Monday, October 26, 2009


He is here. He is the puppy formerly known as Yellow/Orange and his name is Tundra Ice's Put Me In Coach. Call name Coach. (No - I do not think he should be called Player or Coachee. We know who is the pack leader. ME.) He is all things wonderful and a few things annoying. I think you all know what I mean.

He came complete with a cold and coccidia. The coccidia is under control and not a problem The cold is in transition. It would be funny if it weren't messy. He snorkles and sneezes up snot like a small child. He is much better today than yesterday and the vet who examined him Sunday was thrilled with him. He told me that the puppy behaved as if he had been with me for at least a month. Yippee! I learned so much from all of my friends, including big brother Jazz.

He has been such a good boy so far. He sleeps quietly in his crate all night. He plays and cuddles and naps in nice proportions. Jazz was the first puppy I ever raised. I had no idea how difficult he was, or maybe how easy Coach is. Jazz screamed, threw tantrums, didn't care if he was petted, and was sick for the first two years of his life. Coach loves to be petted and cuddled quietly in my lap for the entire four and one half hour car trip home. He hopped out at rest stops and pounced leaves until he had to pee. Then back in the car and happily settled down. Wow!

He is a real problem solver. He has learned to sit, and he looks at me when I say his name. He comes when he is called. (That is an amazing experience for me.) He has been watching Jazz come and go through the dog door and he is the most patient little guy. First he tried to follow Jazz and got smacked in the nose by the plastic flap. No tantrums and not discouraged - he just sat there and considered that for a while. The next time Jazz went out he ran over and threw himself against the door barking. I really thought that would work, but he jumped too high and hit the door instead of the flap. He sat and thought things over some more. Recently, he touched the flap with his nose. By Jove, I think he's onto something! I could be nice and help him out, but I'm OK with him trapped in the house for a while. Besides, it is really fun to watch him puzzle this out. Again - Jazz had no patience. If he didn't get it the first time he had a fit. It's fun to see such a different learning style. (Also nice not to have to deal with tantrums and total impatience.)

Jazz and Coach are very similar in one area. Both were raised in puppy kennels and needed to be potty trained. (I hate the phrase "house broken." We have enough breakage without breaking the dog. The lamp is the first casualty, but is convalescing nicely.) I keep telling people, first picture me hugging my new puppy and smiling with joy. Then picture me in grubby sweat pants following him around with an enormous roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of bleach solution. So much pee, so little time. He is doing much better today. Maybe it's me that's doing better. Either way, we have only had two small puddles in the house today. Progress is being made. Poor guy, he really had no idea what he was supposed to do.

I was really excited to get a puppy and really nervous about wrecking my lovely life. So far - he is not really causing me too much grief. I am cautiously optimistic. We have a long way to go and I am positive that some of it will be more difficult than a little pee in the living room. So here we go again - hope you all get a chance to meet him soon. He is the next generation of agility boy at my house!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just Like Christmas Eve

Remember the Christmas Eve feeling you used to get? That amazing excitement? Wondering what you will get until you can hardly sleep? I feel like that tonight. Tomorrow morning I am going to drive to St Paul, Minnesota to pick out and pick up my new puppy! I have been seeing pictures and videos of the six puppy dogs for the last ten weeks. I visited them once when they were just four weeks old, but they didn't have much personality then. Tomorrow I will choose, with the help of the breeder and my friend Betsy.

I think it might be hard to choose. I didn't choose Jazz, the breeder chose him for me, so I am a little curious about how it will feel to choose one. I am certain that any puppy I get will be perfect. I just hope he's healthy. Here is the entire group a few weeks ago so you can see how hard choosing might be.

I need to confess that I am not a big fan of puppies. I love other people's puppies, but the prospect of raising a puppy is a little daunting. They are so much trouble at the start. Jazz is so easy to live with these days. He has the run of the house and yard. He doesn't have "accidents" in the house. He doesn't chew up my stuff. He even walks fairly nicely on a leash. I think I will appreciate him a lot in the next few weeks and months. I hope he will appreciate his little brother.

I just have to concentrate on one hurdle at a time. The first is four hours in the car with a puppy. Maybe I should bring ear plugs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Peggy's Question

My friend Peggy asks a very good question. What is your favorite part of working with your dog: The "light bulb" moment when your dog understands what you want him to do and does it, or the "dancing with your dog" moment when you and your dog are in perfect harmony as a team?

I have changed my answer to that question almost daily since she asked. I love the challenge of trying to explain to Jazz what I want him to do. He will almost always do what I ask, if he can understand what I'm asking. I get so much joy out of seeing him figure out what I want. That moment when he tests his theory by tentatively offering a behavior is so darn cute! When I say "Good boy" and give him a treat, he is so happy. Each additional time he gets it right increases his confidence. He loves to be right. So I think I love the "light bulb" moment the most.

Then I think about the first time we ran an agility course together. I saw him glance my way to get direction and continue on the course with me. I could not believe he was looking to me without being asked. I felt like I had a dog on a very fine string at the end of my hand. It was a wonderful feeling. We finished the course together and both of us were jumping around and grinning. The more experience we gain as a team, the better it feels. We are learning to trust each other and work together. When it works well it is such a comfortable and sweet feeling. So maybe I like the "dancing with my dog" feeling best.

Finally, I've decided that the two are really part of the same experience. The joy of learning new things is what got me started training Jazz. The fun we have as we learn is wonderful, but would be less exciting if we were not building toward that great teamwork feeling. Each step of the way has been fun and exciting. I didn't think either of us was capable of as much as we have achieved. Every dog person I know keeps repeating the same thing. It's the journey that counts, not the destination.

Which part of the journey is your favorite?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Handler Error

Last weekend we competed in a NADAC agility trial at the Quad City Dog Center. Three of our friends were competing in their first agility trial and it was so much fun to watch. Gary and Lola competed at four inches. Lola is so much fun to watch. She seems to scamper instead of run and is so cute. She did a great job and so did Gary. Next tallest were Kenzie and Joe. Poor Joe had an injured leg and I was afraid he not going to make it, but he did a great job. Kenzie was spectacular. She is so fast, incredibly focused and cute as a button. The tallest of our new agility dogs was DeeDee. Peggy and DeeDee actually got an "ooh" from the crowd when she walked past four obstacles before she turned to DeeDee and asked her to start. Pretty long lead for a novice dog. DeeDee soon showed everyone why the lead is so long - she runs like a bullet. She did a great job and she is so very fast. All three novice dogs were great and I think all three handlers are hooked. It is a great sport.

Jazz and I had another odd weekend. Jazz ran faster Saturday than I have ever seen him run. We didn't qualify because he was too fast. There is no middle ground for us. He started his run and left me in the dust. His usual gait is a goofy, easy gallop. Saturday I was so far behind him that all I could do was run and hope! I could hear Jayne thinking "Run Kathy Run!" The best part of Saturday for me was a 5.22 yards per second jumpers run. We dropped a bar so it didn't qualify, but our normal run time for jumpers is about 3.8 yards per second. The judge told me that she has never seen a Samoyed run that fast. There may be hope for us after all.

Sunday was a slower day. He was a little tired and maybe even a little stiff. It's been a while since we ran NADAC. Six runs a day is a lot of work for him. The real problem on Sunday was his handler. I don't know what was wrong with me. Maybe I stayed up too late watching the Hawks win. I got lost three courses in a row! That is a record for me - maybe a world record for stupid handling. The low point of my trial was when Jazz got so disgusted with me that he went to the judge to complain. I got lost and confused and he started to bark. I think he looked around that ring and saw the judge. She looked like she knew what was going on and so he went over and barked at her. I could almost hear him complaining about his sad life and telling her how well he could run if he had a little direction. I finally got him to come to me and finish the run.

The high point of the trial for us was the last two runs on Sunday. We did a smooth tunnelers run and qualified. The last run of the day was a very nice jumpers run. We finished with six seconds to spare. There is nothing like a qualifying run to brighten my weekend.

Yeah for novice dogs, picking up speed and qualifying runs!