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Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Where I've Been

There have been a few things going on in life, so I've gotten far behind on blogging.

Most notably, my father, Gerald Lee Baker, passed away on Sunday, July 19th.  He was 86, just a couple weeks short of his 87th birthday.  He died surrounded by the family who loved him.  This was just four days after my parents' 67th wedding anniversary. 

Its been very hard for all of us, even though we'd been expecting it.  Dad had Alzheimers and died from its complications.  I thought I'd done all my grieving months before, but I was wrong.  The funeral service, held at Tahoma National Cemetery, really brought the finality of this loss home to me.  I can't seem to stop crying; I miss my Dad so much.

Dad really loved Gimme... of all the dogs I've ever had, she is the only one he connected to and she to him.  My Dad was old school and often pulled her ears and she seemed to understand it wasn't meant in a bad way and tolerated this aberration.

Gimme always sought him out when we got to my parents' house.  When Dad got frail and unsteady on his feet, I worried she might bump him and cause a fall.  I needn't have.  My boisterous girl slowed down and moved very carefully whenever she was around Dad.  She just naturally seemed to understand.

Once when we were driving somewhere, Dad and Mom were talking about my nephew, Harrison, playing football.  Harrison was kinda small for his age, so Dad was going on and on about how tough he was and both parents were saying what a cute kid he is.  Naturally I asked, "Cuter than Gimme?"  My Dad replied, "No, nothing could be that cute!"

I always knew I had a great Dad, not perfect, but perfect for me.  So much of who I am, is because of who he always was.  Dad was a traditional guy who didn't easily show his feelings, but they were there to see if you paid attention.  I never doubted his love for me.

He worked hard all his life, leading us by his example.  Dad was strong and wise and lived by old fashioned values.  He didn't talk about what he believed, but he showed us what was important by his actions.  He served in the military before he married my Mom and always valued the service of others more than his own.  I cherish the memory of walking to the front with him, as father and daughter veterans, at a Memorial Day service a few years ago.  He wouldn't have gone forward on his own, but did when I took his hand.

When I was a kid, during a road trip, we stopped to pick berries at a family u-pick.  No one was there to take our money, so Dad left them the money owed in a place they would find it - it didn't occur to him to do otherwise.  Honor is what you do when no one is watching.

I worked for my Dad and when I really messed up once, costing him untold money for materials and labor (mine and others), I expected to be fired.  He didn't even dress me down and he wouldn't hear of me walking away.  He bought more materials and I did it right this time.  I didn't expect to be paid for doing them the second time and didn't log my time.  Dad paid me for the extra hours anyway.  I learned how important it is to persevere, clean up your messes and fix the things you break.  A lesson I always tried to teach my troops.

Dad and I were fishing buddies and I have lots of memories related to family camping and fishing trips.  I also remember once scooping several spawning carp out of the lake shallows and being so proud of having brought in such a huge haul.  Anyone who knows anything about fish, knows carp are not particularly good eating and any fish in the midst of spawning is going to be the worst ever.  Dad never said a word disparaging my efforts and set about cleaning all my big fish.  I saw them get packed in coolers for the trip home, but don't recall ever seeing them again.

I have so many memories, but one of my favorites is the story of Little Sammy Ant.  Its too long to write out here, but ask me some day and I'll share it with you.  My Dad had a great sense of humor.

I miss him so much...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

RallyFrEe Data Analysis

First a note - we did not do tracking this week.  It was again, just too hot.  We have a cooling trend in the weather, so hope to be back to it next week.  Gimme only forgave me for the lapse because I shared my birthday ice-cream with her.

Even though our score improvement was only 12 points (I was aiming for 25-30, which would put us into the kind of performance I know she is capable of), I've been comparing the score sheets from our first effort (Dec 2014 World Wide) and the second effort (June 2015 West1).  It provided some interesting insights.  The most noticeable difference is an increase in higher scores for stations and a corresponding decrease in some of the lower scores, with the exception of the 2 point for failure to bow.  So, while we increased our score in the stations by only 6 points, the overall trend is for a much better end result.  Kind of reminds me how your GPA in college creeps up so slowly with good grades, and yet one "C" and it takes a huge hit.

The numbers don't exactly add up.  There is a difference between my first score sheet and the final number on the overall listing, so maybe we only improved our score by 11 points.  In any case, we got a nice 5 point bump up in our score for overall scores in the category of heelwork, attention and teamwork.  Certainly nice to see.
And last, I did a side-by-side comparison of the stations/free choice between the two events.  There are some interesting trends.  One thing which is a frequent issue is my moving forward before Gimme establishes an end position.  Once I saw it in print, it became very obvious in the videos.  Partly its because I'm trying to use my movement to hold her attention.  Its certainly a handling thing I need to work on, and it likely will take more work to consistently improve my handling than to improve Gimme's attention, doncha know.

Here are the free choice comparisons and you’ll see the same issue with end positions and for the same reasons.
I didn't notice the judge’s comments on the first (WW) score sheet.  And I certainly can’t disagree with them, though I do think she misread Gimme’s non-stop wagging tail – as most everyone does.  I certainly always enjoy working with Gimme, but she was clearly (to me) stressed during the first video. 
“Work toward eliminating hand cues.  Inconsistency in heelwork between stations and at start and end positions.  Be sure to allow Gimme to finish behavior and come into position before moving forward.  Some losses of attention.  You both seem to enjoy working together!”
I was glad to have noticed these comments (which is why I went back to check for the WW score sheet comments – I really must learn to read everything and not just skip around).  I did not understand fully her comment in the individual scoring about the bow and not finishing the course, but its explained here.  I can’t disagree with anything she said and you see the same handler issue about me moving forward before the end position.  Here are her comments:
“What a fun dog, and clearly you have the sense of humor to enjoy her.  Handler tendency to rush forward before the dog had clearly established an end position affected scores at many stations and also teamwork score.  Whether or not the dog performs the bow, you need to cross past the sign in order to complete the course.  In several places it looked like you were trying to maintain heel position rather than the dog making the effort to do so.”
I really love the score sheet for RallyFrEe – there is a wealth of information there and every one is a learning experience.  I know we’ll do even better next time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Nosework (1/11) & RFE Results

First a brag.  Just got the scores/placements for the West1 RFE Video regional trial.  Gimme improved her score by 12 points.  I'd hoped for more, but any improvement is a good thing.  And given the affect her medication has on her focus and memory, I'm happy with some improvement.  AND she got a 4th place from this.  So this gives us 2 out of 3 legs toward her R-FE/N.  Just one more to go.  Yay Gimme!  I haven't received her individual score sheet yet and am looking forward to seeing where we improved. 

Nosework class tonight was focused on assumptions by the dogs (and humans).  It was very interesting to watch how the dogs searched.  We used pretty much the same layout for all four searches.  The green arcs are green plastic chairs, tan and black squares are a different kind of chair.  The black star is a office chair on wheels.  The textured rectangle shows where everyone was seated.  The zig zag is a freestanding expen and the lines in the upper left is one leaned against the wall.

The two crossing lines of squiggles with the red dot are cracks in the floor where the odor was placed in the crack.  The dogs are so used to finding hides on chairs, so they kept searching the chairs and ignored the hide in the floor for the longest time.  A lot of attention was paid to the office chair on wheels, which normally sits right by the refrigerator where they store odor.  The most inexperienced dog was actually the fastest, because she didn't have a long history so wasn't working based on assumptions.  Gimme did really well.  When she couldn't find odor on a chair (she ignored the office chair), then she put her feet up and checked high on the walls.  She was the fastest of the more experienced dogs.

When you think of this from a biological point of view, of course the dogs make assumptions about where hides should be.  After all, wolves don't look for lunch where bunnies never go.  If the dogs are this focused on chairs to the exclusion of other locations, then the fault is with us for falling into a pattern of hide placement.

For the second search they added a hide in one of the wheels on the office chair.  Gimme came in and made a big C-shape (grey line) with her nose to the ground and went right over the top of the crack-hide, screeching to a halt without going past it.  She clearly noticed the one on the office chair, since she went directly to it, but I didn't see any sign of it.  She was awesomely fast. Dorothy pronounced her a "one-trial learner", since she came in with her nose down and hit the hide so quickly.

For the third search they removed the hide from the office chair and from the crack in the floor.  They placed the hide under the seat of a chair against the wall, right where the crack ended.  Gimme was the only experienced dog to not get obsessed with the crack.  The only one to approach her speed at finding the hide under the chair was the less experienced dog.  Two of the experienced dogs kept insisting the hide was still in the crack and it took them some time to puzzle it through. 

For the last search, the hide was placed under a chair in the middle of the room and under a chair in the corner where a couple of the dogs had gotten distracted by some smell.  Gimme found the one under the chair in the middle of the room pretty quickly, but then it took her awhile to find the one in the corner.  She went really close to it once, but she was moving so fast, I think she just missed it.  She checked high and low and then got into the corner again and nailed it.

One of the things I think helps Gimme to be a better hunter is how I don't help her with my positioning and movement.  A couple other students basically go stand near the hide (4-5 feet away) and stay there until their dog searches there and finds it.  The others will tend to stick to the general area of where it is and then hover when the dog gets close.  Dorothy commented, praising my ability to act like I don't know where the hide is, even though I do.  Mostly I just try to shadow Gimme's movements, hang nearby when she is detailing and keep moving if she isn't getting right to source.  Now if I could just do as well in a trial situation, eh.

Of course the other thing which makes Gimme such a good hunter is a lot of inherited talent and a ton of drive.  Then there is the whole need-to-drive-the-train thing. ☺

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nosework 6/10

Its been unbearably hot around here, so we've laid off a few of our regular activities.  The other morning we went out to walk and in the space of 45 minutes, the temperature went up 12 degrees.  Candy assures me our temperatures are nothing.  She lives in Texas, so our blistering hot day time temps are just their cooled off night temps.  Still Gimme and I aren't used to it, so we've slowed down off our regular activities.  And we didn't go tracking last week because it was just too hot.

Before I talk about nosework class - I have some new information about our RallyFrEe videotaping.  I didn't mention it in the blog, but Gimme kept getting distracted at the third station, going ahead of me toward the equipment against the wall.  I didn't understand this, because she ignored the equipment everywhere else, against two full walls.  Later I remembered Diane noting how Valor didn't want to go near the same section of wall - so it occurred to me they were sensing the same thing, just reacting different. So, I had Tonya ask Gimme about it.  I had to picture it in my head so she'd know what I was talking about.  Then she told Tonya there was a little mouse in there somewhere and it was distracting her.  She volunteered her opinion about Valor, she said he's a big wussy for being scared of the little ole mouse.  ☺

BTW this was the third of our special energy healing sessions aimed at repairing damage caused by the seizures.  Tonya says Gimme is very aware of her memory issues and she's frustrated by it too. 

Nosework class last week was a little short. It was verrrrrry hot, so we just had two quick searches in the shade. 

Our first search was set up on these electrical boxes across the street, in the grass next to a sidewalk.  The first three boxes from the startline were only about 2 feet apart and then the fourth one was further away.  This put the hides 5 - 6 feet apart.  Gimme was the only dog to find them in order from the startline.  None of the dogs paid any attention to the fourth box.  However, she really struggled sourcing the third (tallest) one.  She knew there was a hide there, but kept looking for it on the shady side of the box.  Dorothy thought it had to do with the proximity of the other hides, but this has never been an issue for her before.  I thought it was because every time she came around and tried to get her nose up there, she was getting very bright sun straight in her eyes.  When I got her to come around the other way, then she got it. 

The second search was all underwater hides.  There were 18 plastic containers, roughly the size of a dog water dish.  Each had 2-3 inches of water in it; there were three hides.  Gimme had no trouble with these, though she did lose her turn just after finding the first hide for peeing in the search area.  She got taken to the van and had to wait until the other dogs had all run and then came back to try again. 

Gimme had no difficulty finding all three hides.  She was quite theatrical, showing repulsion for the spot where "somebody" peed in the search area.  Everyone laughed at her.  I took it as her effort to stay far away from the offending pee so she wouldn't succumb and repeat the baddie.