Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Western Canadians

It's been 4 years since we've been in Cranbrook. When I signed up for the East Kootenay SDT in 2007, I thought Cranbrook was near Kelowna. When I told my dad this, he was quite alarmed (as it's about 6 hours from Kelowna, and about 12 hours from my house). I remember my dad meticulously wrote out directions on his little notepad while we sat at the BC Cancer Agency, waiting for his chemo appointment. I lost my dad a few weeks after that, and I always think of him when I think of Cranbrook.

This time, the trip to Cranbrook was to compete in the Western Canadian/CBCA championships. I knew it would be hot, and that the sheep would be tough, and that Lou is just a wee bit out of shape (reference earlier blog posts about his rigourous, pre-championship training). On balance, I'm happy with how he did. The outrun was short (maybe 385 yards) but the drive was quite long.

Before I sent him on his second go, I looked down at him (he has this disconcerting habit of staring STRAIGHT INTO MY EYES when he's at the post) and I thought of all the times we've been here, of how much fun I've had on this journey with him. I kind of got teary and whispered "Thank you". His eyes went wide with confusion and he flipped around to look behind him. Clearly, he was thinking "Great, she's changed my whistles twice, and now she's come up with new verbals too! What the eff flank was that?!?" Moral of the story: don't get maudlin at the post - it ain't the time or place.

Got to watch some great dogs, shoot the shit with people I see only at these kind of trials, and engaged in my favourite past-time:  trailer mooching.  I managed to get quite a few drinks, and some cheese and other snacks.

I've got a ton of pics, which I'll post later. In the meantime, here's one of the collies, relaxing against the stunning backdrop that is Pine Butte Ranch.

Monday, August 22, 2011

RIP Jack Layton

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world. - Jack Layton

A Bronze Weekend

We went into PAC needing 2 gambles to complete Wick's ATChC.  We left PAC needing ... two gambles.  Drats!  I am starting to wonder if she might be approaching a record in terms of 'longest to ATChC'.  In fairness, she barely trialed the last 4 years but still!  Oh well, we'll just keep plugging away.

She did finish her Bronze Snooker and Bronze Steeplechase titles so that's ... something.  She also seems to have lost her contacts.  If you've seen them, please drop me a line.  We'll need them by the Spring please.

Rex was very enthusiastic.  I guess my thoughtful, quiet dog is gone forever.  He did some nice things this weekend, including a 90 degree turn off the dogwalk over a jump.  He also tried to take me out at the knees a few times, and seems to think the teeter is some sort of dock-diving prop.  So ... yeah.

Our friend, Nicki, stayed the weekend.  She brought the two shelties, Ninja and Ice, and Lou's nephew, FedX.

For the weekend, anyway, the border collie totem pole was 4 high.  :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tell Me Thursday for August 18

Here we go again!

1. Who is your newest dog? Where is he/she from, and why did you choose this particular dog/breeding? 
My newest dog is Rex, aka The Rexxon Valdez (hardly a new acquisition, he's 4 years old and been with me for a year and a half).  This little guy came from a friend in Evansburg, Alberta.  I chose him because said friend told me he was a really good dog.  :-)  I also wanted something from these lines - tough, Western Canadian stock dogs with perhaps more heart than sense.  His mother, Trax, goes back to  Elvin Kopp dogs on the top, and to Ken MacKenzie's good Rope dog on the bottom.  His father, Tweed, was out of Kelly (mother to Scott Glen's Pleat and Tala) by Peter Gonnet's Craig.   It is quite probable that the crazy goes back to the sire's side.  

2. What traits drew you to this dog or breeding?
I wanted a dog with plenty of come forward and that's what I've got!  I don't know that I've ever blown a walk-up whistle to this dog.  That he is a tri-colour is a bonus - I actually bought him sight unseen.   If only his ears were uppy, he would be perfect!

3. What's on your feet right now? 
Ah, my beloved Fit Flops!  They are my lay-about, go-to choice for the summer.  They are also hideous to look at, and shouldn't leave the house (which is fine because I'm on the couch).

4. What are you reading right now? 
I've started The Household Guide to Dying, by Debra Adelaide.  It's pretty funny for a book about a dying woman making lists to leave to her husband and two daughters.  It's set in Australia, and thus there are charming colloquialisms unique to the antipodes - love that!  Oh, and it was on sale at Chapters, which is the primary criteria for my book selection.

I recently finished Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhonda Janzen.  This seriously is one of the funniest books I've read.  Think of all of your childhood angst rooted in your families' weirdness.  Remember when your friends would come over and your mom would serve something vaguely ethnic?  Remember your embarrassment?  Her stories will put yours to shame!

5. What upcoming trials are you looking forward to? If you don't trial dogs I'll take whatever activity that you're looking forward to. 
Next week, we leave for the Western Canadian/CBCA Championships near Cranbrook, BC.  I'll be running Lou in what likely will be his last time at this event.  At 9, I'm starting to see him slowing down, and I don't know that I'm gonna keep asking him to go 600+ yards on a gather.  Lou has other opinions on this, of course, so who knows, maybe he'll run til he's in his teens.

My goal for this trial is to enjoy every moment of it.  Canadian handlers are a fairly unique bunch, which makes for a hilarious handler's tent.  There are folks that I see only at big events like this, and I'm much looking forward to the gossipping and wagering (oh yes, we bet on stuff).  But mostly, I want to do right by Lou, a dog who has literally carried me since I stepped to the post in the spring of 2006.  I know he doesn't read the scoreboard, or lay awake at night re-living the shame of a late whistle, but I would like to have 2 runs where I'm in the moment, focussed, and a holding up my end of the partnership.  I don't know what I'm going to wear though.  Amanda always has such nice outfits.  She sets the bar high.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... Lou?

Yes, it's Lou!  With very minimal training (like, I threw him over some jumps in the backyard two days before), Lou made his Jumpers debut at the ASCA Agility trial.

I think we can all agree that he is the Cutest Jumper Ever!

Then there's the Rexxon Valdez.  He is nothing if not enthusiastic.  Sometimes, though, enthusiasm can get you in trouble.  Witness Tire Fail™ .  These pictures are courtesy of Bob at Wild Hare Photography.  Thanks Bob!  And don't worry, Rex was just fine.  The side straps on the tire gave way as soon as he hit it.

And just to prove he's not a complete spaz, here are a few of his runs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tell Me Thursday for August 11

Brought to you by the good folks (ok, Laura) at Crooks and Crazies, even though she doesn't have me on her blog list.  :-)

In sheepdog training (or lets call it *any* type of training), how do you keep from taking yourself, your dog, your lack of progress too seriously?
Um, by not training?  :-)  No, that is not a responsible answer.  Think of something else.  Oh, a dog's life is so brief, we must treasure every single freakin' moment with them because soon they'll be dead.  No, too maudlin.  Drats.  Focus here.

OK, in agility, what one has to say/do to get a dog around a course should be enough to negate any seriousness from training.  My neighbours bear witness to this as they are subjected to a skinny chick and a barking dog running a little obstacle course in the backyard.   When your verbal cue for the dogwalk is "GIDDYUPGOGOGOGOGO", how seriously can you take it?

In herding, well, clearly I'm not serious because I still refer to it as 'herding' and not 'working stock'.  Sign 1 that you are not in the presence of a Serious Handler.   The one thing that I consistently care about in herding is the welfare of the sheep.  So long as our training doesn't involve subjecting the sheep to stress, then I figure we're doing ok.  Except lambs.  It's ok to torture lambs if it involves getting a good photo.

How many crates do you have? For reals.
For realz, I have three in the van, one extra crate in the garage (RIP Bear) and two soft crates that I use at agility trials.  So 6, for 3 dogs.  Oh, and 2 ex-pens, not sure if those count, but those are used for communal crating at agility trials.  I have no crates in the house.

How do you keep your dogs in shape?
This is an area in which I am ashamed!  I am not very good about this at all.  Let's see ... the dogs have a dogwalker who takes them on hikes 5 days a week.  Wick and Rex bomb around for a few hours on the hike, but Lou kind of trots with the dogwalkers.  I've been meaning to take them to the trails around here and running them but that would involve (a) getting off the couch and (b) running.

Last winter, I took the boys to a swimming place a couple times a month and I think I'll do that again.  Other than that, they play ball in the yard, 2 of them go to agility class weekly, and we do a little agility practice 2-3 times a week in the yard.

Who is your favorite movie/tv star eye candy at the moment?
Bradley Cooper.  Yummy!!!

Honourable Mention to Eric the Vampire:

What is your livestock situation? Have your own? Borrow? Herd the cats? (You can subsitute other equipment for livestock if you don't work stock with your dogs). 
Currently I have a lot of slugs.  I don't know why there are so many this year but it's added a new post-work activity:  slug stomping.  They have eaten my peppers and are setting their sights on my squash.  They will die.  Oh, and they don't flock well so we can't work them.

For sheep, I am terribly fortunate that my good friend with sheepies lives only 45 minutes from me.  I try and get out there once a week, and the boys work her sheep (and Lou occasionally gets to work the chickens).  To be honest though, my friend and I usually find an excuse not to work sheep, and we go plant shopping.  Not my fault, read preceding paragraph about marauding slugs.

Oh!  Hey!  I'm done!  Woot!  Cookie time!

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Road to Western Canadians

As part of Lou's rigourous prep for Western Canadians at the end of the month, we've signed up for three agility trials ... wait, what??  Lou says if anything goes sideways in Cranbrook, please note that while his peers were going to trials and working tough range ewes, he was here:

This was a nice local trial and we only competed on Sunday.  I just wanted to get Rex out of Starters Jumpers and maybe pick up another Standard.  Um ... fail!  In fact, Rex went 0/4.  Still, he did some nice things, and I am really happy with his contacts.  Each trial, though, he is getting louder and faster.  The latter is good, the former is driving me nuts.  For the umpteenth time, I will declare:  I should do something about the barking.

And then there's the Wickens.  She had 5 very nice runs, though she only Q'ed in 1.  In each of the others, she had one mistake.  Still, she's running really well and is obviously getting my hopes up for next year.  If things continue this way, Wick will get better and better until about 2 weeks before Nationals, at which time she will develop a crippling phobia of either the teeter or the dogwalk (or maybe both - yay!!).  Ah Wick, how you test me.  In anticipation of this, I have bought her a Thundershirt and several gallons of Rescue Remedy.

So while she's running well, let's throw the video superstition out the window and show some of her runs, and Rex's too.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Tell Me Thursday

Laura at Crooks and Crazies has this Tell Me Thursday thing and since I have nothing else for the blog because I think this is going to be both fun and informative, here goes my mine.

(1) How did you get into border collies (or whatever your dogs of choice are)? What started it all? 
The year was 1999.  It was a balmy spring ... wait, what?  Oh, the short version.  OK, my boyfriend broke up with me and I was so traumatized that I decided to make a radical change in my life.  The choices were cut my hair short or adopt a dog.  I like long hair.  Therefore, I went to my local SPCA and adopted Bear, aka The Best Dog Ever.

Bear sent me down the path of dog sports and Being A Crazy Dog Lady.  After a few years, I decided Bear needed a friend and I sought to adopt a rescue Aussie.  There weren't many in rescue at the time, so I expanded the search to include rescue border collies.  Enter ... The Wickens.

While she was not without her challenges, she and Bear became fast friends, and were inseparable for the next 8 years.

It was around this time that my obsession with Photoshop began too.

Because Wick is a border collie, I was told she probably would like to work sheep.  I mean what border collie wouldn't?  The answer - Wick!  She had no interest in working sheep and 9+ years later, still doesn't.  But Bear liked it, so we started that.  After years (literally) of trying to get my dog to lie down, stop, or even acknowledge me on the field, I admitted that he probably wasn't going to cut it as a sheep dog.  I really liked working stock though.  Hmmm ... 

I had an opportunity to buy a trained dog who was closely related to many dogs that I admired.  His name was Lou, and he became my partner in this crazy journey of One Girl and Her Dog.  Lou has carried me through the past 5 years of trialing and has shown me a whole new world.  He also is really lazy and likes to be lifted onto the bed.

Oh, and this is Rex.  He's insane.

(2) How many dogs do you have? All dog math variations accepted.
Three.  One girl dog, two boy dogs.  I like this number.  They fit in one ex-pen.  I can walk 3 while drinking a coffee.  They fit nicely in a van.  Also, it's the max number you're allowed in my city and I'm kind of a law and order buff.

(3) What do you do for a day job? 
I'm a project manager at a technology company.  This involves a set of complex tasks and skills.  At a very high level, a project manager:
  • Makes a list of things to do
  • Identifies the resource responsible for each task
  • Identifies the date that the task should end
  • Assigns blame when the deadline comes and goes.  This may involve naming and shaming not just the resource but his/her entire business unit.  I really enjoy my work and feel I was born to do this.

(4) What questions would you like to answer (or ask)? 
I'm not sure what this means.  Maybe that's the question I would like to ask!

(5) What was for dinner last night?
Let's see ... I guess it could be described as rotini with a ragu sauce.  The sauce was a concatenation of the previous day's pulled pork and a jar of Newman's Own Marinara sauce.  And then I had a Diet Dr Pepper and three popsicles.  'Cause it's summer.