My dog is sound. That's one good thing from the night.
My dog never tuned me out. That's another good thing.
She never reacted beyond a stare. That's ANOTHER good thing.
She was able to go to her crate pad on the cue "place" at about 95% accuracy. She maintained her place (with a cheater "wait" cue thrown in) while I walked the course the first time of the night.
See, good things DID happen.

And for now we'll leave out the actual agility part.

Entries, CERFs, class, pictures, etc

I'm printing entries for upcoming trials. Sitting next to me are two AKC agility trials in January, UKC rally trial in January, and CDSP in February. I am not going to enter more than one day of these agility trials with Bailey as she always does something to herself when I do! American Belgian Malinois Club and Greater Twin Cities Golden Retriever Club trials are all breed trials held at a supposedly very nice dirt arena. I'm excited! UKC rally trial is, of course, a MMBC trial, but happens to be the same weekend as one of the AKC agility trials, so I'm just entering one day (Sunday). CDSP is the same weekend as the APDT rally trials I am secretary for, same location, so I can show my own dog!

I also scheduled CERFs for February 27, 2010. It needs to be done, and since I was taking care of things today, that seemed like a good thing to take care of.

Tonight Bailey and I go to agility class again for the first time in a while. She's been very sound so I'm knocking on wood and crossing fingers and toes she remains that way (ok, and we're doing some preventative stuff too). We're also getting our picture taken for the wall at the new ACTS building! I have to decide what I'm going to wear and finish grooming dogs before it's time to leave.

And, I think that's it for now!

Except for the fact that there's a new link on the right--A Great Dog Now is owned by a friend who is a Karen Pryor Academy-Certified Training Partner. Check it out!


Why old dogs are the best dogs


They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days, says The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, with a humility and grace we all could learn from.

Not long before his death, Harry and I headed out for a walk that proved eventful. He was nearly 13, old for a big dog. Walks were no longer the slap-happy Iditarods of his youth, frenzies of purposeless pulling in which we would cast madly off in all directions, fighting for command. Nor were they the exuberant archaeological expeditions of his middle years, when every other tree or hydrant or blade of grass held tantalizing secrets about his neighbors. In his old age, Harry had transformed his walk into a simple process of elimination—a dutiful, utilitarian, head-down trudge. When finished, he would shuffle home to his ratty old bed, which graced our living room because Harry could no longer ascend the stairs. On these walks, Harry seemed oblivious to his surroundings, absorbed in the arduous responsibility of placing foot before foot before foot before foot. But this time, on the edge of a small urban park, he stopped to watch something. A man was throwing a Frisbee to his dog. The dog, about Harry’s size, was tracking the flight expertly, as Harry had once done, anticipating hooks and slices by watching the pitch and roll and yaw of the disc, as Harry had done, then catching it with a joyful, punctuating leap, as Harry had once done, too.

Harry sat. For 10 minutes, he watched the fling and catch, fling and catch, his face contented, his eyes alight, his tail a-twitch. Our walk
home was almost … jaunty.

Some years ago, The Washington Post invited readers to come up with a midlife list of goals for an underachiever. The first-runner-up prize went to: “Win the admiration of my dog.”

It’s no big deal to love a dog; they make it so easy for you. They find you brilliant, even if you are a witling. You fascinate them, even if you are as dull as a butter knife. They are fond of you, even if you are a genocidal maniac. Hitler loved his dogs, and they loved him.

Puppies are incomparably cute and incomparably entertaining, and, best of all, they smell exactly like puppies. At middle age, a dog has settled into the knuckleheaded matrix of behavior we find so appealing—his unquestioning loyalty, his irrepressible willingness to please, his infectious happiness. But it is not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.

Kafka wrote that the meaning of life is that it ends. He meant that our lives are shaped and shaded by the existential terror of knowing that all is finite. This anxiety informs poetry, literature, the monuments we build, the wars we wage—all of it. Kafka was talking, of course, about people. Among animals, only humans are said to be self-aware enough to comprehend the passage of time and the grim truth of mortality. How, then, to explain old Harry at the edge of that park, gray and lame, just days from the end, experiencing what can only be called wistfulness and nostalgia? I have lived with eight dogs, watched six of them grow old and infirm with grace and dignity, and die with what seemed to be acceptance. I have seen old dogs grieve at the loss of their friends. I have come to believe that as they age, dogs comprehend the passage of time, and, if not the inevitability of death, certainly the relentlessness of the onset of their frailties. They understand that what’s gone is gone.

What dogs do not have is an abstract sense of fear, or a feeling of injustice or entitlement. They do not see themselves, as we do, as tragic heroes, battling ceaselessly against the merciless onslaught of time. Unlike us, old dogs lack the audacity to mythologize their lives. You’ve got to love them for that.

The product of a Kansas puppy mill, Harry was sold to us as a yellow Labrador retriever. I suppose it was technically true, but only in the sense that Tic Tacs are technically “food.” Harry’s lineage was suspect. He wasn’t the square-headed, elegant type of Labrador you can envision in the wilds of Canada hunting for ducks. He was the shape of a baked potato, with the color and luster of an interoffice envelope. You could envision him in the wilds of suburban Toledo, hunting for nuggets of dried food in a carpet.

His full name was Harry S Truman, and once he’d reached middle age, he had indeed developed the unassuming soul of a haberdasher. We sometimes called him Tru, which fit his loyalty but was in other ways a misnomer: Harry was a bit of an eccentric, a few bubbles off plumb. Though he had never experienced an electrical shock, whenever he encountered a wire on the floor—say, a power cord leading from a laptop to a wall socket—Harry would stop and refuse to proceed. To him, this barrier was as impassable as the Himalayas. He’d stand there, waiting for someone to move it. Also, he was afraid of wind.

While Harry lacked the wiliness and cunning of some dogs, I did watch one day as he figured out a basic principle of physics. He was playing with a water bottle in our backyard—it was one of those 5-gallon cylindrical plastic jugs from the top of a water cooler. At one point, it rolled down a hill, which surprised and delighted him. He retrieved it, brought it back up and tried to make it go down again. It wouldn’t. I watched him nudge it around until he discovered that for the bottle to roll, its long axis had to be perpendicular to the slope of the hill. You could see the understanding dawn on his face; it was Archimedes in his bath, Helen Keller at the water spigot.

That was probably the intellectual achievement of Harry’s life, tarnished only slightly by the fact that he spent the next two hours insipidly entranced, rolling the bottle down and hauling it back up. He did not come inside until it grew too dark for him to see.

I believe I know exactly when Harry became an old dog. He was about 9 years old. It happened at 10:15 on the evening of June 21, 2001, the day my family moved from the suburbs to the city. The move took longer than we’d anticipated. Inexcusably, Harry had been left alone in the vacated house—eerie, echoing, empty of furniture and of all belongings except Harry and his bed—for eight hours. When I arrived to pick him up, he was beyond frantic.

He met me at the door and embraced me around the waist in a way that is not immediately reconcilable with the musculature and skeleton of a dog’s front legs. I could not extricate myself from his grasp. We walked out of that house like a slow-dancing couple, and Harry did not let go until I opened the car door.

He wasn’t barking at me in reprimand, as he once might have done. He hadn’t fouled the house in spite. That night, Harry was simply scared and vulnerable, impossibly sweet and needy and grateful. He had lost something of himself, but he had gained something more touching and more valuable. He had entered old age.

In the year after our move, Harry began to age visibly, and he did it the way most dogs do. First his muzzle began to whiten, and then the white slowly crept backward to swallow his entire head. As he became more sedentary, he thickened a bit, too.

On walks, he would no longer bother to scout and circle for a place to relieve himself. He would simply do it in mid-plod, like a horse, leaving the difficult logistics of drive-by cleanup to me. Sometimes, while crossing a busy street, with cars whizzing by, he would plop down to scratch his ear. Sometimes, he would forget where he was and why he was there. To the amusement of passersby, I would have to hunker down beside him and say, “Harry, we’re on a walk, and we’re going home now. Home is this way, okay?” On these dutiful walks, Harry ignored almost everything he passed. The most notable exception was an old, barrel-chested female pit bull named Honey, whom he loved. This was surprising, both because other dogs had long ago ceased to interest Harry at all, and because even back when they did, Harry’s tastes were for the guys.

Still, when we met Honey on walks, Harry perked up. Honey was younger by five years and heartier by a mile, but she liked Harry and slowed her gait when he was around. They waddled together for blocks, eyes forward, hardly interacting but content in each other’s company. I will forever be grateful to Honey for sweetening Harry’s last days.

Some people who seem unmoved by the deaths of tens of thousands through war or natural disaster will nonetheless grieve inconsolably over the loss of the family dog. People who find this behavior distasteful are often the ones without pets. It is hard to understand, in the abstract, the degree to which a companion animal, particularly after a long life, becomes a part of you. I believe I’ve figured out what this is all about. It is not as noble as I’d like it to be, but it is not anything of which to be ashamed, either.

In our dogs, we see ourselves. Dogs exhibit almost all of our emotions; if you think a dog cannot register envy or pity or pride or melancholia, you have never lived with one for any length of time. What dogs lack is our ability to dissimulate. They wear their emotions nakedly, and so, in watching them, we see ourselves as we would be if we were stripped of posture and pretense. Their innocence is enormously appealing. When we watch a dog progress from puppy hood to old age, we are watching our own lives in microcosm. Our dogs become old, frail, crotchety, and vulnerable, just as Grandma did, just as we surely will, come the day. When we grieve for them, we grieve for ourselves.

From the book Old Dogs, text by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson, based on a longer excerpt that originally appeared in The Washington Post. ©2008 by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Inc.


Buzz the SuperStar!

Yes, we went tracking. Only four people showed up and one went to work on her own, so three of us laid tracks. I laid a track for a red merle Aussie named Dawson (an Iowa transplant). He worked through the track very, very nicely. The track definitely had it's challenges and it ended up being longer than planned (427 yards instead of 300... oops), but he's a steady boy!

Next dog to run was a Golden named Chance laid by Dawson's handler. He had a lot of trouble with the deer bed and overshooting his corners, but once he and his handler recovered, they found their final sock and had fun!

My goober Bailey ran a TDX-like track (aged over an hour... hadn't planned on it being aged that long but it took us a while to get through the first two). We had underbrush to go through and logs to leap over. I momentarily lost my brain and forgot that TDX tracks don't have a directional flag, so we went off in the wrong way at first but when I stopped Bailey just circled and picked up the track nicely. Then she was a MANIAC! Did I forget that she hasn't tracked since our test, and she's been cooped up for almost a week now because of A) her toenail and B) DEER HUNTING! I was trying to find the balance between working at a reasonable pace (instead of ALL OVER THE PLACE) and causing her frustration. (I didn't find that balance until nearly the end of the track.) We were all over and she wasn't even recognizing the track for a bit so I stood my ground and let her just circle me, scenting. She finally locked on to her track but powered WAY TOO FAST and overshot the first corner. I backed up and she got it nicely, but went too far and skipped right over her first article. The next leg was a near disaster with her missing an article AGAIN (so very unlike her) because she was just going way too fast. I slowed her down just a bit for the next leg and she tracked like a pro, right over where our tracklayer stepped over a fallen log. A moment of Brilliance! Up into the underbrush where she got tangled doing her corner circle, but when we got straightened out (and found our article) she was as good as gold until our final article (ok, fine, so she blew to the left of that one and had to come back and find it but, hey, she worked the last half of the track a LOT better than the first half).

My dog is a powerhouse who needs someone a little more experienced, but I guess we'll get there. Oh, and I won't try to track her when she's had no exercise and no practice in uhh... a while.

Meanwhile, Buzz was my SuperStar today! He ran a 150 yard track with four articles very, very nicely! He showed me he DOES understand this tracking thing. He was even pulling at his harness and working VERY hard to recover his track. One article confused the heck out of him but he worked right though it and found that darn sock! It was up on a gopher hill and he searched all around it, air scented around it and then finally caught wind of it and got it! He was a very good boy! I'll have to remember to bring him out more often. It's a lot of work to track! He definitely prefers tall grass to short. It's easier to scent!


Tracking Group

We haven't been to tracking group since our test (and I think we only made it twice all summer/fall actually) so I'm very excited about Saturday. I have the day off of work and we're headed out for some fun scent work. I need to learn more about TDX tracks so we can better prepare on our own. I'm even being brave and bringing Buzz out. He's really gotten good. He can't run a full length track yet, but he's doing really well on corners which were our nemesis for a LONG time. I can't wait!

4 miles!

Buzz (and Kevin and Eric) and I walked four miles last night. Mostly trotting, at varying paces, we walked about 1/4 of it, and threw in some cantering. He's still not moving at a canter for long periods of time, but it is improvement!

No real signs of soreness/stiffness/pain today. YAHOO!


Walks and Bully Sticks

I was exhausted after work today and came home for a nap. By the time I woke up it was very dark. Sometimes I'll take Bailey for a run in the fields when it's dark but I just didn't feel comfortable doing that today. We headed into our bigger little town to walk the "usual loop." I refuse to walk on our road in the dark. In town we meet a few drunkards, but it's well lit and generally a nice walk. We parked at the overlook and walked to The Drive In across the river. It's 3-4 miles (one of these days I'll actually figure out how long it is) and a good enough walk for them to sleep at night.

When we got home Buzz got a treat he hasn't had in a couple of years. A bully stick! I got some other things at Fur-Get-Me-Nots and they were right there at the check out, so I got one for each dog. Buzz is just overjoyed! He's so easy to please, a walk and a bully stick and he's content.



A bathed dog doesn't usually get to roll in the dirt, but today I said she could.

Since I let her do it, I had to let Buzz do it too! He was RUNNING and having fun!

And my favorite of the day.

Changing Instructors

Buzz's page for my instructor's "thank you" book was on the screensaver when I sat down with lunch. It made me think of all the talk going around lately of instructors and instructing.

I'm finding it increasingly more uncommon that I have had the same agility instructor from the beginning (for the most part). I don't have any issues about training with her, she's respectful, so why wouldn't I stick with her? A few of my friends seem to go from instructor to instructor and never sticking with one.

I can't even imagine all of the reasons why, but I'm curious. Why do people end up switching?

The only reason I could foresee is a change of equipment, or classes. I would love to train with someone who only does NADAC as I don't get enough time to work contacts in general, working contacts on rubber or other non-slatted material happens even less. Class times could be an issue too.

I've never had an obedience instructor, so I can't comment on that front.


It's official!

Madam Bailey Angel VCD1 RE - SN72291409

Agility - Awards Processed Through 23-OCT-2009
Number Qualifying Scores1
Number Different Judges1
Number Qualifying Scores3
Number Different Judges3
Number Qualifying Scores3
Number Different Judges3
Number Qualifying Scores1
Number Different Judges1

Obedience - Awards Processed Through 26-OCT-2009
Number of Points0
Number Different Judges3
Number Qualifying Scores3
Wins in Open0
Number Wins Utility0
Additional Specialty Wins Open0
Additional Specialty Wins Utility0
Number of Points0
Number Different Judges1
Number Qualifying Scores1
Wins in Open0
Number Wins Utility0
Additional Specialty Wins Open0
Additional Specialty Wins Utility0

Rally - Awards Processed Through 24-OCT-2009
Number Different Judges3
Number Qualifying Scores3
Number Different Judges7
Number Qualifying Scores7
Number Different Judges6
Number Qualifying Scores6
Number Different Judges0
Number Qualifying Scores4

Tracking - Awards Processed Through 31-OCT-2009


Trials, Classes, Issues, etc.

Buzz has been working well for me in Rally. I'm trying to decide if I want to try classes again with him and pursue his UCDX or not. We have all of the principle parts of the exercises (except that darned out of sight sit apparently) and I feel like we can do it, but is the jumping too much for him? The MMBC is offering veterans classes at their February trials. I know he can handle three rally runs each day if they're spread out, but I don't know about four. I really want to finish his ARCH, so I think I want to focus on that. We need four more double Qs which is very attainable... we just need to do it! He also has one Q for his RL3 which is probably as far as we'll go in that regard.

Bailey is having obedience issues again. Part of it could be pain, part of it could be medications, part of it could be just who she is. Regardless, I'm going to be good about getting out to run throughs with her. We don't need specific classes right now because she is having mini to moderate melt downs in the ring lately. We need to get out and work and get her comfortable enough to play with me in the ring. We have one CDX Q, two more and that I know we can do! I am also going to send in her CDSP registration. It'll give us more practice and that is something we definitely need!

CDSP registration will have "Aroha's Limited II Irish Creme" which is the same as her CPE registration. Much better than "Madam Bailey Angel" in my world!


Mindy says "she was special, not for her titles or her get. She was special." I agree, but they also deserve recognition for everything they accomplished.

(59 OTCh points, 1 Open win, 2 Utility wins)

She was special. I'm sad I never got to meet her in person. The grandkids I have met amaze me though.


On the recommendation of a couple of people (and our vet) I just ordered Dasuquin with MSM. We've been using Glyco-Flex II for a couple of years now and with all the good things I've heard about Dasuquin, I figured it was worth a try.

We'll see!

MMBC UKC trial

Well, he was a silly goon on his first Open A run. He didn't release on either retrieve, but otherwise he was pretty good. Two was too much for him and we excused ourselves after the figure 8 exercise (to allow the honor dog to finish his honor).

Rally was great. 98 and no placement... hah. Two 100s, one 99, and seven 98s! We were not the fastest 98! He worked like his wonderful self.


Eric and I went to see Kevin's play Landscape of the Body on Friday and just to make sure we didn't miss it this time (Eric brought his Garmin) we got there really early. I convinced him to wander around downtown Minneapolis with me and we found... Urbanimal.

That store is so darned cool, I was in awe. Anyway, the only thing I bought was a bag of Zukes that I needed for Saturday anyways. I definitely want to go back though. It's not that they have a ton of stuff, but the stuff they do have is neat. They sell Canny Collars, and I want one for Bailey.


Acupuncture and electricity

This is the third time Buzz has had acupuncture with electricity (and the fourth time having acupuncture). This time Dr E put the electricity on his back and his rear legs, hoping to stimulate the muscles that are still lacking in strength and tone.

It went well but he gnawed on food in my hand for the eight minutes he was hooked up because otherwise he kept turning around to check out the needles and try to lay down.

Good news is that it IS working, in general. He's moving freer, and now I do need to schedule an appointment with the massage lady... it's time to do double duty for a while.


Working dogs together.

I don't typically work the dogs together, unless we're doing stays. Buzz would always get shoved out of the way and stop working. We've been working on heeling a lot and last night I started working Buzz's heeling and recalls while Bailey was loose. He was SO GOOD! (And she was SO mad!) He was fighting for position and working really hard to stay where he knew he was supposed to. GOOD proofing exercise. Who would have thought the Buzz dog would be fighting to work? He's such a laid-back, go-with-the-flow kinda guy!

The kicker? Bailey's reward for being a pest was getting to heel. She was SO animated and with me it was crazy!

Now, if only I could get them fighting for position before we go into the ring.


Testing it out.

After her surgery, Bailey, was on pretty strict crate rest for the first week and a half and allowed to have leashed walks for the last five days until sutures came out. The site healed very well this time (thankfully she didn't kill me for all that crate rest... it was worth it) and the vet ok'd her to do "as much or as little as she wants." That's just what we did. We found out agility wasn't on that list quite yet but some casual running/walking/sniffing in the field was. We resumed our twice daily romps in the fields with joy. She was slowly building up those muscles and having a darn good time doing it.

She tracked like a maniac who felt great in the test last week (it was a week ago already... sheesh!) but until today she hasn't really RUN!

As we entered the field today it was as if she finally felt great again and decided to test the leg out at full speed. HOLY COW! I forgot how fast she is. She was running literal laps around Buzz and I (he's been on a long line with me holding on lately because I had to chase him a couple times... naughty old deaf dog). She was taking pretty tight turns and just running with a look of complete joy on her face.

Now I need to go feel her leg, but she seems to be fine. Happy and content and at least the edge is taken off!

In other news... I also tested out Buzz's sit stay (last night) after not working on it for a couple of days. I set the timer for 3:15 and rewarded three times. He wasn't showing signs of moving but I need to keep that rate of reinforcement high and not let him move! We trial in six days! Eeeeep!