Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Happy birthday to Teri

Teri is sort of my dog. But really she's my Mom's dog. But I was there when we first met her and when we first decided to get her (after a year or two of begging my father to get another dog). She was just this little tiny tyke when we first met her. All of about 3 pounds.

Teri at only 5 weeks old
Teri at 5 weeks

She wasn't much bigger when we brought her home, maybe 5 pounds or so. Just this little ball of fluff.

Exploring new surroundings the day we brought her home
Teri on her first day in our yard

She's been through a lot over the years, two ACL repair surgeries, a nasty abscess that required surgery, allergic reactions to everything (including vaccinations, bees, flea/tick meds, and food). But she's been my Mom's (and my Dad's before he passed away) faithful companion for many years.

Being pathetic while laying on my dad
Keeping my Dad company

Grandma, Mom, and Teri
Visiting my Grandmother at the nursing home the year before she died

On April 28, Teri turned 16! Yhe's almost completely deaf at this point and definitely senile. She wanders the house a lot and she fell down the stairs recently. After that, she has a bit of a limp. The vet thinks she likely hurt her ACL again, but at her age surgery is definitely not recommended. And it only seems to affect her if she does too much.

But you wouldn't really know she's reached such a grand age if you met her. She still likes to play fetch and tug in the house with her little ball. And she still loves to run around in the grass. So happy birthday Teri! Here's to many more!

Teri enjoying a run in the yard on her 16th birthday

Friday, April 21, 2017

What...an update?

I really should make a promise to myself to update this place even more, though I'm not sure anyone is following along. Some updates on the dogs.

Dahlia continues to improve after her vestibular attack. We have had no recurrences since it happened almost a year and a half ago. She is still a little bit wobbly and tends fall over if Ben runs into her too fast, but she's holding her own for the most part. Her confidence has flagged a bit and there are certain things she just can't do anymore -- like get up on the couch, roll over, and sit pretty. She even struggles with sit and we end up with a weird, crooked sit that takes her a moment to get situated in. She prefers standing or laying down these days but I'm constantly working on sit with her to try to increase her muscle strength.

 Dahlia's awkward sit

But she's still as wonderful and happy and cuddly as ever. She recently had a cyst get infected on her back. I was panicked that it was something else. You know, the fear that it's really some awful evil cancerous tumor. She was treated with antibiotics and after the thing burst open (which resulted in several really gross days of cleaning the area and cutting away all the fur, it healed up. Now she's left with a missing patch of hair but the cyst is completely gone.

Frankly, she's looking pretty good.

 Even if she's in desperate need of a good grooming session...

She's been doing so well that I've seen her actually leap over things. Like full on agility leaping.

Not a good picture, but look at her go!

And to that end, I got her out doing a little agility over a low (8") jump. Just for fun. Because why not? If she couldn't do it, that would be the end of it. And at first she looked a little worried. But then all of a sudden it clicked and she just looked so happy that it made my heart glad.

Picture by my husband

She's now about 11ish (and in fact, yesterday marks 9 years since I met Dahlia on a transport!) and is just forever my heart dog.

Ben is, of course, Ben. He's still a little crazy, a little mouthy, a little loud. But he's settled really nicely into our house and our routine. Every morning he goes for a decent length walk and otherwise gets to spend a fair amount of time out in our yard watching squirrels and chasing the occasional rabbit (and once even a cat!) who get into our backyard. In the evening, he can often be found goading Dahlia into a silly game inside the house.

Here's how that game goes. He starts playbowing and throwing himself at Dahlia until she responds. She comes up with a roar and he takes off running with her chasing him just partway. Now, to totally understand this game, you have to understand how our house is laid out. Here is a totally not drawn to scale idea of how part of our first floor is laid out.

I'm awesome at Paint, aren't I? So Dahlia is usually somewhere around where the X is and Ben will get her all riled up and take off. She'll usually chase him to Y. Now he has all this room to move around between the dining room and kitchen. And what he ends up doing is racing off and then sneaking back so he's behind Dahlia. She'll take a bit to notice him then turn and leap at him and off he goes again. 

And you see that little space between things just below Y? That's the space between my recliner and an end table. Ben will also fly between there and Dahlia will come back into the living room to bark at him and then he'll go back through the space, around, and come up behind her. It's hilarious and a totally fun game that he has invented. He gets tired out and Dahlia doesn't have to do much but participate. Which she happily does!

Ben really knows how to read Dahlia. And it's wonderful to see. Like, take the times that we've tossed his toy and it's ended up against Dahlia while she lays on her bed. Ben knows he's going to get shouted at if he tries to retrieve it. So he goes over to her, goes into his playbow/bark routine until she responds to him by getting up and barking at him. You can imagine what he does next! He rushes right in and snags that toy. Such a smart boy and so much fun to watch. He is a happy joyful dog who makes us laugh every day. I really cannot imagine our lives without him. We're coming up on two years already this June!

He continues to rock it in agility classes. We're nowhere near ready to go to trials, which is probably good and bad at the same time. He's really doing well with handling but we're very far behind with contacts and weaves. I'm working on weaves at home and hopefully we'll nail down contacts soon. I feel ready to get him out there. I'm hoping for a fun match sometime soon! 

Here are some recent videos of Ben in agility class. I'm very proud of how far he's come and how well he does! He loves it!

He's just my best little boy and I'm always so happy to come home to his precious face.

   Storm watching buddies

Picture by my husband

Hangin' in the park... 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Attempting to return

I keep meaning to come back here.

I never do.

I don't know why.

So I'm here now. Life in our household has changed dramatically since the last time I wrote anything here (was it really 2014?).

We got married the end of June 2014.

We got a house the following April. A house with a fenced in yard. No landlord restrictions on the number of dogs we could have. It even cost us less (well, in mortgage + taxes, let's not pretend it cost us any less when we figured in repairs and things you need for a new house).

And then in June 2015, we got a second dog. That's right. We're no longer a one-dog household. On June 23, I sent in an application to the ever amazing Glen Highland Farm, and four days later we went to the farm to meet four dogs.

Really we only had to meet one. I knew before I even arrived that we would be coming home with him. He was another fate dog, you see. I had seen his photo on Petfinder soon after moving into our house. Something about that little face drew me right in. And they described him as cuddly and affectionate and a "hunk of love." I admit I was smitten. But he was too far away. Through a crazy series of oddball things, he ended up coming to a foster home who got him listed on the Glen Highland Farm page. And voila! I knew he was the dog for us.

After meeting him, we were so sure he was our dog that we only met one of the other dogs and then only for a couple minutes. We chose to spend more time with Ben to make 100% sure he was the right dog.

He was.

So on June 27, 2015, Ben came home.


He was a bundle of nervous energy who took some time to settle. But Dahlia loved him instantly. They played chase. They played tug. She even allowed him to jump on her head and rile her up. There have been no real cross words between them, though Dahlia does occasionally put him in his place. They are the perfect pair.

And yes.

They look a little bit alike,


We don't really know what Ben is, but we're sure there's Border Collie in there. We suspect there could be a bit of Springer Spaniel, especially with those hilariously spotted feet.


But the truth is we don't really know. And we don't really care. He's just become our amazing little man, Benjamin Willard MacKenzie (registered with the AKC as Spanley's Greatest Adventure).

Ben has begun agility training and he's fast and driven and excited. He is easy to work up (and also easy to over arouse!). He's very different from my laid back girl and so it's been a whole new world to start teaching him. Here he is trying his first ever seminar last April. He's faster and more confident now, but it's not bad for his first time trying to put any of it together!

We have a long way to go and much to learn still, but the process has been fun and fascinating!

On the sadder side of things, the ever amazing Miss Dahlia has been retired from agility. Not because we got Ben, but because back in December, she was struck down with vestibular disease. We woke up early one morning to find her unable to walk, her head moving all over the place, frightened and nauseous. A rush to the emergency vet yielded a much better result than we thought it was going to (we left thinking it was a stroke and we were going to have to say goodbye to her). She was diagnosed with vestibular disease, an idiopathic inflammation of the nerve that goes from the inner ear to the brain. In other words: severe vertigo that lasts for days. You can read more about the disease and her subsequent recovery here if you desire.

Suffice it to say, it was a rough road that involved some days of carrying her outside and sleeping on the couch to be near her. Thankfully she is, I'd say, about 95% recovered. She races after Ben and still chases him around the yard.


She can even do a little backyard agility.


But she is just a little bit wobblier than before. She tends to lose her balance and faceplant because she cannot right herself. And so doing proper agility is just not something I'm willing to risk with her. So we do the occasional low jump (set 8-12 inches instead of her usual 16) and tunnel and leave it at that. Otherwise she's our best girl, who goes on slow walks around the neighborhood and gets belly rubs.

She sure did enjoy going back to Glen Highland Farm this year!


We're thankful everyday that she's still with us, even if our time doing agility was cut off sooner than I expected.

So that's where things stand now. I hope to come back here and talk more about the dogs, especially my agility journey with Ben. He's such an amazing dog!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Success for the Non-Competitor

When I started agility, I went in with absolutely no idea what to expect out of myself or my dog. I stepped into class with a dog who was mellow and sweet and had a brilliant stay. A seriously brilliant stay. As in, I could walk a few hundred yards and she wouldn’t move a muscle. Of course, that translated to a dog who was sure that her goal in front of a jump was to stay and keep staying, no matter what I did. Proofing? We had it. We really had it.

What I didn’t have was an ace agility dog. Or even a dog with a lot of energy. It’s been four years since I started agility with that dog and I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I want to do with her in agility. Get a C-ATCH? Never. A MACH? Ha. That’s a good one.

After only going to one trial in the past year (one that was an unmitigated disaster, though she did have a really awesome stay!), I finally came to a conclusion: It’s not titles or ribbons. It’s not even trials. I’m not sure if we’ll ever go back to a trial at this point and if we do, it won’t be with the goal of getting big qualifying scores and titles. That’s for a lot of people. Most people in agility, I would wager. But it sure isn’t for me and my girl.

Success is fairly easy to define if you’re going to trials. Oh, it will be different for everyone. But there are certain measures of success. The big measures of success are the Q’s, the ribbons, the titles you can attach to your dog’s name. There are the smaller ones of course, the sorts of performance goals like hitting a solid 2on/2off on the A-Frame or being able to lead out past the second jump or getting that darned tunnel/dog walk discrimination that’s been tripping you up. Those used to be my goals, my measures of success. I still remember the thrill of the first time my dog took the A-Frame at a trial, the first time she did the teeter. She didn’t Q either time because something else went wrong, but I remember feeling that as a team we had been successful because we met those goals.

But that was then. This is now. And how do you define success when you’re not working toward the goal of getting a Q or a title? What is considered successful when you’re only going to classes?
At this point, I have really one measure of success for our classes. One and one only. Ready for my big measure of success? My big goal?

After every class I ask myself one question:

Did my dog have fun?

That’s it. That’s the measure of success for me. Did she look happy? Was she excited? Did she enjoy playing the game with me? Did she pounce on the ball o’ treats (aka Clean Run’s Lotus Ball) with great glee?

If she didn’t have fun, then why not? What can I do to change that? We certainly went through a time where every class seemed like a chore, where she was obviously not having fun. So I found I had to reward her more, had to get her more excited, had to relax and be more playful with her.

It really is that simple for me. If we walk out of class and we had fun together, it was successful. Maybe we weren't perfect (ok so we likely weren't), but that's not important. It really is all about having fun together and as long as we do, that's all that really matters.
This was written as part of the Dog Agility Blogger's Action Day's "success" theme. Please check out all the other amazing posts here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Been a long time

I'm not even sure if anyone follows this blog anymore. It's really been so long since I've updated over here.

One of my last posts was my Goals for 2013 post.

I had some pretty decent goals. Unfortunately, much of that went by the wayside very early on in the year. In mid-January, Dahlia was attacked at a play group by another dog. She's had dogs go after her before, but this time was different. This time she got injured. A minor one to be sure (she had one small, shallow puncture wound on her shoulder), but that was enough to make her nervous of other dogs being around, especially when she was working.

I took her to a trial late in January and she was so stressed out that she just shut down and refused to move off the start line. Twice. I ended up pulling her from the trial and went home to cry.

I decided not to go back to another trial until I could be at an outdoor one, so I decided that I would go back to Max 200 in April. It was a small trial with terrible weather (about 45 degrees and cold and windy) and so she did ok. I won't say she did great. She stayed with me. She at least took off from the start line even if she wasn't brilliant. Sometimes I had to babysit the obstacles. Sometimes she took off flying. It was really a hit or miss kind of thing. She ended up getting Q's in both Colors and Wildcard, which resulted in getting her first Level 2 title (CTL2-H).


I was incredibly proud of her.

But then we ran into more problems. She started to get so distracted in class she couldn't work all that well. We tried to work through that and I brought her to a trial in July. It was hot and humid and so she was lackadaisical to start with. She refused to do anything on the first run at all. I decided to try her for one more run. Between runs, a couple of dogs went for her. They were on long lines and didn't make contact with her so I thought nothing of it. I wet her down, got her excited, and she took off flying from the start. Over a jump, right into a tunnel. I was so pleased. But then the end of the tunnel faced directly where the two dogs were. She stopped and could not work with those two dogs staring at her from the other side of the ring (some 20-30 feet away).

We ended up going home in shame. The judge stopped to talk to us about it because she couldn't figure out what had happened. She was moving so well and then just...nothing.

She got worse in class at that point. I had a couple weeks of classes where she simply would not move. Every little thing distracted her. It was a struggle and I was ready to throw in the towel. My instructor suggested taking time off of trials (which ultimately had to happen anyway as I had no money for them) and focusing on getting her used to dealing with distractions. She said there are two types of dogs in agility: (1) Dogs who are distracted from the get go and who need to be worked with on that right from the start and (2) Dogs who go out to several trials, do well, and then suddenly realize there are distractions there and shut down. Dahlia is the latter. One of her dogs was too, so she sympathized.

I ended up taking Dahlia down to the park with one single jump and a ball that velcros closed to hide treats in it. One jump, ball o' treats. Another jump, ball o' treats. We did this until she could get excited and do it every time in a quiet place. We did a couple weeks of it where no one was around.

Then we upped the ante and moved it to a busier area of the park. And then nearer to the kids playing on the playground. Then nearer to where some dogs were. Eventually I added more than one jump and was able to keep her focus even with her Daddy laying just underneath the jump with a wide-angle lens, which enabled us to get photos of her that looked like this.


Working on distractions also enabled me to get this photo. I never could recall her over a jump while facing her with a camera before.


Isn't she gorgeous?

So that helped, but it still didn't quite get her where I wanted her to be. So my instructor suggested teaching her to bark since barking is naturally exciting to dogs. Perhaps I'll discuss how I went about doing that in another post. But suffice it to say, I taught my super quiet dog how to bark on command.

This has freed her in ways I never would have imagined. She's become a happier more focused dog in class. She now barks at us to play and even recently barked at me to tell me she really really had to go out because she wasn't feeling well. She is a changed dog and I didn't think that was possible.

So what will this year hold? I don't know. I'm not making any goals except to enjoy the experience with my dog. We'll try to get back to at least a trial or two, depending on the state of my finances. If she's not the same joyful dog she is in class, then it may ultimately not be worth it. I'll take her to class and have fun with her. If she turns out to be just a dog who enjoys class settings and fun matches, then so be it! I'll be ok with that in the end. Because just watching her on that video, just seeing how far she's come, that is the important thing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Gotcha Day Dahlia!

Five years ago today Dahlia woke up at her foster home, ate a stick of butter, and then was transported to meet up with us. I still remember her foster Mom telling us the stick of butter story (she hopped up on the table and ate it while she was out) and that she was a "little bit farty." She did not lie.

We fell in love with her anyway.

I cannot believe it's been five years already.

Today, Dahlia presents to you, 10 things that she will never ever learn.

What I will never ever learn
by Dahlia F. Beast

1. That not all photos are about me. (Though really, why shouldn't they be? I'm cuter than they are anyway!)



2. That no matter how long I stand at the bottom of the tree, the squirrels will not fall down into my mouth. (One may slip someday!  I'm not going to miss it if it happens!)



3. That every time I steal the butter there's a "tell" and so Mama always knows as soon as she sees me what I've done. (If I can figure this one out, I'll be gold. She'll never find where I've hidden the butter then!)



4. That every time I steal Mommy's chair (my chair), she'll lure me out with a treat and by the time I come back she's in it! (She's a rotten no good chair stealer is my Mama! Someday I'll figure out how to get the treat and get back into the chair before she can.)



5. That no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to catch treats. (But I do know they'll always land on the floor near me somewhere.)



6. To swim. Even though I can wade pretty good! (Swimming is scary! Your legs leave the ground! What's up with that?)



7.  That going into the pond always results in the hose of doom. (I will never understand this. The pond smells delicious.)



 8. That I cannot control all the dogs no matter how hard I try. (But I will persevere!)



9. That try though I might, I will never be faster than the other dogs. (But I'll have a great ol' time trying!)




10.  The meaning of "too close." (One really can't be too close to their people, right?)



From sad and confused...


To the happy dog of today...


Happy five amazing years, Dahlia!  Here's to many more!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

100 things #37: BACON!!!

This photo really doesn't need any sort of introduction does it?

Sony A580 | Tamron 18-200mm |  f/5.6 | 1/800 | ISO 100 | 18mm

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Internationalization: The Newbie's Perspective

This post was written for the Dog Agility Blog Event.  You can see all the fabulous posts here.


When I first read that the subject for this month's blog action day was "Internationalization" I have to admit that, much like my dog when she has no clue what I'm on about, I cocked my head to the side and went "Huh?"

We're a pretty green team.

Ok wait.  Back up.  We're a super green team.  And we're not talking about those lovely mature shades like forest green or hunter green.  We're talking something like, say, chartreuse.  That color that's part green and part yellow.  The perfect color for Dahlia and I.  Part newbie, part scared out of my wits, part ready to tuck tail and run when faced with a course at a trial.  If I could, I'd get all her ribbons in chartreuse.  It seems fitting, after all.

But anyway...I digress.

What all this means is that I had to ask people what on earth "internationalization" meant outside of "going someplace other than the USA to trial."  So I asked a community I belong to.  Here were a fewof the answers that made the most sense to me.

International courses are hard and set up to really challenge handling.

To me, an international course is wrap-centric.

More hard angles, backsides of jumps, lots of twisty turns. Definitely made to challenge your handling skills
I understand all of that.  I may be green, but I've been involved in agility for over two years now and I've been reading about it and studying courses and talking to people about it for several years.

However, can I execute any of that?  Well, some.  But certainly not all.  Maybe not even most.

So when I watch these amazing international competitors my mind sort of boggles at how they get it all done, at the speed and grace and amazing fluidity of their running, the connection they have with their dog that at times seems almost supernatural.  I love watching it.  But frankly, it scares me.

Dahlia and I?  We're not "international" material.  We're not even national or regional or state material.  We're just a girl and her dog enjoying some time together.  We're CPE Level 2, not International.  People have been talking about internationalization "trickling down."  I understand it.  I really do.  People want more challenges.



But please, as you're considering these new challenges, as you're thinking of ways to up the ante, please don't let it trickle down too far.  Already, from my understanding, AKC Novice has become much harder than it was several years ago.  For someone at my level, it's incredibly challenging.  I spent an entire year in CPE Level 1 just trying to master the basics (and CPE Level 2 is awfully close to level 1, so we haven't progressed too far).  I attempted AKC Novice twice, both times failing to get one Q.  

Please try to remember the newbies, the green handlers, and even more so, the chartreuse ones like myself.  We're out there to enjoy ourselves, but if courses for newbies are too challenging, how many people are going to be scared off?  How many are going to throw in the towel and quit?  Sure, you may say "Then maybe they shouldn't have been doing that in the first place."  But why so?  Doing agility, even at our lowly level, has created a wonderful bond between Dahlia and I.  It's given her more confidence and more joy.  If we had quit early on because it was too challenging for us, none of that would have happened.  And that would have been a real shame.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

100 things #36: Valentine's Day

Sony A580 | Minolta 28mm f/2.8 | f/2.8 | 1/40 | ISO 3200 | 28mm

Monday, January 21, 2013

100 things #35: The Fun Police

Even though Dahlia is not the main focus in this photo I love it for how much of her personality it shows.  Dahlia is a "fun police" dog.  When other dogs get into wrestling or playing bitey face, Dahlia runs up behind them barking and tries to split them apart.  Here she is chasing Ruskin and Gracie, who were having a great rousing game of body slamming bitey face.

Sony A580 | Minolta 135mm f/2.8 | f/4.5 | 1/1250 | 135mm