A Sad Day

Today, I let go of my long-time companion and working partner.

A very young Cessna and I stand together. She is wearing her black leather CVC harness.

Cessna was my third guide from the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. We were matched on May 27, 2005, at which time she was only 19 months of age.

Today, I let go of the dog who taught me time and patience can lead to good things.

Due to her young age and spunky nature, we faced many trials and tribulations during the first couple years of our partnership. With patience and understanding, we were a successful team for about eight years. Cessna retired in the fall of 2013.

Cessna and I posing in the deer park. I'm squatting down and she is sitting, while a dozen or so deer surround us.

Today, we let go of the dog who changed our training philosophy.

Cessna learning to close a cupboard door with her nose.

Cessna had many emotional scars, so the training methods taught by her school did not work for us. I was determined to make our partnership work, so began researching alternatives. Through lessons at Dogs In The Park, a local dog training school, I learned about clicker training and positive reinforcement methods. It wasn’t until I learned this new philosophy, that Cessna and I really took off as a team.

Because of Cessna, all future dogs who entered our home have only known positive reinforcement methods.

Today, we let Cessna fly fast and run free!!!

Cessna running threw deep snow. The snow is flying up behind her as she runs.

On Wednesday night, Huib and I returned home from our trip to Victoria to find Cessna in poor health. It appeared she was going through a vestibular episode (also known as old dog syndrome). Phoenix dealt with this when he was 14, almost fully recovering within a few weeks, but given Cessna’s already poor health and mobility, she just didn’t have the fight left in her – she would have been 15 on the 30th.

So we did what was best for her, our duty as her family, we let her go.

I hope Phoenix, Aspen and Logan are there to meet her at the Rainbow Bridge and help her cross over safely.

Phoenix, Cessna and Aspen lying in the grass side-by-side. Cessna has her ears perked up, as though she is seeing a squirrel.

Until we meet again, fly fast and run free our little firecracker!!!

The Good and the Not So Good

On Thursday evening, Rogue and I got together with D for a run. It was a lot warmer than Tuesday, so I found myself taking longer to catch my breath after a run. Nevertheless, we made it through our workout of: 100 m running and 300 m walking, four times.

*****
On Friday morning we met up with Laura to do some tracking in the field with Rogue and Canyon. It has been about six months or more since either of them tracked in a field, so we were curious to see where they were at.

Canyon struggled with parts of the track that went against the grain, but did amazingly well on other parts. I think with weekly practice, he will be ready to try for his TD this fall.

Rogue’s track wasn’t crazy long, or challenging, but I thought she was fabulous!!! I found her easy to read and I didn’t notice her struggle at any point. I am really hoping to attempt her TDX in the fall. This will be our second try.

*****
On Saturday, Huib and I took Arizona to a UKC rally trial. She only needed one more leg to finish off her RO1 title, so we decided to only enter the one day.

Their first run was awesome!!! She qualified with a score of 96!!!

She lost a few marks for a tight leash, but otherwise their run was beautiful!!!

In their second run, Huib accidentally missed a station, so they did not qualify. Rally is tough, as the signs are pretty close together, so it is easy to miss a station.

Overall, I thought they did a pretty fantastic job!!!

*****
On Sunday morning, we met up with Laura to do some urban tracking. Even though it was pretty hot – 26 – the dogs did a pretty awesome job!!!

Arizona had a short, but challenging track. Laura wanted to get her back into tracking, rather than continuously giving up when it got tough, so she tried to give her a good experience. She added in a bit more hard surface than she is used to, but this did not create any problems. If I had to give her a mark, I think I’d give her an 80%.

Canyon’s track had some long grass and contamination, but neither one caused an issue. I will give him an 85%.

Rogue found one corner a bit tough, but I didn’t have to help her and she figured it out. I thought she did a really amazing job on her track, so she gets a 90%!!!

*****
Yesterday Rogue and I ran with D. According to the schedule we are following, our assignment was: 200 m running and 200 m walking, four times. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, as my migraines were horrible Sunday and Monday, so I did not get a workout in. It went surprisingly well. I struggled to get through the final 200 m of running, but I did it!!!

D and I meet again Thursday, so we are going to try some new things with the warm-up. We are going to try a slow jog with a walk just before we hit the trail. I’ll let you know how it works.

Last night was our final field class of the season. I’m sad it’s over, but I think we also need to take a break and reassess where the holes in Arizona’s training exist. I thought this was possibly our worst class in a while.

Ari refused to pick up a duck, something she has not done in a really long time, and she seemed to have a lot of trouble locating her marks. I was totally fine with her initially hesitating to pick up a different kind of bird, but to refuse a duck was frustrating!!! I’m not sure why she found the marks so challenging, maybe a break will help us both.

As you can see, it’s been a pretty mixed week so far.

Success and Struggles

On Saturday, Huib and Arizona made their CKC rally debut. They earned a qualifying score of 90 in the first trial, and 83 in the second. In the first trial, they primarily lost points because of a tight leash. Ari still gets distracted and sniffy in the ring. In the second trial, they lost points because of a tight leash, and because Huib went up the wrong side of the weaves – OOPSIE!!! Overall, it was a good experience.

Arizona sitting with a rosette attached to her collar.

This weekend, Ari will hopefully finish off her RO1, which is the UKC version of rally novice. She will attempt to complete her CKC RN at the end of the month.

*****

In training news. I have decided to stop training for the Victoria half marathon, as I was beginning to dislike running, and I really do not have enough time to train. Six weeks is really not enough time for anyone to train for such a long distance.

Instead, I have decided to go back to the beginning and work through one of Jeff Galloway’s training programs. I am going to work through his four week plan that will have me running a full mile. Once I complete that schedule, I’ll move onto his two mile plan. I’m hoping by taking a step back, I will find my love for running.

Sunday, was the first day of my new schedule. It went well. I did a five minute warm-up at 3.1 miles, then did four reps of 0.08 mi (or 100 m) at 4.8 and 0.16 mi (or 300 m) at 3.4, with a five minute cool down at 3.0.

My guide runner is back for the school year, so we got together on Tuesday. D, Rogue and I did a brisk walk warm-up, then did 100 m at a comfortable run and 300 m at a brisk walking pace, with a cool down at a less brisk pace. The weather was nice, with a comfortable temperature of 20 C. Both D and I over-dressed, wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts (I actually wore my jacket over a t-shirt), so by the end, I needed to take my jacket off.

On the weekend, Huib and I went to Mountain Equipment Co-op for new hiking boots and a day-pack for me to use when running with Rogue. I got a really comfortable pair of men’s black/grey Keens. I got a men’s pair, as they only had a limited number of women’s left. I am an 8.5 or 9, but they only had a 10.5 left. My new backpack is medium blue and has a hydration pack built in for summer. I needed a small pack that i could put Rogue’s harness into, while we ran, but that would not bounce around. I use my new pack on Tuesday, and it was perfect!!!

D and I get together again on Thursday.

*****

Last night we had field class. We arrived at 6pm and no one was really ready to work, so we took Ari over to a pond and did some bumper retrieves. I held her, asked her to “MARK,” and Huib tossed in two bumpers. I released her and she went to get a bumper. When she gave it to me, I asked her to “Find your mark, where’s your mark.” When she looked towards it, I released her. She easily swam over to it, so when she returned the bumper, I held her and Huib tossed three bumpers in. She was able to find two, but struggled a bit with the third, so we repeated the three-bumper toss. Ari did a lot better on her second attempt, so we ended the session with a fun bumper toss.

During class we worked on land retrieves. Susie had three gunner stations, so Ari did a double and then retrieved a single bird. She struggled with the double, but Susie told us not to worry, as it was a tough setup. To try and help her learn, Susie had us run through the exact same setup after a couple other dogs had run. Ari still found the double confusing.

Here are a couple pictures from her second run.

Arizona running through a field with a duck in her mouth.

Arizona handing me the duck. I am wearing black pants with an off-white jacket and a pink baseball cap.

We’ll get there someday…

Week in Review

On Thursday, Huib laid tracks for everyone on his way home from work. Both Canyon and Rogue did well, but Arizona didn’t do quite as good. Canyon ran into problems on the third leg, but worked it out. Rogue had to work out a couple spots that were more contaminated, but didn’t really run into any major issues. Ari had a tough time settling into the track, but after the second turn, she did a good job. Her main problem in the beginning was related to distraction, but she figured things out.

After tracking, we got out a frisbee and bumper for a game of fetch. The dogs had a blast. Canyon tends to hog the toys, so we always bring two.

Later on, I attempted to do three miles on the treadmill, plus a 10 minute warm-up and five minute cool down. I made sure to hydrate and eat before my workout, but I still ran into issues – deciding to give up after 2.5 miles. I had a migraine all day, so was highly medicated. I think I ran into a mix of energy problems from the meds, and a bit of a mental block that keeps me from pushing harder. I had to take a 30 second break after 1.5 miles, as my breathing was too heavy, but otherwise it went okay.

I need to figure out how to get over this mental block, otherwise I am not going to be able to do the half marathon on October 8. Already, I think I am leaving things a bit tight.

Yesterday, we took the dogs for a 9.2 kilometre hike along The Avon Trail, near St. Jacob’s. It was forecasted to be about 27, plus humidity, so we packed lots of water. Canyon wore his Ruffwear Swamp Cooler and Palisade’s Pack, but halfway through, he seemed to be warm, so we took the pack off. I think the vest was having trouble keeping him cool with the pack on. The girls wore their Front Range Harnesses, and got to spend a lot of the time off leash. I really think we should get an activity tracker for Ari, as I’m pretty sure she probably did triple the distance we did. Canyon stayed on leash with us, so we didn’t have to worry about him getting into the numerous water and mud holes along the trail.

When we were done, Arizona was so covered in burrs, that we had to combed her out a bit before she got into the car. Since Canyon didn’t get into as much of the taller grass, he had only a few burrs, while Rogue had none. I think her short fur makes it tough for burrs to attach.

This morning, we had tracking with Laura and another person. Rogue did a fabulous job on her track!!! She really didn’t have any problems. Arizona did a pretty good job. She tried to give up two-thirds of the way through, as I think she was warm, but Huib encouraged her to keep going and she finished out. Canyon had an uncharacteristically poor day – at least lately it’s uncharacteristic. He was distracted and really never settled in to track. It might have been because he found a baseball along the first leg, or because there were 30-40 geese hanging out, or maybe it just wasn’t his day. We’ll probably lay another track for him on Wednesday.

Adventures in Running: Training Update

I haven’t talked about my running or swimming much this summer on the blog.

I have been running regularly, but not swimming often.

On June 24th, I did a five kilometre race at Guelph Lake. The route was very hilly, and it was raining a lot, so my time wasn’t the greatest – about 47 minutes. I wasn’t happy with the time, but given the conditions, and lack of outdoor running leading up to the race, I guess it wasn’t that horrible.

On August 11th, I did a 10 kilometre race with my friend Jason and a couple guys he runs with. Overall, the race went well. My final time was 1:26, which is about 8.1 minutes per kilometre. I was pretty happy with my time.

I need to work on my endurance and on finding a pace that i can do for a long period of time. I ran too fast during the first five kilometres, so at about the eighth, I began to struggle. I am still doing races in a run/walk interval, so as I got closer to the end, my walk portion of the interval got longer. I started with a 1/1 interval, but then went to a 30/1 interval, and ended the race at a 30/90 interval – BLAH!!!

On October 8th, there is a marathon in Victoria. I have decided to try doing the half marathon with my friend Jess, and a couple of her friends.

I began training a while ago, but my more serious training started last week. I am using a modified version of Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk Half Marathon Plan. I had to modify it, as I really only have six weeks to train.

Last week went pretty well. I started with a 1.5 mile run/walk interval, with a 10 minute warm-up and five minute cool down. The next day, I did a two mile run/walk interval with a warm-up and cool down. I cannot do more than two days in a row, so I took the following day off.

On Sunday, I attempted to do a three mile run/walk, with my usual warm-up and cool down. It did not go well, at all!!!

I gave up at two miles. 🙁

Looking back, I didn’t drink enough throughout the day, and I was hungry before I even started, so my hamstrings were uncomfortable and I didn’t have the energy to push through.

On Monday, we went to the Victoria Road Recreation Centre for their 9pm swim. I haven’t gone to the pool in a month or so, but it really didn’t seem to matter. I swam 1100 metres, with my first 500 metres being in about 23 minutes!!!

Tuesday, I made sure to drink three bottles of water and a Gatorade over the morning/afternoon, and ate a bowl of Mini Wheats an hour or so prior to my workout.

I got through 2.5 miles, with my usual warm-up and cool down, without absolutely any discomfort!!! My only issue was boredom, so I listened to music, which mostly helped.

Hydration, nutrition and boredom are going to be my primary challenges with this training. I need to remind myself to drink regularly, and to plan meals, so I’m not just grabbing whatever is convenient. Huib boiled some eggs last night, so that will help. I will need to buy some fruit and figure out other easy, but nutritious snacks.

As for overcoming my boredom. I usually listen to dog training podcasts or music. This works most of the time, but I also find myself obsessing over how much further I need to go – something that will not help when you’re goal is doing 21 kilometres!!!

With my current training plan, I am not worrying about speed, but focusing on endurance and finding a pace that I can do continuously. Right now, I am working at a running pace of 4.6 miles (for 2 minutes) and a walking speed of 3.4 (for a minute). My usual running pace on the treadmill is 5.5, but this is not yet a speed I can do for longer periods of time.

Last night, the humidity and temperatures finally went down to a comfortable level, so we took the dogs for a 5.6 kilometre walk. Every other day is a rest or cross training day for me, so walking is what I chose.

Today, I am going to attempt to do three miles. Please wish me luck, lol!!!

Jess and I haven’t registered for the half marathon yet, as we worry about my migraines causing problems with the schedule. If we decide the half isn’t possible, then we may do an unofficial one of our own, using the same route.

I will keep everyone posted on my progress. i find it easier to remain accountable and motivated when I share my work with others.

Riding Report: Remember to Tighten the Saddle

Last night, was my first riding lesson. It was a lot of fun!!!

When we arrived Silly was already in her stall. I began the lesson by grooming her. Using the curry comb to bring up all the dirt and loose hair, then two different body brushes, and then finished off by cleaning out her hooves. After I groomed her, I gave her a few mints, which are her favourite treat.

Me brushing Silly. I'm wearing jeans, a navy blue t-shirt with a big Roots logo in white, bluish grey hiking boots, and a white baseball cap with Canada in red on the front.

It was then time to put the saddle on her. C usually rides bareback or with an English saddle, so both of us are still learning how the western saddle goes on.

When Silly was all saddled up, we walked her out of the barn to the mounting block. Since last time my left knee was a bit sore from positioning, we lengthened the stirrups.

Once I had mounted, we proceeded into the arena.

C held the lunge line, while I held the reins and saddle horn, as I am still getting comfortable with riding again.

Today’s lesson was on balance and remembering to keep my heels pointing down. I did pretty good, but we soon figured out the saddle’s girth strap needed to be tighter, as I began tilting to the right, lol!!!

Me up on Silly. I'm wearing the same clothes, but a black helmet instead of my white baseball cap.

We did some balance work, but kept the lesson itself short, as neither Silly or I was overly comfortable with the loose saddle.

Once Silly was back ian the barn, I took off the saddle and began grooming her again.

Before leaving, I gave her a few more mints and some attention. C has had Silly for 12 years, so they are very closely bonded. It is neat to see how closely Silly watches C’s every move.

Grand River Kennel Club Show: Day 2

The Zoom Groom helped, but we decided not to enter Arizona in conformation today.

Today’s rally report.

This morning did not go well. Arizona was revved, so got points off for a tight leash, but worst of all, she refused to do a stand from a sit. Huib had to repeat the cue FIVE times before she finally completed the exercise!!!

And, I thought the front and left/right finishes were going to be her biggest challenge…

It’s like she needs a warm-up before performing for real.

Their second run went TONS better. Arizona had to do the stand from a sit exercise, and did it perfectly!!!

I think it’s probably a good thing you can’t strangle your dog in the ring, lol!!!

Huib and Ari qualified with a score of 92!!!

Way to go Team Ari Bear!!!

We’ll try to finish this title, and her conformation one, in October, when Grand River has their next show.

No matter what the outcome, Ari got some good ring experience, and we learned what we still need to work on. 🙂

Grand River Kennel Club Dog Show: Day 1

Today was not Arizona’s day for conformation. She was very excited, so pulled a lot – no matter what Huib did. Also, she is shedding like crazy!!!

Rogue and Arizona seem to have decided to begin their seasonal shed. Its either late, as I don’t remember them going through their usual spring shed, or it‘s really early.

We used the Zoom Groom on her, and will decide in the morning, whether or not she should enter a show tomorrow. If not, we’ll probably enter a show in October.

As for rally. Their first run was a bit rough. Arizona was distracted by smells in spots and Huib mate a few heeling mistakes.

Their run this afternoon went tons better. Ari needed a couple cues repeated and she had a tight leash at times, but they qualified with a score of 82!!! This means they have earned one leg out of three, towards Arizona’s UKC rally 1 title.

Tomorrow they have a chance to finish off the title.

Here is a picture of Huib and Arizona showing off their qualifying ribbon and third place ribbon.

Huib squats down with Arizona in a sit showing off their ribbons

What’s Coming Up?

I planned to do a long post about what we’ve been up to over the past two months, but instead of boring people with old news, I thought I’d get back to blogging with an entry on what we’ll be up to this weekend.

It’s the Grand River United Kennel Club show. They have four conformation shows and four rally obedience trials.

Arizona needs one more competition win, so we are going to enter her in a show at a time. Our fingers are crossed for a successful weekend. It’s tough only needing one more to earn the title.

For a bit of a different experience, Huib and Ari are going to make their debut in the rally ring. Rally has not been something Huib was interested in trying, but while I work on novice obedience stuff, I thought Ari could use some more ring experience. They have entered all four trials, so have the chance to earn their Rally 1 (I think it’s RA1, but I could be wrong) title.

Please wish them luck.

Stay tuned for pictures, yes the ability to post photos with my entries has been fixed, and stories from our weekend.

Junior Hunter

Last weekend was the Labrador Owners Club hunt test. We entered Arizona in junior hunter both days.

It was HOT!!!

On Saturday, Arizona was dog number 13, so we had a lot of time to wait around. We set up our spot in the shade, and waited.

When it was our turn, we walked over to the first holding blind. I crouched down to Ari’s level and just talked to her and pet her whole body. I was hoping it would calm my nerves, and help her chill out. It really seemed to work. 🙂

When we got to the second holding blind, I switched Ari’s lead, so it would be easy to release her when the time came.

Our number was called, I took a deep breath, asked Ari if she was ready, and we walked up to the line.

I got her to sit, and asked her to “mark.” When the judge gave us the okay, I told her to “fetch!!!”

She was off. She ran over to the gunner, said hi, then checked out the pail and began to search for her duck. After a few seconds, she located it, so I blew my whistle three times. Ari came right to me, so I took the bird and then got her set up for the next retrieve.

Her second land retrieve went similar, so i won’t run through it.

For the most part, other than sometimes running a bit short of the bird, Ari is pretty reliable on the land retrieves.

When we got back to the car, I gave her some water and Huib got out her Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest. I wanted to make sure she stayed cool between runs. Once she wasn’t panting as hard, we got out her frozen treat, a JW dumbbell filled with Fromm wet food. We didn’t have any ground beef, so we used some of Cessna’s canned stuff.

When it was Arizona’s turn to run the water retrieve, I did the same process in each of the holding blinds.

At the line, we waited for the okay. When I released her, she walked into the water, laid down and then got up to walk a bit more.

I calmly waited, but repeated my “fetch” command a couple more times.

When she didn’t go, I called her back. She came, so I set her up, and the second I felt her head turn towards where I heard the bird fall, I said “fetch!!!”

And…she was off!!!

Ari swam straight to the bird and came right back to me.

When I sent her for the next one, she didn’t hestitate, just jumped right in.

When she handed me the second bird, I told her she was a very good girl, and we walked back to the car.

Our land retrieves were great, but our first water one was sure a nail-biter!!!

But, she passed!!!

On Sunday, Arizona was dog number 17, so we had a long time to wait around.

The land retrieves were done in a field where the grass was a lot higher, so it was sometimes tougher for the dogs to see.

Arizona did both retrieves beautifully!!! She was fast and flashy. It was cool to see her do this, since she was working where she trains.

While waiting for the water retrieves, we gave her water, put her Swamp Cooler on, and gave her the frozen dumbbell with wet food inside. We aren’t sure why, but she had some diarrhea while we waited. I was a bit worried about her having an issue during the test itself, but her bowel cooperated.

When we got to the first holding blind, they had a kiddie pool set up for the dogs to play in, as it was CRAZY HOT!!! Ari got in and laid there for probably half of the time we waited.

When we got to the second holding blind, I switched her lead to the easy release position. I also talked to her and tried to get her excited about the water.

At the line, I set her up and waited for the okay from the judge.

When I released her, she walked up to the water, laid down, and got up again. I repeated my “fetch” command a few more times, until she finally got in.

She swam over to the bird, and needed to be reminded to stay straight when she came back. I have really tried to teach her that cheating, or land running, is not allowed. For the most part, she is really good about swimming straight there and back.

Huib felt it was better to move to a different spot for the second retrieve, so we did. I really think we probably should have stayed there, as Ari did her usual hesitation. I wonder if she would have done a splashing entry, if we had released her from the same spot.

No matter what, she did it, and PASSED!!!

With these two passes, Arizona finished her junior hunter (JH) title.

Now we need to start working on doubles, walking up to the line off leash, and honouring. While we do this, we’ll start teaching Ari to follow directionals.

I would really like to try for her working certificate, intermediate (WCI) in the fall.