Friday, October 9, 2009

Marge Goes to New Jersey

I believe today was Marge's first out-of-state trip since her long voyage on a bus from Georgia. Though it was only over the bridge to our neighboring state, New Jersey, it's still a big deal considering how sensitive she is to everything.

Our first stop was the site of our upcoming agility trial. I had contacted the Parks Department in the area, and they informed me that there were no events going on at the park until the day of the agility trial. So, save for a couple of park workers, there was no one there.

After nearly an hour in the car - thanks again, Louie, for schlepping your highway-phobic girlfriend (gotta get on the highway.. and soon!) and her everything-phobic dog there -Marge was totally thrilled to be outside and run around. She took to the big field like she had been there a thousand times before. There were a plethora of things to sniff and plenty of room to run.

She also did OK when two workers drove up next to us in their pickup, informing us that the car had to be moved to a different lot. She did get scared, however, when she witnessed them perform the very scary acts of taking down the flags and talking on their radios.

The rest of the time, we just mozied in the park, Marge's body language fluctuating wildly between "this is so damn cool" and "I'm interested, but I'm on guard, too."

Here she is in the small patch of woods behind the park. Despite noises of some sort (construction/tow trucks/along those lines) she was pretty good until we got too close and she gingerly decided that walking the other way would be more fun.

The visit also reminded me that Marge is not thrilled with the sound of Port-O-Potty doors, a hard thing to avoid at many locations. A stark contrast to the beautiful scenery of fall behind her, Marge's body language here shows much more apprehension and tension. I'm just glad she didn't stay that way the entire time we were there.

I was taken back to a happy time in my life, too. Since the site is also home to horse shows, the horsewoman in me was easily able to spot the vestiges of their competition in the form of hoofprints and horse poop. It inspires a sense of nostalgia in me, and I thought to myself about how the pawprints being created as we walked through a freshly plowed arena were hoofprints, in my world, only a few years ago.

And that was it from the park. Next stop.. agility lesson at Marisa's.

Suffice to say, Marge was freaked when we first got there. Barking dogs (both in her yard and in surrounding yards), a new place, and the temperature steadily climbing (NEVER conducive in Marge's world to running agility). It took her a good ten or fifteen minutes to settle down and get out of panic mode. Strangely enough, though, she actually seemed less comfortable when the resident dogs were brought inside away from her. They were originally in a pen outside, so they could not interact with Marge fully, but she at least got so see that they were there. It further enhances my suspicion that under-control dogs that aren't jumping all over Marge or forcing social interaction with her do wonders to calm her down, part of the reason why she generally does so well when we go to watch at trials.

Due to Marge's attitude about the whole thing, we, admittedly, didn't get a whole lot done. We did one small sequence - jump, jump, farside of tunnel, serpentine, weave - and spent the rest of the time working on the A-Frame and teeter. Though she was less than thrilled with the A-Frame work (not really sure why), she finally seems to be holding her 2o2o at the bottom of it. Looks like it's hasta-la-vista to running contacts.

She really enjoyed the teeter work, as usual, despite the fact that she still has her reservations about the noise. Marisa speculated that her fascination with the teeter is due to how much reinforcement we have done with it. It could be a consequence of operant conditioning vs. classical, but standing there and repeatedly banging it and trying to feed her treats really didn't do too much for her.

She is going over it, now, without much hesitation at all. It seems like her biggest problem is when it clunks after she takes her weight off and it goes back into position.

All in all, private practices are probably just something that Marge will get used to after repeated visits. I know for next time that I'll need super high value treats, and LOTS of them - peanut butter didn't really seem to be doing much for her, but the little bits of hot dog that I had helped a little more.

Needless to say, we're all pooped now. What an adventure! I wish it was a little less stressful for my girl, but I think that next time around it will probably be a bit better. Two new places in one day is a huge deal for her.


Raegan October 9, 2009 at 11:14 PM  

Happy Marge posts are my favorite. :) It sounds like even though two new places was stressful, she handled it with aplomb.

Cyndi and Stumpy October 9, 2009 at 11:46 PM  

I think Marge did extremely well, considering it was such a full day!!

Stumpy is a heeler/minpin mix... maybe just as "bad" as a chihuahua, maybe worse. She's a challenge, but so much better, now. Like Marge, she is anxiety ridden, fearful and reactive. In the two years I have had her, she has come so far. She is actually able to hold it together and focus enough on me, to be my service dog!

Keep up the awesome work with Marge. I know how frustrating it can be, but in spite of herself, she is smart and willing. With you at her side the possibilities are without limit!

Kari in Alaska October 9, 2009 at 11:52 PM  

I'm glad you got a chance to visit the site before the trial! Having a dog who used to be afraid of everything (until we discovered fetch and stinky fish) we fully understand that as much desensitization as possible is a great thing!

Amber and Nala October 10, 2009 at 1:37 AM  

Hi Marge, thanks for visiting me! :) Glad you conquered your fears. :)


Dexter October 10, 2009 at 6:25 AM  

Oh Marge! I know how difficult interactions with new doggies can be. I think I am more stressed by not being able to interact with the puppy than I was when he was out annoying me.

Your momma is so smart about watching your body and knowing what you are thinking. You make a great team.


Archie and Melissa October 10, 2009 at 9:32 AM  

hi sam and marge!
it is so nice to meet you!
thank you so much for stopping by and saying hello today. :)
i love reading about yours and marge's adventures.
what a great blog!
:) melissa and emmitt

Sue October 10, 2009 at 11:25 AM  

It ws probably good for both of you to visit the trial site before the big day. Try to relax as it gets closer. Remember that tension runs down the leash, too.

Anna the GSD October 10, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

Wow! What a BUSY day! But it sounds like good one, show all that new stuff who's boss Marge! You rock!!!

The Army of Four October 10, 2009 at 5:02 PM  

Sounds like a great day! And horse poop, too?!? Even better!
Play bows,

Kathy Mocharnuk October 10, 2009 at 7:07 PM  

So two huge new things in a day, and sounds like all in all she handled things very nicely, you guys are my heros!

BRUTUS October 10, 2009 at 8:41 PM  

What a full day! And such beautiful weather to be out in :)

I have to admit, I couldn't help but think of you & Marge earlier today - we attended a run-though at our agility club's indoor facility. There is a CPE trial next weekend (which we will sadly miss due to our Earlventure), and many members showed up to get their dogs used to the building again, so it was a very show-like atmosphere. Brutus was unfazed in general (after only having been there a few times last spring), but did have to get in some antics as part of the proceedings.

The good news - I ran him at his full competition height of 12" for the first time, and it was like he had jumped that way all along! Did FABULOUS on the teeter, only gave me any trouble about a too-high A-frame (AKC height, not CPE) - but rightfully so considering his little torpedo body! He did go across it several times in some open practice after our run-through, so all is forgiven.

Here's the not-so-good-yet-funny part. When I started the run through, I led out well over the first jump, as I usually do to get him going at a good speed. He held a beautiful startline stay, then went over the first jump as I directed... then totally TOOK OFF for a zoomie lap around the ring!! Never done such a thing before, it was pretty amusing (and uncharacteristically energetic for Brutus). After one full lap, he came & sat down in front of me, like "I'm good now", then ran just fine!! The other funny thing was the tire, which Brutus had never jumped at 12" before. He decided it made more sense to go between the tire & the frame, instead of through the tire itself!! Again, I was able to correct this in some practice afterwards, and it was an understandable mistake!

Overall, I'm pleased as punch with hi,, but I'm SO inept as a handler!! Need to work more on me than him before we are truly trial-ready!! Oh, and sorry for the uber-long comment, but I thought you'd get a kick out of all that!!


RILEY AND STAR MY MALTESEKIDS October 10, 2009 at 9:46 PM  

Whew! you make us tired just reading what all you did today! Now we need another nappy!

Luv ya,
Riley and Star.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart October 13, 2009 at 2:34 PM  

Still laughing about your highway thing. Though, to be fair, I'm sure the highways near you are much scarier than the ones we drive out west.

Oh, and have we seen photos of Louie? I don't recall.

We have the same issue with port-o-potty doors (bear-proof trash cans too). There is just something about that slamming noise.

I'm so glad your teeter is going well, but we agree ... doing the bang-treat, which works for so many, only seemed to make Lilly more fearful of the teeter.

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