Monday, June 18, 2018

June USDAA Fun!

Since I'm so "behind" on blogging I will lump all three of the USDAA trials the girls and I attended in June into one reflective post!

I chose minimal classes for each of the girls, but for Perri even moreso. We did P2 Gamblers and Standard on the first Saturday of the month. Pretty good engagement, decent speed on each run. Did not "get" the Gamble, would not weave in Standard. Perri's weaves are intensely impacted by her environmental stress and the weaves were next to the large open side of the building that has a clear view of the off leash exercise area. Anyway, no melty poodle moments.

This past weekend she had a round of Snooker each day. On Saturday I missed the briefing since I was running Molly in the other ring, and I missed the memo: you can only do 3 reds. Perri was very tentative off the start line, very slow and worried through the run. I had to do my crouch and ask for a down reconnect moment and then she started really running but we got whistled off for doing a fourth red. It was probably a blessing as I was forced to take her off and reward her after she was running nicely! Sunday was probably her best of the month, and I made a plan so that we could start with the Aframe. She really loves the contacts and they are a confidence booster. She ran super fast, did her Aframe contact and did not turn off the Frame to the next Red jump but instead took the tunnel in front of the Aframe. However she came out of it running fast and took jumps I cued all the way to the ending (about 2 or 3 of them.) and she was actually feeling safe and really enjoying herself so that was a great thing to end on! Trial hiatus for at least a few months for Perri now and I believe we will need to return to Intro, perhaps indefinitely, at that time.

Molly did quite a bit more! It was really great to have my girl feeling sound and able to enjoy a few agility weekends together. The first weekend of June we did four runs total, one on Saturday and three on Sunday. We NQd everything but were really close in many of the runs! Jumpers is the video below, Molly got a little strange about either the judge or investigating the dog walk. It was weird behavior for her. I was really happy with the run otherwise. We also ran Gamblers and were one point shy of a Q! The Standards just weren't happening!

Last weekend hell froze over because Molly actually qualified in P3 Standard, and on a course that had a rather low Q rate. Where did that come from?! Super exciting. I wish I had a video! There was a photographer in attendance selling prints right on site, and Molly's weaves were so lovely that I had to buy a photo of her happy face finishing them and locking onto the finish jump.

This weekend was a full weekend, as we were attending our own agility club's trial. So lots of extra work detail for me, longer days and less time spent hanging out with the dogs. But it is fun! I love our club's trial weekends and on Saturday we had a picnic afterwards and Perri got to hang out on my lap for a little while, and she loved it.

Molly put a ban on weaves for the weekend, sigh. And that made me feel bad. We started with Gamblers (that's the video below) and I really enjoyed our opening (and I made sure to give her a little distance to get up the Aframe.). I knew we weren't getting the distance weaves in the Gamble and I decided I would ask for it one time and move on with life if she didn't get it. I'm a little annoyed I said the cue word "Weave" as I consider that poisoned from our stress days. I get so mad at myself!
Standard was going great and then I misjudged her commitment to a jump, moved to my next position. She missed it. She knew it. And then the weaves were next. I asked her to repeat them and the third time she did but...she wasn't feeling the love.

The next day she had a lovely opening in Snooker and was doing great in the closing but she said "No thanks" to the weaves and we got whistled and left! In Standard we just had one of our runaway train snowball clusterfluff situations including no thank you! on the weaves but I ended the run on her running Aframe to a tunnel (the wrong end of course!) and so she felt happy about it all!

Molly says it was a great weekend because I got her a fancy new tug! We have been using this toy from Chuckit since I wanted the crack!ball! for Molly, but with a tug on it. However the strap is very abrasive and often makes her gums bleed, and the strap is way too short for comfort and I often get nipped when she regrips. So, I've been wanting something longer. The ball is by Chuckit, although not the crack!ball! Molly loves it!

I have to do some more reflecting on the weekend but I felt pretty sad about Molly's weaves. Somebody even told me she looks "scared" of them. I don't disagree. It has been a while since we have done any fun motivational weave training at home, between Molly's lameness earlier this year and her subsequent toenail injury. Our team trial/weave stress really crept in this weekend. I really don't want to embarrass Molly, as a 9 year old dog still out running agility. We have a trial in July and I decided I will not run Standard with her that day, just Jumpers and Gamblers. I would love to earn Molly's Master title but if this is truly "it" for the weaves and Molly would be happier running courses without them, then I will accept that. Given the beautiful set of weaves Molly did just last weekend, I think that this was simply a busy month for an old girl and she needs some time and motivational work on her weaves. I'm in, for either way Molly needs me to take her.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Hot TaMolly NW1!

The more behind I get in blogging, the more I want to procrastinate! However, Molly had her first NW1 trial in NACSW Nosework on Memorial Day and it was such a special day.

This trial is officially the farthest I have driven for Nosework at nearly 2 1/2 hours away, and it was also the most costly due to the fees put upon the hosting club by the selected trial site. No pressure, Molly! Due to heavy rains in our area, the area they wanted to use for parking was too muddy to be safe, so parking was very close quarters. I actually waited in my vehicle for 15 minutes in a line while the volunteers slowly found spaces and directed each car in. 

The weather was not windy, it was not hot. It was very overcast and a bit drizzly but barely so. When everybody was parked we had our morning briefing and walked around to all of the search areas. This trial was different than the NW1s I have gone to with Perri in that they split the run order and ran two teams at one time. One half searched Interiors and one half searched Containers. I was very excited to be #26 with Molly, but with the group split in half, that meant Molly was searching nearly last in both searches. She was last in Containers. 

Molly's group ran the Interior search. And Molly wasted no time! She was whining at the door, of the little bunk house we were searching. She knew why we were there. They opened the door and I held her on the start line and let her sniff the air a bit and then turned her loose. 12.38 seconds and 6th place! The judge said "that's a fast paced dog!" and even complimented my handling of "a fast paced dog" on our score sheet.

Next was another wait until the ennnnnnd of the run order for Containers. I was trying not to be nervous but I was. Shenanigans can happen in Containers with Molly and I was determined not to make a silly alert call out of nerves if Molly started acting up. The search ended up being absolutely charming, adorable and comical. The videographer even used it as her sample video! 25.77 and 7th place!

Game Face! Entering the search area.


The hides were set for Exterior and Vehicle elements and then a 45 minute lunch break. I finished a book I had been reading for a while (Dog Man by Martha Sherrill), ate my lunch and tried not to boil over with that "all or nothing" NACSW stress. We had a great morning, but in NACSW your dog must pass all four searches in order to title. If you fail one, at your next trial you start all over again. Part of the challenge! I consoled myself with, if we fail an element it's better to do it in the afternoon! Hope is a wonderful thing!

In the afternoon, things were run the way I have experienced in the past. Molly was #26 in the run order and all competitors ran in order. So, Molly did her Exterior search and then her Vehicle search one after another. I was so grateful for this, a lot less waiting!

Exteriors was first and it was her longest search of the day. You can see on the video, Molly really works odor and I'm proud of myself for staying out of her way and not over managing her or rushing her. She was working hard! The judge wrote "great pattern and bracket on odor". 54.65 and 23rd place on that one.

"The telltale paw!"

Gettin' in there!

I just love us. ♥
We got to head straight to Vehicles! They were organized in a way I had never had Molly search Vehicles before. I confess, Molly doesn't get to practice much with Vehicles. We do not go to a class and I have only my Vehicles and Vince's truck and landscaping trailers and equipment. Sometimes we can practice on a friends car or when I am daring I go to the post office on a Sunday. But Molly has this beast mode birch = food raw talent and so ... we do the best we can. Regardless, 16.20 seconds and 6th place. One of the volunteers told me great job even with a distraction and it wasn't until I got my trial video this past week that I understood what she meant by distraction. Somebody yelled "loose dog!" during our video. It was a neighbor dog. I literally did not even hear this while I was doing the search with Molly. My skills of focusing on my dog must be improving!

Molly NW1! I was high as a kite, so freaking excited and proud of Molly and I had so much fun! After two no-pass NW1s with Perri it was exhilarating for Molly to pass on her first try! This is no bust on Perri, she's a hard little worker and has a lot more stacked against her mentally than Molly does. Molly's talent and drive is very exciting and I really want to do right by her and let her soar to her potential. (As it is, I have done a big fat zero Nosework training since the trial. Boo!)

The award ceremony was a great feeling knowing Molly had titled and done a smooth job of it! Molly not only titled but she earned the Pronounced designation on all four searches and that is Kind of a Big Deal! "The judges may ‘Pronounce’ handler/dog teams demonstrating exceptional technique and/or teamwork"

And it did NOT STOP THERE. At every NW1 trial, a special award called the Harry Award is given out to a rescue dog. From the NACSW rule book, "A long time nose work dog, Harry, passed away just days before the Inaugural nose work trial in August of 2008. The Harry Award was established in loving memory and honor of Harry, the Beauceron, one of our earliest nose work dogs that showed tremendous enthusiasm and promise. The first Harry Award was presented at the Inaugural Nose Work Competition, August 9, 2008. The Harry Award is given to the most outstanding rescue dog that demonstrates extraordinary ability and spirit in nose work."
What is not in the rule book, and this story has been told at every NW1 I have been at, is that Harry died while out hiking with his owner. He was bitten by a venomous snake, after getting in between the snake and his beloved owner. You cannot help but choke up with tears every time.  

I knew about the Harry Award. I wanted it. And I thought Molly really had a shot at earning it. She is fast, talented and a real blast to watch. Turns out, the judges thought so too and so they chose Molly to earn the Harry Award. And when your dog wins the Harry Award, you have to tell everybody about your dog.

So I did. I told them how she is a pitbull, she was a stray, she was returned to the shelter by her first adopters for being "too much", she is my first agility dog, she has titled in many different sports, she has gusto and spirit for any endeavor I desire, she is an incredible partner and game for anything. And she also has cancer and her days are numbered but we live them all to the fullest and I asked everyone to appreciate every single day with their dog. You truly never know when it is your last. 

It was hard not to cry. I love that dog with every cell in my body and I was honored to be on the other end of the leash with her, smashing her NW1. Molly's agility days are truly coming to a close, but it is so exciting to see her passion for this new to her sport. I look forwards to our continued journey in Nose Work together!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Day at the Fairgrounds

I have been out of commision for a few weeks because my laptop stopped working. Thankfully it was an under-$100 quick fix that did not involve "your laptop is screwed, better buy a new one." and I'm back in business. (I hate blogging off of my smart phone or tablet!)

So with Molly's toe arthritis and the limited abilities of my three dog team to play agility (simply meaning, I can't do All The Venues All The Weekends! anymore.), I accepted that we would not be visiting the East Freehold Showgrounds for a trial in a long long time. Because: no more lure coursing for Molly and no more outdoor AKC Agility.

So when I saw an all breed conformation show on Memorial Day weekend offering Canine Good Citizen tests, Trick Dog tests and NADD Dock Diving at the Showgrounds, one of my favorite trial sites...I jumped on the opportunity! I had been looking for a trick dog test for my friend's young dog to test for her Novice Trick Dog title, as we had been preparing her for it. And on the flip side, my friend has been teasing me into giving Ein a third try at his Canine Good Citizen test. After all, third time's the charm? Ein has failed the CGC twice. Both girldogs have their CGCs and I attempted to test Ein twice over the years when each girl took her test. First at Molly's test where he failed any step that involved contact with a human, and secondly at Perri's test where he nearly passed except for the grooming step.

We arrived and went to check on the Dock schedule. It was around 930 in the morning and the CGC testing was running from 10-12 so plenty of time there. This was mine and Molly's first time jumping with NADD (North American Diving Dogs) and I learned that this event was being run "cluster style." This meant that if you pre-register for "Splashes", that you have no set time for your jumps. You show up in the morning and write your name into whatever time slots work for your day (to minimize conflicts.) Unfortunately for me, getting there a half hour after the event began meant that there were no available time slots until 1 or 2pm. You know, right when the Trick Dog testing was available. Yay, conflicts!

After that we walked over to the Canine Good Citizen ring and testing was already under way. I got Ein's name on the sign up sheet for his CGC as well as the Trick Dog schedule! Zoe Poodle also got signed up for her Novice Trick test. I felt a little nervous going into the test, mostly because of the Grooming step. Ein accepted a friendly stranger, sat politely for petting and grooming. The tester was very respectful and let Ein get to know her and approached him from the side and let him sniff the brush. She also asked him for his paw rather than taking it (upon my request. Ein has arthritic feet and he is happy to "shake" when asked.) Loose leash walking and walking through a crowd, no problem! Sit, Down, Stay and Come - no problem! Reacting to another dog (ignored her!) and reacting to distractions (wheel cart rolled by him and clipboard dropped, he glanced at the distractions but back at me.) And finally Supervised Separation, she kept him in the ring and I walked up through the breed rings for three minutes during that time. It is official, The Finest Einest CGC!

After the day's first victory, we returned to the car camp and put Ein in his crate for a rest. Now it was Zoe's turn for her Novice Trick Dog. Since Zoe has previously passed her Canine Good Citizen, for Novice she had to do five tricks. (If the dog has no CGC they must do 10 tricks from the Novice list.) Zoe did: Shake Paw, 4 Paws on Platform, 2 Paws Up, Get in Box and Spin. What I just love about AKC's trick dog program is how it encourages people who may never have done a competition with their dog or who are too intimidated by obedience or rally-o to get out there with their dog, train tricks and earn a title. I love it. That was exactly the case for our friend's Zoe and Mary, the Novice Trick Dog title tested them on skills we have been training and the challenge was accessible to them. Really exciting!

The dock diving schedule was running late so we decided to try to get Ein in for his Trick Dog tests.
I chose to do the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced levels with Ein. What a busy day!

Once again, I have been so excited to do AKC's Trick Dog testing with Ein since I heard of it. I did the mail in titling with Do More With Your Dog with Perri, and she has her Novice and Intermediate titles, but it was so much more appealing to me to go in person with my dog and show off the tricks.
For Novice, since Ein passed his CGC in the morning, he only had to do 5 Tricks. We did: 2 Paws Up, 4 Paws on Platform, Hold It, Shake and Hand Target. 

In Intermediate, things got a little intense! The tricks that went according to plan were: Balance treat on nose, Fetch it (dumbbell), Game (Manipulate puzzle toy or kong), Hand Signals (Sit, Down, Come), Leg Weave, Roll Over, Handlers choice "Heeling with AutoSit", Handlers Choice "Right and Left Finishes").
The tricks that did not go according to plan were that I was planning on using Ein's dumbbell carry for the "Carry" trick - but the tester would not allow me to use any object but a basket. So that was out, as Ein had not generalized his object hold to a basket. I wanted to do "Catch" instead, where the dog must catch a treat or a toy but geriatric Ein has lost his ability to catch so that was a total fail. The tester was very kind and told me to go take a break with Ein and return with a trick we could do. Ein was getting hot and there were people waiting for their turn to do their tricks so, this was a good thing.
I couldn't believe it - one trick away! I was totally flustered. Mary and I went back to the car, gave Ein some water and I petted him and told him he was a good boy. I tried to get him to carry the basket, there was lots of attempts to revive his ability to catch treats and Ein was happy to eat all 400 treats I threw at him but his skills grew no more reliable. We tried "Crawl" but with Ein's hips as they are, it is too tiring for him to go the 5 foot distance required reliably and the tester was by the book. "go Find your handler" was an appealing option but I was told we could not do that since we were in an outdoor ring. We tried to get him to jump through my arms circled as a hoop! Paws up on handlers arm! Nothing! When we were in the ring I tried to get Ein to paw target on a little musical piano, and that would have been a passing trick but Ein just kept laying down on the piano and that was Not Good Enough. I finally had the good sense to get Ein paw targeting and rewarding him like crazy for it, and then we went back into the ring and I asked him to paw target on the $%$&!!! toy piano and he did it and we finally passed the Intermediate Trick Dog. Whew! It did me a heckin concern!
Comparatively, Advanced was a breeze. Ein did Back Up, Circle Right and Left, Turn on pressure activated light (with the paw target again!), Play Dead (Bang!) and Down at a Distance of 15 feet (verbal or hand signal only.)

CGC, Novice/Intermediate/Advanced Trick dog. BOOM!
And all that remained was the blissful relaxation and no-thinking joy of Molly's dock diving! It has been almost two years since Molly has gotten to dock dive at an actual competition event, and she was cranked to the max! She was so frustrated having to wait she latched onto my leg and tried to hump me a few times. Oh my! Molly had her first two jumps with NADD, in the senior range with a 15'6 and a 15'.

So I got my Freehold showgrounds fix for the year and a well rounded day for all! Only Perri was left out of the action. I am curious about getting her up on the dock to see if she is brave enough for a leap but the day was far too busy for that. I am planning on some more NADD events later in the season and they do allow "Try Its" with a second dog on the dock, so that is going to be a very good way for Perri to get acquainted with jumping. And as far as the Trick Dog titles, I can grandfather Perri's DMWYD Intermediate title so she can go straight to testing at the Advanced level. I will look forward to a future event with her! Not that Perri minded coming along for the ride and being support staff, she is always happy in that role.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Finest Einest CDX-C! (And Molly SN-C)

Ein and I have been steadily plugging away in CDSP Obedience, a trial every few months in attempt to earn his CDX-C title. First, we went to matches. Then we started trialing January of last year and we NQd. We tried again in May of last year and NQd two times under a very grouchy judge at a very crowded and not-for-Ein trial site. After that I thought maybe this is not for Ein, maybe he is just getting too old. By last autumn I started peeking at the trial calender now and then, and I saw a trial with a much loved rally judge and thought it was worth trying a new to us trial site. There were two trials and Ein NQd one and squeaked by with his first Open Q and a score in the 170s. I was so thrilled, you would think it was a perfect 200! And that gave me hope. And I decided we would stick to this particular trial site since the ring layout made Ein comfortable. This past January we NQd both trials. All the NQs were for random naughty things, it seemed like a different thing each trial.

And so I entered both rounds of Open in the May trial. And we trained the things we NQd on, and we trained the things we did well on. And I entered the ring with my 13 year old rock star and told him to not be naughty!

He was naughty! His habit of "front? what is front?" that started this January has persisted. But not NQ naughty.

Trial one: heel free was fine. Running broad jump good but attempted to squirrel away to heel position with no front - I gave him a front cue since that is points off but less points off than a no front. Drop on recall. I gave him a very firm stay command and turned to face him. (no anticipating, please!) Rock solid stay, good boy! Retrieve on flat - great! Retrieve over he went! Picked the dumbbell up by the bell - when has he ever done that?! Never! And to his credit he carried it to me and over the high jump and dropped it at my feet. That's 5 points off but not an NQ. (I did not know that and thought we blew it.) Go out he does this weird thing sometimes where he runs out to the stanchion to the right of the center one. Whatever dude, it's points off. Our second leg with a 180!! Movin up into the 180s!!

Trial two: heel free fine again. Running broad jump about the same with the naughty no front attempt. Drop on recall, another good boy stay! and naughty no front. I cued him front and he ignored me but then sat at almost my right side on front position. The retrieves were both good but on both run outs he was giving glances at spectators and the judge, and sometimes when he does that he loses track of the dumbbell and will nose touch it and come back to me. We have done a lot of work on this issue and it paid off, he retrieved both times! The go out he stopped short and I cued him to sit anyway (just points off.) and he laid down. More points off but we survived with a 189!

Companion Dog Excellent!! 

I am so proud of him and so honored to be in the ring with a dog of his age. At the pinning for each trial the judges could not resist telling everyone in attendance how old Ein was and everybody cheered for him. He is such a special partner. My plan for now is to continue to play in Open C class (finally out of Open A!!). Ein really loves the exercises, especially the retrieve exercises. At this time I do not plan to continue on to Utility but who knows, I could be sitting here when this dog is 18 years old typing about his Utility Dog title. Anything is possible! In reality, I don't think that Ein would like the more touchy feely Stand for Exam that Utility requires, and I have always considered it a dead end for that reason.

Aaaaaaand Molly played too! She earned her third leg in Starter Novice (Heel on Lead, Figure 8 on Lead, Stand with Distraction (judge walks around.), Recall (Half length of ring) and Sit-Stay while Handler gets leash. Molly did a very nice job but she was a little bit stressy with some lagging issues on Figure 8 and two no sits between both heeling exercises so we got a 190. Still very respectable!
Since Molly titled and I had prepared her for the exercises in regular Novice class, I moved her up for the second trial. (Heel on Lead, Off Lead Figure 8, Moving Stand for Exam, Recall over Bar Jump, Sit-Stay (Handler Walks Around Ring.) The heeling was okay but I was very supportive of Molly. I miss my sharp little heeler that I had in January and it shows that I have slacked off on a lot of the motivational work I was doing with Molly's heeling. I'm going to put more work into that so we can have a nicer time for her last two Novice legs! The other exercises were uneventful and she was a Very Good Girl with no errors, I was especially pleased with her Moving Stand for Exam.

Looking forwards to our next Obedience trial in a few months, and it's time to really get serious about working on training Molly for Open.

Ein CDX-C and Molly SN-C!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thyroid Testing with Hemopet

I wanted to write about my experience with having a full thyroid panel done by Hemopet.

Perri is not hypothyroid, her levels are completely normal. Initially that made me feel a little bit silly (dog owner hypochondriac!), since I had gone to some extra trouble and expense to investigate a hypothyroid possibility with Perri. But if I had just requested a test at the vet office I would not feel that way. It would have been more information for me. And that is all that this is. I did feel a little bit disappointed by the normal result, as I did when we did a limited T4 test at my vet's office in December. A hypothyroid diagnosis might have explained Perri's increase in anxiety and lowered energy.

Nonetheless I do not regret doing the test, I needed to know. I actually spent last week reading Jean Dodd's book The Canine Thyroid Epidemic and I really valued learning about the condition. It is important mental information to bank, since hypothyroidism in canines can account for some very strange behavior that does not necessarily scream "hypothyroid!".  Sudden anxiety and aggression are two symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs and either can present even when the "classic" symptoms of weight gain and hair loss are not occurring. Testing in general vet practices is fairly limited (as it only tests one or two thyroid values at most) and it can be challenging to achieve a proper diagnosis.

I needed a vet practice to draw the blood for me. Since Perri was due for blood work and a visit with her behaviorist this week, I requested some extra blood to be drawn so that I could send it out for testing. For the thyroid panel, you need to send serum. The serum can be separated from the blood by centrifuging in a machine, which the wonderful staff at the vet office understood how to do. Then they gave me my tube of Perri-serum. According to the Hemopet website, the serum would be viable at room temperature for 14 days and could be sent by mail. I sent it UPS with two day shipping.

Hemopet received the sample on Friday and I received an e-mail notification. We received results today, very impressive fast turn around time! Very organized and efficient. I am glad I can put my mind to rest about the possibility of a thyroid disorder causing Perri's anxiety.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Perri's 2nd try at NW1!

Somewhere between last year and this one, my "I'm never doing NACSW again!" turned into ... entering Perri in an NW1. That's what I do! Perri has been successful in Performance Scent Dog trials and there was a part of me that wanted to see if we could conquer what defeated us last year.

Spoiler alert: we did not title! But we had a very nice experience. The trial was well almost three weeks ago, but I wanted to wait for our videos and photos to be available before I wrote about our day.

The weather gods were smiling on us, sort of. The day was in the low 50s and it was downright cold due to...wind chill. Cold is good, Perri likes to search in the cold! It was very windy most of the day, so that made me feel a little bit nervous since Perri would be working against some added challenge in her two weakest elements.

And we had to start with Exteriors.

At least it wasn't Vehicles! The search was on gravel, some tables, chairs, shovels, etc to be searched. Perri had a moment of vacancy but quickly reengaged with the search and sourced, earning her a Pronounced and passing Exteriors in 36 seconds. I was thrilled! In comparison with last year's trial, with a 2.47 minute Exterior about improved!

We went straight to Containers. I felt invincible. Containers is Perri's best element and she is the best poodle ever and never ever false alerts and this was going to be our "gimme" search for the trial...........
And then she false alerted in Containers and we failed our NW1 because of Containers. I was absolutely astonished. I could have fallen over when I heard the judge say "No". I couldn't believe it. Even Perri looks like she couldn't believe the judge saying "No" in the video! I still can't believe it, nearly three weeks later! I don't understand what happened, I still don't. I have watched my video. I have thought about it. I have been honest and if I could blame my handling I would. I see that Perri never checked the hot box. Her search pattern is disorganized. None of those things are out of her ordinary. She did not seem overly stressed, but maybe she was stressed and due to her disorganized searching and not finding odor she falsed. None of those things is really like Perri to do. I have had friends who are far more experienced than me say maybe she alerted on drool or maybe she was fringing. Maybe? Nothing is impossible? But I do not actually know what happened in that room. Before that search if you said "Bet your life that Perri is correct about this box" I would have done so because Perri is so meticulous and careful and Always Right about Containers. I just don't know! Even when I showed Perri the correct box, she did not seem impressed by it. 

The "all or nothing" of NACSW trials is a very challenging factor indeed and it can be demotivating. 
We had a very long wait until our afternoon searches. Searches that would "count for nothing". I had a nice easy crime novel read on my Kindle and I passed the time away with that. I really did not feel like doing the afternoon searches, especially since one of them was Vehicles. Perri does not enjoy searching Vehicles. 

But, we persisted! We started with Vehicles. The wind was blowing toward us. Perri sources in about 14 seconds but does not alert. And then it was up and down the vehicles. The odor was in the wheel spokes of the middle vehicle. It was blowing all over the red vehicle. Perri knew it too, she checked it out. Eventually she finally was adamant about where the odor was and I called alert. I kept relaxed and reminded myself we had 3 minutes. Our time was 2.14 minutes. We passed Vehicles for our first time! How unbelievable to pass Exteriors and Vehicles and not Containers. Crazy!

We finished our day with Interiors. No videos or photos since that is not permitted in the Interior element by NACSW (eye roll. Haha.)
The search was in an industrial kitchen type area. There were pantry type items and food prep items available to be sniffed. Counter tops and a table top. The search area was wide open with access to the rest of the fire hall. I chose to do my search off leash. Perri was mostly focused for her search, her normal meticulous self. She did exit the boundaries of the search and go off toward the rest of the firehall, but she came back promptly when I called her. On her second pass over the search area she was really evaluating the pantry shelves and then went and alerted on an area that she had checked before (and that I had made a note of.) It was a large metal rack for food trays and the hide was in the little wheel on the bottom.

Another 3/4 day for Perri in NW1 but the day felt much better to me! I was really bummed that we had not titled, especially since we kicked butt in all the tougher elements!

Now the moment of truth - the Award Ceremony. At our trial last year I was disgusted by the poor attitude of one particular judge and by the trial experience in general. This year's experience was the exact opposite. We were allowed to leave the trial site, nobody was patrolling and making sure we followed All!The!Rules! At the award ceremony we were given advice on leash handling and other helpful pointers, all with an indulgent kind tone that made me feel like the judges knew we were at the NW1 level. That means a lot because while there were likely handlers there who are very experienced and have dogs up in the Elite level, I am still a true Level 1 handler. One of the judges in particular handles dogs professionally and he took the time to say that he loves to judge and watch K9 Nosework because he can see the love we all have for our dogs in handling and training them. A stark contrast to a different judge from last year who also handles dogs professionally and uses that platform to look down on competitors.

I know. I sure can hold a grudge.

People deserve to be respected and so do our dogs. That's what I think is important. And I felt respected and honored to be at that Nosework trial. We failed NW1 a second time but I was so happy that we did our last two searches and that my dog was working stronger than she was last year. I have learned to handle a leash! I have learned not to panic because of the clock. And after this year's trial, I feel nothing but anticipation for the next time Perri and I try NW1. Bring it on.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Perri's Weekend, Lots of HOPE

I have made a ton of changes for Perri lately and the positive progress that was trickling in this year has begun to flow.

At the beginning of this year I wrote this post about our progress with fluoxetine. I was feeling lukewarm about the flatness I would see in Perri, but when I added salmon oil to her diet I noticed more energy. This was indeed a temporary and probably coincidental change. Perri continued to be flat, slow to rouse into play and exhausted far more easily than she used to be by most any activity. About three weeks ago, I told our behaviorist that I would like to wean Perri off of the fluoxetine and possibly try something else. Our instructions were to wean down to 10mg and keep Perri on that dose until our appointment to see how she does on that dose. We returned to 10mg on April 16th. 

Last weekend I had Perri adjusted by her chiropractor. Jaw out and some cervical misalignments. We visited because I wanted to discuss the spasming that I often see in Perri's lower back, check for any adjustments that needed to be done and find out if I can be doing anything more to help Perri's spine feel more comfortable. Of course, all of the adjustments were needed "up higher"! In addition to the active stretches I had been already doing, we were given a few more. I also purchased a Back on Track mesh blanket for Perri. I have heard very good things about these jackets and I feel that Perri can benefit.

So, a lot of good thoughtful changes for Perri. I am also pursuing retesting Perri's thyroid levels, as she tested a "low normal" in December of last year. I have added a probiotic to Perri's diet, the same type that I use for Molly. A happy gut is a happy dog.

And Perri is a happy dog. I started to notice increased silliness within less of a week of decreasing the fluoxetine. Just little things. Flinging a toy up in the air and doing a ridiculous spin for one of Vince's workers. Actual interest and demand in play time with her standard poodle friend Zoe. And just in the last week, we had one of Perri's famous pounce zoom fests in the back yard, it has been a while. Last Monday in agility class Perri turned it on like I have not seen from her in a long time. She did both of her "turns" with really nice motivation, desire for her ball and actual fast and intense weave poles (with a pop at the 10th weave and a restart where she went even faster after being asked to do them a second time rather than crumbling mentally.)

Yesterday I volunteered with a friend of mine who was holding a lure coursing ring to raise money for a rescue at a large dog event held in my area. I felt apprehensive about letting Perri course. I was really struggling with making the Right Decision. On one hand, Molly has gone lame coursing three times now and I knew that Perri had an agility run the day after at a trial. I am trying so very hard to narrow down the activities I do with my dogs and be more focused. But on the other hand, I love how Perri opens up, de-stresses and gives in to raw prey drive in coursing. In the end I made the decision to let Perri run the course two times, once at the beginning of the day and the next time four long hours later at the end of the event. (It was very popular, we had a line 10-15 dogs deep the entire day!) She was full on BagBrain and each time she ran, Zoe poodle got to run with her (and Zoe did a great job following Perri and/or the bag the entire time, she did not leave or get distracted by anything. A great start!)

I was very nervous that Perri would be too tired for her agility run today. We have had a really really nice week since that beautiful agility class on Monday. On the prior dose of fluoxetine, Perri would typically be wiped out and it would be a big ??? how an agility trial would go the next day. It doesn't help that it was naughty of me to enter today's trial in the first place. It was for pure social reasons that I entered, my friend was going to be there and the original plan was to enter Molly but then that bonehead went and ripped her toenail off at the lake a few weeks ago so....hey I do have another dog, right?! So, I entered Snooker with Perri.

But Perri was....great! The Snooker course was laid out so that in order to get the best flow I ran to the back of the ring with her to use our first red, rather than starting on a "red" on the start line. On our way out there she got distracted by a male ring crew but did call off of him fairly quickly. We ran our course and there were some angles that I was fretting I would lose her on, as well as a jump wrap but she really ran her little heart out and was fast and happy! I was so proud of her and it felt awesome. We started the close and it was a diagonal line from 2-the first jump of 5. 5 was a 180 jump combo. Well I lost Perri to visiting a ring crew who also is a friend of ours, how could Perri not say "hi"? I was going over in my mind if I should be trying to recollect Perri back around the jump to try to earn enough points, or just ignore it and run out the finish and forget #5 but I ended up trying to get her and reset her. It turned out to be a not horrible choice, although I am aware it was not the ideal choice. I can't quite remember what happened but I know that Perri was like "Haha you're weird I'll just take the jump!" and then we had a merry happy little race to the exit and she was mighty proud of herself and quite happy and that is what matters! On reflection, I'm really proud of her for not freezing up when I confused her by trying to bring her back to the correct side of the jump, and just making a decision instead.  She was not sure what I wanted, but there was a jump in front of her so she took it! I am okay with that. Very unlike her and very confident! I did notice that Perri was very bothered by us getting to the leash chair at the end. I need to work on a more positive association with ending the run and getting equipment put back on her.

After Perri's run I let her sit in my lap for a while. Perri had a very good day of behavior fear reactivity-wise as well. Something to discuss with our behaviorist. Perri saw a very drivey doberman yanking on a tug toy walk across the crating area, she had eyes on a german shepherd trotting briskly along but she actually LAT'd to me and then a bearded shepherd was crated next to us and warming up for a run. Perri noticed it but reoriented to me quietly. And I was paying big for all of this with bits of dehydrated lamb lung. And I am proud of myself because I interrupted a conversation with a friend to say that Perri had been very successful and I thought she should go out to the car before something pushed her too far and she had an explosion at a dog.
I am very excited about Perri's self assurance around three situations that would have triggered fear reactivity behavior in her. I have no doubt she was still concerned about all three dogs, but she trusted me today and did not feel the need to freak out and warn those dogs away from her.

Go. Team!

I am so optimistic and so terrified it will all fall apart again. That's our journey, I am learning to embrace it and not resent it. It's easy to say that now when we are progressing in the right direction!