have his head' as they say in HorseLand.  Border collies are soooo smart.  Riff appreciated my trust in him, and his searches were really, really good.  Not perfect, of course...we need a lot more experience...but we were pleased....

A search in the grass.  This is Molly,
a rescue from the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans.

The culvert search involved both sides of the driveway.
Although I almost slipped on the rocks (just call me Grace!)
Riff did great.

This was a nifty little set-up involving several kinds of pipes, milk crates and rocks.
Crush had already gone by a couple of possibilities when I took this photo,
so you don't get to see the whole thing. 
Riff did really well during this test!

Riff asleep on my foot, in the end of the day.
Is he dreaming about nosework?
We were surprisingly tired!
I was soon dreaming about agility...

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Back in the day, people used the telephone to talk to one another - to check on family, or to ask friends "What's happening?"  The phone used to ring all the time.  The sound was a comforting and familiar "brrriiiiinnnng!  brrriiiinnnng!"  No one had an answering machine.  Everyone in the house would run for the phone.  It would just ring "bbbbrrrriiiiinnnngggg!" until someone picked it up, or until the caller gave up. 

Most folks had a kitchen phone, which was attached to the wall.   This was because families spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  Phones were a solid fixture in almost every house. 

The wire on that phone was usually stttrretched out, because some of the people in the household liked privacy.  They'd walk away from the wall (and the people in the kitchen) as far as the line would allow.  Sometimes the line could be stretched all the way to the hall closet - a great space, when you were 12, for listening to your tongue-tied 13-year-old boyfriend breathe.  In the old days, how far the line stretched was important.   But mostly it was just cool to be on the phone.  Talking.

If you had to make an emergency call, you'd dial "0" (zero), and hope the long-distance operator who picked up would know what to do. 

Some of us had "party lines" - a phone line that was tied into other phone lines.  This was a cheaper way to have a telephone.  "Private lines" were for rich people.  Sometimes, if you wanted to make a call on your "party line," you'd have to wait until another party hung up so the line would be available.  You could (usually) tell if someone was listening to your conversation, so your privacy on the party line was (usually) intact.  If you had to make an urgent call on a busy party line, you'd have to (anxiously) ask the other person to please hang up. Or you'd press the hang-up button a bunch of times "click-click-click-click," to let them know you were waiting. Or you'd shout "Hang the eff up!"  Whatever worked. 

Lots of folks had more than one phone fixture.  Parents tended to have a telephone in their bedroom, for instance, for those calls they didn't want to handle while the kids were around.  Kids always had a way of being particularly noisy when you were on the phone, and there was no way to get away from them, because you were attached to the wall.  And they knew it.

Back in the day, you had to dial the phone number you wanted to reach.  The finger holes on the dial were marked 1 thru 9, then 0.  Dialing the phone could be a little tricky, if you'd had one glass too many.  Or if you were trying to sneak a call in the dark.  You'd have to count the holes.  And you needed to be patient while the phone whirled and clicked.  If the number you were dialing had an alpha-prefix, like everyone's phone number used to have, you'd have to remember where all the letters were, too. 

The last rotary-dial phone I had looked just like this one.

If you weren't home and you needed to make a phone call, you'd have to find a phone booth.  (And a dime.)  Phone booths were everywhere.  They had little seats in them, and folding doors. 

Household phones began to get smaller, as the years rolled by.  Push-button phones got popular.  My next phone looked like this.

Folks wanted to walk further and further away from other folks, when they were on the phone.  They wanted to take their phones wherever.  Pretty soon, everyone had a cordless phone.  The first models were fairly large.  You felt lucky if they worked in the backyard. 

But, as the years rolled by, telephones became cell phones.  Pocket-sized wonders.  Now everyone has an itty-bitty phone that features internet capabilities, and countless ring-tones.  It's amazing.  If you stop and think about it, it's almost overwhelming.  Most people have cell phones - including young children.  And it's hard to find a phone booth. 

If you still have a land-line in your house these days, you don't even answer it when it rings.   It's always a telemarketer, or a political party.  You remind yourself that the only reason you have that old dinosaur is because your cellphone reception on the hill can be "spotty."  Sort of like being on a party line.

Which gets you to thinking about the old days.

Today I am missing the old days, when the telephone used to "ring off the wall."
Back then, we didn't know who would be on the line when we answered.  Each time we picked up the receiver we went on a special little adventure. 

People TALKED to each other, and we enjoyed it. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Carmel Wishes

To Everyone headed to the USDAA trial in Carmel this weekend....

Good Luck!  Have tons o' fun, and raise a glass.  :-) 

We'll be there in spirit, cheering for YOU!!!

(Hope to see you someday sooooon......)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Deer Story

Late last night I was reading in bed (The Fault In Our Stars by John Green) with all the windows wide open, so the cooling night breeze could meander through the house.  ["Global warming?  What global warming?"]   I heard a car going down the hill, and then the ‘thump' of something being hit.  My dogs were next to me, but I did get up long enough to make sure Jeff was at his usual late-night place, in front of the TV in the family room.  I looked out the front windows, but couldn't see anything unusual.  I thought 'maybe someone ran over a plastic bag or something like that.' After I settled back in bed I heard a car circle around, come back up the hill and park in front of our house.  I overheard two young men talking about having hit a deer.  They were wondering, aloud, what to do.  They sounded so sweet and concerned.  They used a cellphone to call the police / emergency animal control number and then settled in to wait for someone to show up. 

Jeff went outside to find one of the men sitting on the street, cradling a fawn in his lap.  One of his hands was lightly over the deer's eyes.  Those fellows never mentioned any possible damage to their car, never complained about how long it took for the animal control people to arrive, and refused to leave even though Jeff offered to wait with the fawn.  All they thought about was the deer.  The fawn, who’d been laying flat on its side by the curb for about tweny minutes, appeared to have no broken bones, and did not have any seriously bloody wounds.  The two young men waited, talking softly to each other, to the fawn, and to Jeff.  Jeff said the fawn got up and walked a few staggering steps away at one point, but then came back and laid down right up against the guy who’d been holding it.  The fellow put his hand gently on the fawn, trying to reassure it.  Jeff said it was amazing to see the deer come back to him like that. 

A lady from animal control showed up over an hour later.  By then it was about 1:30am and the fawn slowly, weaving a bit, walked away from the street and curled up in some ivy near our back gate.  The officer told the boys it would be best if the fawn's mother came back to it, and suggested that it be left alone in the yard for the rest of the night.  She left her phone number, and said she’d take it to Fawn Rescue if it was still around in the morning. 

I saw the fawn sleeping in the ivy at 6:am, cute as a button.  When I went back outside to check at 7:am, it had disappeared.  We heard deer rustling through the leaves in the yard at about 6:30, and we like to think mama came to get her baby.   I looked carefully but couldn't find the fawn anywhere else.  The young men showed up at 11:am to check, and were happy to hear that it was apparently fine and back with its family. 

All that to say there are truly wonderful young people in the world today!   There are folks who would have shrugged and thought "Oh - stupid deer...hope it didn't scratch the paint on my car," and then driven on home.  But these two young men took full responsibility, and did absolutely the best they could in difficult circumstances.  Bravo.

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