Friday, February 27, 2009

Agility Show! Yipee!

It is an agility show weekend, so we are off! The show is at the National Equestrian Center in Lake St. Louis. We will be there all day on Friday, late in the day on Saturday and early on Sunday. I'll let you know how we did!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time's up!

I reviewed the entries and decided to let the dogs have a vote:

I have to agree with Maggie... picturing "Dad" taking her to class does make me laugh also.

Jake-a-roo makes a good point as well... He did look pretty bored in that photo.

Since I can't decide, I guess I'll have to give away 2 gift certificates.

Anonymous (I know who you are, you can't fool me) and Meghan will be getting Gift Certificates from Helping Udders. I'm sure your furry friends will like whatever you pick out!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The clock is ticking! I'm picking a winner tomorrow (Thursday)

Wouldn't the furrykids at your house like a new UdderTug? Get your ideas in SOON!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Give that photo a name!

Gloom, Dispair, and Agony on Me....

I have to travel next week and I'm busy all weekend, so I'm packing my suitcase tonight. The dogs have learned what that means and sit around looking all gloomy from the time I get my luggage out.

But since I'm going to be putting the blog on hold for almost a week, there is a reward for you, my faithful (and few) readers. Come up with the most creative name for either of these photos (Maggie is on the bed, Jake is on the computer chair) while I'm gone and put it in "comments." I'll pick my favorite (sorry, it's biased) and the winner will get a $20 gift certificate to Hellping Udders. If you are not familiar with them, check out their webpage at: You've got a few days to think about it, and I don't even mind if you enter more than once or tell your friends! I'll read them when I get back and pick a winner.

Agility Photography

At almost every agility show, I buy photographs of my dog on the course. When I first started agility, I thought that I would take pictures of my friends dogs and save them them the money of buying photos. Yeah, well, that didn't really work out. I have a decent camera and a good lens, but those dogs are just too dang fast, and the light too low for me to get any good photos. Even at practice and adding a flash (strictly prohibited in the show) I can't take a good picture. Here is a photo of our friend Addie living up to the nickname "grey ghost." Her big ears look like they were being used as a propeller for extra lift and I can see through them.

I had a little better luck with this photo.... at least her ears are not see-through, but her paws have ghosts. Plus I tried to "photoshop" her red eyes out... they made her look posessed. I think the only reason this one looks a little better is because she was jumping toward me instead of crossing a plane in front of me. If you zoom in, you can see that there is still quite a bit of motion there.
But even if I had a fast camera/lens, I would still have problems....
Here is a picture of another ones of our friends coming
out of the chute.
Unfortunately, I was too slow at pressing the shutter, so all I
got were two back feet. Not enough to even know who it was coming out of the chute... Auggie? Mad
I think I need to buy a faster lens, but that would cut into my agility budget. So, unless I can figure out how to make my existing equipment work, I'll still be standing in line to buy pictures at every agility show.
By the way, thanks to Addie for standing in for these horrible pictures. Addie is really quite beautiful normally, so she is being a good sport letting me show these bad pictures of her. And Madison/Auggie, whoever you are... sorry about my ineptitude... that might have been a good picture!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Border Collies excel at agility:

For you non-agility folks, they are "reading" CleanRun, a magazine dedicated to agility. Actually Maggie might really be studying the article on tunnel entrances Jake is just thinking "I'd better get a cookie for this."
Click on the photo for a larger image if you want to review the lesson yourself.

Why they call it "empty nest"

I used to think that the empty nest referred to the idea that the little babies had left. But after living through it, I'm wondering if it really means that all of our stuff has gone to live somewhere else.
When we went off to school "back in the old days," we didn't really take too much with us besides our clothes, and of course, our stereo. And we would rummage through trash and discount stores and come up with the materials to "decorate." Who did not have a bookshelf made with used lumber and concrete blocks? I also remember getting one of those cardboard boxes with drawers that is meant to store things and putting a mirror square on the top and calling that my bedside table. Our moms sent us with the old mis-matched towels "in case they get lost" and we drank from stadium cups and root beer mugs that someone had stolen from A&W.

But those days are over, as you can see in these photos of child 2's college apartment. But first a disclaimer... this is not really stuff out of our house. It is actually newer and nicer than the stuff in our house.
Here is Sarah trying to convince her dad that she really NEEDS a thermopedic memory foam mattress topper.
Sure, some of the stuff is "hand me down," but even that is some pretty nice quality. Add matching accessories and artwork and "voila!" you have a college apartment.
What ever happened to taping up posters that came inside your new album jacket...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Winter Fun Match!

Today we went to a Winter Fun Match at Kim's (see link for Dog School, below). We didn't actually sign up for winter league, but our friends Carol and Addie did, and they were in Tennessee this weekend, so Maggie and I took their place. Not only that, but we took family with us to cheer us on... we really enjoyed having them there.

The first event was a regular course and the idea was to just run it without an error until the standard course time was up. If you finished before the buzzer, start the course over and get as many points as possible. We nearly finished the course twice, but I was running out of oxygen and slowed down. Still, I think we took first place.

The second event was a FAST course. For those of you outside the agility world, I'll give you a crash course on FAST, starting with the name. FAST is an acronym for Fifteen And Send Time. No one knows what the fifteen means, but the "Send" refers to the unique part of the course called a "Send Bonus." At this point, you send your dog to do the obstacles while you stay outside a line taped on the floor. The higher the level, the farther the tape and the harder the obstacles. So to accomplish this, everyone has to come up with a plan of where they will stand, where they will move and when they will give the commands. In this event, it is imperative that the dog gets his command for the next obstacle at just the right second. If you say it too late, they will often head back toward you to get directions, ruining the "send."
Here are some of the fun match people doing their walk-through, planning a course where the dog jumps the first two jumps, climbs the A-Frame and then enters the tunnel. (follow the yellow dashed line) The tunnel is hidden in this photo, but you might be able to see the tunnel entrance under the yellow arrow. Meanwhile, we had to stay outside the tape line marked with the black arrows. This was actually a pretty easy send bonus, but you can still see how much effort these handlers are putting into their plan and visualizations. And remember, this is for a fun match-you should see the intensity at a real show. This is the part of agility that really separates the beginners from the experienced handlers... once you know how your dog will run a course, you can adjust your handling to increase your chance of success. A good run is often made at the walk-through.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My funny valentine...

I have a newfound respect for William Wegman... he's the guy that takes all the cool pictures of his Weimaraners. Every time I see them I think "I could get my dog to do that" but it isn't as easy as I thought. For instance, I thought that it would be easy to get Maggie and Jake to lay in the shape of a heart. But as you can see, we couldn't quite make it happen. I could get their butts into the top of the heart, but every time I pushed their heads toward each other, they would straighten out their front legs... "get out of my face!" "no, you get out of MY face!" Maybe a Weim would have been more posable. Or else maybe I should have brushed their teeth first...????

But these two are not my funny valentine anyway. Since I started this blog, I've been talking entirely about Maggie and Jake and you might think that those were the only two dogs I have. But waiting patiently in the wings is my funny valentine....

Now how could you not love that face? This is our little 15 year old princess, Mopsy-she is an American Cocker. We got her when the kids were little and she has stuck around only because we give her snacks. In fact, I had to say "I've got a cookie!" just to get her to come in here to take a picture. She bullies the big dogs around, she forces me to scoot over in bed or on the couch to make room for her, and she is a grooming nightmare. But look at that face.... who could keep from falling in love with that little face- my funny little valentine!
Happy Valentine's Day to all the hearts at your house, the two-footed and the four-footed ones.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cesar, I need your whisper!

Maggie had her annual check up today, which was, as always, totally uneventful... except for the fact that Maggie believes it is a house of horrors and she is terrified from the moment the vet walks in. I cannot understand how this dog can fearlessly scale any agility obsticle, pile of rubble, or leap into the unknown simply because I tell her to, yet be so fearful of this really nice guy. He comes in and gives her treats and she begins shaking. We lift her to the table and she tucks her tail so far that it comes back out between her front legs. I actually muzzle her because I worry what could happen with his face so close and her fear so large (though she's never actually taken a snap at anyone... except for Chris' nose, but that is another story). He can barely listen to her heart because it is racing and can't palpate her abdomen because it is so tense. She gets her vaccinations, I lift her to the floor and as soon as he leaves she gives a good shake and heads right to the toy rack. She puts her paws on the counter and begs the receptionist for a treat and she stops to say hello to all the rest of the people on the way out. I often wonder what would happen if Dr. B was standing in the waiting room when we left... I'll bet she'd run over for a pat and end up wetting herself when she realized it was him.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Conformation friends... don't hate me!

Day three of my blog and I'm already on a soapbox. All of my doggie friends are all hyped up on the Westminster Kennel Club show. But I'll let you in on a secret.... it makes me angry. It didn't use to, but the more I know about Border Collies (BC) the more I see the sham of a dog the breed ring presents to the world as a BC.

Here is an example. This dog photo is from the Westminster website, and it is the photo that pops up when you click on "Border Collie." This is clearly a BC, probably caught at work, demonstrating the unique "collie eye" that they are known for. This breed was bred specifically to work- running many miles in a day, collecting sheep or other livestock, spending the days (and sometimes the nights) working outdoors, often alone, making decisions without the aid of a handler. This animal is an engineering miracle...
then there is this:

This is a dog from the same lines as last night's winner. This dog was bred to have a pretty "top line" and soft eyes. It has a lovely lush coat. There is nothing wrong with those things except that they are the result of selective breeding that is totally ignoring the attributes that make BCs what they are supposed to be-smart, fast, tough, low maintenance farm hands. Can you honestly see this dog working on a farm? And EVERY dog in the breed ring looked like this... there wasn't one that looked like their example. And even more irritating to me is that NOT ONE of those dogs had a herding, obedience or agility title. Not one.
The Border Collie Society of America fought to KEEP border collie from getting an AKC registration for just this reason. Despite the promises to keep true to the working origins of this magnificent breed, it has taken only 15 or so years to wreck it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Snow Day

I will never forget the anticipation of a "snow day" when my kids were little. How we would watch every forcast and hope that we would get a big snowfall. And when they were old enough to go to school, we would hope the snow would be deep enough to call off school... what could be better than that!
The excitement of a snow day has "melted" from our lives, but that doesn't mean that they are not enjoyed. Maggie and Jake especially love to play in the snow- running, jumping, barking, biting (at the snow) - it is almost like having kids again. In some ways it's even better... these two don't make me pull them on sleds or throw snowballs back at me when I pummel them from just outside the door. Here's hoping that last week's snow wasn't our season finale.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

These are my two border collies. Jake is on the left, Maggie is on the right. It isn't common to find them both being still at the same time, and it is even more uncommon to see them snuggled. Perhaps (like me) they are missing their brother and sister who went back to their college apartments yesterday.
Well, it seems like everyone else has a blog, so I might as well get with the program. Though it isn't like I have any spare time... in fact, at the moment this whole blog thing is a giant procrastination to keep me from doing the real work I brought home this weekend.

Nevertheless, the fact is that my dogs and my doggy friends have been a blessing to me the past year as I fill the empty places in my heart and my home where my kids had been until they ventured off into their own lives. So, in all fairness, this blog isn't really about my dogs, it is about my attempt to fill the gaping holes in my world.

I have loved dogs as long as I can remember and I can't imagine a life without them. They have been friends, confidants, tear catchers, secret keepers, comics, psychotherapists, and foot warmers. I hope that, through this blog, those of you that are not dog lovers and don't understand my relationship with dogs will begin to see. And for those of you that are dog lovers... you already understand.