Monday, September 18, 2017

Big Girl Ring

With all of Molly's recent health problems, it is an honor and a thrill to still get to go to an agility trial and experience butterflies-in-the-stomach "firsts" together.   This weekend we got to run in the Masters/P3 USDAA ring for the first time together.   I was nervous, surprisingly way more than I expected, nervous.   And as always, Molly put up with me being nervous.   She put up with my micromanaging and crowding on her obstacles, because that is what I do when I get nervous and Molly is used to my nonsense.   The poor girl.

We started with Standard, and I was of course late and nearly missed my walkthrough!   Only later did I realize that they split the walkthrough and after the Masters dogs ran, the P3 and Small Masters dogs got a separate walk through.   Whew!   We NQd on a wrong course tunnel in no time and some naughtiness on the weaves.   Molly did slip heading up the dog walk, but caught herself and that scared me.   When I was watching the other large dogs run the course I saw more slips than I usually do and on some very experienced teams.   Weird.

Our other two runs for the day with Pairs Relay and Snooker.   I was through the roof anxious about Pairs partly due to not wanting to ruin somebody's run due to mine and Molly's inconsistent nonsense and partly of a bad experience in P2 with a rude and judgemental Pairs partner.   I was assigned to the most laid back and wonderful handler and his dog who is also new to the P3 ring, and we both agreed to zero pressure and "we don't care!" and because of that I was able to do a beautiful job handling Molly and we had a clean run!   I feel a little more secure moving forward with P3 Pairs now.   It is so refreshing to be in the ring with somebody who understands good sportsmanship!

Snooker was last and Molly was tired and I thought she might not feel like weaving.   The weaves were #6 in the closing so I made a plan using all four reds and earned 39 points for our first Q in P3.  Yay!  Molly weirdly walked out of the weaves about halfway through, which was an odd thing for her to do but hey - maybe she knew I was feeling totally optional about her even doing the weaves at all.  Ha!

Day two, I didn't learn to be on time any better and truly did almost miss my walk through for Jumpers.   The opening was very tight and challenging for the big dogs and Molly and I did pretty well!   I was super crowdy and not trusting her commitment on this course and I kick myself for it.   We had only one refusal and no wrong courses and I am very proud of us!

We did Steeplechase/Performance Speed Jumping next - lovely lovely fast weaves this time and I kept her off of a wrong course tunnel but then....we got a wrong course tunnel elsewhere.   Oh Molly!   The rest of the run was lovely, avoiding two other wrong course tunnel options throughout the course.   I do love PSJ for the wide open flowing type of course and I know Molly loves it too!   

We ended our weekend with Standard again and had quite a few faults.   Wrong course tunnel, weave refusal and then my mind exploded and my handling disintegrated.   Oh well!   The course had a rather low Q rate, it was tricky!   

We survived our first weekend in P3 and I am looking forwards to being more relaxed next time.   We did not go to another planet, we just went a few steps away to a different ring!   I guess I'm being silly, but I was mainly more self conscious than anything.   

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Molly does ORT Boxes

Molly has bounced back to complete normalcy from her weird GI affliction from last week.   I have really been ramping up the Nosework training with Molly because she is so excited about the work and also she makes some pretty cute snorting sounds when she searches!  

Our focus lately has been getting the plastic container boxes in some other locations, and I have also been sneaking in cardboard ORT boxes, while still using the regular plastic container as the "hot box".   Tonight I took a leap and put the tin with birch into a vented ORT box, with plastic containers all around it as well as a blank ORT box.   This really would be a test of Molly's understanding that finding the birch odor pays.   Has she just been blindly fussing at plastic containers until I mark and reward?   Or does she really get it?

She gets it.   I don't have a video of that first search with her alerting at an ORT box, when up until now odor has been in a plastic box.   I set this search up afterwards, with all cardboard ORT boxes (with the lids partially open, "vented").   I'll say it a million times, I am an agility girl but gawd dang I love that moment when they whiplash their head and get "in odor".   I never get tired of it.

I switched the location of the box and let it sit on the floor and "age" for about an hour.   I put her Nosework harness and leash on, because I really struggled with my leash handling with Perri due to her equipment issues and I want to start strong with that with Molly.   She alllllmost leaves the hot box but alerts nicely on it!    I think I am going to have a whole lot of fun doing Nosework with Molly.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Weekend Interrupted

This weekend's plans were looking fun: USDAA on Saturday, mine and Molly's very first time in P3.   Sunday was to be barn hunt training in preparation for our October trial.  

But Wednesday night Molly started bothering me to go outside.   She ran out in the pouring ran and started eating grass, eating grass.   I got frustrated with her and went out in the rain, took her collar and marched her back under the porch to come inside....she ran away from me and threw up her entire dinner, and then retched some more.   A few hours later she seemed to feel better, so we gave her her evening Kong.   Molly can be a "pukey" dog but if she has an appetite we generally just carry on as normal with her.   One AM she threw up everything that she ate from the Kong, she threw up more outside.   Thursday morning it was clear she did not feel well, and I decided to withhold food.   I tried to give her a Pepcid but she refused to eat the small amount of cheese that I had hidden it in.   In hindsight I wish I had forced her to eat it.

I came home to a liquid diarrhea mess and several more piles of vomit throughout the house.   I convinced Molly to eat a small bit of plain turkey but she soon refused anymore than about two bites.   She absolutely refused to eat pills wrapped in turkey so I had to shove them down.   Very unusual, the only time Molly lost her appetite was years ago when I was a zombie due to strep throat and left her bag of kibble sitting on the floor and went to sleep for about 14 hours straight.   She ripped the bag open and buffeted Molly style - and so that evening when I gave her dinner, she didn't want to eat it.   Because she was packed solid with food already!  I panicked then because Molly never ever refuses food...but when I found the dog food bag all was clear.    But I digress.

Anyway.  Molly never refuses food.   We have had two intractable diarrhea episodes this year (brought on by my own overindulgence and resolved with Flagyl) and most recently, one strange episode of vomiting and nausea that she bounced back from in less than 24 hours with fasting and Pepcid.   This most recent episode was unusual and fast becoming scary.   It got much worse through the evening.   It was a beautiful day outside but I couldn't do much but sit at home and watch Molly and worry.   She did not vomit or have anymore diarrhea, but she was so uncomfortable.   She had episodes of shuddering, of panting.   She would get up and just stand there staring off into space, she would stretch in downward dog or the reverse way.   She would ask to go outside but then just stand in the yard like she had no idea where or who she was.   It worsened and worsened through the night and every time she would lay down and relax or drift off and I thought the medicine I forced down her throat was finally helping her feel better, she was up again and stretching and uncomfortable.   She lay down for a long while but at 1AM she got back up and stretched downward dog and just stood there, frozen.   She was shaking.   I knew at 6am I had to go to work.   I knew that if she was in this state at that time I would be a complete wreck if I had to leave her home all day feeling this way, and possibly (and likely) worsening.    So we went to the emergency vet.

I called ahead.   Always do that when going to the emergency vet.   You can get a lot of the formalities and paperwork out of the way, and the staff know what's coming.   There was nothing crazy going on with Molly.   Gastroenteritis.  Subcutaneous fluids (I do love SubQ fluids, feeling that big cold hump below the skin and petting it - weirdo.) and an anti nausea injection.   We were sent home with more Flagyl, orders to continue the Pepcid/Flagyl combo that I had started Molly on.   Molly walked out the door with more of her usual peppy swagger than we came in with.   I got about two hours of sleep before work.   Molly was not good in the morning.   I was told to fast her, but I thought for sure with the fluids and injection she would happily eat her medicine in a Pill Pocket.   No.   And then she even refused butter.    I again had to force the pills down.  Really scary for me, because I knew it meant she was feeling very bad.   When I left her she was laying on my living room floor, so uncomfortable she did not even want to be on the couch.   She was just laying there looking miserable and confused.  

When I got home from work the difference was like night and day.   I got the plain turkey out of the fridge and offered it to her and she sharked it right up!   Gave her a little more.   She ate it all and then went and slept for a few hours.   Still very wiped out but with the return of the appetite I was feeling great!    She took her pills with no issue hidden in her "bland diet" food.   She ate her whole Kong (stuffed with more plain food.)   She then stole Perri's food while I was shooing away a door to door salesman!   Yep, she's back!  

I obviously still scratched our runs from the USDAA trial.   Since the trial was very close to me, I went anyway to cheer on our friends.   Our friend Sly the border collie had a really nice day and got his long sought after last Standard Q needed for his Performance Dog title.  (as well as his P1 Gambler and P1 Standard title).   Much celebrating!  

I kept Perri in the car all day and did some work on simply approaching the trial building.   I did what I used to do with Molly when we would be in a trial that she would shoot over threshold if we went into the building too quickly.   I got Perri out of the car and stood a few feet from the car.   And I waited for her to orient to me.   Praise and food when she did.   I observed Perri having a very difficult time even as soon as she got out of the car.   Hypervigilance and a long delay in being able to orient to me.   This is a big deal and something that Perri and I need to work through.   How can I expect Perri to be confident and focus in the ring otherwise?   We did this probably three or four times throughout the day.   Often I rewarded Perri with retreat from the trial building as well as food.   No real improvement today, just a lot of information for me.  

One time Perri was particularly lost in scanning and our friend Donna came out of the trial building, Perri saw her from far away and became over joyed and wanted to dash towards Donna.   I love this, because in a moment when Perri was lost and overwhelmed by the environment, the "environment" produced a much loved friend.   It is a bit like how I take her into the building and get people to pet her, but in this case, Perri was stationary and allowed to take things in on her own rather than having me manipulating what happened.   I did not plan for Donna to walk into Perri's line of vision, it just happened - and I think it was a very good thing.  

More work like this.   I am hopeful for the fluoxetine on board, that when it really begins to take effect and hopefully help Perri, that it can aide her comfort level and ownership of her environment.  

After the trial I took Perri on a nice hour long walk at a nearby and favorite lake park.   Not the way I expected our weekend to go, but all worked out well in the end.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Perri Starts Medication Week One

Way back in March, when it became evident to me that Perri and I were experiencing a progress backslide in a big way, I mentioned that I felt it was time to try some medication to help with her anxiety.   And that I would likely avoid it for some time more.

And I did.   I started Perri on an over the counter supplement called Composure and experienced some moderate reduction in Perri's stress behaviors.   Her refluxing decreased and her explosive reactions towards other dogs diminished (did not disappear.) and I felt we were able to make some training progress on that front.   Very encouraging, until we stalled.   Agility continued to be an up and down, upsetting battle for us until a month ago when I finally decided that both of us had had quite enough.

But other areas of Perri's life were not improving, they were getting worse.   Perri's stress drinking had escalated to the point where she was drinking so much that she was leaking urine in her sleep at night - I even had to buy diapers for her.   This makes me feel very embarrassed.   Even if I would let Perri out just before bed, she would either have drank so much that she could not empty her entire bladder, or she would drink after I had gone to sleep.   I had to get strict about pulling up all water bowls at 8pm.   This caused an issue in the morning before work though.   On occasion, Perri will have episodes of paralysis in our own yard where she is too busy staring and scanning the area to focus on peeing.   There are times when Perri will be so caught up in this behavior that she will out right refuse to pee and will "hold it" until I get home from work.   That's about 17 hours or more.   When I started to take up the water at 8pm, I feel I took a coping mechanism (her drinking) from her, and it increased the scanning in the yard as a result.   Not only did she not have to pee badly from all of her obsessive drinking, but she was not able to relieve her anxiety with her drinking coping mechanism.   There was a specific morning a few weeks ago that I watched her scanning the yard, totally lost in her world and refusing to pee for me.   I was so frustrated with her I could scream.   I took her out three separate times that morning and she could not come "back to earth" to pee.   I was late for work.    I have been late to work because of this behavior in the past.

This was my breaking point.   My dog needed help.   I have worked so hard with her all these years and she has worked really hard too.   We have come so far together.   And this year has made me feel like a complete failure to her.   All of our progress seemed plateaued.   I was and still am devastated, but my human emotions are no help to Perri.   She needs help.

I scheduled an appointment with a highly recommended veterinary behaviorist  and over two weeks reassured myself that this was the right decision.   It has been a grey area for me.   My dog is not crippled by her anxiety.   Separation anxiety used to be a problem for her first year with us but she responded so well to training, became comfortable in her environment and bonded with us and our other dogs.   Crate anxiety seemed to be linked in with the SA but we were also able to resolve that with training.   I know that we are so very fortunate for these accomplishments that Perri was able to achieve.   She never becomes a panting, shuddering mess.   She has never bitten anybody or another dog.   She does not pace and refuse to settle.

I was asked at our appointment many questions, but I was asked what I feel that Perri's biggest issue is.   I said that it is Perri's scanning environments, what I am told is called hypervigilance.   Perri is not frantic but she sort of stresses down into this stoic trance and just stares and turns her gaze over and over the environment, like she can't possibly come to terms with it being a safe place to be.  Stuck in her own personal hell.   It breaks my heart more than anything else because it makes me feel the most helpless.   Sure enough, she did this exact behavior in the exam room (despite it being a very cozy room with a couch for us to sit on and no tell tale metal exam table as a typical exam room would have.)

Other issues discussed: the fear reactivity episodes towards other dogs (the exploding and lunging), the obsessive drinking and nibbling (displacement behaviors), the extreme startle responses to any object she perceives as a threat (keys, brooms, the baton on agility, etc.), her intense aversion to harnesses and things being placed over her head and our lack of progress on this front.   The more I talked about life with Perri the more sad I felt for my strange funny little dog, trapped in her own personal hell.   Agility trials and what has been going on there was certainly discussed, but they are not my focus.   I see a very clear plan there for Perri and I, and I have already identified a lot that I can adjust about my own behavior and expectations.

Since I feel that mine and Perri's progress in training has stalled I was very open to the idea of medication.   We discussed various options and the positives/negatives of each, which I did find to be a bit overwhelming.   Big decisions.  We ultimately decided to start on Fluoxetine (Prozac).   This may not be the right medication for Perri but it is where we will start.   It can take some trial and error and patience to find the right medication for your dog, and I understand this and am open to it.  

I was told to expect some sleepiness and that GI side effects could be possible (diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite.)   We are about four days in at this point and I have seen no sleepiness but Perri has skipped a meal here and there or half a meal.   That is not unusual for Perri.    No reflux or GI upset.  We will not start to see effects of the medication until up to weeks 4-6, though many dogs respond sooner.   I am very glad that I chose to stop doing agility trials with Perri, it really takes the pressure off and allows us time to adjust to our new venture.   We will continue the Composure.

It was a little tough for me to decide to write this all out, knowing that while I may not exactly have many readers - this blog is public.  And this is a decision that I feel sensitive about.   It is not a decision I came to easily or made lightly.   It is recognizing that my dog's brain isn't functioning correctly and after five years of training and work, her brain needs help to work better.   I want Perri to feel safer in her world.  I intend to give her that help no matter what, because I sure have tried everything else to the best of my abilities (with great successes!)   And so, I have written all of this.   So that I have something to refer back to some day, and so that maybe if another person is where I am at - they can read what Perri and I have done.   I know I have read other people's stories online and they have helped me a lot.

Friday, September 1, 2017

End of Summer CPE Agility

Last weekend we enjoyed the last CPE Trial of the summer.   I have no videos, only photos!

I was late on Saturday due to having some work done on my car so I missed Molly's Standard entry, and we were not entered in Snooker.   That left ending the day with Wildcard, Colors and Jumpers.   Wildcard was okay but the approach to the Aframe was rather unsafe in my opinion, so I held Molly back and managed her on the flat for a straighter approach and that put me behind for Molly's exit from the A-frame - so she took a wrong course jump after thundering down the Frame.   Oh well!    Colors and Jumpers went much better.   A missed weave entry in Colors but nice and fast when I asked her to repeat them.   We are doing really good with keeping the stress out of restarting the weaves, and that is a skill I have worked hard on and am proud of.  Jumpers was an odd course with a back to back serpentine but Molly handled really nicely through it all.

Ein played Wildcard and Jumpers on Saturday.   In Wildcard our run was going really well, but the A-frame was a required part of the course.   Ein did perform the A-frame in the June trial, but he pulled off of it during his run on Saturday.    I asked him to re-do it and backed way up so he could get a running start onto it but he again ran around it.   That's fine, he is allowed to say No whenever he wants to!   Old Dog Rules!   I felt a little bit like if he wasn't showing much enthusiasm in Jumpers I would scratch him from Sunday's entries and not do anymore agility with him.    But Ein ran with speed and joy for a Q in Jumpers, no doubt he was enjoying his time in the ring!  

We returned on Sunday and I arrived while Snooker45C was running, I missed my walk through!   Those extra 15 minutes of sleep were too tempting.   I feel that I may be a true Snooker master because I made a plan on the fly and Q'd Molly with 46 points.   Yeah!

Molly had three more runs: Standard, Wildcard and Colors.   In Standard there was a four jump extension line straight to the back with a wrong course tunnel tempting her to the right, or the correct path...a jump to the left turning back onto the Aframe.    To the tunnel!!   She re-emerged with her teeth and lips bared and butt tucked, and took some bonus jumps before reconnecting with me to finish our run.   Even did some nice weaves!   The photographer captured this beast mode team shot of me calling Molly over a 180 - I look mad!   I wasn't, that's just my face!   Ha!   I love the comet trail of dirt coming off of Molly's feet here, love it.

Colors and Wildcard were not too memorable, we got em done!   Molly is really so very consistent at this trial site and I do enjoy that level of cooperation from her.  

Ein also got to play Snooker with me, but this time I had the benefit of walking my course!   I wanted to pick a flowy opening and leave after obstacle 5 in the closing (we would have plenty of points.)   However, a flowy opening in the beginning left us a bit short on points, and finishing 6-7 was not too much of an effort.   I don't usually do Snooker with Ein because sometimes you just end up doing a goofy course no matter how good your plans are.   As it was, we definitely ended up doing more side changes and handling than Ein is used to but he did really well with everything.   He did run around a jump that I kept a distance away from and expected him to commit to but we recovered well and finished the whole closing, a Q and 45 points.

Start Line Lovin'
Ein got another crack at Wildcard for the weekend and he fared much better.   This time the A-frame was a Wildcard, so we of course chose the straight tunnel instead.   He was Mr. Happy for day two of agility so I feel great about continuing agility trials for Ein.

While Perri did not do any agility runs this weekend, she joined us both days!   We did partial crating indoors and her normal switching to car crating.   We worked on relaxing ringside.   I noticed twice taking Perri out of her crate that she would stress yawn and be reluctant to walk to the front of the building with me.   This makes me feel so resolute in my decision to take a break from trials, but even more so at this particular trial site.   Although this is one of my favorite places to run, I believe I will need to be firm that Perri does not run here anymore.   Or on dirt footing anywhere.   I really believe that the dirt gets her so excited and overaroused that she has a hard time focusing, and the stress and conflict of this cause her to zoom and then to ultimately stress down.   Whether this is the case or not, I don't know, but I'm trying my best and I need to eliminate stress wherever I can.   The footing is an extra factor and we have enough to deal with.   All of the photos in this post are by the talented Rich Knecht Photography, and I am forever grateful for him for snapping this candid of me cuddling ringside with Perri.  

Friday, August 25, 2017

Performance Speed Jumping

Molly and I had our very first attempt at a USDAA tournament class tonight, Performance Speed Jumping! (Steeplechase for all the "Regular" height dogs.)

I wish I had a video since this post won't be very long!    Steeplechase is a tournament class focused on speed and extension.   There is no Dog Walk, Teeter or Table and the courses should be "flowy" but with challenges.   There will either be two Aframe performances or two Weave poles performances.  We NQd royally when Molly took a bonus tunnel after the fourth obstacle as I knew she would.   Jump, Aframe, left 90 degree turn to a jump, and a jump........with a tunnel basically a stride away.  What naughty pitbull could resist?  Still, we had fun and I enjoy the energy that comes with the tournament classes! (not quite the price tag, entry is nearly double the price of a regular entry.)

Molly enjoys a good roll in the grass afterwards!

The big deal about tonight is that our judge was a CMJ ("Certified Measuring Judge") and we need a third CMJ measurement for Molly's height challenge process.   Tonights' measurement was "20 3/4" and that gives us three unanimous CMJ measurements putting Molly into the 22"Regular/16"Performance category.   I have emailed USDAA and will mail in all of our information and pending paperwork or any other things I need to do, my girl is dropping down to 16" Performance!   This is very exciting since Molly will be able to continue to play in USDAA for a good long time at 16".   She was still truly gorgeous at 20" tonight and fast as ever, but she is 8 years old and I still worry about her paw and I want to have the option of jumping her lower.   I don't ever want to embarrass my girl in the ring or to have her struggling.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Return to UKI Agility

Work has been consuming my life of late and I don't want to neglect blogging about special things in the midst of all of that.   On Saturday Molly and I broke our 2+ year UKI hiatus to attend the "Team It's For the Dogs" annual canine cancer fundraising trial.   All proceeds donated towards canine cancer research with many mini fundraisers present at the trial (including sale of some really cool tie dye paw t-shirts, Molly is posing with the one that I purchased.)   

I usually avoid trial briefings because I find them to be redundant and it makes me feel like I am in church or elementary school.   But the briefing on Saturday morning was one that I wanted to be a part of.   It was respect and love, remembering the founders of The Team's dogs lost to cancer.   Dogs who lived with them and ran with them in the agility ring before having their lives stolen by the Big C.   I could not help but choke up with tears, especially considering that the first quarter of mine and Molly's year was a big question mark of vet visits and testing.

I like UKI just fine, but back in 2015 when we last trialed in UKI Molly's weave pole issues were unresolved and we simply could not make time.   We did some training runs here and there (usually coupled with a CPE trial at the same location), but as her weaves improved I did not have much desire to attend trials simply for training runs.   It's just where our journey led us.   But I saw a link on Facebook for this UKI trial and I felt so honored to take my dog who is still alive, who is not just alive but take my dog and run her at a special trial devoted to helping dogs who have cancer.   After all, everything that led to Molly's diagnosis and the expertise of our oncologist in knowing that Molly did not need chemotherapy - all of that science was thanks to research and the funds that made it possible.   

We are in Beginners, still.   I entered Molly in "Select" so she can jump 16".   I was on call for work in the afternoon so we only did the first two classes of the day, two rounds of Jumping.   The first course started with a bit of a power line that curved into a discrimination between straight tunnel and weaves.   You can guess what my first-run-of-the-day wild child picked!   We just kept running and skipped the weaves and ran the rest of the course until she took another bonus tunnel and then picked up again where we left off.   Round 2 was more successful and we qualified more than 10 seconds under time (despite some slow but accurate weaves.) - Molly even did a great job collecting for a threadle.   That is something we haven't seen at a trial in a while!   I enjoyed the courses that we ran and the challenges presented to us at Beginner level.   

What an honor it was to run with my Molly instead of simply running in her memory.   I can never take that for granted, can never take her for granted.   We still get to hop into the Honda Fit and have grand adventures together.   Five years of that, and many bumps in our road and we pick ourselves up and just keep on playing.   This photo is a candid taken at last weekend's CPE trial.   We are standing ringside around other dogs.   I have cheese.   Molly is focused on me and the cheese.   Her head is raised up towards me, if you look closely enough you can see the scar from where they took her lymph node.   And you can see the bond and mutual love and between these two friends.   Forever, Molly...I want forever with you.