in the end

Well, the 2016 trialling and agility season has officially finished for us this weekend.

Thank. goodness.

Not that we haven’t had a good year. We’ve had an amazing year in terms of dogs and agility. But it has been non-stop weekends of trials or seminars for the last month and a half and all of us are ready to just stop, sleep, recover, rest. My hip-flexors are asking for a rest, my neck, my back, even my triceps, though I’m not sure what part they play in agility aside from maybe carrying the crate to and from the car. I imagine that if I have all these little niggles, that Loki is feeling exactly the same.

Some events, some seminars, have melded from last year into this year, but we have been busy. 2016 has been full. We’ve trained with some top Australian handlers, more than once. We competed in the Nationals and came so close to getting into the finals, with both dogs – at the fault of either one bar, or just not being quick enough. We’ve driven thousands of kilometers, trained with Jouni and Isabelle from Sweden, which was amazing. Trained with Dave Munnings – also amazing. I was told I could get a spot on the Australian Team for WAO but with everything else going on, didn’t apply this year. Lumen gained her Masters Jumping title, and her Excellent Agility title. Loki had no titles but started to knock less and less bars in his last few competitions, showing promise for what’s to come.

I feel like I’ve grown significantly as a handler through the second half of this year. I’ve improved my timing with both my dogs, but Lumen I think in particular, on certain handling moves, and have become more aggressive in the way I handle. I’ve learned how to work Loki through a course, and while we still have a long way to go, it’s the first time I’ve felt we’ve been a team.

My little training club on the side has grown, too, and I’ve been so enjoying seeing my couple of advanced students experience success, consistently, with their dogs.

The end of this year has opened up an idea in me, a potential for something exciting and scary in the future, for stepping WAY outside my comfort zone and embracing a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. If I can make the pieces fit, if I can pull together all the threads that need to be woven, if I can find some other metaphor for ‘getting my shit together’, then maybe… maybe on the horizon in 2017 will be a year even more full, of learning, of experiences, of agility, of mountains, of hikes, of rivers and lakes and new friends. We’ll just have to see if I can pull it all off.

For now, we’re going to charge toward the end of the school year, wind down my classes at home, pack away the equipment, get back into conditioning (all of us!), hit the beach for long walks, try and avoid snakes, and sleep in.

thoughts on Lu (again)

I took Lu and Loki out for a little walk around a suburban lake today. While we were there, 2 trains went past. Loki didn’t blink but Lu wanted to bolt for the first one, and was anxious about the 2nd one. We walked on further and I had to keep her on lead at a little grassy bit cos I thought there might have been rabbits around. We walked on and came to a bridge/boardwalk which she was worried about walking on. On the boardwalk was a gazebo which had a person fishing wearing a beanie. She was curious and worried about that person and also startled at a guy going past nearby on a skateboard. To get back to the car we had to walk near a busy road, and she was very stressed out by the traffic and especially a truck. She got in the car ok but usually that’s an argument too. We were on our way to see a vet who does canine rehab stuff who comes highly recommended, just to see if there’s anything ‘wrong’ with her, or if she just walks and jumps funny because that’s her structure. I wonder if it’s both. They had to cancel on us so we went to the dog-park instead where she had a go at a staffy x ridgeback type dog because it was eyeing off her treat pouch and she didn’t like the look of it.

 

Lu still isn’t in season, which is making the question of desexing her more and more pressing. If I were to get it done on Monday, say, I wouldn’t have to worry about going through another season. All these things happened today and I don’t consider myself to be a dumb person, right… Nic and I socialised the crap out of this dog- we went everywhere with her. I knew from pretty early on that she was very frightened of cars approaching and did a lot of work to help her with this. The fact that she can now walk down a street without wanting to flee is pretty great, but obviously things like trains and trucks still concern her. Which is to say: can you imagine the ‘raw’ version of Lumen? The Lumen in the hands of a pet-dog family? The Lumen in the hands of someone who didn’t socialise her because she wasn’t vaccinated until 16 weeks, or who wouldn’t know how to help her get through the fear of cars stuff? Or who just didn’t spend the time with her, to train her? She already blows me off and does things her own way, and I think we have a fairly good relationship for the most part…What if she was just a backyard dog who came inside sometimes and had to walk on lead everywhere?

Ok, you could say, her dam is an imported ‘working’ Aussie, so maybe her puppies could be just sold to ‘performance’ homes?
Except that she’s not a highly driven dog. I have one of those now and there is a huge distinction. Yes, I can see Lu’s potential now, yes, I can see that she does work for food now and somewhat for toys, but on the other hand I have a puppy with obvious drive- who will work for the sheer sake of working, whose idea of a good time is when I throw handfuls of sand for him to chase, or bits of grass, or a cardboard toilet-roll.. THAT is drive. So, to say you could sell Lu’s puppies for ‘performance homes’ when they could be low in drive too would be misleading and unfair. Similarly, given her structure and jumping style, and even the body sensitivity issues, I don’t think she’s your ideal candidate for agility puppies. Maybe she’s potentially a star herding dog, but do I want to bank on that, given her mum will (apparently) only herd when her owner isn’t in the paddock with her?! Not really.

She is the most beautiful dog I think I have ever seen, but I’ve always said, ALWAYS, that people shouldn’t just get a dog and breed it because it’s cute and they want cute puppies, and basically, that’s the only reason I’d be breeding her.

And I don’t think it’s worth the headache of having to go through seasons, hormones, etc, and eventually taking her out of training/walking/competing for 3-4 months while she’s pregnant/raises puppies… or the heartache if something goes wrong when she’s having them.

So… I guess I’ll call the vet tomorrow. It’s a fairly ideal time to get a surgery done- there’s no competitions for a month and a bit, I don’t have anywhere to train easily, and it’s too wet and slippery to train anyway… So assuming it’s not too close to her coming IN to season, then… maybe it’ll all get done next week.

I still can’t help but feel sad. I guess it’s that letting go of my plans, of it being such a final decision that I can’t go back on once it’s done… but I think it’s the right thing.

 

Completely unrelated but not worth its own post: Mal’s spine is like, jutting out of his back at the moment. Is this weird? Or normal? Or weirdly normal? Is it an old dog thing? Is he seriously broken? Is he a stegosaurus?

Not sure about this...

Not sure about this…

Lu and her… bits.

How could you not want 6-8 of these trundling around your backyard?!

How could you not want 6-8 of these trundling around your backyard?!

So… I’m having to face a fast-approaching reality, and that is what to do with Lu in terms of breeding, or not.

I suspect very strongly that she’s going to come into season again in the next few weeks. Which fricken sucks because she was just in season at the end of January, which means that it was only 4 months ago. Wtf. I’ve had a massive coat drop, lots and lots of little pees today at the park. Yup. Plus she’s been a right royal bitch for the last week or so, so possibly that’s hormonal too.

My original thought, when I got Lu, was that she was going to be this high-drive, awesome performance Aussie, and we’d do really well in agility, and then I’d be able to breed awesome performance Aussies and that could be my thing, and one day I’d have a Lu baby or grandbaby and that would be cool too…

But then… Lu is the way she is. Which is to say…

Points that I don’t like about Lumen:

  • ‘My way or the highway’ mindset/wilfulness – lacks biddability. If she wants to do something, you can get stuffed.
  • Not high drive, at all. Only now becoming more interested in treats and toys.
  • Weird jumping style, not that useful for agility.
  • Body sensitivity issues
  • Some other weird temperament stuff, like just generally not as outgoing or confident as I’d like, some resource guarding issues, etc. High desire to chase/hunt things which doesn’t translate into playing with toys.
  • Coming into season every 4 months means missing out on a lot of trials – that would mean we’d be competing for 3 months, then out for a month. That sucks.

 

Things I do like about Lu:

  • Gosh she’s gorgeous. I look at her and think she’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen. And I love her body type- she’s athletic and not square like some Aussies.
  • Her personality at home is great – she’s loving and happy and friendly. She’s great with kids and gets all happy and curly with people she meets at the park.
  • She has a killer stride – she’s so fast … when she wants to be!

 

Was this before I ruined her... or something?

Was this before I ruined her… or something?

… and… that’s it. And so I’m quickly facing up to the reality that maybe she isn’t breeding quality. Why did I want to breed? For high-drive, working, performance Aussies. Is Lu representative of that ideal? No. Would a high-drive male possibly balance that out? Maybe. But then I think about Lu in the hands of someone who isn’t experienced with dogs and feel frightened for them. She’s a handful for me and I’ve been training her! Do I want to deal with possible health problems, complications, and the exhaustion that would come from looking after a litter of puppies? Not necessarily, no!
And even though I don’t normally have a gut feeling about this, my gut is saying to spay her and just be happy with my dogs, and maybe look at another border collie down the line (when Mal goes to the rainbow bridge) and give up this idea of passing on my dog’s lines or whatever.

Or look I could have little red baby puppies like a little red Malmal

Or look I could have little red baby puppies like a little red Malmal

But I just can’t figure out why it’s making me so sad to be accepting this decision.

 

😦

sadface.

spanner

On Saturday, Nic and I went and visited a friend Amanda’s litter of Aussie puppies.

Their dam is a gorgeous blue merle girl who I just love – she’s petite and light boned, and she has drive and excitement and enthusiastic (can you guess why I like her?), she’s super friendly, too, which I love and which is what I love about Aussies (and miss in Lu, and in Borders, I think!). Amanda told me that 2 days after Tahli had puppies, she heard her training the other dogs in the yard, decided she’d had enough of puppies and was ready to train, thanks very much. Now THAT’S love for the game. I just love how she’s so people-friendly though. Sometimes I’ve talked to Kate’s breeder about things like how Lu will go up to say hello but then turn away before people have a chance to pat her, or that she says hello for 5 seconds before she’s off somewhere else, and her breeder says that’s just an Aussie bitch thing… well… Tahli is an Aussie bitch… and from what I heard, she ADORES people and attention. She also loves to play. I’d love love love to see what I could get out of a Tahli puppy using Silvia’s methods and knowing what I’ve learnt from training Lu.

One of the puppies is a black tri girl called Tink. She’s pretty plain, though she does have one brown leg and one white, which is cute, and she has a ‘go fast’ stripe on her face.

They’re 4 weeks old and this girl is just cool. She’s exploring everything, she was the first to come and say Hi to us when we got outside, she was going in the real dog tunnel… when Amanda puts out new things for them to explore, she’s the first on it, and confident even with stuff moving under her feet. She was on the move when the others were asleep (yeah, like I need another ‘gets into everything’ dog!!) She played tug with me like a fierce little devil and it was so adorable! We’re planning on going back in 2 weeks, just to see, but she seems really cool –  I can see why she’s Amanda’s favourite!

So, look, I don’t know if she’s the pup we’ll get, but it’s certainly thrown a spanner in the works, I suppose.

Here she is, squashing Amanda’s boy Koda. Stolen from the Pawsitive Facebook page.

I forgot to mention – since Lu is so, so in season at the moment (she’s pretty much trying to convince Mal that he can make babies with her, if he wants) she’s decided that the best thing to do is to pee on EVERYTHING. I think I’ve mentioned how she lifts her leg to pee? She peed on all the puppies today. And every other square inch of Amanda’s yard. It was horrible. She’s horrible.

 

Here’s another photo

Also stolen (with permission 😉 ) from Facebook

what’s wrong with border collies?

So I’m back to thinking about future dogs, future pups, what to do, what to do?

I really do wonder if I should just suck it up and get a border collie because maybe everything I want is a border collie? That intensity, speed, drive, absolute desire to work and please and work some more, and to play and that sharpness of motion in agility…

And yet my head is still saying: yeah, but…

Is it that thing that you have to have a border to do well in agility? Is it that I wanted to prove I could do just as well with an Aussie and would still like to, but I don’t think it’s actually going to happen? Is it that everyone with a different breed is now getting borders because if you want to do well you have to have one? Maybe it’s because most of the borders I’ve met have seemed ‘blah’ in personalities (although usually less ‘blah’ when getting to know them one-on-one), maybe it’s because most of the high-up agility borders seem to be from one breeder and I’d want to look somewhere different, but then how do you find a good one? (and not that there’s anything wrong with that breeder or the dogs, they are awesome and they are fast and you do get hurricane-love from them, but I just don’t want to do what everyone else seems to be doing, though they’re probably doing that for a good reason, which is that the dogs are bloody quick and awesome workers)…

 

Maybe I should just suck it up and contact that breeder. Or this breeder (because even though she does more ‘show-type’ borders than working borders, I love how she really wants to focus on happy, lovely tempermented dogs who are also quick agility dogs) but I don’t know if she’s planning on having any litters any time soon.

 

So the answer to the question in the title of the post is: I don’t know what’s wrong with Border Collies, I kind of want one, but it kind of feels like turning my back on Aussies (and then the question is: well, what’s wrong with that?).