Monday, November 19, 2007

GoodDog Competition Weekend

The GoodDog Agility Club had a competition last weekend. There were lots of dogs, lots of ribbons, and lots of Q's! I am finally learning some of this dog agility lingo and am meeting a lot of fun people who love their dogs and whose dogs love being athletes. Like Deuce, the budding young athlete pictured here. Little Deuce is a one year old jack russel terrier. He's still too young to compete (U.S. Dog Agility Association rules stipulate a dog must be at least 18 months), but is already learning the importance of hitting his contacts. Deuce was so cute as he crouched down on his yellow practice board, all intense. He may be a puppy, but he's serious about his sport! Baloo could learn a thing or two from Deuce, she tends to sail right over her contacts.

For the weekend events, I had the job of chief ring steward. That's a fancy title, my job was to make sure all the jobs in my ring were covered by the show volunteers. It takes a lot of effort by a lot of people to run an agility competition. Simple things like taking the dog leash from the start line where it is dropped by the handler to the spot where they finish; keeping score as the judge calls out points or signals faults; someone to make sure each competing dog checks in and is at the start line ready to go; and several people to reset jumps when needed. Watching the other dogs all weekend made me really want to get in on the fun. Although Baloo is not ready for the "standards" competition - the competition that involves all of the obstacles - I do plan to spend the next month preparing her for the "jumpers" and "gamblers" competitions. Jumpers involves lots of jumps, weave poles and tunnels (no contacts or teeter totters - where we need to improve) and the gambler competition is a course where the handler decides which obstacles to do (therefore we can avoid those obstacles that we may have problems with). Next show is in early January, can't wait!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Morning Hikes are the Best!

At 16,500 acres, South mountain park is the largest municipal park in the world! Imagine that, and only a couple miles from my front door. It sure is a beautiful place to be on a gorgeous day in November. Baloo and I started our day there this morning, along with hundreds of bikers, hikers, their dogs, and a few horses. Even though cars and trucks lined the road leading to the Pima Canyon Trailhead we only passed an occasional hiker on the quiet trail. We hiked along Beverly Canyon Trail for a bit, before walking along Pima Wash and finally returning to the trailhead via National Trail. I’m scoping out the plants for interesting subjects to draw. Already thinking about my final botanical illustration project - although I'm a good couple years away from finishing my courses and officially starting my assignment. Bursage, brittlebush, creosote, palo verde, ironwood and saguaro cactus dominate the rocky landscape of South Mountain. We watched a curve billed thrasher enjoying a sunny rock. Baloo’s nose was in overdrive, discovering who knows what about the dogs who had hiked before her and something about the fresh horse manure on the trail really appealed to her senses.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cynosport World Games

Baloo and I went to the Cynosport World Games at Westworld in Scottsdale today. We arrived early and walked around. There was a lot to see! Dogs everywhere. We saw several rhodesian ridgebacks, plus lots of typical agility sport dogs like shelties, australian shepards, border collies, a couple boxers, jack russel terriers, a couple italian greyhounds, yorkshire terriers, and plenty of mixed breed dogs. I wondered how Baloo would do at the Course A Lure this year. Last year Baloo didn't understand what she was supposed to do and was terrified of the tunnel, unsure about the tire, and not too crazy about the fake squirrel thing she was supposed to chase. This year was completely different. Baloo was so excited to chase the lure, she ran off after it lickity split, through the tire over the long jumps, through the tunnel around the bend and all the way to the end. She was still excited afterward and nearly dragged me along the ground as she kept trying to go after the lure again. After her run we walked around a bit more. We saw some of the frisbee competition and watched the herding dogs scramble after four sheep. We sat in the shade and watched a little free style - from what I could tell, that consisted of the dog doing tricks to music. We also watched a little bit of flyball, where the dogs run after a ball in relays, at a very fast and excited pace. Baloo received many complements, she is so calm and well mannered. Then we went back to the lure course for one more run. Baloo was even more excited and very fast. She ran the course in only about 18 seconds! We didn't stay around to see if she won a ribbon for her exceptional time. It was hot out, and the star was beginning to drag. Phoenix has been above normal temperatures the last few days, and unfortunately today was no exception. By noon it was pretty close to 90 farenheit. Baloo had really wanted to watch the final agility rounds where the best of the best would compete - she was looking forward to picking up a few tips. But it was too hot, so we called it a day - a really great day!

Monday, October 29, 2007


I snapped this picture of Baloo in the grass, I love the way her ears flop and curl.

Baloo is an "advanced beginner" in agility class and has picked up where she left off over the summer. Last week we learned a new move and command, "wrap". Wrapping is used after a jump, the command is to call your dog back around the jump to prevent a reverse jump.
This week we don't have class because the USDAA CynoSport Games are in town. The events begin Wednesday at Westworld in Scottsdale and it promises to be a lot of fun. There'll be agility rings, frisbee, flyball, herding, lure coursing. I am looking forward to entering Baloo in the lure coursing event. Last year she was terrified of the course and the tunnel especially. This year I think she'll burn up the course, racing after the little fake squirrel in record time. We'll see in few days.

Monday, October 08, 2007

October Joy

October has arrived, and Baloo and I are grateful for that. The weather in Arizona in October is perfect. Cool mornings and evenings and sunshiny warm afternoons, usually with a breeze. Agility classes have started up again, but Baloo missed her first two classes because of a schedule conflict (my schedule conflict...she was free). This Wednesday will be our first class after the long summer. We've hardly practiced and will certainly be rusty. I know she's eager to start. I put her weave poles out the other day and she enthusiastically weaved the poles and then ran over to pounce on her long teeter board (an old board centered on a short stack of bricks, initially intended to help her with her fear of all things moving, tipping, and banging). In the next few days I'll study my latest "Clean Run" magazine issues - great tips about course memorization in the last issues. Course memorization is an area I was having trouble with as we started to run sequences at the end of our beginner class. I'll need to learn some tricks and train my brain. Baloo has matured since beginner class. She weighs about 71 pounds and has really filled out. She is still having some confidence issues. I am hopeful that by re-engaging in agility class, her confidence will grow again. She is pretty confident on our walks, but around the house there are a few things that keep her spooked. In the back yard, blowing leaves and branches in our large tree are somewhat distressing for her. We have a canopied gazebo area in our yard and when the canopy flaps and blows it can send her flying. Indoors, Baloo has a lot of fear of kitchen sounds. Probably because of the lack of cooking that goes on - she's not used to it, ha! In the morning, she will not come in the kitchen to eat until I'm away from the sink. Dish washing and water bowl filling send her cowering. I know there's a fully confident dog in there somewhere, we'll just keep working on it. We are excited for new challenges and loads of practice. Agility classes, fun runs, competitions, dog shows, Cynosport Games - there will be a lot to write about in the coming weeks. Welcome Back!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Agility Beginner Class Graduation

Graduation Day (June 6). Baloo’s most challenging course started with a couple jumps, the dog walk, a tunnel, tire, more jumps and a chute, the table, weave poles, another tunnel, jumps, a-frame, and the final jump. Baloo is talented. She loves running a course and definitely has the potential to compete in the future. The big challenge will be for me…can I excel at communicating to Baloo when we are running a course? When we ran our graduation fun run, it was evident that I was the one who needed practice. An agility course can be challenging to remember. How timely that in this month’s “Clean Run” magazine, was a great article offering tips on how to memorize obstacle sequences. Baloo is so fast, I will need to learn how to send her along the course with minimal running on my part. Obstacle name recognition and the commands to move left, right, or here will be critical in our training. But Baloo is multi-talented and I believe I can also be trained, so we are excited for the next class in the fall. Until then, we’ll have the weekly fun runs to look forward to. Since the summer is a slow time for agility practice, this will be a good opportunity to explore Baloo’s other interests, like social issues, current events and blogging.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


photo by aggieB !

Sunday, May 06, 2007

At Mill's End

Oh what a beautiful morning in Tempe, Arizona. The temperature couldn't be more perfect, especially for a day in May. Baloo and I are downtown, at Mill's End cafe and creperie. I had a delicious crepe, filled with turkey, provolone, tomatoes and mushrooms, along with a cup of coffee. I'm glad we decided to vary from the usual Sunday morning routine, breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company. I really like going there, but this morning we walked along the lake and the exercise was good. We got a chance to practice our running stamina and there's always people fishing, biking, running, walking - it's just a good place to get a Sunday morning started. We saw a great blue heron perched alongside the lake bank and Baloo was very interested as it flew off with great, slow flaps. I like watching the rowers skim across the water.

Baloo is a perfect cafe dog. Especially with the exercise beforehand, she calmly sat by my side for the first hour or so and now that we are into our second hour she has laid down next to my table to watch the finches and sparrows patrol the tables for crumbs, and cyclists and walkers coming and going. She is quiet and watchful. We are quiet now, but in only a couple hours we will be at home with the television volume loud as we cheer on the Phoenix Suns. Go Suns! This is your year to beat the Spurs and go to the top!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dragon boat races at Tempe Town Lake

This morning Baloo and I went to downtown Tempe to walk around the lake. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Dragon boat races were going on. We sat for a while to watch and several people came up to pet Baloo. That was good, she is getting more used to people coming up to her and doesn't seem to mind. We met two women from Canada who were going to row in the competition. They told us all about their dogs back home, being attended to by dog sitters. Another woman complimented Baloo on her very calm disposition. She was so impressed that Baloo is so well mannered. She asked if I've thought about getting Baloo involved as a therapy dog. I said I might. I think the kids and adults alike would enjoy petting Baloo's ridge and she's never hyper. She has to get used to a lot of things first, but she seems like a perfect candidate for service work. There's a group called Gabriel's Angels that connect therapy dogs with work. I think Baloo would also like to be a dog that helps kids read. We'll work on getting her prepared to work, maybe by the time she's two she'll be ready for a job.

Curve the Tunnel - No Problem

Baloo loves the tunnel. Last Wednesday at agility class whenever we came close to the tunnel she nearly pulled me with her, she was so eager to run through. It seems that she now thinks tunnels are a lot of fun - or at least she's figured out that running through a tunnel is a pretty easy way to get hot dogs and cheese. Class went well. In this week's class, the tunnels were curved which sometimes throws the dogs off since they can't see all the way through. For Baloo, the curve was no problem. Also we were introduced to the chute. That was a problem for some of the dogs. Baloo was a little tentative, but did go through.

It was my first opportunity to see how Baloo would like her new soft crate - NoztoNoz brand's largest crate, the X48. It is a really nice one that folds down for easy transport. It's not too heavy - a little awkward to carry but manageable. It unfolds quickly and is easy to set up. We need to work a little more on Baloo's fear of the crate, but she did go in and stay for a few minutes while I helped put equipment away. I think Baloo is starting to realize that we go have fun and eat cheese and hotdogs once a week in exchange for climbing over and through things. I can already see that she is gaining confidence. The weave poles and see-saw are still difficult for her, but she no longer refuses to try things.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wow, What a Night!

Tonight was incredible. Wednesdays are agility class nights for Baloo. I left work early at 4:00, came home, and attempted to set up my vcr to tape the Suns basketball game. The Suns played the Dallas Mavericks, and I was seriously conflicted about taking Baloo to class tonight because I hated to miss any of the game. Turns out, I could not get the vcr hooked up correctly, so I called on good friend and sister Aggie to see if she would tape the game in case I missed too much. She said yes, so Baloo and I dropped the video tape by and headed off to class. I had high hopes for tonight's class. To set us up for success, I bought some all beef hotdogs from Target the other night, as well as some cheddar cheese cubes. I had taken the hotdogs to work today and microwaved them at 70% for about 6 minutes. Well, some of them were a bit overcooked, but many were okay. We arrive at Pomeroy Park for class, and we were armed with some really excellent treats. I did not bring Baloo's crate tonight, because we are expecting a brand new soft crate to come UPS tomorrow, and I figured one night I could get away with not crating her (it's a rule that the dogs must be crated before and after class so the humans can help set up the equipment). Before class, Baloo and I ran around the field a bit to loosen up. Then we practiced on some of the equipment that has been giving her trouble. I was hoping for a chance to work on the tunnel before class officially started. My classmates and instructors were trying to help Baloo through the tunnel, but she was quite wary. We probably tried to get her through a little too quick and she bucked about like a bronco. There's a fine line between coaxing and pushing with Baloo. So we eased back and put treats in the tunnel, a few at a time letting her take her time. Then she did it! With Kurt holding her and me on the other side of the tunnel calling and offering treats, she just went for it. Then we had her do it again. It was great. Class started after that, and Baloo had a special spring in her step. She did so well on the obstacles. We made progress on walking the plank, and when it was our turn to return to the tunnel we started on the compressed tunnel first and she ran through several times. Then we decided to go for the long tunnel. I couldn't believe it, she did it. Then we went through the tunnel again and again. We also had a new obstacle tonight, the A-frame. A little hesitation the first trial, and then she loved it. She actually looked like she was having a great time. And all those hotdogs and bits of cheese! What a great breakthrough class we had. When class was over, we grabbed our stuff and ran to the car. There was a Suns game to get to! The game was close by this time. The Suns up by 3. I didn't realize it, but they had been up by 16. As I drove home, the Mavericks were coming on strong and it looked like the momentum was in the Maverick's favor. I was so excited listening to the game on the drive home. When I did get home it was the last minute of the third quarter. But the Suns were really down. But then they had a miraculous fourth quarter. It was amazing! Steve Nash tied the game and they went into overtime! Then a second overtime! SUNS WIN! SUNS WIN! Wow, What a Night!

Baloo's Birthday Party

Last night was Baloo's birthday party at Carver dog park. I think she knew it was a special night, her and sister Jazz received a lot of dog biscuits before we headed to the park. There were so many dogs at the park, and so many of Baloo's friends were waiting for her when we arrived. She was so excited to see Dalton, who she hasn't seen for months. Dalton was one of her first friends and even though he is much much smaller than she, he is only 4 days younger and they play so good together. Baloo met Dalton during one of her first visits to the park, when her aunt Aggie was puppy sitting. There were at least 40 dogs at the park when we arrived, everyone played so nicely together. The weather was absolutely fabulous, one of those perfect spring evenings we Arizonans love. Baloo's friends included: Pumpkin, her mom Aimee, Pepper the dalmation, her dad Ash, the shelties Wendell and his brother, dad Mika, mom Eva and her pack Dalton, Copper, Kendra, and the newest addition who I forget; Fatso and Cookie with their dad Mike; Buddy and Charlie; Kojak the basset puppy who is 3 months to the day younger than Baloo; Bert and his mom Lynn; Yuki and Darby and mom Joe; Maia and her mom; and lots of others. Of course, daddy Andre and auntie Aggie were there as well. Most everyone received a bag of dog treats from Baloo. The dogs were all on their best behavior and Baloo got to stay out extra long. Baloo is lucky to have so many good friends and family.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Baloo turns One on Tuesday, March 13

Well, it's happened. A year has passed. This time last year I was anxiously awaiting Baloo's arrival, in three short days it will be Baloo's birthday. Time has certainly flown by, yet it seems so long ago that she was the tiny puppy sitting on the picnic table in that adorable 7 week pose. We have had so much fun together this first year. She has turned out to be one of the friendliest dogs I've ever met. Her latest thing is to lay down on her back, twisting and wiggling in front of the other dogs at Carver park to entice them to play, or maybe just to point out how lovely it is to lay in the grass in the spring. Playing keep away has always been a favorite, but now she's more driven to get the ball. Lately she seems more determined than ever to go after the ball and get the other dogs to chase her. Her most annoying habit lately is never wanting to leave the dog park. She has started to run away from me when it's time to go.

Our agility class met a couple days ago, on Wednesday. Baloo is still having tunnel and weave pole issues. Luckily, we didn't have to step through a ladder this class. Instead there was a set of about 15 pvc poles laid out and Baloo had no problem stepping through those, she's a natural at careful foot placement. She also didn't do too bad jumping through the ring. The plank walk, which she excelled at last week, was difficult this time because the plank was raised up on blocks. Each week the obstacles will be arranged slightly different than the week before - not only was the plank raised, but also the tunnel was stretched longer. Baloo is so wary of these changes and doesn't adjust very quickly to the new setups. So now I've set up a plank in my back yard. I'm also planning to get a set of weave poles on Wednesday - one of the instructors is making several sets to sell. Also, I'm considering getting an agility tunnel - but that is more of a consideration because it is a bit of an investment. Agility tunnels are pretty pricey. But there's no way to get her used to these things during the short time in class, we need to practice at home. I do see the potential for Baloo to lose her fear of these obstacles and we are going to keep practicing.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chutes and Ladders

Baloo had her first agility lesson last Wednesday. Maybe I should say I had my first lesson, I think this class is going to be more for my training than hers. For Baloo, it is going to be all about building confidence. She is not very confident, and is generally at high alert for new things, moving things, looming things, crashing things.

The class is pretty big, about 25 dogs with their people. There's another Rhodesian Ridgeback who happens to be quite calm and does whatever she's told. Hopefully Baloo will learn a few things by being in the presence of greatness. Anyhow, we split into subgroups to work more closely with an instructor and get individual time on the equipment. The first equipment for Baloo to try out was the tunnel. Baloo is afraid of tunnels. She wants nothing to do with them whatsoever. Of course, the other 3 dogs in our little group all loved the tunnel. For Baloo, we worked on just taking treats from the mouth of the tunnel and reaching in a little bit. In the meantime, I need to find a tunnel to get her used to running through. I have to help her fall in love with tunnels. After the tunnel was the weave poles. Again, not real fond of walking among all those sticks. But we managed to walk through. We didn't weave, just passed through the poles. Weave poles would be easy to build. Practicing Sit/Stay and Release was next followed by walking on a plank. Baloo did excellent on the plank, which will eventually be raised to a see-saw. The final exercise was a ladder, lying on the ground. The dogs were to walk inbetween the rungs, to help them become aware of their back feet (pick them up). Baloo refused to step into the ladder..."why walk in that thing when I can so clearly and easily jump over, mom?"

We've got our work cut out for us, and I am really looking forward to it! I think I am going to learn a lot about patience, and I'm really looking forward to the challenge!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Agility Baloo

On Valentine's Day Baloo went to her first agility class. We are now members of the GoodDogAgility Club. First day is just class rules and what to expect and how to start training. Plus it was windy and began to rain. Also I was about 15 minutes late because of Valentine dinner at the Havana Cafe (delicious!). So we are looking forward to our next class, when we'll really have a chance to see Baloo in action.

I've already gotten some of the gear we'll need - a new clicker and a treat bag. I think we'll begin to work with the clicker this afternoon at the dog park. Our first goal will be to associate the click with a treat, no commands just clicking and treating. We also have to start working with our "target" a cottage cheese lid (I've got to finish off that cottage cheese - or better yet, maybe I'll just throw it out, it's very tangy - Nancy's brand, old fashioned tart and tangy cottage cheese. Got it by mistake, my taste buds aren't ready for tangy cottage cheese). I'll have Baloo practice taking treats off the lid so she will eventually learn to touch her nose to the lid.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Adolescence here we come...

Baloo is 10 1/2 months, an adolescent. She eats adult food now and is beginning to fill out and look more dog-like. She has only a hint of puppy in her face, but all her friends at the dog park have noticed her recent growth spurt and her body is beginning to grow out rather than up for a change. She is so tall that Jazz dog can walk under her. She and Jazz are getting along very well, Baloo won't even eat from a food bowl until Jazz eats first, she continues to be completely respectful. At the park she is beginning to stand her ground a bit more firmly. Last week, she growled and snapped over a piece of tennis ball she had grown fond of. But mostly she continues to be happy go lucky Baloo, doing her best to play with any well-mannered dog. Luckily she generally steers clear of the agressive ones, and tends not to run toward dog scuffles. When she meets a shy dog, she gets down the butt in the air in a "downward dog" position, and invites them to play. She is patient enough to try to get the shy dogs to play, and always up to the challenge.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Baloo at 10 Months

Baloo is now 10 months old. All her friends at the dog park can't get over how tall she is! She is also very fast. She loves going to the dog park and we go almost every day. She loves to play and has lots of friends, including Oscar, Lola, Pumpkin, Bert, Corbin, and Dalton. If one of her friends isn't around she makes new friends easily. One of her favorite things to do lately is to tease the other dogs and get them to chase her. She is also willing to chase them, but especially loves being chased. She is most happy when a group of dogs begins to chase - the more the better. Her favorite toy is something I like to call "dinosaur with feet". It's a medium sized rubber ball with a tail and is ridged along its back. It has two feet. After someone brought one to the park I got her one at PetCo. At the park, she'll make a big deal out of pouncing on it and chewing on it and holding it up high in the air to show all the other dogs. It never fails to entice someone to try to take it from her and then the chase begins!