TDX Preparations

My dog and I are capable of a TDX, she's got a brilliant nose, a good foundation, and we both adore the sport of tracking.  Therefore, I am going to prepare her for the TDX test on Sunday, May 8.  It is a local test, we will probably be wait-listed, but we are going to be ready to run.

This means I need to be out working her as often as I can be.  There's a lot of snow right now, but the temperatures are rising, so we can be getting out to track in the very near future.

I am committing.  We will be ready to run!


Leaving the Ring

I was taught early on in my "dog education" by Annelise Allan that there are many things more important in life than titles, than ribbons, than qualifying, and even than finishing a course.  The important one today is the partnership that allows for competing in these dog sports.

I decided to enter Buzz in the MMBC's UKC Rally and Obedience trial last weekend.  We showed up on Sunday, we warmed up, and then I forgot how to cue one of the behavior's we'd need.  This is a recurring theme for me since Buzz has gone deaf.  I've had to get creative with my cues because there is only so much I can do with my hands.  Thankfully, I normally teach the behaviors well enough to be reliable so I run through the cues I think it may be until I get the desired response.  It only took three tries on Sunday (I know, I know... write them down, write them down, but this is so much more entertaining) to figure out how to cue the running call front (which is actually "you have permission to leave your sit/stay and chase me").  So I get over that hurdle, put him away for little while since we were the second to last dog to run and watched the other teams.  As it is with any trial, there were some excellent teams marked by the excellent handling and relationship evident from outside the ring.  I'm always awestruck by these teams and want to congratulate each and every one.  Often times I do approach and express my genuine appreciation for their dedication after they've exited the ring and thoroughly rewarded their dog!

Buzz and I had a beautiful entrance into the ring, beautiful set up, and he was working brilliantly for me.
360 right
Left Turn--a little bit of an almost collision, but nothing major
Slow Pace
Normal Pace
Halt, 90 degree pivot right, Halt--he worked this one so nicely
Halt, Leave, Call dog front while running, Finish Right, Halt

And that's where we ran into trouble.  I'd kinda forgotten his fronts were semi-broken.  I hadn't been able to figure out if it was a training issue or a pain issue.  He has seemed reluctant to do a tuck-sit and thus has been doing a back-up sit which is not part of front position criteria.  He seemed to stall for a bit when he was supposed to front, so I cued sit and he did a back-up sit, quite a ways from me.  I told him how silly he is and cued a right finish-which he did correctly.

270 Left
Halt, 1, 2, 3 Steps Forward

More problems.  Too many sits.  I got a slow sit on the initial halt.  A no sit after 1 step and some dancing feet.  He wanted to perform, but for some reason he just couldn't.

I have to say that I love this judge and would show to her again in a heartbeat.  I simply told her that we're done and Buzz and I made our way to the exit.  He can still heel well and likes to move, so we weaved through the cones on our way out.  After we exited, the judge said "I'll just mark him as sick, he was ill."  I smiled as Buzz and I made our way to our crate.  I fed him as many treats as he wanted, gave him water and just loved him up.  The same thing I do after every run we have, regardless of the outcome.

I approached the judge after the class was over and thanked her again for letting us leave so easily.  She made a comment about teams falling apart and "pushing onward."  She complimented me on my choice to leave the ring.  I figured it was a good time to tell her that he's nearly 13 years old, probably completely deaf, and gets to make the choices these days... not that it would have changed my decision had the situation been different.

I know there are many people who disagree with leaving the ring, for whatever reason that may be.  My own feelings on the matter are that I have to be my dog's own advocate, I need to pay attention and respect them. If they're uncomfortable for whatever reason and I don't suspect staying in the ring will improve the situation, then I will make the choice to leave.  I've made a lot of mistakes in training and trialling my dogs, but this is something I feel strongly about and the more I've practiced it, the easier it's become.  I'll be honest and say the first time I left the ring it was less than graceful.  In addition to that, leaving the agility ring is typically far more acceptable these days.  Leaving an obedience or rally ring can be a challenge due to the nature of the sport.  I've left an obedience ring exactly twice and a rally ring probably the same.  It has gotten easier to make the right choice every time I commit to it.

I arrived at the trial with a sound, happy, cooperative partner.  I left with the same dog, in the same state.  He still trusted me to make decisions on his behalf, and he trusted me to listen to him.

Thank you Annelise, for instilling in me the importance of chicken parties-even if I've deviated from the original intent.


Pain In My Arse

Indoor agility, we did it!
I've been more sentimental in the last few years, but I still don't get overly sentimental about much, with a few exceptions.  My girlie dog is one of those exceptions.

I got her for Christmas/my birthday in 2000.  I was desperate for a "new dog" because I figured I had already failed with Buzz.  My perfect little puppy came home and was well... perfect.  Hence her "middle name" being Angel.  She was the easiest puppy to raise, to live with, and to train.  Absolutely perfect.  Until she had to meet new people, or new dogs, or new surroundings, or go somewhere without Buzz.  So I had the perfect dog at home, if no strangers appeared.  And the rest of the story can be found in bits and pieces on this blog.

8 weeks old
She'll always, always, always be my baby-dog, I don't care how old she gets!  She's definitely my Novice A, Do-It-All dog, and as much as I wanted to sell her a couple times... I wouldn't have the training skills I do today without her.

Good grief, she actually looks groomed!
She even made her \\second// playmate-friend this year!

My mud princess, with dirt on her tongue.  Typical.
I do hope to upload some new photos of her soon, that just means I have to get my camera out and use it... I'll work on that!

Happy (almost) Eleventh Birthday kiddo, I hope you have many more years to be a bumper stealing, water loving, mud bathing princess.  

Thanks for the wild ride Girlie.


Lunch Date Training

I guess that's what I've decided to call it, lunch date training.  It fits.
(Excuse the cell-phone quality pictures.)

Not sleeping, but leaning and relaxing.

Today was a mixed bag of results.  She wasn't eating right away and she almost seemed afraid of the clicker (which isn't completely new but still surprised me).  I put my hand in my pocket to muffle it, and she started acting normally again.  A good portion of today was spent relaxing.  I had a few things to take care of and she never seems to mind (in fact, I think it's actually her favorite part) laying on the couch, just hanging out.
I never thought I'd see her eyes closed.

1) Offered nose to hand targeting excitedly!
2) Offered standing on the step stool!
3) Nose targeted the groomer's hand.
4) Lay down and closed her eyes on the couch.
5) Allowed multiple people to touch her.

There were some not-so-great events today too that I'm processing before I post about.  Although, it may be moot point because there's a rumor she gets to go home tomorrow.  For everyone's sake, I really, really, hope it's true!


Memories of Past Snow

To Infinity And Beyond!

His favorite toy has lasted since puppyhood, nearly 13 years ago!
Buzz has a love affair with the newest doctor on his care team.  She feeds him dried liver, loves him up, and makes him feel like jumping for joy after every visit.  She even lets him lay down if he wants to.

After a visit to the cardiologist at the U of MN that resulted in an answer of "we did not perform an echo-cardiogram, but based on our evaluation today, we see no reason for heart problems to be causing Buzz's symptoms" or something to that effect, I was less distraught but still needed an answer.  So while I gave a HUGE  sigh of relief, I didn't know what to do next!  The cardiologist suggested a referral to the Internal Medicine Specialist but he wasn't all that certain we'd find anything there either.

The only reason he retrieves is for food.

I thanked him (profusely, I just may have kissed that man if it wouldn't have been unprofessional) for his time and headed home.  I pondered our options and decided to pursue the avenue our regular veterinarian initially thought was the case, pain.
Foot target to hand for leg raises.
I certainly wasn't keen on driving into Burnsville, MN even more frequently, but such is life when you find someone as remarkable as Dr. Julia Tomlinson.  Her assessment was "Buzz has a lot of stiffness in his lumbar spine and some evidence of nerve pinching (pain and loss of proprioception, right sided weakness).  I am surprised that his lumbosacral area does not seem to be bothering him much at this time.  I think the pain on right hip extension is probably due to right paraspinal muscle pain.  We need to manage pain and restore mobility before we think about strengthening.  GOALS: To restore mobility, manage pain, strengthen."

Taken from the front page of the Twin Cities Animal Rehabilitation website
Our mission statement: 
"To alleviate pain and restore our patients to maximal function,
improving their quality of life."

And so began Buzz's rehab.  His has gone much more smoothly than Bailey's has and he is progressing at what I think of as a normal rate.  At this point in time, he's receiving Adequan injections once a month and takes two oral medications every other day.  He's still on a joint supplement and fish oil.  He's able, willing, and ASKS to go for walks again, even in the snow and cold!  We can go for over half an hour at this point, and that is off leash exercise which is far more strenuous than town walking!  When we do go town walking, he's able to go-go-go until I'm ready to stop.  He's still lacking muscle in his rear but he can do stairs by himself now!

Beef ribs are a staple in this house!
Just this morning he took off at a dead run (seriously, he RAN) for the fields where we go walking.  It was a good 300 yard stretch that he RAN.  When he stopped it wasn't because he was hurting or panting... he wanted to sniff something!  Rather than trotting painfully and then walking, he's cantering around with joy now.

Grey is just distinguished, right?
I was honestly thinking about the dreaded E word this spring when we could NOT figure out what was going on with him.  To say I'm happy about his current state is a complete understatement.  I'm relieved, happy, and all sorts of excited about his progress.  I even entered him in a rally trial, with two runs in a single day.  He's going to be SO happy to get out and play again, and I'll be the smiling dork holding onto his leash.

Waiting for WAFFLES with Beckett!
I feel incredibly fortunate to have the resources I do.  Not only have I learned an immense amount from this experience, but my dogs are living better lives because of it.  I certainly didn't think I would be this "into" canine rehabilitation, but there's really no way around it after the results I've witnessed.  More specifically, the rehabilitation plans for both dogs has consisted of regular chiropractic care, strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, pain control when needed, and a lot of carefully controlled exercise.  None of it has been easy, I am human and forget to do their exercises sometimes, but the progress they've made is what keeps us going.  (And being able to show off Bailey's new-found ability to hold a stack on the tile floors at work today... yeah, that was pretty darn exciting.)

Chris wanted Buzz in the photo.
Buzz did not want to be in the photo.
I promise he is not actually being choked.


We've gotten a lot more snow this winter than in the last five years I think!  The dogs and I are enjoying it quite a bit especially since I take them outside to frolic while I do outside chores.  This morning Bailey assisted me in shoveling the walkway in the dog yard and hauling in wood for the stove.  She was so helpful, barking at the rodents under the snow, burying her head in the snow, and wagging her tail so fast I thought it may fall off!  Definitely comic relief while I was doing typically boring chores!

When it was time to shovel the front walkway, I took both dogs with me and they frolicked in the front yard chasing bunny trails.  Then they got some silly idea it was woods walking time.  Despite the fact that we do not go woods walking in the winter.  The snow is JUST TOO DEEP for all of us!  I tried to appease them with more digging in the snow and belly rubs while rolling around crazily.  Both were agreeable to coming inside after that.

The amount of snow has also made for great snowmobiling conditions.  Buzz, especially, loves riding on the snowmobile.  Bailey knows how but prefers to run instead.

Do your canine friends assist with snow removal activities?


My Lunch Date

Is chocolate, but not edible.

Is an expert snuggler on the couch.

She's an absolute sweetheart.  We also play training games (of course) for her lunch ration!


Walking Dogs

I stress out about having to walk Bailey in public, on a leash, with other dogs potentially around.  To the point that I never used to walk her in town.  We didn't attend fun events because I knew she couldn't handle it.  While understanding current limitations is a good thing, it was definitely a crutch I used a lot more than I should have.

When I moved back from college, the dogs and I started learning how to walk on leash in town.  I know most of you will just laugh at us, but growing up on a farm and just not using leashes led to poor leash behavior and every. single. little. thing. being exciting while trying to walk.  It is discouraging and aggravating, for sure!

A normal walk... even if it is in Ohio!
So we started slow.  One dog at a time, with management tools, in the evening, and with a dinner ration.  Bailey always wore a Gentle Leader.  For at least a year when I was walking both dogs, Buzz even wore a Gentle Leader.  I was not comfortable being put into a situation where I wouldn't have complete control, so I made absolutely certain I would never be faced with a situation like that.  I'm being honest when I say that our early town walks were fast, 15-20 minutes at a brisk pace, less time to sniff things and misbehave!

When Buzz started receiving acupuncture treatments and I needed to be able to assess how he was progressing, we started walking in town on a schedule.  I chose a town that had one path, was well lit, and allowed for as much walking as we needed.  It was also generally deserted after 7pm, which was ideal.

Running and sniffing at high speeds is fun!
We've since progressed to walking on trails on leash, as well as visiting other towns and we even brave the city during the day sometimes now.  This post was prompted by our walk last night and the conversation after it.  I'd never thought about the benefits of off property leash walks until the last couple of years.  For "country dogs" who don't encounter other people on a regular basis, are rarely walked on a leash, and don't experience the sights/sounds/smells of city life, it can be incredibly overwhelming to walk in a town during the day.

Take time to enjoy the smells!
A standard evening walk now consists of Bailey on her x-back with a tug line and me holding her leash (as opposed to running with her and me wearing my belt).  Buzz wears a leash attached to his car harness.  This allows both to move freely around me and sniff/explore/do whatever dogs want to be doing.  We typically go at Bailey's pace (fast) for the first 2/3 of the walk then we slow down to a Buzz pace and Bailey practices her loose leash walking skills.

I love having the luxury of not having to work on loose leash walking skills, the dogs wearing harnesses allows them to "be dogs" and allows me to relax a little.  (Last night I even listened to music while walking, a really-huge-first!)  If we're walking in town during the day they're both still wearing harnesses but on 4 foot leashes and still wearing collars I can grab hold of, or attach the leash to if need be.

Key to our success?
Setting up for success!  Assess goals for the walk and plan appropriately.  We walk for mental and physical exercise, not to practice training.  Therefore harnesses are part of our walking gear.  Pull, pull, pull all you want.  Sniff, sniff, sniff until I get tired of standing around.  Buzz's memo is: you do NOT get to pee on everything that another dog has peed on--NO marking of light posts or street signs.  I do my best to walk where we will not encounter loose dogs, but I'm not afraid to tell the loose dog to get lost if I have to.

I have no pictures of this walking business because I don't have an extra hand.  That's another thing, pictures are a lot easier to get when the dog is much further away.  If I could get a picture of us walking, it would be dog rear ends and who wants to look at those?!

My spoiled country dogs really like walking in the city, but I think we all enjoy walks at home much, much more.


Buzz's Day

I never really know what to work on with Buzz when I take him to shaping class.  I went in with a plan to work on "set ups" (I really, really hate that word, but it's the most concise way to say what I mean) which we did.  Then I was stuck.

I was standing around asking for simple behaviors and casually mentioned that I tend to just 'stand around' and feed him when he comes to training day.  It makes me feel like a failure of a trainer.

Does he care that he's not learning intricate behaviors that'll be used for competition behaviors?  Of course not!  He's just happy to be out!  Robin commented on that... he's 12.5 years old and has earned the right to stand around eating food, being pet, and playing with Nina Ottosson toys if that's what he wants.  And she's right.

Today Buzz played games with Ryan, ate a lot of treats, was pet by almost everyone, got to sniff around outside, interact with Via at his leisure (she was leashed), and hang out with some of the coolest people and dogs on the planet.  He had a great day... he even got to stay at Maisy's house (and be a PITA... sorry Brian!!) raiding her food toy basket and playing shaping games with Brian!

I take Buzz to shaping class so he gets out and uses his brain and body.  Mission accomplished.

(Oh, we did work on go-outs around a post... he thought that was a pretty cool game, so I may just continue that behavior.)


Buzz and I entered one run at the MMBC APDT trial in August.  Before that Bailey and I ran in the MMBC NADAC trial in March.  

I think I'm scared to enter a trial.  My dogs are capable of entering some things at this point... yet I can't seem to send the entries in!  Yes, I'm saving money (on gas, I have enough vouchers to cover all expenses) and I'm protecting my dogs but... I really think I'm hiding!  I love going to trials to socialize with friends.  It's been a LONG time since I've had to worry about a time frame at a trial.

How silly does that sound?

If I get up the courage, I'll enter Buzz in the MMBC UKC Rally trial the end of this month.  I even printed out a pre-filled entry so I'd just have to mail it in.  I don't know what's come over me!  It was hard to stop trialling, now it's hard to start again?!  Who would have thought that?!


"I guess you don't really own a dog, you rent them, and you have to be thankful that you had a long lease." --Joe Garagiola

An agility friend lost her beloved Bull Terrier, Lefty this fall.  An amazingly talented photographer who regularly captures images for us at trials put together a beautiful memorial for him.  The quote above was posted along with it.

How very true.


Sunday Shaping

I don't think I actually shaped anything today, but we did a lot of great work!

Session 1
Send to target on the floor.  
Helper placed food when she arrived.  Nose touch desired.
No sit/stay, I held her collar and released.  Excellent responses, speed increased each time.

Session 2
Marking an object in the distance.
Ask for mark, click and throw food forward.  Again, great responses.  Solid sit/stay while waiting for release.  Varied amounts of time waiting for release.  Solid every single time.

Session 3
Set up for go out.
She set up beautifully and maintained eye contact until asked to mark the first time then she promptly flew out to the target that was dropped after she was released.  The next time she left for the spot where the target was before even setting up.  I put her on leash and tried it again.  She again tried to leave so I stood and waited.  She did reorient nicely, c/t until I had her full attention.  360 right and ask for another set up.  Slow but correct response.  Third time was a charm and she was rewarded with food and a chance to go-out.

Four correct responses with great set ups, solid wait for release and drive toward the spot.

I like successful training days.

Goals, I Think?

It's a good idea to set goals.  Everyone will tell you that.  The problem lies in setting goals that can be accomplished in a timely manner to make one feel, accomplished.

I try to set goals for myself because otherwise I tend to putter along happily enough until I think about what I need to do in "real life."  Then I get intimidated.  Setting goals for "dog stuff" is much easier for me than setting personal goals, I would assume because of the fact that I've been practicing it for years and years.

This time, goals are about me.

I set a goal for myself this fall.  I said that I would not turn into a lazy lump on a log (okay, as lazy as I get).  So, I joined a gym.  I never thought I would join a gym, I am against organized things like that... but I'm enjoying it a lot.  I committed to 3 days a week and have been going reliably (aside from the shoulder injury and the sickness).  In the new year, it's time to increase that to 4 days a week.  Tentative schedule is to add in Thursdays, Monday/Wednesday/Friday I can go to a class in the morning before work.  Thursdays would be in the morning before work by myself... on a date with the elliptical machine!

Eating/drinking better.  I've done really well with this one so far.  It can only get better in the coming year.  I drink pop infrequently, I opt for water or juice the majority of the time.  Energy drinks definitely less than once a week.  I succeeded in reducing the amount of caffeinated/carbonated beverages by allowing myself to have 1-2, rather than cutting it out completely.  A gradual reduction and I definitely don't crave it.  I'm drinking water when going out to eat, happily (okay, so I may steal a few sips of someone's Mountain Dew...).

Focusing on health for myself has really helped me focus on health for the dogs too.  We go for walks to get out and explore.  I don't hesitate to bring Buzz to a trial just to be a spectator.  I'm focusing on physical and mental well-being for everyone, and it's working out well.  Saturday I had the luxury of lounging around until after noon.  It was quite an enjoyable experience.

In the past I've been good at making friends, but failed utterly at keeping them.  I tend to get busy and fall off the face of the earth.  I hate it when people do that to me, so why would I expect friends to accept it?  I shouldn't.  I made a lot of new friends this year who are invaluable and irreplaceable, I'm lucky to have these people in my life. Yes, the majority are "dog people" and thus "dog friends" but we definitely have a lot more in common than just dogs.

This year I will not fall off the face of the earth when life gets hectic.  I love my friends and will continue to enjoy their company.

I still don't know what I want to do with my life.  So while I figure that out, I'm continuing to pursue both avenues and see where it takes me.  I attended a TAGteach seminar last summer.  It was brilliantly wonderful (I really need to work on my level 1 project).  I took an introductory class for my Autism Certificate from Hamline University.  I plan to take two more classes in the coming spring.

I'm going to the Midwest Veterinary Conference because Ken Ramirez and Kathy Sdao are both speaking.  I signed up for an assortment of behavior classes and rehabilitation classes.  I know I'm going to have a great time there!

Me, Me, Me
I've never, ever, been afraid to live my life for me... or so I thought.  I had a lot of experiences this year that stick out as "I learned something valuable."  Despite them coming from some incredibly stressful and trying times, I really have learned quite a bit.  It's acceptable to say "no" to people.  I don't have to do things just because someone will make me feel guilty if I don't.  I shouldn't sacrifice my happiness for someone else's convenience.  I'm learning how to be direct.

I am not afraid to live my life with goals, ambitions, and dreams, that I will make come true.
I will get what I want.