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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Babboo preparing for Agility demonstration - A venture down memory lane

On the first go round of practice for the demonstration run we had volunteered for on the agility course at the Marin Humane society, Babboo did himself proud, veering off track only once for a detour over the A-Frame, which was not part of the course. This made the other participants laugh, but he was quickly drawn back on track and took all the jumps and tunnels like a pro.

His mom, me, was very proud of her boy too. At the end of the week, we were to be part of a demonstration of agility for the public at a special course set up just for the occasion as part of the Humane Society's promotional activities.

Other dogs with vastly more experience on the equipment (with owners with vastly more time on their hands and money to spend on training classes), did not fare so well.  Except for spunky little Poseidon, a Jack Russell, who was a leaping fool, and a fluffy Keeshoundish looking dog, whose prowess was first rate.

I recognized two of the ladies from the Intermediate class, in which I had attempted to enroll Babboo as he had already passed Agility 2 last year.  In the one class we attended, the older of the two with a rather overweight blonde Cocker looking mix complained to the instructor that Babboo was taking away from their precious time, as he needed a little extra help getting the knack of the “target,” the plastic cottage cheese container cap that marked the end of the narrow dog walking platform.  Babboo in his eagerness overshot the target time and again and had to be coaxed with treats to perfect the art.

Other than that, he tunneled and jumped with the best of them.  Better in my humble opinion, given his months away from the course, while these dogs’ parents bragged about their weekly instruction over the past year. 

Taking the hint that we weren’t wanted in this class of semi-pros, we dropped back to another Agility 2, taught by the same instructor and just as challenging.  Babboo aced his first class there, becoming a world class targeter.  There were pitfalls to this new skill, however, as he much preferred targeting for treats than tunneling or jumping for praise.  He’s a natural rooter, and should have been a truffle dog.  I could see him snarfing along through the loamy earth, turning up the prized tidbits (and probably scarfing them down before the humans could harvest them from his quick nose and snout). 

Babboo’s Achilles heel is treats dropped in the grass by handlers, myself included; his nose catches the whiff of a morsel deep in the turf, he he’s onto it fast, all lessons forgotten.  Luring him back to attention is my job, and not always easily accomplished.

So going into a group of dogs practicing for a demonstration of their skills for the public was a giant leap of faith on my part. On his second and third turns on the course, which had been opened up slightly for the ease of handlers who, despite their experience, got flustered over fast turns and short distances between hurdles, he pretty much bombed. More distance between jumps means more time for snurfing in the grass for goodies. More time for distractions, a passing road grader, a dog in the next field, a pee on the side of the tunnel to my horror, after making sure he had time to “go” between turns in the proper location.

And perhaps he was just plan bored. Mom, I did this already, give me something new.  His third round was pure disaster; he snurfed, he veered, he completely ignored the tunnel, which is usually his favorite trick.

Frida in agility
Other dogs to be fair did not do much better; the ladies from Intermediate got confused about what to do next, the older one had a hurt ankle and limped her way through the course, another’s refused the tunnel, and missed half the jumps altogether. Even brilliant Poseidon and Keeshound took detours.

This was our first go at it. Thursday we are back for more punishment.  We’ll see. Babboo may be a washout, or just an example of what not to do in your agility trials.  Either way, he’s a winner to me.

Update -  Babboo was ok on the field at the demonstration but soon thereafter, his boredom with all things agility finally won out, and we removed him from class. By that time, he had a sister, Frida, Queen Frida to you, who is now my ace agility dog. Babboo prefers the regal pose in chairs.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Queen Frida and her selective hearing

I once had a dog named Sammy, a beautiful, but kinda dumb blonde Golden Retriever. He was the gentlest dog I have ever known. He let kids, dogs, cats even crawl all over him. He raised our other dog Grover from a puppy, licking her clean when we brought her home from where she had been living with her littermates under a house on a nearby farm, and they slept curled together for months.

Later, he raised a black kitten named Jim Bundu, who used to suck on a tuft of his fur while kneading like crazy, then curl up and sleep in the nook of Sammy's protective armpit.

Sammy was the perfect dog except for his one fault. For years we thought he was deaf. On walks, we would call him back from where he was sniffing somewhere he oughtn't to have been, or try to find him when he was all cozy under the table to come and get brushed or go for a bath. Poor Sammy is deaf we said to everyone who came over to visit us.

One day, we discovered that when we mentioned the word "dinner" in a low tone of voice that didn't even make Grover budge, although she was right there in the same room, Sammy would come on run from where he had been lazing on the deck outside, looking expectantly up at us, tail awag. Hmmm. We experimented with other of his words, like "walk," "ball" and "treat" with the same result.

Nothing wrong with his ears at all. He had selective hearing. The ability (or the stubbornness) to tune out what he didn't want to hear, but to pick up on even a whisper of what he did. We were on to his bluff.

Not that it made any difference in behavior, not his anyway. As for us, instead of shouting over and over for him to "Come over here right now!", we just went and got him, clipping on the leash and all but dragging him away from the intriguing scents that were occupying his interest.

So it goes with Queen Frida. Normally, a quick "Here" followed by a slap on the thigh (my thigh) brings her around to where I want her to be. On the agility field, I can get her back immediately (or almost) when her attention wanders to a dropped treat in the grass, or a passing dog outside the fence. Not so on the trail.

There's a wonderful trail near here called the Bay Trail. It meanders along on the edge of the San Francisco Bay for miles. Dogs may go offleash on some portions of it. The water is to one side, with the San Rafael bridge stretching across to Richmond, the occasional passing boat, shore birds winging overhead, knowing enough not touch down where dogs and people abound.

But on the other side, a steep and unstable slope leads to a big field, probably protected wetlands, definitely off-limits to dogs. Critters live on the side of that cliff, not a tall one, but difficult for a human to traverse; I know; I've tried.. Lizards and ground squirrels and all manner of small hopping birds and insects use the scrubby grasses and dense brush as shelter..

Yesterday, Frida discovered the mother-lode of forbidden pleasure - rustling about among the grasses and underbrush in search of elusive small animals, whose chirps and scuttlings called to her. I called to her too, to no avail. I could picture her bounding across the field into the distance, me shouting and tromping after her, through much and mire.

But, for now at least, ignoring me all the time, she stayed close to the path, moving through the bushes; I caught glimpses of her white/red fur among the green/brown foliage. I stayed on the path, and kept moving forward, parallel to her frenzied route, until finally, finally! she burst back up ahead of me on the trail and turned in my direction. Naturally, I knelt down, my hands full of treats and called out cheerily, "Here, Frida, good girl, treats!" And she ran to me and gobbled the treats. I popped on the leash for the rest of the walk.
Frida on the run, on the beach, not the trail, but you get the picture
Selective hearing. It's a dog (and I understand, not having any) a teenager thing too.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Everybody loves Frida

Frida is my art dog. She's named for Frida Kahlo because she is a piece of art, and quirky. She's part ACD and part sight hound, we like to think Pharaoh Hound for her grace and regal bearing. She is swift. Her color is read and white, she has eyelashes of different colors and expressions for every mood. She is whimsical and needy. She has been a model for the Marin Clean Energy program (along with me. She stole the show.)
Frida and me modeling for Marin Clean Energy

She had her portrait painted by an artist who saw her picture on Facebook and couldn't resist.
Frida by Brenda Duke
My friend Joe Louis Wildman fell in love with her when he saw her picture on my page. (He has four dogs, he is a dog person, and maybe she says that to all the girls.) When Joe heard Frida was in the car last night at the Sonoma County Democratic crab feed, he asked to meet her. Of course the car was locked and my husband had the key, but he saw her through the window and said, "You know I'm in love with that dog."
Considering if she wants to keep going with this photo shoot
She is a beauty, smart and fast, and skittish.  She has no patience with foolishness. and shows it wit her expressive eyes.
Rolling her eyes