Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gearing Up for the Regionals

We did not enter the Western Regionals, so Riff will not be competing.  :-(

But my friend and trainer LP would like to have some company during the long drive, etc, and has invited us along.  YAY!   :-)         She will bring her fabulous dogs Wit and Clever.  Clever is too young to compete, so the weekend will be all about Wit.  Riff will be learning more about how to behave at a trial.

You would think Riff already knows how to behave at a trial.  After all, he'll be four years old (!!!) in November.  He has a few titles, too.  But since the beginning of April 2011, he has been at exactly one (1!) trial - SMART in April 2012. 

We've had almost a year-and-a-half off.  He hasn't been around all the action and nerves of a trial in a long time.  Especially a big trial.  And Riff never has been one to rest quietly in his crate while other dogs play with toys close by. 


Riff is built for running, and he loves ACTION.  He is incredibly fit these days, thanks to a daily off-leash jogging routine, and agility practice.  Basically, he's ready to roll.  Will he behave in Prunedale?  He is a very sweet dog, but he can be reactive.  Can he possibly learn how to sit and watch dogs play?  I'd love to be able to walk by an agility ring, and the dogs playing tug near an agility ring, without worry.  And I'd love to sit near a ring, relaxing with Riff. 

In the past I've kept him on a pretty short leash, or in a Sensation harness, with a toy in his mouth and treats nearby, when we walk by a trial ring.  It's a good way to handle him, when getting ready to run a course.  We go to the practice jump and stay busy.  When we line up near the gate, we play tug if we're more than five dogs away, if there's enough room.  If we're less than five dogs away, I ask him to sit and look at me (the treat/Pez machine)...and stay calm and focused.  (I long ago discovered that if he's "calm and focused," we stand a better chance of having a successful start-line lead-out.) 

If I'm just hanging out, watching the trial with friends, Riff is generally in his x-pen, well away from the action, or in a mostly-covered crate.   Or resting in my friend's RV.  My main strategy during these down times has been:  Why put him (ie: us) through the anxiety of being ringside? "training plan" for the Regionals is the spend some time jogging with him on the nearby trails.  Play fetch with him in the exercise area.  Occasionally walk by the rings and see how he behaves (with tug toy and treats at hand).  Encourage him to be calm and focused.   If possible, I will spend some time in a chair, not ringside, but perhaps within viewing distance of a ring, or near the exercise field, and encourage him to be calm and focused while we sit there.  If we're near a ring, I prefer to do this while people are building and/or walking the course, because he has a lot of success during those times.  Reward! I'd like to try this while dogs are competing, too - when dogs are walking back and forth.   I  don't want to disturb strange dogs/handlers...but may set something up with a friend.  If he misbehaves (ie: by lunging toward another dog's toy), I plan to spray his nose with Binaca (and say "eh!eh!" in a mean voice).  Then start over again.  And hope all he needs is an "eh!eh!" if there's another lunge.  If he behaves, I'll reward him a LOT.  If things are looking good and consistent, I may bring my chair a little closer to an active ring.  Is this a good plan?  I hope so. 

Do you have a favorite way to train a wired-for-sound dog to be calm ringside?

Or do you just leave him in a calm environment - away from the rings - during a trial?

Please feel free to talk to me about it, if you see us working on ringside behavior at the Regionals.

In the meantime, I've signed up as a worker-bee, I'll keep Riff as exercised and as comfortable as possible during classes....and I hope to watch you-all run some mighty good courses! 

Excited to be going to the Regionals!  I look forward to seeing everyone.   Woohoo!!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Golden Gate

Always beautiful, even through a cell phone camera on a foggy evening....


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top Ten

Sometimes your friends go through bad times.  People usually don't say much (in my experience), especially in this day and age of "positive thinking."  Today I sent a Facebook message to a friend of mine, listing the Top Ten things I like about him.  (Like: he makes me laugh.)  I'm hoping he will enjoy the list. 

The world is on a bit of TILT these days.  Have you noticed?  Election year, global name it.  So I thought - what if a few other folks send "Top Ten" messages to their friends?  Would it help? 


Want to try?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Call Me Maybe - AKC/USA WORLD TEAM video

Here it is!  The soon-to-be-infamous CALL ME MAYBE video, put together by team member Tori Self, and starring the 2012 USA AKC/USA AGLITY WORLD TEAM (plus coaches and helpers).  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Off-Kilter Cure

When the universe feels off-kilter (and boy-oh-boy did it ever feel off today), it's a good idea to veer toward ART.  Even if you don't have the where-with-all to make some art (and yes, chocolate cookies count), you can go out and find some art to look at. 

Today we drove up to the Paradise Ridge sculpture garden, one of the best free art galleries in the county.  Great views, a nice walk through the woods, and lots of cool sculptures.      

Their latest show features the work of 36 sculptors, "curated by the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation, in honor of Al Voigt, who was well-known for boosting the quality and quantity of public art in Northern California."   The pieces on display include modern abstract, contemporary post modern, and works created for Black Rock City in the Nevada desert (my favorite). 

As usual, very few people were there...even on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.
Paradise Ridge is one of my best-secret-all-time-favorite places.  

This piece is supposed to include water and fire! 
It would be great to see it "working" some day.

A memorial temple.  There's a pretty little garden in the middle of it,
and a big box of permanent markers. 
Folks have been writing messages on the fabric, and on the wooden walls.

Bruce Johnson's latest work...about 15' tall.  Redwood, glass and copper.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An Evening With Friends

So, yeah.  I'm a "homebody."  Love playing with the dogs in my own backyard.  Love sitting in the house with a good book.  Have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the world of meditation during the last few months.  But it's GOOD to get out several times a week....especially if you're able to spend an evening with friends.  Friends help make the world go 'round.  :-)   Friendship is heart-warming. 

Our friends include Kype and Ruby!  Good buddies.

B is a Master Gardener, with a knack for bringing the beauty of nature
closer to all of us.

Ruby likes to watch the trail.
She reminds us it's a good idea to keep your eyes and ears open!

Sweet Willy and Jeff

Friday, August 10, 2012

About a Play

Significantly better than the movie, the play WAR HORSE features amazing puppetry.  (And far fewer "sappy" moments than Spielberg's movie.)  The young men working the horse puppets really knew what they were doing, from a horse's point of view.  WOW.  I've watched all kinds of horses, closely, for many years.  These were obvious puppets (in a larger-than-life way), but they became so lifelike, so real....I was enchanted.  I read that Monty Roberts worked with the original cast.  They were city-boys in England, who'd never been around horses.  During his first week with them, Monty just hoped for "a short run, quick closing, and not total embarassment"....but before the second week was over, the young men learned how to "speak Equus," and the play blossomed into a real treat.  In this county, War Horse earned several Tony awards, including Best Play.  This play is a "spectacle," with acting taking a backseat to the staging of the story, but the touring production does not disappoint. Wonderful stuff!

"Joey" as a colt was charming...but when he grew up, he was amazing. 

WAR HORSE is a play with great puppetry, wonderful staging, amazing lighting and sound effects, and a moving anti-war story, all rolled into one.   Splendid. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Summer heat.
You come up with ways to beat it.
Ice cream.
A good rotating fan in the living room.

Close up the house in the early morning, capturing the cooler night air.
Open it up again in the evening.  Hoping it will cool off. 

But you want to stay fit, and you want to keep your dog in training. 
So you get up earlier - and then even earlier - for your daily jogging routine.
You hope it's cooled off a bit by the time your 4:00 lesson rolls around.

You save the gardening for the evening hours. 

You make sure your dogs have plenty of water. 
You get your dogs used to playing in the water.  You use the hose to get their feet, legs and bellies's the best way to keep them cool. 

If you can afford it, you build them a pool.  (If only...!)  You tell your husband it's for entertaining.  A pool is great for barbeques!  But really it's for the dogs. 

I've never seen a class at an agility trial cancelled because of heat.  I've been at a trial that registered 108 in the shade, two days in a row.  Classes ran all day, both days.  So did the cattle misters.  We were like cattle, at that show.  Moo-oo-ving slowly.

Agility lessons are rarely cancelled because of heat.  You just need to figure out how to handle it.

People wear shorts and sleeveless tops.
People set up little wading pools for the dogs.  Everyone tries to stay in the shade, even though the shade under a canopy is often crappy shade, it's better than nothing.  Give me a tree, if at all possible.  Give me a breeze...however slight. 

I have a lot of respect for agility trial judges who can stand in the heat all day, watching dogs run.

People wear sun hats.  People wear sun block and carry water bottles. 

People run their dogs as little as possible.

Some folks prefer heat to cold.
Arthritis prefers heat, for instance.
Skinny young people often prefer heat. 
Is it because their summer clothes are really cute?
I have arthritis, but I still prefer cold weather.
I like wearing long sleeves and thick socks.  I like baseball caps.

My border collies prefer cold weather.
Border collies were bred to work on chilly Scottish hillsides.

We've had some gorgeous weather here this summer, but it's been hot this week.
Weather is a bit unpredictable these days.  Have you noticed? 
Global warming, et al.  

So....we come up with ways to beat the heat. 

Like kickin' back. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

What a Landing!

We've watched a boat-load of landings on TV this week, tuning into the Olympics.  Amazing athletes.  Gymnasts landing difficult tricks.  Horses landing challenging jumps. 

We enjoy watching the more obscure sports, and applaud the passion and dedication of everyone involved.  Controversies swirl, fans go wild, and the marathon runners - lost in 'the zone' - keep moving.  You just have to land - one...foot.....after.......another. 

And there was another landing, made last night.

(NASA photo)

Curiosity landed on Mars!  Score?   TEN!

A "thumbprint photo' sent from Mars
shows the shadow of Curiosity
on its wheels, just a few minutes after landing.
(NASA photo)

A drawing of Curiosity.
Did you ever dream that's how it would look?
They say it's about the size of an SUV.
(NASA photos)

The leaps and bounds that mankind makes, in the spirit of exploration, are simply incredible and more than a little inspiring.    Hmmmm......      Maybe I WILL get to an agility trial, one of these days.

(Original photo - G. Takei)

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Confusion is a trickster.  It walks in on padded feet.  It likes to sneak up and pounce.  Sometimes you don't even notice it's there until it's long gone.

Everyone is confused from time to time.  It helps keep life interesting.  As a child, you tend to be excited about new stuff, and the challenge of figuring it all out.  Then - somehow - some of us slip into being 'Like, Totally Embarassed' about being confused.  Thank goodness, if you keep your eyes and ears open as you age, you can come back around to thinking of confusion as 'A Big Adventure.'

This week was filled with 'adventure' for me, starting with that embarassing  adventuresome audition on Monday...and culminating yesterday with our ECS West scent training session at the Vet's Memorial in RP.

It was weird...I simply couldn't figure out what people were saying.  I'm pretty sure I asked the same question over and over again, but still didn't get it.  This should be simple stuff!  Is something wrong with my ears?  Were they speaking in a foreign language? 

We made some errors in the initial set-up, which everyone soon recognized...and I remember talking about it as An Adventure.  But, bottom line, even after everything was fixed - I still don't understand what I'm supposed to be doing with my dog.  It took me the entire drive home to understand that - possibly - Riff and I have been trying to follow two different training methods.  There's NoseWork, and then there's ECS work.  Our trainers are feeling their way through the maze, too...because ECS is new to they sometimes give conflicting suggestions.  Riff and I will need to sort these things out pretty darn soon.  [ least I think that's what's going on....heh heh heh.] 

Either than, or I better start studying French.  Or maybe Italian. 

In any case - blogging on my mind - I grabbed a couple more cellphone pics while we were at the training session:

Crush alerts

S decides she might want to use a shorter leash.

Molly works her way down a row of pipes.

Five, being cute.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sports, a Lesson...and an Angel

OLYMPICS!  Yep - I'm an Olympic junky.  Especially for the equestrian events.  Thanks to the wonders of technology, we are able to record "all things equestrian." I watched every minute of the cross-country - what a thrill!  A beautifully challenging course, gorgeous horses, and brave riders. 

Super cool...

Did you notice that just about everyone in the audience at the Olympics has a camera?  What an amazing age we live in - we have the ability to document so much, and from every possible angle.  Stopping to to think about

Loved the stadium jumping, too...and looking forward to the advanced dressage classes - Grand Prix!

And of course I often veer off into the Land of Other Sports, too.  Wierd stuff, some of it.  All of it is exciting, though!  Archery, for instance.  I'd never watched it before.  Who knew?  I've always loved the PASSION of Olympic athletes. 

In the middle of all that, must admit I actually went to a "call-back" audition at a local theatre.  What ever possessed me to do that, I'm not sure.  :-P  Well - to be honest - I know exactly what it was.  It's my "year of saying yes," so when the director (an old friend) invited me to go, I said Um...Okay.    Suddenly there I was, at this audition...somewhat unprepared, regarding memorizing my lines...and totally unprepared, regarding the level of competition for the role.  Ah, well. It was one of those times when you have to figure out how to get up and dust yourself off, after getting your dignity kicked around.  The drive home was challenging, but by the time I reached my house I was okay again.  Over it!! 
NOTE:  It used to take me a lot longer to recover.  So aging, and gaining wisdom, is a GOOD thing. 

Speaking of agility:   Last night Riff and I went to our first "real" agility lesson in eight weeks.  Oh, we've been to a lesson...but one of my arms was in a sling, so I didn't really DO anything.  Last night I decided to run. 

Yeah, yeah, that was kinda-sorta against medical advice...(on Monday my PT said "you can jog slowly for a short distance"  and "it's not healed yet, so Do Not Fall")....but I knew I could get through at least one or two runs.  We got through three.  Riff was WONDERFUL! 

I'm so proud of him.  His startline-stays were great, he didn't knock any bars during our runs, and he hit every weave-entry on tricky sends.  He was Really Moving, too....which is to say we got a lot of good distance-work done.  YAY!

After the first three sequences my arm started its silly throbbing thing, so I asked Annette to run with him.  She was thrilled, and she did a great job!  He ran very well for her, too...except for a late crash into the triple.  Y..ouch!  It was my fault, though...I forgot to warn her to be extra careful with him during a triple.  She had his toy up, ready to toss during his take off, which he noticed, and when she threw is he started churning his legs, eager to Get To That Toy.  Crrr-r-rash.  But he's a fit and tough young dog, and he's FINE.   (...whew...)



When we showed up for class last night, we met a lady who was working an English Springer spaniel named Lacy.  She told us that Alicia, Lacy's previous handler, had died two weeks ago.  I was gobsmacked by that news. 

I knew Alicia had moved to Oregon to care for her sick mom...and that she had found a measure of peace and happiness there.  I kept up with her on FB.  But somehow, I missed the illness.  In Februrary, Alicia found out she had cancer.  And now she's gone.   

Alicia was a very kind person.  Gentle, and quiet.  She was lovely to me.  We had a class together at LeapDog.  We shared a canopy at a couple of trials, and she always went out of her way to "fluff my aura"....a genuinely giving and nice person.  She must be an angel, by now.   

RIP, Alicia.

Hey, you guys - hug your friends. 

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