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Monday, September 27, 2010

The Power of Dog - Ryder (aka Boo)

Every day is a lesson. Sometimes they are good lessons and sometimes they are heartbreaking.

Today my friend’s, Katie and Andy, lost their young Golden Retriever to a blood-type of disorder. For the average human reading this, some may wonder how the loss of a dog is blog-worthy. For those of us who are into dog sports, they understand without another word. But regardless of which side of the fence you’re from, this blog subject is worth the read because it talks about the power of love and the power of dog.

It’s no surprise that dog folks often equate their 4-legged kids with 2-legged human children. Today it dawned on me why this analogy is so correct!

When people have human babies, they put time, energy and a part of themselves into that little life. They teach them, shape them, impart information, create their world, oversee the life lessons that are a part of growing up and open the deepest parts of their soul to share a vulnerable side reserved only for special individuals. Human parents do all of this with care, thoughtfulness and with a relish for this labor of love.

It may be hard to imagine, but dog parents do the same for their 4-legged youngsters. While we don’t give birth to our chosen young, just like those who adopt, we look into that little sweet face and fall in love. A maternal/paternal instinct kicks in. Maybe it’s the want to care for the innocent or maybe it’s just the need to develop a bond with something warm, interactive and emotionally stimulating. Whatever the reason, the 4-legged surrogate children worm their way into our hearts and become members of the family.

This brings me back to Katie and Andy. Today they lost one of their kids and at the moment there is a place in their heart that is aching, empty and pleading for their beloved Boo to come back to them. While this is the hard side of loving and loosing, we have to remind ourselves to never lose sight of how it felt while our dogs are with us. Forgetting the time together would an injustice to the one who touched our heart and it would negate the love they brought into our lives.

In the case of Boo (also known as Ryder), he was amazing. I didn’t get to see him on a daily basis, but what I noticed immediately was that he brought pure joy to Katie and Andy’s life. He made them smile. He worked the two of them by pouring on the puppy love, adding a full-bodied tail wag and a look that said “I love you so much”. They couldn’t help but shower him with kisses, hugs and smiles. From my vantage point, I’m certain these warm feelings poured over into their marriage and that it brought the two of them closer as a couple. They smiled and laughed together over Boo and his antics and those happy feelings overflowed and was shared among their friends.

Boo’s reach was far beyond his immediate family. While judging him in agility, I couldn’t help but smile and root him on. He gave his all in each agility performance and was a force of good that swept through the course. Nobody could resist the happiness watching him brought!

But what I’ll remember most was the whirl of energy Boo and his handler (it didn’t matter if it was Katie or Andy) produced. They were like a micro-burst of fun on the agility course. It started the moment they came to the line and the impact continued even after they were gone. Dan (my hubby) and I would see them hours later and smiles would still be plastered on all of their faces (humans and dogs alike). It was infectious and a feeling that sucked us in. That's how we became friends with them, in part, thanks to Boo.

So while Katie and Andy work through their grief, I wanted to salute Boo for having touched so many lives in such an amazingly positive way. He did touch many hearts and he brought joy to everyone who watched. He was amazing to see, lovable to all and so very special. I know that we are all better humans for having known that 4-legged little fuzz ball of joy.

Thank you Boo for sharing your gift with all of us and our hearts are with Katie and Andy during this time.

With Love,

Lisa & Dan

Friday, September 24, 2010

Test Drive the Dogs!

When I was younger and well before driving age, my parents would let me go out and start the car so it could warm up before they headed off to work. Even though it was 10 below zero, I loved that moment behind the wheel. It was a thrill, a job I had proven I was capable of handling and for just that one moment, a glimpse into my future.

Later, my role evolved and I was allowed to back the car down the driveway and not long after that, my Dad let me drive his truck around the property. All of these skills prepared me for real driving on real roads.

Training a dog in agility is much the same thing. We start our puppies/dogs off by instilling the safety rules of agility skills. Next we let them sit behind the wheel by sharing the keys of handling and soon they’re backing down the driveway of sequencing. Before we know it, they’re driving courses in the safety of our property…all in preparation for real driving on real agility courses.

This analogy came to mind when I recently took Zulu out for a little test drive in agility class. I have to say, it was a thrill! First, his contacts were amazing. As I pushed, he gave me 2on-2off contacts that were fast, confident and accurate. The timing couldn't have been better as my 2on2off DVD will be available via download next week and soon available for shipping. It was a nice reminder that the training is GREAT and dogs just love it!

But back to my Zulu test, he sequenced with relish and was clearly enjoying himself while working with gusto. I couldn’t help but be proud of his skills and I have to say, it was fun to get a glimpse of our agility future together.

You may remember when a few months ago I took Rouge out for a few test drives on the open road at an agility trial and again at the Stacy Peardot-Goudy seminar. Those times gave me confidence that her visitation days were behind us.

It also means that it’s really time to start driving her like the little race car she is and to see exactly what’s under that sporty hood of hers. So I grabbed my best treats and off we went to race around the agility training course. To my surprise, she was just as hyped about the experience as I was. It seems the more I pushed, the more she gave. Pretty soon I was giggling, she had a smile on her face and we both learned how to burn a little rubber!

The lesson I'm reminded is that there reaches a point in each dog’s training where it’s time to buckle up, hit the road and see what’s under the hood 'cause it’s time for a real test drive. Relish that moment. You're sure to have some great moments and if you're lucky, you'll walk away with a few specific items to work on. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Judging - UKI Trial, Wilsonville, OR (Sunday)

 Today was Day 2 of the UKI trial and today was GREAT!

First, we got the whole jump height movement thing worked out and it was so nice and orderly! My feet were so happy

Better yet, today we had AWESOME courses (thanks to my hubby Dan) and we added Gamblers to the mix.

Oh and did I mention the weather was sunny?!?!

Yes, it was a great UKI trial and something worth checking out.

Enjoy the attached courses.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Judging - UKI Trial, Wilsonville, OR

Today I judged my first UKI Trial.

UKI is a new agility organization that is geared to be more European in course design.

Here are the pros and cons of my first experience with UKI:

* Love the courses. The main thing that attracted me to UKI was the difference in course design. I like a bit of challenge since I think this creates better handlers and more experienced dogs.
* I love how Novice-friendly UKI is. There is a nursery class and even better, you can call "Not For Competition" or NFC, which means you can use a toy during your training time and you're not judged on performance. It's a great way to get ring experience.

* I love a good strategy game and UKI provides those. Today we had Snakes and Ladders and tomorrow we'll have Gamblers.
* Thanks to nesting, easy course changes.
* Love the relaxed environment.

* Well, it's a new organization and they have a few bugs to work out. For example, the Snakes & Ladders written guidelines are missing a few important details. (The good news is the exhibitors were all easy going and we figured it out)
* Holy cow, with all of the classes running similar courses I think we were changing jump heights continuously! I'm positive I put more miles on doing this than actual judging.
* I felt like a lump of coal when handlers called NFC since my sole job was to stand there and be sure handlers weren't mean to their dogs. Ah yeah, since they were coming in with toys to play, that wasn't an issue (an nobody beat their dog with an udder toy ).

Overall, it was a positive experience and I would definitely consider entering a trial with my own dog.

Enjoy the courses everyone!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

2on-2off DVD - Where are we at?

My last several weeks have been devoted to my 2on-2off DVD, which has definitely been a labor of love.

As I'm quickly figuring out, the challenge with a DVD is that it lacks the instant feedback a personal lesson has to offer. But at the same time, it's imparting a huge piece of informative knowledge on the overall direction.

The 2on-2off concept is simple and straight forward, but it does require an eye for understanding what is happening and the direction the training should be heading toward.

While trying to share all of this factual and intuitive knowledge, my concern is that the video will appear too detailed or worse yet, not detailed enough. Trying to decide where to start and stop the knowledge has been a challenge and I'm going to have to come to terms with the fact that some subjects (i.e. training a release) really need to be left as a topic all of their own to be discussed on another day.

At any rate, the DVD is coming along great and I'm very proud of the product so far. Just 2 more chapters to go and it will be available for download as well as being sent off to have professional DVDs made.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Technology and Dog Poop, Not a Suggested Combo

Long ago I decided that challenging situation are best looked at as future stories to share and laugh over with friends. Today was certainly no exception!

I've been working hard to finish up editing my 2on-2off Contact DVD and the last two days have been priceless. Clearly my time in the Alaskan brush did me some good and I came back refreshed and surging with energy. I stayed up late last night and then got up early to finish up the project. Then the Windows update hit and dang if it didn't just wig out my computer...and my DVD file (and back ups), which magically reverted back to copies dated Aug 27th.

Ah yeah, that means the last week of work is GONE! I've been on the phone with almost everyone and have come to the conclusion that my beautiful DVD now needs to be recreated.  The good news is I have all of the little pieces and know which order they go in, so off to work I go...again!

But that's no the funny part. The funny part is that as I'm calmly trying to figure out which limb I can sell/offer/sacrifice in hopes that my beloved file will magically appear, I blindly plunk myself on the couch to ponder my options.

It wasn't but a few moments later I realize that I was sitting on something hard. Assuming it is a dog bone (this does happen often in my home), I go to grab it and alarmingly realize it's a turd. Yeah, the kind that falls out of my old dog's butt more and more often these days. Just when I'm thinking the situation couldn't get worse, I have to face the reality that I'm sitting in doggy poop. 

Looking back, I guess my first clue to the hidden land mine was when I thought "Oh goody! There's an open spot on the couch for me!" With five dogs, that's a rarity and I now realize the dogs were avoiding the area (In my defense, the turd was hidden in a multi-colored blanket).

So, the moral of the story is that it was going to be a sh*t day, no matter what! Oh, and always check the blanket before sitting down.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dear Blog...I've Been Unfaithful To You

Yes, I feel like I've been cheating on my blog by not being there to write and I've fallen into the category of dead beat blogger! Life's been beyond hectic and I've found myself stretched to the gills the last month. But the last week or so has me getting refocused, energized and working toward getting back on track.

First, I had Stacy Peardot-Goudy in for a week conducting seminars. I always come away from working with Stacy feeling motivated, with a ton of new ideas and of course encouraged by the progress I've made with my dogs.

In February I wrote about how Rouge's social calendar was overtaking her ability to think clearly in agility and so it is with great pride that I write that in this seminar she never once went to visit and consistently worked with me.

I also had an opportunity to work little Zulu and discovered a few things. First, he has now gained the ability to quickly focus. Second, that he jumps way better at 24" and third, he's going to be a ton of fun!

The next step in my busy schedule has me in Kenai, Alaska judging. One of the best parts about being in the middle of nowhere? The lack of cell phone and internet service. Amazingly, I've happily survived the last 4 days without the pressure of phone calls, e-mails and text messages. Of course the beautiful scenery and wonderful people have made this trip memorable as well.

Colorful Fungus
It seems each time I take pictures a theme emerges. This time the theme is mushrooms! I felt very lilliputian (small in size) next to the gigantic varieties found here in Alaska. Here are just a few pictures of the fungus among-us.

Ugly, but BIG fungus!

Bowl-like Fungus

More Fungus
Frilly Fungus

Alaska has a lot more to offer and here are just a few additional pictures

Fly Fishing in the Kenai River

Kenia Fjords

Lake at the Cross Roads in Alaska
Dan & Lisa at Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska

Up Close to Exit Glacier
Blue Ice is COLD Ice!