Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tug = life.

Or at least that's what Simi seems to think today. I had just a random rope toy we leave laying around today and was tugging with Simi and I grabbed it from her, and held it where she couldn't reach. Of course, her first thought was to jump on me and try and bite me... so she did. But then after that she sat back, looked at me, barked at me... looked at me... then offered a down. Good puppy! So we played like that a little more until I went and got her real tug, to which she responded with a "ohemgee yay dead thing!" which roughly translates from Simineese to English as many excited jumps and biting. So we did the same thing some more with that tug, and by the end of it there was no hesitation from her sit to her down, just stop tugging, look at me, sit-down. No waiting between which there has been in every other session before.

I was having a hard time using treats and getting her to offer a down quickly. Whodathunk all I needed to do was whip out the tug toy?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lots of Jibber Jabber.

So nothing new worth posting has really happened, but I have cute pictures to post so I might as well throw some words in there, I guess.

Zoey's been really clingly lately, but oh so adorable. She and Rhyme and Tinky got into a little fight the other night and she got a good wound on her belly, so I think that might have a lot to do with the clingy thing. Rhyme was pretty good about the fight though and let go of her right away, which she doesn't always do. Sadly, with 7 dogs, arguments between our 5 bitches happen sometimes.

Crash is as adorable as ever. I've decided I want to start working on his agility stuff this winter. I'm really kicking myself for not doing it last summer but I don't think he was quite ready for it, mentally, then. I think he is now. That said, if I'd have started him last summer he'd be ready for trials this up coming summer and he'd be doing some serious training at the barn with me this winter. I guess part of me doesn't want to do agility with him, because I'm already way to attached to him, and Dad wants to keep him when I leave, so I don't know... I might be able to talk Dad into letting me take him. We'll face that when we get to it.

Psyche is still the most amazing dog I've ever met. She's so perfect. Even with all of her "issues". Speaking of! We've found a trainer who's going to work with us on those problems and we start on the 20th of January. Starting 2012 right. (I can't remember if I've already mentioned this here or not?) But I'm really excited for the lessons. We'll be traveling 2 hours each way to get there... but I don't even care. We're probably only going to do one or two a month, but the trainer thinks that'll be enough and that we'll make some improvements. Mom is going to be going with Tinky, too, so that's good. I really hope this helps mom and Tinky, as well as Psyche and I, because mom really needs the encouragement with Tinky.

Simi is awesome. She's so much fun to be around and she's starting to look less like a little tiny mutant thing and more like an awkward young dog. It's great! Her ears are finally starting to return to vertical, rather than flopped over, and thank god for that. No one's gonna take my little schutzhund dog serious if her ears fall over her face. I still haven't been teaching her much of anything, but we've done lots of work on sits and some on her down, which she'll offer, just takes some time to offer/think of, but I'm wanting to get back to her tugging because she's having a hard time going from treats to the tug, and I want it to be the other way around. Tug is awesome, treats are just okay.

Anyway... From my crew to yours, happy holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Missing Bella

As Christmas is fast approaching, I'm reminded again this year of my lack of heart dog. I try to stay happy, and for the most part succeed, but times get tough and it gets hard not to really, really miss Bella.

Things have changed so much in the year and a little bit she's been gone. When the idea that someday I'd loose Bella to her mental issues first arose, I told my mom, "If I can't have Bella, I don't want to do the dog thing anymore." My days leading up to losing Bella were spent upset that I was losing her and half convincing myself I'd have to find homes for Psyche and Zoey because I didn't think I could do this, this dog loving, putting my heart and soul into things, all of that, if I didn't have Bella there to drive me onward. I tell people about this now and tears come to my eyes, because I can't imagine my life without Zoey, Psyche or the other dogs now in my life. Psyche pulled me through losing Bella. I don't know how she did it, but she did. Psyche is a soft dog. She's timid, fragile even, and yet, when I needed her most she was the strongest pillar in my life. She never wavered when the wind blew at me and tried to push me down, when the world gave way beneath me and tried to make me fall, when the heat bore down on me and tried to make me hide--through all of that, Psyche was strong, despite her weaknesses.

And now, coming up on my second Christmas without her, I've added two more dogs to my canine family and I couldn't be happier. Crash came into my life after turning down a puppy from my dream bitch's litter. I had decided I wasn't ready for another dog... and then Crash came along. He needed me and someone, somewhere decided I needed him, because for some reason I brought him home as a foster and now he's here for good. There have been moments in having him that I've looked at him and swore that Bella was looking out his eyes at me. He gave me the challenge I hadn't had since Bella, just not as extreme.

With Simi I don't relate her to Bella at all. They're totally different dogs, even though they're both German Shepherds. Simi is different and I still love her, but she'll never be Bella. But that's okay. I don't want another Bella. I had the real Bella, and she was Bella--there's no replacing her. That said, there are times that Simi settles down for just a few seconds longer than others and a part of me thinks there's a connection being made there... that Bella's looking down, smiling, happy that Simi and I have finally been matched up. Who knows. Maybe Simi's what Bella would have been like had she been normal, maybe she's not, either way, Simi is her own dog and as much as I feared at first I'd try to make her live up to Bella's standards emotionally, I'm not. My heart tells me that even though they will be similar in breed-type ways, they are not the same dog and my heart is right. Just the other night Simi and I were outside and I picked her up and while I looked up at the stars, she stilled in my arms and titled her head up to the sky, and I knew then that Bella was smiling down at us. Call me crazy if you want, I can live with that, but I know when things are right, and they are now.

As for Little Zoey, I'll admit, the first year was hard. There were days I looked at her, after just losing Bella, and there was blame in my mind. It wasn't fair to Zoey and I never said anything about it, but it was hard to look at Zoey and not see her as the reason that I'd lost Bella. That has changed though. Zoey no longer represents Bella's bad days. In my mind, she and Bella are still what they used to be when they ran the back pasture together, friends, and when Bella jumped off a snow bank on top of her, to which Zoey responded by doing the same to Bella, the swims in the pond where Bella could actually coax Zoey into the water; those first moments together where nothing stopped them from loving each other unconditionally, without hesitation. Those were some of Bella's best moments and Zoey helps me remember them. They may not have been friendly at the end, but that wasn't the same Bella we knew at the beginning, the one who's mind hadn't yet been polluted by disease. The puppy who took everything that happened in her life and let it go with the wind; she forgave and forgot. Zoey knew the real Bella; the Bella Bella wanted to be and tried to be, right up to her last minutes.

So as much as I miss Bella, she will always live on. In my heart, memories and the stories I share of her, yes, but also in my dogs who were there when she lived and in my dogs who have come since losing her and who have yet to come. She influenced who I am today and in doing that she made me a better person, better capable of caring for the canine family I've been given and will be given.

I owe more than I could have ever imagined to that hairy, hyper, long tailed mutt. I miss you, Boo.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Here's the scoop on Simi.

Just wanting to let you all know how Simi's been doing, how life's going with her, and how things are in general about Simi.

Her ears are, of course, still doing some very wonky things, but she's completely adorable, no matter what. She was going through a spell when she first came home with soft stool, and that was hard to deal with for me. There's a lot of stress around this puppy. I'm so worried about keeping her healthy and perfect that the smallest thing stresses me out. She's doing fine now, though, after some more adjustment time and a trip to the vet (where they said nothing was wrong!).

In terms of training, we haven't done much. She's got her sit pretty much solid, no matter the situation and she offers it all the time. We've mostly just been doing lots of playing and tugging and being happy. She has, however, gone out and about a fair bit. Last weekend we were out Friday, Saturday and Sunday and she did great each day!

Friday was a trip to the vet for her next set of shots and her nails to be trimmed. At that point, I hadn't really had her on leash much besides in the house, fooling around, and so she was a little iffy about that, but with some help from "her girl" (Brooke, the little girl I watch every night who comes to see her once a week) she was good to go and pranced into the vets office, greeted everyone, then came back and sat at my feet and watched with interest at the happenings.

Saturday I decided I wanted to take her to town to get some new textures, locations, smells and sights. We went to Boot's new home (seen above with her) to let them visit with him before he goes home and we had our first real session of walking loosely on a leash beside me. We were happily wondering along, leash loose, clicking and treating after no time at all. She was offering sits and eye contact like crazy! She loves to work for me.

We went to PetSmart after that, where she was allowed to meet lots of new people, but I kept dogs away from her, just to be safe. She was mauled with attention, to say the least. She accepted all the cooing and aweing, though, with ease and was offering me eye contact every chance she could. At one point she'd been picked up and put on someone's lap, and even with them snuggling her, she was still watching me.

On Sunday we went to the Costco parking lot. That was an experience. Not too many people stopped to pat her, but lots of cars going by, people walking by, shopping carts, etc.. She was loose lead walking along side me, no problems. Our only issue we ran into, really, was that there were cigarette butts all over the ground and she kept thinking they were really great treats. Urgh. I wish people would think of things like that before flinging them everywhere, but I digress. She was really good. I was quite proud, to be honest. You'd think I'd been training her a lot more often than I actually am.

On both Saturday and Sunday she had her picture taken with Santa. On Saturday with Boots and the picture was CRAP. So we went in for a re-shoot Sunday and got a much better shot, all by herself, so I've got a good memory of her first Christmas.

Over all, we're using everything we do as a learning opportunity without making it a structured training situation. I don't want to burn her out without too much learning, but at the same time, I want her to learn, so I'm trying to keep it a happy medium. Everyday we plan and she learns more and more about how to play, be confident and happy. Really, what I want is a dog who can control themselves in any situation I need to put them in and who can be confident in new areas. Simi doesn't seem to have a problem with any of this yet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Snow's here!

So winter has arrived on Rocky Valley Farms and snow has filled our agility field to the point that it was finally time to pick it all up and put it away.

I donned my boots, jacket, shark hat and gloves and went out to try and dig my jumps out and I brought Psyche along. She mostly just ran around and goofed off until I was done and when I spoke to her to get her going along, she came over excitedly bouncing, tail wagging looking at me with a 'what we gonna do, Momma?' look, and so I half-heartedly attempted some agility with her. No toy in my hands at all, no treats, no "reward" other than my voice and myself. She eagerly did a 8 obstacle sequence, very fast, very committed and at the end threw herself into my arms, tail wagging and licked my face.

This was a monumental moment for Psyche and I. I've known all along that Psyche loved agility and it's clear she loves me, but I've never been able to get her to realize how much fun both of those things are, without a toy.

It might have been a one time thing, but hey, it happened and that gives me a little bit of hope that someday it can happen consistently and that day will be great.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Good Uppy!

So Simi went for her second set of shots today, and she was such a good girl.

I haven't really done much leash work with her at this point, honestly, but today I took her to the vet with a collar and leash, and it took a few times of Brooke (her little girl) getting down and speaking to her but then she was happily coming with us.

She went into the office and she greeted everyone happily and then promptly came back and laid down at my feet and took everything in. She then went into the room and got her needle, as well as her nails trimmed and was super good, even though the vet made her bleed giving her the shot, and then we happily trotted out of the office.

I'm just very pleased with how she handles herself in new situations. She only got slightly excited when a Golden made eye contact with her, and she totally wanted to play with him, but when she realized it wasn't time to play, she just laid back down.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This is a stick-up!

We worked more on Psyche's newest task tonight.. I think I'm going to call it "Stick up!" so I can sing to her the song of my people (Okay, I'm tried, can you tell?) with a "this is a stick-up and no I didn't hickup or stutter it's like butter y'all go and put your hands up." Or I'll call it hands up.

Anyway! It's just her going from a sit to balancing on her bum with both paws off the ground, preferably held up HIGH.

Last night we left off with a little rocking. She was picking one paw up, then the other, and only bringing the second foot up a tiny bit, but I rewarded high. Tonight she started by straight up offering a full both paws off, flung up high on the first try. Jackpot.

So we worked more on that and she did have a few stalls but I just waited her out and she figured out. There was some sniffing the floor so a little bit of stress, but that only happened a couple of times. Uh-oh. Time to find a new trick, she's not failing often enough!

This trick is going to be adorable. My dog is adorable.

Also, on a non-Psyche related note, I taught Crash "Saaad" the other day, so now on the command "are you saaad, Crashee/are you saaad, Psychee?" both of the twins will drop their heads to the floor and stare up at me. Crash's still needs a little work, but once I get it so the verbal is solid there will be twin-sadness pictures/video.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's okay to get it wrong.

I'm on another crazy streak. Paired with the threshold work I've been doing with Psyche, I'd like to start teaching her that it's okay to "fail".

Of course she never gets a "OH NO, bad bad dog. You did it wrong! Bad!" and she sure as heck never gets a "haha, loser, you did it wrong", but Psyche is a really soft dog and she really lacks confidence. So I got to reading and researching today and started thinking, well maybe if I teach her that failing is okay then she'll get a little more confident, and maybe that will help with her agility issues, and if not, well heck, it'll teach her lots of tricks.

So we're starting a Shaping Challenge. I haven't yet decided the rules of that shaping challenge for myself and Psyche, but we're going to start with doing some perch work... or at least try to.

I'll keep y'all updated on how it goes. This dog loves shaping, but I only ever do it when I want her to learn how to DO something... now I want her to learn how to accept when she didn't do it.

The after thoughts: So I started to work on some perch work with her and because I've done other work with a similar prop (we've worked on putting her face and paws on a "podium" and adding her "sad" trick on top of that) she was really struggling and I was too, so I decided to try something completely new. And I'll be honest, I had no idea what it was going to be when I decided to start working on it.

The "perch work" we tried was really good for her. Because I was asking for something new, and because she already had an idea of what she wanted to offer there were lots of times she'd try everything we'd already done on this similar prop and then just sit there and think "well, now what...?" and I just waited her out. It used to be that I would "start over" from there. If she came to a stand still I'd help her along a little bit. Today I just waited until she decided to try something new. I realized that before if she was 'failing' I was right away saying "oh, that's okay, let's try again!" Now I always knew my shaping had a little luring mixed in *tisk tisk* but I didn't realize how much until tonight. Wow. So I waited her out tonight. I just waited. And it was good for me, if nothing else.

I then moved her onto a new trick all together. She likes using her paws, so I decided we'd do a new "paw based" trick, I just didn't know what... so I waited until she offered something new that I liked and went from there then decided what I wanted. What I want: For her to raise both front feet off the ground and paw/beg at the air. So tonight to try and get to that I clicked pawing the air, then rewarded her high. By the end of it she was starting to get a little bounce in it so those were jackpots and we ended on that. I videoed it all and learned a few things already. One being that I need to keep my sessions shorter--holy clips! And I also witnessed again those moments where she shut down and stressed a bit (panting, looking around, sniffing the air) and then the moments where she "came back" and was back in the game...

Anything's worth a shot, right?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I guess it's about time for an introduction.

Today is her 13th day here, so I'd say it's pretty official. Time to introduce the little demon; Simi.

Simi is a 9 week old German Shepherd Dog puppy. She's from a local breeder who breeds really nice working line dogs and does very well with her dogs in competitions of all levels.

I'd been planning a GSD pup from this breeder since before I lost Bella. I wasn't sure when I'd be getting the pup, but when I lost Bella the idea of a puppy kind of was dropped, anyway. Then on my 18th birthday, mom told me I'd be getting a puppy out of my dream bitch and that we were going to see the litter that day. So we went and met them, and I fell for a little puppy... and then life got in the way and that girl didn't end up coming to live with me. Things don't always work out like you'd planned, but everything happens for a reason.

After that Crash came home, and that alone was pushing back my puppy plans a lot.

But then, somehow, by some stroke of luck, when a litter by my favorite male was born, I was lucky enough to get a girl from that litter. They were a big litter; 10 in total, 6 females. When we went in to see them the breeder left only the females in the pen and put the boys in crates. From there we went in, Mom and I sat down at the same time and this one little puppy came to be while the others went to Mom. I was so overwhelmed by all the sable pups I couldn't tell one from the other, so the breeder started to go through the personalities of each. From there I actually liked the breeder's pick to keep the best, so she took her and a few others who wouldn't suit my needs out and left me with 3. Simi was among those three.

From there she went into more detail about each of the pups and compared Simi in look to her momma "but a little more ugly." And yet somehow, someway, and or some reason, that "ugly" little puppy was the one I was drawn to the most... after deciding on her, the breeder pointed out she was the first girl who came to see me.

She is quite something! A little spit fire with no fear at all, and very vocal. For a week or so she went without a name (she's supposed to have an L name, but we're going to try and just have her L name be her registered name), and then for some reason, the little demon out of a series of novels I'd been reading for years named Simi popped into my mind, and it hit me that that was the PERFECT name for her. I haven't doubted it since.

So a long story short, I got a GSD puppy. She's adorable.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crossing Thresholds - Comparison

I've been working on Psyche's trial issues, and yesterday that involved taking her to the field with 3 other people, setting up a course and doing the course like it's a trial. We tug up to the entrance to the field, drop the toy, heel position in, sit stay, release, course, finish, jump into my arms then run out to her tug.

This is yesterday's example:

Now, most people would look at this and think wow, she's so stressed, but I feel the need to point out the good things, and in doing so I had a "holy crap, my dog really has come a long way" moment. In a trial, I wouldn't expect Psyche to a) hold her dog walk contact b) get on the table and lay down; she'd get up but wouldn't lay down c) do 6 weaves, let alone 12 d) hold her a-frame contact or e) come to me at the end, let alone look at me, anticipating the "get up" command.

Please note that she did all of those things in that video.

Food for thought, here. Here's a video from a trial around this time last year:

And that was a jumpers run, at a trial she got her first Q at.

So something has to be going right. My dog is still stressing, yes, but she's improving in leaps and bounds. I guess my thing now is that it's hard to realize that she's making such improvement when I don't look back, and of course, I don't remember those "bad" runs from before.

We're working on it, but honestly, this is a general path for me to head in with her. We'll keep working on it, and at least now I can stimulate the stress so I can work on it. I feel like crap for purposely stressing my dog out, but at the same time, I've been doing it at trials for more than a year now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crossing Thresholds Day 2

Same little course, same training field, new criteria.

Today we went up and I had treats with me, and before we ran at all, she didn't have the chance to go into the ring and romp around with her toy, which she likes to do (usually she snatches it from me on the walk up and then runs up and waits for me with a "hah, I beat you!" look). We started it just like it was a trial. The first time in, she was stressed again and I could tell. I really should try and video the next session. She kept breaking her start lines, so we worked a lot on that. I decided I wanted: a 'heel' up to the spot where I put her in a sit stay (and for Psyche that's not a very formal heel, just beside me, offering eye contact, her bum usually swings out more then it should for obedience); a sit at the start line, no stands; a held start line stay to the second jump out, AT LEAST; and at the end, I wanted her to come to me when I said, "Psyche!" and then jump into my arms when I gave the cue, from there I'd set here down and release her to her toys.

After she warmed up to the idea that we were doing that whole thing that stressed her out again she gained a lot more confidence. And from there her biggest issue was the start line stay. They aren't fun to her, and so that's something I need to work on. She gets all serious-dog while waiting, and although all I really need is for her to stay, I don't want her thinking that she has to be all serious and gruff at the start line and having that mind set for the rest of the run. So we're going to start doing some start line stay stuff outside of the ring. Any suggestions?

We spent a lot of work on that, and at one point even just start line stayed to the third jump, then I went back, rewarded and released her to her toy and ran out after her. She seemed to like that, so maybe we'll have to throw some more of those in.

Then I threw a curve ball at her. When we went into the ring, I sat her and stood with her for a few minutes, like we often have to do while waiting for the scribe to be done, the jumps to be set, or the chute to be fixed. That has been a problem for Psyche and I for a long time. It's like she works up the courage to go in, and then while she's waiting decides it's too hard. So we worked some on that, and the first time I did that, she was back to stressed. When I start lined stayed her she broke it to go sniff. So we worked on that some more. And she started to get a lot more comfortable about it.

Now, I'm starting to feel a little crappy about purposely stressing my dog out, but I do it at trials too, without even meaning to, and I can't reward her how she needs to be rewarded there, so this is better, right?

So the plan is to do this one more day at home, and then I think we'll head to the club's training field. I'm eager to see if it's got the same effect there as it does here.

And just for reading all of that...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crossing Thresholds.

Threshold, by definition means, "any place or point of entering or beginning". So that could mean a gate way into a new training ring, two posts that mark the entrance to a trial field, a break in the snow fence, or even between two pylons, right?

After our last few trials, I'd been thinking that something about going into the ring was the hardest part for Psyche. She was happy and calm around the trial ring, would tug up to the trial ring, give me her all on the practice jumps outside the trial ring... and then we get into the ring, and something happens. All along people have told me that maybe it's something I'm doing that's freaking her out (and maybe it is) but even when I felt calm, cool and collected, Psyche was still very stressed. Even at a fun match, when I knew it was completely for fun only, she still stressed. Even when I had her toy. She only ever was comfortable at fun matches at our own training field through the club... which has a wooden gate, but it's a gate that she's been going through since she started agility, and that gate means we're going in where she'll get lots of time to play with her toy or a class full of yummy treats.

*insert lightbulb moment here*

Now, of couse, none of this actually came to me until after today's training session. I was looking through CR sequences and course maps, looking for something good to get a good training session out of. I didn't want to just dink around today with all my equipment where it's been the last two months. Sadly, because of my lack of tunnels and real weaves, I couldn't find anything, so I decided I'd work on making our training session as trial like as possible.

We went up to the field and I moved things around into a very simple 'course':
Now, it's not hard, but remember, that's not what I was going for. However, I looked at this little sequence, in my back yard, with my horses watching me, like it was Nationals and Psyche and I were up against crazy well known agility people. We started at the gate, where I tugged with her, then got her revved up, dropped her toy and gave a "let's go" command. We walked in and the first time you could see the stress in her body. Even though this was our backyard, she was stressed about it. So we walked up to the start line, did a horrible 'start line stay' and released and did the whole 'course' with many mistakes. But at the end there was a huge celebration and she got to run out of the ring and get her toy and we had a long play session.

Second time we do the same thing and I get a lot more confidence walking into the ring, but still not crazy comfortable. I manage to get a nice stand stay from her and she sails through the course with a couple issues with her weaves (now, this is an easy weave entry. And she knows it. But at a trial, even the most simple weave entry she'll miss if she's stressing, so I was expecting some messed up weaves.). But again, at the end, huge party, run out and get her tug, lots of play.

Third time, she pranced into the ring like she owned the place, start line stayed, and blew my mind. She was still a little iffy, you could tell, but getting more confident.

Now, there were some mistakes I made. I should have had treats on me, in my pocket, to reward a start line stay (and eagerly offering me a sit, because once she gets stressed she doesn't want to sit or down) and so that at the end I could call her back to me, reward, and then BOTH of us walk out and get her tug. This is something we'll work on next time for sure.

This little thing about thresholds is something I'm going to work on for a while. I think it'll help her a lot. But I'm going to do the treat thing, because I feel like the treats are a good way for me to get her understanding exactly what I want. Now it's a matter of maintaining my criteria. Maybe I need one of those "Note to self: Maintain Criteria" pendants from Mad Dog Metalworks?!

Over all, a really amazing session. Even though I could feel her stressing, it felt good to be working on it and actually see some of her trial issues at home, in training. I've always felt at a loss because those issues didn't show up in the places that I could actually work on fixing them, so now, if I can recreate the situation and work on teaching her how to handle it... this might lead to something.

It's a never ending journey, that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I am thankful.

Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving, and it was also the Labracollie twin's 3rd birthday... so insert long, sappy blog entry here.

Come on, you knew it was coming.

Crasher Trasher has been with me since April now. He came to me on easter day as a 'foster' dog, and of course, that didn't go as I'd planned for. I'd have been better off naming him Temporary. In the short time he's been with me, Crash has quickly grown from a crazy, spinning stressy mess to a real dog. On his three year birthday, he attended his first obedience class, and he rocked it, for lack of better words. I went into the class expecting Crash to bark, spin, chase flies and over all just not pay attention at all. I had low expectations, warned the instructor that he'd be a challenge, and warned the rest of my class that he's a loud boy who loves to hear himself bark. We went into class 30 minutes early. I wanted to be there before everyone else so that we could slowly adjust to more and more dogs. He barked once. Before class, and it was a "hey, Shay, play with me!" bark. We were being foolish and he looked at me and barked. No big deal, a quick, "shh" and he was done, standing watching me and wagging his tail. 6 dogs came in after that, most dogs with 2 handlers, plus the instructor and her helper, as well as the instructors dogs who were in runs into the room. He only flicked an ear when the last dog came in. I was so proud. And by the end of class he was just laying down at my feet, relaxing, while everyone else was working, because Crash was steps ahead of where I thought he'd be and had a good knowledge of everything we tried. He even had an obnoxious lab come into his face at one point and still, he only backed up because I was stepping into him, trying to keep him from the lab because I didn't trust that dog. I trusted him, but I didn't want my boy set back because of an out of control dog.

I'll be the first to admit I didn't think I was ready for Crash when I brought him home. In my mind he would be a foster dog because I just couldn't fathom another dog after losing Bella. I think I thought I would only have a GSD after because half of me though a GSD would relink me to Bella. I knew that was wrong the day I looked down at Crash and swore Bella was staring back at me. I knew then he was here to stay.

Now Psyche has been with me for much longer. Going on 3 years in March. (Does that math sound right?) And she has been a special part of my life since then. When I lost Bella she was the only thing that kept me going. I'd entered her in a trial the day after Bella's death and mom forced me to take her, even though I really didn't want to. I'm glad I did.
I think that first day of the trial was the day I realized that if I stick by her, she'll stick by me. Psyche is truly an amazing dog. Sometimes I think she understands every word I say to her, and somedays I think she knows me better then I know myself. She's loyal and devoted and the human race could learn a thing or two from her.
When I look back on the day I brought her home, in March 2009, I look back and see a timid, scared little puppy. Exactly what I wouldn't want if I were looking for a puppy now. And yet, somehow, Psyche, who's not exactly the dog I thought I wanted, is exactly the dog I needed. I guess that's what's most important, right? Things worked out so that Psyche and I found each other. Even though I'd been looking at litters of pups, dogs in the shelters, breeders hours away... everywhere but where I found her, somehow, someway I still found her... or she found me. I'm not really quite sure how that worked. But it worked. And thank god for that. Although a lot of people would call me crazy (yeah, I know right now all of you are nodding going, "yeah, she is pretty crazy."), Psyche keeps me as sane as I am. Being around her makes me feel better. I look forward to time with her like I do with my human family and friends. She's a very special dog.

My twins sure are something special. From Crash's insane eye contact to Psyche's neurotic teeth chattering, they're each a little different, and a little the same. Even if a year down the road I find out they're of no relation at all, these two are siblings. They love each other the way all families should. When I think of Crash and Psyche I think of play sessions where one gets a little too obnoxious but backs off when the other says stop, I think of them chasing the chuck it, one throwing him/herself into the air, missing, and the other doing the same, and missing again, I think of them swimming in the pond, Psyche waiting for Crash to drop whatever he has in his mouth before he does his swamp monster impersonation.

To end it all on a really simple note, I'm thankful for Psyche and Crash, now while celebrating their 3rd birthday, and everyday for everything they do for me, without even knowing they do it at all.

Happy birthday, Labracollies!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harder than I thought it would be.

Last night I returned to the trainer and training facility I spent so much time in with Bella. I'm starting Crash in an obedience course and went last night for the intro without the dogs there.

Walking up the drive way was strange. It's been probably two years at least since I was there, but I didn't think too much about the tightening in my chest walking up. Then I went inside and without even realizing my eyes were drawn to our spot. We had a spot in the room where Bella and I stayed, because there we could say far enough away from the other dogs to sometimes get a bit of work done. Then I looked around and realized the trainers dogs were out, and there was Maxi, a saluki Bella once hit with her teeth who screamed and screamed afterwards, and I was gone. Back into the basement of my trainer's house where we'd been working with Bella, me sitting away from her, trying to get her to be calm around Maxi. I wasn't there at the facility getting ready to start training Crash, I was back 3 years, to when I had Bella at her house for a summer of day long privates three times a week.

Brought back to the present I listened and absorbed as much as I could about the training program, even though I knew all of it already, but my eyes kept going to her spot. When I pictured myself in this room, I pictured myself with Bella at my side. I remembered the spot we were in the first day she went to class, when her issues first really showed their face. I remembered getting her fitted for her gentle leader... going over to a easy walk... working private sessions with my trainer and her dogs... and the day we worked on greeting new strangers and I walked away from her, and Bella was tied to the wall, crying, literally crying, and throwing herself at the wall, devastated I'd left her.

It was way harder then I thought it would be. Hard for me to smile when the trainer introduced me to the owner of a GSD puppy as the "girl with Shepherd experience -- she owned the GSD from hell." Hard to smile when her assistant looked at me and said, "I remember hearing about you, but never got the chance to meet Bella."

It was just hard.

But I'm excited to go back--to face those memories, embrace them, and make new ones with Crash. I know that he'll help me through each night there, and that when memories resurface he'll help me cope, and help me build new memories that will go side by side to my memories of Bella.

I think I'm probably a little scared too. Scared that Crash will have the same issues Bella did, even though he's shown NO signs at all. Scared that somehow, someway, I'll be that same girl, coming in with the 'bad dog' and leaving with bruises on my ribs, tears on my face.

But here's hoping Bella's there in spirit, giving Crash a quick tuning when he's getting just a bit out of hand, and keeping us straight on the path we're supposed to be on.

And as a side note, my trainer lost her 15 year old Golden Retriever last week, and I hope he and Bella have found each other, where ever they are, and maybe on Monday nights they'll somehow know their owners are working together again, after several years they weren't.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Herding is Healing.

*Wish I could take credit for that clever play on words, but I heard it at the clinic last weekend.

This past weekend Tiny Zoey, Psyche and I all loaded up into the HHR with my sister and headed to Prince Edward Island. Where we were going on the Island was about 6 hours from our farm. It was a long trip that started at 2 am. After a 6 hour shift. It was brutal. But! It was so worth it. We arrived at the farm where the clinic was being held just on time, to a hole herd of Border Collies and one Aussie running around. It was pretty intimidating at first for everyone else to already be there, but everyone was very friendly after I worked up the courage to get out of the car.

The first session was with Psyche, and it was... not what I'd thought it would be. She just wasn't digging the sheep; that I called. However, Lorna had me move the sheep myself, make them follow me around, all sorts of things, including bringing her bitch into the ring and having her work the sheep to see if her interest would get Psyche interested. None of that worked, and just when I was starting to think that Back Up Plan Zoey would have to be put into play, Lorna told me, "push the Sheep." I thought she meant with my energy, like she'd had me doing earlier, but she meant physically and wasn't long to tell me. So I started literally pushing the sheep around, and just like *snap* that Psyche was going crazy with all sorts of instinct. Of course, she was barking her little head off too, and chasing a little more than actually herding, but she was actually interested and that was great in my book. We worked on just having her keep the sheep around me in both away to me and come by manners, and then when I needed her to stop, backing myself and the sheep into the fence where I'd wait for Psyche to calm down and then step out again and ask for the direction I wanted. It was amazing to see. My little mutt was herding sheep!

Little Zoey tried her hand at herding too, but was way more interested in the yummy treats they left behind and running around acting like a fool. I think she'd have been a lot more into it if we weren't in a new place. This is the same little dog who at an agility trial will visit.

Day two wasn't exactly what I expected either. I thought Psyche would pick up where we'd left off the day before, but she needed a little more work to interest her, but then she was really into it. She was, however, breaking sheep off from the herd, so we had to work on that, but still. We had a hard time, too, with her pushing sheep AWAY from me, because she was trying really hard to stay close to me, so would come behind me and push the sheep away. That was really hard for me to be flustered about, because since I started agility, that has been what I was looking for. I WANTED her to want to stay with me. So I told Lorna and she was asking about her confidence issues, and she said, "Well, like *insert local agility lady I know here* says, 'Herding is healing'!"

Zoey didn't get a chance on Sunday, but I don't think her feelings were really hurt. ;)

We spent Saturday night with a family friend, her 2 cats, and her Papillion, Clarence. Mr. C wasn't so sure of Psyche and Zoey at first, but he was really eager to see them the next morning. Psyche slept on my bed, even at a place that isn't home, because after almost a year of Bella being gone, I just can't sleep without Psyche. The dogs were really well behaved--well, as well as they can be, what with them being their badselfs.

Sunday after the clinic we went to the beach, and both dogs swam! Crazyness! Little Tiny Zoey went out into sea and swam for a bit. She didn't really hate it either... didn't love it though. And Psyche and I waded out into sea where she swam circles around me, literally. Her first real trip to the beach, and she loved it.

Overall, I think the weekend was a really good opportunity for Psyche and I. I think through herding she increased her confidence, and I think we got the time together we needed after all of my crazy hours this summer and having just started college.

And we're going to another one in October... Crash will be tagging along! We've also got a trial this weekend, local, that Psyche, Crash and I will be heading to. Crash, of course, won't be competing. And next weekend? A day trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, to meet our internet-friend Abby! That'll be the Twins, Amanda and I.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I haven't dropped off the face of the world...

But I have been busy!

You can, however, look forward to some stories about some sheep, my dog, and me, and also some really pretty PEI beach pictures. But for now, I'm off to make the "college" part of poor college student true.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My dog is a delight.

She is a delight to live with, train with, and just kill time with.


Today we went out to work on toy-less drive (we've back stepped to just hiding her toy, not dropping it) and she was amazing. She was giving me so much enthusiasm, and it was awesome. I think I'll just rename her delightful.

Also, we worked on decell, and she was rocking that too. Man, seriously, be jealous.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Our dogs read us, sometimes we just don't write the right story. "

Psyche and I have been going on Thursdays with Mom and Tinky to private lessons with Erin. And even though we've only done 2 session so far, each one has come with huge learning possibilities, and chances to think through struggles we're facing.

Erin has been an amazing instructor. And I'll admit, I was kind of timid at first, worried there'd be too much of a "laid back" atmosphere, because we're friends, and I'd worried that we'd be spending the money for a private and getting an hour of training, but not... I don't know it's hard to explain. Either way, it was a waste of worry, because of course Erin handled everything very professionally.

Our first session was good, but I can say there were moments when I really was thinking to myself, "Why DON'T you know this? Really?" Simple things that most others know just starting out I'd forgotten or never really learned, and that was irritating to me. However, Erin did a great job of explaining them to me, and Psyche was very understanding while I tried and failed several times, until I tried and succeeded.

Our first lesson took place while the skies were opening up and just letting it fall. We've never trained in such rain, and I doubt we've ever really trialed in such rain -- maybe once. That said, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Within the first few minutes out there, my coat was soaked through and I was drenched, and I'd fallen once before even bringing Psyche out, but it was a great session. That second session was filled with several moments where I was proud and thought, "wow, Psyche's really working well for me, and I'm really working well for her." Even in the rain my dog was happy and willing to play with me, and that makes me feel good. There were places in handling where I knew what I needed to do, that last week, I probably wouldn't have known. I didn't always execute them correctly, but at least now I can pick them out.

During our second session, we talked a bit of how the dogs read us, and Erin said at one point something along the lines of, "Our dogs read us, it's crazy, but they really do." And Mom, without even stopping trying to master the footwork of the handling she was working, said, "Our dogs read us, sometimes we just don't write the right story." And of course my mom is right (she almost always is, much to my disdain), our dogs do read us, but it's up to us to write the right story. So even if I felt like Psyche didn't really NEED lessons, I'm glad we've taken them, because these sessions are like a much more fun english class I'd take in school.

So thanks to Erin, for sharing her knowledge with us in the form of lessons and frequently asked questions, and thanks to Mom for coming with me, since I just don't think I could handle an hour all on my own, and thanks to Psyche for bearing with me when my feet don't point in the right direction, but my arms do; I'm glad she's learned how to read slower so I can make adjustments before she gets to each part.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's happening.

So I know I haven't said much of anything lately, but that said, here's what's going on.

I've got a "training log" that I'm using with Psyche. I pick one thing a day I NEED to get done with my dog. Yesterday was "toyless" drive, today was nail clipper issue work, tomorrow's 20 mins of chuck it time. It's all pretty simple. It's not like "Teach your dog to stand up, fall to the ground and play dead." It's just simple little things. But lately I've been getting so caught up in life and all the non-important stuff that I'm forgetting about the important thing -- my dogs.

Now I feel compelled to use a notebook to keep track of what I want to get done for each day. I shouldn't have to, but I do. So I am.

That's all.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Agility Blessing

May the tunnels not have too much suction,
May the course be fun and fast.
May your dog not stop to say "hello"
to the photographers they pass!

May the table not be too slippery,
May the chute house no scary beasts,
May all the yellow parts be touched
with one little toe, at least.

May the wind be always at your back,
May no bars fall on the ground.
May the A-frame have no stop sign on the top,
May the judge's whistle never sound.

May your dog obey all correct commands
And ignore the ones that are wrong.
May your heart be light, your feet be sure
and the bond with your dog grow strong.

At the finish line, may great joy abound,
regardless of your score,
You have your dog, your dog has you,
and who could ask for more?

Written by: PJ Hughes

Our first private lesson...

was a huge success! And we owe a huge thanks to Erin for giving us the chance to do privates and for being such a great instructor.

Above all else, I've learned that I know nothing of threadles and serpentines, but of course, I knew this. But! That said, I feel like we made a lot of progress. Of course, Psyche and I weren't spot on 100% of the time, but what fun would lessons be if we were?

I left feeling very encouraged and like I knew what I needed to work on, and that will be good I think. I feel like Psyche and I need more planned training sessions, so I'm thinking of starting a training plan for Psyche. Well, less of a "training" plan, and just a "plan" in general. What day's we'll just play chuck it, what days we'll work on obedience, what days we'll work on agility, etc., you get the point. I think it would be good for both of us to know what we were going out to do when we went out to do it. And to make myself follow through with this, I think I'll get a neat little notebook or day planner to do so in.

Anyway, not really much to say as of right now. Though I do have another copy and paste post coming right up (like, in a couple of minutes).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I think she stole a piece of my heart...

Ira went home yesterday.

I knew I'd be sad to see her go, but I didn't think I'd be as sad as I was. I got up early to scrub her crate, get her dog food all packed up, let her out to pee, etc. And by then, I was feeling sick to my stomach and like I needed a good cry. So I laid down for a few minutes before I needed to leave to bring her home.

I took her outside to get into the car and she resisted. She never dogs that. She always meets everything with a "Oh HAI! I'm not scared!" attitude, but yesterday, she didn't want to get into my car. The tears started that moment. And they went on and on the whole 45 minute drive there. Ira would sit in her crate, looking at me, thump her tail, and lay down. She kept checking on me.

We got there, and I cried some more. Told her momma how good she'd been, and then she went to take her out of her crate, and Ira wouldn't come out...This is the dog who's usually barreling out of her crate to come play bitey on your limbs. She had to be physically taken out of the crate, and then her momma sat her on the ground and was speaking to her, and she kept coming back over to me. Even though I wasn't saying anything to her. And when she took her in and put her in a bigger crate she cried and screamed until I was gone and couldn't hear if she still was.

I sobbed the entire way home.

I'm still sad thinking about it. I don't know what it is about that Satan spawn, who most of the time irritated me, that makes me miss her so much, but man oh man, I sure do miss her.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Individuals make the world go 'round.

Let's let this be known, because I feel the need to say it.

My dogs are their own dog-sons. They're each individuals, they're all a little different. There are no other, and never will be any other, dogs who are exactly like them. Close maybe, in looks, training issues, breeds, any of that, but they are not Psyche, Zoey, or Crash.

So when I say, "She was so fast!" I'm not comparing her to the dog who runs the same course 10 seconds faster. I'm comparing her to her previous training attempts, trials, or sequences. Agility has always, and will always, be about bettering ourselves as teams. When I run a course I don't do it with the intention of getting a faster, better run then Sally and her dog Fido who just ran it. I do it with the intention of seeking improvement in the teamwork between me and the dog I'm running.

Like teachers comparing me to someone else in my class, it's not far for me to compare my dogs to someone elses. My dogs will always be individuals, and that's why I love them. How fun would it be if we all owned the fastest, most accurate agility dog?

I love my dogs, even with all of their good and bad traits, because above any dog sport, my dogs are my best friends.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I own the definition of "amazing".

Psyche is amazing. No doubt about 'er. She's my girlie, and such a good girlie.

I just took her out for this amazing session, working on getting some more enthusiasm and drive for sequencing without her toy in my hand. I honestly had no thought in my head that I'd get what I got out of her. She was so amazing tonight.

Well, really, only video can show you what I mean. She was just so good.

Ah, man. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rain, rain, go away.

Today's my day off. My plan all week has been to do agility with my day off. I wanted to do some quick sequencing, and some circle work with a jump thrown in here and there.

But today, my one day off until Saturday and Sunday (both of which may be spent 4 hours away, dogless), is a rainy day. Of course.

All day I whined about the rain, and then just now decided, you know what? A little rain never hurt me before. So I donned my mismatched rubber boots, my purple PJ pants, and I headed 'er out to the field, with my double page protector-ed Clean Run under arm.

We mostly worked on just fun stuffs at first. A few sequences. But then after I decided I wanted to work on getting her to run without her toy. So we worked on me dropping the toy, her NOT rushing to it right away, leaving it, and going and doing one jump first. Then 2, then 3, etc. I think the most we got to was 5, but of those 5 a couple took her running right past the toy.

As of right now, she's not as fast without her toy, which is okay. I can deal with that. So the next time we go out, what I'll do is focus on less jumps/obstacles, more drive. So when she does ONE jump, with a lot of drive, I'll let her go to the toy. Ideally, in a week or so, this would lead to leaving the toy at the start of a sequence, driving through, and coming back to our toy. Like we'd do at a trial.

It was interesting for me to see just how different she is without the toy. She slows down a lot, and just looks like she's enjoying it less. Too dependent on the toy, maybe? Not sure. Anyway, we're going to work on it. Any ideas, suggestions, thoughts, are appreciated.

Bella sent me a sign.

It's been a while since I looked at something and thought, "That was Bella's doing." The last thing was a split second look in Crash's eye, when he first came here. I knew right there and then that Bella had brought him to me, somehow, and for a second, I felt like she was looking out at me through Crash's eyes.

Then the night before last she sent me another. I was driving home from work, after a 3-11 shift, and I was driving the back woods. It's common there not only to see moose, but to hit them. I was anxious the whole drive home, until about 20 mins from home, I saw a shooting star. Now, remember that I'm practically holding my eye lids open, trying to see as much as I can at one time, and somehow, for some reason, at the split second that I glanced upwards, I saw a shooting star.

I rarely see shooting stars, but after this one, all the tension left my body, and all I could think to do was look up and say, "Thank you, Bella. I got your message."

That said, the rest of the drive home I didn't see a single critter.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Training session success paired with handling woes.

I took Psyche out to the field today, and we've been working on a Clean Run Backyard Dog Course, that's just 6 jumps, and today the sequence we were working on involved a serpentine. I think. See, this is where my problems come in. I can never remember the difference between a serp and a threadle, and therefore, can never remember how to handle either of them -- if I ever even knew that is.

This is all very frustrating to me. Psyche and I can attack masters courses with few to no mistakes (in training) but not if they've got a serp or a threadle in them. Then we're screwed because I can not handle them. And I don't mean they like, make me freak out, all nervous, mental break down. I mean that they are something I just can't handle in terms of handling techniques. It's annoying. It's something we really need to work on. Oh Errrriiinn, darlin', looks like we'll need to set up a few privates, me and you.

Besides all of that, though, Psyche was AMAZING. We did the sequence we worked on last time once more, too, and she rocked it, first try, no hesitations. Go Psycher doo! Mom looked at me after and was like, "How many times have you practiced that?" and I said, with a huge smile on my face, "None since the last time we were both out!" I love when things come together like that. I'm seeing it a lot more frequently now that we've got a place to train at home.

On the note of my training field. Well, sadly, it hasn't been getting proper use lately. With work, and the weather, things just haven't been working to my advantage to get the girls out and working. As it was, today I had to do it before a 3-11pm shift, and in this gross muggy wet weather. My poor shoes were soaked. Oh well, it was worth it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ira left this morning.

Only to go get her shots, but still. I was sad when I came downstairs and her crate was gone. I can't imagine how I'm going to feel when she's gone back to her momma's for good. Oh no.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why I need a German Shepherd Puppy

Because this one has confirmed that I love GSDs, even the ones who aren't Bella or Callie:

Because Psyche loves little puppies, especially GSDs:

And because it's just so cute to see a GSD and a BC bum trotting along together:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Work, work, and that other thing...

Oh yeah, that other thing--work.

So last week was my first "full" week, I guess. They only gave me 3 shifts, so it wasn't even a full week. This week I have 5 shifts. 39 hours. I'm finding it really hard on my ankle, and I'm also finding a lack of time for the dogs, but I think that once I get used to actually DOING something, I'll be okay to come home and do agility afterwards. And I have my days off, although I didn't do any agility yesterday.

That said, this job is going to pay for the rest of my agility equipment (contact plans have been make -- a-frame frame should be made this weekend, I'm hoping), so that makes it a little better. I just keep waiting for that first full pay. And the things I'll be able to buy! (Haha, right. It'll likely all go towards my car!)

Speaking of cars. I'm really in a pickle. I went to a used car dealer last week and saw a Ford Escape (2005) for sale, and the price is really good on it, but I don't have that money. We went and looked at a Saturn station wagon after, and it's less money, and less KMs, but not as big. I travel the back woods to work, and moose are common around there, and it's a lot of twists and turns and so we'd all feel better if I had a bigger car. That said, I gotta go to the bank and see if they'll lend me the money. I have stuff I could sell to get money (like a horse that Mom's been after me to sell) but I don't really want to sell her, and what I'd get out of her wouldn't pay for the Ford Escape, and if I have to sell my horse, I'm getting the dang Escape. Loan sharks here I come. Oh well.

Anyway. That's all that's new, I guess... Puppy Ira is still here, and as bad as ever. 2 more weeks. Then we've got two more guests coming.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Puppies change everything.

Or at least that's what it feels like right now.

I've got a young pup here for three weeks while her momma's away on vacation. Ira is a real handful, but then again, it's been 6 years since I had a dog this young here for me to take care of. And I'll tell you, you just don't realize how un-puppy proof your house is until you've got a puppy finding all the weak spots in your puppy proof shield.

Luckily, I have Psyche here helping me. The first morning she wasn't really all that fond of Ira, but Psyche had had a long weekend, and now that she's not as tried they're best buds. Or at least, if that's what you call a puppy tugging on Psyche's tail.

She's always on the go. I'm beginning to wonder if she ever even sleeps. But man when she's not raising hell, she's somethin' cute.

Anyway, there's not really much else to say about that, but if things slow down a bit, this face is the reason.

I've been in a constant state of puppy chasing or cleaning up. It's been pretty busy... so yeah, this puppy is changing everything, at least for a little while. And we're only 2 days into the 3 weeks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not bad for a blind dog.

On Saturday I not only attended a fun match with Psyche, but while there I met a huge inspiration.

At this fun match there was a dog named Lucy. Before her run I didn't pay much attention to her, but I remember vaguely hearing her name called for her run, and just so happened to be ring side when she ran. The man handling her had a head halter on her, and a tab leash. Between each obstacle he was grabbing the tab and going along to the next obstacle. I noticed he spoke to her a lot, clicked just before the jump, and tapped the top of the tunnel. I sat there thinking, "Oh, just a new dog, or a dog that is reactive." and put the clicking to poor timing and the tunnel tapping to a dog not understanding tunnels.

It wasn't until he finished his run, which involved two sets of 12 weaves and an a-frame, that I heard him come off the field and say, "Not bad for a blind dog!"

I get tears in my eyes even now, just thinking about it. Lucy's owner, on cloud nine from the pure adrenaline of being able to do agility with Lucy, came over to us while a friend was telling us about what he does to signal each obstacle, and I, with goosebumps and chills, met Lucy for the first time. She happily greeted me, once she realized I was there, and when I stopped, went back towards her owner and the only word to describe how they interacted was pure love. It was clear that Lucy knew that that was her owner, without hesitation, and saved a special kind of love for him.

I talked the rest of the day to Lucy's owner, about how their life is, how they can leave an old blind Lucy dog on the couch, go into the kitchen to get some cheese and before you know it she's standing behind them, waiting for her treat.

They adopted Lucy when she was 2 years old, and they knew then that she was blind. The vets told them that she'd been blind for a very long time, likely from birth, but that didn't stop them. Something about Lucy called to them, and so they took on the task of Lucy and her lifestyle, which can't have been easy to start. Lucy's 6 now, and they've been doing agility with her all along. She does all of the obstacles, and enjoys every second of it.

Meeting Lucy made me stop and think. Psyche and I battle trial issues, sure, and we have our shares of ups and downs, but neither of us battles such a thing as being blind. And it makes you stop and think, why is it that I can get upset about some issues Psyche and I are having when things could be so much worse? Lucy acted as reminder for me this weekend, that the most important thing is love. Lucy does agility because she loves her handler. At first I thought, "I can't imagine that kind of love." but really, Psyche and I have that love. It's just sometimes I'm blind to it, when really, the only thing I need to see at all is that love. Psyche and I could be blind to everything else in the world and be okay, as long as we could still see our love.

Lucy's story will be something I think of daily. When Psyche and I stand at a start line, Lucy will be in my thoughts, acting as an inspiration to remind Psyche and I that we can get through anything, as long as we have love.

Thank you, Lucy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday is Fun Day!

Another little fun match for Psyche on Sunday. Only three runs. This was at our clubs training field, so to be 100% honest, I was expecting her to kick some butt. The first run was really bad, honestly. She was being weird before going in, and then pooped once we were in there, then just shut down after pooping, even though I said nothing about it, just cleaned it up. No biggie. But she was having none of that after.

After that I took her out to play some, and she wasn't interested at all. I started to get annoyed, so I went and put her in her crate and took a breather. Mom took her out to play with her, and she played, no problem, and so of course I was sad that my dog won't work with me, but will play with mom. But I got over it, and went out, with a fresh start, to play with her, and she was much more interested in that.

We had two more runs after that, a masters standards, and a Time2Beat, and she did much better those two runs. I was really proud of the Time2Beat run, actually! For a tricky little course, and doing the first 5 obstacles with our trainer under the a-frame adjusting the height before we got there (which I didn't notice, and no one thought to tell me!) she did really well. I was very pleased.

Some circle work took place after that, which we're planning on doing a lot more of, and she did great, and then we left to go to some pet food stores to look at new dry foods, and I took Psyche in with me and realized that I really need to get her out and about to new places. How can I blame her for stressing when I haven't properly exposed her? A soft dog like Psyche needs to have lots of good experiences before she can be comfortable. So I've decided that with my days off after my first pay (so I can afford gas!) I'm going to not only take her to new places for agility work, but for a chance to do some obedience work in new places too, like pet stores, etc.. Crash will also be tagging along for these adventures, but they'll be worked one at a time.

Sunday evening we picked up Ira, the little GSD puppy who's staying with us for three weeks, but that's a whole other blog post.

Stay tuned!

Wonderful Weekend o' Fun Updates!

The weekend didn't quite go as I'd hoped it would, sadly. At least not for Psyche and I.

We arrived at the Motel Friday night and she of course took everything with stride. She'd been there before, so quickly made herself comfortable. But Saturday morning when we arrived at the fun match it was much different. It was at a place where they have a boarding kennel, so it was all very loud, which is hard for a Psyche dog. We took her out to the warm up ring, and that was a huge mistake. Dogs who were being kept at the kennel were in runs that led outdoors to where they could bark at Psyche, which immediately freaked her freak, and all she'd do was cower behind me, so we decided we wouldn't enter the warm up ring at all again that day. Who needs the warm up ring at a fun match anyway?

So her first run was Steeplechase, and it wasn't bad but it also really wasn't what I was expecting. I expected Psyche to be a lot more comfortable and confidant in a new place with her toy and I there as comfort, but she worked for me much the same way she would have at a trial. "Okay, I'll do it, I guess." Just not very into it at all.

So our second run was Advanced Jumpers, so between the two runs I played with her outside along the ring side, and she was fine, really playing with her tug and having a grand time. Bring her into the ring for her run, there she goes again, just like at a trial, shut down and just not interested.

Her next run I didn't even walk the course before. I just said, I'm going to go in, run around like a fool, throw her toy, have some fun, and then if she's into it, throw in a tunnel. No big deal. That worked much better. And honestly, I'm thinking I should have done that all of her runs, but hey, hind sight's 20-20.

We only did one more run after that, which was her advanced tunnelers, and honestly, she was so hot and tired that I just ended on a good note and we left early. We only missed the masters tunnelers, and with the way she was going, she wasn't going to to have much oopmh for her last run anyway.

I left the fun match with a better idea of what she needs, though. I think she needs to be more confident with agility in new places before I add the stress of the trial setting. So we'll do parks and other places working on what little equipment we can take with us, and then we'll look for another fun match, or one run at a trial. I want her to be able to if she's stressed at a trial think "Oh, agility, I'm good at this, and it's fun!" and instead of stressing in the ring, take comfort in agility itself.

If someday down the road I really think that Psyche's not enjoying it, and nothing's working, I'll have to ask myself, "Is this really fun for her?" and consider not trialing her anymore. But as of right now, we're not giving up because I'm taking a better approach that I know isn't going to hurt my dog, so we'll see where we are in the next few months. She's supposed to "re-debut" at our club's September trial, but we'll play it by ear.

Stay tuned for a post about the amazing dog and handler combo we met at the fun match on Saturday, a brief update on Sunday's fun match, and a little about the pitter patter of puppy paws on my floors right now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A break.

As horrible as this may sound, man, I am so excited to leave tonight and just have a little "vacation" with Psyche (and Mom and Tinky, of course). It used to kind of be that Psyche stayed near me all day, everyday, and she just loved being around me. Now that Crash is here, I always have at least two dogs hanging around me--Psyche and Crash.

This weekend, for lack of space, we are only bringing one dog each. And I am pretty excited for that. I love my dogs, all of them, don't get me wrong, but Psyche's just so easy that weekends or days away with only her are nice.

I'm anxious to see how Crash handles this, though. This will be the first time since coming that he's spent the night without Psyche and I both here. I've gone out for nights since getting him, but never have I taken Psyche with me, so we'll see how that goes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


She will forever be in the hearts of all who knew her... and didn't.

She was a source of love, strength, devotion, and friendship. She never let the world get her down... even when they tried.

She never won a title, she never even went in a ring.

That didn't make her any less of a dog though. She proved it doesn't take winning, or even being there that counts...It's loving every day for what it is.

Gone but Forever in our hearts."

Having a sappy night tonight. My great friend Abby wrote this about Bella on her memorial video, and it means so much.

Oh, oh, oh. THE JOY!

The jumps are complete. 6 of 10 are already up where our agility field is going to be. We worked on a sequence with lots of 180s, which is good for Psyche, since sometimes we forget that "easy" stuff. She did really well. Man oh man, she's fast when she wants to be!

All I can say is that I can really see how all of the dogs will really progress with equipment at home, even if it is just jumps, a tunnel or two, weave poles and a teeter for now. A lot can be done with all of that stuff.

Also, getting very excited for this weekend!

Never have I loved a huge pile of PVC more.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hi Real World, Goodbye Entire Days Spent with my Dogs.

*le sigh*

I started working on Tuesday. Only 6 hour shifts yesterday and today, but tomorrow will be my first 8 hour shift. Need to be at the restaurant at a little before 6, which means I need to leave my house at 5. Which means I need to get up no later than 4:30... and yes, I'm talking AM.

Of course, working at a restaurant means no dogs, other than service dogs, allowed. So I'm kept away from my dogs all day, and frankly it sucks, but I think I've grown a bit spoiled from mid-June to now because I got used to being able to stay home all day with them, or when I leave, taking them with me and doing dog related stuff with my time.

I know I need to work, though. I'm not stupid. 3 dogs have vet bills. 3 dogs eat a lot. 3 dogs destroy a lot of toys (okay, Crash dogs destroy a lot of toys!) and going up to 4 dogs will be costly too.

Hi Real World, I'm not so glad to meet you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So excited!

So Sunday I bought enough PVC for at least 10 jumps, probably more like 12. And we'd ordered the fittings for the pipe late last week. Today dad went to pick them up at our US post box, and the 4 way connectors weren't there, but our snap on Ts, which we're using for jump cups were there, and so dad and I just took them to be cut at a friends, and I brought them home and put them on an old jump standard out of PVC we had and worked Psyche a bit. Even with ONE jump at her height, I could already tell this is just a preview of how much we'll benefit from having equipment at home to work with!

Just wanted to share my excitement!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A weekend full of fun!

Psyche and I are taking a 5 hour drive with Mom and Tinky to go to a fun match this weekend. We're kind of crazy. We're leaving Friday night, the fun match is Saturday, then coming home that same day, and we're going to another fun match the next day! Maybe, if Psyche and I aren't too tried...

And then the real fun begins! Sunday night we're picking up a little visitor who will be staying with us for three weeks. A tiny little GSD puppy named Ira is coming to experience the Misfit life style, meet new dogs, and get used to new things. We're pretty excited for that.

Anyway, that's all... how 'bout you kill some time by watching my video!?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

If I ever questioned how related they actually were before..

So yeah... they're for sure related.

Trial Issues

I guess I've never really gone into detail about Psyche's trial issues. Her trial issues are mostly just a lack of fun. She just doesn't enjoy trials the same way she does training. That said, I'm not about to give up on trialing with her, not just yet. A trial with Psyche could end with a Q, or it could end in runs where she literally did one obstacle then left the ring and refused to come back to me when I called her. Of course, we haven't had a trial like that in a few months, but they did happen.

We've decided to take a break from trialing, and that's been going on since April. Since then we've really been doing very little, which explains both of our out of shape issues. However, we're also looking for fun matches. For a long time, I thought that fun matches were the only thing I could do to help her issues. Of course, I was wrong. We're now working on just increasing her confidence in agility in new places. To do this, I've taken Psyche to my friend Erin's place to work there, we've gone over to another friend, Brenda's, and have a plan for next week to go over to Rachel and Heathers. We're also getting some PVC to make jumps this weekend, so after that we'll be taking some jumps, weaves, and a tunnel out to parks, school yards (gotta love summer!), and any place we see, really.

We've done one fun match this year so far (they just aren't common around here) and even with that one fun match I saw a huge difference in Psyche. She was a bit stressed out her first run or two, but by the end of the day, she was rushing to the start line, excited to go, and eager to work with me. We've got another fun match planned on the 23rd, and if I can get the day off, one on the 24th.

We're planning our re-debut to be at our club's trial this September, so until then we'll just be working on increasing confidence and getting back into shape!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I don't want clean runs, titles, or praise for how great my dog is.

I want to at the end of the ring celebrate the run by Psyche coming back to me and bouncing around happily with me, to see my dog come to me for praise after she knows she's done well. For her to really enjoy agility and at the end go "Hey, mom, look what I did!"

Others have it and I can watch a flawless, beautiful, clean run, and the end, when the dog comes running back to the owner, happy, bouncing, wiggling, I get chills.

I know someday Psyche and I will have that. Every day we get closer to that same finish line.

And for what it's worth, here's a jump work video of Psycher doo. :)

I'm reminded again

Of how awesome Psyche is.

My girl has gotten me through so much in the past, and I know she'll get me through many more issues in the future. And even now, while I'm battling a weight gain, I know she'll happily walk away the pounds with me, without a sound of protest.

She's my girl. She accepted Crash into our lives not long after losing Bella, and now sees him like the brother he is to her -- in every sense of the word. They play, they argue, but at the end of the day, they love each other.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Confidence is Key!

Since Crash came into our family, I have seen small differences and big ones. We have less toys in our house. We have more stuffing spread throughout the house. There are random strips of fabric, ruined socks, and busted balls everywhere. I've also noticed lots of Crash related laughing sessions and giggles, and some pretty adorable pictures. (See? It's not all bad stuff!)

But one thing that means so much to me that I've noticed is a huge amount of increased confidence in Psyche. She's always been a little bit of a scaredy dog. If a pop can was opened, and you were even looking at her, she'd cower and run away. Simple things in life would cause her to go from "Oh yeah, I'm the best thing since sliced bread" to "Oh my god, the world wants to EAT me!" I mean, it didn't really effect how we were living, but going out into a city and having her be comfortable? Yeah right. Tugging in a new place? If you're lucky, you'll get a light pull, but if you countered at all, she'd let go and shut down. She was a scaredy dog; I knew this. It was okay with me, because I learned how to handle it.

Then last week, on the 29th, I spent the day with Erin and her boy Mach, and honestly, I noticed some big differences. We went into a pet store before going to Erin's, and she was a little bit sniffy and stuff, but over all, a lot more comfortable there than she has been. Instead of stress sniffing, she was being a snoop. We went to the agility field after that and worked some. She was zoomin' and working so well for me, besides how hot it was, and she was tugging really hard. I was a little shocked, but just put it off to her being comfortable.

We went and picked Erin and Mach up after that, and went to the lake for a swim, because it was really hot. Psyche at first was pulling me, of course, like she always does, and then we got into the water and she started to go towards the kids (just wanting to play) but I grabbed her and we went looking for somewhere not so close to such a huge temptation for Psych. So down the lake we went, playing in the water, having a grand ol' time, and then we hear the kids coming, and they promptly get in the water, a little ways over. I managed to call her off of the kids every time she started going over to them, and I was quite proud of that. She really LOVES kids. It's so hard for her not to go see them, but she did. A few dogs walked past, too, and she didn't do her usual kind of "lock up" where she's just like "I don't know what to do -- do I go see them? do I stay here?" Instead she didn't pay any attention to them, really.

And then we went to Erin's and hung out, but then did some agility. Psyche was doing great. Really working for me... but the thing that finally made me realize just how GREAT she was being, was how HARD she was tugging. Like, seriously. She meant it, and it was so great. I don't need her to tug, but I like for her to like her toys, and since her toy is a hole-ee roller with a rubber chicken ball stuffed inside, and a fleece tug braided onto it, it's good for tugging. But I was just so pleased with how she was tugging. She's usually not that confident in new places enough to tug like that.

So we started to get my mom and sister and head home from our day out, and while I was waiting, I decided to take her out and work her some. We were in a city parking garage while we waited and it was really empty, so there was plenty of space. We did some obedience and stuff, then when cars started to leave from the other levels, we decided we'd tug some, with the distraction of cars. She never once let go of that tug unless I asked her to. Good girl! And so then I was curious to see if she'd get up on the barrier/wall thing, and of course, she did, so we started to walk along it, and BAM, out of the rafters comes two pigeons. Scared the CRAP out of me, but did Psyche even flinch? Not at all.

I honestly blame all of this confidence on Crash. He's encouraged her a lot in the tugging thing, mostly, because if she doesn't hold on, Crash gets it, and that's no fun. As for the rest of it? Well, maybe it's just luck, and maybe it's got a lot to do with having to be the grown up twin, because the other one's a nut case.