Saturday, September 22, 2012

Astro's Summer NADAC Agility Trials, Parks, AZ

Astro and I have been in two NADAC agility trials since our first in July.  These trials are held in Parks, AZ and hosted by Amber Abbott and her family on their property.  It's a beautiful location with a view of the San Francisco Peaks behind the ring. 

Astro has done a great job and I'm really impressed with how he continues to improve.  The trials are two and a half days long on Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday.  The first trial was the weekend of July 27, which also happened to be Astro's 3rd birthday.  On Friday the 27th the birthday boy got his first qualifying run in Tunnelers, which is a course of nothing but tunnels and most dogs just love it.  He was flying and did the run in 23.14 seconds for 1st place in his group.  WooHoo, a rockin' birthday run!

That turned out to be our only qualifying run for that trial, although we had some good runs and came close a few times.  Astro still gets pretty excited when going to new locations to do agility and usually has to get some goofiness and zooming out before we can get focused.  I'm sure this is also partly due to the fact that I also still get nervous especially at the start of the trial and when we are at a new location.  The dogs definitely pick up on those things.

Throughout the weekend we both settled down and improved.  Honestly, I think the main reason we didn't have other qualifying runs is that poor Astro is handler impaired.  He is a sweet boy and still has fun though and doesn't seem to hold it against me.

Our next trial was the weekend of August 24 and we did much better.  Friday morning I took him out for a good hike hoping that would help him be a little less explosive on our first runs.  I definitely think it helped.  In fact when we got to the trial I was worried that I over did it.  It was warm with direct sun and Astro was not his usual bouncing self.  But, our first run was Tunnelers and he did a great job and qualified with 2nd place.  I've worked really hard at being able to keep Astro focused on me and agility while having all the distractions (people in and outside of the ring, and dogs outside the ring, new locations, etc.) around.  Astro has improved tremendously.  Occasionally he still wants to visit, especially on those first runs.  I was really proud of him when he lost focus as he came out of a tunnel at the front of the ring and I had to recall him from going to visit.  He didn't even make it over to all the wonderful temptations and came right back and into the next tunnel.

Our next run was Touch N Go, a course of everything but the weaves, and by this time clouds had come in, it had cooled off and Astro was back to being Mr. Spunky Butt.  It was a fast fun run and although we didn't qualify I was really happy with how he worked at a distance from me, because there was no way I could keep up with him.

I'm really happy to say that Astro did not get the Zoomies the whole weekend.  Zoomies are when the dog gets so excited or overwhelmed that they take off running and flying around the ring at full speed leaving the handler standing there feeling quite lonely and helpless while everyone else giggles and laughs and thinks it's great fun to watch your dog having such a wonderful time without you.  I know this feeling very well.  :-) 

On Saturday Astro and I got our 2nd Q in Regular class, which is a course that has all the obstacle types.  These trials are held during what's called our Monsoon Season, meaning it's the rainy season and we often have big thunderstorms with lightening, wind, rain, and even hail develop quickly.  As we stepped up for our 2nd Regular run a storm was coming in.  Lightening flashed above our heads and was followed by loud thunder as I was taking Astro's leash off.  The judge called it and at this point everyone has to get their dogs and head to their cars to wait out the storm.  Luckily neither Zephyr or Astro are afraid of thunder, but some dogs are and once the thunder starts they can't run.  We would get to run after the storm passed.  Since we were kind of disrupted by the storm I wasn't sure how it would go.  It was great and that's the run that we got our 2nd Regular Q and 1st place in his group. 

To receive your novice title in a class you have to have three qualifying runs.  Going into Sunday Astro had two Regular and two Tunnelers Q's.  We were signed up to run in Regular and Tunnelers on Sunday.  I knew that it was possible for us to finish our novice titles in these classes, but I didn't really expect it.  As we stepped up to the start line for our first regular run once again there were dark clouds and lightening, but this time they were in the distance.  It was a great run with our only bobble being that Astro missed the weave entrance the first time, but you can redo that in novice.  Holy cow, we qualified, got 1st place, and that was Astro's first agility title!

 Astro's Novice Regular title run.  

Unfortunately when I uploaded the video to Youtube the lightening that was striking in the distance during our run was cropped out, but it sure looks cool.  I was so happy and proud of Astro.  I was so excited that I was having a hard time focusing myself.  Our second Regular run was not a qualifier because of my poor handling, but it was still a good run.  Before the last run of the day, Tunnelers, the awards are presented.  I was almost in tears when everyone clapped as we got our title ribbon. 

The last run was a difficult Tunnelers course with tight turns and a couple traps that presented your dog with a tunnel directly in front of them but the course required them to make turns to other tunnels.  Astro was tired by this time and I had a headache that I swear came on after all the excitement of our title finishing Regular run, I had left my medicine at home too.  Astro came within inches of going into one of the trap tunnels.  He was trying so hard to listen to me, even though it was only about two of his big strides between tunnels, and the sweet smart boy turned and came over and we finished the course and qualified with 2nd place.  OMG, that was our Novice Tunnelers title run!

 Doing Dog Agility became a dream of mine after I got Zephyr.  Zephyr did do some agility, but when he got encephalitis of course the main focus for him became getting him through it and keeping him healthy.  And honestly, Zephyr was unfortunate to be my first dog and suffer from my lack of training skills.  I do still practice with Zephyr and would like to have him get back to doing more, just for fun not competition.  Astro is only slightly more fortunate in that I'm still learning how to do all this, but I have to admit Astro's personality is a little better suited for training and working with a person.  But, that might also be because I really was just about clueless when I started with Zephyr and I didn't develop those skills in Zephyr as well.  Astro and I still have so much to work on and improvements to make, but I'm thrilled that we've made it this far.  I just sent in our entry form for our first AKC agility trial which will be in late October.  AKC includes more obstacles (teeter, table, tire jump, chute, and a variety of jump types) and I think it will be even more fun.  I'm sure it will be a crazy ride, but I'm really looking forward to this and hope we'll continue to improve and and have fun and success in AKC agility.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dog and Cat Days of Summer

Zephyr, Astro, and Kenda having an early morning romp.
With summer coming to an end I wanted to get in some of the other fun that we had this summer.  Early in the summer Tammy contacted me and said her friend's mom and dad (Kim), who had recently adopted a greyhound, were visiting from Pennsylvania.  Kim had been talking about a blog he had found that was about two greyhounds that run free in the forest who had to live near here.  As it turns out we are friends with Tammy and Kenda and we were all able to get together for an early morning hike.

Kenda, Tammy, Zephyr, Kim, Astro, and me.
This was the first time that I had actually met someone through the blog and it was really cool.  Quite a coincidence that they had seen the blog in Pennsylvania, were visiting family here in town, and we had common friends.  When I started this blog I thought it would just be a fun way to share pictures with friends and family.  Now I feel like we have friends around the world because of the blog.

Riley and Pablo enjoying the summer warmth.
The kitties spent a lot of time relaxing and having fun in the backyard.  Luckily Riley and Pablo are content with roaming around the yard.  Since Pablo has been feeling better he was much more active and even attempted some hunting this summer.

Pretty girl on a fence post in the pines.
Annie on the other hand is an explorer.  Many years ago on an October evening this girl showed up at the front door full of love and smelling a bit like skunk.  She was healthy and purring away.  I was sure someone would see one of the thirteen flyers I put up and claim her.  We had four cats at the time.  At first I thought (okay, I kind of hoped) that she was pregnant, but then she came into season.  I've always wondered if she had a litter before she moved in with us.

"Hmm, Which way should I go Astro?"
Annie has never forgotten her traveling ways and loves to go for a good walkabout.  I do my best to keep track of her and round her up from her adventures.  She's never gone further than one or two houses away, but more than once she has kept herself hidden while I call and look for her for what seems an eternity.  Of course, just as I reach full panic mode she shows up close by.

Zephyr and Astro had fun whether indoors or outdoors.  School has started and I've been back to work for over a month.  The other day a neighbor told me that she had heard them barking it up a few times after I'd left for work in the morning.  She thought maybe I had left them outside, but realized they were in the house having a grand time.  It made me wonder what really goes on when I'm at work.  I know they had a grand time the other day because I came home to find a previously half full big bag of pig's ears (that I should have put away) completely empty.  Their bellies did not have a grand time that night.

Catching some Z's

The happy house painter.
While the dogs and cats relaxed at home I did a little summer work.  The most fun thing was helping my friend Kerry, who has a home improvement business, paint the outside of two houses.  I've always liked taking care of things around my house, but this was the first time I'd done painting outside.  I think I was a tad bit of a turtle and may have paid a little too much attention to details.  It's hard to remember that no one is going to see the tiny bit of wood that's not 100% covered with paint when it's on top of the house.

Kerry and the happy house owner.
We actually only did touch-up on this house; painting the far side, a lot of the trim, and the front and back decks.  Kerry was super nice to trust that a third grade teacher would be a reliable assistant.  But, what do you expect from a fellow hound dog agility person.  She has two Dachshund's that have made it to the excellent level.  I didn't get pictures of the other house, but we painted all of its outside.  I really became more confident about going fairly high on a ladder (although I left the peaks for Kerry) and I went on the roof many times.

The best thing was I actually felt like I had some upper body strength in my arms, shoulders, back, and neck.  I get migraine headaches and often have muscle pain in my back, shoulders, and neck.  It was amazing how good I felt and the pain was completely gone.  I've actually been successful at keeping the new upper body strength with hand weights and some core body exercises I learned in physical therapy a couple years ago.  I even had to increase from a 10 to a 15 pound weight.  Usually when I head back to school and stress in the fall I get a lot of pain in those areas.  I've still had some of the pain, but the improvement has been amazing.

Not a drop was left in the cups.
Summer is the season of ice cream and nobody was left out this year.  I finally bought some Frosty Paws and Zephyr and Astro loved them. 

"Oh, this stuff is really horrible Annie.  I don't blame you for not wanting any."
I gave each kitty a spoonful too, but Pablo was the only one who was interested.  I was surprised, but Pablo sure appreciated the extra spoonfuls.

Riley likes to roll in the dirt too.
A mole (I think) has taken up residence in our backyard.  Luckily it seems to have kept its tunnels and holes in a rocky area that Zephyr and Astro don't run in much.  The cats have been doing their best to rid the yard of the beasty, but they say it's a coward and won't show its face when they are sitting outside of its hole.  I think I am just going to try some of the vibrating sticks that you put in the ground.

"Yep, these sheets are safe for you to sleep on Mom."
There were lots of chores to do and I always had plenty of help.

"I was just trying to offer moral support and this is what I get."
Some people were not thrilled with being recruited to help with chores.

Flat dogs.
And, when the temperatures reached their height everyone spread out and took a nap.  It's been a great summer!

Friday, September 7, 2012


 In between "Runnin'" in the forest Zephyr and Astro turned into Mudpuppies.  ;-)

 "Hey Zephyr, Let's get all nutty!  You in?"  "I'm in!"

 "Astro, Gross!  Stop blowing bubbles up my butt!"

 "Aw, the fresh cool feeling of a summer mud puddle."  "Dude, your butt smells like Giardia."

 "Mud tastes So good."

 "Ya, it Totally does."

"Mud Wrestling!"

  "Why don't you lie down Astro?"  "No thanks, I don't want to get too muddy."

 "We're Mud Puddle Monsters!  Hee, Hee, Hee, Let's scare Mom, Bwaarrr!" "Dude, your rear end is going to scare Mom."

"I'm sure Mom loves everything about me."

"Mmm, I gotta get me some of this wild smelling mud too."

"Oh man, this is some high quality mud right here."

"I gotta rub it in up here real good."

"And now I need to make sure I shove some way up my nose so I can smell it next week."

"Mom is so great to let us roll around in mud."  "She's the best, let's go give her a big smooch!"

It's exhausting being Runnin' Mudpuppies.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Zephyr and Astro have been having lots of fun in the forest this summer.  I haven't been very good about remembering to bring my camera or sharing the pictures when I do.  But, these are pictures from a morning hike that we did a few weeks ago.  The boys had a great time running and playing.

Zephyr is doing great.  He's very happy and healthy.  He's off all medication except his seizure medicine, generic Keppra.  Back in late March and late April he did have two funny episodes that were partial/focal seizures.  He was actually still taking a little prednisone back then.  Luckily they were small.  The first happened when we were in the backyard.  I looked over and he was walking funny and I could tell his muscles were contracting, etc.  I guided him in the house, he was aware and able to walk up the deck stairs.  I had him lie down and he was conscious enough to follow my directions.  His eyes were dilated and he was anxious for a few minutes, but then he was fine. 

The second seizure in late April was even smaller.  The only reason I noticed it was because he was laying on the couch with his head on my lap.  I was rubbing his ears and heard a very faint wince from him.  Then a few seconds later I noticed he was curling his head and neck under and toward the side.  At first I thought he was just enjoying the ear rub, but then I noticed a muscle in his right shoulder was twitching and I saw that his face muscles were contracted causing him to have pursed lips (which has happened in the other partial seizures).  I slid to the ground and saw that his eyes were dilated too.  It lasted a minute or so, but that was it.  He wasn't anxious after and didn't even bother to get off the couch or even change positions.  I don't know what caused these, sometimes I wonder if it could have been a side effect of the seizure medicine.  For people it says Keppra can actually cause a change or increase in partial seizures.  He had never had any of these types of seizures before switching to Keppra.  These are the only two I saw, but who knows what happens when I'm not home.  Luckily nothing came of them though and they didn't get worse. 

My dream is that Zephyr will live a long happy life.  Everyday I am thankful that he is still with me.  When I hear of friends losing their dogs suddenly and too young, recently Song at Graceful Greyhounds, I can't believe how close we came to that and what an amazing recovery he made.

Astro and I have been in two other agility trials and have done well.  I'm saving that fun for another post.

We're also in an Advanced Rally class right now hoping to be able to enter some Rally trials at the advanced level this fall and winter.

Zephyr and I took a Rally class and it was so fun to be out doing something together again.  We've taken Rally before, but I have to admit it's just not Zephyr's favorite.  He does have fun though and I'm trying to get him out to practice and have fun more.  You're looking a pictures of him doing his favorite thing.  Well, it would be even better for him if there was some sort of wild animal, or plastic bag, out in front for him to chase. 

I love this picture of him turning.

Happy late summer to everyone!