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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas is over, and the New Year around the corner.

Happy Christmas to all :-) 
This year for us was a new experience. For the first time in 20 years, we had our Christmas Day lunch at our best friends in their new home. We have always stayed home and been very private on the day, (apart from one year going mad and spending it in Dublin), but this year we decided to change the habit of a lifetime. Christmas morning we got up quite late. (Fern is 20 now so not quite the little girl waking us up at 5am!!) We fed the dogs and then sat around opening pressies, before Rog made scrambled eggs with smoked Salmon for breakfast. That is tradition, along with a glass of sherry. Weird how I never drink the stuff all year, nor do I normally drink in the mornings!! but just this one day it has to be done.

Christmas Breakfast!

Georges first Christmas

Twiggy enjoying the festivities.

George & Twiggy Christmas Morning.

We then walked the dogs, just on the farm fields, before loading them into our van and setting off to Gary & Estelles. 

Olli doing his farm pose :-)

Famous Five :-)
A really fun day with some amazing food, and great laughs. We had bought them a wicker log basket, which they wanted for the new fireplace, so in true silly me style, I decided to fill it with logs from our log shed, and not just that but I individually wrapped a log each for them too :-) That started the afternoon off with some giggles, and that's how it continued. It is so nice to be with great friends, laughing, everyone mucking in, and we actually came home with aching faces!! That's how life should be :-)
Boxing day Ferns best friend and her boyfriend came over and I cooked Goose & Turkey. The goose was lovely, and turkey done in true Jamie Oliver style was the best I have done yet. Fresh herbs chopped and squished by hand into a pound of butter, then pushed up under the skin of the bird before roasting. It was moist and subtly flavoured and we all ate far too much. Ben actually finished his first plate, and then completely filled it again!! Hollow legs!!

Boxing Day lunch.

We have played Xbox Kinnect a few times, both on Christmas day at Garys, and Boxing day Ben brought his over to ours, and I have muscles pulled in places I didn't know I had muscles!!! Always seems fun at the time, and I am far too competitive!! ....but I am also far too bloody old and unfit to flap my arms to fly around popping bubbles, chuck 500 balls at some pins, or do discus and javelin!! Very impressed with the way it works though, and with the keep fit program it has, we are off to buy one in the sales. That and the dancing should sort Fern & I out before agility starts at Easter!!

Hazel & Fern doing hurdles!!!

We have also got my Mums eldest dog staying with us until the New Year. She is 16 years and 3 months old, and we bred her from our first ever collie. Although slightly out of sync when she walks, and stone deaf, she is a remarkably well and happy girl. She knocked me flying as she ran to chase one of our cats across the lawn, has been playing with Twiggy and has told Georgie off a few times!! Its quite funny having her & Becki, with their slight wobble and wonky heads, but we do have to respect these old dogs. Titch was also the first dog Fern ever ran at agility, 11 years ago! I Don't think they ever managed a clear, but they had fun!
Cove looking after our elderly guest.
Its been a busy social time, and we still have a big New Years eve party to go to, and its fancy dress. Cant say what we are going as yet as only the chosen few know, but I am sure there will be plenty of photos to follow. 
Georgie is now a "Non male" and he has been a brilliant patient. I slept with him the first night as he was a bit freaked by the anaesthetic but after day 2 he forgot all about it, and healed so quickly. I did keep him on lead, and do it all properly and it worked. I removed his stitches yesterday, as it would have been Christmas Day that they were due out, and obviously the vets were closed other than emergencies. I have been taking him out on his own, doing heel work, and circle work, and he is such a lovely balanced dog, with an almost perfect temperament. No fears, no hang ups, and with his unique "talking" he will bring a smile to the face of the most miserable!!
Get in the wheelbarrow? Yep ok Mum :-)

 All the rest of the dogs are still enjoying their break, our eqpt is about to be stripped and re coated with rubber, and then training starts mid Jan.
Really looking forward to a new season, new challenges and a lot of fun with my good friends in the agility world. Lots planned, and we have entered our first show! First one of the year has all the Olympia qualifiers, and it will be our first trip in Walter the new, very handsome, very large caravan! :-)
Friends are so important, as are our family, and our dogs, and this Christmas has been all about them all.
Happy New Year to all, and stay safe & happy.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Another year nearly over.

Its odd not going to shows, so I am not filled with enthusiasm of events and stories I want to tell, hence my telling off this week for not writing my blog!
Thats not to say my life is boring in any way, but not necessarily very interesting for anyone else to waste time reading. 
So, Lily, Olli & Cove finished training at the beginning of the month, so they have a complete 6-8 week rest from agility now. Twiggy & George had a bit extra to do, but they are the real babies, so hadn't really had the full season the others had. I finished Twiggys season off with a fun night at Stretcholt with Lauren and the gang. We decorated the jumps with tinsel, the weaves were covered in tinsel, there were blow up Santas sitting by some of the jumps and the Christmas music was blaring out from the stereo! Mince pies, non alcoholic drinks and far too many chocolates made for a really interesting and different nights training. Last time we were there a month ago, Twiggy was scanning the arena, slightly concerned with the other dogs being there, and I was still aware that I was babying her. This time she was a different dog!! First run, and she was so excited on the start line. A lovely focused, determined clear round with great weaves and stop 2o2o contacts!! No scanning, no fear and I ran her like I should do. She is not a scared rescue dog any more and I have to remember that :-)
I also took Georgie in for a bit of environment training, and he was great fun. Playing tuggy, practising waits, and not in the slightest bit worried by the noise and strange men in red suits!! Lauren suggested trying a small sequence with him, a few small jumps to tunnel and jumps out again, so I did and he held his wait, and did it! Such a happy confident boy, who I know I am going to have a lot of fun with. He has 1 more training workshop tomo evening and then the dreaded op, before he joins the rest of them for a fun relaxing Christmas & New Year.
We have started doing normal things like Christmas shopping, visiting our friends who dont do agility, having friends over to ours and its fun. We sold Nellie our old caravan on Ebay this week, and got more than we expected so very happy with that! We are also going to deliver her to her new home, which will be our last trip out with the old girl.

Talking of old girls, Becki our oldest dog suffered a small stroke yesterday. She is about 15 yrs old, and a gorgeous girl, who on Friday was running me a merry dance as she hunted out a 22 acre field and the cover beyond, putting up about 25 pheasants! Fern had to take Cove, Lily, Dave & Twiggy home while George Olli and me hiked across the fields to get her. 
However she was off balance and confused yesterday morning. She ate her breakfast with her normal enthusiasm, and then I settled her on the sofa and she slept. I didn't rush her to the Vets  because I knew what was going on, and I was starting to think the time had come, so if I took her to the Vets she would not be coming home. She was fine but wobbly, so this morning I took her in, dreading the visit but knowing that without quality of life it is only me who can help her. She trotted down the garden path, excited to be going out in the van, her little stumpy tail wagging furiously. She trotted in the Vets, tail still wagging. After a thorough examination the Vet actually told me that she was so healthy, (apart from her lumpy bits, and her slightly manky teeth)
and she had suffered a mild stroke but a jab to help the nausea, and some tablets to help with the blood flow to her brain and she was in no way ready to be despatched just yet!! Becki then mugged her for treats, and was in no rush to leave the consult room until she saw a young cocky Hungarian Vizla in the waiting room. She strutted out, made herself as tall as possible and did what Becki does best. A very low grumble and a stare that says "I am in charge" and the Vizla stood back. Thats my girl, and all the time she is still there in spirit she will be by my side.
As I write this, the weather is violent outside, and all 8 dogs are snuggled up in the lounge with us in the warm, and I look at all of them and worry how much I would miss each and every one of them. For now though they are all fine.
Christmas just around the corner and I am starting to get very excited. I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Its all about the Twigster this week.

An incredible week started with a chance meeting, and for Twiggy that was just the start. Whilst training George in a group on Tuesday evening, I couldn't help noticing a little shy looking collie girl, and thinking how much she reminded me of Twiggy when she first arrived with us 18 months ago. Same scared little eyes, and similar twitching, and as I watched her I had a strange feeling I knew her. Fern was also thinking the same thing, and then as the little dog walked across the barn I  noticed she had a short tail and my heart missed a beat. The very first time Twiggys eyes reached out to me from Many Tears web site, her sister & brother were also in the photo, and Wispa as she was then had half a tail. When Fern asked the gentleman handling her if she was a rescue and where had she come from, it was all confirmed. He was thrilled to meet us as he had always wondered where Twiggy had ended up, and Fern and I were gobsmacked and very emotional. Its just a little piece of the jigsaw that makes up Twiggys life, and that means so much to me.
We arranged to meet up on Friday for a walk and to get the girls together for the first time since they parted at the rescue kennels 18 months ago. I was worried that it may remind them both of their horrible past, or that they wouldn't even like each other. They didn't show any real recognition or feelings either way, but my god they were most definitely sisters!! The way they walk, the way they bounced backwards barking waiting for a toy, the way they  pestered the boys as we walked. It was a very emotional and lovely walk and both girls ran and played, with Cove & Dylan through the moors. 
Wispa now called Meg.

Twiggy & Meg. Sisters :-)

Saturday eve, we went out to see a few friends for a drink, even though we really didn't feel up to a night out, and knowing we had to get up at 5.30 the next morning for our last competition of the year. It turned into one of the best evenings we have had for a very long time. Great laughs, and a really good classic rock band live in the pub, we danced and played a lot of air guitar, and didn't leave until 12.30! 
When the alarm went off at 5.30am I swore. I very nearly turned it off and thought we would give the show a miss, but I dragged myself and Rog out of bed, and by 6.30am we were on our way to Dartmoor. The first half hour of the journey was very quiet. Don't think any of us were really awake, and the dogs were all sleeping as even they are not used to such early starts. Once there, we started to come to life and walked the Grade 5-7 agility. It was a weird course, and not very flowing so didn't inspire me or fill me with much confidence, but we then walked the 3-4 jumping and that was a nice course. Quite handly and an odd weave entry and i started to get excited about running Twiggy.
Fern & I queued together with Cove & Twiggy and I went first. As I set her up on the start line she started barking with excitement!! I was so surprised at her confidence, and as I left her in a wait, (albeit a short one she did wait), my confidence was growing too. Halfway round we got to the weaves, our stumbling block in competitions all season, and she went into the first pole and accelerated through all 12, just like she has been doing at home!! I nearly buggered up the tunnel entrance because I was so shocked, but over the last jump and a clear round!!! Twiggy ended up in 8th place. Her first top 10 place and I was close to tears. Cove did a beautiful round after us and won the Grade 4 jumping. 3 weeks in grade 4 and he has two 3rd places and a 1st. Pretty impressive.
Lily & Olli were both nutcases and both got E'd in the agility, but I laughed and as they both did lovely contacts and great weaves I was happy and most of all they both had a ball!
So to the G3/4 agility, and again Twiggy was squeaking and barking at me on the start line. It was a fairly tricky course, and there were hardly any clears, so as we cleared the last obstacle I did jump into the air, and hug my special girl :-) 2 runs and 2 clears. I couldn't believe it but the best was to come. My gorgeous girl was 2nd!! As I went up to collect our trophy I had to swallow hard not to blub a lot but I have probably never felt so much pride. What an amazing way to finish our first season and what an incredible transformation of my nervous little Irish Secret. I am still smiling 24 hrs later.

Cove didn't manage to get round the agility as he was totally freaked out by the people standing watching behind a wall. Silly boy, and although Fern was gutted it was actually funny afterwards. Lily ended the day with a 6th in the Grade 6 jumping, and I was very happy with her run as she stayed very focused and listened. 
So this week is all about my baby girl. Like her Auntie Sharon said, I don't think she is going to be a secret anymore, I think next year everyone will know her as she climbs up the grades. I may even be confident enough now to add getting Twiggy to Olympia next year as one of my goals.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Understanding the mechanics,

As most people who read my  blog will know, I rode horses from a young age, and competed at local shows, and 3 day events until about 10 years ago. During my years as a rider I spent a lot of time schooling my horses, doing basic ground work everyday to keep them balanced, ensuring I worked equally on both reins doing circles & figure of eights to keep the horse supple and well rounded. Its strange that so many people don't think about this and practice similar rules when working an agility dog. 
Sunday, Georgie and I travelled to Bowerlands to have our first full day workshop in jump skills. I was nervous as hell, as I always am in groups, and I really wasn't sure what the day would involve, and just how Georgie would cope with the day. New venue, new dogs and new exercises on different equipment, it was exciting but I was unsure. 
Welcomed with Coffee, tea, biscuits and then an hour in the "classroom" studying dogs jumping, looking at weight balance, power and lots of discussion about what we want out of our dogs and then out to the school to start work. It was a fascinating day, really interesting and most of all Georgie was a total joy to work!! His jump action is actually very good, very natural and he is beautifully balanced. We need to work on short striding grids a bit, to get his compression right, but other than that he was fab. He uses his back end for power, is very neat in front with a lovely low head over the jumps, and very flexible on the turns. He is a young dog, a blank canvass and so far I haven't messed any of it up.

All the power coming from his hind quarters

Beautiful straight jumping and forward focus.

Love the flexibility.
 If I can keep him balanced, and do all the basics we will have a lot of fun and a healthy, fit, athletic dog who will go far. Naarah took hundreds of photos all day and we looked at them after lunch and discussed how each of our dogs had worked, and it was so good to be able to see their action over a jump in a freeze frame, because I had no idea how he jumped. All the circle work I do with George, (which i used to find boring with the others) now makes so much sense, and it showed in his jump work. Basic schooling!!!
Great day, loads to think about and I am once again so thrilled that the little white fluff ball "insisted" on being mine. :-) Fate is a weird and wonderful thing.
On the "mechanics" theme, Fern & I took all the dogs up to the training field on Friday, and we had our new set of weaves, (thanks to Rog), at the new spacing. Interesting how much easier the dogs found them. Cove is a long boy, and had struggled to get a nice stride through narrow weaves, but his action instantly changed and he looked so much more flowing through the new ones! Lily was not quite so good the first time, but soon adjusted and got into her stride, but the most surprising was Dave! I guess I thought that a short arsed terrier would not really notice the difference or particularly benefit from it, but he certainly did! We decided to time them all through the weaves for a bit of fun. The results were surprising. Cove & Dave were almost identical speed, at around 2.8 - 2.9 seconds, Lily was 2.5 - 2.6 seconds and then Twiggy........... swam through like the gorgeous girl she is at 2.3 seconds!!!

 Every time the same, she is stunning in the weaves and has the most natural action of them all. For a fairly square dog with upright shoulders she is incredible. 
I have changed my routine with her and we now have a lot of 1 to 1 time and she is changing. We have a wait, fast contacts and the best weaves, and she is now focusing on me even when the other dogs are working. Soooooo looking forward to next season and getting Twiggy to Olympia.
Its our last show this Sunday, and then every dog apart from George will be off agility until January. George has a few more training sessions booked then in to be castrated before he gets a break. Its the seasoned agility guys that really need to unwind now and we are looking forward to lots of relaxed walks over the next 2 months. 
Meanwhile we are garden clearing, shed emptying, going to the tip and decorating our bedroom at long last!! Spending time with some good friends and getting ready for Christmas. I totally love Christmas!!!! Its Georgies first one too! :-)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

So, plans for winter then?

Its that time of year again. 2 more small day shows to go to, but the season has really finished now and like everyone else who is addicted to this game, we now have our winter training plans to sort out.
Actually, that's not strictly true, as I have already booked so much winter training, we really need to try and remember to do other things like see our non dog friends, and maybe some Christmas shopping?! 
I have had to prioritise, and George & Twiggy will be coming first for the next few months. Lily & Olli are both experienced dogs and they will be having a well deserved break through December and most of January, but the two youngsters have loads booked! Jump skills workshops for George all through November, then a trip to the vets for him first week in December to part with his 2 furry friends :-). 

Twiggy has another trip to Stretcholt in December, and I have been working with her 1 to 1 over the last 2 weeks to really put everything I have into building our working relationship. The difference is quite surprising. Dare I say, we now have a wait, not perfect yet but a wait non the less! She also hasn't missed 12 weaves for 2 weeks, attacking them from every angle and completing them with a lot more confidence. Jan, Feb & March they are both doing classes with Jo Tristram, Sian Illingworth, Ant Clarke and Dave Munnings. Full on training for sure! I am determined to become a better handler, and produce 2 talented well balanced dogs for next season.

 Lily & Olli will be doing a few workshops in the new year, and I also want to try and get Lily to grade 7 by the end of the season. Olli has a hill to climb, but who knows. I wouldn't count him out either, but it will be all down to me.
Fern will be aiming for the top with Cove, that sort of goes without saying, and she is also hopeful that Dave will start to compete more. She always said it didn't matter how long it took with Dave and she is still working hard on his training, and will run him at the right shows.
So its pretty obvious that we are not going to give up on this mad, wonderful hobby called Agility, and with that thought in mind we bought a very smart new caravan. The main reason is for the fixed double bed!!! No more converting seating areas for us, just jump into the ready made bed and gaze at the stars through the large sunroof. I have no idea if I can tow it, as it was delivered to us last Sunday, so its a complete mad buy, and most of Rogers little pension fund is now sat on our drive, but you only get one chance to live this life so what the hell. (My Gran will be smiling now!)

Not long til Christmas and long walks in the mud or snow or pouring rain with our lovely dogs, and before we know it, the ISS diary will arrive and we will be frantically getting online to book camping for the best shows and start the madness all over again. I have a feeling there may be some good times ahead and maybe a few parties in the new Caravan, and most of all a hell of a lot of FUN!

Friday, 21 October 2011

The outdoor season ended with another trophy for Cove!

I can not believe that we are now at the end of our agility season, as it seems not many days ago we were all getting excited about the first show!!
Last weekend we had a 1 day show at Monmouth to really finish our outdoor season, and it was a beautiful warm sunny day! Olli had another G6 clear, so as always was Mr reliable, Lily had a clear in jumping and 4th in G6 Agility, so I was more than happy with her, and Twiggy was great fun and managed to do her 12 weaves in the ring, just as she does every time at home, and I think I was so shocked I took the wrong course after that and blew it!!! Never mind, Twiggy was always adopted on the basis that if she did agility she did, if she didn't it really isn't an issue. I love my little Irish girl with all my heart, and if she just wants to be a house dog and run and play and chase rabbits, wind up the cats and snuggle up with me every morning nicking my tea and biscuits in bed, that is fine by me :-)
Cove on the other hand, would be sold or shot if he didn't do well..........(yes of course) Fern and Cove have gone from Grade 1 in April this year to grade 4 by 3rd of September, and in his only 2 grade 4 shows has come 3rd in agility, with solid contacts so he is a very consistent, clever boy indeed. I have to say it was a fantastic show to end the year. Great friends to share it with, all the dogs enjoyed themselves and the people in Wales are just lovely. Some real friends made this year from across the bridge and I look forward to catching up with them all next season.

Its been a funny year as far as friends go. People probably laughed and took the mick when we started the year with our own Team Feroda shirts, and we didnt train with any club, just did occasional workshops and guest trainer days, and the rest we trained at home. Fern worked more with Lauren, as she works for her anyway, and I have to admit it shows in Ferns handling. She is very consistent as a handler and a lot more focused on her criteria than I am. She has the world at her feet. I still handle like a muppet sometimes, and wonder why I am in the ring at all, but then I handle a course well and we get top 5 placing and I know why I am there. I am not ready for Grade 7 and Champ courses, I would look silly, but I am enjoying the challenges of grade 6, and Lily & Olli have done me proud all season. Having Georgie from a pup and starting to really focus on training from the start has given me a real insight into how to be a consistent handler. I do intend to go all the way with Georgie, but I am not rushing him or taking any shortcuts, just working steadily and with Ferns help he is coming on beautifully.

Training and trainers are such a minefield. Clubs can be a lovely way to meet like minded people, and train together and support each other, but not in every case unfortunately. In every sport I have ever been part of, from athletics as a kid, to Showjumping & eventing through to agility, there will always be jealousy, back biting and little groups of people that become a clique. Thats why we decided on Team Feroda. I dont mind how some people take it, because my real friends wouldn't give it a second thought. We have each other, Rog Fern & me and we are very happy with our life.
 I am doing more training this winter with Lauren again, because quite simply I like her methods and they work and sometimes you just have to go with your instincts. 
So a huge winter training plan ahead for Georgie, and quite a bit booked for Twiggy now too as I am going to give her the best shot at being a good agility dog, unless she finds it too much, then it will be lap dog and tea 'n' biscuit sharer :-)
Today Fern & I had a lovely day off together, and spent it with the dogs. We met Louise, Georgies breeder, and the 2 boys she kept, Georgies brothers Teddy & Buddy. We went for a fantastic walk on Mutters Moor in Sidmouth, and the boys had a great time. Cove came too, just to keep the youngsters in check and it was bliss. So nice to see them and compare their characters. Then this afternoon we took Lily Olli & Dave up to the field and spent nearly 2 hours cutting the grass, setting up a course and the dogs had a ball. Dave even caught and killed his first rodent!! Wasn't pleasant, but he is a terrier. 
We have covered nearly 4000 miles towing Nellie the caravan, had some amazing successes and some ridiculous failures this season, but I love the sport and every minute of working with my dogs, it is our life now. At the end of November the dogs will all be given a break. 6 - 8 weeks of playing, running, walking on the beach, chasing through the woods and mentally unwinding, before it all starts over again, and I have a funny feeling next year will be the best yet :-)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching.

This week I have been doing a lot of thinking. Achievement is a big word.
 To some people it is so important to achieve greatness, or wealth, popularity, notoriety, and sometimes they lose focus on what is important and miss the little achievements. Take me. I haven't achieved any of the above, but then I do live my life for the moment. I am not famous, or wealthy (far from it!) and I have never been "Miss Popular" because I am what I am and as much as everyone likes to be liked, its not my main objective in life.
I didn't leave school with many O level passes, I didn't go to college or University. I got mixed up with the wrong crowd, did some really stupid things but somehow I muddled through. I managed to always work, and keep sane somehow through the bad times.

In 1988 I moved to Devon and met my hubby. It was also the year I entered a driving competition. Driving has always been one of my passions, so it seemed like a good idea. I won the title of "Best Woman Driver of The Year Southern England" I won a car, a years worth of fuel, and a host of other goodies. It was a pretty cool experience. :-)
In 2000 I passed a diploma in "Horse Mastership" with an A Merit pass. That was pretty cool too. I also managed to re train an Ex working hunter, aged 16, who had been turned out in a field with the cows for a year, to become a stunning event horse, chosen for a team and gaining 12th individual out of 120 horses, at a county 3 day event. He was 22 years old when we did that. 
But these are just things. Yes I was proud of myself for a while, but nobody outside of my family would have known who I was, or been impressed and that didn't matter. I have always been a Jack of all trades. Try anything once, but never had ambition.
What got me started on this is last weekend when I came out of an agility round with Lily. It was a clear round, and I knew it was not going to win the class, but she worked "with" me, I handled it well and as we came out of the ring I hugged her and sat on the grass with her, with a lump in my throat. I felt like a King at that moment. When Olli won and qualified for the Olympia semis I was over the moon, but I was actually more pleased with him last weekend, when he got a clear round, on a tricky course and was unplaced. Twiggy getting her weaves in the ring is a massive achievement to me. I am that strange emotional woman who looks so happy when I just lost :-)
Little things are so special.
I want to do well with all my dogs, and yes I would love to get them all to Agility Champions, but I am not a gifted handler. I also started this lark a bit late on in life, so can not compete with the experienced top handlers, but I love every minute with my dogs, working them, and learning so much about how they work. I am currently training Georgie, now 7 months old, and yes I am determined to kick arse when he starts competing next year, and he will be awesome, but if he isn't then I will still enjoy him and have a laugh, and cry at the great moments. 
My greatest achievement happened in 1991 when I gave birth to my daughter. There is nothing in this world that can beat that feeling, and even though she is untidy, and can belch better than most men, she will always be my proudest moment. The day I met Rog, changed my life and I dont know why he chose me, (well I did pin him to the floor til he submitted!) but I am so glad he did.
I am not "Great" but then I am the greatest Mum.
I am not "wealthy" but that depends how you measure wealth.
I am not "Popular" .....but there are 8 dogs in my house who may argue that. Especially at feed time!
Life is weird, its a strange journey through good & bad, and we lose people we love, we get hurt by so called friends, and there will always be someone better, prettier, faster, richer  so make the most of what you have. My life is hopefully about halfway though, with a bit of luck and a good tail wind, but when my life does flash before my eyes it will be amazing to watch :-)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Hard work and patience really do pay off.

I never thought I would be writing a blog in green! All my dogs have their own colours, and I try to write in the colour of the dog who deserves praise above others, so this is for Dave.
The little ginger b%$*^$d will be 3 years old next month, and he would not have made it past his first birthday if Fern hadn't persuaded me to let her take him on and train him. His unpredictable, very terrierist attitude has always been so hard to deal with. He is not a dog for the faint hearted, but Fern has worked wonders with him. 
Last year we ran him at an indoor show, where it was a ring on its own, and had 10 people placed strategically around the ring to "field" him if he made a dash to take a swipe at another dog. He didn't, he actually behaved fairly well, and although not a clear round, it was a huge achievement. Then we ran him at a match, asking the other ring to hold on while he ran, and he did again, but still not clear as he was a bit distracted. 6 months on and we ran him again, this time outside but again in a ring a bit out the way, and the ring next door was being walked, so no dogs running. Perfect timing, and Dave did a lovely run, just missing a few jumps as he flew round.
Still Fern continued to train him every week with our other dogs, and he totally loves his agility times. Obviously one night whilst filling in entries, I must've had a few wines because when Honiton running orders arrived last week, Dave was entered!! What was I thinking?? Fern laughed and said, "well that's a waste of a few quid" (or words to that affect) and I filed them with the other dogs entries. On Saturday, the medium jumping was in a middle ring, and there was agility going on right next door. It was also medium dogs in the agility ring, Grade 5-7, so a lot of barking, quick moving little fluff balls, that would be perfect prey for Dave, so we decided against that. However on Sunday, the medium jumping was in ring one. A ring set slightly apart from the others, and the Grade 3 class was last in the ring for the day, AND the judge was a very good friend of mine, who knows what its like to have these interesting dogs. Fern & I walked the course, which was a lovely Grade 3 course, and made the decision to run him. We spoke to Sally the Judge, and Selena the ring manager, and explained that we would run him right at the end so there was no queueing. Rog had made it back to the show, having been called away earlier on a breakdown, so he was thrilled at the prospect of Dave running a real course at a real show! Deep down even I was very excited, admittedly nervous, in fact shitting a brick would probably sum it up, but the time came and Fern set Dave up on the start line. I was at the finish, with a very exciting tuggy toy, filled with sausage in the hope that would be tastier than any passing poodle, and Rog was armed with the video camera.
As Fern walked away from Dave, and he sat beautifully in a perfect wait, I admit to having a lump in my throat. She released him and he was off like a pocket rocket. Over the first 2 jumps and into the tunnel, out the tunnel over 2 more jumps and back in the tunnel, then off down a line of jumps into another tunnel. As he came out of that tunnel, Fern was behind him so she had to do a rear cross around the pin wheel, (I held my breath!) around the pin wheel, across to the final 3 jumps, and across the finish line to attack my lovely sausage filled tuggy!!!! He was clear!!!!!! I cried like a baby, Rog ran over almost in tears too, Fern was screeching and shaking like a leaf, and we all had a tight hold on Dave!! The emotions were incredible, as for us as a family this was the greatest achievement of the whole season. Imagine the shock when Sally came over to tell us he had won! His first proper run, and at Grade 3 thanks to Cove pulling him up the grades, and he was foot perfect, handled beautifully by Fern and won.

All five yes FIVE of our agility dogs were placed on Sunday, and there is no better feeling in the world. I actually may start to like Dave now :-)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Where has the year gone?

I have no idea where this year has gone! It didn't seem that long ago I was getting excited planning my first competition of the season, now we have just a couple left. It also doesn't seem that long ago I was tempted and chosen by a white faced merlie fluff ball, and yet now he is 7 months old and about to start his first courses of agility training!
So, 2 weeks ago was Gillingham Champ show. Lovely site, and we were joined by my lovely friend Jill as a housemate as she was stuck between caravan sale & motorhome arriving. We had great fun, and along with Lolly & Claire, a right laugh and some interesting meal times!
Lily & I managed some good stuff, and I was enjoying running her, and Olli had his first clear round in Grade 6 too, which I was thrilled with after just 2 weeks in the grade. Twiggy was fun as always, and yet more confident, but still finding weaves a challenge on some courses, and Cove was in limbo, running Grade 3 classes for another 2 weeks before he goes grade 4. Fern and I decided as this was the case, that we would swap dogs for one run and she ran Lily in Grade 6 jumping while I ran Cove for the first time in G3 jumping. Lily had an unlucky pole but ran beautifully for Fern, and Cove was 2nd!!!! I was so nervous and excited about running him, and he was a dream. It also made me realise the difference in running a dog that has had all the foundation work put in from a puppy, and consistent training. 

Last Sunday we had a small 1 day show, and the only 2 clears were from my girls. Lily managing 6th in the agility, but most exciting of all, Twiggy 6th in G1-3 jumping! Over 200 dogs in her class, and she flew! I was over the moon :-) 

Twiggy obviously only started at about 9 months as she was a rescue, yet she is still doing well with her understanding. Cove, compared to Lily & Olli, has a better understanding of the handlers moves, and is so much more fluent. Lily didn't start training until she was 18 months old, and Olli about 6 months old but only as a fun dog to make it worthwhile going to shows, so neither dog really had anything like the start that Cove has had. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to bits with both my original dogs, and lets face it, they havent done bad both getting to Olympia semis, (Lily to Olympia itself 2010) both grade 6, and Lily also having 2 wins in Grade 6, but I have to admit, if their training had been from scratch I do think Lily would be Grade 7 by now.
Which brings me to George.
My first ever puppy to train from scratch, and a real unknown quantity. So I have been doing all the little things from day 1. Nose touches, sits, recalls, toy focus, circle work, environment training and what an amazing dog he is becoming. I have let him be a puppy, not believing in over doing the training when they are young, but every day I do something with him alone, and the way he is developing is fascinating. At 7 months, I now have a very keen athletic responsive boy, who almost totally focuses on me at all times. Spending all his early months being walked just with me and not the rest of the pack, means that although he fits in beautifully and gets along with everyone, he would rather be  interacting with me than the others. Now walking sometimes with others in the group, he sticks near to me, his recalls (dare i say?) are 100% and he is constantly happily looking at me for instruction. Its incredibly rewarding, and I am enjoying every minute of his development. He starts young dog classes next week, and I cant wait!!

My thanks go to Lily & Olli for getting me so hooked on agility, and doing so well for me, and to Fern for all her support and help with my training, and for Rog for putting up with all our dogs, and religiously watching all our runs on video and not asking how much I spend of his hard earned cash :-)
I am pretty sure Twiggy will surprise us all and go far next year, she has already surpassed my expectations. I am certain that Fern & Cove will continue to progress steadily through the grades, and have no doubt he will become Grade 7 in time, but already I also feel the same about George. If I can continue to train him consistently, and he stays fit & healthy and happy, I feel confident that he too will make Grade 7 in a few years time, and that is a very nice feeling.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A day in the life of........

A day in the life of….

Morning Lil and Oliver
Lil you gave me a fright!
Olli that’s MY croc!
Lily that’s MY tea!
Bye Rog see you tonight. X

Olli give me my croc!
Lily get back from the door
Cant find my pants
Cant find my bra!
They’re somewhere here on the floor.

“Hi Becki, Stan” on the landing
“HI GEORGE & TWIGS” downstairs
Got my phone
Found the undies
Damn they are covered in hairs

Come on guys, out in the garden
Don’t chase the cats! DAVE stop grumbling!
Cove, Nannies boy J
That’s not a toy!
Stan, can hear your tummy rumbling!

Georgie get down! Twiggy you’re mad
Lily leave Becki alone!
Olli stop barking!
Cove wait a minute!
Oh for goodness sake where is my phone?

Yes Georgie I am getting my coat on
Twiggy sit still while I attach you!
DAVE stop squeaking!
Lily stop that!
Oliver where is my shoe?!!

Right everyone stop blooming pulling!
Stop yipping you’ll wake the whole farm!
I know you’re keen
COVE my ears!!!!
Its just a walk guys, try and stay calm!!

It’s a horse, yes they’re cows and sheep Twiggy
Lily they don’t need no herding!
DAVE! Get a grip!
COVE!! Shut your yip!!
Blimey George, I cant get a word in!!

Right, we’re back now wait for your breakfast
I am doing it as fast as I can.
Pilchards and rice
Which bowl is whos?
Stop trembling, I am getting there Stan!

Becki you are always in my way!
Cove you really are a berk!
George its coming
Olli stop barking!!
Right all happy now? I’m off to work!

Number crunching and phone won’t stop ringing
Emails to send and reply
“I can hear you Dave!”
And Lily be quiet
Its just a tractor driving by!

Lunchtime so you can all go out now
GEORGIE! Stop eating cats poo!
Stan you’re snoring
Becki get out the way!
DAVE! Stop grumbling! That’s all you ever do!

Just 2 hours more and I’ll be finished
Then we can all play or train.
Tea to be cooked
Twiggy you are so funny
Olli stop picking on Lily! You’re such a pain!

“Hi hun, Hi Fern yep we’re going to the field
We need to practice for the show
Grub in the oven
“GEORGIE! Hang on!
Just get in the van quietly! Its not far to go.

Contacts, contacts, weaves & grids
Now you will all sleep for a while
Chilled indoors
On sofa and floor
I look at all 8 of you and smile J

Snoring & twitching, having happy dreams
Tomorrow we’ll do it all again
8 dogs young & old
My life, my inspiration
Thank you all, for keeping me sane. J

Monday, 5 September 2011

What a wonderful partnership and what a big day for Olli Ob Knob!

This weekend was actually a very successful one for us and our crew. In fact at Prestbury Park, one of our favourite venues, all 4 dogs had clears!!!!
Saturday morning, I was lucky to have 2 runs with both Lily & Olli, in jumping and agility. I say lucky, because we had to leave the site at 11am and travel to Stoneleigh Park to the City of Birmingham Show for Olli to take part in the Olympia ABC semi finals. I was so thrilled that I had a chance to run him around a couple of grade 6 courses before the big event. It was also his first Grade 6 show so a big weekend for Olli. 
He managed a lovely agility round, just catching a pole as I got in his way, but I was more than happy with how he coped with the course. Lily and I went completely wrong and were eliminated. Becoming a bit of a habit for us! We also managed to run Cove & Twiggy in their first pairs class, and although both of them missed a weave pole, they ran really well and had a blast!
So at 1pm we arrived at Stoneleigh and my nerves started to filter through. My lovely spanner at such an important event and I was so proud. The warm up run was a bit of a mess but Olli had fun and at least that was not the main event. As I stood on the line for the semi my heart was pounding, and I could hardly speak, so telling Olli to "wait" was a struggle! We set off and he was so fast and focused, but we had to go clear in under 39 seconds to get in the top 10, and as he pushed his A frame I saw the judges hand go up for a 5 and knew that was it. However we carried on with olli barking and going like a true pro, and he did all the hard turns beautifully. Unfortunately we picked up another 5 as after 2 tunnels in a row, he started up the seesaw and had to shake his gorgeous long furry ears so he fell off the side! I put him back and we completed the course. I loved it and so did Olli, and although it was not to be this year, we will be back!

Sunday was mad as all 4 of our dogs were in 3 different teams! Lily & Olli with Thai & Magic in our original Rainbow Rebels team, Cove with Wren, Flynn and Cruze and Twiggy with Storm, Sprite & Theo! Unbelievably Twiggys team went clear, the first team to go clear after around 15 had been!!! It was a blast for 4 young dogs, and a real buzz. Bless Twiggy for being so confident to do the team event :-)

Cove went clear in his team but unfortunately the team didn't, and poor Flynn was so exuberant he did a complete somersault over one jump, nearly crashing into the tyre! Lily & Olli were mental and went clear, but Magic took a pole, and Thai did too but the judge didn't notice!!! Rainbow Rebels were the fastest team by 7 seconds!!!! What a team, and obviously if we can keep the poles up one of the best around. Great fun! Twiggys team finished 6th!!!! nearly 50 teams and we were 6th at our first outing. Really thrilled with them all.
Olli had a great G6 jumping round, just picking up one jump from the wrong side, but he was flying. Lily and I had a lovely run, almost foot perfect in G6/7 combined agility, and ended 10th, so we are not stuck in the E trap anymore.

Fern & Cove had a Dog Vegas qualifier, graded 3-5 combined agility to run. I walked it with Fern and it was a very challenging course! Lots of traps, and it needed handling. I said to Fern that it would probably be a good course for Cove as he is so clever at the trickier stuff, and Fern really went for it. It was a beautiful run, and my heart missed a beat as 2 obstacles from the end Fern turned the wrong way and I thought she'd blown it, but she let Cove sort himself out, find his own stride onto the seesaw and he flew the last jump clear!

They work together in perfect harmony, and the relationship they have is amazing. I knew they had probably won, but didn't say anything to Fern, waiting for the presentation. They had done it! In only his 4th show at Grade 3 he was moving up to grade 4. He was only 2 years old last week, and started competing at the end of March at Grade 1. In 5 months he has moved up 4 grades and Rog & I are so proud of Fern.
We had some great laughs with our friends, and also watched my lovely friend Jill run her 2 babies for the first time. They were both very fast and brilliantly focused, and will definitely be 2 to watch next year! Jill also qualified for the finals at Olympia with Whoosh her Grade 6 boy, along with a few other good friends, so we will definitely be watching Olympia in December!! So many good dogs through to the finals, it will be hard to pick a favourite!
So another great weekend over, 362 miles down, and 1 step nearer the end of the season. Also 1 year until Georgie makes his d├ębut, and that will be a very exciting time. He is becoming a stunning young man with oodles of potential which I hope I can develop.
I feel very lucky having such a wonderful family, some very special friends and the best dogs in the world.

Monday, 29 August 2011

End of an era.

I think this is my longest gap between blogging but its been an eventful month.
Before we left for KCI & DINAS I went to see my Nan in the care home she has called home for the last year. I wasn't planning on it but Mum needed to drop her some lip cream in, and as she is not driving I took her. It was probably one of the most shocking experiences of my life to date. To see my Nan looking so frail, and distressed was not something I would wish on anyone. I broke down I have to admit. My heart broke and I felt physically sick. It was obvious that she was closing down, and Mum told me to still go away as it was our agility holiday and she may last for weeks yet. Thats the sad thing, and although I am not going to turn my Blog into a debate about legal human euthanasia, if there ever was a time it was needed was then. I would never let any of my dogs suffer that way. 
My brother left Norwich to come to Devon to see her on the day we left to head to KCI, and he did an amazing job of supporting Mum, and comforting Nan, getting her all the best care in the world until she passed away on the 13th August. He was the one to ring and tell me, and she died peacefully aged 93.
Our agility holiday was obviously subdued, but I knew that Nan was now in a much better place, reunited with her Husband & youngest Daughter, and there was nothing else to do now so I tried to concentrate on my dogs. Lily & I had some clears, including an 11th in Agility. Olli had a few places to finish his stint in grade 5, Twiggy had some nearly runs and then ended the week with 2 clears, one being a 16th place in agility!!!!  Fern & Cove were on usual form and managed to get some top places including a 2nd at KCI, which is incredible as they are only just in grade 3, and a 3rd & 5th at DINAS and qualified for the final on Sunday! 
Sharon & Chris came to DINAS for a couple of days, and I was thrilled that they managed to see Twiggy get one of her clear rounds :-) There were a lot of highs, some fab ones when our great mate Lolly got 2 3rd place trophies and ended up 3rd in the final on Sunday!!! Lots of tears. Also when we won £133 on the Bingo, and Claire got so drunk she staggered home and threw up on her clothes :-)) Great times, and it was lovely to be surrounded by good friends and Rog & Fern and the dogs, at a time like that. I love my family so much and am very lucky to have them.

Spending time with the Rog, Fern and the dogs and relaxing really helped me have time to think about all the time spent with Nan and Grandad when I was growing up. We had some real giggles, lovely holidays by the sea, and nothing was ever too much trouble. I was spoilt and I will never forget a single moment. 
Fern, Nathan, Neil, Me & Rog :-)
Nans funeral was a celebration of her life, not a sad affair but a happy time to remember all those moments we all cherish. A piece of me is missing now, but life is like that. Little bits get taken all the time, if you are lucky enough to love. If you never want to experience pain and hurt then dont ever allow yourself to love anyone or anything. That would be a lot easier, but an empty life. Below is a poem I wrote and read out at Nans funeral. I am sure there are a lot of Nans, Grandmas, that this relates too. Life goes on and I am going to enjoy every minute of it, and suffer the pain of losing people or dogs I love because as the saying goes "Its better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all"

My Nan & Grandad so in love. x

Its good here innit?

What do you fancy to drink?
Sit down and put up your feet
I have a fridge, freezer and cupboard full,
What do you fancy to eat?

Have a good look in my wardrobe
My drawers, see what you can see
If there's something that takes your fancy
You have it, anything, feel free.

Have you enough money, clothes, shoes?
Plants and shrubs, small or large
Anything I have, anything you like
Just say and it's yours, no charge.

"it's good here innit?" you'd always say
Those words still ring in my ears
Yes it was Nan, the best place ever
We won't lose those memories in our tears

You gave us everything you had, always
But much more than all the above
For all of us in your family
You gave unconditional love. X

My Mum, Brother, Nephew & Fern :-)