Monday, October 22, 2012

This Fall's Competitions

I've had a very productive fall of various competitions - field, obedience, and rally. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Ty finishing her UDX, and Sonic earning her WC, a couple of Junior Hunter passes and her 1st rally novice leg.

This past weekend were the annual Marshbanks Golden Retriever Club's obedience and rally trials held in my training building. Assuming all my arithmetic is correct, Ty finished her OM2 title, earning 12 points for her 2 Utility B Qs. Earning a UDX and OM2 were my top level title goals for her, so anything else she does in the future will be a bonus. Her heeling is simply not up to snuff enough to pursue an OTCh., especially in my very competitive area.

Sonic earned legs 2 & 3 on her RN (rally novice), making this her 1st AKC title. Her performance on Saturday was the best of the three legs.
I gave her 2 runs before showing her, 1 first thing in the morning and another about an hour before we showed. I'd run her through rally and beginner novice on Friday at the match that Northfield Dog Training sponsored. She had a lot of trouble concentrating for any length of time outside the ring, but once we entered to run the course, she was quite good. This gave me some confidence on Saturday before I showed her.

She earned a perfect 100 and 2nd place. I never did look at the times of my run and the 1st place exhibitor, but since we moved through the course pretty quickly, I have to assume I paused longer on the walk around exercises.

On Sunday, she had a lot more trouble concentrating, plus the course was quite jammed in together, so almost as soon as you'd finish one sign, you'd be at the next one. I kept her with me mainly because I talked to her almost non-stop and was very proactive about giving her extra help when she needed it.
We earned a 99 and 1st place to complete her RN, her 1st AKC title.

Little is still staying with my family, since I'm still having good weather and time enough to train her. Plus, she's hit a really fun and exciting stage of training called 'Transition', where it seems like she makes progress every day. She learned a set of pattern blinds last week easy as pie. Essentially, you teach the dog 3 new blinds over several days, adding a new blind when they've mastered the previous one(s). If you hold 3 fingers up and spread them wide, that is kind of the directions of the blinds. I don't remember having so little problems when I did pattern blinds with Gryffin and Ty, but maybe it's a case of amnesia. Whatever the case, she did them so well, I asked Helen to help me get started with Blind Drills, where you add a gunner and marks to the pattern blind field. The 1st day we did them (last Friday), I had Helen positioned to the right of the right blind, throwing to the right. It went so smoothly that on the 2nd day, I positioned her between the middle and right blinds, throwing an angle back mark to the left. This produced several chances to work on casting Little away from distractions, as she really wanted to veer to where the mark was thrown. Since this is exactly what the drill is intended to teach, I felt it was a successful venture. I'm not sure when I'll be able to have someone throw again, but hopefully soon.

I'm working on whistle sits with Sonic, using a PVC baby gate parallel to and to the right of the line she's running, because she has been tending to loop at least 6-8 feet to her right AND come creeping in before she sits. Neither of these is what I want, so borrowing from my obedience fixes for go-out sits, I'm using a barrier. I had tried using my 4 foot PVC broad jump boards a month or so ago, but they weren't big enough to work well. She seems to only need the gate to the right, so that's all I'm using. I saw some nice results with it yesterday. I'd really love to have her either started on Double T or ready to start it when we get to the Catledges in Tennessee, because I've heard wonderful things about their Double T field. We are also working on baseball casting where I put her on the (imaginary) pitcher's mound and 'cast' her (give hand signals and voice commands) to send her to 1st, 2nd or 3rd base to retrieve a bumper.

I've also been shaking the bushes looking for some local hay fields in which to work on marking, and I've got a few lined up. Now I just need time!

What is next? My next two weekends will be spent flying to Minnesota and Lakeland, FL to present seminars. The following weekend, Marshbanks is hosting a CCA (Certificate of Conformation Assessment), an event for Golden Retrievers at my building, and I'm co-chairing the eye clinic that same day. The next afternoon, I'm driving to Tennessee with Sonic and Little to train field. For a whole week!!! When I made the final arrangements, I felt like a kid on Christmas, I was so excited. I hope, hope, hope that it is still warm enough for water work, because that is the biggest reason I'm going. I am leaving T3 behind since the place I'm going has a trailer I can stay in. It also means I can travel a lot faster.

I'll probably enter Ty in the Toledo KC trials Thanksgiving weekend. She really likes showing there, and therefore, so do I.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why Do I Volunteer?

Dog clubs and the related dog sports are overflowing with opportunities to volunteer. Without a large corp of volunteers, dog events would simply cease to happen.

I have done a lot of volunteering over my years in dog sports, from becoming newsletter editor for the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club soon after I joined in the mid-1980's, to serving on various boards, to chairing numerous obedience trials, to working on hunt tests and other field-related activities. I'm co-chairing an eye clinic for one of my clubs that is happening next month, something new for me.

Why do I volunteer? Sometimes, volunteering can seem like a thankless job. People who rarely or never volunteer most likely have no concept of the amount of work that goes on to host an obedience trial. I can only imagine what chairing a large all-breed conformation show combined with obedience and/or agility must be like! The logistics boggle my mind. Same with chairing a National Specialty. I've had committee positions for several Nationals, but never attempted to chair one.

So, what makes me volunteer? I find I get a great deal of personal satisfaction in helping to organize and run efficient events. I like seeing what works and what doesn't, making note of both categories to try to tweak it for the next time to make it better.

I enjoy working with other like-minded club members. It is a simple joy to work as a well-oiled machine with a group of people. I recently stewarded in Utility at the AADTC trial, something I have only rarely done in my long years of exhibiting. I almost always either have a dog to show or there is a reason I am staying home.

There are a lot of little details that go into helping a judge run their ring efficiently. I enjoyed the simple challenge of being where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be. I've judged far more than I've stewarded, and I've mostly had the pleasure of working with excellent stewards. They really do make or break the day for everyone involved.

At Marshbanks hunt test this summer, I was working a gun station during the final series, and when teams finished, they had to walk back to the vehicles past our gun station. One pro in particular thanked us several times (he ran a bunch of dogs), and it was interesting how a simple and sincere thank you made it all seem worthwhile.

Volunteering to steward at an obedience trial can be a great way to get familiar with the ring routine of different classes before ever showing your own dog. I've had students who, after stewarding, tell me, "My dog can do that!" You get to know judges, and find out they aren't quite as scary as you thought.

If you can, volunteer to help in some way, however small. And if you can't help, please offer some sincere thanks to workers at all levels. It really does feel great to be appreciated and to know people are enjoying the event on which you've worked so hard.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Catching Up

Every week, my reminder software pops up with "blog post". And every week for months, I've deleted it. I don't completely understand why I've been unable to write until now, but I think a big part of it was losing Gryffin so suddenly in July. Here's my write-up from what I posted on Facebook on July 6, 2012 when it happened:

Ch. OTCh. Grousemoor Gryffindor UDX OM1 MH RE WCX; RL3

June 6, 2003-July 6, 2012
photo by Karen Taylor

Tuesday (July 3), Gryffin didn't quite finish his dinner. Wednesday, as I prepared to leave town to attend a seminar in Ohio, he didn't seem quite right, and didn't finish his morning meal. I told my husband and son that I was worried about Gryff and to please keep a close eye on him. Thursday morning, Fritz took Gry
ff to the vet because his breathing was labored, and a chest x-ray showed several tumors in his lungs. By the time I consulted with the vet & Fritz last night, I stayed on in Ohio until this morning. Fritz said Gryff seemed worse this morning, so I came home, getting home about 1 PM. Gryff greeted me with enthusiasm, acting close to his normal waggy self. But watching him laboring to breathe throughout the afternoon, I knew it was time. I didn't want to wait until his wag was gone. Fritz, Ryan, and I made that last difficult trip with him and were with him at the end.

We had an amazing journey together, amassing a lovely collection of titles before and after his name, always owner handled and trained. But it is those memories of the little things of living with a goof ball Flat-Coat boy that will make me smile for now and always - "woo wooing" at me when he was really in a good mood; his happy huff huff huff when he was working confidently; his sticking his nose between my knees for an ear fluff; going all the way through my legs for his happy dance butt scritch; ending up upside down on the floor or ground in front of me, squirming back and forth, giving his back a good scratch; barking at me when I'd catch him being naughty; his love of swimming; his sometimes overwhelming desire to Go Do Something; picking up the food dishes so I could fill them at the next meal; his never flagging optimism and happy attitude. I've often said it's hard to be sad with a boy Flat-Coat around.

Gryff was my first dog to train seriously for field events. His love of the game - still evident at last month's National, where he did some brilliant work in the Steady Singles competition - showed me, who used to really dislike guns and dead birds, what a joy it was to learn this game with a dog with such heart and desire. He was such a lovely combination of steady when he needed to be and explosive as he'd leave the line to retrieve.

We attended the National together every year of his life, from California in 2004 when he was 11 months old, running his first field events and placing in the puppy sweeps class, until this year in Wisconsin, where he was 1st runner-up in the Steady Singles. He made it to the final cut in the 9-11 year old Veteran's Sweeps class. And he earned a 198.5 in our final Veteran's Novice class. It made me smile stepping to the line, gaiting him around the ring, and heeling with him. I am so very, very grateful we had that last chance to step out together and shine.

Rest well, Gryffy Man. You were a magnificent part of my life. You leave a gigantic hole in our family and in my heart. I hope there are plenty of ducks and swimming holes for you, wherever you are now.

"It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life, gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are" (Author unknown)

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And so, what I thought was going to be "How do I retire this dog who doesn't want to be retired?" became "How do I go on without him?" In answer to that question, it helps to have been down this path of loss 5 times before with previous dogs. Many, many people say, "It never gets easier." Personally, I disagree. While it is never easy to lose a dog, there are things that made losing Gryffin less difficult. All three of my girls have had long, lingering illnesses, which in retrospect, are incredibly stressful. I despise that weight of "Is it going to have to be today?" that hangs over you. All three of my boys have gone very quickly, in a matter of days or even hours. While it is like ripping off a huge bandage, and hurts terribly, I find peace in knowing the suffering for the dog was much shorter. Gryff's last day with me was during that awful high-90's/low 100's heat wave and with his breathing already compromised, I couldn't make him wait another day. As I said before, I didn't want to wait until his wag was gone. While I do not in any way like having to euthanize my animals, I am very grateful that we have that choice.

Because of who he was, most of my memories of Gryffin simply make me smile. He was such a goof ball. When he was younger, my boys called him 'Disney Boy', because he always had that Disney character look on his face - happy and optimistic. At some future date, I might start writing down some of those memories to share in one place.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In the 3 months since then, I have mostly been concentrating on field work with Sonic and Little, who came home from the National with me to continue her field work. Little is pretty much through her field basics. We have another week or so to work on 'Swim-by', which can't be done locally anymore because it's gotten too cold. She has quite a bit of the skills needed for it, now we just need a good pond in which to do it, time to do it, and warm enough weather to do it. She is pretty much done with Double T. I am planning to get her started on Pattern Blinds, one of the early steps in the Transition stage of training. I'm not sure how much longer I'll keep her this year - it depends on how much longer I can make myself go outside and train!

Just last weekend at the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club's fall trials, Ty came off her 3+ month vacation and finished her UDX on Friday. 

To show it wasn't a fluke, she QQed again on Sunday. All 4 performances were fun and without any big errors. She is just 7 points from her OM2, which I hope to get done at next weekend's Marshbanks trials. She just needs ONE solid Q to do that. After that, we'll coast. I do not have getting an OTCh on her as a goal anymore, but if we can have that much fun in the ring with relatively minimal training, I'll keep showing her.

Three weeks ago, at 13 months old, Sonic earned her 1st 2 Junior Hunter legs with very solid performances. Her duck handling left a bit to be desired, but it improved from day 1 to day 2. The next weekend, she earned her WC (Working Certificate) at the Marshbanks test. She is now the youngest dog to title for me. I moved her up to the WCX the next day, not with any real expectation that she'd be able to do the whole thing (a triple on land, double in the water, honor on the water, all off leash), but to see how she would be going to the line off leash and no collar. While she wasn't rock-solid steady while the guns and birds flew, she DID wait until I sent her, a very big accomplishment. She couldn't find the flier go-bird and eventually 'switched' - a big no-no - and went and got the middle bird. If she was more experienced, I wouldn't have let her continue, but as it was the last test of the season and she's so inexperienced, I let her get that one, then the left one, then resent her to the flier on the right. She still needed help from the gunner, but did get it.

Last weekend, Sonic earned her 1st Rally Novice leg with a generous 97 and 3rd place. Showing her made me appreciate how well trained Ty is :-). Sonic is a keg of dynamite. She has so much energy, she really needs a hard run every day. I gave her a hard run before we left home, but she was still over the top. To her credit, the middle half of the course was very nicely done, with nice attention. She really did as well as I could expect. Here's a link to a video of her performance:
This has gotten long enough. I hope to be back again much sooner than 3 months!