Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Tonight was Maggie's and my first ever night of Utility class.  Maggie needed a new job, I want to learn Utility, and she is a pleasure to work with, so off we go!  This is also one of my Maggie goals for the year, so I feel like I'm making progress ;)

Our class is full of dogs of all levels.  Me - the rank beginner; a couple of folks who are still in the "training" phase of Utility (still learning the exercises, but further along than me); and two who are proofing (know the exercises, but working with distractions and planning to enter the ring in the next couple of months).  This is great for me, as it helps me envision where I'm going at nearly every stop along the way.

So how did we do?  Maggie did GREAT (not that I'm biased in any way).  Clearly, we have a lot to work on, but her experience in Rally and agility have put her in good stead.  The moving stand for exam, she did really well (just like the other dogs!), the beginnings of directed jumping show promise thanks to her years in agility, and we've been working on the signal exercises at home already (I was trying to get a head start) so we have a good start there.  The rest of it - well, Maggie and I will learn together.  I'm so excited!

Oh, and I've already made my first Utility mistake - before I started class even.  I bought the wrong size utility articles.  Despite measuring my existing dumbbells, and reading the chart on the J&J website, I bought one size too small.  I have the other size on order, and I'm hoping J&J will take back the other ones.  Otherwise, I'll just have to save them in case at some point I have a corgi with smaller cheeks than Maggie.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ziggy cantered in agility!

(this photo has nothing to do with cantering or agility, but it does show Ziggy in his favorite place - the sofa)

Ziggy and I continue to take agility class on Wednesday nights.  Z has lots of fun in agility class and has even started to pull on the leash to get into the building (demonstrating that perhaps he's even interested in what's going on inside).  During class he throws his tail in the air and trots happily along - this is his pace.  A pace so slow that it's NQ-worthy.  

He moved from the beginner class to the intermediate class for this session.  In this class we work on short sequences. In all of our classes, Ziggy has been SLOW - especially with the jumping and transitions between obstacles. Trot, trot, trot, wag, wag, trot.... 

At home we've been doing skills and obstacle practice to increase his confidence - jump grids, sending to the tunnel & chute, teeter, table.  Today it seemed like it was actually paying off.  His send to the tunnel was great, which allowed me to run ahead on course - he came out of the tunnel cantering and even cantered around the entirety of the last two sequences we did.  Good boy (he got LOTS of praise & string cheese)!!  A big change from previous weeks.

It also reinforced to me that for the next set of classes we need to focus on sending skills, and obstacle understanding.  He is a dog that goes faster when he feels more confident.  So, starting in early March, it's a new class a little closer to the basics.  

Ziggy may never be a MACH dog (he's going to run 8" Preferred anyway) - but at least we seem to be on our way into "Q" territory!  And he remains happy along the way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Twitter for Dogs

Mattel has come up with a new product call Puppy Tweets.  Apparently, one sets up a Twitter account for their dog, and places the Puppy Tweets transponder/tag on their dog's collar.  As the dog moves and/or makes noise, a random message is sent to the dog's twitter account.  This way one can "follow" what their dog is doing during the day.

Here's a link to read more about it:
LA Times article

Random tweets from my dog throughout the day?  I really don't know what to say.  I love my dogs, but this is just too far.

It is kind of fun to think about what the dogs would Tweet, though.  Here's what I think mine would say:

Ziggy:  Squirrel, squirrel, squirrel.  Let. Me. Out!!
Maggie:  Ahh, the sofa is nice.  Did the child drop any food here? Ahh, the armchair is nice.
Denzil:  I just want to be petted.  Why aren't the humans home?!  Oh, is that a Crayon?  Yum.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My first trip with Ken was cancelled

Right now I should be on a plane headed to Chicago.  So why am I doing a blog post?

Because I was headed to Pune, India.  In case you may not have heard, a bomb went off in a busy area of the city earlier today.  This is an area with nice restaurants that I've been to on each of my visits. Here's a link to the story:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123686766

As I was getting ready to go to the airport, both my boss and my boss' boss called me to make sure I was ok.  When they found out I hadn't left yet, I was instructed to call corporate security.  They were watching the situation closely, had set up "nerve centers" at the Corporate offices, and at the Pune office, but said it was ok to continue on.  After checking in at the airport, my colleagues and I heard from corporate security  that they had just made the call to halt all company travel into India, so our trip was cancelled.

So here I am back at home.  Thanks to your recommendations, Ken is fully loaded with books and, truthfully, I was looking forward to this trip.  Usually I really don't look forward to long trips, but I had everything perfectly packed, and Ken was ready to go.  All that flight time with nothing to do but read, nap, eat, and watch a movie or two.  A brief respite from the mad busy-ness that fills my life.

When I got back in the car, I suggested to The Husband that perhaps I could sequester myself away in the guest room with my carry-on luggage and the mini-DVD player.  Periodically, he could offer me prepared meals, snacks, and frequent beverages.  I could then emerge from the room in 23 hours - at around the time I was scheduled to land in India.

You might be able to guess how popular that idea was.  Back to the normal routine for me....

I hope that things in Pune return to normal soon as well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meet Ken Kindle, my new travel companion

(yes,  I've named my Kindle Ken.  I name certain, special inanimate objects.  and I like alliterations.  that may be strange, but that's me.  also, it can make for some interesting conversations, "Ken and I had a great trip.  He really kept me from getting bored on the plane", for instance.)

Now, I am in no way a person who has to have the latest and greatest technology, but after two "road-warrior" friends strongly recommended the Kindle, I gave in and decided to get one.

You see, I have 4 overseas trips planned in the next 4 months and the alternative to the Kindle looked something like this:

A stack of books and magazines that equal the weight of the rest of my luggage.  Hey, if a trip is 17 hours one way, I've got to have variety.  Unfortunately variety without the Kindle makes for one very heavy carry-one.

So Ken has arrived to lighten my load and allow reading variety.

The only problem - I have "book buyer's block."  I've only loaded 4 books onto Ken so far.  This is where I'm hoping all of you can help.

Do you have any "must read" books that you can recommend?


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Book Pairing Recommendation: For the Love of a Dog AND Bones Would Rain from the Sky

Folks recommend food & wine pairings all the time, so I figure why not book pairings?  
I recently read 2 books that complement each other very well.

They are: 

For the Love  of a Dog by Patricia McConnell


Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, and I got even more out of them by reading them back-to-back.  

First, I read Patricia McConnell's book in which she talks about dogs and their emotions.  The book is great in that it combines the science around dog emotions, with stories, descriptions and illustrations.  The book caused me to pay attention to the Trio a little more - watch for their reactions, their moods, and start to suppose what they might be feeling based on their actions, expressions, and body language.

Next, I read Suzanne Clothier's book.  I'm glad I read this book after McConnell's book.  For the Love of a Dog made me a firm believer, and Bones Would Rain from the Sky caused me to think about what impact my actions and my training have on my dogs' emotional states.  In the book, Clothier talks about the emotional and spiritual connection we have with our dogs, and reinforces the need to bring this insight into one's training and interaction with their canine partners.  It made me think about how many times I probably "misdiagnosed" the actions of one of my dogs.  Were they really being stubborn, or were they nervous and distracted.....?  Gosh, how many times have I misread my dogs and responded in the wrong way because of it?  

If you haven't read these books, I highly recommend you do.  McConnell first; Clothier next.  If you have read them, what did you think?  Did they cause you to "think different" like they did me? 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sight words and doggie poetry

The Child (human) is learning to read.  In his preschool class each week they practice "sight words."  This is basically spelling and memorizing words as class.  This week his sight words included "them" and "my."

The Child is enjoying learning to read, and decided to practice sight words at home.  To encourage him, the Husband found some "Dog Poetry" refrigerator magnets given to us by a friend of mine - Max's mother - a few years ago.  These are individual words that one can use to build dog-themed poetry on the fridge.  The Child decided these were his new sight words, and began to pull them out of the bag, spell them out, say them, and place them on the door.

For a while, it was all very sweet.  The Child would pull out a new sight word (aka dog poetry magnet), such as "squirrel" and "smell", say it, and spell it.  I thought learning dog themed words fit nicely with my plan to turn the boy into a dog fanatic.  What a great way to combine learning and dogs.

Great, that is, until The Child approached me with a word he didn't know, and couldn't sound out.  The conversation went something like this:
(Child) "Mommy, I don't know this word."
(Me) "Well, spell the word for me, and I'll tell you what it is."
(Child) "It starts with a B."
(Me)  "What are the other letters?"
(Child) "Bi"
(Me) "Come show it to me."
Child shows me word.
(long pause from me - can you guess?)
(Me) "That word is Bitch"
(Child) "B-i-t-c-h.  Bitch"
Child runs off to hang up his new sight word.

What was I to do?  In dog terms, of course, it's a legitimate word.  Nothing bad about it.  So I told him the truth.

Yet the thought of my Child running to preschool and telling the teachers the new words he learned this weekend made me cringe.  When The Child wasn't looking I stole that sight word and threw it away.

The Child noticed a word was missing (of course), but couldn't remember the word (whew!).  He continued on with his sight words and thankfully, the next word he pulled out was "pee."  The Child thought that word was so funny that he forgot about the other word.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Magic Whistle

We had snow last night, so this morning our yard was clean and white.  I let the dogs out first thing this morning, and they happily frisked out into the yard. 

When I came back to let them in a few minutes later, I didn’t hear any frisking.  I didn’t see any frisking.  No corgis magically appeared when I opened the back door.  So I called them.  The yard was eerily quiet.  What was going on?  Where were my furry little troublemakers?  I stuck my head out the sliding glass door and leaned to the right.  Mystery solved.  The gate was open about 8”, and the snow was trampled down with paw prints headed out the gate.

I called The Trio a little louder than usual.  No response.  There was only one thing left to do.  Slip on my shoes and grab The Magic Whistle. 

What is The Magic Whistle?

The Magic Whistle is a dog whistle on a carabiner.  What makes it magic?  This whistle is super-charged.  Nothing bad ever happens when this whistle is blown.  The sound of this whistle means that treats are soon to be dispensed to the corgi who comes to the sound of the whistle.

My first dog obedience instructor – the one who taught Maggie and I that obedience is fun – stressed the importance of the word “come” always leading to something good.  To have a good recall, the dog must trust that come is fun.  Come always leads to good things and praise.  Don’t call your dog to you before giving it a bath, for instance.  Great in theory, but I’ve haven’t been able to make it work perfectly.    My dogs do have good recalls, but “come” has lost its magic.  After all, come sometimes means that I have to go to mom to get my belly wiped, or to have my leash put on after I’ve chased deer through the yards of a few of the neighbors (not that any of my dogs have ever done that – ahem Denzil).  In short, despite my best intentions, come is not as foolproof as it should be. 

A few years ago, a friend sent me a dog whistle, and I decided that the whistle was going to be special, and remain special.  The whistle would always signal food and fun.  To get this going, I grabbed a bunch of treats and the whistle.  Just like “charging up” a clicker, every time I blew the whistle I gave the corgis a treat and praise.  To keep the whistle charged, I occasionally grab the whistle when I have particularly yummy treats (roast beef that The Child wouldn’t eat, for instance).  I blow the whistle, and when the corgis come from all ends of the house, they get the treats.  Yum!

Since The Magic Whistle is always “charged” I can grab it in an emergency (like this morning when the Trio of Trouble was on the loose in the neighborhood) to get the dogs back quickly.  It worked like a charm this morning.  Standing near the gate in my PJ’s and robe, I blew the whistle.  Seconds later 3 very happy, self-satisfied corgis came running my way (for the record, Maggie was first, but then she is the pack leader, and the dog who loves food the most).  When they arrived, they all had a big, yummy biscuit waiting for them, along with lots of pets and praise for coming home.  I was particularly happy, as I haven’t “charged” the whistle in quite in a while.  The Magic Whistle works its magic once again.

BTW - on my way to work, I had a bit of a look around the front of the house.  Pawprints in fresh snow really do tell a story, and it looks like the corgis had some fun on their romp!  Here's some proof that they had fun at our neighbor's house:

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