Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Edumacation. He Has It.

Duncan graduated from his pre-agility class last night. We should have had a couple more weeks of class, but there were only two of us taking it, and the other girl dropped the class two weeks ago. Since Duncan was essentially getting private lessons, he was able to get more time on more equipment, so the cut the number of lessons. Which is fine – this way I can quit worrying that we’re going to miss a class because work is sending me off somewhere. When we took it the first time, about a year and a half ago, his certificate said he attended the class (we didn’t pass). But last night, he received a certificate that said he successfully completed the class. One of the instructors even tried to get me to sign him up for the next level of agility. I don’t see that happening – agility doesn’t set his tail wagging like sheep herding does. I was very proud of him, though. Everything he had trouble with last time – the A-frame, dog walk, and teeter-totter – he sailed through this time.

Since it was only us in the class last night, they let us do three small courses, and the instructors took pictures and video. During one of the runs (and I use that word very loosely, as he certainly didn’t run at any point in time), he actually fell off the A-frame, but he got right back on it and didn’t show any signs of stress. They put up a two jumps for him, too, but what you don’t see in the video is that he keeps knocking the bars off. They didn’t want to make the jumps too high, but they were so low, he could barely exert himself to pick his feet up. He’d just walk over them, and forget to get his back feet up a bit higher. But that’s okay. And for some reason, the goofball decided that he would only go through the chute if I was on his right side. If I was on his left, he wouldn’t do it. One thing we all laughed at was that he’s clearly realized that he gets a cookie for touching the pad on the end of the dog walk. Two weeks ago, he wouldn’t touch unless I pointed to it first, so last night, I went ahead and pointed as he got close to the end. He would touch, I’d give him a cookie, and then he’s supposed to get off the dog walk. But last night, he decided to try multiple touches, and see if he could get multiple cookies. The big stinker.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Herding Sheep Is Fun!

We had our third sheep herding session last Saturday. Two of the girls from the GSD club went to try their dogs, so we were able to take pictures and video.

Duncan and Reyna both have a blast when they’re working the sheep. Duncan’s tail almost never stops wagging. The trainer thinks he could be ready to start competing by December. Of course, she didn’t say when she thought *I* would be ready. She thinks Duncan has a lot of innate talent for this and would do really well. One thing that she specifically complimented is his rating, which is keeping pace with the handler. Basically, he understands that if the handler slows down, he slows down, and if the handler speeds up, he speeds up to keep the flock moving at the right pace.

Reyna, on the other paw, lives life at a run, and that carries over into her herding. Sheep herding for Reyna will just be a stress reliever. Watching her, its clear that her hips won’t let her move like she needs to in order to control the flock. She can’t easily spin on her right hip, so she runs a big circle instead, and tends to lose a sheep or two each time. Not that she minds chasing after them to bring them back… For now, she can turn on her left hip, but who knows how long that will last? So, she gets to herd the sheep just for fun, and Duncan gets to learn how to do it correctly.

The clips were great for me, because its really hard to see what your dog is doing when he’s behind you. And my balance in the sheep pen isn’t so great that I’m willing to walk backwards very often. This clip is Duncan’s first run of the day. It’s a bit long, and there is at least one spot where the trainer is giving me some instructions on working with Duncan, but its pretty neat to watch him working the sheep.

This clip is Reyna’s first run. Its considerably shorter, because the girl working the video camera had a bit of trouble with it at first.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Mirabelle is 11 years old today. Happy birthday, baby girl!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Poor, Poor Parm

Thursday morning, Parm jumped off the bed. This normally wouldn’t make the news, but this time he apparently landed wrong and hurt his leg. He was limping just a bit, and when I checked his leg, I couldn’t find anything obviously wrong. Friday evening was the next time I saw him (he’s a hider, so I don’t see him every day) and he was limping pretty badly. Saturday morning, he was still limping, so I called the vet and made an appointment for Monday afternoon. Monday, his limp was on and off, so we went on to the vet. The exam showed that his right front elbow is swollen and painful to manipulate. The vet said that he was probably hyper-extended when he landed, and that’s what caused the injury. Keeping him quiet is the best option at this point, which isn’t hard to do. The difficulty is keeping him from jumping off of high surfaces (like the bed). Every time he does that, his limp gets worse. When he sleeps on lower surfaces, his limp gets better. So, we’ll just wait and see. If its still a problem in a couple of weeks, we’ll go back for a follow-up. On the upside, Lardbutt managed to lose some weight – he is now a petite 18.5 pounds...

Monday, April 21, 2008

And People Say German Shepherds Are Vicious

So, I’ve had GSDs for 4 years, I interact with other GSDs on a regular basis, and I’ve never been bit by one (except when I got between Reyna and the foster GSD that attacked her). On Friday, though, I was attacked by a vicious monster. My neighbor invited me into her house to see her cat, and before I could get past the door jamb, one of the dogs she watches for her daughter jumped on my leg and bit me. Mind you, this wasn’t a GSD, or even a chow, rottie, or pit bull. It was a Dachshund. A Dachshund! The little monster tried to bite me three more times, and then growled at me the entire time I was in the house. He actually managed to get through my jeans and break the skin. My neighbor and her daughter both offered a wide variety of reasons why this “incredibly sweet and mild” dog would act “so completely out of character” and attack me. If it had been one of my dogs, my neighbor and her daughter would have gone nuts, but since it was their little bitty baby, I’m supposed to write this off as a freak incident that was actually my fault...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Happy Birthday!

The kittens are three years old this week (Khar'pern yesterday, and Parm and Per'la somewhere around this time). They sure don't look like this anymore...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

If I Didn’t Have Animals

I found this online today, and I think it sums everything up pretty well.

If I Didn’t Have Animals
by Jim Willis

If I didn’t have animals . . .
I could walk around the yard barefoot in safety.
My house could be carpeted instead of tiled and laminated.
All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of hair.
When the doorbell rings, it wouldn’t sound like a kennel.
When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading through fuzzy bodies who beat me there.
I could sit on the couch and my bed the way I wanted, without taking into consideration how much space several fur bodies would need to get comfortable.
I would not have strange presents under my Christmas tree - dog bones, stuffed animals, toys, treats - nor would I have to explain to people why I wrap them.
I would have money...and no guilt to go on a real vacation.
I would not be on a first-name basis with 6 veterinarians, as I put their yet unborn grand kids through college.
The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: out, sit, down, come, no, stay, and leave him/her/it ALONE.
My house would not be cordoned off into zones with baby gates or barriers.
My house would not look like a day care center, toys everywhere.
My pockets would not contain things like poop bags, treats and an extra leash.
I would no longer have to spell the words B-A-L-L-, F-R-I-S-B-E- E, W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, B-I-K-E OR C-A-R.
I would not have as many leaves INSIDE my house as outside.
I would not look strangely at people who think having ONE dog/cat ties them down too much.
I’d look forward to spring and the rainy season instead of dreading ‘mud’ season.
I would not have to answer the question ‘Why do you have so many animals?’ from people who will never have the joy in their lives of knowing they are loved unconditionally by someone as close to an angel as they will ever get.
How empty my life would be.

Monday, April 07, 2008

So Proud!

Tonight was Duncan’s second night in his pre-agility class. The last time we took the class, we received a certificate that said we attended; this time, we’re aiming for the certificate that says we completed the class. Tonight we worked with the equipment that was our downfall last time – the A-frame, the dog walk, and the teeter-totter. The biggest problem Duncan had with all three of those before is that they’re only 12 inches wide, and Duncan couldn’t figure out how to keep his back end on those 12 inches. This time, though, he did beautifully. He went up and down the A-frame without even thinking about it, and he trotted along the dog walk without any encouragement or help from me or the instructors. A few times, he even stopped on the dog walk and sat down, waiting for me to give him his cookie before he got off. Not that long ago, he wouldn’t have been able to get his butt down in that 12 inch space without falling off. Even the teeter-totter didn’t bother him too badly. He walked across it twice; the first time he was a bit nervous when it suddenly moved on him, but the second time he was more interested in the cookies the instructor had than he was in the movement of the board. The really entertaining part of the class is seeing how excited he is about the tunnel and the table (they finally have a table big enough for him to sit on without most of him hanging off) – he keeps trying to go through the tunnel or get on the table when I’m not having him do something else.