A Perfect Fall?

Good lord this has been one very dry, very warm Fall. I just can’t believe it’s November! This week it was perfect, crisp mornings up to mid-50s during the day – partly cloudy with just amazing sunsets. The light is just beautiful, the trees so beautiful, the sky so beautiful – I really do love Oregon. I’m going to just say this is a mild Fall and not some sort of portent of doom for an ever warming planet. More enjoyable that way.

Dogs are loving the season, lots of training, lots of park/field runs as well as hiking and swimming – no more getting overheated, we can go forever. In this weather we can do it all. It’s a whole household of happy animals, including kitties in sunbeams – smiles all around.

I remain enormously happy with the robot vacuum. It’s gotten stuck twice, in really weird places that I don’t really understand how – it can get itself out of crazy situations – but in both cases when I came home it was more like just sitting next to a wall, no real obstructions anywhere. But most of the time it does its thing, and it does it well. The house looks SO NICE when I get home. And because you have to get everything tidied up for the vacuum when you leave, coming home to such a clean house puts me in a great mood. Easy to clean, surprisingly doesn’t get a ton of hair stuck on the brush (but easy to take out and clean anyway). There is no downside to the robot vacuum so far. I want everyone to get one now, as I had no idea they were this awesome.

More good news, sounds like Figgy is doing very well in her new household! Was really fun to see some video of her, she’s still in that super awkward teenage stage, but so much fluffier now. Knock on wood, sounds like she’s settling in and behaving herself, and they are enjoying her. Really makes me happy to hear she landed in such a great home. I almost got to play with a Belgian Shepherd puppy for a little bit, but, alas, didn’t happen. Would have been really interesting to see what living with a puppy like that would be like. We didn’t get to see that litter again like we planned, unfortunately. Hopefully there will be more puppies in the future for me to play with.

Agility this week we played with some Justine exercises again, I was pretty pleased with what the dogs were doing. I really like doing her proofing exercises and drills just for the challenge, we don’t really use those skills in actual competition, but they are fun to play with. If you want to see Navarre get REALLY HIGH, watch Robert run him – good lord! They are really fun to watch, Navarre doesn’t know what to do with a handler that actually RUNS – but he just loves it. Robert does a great job with him, and it’s really fun to watch Navarre run from the outside. That boy tries so hard! I have not been working on our collection homework, but we’ll get back to it at some point … when he starts going so wide it drives me crazy, I imagine.

Bright is also looking good, just happy and fun and occasionally way too creative. I can’t imagine life without the Brightness, she is such a joy and such a good, good girl. I entered just a couple trials, one day, but with some Premier. Hopefully we’ll get some fun courses. No particular trialing goals with either dog at the moment, but I do enjoy trialing and testing to see what we can do … assuming the courses are well designed and have some challenge to them.

USDAA nationals last weekend, UKI nationals this weekend. UKI definitely looks more fun – and much farther away, naturally. Tiny USDAA nationals this year, the east coast folks stuck to UKI, I think. And I think overall it’s just a more fun event, with lots of fun classes and lots of opportunity to advance, even if you didn’t qualify during the year. I don’t know how many dogs are in the event, but it certainly seems like a hell of a lot more than USDAA nationals. But UKI never seems to come to the west coast, so less likely for me to ever think about going. But, hey, I’m okay with that – big events are fun, but traveling … not so much.

In obedience, Navarre continues to improve – and seems to be enjoying the training more and more. I get less eye rolls these days when we attempt to work on things. He consistently shows up with enthusiasm and doesn’t seem like he’s just humoring me. So that’s been really fun, I like training new things and being able to actually work on refining heeling and fronts and finishes and things – so novel. I even signed him up for an obedience match this weekend! So that will be test, what do the behaviors look like in public? How much work is it really going to take to get him in an obedience trial situation? We still have 5 months until his theoretical debut, so it’s okay if it’s a hot mess – but I’m feeling all optimistic after lots of great practice this week. We’ll be doing a Novice and Open run at the match, which is a little silly considering we haven’t really practiced any of the Open stuff recently – but as long as we’re there, why not? He can, theoretically, do it all. But anything could happen. The goal is for good experiences, focus, enthusiasm and hopefully some thoughtful behaviors in public. I’m sure we’ll have homework after that.

Then we had a miracle in our herding lesson this week – Navarre actually fetching sheep with both an outrun and then actually not just shoving the sheep past Dave! Let us put in some disclaimers that Dave had to put a lot of pressure on him to start with to get him to actually respect that bubble, but it had never actually worked to help him voluntarily pace himself before. And, with that, Navarre has passed the two tests that I required for him to actually continue with herding once Haku retires – an outrun and being able to feel his sheep instead of just pushing them around like an oblivious dork.

Navarre has kind of snuck in there, he used to get the last 15 minutes of Haku’s lesson, and now we tend to split it down the middle more and more often. He’s actually making progress, slowly but surely. I still want Dave to take him for some training this winter, as I do think if he could actually just get to work on it we could get past some of the dorkiness. I’d like him to have an idea of what herding is actually FOR, he still doesn’t really know. But I think Navarre will get to be a herding dog after all. I’m not in any rush, but I’d like to eventually put whistles on him and actually train him for real. Eventually, in our slow meandering way.

Speaking of whistles, I think Haku needs some. We have an issue, which is Heather has a very tiny voice that doesn’t project AT ALL. So we went out to work on some longer outruns and lifting the sheep off of Dave and his dog … and Haku couldn’t hear me at all. And it’s not because he’s deaf, Dave couldn’t hear me either. I got nothing. So this is one problem that is putting a major snag into our plan to eventually do some border collie trials with him. This was not super far, about 100 yards, where apparently most people can still be herd with verbal directions. But not me. Sigh. Tiny voice strikes again.

And then the older the dog, the harder it is to put whistles on them, assuming we have enough time to do that. But the plan is to try anyway, and even if Haku doesn’t pick it up, I can still use him to practice my whistles anyway, even if they mean nothing to Haku. And then maybe I can research on how to project more with my voice, I’ve never actually attempted to be louder, maybe it’s something that can be taught.

So that’s one issue we ran into today, the other big issue is I think almost all the fields we have practiced in for years are probably not more than 75 yards, and Haku is pretty confident at 75 yds … but not so much 100 yds. You can really tell what distance we’ve practiced … and what we haven’t. He got better with some practice … but we don’t have access to bigger training fields. If we can’t practice it, he’s not going to get better at it. Hm. And we also need practice lifting off other dogs and people, which is what we were SUPPOSED to be working on, but that seemed less critical than the other two. So contemplating that problem, as we really won’t be able to do the border collie trials if we don’t have access to the type of bigger fields they are run in – and if he can’t hear anything I’m telling him anyway. So, hm. And it will eventually be an issue for Navarre as well, so I have to find some solutions here.

Still, such a beautiful day, the dogs just love herding, I’m doing better at not screaming so much – still enjoying herding this week.

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