My New Year

This blog post started out as a description of how I feel early September is a more significant “new year” than January 1st and I was going to talk about optimism. I was going to talk about the exciting time where the start of a new school year overlaps with one of the most intense parts of the agility year: it’s a new USDAA tournament season, it’s when people begin to panic that they need more points for NAC and that last GP Q for Cynosports, and the US Open and AWC all happen in a small period of time. I was going to talk about all of this and how I use it as a motivator to stay positive and productive.

While I would like everyone to try and channel their overworked, over-assigned, under-slept haze into something positive, I am sad to say that for me, this has to be taken to an entirely new level and is proving to be a challenge. It is difficult to overcomes stress and channel it into productivity, but I am well versed in that practice. What is proving to be exponentially harder is channeling sadness and grief the same way.

For those of you who don’t come to New England for agility, you may not know Valori Duff. She is one of the hardest working USDAA trial secretaries in the region (and probably the country) and she is the owner of Ignited’s Game On! aka “Play”. (See below for majestic dog/pony)

 

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Photo By Val Duff

I have been running him pretty regularly for almost a year, and talk about a learning curve! I have run fast dogs before, but not a 22.5″, huge-strided, incredibly powerful dog like Play. It has definitely taught me a lot about stride and handling. While Play is a great agility dog, what I can’t get over is his bomb-proof temperament. I mean, probably one of the most stable dogs I have ever worked with. Kids, puppies, other intact males, people, loud noises, whatever. That is when I was thrilled when Val told me she would be bringing home his brother from a repeat breeding. Even more exciting, she was going to put my name on him as a co-owner.

This was the most amazing opportunity: as an undergrad, I don’t have time to take care of a puppy and I really wanted to start training a young dog (our youngest is Zep and he’s 5). Ignited’s Power Play aka “Score” was again, another incredible puppy. He was bright, friendly, alert, biddable and adorable from the day Val brought him to New Hampshire.

I got to meet him at the ARFF trial in the beginning of September. He was so much fun. He played with Kelso and Jonesy and completely respected Zep and BAM! who didn’t want to play with him. We did some recall games in the field and he was already tugging like a maniac. When I went to UMass after that, I couldn’t wait to spend time with him training and bonding with the potential to take him for part of my winter break.

Photo By Val Duff

Photo By Val Duff

Photo By Val Duff

Photo By Val Duff

The nest time I heard from Val she was taking him to the vet because he has been itchy. After numerous tests and a lot of patient (and not so patient waiting) we found out that he had an Pemphigus: to say the least, a really crappy autoimmune disease. Unfortunately it turned out that Score was going to have to lead a boring, isolated life of very limited contact with other dogs to lower the risk of an outbreak. Val made the difficult but right decision to put him down.

I only got to spend a few weekends with him, but with or without his condition, his demeanor never changed. No one could’ve known he was remotely sick based on his personality. He had a fantastic life, albeit all too short. He was, and will be forever happy. Rest in peace.

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We’re All Mad Here

I’m very type-A. Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with me has probably noticed. I take on a lot of tasks and I keep two color-coded calendars plus my iCal to keep it all organized. I balance my checkbook on a weekly basis, I go through my clothes twice a year and get rid of what I don’t wear or what doesn’t fit and I clean out my inbox pretty regularly. I’m nuts, I know, but being this scheduled is what has allowed me to continue to have a social life, do well in school and continue to compete in dog agility, so it can’t be that bad.

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My biggest downfall is stressing about time. Yes, I tend to squeeze everything into my schedule, but it can sometimes cause a lot of really attractive spazzing out, but I had a bit of a lightbulb today. If I had more “free time” I would be filling it with the activities in which I already participate anyway. Huh. Fancy that. Apparently I’ve figured out what I like to do, and I do it. Maybe I need to cut back on individual commitments for sleep and sanity, but I really love what I’m doing. If anyone is feeling nosy, 🙂 I split my time between UMass academics, dog agility, daily dog care (which is much more work than one would think), being Treasurer of the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition, going to concerts and festivals, hiking, camping, doing yoga, seeing my boyfriend in Cambridge, protesting against [insert important human or environmental rights topic here] with Divest UMass or the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, teaching agility, traveling and maintaining a relatively normal social life. I know, it’s a lot.

Free time seems to be a loosely defined term outlining the time with which you spend doing what you want as opposed to doing what you have to do. If I had more free time, I would fill it with more of the above-mentioned stuff that I already do. While I should undoubtedly take more time for myself, by lessening my individual commitments I’ll be able to accomplish that with little effort.

Maybe I’m crazy and just trying to tell myself that I’m not stressed and I handle my time better than most, maybe I actually am. Even if I’m telling myself this, it makes me feel better about my color-coding insanity. Maybe it’ll make some of you type-A personalities feel better too.

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Feeling Like Summer

Even though summer starts in a few days, it finally feels like summer. Grades are posted, there is no more traffic in front of the high school, and it’s almost warm enough to go in the ocean…almost. 😉 I think summer for me was kicked off by my road trip to Quebec. This trip gave me the opportunity to teach international handling to a variety of dogs and handlers; truly my favorite combination. I taught off an altered Marq Cheek jumping course that was sent in the 2013 WAO prep packet, many people winced at some of he nested sets, but they all did really well.

I got to get a beer at with an amazing view after my first day of teaching. I have no idea where this is, I’m sure Lisanne could tell you, but the weather and the scenery was incredible.

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Aside from great company and amazing dogs, I was given the most beautiful gift to top it all off. One of my students for the weekend, Sandi Obry, drew this amazing pastel of Kelso from a photo, in a very short amount of time.

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If you’re interested in getting one, her art can be found here!

The weekend was amazing, other than getting lost near Lisanne’s house, knowing absolutely zero French and therefore calling the local police for directions, everything went well. Sally also snuck into the room I was staying in and ate 4 cups of Kelso’s food. Needless to say she was quite large, but Kelso was thrilled he got 1.5 days of raw food! Hahaha

Thanks again to Lisanne Major and all of the awesome dogs and handlers I got to see in Quebec!

I got to think a lot on the drive home. I mostly thought about how lucky I am. I’m 21 years old and my job is to teach people how to run obstacle courses with their dogs, or, as my boyfriend puts it, “teaching dogs to fly”. I think that’s pretty cool. I get to do what I love all summer, whether it’s teaching the students I’ve had since age 15 at Tree Frog Farm or road tripping with Kelso on international adventures. I’ve got a pretty cool gig. While I’m planning on getting what my mom and I call a “real people job,” I am enjoying my easy summers of teaching classes, privates and seminars to people who love their dogs as much as I do.

As I easily slide into summer with an amazing job, agility trials, Sox games, music festivals, beach time and cabin trips, I just want to say thanks. To everyone that has given me these incredible opportunities. To my parents who understand that I will never be home on a weekend. To my dogs for being perfect, even if ONE OF THEM still needs 6 gambles 😉 And finally, to my friends who constantly remind me that it’s OK to make mistakes and to let go of them with ultimate silliness. Summer 2014: Here we go!

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Spring in a Nutshell

I haven’t blogged since AKC Nationals, I’ve been slacking, but also the opposite of slacking. My semester was nuts between school and CRC my life was nuts. I sent Kelso home for the semester to give myself more time for my schoolwork, but that didn’t work as well as I had hoped. I don’t do “rest” or “downtime” very well. When I have free time in my schedule, I fill it with something; CRC, Divest, organizing protests with CEPA, teaching agility, typical Delaney-like craziness. But, after all of that, I still managed to finish my semester with most of my sanity.

Backing up to AKC Nationals, I was very confident. Jonesy is really a fantastic dog for the NAC. He’s incredibly consistent with good obstacle skills, moderate ground speed, incredibly tight turns and he knocks an average of three bars a year. In 2013, we took second place in 12″ finals while not placing higher than 15th in a preliminary round. This year, I was just as confident, especially now that he had a running dogwalk at full height to close in on some of those fast shelties. 🙂

We ran a really nice T2B and Round 1 JWW: clean and top 30, typical Jonesy run. In Round 2 Standard, I was worried about the dogwalk exit, the weave entry and exit, and the end of the course. Our only fault: a teeter call. He definitely came off early, but I would’ve bet anyone $1,000 that the teeter would not be the fault on the course. It sucked, he would’ve been top 20 in that class. The next run was hybrid, which he smoked, but we were still six spots out of challengers. It sucked, I was pretty upset, but you can’t blame the little dog who doesn’t live with me 75% of the year and only does that crappy, bouncy, J&J teeter at NAC alone.

After NAC, my next big event was AKC International Team Tryouts with Zep, who I also don’t live with, and was certainly not ready for that level of competition. In April, I was wiped with organizing Extravaganja and trying to finish all of my midterms before my 21st birthday. The only agility I did with Zep was a lesson with Jen Pinder on April 17th, and then I didn’t see him until I went to Laura’s right before tryouts. We were going on a wing and a prayer at this point 😉 Unfortunately, it was at this point in April that Jonesy and  Kelso got hurt. In short, Jones has either a muscle pull or a disc problem in his back from what we think was getting off the bed, getting tangled in sheets and hyperextending his back. A few days later, mom went to get gas before an AKC trial, came home and Kelso was dead lame. He was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis. At this point, Zep was our only regularly competing dog since BAM! is now 12 and doesn’t run more than a few runs a day anymore. This made tryouts a difficult event for me. My focus was a little off because I was constantly worried about the condition of my agility dogs back home.

Aside from my mind being discombobulated, Zep was incredible. He had a refusal in round 1 which was my stupid threadle, first bar and a bizarre refusal in round 2, an off course that I knew was a trained skill (acceleration to a threadle) in round 3 with an other wise smokin run, and then got tired and exploded in round 4. He ended up 15th overall for European Open and was chosen as an alternate. I couldn’t be happier considering we need so much more work as a team and he needs more international skills. Turning…turning would be a skill haha.

After tryouts, I went back to UMass, took my microeconomics and statistics finals, watched my boyfriend graduate and proceeded to go home for a day, and then went off to Mid-Atlantic Regionals. This regional was incredibly bittersweet. I was running Glance for a broken Soshana in hopes of getting his last few legs for Cynosports and running Play for Val Duff in almost every class, as well as Zep in biathlon, but I wasn’t running Kelso or Jonesy, and they were sad every time I went back to the expen to take out a different dog. Overall it was a pretty good weekend, Zep won 14″ Steeplechase running with my mom ($88!), Play and Zep got a 12th and a Q in team with Rose Savkov and Tex hauling us across the qualifying line by SMOKING a  really hard Terry Smorch Team Jumpers where a lot of teams E’d. Play also got an elusive Masters Snooker Q, on the last run of the weekend, with 37points. 🙂 Finally, probably the coolest moment was Glance winning 26″ Biathlon, with our second and fifth runs together ever. He is a very fancy Shrew.

This period of time from Nationals through regionals was also incredibly difficult for me  physically. Over winter break, I got an MRI to finally figure out that my nagging back problem was a desiccated disc in my lumbar spine. It hurts, a lot, and a lot of the time. It is also aggravated by quick acceleration and rapid change of direction. Fancy that. I’ve been in PT since March, but it’s still a very long process. This year is one of recovery. I’m in PT, Jonesy and Kelso are in PT, BAM! is staying fit as an old dog, and Zep is staying fit as our only regularly competing dog. I don’t think we’re planning on Cynosports in October, we’re a little sick of the title of “furthest traveling competitors in the continental U.S.” [read: Cynosports in Arizona, Colorado and California, NAC in Tulsa and Reno] Depending on how Jones recovers (and how much AKC we decide to run), we may opt out of Reno as well.

That’s pretty much my entire spring. It’s almost summer, thankfully. I’m sick of being cold and snowed on. I begin what I’m considering my official start to summer with a road trip to Canada to teach for two days! This will not only be my first time teaching internationally, but my first time internationally at all. Yes, that means I’ve lived in Maine for over twenty years and have never been to Canada. As I step out the door for my Canadian travels with my perfect Canadian dog in about half an hour, I am incredibly grateful and excited. While many of my friends are waiting tables or working desk jobs, I get to do what I love all summer.

That is Spring in a Nutshell, I promise you’ll see more frequent blog posts. 🙂

Learning from Westminster

So I lied. I said I would be blogging ever month, but let’s make that twelve times a year an just not tell anyone. 🙂 My schedule has been nuts lately between agility, school, CRC and other student involvement and trying to have a social life. I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you’re probably quite aware that I compete in and instruct dog agility, so we’ll get back to that. For anyone interested, here’s an updated and abbreviated anecdote on my recent life that isn’t agility, if not, scroll down for some post-Westminster musings.

I’m currently a Resource Economics major with a focus in Managerial Economics, although I think that may shift a little bit. I was considering accounting as a major, so I’m taking the introductory class, but I may be withdrawing from that class and switching tracks from managerial to environmental and resource conservation. Accounting is most definitely not for me.

I’m treasurer of the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition. We’re currently planning the 23rd annual Extravaganja pro-cannabis political rally, so that is incredibly time consuming. For more information on the UMass CRC and Extravaganja, like us on Facebook or click here. I also participate in Divest UMass, which is a political organization on campus focused on getting the administration to take their large endowment out of fossil fuels and move it into sustainable industries. Again: Facebook and website for all of the amazing work that Divest does!

I also try to maintain a less-than-recluse level of social interaction with peers *gasp*. This usually involves going to shows and parties or sitting around pretending it isn’t single digits in March…Well, there is my life in a few paragraphs. Now for the relevant content [read: dog stuff].

On February 8, 2014 my mom and I competed in the Westminster Kennel Club Inaugural Master Agility Competition. I have to say, it was one of the most well run dog agility events in which I have ever participated. The staff was friendly and helpful, the show moved along at an incredible pace (I even missed one of my walkthroughs), the footing was good, the spectators and competitors were polite and it was all-around very fun.

The biggest adjustments I had to make were definitely the crowds and the publicity. First off, the crowds were about six people deep all day and packed curing finals. Now, the crowd didn’t make me more nervous, but it definitely added an element we don’t even see in national finals. I noticed this earlier in the day and reinforced my dogs for being ring side with crowd noise. Jonesy could’ve cared less, but Kelso gets a little nervous with a big roar. This is certainly a consideration to make if you’re planning your first big event. Crowd size at local trials is just not going to mimic the energy level and noise of a national final, let alone a nationally televised and publicized event.

This leads into my second main adjustment: publicity. While most of this came after the event, there were still reporters during the event that were really aggressive and right on you after a run. I had to work really hard to focus on my dogs while trying to answer questions 30 seconds out of the ring. This would probably be my only complaint, but it was irritating, especially when Jonesy wanted to growl at most of them. 😉

The agility itself was amazing. I really liked the surface, but some had a hard time with it, including Zep. There was a lot of slipping, but my dogs ran well. It’s very similar to what is used at Tryouts if that gives a nice reference point. Overall all five dogs ran really well. Zep had no Q’s with a fault in each. Pyro, a student’s Golden Retriever, ran with me amazingly  but had a bar in JWW and a refusal in Standard keeping him out of finals. BAM! at a month shy of 12 took 10th in 20″ Championship JWW!

Jonesy was his usual steady self. He was 2nd in Standard, 5th in JWW, 3rd 12″ cumulatively after three rounds and won 1st Place in 12″ Finals. Both of his RDWs were smokin‘ and he had startlines in all three runs. He is still not the fastest dog on course, but his consistency is what constantly puts him in the top finishers in a national event.

Finally, Kelso took 2nd in JWW, 5th in Standard, 3rd 20″ cumulatively after two rounds, won the 20″ Finals and took the Overall Masters Agility Championship title. He ran really well. Kelso has always run better on turf than any other surface (which shows based on how he hadn’t QQ’d between grass, dirt and rubber in 7 months). He has finally settled back into his lower jump height and has stopped falling on his head and jumping on his front trying to run a 20″ course like it’s 26″.

I do have to say, finals under the lights and on TV was amazing. I really went to Westminster to try and be on TV and represent dog agility while picking up some Q’s for nationals, but I’m incredibly fortunate that my dogs were able to carry me so far. Going for some QQ’s and walking away with three national titles and multiple press contacts was, and is still, an incredibly surreal experience.

The press hasn’t stopped since the second I finished Jonesy’s Standard run mid-day. The Associated Press, Portland Press Herald and the Today Show were among the many who have contacted me about the win. I was honored and happy to represent the agility community to the general public. I’m still hoping I didn’t sound too stupid in my post-run interviews trying to not yell into the mic, keep Jonesy from biting the very petite reporter whom he thought was a child, both while putting on my live TV filter which prevents my regular exclamations of “This is fuckin awesome!” and “Holy shit, we won!”

While the media attention and the praise from the agility community is welcome and much appreciated. I really owe it all to my dogs. They really ran that trial like they would run a local show on turf. They were unfazed by cameras, crowds, city habits and the overflow of Yankees hats.

Like I’ve said in most of my interviews, my dogs could care less whether or not we’re at a show competing or in my backyard training. They simply do agility when and where I ask them to do it. They’re so amazing and I can’t wait for two weeks of agility leading up to the AKC National agility Championships the last weekend in March. Jonesy is the only one going, but it should be an awesome event. I’ve been consistently impressed with the way the AKC runs their national events. They do a very good job keeping them as efficient as possible while still remaining hospitable and friendly. That is what will keep me coming back to AKC events. The draw of FCI was what started my journey to national level AKC competitions, but the ease of event coordination will keep me coming back. There is just so much time, money and effort put into qualifying and attending these national events that the treatment and appreciation of the competitors is becoming more important in my decision making process.

Well, that’s my little commentary on Westminster. Incredibly run, incredible results, incredible dogs. I hope to attend next year, but if they keep doing a random draw, everyone who can should enter because it’s a lot of fun. Here’s an iMovie project with all of the pictures and runs. Thanks to everyone involved in the WKC Show and everyone who has been so supportive!

Reboot 2014

I’m not being a very good blogger. I’ve had people tell me to keep writing. It’s not that I’m not writing, it’s that much of it is irrelevant to the dog world, but I’ve been writing a lot. If you want to see updates on my dog’s accomplishments throughout 2013 or any video, please visit the My Dogs tab or my YouTube channel, but this blog entry is to make a promise to update this blog at least once a month. Maybe keep up with Dog Agility Blog Action Day or just write a little something about dog training, agility or dogs in general.

I started this blog as a way to keep people updated on my training and trialing accomplishments. We’ve got a few trials to grab so qualifiers for the 2014-2015 season in AKC and USDAA in February and March. February 8 we’ll be competing in Westminster’s Masters Agility Championship. Hopefully we’ll make it to finals and get to be on TV! Jonesy goes to the AKC National Agility Championships in March, with a new running dogwalk and with or without me. International team Tryouts is coming up in May with Zep, as well as Mid-Atlantic Regionals.

While I really enjoy bragging about my dogs like anyone else, writing this blog has become a place for me to not only appreciate them further, but to express opinions on training, course design and current events or controversies in the agility world. It’s more for me than anyone. If people disagree with my opinions, they don’t have to read them, but I like having them on virtual paper. It acts as almost a record keeper, like a training log combined with a journal, on my opinions of certain issues at a given time. It’s an amazing outlet, but I also want to keep it updated more consistently so people can view my opinions if they would like.

With that said, I love the trend of internationalization that I’m seeing in agility just since January! USDAA Masters Challenge courses are getting more appropriately difficult, I’m seeing more backsides in AKC and UKI is moving into New England. I have also seen many people who were shying away from the “european style” courses embrace them and succeed. Hopefully this continues to happen.

See you in February!

Awesomeness

Sorry for being the worst blogger ever. I love to write, but doing fun writing on top of school writing is a hard thing to do. I tend to choose fun sleeping or fun sports-watching over fun writing. Because I’m in the middle of finals week I’m literally just going to do a list. A list of what I’ve accomplished in these past year, a list of what I’m grateful for, just a list of awesomeness.

We’ll start off early in the year:

-In February, Jonesy qualified for this upcoming AKC Nationals after nine days of showing.

-In April, Jonesy got a Steeplechase bye and Kelso got a GP bye at the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

-In May, Kelso and I attended World Team Tryouts as an FEO team. This was when I really realized we could take on an international field and do really well. I am so grateful for that weekend and the amazingly supportive competitors.

-In July, all four of our dogs finished qualifying for Cynosports and at the New England regional, Kelso picked up his Steeplechase bye.

September was where everything kind of blew up. School crept up on me very quickly after a busy gap year of teaching, competing and working. I was getting bored in my small town, anxious and ready to leave, but by the time it was here, I was shocked. I was scared, but it was also one of the best months of my life.

-Labor day weekend Jonesy finished his MACH two days before I went to school. His first MACH, my first MACH, the first Ratner MACH, all in 14 months of Excellent B trialing. That dog is incredible.

-I immediately got all my schoolwork done for the next month so I would have the ability to take that full week off for Cynosports. I’m super grateful for my own willingness to set aside a normal social life for the month of September so I could have the opportunity to continue competing at a national level.

-Cynosports 2012: two Steeplechase Semifinalists, a 30th place team, 3rd in GP semis and Kelso came home as the 2012, 26″ National Grand Prix Champion. I’m still shocked. I was happy to run in semis for the first time and thrilled that I put down a clean run, let alone make it into finals!

-Last weekend in September: Kelso qualifies for 2013 AKC Nationals with his last QQ a few days after we got back from Colorado. That was a good week.

-October settled down, more school, less agility. I gave Kelso a good three weeks off from anything but hiking and massage. We did manage to pick up a GP qualifier at the end of the month. I also went and filmed WAO Jumping just before the hurricane!

-The first weekend in November we went to the BARK trial and Kelso grabbed the last standard for his ADCH/LAA-Bronze.

-That weekend, mom took Kelso back to Maine for three weeks. I think it was good for both of us. I had SO MUCH class work. Actually like papers on papers on projects on exams. It was rough. This also let me be a little more normal in terms of a social life. Non-agility people severely underestimate the amount of time an agility dog can take out of your day! hahaha 🙂 I got to go on a crazy trip with some of the coolest people I’ve met at UMass. It was pretty amazing.

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-We went to the Thanksgiving Cluster and everyone had some nice runs. One of the highlights of the weekend was definitely baby Zep’s first QQ. He picked up 7th in standard with mom holding his contacts and he and I took 2nd in JWW to big brother Race!  All of the boys did great in ISC as well, but the true highlight was 13 7/8″ Jones taking 2nd in 18″ ISC Jumping to Rush and John. Truly amazing. That dog is ridiculous. He also finished his XF to boot.

-Last week I found out that Kelso has been selected as the 650mm first alternate for the 2013 USA World Agility Open team. I can’t handle it, it never ceases to amaze me.

-Two days ago I went on USDAA’s awards site and found out that Jonesy is the #3 Miniature Schnauzer in history. Kimie, of course, being number one and Stacy’s amazing Krusher at #2, barely ahead of Jonesy! Krusher and Jonesy are both two gambles from ADCH/LAA Silver, which will make them the 2nd and 3rd miniature schnauzers in history to earn that tile. Unbelievable.

Now it’s finals week and I’m tired. I wanna go to bed sooner and sleep later, but I’m studying. I have a trial this weekend in Manchester on the way home for Christmas…errr…politically correct ambiguous holiday break. I get to see my Maine people. I’m very excited, especially since I haven’t been home since September! I can’t wait to see everyone. I’m grateful for all of the amazing opportunities, experiences and amazing people this year has brought to me, but I’m ready for a break.