“Kick Me”

I hope it goes away soon, but I am living through one of those periods where I feel like the universe had taped a big “Kick Me” sign to my back that everyone else can see but me…

Lets just say we had a rough weekend. I’ll skim over acts one and two (Friday involved me unearthing shady stuff goings on by a colleague of mine, and Saturday was my grandfathers wake, which was as fine as it could have been but was still a funeral), and focus on act three as it is the most pertinent to my writings here.

As I mentioned recently, I have been thinking about possibly getting a purebred dog next time around. So, being the Obsessive Compulsive researcher that I am, I have hunted down and been corresponding with a Manchester Terrier breeder. She was polite when I reached out to her inquiring about her dogs and making it clear I am not in the market for a puppy now but that I am doing prelim research a few years down the road. She and I have been trying for a few weeks to schedule some time to meet—she has a litter of puppies (all spoken for) that she wanted me to meet before they went, so time was of the essence. After much back and forth we finally settled on this weekend to meet. She would be in Lompoc for a dog show with the sire, dam and all the puppies. I was excited.

I left directly from the family event last night and pointed it north on the 101 towards Lompoc. Since I waited til the last minute there were no cheap hotel rooms in town left so I had to book a room about a half hour outside of town. I always have a little sense of adventure when staying at roadside motels—its a total crapshoot whether they are cute and quaint or total dives. I got in around 11:30, and unfortunately for me, this place was a D.U.M.P. Whatever, I have stayed in worse and lets just say I was motivated to get out of bed in the morning. I headed back towards Lompoc, found a Starbucks and the showgrounds without incident. I was feeling good, on my little solo adventure.

I had confirmed with the breeder her show time and the ring she would be in. So I got there about a half hour early, found the ring and set up my chair, drank my coffee. Chatted with another lady who was there to watch her Australian Terrier (have you ever seen one of those? eeek!!). She shared her schedule with me and I was indeed at the right time at the right place. When the Standard Manchesters came on, there was only one dog. I assumed it was who I was looking for as they had assured me they would be there. After he did his little go round and left the ring, I approached him and asked him if he was “Bob Smith”.

“Who?”

“Bob of Smith Kennels?”

“Hah! No!”

Beginning to stammer… “Uh, erm, okay. Um, well do you know Bob Smith? Is he here?” (I was under the impression that all these people knew each other and maybe even might be friendly with one another…)

“He must have got tired of me beating him! Har har.”

….what the… I tried to pull myself together. I stumbled around and looked at the sky for about thirty seconds before figuring maybe the ring steward could maybe help me. I asked her if she did have Bob Smith Kennels as due to be in that class, she said yes, they were a no show. They were here yesterday, but dont know where they are today! Oh, I said. I drove up all the way from far away to meet them… I mumbled.

She at least tried to be sympathetic but by then I was too far gone. I honestly didnt know what to do. I had given her my phone number, but she never offered hers in return. I figured if she said she’d be there…

She also had mentioned she would be at another ring later on for the toy Manchesters (though they don’t breed the Toys so I was somewhat confused by that). I hemmed and hawed about whether tp stay or leave… Thankfully at least this was a sighthound specialty show, so I watched the greyhounds and borzois do their bit and also wandered around in the booths. I found and bought a nice sighthound-style collar for a good price which I have been wanting to get for Forest. Regardless, I was still pretty agitated and upset.

I managed to hang on ’til the toys went, though I really wanted to just bolt. After my earlier experience with the Standard ring D-bag I was gun shy to talk to anyone. I perched myself just outside of the ring almost right on top of the four people showing their toy MTs, watching and listening for anyone that could have been from or related to Bob Smith Kennels. I got especially annoyed watching one women whose dog was unable to walk on all four legs in a straight line. I was growling to myself internally at this point; Jesus H Christ lady, get a clicker, its not that hard!!!

That combined with the sudden feeling I was at a toddler beauty pagent started making me feel sick. I half-heartedly sidled up to the competitors post-class but they didnt want to seem to have anything to do with anyone else and at that moment I had had enough. It was weird and icky and I was over it, big time.

I got in the car and drove 4 hours home. I was very, very glad to see my quiet old house and my mutty-mutt gorgeous happy dogs. Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me I don’t need a purebred dog. I don’t know. But, I am in no hurry and things will sort themselves out. Chalk this one up as another experience in the life of a crazy dog lady. Forever the learning experience I guess, huh?

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Sharing the Love (of Wacky Hobbies)

I finally got some real images of us at work from last weekend, so I couldnt contain myself and sent the email below to my family and closest confidants today….

+ + +

Hello family,

In case you were wondering what crazy dog ladies do on their free weekends (ie. every weekend), well this is it.

Here are some pics from my Practice Trial last weekend. If you have time to kill on April 3rd or 4th, love scenic Bonita and the racket of multitudes of dogs barking ad nauseum, please come and visit us at our first official trial. 🙂

Please do not forward this email as it will surely show up somewhere as future black mail. Thanks for your understanding.

xoxo,
Liz and Forest.

more action packed weaves!

how cute is this dog? (2 on 2 off on the teeter–what a good guy.)

I learned last weekend that this look means “I am about to run out of this tunnel and keep running straight out of the ring.” Still working on that.

All (as of right now not-yet-purchased) photos are by Juanda Anderson of Camera Animal.

CU #2

Last night was our second Control Unleashed class. It was good. We are definitely not following the book exactly, but thats okay. I think its probably best to be doing both simultaneously regardless. We worked on more focus work, reorienting, and just barely started mat work.

One thing we did that was pretty eye opening was a shaping exercise. We partnered up, one person was the trainer and one was the dog. The “trainer” worked on shaping a behavior on the “dog”.  Man, that was tough. At least the more advanced ones were. It was great to understand what the dog was thinking—as in “what the eff does she want me to do???”—and also measure how accurate your timing and communication is. I was told to shape my partner to take off her earring… needless to say we didnt get all the way there. Regardless though, probably an exercise I would want to do again, as silly as we all looked jumping around and waving our arms like a bunch of looney dog ladies.

So, practice on focus and orienting and mat work this week.

I have my “safety test” this Saturday for the local agility club. Its looking to rain again, so we’ll see what happens. I hope it goes off, I would like to get in some practice as we missed this week of class. Also printed out my first Trial registration form. It looks like greek to me, will probably fill out as much as I can and take to my trainer on Monday to have her help me decode the rest. Early April is looking to be our first “official” trial. Counting down…

CU #1 — Which Kind of Crazy Dog Lady are You?

So last night was our first CU class. I unfortunately have to take one of the shittiest freeways to get there at rush hour, so it took me over an hour to go 25 miles. Sweet. Luckily I was not the only one who was late and next time, well, we’ll leave at 5 to make it there by 6:30. Good times, living in So Cal.

There were only a few people in the class. Us, a women with a Jack Russell, and a woman with a BC. Hopefully it stays that small, would be nice. The woman with the JR amazed me. Her dog seemed well-behaved enough, just “talky”. She went on and on about how he likes this and he does that and she already has her Novice Obedience and Rally titles, blah blah blah. And yet, once we go into things, she didnt know what the instructor meant by “raising the rate or reinforcement.” Sigh. She also didnt seem to understand that by scratching her dog every time he growled at her (in a talky way, not a mean way) she was handing over the reins to who was running the show.

How you could get that far along in training and not have a clue as to how a dogs mind operates–in the most basic sense–is beyond me. Or maybe some people just go through the motions and get “close enough” and never look at the how or the why. Obsessively reading all of these blogs every day makes me think the R+ theory is incredibly common in dog sports, but maybe not?

Anyway, last night was pretty basic stuff, but learned some tweaks and new ways of looking at things. The biggest thing for us at this point is going to be reorienting. We make them wait to get out of the car or go out the gate, but once they’re released, they just blast off into the universe never to be heard from again. Not good. Training them to orient (ie. turn back to me to “check in”) coming out of the crate, and ESPECIALLY out of the front gate or the car is going to be huge. The hardest part will be getting Pete to carry the treats on him at all times. Maybe I can stash them all around at all of those points so he has no excuse not to do it.

Another fairly large realization I have been coming to over the past few months (peripherally related to the dogs) is my change in “life focus” I guess you could say. It really hit me hard last night as I was packing for a trip which I am leaving on today. This is a trek I have made annually for many, many years. I look forward to it every year firstly as I get to see many of my favorite people on this earth, as well as get to live it up and ride snow and talk about riding snow and look at pretty new things made to ride snow and wear while doing so.

I really, am not that into it this year. It will be fun, I have no doubt, and yet I just am not that amped about it. I am more bummed that it will be taking a huge hunk out of my training schedule and that when I go back to CU class we’ll only have been able to cram in a few sessions.

I dont know if its my age, or the economy, or being beat down by the industry that I love (same for Pete, we’ve both had a rough last few years work-wise), or what. Many of my favorite friends are all in the same boat as me. Maybe we’re all just growing up and caring more about inner circle things than who is on what team and how they got arrested at Brand X’s raging party? I dunno.

I will always and forever love riding good snow with my friends. Being outside in the snow in the middle of no where and hearing nothing but the sound of your board across the snow and maybe whoops by your freinds off in the distance is one of the greatest feelings I ever hope to experience. And I will again, undoubtedly. But I also have loved–since the very day I was born–horses and dogs and most things four-legged with a passion.

Maybe this is just the new phase.

Calm After the Storm

Agility was rained out last night. Boo. But instead, I did get to have a leisurely evening, which included taking both dogs down to the cove for low tide and running around like a crazy small dog lady. I am working on reinforcing Forest’s “Lets GO!!!” from a wait in hopes that helps with the “sticking” issue we’ve had. He actually was pretty good about staying with us last night, we also worked on running with me and watching/following my hands.

It would be nice to be able to have some room to work in some obstacles, but I have yet to find the right venue. I dont want him jumping in the sand, as that sounds like an injury waiting to happen. There is a park up the street, but its a little too public and a little too unfenced and close to streets. People don’t drive that fast, but I just envision Forest getting distracted and taking off for a tour of the neighborhood while I decide whether to run after him or leave crazy dog lady obstacles in the park… Am thinking about scoping out some of the local elementary schools as I assume they have fenced grassy areas (at the risk of looking like a pedophile). *sigh*

So P packed up the dogs this AM, and their crates and beds and bowls and leashes and treats and sweaters, and left for Mammoth. He didnt tell me, until this morning, that not only were he and the dogs and all the dog-and-snowboard gear driving up in the truck, but three other people were jumping in as well. Sounds like a grand old time.

No one can ever say we dont expose or socialize our dogs to the joys of new situations. Eesh. I am turning off my brain-imagineering-bad-dog-scenarios function for the next 4 days. They’ll all survive without me is my mantra… (though I did already get a text asking “did Forest poo this morning?” And so it begins…)

So now I am solo at home, at least for tonight, and leave tomorrow for SLC. More time to work on figuring out the Agility Record Book I downloaded last night… oh, and pack. Mleh.

Dogs in the News: Scientists Find a Shared Gene in Dogs with Compulsive Behavior

And So It Begins…

I soon was doing research online about dog training to deal with this wild hair/hare(?) we suddenly found ourselves with. And quickly fell into the positive dog training realm, which morphed into the clicker realm, which then dovetailed into agility. Well really maybe I found agility when searching “what to do with hyperactive spastic dogs”. This little innocent-at-first-glance dog needed exercise. Like a LOT of exercise. Like at least an hour a day of running like a maniac down the beach, up the mountain bike trails, lapping the dog park (which was generally avoided due to anti-other dog issues), across the street to the empty lot to eat decaying things, etc etc.

I knew what agility was, but it seemed pretty nerdy. I knew about crazy dog people as they were simply an extension of the crazy horse people I grew up surrounded by (sorry to my poor parents who put up with our hobby-cum-childhood-obsession). And so was skeptical. Plus how the hell are you supposed to get your dog to run through those poles like that?!?!? But figured, hey, what the heck. I am jobless and a dork so how much more of a dork can I be by trying out a few of these classes?

We drove out to Escondido to the first San Diego agility trainer I found online. She had a decent website with a lot of content–which in my Marketing-centric brain is usually a sign of at least legitimacy. Our first class was scary, I remember. The trainer was very strict and rather serious, and there were a lot of “rules” and a lot of standing around and explaining of things. Not a lot of action. Which at first was okay because even though we were in a beautiful fully-fenced-in arena, I was still terrified that the second the leash came off he’d be off like a shot. Somehow, between the food-motivation and leash help we mostly managed to semi-keep it together. There was a woman in the class who had a Standard Poodle, and I let Forest sniff his butt, and the lady turned and snapped at me “DON’T let your dog do that!” Eek. Okay crazy dog people.

So, for whatever reason, we kept going. We even somehow ended up with this funny little clique of us three ladies who all started agility at the same time. These ladies were so far from my typical friend circles (ie. they were 10 and 20 years older than me, weren’t wearing Volcom and Vans or have full sleeves or expensive hair cuts) but they were nice and normal and I could dog geek out with them. It was a nice change.

And so we went every week, then I got competitive and went twice a week for a while. And then I got a job. Lame. Well not really for obvious reasons, but it threw my dog and agility-focused days off track for a bit. Now we just drive down to my very serious yet very nice and extremely knowledgeable trainer for lessons every week. The drive is over an hour but I look forward to it, every week.

And now there are heavy dog crates that we drag around and sketchy hodgepodge training obstacles in the patio and dog treats spilling out of the cupboards and freezer and car consoles and pockets and I drive out to places like BFE to go to Fun Matches (when I am allowed by my trainer). This whole silly thing is frighteningly addicting. Thank god P has not only begrudgingly let me appropriate his rightful dog, but tolerated me turning into a crazy dog lady. So far…