Thursday 2 May 2013

All about Poppy

Well, it's rather a long time since I wrote on the blog.  I didn't really mean to have such a long break but things got quite hectic for us and time just seemed to fly past.  Sadly, I have recently lost my beloved little Poppy and that is why I want to write on the blog again.  I wanted to write some words and include some photographs of my beautiful girl so that I can look back and reflect.  I will write an update of what we've been up to over the past nine months or so but right now this post is all about Poppy, just as it should be.

Poppy was the fruit of two wonderful dogs, Mary Ray's 'Royale Dash' and Carol Blakiston's 'Woodsorrel Sorreline Red Russet'.  This was a mating I had quite a bit of influence in as I knew that Mary was looking to breed Dash which wasn't proving easy and I was very familiar with Carol's line as we already had one of her dogs (Andy's beloved Molly.)

I desperately wanted a puppy from Dash as he was closely related to my first red and white collie 'Prawls Bess' who was bred from Royale lines and I also wanted a connection with Andy's Molly and importantly my special girl Abbey; this I got through Russet.  For me, it was a perfect mating if it would happen.  I put Mary and Carol in touch and luckily the mating was successful and the most wonderful litter of puppies was born.  From this litter came Mary's special boy Quincy who most certainly has left a wonderful legacy throughout the agility world.

I held Poppy in my hands when she was just one day old.  At the time I didn't know she was Poppy as I took forever to pick my puppy.  I was very lucky and had pick of bitches and there were four, all of them gorgeous.  My main focus was between two puppies neither of whom ended up being Poppy.  I already had my name chosen - it was a name I always planned to use partly because of my love of red collies and partly because my very first collie cross was named by the rescue centre as Poppy.  At the time I had my heart set on the name Lizzie so I changed her name (she was only a puppy) but I vowed to use this special name one day in the future.

Carol lived right on the Ashdown Forest at the time so I could easily visit the puppies and this I did on a very regular basis, probably driving Carol and her oh so patient husband Jack insane in the process.  I spent hours and hours playing with the puppies, taking pictures and videos which I would send up to Mary as she wasn't able to visit living so far away.   I picked Quincy for Mary at an early stage and was really happy when she agreed with my choice and really did pick him for herself.

About a week before the other people were due to pick their puppies, Carol started to gently prod me to make a choice.  I left it right up until two days before the others were due to visit from the midlands (one of whom was my dear friend Dave Hurst).  Unbeknown to me, Andy had picked Poppy right from the first day we saw her but didn't say anything as he wanted me to choose the right puppy for me.  I sat on the floor absolutely flummoxed.  I just couldn't pick between the two I liked 'no collar' and 'big blaze'.  The pups were playing in a stable and I sat on the floor; Andy and Carol were in despair.  They left me to think and as they walked away the little girl I had named as 'thin stripe' just climbed on my lap and snuggled up to me.  I really hadn't paid her very much attention at all but I just looked at her and can remember saying out loud 'oh my god, you're Poppy' and that was it.  I had picked my precious girl, rather she had picked me.  Andy came back and asked me what I had decided, when I told him he just laughed and said, "what on earth took you so long?"

I know we all tend to look back with rose-tinted spectacles but Poppy really was the perfect dog.  She was naturally well mannered, she didn't chew anything as a puppy, she was playful, she loved life, she loved to do anything with me and she was the sweetest dog you could ever meet - she didn't have a nasty bone in her body. She was a very small collie but what she lacked in size she more than made up for in attitude and
when unleashed in agility she truly was my 'pocket rocket.'    I always felt that Poppy was born to do agility.  She loved it with a passion and without doubt was the fastest learner I have ever worked with.  She picked up things so quickly.  She had the most amazing weave entries from anywhere, any angle and do you know, I really can't remember how I taught her.  She just seemed to understand things and get on with them.

Poppy sustained a horrible injury (we believe in a collapsible tunnel) and I thought her agility career was over.  We worked with the wonderful physiotherapist Sara Barnes for 17 months and not only did she resume a normal life (my sole aim) she came back to agility as fast and keen as ever.  Poppy was Sara's very first agility patient and Poppy absolutely adored her.   The day I ran her for the first time after months of therapy and rehab was so emotional.  I cried my eyes out when we came out of the ring.   She ran in Steve Treamer's agility and we left the ring winning the class.  We ended up in 2nd place, I didn't mind being beaten because I was so happy to be running her again, plus the dog that beat me was Amanda Pigg's lovely Jag and the win took him to G7 so how could I begrudge that.

Poppy retired from agility at just over 10 years of age and had a wonderful and happy retirement.  She used to love walking round the rings with me with her little orange 'chippy' chipmunk.  That was her favourite reward.  It's funny both she and Abbey loved those little toys.

Poppy and Abbey were very close, I can honestly say they never ever had a single cross word.  They were great companions and Poppy was very down when we lost Abbey.  Luckily for Poppy she made a second great friend in Andy's little Kizzy.  They were inseparable in Poppy's last years.  Kizzy has been quite down since losing Poppy and still lays on the rug beside my bed where Poppy's bed used to be.  Kizzy never ever laid there before.

Sometimes my breath is taken away when I look at Tidey in certain poses.   She is so like Poppy as a youngster, it tears at my heart.

I take comfort from the fact that I do believe that Poppy and Abbey are now reunited at the bridge along with Andy's Molly.   Those three were something very special in both our lives.

So, to close here are some pictures of my beautiful girl but first of all, the words from my heart.

My darling little Poppy, I will never ever forget you and you will be forever in my heart.    Abbey was so very special to me and you came along and quietly took second place in my affections or so it seemed to me at the time.  As the years went by though, you stole my heart and your passing has left a massive hole which at the moment feels as if it won't heal.   You truly stole my heart and I will miss you always.   You were my heart dog and I don't understand why it took me so long to realise this.  Sleep tight my beautiful girl.

 Above are many of my memories of Poppy in photographs, this last one is my favourite and how I will always remember her.

Monday 25 June 2012

Happy eighth birthday to my beautiful Naughty Niamh

Happy birthday to my lovely girl.  We share a birthday which is why I'm always so sure that Niamh really was meant for me.  I love her so much.

Back soon to do a proper blog update.  Don't know where the time flies at the moment!

Tuesday 29 May 2012

The WAO Experience

We had the most fantastic time in Belgium.  Compared with driving to Austria last year for the EO's the journey was pretty easy.   Our hotel was really nice, a bit oldy worldy but very comfortable and just under twenty minutes from the venue.  We had a chilled afternoon and met everyone in the restaurant for a meal in the evening.

On the Wednesday we had our first training session and I for one found it really helpful.  It was a well organised session and we had loads of time to cover all sorts of stuff.   It really made me feel positive about things and really up for the competition.

On Thursday we had the shorter and more formal training session and again this a good session with all positive vibes for me and Zeki and I think for everyone else too.  We had our team dinner on the Thursday evening and this was really good (even for us vegetarians!)    We also had our team photos taken in the sunshine at the hotel.   Thursday evening was also the opening ceremony and Zeki barked her way through most of it ... what a surprise.


Team England 400's

Team England Shelties

Team England
The venue itself was pretty spectacular and very large!  The walk from the outside rings to the main arena was quite a long way but it really wasn't a problem as the way the event is organised means that you know exactly where to be at what point.  There are three groups A,B, and C and all courses are walked and run in rotation.  It's a brilliant system which means you can watch all your team mates run and support each other.

Before we go on to the competition itself, here are some more pictures of Zeki  and her buddies:

Enjoying her antler


Room mates

Snoozing Herbie

Zeki and me

Zaz and Zeki

Herbie, Zaz and Zeki

The competition was just brilliant.  I loved nearly every single course that I ran with the exception of one which needed too many front crosses but even that was a challenge.  I didn't run clear on all of them but I am really glad that all the training we did prior to the event paid off in that I walked them with conviction and attacked them when I ran.  I can honestly say I didn't walk into a single ring and say to myself  "I can't do that".  Instead I just got on with committing the patterns to memory and then figuring out how I would handle them.  The training helped not only in handling terms but also in my ability to commit tricky courses to memory quickly.   My worst case was three courses to walk in a row but even that didn't throw me because once I'd walked them I knew we would be running them in the same rotation so I just concentrated on the first one and so on.  It really helped.

I made a bad choice in one course where I handled the weaves differently from most people in order to get up on the course, Zeki completed the weaves beautifully but I lost her over the wrong jump; in two other courses she ran brilliantly and I screwed up at the last but one jump.  A bit frustrating to say the least.  In our games classes we completed the snooker opening section successfully but then blew out in the closing section and similar in the gamblers.  We ran clear on three courses, one of our runs helping our team to get into the final.  All in all I was thrilled with Zeki and pretty happy with my own efforts.  We had the benefit of Tace helping with our dogs (and ourselves, if needed, thank you Tace!) and so they were really ready to run each class.  I also spent time warming myself up and found it really helped so I am going to make more effort on this front in my normal classes especially champ runs.   By the third day this was a necessity for me as my back had begun to seize up quite badly.  The ibuprofen and stretches kept me going!

The whole event was enhanced by our brilliant management team:  manager (Jo Rhodes); coach (Ant Clarke) and sports and canine massage therapist (Tace Allen-Hunt).

Of course I mustn't forget our team mascot Riley:

You can see all the course plans here.  Zeki and I competed in all of them and ran team agility on Friday.

Here are some videos taken by various friends, in no particular order.  Some are repeated but shown from different angles.

The final video is a little compilation by Wendy Botto, thank you so much for doing this.  Also thanks to Bernadette, Lian and Colin for the other videos, much appreciated.

Zeki watching the final prizegiving, waiting for the people to tear past doing their lap of honour.  She loved that!

Sheltie Power
The closing ceremony was rather long but there is no way round this.  Several of our team got medals including clever little Tia (left above) with Marilyn.  Well done everyone and thanks for being great team mates and making it such a fantastic experience.  A really superb event and I feel really honoured to have been a part of it.

Monday 14 May 2012

Final post before the WAO's in Belgium

We are almost ready to leave.   I am feeling really nervous but very excited at the prospect of setting off tomorrow morning.

We had our final training session at Leah's on Thursday night and at last we ran a tricky jumping course (from Scott Chamberlain, the US judge) clear on our first attempt!  Whooppee!   Below is the course plan, a good one to train on.

 On Saturday we got up early and headed off to Birmingham for Beacon Show where Zeki had a champ class.  Of course I desperately want to win that third ticket with Zeki but equally important to me was to run with positive mental attitude and run clear in a competitive environment prior to the WAO's.  I am glad to be able to say that we managed this.  Our first class was G1-7 jumping and it was a well thought out course which is very difficult for the judge when it crosses all the grades.  Normally I don't take jumping classes seriously but I made myself focus and we ran clear coming 3rd so that was a decent start to our day.

The champ classes were probably a little faster and flowing thatn is my ideal but I was determined to get into the final and we did this by running clear in both the jumping and the agility.  Our agility run was a little, shall we say, scary when I put in a cross which I didn't need and got myself into all sorts of trouble much to the amusement of everyone outside the ring.  However, I didn't give up and got out of difficulty to finish with a clear round.  

We were running late in the final at #16 so plenty of time for nerves.  I made myself work on warming up both myself and Zeki which made sure we were ready to run when it was our turn (this is something I really must focus on and implement when in Belgium) and also kept me occupied.  The course was a little trickier than the two qualifying rounds which was good.   I made a stupid stupid error in the little handling section after the weaves but managed to get through it, however it definitely cost me time and we came 3rd by just over a second.  That said I absolutely wouldn't want to suggest I could have won because the winning round by Jennifer Machon and her gorgeous little spaniel was sublime.  One of those rounds where you just think the dog is on rails and nothing is going to stop them.  I am just pleased that I was so close to the winning round with a bit of pilot error.  It makes me take stock and realise what a brilliant little dog I have in Zeki.  My job is to guide her better, she always gets things right if I give her the right information.  So, I drove home from Beacon happy that I had achieved my aim and run clear in my classes.  Sadly, I didn't stop to run my Crufts qualifier as I hadn't had a chance to walk the course and it was a typical Barrie James course, tricky with obstacle discrimination.  The sort of course I absolutely love.  The queue was enormous as everyone wanted to run once the champ final was over and I knew I had a long drive home.

I took Tidey with me to Beacon and we managed some really positive work around the rings getting her to focus on little tasks and her toy.  She managed really well and we didn't have too much screaming.

I decided not to go to Tunbridge Wells on Sunday as the show had moved indoors due to the wet ground conditions.  I am not good running on the sand at Ardingly as it's very uneven and wanted to go to Belgium with a positive feeling.

Tamzin stopped over Friday and Saturday night as she had a trade stand at Tunbridge Wells show and it was a bit cold and damp to camp (that rhymes :o) )  We had a good laugh and all made sure we put in multiple votes for Ashleigh and Pudsey in the BGT final on the Saturday night.  They won by a pretty huge margin and so deserved it.  Great to see a variety act going through to the Royal Variety Performance rather than yet another singer.  Well done to a fantastic team.

So, that's it for now.  Zeki is bathed and looks gorgeous and we are off tomorrow at about 9.30 am.  I don't think I will sleep much tonight.

When I get back I will report on the experience plus lots of other things to catch up with.  Bye for now!

Thursday 10 May 2012

Less than a week before we travel to Belgium!

I am both excited and nervous in equal quantities about the trip to Belgium and taking part in the WAO's.   We have trained on courses for a month now and so there isn't any more training to do.  Now it's about mental preparation and focusing on the task in hand.

We got together with a few friends on Saturday and trained over another course by the Danish judge Thomas Ammitzboll.  It was another good test.  After we had worked on that course, we removed the contact equipment and Leah added a couple of jumps, re-numbered and voila, we had a very difficult jumping course to work on.    Both courses proved really testing and highlighted areas to work on for future but importantly areas to be 'managed' for the WAO. Here are the two courses that we worked on.

I didn't run Niamh at all on Saturday so that I could concentrate on Zeki.  This proved worthwhile and thank you to Tracy for running Naughty Niamh who had a lovely time.  Here she is between runs looking cheeky and cute! I love her so much and it was great to see her running so well with someone else.  She looks gorgeous :o)

On Tuesday back at training we set up one more of Thomas's courses.  This time a straight jumping course.  When we had laid it out we were muttering that it was much easier than the courses we had worked on previously but then we thought perhaps we should run it before thinking like that.  This proved to be true as the course was subtly more difficult than it looks.  It was though, a little simpler than some of the stuff we have been working on and I think this was a good thing because although testing it proved to be confidence-building as it was just that little more achievable.  A really good course to train on.   After we had run it three times, Andy partially re-numbered and we worked on a second pattern.   This second pattern was a little trickier but I was really pleased to run it clear first time!  Yay at last I have run clear on a jumping course first hit!   Normally I run Niamh in the first class but this week I swapped Zeki into Niamh's class so that I had to hit the course untried with Zeki.  I'm really glad I did this as it is much more realistic.  I worked out by the end of the evening that I had run ten full courses (1-20) with my two dogs plus a half hour  puppy class with Tidey.  No wonder I slept well!

Here are the courses:

I have one more training session with Zeki before the WAO which is tonight at Leah's.  I hope I can keep running well with her.   I went to Vyne show on Monday purely to try to get some good runs under my belt but the weather wasn't nice and I found the ground very slippery.  This wasn't helped by the fact that I didn't have decent footwear for the conditions.  I have such trouble finding shoes that fit comfortably and tend to stick with my Salomons whatever the conditions.  As a result I was absolutely rubbish with both my dogs.

So, I have bought some new Salomon shoes and I think I will feel much more confident in wet conditions.   I am going to drag myself out of bed in the early hours on Saturday and go to Beacon show where I will run Zeki in a competition with PMA (positive mental attitude!)
I have lots of other things to blog about and will try to do this (to clear my mind) before we set off to the WAO's so watch this space!