Sunday, July 31, 2011

Clear Rounds, Golf Balls and Raving Biscuits

*All the awesome agility pictures on my blog are courtesy of Melissa Wilson...

July is definitely not my month... not when it comes to vet's bills anyway... After Delta came back from an extended holiday at my parents (see my mother gets Border Collie Withdrawal Symptoms, BCWS, which can only be treated with BC visits of course), I discovered two things, 1.  The groomers my mother had so good-heartedly taken Gwell to, had SCISSOR-TRIMMED my friggin Border Collie???  Now I ask you with tears in my baby blue eyes, who scissor trims a BC???  I mean I DO prefer my short coated BC's, but that doesn't mean I want to turn my beautiful very nice breed looking BC into a short-coat!  Secondly I discovered a huge blood pocket in his ear... not THAT surprising, since Delta has the tendency to be slightly insane and run into stuff...  Anyhow, so had to have that drained, which is quite a disgusting process...  He was put under anaesthetics, they drained as much as they could, stitched up the ear and off to home we went. However you have to understand that this is quite a disgusting and inconvenient scenario.  A.  The ear still drained for 24 hours afterwards, which meant that every time Delta would shake his head, blood would go spattering all over the place.  I was walking around with rubber gloves and dettol for a full day.  B.  We now have Delta the Satellite Dish, which is fine, except for the fact that he is still his insane, crazy self, and when he tries to run full speed somewhere, he keeps running into my legs, which leaves me with a TON of bruises, NOT fun.  C.  On top of the scissor trim, half of his head is sporting a Surgical Cut, with Frankenstein stitches, my poor boy does NOT look like a BC any more...

Now all of this, on top of a ton of agility politics, left me rather scatter brained, tired and as per the usual, slightly insane.  When I am in a state like this (I am sure you all know them), my typing skills go to sh!t, which lead to raving biscuits... well actually I was CRAVING biscuits, which I decided to share with my better half via IM, but I kind of forgot the C...  Which lead to a new saying in the Reed household.  If you are being silly, stupid, over-tired or just generally insane, you are RAVING BISCUITS... and I think I have been raving biscuits the whole week!

Now to bigger and better things.  We had a show today, Spaz and Monster were entered, so off we went with Stein along for socialisation... this makes me think, why can't I just stick to my dogs's given names?  Eish, what's up with all the nicknames???  Anyhow, I had a pretty good day... well a pretty damn good day if you ask me.  We will start off with Quake...  Now as I have mentioned before, I have always had Over the Top dogs (OTP) and Quake is my first Under the Lid dog (UTL)...  Yeah, Delta always preferred his own course design to that the judge suggested (yes, in his head the numbers were always just a suggestion) and Echo woke sleeping babies in Canada with his barking... but at least they were ALWAYS beyond excited about working.  With Quake it has taken HARD work to get him 'into' agility and it STILL sometimes fails. His contact round was one of confidence building... I let the fly-off and slide and just kept going and being happy.   However... drumroll... I am proud to announce that he had his first clear today, with a first place and there for a qualification.  Haha, when he got the pole entry I started holding my breath and around pole 9 I nearly passed out from the suspension... will he do it?  Well he did.  I mean he is not the superfast flyer speedy doggie, but I think he did well for him and it gives me hope for the future...

Spaz?  He was just the awesomeness boy.  A couple of dogs before,  me C and awesome girl Seis ran and seeing her round I KNEW it was all or nothing, so I went for ALL again.  Damn, why can't the winning rounds ALWAYS run before me, it is such good motivation. In  my quest to chase I released him way too early on his A-Frame, but he managed to get a back foot in there and then I waited too long before releasing on the dog walk, which cost me a bit of time... I finally managed to get the timing of my release right on the see-saw.  Anyhow, it is a proud second that I took.  Mostly because I have been completely in love with Seis since she has been a pup, and of course because she is one of the best agility dogs I have ever seen.  And of course I am just happy that I TRIED and I WENT for it.  Sadly there was not enough dogs for a second QC, since Spaz needs one more to become a Champ, but it is fine, I have all the time in the world, I am not in a hurry.  In the non-contact he wowed me with another brilliant round!  A bit wide between 2 and 3, and doing a couple of faceplants on the loose dry glass, but an awesome round nonetheless...  And another second to... Seis and C... haha and another proud second I must say.  In Dog Jumping he knocked a bar and came out of the poles, but it seems it was one of those days where everyone f#$ked up and he still managed a third... haha, I wanted to laugh actually...  All in all a good day with tons of dog food and rosettes coming home.

And just to make my day, Melissa brought me my newest agility pics today and they are AWESOME (As  you can see) and as a bonus L and J had taken some video of last weekends WODAC (refer to older posts) so here is the concise version of the last two weekends...

And just to show you the awesome dog that beat me today:

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Right, A Wrong and A Could Be

Ooooh, two blogposts in one day, that hasn't happened in a while...

Anyhow, I have a few varying and wide-ranging and colourful and odd and vast thoughts to share tonight, that in my opinion all comes down to one broad statement... see if you can guess which one...

First of all, I cannot stand the people in agility that have NO sense.  The formula is easy:

Training + Follow Through + Consistency = Result (Result is variable good or bad)

So when you are having a problem (thus bad results) you ask yourself:  Have I done the training?  Have I followed through, done all the steps and been thorough?  Am I consistent?  If one or more of those answers are wrong, you know what you have to do.  And if all those answers are YES (and it is one of those moments where you like REALLY have to be honest with yourself... Do a proper confessional!)  Then I have bad news for you, but you have to FIX something with YOUR training... no use in blaming the dog or the moon or the judge or the bunny.  Sit down, analyse it, ASK FOR HELP, google it, think about it some more and make a decision.  

I have a specific handler in mind here, one of those that says 'but at home/in training he ALWAYS does it'... which I wouldn't know, since I don't live in her house and I don't train with her... but I can tell her exactly what the multiple parts of her problem is... 1.  Her dogs have NO boundaries, off the course they are allowed to do WHATEVER they want.  2.  She is inconsistent as all hell (is hell inconsistent?  No clue, never been there)  3.  She rushed ALL her training, there was no follow through... cool you have succeeded in step 1 ONCE, so now lets skip to step 13...  The worst part... it is her THIRD agility dog and every single one of them have the same problems... but don't you worry it is ALWAYS the dog's fault.  Drives me friggin bananas!

The second lot that irritate me AND makes me sad... is the lot that made such huge mistakes in agility training that the dog crawls around the course, with the tail between the legs.  Poor things REALLY doesn't want to be there.  Now recently an unnamed person posted JUST such videos of their dog... me and a friend happened to be chatting and she mentioned how horrified she was by all this.  As it turns out, this specific person had asked both our advice early on with this puppy and we BOTH  mentioned that she was hammering the dog WAY too hard as a puppy.  The dog was creeping over contacts and stopping in a 2o2o by EIGHT months old.  Needles to say, said person did NOT listen to us.  What makes it worse is that she thinks a course of 15 obstacles taking her 5 hours and three minutes now, tail tucked between the legs is GOOD.  May I just say that this person has been involved in dog training for more than 20 years and has had super high drive dogs, so she is under no illusions.  Now I may be sounding harsh on this one, but I just have this view on things...  I can also not afford to get ALL the agility dvd's and books... seeing around here we have to import everything... books, dvd's, dogs, trainers, the works.  BUT the internet is a wonderful thing.  There is SO much information available for free.  Especially since quite a few people I know of has given her this information.

My pet peeve in the world, are those that think there is only ONE way... now they can also be categorised in separate categories.  First of all there are the worshippers and the quoters.  This lot, fixates on one handler/trainer/person and every single thing this person says HAS to be written in the agility bible... oh but if 'insert name here' it HAS to be right and it IS the only way... erm by that logic there should only be ONE person that wins every single event, every single time.  No-one is perfect people, use your OWN logic for once.  SO many people have helped me along my agility path, international guys that have never met me and probably never will, local people that also don't know, trainers the realise their influence... Take what you can use from every person you meet, but leave the blinders to gather dust in your closet.

The other category in this lot, are the ones that happened to have a successful career with one (sometimes two) dogs using a specific recipe and now they think they have found IT(it being THE agility secret)... these handlers then attempt the same recipe on all of the dogs to follow and when it fails or does not succeed to the same extent... they try and force it on the dog and when this does not work, they BLAME it on the dog.  In fact one situation comes to mind, a very sad day indeed... Said handler, tried for years to apply training methods to dogs following a first dog's  international success, but failed.  Said handler had living restrictions regarding dogs and ended up re-homing two dogs and having another PTS claiming 'unfixable' behavioural problems.  Said handler has not since returned to agility or dog training in general...

The next problem is those that refuse to grow and research and learn.  These handlers tend to blame it either on circumstances or the dog.  It might be one of the hardest things in life, but ACCEPT your mistakes and learn from them.  Don't blame it on the judge, the course, the bees or the birds (and I mean that literally).  Just learn and keep track of agility life.... it does wonders.  A perfect example from the past weekend comes to mind, but I would be crucified if I mentioned it, since WAY too many people that read this blog would figure it out...  Also included in this lot though, are those (including friends) that refuse to understand dog behaviour... Example... create drive by shutting your dog in a crate/puppy pen/enclosure while watching you do agility with your other dogs.  Said puppy/young dog/new dog going ballistic means it now has drive.... Erm, by my opinion... wrong.  First of all being completely over-stimulated is bound to make your dog go insane... I can attest to this from both perspectives... I have Delta, whom I over-stimulated, that will go nuts for any movement as I have mentioned repeatedly in past posts... and just thinking of myself at the Feb Rammstein concert...  ooh pretty fire, music, people... etc etc... complete sensory overload.  Second of all, just knowing my own dogs... if your dogs love you (which they all do) they are bound to be keen/interested/insane while I am working, playing or sometimes even looking at another dog...  Now I truly believe in dogs learning from each other to a certain extent.  And I do sometimes crate my pups where they can see me training my older dogs for a reason.  But this has nothing to do with 'creating drive'.  That to me is a basic fact I have learnt in my life with dogs AS WELL as a ton of research and reading. Just as an example, a handler this weekend was raving about the fact that their dog was going nuts in the high energy environment that we were competing in... which she was.  However, Spaz still beat her by miles, while he was so chilled and fell asleep when he was not competing.  My point being, dogs going insane while watching/being in the vicinity of agility is not drive.... it is prey instinct or over-stimulation.  I can name so many other examples... once again, from the past weekend, a dog lunging out at everything that moves, where I will put money on the fact that the dog has been allowed uninhibited prey-drive, but the owner claims it to be 'agility drive'.... bla bla, if you have sense you will get what I am saying.

I can name at least 10 more categories of handlers/trainers/spectators/teachers/random people that I have issues with, but I think you get the idea by now.  Just by writing this post I am admitting to making most (if not all) of these mistakes, but I am hopefully learning and growing.  The first step of recovery is admitting the problem right?

My point is, ladies and gentleman, Agility as such is a learning curve.  Our dogs differ, we differ.  Take what you can and work with it.  Each dog and each day is different.  Embrace it.  This is my philosophy with each of my students, each of my dogs and each of my days  Please don't mistake this for being without a backbone... I have my core beliefs and laws and regulations and rules, and I will bet my life on them, I just always believe there is room for improvement. 

Now I know I have made this post in other times/formats/methods, but OBVIOUSLY the right people did not read it or the people did not take it right :) 

Crowds, Competing and A Win

Here in South Africa we have an annual event called World of Dogs and Cats (WODAC).  A public exhibition, aimed at creating awareness for responsible pet ownership... well among other things.  This event always hosts a load of demo's and competitions for all the dog disciplines, although these are not licensed, they are all sanctioned by our Kennel Union.  It has been hosted in three of our major cities.

Now I have never been a huge fan, for various reasons.  First of all, a lot of the events are in the 'fun event' category and as I have mentioned before, I am not a great 'fun event' enthusiast.  I have no issues with these events and kudos to those that enjoy them, personally I like my agility as well... just that proper agility.  Secondly, I DO NOT DO crowds, I heard rumours that more than 100 000 people came through the doors in 2009.  Of course a large percentage of these are kids (yes the two legged brat kind) and I do kids even less than I do crowds.  Kids scream, rarely have manners, are hardly ever good with dogs.  Kids cannot be clicker trained, legally you are not allowed to shut kids in crates when they need down time.  Kids don't walk to heel... in general not my thing.  The third reason why I have not been a huge fan of WODAC is because the benching area at their previous venue, was IN the hall, noisy and busy and open to the public.  Not cool.

Anyhow so this year, I decided not to pre-enter any of the events, however I DID accept my entry to the invitational event on the Saturday.  See WODAC is also our only annual opportunity to compete indoors, so the experience is always valuable.  On Friday however, I had to drop off some things for some of the judges, so I decided to take Volt with, you know some good socialisation for the pup and he LOVES people.  The happened to be short on table staff, so I ended up staying the whole day and helping out.  And surprise, surprise, I enjoyed it.  Although there was little public on the first day of the event and it being a working day, the atmosphere was nice and all the agility guys were in good spirits.  So what was supposed to be a two hour round-trip turned into a whole day affair.  At the end of the day, the organiser of the event offered me entries into the rest of the events for the weekends.  I decided to enter and see what happened, if I did not feel like competing, so be it.

Saturday did not start off well, I arrived later in the day and had to park FAR away, trek all my crates, bags, dog and general agility stuff all the way across the parking lot.  I was not a very happy camper after this, but continued to compete anyway.  Luckily I had decided just to take Spaz with.  Our first competition was one of the many fun events and Chaos had a BALL, it was a weave event and I pulled him out of the last entry, but he still got a 5th place (I think).  I was already in a better mood.  In the agility and dog jumping events on Saturday, I made small mistakes, but Chaos was going like a Boeing and loving the atmosphere.  I really enjoyed the day in the end, so I decided to attend the Sunday.

Early Sunday morning, me and Spaz and Voltenstein were off, I decided I wasn't going to risk parking a mile away again.  And as an added bonus, I got to run around in the main ring with Stein before the venue opened to the public.  He did some of his tricks and got to tug and play around.  First up was contact agility, luckily for me the best round of the day was shortly before mine.  Having watched that, I knew that it was all or nothing and I decided to go for the all part.  Spaz had a brilliant flying round.  He DID crash into the tire, costing me some time...  I didn't actually SEE the crash (I was ahead of him), but friends assured me it wasn't too bad and Spaz didn't seem sore or stiff at all afterwards.  He ended up second in a very competitive class. Next up was the 60 weave pole event.  I was doing this for laughs, I don't think Chaos has ever done more than 12 poles AND the weave poles are his worst obstacle, he is quite slow and struggles with rhythm.  Anyhow Spaz surprised me and did it perfectly and recorded the 4th fastest time for the weekend.  Then we had tunnelers, where once again Chaos recorded the 4th fastest time (I think, such a busy weekend I lost track).  Our last event for the day, was knock-out pairs Dog Jumping and Spaz got a tied third place!

Unfortunately I didn't get ANY of my rounds on camera :(  Yes, I know, ME, Mrs. Video Camera... shocking hey?

So what is the point of this little story?  Well I am 'Agility Happy' again, very unexpectedly so.  I have had a few disappointments the last while and I NEEDED a win in agility, I NEEDED a good weekend.  And I had one.  So what changed at WODAC this year?  Well not all that much, the venue was PACKED, no space for a mouse to move.  Struggling your way through the crowds between benching and the rings was a NIGHTMARE, especially considering the crowd (for supposed pet lovers) was VERY unaware of dogs.  Of course this meant A LOT of kids.  There were as many fun events as in the past.  However the benching area was a PLEASURE, in a separate room, quiet from the venue noise and I did not see any public in the area where we benched, although I did not really see any access control.

So why am I sitting here, happy as a lark.  Stiff and tired from a full weekend of agility, but content.  I don't know and I don't care.  Sometimes I have to stop over-analysing everything and just enjoy my agility I guess. Lesson learnt.  We have quite a few shows coming up, so we will see how that goes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The process, the negative parts and the results

I will be very honest with you, oh wait... I am ALWAYS too honest..  I was fast-tracked into being a trainer/coach... in the late 90's agility just started taking off and I joined the biggest 'agility club' at that stage... it was situated 55km from our house, but oh my, I made my poor (AWESOME) mother drive there every single training day, even three days after I had the first op to have the tumours removed from my wrist... I was there cast on my arm and bandaging on my hip (where they removed the bone for the bone replacement) and all hopped up on painkillers.  After less than a year of me doing agility, with random pet dogs... as a 13-year-old... I got promoted to the position of trainer.  I will always regret the bad advice and STUPID views that I had to share at that stage, but the results I saw from various methods of training and situations provided me with invaluable experience... Sigh at the expense of my students...

In the late 90's I qualified for my first national championship.  This event turned my life, because of support I got unexpectedly from OTHER clubs in my province.  After returning from this event I joined another club which caused drama that would scare the best soapie writer.  All of the drama aside, the years that were to follow taught me the most important aspects of agility.  Now I have never listed these aspects to myself, but here are some of the most important things.

1.  You can learn something from 99.9% agility handlers and/or dogs, beginners or advanced.  If you listen or look carefully enough, there is a lesson.
2.  Do the research.  If you are going to learn anything or defend your view, make sure you have all past and present research and build on it.
3.  Commit and follow through (be consistent).  Once you start applying a method, the only way to prove it right or wrong is to fully commit to it.  To prove or disprove a method you have to go through the good and the bad and have all the information.
4.  Be creative.  All dogs and handlers and all dog/handler combinations differ, so each solution to a problem will be unique.

Okay,so those are just a few aspects of agility training, Alett's way, but I want to get to the real point of the post...

I was asked for some advice, indirectly, but the handlers involved were absolutely AWESOME and gave me feedback about the whole situation.  And it was good feedback.  Now first of all, this was just me chatting casually to a friend, it had no part of my official training (where I EXPECT results)... secondly I couldn't care WHO'S advice helped, but I am a super sucker for agility success...

So after a few short days, my random thoughts seemed to have helped.  But this brings me to another point of teaching, coaching and agility in general.  Said handler is sol happy with the results, BUT the big test will come when the bad days come.  In every training method, in every dog, in every handler and just in agility, the bad days come.  The frustration, the wanting to smash things, the failures and the downright NEED to just give up.  If a trainer/handler/teacher/PERSON can work through this, you KNOW they are going to succeed, regardless of whether the specific details they are dealing with resolves the issue.  It is the follow-through that determines the success.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Courses, judging and thick skins

Quake-Monster is hypnotised by Bat Ears Delta

I enjoy judging, I really do.  BUT damn it is hard work...  okay to explain the South African situation...  judges DO NOT get paid, not even your travel expenses.  Sometimes you receive a thank you gift (I have been given the strangest things, ranging from towels to flash lights), but not always.  And every so often you do not even get refreshments.  Ring parties are mostly not organised before hand, so as a judge, unless you have a family you can blackmail or friends you can bribe, you have to beg, borrow and steal people to help you out at the table.  Sometimes handlers will help you build your course, other times you are left with one helper and yourself...

Now I don't really mind all of that actually... I like putting up my own courses and in fact would not have it any other way.  And I have always had nice handlers volunteer to score/time keep classes they are not running for me.  So I am not moaning, I am just pointing out that judging around here is hard work.  Added to that I put a lot of effort into my courses, it takes me hours to design them and tweak them and put up sections in my garden...  I also read through the rules every single time before I judge, even though I know most of them by heart, just to be sure.  So after a day of judging, I am pretty knackered.

Anyhow back to yesterday, my courses were technical but fast and I set my course times quite tight.  I DID have a few silent protests, people doing their own course rather than mine, but oh well, I have a thick skin I can take it...  I had a few 'not so silent' protests too, but I refer you back to the whole thick skin thing.  Now I appreciate feedback and input from my courses and judging, but on the day I am the judge and I will uphold the rules of our Kennel Union.  I know my rules and I am confident in my judging (although I have never had any complaints about this part at least).

So I started off with my Contact Agility 3 class:

There were some beautiful moments on this course, but a lot of struggles too.

I had a few missed pole entries and some HEAVY managing on that pole entry.  A few refusals due to handling on 5.  Very wide turns after 10.  A lot of handlers tried to go left after 12, but most of them failed, quite a few dogs cut the long jump and headed for the A-Frame, or put a foot in the long jump or banked some of the elements.  Decidedly the most struggles came between 15 and 16... as a trainer and a judge and a handler my opinion here is that no handler had an independent see-saw and everyone was left behind because they had to manage that.  I also saw a lot of missed contacts in general.  Unfortunately I did not get one clear round on this course out of the 17 dogs entered in this class (1 x Small, 4 x Medium and 12 x Large).

My old man, the first born, Echo, still insisting on wrestling the toy from the youngsters.

Next up was the Grade 2 contact agility, which consisted of a whopping 3 dogs (2 x small and 1 x large)... always a bit depressing to judge such small classes, but that might just be cause I want the WHOLE world to do agility.  The course was as follows:

Not much to comment on, as there were so few competitors...

My Grade 1 Contact Agility Course produced some clears, which made me very happy, as I like to sign cards :)

Just as a note, we are an FCI country and run agility according to FCI regulations, hence we have the same grading system as the FCI.  One of the most important factors for me designing courses in our small little country is to design grade appropriate courses in a nested fashion.  So often judges around here design courses for Grade 1 courses that are more difficult than the Grade 3 courses, first of all because they think that simply removing obstacles or shortening the course somehow makes it easier.  This is the biggest mis-conception in designing nested courses.  The second problem we have with course design, is 'lazy judges' that are not willing to move one single obstacle for grade changes... Now it takes me about 5min to change my courses between grades, even though as you can see I change obstacles and angles... yeah I must look slightly ridiculous since I sprint around the field doing it... which I feel I owe my competitors and it is my responsibility as a judge... haha and ofc I would also like to get home before dark.

Now a quick explanation for my UK and USA readers.  Here in South Africa, Non-Contact Agility (JWW or Jumping) is considered a separate discipline and also has a completely separate Championship Status.  On Sunday I was judging both, but for once decided not to do a nested Contact and Non-Contact course...  Kudos to nearly all the handlers that helped me clear the first course and set up my second, with S, C and J getting special mentions for their help.  I once again started off with my Grade 3 course, since it is easier for me as a judge to 'build down' vs. 'building up'.

In this class I managed to get two clear rounds from the 21 dogs entered (1 x small, 4 x medium and 16 x large).  Both clears were in the large, with the small and medium dogs picking up time faults.  Most problems were encountered between 6 and 7 and some handling faults into the weave poles.  Some handlers also lost their dogs after three to obstacle number 11.  I loved this course and it was exciting to judge, even though it was rather 'easy'.  The handling was a bit messy in general, but there were some very good moments.

Volt in full flight and smiling all the way

My Grade 2 course, was very easy for the grade and clear rounds were missed only by some unfortunate bars.

My heat and soul, the Spaz (aka Chaos)

My Grade 1 Non-Contact course, produced quite a few lovely clear rounds and I got to sign more cards, yippee for me!  The best one being a whopping round run at 5.14m/s at his second show, watch this space kind of thing.  Well done to all that made me catch my breath with some good moments on the day.  I think it is time that I started looking for some overseas judging appointments, seeing as how much I love judging and enjoy the challenge!

Another explanation is necessary, here in South Africa, we have a third discipline called Dog Jumping, which has been going since the early 80's (before agility went official or international). It started off only with large dogs, jumping insane heights (up to 85cm and spreads could be 70cm wide) and weave poles were set 45cm apart originally, but has evolved with agility. Basically there are two grades and three height categories.  The top grades have 14-15 obstacles, while the entry grades have 12 obstacles, they include hurdles,tire jumps OR 'hole-in-the-wall-jumps', the long jump, tunnels (both cloth and rigid), the table and weave poles.  There are a lot of minor differences which I will not bore you with.  But the major difference and what makes the sport exciting, is the fact that all the dogs that go clear in the first round, compete again, over a shortened course, in what we call a jump-off to determine the winner.  Not being able to compete on Sunday (our rules stipulate that any judge may NOT compete in any other discipline at the same show), I got to enjoy the excitement and video the whole deal... ofc I the obsessive compulsive side of me had to make a video about it... so here it is:

Please note that I had to include the kick-a$$ little JRT that was only competing at her second show!

Oh and the other big news is that me and Movie Maker could not settle our argument until I shortened my other AWC video, which means it is a bit out of sink with the music, but after hours and hours and hours and stuff being thrown and laptops being threatened I couldn't care, so here it is!

The Gorgeous Voltenstein

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Balance, presents and judging

Sooooo... the responses I got (privately of course) was very diverse and surprising and some of it even made me giggle.  Calm down people, I was a bit pissy... it happens every now and again you know.  I am not clinically depressed, manic depressed, schizophrenic, bipolar... yes, I am slightly insane, but if you read this blog you already know that...

Anyhow, on to bigger and better things...  if any of you are IRL friends (for the non computer nerds, irl= in real life), for my birthday you can either get me a super duper spiffy nice HD video camera or some awesome super duper high tech video editing software... I am addicted to making movies... I don't even post half of them here... I don't want to bore you guys THAT much... anyhow, I love making movies.  Haha, if you want, send me your vids and I will make some movies of them too!  Yes, on top of being insane I am weird...  anyhow, I made two quite cool compilations of the AWC last year, but then Moviemaker started fighting with me halfway through the second one.  Here is the first one, second will follow as soon as me and Windows Live have settled our argument...

Watching all these videos again, inspires me, but it also makes me think.  At the moment I am not the 'prettiest of handlers', I rely more on my training than my handling, so seeing handlers getting THEIR part right, brings me to tears... haha, no not really, but you get what I mean.

Now that all of my dogs are better again and my fingers are not swollen the size of pork bangers, I have done some training and shows and generally enjoyed my agility.  I really try to keep balance and variety as part of my training routines.  If I train complex handling sequences and advanced behaviours with Chaos once a week that is a lot.  I do speed circles, silly little one jump exercises, which are in actual fact NOT that silly and help me a lot.  At least once a week I try and proof all my contacts and weave poles, important for any 'set behaviour obstacles'.  Here is some of Chaos's training and shows over the last month:

Now although Chaos is quick, he lacks what I call 'forward momentum drive', yeah I am sure some big name trainer has already coined another term for it, but this is what I call it.  There are a lot of speedy dogs out there, they move swiftly over the ground, however there are those dogs, the use every inch of muscle to create forward momentum and build on that.  Hard to describe I guess, basically it comes down to dogs that run (albeit fast) and dogs that DRIVE forward... Chaos runs, I am hoping to teach Volt to DRIVE forward.  Actually I have been making a point of watching a lot of small dogs run all over the world, across many years the last while and it would appear that small dogs tend to just run (once again very fast), with only a special few that truely drive forward.  For now, I am having fun with Volt... actually a lot of it.  We are doing very simple foundation exercises.  The biggest surprise (to myself) is the amount of 'tricks' I have taught him.  I have never been a trick person, it's nothing personal, it has just never interested me.  But EVERYTHING is fun with Volt, he has more confidence than Spaz and Monster and he is always SO keen.  I love it, love it, love it.  So here is some things I have done with Volt in the last month:

This coming weekend I am judging and I am REALLY looking forward to it, I have designed some good, challenging courses and I am hoping for a big entry...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fans, Timing and Depression

*Author's note, my blog is classified as kid friendly (unlike me) so all rude words are substituted with any of the following !#$%^&*()

Ninja Cat - Something to cheer you up before you read.

Okay so I have not updated the blog so much recently, reason being the s#$t has struck the fan...  You know those times when it just pours down on your head?  I won't b@#$h and moan... oh wait a minute, this is MY blog, I can moan as much as I want...

I am not going to do this in chronological order, because I don't want to.  First off I will give you the full story on my Voltenstein...  Last week Wednesday, the Stein vomited in the morning, now since dogs (and especially puppies) eat stupid things and then need to vomit it out, I wasn't too concerned.  I cleaned it up, made sure there were no alarming objects in there, took his temperature which was completely normal and went on with the day. He was his lively normal self, but this was not to last.  By the afternoon he didn't even want to go outside to play, so off to the vet we went.  Temp was still normal, but he was definitely off and even attempted to vomit at the vet... dry heaving was all that happened, since there was nothing left in his body at this point.  At this point he was not dehydrated.  He got some jabs of antibiotics, vitamins and stuff for stomach cramps etc. and I took him home... just to watch him get worse through the night.  I spent the whole night looking after him, syringing water, checking temps etc.  I rushed him back to the vet first thing in the morning, where he was admitted and put on a drip.  Full blood work was done, nothing, nada, zip zero.  X-ray... also showed nothing.  He spent the night there on Thursday night and was taken on off the drip on Friday afternoon.  He seemed okay when I went to pick him up, really fine, but I guess his excitement to see me fooled us all...  By Saturday morning he was worse than before.  He was admitted again, placed back on the drip and a Barium study was undertaken.  I visited him several times over the weekend, by this time the one of  the x-rays had picked up a 'slight, possible' obstruction in his lower intestines???  Sunday morning when I visited, I took him out for a walk and he finally had a bowel movement... and it was orange???  Not solid, I mean it was a normal... poo, but it was orange?  Anyhow, whatever it was, it loose and gone and the rest of the X-rays were perfect...  Anyhow, on Monday morning they once again removed the drip and by Monday evening he was home and this time he was really fine.  Well I am lying, he was very miffed that he wasn't allowed to train or play... so yeah, he was really better.  Went for a check-up today and he was given the all clear.

Obviously I hate my dogs being sick and I want them to be better ASAP, but it really bugs me that I don't know exactly what went wrong... would have made it easier to avoid in the future right?  May I point out all the odd factors of this case?    He was constipated through-out the whole experience, but vomiting like a projectile.  His temperature never rose.  I mean it just weird.  And I also need to point out that my dogs are never left alone in the yard if we are not here, they are always crated... yeah puppies tend to nom nom nom weird stuff very quickly if unattended for like 5 seconds, but still...

Meanwhile, my own health wasn't stellar either. Not going to bore you with none dog details, but I have issues with my hands and wrists that spans 15 years.  Now I am used to swollen and sore fingers and wrists, but on Tuesday, when my two of my fingers started turning blue, well I guess it was time for an emergency visit to the doc, which of course led to multiple needle pokes (I am apparently undead and have no veins or arteries) and meds and tests and warnings and ordering to bed rest (haha, as if)... just to wake up the next morning to find the me Eckel Steckel dog is in severe pain.  It was one hell of a cold morning and Echo just refused to get up...  My old man is nearly 14 (eeeeek, freak out moment), I KNOW that this is life and his time is coming closer and if there is one thing that I promised myself a long time ago, it is that I will NOT let this dog suffer long term. He has given me everything he has in him, that is the LEAST I owe him.  So off I was to the vet again... it has been six months since he has had a full check-up, so I opted for full body x-rays and blood work on top of the anti-inflammatory injection.  If I have to be very honest, I was preparing myself that he might not come home...  I had never seen him in that much pain.  Luckily his blood work came back A-okay... however, his spondylosis have deteriorated SO much since his last x-ray (less than 6 months ago), despite the joint diet and supplements AND his milt is enlarged.  For now he is very comfortable on his higher dosage meds and thinks he is a puppy (oh, don't worry, I DO NOT allow him to go over board), but it has been the real wake-up call that my old man might not see the end of the year.  I am not going to get all sentimental and recount to you the ways this dog has changed, full-filled and saved my life right now.  At the moment I am just enjoying him.  I will take every day as it comes.  Right now he is not understanding the excessive hugs and love and kisses and indulgences, but that is okay by both of us.

My Autistic Dog , that make s my life  a little bit more complete.

Now I am going to back track for a bit.  Two weeks ago we had two shows... on Day 1 Chaos completely forgot how to do the poles?!?!?!?!  He couldn't find entries, he popped out.  I was totally gob-smacked, HOWEVER he had the most spectacular contacts he has ever had in a show... sub 2 second DW, sub 1 second see-saw and a 1.2 ish A-frame, all with perfect stop...  I was still hopeful for Day 2, by which stage he had remembered how to do his poles perfectly with me tapering about 8 meters by the way...  BUT he released himself on EVERY contact, despite me correcting them... That is the FIRST time he has EVER done that.  I was completely miserable!  And to make things worse, the Quake monster was running as well on day two...  Arg, 'kicks self', so we got this really stupid, crap, hard, ridiculous grade one contact course, which in retrospect I should have just withdrawn from (yes, I know hind-sight is 20/20), but instead I ran him.  I was on a high from his previous show, where he got all those placings and ran perfectly (well for him). Now the problem is that there were 3 jumps with a CRAP angle onto the dogwalk, and to make matters worse a tunnel staring the dogs right in the face wrapped under the dogwalk.  Not on people!  Especially since Quake has never seen this.  Now let's keep in mind that I have never run a dog with such low confidence and such high 'freak out capacity' as Quake-e-star.. wait, hold on one sec pleas... *kicks self again*... okay back to the story.  I actually tried that, why I DO NOT know... Anyhow Quake stopped dead, panicked and well... froze... no problem of course, I just ran past the dog walk (TOO LATE) and the very next obstacle was the poles...  But I had lost my poor little dog and that was that for the day... he ran each course perfectly until he got to the poles and then his mind just said cheers and good-bye.  *keeps on kicking self*.  After the weekend I was in a very deep dark hole, because I don't know what I am doing wrong anymore... I mean with Quake I did, that was an easy one, but with Chaos... Eish, the dog deserves more and if I knew WHAT to give, I WOULD.

NEXT  S$%t is of course my friend Alison's unjustified dilemma, if you haven't seen it yet:

Now this has been eating at me since the day it happened as Alison and Rob and their dogs have been a major part of my life for many years.  I cannot actually describe how I feel and how much this has affected me.  And to add to Alison's expenses, please keep in mind that our trip to the UK was to visit THEM, which we were unable to do.  So please I invite you to refund us as well!  Oh and can you also refund us the fact that we don't know when we will see our VERY close friends again???

By this stage of course I was grumpy as hell, BUT it gets worse... Now the following *pisses me off factor* pre- and post-dates all of this other crap  If you go back a few months, you will pick up on my rants and raves about the South African Agility System, in general...  to do a quick re-cap of my feelings... there are two basic systems world-wide in Agility, the consistency based system and the win-based system.  Now most countries have started combining the two, but if you use the two countries that have the largest amount of dogs competing, you get a pretty good idea...  The USA (I am mostly talking AKC, since it is what I follow the most), have a consistency titling system.. you get your double Q's toward your MACH right?   Yes, I know there are a LOAD of titles that you can achieve there, but I am trying to keep this relevant to our system...  May I point out that the USA uses a completely different system to determine World Team members and have a lot of medals to show for it? So next up is the UK, which is mostly a win-based system:  You get to Champ (Grade 7) and you have to WIN to get the Champ ticket.  Do that three times and your dog is a Champ.  This is basically how our system used to work, until a few years ago, when with much fighting and screaming and tears, the system was modified to allow the top three dogs with a clear round (no course faults and no time faults) (depending on entries) to win a Qualifying Certificate.  Win three of those and your dog is a Champion, however minimum speeds were determined to ensure that the standard 'did not drop'...  so basically the system was 'dumbed down'.  I kind of disagree with it, since I am all for wins, BUT I could still accept this.  For a local competing system this is fine.  HOWEVER my huge issue has always been with our points system that selects the team to go to the AWC... I am not going to get into the whole explanation, I am not going to give any details... because that is not my point.  I will say this:

A World Championships in ANY sport is meant to determine the best of the best.  It draws the most competitive people in the world.  It is NOT for everyone and it is not SUPPOSED to be for everyone.  Now please understand that I know and you know and the whole world knows that not ALL 400 odd dogs entered into the AWC every year have the potential to win... And I also don't think there should just be 20 dogs competing (that have the potential to win), how boring would that be?  What I am saying is that every country should be sending some of THEIR best dogs that have the potential to win.  So in other words, if your system ends up sending a dog three years in a row that do not make the times locally (or over-seas, trust me) or a dog that misses a contact EVERY single time around...  to me that is not right. If an international event inspired these handlers to come back and work on those problems and correct them, I would STILL be for them attending... but that is DEFINITELY NOT what the results have shown.

My Heart and Soul dog Chaos - He only knows how to give.

Anyhow, after coming back from the AWC (as a spectator last year) I took on a personal project.  Now my general outlook was, if you don't succeed, study the best and try to follow their example, so  I started research on all the competing countries's qualifying procedures.  This was hard work, it is only us, the USA, the UK and Canada that considers English as our primary language (or one of them).  And apparently not a lot of Europeans etc found it valuable to respond to my requests of information.  Anyhow I started comparing the qualifying systems I could find to the amount of medals won and the general competition circumstances in each country...  Haha yes, if you want a full analysis of that for YOUR country, I might just have it, so give me a shout :)  I was stupid enough to tell a few trusted people about this... now since our qualifying system has not changed AT ALL in 11 years, people listened and convinced me to take this further.  Sigh, okay going to make a long story short now:

1.  People personally attacked me, claiming that I was trying to give myself an advantage.  Erm, okay everyone, time to wake up... if a blind person selected our team for this year, he wouldn't even have selected me if I was giving him sexual favours.  I suck at agility this last while.
2.  People that 'had my back' and supposedly agreed with me (no I was not holding a gun to their head at any point), would suddenly turn against me.
3.  People ignore the facts.  I quoted many statistics in research, half of the time it was answered with 'yeah, but...'.  Dudes, I wasn't making a PERSONAL point (oh I could make a lot of those if you really asked, but I DIDN'T), I just wrote down the facts... fine YOU go and do the calculations then.
4.  Certain parties tried to make out that I was being sneaky, mean and corrupt and that my suggestions and thoughts were already a done deal.  That I had done all of this, gotten it submitted etc, without telling anyone. Haha, you so funny hey?  Lil old me, that knows NO-ONE and actually couldn't care, writes one little research document and all of a sudden I am Evil Kineval, The Joker, Magneto, The Silver Surfer, Terminator (the first one) and the Talented Mr. Ripley?  Oh my HAT.

Let me use yet another South African Analogy (I am not allowed to use SAA, it has been trademarked by South African Airlines :) ) right...

We just got these wonderful new four lane highways (apparently it had NOTHING to do with the Soccer World Cup)... Now I am fine if you want to drive 80km/h, you will still get where you want, cool with me, but then DO NOT drive in the fast lane (yup, it is the right hand lane on our side of the world)... stick to your left hand lane...  And if you are a formula one driver that has to use the public roads, go into the right hand lane and I will stay out of your way.  Oh and if you are taking the off-ramp, don't break 3km before in the left-hand lane, that is why highways are designed with OFF-ramps instead of intersections.  And if you DO drive 80km/h in the right-hand lane, don't get all upset with me and show me middle fingers if I come and sit on your arse and hoot at you and flash lights at you.

And trust me, I will have to get A LOT better at agility if I want to do all of this to give an advantage to myself... in fact that is my point!  I want to encourage people to be BETTER at agility.  I don't want to dumb down the system so that everyone can succeed at what they are doing(badly).

Arg, I will stop here.  I am pretty sure you get the idea. And if you don't, you are either a socio-path or you REALLY need to read all of that again.  So to make myself clear, for those of you that the above applies to (you KNOW who you are), I did the RESEARCH, you do the math.

And I actually have MORE to b$%ch about, but I am tired now, so not even going to bother.

So that brings me to my next point with all of the above (yes, the entire post), it did not leave me much time or will or energy or anything to do actual agility training with.  I still spent a ton of time with all my dogs, played with them, loved them, cuddled them...  I mean I have been having conversations with them for HOURS in the last two weeks... yes, I know I am weird and I know I should be institutionalised.

Regardless of al the loving they got, Chaos and Volt got severely depressed.  Chaos especially.  The Spaz wandered around the house whining, refused to eat, was just down, down, down.  Same with Volt.  Quake?  Well he lost all his confidence... the reason I am mentioning this, is because I have read a lot of blogposts lately about 'dogs only doing agility for their owners'... no sh$t Sherlock... have you EVER seen a dog train itself to do agility (I read this part on someone else's blog and then my laptop restarted randomly and I lost it, so if it is yours, please let me know and I will credit you)?  But  the point is, that once you bring agility into your dog's life, it becomes part of THEIR life and they start living for it.  It is the same as a heroin addict... SOMEONE had to introduce them to it right?

Okay so this is a very negative, tear-jerking, clinically depressed post, BUT

Today, for the first time since 26 June, I did some proper training and it actually brought tears to my eyes to see how happy my dogs were afterwards.  They were glowing!  They ate better tonight, they look healthier... they are just HAPPY.  So despite all my crap, and unhappiness... they don't care, but they DO love agility and they love me.  I gave them their heroin tonight and I promise them I will get over my $%^$%^$%&$% and give them their fix in the morning.

Love you my boys!

My gorgeous, divine Sheltie boy that brings spirit to everyone's lives.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Positive Thoughts

Just a quick update...

Whether you like me or not and you are reading this blog... please spare some positive thoughts for my little Sheltie boy, Volt... he is a sick boy at the moment and we have no idea what is wrong.  He has had xrays, injections, ultrasounds and more.  He is busy undergoing a Barium study as we speak.  I want my boy better and HOME...

Please think of the Stein...