Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Great Essay Caper

One night in November I finished writing an essay.

The essay was due at 10 am the next morning. Considering the late hour, and that the next day began my Thanksgiving break, I knew that once I went to sleep I was not going to want to get up to turn it in. However, Goldwin Smith is usually open, so Queezle and I decided to make an adventure of it.

We made our way up to the Arts Quad, which we had to ourselves.

Like any good tourist, Queezle (or at least a werewolf that looks like Queezle) posed with Ezra.

Then we followed the footsteps of the founders...

...and posed with AD White.

Into the building we went, and up to the English Lounge.

At this point I realized a small error in my planning. The English Department mailroom is locked up around 4 pm, after which you can still stick stuff through the slot in the door but it must have the name of the person it is intended for on it. I had not included my professor's name on the essay, and was without writing utensils. So Queezle and I began combing the building, poking through any unlocked cabinets and inspecting bulletin boards. We were very excited to find some unattended pizza boxes, but sadly they were empty (yes, I checked).

We finally struck gold in the basement, where we found a dry erase board and corresponding marker. My essay appropriately labeled, we climbed back up to the second floor and turned it in (note: I did not draw the muscle man).

Then we continued our tourist activities by posing at the Temple of Zeus.

At last it was time to head home.

Mission accomplished!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas! (and a lot of catching up)

This past semester was rough - guess the honeymoon period is over! However, I did manage to make it through somewhat gracefully. Here's what the Q and I have been up to!

We washed dishes:

We investigated an old cemetery:

Queezle got her beauty rest:

My hibiscus bloomed for Homecoming weekend:

Tia came for a visit:

Queezle nixed Halloween costume 1:

And decided version 2 was much better:

I drank a lot of caffeine:

And we did some good ol' arts and crafts (it's supposed to be a crysknife from Dune):

Then as soon as finals were over we went out to Cleveland, OH for the big dog show circuit, where Queezle finished her Grand Championship!
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dumbbell Games

Now that we finally have a dumbbell with us (give me a break here - I was packing a lot of stuff!), Queezle and I are back to working on take/hold. She has the general idea of the retrieve, and will take the dumbbell in her mouth for a split second. Right now I'm trying to expand on that.

Today I realized an easy way for us to practice the retrieve during our daily routine. When I'm trying to read/study, Queezle will inevitably bring out her rubber peppermint toy and drop it on my book. Sooner or later when I throw it for her she knocks it under the couch. It's usually only a few inches under - she could easily reach it but instead of using her paws productively she flails around making a huge din and accomplishing nothing. Then of course she expects me to get the peppermint out for her. So now the deal is - you want the peppermint? Bring me the dumbbell. When she makes her peevish two-year-old noise, I slide the dumbbell a little way across the room, and then she's expected to bring it to me. She figured it out right off, and while she gives me a long-suffering look, she retrieves it! Then I fish out the peppermint and we go back to that game.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ithaca is Gorges

Stereotypical though it may be, Ithaca really is gorges (and gorgeous!). After a week of walking Queezle in a grassy area around the corner from our apartment, it occurred to me that I didn't know what was up the driveway we usually stopped at. There was no house or anything, just a small parking area, and voila! A little park, complete with gorge access.

The park is absolutely wonderful - packed paths leading through a few trees and along the cliff, plus a wide rocky "beach" alongside Fall Creek. Following the cliffs back, there's a beautiful waterfall with a nice area for swimming.

I loved going down into the gorge to read last year, so this is the perfect study spot! Queezle and I are particularly fond of a little hollow surrounded by trees and bushes along the water's edge.

Although Queezle isn't quite sure if swimming is a good idea - You want me to WHAT? - she is willing to wade and splash around after me. I keep waiting for her to notice the crayfish!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back on the hill!

The girls and I have had a very busy past couple weeks. First, at the August agility trials in Cato, NY we had three qualifying runs. Tia earned her 8th and 9th MJP legs (only one more to go!), and Queezle earned her first XF leg! Flash was wild as ever and had a grand time, but didn't qualify at all.

After doing two days of agility, we headed to the Tioga Kennel Club shows for the weekend. On Saturday, Flash got a Veteran Herding Group 3! Queezle went Best of Breed both days over a very large and nice Terv entry, which gave her two 5 point majors toward her Grand Champion! We didn't get any Group placements, but getting all those GRCH points more than made up for that. She is now up to 12 points and 2 majors out of the required 25 points and 3 majors. We won't be doing any more breed shows for a while though because she is blowing coat like no tomorrow - I feel like I fill my trashcan with hair every day!

Moving into the apartment has gone very smoothly, and Queezle is adjusting quite well. As you can see from the photo, she is hardly stressed.

Queezle tagged along for the marching band's second annual scavenger hunt, and also came to the welcome back picnic, so she has met a LOT of new people over the past week. Sometimes I can tell she is irritated with me sitting around reading and writing, but I do think she is happy to be here with me. Although we don't have air conditioning, she has been lounging in front of a big fan almost 24/7. Talk about the dog days of summer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So Much for Love

Queezle and I are chilling near Albany for the Ballston Spa shows. So far we have gone Best of Breed both days with no competition, and haven't gotten anything in the Group. Tonight I had fed her in the car and got myself a salad and smoothie from McDonald's.

When we got to the hotel I realized I have a lot of stuff to lug up to the room. No problem - I'll just combine bags and balance stuff carefully and we'll be ok. Got everything up the stairs and through our temperamental door and settled down to dine. I like to save some of the chicken for last, so I put aside a few pieces as well as the tomatoes which I was not going to eat. Fork in hand, I realize that between the cooler, Target bag, McDonald's bag, purse and dog, I had forgotten the smoothie in the car. Rats. I carefully balance the salad on the coat rack thing out of Queezle's reach and head back out to the car.

I had forgotten one thing - the lid housing the chicken and tomatoes, which was sitting on the nightstand. When I returned a minute or so later, the chicken had mysteriously disappeared and Queezle had her most innocent face on. Did she eat the tomatoes? Of course not.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recent Shows

Since Queezle didn't have her litter after all, we have been going to shows the past few weekends. Queezle is thrilled to finally be back on the road, and the other girls have gotten to do some agility too.

Queezle showed one day in breed in Stormville, NY and got Best of Breed and a Group III.

In Bloomsburg, PA, Queezle went Best of Breed all three days and got a Group IV on Saturday. The photo is from Friday.

This past weekend we did four days of agility trials in Brewerton, NY. Flash was the star of the weekend out of my three dogs, earning her second Excellent FAST leg with a 1st place! Because she is almost 13, I tried to challenge her jump height so she could jump 4" in preferred. Naturally my little beast hasn't shrunk the quarter of an inch she needed! It would have been nice for her to jump lower, but we can deal. She had a bunch of really nice Jumpers runs but with bars down - here is one of them.

Tia wasn't running quite as well as she did back in June, though we did have some nice runs. In Standard on Sunday she just had one bar down that I hadn't even noticed! She is starting to do that funny cough/gag thing again. We are thinking it may be a bronchitis sort of thing caused by either the humidity or a pollen that is coming out now. Tia says that steak at every meal would fix everything!

Queezle is running wonderfully, except for being a brat at the weave poles. Working at home she gives me no trouble, but when I send her to the weaves at a trial she runs at me barking obnoxiously. I have started removing her from the course when she does that. It kills me because she is doing a really beautiful job even on difficult courses and is so fun to run, but if I get it through her head now that being a brat means the fun stops, she will be better about the weaves in the long run. I am also going to keep working her on really hard entries and doing weaves with lots of distractions at home - my thought process there is that if I can have her 100% confident that she can do the weaves correctly no matter what, doing them at a trial will be easy and not worth putting up a fuss. We are also taking a class with Tracy Sklenar to help with her contact issues (namely sailing over them with a gleefully wicked smile on her face).

Today we took the first load of my stuff down to the apartment in Ithaca. Only a few weeks left until school starts back up again

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No Litter

I have been putting off posting this because every time I say it it gets a little more real. Queezle is not having a litter after all. Her x-ray on the 6th showed no puppies, which means that however many there were at the time of the ultrasound, they were resorbed between then and now. This is not unheard of, but it's sad all the same. To make matters worse, we are probably not going to be able to use Poncho again. Luckily Queezle herself is totally fine, so we can go from here.

The silver lining to all this is that now Queezle and I can get to some shows this summer! I go back to school in August and she will probably blow her coat in September, so between then and now we are cramming in as many shows as possible. Queezle says it's about time we started taking her places again!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

4th of July and Bainbridge

While many dogs are hiding in corners from the booming fireworks, Tia is bounding around the house with her giant pink and green flounder. A few fireworks can't bring her down!

On Thursday we went to the Bainbridge shows for the one day of obedience. As well as Tia I was also showing my mom's Terv Hokey. Neither of them were stellar, and neither of them qualified, but there were moments of brilliance. Hokey has been having some dumbbell issues but did both his retrieves perfectly, and Tia did both her drop on recall and the broadjump correctly. Showing outdoors is harder for the dogs, as there are a lot more scents and distractions. The biggest distraction of the day was a train going by during the middle of our stays, but Tia remained in her down!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cato Trials

We just finished up with 4 days of agility trials in Cato. Tia was the star of the weekend! She was running in Excellent Standard and Excellent Jumpers, and I was also running Flash in Excellent Jumpers and Excellent FAST and my mom's Terv Hokey in the same classes as Tia.

On Friday, Tia qualified in both classes, also known as a double Q! Then on Saturday she qualified again in Jumpers. She now has two double Q's toward her PAX title and 7 MJP legs. Almost all of her runs were under time, and she ran with me very well. Our nonqualifying runs just had minor errors and were still very smooth.

Hokey and I had a lot of nice almosts, though he was having trouble making his weave pole entry. He is very silly and had a good time.

As always, the Flash was fast and furious. Our main issue was knocking bars. I did notice that she knocked the double and triple jumps fairly consistently, so I think I'm going to challenge her jump height at the next trial we go to. Several years ago the AKC changed the height limits for the 8" division, but I never remeasured her because she was doing just fine as a 12" dog at that point. If she measures within the 8" division, that means she will be able to jump 4" as a preferred dog, which will make all the jumps a lot lower for her. We'll see!

Miss Tia Bean is still basking in praise, and got a burger on the way home each day that she qualified.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Flash and I spent last week at the Mayflower Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club's regional specialty show. We were staying with one of my aunts, so Flash had a great time being the only dog in a house with several adoring humans.

Monday and Tuesday we drive up to Amherst, NH for the agility trials. We didn't have any qualifying runs, but she did a really nice job on Monday. On Tuesday the club was also offering Time 2 Beat as a fun run. T2B is a new class in AKC agility that is totally based on how fast the dogs in the class run. The fastest dog at the end of the day would get 10 points, and then dogs within a certain amount of seconds of that dog's time would get 9 points, etc down to 0. In order to title your dog would have to earn 100 points. I'm not sure exactly when they plan to add it as a titling class, but it's in the works.

Wednesday we took off to visit my grandparents and aunt and uncle who live near Worcester. We had a great time visiting, though we did get somewhat lost on the drive home. I told Flash to keep her head down when we drove through one interesting neighborhood!

On Thursday we headed for the official show site in Boxboro, MA for obedience. First Flash and I showed in Grad Novice. She did a really nice job, but was confused on the dumbbell recall. For Grad Nov the dog is supposed to hold the dumbbell while you walk away and then bring it to you when you call them. Flash was confused and dropped it when I left her - she's used to a full retrieve! We also showed in Veteran Novice, which is Novice level obedience for old dogs only, and a non-regular class (which means you don't have to have a qualifying score to get a placement!). Despite some barking on Flash's part, we got 4th place! Ok, so it was out of four. But we still got a neat little pottery mug!

Friday was conformation day. Flash and I aren't exactly serious contenders in the breed ring, but we have fun and Flash enjoys putting on a show for everyone. We didn't place in any of our classes, but lots of people commented on how much spark she has for an old girl!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SOTC Obedience Trial

June 12-13 were the Syracuse Obedience Training Club's annual June trial, which is always a fun event for the club and other exhibitors. People travel from all over to enjoy the show and then the wine & cheese party Saturday evening, which features a ton of excellent food cooked mostly by club members!

Having recovered from January, I once again had Tia entered in Open A. Though I was prepared for another heavy dose of humility, I focused on how great she has been doing in class and on keeping her up beat and psyched before we went in the ring.

Saturday was a bit of a bummer. I had Tia really up and timed our warm-up perfectly so that we could do some quick review in the hallway and then relax in a chair ringside to watch the dog and handler before us. Into the ring we went, Tia smiling up at me and promptly sitting in heel position when we lined up for the heel pattern. Her heeling started off great, but in the middle of it she started reverse sneezing, a weird snorting noise that a lot of small or smush-nosed dogs do every now and then. Aussies are not a breed that typically does it, but it can still happen either when they choke on something, are pulling on their lead a lot or as a stress thing. For whatever reason, Tia started doing it and wouldn't stop, so the judge excused us. Often when something like that happens the judge will let you come back later and try again, but this judge said that we were done for the day.

On Sunday I didn't time our warm-up quite as well, but Tia was still reasonably up when we got in the ring. Her heeling wasn't bad at all, and she even did some automatic sits! For the figure 8 she did the first half very nicely and then got a little messy on the second half. Her drop on recall was lovely as always. Then on the retrieves she must have started running out of steam because halfway out to the dumbbell she stopped and looked lost. This caused us to NQ, but I was still very pleased with Tia's performance!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ultrasound Results

Queezle had her ultrasound on June 11, and is indeed pregnant! From what the vet could tell, there are 2-3 puppies. Ultrasound counts are often inaccurate, but they are very good for telling if your bitch is pregnant or not. To get an accurate count, we have to wait a few more weeks and then can do an xray, which will show the puppies' little skeletons (it's really cool to see all of them in there). So now it's back to waiting!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tia and the Ball

The other day, Tia detected a ball in the corner behind our big armchair. The ball had been there for months, and none of the dogs had shown any interest in it (we don't even know how it got there). But of course, despite having multiple bins full of toys ready at hand, once Tia noticed it she just had to have it.

Her first step was to crawl through the small space between the chair and the shelves behind it.

On the far side of the chair, there is a table that sticks out a little and presented Tia with an even narrower space to get through. This challenge gave her pause for a moment.

But she was determined to get that ball, and with a final heave, she was free!

Having claimed the ball as her own, she wiggled her way back out from behind the chair and proceeded to parade around the house.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Puppy Process

Back in May, my mom and I drove to Michigan for Queezle to be bred. The lucky guy is Poncho, CH Blackwater's Side Kick.

You know those programs on TV every now and then about how your food is made and all the crazy shipping and processing, etc involved in getting it to your grocery store? Well, for dedicated, responsible breeders, the process of having a litter is equally complicated, not to mention expensive.

The first step for me was to have a top-quality foundation bitch, aka Queezle. The Q came from a very nice litter with parents who had done very well in both the conformation and performance rings, not to mention having great health. Even so, this did not guarantee that Queezle would be worthy of being bred. To get to this point, she had to finish her conformation Championship to prove that she adheres to the Belgian Tervuren breed standard and pass numerous health tests - hips, elbows, heart, thyroid and eyes every year. Even with all the health tests and her CH, she still might not have been deemed nice emough to be bred. However, luckily for us, she has turned out to be a stunning bitch, sound in both body and mind (temperament plays a huge role in your dog's life - a spooky or aggressive puppy is not going to have a good life, and probably won't have a good home, so why would you want to produce one?).

Next, I needed a stud. The catch to having a really nice bitch like Queezle is that you then have to find a stud dog that a) will not take away from any of her good qualities, and b) will hopefully improve on her weaknesses. Obviously there is no perfect dog, and so concessions must be made. For me, my first priority is that the puppies be healthy and sound, capable of living a long, happy life free of pain or genetic health defects. Then I would also like those puppies to be excellent examples of the Belgian Tervuren breed. My ideal Terv is capable of excelling in both the conformation and performance rings.

Finding that perfect stud was a long and arduous process. I must have spent hundreds of hours poring over photos and pedigrees - every time I came across a dog that had the right look I wanted, he turned out to have underlying health issues in his close relatives that I did not want to risk bringing into my lines. Fluke things happen - there is no way to know all of the recessive genes your dog might be carrying - but if you know that a dog has a genetic health issue behind him, you then have to decide if you are willing to risk producing that issue in your puppies. My deadline for making a choice was December, but I just wasn't quite happy with what I'd come up with at that point.

Finally, I was flipping through an old Tervuren News Tales and saw an ad for a very nice looking young male. He was just barely two years old, and so wouldn't have had all his health clearances yet, but one of the mantras many breeders throw out is that if you like a dog, look to his sire. His sire was Poncho. A health check and many phone calls later - to his breeder, the two people who had already bred to him, other respected breeders in the area that would have seen him at shows, etc - I was satisfied and decided that Poncho was the dog I wanted. Both the bitches he had been bred to had been looking to improve the same things I was, all of his puppies were healthy at 2 and 5 years of age, and his littermates were consistently healthy and good-looking. Luckily his owners agreed that it was a nice match, and we were on our way!

Now we are waiting on Queezle's ultrasound the end of next week to see if she is definitely pregnant, though she has been having some morning sickness which is a very good sign (not all bitches get morning sickness, but some do and Queezle did with her first litter). Then comes the x-ray a couple weeks down the road to see how many puppies, and then the munchkins themselves, and all the care, feeding and cleaning that comes with them. It is a lot of work (not to mention a lot of money - it is generally considered in the dog fancy that if you do it right, you are lucky to break even on a litter, and breeders usually lose money), but getting over all those barriers - the health testing, an objective analysis of whether your dog is truly breeding quality,picking a match who meets those criteria and can help make your bitch better, then the care - makes it even more special when you finally have those beautiful puppies climbing over the ex-pen and digging holes in the yard. We breed because we love our dogs and are dedicated to improving our breed, not to make money.

Keep your fingers crossed for the Q!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Flash NAP

A couple weeks ago Tia, Flash and I went to the Syracuse Obedience Training Club's agility trials. Tia had a great weekend, qualifying in Exc Jumpers the first day and with a nice run in Standard, and then on Sunday getting her first double Q towards her PAX (Preferred Agility Excellent - basically the agility championship for dogs running at the preferred jump height)! However, although Tia was outstanding, my most exciting brag comes from Flash.

Flash is over 12 years old, and a maniac when it comes to agility. She runs fast enough to beat big dog times, and will do anything to go faster - including knocking bars and leaping over contacts, both of which are mistakes that cause you to NQ. Flash moved down to preferred 7 years ago. The lower jump height helped a lot with her bar problem, so she is now in Exc Jumpers (and got her first leg on Saturday!). Contacts on the other hand were still a major problem, particularly on the dogwalk. We managed to pull off two qualifying runs, and then have been hunting that last leg for almost two years.

Sunday before her Novice Standard run, I told Flash that if she qualified she would get a double cheeseburger on the way home and another one when I got home from college later in the week. Into the ring we went, I took off her leash, and she zipped right up and over the dogwalk and hit the contact! All the bars stayed up and she hit all the contacts, and at long last Flash finished her NAP with a first place!

Flash is now officially retired from the Standard class, as I don't like her doing the a-frame at her age any more, especially since she runs so fast and crazy. She will still be blasting through Jumpers and FAST as long as she is happy and sound. Gotta love my crazy old dog!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ABTC 2010 National Specialty

I have lots of exciting news from the past few weeks, so I figure I will spread it out. Firstly, my mom and I drove from central New York to Pottsboro, TX for the Terv National, which was the week of May 1. Queezle and I showed in agility, obedience and conformation.

In agility, the Q was WILD. Considering she hadn't seen me in weeks and had just spent three days in the car, it was a miracle she stayed in the ring! She ran fast and a touch out of control, but we had really nice runs in Excellent Jumpers both days. The one day *I* caused her to knock a bar because I called her name right when she was going over a jump. Although we didn't qualify at all, I was pleased with her runs for the most part.

In obedience we were just entered in Wildcard Novice. In the Wildcard classes, you can praise your dogs throughout the runthru and can choose to skip one exercise and get full points for it. Queezle and I chose the offlead heeling as our Wildcard, but I opted to still do it for practice (the judge just couldn't take any points off even if we had errors). Queezle did a very nice job, and we ended up with first place! The whole class was a lot of fun - my mom and her boy Hokey got second, our friend Debbie Deuth with Trixie was third, and Sue Fregien with Ember, who is Hokey's niece, was fourth.

In the Best of Breed competition Queezle made the first cut but didn't make it any further than that. Considering there for over 50 other Terv bitches and over 60 dogs, that is still an accomplishment! I also got to show Queezle's daughter Lexi in Puppy Sweeps and her mother Diva in Veteran Sweeps. Lexi did not place, but Diva got second out of a large class. The old girl's still got it! Queezle had one other daughter at the show, Demi, who also made one cut in Best of Breed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Salt City Cluster

Two weekends ago the dogs and I went to three days of agility trials at the New York State Fair grounds. We had a great time and did pretty well!

Flash was WIRED and on the first day was out of control even for her (at 12 years of age she still burns up the course and screams and quivers at the startline). We didn't pull off any qualifying runs, but had some really nice runs, especially in Excellent Jumpers with Weaves. In Excellent FAST, which has a distance challenge where your dog has to work a certain distance away from you (it is marked on the ground with tape), she had two "almosts." The first day she ran back over the line and was going fast enough to make it move, which caused the judge to think I stepped over the line. Oh well. On the third day *I* pulled her off a jump - with fast dogs the slightest motion can change everything!

Tia had a dynamite weekend. She was undertime in all of her runs, which is saying something for Tia. She qualified twice in Excellent Jumpers, which means she now has three MJP legs (she needs 10), and also finished her AXP in Excellent Standard. This means that she is now going for her PAX, which is the agility champion title for dogs running in preferred (this enables them to jump 4" lower than their actual height). I'm not planning to seriously pursue it, but we'll keep trialing and if it happens, it happens. For the PAX she will need 20 double Q's, which means she has to qualify in both Jumpers and Standard on the same day, 20 times. The photo is of her a couple summers ago, taken by Mike Weir.

Like Flash, Queezle started off the weekend a bit out of hand. In Open Standard the first day she tried to make it a longjump competition, taking off up to 10 feet before the jumps. It didn't work. Over the next two days she calmed down, and we had some decent runs. On Sunday she came through and qualified in Excellent Jumpers to finish her AXJ! She ahd me a little nervous, as there was a big loop around the outside of the ring where she started to take off early, but she corrected herself and kept all of the bars up.

All in all it was a good weekend!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy April Fools' Day!

It was a gorgeous day here in Ithaca, with temperatures in the low 70s and bright sun. The kind of day when I wish I had a dog with me to just wander around campus - all the college dogs were out enjoying the weather with their people. To make the day even better, marching band has started up again! For anyone in town, we'll be having our Spring Concert on April 17th, starting at Barton Hall and then marching and playing to various locations on campus and in Collegetown - if you can't see us, you'll hear us!

I also got an excited call from my mom to say that she and Tia almost qualified in Open A obedience! If you remember the last time Tia showed (January), it wasn't pretty. Today she was great, working with spunk and animation and overall putting on a great performance. I'm beginning to think the best way to get obedience titles on my dogs is to train them and then hand them over to my mom for polish and the show. Luckily obedience isn't my favorite sport, or this trend of my dogs doing better for her would be quite vexing! Her only error was that she needed a second command on the broadjump, which she has only gotten the hang of within the past few months. I am very proud of the Bean.

Starting tomorrow, I get to go to the dog show too. All three of my girls are entered in agility, so it will be a long three days. It should be a lot of fun though, and for the most part all of my runs are in the same ring. Tia was just entered in obedience today. I must say I'm a little surprised she didn't qualify, as my best day of agility trials ever was on April Fools' Day a couple years ago when I had three runs, three Qs (qualifying runs) and finished three titles! It was fitting, because the norm is for my dogs to make me look like a fool, so on April Fools' Day they reversed it. I guess the magic only works every once in a while though. Now we'll see how the rest of this weekend plays out!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Tia!

Today is Tia's 7th birthday! She is now officially a veteran. Tia loves birthdays, and feels that she should be treated specially every day. According to tradition, she will get to choose a toy - as you can see from the photo, Tia takes her toys very seriously!

This past Saturday Mom drove down and we both attended the Breeders' Symposium held at the Baker Institute by Cornell. It was an enjoyable and informative day, with talks covering all things canine health and reproduction. I had to laugh during the Canine Health Information Center presentation when the speaker mentioned how many hits their website has gotten recently - their data is probably inflated from me looking up potential stud dogs! Mom had brought Queezle along. She was perfectly happy hanging out in the car during the talks and was thrilled to see me. Her undercoat is starting to come back, but we don't have any conformation shows planned for a while.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Queezle!

On March 4th, Queezle celebrated her 5th birthday. She has come a long way from the little ball of fluff I brought home from Oregon in a Sherpa bag! On their birthdays, our dogs always get a special treat of some sort (a turkey melt this time) and then get to choose a new toy. Needless to say they think birthdays are pretty cool!

On Saturday I drove up to Syracuse for the last weekend of the Syracuse Obedience Training Club's agility league, which Queezle and I have been participating in. We had some really nice runs on very tough and twisty courses, though I did have to make her re-do the a-frame once when she cheated and jumped over the contact zone. After the official festivities were over, I ran Flash through the course just for fun and we practiced some contact obstacles.

In other news, the Cornell women's hockey team won its first ever ECAC Championship this past Sunday! We have also had four straight days of sun and temperatures reaching 40 in Ithaca, which has many of us wondering if the world has ended and we've all gone to heaven. I am really looking forward to spring, though hopefully we can go straight from snow to grass, and skip the mud stage - even though in the dorm I don't have to worry about keeping dogs clean, I have a bad habit of going cross-country when the paved walkways aren't the most efficient path. The one sad thing about the coming spring is that it will be the end of the snow igloo in front of my building.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lots of Good Things

I know, I know - I've been slacking again. But I've been busy! Firstoff, on February 25th Queezle's puppies turned one year old. They've come a long way from the little munchkins that could eat out of a muffin tin!

Second, this past weekend I met my mom in Syracuse for an agility trial after watching the Cornell hockey team beat Union 4-1 Friday night (Go Red!). I gave a couple other pep band members a ride to the game, which was good because the guys dug the car out a three foot drift that night as opposed to me doing it at 5:30 the next morning!

As always, I had a great time at the trial. Flash was her usual wild self, and although she didn't qualify in any of her runs, for the most part they were really nice. At this point in her career I'm just glad she's still active and having a good time - qualifying runs are icing on the cake. Tia started out with some very lackluster runs, but rose to the occasion for our last class of the weekend and had a nice run with only one error.

Queezle decided to celebrate her puppies' birthday and her own approaching birthday by earning her second Excellent Jumpers with Weaves leg with a first place! She was the only 20" Excellent A dog to qualify. Her weaving is really coming together, and she was very good about following my cues. She has also figured out that I often appear when Mom takes her to Syracuse - Mom said she went nuts as soon as they arrived Saturday. I'm sure right now she is mad at me for having disappeared again. That said, I know that she got a hamburger on the way home for her clean run, which must have made her very happy.

So Happy Belated Birthday to Lexi, Rebel, Joy, Mozart, Demi and Tenor and congrats to everyone else who did well at the trial!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

In many ways this is a bittersweet day for me, as this is the first Valentine's Day since 1998 that I haven't been able to celebrate Flash and my anniversary with her. We have both come a long way from that day 12 years ago when my little bundle of trouble came home, but I can honestly say she was the best Valentine's gift I ever got (and probably ever will!). She really is an awesome dog, and hopefully next year we'll be able to eat cookies and sit around together.

I was, however, able to go up to Syracuse for an agility seminar with Tracy Sklenar, where I met Mom and Queezle. The Q was very happy to see me, and we had a good time and learned some things we need to work on with her jumping style and confidence (Mom didn't bring Flash because it was too cold for her to be outside and she would have just barked like crazy the whole time if she was inside).

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February Already?

Sigh... I've been slacking. In my defense, I was attending 3 extra classes on top of my actual 5, so the world will just have to forgive me. The good news is, after two weeks of going to four different Creative Writing classes, I got in three! I was then able to pick the time slot that made the most sense for me and politely declined the other two offers. So I am now down to 5 classes and 18 credits, and I'm even enrolled in all of the classes I'm going to!

In other news, I finally found a reason to be glad I don't have any dogs with me. Yesterday coming in after my last class I discovered that there was barbecue sauce all over my sneakers - by sticking my hand in it as I went to take them off. I washed most of it off but they still bring back memories of summer picnics, and would be very enticing to any canine companions.

I haven't seen my own beasts since January, but I did have a brief run-in with an elderly Border Collie near one of the dorms. When I first saw her she was moseying around in the open area between two buildings, and then she headed to one of the doorways. She looked kind of lost and there were no other people around, so I went up to her to see if she had contact information on her collar. She wagged her tail and smiled at me, and as I checked out her star-studded collar a man talking on his cell phone opened the door, said, "That's mine," called the dog in and shut the door. Granted, I was not going to steal his dog, but a college campus is NOT the place to leave your dog unattended! I haven't spotted them since, so I don't know if they live in that building or if they were just visiting.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Workin' Hard or Hardly Workin'

Well, I survived Week 1 of Semester 2 at Cornell. Apart from Queezle's hysteria at being left behind, moving back in was painless, and I am taking full advantage of the heating - let's just say my dorm room is the tropical paradise that Ithaca, NY is most definitely not. I have an awesome schedule: 9th Century Baghdad on Monday/Wednesday, and The Gothic Novel, Renaissance Poetry and Chaucer on Tuesday/Thursday. I love this stuff, and having Fridays off is extremely exciting.

The one complication in my schedule is Creative Writing. Apparently everyone and their mother wants to be in it. I didn't get in during the initial enrollment period, but the day that Add/Drop began a spot opened up. I immediately sent an email to the department, and after that yielded no results decided I would just show up at class on Monday and claim my spot.

Wrong. Firstoff, the class is actually capped at 18, rather than the published 21. Second, 43 people showed up for those 18 spots. That session's professor said that we should get on as many waiting lists as we could (there are 13 sessions of the class at different times and on different days), so I took up a new hobby: stalking any and every Creative Writing class that I could possibly fit in my schedule.

Amazingly, 9 different sessions fit my schedule, in 6 different time slots. On Monday I attended two sessions, and emailed the professors that I had missed because I hadn't realized just how desperate the situation is. Tuesday only had one class that I could fit in, but go I did.

I was gearing up for 5 sessions on Wednesday, 4 of which were right in a row, when I started to get email responses. Several professors said that there was no hope for me, especially since I'm a freshman. This was probably a good thing, as it saved me from getting an overload - I only had to go to 3 different sessions. By the time the second class had rolled around, the numbers had dropped to more reasonable dimensions - ranging 21 to 27. I decided I'd stick with it through the first two weeks.

The catch to all this is that I'm doing work for three versions of the same class. Combined with my "real" classes, I'm doing the work for a 24 credit schedule! My friends think I'm nuts, but if I get in, it will have been worth it. It's a good thing I enjoy writing!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Queezle's Back in Blue!

Between the litter, losing coat and my starting college, Queezle didn't get in the breed ring much in 2009. Literally, we got to two days of shows! This was a huge drop compared to the previous two years, where we showed enough for her to be ranked as one of the Top 25 Belgian Tervuren in the US. So you can imagine that I was excited for the three-day Nickel City Cluster in Hamburg, NY.

It felt so good to be back at a show. As Queezle and I walked in the building, I relaxed, and I could see her go, "Oh! A dog show!" and settle into the routine. She is very good about walking through the crowds - either she follows me or goes straight ahead, not bothering any of the other dogs and occasionally sniffing people's pockets to see if they have food. We crated with some other Terv people, caught up on how everyone's dogs were, and settled in for the weekend. On Friday one of the male specials (term for dogs that already have their Championship), Wayne, took the breed. I cheered for him in the Herding Group with all the other Terv people while Queezle snoozed in her crate.

The next morning Tervs were on early. Though I don't like mornings much, I can handle them for dog shows. Queezle just needed a quick fluff and puff after her thorough grooming the day before, and we were ready to roll. In Best of Breed there were three male specials and the Q. After going over all the dogs and having us gait around the ring several times, the judge pulled Queezle and I out to the front! He then called out the Winners Dog (the best male who doesn't have his CH yet), choosing him for Best of Winners. Next he pointed to one of the male specials, intending him to go in the third slot as Best of Opposite. Instead, the handler tried to bring his dog up in front! Queezle and I both puffed up, but luckily the judge corrected him before I had to. In the end Queezle was indeed given Best of Breed, which meant we could go on to the Group!

Queezle and I both love showing in the Group. For the Groups they open up two of the rings, so there is plenty of room. This is great for large dogs and ones with good movement, as you have tons of space to stretch out. And to me at least there is very little pressure - once you've gotten out of the breed, anything beyond that is icing on the cake. You have already gotten a stamp of approval.

So in we went, making sure we were behind the larger and faster dogs such as the German Shepherd and Bearded Collie. As it turned out, our position in the lineup put Queezle and I at the corner, where there is a diagonal strip of matting that meets the two long mats. I like getting the corner as it allows you to set up your dog so that it can be seen well no matter which side of the ring the judge is looking at - and in the Group ring getting noticed is often the hardest part. I also sometimes tell Queezle to stay and then step back so I am hidden by the dog in front of us, which draws attention because it looks like she is in the ring all by herself. After the first look, the judge started going over the dogs and Queezle and I settled down to wait, which consists of doing tricks to entertain both Queezle and the crowd and, whenever we were at a good point in the matting, posing the Q so the judge would see her while watching another dog do its down and back.

When the dog ahead of us went for the down and back, I stacked Queezle for her exam. Our judge, Janet Turnage Nahikian, asked us to do the down and back going the long way of the ring. As Queezle is very clean coming and going, we went all the way down. When we got back to the judge I had Queezle freestack. Her front was off, so I told her, "You can do better than that!" She fixed it and the judge laughed, then sent us around to the end. After that we were on break for a few more dogs.

The final look is when the suspense really builds, with all of the handlers trying watch their dog and the judge at the same time. She went down the line slowly, pulling out some of the dogs. She pointed to Queezle! Glad to have at least made the cut, we joined the other selected dogs at the other side of the ring. Once she finished her cut, the other dogs were excused. She looked the six remaining dogs over, then sent us around again. After looking at the dogs a moment more, she pointed at Queezle and I and said, "One." I beamed and we flew out to the little Number 1 sign, Queezle leaping in the air and our friends outside the ring screaming!

Though Queezle and I have won the Group before, it is still incredibly exciting, and I was on cloud nine. I had been hoping for any placement, and never would have expected getting first! After doing our photo I put Queezle in her crate to rest up while we waited for Best In Show. All of our friends were thrilled, and I called my mom at home to let her know the good news.

Sadly, we did not go Best In Show. The judge ended up going with the very nice Rottie. Queezle didn't mind - in her opinion she is always Best In Show. One of these times we'll get it.

The next day Queezle took the breed again, and while everyone else packed up to go home we lounged about waiting for Group. Just because we did well the day before didn't guarantee anything, so I didn't have my hopes up too high as we entered the big ring once again. After examining all the dogs, the judge pulled out the Australian Shepherd, Queezle, the Old English and the German Shepherd. After looking at the lineup once more, she said, "That's how I want it - one, two, three, four!" The only thing better than getting the Group II was seeing the face of Bryan, a friend of ours who was showing the Aussie. He couldn't believe it! Since it was getting late, Queezle and I ended up heading home after wishing him luck in Best In Show. The results still aren't up, but I don't think he got it because there haven't been any posts to our local Aussie list.

Two Group placements, and one of them a Group I, was a fabulous weekend. In honor of her stardom, I got Queezle a large roast beef sandwich on the way home. She says it's about time she got some appreciation!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Exercise in Humility

This weekend reminded me why I haven't done any serious obedience with Tia in a few years. She got her Companion Dog (CD) title a few years ago, with terrible scores mainly because she refused to sit on the heeling. Tia's theory is that there's no point in sitting if she's just going to have to get back up again. Otherwise she did a pretty nice job, but those no-sits cost us a lot of points. Each run was also always a trial as she feels she shouldn't have to do anything for free (and unlike Flash or Queezle, she doesn't feel obligated to do something because I asked her to). But we got through it.

After that, we took a break to concentrate on more fun things like agility and herding. I gradually started teaching her the exercises for Open - she thought the dumbbell retrieves were pretty fun and has a fabulous drop on recall. This fall when my mom's dog Hokey got lymphoma, she was looking for dogs to work in obedience. Queezle was pretty much ready for Novice, so she entered her and got her CD. Next project - Tia. So Mom brought her out and had her do all the Open exercises, which she did beautifully! So we signed her up for a class to get more experience and started seriously working on it, mainly with me handling while I'm on break. This past weekend was our local club's (Syracuse Obedience Training Club) obedience trial. Since Tia knew everything and had been doing fabulously in class, we entered her. I figured she may not qualify because she hasn't been doing Open for very long, but was expecting a semi-decent performance.

She was awful. As soon as we entered the ring, my cheerful, perky Aussie deflated into some sort of furry mush. On the heeling she was barely with me, wandering around the ring looking lost. On the figure 8 she goosed both of the people acting as posts, which she thought was hysterically funny (they didn't). The judge's comment was, "It's like she's never seen people before!" Setting up for the drop on recall, she refused to sit, and even braced her hind legs when I tried to push her down. Once I finally got her to sit, she did do the drop correctly. On both of the retrieves she refused to sit, and needed a second command for one of them. When I said, "Over!" for the broadjump she just stared at me blankly.

In Wildcard Open - where you don't earn legs toward a title and can choose one exercise to get full credit for without actually doing it - she was even worse. I opted to use heeling as my Wildcard, but to do it onlead so she would be forced to stay with me. She didn't do anything the first time. For the retrieve on the flat, she just sort of meandered around the ring. For lack of a better idea, I ran up and "stole" the dumbbell, a technique often used to make dogs be quicker about getting their dumbbell. She didn't care and just sort of looked at me like she was saying, "Why would you want that?" When I finally got her to move on the broadjump, she zombie-walked over and through the boards. When the judge pinned the class and came over to give us our score, he said, "Ah..." and sort of trailed off. I smiled and said, "Yes, we were the disaster." He laughed and just left it at that.

Her only redeeming quality for either run was her stays, which she did perfectly, even casting disdainful looks at any dogs that got up or moved. Despite this minor victory, we did not show again Sunday.

By classtime on Thursday I'm sure I will have the attentive, eager-to-work Tia back. However, it will be a long time before I'm fooled by her cute face again and take her out in public. While Flash and Queezle can be taught something and be able to fairly quickly do it in a competition setting, Tia is clearly the type of dog that has to go through much more training and proofing and drawing-the-line-in-the-sand before she'll quit the mind games and work. My dignity in shambles, my wicked grinning dog at my feet, I am going to do what any self-respecting obedience handler would do in my situation -

Go to a conformation show. With Queezle.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Educating Queezle

In light of obedience class with Tia, I was inspired to get back to teaching Queezle to hold and then eventually retrieve a dumbbell (plus, after she finished her Companion Dog title in three straight shows in November, we need to start seriously preparing for Open!). As the dumbbell that will be hers was MIA, I just pulled out a metal article - they are the same basic shape and size, and dogs tend to like the metal less than the plastic, so it's good practice. Plus this way I can say that I'm training her for Utility, the highest level of obedience, as well!

I had started her out with the article a couple years ago, so tonight's brief work session was mostly review. For teaching the dogs to pick up a dumbbell or article, I use a clicker. The clicker is used to mark when the dog is doing something right, and each click is followed by a treat. The article starts out on the ground, and at first I click if she touches it at all with her nose or paw. After a couple repetitions, I get pickier, and only click if she touches it with her nose. From there she has to touch the centerpiece of the dumbbell, and then eventually pick it up. The amount of time spent on each step varies dog to dog - Flash likes to pick up and throw things, so with her I got that far really fast. With Tia it took a little longer. The idea with clicker training is for the dog to figure out what you want, and then perform the action to "make" you click and treat.

Queezle already knows that I want her touching the middle of the article with her nose, and now we're working on actually picking it up. She is being very sneaky about it - she has figured out that touching the article with her teeth (and the resulting noise) gets her a treat, so she will just click her teeth on the metal bar and wait there until I click and give her a treat. I'm starting to be stingier with my clicks, and often only clicking if she moves the article with mouthing it. If we work on it a little bit every day, she'll get it very quickly - she loves the game, and gets very excited whenever she sees me pull the clicker out.

As for the other Open exercises, Queezle already has a good foundation. She knows heeling, though that can always use more polish (especially because both the dogs and I are bad and tend to work more on the exercises that we find more fun - like the retrieves!). She already knows the drop on recall, and stays are coming, though we have to work on out of sight stays (where the dog is supposed to hold position even while the handler goes out of the room). Once she has mastered take and hold with the dumbbell, retrieves will be very easy to teach as she loves to play fetch. The broadjump will take a little work though she has seen it in an agility setting. For now Tia is my main focus for obedience, but the Q is off to a good start!

After we put away the clicker and article (much to Queezle's dismay), I came into the living room, which is where my laptop is set up. A little while later I heard my mom in the kitchen say, "Take this to Kate." A minute later Queezle came trotting in and brought me a rubber peppermint dog toy. She was very pleased with herself, and I told her how smart she is and thanked her for the gift. Of course, she then expected me to give it back - I guess we still have some work to do on the theories of sharing and giving.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lots of Indoor Fun

Today we went to Diane's for another agility session. She had us doing lots of contacts and weaves, which was excellent practice for my girls. I worked Queezle again and brought Flash to do mostly contacts at the end. As Hokey had chemo this week, my mom worked Tia. All three dogs were thrilled to be there and had a blast. Queezle and I had some lovely runs and - knock on wood - Flash hit all of her contacts. We have until mid February until our next trial, but the more times she does them right the more likely she will be to succeed at the trial. It never ceases to amaze me how much energy she still has at 12 - even now it takes about a full course for her to settle down and focus.

Once we got home, Tia started throwing toys around the house and in general playing around. Eventually she ended up on the footstool. One of her favorite things to do when getting off a couch or bed is to put her front feet down and then slowly drag her hind legs off - it's quite a production and she always looks very proud of herself once she is finally off (she is capable of jumping off like a normal dog). So today she was trying to do that on the footstool - the problem is that the footstool isn't even a foot high. So, as you can see from the picture, she kind of got stuck. She would probably be horrified if she knew this was going on the internet.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Steam Cleaning with Deb and Kate

Step 1: Establish who in the household knows how to operate the steam cleaner. If the primary user is absent, determine who has used it once a long time ago (Deb) and who has avoided any knowledge of the device whatsoever (Kate). The latter may exit at this time, but should stay within earshot of the room being steam cleaned. The next few steps are directed at Deb.

Step 2: Put water and soap in the appropriate locations and begin the steam cleaning process.

Step 3: Realize that, although the water is exiting the initial tank and getting to the rug just fine, it is not then being sucked back into the recovery tank. This should be done after the entire room has been gone over, and so is soaking wet.

Step 4: Start taking steam cleaner apart to find out what the problem is - after all, it is similar to a vacuum (for more information, stay tuned for "Vacuuming with Deb"). Consult the world-wide-web for information on the suction system of the steam cleaner.

Step 5: Successfully remove upper tank, and then develop complications with the retrieval tank. It has to come out somehow, otherwise how could you dump it? Consult the world-wide-web in vain.

Step 6: Get mildly pissed off with the lack of useful information and call Kate to look for an obscure button that may or may not be on your steam cleaner model.

Step 7: Kate - Get filled in on what Deb is trying to accomplish. Poke around the cleaner some, then pull on two gray wings/tabs that free the retrieval tank. Deb - Discover a test to see if your suction whatevers are clogged, thus negating the need for the removal of the retrieval tank.

Step 8: Deb - In reassembling steam cleaner, flip the top tank over, causing a small leak. When Kate exclaims against this action, panic and fling the tank at her. Luckily your tank should be mostly empty by this point. Finish assembling the steam cleaner.

Step 9: Kate - Poor a cup of warm water on the floor of slanted kitchen. Deb - Try to get the steam cleaner to suck up the water before it all runs south (this will fail). Kate - Clean up water.

Step 10: Flip stupid machine over and start taking it apart to unclog it if at all possible. Discuss whether a Philipshead screwdriver more accurately resembles a square or a star. Establish that it doesn't matter as long as both of you know what it is.

Step 11: Successfully remove the outer clear cover thing that the water should go through. As that isn't really clogged, clean it while you're there and then put it back before continuing the search for the clog. Kate is in charge of not losing the screws and cleaning up any water.

Step 12: Attempt to remove the green scrubber-dealies. Of course, the sadistic nature of the manufacturer and designer will have ensured that this is impossible. Consider forcing them out with the screwdriver, then decide that that must not be the problem area. Put steam cleaner right side up and look into it with a flashlight just for kicks. Kate - Get excited about a screw before realizing it doesn't actually connect to the green things.

Step 13: Decide that maybe cleaning the clear piece will have made a difference after all, and start putting the steam cleaner back together for another attempt.

Step 14: Deb - Comment that the retrieval tank doesn't seem to be shut tight enough, even though that's how it was when you dragged the cleaner from its lair in the back room. Both - attempt to force lid down further. Deb - Mention that the tab part always seems to go down right. Kate - Check out tab, decide that maybe it's really a latch and the back part is a stoneage-style hinge (a machine with this many screws ought to be sophisticated enough to have real hinges on the lid, don't you think?). Take lid off and reapply it with the appropriate method for a latch of this manner. Lid closes tight.

Step 15: Get very excited and return to the sodden room. When machine begins to successfully suck up water from the rug, celebrate and finish the job in high spirits.

Step 16: Return steamcleaner to the back room until the next poor fool gets the bright idea to use it again.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome to 2010

I have always stayed up until midnight on New Year's Eve, but usually it is reading in my room with the dogs. However, this year I went over to a friend's house for a small gathering/party complete with sparkling apple cider for the midnight toast. We weren't sure what we thought of J-Lo's unitard, but the cider got 5 stars from everyone. Then once the festivities wound down I made my way home to let all the dogs out and give them each a biscuit (my mom's Terv bitch Dani has been known to slurp various drinks out of people's cups, but for the most part the dogs prefer biscuits and treats for celebrations). Though Queezle felt that 2 am was the perfect time to play frisbee in the snow, we all then went to bed.

I've tried convincing the dogs to make resolutions every year (trying to be less barky for Flash, better work ethic for Tia, being nice to the other girls for Queezle, etc), but they aren't buying it. From Tia I get things like, "I resolve to only eat steak on weekends," from Queezle I get, "I resolve to share my old toys with the other dogs once I get new ones," and Flash just plays the Champion Tracker and old dog cards and asks me if I have any questions. In the end, I'm better off playing New-Year-resolutions in a corner by myself and hoping that Flash doesn't come over to remind me about my success rate for resolutions in years gone by (let's just say the whole self-improvement thing isn't all it's cut out to be). To avoid the somewhat inevitable failure of grandiose resolutions, I generally go with some slightly less intimidating goals.

One of my constant goals for every year has always been to work the dogs more, be it honing our skills in agility or working on harder surfaces in tracking. This week was already quite successful, as we did a private agility lesson with Diane Eggleston on Wednesday and obedience class on Thursday at Dottie's Dog School. Queezle was the main dog I worked at agility. Diane had us doing several drills to work on tighter wraps and back crosses. This brought out a handling goal for me - stop waiting. Instead of trusting myself to give clear signals and the dog to take the obstacles I indicate, I end up waiting and looking back to make sure that they did it. My micromanaging is ultimately slowing Queezle down, as I'm not giving her information on the next obstacle or turn fast enough. She's fast enough that we don't have issues with making time at a trial, but we could be a lot faster.

At the end of the session I brought Flash in to do some contacts (obstacles such as the dogwalk, a-frame and teeter totter have a yellow section called a contact zone that the dog has to touch for safety reasons or else it will be disqualified). Flash is perfectly willing to sacrifice accuracy for speed, and leaping off or over contacts has been a problem for us for years. So I baited each contact with some cheese and also had her wait for me at each one to give her another treat. The theory is that by repeatedly having her stop in the contact zone and rewarding her for it she will get in the habit of stopping and so will hit the contact even at a trial where there is no food. As Flash is now 12 years old and our intervention came way too late, each run is hit or miss (literally). She only needs one more leg in Novice Standard (Standard is the class with the contact obstacles), and after she finishes that title I'm going to retire her from Standard. Though she doesn't act it, she is an older dog and the contact equipment puts unneccessary strain on her body. We will continue to do Jumpers as long as she is in shape though. The one good thing that has come out of our contact issues is that I am much better at training them.

Tia got to go to Open Obedience class. Open is the second level of competitive obedience, and as well as the basic sit, down and heeling stuff also includes fun exercises like jumping and retrieving. Obedience isn't my favorite dog sport, but I do enjoy training the upper level exercises. Tia is coming along quite well, though we are having some issues with the broadjump. Our class is excellent, as it is small and has several very experienced handlers who have been able to give me some good tips. One thing that really made a difference with Tia on the heeling was my arm and head placement - just like in agility, if I am looking back to make sure that she is doing her job I cause her to slow down and lag. I knew this from working Flash in obedience, and so am pretty good about keeping my left shoulder forward. What I didn't realize was that although my shoulder was forward, I kept dropping my elbow back, so I need to work on that. I also need to make sure that I am focusing my head forward, and trust Tia do keep up with me.

What it comes down to is that I need to keep refining my handling and training techniques to give clearer signals to the dogs. The more experience we have, especially with the help of knowledgeable people who can point out my mistakes, the better we will get.

Here's to another year of learning and (hopefully) improving!