Friday, February 28, 2014

Now Getting Excited!!

What I wrote yesterday - I really think I needed to just "get it out there".  My feelings on the matter have already changed a lot since I made that post!

Literally minutes after hitting "post", I got an email from the breeder with pictures of all five baby boys.  And at that moment, I started to find that excitement again.

They are so PRECIOUS!!!  And they are all very much individuals.  Can't really see anything of their personalities yet, but they all have their own look and you can just tell that someday soon who they are is going to start to shine through!!

I love to look at the pictures and wonder which one of them will come to be a part of our lives.  Who will he be?  What will I love about him?  What special place will he have?  What will his lessons be?

It is crazy to think that someday one of these little baby Border Collies who were literally born yesterday is going to have lessons and wisdom of his own to impart!

But first, lots of puppy fun!  And the joy of starting training right from the beginning!!

I still have some fear of the unknown, but I think that's normal.

It is such a contrast to my experience with Tessa.  She showed up unexpectedly, I didn't worry about who she was because she wasn't mine!  And then, by the time she was, I already had such a profound respect for her that we were well on our way to the relationship that we have now.  Yes, it took a lot of time, but there was never any concern over who she would be or how I would approach training with her.

Well, this baby boy will be who he is.  Someday I will look back on this and laugh, knowing the answers to these questions!

But what a cool experience!  I've never had this before.

With Sammie, Ben and I went to the SPCA, met a couple of dogs, chose Sammie, and adopted him.  With Speedy, Ben told me he wanted to visit a breeder, and off we went and came home with Speedy.  With Maddie, we found her on Petfinder, met her two days later, and brought her home.  And, of course, Tessa just showed up as a foster!

Dean was the only one with whom I had any time ahead to think, plan, and wonder.  I did have five dogs picked out to meet from the GHF website, and I had about a week to be in that place.

But this is altogether different!  Even with Dean, I was able to look at his picture and description on the site and know something about him!

I am just in a much better place with this today.  Definitely thinking of these five Border Collie boys and starting to feel some anticipation.  A summer of puppy fun . . . a welcome change from this winter that has been so incredibly sad.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I've been here before and I recognize this . . .

I have been experiencing a bit of an up and down roller coaster ride of emotions over the last few weeks, regarding the puppy.  When I put down my deposit, I was certain it was the right thing to do.  I was very excited at the time.  As the weeks have gone on and the time of the birth of the puppies has approached, my excitement has waned down to almost nothing.

Then, the other day a picture of a Border Collie popped up on my Facebook wall.  A GHF dog named Zain.  He is a little older than I would have liked - 15 months - but I was immediately interested.

The idea of getting a rescue instead of a puppy was very appealing and I came very close to trying to set up a time to go meet him.  But it turns out that he is probably not a very good match for Dean, and he can't be left home as much as I would need to right now.  I think the reason I was so drawn to the idea of another rescue is that I would not have to deal with the reality that raising a puppy is going to remind me of Speedy in some ways, and that missing him is going to hurt quite a lot at times.

So, with Zain no longer an option, I did find some peace with the idea of the soon-to-be-born puppy.  I got word today that the puppies were born.  I got to see a picture, too.  Five boys!  In the picture they are busy eating away!

I had kind of half expected the excitement to kick in when I finally saw a picture of the puppies.  It didn't.

But I finally realized today what has been happening.  It all makes sense now.  And it is not what it might seem . . . 

I have raised a puppy only once before.  Every one of my other dogs have been rescues.  Dean, the youngest of the adoptees, was 10 months old when he came here.

I think it is hitting home that this puppy that I will be welcoming into my home and raising will simply not be Speedy.

When I saw the picture, I finally saw that this puppy will be a completely different dog altogether.  And I will be constantly remembering Speedy.  But I won't have him - I will have a new dog who is, right now, a total stranger to me.

Now, it might seem like the best thing to do here would be to back out.  But I actually think the right move is to proceed.  Move forward.

I've been here before.  I was here the day Tessa and I were driving to our very first Agility competition and my heart was breaking because I was not going with Maddie.  I was here the first time Tessa and I went to Westminster to run CPE together.  I was here the day Tessa and I ran for the first time in the Periland building.  I was here the very first time Tessa and I went to Agility class after I lost Maddie and my whole heart and soul said, "I don't want to be here, I don't want to do this!!"

I've been here before and I know how it all turned out.  I know that now I wouldn't trade Tessa for anything.  I know that walking through those difficulties, with my beautiful Tessa willingly along for every step of the ride, was the only way to get to the great place where she and I are now.

And I know that I will love this puppy.  I know that the day will come when I will think, "how could I ever have thought that I didn't want to do this?"  I know that I will look at this puppy someday and say, "you aren't Speedy, but I wouldn't want you to be!"  I know that someday I will look at that first puppy picture, pick out my guy and marvel at the fact that he was so tiny! 

Someday he will have a name.  Someday his face will be as familiar to me as Dean's and Tessa's and Sammie's.  Someday we will have lived and worked and grown together.  Someday he won't be "the puppy".  Someday he will be somebody that I can't even imagine life without.

All of my dogs have taught me lessons, many unique to each of them.  This has been one of Tessa's lessons.  She showed me where this path can lead if I can just muster the resolve to move ahead.

I've been in this place before and I recognize it.  And I know that no good can come of staying here.  It's time to start moving forward.

Because we continued to move forward, Tessa and I honor Maddie's memory every time we step into an Agility ring together.  I don't think about her as much as I used to - I really am focused on Tessa now.  But we go out there together and we put both put as much heart into our run as we possibly can, and we accomplish things that Maddie and I never could.  My first Agility partner will always be a part of what Tessa and I do out there.

And I know I will put my heart into raising this puppy, and in doing so I will honor Speedy's memory.  He will always be a part of whatever the puppy and I accomplish together, both in life and in performance.

I know this for a fact - if we go ahead and welcome the puppy when the time comes, I will be very, very glad that I did.  All I have to do is look at my girl to know that the best is yet to come.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Girl's Night!!!

Since I've been taking Dean to all of our Agility trials since fall, Tessa and I haven't had a chance to have a "girls only" trial in a very long time.

It was a tradition for Maddie and I go to the Artful Dodgers trial in Westminster, Maryland every March, and we always went on our own, without Dean.  The Artful Dodgers aren't having their trial in Westminster this year, so I decided to enter Tessa in the Bella Rose Group trial in Lewisberry this past Friday evening.  That was "our Westminster" and our girl's night!

We had a very nice time.  We started off sharing a grilled chicken salad in the car.  Of course, Tessa just had a little of the chicken and a few croutons.  It was an absolutely delicious salad!

We didn't walk very much.  Usually we would go for a nice long walk before her first run and then at one other point, but there was still a lot of snow around, it was chilly, and after we had been there only a short while the water on the driveway began to freeze!!

So, I got her set up in the crating area and it wasn't long before it was time to warm up for our first run.

First up was Level 3 Wildcard.  We were up for the last leg in Level 3 to earn our Level 3 Handler Games title!!

It was a successful run!!  In fact, Tessa was flawless.  She looked askance at the judge as she was coming down the A-Frame (you see the judge moving back quickly when she saw Tessa regard her with a clear question!), but other than that slight hesitation, her run was perfection!  Lovely jumps, no problem on any of the descriminations, and her weave poles were absolutely perfect!!  She even did an independent entry, which made me very happy!!

Here is her run . . .

We had a bit of a wait for our next run, Level 3 Colors.  First they ran Levels 1/2 Wildcard and then Levels 1/2 Colors.  Not sure why they did 1/2 Colors before 3/4/5/C, but that's how it was.  Tessa and I hung out - I tossed meatballs at her from time to time, she enjoyed some dog-watching, and I watched some of the other Agility runs.

Finally it was time.  Another perfectly perfect run!!  Even an independent entry on an off-side weave.  You can't see that in the video because the A-Frame is in the way, but you can see that I'm not babysitting or coaxing her into the correct entry.

That was her 4th Level 4 Colors run, so the next time we run Colors, she will be in Level 5.

This is a very bittersweet thing for me.  One Q in Level 5 Colors was exactly as far as Maddie and I got.  I am a little sad that Tessa and I are about to catch and pass her.

At the same time, Tessa deserves it.  She deserves for our Agility journey to be really ours.  We own it together now.  We aren't running in Maddie's footsteps anymore - we are going to blaze our own path.

And Tessa is the perfect girl for the job!  It is far more bitter than sweet.

Congrats to Tessa, CL1-H!!

Just two more Standard Q's and two more Jackpot and we will finish up Level 3 altogether!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rear Foot Targets

Dean is learning rear paw targets in his online class.  This is something that I have never taught to any of my dogs.

This is a challenge for him.  He has always had pretty good hind end awareness, but not so much his back feet themselves.  He understands that I am marking something about his back paws, but I don't think he quite knows what yet!

I think it is good that we have been doing more shaping with this class.  Sometimes he gets frustrated and he starts to groan and flail around, but he is also starting to zero in more on what I am clicking.

I am eager to see where this goes . . .

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Return To Head 'Sup Heeling

One thing that I am really taking away from the Precision Heeling class that I am loosely going through with Tessa is that I believe it would be best to return to a head 'sup style of heeling with her, rather than have her continue to heel with her natural head-straight-forward style.

Speedy was a natural head 'sup heeler.  I didn't really need to teach him to heel with his head up - he just did it.  As a result, his eyes were always riveted on me and he often moved with that lovely high step prance.  It made an attractive picture, especially when he was really "on" mentally.

I deliberately trained a head 'sup heel (on both sides) with Dean.  I started training him to heel by standing with him in position and I would click/treat, click/treat offered eye contact in position.  When we started moving, his eyes were on me.  Although he does not have the high step prance that Speedy did, he does move very fluidly and elegantly when his head is up and his eyes are on me as he moves in heel or side position.

When Tessa came along, I ran into difficulties that I didn't have with either of them.  She was very reluctant to offer eye contact.  This was a major personal issue of hers.  I thought at that time, "well, I'll just let her do this in the way that is natural to her".  Whether my training is to blame, or the head position she has chosen, it just isn't working for us as a team.  We aren't really connected when we are moving together with her in position.  She is often with me, but it is more like we move when we are doing Agility.  I don't have the level of focus I would really like.

Tessa is much more comfortable with the idea of eye contact now.  I think she is at a point where she could learn a head 'sup heel.  And I think it would be very beautiful for her to move that way. 

It will take a lot of training.  We are really starting at square one with it.  But I think the end result could be well worth the work.

Here is Tessa just working on her eye contact.  I am using the pivot platform solely to "ground" her to one spot.  I don't mind the pivots or the wiggling, but if I had her on the ground, she would be offering a lot of other behaviors.  You can see that once she figures out that the eye contact is getting the click/treat, she stops most of that movement to offer the eye contact.  She's super smart!!

Yes, I need to work with a treat that she doesn't have to crunch up!!  I actually took another video yesterday of just the eye contact using something soft, and she did maintain the upright head position.  I need to upload that one.

Just one point of clarification - we are not doing exactly what the Precision Heeling students are doing in this video.  I have added in the shaping/capturing of the upright head position for myself, based on other work I have done.

So, we shall see where this goes!!  I'd love to put together some really beautiful Heelwork to Music and Dogs Can Dance Challenge performances if Tessa gets the hang of this.

I think we can do it!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Our Skills List

I know . . . this is insane!!  This is a lot of skills!!  Many are from Rally FrEe, some from Freestyle, some Rally.  I don't actually even have Agility skills on here!!  I guess an addendum is in order!!

Both dogs have at least a start on almost all of these.  Some are near fluent, some have a ways to go!  Some are fluent for Dean, but not for Tessa.

The goal for all skills is verbal cue, unless otherwise indicated.  Many of these are actually completed, but on hand cue.

Find Heel
Find Side
Find Center
Find Follow
Find Alternate Position
Duration Heel
Duration Side
Duration Center
Duration Follow
Duration Alternate Position
Sit from Stand
Sit from Down
Down from Sit
Down from Stand
Stand from Sit
Stand from Down
Curtsy from Stand
Stand Wait while I move around to/from any position
Clockwise Circle around me
Counter Clockwise circle around me
Clockwise Spin
Counter Clockwise spin
Weave Thru to/from any possible positions
Continual weave – walking and figure 8
Switch Backs
Paw raise sitting (all positions)
Paw raise standing (all positions)
Pivots in heel/side
Pivots in center
Pivots in follow
Sidepass Toward in position
Sidepass Away in position
Sidepass in Center
Sidepass in Follow
Backing in position
Backing away in front w/handler moving
Backing away in front alone
Back Around
Distance Behavior
Back Thru Moving
Turn Back Thru
Four Tricks Per Dog (beyond skills listed here)
Sit-Stay, I walk away turn and face
Down-Stay, I walk away turn and face
Stand-Stay, I walk away turn and face
Call to Front stand-wait
Call to Front sit-wait
Weave to front
Triple About Turns
Send to Target-Wait (standing)
Send to Target – Sit
Send to Target – Down
Dean Only:
Call Front Angled w/sit
Offset Jump
Drop on Recall
Moving Stand Walk Around (No Pause)
Moving Stand Leave Dog (turn to face)  (No Pause)
Moving Stand Leave Dog Turn – Down – Sit
Bonus Retrieve
Stand with Distraction
Agility Addendum
Send Out - 10 Feet
Independent Weaves (12 for Tessa, 6 for Dean)
Rear Cross
Dean: Retrain contacts
Tessa: Send ahead to anything

This and That


Sammie gave us a bit of worry last weekend.  He got very lethargic and was unable to control his urination in the house.  He was having trouble with going in the house some time ago.  It was strange - we had him tested for UTI's over and over and the tests kept coming back clear.  But we would give him a round of antibiotics and things would seem to clear up.  He hasn't had issues in a good long while, and I was very concerned.  He wasn't even asking to go out while we were home - he was just letting loose wherever he was!

I was about to make an appointment with the vet to have "the talk".  Not just because of the urination - he seemed generally distressed in addition to that.

But then on Monday something occurred to me.  I have vet permission to give Sammie a second pain med if he is having a particularly difficult time.  With the arctic chills a couple of weeks ago, I had added that med back in for him.  I was just thinking on Monday that I could stop giving it now that the temperatures had gone up some and it hit me like a ton of bricks that this med may be the problem.  He hadn't taken it in forever.  I couldn't recall if he was on it when he was going in the house before, but I figured I would stop it for a few days and see what we would see.

Not only did he stop peeing in the house, but he seemed to be feeling much better in general.  On Sunday I had given him two of Speedy's old plushy toys to destroy and he barely touched them.  By Tuesday he was going to town tearing them to bits!

Now he is back to normal.  Yes, it's a 14 and 1/2 year old normal, but he's plugging along!

I am relieved.  While I realize that he has lived a very full live to a great age and that he will not live forever, this would have been way too close on the heels of Speedy's sudden loss.

I'm glad the old coot is feeling better!


Dean's response to Speedy's loss has surprised me.  They were very good friends and they always enjoyed playing ball together.  I really expected that Dean might become a bit depressed with his ball buddy gone, but lately he is perkier and more energetic than I have seen him in years.

After losing Maddie, Tessa and I bonded very strongly.  Dean and I are bonding over this particular loss.  And Dean seems to be thriving.

He is enjoying the heck out of his targeting class!!  He thinks that all of the nose targeting, and now paw targeting, is the best ever!

Here is one of his class videos!  This was a new paw target for him . . .

I am most eager to enjoy the rest of this class with him!

The thing that is amazing me is how energetic he has become.  In this video, and often just in every day life, he is acting more like a young adult than the almost-8-year-old he is!  I love it!


Tessa is enjoying our Precision Heeling work.  She loves any and all training and this really detailed foundation work is exactly what she needs at this point.

Here is one of her training videos:

We have had some good Agility trials recently - we only need 5 more Level 3 Q's now to finish the level entirely!!  We are actually on a short hiatus from Agility trials for the time being, but we will finish that up in late spring.

Right now I want to take some time to focus on Freestyle and Rally FrEe with her.


The goal setting workshop is going well.  Since I didn't see fit to narrow down the skills that I want to work on, I made a "skills box" my goal.  I made a list of all of the skills that both dogs need to work on and I have printed that.  I am going to cut the paper up so there is a skill on each little slip.  3 - 4 times a week, I will draw out three skills and work those with each dog.

My current specific, measurable goal is to get the box made by Saturday.

So, onward we go . . . good work going on right now!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Goal Setting Workshop and New Online Classes!

I am so happy that it is finally February!  Between the severe arctic chills we have endured in January and losing Speedy, it will be a very, very long time before I have any positive associations with January again.

But a new month, a new beginning, and new things to look forward to.

I have enrolled in a new round of online classes through the Fenzi Academy.  Dean and I are taking Body Awareness through Targeting at gold!  And Tessa and I are doing Precision Heeling at bronze.  I am going to enjoy both classes, I am certain!

And there is a free workshop on goal setting happening on the Cyber Rally-O list, which I intend to take part in.

The first task of the workshop was to create a "wish list" of goals.  Here is mine - it is quite extensive!


  • Train all exercises needed for Advanced Rally FrEe, including those that are weak from Intermediate and Novice Level.  
  • Train all desired exercises from Cyber Rally Level 3.  She is fine on most, but there are likely a few that could use some training.
  • Prepare and train a really good Intermediate Freestyle routine for WCFO.
  • Prepare and train a really good Novice HTM routine for WCFO, with hands behind my back as part of the choreography.
  • Prepare and train a really good routine for the DCD Challenge.  This can be a modification of a WCFO routine and can be for any category.  Tessa has not stood out in the Challenge - it's time!
  • For Agility, solidify weave poles, and build sends.

Dean Dog:

  • Train exercises yet untrained or unfinished for WCR Rally Level 3.
  • Train all remaining exercises desired for Cyber Rally Level 3 (work through Level 2 Traditional, if necessary, to build fluency and skill)
  • Train all exercises needed for Advanced Rally FrEe, including those that are weak from Intermediate and Novice Levels.
  • Agility:  Keep having fun, plan that summer NADAC day at Periland just for Dean
  • Create a routine for the DCD Challenge that really showcases Dean.  Any category.
  • Create a routine for the new RFE Freestyle for Dean and enter a video event with it.  The same routine can be used for both if I am able to choreograph one that meets criteria for both.  Otherwise, two separate routines will be prepared.
  • Continue physical therapy to keep him active for many, many years to come.
That is quite a lot, but I believe that the legwork for a good bit of it can be combined.  Many of the skills from Rally FrEe and Freestyle overlap.

Honestly, I believe that my goals really do boil down to:
  • Train/Build Fluency for new or weak skills
  • Choreograph Routines
I am thinking that what I need to do is compile a list for both dogs of all skills that we need to work on.  It is going to be massive.  Perhaps I will assess those by fluency level. Something like:  Needs Complete Training, Started, but not Known, Close to Fluent, and Fluent.

Then I believe it would be a good strategy to go back and do what I did with Speedy years and years and years ago.  Print the items, cut them into squares, put them into a container, and draw out 2 - 3 of them several times a week to work on.

I know that others would find that it makes more sense to focus on one skill at a time, but that has never really been my way.

Once we have more of the pieces in place, the choreography will be a pleasure!!

So, next on the agenda - skill lists!!