2007 training goals

January 2007

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Nikita and I seem to have come to a reasonable compromise. She is staying in the dog room with her crate open. She can get up every so often and see what the guys outside are doing out the window. She seems satisfied now and didn't try any escape moves. It's a small enough space I feel comfortable leaving her there too. We cut out all pain meds since that last escape. She's starting using that leg every third step or so as she sniffs for the right potty spot. She even put all her weight on it briefly to hike on some monkey grass. I couldn't believe she lifted the good rear leg and planted the bad one. I am consistently amazed at how resilient dogs can be. Wish I could heal that fast. She gets her stitches out Monday. I am still debating if I can manage to take her to Carthage this weekend with me. That would be 6 dogs, but that's not the real issue. She would need to ride in the car in a crate for me to feel good about taking her. That means I'd have to find a way to fit 2 crates for Jedi, Josie, Bandit and Nikita and one each for Misty and Sparkle with one large crate fully assembled for Kita to ride in. And I need to fit all the stuff too... clothes, chair, dog food, dog duffel. That may be an unsolvable puzzle.

Now my gripe for the day. For the 3rd time in a year or so the Federal Express delivery man has decided that actually delivering packages to my house in optional. I bought a Nikita sized crate off e-bay for 99 cents (plus shipping form California.. still a good deal). The shipper sent me the tracking number. It was scheduled for delivery today, so I spent 4:30-7 pm hanging out at the front of the house (watching TV, making a fire in fireplace, computer work, etc.) waiting impatiently for my package. If it's a decent quality crate the seller still has some listed that I may be interested in bidding on. By 6:30 I was fairly convinced I wouldn't see it today. Then ding goes the email. It's an automated update from Fed Ex on my package. According to their records, it says, my package was delivered at 6:33 pm. Left on the front porch. UUUUHHHMMM how could he walk up to my front porch and me not know it with the motion lights on and the carport lights on for him and 10 dogs in the house? And how could I not hear that large noisy vehicle drive up to the front door? Not to mention none of the delivery people ever leave anything on the front porch, not even Fed Ex, because the carport door is more convenient. I check just to be sure. NO PACKAGE. So, this guy/gal took the time to actually scan the package and entered it in the system as delivered, but not actually drive down the road to deliver it. I call customer support as soon as the email comes. I politely, I think, explain the situation. Unlike last time, when I had to get the shipper (a friend of mine)  to call and chew them (she got her money refunded too),  they actually promptly said they'd get my complaint in the system and insist the driver retrace his steps to find it. I assume there are not steps to retrace... he/she just has it in the back of the truck. That seems to be what's been the case the last couple of times. It always has appeared the next day unharmed. They only opened their mouth once to say maybe it had been stolen. Before they could finish the sentence I forcefully explained I'd been sitting by the door for 2.5 hours waiting on the package. There better be a crate on my carport when I get home tomorrow!


Last night when I let Bandit and Maverick out to potty Bandit took out another wild rabbit that had wandered into our yard. I swear it was at least half his size! Thankfully he has no use for the critters once they stop moving, so it was easy to get the bunny out of the yard.

I woke up sore all over this morning and it took me awhile to figure out why. It must be that soccer game I played last night. I haven't played in a year or so and I let one of my friends talk me into playing in a league. Now it's just my butt muscles and my legs that are sore. The stairs at work today sucked.

This afternoon Nikita managed to escape from a four foot x-pen. It seems she worked at pushing on the seam where the snap hooks connect the ends to make a circle until she figured out the snap hooks might come open with the right angle. She got some of them undone and then squeezed out the gap. I swear! It doesn't seem she injured herself doing all this though. This kid is too smart to contain for long. So it's back to the dog room for her. That's the room she thinks is hers anyway and it has her crate in it too. She's never tried too hard to escape from there.


Last night when I went to take a hot bath this is what I saw.

We called the water company and actually got a person to call in 10 minutes. Seems the guys working on the road busted our water line and called the water people to fix it and they did. But no one thought it necessary to tell us that the water line had been repaired and there might be some 'stuff' in our water. The water people assured us the water wouldn't be contaminated. How do they know what kind of road ick got in it? They told us to just run the water out of the hose for 20 minutes to clean out our lines. Problem is it was the hot water looking like this so it was all nasty in the hot water heater. And they appear to expect us to just pay for the extra 80 gallons or so of water that we had to run out of our heater and house to get some clean looking water. I'm not happy! They're gonna hear about this from me. 

I met John and Cheryl to do come more VST type tracking this afternoon even though it was drizzling to steady raining all day. Nikita started throwing a fit in the x-pen when she saw me packing dog leashes and treats in the car. I ended up letting her go along for the ride (in a crate) just to be sure she didn't hurt herself trying to get out of the x-pen. This seemed to make her happy. Sparkle has awesome potential. She did many times better at finding me down the covered walkways by tracking me this time than last weekend. Having a ready treat to give her when she found me seems to have really gotten the idea across to her. She even tracked John at the end of our quick session. Lego, on the other hand, stunk. John had laid a short, short aged track across grass and concrete with only one turn. Lego didn't do it well at all. He was not interested in tracking in the rain and there were plenty of cross tracks from students and last time he tracked John's scent he actually found him, which was quite a shock to Lego who only wants to find gloves. He did finish it eventually with John's help on where the track went. John also pointed out some indications he saw Lego gives when he knows where the track goes, but is not interested in following it. That might help me some in the future if I try for the next tracking title with him.

I think I caught Nikita actually letting her toes touch for stability some today.


A much better day. Nikita slept all night and seems much more relaxed. I went to work today because Rich only works half days on Fridays. Nikita did fine. I think I even saw her touch those toes to the ground a couple of times while she was standing still. She is 100 times better than yesterday.


What an awful night! Nikita cried and moaned all night. I had sleeping bags on the floor next to her pillow. She couldn't get comfortable and seemed just to be in a considerable amount of pain. I got maybe an hour of sleep all night in 5 minute doses. Poor baby. I feel so awful that I couldn't help her. I ended up giving her a second dose of pain medicine about midnight. That helped some. She drank a bit, but threw it back up.  I called the vet at 7:30 and told the tech that the pain meds weren't cutting it and she couldn't even keep water down. Then I called in to work and said I couldn't make it. She was finally so worn out she slept a bit around 8 AM. The tech called back when the vet got in. He said to take away the water until this afternoon and try again because the extra dose of pain meds probably upset her tummy a bit. And they called her in a prescription to the pharmacy for a supplemental pain medicine to give between doses of Metacam.  This seemed to really be the ticket and she was quietly resting all day in the x-pen on a pillow except for a whine when she needed to potty. She's figured out how to peg leg herself around at a decent clip now too. I still occasionally have to help her get her rear end up and balanced, but she's about to figure that one out too. A good sign when I ate lunch was she stood up in the x-pen on her own and wanted to have a kibble of what I was eating. I gave her an ever so small morsel. She kept it down. By afternoon  she was woofing for her dinner. I gave her about half her normal meal and she stood up to eat it and scarfed it down. That stayed put too, so I guess her tummy problems are over. Now l hope her comfort level holds for the night time so I can get some rest too.

Sparkle attended her first obedience class tonight. I was so depressed by the end of it. I've never gone to an obedience class with a dog and felt so far behind. I can't keep her attention on me for more than a couple of seconds. Then she's sniffing or watching the dogs behind us. She wouldn't even look up when I called her name most of the time. I know she's not dumb and I can't possibly be as bad of a trainer as I felt like tonight, but I guess with being so tired I just felt defeated. After class I asked for the obedience director's advice on how to start her watching more. I've never had one so distractible before. She took Sparkle and had her watching so pretty in just a couple of minutes. She also had better treats than me (chicken). So I got some pointers and some encouragement that she's just a baby and a beagle at that. I am ready to try some attention exercises at home now. And I've got to find a better treat to use.


Nikita came through surgery fine. She seems extremely uncomfortable. The vet says it's supposedly a fairly painful procedure. The orthopedic surgeon said there was a considerable amount more degeneration in the joint than they could tell on x-rays. They expect that stabilizing the joint will stop the degeneration where it is, and I've had her on joint stuff for a couple of years too. That one leg reminds me of a poodle cut. Fluffy at the butt and ankle.


Rain, rain and more rain. Sparkle did her first little straight line track. It was maybe 5-10 minutes old with chicken pieces every 2nd or third step. Obviously this was NO problem for the hound dog. I have realized just how lax I've been with her basic training. It's just that she's so little and cute I guess I keep waiting for her to grow up some more.  Maybe I'm just enjoying her being a puppy and don't want her to grow up. Or it's that I feel I pushed Lego too much when he was young and I'm determined not to do that to her. OK, so she's 5 1/2 months so she's not growing any more. It's time to get down to business. She doesn't know sit or down by words, but does by signal. She is almost completely unaware of what "Come" means. She does however know how to go to a door if she needs to go out and potty. I guess we'll be enrolling in beginner obedience Thursday. That will encourage me to get my training in gear.


It rained all day again! It was only drizzling this afternoon so I met up with John and Cheryl for some tracking. John led us through one of the ways he learned at a seminar to help build tracking drive without food. It's basically hide and seek. We played at a school where we could be mostly under cover and use the concrete to help them start variable surface tracking. This method works great for John's dog. She can't stand to watch him leave her and walk off. It's not as effective with Sparkle and Bernie, who are very food motivated. I gave Sparkle a treat for finding me, which is not supposed to be part of this method, but I have a hound who will do anything for food. So, I wanted her to think finding me would be a reward for her tummy. She didn't do half bad considering all she's ever done is a scent pad or two. She definitely uses her nose, she just hasn't learned to focus on a particular scent. Lego did great. We've played hide and seek in our yard with him since he was a pup, so he's learned to find me regardless of the place. And he for sure wants to find me when I leave him with some stranger. Bernie did pretty good too. He even thought it was fun to find me after finding Cheryl two or three times.


This morning/afternoon I went to a little "how to teach agility class" seminar put on by one of our teachers who is moving. We are losing 3 teachers this year to relocations. She was pleased for me and another teacher to show up and give our input and help. We taught how to course build and then we got to run the course. Josie started out slow and sniffing, but by obstacle 8 was moving it like usual. It was a fun course with decent challenges. Sparkle also went along to play on single obstacles. She did her first curved tunnel today. Then there was lunch at Don's Seafood while we discussed how and where to get class ideas.


Some good news.... The heat is now fixed for under $200. I was jumping for joy. Nikita's surgery will not top $1000, so I'm happy about that too. Not that it's cheap, but I was prepared for worse.


Double Bad news. First: Nikita is in need of knee surgery. Nothing traumatic happened. I've just been noticing this slight limp that seemed to come and go. I assumed it was just age related. That maybe she was getting stiff. I couldn't seem to improve it any with rest and joint meds and it was getting more noticeable. The vet thinks maybe she just had a genetically weak ligament and it has worn out. We are hoping for surgery next Wednesday if the local orthopedic specialist, Dr. Beaver, can fit us in his schedule.  We will be doing the 'fake' ligament attached on the outside of the joint to stabilize it instead of the TPLO. The vet seems to think this is the best option for her since she's older and not an active agility dog and she doesn't handle anesthesia well. This surgery will have her sedated the least amount of time and he seems to think she'll recover quicker and be 100% sound for a reasonable active senior dog. He expects at least an 8 week recovery period before she can be treated like a normal dog again. The couple of jumps in Utility shouldn't be an issue as long as I don't train them to excess. Now, where to find the money? Thankfully my vet is very understanding with us and will let us make payments. I will have to come up with a lump some the day of surgery since my vet has to pay the orthopedist for coming out to do the surgery he'd like that amount covered.

Second bad news: Neither of our air conditioning units is working. The temps have dropped to the point where we would like to turn on the heat. (yes, we sweated this weekend.. now it's 40) We noticed it didn't seem to be warming up any in the house. After inspection it seems the heat pump (outside unit) isn't kicking on when it's supposed to on either unit. Just for fun I tried to see if it would kick on for air conditioning. NOPE! So I'll be meeting our nice air conditioner man at the house tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it's just some switch that's shorted out. If not, we'll be replacing the one unit at the front of the house (living room, kitchen, master bedroom) this month. CHA-CHING... I can hear the vacuum of an empty bank account and a full credit card. Can you?


Cold, dank and drizzling. See what I hate about fluffy dogs..


The photographer from the last show has some pictures up. There are a few of Josie. Enjoy!
Go where?
Air Josie


Saturday morning we dropped the RX8 off at the dealership for a detail and an inspection sticker. Last week when we bought it it was too late in the evening for the detail guys, so they owed us one. Now it will likely be parked in the carport for a week or so. The parish (county) has graciously consented to pave our little gravel dead end road. So we'll no longer live on the dead end gravel road down the dead end black top road. Guess we're moving up in the world. They started Friday by scraping all the gravel off and packing the dirt. I have no desire to drive the RX8 on the fresh oil and such we'll be seeing for awhile. While they detailed the car we, yes Rich went too, took Sparkle and Misty to the nursing home for a visit. My husky breeder and friend started me visiting nursing homes when I was a teenager and I guess I've always thought it was a good community thing to do. I hope some day if I'm stuck in one of those places that some youngsters will bring their dogs by to see me. Anyway, there was one lady there that broke my heart. She's the kind of person we do this for, but it was hard not to cry. As soon as she saw Sparkle walking down the hall she started making unintelligible noises and waving us to her. As we got closer I could see tears rolling down her cheeks. She just loved on Sparkle and cried for many long minutes. She was unable to communicate with me, but another resident said she had a dog named Harley that she misses very much. And that her son brings the dog by to visit sometimes. When we got home we started up the ATV and got the dump cart out and shoveled the dirt pile on the side of the road into it and hauled it to fill low places.

Today was more dirt work after church. The weather was party sunny with temps in the lower 70s. I was a bit offended at sweating that much in January, but more offended by the mosquitoes still here in the dead of winter. We also got our dog signs up on the gates. The ones that say "I can make it to the fence in 2.8 seconds. Can you?" They're basically there to say, "Hey dummy, there's a dog behind here so if you open the gate they're coming for ya." I also finally got a picture of the retirement village. Their dog houses have the prettiest wooded setting.

And here's Sparkle's favorite evening activity... Sleeping on Rich.
See how active our house is in the evening


I spent a bit of time today reading my blog from this time last year. It's interesting to see how far I have (or haven't) come in training. It was a bit discouraging on some fronts. It seems this time last year Shelby and Nikita were doing go-outs fairly well. Now we have regressed some. Maybe because of a lag in consistent training? Also it seemed I was getting more training done last year. I know part of it was a sincere desire to take my brain of all the other stress at the time. So, tonight I got out the jump chute for Misty again. She hasn't shown in a while and she's entered in Carthage in Feb. I assumed her rear leg muscle may be some out of shape. I was right. She bounced through the chute good the first couple of times, but it begin to wear her quickly. I need to do this three times a week for the rest of the month to help build her muscles again. While it was up I ran Josie, Jedi, Lego and Bandit through it. Bandit begin to wear some after 4 times as well. He needs the muscle build up too. I also pulled out the broad jump and re-introduced it to Jedi and Josie. They haven't seen one since beginner class many moons ago. I saw no real reason to keep them sharp on it, until now, since no USDAA clubs around here use it. But, this tournament season USDAA has decided that the broad jump is a required element in Steeplechase. GRRRR. Josie soared over it easily and seems to 'get it'. Jedi on the other hand likes to hop the first board and land between it and the next one and then soar over the last 2 boards. This seems much more difficult than just jumping them all together. I had to put a jump in the center of the boards to encourage him to get up and clear them all. He has plenty of reach to get over them when the jump's there. He just needs more reminding.

In keeping with my goals this year, Sparkle and I started the basics of tracking this afternoon. The first tracking harness I bought for Lego fits her perfectly now. It never fit him. It was one size too small. Glad I hung on to it  :). I left her tied to a tree and walked a view steps away with hot dogs in hand. I showed her the yummy treats as I walked in a circle and stomped my scent in good while dropping hot dog pieces in the area. She was rearing up ready to find them.  She understands already that 'Tally Ho' means to sniff the ground for something. So I untied her and hooked her leash to the tracking harness. "Sparkle, Tally Ho" and off we went nose to the ground. This should be a fun game for her and she should catch on rather quickly.


Sparkle went to her first agility class tonight. I was concerned her 1/2 second attention span might not be quite ready for a class, but we went to see how we measured up to the other dogs in class. She did great. Her attention between turns is awful, but when it's her turn to 'play' on the equipment she's focused and ready. I'm sure it has something to do with the hot dogs I'm holding. Now if I can just convince her that the food only comes from me and get her to quit sniffing around the ground for more. She's well beyond most of the class when it comes to stepping on the boards and going through tunnels/chutes. I've been playing with her on baby equipment since I got her, so none of this seems the least bit scary or unusual.

Some bad news: It appears Rich may be coming down with that awful virus thingy that's kept me all messed up for the whole beginning of the year. Some good news: They are finally painting and installing floors and cabinets in Rich's permanent building. The end is now in sight.  About dang time considering we signed a contract to lease this place over a year ago. 


I got a Shelby's agility picture in the mail Friday. It turned out well. Click here to go to my agility page to see it. I have also begun to feel almost normal again over the last few days, so I'm hopefully the nasty flu thing is about over with.

We ran some errands yesterday afternoon. Rich suggested we stop in at Mazda and see what RX-8 's were left on the lot. I've been test driving one every year since they came out in 2004. I've been saying even before the Taurus was totaled that I wanted one as my next car. Well, luck never ends. They had an '06 model left with some incentives to get rid of it. After much discussion, Rich decided he could afford to buy it for me!! I brought it home at 7 last night.

So now I have a replacement car. We should save a bunch in gas not driving the Expedition to and from work.

Today I took Nikita and Shelby to an obedience match. Instead of trying to fit in a whole utility run through I worked on heeling/signals, articles and many go-outs. I was pleased with their performance and I got some nice go-outs.


Well, we've had enough rain recently to make our yard a nice squishy swamp and they're predicting more for the weekend. Needless to say training has been on a hiatus with all this wet weather. You can check out how I did on my goals for last year.

Maverick had his yearly checkup today. He's in great shape except for the slight arthritis in his rear end. He's slow to get up sometimes now, but once he's up he seems pain free. He still plays ball and gets around great. He's been on joint supplements at least a year. If he starts to show pain we'll get him some anti-inflammatory drugs. 

Sparkle lost her last two puppy teeth (the canines) today. She'll be starting agility class next week. They grow up so fast! We moved her out of the puppy crate and into her grown-up crate last night. I did a couple of measurements on her at the show. She's measuring in at between 11 1/4 and 12 inches depending on how relaxed she is. So it seems apparent she won't make it to 14 inches, which was my hope (12 inch jumper in AKC, tall enough to do 16 in USDAA without a struggle), so now I'm willing her to stop growing now. Is that too much to hope for on a 5 month old small breed dog? If she can stay at 12 or under she'll be a 12 inch jumper all the way around. 


Happy New Year all! I got back from Houston at about 8:30 last night. I am worn out and still good and sick. Here's the scoop:
Friday afternoon:
I started out for Houston around 2 hoping to find the hotel there before dark. After my last Houston experience I wasn't looking forward to finding anything in that city after dark. Even with Cheryl as a guide last time I still felt on the verge of being lost the whole time I was there. There was some nasty wind and rain in the Lake Charles/ Beaumont area that slowed up traffic some. It was headed to Baton Rouge the next day, but had already soaked Houston so I just had to drive through it and not live in it. When I got to the eastern edge of Houston it was already getting dark and drizzling a bit. I thought I'd take the Beltway 8 ( a northern loop) to avoid Houston traffic. NEVER again! I ended up getting shot off that loop somehow without very good signage. Now I was lost in Houston after dark. Thank goodness for cell phones and internet! I called Rich and he was able to look up about where I was and talk me through finding I-45. Then I got to play the 'I can see the hotel from here, but HOW do I get to it?' game for a bit. Have I mentioned I hate Houston? I did find the hotel entrance after getting shot back on the interstate in the wrong direction and having to exit the next chance and loop under the interstate for pass #2 at the hotel. I got a second floor room with indoor corridors. What a pain. After lugging all my stuff and dog stuff up the stairs and getting dogs fed dinner I thought I'd just walk across the parking lot to the Target and buy a snack for dinner. (Did I mention the hotel was in a parking lot of a shopping center?) My first stroke of luck! There was a Taco Bell/ Pizza Hut quickie joint operating out of the Target. So it was a personal pan pizza for dinner and then bedtime.
Up early in anticipation of once again being lost in the Houston area. To my great relief the directions I had written to the show site went smoothly. I was there with plenty of time to set up my crates, walk my dogs, feed Sparkle breakfast and get Josie's final measurement. Hallelujah! Josie just turned three in November, so I needed that one final CMJ measurement to get her permanent height card. Now I just need to mail it off and I'll be done with that temporary paper stuff for a few years. Josie started off the morning with Master Jumpers. What a fabulous run! She was actually sprinting and having a good time. Too bad her handler caused a back jump or she'd have Q'd. I was thrilled to have my dog back though and not the scaredy dog that walks the course. She ran great all day. No nervousness at all. She would've Q'd in Advanced Standard but she came out of the weaves half way through. She managed a Q in Master Snooker (her 7th) and get this... her first Master Gambler Q. What a day! Now she's only 3 Adv. and 3 Master Standard Q's from MAD. Bandit also ran well Saturday and got his 8th Master Snooker Q. He had his best Master Standard run to date too. Sparkle was a big hit with the other competitors and she made many new friends (dog and people).
Bandit had a perfect Master Standard run today.  He ended up 7 seconds over time. I was thrilled though. If we can get it consistently clean his times will improve some I hope. He was not into the Snooker run today though and we bobbled the closing. Josie had another stellar Jumpers run with a bad handler. Oh well. I seemed to be holding out health-wise fairly well until now. The Master Snooker course was one with a lot of yardage. I picked a plan with Josie to tie Ty and Megan. This meant about a 60 second all out sprint. The buzzer got us at pole 2 of the weaves (the #7) so we didn't make it to tie Megan, but we gave it a good run. We still Q'd (her 8th), but my lungs couldn't take the sprinting with their diminished capacity caused by the mucus build up. I was forced into coughing fits that made my head ache, my eyes water and my stomach twist. I didn't improve much from that the rest of the day and I took medicine at the hotel later and was in bed by 8:30. Unfortunately someone thought the parking lot of the shopping center was a perfect place to shoot of New Years fireworks so I was awakened at 11:30 or so with no peace until after 12:30.
Well, this day's not really worth discussing show-wise. It stank. Josie ran well all weekend with only one or two runs that started tentatively and she was herself by obstacle three or so on those. I feel better about how to make it fun for her and keep her happy now. I left the show before my last run because it was already 4 pm. I wanted to get home. Monica gave me a different way to get home that took me a back way out of New Caney to Beaumont. That route didn't seem any faster or slower, but much less stressful. I might consider a New Caney show sometime again with this new way to get there that keeps me out of the Houston mess. OH, and Misty would like to thank Bernie for the crate pad loaner.