Friday, January 30, 2009

Emergency Information

I got an email message from the trial secretary of last weekend's trial that on the trip home one of the exhibitors drove over black ice. She ended up crashing her van into a guard rail, totalling the vehicle. Thank goodness she had her seat belt on and her Golden Retriever in a crate. Both escaped without injury.

This incident brings up two good points that I'd like to emphasize.

#1 - Always travel with your dog in a crate. The second part to this is to secure the crate. I have mine attached to the floor of the van with bungie cords. If I could bolt them in, I would! This helps to reduce sway on regular driving, and secures the dog in the crate in case of a crash.

#2 - Provide emergency contact information. I'm taking a page out of my friend Gail's book. She has a plastic, 3-hole punch document holder attached to each dog crate. Inside the cover is detailed information such as the following: her cell phone number, her vet's name and phone number, a photo of the dog, description of the dog, and microchip number. Imagine you're in an accident and, God forbid, you can't talk. If your dog is missing or injured, this information could save his life.

I don't think I'm being a Gloomy Gus when I say I'm going to put a similar document holder on each dog crate in my car. I already carry a basic first aid kit, and I always have a folder with all the dog's medical records in my gear bag for trials. I think this accident from last weekend, brings home the point that we owe it to our dogs to keep them safe in *all* driving conditions.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Thanks to Mother Nature we have an unexpected day off. We got only 3" of snow, but the lovely crust of ice on the top coupled with freezing rain this morning forced the school where I work to close.

And it got me to thinking...why can't a random day off be part of our culture? It sure puts a spring in your step to be able to stop, relax, and take a day for yourself. Nothing fancy, no big trip or plans (like a holiday), but just a day off. And the day off doesn't have to be weather related; just a day to chill.

I went to a private school in grades 9-12. Every fall--on a date only the top people knew about--the headmaster would announce in the morning that "Today is Gretna Day!" The cheers where deafening. That meant that all classes, tests, homework, and after-school events were canceled. The entire school packed into buses, and we went to Mt. Gretna for the day. There was a picnic lunch (your usual hot dogs/bugers type of lunch) and roller skating and just a day away from school.

Why can't we do that in our business life as well? Have the CEO or President announce, "Today is your day. See you tomorrow." Sure would be sweet, wouldn't it?

Monday, January 26, 2009


Cadie "tagged" me, which means I have to go to a folder and select a picture and explain it on the blog. Well, I went to the designated folder (5th one) and picture (5th one) and came upon a wonderful memory.

This is a picture of Brisco and me at the practice jump at our first AKC Nationals in Tampa, Florida, in 2006. I was a nervous wreck competing at that level! But Brisco grounded me and said, "Let's go!" in his funny, talk trash way that he has at a competition. We had glorious runs and Q'd in 3 out of 4 runs.

Brisco and I ended up going to Nationals again in 2007 in Ohio. He certainly took me many places I never thought I'd be. I love this dog!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Out of Novice

At the Williamsport trial this weekend, Cosi and I managed to finally get out of Novice! Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's shameful to be in Novice. It's just painful! It's always the last class of the day, and by then I'm ready to head for home, especially on a Sunday.

We needed one more leg in Novice jumpers with weaves. We had a nicely flowing course by a newbie judge. He set the standard course time at 39 seconds for 109 yards. Cosi and I finished it with a clean run and a time of 17.8. The boy was flying!

Sorry I don't have video. My friend who was to accompany me was too ill with a cold to come. I didn't want her at a cold, drafty trial when she needed to stay warm. With the temps in the teens, I was glad she stayed home.

Now on to the Open class and working on trying to keep it together for more than 15 obstacles.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Tomorrow (Friday) Cosi and I are off to an agility trial. I'm very excited about this year's trial season as we're going to hit it full force. We dabbled last year, running here and there, running in different venues just to gain experience. Now, it's for keeps.

I usually run at AKC trials as that is the venue where Brisco and I first started running. I guess you like best what you're familiar with so AKC remains my main focus. My agility instructor tells me that Cosi would make a good USDAA dog, and on her advice I'm trying a USDAA trial in February. We'll see...I have some personal bias to overcome there. =:O)

The bonus for this weekend is that the trial is near the town where my friend Janice lives. Cosi and I will pack up and head to Janice's house on Friday afternoon. Janice is not a "dog person," but she generously tolerates my pack. She adores Brisco (and the feeling is mutual) so it will be interesting to see what she thinks of Cosi. Cosi is a lot more exuberant than Brisco, but I'm hoping his charming personality will win her over.

Janice and I met when I took my very first teaching job out of college in 1976. She was my mentor, supervisor, and bestestestest friend. We've been buddies ever since. She's one of those friends that even though you haven't seen her for weeks/months, when you get together it's easy. It's like you just saw her yesterday. She loves to travel, and I'm always eager to hear about her adventures. She comes to two or so agility trials a year with me, usually when I have to drive a distance. She's my videographer, confidant (talking about work and family), and cheering squad! I'm so psyched for the weekend. I'll have video for you on Monday...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dogs & Snow

What is it with dogs and snow? They seem to enjoy it so!

Here's Mike enjoying a snow fall that left only an inch of snow in our yard. But that was enough to leap in, nip at, and run around like a maniac.

Even Jenny, who wouldn't be caught dead going outside in the rain, will eagerly run into a snow fall and put her tail in the air in play posture.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blankets for Babies

I've been asked to help students (grades 9-12) with the Blankets for Babies project this year. This is a community service activity where beginning knitters learn how to either knit or crochet baby blankets. The blankets are then donated to various organizations. It's a good way to learn to knit or crochet or just practice basic skills.

No Skills
The student advisor neither knits nor crochets (then why did she volunteer for this club?), and I do both. So when she came to me to ask for help, I could see she really needed it! We knitters are a clannish bunch, and when I put out the email for help, I was flooded with responses. We now have six volunteers to work with the students.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Big Boy 3

My Cosi (RyLadd Spontaneous Combustion) is 3 years old today. Here are some pictures from puppyhood to today:

Thank you, Mary Galloway.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gear Queen

I've been competing in agility for about 7 years now (this May it will officially be 7), and I've earned the title "Gear Queen" from my friends. Let me explain...

My husband's hobby at one time was mountain climbing. Not rock climbing, but mountain climbing. For that venture he needed a lot of gear: climbing harness, boots, ice ax, protective get the idea. When he would be getting ready to pack for a climb, he'd "gear fondle." This was his term for putting all his stuff all over the floor of the den, examining it for soundness, and packing it carefully so he knew where everything was. That's important when you leave for a climb at O'Dark Thirty and have to find things by touch.

When I started agility with Brisco, I, too, started to collect gear: shoes, dog crates, mats, and various treats and rewards. At that time I ran at outdoor trials. That meant I needed a tent, waterproof tarps, and sun shades. Here's a picture of our set up. Pretty cool, huh?

Over the years I've collected so many items for every type of weather that I've had to inventory it all. And that led to the Gear List.

When I get ready for a trial, I print a gear list. As I'm packing I check off the items. This helps as I'm leaving for a trial at 4:30 a.m. and not exactly keen of mind! Because I'm organized, my friends have learned to come to me for things they forgot or don't have.

Here's my top three tips for becoming a true Gear Queen:
Tip #1 - Get only the best. If you buy cheap (as in poorly made), it will not last and you won't get your money's worth.

Tip #2 - Buy items that will keep your dog comfortable. Cosi has a foam pad in his crate that is better than my matress at home! He rests well in his crate and is ready for action when I come to get him for a run.

Tip #3 - Look around at conformation shows for dog gear. Conformation shows have the best variety of vendors.

Anyway, that's notes from a Gear Queen. I even created an Access database to track all the trial information as well as results. But that's for another post...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Farm Show 2009

Cosi and I ran at an agility demo at the 2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show on Sunday. What fun! Many thanks to Coleen for arranging for us to participate.

If you've never been to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, it's an overload of the senses. So many smells (mostly barn!), great food to eat (I had a Whoopie Pie), and the PA system is going non-stop. I was anxious to see how Cosi would take all this in. I found our crating area, and when I brought Cosi into the building the Percheron horses with their carriages where lining up to go into the ring. Not just a horse, but a Horse with a capital "H"! We walked past, no problem. He eyed them, of course, but no barking or lunging. OK. So far, so good.

Here's a picture of Cosi at the set up. He's relaxing in his home-away-from-home: his crate. He was quite happy. We were given T-shirts to wear during the demo. Here I am modeling my shirt for my brother-in-law.

A Real Bonus
The order of events was a herding demo and then our agility demo and then a fly ball demo. As I was waiting for things to get started, I spied a friendly face in the crowd of people with herding dogs--Cadie Pruss, Mike's breeder! I was so happy to see her. We had a wonderful conversation, cathing up with each other and our dogs. I called to Jack who was in the stands with his brother and asked him to take our picture. Here's Cadie and her sheltie with Cosi and me.

The Run
Coleen set up two identical courses, side by side. Cosi and I would be running against Bryce and his 20" border collie, Jett. OK, here comes Test #2, my friend. How would Cosi handle the noise and the smells (there were sheep in the arena with the herding demo) and all the distractions? For your answer, watch this video: click here to view the video on YouTube.

What a Rush!
I loved the birds-eye-view video that Jack took of our run. Thanks, hon! It really gave me a new perspective on my handling and our team work. I was *very* proud of my Cosi-Man and our run. Did you notice all the bars stayed up? And how about that extra set of weaves at the end? That wasn't part of the run. The course ended on the table! Cosi went for the Bonus Points. =:O)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Perfect Pet

Your Perfect Pet
My friend Joy is deciding to get a dog. She has young children (elementary school age), and the pressure is ON to get a d-o-g. I admire her for "doing her homework" and researching the breeds. She also asked opinions from her vet, her friends, and family. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to dog breeds, and I'm no exception.

So what makes the perfect dog? Correct answer: Shelties
Ten years ago when I decided to get a dog for agility, I--like Joy--did some homework. I mostly went to conformation shows and looked around. Growing up we always had terriers of some sort. Some were pure bred, others were Humane League Specials. I was open to considering a number of breeds for my first agility dog.

It always amuses me what non-dog sport people consider "important" when choosing a breed. They mention things like length of coat, ears, or eye shape. And choosing a breed is a very personal thing. We've glamorized some breeds in books and movies (Lassie) and showcased some breeds in not-so-glamorous settings in the news and movies (Pit Bulls). Sometimes that makes for preconceived notions about certain breeds.

For my first agility dog I was looking for a breed that had the mental capacity, drive, and stamina to work with me. Well, that narrowed the field! Then I needed a dog that was agile (duh!) and that narrowed the field even more. Sometimes as I watch trials and see very large dogs (Otter Hounds or big Dobermans), I wonder how this poor dog will be able to bend and twist as needed on course. My search led to me to Shelties and I've been there ever since. My husband--the biggest soft-hearted person in the world--loved our first Sheltie so much that he made a rule: We must always have a Sheltie. OK. I can live with that.

If you want a dog that is loving, sweet, even tempered, wants to BE with you and WORK with you, is easily trained (Got cookies? I'm yours!), and easy to love, you've just decided to get a Sheltie.

The Hair
When my friend Gail was looking for her next agility dog two years ago, I suggested a Sheltie. "No," she said, "I don't want all that hair." I had to laugh. I don't even think of it! When I was in 8th grade, we had career day where we learned all about different job possibilities. When I learned about hair styling, I was hooked! It sounded like so much fun. I raced home and excitedly told my parents about this. When my maternal grandmother heard, she exploded. "You are NOT going to be a hair dresser! You're going to be a teacher, like your mother and me." OK, Grandma, I get it. No problem. (P.S. - I am a teacher.) But every Sunday when I'm grooming my three Shelties, I grin. Guess what, Grandma, I'm styling hair! =:O)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Perfect Day

Whenever I can spend the day with agility friends and my dogs, it's a perfect day. And that was my January 1, 2009.

Our agility club got together at our instructor's house. She and her husband and son graciously opened their home so we could have a pot luck lunch and a 2-mile walk in the country. We dropped off the food, leashed up the dogs, and set out on a glorious walk. It was cold but not blustery (the previous day we had 40 mph winds!). I'll bet the sight of us walking on the road must have turned many heads. Perhaps we should have gotten a parade license!

After the walk we took care of our dogs (a drink and snack) and then settled them in their crates. We then had a buffet luncheon of pork and sauerkraut (for good luck) and whatever side dishes people cared to bring. It's funny how it all came together. Perhaps the walk put an edge to my hunger, but New Year's Day pork never tasted so good!

Good friends + good food + an activity I can share with my dogs = A Perfect Day