Got Bubbles?

If your house looks anything like mine, you have a few boxes stacked in the corner of the room, the fruits of your internet holiday shopping.  (Thank you Al Gore for inventing the internet so I never have to brave the mall.  Ever.)  And in those stacks of cardboard, you’ve probably got some bubble wrap.  Those fun little bubbles, along with those industrial sized bubbles that are about the size of a hot dog bun.

Why do I mention bubble wrap?  Here’s my training tip of the week, courtesy of my Boxer, Angus.  You see, Angus loves bubble wrap.  If he even sees the stuff, he gets all excited and drools (because Anguses drool when they’re excited) and starts jumping up and down.  Mind you, Angus weighs about 95 pounds, so when something of his size starts imitating a pogo stick, the little dogs scatter.  Me, too.  The Pogo Stick sometimes crashes into things.  Anyway, bubble wrap.  His favorite are the silver dollar sized bubbles.  He’ll take off with a sheet of those reminding me of the fish from Finding Nemo…”bubbles…MY bubbles!” and chomps them into oblivion, each pop further punctuating his joy.

I'm a pogo stick, too!!

Des watched Angus, then rocketed my way and latched onto a wad of the little bubble wrap I had in my hand.  He was a maniac, tugging harder than he ever has, towing me around the room.  It’s definitely not stuff you want to leave the pups alone with, but supervised, you just can’t beat bubble wrap for entertainment.  Or so I thought…

I know several dogs that are afraid of loud noises; fireworks and gunshots being the worst offenders.  Given that I live in the sticks, gunfire isn’t an odd thing to hear in the neighborhood, especially right after the fall bird season opens.  Most of the places we practice agility around the valley are close enough to fields or the river to have lots of random banging going on.  And most of us find out that our dogs have a problem with it when it’s too late…when we find a cowering, shivering, terrified little furball hiding under the bed.  At that point, things like Thundershirts and cranking the TV volume can help, but with my puppies, I really try to desensitize them to banging early in life.

Usually, that means I ask my husband to take his shotgun for a hike with the new baby, something he’s more than happy to do.  He’ll walk a fair distance away and bang a couple of times while I feed and praise the pup.  Then he keeps walking back towards us, intermittently shooting every fifty yards or so.  Maybe I’ve been lucky, but we’ve never had a dog  react badly to noise after the shotgun/puppy hike.

Well, with Des, we just haven’t had the opportunity to take that hike in the desert.  Oddly enough, the reason is because my husband is off banging away at the range most weekends doing his sport, generally returning with a big grin of his own.  So I’ve improvised.  I walked Des all around while my husband was using the nail gun on our shed.  That worked well, because the air compressor would also unexpectedly go off with a whoosh.  But how often can you bank on someone nailing something when you need it most?

And so I return to the bubble wrap.  I was going to cut the big hot dog bun sized wrap to let the air out so I could get rid of it, when Angus made off with his own bubbles, and it gave me an idea.  I got a handful of kibble, took my wrap to the hardwood floor, and started stomping.  At first, Des skittered off, barking.  But the other dogs were dancing around, so he came back out and got PAID for it!  It took about three more stomps, before he was barking with glee, waiting for the next bang for the party that followed.   Take that, big loud, scary noises.  We have bubble wrap and small nuclear devices.  I guess I’d better order something else so I havemore training materials.

Now that we have that sorted…on to the next training challenge…

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Desmond, Ninja Puppy.


Little Brother? Not for long!

As you can see, baby brother Desmond is catching up to big brother Duncan in a hurry!

This afternoon, Des was playing with some toys, and showed me some of his tricky Ninja moves.  Maybe he’s been secretly watching the Matrix while we’re out of the room, because there was some serious “I know kung fu” action going on.  Whoa.

It starts innocently enough.  Just a puppy playing with a stick.

And then, our own fuzzy Jason Bourne appears…

Watch and learn, grasshopper.

Or maybe he was watching reruns of the Muppets and Miss Piggy?  Hi-YA!

Did I mention that I’m not throwing any of these toys?  He’s pitching these to himself!

mine. Mine. MINE!!

But, he’s still a baby, so I’ll hold off on calling the clandestine services for a while yet.

He’s a very sweet little boy when he’s not fighting the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Handsome Des

A Quest to…Reno?

Last winter, we found out that AKC Agility Nationals would be held in Reno, NV in March of 2012.  Since it’s less than ten hours away, it qualified as a local trial, and Dunc and I set our sights on earning enough points to go.

At the time, we had three Double Q’s and about 50 speed points, (after becoming eligible in March) so I thought it would be easy.  We would need six QQ’s and 400 points total to attend.  A few short months later, the multipliers went away, meaning we needed to earn each and every one of our speed points…one point for every second under course time…no more double point bonuses for earning first place.  Gulp.

The traveling road show of 2011 began, and the driving, road food, yucky rest areas, noisy hotels, wonderful friends and trialling adventure is one I will never forget.  And honestly, can’t wait to repeat.

Little Dogs Rock!

Happy boy in the Palouse

We began in Moscow, Idaho.  Despite it raining nonstop on Saturday and Duncan shying away at every other bar setter, it was a lovely trial in a lovely spot.  The Palouse in the spring is an amazing sight, and I’m thankful to have had an extra day (and friends, especially friends with rain-proof tents) to enjoy it.  Thank you ML!  We added QQ # 4 here.

We spent the 4th of July weekend in Redmond.  The weather was terrific, and the setting stunning with Mt. Bachelor on the horizon.  We got a puppy fix and some tasty Lo Mein (but not at the same time because you’d end up with noodles everywhere).

Volcanoes and Tent City

At the end of August, Dunc and I zoomed up to Spokane.  How do I say this…it was hot. Damn hot.  It was in the high 90s, but Dunc and I pulled it off, running fast and accurate all three days on some courses that could only be described as diabolical.  We made some new friends (thanks V!!) and in between moments of heat-induced visions of pink elephants and herds of stampeding Bostons, we earned QQ # 6 and 7.

Lynnleigh Farms over Labor Day was our next stop; a four-day trial.  It’s such a pretty spot with the trees and mountains…and horses…and giant motorhomes rumbling by. Maybe ‘pretty’ distracting might be a better description.  It was this trial location last year, while trying to weave directly at a wall of crated Border Collies, Dunc told me that maybe his sport was chasing dust bunnies under the bed instead of agility.  This year, Dust Bunny Duncan was nowhere to be found, replaced by Awesome Duncan, who earned QQ # 8 and 9, and his Exc. FAST title.

And to add to the fun, we spared no expense to celebrate Muligan’s MACH 4 in high style.

I smell waffles...

We headed to Prineville in October.  For the first time, I saw the light at the end of the point earning tunnel…we were closing in, with 140 points to go.  It was this trial when Duncan shifted into a whole new gear, leaving me paddling madly in his wake, like an uncoordinated duck.   What an amazing sight to see, those little paws throwing out rooster tails of sand, with a crazy Aussie grin on his face!  I was honored to witness Tug’s inaugural agility run, and the beginning of another brilliant BT Rock Star’s agility career.  Dunc also earned QQ # 10 and 11.

Every Champion begins with a first run

Is anybody home?

The next trial in Farmington was Dunc and my first trip on the road by ourselves.  As orphans, we were adopted by some kind Utah friends, who helped add my points, as I seem to lose that ability when excited.  Being the agility portion of the Samoyed Nationals, there were big white dogs parked in every available corner.  I’ve never seen it snow indoors, but white fur was a-floating, and it wasn’t long before every surface of my crate was white and fuzzy. I also learned that Samoyeds bark.  A lot.  The courses were downright tough…technical and littered with traps, but after much obsessive course walking, Dunc and ran a perfect weekend and brought home QQ # 12 and 13 and 45 speed points.

Have ball...will travel!

At our home trial in October, on the last day, 16 speed points remained to hit the magic 400 points to qualify for Nationals.  We had a fantastic Standard run, fast and accurate, and I knew Dunc had done it when he sailed over the last jump.   Pause.  A moment later, from the score table I heard “No time!!”  The timers had failed to work.  Normally our choice would be to take standard course time and the Q (but with no speed points) or to rerun and risk the chance that it wouldn’t be clean.  And then the judge called to the crowd:  “Did anyone get it on video?”  YES!!  Half an hour later, with the video camera in one hand, and a stopwatch in the other…the judge confirmed that we’d sped around the course 18 seconds faster than course time, and earned our final points for Nationals. Anyone within ten feet got hugged.

Gratuitous puppy photo!

The last stop in our AKC trialling year was to east Idaho, and Desmond came along, riding like a seasoned traveler, and had a great time with his Belgian friend, despite Nick being 4X his size.  Overall, in 2011, Duncan and I earned 15 QQs and 436 speed points. It’s been one heck of a ride, and after a lot of judges, difficult courses, variable weather, fantastic friends and amazing experiences, I only have one thing to say:

Bring on 2012!