Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bess Update

Bessy has had a pretty good run of luck in the competition ring of late. :)  On September 20th we traveled up to Shelton, WA for the Great Dane Club of Western Washington's annual double specialty.  I had been going back and forth on whether I should enter Bess in veterans or not.  I was planning on going up anyhow to watch the show and socialize, but couldn't decide if I wanted to also have to worry about a dog of my own.  With encouragement from Bess' breeder, I decided to enter her in veterans.  And it was a good thing that I did!  Bess won the veteran bitch class for both specialties!!  Not only that, but in the am specialty, the judge put her up for Select Bitch!!  I was ecstatic!!  I will admit that I think Bess being a bit of her crazy self in the class was in our favor.  I had been getting her a little amped up in the class and on the down and back she decided to get a little frisky.  The judge had us redo our down and back.  At the end of going back around the ring, I let her let off some steam and she got pretty sassy with me, but in a not so bad way.;)  The judge jokingly commented that she acted like she should be in the 6-9 puppy class and not the veterans class.  I also opted to pretty much just free stack her and not nit pick with hand stacking.  She stacks quite nicely on her own and I can tend to over do it when I futz with her. 

Some of you may be wondering what going Select Bitch means point wise and how that's possible.  Bess is spayed.  The only way that I can show her in conformation is in the veterans class.  Only specialties have veteran classes.  A dog or bitch winning the veteran class is eligible for any of the placings other than Winners Bitch or Winners Dog.  A few years back a brindle bitch took Breed from the veterans class at this same specialty.  She also happened to be a relative of Bess'.  From a points perspective, it doesn't mean anything for Bess, unfortunately.  She's not finished and the points for Select Bitch or Select Dog go towards a Grand Championship only.  Which means, no points for Bess, but still VERY awesome for her regardless! 

This past weekend, the obedience club that I belong to hosted an obedience trial.  I stewarded on Saturday for part of the day.  I was doing the Zombie Apocalypse Run that evening.  And on Sunday, Bess and I made a more honest foray into the Novice ring.  For the past while I have been focusing on finding ways to reinforce Bess in the ring and get a happier working dog, without using food inside the ring.  With the fantastic help of our instructor, we have made a lot of headway.  It's been a slow process, but we're getting there!  We've entered the Novice ring before and each time has been quite disappointing.  This time around I felt like we were actually ready.  Our focus is more on accuracy than precision.  Did she give me a front?  Yes.  Was it crooked or less than perfect?  Yes, but it was technically a front.  Am I okay giving up some points on crooked sits in favor of having a dog who doesn't look like she's just been beaten?  You betcha!  Our refocusing on what is more plausible for us as a team, while increasing the positive experience of being in the ring has made all the difference!  I am getting to the point where I have a very enjoyable partner in the ring, and that's the important part right now, and may stay that way for the duration of my time in the competition ring with Bess. 

Getting around to the point, Bess and I qualified for our very first Novice leg with a score of, I believe, 187!:)  She also won her class!!  We were in the Novice A class, which was a smaller class, but I'm thrilled all the same.  I did go a bit over the top on praise and keeping her "up" in between exercises and the very end of our run.  But it was such a better feeling than we've had previously, that I couldn't help but let her know how fantastic I thought she was.  Overall, it was a great first leg to get and I'm looking forward to more runs that are just as positive, though maybe I'll tone the partying down a little bit. ;)

So there you have it.  Miss Bess has been a sexy super star over the past few weeks and I'm very proud of her.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Heffner Update

Hi there!  It is I, the infrequent blogger.:)  Lets start with some completely happy news!  I have some brags about Bess that I will be putting in a separate blog post.  So stay tuned (if there are any of you still out there!).  On some less happy news, Heffner has been pretty sick recently.  The upside is that he's fine now.  The down side is that there were a few points where I was expecting the worst.

It all started with a limp.  Heffner tweaked something in his neck several years ago and it went away with some pain meds, anti inflammatories, and decreased activity.  Periodically since then, he would tweak it again.  Within 24-48 hours, he would be fine.  Sometimes I would give him a little something to ease his discomfort, but mostly it wasn't necessary.  Recently he started favoring this same shoulder off and on for a couple of weeks.  He didn't show outright pain and it wasn't consistent.  But it also wasn't going away.  I was about to leave for a trip with some friends and I didn't want to worry about him while I was gone and I didn't want my dog sitter to have to worry either, so I took him in to the vet.  Unfortunately (very much so), his regular vet was not in the day before I left on my little trip, but I wanted him to be seen anyhow.  I should probably also mention at this point that he had a little bit of a cough as well.  It was something that I hadn't paid attention to because Bess has some lung scarring and has a persistent periodic cough that I'm used to hearing.  I didn't think much of it.  But a cough combined with the favoring of a limb had me instantly jumping to the worst case scenario.  I was convinced that Heffner had osteosarcoma and it had already moved into his lungs.  Yeah, not pleasant to be pondering.  The vet that examined him palpated his legs and put him through some range of movement exercises and he didn't show any signs of pain.  Okay, so no pain upon palpation.  If it was osteosarcoma and had already moved to his lungs, he should have been in some pain.  Sweet, we can cross that one off the list (mind you, I didn't cross it off the list that easily at the time)!  She prescribed some pain meds/anti inflammatories for the limping and some wide ranging antibiotics, just in case the coughing was potentially leading to pneumonia (something I am all too familiar with).  So while I am forever a worrier when it comes to my dogs, I felt that things were under control and that I could go and enjoy my trip.

Things stayed that way until I got a call from my dog sitter shortly before my plane was leaving to head home.  "Is it normal for Heffner to not eat?"  No, no it is not.  This dog is the reason why NO food can be left out any where in the house because he will eat it.  When I got home, Heffner was definitely not doing well.  He was still slightly favoring the same leg, but had less energy and was a little dopey to boot.  I was not liking that.  Over the next two days he wouldn't eat anything at all for me.  He would turn his nose up at any special treats that I tried with him.  I took him off the pain meds, but continued with the antibiotics.  I then made an appointment with my vet to have him checked out.  He gave me false hope by eating his dinner one night.  The next morning I had to coax him to eat his breakfast and he puked it back up within a half hour.  Not good. 

When we went to see his regular vet, she gave him a full going over.  She found an arrhythmia that hadn't been there even the week before (spoiler: turned out to be nothing more than a benign sinus arrhythmia).  Still no specific pain, but he was definitely not himself.  I agreed to have chest and neck x-rays done on him.  X-rays came back clear.  Both good news and bad news.  Something was obviously wrong with him, but nothing was apparently wrong with him. :-/  Some blood had been collected on him to check everything out.  As I was paying the bill and almost heading out the door, his vet came up to tell me that after spinning the sample down his plasma was yellow, which meant something was up with his liver.  Crap.  Now I had a whole slew of things to potentially be worried about.  She would have the full blood results back the next day and we'd figure out what to do from there. 

Blood results were in and there was definitely something going on with his liver.  There were a few things that it could be.  The mildest was an inflammation of the liver due to the heavy hitting meds that he had been on.  Another was pancreatitis.  Still another was tumors on his liver.  In order to find out what was wrong with his liver, an ultrasound was needed.  With the ultrasound, came a specialist.  Oy!  While it's great that they were calling a specialist to be absolutely certain about what they were seeing and what was going on, specialists come with a heftier price tag and this was definitely going to hit my credit card hard.  But what else can you do?  There was also the potential that if there were tumors on the liver, a needle biopsy would need to be performed to figure out what we were dealing with. 

The ultrasound was performed and everything came back clear.  Hmmmm.  Good news, but also not so great news.  So they decided to perform the needle biopsy any how.  Here's where I will admit that I was a little annoyed.  I thought that I would at least get a phone call to ask for consent since the needle biopsy was originally only going to be performed if tumors were found on the liver.  That didn't happen.  Knowing now that my dog is fine, it's very easy to get irritated about this finer detail.  However, the end result is that I know for sure that my dog is fine.  Something that I will also have to admit that it took a couple of friends gently reminding me about to get me to stop bitching. 

Upon initial examination of the cells, nothing was found.  I still haven't heard the final results of the biopsy (the ultrasound and biopsy occurred on the 10th, last Thursday), but I'm assuming that's because there's nothing more to report and my vet wasn't in the office today.  The final diagnosis is an inflammatory response due to the original meds that Heffner had been prescribed.  He's never been on either one before and he sure as hell will never be on either one again!

So yeah, I've been more than a little worried about my chaperon.  Not that we're ever ready to lose any of our guys, but the possibility of losing him well before I was ready (he and I have already discussed that he's supposed to live at least as long as I do), was a little difficult to deal with at times.

At this point I'm happy to report that he is doing well.  Eating normally.  There were a couple of days where all I could get him to eat were canned pumpkin and tuna fish. **verp**  He wouldn't eat ANYTHING else.  Trust me, I tried the gambit, including all the traditional bland diet constituents.  Canned pumpkin and tuna were the magic sauce apparently.  And he's now back to acting normal.  I'm still restricting his exercise.  Bess is my running and hiking buddy and will be for a little while to come.  He's not favoring the leg and I want to make damn sure that continues.

So here's to an otherwise healthy Heffner and a crazy way to come back to blogging after about four months off. ;) 

P.S.  Bess and Ruthie are (knock on wood) happy and healthy!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Getting Closer

Yesterday was a dog show day for Bess and Ruthie.  I had Bess entered in two runs of Graduate Novice and Ruthie entered in breed twice for our frenchie club's dual specialties.  The short of it is Bess and I did not qualify in either of her runs and Ruthie did not get pulled in breed for the first specialty and I pulled her from the second because it was really starting to warm up and I wasn't really feeling like sticking around until late.  Now for the long of it. ;)

Bess is definitely moving in the right direction in obedience, but we aren't quite there yet.  After the HUGE improvement that she made in Lodi, I kind of felt like we had turned a corner and things were only going to look up from here.  After all, she overcame the many distractions at that gorgeous venue, she worked on grass, outside, and in hot weather.  If she can put in smile worthy performances there that made me proud of her, surely competing on packed dirt in an indoor arena that she's competed in before should be a piece of cake!  Well, almost.  The things that she knew, she totally nailed.  The things that she's been a little shaky on in training, fell apart.  I'll focus on the many positives before I tear apart what went wrong and start in on questioning my prep leading up to the trial.

Bess' heeling is seriously improving!  Yes, it's still on leash in Graduate Novice and our biggest buggaboo is off lead, but it's honestly improving under trial conditions.  Her heeling was a little so-so for her morning run, but I was really happy with it in her afternoon run.  Heeling is my favorite thing to train and absolute favorite exercise when the handler and dog are in sync.  For me, there's just nothing that feels better than awesome heeling with my dogs! 

The other high point of both of her runs was that she came on every single recall!  We've had issues in the past, more so in competition than in training, where she just continues to hold her stay when I call her.  Yesterday she came on all of her recalls, and Graduate Novice has a LOT of recalls.  She was definitely more enthusiastic about her recalls over the high and broad jumps, but she still did every single one.

She also nailed all of her finishes (I pretty much also have her finish from the right), regardless of where she decided front was. ;)  And we had some interesting front placements that gave me doubt as to whether she could pull it off.  But she did!

And now for our not so great moments.  The drop on recall and the off lead figure 8 killed us both times.  We had no drop in either run.  That was the one exercise that she seemed the most confused by in the ring.  Instead of dropping, both times she just eventually stopped in a stand.  She knew that there was something that she was supposed to do, but just couldn't seem to remember how to respond.  Her fronts both times after that were also not great.  For the second run, she didn't even sit after I called her in the rest of the way. 

The first figure 8 of the day was the worst.  For the final halt, she ended up on my right side.  She was so distracted by the people who were our posts that she lost focus on me completely.  I lost her both times when circling to the right.  In our second run, I did give an additional heel command that brought her back and actually seemed to snap her back to the task at hand and cause her to remember what she was supposed to do.

Since yesterday, there are two general trains of thought that have been occupying my mind.  1) What am I going to do to fix this?  And 2) Did I do something in our training leading up to it to confuse her?  Leading up to Lodi, I have to openly admit that I did not work with Bess on anything obedience related in between our private lessons.  We were going once a week and outside of our lessons, I didn't do anything with her.  Lodi obviously went well.  This time around, I decided to work on the drop on recall in particular, the week leading up to the trial.  Since that's our exercise that fell apart the most, now I'm wondering if I was on the right track before and I should just not work Bess on anything obedience related leading up to a trial.  Maybe I pushed it too much and created more confusion.  All sorts of self doubts have crept in.  Her performances showed definite improvement, I'm just paranoid about ruining her tremendous steps forward.

So what am I going to do to fix this?  I know what I'm going to do about the fronts.  I worked hard on making the finishes fun for her and that succeeded.  She has a solid understanding of them, and proved that in the ring yesterday.  Now I just need to do that with her fronts.  I'm pretty sure I know how to go about that.  Now I just need to try it out.

Fixing the drop on recall may be something that I only work on in our lessons.  She understands both the verbal and the signal commands for dropping.  I have her do them randomly around the house and the yard and she nails it.  It's just her understanding of it in motion on a recall that seems to break down.  Maybe it's something that while at home, I will only work on having her drop in motion.  Once she drops, I'll release her, give her her reward, and that will be it.  I won't worry about her coming to front  after the drop for a while.  We'll see.

Not to be forgotten, the Mighty Midget got to go in the breed ring as a special yesterday!  I will admit that I feel way less confident showing a frenchie in conformation than I do a dane.  It's just so different!  For one, there's a table.  For the other, I just don't practice conformation showing with her.  I did more recently, but not that much and subsequently, it just feels a little awkward.  It was totally fun though!  She was a good girl and did what she needed to do, though she obviously a little bored with it.  Two friends of mine recently got a frenchie puppy and they came to the specialty to check everything out and get a little slice of frenchie heaven.  So they loved on Ruthie a whole lot and she just ate it up!  By comparison, being in the ring was not as entertaining and Ruthie centered.;)

As I mentioned, things were heating up after Bess' afternoon GN run, so I decided to just pack everyone up and head home.  So no afternoon showing for Ruthie.  It was definitely a fun day and I came away from it with a good feeling.  Here's to continuing on this road!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


So, I had a blog post that went up Thursday evening and lasted almost 24 hours.  I know that some of you read it.  The post itself got really personal and after a bit of time to reconsider, I decided to pull it.  I meant every bit of it, but it ended up feeling like way too much to share on the blog about my personal life.  And it was quite lengthy.  It felt good and it did help me feel a smidge better.  But I think it was a bit much to post on here.  I will do a brief synopsis though.

Basically this month last year is when my ex-husband and I were going through the decision to divorce.  At the end of this month it would have been our 10th wedding anniversary.  Ouch.  Two weeks after that last year we filed and were legally divorced.  I had a whole lot of crap going on in my life at that time and in order to "deal" with it, I opted to not really think about what was going on in my personal life and just sort of suck it up.  I had already started shutting down before the topic of divorce was brought up and that actually happening kind of finished the shutting down.  As a result, I haven't been training or working with the dogs like I was previously and I have horrible guilt about that.  It's also quite evident in my sort of sudden drop off in blog posting.  I thought that things were getting better, but this month has brought everything very painfully back to me.  Over the past year I focused too much on trying to fake being alright, trying to not make friends uncomfortable with what I was going through, trying to be upbeat and maintain a friendship with Adam, even though I often felt like I was the only one putting any effort in, and just generally trying to stay away from the painful emotions.  Not dealing with those emotions has really bitten me in the ass.  Things still feel fresh, other crap related to this situation has happened over the year to add to that, and I am having a hard time.  I'm trying to actually deal with these emotions now, but it's hard.  So you'll have to bear with me.  I feel like a bit of a disappointment with regards to the dogs this past year, but I'm trying to let that go.  I've got crap that I actually need to deal with and that needs to be taken care of before I can start feeling normal again.

In the mean time, I have amazing friends and family who constantly amaze me with how great they are.  I'm a very lucky girl in so many ways.  At the moment, I'm thankful that I have my dogs and I'm so very, very thankful for the amazing people I am lucky enough to have in my life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I hope everyone is having a splendid week so far!  Not too shabby on our end.  We had a bit of a torrential downpour that left me feeling happy that I didn't have to worry about watering my lawn today. ;)  And the cooler temperatures outside meant that the dogs could play around without getting too hot too quickly.  Ruthie, however, had other plans and went a little crazy when I pulled out the edible bubble machine.  I managed to take a couple of videos of her antics.

And speaking of accessories, we were featured on the Healthy Paws blog!! So head on over and check it out!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The "P" Word

In my life, I need a lot of this:

I would love it if I could have these guys, forever:

But barring some crazy discoveries within the next couple of years and me finding myself a nice sugar daddy, that's not going to happen.  I love being able to go hiking where ever I want, at whatever time I choose.  The dogs are ALWAYS more than willing to go any where with me.  Heffner, as my self appointed chaperon, feels that he MUST accompany me every where.  I'm okay with that. :) But as I've already mentioned, I need to start thinking ahead so that I have a running and hiking partner to take these guys' places when the time comes.  And what that means is the dreaded, but oh so eagerly anticipated "P" word; PUPPY!!

I don't know how many times I've mentioned on here that I really want a puppy.  I know it's not nearly as many times as I've uttered that sentence "in real life."  Heffner was the only one of the three that I've had as a puppy.  Bess would have been insane and hilarious as a puppy I'm sure, but I got her at 11 months, and am very happy that I did.  Judging by Ruthie's entertaining antics now and what I've seen of other frenchie puppies, I'm pretty sure I would have died from the cuteness and hilarity of having her as a puppy.  I'm also not entirely sure that I would be up to the task of house breaking a frenchie puppy. ;) And because of all of that and a whole lot more, I'm really looking forward to having a puppy again.

Yeah, it's going to be a freaking house full.  Yes, it's going to be a lot of work.  And yes, I will hands down be the craziest dog lady within a mile radius of my house (at least), but I also really want it.  I can't stress enough how I would have my guys forever if I could with them remaining themselves and sound of mind and body.  But who doesn't LOVE the idea of a puppy!!  Especially a great dane?!  Oh yeah, did I mention that it'll be another dane.  That's probably a little key when factoring in the crazy dog lady status. ;)

I've had some fantastic opportunities already present themselves, but the timing hasn't really been right.  There are projects that I want to do around the house and that means time and more importantly, money.  So I'm getting some stuff taken care of this year so that next year can be all about the puppy!  2014 is about as long as I think I can put it off.  I won't be able to start jogging with the puppy until she's at least a year and a half.  Hiking can happen before that, but the lengthier hikes will take a little longer.  This means that by the time puppy is ready to take on the responsibility of being my exercise buddy, Heffner and Bess will be at least 9 and 8 respectively.  Great danes don't have the longest life spans, so I think you can start to see why next year is about as long as I can put it off.

So many fun things to think about!  There's agility equipment that I'll need to have my dad and good friend of mine help me build so that I can start training and getting her used to that from the get go.  There's figuring out exactly who the parents are going to be (I've narrowed down the breeders, but the parents aren't figured out yet).  And figuring out how I'm going to juggle the introduction and rotations of everyone.  I'm sure Ruthie is just going to LOVE having another giant added into the household, and a puppy at that. ;)  The thought of starting over with a clean slate when it comes to training is really exciting.  Thinking about all the pictures and videos that will ensue!!  OMG!!  Puppy breath!!!  Okay, okay....calming down.  Puppies are a lot of work....but soooooooooooo cute!!

So there's my solution to the reality that my loves are getting older.....annoying the heck out of them with a puppy! lol

I hope everyone had a splendid weekend!  And if you're still reading at this point, I'm thinking that I'd like to put together another little video blog again.  I only did the one before falling off the wagon.  So send your questions my way either via comments or email (on the sidebar) to give me some ideas for material.  Happy Monday!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ponderings at 5am

I know what you're thinking.  "Hold the phone!  Two posts in one week??"  Your eyes do not deceive you!  I am managing two posts in one week!

Now that you're over your initial shock, your next thought may be "why is she pondering anything at 5am??"  Because mother nature does not bend to my will and I now have two temperature sensitive dogs.  As Bess has gotten older, she's not as thrilled to go running in "warmer" temperatures.  Heffner never was.  Back at the beginning of the month, we had a slew of warmer than average days and my only option for going running with the dogs was to do it before work, which meant heading out at 5am.  I will tell you this, I'm not a huge fan of having to be completely functional and exercising at 5am.  The dogs do not have this same problem.  As a matter of fact, they have a spring in their step that they certainly don't have later in the day.  Bess in particular gets all kinds of sassy.  If I weren't trying to stay upright, I'd think it was down right adorable.  As we're running along, my mind tends to wander.  Or at least it does until Bess snaps me back to reality.

For starters, it's REALLY nice out at 5am.  There's one main road that I have to cross to get to any of my running routes, and after work it's pretty busy and a total pain in the butt to get across.  At 5am, there is no traffic.  As a matter of fact, I can saunter across the road at whatever leisurely pace I want to instead of having haul balls across during a brief break in traffic.  Of course, the dogs are so used to always running across this road that they automatically start jogging across once we get to it.  Whatever.  It's also generally the most perfect temperature for running.  Heffner really can't even do a short 3 mile run when it's 60 out without starting to over heat.  Most mornings are in the low 50's at most.  Perfection.

There's also a total lack of people and other dogs out.  Sweet!!  As the weather was getting nicer, there were more people out walking and jogging with or without their dogs.  It is seriously irritating for me to constantly have to dodge people and redirect Heffner when he spots another dog.  There were days that I just wanted to stop and scream at the sky "I just want to go for a run with my dogs!!  Everyone go home and leave us alone!"  I realize that's a little ridiculous given that I'm running in very public areas and it's my choice to be there, but seriously, there are days where I wonder if someone isn't just sitting back and laughing while they throw one irritating obstacle in our path after another.  You know those days where you just want to be out with just your dogs and not have to worry about anyone or anything else?  Admittedly, I get those a lot, but I'm sure everyone can empathize and understand how irritating it is when that doesn't work out the way you wanted it to.

With all that great weather and solitude that abound at that glorious time of the morning, I am usually able to let my mind wander a bit.  Naturally, it tends to revolve around my dogs.  I think about plans for the future for them.  What am I going to do with them performance wise?  How am I going to tackle certain difficulties in our training?  How am I going to juggle everything with all three dogs in addition to work and personal life?  Am I doing what's best for my dogs?  Is there more that I could be doing for them?  Are they happy?  The stream of consciousness goes on and on.  Inevitably my thoughts go down a path that I am more resistant to think about.

My dogs are getting older.  Bess' increased sensitivity to temperature is about the only sign with her outside of the grey in her mask.  Heffner turned 7 in January.  I've already retired him from the performance sports that we were already participating in.  What other concessions am I going to have to start making.  Structurally, he's not put together as well as Bess and I want to look out for that as much as I can.  The sad truth is that I will most likely start cutting back his running mileage next year when he turns 8.  He won't like it, but I also have to be careful with him because he will go with me anywhere until he drops.  He won't make the decision himself that he needs to hang back.  I'll have to make that decision for him.  I want him around, healthy and happy for as long as possible.  That means that all too soon he won't be going on these long runs with Bess and I.  I think our shorter 3 mile runs will still be okay for him to do once a week, but at some point those will have to go too.  And eventually Bess will get to the point where I need to start cutting her back too.  Hard to imagine Bess ever slowing down, but it will happen eventually.  At least I think it will. ;)

So yeah, sometimes my mind wanders in directions that I'd rather it didn't.  The thought of not having a running partner is just inconceivable (Princess Bride reference ;0) ).  I'm so used to running with my guys that it honestly looks weird to me when I see someone out running by themselves.  Why on earth would you go running outside if you didn't have a dog to run with?  It just seems so weird to me.  Just a totally different frame of reference I guess. ;)

And the final pondering at 5am, how do I solve this dilemma with my aging running partners?  That's an answer for another post. ;)

I hope everyone has been having a great week so far.  Tomorrow's Friday!!  Here's a couple of snippets of the dogs that I took on my phone.  I really need to pull my actual camera out more.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Here We Go...

You know, I put all sorts of emphasis on having a schedule for my dogs.  I feel it's great for them to know what to expect and when.  It certainly helps when it comes to them going to the bathroom (*ahem* Ruthie pretends not to realize this).  It helps with training, so that I can catch them when they're more alert and able to take in what I'm trying to teach them.  And it hopefully helps in teaching them to have an off button so that they just chill the heck out (Bess pretends not to realize this) when I would like them to.  I spend so much time focusing on a schedule for my dogs, that I sort of forget to find a schedule for myself.  And that just hasn't really been working for me.  I'm all over the place!  There's all these things that I want to do, then there's all the things that I should be doing, and of course, all the things that I have to do.  Pretty much everything that I don't HAVE to be doing goes by the way side and I just end up wishing that I could find time for it, but don't actually put the effort in to make a schedule for it.  Keeping up on this blog definitely falls into the category of things that I want to do, but I just haven't made the time for.  I feel like all I do is periodically pop on here and apologize for my long absences.  So, sorry again, and I will try to be better!  Now lets talk about my dogs. :)

Lets see, the last time I posted anything was way back in November.  Nothing like letting six months go between posts!  And really that post wasn't all that heavy on dog content.  I'm still loving my date nights with the pooches!  I'm very proud to say that Heffner and Bess both have new obedience titles!!  I'll get to that in due time.  I'll do a little synopsis of what has been going on with each dog so far starting with the midget.

I have to ashamedly admit that I haven't been doing a whole lot with Ruthie lately.  My focus has been more on the big dogs, and specifically on Bess in obedience.  I've still been training Ruthie here and there, but definitely not as much as I was.  She's still a super trooper when hiking in the cooler weather, but she definitely has a lower threshold of what she considers okay hiking temperatures.  As we're getting closer to summer, she'll be trading in hiking time for more casual walks around the parks close to home.  She tries, but that adorable face just wasn't made to regulate heat as well.  I haven't entered her in anything since the frenchie national.  I'm shooting for entering her back into obedience and rally in the fall.  Our frenchie club is hosting it's first specialty in June and I'm planning on entering her as a special.  Which should be highly entertaining!  I haven't done anything conformation related with her and when I was practicing with her today with our obedience instructor helping, I realized that I have a lot of work to do.  It is soooooo different doing a little dog than it is a big dog!  Plus, Ruthie just doesn't understand what I'm trying to do with her after so much time spent doing everything but conformation.  So yeah, we've got some work ahead of us. ;)  She's also become rather fond of pooping the house.  This isn't something that is necessarily true, but it's been rather bad lately.  I finally figured out a schedule that works to keep her from peeing in the house, but the pooping is something else all together.  It's a work in progress.  Every time I think I have the magic combination figured out, she confounds me.  I'm about ready to put a plug in her unless she's outside!  Though I do have to say she went all yesterday without pooping in the house.  Hopefully that trend will continue.  So not a whole lot more to add to Ruthie's synopsis.  Still cute, still makes all sorts of noises, still does funny and sometimes gross things.

Now for Bessy!  I have to admit that at the beginning of this year I really felt like I had hit a wall with Bess.  We were experiencing issues both in the agility and the obedience ring and I was at a loss for how to fix things.  My motivation to continue working and training with her was pretty low.  I continued on with my obedience lessons because I still enjoyed them, and they were the only thing that was really keeping me going.  I have to admit that I had tossed around the idea of actually outright retiring Bess and just waiting until I got a puppy to start over with.  Thankfully I kept at it and it has ended up being so worth it in the obedience ring!!  In a nut shell, I had to get harder on Bess.  While she is a softer dog, my being soft on her wasn't entirely helping.  I needed to be very specific in what I wanted from her and tell her when she wasn't doing it correctly.  I had to have an exact set of criteria in my head as to what was acceptable.  Everything else was crap and she needed to know that.  Keep in mind these are all exercises that we've worked on for some time now and this is all material that she knows.  I wouldn't have been so exacting on her if we were working with new exercises or behaviors.  The bottom line is that she knows these exercises, knows what's expected of her, and I've been wishy washy with my criteria, which has led to some confusion on her part.  With the excellent help of our instructor, Jill, we have made tremendous progress!!  I'll jump ahead a bit and say that we actually have a dumbbell retrieve.  A freaking retrieve!! :)  I about cried when she did it! 

Now taking a few steps back from all that, with the new expectations I had for Bess, we actually started making progress.  I was actually feeling good about going down to Lodi for the annual Great Dane Club of Northern California specialty!  I bumped my obedience lessons up to once a week leading up to the specialty and things were really moving in a positive direction.  I was still somewhat apprehensive about the specialty.  Historically we just didn't do that well down there.  It was outside and I almost never compete outside with my dogs.  And the setting was a little more distracting than we were used to.  But the specialty is so much fun and one of the very few that has obedience and rally.  I am very proud to say that Bess' Graduate Novice performances were more than I had dared to hope for!!:)  Her first run of the day we NQed on the drop on recall because she didn't drop.  Aside from that I was thrilled with her performance!  Her second run of the day was when the weather was definitely getting hot and I wasn't really sure what she would have for me.  I hosed her down before our run and we ended up qualifying!!  The best part was that I had a happy dog in the ring!  I didn't have the moping dog who looked like I she had just been severely beaten.  I had an upbeat dog who knew what was expected of her and realized that she could in fact think in the ring!  It was one of THE best feelings that I've had in a very long time. 

Her rally runs were not as great as her obedience runs, which I am totally okay with.  I just wanted that final RAE leg to get the title and aside from this specialty, I have no intention of competing with her in rally.  Her first two runs in the morning were not great.  I was starting to get frustrated with her in the ring again.  While her performances weren't as bad as they have been, I really only saw a very marginal improvement.  We did not qualify in either morning run.  Darn it!  My hopes were slim for the afternoon.  Again, it was warming up and I really expected her to start wilting.  While her final two runs were again, not stellar, she did manage to pull off qualifying runs in both Advanced and Excellent to get her final RAE leg and that darned title!!  She also ended up going high combined in rally!  The picture that I posted a few paragraphs up is from the specialty.  We decided to go with something a little different than the traditional titling picture and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. :)

This specialty as marked Bess' debut in the veterans ring.  While she didn't do anything in the class, it's still kind of fun to take her back in the conformation ring without the frustration of trying to finish her.  I plan to continue entering her in veterans at the local specialties and we'll see how that goes.  That girl had a very busy day that Saturday.  She had two obedience runs, four rally runs, one parades run, and one veterans class.  And she kept it all together like a champ!  I'm very proud of my girl! :)

Now Heffner's turn.  My darling chaperon turned 7 in January.  I hate that he's getting older.  I want all of my pooches to be with me forever and I don't like having these little reminders that eventually there will be days in my life without them.  As you can see from the above picture, Heffner has a shaved area on his chest that was in the process of growing in for this picture.  Heffner had a fatty tumor there on his chest that I not so affectionately referred to as his boob.  Over the past few years it's slowly been growing larger and larger.  It hasn't affected him any way, it's just been this thing on him that I just didn't like.  No real reason to put him under sedation and have it removed when it wasn't affecting his health.  Then he developed this rather fast growing tumor on his ankle.  Initially I thought I would just leave it alone and it would hopefully resolve itself, but it didn't.  A good friend of mine's dog had developed a growth in a similar location and of a similar seeming nature.  Her dog's growth was cancerous.  It was that nasty C word that had me taking Heffner in to see our vet and get it looked at.  Initially our vet didn't really like the looks of it and recommended that I have it removed and biopsied to find out exactly what it was.  She felt that with the size that it was then, she could get good margins on it and everything should heal fine.  Since he was going to be under anesthesia to have it removed, I decided that I wanted Heffner's boob removed as well.  This stupid tumor was the excuse I needed to get rid of that unsightly lump without feeling bad about putting my dog under just for cosmetic reasons.  Long story and some anxiety short, the biopsies came back clear of cancer!!  What the lump actually ended up being, I couldn't tell you for sure.  Once my vet got "not cancer" out of her mouth, I kind of stopped paying attention. ;)  Everything healed up quite nicely and all that's left to show for it is a still patchy space on Heffner's chest where the fur is taking it's time growing back in.

My goal for the specialty with Heffner was just to get his Beginner Novice title and then fully retire him from everything.  While there are still less physically demanding sports that I would like to try with him, obedience, rally, and agility, are done.  Heffner and I had the distinct pleasure of being the very first dog/handler team into the ring that Saturday morning and I am very relieved to say that he got his final Beginner Novice leg and earned his title! :)  After I knew we qualified, I pulled him from the rest of his runs.  Because this specialty is so fantastic and is a rare opportunity to compete in rally and obedience with great danes only, I am more than happy to support the club with my entries and pulling him was not something that I was bummed about.  We went with a less traditional titling photo again (his was actually the first of the two pictures) and I slapped his Super Man collar on for the picture.  I freaking love this dog!!

So Heffner is now officially retired from agility, rally, and obedience sports.  There are still other sports out there that I would like to try with him.  My good friend Megan is very encouraging in this area and is keeping me interested in going on with him.  I strongly believe that keeping these guys mentally as well as physically active is part of what helps to keep them around and happy into their older years.  I am looking forward to scheduling some training time to try out these new to us sports this summer.:)

All-in-all, things are good with us.:)  New opportunities and experiences are on the horizon.  I still have plenty of things that I would like to accomplish with these guys, though I maybe have a more realistic idea of how long that will take and how to fit it into my newer life pace.  And I'm hoping, as ever, to be better about sharing all of this on here in the blog.  Here's to hoping that I stick with a regular blogging schedule!!  Thanks to everyone out there who is still reading!!

Many hugs!!