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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What We've Been Up To…

We've been up to quite a lot. We walk on the Fort Lewis training areas or lower acreage of St. Martin College several days a week. Gimme enjoys that a great deal, as do I. Here is a recent picture.

We are training in several performance disciplines at once, as well as continuing our work on life skills. I'm fortunate that she is the canine genius that I thought she'd be when I picked her, since bouncing from one thing to another is pretty much the norm for people with adult ADD.

Gimme is doing great with tracking training. This picture is our first tracking adventure in her pretty blue harness.  Cute eh...

This is Gimme's first time actually following a scent.  She has a phenomenal nose and loves following it.

We are using the serpentine method. We are fortunate to have access to Fort Lewis' training areas, which is where many of the local tests are held.


There is lots of different terrain and cover to play in. Gimme is currently doing tracks with multiple turns soft curves of about 45 degrees.

We tracked in snow once just to try it out and she was great. I hadn't noticed any breeze, so was surprised to see her nose just inches to one side of my foot print. When I did the wet finger check, sure enough she was right.  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture - maybe next year.

Our next goal is to start aging the tracks a bit more.

Our only area of difficulty was article indication, but we did some training to address that and, as you can see, she is doing fine now.

Obedience & Rally:

We are working on basic skills and she's doing well. Some things she picks up so fast it makes my head spin, others take a little longer. She starts rally classes tomorrow night. We have enough of the basics that I expect her to do good. 

This picture is what I see when I look down at her sitting in heel - any question why I love working with her so much.  Who could resist that face?

I think the biggest challenge in class will be dealing with distractions. Interestingly and quite unexpectedly, stay seems to be her strongest behavior – which I'm surely not complaining about. I'm also noticing that she seems to generalize the things she has learned much faster than other dogs I've personally trained or taught. Another thing which I'm surely not complaining about.

We continue to work on her basic behaviors. I'm in no hurry to get her in the ring, being much more concerned to protect her joints and baby body so she can have a nice long trouble free career. She learns everything I teach her so fast and is quite happy to show me how smart she is all the time. I have a baby dogwalk in the front yard and whenever she sees me coming she likes to get on it so I can see how well she hits her running contact. She also likes to stand on the cross plank and pose for those who are walking by on the sidewalk.

I spend all my free time with her, training, cuddling and playing. We are also working through the dog_read_study_group study of "Control Unleashed". I am learning a lot and I think it will benefit Gimme over time.

She is a treasure and I am blessed to have been adopted by her.

My View

[Editorial Note:  I had this ready a month ago, but somebody chewed up my last 3.5" floppy disk and I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to get another to format.  I've since resorted to setting the laptop next to the desktop and typing in the entry anew.  Such devotion - I should get a medal...]

I started this entry before Christmas, but it has taken time to think through what I wanted to say. I want to keep on topic for my blogs – about the dogs – rather than whining endlessly about life. This time of year we ponder the year past and plan (and dream) for the year to come. What a year it has been. I was going to call this blog entry "Gains and Losses" because the year has been one of those. I changed the title because I hope it will express, "My View".

The biggest loss was the recent death of my nephew Joshua Baker.  Josh has always been a special person.  As the family was reminiscing, I remembered how my sister used to complain about going to mall with Josh in a stroller.  Strangers would impede her progress because they just had to meet this tiny tot.  This friendly attraction stayed with him throughout his life.  At his funeral, I learned so much I didn't know about him as a fire fighter, a husband and a father.

His best friend spoke about their trips to Alaska for fishing.  He said, "When the fish were biting, Josh was very, very happy.  When the fish didn't bite, Josh was very, very happy."  He brought complete happiness to any situation.  Josh leaves behind a lovely wife, two wonderful children and a host of family and friends who miss him dearly.

Also this year, I faced the unavoidable – it was time to retire Michael.  It was easy to avoid the decision while he was having fun and still dragging me into the building to play agility.  If the run wasn't successful and even when it was ugly, it didn't matter, as long as we were having fun.  Then one weekend Michael avoided multiple jumps for the first time, and I immediately knew that the fun was gone for him.  It was very sad.  He's been a faithful and enthusiastic partner.  Suddenly he looked old to me.

Lesson:  Life is always too short and often unpredictable... so hug the ones you love and let them know how you feel.  Remember, spend time with those you love and keep building memories.  It is inevitable; the day will come when memories are all you have left – make them good ones.

I also learned this year that I have Adult ADD.  At first I was sad because I realized that I'll never completely conquer some of the issues that hold me back.  Still after I accepted it, I found the diagnosis liberating.  While part of me heaves giant sighs for living with so much criticism and guilt; I also see that some of the traits that hold me back are behind other successes and behind things I love about my life and myself.  I am now making some better decisions because I can recognize some impulses for what they are – just impulses.

Lesson:  Know yourself, strengths and weaknesses.  When you know, you can build on them to be the best you can be.  No one is perfect... let go of the pains and aggravations and move on.  You'll be happier for it.

Lesson:  Know your dog's strengths and weaknesses.  When you know, you can build on them so your canine best friend can be her best.  I don't want to imply that I promote setting limitations on your dog; rather recognize the ways her path to success may be different.

We've all seen the poem that goes around about friendships – how they are for a Season, a Reason, or a Lifetime.  In our culture, we value friendships very highly (though this too seems to be changing), so it can be hard to let go, even when the people have changed and the time has passed.  Some were never really friendships to begin with, but only gave a surface appearance of friendship.  The interesting thing has been that as I've let go of these, other friendships have sprung up to take their place.  By "losing" the old, time has become available for other friendships to blossom and grow.  It has been an odd and wonderful mixed blessing.

This got me to pondering the nature of friendship.  Any real friendship requires trust.  How each of us defines trust is highly individual.  For me I really need my friends to be honest and to allow me to be honest.  Betrayal of trust is a death knell that most friendships do not survive.  I believe friendship needs to have give and take to it;  if there's no balance, it cannot really survive over the long run.

Lesson:  All the qualities that are essential to a good friendship are also necessary between you and your dog.  You need to balance between your wants and the dog's needs.  This has been so apparent with Gimme.  As I teach her things, some lessons come easy, some don't.  When she has difficulty with something, I move on, work on something else and come back to the other days later.  Gimme and I spent much time trying to "get" heeling and were having no luck -- so I decided to let it go.  A couple of days later, I took her for a potty walk and right after taking care of business, she turned to me and said, "Mom, pay attention cuz I don't want to have to repeat myself.  Today we are going to learn heeling -- allow me to demonstrate."  And demonstrate she did.  You just never know what is percolating on a back burner.

Lesson:  Just as trust is essential to any friendship, it is equally important to our relationships with our dogs.  Years ago I attended a seminar with Chris Bach.  I have to admit some of her ideas have taken me years to wrap my mind around, but one thing she said I immediately accepted.  She talked about people and dogs having a "trust history".  Good or bad, you have that kind of history in any relationship.  If you have a good trust history with a dog, you can do things that might be uncomfortable for the dog.  Because the history says you won't hurt them, they will accept it (such as changing a wound dressing).  If you have a bad trust history a dog will look at you with some measure of suspicion, no matter how sweet you are or how many cookies you offer.  And the most important thing she said was, once trust is broken, you can seldom, if ever, really get it back.

Lesson:  And lastly on friendship -- it takes time and effort to build and nurture a relationship.  Likewise our dogs need and crave our time.  The are so forgiving and will survive on whatever crumbs of time we give them.  They thrive on quality time; they deserve quality time.  I am always saddened by how many dogs live much of their lives separated from the people they love.  I always thought this was something that only backyard-dog-people did.  Unfortunately, I am also seeing it among performance people.  I don't think they know, or they've forgotten, what they are missing.  I love snuggling with my Spottie Dotties.  Call me crazy, but every night is a three-dog-night for me.

Of course, the biggest gain in 2010 was Gimme's decision to adopt me.  She continues to bless my life.  I have this vision of introducing her to someone when she is seven years old as, "Gimme, the cutest puppy on the planet."  Is it any wonder that despite the losses of the last year, I look down on this view and I see only joy...