The DesMan At Work

Des and I began Sylvia Trkman’s Agility Foundation course last month.  It’s been a good experience so far, albeit at a pace I’d describe as slightly faster than frenetic.  Part of my lack of posting lately is because I come home from my job and then go to work.  Des and I will go through a skill, then I’ll edit video and catch up on course reading.  Somewhere in there, Dunc and I try to stir up a little dust in the field, and then I spend some time reminding the rest of my family what I look like!  Thank goodness my husband understands time-consuming hobbies.  (By the way, Sweetie, I think the mail guy kicked another 70 lb block of lead out in our driveway…)

Until recently, Des had never done more than three obstacles in a row.  I’ve spent most of our time working mainly on foundation and focus, just with me.  I haven’t shared a lot of Des video to date mainly because I wanted to allow him the time to find his feet, to help him decide if chasing around a field of obstacles was his idea of fun.  This short sequence was part of our current lesson.  I think my boy may have found his feet!

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Snow Day with the Snow Monsters

For those of you who have little brothers, ’nuff said.  For those that don’t, never fear, about a nanosecond after I took this shot, Des turned on the afterburners and opened up a sizable lead on the bitey one.

We’ve been quiet this week.  To keep our summary short, Duncan and I had far too many visits to the vet, apparently to test how high my blood pressure can go.  Let’s just say we’re thankful for dog doctors who love their work, and are more than willing to take enough time to get to the bottom of a problem.  We begin this week feeling optimistic, and looking forward to getting seriously ripped on our therapy bosu ball.  (To provide clarification; Duncan will be the one getting ripped, I will provide moral support and motivation in the form of cookies).

It’s been a dry winter here, so after a recent snow, the pups threatened to mutiny if they didn’t get to go and romp in it.  Des tried to play keep-away with everyone, but he’s far faster than the other pups now…so he spent a lot of time looping around re-engaging the game of chase.  With all the training we do, sometimes it’s just fun to watch them be goofy together.   I hope you enjoy their antics as much as I did!

Lucy, our Frog Dog, hit the snow to show the boys how it’s done.  Allez, allez, ALLEZ!!  Go go GO!  Tres magnifique, ma petite choux.

And then Des hit a Bulldog Speed Bump.

Even Angus, AKA the Big Red Truck (named for obvious reasons) joined the fun.  For a ten and a half year old Boxer, he’s still got some go.  You can see Des wisely pace him and not attempt to pass.  Sometimes the Big Red Truck gets overly excited and loses a wheel.

Des:  “Play with me!  PLAAAAY with me!!”

Either that, or he’s practicing levitation.  In that case…Wingardium Leviosa!

At the end of the day, everybody crashed with their respective blankies, having had a blast outside.  Angus, our old boy, fell asleep with a big Boxer grin on his face.  And I got an hour of solace with two merlies passed out in my lap.  A pretty good end to a pretty fine day.

All four. In one picture. I'm so lucky I should buy a lottery ticket!

February and We’re Off to the Races!

Duncan and I would like to share a few of our favorite runs from the February Lizard Butte KC AKC agility trial from about a week ago.  I’d meant to post these earlier, but the Plague of 2012 (AKA a common cold) took me down for several days.  On a positive note, I caught up on my backlog of National Geographics.  Nothing like a mega-dose of geo-nerdy goodness to pass a semi-concious afternoon!

Our judge for the weekend, Debby Wheeler, will also be a judge at Nationals in Reno.  She threw a few ‘national level’ challenges into each course.  Friday’s Standard course had a fun little twist at the end with a back-side finish jump.  Many, many dogs had successful runs and thundered around the last bend to the finish, only to fall victim to that last jump by taking it in the wrong direction.

Here is our run on that course…Dunc fired up as soon as his feet left the table.  I knew I needed to buckle my seat belt and tighten my shoelaces for the dogwalk-to-finish section, and Dunc didn’t disappoint.  I ran this section flat-out to encourage him to go, and GO he did!

Friday’s JWW course had a nice flow to it.  Dunc ran it smoothly, at a nice speed, and I believe we got a first.  What I like most is I managed to stay out of his way and not do any crosses to cause him to hesitate.   He did puzzle a bit over my blind cross at the beginning, but like a seasoned competitor, chalked it up to handler randomness and kept going.

Our running contacts still have some way to go, but there was definite progress at this trial.  Dunc is driving harder than he did just a few months ago, and as a result is learning to adjust his striding.  Retraining contacts has definitely been an exercise in patience (and quite possibly sheer stubbornness) but has definitely been one heck of an interesting ride.

Little Merlies By Any Other Name…

The other day, I received an email from the AKC Canine Partner program manager.  She saw that Duncan and I had qualified for the National Agility Championships, and was collecting bios on the teams who are going.   How very cool, I thought, always ready to brag on my boy, I sat down to describe our agility journey.  And I got stuck.

Super D!

You see, Duncan is registered in the AKC Canine Partners program.  Since he’s a Mini Aussie, he was unable to play in AKC agility until 2010 when they opened performance events up to all dogs, in addition to breeds already recognized by the AKC.

Here’s the twist; about a year into our AKC journey, his breed parent club decided to become and was accepted as a new AKC recognized breed.  Without going into a lot of extra political discussion, that breed needed a new name.  So, the club voted, and Miniature American Shepherd was agreed upon.  Okaay…

Being a believer in karma and good ju-ju and not wanting to mess up a nice run of good trials, I decided to keep Dunc in the Canine Partner program as we were already building MACH points and Double Q’s by this time.  I didn’t want to take the smallest chance of losing our hard-earned points.  And so, we qualified for Nationals.  Whoo hoo!

But when I tried to describe him on our bio, what do I call him ?  A Mini Aussie?  Certainly he is, but that’s not an AKC breed, and I want to be respectful at an AKC event.  Mini American?  Technically, he could be, but I haven’t submitted the paperwork to change his registry, and I’m a technically correct kind of gal.  All American or Mixed Breed? (as we are called on our handler stickers) That’s fine and dandy, but since he’s not (see above technical nerd reference) it sticks with me a little, just like being described as from Iowa, instead of Idaho.  I find the whole situation pretty darned funny, since Duncan is still Duncan, and most people still refer to him as a Mini Aussie.  Will I ever move Dunc to the Mini American registry?  I may, or I may just let it be.  As long as I get to play agility with my boys, I’m happy.  And we will continue to confuse the gate stewards who are looking for that “All American” in the run order.  FYI: in a 12″ class of almost 200 dogs at Nationals, he’ll be the only one.

And maybe Dunc will stay in the Partners program to keep Des company.  Again, without getting into the breed politics too much, at the request of his breeder, Des will remain a Mini Aussie by registry, and will not be considered a Mini American.

In my mind and my heart, my boys are Mini Aussies, mostly because that’s how I identified with them first.  And keeping in mind how I feel about my boys, perhaps that’s how I’ll write Duncan’s bio.  He is my four-year old heart-dog, my first agility partner and teammate.  Yes, I know I’m cheesy.  I’m good with it.

 

This is bor-ing! Lets PLAY!!

But if AKC is looking for suggestions, I have one:  please consider replacing the words “All American” or “Mixed Breed” on your entry forms, gate sheets and handler arm bands with your own officially designated name for the program:  Canine Partner.   And let us run with our partners, pure and simple, for the joy of it.

Are we done yet? Can we got play NOW?

That's more like it!

And lastly, Dunc had a lovely trial last weekend, earning another QQ.  Des came with us, and was beautifully behaved crated next to his big (or should I say – older) brother.

 

Cleared for Takeoff

Desmond’s adolescent ears are a constant entertainment, and I adore them!  Each day they’re a little different, but more often than not, they standing at attention with the ends flopped over like this.  All he needs for takeoff is a magic feather.

I don't know what they're going to do, either!

Every once in a while, he strikes a pose with that long neck and standy-uppy ears that reminds me of an alpaca.  Then he hunkers down into a pouncing stance that reminds me alarmingly of a velociraptor.  Remember those from that dinosaur movie?  For years, I got the willies walking through fields of tall grass, waiting to be ambushed by one of those Jurassic suckers.  Thank goodness my VelociDes only pounces on his toys, then turns back into a happy little puppy.

An Aussie or alpaca...?

Ears aside, and despite standing slightly uphill of Duncan in this picture, it’s clear that Des has shot past his brother in height.  Duncan is starting to take advantage of this, as evidenced by him running under the couch today with Des in hot pursuit.  Dunc disappeared with his ball.  Des bounced off the couch.  Bummer!

Des continues to prove his legs are made of springs.  This is his normal fetching technique.  Instead of sitting still and waiting for the ball to come down to earth, Des launches himself into orbit to meet the toy.  His challenge is learning how to launch into the same orbit as the toy…

Duncan, who holds a PhD in fetching, finds this behavior horribly inefficient, but entertaining whenever his brother ends up off piste.

Dude, you're landing in the landscaping!

But mostly, the boys and I are enjoying the winter sunshine as often as possible.  Soon enough things will get busy as the gophers and weeds once again get rowdy, and our trialling season gets underway.  The long, cold nights watching old movies and Top Gear reruns with both merlies curled up on my lap will give way to evenings pulling weeds, moving irrigation hose and working 2x2s.   It’s a reminder to slow down, enjoy the moment, and hit ‘play’ on the remote again.

“Sempai, why are we lying down on this wood thing?”

Because it is so, young one, because it is so.  Mama gives us cookies for the oddest things, so just roll with it.”

Look, we're touching. Reward us!

The Flying Aussie and a Great Cause

Pretty, but don’t touch!

This past weekend, Duncan and I traded the sleeting skies of Idaho for the sunny ones of Arizona to run at a trial and visit a dear friend.  The timing was perfect.  You see, just like my Boxer, I’m convinced that when it rains, I’ll melt (although I don’t claim to be made of sugar like he does).  So after one of the driest winters on record, the day we left, the skies had opened and we got out of town.  The difference this time, is that we flew to this trial, a first for both of us.

It’s a good thing that airport security doesn’t screen for high pulse rates, because I was so nervous to get everything right, that I was amazed I didn’t keel over right there in line after throwing my shoes in the plastic bin.  Many, many thanks to the website Dog Jaunt for all the fantastic information on flying with a small dog, and my husband for getting me through check in.  I knew my carrier (a large SturdiBag) would fit perfectly on a Southwest 737, and indeed, it did.  Dunc was a fantastic little traveler, and fit in his little bag just fine thanks to his ability to bend like a wet noodle.

Dunc under the airplane seat.

The trial was fantastic.  Duncan, amazing Duncan most definitely got his brave on.  In a completely new place on weird footing (some sort of tentacle-like dormant grass) after being stuffed in a bag and going up and down until his ears popped, he came out swinging, and ran two of his fastest runs, ever.  He also earned his very first QQQ.  Rock on little man!

This is quite possibly the coolest chute ever invented.  Not only is it covered in flames that Duncan’s Wildfire blazed through, but it’s wonderfully, perfectly, terrifically, and shockingly SHORT!  The new shorter chute length is a winner in Dunc’s book.

Here’s Dunc’s run on the Saturday Standard course…another diabolical creation courtesy of judge Dan Butcher.  Love these technically challenging courses, and after three trials this year under this judge, we’re drifting dangerously close to being DB groupies.

This trial was part of a large group of dog sporting events held at the Paws for a Cure event, a fundraiser for the Canine Cancer foundation.  This foundation is near and dear to my heart, since we lost our first beloved boy Boxer, Sinjin to cancer, and Angus is a survivor. My trialling partner in crime runs a Boston who is also a survivor, so we made sure to visit the Foundation booth, where I made a memorial heart for Sinjin.

Sinjin, my old soul and beloved friend.

On Sunday, they stopped the trial, and smack in the middle of the rings, the Foundation held a ceremony to celebrate those buddies we’ve lost to this disease.  They read the Rainbow Bridge poem, and one of the foundation’s founders asked me to place Sinjin’s heart on the wall first, quickly followed by dozens of other hearts.  It was an amazing moment, standing there, tears streaming down my face, in a crowd of people doing the same.  Not one person there was ashamed of crying visibly for friends we had lost, and I had one of those beautifully clear life moments.  These are my people, and I’m so proud and thankful to have been among them on this special day.

The Canine Cancer Foundation Memorial Wall

Sweet Sinjin. You are missed.

Of course, trialling is also about being with friends, new and old, fuzzy and non-fuzzy.  Dunc was thrilled to have a weekend away from Baby Brother Des, and reveled in the company of one of his favorite people friends and dog friend.   Sweet Mully even ran with me on the FAST course, and thankfully, we upheld her amazing QQQ streak.  (Whew!)

We are cute. Feed us. Now.

All in all, the weekend was a blast.  Lovely weather, fantastic company (thanks, G!!) and running with the best and sweetest teammate a girl could ask for.  A Ferrari dealer on the way to the trial grounds was just a bonus…after all, I do love a parking lot filled with sexy Italians.

Parting thought…maybe this kid really knows how to have a blast...

The 2012 Adventures Begin

Des 5 months, Dunc 4 years

Baby Desmond is now five months old.  He now tips the scales at 14.4 pounds, a gain of about three pounds over the last month.  As in previous months, most of that gain has been in legs.  One of these days I hope his legs will slow down, or I’m going to have a baby merle giraffe on my hands.  He does put those wheels to good use while doing hot laps around the yard.

Wheeeee!

He is most definitely a handsome little dude, a whirlwind of flying ears, waving paws, and endless wiggles.  We’re currently working on things that he finds extraordinarily boring, yet gamely humors me; sit stays, sitting by an open door before being released to imitate a Dakar rally car in the yard, and only jumping shoulder-high by invitation.  (This last one is just too tough, I often find yodeling Des bouncing alongside while I’m filling the dinner dishes.  This wouldn’t be odd, except that I’m standing upright, and he’s clearing the height of the countertops).

Duncan, on the other hand, is about to begin a new year of trialling, and it’s looking to be momentous.  We have a few trials to warm up for Nationals in March, which will be a fantastic experience.  We’re working on improving his running contacts, and my challenge is learning to get him around the course in a way that keeps him off his brakes and driving forward.

Duncan, I am thankful to you for your sunny grin, and for helping me find a better and more positive way to get there with you.  Let’s rock the house this year!

My view while freestyle heeling with Dunc. A big grin!

Lets get this show on the road!  The drive to our first trial of the year is easy, however the commute is waaaay different!  Stay tuned…

Leavin' on a jet plane...