Sunday, January 30, 2011

Last Day of Driving

This post is almost exactly the same was what I just posted on Facebook.

I left Huston around 10, I think. Hard to remember now. The drive was long, but uneventful, that is, until I arrived on base and the person behind me ran into a barrier then sped off and the front gate guard handed me back my ID and took off to chase him on foot. Since then nothing else eventful has happened and I think that is a good thing.

This morning I went to church, then the BX/ Commissary, drove around a bit trying to figure on the location of certain things, changed, went for a run, then explored a bit. That will be in a following post.

Back to the drive.

Approaching a tall bridge.

Down the other side.

A huge swamp. In fact, the largest swamp in the US. Read more here:

I bet this is where Ms. Viola Swamp comes from. The Swamp is Watching You!

I had been driving for...some time, when I realized I had been on a bridge over the swamp for... some time! The bridge is over 18 miles long and is one of the longest in the world!

It goes on and on and on.

Approaching a bridge over the Mississippi River.

I was a bit disappointed with Old Muddy. Or is it Big Muddy? I thought it would be wider.

Looking up river. Yawn.

I made it!

This is something outside a rest stop near the Stennis Space Center. Either a robotic probe or lunar landing vehicle. I couldn't really tell and the picture isn't great either.

I got really lucky and got a room above my pay grade! They didn't have room in the building with the shared bathrooms where I was supposed to stay.

It is in a 2 story building and I am on the second floor, so no one to make noise above me. One of the other buildings is 5 stories. Also, judging by the parking lot most of the rooms are not used right now, and everything is nice and quiet. There is a free laundry room and the bed is very comfy.

Stay tuned for my big adventure exploring the Old Cemetery!

Old(ish) Agility Photos

These were taking waaaayyy back in November 2010 at Dottie's first show. Being that I have a bit of time on my hands here in MS, I got them all ready to post.

First, one of Fancy.

Then one of Pie, who takes agility seriously. But not so seriously that she is unable to have lots of fun!

And all the rest are of the baby puppy because it was her first show! Once again I've censored my last name out even though there is enough information about my dogs in this blog that any determined Google user can probably find it in about.... 1 second. Oh well.

Whee!!! Dot seems to say that a lot.

On the start line.

On the teeter.

Weaving like a pro.

And this one really is an old photo.

At least, as it relates to Dottie. Taken on a rainy day when ffluffy still lived in CA and we would meet in pet stores to train our puppies when it was raining outside. Dottie was practicing being shaped to get into a basket. For those who don't know the lingo- in the simplest terms, shaping is when you reward the dog for offering a behavior, rather than luring them into position or positioning them yourself. So when Dot looked at the basket I would reward, then stop rewarding that and wait for her to move towards it, then put a paw on it, then in it and so on. Shaping is useful when you need a behavior that is difficult to explain to the dog- for example, poking a stick with their nose. Sure, you can push a dog into a sit, say "Sit!" and reward, but it is much harder to maneuver a nose onto a stick. Plus, shaping has the benefit of the dog choosing to learn and thinking about what they are learning. That seems to get longer lasting results from one session to the next, over luring or physically manipulating.

That was your 10 second training tidbit of the day.

Looking at pictures of my dogs isn't nearly as good as being with them, but it is better than nothing! Plus, I realize I am lucky in many ways: this is only a training TDY, not a real deployment to a combat zone, it is only 2 months instead of a regular AF 6 month tour or the Army 12- 15 month tour (yikes!) and while I miss my dogs, I know of people who have left new born babies behind and come home when they were a year old. 2 months away from my dogs is a lot easier than any of those things.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Still on the Road

I made it to Houston today. First, I want to apologize to Lexi for not stopping in to see her as I zipped through San Antonio. I really, really wanted to but I am driving a lot of hours each day and didn't think a 15 minute visit would be very satisfactory. My list of people "To Visit" (Claire in NC, Anna in WA and Lexi in TX) isn't getting any shorter, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work. I wish my school was at Lackland. Then I'd be coming over every night!

My motel room here at the Huston Motel 6 is interesting. It is "brand new" and very different. Too bad the light colored bed spread shows the stains. Ugg.

I'm glad the stains don't show up in the picture.

Note the pergo floors and flat screen TV. If I had a monitor cable I could hook my computer up to the TV and watch dog videos nice and big.

Fancy bathroom.

I brought my dollar store poinsettia on the trip with me. When I left CA it was doing well. I left it in the car over night in AZ and then in Van Horn. I removed it while packing up the car the next day and found it had died. I am hoping it is not completely dead. I watered it a lot and put it on the dashboard for a full day of sun. However, I think the direct sun was not good for it either and now it is even more wilted. I think it got very cold overnight in Van Horn, if the temperature the next day was anything to go by. It dried out and froze. I will nurse it back to health, I hope.

Starting out this morning.

What the poor thing looks like tonight. I think tomorrow I will leave it in the shade.

Speaking of Van Horn, don't be fooled by the town's logo. I figured any town with a logo must be on the way up, but sadly, I think the logo was just a ruse to fool people like me. That town I don't know what to say. One perfectly straight street of no-name, discount motels, most empty and boarded up, plus a "Fancy Junk and Unusual Objects" lot. Pretty sad for the people that used to own the motels. One of the redeeming spots was the Chewy's. They have these in CA also. I think TX and CA are the only places. I would have eaten there if it was lunch time.

I went for a jog in the morning and almost died. Apparently the 4000 ft elevation was too much for this sea level wimp. I wanted to do 2 miles but only did 1.5. Good thing Keesler is on the beach.

Nothing else to report. Stopped at Junction, TX for gas and Sonic. Yum. I think the town itself might have been off the freeway, because the only things I saw in Junction was the Dairy Queen, the Sonic and 2 gas stations.

In closing I will say that just because there are certain people I haven't seen for years (!) doesn't mean I don't think about them a lot!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Is This Suitcase So Heavy??

I made this before I left.

I must say- either that is a big suitcase or a small Malinois. Actually, a bit of both. It is a big suitcase and while Pie is normal sized, Dottie is only 40 pounds.

My dogs are so good to do whatever weird and strange thing I ask them to do. And to do it happily. Look at those wagging tails.

On the Road :(

Why do I give my blog title a sad face? It is because I have left CA for 2 months of military training in MS, and as a last minute change of plan I left the dogs behind. I think that qualifies for a sad face.

Please no lectures (from anyone!) about how this was "a mature decision" or "it is for the best" because I knew all along bringing my dogs with me was not the best choice, but I didn't care. I had a plan and had everything worked out. I do not thinking taking them would cause any problems, but when people at work started questioning me about what I was doing with my dogs when I was gone, and 2 people came right out and asked if I was taking them, I was forced to change my plans. I could not tell these people I was not taking them, and then take them, because that is lying and is wrong in any circumstances, and in the military will get you in extra huge trouble. I could not tell these people I was taking them because I knew that was not what they wanted to hear. Which meant I had to tell them they were staying with my best friend, and then change my plans to make that true.

So, I had to call up my best, most trusted friend ffluffy, who luckily had already offered to take them before I had my trailer plan in place, and tell her I was taking her up on the offer. I welcome comments on how I can make it up to her. Taking care of 3 extra dogs, 2 of them Malinois and one a Malinois puppy, is not something to be taken lightly. Maybe I should nominate her to the Pope for sainthood. What miracles can I attribute to her? Hmmmmm..... I'll have to think about that one more. Seriously, it is a huge deal she is doing this for me.

Now I am in a lonely Motel room in Van Horn, TX. No dogs. And no dogs for 2 months. I already have dog envy, watching people at the gas stations walking their dogs. I know my dogs will be fine with ffluffy but I am the one who may not be fine. However, leaving them with her was a lot easier than leaving them in a kennel, or at home with someone coming over twice a day. They love ffluffy and her house is lots of fun too. She might enter Pie or Dottie in an agility trial or two.

I did not leave any dogs with my parents (for those who are wondering) because they did not offer to take Dottie (gee, I wonder why?) and Fancy pesters Molly and Pie needs her Pie Pill at certain times of the day and is also not allowed to play with certain toys and maybe that sounded like too many instructions. Plus, since they wouldn't take Dottie, and I knew none of ffluffy's dogs would appreciate a Mal pup chewing on their limbs, I thought Dot and Pie should stay together so Dottie could have someone who didn't mind her type of play. Which means everyone ended up at ffluffy's.

They had better behave themselves. And I hope Fancy does not become too depressed and think I abandoned her forever. She constantly harbors that suspicion, even though I tell her it would never happen. Pie and Dottie are happy to see me, like any dog, but Fancy is very frantic and desperate when she greets me. It makes me sad to think she is constantly worried about being left behind.

As I was packing up the car I propped the front door open, and Pie kept coming about a body length out and just standing there, even though she knows she is not supposed to come out unless I tell her too. I kept telling her to get back inside, then I realized what was going on and just let her get in the car. She knew there was a trip coming and did not want to be left behind. It was also nice that I was able to take the dogs with me on the first leg of the journey (ffluffy lives in AZ) rather than leaving them in the house and driving off. That would probably feed into Fancy's fear of being left behind.

Here is me at a rest stop in TX... somewhere. I wasn't actually happy to be there, but have been conditioned to smile for cameras. I want to photoshop the dogs in
with me....

Me and the trusty oh six Buick- 98000 miles. Will hit 100000 soon!

PS- I think it should be a law that any truck carrying a wide load must state what the heck that thing is so you are not left to wonder. There are some strange huge objects traversing our nations highways.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Agility Videos

Fancy on Saturday in Standard. Fourth place- tricky opening! Late commands on my part.

I hope Pie's video shows up in my email. If so I will post it. Pie also ran clean with a second place. She came in second to the Australian Shepherd that is acutally a 20 inch dog but chooses to run in the 24 inch class. He tends to beat us by a few 10ths of a second only. It is frusterating to constantly come in second to a dog that has an advantage over us! A shorter dog can turn tighter. I wish AKC would change the rule and made dogs compete in the jump height they measure in to. I don't care about the multiplying points for first place (they should be going away soon and Pie already has enough points for her Mach 3, she just needs 20 QQs) I just want the first place since I believe we deserve it. We were the fastest 24 inch dog. I usually don't get too worked up about it since I'm not that competitive, but at our last few shows it has been all seconds behind the same dog so it was kind of a cumulative frustration.

Dottie's standard run:

She falls of the teeter but is not injured. I choose to do it again then per the new rule, must leave. I am proud she thought about trying to jump back on twice before I actually asked her to. What a good girl. Also relieved she is uninjured because it looked really nasty. No Qs for Dottie all weekend. Both jumpers runs were great- knocked bar each time (Don't shout her name over the jump!) and in standard on the second day she was very distracted and not focused at all. I know she is still such a young dog so I'm not worried about that at all. The awesome jumpers runs show me what she is capable of so I focus on those and dream of the day when she runs like that all weekend.

Agility Thougths

I've come to the conclusion that AKC courses are not designed for 26 inch dogs (possibly not for 24 inch dogs either but that is a different matter.) I watched three dogs run in the 26 in class this weekend and to me it looked like all of those dogs were trying to keep the bars up but could not put in the right amount of strides then take off from the correct spot to keep them up. In one run, one of the dogs had 2 full strides between a jump but that put him too close to the base of the jump and he contorted his body but ticked the bar and it came down. Watching the jumping styles of those dogs it doesn't quite look natural. I wonder if they had more room if they could have a nicer arc.

Agility is so weird that way. "They" come up with a rule- big does must jump 26 inches to qualify for the World Team, but they don't take into account that dogs in other countries jumping 26 inches are running a different type of course. Also, I have been told not only are the style of the course different, but each size of dog (small, medium and large) run a different course with different spacing between the jumps. Therefore, the small dogs aren't running forever between jumps, and the large dogs are not taking one jump and landing on top of another.

USDAA runs 26 inches as a mandatory height instead of the "optional" 26 inch height in AKC, but those judges are used to thinking about 26 inch dogs (I hope) where in AKC the 26 inch dogs are an afterthought. What is the purpose of jumping so high anyway? I don't want it to be like flyball were the dogs are hardly jumping, but what do high jumps do for the sport, other than stop our dogs from competing for as long as they want? Their bodies give out before their desire to play the game. I've read the big dogs used to jump 30 inches in agility- a legacy of obedience. I'm happy that went away.

Friday, January 21, 2011

More Silliness

To Dottie:
(I'm a Little Teapot)

I’m a little puppy

Tall and Skinny

Here is my tongue

Here is my tail

Open my crate,


Let me out!

To Pie: (who has experienced at least three of the following in one form or another)

Hush little Malinois

Don’t you cry

Mama’s going to buy you a mocking bird

If that mocking bird gets eat

Mama’s going to buy you some smelly feet

If that smelly foot gets chomped

Mama’s going to buy you a stagnate swamp

If that stagnate swamp is too clean

Mama’s going to buy you a bad guy so mean

If that bad guy so mean runs away

Mama’s going to buy you a rose bouquet

If that rose bouquet is torn to shreds

Mama’s going to buy you some agents comma Feds

If those agents prefer a GSD,

Mama’s going to keep you all for me!

Both of these evolved because when the Mals get whinny I do sing them Hush Little Malinois and the words change each time. I'm a Little Puppy came about because as Dottie wanders around the house causing trouble and I chastise her for it, she always seems to tell me, "But I'm just a little puppy, how can I be any trouble?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Schutzhund Training Videos

The Schutzhund training videos from Sunday.



I am happy to see that even when the girls get corrected, their tails never stop wagging.

We trained again Monday afternoon and Pie was... not quite as docile as normal. She was so excited and so into her work she wasn't listening very well. During the transport before we got into position she was actually quivering with anticipation.

For those who don't know- I'm leaving for Mississippi for my job for 2 months. I'm bringing the dogs. I'm starting to get anxious and I am lucky because that is an unusual state for me. In order to no longer be anxious, I've made a list of all the things I need to do before I leave and I've started moving things I'm going to take into my spare room. I can't start loading the trailer until a day before I leave due to laws about leaving it parked on the street. I feel better already.

Today the weather is beautiful and warm! Fancy is at the groomer's getting a haircut (can't take a dirty dog on a trip.) I'm going to have some lunch (left over from the club BBQ!) then sit outside and enjoy the sun, then cross some more items off my list by getting my car's oil changed and the coolant replaced. A full day a head of me (and probably not that thrilling to read about.)

Note: I also hope to squeeze in a jog and track all three dogs. There is a tracking test in Northern CA April 10th. Can I be ready for that? Can I get my dogs certified while I'm in MS??

Sunday, January 16, 2011

BBQ and SchH Training

Today was a great day of Schutzhund training and a BBQ. Great food, company and training!

For the first time I did an entire SchH 1 routine with Pie. She has never done the transport before but did well. I realized she hasn't done a true escape bite either. I figured that out when I was wondering- "Why is she staring at me? Doesn't she know the helper is about to run away?" Nope, she did not know! We did the entire routine, but not straight through. Mistakes were made and training was accomplished. The first wrong thing Pie did was get distracted by a sleeve on the field. Pie, Pie, Pie....

Pie has come such a long way. Watching the videos, I though- Wow- she doesn't look too bad.

A lot of times I don't actually get to see my dogs doing the bark and hold because by the time I get around the blind, they have already been given a bite as a reward for doing a good job. So by watching the videos I got to see both of them. Dottie is way too cute to ever be taken seriously. What a cute little one. I love how both of their tails wag the whole time. Dottie is coming along quickly. She started much later than Pie, but because her confidence did not need to be nurtured, she has been able to progress faster.

One more thing I learned by watching my videos is that Dottie gets excited hearing the voice of "her" helper coming out of the computer. She even tried out a "woof!" to see if that would get her anything. Here are pictures I took of other club members. And a few I had a member take of my dogs.

Doing the go out during obedience.

Pie and I heeling.


Boxer doing the stand out of motion.

A young dog practicing heeling.

A different dog doing a go out.

Dottie over the hurdle.

A young dog doing "sack" work.

Running the blinds.

More running.

A bite.

Another young dog.

She is learning the game quickly!

About to run the blinds. Does he know he is being watched?

The transport.

You won't outrun this guy.

The boxer runs the blinds.

6 month old puppy (very young dog!) who knows her stuff.

Same girl posing for a picture. I really like sable GSDs.

Videos of Pie and Dottie in the next post.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Schutzhund Training Last Night

Dottie and Pie did well at schutzhund last night. At one point C (the helper) hid on one side of the blind, not in it. Dottie ran into the blind and popped into her sit and was about to start barking when she realized no one was in there. She spun out and around the blind and started her barking in front of C. We are having a BBQ this Sunday and K wants to recreate it and get it on tape, but I’m not sure she’ll fall for it twice. Pie is doing good at calling out of the blind. Dottie is not as good so we are doing a pick up with her when I walk in, tell her to sit, then heel her out. I was attempting to practice this and she wouldn’t look at me when I said heel. I popped her leash a few times to get her attention. It did not work. After I stopped yanking on her, C said, “What collar is she on?” She was on her small prong, which is harsher than Pie’s big prong. He was amused and told me to move it up higher, which I did with better results. Then, I tried to turn away from him into Dottie (left) but he told me to go right. Dottie would not come with me. She would look at me when I said, “Heel” then as soon as I tried to turn to the right she would just stare at the helper. Corrections had zero effect. Eventually K (who has Belgians) shouted, “Have her go left” and as soon as I pivoted left it was perfect. K said Belgians do not have the genetic material to go right. Silly, but maybe true?

All three (that includes Fancy) did well at tracking on Monday. The other day they wouldn’t down on the articles. So K (who has been helping me so much!) told me to make the track harder and now they are downing again. It is so cool because I am not using any food in the footsteps now, so it is totally real tracking. They get food reward after they down on the article. I love tracking and will write more about it later.

I did my run this morning and really pushed myself hard. Felt a little nauseous but my time was not better than my last time. I have trained the dogs to run at my slow pace so I know when I am going faster when I have to tell them to go faster because I end up between Dottie and Pie or kick the back of their legs with my toes.

I was just about to step out the door to go to agility when it started raining. I'm now waiting on a call to tell me if class is still on.

Just got the call and I'm off!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bug Face

Pie has a body expression/ facial expression she uses when she finds a bug. She made it earlier today and I walked over with trepidation to see what she had found. Sure enough, it was a beetle type thing, semi-creepy. I squished it.

Pie seems to have mixed feelings about bugs and her special bug face reflects this. She is both intrigued and repulsed. She tips her ears at the found bug, pokes it a bit, then backs off, only to come back with tipped ears again. Sometimes she tastes the small critter but has not eaten any recently.

Pie is always entertaining!

Mach 2 Pie

Yeah Pie! She got QQ number 19 on Friday, missed her a frame contact on Saturday, then got QQ number 20 on Sunday in the pouring rain! Video here:

Pie is a great agility partner. She loves the game, which is the best part. When ever it is Fancy or Dottie's turn, she always gets excited, hoping I will pick her instead. Pie listens well and tires hard. She is getting so consistent, and is winning or placing more often. 3 weekends ago she came in first over 30 other dogs! Usually the 24 inch class is not that big.

Pie is wonderful!

Notice the rain in the picture!

Dottie also showed this weekend. She had an amazing jumpers run which did not get filmed. It was super fast and accurate, just one bar down. The rest of her runs were ok to good. Videos here:

Dottie now has 2 standard legs and one jumpers leg in open.

Dottie is mostly listening well. I hope she continues to increase her enjoyment of agility. She seems to enjoy it, but has "turned on" to it 100% yet. It might come with time.

Dottie checks out her ribbons from this weekend. My sister says the motivation for this scene is Scene: Cold, wet puppy. Lovingly wrapped up by owner after a hard day of work. Look pitiful and put-upon. Be sure to tip one ear over for extra cuteness. Work hard to make everyone forget that you were once called "Knotty aka Naughty". Restrain urge to nibble ribbon, thereby reminding everyone that you really are trouble and quite possibly should have retained your original name. And....action!

Here is the final shot.

I cannot get the formatting right! This is a picture of Fancy with what is left of one of the toys the dogs got as "check in toys." Fancy, Pie, Dottie and Molly had this toy for playtime and only the head and one antenna is left. They kept brining these pitiful remains for me to throw.

Pie's ribbons from the three days of agility. The small green ribbon is a Q but no placement and the large green rosette is a QQ ribbon. She had 2 QQs but the club on Friday did not give out QQ ribbons. The ribbon between her feet is the MACH ribbon.