Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cyber Rally-O

OK, so I can hear you saying what the heck is that?  Also - why bother?  Here is the deal.  I came across the Cyber Rally-O concept thanks to Kate.  You download signs, courses and rules.  You choose a course, set it up, tape the course, the "equipment" and the run and send a link to the tapes to the Cyber Rally-O people.  They tell you whether or not you qualify and send you a ribbon if you did.  Three Qs make a title.  The courses are arranged in levels I through V I think.  Cost is $30 to register a dog and $20 per entry.  There is a Yahoo group that is VERY active.

The courses are very interesting.  Level I is pretty standard Rally - very comparable to novice in AKC.  Differences are:
1.  Leash or no leash at any level - you choose.
2.  The dog does not have to halt in any particular position - sits are not required at each stop. This is much easier on Jazz's old knees.
3.  After level I the dog must be able to heel on both sides and transition from left heel to right "side."  This is fun and interesting.  There is some thought that it is healthier for the dog since they don't develop muscles differently on one side or the other.
4.  You cannot lure the dog, the dog must be on a loose leash (2 tight leashes and you NQ) and the dog cannot be out of control for more than 20 seconds or you NQ.
5.  You can have treats in your pocket and you can treat in between exercises.
6.  Jump height is whatever you choose - again easier on my old boy.
7.  There are lots of challenging exercises and courses - there is a send over jump, a stop and do any trick, a go out and sit....  Lots of fun stuff to learn.
8.  You only pay for a qualifying run - why would anyone submit an NQ?

I have been having a pretty good time with this.  We have two of the Level I Qs we need and hope to have the third one soon.  We have been practicing "side" and transitions. We're also learning the go out and sit exercise. I find that I need a focus and some motivation to work on specific things with Jazz.  Coach is still learning the basics for AKC obedience and Rally, but Jazz will never compete in AKC again.  The jumps are too high and he will not sit that many times in a row.  I'm sure it hurts so who could blame him?

If you have a dog that is unable or unhappy about competing in regular venues, I would really recommend giving this a try.  (Maybe if you just want to do something different at your own convenience.)  I have had a good time with it and it Jazz seems to be having a ball.

Here are our two qualifying runs so far.  As you can see - inside, outside, distractions, whatever - it is pretty much fun.

Here's the website if you're interested. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I have heard several people lately tell me how much they love this holiday.  No gifts are required, no major preparations other than fixing a meal.  We get to eat, drink, laugh and spend time with friends and family.  In my case the holiday does not involve television, but does include both two legged and four legged family.  I really love this low stress, laid back time before the "big" holiday arrives.

I am very thankful for my health and the health of those I love.  I am grateful that my sisters are both in this world and that they love me as much as I love them.  I am grateful for my parents and my daughter.  I am thankful that my dogs are well and here with me.  I live a very lucky life and I am thankful for it.

I wish everyone lots of things to be thankful for.  Enjoy this less hectic holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Life After Knee Surgery

I haven't written in a long time, but I really wanted to update everyone on life after three knee surgeries in less than one year.  Jazz had his last surgery - to repair torn cartilege in his right knee the middle of last February.  He was released from all restrictions the end or March.  We have done most of the recommended rehab work.  (We have not done anything in the water.  No access and a dog who hates water and does not dry quickly!)  Jazz is still improving, so this is a progress report, not final.

I believe that the biggest hurdle to overcome has been confidence.  Jazz was very hesitant to trust his knees.  He rarely played and stopped as soon as he slipped or felt any pressure.  The same was true of agility.  In the last few months he has fallen down, slipped, and jumped with no bad results.  He and Coach have begun playing with real joy and abandon.  I hate to use this as an example, but I saw him humping Coach yesterday - I made him stop, but it does take a fair amount of strength and confidence to do that with "weak" knees!  We have entered NADAC agility trials and Jazz finished his novice tunnelers and open standard titles since the middle of May.  DoG bless NADAC!  Jazz can enter at the lower skilled level and in the veteran class.  This means he jumps 12 inches.  I know that is ridiculously low, but he loves to play agility and I love to run with him.  He could jump 16 inches I think, but he will never be able to comfortably jump his AKC preferred height of 20 inches.  He has always been a reluctant obedience dog and even if he liked it, he refuses 26 inch jumps.  I doubt if he could clear them, but he certainly shouldn't try, so no obedience.

He is still reluctant to sit and he doesn't stay in a sit very well, but we do have a nice straight sit again.  That didn't happen until June.  We work lots of sit to stands with a nice kick back motion to work those hips and legs.  He has been working on the exercise peanut to gain balance and strength.  Mostly he runs.  He doesn't run smoothly but he loves to run and actually caught Coach the other day.  They were both pretty surprised by that! 

I just want any of you out there that are working through knee surgery to know that progress is slow, but don't give up.  Jazz had his first surgery last July and he is still improving every day.  I am not a fan of the TPLO surgery because it forever changes the angle of the knee and affects the way the leg moves.  I think this makes the dog more awkward and seemed to confuse Jazz at first.  He would try to push with the left leg and the angle wasn't right and he would stop, look bewildered and give up.  He had the more natural Tightrope surgery on the right knee.  That leg moves more smoothly, but the tight rope material broke and the joint seems a little loose to me.  With two completely different knees, at eight years old, he is still running, playing, jumping and sitting.  I suspect the knees hurt him.  I believe that the only way to keep him healthy is to keep rehabbing and working for the rest of his life.

Those of you with dogs who are currently in rehab or living "life after" any kind of surgery - hang in there.  It is so rewarding to see your dog gain confidence and strength.  Good luck.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What is a Title?

I do not know who wrote this, but it certainly wasn't me!  I love it very much and since I am too busy to post much, I thought I'd pass this along.  Probably most of you have seen it, but it's always worth re-reading.  If anyone knows who wrote this - let me know and I will give them credit. (It was written by Sandy Mowray.  Thanks Melinda for telling me and a big thanks to Sandy for writing this!)

What is a Title, Really?
Not just a brag, not just a stepping stone to a higher title, not just an adjunct to competitive scores; a title is a tribute to the dog that bears it, a way to honor the dog, an ultimate memorial. It will remain in record and in memory, for about as long as anything in this world can remain. Few humans will do as well or better in that regard.
 And though the dog itself doesn't know or care that it's achievements have been noted, a title says many things in the world of humans, where such things count.
 A title says your dog was intelligent, and adaptable, and good-natured. It says that your dog loved you enough to do the things that please you, however crazy they may have sometimes seemed.
 A title says that you loved your dog. That you loved to spend time with it because it was a good dog, that you believed in it enough to give it yet another chance when it failed, and that, in the end, your faith was justified.
 A title proves that your dog inspired you to that special relationship enjoyed by so few. That in a world of disposable creatures, this dog with a title was greatly loved, and loved greatly in return.
 And when that dear short life is over, the title remains as a memorial of the finest kind, the best you can give to a deserving friend. Volumes of praise in one small set of initials after a name.
 A title is nothing more than love and respect, given and received, and permanently recorded.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I looked at Coach's nose this morning and saw pink and red marks on it.  My first thought was, "OH NO - not another unpronounceable disease!"  Luckily (?) it turns out it's teeth marks.  Careful investigation shows that these teeth marks match Jazz's teeth exactly!  What a surprise.

I have watched them "play" for over a year now and I am still fascinated by the whole process.  Jazz always gets what he wants.  He still has a very weak right leg from the knee surgery, he's eight pounds lighter and six years older.  Coach could pound him to sand if he wanted to, but he doesn't.  I give them each an identical Kong.  They settle in for a while and then Coach takes his Kong and drops it in front of Jazz.  Coach barks and puppy-bows and carries on.  Jazz takes the Kong, tucks it under his front paws, and rests his chin on it.  End of play.  Does that sound like fun to you?  Coach has temper tantrums and shrieks and carries on.  For a while I was stupid enough to take the Kong back from Jazz and give it to Coach.  Minutes later we were in for reruns and more puppy tantrums.  What the heck?  Once I saw Coach want something so desperately that he grabbed Jazz's right leg and pulled.  Jazz was hurt that time and limped for a few days, but as soon as Jazz cried, Coach dropped the toy and even limping - Jazz picked it up and took it with him.

When Coach arrived I imagined my dogs cuddled together, sleeping sweetly.  Many of you have shown me pictures of this kind of behavior.  I don't know why I imagined Jazz doing that - he usually doesn't like cuddling with me.   The reality is somewhat less sweet.  During phase two of my "two dog" life, I saw Jazz as a selfish, evil thing.  My beloved, sweet boy behaved like a nasty little bully!  Maybe he knew all along that he would have to exercise extreme measures or Coach would bowl him over.  Maybe he really is a selfish pain in the butt.  I don't pretend to understand the whole thing.  I do know that Jazz has never drawn real blood or caused Coach any permanent injury.  Coach was instrumental in at least one of Jazz's broken knees, but only because the knee was weak and the puppy was the last straw.  I am certain it would have broken sooner or later and I suspect that it will hurt less in the end than it did before it was broken.  (Shredding ligaments are certainly as painful as arthritis.)

So here we are - the three of us.  Every single day we have another game of puppy wars.  Coach decides he wants to play (all day every day) and Jazz wants to lay down and rest a minute.  Coach grabs Jazz's feet and tries to drag him off the couch.  If Jazz goes in his kennel, Coach stands at the doorway barking and slapping Jazz in the face.  That often ends in little pink spots on Coach's nose!  Phase two usually involves toys.  Coach gets a toy and carries it around trying to coax Jazz to play.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.   When it doesn't, Coach throws the toy at Jazz.  Usually hitting him in the head or face.  Jazz calmly confiscates the toy.  I used to try to help.  I am not qualified to help.  Coach sometimes throws the toy at me.  I am not always as calm as Jazz and I'm not equipped to bite Coach's nose.

The flip side of this ridiculous mess seems to be genuine pack solidarity.  Jazz spends the night wherever he wants to and Coach sleeps in his crate.  If Coach wants to get up before I do, (did I say if?) Jazz will start poking me in the face and trying to get me up.  When Jazz had his surgeries, Coach was definitely concerned and missing his big brother.  They also take turns barking at strange dogs or whatever they bark at in the evening.  One dog is outside barking and the other looks alert, listens and decides whether this is a two dog job.  Usually it's best handled by the original barker.  Sometimes, two dogs are required.  I have no idea why and I have not seen any pattern concerning which dog is the barker or the listener.  It seems random.

I still have hopes of peaceful piles of sleeping dogs.  Sometimes I believe in Santa Claus.  I really love watching them interact.  I have learned so much about how they think.  I don't think I can every truly "get it" but I will try.  I have learned to trust that they will work it out.  My current approach is to be sure I help them keep the level of excitement manageable.  The only thing that gets them in a real fight is me.  They will fight over me or something I'm planning to give them.  I have never seen them really fight over anything else.  Definitely a lesson on the evils of jealousy.

How many of you really have dogs that cuddle together?  I'd love to know.  Does breed matter?  I assume gender matters.  I would be interested in anyone's thoughts.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Odd and Ends

It seems like a lot of my four and two legged friends are having health problems.  So I just want to tell everyone to hang in there, my thoughts are with you all.

Jazz has been recovering much more slowly from his second knee surgery than he did from the first.  I suspect it's more mental than physical.  I think he's much more insecure about it all.  He actually refused a teeter and acted afraid of it the other day.  I don't remember him ever worrying about them in his life.  We are past that now and he's getting pretty excited about them since I've been treating the heck out of  them!  Today he finally jumped into the SUV without help.  That seems like a big step to me.  (It's also a huge weight off my back - literally!)  The chiropractor suggested tying something to his left leg so he will use the right leg more.  I tied everything I could think of to it and he ignored it all.  I finally tied a bell on a rope to his left leg so it dragged and clanged behind him.  He walked into his kennel and took it off.  My new plan is just to get him running and climbing as much as possible because he needs both legs to do that.

Another small health issue is teeth.  Jazz has always had beautiful white teeth.  They have only been cleaned once and he is going on eight years old.  Very little plaque buildup or signs of redness in the gums and he has lovely breath!  Coach's canines were all covered in yellowy hard plaque and red around the gums.  He chews constantly, but can't chew those rope things because he swallows the rope in one piece and then it's surgery time again.  I found the Busy Buddy bristle bone chew toy and in one week all the plaque was gone from his canines.  I have a bunch of them around the house now and it is the only toy that both dogs will consistently fight over, drag off in a corner and chew.  I'm spending a fortune on the rawhide discs, but great toy.

Coach is still big, loud, pushy and wild.  He's learning two by two weave poles and is getting pretty good at sets of four - I'm thinking we'll go to six soon, but trying to be patient.   We are working running contacts and I don't treat unless he runs through the yellow - any jumping and he has to do it over.  Today he got to the down side of the A frame and I swear he did an exaggerated stomping motion through the yellow.  I treated the heck out of it - stomp away little friend, just run through the yellow and no cheating with a leap at the end!  We went to a walk through of the new AKC Beginning Novice Obedience this morning.  Coach is maybe a little more "beginning" than I thought he was.  He has been so good at heeling, but he was not interested today.  Way too distracted.  He did a nice sit stay though, so all is not lost.

I am really missing agility trials these days.  Hopefully, both dogs will be ready to compete in agility again by spring time.  We keep practicing, trying to get Jazz healthy and trying to teach Coach to work quietly and concentrate!

Hope everyone is well and enjoying their dogs this winter.