07 March 2009

A treatise on defeating the bummerness.

Allright. Yesterday, all whiney and Susan Garrett causes unmatching socks and the island to move locations again. Then I figured if Locke can go down the abandoned well, turn the gears on the thingy that resets the island's location back to Hawaii with a ghost glowering at him AND a fractured tibia, then I could just buck up and get my head out of my ass.

If you don't watch Lost, I'm so sorry, and don't try to start now because it will make even less sense than anything I ever tell you. I think you can watch it in order online though, starting with Season One. Take notes. The rest of this to follow, very doggy, my non dog agility friends. One of those philosophical moments of analyzing dog personalities. To train them. In the grand scheme of things, so very shrimpy in terms of importance. In the scheme of figuring out how dog minds tick, a little more aha.

So even though it was gray and squishy outside, took the dogs out to practice on the way to work. Since it rains like every day now because of global warming and droughts and payback from every sunny day we had when everywhere else, snow, the practice field is a bit, uh, damp. To put it delicate-like. And the driveway up to it, uh, sodden. Also putting it delicate-like. I so very graciously use my friend's agility field, where she teaches agility and keeps her sheep. She shares the field with a bunch of yahoos and their giant trucks. They use part of the acreage to store motorhomes and boats. And drive their giant trucks around. So there's agility, sheep, boats, motorhomes, giant trucks, and mud out there. Welcome to Watsonville. The giant truck guys love to drive across the field in the mud and make even more mud. They can't get at the agility stuff, sometimes I worry about those sheep, but mostly they seem like harmless, monster truck lovin' mud makers.

So through the mud we slog, me and the little black dogs. At least mud sort of blends on them. The field, sort of sloshy, grassy, frothy, and squishy. Because I am tenacious, and determined, and have slogged through all that mud already, who cares, still will do some practicing. Also, want to figure out what it is that makes Gustavo not like Dirt Nite. He's either over the top screaming, quietly glued inside a crate concentrating on not screaming, or having little weave pole meltdowns and running slow. Happened one time too many and I am determined to solve this mystery. Because that mystery, really not fun.

When I practice, so different than running them in a class situation. No pressure. No people. Only watchers watching me, 5 sheep, the cow across the way, and some yahoo guys in their giant muddy trucks. Sometimes do courses, but usually pick a theme and make little sequences to match the theme of the day. Themes, planned on the car based on something that seems weak. Or maybe a good song on the ipod. Today's themes, fast fun speed over jumps and fast tables. Non contacts today, decide to do Gustavo's poles only if he is ON. Since the poles made him OFF the other night.

For the jumpers theme, just make a few little sequences that have tight turns, sending away, pulling in, front and rear crosses. Throw a bunch of eggs in one basket, and try to make that basket stuff that might be hard. Easy to practice stuff we do well, hard to remember to practice stuff where we have to really, practice. Remind myself before I start, reward the best things every time you see 'em. Always remind myself of that one. And here's where the way we practice, so different than running in a class. This is how Gustavo learned, and why shoving his square peg into a round class hole might not be the right fit. Just because most dogs go in a class, and I am a teacher of classes, doesn't mean that he is necessarily a class dog. Might be shoving that square paw too shovey HARD into the wrong hole there. We'll see.

Always first out is Otterpop. Who is becoming more of a tug freak now than just frisbee chaser. I love that. When we practice, sheep for an audience, she is tireless, fast, and has become this amazing agility dog. In a weird way, like a little mini Hobbes in how I handle her. Even though she's the size of his head, if Hobbes' head was shaped like a meatloaf. She just feels so, trained. She gets the crowd going. The barking starts, but Otterpop just tugs and runs our sequences, then gets to play frisbee. Which is actually today a scrappy, tattered piece of orange cloth. It's just so, fun. March, already funner, starting now.

Next out is Gustavo. Who runs across the field in a frenzy and back to me then across and away and holy smokes. OK. He goes back to sit on a towel. Not ready yet.

Ruby comes out. She goes all tugarama over her little bag that has Cheese Chunks in it. I'm sort of not getting whether she is sound or lame. She doesn't look bad like she did. She does look weird. Jumping way up over the jumps, but a smooth canter stride down to it and on the land. She is sure happy about coming out and doing it. I jump her really low, and not too much. Try not to do many sharp turns with her. Don't know Ruby, if you're holding up or not. But you know, you're making March funner for us both, right now and you can do some agility.

Otterpop again. Tug, run, jump, tug. Otterpop, so not made for agility, a fatty little tank, shaped all wrong but you know what? Fun! HA! Take THAT, March!

Gustavo again. This time, no frenzied run out. Get out the tattered scrap of frisbee and he goes into his tugging border collie mode. With monkeyscreamgrowls. This cracks me up. Mud truck guys, look over the fence and here's this lady in muddy pants, hair all up in a wad, swinging a teensy, tiny black dog around on a shred of nylon. Dog making teensy border collie sounds, lady making some kind of crackhead weird noises. Dunno what. Who cares. Fun!

Start him with a couple jumps, attack the frisbee. Couple more, attack the frisbee. Few more, until he's doing a whole sequence, and never a bobble, never a freakout, never a stop, never a worry. Only cares about the agility. Because it's fun.

So back and forth, keep exchanging dogs, everyone plays a long time and practices a short time and plays and practices. Do some table/poles sequences, poles and jumps, and Gustavo misses one pole entry. One. Fast tables only. A dogwalk. BLAMMO, hits that contact so fast and stunning. Chases a frisbee, gets him some cheese. There is never any slow, never any worry, never this face he made in the poles the other night, going, Huh? Utter confusion and bummer-ness.

The mystery solved? Maybe, it's not rocket science. When we just practice, so much time spent playing, running, and that's how he learned. Gustavo is a dog who lives to run as fast as he can on a beach, in the woods. He's so not serious. Gets confused really quick. Learns things in a different way. Loves the way he learned agility, which I figured out just for him. Doesn't turn on and off with a switch, like Otterpop, at the sight of a frisbee. Doesn't freak out for some treats, like Ruby. He has to feel the love. He has to do some running. Has to know you're having FUN. And then he shines, as bright as flashing strobe lights on the disco ball. Little tiny disco ball, up there over the flashing dance floor, the brightest one, that can spin so fast, as long as the music is loud and everybody in the crowd, super groovy.

If I try to compare him to Susan Garrett stuff, to my friends with their super puppies, to just "Normal" dogs, well, yeah. He's different I guess. A little non conventional. My fault. I didn't try to make him that way, I just had to find a way to teach him that suited his personality. Have to stick with that, have to stay true to him. No matter how he turns out, no matter how they all do, the way we get there, never, ever gonna be not fun.

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