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 :-).

1 comment:

Information Waitress said...

Pictures? I wanna see some snaps!
Now you can see my worthless blog which is more of a learning/experimenting ground for me. I rarely post despite New years resolutions to do so more often. Found I have nothing of interest to say.
Yes that's me the Information Waitress, who'd a guessed
XXX Sistie