Home sick, hello blog!

A friend recently encouraged me to get back into writing my blog.  I find that I end up posting so many things to Facebook, that I don’t even think about my blog.  However, when I looked back at “recent” blog posts, I realize just how helpful it is to me to see what was going on.  The purpose of this blog has always been more of a record keeping journal….data collection….stream of consciousness type of thing. So anyway, here we are.

Last time I visited, I spoke about my back injury.  Ugh, that was a LONG road.  I ended up leaving the chiropractor I had been seeing and went to physical therapy.  I spent about 6 weeks in PT with twice weekly visits while also continuing to see my massage therapist about every 3 weeks.  Finally, I got strong enough to be discharged from PT and found a wonderful personal trainer who I’ve been with now since the beginning of January.  I see him once a week on Wednesdays after work and boy does he push me!  I also found a new, wonderful, chiropractor who I see once a month and still see my massage therapist with the same frequency. I finally am feeling like I’m getting stronger…and faster.  Since my injury was born from running distance, that’s been the slowest activity to recover.  However, I’m now comfortably running 5 miles twice a week….a far cry from what I used to do, but at least I’m running!  I plan to add another day of running in soon and see how I do.  And now when you see me at trials, I’ll have an agility ladder, lateral resistance bands, and a foam roller….all to help with good warm up/cool down.  One thing I learned through all of this…I ain’t gettin’ ANY younger, sigh.

And now to the dogs 🙂  Both are healthy and crazy as ever.  Miles’ little back thing in October was pretty short-lived and he’s been back to his regular activities since November.  After a long period of internal debate, I decided to NOT take him to Reno, NV for AKC Nationals.  It was a very difficult decision for me, but ultimately I felt that the stress and cost of the travel was too much for an event that I wasn’t sure I cared enough about.  His performance at the NAC in 2011 was stellar, but something told me that it wasn’t worth it to go this year.  So I chose to focus on local AKC to get him qualified for Tulsa in 2013 🙂  Yet, poor buddy….I’m not totally sure what has happened to us as a team, but we’ve been out of sync much more than we’ve been in sync which is not helping me mentally.  I’m starting to lose faith with him as a partner and don’t look forward to my runs with him as much as I know I should.  I desperately need to fix this, but I’m really not sure how I can.  He is a stellar dog and he deserves for me to be 100% for him.  We are so connected mentally that I know he’s feeling some of this as well.  I’m seriously considering a mental game coach at this point.  But, on the positive side I’ll share videos from two trials in the past few months where I felt we were really connected.  I watch these often to try to channel the emotions.

Here he is at BRAC USDAA in December.  Miles was teamed with Tracy Hirsch and her BC, Pilot.  Miles and Pilot ran great together and ended up taking gold.  Miles actually got the Top Dog award too!  He also played in PSJ and PGP.  He came in 2nd in both rounds of PSJ and missed the second to last jump in PGP.  BUT, this was the first trial that I’ve seen him hit ALL of his up contacts, woohoo!

And then there was the AKC trial in Chatham, VA in mid-March.  Again, just felt really in sync with him.  I had some errors, but Miles was brilliant.  No bars all weekend and he placed 1st in all Standard classes.  On Sunday, he had his fastest yps Standard run ever at 5.05yps earning 32 points!  Miles also earned his 2nd QQ for Tulsa at this show.

Onto lil’ Rue.  WOW, is all I can say.  Something has kicked in with this girl and we are having the time of our lives out there.  Between November and January, Rue finished her qualifications for USDAA Nationals in short order, including a win in PSJ Round 2 at BRAC (Miles took 2nd due to a bar) as well as a PGP win at CPA in January to earn a Regional Bye!  Rue also teamed with Tracy/Pilot at the January CPA trial and their team took bronze.  Also, since January, Rue has earned 9 QQs, her MACH, qualified for 2013 AKC Nationals, and earned her way into the ADHF with 3 double placements!!  She is on a roll and I don’t believe it’s ending anytime soon!  Not only has she been consistent, but dang she’s gotten SO fast.  I know she still has more in her too so I’m very excited for our future.  In February I decided to try entering Rue at 24″ in AKC.  She’d been practicing at this height for over a year and was very comfortable with it.  I am quite pleased with the results of her at 24″ and time will tell if I keep her there for a while or if I move her back down.  She’s certainly faster at 20″, but she is still turning in yps over 5 in JWW and over 4 in Standard at 24″ which have been our goals.  Granted I believe Rue could certainly go faster and should be closer to 6yps in JWW and 5yps in Standard, but that will come in time I’m quite certain.  I could post a zillion videos of hers, but I’ll limit it to her MACH video and her runs from the Palmyra (Mid-Atlantic) Regional.

Her MACH came over the weekend of AKC Nationals in Reno.  Didn’t I say that *something* told me Reno wasn’t the best idea????  I think this was the way it was supposed to be.  Not to mention, I found FIVE 4-leaf clovers on one walk during the week preceding her MACH.  I had found two of these in my entire lifetime before that walk.  How weird.  Anyway, here’s her video.  Not her fastest runs, but I think this was one of the only times I’ve ever felt pressure to “go clean” with Rue.  I tell ya, I don’t like that feeling.  But, we got it done 🙂

And now for the Regional.  Rue competed in PVP Pairs with Mardi Closson and her young boy, Screech. This was a “just for fun” team and despite Screech E’ing in Standard, me scratching Rue from Jumpers and Screech only getting 1 point in Snooker, our team finished only 2 spots below the Q cutoff!! On Day 1, Rue flew through Gamblers and earned a shocking total of 69 points for a Q and 2nd place (for comparison, I ran Miles on the same course and only got 49 points…she was flying). Rue also went clean in Standard and was one spot out of the Q. I pulled her from team Jumpers b/c it was a terrible course for her. Amazingly, Screech pulled out a 2nd place finish on that course…wow. On Day 2, Rue flew through Snooker with a respectable 43 point finish and a 5th place Q. Rue and Screech then got to run Relay and finished 6th out of 31 teams!!

Also on Saturday, Rue competed in Round 1 of PGP and PSJ. I am pleased to say that she was clean and fast in both earning a 4th place Q in PGP and an 11th
place Q in PSJ to move on to Round 2/Finals in both events. Rue was the ONLY non-Border Collie in the finals!!!

Sunday was Rue’s time to shine. The courses we got for finals were very very friendly for her skill set and running contacts. I had full faith in our team
and in her. Stepping to the line with her in PGP Finals was such an honor. She was SOOOO fired up. I attempted to do a short lead out, but she was having
nothing to do with that. I remember saying “oh God” as we both shot off the line….off to the races! What I planned to do after the DW didn’t exactly
happen, but somehow a combination of ninja moves and Rue’s brilliance, she got into the correct tunnel hole. We lost a bit of time b/c I was shell shocked at
what just happened and then ran the wrong side of the next line forcing a rear at the chute. She still finished 9th out of 19 dogs and got a freaking Bye to
Semi-finals at this years Nationals!!! OMG, wow. Only non-BC to compete in Rd 2 and she beat more than half of them with a messy run??? I’ll take it!

Our last (and 8th) run of the weekend was PSJ Finals. Again, Rue was really over the top fired up. She really feeds off the energy at these big events and
it is so fun to see. It was so cool to be the first team to run our jump height (we were seeded last going into finals). Holy poo, she ran like the darn wind
and put in a time of 28.44. I watched team after team E or get faults and Rue hung on for a long time in the top 5. However, two really fast BC’s ran at the
end including Paulena Simpson’s dog, F5 Tornado, and those dogs shot the qualifying time down to 28.42. OMG, we missed the cut off by .02 seconds??? No
PJS Semi finals Bye for my girl at this show, but holy cow…. .02 seconds???  What is that, a fraction of a sneeze?? She finished 6th in a sea of fast BC’s,
my little Golden Retriever. SOOOO proud, so proud.

Here is part of her run from PSJ Semi-finals.  It cuts off the beginning of 3 jumps, aframe, jump.  Rue squeaked into Finals based on this run and was the only non-BC to do so!

That’s about the best recap I can give of the last 6 months.  There are plenty of other videos to watch on my YouTube site (tailsofgold).  I’ll be back later to discuss our next set of training goals.  Now that we’re past our “goal” trial for the spring, there is lots to do to get ready for Cynosport in September!!!

Happy training!

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Goals revisited

Yes, it’s been awhile but we’ve been very busy.  We’ve had some changes around here as far as where I’m going with both dogs and my plans to get there.   I’ve had a big shift in focus with both pups, but for different reasons.  Before I continue, I would like to say that we have been trialing, but I’ve just not been motivated to post about them.  So if you’re interested in seeing our runs from the summer months, go here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/tailsofgold?feature=mhum 

With Rue, my main focus now is fun, fun, and more fun.  As time went on, it was becoming more evident that she just wasn’t having enough of it out there and was showing me that in the form of trotting painfully slowly around the course.  It wasn’t every time, but it was becoming more and more the norm to have her just barely make time or totally lose her to sniffing on course, bleh.  I believe part of her issue was that she was going through a false pregnancy through June and July.  It was also hotter than heck here in NC this summer.  Add to that a tick disease and loss of muscle mass, poor girl just didn’t feel good.  However, I know Rue and I know she’s got some issues with pressure, so curing the tick disease and getting her hormones back to baseline were not the only answers.  So we’re doing some fun and unique things in training and in trials I spent the entire summer running her on 5-10 obstacles only on course.  I saw a definite improvement in her drive off the line and have recently been occasionally running a full course with great success.  We have a long road ahead of us and it’s up to me to continue to stay focused on FUN and not get wrapped up in the Q.

My shift for Miles is to focus more on conditioning than on agility alone.  He’s had a couple of health scares this summer (Lyme disease, followed by near liver failure due to doxycycline for the Lyme, followed by some minor back issues).  It’s become much more apparent to me that my relationship with him and his health and happiness come way before any competitive goals.  No, I cannot help that he got a tick disease, those suckers are evil and get on them regardless of Frontline every 3 weeks.  But I need to be his advocate at all times and pay attention to what he’s telling me…no matter how subtle that may be.  Further, I can make it my duty to keep him as sound as possible.  So my focus is on conditioning and finding a balance between too much agility for him and too little for me.  I thought this would be more difficult that it is, but I’m finding that I really missed having multiple weekends at home and I thouroughly enjoy having more time to take the dogs hiking and just plain existing with them. 

All that being said, I decided to go back and revisit the goals I wrote out for us in the beginning of this year to see what we have accomplished, but also to see where I can make some changes.  Here are the goals as they stood in January….comments and revisions are in italic red.  Thanks for reading!

Long Term Goals (Define Your Destination)

Miles: MACH by fall 2010   We’re getting close!!  Only 5 QQ’s to go 🙂

            Qualify for and attend 2010 USDAA Nationals  Check.  Heading out in 4 weeks!  Qualified for all events and even earned a bye to PGP Semis!

            Qualify for and attend 2011 AKC Nationals  Check.  We were qualified by the end of April.

            Qualify for and attend 2011 AKC Invitational  Letting this one go.  Requires far too much trialing and led me to focusing on the wrong things for me and Miles.

  –Rue:   Qualify for and attend 2010 Southeast USDAA Regionals  We went, but played in Starters classes only.  She loved Perry!!

                 Qualify for and attend 2011 AKC Nationals  Haha, nope.  We have 3 QQs, but very few points.  Gave this up back in May when I decided that she wasn’t having enough fun in agility yet.  *Maybe* we’ll be ready for 2012….

                  Qualify for and attend 2011 USDAA Nationals  This is still a realistic goal.  I’d like to see her being able to play in a couple events.

 

Short Term Goals (Make a Road Map)

 – Miles: MX/MXJ by spring 2010  Completed both by mid-March

                  Earn Q’s in Performance Speed Jumping, PVP and Performance Grand Prix by spring 2010  That was easy!  We were fully qualified for Nats in February after only 2 trials. 

                  ADHF (Golden Retriever Agility Dog Hall of Fame) by summer 2010  Miles fulfilled his requirements over Memorial Day weekend!

This month:

 – Learn how to communicate the difference between a lateral motion rear-cross and a forward motion/deceleration rear-cross Feeling much better about this.

– Trust him in longer lead outs if needed in competition  We’re getting better, but he still needs more jump starts than leadouts to keep his motivation high and stress level low.

– Practice pushes into a tunnel under the frame/dogwalk  Haven’t concentrated on this much.

– Practice lateral pulls off the aframe  Circle of death training completed and he’s been a rock star with his frames!

–  Practice discriminations without having to go so deep to get the tunnel  Needs work.

 – Maintain at least 5yps course times in JWW and at least 4yps course times in Standard  Definitely there and getting even faster.

 – Achieve and maintain consistency at speed earning at least 130 points per month  No longer concentrating on points since I dropped the Invitational idea, but still pushing for speed since it’s fun!

Rue: AX/AXJ by early summer 2010 Rue earned her AXJ in January, her AX  in March, and her MXJ in May. 

              Earn a Q in (at least) Steeplechase by late spring 2010  Didn’t even enter any tourneys in USDAA.

 This month:

– Make the teeter a favorite obstacle  It’s not a favorite, but she seems much more confident with it.  Need to continue to play teeter games a few times a month.

– Tug in as many different locations/situations as possible  Boy have we been places 🙂  She’s a tuggin’ fiend!

– Achieve a reliable and drivey start line routine  This is coming along for sure, but I’d still like to see her blasting off the line more consistently.

– Visit and train in as many different locations as possible  Still working on finding new places.

– Alternate running courses without cookies with higher pressure short sequences with rewards on me  Changed this to her tug toy.  She seems to be just as drivey if I have the toy or if I throw it down before we start.

– Ask neighbors to come over and watch us train and act as ring crew/judge  Slacked on this one.

– Start working more seriously/systematically on dogwalk turns  For now I’ve decided that she gets extension cues for everything and then we turn on the flat.  Seems to be working!

– Achieve and maintain at least 4yps in JWW and at least 3yps in Standard  4yps is just plain slow.  I want to see her in the high 4’s to low 5’s in JWW and the high 3’s to low 4’s in Standard. 

 

 Word your goals thoughtfully:

– Rue is motivated to work/play with me
– I am confident in my handling choices for each dog
Miles slams into a down on the table
– Rue had a fast and drivey teeter
Rue runs fast and extended
– Rue and I move together as a connected team
Miles rides the teeter all the way down

Rue blasts off the line and drives around the course
– Rue flies through her poles
– Miles loves it when I lead out

 

Know the reasons why:

– Winning is fun

– Proving that Goldens can be very competitive in agility

– Becoming a more credible dog trainer

– Pushing myself beyond my limits

Motivation:

Carrot:

 – More letters after/before my dogs’ names

– Recognition from peers, instructors, and elite competitors

– Credibility

Sense of accomplishment

Fun

 – Sense of self-worth

Stick:

– Fear of failure

 – Fear of injury

 – Embarassment

Our first visit to the sports vet…

On Saturday the dogs got to go to Virginia to see Dr. Schwabe for an initial structural evaluation.  Neither of them have had any problems (other than knowing that Miles has mild elbow dysplasia) so this was just to get established and make sure everything was looking good with them.  The office is located on a beautiful piece of property situated in the country not too far from Lynchburg. 

Not knowing what to expect, I brought Rue in first since I knew she’d be fine with pretty much anything that happened.  Plus that gave me a chance to see what Dr. Schwabe was going to do so that I wasn’t worried for Mr. Softie (Miles).  As expected Rue went with the flow and was a perfect patient.  Dr.  Schwabe started by watching her move off lead and then proceded to bring her inside and have her do several tricks (sit-up, stand, lie down, back-up, bow) all to see how she moved her body and if she was balanced.  Then she proceded to do a full ortho exam followed by a massage/chiro adjustment.  Rue weighed 36.8lbs and according to the Dr. is “built like a Border Collie”, hehe!  She said that Rue was perfectly proportioned with excellent muscle tone and body awareness.  She feels that Rue is structurally perfect for agility (and any other sport that I’d want to do with her) and is built for speed.  In other words, Rue’s perfect 🙂 

Next up was Miles and as is typical of him, he came out of the vehicle like a spaz.  Bouncing up and down and sideways, skittering about from person to person and giving flying kisses.  I couldn’t get him to just walk/trot around at all…just bounce.  Plus since he was nervous, he was holding himself very stiffly so you can imagine her opinion of him initially was a bit swayed.  Thankfully, Miles took an almost instantaneous liking to Dr. Schwabe so he eventually was able to settle in and be “normal”.  Overall, he weighed 53.7lbs and she says that he’s built a bit like a horse (so I guess I have a horse and a BC) and holds his head very high…probably because he’s always on the lookout for boogeymen not unlike how a horse or other prey animal is.  She said that his back and hind end, including his tail, were very very strong.  She also found no evidence of any issues in his elbows 🙂  However, what she did find are weak and overly flexible shoulders, particularly on the left.  He had some significant muscle spasm under both shoulder blades, in his neck, and also in his sacrum.  She was able to work most of that out and amazingly Miles seemed to totally not mind it at all (and she said it had to hurt). 

Dr. Schwabe also watched him do a couple of aframes which she said were great and no issue with the shoulders as well as watched him do the weaves.  She thinks he’s very smart to not single-stride in the weaves because that would be putting way too much stress on his shoulders.  So my hunch was right about that…..it had to be something structural that kept him doing a bounce stride despite multiple attempts on my part to retrain the poles.  During this time, Miles became more and more relaxed and in the end showed the Dr. a much more normal appearing gait for him.  She was definitely relieved to see that he actually did move quite well 😉

We spent a lot of time talking about Miles and coming up with a conditioning plan for him to keep him sound and strengthen his front end.  I’ve now got a bunch of new tricks to teach him and some other fun things to help with shoulder strength and stretching.  We also switched his glucosamine supplement to Dasuquin.  I’m also going to start doing some cavaletti work to see if I can get him to lower his head while trotting, similar to what you would do if your horse (poor Miles, hehe) kept a very high head placement.  Miles is also going to be getting massaged regularly now, lucky guy! 

In summary, my biggest take home message for him is to always err on the side of caution and that with him less is always more.  So, if the surface is slick I should probably not run him, etc.  I will need to limit the number of trials we do to no more than 3/month and should avoid doing 3-day multiple run trials (like USDAA).  I can say that I’m very glad that I have Rue to run now because it will help me to fill the void of maybe not being able to run him as much as I would like.  Then again, we’ve never done that many runs in a day for days in a row, so this probably isn’t going to be too much of a shock. 

We go back in 6 months for a recheck 🙂

Cold Tail/Dead Tail/Limber Tail

Oh noooooooeeeees!  My poor boy woke up from a nap yesterday afternoon and his normally happy waggy tail was hanging limply.  I recognized the affliction immediately as he had a similar episode last Summer while vacationing on Cape Cod.  The verdict?  Cold tail.  The cause?  Unknown.

                                                                                                                                                                                    

The above are photos of Miles’ tail last night.  Notice how loosely his tail is hanging down in the first picture and how sad he looks in the second. 

From Woodhaven Labs:  Limber tail syndrome and “cold water tail” while known to those who work with hunting dogs, may not be familiar to veterinarians. It is most often seen in working breeds like English Pointers, English Setters, Foxhounds, Beagles, and Labrador Retrievers. Ages of affected dogs range from 0.5-9 years old. In English Pointers the most frequent age of onset is reported to be 2 years old.  Typically the presentation is a young adult dog with an acutely flaccid tail that hangs down from the tail base or is held horizontally for 3-4 inches and then drops down.  The tail remains in this position even when the dog moves about.  Linky.

The first occurance of this in Miles was last July while vacationing on Cape Cod.  Miles had been running several days in a row along with lots of visits to the beach.  We also were renting a house near a pond which he also swam across while following us in a kayak (what can I say–he likes the water).  The evening after his marathon swim session he looked as he does in the photos above.  I immediately thought he broke his tail or something worse was wrong.  Miles uses his tail a lot to express himself so to see it limply hanging there was quite disconcerting.  I had heard of cold tail, but had never seen it.  I did some research and found that there was really nothing to be done but rest and the tincture of time.  By the next day he was back to his old self.

This time is different.  There were no marathon swim sessions.  We went for an 8 mile trail run Saturday morning (yup still planning on doing that blasted race) followed by a 45 minute woods walk with both dogs.  Miles is used to running, but probably hasn’t gone that distance since early August although we had been consistently running 6 or so.  Yesterday, I took the dogs for a walk along a creek for about 2 hours.  Miles was in and out of the creek, but not really swimming.  When we got home, I gave Rue a bath and then crated her with her lunch while I gave Miles a bath.  Both baths were done inside with warm water.  His bath was followed by some fetch before taking Rue out to play.  Miles was completely dry and acting normally before coming inside for a snooze.  It was when he awoke from that snooze that I recognized the limp tail.  He appears to be in a lot more pain this time around as well.  I’m giving him Ascriptin and he’s currently snoozing with a heating pad under his butt.  Oh I hope this resolves itself soon. 

Several things have been postulated as the cause of cold tail, although nothing has been proven making it a difficult thing to prevent.  Some frequent occurences that could predispose to cold tail are:
1)  Spending a long time in cold water
2)  Increase in physical activity especially for underconditioned dogs
3)  Long hunting sessions expecially in cold weather
4)  Bathing with cold water especially if not dried and immediately crated

Unfortunately, dogs that are afflicted wtih it have a much greater chance of getting it again–great.

Elbow Dysplasia

Back in the Summer we decided to go ahead and have Miles’ hips and elbows x-rayed and sent to OFA for evaluation.  The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is an organization that aims to research and prevent orthopedic and hereditary diseases in animals, namely dogs. They focus a lot on hips and hip dysplasia, but they also have guidelines for testing and rating elbow disorders.

Miles is neutered and therefore never going to be bred, but we elected to do these tests because a) he’s an athelete and b) he came from a rather dubious breeder (our mistake). So off we went to our vet for radiographs.

Great news first, his hips rated OFA Good. From the OFA website:

Good (Figure 2): slightly less than superior but a well-formed congruent hip joint is visualized. The ball fits well into the socket and good coverage is present.

Bad news, his elbows were rated as Grade 1 Dysplasia with DJD in both. The only grades involved are for abnormal elbows with radiographic changes associated with secondary degenerative joint disease or arthritis. According to the OFA, Grade 1 means there is minimal bone change along anconeal process of ulna (less than 3mm).

So I guess this doesn’t sound so bad until you think about where the dog carries most of it’s weight…on it’s front end. And then you think about most of the forces incurred doing agility and it’s mainly on it’s front end. CRAP! Into panic mode I go.

I pulled it back together and started to gather information about how to handle the diagnosis and prognosis of Grade 1 Elbow Dysplasia in my 76lb agility dog…..76 POUNDS!  Oh nooooes!  “Miles is chunky” says an acquaintance.  “He’s about a 6” says our vet.  “He has no ribs” says my trainer.  My healthy raw-fed wonderfully active jogging partner is FAT. 

Ok first step, weight loss.  I cut back his food to about 1.25lbs per day from about 1.5-1.75lbs per day.  At the advice of several folks I spoke with, to include the wonderful breeder that we were awaiting a puppy from, I also increased his salmon oil and added a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement with MSM and Vit. C.  I also cut back on his road running and now do mainly trails off-lead now or at least have him run in the grass on the side of the road. 

Fast forward four months and Miles is down to a slender 63lbs, but could still stand to lose a few more.  He’s doing great and while he never was symptomatic, I want to protect his front as much as possible.  I will never push him to jump full height in any agility venue except NADAC and CPE where the jump height for him is 20″.  So he’ll never get a MACH or an ADCH…oh well.  Did I really think he’d get those anyway?  Probably not.  I’ll be happy with a few titles and a dog who’s happy to play and lives a long active life 🙂