Sunday, October 7, 2018

October CPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was good for her.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

September USDAA Trials

September was a "busy" trialing month for Molly and I, with three different weekends of USDAA trials.

The first weekend of the month we went for one day and played Gamblers and Standard. Gamblers ran first and I thanked the judge mentally over and over in my head for having a Gamblers course that I could set up a nice big wide open speed line for Molly. She loves that so much, I truly believe I can see pride on her face when she gets to run fast and open! We did NQ the Gamble - Molly used to carry out into gambles/sends/jackpots much more in her younger years and I am finding that I need to give some extra support to her. I just haven't mentally switched that gear yet!

Here is our Standard. We started out a little goofy but ultimately I was happy with the run. I missed a jump, both in my walkthrough and our run, oops! And then Molly would not weave. Sigh.

The next weekend we again only did one day, and this time Jumpers Gamblers and Standard! We started with Jumpers and my head was sooooo not into the zone. I had not been feeling well the day before and I had a terrible night's sleep. We actually did a decent job with only one knocked bar fault - an error that I am sure I caused with my handling as Molly is still not a bar dropper even as she has grown older.

Gamblers was next and again! I got to plan a big wide open run for Molly! I ran into an issue of not being where I wanted to be when the buzzer sounded and it killed Molly's momentum. And again, here she could have used a little extra support into that tunnel.

Standard: Molly was hot. We got a refusal early on as I misjudged her commitment on a jump. And then no weaves. I was really happy with the ending,finished strong!

I wasn't feeling very great. I was feeling like maybe Molly is truly tired of agility trials. The evening after the above two runs we went to class and Molly was super sassy, running fast and hard and happy. Great weaves. Refused to out her toy. Nipping at my hands. Having a blast! But maybe not trials? It was a confidence hit.

One issue: I had already entered a trial the last weekend of September and it was new territory for us. "Team". Performance Versatility Pairs. I entered with a classmate who has a green dog she wanted to start out in Performance. I was very upfront that Molly often does not weave at trials, and we are...not a consistent team. Even doing one-run Team Relay stresses me out so much that I do not enter it unless I specifically have a friend who wants to run it with us. (I was doing better with this until Molly crashed off the dog walk in relay during a zoomie jag.)

My friend assured me, we are going to have fun. "We don't care!"

Ok. But what if my dog won't weave??

I was really having a lot of stress over my choice to do Team. But also, some excitement. It was really exciting to share another "first" with Molly. With Molly being a "senior girl" I will not do more than 2-3 runs a day with her anymore, but this hosting club was offering Team over two days. And we ended up having a blast. The weather was warm outside but super cool in the building. The hosting club blasted 80s music during every walk through. We had faults, our teammate had faults. We ended up dead last but Molly weaved every single set of weave poles! She was running fast and happy and I could tell that she was enjoying herself. And the best of all was two people we had never met taking the time to come tell me they love watching my girl run because they can tell she's having a blast. I needed that so much right now. That's my Hot TaMolly, my party girl.

We ran Gamblers and Standard on the first day. Gamblers we racked up a lot of points in the opening but again I fumbled around and ran out of obstacles to take just before the buzzer went off. I killed our momentum and got a refusal on the first gamble obstacle so we did not get those gamble points. Standard we had two refusal faults on the weaves. The first time she ran past the entry. The second time she stressed. And I pulled her back out of it and I really just said to her "do you see 'em? you can do this! you can do it! now GO!" and...she did! She ran into the entry and hopped right through and from that point on she was fine. It was a really good moment for us. A moment we needed! And then she naughty-blew the dog walk, second to last obstacle but hey, we still did not "E"!

The second day was Jumpers. My favorite run of the weekend. We got a refusal and then we E'd because of a horrifyingly late front cross on my part. But oh man, it was such a rush and dem weaves!

Next was Snooker and I felt like I was crazy micromanaging her but we did do well and get decent points (although not all through 7!) I was proud of her - and also glad weaves were not included haha.

And last was our Team Relay run! Our team name was "Tastes Like Chicken" because you know, big pitbull, little pomeranian mix. Hahaha, get it?? Molly starts weaving slow, ends fast. I'll take that!

"Tastes Like Chicken!"

I don't know if I will ever have the opportunity to play PVP with Molly again but I have to say that I really enjoyed it! A lot more than I thought I would! I like the time plus faults style, it was a fun change from the normal "clean runs only" style of titling classes. It reminds me that I really want to start playing more Steeplechase with Molly. September finished strong and it finished fun.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Zorro 5 months

I have not been faithful with updating about Zorro! Zorro hit the official 5 month mark this past Wednesday.

Zorro has grown all of his adult incisors and is hard at work on his molars. I thought the canines would fall out first. Imagine my surprise at a nosework trial (volunteering!) last weekend when I found a molar laying in his crate! Zorro's enjoyment of tug has not diminished even though he is pushing in his molars. I am fascinated by his teething process and I don't know why. I check his teeth all the time. It is silly!

We are all done with vaccinations and I even had his microchip injected at the same appointment as his rabies shot. It was perhaps a little young to do so but with our off leash hiking I liked having that extra assurance that if he would run off from me, he is chipped.

Hiking is going really well. We have done a great mixture of on leash and off leash hiking, although probably more heavy on the on leash hiking. My weekends have been work, work call or agility trials and not so much time to go to places that are good for leash free hiking. But every Wednesday evening Zorro gets a nice long walk at the reservoir park near Perri's therapy dog visit. We did our first "town" walk, with Zorro and Molly (I live near a small town with nice sidewalks and shops, excellent for walking dogs when I don't feel like driving somewhere.) He did very well with the traffic rushing by both on the side walks and the side roads that we must walk to get into town.

Zorro's food motivation remains intense and reliable. His toy motivation is growing! I am not putting pressure on him. We use the lotus ball in class. I take his food pouch with fleece braid attached to trials and feed him out of it and casually try to play tug with him. And lately he has shown great interest in grabbing and playing with the pouch or the braid. We actually used that as a reward this past Thursday at baby agility class and he was happy to work for it consistently.

Zorro is following in Molly's foot steps with the impulse control at dinner time. I feed Zorro in the mornings in the crate from his Treat n Train after I go to work, but in the evenings it is from a food dispensing toy or a slow feed bowl. We are working on his sit-stay in these instances! He has a grasp on what the criteria is. He will hold his sit stay when the toy or bowl is lowered and we are working on duration and my movement. I have seen an improvement in his ability to stay in puppy class, whereas before he needed another handler to restrain him.

We are having great fun with the pivot bowl, sit platform, trick training and agility foundations. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed on all of the things I could do with Zorro in our training sessions, or what we should be doing. It is a little scary to have a clean slate puppy with no baggage! I saw a quote recently that really spoke to me:

In meeting my three dogs' various interests and needs, we have played many performance sports. Rally-O, Obedience, Agility, Lure Coursing, Dock Diving, Barn Hunt and Nose Work. Not to mention Trick Dog titles and Therapy Dog work. My mind is spinning on what all I can do with Zorro. I keep thinking of getting him to a barn hunt practice. He can attend a rally-o trial at 6 months old. I want to introduce him to birch/anise/clove and start training him for NW. He is still not loving water but I would love for him to dock dive. It is so very exciting to have this puppy. He is so eager and he loves training. I am terrified of overdoing it with him. I must focus. For the first time since I have been doing agility, I have an instructor who lasered in on my main mental issue. I don't focus. It is so hard for me. I am so easily distracted. It is a mental muscle I must strengthen. For Molly and for Zorro. I will do it!

Monday, September 17, 2018

perri amitriptyline 3.5 weeks

Perri tapered off of the fluoxetine.
Perri lived for one week without her SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) medication.
And then we started at a half dose of her new medication, Amitriptyline a TCA (tricyclic antidepressant)
And then we went to a whole dose.


Living with Perri with no medication on board is not ever happening again. The behaviors that were creeping back in on the low dose of fluoxetine came roaring with a vengeance. Hypervigilance at night in the yard so intense she often would not pee. Leaking urine in my bed at night. (I believe Perri has very mild spay incontinence and her anxiety issues of over-drinking and being too preoccupied to pee stress the issue.) Hypervigilance in the morning, often prompting her to hold her urine until I returned home from work in the evening - nearly 24 hours. (Perri leaks urine while she sleeps but is steadfastly housebroken when she is awake.) Irrational and beyond annoying alert barking at every. thing. This felt worse than it has ever been, so annoying and repetitive that she was becoming agonizing to live with. And her fearful reactive behavior towards other dogs worsened. I had to commit to intensifying my management of Perri around other dogs. 

My poor, poor girl. 

Suddenly in the middle of last week it was like a light switch flipped in Perri's brain. More at ease going potty at those difficult bed time and morningtime potty breaks. The alert barking has abruptly dwindled down to nearly nothing. She has not leaked urine in her sleep in nearly a week. And this past weekend when we were at a trial Perri did not explode at any dogs. I am managing her much more heavily than I had been. But I did notice that while Perri was concerned and keeping an eye on one particular fast moving dog playing trick games with its owner, she did not intensify past that point. That is something.

And to a lesser extent, she seems almost more playful. I should not say "less", since lack of playfulness and dullness was the sole reason I discontinued fluoxetine with Perri. It is very important to me. I don't know if it is the puppy's influence but Perri seems more loosened up, more silly. The other day she drug Molly's big heavy rope toy out, something she has never done before in her entire life. She simply seems lighter, I don't know how else to say it. This is a change in the last few days, despite the puppy being with us since the end of June so. I do not think it is all Zorro related.

Everything I write has been improvements seen in about the last half of a week. I feel really happy and excited for the future but I am also nervous. I hope that things continue in this direction for Perri. There is also the matter of doubling her dose as our behaviorist mentioned (which is likely the proper full dose for a dog of Perri's size and weight). I am willing to try that but I do feel nervous it will dampen her energy and spirits. It is nice to see how well she is responding on the current dose she is on, so I will feel comfortable returning to that dose if she does not respond well to the doubled dose. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Speedstakes and hiking

Shouldn't all weekends involve agility and hiking? That sure is my idea of a perfect way to spend a weekend.

Since Speedstakes was the first class of the day at a very local trial, I entered Molly in just that class and planned to spend the rest of the day taking Perri and Zorro hiking. When the course map was emailed to me in the morning I groaned when I saw the off course tunnel possibility and promptly started obsessing about it. The plan during the walk through was a lead out and a reverse spin early probably even on landing from 2. And then she broke her start line stay and I flailed and lost my shit mentally and "have to get to #3!!!!!!!!!!" and I did a pull instead of a spin as well as giving her forward motion to the wrong tunnel and we NQd end of the story.

I get so tired of myself doing things like this. The broken stay was not a problem. My response to start running when she broke the stay was what made the wheels fall off. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever sink in!

Hiking went much better! I took Perri and Zorro to the no leash laws reservoir/quarry area that I like to hike at. It is a popular area on the weekends for rock climbing and swimming and all manner of "free spirited" types of modern day hippies. I love it. There is literally a sign posted to let people know that dogs are allowed to run free off of their leashes. There is graffiti all over the more popular walking areas. There are miles of unmarked trails above and beyond those areas where I rarely encounter other people. It is fascinating to me that in a place that is proudly leash optional, I never have issues with off or on leash dogs bothering me or my dogs. The other owner and I see each other approach, we leash or hold our dogs as we pass and then release on the other side of the pass. Easy peasy.

Zorro drug the leash the entire hike. I only held the leash when Perri was doing her hunting rounds above and around us, off trail and through the woods. Given that I lost Perri when she was a puppy in exactly the same situation, I am wary of letting Zorro follow her for such hunting sprints. (When Perri was a young puppy she followed Molly and Everett off sprinting through the woods. The baby puppy could not keep up and they left her in the dust. And lost!)

I am happy to let Zorro off his leash up ahead on the trail where I can see him. He does regular check ins and always gets a high value reward, and I practice recalls now and then and again give him an excellent pay out for responding.

Since I was wearing my hiking boots today I did not wade into the reservoir to help encourage Zorro to swim out after Perri, but today he surprised me by wading in up to his belly on several occasions for a drink and even on one occasion swimming out after Perri while she was retrieving! He has never done this with me staying "on shore". All in good time. He makes me laugh though, after he gets wet he has sort of a temper tantrum. He scrapes his feet and makes funny little sounds and will even fling himself on the ground trying to rub the water off of himself! Too cute.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Zorro 17 weeks

Big week for Zorro!

Last Saturday he got to attend his first puppy seminar! It was a full day of working on baby foundation agility skills. We used food as his motivator for the first part of the day. I learned that kibble isn't quite as rewarding to Zorro "in public" as training treats or cheese. Not really a light bulb moment but something that was good information. The second part of our day we infused some toy work into our exercises with success! Food remains the highest value motivator for Zorro, of course. I also began using Molly's old lotus ball and he really loves that.

I really enjoyed myself the whole day and Zorro was not over worked and remained happy to play our games until the end of the day. The biggest victory was his crate manners. He was not completely quiet for sure and towards the end of the day there was more and more "singing" but he did worlds better than I thought that he would. Instead of his normal wire crate I brought one of the plastic rough tough kennels inside from the car. A lot less outward visibility. I am doing a lot more "choice" work now for crate entrances (rather than putting food inside of the crate and closing the door after Z walks in.) This is a weak area of mine, I am not patient in this way!

And speaking of crates, we have transitioned to being in a large wire crate for my work days instead of the ex pen. I had been noticing that Zorro is no longer using his litter pan at all and rather just "holding it" until somebody comes home to let him outside (usually this is Vince since he comes home in the afternoon.) Zorro had a great week in the crate. In the beginning of the week there seemed to be more restlessness and frustration screaming than usual, but most of Wednesday and the rest of the week it was business as normal. Our routine is still a half stuffed medium sized Kong, a puppy chewie and the treat and train filled with kibble for breakfast. My goal in the next few weeks is to move the treat and train to the top of the crate rather than inside, and to diminish the amount of kibble and give Zorro a large sized Kong filled with his raw diet instead. (this is what he gets in the evening.)

We are also officially in teething mode! Zorro has lost four of his puppy incisors and there are adult teeth pushing right through. I also noticed his front premolars are growing in. This is so exciting, I cannot wait for the baby needles to fall out! So far Zorro is not doing any inappropriate chewing. I have so many bones and toys littered around the house that he always has something to grab onto. He particularly loves Benebones.

Monday was Zorro's vet visit for his final distemper vaccination. I also chose to do a lyme vaccine so Zorro got the first part of that. He weighed in at 14 pounds. Zorro absolutely loved everybody at the vet office and again got to enjoy a little plastic tube full of peanut butter and did not notice either of the two vaccines. I had been noticing Zorro licking and nibbling himself for the past few weeks and even noticed some red spots on his belly, chest and thighs. The vet says it is a little staph infection and he is on a low dose of oral antibiotics for the next two weeks. It is already clearing up well! I was reading about it and it has the nickname "puppy pyoderma". Really unsurprising given the feral filthy life I allow him to enjoy! And I definitely started noticing the itching when we started doing our hiking. I thought it was agitation from all of the new vegetation he was being introduced to, or mosquito bites. After five days of the antibiotics it has cleared up and his itching has diminished significantly.

8 weeks vs. 17 weeks!
Around the house behavior is really shifting. This is the first week I feel like I can relax a little bit and not follow him around everywhere. He definitely has the idea of needing to go outside to potty. There is still some attraction to trying to potty on the couch. He used to not hesitate to potty on the couch or the dog beds or throw pillows (weirdo!) but now he is almost comical about it. I think he is for sure working out that it's not allowed. He will get up there and rub himself all over the couch and then do a lot of suspicious walking around which gives me plenty of opportunity to get his brain and body back on the proper track: outside! But really: he is going to the door and circling then looking at me. Things really seem to be clicking. He does like to follow me around but is becoming less needy that way. He self entertains with toys so appropriately, settles down for some "me time" chewing a bone or playing around with a toy. A lot less barrier screaming when I walk out a door without him or there is a baby gate between us. He may whine but even that is diminished.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Perri medication change

While we sure did give fluoxetine it's fair shake, I ultimately decided to discontinue the medication with Perri. Perri had a lot of good results on fluoxetine, though I would not say she ever totally overcame her hypervigilance issues on the drug. Her stress drinking stopped, her fear reactivity towards other dogs diminished and her hypervigilance did decrease. However, the drug made Perri rather dull and she lost her playfulness almost completely. That was upsetting to me and so we made the decision to half her dose.

Initially the half dose was promising. Perri's playful personality seemed to return while she maintained the positive effects of fluoxetine. In time however, the 10mg dose seemed to be doing absolutely nothing for Perri. We were back to some mornings refusing to pee because she needed to stare aimlessly into space, increased explosive fear reactivity episodes towards other dogs, irritating alert barking and even a few episodes of bed wetting (this is due to stress drinking at night to the point where her bladder is so full it cannot hold anymore and she leaks.) At working dose, I could not tolerate the personality change. At half dose, it was not helping her.

Instead of taking Perri in to her behaviorist for a visit, we did a phone consult. Perri had just been in for a visit and bloodwork check (all normal values!), at at that time we decided to half the fluoxetine. This time we discussed some different options. We could try a different medication in the SSRI family (which is what fluoxetine is, an SSRI.) We could keep her on the 10mg dose of fluoxetine and try a medication form a different class. Or we could try a medication from a different drug class. In our case we chose to try amitriptyline, a "TCA" tricyclic antidepressant.

The plan was one week of every other day fluoxetine. Then one week of nothing. Then start the amitriptyline at half of a 25 mg pill twice daily. Then increase to 25 mg after 5 days. She would like us to try 50mg twice a day but given how sensitive Perri is, we are not sure how she will tolerate that. We may add the 10mg dose of fluoxetine back in at a later date. I wanted to take her off of fluoxetine entirely so that I could observe the effect of amitriptyline alone first without wondering which drug was helping which behavior.

Time will tell!