Saturday, January 31, 2015


I wasn't sure what to call this post, so since as of this hour we are less than two weeks away from the big show, "Two" seemed like a good fit.

Today, Marge went to her last agility trial before our visit to Manhattan - a UKI agility trial in Colmar, PA.  My original plans for this weekend involved a large AKC trial at a very familiar location, but I was unfortunately closed out.  The only trial left in our relative area was this one, and boy, am I glad I went!  Wonderful, spacious facility and flowy, motivating courses to run.

I entered three classes with Marge.

1. Agility (Standard): Marge went right in and knocked this course dead.. with the bars at 16 inches.  Only after we ran the course quickly and cleanly did I realize that the ring crew had forgot to raise the bars to 20" for Marge.  The judge let me run again, and thankfully, we ran clean again.

This whole thing was HUGE.  The pressure of going in to the ring twice within about ten minutes, running cleanly both times on a course that had contact obstacles, which are admittedly our weakness, was a nice test for both of us.  I probably would have crumbled had it been an AKC trial.

Marge performed her teeter decently twice, and her A-Frame and Dog Walk contacts perfectly.  Her weaves were slower in her second run, which of course is cause for enormous amounts of overanalyzing.  Honestly, I would have been fine packing up and going home after this class, seeing how well she performed.

2. Speedstakes (Steeplechase, for you USDAA folks): Super fast, straightforward course.  Went in and knocked this one out, too.  Got a front cross in, which is always a plus at trials.

3. Jumping:  This course wasn't as challenging as the last Jumping course Marge ran at UKI, but it was certainly still a high level course.  I took some risks in this one, including running up the line outside of the second tunnel to set up an easier weave entrance.  Did two front crosses, too.

Her weaves were again slow, which concerns me.  I felt her all over and I do not feel any soreness.   It's hard to tell, as she sometimes just has those runs where her speed gets pokey and it has nothing to do with injury. I have had her massaged within the past week and nothing came up. Four runs at one trial is the most she has ever done.  She may have just been tired.

Look at all of her loot from the day!  It is a rarity to Marge and I to walk away with 6 ribbons from one day of showing.

Though she had just run four times and was very clearly done for the day, she had an awesome on-leash play session with a young border collie for a solid five minutes just before we left for the day.   It was one of those times when Marge decides (and vocalizes through whining) that she absolutely needs to be friends with a dog halfway across the room who she has never met before.  Not sure what has gotten into this dog - three qualifying scores on the same day, and then playing with a puppy?  Regardless, I was glad to see that she still had some energy to spare when the agility was over with.

Up next?  Some light (and I mean very light) practice tomorrow, particularly on the teeter and table.  I will not be jumping or weaving her tomorrow - I just need to get her on those two pieces of equipment one more time.  I'm going to take it easy for the rest of the week.   We've been walking about an hour every day (a combination of off-leash and on-leash time), but I may scale that back a little bit for this week, too. We'll probably train Sunday and Monday of next weekend, and that'll be it.

There are more exciting things going on, some related to Westminster and some not, but those will have to wait for another day.  For now, I'm following Marge's lead and heading to bed!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Day 2389

I am the worst when it comes to aging.  I don't like change and I certainly don't like to think about anybody getting ... older.

Little grey hairs have crept up on Marge's chin.  First you could only see them up close and in person, but now, they are prominent.  She doesn't have much of a grey muzzle, nor does she have grey eyebrows.  Just a little grey goatee.

When it's gradual and over time, it's hard to notice a big difference from one day to the next.  But seeing a picture of Marge in say, 2008 or 2009 compared to now, and it is apparent that a definite aging process has taken place.  I did just that tonight and was kind of shocked at how Marge's puppylike appearance has morphed in to that of a mature adult dog without me really even stopping to take a pause.

Marge is 7.  She will be 8 in June.

All of you passers-by who keep mistaking her for a puppy.. keep doing it.  My sanity depends on it.

Two thousand, three hundred and eighty nine days. It's just so amazing to think that she has been with me for this long.  It is a bittersweet feeling, especially on a night like tonight where I am pretty much just sappy out of nowhere. This dog pretty much does everything with me. She has wiggled her way into my social life, my family life, my hobbies. (The exception to that, of course, is Marge accompanying me to the shooting range, since that is neither safe nor Marge's idea of a good time and will therefore never happen!) Seriously, though, the things that Marge used to get left behind for are now a part of her routine.

Remember when Marge had to be crated when guests came over?  She survived a party last month in which 6 people -- 5 of which were GUYS -- came over to visit.  A growl here or there, but nothing that anyone couldn't live with.  And she got to eat any bits of the 4' hero that intentionally or unintentionally fell her way.  A win-win.

Remember when Marge wouldn't go near horses?  She didn't walk or run in to the barn yesterday, but instead wiggled up to Te.  Whole butt wagging.  She whined like a baby when I led him down the driveway in to his pasture yesterday.  She loves the barn.  She loves horse poop and horse grain and horse treats, and although she won't go near just any horse, she has struck up a relationship with one, at least, who has made her feel comfortable. There's a sure fire way to know that Quarter Horses are the best horses.. my dog has befriended one.

Remember when Marge wasn't trustworthy offleash and I had to use that long 20' red line?  Haven't taken it out in ages.  We don't get there as often as we should, but she generally has full reign of the beach, nowadays.  And the field?  The field that was a save haven for her during her fearful days is now a place where she goes to sniff every goal post that she can get to.

Remember when things would occasionally erupt in to chaos, when my dad and my dog weren't at all on the same wavelength?  Those days are pretty much gone.  And in the uncommon occurrence that they resurface, I have somewhere now that I can run to and get the hell out of dodge.

It has been such an amazing ride, one that has taken me places I never imagined I'd go.  I don't mean performance events, either.  If Marge never got another performance title again, it wouldn't matter.  That stuff pales in comparison to the bond we've created outside of that environment, out in the real world.

Thank you for everything, my little MD.  I know there is more in store for us.  You have shown me that the sky is truly the limit.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

International Flair

As part of our prep for Westminster, I took Marge to a UKI Agility trial today in Bloomsbury, NJ.

UK Agility International was founded as the United States' version of UK Agility.  As such, it contains international-style handling challenges at the upper levels.

I have been doing quite a bit of out-of-my-comfort-zone handling at agility class (which basically means straying away from rear crosses and doing everything else), but I very seldom put those skills to use in AKC trials.  I totally admit to playing it safe for the sake of Q's and, more specifically, QQ's.  I want a MACH, and if I get a MACH with meat-and-potatoes type handling and never do anything fancy, I am totally okay with that.

So, in trying UKI, it removes the "run to Q" element.  I am not working on any titles in that venue at this point, and with numbers pointed in all kinds of crazy directions (backsides and wraps everywhere!), it sets the stage well to add in some fancy handling. And by fancy, really all I mean is doing anything but a rear cross.

If you look back at my list of things to work on that I posted last time, UKI had most of those challenges.. including a weave entrance to which Marge (and my body language, probably) said "HAHA, NOPE".   She took the 3/5 jump and 4 tunnel before coming back to weave.

As such, we did not Q in this run, but a couple of important things happened:

  • I front crossed without making it in to something more than it needs to be (which is often the case)
  • I used a Ketschker "ass pass" turn for the first time ever in a trial - TWICE!
  • I learned that I need to work my dog's weave entrances better
We did qualify earlier in the day in the Speedstakes class, which is a straightforward, fun, fast course.  Those were the only two classes I entered.  I wanted to keep it short and fun.

From a behavioral perspective, Marge did very well at this trial.  When we first arrived, she had a mini meltdown because she had no idea where she was.  It probably didn't resemble an agility trial at all to her, since the ring was not visible from the crating/waiting area.  Heaters were fired up, too, and it took her a bit to get used to the noise.  Once it clicked that we were at an agility trial and not the 8th circle of hell, she settled in almost instantly.

After the trial, I headed to the barn to ride.  As I alluded to, Marge is becoming a little bit of a barn dog - at least as much as a Staten Island dog can be a barn dog.  No pics from this time around, but here's a pic of Marge hanging out with Te last time she came along with me.  She likes the horses, but maintains some distance. She likes their grain a lot more.

I'll probably do one more UKI trial sometime this month.  I'd like to go to an AKC show before Westminster, but I'm not sure it's going to happen.  I'm happy with our prep so far!

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