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Agility day

Since I'm working Tue-Sat at my job now, I only have Sundays available for agility. I can actually take a Saturday off if I need it, but at this point, I feel like that is unnecessary for most things. So, I entered Sunday only at the PAC trial.

Wasn't a very successful day on many counts, though fun. I had all 3 dogs entered, which is a lot (though Mercy only in JWW). I had to get there early to get Mercy measured, so that made a long day.

Tess damaged a dew claw fence fighting last week, so I was concerned about her soundness. She was limping for a day after the injury, though she'd been moving fine for some days. When I walked her at the fairgrounds, she looked like she was limping a little again, but she was in long grass at the time, and I thought it might be catching on the damaged dew. (btw, can I just say, I HATE it when you mention your dog damaged a dew claw, and people say "that's why I hate dewclaws!" The worst injury one of my dogs has had in similar circumstances is a badly sliced stopper pad, that bled everywhere, had to be wrapped, and required time off agility until the pad regrew. Should I have the stopper pads amputated?)

Anyway, the standard course, which we started with, was a fairly challenging course with a ton of off course options. No tight handling, just needed the handler to be in the right place all the time to cue the dog correctly. Tess, of course, didn't care about that. By the time I got the leash off her at the start line, she'd picked the dogwalk as the 2nd obstacle, so as I ran towards the weaves, saying "weave!", she cut behind me and took the DW. When I stopped and looked at her, and she realized she was wrong, she jumped off the DW. I wasn't going to keep running with a nearly 11-yr-old dog, with a potentially sore toe, who just jumped off the top of the DW, so I took her and left. She was not happy about that. I did run her in JWW later, and she was okay. Had a good run, qualified, and was moving out confidently. She was fairly slow, though, which I didn't really notice until I watched the video.

Pirate didn't get the Standard course either, though mostly it was handler error. I was concerned about the potential conflict with Mercy, and had to grab him out of the crate and go, with not much time to settle, so not ideal. I'd also planned to see how it handled with Tess (I didn't think I could get her past all the off courses), and use that to advise my run with Pirate, but of course, she didn't get to run it. Pirate's JWW run was decent, but he knocked 3 bars. When I watched the video, his jumping looked terrible for the whole run. I had him adjusted and massaged, but if he's going to need that every time he runs, I can't afford to run him.

Mercy's first AKC run was... not so much like agility.

That's actually what I expected when I first ran her, but she'd been doing not so bad, and refocusing pretty well, so I had hope. This was a big step backwards, though.

I'm not as sure I should keep running her if she's going the wrong way. I'm going to tentatively plan to continue though, with a new plan for how to deal with it. I think that me standing there, trying to call her back, is not very motivating, so my plan with her is that I'll call her, but I'll go ahead and run the course by myself, and see if she decides to join me. If not, I'll get the leash and collect her. If she does join me, we'll just keep going and finish the course from wherever we are.

The plan for Pirate is conflicted. I think he does need to have more bodywork. His bar knocking in JWW might not be related to that at all. I think he needs better warm-up before I run him. I walk the dogs for a warm-up when we arrive in the morning, and the Standard run, he looked fine. Afterwards, he was crated until his JWW run, and that might have just been too long. So I think he needs more warm-up. A Back On Track coat was suggested to me, and that's something he may need, too.

If I can't get him doing better, I may have to move him to preferred. I felt like he jumps 16 fine, and wanted to keep him at that height, but if I can't get him to consistently keep his bars up, I may have to move him down. He jumps well, except when he doesn't.

Tess may have to be retired. I had wanted to finish her PACH, then ease her out with one run a day or weekend. She needs 6 QQs for the PACH, though, and I'm not sure she's going to run that much longer. I don't like how slow she was in JWW. And granted, there were extenuating circumstances. I'm not going to retire her immediately, but I'm thinking about it hard. She has definitely lost speed in the last year, but that was pretty dramatically slow. (less than 4.2 YPS) I know she doesn't want to retire, but if she must, she must.

At this rate, I'll soon have no agility dog at all.

It looks exactly like her!

I love this picture so much. I want to have it on everything. I think it should be an illustration in a children's book, though I don't think Adrian actually wants to do the rest of the illustrations for the amazing adventures of Mercy. Even if I include a Tasmanian tiger, and a honey badger, which I'd kind of have to.


Almost there with Mercy's weaves. She's been a little more challenging than my others, because we did so much cone work that when I started her on the weaves, she wanted to run out, wrap one, and return. But we're almost there now. Next step will the the straight line, then we'll try them at the barn.

(videoed in poor light, and I let YouTube lighten it up, so it's not very high res, but I think you can still see her well enough)


Started Mercy on the formal retrieve tonight. Which, there's a story behind this. Somebody shared a truly awful video of a "dog trainer" showing off the training of a young Lab that he's been working for 6 weeks. I won't share that video here, it's heartbreaking. He's using an ecollar, and doing some "retrieve" work, and the dog is so shut down it will barely move. A Lab. He trained a Lab to be afraid to retrieve.

To reaffirm myself in the joy of dog training, as well as to prove a bit of a point, I decided to introduce Mercy to the dumbbell. We did a few minutes with it, I liked what I was getting and quit. Some people wanted to see it though, so despite my messy house, I shot some video:

No actual retrieving yet, of course, just a good grip on the bar, and then reaching for it, since she got the grip right away. She was having a great time, but no need to rush it. She's already about halfway along where that poor terrified Lab is, and there'll be no need to try and coax speed out of her. Speed, we got.

I shared the sad video on my FB, and the discussion got a little heated, which was odd. A person expressed a dislike for the forced retrieve. I hadn't wanted to debate it, but I just said that I couldn't bring myself to use one when a shaped retrieve works so well. Another friend commented that her dog's shaped retrieve was more reliable and happier than many dogs forced retrieve. Still a pretty easy comment, since "many dogs" encompasses some really badly trained ones, so nobody being shamed. And then someone took it personal, and got pretty rude. (rude enough that I eventually deleted a comment, which I rarely do) I told her flat out that I won't tolerate being rude to other commenters on my FB page, and will unfriend if she can't behave. I may not be 100% consistent in that policy, since it's easier to notice rudeness when you disagree with somebody's position (and if someone is provoked, I won't criticize them for snarking back). But I really prefer that people commenting on my FB page treat each other with respect.

I knew somebody was going to comment in favor of the force retrieve, and I didn't want a battle about it, but since I'm not much in favor of it myself, I'm not giving the proponents a lot of leeway. (the horrifying nature of the poor Lab's training wasn't just because of the use of the ecollar, you can have a less shut down dog while still using force, it was just bad training. But I still prefer a shaped retrieve.)

But Mercy... super cute. And apparently going to learn a retrieve before she even starts to learn how to heel.

Cute puppy runs fast

I decided a couple days ago to try taking the pups to the UKI trial held today at the Cash arena. I thought it would be a nice practice option for Mercy, since the Cash arena is great for baby dogs. I ended up running all the dogs, because if she was playing, might as well bring Pirate. I entered him in the Masters series. I was not going to enter Tess, because I'm trying to wean her off of agility. She's been pretty demented lately, though, so I decided it would be in my best interest to let her run off some crazy. Not able to decide what to enter her in, I finally just entered her in the regular Agility & Jumping.

I entered Mercy in Novice Jumping and Speedstakes. Which was a bit of a mistake, because I'd forgotten that there are weaves in UKI Jumping. I mean, it's called just "Jumping", so I was thinking it was like USDAA Jumpers. But no, we had a nice baby dog course, with weaves that Mercy is not familiar with. I had to just take her by them, which caused her to disconnect a bit. Despite her over-excited zooming at the beginning, and that disconnect, I was pretty happy with her effort.

Later, we did Speedstakes, the longest course she's run, I think. Still some crazy moments, but I felt like she tried hard for me. She's not experienced enough to figure it out if I'm not really clear with my handling. Also, she's very fast.

So, that was fun.

The more advanced courses were also fun, and hard for me to get through. Tess says she is NOT old, she's seasoned, and doesn't have time for my nonsense. Pirate was just very, very wound up. I did start my new work schedule this week, so was gone more hours than they are used to. Maybe that was where the crazy came from. They were sure hard to run!

Specialty show

Spent Friday & Saturday up in Snohomish for a regional specialty show. Of course, the reason I wanted to show is that it had been fun lately to show Tess, which I can only do at specialties. And then she was really not into it, got thoroughly dumped by the judges, and wanted to be elsewhere. I most likely won't show her again, though there's always the chance I'll try one more time, to see if she likes it better elsewhere.

Mercy was entered in breed, she has been losing pretty thoroughly since she aged out of the puppy classes and has to show in Open. She looks and acts too much like a puppy. I figured I'd go ahead & show her, though. To my utter shock and surprise, she was actually reserve on Friday. It was a 5-point major (well over the minimum number required), so that was pretty cool. Last in her class on Saturday, but the judge did say that she liked them all. Mercy wasn't being much of a showdog, she forgot how to freestack on the down & back, and showed off all her tricks instead.

Pirate did rally! Here's his run on Friday:

I'm actually fairly pleased with that, he didn't really know what he was doing at first, but once he figured it out, I think his heelwork was pretty decent (given how little training I've done). I knew he'd struggle a little on the course, it starts with the cone thing, and he didn't know what he was doing yet. He does better starting with a straight line. We started with a figure-8 on Saturday, and similarly, he was thrown off by it. He did qualify both days, and finish his RA. I think I might work with him some more, and continue in rally a bit. It seems a little more interesting than it was when I quit before (either because of the newer stations, or because my dog isn't trained), and Pirate and I had fun. Friday, anyway. Saturday his head really wasn't in the game, and he did manage a Q, but never really was working with me. Maybe the weather change, maybe I had him out too early. He was sharp when I warmed him up, but then we stood around for awhile waiting our turn, and by the time we went in, I had no dog.

And, the most entertaining thing I did was show in brace. (Pi's only conformation entry). I didn't actually train for it before we went in, but the dogs did remarkably well. Friday they were the only brace, so we won. Saturday, we had competition (one other brace), and we STILL won! Pi & Mercy did a pretty good job of looking like a unit. Except when Pirate stepped over Mercy, and got the leash all tangled around them. I got a win photo for kicks, and I do love it. It's like a window into the future, because I really don't think Mercy looks like the photo, but I think she will as she matures.

That's going to be it for conformation showing for a while. I'm going to let Mercy grow up a bit before I try to show her any further, and Pirate, of course, is done.

Employed, I guess

I've been working 16 hours a week at the realty office where I interned when working on my degree. It's not what I trained for, but I figured that a little income was better than no income. My bosses took me to lunch today, and we talked, and the plan now is for me to go to 35 hours there.

In some ways, it feels like giving up, because the idea was for me to get a job in the field I trained in. Not working in that field means I probably won't be able to later, if this doesn't pan out. And this is a little precarious. I believe the chances are good, but we'll have to see. The hours I'm working, at the wage I'll receive, probably won't be quite enough to support me. However, the idea is that if things work out as planned, that I could start receiving a commission on sales. The plan is for me to get a broker's license (I'm already doing a course for that, the bosses are paying for it), which will allow me to do more helpful things which I couldn't legally do without the license. The office is very busy, too busy really for the brokers they have (3 more are supposed to be joining when they get their licenses, which will double the number)

We can't really get too specific on exactly what will happen, because it's a new venture and we're all having to figure it out as we go. But if the commission thing works out, and I were getting that in addition to my hourly wage, I could have a nice income.

Huge advantage being that I am working for nice people, who appreciate me. The work isn't hard, but sometimes it takes a certain amount of logical thinking skills. I have a lot of freedom to do things in whatever way I feel is best. Also from a personal standpoint, there's a fair amount of flexibility. My new schedule is going to be Tue-Sat, but if I need to take a Saturday off, I can work Monday instead. I'm sure if I need time off for any reason, we can work it out. There's some things I may need to do out of the office, and the possibility that some stuff I may be able to do remotely. So I'm not necessarily stuck there 5 days a week, and I know my bosses will be understanding if I have something going on. (when I took the dogs down to OSU for the play study, I texted my boss the day before, and said I had something to do the next couple mornings, and would be coming in at 11 instead of 10. And when I got to work, I told them what I'd been doing, so it's not like I even pretended to be sick or anything just "went to play with my dogs!" No prob.) Knowing that I can take time for something if I need to makes me feel a lot less trapped than other jobs have.

So, I'm giving this a try. It's a little less of a sure thing than finding a job in my degree field (I'd eventually have found something, and once I had some experience, would have been continually employable), but also has the potential for a higher payout if things work out. I hope they do.

and I made this thing

With Pirate finishing, Tully, who could never get a point herself, is now behind 3 generations of champions (I only included AKC titles in the graphic). I'm quite pleased with all these dogs. They aren't perfect, and there are some differences in style, but all 4 of these dogs are sound, all are typey (if you know what a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is, you wouldn't mistake them for anything but), all are functional. They are good examples of the breed.

Baby Hayden, Pirate's grandson, is working on becoming generation 4:

And he's in agility class, so hopefully will be 5th generation agility titled Stafford, too.

Mercy is probably going to stay at 12"

This is a thing I've been thinking about, and it's a tough decision. I know she measures into 16", and while I'm not 100% on her height (USDAA judge got 15 1/4, but I don't know if that was accurate), I'm sure she's over 15. So that fits into my criteria of a dog who can jump 16. But she just didn't look that comfortable with it when we tried. Compared to how she looked at 12"

Now, granted, she has limited experience jumping, and currently isn't that great at it at all. (when we practice in the barn, she's usually great for the first few jumps, then starts knocking all the bars.) And some of that might be conditioning, I have a lot of guilt about this, but she really is not in good shape. Unlike my other dogs, she hasn't had a lot of opportunities to free play in an open area, and I haven't really been leash walking her much either. So she just gets to play in the house and yard with the other dogs. So maybe just some more exercise and practice jumping would make 16 possible for her.

But I recently put together a video of Tess at the various jump heights she's done. Tess is similar in height to Mercy. And looking at her jumping, on different surfaces, in both extension and collection, it's undeniable that the 12" height is more comfortable for her than even 16 ever was.

And she was young, fit, and sound at all the higher jump heights. She didn't move to 12 until she'd had the back injury that affects her rear function. Still looks better and more comfortable than she ever did jumping 16 or more.

Just not sure I want to ask that of Mercy.

Got the win photo already

Randy Roberts is a superior dog show photographer. Also, the HRKC backdrop makes me happy.