Friday, December 31, 2010

Focus Forward

One of the first things I teach my agility dogs is to focus forward when I leave them at the start line. That way, I can lead out - ahead and laterally - and they will look ahead at the line of obstacles in front of them.

Schema, Focusing Forward
Image by GreatDanePhotos Copyright 2010 ( used with permission
As I sit here tonight with the new year just hours away, I feel like I'm sitting at the start line with my life out ahead of me. I'm focused forward, looking out ahead at all the possibilities the future beholds. It's always fun to feel like starting over with a clean slate. A brand new "run" is starting and expectations are high. I can feel the excitement of what the new year will bring and I know that there will be potential "off courses" as I navigate my way through my 2011 course. These off courses provide me with extra incentive to put my attention back on the things that are wanted in my life.When I cross that finish line at the end of 2011, will it be a perfect run with no refusals, wrong courses, or failures? I doubt it. But, just like my dogs, I plan on still finding joy in my performance rather than dwelling on any of the imperfections of my 2011 "run".

My goals for 2011 are simple. Feel good.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Nothing Better Than Nothing on Birthdays

Day after Christmas - as most people know it, it is craziness at the stories as after Christmas sales start and the masses go out to get a good deal or to return or gifts. This day for me is so much different as it's a day of peace and tranquility. I was born the day after Christmas and I really disliked having a birthday that day when I was growing up. Now, I can't imagine having a better one as an adult. I was no different than most kids in that the things that were the most important to me at that time were the presents and the attention I got from everyone. Because most of my presents from my friends were combined (Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas) and I saw no one but my family on my birthday, I felt that I had "less" of a birthday than most others.

Looking back, now, those were only the years from when I was in elementary school and high school. When I was in college, I started to feel differently about my birthday as I started to appreciate different things in my life - my family, my dogs (yes, I had dogs and horses throughout  my life).

What I love about my birthday now is that nothing is expected (Tom and I don't exchange gifts for Christmas or birthdays anymore) and the day is open to do anything on the spur of the moment. I woke up this morning after spending Christmas Day with my parents and my sister and youngest brother's families.  Such wonderful kids - all so different, and so talented in different ways. They all play competitive sports and all excel in school and I just love them all and enjoy seeing them maturing in their own way. What a great day we had eating good food (love my Mom's spaghetti - NO ONE makes it like she does) as well as many other side dishes made by everyone.

Going from a day of so much busyness into a day like today with so much peace and quiet is the ultimate of balancing for me. I love my time alone with my dogs and Tom and not having to be anywhere. I woke up today to a day with sunny skies and warm temps (relative to December in Minnesota - maybe not to other parts of the country) and the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen. Then after feeding the dogs breakfast, and checking in on Facebook, I see so many people taking the time to post to my wall, wishing me a Happy Birthday. Facebook is such a great community with support, well wishes, and those birthday wishes are really special to everyone that has experienced them.

Now, what to do for the day? I love not having a plan. Some of my fondest childhood memories are spent with my family and making decisions on the fly. As a family, we enjoyed doing things on the spur of the moment - like the time our family was driving back from Colorado visiting my grandparents and we came to a split in the road - home or Yellowstone? We all decided Yellowstone and my Dad just immediately veered off to the west. Other memories are when our family would take drives out into the country after Mass on Sundays.  Dad would go driving further out in the country with the intent of getting completely lost on the back roads and then trying to find our way home (no GPS devices at that time). We always enjoyed the beautiful countrysides and as time went along, it was harder and harder to get ourselves lost.

So, a day of nothing-ness or a day filled with just doing whatever I want to on the spur of the moment. That is just the ultimate for me. I won't know what this day brings until it's over. Just the way I like it.

I hope you enjoy your day after Christmas as much as I plan on enjoying it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Change The Channel

Have you ever seen someone alone in front of the television set intently watching something that they were not enjoying at all? Usually what happens is if the person isn't enjoying what is currently being broadcast on that channel, they are quick to change the channel in the hopes of finding another program that is more interesting. In fact, many times there can be lots of channel changing in the hopes of finding something more entertaining.

It's interesting to me that most people will not "change the channel" when they going about their daily lives and notice something that bothers them. Instead of just thinking about something else or trying to see it differently or even just settling on allowing a difference of opinion, the subject is pointed out, dissected, obsessed over, talked about in multiple conversations, and further dramatized. This actually does nothing, except make everyone that is involved feel badly.

I used to do the same thing and what I found was that talking about it and obsessing about all the wrongs and horrific actions only made me feel worse. I only felt better when I eventually forgot about the subject and nothing that I ever did while focusing on it, solved the perceived "problem". What I challenge myself to do now, is to not look at the things I know are going to bother me. Some people are going to think I'm just putting my head into the sand and I'm okay with that because I actually feel much better doing things this way. If there is a "horrific" video posted on Facebook, I won't watch it. If there are articles posted about animal abuse or child abuse or any other emotional triggers, I won't read them. If someone is in trouble or needs support, I will focus on the positives in order to be there for them. I know that there is far more good and positive things out there in the real world, than negative and I try to remain focused on that. And when something negative comes into my life, it will eventually lead to something positive always does.

I stopped watching television many years ago because most of what is broadcast is primarily with the intent of  creating drama. Drama tends to draw the "nosy" side of people with emotions about that story. That causes more talk, more finger pointing, more videos, more blogs, and more follow-up stories and discussions, rarely making anyone feel better.

Oh, I still find myself occasionally falling into my own trap of obsessing on something negative, but I am getting better at quickly figuring out a way to "change the channel". Dogs are very good at changing channels as they will focus on something good (good sniffs, running away/doing zoomies, etc) when they find that something is stressing them or bothering them. They are masters at finding positives or reinforcers.

To take this a step further, sometimes drama is personally created by trying to blame or point the finger at someone else for something that has happened that bothers or irritates us. "S/he made me so mad" is a very common statement that precedes a story that has seemingly put us at a disadvantage or in a position of having someone else causing us some kind of negative situation. If you are very honest about it, when you are mad at someone else it is never caused by that person. It's something that you have allowed to bother you and it's just more convenient to put the blame on someone else for that wrong. "He cut me off in traffic, that made me so mad", well why are you mad? He's now in front of you instead of tailgating behind you....or maybe there was an emergency...or even being more honest, have you ever unintentionally done that to someone else when you were in a hurry and then regretted it? Or are you just upset that someone else is just going faster than you are able to go? These are the incidents that can really test your commitment to be empowered to control the way you look at things. People simply can not make you upset, if you just don't allow them to - that is totally under your own control and when you realize that, it is very enlightening.

No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and apply what we've learned to improve our lives. That's what it's all about - it's not our jobs to try and change other people - that is useless wasted negative energy and an impossible task.

What are my goals for 2011? My goals are to continue to allow people the right to have a difference of opinion, continue to find opportunities to "change the channel" when drama appears to be present, and just continue to try and find ways to feel gratitude and enjoyment in 2011. These are goals I know I can achieve and they will bring about endless good things in the year to come.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Puppy Play, Socialization, and Confinement

Lots people are getting puppies lately. One of the questions people will ask me is where they can find a good puppy socialization class where there is puppy play time. While I am sure there are wonderful classes with puppy play time and instructors that are careful to ensure that the size and age are equal as well as the personalities (no bullies), I would never personally put any of my young dogs in a class or place where puppies are allowed to play as part of the class. I'm not trying to say that these classes are bad or wrong. I just don't like them for my own dogs.

Bringing Gimmick home from Advance, NC
and Denise Wall's farm
(photo take by Denise Wall)
When I get a new puppy, I want them to bond with me. Before they come home with me and they are in the litter, they find reinforcement from playing with the other puppies and if you have a wonderful breeder, like I do, they get lots of interaction from her (or him) as well. However, that being said, when a new puppy comes into my life, I want them to learn that all the fun and reinforcements are coming from me - not from other dogs. Since my dogs are not only my pets, they are future performance dogs, I want to ensure that I am not allowing them to further associate other dogs as a source of reinforcement or pleasure. Some dogs, like my young dog Schema, have so much prey drive and are highly stimulated by motion that if I would have given her more access to running and chasing other dogs as a young dog, her focus would have been almost unmanageable now. I understand that many people use these puppy play time sessions to exercise and tire the puppies. But again, I feel that its in my puppy's better interest to have me exercise them - mentally and physically. It might be more of an inconvenience by some (I actually enjoy training and playing with puppies), but the pay off down the road is priceless. With me exercising my young dogs, I can continue to train and reward and build a great relationship. And they grow to look to me as the source of excitement and adventure in their lives.

In terms of socialization, I believe that I am the best person to properly provide those experiences for my puppies (not other dogs or puppies) and give them the best exposure to life. I can monitor and control their behavior by rewarding them for things I want repeated and distracting them or removing them when there are unwanted behaviors.

Reason at 9 weeks of age
Some people have had or currently have dogs that have been dog aggressive or are just highly stimulated by the presences of dogs and they don't want to have the same situation happen with their new puppy. But by putting your puppy into a puppy play socialization class, doesn't guarantee that they will learn to deal better with dogs. They can still have a bad experience and still end up with fear issues. Most dog aggression is fear based and I believe that I can minimize and prevent fear issues with my own training and proper exposure to people, dogs, places, and various environments. Also I believe fear issues or behavior issues can be aggravated by the owner's reaction to how the puppy reacts to something and so I feel it is more important for me - as the puppy's leader - to build trust by controlling those situations as much as possible. Puppy play sessions are not controlled enough - at least for my own liking.


I am also very careful to not let my puppies run with my older dogs (for the sake of them getting hurt, as their bodies and bones are not yet done growing). Even my adult dogs that are good with puppies are not allowed much time together with the puppy and when they are I am there supervising. Depending on the puppy and how much they are interested in the other dogs, I might start allowing them some time together outside to play, while I am watching. But by then, I know they have a reliable recall. If it appears that my young dogs are ignoring my commands to recall away from the activities or they are being too "doggie", they will lose their privileges. I do not want them to be practicing bad habits of ignoring me or my commands.

Tack and Reason on the bed
Teaser on the floor next to the xpen

I like to use an exercise pen (xpen) in the house and motels to keep my young dogs separate from my older dogs. This helps the adjustment between the young and old, helps me to be able to do things in the house and not have to worry about my pup getting into something they shouldn't, and also prevents the pup and the dogs from too much interaction at the start.

In the house or in the motels, I never let my dogs rough house or wrestle or run through the rooms. Many accidents happen indoors and usually when the dogs are tired and just running amok. My young dogs seem to get very active and tend to run wild the most around bedtime - usually 9:30. When they start running like that, they are removed and put back into their xpen. Almost immediately after being confined, they fall fast asleep. This running amok is very similar to what happens with the Border Collies when they are adolescents and are being worked on stock. If they are mentally exhausted (due to the difficult demands and tense pressure situations that stock training involves), they will start doing the same thing - running hard, but with very little thought. That is the time to quit as well.

As my puppy grows up, they are allowed more and more privileges and will be allowed gradual increased freedom. I am also quick to take away privileges and freedom I start to see behavior issues or changes. But my dogs spend most of their puppy hood and adolescent time in an xpen when I am not around or I am busy and unable to watch them. Lots of very good dog trainers struggle with young dogs getting into trouble chewing unwanted items, getting into unwanted areas, eating things they shouldn't eat, grabbing food off of counters and many other bad behaviors because the dog is not constantly supervised.  I'm always surprised that performance people are resistant to using more confinement and structured separation with their dogs to minimize these unwanted situations. Because my puppies and adolescents are raised by being confined in an xpen when they are not being supervised, they learn to relax and when they are out they learn to interact with me or just hang out with me. They do not go off looking for trouble (if they do, they lose their privilege of freedom).

Score at 14 weeks
I love puppies and I thoroughly enjoy training, playing, and interacting with puppies. They are as bundles of pure energy and enthusiasm. They are empty pages of a future novel that we will write together as we share a very special journey.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Score Herding photos

These photos were taken by Amy Johnson of Great Dane Photos. They are from a herding trial in the summer of 2009 where I was doing a lot of training and some trialing with Score. The photo series was taken at the pen and then after a successful shed.

Now that I'm back working Score on stock after having to take the summer off (due to Lyme disease treatment and complications), the season is coming to an end. I can look at these photos and dream of doing it again next year. I so missed working Score, as I just love the way I can set a line when he is driving and he will hold the sheep on that line. It's something that was very natural in him and I just didn't screw it up.

Images by GreatDanePhotos Copyright 2009 ( used with permission

Last weekend I was able to sneak an AKC A course trial in to see if he could handle some pressure (the arena courses really put pressure on the dogs because of the fence and the draws) and he handled himself really well up until he had to turn them across the field which is where he stopped listening. I was happy with his work up until then. The repen was really fun because the dog and handler had to work to get them into the pen.

Here is a video from that arena course:

Spring of 2011, I'll be back to regular herding training with Score and Schema. It's good for them and so challenging and enjoyable for me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Kathy Flynn sent me this lovely message"
"Carolyn Hax says, “Being negative is easy. There will always be a downside to everything good, a hurdle to everything desirable, a con to every pro. The real courage is in finding the good in what you have, the opportunities in every hurdle, the pros in every con.”
The opposite of this is also true! “Being positive is easy.” Don’t let the negative things get you down! You can overcome anything that you want to – you just need to want to! Make the decision and be positive. You know you can do it. When you do make the switch, you will see more gratitude flow into your life!"
Paul B. Taubman, II
And I found the video below, which relates to this same subject. There are endless inspirational quotes (I had to pause the video many times for some of them). I don't know how I could ever feel bad after watching it and listening to the music.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why Talk About It?

Here's a question for you. If you think you heard something said about a friend that is not nice and would upset them, what would you do? Would you interrupt the conversation and defend your friend? Would you say nothing and then go tell your friend? Or would you just ignore the conversation?

I know in my high school and college days, I felt the need to tell my friends what was said. I felt that they needed to know so they could defend themselves.

If I am really honest with myself as to why I used to want to tell my friends what I heard said about them - it was actually to bring about more attention to myself to someone that I felt was important in my life. Not really done to help my friend at all (since it only ends up hurting them more). Once I realized that it's just best to ignore negative things being said about others and to even try NOT to hear gossip that is being discussed, it really made me feel like I had more control of my life. I do not need to pass along "news" being discussed by someone that obviously has different intentions in life (or is in a different place right now than I am) in order for me to feel better. I do not need or require others to like me or respect me and I don't need to try and control others' discussions, even if they are about me or any of my friends. It's impossible to do, anyway and that is something that will only affect them. It only affects me, when I let it affect me - and that just makes me feel so much more in control of my life.

Passing along negativity only brings about more negativity and more hurt feelings. Life is not about "defending" what you feel is right. Live life like our beloved dogs do - they hold no grudges and do not defend anything they do - they just do what they feel is reinforcing and ignore anything that is uncomfortable until it goes away.

You gotta just love dogs!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reason's Relatives

In the past, I didn't think that Reason looked anything like either his dam, Static (bred by Edgar Gould) or his sire, Scheme (bred by Red Oliver).  Here is a photo of Static (lower left) and Scheme (upper right). Scheme is also Score's sire and Score looks identical to his handsome Daddy.

When Reason's breeder, Jan DeMello went back to her home area in Massachusetts a few years back, she visited with her long time friend, Edgar Gould while she worked dogs and watched some of his dogs working. Edgar was no longer trialing, but he still had Static's sire, Craig and Jan sent me some photos of Craig working. I thought that Reason looked like his paternal grandfather, Craig.

What Reason inherited from both of his parents was their work ethic, intensity, and longevity in being able to perform. Static went to live with Sharon Ferguson when she was 7 years old. Jan knew that Static would excel in obedience and Sharon loved trialing in obedience. Static was an awesome obedience partner for Sharon - competing until she was over 13 years of age and achieving a UDX3. Static died when she was over 16 years of age after living a very full life of herding, obedience, and agility (never competed, but was trained on all the obstacles).

What prompted me to write this blog entry? Sharon Ferguson sent me a photo of Static heeling at the age of 11 years. When I looked at that photo, I couldn't believe how much she looked like Reason heeling. I remember watching Jan working Static in obedience when they lived in Indiana and Static was such a cute heeling dog. Now looking at the both of them, I can see that although he doesn't have her markings he does look more like Static than I thought.

Here is a photo of Static heeling with Sharon at 11 years of age:

Here is a photo of me heeling with Reason in Open B (where won the class and took HIT):

Here is photo of Static working stock:

Here is a photo of Reason working stock:

I can't keep Reason out of the water as he is an incredible swimmer and absolutely LOVES to dive off the dock at my parents lake home. He will retrieve the bumper tossed into the water, then swim back to shore and drop in on the dock as he runs up to the end and takes a leap back into the water waiting for the next round. Here is a photo of Static diving into a pool:

Static had an attitude about her. She was a control freak and wouldn't let any of the other dogs do what she felt was bothersome. Reason has that trait in him as well and along with that controlling air about him, he also inherited her trademark "smile". Reason uses this when he feels a dog is getting too close to him and he also puts on his best smile when there is a ball on the floor that someone is going to kick towards him.

Thanks Sharon for sending me that photo and thanks to Jan for blessing my life with such an amazing boy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cool Schema Photos

I just love these photos of Schema that were taken by Kim Schaefer at the Tails In Motion USDAA trial last weekend. Thank you Kim for these wonderful action shots of my best girl, Schema.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MAC AKC Agility Trial

I had a great weekend at the MAC AKC agility trials. Reason and Score ran in Excellent B while Schema ran in Open. Score double Q'd on Saturday and Reason double Q'd on Sunday. Schema had some great runs in Open, but we have some weave issues on the exits that need work.

Here are Score's runs for his Double Q on Saturday:

Here are Reason's runs for his Double Q on Sunday. Reason is my amazing 11 year young boy who I am thrilled to be still running in the 20" class:

Here is a great jumpers run by Score with one bar down:

And then my 2 year old baby dog, Schema. She is trying so hard and with her ground speed and her love of this game (and handling mistakes on my part) we are gradually coming together. Here is a great Open JWW run from Saturday - no mistakes on her part. I was late on one front cross (which SHE SAVED) and then I sent her off course on the next front cross. She is such a good girl:

Here is her Standard run on Sunday. A great start to this run with great contacts. But the weave entry was difficult because they were coming out of the chute at a 90 degree angle. When I redid her entry she stayed in until the last pole and popped it because of the a-frame contact ahead of her. I decided to go on and fix this later in training.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Drama Or Empowerment

Lots of people on Facebook are talking about the "drama" at some of the trials they've been to recently. Drama can show it's face in many different ways. But here is an article by Jack Canfield that really sums it up for me. This was posted on Marlene Chism's "Stop Your Drama" blog.  Click here to go to the link to the blog entry.

Who is responsible for your success at the trials (whether it be obedience, agility, herding, etc)? Well it is absolutely - 100% yours. I can't think of anything that could happen during a performance or related to a performance that wouldn't be your fault - either as a trainer, as a handler, or because of your own mental state.

It's when the failures at the trials are very disappointing or frustrating, that excuses and complaints can start to creep up and get in the way of making progress. "Someone distracted me.", "I didn't have time to walk the course.", "The steward took another dog out of order when I was ready.", "The judge made a terrible call or The judge was inconsistent with the scoring.", "The set out of the sheep was terrible on my run'.", "The sheep were too difficult to work.", "The judge ran us into the gate.", "The course was too difficult", etc.

These external factors are not the source of any issues that you had with your performance at the trial. The source of the problem is you and your own attitude. Sometimes you are extremely disappointed and embarrassed and it's just much easier to blame the dog, the judge, the equipment, the workers, the club members, etc than to take the ultimate responsibility and fix your own attitude. Yes, those external factors might have contributed to "the drama", but it was you that scripted it, cast it, selected the audience, and opened it up to the public.

There is ALWAYS a better way to look at something that is making you feel poorly or uncomfortable. The main thing to remember is that you can't change what happened. And trying to convince people that you were not successful because of outside circumstances is not going to make you feel any better or do anything to make a positive change. In fact, if you are really honest with yourself, it will actually make you feel worse as you gave it more energy and focus. Instead of doing that, make peace with it. Find a way to look at it differently. Let it inspire you to make changes. Take a step back and be honest with yourself. You don't need excuses when you are talking openly and honestly with yourself.

We are doing this mostly as a hobby - for fun and enjoyment. The dog's performance is just a reflection of our mental state of mind or our focus - good or bad. If you are complaining, justifying or making excuses, then there is a good chance that things will go wrong again and again. And, because you expect things to go wrong, you will continue down that uncomfortable path. That is because you have put too much focus on what is wrong and what can go wrong and why it usually goes wrong. As Jack Canfield says, "Blaming only ties up your energy".

However, if you are empowered by failures or unexpected performances or situations, then chances are much better that things will improve. Even if your performance takes a while to improve, if you don't lose sight of that inspiration to make changes, you will eventually improve...little by little. Many of the most successful people in this country have overcome greater obstacles that have repeated over and over and over again. They continued to remain empowered and focused on what they wanted and eventually they achieved it. One of my favorite videos is one of the Michael Jordan Nike commercials - for those of you that have been reading my blogs for awhile, you have probably already seen this - but if you haven't, you can click here.

What I have also found that helps my mental focus is surrounding myself with positive people - both at trials and away from trials.

So, I'll end this by quoting the Jack Canfield because he sums it up better than I could ever do:


"Believe, Believe, Believe! Have unwavering faith in yourself, for good and bad. Make the decision to accept the fact that you create all your experiences. You will experience successes thanks to you, and you will experience pain, struggle, and strife thanks to you. Sounds a little strange, but accepting this level of responsibility is uniquely empowering. It means you can do, change, and be anything. Stumbling blocks become just that—little hills to hop over.

"Take no less than 100% responsibility. Successful people take full responsibility for the thoughts they think, the images they visualize, and the actions they take. They don’t waste their time and energy blaming and complaining. They evaluate their experiences and decide if they need to change them or not. They face the uncomfortable and take risks in order to create the life they want to live.

"Stop complaining. Look at what you are complaining about. ...Really examine your complaints. More than likely you can do something about them. They are not about other people, other things, or other events. They are about YOU.

"Make an immediate change. Are you unhappy about something that is happening right now? Make requests that will make it more desirable to you, or take the steps to change it yourself. Making a change might be uncomfortable for you. It might mean you have to put in more time, money, and effort. It might mean that someone gets upset about it, or makes you feel bad about your decision. It might be difficult to change or leave a situation, but staying put is your choice so why continue to complain?

You can either do something about it or not. It is your choice and you have responsibility for your choices.

"Pay attention. Looking to others for help and guidance is helpful, but don’t forget to stay tuned in to yourself—your behavior, attitude, and life experiences. Identify what’s working and what isn't. If you need to, write it all down. Then…

"Face the truth and take action for the long term. You have to be willing to change your behavior if you want a different outcome. You have to be willing to take the risks necessary to get what you want. If you’ve already taken an initial step in the right direction, now’s the time to plan additional steps to keep moving you forward, faster.

"Isn't it a great relief to know that you can make your life what you want it to be? Isn’t it wonderful that your successes do not depend on someone else?

"So if you need just one thing to do different today than you did yesterday, make it this:

"Commit to taking 100% responsibility for every aspect of your life. Decide to make changes, one step at a time. Once you start the process you’ll discover it’s much easier to get what you want by taking control of your thoughts, your visualizations, and your actions!"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Inclusion, Diversity, and Appreciation

Have you noticed that there are times where a few of your lifestyle habits start causing negative energy to grasp hold and interfere with your attitude? The goal in our lives should be all about finding happiness and joy. But do you find yourself occasionally noticing the opposite?

Ask yourself a few questions and be honest with yourself.

1) Can you approach someone that feels different from you (uses a different handling system, trains with someone else, comprehends and takes things in differently than you do, has a different personality, etc) and pay them a compliment? If you answered "No", then is it because they don't compliment you? Or do you justify not telling someone that they've done a good job because they train or do things differently than you do and they are successful?

2) Do you embrace and appreciate the different ways that people do things and "allow" them to be different?

3) Can you listen to a friend or another person "gossip" (what someone has done or what has happened to someone, someone's dog, someone's mistake, etc) and seriously not contribute to it by asking any more questions, not giving opinions or input, and just drop it and not let it go any further with any further thought?

4) Do you treat people the same in every situation? (in front of a crowd, among many people, alone with them, in a formal situation, in an informal setting)?

There was a time in my life where I wouldn't have been able to honestly answer these questions. I suspect if I had been asked, I would have answered them very differently and would not have admitted that I needed to change the way I approached life and the way I viewed others.

I was fooling myself in believing that I was living my life incorporating the Golden Rule. While I can honestly say that I've always been good at paying compliments to others, it's not easy to admit that there was an empty feeling or a feeling of jealousy during some of those compliments. At one time, it was very important to me to debate issues that I felt were "wrong" and argue the importance of doing things the way I had decided to do them. If people did things very differently than I did, it was worth trying to find fault with something in order to justify what I was doing. This was purely personal for me as it would make me feel better - surrounding myself with more "believers" or company - which would make me temporarily feel better or more powerful. Being popular is powerful in the mind of an insecure person as is being in the right company. It was important that I was respected and for people to know of my successes and experiences. The hardest thing for me to admit was the gossip. I would hear something from someone and feel the need to add fuel to the fire by contributing more negativity. Then I would think nothing of passing it along to anyone else that I felt might be impressed or who would listen. It was important for me to be "in the know" and if it elicited more negativity, it was worth passing along. I also regret the times that that I would "tease" (which is a kinder word than what I was really doing) a person in front of a crowd. I did this because it would temporarily make me feel better.

Interesting enough, while I might have felt better at the time by my treatment of others and while I might have felt at the time that I was a positive person (and I was in other ways), I was actually contributing more and more to my own negative energy. It took a long challenging/stressful event in my life that helped me make changes that have made me a better person. 

What I know now is that I can honestly answer each of those questions with a very bold "Yes". I always treat people the same way - whether in a crowd or if I am alone with them. If it appears someone is treating me in a way that I know is different than they usually do, I know that it's not my problem and it's nothing personal towards me. It's just the sign of an insecure person who doesn't recognize that they are contributing to their own negative energy. I am very proud of the fact that I no longer gossip or pass along anything negative to others. I will listen politely, but not contribute and then I will let it go. I genuinely pay compliments to people with the sheer appreciation of what they have accomplished and without needing the compliment returned to me. I appreciate diversity in handling, different opinions, and I don't take things personally. I'm not perfect in any of these areas and I do still make mistakes, but I am quick to recognize it and it only makes me more determined to do better next time.

I believe in inclusion - not exclusion. I believe in diversity - not conformity. I believe it's important to appreciate others for what they are contributing to my experience - even if it's an opportunity to realize how not to behave. And sometimes when someone is really bothering me, if I am really honest it's something about that person that reminds me of something that I don't like in myself. I love differences of opinions because it creates change and gets open minded people thinking, and I appreciate and respect everyone's journey through life. We are all at different places in our lives and everyone is trying their best to improve and become a better person. The way to make your world and your life experience feel wonderful and more enjoyable as each day passes is to concentrate on making changes within you. That's the only way!

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Very Special Photo

This photo is very special to me. It was taken at the St. Cloud AKC trial on Saturday, June 19th, 2010 by Deb Forstner. She was kind enough to send me a copy (both digital and paper). She said in her message (and I'm paraphrasing) that she lucked out in getting such a nice shot. What she didn't know was just HOW amazing this photo is and just what she captured. I am actually in the photo, but when I zoomed in and took a look at Reason jumping, I had to smile.

One year ago - June of 2009, I ran Reason at this same trial. What I didn't know at that time was that it was going to be the last time he would be able to do trials until mid January of 2010. About 2 weeks after that trial in 2009, I was doing a 2 jump practice session with Schema on serpentines and I tried it with Reason. Serpentine and turn to the right....serpentine and turn to the left. It was at that time that Reason cried and as I looked towards him, he was raising his right rear leg. I thought he had torn his cruciate ligament. When I looked closer at that leg, it wasn't painful. But the outer digit on that rear right foot was jammed/dislocated. I quickly pulled it back into place, he screamed and appeared fine. No lameness.  That same thing happened again the next day when he was just turning on his own in the yard. The diagnosis at that time was that it was a torn ligament. He was on a tight supportive wrap for 4 weeks and extremely restricted leash walking. For at least 8 weeks after that, I gradually built up the strength in that leg with various exercises that were given to me by Lin Gelbmann (click here to read more about Lin).  And he appeared to be doing well and I gradually had him jumping again. In October, he dislocated it again going through a tunnel by banking to the left.

I was devastated. Not because of him needing to be retired from agility, but because Reason is such an active dog - a do-er. He needs activity - a job. All these thoughts were going through my head as I tried to think about how I was going to prevent this from happening again. In early November I saw a specialist at the University of Minnesota (Elizabeth LaFond) and when she saw Reason's toe, she told me that it was moving in ways that it should not move. She gave me four options, one of which was amputate the toe. This option gave Reason the shortest recovery time - where he could be back to being a normal dog (well, normal Reason) the quickest. I made the decision to go that route and I was lucky that there was an opening the following Friday. So, on November 6th, the surgery was done and he came home the next day. Not a bit of lameness after the surgery. The procedure was a success and the incision healed beautifully.

There was no balance issues and after 3 weeks, I started to exercise and rehab that leg and foot again. As I started working him with exercises, I noticed that he was actually moving better and was more relaxed than before the surgery. The thought occurred to me that I might be able to do agility with him again. A few weeks later, I started to jump him at 16" and handled it wonderfully and he was SO happy.  I was able to practice a few times on a dirt arena as well as the mats at TCOTC and he did great. In mid January, I entered him in his first AKC trial (the Malinois trial) and he was AMAZING! He actually placed 2nd in two of his classes - one was a jumpers class. I was so happy and he was even more happy.

He's been trialing since then - only at the AKC trials and I am very careful of the surface. I won't run him on any surface where he can not dig in.

So, why does that photo above so special to me?  It had been one year since that last agility trial before that dislocated toe happened. In that photo, he is 3 days short of turning 11 years old - that in and of itself is amazing. But look closely at that right rear foot as he is turning over the double (on his way to the weaves, BTW :-)). You can see that he is flying over the jump without that toe.

Thank you Deb for this VERY special photo!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How could another year roll by...

It seems just like yesterday, when I posted the video for Reason's 10th birthday (click here to watch it). Now another year has gone by and today he turned 11 years old.

I am truly blessed to have this incredible dog in my life. From the moment I first held him when he was a baby, I knew there was something special about him. Even at 11, he is always ready to do something. He's still competing in agility and running in his regular height division. He's in great shape physically and mentally and I cherish every time I lead out at the start line in agility with him.

So happy birthday Reason. Words can not express how much joy you bring into my life, just hanging out with you. You are my REASON for....well, for everything.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peak Performance Words To Live By

I love this quote by Abraham, Esther & Jerry Hicks

"Don't try to recreate peak experiences. Instead, just accept them as the gift that they are, and don't beat up on yourself for not being able to stay there. Because if you stayed there, they wouldn't be peak experiences. They would be normal, every day in time hum drum boring, experiences. So, savor the peak experiences and compliment yourself upon your achieving of them, and expect more of them, and leave everything else out of the equation. "

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Training Addiction

This is a question that I pondered recently while I was driving in my van. I absolutely love training dogs - even before I got involved in competing in dog sports, I was training animals. Before I had dogs, I had horses and I was just as passionate about training them. I have been training animals (horses, birds, dogs, cats, and anything else I could get my hands on) since I was 5 years old and my Dad bought me a Shetland Pony.

This question applies to all of dog sports - Why do we get so addicted to training our dogs?

I know for me, I thrive on variety, problem solving, and the challenge of continuing to improve in order to get better results. But that still doesn't answer the question as to why I am so passionate about the time I spend with them in training. For me, it goes much further than the training itself. The passion revolves around my desire to better my communication between each of my canine partners and the ultimate connection and bond that we develop as a team through the training sessions.  There is nothing better than finding a path of communication in a way that inspires them to enjoy the games we play together. I find that training dogs grounds me and keeps me focused on what is right in this world.

I'd be interested in hearing from you on this subject, as well.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Schema is Two Years Old

It's hard for me to believe that two years have already gone by and my baby girl has turned two years old. I remember when Reason and Score were her age and that seems like yesterday.

Schema has been the best match that I could have ever anticipated as she is dripping with drive and style. To say that she gives me goose bumps, when I work her is an understatement. Not only does she love to work, she also really tries to do it right (in Schema style).

Collage by Laurie Erickson

I could go on and on and bore everyone with written words, but I think I'll just leave you with this KICK ASS video that captures her personality. I somehow deleted the lovely heeling and circle work video clips from the video when I created it. But I still love the way it turned out and the song fits her perfectly.

Happy Birthday, Schema!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

MACH Score

What an amazing weekend of AKC Agility with my two wonderful boys, Reason & Score.  The American Belgian Malinios Club AKC agility trials were held at Simon arena in Cannon Falls, MN (about 30 minutes south of St. Paul) in an equestrian center. This trial was the first AKC trial to be held in this arena and the ABMC went from a one ring trial to this three day, two ring trial with a wonderful judging panel. Thank you to both this club and the Golden Retriever clubs (next week trial at the same site) for taking a chance on moving their trials to this dirt arena.  What a wonderful trial.

Reason made his comeback after having his toe amputated back in November and he put in some wonderful runs. Today, he even placed 3rd in Excellent Jumpers with a time that was .01 seconds from 2nd place.  He is running better than he has run and nearly double Q'd today except that I mishandled him in two areas, which I was able to correct in Score's subsequent run.

Score went into this weekend needing one double Q to finish his MACH and he saved the suspense for the last day.  He had a great jumpers run and was just .06 seconds behind Reason's run and just out of 4th place. Going into Standard, I knew what I had to do to get him through that course clean - one was that I HAD to get a front cross (and not a rear cross) in before the second to the last jump, which was a wingless jump right after the chute.  Score has some challenges coming out of tunnels and chutes seeing things fast enough and I was not as confident using a rear cross there as I felt he would probably drive to the wing jump, which was the last jump.

Since I was able to get that front cross in with Reason, I knew I could get it with Score. But it was very close. When he went over that last bar, the crowd broke out in excitement which really touched me. Score was so funny because when I was trying to do a quick lap with him, he wouldn't give up his leash and wanted me to tug. I got him to drop it and threw it off, but he went to grab it again. I finally convinced him to run with me one more time.

Here is Score's MACH run. Thanks to Mark O'Sell for videotaping along with the wonderful comments and keeping the camera running before and after the run.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Schema Agility Update

What can I say...I just love this little girl, Schema, who just turned 20 months yesterday. She has everything I want in a dog - she's driven, biddable, athletic, focused when she's working with me, and just such a sweet heart. I just can't say enough good things about her. She runs agility and does obedience like her uncle Reason. I just love working with her and we've come a long way these last few months as we're just starting to put it all together.

Schema has great skills and a great foundation. I've balanced a good deal of impulse control exercises along with drive. Until just recently (late November) she had done very little sequencing of obstacles. I had never had her in any class or even had her out in public working obstacles. I worked alone and worked on lots of skills. When I was in a public setting with more distractions, I would work basic circle work, stays, positions/lineups, etc. Just keeping her busy and focused - yet always pushing her to be able to handle more "work" in public.

Within the last couple of  months, she has really turned it up a notch and she is starting to show me that she is ready to start entering some trials (which means that March will probably be her AKC debut). Next weekend, I have her entered in one USDAA class per day (Gamblers one day, Jumpers the next) in a local one ring trial. This will be a good test as to whether I feel she is ready to start trialing.

Here is a video of a run through at On The Run Canine Center today. I was very happy with her work, but confused as to why she kept missing her weave entries. She has great entries and I proof her and test her constantly on them to make her think. However, after doing those first two run throughs and looking back to the video, I realize that the blue cone that numbered the course at the entrance to the weaves on that side, was distracting her and caused her to repeatedly miss her entries. It was a great thing to find another opportunity to proof her weaves more in training by putting distractions at the entrance.  I've done that by putting distractions along the weaves to get her to pop out, but never at the entrance.

I love her contacts - especially the dog walk. In the first video, she was a bit hesitant going over the top of the dog walk in the first run. But in the next run, she was close to being back to her normal speed over the top.  What I love most about her dog walk is her speed as she powers the downside of that contact.

Here is the video of Schema's first run:

Here is the video of her second run:
(with only one dog between our runs - we were both exhausted):