Monday, November 5, 2012

Operation Pig Drop

This weekend the girls and I made the 9 hour drive up to Virginia to visit with friends and run in the MadCo fall USDAA agility trial.  Moira had a stellar Saturday and a not-so-stellar Sunday.  More on that later though....

Today, Monday, we headed back to TN but we had another passenger in the Dawg Yacht.  I called him William....

William is an American Guinea Hog bred by my friend Karen Lyons of Woodrose Cardigans.  Karen sold him to a lovely family down here in TN but he needed a ride to get to his new home.  Thus began Operation Pig Drop.

I picked William (Ok, that wasn't his name, he didn't have a name.  I just needed to call him something!) early this morning.  His mother, Ethel, was not in the least bit concerned that her baby boy was being stuffed in a crate in a car with a couple of dogs and driven hundreds of miles away from her.  William wasn't too concerned either.  There was a bit of grunting but then he settled down, burrowed into his nest of hay and slept the entire trip to TN.

I met his new family at a gas station just off of I40, we put him into their crate, and off he went to meet his new bride, Lucy.

I don't think I'll be adding 'pig hauler' to my resume but, you never know.....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today's her birthday - it explains a lot...

Today is Moira's 7th birthday!  It's hard to believe that she is 7 already, that's how old Sam was when I brought Moira home.  In the world of dog shows & sports, 7 is considered a "veteran."  My mentor in Cardigans has always said, and I believe it, that 7 is when our dogs hit their prime.  Moira has both the mental and physical maturity at this point to be a wonderful agility partner - when she wants to be :)

This weekend we are going to another USDAA agility trial.  I'm hoping we can finish her Advanced Jumpers and Starters Gamblers titles this weekend.  Next year we will be focusing on her AKC titles.  That means lots of trial weekends and lots of traveling.

Happy Halloween to everyone and Happy Birthday to my Red Pu Head!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's Just Not Fair

This has been a tough year for losing dogs.  First there was Sam in June.  Last month my mother lost her Sam daughter, Oda Mae, very unexpectedly.  OM wasn't even 10 years old.  Yesterday, my friend and Georgia's breeder, Liz, lost her 14 year old boy, Theo.  It seems likely that another friend will have to let her old dog go this week too.  And today, Moira's litter mate, Grace crossed the Bridge.  She would have been 7 on Halloween.

I'm a firm believer in things happening for a reason and in the time when they should happen but to lose so many wonderful dogs in such a short period of time just doesn't seem right or fair.

I'm giving the girls extra loves tonight.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Health & Well Being

Both the girls had vet appointments this week.  Ginny went in for a senior wellness exam.  At 13 I know it's important for her to see the vet on a regular basis so, in we went.  On the whole, Gin is great. She's a svelte 33 pounds and her heart sounded great.  I'm waiting for results on her blood work but I am not worried on that count.  One surprising finding though; she has luxating patellas.  The reason this is surprising is because no other vet has ever caught it.  There is a surgery that can correct the issue but, at 13 I won't put Ginny through that.  The other bump in the road for Gin is a fractured and abscessing tooth.  I knew the tooth was broken a couple weeks ago when I found half of it in her crate. Since the vet appointment was already made, I didn't panic about getting her in right away.  It's incredibly important to get this taken care of because this sort of infection can become systemic and impact the kidneys.  She goes back to the vet on Monday to have the rest of the tooth pulled and a general cleaning.  The cleaning shouldn't be too extensive as she just had her teeth cleaned last October.

Moira's vet appointment was actually with the physical therapy vet.  This is the same vet Sam went to for acupuncture before he passed.  She is also a licensed canine chiropractor.  With Moira doing so much agility I felt it was important to be sure she is in alignment.  For the most part, she was pretty good; a tilted pelvis, some metacarpals that needed re-positioning, and a small adjustment mid-back.  The concerning part of this visit was slow conscious proprioreception in her right hind foot.  The test for this is to turn the foot over and see how long it takes to right the foot.  It is a test to determine if the dog knows where its limbs/feet are and how quickly they correct the position.  Moira did not correct the position of her right foot very quickly which means that the signals from the nerves in her foot are not getting through to her brain as quickly as they should.  A very concerning condition in any dog but especially in one who does agility.

The PT vet asked me to get xrays done by our regular vet - lucky for me we were headed there for Gin.  The xrays didn't reveal anything glaringly obvious that could be causing her slow response time. However, she has absolutely no arthritis which is pretty incredible in a dog of her breed and age (nearly 7).  We have pulled from the agility trial we were entered in next weekend and I have some range of motion exercises to do with Moira for the next week.  We will go back to the PT vet on the 15th for another check/adjustment.  Hopefully, the adjustment this week combined with the exercises will resolve the problem.  If it doesn't, I'm not sure what we will end up doing.  The thought of another dog having back issues - especially one as young and athletic as Moira - is daunting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Cross to Bear

No. there's nothing unpleasant going on.  That just seemed like a fun title for a post about agility - and crosses (front, rear, blind).

Moira and I have another agility trial this weekend.  It's an AKC trial and we will be running in two classes; Jumpers and Standard.  A Jumpers course is comprised of jumps (duh), tunnels and a set of 6 weave poles.  A Standard course includes the dogwalk, A frame, table and teeter in addition to the tunnels, jumps and weave poles .  At the Novice level judges are required to design courses with two side switches.  What's a side switch?  Well, it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  If the dog is running on your left and a side switch occurs, then the dog ends up on your right.  Pretty easy, right?  But how do you accomplish these switches?  With crosses of course!

There are three commonly used crosses in agility; front, rear and blind.  In a front cross, you have to get in front of your dog, and pivot to bring the dog to your other side.  It's one of those things that, once you learn how to do it, muscle memory takes over.  Seriously, if you asked me to demonstrate a front cross just standing there, I couldn't do it.  They are also hell on your knees.  Many handlers try to avoid front crosses as they age because of this.  Generally speaking, a front cross will generate speed in a dog.  They have something to run toward - you!

Rear crosses occur when you send the dog ahead of you to an obstacle and then change sides behind them, to the rear, picking them up on your other side when they've completed the obstacle.  Rear crosses can be difficult because the dog has to be independent enough to get ahead of you AND they have to be able to realize that you are moving behind them and what the means.  It's called 'reading' the cross.  I LOVE rear crosses because I have a dog who reads them very well.  In the picture below, I am performing a rear cross while Moira goes over the double.  You can see me moving laterally behind her but, more importantly, see how her eyes, head and even ears are ever so slightly facing the direction I am moving?  Even her body is slightly angled.  That means she knew when she took off that she would need to turn that way to catch me.  She's reading the cross.  You can probably see that rear crosses are much easier on the human knees too :)  No twisting!

The last type of cross that can be used is a blind cross.  Blind crosses can be very risky because, in essence, the dog performs a rear cross on you!  Blind - because you lose visual contact with your dog.  Early on, I was taught to blind cross tunnels.  The dog enters the tunnel, you race to the other end - across the exit to the tunnel - and keep moving; trusting your dog to come out and be moving with you.  I did that type of cross with Sam all the time because he was a reliable, Velcro dog and wouldn't think of not sticking with me once he came out of the tunnel.  My last agility instructor discouraged blind crosses as too risky for dogs that might not be so reliable, so I learned not to do them.  My current instructor is fine with them, as long as they are done well and in the right places.  So, I'm back to using blind crosses at tunnels and, at least in class, trying them in other places.  We've had some successes and failures.  The last AKC agility trial I went to, there was a woman running American Cocker Spaniels who used blind crosses all over the place.  It was really impressive to see how well her dogs read those crosses and negotiated the courses.  It freed the handler up to take the best line and limit the amount of running she had to do.

Moira needs one more qualifying score to finish her Novice Standard title and 2 qualifying scores to finish her Novice Jumpers title.  I expect I will be using all three kinds of crosses.  Wish us luck!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stepping Up My Game?

Since moving to Nashville (and having some $$ in the bank account) Moira and I have renewed our commitment to agility training.  For most of the summer, we've taken 2 agility classes a week.  One to fine-tune my handling and another to bring Moira's skills up to scratch.  There have also been a handful of private lessons to help us focus on some specific things.  We've run in more trials in the last 5 months than in the previous 4 years and there are many more planned for the coming months!  Our Q rate still isn't what I would like it to be but Moira and I have definitely formed a much closer partnership and the Q rate is improving with each trial.

So, we've taken the steps to get my and Moira's skills to the level they should be.  Moira is already in awesome condition - she's a self-excercising dog - and she is a natural and very pretty jumper.  That leaves me.....

I've never been a particularly 'sporty' girl.  My parents weren't athletic and there were circumstances that made it difficult for me to participate in intramural sports - even if I had wanted to.  Now I find myself in my early 40s, participating in a sport that demands a certain level of physical prowess.

Now, anyone who has ever attended an agility trial can attest to the fact that almost no one running a dog in agility is a prime physical specimen.  There are lots of knee braces, ankle braces and bad backs at any given trial.  There are also a high percentage of women my age and older who are, shall we say, "prosperous." Interestingly, they almost always are running Border Collies.  I think it is because BCs are great at distance work and that allows these women to participate in this sport. A dog who is really accomplished at distance work can allow the handler to practically stand in the middle of the ring and point to obstacles.  Distance work is something that we all strive to master but few ever do.  Ed Note:  The point I am trying to make is that we are all there being physically active regardless of our infirmities.  And that's a lot more than many Americans are doing!

I'm in good enough shape, and fast enough, that I can run with Moira but it's not pretty.  I overstride and am a very heavy-footed runner.  And then there are the arms waving around or held awkwardly away from my body.  When I finish a run, even a 30 second run, I often wish there was an oxygen tank at the finish line.  The best handlers are the ones you don't see.  Their handling is so deft and their physical presence so subtle that when you watch their runs, all you see is the dog.  When I run, all you see is a skinny white girl who looks like a disjointed scarecrow.

So I'm considering putting myself into training.  I HATE running but I may try to find a running coach who can help me improve my mechanics and form - as well as my condition.  I'm not making any promises but I think I might owe it to Moira.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Steel Magnolia

Steel Magnolia - A Southern woman who is strong and independent yet very feminine.

Most are familiar with the play and movie, Steel Magnolias.  The term has definitely come into common usage as defined above and I am proud to say that I live with a Steel Magnolia.

Ginny, born in St. Louis, spent her early months living in Wilmington, NC, where she learned to be a steel magnolia from the very best.  I've always referred to Gin as a steel magnolia or an iron paw in a velvet glove.  This has become more readily apparent since Sam's passing.

Like many women who have spent time caring for an elderly and infirm man, Ginny put a lot of her personality in storage.  She took a back seat to Sam's needs during his last years and I'm very grateful for that, if not a bit chagrined to admit that I didn't realize the toll it took on her until after Sam passed.

Since Sam's passing, Ginny has come back into her own.  She's happy and confident again.  She's thrilled when she sees me packing the dog bag for an agility trial and can't wait for the adventure.  A dog who started out more like M'Lynn Eatenton is maturing into Ouiser Boudreaux!  She's sassy and funny and very, very independent!  She's taken to flirting with young, intact male dogs as well as turning her charms onto older men of the human species!  This weekend, without being invited, she introduced herself to an older gentleman who was set up near us at the agility trial.  He sat down and she promptly got up and walked over there to get some affection from him.  He hadn't even glanced at her.

Like any true steel magnolia, Gin still has her strong side.  She doesn't hesitate to let dogs who are being too forward know what she thinks of their inappropriate behavior.  The thing is, she does it in such a lovely, polite fashion that no one takes any offense.  The correction is swift and appropriate.  However, when the devil sits on her shoulder she will have a little fun with the miscreant and stalk him or her; striking terror into their hearts if they have any intelligence at all.

Gin is such a lovely girl.  I sometimes wish more of her personality had rubbed off on Moira.  Maybe the next dog....  In the meantime, I dearly love my Steel Magnolia and am hoping for many, many more years with her.