Friday, December 31, 2010

Ghost Doggies

Jinx visited me on December 30, 2010. I had expected her to come much sooner. But there she was, in my dreams.  I was at a seminar with Greg Doud and when I brought out a dog, it was Jinx. She was a younger version, healthy and without illness or injury, and very happy.  I couldn't believe it was her, and I asked Greg who he thought she was.  He said he couldn't be sure, that he would have to run some tests.  I couldn't believe that Jinx was back! There wasn't any more to it than that, and seeing that she was restored, which made me happy.
I don't know what prompted the visit.  Did she and Digit have work to do, to conspire to bring me Marco and finally know that all was well? Or are those just the signs that I wish to see? Eros and Sofie both visited me after their passing and I had wondered why Jinx had not, since we had been so close. But there she was and it was a peaceful and happy moment to know that she is well and running with the grace of her youth.  Crazy? Maybe. But it is a good kind of crazy, and I'm quite sure I have company.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2011 Goals

Is it that time of year already?  We're on the cusp of another new year. Sadly that means I have to recognize not only the things I accomplished but also the goals that were not reached.

The biggest dream in the world, to keep Jinx healthy to ring in 2011 with me was not possible.  The bottom fell out of my world when I lost her in May. I think I actually had myself convinced that the experimental medicine would work and Jinx would beat the cancer that they had pronounced terminal. Losing Jinx made me want to end the year at that point and just start over because everything that came later seemed anticlimatic at the time.

One thing about having multiple dogs, however, is that you do not have the luxury to grieve and hibernate with loss.  True, you grieve but you have to do it on the run, and the other dogs are present and demanding your attention. I don't have experience in handling it any other way to know if this is preferred, but it works for me. I can honor the greatness of the dogs that came before by being a kind and patient trainer while teaching the dogs how to access their own potential.  My year ended with another tough loss, this one totally unexpected, when Digit passed away in his sleep. I guess this means I really have to work hard to pass on the love I had for them.

I said that I would earn an FH and a MR1 with Quinn this year.  Well, the FH is going to be moved to the "to do" list for 2011 but we did earn our MR1 in one weekend, back to back trials, even earning an award for the high score on the second day. Since I am not a member of a Mondioring Club and do not have access to that regular training, I was very proud to have accomplished that goal primarily with the assistance of my schutzhund club members and the occasional ring seminar.  An interesting thing happened along the way, though.  One of the reasons I had delved into ringsport to begin with was because Quinn had gotten so trial-wise in schutzhund and was almost to the point of not letting go of the sleeve at all.  He knew when he wore an e-collar, and he also worked perfectly in seminar... but in a trial I might get the first out quickly, the second more slowly (hmmm... nothing is happening? I think I'll just hang out here on the sleeve a little longer) and the last took repeated commands and promises to God.  In the ring trial, his "out" was immediate.  I considered what made the difference, and decided it was the long fight. When we did extended grips not only was he satisfied, but he was darned happy to finally let go and take a breather!  Now, when I take him out and give him sleeve bites, I am getting the same fast reaction. We've applied this method to other schutzhund dogs and it seems to be working. In fact, I am so encouraged by this that I intend to trial Quinn in 2011 for his AWD1,2,3 (AWDF titles) in addition to finally earning that FH!

He was not bred, and likely never will be. The dog that I thought would make a nice match is being being bred to a dog in an arrangement that will guarantee the sale of the pups.  Good for the owner; not so good for Quinn.  Oh well, I love him.  Just not in that way!!

I said Cooper would earn his BH, SchH1 and FSA and we fell short on that one, but not by much!  We traveled to CT to take the FSA and passed that. We even made a run at the Type1 the next day, since we were there and almost did it. Next time!  He has really turned into a great little dog.   Since Tom and I were gone most of August to Alaska on our trip of a lifetime, and I was also mentoring club members, I did not enter our fall trial. I had to find another trial for his BH and ended up doing that late in the season, at the Machtig Strom trial. No schutzhund1 for us this year, therefore.  But I did enter four conformation shows at Ixonia where Cooper earned his UCK Conformation Championship.  How cool is that?  In 2011 I will do Cooper's Type1/CE and earn at a minimum his SchH1.

It's time for Ridley to take her turn in the spotlight, too and in 2011 we will earn a BH.  

I have some pretty big plans for a dog that I don't even own!  Pre, a Belgian Malinois, owned by Sam L is a dog that I have here to trial this year. My goal for Pre is to compete in the AWDF Championship, the North Americans and the Malinois Nationals this year.  He is an awesome dog.

 I have a new German Shepherd Dog puppy, Marco.  His year will be spent learning tracking foundation and all the cool obedience methods that I have been privy to recently.  He is going to be a big boy and I have big plans for him.

I see that I said I would sell some dogs.  Bart and Enno found new homes.  Excel and Chica are still here.  Excel still needs a home but I am training Chica in HRD and also plan to try her out as a sled dog very soon! She has that coyote style body type of the Alaskan huskies and loves to run, so we'll see if she can't haul my big butt down the trail....

I may be conservative on some of my goals.  It is entirely possible that my training program will be on fire this year and I'll title dogs right and left.  We are fortunate to have a new club helper who will (crossing all my fingers) be available for more training, which will help tremendously! 2011 could be alot of fun!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Farewell to my Sweet, Grey Boy. A-Digit vom Foxtal, 1998-2010

This has been a difficult year.  I thought losing Jinx back in May would be the most difficult thing I would face. I have not yet wrung all the tears from my heart over that loss.  I was quite unprepared for another this soon.  I was supposed to attend a seminar in Plant City, FL this weekend with World Champion competitor, Mia Skogster.  It was an expensive seminar and one that required additional planning as Tom was going to be away for his annual hunting trip and we needed to secure kennel help.  Last week, I came down with a bad cold, one that had all the earmarks of moving quickly to bronchitis if I didn't do something. I knew driving by myself, straight through to Florida would be taxing but I was going to tough it out. I got an antibiotic prescription in case things took a turn for the worse and packed to leave.

Scant hours before I was to leave, my plans were further interrupted by a freak accident in the kennel, requiring an emergency trip to the vet and a dog with a bandaged tail. As I considered whether the dog could make the trip with me, since constant supervision would be required, I got sicker and sicker and had to start the antibiotics. It was clear there was no way I could make that trip.  If being sick was the command, and the vet visit the punctuation mark. Okay, I get it! I'm not supposed to take this trip. I was still thinking perhaps I had avoided a serious accident in travel. I just didn't get it.

Tom left yesterday morning and I slept much of the day, still not feeling well. At 5 I bundled up to go to the kennel and feed before it got too late. As I worked my way down the line, I didn't see Digit waiting at his door as he normally did.  Immediately I was worried and thought he might be outside.  As I approached, I saw he was in his dog house, with his head resting outside.  He was dead.  I stroked his grey ears, as I loved to do. He had not been dead long and appeared to be in a resting position, reclining on his side. I talked to him, and petted his beautiful grey fur and told him over and over that I loved him. Why is there never enough time to do that, whether animal or human?  I worried that if I had only gone sooner, I might have been with him. I know from hospice readings that humans will sometimes wait for a moment when they are alone, to spare their loved ones the pain of being there; I don't know if animals process the same way but think they may.  Still, I would have wanted to hold him if I could. I hope he did not feel any pain.  I hope he didn't wonder where I was. 

Tom said Digit had been outside with him as he cleaned kennels the night before, and was laying in his dog house early on Saturday morning as Tom prepared to leave.  He talked to Digit and Digit acknowledged him but did not get up, which was not unusual for that time of day.  And now he is gone.  I had taken him out recently to attempt a blood track of a deer; it was very optimistic of me, as several years earlier I had stopped doing that when he just couldn't make it through the heavy cover.  This was an easy attempt and I thought he might enjoy the walk.  As soon as he left the kennel I saw that was not to be.  His narrow little old-dog rear end was wobbly.  At times he would simply fall, sitting down.  He did not appear to be in pain; he looked surprised.  Surprised that his body was not cooperating.  Instead of walking, I loaded him into the van and we drove nearer the track, which was on our property.  I put on his harness and he seemed excited and happy.  I remembered telling Jinx on her last day that we were "going to work."  I told Digit, through tears, that we were going to work that day. I knew it would be his last. He made a brief attempt to enter the woodline but stopped and I told him what a good, brave dog he was and gave him his tug toy.  He proudly carried it back to the van. He was a winner. His grey tail waved happily, even as I rained salty tears on his head.

I was thinking of how difficult it was to make that last farewell, and how much it hurt, knowing I had to make that decision.  I started adding Rimadyl to his meals and hoped to stave off the goodbye.  Digit chose the time for me and he left with the dignity with which he lived. On his own terms.  And if I had been in Florida, I would not have found him, been able to pet him while his spirit was still there, and say goodbye.

I was there when Digit was born. He was a the most beautiful, shimmering silver and my friend said, "oh look! It's Digit!" No matter that I was about to name him after an ill-fated silverback gorilla, it seemed to fit. And so, A-Digit vom Foxtal entered the world and my life. He was the son of my best girl, Sofie, whom I adored and as I huddled around the whelping box I immediately knew that this would be my dog. Digit's sire was Atos, Dianne San Lorenzo's well-known male. Unfortunately, Digit was dysplastic and was never bred, but he showed no sign of being handicapped by it and loved to work.  When we were in Florida when Digi was a youngster, a man offered me $5000 for him. I knew that he would never love him as I did, and wanted him only because of his gorgeous steel-grey color and I did not sell. I never would.

Digit was somewhat slow to mature, a trait I also observe in Cooper, though they are not related. Knowing what a great dog Digit evolved into, with patience, has helped me to keep Cooper in perspective and let him grow up in his own time.

Digit was such a stable dog mentally, and one of my fondest memory is having him come off the field after a V-rated protection routine and being petted and hugged by a little girl from the crowd as the critique was made.  This was at Al Govednik's club, and the field was lit with vehicle headlights in the darkness, a circumstance that would have made many dogs a little tweaky and suspicious.  A little girl came from the crowd, threw her arms around him and proclaimed "I just love this dog!" Having done many demonstrations with him, I knew him to be very sound and safe. When we  used to visit my elderly father in law, Digit would sit quietly next to him to be petted. He seemed to innately sense how to adjust his behavior to the circumstance.

Out on the competition field, he was anything but gentle! He had a tremendous launch for the grip and loved protection work. Still, I could always see the impish glint in his eyes.  He taught many a helper in our club. Sometimes it was hard for them to reconcile that this dog who was sitting so quietly and patiently would then spring into action. Every club needs veterans to teach the young helpers, and Digit filled that role with enthusiasm, even after his formal retirement from the sport.

He lived through my own stupid handler errors and taught me many lessons.  I decided we should try our hand at personal protection sports.  Digit proved he could handle that type of defensive, multi-attacker work but when we returned to schutzhund, he was confused by the call-backs and left the man! I was embarrassed because I knew that he was not a weak dog, and I had created this problem.  Digit taught me to admit my own role in those mistakes, to think more carefully about sport conflicts and training, and most of all, to love my dog through it all.  It was not his fault.  He was willing to try anything I asked of him, so long as I was patient and clear.  He taught me a big lesson in tracking: the power of a hungry dog! I loved Digit, but he could be a stubborn bugger!  When he was a SchH2 or maybe even SchH3, early on, he decided to disagree with the pressure I had put on him in tracking and refused to track.  Oh, he couldn't have made it any clearer!  I said "such" and he stuck his nose straight up in he air!  I realized that I had two options for action. I could either force the issue and be stuck forever with that choice, or motivate him to want to perform. I chose the latter.  The next day, I layed a heavily baited track so that if he put his nose down there would be reward.  I held his food dish in one hand and said "such".  Again, he stuck his nose up in the air, daring me to do something about it.  I said (in as nonchalant a voice as I could muster) "nope! too bad!" and put him back in his crate.  This continued for four days, with Digit getting only a partial meal to remind him of a rumbling tummy and the option for food IF he tracked each day.  It was a war of wills. On the fifth day, Digit surrendered and attacked the track with gusto.  After that, no matter how he struggled on a track, he continued to work it out to fruition, even earning an FH.

Digit was retired after our Spring 2006 schutzhund trial, where he earned High SchH 3 and High in Trial Honors. I could see that he had lost some of the "lift" that he used to have and it was more important that he retire without injury and with his dignity than to trial him to serve my own ego. He continued to spend his time teaching new helpers, being the neutral dog for puppy training and mentoring the young ones.   He had a post-retirement career that included blood tracking deer and relished the idea of following scent through conditions I couldn't imagine he could still be following something.  He amazed me with his ability.  Then, in 2008 he came out of retirement to earn an STP1, the article search title.  He was happy to be joining me for training and using his nose again.  He was even used as a "demo" dog in the trial and came off the field that day, tugging on the leather leash like a puppy, just as he had done in the old days. 

My sweet, grey boy is gone. He gave everything to me that I asked, except more time. There is never enough time.  He will be in my heart forever.  Someone wrote that our dogs don't outlive us so they don't have to wonder why we left them.

I found this writing, and the author speaks eloquently of the fact that dogs have to all their love in fewer years, so in fact they do not outlive us because that outLOVE us.  May all my dog friends find comfort in this.


Farewell, Digi-mon! I love you always.

CH A-Digit vom Foxtal, CGC, therapy dog,UCDX, STP1, 13x SchH3/IPO3, FH, DPO2
Born July 12, 1998
Died December 4, 2010
Loved Forever.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's CHAMPION COOPER to you!

This past weekend, Tom and I took Chica and Cooper to the Western Waukesha Dog Training Club in Ixonia, Wisconsin for a series of UKC shows. Over the two days there were four shows, under four judges; two per day.  Of course, Pre rode along, even though he wasn't entered! I think I've spoiled him, as he thinks that he must be in the van if it is going somewhere! Actually, first he looks in and steals a toy or bite pillow and runs around with it, but if the crate is open he will just jump in. I think if he could start the car himself, he would!

So, off we went.  From past experience, we know to get there very early, as soon as same-day registrations open, so that we can find a spot to park our chairs and crates for the day.  Things fill up very rapidly and early. If you have never attended such a show, it is hard to imagine how close the quarters are. You hope that sensible people will leave at least a small aisle to weave through from chairs to ringside, but this is often not the case.  On Day 2, Cooper jumped on a softsided crate trying to follow me through the maze and likely scared the crap out of the small dog inside. oops.  A dog has to be very stable and not aggressive to humans or other dogs to be in this environment.  I was very pleased with both Chica and Cooper, who settled into their soft-sided crates and went to sleep.

We camped next to the Northern Breeds, and there were quite a few Alaskan Klee Kai's there.  They are cute little dogs that look like miniature huskies.  Someone else likened their unusual noises to the sound of "an alien being run through a wood chipper!"  We weren't treated to that, but one made a noise that sound just like a baby crying!  They are a wash and wear breed and were quite cute!  The people exhibiting them were clearly experienced and so I asked them quite a few questions and they were very friendly folks.

I was surprised to see another Dutch Shepherd entered! This was a lighter colored brindle female, imported from Holland. I chatted with the owner, whom I know.  In the ring, this female beat Chica in both shows on Saturday. I so rarely compete in conformation that it is like coming out for the first time, every time! I run the wrong direction, I don't stop when I'm supposed to... I'm a complete klutz.  In the second show, I let my friend, Tammy, handle Chica, figuring she couldn't do any worse than I did! Ha! I was wrong! (sorry, Tammy!)  But still, it wasn't a big deal as Tammy had never done this, either, and everyone has to start somewhere.  Chica truly didn't show herself as well as we were all working out the kinks in our handling, and the other competitor is an experienced show handler and did a much better job. I just considered that, and that the judge perhaps felt Chica was too small or just wasn't moving well enough to judge.  There was nothing to be angry over, that's just the way show judging goes.

Next Cooper competed against the winning female.  In both shows, he beat the female.  I am prejudiced, of course, but Cooper is a good looking dog, very full of expression and correct according to standard.  The other gal left immediately after the second win. Cooper continued to Group, where he took 4th in Group in the second show. I was so surprised and thrilled!

I did hear a very nice thing as I was waiting near the registration table. An exhibitor, who is also a judge, was cautioning a woman with a small child about certain dogs there to steer clear of and I said "but not the Dutch Shepherds!"  The woman said that she loves Dutch Shepherds and that she didn't know who it was, but she had seen one years ago here that was just wonderful. I asked it that was here, and whether it was a grey dog. It was my Digit!  It just made me smile to think he had made such an impression.

On Sunday, the woman did not reappear.  The judges offered handling tips and I was very appreciative and thanked them.  Tom handled Chica and he did such a good job that she beat Cooper in the second show of the day!!  I was very impressed, watching her move around the ring. She was beautiful and moved so smoothly. At the moment, I thought the win prevented Cooper from earning his Championship and Tom apologized.  I said "what for? you did a GREAT job!"  There is no way I would diminish his effort and how well they did together, by being upset with that.  I later discovered that Cooper had enough points anyway.

An unusual thing happened, though.  In the second ring, the judge had stopped and said she wanted to say something. I thought she was going to share more handling tips and waited.  Instead, she said she had received an email complaining about the judging and alleging that the judges did not know what they were doing, and that my dog, Cooper, had a "gay tail" and was a poor representative of the breed!   I couldn't believe it!  The judge was clearly insulted and upset and referred to the many years she had been judging and that she had examined the tails and that our dogs were excellent breed specimens.  My mouth was probably hanging wide open, as I just could not imagine another exhibitor doing such a thing!  wow! Then the judge added that they were discussing the fact that the other dog in the class yesterday had been DYED!!  Tom had neglected to tell me that the day before, after the judge examined the dogs she was looking at her hands and said "I have dye on my hands!!"( For the record, that handler has since protested that she did not dye the dog.) For the life of me, I don't know why you would do that, as it had nothing to do with structure.

It was an interesting end to the weekend, for sure.  I had talked at length to the other exhibitor who smiled and chatted, only to have to pull a knife out of my back the next day!  The good part is that the other folks we encountered there were friendly and helpful,  and I really had a good time.  It's only a silly, cheap ribbon and two initials before the dog's name.  It is not the end of the world, nor the beginning, and at the end of the day, you should still love the dog you arrived with.  I fear this is not true about this other woman, and that is a very sad thing.

I was proud of my dogs because they showed stability and confidence in a very strange environment and they did something foreign to them because I asked them to.  If neither had won, I would still have been proud of them.  I might decide conformation showing just wasn't their cup of tea, but it would not have made me angry or disappointed in the dogs themselves. If you feel differently, please spare us all and just go buy your own ribbon!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where did Schutzhund Go?

I read the new rules for IPO and it made me sad.  We have wandered so far away from the foundation of our sport that it is almost unrecognizable. The governing organizations are a reflection of our unfortunate times of political correctness and offer a similar re-write of history.  I wonder how many people involved in the sport still remember its proud heritage?  Do they know that the sport of schutzhund was formed as a breed worthiness test for the German Shepherd Dog after breeders watched the police dog training, and adopted those exercises?

There was a motion at the 2010 General Board Meeting of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America to change the name to" United Schaeferhunde Clubs of America.”  The author of the amendment wrote, "Unfortunately, to the general public, governmental officials, and activist agencies, the word “Schutzhund” is primarily associated with the protection phase of our sport. That
image can be detrimental to our organization. In today’s highly scrutinized and litigious world we must be conscientious of our image. “  I would imagine he has friends among the Swiss, who banned stick hits and as a result, the new rules now advise that we have "stick pressure." The physical action is the same, only the name has changed. Are we fooling anyone?  Might I suggest, if that works, we henceforth refer to waterboarding as "a warm shower".

Our sport began as Schutzhund. Translated, it means "protection dog". What we do has a proud heritage.  Our work produces dogs for the police and military, and makes well-behaved companions of family dogs. The breeders who adhere to these standards create dogs who have the stability and drive for Search and Rescue and scent detection work  They are the backbone of our working dog community.  Why must we run from this reality?  If we believe that we have to deny the word "protection" in our name and history, our public relations efforts are failing.  We must do better.

We have lost so much already.  When I began in the sport, in the early mid-80's, the protection routine closely resembled the behaviors required by a police service dog. The blind search simulates the search of an area or building, and requires the dog check left and right as the handler moves forward through the area, making the way safe.  The dog knows that the suspect is concealed in the last hiding place but it would be unsafe for the handler to move forward to that location without having the dog search before him.  Thus, it is also an obedience exercise. Once the dog locates the suspect, he must bark to alert the handler, who can then approach tactically.  Even as a police officer cannot strike a suspect who has surrendered and is not aggressive, so the dog cannot bite him.  He must hold the person in place with strong guarding until his handler takes control of the scene.  In the early days of the sport, we would order the suspect (decoy) from the blind and then return to search the hiding place while the dog lay in wait and guarded him.  We actually searched for "weapons" as an officer would.  As that was occurring, the suspect would attempt to flee and, without command,  the dog would pursue and bite the sleeve.  The handler would command the dog to release and approach, ordering the suspect to step back and frisking him for weapons.  In those days, the weapon was a reed stick, not a thickly padded stick.

I miss this. It has become a stylized affair that even the participants do not recognize as similar to police work.  There is no search of the hiding place, or the suspect.  It makes me wonder if people would understand what we do and support it if we were able to make this comparison. Instead, we are left with a ballet of biting dogs.  Oops! I'm sorry! We cannot say that the dogs "bite".  According to the rules, they "grip." (once again, is anyone deceived? Who looks stupid in this picture? The fool or the fooler?)  We have lost the courage test, as well.  In this, the handler would call to the suspect to stop and he would ignore the warning, at which point the dog would be released to pursue and stop him.  Yes, by biting.  Apparently courage is something that is not honorable because that was tossed aside in favor of the "long grip".  The odd part is that we no longer yell a warning for the man to stop; instead, the dog is released.  It seems to be in conflict, but perhaps the ultimate goal is to have the dog run down the field and give the decoy a hug.  Check with the Swiss. They would know.

What happened to the proud Germans, the fathers of our sport?  Why have they lost their voice?  They lead the WUSV and SV meetings.  They, more than anyone, are familiar with the famous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
[wikipedia]    The quotation begins, " They came first for the Communists
 and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist."  Piece by piece, our sport has been picked apart until only the bones remain.

The Germans waved the white flag of defeat in 2004 when they caved to political forces and the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) and the Deutscher Hundesportverein (DHV) made substantial changes to Schutzhund, and adopted the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) rules that govern IPO titles.  By doing so, they gave up control of the sport to the FCI. The DHV changed the name of the titles from "SchH" (Schutzhund) to "VPG" (Vielseitigkeitsprüfung für Gebrauchshunde) which roughly translates "Versatility Examination for Working Dogs".  Our parent organization, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, had retained the word schutzhund in their name, though we had lovely "versatile working dogs" under the terms of surrender.  And now, in 2010, there were people who wanted to complete our emasculation by removing the protection work as we now compete for IPO titles.  Where did Schutzhund go?   When I read the 2010 rule changes, I saw how far we have moved from our past. I am fearful to read new revisions for fear there will be reference to tunnels and pause boxes.  In the future the dogs will only guard, never bite.

 Where will we find our working dogs?  While I remain hopeful that our leadership will recognize the path we are on and make an abrupt halt, it seems unlikely.  Clearly, we cannot look to Germany for a solution. With the protection sport organizations under the same umbrella of the FCI, and competing under the same rules, it ensures that we will drink the koolaid together.  The dogs that pass under the embarrassingly weak rules and low score requirements of the new rules will be the same from USA to DVG to WDA. Sea to Shining Sea.  I am optimistic that the AWDF will provide a haven for those who still value a working dog, with titles that rank courage and hardness and bring back the attack out of the blind.  We are Americans and we should not run and hide.  Our sport is nothing to be ashamed of.  Stand up for it.

If not, will the last one out of Schutzhund please turn out the lights?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

flying Cooper

This photo is distorted but this was Cooper, in harness, and suspended from a beam.  At USAR training last week the dogs took turns being secured in the harness and then lifted.  What you don't see in this photo is that Cooper was wagging his tail the entire time!

Pre as demo dog

Pre rode along with us to the Machtig Strom trial, so that I could work him on a new field, and that was a good decision.  When we arrived at the field, I practiced a send away for the bite pillow and did a little heeling. I told the Club that I would like to work Pre as the demo dog, if possible and at first they said someone else would be doing it, but then said I could.  There was only one SchH1 entry so we went opposite them, and I was directed to do the long down first.

Something flipped a switch with Pre, and as we approached the field, he began to load, barking and hopping.  So, when we took our position for the down, he was amped. I recalled that he had been a little squirrely on the down before, and so instead of turning my back to him I stood sideways. When Minna recalled her dog, Pre started to get up on his elbows, turning slightly. I pointed my finger at him and he layed back down.  But I went to him to straighten out his position and let him know that despite being a trial, I could still do that.  This is one of the beautiful things about going as the demo dog. You can't break out in play on the field, but you can make corrections and praise reasonably and surprise the dog that thinks he/she is untouchable in competition.  You let them know that the correction collar might be absent, but you still have your hands.

He was really squirmy on the down and it took me a minute to make sure the position was straight and calm.  It was clear that he wanted to be up and doing something. anything!  It was a very good opportunity, as he had been perfect on in similar practice on his home field.

When we began heeling, he was still cranked up and started barking and jumping as he walked. Unacceptable! I was able to tell him (quietly) "no", and use my hand on his chin to correct the barking.  By the time we made our about turn, he had settled in properly.  He moved nicely through the group and you can see the contrast in attention between the two dogs.  I made a mistake that I will be sure not to do in the future--- instead of taking the figure eight to the left first as I practice and making it corners rather than rounded, I rounded it off and stepped to the right as the dog was still moving forward. I did this with both Pre and Cooper, losing the dog for a moment. It was captured on film and I immediately recognized my fault in the matter.  It was helpful for my learning, as I will most certainly remember to do this properly in the future. It was so ridiculous to find myself doing exactly what I instruct our club members not to do!  So there is my confession!

We did not continue to the moving exercises because the dog opposite us broke on the long down and had lost too many points in obedience to pass so the judge indicated that we could continue if we wished but there was no need.  I decided that it was more important for Pre's training to end with the heeling, and not reward him with exercises that allowed him to run.  He needs to learn to hold himself together, to cap that drive and sustain it calmly.  If he does that, he will be rewarded by continuing to the active portions.

Training-wise, it was a great opportunity to get Pre out in trial conditions and yet be able to make some corrections.  I wasn't able to simulate it well enough to amp him up on the home field, so in order to prepare him for the big trials I plan to attend in 2011, we will travel to other fields to work. He is fully capable of V-rated phases, and that is my goal. 

Cooper vom Foxtal, FSA, BH.... we're on our way!

1) Train for the title, not the judge
2) If you are worried about passing, you are not ready
3) No excuses. Be a good sport

Last weekend, Tom and I packed up the van and headed for the Quad Cities of Iowa.  Where we landed was Moline, IL, to be exact. I had wanted to get Cooper's BH out of the way this year so we would be free to pursue our working titles in 2011 but time was running out and this was the last opportunity in our area.  In fact, Machtig Strom is not even in our North Central Region.

The office of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America was outstanding. Because I didn't yet have Cooper's DVG scorebook (don't even ask me to explain what a debacle that whole membership has been, trying to get paperwork from Germany!) and suddenly time was upon me and I needed a book.  I contacted the USA office and profusely apologized for my tardiness, prepared to just put down a deposit at the trial.  Not only did they take care of my scorebook, they expedited it. THANK YOU, USA OFFICE!

On Saturday, Cooper lost his sit in motion.  I don't know where it went, but it was lost.  However, I knew that everything else was in order and if we missed that exercise, it would still be fine.  I felt very confident that he would pass.  In our club, we do not train for a BH.  We train for SchH3.  We also train for the requirements of each level, without worrying about having to find Santa Claus.  If you attempt a BH wondering if you will pass, you are not ready, in my opinion.  Schutzhund is a balancing act;  for every minute you address an issue in one phase, there is something to be challenged in another.  Sometimes you have to step forward knowing that things are not perfect, but you try to ensure that they are as close to perfect as they can be at the moment.

It rained hard on the drive down. It was raining still on Sunday morning and although I had my lovely pink and black rain suit, I hoped not to have to wear it all day!  Luckily, the rain stopped before we began.  The trial field is at the airport.  Obedience was done in a clearing between two stands of trees.  Immediately on the other side of the trees was an unfenced football field, complete complete with goalposts where the protection work was done, so I am not sure why we didn't use that instead. 

 The area where we did obedience felt more like an area you would take your dogs for a break, and in fact, a dog was doing exactly that before we began. Instead of complaining, you ask: what does this teach me about being prepared?  You need to practice in areas that do not have visual cues for the dog so that they understand that, no matter where they are, if you ask for obedience, that is what they do.  The caution to that in training is that you must reward the dog for simple exercises they know when you first do this, so that they learn new places are FUN and not a source of correction.

So, I took Cooper out and did a little heeling there, fast and happy and with reward.  If I was trialing for a working title I get the dog over the jumps and do a send-away. I had Pre along, and since he needs new field experience, I did a send-away for a pillow there, as well, and a little heeling. Cooper was competing opposite another dutch shepherd and a very nervous handler.  I won't go into detail as to their work except to say that the judge did grant them a pass, but they were not ready for a BH on a new field.  Cooper did very well and I was so happy with his performance! He remained attentive throughout the routine, which is quite lengthy as it involves both on and off leash obedience.  He lost the sit.  I turned around, and there he was, standing.  He was rock solid, and didn't move, and it was indeed an incredible stand in motion, but he had been requested to sit.  I could only smile as I walked back to him.  That is one thing I have definately learned in competition; don't let the dog see your worry or anger, no matter what they do.  My little Cooper-man would melt if he saw me walking back angrily.  If it was Quinn, he would be up on his toes, ready to defend his honor!  Either way, I just paste that smile on my face, make a conscious effort to relax my body posture, and just go on from there.  Yes, we have things to work on, but they are all easily worked and not a lack of foundation.

The judge complimented Cooper's drive and training.  The traffic portion was a breeze in comparison to what he had just passed in CT with the FSA.  In fact, this traffic portion was shorter and easier than most. We walked in a parking lot as a car, bicyclist and jogger passed and then we stopped to converse with the vehicle driver. We moved the dogs informally in and out of a group of people, and did a tie-out with a neutral dog. 

In the tie-out, you are able to tell your dog to "down" (unlike the FSA), so I removed Cooper's leash, told him to down and walked away.  Let me repeat:  I removed Cooper's leash, told him to down.... and walked away.  Did you catch that?  When I returned, after Al had walked his adult male dog back and forth in front of Cooper, I noticed that the tie out was laying next to Cooper. Not attached.  Oops! I had forgotten to secure him!  Thank goodness, he knows his long down!

I'm glad to have that step behind us.  I love medallions and certificates, and things that document that first step for a dog but we didn't receive any.  I might have to visit the trophy shop and make my own!  I was once again, very proud of this stripey boy that I bred myself, who is so willing to try whatever I ask of him.  He's a darned good dog.

Another great track for Pre

My friend, Sue, layed a track for her SchH3 dog across a short grass field.  An hour or so later, she returned to run the track.  When that was finished, I ask another handler-- a man who has never layed a track for Pre-- to put down a track over the top of Sue's.  The track had two long legs that crossed her track 3 times on each leg.  On the first leg there were three articles, and on the second leg, four.  From the 3rd article of the second leg, the track continued across an asphalt walking/biking path and ended with a tracking favorite that doubles as an article, a tin of sardines!

I tracked Pre using only a chain collar. His speed now is consistent without being a speed-race. I used very small articles and saw that he does need to see very small articles in the future, as he was slightly crooked on two after registering their presence belatedly.   He will be seeing those again.  Still, the cause for celebration was that he did not give so much as a head check at the multiple cross tracks that bisected ours.  And, from the re-start at the third article, I let the line drag behind him and watched as he methodically worked the track, continued across the path and downed at the sardine tin. Success!

Tracking with Pre

You're wondering who Pre is.  I know you are!  Pre is a male Belgian Malinois owned by my friend, Sam L, who is off to Law School and who generously left Pre in my care so that I can compete with him.  I've *known* Pre since he was a youngster and watched them grow as a team. Sam is a gifted dog trainer and Pre is a very talented dog. It is unfortunate that they weren't able to see this journey to its completion together.  I have some big expectations to meet, however!

                       This is Sam asking Pre to "sit pretty"

We've been doing quite abit of tracking, mostly because we will have all winter to break down obedience exercises.  I don't often have photographs of our work because, well, I'm WORKING. Unlike a trial or even a seminar where there are people taking photographs, I don't have that luxury when I am out by myself or with my training partner, Sue.  I finally asked Sue to use her cell phone and get his picture of Pre doing a track on dirt.

This was a difficult track, and Pre's first on this type of surface that I am aware of.  Because of this, I had adequate food reward; I wanted the track to challenge but not beat him.  The farm field had been turned over and had huge furrows.  I laid the track walking on top of the furrow ridge, knowing the scent would pool in the bottom of the trough and pull the dog off, if he did not stay exactly true to source.  I laid one long leg which crossed a hay covered field break, continued in dirt and  ended with a right turn that contined about 15 feet into grass.  I think I had 3 articles down on the dirt leg.

Pre handled the track wonderfully.  He worked at the source of the odor and was not drawn into the trough, downed quickly on articles, even though he had to balance himself on the top of the ridge, finding that as challenging as I had to walk it!  There were two instances when he became distracted.  Once it was due to roadway traffic that caught his attention and once was simply a brain fart (unknown etiology.  yes, that is a technical term) .  Since Pre knows what his job is, I made a line slap that broke his reverie and sent him back to work, and that was sufficient.  When I can feel on the line that he is "checking out" I simply put more back pressure on the line and he pulls against the pressure..  That seems to be working well, and his speed is now consistent and measured.

The cutest thing he does on a track is something Sam taught him at the article indication.  When the reward is being "rained", if there is a pause, Pre sticks his nose to the ground as a trained behavior.  I'm using that now as part of his re-start posture, placing food just ahead of his paws and also between his legs and when he shows me the nose-down position, he is granted permission to begin tracking again.  What began as a cute default behavior is now adding to his calm re-start.

Cooper Passes FSA in CT

On October 9, 2010 the team of Debra Krsnich and Cooper vom Foxtal successfully completed the FSA certification at a SUSAR test in Connecticut.

Besides an exercise in acronyms, that single sentence is so powerful. It speaks to the commitment to the State Urban Search and Rescue Alliance and the Wisconsin Task Force to which they belong; to the breeding program that produced this dog; the versatility of a dog that was trained in schutzhund and can transfer those skills to a different venue; the memory of the great dog that preceeded him; and finally, to one weekend in time when a dog and handler emerged as a Team.

Cooper vom Foxtal was born on July 30 2007, a wiggly little brindle boy sired by Nico van Neerland (2002 KNPV PH II National Champion) and out of Roya vom Foxtal (SchH A). As a stout youngster he enjoyed beating up on his littermates, his future lay in schutzhund. Although both he and my other puppies sometimes traveled to training at the rubble site in Milwaukee where WI-TF1 trains, it was nothing more than a fun road trip at the time. I was busy training and certifying my Belgian Malinois female, Jinx du Loups du Soleil.

It was Jinx who led me to Urban Search and Rescue (USAR). When I acquired Jinx, my goal was Mondioring. When a friend dragged me along to a “fun day at Rubble Town” sponsored by People and Paws SAR in Milwaukee, I found the disaster search work very interesting but wasn’t sure it would not conflict with ringsport. We flew to College Station, TX for a Canine Search Specialist (CSS) course taught by FEMA instructors, where I discovered that while pursuing ring titles would create conflicts, schutzhund seemed the perfect compliment. By the time Jinx was side-lined in December 2008 with a medial glenohumeral ligament tear and ultimately diagnosed with a peripheal nerve sheath tumor in 2009, she had passed her FSA (Foundation Skills Assessment) and Type 1/CE, as well as having one leg of her MR1 and being the North Central Region Schutzhund 2 Champion.

The Acronyms

FSA is FEMA's "Foundation Skills Assessment". The details of this evaluation (and the CE) can be found on The FSA was formerly FEMA's Type II (Basic) deployment evaluation. However, several years ago, FEMA designated that an "in-house" evaluation and it is essentially a pre-test for the CE. SUSAR operates under certification procedures similar to what FEMA had before - the Type II and Type I system, being a younger system and still in the process of bringing all the dogs up to that level. So, passing the FSA qualifies us as a Type II (Basic) certified disaster search resource for SUSAR and we can be deployed through our state team.

SUSAR stands for State Urban Search and Rescue. SUSAR is the association of state disaster search teams across the US. Most of these teams are funded by and are part of their state's emergency management agency. These teams usually operate the same as FEMA teams with all the same components and similar requirements. In an emergency in your state, it is likely that the state-based teams will have the initial response, as FEMA stages.

CE means Certification Evaluation. This is FEMA's deployment evaluation for disaster search canines and handlers. When you pass this test, it means you are a deployable resource through FEMA, if you are a member of a FEMA Task Force.It also means that you will be a Type I (Advanced) resource through SUSAR. Because I am not within the mandatory response area for an existing FEMA team, I belong to WI-TF1, a SUSAR Task Force.

Waiting in the Wings

As I devoted so much time to Jinx’s surgeries and rehabilitation, Cooper waited in the wings. He was not titled in schutzhund as quickly as he would have been, had I been able to focus on his training but we continued working in our club, Fox Valley Police & Schutzhund Club. With Jinx diagnosed with cancer, and dying in May of 2010, I needed another disaster dog. Cooper was confident on the rubble and had many of the tools I would need, thanks to his schutzhund training, so he received the nod to step up. Still, he existed in the shadow of Jinx. At times he surprised me with how quickly he learned a new skill but it was always in the context of a comparison with Jinx. If Cooper felt it, he did not let it affect him and he worked, as always, with a joyful attitude, daring me to recognize the talent in front of me.

The Test

On October 9, 2010 WI-TF1 welcomed two newly certified dog teams: myself with Cooper and Scott Pierson with Xamb (prounounced "Zam") Xamb is a male German Shepherd Dog, and Cooper is a male Dutch Shepherd Dog, bred and trained by the handler. Both teams traveled to CT where they completed their FSA/ Type II Disaster Canine Evaluation through the SUSAR system, under evaluators Konnie Hein and Elizabeth Kreitler. Cooper and Xamb are the second generation of certified dogs for both handlers, having trained previous K9s to Type1/CE. They join Wisconsin's only other SUSAR certified disaster dog, also on WI-TF1, K9 Gretzky and handler Geoff Gardiner.

The FSA exam requires the dogs to successfully complete elements in obedience, direction and control and agility. Testing began with 8 dogs and the teams demonstrated off-lead heeling with speed changes, turns and moving through a group of milling people. Obedience is the foundation for any disaster dog, as they must be able to move through scenes under control of the handler, without demonstrating aggression or fear or being distracted. The dogs are also placed on a tie-out and left without command, to be retrieved by a stranger, to evaluate any potential aggression to humans. Dog aggression is tested by having the teams figure eight around two dog and handler teams, acting as "posts". Both the posted dogs and the heeling dog are evaluated. The dogs must also demonstrate an emergency stop and must immediately show a change of speed and then stop upon command, after being recalled. Some of the dogs clearly struggled with basic obedience but were able to complete the tasks...until the group long down.

Eight dogs lay down next to one another. Eight handlers left their dogs and walked around the corner to wait for the interminable five minute time period to end. First one dog sprinted around the corner, then another. Then the evaluator began retrieving dogs and returning them on leash to their handlers. Finally, three handlers returned to their dogs and three dogs were waiting in perfect position. When I saw Cooper laying there, in perfect, attentive sphinx position, I could have kissed him on the lips. Decorum prevailed and a heartfelt “good boy!” had to suffice. The rules specify which elements can be re-tested and the five dogs were able to make another attempt at the long down, but unfortunately, the results were no different the second time. And then there were three.

Three dogs continued to the bark barrel. The rationale of the bark barrel is to evaluate the bark alert behavior. The bark alert is the only alert method that can be recognized from out of sight, and so an enthusiastic and obvious bark alert is imperative. A person is concealed in a barrel, pipe or similar container where the dog can only smell the person, not see them. The dog is sent from a distance of 25 yards to perform the bark alert. The female pitbull who was up first, ran to the barrel, sniffed and then wandered off to urinate. Fortunately, both Cooper and Xamb were focused on their task to the exclusion of other distractions and barked with focus and persistence. Then there were two.

Only Cooper and Xamb continued from that point as part of the testing, but the evaluators generously allowed the other teams to complete the elements as practice and reward their dogs. During the test, you can only reward your dog with praise except at the bark barrel, where a secondary tug reward is allowed. Scott and I were able to successfully direct our dogs through the testing pattern in Direction and Control and through the elements of the agility course, including climbing a ladder, traversing an elevated plank, moving through tunnel and over unstable footing, among others. Cooper was not sure that the tunnel-- much smaller in diameter than what he was familiar with--- was meant to go through and thought at first he should walk on top of it! In all of the elements the dog must preceed the handler and must also demonstrate a stop and a turn on one.

Of the eight dogs who began the morning together, only Cooper and Xamb moved on to the rubble search. They were joined by a third dog team that needed only to re-test on the rubble. Interestingly enough, all three were Midwest teams.

With the obedience and agility elements completed the teams must then search a 3500-5000 square foot rubble pile simulating a collapsed 3 story structure and locate two victims within 20 minutes. The standard echoes the FEMA requirement of a bark alert indicating the presence of live human scent. The goal of the FSA rubble search is to see that the dog can work independently of the handler. Therefore, the handler remains off the pile at the starting location until the dog has barked a minimum of three times in succession. Xamb and Cooper both moved across the unstable footing, with the pile being completed the night before and still in the process of settling, with confidence and located both victims within the allotted time.

The success of the two WI-TF1 teams at this test, serves to demonstrate what can be accomplished with limited resources. The task force does not boast a large budget or fancy equipment and training center. Most days our victims are drawn from the membership of the wilderness team of People and Paws, and all of my foundation work is done within my schutzhund club. We have only one rubble pile. There were others at the test who face the same struggles and travel great distances to test and train their dogs. We train our own dogs and truly realize the depths of those partnerships.

The Schutzund Connection

In many courses for disaster dog teams, the emphasis now is on “training in drive”. Handlers are taught to play “The Game” (ala Balabanov). Because a disaster dog must work off leash and yet respond quickly and confidently, it is critical that they are taught behaviors motivationally. Pain compliance will not create the dog you need for this work. As you can see by the testing elements, much of it involves exercises we teach in schutzhund. The aspect that is missing is environmental and the challenge to step outside the box in your training thought. My club members have acted as “spotters” as Cooper learned to climb the 6 foot ladder. They provide distractions for obedience. What dog can’t benefit from learning to traverse unstable footing or crossing a teeter-totter? And my directional tables see multi-use as members also use them to teach positions and heel around them as obstacles! The bark barrel is simply a “revier” exercise to a concealed subject, where we teach the dog to respond to scent versus sight. We use tug reward with concealed subjects, so even the method of reinforcement remains consistent.

I believe that handlers who have a foundation in positive schutzhund training, using verbal markers, have a distinct advantage over USAR handlers who lack this. Your dog already knows how to learn, how to engage you. He knows the take direction from you in a search pattern. The behaviors trained in schutzhund compliment USAR throughout the levels.

Out from the Shadow

Cooper and I tested on Sunday for our Type 1/CE. Evaluators do not encourage this because it can be a big leap from the skill set of the FSA search to that test, and statistically there is limited success. However, we had driven all the way to Connecticut and had nothing to lose by trying. In making my decision, I advised evaluators that I would end the test if Cooper appeared to struggle, so that he would get a reward and end the experience positively.

In the Type 1/CE the dog must search two piles of approximately 3500-5000 square feet, simulating the collapse of a three story building. There are 0-6 victims and you do not know how many are in either pile. There are also distractions. In this case the distractions included venison and recently worn clothing. The dog must alert to live human scent only, not human remains or clothing. Safety officers are also on the pile as the dog works, so the dog must only search for inaccessible live human scent. The first pile we searched was the limited access, meaning we had to remain off the pile until the dog alerted us to a located victim, and then we could proceed but had to remain within five feet of that victim to redirect the dog. This search evaluates the ability of the dog to work independently and simulates an unstable area where the handler cannot safely wander around. Cooper entered the pile dynamically and located two victims. After the second, I directed him to move into areas we had not covered and it was clear from his behavior that he had no new scent. As if a shadow was pulled back—the shadow of Jinx—I realized with a start: I trusted my dog!

As Cooper stood before me, his posture telling me there were no more victims to find there, I believed him. It was clear, and we were a Team. I told the evaluators were we had completed that search. Later, I learned we were correct but in my heart, I knew it at the time.

We drove to the second site and began the search of the full-access pile. Due to an accident with one of the first dogs to test, things had run behind and we were rushed to get to the next site without adequate rest. Too late they realized it, but Cooper was already at the pile and not about to relax. I’m sure that will come with more experience, but for the moment, tongue hanging out, he wanted to work. That debris included several busses and interesting spans and crevices. For this search, the handler must present a search strategy, map the search area and debrief. I began with an on-leash air scenting exercise around the perimeter, on the downwind side, letting Cooper convince me he had scent. As we walked, he suddenly stiffened, ears forward and body tense, and pulled toward the pile. I released him and he fairly flew onto the rubble. My bad! I had released the wrong clasp and he still had his collar on, which is not allowed! I had to recall him quickly in order to continue! Fortunately, that obedience foundation paid off. He came back, the collar was removed and he was once again dispatched to the search, locating his first victim. I threw down the tug reward, played at the source of odor, and then sent him off to find another. He located a second victim successfully. Whew! I could tell by the way he was working the scent that there were two more there, and later I advised this in my debrief, identifying the areas, but Cooper did not make a bark alert and therefore did not pass. The scent at those two was diffuse and we were the last dog team of the day to test, so it was not concentrated as the two he located. He had poked his nose right into the location, stood there and looked at me but failed to bark! The poor boy was simply out of gas. Still, I knew what he was telling me. The evaluators were impressed with his agility (squeezing under a bus, one asked “what is he? An anaconda?”) and how we worked the areas together. Cooper never quit.

I went to Connecticut to pass an FSA. I did not imagine that I would come back with the partner I have, who is a phenomenal dog in his own right. We left as a dog and his handler, and returned as a Team.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Same Horse

The other day I was teaching a lesson and learned one myself.  After demonstrating the behaviors we wanted to work on and discussing it, the gentleman shared with me some words that had been told to him years ago, by a horse trainer: 

"You never put put the same horse back in the barn."

Whether by doing, or un-doing, you never put away the same animal you took out.  Think about it.  It is up to you whether the dog you finish your lesson with has been built up, or torn down, whether there are positive lessons or the dog has learned to ignore you and disobey. But it is never the same animal you started with that day.  Make your day count.

North Central Region Schutzhund Championship

Last weekend my schutzhund club hosted the North Central Region Championship.  The above link is to the web site that I created to share information about that event, and includes my post-trial report.

I am exceptionally proud of the members of my club.  They stepped up and worked very hard to make this event a success.  We have a wonderful group of people who work well together and support each other.  They all displayed good sportsmanship, which is a critical element of the sport, in my opinion.

Four of our club members competed in this trial.  Linda Hupf with her black German Shepherd, Otto, and Tom Smith with his German Shorthaired Pointer, Schatzie, entered for their BH.  I have worked with Tom and Schatzie, who are a talented team and so much fun to watch together.  Schatzie is all girl and absolutely prances in her obedience.  I was surprised when she was very distracted and then left Tom, but discovered that she had not pottied before going on the field and nature called.  I'm sure Tom was disappointed as well, as we were all excited to see a German Shorthair earning her BH that day, but he promised to give it another go in the future. 

Linda Hupf and her black German Shepherd, Otto, were successful in earning their BH and demonstrated obedience that put some of the more advanced dogs to shame!  This is all the more impressive when you learn that Linda is relatively new to the sport, and has only worked with Otto for six months!  She became a dedicated handler, working hard on her lessons, and it paid off!  I told her I would be using her as the example of what can be accomplished for some time to come!

Linda is also a Community Columnist and writes for the local newspaper.  She wrote a wonderfully humorous and touching column about her upcoming BH:

Lisa Boerst and Ozzie, a Belgian Malinois and the niece of my favorite girl, Jinxy, absolutely earn the Most Dedicated to Earning a Title Award.  They are a joy to watch in heeling, working in harmony; so many people complimented about how beautiful they look working together.  Unfortunately, they did not earn sufficient points in tracking to allow them to pass.  The fact that Lisa went on to compete with such grace on Sunday, after failing tracking, is a testament to good sportsmanship.

Sam Leinweber and Pre, another of our great malinois entries, came away with High SchH1, High Obedience and High in Trial for their performance.  Sam has trained Pre from a puppy and done an excellent job with him.  It is hard to imagine this highly skilled trainer as the young man who came to our club in search of a dog sport to participate in with his new dog, just a few years ago!

We are a very small club. This event took all our effort.  Tom Krsnich and Kurt Vandekolk were our tracklayers; Chuck Johnson and his family prepared and served all the meals; Denise Wittman was our trial secretary; Sue Hatcher-Jaffe not only used her dog, Urik, as a demo dog for the BH's and also for helper try-outs and assisted with trial paperwork; Kari Leuthold Petitt and Heather Himmler were in charge of selling shirts and raffle tickets; Lisa Boerst, Tom Smith, Linda Hupf and Sam Leinweber were entered in the event with their dogs; Tammy Tondu helped with the group.  For every step, members stepped in to get things done and I am so incredibly proud of them.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ridley's PennHip report

I have been holding my breath since I had Ridley's films taken for her PennHip.  Not because I was worried that they wouldn't pass-- I had seen the films and thought they looked great-- but because I was certain the numbers would be so low I could barely wait to shout it from the rooftops!

Today the letter arrived. I was surprised to see her results were .42/.46.   Her dam has the best PennHip scores of all Dutch Shepherds in the database.  Her dam and siblings also had terrific scores.  The sires scores were not as stellar, but still nice enough.  Damned if Ridley didn't take after the sire's side of the family!  There are currently only 89 dogs in the Dutch Shepherd database and the median is .41.  Statistically I know that this isn't a fair representation of the laxity in the breed as few people use PennHip. Heck, there are still quite a few breeders out there who don't Xray at all and instead will tell potential buyers "well, we've never had a problem..."

I will probably have an OFA film taken when she turns 2, just out of curiosity. I've seen the films and they look so darned good, but the laxity is what PH measures.  I like her temperament and her drive, the size and the better rear angulation. She has a wonderful full, calm grip. There is just so much to like about her that I was sure hoping the hip scores would have been better.

I do not hide from the results and scores of my dogs, whether it be in trialing or health checks.  So there it is. Having seen and owned dogs with horrible, horrible hips, the flip side is that hers aren't bad. They just aren't as good as I had hoped.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Evil Genius of Nook

While I am referencing the Barnes and Noble product, the Nook, this post is directed broadly at all e-books. It is dog-related only in the fact that I own dogs and dislike the Nook.  Bear in mind that at one time I also disliked the Blackberry, aka: Crackberry, but that was before one apparently became surgically attached to me. However, as I was reading the old fashioned way over the breakfast table this morning, my mind wandered-- as it often does-- and I pondered (a real book word if ever there was one!) the demise of the paper paged book in this electronic age.

I came to the realization that e-books are part of an evil plot not only to strip us of our individuality but to set up this nation to be further controlled by media. You heard it here first, boys and girls!  Or if not, it's only because I have been busy reading books and training dogs, and didn't see it posted on Entertainment Tonight.

There was a time when we were identified by the books we carried and people made assumptions based on them.  If I carried the biography of Sarah Palin, people would assume I was a right wing supporter.  Tuck a copy of one of Obama's hope-and-change missives and folks would likewise view me as Democrat brother in arms.  Want to appear upwardly mobile? Perhaps something by Stephen Covey would appeal to you.  And if you are preparing to fly then make a selection that might evoke commentary or interest from a suitable seat-mate.  Most certainly, you would not be found boarding with a copy of "My with Osama Bin Laden" or "how to explode planes in mid-air".

With the advent of e-books, all that has changed.  See someone carrying one of those little babies, and you have no idea what is contained inside.  The gentleman across the aisle on your next flight could, indeed, be reading the recipe for combining ingredients for an explosive and pulling up charts on the optimum placement.  You don't know if they are reading "War and Peace' or an autobiography on Adam Sandler.  Which may be why e-book owners are left to personalize the product with snappy little covers.  If you can't read the book, at least check out my cover!

Naturally, I realize that the same could be said for laptops and the fact that e-books are nothing more than laptops just for books, so some of this is simply facetious.  The real core of the matter is the loss of paper pages and bound books, and sitting in a comfy chair at Barnes and Noble admist the comforting smells of other books.  Does it really have the same effect to imagine assorted customers, lounging about, reading from their e-books?  Not to me.

E-books do not encourage sharing.  They reward recruitment.  You cannot freely exchange books with friends or acquaintances; those can only be shared between members of the same e-book cult.  Nook members share with Nooksters, and Kindles only share with kindlers... you get the picture. You actually purchase a viewing license, not a book. It isn't yours. It belongs to Da Man.  There was a movement a few years back that I recall, where a person would leave a book they enjoyed but no longer wanted in a public area for any other person to pick up and enjoy, and the progress of the books was tracked on a website.  Imagine doing that with an e-book? hahahaaa! "Nook left on bench at bus station. No location subsequently noted.."

As to the downfall of humanity, if all books are maintained electronically then once you pull that plug and limit energy usage (and thus, recharging) or simply stop producing books for electronic media OR control whose books you produce then our knowledge of a world outside ourselves will be limited by the puppetmasters.  I know this sounds much like a whispered conspiracy theory, but if you recall, there was a time when knowledge and power were controlled by not allowing everyone to learn to read.  Now that we know how to read, the only control mechanism is restricting what we can access to read.

When that happens, I will still have my fine collection of hard-bound books.  And your battery dies or your power goes out, or the flight attendant advises you to power-off electronic devices, I will be reading my books. To my Barnes and Noble compatriots I say "do not abandon the paper page." May they continue long past the expiration of this... ahem... electronic blog.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Search for Missing Boy

Our search team, People and Paws, was activated yesterday to search for a missing 8 year old Reedsburg boy.  The boy had left his home around 3:45 the previous day and was reported missing to Law Enforcement several hours later after an unsuccessful search by family members.  When I received the call, I quickly canceled the private lessons I had scheduled for the day.  Everyone was understanding of the priorities and I appreciate that.

The location is about three hours from here and most of our team arrived at around the same time to discover a parking lot filled with fire department and rescue vehicles, horse trailers, squad cars and school buses.  It seemed the entire town had emptied to assist in the search. On a personal level, I question some of the well-intentioned who were accompanied by young children. I cannot believe they had an understanding of what they might find and how shocking that might be to a child.

 Ultimately we would move our command post away from that scene, to a location nearby where the dogs had shade and we could deploy away from the prying eyes of media. I have great respect for the Incident Command System in place for our team and those we work closely with.  There are other teams whose knowledge, certifications and expertise dove-tail with that of PnP and who we work jointly with on numerous searches.  K9SOS and WolfSAR were two of the other teams who worked the incident with us.

I will not go into detail about the search except to say that I was extremely impressed by the work of Lynn Gardiner and her bloodhound, Abby.  Abby is a youngster but demonstrated ability and a strong work ethic.  In the end, there is a tragic post script to the story; the young lad had apparently entered the Baraboo River and drowned. I dislike the term "closure".  Does a family who loses a child ever truly close that door?   But he is at least returned to them to say good-bye.  Pray that this family finds strength to deal with their loss.

The team will be answer the call to locate another missing child in the future.  We will pack our gear, load our dogs, and hope for a different outcome, never forgetting the families who are waiting to bring their loved ones home.