Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Never underestimate humor as a charitable motivator

I wanted to share this video two days ago when I first saw it but wasn't able to get a hold of the YouTube link until today. We were not at this trial last weekend but it was held in the Pacific Northwest. The handler featured in the video is a well-known agility persona not only here but across the country having won the 16" class at the AKC Invitationals in December. He and his wife also run a busy trial secretary business, R2Agility. The club held a fundraiser for cancer research and the prize was....well...see for yourself.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fleet Feet CPE Trial March 2011 - Sunday Recap

I'm late getting Sunday's recap in and for good reason. I was too grumpy and tired to deal with it yesterday. Poor Vegas. Poor kids of mine. I'm realizing too many weekends in a row plus stressful work, raising kids, trying to take care of life although my house is falling apart, sickness, doctor appointments, groceries, meals, bills, etc. Gah!

Sunday we got to leave a bit later even though it was tall to small. The run order was Jackpot, Standard, Wildcard, then Colors. I particularly liked the choice of classes this weekend because the two shortest classes were Sunday which is a lot easier on Vegas' body - Wilcard and Colors. I was really, really tired though and kind of off. Unfortunately I didn't really realize I was "off" until much later in the day. Poor Vegas was in a snit over being put in the crate right away so that didn't help either. The weather was atrocious on top of it all and most of the day we had to strain to hear and yell to be heard due to the pounding of Oregon weather on the barn. Yeah, it was kind of a crummy day. At some points we even had hail, sleet, and then random sun breaks where you felt the need for shades. Our weather needs a good therapist or some drugs. So messed up.

Jackpot was non-traditional which is always good. Until I read the description at the top of the map, I almost thought it was like the non-traditional course we ran two weekends ago, but it turned out it wasn't double points. Either way, my preference is always non-traditional so the Jackpot can be done at any point. In my opinion, it's less stressful and allows the handler a bit more control over his or her course. I find it difficult to plan the opening not knowing how many things we can actually accommodate before the warning buzzer goes, plus worrying about being too far from where the Jackpot begins. Of course the least of the issue is also working from a distance, although CPE is not as difficult as AKC's distance challenges. Here's the course:
Here's what my plan was:
I had hoped to beat Vegas to the box so she crossed the second jump while I was over the line. That was my first mistake. It didn't work and I didn't even try to get a start line stay. I should have even to gain a step or two. I made the turn in the box to send her in the tunnel and she wouldn't go. She went forward, kind of leaned forward and halted almost as if her rear feet were going to come off the ground. She stopped and turned slightly toward me. I asked her to go again and she again refused. The third time she took the tunnel. From there it was kind of a blur. All I know is that I got her over the a-frame and into the second tunnel and wasn't hearing the judge call out numbers. Suddenly she was calling out single numbers, not the bonus point number. Crap. We kept going but didn't get too far. No Q. Jackpot is our nemesis. I took Vegas back to our crating area kind of muttering and cursing. I was kind of annoyed. Why didn't she listen? Didn't she want to play? She acted fine. Strange. Our point total was a lousy 24; we needed 44 to qualify. Jackpot is our nemesis.

Next up and a while later, Standard. Ah, now that's our game.
Walking the course there is one thing I was excited about - only two tunnels! Yay for V! The largest challenges I identified were the weave entrance #7 and the tunnel entrance #12. Other than that, a pretty fun course. I was a little disappointed to have two sets of six weaves since I know how much easier it is for Vegas to do and kind of don't like going into an AKC trial having done just six weaves the weekend prior. We ran the course. Vegas refused the weaves. She went in from the left after the first pole, not once but twice. It wasn't until the third try she nailed the weaves. The rest of the course was flawless. I was not annoyed this time but confused. What was going on?

Rachel and I chatted back at our crates and she reminded me how rock solid Vegas is. This wasn't like her. She will work for me no matter what without getting distracted, ignoring me, etc. She is consistent, hard working, and dependable. So Rachel pointed out there must be something wrong. She felt her back and found a warm spot. Uh oh. She was nice enough to massage it a bit and determined it was just a sore spot that might be giving her a smidge of trouble until a few obstacles into the course when she was a bit more warmed up and limber. I wondered about scratching our last two runs and taking her home but Rachel figured it wasn't that bad and to try the next run and see how she handled it. Until then, I massaged her back quite a bit, focusing on that area but also working other areas. I warmed her up more before our next run - difficult in tight spaces and with the weather thundering down outside - and stretched her back really good, too. One of my favorite stretches with her is to use a treat to lure her to reach toward her rear forming her body into a "C" shape. I get her to do this and sustain the position for a good 10 seconds or more and then repeat on the opposite side. If I can, we do it at least twice for each side. I also lure her head between her front feet with a treat. Shes fairly cooperative and I know it's important to stretch that long back of hers.

We learned we did qualify in that Standard run. Usually with six poles in the higher levels they must be completed cleanly or will be faulted. Turns out they are not faulted if the entry isn't correct to start with. We did receive a two point deduction for time though. That was our third level five standard leg. Yippee!

She was acting more like herself by Wildcard, bouncing, playful, ornery, and happy. The course was fun and, like I said, short. I was able to choose the wildcard options that did not require her to go through tunnels. My plan was to take 2B, 6B, and 9A. There was one change to the course and that was to move the double to the right for obstacle #2 versus the left because the club's double has wings which weren't expected.
The course went well. Vegas ran well and we didn't have any issues like previous. She missed her weave entry, moving just beyond the weaves and I had to pull her back. Otherwise it was smooth and simple. Our time was in the 20s and we finished our level four requirement for this game.

Last run of the weekend was colors. I was excited for Vegas again. Usually the tunnel choices are equal. This course gave me three tunnels to one tunnel. Easy choice! This course (the "circle" course on the map) appeared to also be the easier of the two. Unfortunately I screwed it up and couldn't fix it. I decided to eliminate us just to save on her and me. As I said, I was tired and getting grumpier although it wasn't at Vegas. She tried and was simply confused about my bumbling handling. The issue was the transition from the 180 into the obstacle # 5. I was so focused on preventing her from going out to the tunnel that I didn't make my front cross and turn into the #5 jump. Instead I tried to handle it from the front and she wasn't reading me. After going around the jump twice she took it from the wrong direction. She was trying and I could see the puzzlement on her face. Poor girl.
Anyway, I was pretty disappointed with our Sunday. Most of it was being so overtired though, and I know that now. Vegas was a sweetheart and she was trying to tell me she hurt. I hate that I don't read her well enough to know better and I let my competitive streak come out first. I have a goal and I want to achieve it, damnit, and I need to stop and enjoy every second with my girl. I'm still feeling the guilt tonight as I write this and while I know she doesn't require me to make it up to her, boy do I feel like I owe her. Vegas is my best girl and I could not be luckier. She's amazing and I don't deserve her. Her giving heart and spirit humble me. Every run I have my goal from this point forward is to enjoy it and remember that she wouldn't do anything to disappoint me intentionally.

The plan for the rest of this week is to keep things low key. She's going to get some core and body work done, simple stretches and exercises such as hind end awareness, plus massage and I'll be paying close attention to her back. She should be fine for the coming weekend's three-day AKC trial where we'll only have two runs a day, but until then she gets rest and loads of love.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fleet Feet CPE Trial March 2011

Today we headed down to the CPE trial being held in Turner, Oregon. I decided to leave Leo home this weekend; it's just easier with one dog and, after today, I'm glad I did. First, the weather is nasty. Second, Vegas needs some serious crate work and I can't give Leo any attention if that's all I'm doing with Vegas aside from working or running. Her anxiety is bad. I have her on an herbal right now that is helping, but it's super expensive and doesn't resolve the problem - just helps with it. But, I'll talk more on that topic later because I think it's important and pertains to many dogs, and Great Danes possibly are more prone.

Today we ran small to tall. The venue has a capacity for just one ring and about a year ago cut the runs each day from five to four. The running order was Full House, Standard, Snooker, then Jumpers. Interestingly enough, during briefing the judge mentioned a new rule most apparently had not heard about and it launched a somewhat lengthy discussion/debate/Q&A session. The issue was about CPE implementing a rule that no gates could be closed to the ring. No gates closed. Period. Apparently that's of concern for some people. We started a bit late because of the discussion. The Full House course was a lot of fun. We needed to run it in 35 seconds, plus I think we get five seconds to get to the table, and needed 25 points.
This was our first level 5 full house run. My primary goal during CPE when I get to choose my course is to avoid tunnels whenever I can. Fortunately the tire is usually out for full house so I could use that for our "circle" requirement. I planned on starting with the jump directly ahead of the tire and moving ahead to the tire, taking both jumps to the right and ahead of the tire, then completing the a-frame twice. I figured from there I would hit the weaves twice, back to back, and then take the tire and call it good. Vegas, per the rule of "expect the unexpected" took the tunnel initially on this course and I had to call her back to the a-frame. No problem - an extra three points. It ran well and we finished in 34.09 with 28 points.

Next up was Standard. Ugg. Four tunnels.
Our judge, Dorris Wiglesworth, is a frequent flier at this venue. She has great courses and we always have fun. Her courses are balanced well for challenges while still having fun. This one had both. There was definite flow to the course. The obstacles were well spread out with a good use of space. And she had obstacle discrimination which I think we can all use often. Being able to push or pull your dog off one obstacle or another makes us a better handler. It teaches us how responsive our dogs to to the queues we think we're using most effectively. All in all this course was not nearly as problematic as I wondered going in. After all, Vegas has a hell of a stride compared to some dogs and that gives me a lot less room for error correction. Somehow though, I felt like I went into it in a semi-daze and just got through it in such a relaxed way. I guess part of that is the difference with CPE and AKC. It's so relaxing in comparison. My goals are no less significant - I want the titles for both organizations. It means I have to handle well and be on my game. Perhaps it's just the atmosphere. I'll have to puzzle on that some more and hopefully try to sort it out in my head later. For now, let's just say I still find my mindset from Standard odd. Anyway, we finished it in 51.37 for second place, completing our second level 5 leg. Yahoo, Vegas!

We had a decent break and lunch between runs at that point. They ran levels 1-3 on separate courses so we had some time. Vegas had a nice romp out in the field behind the barn during a sun break and then hung out the truck a bit since she was being spazzy in her crate.
I'm really bad at strategy. I know my goals with Snooker, I even like the game. But plotting a course is another story. Thank goodness for Rachel! She found a great option and I went with it, modifying slightly for flow. Here's the course with my highlight for the course I planned.
Basically #3 was our pivot point. Red > 3, Red (top of course) > 3, Red (bottom to left of start line) > 3, then begin the course. I almost lost Vegas to the #7a tunnel when I wanted her to take the red, but I was able to call her off in time. We finished the entire course include the full sequence under time for 39 points and a time of 35.93. Second place and our final level 4 snooker Q. Another "yahoo" for Vegas!

Last run of the day was jumpers. I'm so glad they've been running jumpers on Saturday instead of the last run on Sunday. Since CPE tends to have a few tunnels I was super relieved to see this since it just seems a little nicer on V's body. The course had four tunnels but looked like a lot of fun. The most concerning issue did catch a lot of teams - the #15 jump when you're supposed to take the tunnel #14. The course was actually tighter than the map looks in that section and it required the perfect balance, positioning, and control for most people to avoid pushing their dog into the wrong into the tunnel or over that jump. But Vegas rocked, I mean rocked! that course. 32.37 seconds for a first place finish and our first level 5 jumpers leg. Yahoo, yahoo, whoohoo!!
Seriously a darn super star today. She ran so well and was so happy. We're on week three of agility in a row, last weekend being three days. She's trucking on very well and maintaining focus, staying happy, and working her tail off. I love my girl!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tracking and Nose Work

Last night I met our friend, Pam, and her dogs, Jewel and Gigi, at the park down the street for some more tracking practice. It was a gorgeous evening! Surprisingly many areas of the park were drying enough that the ground wasn't super squishy, too. Of course there were those areas that simulated a mud bog, too.

When working together we lay each others' tracks. Our run order ended up being Leo, Jewel, Vegas, then Gigi. Since Vegas had struggled a bit with the longer leg of the track Monday, I decided to have Pam lay one that was 15, 20, 25. She did really well. While the third leg was more difficult, I have to give her huge kudos and say how proud of her I was. She never stopped working even though she was having trouble finding it. I'm not sure if there's a low-lying breeze that carried the scent that I could not detect or if I've just moved her too fast. It may even be the fact that we're working at the end of the day and the park is seeing more use now whenever the neighborhood can get out and enjoy the break in the rain. Sun and clear skies are strong motivators in Oregon. We may have been working against the odors of dogs, kids, cats, and other critters plus growing foliage, falling foliage, and the breeze coming off the river. Her nose kept working though, and she kept it down and moving. I repeated what Beth had taught me...stop if she wants to go too far off track; back up if necessary and give the command again as she approached the track. Success!

I didn't want to give up on her working so wasn't ready to call it good for the night, but ended planning on just letting her rest and working another track after Gigi. In the end we didn't lay another track for her and, instead, let her run around off lead. Vegas has never been one much for play with other dogs, certainly not prolonged play. Gigi, a Swedish Valhound, is a little spitfire, though. She was hell bent on getting someone to play and Vegas took the bait. I think Gigi met her match, though. Vegas is good at knowing where she can't keep up with other dogs and diverts their path and charges where she sees an opening. She's also very fast when she wants to be and has much longer legs than Gigi. They had a lot of fun.


Tonight was our final nose work class of our first session of Intro to Odor. Our first search included three items along the bank of lockers. There are approximately 36 lockers in the bank, numbered right to left. The first find was under locker #2 on the floor. The second was inside locker #20. The third was about waist-high on #32. Most of the dogs headed directly in from the door toward the right side. Along the right wall before you got to the lockers were both portable basketball hoops, the kind people have at home with the large, black base on wheels. Vegas did find the one on the floor first and fairly readily. The second one took a bit. We ended up pacing the length of the lockers quite a few times and then narrowing the distance I was willing to let her travel. She seemed very distracted like she would rather go visiting. I felt like I was turning in circles as she was constantly moving out away from the lockers. I'm still not sure if she was shutting down, but Shelley kept coaching me to stay put and just let her get back to work. Finally, it did. I think I need to remember not to be a naysayer and to be patient and hold my ground. I guess part of my hesitation and urge to "hurry" is because I feel like sometimes when Vegas isn't "getting it" right away (even if she might not be any slower than other dogs), she's given "hints." This makes me feel like we're slow and not keeping pace. Anyway, from tonight's experience it seems I just need to hold my ground and wait for her to get back to work. She found the one inside the locker in pretty quick order after that. Then we moved back toward the left end and worked that area. It didn't take much time at all, a little holding, and the higher one she found. We all had a little laugh though as she jumped up at it and put a foot briefly on the locker. Before we had come in, Shelley had joked about putting it up on the top of the lockers since Vegas is so tall. The cool thing about these hides is one of them was unpaired, the one inside the locker and the one on the floor.

Our next search was off leash in the workout room. There were two unpaired hides, one just inside the entrance about hip high and the second was on a small ledge under the seat of one of the pieces of equipment. When searching entrances, we are to hang back at the doorway. This is supposed to be a queue to the dog not to charge into the room and consider the entrance. Vegas found the one on the inside of the entrance in fairly quick order with only a few steps in and a quick peruse around in a circle. Then I could tell she wanted to visit. It's really hard for her because she loves people so much but I saw her trying to focus and work instead. Here's the ironic thing: she fairly beelined then for the second hide. She nailed it, so I thought, and stuck for an extra second or so. I started to move forward to reward her and Shelley said, "Not yet." I wondered, but listened to her and waited. Vegas moved on. I was puzzled and Vegas clearly was, too. She turned to a classmate of ours, visited, sniffed her thoroughly, and gave her a kiss. Then she moved around, sniffing, checking a few things out, and moved toward the back end of the room - not where the hide was. I was looking where the tin had been hidden and it didn't appear to be there. I asked Shelley if she had moved it. She said, "No, isn't it there?" Turns out my Vegas is a complete rock star! She hit on residual odor from the tin that had been there, but no direct odor had touched it. Go Vegas! Shelley put the tin back in place and it took Vegas a couple of minutes to hit on odor again and go back and check it. After all, she had eliminated that since she wasn't rewarded and it wasn't source. Big bonus points for my girl - she knew what she smelt. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

A tracking we will go....

After stopping off and getting hair cut tonight I took the dogs out tracking. I had thought to take just Leo but Vegas was chomping at the bit when I got home and acting well rested and recovered. So after changing clothes and donning the dogs in their collars and harnesses, we were off. For most after work practices at least until the weather is a little more reliably dry and the days lengthen a bit more, we're mostly using the park three blocks or so down the street. It's convenient and only receives light use which minimizes distracting scents for end of day tracks.

I brought along Vegas' choke chain and some chain lengths with snaps that I have used to secure things in the back of my truck and hooked Vegas up to the step bar on the side of the truck. She gets so worked up in the truck I thought this would work better where she could be outside and see me and the chain prevents her from both pulling and chewing through. Yes, she has that kind of anxiety. She still whined quite a bit except when I was walking the track back toward her, but at least she was secure and non-destructive.

The first track was for Leo. He's the one that got the short end of the stick (pun not intended) over the last few days. The first for both dogs was a double-laid, straight track of approximately 15-20-30 paces. The track traveled along a fairly flat to lightly sloped plane until it dipped slightly downward in the latter 40 paces or so. We were moving toward the river and the air was still.

I can't figure what it is but tracking seems to work the "pee" out of my dogs (and sometimes more). We had barely started the first track and Leo had to make a pit stop. Silly dog. Moving on, he nailed his track in fairly short order with little correction except when he got overzealous and drifted too far left or right. I'm still trying to primarily use neutral colored articles for Leo since I want no opportunity for sight-tracking. So far so good - he's an ambitious and energetic little chipmunk. I had to trot to keep up with him at one point.

After Leo's first track was complete it was time to pick up the flags and articles and lay Vegas' track. She had basically the same track but about 25 feet west of his. She did really well on her first track - after she relieved herself. She didn't dilly-dally and seemed to dig in and "get it."

Leo's next track I upped the ante a bit. I ran it parallel to the road (East > West), double-laid, crossed over some non-grassy sections under a big tree, and plotted the course about 20-30-40 paces. Unfortunately some idiot decided to rev his car and peel out backing out of his drive and then sit and idle for no apparent reason so we had some distraction in close proximity that made Leo more cautious as he regularly looked around to make sure nothing would "get" him. But he still plowed ahead and worked this one out. He really seems to be moving from side to side which our friend, Beth, said is a sign of really following the odor. By then the breeze was picking up a bit, too, and could have been carrying the scent up onto the road where it wasn't as detectable. He ended up getting it though and it didn't take too long either despite the distractions and increased complexity. I was very proud of my little guy!

By then Vegas was chomping at the bit for her turn. Boy does track laying take time in comparison with working the track! Back into the truck with Leo, off to pick up the flags and articles, and back out to lay Vegas' next track. I might as well note something funny here. I tend to wear running pants when I go out with the dogs around home. I don't often wear them elsewhere but they wear well with the dogs and are comfortable. In this case, they also have a nice elastic waistband that makes tucking articles in my pants (around my waist) easy. However, at one point I started feeling like I was losing gloves and debated the wisdom of elastic. I thought they might be slipping down my pants legs and becoming deposited randomly around the park. Plus, I must look funny putting things in my pants all the time. :)

Next track for Vegas was a little lengthier and, like Leo's, ran East to West. I paced approximately 20-20-30 for her until I ran out of grassy surface. This one she nailed the first sections fairly quickly with me only having to stop and back up to redirect her once. The last leg was more difficult, though. The car was still idling with bass thumping, and there was a tree alongside our track. Apparently there were really good smells under the tree and there must have been excrement or something  else equally unsavory on the ground nearby, too, because I had to call her off a couple of spots to prevent rolling her clean self in it. The last leg was difficult. It took more than twice as long as the other track and the first part of this one combined. I had to redirect, and redirect, until I finally moved forward a bit and got her focus about 12 feet from the article. She still found it on her nose through tracking, but she needed some help. I'm not sure if her mind was shutting down or if it was the breeze that had kicked up throwing her off but I think we'll stick with simpler tracks for a while and not move ahead. I want it to be fun and for her to show the enthusiasm she does for nose work and agility.

I really had to debate on continuing for Leo. He certainly still had more "go" in him but the wind was increasing which is made all the more worse coming off the river. However, Leo was really amped up and that made my decision. I tracked diagonally across the park this time in a southwesterly direction, about the only area I had left on that side of the park without moving the truck etc. Same as before, double-laid, four articles, and this time about 20-25-35. I definitely noticed Leo drifting to the sides more on this track but he did well. At the next to last article, he really was struggling and kept turning back up toward where we had come. I think it was the wind carrying the scent and he just couldn't pick it up again. I tried redirecting him a few times and about half dozen tries and just before I had decided I would need to back him up to pick up the scent on an article again, I got him on it and could see him dig in and follow through. He's such a cool little fluff-ball.

And that was about it for the night. We headed home to make dinner and both dogs have been happily snoozing since. We got in just before the rain and enjoyed the fresh air while getting to engage their brains in an activity before relaxing for the evening. Happy Monday!

PAC/GSDCO AKC Trial Day 3 - March 2011

I was so tired today! So tired, in fact, that I took Vegas' crate pad out of her crate, placed it on the floor in our crating area, put a towel over the top, and lay down. I even got her to lay down with me - partially for body heat and partially just to snuggle for a nap. Not sure how long I tried to nap and dozed off and on, but it made up some time so I wasn't shivering and bored. This was actually a bit after we'd got there as I had already taken V out back of the event center for some romp and explore time. It was such a crisp, refreshing, "clean" Spring morning. Of course a good part of my being cold had to do with that little jaunt and wet feet. Oops. Here are a couple of pictures and a video from our walk.
After our "nap" and some more "wait" time, we ran JWW first. The judge and course design was Terri Campbell and while I had some concerns about getting lost in all the jumps, particularly in the mid-section, it was a nice course with good flow.
Good points:

  • The weave entrance was nice. There was a decent amount of spacing between the jump and the weaves. There was little to distract from the weaves but open space between the weaves/jump and the wall. The arena we run in at this venue has high, solid walls surrounding it since it's also used for horse events, etc. Also, there was no need to change sides into the weaves. On another note, I have recently noticed we don't have a "favored" side for the weaves. Vegas has learned to handle well from either side and that's a huge relief. 
  • The tunnel was at the beginning. It meant we could just do it and get it over with. It let her come out and stretch and move. 
  • The course flowed. One jump flowed into another and turns were sweeping and allowed multiple options for handling in many cases. 
Down sides: 
  • There was a tunnel. Perhaps it's just a down side for us, but after two weekends in a row and some really difficult courses on this three day weekend of trialing, a tunnel reprieve is always welcome.
  • Parallel sequences. Jumps 4 - 5 and 11 - 13 through a lot of people. In watching, some forgot the left angled jump #13 and then the flow to the right since previously 5 - 6 was a right to left maneuver. I worried about getting lost. 
  • Off course pitfalls...making sure when we took the triple, #11, that we could pull back up the center of the course. 

Lindsay was kind enough to offer to video for us. I'm so glad she did! Wait'll you see!
Can we say elated? I was so, so, so incredibly thrilled with her run. She did so amazingly well. Her pace was even. She responded well to my body language for the turns, and she manages her stride well between jumps. The SCT was 48 seconds for 169 yards. 10 MACH points on a JWW course. Unbelievable. We were 9th out of 11 dogs that qualified in the 24" class. 

Standard was another 90 minutes or so off, I suppose, by the time we got to even walk. In between things today I just kept Vegas out. I left the midget at home today since I would be packing up and she deserved some solo time where all I had to think about was her. Vegas was stressing pretty good this weekend being crated so keeping her out made her a lot happier. Of course getting all the extra loving she did never hurts either. 

Our Standard course looked okay...definitely some challenges and pitfalls but no crazy stuff like we saw over the last two days. Of course that's my interpretation after assessing it for my dog. 
Good points: 
  • The tire had a nice line to the next obstacle. I always hate when there is an angle or turn to make right after the tire. Vegas is so large that setting her up to take the tire at an angle always bothers me. That frame is heavy and I'd just hate for her to make a wrong move and get tangled up in the thing. Plus, with the tire lower in AKC now, I hate for her to feel rushed and possibly jump too high. Chances are none of these things will ever happen because she's excellent at judging where she needs to be to maneuver a course, but I worry nonetheless. 
  • The chute also had a straight path out the next obstacle. It's always better to see dogs run straight through the chute rather than pulling it with them to the side as they try to move blindly to the next obstacle. I've seen too many dogs tangle in the chute and/or pull the chute right off the barrel to like angled setups. 
  • There was a straight approach to the dog walk. The map may not make it seem so, but there was enough room that she was able to get her footing onto the dog walk straight. The video will actually show it more clearly because she even had time to stride out and pick up speed between the #8 jump and the dog walk. Oh, and as Mr. Robin noted, I do run a Great Dane so the dog walk was stable. Yesterday it was a little shaky due to a bit of a gap at the ramp hinge. He was involved in helping shim it up then and noted how carefully I always check the dog walk when walking the course. I literally grab each ramp and sometimes the top and "shake" them to make sure there's no wobble or give. Vegas has taken three total dog walk falls including one where I caught her and one where she was gimpy enough not to get back up and try again. I won't risk it. 

Down sides:

  • Front cross or not at the #2-3 sequence? It was a tough call to avoid getting in your dog's way or pulling him too far toward the tunnel. It was a sharper angle and had the potential for several things. Leading into the next....
  • The a-frame access was not ideal. It was too angled from where the dog was coming from to give them the striding distance they should have, particularly from that angle. There was one dog that took it at such speed that he hit it from the bottom left corner and wasn't able to straighten himself until nearly the top and at that point he was all the way to the far, right edge. 
  • The tunnel entrances were awful. Who goes right past a tunnel every single course? Apparently this judge feels that's necessary. You lose all momentum when you have to go past something only to turn your body back to take it, and when that something is a tunnel and you're a big dog? It's just harder on them and, quite frankly, unfair. 
  • The table was in an odd place and that's something that struck me right off the bat. Fortunately I had seen some nice handling that made it look easy. Plus, I can always get ahead of V on the dog walk and that allowed me to turn for a front cross to the table. But still, weird. 
  • The weave entrance. Really? Even extremely seasoned, good handlers struggled with this. They were running way out off the double to front cross and pull their dogs into a heel before sending them into the weaves. Dogs and handlers were clear out at the triple ending jump trying to give their dogs the space to maneuver and see the weave entrance. 

I said it a couple of times to a couple of people; I was just going to take it one obstacle at a time. That's all I could do with Vegas. I spent more time analyzing and fretting over the #13 - 16 sequence today than I ever spend on a walk through. I couldn't help it. Yes, I have some advantages of being able to get out ahead of Vegas from time to time. I can beat her through a tunnel and get into position. But I'm still dealing with a lot of body coming at me and less room to maneuver to avoid mistakes, if they start to occur. I have no correction room usually. And she can't turn on a dime like a BC can.

In the end, Vegas pulled out the rock star card again. This girl continually amazes me. And thank you, thank you, thank you Lindsay for videoing this run. I still cannot believe the angle she turned her body into those weaves and then plowed through them. I was in the wrong place. I could feel it but she knew what she was doing and just did her job. I'm sitting here typing this almost in tears thinking of my baby girl and how proud I am of her. I am such a lucky dog mom. Such a lucky mom. That girl goes out there and gives me 100% and then she gives me more. She has run - and qualified - on some of the hardest courses we've ever seen that are not built for her body in the least. And she keeps coming back for more. And smiles while she does it. Can anyone ask for more?
The course was 175 yards with an SCT of 65 seconds. Our time was 59.59. Thirteen dogs qualified; we were 12th.

I almost forgot to mention, when we showed up this morning, within a very short period of time a half dozen people had come up to me and said, "Have you seen the picture Joe took?" "Have you seen the tunnel picture of Vegas?" Apparently there were some good shots. I've never had more than one or two people say anything about there being pictures of Vegas in Joe's prints so this must have been a big deal. I bought all five he had.
Photo Courtesy of Joe Camp
Photo Courtesy of Joe Camp
Photo Courtesy of Joe Camp
Photo Courtesy of Joe Camp
Photo Courtesy of Joe Camp
The plan for when we came home was to feed Vegas a little then bathe her. She was overdue and I figured the warm watter and a nice Zoom Groom rub down would be the perfect ending to a hardworking weekend. She was a bit of a pill getting into the tub when there was standing water so I had to drain it and she stepped in. Once she was clean and mostly dry, she was ready to crash out. We ended up taking a three-hour nap with her snuggled close. She very clearly was telling me she was glad to have me there with her and that she needed some plain, old down time. Here she is snuggled into my armpit covering her face.

Weekend standings: Two double-Qs. Four qualifying runs. Thirty-two MACH points. One very tired Great Dane. One enormously humbled dog mom.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

PAC/GSDCO AKC Trial Day 2 - March 2011

As short and sweet as possible for today's recap....

First, it was strange not leaving until later in the morning. There have been a lot of complaints lately from some competitors about how long they have to be at the trial site or how late in the day they run. Some clubs have started shaking things up a bit and, in retrospect on this one, wow what a mistake. Today they ran Novice classes first in both rings followed up by Open and Excellent rounding out the day. Although today was Tall to Small, it still didn't meant an early day or a short one. We arrived and still had about an hour and a half or two to wait before we even walked Standard. Here is the course:
This was a nice course but after yesterday and the local judge, I had butterflies. Major ones. Luckily I seemed to keep them from Vegas. We ran about half way through the 24" class. I planned to start out on the right and rear cross the chute, put in a scoop and front cross after the a-frame, and from there was on the inside to the table. The table was actually a lot closer to the double than it appears in the map. From there I needed to front cross after the weaves to the triple and avoid both an off course with the #7 jump plus the wrong end of the tunnel. Other than losing Vegas on the wrong side and risking a refusal after the a-frame, things went well! She rocked her weaves and we finished this 185 yard course in 52.40. 16 MACH points!!!
We had some time then while they finished novice, set open, walked and ran open, then set excellent JWW. The dogs and I had a chance to get out and walk for a few minutes, chat with some friends, and I got a bite to eat for lunch. 

Then it was time for JWW judged by Gillian Crawford. When looking at the course, most of us were under the impression #16 was a back jump similar to what is seen in international courses. Luckily we learned that was incorrect and the jump was taken from the same direction as #15. It was still an ugly course and I saw that with absolutely no compunction - even highly seasoned competitors were fretting over it. Let me just say this: I have no problem whatsoever with a challenge. The excellent level should have challenges, but every single obstacle should not be a battle to complete successfully nor should there be so many pitfalls that handling them risk your dog's body. I have to say that there were more people in the stands watching during this class than I've seen in a very long time. And most of them were shaking their heads. The 26" class had a terrible time and there weren't many Qs that I saw. More starting running clean in the 24" class before our turn and I can't decide if that was good or bad. It kind of reaffirms the approval of that kind of course and I would hate that to start being more common or become the standard. So here it is:
I think the part I hated the most is the two tunnels at the end. One, okay. But the same one back to back at the end of the course. Aye yai yai. All there is left to say is..... Vegas qualified!!!!! 166 yards, SCT of 47, our time: 45.79. We even earned another MACH point for the day! I could not be happier with my girl. She ran her heart out. She handled like a dream. She is one hell of a first agility dog and I am quite simply humbled by what she does for me. And I thank God every run for how much she enjoys it because without that joy we wouldn't find such success and I couldn't be nearly as happy if she wasn't smiling off the course like she does on. What a day! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

PAC/GSDCO AKC Trial Day 1 - March 2011

Today at least one of our judges was something we hadn't run under yet. Interestingly enough, she's a local competitor. I never knew she was a judge until today. The schedule is a little wonky and, in the end, I don't think any of it is going to behoove the tall dogs running in Excellent. Today was small to tall and started with Excellent. Tomorrow is tall to small but starts with Open or Novice. Sunday is back to small to tall but starting with Excellent. In the end I still won't get home much sooner than I would a normal trial and will end up being there early anyway - at least Sunday - because the exact jump heights are subject to change to avoid conflicts. *sigh*

So here goes.
Our first run ended up being Jumpers. The judge was Terri Campbell. There were some tricky spots on the course, sharply angled turns and whatnot, but overall it looked doable. The weave entrance was particularly nice - a good straight on approach with a tunnel then single jump prior.
I knew I would have to work the tunnel entrance as the wrong end was directly in the dog's path. Unfortunately I didn't work it enough and I didn't work it fast enough. Vegas locked onto the tunnel and wouldn't let go. I corrected and we moved on and I was very happy with her weave performance. I was edgy about it after last weekend and having six most of the time but she nailed these and I didn't really feel like she was going to pull out. There was one other error though. I moved in too close to the #18 jump and queued her to turn too late and we took down a bar. Otherwise a nice run for a big girl and she was sure smiling afterward. I'll find out our time tomorrow just for reference sake.

After another two hours or so we got to walk then run Standard. The judge is the local gal I mentioned earlier. Interestingly enough, I understand she went through the judge's training the same time Craig did. Either she doesn't get hired locally often or I'm just clueless. :) Maybe a bit of both....
In watching the 20" class run this course I didn't have a lot of hope. While she put a 180 on the course, the progression of the sequence subsequent to the 180 made it much more like back-jumping seen in international style courses. I'm referring to #4 and #5 with the wall on the one side and #4 as a potential off course on the other. Walking the course proved to make the feel a lot better though. I still had my worries, but it felt better. After CPE last weekend I worried a smidge about the table, too. Fortunately I was able to get my command out like I needed too - a nice quick, "Table. Stay." She stuck it and I know I called "weave" before as soon as she was committed to jump #12. Vegas nailed her weave entrance but she either pulled her head up as she did, or she popped up right as she passed through them because I lost her and had to correct and rerun the weaves. The saving grace is that it was at the first pole, not the 10th. Much better timing and better on her that way. The rest went well. That was our one mistake and I'm not displeased. Stuff happens.

I came home with a tired dog whose still crashed downstairs on the couch. I had a ball watching our friend, Lindsay, run Heffner today and am so excited for her. It's her story to tell so I won't spoil it but it's very exciting to see those two run as a team and Hef running so well. I'm planning on bringing my older video camera tomorrow so we can try to catch each other's runs. Hope everyone's weekend goes well - here's to Spring on the horizon!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top Dog CPE Trial Recap, March 12-13, 2011

Last weekend the dogs and I headed up to Elma, WA el caravan style with our friend Jen and a crew of dogs. Wow, a crew of dogs. We started the evening off by having a late dinner at Chevy's to ward off the traffic we would otherwise just be sitting in. We've never competed in a trial hosted by the Top Dogs before, but it seemed like a great opportunity when we could share expenses. Jen and I had fun. The trial was held at the Gray's Harbor Fairgrounds. Although it was a one ring trial, the club had rented the entire arena so crating was in the second ring. Surprisingly it was even heated inside which was nice. We got our crating areas all set up shortly around 7:30 Saturday and the club was good about promptly getting things started. Our judge was someone we had never run under before, Terry Scofield, from Michigan. Can I just say right now, his courses were great? The balance of challenge, strategy, and fun was just right. Plus, he nests his courses extremely well which means that course building is done in a breeze. I learned he runs Newfoundlands which was really cool, too.

Alright, so with five runs a day, here is how our courses laid out:

Small > Tall
Full House Level 4, Jackpot Level 3, Standard Level 4, Snooker Level 4, Colors Level 4

Tall > Small
Jackpot Level 4, Wildcard Level 4, Standard Level 5, Snooker Level 4, Jumpers, Level 4

First up was Full House on Saturday. My only goals were enough points under time with minimal tunnels. The run of jumps straight up the center was a perfect starting point for Miss V. We've been off agility for five weeks so having a setup like that let her warm up with a nice long run. Oh, I should mention, too, this judge used the whole ring space! There was a lot of room between obstacles letting Vegas really run. He didn't crunch his courses into 2/3 - 3/4 of the ring like we see from time to time. It was awesome! So we took the run of five jumps up through the center and arcing toward the back right. Into the tunnel, across the double, and from there I don't recall our path. We had an allotted 35 seconds. Our time was 31.68 with 30 points. We finished first place in the 24" class finishing our Level 4 Full House requirements.

Jackpot has been a game we've struggled with for a while. We seem to run out of time to get the points we need. This was a traditional Jackpot course that didn't allow us to move on to the send bonus until the buzzer sounded. Usually we struggle with those even more. Although I didn't like the tunnels for this one, it was early in the weekend and Vegas handled it just fine. Were we to complete this course successfully we would complete our Level 3 title. We needed 20 points in the opening and to complete the Jackpot for an additional 20 points. Because of the tunnels in the closing we were allotted a bit more time. SCT was 50 seconds and we were done in 41.27. My plan was to take Vegas up the center again like our Full House run. The footing was a little loose and with such a stretch between jumps Vegas wasn't reading me as well to go ahead. We almost had a collision right near jump three as she turned back toward me. It caused us to miss out on the first jump in the two-part combo. We kept moving and arced back to the a-frame. I sent her over the jump following the a-frame, wrapped her around, and took her back over the a-frame. From there we hit the five-point combo, the double, and then wrapped around and took the weaves. I sent her through the second set of weaves and ended up going over the jump at the end and moving into the Jackpot send. She handled it with flying colors and I knew we'd Q'd. Another blue ribbon with 44 points. Go Vegas! Finally that Level 3 title! The Top Dogs had completed title ribbons, too. They were similar to the green qualifying ones but with two more ribbons hanging down plus they were imprinted in gold with Qualifying Title Completed.

Success on this Standard course meant we got to move up to Level 5 on Sunday. Our SCT was 53. The first handling decision I had to think through was where to be for the weave entrance. Did I try to make a front cross at #6 or did I rear cross into the weaves for #8? I did the latter; it just made more sense for Vegas. She took them without hardly batting an eye - pretty typical for six poles, but nothing to take for granted. I was a little late and also ahead of her and just plain out of position to rear cross at #11 - at least where I wanted - so I believe I just came around #11 on the left side and rear-crossed into the #12. I have to say, I was very proud of Vegas for sticking her a-frame contacts, too, this last weekend. I intentionally chose them where I could to work them and she's really responding. We've always had a running contact but sometimes her stride gets off or she leaps and sometimes that's all it takes for "game over." Our running time was 47.75. We qualified and finished second place. Whoohoo - two titles complete!

Next up was Snooker Level 4. I watched a good portion of the shorter dogs run and they had a really good plan taking the red on the far right into the tunnel #6, over the red, through #5, taking the red just out of it and then taking the tire twice to finish the opening and start the closing. However, tunnels are rarely something I choose when there are alternatives for Vegas. While I wanted to try to get all 7s if I could, it was also a little more doable to avoid the tunnels and have a hope for enough points. See below for my chosen path.

I mentioned Vegas did well with weaves thus far. We had only seen sets of six poles, but she took them without a blip. What happened here was just one of those snooker things. It happens sometimes. We got out of sync, probably because she was still gung ho for the day and I was out of position. We ended up fighting about the weave poles the first time. The first time I can accept as my fault but the second time was definitely her. I'm not sure if she decided to be a looky-loo or what but it was a fight to get through them which cost us time. Finally through them Vegas made an awesome run from the weaves to the tire and took it at amazing speed at a slight angle and dove into the tunnel. We ran for all we were worth but we'd lost too much time. Game time was 45 seconds. We were at 51.74 by the time we reached the table and had just 28 points, four points shy of a Q.

Our last run of the day was Colors. I love Colors - partially because it's a shorter course so runs quick.
My choice in mapping a course was either two tunnels or three. Of course I chose two which meant the circle course. We had 30 seconds to run it and were finished, clean, in 25.49. Second place and our third Level 4 Colors leg.

We headed back to the hotel to clean up a bit and I was able to feed Vegas which made her enormously happy. Jen, Nina, and I headed to Joseppi's, a local Italian and pizza joint I'd enjoyed on my December trip to Elma. Due to the rain, Vegas' bed, coat, and a blanket were pretty nasty so when we got back to the hotel I started a load of laundry. Unfortunately I was exhausted and had to stay awake waiting on it to be done. It ended up being way too late of a night for a trial and I was sure feeling it Sunday.

Sunday we got another shot at Jackpot, which was cool since we're a little behind on that game. This time it was a non-traditional course. We both didn't have to wait for the buzzer to do the Jackpot but we also got to make up our course Jackpot. Anything completed with the dog inside the lines and the handler on the outside was worth double the point value. Any obstacle could be completed twice for points.
Interestingly enough, we had run a Jackpot like this during league last year. The following is the course I plotted for us.
It worked out fairly well although even with two tries I couldn't get Vegas to take the weaves and stick them. We finished with 48 points in 46.01 seconds, another blue and our first Level 4 leg. Woot!

Next up, Wildcard. We needed two Bs and an A. I had chosen 2b, 4b, and 7a. Unfortunately Vegas had other plans and I didn't fight it when it seemed inevitable. She took 4a which meant we had to nail 7b. It just meant two tunnels when she could have had just one. Oh well. We qualified for another blue and our third Level 4 leg in 21.29 seconds. Way to go, Vegas!

Standard was up next.
I think this is the first time I've seen a Standard course without a dog walk. It meant we saw the a-frame twice - no problem by me! The hardest part about this course was the full 12 weaves. I fought Vegas the whole way. She really wanted to pull out. We made it but I could just feel the strain as we made our way through. I guess that's the detriment to having sets of six poles all weekend to that point. The end was a little tricky too with some obstacle discrimination and a slight push out to the tunnel, albeit not as bad as I'd thought. Our time was 44.47 on a 55 second course. Red.

Our path below.
We were a little slow through the red > 6 > red > 6 loop up top, but we made it and drove into the tunnel. We got as far as #4 and were part way through #5 when time was called. With five seconds to the table, we made tracks finishing in 50.82 with 32 points. Just enough but we did it. We now get to move up to Level 5 Snooker. Yahoo!!!

Last game of the weekend - Jumpers.
This is probably the only course all weekend I was really disappointed in. Jumpers is almost always the last of the weekend, certainly the last of the day, and it's almost always tunnel heavy. This was no exception with four tunnels, all but one fairly lengthy. Poor Vegas. She's such a trooper though and we pulled it off, barely. I slacked on my handling after the last tunnel and we passed by the #12 jump. I brought her back around and we managed to take it correctly without an off course. Our time was 36.91 with 40 seconds allowed overall. We were second and our friends, Lori and Averna, took first. You can see the video her husband was kind enough to take here.
We got loaded up at that point but stuck around to see if the club needed help working the remainder of the class and to get our scores. The higher levels ran the very last class of the day so from there it was time to head home. I had a stop in Castle Rock at my dad's house plus to grab a bite to eat along the way. Vegas got a dry cheeseburger from Burgerville, too, to tide her over until we got home and she could have a full dinner. Unfortunately it was a super late night and led into a crazy week, hence the extremely late blog. Here's how tired Vegas was...

And tomorrow we start the first day of a three-day AKC trial. I am so excited! Vegas is snoozing away on the bed and that's where I'm headed. The truck is loaded and we're ready to get up and get at em' in the morning. Hoping for some clean runs and a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nose Work Week 5

Tonight was Vegas' nose work class. Hard to believe this session is almost over. We worked three finds tonight. The first was off leash in the workout area at the armory. One hide was in the entrance area but very low, under the lockers. Another was up about three feet on an upright post of a bench press, and the third was about the same height but on the flat surface of another piece of gym equipment. As we began the search we were to hang back in the entrance to encourage the dogs not to just enter the room. Since a hide could be in the entrance, it's important for the dog to recognize what we, as handlers do, with each search. By hanging back it encourages the dog not to barrel into the room and possibly miss odor at the entrance. Interestingly enough, Vegas picked up odor at the entrance right away but she didn't stick with it. She moved on and then picked up the second odor on the bench press almost immediately - and again, didn't stick with it. After giving a passing interest and greeting to some of the other handlers in class, she pretty much cruised right to the third hide and got her reward.

Our instructor has this little carrying basket with eight cups to put each of our treats in so she has them handy to pair with the odor. During this search she put it on top of a ladder at the far corner of the workout room - no where near the hides. After getting the first hide, Vegas went around that large, central piece of gym equipment and almost beelined for the ladder. She and another dog clearly smell food when present. It took more than once to call her off that, to "leave it," and proceed with her search. In her mind, she had obviously found source!

She then fairly quickly made her way back to the front of the room and identified the first two odors she had not "stuck" with before.

Our next search was in an office area, again three hides, and we worked off-leash. Last week and this week we've worked higher up hides and lower ones and have been learning to watch the dog's head tilt particularly when they are searching down low or under things. This one wasn't too hard for Vegas either and she found the one hidden under a table first. From there she quickly turned around and nailed the one hidden under the old-fashioned heat register (the kind that is about two and a half feet tall, shallow, along walls/windows). Her final hide was in close proximity to the first two but up higher on a copy machine.

Our last search of the evening was another box drill but this time in lines. We had set up two lines of seven boxes each. I didn't know which one contained odor and this exercise was unpaired. Vegas seemed to jump right in at first and was searching the boxes but, right near the end of the first line, she suddenly became disinterested in the boxes and seemed to start to shut down. It took some doing but I got her back and, after a couple of passes on the lines, she found the source and my "alert" was correct.

All in all a good class - we skip next week since our instructor has her hands full with the trial the following weekend but we'll finish the class the following and then take a week or two off.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An off day?

After work tonight I rushed home to pick up Vegas. Then we headed over to the park just a half dozen blocks from our house to meet Pam, Jewel, and Gigi. With harnesses, long line, gloves galore, flags, and treats in tow, I started laying track as Pam arrived. Jewel ran through three tracks in quick succession and then it was Vegas' turn. I'm not sure what was up with Vegas but I can say this: tracking sure triggers her potty response. She had already peed before we got started on her first track and she proceeded to pee, poop, then pee again before we were done. She seemed to really be disinterested and it literally felt like I had to prod every step out of her on top of cheering her on like a stuck record. I hope it was just "a day" and not indicative of a lack of interest in tracking.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Late Weekend Recap

A lot going on and never enough time, like usual. Saturday I was completely lazy. The kids went to their dad's house Friday night and I stayed up way too late getting stuff done and dinking around, too, online, then reading a book. Saturday had been up in the air with so many possibilities - perhaps that's why I didn't do anything. Too many choices!

One idea had been to go to the mountain again. Mt. Hood has gotten dumped on, literally, in the last couple of weeks with tons of fresh powder. With a crazy hectic agility weekend schedule coming up in the next months, this might have been one of the last opportunities to go. For instance, as I write this, the snow report for Timberline Lodge shows 12" having been received in the last 72 hours with a 148" top and base. Fantabulous!

I had also been kicking around running over to the ASCA trial being held in Yamhill, OR to get a couple of runs in since we've been out for five weeks. I figured it'd be a good chance to get Vegas some exercise, fun to try a new venue and see who all is there, and possibly use it to start desensitizing Leo to the environment plus expose him to a new venue to work in.

Another possibility I had considered for Saturday was the Portland Saturday Market. This weekend was their kickoff for the year and we hadn't gone much last year. Saturday was supposed to be dry and I figured, good for a nice, long walk with the dogs.

Well, that didn't happen. I finally got up and about and did a few chores. Just before 6 o'clock Vegas and I headed out to the barn for drill team practice. We were missing our favorite furry dog, Wally, and our choreographer but the time was well spent. We ran through the first 20ish counts several times then worked out some ideas for areas we didn't have a plan for yet. For a couple of novices as far as choreography goes, I think we did well planning it and going through the motions to try to see what would work. I'm excited to think of where we might be in a few months and a bit more consistent practice. Should be a blast and really cool to see our crew work together - two Danes, a Corgi, and a Tibetan Mastiff.

After going home I was up too late again getting some things done and then Sunday morning we went tracking again at Champoeg Park, this time with our friends Pam and Jewel, too. We met at 9 o'clock and began with me laying a track for Beth's Orra. This time she had me lay 75 stride legs. Interestingly, the area we were in was right in the midst of the Frisbee golf area that a bunch of guys were starting at. Beth was totally cool with that; she said Orra could handle the cross-tracks. And, of course, this would give it time to age.

Then we were off to the other side of the parking lot to get started for us newbies. Beth laid tracks for Vegas first. The first one was a 5, 10, 20. Vegas did well and seemed to get working a bit easier - after she had a potty break. Not sure what it is about tracking and pottying, but she seems to need to go every time. Our second and final track was longer. Beth laid a 10, 20, 40 and it was significantly more difficult for Vegas on the 40 stride leg. Enough so that we figured not to make it "not fun" by calling it quits then.

After Leo had a chance and then Pam's two dogs, Jewel and Gigi, we chatted a bit and went our separate ways. I loaded the dogs and headed over to the other end of the park for a hike. We spent right around two hours out meandering around, exploring, going off-trail a bit, and then doing some distance recalls. It was a glorious day and the dogs had a ball.

Dirty feet

Geese nesting
So we wandered toward this water because there was an incredible sound of frogs. I would have expected to see thousands of them from all the noise. Would you believe we didn't see a single frog? 
Vegas displayed a unique talent, too, in the last 3/4 mile or so of our hike Sunday. She "spooked" at one point and before I knew what it was, I egged her on like usual with a "Get it, Vegas." She started to but was still slightly spooked and had a guarded stance. As I neared where she was standing and saw what she had her eye on, I was glad she hadn't taken me up on it. She found a snake that was easily three feet long, although skinny. Fortunately he was slithering back into the underbrush, presumably having been out sunning himself as the day was warming. 

Not 100 yards up the trail, we encountered another snake, this one different than the first, and smaller at around two feet in length. It took its time but did make its way into the brush, too. At the same time a woman and her three young daughters came along and I pointed out the snake. They pointed out yet another!
All three snakes were different which leads me to believe I need to do a little bit of homework on what they were. I'm accustomed to garter snakes and even yellow racers, but these three were none of the above as far as I know. We don't have poisonous snakes near us that I am aware, but with my luck and Vegas' sensitivities, if she were bit we might have a problem. So once I figure out what the snakes are I'll report back. 

And that wraps up our weekend. Things were pretty low key later last night after the boys came home as we all prepared for the week ahead. Tonight was pretty simple. Vegas and I just played hide and go seek a few times and it was interesting to hide in places I could catch glimpses of her searching. She's 'quite through but it wasn't as easy as I expected for her even though our house is small. A fun indoor activity that engages her mind.