Saturday, 6 September 2014

herding clinic 2014

In June, Piper and I attended a herding clinic at Have Ewe Heard, the same place we went for the herding instinct test last spring. The clinic was run jointly by our new friend Mary Anne and the Peterborough Obedience Club.

We arrived around noon, so I could set Piper's crate up on the grass near the sheep pen. We spent about half an hour watching the sheep being run by other dogs, then it was our turn. Piper seemed curious and excited to be around the sheep. When we went into the paddock, she took an explosive turn around the ring, chasing the sheep like stink. Then she stopped. Wouldn't follow them when they moved, all she seemed to want to do was stand there and eat sheep poop. I'll be honest, I spent more time herding sheep than she did, that session. She had to back on a long time, so I could try to lead her closer to them. The instructor and I were stumped... she had done so well last year at the test, and went into the ring with so much zoom! Discussing it after, the instructor suspected maybe she is a little sensitive and one of the sheep have her a good stare down we didn't notice.

Later in the day we had another opportunity to work a different group of sheep. These ones were a little flightier, and moved more easily around the paddock. Piper did much better, and by the end of the session she was able to calmly move around the little herd and bring them towards me. Good girl!

I was so happy to end the day on a good note. I would love to do more herding with her, and the farm where we go is only an hour from where I live now, so it's certainly a possibility. Hopefully in another year or two I will a) have a little extra money to spend on herding classes and b) be stable enough in agility to be able to afford the time to train in two vastly different disciplines.

Piper trying to gather the sheep. June 2014

Sunday, 17 August 2014

new town, new job, more agility!

Well, the happy event finally occurred. I landed my first full-time, permanent, professional job as a Junior Planner for a planning consultant in Muskoka. I interviewed around the end of May, and was hired two weeks later, with a start date the third week of June.

That left me two weeks to find a place to live... no easy feat when you have two dogs and two cats. I looked at apartments in several towns, up to 40 minutes from my new workplace. Several were extremely scuzzy (no thank you!) and several were too expensive, or too far away. But I eventually hit the jackpot. I found a building 8 houses down from my office, with one apartment available July 1, and a larger one available August 1. I really wanted the bigger apartment, so was able to make arrangements to move into the smaller one for a month, then move across the hall to the bigger one! The building is clean, the kitchen, flooring, bathroom, and paint all very fresh looking. It is smaller than my beloved Guelph apartment, but big enough for my needs.

My job is also going well. I find the work interesting, and am able to get out of the office for meetings and site visits periodically. I am able to go home at lunch and let the dogs out, and have flexible hours. I am paid a professional wage that will allow me to live reasonable comfortably and pay off my debts. The best part is that when I get home in the evening, I am ready to go and do things! I don't get home from work and feel tired and grouchy - I want to run - bike - train my dogs - cook supper. No shortage of energy here. It's a fantastic feeling.

Now that A) I have the time and B) I have the money, Piper and I have been back in regular agility classes. We have been going out to Huntsville and taking classes with Muskoka Agility Dogs, specifically Lynda Yielding. She is a lot of fun, and is helping me to understand how to walk a course, how to weave, and do contacts. The only crummy part is that they don't hold classes through the winter, so we'll see what will happen then. I'm saving my pennies so hopefully I can purchase a few pieces of equipment that I can store in my trunk and practice with in the park.

I am only an hour from the cottage, so we have been spending many weekend there. Ace just adores it, as he can swim all day long! It makes me feel better that although I'm back in an apartment and leashes are once again required for even the quickest pee break, the dogs can go the entire weekend at the cottage without even wearing a collar. They are just my little stars.

Piper and I have been exploring a few of the many trails in the area. All have been beautiful and quiet, my favourite trail characteristics. Since Ace has been swimming so much on weekends, and I have to be careful not to over-tax his elbows, he has been staying home.

I also started volunteering at the OSPCA last week. I'm hoping to focus on training rather than just walking, to improve my training skills, and hopefully increase the adoptability of the dogs at the shelter.
Piper standing on a log over Muskoka River. Wilson Falls Trail.
Piper climbing on rocks. Wilson Falls Trail.

Piper standing on a log, overlooking Lake Muskoka. Huckleberry Rock Trail. She was wearing a harness because I knew it was a lookout, and was not sure how steep it would be. Thought I would leash her, just in case she accidentally took off running toward the edge! It ended up not being too bad.

Friday, 16 May 2014

academics, puppy visits, vet visits, and agility class!

Wednesday was a great day for me, I was able to present my research at the Campbell Centre for Studies in Animal Welfare annual Symposium and Research Day. There were about 100 people in the audience (scary!!!), including a number of professors, students, and public interested in animal welfare. I think I did pretty well, although I did loose my place a few times. It was nice to be one of only two social science majors, out of 22 presenters.

On Thursday I had lunch with a good friend from Guelph, and visited Wendy (Piper's breeder). Piper and I got to meet another of Piper's littermates, Ryder (who she adored).

All four of my animals also had vet appointments in the afternoon, so we spent about two hours with Dr. Paula. Piper and Percy were both in perfect health, which was good news (although I was expecting it). The vet heard a grade one heart murmur in Archie, although it went away as he relaxed. Something to watch, however it seemed to only be an issue when he was stressed, and he's generally a pretty laid back cat. Ace is my poor, unhealthy soul, unfortunately. The vet now suspects his elbow dysplasia is causing him chronic pain, so she prescribed some painkillers. It breaks my heart, since he's only five years old, but she said he has almost no muscle around his elbows, and quite severe arthritis in his joints. He is to receive minimal exercise, except as much swimming as we can handle! She told me its ok to not exercise him every day, and I was correct to also cut back his food (which I had already done - my 74 lb dog now eats the same amount as my 42 lb dog). We are going to start a painkiller trial next week, he is to be medicated for a solid week, to see if I notice any differences. It's the easiest way to find out if he really is in chronic pain. I had suspected something along those lines, so I was not surprised by her evaluation.

We had a good time visiting my friend Karen, and her super-adorable Turveurn puppy Spark. Spark and Piper are like two peas in a pod, they got along fantastically :) We spent several nights watching agility videos.

Tonight was my last agility class with Piper for a while. We had a pretty good class, only screwing up a couple time in a course that was masters level (and harder than anything that would be seen at a regional level event). I was pretty happy with that! What I was not happy with was that Piper BARKED the entire time she was not working. My instructor told me to step on the leash and ignore her, quietly rewarding anytime she was quiet. The result was an hour and a half of barking. It was brutal. Definitely something we are going to have to work on.

Thursday, 8 May 2014


Update: still living with my parents, still working for minimum wage. Sigh. But better job prospects on the horizon!

Next week I am presenting my research at the CCSAW Symposium, which is super exciting. As my research was pretty much the definition of inter-disciplinary, this is a rare opportunity for me to present to a group of scientists. I'm quite nervous about it, actually.

Last weekend I volunteers at the Peterborough Obedience Club CKC trial. I was a ring steward for nearly 7 hours, it was a long day! However I also learned huge amounts, which was great. I've only ever seen bits and pieces of Open and Utility levels before. Still not sure I want to compete at those levels, but I at least know what I need to do to be able to. If that makes any sense.

Ace, Piper and I have been out enjoying spring, and of course getting muddy. I've been a little photo-happy, as you can see. Piper and I have been working on a number of tricks, such as back-up, handstand, beg. Trying to wean her off the treats with the back-up and beg... but I'm really bad at that haha. The handstand is going to take a bit of work I think. Will be awesome when she can do it though! We have a few classes of freestyle coming up with Dante Camacho, so I am looking forward to that.

Blaster, Tucker, Zanna, Ace, Cody, and Piper... it was spring, I swear! This photo was taken in April.
Piper being her usual gorgeous self. I am so lucky to have her.

Ace and Piper enjoying a good game of fetch in the super-muddy park. I love how much they love fetch :)

Thursday, 6 March 2014


Twice this winter, I have taken Piper out with her new friend (and cousin - his uncle is Piper's grandsire) Blaster to go sledding! Blaster's owner has the appropriate harnesses and a sled re-fitted for the dogs to pull.

Blaster (left) and Piper (right). Standing in their harnesses, waiting to go!
It's been lots of fun, but it's lots of work too. Because the Aussies won't just run ahead, we take turns on the sled, while the other person runs ahead to give the dogs a goal to run to. We encourage them as they run, shouting "YES" and "GO GO GO", but they rarely go more than a few feet past the running person. They just want to chase us! It's more work than just an off-leash run, which they seem to appreciate.

Blaster and Piper stopped... "we don't want to run past our people!" Silly dogs, barking their heads off.

Last time we went out, they certainly did a better job with their "go-ons" than the first time. Often Piper will out-pull Blaster, she just loves it! And barks her head off the entire time, which drives me nuts, but I try to tolerate it since she's just doing something she loves.

I'm not sure we will get out again this winter, but it's definitely something I would look into continuing with her next year.

Blaster and Piper pulling Wendy

Blaster and Piper pulling me.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

CKC trial, February 9, 2014

Last month, I entered Piper in a CKC trial run by the Hamilton Dog Obedience Club (HDOC). We were entered in two runs of Pre-Novice Obedience, and one run of Rally Novice. We stayed overnight with a friend in Waterloo, so were easily able to make it to the trial on time (arrival at 8:00 am). I found an empty spot and set up Piper's crate, with my chair in front of it.

We had the very first run of the morning at 9:00 am (lucky us!), with Pre-Novice Obedience. Pre-Novice (PCD) is a class that goes before the traditional Novice (CD) (obviously), however it is voluntary. You don't have to finish your PCD before you try for your CD. The exercises are very similar, however easier.  We spent about 15 minutes warming up before we went in, and Piper did pretty well, although I was very nervous. We had a few spots with tight leashes, and a sloppy sit, but other than that we did quite well! There was a Golden Retriever and Belgian Turveurn in our class as well. Since it was pass/fail, there was no winner.

After that, we had a few hours of waiting around. I pulled Piper out of her crate about every 45 minutes to let her stretch her legs, and she was very good. Didn't make a peep while in her crate. I was also in luck, because I had set up Piper's crate in the middle of a group of CDT (Companion Dog Training) people, several of whom I had met before at various fun matches. One lady with a German Shepherd was competing in Utility (the highest obedience level), but was not having a successful weekend. She and her dog were entered in all four trials that weekend, and hadn't succeeded in earning even one qualifying score. The woman on the other side of my had two Cocker Spaniels and was fairly new to obedience, although she had quite a bit of experience with field trials, and beside her was a couple with two Irish Red and White Setters. Both were fascinating to talk with, I enjoyed hearing their stories about all the other dogs they had had and the trials and training issues they had faced.

Our next run was Novice Rally at around noon. We were entered in Novice A, since Piper doesn't have any other CKC titles. The course was essentially three straight lines, with signs all along. There was more heeling involved than I have seen in other rally courses. We kind of suck at heeling. We sped through the course in 1 minute 15 seconds (you are given 2 minutes), and although we did all the stations perfectly, we lost four points for having a tight leash and three points for being out of position. Sigh. Clearly we need to work on heeling. We finished with a score of 93 (out of 100), which is a pretty good score. We got second place out of four. I suspect I was maybe walking too fast, not talking to her enough because I was nervous, and probably not signaling with my body enough. Also, it's possible I didn't warm her up enough or practice enough before we went into the ring. Still pretty good though, and it was definitely a qualifying run!

We had to wait another few hours for our last Pre-Novice Obedience run. I had been nervous of this one for several hours - the judge was a very tall, very loud, black man. Piper (as a typical Aussie) tends to be reserved around strangers, and I had no idea how she was going to react to this judge when he did the examination. We did fairly well with the heeling patterns, and when it came to the examination, Piper not only allowed the judge to touch her, but raised her head so he could scratch her chin! Sometimes that girl boggles my mind. When it came to the sit-stay at the end, Piper broke and lay down with only 10 second left. When I returned to her, the other dogs and handlers were dismissed, and the judge allowed me to re-do the sit-stay, which was very kind of him. We passed, but only because he allowed us the re-do! And so Piper earned her second (out of three) qualifying run towards her PCD. There was the same Belgian Turveurn as in the morning, and a Sheltie in this class as well. 

It was a long day, but successful! Piper now has two legs towards her PCD title, and one leg towards her RN title. Hopefully in the spring we will be able to trial again and finish.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

winter photos

Photo update!

Today I've included just a few pictures of my beasties from the last few months in Ennismore. I have been applying to lots of jobs, so hopefully I will start to get interviews and we can move out on our own once again!

Piper and Percy cuddling on the couch. They love each other!
Piper being super cute in my bedroom. Notice the one crazy ear...
Ace and Piper posing during a walk on the ice. Notice Ace wearing his mutluks, it's just too cold for his little toes!
Archie with his happy camper face and his dirty nose. He must have just finished dinner... no wonder he was happy!

Friday, 24 January 2014

post-move in update

Well, I have been neglectful. Two months since I have posted anything! Here is an update:

The move went well, and we have all settled into my parent's house better than expected. The cats pretty much get free run, and except for a bit of bagel-snatching (Percy), and railing-scratching (also Percy), they have been great. My dad even plays with Percy once in a while. Archie tries hard to stay out the way, and spend most of his time sleeping at the top of the stairs or on my sister's empty bed.

The dogs stay downstairs quite a bit, either with me in my bedroom, or hanging out at the bottom of the basement stairs. The first week after I moved in, I went out and bought mats for my bedroom floors and for the bottom of the stairs for the dogs to sleep on. I would have liked to cover all the floors, but just couldn't afford it. Every evening (and days my dad goes to work) Ace and Piper don their indoor boots and take over the available couches and laps. My mom is quite smitten with Piper, who loves to cuddle and lick her face.

I have been working part-time in a Paulmac's Pet Food store, which is ok. I work by myself quite a bit, or with the grouchy owner. I definitely miss my friends at Rens.

My thesis was defended on December 17, and accepted by the University of Guelph on January 6. Yay me! I have been diligently applying for jobs, but no interviews yet. My fingers are crossed every day, hoping that I will hear from a prospective employer.

Piper and I made some new friends shortly after our arrival in Ennismore, we met a woman and her two Aussies on a trail, and became fast friends. We hike with Tucker and Blaster (who is actually Piper's great-uncle) nearly every week. Through our new friend, we have also joined the Peterborough and District Obedience Club (PADOC), which is fantastic because now we get free obedience classes! We are also signed up to take a class with agility instructor Dante Camacho, recommended to us by Chad, our Guelph instructor.

Piper and Ace hanging out on the couch.

That's all for now! Piper and I are heading to Hamilton in a few weeks for our first CKC trial, so expect another post shortly :)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

food allergies vs sensitivities

For reference...