Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Zorro CPE Debut

Sunday Zorro had his debut in CPE and also did his first "for real" runs. This trial was sort of a last minute decision for me and a weeeee bit of a lapse of self control. (the plan was to do training runs only for a while!) The truth is that training runs in USDAA make me feel more secure, whereas in CPE I am a little more relaxed. And Zorro? He is just Mr Chill.

I was not sure how he would react to dirt footing, and I knew he would be seeing new-to-him equipment. He primarily sees and trains on Doggy Jumps jumps, with thick chunky bars. This trial had more traditional style jumps. A double jump he had never seen and a dog walk he has never seen. He has been trained on the double jump, but this piece of equipment can really vary in appearance by trial site.

Anyway! He was just....great. It kind of blew my mind. No zoomies in the dirt, no sniffing in the dirt, no getting "high" because of the dirt. Errors made were baby dog errors or handler confidence errors. I was so super happy with this guy! We played in Jumpers, Colors and Fullhouse - he qualified in all. Zorro earned his first agility title, CPE Level 1 Fun! (one Q each in Level 1 Jumpers and Fullhouse.)

Jumpers was first. A tough 90 degree turn after a speed line, we had a refusal (CPE does not score those). Everything else was great except me letting go of a rear cross just before he committed and another refusal. Disappointed in myself because I chickened out of a front cross and I had plenty of time to do one - I need to be braver! I was thrilled with Z pulling to the correct end of a tunnel discrimination. 

Colors was next, he ran it in 11 seconds and would have been faster if not for me getting hopelessly behind in the middle of the course! This boy has wings. In Colors you have your choice of two mini-courses. Zorro's Aframe training is not complete so I chose the course that did not contain the Aframe.

Fullhouse was last, always Molly's favorite! I was thinking of her when I ran. I didn't love the layout of this Fullhouse but we made it happen with 24 points. Zorro only needed 19 for his level. In Fullhouse you need three bar jumps, two 3-point obstacles (tunnel or panel jump), and a "joker". This course's Joker options were: Aframe, weaves, dog walk. We went with the dog walk because Zorro's weaves and Aframe are not ready for prime time. He was a little slower than normal on a different dog walk but he did well! I think, having my girls who never generalized very well, I am extremely appreciative to have a dog who is able to do so.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Zorro's First Agility Trial

Big day today, Zorro's first agility trial! For USDAA Intro, dogs need to be 14 months old of age minimum. Zorro turns 16 months old tomorrow, and I felt he has become mature enough to begin experiencing the trial environment from inside of the ring. He has been coming to agility trials and the agility building since quite literally the day after I brought him home, which is a huge advantage for environmental acclimation.

Today's trial was perfect. It was a one ring trial, Starter/Advanced/Intro only. The entry was so light that the trial nearly cancelled, but that's not such a bad thing for a green dog! We started with Intro Jumpers. We had two jumps not properly supported by me but otherwise a great run! I feel a little bad I did not just keep running (I mean, it was FEO so it's not like we had to do every jump!) but I also don't feel like I stressed him out or yelled his name for going by. I 100% feel like he had a great time in the ring!

Intro Snooker was next up. I entered Snooker but was not sure what I would really do (do a "real snooker plan" or more freestyle approach). At the briefing the judge did say that Intro is not miscellaneous and that in Intro you do need to attempt the course. You can't just go in and work on anything you want to work on. That was good information to have! I made an opening plan and it went really nicely other than doing my tandem one stride too soon for Zorro and sending him around the second red (and then changing my handling plan on the fly, doing a backside and handling Z to the Aframe. OOPS) After that I was happy with myself until I crowded him on the last jump.

Get out of the dog's way!

Anyway, we survived and Zorro was so focused and steady and enjoyed himself. Makes me so happy! What an exciting future we have together.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Summer New Titles!

In the spirit of catching up, let's talk about this summer's new titles!

The last weekend in July we drove to New Jersey to play some Performance Scent Dogs. It has been over a year since we got to play any PSD and I was hoping to finish up Molly's Exterior title and Perri's Speed title. Spoiler alert: we did!

I entered Molly in Advanced Buildings, so she needed a Clove target odor test pass in order to be able to play in Advanced. We have a mock NW2 trial in the fall, so I wanted her to have some experience with multiple hides at a trial. Anyway, for the Clove "TOT" she got silly, spinning around and leaving the chairs (In a PSD Target Odor Test, there are 12 chairs, one has odor.). I took her back to the start line and reset her and she walked over and alerted immediately. Face. Palm. We passed at least! The judge said, "Wow, her style leaves much to be desired!" Perhaps somebody would be offended by that, but I thought it was funny!

Exteriors was next and Molly made lightning fast work of alerting on a mess kit laying on the ground. I actually waited for a second alert because I thought she might just be batting around the plates. I felt bad about that, but after the TOT I was a little skeptical. PSD-NE (Novice Exterior title!)

We had a long wait until Perri's Speed search, and Molly's Advance Building search. I timed all the afternoon classes as a volunteer. Ate lunch. Went out for a nearby geocache. And then it was Perri's turn.

People, we worked hard on Speed. Perri has such a hard time qualifying because she is slow. She catalogues (this means that she finds all of the hides but passes them. She knows where the hides are but does not alert on them.) This class is a challenge to Perri's confidence. We have been practicing. A lot. I reward her as soon as she gets to each hot box and make a huge fuss over her cleverness.
It is not often that hard work pays off for Perri at a trial. At most, she barely Qs and I'm grateful for what she could do. This time? Perri crushed it. She alerted on every hide the first time she got to the box. She was efficient and happy and it made me so happy. She even ended up in the ribbons with a third place. In Speed!! That was Perri's PSD-SN title, Novice Speed.

Molly did not qualify in Advanced Buildings. She did a good job working the search area. Alerted on one hide. The second hide was hidden under a plastic dog bowl. I saw her check it out a few times but she did not alert. Even when I showed it to her she gave a half hearted "haha okay." alert. That was strange.

I am not sure how much more PSD we will be doing. Last year there was quite a bit of trialing opportunities within an hour of me, but that seems to have diminished. There is another trial at this location in October. I would like to finish Perri's overall Novice title, and she needs two Exterior passes to do so. After that, with more AKC scentwork available more locally to us, we may be going that route.

Fast forward to the following weekend, and a different sport...World Cynosport Rally Obedience!

Molly attended for two rounds of Veterans but I'm sorry to say she wasn't at her best. Neither was I, since I had worked until midnight the night before. Molly was sluggish off the start line, I had to beg her along and then I missed a sign. Oops! We did better on our second Veterans round and qualified. We might revisit WCRL at some point to finish her RLV Championship title, but not this year.

Zorro was entered in two rounds of Level 1 and he was on. fire. He earned his RL1-Award of Excellence title with a 210 in the first trial, and earned a second place in the large and competitive Level 1B class with another 210. Another example of a lot of training time put in, and seeing it pay off. We lost no points on stands this time! Fool me once, shame on me.... There was no Moving Stand bonus this time to truly avenge my shame from the July trial. We had the food bowl figure 8 distractors, and the Left About turn. This video is about half of our run. My friend was in the run order near Zorro, so she could not really video.

Zorro and Zoe. Little Z and Big Z, celebrating their RL1-AOE titles!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Story of Molly's Biceps Injury

I clearly just do long-term catch up posts on this blog now. Whatever, it's how I'm rolling.

Since late Spring Molly was experiencing intermittent lameness on her right front, and at times on her left. As time went on it was exclusively on the right side. The first time the issue presented itself. I wanted to take her to agility class and she got off the couch so slow and sluggish. Molly can be a bit of a couch potato at times when it comes to leaving the house but she perks up when we get to our destination so I did not think much of it. But at class she would not do her warm up exercises (her spins, her downward dog stretch or her paws up on a chair.) I knew she was telling me, something hurts. I remembered no acute injury. All that she did was get off the couch.

After that she was adjusted by our chiro who advised me of some decreased ROM in Molly's shoulders. Our primary vet detected some loss of range of motion in her neck, which has been an issue for Molly in the past. I refused steroids due to the side effects that Molly experiences from them and we did a round of a drug that I cannot remember. I rested Molly for a while. Ran her in one run in our club's April agility trial because she had been looking better. She almost-freaking-Q'd-in-Standard but blew the dog walk at the end. Naughty. And then she was dead lame afterwards, despite a long cool down. I was...crushed. Because it could have been her MAD(P) if she had gotten the dog walk, and now she was lame. I consoled myself, that if it was her last trial run ever, it was a great one. Complete with obligatory Molly-naughtiness.

More time off of agility, saw some improvement. She would be fine. She would limp after simply getting off the couch. She would swim and be okay. She would be dead lame after swimming. Another chiro visit and "I think her biceps is injured."

At the beginning of July I took Molly to the same vet that saw Perri through her shoulder injury. She confirmed biceps strain. Molly was very painful on clinical exam to the point of pulling away and trying to escape the vet. Weekly underwater treadmill therapy as well as exercises to be done daily at home. Not my first rodeo! 

Molly was far more pleasant to do exercises with than Perri. She was happy to do them, and kibble was a good enough payment so she did rehab for her dinner (well, part of it.) Molly had to do cookie side stretches, weight shift exercises, puppy push ups, back up, and cavalettis. The back up was her favorite! We got to the UWTM whenever we could. Molly was actually rather afraid of the treadmill. She did not take to it easily. The second time we went I brought: her chuckit ball, and Perri. Both of those things gave her the bravery she needed to walk on the treadmill tank. 

Molly's injury did not seem so bad. She didn't need to be confined, and I didn't have to buy a buffet of treats and food in order to get her to cooperate with her exercises. And slowly it seemed to me, Molly was improving. Less and less limping after getting off the couch. Less reluctance to walk down the stairs (she was hesitating big time to come down stairs. Because it hurt.) And if Zorro tempted her to a game of chase, she would be sound afterwards.

We had our recheck today. I remember that after Perri's recheck, we still had 6 weeks of semi-restriction and underwater treadmill. I wasn't sure what to expect, Molly's injury was different. Molly had a session in the treadmill first and then the recheck with our vet. No pain response on clinical exam. Excellent range of motion in both front legs. Wow!

Molly is released to normal activity, but with caution. Do one activity at a time. (So that, if she becomes lame again, we know what to blame.) Agility is okay. Swimming, reluctance. Molly's hard driving style of swimming, including her tendency to throw her forelimbs out into full extension when she swims, made our vet hesitant to give the "okay" to swimming. Give it a little more time. She said she would actually prefer that I play fetch on flat ground with Molly than in the water. That surprised me! But it is understandable.

I don't know what the future of Molly's swimming will be. Perhaps some dock diving, some creek wallowing. I am considering a life jacket for next year to take some of the work out of the game for her.  In the mean time, we are going to start with some jumping grids and see how she tolerates that. One thing at a time. I do want Molly to return to agility. I miss her. I might have retired her if not for something that happened in July. I took her with me to the agility building to get some coolers and water ready for our club's trial the next evening. She .... was... screaming on the way up the agility driveway. She had not been there in weeks and she was so excited. I took her in the building and she ran around the ring taking tunnels with pure shark joy on her face while I did the job I needed to do. She was so happy. She does love the game. But with all things, swimming, fetch, agility, I need to respect Molly's age and protect her. We can still enjoy the things we always have, but in a lower gear.

Molly's last day in rehab. UWTM fun, recheck, chicken nuggets and new toy!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

World Cynosport Rally July Trial Molly and Zorro

Last Saturday was Zorro's debut in WCRL Level 1! I felt solid to enter him in Level 1. The only area he is weak in is his stands and we put extra training time into that. Also, Molly came along to play in Veterans. I have a soft goal for Molly to be nationally ranked in the RLV category for 2019, so we will play until she is one Q short of the Rally Veteran Championship title (because that would put her into the Championship category and we aren't going to be playing that much WCRL this year.) Ps. Einey did get nationally ranked in the Veterans Championship category in 2014.

Anyway! This was a two ring trial so definitely a new experience for Zorro. I groaned when I saw our course map, as the Moving Stand walk around was the bonus. I had not prepared Zorro one little bit for that exercise. Oopsie! Other than that mister man did a really nice job. I am thrilled with his enjoyment of heeling. He does hesitate on his left finish, we are working on "You don't always get a treat at front." and he says, "Are you suuuuure?" And we got a sit on the stand exercise later on the couse. (That's ten points off for stand issues, ouch.) 198/210 on this one.

Trial 2 was a bit better for Zorro, although we still got a sit on the Moving Stand bonus (yes, it was the bonus sign again!!) This time he did his Sit-Stand sign without sitting again. I thiiiiink this one was a 202/210. Five points off for the sit on the moving stand and then we had a sit on the 270 during heeling. But, really good work for my baby boy!

I am making a commitment to myself and Zorro to stop letting the "new rules" surprise me. They are not new rules anymore. I was very disappointed in myself that I let that Moving Stand sneak up on me. My young dog could have had far nicer scores his first time out if his owner had trained him. :)

To be honest, I do like the format of using a list of Level 2 signs as Bonus for Level 1, and so on. I think that it encourages teams to train for the next level more than the old format did. I found the news update that included which bonus signs could be used in Level 1 (I could not find it in the rule book but that's user error, I'm sure.) and we have been enjoying working on them. We can practice rally-o inside in the AC since it is too hot to practice agility out there anyway! We are currently putting priority on his understanding of "Stand stays are rewarding, too! Sits aren't the only cool thing to do."

Molly had a blast, especially on the first Trial! Her usual lagging vs exploding and no in between when it comes to Rally. We also had to do one of the "new" signs where I took a left 180 turn and Molly had to spin or something and get on my right side. I don't know if we did it right but Molly sure did seem to enjoy it!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

NACSW Elements Trials

Today was a NACSW Elements trial day for the girls! Perri got into a Level 1 Container trial, and Molly got into a Level 1 Exterior trial. Time to redeem yourself, Molly!

The container trial was first and I was glad of that. Perri especially does not do well in the heat and I kept wondering what I was thinking entering her in a trial in the summer. Blech!

But before any trials, we arrived at the trial site...there was a long driveway and alllll the cars were lined up with nowhere to go. Turns out, the field where every body had parked the day before had received 4 inches of rain the night before and was now a wet and muddy mess. The trial got started a little late as cars were juggled and parking was found. Long story short, nearly everybody just parked each other in along the driveway and that was that. I got lucky, depending on your definition, by being parked on the next property over's driveway. I was within walking distance of the search areas and trial site, under the shade, and not parked in.

The trial site was on a farm, there was a creek running through and there were woods to be enjoyed. We were so far away from the main trial area that before and after searches, my dogs got to enjoy the creek or going for short walks in the woods. Heaven, really.

Perri was the first dog in the run order in the Container trial. The first search was on the grass and it was plastic shoebox type containers with tissue paper inside. It was also right near a barn door entrance. Perri was obsessed with the barn. She wanted to get inside of there so badly. She was only half searching and kept disengaging from the search to try to get into the barn. I kept my head and kept her on the search and she did alert and I called it and we passed that search. Then we had to go...into the barn. 6 ORT style boxes, with only one minute to search. The stuff of nightmares! And Perri was even worse in there. There was a goat paddocked outside of the barn, there were creature smells inside of the barn (the property owner even stated, "rats only run through the barn every now and then.") Perri wanted to hunt and not for birch! It was hair raising and I will be surprised if our time was anything below 59.59 seconds! I really thought we were sunk but I kept asking Perri to check each individual box and she alerted. Whew!

We took a break in the creek and back to the car, and waited for the run order to finish and then we had two more searches. I felt a little more secure in these searches. One was in a foyer of a house. Like, inside of a building with no rats or livestock smell. And the next was on a wooden deck. Perri was her normal self, mildly worried about ghosts or whatever it is she sees when she stares all over the place but she finished both searches and earned her L1C (Level 1 Container) title. Wow, Perri! Today was kind of cool for P-dog because she titled under the judge that was so dismissive of lower drive dogs at her first NACSW trial and she got to title in the element that she failed in her second NW1. So, kind of a vindication day for the poodle.

There was a break in the afternoon, and exodus and re-shuffling of cars as well as new arrivals for the Exteriors trial. Then it was Molly's turn.

We started off by blowing the trial on the first search. Dammitall! Kind of embarrassing to fail a second L1E trial! The search was on a front porch. There was a walkway, stone steps and then a porch full of little ornaments. But there was an ornament at the base of the steps. Molly had run past it. And then she was swirling all over the porch, searching for odor but mostly looking at herself in the glass reflections of the windows alongside of the door. I remember getting her off the porch and resetting her direction. I swear I gave her time to try to catch odor down off of the porch but back up she went. I will be purchasing the video of this search. I mainly remember a lot of focusing on the windows and looking inside and then false alerting at the door. Or, pawing at the door. Whatever you want to call it! Either way, another L1E blown. Looking back, I wish I had taken Molly back to the start line, paused and did a little reboot. 

Molly went on to do a lovely job on the second search. It was in the barn that had so distracted Perri. Molly was not distracted, she found odor and while she did blast past another threshold hide, she was beautiful working odor and following it back to source. 

A short break and then we returned for the day's final two searches. We searched a back deck, table and chairs. Molly did not find odor right away and got a little silly but got back into the search and did a great job working back to source on one of the chairs. No attempts to jump on the table. The last search was alongside the barn, on a step stool and Molly walked right to it and indicated. Super quick.

We finished strong and now Molly has a "leg" towards her L1E title. If she passes 3/4 searches at our next L1E trial she will title. My goal would be to still pass 4/4 searches but hey, at least we improved from the last L1E. I'm frustrated that I let myself get flustered by Molly in the first search and did not handle her well when things got sketchy but I will learn from it!

It was still a great day out with both girls and we had a fun time at a perfect for us trial site.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Appalachian Trail: PA 94 to Center Point Knob

Much like my PA State Parks goal, my goal of hiking all of the Appalachian Trail in PA has gone on a years long hiatus due to travelling barriers and finding reward in closer geocaching and dog sports goals. So, it was really exciting to get to finish another section of the PA AT this past Saturday! I took Zorro for a dock diving lesson at the place where we usually trial, an outrageous 120 miles from where I live, and could only get a training spot at 8am. That left me the entire day to go hiking someplace.

That some place was PA 94 to Center Point Knob, and connected with a 2012 hike that I did from Boiling Springs to CPK that finishes Section 11 of PA for me (PA 94 to Boiling Springs.) It was very satisfying to chip away a little bit at one of my dormant hiking goals.

My friend Dawn and I met at a Gamelands section within walking distance of the AT and drove to Sheet Iron Road to begin our hike. (I later hiked the .2 miles to PA 94 to "officially" complete the section, like a good nerd.) We hiked North from there, towards Center Point Knob.

It was not long before the trail began to ascend into switch backs and we encountered some enormous....rocks! Very fun scramble through the enormous boulders and lots of fun photo-ops. And no snakes encountered.

Poppy, Perri and Zorro

Down and up another hill, and surprise...more rocks! 

After that was another dip in elevation and a stream for the dogs. I did like this hike very much for the sake of the dogs staying cool and hydrated. There were regular streams. We went back up again, of course and stopped so I could eat some lunch because I was feeling rather hot and drained. I had gotten stuck working a 15 hour shift on call the night before and had to get up at 5am for a dock diving lesson for Zorro before this hike (which netted me about 4-5 hours of sleep.) So, I needed to get hydrated and eat some lunch. Poppy and Zorro were most interested in sharing my sandwich!

Photo by Dawn! 

We continued on through a beautiful fern section, which I always love to see. The only downside was that there were storms in the forecast and the sky was starting to look pretty angry. We checked the radar and found a huge system heading right for us! Fortunately the Alec Kennedy shelter was only .1 mile ahead! So after another downhill and stream dip for the dogs and back uphill we were able to get the the shelter, use the privy and be inside and dry while a fierce windy thunderstorm rolled through for the next hour. Talk about perfect timing!

photo also by Dawn. I failed to get one of the ferns and it was really a lovely section.

I found some ponchos in my pack, they had been there for years. Dawn and I had both forgotten our rain jackets so, they went to good use. Perri was so frisky after the rain, pouncing around and hunting and downright silly. I love when she is like that. One more up hill on switch backs and we reached Center Point Knob! Woohoo!