Welcome to The OBay Shelties blog! Our blog is an honest diary of our life with our dogs along with news from Obay shelties around the world.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Itzy is now Grade 7!

Three weeks ago Itzy had her 3rd win towards the 4 wins she needed to go Grade 7. Two weeks ago before Thames I started thinking (and saying) maybe I would like NOT to get her 4th win until the KC Festival in August. That way she could compete at the KC Festival in all her Graded 6 classes. I have never done this before as I am usually so focused on getting them up to Grade 7 and want to get there as soon as possible. For my dogs (small/medium) I feel there is no reason to keep them in the lower grades; the courses rarely change from 5-7. We get alot of combined classes and there is no huge increase in challenge from grade 5 through 7.

I don't know what came over me thinking I wanted to hold Itzy back other than I just wanted to stretch out her time at Grade 6. Well that was the KISS OF DEATH! LOL As soon as I started talking about NOT winning Itzy decided she could NOT complete any course properly and could definitely NOT do a see-saw. She started running around jumps and basically going nuts.

I do think some of her issues that weekend were due to how she felt mentally and physically after being blown off the dog walk the previous weekend. I have since had Itzy treated and have been working on her strength and balance on the Fit Ball and wobble cushion. I have also changed how I am training her see-saw and changing how I am rewarding her on the see-saw. All of this seems to be working and, fingers crossed, I think we are improving. The see-saw has always been a weakness for Itzy and I am glad to now have a new plan of action. I also told Itzy that she could do whatever she wanted; if she wanted to win another class I would gladly take it!

This past weekend Itzy did not get alot of attention and we missed most of our runs. On the Saturday I only did one run with her due to the weather. In that run she did a LOVELY see saw! I was so excited I pulled her past the next obstacle but was thrilled with the run. Sunday was the Championship day and I was totally focused on Zaz. I do not do well splitting my attention between dogs. The Championship class ran smoothly and was done just after lunch. I was on a high from winning with Zaz so I was in no hurry to leave. I could have floated around for hours until they put the equipment away! LOL So I decided to stick around for Itzy's last class which was running at the end of the day.

I had visions of running the course and packing up to leave right after running but Itzy had other ideas! The course was a funny one with some strange angles on jumps and a loooooong run across the top of the course missing out obstacles. I did not expect to go clear and really didn't take the course seriously; I just thought it was another chance to get her on the see saw.

Itzy did a great run but you will have to imagine it because I did not get it on video. Nor did I get any fancy photos; just a photo taken on my mobile phone of her with her trophy. Itzy says videos and fancy photos are for wimps; she is hard core tough!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Zaz's 2nd Championship Ticket! Axtane 2011

After 15 years of playing in agility I have had a first this weekend...I felt physically sick before a run! I do hope this will not be a common occurrence but it is all good as the results were positive!

It is hard to believe that Axtane last year was only the 3rd weekend of competition for Zaz and Itz. What a difference a year makes and what fun times these two pups are giving me. Even more unbelievable to me was that it was 9 years ago in 2002 at this very show that Pax won out of Starters!

So the small/medium championships were on Sunday. I was entered on Saturday also but due to the chance of rain I woke up in the morning uncertain if I should get up and go. Dennis is away in Japan and I was bored without him so I decided to go to the show and see how it was when I got there. I arrived and it was sunny and calm so I hurried up and walked the Small Crufts Challenge and ran Itz followed by Zaz. Itz did her see saw and I was happy! Zaz ran a nice clear and I was happy as I knew that would give us points towards the Small Crufts Challenge class (it is a class run a Crufts that requires an accumulation of points at certain shows during the year). I decided not to wait around for any of my other classes and left before the rain started. I used the opportunity of a free afternoon to hit the shops on the way home. Sadly I bought nothing more exciting than a new folding chair and a retro bubble umbrella!

Sunday I got to the show early because Zaz was drawn as #1 in the small champ jumping. I liked the course and felt as if Zaz and I ran it really well. We came 3rd in this run and I can honestly say I don't know how we could have run it better! I could have turned her left after 6 but I thought turning her right kept the flow better even though it was a longer path. It felt good to run the jumping early so, for once, I could sit ringside and watch the rest of the small dogs and see the medium dogs run the same course.

After the jumping we had two Obays that had run clear. Zaz in the small class and Zeki in the medium

Now came the Champ agility. Zaz went clear again and won the agility! It was nice to run again on rubber coated equipment and I really appreciate the clubs that are hiring rubber equipment.I did not have to worry about letting Zaz approach the dogwalk at an angle and I could concentrate on getting into position for the sequence from 3-5.

Zeki had a nice agility run also in the medium. You can see her Axtane champ runs on Nancy's blog post. This put both Zaz and Zeki into the Champ final!

I had another early run in the champ agility; so I was again able to sit ringside and watch the last of the smalls and all the medium dogs run. I had a nice cuppa and ate my lunch. All seemed good! They set up the Championship final course and we had 15 minutes to walk it. Both Zaz and Zeki had ended up in the penultimate position in the running order. A great place to be! You had the chance to see how the dogs before you fared and yet knew that you had one potentially faster dog running after you.

I started to walk the finals course and suddenly felt as if I had to sit down. My legs had gone to jelly! What was happening? I thought the course was one that we could do and imagined it would be a course that would be won on speed and turns. I did not think there would be many faults. Of course I was concerned about the final two jumps and when you see the video you will understand why. I asked Nancy's opinion as she knows how I have trained Zaz and what we can and cannot do. I spotted Lesley and dragged her over and asked her to quickly give her opinion about the last two jumps. I figured we had a safe option and a quick option. I decided to go for the quick option as I knew that there were quite a few dogs in the class that could beat us on speed. Then I started worrying that I was too concentrated on those last two jumps and I needed to focus on the entire course. By then it was time to get Zaz and get ready and I was starting to feel sick!

Now, contrary to popular opinion, I am not the most confident person. I tend not to show my nervousness before I run a course because I have learned that it doesn't help to give in to the nerves. Even when I am nervous I will not discuss it as most "mental management" gurus will tell you that it does not help to keep repeating this. Instead I repeat certain words and comments to both myself and people around me. Words that help me feel relaxed and confident. Most importantly I love my dogs and I love doing agility with them and I do not ever want this game to be so important to me that it is stressful.

So why, on this day before this run did I feel like I was going to be sick? I have heard people say they felt like this before a run and thought they were exaggerating. Well, actually, I now know they were not lying! I walked Zaz around and around while we were waiting to run; not to warm her up but to try and not lose my lunch!

I had a vague idea of what the other teams before me had done. I knew one of the faster dogs had gone clear and that I had a fast dog to yet run after me. So there was no room for error; we just had to go for it. yet as I stepped to the line all I could think was "please don't let my legs give out!".

We did it! We ran clear and we ran it the best we could. As I sat on the ground outside the ring I just kept hugging Zaz as we watched the last dog run. I had no idea at that point if we were in the lead and when the last dog finished I waited to hear the results. Someone checked for me and they said they thought Zaz had won. I couldn't believe it so I made them check again! They confirmed it and I couldn't stop hugging Zaz even though she hated it. I am amazed that my little girl now has 2 Championship tickets and needs only one more to become an Agility Champion. She is such a special dog to me for so many reasons and I am so happy to be playing this game with her.

At that point I realized that Zeki could also win in the medium champs and I just had a vision at that moment that she would. Since Zaz was fed up with me hugging her I sat ringside to watch the medium champ final. Up came this years medium Crufts champion and she was putting in a foot perfect extremely fast run. She had the win in the bag with only two jumps to go when all of a sudden they got a refusal at the second to last jump! I looked over to see Nancy's face and I think she just about passed out at that moment when she realized that, actually, she and Zeki could now have a chance at winning. If anyone needed the saying "Keep Calm and Carry On" at that point it was Nancy.

Well they did it. They put in the best run they could and at the end of the class Zeki had won the Medium Championship Final!

Amazingly this is not the first time we have had two OBays winning the tickets on the same day. Zen and Indy have won the Medium and small championship tickets on the same day at 3 or 4 shows during their careers. Zen and Hex had won a medium and small ticket on the same day as well. These were all True pups. Now the next generation have done the same....two of Zen's babies (True's grandpups) have won the small/medium tickets on the same day. I hope this is good omen for the last litter of Zen puppies that are being made as I type!

Well the day couldn't get any better could it? Stay tuned for Itzy news!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hopefully our blog posts will increase soon...

I just loved the look in Zen's eyes in this photo. It is her naughty look because she knows I want to flip her into the tunnel and she would rather not go all the way down the contact.

So I always blog more when I have puppies. It is the puppy training that I most love to talk about and think about. So posts should increase in August because Zen is off being bred as I type. I want you all to keep your fingers crossed that she makes me a litter of many little girls from which to choose!

I am missing Zen like crazy; the house seems so empty and quiet with only Zaz and Itzy. We took this photo of Zen with her two WAO medals before she left on her journey. My gorgeous girl!

We have had three weekends in a row of agility shows. Cippenham was only one day and we enjoyed the slightly smaller show with a late start! Zaz ran well and Itzy came second in her graded class. I felt as if it was one of my best runs with Itzy to date, a run where I felt Itz and I were totally connected. I love that!

The following weekend we had Hinkley on Saturday followed by Keston on Sunday. It is hard to believe that Dartford and Keston were Zaz and Itz's first shows last year! They have now been competing for one year! No more excuses, huh? LOL Hinkley was a championship show and I had great hopes. Unfortunately it was not meant to be as we got eliminated in champ jumping when Zaz ran past the collapsed tunnel; a baby mistake. Still she won the champ agility and the Crufts singles so all in all a good day for Zaz. Not a great day for Itz when she was blown off the top of the dogwalk in a freak gust of wind. My poor Itz! She took quite a tumble landing on her back. I felt sick but kept her going on the course to try and keep her from thinking about it too much. I had her checked out by Tace (our WAO team massage therapist) and she seemed OK. I thought I was shook up more than she was.

Here is Zaz in her Champ agility run.

Keston was a more local show the next day and I was looking forward to it because Dennis was coming with us. When Dennis comes to the shows Itzy wins! And she did it again winning Small 1-7 and getting her third win towards Grade 7. One more win for Itz and she will be in Grade 7.

I asked Andy if he wanted to run Zen in agility because I was going to let Johanna run her in Demark in July at the Dania Cup. This is the 2nd time Andy has run Zen and the 2nd time he won the class with her. Little did I know that should would be going to Denmark sooner than I thought as she came in season the next day!

This past weekend was Thames Champ show. Usually Thames has good sunny hot weather but that was not the case this year. Itz did not have a good weekend as on Saturday she decided that she could no longer do a see-saw. This was out of the blue but I wondered if it was a result of her fall off the dogwalk at Hinkley. I felt awful that either she was sore or she was worried. I took her to see the doggie osteopath for a treatment just in case. Saturday was not a great day for me and the girls and I was felt down and worried about Itz.

On Sunday the weather was horrendous and we did our champ final run in heavy rain. I went through two raincoats that day as each one got soaked through.I skipped many of our runs on Sunday due to the rain but really wanted a shot at the championship with Zaz. Here she is in the champ agility qualifier. My hat started coming off while Zaz was on the Aframe which is why my hands are flying all around the place! It finally came off and luckily Zaz did not try to retrieve it. I was more worried about the state of my hair under the hat than finishing the run!

I felt really worried about running Zaz in the rain and have such mixed feelings about having done so. I am only human and the lure of the champ final really pushed me to do that last run. Yet my heart was not in it for many reasons; so in hindsight I should have pulled out of the final. Easier said than done...

So three weekends of agility shows are past and, as usual, I did not keep up with taking photos of trophies and rosettes. So here is Zaz and Itz's stash of trophies and rosettes for Cippenham, Hinkley, Keston and Thames. What good girlies they are.

Monday, June 06, 2011

WAO 2011 Part 3 Small Fast Kick Yer Ass

Well I have really been dragging out the report on the WAO! Gosh I hope I get all my details correct as I am starting to forget.

Saturday was a little better for us! This Pentathlon Jumping was another of my favorite runs. Imagine that? It is amazing how my clear runs are my favorite.

Zen came 2nd in that class with a fantastic time!

On Saturday we had the second part of the games classes: Gamblers. Now Zen is not a great Gamblers dog by any stretch of the imagination! It is not something we train although something I would like to train in the future with other dogs. Zen, at 8 years old, is not going to suddenly start being able to work away from me. But I knew that if we could accumulate enough points in the opening we had a chance.

Well she did it. We came 4th in the Gamblers which put us 3rd (BRONZE MEDAL) for the Overall Games classes. That's my girl! My goal was to come away from this weekend with a medal and we did it. I was starting to let go of my disappointment from the previous day.

At the end of Saturday the English team had 3 overall medals. Gold, Silver and Bronze!

On Sunday we had the Pentathlon speedstakes which was the final run for the Pentathlon. I knew we had no chance at a medal in the Overall Pentathlon so I would just be running the speedstakes for a class placement. I really enjoyed this course and I thought Zen ran it well. After the turn off the aframe into the tunnel I felt something wrong with Zen. It may not look like it on the video but I was surprised that Zen did not beat me out of the tunnel to the next jump. I felt as if something happened in the tunnel but was not sure.

Zen came 2nd in that run! If you listen closely you can hear Leah yelling my motto for this competition. Small fast kick yer ass!

After her run while walking her to cool down I just felt something was wrong with her gait but I thought I was over-reacting. I walked her around and finally put her away to rest and tried to forget about it. Unfortunately when I went back an hour later to take her out for prize giving she was lame on her front leg.....I was devastated and just wanted to pack her up and take her home.

Thank God that we had Tace A. available to treat our dogs for any injuries and Peter Van D.available as our vet. Both Tace and Peter were so helpful and Zen was treated immediately. She had a injury to her right wrist so we started icing and metacam right away. I was nearly in tears as I could not believe that Zen was in pain after just running her little heart out for me... This was my dog who has never in 8 years been injured in agility. And now she gets an injury in her last big event! Was she telling me it was good that she will be retired or that she was not happy about this retirement malarkey?

This photo was not taken during that run but at our official practice on the Thursday. Could she have hurt her wrist coming out of that tunnel and then aggravated it turning into the tunnel on that last run?

Now the next run of the day was the Team Pentathlon Relay. We had the greatest team lined up for that run. All four of them could handle the pressure of a team relay that would decide if our team came away with Team GOLD.

Sometime during that morning I had realized (doh!) that Zen was possibly going to get a TEAM GOLD medal! OMG what a way to end her career. I put the pressure on Lee and Jo and told them they were going to win this team relay for Zen! And you know what? They did it!!! Dave and Rusty, Gary and Ellie, Jo and Bitzy, Lee and Bonnie ran that Team Relay with grace under pressure and won! This put our team as OVERALL GOLD! Zen finally got her Gold medal!

Thanks to the entire TEAM ENGLAND for being great competitors and teammates.

Friday, June 03, 2011

WAO 2011 Part 2

Girl Power!

This was one of my favorite runs. It was our first team run. All 3 in the team ran clear and we won this round!

Our other run on the first day was the Snooker run. I found it very funny but fantastic that Zen ended up with a Bronze Medal in Games! I actually like Games but doing them once a year does not encourage us to practice for them. LOL This is Zen's Snooker run; we ended up in 4th in Snooker because I did not go for the 7-7-7 combination. I decided to play it safe and went for 7-7-5 and hoped that would be enough to help us get on the podium for the Overall Games. I am still not sure if I should have tried it as, of course, it would have been the difference between a bronze and a gold medal. That is the interesting part of games; trying to be strategic in addition to knowing your dog's strengths and weaknesses. I know that Zen can only be run past so many obstacles before she would decide that enough is enough! LOL

So after the first day we had many highs and lows. Zen had 4 runs that day and Zaz had one run. Zaz's first run was her Biathlon jumping. I knew that sequence at the top of the ring would be an issue as I saw dog after dog do the same thing. I would have preferred to have been able to get a front cross in but just could not get there. Many people tried and it pushed their dogs into the other end of the tunnel. Or if they tried to sprint off after the weaves it caused the dogs to cross jump the long jump. Obviously this is a sequence I need to practice! sigh.. Otherwise I was so happy with how she handled the course.

Zaz is very different from Zen and I obviously feel so much more comfortable running Zen. Running Zaz is still a new experience in many ways. I found these two photo from the photographer at the WAO and was amazed again to see the similarities between Zen and Zaz.

More later...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

WAO 2011 part 1

My post about the WAO is very late. I wish I could be better about documenting our journey immediately after the event. Unfortunately it seems that I need downtime after a big competition before putting my thoughts into writing. I always have mixed feelings; never sure if I am happy or sad that it is over and never sure if I am thrilled or disappointed about our performances!

So I wait before I look at videos and by that time I have lost the impetus to put together a detailed post. I am thinking that for the European Open I would like to try and put together my posts on the day but that might just be a little ambitious. Dennis isn't even coming and so photos and videos might be sporadic as it is!

The World Agility Open Championships (WAO) 2011 was a fantastic event. The time and effort put into every detail was obvious to us all. As with the IFCS last year, there was a great atmosphere and awesome (yes AWESOME) volunteers working very hard every day. The courses were fun and challenging and I enjoyed them all.Zen and Zaz were great fun to run as always. Zen placed in the top 3 in almost every class.

The only thing that prevented us getting onto the podium in the pentathlon was my ridiculous errors. I am not even talking about handling errors as I could forgive myself for those (and often do!). The errors that happened to me that weekend were ones that I have nightmares about: I forgot the courses! I guess my two worse nightmares going into any big competition are forgetting the course and falling down. Well now I have gotten one of those over with and I hope never to repeat it!

Looking back I now understand why I forgot the courses but that doesn't stop me from feeling like an idiot and worrying that this may become a problem. A problem both in reality and a problem in my mental attitude. I read enough about Positive Mental Imaging to know that I almost should not even be writing this paragraph! Yet I do think it helps me and others reading this post to put my fears in writing and then get some help in getting over it! And maybe it will help others who have similar problems.

Do I have an answer to this problem? No not really but I will keep working on it and I will not let it get me down. How can I forget that my dogs have no idea when it goes wrong; they give me their all on every run and I am so grateful to have them by my side.

I thought I would start by showing you my two worst runs of the weekend; the run where I get lost and have to stop on course and the run where I sent my dog over the wrong jump when I forgot the course. My thought is that I need to watch them and then let them go forever.

This was our first run at the WAO. I was really positive about this course; I loved it and was looking forward to running it. What I did not count on was forgetting the course. In hindsight I understand why this happened but that doesn't help after the fact!

The great part about the WAO is that we get ALOT of runs. The worst part of the WAO is that we have to walk ALOT of courses. This is fine at the normal weekend show especially as we do not get complicated courses at our normal everyday show. In addition you may have the luxury of watching many dogs run before you go into the ring. At the WAO we walked 3 difficult courses in a 1/2 hour period and then immediately ran the 1st course we walked. So after walking the 3rd course I needed to get my dog and go run the 1st course without being able to watch. I was not ready for this mentally as it did not occur to me that this would happen. This was a failing on my part in my preparation both mentally and physically. Hopefully if we get a chance to do the WAO again I will not let this happen again.

I was really down after this run. It was our 2nd pentathlon run of the day and again it was the 1st run in the afternoon after a rotation of walking 3 courses. Can you see the common thread? I had gotten lost on the first run of the morning as well. What was wrong with me? I felt as if I was too old for this sport. Not only is my body falling apart and I am having difficulty running but now my brain is gone! I don't think I have ever felt this low about agility.

I am the first person to say "It is just agility" and I do not get upset about those little things that happen in the ring. Yet I do agility because I love it; I love working with my dogs and figuring out challenges. So when reality hits and I start doubting that I will be able to continue....that does make me sad. Thank you to those who understand that; who commiserate as well as trying to help me get over it.

So no more talk about getting lost on course. I do need to work on running more complicated courses on a regular basis. Zaz and I have alot of work to do over the next few weeks before the Dania cup and the European Open. I am glad to have a game plan in my head; now I just need to implement it!

More about WAO 2011 later!