Yep. I know I am guilty of enrolling in four seminar days when I know three is Stella's productive limit or trying a sequence again and again and again and again that includes 12 poles so I can get a move that is eluding me when I know fourth or fifth time through Stella is thinking you know I am not a border collie and I can only do 12 with joy and speed three times and then after that I get worried about stuff and or really tired of em and I start to not like poles so much when really the first three times they WERE FUN
BUT i have to keep in mind we will be PLAYING! you know, not working or struggling or crying... cause its just a game with a lot of FUNdaMENTALS and my new mantra is Be The Squirrel. right? and i'm NOT getting ANY older either, right?
(I'll have to come up with an image later. times up)
my current dog agility wish list
from mightymite dog gear:
metal cart R8 - mid $169.95(so i can get more equipment out to offleash in the park)
midwest grooming table 36" $96.47
(to save my back and keep her standing so the whole process is twice as fast)
Finn DVDs $50 and $25
(for injections of fun and challenge)
from clean run:
silvia trkman's Foundations Fun DVD - $69.95
pet down travel dog bed--$22.95
(space saving (and easier wash) when "rv"-overnighting in Pearl)
my current trialing goals
I hate that feeling (more than half the time) like I am flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants at a trial
but we did ok inspite of me--a perfect Q weekend
even our first SNOOKER with ALL 7s---whoo hoo!
Why do you do agility?
Anyway, this afternoon Stella and I drove to Golden Rule to meet up with Sassie and Boing! and another student Lindsay and her beautiful black Lab Tess. Apparently Lindsay and I have similar issues and Sassie was getting some possible visuals for her Clean Run story about distractions and teaching focus and I don't know--with all the toys and hotdogs and meatballs and dogs running around together amongst the obstacles--whether she got what she needed but Lindsay and I and the dogs got a brilliant lesson on the subject. Sassie's methods are so cool and simple and work like magic. More Sassie genius! (I really am lucky Dawn suggested we take her classes...)
Bonus: She just emailed me this picture---she must know I love flying ears up pictures and this one even has a flying tail up too!
Initially after she started again on rimadyl, she was really hurting and wasn't eager to do all that much moving around anyway. But, today, day three on the rimadyl its harder, she is starting to believe she's Super Doodle and I think its probably the rimadyl talking... so we have to be careful... we can try doing a few easy tricks later, like the beginnings of the light switch trick we learned at our last Tricks Class so she doesn't get insanely bored... and I took her on a leash walk to the park this morning, avoided any dogs she knows and let her off for a few minutes, to give her the illusion she'd been to off leash for a romp... Maybe thats too much. Its also hard to keep her from playing with the cats now that she's feeling better... tho she still isn't anxious to sleep in her crate at night and she loves her crate, so we haven't made her go in--I think it must be because she can't lie flat out and maybe it is not comfortable to curl up... we'll have to wait and see about agility class next week, maybe I can bring her and see if there is some low-impact work I can do in class depending on if she's doing okay... its no where near as bad as last fall, but she definitely injured herself again... its that dog-on-squirrel-crack going from zero to hyper-turbo-speed the second she gets to the bottom of the stairs and turns... she probably skidded on what's left of the snow and ice patches out there as she flew across the cement to the friggin corner where theres a tree where she almost got a taste of squirrel once...
The good thing I guess is Stella's Xray is scheduled for Tuesday morning. I drop her off between 9 and 10 and they said I probably won't pick her up until mid or late afternoon. I'm not happy about leaving her there all that time to be stressed... probably waiting her turn in a strange crate in the basement and then back in the strange basement crate afterwards... she actually loves going to the vet for appointments because she gets biscuits from the cookie jar when she weighs herself. She used to be terrified of the scale because it moves under her feet. But, now she keeps jumping up and sitting on the scale expectantly like some weight obsessed teenage girl... how much do I weigh now? ok, how about now? did I lose any weight in the last twenty seconds? do I deserve another cookie?
But, at least now maybe some of the mystery will be solved. I've been waiting for this, not wanting it, but worried the old injury would show up again... that whatever her problem is is still there... although recently, I think I had given up worrying, become confident that we had built her back up slowly and well and the injury, whatever it was - was healed and gone... then last Thursday she came back in from chasing the squirrel like the last time, unable to lie down without whimpering... not quite as bad... but bad enough that I decided to take her to the vet, her regular vet, right away before they closed...
We did not get an Xray the first time she injured herself chasing our backyard squirrels at the beginning of last October... I talked to our vet and he said to wait and see over night... but then it got worse and it was late when we rushed to the only local vet still open, almost midnight, because she was panting and couldn't get comfortable, she kept shifting positions and pacing and whimpering and we really went to the vet just to verify that she didn't have bloat and were relieved that she didn't have bloat and then also because the vet was closing in a few minutes at midnight, I didn't press for anything more than the finding her right hind leg was sore, she wouldn't let the vet extend it fully backwards...
So then, like now, it was rimadyl for four or five days and bedrest for a week... so not knowing exactly what she had done--I was guessing she had clipped her right hip on the corner of the building making the turn to where the squirrels were nesting, but then, the way she was trying to stretch and stretch her hind end immediately afterward made me think maybe she had pulled something...
I watched her closely after the week of bedrest, eased her into normal life very slowly, worried like a nut when I first let her start to play with the other dogs in the park, kept it short and semi-quiet... we skipped her agility classes... and then, we kind of held our breath and began again... everything seemed fine. Dawn thought she saw a slight hitch in her hind end when we started classes with Sassie... but she's just been getting stronger and stronger... once in a while I will worry, that the reason she will suddenly be slow in the weave poles is her old injury was not her leg, but her spine... but now we'll find out more next week.
Hopefully this x-ray will be a good one, tell us what this injury is or what it isn't, and Sassie suggested I also send it to OFA for a more detailed diagnosis... Because I am worried about putting Stella through the ordeal of the X-ray (they have to make the dog lie on its back and because its an awkward position they have to sedate the dog enough to make them compliant) Sassie sent me this funny stoned "floppy doll" picture of Fleet after his hip X-ray and said Stella would probably be very "entertaining" once I got her home...
I did enter Stella in two CPE events on the first day of a three day trial in CT next month--only two events cause the rest of the trial was full, but I think thats perfect. Even just walking her around all the excitement and congestion of trial atmosphere will be good for her. We also went ahead and got our AKC mutt number and USDAA too. UKI is in the mail. Just getting all the paperwork set now, so we can enter stuff if it looks like we're up to speed later this spring and summer.
Tomorrow, if the timing works out--between the husband's column, Stella's hospital therapy dog visit, B's SAT work, and seeing S's play going up at Yale--B and I are going to try to get to the late afternoon run thrus up above New Haven in the venue where we plan to enter a couple of CPE trials over the summer... I think introducing her to new spaces is important. It will be a good test. We'll be slightly nervous and so we'll see how much checking out she wants to do or hopefully how much she has learned about focus...
and we'll see how much we have learned about handling her... in my class this week, Sassie announced at the start that we would only walk the course for the length of the song she was playing, I think she said the Olympic anthem? I don't know, I wasn't listening I was blocking it out, concentrating on learning the course as fast as I could... she ended up playing the song twice, but even still I felt the pressure to figure it out fast and that was great practice, because at a trial I will be under all kinds of pressure...
I had one question right off about the handling of a 180 turn that came right after a fast straight away of three jumps including a broad jump and a tripple... I knew Stella would go flying out straight or even take the tunnel straight ahead instead of making a tight turn... Sassie's answer was obvious once she said it, I needed to move laterally right after Stella committed to the tripple and front cross in front of the next jump... of course it turned Stella like magic...
The course--I think there were 24 or 25 obstacles--had three tables... a very forgiving course, because of the tables, I can sort of mentally regroup while Stella is on the table... but even so, I blew the end of the course... not remembering the order of the last four obstacles... a front cross after the weave poles to send her over a jump to the left and then into the left side of the tunnel under the DW, then back over the same jump with a front cross to the teeter--which also turned out to be tricky handling for me.
I blanked on where I was going and Stella is still weird about tunnels and my being discombobulated didn't help her because then even though I went all the way to the tunnel my cue for which end was fuzzy and then being all the way at the tunnel, I had to book it back, beat her to the other side of the jump for a front cross to the teeter... I booked it back on the wrong side of the jump and screwed that up too... Even when Sassie showed me where I had to be--and it looked simple, obvious, once she said it--I somehow couldn't do it smoothly... it made sense in my brain, but not yet in my body...
I should be able to eventually get this... learning courses under pressure, figuring out a handling plan... I used to ski race for Suicide Six in Vermont as a kid and we had to learn courses in one or two runs going down next to the course, figuring out where to take the turns, where to be in the poles, where to pour on the speed, where to check, remembering tricky places, places that might get tricker after a few runs with ruts or ice... and I really used to like the puzzling it out part... I remember less strategizing with the three-day trials I used to enter with my horses at my level... but there was certainly course memorization---on the flat with dressage, that was the most challenging for me, and of course with the cross country and stadium jumping---I can't remember the time limits we had to learn these in, its possible we got the course maps the day before
I remember reading somewhere that its best to go over an agility course in your head, in pieces, starting with the end piece first and add on piece by piece working backwards. I should try that...
Anyway, this is Dawn and Shasta taking a spin over the course:
After agility on Wednesday, we also had our first Tricks Class with Sassie and I think its really going to be fun. We need more tricks for Stella to do at the hospital for the kids in the pediatrics unit and our first homework is tossing a ring onto the dog, which, heh heh, is as much a trick for me as it is for Stella... but I think thats something the kids will like to see and even some of them could try. We also worked on what we call "perch" - just front feet up on an object and after Stella perched on a little bucket, Sassie also got her to get all four feet up on the bucket--which was impossibly adorable and funny, especially when Stella then also sat on the little bucket...
So then after a day of agility class and tricks at K9 Campus in NJ and home for her short nap and dinner, we drove out to LI for B's night class at SNAP... Its a lot. She worked hard and I'm surprised Stella did bring it as much as she did. She looks tired in the video of the SNAP class, but she's a trooper and even when she went a sniffing, B got her back into the game---good girl Stella!
I wonder whats up with her and the tunnel though... and she always does those weave poles at SNAP slow
What makes me more optimistic than anxious though is this week's class. The course challenge for the class was indeed a handling challenge. Stella was good. I wasn't bad.
Sassie broke the course down into three parts to teach it. The first part all about collection and tight turns and changes of direction. The second part all about the weave poles--TWELVE--and handling them with some distance to be able to get to the right position for a front cross or rear cross--your choice. The third part being about an immediate tight turn back away from the handler from the AF to the tunnel underneath it and then some handling distance in a 360 of obstacles, the course ending with the TEETER.
Below is the video of Dawn handling the whole course with Whisper seamlessly.
Stella stuck with me and she's learning to turn her body mid-jump really well--gumby dog--which she had to do three times over the first six jumps, all of which were tight work anyway... and we had to end with the dog angled in the right place--as if we were going on to send them with a good entry into the weave poles... Stell and I got this really tough first sequence almost right away. I was kind of in shock, expecting not to get it, the hard part for me turned out to be being in the right place to handle the last jump which only took a second try... and I remember thinking as she pranced along side me back to her crate--wow our turn was over fast! And whew no total klutz or angsting!
The second part, Sassie broke into two more parts, first doing just the 12 poles, then doing the three jumps to the tunnel and well, I was worried Stella wouldn't stick in there for the twelve poles... she did, she was fine... Sassie said there was nothing to worry about, she was doing 12... and then when we added the jumps and tunnel to the rest of this second part, I could even--again, on the second or maybe it was the third, try--get two jumps away from the poles in time for that front cross... which I thought would be better than trailing her with a rear cross to the tunnel...
Below is some weave pole video from after class when Sassie had me working on getting some distance from her while she's weaving and also DRIVE through the 12... I hadn't thought of this before, but of course it makes sense--Sassie was saying the poles have to be "an independent obstacle" that Stella has to be able to do them to the end no matter where I am moving.
I was so proud of Stella!
And does she have Work Ethic? At one point, because Stella knew that Sassie had all my treats, baggies of delectable little meatball AND hotdog pieces... Stella got glued to Sassie at the end of the poles... She was nosing Sassie's hands and then offering behaviors for Sassie (mainly a beautiful down) and essentially I didn't exist. Sassie had me go away and sit on a chair until Stella figured out that I had gone missing and that she would need to tear herself away from the smell of the treats and come work with me to get the goodies Sassie was holding at the end of the poles... Ok, it took a while. Stella is a treat fiend. But, Sassy (aware of how Stella is a sucker for all kinds of distractions) said it was better to be patient, take the time now rather than deal with these problems later. Once she figured the deal out, she had no problem working.
Then, because Stella will also have to extend this understanding to competition, that even though B and I will NOT be packing treats at a trial, she'll get her reward at the end of the run, right outside the ring... Sassie had me show Stella I was putting ALL the treats on top of a crate at the edge of the room and then take Stella through the opening sequence to the end of the poles--then "throw her a party" and run her over to the treats where I should let her eat ALL of whatever was left in the baggie... This worked great.
On the third and last section of the course in class, the most obvious and surprising sticking points for me and Stella were the tunnels... for some reason she is hesitating at the entry... and this from a dog that was once a total tunnel freak... the only thing I can think is that the last time we had our tunnel out in the apartment the cats ran in and surprised her a few times... one decided the middle was a good place to take a nap and this all gave her pause, but she was still going through...
Who knows what goes on in the dog brain... Sassie suggested we get out our tunnel again at home... show her where we were putting treats a distance from the exit, then hold her collar at the entrance, build some gusto going into the tunnel... In the video below, I decided to work, first with nothing, just to come back to me for a treat reward from my hand and then with her favorite toy---the soccer ball...
All in all, I feel she's doing pretty well. She even seems to be conquering her Teeter fears. Anyway... Wish us luck tomorrow