Monday, January 31, 2011

My Old Man

Echo aka Eckel Steckel aka Sir Ter aka Ech-a-la-monius aka Whiney Boy aka Ex Bex aka Serenecrest Tartan Tone.

My boy is turning 13 this year.  I never talk about him much, because he is just 'always there', quiet unless Chaos bugs him, its feeding time or he sees my parents's gardener, Frans.  He knows countless tricks, is easy to travel with, easy to groom, easy to live with, easy to talk to.

Echo was my first real 'own' dog and my first real competitive dog.  I brought a very fluffy BC pup home when I was 13 years old.  Echo finished High School with me, finished College with me, went through quite a few relationships with me, married with me, moved with me OFTEN.  He took my to my first South African Champs, my first World Champs, my first 'away' shows, my first Championship Qualifications.  He taught me a lot.  I cannot even start to tell you how much this dog taught me.  He raised countless puppies.  He got me 'noticed' in the Agility world.  I made friends because of him.  I could share countless 'Echo Anecdotes', including the time he ran out of the ring to the top of the stands to get Biltong from some spectators.  I could tell you how he has an unhealthy obsession with AR, he will not leave her alone.  I could tell you many things about him, but for the most part, me and him have a relationship that I will never be able to describe.  He is my first dog, but both him and I know he will never be my last dog. But he will always be My Echo and I will always be His Alett.

When he was 3, Echo managed to get a thorn straight in his eye, straight through the cornea and lens.  After the op, he recovered almost 100%, just a small little dormant cataract that never bugged him.  When he was 6 he dislocated 2 vertebrae, keeping him out of Agility for more than a year.  Other than that he never ever went to vet other than inoculations. He is a big, big BC boy standing at 56.3cm and weighing in at 25kg's when he is at his thinnest.  So all in all that is not too bad.  A couple of years ago he developed a tiny, minute little lump on his flank, nothing to worry about the vet said.  But in the last two months it has grown, so we have decided to have it removed and do a biopsy tomorrow.  Nothing serious.  The vet is very positive.  During his check-up today the vet also discovered a heart murmur (that wasn't there with his last check-up 4 months ago).  Once again, nothing serious, just a tablet a day.  It is inevitable, I mean the poor dude is getting old.

I am not heart-broken, I am not worried (well not in THAT way).  This is life, it is inevitable.  He is doing better than most dogs of his size at his age, which I ascribe to good nutrition and good conditioning through out his life.  I love that dog.  So much.  And I will miss him once he is gone.  And of course tonight I am sitting here thinking of all these things and accepting them, because that is life and I have to.  He might not see the end of this year, he might live for another four.  I think what matters is that I will never forget and he will never forget.

I dug around in my old videos today and found some of the old man.  These were taken in 2006 (when I first got my video camera), he was eight already, after his prime and after he recovered from the back injury.  The handling sucks, my dress sense is horrid and we have no contact method to speak of...  but that is Echo, barking like a mad hatter on the course and jumping into my arms at the end (which he still attempts every now and again).

Love you old man.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shows, Trials, Lee Gibson and other news...

Bad, bad, bad blogger... I have been so  bad in posting that I actually had to go and re-read my previous post (well the doggy one) to remember what I had last blogged about.  In my defense it is partly because I have been hellishly busy (is hell busy?) and partly because 2011 has apparently decided that it either hates me or wants to test my limits...  Soooo, after a blow out on the highway (when of course the skies had to open JUST as I started changing my tyre) and then having to do a 140km round trip to find a dealership that had my spare tyre in stock, my newly acquired kindle's wireless konking in after a week and 'being fixed again', homicide inducing work catastrophes (which at least ended in the tender begin submitted), agility politics, certain unnamed dogs getting hold of and partially eating a maggot infested corpse of some critter (so past it's sell-by date that the exact species could no longer be identified) which of course resulted in some induced vomiting and yet another round of de-worming, burning myself to a crisp (yes, this might be my own fault), some health issues on the human side of the family and some other minor hiccups... I have time to make another post...  well not really, I should be working, but I need stress relief.
Nox, dude (chick) that is MY bed!!!

Soooo, I am going to try and do this in chronological order:

The second show of the year did NOT go as well as the first.  Chaos for the first time in his life, leaped of his contact.  I was shocked.  I stopped put him back, continued the run, got to the second contact... and believe it or not, there he goes AGAIN.  I put him back again, attempted the same contact and when low and behold he did the same thing, I just walked off.  Yes, yes, bitch and moan with me, I should have walked off after the FIRST one, but this was just so unexpected.  I was horrified.  The rest of the day with him just went downhill from there.  I ran Quake too though and he went very nicely.  I ran with a toy and since it was very bad course design for Grade 1 dogs, I just made up my own course, but he did exactly as I wanted.  So happy with the monster, now I am going to train, train, train and hopefully start entering him officially in the middle of the year.

We then had Lee Gibson here for a week of workshops and seminars.  I was part of the organising committee, so a lot of time and stress went into this week, but a lot of good came from it, so much information...  I like the simplicity of his training methods, no frills or fafs or training of complicated maneuvers that you will never use in reality. Definitely have some valuable ideas that I will be applying in my training.  What always amuses me about an accomplished and well-known handler that presents workshops or releases a new book or dvd, is the six months that follows.  Every Joe Soap and his mate will start every sentence with: 'but Lee Gibson/Susan Garrett/Greg Darrett/Silvia Trkman says/does/approves...'.  Now I give every single accomplished handler in the world credit, they obviously DID get it right.  I apply several of their techniques in my training...  BUT I just wish people could realise that they will still have to apply their OWN skills and training to what he said, unless they have developed body transplant technology which will enable them to actually become Lee Gibson and that would just be really weird.

This brings us to the weekend of the night show and the first trials.  Eish, that is all I am going to say...  I am not transferring blame and most probably would have sucked just as badly, but really... at both the shows I was running around like a mad hooligan, setting up ALL the courses, cooking food, doing results in between.  Barely seeing my dogs and not once being able to take them for a decent walk.  I don't mind helping out AT ALL.  Hell that is what I am there for, but there is limits!  My mind was not remotely where it should have been.  So out of the 5 rounds that I ran that weekend, I had 4 Eliminations and 1 10 faulter.  So no points at all for me toward the SA Champs/AWC qualifiers yet.  I am not going to dwell on it though, I am not even going to dwell on actually even getting points to be honest.  What I do want to start doing is get the best possible rounds I can.  It is that or nothing.  Chaos deserves that much.

Yesterday we had the NAPC Top Dog invitational.  And despite the boiling heat, it went quite well.  An unlucky first bar, cost us a place in the contact (finished 4th with the quickest 5 faulter), my retardedness meant an E in the non-contact.  I mean shame poor dude, he was heading for the right tunnel entry, when I blatantly turned towards the wrong one and he actually did a face plant to accomplish that...  Chaos, dude... you need to get a new owner.  Another bar kept us out of the Dog Jumping jump-off, but oh well.
My lunatic boy, The Spaz - Chaos

Volt of course has been going with to all the shows.  I take him close to the rings and have huge tug games.  He really is amazing, not even looking at other dogs (well, there is one BC that makes him go ballistic, with no way of me getting him back).  But if you leave him to his own devices he goes bananas-monkey-dog-crazy when he sees agility, at the end of the lead or in his crate.  So he is crated faaaaaar away from the rings and I make sure that we play big time when he is on lead to avoid that.
My Blue-Eyed Boy

Here is Chaos's contact round from yesterday:

On a different note... I love our house... I was just sitting outside throwing balls for the boys, when all of a sudden, three Impala shot up the hill across the street...

Got Anthony to take some pics of me and all the boys today... sad by true the first one of me and all my boys together.
 But all my boys are a bit 'ma-bef*k'... if I so much as move...  Echo has learnt to look more casual about the whole business, but still gives me the eye.

And my four 'of the awesomeness BC's'

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Layman's Guide to Driving in South Africa

I am marring my agility blog with a completely non-dog related post, but right now I need to vent!!!

I am not even going to get started on the taxi's, I could write a book about the taxi's, but for Joe Soap on the South African roads, here are a few guidelines:

1.  'Keep Left, Pass Right' is actually a rule of the road, hence if you are not actually, physically passing a car in the immediate vicinity, what the hell are you doing in the right hand lane?  Signs that you are violating this rule may include:  flashing lights, hooting, multiple cars passing you on the left, dirty looks, a 'luxury German sedan' sitting on your ass and many more.

2.  When, in peak traffic, all cars suddenly part leaving a nice open space in the middle, it is for the big red van with the flashing lights and annoying siren, not for you.  You are not Moses.

3.  Mind reading is not a standard feature in my car, the only way for me to know that you are going to turn, is if you use your indicator.  You know that switchy thingy on the left or right side of the steering wheel (depending on make and model of your vehicle), that makes the arrow on the dashboard flash all pretty and green.

4.  If there is a queue in the turning lane, you do not have the right to push in right at the front.  You are NOT relieving traffic by shortening the queue, you are making it worse.  You live in South Africa, you are bound to spend at least 43% of your life in a queue, get used to it.

5.  When swerving, being it for a pothole, dog, a spring buck, an intersection vendor, a goat or a taxi it is advisable (if at all possible) to swerve AWAY from the other cars, not towards the middle of the road.

6.  In a single line, with a solid white line in the middle, it really doesn't matter how badly you sit on my ass, I have nowhere to move TO.  You might just as well back off and do the whole thing called 'following distance'.

7.  When your headlights are set to the bright setting they are... well just that, BRIGHT.  Not meant for use on eyeballs and mirrors.

8.  Highways were designed with off-ramps instead of intersections for many reasons, but of them being that there is no need for you to slam on breaks while you are still ON the highway, but gradually reduce speed on the actual off-ramp.

9.  Driving in one lane (lane being the space in BETWEEN the lines) is not negotiable.  If you want to straddle something, get a room.

10.  When moving into the right hand lane to pass a vehicle, you are expected to match the speed of the vehicles already in that lane (most probably passing you).  Next time I am NOT going to slam on my breaks and just hope that my insurance covers your stupidity.

**Note:  Driving a 'luxury German sedan', a sports car or a Hummer, does NOT exempt you from the above.  It just means your repairs will be much more expensive than mine.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quake Monster

Sorry, I know I just did a post, but I have to make this post right now... while I am in that retarded-heart-swollen-tear-inducing mode...

Most of you don't know much about my struggles with Quake, other than I should have NEVER gotten two puppies (Monster and Spaz) so close together... well not in the stage of my life I was then in anyway.  But let me (try and) give the concise version.

Because of Chaos's extreme work ethic (that dog would work in the middle of the Brisbane floods while Iceland's volcano is erupting and there is a South African Taxi rank war is going simultaneously right above his head) he was the most fun dog ever to train.  He has serious limitations and serious issues, but he makes you forget about those things because of his willingness...  Then there is Monstrous... from day one, you could see the potential oozing from this dog, but that by no means implicates that he is easy to work with.  Yes, every single problem Quake has is my LACK of training, but I am trying to make it up to the Monster

He simply does not have the same work ethic and he likes things his way and he is sooooo good at the whole middle finger thing.  For years now I experienced so many reactions to my little (big) boy...  First of all two of his sisters are multiple champions.  So often  I would get that 'wtf, are you really that crap?' look.  Then there are the people that see Quake and immediately go... oh shame he is the runt of the litter?  And of course none of those reactions help.  I have traveled a very informative and difficult journey with this dog.  I love him to bits, I cannot imagine my life without him.  And honestly I don't care if he ever officially competes.  I am going to enter him this weekend NFC and see what he does, he can make that choice.  Whatever he decides to do, I will have his ball with me and I will find something to reward!

BUT to all you none-believers out there, I present my (not so) baby boy.

Haha, yes just some training in the garden, but if you had traveled this journey with me you would have been just as proud as  I am right now.  Love you Monster Man.

Judges and Rules

As you know, in all my agility nerdiness, I follow quite a few international forums, so the recent suggested KC rule changes regarding no judging of spouses and double handling, immediately caught my attention.  What? Do you want to tell me we have the exact same problems all over the world?  I have to admit, it did make me feel a little bit less third world-ish, well for about 5 seconds until Eish-kom cut our power again for no particular reason...  So I am writing this post in the dark, hoping that my laptop's battery lasts long enough for me to write this post.  If I don't do it now, the loose screws in my head will just jumble all the thoughts around again and I will have no idea what I wanted to say.

As for the no judging of spouses or people that reside at the same address as the judge...  I have been around since Agility became official in South Africa basically and went through a lot of rule changes as the years went by.  We actually STARTED off with having that rule in place, as some parts of our schedule was just adapted from the general schedules for breed classes.  Since we have such a small amount of competitors, this really affected us.  There are quite a few husband/wife teams that run 6 or so dogs between them.  Now since we have an average of 35 dogs entered into a 'normal' show, this would mean that 17% of a class would dissapear if one of the spouses judged.  And unlike the UK, a show only consists of a maximum of one round per discipline.  We have three disciplines:  Contact Agility; Non-contact Agility (which would be 'jumping' in most other countries) and Dog Jumping (which is similar to Non-Contact Agility, with a few distinct differences).  So we had this rule changed about 6 years ago (if I recall correctly).  Not once, since that change have I heard one complaint or even one grumble about a spouse being biased to his/her partner... and since there are generally A LOT of complaints and A LOT of gripes, not once, has ever anyone questioned the changing of this rule.  To me it is simple, agility has rules, if the judge does not follow theses rules it is noticed, end of story.  Whether it is your husband or your grandmother or your long lost great aunt's toyboy running, it does not matter, a dropped bar is a dropped bar...  This is one of the reasons that I got stuck in Agility as far as dog sport goes, well there are a million reasons, but the biased in the rest of the dog world is like nails on a blackboard to me, a real pet peeve.  Unfortunately a judge still cannot compete in ANY discipline held under the same license on the same show grounds where he/she is judging.  To me this is also slightly retarded, of course your first duty should lie with judging.  BUT if you have completed your class entirely, without rushing and taking short cuts and you have put in a hard day of judging, why should you not be allowed to run in another class if it is still running?

Now on to the second rule change, which the guys in the UK seems to be taking quite well, has become a huge, massive cat-fight inducing problem around here.  Mainly on the baiting aspect of the double handling game.  We had frequent instances where friends would stand outside the ring and throw a toy, or where a handler would ask someone to place there lead at the last jump.  We are a lot more informal than European countries and never have more than two rings running at the same time, so dogs are often allowed to just run full speed out of the ring and romp about.  I was reminded about the dangers of this last week when a dog shot straight over the last jump and charged another dog that was loose outside the ring.  But that set aside, for years, people have been getting away with double handling, baiting and general assistance from outside the ring.  In a recent spate of judges trying to crack down on the problem, they went completely overboard, being too rigid and penalizing dogs for nothing.

We ended up losing quite a few entries over certain debacles.  My point is that double handling will ALWAYS be subjective.  If I leave my own dog to his ways, he would shoot straight over the last jump and to my camping chair where I leave my ball, but since I don't feel this is right I will always recall him.  Yet he is still making an attempt at going there?  Would some judges fault this? Maybe. For me it is an issue when the handler has LOST control.  Being it to another person or another dog or a toy or a lead or a butterfly or a train crash... When the handler loses control to something outside of the agility ring, that is when I start thinking about faulting.  But there will never be a black and a white.  Personally I think that is what makes good judges and bad judges, judges that have sense will know when to fault.

In the South African rules a dog continually 'jumping up and snapping at the handler' is cause for elimination, which I do agree with tbh.  Not talking about the odd Border Collie nip in a baby dog/awkward handling 'wtf do  you want me to do stupid handler' kind of thing, I am talking about a dog that actually runs into wings because he is too busy doing manwork on his handler.  Now lets say hypothetically there was a dog and handler that was particularly guilty of this sin.  I mean this particular person runs with long OVEN MITTS to avoid walking of the course with blood dripping down her arms.  Yet,  I have taken so much sh!t for eliminating that dog every single time, so yes, I guess some things will always be biased...

Me?  I am a strict judge, people know that, so they obey the rules when I judge.  I also try and have enough stewards to take leads etc. but this is very hard, as we are such a small community.  But damn I try to be fair...

Just interesting that the same rules and rule changes arise on the other side of the equator too...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Training Shows

First show of the year done and dusted...

I am quite happy with the result, even though there is still a little bit of fine-tuning to do.  Now before I give the rundown on the show, let me mention this.  In all my infinite wisdom and intense training over December, I neglected a couple of things... namely spreads and the long jump...  everything else got trained.  So what happens?  Why Chaos knocks the spread and the long jump of course.  Haha, at least it proved that my training helped.  So guess what we will be training this week???

Volt went with of course and the little golden boy that he is, continued to amaze me.  We ran around like hooligans a bit and did some general socializing.  Him and BC Sassy (imp UK) had a huge game, the high Voltage gaining advantage by climbing on top of me and Sassy's owner.  He did all his tricks with no fuss, even entertaining a friend's daughter by continually giving her his paw.  Never have I had a puppy this happy and 'issueless'.  I have said it before and I will say it again, thank you Jenny for this amazing boy!

I have been thinking of trying a different start line routine for a while now and I am happy to say that it works.  Oh hat of zeus, this is going to require one of my infamous explanations.  Chaos has terrible terrible downs.  I mean in the house or in a very neutral environment they are quite good, but if there is the remote possibility of doing agility, even if the first obstacle is a remote dot on the horizon, Chaos finds a down position very very hard.  Yes, yes we can trace it back to some fundamental mistakes in my training, hell it won't even be that hard, but let's rather talk about fixing the problem.  I like down stays, my personal opinion is that a dog can get the best acceleration from this position.  I like my dogs starting from quite a distance from the first obstacle.  If the arena allows, often 7 or 8m.  The other problem with Chaos is that if you place him in a sit or down stay he places ALL his weight on his front quarters, often causing a stumble or faceplant before he has even reached the first jump.

So 6 months ago, I started a new routine in training.  I would walk him (off lead) to a relatively desirable distance from the first jump and stand facing away from the jump and wait... intitially, I waited... and waited... and waited, Chaos staring at me, every few seconds quickly glancing at the jump, just to make sure the agility grinch hadn't made it magically dissapear, and waited... la-di-da-di-da... and waited.  Eventually Chaos would move his bum in line with me (ie now his head was past my back facing toward the jump) and start his painstaking process of downing.  Seriously it must be the world record for the slowest downs, the strain it must take on his muscles is definitely more than an entire agility course.  It took some time, but he gets it now.  We finally have a routine that does not involve me pushing him into a down and then returning to him 7 and a half times to push his bum down.  We walk to the start (off lead)  I stop at the desirable distance, facing away from the jump, he moves himself past me and downs. Voila!  Anyhow it worked, definitely much more relaxed starts!

So back to the important stuff.  We ran contact first yesterday, relatively straight forward course, with two small sections of control.  He started beautifully, with me pushing him a smidge too far for his see-saw approach, he recovered nicely.  Nice and tight onto the back cross over the next jump, which I wasn't quite expecting, so I ended up pushing him into the poles a bit wide, very good poles with good rythym.  I nearly lost my head and sent him into the wrong tunnel entry, but he was so responsive to a soft verbal and hand signal and flew to the right side.  Woohoo in both tigth spots I ran and did my front-crosses!!!  No b*tch slap for me!  He flew up the dogwalk,m but was a bit creepy on the down :(  Oh well, will keep working at it.  He got a clear and a second, if I hadn't wasted time in three places and with a normal speed dogwalk, it would have been a first.

The non-contact was next, a more technical course, although not over the top.  My one gripe about the course is a pull through off a spread, personally I don't like that sequence, I would never put it in a course I am judging, purely because I feel it is a bit of a sledgehammer for the dogs.  Anyhow,. as previously mentioned he knocked the spread and the long jump because he hasn't trained them  (the long jump was also into 'empty space' and almost 90% of the dogs knocked or turned the wrong way...  I guess South Africans need to train more long jumps), then he had a refusal, because I did not pick him up after my back cross (it was at the last jump), bad bad handler.  That might sound like a terrible round, but everything was my fault and Chaos was FLYING.  He was working like a dream.  Unfortunately certain unnamed cameramen only got half my round :)  To give you an idea, the course was 138m, my time was 32.56 seconds (=4.24m/s) WITH the refusal, which cost me 4.85 seconds which would have given me a time of 27.71 seconds (=4.98m/s).  The point is, Chaos can get there this year, if I am not a complete and utter jack*ss.

Dog Jumping was a very very straightforward serpentine course.  Up, down, up, down.  I have this teensy tinsy problem with bending down way too much when I run my dogs, as a good friend so likes to yell at the top of her voice from the side of the ring 'T*ts OUT!*.  So I did it again, bent down, causing a knock, but the rest was brilliant going at over 5m/s.

Hmmm, now I just sound like I am bragging.  I am not, I am not!  Just trying to express my progress!  And one thing that is very very apparent on all these vids... I am letting up on my handling before the last jump and Spaz visibly slows down, another thing to train...

Just a quick note: I so wish there was a way to standardise course measuring.  I mean no insult to any judges out there, we all have different perspectives, but if you take my two agility rounds.  I had a good contact round, and even if my slow dogwalk cost me a full second (it wasnt that much) it would translate to 0.10 m/s and I ran this course in 3.86m/s.  Yet I ran my non-contact course (with a 4.85 second refusal) at 4.24m/s, without the refusal it would have been near 5m/s. If you look at it another way, it means that I lost 7.45 seconds on my contact round... erm I don't think so.  That is just not realistic.  I mean you can watch the videos for yourself and decide... but really...  Unfortunately I did not watch one of the judges measure their courses, which I normally do, so I cannot comment.  It is just a thought.

Just a few thoughts on today...  My entire day got caught up in work, agility admin for the province, ridiculous traffic and shopping woes...  I was so wired by the time I got to the dogs, but each and every one of my boys topped my training and playing and hanging out expectations today.  After a busy and generally crappy day, they came through for me.  And that ladies and gentleman, is why I live with dogs!

Looking forward to Lee Gibson's visit next week, it is going to be filled with workshops and seminars, haha now if only I can get all the admin done that goes with it!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Time and Birds

Sigh, back at work, I would be lying if I said that I am back in the swing of things, but I have miraculously managed to drag myself into the office every day this week.  At least I am lucky, my working hours are from 05h00 to 13h00 (that is if I manage to leave the office on time), which gives me glorious afternoons with the boys and plenty of time to train.  And since the 'life-long insomniac' in me, wakes the 'I would love some more sleep' me at the latest 03h00 every morning, regardless of work, the hours don't bug me.  Of course there are other advantages, like reduced blood pressure which can be caused by peak traffic road rage.  Being in the office on my own for a few hours and getting some work done, before an endless stream of interruptions by colleagues.  Morning coffee tastes better when it is still dark, I don't know why, but it is a fact.  None of my neighbours are awake when I chase after my puppy in my underwear.  Sometimes the owl that frequents our garden is still around, that really is a pretty cool one.  I get to read the newspaper first.  But the best thing is still the time with my dogs.

There are many ways to organise your dogs daily schedule.  Each of the very successful handlers (well in South Africa anyway) has a different opinion about what a working dog should be doing during the day.  Some just let their dogs roam the yard during the day, others crate their dogs most of the day.  A few have their dogs with them the entire day... Me?  Well first of all my dogs are never left outside when we are not there.  We live in South Africa, the chances of some jack*ss tossing something poisonous/hazardous/disgusting/foul/old/vrot over your wall, is a huge possibility.  Second thing is that Delta is certifiable.  If I am not there to remind him to take deep breaths to get a little bit of oxygen to his brain, he will go ballistic at anything that moves in or close the yard, particulary motorbikes, hadidas (for those that don't know these big*ss loud birds, please see picture below), helicopters and invisible flying saucers (well it MUST be that, because I sure as hell can't see them).  I also don't want to risk any of my dogs getting injured while we are not there.  I also like to have 'fresh' dogs when I get home, better for training.  Besides, except for the odd nutter like Delta dog, most dogs sleep when we are not around.  So when I get up (anytime between 02h30 and 03h45), I run around with Volt in the garden, like a maniac for a little while, throw a few balls for the older boys, chill with them, feed them and let them be.  When Ants leaves at 08h00 or 09h00 in the mornings, he shuts the dogs in the house.  Delta in his crate, otherwise he opens and climbs through the windows, Echo in the bathroom, otherwise he picks the lock to the dogfood room and helps himself, Volt in his crate, because he is a maniac puppy.  The other two get to lounge around in the lounge.

Huge *ss, Loud Hadida.  Common birds in South Africa.

So by the time I get home, my dogs are well rested and ready to go.  Depending on the time of year, I will do 2 or 3 training sessions a day (of about 5min each).  Okay so now I am finally going to get to my point.  I believe that there is a time for everything in your dog's life:

1.  Training.
Benefit to me:  I love agility and I love training my dogs.
Benefit to the dogs:  They love agility and they love training.
2.  JUST play.  Yes, all my dogs think agility is a huge, very fun game, but sometimes they should be able to catch a ball or tug, without having to hear one command from you.  Play does not ONLY have to be a reward.  At least once a day, I just play with the dogs.
Benefit to me:  I get to sit on my arse, while my dogs get rid of some excess energy.
Benefit to the dogs:  They get rid of excess energy and it does wonders for their fitness.
3.  Just hanging out.  Not cuddling necessarily, but just chilling in each others company.  I love to cuddle my dogs, but not all of them agree with this.  Chaos's favourite place is on my feet, where ever I go, but oh zeus, don't try and cuddle him.  He looks at you in a disgusted fashion and then buggers off to a corner behind the couch where I CANNOT cuddle him.  Echo on the other hand, is a Pringle, once you pop, you can't stop.  He doesn't just rest his head on your leg, he pushes down with the power of a magnetic forcefield.  So I know my dogs and spend the quality time that THEY like with each of them.
Benefit to me:  Keeps me semi-sane.  Does wonders on a bad day.
Benefit to the dogs:  They love me, why wouldn't they enjoy this.
4.  Free running, doing in the yard/field what they would like to do, without you interfering every 5 seconds.
Benefit to me:  I get 5 seconds to vacuum the bale of dog hair that has accumulated, before they come in and start shedding all over again.
Benefit to the dogs:  They get to pee on all 11 the trees in the garden... twice.
5.  Being restricted/crated.  Take my word for it, this really is a GOOD thing for dogs, so all you bunny-huggers that protest outside my house with animal rights posters and fake blood... get a life and READ a bit.  Dogs also need their alone/down time, but often they cannot create this time for themselves.  My dogs love their crates, they spend a lot of time in them voluntarily, would they do that if I was being oh so cruel? 
Benefit to me:  I also need down time sometimes.  And I know I have created a place of safety which I can use in case of an emergency.
Benefit to the dogs:  They get a bit of time off.  It prevents them from becoming over-stimulated.  They have a safe place.

I try and work all those things into my dogs' daily schedule, it is not always possible, but I make sure they get plenty of everything.  I call it the 5 step plan to maintaining sanity.  Those 5 things do wonders for me, and it does wonders for my dogs.  I do take them out for walks, but not as often.  South Africa is not a dog friendly or dog aware country.  There are very few places where dogs are allowed (closest one is about 15km from me), there are many many strays and often people don't shut their dogs up properly, so walking around the neighbourhood is not really an option.  And it is not the safest country in the world.  Just two months ago, two of my agility friends were attacked while walking their Shelties in the park next to our show grounds.  I do try to take them swimming and walking at the dog park at least once every two weeks.  And of course they get to go to shows every week.

And ofc my cats also demand their fair share of attention.

First show of the year in 2 days, woohoo!  It is about time.  Goal number one, is to maintain the aggressive running style handling that I  have been practising, I would like to avoid anyone taking me up on that b*tch slap invitation.  I am not making predictions or jinxing anything, but I am fit, Chaos is fit, we have trained, we have bonded even more.  We are ready.  I am so organised this year, that I have already prepared all the Gauteng League templates... how nerdy is that?

I am being so nerdy today that I already have another blog post in mind for later today.  Hat of zeus, sometimes my addiction to my dogs and agility even freaks me out, but at least I am admitting the problem.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hmmmm... 2011

I am a bit of a coward sometimes, I never want to write down my goals or tell people about them, well agility-wise in anyway, because I am sh*t scared I will be forced to read/hear how I failed my dogs in reaching those goals...  But for 2011, what the hell, time to (wo)man up!

I am ambitious for the year, even though I only realised SOME of my goals for last year and those towards the very end.  This will be Spaz's first full year in Grade 3 and I can't wait for it.  Think I am also more ready for it, last year December (well 2009 but you know what I mean) I was busy doing 2 things... lazing around on my fat arse and planning the wedding.  But this year (meaning 2010) I trained... a lot...  I worked on everything, his speed and accuracy, fitness (mine and his), muscle building, my handling... bla bla bla you get the idea.  So this year I want to be consistent and AGGRESSIVE in my handling, it works for Chaos.  So if any of you see me walk a course and utter silly things like 'I can't get there for that cross' or 'I will never make it', or you witness me run a slacking round dawdling along behind my boy, I officially give you permission to come and b*tch slap me, kay?  I am DEFINITELY not the most talented handler around, and maybe I don't have the super-fastest Border Collie, but training makes up for a lot, so WATCH THIS SPACE.

Since I am not training with anyone at the moment and I don't have access to other agility equipment, I have just been training on my own equipment in our yard, BUT at least I have finally gotten into the habit of setting up the video camera and taping my training every single day...  and I actually watch the videos!  Every single day. 5 times... at least... on normal speed....  and then some frame by frame/slow motion...  Ant's things it is early onset of dementia or obsessive compulsive disorder.  Now look when he (inevitably) finds me wandering around the yard in his underwear, circling each weave pole seven times, before tapping each slat on the A-Frame twice while mumbling the lyrics of Simply the Best to myself...  well at that point he is welcome to have me certified and admitted, but until then he will have to grin and bear the obssessive video watching and tripping over the tripod which is now semi-permanently in the kitchen...

All this obsessing about my training has actually helped me a great deal mentally too, I feel more confident that I CAN get there, I can get those pole entries, Chaos knows what the hell he is doing, even when I suck.  I am ready for the year, roll on agility shows!  Saying all this is all good and well, but then there have been no shows for more than a month, so we will have to wait and see if we really are on form.

Last year Chaos won his first QC (Qualifying Certificate) towards his Championship Status in Contact Agility.  This at his first show in Grade 3 nogal. So Goal Number One, is to achieve championship status in at least two of the three disciplines, ambitious, I know, but nothing compared to the rest of my plans...  There will be aproximately 68 QC's per discipline available at the Champ Shows I am planning to compete at this year, so really it should be doable.  The first Champ shows aren't until March though, so I am not thinking about this goal yet.

Goal Number Two, qualify top ten for the SA Champs/AWC Try-Outs, this means CONSISTENCY CONSISTENCY CONSISTENCY, but of course I want FAST and consistent, so should be a challenge...  The first trial is in 19 days exactly, so I am trying to do the whole mental preperation thing... you can do it!

Goal Number Three, podium finish at the SA Champs.  This is a hard one, and if I cannot attain this goal its fine, as long as I come as close to it as I possibly could.  We are back on grass this year, which I prefer.. not for Chaos, he copes very nicely on any surface, but for me.  I run better on grass.

Goal Number Four, drumroll please, I want to make the World Team and go to France.  Regardless of what I say regarding Goal Number Four, someone, somewhere is going to read this and think 'hat of zeus, you are an arrogant little cow' (by the way, you don't just have to think it, you are welcome to say it to me), so I will just go ahead and speak my mind anyway.  Looking at the depth of the South African Teams, past, present and future, I think that if (and that is a big IF) I can keep it together, Chaos does deserve to go.  Still a lot of unrealised potential left in that dog and I plan to make it surface this year.

So those are the four major goals, some little ones that I am not going to mention right now, but you get the idea.  Haha, so next year this time I can read this post again and go... you are such a jackass!

You know what the coolest thing is about this year?  O hat, did I just say coolest, don't think I have said that since high school... anyhow starting to ramble again... the nice thing about this year is that I have a puppy to train.  A very keen and happy and amazing puppy... I can't wait!  Come here 2011 and let me kick yer arse!