These are the chronicles of two Shetland Sheepdogs and their adventures in rally-o, obedience, flyball, agility, tracking and therapy dog work.
Also including information on raw feeding, canine epilepsy, positive training, and lots and lots of Sheltie hair!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sweating to Agility

I took Romeo out to the agility field this afternoon. Of course, stupid me, I didn't check what the weather was like before packing up the car. I knew it was hot, but the weather has been so strange lately with frost warnings at night and crazy wind, that I never thought much of it.


It is about 28C (84F) out there. Sure, that may not be much to some of you crazy Southerners. But for us Saskatchewanians, it is HOT! Freakin' hot, to be precise. Shouldn't complain, really, we are finally getting some normal summer weather (a big improvement from snow in the early parts of May). But you know me, I will complain anyways. HOT!

Anyways, Romeo had a good time at the agility field. We worked on some contacts and played around in the tunnels. He isn't super keen on tunnels, not like a lot of dogs seem to be, so I am working on building some tunnel value. Of course, on a hot day like today, tennis balls mean more running and more hot Sheltie, so Romeo prefers food rewards in these situations. And food rewards mean I need to do more running to get to whereever Romeo is that needs to be rewarded.

I was told at our last agility class on Wednesday that I should be aiming for competition with Romeo for this fall. There is apparently a CKC trial in September that one of my instructors is judging, and she thinks we should be ready for that one. I've put in my order for a CKC agility rule book (darned CKC, they don't post their rules public online like most places do ... stick you with charges for buying the rules before you can play) and need to start reading up on what exactly is expected of us in a CKC trial. I don't know anything about the different games or levels or anything like that. If someone knows of a good website that outlines the rules of different agility organizations, that would be great! I would be particularly interested in a site that compares CKC to AAC to NADAC. Break it down nice and simple for me!

Here are a couple of fun shots I got this afternoon. Romeo was pokey because of the weather (hard to run fast when you are nearly tripping over your tongue), so that was helpful in that I got some pictures that were actually in focus!

Here is one hot dog after about 45 minutes of working.

"So hot even my shadow is panting!"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Love Dollarama!

Really, truly I do!

I am taking the plunge and starting up my own Rally-O classes this summer (June 6th, to be precise), so have been running around gathering supplies for the past while. Got the CARO signs all printed and laminated, have my classes set up, a location, and all the important stuff. I've been trying to figure out the easiest and cheapest way to make sign holders that won't blow over in the wind, so in a last ditch effort decided to wander the aisles of Dollarama to see what jumped out at me.

After one trip I have all I need for Rally-O classes ... all for under $25!!

8 pylons
2 metal dog dishes
a folder to hold all the signs
the riggings for my home-made bar jump
50 plastic clothes pins
and 36 "Rally-O sign holders"

The sign holders are actually panels of small decorative garden fence. They are about 8 inches high and shove into the ground, intended for making frilly little borders around your flower gardens. But they pop apart easily and are just the right height to hold an 8.5 x 11 " piece of paper. Together with the plastic clothes pins, I have compact, light weight sign holders that poke right into the ground so won't blow over in the crazy prairie winds that we have!

I have weave poles (electric fence poles) that will work well for the Excellent level class, and am arranging to borrow a set of broad jumps from a friend. I think I might even be able to wrangle a tunnel for a couple of classes as well!

I'm quite surprised in the number of people I have signed up for classes. So far, enough for two Beginner classes, one Novice class, and one Advanced/Excellent class. Very exciting!

I'm really eager to get started ... so are the boys!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dogster: Dog Tip of the Day Blog

This week I am being featured as a guest author on Dogster's Daily Dog Tip Blog!

It is a daily blog featuring short, informative tips on dog care, health, nutrition, training, etc. They have invited a number of experts in various areas of the dog world to submit tips, and I am honored to be counted among those number!

You can subscribe to the Daily Dog Tip and receive some fabulous tidbits in your e-mail inbox each day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sheltie Herding

Yesterday I took Romeo out herding again. We were invited out by a fellow Sheltie owner, and I was eager for the opportunity to see a more practiced Sheltie (and handler) do their stuff.

Jill and Pilgrim are a great pair, and Pilgrim's enthusiasm is infectious! It was great to watch them work, and even though Jill insisted that Pilgrim was sloppy, I was impressed. I see now, comparing how Pilgrim works compared to where Romeo is, exactly what I need to work on. And lucky for me, I think I can do some of that without sheep. Hopefully I will get around to it before our next adventure out to Dog Tale Ranch.

Here are a couple of pictures of the charming Pilgrim at work ...

As always, Arlette (owner of Dog Tale Ranch) was a joy to work with. Her passion for herding, sheep, sheep dogs and ranching is apparent in everything she does. And she has unending patience to deal with clueless people like me!

Romeo had a blast, of course. He hasn't quite figured out the finer points yet, but he sure understands that he can make those sheep move (and if he makes them move all in different directions then he gets to tear about after them to bring them back together again ... sigh). We worked on setting him up so that the sheep were between him and me, so that he can move up to bring the sheep to me. The tricky bit is that Romeo is so keenly focused on me, that while he is thrilled about the sheep, he still has a tendency to swing around towards me instead of towards the sheep. I'm considering velco and tennis balls on the sheep's backs.

We worked a little bit on driving the sheep, and he really liked that. It allows him to be closer to me, relatively, yet still working the sheep. When he is pushing them away from me, he gets to be between me and the sheep, so all of his focus is on the sheep and he was more responsive to my cues to speed up or slow down.

Arlette is playing host to John Carter for a couple of months this summer. John is a very experienced shepherd, trainer, and judge. And, of course, he was out to watch me flounder around with Romeo. It's a little nerve wracking knowing that I am probably doing everything wrong and the many other experienced people watching are likely rolling their eyes and groaning under their breath. At least, that is what I imagined, though it is probably a vast exaggeration.

On the ride home, Jill mentioned that John had commented on Romeo while we were out of ear shot. Said that Romeo had great power and interest in the sheep. So that leads me to believe that it isn't a lost cause, and as long as I can get my head in the right direction (and my body following along!), we might be able to have a bit of fun with this!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Urban Tracking

About a month ago I participated in a tracking seminar held locally. There was a bit of discussion about "urban tracking", and I found out that that is what Gio has been doing all along! I was under the impression that urban tracking was all about tracking on concrete in busy city centers. Apparently, the CKC version of urban tracking only involves 1/3 of the track on "non-vegetative" cover. The idea is that the track is laid in a busy public area. I have been training Gio a lot in school yards or sports feilds since the beginning, and that is the situation he would be in in the urban tracking test.

We went out this morning to the school ground behind my house to do a couple more tracks. Three tracks in total, two shorter ones with one 90 degree turn each, and one longer track with 2 90 degree turns.

I also tried to video tape Gio's third track. Damn camera quit taping around the second corner, though, and I didn't realize it until we were on the home stretch. Gio got a little lost at the second corner and it took some encouragement and prompting to get him to keep working it. He got it eventually, though.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Puppies, Seizures and Hockey

This afternoon I had plans to go squeeze puppies. Little black and white fuzzy sausages that have just barely opened their eyes.

But Gio changed those plans for me last night when he had another seizure, possibly two. I know the one at about 5:30am was a seizure, it was his typical grand mal. But I'm not sure exactly what was going on 2 hours earlier at 3:30am. It was windy last night, and the house creaks a lot in the wind, so at first I thought he was just reacting to odd noises around or outside the house. Gio woke me up at about 3:30am growling his "I mean business" growl. I have only ever heard that growl twice before in his life, both times he was protecting me against some perceived threat. It is very distinctive from his play growl or his "I want food" growl. But none the less, he was laying on my bed this morning growling at the bedroom door. I assumed he had just heard something blowing around outside, so calmed him down and told him to go back to sleep, which he did after a couple of minutes.

I never thought anything of it until 2 hours later when he woke me with the beginnings of a grand mal seizure. After that, I began to wonder if the growling wasn't some sort of psychomotor seizure. Psychomotor seizures can manifest themselves in a number of ways, often frantic running without seeing what they are running into, or "fly snapping" behavior. I have heard tell that psychomotor seizures can sometimes manifest themselves in sudden aggression, and with Gio being the very non-aggressive dog that he is (to a fault), the "I mean business" growl is as close as I have seen to aggression with him. The kicker is that he was somewhat responsive during the growling session. From speaking to other people with experience with psychomotor seizures in their dogs, it doesn't sound as if the dogs are ever responsive during the seizures. So that one is still a mystery. A theory has been proposed to me that maybe he was just a little more on-edge because he could feel the seizure coming, so reacted with a growl to normal outside wind noises. That makes a bit of sense, at least.

Either way, there was a seizure this morning and with Gio's recent trend of having clusters of seizures, I thought it best to stay close to home today in case he had another attack. So no puppy squeazing for me this week. Hopefully I will be able to make it out for some puppy breath face time next Sunday.

This evening I did leave Gio for a short while to take Romeo to his scheduled therapy dog visit at Saskatoon City Hospital. Unfortunately, he was competing with the hockey game that was on at the time, so he got very little attention. The nurses do love to see him, though, and we always spend some time with them.

The Shelties on Facebook!

I've held out creating a Facebook page for quite a long time. Mostly out of spite, really. Well, I have finally broken down and joined the masses. You can now follow Life is Better With Sheltie Hair on Facebook!

Sheltie Hair's Profile
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Green Thumb/Paw

With it being May long weekend, and the weather finally acting like it is summer time (we had snow last week ... yes, snow in May), I thought it was a great time to get out on the yard. It's not much of a yard, a patch of green with a lot of weeds and some very hard dirt. But I am hoping to make it into a little bit of something enjoyable eventually.

Mom came over to help (thank goodness for moms!). We bought bedding plants and spent the afternoon digging, raking, and planting. While I eventually want to cut some flower beds and add something a little more permanent to the yard, this year I am mostly working in pots. Just want to get some color going back there so it looks like more like a garden and less like a vacant lot.

Romeo was great at supervising the pot arrangements.

While Gio helped collect all the garbage that has blown into the yard over the past who knows how many years.

I wound up with 4 planters. Two large round ones full of Cosmos, potatoe vine, and labelia. And two long planters that have some wonderful dahlias and a row of morning glory seeds along the back. I'm hoping the morning glories will climb up my porch and fill that in nicely.

I've never used dahlias before, but I have to say I am quite smitten!

Mom hacked a flower bed out of the random patch of grass/weeds/dirt in the front of the house. And I have loaded it full of chrysanthemums and Johnny jump-ups. It doesn't look like much now, but hopefully they will fill in nicely and keep coming back year after year.

Then we raked the whole yard. It was full of leaves and garbage from years of neglect. But there are patches of grass spread around, so it isn't a total loss.

Of course, Romeo was a big help in making sure that we didn't accidentally rake up any of his toys. Gio was mostly busy hunting lady bugs.

"The boys" bought me a bird feeder for Mother's Day, so I finally got to hang that up in the back corner as a final touch.

All in all, I am pretty proud of how it looks! Of course, it's no Royal Botanic Garden, but it is mine.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Survived Another Woof War

Flyball is a blast, it really is. But hosting a flyball tournament is a whole other story! This weekend, River Runners flyball team hosted their 9th annual tournament. Woof Wars 9 - Dressed to the Nines. Everyone is a little sore and a lot tired, but we pulled it all together in the end. I think it went very well, no big fiascos this time*. My volunteers were fabulous, as always! Thanks to everyone that helped!

Neither Gio nor Romeo ran. Gio retired a couple years ago when his health took a downturn, and Romeo just never really loved the sport. But I still get roped into helping organize the tournament anyways. The boys did benefit from my hard work, though. In exchange for their grudging acceptance of being neglected for the past week, they won some treats and toys at the raffle table.

A big sheep to replace the one Gio won in a flyball raffle a couple of years ago and that finally went to it's sheepy grave last week when it was nothing but bits of fleece held together with thread. A couple fleece tugs and a bag of Acana kibble to use as training treats.

A local artist was also in attendance. He frequents many of the dog sports in the area painting portraits of the dogs. I have had portraits done of the boys in years past, but the artist (Ryan Schmidt of Ookie Ookie) also makes cute little buttons. I have the "agility junkie", "rally-o junkie", and "flyball junkie" (which I either lost or someone stole this weekend *sniff*) already, but picked up a couple more this weekend that made me giggle.

"I *heart* Meat" and "Carnivore" ... for my little kitchen wolves! I added them to their "doggy bag" that I use to tote around all their training stuff when we go out.

I am very glad to be home with my own boys now. They spent the day with Grandma and made sure that she enjoyed her Mother's Day. We are all ready to curl up on the couch with a hot mug of tea and a big blanket.

*Unlike a couple years ago where the whole arena flooded by water seeping up through the concrete floor.

Friday, May 8, 2009

River Runners Woof Wars 2009 - Dressed To The Nines

This weekend (May 9-10) is the River Runner's 9th annual flyball tournament ... Woof Wars 9 - Dressed To The Nines.

It is being held out at Warman Diamond Arena in Warman, Saskatchewan. About 20 minutes North of Saskatoon. Everyone is invited to come out and watch the races! Racing starts at 8:30am Saturday morning and 8:00am Sunday morning. Racing usually goes until 4:00pm.

Free admission, concesion on site, great raffle table and local dog related vendor tables. Oh, and can't forget the crazy chaos that is flyball!

(Please leave pet dogs at home, only racing dogs in the building.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rug Burn on the Face?

This is how ...

HCKOC Rally Trial - Day 2

Another great day at the HCKOC show! The boys each had one more Advanced Rally trial this morning and they did very well, yet again. Romeo had a bit of explod-i-butt happening, but he pulled it all together enough to earn a 94/100 and 3rd in class. Gio came through with a 92/100. That makes two new CKC Rally Advanced titles and a great showing on the Sheltie-front this weekend!

Friday, May 1, 2009

HCKOC Rally-O Trial - Day 1

Today was day 1 of the HCKOC Rally-O trials. There were conformation trials happening as well, but I didn't catch any of that as I was tied up in the Rally ring.

The boys totally rocked it today, cleaned up! I had Gio and Romeo entered in two Advanced B Rally trials each. Trial 1, they tied for High in Class with a score of 97/100. Gio was faster than Romeo by 5 seconds, so took the ribbon. Trial 2, they tied for High in Class with a score of 98/100, this time Gio was faster than Romeo by only 1.5 seconds so he took the ribbon there as well. Four great runs by the boys, each earning two legs towards their CKC Rally Advanced titles. There is one more trial tomorrow morning and I have both entered again. Could possibly finish their Advanced titles tomorrow. YIPPEE!
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