Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday field drills

My training partner Corinne and I went to a nearby hayfield today for some field training drills. The weather was picture perfect - coolish temps, sunny, and breezy.

We started out with a marking drill, an X drill. We set it up so that the dogs had to run across the side of a hill in order to hold their line to the mark, something that many dogs don't do very well. There were also some gentle up and down - sort of a roller coaster effect. As I expected, Gryffin faded down the hill, which made him have to work harder to hunt up his bumper. Ty did a better job on the marks than he did.

Then we set up a blind drill: we set a pile of orange bumpers at about 100 yds/ We again set it up so the dogs would have to run along the side of a hill. We added a couple of chairs, one on either side of the line to the pile of bumpers. The chairs were about 60 yds from the line. We sent our dog to the pile for a retrieve, then added a mark from the left chair thrown to the left followed by another send to the pile. This gave the dog a double temptation to fade to the left (having just run to the left to retrieve the mark and having the hill sloping to the left). After that pair of retrieves, we did another mark thrown from the right chair across the line (so again throwing left).

I wasn't surprised by the results - Gryffin, who has the most experience, got more and more confident and speedy as we worked through the drill. He ended with a Poison Bird set - Corinne threw a mark from the right chair across the line to the pile, I stepped back, told him to "leave it," relined him up towards the pile, and then sent him to the pile. Once he completed that retrieve, then I let him retrieve the mark.

Corinne's two dogs did quite well, though they required some more handling than did Gryffin. Ty needed the most handling, but we muddled through. Since she's still very green in handling out in the field (as opposed to in my yard), I was pleased with the results.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Annual Interlochen Trek

We made our annual trek to Interlochen Band camp yesterday to listen to the Ann Arbor high school choirs and bands do their end-of-camp concert. Our older son Chris attended camp all 4 years he went to Pioneer and this was our younger son Ryan's 2nd year. The camp lasts from Tuesday to Monday, and it is stunning to hear what these young musicians and their teachers accomplish in such a short time.

We–Fritz, Chris, our four dogs, and I–left home at 9:00 AM. We are still learning to use our Garmin GPS, and hadn't programmed it to avoid dirt roads, so one of the final turns put us on a dirt road for many miles. That took up some extra time, darn it. We stopped for a very quick lunch, fed and walked the dogs, wolfed down lunch, and dashed to the Bowl for the concert. Ann Arbor's new Skyline high school will open this fall with only freshmen. Their choir led off the program. We arrived during their 3rd song and heard their 4th one. Their 13-member group did an outstanding job and got a standing ovation from many in the audience.

Huron's choir has always impressed me, and they didn't disappoint this year. Pioneer's choir was also wonderful. It was fun to hear them sing Sing Me To Heaven, which my choir, Women's Chamber Chorus, performed in the recent past.

Pioneer's band was once again outstanding. They played two songs, and the 2nd one, Africa, featured their large percussion section. It was simply fabulous! Ryan played gourd and marimba on this piece.

My brother and sister-in-law, Steve & Deb Burling, met their senior year at Pioneer, when they were stand partners in the clarinet section. They were on their way home from our family cabins in Ontario, and came to hear the concert - the first time they'd been back to Interlochen since the summer of 1970!

Once the concert was done, we moved over to the tennis court by the lake for Pioneer's marching demo. They explain the different marching components that the kids have learned during the week, then they do the Freshman 40, the Sophomore 40, the Junior 40, the Senior 40, and finally, the alumni 40. During the 40, the members, led by a drum major, march 40 yards down the court, with the percussionists bringing up the rear. This meant Ryan did each of the "40's." I was so engrossed in watching my brother join in the Alumni 40 (he was definitely the oldest alum out there - go, Steve!), I forgot to watch Chris. Sorry, son!

Next up was the drumline performances. Ryan will be in Symphony band this fall, so he moved up to the SB drumline, Conga. They rehearsed for many hours all summer long, and they gave a fabulous performance. I will put a link out (surely, someone will put it out on YouTube soon) when I get one. Ryan was in last year's Concert Band drumline, Ashiko's performance.

It was once again a great trip, albeit a long day. We didn't get home until 10:30, and then the Olympics sucked us in... I love it when they are on, but it does mean not enough sleep :-).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Field training @ Omega Farms

I spent the day at Omega Farms in Webberville, Michigan at the Marshbanks Golden Retriever Club's field training day. We started the day with Marshbanks member Al Hogan giving a review of how to operate a popper gun safely and how to use the Tangelo launchers.

Then we headed out to the so-called Heart Shaped Pond, site of one of the Senior tests we ran last year. It has quite a bit of grass growing out in the pond, which makes the dogs have to hunt some. We set up three stations, a medium-length one from the left side of the pond, a long one from the right shore and a short one also from the right shore. The two longer marks came from launchers, while the short one was hand-thrown.

I ran Gryffin first on a delayed triple, with the short right bumper as the memory bird. He retrieved the medium left mark, then after delivering that one, locked on to the memory bumper. The middle mark was thrown, and he noticed it about the time it splashed into the water. He completed the second and third retrieves in fine form. After his initially dismal marking at last weekend's Challenge, it was good to see him in good form.

I ran Ty on a single fro the left station and then a double with the short right mark as the memory mark. She did a fine job.

Once everyone had done the marks, some of us stayed and ran a few simple land marks through several cover strips, one of the great training features at Omega Farms. I set up 3 land blinds, which 3 of us ran. My friend and training partner Corinne William's two Tollers are really coming into their own on blinds, and Neon lined two of the blinds. I taught Ty one of the blinds (she's not quite to the cold blind stage, but moving closer to it), so that we could practice going across strips. She did great.

Al, Corinne, and I then went to another pond (the one closest to Bell Oak Rd) and set up a couple of water blinds. There was a brisk wind out of the west. Al and I ran one from the east side of the pond across a corner, across a dike of land and out into an area of tullies to the north. Gryff did a fine job, taking a great cast off the dike all the way to the blind. Then we ran one to the south side, one which I'd had huge problems with Gryff early last year. It's great to see how much he's improved since then :-).

What a great way to spend a summer day!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Raisin River Rhodesian Ridgeback Agility Trial Day 1

The Raisin River Rhodesian Ridgeback Club has 3 days of agility trials in my facility this weekend, with the first one today. It was the first agility trial on the "new" floor (installed May 2006).

Denise Tarby put together a great team who got the building looking sparkling clean on Thursday afternoon and evening. Great job, everyone!

Terri McCardell has been hard at work for several months making new jumps and wings, and the Excellent JWW course I watched this morning looked great.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2008 August vacation

I got home last night from a couple of weeks "up north." Following long-time family tradition, I spent about 5 days at my family's cabins in Ontario (east of Sault St. Marie), in the woods on a lake. We had mostly lovely weather, with a whiz-bang of a thunderstorm the afternoon we were leaving. Fortunately, it was over before we had to cross the lake. I got to spend time with 3 of my 4 cousins on my father's side of the family. We are 3rd generation, and our kids the 4th, and it is lovely to see the interaction and fun amongst that 4th generation. My 15 year old was the eldest of his generation there this year (his brother and older cousin were absent this year), down to my 5 year old "niece" (cousin's daughter).

We only took Gryffin along, to give my 82-year old, dog-hating father a break from my menagerie (I can't quite go there with NO dog). Our younger son had to be back last Friday for drumline practice, so we left the lake Thursday afternoon and stayed in the Canadian Soo that night. After breakfasting in St. Ignace, we (husband, son, father, and I) parted company, with the 3 guys heading back home and Gryffin and I heading back to Harrisville for field training. We'd stopped there for 3 blissful hours the Friday before, on our way north (the guys left Tuesday evening, but since I had to teach through Thursday night, and knew I'd be driving myself, figured I'd squeeze in a visit to the Amazing Technical Pond (ATP ) on the way. I wrote before about the 4th of July "Blind Retrieve Challenge" that I attended with Gryffin and came home from on cloud 9. Last weekend, they had a Marking Challenge, and I signed both dogs up. Fortunately, a friend from my general area was coming up, and bless her, she brought Ty along with her, saving me 4 hours of driving both ways. Ty had spent the 1st week with her breeder.

The owners of the ATP (Amazing Technical Pond), the Barbee's, have a large number of Bumper Boy remote launchers that were in use during the Challenge. Gryffin has seen these before, but he was really clueless about watching the launches over the weekend. It didn't help that a lot of the shells that produced the launch didn't work very well (nor did the wet weather help), and instead of firing with a loud bang and a super high launch, there would be this mild little "phfffffffft" noise and the bumper would go about 5 feet up (as opposed to 30 or more feet high). So we had several "no goes" (where he sat there with no idea what he was doing). He did get better as the weekend wore on, but it shows that our marking work has really been lacking this summer. He did a lot of excellent work on his blind retrieves, even lining a couple (needing no whistles/handling to get to the bumper).

Little Miss Ty just got better and better all weekend on her marking. There was one particular mark on Sunday that almost all of the dogs had trouble with. I had Chet, the guy who was running the launcher remote controls, all ready to launch another as she was on her way out, but she just kept going and going and going, disappeared over the ridge into the crater where the bumper was and reappeared moments later with the bumper.

On the last series, we were working on water retrieves across a smallish pond (maybe 40 X 80 yds). There were two blinds planted on the top of hills on the other side of the pond, one to the left, one to the right. I decided to try a double retrieve with her. On the memory bird, she didn't remember , and instead of heading to the right of the very tall left hill, headed at it. When she got out on the far shore, she "popped" (turned around and looked for help). After waiting a bit, I gave her a rather sloppy, casual over cast to the right. To my great surprise, she took off in the correct direction along the shore and ran up to the top of the other hill! I was caught by surprise. Before I could react, she ran back down the hill toward me without having picked up a bumper. I managed to get her to sit at the base of the hill (she was about 40 yds away across the pond). I let her sit there a bit while I debated trying to handle her back up the hill (having struggled with up-hill casts with Gryffin, I didn't figure she would just do it). "What the heck, why not try?" I gave her a back cast, and lo and behold, up the hill she charged to the pile of bumpers! No, it wasn't the bumper from the mark, but at that point, neither of us cared. She is still what I consider a rank beginner in the handling department, so that retrieve left me feeling great.

I camped at the Barbee's from Friday through Wednesday, and my friend Corinne joined me on Monday with her two Toller girls. We spent Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday and Wednesday training. Corinne hadn't been there before, but was very glad I'd talked her into making the trip. The great thing about the ATP is the large # of ways you can repeat the same concept without repeating the same mark or blind. There are lots of ways to practice in-and-out marks/blinds, because there are so many narrow channels and narrow strips of land. With young dogs who want to run the bank instead of getting in the water, you can see the surprise on their face as they ran along and suddenly run out of land :-). Gryffin was doing fine on marks with my launchers or person thrown, but I know I need to get working harder on his marking skills.

One of the blinds we did yesterday was across two small islands with a long strip of land cross-wise between them. We ran it in one direction in the morning, and then the opposite in the afternoon. It was so cool to see him seem to say "Oh yeah! I got it!"

I'm still considering trying a Master test with him next month. I think his blinds are close to ready, but we do need a bunch more work on his marking. There's just SO much to put all together! I'll be working the Master test at my club's test on Aug 23/24, so I'm sure I'll get more ideas of missing pieces.

I also finally got Ty started on "Swim-by", an exercise designed to teach handling in water. The Barbee's have a 20 yd X 40 yd rectangular pond specifically for Swim by. I've been doing much of the preliminary work to prepare for our visit, and we got an excellent start on it. I also watched Sherree Barbee working a couple of young Labs that she is training for clients who were just starting on Swim-by. I see why serious trainers get Labs - they make my speedy dogs look like slugs :-).