Justine and Jessica

For last few years I’ve been doing a summer seminar up in Washington with Justine Davenport, this year Tammy brought both her and Jessica down to our area. I like their stuff, I have for years, it suits me really well and the trained skills are so helpful to my students. Agility will always have a lot to do with natural motion, but I think training the commitment and skills takes agility to a higher level and lets the less athletic and mobile stay ahead and let their dogs know where they’re going. It does not, however, magically make drifty dogs into non-drifty dogs. 😉

Navarre did really well at the seminar, he does have so many great skills and his commitment is fantastic (when I use my verbals!). It’s a nice feeling to know that I can trust his skills, and we certainly have the ABILITY to get through most anything. Which is not the same as we will, especially with the driftiness, which remains his big weakness.

I often waffle about my response to the driftiness – does it really matter? And I go through phases of, “It’s just who he is, let him keep his speed up and go wide,” and “OMG, he’s so wide he’s running around everything and his lines are terrible – we need to work on the driftiness!” Jessica’s response was, “Don’t worry about it, let him keep the speed, he’s trying, that’s just who he is.” However, she also recommends ending every sequence having him chase a toy in my hand. Hm, now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, after LAST year’s seminar!

Now, last year we DID work on this. We spent three months only rewarding from hand with tug toys and chasing me at the ends of sequences. And that went fine, but it had no effect when he WASN’T chasing the toy in my hand. So we’ve been working on our hand touches, but we haven’t really put into sequences ‘for real’. I recognize that throwing a toy for Navarre constantly is NOT helping with his driftiness or coming into me issue. It does make him happy, so we will now compromise. We will end every sequence with chasing my hand, after which I will then throw the toy. Now, the hard part will be actually REMEMBERING to do that consistently, but that is the plan.

Really though, Navarre is such a good boy. He was excited, focused and working well throughout the seminar – even when it was super hot. He was on his best behavior, acting like he did NOT go through an extended period where he had no idea what a threadle was. He had lovely independent everything, including some nice weavepole entrances, serps and backsides. Jumping was good, well, other than some not collecting. I don’t think he dropped any bars all weekend – I do love how effortless it is for him. He was actually pretty high, I had problems getting his frisbee away from him, he just wanted to tug – he only does that when he’s really excited. He was up for anything, never got tired, was trying his hardest and having a great time. I just LOVE that boy, he is the best.

Predictably, I did best on the first day when it was cooler, that was with Justine. We also did more interesting sequences and drills where I wasn’t sure what the best way to handle it for us would be. Sunday with Jessica was more basic and very hot – and I was not as much into it. I just feel so dead in the heat, and we were in the afternoon session outdoors. Luckily Navarre didn’t seem to mind!

So, skill-wise I felt good with the babydog, we’ve done our homework in that regard. It was nice to talk about jump training and get opinions on what might be the best approach with helping Navarre be successful. Basically, Navarre is a nice jumper, he CAN collect and understands very well his collection cues – it’s not that he’s not collecting, it’s that he’s then not chasing me. This is all very familiar as it’s the same stuff as last year! Just nice to get some second opinions on our best course of action. I think Navarre will like our plan which is to continue to try to be the best handler I can, give him lots of early information and set good lines and then work on his chase drive.

Of course, the most exciting part of the seminar is that not one, but TWO of Bright’s puppies were there – and that it was their 4 year old birthday over the weekend! Crazy to think that Bright’s all red litter is now four – not really babies anymore. And Bright is seven – yikes!

Bright’s puppies are these adorable sensitive nerds that I just adore – but, obviously, I’m biased. They both got some Bright sensitivity, but in different ways. But both are just sweet and funny and full of personality – and they LOVE their agility. It made my heart happy to see them all grown up, happy and well loved. Bright thought they were just fine, as well she should, Creed is like the Male Bright. Like god forbid the cats look at him, he would go hide behind people. Love them, Bright’s funny red puppies.

Navarre and I had our last agility trial of the season over the weekend. We lucked out with some fairly moderate weather on Saturday, but over 90 on Sunday – boo! Luckily it was a nice one judge trial, and I love the schedules they have with those. Both Premiers first in the morning, and then both excellent classes – which are small, because it’s only one judge! My favorite. And they had improved the surface as well, which made me happy.

Well run trial, the courses were fun … except the contact approaches, which were just bizarre all weekend. I, and other people, had to ask multiple times to get better approaches – just did not seem to be something she worried about. And just consistently, I haven’t seen anything like it for quite some time, I feel like safe contact approaches are more of a priority these days, especially in AKC.


The dogs were coming from the weaves to the dogwalk … yeah, no – I just made up my own course and went to the aframe instead, I wasn’t doing that with Navarre. And a lot of dogs do fine with this sort of thing (and Navarre PROBABLY would have), but … why? At no point do I think I should have to say, “My dog PROBABLY won’t hurt himself on that contact approach”. So that was disappointing, but, thankfully, not something I see much of these days (at least in AKC).

Navarre actually had a pretty good weekend, we had a lot of nice runs and only one ridiculously stupid one. He was still drifty and wide, and, yes ran around jumps – but he also did a lot of really great stuff and was happy and having a great time. Weaves were spot on, not one issue!  He had some really fantastic independent entrances AND exits – superstar! Contacts looked good, including a tough 90 degree turn off the dogwalk into a wall where I had to run around the judge in my way and he still found the weave entrance – good boy!

His premier runs did not feel like a hot mess either! One he ran around the tire, and the other he was perfect, I just skipped the dogwalk because of the approach. He had two Qs in premier jumpers, and one I thought was pretty tough to get up there:

Navarre even got a double Q – and High in Trial too! Super proud of my big puppy, he’s growing up. Of course, then we had one run where he got three jumps and then just floated off and around a jump for no particular reason and I had him lie down and got whistled off. So, yeah, still a baby.

So we’re done with trialing until the end of September, when hopefully Bright will join us again. I had Bright adjusted by the chiropractor at the trial today, who she found a bunch of stuff in her back … hm. Well, the goal is to get her back in shape and ready for action by the Fall – she’s cleared to be a dog though.

As for summer, Haku will continue to herd – and he has a tentative herding debut in August, assuming everything works out. The theory is that Carol is going to attempt to run him in an AKC competition up in Washington she’s going to. This is assuming he’ll work for her and he can do things other than drive at this point. So that’s our goal at the moment, looking at skills for novice AKC herding – which he most definitely SHOULD have. Theoretically. Fun to have something to work towards, we’ll see how it goes.

Herding this week went much better than our last attempt at driving in the big field. No losing the sheep and having to tromp all over the property to find them. There is a fine line between driving and sheep just running away. I can’t always tell the difference, and I’m TRYING not to constantly fix his lines, so sometimes the sheep DID start to get away. The difference is this week Haku was actually covering, sometimes not always very efficiently though. But I was super impressed when the sheep went back behind some hills and trees and Haku was outrunning to cut them off and I lost sight of them, I couldn’t help him and he had to figure it all out on his own – and he did! Multiple times! He was very proud of himself. Of course, it would be best if he wouldn’t lose the sheep in the first place, but we’re working on it. So we did some driving, we did some emergency blind sheep fetching – I felt good about being actually useful.

Now, Navarre, well, that’s another story. I didn’t even use a stock stick today, I was just stepping through those sheep and telling him to BACK THE HELL OFF. He CAN do it … but, boy, there is a lot of arguing.

We don’t have another lesson until mid-July, but hoping to get some good practice in and see if Carol and Haku can work together. I am optimistic that Haku has another year of herding in him, and maybe he has more, but he’ll be 10 and that may not be realistic. We’ll try to make the best of what time we have.

In other news, Summer of Puppies continues, with slightly less puppies than originally scheduled, but that’s okay. Right now I have Leia, a 9 week old briard. She’s been a very slow to come into her own, but now after a week I feel like I’m seeing more of the ‘real puppy’. The border collies are not fans of puppies that start off being perfectly polite and then suddenly change into ‘real’ puppies. I think Navarre would have been into her if she had arrived more interactive, but now Leia pretty much plays with the border collies against their will – which is actually pretty easy to do. Haku is the usual target of this sort of play, as he won’t defend himself.

Happy to see Leia feeling more comfortable though, apparently briards are giant dramaqueens, and she’s certainly been one. Seeing a lot less of that and she’s finally starting to play, and chased her first cat today. She’s been interesting to train as she started out incredibly passive, and is finally starting to get more dynamic. So interesting to get a chance to work with a different breed. She’ll go home in another week, I think.

In the meantime, another border collie puppy to raise! Tammy is going to start her off though, so we’ll see how much I see of her. Kind of neat she’s a mixture of all our dogs, I’m very curious what she’ll be like. Not sure how long she’ll be staying, just depends on how easy she is to live with, I imagine.

Cat Hiking

Summer of Puppies continues, Carol’s Briard puppies are 7.5 weeks, and I’ll get to play with one for a couple weeks while she’s waiting for her new owner. I do like Briards, but way too big and hairy for me. Playing with a puppy for a couple weeks will be fun though, they are very food motivated and people focused puppies – sort of the anti-border collie puppy. Then I’ll have a European sheltie puppy for a couple weeks, will be interesting to see if there is a difference from the american style shelties. And then it’s time to play with another border collie pup, a half sibling to Navarre and also related to Haku, Bright and Fred. The plan is Tammy is going to take that puppy while I’m finishing up with my other puppy visitors. We’ll see how long that puppy sticks around, I’m betting she’s going to be a handful. And red. Red dogs are always trouble.

Meanwhile we’re about ready for our agility finale around here, Justine and Jessica seminar this weekend, just Navarre. I have no grand ambitions for us, we’re still dealing with the same issues we were the last time we did a seminar with Justine. We also have not at all been focusing on international skills. I imagine we’ll still have fun.

Navarre then has one more trial in June, then we’re done until September. I’m dreading this summer something fierce and plan to spend it avoiding being hot when I can. Hoping to do a lot of hiking, swimming and going to the beach.

Still planning on doing some herding in the summer, Haku is on a bit of time crunch here and I want him to be able to do some trials. But at our lesson this week he really just got too tired, and that broke my heart. Haku doesn’t GET tired – but he’s not as young as he used to be. The problem was we took the sheep out to the big field … and Haku promptly lost them. Doh. So the sheep ran WAAAAY to the other end of the property, which involved us trekking all over the world to try to find the sheep in the trees and tall grass and he was just … not good at this. Even when I could SEE the sheep I would try to show him where they were, but he didn’t believe me. So we chased sheep all over the property and then did a LITTLE bit of driving – but Haku was tired. Poor guy, getting older sucks. And he IS fat. There will be no more Fat Haku, he got his Fat Food cut back. We could use some more practice, especially in bigger areas with lighter sheep. Which is not something we have access to, unfortunately.

I worked Navarre at his herding lesson this week, I had hoped to work him in between his last lesson, but it didn’t happen. I had low expectations, but he actually did better for me than he been for Dave. I can be a hardass with Navarre, and he needs that level of black and white, at least with sheep. It’s so different than working with Haku, but I know Navarre is not going to be questioning and losing his sheep, that’s for damn sure. We actually got some nice distance this week, comparatively speaking, and some good homework for working with our terrible stick-on sheep. And talk about exhausting, this kind of mental work blows Navarre away – it’s not easy for him to use all that self control.

I went up and watched just a little of a ABHA herding trial at Brigand’s over the weekend, which is a TINY trial (by design). Apparently a much more forgiving and novice venue than most, and they actually have a few local trials. I think this might be a good option for Haku to let him have a few trials. Certainly nothing too exhausting for my ‘old’ man. We may make that our goal, as the only other trials in Oregon are USBCHA trials, which I think will be too advanced for what Haku is going to be able to do in the time he has. We just want to go move sheep around in a helpful fashion and give us something to shoot for. I don’t even have that goal for Navarre.

Agility-wise it’s been hard not having Bright to trade off with Navarre – Navarre needs very short, high energy sessions. He’s not the sort of dog that can do a lot of repetition or wants to work forever. And I do like to run my dogs through things before classes to make sure they run smoothly. Haven’t been able to do that for the last few weeks, I miss my Brightness – the girl has stamina. We are currently running a Summer League in classes, out of curiosity I wanted to compare some different handling choices with Navarre. I would have guessed the second option would be faster (with more extension), but the first option was the clear winner. So interesting to note …

This week we tried two different endings, the second ending turned out faster:

And the cutest news, Marvin went hiking last week. I had bought him a little harness when he was a kitten with the goal that we’d at least attempt to do a little Adventure Kitty stuff. But he was sick so often I never really did it, nor did I do any cute cat tricks that I planned. But I bought a travel backback recently as I wanted a cat carrier than wasn’t a giant dog crate (like the Maine Coons have to use). So I had the backpack, I had the harness, Marvin had almost immediately taken to going out in the yard … I decided to just go for it and take him hiking.

Not the smartest decision to do this with no training or preparation, but I was willing to turn around and come home if he was terrified of the whole thing. Marvin enjoyed himself though, and was happy to be carried for long distances – which was good as hiking with cats is not a fast process. Marvin is not actually leash trained, so I just had him on a 50 foot long line for safety and did my best to encourage him to come with us as I couldn’t actually USE the leash. This wasn’t terribly successful, as he didn’t want to run off, but he didn’t really want to come with us either – he liked to hang out. But he was totally chill if I just carried him, and he did well in the backpack carrier as well, but I think it was more bumpy. So we’ll give it another try one of these days, it was pretty fun!

Meanwhile, Bright finally had her appointment with the sports vet this week. I was, as usual, not optimistic and was pretty prepared for some long term rehab of an illospoas or something like that. Bright HAS been looking pretty darn good, but we haven’t been doing much and there has been a lot of rest. For once though, it wasn’t anything serious. Basically jammed toes on her foot, but not really her toes, the bones behind toes – but basically she probably stubbed her foot! Which seems really silly, but it was so good to hear that otherwise she was looking really good. She is seven years old this month and has done her fair share of agility through the years. I appreciate that she has a lot of self preservation, but I always worry.

Basically she looks really good though, and that makes me feel good. Just some slight changes to her knees that the vet thought were related to a lifetime of twists and jumps, but nothing that should be bothering her or should affect her in the future. So, yeah, no complaints! We have some foot exercises to work on making sure her little metacarpals or whatever get back to flexible, but she’s cleared for action. She’s SO happy! And, it’s funny how she still feels like it’s her duty to act super dramatic when being examined and refuse to acknowledge the person, but the moment they’re done she’s instantly happy and their best friend. My drama queen isn’t even very good at drama these days! And she actually went completely limp during examination, which would have NEVER happened in the old days. Seven year old Bright is awesome!

In other news, I did contact a breeder of border-whippets today to express interest in a future litter. Now, I’m not saying anything will come of it, but unlike border collies, you don’t just decide spur of the moment to get one, they have waiting lists for years – at least for proven sports lines. And this particular breeding would be a very known quantity, with many different relatives all successfully competing and crosses of these lines having worked out very well for sports dogs with great temperaments and structure.

The plan is if the current litter turns out well they will repeat it in the future, and as they’ve had a lot of success crossing these lines before, they have high expectations for nice dogs. So it would be an opportunity to get my sighthound – but with a high probability they will enjoy training and sports – and jump well. I was talking to the owner of relatives and she was very happy with them, knows a lot of really nice relatives as well. Her experience with border whippets is that they are super fun to train, super easy to live with, really cuddly, do great with other animals, solid temperments and very athletic. And smooth coat – that would be nice! She also has whippets and border collies, and definitely prefers the borderwhippet. I have no idea if this will pan out at all, and I don’t know if I would really trust a lot of BW breedings unless I knew someone will first had knowledge of the lines. But if it worked out, these dogs speak to me and I could see a puppy for me. We shall see what the future brings …

Goodbye to Fenny

Fenwick passed away this week, he was almost 18 years old. Bruce told me that he went for a walk around the field, and then passed away peacefully in his sleep. I’m so thankful he had such a long, healthy life and such a gentle passing. It’s what I wish for all my animals.

It was so hard to leave Fenwick behind in the divorce, but I do think it was the right choice – the move and new place would have been hugely stressful for him at his age. I’m thankful that Bruce took such good care of him and he got to stay in his ‘retirement’ home until the end. I hadn’t seen Fenny for a year and a half, and I knew when I left that both Fenwick and Brisbee were not going to be with us for much longer. Still, while I knew intellectually that this was going to happen, it still hit me hard to hear the news.

I loved that little dog like no other, our relationship was closer than I have had with any of my other dogs – Fenwick would have it no other way. His separation anxiety was difficult to live with, but that was a dog that NEEDED to be with his people. The border collies, though I love them so, they don’t need me, not really – and certainly not like Fenwick did.

He spoiled me for all other dogs, there was nothing that he wasn’t up for. He had boundless enthusiasm and energy, he loved everything we did together. He was my introduction to everything dog related, he introduced me to agility, flyball, rally, obedience, tricks, clicker training – everything I love today. I recognize now that he wasn’t the easiest dog to train, he was frantic and overstimulated – but if you have enthusiasm you can do anything, and he had no lack of that.

I’ve never met another dog like him, Tammy got him DNA tested when he was older and turned out he was 1/2 boston terrier and 1/2 keeshond mix. People thought of him as ‘terrier’, but he was actually very ‘spitz’ in temperament. He was loud and pushy and over the top and – god I loved that dog. When we adopted him at the shelter he was labeled as an 8 week old cattle dog mix – we got him home and found out he was actually a 5 month old – we thought he was rather mature for his age! But he really was just FENWICK, completely unique.

So, yeah, 18 years, almost half my life – hard to believe he’s gone. For some reason I just keep thinking it’s so weird that Fenwick went before Brisbee. They were similar in age but Brisbee has had a lot more health issues as they got older, while Fenwick has been pretty much invincible. Brisbee is hanging in there though, he turned 17 in April. Little mix breed rescues have longevity.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Fenwick, he was such a pivotal force in my life. I’m thankful for the many, many lessons he taught me and recognize I’ll never have the same relationship with a dog that I did with him. What he we had was incredibly special and I was very lucky to have found him. I’d do it all over in a heartbeat.

Fenwick and Poco were the best of friends, and it makes me happy to think of them together again, chasing each other forever now. Goodbye to one amazing spirit – thank you, Fenwick – for everything.