A Final Glance

One last look back at 2014, mainly to wave goodbye. It had it’s moments, but it’s wasn’t much of a landmark year for the us. It was certainly unpredictable. I don’t yet know whether that’s good or bad.DylanDylan has stepped down and then stepped up, taking on the mantel of the girls before him. Who would have thought it? My scared mouse is my rock. I never could have foreseen it at the start of the year; we were racing around in Grade 6, and now he just does the occasional Anysize run. I miss competing with him. He’s not my flyball dog anymore either, as my lovely mother has taken him on for next season. But he started going to classes, and then he passed his Good Citizen Dog Scheme Bronze, Silver, and Gold. I take him places when I need a dog that I can trust to handle whatever we face, and he does it without batting an eyelid. He comes to work with me, and plays demo dog for student canine physiotherapists. He has spent eight years disliking being touched by strangers, and now he passes tests on it and teaches people how to manipulate joints and muscles. Dylan is a Good Dog.

RioRio didn’t step up. She was frustrating and disappointing and wild and beautiful. Of course, it’s Beans, so she can do what she likes and I will still worship the ground she walks on. She runs on her own path, not the one I choose for her. She finds her own adventures, and if I worry about what we should have been doing, more fool me.

Ri does like flyball – it is fast and involves racing other dogs – and she does like jumping classes. Jumping is also fast, and involves racing me. She does not enjoy agility classes. Seesaws are hellish contraptions of torment, and dogwalks are untrustworthy, sneaky things that might actually be seesaws in hiding. She will concede that Aframes are cool. It doesn’t actually matter what we do. I love this dog more than I love most things.

HiDaisy, my Daisy, my messed up pup. She waxes and wanes like the moon. Who has ever met a dog afraid of snow? The world went white and cold overnight, and it took two days to convince her this wasn’t the oncoming apocalypse. This is an insight into the mind of Daisy. Well, one of the minds. The working personality is everything you could want in a working dog; determined, fast, driven, unflappable, utterly focused and committed. She can be extraordinary, could be the best agility dog I ever own. However, would not recommend the normal-dog personality. Fear and panic and was that a noise? For all that she’s special, she’s come a long way. She has nearly made up all her minds that we are good people and that she is a good dog. She needed time, and 2014 was time. Her greatest achievement this year has been learning about belly scritches, and how to sleep. Good learning, Daze.

KimFinally, the most important dog and Queen of the World. My old Lady Jane turned 14 in December. She refuses to be old, and she glories in it. She chases birds and tries to jump the river, and she is angry with peasants when they get in her way. She demands food and walks when she wants them, and she gets them. She sleeps where she wants, and has basically given up any pretense of doing as she is told. Or, in fact, following any basic manners.

I worry about her; her muscle tone isn’t … existent, really. Her mind isn’t as constant. Kim has always been razor sharp, and it breaks my heart to see her occasional confusion, or worse, her ignorance of what she normally would be so aware of. It comes and goes.

Waiting on Winter

Dylan has been lame. No particular reason for his lameness, he just came up sore one day. Left fore, I think carpal, hence a slow recovery. He is bored. Tough cookies, old man, you rest. I miss having him around. Dylan and I have been embarking on all kinds of adventures this summer. Not super-exciting-jetset adventures, but normal-dog adventures. We explore new places. We go to Good Citizen Dog Scheme class. Dylan passed his Bronze and Silver on the same day, in September. We’re working toward Gold. We started class and I realised I’ve never taught Dylan normal-dog stuff like loose-lead walking. Or how to be normal in a class full of other, normal, dogs. Normality is new for us.

Hey Daise

Daisy is cheerful. I want to practise ball retrieves but we’re on our flyball break until the end of October, and I want to enforce that. We have been working on agility instead, but not as much as I had wanted to. Sheep, in our field, ruining plans. Weaving is next on the list, after minor things like getting her KC registered, and major things, like getting her measured. Measuring is the next big hurdle, since it combines Daisy’s biggest fear, strange people reaching over her and blocking all forms of escape. Hopefully I can minimise this to me reaching over her and offering her exits if she wants them, but we shall see how generous the measuring folks are feeling. She’s an obvious Small, which should help.

Squirrel Watcher

Kim is Kim. Increasingly deaf, and therefore both more and less noisy. She looks like an old dog now. Not so much muscle mass, gets a little bit confused by simple things like how to turn around. But she is still sound, still hungry, still demanding, still opinionated. She still does her normal walks, although it’s at a slightly slower pace. Sometimes she still wants to chase birds, and does so. This is not particularly good for her old bones. She’s getting a little wiser about squirrels, and just watches them with narrowed, thoughtful eyes.

Squirrel Hunter

The squirrels have it hard. Rio is a mighty huntress (in her mind).

Teenage Dreams

Kim is thirteen this month. Thirteen years is a long time to spend with a little dog, but it’s not long enough. We need at least another ten or so, I think.

Kim

Kim went in for a checkup in September, and her heart murmur had deteriorated. She hasn’t been to the vet in a long time, so she went in again more recently to see if it was it was an ongoing process of deterioration, or not. It’s appears that it’s not. Her left side heart is weaker but her right side sounds good, her heartbeat is strong (just … wrong), she has no fluid on her lungs and her breathing is regular, and she’s not showing any symptoms of heart problems. Additionally, she’s looking excellent for her age and does not appear to have any other issues.

She weighs 12.50kg but her muscle tone is pretty flabby these days. She still enjoys her walks, and is pretty angry that frisbee is a banned game for her these days. All games which involve racing after something are now banned, because Kim tends to race after things, dramatically fall over as she triumphantly launches to snatch item from faster, younger dogs, and then do a lap of honour. Whilst humourous and endearing activities, these are also hobble-inducing activities, so … banned.

Get the moles Kim ...

Still do plenty of that digging, though.

Here, you may marvel in some of Kim’s amazingness from years gone by:

Beach Trip

This is actually from a few weeks ago, oops! Before we got Daisy, we decided to take advantage of the good weather and take Rio on her first beach trip, ostensibly to teach her to swim. Hunmanby’s always good for dogs and the water is safe to swim in, so off we trekked.

Things I learnt on the beach trip: Rio can’t swim.

Swimming Fail

Neither can Kim.

NOPE

Why are my non-Border Collies such useless swimmers? On finding themselves marginally out of their depth, both Kim and Rio shut their eyes, flail wildly, and half an hour later make it to shore. Just to bear in mind, I went into the sea with them, and let me tell you, the North Sea is bloody cold even in June. In the photo of Rio flailing above, I’m stood 2ft to the right crying with laughter at her failure. The water is just above my knees, so it’s not deep.

Alfie

Alfie came with us on this beach trip too. Rio is a lot more tolerant of him than I am. He’s not a bad dog, he’s just a typically spoilt small dog with no manners and no boundaries, although he has a sweet temperament and he takes everything in his stride happily.

Rio/Alfie

Other things I learnt on the beach trip: Rio is still trying to be a Border Collie. She even adopted Dylan’s ears for the day.

Dyl/Rio

So, Rio liked the beach and hated the sea. Kim still likes the beach and the sea, providing she’s not having to swim. Dylan still thinks the beach is ok but loves the sea so much that he shook with excitement, made pitiful crying noises, and mowed people down so he could at least see it from the moment he got out of the car.

Rally Trials

The girls and I crashed and burned at our Rally trial.

I feel like I ought to say that the trial itself was awesome, really well organised and friendly people. The venue was good, but the ring was in a self-contained hall and that freaked a lot of dogs out, including mine. That was not good, but considering the size of the ring required for Rally (it’s huge, seriously), I’m surprised they managed to find a decent indoor venue at all.

I need to say all the above, because Rally? Absolutely not for me.

Kim and Rio were way too distracted or disturbed by the venue and environment to qualify, and I’m good with that. Those are things we could work on for next time! I’m pleased with various bits that each of them did, and I know my nerves didn’t help at all. I feel pretty positive about what went wrong and how we could fix that … if we were going to do any more Rally trials.

I got to watch most of the other classes, and the standard is very, very, different from what I believed it would be. I was under the impression, from reading the rules and from watching AKC Rallyv videos, and from our training classes, that Rally was a more relaxed style of obedience. The kind of thing where precision heelwork and so forth was all but discouraged, and that the idea was to provide pet dogs at Good Citizen type level obedience with a competitive scene which focused on teamwork and attitude (and offered a potential stepping stone to more the more precise and demanding competitive Obedience). That is definitely not the case.

Everyone who qualified had the “obedience style” heelwork, sharp sits, etc etc. I got to watch most of the classes at my level, and dogs who I expected to have qualified did not; I’m no judge, obviously, but I watched a few dogs work who were clearly enjoying themselves, focused and listening, responsive, just occasionally a bit wide on turns or lagging on heelwork (and thereby causing a tight lead or so forth). They got handed big NQs. Likewise lots of dogs getting marked for crooked sits/downs/etc, when they weren’t sat perfectly straight or right next to the handler = big NQs. I knew Rally in the UK had changed as it crossed the pond from America (no treats allowed, stricter rules on multiple verbal/physical commands), but I didn’t realise how different it is.

I am disappointed, since I hoped Kim would get to learn some new things in her retirement from more active sports, and we could spend some time together competing for some basic Rally titles. But there is no way I have the patience to – or want to! – teach the kind of precise heelwork that is apparently required. Not only that, but if I did teach proper heelwork, it’d be easier to enter Introductory or Pre-Beginners Obedience classes. In Rally, the course takes about 2mins to complete, so the heelwork section is a LOT longer than an Intro or Pre-Beg heelwork section, and a lot more complex (with the stations and turns). In Intro Obedience, you can even take a toy in with you, or food in a sealed container to be given between exercises!

I’m not sure if things will change as the sport evolves, especially now that it has been adopted by the Kennel Club. I hope the KC will take it back to the AKC roots, but I don’t think that will happen in time for Kim and I to get to enjoy it, sadly.

Unexpected Weekends

Dylan and I were supposed to spend this weekend at Ribble, getting back into our competitive groove and admiring all the excellent partnerships who had travelled north (and south) for the G6-7 Olympia Qualifier. However, Dyl came up very lame on Friday morning.

Friday was a Day of Rest, but Rest did not help. Dyl wasn’t weight bearing at all by Friday evening. Naturally, I panicked, and I envisaged Dylan’s life from now on as a relaxed and happy retired dog. I inevitably do this when my dogs are injured, but I do it more often with Dylan. I did it especially this time, because I am 99% sure his injury was in his wrist. I say 99% because I’m not a vet and Dylan hasn’t seen the vet, but I am obsessed with watching my dogs’ gaits, and I know a shoulder/elbow/toe injury when I see one. Wrist injuries are new to me, and in my mind, they shriek “ligament damage! Hyperextension! This is down to agility and his poorly constructed shoulders!” and so forth.

We spent Saturday alternating between cold and hot compresses. Thankfully my family is a sporting one; we have a lot of bandages, heat pads, ice packs, and so forth for human based injuries. We also have a lot of vet wrap, although we now have slightly less. This lead to dramatic improvement, and by Sunday, Dylan was only limping a little bit.

However, no Ribble.

Instead, I spent Saturday portion of the weekend at a practise Rally session. The trial is next weekend and I offered to help the organisers with their practise set up today. That sounds very professional, what it really means is a small group of friends spent several hours drinking lots of hot beverages and eating Mini Eggs and considering rolls of rubber matting. But we did get to do some actual practise with the dogs.

Kim was surprisingly good. She isn’t the neatest, but I am hoping that the judge will view her efforts as being in the spirit of Rally, ie. a sport for pet dogs who are not precisely trained in the fine art of obedience. She can do all the exercises however, and despite the lack of room for interpretation and creativity (and noise) that Rally presents, Kim had her competition head on. I love her.

Rio was not good at all in terms of good meaning “able to do anything other than be overwhelmingly excited”. Everything was Exciting with a capital E. A new venue, new people, new smells, Kim working first … too much. Bits of Rio brain all over the place, but definitely not in her head where I left it. Our first attempt involved Ri doing each station at 100mph whilst making a squeaking noise continuously, and then rampaging in any direction she fancied whilst we were supposed to be doing heelwork to the next station. Eventually we got some semblance of focus and managed to complete the course, but it was not pretty and it was not a qualifying round.

I am revising my earlier predictions and counting Rio as a NQ now. Especially if the continual under-the-breath singing throughout falls under the auspices of the “Excessive Barking” rule, which I strongly suspect it will even though Rio didn’t technically bark.

So, in the next 7 days, not only do we need to polish up our basic station work, but I probably need to teach proper heelwork to Rio rather than just loose-lead walking, and I also need to properly break her habit of offering a down when we come to a halt. It should be a sit. This isn’t too much of a problem when she’s focused and working at a respectable threshold, but when she is overdosing on life, she defaults to hurling herself into a down (hitting the floor with audible wince-inducing noises. I wonder if that counts as harsh handling?).

Dylan, please be fixed promptly and with no lasting effects.
Rio, you can continue to be crazy but please be crazy with some level of focus and the ability to remember things we have actually worked on before.
Kim, continue being perfect in every way. If I have to criticise, it would be good if you could be more accepting of lying on the dirty floor and give me less evil glares, please?

Quiet

Rio is still being unnaturally quiet. She was very flat at agility training and then very distracted at rally this week.

Agility was just a bit odd, she tecnically worked very well, did all the sequences etc, but just seemed extra sensitive and flat. It’s weird working her when she’s being quiet, I’m so used to the barking and shouting and little growls. There was definitely no fizz to her on Tuesday, anyway.

At Rally she was a bit more noisy and enthusiastic. She was actively seeking out her tug and offering behaviours, but she was also very distracted by things like chairs and radiators and Bryn. We have been working on her distraction levels as she can get caught out by food smells (ie. other people treating their dogs whilst she’s working) but it’s usually a very minor problem.

Everyone has suggested she’s still just settling down hormonally – five weeks after her season ended? – but it could well be the case, I don’t know much about intact bitches. (I have everything crossed it’s not something like a false pregnancy, because that would be a nightmare of epic proportions). I’m also wondering about the change of food, but I don’t think that would kick in over a four day period, I expected to see any potential changes after a week or more. I’ll keep an eye on it and hopefully she’ll come around. I feel like I’m probably overreacting anyway, which is probably normal considering.

Kim and Rio have an extra Rally training day this weekend, which is really just a chance to practise some full courses. We’ll see how we go! Our class next week includes a bit of proper scoring on half a course, and fingers crossed we’ll get round without losing more than 14pts.

Odd Little Muffins

Both the younger dogs are still settling into their post-Mollie lives. Dylan is not his usual self. We’ve had a bout of sulking brought on Thursday evening, when we took Kim and Rio to Rally and Dylan got left home alone for two hours. He’s taken a few days to come around from that.

Rio feels a bit soft, but she has since her season finished. I don’t know where her edge has gone, but gone it has. I’m hoping that it’s just a case of settling hormones. Everyone told me that spaying before a first season made for soft dogs — I know this isn’t true, look at Kim! — but this is not what I signed up for. It could also be a reaction to the stress of Mollie being gone and Dylan being an ass, but Rio usually reacts to stress by becoming more loud and sassy. I’ve never seen her quiet down as a reaction. I hope her bounce comes back soon, I miss sassy Rio.

All the dogs are also getting fitter again, including Lady Jane herself. She goes walking with the youngsters in a morning now, and she berates them loudly at every opportunity. Dyl is also walking to the next village and back three times a week, about 3.5miles. I send him on his own He walks with my dad, and Rio goes on Sundays too.

Kim, Rio, and I have our first Rally trial in a few weeks, we still have a lot of training to do. Rio works well but has a tendency to get distracted, and our left turns/pivots are shaky at best. She also keeps obsessively offering a down instead of a sit on finishes, which we need to work on. It’s cute, but not good! I think she’ll qualify, barring any major distractions/disasters, and it would be fun to put a Rally title on her. It will depend on if there are any more trials in this area, and if they clash with agility or not!

Kim is just incredibly awkward, she does not see the point to obedience and she likes to tell everyone loudly about it in between exercises. When she’s working, she’s quiet, unless she feels we’re going too slowly. Then we get told. She also has the most crooked sits in existence, and so whilst she can do pivots, they’re not pretty. The best way I can think to describe them is to imagine a clock; dog and handler should be facing 12 and pivot to 3 or 9 together. With Kim, I am usually facing 12 and Kim is facing 3, so when I pivot left, I end up facing 9 and Kim is then facing 12. Technically she’s done the 90d left pivot, but we’re still not facing the same way. We are working on this! I don’t think she’ll qualify, but it will be fun.

Group Photos

Group photos are hard, and not just because getting everyone sat facing the right direction is always tough. I have very white dogs and very black dogs, and so getting the white balance is hard, and the height differences is always a challenge.

Kim, Rio, Dylan, Mollie

It started so well, and we moved on, and then I realised nobody was in focus. Photoshop improved things, but I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we tried again …

Group 2

Out of focus and Kim hates everyone.

Bored Now

Kim is bored now.

3 out of 4 ...

In focus, all dogs looking at the camera attentively … shame there’s one missing!

SQUIRREL

Think we have a few problem areas here, starting with Rio’s “SQUIRREL!” impression, and Kim’s “bitch, please …” face.

Group 1

Mollie is slightly out of focus, and Rio isn’t really looking the right way, but this might be the best we can do!