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!!