Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pro-Novice in Pleasant Grove, CA

Yesterday we ran Pro-Novice at the spic-and-span facility known as Performance Dogs in Action, in Pleasant Grove, CA (where the hospitality was marvelous). Though it was a small course, the sheep were tricky, and as usual it was they who sorted out the placings.

Bid had to run first in the running order which put me at a disadvantage to know how to handle the sheep. The sheep were fast and flighty but extremely velcro, which made them very hard to pen. Bid gave it his best, although we timed out with no pen, earning 67 points and second place.

Coal ran next to last and though he had watched several lifts, he was unsure where the sheep were being set out. Since he is only two years old and not as experienced as Bid, I totally understand why he did what he did, which was run up the field looking for sheep but not displaying a very beautiful outrun! Anyway he kicked out at the last second, gathered his sheep and from there on put in a very nice run to get 60.5 points, one of only two pens of the day (only 1/2 point off the pen) and fourth place.

Thanks to all of the crew at PDIA for a very fun and relaxed local trial!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More on DNA, UCD and UCSF

A while back, I reported that Chief's and Bid's DNA had been accepted into UC Davis' groundbreaking border collie epilepsy study. They were being used as controls, since they do not have epilepsy.

Dr. Mark Neff, the UCD researcher, has decided to share the border collie DNA from his project with the team working at UCSF on the Canine Behavioral Genetics Project. With each dog owners' permission, Dr. Neff will forward to the UCSF team the genetic data from the dogs in the UCD study. I compliment these researchers on their willingness to share their data.

In Dr. Neff's letter, he writes that their epilepsy research is ongoing and that they are "following up several possible leads across the dog genome". Also as part of the epilepsy study, the UCD research team has helped to validate an efficient gene-mapping resource called a "SNP chip".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Memories of Alix

These videos were recently posted. They show University of Illinois basketball halftime demos of Alix (and Augie's) flyball team from the early 1990s--the HitSquad--from the Dog Training Club of Champaign-Urbana.

I'm thrilled to see them as I have little to no record in photos or videos of Alix playing her favorite game. She is the lead dog in many of the clips.


The basketball demos were always such fun to do--a major adrenalin rush almost as exciting as playing in a real tournament. The set-ups and tear-downs were carefully rehearsed and required the help of many individuals. Sometimes the biggest treat was being in the company of the current individual portraying Chief Illiniwek (who is no longer a part of U of I sports). We were always close enough to view the respect and admiration paid to the Chief and the tradition surrounding his performances and tributes (which were always the very last event of any of these half-time shows).

Many thanks to my former teammates who went to the trouble of posting these videos! All of these featured dogs are gone, but their memories and our friends are priceless to all of us.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Great Lesson; Complete with Breakthroughs!

We had a really great lesson yesterday. Our trainer seems to think I am finally starting to "get it" on some of the handling issues. Yippee! Coal and Bid each had two turns on the "trial course". Coal was much improved over just two weeks ago; I sent him on one outrun to each side and drove the course the opposite way it was intended, on the second run, just to keep things interesting. Bid is doing so well that I am being urged to move him into Open, for my own experience while he is still able. I'm still not sure how I feel about that, especially considering that all the Open trials seem to over-fill. So that will take some more thought.

We talked about taking risks, quiet lifts, maintaining flow and forward motion, as well as being a "finisher". On my second run with each dog, I tried hard to focus and concentrate on keeping that forward-ness, which I am comparing in my own mind to impulsion in a dressage horse.

There is a small Pro-Novice trial in two weeks, which I'm viewing as a "practice". I hope I can put some of our new skills into play then.