Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meeting a Mentor

As I was setting up my canopy the afternoon before the trials started (just before the Fun Run) I heard a familiar voice out on the field. It was one of those times when something is familiar, but you know that there is also something different going on. "Quill, Quill! Come!" I thought wait a minute, that's the voice from the DVD I have been watching and learning from for the past six months. And indeed it was Sandy Rogers, a well-known and respected dog trainer from the Bay Area, here in Humboldt County to compete with her dogs. I had a chance to get acquainted with Sandy over the weekend, and to tell her how much I have learned from watching her DVD demonstrations. It seemed only right that we have a photo taken in front of Raleigh's blue ribbons (the athlete himself is in his crate just below the frame of the photo), since much of Raleigh's success is due to her long-distance training. Her DVD is called One Jump, Two Jump, and it is an inspired approach that uses only jumps to learn and practice basic, essential, agility skills. As you can see from her site, she is an accomplished competitor, and she and her partners have won many impressive titles. Plus, she is a very down to earth, friendly person. I couldn't resist asking her if I was hearing the DVD correctly when she was demonstrating playing tug with Quill, her Jack Russell Terrier, and she confirmed that "girlie butt" is in fact one of her terms of endearment with Quill (the only female dog in her family). I just love that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AKC Agility Trials in Ferndale

Happy energetic dogs, friendly people, great weather---this past weekend was the annual AKC Agility trials in Ferndale hosted by the Lost Coast Kennel Club. There were exhibitors (not salesmen, but dog runners) from all over the western United States, and a bit beyond, with their dogs, and their tents, and all of the paraphernalia that goes along with doing a trial. Within hours, a little community gets set up, and it becomes a world set apart from the things that usually occupy us. Really, it's like summer camp for adults and their dogs, and the lucky kids who get to come along.
We corgi people tend to get acquainted right away and it was a pleasure to meet Debbie and Nancy, two sisters from Modesto, California, shown above with their corgis, who, interestingly, are also sisters. Both of them are ranchers, and Nancy (on the left) also barrel races. This is not the kind of venue for sissies. These are impressive women. But I should have guessed that, since owning a corgi is not for the faint of heart.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Drawing Group

Last Saturday, (how can a week go by so quickly?) five women spent the day at my studio (and in the garden) drawing. The weather cooperated so we spent most of the time outside, and it was so good to see how each of them really engaged the drawing process---the emphasis was on pure contours---and were able to sink into the experience of seeing and drawing. It's always remarkable to see how art can be such an effortless catalyst for the formation and comfort of a group. It really does bypass the barriers we all construct for one reason or another. It was the first time most of us had met, and by the end of the day, we felt like old friends. I look forward to more afternoons drawing with this fine group. Oh, and we took time for a leisurely lunch on the deck.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Glamor girls

You know how some people look like their dogs? Well, Marlene doesn't really resemble her poodle, but they both have the most amazing hair (in Tia's case, fur) and I just couldn't resist posting this. Marlene is terrific at agility---note the great form that both of these fine athletes are exhibiting.
By the way, I took a few shots today and learned that photographing dogs racing through a course is a lot harder than it looks. The blurred dog gives an idea of how fast she is moving.

Agility Workshop

This has been a big week for the agility community here in Humboldt County. Nancy Gyes, a world class agility figure has been leading a workshop for about 30 agility enthusiasts of all levels. I first met Nancy a little over a year ago when I attended a half-day workshop in Oregon with Emma, who was just a little over seven months old. At that time I didn't know much about her, but the folks here really encouraged me to attend. It was obvious from the start that she was not only a knowledgeable practitioner of the sport, she is also an excellent teacher---one of those rare individuals who is able to meet each student at his level, and give good constructive training and suggestions. Her emphasis on crate and circle games really took hold, and has made life much easier around here. "Emma, get to your crate!" and zoom, there she goes.

The photos are obviously of our gathering earlier today. Marlene very generously is hosting the event at her place, and with the canopies, tents, dog crates and canvas chairs it has the feel of a summer camp---a world apart from the concerns that tend to fill up our days. It is so great to be with a bunch of dog lovers, most of them women of a certain age, who are willing to do whatever is necessary to maximize a dog's performance, which more often than not involves some pretty outrageous behavior (get that toy you silly girl!), and then get out there and run around on the field trying to perfect moves that can feel a little awkward at times. Yes, it is a great sport and some wonderful athletes participate, but it takes some doing to get there, and what we go through in the process is so, well, humanizing, that it just makes for a really good community. I was an auditor today, so got to just watch the runs, and be part of the group that stood on the sidelines cheering the good runs, and come to think of it, some of the not-so-good runs as well, because support is a big part of what this is all about. It's been a great experience and I am encouraged by what I've learned this week and looking forward to practicing and developing a clear strategy for the sport.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My dentist is Dr. Karen Beck, shown here with her assistant, Kendra, on the right. I feel very fortunate to have these women taking care of my dental needs (I hesitated to add this, but it is a little odd to have a team of such capable professionals who look about twelve years old). After the extraction (described on the previous post), there is a fairly lengthy healing process which requires a stay plate (euphemism for false tooth) and they have been so good about making sure that it is just right. I confess that I am nearly fanatical about dental health and hygiene so have been in a couple of times for fine tuning. Those of you who see me smile would never be able to guess which tooth isn't mine (and none of us are telling). Many thanks to these two (and the rest of the office) for all of their help!

Open Wide

Last week I had oral surgery.

The process involved extracting the tooth that had cracked on what had seemed to be a harmless clump of granola.

Harmless that is until I bit down on it and heard what sounded like an explosion going off in my head.

It wasn’t painful,

but it was immediately clear

that this is what it is like to break a tooth.

It happened in an instant.

but he implications will go on for a lot longer than that--

about six months in fact.

The solution is an implant—a new tooth attached to a titanium post that the oral surgeon placed in my maxillary bone six days ago.

I opted for the local anesthetic, so was awake during the whole procedure,

and it was actually quite interesting to lie comfortably in that chair listening to the banging and drilling,

while the assistant held down the top of my head so I wouldn’t move too much as the dental surgeon yanked out what was left of my molar.

Incredibly, I felt no pain at all.

It was as if someone was doing roadwork in my mouth with a tiny but powerful jackhammer,

and I was one of those onlookers standing on the curb,

hands in pockets, just watching.

I don’t mean to brag, but both dentists complimented me on my calmness,

(which sort of baffles me as I still don’t see any other option considering the circumstances).

Quite honestly, I can’t think of any other area of my life where I might be described as calm.
But this worked out so well, that I just might give it a try the next time things don’t go as expected,

or even when they do.

All in all, it has been a good reminder that nothing lasts forever---

not a tooth, discomfort, or difficult circumstances.

And it’s a not a bad idea to make the most of every experience that comes our way,

even at the risk of feeling pain.

Back to Oregon

Last night at Rally class, our teacher Sally brought her video camera and we were able to watch recordings of the TDAA runs at Grant Pass. This one of Emma (her first standard run) may be worth a watch. Pay particular attention to the chute. Three, no make that four, is the charm. Go Emma!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrate Liberty!

What a great day this was. It's one of my favorite holidays---when Americans gather to celebrate independence and freedom. I was torn between two events. Here in Trinidad, Janis Saunders was cutting the ribbon on at Saunders Park, a beautiful new park next to the Trinidad Museum and soon-to-be built Trinidad Library. Janis and Glenn Saunders have donated the land for all of this, as well as made very generous donations to each project. I am sure that it was a real celebration and tribute to these well-loved people who do so much for this community and I wish I could have been there.

Instead, I was in Ferndale, helping out with the Honor Flight float in the Fourth of July parade and it was a glorious event. First, what could be better than hanging out with a dozen American heroes on the Fourth of July? And it was even better since it was Ferndale---the only other town I'd want to live in besides Trinidad. It's a small dairy town, so we loaded up looking out over fields with grazing dairy cows. Then went past the horses and tractor entry as we got in line. The reception for the vets was wonderful---lots of clapping, cheering, and thank you's. This was a good warm-up for our booth at the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale August 11-21. After the parade we enjoyed hamburgers at the barbecue put on by the Ferndale Rotary Club. Great burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and Humboldt Creamery vanilla ice cream, plus an opportunity to visit with the locals. Ferndale Rotary has been very generous to Honor Flight---these are real patriots. All of the Rotary Clubs in the county have been generous, but Ferndale, the smallest club, really came through. Many thanks to the members of this small but active group (having been to their meeting I can also add that they are the most lively)

When we got home, it was time to . . . relax. The sun was out, there was no wind (rare here on the coast), so I, well, I just sat outside for most of the afternoon and enjoyed looking at the ocean and garden, birds, bees and soaked it all up. It may not have been fireworks and festivities, but it was a chance to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful place in this great country. I hope that all of you Americans also had an opportunity to take the time to celebrate this important day and this great nation. Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

And the winner is . . . .

Metta! Well, to be more precise, Metta and her two rescue dogs Muffin and Pepsi, who came in first and second in both of the Novice A trials that we competed in yesterday. (Raleigh and I followed with third and fourth). One of her scores was a perfect 100. Great job you guys. Congratulations!

Raleigh Really Likes Rally

A Rally event in Ferndale, our first.

Because it was happening here on the North

Coast, I decided to

enter Raleigh

for both trials. I

guess that it is the natural thing for

him to do along with agility.

In fact, this is

just his cup of tea, in

keeping with his competitive spirit.

My hunch is that

nothing will replace this

oh so joyful combination of discipline and


quintessentially friendly obedience

routine of walking a course,

stopping at each placard, being sure to

take time to understand and follow instructions,

undertaking the task

very carefully

while the judge walking nearby, critically

examines and notes our every move.

Yet I am certain that she must be impressed by Raleigh’s

zenlike focus.

As you might surmise from this poem, and photograph, we had our first experience in competitive Rally this weekend. Rally is a sport that grew out of Obedience. The difference is that this is much more user friendly, or I suppose dog friendly would be more apt (no offense intended for the Obedience people out there---it's just a different approach and there is no judgment intended). In Rally, the team (dog and handler) walks a course that has 10-20 placards with instructions for various maneuvers, ranging from very simple to fairly complicated. The handler is encouraged to engage the dog the entire time-- commands, encouragement, and praise are all part of the deal. Raleigh loves it, and so does Emma. This was Raleigh's first trial and he did remarkably well--a third place with a score of 97, and a fourth with a score of 96. He has this matter of fact approach to the sport, much like agility, which quite honestly, I would not have expected from him. But it is a good example of how a challenge and purpose can bring out the best in all of us. And, for you fellow competitors out there, I am fully aware that you never know what a dog will do on any given day, and I know better than to take Raleigh's good performance for granted. In fact, one of our stellar trainers, who in this case shall remain unnamed, (but you know who you are) noted to a group of us that she had the distinction of coming in last place in two trials (and she has great dogs), which proves that it can happen to anybody. This good natured attitude is one of the things that I like best about this community.

Lighten up on the Leash

I am wondering why the dog world has recently become so important to me,

or perhaps more accurately, why it took me so long to discover it.

I’ve definitely fallen into the allure of the canine competitive


and it feels like home.

I love the friendly competition,

the esprit de corps of the participants,

the enthusiastic support that is so pleasant to give and receive.

The sport is really about competing with your own potential,

rather than trying to beat other teams.

Oh, there is the occasional competitor who may resent someone else’s success,

or worse yet, get impatient with a dog who hasn’t performed as well as he might have.

But that is the exception rather than the rule.

Most of the time both success and failure are accepted with good humor.

I think I compete pretty much the way I live my life----

running up against challenges and obstacles,

unaware of anyone else,

sometimes rushing so that I overlook the obvious,

or holding on too tight

so that I make things more difficult than they need to be.

In fact, our score of 96 in yesterday’s Rally trial pretty much sums it up.

The judge docked me one point for a tight lead,

and Raleigh lost three---for barking with joy mid-course.

In my mind, a good trade off for a nearly perfect score.