Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Wrap-up

A lot of stuff happened in 2011

In January, I took Pallo on a trip to Southern California to run in the Orange Crush flyball tournament with The Usual Suspects. Pallo ran iron dog (every heat), in 80-90 degree weather, on grass, and achieved his personal best time of 5.0 seconds, which still holds today. We also spent some time exploring the Redwoods on our drive down and took off down to the Santa Monica boardwalk quite a bit. It was an awesome week of sun, warmth, and fun with old friends and new. Koira stayed home with my mom and got fat.

Also in January, I made the switch to raw feeding for both of my dogs, which means we are about to reach the one year anniversary of one of the best decisions I've ever made.

In February, we enjoyed some snow and I had the awesome opportunity to attend a flyball seminar taught by Touch N Go, the current U-Fli world record holding team. The seminar was amazing, and I learned a ton about not the broad overview of training flyball, but how to fix the little things like striding and box position. 

In March, I moved back into town with the pups. Koira started having a mystery limp, which ended up going away after a visit to the chiropractor. I also taught the dogs to use a touch-stick and worked on the basics of flyball with them. Koira did full flyball runs for the first time in over a year. Pallo had a very unflattering picture of his butt posted all over the internet.

In April, I took both dogs and tried out lure coursing for the first time.Both dogs loved it and I had a great time as well. 

In May, my camera broke. I bought a new fancy camera to try out, but ended up returning it because the action pictures weren't very good. I ended up, instead, picking up a cheap used camera on Craigslist, which I have been enjoying since then. We also went to a few more lure coursing practices, and Koira was making a good deal of progress in flyball, learning all over again how to run in a lineup.

In June, I went a little crazy with the macro mode on my new camera. Koira started running faster to the flyball box without any hesitations or spinning around to look at me instead of running- I think this was the point she really started enjoying playing the game. I taught Pallo how to "line up" between my legs, and posted my first training video of that. 

In July, Koira ran her first tournament in a year and a half, since the previous January. She was a rock star, earning her FD and FDX titles that weekend. Very proud of my little girl. We also did our first disc dog competition with Pallo and Koira at Da Vinci Days, and watched the parade in the rain. If you add in some more lure coursing practice, a backpacking trip, and a day at the swimming hole, you pretty much have our month of July (plus a July 4th photo shoot, of course).

In August, I started out with a Flyball Training Series that has continued for a few months. We also went to a second Disc Dog competition, did some more lure coursing, had tons of fun with flyball, and Koira learned how to play with sprinklers at the park.

In September, I started doing some Monday Meal Plans to help prepare for the week.We also took a trip up to Mt. Hebo and played the lost hiker for a search and rescue dog to practice finding. I spent a ton of time at the park all month picking blackberries by the bucketful (some of which I still have in the freezer for enjoyment throughout the winter). We also did both a flyball demo and a flyball tournament in September, during which Koira was a rock star!

Moving on to October, the dogs both went to their first lure coursing competition. Each competed in two CATs (Coursing Ability Tests), and both of them Q'd twice, earning some pretty ribbons. They now need one additional leg to get their CA (Coursing Ability) titles. We also headed to a flyball tournament in Washington, where Pallo went an entire weekend without once dropping his ball early (yay!), and Koira ran really nicely but showed me that she needed some serious work on her box turns. I also rescued an old, broken dog and fostered him for a few days until he could go into Senior Dog Rescue. In addition, I posted a tutorial on braiding your own square fleece tug toys.

November brought a friend of mine to flyball practice with us, who happens to be a photographer, getting a chance for a few decent pictures of the dogs (though with the lighting, decent was about the best to be hoped for, with good or awesome requiring a bit more lighting set up than we had spur of the moment). I worked a lot on rear end awareness and pivot work with the dogs, and started videotaping Koira's turns at practice to help fix her turn. We also took a trip to the beach right at the end of the month that resulted in probably my favorite picture of 2011.

December has been pretty mellow as far as the dogs go, with me working more and no flyball tournaments on the horizon. Koira's box turn is getting much better, and we may have found the magic set up for getting a good turn with her. Koira had her fourth birthday, I made collars for some craft shows, and we started obedience training. Chester the flyball corgi came to visit for a week and a half during Christmas, and I took the dogs to our first fun match.

Hope everyone has a safe and fun New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How do you know?

So, question for all of you who compete with your dogs in any sport: how do you decide if you are ready to enter the ring?

After the awesome performance Koira gave me with the Rally course at the fun run, I am debating if it would be worth our time to enter in Novice rally at the Rose City Classic, which is in mid January. If I did, I would only do Sunday (I work the other days it is happening).

Reasons not to:
With a $29 entry fee, parking fees, and gas to get there (two hour drive), it wouldn't exactly be a cheap day.
Koira is no where near perfect with any of her exercises, except in the giving me 100% attention and focus; her fronts are sometimes a bit far away, her butt swings out to the side when we halt (she has no automatic sit, but in Rally, I can tell her to sit), occasionally she forges or lags a bit on the heel
Rose City is a huge show, with a ton of stuff happening. It might easily be overwhelming to me or my dog, especially for our first time in the ring.

Reasons to:
It would be a great chance to see what we need to work on to be show ready. The fun match was supposed to do that, and did a little bit, but with no major issues in the ring, it seems more that it showed we might be ready instead of we need a ton more work.
If I go into it expecting mistakes, but just working with my dog to have fun, it could be a really fun time. I don't need titles to have fun with my dog.
The next show after that is an additional month away, and only a dollar cheaper on entry fees. If we do RCC and do good, we could then enter the next show. If we don't do RCC, we would have another month of practicing before going into the ring.
I don't think the environment, as insane as it might be, can possibly be more stimulating to Koira than a flyball tournament- it is bound to be quieter, at the very least.

But, I need to decide soon. The show is soon, which means the closing date is a week away. So- what would you do? How do you decide if your dog is ready for the ring? Is it totally insane to try an actual rally competition after only three months of regular training?

Monday, December 26, 2011

On the first day after Christmas

Hope everyone had a great Christmas. We had some fun, especially Koira, who loves ripping open packages. 

Today, the Gym where we have flyball practice was hosting an obedience/rally fun match. Along with two others from flyball, I decided to take my dogs and try it out.

I did a Beginner Novice run with Pallo. He had no brain. I pretty much just had to reward him for giving me attention and not worry about anything other than that. He has a much better Stand for Exam than Sit for Exam, and a better Sit-stay and Down-stay if I don't walk around the edges of the ring during it. I think Beginner Novice is not for us, and that we need to do a lot of work on heeling and attention before we even try venturing into an actual competition ring.

Koira was a whole different story. Originally I was just going to do a single Rally run with her, but ended up doing the Beginner Novice for fun first. She did pretty good, a bit jumpy starting out on the heeling. Her biggest issue was with the stays, which didn't have at all. 

Rally came around and was a blast! I walked the course twice, then me and Koira were the third pair into the ring. The only real issues we had with anything was the left turn to slow pace, which was pretty close together. Koira seemed to think that the combination of turning then slowing down meant I wanted her to heel on the right instead of the left. The "judge" for Rally told us at the end of the run that we would have gotten a very high score for the run.

Of course, I was holding treats in my hand... But, I gave in to the temptation and did a second run through of the Rally course, this time with no treats in my hand (though they were in my pocket). Koira did just about the same, maybe a little farther away on her fronts in the 1-2-3 steps back, call front, but really good with everything else. She did have the same issue with the left turn to slow pace change though, wanting to switch over to the right side, so I'll have to figure out what I'm doing to cause that.

The long and short of it is, though, that I think I am ready to try out a real Rally trial with her. The next one in the area is at the Rose City Classic in Portland, which is happening in late January and closes on the 4th, so I'll have to make a decision soon.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Flyball visitors

Chester the corgi is visiting our house of flyball for the holidays. He is one of the green dogs on our flyball team, and his people went out of town for the holidays. We even got to take him along to flyball practice yesterday. Though, I have to say that it is a little strange to have a dog who is larger than but shorter than Pallo.

Lots of fun was had at the park with all three dogs having a great time running around chasing each other.

Chester is super food motivated, so I knew the chicken jerky in my pocket would bring an instant response from him if I needed his attention.

I even had to get some posed shots of all three dogs. You can see how big Chester is in comparison to my two- he is just much shorter than them!

The short leg patrol.

Then I had to line them up based on height.

And then I picked up some LED Christmas lights and was trying to take some pictures of my dogs. Chester, however, thought it was his turn and demanded that I take pictures of him instead.

Have a Merry Christmas Eve, Eve.

Flyball Practice, Box turns

I took three dogs to practice yesterday- Koira, Pallo, and Chester, who is a corgi on our flyball team, but staying with us for the holidays. All the dogs ran really great. I got a chance to have team mates record Koira's turns, and I think we may have *fingers crossed* figured out a set up that keeps her high on the box, no double hitting, no bobbling, and nice and snappy.

In addition to the prop changes noted in the video between the clips, I also started calling Koira earlier, when she hit the box instead of when she got the ball, to encourage her to push off faster back to me. I did this change about the same time we put in the extra height in the box jump, so the improvement could be due to either, but I am thinking both.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank you

I have received two awards from fellow bloggers, and it is about time I say thank you and pass them on.

From Brando and Bogart, I recieved the Kreativ Blogger Award.

For this award, I am supposed to share 10 things you may not know about my dogs.
1. Koira is way more mellow than Pallo in the house.
2. I am pretty sure Pallo used to be named Taco, because he responds strongly to that word.
3. Pallo graduated from his basic obedience class and received his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) within three months of me adopting him from the shelter.
4. As far as I can tell, the only training Pallo had before I adopted him was learning to sit.
5. I adopted my first dog, Koira, on the spur of the moment, and was technically not allowed to have pets of any kind at the apartment I lived in at the time.
6. I adopted Martha (my cat) from a garage sale, after jokingly asking if the cat was for sale.
7. Pallo is afraid of cats, including Martha.
8. Koira loves chasing cats when they run, but is afraid of Martha (who was bigger than Koira when I first brought her home) and will immediately throw on the brakes if any cat turns around and raises a paw at her.
9. Koira snores (and is snoring right now)
10. No balls are allowed in my house. Pallo gets way too annoying throwing it for himself over and over, so he doesn't get any inside.

Now, for the passing on of the award to six blogs I enjoy.

Tricks for Treats
Two Greyhound Town
Identity: V+E
A filly's best friend
An English Shepherd

The other award I recieved was from Tricks for Treats, who awarded me with the Liebster Award.

Here are the "rules" for this award:

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. As with any award, there is a bit of ceremony involved. In order to accept the award, we must do the following:
1. Copy and paste the award on our blog
2. Link back to the blogger who gave us the award
3. Pick our five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs

The blogs I am passing this award on to are:

Spectrum Dogs
Bounce, Bark, Run
Cedes of Change
Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey
Just a Pup

Please take the award and pass it on! And thank you, again, to Brando and Bogart and Tricks for Treats for passing on these awesome awards to me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Flyball and BSL

A team in my region posted today on the region's Facebook page that they will not be hosting their anticipated 2012 tournament this year. Since I love going to tournaments, this is kind of sad news. But, I fully support the reason for their decision: They have not been able to find an affordable facility in a location without BSL* (breed specific legislation).

This decision means a lot to me. I, for one, would not have been attending the tournament if it was held there, regardless of if the city applied an "exception" for those dogs participating in the tournament (as would be required by NAFA for sanctioning of the event). If you have been following my blog, you will remember my post from a while back when we traveled to a tournament outside of Auburn, WA, which also has (to a much lesser degree) BSL.

It hurts a lot when dog events are scheduled for places with BSL, even more so than when the random strangers act suddenly terrified of my dog only after hearing her breed. Somehow, I expect the dog community to know what BSL is and to support the owners of those banned and restricted breeds**. Hosting dog tournaments or events in places with BSL in place is like giving the city or county the message that the dog owning community is okay with this decision. When the club hosting the event doesn't even let participants, many of whom are not from the area, know about the BSL in place, it feels a lot like a slap in the face to those of us owning the breeds affected; it sends the message that they don't care about our dogs.

Unfortunately, something seems to get lost in translation sometimes. Clubs who host events in BSL locations get told that their event will be boycotted by those who own banned breed. The clubs, instead of listening to the very valid fears these dog owners have for the well being of their beloved companions, react instead as if the boycott is a personal attack on them.

Many people who own banned or restricted breeds, including me, have had our fears of the breed bans laughed at or brushed off by other dog lovers as over reactions. And let me tell you, it hurts. We aren't trying to be difficult, or to upset your club, or ruin your day. We are trying to protect our family. And when dog clubs ignore the effect BSL can have on any dog and does have on those of us who own banned breeds and choose to host in BSL affected locations, it feels like an abandonment by those who should be fighting by our sides.

When it comes right on down to the base of the matter, dog clubs and dog related organizations, including any and all sporting and conformation groups, should be at the head of the line to object to BSL. Having those self same organizations give passive support to BSL by hosting and attending events in BSL locations is like a slap in the face. As a fellow flyball participant and banned-breed owner so elloquently stated it, if anyone should know better and make a statement, it is them (referring to dog clubs of any kind).

So, I really want to say thank you to JCJ for making the decision to not support a BSL town by hosting your tournament there. We all look forward to your tournaments and plan to attend as soon as a suitable facility can be located. The statement that we would not attend a tournament in Enumclaw is in no way meant to be a slight against your team. Instead, it is an expression of our fears for the safety of our canine family members. We hope that you understand where these fears come from and join us in the fight against BSL.

*BSL includes any legislation which specifically applies only to dogs meeting specific breed outlines or physical characteristics, while not applying to those dogs who do not conform to those breed profiles. This includes but is not limited to outright bans, requiring muzzles or additional restraint, requiring owners to carry insurance, or mandatory spay/neuter laws.

**Banned breeds do not just include so-called pit bulls. Breeds affected by BSL include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Doberman Pincher, Shar Pei, German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Great Dane, Irish Wolf Hound, Scottish Deer Hound, Mastiff, Boerboel, American Bull Dog, Akita, Chow Chow, English Mastiff, Tosa Inu, Presa Canario, Dogo Argentino, Cane Corso, and Bull Terrier. Additionally, BSL affects dogs over certain weight limits (such as 100 lbs), regardless of breed, and can affect any dog deemed to have the features of any of the affected breeds, regardless of the dog in question's actual heritage.

Wordless Wednesday: Close the door!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Fail

Every year, I make Christmas candy. Normally, we will do a candy making party with family and a few friends, then I will make some other candies to supplement those from the big party. One candy always on the list to make is toffee.

Our family loves toffee, be it plain, covered in chocolate, or with chocolate and nuts. And, our toffee recipe is so super simple, it is easy to make a ton of it. Or, at least it was. Because for some reason, this year's toffee is a fail. Out of six attempted batches, only two turned out.

Its been suggested to me on a food forum I frequent that the recipe itself is at fault. Being a super simple recipe of one cup sugar, one cup butter, stir over medium-high heat until it smells burnt, then pour on a cookie sheet to cool, some people claim that the basic needs for creating toffee aren't fulfilled. But, this self same recipe has worked for my family for years- all of my life, and likely all of my mom's life as well, if not her mom's too! Somehow, I think the defect lies somewhere other than the recipe.
One cup of butter, one cup of sugar- that's it

The thing I am finding most suspicious is the butter. The first two batches are the two that turned out and used fresh from the store butter. The next two used the same brand of butter, but it had been previously frozen. Instead of turning into awesome candy, those batches separated into an oily butter liquid and a brownish syrup that would not stir together, no matter what. So I went on, bought some new butter, and figured I would try again. But, I forgot the butter in the car overnight. Our temperatures over night have been in the 28-30 degree range, which means, perhaps, the butter may have frozen. But certainly not frozen solid like it would have in the freezer. But still, it was another failed attempt where the candy separated out.

This is what the process should look like- instead, right before that last stage hits, it separates into a liquid and a syrup instead of being one syrupy candy goodness

So my question is, what's wrong with it? Does freezing butter cause a chemical change significant enough to cause this failure? Does the freezing process add moisture to the butter, causing the failure? Was the second time around a failure due to the butter freezing, or due to using store-brand butter, which may have had higher water content?
Last year's toffee, with chocolate spread on top, cooling on the pan

I guess I get to make rice crispy treats as holiday candy this year...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday, Koira!

Koira officially turns four years old on December 10th. My little baby girl is not so little and not so much a baby, but still very much my girl. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas little girl.

*Photo taken by Christiane Butler.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Flyball and obedience

Every time I hear people say flyball dogs are out of control, it makes me want to put obedience titles on my dogs.

In any case, we had flyball practice tonight, then a few of us stayed late after flyball to work some obedience with our dogs.

First off, flyball. We are still on the quest to fix Koira's turns. You can see in the video of her first session of practice that we were trying different props a few times trying to fix her double hitting. But, a low single bump was making her drop her butt too low, so we put in the triple. The next time we came out and practiced with her, which I didn't get video of, we used the triple with an additional PVC jump over it, about another 2 inches taller. I'm not really sure if it's helping or not.

For the obedience afterwards, I decided to just take out one dog, and picked Pallo for no particular reason. We worked a bit on attention, since he was still in flyball mode a bit. It took some rewarding for looking at me a few times before he started paying attention to me, but then we did some decent practice with heeling for a step, doing fronts, sits/downs/stands, etc.

 Then the group did some group down stays and sit stays. I've never really done a lot of stay practice with my dogs (they "wait" much more often). Pallo did awesome though. He snapped into position immediately when I told him to, didn't budge an inch as I walked away from him, stared intently at me the whole time until I returned (I think we did about 20 seconds or so). He did both the sit stay and and down stay awesome like.

Then, for kicks and giggles, we decided to practice stand for exam with a friend. She showed me what to do first (I've never taken an actual obedience class, so am super new to all of this). I practiced with Pallo, having him stand, stay, walking away, then walking back, feeling along his back, returning to position, and releasing him. He took a single step while I did the touching his back part. Then my friend helped out and I had Pallo stand, stay, then I walked about five feet away while my friend approached him, felt his back, walked around behind him, came back over to me, then I walked to him, around him, and released. He took one step, when I returned and walked behind him. Pretty darn good, I thought, for his first ever time practicing it.

I'm thinking the key to obedience is to play a few hours of flyball first...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I've been slacking on the menu planning for the past little while. But, I need to get back into it I think, because all too often I have just been grabbing a granola bar when I'm hungry and not making real food.

Breakfast: Bagel/cream cheese; Blueberry pancakes; granola

Lunch/Dinner: Italian chicken sausage barley soup; Potatoes au Gratin; Baked breaded chicken; Braised veggies; Sweet potato fries; Baked beans with hot dogs; Orange chicken and rice.

Not a whole lot of ideas, but hopefully will be something to flesh out my go to snacks of granola bars and fruit cups, supplemented heavily by ginger-lemon tea for my sore throat and cough, because, I am sick again. Stupid flu.

Dogs and cat are having elk scraps, turkey, and goat liver this week.

For more recipe ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday and StoneGable.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Box turns

Some box turn videos from tonight's practice.

Koira's video

Pallo's video

I'm not worried about Pallo's turn. He's been competing long enough at this point that I am not going to mess with it. Koira, however, is definitely double hitting* almost every single time. I tried putting in a taller prop (the box jump in front of the box is a 6 inch base with 2, 2 inch slats, for a total height of ten inches) and tried putting up the flap on top of the box. Neither seemed to help.

Any ideas, suggestions, funky things you notice?

*For those who missed the explanation before, double hitting is when the dog lands on the box, then picks up their feet or foot, then puts that foot or feet back on the box again before launching off the box- basically, a foot or feet is double hitting the box.