Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Poor little Kizzy (and Zeki)

We've had a busy time since Olympia hence no blog updates. First of all our little shelties both went to the vets on Monday 22nd December for their respective operations. Zeki had a successful tooth extraction and now we just hope that the remaining tooth can maintain enough foundation within the gum. She bounced into the surgery and jumped into Nico's arms and she bounced out of the surgery afterwards. I have never seen a dog come round from a general anaesthetic so quickly or with such energy!

Poor little Kizzy was another matter. She was much slower to come round but we expected this as she was also dosed up with morphine pain relief.

I was with both of them as they went to sleep and back again as they woke up. Once awake they were both wrapped in fleeces and put into kennels with a double layer of fleecey vet bed and a heat pad each. Kizzy stayed on hers for quite some time even after Zeki's tooth extraction was over and done with. Zeki stayed on hers for about 30 seconds!

I took them both home and Andy had the fire blazing and a little bed right beside it ready to receive his princess. She was shivering a lot and really appreciated the warmth. She stayed there all day long and ate a little bit of scrambled egg. After that she really didn't eat much at all. Her first night was a little disturbed but the following day was her most uncomfortable. She ate some breakfast but brought it all up and then wouldn't eat all day. I was quite worried about her and if she didn't improve was planning to take her back to the vet. I cooked her some chicken and got her some yoghurt and she ate those for supper and seemed to turn a corner that night. That said, it was only really on the Sunday after Christmas (6 days after her surgery) that the real Kizzy returned. Now it's a nightmare trying to keep her quiet as she has a huge build up of energy and wants to tug all the time. Not a good idea right now. Andy has been walking her in the garden each day but yesterday she went out for her first proper walk with Zeki and Niamh. She was on the extender lead but Andy said he spent most of the walk tied up in knots as she circled him barking!

Her wound is amazing, so tiny and neat. The only downside of this very clever surgery is that you have to keep reminding yourself that major surgery has taken place on the inside.

Here are some pictures of the patient after her operation:

Kizzy has been sleeping on our bed since her operation. We have put her bed down by our feet and she has been very happy there. Last night we put the bed back on the floor for the first night. To start with she was very indignant but then got into bed with Wilson and fell asleep. It's so nice to have her back to normal!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Birthday Mr Murf

Happy birthday to Murphy. He is 7 today! I can't believe it's 5.5 years since he decided to come and live with us!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Olympia 2008

Olympia has been and gone again for another year. We had the most fantastic time. However many times you get to go to Olympia the thrill never diminishes. My Naughty little Niamh wasn't naughty at all, she was fantastic. She coped well with the atmosphere at Olympia and when in the arena focused on her job just as well as any of my other dogs. I truly did not expect to get through to the final and had focused my sights on getting a place in the afternoon pairs event.

We set off from home at 6.00 am when Leah and Jay picked us up. We met Leah's friend Wizz for the first time. She was great and proved to be a real support throughout the day. I guess she understands exactly what people need in these situations as she competes in dressage and so understands all about nerves, hopes, failures and successes etc. We arrived at our pre-paid car park just outside the Olympia hall by about 7.20 am, we were the first people there but others soon started to arrive.

We took ourselves into Olympia, literally and two minute walk from our car park and got the important things out of the way: a visit to the ladies; coffee and wrist bands (in that order!) Then it was the usual waiting around for things to begin. At last the ring party and judge arrived and we were given our copies of the course plan. My heart sunk a little as it was obvious that the course was pretty quick. We studied it long and hard and made sure we knew the pattern really well before going into the arena. Naturally you can't be sure of the spacing and angles but the course plan at least means you know where you're going and is very helpful, especially for the events which are held in front of the crowd when you get a very short space of time to walk the course.

The event began and we were allowed into the arena to walk the course. It was a pretty accurate reflection of the plan but one or two sequences that had looked trappy on paper were in fact a bit easier in reality as there was more space between the obstacles.

My running order was 26/36 so I left Niamh with Andy until about 15 people had run before I went and got her. As usual she was a bit of a handful as she gets very excited watching other dogs run. I thought she might behave a bit differently at Olympia but she was exactly the same as always. I made sure to warm us both up for the rather long run ahead.

The course ran fast as expected but as always there were mistakes occuring. Some of these mistakes were undoubtedly due to nerves and if there's one thing I can control it's my nerves at events like this. I have been to rather a few of them and have learned how to turn negative feelings into positives. That said I was very nervous in the build up but once I was in the arena with Niamh I worked on being confident and positive to help her as much as myself!

A large proportion of dogs took the first jump down and in chatting with Toni she mentioned the same thing happened with Minx (and others) in the medium final on Thursday even though it was a different course set up. My own feeling is that people were trying to get as far as possible up the course and the fact that it was a collapsible tunnnel following the first jump meant, perhaps, that dogs were focusing on the tunnel mouth more than the jump. I also felt that a few people turned their shoulder to run before their dog had committed to that first fence. I resolved to stand in my recall position until I saw Niamh clear that first jump.

I ran after David and the wonderful Dobbie. What an act to follow. I didn't actually see all of his round as I was prepping myself and NN for our run. I surely knew it was a fantastic round by the applause!

Niamh sat like a little rock as I left her for a fairly lengthly startline recall. I actually managed to hold onto my resolve and dear little Niamh easily cleared the first jump and then we just had to go for it. I'm not sure I actually handled my dog very much, I just tried to move as fast as I could. In my head I could hear Andy and Leah saying "RUN, MOVE" so I tried to take that advice! I could also hear Bernadette saying "BELIEVE" so I did my best on that front and trusted Niamh to do her job - she did so absolutely brilliantly.

We ran clear and I was shocked to be told I was in 7th place at time of running. That we ended up in 8th place overall is just amazing and as well as qualifying me for the final gave me a huge confidence boost in my slow little dog! She was up there with some of the best dogs in the country and we hadn't let ourselves down!

The only downer for me was that Leah & Herbie didn't make it through to the final. They looked to be having a superb run but had a glitch in the final corner before turning for home. Although Herbie was clear this cost them too much time. The good news is that they qualified for the afternoon pairs and did a stupendous run with their partner Ian Dobbison and won!

Here is the Naughty Niamh having a little rest in the cafe after her run and before I took her for a nice walk in the park!

At last after much waiting and chatting about lots of nonsense, the final arrived. I was second to run as I'd ended up eighth in the morning's competition. Right up until I went on the line I was undecided about which side to go down the dog walk. I made the wrong choice and pushed Niamh off the side. But do you know what, I have no regrets as I really tried hard and my dog was a super star.

I felt really happy to be part of a great final with a worthy winner in David and Dobbie. Their round was just faultless and lovely to watch. Toni and Kite came in 3rd, that is some achievement for a dog who is almost ten years of age. They are still a team to be reckoned with for sure.

We had loads of support from our friends at Olympia including Karen, Mand, Elspeth, Sara, Pete, Val, Heidi and others by text. Bernadette and Johanna were with me in spirit and I could feel their encouragement inside my head. It was really lovely. Andy was, as usual a brilliant groom. He knows when I need to be quiet by myself and when I want to talk. Jay was a brilliant chauffeur. Leah was amazing. Despite her own disappointment she was totally supportive of me and the Naughty One and gave us loads of support and encouragement. Thank you to all my friends for helping to make this such a fantastic day for me and the Gorgeous Naughty Niamh! I am so pleased that Natalie, Niamh's breeder was able to see the final on Euro Sport!

Here she is doing her stuff!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Almost there

Well, we're almost there. Olympia is tomorrow. I can't believe it. We had a good training session last night with Leah. Mind you she made me run so much I'm really not sure I'll be able to move tomorrow!

We have a lovely new pink kit bag to take all our stuff in, thank you Karen! It's really cool and I'm going to pack it this afternoon with all our bits and pieces. I'm taking some nice snacks for Niamh to munch on during the day as it'll will be a very long time between her breakfast and dinner.

Early to bed tonight but I don't suppose I'll sleep much!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Niamh preparing for Olympia

Hhmm, not sure this is the right attitude!

Olympia is nearly here - good luck friends & fellow bloggers and thoughts for a little star

We're nearly there! Niamh had her last big walk yesterday. Today and tomorrow I will lead walk her by herself. I would be so upset if she cut a pad or did something silly. She won't be terribly happy when I take the others out but I'll make sure Andy has her in the office with him and gives her a chew stick as compensation.

Tomorrow she will be bathed and have her feet and toe nails trimmed ready for her big day out. I am very excited!

Good luck to all my friends and fellow bloggers who are competing at Olympia this year but especially Leah with Herbie, Hannah with Kaydee, Helen with Henners, Tracey with Jack, Rosie with Chip, Louise with Delta, Lesley with Beanie, Lynne with Rookie and Marc with Wings. Go for it!

I for one will take a moment at some point during Olympia to remember a very special little sheltie who should have been there. Sadly she can't be a star at Olympia which I am certain she would have been, she is however a very bright star in the sky and in our hearts. Sweet Hex and Bernadette you will be in my thoughts.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Last training before Olympia

Well, just two sessions of training left before Olympia. Last week at club we set up one of Johanna's courses (well almost, the start isn't quite right.) It is a great course to run, plenty to think about for sure. Johanna is an excellent course designer. The original course is the white circles and we added a second way round, black circles, which was just as testing.

Tonight we're going to the opposite extreme and setting up a really fast contact loop so that we can continue to practise driving into tunnels and fast releases. My plan is to release Niamh as soon as her feet hit the floor and just put in a few proofing contacts where I don't release and expect her to wait regardless of what I'm doing.

On Thursday we have our last night of training at Leah's club. I expect she will make me run around a lot as per usual. She is so cruel to me. I am only joking, she makes me work hard but does remember to give a high rate of reward in the form of verbal praise. I'd prefer Quality Street but there you go, it's better for me that way!

I am going to do a bit more work on my dog walk and tunnel commitment at home this week. I have a nasty habit of pulling Niamh off tunnels if I'm not careful. She is a very honest dog and if she thinks I don't want her to do something then she won't do it for herself. I need to up my volume a bit when I want her to drive to things I don't want to go so close to. I am too quiet and calm. Leah keeps telling me this and I do try to be a bit louder and more enthusiastic but it's hard!

Bernadette has given me very good advice on my contacts for training drills and now I just need to work on my timing to make sure that I don't waste time (as advised by Leah.) It may all go to pot as Niamh may well decide she isn't going to wait on contacts at Olympia anyway ..... but I have to train as if she will perform her normal behaviour. I must be sure to release her clearly as she has been known to wait on a contact when she hasn't heard the release!

Bernadette has given me some healthy snacks to take to Olympia (oh and some jelly beans and chocolate) and for Niamh a new dog towel so that I can dry her off if she gets wet. On the towel it says "Believe". I will try hard to do that, I do believe in Niamh (yes that does rhyme) it's me I have the problem with!

We also received this via email today. How lovely. This is Naughty Niamh's lovely Daddy, Mac. You can see the likeness. Well, it came from Nat really but you have to pretend!

That's it for now. My nerves have kicked in today. I am glad about that as I wasn't feeling anything and that always makes me worry!

Visit to the Vet

Last week I had to take Kizzy to meet our new vet before she goes in to be spayed (sob). I also took along Zeki and Niamh to be micro-chipped and have their rabies vaccination. This is in preparation for when we go to Denmark in July next year. Andy has been asked to judge and we can also compete on some of the days. We are planning to take Kizzy, Niamh and Zeki. We are really looking forward to this adventure.

Anyway, back to the visit to the vet. Zeki strolled in as she had already paid a visit the week before following her insect bite. Kizzy was fine as she always is. Zeki was micro-chipped and vaccinated and then it was time to bring in the Naughty Niamh.

Niamh really hates going to the vets and is quite a handful. She is very nervous and can be a little stand offish to say the least. I asked the vet nurses to just ignore her when we came in and likewise Nico the vet. They were all brilliant and Niamh came in without people trying to engage with her which is the best thing for her.

Nico was absolutely amazing. He asked me to let Niamh off the lead as soon as we were in the consulting room. I had her in her harness as this seems to makes her feel more confident. We just chatted and Niamh relaxed because we were chatting and obviously chilled ourselves.

Nico waited for Niamh to go and investigate him and before long the two of them were sat on the floor with Niamh doing tricks and eventually placing both paws on his chest and giving him a kiss! I was amazed. Then he felt bad as he had (in his own words) to betray her by chipping and vaccinating her. She took it really well and was soon sitting on the floor with him again. Nico did everything on the floor so we didn't have to get her up on the table which makes her more anxious. Niamh was in there for almost 45 minutes and it's the best experience she's ever had at a vet's surgery. At the end she trotted out with her tail wagging and totally happy. I was so grateful for the time he invested in her first visit to the new practice. She and Zeki go back on 30th December for their bloods to be taken so it will be interesting to see how she reacts.

As mentioned our precious little Kizzy is going to be spayed next Monday. We have made this decision because she really does seem to have a hard time during her seasons. She gets very hormonal and her behaviour becomes erratic in the extreme. Because of this I wanted to make sure we got her right during mid cycle. This is actually the Friday before Olympia but that just wouldn't be practical as we would want to be with her after she is spayed. So the nearest we could get to the date is Monday 22nd December so that's when it will happen. I'll get a call any time from 11.00 am onwards and will take Kizzy in at that point. I can stay with her until she falls asleep and then stay there to be with her when she wakes up. She can come home with me as soon as her post op checks are satisfactory.

To add to this, my poor little Zeki is also going in on the same day to have her extra tooth removed. So Monday evening will be spent nursing two little shelties. I'm dreading it as I hate having my dogs anethesised. The plan is that I will drop Zeki in as soon as Kizzy comes round, bring Kizzy home and then pop back to collect Zeki once she wakes up.

Unrelated to this post, here are some pictures of my girls playing. As you can see Niamh is besotted with her shelties! She plays with both of them a lot but she and Zeki are really good buddies which is nice.

A rare picture of Naughty Niamh with both ears pricked!

Am I seeing double?

Yep, it would appear I am! Also hearing double the noise, that ain't so good!

The two girls playing on Niamh's sofa

That's it, I'm tired now. Those darn shelties have worn me out. Looks at those wicked ears in the foreground of this picture!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Brilliant Weekend

Have only just had time to post about my brilliant weekend.

I got up early on Saturday morning for my weekly beginners lesson and Andy took all the dogs for a nice walk. After that got all my stuff sorted ready to go off for the weekend with Niamh and Zeki. Had to stop off at Morrisons in Oxted enroute to get some shopping for my Dad and step-mum. Jan was really poorly last week and just couldn't get out. So I grabbed them some stuff and had lunch with them before heading off to Sunbury. Luckily they live just outside Godstone so it's really easy to pop onto the M25 from their place. I took a picture of the pond at Dad's as the colours looks really lovely at the moment:

I got to the venue in time to give Zeki and Niamh a quick walk in the park and then it was time to start our "Co-ordination and Balance" course. It was fantastic. I think it rates as one of the most enjoyable and useful sessions I've done with any of my dogs. The variety of exercises was well thought out and great fun for the dogs (and us!) Zeki was really well behaved as she was kept busy.

We did three levels of wobble board; ladder work; cavaletti exercises; elephant trick; walking on hind legs whilst supported on a big squashy exercise ball; walking slowly down ramps to encourage the dogs to rock back onto their haunches during descent rather than rushing down onto their shoulders; figures of eight around cones and other stuff. Zeki absolutely loved it. When it wasn't her turn she kept sitting on a Quality Street tin trying to get me (or anyone) to click and treat her.

I was very pleased with Zeki's attitude to all the different exercises. As soon as I showed her a piece of apparatus she just wanted to interact with it. I didn't have to lure her to anything. She has done some ladder work so I kind of expected her to do that nicely but she has not been on a wobble board and she loved them! She was happy to perform tricks whilst balancing on the wobble boards. The round wobble board was the most challenging as it never comes to rest but she was just as happy on that as the square versions.

Thank you to Hannah for the thought and effort she put into this session. I would thoroughly recommend to anyone with a young dog or indeed any dog that could do with some help in learning how to "think" about their balance and use of rear end. Excellent - good job Hannah!

Then we tootled off to Karen's house. Dear Karen was brave enough to invite me to stay over night with Zeki Beaks and Naughty Niamh. Actually they were quite well behaved. They didn't really know how to cope with the cats. Niamh was scared and Zeki wanted Willow to play with her. Neither were as well behaved as Karen's six dogs when they stayed with us the previous week but I kind of expected that! Now if it had been my perfect little Poppy that would have been a different story. I didn't take Poppy with me only because it was a cold weekend and on both days she would have needed to spend a lot of time in the car and it seemed silly when she could be at home with Andy and the others in a nice warm house.

We had a chinese takaway and rather a lot of wine on the Saturday evening. Hannah came round and we all watched Strictly Come Dancing. We were all worried for Austin and Erin and sadly in the results show on Sunday we were right, they were voted off by the judges. A real shame but there you go!

On Sunday morning we were rather lazy and got up quite late (probably due to the fact that we'd had a lot of red wine and didn't go to bed until 3.30 am!) Anyway, we had crumpets for breakfast, yum my favourite and then gradually forced ourselves to get showered and dressed. We needed to be at Polly's around midday for lunch before our training session with Dennis. It was very cold and Dennis kept us all moving. I thoroughly enjoyed his training session. It was pitched perfectly for what I needed just before Olympia. Lots of fast contact loops and some tricky sequencing which we put into a full course at the end of the session.

Niamh was brilliant and we had a high success rate overall which is what I need right now. We had some mistakes but Dennis helped us to put those right. By the end I had to pull out, Niamh was brain dead as we'd done so much (so was I for that matter!) I really love Dennis's training as he is so motivational, great fun (he laughs with you and not at you!) and helpful.

Thank you so much to Hannah, Karen and Dennis for their input to a fab weekend and of course to my two gorgeous girls (Naughty Niamh and Zeki Beaks)for their endless enthusiasm and sense of fun. I do love my dogs.

Naturally Poppy got extra hugs when I got home on Sunday evening. This is what I'm planning for Poppy's Christmas present as I feel so guilty not doing as much with her as the other two:

Can't you just picture Pops snuggled up in one of these?

Correct answer: YES!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Looking forward to the weekend

I'm really looking forward to the weekend. On Saturday I'm taking Zeki to a Co-ordination & Balance course. These are run by Hannah Banks and I've been looking forward to this for ages. I think Zeki will really enjoy the course. I've done lots of exercises with her which relate to co-ordination and balance such as ladder work, getting in and out of a box, elephant trick, balancing on a wobble cushion, sitting on a box etc and she loves doing this sort of thing. Apart from her weekly obedience class this is the first course Zeki and I have been on so I am really excited to see if she'll perform her exercises in a new place with other people and dogs around.

Thought we'd have a little practise!

I was going to practise doing some exercises on the blue wobble cushion but I can't find it anywhere. I have a feeling I may have lent it to someone. If any of my friends can rememer if they have borrowed it please let me know!

After Zeki's training course I'm going home with Karen who has invited me to stay for the night. I am really looking forward to this. We're going to have a takeaway and watch Strictly Come Dancing. I'll have Naughty Niamh and Zeki Beeks with me so I am hoping very much that they will behave as well as Karen's dogs did at our house last weekend. Some hopes me thinks!

On Sunday we're off to Polly's for an afternoon training session with Dennis McCaulay. This is Niamh's last external training day before Olympia so I hope the weather stays reasonable. I have been on one of Dennis's training days before and really enjoyed it. He has loads of good ideas and keeps you moving. This really suits us as Niamh likes to keep busy, it actually means she gets tired less quickly. If she is left for too long between turns she directs her attention to dog-watching and this tires her out much faster than her agility training. I know I should keep her occupied between turns but it's hard on a training day because I want to listen to what the trainer is talking about even when it's not my turn. Dennis does push me out of my comfort zone but does so in a way which keeps me motivated and positive. I love his style of training.

I think Andy is planning a ride out with the Edenbridge HOG (Harley Owners Group). That's himself, Michael & Dan! Michael now has his Harley so it will be a noisy excursion for sure.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

It's a family affair

Zen, Kizzy, Tazz and Zeki
November 2008

by Dennis

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Poor Zeki

Today I had a bit of a panic. I got back from my walk around 12.30 pm and cleaned up all the dogs (again!) I had given both shelties a thorough grooming first thing; why I ask myself did I do it before the walk!

Anyway, after lunch I picked Zeki up for a cuddle and noticed that she had a little lump on the right side of her nose. It was quite pronounced and I knew it hadn't been there earlier as I'd groomed her and would have noticed it. I thought perhaps she had a knock on the walk but couldn't recall anything.

I was due to take her to the vet to get her tooth looked at. She has grown an extra tooth and I needed to get it seen as it's rather weird and growing inside another adult tooth. Anyway, I decided to keep my 5.20 pm appointment and mention to the vet about the lump at the same time. I had to pop out to the bank and when I got back some ten minutes later I took another look at Zeki and was pleased that the lump seemed to have disappeared. However on closer inspection I realised that it had disappeared only because the rest of her muzzle and face were swelling at a fast rate. Andy called the vet and told him I was on my way.

Upshot is that we think she got stung by an insect (very unusual for this time of year but there are some lazy wasps still about) and had a reaction. He gave her a steroid shot and she is well on the way to recovery. Whilst we were there he had a good look at the tooth and we agreed it's going to have to be extracted as it is impacting a tooth on her lower jaw and if left could cause that tooth damage or push it out of line. Poor little Zeki, what a rotten day!

We were due to get her and Niamhs' rabies jabs done this week ready for our trip to Denmark next year. We can't progress this now until a clear week after her steroid jab. Why do I always leave things to the last minute! Whilst at the vet I booked Kizzy in for a health check prior to being spayed. She is booked in for Monday 22nd December (sob). It's for the best as her seasons are getting worse with each one. She becomes very erratic and isn't at all happy in herself.

This is the first time I've been to our new vet. Andy went to meet him and liked him and I found the same today. Really nice practice, all lovely people. Zeki had 5 shape biscuits during her visit today. We were there quite a while as I registered all the dogs and booked up the various appointsments required. In the consulting room Nico (the vet) gave her a biscuit and I asked him to do her tricks. She did nose target and shook both paws with him. He was very impressed by her confidence and demeanour. All this with a swollen face, bless her little heart. The other four biscuits came from the vet nurses in reception! All in all a nice experience for Zeki.

One of the reasons we picked this vet is that we like how they operate, literally! On the day that Kizzy gets spayed we will get a phone call soon after 11.30 am when morning surgery finishes. They will confirm that we can bring Kizzy in and when we arrive we can be with her whilst she is put under. We can stay until the tubes are put in. Then we can pop into the local village for a coffee or wait in the reception area whilst the op is carried out. When it's over we can be back with Kizzy whilst she comes round and once she's had the relevant post op checks we can take her home with us. I like this much more than dropping my dog off and leaving it in holding kennels and then the dog waking up in holding kennels not knowing where they are.

It's not a very nice Christmas present for poor little Kizzle but the timing is perfect in terms of her being mid-cycle. I didn't want to do it before Olympia as we'll be out all day on the Saturday and I like to be with my animals after something like this. Leaving it until after Christmas would mean starting to move away from the perfect mid-cycle timing.

Well that's about it for now. Had a lot of catching up to do!

Lots of dogs and muddy walks

For one reason or another Karen has been to visit us a few times just lately. Some of the time it's been for Michael our next door neighbour to carpet out her new van. So, that has meant that we've had to fill our time with training in the garden. We've had some good little sessions with all the dogs and Karen's given me lots of help with Zeki Beeks and Naughty Niamh.

Karen always seems to arrive with presents for the dogs. This is the latest addition and Zeki really loves it!

Naturally Zeki's is the pink version!

On one of Karen's visits when Michael was working on the van, we took all our dogs for a walk using my van. Twelve dogs in one VW Caddy. In the words of CRH truly A-M-A-ZING (only Strictly fans will understand that!) Our dogs have walked together a lot just lately and they get on really well.

We had our agility christmas dinner last Friday and Karen came along and stayed over Friday night. So we had twelve dogs in the house. Karen's dogs were so well behaved you didn't know they were there. I was impressed with our dogs too, they were totally accepting and didn't bark or make a sound when Karen got up to wee her dogs in the morning. We didn't hear her or the dogs get up, they were like little mice.

The worst thing was that we walked the dogs late on the Friday so that they'd be nice and tired when we left them. All the walks are so muddy at the moment and we had to clean up 12 dogs at 5.00 pm which took rather a long time!

On that subject I am getting rather fed up with dirty dogs. Our walk starts and finishes with a really muddy path, it's very frustrating because the walk itself is quite clean and then the dogs get really filthy right at the end of the walk. Grrhhh!

Time for some nice dry, crisp weather please ...... I think not, looking at the forecast!

Naughty Niamh

Well, the countdown gadget on my Google home page says it's only 18 days to Olympia. Yikes, I can't believe how quickly it's come round since we qualified at the KC Festival.

I have ramped up training with Niamh and she is responding well. We have been working hard on contacts, especially the dog walk. It really is down to me to make sure she is given the right conditions to do what she's been trained to do. If I start adding in extra words or staring back at her then she tends to freeze in the wrong place. Provided I let her get on with her job her contacts are fast and reliable. Bernadette and Johanna did a joint session for me last week. The course was quite challenging and very interesting. The dog walk ran into nothing and this I find the most difficult. We achieved it in the end once my trainers had stopped me from staring at my dog as she moved down the plank. It was good to have Bernadette watching my dog and my releases and Johanna watching just me. The feedback was better than video. Bernadette's advice is for me to leave Niamh to get to final position without interference and as soon as she does to release her. I can't afford to release her early (i.e. whilst still descending) as she tends to stride over the contact but on the other hand I need to incentivise her to go there fast and the fast releases upon final position are a good way of doing this (rather than always making her wait on the contact for too long.) I found the session really helpful.

I have started back at Leah's, haven't been able to train there for some time due to my achilles problems. Things have improved on this front and my orthotics are currently with the podiatrist for refurb. The good news is that my prescription hasn't changed so I don't need new moulds (thank goodness as that is very expensive!) It's good to be back at Leah's as she pushes me really hard but is always motivational and upbeat about my efforts.

At home I have worked on Niamh's weave independence. I have been doing more weaving into nothing and getting her to drive on through the weaves regardless of where I am.

My biggest challenge is still to run through spaces and miss out obstacles which are on offer to Niamh. When I do so positively we have a positive result, as soon as I attempt this kind of sequence negatively then the outcome is negative. Logical really, but try drumming that into my brain!

My other challenge is to get my timing spot on when using my oppositve collecting hand/arm. I have a tendency to pull it away too early and go back to using my lead hand. It's amazing how well Niamh responds to this physical cue not always how I plan but as Leah points out she's doing exactly as I've trained her to do. Poor little dog.

As mentioned earlier I have been back to the podiatrist to try to get my achilles issues sorted. There is no doubt in his mind that the running shoes I have been wearing have created the problem. For whatever reason they negate the benefit of my orthotics. So I have to find different running shoes for next season. A fellow competitor told me of similar problems at the beginning of the year but in my usual stubborn fashion I didn't listen because the shoes were comfortable.

The other problem I have is that the dizzy spells I was getting around the time of Crufts keep returning. I think I might have to see my doctor again as it's really unpleasant as I often feel quite sick with it.

I am really looking forward to Olympia and think that Niamh will love the experience.

Until then we have to "carry on training".

No time for blogging ..... Zeki update

Gosh I haven't updated the blog since 16th November. How bad is that?

The reason is quite simply lack of time. We've been really busy with work and weekends have been busy with training.

I have managed to get myself very behind with Andy's accounts and so have had to knuckle down and get them ready for the accountant who has been nagging me for weeks. Andy's year end is 31st August and the books were only complete up to February - oops. I have put in a lot of hours on them and I have just some bank rec's left to do. Then I can put it all on a disc and send to the accountant and hopefully forget about them for a while.

We did a training day for a group of agility handlers a couple of weekends back. The weather was absolutely atrocious. I was lucky as my group worked in an indoor school, cold and dusty but dry. Poor Andy was stuck outside in a soggy sand school and it absolutely poured down.


I haven't done much with Zeki's agility training lately. The main reason for this is that I really want to concentrate on Niamh at the moment. That said I have enrolled in the local dog training class which is held at Chiddingstone Causeway village hall. Zeki has been twice and we are going to do the Good Citizens. We're starting off with the puppy foundation assessment and so far she's doing well with that.

The main reason I wanted to take Zeki to training was to give her the opportunity to train around other dogs. She is very attentive when we're on our own but as soon as other dogs come into the mix then her strong eye comes into its own! I can easily distract her if I have food but it's not so easy if the reward is a toy. The first week we arrived at training she was quite a handful. She barked a lot and went nuts anytime a dog took to the floor. It's a typical village hall with a noisy, slippery wooden floor and this really excites her. I worked on getting her to pay attention to me and clicking eye contact etc. She gradually got better. When it was her turn to do the exercises I used food to reward and she was really good. We did lots of different exercises:

A little exercise where the dogs had to trot round the hall and negotiate a nylon pipe tunnel, two little hurdles set really low and a little collapsible tunnel. Zeki had no problem with any of these items;
An out of site recall (new one on me) and she was brilliant and came straight away to find me in the broom cupboard;
Stationary position whilst the other dogs (11 of them) weaved in and out of a circle. Then we had to weave in and out ourselves;
Jump a small hurdle, pick up a tennis ball and bring back to handler over the hurdle (she did this perfectly and I was very proud of her);
Demonstrate she could sit; down and stand;
Negotiate the gate by sitting whilst I opened it and walked through, recalling on command through the gate and then sitting whilst I closed it.

We really enjoyed ourselves and she was very tired at the end of the session. She'd had a big walk that day plus a tiny bit of agility in the garden and when we arrived home she was hypo tired. She shot round and round the sitting room at high speed and took off over the back of the sofa, luckily landing in Andy's arms as he walked into the room. At that point she was "de-podited" in her little pod where she fell immediately asleep! De-podited is a new word invented by Jackie back in the summer. It is used exclusively for placing shelties in their little travel pods!

We went back to school last week and I was amazed at how much better Zeki was when other dogs were moving round the floor. There are lots of different dogs at the club, all shapes and sizes. They are all very friendly which is good. We all sit on our chairs along the front of the stage until it's our turn to work or when it's a group exercise. The dogs are all sat quite close together and are mostly well behaved. Zeki is very friendly with the other dogs and the children who come along. She barks if the children run fast across the hall but when they reach her she is very friendly to them. That's a real relief to me because her bark is quite an angry one and it's good for me to know that she shows no sign of nipping or any other type of aggression. It really is a case of desensitising her to the noise and movement and she definitely had improved from the first to second week.

We did a couple of different exercises this week which included a mini A-Frame and hoop to go through in the little obstacle section. We also did weaving in and out of cones (Zeki made me smile here because she wanted to go around the cones rather than stay in heelwork with me.) We also did group recalls where we all stood in a circle and had to leave our dog and call them to us one at a time. Then we were each given a dog bowl with a large tasty piece of sausage. We had to put these on the floor and our dogs couldn't move until told. Zeki was top of the class for this exercise. When released she ate her sausage faster than anyone though!

We also have to do things like examine our dogs ears and teeth, poo bag spot check (thank god I had one in my jacket pocket), pick up their paws etc. It's all good fun and the main thing for me is that Zeki is getting to work in a different place with loads of distractions.

We stayed on for the second class and I worked Poppy in that. She really enjoyed herself and everyone was very impressed with her stop on the bottom of the A-frame trainer! Bless. The second class is nearly 2 hours long and Pops was absolutely exhausted at the end of it. She slips a bit on the shiny floor (Pops can't do anything delicately) so I probably won't take her every week as I don't want to break her. Once in a while it's a nice evening out for her.

That's about it on the Zeki training front for now.

Zeki at training class