Thursday, June 30, 2011

Budgeting for a dog

Over at Two Grad Students and a Pittie they recently posted about their monthly expenses for their dog Havi. Their expenses for the month included food, probiotics, and a vet visit, with a few once a year items as well (flea meds, heartworm preventative, shampoo).

Expenses for my dogs run a bit different I think. Its hard for me to keep track of exactly how much I spend on their food, since I feed raw. Generally I pick up their food when I do my grocery shopping, and it ends up all on the same bill. Plus, with raw feeding, I get a decent amount of free or cheap meat from people cleaning out freezers.

This month, my dogs have been eating a lot of goat, including ribs, heart, liver, and some roasts. It was slightly freezer burned, but organically raised and humanely treated, and given to us for free. They also have had some pork roasts (on sale), chicken quarters (69 cents per pound in 10 pound bags) and some super-on-sale beef roast (part of which went into two dishes for myself as well). Oh, and we still have some sardines from an awesome bulk order a while ago. The sardines were individually flash frozen, so often they get fed if I forgot to thaw out meat the night before. All together, with my dogs each eating a bit under a pound each, per day, I think I spent less than 40 dollars on food for them both (and Martha too).

Other expenses for the month include:
Flyball practice: $36 for the month (a steal of a deal this month, with 5 Thursday practices instead of the normal 4)

Flea meds: $30 for a 3 month supply- I am trying out the new product FiproPlus, which uses the same active ingredients as Frontline Plus. So far, it seems to be working good.

Flyball extras (including some new balls, a ball hopper, and purchasing a team sweatshirt): About $30 I think

New fleece ring toy/tug: $5 and totally worth every penny

Oblong exercise ball, found at a garage sale: $5

I think, this month, that is where most of my dog related money went. It was (fingers crossed I don't jinx myself saying this) a pretty decent month. With the generous amounts of free goat meat, food costs were minimal. Other than the flyball practices, the other expenses all were either one time things, or only once every few months. All added up, I think that comes to roughly $156.

As a comparison, Havi cost the Two Grad Students just under $150, not counting in the costs of prepurchased flea meds, etc. Of course, they did have a vet scare with her, which always leads to higher bills. But I think we're doing pretty good for two dogs and a cat on a budget. Though, if I controlled my extra flyball/toy/dog stuff-they-don't-really-need expenditures we would be running closer to $70 for two dogs and a cat, between food and flea meds.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

Okay, so two different Wednesday posts. I couldn't manage to be wordless this Wednesday, so this is how I'm fixing that!

What I'm loving this Wednesday:

Going to the park with Elizabeth, her brother, their dog, and my pups, and having a great time this morning.

I'm loving my two amazing new pieces of art, both a canvas print of this picture:

And the hand painted version of this picture:

I'm loving the idea of running Koira at flyball practice tomorrow, because finally, its become fun for both of us. She finally seems to be enjoying the time we spend practicing, and gets excited when she realizes where we are headed.

I'm loving that I found an elongated exercise ball of the right size to use for both Koira and Pallo, and they are getting awesome workouts on the ball.

Wordless Wednesday: Mexico

Or, well, nearly wordless anyhow. I'm going to try using the Blogger picture upload, just to see if it really does work better than when I tried it last year.

These are a couple pictures from Mexico, a few years ago.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday, training, rabbits, and more

I finally think I figured out how to share a video, and thought I would make one of Pallo learning a new trick. I want to teach him to "line up" with the goal of him ending up between my legs. I have seen a lot of agility and flyball people use this trick with their dogs, but, mostly, it seems fun to learn and show off.

The end result I am looking for:

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The video was the second 2-3 minute session of having him try this trick. It only took a couple tries luring him in the first session before he caught on, but as you can see with his last try in this video, he doesn't quite have the hang of it yet. Also, you can see that "roll over" has become one of his fall back behaviors, which he tries whenever he gets confused.

Pallo also got to try out some herding... Kind of. What actually happened was my mom's rabbits discovered a hole they can use to get out of the fence, so I was asked to come visit and catch them. Chasing rabbits by yourself rarely ends up with catching anything at all, so I took Pallo with me and sent him out and around to the other side of the bunnies, and told him to find them. He did an awesome job, went out in a wide circle, then coming back in toward the fence, driving the rabbits in front of him towards me (and I had a net on a long stick for catching the creatures). He even would stop on cue, or back off, if he was freaking them out too much, driving them too fast, or in the wrong direction. So, while Pallo has never seen sheep, ducks, or cows, he is an excellent rabbit herder.

Once the three baby rabbits who were loose were caught, I introduced the dogs to them.

Koira snuffled the babies all up and down, then decided they weren't all that interesting after all:
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Pallo smelled them, but was cautious:

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And, Pallo just wanted me to let them go so he could chase them around some more. Here he is, caught with his mouth open, whining with excitement:

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And here is the rabbit pen. It has wire along the bottom of the fence, laid on the ground, about 2 feet in from the fence on all sides. They can dig burrows and everything, but the wire discourages them from trying to dig out of the pen. The hutches are where the babies will be kept until they are too big to escape the fence, and where the does go when they are ready to kindle. I spent a long day building this pen so the rabbits would have a lot more room to move, areas to dig, and grasses to munch on. I think they are much happier like this than in a hutch all the time.

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As for the flyball question I posed in my last post, I agree with everyone that answered. I would consider it box loader error and flag it. I did, when I saw it as a box judge. However, a discussion with a team mate revealed that many judges do NOT consider this a fault. No where in the rule book that I could find does it actually, explicitly say the ball must be in the box when it is triggered by the dog.

But, if it doesn't count as a fault/flag for the ball to roll out of the box, what would there be to stop someone from training a dog to trigger the box, then grab the ball from the ground, and run back? I see little difference between the ball rolling out of the hole versus the box loader placing it on the ground for the dog. I actually tried to read the relevant parts of not only the NAFA manual, but the U-Fli one, as well as BFA, the Australian one, and the South African one, and none of them explicitly mention that the ball must be in the box when it is triggered.

I would have thought this was a given in the sport of flyball. But, if some people don't view it as a fault, don't flag it as a box judge, and some judges don't require it, what is to stop someone from training a dog that has problems catching the ball from the box to simply grab it from the ground?

Have a happy Monday, and enjoy the week!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Flyball practice, and a rule clarification question

Well, first off, flyball practice went great. Koira ran really well. She did drop early twice, but we were practicing reruns in anticipation of our tournament coming up in two weeks, and she did her reruns clean each time. Plus, she didn't take much time to set up for the reruns, which is nice, since some dogs can take forever to reset (of course, she didn't get her tug because of the ball drop, so I didn't have to argue with her about that part of it). She is finally seeming like a flyball dog. When the start dog's handler starts getting their dog revved up, Koira stops barking and stares, until the start dog passes by, then she looks up at me and barks for her turn.

Pallo was running good, though he got really distracted in one heat by Zip, a super excitable Belgian Tervuren on our team, whose barking got just a little bit too excited for Pallo to ignore. He ran to the side when released, and I had to reset him and release him again before he ran down the lane. On the next heats I made sure to redirect his attention back to the racing lane instead of Zip, and he refocused really well. He loves running with loud, excited dogs, loud, excited handlers, and fast, fluffy dogs. The team he'll be running with at the tournament will give him all of that. Hopefully it will mean a recipe for success for him, and for the rest of the team.

Now the slightly more technical flyball talk:

Before we began practice last night, our instructor/team leader Patty talked with the whole team, and specifically our newest members who will be running dogs or helping out, about some technicalities of tournaments, especially reruns. If a dog messes up during their run, a flag comes up, and the judge will stick out one finger, meaning one rerun is needed for the heat to be finished "clean" and a time be awarded. It is up to the team and the dog's handler if they want to rerun the dog.

Pretty much the only reasons to rerun (at least for our team) are to win the race (which only applies if the other team has at least one rerun as well) or to correct a problem the dog had (such as running around a jump or dropping the ball). There are plenty of reasons not to rerun, including the most basic of not wanting to tire out our dogs, not wanting a dog to continue making mistakes and build a bad pattern, etc. For our team, a team captain will be paying attention to let us know which dog needs to rerun, and if the other team has any reruns. It is up to the dog's handler to decide if they want to rerun their dog. If the dog is not rerun, the team takes no time for the heat and is written NF, for No Finish.

This brought up a short discussion as to reasons a dog would have to rerun. There are plenty of them, but basically, a mistake on the course such as: an early pass, missing/going around jumps, not triggering the box, not returning with the ball, or returning with the wrong ball (can happen when a loose ball is on course and a dog picks that one up to bring back instead of the one that was in the box) are the most common. There are four judges in addition to the head judge at a race, two on each racing lane, one box judge and one line judge, that will raise a flag to indicate to the head judge that an error occurred requiring a rerun.

The Question:

Now, I have a question for you. I would like to hear from flyball competitors, about what judges do with this situation in your region/organization, as well as from any one else who wants to weigh in on what they think should be done:

The situation is this: A tournament race heat is being run. The box loader cocks the box, loads a ball, then stands upright again, calling for the dog. The box loader doesn't notice that the ball they loaded has rolled out of the hole in the box, onto the ground. The dog approaches the box, does a turn triggering the box, picks up the ball from the ground, then returns. As a box judge, sitting to the side to indicate errors at the box, would you flag this as an error, or not?

For a little context, I will quote the relevant statutes from the NAFA rulebook as it is posted online:

Section 8.3, Subsection (i): "Flags. Dogs that receive a flag must be rerun after the initial four dogs in the order they were flagged. Racing infractions requiring the rerunning of a dog include:
(iv) Does not trigger the box;
(v) Dog takes the ball from the cup without first triggering the box;..."

Also relevant to the situation is part of Section 8.3, Subsection (a) which states: "... Each dog is to hurdle the four jumps in succession, trigger the box, releasing the ball, retrieve the ball and return over all four jumps and the start/finish line with the ball in its mouth..."

This is a situation I have been in, as a box judge, and I know what I did, what that particular judge decided, and additionally know what I think should happen here. But, I want to know what other people have done, would do, or think should be done. And, if needed, I will submit a proposal for a clarification of this rule to NAFA.

And a blog hop too:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Rock fishing

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(And, a question for other bloggers out there: How do you put pictures on your blog? I load them onto Tinypic and then copy the HTML code over. I dislike the placement of pictures I ended up with when I used the Blogger picture upload, and never figured out a better way. Any tips?)

And don't forget the Wednesday Blog Hop:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Art by Elizabeth: Pallo!!!

Art by Elizabeth: Pallo!!!: "Last night I finished my first small free painting for My life with flyball dogs . Here is the picture I worked from.  And here is the pa..."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Flyball Training: Not that simple

A short note before you read on: Flyball is my sport of choice, as should be pretty obvious to any regular blog readers. It is simply the sport I choose to participate in above all others. When I compare it to agility, or obedience, or any other sport, I am doing so from my own perspective, with opinions born from my own experience. Feel free to express any disagreements in the comment area. This is all open to discussion, but please try to keep it friendly.

Many people seem to have a very simplistic view of flyball. A lot of people in the dog sport world have a simplistic and negative view of flyball. The strange part is, most of those people have never been to a flyball tournament, demo, or practice.

Giving all of these people the benefit of the doubt, that they simply don't know what flyball is all about, I want to share what flyball does for dog training. Every type of training with dogs has focus areas. Some things are really strong in them, and others, not so much.

Flyball on the surface has two behaviors that need to be trained: jumps, and the flyball box. It looks so simple when an experienced dog is on the course that sometime people want to just get out there with their totally untrained (at least for flyball) dog and are disappointed when the dog doesn't perform well, or at all.

Almost everyone views jumps as a simplistic obstacle for a dog to learn, whether they compete in obedience, agility, flyball, or simply play in the back yard. Most dogs learn to go over a jump easily. Some agility trainers take it a step farther by training and proofing jumps enough to give a dog accountability for keeping bars up. But, in the most basic sense, jumps are easy. No dispute there.

The flyball box is an obstacle that sounds simple. Dog jumps on box, box shoots out ball, dog catches ball, dog jumps off box. Training a fast, smooth, and safe box turn that holds up is a whole lot more complicated than that, but lets face it, its a pretty single purpose behavior. (My personal opinion is that there is not one other single obstacle or exercise used in any dog sport that is more complex and more complicated to train than a box turn. Feel free to disagree, and comment with examples if you would like.)

Flyball as a sport is a lot more than just the obstacles. Sure, the dog runs down over four jumps, hops on the box, grabs a ball, and runs back over four jumps. Sounds easy. Sounds simple. How much training can that possibly take?

For agility people, let me ask you a question: How far of a send out can you do with your dog and have them reliably perform the obstacle at that distance? How far can they send out to their hardest obstacle (be it weaves, a contact obstacle, or whatever)? Keep this in mind for a minute.

A flyball course is 51 feet from the box to the start line. Most dogs are started at least 10 feet into the run back area, and many are started closer to 30-50 feet. This means the send out to the flyball box for a dog can be anywhere from 60 to 110 feet. Will your dog perform reliably at that distance from you? (Herding people are probably laughing at these measly distances, knowing their dog can work reliably at much, much greater ones.)

Now take your agility dog or obedience or other trained dog and put them within 20 feet of 7 excited, barking, running dogs and 7 excited, running, yelling people. Ask your dog to perform for you. Some of your dogs may do great. Others will likely melt down. Being able to work in that type of environment is not required of these dogs. It is of flyball dogs.

Can your dog perform its task with another dog running full speed past him only inches away? Our flyball dogs have to learn to do this before than can ever compete. They pass other dogs like this up to two times in every heat of the race.

I'm not trying to say any other dog sport is super simple. I'm not saying agility is easy, or obedience is something we could do in our sleep, or even imply that. I know I could not just decide to jump onto an agility course or into an obedience ring with no specific training and do anything but make a fool of myself, and possibly risk injury to my dog. It takes training. All I am trying to say is that flyball takes training too. A lot of training.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Flyball practice went awesome last night.

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Pallo ran solid and clean, and pretty much was holding his ball all the way. His energy was all there, he dug in, ran hard, and did an awesome job.

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He even had to pass Zip, a super excited, super fluffy Belgian Tervuren on our team who can be a bit overbearing and over interested in dogs she is passing. But Pallo passed into her just fine, holding steady and solid.

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Koira though was the real star. She ran in a full line up of 4 dogs. We put her in 3rd, just to see how she handled it. And, she did awesome. A few ball drops (which all hit the incoming Jack Russel in the face, poor thing), but not one refusal, turn around, or restart needed. She only fumbled at the box once, and while she did drop early a few times, she also held her ball all the way about half our runs.

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Even more exciting, she was running fast. Most of the time, she was even single striding down to the box, which for her, is pretty awesome. She has been on the double-stride to the box, then turn around and put on the after burners type of a method for a long time, and I would like to see some of her return speed in her send out. Last night, I finally saw some of it leaching over.

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For the tournament we will plan on having her in for two races on Sunday. Depending on how well she runs, and on how the other dogs on the team are doing, she may run more or less.

ETA: Thank you to CindyLu's Muse for passing on the Versatile Blogger Award to us, and to Yuki for passing on the Inspiration Award. I really appreciate these being passed on.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thank you!

Thank you Hawk for thinking of us when giving out the Inspiration Award! Sometimes it still amazes me that people read, and enjoy, the blog. It makes my day every time we get a new comment or a new follower, and the one time I was recognized by someone at a flyball event who was a reader of my blog was pretty darn awesome. To be thought of as an inspiration to anyone, for any reason, is pretty neat, but for a blogger like Hawk to send this my way makes me smile, and send a big thank you back to him!

Now, to fulfill the obligation of accepting such an awesome award, I have to do one of the hardest things ever: choose just 10 blogs that inspire me to send this award on to.

(To make things a little easier for me, I made a point of picking different blogs than I passed on the Versitile Blogger Award to in May, not because those blogs don't inspire me as well, but because I have to choose somehow.)

After much debating, here is the list, in no particular order (or possibly alphabetically....):

1. BZ Training- For inspiring me with the amazing pictures posted daily, teaching me more about photography, and for having some very adorable boys.

2. Don't Be a Pit Bully- For loving the breed that has a special place in my heart, and helping to spread the word of how wonderful these dogs really can be.

3. Exercise Finished- For working so hard with your dogs, and more recently, for taking the plunge into a whole new realm of dog training in an attempt to be the single most exciting thing in your dog's life, with or without a cookie.

4. Full Tilt Border Collies- For inspiring me to believe that two dogs is no where near enough, and managing your wonderful pack of stunning Border Collies in such style.

5. Hidden Meadow Farm- For dedicating your life to the preservation of rare and heritage livestock, and for having the most adorable cows I've ever seen.

6. Its A Greyt Day- For a lifelong dedication to a whole herd of amazing greyhounds, and for surviving the Oregon winter rain.

7. Our Wee Farm- For the amazing pictures of farm life and travels. And because you have llamas.

8. Two Grad Students and a Pittie- For taking the time and effort to raise a happy, healthy dog of any breed in a huge city, and for taking on the extra burdens that can come along with owning a pit bull.

9. Whippet Tales- For having a pair of whippets that love each other so much, managing to get non-blurry pictures of whippets running, and for adding to my own sickness of wanting a whippet for myself.

10. Yuki the dog blog- For keeping the fur on that gorgeous dog pure white, and for keeping that pure white fur off of everything else in your house (or at least, the stuff we can see in your pictures).

Grab the badge, pass it on, but make sure to follow these simple rules as you do:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded this to you.

2. Link posts by you and ten fellow bloggers that you find inspirational.

3. Forward the award to those ten fellow bloggers

An additional note, is a local artist who is a friend of mine (or at least, a friend of a friend and we've hung out a few times and my dogs like her, so that counts, right?) is offering a painting to each of her first five followers, and with four followers right now, that means one more lucky person will get a painting. Head on over to check out her blog, and her artwork, at Art By Elizabeth.

Pallo actually tried to follow her home when we saw her last Friday. Not unusual in and of itself, except that he wouldn't come back to me at all. He was determined to go home with her. Silly little man.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Black and white

Or, technically, I guess, its grey-scale, since it is black, white, and many shades of grey.

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I took a trip with my sister and cousin to visit my dad over on the coast, which meant a great opportunity to get some beach pictures. With how overcast it was though, I found that I liked most of the pictures better in black and white than in color.

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I did get a number of them that I loved.

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I'm so sad I cut off part of Koira in this one, since I love how they are coordinated with the jumping through the water.

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I can't decide if I like this one:

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Or this one:

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better. Which do you prefer? Its the same picture, just edited slightly different.

Koira swam some, even though the water was freezing. She books it back to shore though if the waves get too big. Pallo doesn't even like getting his feet wet with the waves, even though he will now wade in rivers and even sometimes swim in still water.

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We rushed back from the beach in time to head up to flyball practice (of which, you may have realized, I rarely have any pictures). With my wrist still hurting a good bit, I had my cousin help out by running Pallo, saving most of my energy for running Koira myself, since she does not run well for other people.

Pallo was running good, though slower for my cousin than he normally is for me. I'm not sure if he was tired from the beach or she wasn't calling him loud enough/wasn't exciting enough/he couldn't find her as easily, or some combination of those. He was holding his ball really well though, with no early drops and only a few close to the line. We ran him with a box jump in, so his turns were excellent. Next time we will try a couple times without the prop and see how his turns are holding up.

Koira ran really well for me. We were working specifically on ball dropping, and saw a lot of improvement. Most of Koira's dropping is at the box, when she fumbles the ball during her turn (though she is fumbling at the box less and less). Sometimes, though, she randomly spits the ball out after 2-3 jumps on the way back.

Since Koira loves her tug a ton, but loves coming back to me a lot too, I used her toy drive to help motivate her to bring her ball all the way back. In her first set of five runs, she fumbled at the box twice and dropped early for no reason once, (receiving no tug toy at all for any of those runs, but getting verbal praise for the one partial return).

On her second set of five, she did much better, running clean all five heats. She was running alone in her lane, with a single other dog running with her in the other lane. Even when crossed on once, she stayed on her tug really nicely. And, since we have a tournament coming up, we timed all of the dogs at practice to make sure our seed times (the time you submit for each team for a tournament which determines what division the team races in) were pretty accurate. Its important to not be too far off, because if you "break out" of your division (run faster than a set time, normally 1 second faster than the fastest seed time in the division) you forfeit the race.

Anyhow, enough of the technical mumbo jumbo. We timed each of the dogs, and Koira timed in with her fastest runs being in the 5.4 second range. She slowed down to 5.7 seconds in her second set of five because she got tired. Sure, one would think that Koira should be able to run faster than Pallo, but a lot more goes into a flyball time than just the dog's basic ability to turn on the speed.

Koira's main issue is that she runs veeeery slowly to the box since she doesn't like running away from me, then returns quickly. Eventually, the whole sequence should happen faster and faster, but for now, she mostly double strides all the way down to the box, then single strides all the way back. Simply speeding up on the way down, which should happen naturally with practice, will probably bring her times down into the 4 second range. In addition, a dog's time is affected by how smooth/fast/snappy their turn is at the box. Koira's turn is okay, but nothing super impressive. I'm not going to mess with it any more though. Passing is the other factor that weighs in on a dog's speed, but wasn't in play for this timing, since Koira was running alone.

I think, if she runs clean at all in this upcoming tournament, I will be very, very proud of her. In fact, if she obliges by running at all, clean or not, I think I will be pretty darn happy. Right now, she has sat in the NAFA database with 7 points for a year and a half. It would be super awesome to add something to that.

Anyway, the weekend is upon us, so everyone go out and enjoy. And don't forget about the Saturday Pet Blog Hop.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We finally got to play

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Pallo is so happily tired. We did, previous to my really really long weekend, get to go play some flyball.

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Pallo ran really good, even for my cousin Bre when I handed Pallo off to her for our second round in practice (we run 3 groups in practice, each group going twice). He ran a little slow for her on the return, because she has not yet developed the pure volume needed for flyball yelling, but he ran good and clean.

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Koira ran in a two dog lineup against a single dog, and did good. She still fumbles at the box some, and I have pretty much trained her to return without the ball if it goes flying and she can't find it, but the runs where she was clean at the box were clean entirely.

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Of the 7 runs she did, she only did one false start, which was my fault in trying to start her too far back (right now, for her, 10 feet is our maximum distance). Then, she slammed into me really hard to get her tug. I am now in a wrist brace (and sling, when I remember to wear it) for a few weeks or it stops hurting.

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But, as its said, "Its not flyball until there's blood!"

We ended up with a ton of fun from flyball, and despite the wrist injury, we had a great time. Plus, we have working lineups for the July tournament coming up. Koira will be running one day. She will for sure be doing warm ups, and depending on how her warm up runs go, she might get to run in some races. Its a big deal for us, after so much time spent in training, but I'm looking forward to it, and I think this time, she is finally ready for a tournament.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Long weekend

The weather this weekend was simply amazing. Bright blue skies, warm sunlight. And I worked all weekend. A total of 37 hours in 3 days actually, taking up pretty much every daylight hour. So yesterday, I took the dogs out for a long bike ride to make up for the sedentary weekend (though my cousin did come stay with us and take the dogs out for me).

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We found a really neat wooden dock that I've never seen before, lending a perfect setting for my taking-pictures-of-my-dogs obsession.

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The taking-pictures-of-my-dogs obsession was met in kind by my taking-pictures-in-macro obsession, and the two spent the day duking it out.

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Pallo's feet were a popular subject, but unfortunately, he is past due for a nail trim, and now the whole world gets to see it.

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And of course, there was the requisite dog torture to get good pictures, involving throwing sticks just out of reach.

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Sometimes its a wonder to me that my dogs still like me with all the ridiculous stuff I make them do.

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I must not be very interesting to them when I am on the ground, hanging half over the side of a dock, snapping pictures.

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Koira finally figured out that it was safe to jump off the dock to get the stick, and was showing off her muscles.

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Pallo had to be "helped" into the water, but did manage to leap back onto the dock like a large, furry fish. (Sometimes there are just those pictures that despite cutting off a nose, head, or body part, you just have to share them anyway.)

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There were many more pictures taken later, and closer up, but I think they will be saved for another post, as this one is getting really picture heavy already. I don't want to slow down loading the page too much.

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And, as per request from Greyhounds CAN Sit, I will go ahead and share what my new camera is. First off, I bought it used from Craigslist for $35. The original posting asked for $50, and I was able to negotiate them down. This is the Kodak EasyShare Z650. I don't have any of the lens attachments for it, so it is just the straight camera (at least for now). Pictures are then edited in PhotoScape, for lack of any better free photo editing program.