Get by with a little help from my friends

Earlier this year I had decided I would try and attend the US Open in Perry, GA with Roxy.  Fairly lofty goals considering Roxy and I just started running standard courses in July 2015 and the US Open was in November 2015.  The US Open is the selection event for the US Team for the World Agility Open Championships.  This event is known for their super challenging courses.  As the event date creeped upon us I had my doubts as to whether Roxy and I were truly ready for such an event.  This summer I noticed glimpses of her stressing a bit in the ring and I definitely did not want to over face her.  Also, the venue for the US Open was inside a very large, fully enclosed concrete building surrounded by grandstands.  This can make dogs feel particularly vulnerable sitting in the middle of a very large area with spectators above you…especially if you are 10″ tall.  These are all things Roxy has never been exposed to.  But with the support of my training buddies, Anne and David, and their commitment to bring their young dogs as well, I was on board.

My goals for the week were pretty simple, I wanted to give Roxy the most positive experience possible and hopefully increase her confidence with every run, even if that meant sacrificing that run in order to keep her focused and confident.  While I did submit my application for consideration for the US Team, those goals were put on the back burner as I knew I would be “throwing” runs in order to meet the more important goals of building Roxy’s confidence.  I have never attended a big event with such a young dog, I was swimming in foreign waters and I definitely began doubting my decision to attend.  Attending a big event with a young inexperienced dog is a humbling experience and I truly was on a very different journey than most of the other competitors.  Humbling experiences can be tough to take, especially when you voluntarily put yourself in one.  That being said I believe that both Roxy and I benefited from it, although I think I am the only one who was humbled, Roxy just had a blast.  :-)

We had an amazing time largely in part to great friends!  Anne and David were there at the end of every run giving me positive feedback about our runs.  Not only that, but all my other friends, too many to name here, took the time to watch some of our runs and went out of their way to be supportive and positive and really cheered us on.  I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to every one of them.  These big events are incredibly intense,  not only because of the difficulty of the courses but also if you are trying out for a team spot.  It meant a lot to me for my friends to take the time to be there for Roxy and I during this “training” period.

With regard to our progress, I could not be happier!  I felt that Roxy’s confidence grew with each run.  I saw glimpses of the confident Roxy I have at the training field in each run which made me smile. Man, this dog is so fun to run!!! I am looking forward to building on this experience and coming back next year!! But first things first…one WHITE poodle is in dire need for a bath after playing in the red Georgia clay :-)

Here is a highlight reel of the fun we had at the US Open, enjoy!!

Lots of happenings…

Once again it has been far too long since my last blog post.  We recently changed hosting providers so my blog was down for a bit but that is a pretty weak excuse for my lack of posting for so long.  So much has happened, I think the best thing is to just give a synopsis of each dog.

Zip – Poor Zippy has had a heck of a year.  In December 2014 he had cataract surgery on his left eye.  All went well with the surgery but we did a have a few complications after surgery.  At the end of January he had a small hemorrhage which was easily repaired.  However his left eye was constantly red and sore and we couldn’t figure out why.  It turns out Zip was allergic to one of the eye drops he was getting on a daily basis.   We had spent months treating his symptoms not realizing it was his eye drops causing all the issues.  Finally in June we started weaning him off the eye drops but sometime at the end of June/early July Zip suffered from a more severe hemorrhage which caused the retina in his left eye to detach.  A detached retina is unfixable and the prognosis was not good.  Permanent vision loss in his left eye.  Of course I was heartbroken.  I have no experience with blindness in dogs and imagined the worst.  At the same time his left eye was hemorrhaging the cataracts in his right eye were progressing (as we knew they would).  We scheduled his second cataracts surgery for the first week in August and treated the left eye for pain and swelling as there was nothing else to do for the detached retina.  So for the few weeks between the left eye hemorrhaging and cataract surgery on his right eye poor Zippy was pretty much blind.  The one positive thing that came about through all this was I realized that Zip was getting along pretty well even though he couldn’t see.  Yes, we had to be extra careful in the house so he didn’t fall down the stairs and he was always supervised in the yard but true to form, Zip’s spirits remained high and he was pretty happy go lucky most of the time.  I had a bit of hope that should he lose vision in both eyes he might be ok.  Well just over a week ago Zip had his second cataract surgery and it went very well.  According to the doctor, this eye looks strong and the lens replacement as solid, all good signs.  Also, now that we are not using the meds he was allergic to, the healing is amazing.  Both eyes looking great, no squinting or irritation.  All good signs!!  It will be a day to day journey with this latest surgery but we are hopeful that this eye retains vision, fingers and paws crossed for Zippydoodle!

Zorro – Zorro has been having quite a year.  We have been working on drive and confidence in the ring and I think we are seeing some progress.  Zorro has always loved to train and is super exuberant while training but in the show ring he seems to fizzle rather quickly.  We have been doing more training and less trialing and this seems to be the ticket for him.  His RDW is coming along very nicely and I would say he is about 90% accurate at trials.  He has given me super RDW at home in training for some time but it was not carrying over at trials.  Now I am starting to see consistent behaviors at home and at trials.  I think we still have much to improve on building his drive in the ring but I am seeing improvement which is encouraging.  I sometimes feel Zor got the short end of the stick because I was so busy with Zip early on in Zorro’s training that he didn’t get the attention he deserved.  Lucky for me my dogs are extremely forgiving and he is happy to have his turn now.

Roxy – Roxy has had quite a year so far!!  We started trialing in April and what a great time we have had!! Initially we just entered jumpers and snooker classes as her contacts we not quite “finished” yet.  I just wanted to get her confidence in the ring and have a little fun.  Roxy is a thinker and does not want to be wrong so when she is learning a new skill she is usually slower until she figures stuff out.  Once she understands, she really turns on the afterburners!  Love those moments of brilliance!! We have attended seminars with One Mind instructors, Tuullia Liuhto and Anna Eifert and camp at Daisy Peel’s.  All great learning experiences.  Her RDW training has been an adventure to say the least.  If you happen to be one of the lucky few whose dogs just “get it”, that is awesome and I hate you :-).  I was not so lucky.  I have heard many people say that training little dogs with a RDW would be easier (I have NEVER thought that since I have been through this with Zip and Zorro)….nothing could be further from the truth!! Little dogs are just as capable of leaping off a DW as the bigger dogs and Roxy was no exception.  I was determined to stick with it and am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  July 4th weekend I entered Roxy in all classes for the first time.  I was feeling good about her contact performances and felt we were ready.  Well Roxy lived up to her name that weekend.  She nailed every DW contact and had super weaves as well.  On the last day I did have to reset her weaves as she popped out but other than that her performance all weekend was amazing!! I was so very proud of her!! Of course we left with some homework, one issue being the chute.  The shorter AKC chute is a non-issue but the longer chute that is used in USDAA needs some work.  Lucky for us most times over the weekend the wind was blowing the chute open but I am sure we will not always be that lucky :)  Since the July 4th trial we have attended a couple other shows and she has missed one DW and gave me a high hit on another DW.  I know our work here is not done but at least I feel progress is being made.  She is such a blast to run, we are having a great time so far!!

Roxy Starters Std SMART July 2015

Roxy and Zorro at the One Mind Dogs seminar March 2015

Dasher – Dasher is doing great!! He is enjoying retirement although I am sure he would not refuse anyone wanting to take him for a spin on an agility course.