Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Happy (Belated) Birthday Devon!

Devon turned 4 years old on Friday. The end of last week was incredibly busy for me, especially with the trial over the weekend, so her birthday post got delayed. Even if she knew, she wouldn't be too worried.

Devon knows she's the joy of my life. She's my heart. She wakes up each morning by burying her head into my neck as if to say, "Oh mom, just 5 more minutes! Make those other dogs go away!" But then she's up to start the day helping me carry down the food bowls.

She's a joy to live with and a joy to train. If the agenda calls for a quiet evening watching tv, she's all for that snuggled in next to you. If the day calls for field training, she's right there demanding her turn. She's great at anything you ask, and if there's an audience watching all the better! I have to keep her from taking her tracking articles back to the judges or the gallery when we track. In agility class, she gets her reward by getting a toy and taking it to the instructor or laying on her back and joyously playing with her toy to the sound of everyone saying how cute she is. I'd get a complex if I didn't know she'd only go home with me!

Last fall Agile Gold spent an evening here and got to witness Devon's demanding routine if I'm too slow to deliver her dinner. Kathy said this would be a perfect blog post, and I thought there is no other time than on Devon's birthday. I'm not sure if you can appreciate the foam around her mouth because she's so excited for her meal. Sometimes that goes flying when she barks at me. One editor's note: please forgive the large chunks of black fur on my floor. Ian is blowing coat and I've had to vacuum every couple of days lately, plus Page goes in and plays in the fur sometimes. I took this video clip pre-vacuum!

A found a few photos of Devon from this past year. The biggest event in our life in the last year was earning Devon's Senior Hunter title last fall. What an accomplishment for both of us and something I'll remember for a lifetime! This weekend Devon gave me her AXJ for her birthday. Frankly, the title and ribbons were the icing, the cake is having a great run with her!

So happy birthday baby girl! You're so very special and I'm so fortunate to have you in my life!

Wordless Wednesday: Watching snow

This is how Devon spends her day. Today she's monitoring the weather conditions from the second floor daybed. Usually she's on sentry duty for cats that come across our yard and hunt in the creek.

You see the snow burst has caught Page's attention and she came to investigate when it suddenly fades. Makes you wonder what Page thinks about the sudden loss of snow. Devon's been watching for several minutes, so she acts bored with the whole thing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Agility Club of Indianapolis Trial

This weekend was the Agility Club of Indianapolis trial. This was our first trial back from Devon being in season, and she only had one class since coming back. The nice thing about this trial was that the Excellent classes were first, so most folks cleared out for the Open and Novice courses. As with most of our local trials, we were among friends, but we did miss Agile Gold who didn't make this one.

Saturday's run
Big dogs ran last on Saturday. The Excellent JWW was nice and flowing; I usually like Jeff Ipser's courses a lot. I only saw two areas of concern for us. The first was the final pinwheel after the weaves. After building up speed over the double, the dogs were staring at the off course jump #1. Jump #15 was hiding behind a post. It would only be visible to the dog if the handler cued the dog to turn after #14. The next area of concern was jump #18 after the second time through the straight tunnel. It was a very flat 180, so I knew I'd have to support jump #18 and not move on too early.

I hate that first run after we've had a break from trialling. As much as I try not to, I do get nervous. Because Devon and I are still a green team, I'm still not totally confident and that makes me nervous.

I think on Saturday we were just a little out of sync. Devon tugged well up to the ring area; but after she stopped tugging if I wasn't actively giving her treats for tricks, she would start scratching, which I knew was stress. I tried not to let it make me anxious and didn't crab at her for it.

Devon started the run a little sluggish, but we worked through the opening well. My first mistake came at the last weave pole. These were 24 inch poles and she's only seen them a couple of times. As she was in the poles I could see she was adjusting her stride from her usual striding for 22 inch poles to the 24 inch poles. I thought we had the poles and stepped laterally just a split second too soon and Devon popped out of the last pole. She wasn't fully committed to that last pole.

I didn't react and pushed forward with the run. However, I made a second mistake on her commitment point with the turn from the straight tunnel to the #18 jump. I even told myself each time I walked that course to stay by the wing for her until she was committed, and I can see by the video I didn't support it long enough.

I always hang onto my mistakes longer than I ever do if the dog makes a mistake (probably because if my dog makes a mistake it's lack of training which is my fault). It was a nice course and Devon ran it well; but I made a couple of small errors and one I even identified and still screwed up! I will say the other thing that struck me in watching the run is that Devon did speed up when I relaxed and started pushing for my position after we'd NQ'd. That tells me her speed has a lot to do with my nerves. Here's the run:

Sunday's run
I felt better Sunday after a good night's sleep. Big dogs ran first, and Devon was the very last 20 inch dog to run. We had another beautiful course, and this one had an interesting close. The line from 15 to 16 pushed slightly to the right before the course turned back to the left. It was a deceptive push with off course potential on either side.

Most of the big dog handlers were walking it with a rear cross, but I didn't want to be stuck behind the wing of the triple way too far behind my dog to make the turn back to 17. Even if you got the #17 jump, you were risking the dog turning back to you because you were behind and taking the off course before reaching 18.

With a front cross before 15 you still had to get around the jump standard for a slight push for the triple. During the walk through, I finally decided on the front cross on the landing side of 15. It showed the dog his path and with the tunnel it gave me enough time to get to where I needed to be.

The 14-17 sequence was the problem area for the big dogs as expected (as a side note very few of the small dogs struggled here because there handlers were able to show the pull and still get around the triple to support 17). Very few big dog handlers did a front cross; most chose the rear. A lot of people got the off course to #3 if they didn't show enough pull to their right. A lot of people got stuck behind the wing of #16 needing or choosing to do the rear on the flat after the triple and got hung up before 17. Those who did do the front cross after 15 just squeaked it in.

Needless to say after watching all the 26-20 inch dogs, I was concerned for my plan. But I decided to run my plan, trust my dog and push to be in the right location. I wasn't nervous at all for this run. And I told Devon all the folks around the ring were there to watch her. She always loves to perform for a crowd, and of course all the little dog handlers wanted to get at their walk thru! I even had to hand Devon off as the dog in front of us went to the line when I realized my shoe was untied. That threw Devon a curve right before going into the ring.

I ran with Devon off the line, and she loved it. We had a much better start than Saturday. My front cross before the 180 was late, but Devon handled it well with minimal affect on her speed. Devon was prepared for the 24 inch weaves and handled them beautifully. After the tunnel, I hauled it to my front cross spot, and I know I broke my connection with my dog. However, Devon was perfect and followed my direction and nailed this section of the course. You can hear my yell of satisfaction when she landed after the triple!

What a beautiful run! Not only did this run win the Excellent A class, but Devon finished her AXJ on it. When I looked back, Devon earned her AXJ with three first place finishes and earned two of her legs on Jeff Ipser courses (I also finished Ian's MACH on one of Jeff's courses, so he's lucky for us).

And once again I was reminded that when I'm relaxed and concentrating on getting to where I need to be (i.e. getting my job done for the team), Devon does her job just right. As someone said after watching Sunday's video, "You guys both looked like you were having fun out there." We were!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On training and goals and the will to win

There are a number of factors prompting this blog post. The biggest two are the Olympics and finding another quote I like a lot. First, the quote:
"Most people have the will to win; few have the will to prepare to win." Bobby Knight
If you know me at all, you know I must REALLY, REALLY like that quote, because I don't like that man who said it. I may be a Hoosier by birth, but I'm a Boilermaker by choice! I was a freshman at Purdue University when the great chair throwing incident happened ... but I digress.

Next, I have casually watched some of the Winter Olympic coverage. I'm not into winter sports. I've skied a couple of times in my life and I'm terrible at it. I fear falling, which I did a lot, and I have very little upper body strength to push myself up when I do fall. Ice skating is more frightening for me.

But what I have enjoyed watching is how these elite athletes handle the pressure of the spotlight they are in. Some of them don't handle it well. Some of the pair figure skaters fell on their jumps, prompting commentators to say, "They've been having that problem all year," or "The weakness in their performance is his jumping." After a particularly beautiful performance, the commentators said, "Oh they needed that! They've had a terrible year and they pulled out all the stops on this performance."

Last night in the women's downhill, Lindsey Vonn fought through a badly bruised shin to win the USA's first Gold in that event. What I found interesting is that she was running on men's skies, something no other woman was doing. She did that to give herself a technical advantage, and she'd been running on them all year long. As you watched her come down the hill on the replay, not only was her technical form the best of the entire field, but she was favoring her injured leg. In fact, there were times in her run she wasn't putting any weight at all on her injured leg, effectively skiing on one leg. And her line down the hill wasn't the best (compared with the Silver medalist), all in an effort to pull the pressure off that injured leg. But when you watched her run, you knew she was going for it. She attacked that hill all the way down.

Contrast Vonn's run to the run of her best friend, German competitor Maria Reisch. Both women have battled their share of injuries from bad crashes. Both women knew the course was rough, icy and fast. There wasn't any margin for error. And right before Reisch's run, there was a bad crash of a top competitor. Reisch had to wait in the starting gate knowing the delay was due to a crash.

And her run showed it. Reisch was visibly controlled down the hill. The commentator said, "It's as if she doesn't want to go fast and she's slowing herself down on purpose." The result was that the only woman who has beat Lindsey Vonn this year came in 8th in the Olympics, 2.07 seconds behind Gold.

Why did Lindsey Vonn win Gold and Maria Reisch place 8th? I would guess it's a number of things: heart, the will to win, confidence, and preparation. The mental game is hard to master. Put heart and the will to win together and you get a confidence you might not have had before. But preparation cannot be overlooked.

The course those two women ran was the toughest they'd seen all year. They never got a full training run on it; in fact the first time they'd seen that last hill was in competition. I find it interesting that Vonn chose to work in men's skies all season long. It gave her an advantage because the men's skies are longer and more forgiving.

I don't ski, but I imagine the transition to these skies took some practice and getting used to. Reisch actually tried the men's skies on the last training run before the finals but they didn't feel comfortable. Of course not, she hadn't practiced on them. And she never got to practice on the course in her actual skies. Makes me wonder if this lack of preparation combined with the wait at the top after the crash did a number on her mental game.

Preparation, foundation, whatever you call it, it's important. In my mind, preparation and technical skills were the key to Vonn's win. So, what does that mean to me? It means I need to get my butt out to the training building even in the snow and cold weather and train my dogs.

The longer I am in the sport of dog training, the more foundation I put on my dogs. Each dog knows more than the last before we ever step to the line to compete. Preparation eases my nerves, because there's very few things that are unknown. My dog and I have seen every thing out there, maybe not in that order or in this facility, but we've done our homework. My dog is confident on every piece of equipment. I have anticipated every off course or factor. I know how to handle my dog.

I may not be an Olympic athlete, but I go to the line to be tested. I put together our training program, and I trained the dog. Does our training hold up? If there was one bobble, even a minor one, do I go back and fix it or let it ride to become a bigger problem next time?

What I've realized is that accomplishing my goals isn't necessarily about winning. It's not about the act of passing or getting the blue ribbon. It's about the hours and hours of training. For example, my last four dogs do not have good contact skills. I thought I fixed that with Devon, but I didn't. I fixed it with Page. She has great contact skills right now, and that's because I worked on my training program. And the burden to maintain those skills through her competitive career will also be on me.

Devon's head was dropping in heeling. During our last lesson, Linda got on me for allowing it to happen. What an epiphany I had that day! It's my responsibility to tell Devon her head needs to be up and not allow it to drop. As Linda said, ask more of her and she will give it to you. The same applies for fronts and finishes. With just that extra effort in training, I now have a dog with beautiful fronts and finishes and heads up heeling.

It doesn't take a lot of time to train; it just takes the will to get out and do it day after day. And each day of training builds the foundation to accomplish the next goal -- and maybe even one never dreamed of!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Page!

Here it is! The day she's been waiting for! Page is 1-year-old today!

I cannot believe Page is a year old. In some ways it seems she just came home yesterday and yet it seems like she's been here forever. Page is full of energy and lives to work with me. She's a training joy. Yet she's not all work and no play. In fact, the best comment I've heard about Page is that her personality is bigger than she is. Everyone who meets her smiles.

Page's first year has been mostly documented in video and posted on the blog. But today I went through photos of her taken in her first year, and I thought I'd share some favorites...

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Grandma Julie!

Ian had a surprise on Saturday when his "Grandma Julie" (a.k.a. Julie Hite, his breeder) came to see him. I don't think his tail stopped wagging the entire time she was here! Ian showed off his house and all the photos his mom has of him. He also showed off the training building, although he would only do a tunnel for Grandma Julie; Mom runs him you know! He also got to show off how he plays ball. My dad taught him that particular game. However, Julie threw the ball in the largest snow drift, and he thought her aim was a little off!

And Ian got to play with his half-sister Donita. She traveled to Long Beach, CA, and back with us in December 2007 when Ian went to the AKC Agility Invitational and Donita when to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championships. Ian thinks he's way more impressive than Donita does, so she always has adjusted his attitude! Ian (left) is pictured with Julie (human) and Donita (dog on right). Gosh Ian looks like his sire Hank in this photo!

By the way, I've had a reader request to see more of Ian on the blog (bet you can't figure out who THAT came from), so I'll have to put him in the rotation!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Devon was Library Dog on Thursday evening, and she got an early Valentine. A really cute red-headed little boy with big brown eyes made Devon a Valentine. He made sure to choose a pink arrow (not a blue one, she's a girl!). He chose several heart stickers to decorate his Valentine, plus a red high-heeled shoe and a bus. Devon accepted her Valentine and brought it back to me to carry home and put on the refrigerator.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A great day of training

Yesterday the girls and I headed to the kennel club for training. Over the last 10 days, Page has accomplished not only a full-height teeter, but also a full-height dogwalk. Putting the dogwalk in my small building has been tight, and it takes up at least half of the building. My primary goal with this training trip was to see how Page's teeter and dogwalk held up in a new location.

My secondary goal was to see what I had from Devon. A week into her heat cycle, Devon suddenly stopped working. She didn't want any part of training agility or obedience at the kennel club or here at home. First we took a trip to the vet to make sure all was progressing fine with her heat cycle (which it was). Then she was seen by two different massage therapists. She was tight through the neck and shoulders, which was part of the problem. Finally, it was decided that this heat cycle was different than her past cycles and she just didn't want to work through this one. So she got two weeks off.

On Monday I noticed a change in Devon's attitude. I cannot tell you what was different about her, it just seemed like she was happier; and not so coincidentally she was finished with her heat cycle. Devon's change in attitude prompted our woods walk on Monday. On Tuesday, Devon pushed Page out of the way in the expen and wanted to work; so I worked her. She was absolutely back to normal wanting to work. She's trained obedience all week here at home, looking like she hasn't missed a beat. So my second goal for this training session was to see if Devon's training held up away from home, including agility.

Page's dogwalk
This was the first time I asked for full-height equipment away from home. I suspected Page wouldn't have any problems with the transition, but you never know. We started with the dogwalk. I asked Page to hop up on the downside of the ramp and give me her contact performance (2 on 2 off with a chin touch). She did this a couple of times without any problem.

Since she knew what was expected of her and had probably figured out which piece of equipment she was on, I turned her and asked for the complete dogwalk, and she performed it fine. The only difference in her performance at first was to walk or trot across the top of the dogwalk; she continued to canter the ups and downs.

Below is a clip from her second training session on the dogwalk. You'll see at the end of the clip one back foot slips as she gets to the top of the up ramp, but it didn't bother her. I gave her a third session on the dogwalk before we left just to make sure she was fine with the equipment, and she never showed any hesitation on it.

Page's teeter
Next we moved to the teeter. Again, I "introduced" it to her before asking for the full obstacle. I lowered the up end so she could grab it and bang it down and do her contact performance. After this, she turned and grabbed the board before it could go back up, banged it down and went up and over it (banging it again) and did the contact performance on the down side. After she was so confident doing this, I knew she was ready for the full piece of equipment.

Below is Page's second session on the teeter.

The A frame
Now if you're thinking, "Deb never mentioned she'd worked Page on the A frame," you would be right. The only time Page has ever seen an A frame (other than when she's watching other dogs run agility) was when she was about 10 weeks old. We put her over the contact equipment when she was very young when she knew her proprioception and knew her edges and ledges. This is done because we want to introduce them to everything they will do in their life (as appropriate) before they are 16 weeks old. If you look back at the clip, you'll see she was well supervised on her trips across the equipment.

You will also see by reading that clip that Page volunteered a full A frame before I could stop her. Well, yesterday after we finished the dogwalk and teeter, we were walking by the A frame and Page turned and took two acceleration steps toward it. The A Frame was lowered to 5 feet, and I had planned to start her on an even lower A frame and work her contacts. However, if she wanted to volunteer it, I wasn't going to stop her.

I said, "You want to run it?" And took a couple of steps that way, which was all she needed. In a flash Page was up and over the A frame no problem! As her Aunt Marcy said, "See wood, get rewards!" Yes, this girl has had lots of rewards for contacts lately and since she's so confident, she was just thrilled to find something else she might get treats for!

Below is her second session on the A frame. As you can see her contact performance transfered over without a problem. I didn't even have the plastic runners I've been using to keep her straight since I hadn't planned on her going over the A frame the first time. This proved to me she no longer needed those runners, so I've removed them totally now.

Page's jumping
I just started Page jumping in the middle of the week. This was only her forth day of jumping, so I knew I was pushing it a little to do it in a new place. We need more work and confidence in her job, because Page does like to limbo under the bar. The problem is she's so stinking flexible she usually doesn't touch the bar when she limbos! Below is her jumping and limboing!

In all I couldn't be more pleased with what Page gave me yesterday. She was in a familiar location but had never worked on the contact equipment in this building. Her contact performance was solid, even on a contact she'd never done before. On the dogwalk and the A frame she was consistently hitting the last slat or below with her rear feet. She's a little higher up on the teeter, but that's ok for controlling the board.

Her jumping could use work, but I knew that. In addition, she was doing very nice sends to a curved dark tunnel and looking for me on the exit. She also did a lot of nice table work. Page does need work on staying in position as I move when she's on the table. I've taught her an automatic down on the table, just as I did Devon. I decided to move forward with the automatic down even though there are agility rule changes under consideration with AKC that call for a positionless table. The automatic down will still be needed in USDAA if I trial her there, and it's a good thing for AKC even if it's just to keep her on the table regardless of position.

I'll probably put her over the dogwalk one more time in my building and then take it down. The building just isn't functional with the dogwalk up, and I need more room to train obedience with Devon. From here forward, I'll train contacts at the kennel club when I can until we get rid of this snow and I can get the contacts outside.

And now for Devon
Devon had a fantastic day of training. I warmed her up really well before we started working. I only asked for 3 obstacles in sequence at first, and she was very confident. Her weaves looked amazing, and I could hear her digging with her rear legs to power herself through them. One thing I've realized some time back and confirmed yesterday is that Devon works better for toys in agility than treats. I always carry treats with me, but she really enjoys the toys more.

We took a break and let someone else use the equipment while I worked Devon in obedience. Her heeling skills, as well as fronts and finishes, are really looking incredibly sharp. Devon makes me enjoy working obedience because she loves it so much.

To end the day, I wanted to get some video of Devon's weaves. For the second set, she ran a line of three jumps and the tire to get speed entering the weaves. I was really happy with how far in front of me she was and how much distance I got on the weaves. And yes, that's Page you hear in the background protesting it wasn't her out in the ring!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Take off that Golden coat!

Page isn't your typical Golden. She's not crazed or too high; she has a lovely off switch and loves to lay across my lap. But she has plenty of "go" and is always wanting to work.

Many times during the day if I let her out and walk out to the deck with her, she flies off the deck and races to the door of the building just sure it's time to train. She'll stop and look back at me then race full blast back to me, turn and do it all over again. About the second trip she realizes we aren't going to train, and she's always disappointed. And when I actually do reach for the blue plastic basket with the training treats and clicker to go to the building, Page is beside herself with glee. Page has no greater joy in life but to train.

I have said since I got her that I haven't had a puppy like her since Reece, the border collie. She's different only in that she actually sleeps and has an off switch. While I know my friends like her, they are also very glad she's mine and they don't have to live with her. I do remind them that she does sleep and has an off switch, but they aren't convinced.

A few days ago we were training agility. Page had done some demo work and she was bored waiting her next turn so she was tugging on the leash. Pretty soon I heard from my right, "Huh, I've never seen a Belgian in a Golden coat...." I had to laugh! It came from Bobbi who has lovely high drive Tervs. Yep, that was a good analogy! Page may be a Golden on the outside, but she has lots of herding dog traits on the inside. I guess she's in the right home!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fun in the snow

Yesterday the girls and I went for a woods walk in the snow at a local metropark. We had 6 inches on the ground from the weekend, and it was a Monday afternoon so the park was deserted. The sun was shining, and it was a winter wonderland. This was a wet snow and it blew in from the east, so the trees were coated.

The girls had a ball running in the woods. We went off the beaten path used by the cross country skiers so the girls could race over tree limbs and down hills. The joy of doing woods walks since the girls were little is that they'd only go so far and then turn and check in with mom. What heaven it is to have well trained pups that never go out of sight.

Well, almost never. Devon was feeling extra peppy since she's been housebound for much of the last 3 weeks since she's been in heat. She enjoyed the woods walk the most, coming back to me and leaping up to touch my cheek or my nose in pure joy. And once when we kicked up some deer, she went racing after them over a hill and disappeared. I called her (and Page came), but it took Devon a couple of extra seconds to respond. My heart skipped a beat, but when she appeared over the crest of the hill with that look of pure joy on her face I had to smile. It was if she was saying, "Yeah I know mom. I just wanted to run a little!"

We all fell asleep on the daybed before 8 p.m. last night, exhausted and happy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Page and the teeter

I've been so busy, it's been hard to find the time to blog. But rest assured we have been training. Not as much as we could be or probably should be, but we're getting some things done!

Because I'm confined to my small training building during the winter, I thought this would be a good time to work contact foundation. I thought it would take me until late March when I could get the equipment back out and have her working low contacts. However, Page continues to amazing me with how very smart she is and how quickly she learns, and we're moving much faster than I imagined.

I described in my Dec. 31 post about Page's agility foundation that I was working from several sources for contact work. Page breezed through the board work and is very confident even on angled boards to 24 inch tables. It also only took about 2 weeks to get all they way through the proofing of her 2 on 2 off contact with a chin touch.

I then started on the bang game with the teeter. Because I'm limited with space, I decided to transition the 2o2o to the teeter first. I know most folks would think this was the hardest place to transition it, but Page didn't know the difference!

Page got so confident banging down the board, and she had all that angled board work done, she thought nothing of turning around and walking right back up the board. I quickly realized I needed to get it off the chair it was on and put a table under the other end. Again, nothing really fazed her and she started jumping on the teeter and banging the up end, then spinning around and walking across the board to the table. Within a few sessions, I had this:

I had planned to use the two table method of teaching the teeter to Page. But when I went back to the Clean Run teeter articles by Jen Pinder, I realized I had accidentally skipped right past working both tables and jumped to the end of the training. Ooops! I guess I can chalk this one up to being flexible and working at the dog's level!

Although the Pinder article says once the dogs are going from a 16 inch table to the ground they are ready for a full teeter at 18 inches, I gave Page one more step. I had her go from an 8 inch table over the teeter. I'm glad I thought to take this extra step. Because Page hadn't done the two tables, she wasn't used to the teeter banging or moving twice as she went up and over the base. With the base at 18 inches and the table at 16 inches, she didn't feel this second movement with the 16 inch table. She did feel it with the 8 inch table, and it was good for her to work through it.

On Saturday I was at Pawsitive and I wanted to expose her to their teeter. Unfortunately I couldn't adjust the height, so it was at 24 inches. What I did was put a 16 inch teeter on the down side and had her "land" on an 8 inch teeter. I calculated that although she would be higher in the air by 6 inches, she probably wouldn't actually be falling any farther than she had been at home on the 18 inch teeter.

My plan was successful and she didn't miss a beat on the higher teeter. I removed the 8 inch table from the landing side and she did the full height teeter from a 16 inch table. She was now falling from a full height teeter and she didn't even show she noticed the difference. I decided not to push it any more that day, but I was very happy.

Back at home today, we started where I left off last time with the 18 inch teeter and she was starting from an 8 inch table. After a few very confident repetitions, I removed the 8 inch table. Page had no problem doing the full teeter with her 2o2o contact. I even got her running through a tunnel first and then going over the teeter.

That is Page's first complete teeter! I'm so very, very proud of her! She just loves playing on the teeter, probably because she gets a lot of treats on it. After I took this clip, I raised the teeter three chain links, so it was probably 21 inches, and worked her some more. She didn't even notice the change in height.

I'll work her the next couple of days and will likely have her on a full height teeter here tomorrow or Thursday. On Saturday I'll take it on the road to Pawsitive. That's a good place to have her first "away from home" teeter, because we both own Mark's Agility Equipment so it's the same brand of teeter. I don't anticipating we'll have any problems.

It's almost anticlimactic that Page is handling the teeter so well. And now that she's done the hardest contact obstacle first, the dogwalk and A frame should be a piece of cake!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy 10th Birthday Connor!

I cannot believe Connor is 10 years old today! Time with our beloved pets flies by too quickly. Last year on his birthday, I talked about Connor's personality as a puppy and now in his retirement years around the house. This year my reflections are taking a different turn.

First, to conclude his passing of the pack leadership torch to Devon, Connor did not raise Page; Devon did. It was Devon who taught this new puppy how to act within the pack. It was Devon who played with her. And it was Devon who corrected her. Of course, Connor did teach Page the one important thing he has taught every puppy in the house after him: poop eating. I do wish he'd stop that, but it looks to be his legacy in our pack!

Second, as much as I hate it, Connor is showing the signs of being an old man. In spite of supplements and keeping the weight off him, Connor is stiff when he gets up from a long nap. He takes his time to judge his jumping distance onto the bed, couch or car. And he now spends most of his days in the middle of the couch downstairs because it's the softest piece of furniture in the house while being the easiest to get up on.

Connor still runs and frolics outside, but this bursts of energy are shorter now. When he runs, his rear legs are together for maximum support. Connor's face is now completely white, but most people don't notice because he's so light to begin with.

This photo was taken at Connor's first birthday party. I've looked at it a lot in the last week. Pictured from the left are Reece (not quite 3 years old), Connor, Logan and Sport. The four dogs are all looking up to Dave Hirsch expectantly wanting a treat. You can tell from the white face that Logan was much older than the pups at his side. Logan, owned and loved by Bryana Pierce, crossed the bridge a few years ago.

This week the news came from Dave that his beloved Sport, who is nearly 11, has advanced cancer. Sport was Dave's first dog, one that was only supposed to be a pet. But Sport led Dave on a different path and altered Dave's plans for his life. Not only does Dave now own three Goldens (years ago he said repeatedly he'd never own three dogs), but he is now an agility judge, something he's very good at.

This photo has reminded me how our dogs too quickly get old when we weren't even watching. Too soon they must leave us. But when they do, we find they have taken us on a wonderful journey all their own. And as Dave discovered it was a journey that altered the very course of his life.

So Connor's 10th birthday has been bittersweet for me. He got up and greeted me this morning like it was any other day. But today I realized that Connor's life has gone by too quickly, and I need to realize that each day going forward is special. Because Connor will always be my perfect English gentlemen.