Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Goal - 8 Month Count Down

With the AKC Nationals having occurred last weekend and seeing the constant updates on Facebook from Agility Vision and their live feed, I was reminded of an earlier goal I had made for myself. Vegas is fully capable of earning her MACH. To date there are only two Great Danes who have ever earned this achievement - Morgan "Danger" Powers and Desertwood's L.V. Mr. Bojangles. So, we have our work cut out for us but I believe in setting our sites high. Here are the requirements in order to qualify for the 2011 AKC Nationals:

2011 AKC National Agility Championship

Qualification Information

Once again, dogs competing in the Preferred agility classes will be eligible to compete in the 2011 AKC National Agility Championship. The Preferred and Regular class dogs will compete for separate awards at this event. The event location will be disclosed at a later date.

Regular Class Qualifications: The qualifying period is December 1, 2009 through and including November 30, 2010. Therefore, exhibitors should keep track of any double qualifying scores and MACH points earned during this time period. Dogs will be eligible to enter this event if they earn at least 6 Double Q’s & 400 MACH points from the Regular Excellent B Standard & Jumpers With Weaves class during the qualifying period.

Fleet Feet CPE Trial, March 2010

Saturday dawned beautiful - albeit way too early. I had loaded the truck on Friday night so I was able to just get up and feed the dogs, shower, get dressed, then hit the road right away. I did stop off for a cup of coffee and breakfast at Starbucks and while I left later than I planned, the road was so wide open and clear we made good time. I was all set to be at Barb's arena at about 7:05 in the morning when something strange happened. My cruise control was set to just about 70 mph and I was just coming up on my exit, right about three miles from my destination. All of a sudden, my truck seemed to drop speed just a bit. Then, before I could hardly do more than wonder, it sped up a bit. Then it died. Flat out died. Yep, 70mph and I was in the left lane of a major highway and needed to get all the way to the right shoulder. Thank goodness it was super early in the morning because I was able to do it even with no power steering or brakes. Whew! That said, it started a tumultuous weekend that hasn't ended yet. I'm without wheels while we figure out what is going on - truck goes to the shop tomorrow. So, our two day trial turned into one day.

Another interesting thing about this trial is the number of runs. With CPE trials in our area we usually get five runs a day. At this venue sometimes that means that games are broken up over the two days but we get two standard runs a day. When I registered for this trial I noticed I was paying less but didn't give it much thought. It wasn't until Saturday morning when I looked at the run schedule versus what I registered for that I realized we were only going to get four runs in each day. Bummer! Saturday's run schedule was Full House, Standard, Snooker, then Jumpers. We were entered in Level 3 for all of them.

So, without further ado, we got towed to the trial site and set up with our friends, Jen and Rachel. From there on the day went well until that evening and dealing with the truck. I'll leave it at that except to say how grateful I am for my awesome dad who drove all the way from Castle Rock to Turner and help tow me home - from which he probably did not get home until at least midnight. Love you, Dad!

Full House
Full house was our first run of the day. We needed three single jumps, one contact (including the double and weaves), and two circles (tunnel or tire). I set a pretty good course but got stuck spending time in the weaves when Vegas didn't cooperate the first time. I shoud have let it go. Somehow we still qualified according to the scores - although to be honest I have to maintain I know we didn't have enough points.

Standard was usually our "game." I don't know what's happening lately although I know we had a subsitute judge who made it very clear she did not design the courses this weeekend - if that tells you anything. LOL. Standard was just a mess. More than anything on this course, Vegas released herself from her startline and that put me behind. She ended up going over obstacle two, a single jump, the wrong way twice, and then we were behind the eightball. More than once I considered pulling her from this run and kenneling her. She knows better but is really fighting me on some things lately. Mostly Vegas is an extremely willing partner but there are times where she shows her independent streak. Alas, we did not Q.
Snooker used to be our nemesis. It took us umpteen tries to get our very first qualifying run in Snooker. Now we've had five in a row. Vanquished that nemesis! The course is below - we now need just one more Q in level 3 to advance to level 4. This run allowed for 45 seconds plus 5 seconds to get to the table. Our total game time was 49.83 with 38 points.

I've drawn in the course I plotted for Vegas and I on this run. With Snooker, the most difficult component is mapping the smoothest course so you can keep your dog moving. Sometimes any slack in motion they may decide to take an "off" obstacle and the game will be over. Originally I was going to take Vegas over the red you see on the right in the upper quadrant as our third red then do 5a and 5b. Then I watched someone do the 3-obstacle series for 7 and decided on the fly to do that. It worked well and helped to give us a higher point total. We made it through 6 and part of 7 before time ran out.
By the point Jumpers rolled around my dad had showed up to help with my truck. He let me make my last run which was nice since it set us back a bit on our attempts to get my truck home. As we were all walking the course en masse, people expressed their concern about getting lost. Furthermore, it seemed a goal was to try to reuse as many obstacles as possible. In other words, the course was a bit tricky. I wasn't concerned at the time about getting lost; in fact, I was excited about the course and running it with Vegas even though it wasn't open and didn't let her really stretch out and jump like she prefers. It turns out I should have been a smidge worried. Please note obstacle numbers 11 and 16. I tried almost three times to get Vegas to take #16 and she refused. Fortunately when she refused the third time I realized I had skipped 12, 13, 14, and 15. Oops! Good job Vegas for counting for me. We got back on track and still managed to Q - I couldn't hardly believe it. It was a clean run with a minor fault for time. Whoohoo! Now we need just one level 3 Jumpers Q to move up to level 4.
And with that run, we were packed up and headed out to get my truck home and try to figure out what was going on. That was an adventure in itself and suffice it to say we're still hoofing it today. We weren't able to go back on Sunday which was a bummer but we have another CPE trial hosted by Columbia Agility Team in April.

Here are a couple of our ribbons from Saturday - our friend Rachel was nice enough to pick up Vegas' Jumpers ribbon to bring to me at next weekend's AKC trial.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tail Update

On Tuesday this week Vegas' "little brother" had to go to the vet to get neutered and some teeth taken care of. When I picked him up I brought Vegas with me to have them take a quick peek at her tail again. I was fairly certain all was well and she was going to get to keep it as I had been watching it per their instructions. No blackness and no smell. Sure enough she was fine. They said she would always have a bump there but she didn't have to lose her tail so yippeeee!!!!!!!!

German Shepherd Dog of Oregon Club & PAC Trial - March 20-21

Better late than never, I'm finally going to get my recap done on last weekend's trial. First, boy was Saturday a gorgeous one last weekend! For the first day of spring it was positively amazing and made for a joyful time to go outside in between runs and soak up that sunlight (and Vitamin D). Vegas and Leo were loving it and headed toward the doors every time we were to walk by.

Saturday -
So often trials are not offering FAST both weekend days but this was an exception which was nice because it meant we got a full three runs in each day. On Saturday, we were entered in Novice FAST as we had one leg left to get to completely finish all Novice legs. The following is the course and I am super excited to say Vegas completely rocked and rolled the entire time and came through with flying colors - blue (1st place) and green (qualifying) - to be exact!
Next up was Standard then JWW finished out the day. We were entered in Open for both and to date had no Open legs. Vegas has been a stinker lately for her weaves in competition. She almost always nails the entry but has started this bad habit of just continuing on through them then looking around, sniffing, etc. It's almost like she forgot she was running a course right in the middle. Such was the case in Standard. I called her back and sent her in again. Again she nailed the entry and kept on going. I sent her in a third time and she nailed them and ran the weaves about as fast as I've ever seen her. However, she killed our time and that constitued two refusals which is not allowed. Major bummer because the rest of the course was flawless despite some fumbles in my handling.
The last run of Saturday was JWW. After Vegas' stunt with the weaves I obviously had some concern since weaves are a major component of this course. However, she turned things around and rocked the course! She really likes to jump so that's always good because she gets her fill of it in these courses. We got our first open qualifying run with this JWW course and she finished it in around 35 seconds. We were super excited!
The judge for all of our runs Saturday and Sunday was brand new to judging and so an AKC field rep was on hand. That was nice because I got to talk to her a bit about running such a large dog. I told her that since she was there I had to point out that most Great Dane handlers probably wouldn't mind if the AKC made a decision that tunnels had to be a little larger. I learned something I didn't know! I didn't know the tunnels are standard heating and air conditioning ducts! So the AKC has looked into this before and the cost to up-size them was astronimical so it didn't make sense to implement that change since clubs would struggle to purchase specially ordered and sized tunnels. But, she did tell me that they have made a decision to decrease the number of tunnels that can be in a course for that very reason - to accomodate the larger dogs. I thought that was super cool. She realy enjoyed watching Vegas run - as did the judge - and it's always nice to have people in a position to help benefit rule changes for extra large/giant breeds notice.

Sunday -
It was hard to get up and go Sunday. I showed up a bit later than usual because they were running small to tall and got the dogs all kenneled and walked our FAST course - the first time in Open. In theory I thought we had the course nailed. I thought for sure with the momentum over the jumps I could get Vegas where I needed to for the send. It turns out I should have probably mapped another course and sent her through the tunnel first as she balked at the second jump resulting in the judge calling a fault and I couldn't get her to take the send. Oh well, we tried and we had fun anyway running around doing some obstacles and burning off some morning zoomie energy.
Same order as Saturday, Standard was next. Did I mention Vegas was having issues with weaves? Cause yeah, she pulled the same exact stunt on Sunday as she did on Saturday. It was not fun. I made the very tough split decision to pull her from her standard run when she refused the weaves the second time. Some people disagree with pulling a dog and I can't say I don't. However, I do know that you get nowhere for telling a dog they did something wrong (by not treating, etc) well after they did wrong. So had we finished our run and I had not treated her, she would not have understood why. And had I treated her, she could have thought everything was fine when it was most certainly not fine. Therefore, I pulled her, told her bad several times, picked up her treat from ringside, and kenneled her. Yes, I was ticked. Two days in a row and she acted like a completely green, novice dog with the weaves. The thing is, I've always made them fun, cheering her through, cheering her completion of them, and treating her well for doing a good job. She does a beautiful job and when we practice and she nails them it isn't as if she didn't want to. In fact, she will take the weaves on occasion - at least part way - when we are just walking through the barn. So, this "stunt" (times two) makes little sense.
Basically I gave her the cold shoulder for about 90 minutes. I'd had it and I couldn't practice and drill her so I tried to take a nap to burn off my irritation. It worked. I got her all psyched up when it was time to go in for JWW and she rocked the course, qualifying again. Both days, both Open JWW courses, she was the only qualifying run in her height category. That alone is super exciting, not to give the other teams a hard time, but most are more experienced than either Vegas or I plus are running more traditional breeds.
All in all it was a great weekend. Our Q rate was 50%, we earned some Open legs, and we had fun. All of it contributes toward more experience, finding our way working together, and cementing our team relationship. I love my Vegas girl!

Here are a few pictures I scanned after purchasing from Joe Camp. They are Saturday only.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring 2010

Vegas is rocking and rolling today! She Qd in FAST to complete her novice title. :) 66 points in under 25 seconds. Next up - Open Standard!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tail Update & Weekend Plan

Dear God, please let me keep my dipstick...

On Tuesday of this week, I ended up taking Vegas to the vet regarding her tail. Choosing to take her wasn't the issue as much as who to take her to. Having worked for a vet clinic before has made it quite difficult for me to stick with anyone. Plus, while Vegas isn't high-stress in most situations, those situations whereby she is really stressed are those I am concerned about the most. Being at the vet can be one of those - especially if they have to take her away from me for any treatment or procedures. Interestingly enough, I found a clinic south of me a ways that I got really good vibes about when I was inquiring into Leo's dentistry/tooth extraction/neuter procedures. Their philosophy seemed to be more in line with what I was used to when I worked at Cornelius Veterinary Clinic. I had emailed requesting the quote and got not only an email back, but a phone call from one of the doctors. While the price was definitely the best, that wasn't what sealed the deal for me. It was the fact that they told me about how they feel about a few things such as drop-off the night before and charging by the tooth to extract. I'm digressing a bit into info best divulged on Leo's blog, but the thing that stuck out the most was that they really just care about good customer service, doing what is the best for the pet, and not gouging the client at the same time. Anyway, I called on Tuesday morning and found out they are a drop-in clinic so I planned to leave work at 4 and be there by 5. They're about 30 minutes south of me and I had to stop at home and pick up Vegas and the boys. I took her to Willamette Valley Animal Hospital and they were effective, competent, and reasonable.

Okay, so we went in and got paperwork filled out, weighed her, and were taken to a room. They opted not to take her temperature so they avoided making her tail uncomfortable any more than necessary. Then they left us and a short two minutes later the vet came in. I had put a splint on Vegas' tail the night before. It was super fancy and made out of popcicle sticks taped on with cloth medical tape and then pink vet wrap over the top. Mostly I did it to just keep it straight, give it some support, and protect it a bit. After explaining what happened initially and how things had changed and progressed since, the doctor said she'd like to take Vegas back to their treatment room to unwrap it, clean it, and assess. When she came back, she had a couple of things to say. First, they thought I had done a pretty inventive job wrapping her tail. I kind of thought that was funny. Next, she confirmed I had only wrapped the tail the night previous and I confirmed this. She asked because she said the last few inches of her tail smelled really bad. Based upon the fact that the skin looked good considering the swelling, she wasn't sure why that would be and neither was I. Vegas is really good about keeping her tail up when she goes to the bathroom and things so we are not sure why it smelled. Anyway, she confirmed what I already knew - the issue with a potential broken tail is continued blood flow. So far she said things were looking good and she was quite certain it was broken. She offered an x-ray if I wanted it, but I already had assumed it was broken and just needed her confirmation.

That said, she told me what to watch for with Vegas' skin - blackness or dry and like the skin was dying. That would indicate blood flow was not making it all the way through her tail. She also prescribed Rimadyl for five days to reduce inflammation and an antibiotic in case an infection was starting, Cefpodoxime. The antibiotic she's to take once daily for a week. So far so good. She seems to be moving her tail more normally (swinging it, wagging it). The inflammation has gone down and best as I can tell the skin still looks good. They don't set broken tails or do anything else outside the scope of what we have done so far. The only option is to leave it be and hope the blood flow remains or to amputate if it does not. So, I'm still crossing my fingers in hopes that it will continue to heal.

So that said, Vegas has played at the dog park a couple of times this week and is her usual self mentally. All of this is good because we have an agility trial this weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I'm just a wee bit excited - can you tell?) It seems like forever since our last trial and in all reality it's only been since Valentine's Day weekend. But still. When you're addicted to something, you need it all the time. LOL. This trial is hosted by the German Shepherd Dog Club of Oregon and Portland Agility Club and will be held at Clark County Event Center. We are entered in three runs each day, starting with FAST. Vegas needs just one FAST leg to complete all of the novice requirements but we'll be running in Open for Standard and JWW. She has really been doing well lately so I'm looking forward to seeing her in action this week and just spending some quality time with my girl. I'll post updates as they occur and in between the action.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kind of a boring-ish Saturday

Nothing big going on this weekend except our Great Dane group hosted a speaker on Bloat and Torsion. It seems like forever since our last trial although I know it wasn't that long ago. The next three weekends are trials though so that will be exciting. If memory serves without my calendar handy, that'd be two AKC trials with a CPE sandwiched between.

Learned a bunch of information and more about gastropexy today which was really good and I'll post my summary of notes on that in a few days.

I think Vegas' tail is broken. I really hope not and will be keeping an eye on it. No sense taking her to the vet at this point as they won't really do anything. We've iced it some and are just watching it - and her - so she doesn't beat it on anything unnecessarily. It happened Wednesday night. My son accidentally shut her tail in the door to the truck. It seemed like not a huge deal right then but by the next day she was obviously carrying her tail differently - straighter, arced and not naturally flowing. By Friday the tail was swollen, approximately two inches from the end and about a two inch section. I bathed her tonight and it was scraped pretty good all along that lower four inches, the hair either gone or severely parted at the scrape. It was kind of crackly, crunchy sounding which made me sad but she didn't seem painful. I've decided to just keep an eye out and not take her in unless I have to because there's no point as the vet pretty much can only suggest amputation of the problem section. I would hate for that to happen - we'd lose the "dipstick" portion of her tail.

So for now, my clean girl is just hanging out and loving being spoiled with attention getting to hang out on the couch cuddling with her boy. He feels guilty as all heck but it was just an unfortunate accident.

Other than that, today we all went to the dog park, Vegas got bathed and her nails got done. It was eventful but not eventful, as days off go. Tomorrow should be pretty low key too so hopefully we'll be able to get some weave pole practice and on the ball work done.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Agility Practice

The barn was plowed last weekend while we had the equipment out for the demo (Mutt Masters) and tonight made me realize what a difference the softer ground makes. It's probably a lot easier for the dogs but not so much for the handlers. My legs feel like I ran in sand all evening!

As per usual, we had another good night. Vegas is always feeling ready to go by Thursday night when we've had a busy week and she hasn't gotten out and exercised. Today was no exception. Jim had us do things a bit differently tonight though. The first course was purple and he had us do just obstacles 1-8 to warm up. The first course was a jumpers course with a set of 12 weaves thrown in for good measure. It was really nice although Vegas struggled a bit heading into the weaves after a triple. She wasn't missing her entry most of the time but she was jut heading straight through it. Nothing suggested helped much as it wasn't something I was doing, I don't think. Instead she just wasn't watching me. I'm going to have to start working her on the weaves more at home and making them super fun. She does them really well when she does them but she's so persnickety about it!

So after we had our chance at doing our warm up twice, then we all walked the full course of 17 and ran it twice. Vegas did really well! It was an interesting course that wound around the arena and included a threadle, a serpentine, and a pinwheel. The funny thing is, we usually avoid tunnels in practice as much as we can and they were like a vacuum sucking at Vegas tonight during that first course. She must have attempted to go off course three times in two runs and always for the tunnels. Silly girl!

The second course was a lot of fun. Like Jim's usual courses, we had some complex maneuvers but Vegas handled things really well and even though I had some bloopers, I managed to send her the right way anyway most of the time. And boy was that girl going through tunnels like a possessed BC tonight!

We had a lot of fun then stopped at our favorite local Petsmart and visited with some of Vegas' fan club there. Hi Vanessa and Stephanie! Now of course she's sawing logs which is exactly how it should be after an agility night.

Completely unrelated, but I wanted to share her St. Patrick's Day photo that we used for week 10 of our 52 weeks for dogs photo this week.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What a week...catching up

Mostly this was a boring week. Thursday was our usual agility class although we only did two courses this week and Vegas was more cooperative (Yay!). After we completed our two runs of two courses, we all loaded equipment into the trailer for today's agility demo. As per usual, Jim's courses were quite complicated and gave us ample opportunity to test our skills and apply different handling techniques. Some of the sequences included serpentines and taking the jump from the back side and a few tight wraps. Definitely some good handler moves required!

Friday night we went to the dog park for a while and I was so proud of Vegas because she really got out and played some more, chased a bit, and wasn't a complete cling-on to me. That's a huge accomplishment for her every time she does it so Yay, Vegas!

Today was March for Mutts at North Clackamas Park. We were running behind and I didn't get there nearly as early as I wanted. However, when we did show up, we briefly walked the course then waited our turn to run. It was certainly warmer today that we are used to and perhaps because of that Vegas was not as energetic as normal. On top of that, two obstacles into her first run she pooped on the course! She has never, ever done that before and it was quite the shock to me. Once that was cleaned up, boy though did she have more energy. Hahaha. Although we didn't have a clean run, we had a fun run and got to redo some areas, and basically the goal was just to show people how much fun the dogs can have and let them see how obstacles are completed. Of course plenty of people who I had talked to were just plain impressed to see a Great Dane run in agility.

Then we went out into the fray for a while and met some people with an uber-cute merle puppy named, Luna. She is a very unusual merle because she has a lot of larger black patches and her overall coloring is much darker - very gorgeous. Can't wait to see her grown up.

Okay, so then we headed over to get little brother his Rabies vaccination. Of course the two were quite the hit together and Vegas showed off her stuff in order to get treats. Then back to the ring we went for run number two. She did quite well and got a chance to do some serpentines and threadles and I got to use that good ol' opposite arm throw. Basically I learned this move from Craig French last year where in order to change direction after an obstacle, you can throw your opposite arm up. So, in this case, the jump was at my left him and I needed Vegas to go over it going the opposite direction from the next obstacle, the teeter. That meant that I needed her to land and immediately turn to her right to get back facing forward like I was. I throw my left arm just before she jumps and she knows to turn when she lands. It sets her up perfect for heading for the next obstacle. If she didn't know what direction to turn, she might back-jump the jump we just took. In a trial that would be bad. The arm trick works really well for her and I use it quite frequently.

After we were done running, it was time for our confidence course. We had quite the line going to try things which was great! We had worked out with the hosts ahead of time that we would split the proceeds since our group is non-profit too and we need to maintain our equipment. We collected $64 so $32 went toward our group. And in the meantime, that meant we got to share agility with a lot of neat people and their dogs. I started out by helping at a tunnel but supporting it when it was scrunched up and short. Eventually it appeared I wasn't needed there so I went and helped out this lady and her granddaughter with their little black mix named Holly. She was a natural who wasn't afraid of anything. What a gem and it was so fun. I spent about 30 minutes with them because each granddaughter had a chance at working Holly. What's even cooler is they just adopted Holly two weeks ago and she is really bonded with the lady who adopted her so it'll be exciting to see if they decide to do agility in the future.

We finally left and went to my mom's for a visit. Leo had fun harassing the Yorkie trio and Vegas just hung out getting loved on by Mom and I. After that we headed home where I spent almost two hours mowing the lawn and Vegas and Leo just hung out waiting for me. And now all I hear is the snoring of a tired big dog after an awesome day in the sun.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Snowshoeing at Clark Creek

Yesterday the kids and dogs and I went snowshoeing at Clark Creek on Mt. Hood. It was beautiful! You can't ask for a much better day on the mountain unless there is a lot more snow and a bit more powder. It was quite iced over but the temperature was amazing, the skies were blue, and we had the wood almost completely to ourselves. This was a prescheduled event for the Dane group which is usually a great turnout. This time around there were just three members plus my kids. Of course our honorary Dane was along, Vegas' new sidekick brother, Leo.

After arriving in Sandy around 8 am to rent snow shoes at Otto's and then heading to Safeway to wait for anyone who might not have RSVP'd but was going to show, we headed out at 9am for Clark Creek. Jenny and Marlie rode with us and at 10 on the dot, we arrived at Clark Creek. Much to our surprise, there was only one other vehicle parked at this snow park. We waited about 15 minutes for Jeff to show up and, in the meantime, Vegas delighted in running a muck.

We had thought Clark Creek was a lot of wide open flat spaces but instead it turned out it was right in the woods with several intersecting trails and slight dips and rises as we wound through the trees. With three first-time snowshoers, we had hoped for flatter surfaces. Nonetheless, a great time was had by all and here are some pictures that show just how awesome of a day it was.
Vegas was eating snow here. You could find her pretty regularly on her knees, boots flopped underneath her body, chomping away. 
Sinbad enjoyed his first time in the snow. He hails from sunny Arizona. 
You can see along the river the snow pack wasn't very deep. 
It looks like Vegas was hanging over the edge but she really wasn't. 
This is Marlie, one of Vegas' oldest gal-pals. 

Note: I originally designed this blog to track training progress and highlight the truly athletic animal that Danes have the potential to be. This post is a little out of my norm but I included it because it was fun, is a huge part of Vegas' life, and still results in physical activity that is good for her body that helps to keep her in shape. The way she launches herself through the snow, dives into the deeper banks, has to pull her legs out of deeper snow, and is almost always in motion continually amazes and astounds me. It's a wonder I haven't had to carry her home yet. Of course the end of the day had her sleeping soundly on her mama's bed, resting up for her next adventure.