Ode to 2010

2010, I’m gonna miss you – as years go, you were a good one.

I don’t say that to every year. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve said that in recent memory. Maybe around 1998 or so – isn’t that pathetic?

Oh sure, you had your bad points – there was all the wacky weather and that little business of a 70′ spruce tree in the potty area, but at least no one got hurt. As a matter of fact, everyone here stayed relatively healthy – no catastrophic vet bills for a change (except for Kacey’s $800 ultrasound, which showed that there was basically nothing wrong with her.) The indoor head count actually increased. Sadly, we did say goodbye to a few old friends – I really wish you could have skipped that part. But for once, no plagues of locusts or flying squirrels, and business was pretty good (especially 4th quarter). And it was a good year for agility – heck, a GREAT year, if you go by swag like ribbons and titles.

So I took this picture of your last sunrise to remember you by. See? You even made a nice sunrise for me!

Here’s a recap of this memorable year!

January: Started off inauspiciously with a nasty case of food poisoning, however things quickly took a turn for the better. January 18 – after a year of chemo, Bryce is officially declared to be in clinical remission! January 20 – Bryce’s PT clears him to run agility after his back injury. Jan 24 – Bryce earns his CPE C-ATCH!

February: Hat shows up injured and I bring him inside to a new life as a housecat. Kit goes missing the same week and presumably met some sad end. Poor Kit – you hissed at me the first time you saw me every single day, but underneath you were just a big softie who liked to have a full tummy and stretch out on your blanket in the sun. Miss you, buddy.

March: Crazy weather! Huge trees snapping like twigs! No power for days! Giant spruce breaks and falls, just missing the house. I play amateur lumberjack and cut branches with a pruning saw so I have some place to potty the dogs!

April: Did some agility. Jayda turned 6. Kacey turned 14 and made friends with Hat. She’s such a “cougar.”

May: More agility. Jayda moves up to Excellent JWW and Q’s her very first time! Jayda – NADAC Novice Triple Superior award!

June: With one of her friends gone and the other living in the house, Cassie starts to make friends with Jayda and Raven. Then she starts rubbing up against my ankles and letting me pet her! More agility, and a sudden and sad goodbye to Bryce’s litter brother, Grady :(.

July: Bryce, still in remission, celebrates his 12th birthday! Kacey goes through one of her weird digestive ailments. Fluids, bloodwork, ultrasound – turn up absolutely nothing and she eventually starts eating again and acting like nothing happened. Thinking he only needs about 80 points, I decide to try for Bryce’s 1000 Lifetime Points Award in NADAC. More crazy weather (torrential rain) the end of the month.

August: Trashed my lower back. More agility, more rain. I realize I miscounted and Bryce really needs about 180 pts for that lifetime award. Decided to go for it anyway.

September: Raven turns 3, grows a Big Girl Brain and gets some NADAC and CPE titles. Bryce goes 6 for 6 at a NADAC trial. I strain a quad the 2nd front cross of the first run of a CPE trial … and somehow manage to make it through the rest of the weekend! Jayda – CH-CL! Jayda and I briefly lose our “mojo” and spend the next 6 weeks with intermittent weave and timing issues. Weird weather continues … this time, with a tornado watch!

October: Jayda has a couple of spectacular runs and a couple of spectacular meltdowns. Jayda AJP! Raven’s first AKC title (NAJ)! Bryce almost chokes himself on an apple core. We all have a really “off” day at a Halloween NADAC trial. A sad goodbye to Jayda’s little half-sister – we only knew her from the internet, but she looked so much like my Jayda, right down to her mannerisms.

November: Roof finally fixed! Bryce aces another NADAC trial for 3 titles and his 1000 lifetime points! CPE trial – C-ATCH Jayda, Bryce Ch-JU, Raven – CL3-F! Bryce’s bloodwork still good! I go to my (mumble mumble)th reunion.

December: Raven gets her NF at our Novice Only AKC trial. We have a 100% weekend (16 runs, 16Q’s) in CPE! Raven CL3-R! Final weird weather episode of the year dumps about 2 feet of snow on us the day after Christmas.

So 2010, here’s to you – you’re gonna be a tough act to follow!

Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays!


Lame as I am about sending out snail-mail cards (I’m ALWAYS late!), this year my online card was pretty ambitious.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas (Our Version)

And if the holiday wasn’t enough reason to celebrate, today it’s been exactly 1000 days since the bloodwork that led to Bryce’s cancer diagnosis. As of a couple of weeks ago, he’s still in clinical remission – getting older but feeling good. It’s been a good year!

C-ATCH Jayda!

C-ATCH Toven A Thousand Kisses

“The Dark Horse” did it!

It was quite a productive weekend – two jackpot Q’s for Jayda to finish her CPE Agility Championship, two jumpers Q’s for Bryce to finish his Jumpers Championship (class championship – 15 Q’s at Level 5). And not to be left out, Raven got her last L3 Fullhouse Q, for her CL3-F title. So a BIG title rosette for the big dog, a medium sized rosette for the medium dog and a little title ribbon for the babydog.

And what better than a quiet park by the river on a crisp autumn day for a beautiful picture to mark the occasion :).

More and a recap of the last couple of weeks in a few days when I have some time, but I couldn’t wait to post this lovely picture of my Jayd-Jayd :).

AKC, Course Map Chants, and Murphy’s Laws of Agility

So this past weekend we did an AKC trial. I was smart and entered the 2 days it didn’t rain! I used to do this particular trial all the time but haven’t gone to it in a few years. There’s always a conflict with something closer, but I really want to get going on Jay-ven’s AKC titles so this time it won out. It was fun seeing people I don’t run into that often … and to count the double-takes when they saw me there. Not one but TWO people I knew got MACH’s – that was nice!

Two weekends ago, we were at a CPE trial on a beautiful, secluded site. A gruelling hike to the tenting area, even from the drop off zone, but perfect for a dog like Jayda because everything was far from the rings. This weekend’s trial was a BIG outdoor trial – about 3x as many people and lots going on. I knew it would be challenging for Jayda, I think I underestimated HOW overwhelming it would be.

Re: Jayda’s Agility Skills

When it comes to technical skills and her understanding of handling cues, Jayda is definitely playing with a full deck … but occasionally she gets flustered and drops her cards.

Jayda isn’t afraid of people – she likes most people. She just doesn’t deal well with new things and people sitting elbow-to-elbow all around the Excellent ring watching her run was initially too novel for her. Two jumps into her first run , and she had an “OMFG” moment, leading to a few extra, random jumps. I got her attention back, picked up the course at the nearest obstacle and ran the remaining 2/3 sans weaves but otherwise cleanly – to my surprise, earning us a bit of applause from ringside. It must have been a fairly impressive recovery? Aw, thanks you guys :)!

She was still a little stressy during Open Standard – ran a nice course but lost it in the poles.

Raven fared much better, picking up a whopping 67 pts her first time in Novice FAST (with 7 seconds to spare), and a 1st and Q in Nov JWW. Everything’s interesting, nothing phases her – she played tug with me and kept sticking her head in the equipment buckets looking at all the kewl stuff in there (Jayda wanted nothing to do with those creepy buckets.) If she had a complaint it would be that there was an awful lot of walking for her short little legs.

Murphy’s Law of Agility Trials:

If you have classes in multiple rings, you will at some point in the day have to be in two places at once, regardless of how carefully the trial schedule is planned. The odds of this increase exponentially, depending on how many dogs you are running.

With Jayda popping the poles twice in a row, I was determined get in some weave review work in before Sunday. It was dark when we got home Saturday but fortunately we didn’t have to be there early the next morning, so there I was in my teeny little yard at 6:30 AM Sunday with a tape measure and my stick-in-ground weaves. While setting up, I saw some mushrooms towards the end of the little grass patch – UGH! I’m MAJOR paranoid about mushrooms, so that meant I also had to get out the trowel and dig up my yard before we could practice. By the time I was done, I had just enough time to reinforce a couple of sets of weaves – oh well, better than nothing!

Saturday was perfect weather – moderate and sunny. Sunday was cloudy, cold and windy. Wind is not Jayda’s favorite thing – things blow around, move, make noise … way too unpredictable!

Murphy’s Second Law of Agility Trials:

Your dog will be farthest from whichever of those 2 courses you need to run first. (If you try to cheat this law by setting up your crates equidistant to both rings, YOU will somehow end up on the opposite side of the trial grounds.. like in the porta-johns or something… when they start calling you.)

Murphy’s First and Second laws made an appearance for Jayda’s runs on Sunday. I never take her out early because she stresses, but I thought I had time to check on ring 1’s timing and still get her to ring 3 in time for her run. As luck would have it, 2 dogs weren’t there and I arrived at ring #3 just AFTER they marked me absent and were setting up the next height! Ack!!! Fortunately, the judge let me run at the end of the class. Took Jayda back to her crate, went back to ring #1, which was now just about to walk Ex JWW.

Afraid of missing her run AGAIN, I kinda rushed the walkthrough. There was also a big crowd of people walking, so it’s not like it was easy to get your bearings in a couple of quick passes. I do, however, have a little trick that I use: “The Course Map Chant”.

The Course Map Chant™ (“CMC”) Method of Course Memorization:

When walking the course, make up and memorize a silly little ditty (optionally set to music), telling yourself what handling you plan to do and which direction the course goes. For example, a jww course may go something like this: “One two cross, three four cross, bear right 6 7 8 – weave – 10 … eleven cross, push out, ser-pen-tine and done!”

When I’ve adequately walked a course, I do my little chant in my head while running and everything just flows. If I haven’t walked the course enough, I have something to fall back on (besides the numbers) to me keep from getting lost, though my timing will suffer. It may not be pretty but it can salvage an entry fee, and with AKC entries at a going rate of $24 for the first run in these parts, … well … salvage baby, salvage!

So I did my quickie-walkthrough grabbed Jayda and headed over to the other ring … only to have a dozen things cause delay after delay after delay. With the dog that stresses when she waits – wonderful! Between that and the wind and course builders starting to anticipate setting the next course, by the time I got her into the ring I was sure we were headed for a one-way trip to Meltdownville. I took off her leash, squeezed her shoulders, told her she could do it…

And we had an AWESOME run! We used our one-refusal ticket with a false start at the poles, but once she went in my 7AM training paid off and they were perfect.

How awesome? The judge actually came up to us afterwards and told me how much she enjoyed watching us! She thought it was “very pretty” and liked that I was nice to my dog the entire time – wow, and what a sweet thing to say :)!

Ran from there back to the Ex JWW ring, where it was almost our turn. By this time I was feeling more confident and knew Jayda had at least run off some of her nerves, but that was the “busy” ring again.

We had a little hesitation in the poles when she eyeballed the crowd for a second, but I got her through clean and ran the rest clean and under time! Had some wobbly spots where I had to rely on “the chant” because I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going, but Jayda’s such a good egg – she made us look good.

After a LONG break, I ended the weekend with an exhilarating JWW run with Raven, where “sticky-pup” amazed me by going into obstacle focus for several jumps, diving ahead into the poles at full speed …and sticking them! Damn, that girl can weave! Woohoo, Babydog! Just one little moment of “the bouncies” near the end to slow us down, but that was good enough for a 29″ run, a 1st place Q and a title. On to Open!

Raven also saw her cousin Zinna at the trial – the two girls thought this family reunion called for a party, but since we were waiting to run, the timing (not to mention the location) was rather innapropriate so Terry and I had to be the fun police. A play date may be in order – can you say “22 lbs of cuteness :)?”

A little of this, a little of that

Feather2First, I think I ruffled a few feathers with my last post! Wasn’t intentional – while the post was triggered by some comments on another blog, it was essentially just general venting, not aimed at anyone in particular. I participate in all venues that are within my “travel radius” and I am quick to clear up misconceptions I hear about any of them, whether they come from an “AKC person” or a “USDAA person” or a “NADAC person” or anyone else. BUT, at least in my area, there is some definite “dissing” of certain venues and a sentiment on the part of SOME people that only those which produce team members for international events are worthy of notice and anything else … well, your titles may as well have come out of a Cracker Jack box! I was on the receiving end of a couple of snide comments at an AKC trial this past weekend from someone I’ve known for years. I laughed them off, but seriously – it gets old after a while!

In the last 3 weekends we’ve done NADAC, CPE and AKC trials. I’ve realized that one of the things I LIKE about doing multiple venues is the versatility which it demands from both dog and handler. I love the challenge of running my dogs in flat out, full extension, “pedal to the metal” NADAC one weekend and attacking a technical Excellent JWW course the next. For me, it’s a rush to succeed at both :).

(The down side of “cross-trialing” is it takes longer finish advanced titles in any of them – there are only so many weekends in a year and only so many dollars in a checkbook.)

If you were to ask my dogs, Bryce likes NADAC best these days. That’s because they let him run at 8″, and even though we don’t do contacts any more, there are still 4 different games he can play! OK, so he doesn’t LOVE Hoopers (he’s “old school” and doesn’t think hoops are real obstacles) but still, he’ll even take that any day over sitting it out in the car. Retirement isn’t his “thing” – once a workaholic, always a workaholic.

Jayda likes CPE best, but that’s probably more the trial sites than the organization itself. A lot of them around here are quiet and secluded – just her style. Jayda finished her ChCL (Colors Championship – 15 total Q’s at Level 5) the other weekend.

Raven likes everything. She’s been bringing her “big girl brain” into the ring more often than not as of late, and putting in some really nice runs. We still have issues to address, excessive handler-focus being one of them, but she’s a little pistol and a blast to run :)!