Thursday, November 27, 2008


Little things sometimes get me down. Like today - usually on Thanksgiving evening I start at least thinking about getting out the Christmas decorations. But we store those in a part of the attic over the garage, and this year the garage is still full of things we moved out of the house last spring in order to get the floors refinished, walls painted, windows replaced and all that big stuff.

There are still several smaller jobs left to be done because we took some time off from the home repair this summer since we were going to so many shows. Then our contractor got busy with other clients, and we just haven't gotten around to getting ourselves back on his calendar. Plus, unfortunately the roof apparently is still leaking and the bedroom ceiling will probably need to be replaced/repaired. Again. Before that, more roof repair or even replacement.

Which is why I can't get to my Christmas decorations so may not be able to put anything up this year. Which is seriously bumming me out. I do love me a pity party.

So a little self therapy is in order. I believe that gratitude is good for the soul, so at the risk of giving my readers diabetes I am going all syrupy today and here goes with my list of what I'm grateful for:

  1. A wonderful husband who is smart and kind and funny and shares my values - the most important of which of course is a complete and unfailing devotion to our dogs. The fact that he ALSO shares my interest in training and competing with them is just icing on the cake! I often wonder why I got so lucky - but I am endlessly grateful for him.
  2. Great Danes. I often say "there is no perfect breed of dog, but there IS a perfect breed for most people". You just gotta do a little research. I am so grateful that Great Danes exist, and that I found them. There are many different breeds and types of dogs that I love, have lived with and wouldn't mind living with again. There are even more that I admire although I might not want to actually live with them. But to me, "There is nothing like a Dane" (apologies to Rodgers & Hammerstein). I just seem to "get" them like no other kind of dog.
  3. My Great Danes. I am so grateful to all the responsible breeders who developed these bloodlines, so that I have dogs who are healthy and smart and sweet and gentle and just a joy to be with every day. Of course we can take some credit for them too, the way we raise and train them and manage them as a pack. But you have to have good raw materials to get a good product.
  4. My job. I don't talk about it a lot here, but I'm an Occupational Therapist and do home health visits. Most - in fact the vast majority - of my patients are elderly. This isn't everyone's cup o' tea but I love it. I set my own hours, I really get to know my patients and am able to help them work on goals that are meaningful to them, and yes, even though they're old they usually do get better. I get to drive a lot which fortunately I like. The job security is excellent and so is the pay. Oh, and did I mention that I can set my own hours? :-)
  5. My friends and family. I have wonderful friends that I take for granted all too often, and a wonderful, loving family (including in-laws) that I also take for granted too often. But I love every one of them, and am grateful to have them in my life.

Now then... I have to say I feel better!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Notes from Agility class

Tuesday night is Agility class night, at least it has been lately. I love, love, love our agility instructor (Debbie Spence, PAWSative Agility Working School - if you're in the north Texas area near D/FW I can't recommend her highly enough) but it is a bit of a drive to get out there, so lately we've been able to consolidate things and take all 3 dogs to class on the same night.

At PAWS, once you and your dog are through with the carefully structured Beginner class which takes about 12 weeks, you enter classes that are ongoing but organized into five or six different "levels". As the dog and the handler progress in skill and knowledge you get promoted to the next level. At each level the courses and exercises become progressively more difficult - but even at Level 2 (the first one after Beginner) we get instruction and practice on courses that are short, but have elements that are technically difficult. For the handlers, that is.

In the Level 2 class, Ronnie runs Teddy and I run Topper. (She's the brindle girl in my avatar). With Topper, to say I "run" her is an exaggeration. Not only am I not exactly built for speed, but she - as I knew she would - demands a lot of reinforcement for everything. She's not unwilling, or scared (except of the dogwalk, more on that later). She's sweet, and cooperative, and very food motivated... but also must be convinced that anything we expect her to do is in her best interest.

In other words, "What's in it for me?" should be tattooed across her stripey forehead. That would save a lot of time. Either that, or I should let her wear her "I'm a Princess" tiara more often.

So I'm still reinforcing everything - even the easiest and most basic elements like jumping and the start line - stay very heavily. Which tends to slow things down a LOT because I keep stopping to reward her with a treat and lots of ego stroking. But it's working - she's offering more and more things every day. Tonight she actually "sucked" (meaning she chose to enter even though that wasn't part of the plan) to a curved tunnel and then also the chute which - although technically a mistake - is GREAT to see. Let's face it, those obstacles are not easy for a Dane who has to get waaaay down and crawl through them and I'm thrilled that she's deciding that they are fun after all. Her "Go!" (as in "on ahead of me") is improving and I got a couple of nice rear crosses (meaning the handler changes sides for a change of direction behind the dog).

I think she's doing great, and we're having a ton of fun. She is still scared of the dogwalk - she had a pretty bad fall off of it a while ago which was ENTIRELY my fault. But climbing on things is something she's loved to do since she could crawl - she's not called "Topper" for nothing. We are taking the dogwalk slowly - just taking a few steps up the ramp and then letting her hop off - and she's very wiling to keep trying so I'm confident we'll fix that in time.

Teddy is so different. His attitude is "What do you want me to do?" All you have to do is show him what you want and he'll do his best. And he is so FAST. I think he developed the speed as a survival mechanism: his mother and sister chase him all the time and they are merciless! The main challenge Ronnie has with Ted is just planning ahead - so often Teddy lands farther out from a jump than Ronnie anticipated and it's really hard to signal early enough that Teddy has time to respond. But they're getting their act together and really starting to understand each other. Teddy is a lot more advanced in his training than his sister, and is entered in his first agility trial the first weekend of December - I don't think he's quite ready but it won't hurt anything to give it a try. He'll be fun to watch - I'll try to get some video of it.

Their mother Kinsey, who is in a more advanced class later in the evening, is doing great. She and Ronnie are a pretty well-oiled team by now. She loves the running and jumping part, and doesn't mind doing tunnels or the dogwalk or anything else... except the damn Table. That is what has kept her from qualifying in Standard - she still doesn't even have her Open title in Standard - even though in the Jumpers with Weaves class (which has no Table) she is halfway to her Masters title. She'll hop on the table OK, but then at a trial she knows that Ronnie can't touch her, and doesn't have any food on him so she seems to make a game of seeing how high she can push his blood pressure. Her expression ranges from "What is this 'Down' you speak of??? I've never heard that command before!" (picture a charmingly cocked head) to a very simple "I don't wanna, and you can't make me!" A few weekends ago she had a near perfect run in Open Standard, except it took Ronnie about 30 seconds to get her to lie down on the Table. Which of course ran them over time and they didn't qualify.


Friday, November 21, 2008

"People food"

I haven't been able to download any photos lately so I'm feeling lazy and uninspired when it comes to blogging...

BUT I'm not above glomming onto another writer's brilliance when I'm in need of blogger fodder.

This is one of the best, clearest explanations I've ever read that gives common sense guidelines to sharing a few goodies with your pets this Holiday season while still keeping them healthy. It's really not rocket science!

Thank you, YesBiscuit!

It goes back to the odd notion that there is "pet food" and then there is "people food"*. Food is food. Sure, different species have different nutritional requirements but that just boils down to different proportions of different kinds of FOOD.

We feed our dogs (and now our cat!) a homemade diet of mostly raw foods - I'll write more about that one day. But for now, remember that - in general - it's perfectly OK to give your pet a bit of whatever you're eating as long as it's a wholesome sort of food to start with.

But go read YesBiscuit!'s article. She does a better job of explaining all this.

*OK, in one way there IS a big difference between "pet food" and "people food" - pet food is mostly made from the waste products of the human food supply. Foods that are either unfit for human consumption for some reason, or are the by products or waste products or leftovers from some sort of processing. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for recycling... I just don't want to use my dogs to do it.