And….we’re back!

Have you ever looked at the calendar in July and realized it’s already October?  Well, maybe not, but that’s how fast our summer blazed by.  Quite literally.  This girl is not a fan of 100 degree temps and is glad to welcome hats, jackets and hot cocoa weather.

So.  Without further ado…gratuitous puppy shot!  Oh wait, he’s not really a puppy, anymore.  Okay, <ahem> gratuitous Dogwalk shot!  Oh, dogwalk, how do my Merlies love thee?

DesMan or SuperMan? You decide.

If that didn’t give it away, I’ll be blunt…  Desmond is following his older brother’s paw prints and is learning running contacts.  While Des is not a big boy in the doggy world, he’s a lot bigger than Dunc, and strides like he expects to go into flight.  But since I enjoy a challenge (and banging my head against hard objects) I decided to give running contacts with Des a shot.  Holy guacamole, Batman, this kid’s got wings!

4.5 months in the making…in the spirit of “dude, pics or it didn’t happen“, here you go:

Look mama, no feet!

Today was a banner day.  We’ve spent the last two weeks learning how to glue rubber onto a dogwalk.  It involved several days of sanding (belt sanders are tools sent straight from hell), and then several more days of gluing.  My fingers may never be the same again since a combo of sandpaper and glue has removed my fingerprints, but we debuted the finished dogwalk today.  (and maybe my life of crime??)  First time with slats, first time with rubber, and first time at 33″.  This is what Des thought of his newly improved contact:

I think that’s a big “Whoo Hoo” from the DesMonster.

 

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Happy Birthday, Desmond!

DuncanDes…Des one year old.  Dude!  You got big!

One year ago, on the night of a monster full moon, little Desmond was the first of seven blue merle pups in his litter to arrive.  This once in a blue moon boy is a funky mix of sweet and funny, and so full of himself he makes me laugh out loud every single day.  I adore him with a capital “A”.

He was a cute little bugger when he came home to us.  Duncan wasn’t convinced of his charms, but Des just jumps into your world and heart (and up to your eyebrows) with unapologetic zeal.  Even serious Dunc decided he was okay and plays with him…as long as he doesn’t see anyone watching.

Desmond, 8 weeks

That cute little baby has turned into a handsome young man.  I find his sticky-uppy, slightly floppy ears about the most adorable thing ever invented and hope they are here to stay.  He will tilt them forward when he’s curious or happy, and they slam straight back for aerodynamic advantage when racing Duncan.

Des has one heck of a sense of humor.  At least once a day he turns into a nuclear powered freakazoid and may just slow the spin of the Earth with his lapping of the yard.  He’s a well-traveled road warrior, able to turn magazines into Des-origami, and a power shopper of any unsupervised bag of dog toys and goodies.  He can silently leap onto the counter, delicately removing whatever forbidden booty he can abscond with.  Des-Cat, indeed.

 

In the past year, Des and I have spent many hours out in the field, learning to become a team, and laughing together (sometimes with me on my butt and him flying into my lap) when I don’t hold up that end of the bargain.  He attacks every new thing I throw at him with good humor and nothing less than 100% supercharged attitude.  We’re pretty sure Lucy shared her sass and zeal with him, and it’s so nice to still have that Attitude in the house.

Here’s a video of some of our recent work:

Happy Birthday baby Des!  May you have many, MANY more!  I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

Des-es still have springs!

 

 

MACH Duncan!

MACH Dunkie!
Photo by Randy Gaines

On July 8th, Duncan finished his MACH AKC Agility Champion title in Farmington Utah. It’s taken me a little while to attempt to find the words to describe how special this journey has been with my amazing little boy.

Here is our MACH run…I can remember every step of it.

Duncan is a sweet little soul and was often shy and tentative especially early in our agility career.   If not for the kindness and camaraderie of my agility friends (especially sharing their Trial from Hell stories) I doubt we would have made it past our first out of town AKC trial.  But persevere we did.   Dunc learned to trust that I’d keep him safe, and in turn, he’d put on his Brave Pants and fly around the ring, rocking five states worth of dogwalks along the way.

Running a dog like Dunc is never boring, and is usually comprised of one part foretelling the future, one part randomly changing motivation, and one part rolling with whatever he dishes out.  But that’s the magic of Dunkie…have patience, hang in there, make sure your shoes are tied on, and a brilliant little boy often emerges.   I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and am grateful for all the lessons my Super D has taught me.

With judge Tim Pinneri, Photo By Randy Gaines

When the Canine Partners program allowed us to play in 2010, we were off and running!  He earned his first QQ at our fifth trial, and he finished his MACH 16 months later.  All but six of our 750 speed points were earned without multipliers.  At first, they came a few at a time, but as our confidence grew with each other, we really began to rack them up.

Dunc brought me into the world of agility.  He forgave me while I was learning how to handle, and gamely tried anything new I threw at him.   He grinned at me while I laughed at his antics, and he’d curl up in my lap and sigh as if to say “it’s going to be okay” when the going got tough. We traveled with friends, we traveled alone, he stealthily robbed many pockets of their cookies…but through it all, Duncan has been my unwavering little buddy…my co-pilot and sharer of pillows and ice cream.

Duncan has taught me so much about love and patience, perseverance and trust.  He showed me time and time again that to get to our destination, we needed to enjoy the journey – to find the joy on each and every run.  And so, standing at the gate before our MACH run, I wasn’t going over the course in my head – – I was whispering in Dunc’s ear:  “If you run like I know you can, you get to run the dogwalk again!”  He did, so we did!

This is what Duncan’s MACH means to me:  It’s a written record, a testament of the time and effort, the faith and trust that it took to get us here…and the honor I feel to call this fantastic, smart and funny little boy my teammate.   I treasure memories of each run along the way – from the wavering to the solid, to the speedy and spectacular.

I always believed in you, Duncan.  Thank you for believing in me, too.

And We Have Liftoff…

Summer has arrived.  With it has come the heat and the bugs, the sunscreen and the dorky wide-brimmed hats.  And the glorious long evenings.  Dunc and Des are putting them to good use.

Des doing Des stuff.

Since Desmond was a fall baby, and missed last summer’s heat,  I’ve been slowly introducing him to water.  After an inaugural run through the sprinklers, Des, following puppy tradition, quickly found the nearest towel to dry off with.  Too bad the towel was in the form of my shirt, and I was wearing it at the time.  That was refreshing!

Is there nothing better than a good roll in the wet grass?

The Double D’s love a good game of fetch.  Several months ago, I observed that Desmond, while full of unbridled initiative at trying to catch a thrown ball, lacks a little something in the accuracy department.  While he’s certainly breaking free of the earth’s gravitational field while launching himself into orbit, he’s still not entering the same solar system as the ball he’s aiming at.  Duncan, who just earned his 8th degree black belt in catching is not fooled by the acrobatic insanity of his baby brother.

We have liftoff!

Houston, we have a problem…

In the meantime, Duncan and I have some pretty exciting times in our near future.  Twenty six points now stand between us and our MACH, with our next trial swiftly approaching.  I feel so honored to have this brilliant little boy as my teammate and teacher, who has taught me boatloads along the way.  Thank you, Super D.

Double Q # 20

Over the weekend, Duncan reached a milestone in his AKC agility career, and earned his 20th Double Q.   We finished those 20 QQs about 14 months after moving into Excellent B and becoming eligible to start earning them.

For my non-agility friends, in AKC agility, a Double Q is earned when you qualify on both the Standard and Jumpers With Weaves courses on the same day.  One speed point is earned for every second under standard course time you finish a course.  To earn your Master of Agility Champion (MACH, or AKC Agility Champion) title, you must earn 20 QQs and rack up 750 speed points.  It’s a long road, no matter how you drive it, and daily double perfection on the agility field is an exercise in practice, focus and determination.

Photo by Randy Gaines

We’re not quite done yet.  Dunc has exactly 100 speed points left to go before he earns his MACH title.  But completing the QQ requirement was a huge accomplishment/relief for me.  Now, we’ll step to the line together with speed and fun as our goal (because if Dunc is having fun, he’s pretty darned speedy).  Doesn’t it look like he has a big Dunkie grin on his face in the picture below?

And another fantastic pic from Randy Gaines

To brag on my little boy a bit more, over a three day trial last weekend he earned three QQs (bringing the total to 21) and 2 QQQs, having qualified in the FAST distance class twice.  I am so proud of my Teammate, and best buddy, Duncan.

With three more trials scheduled in the next month, I think the Little Dog that Could is going to become the Little Dog that Did!  Stay tuned…

I hope to cease being the absent blogger soon.  If I were a UPS driver, it would be the holiday shipping season, if I were an accountant, it would be April 15th…my season of training baby firefighters how to throw dirt is a lot longer and busier than you’d think it should be!  But once they go off and do what they are trained to do, I’ll return to my rambling ways.

But in the meantime, we’re celebrating each milestone as it comes!

Thanks for the bubbly, my Big Aussie friend. Now, to find some Peeps to go with…

The Little Dog That Could…Fly.

It has been a long couple weeks in DuncanDes land, as all of us are adjusting to a life without out little Frenchie girl.  But, if Lucy taught us anything, it is to live life to its fullest, to get out of the armchair and into the yard (or even better, the mountains or canyons)…to snork in the flowers and crawl in the new grass, and above all – love your pups and people as much as you can.  Lou, we miss you so much, but you as always, would be right.

Would you like to share your supper?

So on the note of doing things you love, how about an update of Dunc’s Running Contacts?

Image by Great Dane Photos, 2012, used with permission.

Duncan, Desmond, Angus and I spent the weekend at the BARC Spring NADAC trial this past weekend.  I couldn’t think of a better place to be, and NADAC courses are beautifully made for pushing the speed on our running contacts.  That was our goal for the weekend:  Fast.  Happy.  And Confident.  I’d say we were successful.

Duncan and I have been working on his running contacts for about a year now.  I don’t admit to being the most diligent at working these throughout our trialling season last year, so it’s been a long road.  Last fall, I started to see progress, and began to push him in trials, moving from a barely managed run-through-the-contact-please-don’t-jump hope for the best method to the independent contacts in this weekend’s video.   We’re still not done, still have yet to work full height at home, but through trial and error (and a pile of cookies) he’s learning to find his striding on his own.  And as a result, instead of Shy Dunc, we have Super Confident Fly over the Apex Duncan, showing more speed throughout the entire course.

While true running contacts aren’t very common in my area yet, I know the word is out and there are several good agility folks contemplating training them.  While I am in no way an expert, I have whacked away at this project for many moons, and have learned a thing or two along the way.  In my finite wisdom, here is what I have figured out:

1)  Running contacts, true running contacts (with no management) are a lot of time and effort.  Prepare for many months of foundation training, trial and error, and a steep learning curve no matter what method you choose.  Two on/two off is a heck of a lot clearer as a criteria, but if you have good reasons, RCs can be the right choice.

2) If retraining a dog who had stopped contacts, prepare for failure in the ring.  If you are currently trialling, you’ll lose some Qs while you both figure it all out.

3) Running contacts are not just for World Team competitors.  I chose RCs because Duncan found stopping at the bottom of the contacts to be a real bummer, and I wanted to find a better way to keep his motivation high.  We are learning Sylvia Trkman’s method, because she recognizes RCs can be highly motivating for tentative dogs and drivey dogs alike.  I think this may be the case for all the other great RC training methods out there, but Sylvia is highly supportive of all speeds and size of dog, which was important to me.

4) During early training, a pivotal moment was being told we didn’t need RCs because Dunc wasn’t yet confident enough to run the contacts full out.  Nothing digs me in deeper than being told I can’t do something, and I’m even more stubborn when told Dunc can’t do it.  Inspiration can be found in random places…take it, run with it, and believe in your dog.

5) No matter what criteria you choose for your contacts, if you believe it’s right for you and your dog as a team, then go for it.  Deciding to abandon a 2o2o and train a RC was a leap of faith for Dunc and me, and maybe I was just stubborn enough, and Dunc trusting enough to make it work.  We still have a ways to go, but so far, so good.

Photo by Randy Gaines

It’s been a heck of an adventure, full of jumps and leaps and finally, YES finally, feet down a little more often than not. I couldn’t have chosen a better teammate to learn with.  Duncan is truly the Little Dog That Could.

Lucy: 2003-2012. Adieu Sweet Girl

Earlier this week, we lost our Frenchie, Lucy, a constant source of joy in our lives.  After nearly nine years of ruling our house in her sassy, happy way, she had a sudden series of seizures that only worsened.  After a series of tests, we brought her home.  Four days later, with her boys and family around her, she left us peacefully.  She was only a few months short of her ninth birthday, and our beloved girl was taken from us far too soon.

But Lucy would tell me to stop being a drag and to celebrate the joy that she embodied every day of her life.  She’d probably bark in my ear, crawl into my lap and demand that I stop being such a bummer.  Let me share her story…

Lucy came to us by air, flown in from her breeder.  My first glimpse of her was in her travel crate; beating on the front door, clearly shouting “Let me OUT!!”  She launched into my arms, a tiny bundle of black and white fur, with waving feet and endless kisses.  She flew into our lives and proceeded to run amuck, leaving nothing but laughter and love in her wake.

We very carefully introduced her to our two Boxer boys, Sinjin and Angus, both 90+ pound bruisers compared to the 4-pound baby girl.  Sinjin sniffed at her with indifference and went back to his nap.  Angus took one look at her and fell head over paws in love.  (I needed no explanation of imprinting in the Twilight books…I’d seen it firsthand)  He was besotted with her from that moment, never again apart from her for more than a few hours.  I worried that Angus, the proverbial bull in a china shop would accidentally trample on this tiny girl.  Never fear…while Angus steps on everyone else daily, I never once saw him set a foot on his girl.   In fact, I’m certain he once took a direct hit from a skunk on her behalf.  They’d raced off across the field in hot pursuit, but I only heard Lucy barking.  I can imagine Angus, flinging himself bodily in between Lucy and the skunk saying ‘noooooooooo’ in a slow motion voice.  Poor guy, when wet he smelled of skunk for almost a year, but always seemed to be doing things like that for his Lucy.

Lucy soon took her place as ruler of the pack and our family.  She loved puppies and old dogs, and always kept our little pack in harmony.   In a lifetime of living with dogs, she has been my only girl, and was truly the beloved Queen Bee of our family.

She was a firecracker, a direct blast of ears and attitude, and everyone was powerless to do anything but adore her.  She especially loved Angus, popcorn, red wine and throwing her shoulder into her brothers to watch them go spinning over her (it’s a bulldog thing).  If you blew a raspberry, she’d roll over and wave her feet, asking you blow the next one on her tummy.

Lucy absolutely loved to hike.  When we would put on her purple pick-her-up-if-she-gets-stuck harness and her I’m-not-a-coyote bandanna, she would start to dance, those little white feet beating a pattern on the truck seat all the way into the hills.   She’s probably the only Frenchie to have gone backpacking to the bottom of Neon canyon in the Escalante, to the top of the Sawtooths or wading in the high lakes of the Trinities.  Most nights, even though she had her own backpacking sweater, she would wind up snuggled with my husband in his sleeping bag.  She also adored going chukar hunting in the Owyhees, grinning her big bulldog grin while riding sandwiched between my husband and I on the ATV ride down.

She was a noisy little creature, and the house seems too quiet without her.  She’d bark at falling leaves, or farting grasshoppers, riling up the other pups in the process, leading the charge to attack invisible phantoms.  Every now and then, I would catch her standing in the living room, barking at nothing, just to get the other dogs to come downstairs and bark with her.  I swear she’d wink at me at these times as if to say:  boys are soooo gullible!  She snored like a buzzsaw, snorking and snorting through the night, only relieved by her love of diving under the covers in the early morning.  She would curl up in the small of my back…and while I couldn’t hear her quite so clearly, it was like napping with a pleasantly furry two-cycle engine.

Lucy was unapologetically friendly, never having met a stranger she couldn’t charm.  She was the Jedi master of bulldozing her way into the hearts of just about anyone she met, accumulating many non-dog people as her ardent fans.  She was just irresistible that way, never taking no for an answer, relentlessly working on a new person until she had them wound around her little paw just like everyone else.

And wound around her paw we will remain.  Lucy was special.  As my father (completely smitten with her) said,

“Lucy spent her entire life making everyone around her happy.  What a great way to have lived.”

I couldn’t say it better.  Lucy, our little Frog-Dog, you have forever left your little paw prints all over our hearts.  You lived your life to the fullest each and every day, in your unapologetically happy way, always willing to share a snork and a kiss, and always willing to hop into my lap for popcorn and a stolen nip of red wine.

I hope she’s sitting on that big couch in the sky with her brother, Sinjin, waiting to join us on the next family hiking adventure.  Lucy, we miss you terribly.  For us, the world is a little dimmer, but we will always remember you with a smile.  Thank you for sharing your life…and your sassy Frenchie love with us.