Saturday, September 28, 2013

Agility Trial: Dally Finds Her Speed Again at Hamilton DTC

So remember my concern over how Dally ran (or didn't run) at the Louisville trial at the beginning of September? Well, I'm thinking that was just a bad, hot weekend with Dally still battling her sore neck. (And I'm hoping that was a single occurrence.) The reason I say that is because she was smoking at Hamilton! She was back to her usual, sassy, fast Corgi self, and I couldn't have been happier!

I love running technical courses with Dally because she can turn tightly and really listens to me. So I wasn't afraid of these courses. However we didn't come away with the two QQs I was hoping for, but that was just because of a couple slight mistakes, one by me and one by her.

Dally's weekend:
Saturday's Standard run saw a fast, happy Corgi, and an even happier handler! However, coming off the teeter I pushed Dally too much for the odd-angled jump. She thought I wanted a backside jump (which we had been working on) and by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late, so I let her take it the wrong way and go on--she was running fast and happy and that was all that mattered to me.

In Jumpers we made up for it, with a nice, smooth run. I was able to throw in a couple of blind crosses that finally looked smooth and fluid! We ended up second with 8 PACH points.

Going into Sunday's Standard, I was determined to not make a mistake with Dally. Unfortunately, she knocked a bar on the jump after the A-frame--I think her stride coming off the A-frame and then setting up for the jump was off. When I saw that happen, we just pushed it and ran. I threw in a front cross before the weaves and then a blind after, hoping she'd stay in them like we've practiced. Apparently she popped out at 10--bad Corg! So we'll be working on those more. It was still a fun course to run with her.

Jumpers she made up for it and we Qd with 12 PACH points. I was actually surprised when she almost ran by one jump, but I caught her in time to push over it. That judge had been picky all weekend, so I figured he called a refusal on us, but I discovered he didn't and was happy to place second to Porter.

We still have quite a few points to accrue for 2014 AKC Nationals. I don't know if we'll be able to get them, but we're going to have fun pushing for it while we do! I'm thankful for every happy run Dally and I have, knowing our time in the agility ring is starting to wane some. As long as she's happy running, I'm happy to run her!

In case you missed it, here's how LaMesa handled those courses: LaMesa Tackles Tough Courses at Hamilton DTC

Friday, September 27, 2013

Agility Trial: LaMesa Tackles Tough Courses at Hamilton DTC

Earlier this week I posted three of the four courses we ran at Hamilton Dog Training Club's AKC trial in Ohio last weekend. I had never run under these two judges, and while their courses were pretty tough, I enjoyed them and wouldn't shy from trying them again.

LaMesa's weekend:
In Standard on Saturday, I did not start that line very well--I don't trust LaMesa on a start line stay for tunnels or chutes yet, so I tried running with her. I discovered I was not fast enough to beat her to push for the fourth jump, so she took the first three and went up the A-frame. I should have handled that differently, but you live and learn! I can't remember what else happened on the course, but it was fun.

In Jumpers on Saturday, she started out so well--nailed her weaves and was working with me. However, she ran by a jump due to me doing a poorly placed front cross. I don't know why I didn't just run with rears because I seem to be having trouble with my front cross timing.

But then again, I tend to have bad timing with rear crosses, as was evident on Sunday's Standard course. I pushed her out too much for the rear to the jump and the dog walk. Everything else she handled really well, until the pull to the weaves. I see from the video that my body was pointing towards the table, even though I was saying "Weave!" and she bypassed the weaves for the table. LaMesa is so sensitive to my body!

Jumpers saw another great start, until she popped out of the weaves. It's frustrating to have that problem continuously pop up at the trials! Merinda said she thought maybe my change in speed of running by her in the weaves caused her to hurry and pop out, but I'm not sure I see that much of a change. You be the judge below.

Overall, I was happy with how LaMesa handled the tough courses. I really wish we could have squeezed out a Q, but at least the runs weren't all complete train wrecks. It was a reminder that we're not 100% there like maybe I was starting to think, and that we still have a lot of work to do.

Dally's recap is next!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This Weekend: Tough Courses = Challenging Runs

I thought I'd tried something a little different after our agility trials. I'm going to try to save the course maps, take a photo, and share them with you. I'd like to do one post with the course maps, then another with the videos and wrap-ups of those runs.

Let me know what you think! 

Anyway, this weekend we were at the Hamilton Dog Training Club's trial for another fun weekend at an indoor soccer facility. Dally loves this place, and so do I. However, the judges chosen were tough judges--this trial didn't fill for this first time in a while because of the reputation of these judges. But I wasn't deterred--I like a challenge. I just wish I was more successful this weekend. 

The Stump Kids and I walked away with only 2 Qs, and they were both in Masters Jumpers and both with Dally. 

Here are the courses, starting with Standard on Saturday and the two Jumpers courses (sorry, I can't find Sunday's Standard): 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Corgi Versus the Harness, Round Two

So it's been a little over a week since I started walking Dally in her harness, and we've had progress!!

I listened to what Taryn and Rebecca suggested and when the husband and I took the girls hiking Friday, we had Dally wear her harness. We had to keep the pups on a leash for the first part of the trail, but Dally trotted along just fine with the harness on--she was so excited just to be out some place new (well, it wasn't brand new to us, it'd just been a while since we had been there). Once we took the leashes off, both girls ran around just fine--Dally didn't once hesitate with the harness on.

(As you can see from our Instagram video:)

 Since then we've been going on walks daily with the harness. I have learned that Dally is a creature of habit and feels "naked" if she's not wearing her collar and, thus, will not walk far from the house without it on. So, when we go for walks, her collar is on and so is her harness, but the leash is attached to the harness. There's only bee a few times that she's really acted like she would not walk with the harness on and I've narrowed it down to a few things: it might be "too tight" for her (must not mess up her "plush" coat, as Merinda calls it), it might have moved forward so the girth strap is under her arm pits, and/or I pulled her forward with it.

Don't they look cute in their matching harnesses?
And, boy, let me tell you...she does not appreciate you pulling her forward with the harness on. She will give you a look only an irritated Corgi can give you, like "Excuse me? Who's walking here??"

I stated that I would win this battle, and I think I actually have--and much faster than I thought I would. However, I don't believe we're 100% cured. After all, it's a Corgi's prerogative to keep their humans on their toes.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Corgi Versus the Harness, Round One

If you've been reading my posts regarding Dally's physical issues lately, you know that I'm at the point of trying anything and everything to keep her in one piece and happy.

So when the chiropractor and I were discussing how the disc would have been irritated to a point of being out of place and swollen. The only thing we could think of, besides the jumping off of the bed and couches (like we touched on earlier), was our daily walks.

Mind you, I don't jerk on my dogs. LaMesa wears a ComfortFlex Harness and has for the past two years because she would pull more ahead on our walks. Dally usually just shuffles behind us at her own pace. That isn't really a problem, except for when she suddenly stops to sniff something or go potty. If I'm not paying attention, I don't know she's stopping so I will jerk a little on her leash because of the sudden stop.

So that could be the problem.

So how do we solve that? Pay better attention to Dally when we're walking? Yes...that would help. But maybe it's time to look at her attire.

Dally asks: Does this harness make my badonk look fluffier? Be honest.

She got her very own ComfortFlex Harness, only in the color of a diva--hot pink.

Seems like an easy fix, right?

Maybe for some other dogs, but this is Dally we're talking about. The first week after getting the harness, I couldn't wait to try it on her and take her for a (short) walk. First I fit the harness to her, making sure it wasn't too tight and it didn't rub behind her "armpits." Then I let her wear it around the house for a couple of hours. The next day, I was ready to take her for a walk...

We got to the neighbor's driveway. Yep. Barely a hundredth of a mile. Walking FAIL.

I thought maybe she was still a little sore, so I let her go back to the house, took her harness off and promptly left with LaMesa--she was more than ready for a walk. The next day I tried it again. We maybe got a little further with more coaxing, but that was it.

I asked Merinda about what she thought and her response:

Merinda, the voice of reason.
OK, OK... Yes, I get it. Dally is a diva. She is a drama queen. If it's not the way she wants things, she's not happy. She's a Corgi. But this is a battle I have to win, because I can't walk her with just a collar any more if I'm afraid one pull or one accidental jerk might cause another disc problem.

So what can I do to get her comfortable with walking in the harness? She's been wearing the harness around the house, going into the backyard with it on, etc. I did finally get her to "walk" with me and LaMesa last night by basically leaving her in our dust--LaMesa and I went ahead and Dally shuffled behind us to catch up, all while dragging her leash and wearing her harness. It worked--she made it all the way to our destination on her own while wearing her harness. Then when we went back to the house, I held onto her leash and she ran alongside LaMesa. (Note: We were walking just down the sidewalk to care for Merinda's cat, there was no traffic, and I kept my eye on her that she didn't go into the street.)

But I can't always do that.

Can't we all just walk peacefully and happily, all while wearing a harness?
So, I'm reaching out: How do you teach old dogs new tricks and how can I get Dally comfortable with walking in her harness, on the leash, with me and LaMesa?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dally's Weekend at Derby City

As much of a high as I had from LaMesa's weekend at the Derby City Agility Association trial in Louisville, things weren't as happy with Dally's weekend.

Remember my post earlier about battling age in Dally? Well, Thursday morning as I was taking the girls out for a walk, Dally came up limping...again. So we made another appointment to see the chiropractor...again. And I worried about possibly pulling her out of the trial...again.

At the appointment, it was discovered that she had a swollen disc in her neck. We think it's a combination of Dally jumping down from the bed, plus the slight tugs on her collar when we're walking. (I don't jerk on my dogs, ever. However, when I take the Stump Kids for a walk, Dally will be behind me and sometimes suddenly stop, causing me to accidentally jerk a little on her because I'm not aware of her stopping, since LaMesa is leading the way.)

The chiropractor recommended not taking her for walks with a collar, but with a harness, and rest. But in order to try to get her ready for the trial in a couple of days, we did some adjustments to her neck/spine, cold laser therapy, and then added Traumeel every four hours to help with inflammation. I also held ice packs around her neck for 10 minutes a few times a day Thursday-Sunday.

Friday morning, the chiropractor stopped by for another laser therapy treatment, and she was already improving, so we decided to give the trial a go. If she took any lame step, I'd pull her.

However, I didn't account for how hot the facility would be. While Dally would warm up and be excited to run...her runs were so slow. They were actually reminiscent of the "old Dally"--the one that wasn't confident or fast. We qualified in all the runs we did, but they were slow--we maybe got 9 points in Masters Standard on Saturday, 0 points in Masters Jumpers (she stopped the clock at 50.3, standard course time was 51) on Saturday, and 3 or 4 in Masters Standard on Sunday.

Saturday's Masters Standard 4" run:

Saturday's Masters Jumpers 4" run:

I talked to so many people Saturday night about what I should do with Dally. I took her home and let her relax in the air conditioning that night. I kept on the half a Traumeel every 4 hours, and iced her neck two or three times that night. It was decided to play it by ear on Sunday--hopefully the place would be cooler and she would be better.

I couldn't determine if it was the heat or her neck that was bothering her. I felt like if her neck was really bothering her, she wouldn't have been jumping around, chasing her tennie, and barking for treats like she was. Would she? I didn't think she would. I mean, if you're hurting, you avoid what hurts you...right?

Sunday dawned with lots of hope. She seemed peppier than Saturday. The facility felt cooler. So, we gave it a go.

Sunday's Standard Masters 4":

We only earned three or four PACH points... A far cry from the 25-28 we usually earn in standard.

I let her rest, then later I took her for a walk to go potty. When she came out of her crate, she took an odd step--I wasn't sure if it was a limp from her neck, or a limp from awkwardly laying on her frozen water bottle I had in her crate. She walked it out after a while, but I wanted a second and third opinion. I had Merinda and Jodi watch Dally walk towards and away from them--she was moving straight. But once I turned her in a sharp 180, she bobbled and took another limping step. That was it--I pulled her from jumpers.

It felt weird walking the Jumpers course for only one dog--LaMesa. It felt weird watching my fellow 4-inchers get ready to run and not have Dally. It felt weird not having my agility partner of 5 years with me, apping for her treats.

But then I felt horrible for the weekend--did I make the wrong decision to continue running Dally? It was the perfect storm of issues--disc problem on Thursday, worry about that, extreme heat inside the facility, lack of air flow... Who knows if Dally was reacting to the heat, or her neck. The chiropractor felt that the heat probably didn't help the disc.

She's since recovered from the problem, though she's on one more week of rest (as prescribed by myself). I'll probably write a little more about the disc problem in a proceeding post.

Have you ever had to make a difficult decision at game time?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

LaMesa Pulls Through--1 Heckuva Weekend for the Vallhund

I can't believe I am just now writing this blog post! Anyway, this past weekend was one heckuva weekend for my little Vallhund--I am so proud of her!

We travelled to a new facility for the Derby City Agility Association's Labor Day trial. This place was more in Louisville (whereas Buckner was outside of the city), but it wasn't too far of a drive--just 80 minutes or so, give or take some speed limits. The Mockingbird Valley Soccer Complex was very nice--great footing (no slipping, very cushy), however it is not air conditioned. The facility manager swore they can keep the building comfortable with their Big Ass Fans and "climate-controlled roof", but I don't think they were prepared for the cramped crating around the outside of the fields, which didn't get much air flow. But, I have to say, they worked very hard to add fans to blow air down the aisles. I had packed the girls' two fans, and froze a water bottle for Dally to lay on, but it was still unbearable. (More on Dally in a following post.)

LaMesa handled the heat very well, though--she amazes me what she can handle.

I had just two goals for LaMesa this weekend, and though they were maybe pretty lofty goals, I had a feeling we could do it--she's been training so well! The goals were to finish both her Excellent Standard and Excellent Jumpers titles. We needed one leg in each.

Saturday morning's Standard run was so nice...except I didn't trust her enough to do a rear cross after the A-Frame and was too slow on my front cross to direct her to the jump. So we had to do a little loop (refusal) to the jump, but everywhere else she was clean and fast--even her weaves! While it wasn't a Q, she still had the fastest time of all the 4 and 8 inch dogs!

The jumpers run was smooth. I learned from my mistake of not trusting LaMesa enough that I ran the course with almost all rear crosses (it was the type of course where you either had to do a lot of rears or a lot of blinds to a smooth run). She rewarded my trust with a Q, first place, and her AXJ! The difficult angle of the weaves off the triple jump was no match for "the Bitz"!

Sunday morning had a lot of call-offs in Standard--you really had to have your dog in tune with you so they wouldn't take an off-course. This run seemed like it went by way too fast and was way too easy--but Georgette told me those are the types of runs that tells you that you're finally a team, and it's finally clicked. And boy did we click. That run finished her AX title with another first place!

Her first foray in Masters Jumpers saw her tire out a little on a winding course. She knocked two bars (first time since she's been moved to 8-inch Regular)--the first bar was by a rear toe it looks like, the second she just took off too early I think. But she still nailed her weaves the first time, and was pretty fast--she would have placed 3rd in a very fast 8-inch Jumpers class with a time of 31 something.

So I've already moved LaMesa up to Masters for our next trials. I'm so excited to finally have her up to earning MACH points, QQs (which we have yet to Q in both Standard and Jumpers the same day, ever, in our career together, so who knows when that first QQ will happen), and see if we can get up in the points for the AKC Invitational! I know I have a great athlete and a superstar agility Vallhund in the making, and now I'll finally get to start showing it. But I also have to remind myself to take it day by day with LaMesa, not to get too cocky, and to remember we're still not a solid team--I make mistakes, which makes her make the same mistakes. But a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders--it's been over a year that we've been in Excellent, so it's nice to finally move up.

She's pretty proud of herself, too: