Monday, January 31, 2011

Assume The Position

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, one of our goals for the year is to try some random fun trick training using a clicker. I found a great blog that has weekly tricks to try that also includes a video on how to get started and ideas on how to go about training it. Pretty much perfect for me because in this area I have a more difficult time thinking of things to train. One of the tricks is called "Assume the Position." It also doubles as a way to help stretch your dog. You basically get the dog to put their front feet up on a solid surface and you pat them down, kind of like someone who is about to get arrested. Cute, right?:) I started training the dogs for this trick and very quickly realized that for my guys, this is an outside training trick. When they were going up on the wall, they were actually leaving marks behind. I keep their nails dremmelled nice and short and even so, they left their mark. Due to this (and Adam get pissy about it right in the middle of me working with Heffner, which totally threw our session off and I had to start from the beginning to get us back in the right frame of mind), I'm going to hold off doing any more training until the weather is nicer and I can comfortably do this outside. I did video each of our sessions and strung together what we were able to accomplish.

Don't forget that tomorrow is the start of the Idita-Walk!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


This morning we headed up to Mt. Hood for some snowshoeing with friends. We all had a really great time and I'm looking froward to our next outing. Now that I know every one's mettle, I'm going to shoot for a slightly more difficult trail.;0)

Today we hit up White River West snow park. I like this snow park because I don't often go to it. The first 0.75-1 mile of the trail has heavier traffic with lots of families sledding and just hanging out by the trailhead. Once you get past that though there's a lot less traffic. The trail culminates in a bad ass hill that's a heck of a climb and even more fun to come back down. Sort of!

Bess got to run amok once we were past the higher traffic areas. I was pretty surprised that the snow park wasn't busier than it was considering the time that we were there, but then again, snow conditions on the mountain have been less than stellar lately with warm temperatures and way too much rain. If this keeps up, our skijoring race at the end of February has a good chance of getting cancelled.
Once off leash Bess was more than thrilled to run around. Lots of open space and small critters to chase after kept her quite happily busy. We passed quite a few cross country skiers who were on their way down the trail. I was really quite surprised because the trail isn't exactly what I would consider fun to ski on. Challenging yes, and maybe these people were seeking a challenge. The trail is up hill the whole way out and narrow for a lot of that. With the snow conditions being rather fast, going up hill can be a bit of a b***h. And going back down entails evading a whole lot of trees at often uncontrollable speeds. I know this because Bess almost ran me into a tree.:0)
Our trek uphill ended with the infamous "the hill." It's a hill that is deceptively okay looking until you actually start climbing it. I did this same hill last year when we went with some other friends. If you compare how this hill looks now with how it looked roughly this same time last year, you'll see that the snow pack is unpleasantly worse this year. I thought last winter was crappy, but this year is shaping up to be even worse. There were no exposed areas on this hill last year and now there definitely is. This time around there were three of us that ended up climbing the hill. It was a little trickier with less snow. I had a few moments where my snowshoes weren't gripping as well and I started to slip a bit. This is a very unpleasant feeling considering what a painful fall backwards it would be. Once again, when we reached the top, it totally felt like an accomplishment.:)
I had left Bess at the base of the hill with Adam because this climb was definitely out of the question for her. I didn't need both dogs injured! Apparently she was NOT happy at being left behind. While she can be a pretty chatty dog with her back talk and the random amusing noises that she makes, she's not an overly vocal dog or prone to out right whining. Adam said that she was actually whimpering while I was climbing up and she was forced to stay at the bottom. Once we got the down the hill she was VERY happy to see me again!

Our downhill trek was probably more painful than climbing back up. The last time I did this, David and I had a great time sliding down on our butts. Again, the snow pack was way better and it was a more cushioned and enjoyable time sliding down hill on my butt. This time, that was not the case. Attack number 2 on my derriere commenced by me sitting at the top with the intent to wait my turn and NOT be the first one to go down. I had to make sure that I avoided the first tree and somehow try to steer myself down. Remember how I said the snow conditions were fast? Yeah, that goes for going down hill as well. I had no intention of actually being the first one down, but once I sat I started to slide and it was steep enough that I couldn't stop myself and I ended up just sliding right down the first section. And into the tree. And over the very uncomfortable bump. Finally stopping by using the next tree to sort of slow me down. From there it was just a free for all of me trying feebly to control my speed while still sliding. After a bit I seemed to have found a means that was mostly comfortable to slide down. I think one of the people in our group actually took video of us all sliding down and I will definitely try to post that if she did! Thankfully we all made it down in one piece, albeit rather butt sore.
From there it was literally all down hill. The advantage to a hike out that's all up hill is that when you're most likely to be tired on the way back, you have a nice down ward stroll.:) Bess enjoyed some more frolicking about chasing after random birds and other critters and was pretty pleased with herself by the time we got back to the truck. She was happy to get rid of the booties and clamber into the truck cab with us where she could stay nice and toasty. We warmed up a bit with some yummy hot chocolate that Andrea and Mike brought along, complete with "adult" mixers for those not driving. I had some of the adult version and the peppermint patty was delicious!

On our way out we stopped at the Zig Zag Inn (I definitely recommend this place if you're ever on the west side of Mt. Hood) for a late lunch and stuffed our faces with some delicious food. After much stomach patting and drowsy looks from some, we headed for home.

Heffner was very happy to see us and was sure to let me know how bored he was by incessantly squeaking his cherished ball while I took care of a few things. Interestingly enough, I apparently have to watch how much time I let him squeak it. When he saw the chiropractor on Friday, she mentioned that his jaw was a little out of wack. I thought that was weird and couldn't fathom what would have caused that. After listening to the non-stop squeaking when we got home, a little light bulb went off. He killed the other ball a couple weeks ago and just got the new one last Sunday. He's definitely been ball happy since then and apparently been over working his jaw a bit. Looooovely! It's a good thing he's so cute!

I hope everyone had a great weekend!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Adjustment #3

Heffner had his third chiropractic adjustment yesterday. He's holding the adjustments really well thankfully. She did a deeper adjustment yesterday, so he's getting 48 hours of inactivity, which will be followed by another two weeks of the reduced activity until his next adjustment. At our last adjustment she had said that there was a possibility that I would be able to start back to some light jogging depending on how things go. Unfortunately we won't be going back to that just yet. She's not quite okay with where his pelvis is at yet and wants to give his muscles more time to adjust to their newer, more correct positioning. It makes sense and I certainly don't want to undo any of the good that we've experienced so far. So for Heffner it's going to be more of the same walks. He's definitely starting to get more antsy now. He's been handling the reduced activity quite well all things considered, but I can tell that it's starting to wear on him. And from a selfish stand point, I miss having him on our runs and our hikes. I feel so lopsided going out with one dog.:0/

Tomorrow Bess, Adam and I head up to the mountain for some snowshoeing with friends. I'm looking forward to it. Poor Heffner will be stuck at home while we're out, which makes me feel horribly guilty. Which also means that he'll get an extra special walk when we get back. I'll have a more entertaining blog post and pictures tomorrow!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On a Lighter Note....

.....I've got this nice, tidy crafting room with some new toys from Christmas and not a clue what to start working on! I was looking at the scrapbooks that I've already put together and I don't really feel like adding anything more to those. I would like to start a new book, but I haven't the foggiest what sort of a theme to do for the new one.

I was thinking of doing an annual sort of yearbook and devoting a few pages to each month for 2011, but I'm not entirely sold on that one. Adam suggested maybe do a holiday themed book because I obviously have enough Christmas stuff as well as Christmas themed pictures to use. That's a possibility, but I'm also not entirely sold on that either.

The only thing that I know for certain is that I want to do a scrapbook of the dogs (duh!). From there I'm not sure. I sort of made a deal with Adam that I would only be out trialing a maximum of two weekends a month, which should theoretically mean that I'll have some time on the weekends to work on this! And I think that this would be a great weekend to start. So what are your thoughts? Anyone have some fun ideas for a "themed" scrapbook???

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ring Stress

Oh what to do, what to do. This is a problem that is really starting to plague me. I went through some ring stress with Heffner in agility for a while, but we seem to be pretty well over that. I think his problem there was just me being stressed about having him in such a highly charged arena and managing everything. I will whole heartedly admit that managing his environment and keeping him from having reactive outbursts was incredibly draining at first and I needed to learn how to better deal with. I feel like I've got a lot better hold on that and therefore he's happier. It's still draining to a certain extent, but nothing like it used to be.

Now that I have him entering the obedience arena, we're kind of dealing with that all over again and I'm going to chalk up his stress in the ring to me having to adjust to managing him in a new setting that is very different from agility. I think that once I get beyond that, he and I can start working as a team a lot better and he'll be a much happier boy. I've seen glimpses of good runs when we've been at smaller trials and I've felt as keyed up and on high alert. So for Heffner, I feel like I can figure it out and manage it. Bess, however, is really a totally different story.

RCC was honestly pretty much a melt down for her in the agility ring and I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. We had some minor improvements in that she was starting to actually pay attention to HOW she was jumping again instead of trying to swim through the jumps. That's kind of something, but not really. So we know now after Thursdays escapades that Bess is stressing up in the ring and that totally makes sense. What I noticed over the next few days is that her manifestation of stress outside the ring really depended on what I was doing with her. If I wasn't doing much with her and didn't have any treats to take her mind off of things, she totally started stressing down. I wondered how that would play out in the ring. Once we got out there, she still stressed up, just not quite to the extent that she had previously. Oy! So I now have a dog who stresses up and goes a little crazy inside the agility ring and unless I keep her mind off of thing with food treats and run her through a variety of tricks and focus games, she shuts down outside of the ring.

While you're mulling that over, here's another little tid bit. I took the dogs out to the agility barn last night for some practice (Heffner's still not actually doing agility, but there's some fun ground work that we're doing and he's really enjoying). I always start them out (separately) with a warm up of jogging around the perimeter of the ring for several laps, all off leash. Often Bess will get a bit of the zoomies and kind of zip around the ring, but she's good about coming back to me and getting down to business. Last night she was just full of zoomies. It was way worse than what we've had at trials. She was every where! I normally work the dogs for a half hour each and give them a brain break in the middle to grab a drink, relax, goof off, chase a toy, or whatever. I will often toss a toy for Bess who ignores the toy and uses it as an excuse to zoom. That's fine because that's HER time to take a mental break. She usually comes back even more focused after having the break. Not so last night. She was taking whatever opportunity she could to zoom at her discretion. Not okay and hasn't happened before. So not only are we experiencing this stressing up in the ring, but now also at the practice barn. Houston, we have a problem.

I've been talking to a few people who've done performance sports for a number of years with a variety of dogs to get some feedback and try to figure out how in the heck I should handle this. I'm really kind of at a loss. And there are a variety of different things that I could try, which also helps to make the situation more daunting. Among the options that were discussed one was to do what I started to do at RCC and take her through a few obstacles and then pull her from the run. While that's great, I really don't feel like knowingly throwing away over a hundred dollars on a trial weekend to get not a whole lot back. And to be honest, pulling her after a few obstacles didn't seem to have a whole lot of effect in the ring or when I tried it at the barn last night. Another option was to just run her through the course and ignore the errors. Just keep her running and get her to get through the course. Don't correct the mistakes because those "corrections" are possibly causing her to stress out more. I kind of like this option more because we at least get to make it through the course. However, that's again throwing away over a hundred dollars a weekend on entry fees when I know that we're not going to Q. As harsh as that may be, I just don't feel like throwing that money away when the outcome isn't necessarily going to fix anything.

The other option that I'm pondering right now is just to pull her from everything and give her a complete break. There is a possibility that I have pushed her too much more recently and it's taking it's toll. For that, I feel really bad. Bess is a softer dog and more stress sensitive. She generally holds up well, but I think that my expectations for her combined with a competition schedule that may not be best suited for her may be stressing her out too much. My expectations for Heffner are lower and I'm not really pushing him and maybe that's also been part of why he seems to have started to come around in agility. Maybe that's what Bess needs.

Anyway, I've got a lot of thinking to do. I've got Bess entered in an agility trial the first weekend in Feb. and I'm already going into it expecting that it's not going to be a very productive weekend. Something that I'm just not used to thinking with her. We've got some deadlines coming up for some trials in March and I'm starting to think that I may be flying solo with Heffner on those. Maybe I'll just pick Bess back up in the spring for a trial and see how she does. Who knows?

For anyone reading this post who may have something to say, by all means, leave a comment or email me (I believe that my email address is in my profile for the blog). I'm looking for feed back right now. Do you have ideas on how to handle this? Are there exercises that I can do to help decrease her stress? Are there books, articles, or web sites to read that talk about ring stress in dogs and how to conquer them? What are your personal experiences in dealing with this and how did you over come it? Or did you over come it? I can't help feeling discouraged right now. I realize that there are always ups and downs in training and sometimes you just need to ride them out. I really hope this is one of those things. It just sucks when you're in the middle of a trough, because sometimes it feels like you might be stuck there forever.

Monday, January 24, 2011

RCC Day 5

I didn't post anything about yesterday's final day of the RCC because there wasn't a whole lot to really update on. Agility was more of the same. Conformation actually went pretty well, though no points. She was pulled for consideration in the Winners Bitch ring, which is still something at a show this size with the competition that we had. Kennedy was awesome and came ring side and took some pictures and video that I wanted to share.:)

I did a MUCH better job dressing myself on Sunday than on Saturday. I kind of shudder a bit when I look at what I sort of threw together. Sheesh! Here are the videos.:)

I'm still pretty beat from the long show weekend and formulating a more coherent post is beyond me right now. I'll have a post later in the week where I'm going to ask for feedback from everyone. I've got a lot of tweaking to do and I noticed a few more things with Bess on Sunday. Thanks again for the great pictures and video Kennedy!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Heffner!!!

Today is Heffner's 5th birthday!! It feels weird that it's already been almost five years that he's been in our lives. Through all the ups and downs that we've had, I wouldn't trade any of that time. He's my boo, my baby, and love doesn't adequately describe how I feel about my boy. With everything going on this weekend and getting it all wrapped up I am only now getting around to posting about it. Since he's still not technically allowed to run around off leash, I took him out on a special long walk and snapped some pictures.

And what's a birthday without presents? Kennedy made him a special birthday collar (which totally choked me up when she handed it to me). And since he finally killed his favorite pink ball after a year and a half, he got a new one!
I also put together a little slide show of pictures from the first couple years that we've had him, which includes a bunch of the pictures that I found and scanned in this week. It's long, but I hope you enjoy.:)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

RCC Day 4

I am starting to feel very sleep deprived at this point. Today was our busiest day and it was hard to catch much rest while trying to stay up on everything. Which I apparently didn't do a very good job of!

First up in the morning (or so I thought) was conformation. Our ring time was 8am and we were the first breed in. For some reason I was confident that over in agility, they were running JWW in the order of Excellent, Open, and then Novice. Not sure why I thought that, but oh well. Because I was so convinced that I wouldn't be running Bess in agility until later, I didn't even both to go over and get my number and course maps first thing. I was planning on waiting until after conformation was over to take care of that stuff. So conformation got under way and it was fun to watch who the judge was picking. Then Bess' turn came around. I made sure that I worked it for all I was worth. We were thankfully the first dog into the ring, so for the final line up I was able to chuck bait out of the ring and really get her ears forward and have her at attention. And we won our class! Woot! We went back in for Winners Bitch and I really wanted it! I did a decent job, but there were a few areas where I could have done a little better. The judge pulled Bess and a few other bitches out for her cut. She picked the bitch ahead of us for WB and I was really hoping that she'd at least pick us for reserve. And she did! Bess got a major reserve! No points, but it's exactly the kind of encouragement that we need right now. I get many comments from conformation people about how she should finish, she's sound, blah, blah, blah. That's great to hear and all, but it doesn't mean a whole lot when you get dumped time after time.

After packing up our stuff and putting Bess out in the truck to relax and chill, I went over the agility ring to see how things were going. I got our number and was able to find our Standard map, but didn't see the Open JWW map out. I thought that maybe it was just one of those things where they weren't going to put the maps out until right before they started letting people walk the course. I've had that before and didn't think too much of it. Excellent was in the ring and I just went off on my merry way. I headed back out to the truck to hang with Bess and catch a few z's. A few hours later I went back inside to see where things were at. It was getting close to our time to walk the course in Standard. Cool beans! I walked it and wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do since I had already banked on using JWW as our "test" class. I figured I'd just go for it and see what happened. At this point, there were a ridiculous amount of spectators. The bleachers were quite full and the ring side seating was totally full. I have never felt so exposed before in agility! I seriously felt like I had showed up for the event in my underwear and everyone was staring. It was the weirdest sensation. Anywho, the Open and Novice classes are so much smaller than the Excellent classes that I planned on just going and grabbing Bess once I finished walking so that I could bring her inside and figure out where I could manage to get a little space for us to hang out amidst the throngs of spectators and competitors.
The course was decent enough, that I just decided to go for it with Bess and try to work through whatever. After the ridiculous crowds, I realized that this weekend especially, literally anything that we do in those rings is going to be essentially useless for what we want to accomplish right now. The spectators around the rings and in the stands are doing all sorts of things that they most likely don't realize are negatively reinforcing the dogs out there and I saw a lot of handlers who were struggling with things that I haven't seen them struggle with before. I also saw other handlers who were handling the courses far more conservatively than is usual due to having to manage how the crowd was affecting their runs. Oh yes, and even with multiple signs posted and many announcements NOT to use flash photography, it happened a fair amount. It was a pretty spectacular crap shoot. I will say this though, Bess did the last half of the course beautifully and I was really pleased with that. She also enjoyed herself, but kept that part in control and was jumping correctly. Good sign there. However, she over shot the table coming off the dog walk (mostly a lack of deceleration cue from me that I usually give before she hits the table) and headed towards the ring barrier where a group of lovely spectators thought it was absolutely adorable that she was coming towards them. They said something in her direction, though I didn't catch exactly what, and that pretty well pissed me off. Do NOT encourage my dog to come off the course and move towards you! That is so not cool! These people seriously don't seem to realize that this is a TRIAL. This is not some fun run where we don't care what our dogs do. We're paying good money for these runs to try and accomplish whatever our individual goals are. Screwing with the dogs in the process is beyond not helpful.

After the dog walk we had a jump and then the weaves. She missed her first entry, which is fine. It's something that we don't have 100% in practice, so I don't expect it 100% in this type of setting. The second time around she got it and she started making her way methodically through the weaves. It wasn't fast, but right now I much prefer her doing her weaves correctly than getting overly excited about speed and blowing through them as she sometimes does. As we're going through the weaves the crowd around the ring and in the bleachers starts laughing like it's the funniest thing that this big dog is carefully picking her way through the weaves. Well it's not. They're laughter and negative encouragement was causing some problems. I could see the tension building in Bess as she was nearing the end and her speed was picking up. I thought she would make it through, but she popped out at the last weave and I opted to just go on and not deal with that whole scenario again. Pretty awesome. The rest of the course went well, I was just highly annoyed with the crowd at that point. She got lots of praise at the end of the run because she finished beautifully.

From there I put her in her crate ring side and went to check on our JWW runs. There were some 24" Excellent runs left and I watched that. Once those were over I went to check Bess in for our run and saw the sheet for the ISC Excellent class. What??? There happened to be a woman standing next to me checking out the line up and I asked her if they were going to run Novice and Open after the ISC classes. She kind of looked at me a little weird and told me that they had already run Novice and Open first thing in the morning. My jaw dropped. I had completely missed Bess' run because I didn't bother to verify the running order! ARG! Oh well.

I was so frazzled from realizing that I missed our run, that I was about ready to pack things up and head home when I got a call from Andrea. She was calling to let me know roughly when we would be doing our rally team run. D'oh! So not only did I completely miss an agility run, but I almost forgot about rally altogether! Wow. Seriously sleep deprived here.
Our rally team consisted of two great danes, a bullmastif, and a husky. Yes, we were the non traditional rally team.;) I thought our team did quite well as a whole considering that all four handlers have been involved in a variety of events at this show over the past few days. I think we're all a little tired. Sadly, out of four teams, we placed fourth, but at least we enjoyed ourselves!

And now that I'm caught up with the day, I'm starting to plan for tomorrow. I am honestly incredibly tempted to not run Bess in agility at all. I think the crowds will be slightly less, but still to a point where it's not necessarily beneficial to us. And I'm tired and would like to leave after our conformation ring time.;) We'll see how it goes. At least I have some great ideas on what I need to work with Bess on in our practices now. I'll probably have an entire post about that alone so that I can also get some feed back from people and see what they think.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Friday, January 21, 2011

RCC Day 3

I am very pleased to say that today was a much better day for us. It was another day of agility only, which was probably a good thing. Before I get into that though, check out the pin I scored! It was hard for me to get a picture of the pin without the camera washing it out, but it's a merle dane that is practically a mantle merle. Minus the cropped ears, it's a Heffner pin! The significance of this pin at a show that is predominantly driven by conformation was huge enough for me to buy it. Merle is not an acceptable color in the conformation ring, therefore vendors at dog shows usually only carry the six recognised colors and Heffner gets totally gypped (Jennifer, I know you can totally relate!). Anyhow, the shopping at RCC is great!
Now on to the day. First up was JWW because Standard takes hours longer to get through. After my little tantrum that I threw yesterday I had much to think about and many options to try with Bess for the day. I talked a lot with Marta this morning (she does a LOT of performance sports with her danes and has for decades, in addition to conformation) about what happened yesterday and compared to things that she's worked through with her dogs. I had already decided that crating Bess inside was probably helping lead to her stress. Things are really tight and there's so much going on around her, that I'm sure it's not helpful. So I decided to keep her in the truck for the day and see how that worked out. I also decided that JWW was for sure going to be a throw away class. The plan was to do the first two jumps in a very controlled manner with no lead out and then pull her from the course and have a party. It worked beautifully! She stayed controlled and was super excited once we got off the course. I had told the judge what we were going to do once I got her on the line and had also warned the person behind us so that they could be ready. I also bought Bess a tug toy that I plan on slowly conditioning her to tug with. She enjoys tugging on her leash at the end of runs, but that can sometimes get you into trouble depending on the venue and the judge. What surprised me most about the "run" was that I actually felt really good about it afterwards. I thought that I would still possibly feel a little frustrated that I was purposefully throwing the run away. But it felt good! A welcome relief.
After many hours of waiting and hanging out in the truck with Bess to relax (it was DEFINITELY more relaxing in there than inside the expo center!), it was our turn for Standard. The course was simple enough and she seemed to quite calm, that I had two plans. If it seemed like she was at all starting to ramp herself up, she'd get to end on the #4 tunnel and we'd have a party. If she looked like she was still holding on, I wanted to try the dog walk and see where we went from there. Well, she was doing so well that we ended up doing the full course, which I'm not entirely sure I should have done. The end result was a positive one, with a dog that was pretty well in control. I'm just hoping that I didn't set us back. She basically stuck everything. I didn't get her slowed down in time when she hit the table after the chute and she over balanced and had to step off the table, so there was a fault there. I also pulled her a little hard on a jump and pulled her off it, so we got a refusal there. Otherwise she did well including sticking her down contact on the a frame. And you know what? It was a qualifying run.:o) Little Bessy got her last novice standard Q!:)

However, like I mentioned, I'm a little concerned that I may have set us back by doing the full course. Kind of kicking myself now for that. Tomorrow we're still going to throw away JWW since that'll be the first class that we do. I'm shooting for four obstacles and then have a party. Standard, we'll see. I did move her up to Open, but Saturday and Sunday are the busiest and most hectic days of the show. I may just want more "practice runs" for both classes. We'll see.

Regardless of what we do in agility, it's going to be a very hectic day that I am now kicking myself about. We've got conformation first thing in the morning at 8am. Then we've got the two agility runs. And we're doing Rally Novice team with friends. Conformation won't conflict, but I have a feeling there's potentially going to be a problem between JWW and Rally. We'll see. Wish us luck! I'm off to shave Bess' face and try to get rid of as many white hairs in her mask as possible.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

RCC Day 2

I'm in a pretty foul mood right now and should probably wait until I'm less steamed to write this post, but then it wouldn't have the same angst behind it. So bear with me, cause this bitch is feeling pretty pissy!

Today was the first all breed day of competition at the Rose City Classic (RCC). I had Bess entered only in agility. I have never competed in any performance event at this show, only conformation. There's a lot going on and I wanted to make sure that at least my first day of running her in agility, I didn't have any possible ring conflicts. Good thing too, because there would have been one. The conditions are very tight at this show. There's a whole lot going on. Lots of dogs, lots of handlers, lots of hustle and bustle. Unfortunately there's not a lot of room to move around or crate your dog. I already knew what a pain crating was from previous years of having to fight for crating space around the conformation rings and seeing what it was like over in the performance areas while visiting friends. Seeing is one thing, but being stuck in it is another. It's hard to fully describe the set up without visually showing it (and I didn't take any pictures), but there isn't a whole lot of walking space around the perimeters of the rings due to crating and bleachers. It's tight. Warming up around the ring is difficult because you are inevitably in someone's way or have your dog in a position immediately next to the gates that serve as ring perimeters. To say this can be very distracting to the dogs competing is an understatement. At any rate, pissy mood aside, it is highly unlikely that I will do any performance events at this show again. It's already an absolute no for Heffner and even with Bess, I'm just not thrilled about the lack of space to move about. Anyhow, on to the runs, or more appropriately, the reasons why I'm in such a piss poor mood.

First up was Open JWW. We've had this judge before and I like him and his courses. I was also very happy to see that he didn't include a single tunnel. Not as big of a deal for Bess, but something that I'm always very happy to see for Heffner. Bess started to lose control after about the second or third jump. Her jumping was absolute shit (should probably also warn you that there might be a fair amount of cursing in this post, cause there was a fair amount of cursing when I called my husband to let him know how things went). She got into that bat shit crazy mode where all thinking and training went completely out the window. Instead of using her rear for jumping, she essentially tried swimming through the jumps by crazily pulling with her front legs. There were at least two knocked bars through the first half of the course. I'm pretty sure that the only reason she kept any bars up is because 24" is the highest I will jump the dogs and relative to their actual height, it doesn't take as much effort to clear them. It wasn't really until about jump 14 that she completely lost it, though. Along that side of the ring were the bleachers. Unfortunately, three people with their dogs had picked that spot to stop and gab, with their dogs' butts facing towards the ring and close enough for the dog competing to come up and easily sniff their butts. And that's just exactly what Bess did. I did get her back and she did nail her weaves, but it went completely to shit after that. She just basically took off and started to zoom. I called her back and she came back at me. Then decided to leap up and sock me in the nose. Yeah, not cool. I thanked the judge, grabbed her around the neck and we left the ring. It was ridiculous.

The final straw of the day was our Novice Standard run. Yes, that's right, we're still in bloody novice, where we will probably be for all of perpetuity. She needs ONE MORE RUN to get out of novice. Is it really too much to ask that she keep her shit together for one f***ing run???? Apparently it is, because she couldn't.
It's a very nice and simple course. There's nothing tricky, mean, or overly unfun about it. It's a course that Bess could do any day of the week. She is fully capable of completing this run in one try. Things again broke down after the third jump. She's been such a teeter sucker lately that I was shocked when she decided to loop all the way around the teeter and try to start zooming. I called her back and she completed the teeter. Then hauled ass into the tunnel and up the a frame. I slowed her down on her decent because she notoriously leaps over the contact zone when she's in one of these brainless moods. And that's exactly what she did. Jumped over the damn contact zone like it was bloody hot lava. After which she proceeded to run right out of the f***ing ring. I was pissed at that point. I'd had enough. This kind of behavior is completely unacceptable and it sure as hell is beyond the point of being even remotely cute. I called her back in the pissed off tone that represented my mood. She came back after doing a bit more sniffing. I made her sit and we left the ring.

Pissed. I have never been so pissed at this dog in my life. The "funny" thing is that a little while before our Standard run I was thinking to myself how weird it was that I hadn't actually gotten pissed off at Bess lately for the crap that she's been pulling. I've seen others get pissed off at their dogs for a lot less and the crap that she's been pulling is totally bogus. And I really haven't gotten mad. I've made up excuses or said things like "at least she's having a good time." Well, that's bogus too. She's knows this stuff and it's not like I'm asking a whole hell of a lot from her. The girl has skills and she is able use them. Apparently though, she only wants to use them when and how she chooses.

Oh yeah, and my mood got even better after we headed home. As I'm stewing about her "performances," I still had a little bit of me that was thinking, "maybe she just needed more exercise and maybe I should just really tire her out for the next few days." Then I also thought that's kind of bullshit. There are plenty of people who have dogs with way higher energy levels and drive than Bess has and they're not out there hours before their runs trying to wear their dogs out so that they listen in the ring. They do their warm ups, they run, and then they cool down. That's it. Not "enough" exercise beforehand is not a good enough reason for her to decide she's going to play her own game in the ring. Regardless, I thought that maybe I would stop by one of the parks near our house that have some nice fields to just let her off leash to burn off some steam and maybe I could cool off as well. Ha! I get there and everything is bloody soggy and flooded! And I'm wearing sneakers, so I can't really walk any where. I just loaded Bess up and we headed for home.

I haven't even really been able to look at her since we got home because I'm still steamed. Which I realize is rather ridiculous at this point because it's so far after the events that pissed me off that there is no connection to them in her mind. Not to mention she didn't even see the connection in the first place while she was doing it! So now I'm sitting here, venting my frustrations on the blog (Kennedy and Adam have already had an ear full from me), wondering what in the hell to do. I've got a variety of options, but I just don't know what to try or what might actually have an effect on her. We'll see how tomorrow goes. If you don't hear anything from me until Saturday, it's not necessarily because I've flipped my shit and have been jailed in a crate by the AKC. There's a shin dig at some of the motor homes tomorrow night after Group and I'll be there for a while. Drinking my frustrations away! Wish us luck for tomorrow and keep your fingers crossed that Bess starts using her brains lest I curl up into the fetal position and cry uncle!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Long Day

It was a long, but nice day. I think I forgot to mention, but the local great dane breed club hosts a double specialty the day before the all breed shows start. What's a double specialty? Aside from a really long day, it just means that there are two separate shows held on one day. Different judges for everything, but the same order and the same optional classes that are held at specialties. Because of this (and because we didn't have any other options), I only had Bess entered in conformation in the American Bred Bitches class.

The first show of the day didn't go all that well for us. I took Bess out to potty and walked her around a little bit before it was our turn. Once we were in the class and the judge asked us to go around as a group for the first time, I thought that maybe there was a hint of a limp on her front left leg. Hmmmm.....maybe it was just a combination of moving on the carpet and the way that I took the corner. So I set her up, the judge went over her, we did our down and back, and then we went around the ring. And there was most definitely an obvious limp on that leg. What????? We ended up placing third out of three, and rightfully so since I apparently had a lame dog. Okay, so I walked her a little more and then put her back in her crate to rest up.

For the second show I did the same routine. Took her outside so that she could potty if need be and I also watched her movement like a freaking hawk. There was nothing off. Okay. I decided to keep her out of her crate until it was our turn to make sure that nothing miraculously stiffened up. We went in for our class and there were no problems. No lameness what so ever. And even better, she actually won her class! With actually competition!:) I know it's corny, but I was so excited about that class win. Things have not been going so well in conformation and the thought of retirement is definitely on my mind. Even though we're literally half way there, we still have quite a bit of ground to cover.

Outside of the conformation portion of things, there was a great raffle! So much great stuff!! And I would have lots of pictures and videos of the days events for you if I had remembered to actually charge my camera battery. D'oh! It went dead the first time I turned it on. So I got nada. But I did come away with some nice prizes (which I had to take the battery off the charger in order to get).:)

Obviously I'm not color prejudiced.;0) My craft room is very definitely turning into a dane stuff repository. And I love it!! The collar is made by none other than Kennedy. She made a few and donated them to the raffle. Naturally I put tickets into all of the cups. The red collar just happened to be the only one that I won. I tried taking an adequate picture of it to better show off the detail, but the picture above is about as good as I got. The fabric is just gorgeous though! The picture doesn't do it any justice. Heffner is excited that he has a pretty new collar.;0)

And now I'm pretty much beat. It's amazing how tiring this day is when I don't really feel like I did all that much. Tomorrow will be a little lighter as it is strictly an agility day with Bess. I do plan on heading over to the dane ring and watching as much as I can. Fingers crossed that we have some nice runs tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blogger Tuesday

Oh boy, oh boy! Tomorrow the big Rose City Classic officially starts!! Wednesday is normally the day of specialties and then the next four days are all breed shows. It's kind of nice to start the week off with a lower key day to ease into the chaos that then ensues. I'm looking forward to the shows more than I was last year and I'm not entirely sure why. I've got more on my plate this time around and it's still the same ole chaos, and yet, I'm rather excited.:0) I will try to update and post pictures as I have time, but I'm not entirely sure how much time at home I will have.

In the spirit of all things dog show, my pick for Blog of the Week is entirely about just that! I have appropriately picked Dog Show Poop for this week's featured blog! While you don't get the details of all the individual breed results, you do get to hear about the group winners and who got what at which show. I love it when I start recognising the top dogs in the nation! So if dog shows are your thing and you want to better keep up on the tops rankings, this blog is for you!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Musings

Or maybe I should title this Monday Ramblings. I'm pretty sure this is going to be a rambling thread the way I have various thoughts bouncing around in my head. It all started in the middle of the night with a bad dream. A very bad dream. Probably fueled by the the fact that I was a bit over caffeinated yesterday and lots of focus on Heffner. As I've mentioned, Heffner is turning five on Sunday. An otherwise inauspicious age, except that I'm a worrier and he's had some back problems more recently that have me contemplating a lot of things in regards to his age. And then there were all the puppy pictures that I found of him yesterday during our clean up of the now crafting room. At any rate, the boy was on my mind more so than usual. In this awful dream, Heffner died. It's an inconceivable thing right now, but it's out there lurking some where in our future. I don't really want to go into it, but I woke up sobbing from it. Kind of a crappy way to "start" the day. Thankfully things did get better from there!

Today is a holiday, and after a brief pop into work to take care of a few minor things, I took the dogs out tracking! I was much nicer to Heffner this time and he did quite well on his tracks. The first track in particular he was actually following the track and not necessarily focusing on the treats. Two thumbs up! Bess also had a good time with her tracks, but I think I need to space the food drops out more. I'm pretty sure that she again found every single dropped treat. Which lead to a belly full of hot dogs and a dog who wasn't as interested in her last track. More to think of for next time!

From there we went home, the dogs chilled while I ate some lunch and packed up the truck for our obedience lesson. It was a good lesson as always and I really appreciate that our instructor keeps reminding me of how far each dog has come. I'm getting nit picky with some things, and with improvements coming in smaller increments, it's great to have a positive outside source letting you know that yes, things are coming along.:)

From there we headed home and the dogs got their weekly currying. I'm still amazed at how much hair I'm able to get off of Heffner every single week. It's still nothing compared to when he's really blowing coat, but it's still a lot more than I get off of Bess!

After doing some floor cleaning, I fed the dogs and finished scanning in the film pictures of Heffner. It's just so fun to look back on those pictures and remember how little he was and how ridiculously cute he was too!

And now we're going to do some trick training! I could get used to days like this.;0)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oh The Weekend

With me being home this weekend, we had a nice relaxing time of it. Saturday morning I met up with a newbie to the dog show world. I brought Bess along as well so that her dog could get used to working with a dog ahead of and behind him. I also wanted the handler to have a chance to try working with a dog that was already trained so that she could kind of get a feel for what she was working towards. She's going to be starting in the conformation ring with a bang, having RCC as her very first dog show! Exciting stuff!

It was kind of fun though because I never do any conformation practice with Bess any more. She knows what she needs to do and she does it well. Even so, I was still so happy with how she was doing! She's just so stinkin' cute!

After that, it was back home to finish packing up all the Christmas decorations. THAT was a chore! And it took forever. Thankfully we're ahead of the game this year though. Last year we didn't get the multitudes of boxes back up into the attic until July; at which point it almost felt pointless. We just sort of crammed all the boxes into a spare bedroom and shut the door. Out of sight, out of mind! This year we got it all completely put away. Quite nice!

My original plan for today was to go snowshoeing with some friends. Unfortunately we've been seeing some unseasonably warm weather in our area the past few days. The day time temps have been in the mid to upper fifties. Pretty crazy for January. These warm temps have also reached up onto the mountain. Today alone the lower elevations of the Mt. Hood were expected to get six inches of rain. Not six inches of snow, but six inches of rain. Super sucky! Not the kind of conditions that make snowshoeing fun at all. Instead I ended up taking Bess out for a little hike and it was actually pretty nice. We were mostly protected from the rain and it had actually started to slack off by the time we hit the trail head. I put her raincoat on about half way through, but didn't bother with one for me. It ended up being a really nice outing and she most certainly needed the exercise!

Once Bess and I got back, it was time to tackle our spare bedroom. The room had kind of turned into a crap repository. We cleared out a few things, but here are the before pictures:

After a whole lotta rearranging, filling a big box of stuff that could be thrown out, and an even bigger pile of stuff to be taken to Goodwill, here is the end result:

I now have a scrapbooking/crafting room!! I'm so excited! And I actually have a room where I can also prominently display the dane related stuff that I've been accumulating.:0)

In the process of cleaning up and off the desk, I uncovered some packets of pictures that had been sitting there forever. As I started leafing through the pictures I realized just how old they were. I found the majority of pictures I took of Heffner when he was a puppy!!! I'd tried looking for the pictures before, but had struck out. These pictures were back when I still had my film camera and was fighting the move to the digital. I now have no idea why on earth I was so stubborn about switching to digital, but I was. I'm going to spend some time tonight scanning in all those pictures. He used to be so LITTLE!!

I also have this random little video clip of Heffner trying to dig Adam out of a sleeping bag. Our projector is currently in another state getting fixed. In the mean time, we've got a TV in the office. We pulled in a sleeping bag, some pillows, and a comforter and with the dog beds on either side of us, we've got quite the cozy little TV watching next going on. Anyhow, here's Heffner having some fun with Adam!

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Art of Listening

With the big Rose City Classic (RCC) coming up this week, it gets me to thinking about a variety of things. First of all, I'm excited to see all the people that I'm going to get to see! There's a lot of conformation people that I really only get to see at shows because we all live so far apart. With this comes a whole lot of fun social get togethers after the days showing is done so that everyone can get caught up. Long days of showing followed by fun evenings gabbing together over drinks and good food make for very full days!

More than anything though, this show is a learning experience. It's about learning how to handle your dog in a very busy environment with a myriad of things going on. Learning more about various breeds that you may only see at dog shows. With all the performance events going on, you have the opportunity to learn more about the different sports and various levels of difficulty, in addition to seeing some top dog/handler teams. But most of all, there's a lot to learn just by closing the mouth and opening the ears to all that is going on.

Sometimes it seems that people get so caught up in trying to impress others with their "knowledge" that they don't stop to think about what they're saying. There's the old saying that "it is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." Often the person doing all the talking and "impressing" does not understand that they are indeed show casing their lack of knowledge, or just generally making themselves look like an ass. With the number of top notch professional handlers (both performance and conformation), breeders, and exhibitors that abound at this show, the smart person keeps their mouth shut and absorbs everything that is going on around them. There are many things that are not said in front of a person who has shown that they tend to run off at the mouth. There are also many things that are not said in front of someone who has expressed a particular opinion or allegiance. A lot of times it is better to go under the radar and just listen and learn, than to try to stand out and be "known." Then again, there's also a lot that doesn't get said around a person who is an unknown entity. Oh the politics of it all!LOL If nothing else, it can be quite entertaining!

Regardless, there's going to be a whole lot to take in over the week and I'm looking forward to good friends, good times, and lots of listening and learning.;0)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tracking And More....

I finally done did it! I got the dogs out tracking last night!! I got the harnesses adjusted (and then realized they actually need to be adjusted again for the dogs in a head down, sniffing position where certain areas tighten up), gathered up my gear, and then took them out separately. Heffner was unfortunately the guinea pig. Unfortunately, because I didn't pick the best terrain initially for him and I sort of over estimated the amount of spacing between each treat drop. Aaaaaaaaaaaand I put his tracks closer together than I really should have. D'oh! At least I learned and Bess had a better time of it.
The terrain was more pitted and the grass was longer than I should have started him back up on. It's been over a year since I laid a track for either dog. I laid three simple, straight tracks. But for Heffner, they were definitely closer together than they should have been. I could tell that he was getting confused by the scent coming from the tracks I had laid to the right on our first one. We still carried on and he did quite well, it just wasn't as overly positive of an experience as I would have liked.
I did a much better job with Bess. I kept the treat spacing more frequent and spaced her tracks out a lot more. The last time I did any tracking with her, it was difficult to get her to keep her mind on the track and she showed more interest in trying to play in the field. This time around she was ALL business! It was great! I'm pretty sure she found every single treat I dropped.LOL She did stray sometimes off the side of the track and I held back from immediately correcting her to see if she would find her way back and she did! All three tracks were a success.

Today Heffner had another chiropractic adjustment and it was fabulous! Sandi seriously has magic hands! It's just amazing to see the immediate difference that the adjustment makes. I almost think that today's adjustment showed a more noticeable improvement in his walking than last week's. It was just amazing! He is almost walking like Bess now. He's still throwing his hip a little when walking, but it's sooooooo much less than it was. He also held the last adjustment really well, which helped to make a more visible improvement today.

He currently is on 24 hours with no exercise. If we can go 48 hours, she said that's even better. He's also still on the limited exercise of only walks. She did say that after one more adjustment she thought I would be able to start jogging him again!! Ideally I would see her again next week, but the Rose City Classic (RCC) combined with the holiday on Monday is making that very difficult. If I can't set something up with her, then he'll have to wait until the following week. Obviously I really want to try to find some day that works because I want to start reconditioning him and getting him back into tip top shape. We'll just have to see what I can swing.

I am currently thrilled to be having a pretty low key weekend ahead of me. This is EXACTLY what I need leading up to RCC. There's going to be a whole lot going on, very long days, and the house is a freaking disaster area right now. I always start to feel like things are out of control when I can't keep the house in the minimum condition that I want it to be in. Down weekends are good for this! Not that we are completely without plans, but I'll talk about those plans in other posts.;0)

I hope that everyone had a fabulous Friday and here's looking to a great weekend!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Web Site of the Month

My pick for Web Site of the Month for January is Idita-Walk! I can't remember which blog specifically I first heard about this event on, but it was definitely a husky dog blog. At the time I heard about it last year, I think the event was already half way through and I wanted to join in from the beginning. Now we all have the chance to sign and do something that's good for all of us!

The premise of the Idita-walk is that you shoot for walking 1,049 minutes between February 1st and March 31st. Once you sign up and pay your "entry fee," you gain access to an online log that will allow you enter your daily totals throughout the course of the event. It's a great way to encourage people to be a little healthier, get their dogs more exercise, and promote the Iditarod a little.:) I've signed Adam and myself up for it already!

I found out from the pedometer challenge that I did last year that I walk a lot between the dogs and my job. In order to make things a little more challenging for myself, I'm shooting for walking at least 2,098 minutes during that same time period. AND I will only be counting the walking/running that I do with the dogs. Nothing else counts. This should be a lot of fun and I'm excited to see where I end up! Gives me something to beat for next year!;o)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blogger Tuesday

I thought of another goal that I have for this year! I think I mentioned at some point last year that I wanted to add in a little clicker training, or something along those lines. I didn't really do that. Well this year, I'm going for and I've actually already been following through with it! I started out with some clicker basics that I picked up from Jennifer over at Never Say Never Greyhounds. I liked her idea about introducing the clicker using an empty yogurt cup.

In part I want to add in the clicker so that I can nit pick our obedience work a little more. So a sub-part of the general clicker goal, is to once a month find some aspect of one of the obedience exercises that I want to work on specifically with the clicker to sort of fine tune. For this month, I'm working on fronts. Both dogs have a tendency to sit further away from me than I would like on their fronts. I'm hoping that bringing in the clicker will help to adjust that and I think I'm already starting to see a small change. It doesn't hurt that it gives me more incentive to actually practice what needs fixing.;o)

The second sub-part of this goal is that I want to train the dogs on random tricks. Something to spice things up a bit and do something out of the ordinary. The main problem that I have is that I'm not terribly original. And sometimes I'm lazy. I like it when someone can spell things out for me and give me ideas of what to work on. Videos are a definite plus! And that's where my Blog of the Week comes in! I picked Smooth Sailin' Agility, because she has started a weekly trick thread! She gives the trick, describes how she broke it down and then gives a video demo. Perfect! Oh yes, and they do agility.:)

I'm also videoing each of our practices for at least my own benefit. I'll probably periodically post at least some of the videos. This is definitely helping to make training a little more fun!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

And Now the Video

I took a bunch of little video clips yesterday while at the sled dog races. A shot of the parking lot, some shots of dogs getting hitched up to their teams, and lots of shots of various teams leaving the race shoot. As a warning, you may want to start out with the volume either completely off or turned way down. There's a lot of crazy dog noises!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One For the Books

I am pleased to say that Bess has officially competed in her very first skijoring race! Hooray for the snow coming through this year.;) I'm also very pleased to say that she did great!

Each of these races has a mandatory drivers meeting each morning. You don't make it to the meeting? You are disqualified. So Bess and I left the house about a quarter after 6am to head up to Mt. Hood. The roads were really icy around the house, which slowed us down a little bit. Once on the other side of the tunnel it was smooth sailing. The last time I did this race with Heffner, we showed up an hour before the driver's meeting and we were lucky enough to get one of the few remaining parking lots. This year, there weren't as many people competing and even showing up a half hour before the meeting started, there were plenty of parking spots to be had.

We found out the run order in the meeting. Recreational skijoring was to be almost the last class. Bummer! I kind of knew that though. Wishful thinking on my part. Unfortunately, I didn't realize just how long we were going to have to wait. I had decided to have Bess ride up in the cab of the truck with me. While the canopy is insulated, it really holds the heat better when there are two dogs generating heat in it. And Bess has been getting cold easier lately, so it just worked out better. Thankfully she rides really well in the cab. She pretty much lays down the whole time. I figured that with Bess and I inside the cab, it should hold heat better and keep her warm enough. I ended up having to turn the truck on a few times to keep it warm enough.

After about five and a half hours of waiting for our turn, I got Bess all geared up and I started walking her around the parking lot to warm her up and also to work on our On By command around other dogs. I bootied her up and put her Ruff Wear coat on over the top of her harness. It was a bit of a shame since her hot pink booties perfectly match her harness, but I knew she would get too cold otherwise. As we were walking around, people commented on how there was this girl that ran a different great dane at one of the previous races. I told them that was me, but Heffner wasn't competing this year. That's also when I ran into my skijoring mentor. And it's a damn good thing too! We chatted a little bit and then she asked me if I had picked up my race packet. I said yep. And then realized that I didn't have my bib on! You can't race without a bib number. And then she also reminded me that I still had my regular boots on and not my ski boots. D'oh! Can't very well put my skis on without the actual ski boots! I don't know what I was thinking! I had already set my skis and poles at the start gate and was so focused on getting Bess ready and keeping her warm that I guess I just spaced it.

Once it was our turn, our start actually went well. I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Bess was excited to be there, but I could also already tell that she was getting cold. I could either have a mostly energetic girl, or I could have the girl who will tuck her tail and look imploringly at me. No need to worry! She was off with a bounding start and even did a little play bound around me before taking of with a jerk on me. And we were off! It wasn't a record breaking pace, but it was a good one.:) She kept tension on the line the whole way. If she started to lag or look back at me for clarification (I got a little wobbly at some points and every time I made a noise, she would look back at me), I would just tell her to keep going and she did. She was great at passing other dogs head on (the course was a down and back loop). She did everything that I asked her to! It was amazing! Oh yeah, and she didn't kill me.:) It was an overall great run. We finished with a time of 23:05. For reference, I believe Heffner's last time on this same course was more than twice that. It makes a difference when you have a dog who likes to pull.

While we were running I also realized that I don't really have Bess conditioned for this. Yes, she can go pretty much all day off leash when we're out hiking around. And when we're out jogging in the evenings, it has yet to wear her out. I kind of equated her overall fitness with her being fit for skijoring, but I haven't specifically conditioned her for that. It's one thing to jog next to someone on easy terrain. It's a whole different story to be out in front of them hauling them along on a friction filled surface, going up and down hills. I felt a little guilty once I realized that I didn't fully prepare her. She did great and was still a super star! But I could have her better conditioned for this specific sport. And that's exactly what the plan is for the next race! Now that we've got a time to beat, I'd like to do that. Since Heffner isn't going to be going jogging with us for a while, I'll just hook Bess up to the skijoring belt, slap her harness on her, and we can get some light pulling practice in that way. It also means getting out and doing some scootering with her. I've got some great spots for it, I just need to set aside the time.

I also took a lot of video of the various teams, sports, and sights at the race. I'm going to work on putting them together tonight and should be able to post it tomorrow. And speaking of tomorrow. Bess was so great today and put up with a whole lot of waiting and getting cold (she was actually shivering after being cooled down and waiting in the truck while I packed up our gear). I want to end on a good run for the weekend and I decided not to go back tomorrow and race. I don't think she'd be thrilled about doing the whole process all over again and I definitely don't want her to think that snow or skijoring isn't fun! That, and I still have a whole lot of meat that needs bagging. It's taking forever to thaw enough for me to bag!

Friday, January 7, 2011

And The Crazy Reigns Supreme!

Today Bess and I headed up to Ridgefield, WA for an AKC agility trial. Standard and JWW were all that was offered. The trial started later than normal since it was a Friday and there were less people entered. It was hard for me to try and gauge when would be a good time to show up, so I picked a time and figured that regardless I would be able to watch some good runs. Before we actually headed out for the trial, I stopped off at some soccer fields to let Bess out to run for a while. We went running last night and she was full of piss and vinegar for the first half. That's when I figured we were going to be in for an interesting day today. I thought that taking her for a romp would help. I tossed out the idea of taking her on a little hike because I didn't want her injuring herself right before the trial. I ran her around for a good half hour. And I mean RAN! We did sprints back and forth and she loved every minute of it! I figured that should at least take the edge off, so off to the trial we went.

After much waiting and watching of some good runs, our first run was Open JWW. Since we have zero Open JWW legs, I decided that I was going to try out a few things that we had been working on in a trial setting. The plan was to do a lead out pivot between jumps 2 and 3 and then to do a rear cross over 9. Nothing fancy, but we have never done a pivot of any sort in a trial and my rear crosses with Bess have not been successful up to this point. I am thrilled to say that BOTH moves worked!! She totally nailed it! The down side is that once she started jumping she literally threw herself into it. Her jumping was quite chaotic. My friend Elane videoed us (I may have video later to share depending on how well the quality comes through) and I got to review it right after the run. Her jumping didn't look as out of control as it felt on the course, but she definitely was not really paying attention to how she was jumping. We also had a refusal on her weave entries, something that I have GOT to fix before Rose City in a week and a half. The end result was an NQ. However, I was actually thrilled with her run. We a couple of very successful maneuvers and even though she was a bit crazy, she held it together for the run.

Next up was Standard at the complete end of the day. They were running small to tall and they ran all of the Excellent levels classes first and worked their way back. We were one of the last few dogs to run. I made sure to jog Bess for several minutes, I warmed her up over the practice jumps, we worked on some focus games, and we just kept moving in general. She was nice and calm. Even though she was excited to go over the practice jumps, she kept it together and didn't go zooming off. When I put her in a stay at the start line, she held it. And then I released her. Once she went over the first jump, she got this total crazed look in her eyes. I knew that didn't bode well for me! We did make it through the course. However, there were a few of courses due to some zoomies. There was a wrong course when she decided to zip around and take the wrong end of the tunnel. Basically, she had a ball. Needless to say, the run was an NQ. ARG! And we only needed one more Novice Standard leg!! Standard is seriously going to be the death of me with Bess. I think the contacts and the table give her too much time to "rest" and get ready for take off.

Even though it was an NQ day, we did get plenty out of it and it was fun regardless. I didn't end up getting home until after 7pm. I got the truck unpacked, fed the dogs, and then spent a little time in the garage packing meat. Oh yeah, did I mention that it's a meat packing weekend? Oh what fun! I really had no choice though. The dogs didn't have enough food left to last beyond the weekend.

Tomorrow Bess and I are headed out for another fun event. It's going to be Bess' first skijoring race!! We're entered in the recreational skijoring division, which is a two mile course. It should be good for her because she can just go crazy and run. Lets just hope she pauses long enough to allow me to get back on my skis when I fall!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hooray for Chiropractors!

Chiropractors are awesome! Everyone should go see one. Seriously. It is amazing what someone skilled in this field can accomplish and the amount of information that they can impart. Needless to say, Heffner's chiropractor appointment yesterday went great! I am incredibly happy with the results that we are seeing thus far. And even more, I'm thrilled to be actually doing something that is taking care of the underlying problem instead of just treating the symptoms. But I will start from the beginning with what prompted me to come to this point; aside from the acute lameness that we dealt with this past weekend.

When Heffner was a few months shy of two years old, he pinched a nerve in his neck while simply turning a circle on our old futon. It was awful. He couldn't raise his head and he was favoring his front right foot. He couldn't lay down. I took him in to see my vet, she realized it was something to do with his neck. She figured it was either a pinched nerve or a herniated disc. We were hoping for the former because the latter could possibly entail surgery. We decided to put him on some pain meds and anti inflammatories and see how he did. With the combination of the meds and much restricted exercise, the problem "went away."

Then in December of 2009 I noticed that he was standing funny and moving a little off. I blogged about it a little bit. I took him straight to see a specialist because I also was hoping to get a performance evaluation based on his conformation. I didn't really get that, but Heffner was diagnosed with an iliopsoas strain. The treatment? More meds and restricted exercise so that it could magically go away.

And now we're up to this past weekend when Heffner appeared to pinch a nerve on the left side of his neck with almost all of the same symptoms that he had several years ago, though he was in less pain this time around. How did he pinch this nerve? By simply walking across the backyard to the back door after being let out to potty. Weird.

Ever since he first pinched that nerve a few years back, I've felt that something just wasn't quite right. I've tried massage and I've tried acupuncture, wondering if someone would find this intangible thing that was wrong with my dog. While there were specific problem areas that were found, the overall cause wasn't really determined. And it's just been gnawing at me. I knew something wasn't quite right and I figured it was staring me in the face. And it was. When there is something structurally wrong with your dog, what should you do? Go and see someone who deals with problems of the skeletal system. And who would that be? A freaking chiropractor!

I swear that these professionals are under appreciated for all the good that they do. The reality is that life throws all sorts of things at you and your body does a variety of things to accommodate and deal with these stressors. In that process, things tend to get a little out of whack. If the system isn't put back to rights, a variety of problems can spring up "out of the blue." Hence the "random" lameness that I experienced this past weekend. And naturally, the only way to fix the problem is to treat what's actually causing it, and not just the symptoms.

My problem was that I wasn't asking the right questions. Okay, my dog has a strained iliopsoas. But WHY is this muscle strained? Okay, he pinched a nerve in his neck while calmly walking across the lawn. But WHY did the nerve get pinched? I wasn't ever going to find a solution by simply treating the manifestation of the deeper problem. As a matter of fact, I was letting things get worse by not going after the root of the problem. Thankfully, we are now on the right path. And I know this, because all the little nagging things that bothered me, have already shown slight improvements.

Back to Heffner's appointment! The chiropractor that we saw was Dr. Sandra Johnson DC, CAC. I found her via two methods. A friend that I trust recommended her to me and I also looked her up through the AVCA web site. I emailed her ahead of time, because I was planning on attending one of her drop in sessions. I wanted to let her know kind of what had happened and to just kind of prep her ahead of time. By about Monday night, Heffner was back to his normal self. No sign of lameness what so ever. And he was starting to show how pent up he was, since I had completely restricted his exercise. By Tuesday afternoon, he was full of it and keeping the dogs from playing and him from doing any sort of racing around the house was a CHORE. I had resolved to keep him "quiet" until our appointment so that he didn't potentially tweak anything else.

When we got to Pup-A-Razzi on Wednesday, she was just finishing up a dog, so I timed it perfect! They had blocked off one of their "rings" for her use so that she could see the dogs moving and would have plenty of room to work. Immediately she picked up on the major problem with Heffner's movement. She told me that he was throwing his right hip really badly. I had always thought that Heffner "swayed" more than was warranted when he walked, but I also thought that maybe it had to do with the fact that he often paces when he walks. Though, when I would compare him to Bess, during one of the few times that she would pace while walking, she didn't "sway" nearly as much as he did.

Once she saw that, she started physically putting her hands on him so that she could tell what exactly was out of alignment and how much. Well..........pretty much his entire spine was out. His neck wasn't too bad, his left shoulder was worse than his right (makes sense since that was the leg he was favoring a few days prior), his back needed work, and I think his pelvis was the worst. His pelvis was really the root of the lameness problems that I had been seeing. Why was his iliopsoas strained? Because his right pelvis (it was the right iliopsoas that was the problem before) was locked and under rotated by an inch and a half. I have absolutely no reference to how bad that is, but it's apparently rather bad. She worked on that area for a while and when she finally got the right pelvis to unlock, Heffner felt it and wasn't too thrilled. He still behaved himself, but he did wip his head around and give her the stink eye!

After that she worked on the left shoulder. The left shoulder was out because the right pelvis was so screwed up. Essentially the legs that are kitty corner to each other work together to help support the body and create correct movement. When the right hip isn't pushing off enough and is additionally torqued out of position, it puts a lot of strain on the left shoulder to do more pulling and compensate when the dog is moving. That's why he tweaked his left shoulder "out of the blue." All of this made so much sense! And did I mention that she was finding all these older problem areas without me even telling her that he had issues there until after she pointed them out to me? The only problem I told her about was the most recent shoulder issue. That also really impressed me.

She worked on Heff for over half an hour. When she was done, she had me walk him around some more to see how he was moving. His movement was already better. He wasn't swaying nearly as much when he walked. When he stood, he didn't cock his right rear foot outwards. And his topline was noticeably flatter after she adjusted his back. And he's not even fully back to correct alignment yet!:)

So the good news is that Heffner can be fixed. It's going to take multiple sessions, but it will happen! The first three or four adjustments are probably going to be about a week apart. For the first 48 hours after each adjustment, he isn't allowed to do any exercising. He can go out to go potty and that's it. If we aren't going to be around to supervise the dogs, they are separated. Heffner gets barricaded in the media room so that he's not tempted to go up and down the stairs. After each set of 48 hours with zero exercise, his allowable exercise is to be cut to 50% what's normal for him with some modifications to allow the adjustments to fully take hold. He's pretty much allowed to go on walks and work obedience exercises and that's it. There won't be any ball work, no jogging, and most importantly, no agility. The goal is to not let his body feel at all fatigued because then it will drift back to the incorrect alignment due to muscle memory.

Heffner's agility "career" is also a little uncertain. His body has adapted to being out of alignment for a few years now and that is going to be hard to combat with the rigors of agility. Even after this more intense period of chiropractic adjustments, he'll be getting routine checkups. As will Bess. This year will be a defining year for him. He turns five on the 23rd of this month. It's an age that I otherwise wouldn't think too much of, but all things considered, it's become a significant age. If I can't keep him sound while running agility this year, then he will be retired from agility. It's kind of sad, but I'd rather have many more good years with him than fewer that are plagued by injuries.

Phew! That was a long one! Now that I've gotten that all out, I need to go and exorcise Bess (and no, that most certainly is NOT a typo!). She is having a really hard time not being able to rough house with Heffner and being separated from him during the day. That combined with getting zero exercise yesterday because I went to our obedience club meeting, means that Bess. Is. Losing. Her. Mind. This does not bode well for the agility trial tomorrow. And speaking of that, it's an AKC trial so I better get that toe nail polish off!! I'm sure I'll have plenty to report tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Blogger Tuesday

So far so good! It's a new year and I'm staying on "schedule.":) Granted, it is only the fourth day of the year, but I'm going to overlook that for now.;) It is definitely high time that I get back to doing my Blog of the Week posts and I'm going to kick that off with It's a Berner-ful Life! This is a blog about the live of two beautiful bernese mountain dogs. Both dogs are involved in a variety of performance sports including obedience, agility, and drafting. Their mom does a wonderful job of taking pictures of them and includes some seriously breath taking pictures that so perfectly capture the beauty of her dogs. You should head on over and check them out!

On a side note, for those of you have been following Blogging Dante, would you mind popping over and just leaving a well wishing comment on the last post? For those who don't know what's been going on, just read her last post. That's a big life change and it can be especially hard getting through the holidays after something like that. I don't know how they're all doing, but I'm hoping that everyone is well and getting along with life. I just bet that it would feel really good for her to get some well wishes and know that people are still thinking of them.