Sunday, May 30, 2010

More summer fun

Another pool party this evening after some work on go-outs and the UKC #2 glove exercise. So I put the hose in the pool, flipped the handle on the pump and this is what happens. Pretty typical. Digging at the water makes it come out of the hose faster.

But the shot I missed was Jamie stepping into the pool, grabbing the end of the hose and taking off with it, spraying water everywhere! Holy crap! Do you know how cold water is when it comes out of a 140-foot deep well?! Obviously I'm not filling the dogs' pool from our fancy-schmancy pay-for-every-gallon rural water line. It's straight out of Mother Earth and let me tell ya, Mother Earth is chillin'.

Anyway, there were a few exciting seconds when I was trying to keep me and the camera from getting soaked, while getting those hose away from Jamie before he turned it into a sprinkler. Although since it was a pretty warm evening, I have to admit it did feel kinda good.

Here's Phoenix, doing a lovely underwater retrieve for his ball. And people are amazed when my dogs beat the goldens and labs at their own game by retrieving mini pumpkins and gourds out of a tub full of water at the club Halloween party. Honestly, I do NOT train this. It's all the dogs' idea. They love their ball and the fact it's underwater doesn't stop them. By the time we have the Halloween party in October, they've spent all summer and early fall power-retrieving stuff out of water.

Training update: Phoenix's go-outs are good enough (at least in familiar places, need to take this show on the road) that I felt confident introducing the short go-out and sit we'll need for the second glove exercise in UKC obedience. He did a lovely job when I stopped him short, quick response with no hesitation and didn't even seem baffled about being told to sit before he got to the gate. He got a big reward for being so brilliant. Then I sent him on a full-length go-out. He ran exactly half way, turned and sat. Where's my cookie?

Sigh. Why run 50 feet for a cookie when you can run 25 feet and get the same cookie? This confusion stage is pretty typical. It's kinda like teaching the drop on recall and then the dog wants to drop on every recall, whether you ask him to or not. So we did a couple of long ones with me running him out to his "Go away!" spot, then a long one by himself, which he rocked, and we called it a night.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Team Orange moon

Did you see the full moon last night? It was beautiful. I took these pics on the way home from agility class. The moon could have been the mascot for Team Orange! By the time I got home, it was normal moon-colored.

According to KWWL meteorologists, this full moon is called a full Flower Moon. Flowers spring up in abundance this month. Some Algonquin tribes knew this full moon as the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone! I have a huge to-do list, as usual, and can't wait to get started.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sleepless night #2

3:18 a.m.

I am sleeping. The Farmer is sleeping. Phoenix is sleeping on his fuzzy by the bed. Jamie has rearranged his fuzzy to his liking and is sleeping half on/half off of it.


The mother of all cat fights breaks out underneath our bedroom window (our bedroom is on the ground floor).

Me sitting straight up in bed: For the love of doG, why do they have to do that right under the window! (Truly, this is one of the joys of sleeping with windows open in the summer.)

Farmer, not even opening an eye: #$%@-ing cats!

Jamie: Yawn. Cats are boring. ZZZZZ

Phoenix, ricocheting around the bedroom: CAT FIGHT! CAT FIGHT! Lemme at ‘em!

Me: Knock it off. You’re not going out there.

Phoenix, leaping onto the bed, over me, over the Farmer and perching with his front paws on the window sill and back paws on the bed: Can’t knock it off! CAT FIGHT! CAT FIGHT! I can make them stop! I’ll bark out the window! That’ll fix ‘em. WOOOOO-WOOOOO-WOOOOOO-WOOOOO!

Me: Your brain needs fixed.

Cats continue to yowl obscenities at one another.

Phoenix: You think you’re so tough! You wanna piece of this!? WOOOOO-WOOOOO-WOOOOOO-WOOOOO!

Farmer: Now I’m deaf.

Me: What?

Jamie: Cats are stupid. I’d rather have a raccoon. ZZZZZ


Phoenix, bouncing back across the bed, onto the floor and racing out of the room: I’ll check all the other windows, in case there’s been a security breach!

Sound of malinois paws racing from room to room. THUD! Sound of dining room chair being knocked over, followed by thunks of paws hitting window sills in each room, followed by paws returning to bedroom and screeching to a stop on my side of the bed.

Phoenix: I can’t see any cats. You have to turn me loose, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!

Me: You just ran into a chair in the dining room.

Phoenix: Oh, sorry about that. I wanna chase a cat. NOW!

Me: No. Not happening.

Phoenix: You are no fun.

Jamie: Kid, will ya just go back to sleep.

Me: Deprive me of another night’s sleep and you’ll see “no fun.”

Phoenix: And you’re crabby . . . fine . . . going to sleep. I’ll get me a cat one of these days.

Me: Ahh, peace . . .


Me and The Farmer: $#%!-ing raccoons!


And my co-workers wonder why I am the way I am some mornings.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A good night's sleep, NOT!

11:15 p.m. Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles.

Jamie: Oooooh, this is not good. Not good at all.

Me: Go back to sleep, it’s just a little thunderstorm.

Jamie: Noooooo, it’s Armageddon.

Me: It is NOT Armageddon. You’re fine.

Jamie: Not fine. Terrible. Horrible. Awful.

Me: All right, you can come up on the bed. But you have to stay at the foot. It’s hot.

Jamie (launching onto bed): Okay, not quite as terrible.

Phoenix: Me, too?

Me: No. You are not a storm freak. Stay on the floor. It’s too warm for dogs on the bed.

Phoenix: You let that big furry thing up there.

Me: He’s having a meltdown. This makes him feel better.

Phoenix: Can I have a meltdown?

Me: No. You are FINE. Go to sleep.

Lightning crashes and thunder rolls.

Jamie: Ooooooh, it’s terrible, horrible, awful.

Me: It’s just a little t-storm, nothing severe. No watches. No warnings.

Jamie (crawls half way up the bed): Doesn’t matter. Hate storms. Scary.

Phoenix: I should sleep on the bed, too.

Me: You’re fine on the floor. Be still.

Phoenix: %$#@!

Jamie: Maybe we should go to the basement.

Me: We are NOT going to the basement.

Jamie: %$#@!

Phoenix (leaping onto the bed): Here I come! Whee!

Me: Ooooooof! Get off my stomach. All right, lie down and be still. You can stay.

Phoenix (licking my face): I love you! I love you! I love you!

More lightning and thunder; rain is falling heavily.

Jamie crawls the rest of the way up between me and the Farmer, heaves a big sigh and puts his head down.

Farmer: Does that dog want his own pillow?

Me: I think he wants you to leave so he can have your spot.

Farmer: %$#@!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More pics from nationals

HUGE thanks to Angela Silvestri, who owns several of Phoenix's kin, for taking these great shots at nationals. You can never have too many pictures of your dogs. This was on the first day of agility, before things got totally waterlogged.

Up and over! Yee-haw!

Bunny hop!

The start of a big 4-jump loop.
And I'm already half a jump behind.
Go, go, go!

A jump for Phoenix and a jump for me!
Only I didn't take my jump.
Maybe I'm hailing a taxi to get me around
the rest of the course.

A great shot.
I'm not in it.

Go big or go home!

Phoenix: I meant to do that.
Me: Really? Why?
Nix: Cuz you don't have any pics of me crashing a jump.
Me: Malinois logic is a strange thing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend fun

The mercury hit 90 degrees today, which is practically unheard of in these parts this time of year. July, yes. May, no. It's supposed to be unseasonably hot all week. The Farmer is happy. He's making first cutting hay.

Phoenix and I spent the morning and early afternoon at the 4RK9s trial. We got back in the Open ring this weekend. He already has his U-CDX so it was a relatively stress-free weekend, more of a progress check than anything else. 

The club dedicated the trials to the late Kay Lowe. They held a little memorial service Saturday morning and of course there wasn't a dry eye in the place. They had printed up a collection of people's memories of Kay and it was fun to read what everyone wrote. Kay held a special place in so many people's hearts.

Phoenix did a good job. Saturday his work was a little  . . . um . . . casual . . . but he held his stays, GOOD BOY, and placed 4th w/193.5.

Today he apparently woke up and remembered (sort of) how Open was supposed to work. With the exception of walking in after the drop (were did THAT come from? geez, it's always something), I was pretty happy with his work. We ended up in a run-off with Peggy's DeeDee. What are the odds, the only to malinois in the trial and we end up tied. It was our first UKC-style run-off and Phoenix won it! To be honest, I'm not sure he realized he was in the ring with the ever so lovely DeeDee only two feet away or that heel free could have gotten REAL exciting. We ended with a 197 for 2nd place.

Then we came home, I watered flowers and hauled out the baby pool for the dogs. Actually, this was in self defense. I left the hose running and Phoenix was having a little too much fun pouncing on the spraying water. A section of our yard now looks like the agility ring at mal  nationals on Friday afternoon.

"See, you have to bite the water!"
"Um, yeah, whatever."

"Splish, splash, this is totally cool!"
"So is eating grass."

"Put your paw on it, like this, and hold it down."

"Cuz then it sprays you in the face!"
"Dude, you're weird. I'm outta here."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Don't call me . . .

. . . I'll call you!

Last night as I walked into the kitchen after agility class, the phone started ringing. It was 9:15 p.m. At our house, "late" phone calls like this usually mean something is on fire or on the loose. They occasionally mean the renters at our property just up the road forgot to fill the fuel oil tanks and their furnace quit and would The Farmer please come fix it because it's -28 outside. (I guess it never crosses their minds to check the fuel level until it's obvious there isn't any. Whatever.) Since it was 58 degrees and raining, I doubted it was the renters.

Anticipating some sort of impending disaster involving fire or errant cattle, I grabbed up the phone and an obvious non-native speaker of English asked for me. It was a telemarketer.

My blood was boiling! I HATE telemarketers. We're on the no-call list but hey, if you have established a "relationship" with a business they can call you anyway and believe me, they do. My credit card company calls incessantly with this promotion or that offer. Does anyone really want to sign up for a consumer protection plan at 9:15 at night? They win the oblivious award for ignoring the fact I've refused every single one of their offers for years and years but yet they keep calling. Hope springs eternal.

"Where are you calling from?" I asked. What I should have asked was, "What business are you calling from?" because after a moment's hesitation, the telemarketer said, rather timidly, "India."

India? Freaking INDIA?

"Do you have ANY IDEA what time it is here?" I asked.

Pause. Silence.

"No. I'm sorry ma'am. So sorry, ma'am."

"If you want to do business with us, call during business hours. Not the middle of the night!" I hung up. Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly the middle of the night but hey, she didn't know that. And she can call back all she wants during "business hours." Unless Jamie starts answering the phone or The Farmer picks up the extension in the machine shed, she's not likely to get an answer.

Good grief. Whatever happened to calling at a reasonable hour? Of course, I think a reasonable hour for telemarketers is half past never but that's just my opinion.

Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. At least nothing was on fire and no need for a rodeo. I'm going back to letting the machine pick up from now on.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Staying balanced

Here I go again with more random ramblings. These reflect some conversations I’ve had with friends and students lately. If you recognize yourself, don’t feel bad! You’re in good company!

What got this train of thought started was my summer to-do list for Phoenix: continue to proof Open, build the Utility exercises, strengthen stays, introduce the UKC Utility glove exercise, work weave pole entries, continue building an auto drop on the table, strengthen heelwork, revisit his 2o/2o contacts, work on a couple of relationship issues . . . oh make it stop! How am I going to get all this done!

Balance — as it relates to our dogs and our performance goals for them — can be an elusive quality many of us struggle with at one point or another. On the surface, the biggest challenge many trainers think of is the balance between using positive methods vs compulsive methods, but it goes beyond the physical elements of cheese and chokers.

You have to find a balance between keeping your sky-high dog from orbiting right out of the ring and cheerleading your low-drive dog to play the game. There’s the balance between how often to train, how often to train in familiar environments, how often to train in new places and how much pressure to put on your dog while proofing for the obedience ring. Not to mention finding an overall balance between work, family and dog activities.

Getting over-balanced one way or the other can lead to disastrous results. Continually fine-tuning your training to find the optimal mix of methods and time can keep your ring performances steadily improving. Like folks who feed raw like to say, “Balance is achieved over time.” You can’t bounce between training exclusively for an agility trial this coming weekend, then switch to training exclusively for an obedience trial the following weekend and expect your dog to be optimally prepared for either in the long term. I know because I've tried it!

Sometimes you have to eliminate something to achieve balance when it comes to pursuing a goal. When I was chasing both Jamie’s TDX and his OTCh., we were not making much progress with either. I decided I could not do both at the same time and realistically expect to achieve either. I focused on his OTCh. and within a year, we had achieved it. Admittedly and regretfully, I never returned to his TDX work. Alas, the balance of dogs, work and family had shifted yet again.

Keeping a training program in balance doesn’t necessarily mean everything has to be balanced equally. Many of us enjoy more than one training discipline. For some folks, there will be one venue in which they truly excel or at least enjoy the most, while only having a little time to dabble in others. When you train and exhibit in multiple venues, one will naturally rise to the top of your priority training list while the others — although still enjoyable — you might not take as seriously. That’s just fine. Few of us have the resources to devote to achieving OTCh., MACH, VST or world team caliber skills in every training venue we enjoy with our dogs.

Part of the key to finding balance means finding training methods you are comfortable with and enjoy employing. Trying to train with methods that make you feel like a square peg in a round hole is self-defeating. If you’re feeling out of balance with your training, decide what needs to change and find someone who can help you. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Balancing a current dog’s on-going career with the demands of a new puppy often turns a balancing act into a frantic juggling sideshow! Dividing time, attention and priorities may seem to be in a constantly changing fluid state but it’s also the key to success . . . be flexible and willing to change in a variety of aspects that relate to training.

Balance over time. Are you enjoying that with your dog? I’ll get back to you in the fall and let you know how it’s going for Phoenix and me. I'm really looking forward to this summer!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CSI Homestead

I discovered the crime at 7:55 p.m., upon arriving home from my late shift at work Monday evening. It was obvious things were not as they should be when I pulled into the garage.

Let's follow the clues.
The dogs were not in the kennel but lots of shredded plastic was.
No usable pawprints could be found.
DNA was collected from the remains and sent to the lab.

Hmmm. Shredded plastic and dirt leading
from the garage interior out to the kennel.

A clue to the victim's identity!

Here's the body, still at the crime scene.
Obviously the victim of a savage attack.
Note the defensive wounds.
This formerly BRAND NEW 2.5 cubic foot bag of potting soil
is now a 1 cubic foot bag of potting soil.
Never mind that it was ON TOP of the dog box,
off the floor and behind a baby gate.
Time of death: between noon and 7:45 p.m.
Cause of death: multiple slashing wounds.

This is the witness. Or possibly an accomplice.
But probably just a witness.
He has no previous record,
at least not in this type of crime.

Here's the suspect.
He's also wanted for the Great Honey Caper of July '07
and other miscellaneous crimes.
Is that a guilty look?
I think not.
He was examined closely for trace evidence.
Finding none, he was released.
We suspect he is a repeat offender and will be watched closely.

The Farmer denied any knowledge of the event.
The investigation was closed because everyone wanted their suppers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday musings

Vacation is over. (Sigh)

I’m back at work. (Groan)

Memories of nationals are still glowing (um, dripping?) happily in my brain. In spite of the weather it was really a great time.

I got to thinking about the rotten weather for obedience on Saturday. I’m sure each trainer had her own reasons for deciding to slog through the muck or not. I chose not for Phoenix. It was a really hard decision to make at the time — I wanted to show so badly and it was Nationals! — but I don’t regret it.

We had been training like crazy all spring to get into the Open ring and I took off for St. Louis with visions of a CDX leg dancing in my brain. Reality smacked me up side the head about 30 minutes before our class started and I reluctantly admitted that this experience was probably not going to be beneficial for either of us. I went to the check-in table and marked us absent.

I really admired the trainers who showed confidently and whose dogs did well (“well” being relative, the day’s high score was a 192 awarded to a Novice dog). Seriously, how many of us go outdoors and train in the pouring rain? And it wasn’t just a brief shower. It had been raining steadily for three days before obedience judging ever started.

So the rings never stood a chance. If the grass had been merely wet, I would have shown without hesitation but the combination of standing water and pouring rain put an end to any notion of a positive Open run for Nix and me.

It’s not that I have to have perfect ring conditions to show or will only show if I feel sure we can qualify at any particular site. But I do have standards. Just as there are certain judges I choose not to show to, there are certain sites and conditions I choose not to show under. (Saturday’s trial was a shining example of why there aren’t many outdoor obedience trials in the Midwest!)

Every time I go in the ring with my dog, I want it to be a positive, comfortable experience and I’ll control the environment as much as I possibly can to ensure this happens by choosing judges, show sites, etc. that I like. I didn’t see how asking Phoenix to lie in standing water while rain fell on his head could be a positive experience, especially since stays have been such a big sticky issue for us. Oh sure, he might have done it but it certainly would not have endeared the exercise to his heart and I certainly did not want to un-do all the work I’d put into proofing those stays or — heaven forbid — create an even bigger problem.

We did show in Versatility in the rain, largely because there were no sits and downs to contend with. Phoenix didn’t seem to mind being wet but was clearly distracted by the rainfall. He kept looking at me like, “Mom, we don’t DO this.” Well, he was right about that. It was a bit extreme for a relatively green dog but he did give it the ol’ maligator try and things went passably up to the directed jumping, which didn’t happen, unless you count multiple loops over the bar jump.

So here’s the bottom line: sometimes you come out ahead by not showing at a trial. That’s so hard, especially when you’ve already entered and your friends are there and doggone it, you just want to show your dog! I don’t make it a practice of entering and not showing, can’t afford it for one thing! But sometimes you have to suck it up and make a decision that’s right for your dog’s needs, not yours.

You could argue that the point of having a “trained” dog is that it will perform under any condition and you would be right. In fact, if we were to repeat this scenario in a year, yes, I would consider asking Phoenix to do his stays in the rain and mud. But not this year.

The journey continues.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mud and malinois

We're home! Malinois nationals were great! Wet. Muddy. Rainy. Stormy. Cool. Cold. Colder. Windy. Did I mention it rained? But GREAT!

Wow, where to start. I think the absolute best part was meeting so many of the wonderful Carousel family and their dogs. This was MY kind of family reunion, one I would go to every year if I could! It was so much fun to meet everyone and put faces to all those e-mails.

It was so awesome to see Catherine (Phoenix's breeder) and C.J. (owns his brother, Seeker) again, plus getting to meet Angela, Jeanine and oh dear, there were so many faces and names and so little time.

It rained. Yeah. A lot. I'm not sure it ever actually quit raining. Sometimes it just didn't rain as hard as other times. They had severe weather with heavy rain, high winds and golf ball sized hail the morning of the day we arrived. Fortunately, we missed that part.

It rained off and on for agility Thursday. When we got to the field on Friday morning, it was raining. And the sprinklers were on. Because obviously the grass needed to be watered.

Thank doG for Goretex. Phoenix pretty much looked like this after Friday's runs, too. The goal on Friday was not necessarily to Q, it was just to get around the course without wiping out. The field was basically a super-sized Slip 'N Slide. You know it's in bad shape when the leash runner falls down! And he was WALKING!

Nix and I managed a Q in Standard and were 1 bar away from our first DQ but the takeoffs were so mucky he couldn't get a good launch and down came the bar. Lots of people pulled their dogs and wouldn't run. I decided to run Nix but not push for speed. He did a super job and ran with more speed than I would have asked for. But he also had good sense and didn't do anything reckless. Unlike Thursday's runs. Ahem. Enough said.

C.J. and I are deep in thought about the course. This must have been Thursday's course. There were a couple WTF places on Thursday's runs. It's a good thing I wore my dirt-colored rain coat to run my dirt-colored dog. We were all pretty much dirt-colored by the end of the day.

(Photo courtesy of Angela Silvestri)

This is Seeker, Phoenix's litter brother. Isn't he gorgeous? He finished his MX on Friday, in spite of the weather. Those Wild litter dogs are mudders!

(Photo courtesy of Angela Silvestri)

Here's Phoenix. He Q'd on this course, too. It was a little scary how much alike Seeker and Phoenix are. They have the same jumping style. Seeker runs a little more upright, while Phoenix runs with a lower profile. It was great to trade stories about the two boys. They are definitely cut from the same cloth. It was getting a little scary, though, when C.J. and I started ordering the same meals at the restaurants and bought the same sweatshirt at the vendors.

(Photo courtesy of Angela Silvestri)

On to obedience. Or not. It poured all day Saturday. The rings were a soggy, swampy mess. I decided to pull Phoenix from Open. I felt showing him in those conditions would be counter productive. I was pretty disappointed — I was SO looking forward to getting back in the Open ring — but know it was the right decision. Honestly, let's NOT take a dog who is working through stay issues and make him lie down in standing mud and water for 5 minutes in the pouring rain.

Many of the dogs did lovely "elbows up" drops in Utility and Open, if they bothered to drop at all. Sits were also frequently optional. Nobody passed the Utility classes, only 2 qualifiers in Open B and HIT went to the Novice B winner w/192.

We did show in Versatility though and other than getting lost on his go outs (Go? Where? Over the jump? Okay. Back over the jump? Okay. Over the jump again? Okay! I can do this!!!) he did well in spite of the conditions. This is the second Belgian national I have shown in at Purina Farms and asked my dog to do an underwater retrieve! Here's Nix sitting in the rain, having his picture taken, wondering why he can't go back in his nice warm dry crate. Notice the sagging bulges in the tent roof in the background from all the rain.

Here's Nix watching C.J. and Seeker go into the Open B ring. C.J. was braver than me and decided to show anyhow. She and Seeker did just fine. He has his CDX and is a very solid worker. He's checking out the squishy conditions on the way to set up for the first exercise. Honestly, you can train all you like but how do you proof for this? Judge Virginia Kinion is sporting a lovely periwinkle rain jacket and contrasting black rain pants with rubber boots and has chosen to accessorize her ensemble with a plastic covered clipboard in dark blue.

The Wild boys. Seeker and Nix got to play a little the first night. I don't know if they recognized each other as brothers but they were both pretty fascinated with each other. Oh, to have had a big fenced in area where they could run. And we could get out of their way. Like a football stadium.

(Photo courtesy of Angela Silvestri)

The vendors weren't extensive but they had some cool things. This garden art was my big purchase. And a couple sweatshirts, of course. And the Pup Art lady was there and OF COURSE she had a great agility collage of Phoenix so I had to buy that, too.

I hated having to say good-bye to everyone yesterday afternoon. We got home about 10:30 last night. I unloaded the van and went to bed. The dogs went a bit insane, leaping on the Farmer, who was (key word: was) sound asleep. I'm sure he was happy to see us, too. Spent this morning putting stuff away and starting on a mountain of muddy laundry. I was only gone 4 days, how did I get so many clothes dirty!

Can't wait for Valparaiso in 2011! Rumor has it there will be an obedience team of Carousel dogs. Rumor also has it, the show site is INDOORS!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Less than 24 hours!

And we're off to nationals!

The hotel reservations have been made.
The laundry is done (finally!).
The dogs are groomed.
The bags are packed (more or less).
The van is loaded (sort of.)
The cooler is ready to be filled (note to self: buy ice.)
The good clothes are on hangers.
The weather forecast has been checked.
The rain gear is packed on top.
The dogs have been FrontlinePlus-ed.
The people snacks are in a bag. A big bag.
I found a good book on CD at the library yesterday.
The map and directions are . . . um . . . somewhere.
The pile of little "don't forget" stuff is on the kitchen counter.
The house has been cleaned (sort of).
The garbage has been emptied.
The houseplants have been watered.
The garden plants have been seen to.
The e-mails have been caught up (as much as they ever are.)
My list has been checked and double-checked.
Wonder what I'm forgetting?
Guess that's what Wal-Mart is for!

This afternoon Phoenix and I are going to train, then run a few errands in Cedar Rapids. Tomorrow morning we're off to pick up my aunt, have lunch with my mom, then head south. I am so excited about seeing Catherine and CJ again, plus meeting a bunch more Carousel folks and their dogs.

I'd love to post from nationals but since I don't have a laptop, not sure how that's going to happen. We're doing agility Thursday and Friday, obedience on Saturday, plus two seminars. Should get home Saturday evening.

Will write with all the details when we get back. Good luck to everyone showing at Scott County KC's first ever dual obedience trials this weekend. Twice the chance to succeed!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hostas and silliness

These are the hostas.
And coralbells.
And impatiens.
And columbine.
And a few ferns peeking out in the back.

This is the silliness.

Phoenix is totally enchanted by my wooden-handled trowel. He has been obsessed with it since his first spring as a puppy, "helping" me garden. He grabs it and takes off every chance he gets. Jamie clearly wants no part of his li'l bro's thievery, even with a play bow invitation.

Phoenix: I have a trowel! This is totally cool! Betcha wish you had one.

Jamie: You are such a dork. I'm outta here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The countdown begins!

The countdown for ABMC nationals has begun! In three days the Belgians and I will swing south to pick up my aunt (mom's sister, a cat person who oddly enjoys going to national specialties) and head for Purina Farms west of St. Louis.

Friday afternoon, I cleaned out the garage. Not sure what cleaning out the garage has to do with getting ready for nationals but it has been on my to-do list all spring. Like the basement, it had reached Code Red status and was rapidly accelerating to whatever is beyond Code Red. Maybe Code Purple? I didn't want to find out. It's clean now, except for the random resident raccoon, who comes and goes. Phoenix keeps close tabs on it and always tells me when he/she/it is around.

Then I cleaned out C3P0 — a total, take-the-crates-out-and-vacuum-everything, wash the windshield, dust and wash the crate fuzzies overhaul. Wish it would stay clean longer than a week. I told Jamie and Phoenix they were NOT to shed in there. They gave me the hairy eyeball.

This morning, had a great training session with Michele, Kate, Jennifer and Jill. We did some proofing with each dog and Phoenix decided fetching his dumbbell with four women running to get it at the same time was a pretty cool game. 

Then bought groceries, including lots of food for the trip, as well as stocking the fridge for the Farmer. Came home and tackled the laundry. Haven't packed a stitch yet, still checking St. Louis area forecasts and procrastinating. Heck, two days of agility and one day of obedience isn't exactly a fashion show so I'm sure whatever I take will be fine. I have piles of clean clothes all over the bedroom now, waiting for me to make up my mind.

The dogs' crates are loaded and their food, supplements, etc. are measured and packed. Naturally, the dogs are totally ready to go and I'm not!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More chocolate, more peanut butter

Because really, there can never be too much chocolate or peanut butter in your life.

1 box chocolate brownie mix (for 9 x 13 pan); plus eggs, water and vegetable oil as called for on box
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
3/4 C. peanut butter
1/4 C. butter, softened
2-4 T. cream
1 tub chocolate frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13 x 9 inch baking pan; set aside. Prepare and bake brownie mix as described on box. Place on wire rack and allow to cool slightly.

Add peanut butter and butter in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly until combined and smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixture will be a bit crumbly. Blend in cream until mixture is fluffy and reaches desired spreading consistency. Spread evenly over warm brownie.

Melt frosting for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir and put back in for another 10 – 15 second. Pour over peanut butter spread on the brownies. Use a knife to spread the chocolate evenly.

Put in refrigerator for an hour to set. Take out and let the brownie sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

This qualifies as breakfast food. Seriously. There's peanut butter in it, right? And you'd put peanut butter on toast for breakfast, right? So why not on a brownie? And Harry Potter fans know chocolate is a great remedy for dementors and nothing is more demented than early mornings. So enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

World's laziest photographer

Here is proof that I may be the world's laziest photographer. Took these from my recliner last night while watching the news. Of course, Phoenix could NOT leave me alone. Malinois are magnetically attracted to any human sitting still. They don't think it's appropriate behavior.

Feed me. I'm a starving malinois. Look. See? Starving.

You won't get up and feed me? Ooooh, bad choice.

Here's a ball. Wanna play? Huh, huh?
Let me throw it in your lap a couple dozen times.
Betcha wish you'd have gotten up to feed me now.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Go, Phoenix, GO!

Phoenix went 2 for 2 and finished his GO (Graduate Open) title over the weekend. This title has been a bit of an adventure. To say judges do not understand the Graduate Open class would be the understatement of the year.

I'm not trying to be a smart-ass but seriously, on two of our three legs, I had to coach the judge through our entire run. We did have one judge who understood how things worked but between the two of us, we still screwed up the article exercise. The dog is to be sent while facing the pile. I had Phoenix do the whole formal Utility turn, sit and send. (Hmm, maybe I should have read the regs a little closer, too!) His turns were awful but otherwise he was fine so no harm done.

The judge on our final leg was the clear winner of the “I’m oblivious” award. I knew we were in trouble when he called me into the ring before the class started (I was the only exhibitor who had checked in) and asked, “Now, how does this class work?” Oh dear, the inmate is running the asylum!

I’m not sure why this class is such a mystery to judges. The exhibitors all seemed to have it figured out but it’s hard to move smoothly between exercises when the judge is unsure what the next exercise is, then asks you how to do it. Granted, the current incarnation of Grad Open is relatively new to the scene but it’s not THAT new. If I were on a judging panel that included Grad Open, I could find a few minutes to read through the regulations the night before.

But no. Yesterday’s judge and I had a little mini judging seminar before the class started. Then we had little refresher workshops after each exercise while I explained what happened next. At one point, I was afraid he was going to ask me how to SCORE the exercises!

It’s good to know I am somewhat capable of thinking on my feet, since on the last exercise, a single directed jump, the judge looked at me and said, “Send him over a jump.” Not “Bar” or “High,” just “Send him.” Well, okay. This inmate likes being in charge, although lots of us obedience folks are not used to being allowed to make our own choices in the ring. Since we’d done the bar on Saturday I chose the high, which Phoenix sailed over happily.

In spite of all that, I really did enjoy showing in the class and it showed me what Phoenix understands — and what he doesn’t — about the Utility exercises. He walked away with 3 legs in a row, so the consistency was admirable even though we’re a long way from the finished product I want to take into Utility. Besides, we still have to get a CDX first!

I would recommend showing in Grad Open as a nice transitory step between Open and Utility but make sure you read the regs first. Somebody has to know what’s going on and there’s no guarantee it will be the judge.