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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Star Trek Photo Shoot

Tonight Dan and I got to spend some time playing with the digital camera. He's a great teacher on the mechanics of the camera and I'm more creative so it works well together. While playing with the various shutter, aperture and other settings, the images above are what we came up with. 

The moon was so bright that the camera couldn't pick it up (image on the left). However, we ended up with a unique mirror image (on the right) that is actually clearer than the actual moon.

I think we should submit them to Star Trek for consideration! I love the creative outlet the camera provides.

Tonight's photo shoot was just the icing on the cake. Ever have a day where you think WOW! Well, I've had two days like that and planning to make it three (tomorrow).

Dan's work schedule recently changed and he's working 4-10 hour days so  Friday through Sunday he's at home. It's a bonus day with him each week and we've been really enjoying it!

Each day we've picked a manageable project to work on and then spent the remainder of the day doing fun things. I'm feeling very spoiled at the moment.

We've had amazing weather the last few days as well. Sunny, warm with a nice breeze and the yard looks really good this year. Having a peaceful place for me and the dogs to hang is simply wonderful. You can see in the way the dogs play how happy they are and that brings a huge smile to my face.

Also, filming for my contact DVD is going amazing. Everyone involved in the training/filming is happy, their dogs are having success and at the moment, everything is clicking along great. I'm feeling blessed in every part of my life.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stopping to smell the roses...literally

It's a busy place in my household right now. With the 2o2o Contact DVD in production, judging, my dogs, hubby/family time and the usual day-to-day obligations, it would be easy to miss the small, but enjoyable details around my house.

Flowers have always fascinated me and I have hundreds of photos in my personal album. So when my new rose tree started to bloom, it's not surprising that the first thing I did was grab my camera for a little break of creativity time.

I'm definitely taking the age-old saying 'stop and smell the roses' literally.

In the next couple of photos I used natural direct sunlight and added a bit of water for an unexpected dewy glow.

I was also lucky enough to have another bud opening at the same time so I was able to include that in my creativity time as well.

So not only did I get the welcome break of enjoying some of the beautiful landscaping in my yard, I also had the opportunity to express my creativity via the camera to capture natures beauty.

Well, I'm heading back to work as I have a large project plan that needs to make its way onto paper.

Enjoy the pictures everyone and don't forget to stop and enjoy the roses in your garden of life.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mile High Golden Ret Club of Denver - Sun Exc Std

Attached is my Sunday Excellent Standard course.

After setting it up, I was a little worried it would be viewed as too technical, especially when compared with yesterday's jumpers course that had quite a few straight running lines on it. However, once it got going, I really enjoyed it and had quite a few compliments on the course.

The course started with a tunnel and surprisingly, a few dogs had trouble with this. If I had to guess why, I think handlers assumed the dogs would go for the entrance and they took it for granted.

The course path ensured I had no problems judging the dog walk and there were no close calls with wandering handlers. Very few dogs went straight into the off-course tunnel, however several handlers had to fight to keep their dog on track and heading toward the jump.

My favorite handler path was when exhibitors would go to the landing side of the #5 jump so they were calling the dog over the jump to them and the dog would approach the a-frame while they were on the left side of the handler. It was a beautiful line and set up the next sequence nicely.

The a-frame, double jump to the chute posed no problems and barely a handful of dogs went into the #1 off-course tunnel. Several handlers were able to stay on the landing side of the #10 jump and there was some really nice maneuvering to call the dog over the #10 jump toward them and then work the dog on their left heading up the teeter.

After the table, the #13 jump to the weaves was a challenge. Quite a few bars were knocked at this jump as handlers were afraid to allow too much extension for fear the off-course tunnel would work it's sucking magic. Some dogs just had to have the tunnel no matter how hard their handler called them.

The closing sequence had some handlers working hard to push their dogs out to the tire and triple and the best handler path I saw was a front cross between #15 & 16. Most people were able to leave their dogs in the weaves so they were able to get up in to place very nicely. Another challenge for handlers who kept their dogs on their right through the closing sequence was that they had to be sure to pull their dog over the #16 jump toward them or the dog would simply by-pass this obstacle.

Again, another great day in Colorado and we're on the plan just about ready to start our descent. I love having WiFi on board! Any way, thank you for a wonderful trial and for such a fun time.


Mile High Golden Ret Club of Denver - Sat Exc JWW

Here's my Excellent JWW course from Saturday. I LOVED this course!

My favorite part was from jump #10 all the way down to #14 tunnel. Dogs were cruising and it was neat to watch handlers work 1) around the weave poles and 2) to push their dog into the correct end of the tunnel.

Let me back up for just a moment, I really have to compliment this crowd on how easily they made #5 through the #8 weaves look.

There were a couple of ways handlers maneuvered #8-10. The majority of people did either a rear or front cross at the front side of the poles so their dog was on their right side through this sequence. However, a handful of folks kept their dogs on their left while they did the poles and then very successfully sent their dog out to #9 & 10 which worked well in helping them to be down toward the tunnel entrance.

I also loved the line from #15 to 16 and wanted to note that only 1 dog ran past the run-out plane of the #16 jump.  Those handlers that shaped their dog over #15 so they were already heading to #16 had a beautiful line for the closing. Some handlers even went so far as to do a front cross on the front side of #17 so they had a nice tight turn from #16 down to #18.

There were a TON of qualifiers and it was a very fun course to watch. Thanks for great runs everyone!

On to non-trial things, we were in Castle Rock, CO and I wanted to recommend a wonderful restaurant the club took us to for dinner. The place is called Sienna and it was AMAZING! It's in the heart of town and the food was absolutely wonderful. I was pretty tired after dinner and was asleep by 8:00 p.m.  Too much fun I guess!

Mile High Golden Ret Club of Denver - Fri Exc Std

It's been awhile since I last blogged and it certainly hasn't been due to a lack of topics! Life is busy and Dan and I flew off to Colorado for the weekend to judge for the Mile High Golden Retriever Club.

We were really excited to be back in Colorado. Lots of good friends and lots of great dogs to visit with. Oh and the weather was great too!

As for course review, let's start with my Excellent Standard course from Friday.

I started this course with a chute, which I'll admit, I do like to do. As with all chutes, handlers really need to be sure they're supporting this obstacle all the way down to the end. If they don't, it gives the dog permission to curl in toward the handler even more than normal. That was the case with a few dogs here and once they curled in, dogs generally had a less than optimal approach to the triple jump. In this case, it wasn't the angle that was the concern, but instead the shorter distance/notice for the spread jump.

The next area that was a challenge was from midway up the dog walk to the landing side of the teeter. Now let me clarify, it was a challenge for ME as the judge! All was going well for the first 175 dogs and then we hit the 20" dogs. Once we got to this group, I was left guessing if the handler was going to follow the dog down to the end of the dog walk contact or were they going to do a surprise peel-off down to the landing side of the tire. I have to say, it really messed with my judging path and I just about required each person to complete a flight path before their run.

The next area that caught quite a few handlers was the line from the teeter to the weave poles. It didn't seem to matter which side of the teeter handlers were on as dogs were squarely facing the off-course jump rather than turning toward the weaves. Ironically, after the handler path guessing game from the dog walk, the 20" class consistently handled this line the best.

The next area was the off-set serpentine from #7-9. In my humble opinion, this area simply looks different and it's more of a mental challenge. Those who worked to keep their dog in tight to take the jumps at an angle were more efficient than those folks who allowed their dogs to take the jumps straight-on which resulted in a much wider path and a few more call-offs.

Oddly, quite a few dogs knocked a bar at the double. It's possible the tunnel on the landing side was a big attraction or simply that handlers started to open up and run again heading into this sequence. As expected, a few dogs took the wrong side of the #11 tunnel.

After the a-frame and on their way to the table, a few dogs headed toward the teeter, but most didn't bother.

After the table we have the reverse serpentine with a pull into the #17 tunnel. the same issues with this serpentine and very few dogs had a problem with the correct tunnel entrance.

Friday evening was a lovely night and after a little shopping at the very nice outlet mall across from our hotel, we picked up Outback, grabbed a blanket and headed out to sit on the grass and enjoy the meal. Several exhibitors joined us and it was a fun evening.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Does This Magazine Make Me Look Fat?

Today was not my day for beauty and no amount of inner glow was going to make me feel better about the hair that was stuck to my head.

I had a little snafu yesterday in what should have been a simple color touch-up. For those that know me, I love to play with hair color. Sometimes a little touch of red, sometimes a few blonde highlights. Just depends on what the mood is.

It's summer and I've decided to move lighter in the shades and found a color with highlights I just love. While multi-tasking yesterday, I inadvertently grabbed my winter hair color. No problem, after it was done I just grabbed my summer hair color and then did the highlights. But thanks to the varying base colors now in my hair, the highlights didn't turn out like they should have. So I thought I could just start over with the lighter base color.

As I've now found out, the more color you add (even lighter colors), the darker your hair becomes. By morning, my hair was just about jet black and definitely NOT what I was hoping for. So off to the salon I head so I can pay someone to get me into the hair color I had when I woke up yesterday morning.

So when I entered the salon in my baggy pants, loose t-shirt, zero make-up and hair that I wasn't feeling the love for, I wasn't feeling all pretty-like. Hell, I couldn't have faked it if my life depended on it! To make matters worse, while waiting for my hair-savior (stylist) I opened up one of those hip fashion magazines. There staring back at me were tall, skinny, young models with perfectly colored hair, beautiful spiked heals and wearing the latest and greatest in clothing that is well-above the Kohl's price range I normally shop in.

To add insult to injury, they didn't have a single piece of dog hair weaved into their fancy clothing (in contrast to my life-style which means I'm always accompanied by dog hair of all colors).

In my hair-weakened state, I found myself thinking "I want to be that skinny", "I want my hair done up like that", "oh those dreamy shoes" and all kinds of envious stuff. Even the Venus razor ad with her beautiful legs had me turning green.

And then I found myself mentally calculating all of my flaws. I hadn't shaved my legs since Saturday. There was no way my practical feet were going to stand 20 minutes in those 5" heels. The hair was a completely lost cause and this 5'2" vertically challenged girl was never going to have long, tall, lean legs no matter how hard I worked out or how long I stayed on a stretching rack.

Now tell me again why we have these magazines that feature fake people, shown in borrowed homes, wearing clothing with price tags that add up to a house payment, in hairstyles that require 10 pounds of hair product and a small monthly loan just to afford them?

Dang it, I almost fell for the marketing machine techniques which tell me that if I buy Product X, Y and Z, I'll have everything I never knew I was missing. Luckily I put the magazine down. I confidently walked over to my SuperCuts salon gal who is a treasure (Yes, I'll admit that I used to go to a top-notch salon and pay almost $200 for a cut & color). My gal worked her magic and by the time I walked out of there (with a brow wax to boot!), I was feeling pretty, pretty, pretty! Hell, I even came home and threw on a little make-up to go teach my dog classes.

As an added bonus to my now normal base color, I have some wicked blonde highlights that lighten up my mood as well as my hair. I have to say, I'm feeling the spark again and I've vowed NOT to open up one of the damned magazines again! Those things are BAD for your health!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gearing Up For Colorado

I've had a small bit of time at home to re-energize and focus on several of the fun projects evolving in my life.

First is the Spot-On 2-on-2-off contact DVD which is coming along nicely. I'm working with 5 new people at varying skill levels and dogs from puppy hood up to retraining an Excellent level dog.

We're a couple of weeks into filming and I'm currently working on written material to accompany the video portion.

But more importantly, I've been spending great quality time at home in the garden, taking pictures and with my pups.
All of the dogs have been so happy and actively playing with each other when they're not hanging with Dan and I.

Rylee's agility training is coming along great. She's a unique character in that she really needs to think something is her own idea. So in keeping with her wishes, I haven't pushed her to do anything. In return, she offers me a heck of a lot more each time we work together.

Rouge has made it a daily habit to offer me toys to entice me to play. Today it was a large piece of wood from the yard that she brought into the house. I have to laugh because she was so proud of herself! As I write, she's sleeping next to me.

Zulu just celebrated 1 year with us. I can't believe how fast time has gone! His latest thing is that he has made it his place to lay on the back of my chair to look out the window or place his head on my shoulder to sleep. I love the fact that I can smother him with kisses and he comfortably lays there and then returns a few when I'm done. Yes, he is a Momma's boy!

Well, Dan and I leave for Colorado in a few days for a judging assignment. I always miss my dogs when we're gone and I'm hoping to use my plane/hotel time to catch up on some courses that are do in a few months.

Oh, I have peaked at my courses for this weekend and I'm excited to see them run! As is typical, there is a challenging part on each and I'm very interested to see how handlers work through it. While I'd like to go into more detail, sorry, there won't be any hints : )

Colorado, we'll see you soon!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

YES, the 1/2 Day Agility Trial is Possible!

See the empty chair* pictured on the right? That symbolizes my home on weekends when I'm off showing at an agility trial. Imagine the possibilities...I could be at home reading a book, holding my husband's hand or snuggling a dog. 

Don't get me wrong, I love agility. 

There are times I spend hours thinking about a particular agility-thing, entire evenings spent enjoying it with my students and 4-day weekends watching it while judging. That's my choice and not only am I comfortable with it, but most importantly, I love it.

However, as a competitor, the continued trend of spending entire days sitting around at an AKC agility trial for more than 5 hours waiting to do a 60 second run is not one of the things on my 'love-to-do-list'. To be honest, it easily falls onto my "absolutely-can't-stand-to-do-page". 

Why? Well, if it were just me hanging around it would fall into the "who-cares-area" of life, but it's not. It's about my dogs. It's about life-balance for all of us. It's about being well-rounded as individuals. It's about doing laundry, spending time with family, weeding the garden or simply cleaning the house.

Specifically, I'm not fond of having to get my dogs to a location by 7:00 a.m., then asking (no, it's more like requiring) them to wastefully wait around for 3+ hours until their first run, followed by more mind-numbing downtime for up to an additional 5+ hours until their second run, leaving by 4:30 p.m. (if we're lucky), driving home, getting in late, snarfing down dinner, sneaking in a few chores and then doing it all over again the following day.

Sure, I could use my trial-waiting-time to practice tricks, do some training, visit with folks, network and assist with the trial event (and believe me, I do all of those things). But imagine a trial where I wasn't required to devote my entire day waiting around while my other life obligations and commitments were asked to take a back seat to my hobby.

Specifically, I miss the days where AKC, Excellent classes (all of them) were run first (there were a few trials where I was back home by 10:30 a.m.). Open folks arrived around 10:30-11 and Novice folks showed up around noon. Sure, the Open & Novice folks might have to wait around for a bit until it was time for their classes, but they weren't required to arrive at O'-too-early AND stay until O'-last-dog. The schedule I mention here is far more dog-friendly, ensures handler-happiness and most importantly, life outside of agility goes on as usual.

I've heard the argument that this type of schedule makes it harder to obtain volunteer workers. Honestly, I say bull-hockey! Why? Well, the other schedule (where Excellent is first and last of the day) falsely assumes that because Excellent handlers (the largest group) are forced to wait around, they are more likely to volunteer. First, you can't force anyone to volunteer. Second, they already feel they're making personal sacrifices just by attending for the lengthy day and third, they're hyper-aware of the already looming time commitment and simply don't want to take away from their personal lives any more than they have to.

Case in point, if on Saturday small dogs run first and there is a separate walk-thru for the large dogs (after small dogs are done). The large dog people won't show up first thing because they know they're already going to be there until the end of the day. Even showing up late, that means they're probably going to be forced to hang out for 7+ hours. Since they arrive later, that means they won't be available when the first dog enters the ring. Vice versa with the small dogs. They were forced to arrive early and so when their runs are completed (6+ hours later), they want to go home and so they're not available to help at the end of the day.

The other argument says that there are more conflicts when Excellent is running in both rings. Again, this is not necessarily true since there are just as many, if not more, conflicts when Novice and Open are running opposite Excellent. At the very least, there is more pressure since on Novice and Open since those tend to be smaller classes and if you miss your run there, you may be out of luck if they are already moving on to the next course change. And who wants to be rushed with a young dog? (hint: nobody!)

No matter what the running order, there is no doubt that volunteers are hard to come by and conflicts will arise. However, forcing people to stay and volunteer just isn't the answer because this doesn't create the pay-it-forward, feel-good moment everyone wants in agility. 

I'm an optimist and while this might come back to bite me in the butt (especially if I'm judging and need ring crew), but I think we should allow people to make their own decisions and handle their time as they see fit. People may surprise you. One day someone might not be in a rush and so they stay until the end. Another day they may have an obligation. Either way, it's a win-win for everyone involved and we're encouraging and facilitating BALANCE.

Whatever the running order, the days of spending 10 hours a day waiting for two agility runs needs to end. Nobody (or dog) can remain sharp, fun and relaxed for that amount of time and  who wants to be held captive at an agility trial. (again, nobody!)

* If you like the chair pictured, go to this link to learn how to do it yourself.