Monthly Archives: April 2013

Puget Sound Poodle Club (AKC)

No Qs, but some quick comments:

Rush curls back at me when I tell him to weave and I’m a) late with the cue, and b) behind him. I think I need to shut up and let him find the poles by himself.

Rush gets tired at the end of the day and has trouble controlling himself. This reminds me of what my mother called “arsenic hour”–that hour at the end of the day when the kids can’t keep themselves from misbehaving.

Dancer likes the view from the top of the a-frame–it’s an excellent place from which to gather information.

Debbie was right that being really energetic while Dancer weaves absolutely speeds her up, even if I do feel like a fool.

I have no idea why AKC allows three tries at the weave poles but doesn’t allow a dog to Q with a single knocked bar. It makes no sense.

Update on the dog poop (dog shit) composting project

Last May I wrote a long post about my dog shit composting project. (If you’re offended by the use of the word “shit” in this context, I would suggest that you are being too sensitive. Dogs produce a lot of shit, and if you’re picking it up (as you should, whether it’s in your yard or somewhere else entirely), the word “poop” seems inadequate, and the word “excrement” just doesn’t work for me.)

In any case, I thought I’d report in with some results. Here is a photo of the tiny one-quart azalea I planted last June (it was on sale):

Azalea growing in dog waste compost

It has about tripled in size and is very happy.

This is the one-quart KnockOut rose that I planted in September (bought at the grocery store on sale):

KnockOut roses in dog waste compost

One of the pots didn’t have good drainage (not enough gravel at the bottom), so I dumped it out and buried the contents. The dog shit had composted almost completely and had no odor at all.

Hat for Debbie

Debbie asked me to make her a hat. However, she’s not a habitual hat wearer or a knitter, and didn’t know exactly what she wanted. It took me about three months to narrow it down. I had her try on hats I made for other people. I made a few hats that were dead ends and gave them to other people. Finally, I sent an email with questions for her to answer: how snug? what colors? one layer or two at the ears? wool itch? likely environment for wearing?

That set of questions led to a plan. When she said she liked brown/black/cream/white, I realized she was describing the colors of her dog, and I went on a search for yarn in “border collie colors” in a silk/merino blend, so it would have a bit of a sheen, like that of a healthy border collie. She wanted snug over the ears and warm, but only a single layer.

This is the hat I made for her:

Silk-merino hat in border collie colors

Pattern as follows:

Yarn: Juniper Farms Marlowe.I used a single skein and had about twenty yards left over.

On a size 6 20″ circular needle, cast on 80 stitches using a knitted cast on. Join ends (being careful not to twist).

Knit one round; purl the next round to create garter stitch until you have completed 24 rounds of alternating knit/purl rounds. You can do more if you want a double layer over the years.

Now start knitting every round to create stockinette stitch.

When the hat is 7 inches long, start reducing to close the top. You can switch to double-pointed needles or use a second circular. Every ten stitches, knit two stitches together; the next round, knit two stitches together every 9 stitches (at the same spot). Continue reducing until you have eight stitches, then pull the tail through the remaining stitches, tie tightly in a knot, and weave in the sends.

Dancer runs NADAC Tunnelers

This Tunnelers run was Dancer’s last run on Sunday. At the Willamette Agility Group trials, the members make a point of cheering the last run. I asked them to be really loud because Dancer finds it very energizing. So you’ll hear the crowd cheering Dancer on from the very beginning.

See the video here.

And here’s a nice photo of Dancer by Joe Camp from the trial:

Photo by Joe Camp

Weekend report: WAG NADAC trial

It was very interesting, going to a trial with absolutely no expectations of Qing, but instead planning to work on behaviors. I wanted to work with Dancer on her ability to relax and enjoy agility; I wanted to work with Rush on all the standard puppy behaviors: start-line stay, contacts, listening to me, etc.

Dancer was happy and she was fast! She came out of her crate excited every single time. She got three Qs in Tunnelers, which is a huge accomplishment, since that requires 5 yps or faster. I never asked her for more than a brief stay, just ran with her off the line. She also, to my complete astonishment, got a Q in Weavers Saturday (three sets of twelve poles!) and narrowly missed (0.12 second) qualifying time on Sunday. (She only did the one Weavers run each day.)

She did not, however, get a single contact in any of the four Touch N Go runs (so that would be 12 missed contacts) but since I was focusing on speed and pleasure, I didn’t even mention that to her, just celebrated her speed and enthusiasm.

I was so excited to have her running like that! Her historical best in Tunnelers has been 5.7 yps; she did that in two of the three runs where she Qd (the fourth was an off-course, still fast). In December, she barely managed 4 yps.

Rush was amazing. There was an unexpected challenge for him this weekend. The other Rush, a tall rangy border collie, was just before him in the running order. BC Rush has a handler who calls his name to get his attention and she does it a lot. So while we were waiting to run, poodle Rush, my Rush, heard his name called, over and over and over. BC Rush is heeled out of the ring while his handler says his name to keep his attention. So we walked into the ring, three of six runs each day (in the afternoon I moved down one, because I didn’t want to challenge him too much), with his name being called by another handler, one with a fast dog who had just spent time in what poodle Rush thinks of as his ring.

And still Rush took the start line and didn’t move his paws one single millimeter as I lead out, sometimes to the far end of the arena. Scribe, judge, timer a few feet behind him, another handler calling his name, and his focus entirely on me and looking for his line. I have a video of his best Tunnelers run (see here). I have videos of some of his other runs as well, but this one is my favorite, because he was the third-fastest dog in the entire Tunnelers class (of maybe 70 dogs), running 6.9 yps. You’ll notice several things: one, I still need to work on him not running into me as he comes out of a tunnel (I’ve been working on that in practice) (and we lost bit of time there), two, I couldn’t get him to sit but he sure stuck that stay while I led out (I love his border collie imitation), three, he’s not distracted at all once I start to lead out, even though BC Rush just walked behind him.

There will be a bit more as I process video and think about things but: perfect start-line stays all weekend; great contacts (not a single self-release); a few Qs. I need to work with him on getting into and staying in the weaves at full speed (he struggled a bit with that and yes, I’ll find the video). One bit that stunned me was when he was in his stopped contact position at the end of the dog walk, and I was coming up to do my blind cross, and as soon as I started it (so I was still to his left, but moving to his right), he turned his head to look for his line. I hope I can find that bit of video to post; most of the runs were recorded, but not all of them.

Losing weight: what’s working for me

As of this morning, I have lost thirty pounds since last July. It’s a nice round number that feels like a huge accomplishment. At the trial this weekend, it seemed that after every run someone came up to me and quietly said “so how much weight have you lost?” Discussing weight is such a taboo subject among women that they all said it in the same subdued tone that implied perhaps I’d only lost weight because I was ill. I think it would have been easier for everyone if I’d just put a sign on my back that said “yes, thirty pounds.”

Anyway, the second question was mostly “what are you doing?” It’s a question I’ve asked many time myself over the years. The answer that sticks out in my mind was a very sharp “I stopped eating” (from a woman who had lost more than sixty pounds, such that I didn’t recognize her until I left the room and heard her speaking in the next room, even though I had just talked with her–an interesting commentary on how your focus changes your perspective). I knew not eating wouldn’t work for me (I’ve tried the protein-powder fasting, back when it was trendy–never again), so I didn’t follow up.

Anyway, I’ve gone with actual scientific research. There’s a lot of it out there these days, since the government is actually concerned about what it commonly called the “obesity epidemic.” (One caused, in my opinion, by a lot of the government’s own food policies, but that’s a rathole I don’t want to vanish down right now.)

Here’s the research, quick summary: data matters. It’s important to track input (what you eat) fanatically. It’s important to exercise regularly. Definitions of “regularly” vary from daily to three-or-four-times-a-week, and the amount of exercise recommended also varies, but the general consensus is that walking is good for you, running might not be (knee problems abound in the fatter sectors), and that aiming for a half-hour a day or more is good, but more than an hour a day might leave you hungrier (maybe). It matters what time of day you eat; earlier is better. Breakfast is a good thing because it gets your metabolism into gear, even if you eat a very light breakfast. Looking further afield, once you get your heart rate up by exercising, it stays up all day.

So what have I done with all of this?

I am recording everything I eat, even when I’m a bit embarrassed to admit to myself (no one else sees my records) that I ate a Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cone (330 empty–possibly actually deleterious–calories). (Yes, I am aware that’s not real food. I have loved them since childhood, and one a month (or less) isn’t going to kill me.) I have found that, when I do my last check before dinner, that self-honesty keeps me from going overboard on dinner.

I am recording, with my Fitbit every single step I take. One of the joys of the Fitbit web site, for me, is that it combines the data on what I ate with how much I walked and lets me know if I have more calories to spend. If I’m hungry at dinnertime, this often gets me out of my chair and out with the dogs for a quick mile walk just so I can use a bit more olive oil when I cook. I aim for over 11,000 steps a day.

I spoke with the nutritionist last summer, and in addition to confirming that I was mostly eating very sensibly–although I was advised to eat somewhat less carbohydrate (especially juice and breads)–she said one thing that has stuck with me: “yes, you will be hungry; sometimes you just have to power through that.” Now, I’ve tried all kind of weight loss groups and every single one of them has said “you shouldn’t feel hungry if you’re following the diet correctly.” Bullshit. At least, for me it’s bullshit. I am pretty much hungry all the time. I’ve decided that the right response to that is “so fucking what?” and then I go eat something that satisfies the urge to chew (I eat a lot of carrots and apples), write it down, drink a glass of water, and take the dogs for a walk.

Finally, I’ve been reading a lot of serious stuff about our food supply and about food processing. I have come reluctantly to the conclusion that food manufacturers, with profit motive in mind, want to sell more food, and thus have an interest in creating addictive foods. I now cook more for myself pretty much every meal. There isn’t a truly healthy choice ready made, despite a lot of pretty packaging. I have simplified the cooking; I eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch (oatmeal, yogurt, fruit for breakfast, lots and lots of vegetables (carrots, apples, peppers, etc.), salad dressing, a slice of toast, and a little protein (cheese, chicken) for lunch); soup or chili (made in huge batches and frozen) for dinner. Jay and I go out for dinner once a week or so and I figure out what I’m going to eat before I get there and I don’t open the menu if I can avoid it.

I also try to remind myself, every morning, that this is about my knees. I really don’t want to end up having to replace my knee joints. Expensive, time consuming, annoying, possibly not successful. Not a good idea if I can avoid it! My knees already feel so much better: I walked (according to the Fitbit) more than 21 miles over the weekend (at the agility trial) and this morning it only took one Tylenol to make my knees feel just fine.

My adrenaline Rush…

Rush and I ran nine-and-a-half runs this weekend at the CAT CPE trial. A lot of my focus was on making the trial a pleasure for Dancer, but I also wanted to make sure Rush got his fair due. The two dogs are so different that it’s actually fairly easy to plan how I will run each of them on the course, but they have vastly different needs outside the ring, too. Before a run I work on Rush’s focus. He loves agility, he hates watching other dogs in what he thinks is his ring (many dogs feel this way), and he gets very grumpy with me if I don’t do things his way.

However, with Debbie’s help, I’ve developed a routine for Rush. I complained to her a few weeks ago that I found it very challenging to run him if he hadn’t had a chance to run off-leash first. Her reply: “sometimes you just have to ride the horse right out of the stable.” I thought about that, and I started working to make him as wild and crazy in practice as he is at trials. I growl at him, and I ask Debbie to “be a bad gate steward” (one of the ones who yells the dog’s name five times, even after you lead out), and I throw his leash over his head… and it’s all helped, but he’s still a handful at trials.

So the routine is to get him out of his crate, play tug with him some, walk him for a few minutes, run him off-leash if there’s a place and there’s time, and head to the warm up area to do some control exercises: startline stays, tight turns to both sides of the warm up jump, recalls to heel on both sides. Then I head up to the gate, trying to get there about four dogs ahead. Rush is actually pretty well-behaved at the gate but I like to keep a ten to fifteen foot distance from the other dogs if at all possible. He generally starts to spit out treats (rather than eating my thumb and the treat) when he sees the dog ahead of us start. I assume he’s reading that right down the leash.

He walks nicely to the startline with me–lots of practice with that–and he’s supposed to sit and wait to start, but he doesn’t always stay sitting; he doesn’t move his front feet, though. If he does, my plan is to walk him out, but it hasn’t happened.

I get as much leadout with Rush as I can–with Dancer I run with her right off the line–and it’s still kind of like standing in the path of an oncoming train as soon as I release him. If the course turns back on itself I stay at the turn until it’s time to cue his turn, but mostly I release him and start running as fast as I can. It’s never fast enough. I count on the stops for contacts to catch up with him in Standard, but Jumpers can be a complete nightmare!

With Dancer, I rarely take her off the course early unless it’s to give her massive rewards for something wonderful; with Rush I have a mental list of circumstances under which I will walk him out. Jumping the contact on the a-frame, dogwalk, or teeter? Walk him out. Crashing a bar from carelessness? Maybe… if I’m sure it wasn’t my error. Stopping and barking at me? Probably. Slamming into me without making any effort to collect? Out we go.

This weekend, Rush got every single contact; he was fast and focused and did his best to listen to me… until our very last run in Jumpers. I think he gets tired and has trouble focusing. He went around a jump to get to a tunnel; he crashed a bar and sent it flying about ten feet–which can only happen if he hit it with his chest, meaning he was being careless–and then completely ignored me as I cued a turn. So, sadly, our last run ended with me walking him out of the ring.

Running Rush is a challenge; it’s also incredibly rewarding when it goes well. When it doesn’t go so well, I remind myself that he’s not even two years old yet!

Dancer and stress and more…

Over the last six to nine months–starting around the time Elly began to be seriously ill–Dancer has not been doing well at trials. About a month ago, I started doing a series of medical tests; everything has been negative so far, although we’re not done yet. My belief is that it’s related to her stress levels–I’ve written about that before. But…

Saturday she was kind of slow and kind of tentative, although parts of every run were good. She ended Saturday with one Q. Peggy Osborne was there, doing massage, and I asked her to go over Dancer carefully and look for anything that she thought should be looked at more carefully. She gave Dancer a thorough massage and found some tight muscles in her right knee, right shoulder, and mid-back. She worked to relieve that tension. When she started working on those spots, I could see Dancer react; she licked her lips, turned to poke Peggy with her nose, looked at the spots she wanted massaged, and then relaxed visibly as the muscles were relaxed. By the end of the massage her eyes were half open and she was leaning into Peggy affectionately.

Sunday was another day, and Dancer seemed happy to be there. I ran Standard with her; we Qd in a very nice run, but a little slow because she struggled with the weaves (jump-weave start). Then, on to Jackpot, and I have to brag that I handled it perfectly; she got exactly the points she needed–44 points to Q–in exactly the alloted time: 47.65 seconds. If she’d gone over 48 seconds, she wouldn’t have Qd. She even did TWO TEETERS! Her next run was in Snooker–a very nice run, very smooth. Another Q. Over to the Standard ring for another run and another Q… Got to Jumpers, last run of the day… and Dancer kept it together and got a fifth Q. Five Qs in five runs.

Obviously I got her another massage to end the day.

Official results, CAT CPE Ridgefield

Standard, level 2: 141 yards, SCT 62, 33.86 sec, 0 faults, 2nd place Q (4.2 yps)
Standard, level 2: 133 yards, SCT 55, 30.73 sec, 0 faults, 1st place Q (4.3 yps)
Standard, level 2: 133 yards, SCT 55, 39.86 sec, 0 faults, 2nd place Q (3.3 yps)
Jackpot, level 2: 51 points, 45.42 sec, 2nd place Q
FullHouse, level 3: 27 points, 29.58 sec, 1st place Q
Wildcard, level 3: 100 yards, SCT 42, 31.70 sec, 1st place Q (3.2 yps)
Colors, level 3: 108 yards, SCT 45, 27.67 sec, 1st place Q (3.9 yps)
(All of which means Rush has now completed his level 2 titles.)

Standard, level 4: 155 yards, SCT 54, 57.38 sec, 3 faults, 1st place Q (2.7 yps)
Standard, level 4: 155 yards, SCT 54, 56.72 sec, 7 faults, 2nd place Q (2.7 yps)
Jackpot, level 4: 47.55 sec, 44 points, 1st place Q
Jumpers, level 5: 138 yards, SCT 40, 38.65 sec, 1st place Q (3.6 yps)
Colors, level 5: 108 yards, SCT 40, 43.47 sec, 1st place Q (2.5 yps)
Snooker, level 5: 45 points, 32.82 sec, 2nd place Q
(Dancer now needs only three Standard Qs to finish level 4.)