Monday, February 26, 2007

Front-cross, Back-cross, GO!

And that's what Holly, Mikey and I practiced with my dad this weekend.

For those of you that are not agility crazy, a front-cross is when you send the dog to an obstacle, like a jump, and run to get ahead of them so that you can signal a change of direction. A back-cross is similar, but you send the dog to an obstacle and as they do the obstacle, you run behind them and then come up beside them after the obstacle to signal a change of direction. (I have tried to make a little diagram below to help this make sense.) Go is simply a command to the dog that means go in a strait line, as in 'Go Tunnel', meaning go in a strait line from where you are and then go through the tunnel. These are things that I have worked on before, but my dad set up a very tight, intense little course this weekend that really pushed me (and the dogs) to perfect these.

The front-cross is a good one for Holly, because she is a little slower, so I can actually move fast enough to get out ahead of her. The back-cross is a good strategy for Mikey, because he's so fast that I could probably never get ahead of him while running a course. Plus, my dad thinks that doing front-crosses with really fast dogs (like Mikey) is hard on their shoulders, because they have to kind of slam on the brakes when you come out in front of them (which can stress their shoulders), and then pivot on their shoulders to turn with you.
Technically this all sounds fairly simple, but in practice, not so much. This really is more advanced stuff. It takes physical coordination, and careful attention to your dog so that you aren't calling out commands too early or too late. And this takes a lot of work from the dog, because they really have to be paying attention to you, and stay mentally on their toes.
The problem I had doing the front-cross with Holly was that I was getting out ahead of her and calling out the command to change directions too fast, which kept causing her to knock the jump as she went over it, because she was trying to change direction before she had fully left the ground for the jump.
The problem I had doing the back-cross with Mikey is that I wasn't fast enough. I couldn't go behind and then up beside him fast enough to give the command in time for him to know which direction I wanted him to go, resulting in him spinning in a little circle after the jump looking for me and trying to figure out what I wanted him to do.
That's what practice is for. . . I definitely am learning a lot by training two dogs at the same time, especially because they are so different to work with; the strategy for running a course with Holly is almost opposite to the strategy for running a course with Mikey. Yes, definitely learning a lot, but it can be sooo hard on my little brain!
In any case, we all had a great time, and totally enjoyed being outside on an absolutely gorgeous morning. Training with my dad is always fun, because he always has something challenging for us to work on!
Also, I entered Mikey in a supported show here in Houston in mid- March! Remeber, he only needs two more points to finish his comformation title!
Currently reading 'The Virgin's Lover' by Philippa Gregory.
Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rain, Rain Go Away

'Cause the Cardis want to go outside and play.

We're having a rainy morning here, and the kids think that's a bummer, because they want to go out to the bayou for their morning run. I have thrown the ball up and down the hallway for Mikey a few hundred times, and tried to get Holly interested in a game of tug, but there is just no substitute for running on the bayou. Mikey is getting whiny, and Holly is getting short tempered with Mikey. I think the best option for this morning is to just go back to bed, even though I have dozens of things I should be doing, like finish unpacking from our trip, vacuuming up the four inches of dog hair that accumulates every week, or doing laundry. But I'm feeling much to lazy to contemplate any of that, and the dogs can't whine or grouch while they're sleeping.

Hopefully we won't get too much rain, and tomorrow we can all go over to my parents house and practice agility in their back yard. My dad has accumulated all of the agility equipment in his years of doing agility, and he is our first (and best) agility instructor. How cool is it that I can get private lessons every weekend!?! We haven't been over to my parents to play agility in months because of the crappy weather, but I really want to get back at it.

I know, a blah post, but it's a blah morning.

What do you think of my transformation of this photo? Reference the photo at the top right hand corner for the original.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Holly Regains Her Agility Diva Title

Thursday evening and agility, with beautiful weather no less! Because it was Holly's turn, of course. Last week was no agility both because J, our agility instructor was getting ready for a show, and because we were getting ready for our vacation.

Holly did great. The last time she played agility she just wasn't into it; she must have just been having an off day then, because she totally redeemed herself this evening. We didn't do as long a course, or as technical a course as we did at our last Thursday evening class, but I was so glad to see Holly having a good time and really trying hard. Sometimes I worry that she would just as soon be a couch potato as go out and do agility, obedience, etc. But on the other hand, I don't want to leave her out on the fun, and I like doing things with her where she doesn't have to share my attention with Mikey, where she can be the absolute center of my attention. So I was totally relieved to see the old Miss Sassypants back in fine form.

In fact, next week we will be moving up to the advanced class! Although next week is Mikey's turn. . . Uh oh! Do you think the advanced class is ready for Mikey!?!
Check out these awesome pictures I got of Holly sitting in the morning sunshine on our vacation!

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

River Dogs

What an awesome trip to the hill country! Beautiful, secluded cabins right on the Frio River, surrounded by gorgeous country side. The stars in the night sky were so incredible! All the dogs and people had soooo much fun, and we all can't wait to go back again!
The weather was absolutely ideal, frosty in the mornings warming to crisp afternoons with sunny sky's. We spent the days hiking in the woods and along the river, both as a group and off by ourselves. Each evening we had movie night, with everyone curled up on the couches and dogs snuggled up. And at night we opened the blinds and watched the incredible starry sky while we fell asleep. The night sky never looks like that around here!

All of the dogs at least dipped their toes in the river, and they all managed to snatch some yummy deer poop. Holly was the only one that actually fell into the river, but she fell in butt first and only got her backside wet. Meg, my parents younger Brittany was tired enough in the evenings to actually settle down and behave herself while we watched movies. Bobbie, my parents older Brittany acted half her age and taught all the other dogs about proper vacation protocol. Holly and Mikey just reveled in every second! All the dogs had such a great time I'm sure they can't understand why we came back home to our regular lives with hustle and bustle and the daily grind.
We're all safely back home, tired and grateful that we were able to take such a great trip together.

We all took dozens of great pictures, and it's so hard to pick and choose, but here are some of my favorites.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi' and 'We're official river dogs now!'

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Puppy Pictures, Finally!

We are leaving early (as in 4:30 am early) on our trip tomorrow. I hope to bring back many happy memories and plenty of great pictures. Hope I haven't forgot to pack anything!

Enjoy the puppy pictures! Try to figure out how many puppies squished themselves into one bed!

Currently reading 'The Queen's Fool' by Philippa Gregory.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi' and 'Grown up dogs are more fun than puppies any day, right!?!'

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I Know, I Promised Puppy Pictures!

I've been busy the past couple of evenings getting ready for our long weekend in the hill country and watching Westminster (which I would love to comment on, but no time tonight). I promised puppy pictures, and I had planned to upload while vacuuming, doing dishes, doing laundry, packing, keeping Holly from biting Mikey's nose off, etc. But, there is a problem either with Blogger or my ISP, and I can't download a farking thing. I'll try again tomorrow night.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Happy Birthday CardiGrandma!

CardiGrandma doesn't like to have a fuss made about her birthday, so isn't this a sneaky way (not) to let her know how much all of us here at the CardiHouse love her!?!

All of you out there with dogs know what great judges of character they are (wish I had paid more attention to the dogs' opinion of some past boyfriends!). Well, let it be said that my mom attracts dogs like flies to honey! She has also taught me the most valuable training technique, love. She could care less what the dogs accomplish in the show ring, she has and does love each dog just for who they are (funny, she does the same with her people).

I've got to tell one short story about CardiGrandma. This is also a story of how CardiGrandma got the nick-name 'Lap Lady'. The trip to pick Mikey up from Arkansas was not the easiest trip; the time on the road was several hours more than I thought it would be, the weather on our way up was awful, and the trip back seemed to go on forever. Thank doG CardiGrandma came with us, for a number of reasons.

I will skip over the fact that Mikey was almost left with his breeder because he wasn't passing his puppy temperament tests; some divine intervention saw us on the road back home with Mikey securely in CardiGrandma's lap. We had been on the road about 20 minutes when Mikey started to get 'that look'. Uh oh! Mikey was going to be sick! CardiGrandma whipped out wads of paper towels (which she had smartly stashed close at hand) and baby Mikey proceeded to hurl his little guts out. CardiGrandma somehow, trapped in a moving car caught in Little Rock rush hour traffic, while sitting cramped in the passenger seat, managed to catch every drop in the paper towels, and not get any on Mikey, the car, or herself. Wow! Major wow! And she then managed to comfort the little guy into sleep in her lap - for the next eight hours! And no, she is not available for puppy wrangling outside the family!

So, ever since CardiGrandma has also been known as the 'Lap Lady', since Mikey thinks she has the most comforting and secure lap in the world (although her lap has strangely 'shrunk' over time, because he doesn't really fit so well anymore). In fact, Mikey was so happy laying in her lap all day that I asked for shirt off her back (literally) for Mikey to snuggle up with his first night here, because I was hoping her scent would make him feel comforted in a strange place (and it did!).

Here's a picture of CardiGrandma doing one of her favorite things - bird watching.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi' and 'Happy Birthday CardiGrandma, we love you sooooo much!'

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Mikey is 'Da Man!!

After weeks of being rained out, we finally had Thursday evening agility class! Yippee! We did a 16 obstacle course, and Mikey was awesome! And it wasn't a simple course, it was very technical, with most of the obstacles set so that the approach was either blind to the dog or at least required an angled approach. Mikey was right on, following my 'Out' and 'Here' commands to properly set him up for each obstacle. And he was fast! I was having to haul my butt to keep up with him. The course included weaves, 12 of them, and not off set, and the weave poles seem to have finally clicked for Mikey! This little boy is going to be ready to compete soon! Can you tell I'm proud of the 'Little Dude'?

Too tired for more, except to report that the dental appointment was a disaster where I was not given the laughing gas I had requested, the dentist couldn't get me numb even after jabbing me like a pin cushion, and so only worked on one of the two teeth, but didn't finish the crown on that tooth either, and said I need a root canal, and I found out that the dentist had been sitting on a $397 credit for the past year. The only good news is that with the credit I didn't owe them anything for today's work, but sheesh!

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi' and Mikey says 'Oh boy! Agility, my Favorite!'

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Assorted Fecal Matter (or Random Cr@p)

I used to work with this guy that was funnier then he!!, but also very religious, so instead of telling people to 'get your sh!t together' he would tell them to 'get your fecal matter coagulated'. I still get a kick out of that!

The weather is looking good for agility tomorrow evening, finally! However, I'm still feeling like death warmed over, with major joint pain, and daily 'digestive upset'. I did go to the Reumatologist last Friday (or rather a PA since getting into the reumy is impossible). A steroid injection and a new prescription NSAID that will hopefully have fewer side effects. I admit I'm getting a little down, since the injection hasn't helped.

A busy weekend coming up (including a hair cut that will hopefully tame the curly mop). Will be getting ready for the upcoming vacation with my parents, and hopefully getting over to friend Doris' to see here 13 six week old Cardigan puppies. Yes! 13! Of course I will take my camera, in fact I promised to take pictures for her to put up on her web site, and I promise to share with you, faithful readers!
As to the upcoming vacation, my parents and their two Brittanys and me and the kids are all going to cabins on the Frio River near Leakey, in the Texas Hill Country! Yippee for Vay-Cay-Shun!! We all need a break. No phones, no TV (but a DVD player), NO WORK!! We are taking some good books, some DVD's, plenty of snacky foods, and hiking shoes. Oh, and lots of dog chewies so that we can enjoy our books and DVD's in the evenings. We're getting two cabins, but will probably pile into one for most of the weekend. May be interesting, as Mikey and the younger Brittany, Meg, are in Luv, and just want to play constantly, while Holly and the older Brittany, Bobbie, get a little fed up with the both of them!
I am finally getting the two crowns done tomorrow. I had to put work on these teeth off for a year as I had wiped out my dental coverage with two root canals in January last year. Wish me luck folks, because they always have a he!! of a time getting me numb enough (I payed for IV sedation for the root canals, I'm not stupid). I'm going to try laughing gas this time though, hope it helps.
Final random thoughts. Goofy things the kids do. . . Well, Holly does this thing I like to call the 'Happy Butt Dance'. If you scratch her right above her tail, she'll stick her nose in the air and then do this little jig with her butt. And Mikey plays honest to goodness catch. I don't mean catching a ball tossed to him (although he does that too) but that he will actually pop the ball back to you! He has figured out how to bounce the ball off of his teeth so that he can 'throw' the ball back. And he can keep it up for a loooong time. And he has great aim, it is literally like he is playing catch with you!

Random pictures, to go with random thoughts.
Currently reading 'The Traitor's Wife' by Susan Higginbotham.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Resting on Our Laurels

First let me acknowledge that it is the Hokey Pokey dance, not the Funky Chicken. Oh well, I know the brain isn't always in great working order.

And the body is not in great working order this week either. Thank doG for the bayou since I can just shuffle along and the kids can run as much as they want. Don't know where I'm going with the health; I had been doing fairly well last month, and everything just went to hell this week. It was chilly out this morning, with a light frost on the bayou, and the kids ran around like the crazy hounds they are. Holly had a great time this morning chasing a crane down the bayou, I wish I had taken the camera with me this morning. Poor crane, I think we really interrupted his hunt for breakfast.

So, with nothing exciting going on today I will share with you the story of Mikey's first show, and Mikey's first big win! If you live in the Houston area, the Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows is the one to put on your calender! The show is in late July and shows in conformation, obedience, rally, agility, and flyball are ongoing Thursday through Sunday, as well as 'Meet the Breed', training and health seminars, dog frisbee demos, and of course vendor booths with everything dog or dog related! The Reliant series is one of the largest dog shows in the country and Animal Planet comes to film the conformation groups and best in show on Friday or Saturday. The web site is

Back to Mikey's story. I was afraid the Reliant series was way too big (and intimidating) for my first time ever walking into the conformation ring (and Mikey's first time too!). I took Mikey over to Paul and Doris a few weeks before the show and I have to thank Paul for encouraging me to jump in with both feet! So I entered Thursday and Friday, since showing all four days sounded too exhausting for both Mikey and me.

Now, conformation shows are a little complicated. In the breed ring, the males and females (bitches) start out separated. Each sex has several different classes based on age. The winners of each class then go on to compete for Winners Dog (or Winners Bitch). Only the Winners Dog (or Bitch) earn points toward their Champion title. So only one male and one female of all the 'class dogs' earn points. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then go back into the ring to compete in the Best of Breed class. This is the class for dogs that are already Champions to compete for Best of Breed (sometimes the Winners Dog or Winners Bitch win Best of Breed). The BoB will go on to compete in the Group competition (for example, the Herding group that Cardigans belong to). The first place winner of each of the seven Groups go on to compete for the honor of Best in Show.

Sounds complicated doesn't it? And the process of earning the title of Champion is complicated too. AKC requires a total of 15 points to earn a Champion title. Plus you must win at least two 'majors' as part of those 15 points. A major is a win of 3-5 points. This may all sound easy, but remember that only one male dog and only one female dog earn points at any show, and the number of points available at any given show is based on the number of dogs entered, so to win a major, your dog has to beat a lot of dogs. Needing to win those two majors can keep a dog trying for their Champion title for years!

The Reliant series is a huge show, and usually all four days are 'majors'. So Mikey was entered Thursday (the Bluebonnet Cardigan Club specialty) and Friday (a supported entry). (See 'Cast of Characters' post for definitions of specialty and supported entries). We really entered these shows just for fun and practice in the ring. Mikey and I had taken some handling classes, but we where both sooo inexperienced. I thought it would be nice if Mikey could place in his class, but that was about the height of my expectations.

Thursday went smoothly. I had bought a pink outfit for the show (I don't really like pink, but Mikey looks good standing in front of pink, and it stands out well in the show ring). My dad went with me and we showed up early to put Mikey's crate in the grooming space we had rented with the Bluebonnet Cardigan Club. It was really funny because everyone else was grooming away at their dogs, with blow dryers and whitening chalk flying, but all I had was one brush and a small towel; no grooming table, I just brushed him standing on top of his crate. The first class of the day was Sweepstakes, an entry for dogs under a year old and seniors only. No points can be earned in Sweepstakes, but it is one of the rare times you can actually earn money in showing, since the entry fees are split between all the placing dogs. I was so nervous I was shaking, and almost knocked Mikey off the table when I set him up there for the judge's examination. Mikey wasn't nervous at all, and acted like the entire thing was just the most fun adventure ever! Mikey won 3rd place in his class, a toy, and about $20. I was thrilled. The next class was the regular show class, and the judge was the well known Cardigan breeder, the Reverend Dr. Patrick Ormos. Oh terror! One of my idols in the breed, and my first day ever showing! Arg! But Mikey trotted around as confident as could be, and holy cow, we got second place in our class! I was on cloud nine!

Friday started out a little rocky, since my mother was having a hard time getting time off work to come watch. She had to miss Thursday, and I was afraid that now she would miss the whole thing. Thank goodness she was able to get away for a long lunch, and she and my dad showed up just a few minutes before we went in the ring. Mikey didn't show in Sweepstakes that day, because his breeder was judging Sweepstakes, and showing under her is verboten in AKC. That made me a little nervous, since I had felt that Sweepstakes had been a good warm-up for the show class the day before. The judge on Friday was Judith Goodin. And Mikey won his class! Yippee! Oh, no! That meant we had to go back in the ring to compete with all the other class dog winners for Winners Dog. So we filed back in for the Winners Dog competition, with Mikey and I at the end of the line because he was the youngest. We trotted around in front of the judge, and then lined back up. I was concentrating on Mikey, thinking I would be done in a few minutes and could relax. Then I hear 'Mam, mam' and I look up and the judge is pointing at me! Mikey was being awarded Winners Dog! I was thrilled! and terrified! because we had to go back in the ring again for the Best of Breed competition! Which went just fine, because Mikey and I were too tired by then to worry about much. We trotted around the ring, and watched the judge award Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex and Best of Winners and then we were finally done! And Mikey had earned a 'major' of 5 points, beating 16 other class dogs!

So there's the story of Mikey's first ever big win. Another time I will tell the thrilling story of Mikey's triumph at the Reliant show in 2006.
Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.