Well, 2020 strikes again – Navarre has … something going on. Not sure how long that has been going on, but it’s entirely possible his rather odd ‘back issue’ this year was not actually his back after all … or maybe it was, and still is. If we hadn’t started back to classes where I’m watching him pee I would never have assumed anything was wrong, he’s not acting any different otherwise – but, yeah, peeing for days was our tip off (which he does not do when hiking, etc). Then even after peeing for three minutes, still more pee dribbling out as we’d walk inside – WTF?

So prostate issue was the first guess, and, yes he’s had this odd surge of what seems like testosterone the last six months or so, so possibly related. We went to the vet, where they are still doing ‘curbside’ appointments and they said he screamed upon rectal exam. Urinalysis showed … something, which would support some of infection or inflammation of the prostate. So they put him on antibiotics and said they would put him on the neuter waiting list, which was about 2-3 months long. All of which was very confusing to me, I’ve never had a dog with a prostate issue before, but it seems like something that is cured by neutering, so having him wait months with this peeing issue and a painful prostate was not a plan I was on board with. I did give the antibiotics some time to magically fix the issue, which they did not.

So with some very helpful assistance, I was able to get into a recommended vet in Mollala for a second opinion – as vets are really overwhelmed right now, it’s not easy. Really liked this vet, I got to go in with Navarre, which I’m so much more comfortable with and she spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on with him. She does not think his prostate is enlarged or painful, we did another urinalysis and no signs of infection. Which doesn’t help with addressing the issue, as we still don’t know why he’s having the issues he is. Things that HAVE changed this year were things like his weird not wanting to weave back in January, after which we did a lot of work with massage and chiropractor. He also got t-boned by Asher in the spring (which was his own damn fault for going after a toy when it wasn’t his turn), and he was seen after that as well (and I blocked off the yard, so no more unsupervised romping with Asher, in case they were body slamming without me around). And he seemed better, but, yes, he did continue to look ‘roached’, not helped by his hair growing straight up along his back – and continuing to do that more (which I also consider a sign). We saw the vet in Idaho the end of March and he was adjusted, yes, still uncomfortable on his back, so we did the cold laser every day while we were there – which never seemed to have any effect I could see.

Then we came back and it was pandemic everywhere. He’s been very active and not acting ‘off’ that I can see. He’s still running around like a maniac, hasn’t shown me any signs of stiffness or lameness. Lots of hiking, herding, tricks and runs at the park. When hiking, he does NOT do the super long pee thing (normal boy marking) – but has traditionally done long pees after playing at the park, but not to this extent. After starting the antibiotics we were herding over the weekend and he had to stop mid-drive to pee for several minutes, which is unheard of.

So the new vet thought this was possibly a muscle/skeletal issue – and suspected illiopsoas, as he was painful up in his groin. He’s certainly been sitting very weird, like on his butt like he’s about to scoot across the carpet sometimes. His extension was fine through the rear, back was very twitchy and uncomfortable. So … yeah. Don’t know what the heck is going on with him. And what on earth is with the peeing if the prostate isn’t involved? So right now he’s going to finish his antibiotics, but we are now adding pain meds (metacam and gabapentin – or however you spell it). If he stops peeing weird with the pain meds, then we can say there is some sort of physical injury that was causing the problem. So we’ll see and then go from there. But just a whole lot of, ‘WTF is this?’ going on, and no answers yet.

The good news, he really does seem perfectly happy and normal otherwise, so I’m not super worried about him. It’s just hard with losing Bright not to be paranoid that this is a sign of something bigger and he could go downhill fast.

In the meantime, we have a visitor staying with us, a young border collie relative hanging out until while he’s looking for a new home. Somewhat related to Bright and Haku, he’s got the more sweet/soft/ocd thing going on. Super cute, makes Asher look like a total giant awkward troll (poor guy). Pico will make someone a very fun dog, that boy is ready to work. A whole lot of forward on that dog in agility, no collection – that will be, uh, interesting to work with. He tries very hard, a lot of heart in that boy – very much reminds me of Haku/Bright, just wants to be right.

I was initially worried that Asher would be too much for him, but they are a total match for each other. It’s a bromance for the ages, they will play for HOURS and never get upset with each other, so cute. I know Asher has never had a dog that he could play with continuously like this before, and I get the impression it’s the same for Pico. They are in a similar age group and good buddies. Navarre was pervy obnoxious about him at first, but has mostly calmed down – but still really likes him and tries to play with him. Pico is supremely inoffensive though, no one minds having him here at all (even Haku!), and I brought him hiking where we had … 9 dogs? And no one batted an eye.

Say what you will about that line of dogs, they just know how to fit right in, and, yes, he checks in with me more than my own dogs – ha! I was a bit worried taking him hiking initially, but no issues, he was always right there. I actually would have liked him to go run around more, but he was more concerned about staying close – he’s a people dog. He WAS doing really well with the cats, but he made the mistake of chasing one (in a playful way) and got his assed handed to him. Now he hides when the cats are out, poor thing. But he is getting better, though sometimes I have to go rescue him if there is a cat laying near a doorway and he can’t go through now. Yes, sensitive soul.

Like most border collies, he made himself at home right away – they are dogs that live in the moment, and he seems pretty content here for the most part. He was getting barky having to wait in his crate in the car while I taught during the week, but I also think part of that was him hearing me playing with the dogs in classes, as we have all the doors open to keep everything ventilated. Mostly he’s a very easy boy to have around, and very sweet – he won’t have a problem finding someone to love him, he’s a very loveable guy (and super cute!).

It has been an interesting experiment, as here is a dog that is somewhat related to Bright, has a lot of the same qualities – but, yes, not Bright. Of course, he’s also a boy – we have way too much male in the household at the moment. So, yeah, I waffle quite a bit about considering a puppy – but it’s also hard to imagine not having a girl in our household for years. I guess I’m just open to the right dog if she appears, but we definitely don’t NEED another dog around here. It’s easy to have Pico here, this type of energy is so easy to live with (unlike my giant red menace!).

As for the rest of the crew, did a bit more with Asher and his running dogwalk this week. We introduced the lowered dogwalk for the first time yesterday and it went surprisingly well, much better than the ‘fake’ dogwalk with two planks coming onto and off the table. He was able to do the full thing going down to the MM, and the other direction going into a tunnel. Obviously still needs work, he had his share of ‘wheeee!’ as well, but, knock on wood, I think he’s kind of got it, just needs lots of proofing. He’s also FINALLY figured out loading onto the board around a number cone, which for some reason seemed to take longer to train the running part!

We also did a bit of sequencing, including raising the tire up to 16 inches and doing some sequencing with that, including some rear crosses. Also some big lateral lead outs and some layering. He enjoyed it, but not so good when we went back to work on some collection! My focus is getting him started on the contacts though, so that will be our focus until we can work up to some sort of competency. We have a lot of work to do, that’s for sure.

Didn’t do much with Navarre, I kind of assume even though he’s still racing around like normal that there is SOMETHING going on. He didn’t approve of my plan, and still raced around taking jumps on his own. And Haku barked a lot and they all enjoyed playing in the arena again.

Still loving being back in agility, love seeing everyone again and I could really care less about the lack of trials, which I would enjoy if they just had some nice courses consistently. Still loving training though, and hopefully when the virus calms down Asher will be ready to trial by then – weird thought. His sister is learning to weave – Asher is most definitely not ready for that yet. No rush, I do love baby dogs.

You know who else actually kind of likes Asher? Haku. They are often snuggled up together when they’re napping outside, which I always thought was Asher snuggling up to a begrudging Haku. But I finally saw it the other day, Haku was laying on another bed and got up to snuggle right into Asher, just the sweetest thing. And Asher of course has no problem with that, big snuggly puppy.

The boys are doing better together in general after losing Bright, though they all seem thrilled to have a Pico in the household, a very similar energy and one that plays with everyone. We are finding a new balance, which, once again, I find it interesting that adding Pico hasn’t thrown off at all.

Was a hiking weekend, going all three days. Also did some herding practice, which I should probably go into with a clear plan. Navarre we worked on whistles and driving at a distance, which he was much better with. My whistles were just not very consistent, which was frustrating me but he was actually doing better – so hey. I still have yet to even attempt to look at whistles that I can use with Asher, which I really should.

Asher continues to work on driving, he’s starting to get inside flanks and also the verbals, which I never really set out to train. Also worked on some of that standing up and turning sheep, which he is still pretty insecure about – but a bit better, and very proud when he does it. Still not his first inclination, which is to turn back and tell me, “Sorry, they said, ‘no’.” He’s cute when he gets his little fierce determined face on though.

Working on driving has it’s downsides though, as we switched out sheep to work with the Ian sheep and some penning, but, OMG, he hasn’t seen those for a while and was just running them over the place, couldn’t get him to STOP pushing those guys. I think the Heidi sheep needed more ‘push’ that when we switched he suddenly felt he was invincible.

Progress with both boys, and such improvement over just a few months ago. Maddy is thinking about having a mock herding trial this Fall, and I’m hoping we could actually attempt to get through that smoothly. New sheep soon too, which will give new challenges.  And as it continues rainy and cool, I’m just going to assume summer will never arrive and I won’t have to stop because it’s just too hot!

Agility Spaz

Good lord my puppy is a giant red spaz. Back to agility this week and, oh yeah, overarousal issues – haven’t seen THOSE for a while. It’s, uh, safe to say that he forgot just about everything – or he just couldn’t focus because he was so excited to be back (‘Wheeeee! TUNNNEL! WHEEEEE!’). Collection, what’s that? We did actually train some basic handling skills, right? Obstacle commitment to anything but a tunnel?

So … yeah, we spent the week introducing running contacts instead. Which is going … okay. Just shaping it with a board off the table, like I did with Navarre. We did bring out the mat a bit just to see what he would do and I didn’t like it all. Now, to be fair, we haven’t REALLY trained it to fluency, but he DOES work hard to hit it … in a really awkward and uncomfortable looking way.

Asher has been alternately brilliant and then clueless with this. We worked on it for 5 sessions over the week, before and after classes. He’d have a FABULOUS session where I swear he had the idea and was running down confidently with lovely low hits … and then the next time out he’d stop and lie down midway down the board. And then jump like a gazelle 10 times in a row.

Now, it doesn’t help we are using the basically reverse luring manners minder method. Where the manners minder is THERE, but he doesn’t really care about it, but he drives to it … and past it. He recognizes the beep as being correct, if he doesn’t hear the beep he immediately turns around and runs back to the table. If his hit is okay he gets a cookie  from the MM, where I have to insist he go eat the cookie. If his hit is really good, he gets a thrown squeaky. If his hit is AMAZING he gets a thrown toy and I release the dogs for total race around the arena pandemonium.

So 5 sessions later, I can’t say we’ve had the lightbulb moment yet. Which I suppose I shouldn’t expect, but he is a clever little puppy sometimes. I suppose he can’t be instantly amazing at everything. Or still amazing when you return to things after 2 months …

We did work up to doing some short simple USDAA at home starters jumpers courses, though it took a week for him to settle down into it and he still really loves that tunnel! We worked at 12, 14 and a little bit at 16 just because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to reset jumps.  The wingless jump on the course got taken out by that TAIL quite a few times, and knocking bars when my handling wasn’t clear. Lots of pulling off obstacles, which is not an issue we had before (but not tunnels!). He loves it, he’s trying very hard, and we had to bring the excitement level WAY down for him to be successful. He’s a baby, he’ll get there when he gets there.

Navarre was also SO HAPPY to be back, and just his full body wiggle and bark – there is nothing else like agility to let dogs just be purely joyful and enthusiastic in such a happy way. And he’s ridiculously wide and I just don’t care. I never had any expectations for Navarre to be anything other than the big happy goober he is – maybe not the, uh, most efficient agility dog – but he doesn’t care. I did do some basic RC foundation work with him as long as I had it set up, and it was interesting to see that he needed work too – surprised as with the full dogwalk he’s pretty darn consistent. We’ll work on it, not much else going on.

Once again, so hard without Bright. It’s like getting hit all over again when we got back to these routines and she’s not there. She loved her agility, and she loved racing around the arena, she loved stealing the toy from everyone – it’s not the same without her. Nothing is. Her smiles, her wiggles, her snuggles. Sigh. We are going to have a Bright relative visitor next week, it will be interesting to see how much I see of her in him, if anything. Hopefully the boys will be nice to him, he sounds like a soft sweetheart.

I continue to alternate between thinking getting a Bright relative is a good idea and not wanting a puppy at all – because I don’t want some random puppy (or really a puppy at all), I just want Bright. Bright’s favorite puppy we ever raised was Aja (now Rev), who was out of Bright’s sister Glee. We all liked Aja (Bright the most!), and she fit in really well with the household. She had a lot of, uh, drama like Bright – but with much better bounce back. She’s very Bright like, but sassier.

She is 2 and a half now, living in Idaho with Lexi and doing some agility (which she seems to very much like!). There is a possibility that assuming Karen did want to breed her and she passed her health tests, that I could raise a litter with her and see if a puppy seemed like she wanted to stay with us. Which is just a whole lot of ‘what ifs’, but that’s what seems like the right choice at the moment. Who knows what life might bring, but I did very much enjoy her – one of my favorite puppies.

Knock on wood, the boys seem to be settling into a new social groove, Asher and Navarre are playing more again, Haku and Navarre aren’t giving each other stink eye all the time any more. Which is good, as apparently if you want to get a dog neutered it’s now a three month waitlist because of the virus. So put that plan on the back burner until things normalize in the world – Navarre is a lucky guy.

What was REALLY nice is that for the first time in over two months I actually HAD A WEEKEND. I was in heaven! It’s really nice to be back to a normal schedule, and we got in two rainy hikes and some herding practice over the weekend. We worked a single which was really helpful for Asher, he really thought about what he needed to do and where he needed to be. It was helpful for Navarre, he finally stopped looking for the other sheep! Still having issues with Navarre just guessing on flanks, I don’t really know how to fix that but it’s a bad habit to break. It only takes a few steps in the wrong direction to totally fuck up a line, that’s for sure, and when it happens so consistently, it’s hard. He can and does know his flanks, he’ll do the same thing with verbal and whistles. Asher gained a little bit of confidence turning sheep as well, which he needs work on – and, yes, he has a bad habit of blindly running fences instead of feeling his sheep on his outruns. Really happy with him though, getting more and more confident, he’s such a fun dog.

Dove is off making more Rooster babies even now – can’t wait to meet them!

Quarantine Ends

It’s been an unsettling last couple months, for many reasons. With everything going on the whole Quarantine time for me has flown by and it’s kind of crazy to be back to classes next week. I’ve been very busy with the online classes, which has kept me in touch with everyone on a daily basis, so this hasn’t really felt like ‘isolation’ to me, as I don’t normally go out in public much anyway. So back to classes and hopefully everything will go smoothly.

Asher is getting to be a hiking beast, he used to at least start to settle down and trot by the end of the hike – but not anymore. He just runs for 4 hours straight. Nutball, he can be such a spaz. The hiking has been really good for Haku, I think it’s actually helped his arthritis – though he certainly takes it easy compared to Asher. And Navarre does a little of both, depending on his mood. They’ve gotten to continue to see their doggie friends, herd, swim, hike, go to the park and get trained WAY more than they normally do to be demo dogs for all the online classes. It’s been a little doggie paradise for them around here, it will be an adjustment for them to go back to ‘normal life’.

Though they’re going to be SO EXCITED to see the arena. They do love their agility, though god knows when we’ll ever see a trial again. Asher will be probably be ready to trial at that point! By the time we get back Asher will be 14 months, old enough to start doing a little bit more. Still haven’t decided how I want to teach his running contacts. On the one hand, Navarre’s turned out pretty darn nice without any props. I like the IDEA of training flatwork with mats and then transitioning to the equipment – but mats and a dog of Asher’s craziness and size are a huge pain in the ass to train without them sliding all around so we’ve done zero work on it. Basically if I ever want to work on it I have to nail a mat to the ground, and then I would worry the nails would get pulled up – meh. And I’m not sold on mats anyway and dogs (especially big dogs) getting mincey to make it happen. Asher can’t turn on a dime, he’s going to be like Navarre, like steering a truck, so hitting a tiny target requires a lot preparation.

We have done very little agility during the quarantine, just a little bit of flatwork and TINY little bit of one jump work. Navarre without practice is so ridiculously wide I could knit a sweater by the time he comes back into me, and Asher will probably be similar, but hopefully not as bad. I know I could help this if I worked on it NOW and really make sure he understands how to drive straight to me and not drift. I’m in no particular rush with Asher (even if there were trials), and he’s not the most, uh, gifted of athletes – so we’ll get there when we get there.

If Asher is an agility washout, knock on wood, he’ll have herding to fall back on. He continues to do surprisingly well. Admittedly, maybe I don’t have enough perspective, but he’s been very easy compared to both Navarre AND Haku. Another benefit of the shutdown is having the time and resources to do a lot of sheepwork this month, and he has made huge strides. He continues to be very easy, so willing to partner up and has great feel for sheep (well, compared to Navarre!). I have no grand expectations to set the herding world on fire, but, knock on wood, I think he’ll be a really fun dog to actually get to progress with.

We actually took a last minute trip out to visit Bonnie in Idaho again this week along with sister Flee as well. So fun to see both siblings on sheep, they are such good dogs that try so very hard. And Asher and Flee are also good friends these days, they are adorable to see together. I was excited to show Bonnie what progress we had made since we had seen her back in March, Asher had been doing just lovely outruns and we had just started working on driving. Ha, well, plans changed as on Bonnie’s new super running sheep Asher lost all his nice skills and was diving in and splitting and chasing sheep like a baby dog again – go figure! I thought he might figure it out, but after a couple days we went back to the round pen and let Grandma Bonnie widen him out again. The good news, he did finally get back to showing some good behavior.

It was cute, after all the craziness we went down to Dianne Deal’s place for a lesson and we were all prepared for the new slicing and chasing Asher, and instead he was on his best behavior! Heh. He did great in this new location, new sheep and went back to showing good understanding of outruns, pace and feel. Dianne said he was ‘Just like Rooster’ which I thought was fantastic, as Rooster is SUCH a good boy on sheep – and I really want a good boy! We worked the crazy Bonnie sheep one more time before we left and he did MUCH better, so that was good to see.

So he ended up working through a lot, including some of his stress, displacement behaviors. It’s hard to know what the right response is when he gets frustrated and runs off, but we worked on just not letting it happen and he got through it. He does have good bounce back, but it is his natural reaction when frustrated to run off and simmer down for a while. Which is fine in some places, but not in herding – we’ll lose the sheep! Which was a whole other story including losing the sheep and finding them in a herd of cows with their babies and a very long walk for Bonnie and Rooster, but at least that time wasn’t Asher’s fault (thankfully!).

This was also Asher’s first ‘solo’ trip, I thought he might be a bit insecure without his pack with him – but no! He got out of the car at Bonnie’s like he owned the place and was posturing and being a cocky teenager. Good lord. He, uh, got taken down a few pegs while he was there, which was probably a good thing. He was actually MOSTLY a good boy, except for one very bizarre marking incident in the house, where he was attempting to pee on Nancy. So embarrassing. Mostly the three young dogs (Beckit, Flee and Asher) just had a WONDERFUL time romping and playing together – they really enjoyed themselves. Flee learned to swim and Asher loved all the wide open spaces for running … and running. Love my big red dork, he just made himself at home. And was VERY submissive when he got home with Navarre. Go figure.

Mostly we have just done a lot more practicing on sheep while we’ve been off, but we have seen Ron a couple times too. We went out today and Asher was being a very good boy, back to working on driving and he’s getting a bit better – but still checks in quite a bit. But I could fade back behind him more and he was overall getting more confident. Though when the sheep turned to face him he didn’t know what to do! So want to work on that with him and Navarre, I want them to have the confidence to move sheep. So we’re going to work on some with a single and hopefully teaching them they have the power to move them if need be.

As for Navarre, yes, we are still progressing with sheep. He didn’t get to go to Idaho as I didn’t want to manage him, which is a big sign that I just need to get him neutered (which I’m mostly convinced it’s time to do). Mostly in herding it’s just getting him to do things that he already knows how to do for me. He’s doing much better on his outruns and CAN do some very nice driving. Sometimes he just implodes with his directions though, so that’s frustrating when he starts guessing. And always the struggle to get him off the sheep and slow down. But that’s nothing new. But we are enjoying each other and slowly making progress. He also very much needs to work on a single, he doesn’t hold one sheep at all, and is just looking around for the others!

My goal is by the end of the year to do a pro-novice trial with Navarre (somewhat confidently!) and Nursery with Asher. I was thinking maybe Ian’s winter trials would be good to shoot for, or maybe see what they have going up at Fidos in the winter (assuming the virus stuff has calmed down by then). I’m not sure if that’s an overly ambitious plan for either of them, Navarre has the skills but not necessarily with me, and Asher obviously will need to have learned a lot about driving by then! But it’s something to shoot for. I worked some penning with both dogs, which seemed to have very little to do with me and a lot to do with which sheep we used. We shall see what the rest of this year brings, and how much we get to practice once I go back to teaching.

Asher IS getting new siblings! Heidi plans to do a repeat of the Dove x Rooster puppies this year and I’m ever so curious if they’ll end up the same or different than Asher’s litter. People seem very happy with these pups, and from what I’ve seen they are all fun LEGGY dogs (I believe they ALL ended up around 21.5, boys and girls!).So that will be fun, we need more puppies in the world this year.

As for me, I just miss Bright and I miss having a girl taking charge in the household. It was especially hard to come back from the Idaho trip and she wasn’t there. I am considering a Bright relative puppy, and I know that intellectually that any puppy I get, related to Bright or not, is not going to be anything like Bright – I can’t help but just want to have a piece of her back in my life. Maybe the boys will even out once they figure out the new pack dynamics, but I just feel like we need a girl to keep the peace. And I miss Bright, the boys are just so … dorky. Which I love, but they are not Bright. I don’t know, we’ll see – I know what I really want is just to have her back, and I don’t want to end up getting a dog for the wrong reasons. Asher is doing great and we have so much to work on, I don’t need another dog – I just miss her.

Finally made the plunge and traded in all my Canon camera gear for the Sony a9 and one lens (135/1.8). It was surprisingly hard to let the Canon stuff go, it’s been with me for so long! But it’s true that I don’t necessarily use a lot of the lenses, and the Sony camera is just light years ahead of the Canon for action, which is what I enjoy the most. It’s a bit of a different look than the Canon, but I really am enjoying it, no regrets. Though I traded in my Canon 5DmIII and they didn’t want it – too high of a shutter count! That camera has seen some use, that’s for sure! Though it’s just crazy with the Sony a9, 20 fps is a dangerous thing indeed.

Sony lenses are expensive, but someday I plan to get a wide angle and possibly the 70-200 someday … but obviously not any time soon! I really do love the 135, it’s just such a nice range for dogs, not too close, not too far and such a lovely lens. Though no matter what the dogs still have to cooperate, and it doesn’t matter how fast your camera is if they won’t go where you expect them too …