Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Agility: ASCA fun and I need a DAM teammate

I've got tons to write about little Pinky puppy (whose registered name will be Pinky Laverne Del Fuego), but it'll take a while because she keeps me too busy to write. But I thought I'd nip in to say that Lucy, Gomey and I had a lot of fun running FEO at the ASCA trial on Sunday. Both dogs looked awesome. Gomey ran like a focused, seasoned agility dog, confirming my suspicions that there's something about running on our home turf at PBH that confuses him and makes him run around like a doofus. I think it has something to do with the fact that I use his ball and ball-on-a-tug while training there, and he's looking for the ball while he runs. He's extremely obsessive and pattern-oriented, and once you play ball once in a location, he expects to play ball there every time you go back. Or if you just drive by. Or if you are walking vaguely in that direction. We'll have to come up with some ways to work through it.

I'm planning to enter another USDAA DAM tournament on Nov. 30, but I need a team. I connected with one teammate through the trial secretary, but we need a third (26" or 16"). I've asked on local lists to no avail, and now I'm wondering if I should post to a couple of the national agility lists. For some reason I'm intimidated by those lists, because some of the people seem a little too intense and obsessive. I want to Q but I also want to enjoy the experience.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



The cute puppy I mentioned in my previous entry is still with us. The home I had lined up for her fell through when the woman, who really, really wanted the pup, came to the realization that her husband really did not. To preserve her domestic tranquility, the woman backed out of the adoption. We're sort of considering keeping the pup now, which means we need to call her something for real. The first thing I thought of was Pinky Tuscadero (after the TV character, not the Australian band that named themselves after the TV character). Then Mark (aka Mr. Dogliness) and I kicked around other names and we both liked Laverne (again, after the TV character, although personality-wise the pup seems more like a Shirley). So we tried out Laverne, and that's what our vet thinks her name is. But Pinky is a better name for getting a dog's attention, so at the moment the pup is called Pinky Laverne. But I really want to own a dog called She-Ra, Princess of Power, although I don't think Mark shares that desire. I might try to talk him into it.

Still, in the back of my mind I'm wondering if we shouldn't go ahead and keep looking for a terrific home for her. Keeping her pretty much breaks all the rules I had carefully crafted to guide myself when I decide the time is right for my next dog. My dogs are 8 and 9 years old, and the time will come when I can't keep asking them to do so much agility. But I will want an agility/flyball dog, won't I? So I've started considering what my next dog will be. Rule Number One: No puppies! I want to know exactly the adult size (under 16"!), drive level and temperament of my dog from the get-go. With a puppy (even a purebred), there's no way to know if it will become the dog you were dreaming of. That's double-true when you don't even have any idea what breed or mix the puppy is to begin with.

Pinky Laverne is a real question mark. Here she is at seven weeks. It's hard to get a good "representative" photo because she doesn't really want to stand still. I'll keep trying. Some people say she looks like she's got pit bull in her, and she could very well have. Others say lab, some say border collie (any time you see black and white with speckles people always guess border collie). She could have any of those things in her, but she's too teensy not to have something small mixed in. She was 3.2 lbs. at (estimated) six weeks and 4.7 lbs. at eight weeks. That makes me think that her "finished" size may be close to Lucy's (15" at the shoulder, 21 lbs). Or maybe it's wishful thinking because my ideal next dog would be exactly Lucy's size. At any rate, I'm calling her a "pithuahua" if anyone asks.

And yeah, you should expect to read more puppy business here soon ... when I actually have time to write!

Oh, and I've entered Lucy and Gomey in one day of a local ASCA trial this weekend. I'm running FEO (for exhibition only) because I'm not registered with ASCA and don't feel like spending the money to register them right now. I'm only doing it because a) agility is so much fun! and b) I want to try and support anyone who has any kind of local agility trial. (Except for AKC, of course. Even if they one day decided to allow mutts I wouldn't bother with them.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

A foster puppy and a great agility dog

Once again I've fallen behind on my goal to blog often. I worked overtime all last week, plus we are again hosting a foster puppy. I also ran my dogs in agility trials the past two weekends, so I'm a bit exhausted.

The puppy was a surprise, brought to us by the boy down the street. Someone was giving away puppies, he brought one home and his parents said no way. So of course he brought it to the "dog people" on the block. He was very sad to have to give up his puppy. She is very young--the vet estimated last week that she was only 6 weeks old, and we have no idea what breed or mix she is. Our local shelter is under parvo quarantine, which means she would have almost certainly gotten the needle after 5 days if she went in. What else could we do? We had potential adopters for the pup who were supposed to pick her up yesterday, but they backed out at the last minute when they realized having a puppy would be a lot of work. Tell me about it. I'm glad they thought of it BEFORE taking her home, though--a lot of people don't. But that still leaves us with a puppy on our hands. She's cute as a button and sweet as pie, so I'm hoping it won't be long. She needs more attention than we really have for her right now.

Anyway, I really want to talk about agility because I just had two great trials in a row: USDAA this past weekend, and NADAC the previous weekend. I couldn't be happier with the way Lucy and I are doing. I really think focusing on my mental game has made a huge difference, because I haven't had time to do much extra training. It's as if Lucy were just waiting for me to get my act together before she showed me how really awesome she could be.

In NADAC, Lucy and I racked up two Qs each in Chances and Tunnelers and one each in Touch & Go, Weavers and Regular. I was really pleased with the way we worked together. Pleased to distraction, in fact: during our Jumpers run first thing Sunday morning, I was so caught up with thinking about how awesome Lucy was that I sort of forgot to pay attention to the course and didn't realize it until we'd taken two off-course jumps. Oops!

In USDAA we far exceeded my expectations, getting two Jumpers Qs, and one each in Gamblers, Snooker, Grand Prix and Standard. (We now need only one more Standard Q for our MAD title!) I felt really good about every run--like I'm actually becoming the handler my awesome dog deserves. I think she's noticing, too, because she was fast, as if she's thinking "Finally, I can open up and run and trust that you're actually telling me what you really want me to do." And the only thing I've really changed since the awful trial a month ago is my attitude.

With Gomey, things aren't quite as wonderful. We did well together in NADAC, earning two tunnelers Qs and one each in Regular, Jumpers and Chances, and I felt like he was really clicking with this whole agility thing. Then the USDAA trial was a disaster. It was as if he'd completely left his brain at home and had no idea why we were out there. It's like that every time we run at our "home" facility, so something about trialing there just confuses the heck out of him and makes him silly. The funniest monent was in our Snooker run, when I ran him to the opening of a tunnel that ran under an A-frame, perpendicular to it (i.e., there was no discrimination involved). I said "TUNNEL!" and pointed directly at it, and even though he was about a foot from the opening, Gomey turned away, ran a big circle all the way around the tunnel and A-frame and then decided to actually go in the tunnel. It was just crazy and inexplicable. Maybe I'll just stop trialing him at PBH because it's starting to get a little frustrating.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I heart Terrierman

If you've never checked out the blog Terrierman's Daily Dose, today is a perfect time to dive in. No matter that you don't own a terrier--Terrierman (aka Patrick Burns) is a fan of all working dogs. Today's post is called Border Collie Owners Battle What Doesn't Work, and it's about the struggle of working border collie enthusiasts against the ruination of theor working breed by the AKC (and kennel clubs in general). It also serves as a review of a new book on that topic: The Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club by Donald McCaig.

If you have a little time, you should check out the entirety of Terrierman's writings on the AKC. I think he he's got the raw materials there for a book that's sorely needed.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Agility euphoria

Lucy and I had the opposite of the crummy weekend we had a few weeks ago. No, we didn't Q on every run, but we were four for eight, which is better than we've done in USDAA for a while. But there's more, something even better: we got our first Snooker Super Q! That alone would have made my whole weekend. We also got Qs in Jumpers, Grand Prix and Pairs (and then ran as an accommodating dog to help someone else Q). In the Pairs, Jumpers and Snooker runs we also finished in first place.

But even the non-qualifying runs were mostly really good, except for whatever little thing got us NQ'd, of course. Lucy was weaving beautifully, making her contacts (she missed one in the gamblers opening) and even downing quickly on the table. I hate to say it, but I think I need to give some credit to the self-help book! I've read about half of the Lanny Bassham book my friend lent me, and I decided to try practicing the stuff I'd read so far. So I set goals, focused on "rehearsing success" and not focusing on what could go wrong and generally tried to stay positive. I feel like it helped both of us--I know Lucy is very tuned-in to my mental state.

I did flub one run (standard on Sunday) because of stupid sloppiness (I caused Lucy to refuse a jump), and I was very angry with myself afterward. I kept thinking, and saying out loud to a friend, "Why am I suck a dork? I know better," etc. It took me a half an hour to talk myself out of that mindset and get back to the positive, but after I did we went on to have our two best runs of the weekend (including the Super Q!)

Next weekend I'll do it all again, but with both dogs, and in NADAC, which I treat as a training/motivational venue. Maybe I'll read the rest of the Bassham book before then and really put it all together. Then the following weekend is more USDAA--two more chances to get those Standard Qs I need for Lucy's MAD title. At the rate we are going it seems we'll get our Tournament Master's title before we get the MAD, but who cares? Either one would be cool.