Wednesday, September 25, 2013

cross-stitch and a growing puppy

So thanks to my friend, I've decided to pick up cross-stitch again, at least for a Halloween-themed project.  This isn't my first one, as I completed a pretty good-sized one in the early 2000s and have a smaller one that I did about half of a few years back, but it will be my first one on linen and first time using hand-dyed fabric and floss, so that's kind of neat.  We started on Saturday, and I've spent a lot of time working on it since then, even though I had to buy a pair of reading glasses to see the fabric better and have to have a nice bright light to see by.  So far I've completed the pattern grid (it's a Halloween sampler, with one letter per grid space) and about a quarter of the lace border (with bats, skulls, and spiders).  I love it so far!

When I'm working on it in the evenings, Martok usually ends up curled up near me to snooze, and last night I let him climb up and curl into my lap while I worked.  He did very well, sleeping quietly and not interrupting my stitching - pretty impressive for an (almost) seven-month-old border collie puppy.  There was even a stretch of time where my pattern sheet was resting on his head, and he didn't notice or care.

Chris got me an adorable little "My Little Demon" plushy dragonesque stuffed toy from a Kickstarter campaign, complete with "Danger" wrapping and a personalized Demonator certificate.  Of course, I had to use the Danger wrapping appropriately on my young border collie puppy - they SHOULD come with "Danger" warnings after all!

Last weekend was pretty quiet and calm, so much so that I ended up buying a new shelf to organize all of my fiber craft stuff.  I went to Storables and found this shelf, which perfectly fits six of the Sistema bins I use for yarn/fiber storage per shelf, and I bought it immediately upon realizing this.  It does add some clutter to my room, but it's providing a lot of useful storage and has allowed me to collect all of the fiber things together (instead of strewn about the place), so that's a worthwhile tradoff.  Plus it just makes my organizational heart happy.

One of the things we did do this weekend was pick up our RV trailer after it's long stint at the dealer, where it had various small repairs performed and also had slide rollers installed.  These are like little awnings for the slides, which protect them from weather and minimize any dirt/debris/water from being pulled back into the RV when you close up for travel.  Plus they dampen the sound of rain on the slides, since the rain will hit the awning and not the slide roof itself, a big bonus in this climate!  I'm super excited and can't wait to use it again for a tournament this weekend.

There are a few things that I am keeping in mind these days, of course, with the primary at the moment being Martok's shoulder.  He's demonstrated a bit of limping twice in the past few days, and since this is the age when OCD (osteochontridis dissecans) will present plus his sire has thrown pups who have had it, I'm now a little worried that we could be seeing that with him.  OCD is basically a cartilage disorder where a piece flaps or breaks off within the joint, causing inflammation and pain and later joint damage if it's not resolved.  Martok is exhibiting no pain, full extension and flexion of both shoulders (both manual by me and spontaneously by him while playing), and the stiffness seems to pop up after a nap after exercise, which is different than typical OCD presentation.  So it might be growing pains, as it does seem he's doing nothing but growing legs right now, and that's what we'll hope for, but I'm still waiting to hear from the vet about whether we should bring him in for an exam and radiographs.

My other nearly-constant thought companion is of course our lost Curzon.  Time is helping heal that wound, but it's still definitely a wound and it's not healed over by any means, nor do I think it will be any time soon.  It's hard to make plans for the tournament next month, which would've been his tenth birthday, his ninth anniversary of racing flyball, and his Iron Dog award, all in one weekend.  I'm not looking for him quite as often as I used to, but I still miss him so much, especially as little Martok in all innocence displays so many of the silly border collie boy behaviors that Curzon exhibited.  Ah, well - if I hadn't loved him so, if he hadn't changed our lives so deeply, then it wouldn't hurt to have lost him - and that is something I couldn't bear.

Friday, September 20, 2013

ten years of flyball

This weekend, specifically September 22, will mark the ten year point since I became involved in the sport of flyball.  On that day in 2003, my friend Christy and I went to the Gig Harbor "Harbor Hounds Walk the Town" event to check out this dog sport called flyball that I'd heard of, as the Jet City Jumpers flyball club was putting on a demo.  We did the walk back and forth, watched the flyball demos and talked to the club members, and even taught Jadzia the basics of the game - run over the jumps, pick up a ball, and run back over the jumps.  Christy took this photo of her, the very first one of her playing the game that would define her life.

We joined JCJ after this demo, and began Jadzia's flyball training in earnest.  After about six months of training, most to get Jadzia over her fear of the loud noise the box made, we debuted her as a 14" height dog at Cloverdale at the Kings tournament in March 2004.  She earned her FD in her first heat, her FDX in her first race, her FDCh by the end of the first day, and her FDCh-S at the end of her first weekend - over a thousand points in her debut weekend, an impressive feat.  Jadzia was the first member of JCJ to earn FMCh through FGDCh-40k, and earned up to FGDCh-60k and her Iron Dog award before retiring in May of 2013.

A few weeks after joining JCJ, one of the members helped me find a litter of border collie puppies with a male available, and in December we brought home little Curzon at just eight weeks of age.  Curzon taught himself to play flyball at the age of five months after watching Jadzia's debut, and he debuted himself in October 2004 just two days after his first birthday.  Despite time off for boxturn retraining and his rib resection surgery, Curzon raced nearly his whole life, running his last races in March 2013 before we lost him in May.  Curzon was the first dog on JCJ to break 4.0 seconds, and he earned his FGDCh-40k and had he lived a few more months, he would've earned his FGDCh-50k and his Iron Dog award.  He went with me to NAFA Can-Am Nationals twice, once in 2010 and once in 2012, and ran beautifully both times.

In March of 2008, we took Phoebe from her previous owner who was no longer able to care for her.  Phoebe was our "little tank" of a height dog, setting 7" jumps in NAFA and running savage through her thirteenth year of age until she retired in February 2013.  She was the first dog on JCJ to earn her FGDCh-50k and 60k titles, was the Region 7 MVP for 2011, and retired ranked in the top 30 of Jack Russell Terriers.  She's now living with a retired couple in eastern Oregon and enjoying her well-deserved retirement.

Later that summer, my long-awaited red merle girl Ezri was born in Chicago, and came home in September of that year.  She debuted just three days after her first birthday at a tournament in California, and soon became one of the fastest dogs in the club.  Ezri is a joy to run, takes her job very seriously, and has been on a team that broke 16 seconds in UFLI competition with her own time of 3.83 in that race.  She will be earning her FGDCh-40k next weekend, and my goal for her is to get to HOBBES before she retires (100,000 points).  I've taken her to the NAFA CanAm Nationals twice along with Curzon, and she's raced in Arizona, California, Indiana, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia so far, and we'll be adding Utah to that list in October.  Next year we plan to go to UFLI Nationals in St Louis, Missouri.  I'm looking forward to many years of racing my beloved redhead.

Last but not least is little Martok, Ezri's nephew and our also long-awaited baby boy puppy who was born on February 27 and came home just eleven days before we lost Curzon.  He's very intense, drivey, and focused, and is doing great in his flyball training.  I expect that he'll be debuting in March, the first tournament after his birthday, and we're looking forward to seeing what he can do as he grows up.

Of course, the dogs don't tell the whole story of our time in flyball, because there is so much more.  We've made many good friends over the past ten years, and have been part of two wonderful flyball clubs in that time as well.  We've traveled cross-country with teammates, gone on vacation with them, had parties and dog playdates and pool visits with them, and generally had a great time.  Our lives would be very different today if I hadn't looked into the sport of flyball ten years ago, and I'm ever so glad that I did.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

a busy weekend for a young dog

I have a post planned in my head, but I need to pull photos off my home computer to do it and I haven't powered it on since the thunderstorms last week.  Hopefully tonight I'll get around to doing that, as I do have bills to pay and that's something that can't wait any longer!  We've had a busy few days, especially for the young dog, so there's plenty to post about today even without the planned post-to-be.

Last week I decided to be brave and try taking both of the merles out for my short run together.  I'm using the CanaCross belt, harnesses, and leash that Chris ordered to use for his runs, and they work really well together (although the belt is a bit big for me).  The dogs were nicely responsive, even when a couple of dudebros were ignoring their little yipdogs who raced out into the road after us, and I didn't fall, so I count this as a win.  We did about a mile and a half according to Runkeeper, which is enough for Martok at this age but not nearly enough for Ezri, so she was annoyed.

Martok also got his first sessions with the Manners Minder, which is basically a remote control treat-dispensing robot.  He wasn't scared of it at all, unlike la princessa who still thinks it's evil incarnate, and he was sold when he realized it dispensed treats.  Martok stayed quietly on his bed (or next to it, he's kind of flaily like that) for well over an hour while we played board games with friends, rewarded every couple of minutes with a treat.  It's such a great training tool!

On Saturday we joined our friends from the Jet City Jumpers to do demos at the Riverdog festival in Issaquah, and we had a great time...once we got there.  While traveling down 405 on our way there, one of the back tires on the truck blew out entirely!  I safely got us to the side of the road, and we were all set to change the tire but the wheel refused to come off - which according to the internet, is a common problem and just needs a sledgehammer to knock it loose.  Seeing as we don't keep one of those in the truck routinely, we had to wait until AAA showed up an hour later - two taps of his sledgehammer and the wheel was off and we were ready to go just moments later.

The demo was a lot of fun, although the grass was damp for the first session so only the older/slower dogs were able to race safely.  Jadzia was happy to fill that role, and Ezri ran in the second session after the grass had dried out a bit.  Our friend Paul got a great shot of her leaping into the box, I just love the concentration on her face!  Martok did training as well, including single-jump recalls on the grass without gates, and over/back training with the jump board and touchstick.  And to wrap up the event, both Ezri and Martok tested for and passed their Canine Good Citizen tests, which will add the CGC title to their names as soon as I send in the paperwork.  First title at six months - not bad for a little border collie boy!

Sunday morning brought flyball practice, of course, where Martok did very well with his training and we'll be adding more to his plate next week.  After practice was over, Gallia and I headed out together to take the ferry to Vashon to go to the herding trial. This trip involved a lot of new things for the puppies, including their first time on a boat!

Martok was a little unsure, but did pretty well and was happy to walk around outside on the deck and up and down the stairs inside.  I think he liked the breeze from the movement of the boat over the water.  And of course, a game of tug with the brother makes it all better - Gallia got this great picture of them playing!

We had a good time watching the herding at the trial, and we stayed for about three hours and enjoyed the event, luckily without getting rained on.  The boys at first were way more interested in playing and romping with each other (much to the other attendees' amusement), but eventually they both caught on that there was something else going on in the field, and then there were lots of pictures like this as they watched intently.

Both puppies did very well, and got to meet a sheep up close as well as see a horse, so it was a big day of firsts for them both!  They were passed out in the car on the way home, and were both tired the remainder of the evening, so it ended a great weekend in a nice calm manner.  Sadly, no such big plans this weekend, but soon there will be flyball tournaments again and lots of fun with friends we haven't seen in a while!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

sliding into fall

After most of August off as a break, time to start posting here again!  We had a lovely month, full of all kinds of fun things, most of which I'll touch on here in a photo-heavy wrap-up post.  Hey, those are the most fun, right?

I've been working on the blackberry invasion in our side yard, trimming back and using Round-Up on the stalks once I've cut them to the ground.  I usually have Martok outside with me when I work on this project, as I think lightly supervised solo playtime outside is important for puppies as well as children, and one day he figured out how to eat blackberries off the bushes.  He'd never even HAD a blackberry before that day, which makes it more impressive to me!  Ezri eats berries off the vine as well, but I had to show her where they were the first time out - Martok just did it all on his own.

Our friends were out for a long weekend as one of them did an Ironman triathlon up in Canada, so we kept three of their dogs for them while they were away.  Martok and his favorite girl Flirt (half BC, half mini Aussie) finally stopped playing after about three days and even took a nap together!

We had a tournament in mid-August, rescheduled from April when it was pushed off due to a severe bordetella outbreak in our region. We set a new club record on Saturday of 16.018, with me running my beautiful Ezri in start and Chris running our teammate's dog Savage in second.  Nala and Sprite rounded out the lineup - we think that breaking 16 is going to happen very soon!

Our flyball teammates convinced us to join them for a group run for The Zombie Run, a 5k involving running away from zombies to try and protect your life balloons.  We had a good time, Kristie and I finished in just under 40 minutes so that was kind of exciting, and Chris did really well and finished around 26 minutes I think.  The zombie bit got kind of old near the end, as there were some injuries (I had to jump over someone who fell right in front of me) and at the end there were so many zombies it was impossible to "survive" with any of your life balloons intact.  If there's no way to make it, then that kills the fun for me.  It was a good time with friends, though, and we'll probably do other 5k races together in the future.

And of course, Labor Day Weekend means PAX Prime!  We attended for the eighth year running, with Chris an Enforcer running Unicorn Theater and me being my social self for four days this year, instead of the previous three.  I spent a lot of the weekend running around with other friends, such as my friend Pete in the picture above at the Cards Against Humanity booth, with dinner plans with different groups each night as well as stuff during the day.  I learned how to play Castellan and Zombie Dice, saw some good panels, got my PAX XP prize, and generally had a blast.

And of course, there were buttons.  This was my fourth year doing Buttoneering, and it was definitely a lot of fun.  There were no "dinner plate" buttons this year, so I was able to fit them all on a single bulletin board without hanging off the sides, which was nice!  I still need to move the boards around, as I only have space for the previous three where they are now, but I have a plan for moving them around to a different wall.

Martok continues to grow and learn, and a few weeks ago I took him (along with Ezri and Flirt) to Marymoor Park and the offleash dog area for the first time.  He needed a bit of convincing to swim in the river, but once he figured it out he was having a great time despite the photo above.

And of course, the knitting.  Last night I finished the striped portion of my Color Affection shawl, and miraculously ended up with the right number of stitches.  I have about twelve full-length rows of edging to do and then it's done!

I'm also working on a Wingspan shawl, which I picked after getting the most beautiful long-gradient yarn from an Etsy store.  The color made me think of dragon fire (it continues shifting all the way to red), and so a pattern that looks like dragon wings was eminently appropriate.

We are enjoying a bit of a lull here in September, between PAX and when our next batch of flyball competitions starts up again, and it's quite nice.  Chris has decided to do the Tough Mudder run and obstacle course, so he's training for that right now which makes Ezri happy because it involves 8-10 mile runs.  I'm still doing some running, but I'm keeping it short with just 1.25 mile runs or so as my legs and body acclimate to the new activity, plus that's a good distance for little Martok.  Our next tourney is in two weeks, and then we have three straight at the end of October into November - Auburn WA, Hurricane UT, Cloverdale BC.  Hopefully all this running pays off in Ezri's stamina!