The end of a journey

Well here we are at the end of October 2007. It also represents the end of Raven’s chemotherapy treatments – she had her last one today. Cyclophosphamide aka Cytoxan, apart from needing to pee a bit more often she is as bright as usual. Dr Ken Wyatt and Dr Amy Lane and the Onco nursing staff gave her a card commending her on her bravery during treatment and wishing her wellness for a long time. Raven was ‘meh’ about the card but thoroughly relished the milky dental chews instead. She will go back for a consult with Ken in one months time. Her WBCs were at 3.5….which sounds low but is the norm for her. Her specialists have decided that she is one of those dogs who has a naturally low WBC so around 3.5 is the norm for her…she’s had treatment when they’ve been 0.8 so I was pleased to hear today’s count.
I can’t believe we’ve made it….technically speaking she should have been finished around the last week in September…missed treatments due to chronic low WBCs meant she added around a month. So now we just observe, monitor and go in for check ups. I am always checking her lymph nodes, I do it now without a thought so no way are they going to change without me noticing. For me Raven’s agility is the biggest clue to how she’s feeling. If I’m getting complete and total perfect behaviours on start lines, contacts and keeping bars up I know she’s feeling off. As much as that’s great for qualifying and doing well I know really she is not feeling the best and that is a good heads up or warning for me that something might not be right. They say the key to beating cancer or this type of Lymphoma in particular is that you catch it early. We caught it early before…and we’ll catch it again if it ever dares to raise its head a second time. I will keep Raven’s fitness up and keep using her diet/nutritional intake to keep those mutated lymphocytes at bay. We’ll keep running agility and enjoy every opportunity we get to play this game together. I don’t set goals for how much I want to do with her before her time is up but I do want to make sure we appreciate every day we have with her. She deserves nothing less.

Nothing like a happy Raven face to make you smile


My Sister’s Near Brush….

My sister obviously thinks my parents needed a burst of adrenaline to spice up their lives….
Her Kia was not longed for this world, thankfully she is….her time was not up, which is really very good because she’s only 24. Bruises, cuts and concussion and that was all. Oh and thanks to the man who got her breathing again at the scene of the carnage.

GSDA Trial Photos

These photos are thanks to Paul Burton – see his website here;

Taken of Raven October 20th 2007. This was the run where she kept all her bars up, did the distance challenge with ease, I got to all the right places and was where I meant to be and she went into the 2nd gap of the weavers! It was still a very nice run so I’m glad he caught pics of it.

How on earth she kept the above bar up I don’t know, but she
must have done some fancy hip swivel because that’s the same
bar below.

Happy 15 months old!

To the Spryte! She is fifteen months old today. What did she spend the day doing? Coming to a trial of course. Where any self respecting Border Collie in training for an illustrious career in the best sport in the world would find herself. Heh. Here’s a pic of her doing the weaves at Rockingham today.
Hard to believe she is this age already. Seems like only yesterday the little tacker who beat up on her much bigger 6 brothers (and they are still…*much* bigger) was romping around at Robyn’s place sucking me in very quickly with that cute as a button face with two almost black shining eyes that took everything in. Of course all this does is serve to remind me of all the things we haven’t trained yet. I dare not make a list – we may never make it into the ring. You can see more pics of her weaving (and her brother Flyte is in there too…just look for the handsome, flashy looking black and white BC in there) here –
Quick trial update from today at Rockingham – Raven 1st place Open Agility, 2nd place Masters Jumping (Open Jumping and Masters Agility FHS struck wickedly *see previous post) Cypher – Clear in Open Agility and Masters Jumping, both 4th places and clear and 6th in Open Jumping. And just because people should know it’s not always my fault – he made the first error in Masters Agility by missing his A Frame contact….*waits for the howls of protest from those who know better that it is never the dog’s fault*…..ok, ok I’ll admit that not holding him on any of his a frames for at least the last 6 trials *may* have something to do with it, but I’m going with the “he missed the contact *not me*” argument and besides he should know I’m working on developing his ‘running a frame’, it (the argument) should be good for at least till the next trial.

Trialling, chemotherapy, training updates

It’s been a while since I posted, went back to work this week which may have something to do with it but more than likely it’s other obsessions that have taken over. Forgot to add in about the Royal – Raven, who has attended the show every year since 2002 (FIVE years) and has never pulled a clean run, actually managed a clean run this year in the Master Gamblers class and managed to win it as well. I’m not sure what this says about our agility career as a whole (the fact that this is the first year she’s been called ‘chemodog’) but I’m glad she can add the Royal Show to her list of wins finally. And look! Photographic evidence!

Cypher recently grabbed a 1st place in his first Excellent Snooker debut last Saturday, Raven finished the day off nicely with a 2nd place in Masters Snooker for her first leg in there. Today we had the GSDA trial and Cypher was a star and picked up a 2nd place in Masters Jumping and a quallie in Open Agility. I stuffed his run in Masters Agility by not really letting him see a jump till the last microsecond, hence he pulled that bar and in Open Jumping I completely misjudged the opening line and caused him to have a refusal on a bar. So Cy himself was virtually perfect dog today, handler was far from it!
Raven took 3rd in Open Agility today and also had FHS in both Masters Agility and Jumping. FHS? (Flawed Handler Syndrome). In Masters Agility I for some reason thought I was safe to take my eye off my dog for a nano second….HAHAHAHA!!! Raven was convinced weave poles had to be done twice in this course and before I could get the ‘Come’ out she had slipped into the first gap of the weaves. It was a definite ARGH moment. In Masters Jumping I got lost. Getting lost on a course has to be really high up there on the list of the top ten mistakes handlers make that just make them want to kick themselves across the conveniently provided grounds. What made it worse was that roughly ten dogs before I had run Cypher perfectly on the same course without missing a beat! So with FHS afflicting her handler Raven decided she’d do the weaves quicker in Open Jumping if she just went straight into the 2nd gap…I figured payback’s a bitch…then I realised she probably has no clue I stuffed up the other two courses but I like to anthropomorphise! As they say there’s always another trial so we head off again tomorrow to Rockingham Dog Club.
Spryte is now doing 12 weavers straight (set on bases used in competition). She turns 15 months tomorrow. She does them but not always perfectly obviously so we’ll keep repeating, repeating and then repeating more! We are still working one jump most of the time during the week, although she has done some grid work now. I train her on 500 plus even though she’ll be jumping 400 in competition. Given that all the signs all point to her being a little speed demon I see no harm in teaching her a strong foundation, perhaps more than required, in jumping. A Frames are coming along – I do two sessions on this a week (at club). She’s missing maybe 3 out of a 12 runs of the a frame. And never more than twice in a row when she does. We are working on running a frames using reward placement, I bounce the food off the bottom of the a frame and she’s hitting the colour no worries. I’m simply going to rely on muscle memory here for now. I may change to a four on the floor with her later. Dogwalk, well she hasn’t been on a plank for a while as I work her targetting. She’s a body swinger in that she likes to see my face when she performs a behaviour that she knows gets rewarded. Thus she runs out to the target and puts her front two paws on it and swings sideways so she can see where the treats are coming from. She’s hitting the target very confidently but that is just useless for a when it gets transferred to a dogwalk plank. We’re working on this by using some channeling via the small green wire flower bed border fencing. This fencing is in an archway shape and comes to just below my knees and just sticks into the ground. Perfect height for Spryte. I set the channel up and put target on the ground at the end of it. Hence she can’t swing around unless she does a full 180. I also release her from behind to hit the contact/target as I lean over the top to feed her as soon as she gets in the right position. The most we’ve put together is a couple of jumps. Or a jump and a tunnel. I haven’t taught her the collapsible tunnel yet – need to get onto that. As always we work our starts every day, she still has a long way to go with her waits in terms of me proofing them. We also do a few table sessions each week. When I say ‘sessions’ I’m talking 5 minutes here and there no more than 10 minutes max. Not that she’s not keen to carry on but I always stop with her when she’s showing me the best behaviours. It means I can keep that enthusiasm and drive happening each time she comes out. Something I really must get onto though is the bringing the toy back thing. She’s a girl who likes to chew toys, so whilst she’ll happily play tug with me if it’s a thrown toy reward she loves nothing more than doing a victory lap round the back yard with the toy in her mouth and then settling down to have a good chew on it. That’s no fun at all! I never had to teach Cy this so I better not assume it will all click with her one day, I’m going to have to deliberately shape it.
So that’s the agility dogs update. Chemo dog? Well she’s doing well – she had her last Doxorubicin treatment (the most lethal drug) on Tuesday (her WBC’s had recovered from 1.5 to 4.5) and she has one more Cytoxan to go on Tues Oct 30th. Then that will be the end of her chemo cycle, what happens from there I don’t know. I guess we’ll meet with Ken and he’ll let us know how we proceed. I’ve heard of dogs being on maintenance chemo – which is a lot more spaced out (once every month or 2 or 3 months). And I’ve heard of dogs who simply just carry on their lives without going back unless they drop out of remission. I hope we fit into the latter category.
We’ll see…stay tuned.
My parents have been married for 34 years yesterday, my mum informed me that *my* father had forgotten. Hence I think they went out to dinner tonight. Flowers may have been involved. I did briefly consider ringing Dad and giving him a heads up. But I’m not that nice 😉 34 years is a goodly number….I don’t think they’re bored with each other yet *g*
My other obsession lately (and there has only been one other) is the TV show Smallville. I’ve been looking for something to fulfill the Buffy/Angel vacuum for some time. And whilst I love shows like House, NCIS, CSI, Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, Desperate Housewives, Scrubs and Criminal Intent nothing seemed to be filling that void. Smallville has fixed all that! Just spent the holidays watching Seasons 1 through to 6. That’s 22 episodes times 6. And thanks to the hallowed ‘torrents’ I’m watching Season 7 eps a day after they screen in the US. I have no inkling of what the world was like *before* the Internet. I’m not that young either – I was at school during this inconceivable period but it’s all a blur now. I digress – Smallville – great show. I have a perfectly logical explanation for why I didn’t switch onto it before now. I thought Clark Kent just looked like a nancy boy who was far too pretty to get the superhero job done with any kind of credibility. And he was all that in Seasons 1 and some of 2, but then the actor and the character improved, got a bit rougher, a bit tougher and a bit more worldly wise. And now I cannot get enough of Smallville, I’m viewing previously watched eps, reading the stories online, speculating on forums, checking out the episode stills and screencaps, seeking out Youtube clips made by fans, I’m even getting the magazines. It’s all good though, there are worse things to spend one’s time, money and thoughts on. I’m sure it’ll dissipate after a while. Every series has to end somewhere. I’m hoping we get a Season 8 out of them before they pull the pin. For now I’m content to just enjoy the eps as they come out. That and Reaper….this show hasn’t screened in Australia yet – but keep an eye out for it, it’s very quirky and will have you laughing.
Righto time for bed.

Strategic Pairs fun….if you can get it!

Just recently I was made more aware of the difficulty for some dogs/handlers with regards to entering and competing in Strategic Pairs. This game started in Australia Jan 2006 and it is probably the most popular game of all three (SP, Snooker, Gamblers) available because as you know sharing the fun is twice as good as being out there by yourself! Whilst it is the most exciting and spectator friendly game I do not envy the judges’ job one iota. In fact I have said that I will do my hardest to avoid the appointments altogether if and when I ever do become an ANKC judge much further down the line. It is extremely hard to judge it with a huge amount of accuracy – being able to watch the changeovers like a hawk as the teams get more slick and proficient shaving off milliseconds by having the best changeover means that there are some very tight calls to make plus ensuring that the more complex obstacles are done correctly would be a nightmare in my book. I tip my hat to all the brave ANKC judges who take on these appointments. But I digress. What I wanted to discuss was the unintentionally self limiting rule written in black and white that states;
A dog can only be entered in one team for the competition, whereas the Handler can compete different dogs in the same competition.
Now I have no issue with this rule at all, fair’s fair we all should have the same chance to gain one qualification at one event/competition. But what about the scenario I had on the weekend at the Royal with Cypher – his entered partner could not make it. Now I had paid the $20 entry fee and I asked the organisers if I could find a dog to fill in could I have a Not For Competition run with him at the end of the class. They said yes and I asked Sue with Nifty (who had already run with Raven) if she would mind being a ‘fill in’ dog for Cy’s run. It was fine, they did great and went clear with the quickest time on the day. Thinking about it later – several people asked if that run could count for a qualification for Cypher (not for Nifty as he had already had his competition run). The answer of course is no. Then I got to wondering well why not? If I had asked Nifty to fill in then I would automatically make myself ineligible for any placings (fair enough as he had already run) but why couldn’t I pick up a qualification? An argument may be that I had an unfair advantage running with a dog who had already had a go on the same course. However Sue and I deliberately swapped our sequences, that way Nifty did the part of the course that he had never even seen before. Cypher and I did the parts that Raven and I did not do previously. So nobody could argue that Nifty had been patterned to the course so no advantage there. So what’s stopping us from allowing a dog without a partner to qualify in that respect? Why can’t we get a ‘fill in’ dog on the day? Of course the fill in dog would have to be from the same level or lower. (for example if this was at Excellent level I would not be allowed to get a Masters dog to fill in – just an Excellent or Novice level dog to fill in, this of course does not help Novice competitors but there’s more of a range of Novice dogs to partner up with). They (the fill in dog) wouldn’t necessarily have to be entered in the SP comp but probably 99% of the time they would be. Now to counteract the argument that this gives an unfair advantage to the dog trying to qualify you would have to stipulate that the fill in dog only does those sequences that they have not previously done in the competitive round. This would make it like a completely new pair on the course. By allowing this to happen this would make life much easier for those dogs who have partners who cannot compete for whatever reason (handler couldn’t get there, dog injures itself etc) and will not deny them the chance to pick up a qualification card at what appears to be a rare opportunity to qualify (14 games trials all year – not always offering all three games either – when you need to qualify 15 times to get all three titles that doesn’t leave much room for error!)

So I’m hoping even with that rule quoted above there will be flexibility to allow this to happen. Indeed a dog can only be *entered* in one team. You do not need to enter if you are a ‘fill in’ dog, so therefore we are not breaching any rules as far as I see it. Others may feel differently however this is one rule interpretation which I know will progress the sport rather than let minority height groups and limited entry numbers be disadvantaged in competing.
Thoughts? Comments? Diatribes? Feel free to respond.

Polite-li-ness and Blog-li-ness

It has come to my attention that there is probably a whole plethora of people who read this blog that I am not aware of. Stands to reason I suppose that once you put something up here on the world wide web and pretty much give a free reign to all and sundry to access, then it follows that there will indeed be others reading this blog apart from myself and any immediate family I manage to direct here. I’ve come to the conclusion that, frankly, this does not bother me in the slightest. However I have been remiss. *Ponders the term ‘remiss’* Yes, remiss is correct in this context. I realise with my last post that my comment about ‘substandard equipment’ may have been somewhat dismissive of the efforts of a few who work hard for the Royal Show Agility competitors. I take my hat off to those few who, without complaint or compensation, transport, lug and put up the equipment used. In no way did I intend to imply that your efforts are unappreciated. Indeed some of the equipment is brand new and in some cases we should be just grateful that we have easily adjustable and sufficiently functional equipment. So please, you know who you are, don’t be offended by my somewhat poorly placed sweeping statement of frustration towards the powers that be of the RAS, take it as ammunition to help compel the RAS ptbs to make an effort to make your time and efforts be well recompensed.

On a lighter note it was the final day of the show today and also Cypher’s 3rd birthday. I simply cannot believe that the boy is 3 today, feels like a heartbeat ago that I was reaching to open the door to his airline crate and out came this bundle of fluff and fur, 8 weeks old and absolutely gorgeous. His full on personality and happy demeanour has meant that he has been an absolute treat to train and a joy to live with. There’s nothing quite like the Cypher Happy Feet dance either, I’m sure Disney got that penguin idea from him. He just doesn’t feel he’s greeted you properly unless he’s shoved his head between your knees and you’ve given him a quick rump massage whilst his back feet tap and dance up and down on the spot for you. His vibrant and energetic impulse to play can always make me smile even when I’ve had a crappy day at work or I’m muddling through some problem or issue. Sure he has his flaws but unlike us humans I could count them on one hand. He has a zest for life that is highly contagious, I wouldn’t swap him for the world even though there have been moments where I could have cheerfully throttled him. So here are some pics of Cy from today, at 3 years old and of the little 8 week old who had us suckered in from the get go. Happy birthday Tosser – here’s to many, many more!

Having a nap after getting off the plane – make yourself at home
The dreaded first bath!

I am Raven – Miss Raven Bitch to you!

So the cute face grew…

Into a handsome lad…

Who qualified in Excellent Gamblers today at the Perth Royal Show

and generally showed how Strategic Pairs could be run

Pictorial Rationale 1: Why we scratched from Obedience this year!
I said “Ready?!” Cypher thought “Sniff harder cos I gotta go in a

Hind legs at the ready? Or start line funk?

Yay! Success at the Perth Royal again! With a little help
from his team mates of course (thanks Terra, Riot and Jess –
oh and your handlers too of course!)