Chaos Crew

Chaos Crew

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Skye's Retirement - 2014 USDAA Cynosports

Skye is my first agility dog - the whole reason I play this crazy sport and why I now have 3 dogs that follow me around the house.

My wife had been teaching and competing in agility for many years before I decided to give it a try. We were fostering dogs for Rocky Mountain Border Collie Rescue (now defunct) and at some point we got Skye. He took an immediate liking to me, and would climb up in my lap while I was watching TV and lay upside down looking at me. Pretty hard to resist his tactics. We heard from the rescue org. that he was found abandoned, tied to a tree in a park. I guess someone thought that would be a way to get him a new home. We guessed his age to be around 1.5 yrs old, a real common age for border collies to find their way to rescues.
One of the first pictures of Skye after he arrived as a foster.
So sometime in 2006, I thought I might try doing some agility with Skye. It really was pretty fun and Skye caught on pretty quickly. We trained for a little more than a year before entering a competition.

Here is the earliest video I have - from our second trial in July 2007. It was a NADAC show - that is where we started, but didn't do too much of that venue after we reached the Elite level. It's hard to watch the video as I clearly didnt know what I was doing - but isnt that the case with our first agility partners?

Skye turned out to be just the right dog for me to start doing agility with. He was medium fast and really listened well.

Over time we competed in AKC and USDAA agility. Because of USDAA's jump height measurement cutoff, he ran in the Performance program his whole career so that he could jump 22" instead of 26". That was closer to the 20" height he had to jump in AKC.

Eventually we earned MACH2 in AKC and Performance ADCH Bronze in USDAA, and his Lifetime Achievement in USDAA.

His big accomplishment was getting to run in AKC Nationals Finals in 2013, finishing 18th out of over 400 dogs entered.

In the summer of 2014 Skye hurt himself chasing a rabbit. His back was really sore and he had a hard time getting around. I thought at that time that I probably would not get to do agility with him any longer. Fortunately he did heal with no ill effects. I thought a fitting retirement for him might be to enter the Veterans Showcase at USDAA Cynosport in Morgan Hill, CA in October 2014.

He did really well. We ran just 5 runs over 4 days, starting with a warmup run called Power and Speed, where you have a set time to complete the contacts and weaves, followed by the timed portion of the run which is jumps and tunnels. Skye got 1st place in his veterans group in this run.

The Veterans Showcase is like playing DAM team, but with only 1 dog on the team. Your 4 runs, Standard, Jumpers, Snooker and Gamblers are scored just like team, and the top 3 dogs in each height get to participate in a 'showcase' event before the Grand Prix finals.

Skye got two more 1st place scores - in Standard and in Gamblers. He did not do so well in Snooker as he popped out of his weaves and took out a jump in the opening, so no points for those, and then he knocked the #3 jump in the closing. Jumpers is what did us in though - after the weaves we had a threadle sequence that I mishandled. I was not in the proper position, and I caused Skye to take the wrong side of a jump, giving us an "E" and zero score for Jumpers. That kept us out of the running for top 3.
Still, I couldnt be happier with how he ran. He had a lot of fun, barking his fool head off before his runs, and was super eager to run from the start. I am so glad I got the opportunity to run him this last time in competition.
Here are his runs from Cynosport

Skye-boy will now get to spend his time sleeping next to me at my desk, and playing frisbee and ball in the front yard, along with the daily rabbit chasing that I cant get him to stop doing!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Your dog's last agility run - do you want to know?

Skye hurt himself somehow a bit more than a week ago. He's been to the vet and they didnt find anything specific, and he had a visit with the doggie chiropractor at a local trial 10 days ago. His back is sore, and he apparently tweaked his front right wrist too. He could have done it during one of his 100mph blasts chasing one of the many rabbits wandering the property this year. I really dont know what he did, but he is obviously sore. The vet prescribed Rimadyl after some bloodwork and that seems to help.

So, I got to thinking that at nearly 10 years old, maybe we have already had our last agility run together. Maybe he will bounce back and be just fine, and I would enter him in a run here and there as I've been doing over the last year, but maybe not.

Would you want to know that "this" is your last agility run with your dog?

I am torn on the subject. If I knew, then certainly there could be a huge celebration with lots of favorite treats at the end, and lots of hugs and probably some tears.

When you don't know, you are just out there playing the game that you and your teammate love together, just working the course and having a good time. I hope we can all appreciate every single run that our teammate gives us, no matter whether it was a disaster or a blue ribbon Q. You really never know if you just had your last run. 

Last July, my wife tore her hip labrum. This necessitated surgery after getting MRI's and dealing with a good deal of pain. The surgery had a minimum 6 month recovery time and everything was going great, until she then experienced a bulging disc in her lower spine - a likely result of trying to do some sit-ups to strengthen her core. The disc caused sciatic pain and numbness in her leg and foot. After trying to work through this for about 6 weeks, there was some complication with the nerves that caused extreme pain in her left foot, making it uncomfortable to wear socks or shoes or even have the bed sheets touch the foot. Now she has had numerous injections in her back and upper leg area trying to overcome the latest challenge.  So here we sit, nearly 1 year later from the original injury, and she still isnt back running agility. 
Granted, she has entered the ring a few times to try and see how things were, but she isnt running right and doesnt want to do the sport halfway.

In the meantime, her now 13 year old superstar dog "Baby", who needed just 1 more Double Q to earn a PACH and PAX to go along with all her other accomplishments, has been retired from agility due to failing vision and hearing.
I actually ran Baby for a weekend back in April to try and get that last double Q. On the first day of the show, she ran great and had a smoking 1st place standard run, followed by Jumpers with 2 knocked bars. She seemed a little sore that evening, so we scratched her from the second day. On the last day I ran her Jumpers first and she missed the weave entry, probably because she couldn't see it too well, so I elected to not run her in Standard.

It turns out, that was probably Baby's last ever agility run. I wish Katrina could have done that with her, and had a big celebration for all the awesomeness of Baby's career. Katrina did have Baby entered in a show in May, but elected to not run due to her own health issues.

You really never know.

This was the last run Skye gave me at the USDAA show in Pueblo. It was a very nice Q in Jumpers. If this was our last run, I am OK with that. He is a great agility teammate, and an even better "best friend".

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How do YOU measure your Success?

This time for agility blogger action day, people are writing about "Success" (

The subject is open to interpretation, and of course, success will mean something different for every person out there.

To me, in order to have success, you must have some goal that you are trying to reach, no matter how big or small that goal might be. In an agility run, I might have a goal that my dog will stay at the start line and let me lead out two jumps. He may knock every bar, miss every contact and have a couple off-courses, but if for that particular run, I set a goal for my dog to meet his startline criteria, and he did, then I can view that run as a success!

Ah-ha! So to me, success is indeed a measurement against your goals. The same could be said of failure, or not meeting a goal that you've set, but it's better for the human mind to focus on what it will take to meet your goal, and not dwell on the failures along the way.

A bit more than a month ago, it was time to start training Envy on her weaves. Previously I had introduced her to a 2x2 weave in an attempt to get her to understand how to find an entry. This went pretty well. I had decided that I wanted to train her actual weaves using the channel method, as I feel like it encourages speed through the weaves, vs. the 2x2 method which encourages thinking. Rip was trained just on 2x2's and though he has good entries, everything else about his weaves (footwork, speed, confidence) is really lacking, so I didnt want to go there again, but I digress....

So, I set the channel weaves fully open and brought Envy out to them for our first session of backchaining the open channel. She was really freaked out about this! She wanted nothing to do with these weaves and was really concerned about being near them, and I was just asking her to run through 3 open poles!
Ok, don't panic I am thinking to myself.

What the heck does this have to do with "success"? Well now my success is not going to be measured by "Can Envy weave 12 poles". No, not even close. My goal for the next session was: can I get Envy near the channel weaves without her getting freaked out by them! I went out with her to the channels and we played tug nearby, and then I got out some tasty treats and tossed them near the poles and she happily ate them, moving around the poles to eat those treats. That was it - then we went in the house. Success!

Your goals need to be broken down into the little bits and pieces that it takes to achieve your ultimate, bigger goal. I've always been of the mindset that you not only need goals, but need a plan on how you are going to achieve them. I could throw out a goal of "I am going to win the 20" class at AKC Nationals", but what good would that be without a plan to make that happen? Break your goals down into the smallest pieces you need to in order to have success along the way, and keep you striving toward your ultimate ending goal!

Where is that tennis ball???