Monday, March 27, 2017

Nosework with Friends

Yesterday Perri and I met a friend of ours as well as some other Nosework dogs for an ORT practice, as well as some other hides!   I am feeling really confident about Perri's anise and clove ORTs coming up this Saturday, and now I am feeling even moreso!

I lost count of how many ORTs we did yesterday, all of them blind to me.   On each test Perri was working strong and confident.   There were a few times where she would pass the hot box by but I could tell in her body language that that was the correct box.   Sure enough on the second pass by, Perri would indicate.   Not in any of these videos, Perri's first time working clove, she passed the hot box by two times until she finally indicated (though on each occasion, she was really checking it out and giving it a lot of thought - Perri is very thoughtful and honest).   Our friend Denise said that sometimes "somebody else's" clove can smell just a bit different to them, so it is good to work them on someone else's odors!   I brought my birch odor for the other dogs to search on, so that they could also work on another person's odor.   Interestingly, I know Denise and I get our oils from the same supplier - so it's interesting to see the dog's reactions!

Perri also got a chance to work Non-Box containers.   We have never done this before, but Perri took to it rather well!   I rewarded very early, and Denise told me where the hides were.   Even so, I could have rewarded sooner!

The fun continued!  Perri got to do a little Easter Egg hunt!   There was anise scent in one of the eggs.   Perri is not as confident with "Exterior" searches and you can see she is in and out of this search mentally.   When two of the plastic eggs blow onto the pavement with the wind, she stresses down and starts displacement nibbling her foot.   I love how I scratch her foot for her, give her a quick peck on the snoot, and tell her to get back to searching.   And she does!   She gets into odor and gives the sidewalk a slight nibble which made me think we were at the correct egg.   D tells me it is the purple one and it isn't long before Perri does that "AHA!" head turn towards the egg and gets paid big.   I was so proud of her!

I so wish I had our next two exterior searches on video!   They were elsewhere in the parking garage.   One Perri walked up this wall that had a channel in it at her chest level and she was sort of in and out of it, like in the egg video.   But when I turned her around and worked that wall from the opposite direction, she was a girl on a mission!   I called alert confidently when she hit source.   Her next search she really was working with the drive I know she is capable of when she is comfortable - so exciting!

And no worries - Perri actually got ample resting time in between a lot of these searches while the other teams worked.   It was really fun to watch other teams work the stations and before I knew it, two hours had gone by!   I was really pleased with Perri for her stamina for all of the work we did, for her focus and resilience in the parking garage with the distractions of cars going by and with people.  Perri seems a lot more at ease - I did double her dose of Composure in the morning.   

It makes my heart so happy to see Perri be relaxed and successful.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Poodle Plan

I will admit that just as much as I love running agility...I equally love getting good photography of my dogs running agility!   This past weekend's trial even moreso because I had just clipped leg bracelets on Perri - a fun new grooming experiment that I am loving!   And I was excited to get some photos of her in her new haircut.   Rich Knecht Photography never disappoints!

All confidence charging up the dog walk! 

She's getting reaaaaaal close to gettin' air over the top! 

Perri has an appointment with an opthamologist next Thursday.   And each morning this week, I gave her a Composure and I truly feel as though we are seeing a difference.   I will continue this daily for a month, give it a try, along with continued behavioral training to work on her reactivity towards other dogs.

Monday was the first day.   When I got home from work I set up the weaves and we had a really fun and successful (though short!) training session alternating with snow pounce games.   I am looking forwards to the snow melting around here so we can do some more fun proofing exercises at the park.   Then agility class at our training center, no weave faulting even when I asked our instructor to stand right at the end of the weaves - and a happy poodle on the course besides that.

 Today in particular a dramatic difference was seen.   Each Wednesday, Perri spends the day at work with a good friend of ours.   Two weeks ago Perri was ill at ease in the same setting, curled in a tight ball on the office dog bed and alert barking all day long at things she would not have even noticed a month ago.   She also had a very intense reactive episode towards a young boxer on her lunch time walk.  She obsessively drank obscene amounts of water (a vet-checked nervous habit that was very severe when she first came to live with us.)

Today she lay on her side in the dog bed, relaxed.   There was no alert barking.   The obsessive drinking was diminished.   She did bark one time at a dog on her walk, but focused on our friend when her name was spoken (and was given treats for doing so - she responded to her name and ate food, great signs.)   Definitely a different, more at ease dog.  I truly believe the Composure (I doubled her dose this morning) as well as the work we have been doing at the park regarding her reactions to dogs, is helping.

We are moving forward and finding our way.   There is nothing so comforting as landing on your feet and moving forward with A Plan.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March AKC Agility

Perri returned to AKC Agility today after over 6 months off.   As usual, things did not go as planned.   It was not a weekend with much to be posted on Facebook, not a weekend with much to brag about.

On Friday Standard was great except for a missed weave pole entry.  It was a very challenging entry and I understood why Perri had missed it.   But when I put her back in, she weaved hard and driven and popped out at the tenth pole.   I made her redo them and she did her thing where she gets in, skips a few and then continues weaving.   She finished them, and the rest of the course.   Okay.   Cool.   A bit disheartening for me though.   Nothing upsets me like weave pole issues.

In JWW we had a whole other issue.   In the back of the trial center there was a double glass door, absolutely beaming with afternoon sun.   As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be a problem.   And it was.   Over three jumps, over the triple jump and she locked eyes with that door and shut down.   She drifted around a jump.   I picked her back up and she did a very uninspired set of weave poles and then the rest of the course with no emotion.   Just duty.

Again.   Again we fall down.   Over and over again.   It's always something.   I always felt like that with Molly.    Something, some weird reason why we just can't get it together.   But come on, a bright door?  And what's with the weaves?   We were doing so good.   Perri was becoming a Normal Poodle.   And now she is once again an Abnormal Poodle.

I had a nice double shift on Saturday to get my thoughts in order and my chin up for Sunday.   Perri is Perri.   I have to accept her for who she is, I have to not beat myself up over her weird moments.   Enjoy what she has to offer and know that I have tried my absolute best with her.

Standard went well until we NQd with a perfectly understandable wrong course.   Video included, I should have verbally collected her after the tunnel but I didn't and she went back up the A-frame.  For the weave poles I vowed to not crowd her entry.  It starts well but she leaves the poles early on.   I asked her to redo them and she comes out at the tenth pole.   We sort of fall apart on the course with my late rear cross but oh well.

JWW was next and I was freaking about the opening.   I don't often do start line stays with Perri but I did so on this course and challenged myself to do two front crosses.   The opening was the hardest part of the course.   From there we have another pop out of the weaves at 10 and then I pushed her to the wrong side of the tunnel.   And she drops a bar due to a poor approach and another fall-apart at the end.   Perri rarely drops bars and becomes startled and has confidence drops when it happens, you can even hear me say "It's okay!" and cheer leading her after it happens.

I wrote almost a month ago about how Perri's reflux had worsened and she was losing her appetite, all since Molly's diagnosis.   It got worse before it got better.   Over the last week, Perri finally started to eat again.   She started to return to normal.   But it really troubled me how much Molly's health problems rocked Perri's world.   Perri absolutely could not deal with Molly and I being stressed, abnormal, or anything but strong constants in her world.   The day before the first trial I had a very emotionally charged day for non-dog related reasons.   At home that night Perri suddenly became spooked by a lamp that I have had since December.   She refused to come downstairs on the couch with me all night.  Heaping on top of everything else, Perri was attacked by an off leash dog and received a minor bite that broke the skin while we were out in the woods hiking three weeks ago.   Since then her mild fear reactivity has intensified to a concerning level.   We have been working on it and I already do see improvement within the last week, but it will be a long road back.

I feel so at a loss, in life and in the ring with my girl.   She had fun no doubt this weekend, there were a lot of awesome things to be grateful for.   But her reaction to that bright light worries me and her behavior over the last month and a half saddens me.   I have long been delaying an appointment with an opthamologist to have Perri's eyes checked - that needs to happen.   And I have even longer been avoiding some medication to help Perri regulate her stress level.   But I think it is time.   It is past time.  Even now I know I may continue to avoid that pursuit, but I am getting closer and closer.   I want my girl to have some peace.

As for the weave poles, I think they will fall into place when I resolve Perri's emotional turmoil.   If.  As ever, as always, we will try our hardest and fight our way back to that Normal Poodle state of mind that Perri achieved so briefly just two months ago.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unsinkable Molly Brindle

It has been nearly three weeks since I have posted anything regarding Molly's lymphoma.   We did not begin chemotherapy treatment on Thursday March 2nd as originally planned.

Something started To Bother Me.  I could not understand why Molly's lymphoma was being treated like high grade lymphoma.   If Molly has high grade lymphoma, I could not understand how she was still alive.   Compounding that, Molly has T-Cell lymphoma - and T Cell is more aggressive than B Cell.   The ominous "lifespan of 4-6 weeks without treatment" is one of the first horrifying facts that you learn about the disease.  If Molly has low grade (indolent) lymphoma, I had been reading about very limited treatments or no treatments.  So, which is it?

I wanted a Second Opinion.  I did not want to feel any uncertainty moving forward.   I did not ever want to wonder, "What If?"  No regrets.  I felt uncomfortable questioning anything, but something was not settling well with me mentally.

Dr C shook my hand when we walked into the exam room and then he sat down on the floor and leaned against the wall.   Molly greeted him briefly and then walked back and sat beside me.  He said "Let's talk about lymphoma." and shared so much information with me but in such easy to understand terms.  I had a list of questions prepared so that I would not forget anything - I did not need to ask those questions.   They were answered.  There was a focus on Molly's clinical presentation.  The way Molly's lymph node would "wax and wane" is classic presentation for low grade lymphoma.  In high grade lymphoma, the nodes swell up and stay up and only get larger as the disease progresses.

And, what of treatment?  Dr C explained that low grade lymphoma used to be treated the same as high grade, but the dogs would not really respond to it.  Survival time is typically the same with or without treatment and so the course of action for low grade lymphoma is to not treat and to monitor closely.  Survival time: 2-4 years.  We are to have a follow up appointment with Dr C in a month.

The reason I was waiting to post an update about this: Dr C requested the biopsy be repeated by a second pathologist (another second opinion.)  The first biopsy reported low mitotic growth (so, low grade!) and he wants a second reading on that to be 100% sure.   The results of that repeat biopsy are still not back, but I had some time to sit down and write and I wanted to take advantage of that.

So much relief.   So much gratitude that I explored a second opinion.   Sometimes you have to find the right match.   What brought me the most peace about our visit with Dr C was Molly's behavior.  Long ago, Molly tired of veterinarians and techs and all of their poking, prodding, sticking, and manipulating.   She is indifferent at best - her reluctance even earned her a cautionary muzzle at her ultrasound appointment.   But midway during our visit with Dr C, Molly left my side.   She walked over to him, shoved his arm up and snuggled in next to him and sat there with his arm around her shoulders.  "This guy."   I had been feeling so guilty for taking Molly to appointment after appointment when she was becoming increasingly intolerant and miserable.   But she accepted Dr C and it felt like I had her blessing.   It felt like she was saying, "Okay."  It meant the world to me.

We are so blessed.   So lucky.  That is two different kinds of cancer now and this girl's body just keeps saying, "No.  Not yet."   There is a musical called Unsinkable Molly Brown, and a dear friend of ours left a comment on Facebook calling Molly that.   I loved it.   Keep swimming, Unsinkable Molly!  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

ARCHMX The Finest Einest!

Yesterday Ein and I attended the last World Cynosport rally double-trial we would need to earn his ARCHMX.   All we had to do was get those last two triple Qs!

This training center holds not so great milestone memories for me: my first NQ ever.  I touched Ein in Level 1A rally back in 2012 and blew earning our RL1 title.   Apparently you can't touch your dog, never forgot that lesson!  Then in 2013 I blew our ARCHX run by skipping a sign for the first time.   And Ein was so exhausted and anxious in the ring that we NQd both Level 3 rounds as well.   So!   A little superstition wasn't going to deter me from entering to earn our big title.

Our first trial Ein was feeling a bit stressy, I was getting some sniffing.   We qualified in Level 1 with a 209.   In Level 2 we had to do the Figure 8 around the food bowls - we don't often see that sign.   In the past Ein has always been spatially bothered by the food bowls and would stick close to me - yesterday he spent 3 points on a nice sniff!  We qualified with a 202, I think I had to double cue something else.  In Level 3 the first sign was a drop on recall, right in front of the stewards table!  Ein was slow going into his "down" with a hairy eyeball glance at the steward table but he did it.  Then Ein pulled off the jump, straight up refused it!   I hadn't even looked at it but when I did I saw the bar was at 8".  I told the judge that was not his jump height and she reset it.   Of course Ein was quite happy to take the jump when it was set to 4".   We had to come right back over it with the Directed Jump exercise.   Ein was fast and direct right over the jump and that made me smile.   That sign was our old nemesis!   The bonus was the retrieve and Ein had to retrieve towards the audience, and again he overcame a potential fear paralysis moment - it was an excellent retrieve!  Our score was a 197 since I know we lost 5 points for me staying close to the jump on the "handler runs by".   We also had a sign re-do because Ein became obsessed with sniffing a dark spot on the floor - stress behavior.

We had our 9th Triple Q secured, so just had to get one more.   I was a little nervous because Ein seemed tired and stressed and I didn't see that improving.   I decided to take him for a car ride to refresh his mind and get him out of the training building - we rode out for coffee and some snowed in geocaches.   We returned and earned a 208 in Level 1.   In Level 2 we earned a 209!   Ein's nose was staying off the ground and he was enjoying our time in the ring a lot more - that makes me happy!  Then it was time for our last Level 3 course.   I told him he never has to do Level 3 again if we get this one!   In response, he smiled and wagged his tail and asked me to give him some cheese.   The course was a super chill Level 3 course, none of the more challenging signs.   We must have paid our dues in the first trial.   Ein qualified with a 208 and at last earned his Rally Master Champion title!

I am happy that we are finished.  I am happy to be done with Triple Qs.   Truly I somewhat regret pursuing an MX.   Ein is consistent enough to earn the Triple Qs with little to no trouble, he has mastered the exercises and all of the challenges they presented to us.   What I have seen creeping in is Ein's ring stress.   It is nowhere near as severe as it was back in 2013 when I made the decision to retire him to Veterans.   But it is there.  On the other hand, I am proud of Ein for achieving WCR's highest title though, in a way it completes our journey there.   WCR made such a difference in our lives, the exercises in Level 3 challenged us, Veterans refreshed us and we have so much personal growth through our years together in this venue.   After we started competing in Rally, Ein became more relaxed socially, people remarked he was "like a different dog".   His shyness of strangers diminished and his confidence grew.  So it meant a lot to me to earn an ARCHMX with Ein, thinking of it in that way.  Symbolically, for pure human emotional purposes.  The drudge of earning Triple Qs did lose its luster very quickly though - perhaps Ein's "ring stress" was simply a reflection of my loss of passion for the work.  I will be so happy to return to sweet Veterans class with shorter more flowing courses and no jumps.

Ein and I will also continue to focus on playing in CDSP Open obedience.   I saw none of the ring stress when we competed in January - just passion and excitement.   It was something different and Ein seemed to feel refreshed by that.   I know I did.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Barn Hunt March Trial

I forget why I even entered today's Barn Hunt trial.   I think I went to a practice, Molly did well and I felt excited enough to want to go to a trial.   When Molly received her lymphoma diagnosis, I did not scratch.   I thought, "Well, it's not physically difficult and maybe it will make her happy if she is on chemo."   Long story short, we are not on chemo...more on that in a few days.   Molly is feeling tip-top so I am glad I did not scratch.

Today was her first trial since the lymphoma diagnosis.   It felt great to load her up in the car, put her fleece coat on her and drive out to a trial.   Even if it was not an agility trial.   Last weekend we went to a Barn Hunt practice at a new place.   As soon as we pulled in, I heard gun shots in the distance.   Just like our last trial!   Molly fell apart and gave me no indication on any tube.   She had no interest in even sniffing tubes.   We had two runs at the practice and by the second run she was pawing the tubes with much  encouragement by me.   I was not feeling confident for today's trial.

Our first run it was plain, she thought I had treats.   In the blind I had the bright idea to hold a treat in my hand and only give it to her if she clawed at my hand.   But I was pulling all treats from my coat pocket.   In the ring she was showing off.   Bounding around with poor focus, blasting through the tunnel multiple times, flirting with anybody who was nearby and doing anything it took to get me to give her some of my "treats" - treats I did not have!   When I asked her to search under the wooden ramp for a rat tube, she levitated onto it and did a two on, two off!   Laughter erupted from the crowd!   I was bursting with love - how cute!  There were two rat tubes she lingered on more than the others, so I called "rat" on both of them and we earned our first Open leg.   I feel like I had to do way more than half the work!  Molly earned 4th place in the Large Open dogs with a time of 2.22 seconds (she had 2.50 seconds to search.).   It felt like we were at 2.499999 when I called the last rat!

We had a very, very long break after that.   I scribed Novice for my first time, and got a migraine right in the middle of the class.   That lasted for a few hours all while I tackled my first time as an outside rat wrangler in Masters.   I was nauseous and very hot the whole time, but I still learned a lot.   Masters class is extremely intimidating to me - an unknown amount of rats?!   For each dog, rather than for each blind, the judge would decide how many rat tubes and bedding tubes would be out.   My job was to fetch the desired amount after receiving a hand signal for the numerical count (so that no one outside in the blind could hear how many rats would be in the ring) - and each time there would need to be four, exactly four, tubes left over outside of the ring.   It did not matter if this was rat tubes or bedding tubes - the count had to be four.   I had a very loose grip on this rule until one time a dog ran with too many tubes in the ring and was granted a re-run.   I was told sternly to alert them if there was less or more than four tubes waiting to go in!

Finally it was time for Open again.   This time I put Molly's blind treats in a treat bag and only took them out of the bag.   No pocket treats.   We played more of the "paw my hand" game.   I clearly laid the treat bag outside of the ring for her to see.    Treats are Done and when we come out of the ring, your bag will be here.   Delayed reward, we have visited this concept before.  We did not have any issues with hyperfocusing on me in the ring.   As soon as I released her from the start box, Molly did a to-die-for blast through the tunnel followed by a "climb" onto the straw bales.   Many Barn Hunt dogs do well finding their rats but fail on the tunnel.   Molly loves the tunnel - this is not an issue!  I was actually really proud of my handling for this run.   Molly wasn't terribly focused on hunting - her focus was on cowboying around and flirting with plenty of snorting and sniffing in between.   She lingered sniffing on a tube for a second or two, then left it.   I humored her and asked her to check some other places, but then brought her back to that tube.   I really interviewed her about it and she gave it some scratches so I called Rat.   Those beautiful words, "Rat 1!"   And I remembered: in Open if a rat is on the ground, the other one has to be "up".   I let Molly continue cowboying around and looked at some "up" places.   I found one we had not searched yet and asked her about it.   She looked at it, snorted around and then dug at the tube - "Rat 2!"   We finished in 2 minutes even and 1st place in Large Dogs.

Our first two Open legs!   What a difference no gunshots makes!   Getting a strong indication on Molly has been the issue since the beginning.   And it is still a struggle!  At practices, once her indication is rewarded it becomes very strong.   But at trials she doesn't communicate so well.   However, I feel like I turned a corner in learning how to read Molly when she is working a rat tube.  Very empowering!  She will give a bedding tube one sniff, just because I ask, but a rat tube she will linger on and sometimes scratch at.   That's my information.

When your dog has cancer, you take a step back.   The training, the precision, the perfection just does not matter as much.   You have perspective, you are just grateful to be there.   Grateful your dog feels well and happy enough to be herself.   The Qs are secondary.   And you can bet that was on my mind today.   To have a day of Molly flirting and rioting around the ring just like herself was tears-in-my-eyes priceless.   It felt good to Be Back.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Perri Performance Dog!

Today was one of those trial days when Perri Just Does It.   No highs or lows, no boycotting obstacles.   We played USDAA agility and I once again made the decision to move Perri back into Performance class.   This decision is likely to be final.   The last time I did this, I did not want Perri jumping 26".   This time, it is not the jump height of 24" that made my decision.   Our last trial, the times were so tight and I just don't need to be dealin' with that.  I don't need to be dealing with that 24" high tiny tire.   I don't need to be dealing with the intense dogs ripping up on their toys ring side and scaring her.  The Championship and Performance dogs are segregated quite markedly in USDAA.   And it seems to me that the typical dogs in USDAA Championship class are more competitive, driven and intense.  Perri is not any of those things.  Neither am I.   And that's okay.  I feel more comfortable in the "P" class.

P1 Gamblers we qualified quite nicely with a jump-tunnel-jump gamble.   I didn't like my plan and Perri knew it, she was uppity and I could tell if I was not careful she would explode into pounces and zooms!   Thankfully, we avoided that!  No issues with the lower tire.

P1 Standard started with jump to weaves.   Perri's weaves weren't blazing fast but she was doing them.   I wasn't being a good handler and I put a little pressure on her and watched her working on the last few weaves - she popped at the 10th pole.   There was ring crew to visit, I was creeping on her...she needed to bail out of that situation!  I put her back in where she left and we finished the course with no faults.   Good poodle!  Hoping we aren't looking at more weave issues.   Before we went into the ring there were several Unruly Dogs that were really upsetting Perri and before that she took a big static shock to her nose after touching my leg.   Not the way to get her into a good mood before going into the ring!  

"Performance Dog"!!!
Our final run of the day was Jumpers and it was Perri's first time in Performance 2.   She earned her P1 Jumpers title last year.   Perri had a lovely run and was a full 10 seconds under standard course time!   Awesome!  

Perri and I had such a nice day together.   I miss Molly being with us so very badly.   I know Perri misses her presence in the crating area as well as on our walks at the trial sites.   Perri notices these things and she has always done better in the ring when Molly is with us.   I was proud of her today for doing a really decent job despite being alone.   I took special care to take her on extra walks as well as throwing her squeaky tennis ball in the fenced in sheep pen so that she could pounce with it and be happy.