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. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

CT-ATCH Perri!

Perri and I rolled into yesterday needing the following Qs: Jumpers. Wildcard. And one Q in "any" class. (it would be the 10th leg to make up for skipping the required 10 Standard legs you need for a C-ATCH.)

After Perri's stressy behavior last Saturday as well as an extremely uninspired practice run in Molly's agility class on Monday night, I was trying my best to feel confident.

And we started with Wildcard. Two jumps to a tandem over the spread jump (our first wildcard). A tunnel discrimination for our second Wildcard, I let the easy end be our "A". And then the weaves. Perri got silly and I thought she would start zooming. Thank goodness for no refusals in CPE! I asked her to weave again and she hopped through them nicely, nailed our last Wildcard "B" (a pull to a tunnel instead of the bar jump in her line.) And out the ending. She ran around the last jump but thankfully returned to me without back jumping and took the jump. And not over time!

I started to feel a little more relaxed! The Jumpers course wasn't a straightforward flowy course, it asked for some handling. The first three jumps Perri came off the startline in slow motion, and did a brief stare at me after #2. (I tried to post turn. She was displeased.) I said "Don't do this, Perri!" And then we were off like a shot, a lovely fast Q of the rest of the Jumpers course and 8 seconds under SCT. (as opposed to last weekend's Jumpers course which was an allowable 2 seconds over SCT.) Perri even did a lovely pinwheel at the end, which she often finds demotivating. Good Poo!

The morning was non stop since I had Ein entered in Colors, Wildcard and Jumpers (by the way, perfect day for the boy! 3/3!) and I was working out of my car so I felt like I was back and forth out of the building over and over between course walk throughs and bringing each dog in and out. After Ein's Jumpers run I finally had time to relax a bit since we had to wait for all of the Standard levels to run through before Jackpot. I timed all of those classes and made my Jackpot plan.

And then it was time. I kept Perri sitting on my chair the entire time we were waiting to run. I worked on LAT with large trigger dogs she was worried about. I massaged her neck and scalp and ears. I "squished" her. And then we went in there and we nailed it with nearly 20 more points than we needed and 8 seconds under time. The run could not have been more perfect. She was silly and happy. When she hits the table to stop the clock her tail is wagging. That tail was wagging leaving the ring. Our run was one of mutual enjoyment. Perri felt safe and happy and she was loving the game. How very perfect.

"love, if your wings are broken 
Borrow mine `til yours can open, too 
`Cause I`m gonna stand by you 
Even if we`re breaking down, 
we can find a way to break through 
Even if we can`t find heaven, 
I`ll walk through Hell with you 
Love, you`re not alone, `cause I`m gonna stand by you.

Sunday, November 4, 2018


Before Perri did the CPE trial in October, I had decided that if she did well I would file the official paperwork with CPE to move her earned Level 5 legs in Regular class to Enthusiast. Enthusiast allows Perri a little bit more time in the ring, a lower jump height and most importantly: you can skip a class. This would mean that Perri would not have to do Standard class in order to earn the Enthusiast level championship title, the CT-ATCH. The extra time would be appreciated. I am embarrassed to jump Perri at 16" but that is very silly. Perri doesn't care. And while mentally I had to reconcile that I felt like I was almost cheating by not fulfilling the complete requirements for a CT-ATCH, I am grateful that CPE allows us the opportunity to earn a comparable title that is more Perri's speed right now.

Anyway. That left us at needing three quailfying rounds in Wildcard, two in Jumpers and one "any class". In CPE when you skip a class you must earn those legs elsewhere. It doesn't matter which class. You need 10 Standard legs for a C-ATCH and so Perri needed 10 legs in any other game. She actually already  had three Standard legs and she has a mixture of extra game legs beyond the required 5. Mostly Snooker. That's her jam.

We went to the local training center for my normal favorite Friday night of agility. The hosting club always offers two classes on Friday evenings and two full weekend days of classes. Fortunately, Wildcard was offered Friday night. I wish I had a video. It was my favorite run of the weekend! In Wildcard, which is my least favorite class mostly because instead of true discriminations you would actually see in agility, it's often just two obstacles plunked down next to one another. Or a tunnel where you have to pick one end or the other (and that is a true normal discrimination but one that I hate!) Mostly because of Molly. Perri is no challenge with tunnels since they are her least favorite obstacle.

We ended up doing two sets of weaves, and the dog walk and Aframe! I normally turn myself inside out to avoid weave poles as a Wildcard choice but the course layout left me no choice (horrible approach to the dog walk after the course's second Wildcard choice - a tunnel end discrimination.) Perri was on fire and so happy, almost 4 YPS, pushy on her contacts but a Good Girl and her second set of weaves in particular was performed with speed. Really great start to the weekend!

Saturday was only two classes for Perri: Wildcard again and Jumpers. I was mentally coaching myself through not being uptight about "We need these legs!" Connection, confidence. And if Perri has issues, it's just information. She is who she is.

And Perri sure did give me some "information". On both of our courses we had to follow a dog that Perri has disliked for years. Perri does not like fast dogs, loud dogs, flashy dogs and erratic dogs. This dog is a meek, anxious dog that is smaller than Perri and she has despised her for a long time, who knows why! To the point where she has had reactive outbursts ringside when this dog was far away from Perri. We had none of that on Saturday but Perri sure did notice this dog in the ring ahead of her and standing outside of the ring before her turn. Moving to Enthusiast means Perri is now the same height class as this dog. Groan.

This was our Wildcard run. Sigh on the weaves. I can tell I was feeling stressed. I'm just not very smooth. I'm trying my best to not worry that Perri will have a Perri moment and just be strong for her. Trying hard not to Want the Q.

Jumpers was last of the day. Perri couldn't get her eyes off of her nemesis dog when we entered the ring and was fixated on her to the point where she barked as the dog left the ring. This blew all of my fine positive start line plans out of the water. Perri was very pokey and stopped in front of two tunnels. She was two seconds over time but she qualified. First CPE Jumper Q in two years. And I had to work so hard for it. I don't have a video but I feel like I forced myself to be more relaxed on this run. I did a ton of being in front of Perri, running backwards to motivate her and draw her into me, and running on the outside of her line to motivate her. I'm proud of her for not stopping and starting at me. I actually smiled at her the first time she wouldn't take the tunnel. That's another thing I'm thinking about. When/if she shuts down, I have no idea what my face looks like but it's probably pushy and harried, begging. Fake smiling is something I'm trying.

Oh Perri. What a mind game this weekend was. But, you did it. And that is something. Perri really dug in there especially during Jumpers and she worked hard just because I wanted her to. She was not enjoying herself.

This is so hard for me. Perri loves agility when everything is Just Right. But I can't always make everything Just Right. If I could, I would. If I could just tell Perri she is safe, I will never let anything happen to her ever again, I would. But I can't make those decisions for her, Perri decides when she feels safe. So I am not going to obsess over Perri having a melty moment and we will see what next weekend brings!

PS. Ein played Jumpers too and was so sassy and fast! He even tried to nip my face while ringside and kept jumping around like a flea! What a fun old man he is.

Monday, October 29, 2018

October USDAA Trials

Molly and I had two USDAA trial weekends in October.

Our first weekend was both days, with our own training club so I was hopping all weekend with trial jobs and ring jobs, puppy socializing and playtime with Zorro and oh yeah, running Molly!

The first day we ran Standard first class and everything was perfect except for an absurd excursion on Molly's part after the Aframe to a one million percent out-of-the-way tunnel. To her credit she did not go in that tunnel, but she did go into a different one on her way back to me. Standard NQ #45,000,000!!

After that Miscellaneous class was offered, which I entered so that I could do some toy rewarding for Molly's weaves. I hid her toy on the first approach to the weaves and she was thrilled and surprised to see her toy toy! in the ring! After that we did a second set of weaves and then she was on fire!

Jumpers was last of the day and oh how I wish I had this on video. The course was very challenging, not a high Q rate and I honestly felt like I was a little overfaced by it. I decided to handle all rear croses and tandems, what I am most comfortable with and woohoo....we qualified and with a decent time, too! Really exciting!

The next day we played Pairs with our friends Donna and Sly. Perri always teamed up with Sly for Pairs but who can say if Perri will ever venture into the Masters ring, so Molly was up! She promptly blew it by taking a tunnel instead of weaves. Blast it!! Sly did an incredible job and the dynamic duo will play Pairs again next month. (The trial was offering skeleton arms as batons, number one reason to teach your dog an object hold = cool pictures!)

We ended the trial weekend with another stinkin' Standard NQ. Gorgeous run, just broke connection going around a turn and Molly ran around a jump and well. That was that. $&##!!!!!!

Our final trial of October was yesterday. We started with Jumpers and as soon as I saw the course I said, "This is a Molly course!" Wide open flowing lines and Molly Q'd and won her height class! I believe this is the first time she has earned a first since we have moved into the master ring! (Of course, we don't Q much so hahahaha.)

Gamblers was next with a very not Molly gamble. We had fun in the opening though!

And last of the day was anoooooooooother Standard NQ. We made it the whole way to the end with two obstacles to go and we needed to do a back side jump off of the Aframe. That stinkin' girl stole the front side! I know it was my fault. I should have stayed connected and really kept her head. In my defense: the Aframe led straight to an off course tire jump that I was worried about (in the opposite direction of the wing jump she took.) and I often do find myself racing to the other end of the Aframe to try to handle what comes next. Handling challenges off of the running Aframe are a struggle for me. But...I did not consider the possibility of Molly taking the front side of that jump, as it was not in her line. Lessons to be learned!

And we march on, having no precious Standard Qs!  But you can keep your Qs because my girl got no weave faults all this month and she is really really owning those poles in the trials. Getting better and better! It makes my heart so happy since about a month and a half ago I was afraid I would need to retire her to Veterans or limit her classes due to weave sadness. Really exciting! She is such a fun partner.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Zorro 6 months video

Today Zorro turns 6 months old. Half a year old! I have always loved watching compilation videos that people put together for their puppies and now it is my turn.

I have been having technical difficulties with the music situation on this video. I actually did end up requesting permission to use the song. And now the video is unbanned.
But I do not know how long the video will either stay on Youtube or stay intact. Who knows!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Therapy Dogs and Children

Perri has been doing monthly visits at our local library for four and a half years now. Perri is a reading therapy dog - the idea behind this is that children who are struggling to master reading are able to relax more when reading to a dog versus a person. For the same reason we all enjoy and benefit from the company of dogs - dogs do not judge.

Perri also does work with seniors. However, working with children is far more challenging for a dog. While Perri is theoretically volunteering at the library to help reading age children find their way, she is doing far more than that. She has been a comfort for an autistic child with behavioral issues, a comfort for abused children living in foster care, and she has been specifically visited by parents who are looking for a reliably gentle and balanced dog to help their child have a good experience with a dog.

I also never anticipated how much work we would be doing with our community's children on proper handling of dogs. Children are naturally rough, and not all parents are aware of the impact that this behavior can have on a dog. There is a reason that children are victims of dog bites far more often than adults are. Children are ground level and they have a feral instinct to jump on, smack, squeeze and harass dogs, not to mention grabbing at "resources" such as toys and food. I am not going to go down the rabbit hole of the subject of dog bites and children and the why. I do feel that every child and parent that Perri and I take the time to educate on how to properly treat a dog is a possible bite victim spared. Perhaps that sounds dramatic. I don't care. Our work is valuable in so many dimensions and I think that proper handling is my unexpected #1.

And so two weeks ago, for the second time in Perri's therapy dog career with children, she growled at a child.

Wow. Second time? Yes. The first time was when Perri was in rehab for medial shoulder instability. A child flopped down on her injured right shoulder. It hurt. She growled. I had a discussion with the child and his parents on how that hurt Perri and to please be gentle with her all the time. Not just because her shoulder hurt. Perri was simply growling to say, "That hurt, please do not do that again." That is what growling is, a communication.

Perri was visiting with two young girls. They were chattering on and on to me about their dance class. I was listening to them and talking with their father. I was giving them almost all of my attention. And then I noticed a toddler, in the 2-3 year old range running towards Perri. He was screeching and it was continuous. Perri's back was to this child. It all happened very very quickly. He grabbed Perri's fur and the screaming and the grab scared her. It startled me. He lost his balance as children of that age do. To Perri's credit she licked his face when he was on the ground. My dog is a very, very kind dog. And as I was about to begin a discussion about respectful dog handling, the child grabbed Perri's chest fur all the way back around to her back and began squeezing and hitting her. This was too far. Perri growled and snarled. I instinctively reached out and grabbed Perri's muzzle. The entire experience was very shocking. I did apologize to the mother but I told her that her child's behavior scared Perri and hurt her. She apologized and said that her child was "crazy". She allowed the child to approach Perri two more times that evening. One time Perri licked the child's face again, and the other time he grabbed her again and she growled softly.

Anybody can say what they would have done in my position. I let the mother know her child's behavior was not acceptable. I paid Perri in many many peanut butter biscuits.

What happened scared me. For about five minutes. And after that I was a bit angry. What happened to Perri was very unfair, and I wish that both the mother and myself had intervened before Perri had to give such a stern warning directly to the child. When we left the library we discussed what happened with the librarians. They were understanding and felt that Perri acted appropriately.

I phoned the director of children's activities, in the interest of full disclosure of what had happened. I received full support. Perri's reaction was not maligned, but understood. And that is so important. To be supported by the facility that Perri and I volunteer for. And we were apologized to. It was no fault of the library's but the gesture meant a lot. We are appreciated and we are trusted. Perri is trusted. I am so grateful that we can continue our library visits.

A therapy dog visiting with children is a team effort. Facility, parents, handler and dog. All four have to be on the same page. Sometimes the parents are inattentive and distracted. It is not my place to judge a parent. I do not have children of my own and I know that raising them is equal parts exhausting and rewarding, although the balance can many times be tipped one way or the other. I try to focus on the child and I always appreciate the parent's support. But the responsibility ultimately lies with me, to be vigilant and make sure that Perri is comfortable and happy in her work. That is my job as Perri's teammate.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

October CPE

Usually I trial at Flexi all summer in CPE. Things...just weren't that way this year. But my friend asked if I wanted to enter with her and play some CPE so I entered Ein in three runs. I am not sure what possessed me (how many times do I say that!?) but I entered Perri in three runs as well. Fullhouse, Jackpot, Wildcard.

And last night I was feeling so very optimistic. So very...relaxed. By chance we had a substitute instructor in Molly's agility class earlier this week, and Perri was my substitute dog. And special attention was given to Perri's start line. It's been a sit stay, she gets stuck. A stand stay, also gets stuck but more ideal. Running off the start was great until it wasn't. Then there was high fives and downs which pleased her for a while. We both agreed Perri needs a very specific and clear start line routine. We decided on trying to sit her between my legs while I remove the collar. We are connected, she is squished and safe. 

This all could not have come at a better time, when I had a trial planned for Perri that weekend. I also wanted to smile at Perri when I led out away from her on the SL but I forgot. How could I forget that?!

We ran Fullhouse first and it was beautiful. I was floored! Perri's first Q of 2018.

Jackpot was next and Perri got mildly stuck on her start line but released fairly quickly. She ran just as happy and confident as she did in Fullhouse! My phone malfunctioned and did not start recording so we sadly missed that one. Got Ein's though!

It was a long wait until Wildcard (for both dogs.) We did a big long loop walk with our friends, and Zorro got to play with the border collie puppy Josey Wales and they both got to explore. I found a big metal stop sign nailed into the gazebo, that's new! Once upon a time I took Molly's first C-ATCH photo in that gazebo.

Wildcard was next and Perri got pretty stuck on the start line. I actually switched handling sides and got real silly to get her to break. I thought for sure she would get funny during the run but she did not. She ran nicely. I timed a front cross well and handled her well and I loved that. She needs that so much! She also weaved although I was doing the clap and chant "do every one!" and put so much effort into it I got momentarily disoriented. Anyway, Perri finally got another Wildcard Q 2/5 needed. Yeah!

I could not be more happy with Perri's progress! Facebook memories tells me that at this trial a year ago, Perri had a similarly awesome day. It deflated me a little because...things did not go to well from that point onward last year. But I reminded myself that a lot has changed. I have spent this year in full support of Perri. Very minimal trialing with no titling goals. Confidence building only. And my mind set has changed drastically. We have Zorro now. This is so good for both Perri and I. She loves having that little guy running around at her heels, playing with her and looking up to her. And I love having a pup who enjoys hiking, training and who I can dream big for. Perri and I are in a different place than we were last year and today felt different. It didn't feel like a test as it did last year. It just felt like, "let's see what happens and if this isn't good for you, that's ok."

It was good for her.