15 October 2009

Team Small Dog interview of the week-Mary Schultz and her dog Ariel

So some of my important jobs I do in the name of dog agility include being in charge of one of the dog club websites. Doing graphic designy things. Sunshine lady who sends nice cards when people are having a bad time of it. And cool canine reporter. That's a new one. I report on cool canines. Easy.

Easy if you can write really short things. Not a good skill of mine. So when the interviews get too long winded, they're ending up in here. Hola, Bayteam members who really want to read ALL the cool stuff about interviewee Mary. And everybody else, I am sure you will learn a lot. Mary has a unique way to teach really awesome weave poles that is totally more fun than Susan Garrett's method and just might become the new standard in weave pole teaching.

So let the interview begin!

Also, Mary is single. In case you were wondering.

How did you find your way into agility with Ariel?

When I adopted Ariel at 10 months old, she was pretty much the same then as she is now. She loves balls and does whatever I want  her to do as soon as she understands what it is I want (and sometimes before I understand what it is I want), except for two things: getting her to heel--except three feet ahead of me--and getting her to put the ball back in my hand after I throw it.

So, before those two things drove me insane, I solved the first problem by scrapping plans for Obedience work, and the second by bringing a beer with me out to the big field across from our house, flinging the ball way far away, and then just enjoying the sunshine (and beer) until Ariel figured out the only way to get me to throw it again was to get my attention by shoving it between my knees.

These solutions were a little too sedentary even for me, let alone a 10-month-old Aussie, however, so I emailed Donna Haraway, known to me primarily as the UCSC History of Consciousness professor who was the outside member on my Ph.D. in Literature that never happened dissertation committee, but also as someone who had a dog who did agility. Donna told me to sign up for lessons with Dee Hutton through Monterey Bay Dog Training, aka Dirt Nite, so I did. First class, we walked our dogs through a ladder on the ground. I was hooked.

It seems like a lot of your training takes place on your lunch hour,  from your back deck. Like this is the secret to Ariel's amazing weave  poles. Can you describe this training method?

Well, I can't take much credit for teaching Ariel how to weave. We did the short poles, leading-the-dog-by-leash-pole-by-pole method, and Ariel put up with that for about a week and then got irritated and just finished the poles, dragging me behind by the leash. So I took the leash off. She understands poles and so she does them. I think she would do them faster if I had 12 poles instead of 6 poles at home, though.

I can, however, take some credit for her weave pole entries, about which even Jim Basic once said, "Wow," before he could help himself.

I used the "back porch beer-drinking method" which is when your dog knows that the best thing in the world (e.g., ball-throwing) is only going to happen for a limited amount of time and it is only going to happen if you can figure out what the holder of the ball wants you to do while she is standing on the deck with a beer in her hand and isn't going to do a lot of arm-signaling or otherwise showing you the details of what she wants you to do because, well, she's drinking a beer and it might spill.

All you have to do is crack a beer, put the weaves anywhere in the yard (this is the hardest part because, well, you have the beer in one hand), then head for the deck and throw a freebie ball like it's going to be the last one of the day. Then, take a sip or two of beer as you walk slowly around the deck enjoying the sunshine, or singing birds, or flowers or whatever until your dog is desperately laying the ball in front of you, and picking it up and following you and laying it in front of you again. Then, just take a sip of beer and say, "Weave." If you are feeling a little sadistic, say, "Again," just as she finishes the weaves. Then throw the ball in an especially fun way so it caroms off the fence and a tree or two.

Now I sound like a big alcoholic. For lunch, I only have an hour to drive from my dog-hating work place, throw ball many times, and eat my lunch and drive back. But it's a sandwich in my hand at lunch, not a beer.

Do you have any other special training secrets you would like to share with Bayteamers?

Every night Ariel waits for me to say "OK" and then she jumps up on the bed and carefully lies down next to me. (I know, I don't deserve this dog.) I rub her shoulders and whisper "Good Girl" about oh twenty or so times into her ear. Since she works contacts best without reward (tugging or food treats annoyed her when she was learning contacts, and throwing the ball was too chaotic as a reward), it's something I can say that is a kind of reward that I think reminds her of  something she likes and it doesn't spoil her momentum. That's my only training secret. I think you have to really, really mean whatever you whisper in your dog's ear, though.

How was your foray into trial secretarying?

I became a true believer and joined the Karey Kult for life.

What do you look for in a successful dog agility outfit?

Black, because I never grew out of the grubby little kid stage, and I look fairly clean all day. Also, black and white dog, black and white clothes. Similar to ordinal number thing, i.e., easy to put together without making mistakes.

Italian leather soccer shoes and very, very thin socks.

I'm liking skorts because no need to pick at underwear that is riding up and creating unseemly lines in one's lycra sporty shorts. I'm liking tights because my legs are so white, and now so scratched from Ariel (occasionally) falling off her pink yoga ball that I am teaching her to balance on, that they really shouldn't be inflicted on the public. Also, because I joined the Karey Kult, remember?

You can be an extremely creative course walker. Are you planning to launch a new handling system on the world at some point in the future? Do you want to give us some insight into this?

The main thing is ordinal numbers, so I have tried to stay on especially good terms with the elementary school teachers who are in my agility classes who are very helpful in this regard. So, my main strategy in walking courses is to find all the numbers, in order. It helps to have agility friends who will pluck me by the sleeve and point out that there is an "8" obstacle between, say, the "7" and  "9" obstacles.

This is why I both love and hate Snooker, especially; love, because you only have to remember 2-7 for the ending and  if you can just do all 7's in the opening, all you have to remember is that *one* obstacle or sequence and do it over and over; hate, because all the 1's look alike but they are not alike and this disobeys a law of mathematics I am pretty sure. It confuses me, at any rate, and sometimes causes me to stop in front of the #2 closing and instead of finishing stand there trying to remember if I have done all the 1's or not. One time I was so sure that I had only done two 1's that even though the judge (swear to god) whispered, "Just finish," I didn't believe him/her and went and did the same #1 again.

I use the same basic strategy for Gamblers. Narrow the opening down to all contacts. Do them twice. Skip everything else. Since Ariel can do between 9-13 obstacles in 30 seconds, this means I only have to remember 5-7 obstacles. It is helpful to have Rob Michalski check my plan to make sure that I am not doing contact to contact. This is because Rob can point out with a straight face that A-frame to dogwalk -- even if it is all the way across the field is still contact to contact. That man has a good eye.

The strategy that works the best is to is pick out the path that Ariel would like the most because then if I forget the course, she might do it anyway.

I hear the Westside of Santa Cruz is the new epicenter of dog agility-can you confirm this rumor?

Yes. Cayenne, Kip, Kacey, Ella, Merlin, Pyro, Ari, Mika, Calvin, Ruby, Otterpop, Gustavo, and Ariel.  Am I forgetting anyone? We're talking, what, six-block radius, here?

What would happen if you lost Ariel's special orange ball?

At the Carmel Agility on the Greens Trial, I forgot to bring a spare orange ball. Ariel came into the porta-potty with me and dropped her ball in the potty. I thought about it for about 1/30th of a second and then went in after it. Does this answer your question? (Thanks, Ernie, for the washing stations outside the porta-potties!!!)


Anonymous said...

uh, Team Leader, i think you forgot a VERY important question in Mary's interview. which is: Mary, how do you keep the static electricity from sticking your black skort to your black tights?
i'm not kidding. this is a serious problem! the drape of the skort is SO important.
thanks for the weave training tip. beer and/or sandwich makes much more sense than just sitting there as in the north of the border lazy ass weave method....

Agility Foot said...

OMG, Mary went porta-potty diving for Ariel, now that's love. What a great mom!!

Elf said...

Mary and Laura, you are some of my favorite entertainments.

Deb said...

OK, I camped out at the Agility On the Greens trial and witnessed the porta potties there and must say that Mary is the most devoted agility mom there is! We'll guide you through the ordinal number thing any time.
P.S.-I'm buying some beer today at Trader Joe's. I must try this method with Kacie. Sure worked with Ariel.

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