Getting inside
This is my Roxie, also known as Budge.

Roxie was thought to be one or two years old when we got her from the shelter, and she's been an essential part of the family now for 14 years.  So yes, she's officially an old lady with all the accorded rights and privileges, one of which is the right to do whatever the hell she wants.  She wants to stand on the coffee table, okay.  Doesn't matter.  She's senile, loopier than guano and we love her.

Now along with that thinking, I have for a good while now given Roxie her space.  She would take loooong naps and seemingly wanted to be left alone to enjoy the reveries of her dreams.  Which is not to say I ignored her, because that is most certainly not true.  I suppose I thought I wasn't interrupting her, more like accommodating her.

But after reading some studies on human cognitive dissonance a couple of months ago, I decided to try an experiment with Roxie.  I did not let her isolate herself, did not let her sleep for long periods of time, made her suffer through repeated bouts of hugging, woke her up every time I passed by, held her face while I said her name....  I was in her face all the time.

She was so annoyed. 

And then she slowly started coming around and began to enjoy the extra attention.  And amazingly, she began to perk up -- I started to see behaviors that I hadn't seen in a long time.  She began to come to the door when I came home from being gone somewhere.  The other day, she actually BOUNCED into the kitchen and licked my face hello.  She's enjoying being petted, and she doesn't seclude herself in another room any more, wanting to be where everyone else is.  She started sleeping next to my side of the bed again instead of staying by herself in the living room at night.  And yesterday, she hopped into the bed after realizing I was awake and plopped herself down next to me with her head on the pillow so she could look at me, just like she used to do years ago.  I wanted to cry.

But I just petted her and told her what a good dog she is.  And she wagged her tail.

On duty
Why are dogs so NOSY?  And think EVERYTHING is their business?

Here is Emma, making sure the Entergy power company trims the trees EXACTLY right.

Elbows and Thinking Outside the Box
Emma has been obsessively licking her elbows -- stress-related, I'm sure, since this behavior coincided with S's departure.  All the hair is gone, and she will NOT leave them alone.  Look how terrible they look (btw, that's not blood, just discoloration).
Capture emma's elbows
So this weekend I consulted the vet at the "Ask the Vet" table at the local RDOD event to see what he would say.  He immediately said it was a case of separation anxiety (duh).  Now my impression of separation anxiety issues is that they result when the dog is left alone and bored.  I explained that Emma was most certainly NOT bored -- agility practices keep her plenty busy. Yes, busy, busy.

So the good doctor said to think outside the box and asked if perhaps Emma associated agility with S?  Well, heck, YES!  S almost always went to practice with us, and probably missed only one of Emma's trials.  He suggested that I find a different distraction activity for Emma, one that's new and therefore not one she will associate with S.

Great advice.  The question is... what???  We used to do obedience and rally, but that WAS boring for Emma.  Herding is in the next state, and fly ball is non-existent (yeah, I know I could START it here, but I think we'd need some more dogs besides Emma, and I can't get anyone else interested).  Hiking, for multiple reasons, isn't an option either.

Any outside-the-box suggestions? 

S. left for grad school earlier this month.  And this is how Roxie spends her days now -- on his bed, just waiting...
Roxie waiting for Sam

My number one fan
Looking over the agility calendar for the rest of the year, I've been thinking about how much I'm going to miss having S. video my runs with Emma once he leaves for grad school in a couple of weeks.  Because he went to one of the local universities and lived at home while getting his undergraduate degree, he's witnessed my agility journey from the very beginning.

I couldn't have asked for a better cheerleader.  Listen to him at the end of this run:

Nothing, not the Q, not the first place finish, is better than that.  Nothing.

Magic Box
It's me, Emma, taking over the blog again 'cause I got something to say.  See this thing here:

They say it's a magic box.  Bindi's mom got it 'cause she thinks Bindi needs help figuring out what she's supposed to do on the playground.  Hah!!!  Bindi knows EXACTLY what to do -- do whatever it takes to get more cookies.  Anyway, this magic box makes cookies if you do the right thing, and Bindi PRETENDS not to know.  Then her mom (I love her, btw) brings out the box, Bindi "gets" it right, the box beeps this sound and cookies appear.  Isn't that GREAT!!!

The thing is, I figured it out, and I'm not talking about the wobbly red stick part -- everybody knows you touch that to get cookies... even shelties know that, I bet.  See, I SAW Bindi's mom do something with this little plastic thingy she was holding in her hand every time Bindi got cookies.  When we practice, I watch EVERYTHING!

So okay, later my mom and Bindi's mom started talking...gawd, they can talk... I went over to the plastic thingy to check it out.  I touched it with my nose and HOLY SWEET BOX OF BISCUITS, there was a beep, and I got cookies!!!! And because I'm like, super smart, I touched it again.  More cookies!!!  And again... and again... and again...

The little plastic thingy is the controller, and the moms are messing with us.  Magic box, my tail...

I'm on to them.


Hard Course
It may not be the hardest jumpers course ever (probably not), but it was definitely the hardest one I've ever run.

When I first looked at the course map, I said "I don't have a prayer" and after I walked it, I said, "I don't have a hope in hell."  Emma hadn't Q'd either day, and jumpers is NOT our best event, so yeah, I was being a pessimist.  I really didn't know how I was going to get in position to turn Emma after jump 7 -- no way was I going to be able to get a front cross in, so Emma would be on my left.  I also was going to have to try to get in a front cross from 16 to 17.

The trial was running tall to small, so I got a chance to watch all the fast 20-inch dogs run before Emma and I had to go.  A lot of dogs wrong-coursed and took the number 12 jump after 7, which is what I was worried about.  The dummy jump after 12 got a lot of attention instead of the number 13 tunnel, especially if the handler was behind.  Things did not look good.

Oh, and I had a POUNDING headache from being at the trial all day and not eating well.  Hard course and a migraine.  Yep, this was gonna be good.

I guess the Agility Gods felt sorry for me, though.  When Emma was committed to jump 7, I gave a "left" command, and she turned to jump 8 for the rest of the pinwheel.  I rear-crossed the weaves and was able to get the front cross in from 16 to 17.  So we Q'd.  And got first place too.  How about that.


That's right, this is me, Emma, taking over mom's blog.  Geez, she hasn't posted anything in weeks, WEEKS I tell you!  If you want something done, ya gotta leave it to the Border Collie. 

So anyway, I didn't get to go play with my pal Sunshine yesterday -- some lame excuse about the field being too wet.  Huh?  I mean seriously, I'm a DOG, I have FUR, I'll DRY!!!!  But I guess it's all on account of mom being afraid she'll slip and fall.  Yeah, I don't want her to get hurt.  Who would I play with? 

So we stayed home and I played with my toys.  You've seen pictures of me and my toys, right?  Well, I got a new one the other day.  Mom says its name is Tweet.  It's pretty fun, it makes all these cool bird noises and stuff.  And it's the floppy kind of toy I like to roll around on the floor with.  I just have to pretend I don't see Roxie staring at me like I'm crazy or something.  Like what she does is sooo much better, sleeping all the time.  Who has time for that???

Ooops, gotta go.  Mom's coming down the hallway, probably wants to get on the computer.  DON'T tell her I've been doing her blog.  I'll just settle here under the desk like I always do... that's right... unobtrusive little me... SHHH!!!

You're never too old to go to camp...
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had gone to agility camp.  Can you believe that I had never, ever, been to camp before?  It's true.  So last fall, after reading about a work-study agility camp in Ohio, I started making plans -- a camp in Ohio? That doesn't cost anything, other than a little sweat equity?  With a cabin in the woods?  (okay, that part was a little disconcerting --anyone who knows me knows I am NOT the outdoorsy type). 

So months later, Emma and I arrived at camp.

I would be spending four days at Bud Houston's agility camp.  Four hours of lessons each morning, followed by four hours of work after lunch.  I'm not afraid of work, so it was going to be an adventure.  Umm, that's Bud's house in the photo above, not my cabin.  This is where Emma and I stayed:

Emma thought it was great, although I did have to be vigilant about ticks.  Ugh...

All our lessons were conducted in the barn.

It was such a luxury to train indoors, although Emma had to get used to running on rubber mats.  She slid around a lot the first day and had to figure out her jumping stride, which caused some stutter-stepping and early take-offs.  That part worried me a lot -- was coming up here going to mess up her jumping?  After all that work we'd put in since last summer?  Thankfully, though, Emma got used to the mats, and it turned out to be a non-issue (most of the time).

The afternoon work sessions consisted of maintenance around the property.  There was only one day in when I thought, OMG, I've sent myself to the GULAG!!!  That was the day we cleared brush from the sides of the roads, loaded it onto the trailer and burned it down by the pond.  That doesn't sound bad, but it involved lots of hiking up and down the hills in 90 degree heat, and there were BUGS and SNAKES.  I don't do bugs and snakes.  And I was already on my last nerve from staying in a cabin in the woods (refer back to paragraph one -- not the outdoorsy type).

Painting agility equipment was much more in keeping with my sensibilities.

In the evenings I kept a notebook about each day's lesson.  Bud had two main points that he hammered on throughout the week:  1) the dog's path is parallel to the handler's path and 2) the dog turns when the handler turns.  It sounds quite elementary, but I did not realize how much of my handling did not really take into account these two simple facts.  Take serpentines, for example -- I usually handle them from one side, not going in and out of the line of jumps.  Where is the parallel path in that?  And even with single jumps -- I was cheating on the turns, too often turning away before Emma actually took the jump and often causing a dropped bar.

There was lots of other stuff we worked on:  RFPs, obstacle discriminations, front crosses, out jumps, sends, pre-cues, post and tandem turns, and much, much more.  Too much to actually write about in just one blog entry.  Suffice to say, I learned so much about myself as a handler and what kind of handler I need to be if Emma and I are going to work in sync as a team. 

And I would do it again if I could.  Even with the bugs.


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