Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rufus, Meet Bentley.

My mom was recently discharged from the hospital after a surgery involving her lower abdomen. It became very clear (through many conversations with medical professionals and friends) that the most important piece of equipment relevant to her recovery would be something soft to clutch to her stomach. After much, ahem, *bitching* about hospital pillows I had an Ah Ha moment. Rufus.

Rufus was won by me during a weak moment at the River Runners Christmas gift exchange. Since then, he's been sitting on my floor by my laundry. Imagine his sadness. And his utter joy at being put to use for such a noble cause! Not every stuffed dog has such purpose in life (unless, of course, you are a thin black basset hound named Sleepy Puppy).

So Rufus was put into service, and travelled home with my mother yesterday. Where he was instantly attacked by Ben, ripped out of the hands of my mom, and dragged to the bedroom where a serious mauling ensued.

Of course, how serious can a mauling be, if you spend most of it on your back?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Twelve Hours in a Cold Arena

Tournament? No. Seminar.

This past weekend a small representative of the River Runners attended the Touch N Go seminar in Edmonton. Touch N Go are a flyball team from Las Vegas, Nevada, and currently hold the World Record time of 15.096 seconds.

So what did we learn?

1. Pack a jacket... and wear shoes!

In the end, Saturday was a 12 hour day sitting around an icy arena in a sweater and sandals. Because smart kids leave their shoes and socks at home. The horror was repeated on Sunday ... for a more reasonable 8 1/2 hours. Sigh.

What did we learn actually related to flyball? Lots! TNG shared with us many tips and tricks that will not only help us gain speed on our dogs (and those up and coming), but will help make our dogs safer and able to run well into their senior years.

Most importantly ... the seminar did a lot to reaffirm not only our teaching methods, but our club philosophies. Could we ever hold a world record? Sure, if the category is "Litres of ice cream consumed by a sports team". I'm sure we could do it.

Will we ever run 15.095 seconds? Not likely. But man, can those 80 second runs be fun!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Roll With It

... but bring Rub Downs!

At a recent practice, Bailey takes off across the field to leave a little something for the next dogs by to sniff out. I follow with a baggie, but before I can get to him (it), he’s off again. This time he sniffs the ground, drops his front shoulder and rolls. And rolls again, and again. I hear “Ewww!” back at the practice area. “I think Bailey found the dead gopher.” Sigh. I wonder if I packed those Rub Downs. I’ve learned, you see.

This is not the first enthusiastic roll in mystery Ewww! Really, it’s been happening since he came to live with me. The off leash park has some fabulous offerings on occasion, in addition to the usual smelly sloughs. Ordinarily these are handled by a short ride home in their crates and a quick hop in the tub to sub out the stench with the minty fresh smell I prefer.

We’re not always prepared, though, and the journeys haven’t all been that short. Last April, returning from a tournament in Lloydminster with a friend and her well-behaved collie, we stopped in North Battleford to switch drivers and let the dogs out for a bit of business. Once again, Bailey bounded off (I stupidly took him off leash) and proceeded to do his business. I followed, bag in hand (this is going to start to sound repetitive here). Before I reached the designated pick up spot, he was off again, and once again proceeded to roll in something that must have been extremely lovely, because he got up and rolled in it again. Then he got up, dropped and rolled in it again and again. Sigh. Eventually he made his way close enough to me to hook him up and bring him back.

It didn’t look all that bad. A bit dusty, but it didn’t smell great. We opened the windows, trying not to inhale too deeply and stopped at a nearby Tim Horton’s, where we wet down some cloths and soaped him up a bit and that’s then the slimy looking stuff came to the top. He must have scrunched it right down under the fur. Ewww! The impromptu bath didn’t really cut it, and we had to spray him down with some Dr. Scholl’s to survive the last part of the ride home (where, of course, he had a bath before bed).

So … Rub Downs. Make sure you pack ‘em!

Judy & Bailey

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Three Dogs...Are You Kidding Me???

For the past four years, I've had two dogs. Two big dogs, about the same size. Similar temperament, very loving with one another and have had few issue throughout their lives as a pair. The past several months I thought, very much in passing, that it would be fun to have a third dog. A small dog. One who would nip at the ankles of my big dogs. But I wasn't actually serious.

Well, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. On May 31st while at a wedding in the country, this adorable white ball of fluff was found trying to play with the pigs and donkeys on the property where the wedding took place. Much to the chagrin of some of my friends at the wedding who do not share the same compassion for lost animals as me, I took this puppy home with the intent to find her rightful owners. A few days later, I was able to make contact with her family via a local vet clinic, but alas, they never stepped forward to get her back.

So now I have three dogs. In theory. There are three dogs at my house, but I have yet to come to terms with it. Three dogs who need fed, loved, walked and three dogs whose excrement I am now responsible for.

As the three adjust to their new lifestyle, I am constantly laughing at their antics. In Millie, Daisy finally has a playmate who likes toys and doesn't tire of well, a playmate who inspires Monty to want to play also (a miracle in and of itself). Daisy will approach Millie with a toy in her mouth, inviting her to play. When Millie accepts the invitation, Daisy promptly reminds Millie several times that she must submit, as Millie always does willingly. Then the three of them will engage in a very fierce-sounding rampage of ear-pulling, neck grabbing, tail-wagging excitement.

Last night, Millie got the zoomies. It's the first time I've seen this, and it's likely because it rained all day and evening, and she spent most of the time in her crate, and little time playing or walking. It was hilarious! I have one couch that she can squeeze underneath, and she would often shoot under there after doing a few laps around the living room, over a dog, under a dog, and so on. Then she stuck her head out from under the couch, waiting to pounce while Monty & Daisy looked on very curiously. Unfortunately, it was about 11:30pm and not at all an appropriate time for zoomies (which I tried to explain to Millie). Needless to say, she protested when alerted to the end of her play time and there was a little bit of jostling in the crate when she tried to resume zoomies once in her bed for the night. What a turkey!

I swore that I'd never get another puppy. So much work, training, headache...but what a rewarding experience it is. I've been lucky with my dogs. None of them were nightmares as puppies. All fairly laid back and easy to train. So I have three dogs. There. I said it. I have three dogs. Two big ones about the same size, and a little white fluffy one who nips at Monty & Daisy's ankles.


Friday, July 4, 2008

If You Could Read My Mind or Don’t Go Changin’

Sometimes it’s easy to know what they’re thinking.

Earlier today, I sat with 8 eyes boring a hole in the back of my skull. “Will she drop it? Will she drop it?”
“Sorry boys, you’ve had your supper. This one’s mine.”

Or the mantra that runs through his head as he drops to the ground staring at the object lying between us. “Throw the ball. Throw the ball. Throw the ball.”

But sometimes I’m just too human to get it. Last night, while I sat up doing a bit of reading (and not falling asleep by the 3rd paragraph … huzaah!), he jumps up to take his place at the foot of the bed, and a moment later he’s down again, trots over to the corner and tries to climb behind the laundry hamper, comes back to the middle of the room, stares at me, mumbles something, silent stares and a few more mumbles.

“I don’t know what you want. No snacks! Get to bed.”

He jumps up, and 30 seconds later he’s down again. Pace, pace, pace. Still not sure what he wants, I get up to let him out. Not interested. There are no fireworks tonight, as far as I can tell. What is it? I sigh, yawn, and return to the bedroom. It’s warm so I stop to turn on the air conditioner, turn out the lights and climb back into bed.

Suddenly, all is right with his world. Was the air conditioner now loud enough to block outside noises? Or was it the broken routine of lights-out that had disturbed him?

OCD?! My dog?!

Can you guess what breed?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Becoming the Leader.

When I was a child, the dogs in the yard were working dogs. No collars, laid around, wandered, hunted, and followed you everywhere when you appeared outside.

When I got older I did not have any contact with the dog world and I wanted a dog. When I finally got my dog, I knew nothing of training. What training? Dogs don’t need to be trained! I ventured into the world of obedience and found that, like children, dogs needed pack leadership, structure, care and love.

Different trainers had different ideas on how this should be done. “I rule and you are subservient” “Oh what a pretty dog you are!” “No treats as this spoils the dog” Tugging creates Aggression “ “ Work with me and we will have a great time!” This last one I like best.

As I progressed through the various trainers I found that, like teaching children, different methods are needed for different personalities and lifestyles and so have taken certain aspects from each, but the underlying core is that dogs, still need a pack leader, structure, love and care.

The little Wolf Pack
“Alpha, Beta, and everyone else”

The ruler in my house pack weighs 10 lbs. She walks into the group or room and everyone takes note. She has the sunniest spot on the rug, the softest cushion, and the choice of where she lays. She is not mean in her leadership and gives everyone a chance to redeem themselves for their indiscretions before she lets them know quickly when they have stepped over the line. The message is delivered without aggression, no blood is shed and it is over in a matter of seconds and then all is right and in order in the pack.

The Beta, second in command, or so he thinks, is the token male. He makes no decisions and has no say. He hunts, barks warnings, sleeps beside the alpha and generally enjoys life. Typical male.
The others in the pack, all girls, enjoy a peace sometimes easy and then not. Who is first out the door today, who marked over the last spot, who got the first reward seems to determine daily placement.

Then there is the last but not least who travels through the pack like a bubble through water. She enjoys all places as she never tries for any. She just assumes everyone lovers her. You know the type? The happy child!

There is harmony in the pack as there is a leader who gives structure, discipline when needed and then there is the ultimate leader, me, who gives love and care which is returned 5 fold.

Ferne and the Rugrat pack

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventures with Duct Tape

I washed a piece of duct tape the other day. I was taking the laundry out of the drier, when a little ball of squished together silver tape fell onto the floor. It took me a minute to figure out where the heck this duct tape came from. Was it my last adventure with fixing ducts? Nope ... I'm sure I have done laundry since then. Maybe it was from my last attempt to salvage my favorite pair of shoes?

Then it dawned on me. Flyball.

Now, you may be asking, what the heck does duct tape have to do with flyball ... and even if there is some distant relationship, how does that then result in duct tape ending up in my laundry.

Let me back up a wee bit to help explain. My lovely little Romeo dog is a keener. Really, he is. But we've been having a slight issue with convincing him that the fun game we play is the SAME THING when 4 jumps are involved, instead of just 3. He thinks the rules change when jump 4 is included. This can't possibly be the same game ... flyball is "jump jump jump ball" NOT "jump jump jump JUMP ball" ... right? Many ideas have been suggested to help him get over this hurdle (no pun intended ... or is there?). We've tried racing him to the box. We've tried letting another dog go and steal his ball when he refuses a run. We've tried back-chaining excessively. We've tried having someone else release him and have me standing up at the box to call him. Nothing ever works for very long.

My latest attempt at getting him to complete a full run was to work on some target training. Romeo is VERY target oriented, so many little tricks have been taught with a target. And my target of choice is a little square of duct tape (see, this is all related somehow!). Shake a paw was shaped using duct tape, a trick we call "put your head down" was shaped with duct tape. So in my time of need, I pulled out my trusty roll of shiny goodness, slapped a piece on the wall at the end of the hallway, and started working on send outs. We worked this at home a lot, moving the duct tape from the wall to the couch to the floor to the fridge door, anywhere where duct tape would stick (and it sticks everywhere!) to work on send outs. Then finally, we brought the duct tape to flyball practice. I slapped a piece on the box and he looked at me as if to say "Oh THAT is what you wanted me to do? Well jeez! Why didn't you say so earlier?"


I left that practice elated, with a very tired pooch sleeping in the back seat, after having many many full successful speedy runs. I was a genius ... a freakin' genius!

Two days later our team held a demo for a group of youngsters on the grounds of a hockey arena just outside of town. It was a nice evening, a little chilly and quite a few bugs, but nothing we aren't used to from June in Saskatchewan. Our team all got to work setting up jumps, measuring out the lanes, hauling those beastly heavy boxes, even marking distances in the run back.

Fearless Leader gives a little intro and we're off running! Romeo gets called in after a couple of races and we settle into our new position, me kneeling on the ground at just around the 5.5 foot mark. The race hasn't started yet, but I whisper our "are ya ready?" words to Romeo. With more force than I could imagine a wee little fluff could have, he wriggles out of my hands, leaps forward and nose dives into the ground about half a foot in front of where I was kneeling.


Why a nose dive? And why half a foot infront of where we were? Crazy dog needs his brain checked!

No, you see, he did everything I had asked him to do. When our team was setting up, one keen member decided to mark the run back distances, starting at 5 feet, with little squares of duct tape! So upon the "ready" command, Romeo found the closest piece of duct tape, ran there as fast as he could and came back for his reward.

And that, my friends, is when I promptly ripped up the duct tape, squished it into a ball, and stuck it in my pants pocket.

Romeo ran very well the rest of the night, ignoring all other traces of duct tape. But needless to say, we are not training with duct tape at flyball any more. I just have to hope that the one practice was enough to make a lasting impact in his mind, as I don't imagine KAOS would appreciate me ripping up all their distance markers at their tournament in a few weeks!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Something Worth Biting Me For.

Well, it may not be official for a few more days, but I believe summer is already here. This thought occured to me while standing underneath a tree today. At the time I was doing a little dance, trying desperately to remove the green worm inching up my shoulder. Trees + Worms = Summer. It's a disgusting natural truth. Summer = outdoor flyball practice, hence my interaction with the worm.

Now, I'm in a weird position. In order to go out and enjoy a worm-filled flyball practice I have to spend 3 hours in the car in order to pick up my dog and drop him off back home again. Every Sunday. Life circumstance's dictate that he live with my parents. I love flyball, and I LOVE my boy, but as you can imagine all the driving is wearing a little thin. To make matters worse... Benny bites.

Not like... bites, bites. Just ... nips. And ONLY if there's a tennis ball involved. So driving to practice tonight I was contemplating what compels me to go so far every Sunday for a dog with vampire-ish qualities. I didn't catch on until I was leaving the city once again, in the dark, with a very tired, very happy little boy laying on the seat next to me doing his best 'Hobbes' impression.

Benny was given to me when I was sixteen. We were on the farm, and as every farm kid knows... there is nothing scarier than walking around the place at night. There are 'things' living out there, you know? No one knows what kind of things... cougars, coyotes, a particularly threatening looking fence post (most likely)... so that walk is a lot easier with a great protector by your side. Someone willing to eviscerate that clump of grass (... I swear to God it moved...) if the need should arise. I would go out with friends and roll home during the ungodly wee hours of the morning, and park my car that 100 dark metres from the house. But it was okay. Because I always had an escort. He'd walk me to the porch, kissing my hand with glee, listening to my stories, feeling so pleased that he had been charged with the care of this girl. When I was safe and snug in my room, he would be outside making sure that all those imaginery baddies never set foot in the yard. Although always sweet as the dicken's with me, I have ALWAYS known that he harbors a certain ferociousness, and I've always found that calming. Whether we live together now or not, we have a history. In it, I'm his little girl, and he's a giant wolf charged with my safety (ya' never know about those fence posts).

So I drive for him. Because he has ALWAYS been my pal, and if he thinks that flyball is worth biting me for, then it's worth fighting for. If he is so driven that he will go through me to get to his tennis ball, then that ball must be pretty special. Because I KNOW he thinks I am.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Embracing the Teal

It was about a year ago that I came to flyball and the River Runners. Actually, it was a year ago last month that my pal and I started to compete, and I was given my first team shirt. Actually, let me clarify. I was given 3. And 2 sweatshirts. As people pitched clothes at me I found myself caught in a storm of teal. As I listened carefully to instructions, fighting back the nerves as I tried to remember everything I would need to know for our upcoming tournament (my first), I thought... there is no way this will look good on me. They're so... brightly coloured. The fact that I'm still 'green' at flyball will stand out enough, thank you, without me being actually, physically... green. But I put on the clothes and I weathered my first flyball competition, and then the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and I realized... I look DAMN good in green.

So what is flyball? Flyball is a relay race for dogs. The dogs run on teams, and one at a time they go down over a series of four jumps, trigger a special box that releases a tennis ball (GASP!), and they return over the jumps. River Runners flyball is based out of Saskatoon, where we offer classes to all those interested in joining the dog sport community. Big dogs, little dogs... we welcome all.

However, the River Runners are more than 'flyball'. The River Runners promote responsible dog ownership, cooperation, and good sportsmanship through classes, demonstrations, and competitions. To be part of flyball is to come together with like-minded people in celebration of our four-legged friends and family. You may think you're doing this for your dog... which you are. But what you'll find is a community of people who are willing to support you, and your dog, in all of your endeavors. Whether that support is within the River Runners club itself, or from the larger flyball community... dog sport is where it's at!

Remember the last time you went out? I know, its been a while hey? Take a moment and think ... I've got time... there you go! Perhaps you were in the bar, or went for supper with friends... a rare occasion in such a busy life. The conversation flows easily, weaving around between your friend's work, family, and vacation plans. You add the prerequisite comments... "uh huh", "sounds fun", "that's great", not really contributing much to the conversation until finally BAM! They ask what's new with you. So there you are, somewhere between appetizer and entree, discussing how your dog ate a highlighter on the weekend and for the next two days her (ahem) 'leavings' glowed in the dark. A truly HILARIOUS story, not? This is your 15th telling and you still snort pop up your nose upon sharing! You're considering calling Ellen to see if she needs material for her morning mono... why are your friends looking at you like that!?

What I'm trying to say is... we'll look at you weird too. But then we'll laugh (in all the appropriate places of course), and go on to share our stories, or discuss how the new food we're trying the kids on has really evened things out. We like dogs. We like dogs stories. In fact, we like dog stories so much that we've created this blog so that we can share our stories, experiences, trials and tribulations as a community that has come together for the Dog. Embrace it. Everyone looks good in teal.