Monday, October 19, 2009

Deja vu all over again...

Cory and I went to Zanesville OH this weekend for the Parkersburg Obedience Training Club's agility trials. It was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL weekend to drive and the leaves were much more changed there than here. We had a great time although Cory was in "butthead" mode most of the weekend. We had no Qs, but he did try very hard for me on the standard course. We were 100% in all three classes for startline stays, contacts, and no knocked bars, so we are getting there...

The first video is of Cory's standard run this weekend and the second one is of his dad Andy almost 10 years ago when he was still a young green dog. It is amazing how little has changed! (including my hairstyle and my handling; you would have thought I'd have learned something in that time frame. And I think I still have that shirt in my closet). I HAVE apparently done a better job of training contacts as Cory doesn't creep down the contact like his dad (although I have no complaints because Andy was pretty reliable on his contacts, though he would push if I let him). When I watch video of them running though they are SO alike in so many ways. Not all of them good!

Sorry about the quality in Andy's video; I stopped taping our runs because I was tired of seeing my big butt and now I regret hardly having any video of him!

I am so lucky to have had two dogs with such drive and enthusiasm. They truly are a joy to train and live with. Even if I do gripe about Cory all the time :-). That's half the fun!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Off to the Smokies Part 2- agility trial!

My pictures finally came so I can finish telling you about our North Carolina trip! To pick up where I left off, we drove down to our cabins on a Tuesday night and spent Wednesday and Thursday relaxing with the dogs and doing just a little sightseeing. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were entered in the Blue Ridge Agility Club's trials. Prior to this, Cory has been entered in standard only 3 or 4 times primarily to practice his startline stays and contacts. The last time I ran him was last December at our club's trial in the FAST class, where he did come close to Qing. In fact, that was the last trial I had been to and the last time I ran Andy. I knew Cory still wasn't ready, but time was catching up with us and I had to get motivated to start really training again. Since we were there, and this club had absolutely the BEST entry fee package, I figured what the heck and gave it a shot. I didn't really expect to qualify but thought we could sort of see where we were and evaluate. I was a little worried about running him in jumpers as stringing together long jump sequences is where we start having problems (he is way too handler focused and doesn't send well yet, especially to jumps), but we needed to see how bad the issue would be on a full course with a full head of steam.

My roomates Kathy and Sharon did not have to be to the trial until later, so I was first up and on the road from my cabin. You guessed, it, more rain. Luckily this trial was held at a really nice, outdoor covered horse arena with near perfect footing for me. Driving through the mountains that morning was really beautiful, and I was zooming along in quite a good mood when suddenly it occurred to me that this was the first agility trial I had been to since Andy died. Not only that, but other than Levi's very first agility trial at the sheltie national way back in 1997, it was the first agility trial I had EVER gone to without Andy- he came along just a couple of months after Levi got that first leg and went with me to every trial from then until he died. I admit I got a little teary; I still miss my boy every single day and one of the reasons that I haven't really worked Cory in agility much is that I just get a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach running without Andy. As I was driving and sniffling a little bit, I noticed the song on the radio- it was an old country song by Ricky Van Shelton called "Wild Man". That was what I would always call my Andy at the agility trials- when we headed over to line up for our turn in the ring I would always tell him "Come on, wild man" and he knew that it was his turn to run. The words of the song kept repeating "I'm a wild man, that's what I am"...almost like Andy was letting me know a little piece of him would be with me at every trial for the rest of my life. I'm not really one to believe in "signs" so much....but I don't believe much in coincidence either and what are the odds that that particular seventeen year old song would be playing on the radio?

I miss you, my little wild man. I'm glad I have a piece of you in your son, but it still will never be the same.

But on to Cory! I have to say that, despite the LONG days this club's trial was very nice, the facility was great, the setting was beautiful (when we could see it through the pouring rain!), the food was EXCELLENT and the courses were without exception flowing and fun. Plus we had real indoor bathrooms! I wish I had pictures of the mountains surrounding all four sides of the arena to show you, but sadly the weather was just too icky to get any. We definitely could appreciate WHY they're called the Smokies, though! At times it was like something out of a Tolkien novel.

I was SO proud of Cory- all weekend, through 8 classes, he had intense focus and energy; he NEVER lost it and ran amuck, and he tried very hard 100% of the time to play by my rules. His startline stays were solid (well, ok, he blew one but it WAS partly my fault), his contacts were great, and he even hit both weave pole entries the first day on the first try! The rest of the weekend we had almost all right sided poles and I think he got them all on at least the second try. It took his dad a LONG time for me to be able to say that! He does need to learn to drop his head and drive through a little more- he still has a lot of wasted motion, but that will come with experience.

I was especially pleased with his jumpers runs. We have definite issues with stringing together more than 2 or 3 jumps- he gets very revved up and starts to spin back and bark at me. He is VERY sensitive to my body language which is not at all precise, and way too handler focused. He sends to the weaves or contacts much better than to jumps. The course the first day was really a good one for us with "bowtie" loops so I didn't have to run too hard to keep up and he did much better than I expected. Day two we had to sit on the startline for about an eon while some course adjustments were made; the course was not so good for me and I needed to do a long lead out pivot which he is not really solid on to keep myself in position. He held the startline stay for a lead out long enough that we didn't both fit in the frame of the video camera even zoomed out all the way, but missed the pivot and got stuck in a spin cycle we never recovered from. Day three he broke his only startline stay of the weekend; I broke my cardinal rule of NEVER allowing my dogs to continue (I can honestly say I don't think I have ever failed to carry my dogs off if they broke their stay). I hesitated long enough to pull him off his weave pole entry, but ultimately decided we needed practice running full courses more than startline stays. I think in this case it was a good decision- we worked the stays separately afterwards, he held both of them later in the day, and he actually had a MUCH better run than I expected with only two places we got sticky- one due to needing more training and one due to me just being too slow. The improvement from Saturday to Sunday was immense, and I was so pleased.

I was really happy with our standard runs; I think he will Q in standard soon. We came very close on Sunday. He had great runs on Friday and Sunday; on Sunday I forgot which dog I was running and didn't support his contact sends well enough and he ran by each one- very unusual for him. BUT we didn't have a single spin until we got to the very last jump- a tough for us sequence of tunnel-jump-chute- jump and out, so you can imagine how far behind I was when we got to the last jump. His contact performances were very solid. On Saturday I pushed it just a little too far; we had a dogwalk-tunnel-aframe sequence and when he came out of the tunnel he wanted to "buzz" by me once before hitting the aframe; I held him on the frame contact a LONG time thinking I would settle him down (and also to let me cross in front and get into position) and after a LONG time he did pop off before I released him and I carried him off. I really regretted that after I thought about it though, as he probably waited 10-15 seconds- an ETERNITY in agility time- on that contact while I strolled into position- that's a lot to ask of a green dog! I shouldn't have pushed it.

But the best part of the weekend was Cory actually Q'd and placed second in FAST on Friday! FAST is a "games" class; you have 30 seconds to accumulate points. Each obstacle is worth a certain point value. To qualify you have to accumulate a certain number of points AND successfully complete the "send", which is a sequence of obstacles where you "send" your dog across a line and handle the sequence from a distance without crossing the line. Once the 30 second whistle blows, you lose one point for every second it takes you to jump the "out" jump and stop the timers. It is great fun and nice for novice dogs as you can reattempt obstacles if you need to, or avoid obstacles your dog isn't ready for (as long as they aren't in the send).

He SHOULD have qualified in FAST on Saturday as well, if his dumb handler had paid more attention when she walked the course. FAST and standard ran in the same ring, and in standard both days before running fast the course started with jump-dogwalk. I set him up for the opening in FAST on Saturday with jump- teeter- not even thinking that he was pattern trained to expect the dogwalk, and being a greed dog, would have difficulty telling the teeter and dogwalk apart when approached straight on. You guessed it, he flew off the teeter quite spectacularly- I don't think it dropped at all and he ran right off the end; "yelled" at me by barking with teeth showing that it was all my fault but did a great job when we reattempted it; I think this may have been the reason we had the contact run bys the next day too- he wanted to get a good look at them. Sadly he knocked the bar on the double in the send or we would have had Q number two. Oh well, c'est la vie. I learned an important lesson about looking at things from my dog's perspective and in the context of the whole weekend.

Running Cory was like deja vu in many cases- he is SO like his father in so many ways, especially when Andy was young and first starting out. I guess that means I haven' t learned anything and have made the same training mistakes! He does care a lot more about playing by my rules and he tries REALLY hard to do things right though- Andy played by my rules only because I'd carry him off if he didn't, he always thought he had a new and improved way to do things! This weekend was a great bonding experience for Cory and I- we had just started to come together as a team when Andy died, and left alone together we kind of had to redefine our relationship. I think Cory had the best time of his life all week with the agility trial being the cherry on top of the sundae.

Since getting my new laptop moving pictures and video around in blogger is a pain- not sure why, same software and OS but that's Vista for you- so I'm not going to post any video here, but maybe I'll post one of Cory running and one of Andy when he first started for comparison later. Now I have the bug again, we are entered in Zanesville next weekend and at our club's trial next month and are back in class again. I have set up the longest send I can manage in my basement (about 50 feet- he bounces most of the jumps) and as of last night Cory can now send over 5 jumps to the table OR call off after 4 to the tunnel on the left, all while I am sitting on the couch in front of the TV. We haven't quite managed to direct him off to the side to the baby dog walk after the table without me getting up though. Maybe by next week!

Our fun was not dampened in the least by the weather nor the fact that I-75 was closed on the way home and it took the better part of an hour to detour around it (a few members of our group were stuck sitting there for FIVE OR SIX HOURS! YIKES!) . Nor by the amount of red dirt ground into Cory's white furnishings; we actually borrowed a hose at a gas station on the way home and blasted the worst of it off of him! We also really tried to take his picture in front of "Flealand" which has billboards all over down in southern KY, but their directions weren't very good and I couldn't find it! I really wanted that shot!
Thanks to VW Perry and Furry Fotography for the great pictures!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Premium Edge by Diamond Cat food recall

Diamond foods has announced a recall of their Premium Edge cat foods. Several cases were posted in the past 1-2 weeks on our veterinary computer network, and thanks to some astute detective work and a little bit of luck, a rash of cats with severe neurologic symptoms was tracked down to food that was deficient in thiamin, most likely due to poor quality control during processing.

My personal opinion in this case...Diamond is involved WAY too often in recalls with fairly serious implications. This is something I worry about with many of the specialty "boutique" type foods, typically sold only through pet stores, generally at the high end of the price range, but often from smaller companies who just don't have the resources to maintain the safety and quality control of some of the larger companies. Often they are rated quite high on lists produced by companies such as the Whole Dog Journal; but their ratings seem to be based only on label comparisons which tell only a small part of the story. As a matter of fact, WDJ's top rated food was involved in a huge recall several years ago in which a number of dogs died; the actual source of the problem was never identified to my knowledge but a number of problems and deficiencies with the diet were identified in trying to track down the source of the problem.

I think also you have to be aware of and differentiate between industry wide issues, such as the big melamine problem a couple of years ago; recalls for minor issues to be on the safe side, and recalls in which serious illness or death occurred due to quality control and processing issues. The latter issue is one that I look at when evaluating food quality. Buyer beware!

Diamond Pet Foods has withdrawn from distribution the following date codes of Premium Edge Finicky Adult Cat and Premium Edge Hairball cat: RAF0501A22X 18lb., RAF0501A2X 6 lb., RAH0501A22X 18 lb., RAH0501A2X 6lb. The calls from pet owners or veterinarians regarding this issue have been centered in the Rochester, NY area. All retail outlets shipped the above lots were contacted, asking them to pull the product from the store shelves. The retailers were also asked to contact their customers via email or telephone requesting them to check the date code of the food. However, if you or anyone you know has these date codes of Premium Edge cat food, please return them to your retailer. Symptoms displayed by an affected cat will be neurological in nature. Any cats fed these date codes that display these symptoms should be immediately taken to a veterinarian.Product testing proved no contaminants were discovered in the cat food; however the cat foods were deficient in thiamine. Diamond tracked the vitamin premix lot number that was utilized in these particular cat foods and have performed testing on another lot of Premium Edge cat food that used the same vitamin premix, and it was not deficient in thiamine. No other neurological signs have been reported on any other product manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods.