Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Adventures

Just recently, I discovered a message I wrote to someone in late 2009 about needing a bigger tow vehicle than my mini van, so I obviously started thinking about travel trailers/RVs 2 years ago. I do often say I move at the speed of a glacier.

Five days before leaving for the 2011 Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America's National Specialty in Frederick, Maryland, I finally took delivery of a new vehicle, a 2011 Suburban LT. I've had 3 Chrysler mini vans, starting in 1989, and I have loved loved loved my mini vans. I had my 2005 double-sliding door van fitted out very nicely, thank you, for either obedience or field training. Although it was fine for light-duty field training, the frequency of trips over rutted farm lanes and fields were really taking a toll on the van. And I got stuck twice in the mud last year, making me long for a vehicle with 4 wheel drive. I have test driven numerous vehicles with an eye towards towing a trailer, including a Chevy Traverse, a Hybrid Chevy Tahoe, a Silverado pickup truck, an Express cargo van, and a Suburban. Last winter, when I restarted my vehicle contemplation, I thought, "What would I get if my mini van had to be replaced immediately?" Suburban was the answer.

Having already put > 1500 miles on the new 'Burb, thanks to the MD trip, I can certainly say that I love it. I even got nearly 21 MPG on the drive to MD. Not quite as good coming back, and around town... not so great. That was the hardest part of the decision for me, quite frankly. I have always been conscious of energy conservation - there is a ton of insulation in both of our dog training buildings, for example - and making the choice to get a big SUV took a long time.

I think I first stopped at an RV dealer 2 years ago on the way back from an Illinois seminar, so I've also been thinking about them for a long time. I went through a long period last summer and fall trying to make a conversion van work, even flying to California to look at a used Sportsmobile that I was 90% sure I would buy. It was an extremely well spent $500 for the airplane ticket - driving the thing was nerve-wracking and the thought of taking it to the grocery store was ridiculous. Scratch that idea off the list.

Before leaving for MD, I told Fritz that I would get serious about getting a travel trailer when I got back. A week ago, we went to a local RV dealer and climbed in and out of about 15 travel trailers. While I have done a lot of in-person and on-line window shopping for RVs, he hadn't. It gave us some good points for discussion. Last Saturday, I went back and discussed my wishes and needs with a salesman, and he showed me some new and used units that he thought would fit the bill. Then I took my top choice for a brief test drive. I haven't hauled anything more than a garden tractor cart since hauling horse trailers in my 20's, so I needed to prove to myself that I could cope. It will take some getting used to, but it was more comfortable and easier to drive than the conversion van. So that hurdle was completed.

Last Sunday, Fritz and I went back and I showed him my top 3 choices, and in the end, he also liked my 1st choice best. If all works out as planned, we will make our maiden voyage to the Monroe Co Fairgrounds the weekend of July 8-10, where I'll be showing Ty in obedience. It is a pretty straight forward drive to get there, I've done it plenty of times, it isn't too far away, and since it is a dog show, there won't be any difficulty about having dogs.

So a new adventure is about to begin. I've tent camped quite a bit in the past 3 years with the dogs, so am at least somewhat familiar with what that's like and the camp ground scene. I'm looking forward to outfitting a trailer and getting familiar with all that will go along with it. Any advice is welcome!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Different Kind of Journey

Last Saturday morning @ the Grand Rapids KC trial, I earned my 8th UD. Border Terrier Joker is now Kandu's The Joker is Wild UD RE RL2 and officially our Retired Dog. Joker turned 10 on May 5 this year. We bought him for our son when Chris was 12. Chris trained him in agility for a couple of years, but didn't have any desire to compete with him. Back in 2006, I asked Chris if I could take Joker along to the BT National, which would prevent me from putting all of my eggs in Java's basket (plus it's much more fun to show a couple of dogs at Nationals and in several events). Joker earned his 1st RN leg there and his only agility leg (in Std). 

Over the intervening years, I kept plugging away on his training - "Oh, heck, we might as well finish his RN." "Oh, what the heck, let's try Advanced Rally." "Oh, let's try for a CD." And so it kept going. We didn't do rally excellent initially because he didn't know how to stand without physical help. Once I taught him the signal st and for utility, we went back and got his RE. He didn't learn to retrieve until he was 5 years old or so. He almost always got only leftover training time from me. Sometimes, he only practiced exercises at seminars doing demoes. Because of my summer time devotion to hunt test training with my Flat-Coats the past several years, he got essentially NO training during the summer months.

It was never my intention to try to be competitive with him, but instead to see what it was like to title a dog without being concerned with high scores. His first Utility leg was a 178, and I was thrilled when we got that green ribbon. That was in October last year, after 5 weeks of cramming.

All in all, we showed 8 times in Utility B together (B because of my OTCh titles), finishing his title in the 7th trial. He failed Signals only once. He failed articles in 3 of those trials (in all 3, that was all he failed), Directed Jumping twice, and the Moving Stand once (he anticipated the return the trial before his 3rd leg). What is remarkable is that he never failed the Directed Retrieve - remarkable because it was his most frequently failed exercise in training.

Joker taught me that you can judge quite a bit about where your dog is during heeling or pivots via shadow - I often couldn't actually see him, but could see by his shadow that he was close to heel position. I'm much more aware of the frequency of shadows at trial sites than I used to be . Quite often after an about turn, I would glance ahead and to my right - phew, he's not there, I guess he must be reasonably close to where he belongs.

So, thanks for joining me on this different journey, Joker. You made me try some different ways to train an exercise, since my usual way wasn't working for you.  Training you has helped remind me of how much I enjoy training my terriers. You helped make a lot of people smile, especially me.

Happy Retirement, Joey!