My JDM Boy!

At the first regular trial back for 2007 Cypher went clear on the Masters jumping course to finish off his JDM title.

He is now Nahrof Quick Change ADX JDM ADO JDO SPD GD at the tender age of 2 years and 3 months old. He is possibly the youngest dog in Western Australia to gain this title. He went from Novice Jumping through to Masters complete in around 8 months of trialling time. Is he a great dog? Absolutely but who has taught me the most about training? The Raven. I believe she was 5 and a half years old when she gained her JDM, it took us that long….wait….it took *me* that long to get a handle on not only how to handle her but to teach her that bars mean something! Without her I’m not so sure I’d be capable of training dogs to reach their JDM so early in their trialling careers.

To top it all off he went clear on Masters Agility as well with a very nice run that ended up with a third place out of 13 qualifiers! He is deceptive with his times though, as I run him he feels like we’re not going anywhere near the speed of some faster dogs and yet when the cards are given out, so far in Masters Agility, all his clear rounds have resulted in top 4 finishes! 4 more cards to go for that title.

Raven had relatively good night although no passes, in Masters Agility I completely did a magic trick on her for her seesaw and as a result we had one of most spectacular fly offs ever (seriously I don’t think the board had even started tipping before she flew through the air with the greatest of ease). It happens when your handler completely blocks it by doing an untidy front cross in front of it too close and the dog goes flying up it thinking it’s a dogwalk and said handler doesn’t think to yell wait just yells “Seesaw” when the dog is already at just about the end of it! Raven must have thought as it dropped out from underneath ‘Seesaw? YOU RECKON??? Could have warned me a bit earlier slow arse!!” So my fault there but it was a nice run apart from that! In Open Agility again handler had slow arse disease (I swear she’s gotten waaaaay faster over the break) and didn’t direct her clearly, Raven went where? I went oh crap you’re pointing the wrong way and yelled Come, Raven came (very nicely pulling off the correct jump) and we copped a refusal on what was otherwise a nice run. Stoooopid handler! Masters Jumping I think I had just started to get more on the ball with my handling and commands and she drops a bar so we left, she had run very nicely apart from that! I’m hoping that I’m more rapidly up to par with next weekend’s trial!

Another success tonight was that I finished of Rumour’s (Sheltie) ADM title with a clear run in Masters Agility. So that was good news, we’ll concentrate on her Open Titles now I think and her games ones. So not a bad night at all, although stinky hot!

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A Light left us today


It was a sad day for many of us and a devastating day for one of our agility community in particular. Today the West Australian Agility community lost “Mo”. Loved, cherished and trained by Ann Graham, Mo was an incredibly vibrant, exuberant Labrador who lived life to the full and was well known to all of us in our agility circle. At the tender age of just 3 years old he was taken suddenly and completely unexpectedly by an as yet unknown illness. Mo was unlike any other Labrador to hit the agility ring, capable of amazing speeds and spectacular runs he frequently ran down the fastest Border Collies despite his difference in size, weight and body structure. He was an absolute joy to watch and from Ann’s face you could tell he was absolute thrill to run. He loved Ann with all his heart and gave her 110% of himself at all times. We shall miss him keenly and our thoughts are with Ann on this day. Wherever he is we know he is without pain and is waiting expectantly at the bridge for his mates Tilly and Ann to join him – Rest in Peace Mo, we’ll miss you heaps.

YAY AGILITY IS BACK!

The 2007 season has begun and we’re back from our first trial, not really a full trial – Strategic Pairs was on offer plus a fun teams event. Raven wasn’t too feral for Excellent Pairs and she and Nifty did a pretty smooth run to win 1st place and gain their second legs of SPDX. It was great to be running agility again, it was an absolute joy to have the Raven back to full form. Cypher and Sage also did a tidy run to qualify for their second pass. The boy enjoyed himself I think. I ran two other dogs for other people and they also qualified as well, Emmy the GSP in Excellent and Rumour the Sheltie in Novice.

In the teams I don’t how we did because I don’t have the full results, we were sitting quite nicely after the 1st round with three dogs posting clear times (Tag, Rumour and Cypher) and Raven posting the fastest time but with one bar down. 2nd round Rumour found her 5th gear all of a sudden and next thing I knew we posted three DQs all one after the other when she felt sure she knew the course and I didn’t, oh well she was happy and putting the speed on so I was happy. Cypher was going quite well till he turned right instead of left (as I was turning) and thought the tunnel was a definite next obstacle, he checked in with me just a little too late to stop his momentum and he picked up a DQ for a wrong course as half his body disappeared inside the tunnel. Raven’s run was not quite as smooth as the first one and again we had a bar down, the spread this time and both bars of it as there was some miscommunication happening as she flew over it. I said “Come” she kind of went “Wha…?” and then splat went the bars. Other than that it was pretty quick. All in all pretty happy with my two, Raven’s absolutely glad to be back competing I think, she was pretty psyched up. She did some awesome running contacts tonight and tried hard to do the right thing. We still need some bar work during the week though. Cypher will focus mostly on his obedience I think, and in agility we might practice having his lead right in the middle of a sequence as in the second round tonight when we did some obstacles that led us back near the gate he started to look around to see if he could see his lead. He’s really got to learn that this lead tug fun is only on my terms when I say we can play. He’s pretty quick and I think he’ll figure this out soon.

Experience…the Conclusion

Lapland was the absolute highlight of the trip and I shall never ever forget what a wonderful time I had over there with Tim. The next morning we got up early and were driven out to the kennels where we met the dogs and Pasi’s girlfriend Anita. They have 34 dogs together and they were all shapes and sizes and ages. After we met the dogs Pasi explained the basics of sledding and Tim promptly informed him that I would be doing the driving whilst he sat in the sled!! Thanks Tim! Actually as it turned out I had such a good time I never really wanted to sit in the sled ever, I’d rather be driving it! So we got this old wooden sled and Tim sat in it with 8 dogs attached. Pasi took a sled as well with 8 dogs on it. My first lesson that day was a snowy one….first of all sleds don’t brake too well when going through forest, down hill over very bumpy terrain, second; dogs don’t care if you yell in a panic – if they can keep running they will do so regardless of whether you are still on the sled or not. We got them to stop though without using the brakes or the snow anchor, heheheh they can’t pull a sled anymore if it is on its side with the passenger hanging out nearly wrapped around a tree stump! Of course that doesn’t really work for long term because we don’t go anywhere. It is a skill I tell you, to be able dislodge a sled from around a tree stump and in that split second it is free to apply brakes and anchor so fast that the dogs don’t run off without you (which they did on at least three occasions that first day….I did raise the benefits of training the dogs to stop on command to Pasi later but I don’t think I convinced him that the effort required to teach this to these dogs would be worth it in the end…these dogs have one mode made up of two singular goals RUN PULL RUN PULL RUN PULL, and when stopped, go beserk yelling at the humans to get their asses into gear regardless, even if you have just run 15kms pulling a heavy load). These dogs astounded me…..when their speed had dropped after a while I thought they’d appreciate a break and not be so maniacal about taking off, afterall their tongues were hanging out, they were working hard, not going so fast, had just done what seemed like 3kms uphill. Yet you stop them up the top of the hill and within a couple of minutes they’re jumping, straining at their lines, barking to go again and indeed they take off again like they haven’t even been anywhere that day. These guys would surely push Lance Armstrong in the fitness stakes in the peak of a Tour De France!

Lapland the night of our arrival – everything was blanketed
in snow! This you have to understand is a very novel and rare
experience for one such as myself who has spent pretty much 30 odd
years of her life living in a region where the closest to snow we get
is a little bit of frosty grass in the mornings!
This looks like a postcard shot but it isn’t!
That’s Tim’s foot and I’m driving the sled!
Learning how to secure the sled fast and strong is essential
for all dog sledders – that and don’t break the sled is also a good
tip to remember.

I got to know the dogs quite well and I’m sure both Pasi and Anita were probably very tired of answering all my questions regarding the dogs, their backgrounds and all about competitive dog sledding. Out of the 34 dogs there were only 2 were pure bred Siberians, one named Jane was a mother to three 3 week old pups and she apparently was an excellent sled dog who worked really hard, yet she looked nothing like any of the Siberians I have met. She was a reddy, brown sort of colour all over with a slightly dark face mask but nothing too distinct, she had these long legs and wiry frame on her. You could tell she could run for miles with no problems. The other was around 8 or 9 months old and she looked exactly what you might see here however both Pasi and Anita informed me that they would be finding a nice home for her since she had no interest at all in being a sled dog and would not pull when you put her on the line! The rest of the dogs were mostly mixes with the majority of them being Alaskan Husky by main percentage, some had Greenland dog in them and some had a mix of Sibe and Alaskan, one even had some greyhound in it, others were mixes of Alaskan, Sibe, English Pointer and German Shorthaired Pointer. Alaskan Huskies are the true sledding dog according to most die hard purist sledders. They are much rangier and longer in the leg than Sibes, their coats are not as thick, they come in a much wider multitude of colours and head shapes. The dogs used in competitive sprint sledding of 8 up to 15km races are very different from the dogs that are used to pull loads over long distances. Those dogs are not used for tourists at all and almost all look out of place sitting on the snow as their coats are often as short as GSPs and apart from a few blue eyes you wouldn’t necessarily notice the husky in them. They have it in them somewhere though because not only do they need to be a lighter build yet with more muscle strength they also must have that overriding and extremely intense desire to pull. I did worry for them initially about how they cope with the cold but saw quickly that their dens/kennels were very nicely insulated and most of them would be curled up in their dens when not running or greeting visitors. Competitive sledders are trying all sorts of blending of lines to breed the ultimate sprint sled dog, there was talk of GSD being used in the long distance race dogs, and I swear two of the 6 month pups I saw had some BC in them! I was surprised to hear though that there is separate classes for the Alaskans and their crosses as they are not allowed to compete against solely purebred Siberian Husky teams. The Sibes have a class all of their own and according to our hosts this was mostly because the Sibes couldn’t touch the the Alaskans and the crosses for speed and stamina, the Sibes would never be in the placings apparently LOL!

The two teams side by side, Pasi making sure the sled wasn’t
going anywhere. The four leads dogs from right to left – Panda,
Cindi, Targa and Stargate, all girls of course, brains are needed
up front!

You’d think they’d need a lie down after a quick 10 kms or so!
Out in the middle of a serene nowhere…now check our sled
out closely, see that strappy thing wrapped over the handle?
That was attempting to hold the handle together after we
crashed into a tree stump and cracked one side. Needless to say
it did not hold and we had to return home minus the handle.
A unique perspective of the possible problems facing a long distance
sledder. We steered using the sides of the sled.

This is Lela – a sister to the striking Lacoyta. She lived in the
house, loved pats and cuddles and to play with sticks of any
description.
I forget who this young one is, she was memorable for
constantly sticking her head through the feeding hole checking us out.

Tatoo – the 8 month old Aussie Shepherd from Germany,
all working lines she has a big future working in the Alps with
the cows, when she’s not trying to get the sled dogs to move her way.

This is Balu, 4 yrs old, mostly Alaskan Husky some Sibe
all work. He is one of three brothers who live here.

Lacoyta, a very friendly, outgoing boy, who works hard on the
line and has the most gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen!

This is Grizzly, it was a bit eerie watching him move around the
yard, he is so wolf like you’d swear he had some in him! Grizzly
didn’t go sledding as he had a bit of an upset tummy.
The Veteran – Bore, I had a soft spot for him
from the beginning. So friendly and outgoing,
put him on the line and he would stand stoically
gazing over the distant trail ignoring the younger
riff raff around him going off their heads. As soon
as you let the brake off he was off, pulling as hard as
the youngsters and showing more stamina than most.
At 9 years old he’s the fittest veteran dog I’ve seen.
Lacoyta on the stake out chain. There is a bit of English pointer mixed
in with this Alaskan Husky.

Gizmo, very Sibe looking, a mix of Sibe and Alaskan. This is
the screamer looking all sweet and innocent.

Coffee – Balu’s brother. This boy was also a favourite of mine,
he bore no cheek from youngsters on the line who tried to
muscle in on his position, and he pulled like a tractor the
whole time. One of the hardest working dogs I’ve seen, and
friendly to boot.

This is Mowgli, a young dog bred to become a sprint racing
dog. As you can see he bears no resemblance to the huskies
and looks rather cold! He is mostly GSP.
This young girl pup just loved to stand in her bowl with half her
body outside her run making sure we noticed her.

So for three days straight I got a complete dog fix, got to feed, water and snack them (with raw frozen salmon mind you!), drove a sled both on my own and with Tim sitting in it, found out that in winter 34 dogs go through around 1000 kilograms of meat every 5 or 6 weeks with not an ounce of fat to be seen and that these dogs are all kept entire both males and females and they will still work when in season and the males who might be distracted as youngsters quickly realise that the urge to run and pull is far stronger! I found out that when holding onto the sled and Pasi our guide yells back to Tim to ask if he’s OK? The dogs will take off (just like our agility dogs do!)….I learnt how to harness and unharness them, how to hook them up on the lines, which dogs would come when called and which ones had to be humoured into coming (usually the ones with a bit of Sibe in them I noticed!) I got to know most of their names quite well and I had some favourites, there were three brothers they’re 4 yrs old, Alaskan huskies or mostly Alaskan, known as the Mafia Brothers because of their strength and Trojan like work ethic – Coffee, Balu and Sarek, these guys along with their veteran mate, 75% very old Siberian lines, 9 year old Bore (pronounced Burr- reh) certainly earned my respect and admiration (not that they cared for either so long as they got their snacks and got to run) for their pure joy in just running and pulling.
Lacoyta was such a friendly striking dog as well and he worked as hard as any of them. Gizmo, their Sibe cross was known very quickly due to his habit of screaming (literally one long rahhhhhhhhhhhhh) when on the line and not actually going anywhere. He definitely preferred being on the right side of the line though, it was interesting how some of the dogs didn’t care which side they were on and others had a distinct preference.

Yes I am driving a sled with a team of 7 dogs, it was awesome!
Targa and Stargate are in the lead, followed by Balu by himself,
then Bore and Yako with Coffee and Schneeman in the rear.
Balu contemplating how many circles he should make before
he curls up in the snow.

Schneeman taking care of ice on the paw
hairs problems.
Yako looking pissed the humans have decided to stop.
Targa of the very short coat knows how to make the most of it.
Bore watching Pasi in case of any possible snacks.
Stargate, pure one hundred percent Alaskan Husky
straight from Alaska. A timid girl she eventually came
to believe I meant no harm especially when I slipped her
a couple of the human snacks.

Balu having made his decision on the number of circles,
keeps an eye open in case the humans change their mind
about stopping.
It is hard to describe just how quiet and solitary it was out here.
We truly felt as if we were in another world.
Our attempts at ice fishing saw one small bite and then nothing.
We think the word got out below when we put him back.
Our final day in Lapland we spent the day snowmobiling,
not quite as much fun as driving a dog sled but certainly
convenient for stopping when *you* wanted to.
Tim is trying for ‘Landscape photo of the Year’ here. The
scenery was quite simply breath taking.
We snowmobiled up a mountain where the rain had not reached.
The snow was over a meter thick in places. I managed to bog my
snowmobile, but I take solace that I managed to not fall off once!

Lapland was a truly amazing experience and I can see why there is the pull there for people to leave their high stress jobs in Stockholm and just simply take root in this beautiful wilderness. Dog Sledding is very addictive and if I lived anywhere like this I would surely be completely involved with this sport. If anyone is considering trying out Europe for sledding holiday I cannot recommend Pasi in Swedish Lapland highly enough, he can be found through Patrick of “Magic Lapland” and is soon to to have his own business (Echoes of the North) offering dog sled tours. He looks after his dogs and his clients very well and treats them with the utmost respect, he is always ready to answer any questions no matter how mundane and he is extremely flexible in catering for whatever you the tourist choose to do. Dog sledding is not easy and is not always like the images or ads that you see of a guy just standing there doing nothing except holding on while the dogs do everything, you do have to steer a sled and you will hurt at the end of the day, shoulder and arm muscles ache and you will fall off. As far as I see it that was all part of the excitement of the whole experience of learning how to handle a sled. You may only want to do a one hour trip or you may be gung-ho and wish to do a whole day trip or an overnight stay in the wilderness, Pasi caters for all types and is prepared for any suggestion.

So there you go my Lapland experience, any questions/comments? Just drop it in the comment box.
Cheers
Simone

Experience…Part 4

The next day was hopping on a plane again this time to Berlin we arrived there on the 30th of December. New Years Eve at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was a truly enormous and mind boggling experience. The police monitoring the area estimated by the time midnight rolled around 1 MILLION people had gathered. There was a huge stage put on by Nokia to run the NYE Concert – in attendance were the Scissor Sisters and Sugababes amongst other popular (in Germany anyway) acts. The fireworks were great and everyone was pretty well behaved though despite having the alcohol flowing freely all night. We crawled into bed about 2.30am absolutely knackered and didn’t emerge until nearly midday Jan 1st. We had big plans about all the things we wanted to see the next day but of course we didn’t get to them all. We went into the Reichstag, a pretty impressive government building, we had to queue to get in and walk the gangway through the glass dome roof. We took some pics of the Brandenburg gate, the Victory tower, and meandered through Pottsdam Square. We visited the 2km stretch of the Berlin wall still standing and looking very artistic. We then saw Checkpoint Charlie and stopped for some lunch. We managed also to get in a couple of movies in the evenings, the first one being Night In The Museum with Ben Stiller and the next one being Eragon. We didn’t do everything we wanted to but we still saw heaps….I’ve decided Berlin is one cool city and is a definite must see on any Europe tour.

We flew back to Cologne on the 3rd and had one day on the 4th to prepare for Lapland. So the 5th was spent literally travelling from Germany to Swedish Lapland. We had to be driven to Dusseldorf airport, half hour, then catch a plane from Dusseldorf to Copenhagen, Denmark, then after a 5 hours stop over a plane from Copenhagen to Stockholm, then a smaller 50 seater plane from Stockholm out to the tiny village of Wilhelminia. From there our tour operator drove us to a cabin to spend the night and we met Pasi our dog sledding guide for the next three days. I had my first taste of reindeer meat that night. It took me a little while but I decided I did like it afterall.

The Reichstag a very imposing building that was never tainted
by the presence of Hitler’s sham parliament. And that line
of people there? The queue to get in and ascend the glass dome.
Simone’s attempt at an artsy shot of the Brandenburg Gate statue.
The NYE Nokia concert – 1 Million People there!
Jan 1st – Brandenburg Gate minus the hordes of tourists.

Inside the Reichstag looking down the the centre
of the glass dome.

The 2km stretch of “The Wall” still standing.

The Victory Tower
Checkpoint Charlie, in the background there are two lengthy
walls that have many stories about the area.

Experience…Part 3

Prague city was just brilliant – so many things are so cheap there, it was quite a surprise. The city itself is so easy to get around it’s a wonder anyone bothers with a car. There are really two parts the Old Town area and the New Town area and both held some excellent sights to see. We booked a day tour with a company that turned out we were the only ones who booked that particular tour that day so we had our personal guide to the Prague the old town which has just recent (2004) been declared World Heritage listed by UNESCO so that was great to hear that this part of Prague will remain as it is. We did a bit of a walking tour of some of the churches, visited the Jewish Quarter and then took a boat trip on the Vlatava river where our guide told us all about the Charles Bridge and the Lesser town on the other side. We then went up to Prague castle after a very Czech lunch of dumplings (pronounced knedyly) soup and a meat dish. We walked through the Botanical gardens and checked out where the changing of the guard takes place as well as taking a tour of the castle grounds. It was fantastic and well worth it. The next day we did a bit of shopping went back up to the castle again to witness the half hour changing of the guard at noon. That was pretty impressive and worth waiting for and Tim took some great city shots.

Prague – the New Square at night
Prague – the Old Square at day
The famous astrological clock – with it’s decidedly
over rated chime display on the hour
Inside one of the many churches
The gate to Charles Bridge – the bridge has
never been breached in all it’s history.
One of the many views of Prague Castle – which is not so much
one building as it is a collection of buildings with a huge Cathedral.
The Cathedral lit up at night
The changing of the very serious guards (apart from
one who appeared to get the giggles when they had to
put their arms out to check their distance from each other)
The view from the Prague Castle lookout over the Lesser
Town they call it, Lesser simply because it is smaller than the
other parts of Prague.
The view of the old square from the top of
the bell tower.
The Old Square (now World Heritage listed)
lit up at night.