*Blink* Where did April go? Wait? Is that June coming??

This is my April post masquerading as a May post. Better late than never. That could be phrase that ends up on my epitaph but as long they add AND WAS AWESOME WITH IT I have no problem with this. So April let’s see. *Rummages through pages of the diary* Raven’s last chemo treatment (in her third round of the protocol) was on May 29th. That was her treatment #16. She came out of remission the week before that. Or at least that’s when I got them to do a fine needle aspirate to confirm my thoughts on her. Her nodes are up but they are not huge. Amy said she had a higher percentage of medium sized cancer cells (lymphocytes) but that her large cancer cell percentage was still quite low. Basically when I picked her up from her last treatment my instructions were to just keep monitoring her, keep her as healthy and as active as I usually do and if there are any signs she’s feeling the effects of cancer then to bring her in for a consult and to discuss where we go from here. Options include chemotherapy tablets, a three weekly cycle of inpatient visits and various other possible drugs/ chemo therapy agents can be tried.

May 13th saw Raven pass her second year anniversary of her diagnosis. I felt grateful that day for what extra time I’ve had with her, but I know now is just borrowed time really. I still hope that we might see her tenth birthday but the rational part of my brain knows that this is probably unrealistic. It’s pretty much a wait and see game but with the waiting part exchanged for let’s give her every quality of life we can. She still loves her walks, her treats, her special dinners, her playing on the agility course, her ambles round the Dogswest grounds and her propensity to attempt mind control of anyone with a tidbit in their pocket or sitting at eye level consuming what she clearly sees as food meant to be shared whether it be ice cream, toast or spaghetti. She still gets poopy if she thinks Spryte is getting a little too much attention, if Cypher is overly rambunctious or there’s a hint of nail clipping or baths to be had. She still acts like a puppy when we come home and sings us a happy welcome yodel from time to time. Still the boss of her place though, a mere look makes Cypher back up ten paces and an intent stare makes Spryte decide perhaps that spot on the floor is more comfortable than the couch. She still likes to ride up front in the car and make sure next door neighbour’s cat is not on her turf. And I’m quite sure she gets satisfaction from keeping the birds out of her yard and making sure that any toy with stuffing is suitably destuffed. So like I’ve written before on this blog – we’re taking each day as it comes and if some days she’s more tired than others we just take a break. I do think she’s rather loving the not having to go for chemo each week thing as well.

In trialling news I guess the biggest event from April was our State Titles. I spent a fair bit on entries I must admit with three dogs in – but it was worth it in the end, I had a lot of fun and managed to get all three dogs into finals ending up with about eight runs in the finals! Spryte ended up in Excellent Jumping, Open Agility and Excellent Agility. Raven was in Masters Agility and Open Jumping and Cypher was in Masters Jumping, Open Agility and Open Jumping. The upshot of all those runs was we had one clear in the end in Excellent Agility with Spryte however I over handled the contacts (this is what happens when you have no faith in your dog’s contacts because you have been letting criteria slide) and we finished clear and likely in second place as no placings are given in finals, only wins. Had a great crack at Excellent Jumping with Spryte but she decided an off course tyre was just too tempting. Cypher was going quite well in Open Agility but did his exact same trick as last year in the Masters Agility final and came off the see saw before it even started tipping. And Raven? Well I remember running and laughing on course because it seemed she was having a ball of a time whilst I was busy just trying to keep her vaguely on the right course – I recall starting off well, about half way round things went pear shaped. I think Cypher had a bar down in each of his other runs. Anyway it was a good weekend even without the wins (we did end up with a lot of top 7 place sashes especially on the Friday when the dogs qualified in NINE out of TWELVE runs…Spryte finishing ADX, JDX and ADO titles all on the one night..I don’t think I’ve had a ratio of running clear like that in a while – I mean I guess the BC Nationals was it when we managed eight out of fifteen runs clear…I have no idea how these kinds of trialling days/events happen and I always wonder what I did different to make it happen).

The tyre she was NOT supposed to do…

Versus the tyre she was supposed to do…sp0t the difference!
Her brother Flyte – he’s here cos he wins at looking handsome
whilst doing agility at break neck speed.

We missed the next couple of double headers – about three or four trials in total attending a wedding up near Geraldton. It was an excellent wedding though as far as weddings go, thoroughly entertaining and well catered and just very relaxed and comfortable (they had flip flops for every guest so the high heels and shiny shoes could be put to one side) so I didn’t mind missing the trials really. By that stage we were heading into May.

I did attend the Ronda Carter two day seminar held here in Perth, organised by Sue Hogben along with some like minded triallers from over East. It was fantastic. I loved it and I kind of predicted that I would enjoy it because I’ve watched how Ronda handles on videos for a few years now and have always loved her style of handling. This was the first presenter for me who totally resonated with the way I feel comfortable handling dogs on course. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve had some fantastic presenters over here and I can state without hesitation that I have learnt something from every single one of them. However it was great to have someone say – ‘I’d handle it like this’ and for me not to even have to consciously think ‘Where does my arm cue go for this or which way should I be facing?’ It just felt natural. It’s not a system, there’s no set rules you must follow at all times, there’s an understanding that you handle the best way for your particular dog and that you give them all the information they need to do the course fast, efficiently and naturally. I took Cypher and Spryte on the course and found out exactly how much work I need to do (especially for Spryte – Ronda saw Cypher’s contacts and thought they were fine even though four on the floor is not the ideal choice). So that was great and it’s given me a list of things to work on and it’s raised the consciousness I have of using the dog’s natural movement/momentum to the maximum potential for allowing them to know where they are going next. Spryte does not have independent weavers and quite frankly, her contacts suck, out loud. We’re working on those. Apart from an ADAA weekend next weekend she will not be doing any more agility until I’ve retrained those contacts. Jumping yes, but not contacts. We’re gonna start from scratch on them and aim for having her ready by April next year, hopefully earlier if I am disciplined enough. *g*

The following weekend was the Mother’s Day trial in Bunbury. It was also Spryte’s debut in the Masters classes since finishing her Excellent titles at the States. Her very first trial and she won Masters Jumping – outright. It was a height class trial however the quickest in the 400 class was also the quickest overall. Thanks to a friend *yay LINDA!* I have it all on video. She nearly pulled off a Masters Agility pass too…however I was just too far behind her and she didn’t see the broad she was supposed to GO ON to. But it was a great course to run and she had a blast and I was grinning by the end of it anyway. Open Jumping and she was like a manic speed demon through the weaves! She ended up first in 400 and then 2nd overall to Sue’s Nifty. That was also a wickedly fun run to have. Raven was a little off that day and definitely tired by Masters Jumping so we pulled out of that one. Cypher? I honestly cannot remember what he did. I’m pretty sure he had a bar down fairly early in Masters Agility and also a bar in Masters Jumping. I do remember vaguely muttering something about jumping grids and drills whilst walking back to the car with him. Anyway it was a good day and a great day for little Spryte’s debut in Masters Class.

The following weekend was Geraldton. Raven did alright, Cypher did okay and Spryte had the disadvantage of a slow thinking handler who was clearly not up to speed with her speed. Raven picked up a very close to winning 2nd place in Masters Agility the first day and on the second day Cypher won the Open Agility class seeing as how nobody else passed and he only passed because I put him in a down stay in the distance challenge. I kid you not – a literal DOWN! STAY! Whilst I got myself into position – ah yes that was a crazy course. Could never have worked that one with the girls that’s for sure. Raven went clear in Open and Masters Jumping – although with no help from me in Masters since I got lost (straight after running Spryte and losing the course with her too *eye roll*). And that was pretty much it from Geraldton. Spryte had no missed contacts or dropped bars all weekend, we had issues with the stick in the ground weavers and also issues with handler not being on the ball. I blame all the driving – must have lulled me into a far too relaxed state of brain waves. My reflexes were slower than a snail on crutches. My solution? Bring more caffeine next time. Oh and handle better.

Then today…GSDA trial. I only entered them in two runs each. Cypher ran a nice run in Masters Jumping (seventh out of sixteen quallies) knocked a bar in Masters Agility (he took off so early for a bar he must have clearly thought he was going to have the assistance of magically appearing wings), Raven knocked the third from last bar in Masters Jumping and went two better in Masters Agility knocking the last bar after a pretty quick and tidy run. Let me just take this opportunity here to mention a steadily growing peeve of mine at recent trials – call it superstition, call it distraction, call it not proofing your dog well enough over bars WHATEVER – however I am of the opinion that as a spectator (it’s a given that as the actual competitor on course you never even so much as THINK you’re home and hosed) you do NOT celebrate, cheer, congratulate, clap, applaud, give hearty vocalisations UNTIL the dog has crossed that finish line. I truly believe that yes you can jinx the run and yes it can distract the dog and yes it can make adult faces crumple in disappointment momentarily (or for longer…sometimes you just have to let it go) when that bar comes down. I have taken to running that final line (if I have the good fortune of being with my dog or even ahead of it…yes it does happen sometimes trust me) in silence and almost holding my breath. Which, come to think of it, probably explains the extreme panting at the end of it – by me rather than my dog…but I digress. So people – DO NOT CHEER UNTIL THAT DOG HAS CLEARED THAT FINISH LINE! Better yet…wait till they’re back at their crate/car getting jackpotted/treated/praised and having their wonders sung. Okay that’s a little extreme but I am trying to make a point here. Where was I? Ah yes today’s trial. Spryte was giving the Masters Jumping a good bash until she decided she’d go quicker if she’d just go THROUGH this bar instead of over it. Just because she sensed I was in a hurry. Sheesh. Then in Open Jumping the lure and draw of the distance challenge was just far too much to overcome the necessity of doing 12 whole weavers. Ten apparently would do. I disagreed. She saw the error of her ways and did twelve. It was all good.

So next weekend (long weekend YAY!!!!) is the first ADAA trials to be held here in Perth. Three days – stupidly I have about 24 runs entered on each day with three dogs (putting Raven in no more than four per day) and I have a strong feeling I’ll need another weekend to recover from my long weekend. Ahh whatever. It’s fun to run and I’m curious to see the difference between that and ANKC. Also I have the joy of turning 35 happening on Saturday. But it’s okay – I took the Facebook quiz that tells me my real age and it said 14 so I’m feeling much better about my 35th knowing that really I am just a total teenager. Hmmm…wonder what my Wii Fit will tell me is my age? Better go dust that Fit board thing off and find out.

Movies I’ve seen recently: Angels and Demons (recommend it, better than Da Vinci code and prettier city scenes), Night at The Museum 2, s’okay, wouldn’t pay full price for it. Ben Stiller really is quite two dimensional – Zoolander was his best effort I think. Wolverine Origins – saw that twice so would definitely recommend that one. On the wait list – Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation. Have a tonne of books to read including Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of TS Spivet which is about a 12 year old genius mapmaker and his crazy family – one tight lipped cowboy father, a scientist mother searching for mythological beetles and a possibly normal sister (who might not be) and a dog called Verywell who is definitely mad. Sounds like a hoot – plus there’s pictures. I always like the ones with pictures. Oh and one more thing – Spryte’s hopefully going to be a Mama for the first time this year. Her husband has been picked out and she’s due in season in June. Robyn at Winpara is doing the litter so fingers crossed we might see some Spryte bubs by the end of August or so. If anyone is interested in finding out more email Robyn at her site: http://www.winpara.com