Sunday, February 10, 2019

Zorro first rally trial and Molly RLV!

Today was a huge day because it was....

Zorro's First Trial!!!!!!

Zorro got to play World Cynosport Rally-o, Intro level, under my very favorite judge. He had great attention on the start and up to the very first sign. I was about halfway through a Sit Stay Walk around when a very loud bark came from outside the ring. It startled us both. I attempted the sign again and Z was still too distracted (by not only "where did that bark come from!?" but also all of the people who were moving to close the lobby door.

The rest of the run was fine, though I was a little rattled by something unexpected like that happening and I didn't support a proper sit at halt on the next sign and also on a left turn I didn't really decelerate so he actually went to cone-wrap the sign haha. We finished strong with gorgeous heeling and a 203/210. Good boy! I was feeling a little bummed because that happened but hey, it's a trial. Stuff like this happens! And what I am most glad about was that Zorro recovered so quickly and went on to continue enjoying his time in the ring. I can't keep fretting that it wasn't perfect, but I can marvel at how this puppy shook off a startling and enormous distraction like it never happened. "Courage is grace under pressure." Ernest Hemingway.

I took....a ridiculous amount of ribbon photos........not even gonna apologize for it!

Molly was next! Last month I brought her to a WCRL trial and she earned her first Rally Veterans leg. At today's trial I entered her in both Veterans trials and she qualified in both rounds to earn her Rally Veteran title! Her first run was perfectly ridiculous. She knocked a sign over on the "return to heel", her dumbbell retrieve was explosive and a crowd pleaser and she was just all around hot and cold with her heeling...either plodding along or bursting into ridiculous sprints. Yep, she made people laugh! That's what she always does! Here is her second run, not quiiiiiite as amusing as the first one.

Perri brought up our last runs of the trial, with a 205 in Level 1 (had to re-cue her down on the very first sign. Should have supported her with verbal and hand signal. Also, she got super weird on a left finish and didn't want to sit at a certain spot on the floor that is a Horrible Spot and Must Not Be Touched.)
aaaaand a 207 in Level 2 ... I forget where we lost the points. But she was pretty good today! A little hot and cold but overall in the game and not too worried about the floor or the environment. Good Poodle!

Since we got out of the trial around 2 in the afternoon we went hiking and geocaching with our friends and had a perfect caching day as well! I just love being able to get the dogs out in nature after they are cooped up in their crates at a trial, it feels like the ultimate reward to them.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Yesterday I had the opportunity to take Zorro to a NADAC-style fun run. Two rounds of Tunnelers and two rounds of Jumpers! What fun it would be!

The fun run was at the same training facility with the blue matting where Molly has gone lame twice, so I did not want to risk her hurting her bad foot again. I was feeling a little emotional about leaving Molly at home though.
This isn't a hike, this isn't an agility trial, this isn't just any old thing...this is TUNNELERS. A special Molly-thing. I was thisclose to bringing her and letting her run because I know she would have so loved it, and if it had not been winter I might have done so.

But. I did not.

Zorro is still rather lukewarm about tunnels so I wasn't sure how our time would go. In puppy class we have been working on short sequences that involve "a lot of handling" and not so much courses that are flowing or straight lines. With the NADAC style courses yesterday, Zorro's extreme handler focus was highlighted. He does not lock onto obstacles or look ahead for them, he looks for me. Also, he forgot how to do tandem turns at a new trial site. Needs generalizing. It was a really great experience for both of us and a chance to adjust our training moving forward. It's just information!

I was happy with his start line stays, I was happy with his toy play (two different toys in a ring he has never done agility in before.) and I was happy with myself for staying connected with him the majority of the time when we were sequencing.

Perri did one run, Open Jumpers. For the simple fact that Zorro's runs cost $15 and I only had a $20, and she was along anyway. She was very flat and uninspired, but she kept moving and didn't stare at all. She did have a mild stress sneeze about halfway through the run, but wasn't paralyzed by it.

We also went on a mini hike afterwards with our friend, to help her find one of my favorite geocaches in the area. It turned into a double hike since we needed a tool from her car to retrieve the geocache and it was muddddddddy!! Oh, the MUD. Both dogs got foot baths when we got home, especially Perri. And most especially me. I climbed a tree, I climbed a bridge, and I fell in the mud. I am sore all over. But any day with agility, geocaches and hiking is a perfect day as far as I am concerned! I did try for a bonus gamelands hike after that but I could not find the parking area and it was nearly dark so...another day!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 Wrap Up.

This post is terribly delayed but I still wanted to make it happen! We have had a lot of changes this year for sure.

Ein wrapped up his rally obedience career this year, he ended on a high note earning his Rally Veteran Championship x 5 under our very favorite judge (and also, at the first place he ever did a WCRL trial at.) He also earned his Companion Dog Excellent title in CDSP Obedience, at long naughty last! And third time's the charm, Ein earned his Canine Good Citizen title at last as well as his Novice, Intermediate and Advanced trick dog titles. I still try to do a little trick training with regularity, for his mental and physical health. He also had a great agility year, though our CPE showing has become more and more limited. Other than performance, Ein is definitely showing his age in some ways. He is going deaf and showing the early stages of "doggy dementia". I started using 3mg of melatonin for Ein at night, as his pacing and crying was becoming intense in the evenings. The issue has resolved completely and he sleeps peacefully now. During the day time Ein shows mild and adorable vacancy but is still incredibly active. He still loves to go for walks and the occasional hike, though he takes longer to recover physically than he used to.

Molly had a rough start to the year, with her left front foot causing persistent lameness problems for her. After a diagnostic work up and steroid injection into the problem toe, she has stayed 100% sound. (besides ripping her entire toenail off the literal day of her return to agility after the toe ordeal. Molly! What can I say!?)
We no longer run on mat agility footing and I have kept Molly's runs limited to three per trial day. Sadly, no lure coursing for Molly this year because of her foot. In January, Molly had her last two runs in Regular 20" class and earned her AKC AX and AXJ in the same day.  Molly did some running in Veterans 12" (CPE) but I have decided that we are definitely not ready for that low of a jump height - she is way too fast! 16" is perfect for her right now. She is running with so much joy and confidence especially since the fall. We are in a really great place as a team. We also spent 2018 in a regular training class with excellent instruction and I have had a lot of personal growth handling and mental-game wise. I am so grateful that Molly was my partner for that. She has seen me through thick and thin, and I could never ask for a better first agility dog.
Molly also played in Obedience and earned her Starter Novice title in CDSP as well as one leg towards her Companion Dog. She seems to enjoy the game!
Health wise Molly has been doing phenomenal. The addition of a twice-daily histamine lowering probiotic put a complete end to her GI attacks. Molly did not have a single episode of intractable vomiting in 2018. No signs of any lymphoma related issues.

Perri and I have had a great year together. I have been clear that my mind was not where I wanted it to be in regards to Perri and I'm not proud of that, but I feel like I am at a better place now. Perri had a medication switch from fluoxetine to amitriptyline and composure / l-theanine as needed. Amitriptyline has been incredible for her and I could not be happier with the results. She is much more pleasant to live with now.
Perri had a new therapy dog job, weekly visits to a group home and she continued her monthly library visits. Agility wise was more laid back than ever. We took a lot of breaks and if we did any agility, it as Intro or Novice with focus on ring confidence. Towards the fall I dropped Perri to Enthusiast in CPE and she went on to earn the last 9 legs needed for her CT-ATCH title in a straight shot. No NQs. She is now retired from CPE. She ended the year earning her P2 Snooker title and showing much improved ring confidence in all other classes entered. My own confidence has grown and most importantly, I have a much better understanding of what Perri needs from me before we enter the ring. The time from she gets out of her crate to my release from the start line is crucial. I have learned a lot from Perri this year.
Other than all that, Perri has enjoyed "her baby" Zorro. They play and wrestle together and she has done a wonderful job as a hiking partner to teach little Z how we act on the trail. I think having a puppy in the house has done wonders for Perri's mental health and confidence.

And of course our new kid, Zorro! joined the family this year! I flew to Nevada and back with him, my first plane ride in many many years and certainly my first time with a puppy! Zorro has learned so much this year already! He is housebroken now, doing well with his crate training, integrated well with the pack and is learning how to be an off leash hiking dog. He is truly lovely to live with, though he certainly has plenty of annoying puppy behaviors and a lot of energy! We have had a fun year working on foundation agility training, tricks and body awareness. Looking forwards to 2019!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Last hike of 2018

Today was 2018's close up hike and what a hike it was! I do not have a "fit bit" but I calculate we did about five and a half miles in the Gamelands near and on the Appalachian Trail. I so love hiking in the blue mountains, it inspires me so much!

Perri and Zorro came along. I saw a geocache that had not been found in over two years and I was determined to find it! It was the typical hell of rocks and trees everywhere and haha, find the metal ammo box in the middle of all that. I leashed Perri and Z to a tree and got to searching. Zorro started whining and yipping, very much like Molly with the frustration over being tied to a tree while I search for a cache. (This is where Perri shines, she goes into a perfect sphinx down and chews on a stick while I search.) I don't like to let the dogs run loose while I am searching for a tough geocache because I don't want them ambushing another person while I am not paying attention.

Spoiler alert: we found it!

From there I was a little nervous. I should have brought my Appalachian Trail map for this section. But I did not think of that since I wasn't on the AT. However, the AT goes right through this section of the Weiser State Forest and sure enough, when I got home there was a map detailing every bit of the trail that we had walked on. It would have been super helpful. All I had to go on was some geocaches that I wanted to find and they were all about a mile away. It was only noon and sundown was a while away so we just started walking.

Perri and Zorro are both lovely off leash (with staying near me and their recalls.) but sometimes they will get naughty and start overarousal-biting each other incessantly. This results in a TIME OUT for the biter (it is usually one or the other, they both like to do it, not at one time.) Zorro will do it to Perri, or Perri will run down and bully bite Zorro. Meant. For. Each. Other!!!! Regardless of this they both got a lot of time running off leash. If we were going off trail for a geocache, I tried to make sure Zorro was off. Navigating the woodlands with blow downs and random obstacles is so good for his developing mind and body not to mention all of the extra enrichment from sniffing.

We ended up finding 6 geocaches, all of which had not been found for at least a year. Really exciting, I love finding "lonely caches" as they are called. The hike was wonderful, with flurries of snow now and again, or the sun peeking out, and not too cold. I could not ask for a better Last Hike of 2018.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Zorro 8 months

Zorro is turning into a little big man!

He has all of his big boy teeth, he is regularly measuring around the 17.5-17.75" range. 27.5 pounds. He has been 100% housebroken for over three months now and definitely seems to have the "would rather die than potty inside" mentality that Ein has. Excellent!

Zorro continues to have excellent recalls on our off leash hikes, though I know we are approaching "teenager" territory so I am cautious. We are doing as much hiking as we can, both on and off leash as I love the life skills, relationship and body awareness that I feel only hiking can develop. Both of my girls rarely drop bars and I have always suspected that was due to growing up with plenty of opportunity to use their bodies in natural settings. Or, maybe we have just been lucky!

Zorro loves to run and chase so much I chanced some dog park time with him. Our first dog park went great, there was a pointer who enjoyed chasing her ball and couldn't care less that she had a little raptor chasing her. And then he got some play time and chase time with an appropriate dog for his level. The other two visits were not so successful. One time was at an agility trial with Molly, I had a lot of dead time so I drove out to a local dog park. Z was overwhelmed by the grouping of the dogs around him and then a young aussie kept treating Zorro...well, like Zorro treats other dogs and he didn't like it much! Chasing and nipping. Our third and final time was with a nearly appropriate dog for Z, but a little bigger. Zorro was having great fun chasing that dog but when the other dog wanted to chase he got overwhelmed actually fell on the ground because he was trying to run sideways since he wanted to keep an eye on the dog instead of just running away from it. I decided I had certainly pushed my luck enough. I don't need a bad experience to imprint itself and give me another reactive dog, that's for sure!

At home manners are a work in progress. Zorro's worst habit is that he likes to jump on and nip around the adult dog's ears, and it is particularly bad outside at potty times. To the point where I am leashing him or letting him out separately. He simply finds the behavior way too rewarding outside with open space to build up a good running head of steam. Indoors we have had a lot of success with redirecting onto a toy (there are always many toys littered on the ground.) and there are glimmers of a more peaceful future when I see him get that "look" in his eyes but then actively chooses to grab a toy or chew a bone instead.

We had some experimental levitations onto my table and counters, as well as some paws up to try to get food. I supervise heavily and push him away from the counters and he really seems to accept those areas are off limits to him. Shoes and kindling firewood pieces for our woodstove...another story! He is not accepting that those things are off limits to him quite as willingly! And he loves to play keep away! He will relinquish anything for a food treat though.

Toy work is going great. Tug is incredible and Z will consistently work for his braided tug toy with pouch attached. Play retrieve training is going wonderfully! He loves to chase the ball and is reliably bringing the ball back, and appreciates a treat for the return. We also had a Really Big Deal, first water retrieve in the beginning of December! I was throwing sticks into the lake so that Perri and Ein would rinse themselves. I saw Z whining at the sticks (they were far out) so I threw one in about a foot away from the shoreline and he swam right out and grabbed it! We had a major party! It was cold though, so I will be interested to see what he wants to do when the weather turns hot again. I have taught him to release whatever toy he has, "Give", and he is coming right along with that. Often he will hold the toy for another second or so. We are building trust that it is worth his while to give me the toy.

Zorro has his weekly agility class and he is doing well there, we have a lot of fun! He is still the youngest puppy in the class and I am the least experienced handler but we are enjoying ourselves. I feel like I am learning so much more about handling and a whole different dimension doing this with a puppy. We had a training workshop in a new-to-Zorro location, which different looking jumps/wings and different tunnels. Turf. Building. It was really good for him and I think it's important for us to get to different places so that he can generalize his skills. He will also start rally obedience class in 2019. I have been wanting to do a basic obedience class with him, again to get him working somewhere new and on different skills. Rally-o will work just as nicely for my purposes!

I am looking so forwards to the New Year with my little man!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Last agility weekend of 2018!

We ended our trialing year of 2018 in a big way, with three days of trials!

Friday night was Einey with two CPE runs: Fullhouse and Snooker! Fullhouse was lovely and in Snooker the Aframe was #5 in the closing so I had to make a plan with big points in the opening so that Ein could still qualify with only making it through four in the closing. Ein says NO to the Aframe these days. We made it happen and Ein ends the year standing at 905 points, getting pretty close to that 1000 point title, buddy! (I am still semi tempted to enter a CPE trial the last weekend of the year so maybe I will make a liar out of my post title.)

I am beyond blessed to have a nearly 14 year old dog still playing agility. What a boy!

Saturday was our agility club's USDAA trial weekend and we had a Masters only trial on Saturday. I had a family get together planned for the afternoon on Saturday, but I still took Molly to the trial for the first two runs! We played Gamblers and almost got the Gamble but not quite. Standard was a real heart breaker, with one bar down and no other faults. Ouch! I did not post about it but a few weekend's ago Molly earned a second P3 Standard Q so she is now just one away from her MAD (P) title. Hey, we earned two Standard Qs for 2018. Not too bad!

That last Standard Q!!!!
What a year for Molly! Her front feet gave her such trouble, the toe injury and the ripping-off-the-entire-toenail ordeal directly to follow! But Unsinkable Molly rose from the ashes and we have been able to play agility together consistently since the late Spring. I have so treasured this year of training with her, actually even more than trialing. I wanted so much to have a year of really excellent training with my best girl and I got it. Every week she has been physically able to, Molly has been in the ring with me, helping me learn and putting up with my short comings and making me a better handler. Molly is my first agility dog and I always feel such guilt for failing her and not making good decisions for her in the beginning but it is a true treasure to still have her ready and willing, to still have a dog who is able to learn with me. 

And Sunday brought Perri's turn since it was a Starters/Advanced only trial that day. Since it was our club's trial I entered Perri in all four classes offered.
We started the day off with a bang by earning Perri's P2 Snooker title! We did "three 4s" and she really opened up in the closing and got all the way through 7. I was thanking the agility gods the weaves were not in the course!
Jumpers was next and while I was very careful with Perri ringside (I kept her at our crating area the entire time.), as we were entering the ring a small dog snarked at Perri's nose just as we were heading for the ring gate. Perri entered the ring with her tail tuck and froze on the start line and would not release on the first cue. She was a bit slow off the start line and through the first tunnel but then she opened it up and we earned her second P2 Jumpers Q and were 13 seconds under standard course time. Perri!! The whole time I was laser focused on staying connected to Perri and not falling into my old habits of looking at obstacles instead of my dog.
There was a very long break after that as we ran Starter Jumpers as well as two Intro classes. Gamblers was next, not Perri's strong area to work away from me. I wanted Perri to do the tire as she can be a little weird about that obstacle, still. The tire was one of the obstacle options on the start line and Perri was the first dog in her height class so I set her up in front of the tire. While the ring crew was setting the tire. She became obsessed with the chain clanging against the plastic tire. Well, I was making good decisions for her! She was very very slow coming off her start line and then did the dreaded stare. Thankfully the dog walk was right there and I got her on it and she shook it off and started running again. She was pretty light and happy but wouldn't send out to a distance tunnel in the Gamble. She actually took some initiative and went to the second obstacle in the gamble instead, so I went with it and told her Go go Go! and praised her at the end.
Standard was last and I gave considerable thought to scratching it. Even more when I got her out of the car and she was rather frozen and hypervigilant. I asked her to get in my chair (which we had been doing all day before her run.) and she went into her crate instead. Now, either she saw the chair as a precursor to her agility run and was saying "no thank you", or she was simply taking the crate since it was now available. By now the trial had emptied out so I was able to have my chair alongside of the crate rather than in front of it (blocking the entrance.)
I was not going to be stressed out by this and snowball with Perri. I did a lot of gentle massage on her sides and encouraged body stretches, we did paws up on the chair to encourage stretching upwards. I massaged her scalp and ears. And Perri actually loosened up and got slightly "springy" again. I don't know how else to describe this way Perri gets when she is relaxed. But she is very "light" and springy and pops around, rather than being sluggish and slow and staring around.
I chose to do a running start. I stood on the start line holding her up with just her rear feet on the ground and pointing her at the dog walk. What a blessing the course started with her favorite obstacle! She did fly off the start line. Back tunnel to jump and weaves. She did all 12 weaves to the pause table and I thought. We are golden now. Famous last words! We then had to do the teeter, to a jump, to a mild pull to a tunnel that was under the dog walk. Miss Thing went super wide (also, I lost connection and took for granted she wouldn't be as hard into extension as she was!) and found the most awkward approach to the dog walk ever and flew down that walk with her tail swishing. I teased "Unbelieeeeeeeeeeeeevable, Perri!!!" And we ran to her leash and ended the run and she ended the day feeling happy and proud.

And what a year for Perri. What a year.

Last year on this day we were at the CPE trial (which was going on in the other ring at this training center.) and I remember Perri was so shut down that she could not even complete a CPE Jumpers course. I remember scratching her from Wildcard and walking back to the USDAA ring to talk to my friend. I told her I was done. And I was. It wasn't that I gave up on Perri, it was that I respected Perri. And if she didn't want to play the game then that was that. 

The year of training that I committed to with Molly has benefited Perri. Perri was my substitute dog when Molly's body couldn't play. She didn't make it easy. We began this year with our team work in tatters. Perri demoralized and me frustrated beyond all reason. Resentful. Molly's bad toe and my financial commitment to training made me fight once again to figure out what could help Perri. Some nights she would work. Some nights she would stare at me. Our instructor never gave up on us, never let me shut down on Perri, she saw what my dog needed when nobody ever has before. And some weeks, in the beginning, Perri needed more than I could give. It's no shame to admit this about myself. Honesty is a the first step to improvement.

Connection. Clear handling. Less pressure. A puppy. New medicine. Raw diet. Less pressure. No matter how much you think you can fool your dog, they know. Perri always knew I was disappointed in her and she could not stand it. She is fragile, she needs support. She needed me to be a better handler, to not be frustrated, to be a better human. She was asking a lot. But I'm ready now, I'm ready to be that person. I remember at the end of 2016 I felt so hopeful for our future and it all fell apart the next year. If Perri doesn't want to play agility in 2019, I can say for certain: I am grateful for our 2018 and all that I learned from it. I am grateful that a few more times, we got to run happy like the wind together. It's enough.

Monday, December 10, 2018

World Cynosport Rally....Life after Ein's retirement!

Yesterday I took Perri to a World Cynosport Rally obedience trial and it wasn't until I was getting the car ready to leave that I realized: Ein isn't coming along. Ein isn't entered. I mean, I knew it. But I hadn't felt it emotionally until that moment.

I have done AKC Rally alone with Perri but as I scoured my memory, I can't say I have ever attended a WCR trial without Ein being entered. But yesterday was different. Ein is retired. I may have gone to a rally-o trial alone with Perri but that was only because I wasn't interested in any more AKC rally with Ein. He was still actively competing in WCR.

I have only been in dog sports for about 6 years (my first trial was AKC Rally with Ein in October 2012.) Yesterday was the first time that I entered a trial after retiring the dog that I started in that sport with. And World Cynosport was a huge part of Ein's life, his confidence. He earned the Award of Excellence in all three titling levels as well as Veterans class, he earned every championship title possible (ARCH, ARCHX, ARCHEX and ARCHMX) and he was nationally ranked in Veterans Champion and Rally Champion Extraordinaire. It was a big part of our lives. Memories I will treasure forever.

And I enjoyed my day with Perri, I really did. I supported her to my best abilities while we waited for her turns in the ring. I kept her away from trigger/scary dogs. At one point a spitzy type dog was staring at her and I noticed it and moved to an entirely different area. (the old me would have tried to distract her with food. Distance matters far more to Perri. Food does not make her stop being afraid of a trigger.) I rejoiced in myself that I did not resent Perri for needing support. For Not Being Ein. She needed a lot of support in the ring. This trial was at our old training club and for some reason the flooring results in a lot of static for Perri. She got shocked once when I gave her a treat and also when a few different people petted her. By the middle of her Level 2 run she seemed to be looking at the floor ahead of her and would dodge out of the way of random spots of flooring. I can only guess that she was looking for potential shock spots or places she did not want to step on.

I was supportive of Perri outside the ring. And I caught myself turning into Perri and looking at her on the Figure 8 when she lagged a little bit and adjusted quickly, looking ahead and on the floor. It helped a lot. I almost did the Figure 8 the old way and laughed at myself. When I laughed and smiled Perri lit up, trotting next to me and heeling her most flashy to end the course with.

Remember to smile. Remember to breathe.

ARCH QQ #1, 207 (L1) and 206 (L2).

I was chatting with a friend this morning who told me she is thinking of doing more rally-o with one of her dogs in the interest of confidence building. It made me think, Why am I pursuing an ARCH with Perri? I came up with: I want to gain more experience in supporting Perri, I want to learn more about what ringside routines work and I want to build my own confidence in those respects. 

It's a whole new journey with a whole new purpose.