Monday, 7 July 2014

Learning to Swim!

At our most recent agility show there is a local river bank that a lot of the agility dogs go into to cool off and have fun in - I don't think that Kiah, Davy or Risk would go in through choice even if they wanted to, but obviously retrievers are born to go in water - the filthier the better in Yahoo's case!! As Evan doesn't get to do a lot at agility shows apart from walk around, we took him to have a play down there on the hot days so he had a chance to dry out without getting cold - and we could barely keep him out once we got nearby we were dragged towards the edge!! There were lots of dogs playing most of the time, at one point about 5 retrievers, and Evan chose to fetch anyone's ball rather than just his own - at least he brought them all back!!

I'm sure that retrievers - and most dogs really - should naturally know how to swim... not quite so much in Evan's case!! The river was of differing depths, mainly shallow enough to paddle and splash about but deeper in other places, forcing brain power to be used to go and collect his tennis ball - or anyone's.  He enjoyed himself very much and did bring back his ball so keenly, but did look like he was drowning at times, poor boy did get laughed at a little bit. I think he forgot that he was supposed to know what to do naturally, and that he has two back legs as well, as only his front were the ones desperately doggy paddling - it kind of works, but its not very effective, bless him he did get better near the end of his swimming lesson!!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Busy Busy Summer

Its been so long since I last wrote, that I can't actually quite remember what we have done since, apart from agility, and working on the house, oh and going to work that's pretty dull but constantly on the go!!  I must write some kind of mission statement to update at least two weekly if not more!!

In old news that never got its own post but I think deserves to, my 'in laws' (Alex's mum and partner) decided to get married at the beginning of April, so we were invited to and attended  that - with the dogs invited too!! It took me a while to find my outfit - not wearing dresses often it had to be a specific choice, but once found we managed to buy bow ties for the dogs to wear too they looked very smart!! It was a lovely day - very lucky with the weather that was remarkably pleasant and more importantly 99% dry, and we managed to get lots of pictures of the bride and groom and wedding party. The dogs were super well behaved on the day, and in the evenings staying in the dog friendly b&b too, so I was very pleased with them.  We always like to ensure that the dogs are on their best behaviour, so that we get invited back and so that by word of mouth, more and more places become dog friendly!  Funnily enough it seems to be a year for weddings, we have since been invited to two more, one in July and another in September.

Looking back over old posts I also can't recall whether I mentioned that we have changed our caravan again, we have the space now to store a bigger one, so thought we would treat ourselves, and this one will be staying for a fair while yet. It is a twin axle, with a bench seat at the front, separate shower and toilet, and with a fixed bed at the end, which is so much easier than having to put the bed up every evening, plus with the extra space the dogs can be in with us, which is so much nicer. So far we have used it 3-4 times mainly no more than a couple of hours journey... all bar one 'little' mishap where we had a blow out of one of the tyres!! Thankfully it happened on slower roads and we were only about 5-10 miles from home, so we limped home with the spare, so lucky it being on a twin axle as the other wheel can take some of the load.  Alex tows as he has passed his towing test and always says it is very easy, though next week it has a longer trek of a few hours to make so everything crossed - plus we have four brand new tyres now.

Going back to agility and the dogs, Davy dog (and Alex) have been the superstars, getting loads of places in grade 1, mainly second places in both agility and jumping, and then... at one of the biggest shows of the year in the summer, FINALLY winning out!!!!!! He ran quite early on and so we had to wait a while and check the results a couple of times, to see if he would stay in first - which he did!!! Not content with just that, he then won a jumping too, and got a place in another combined jumping class, just showing off but very well deserved!!!

Other agility results wise but not quite as spectacular - Kiah has been doing well in her classes, in one of the shows a few weeks ago where we had an unfortunate slow messy bit in an agility run, she even ended up with 7th place, which is great but I just think how brill would she have done without that little hiccup!!  Most recently we even managed a clear in her agility run last weekend, held contacts, wide turns and not really our kind of course so no placing, but so pleased with her listening and picking up her feet as she has never been very careful.

Risky roo is getting SO much more confident, I really feel like we have much more of a partnership now and though he loves to bark (read as yap and squeal!), I am reluctant to stop him as he enjoys it and it hypes him up so much - he does get his toy too to rag around to prevent too much annoying noise as it does go through you. He has had some great places though - another third and a few lower places in jumping, usually around 6-8th, usually me that messes up his agility runs as he is running very well!! Even young Evan is starting a little more with his agility now, just the basics of straight lines, getting the hang of working together with me, doing tunnels and enjoying himself.

Over the next few weeks we have one show - one of our favourites and the first ever show that Evan came to last year, so he has been with us a year already.  But mainly we need to concentrate a little more on the house, so we have a bit of a break throughout most of July and even most of August to spend at home. Unfortunately it is boring but necessary things with a larger house and a bit more ground, like painting decking, sanding windows, housework, cutting the grass, keeping the evil weeds under control, and then some.  As I have said before - hard work but very enjoyable for us all... back to the grindstone!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Agility - Fun but Frustrating!!

I can't believe how many 'unforced errors' I have made over the last few shows and it has really got my goat, so much more because it has been happening so often!!  Obviously I need to be able to work through it with Kiah, and I wonder if it has been happening more because I am running Risk more now too, its not an excuse as I need to sort it out, but I wonder if that is part of the reason.

Anyway starting from furthest show back... we had a lovely flowing g6 agility course, which involved tunnel under dog walk which we managed to avoid, thankfully Kiah turned the correct way when I said 'left' when I meant 'right' - the first of many errors! After a few jumps, instead of a simple turn right we managed to - instead of a straight on then pull in - do a go round!! Obviously that was a big fat E and the rest of the course Kiah did well, including a hard weave entry so I was pleased with her as we had been messing up a few entries recently.  So to the positives - we did have one clear round at that show, our last run which was a helter-skelter, Kiah did well to pick up her feet on that one as its only jumps and there was some tight spacing, there were a couple of wide turns but she ended up 7th, clever bean.

At our next show that I went to alone to spend some time with my princess, just a single day show and we again had a miscommunication - thanks to me, this time over two of our runs instead of just one! We did get a generous clear round in a qualifier and ended up 11th (top four qualify) even though I think it should have been two refusals, one because I said 'right' too early and we had a spin, and similar near the end I forgot to create any movement, and so we had a bit of a delay in the turn. The second run later in the day, after a bit of lunch, well it was the kind of course that could really suit us... yet again the left/right curse struck again, left would have involved a tight turn and the perfect quick entry onto the dog walk, right would have meant an awkward slower dog walk entry that I had to wait for to make sure Kiah didn't fall off. Guess which we ended up with!! Then we got a fault on a rushed dog walk exit. So again to the positives - our third run involved some very tight turns and go rounds (another qualifier) and though we didn't go clear I was pleased with Kiah's turns and commitment and some really good layering!

So at our final show this weekend just gone, there was one run each day that I could just kick myself on, the worst of the lot!! The first of the two on Saturday was going so well (Kim Taylor was the judge), we managed the tightest go round ever, and I just needed to cross behind to get the wrong end of tunnel... FAIL. The bit I thought would be tough, getting a dog walk entry ahead of two tunnel entrances - worked perfectly, just too late.  Sunday's run was even more soul destroying as the run was going even better than I thought it would have (Fran Walton judging), good commitment to the tunnel and jumps, then just as I was going to turn left and steady for a turn... a spin and a refusal!! Its not often there are two graded agility courses over a weekend that flow so nicely and suit us perfectly, and yet such silly things that I can improve on, causing our issues. Hopefully this weekend will be better.

Despite the annoyances, I am however exceptionally grateful that Kiah and I are still able to do and enjoy our agility together, there are plenty of precious dogs and their owners that have to retire their dogs earlier than Kiah's 8 years young, or worse but we don't think about that... So all the time we are more than enjoying ourselves, even if it goes a bit wrong more often than not - and only very occasionally we get a pretty rosette - we are thankful for the fun, and the friends that comes with agility too.

Friday, 2 May 2014

May... Already!?

I keep reading other people's blogs but I just never seem to get around to updating mine!! Its only when I seem to switch the laptop on to download pictures of our last adventure that I remember!! First of all I must mention that from my most recent (!!) last post, about miss Kiah, I am pleased to say that we haven't had any reoccurrence which I am so pleased about.  Obviously anything could happen in the future, no one knows, but I'm just so happy that she is fine for now.

So an update on the dogs first of all - and one at a time, as they are what this blog is all about!!

Kiah-pie is good, she is looking really grey now partly through age and partly through a follicle infection on her face that made some of the fur grow back white/grey instead of black like their muzzle is, my distinguished little girl going grey!!  She is enjoying the new 'country' life in our new house and she doesn't stress quite so much because we don't have so much passing traffic, but she enjoys her walks in the forest and the fields.  Kiah is very unsociable in the evenings, she likes to go upstairs on her own after having her dinner, but is very much a creature of habit (and always has been) at bed time! After going to the toilet, she races upstairs, gets in her bed and waits for her evening 'fresh' bowl of water and biscuit, before settling down for sleepies!! When she feels like it she still makes the time to play with her brothers, but is still very much in charge if they step out of line!! We have done a few shows this year and a couple of camping ones, so apart from the stressing in the car she is fine when we are there.  Frustratingly there have been some super courses this year so far - some real fantastically thought about, flowing but still needing handling, but that seems to be where I let her down! Kiah has been super and though there has been the odd course that we have had to be calmed down and taken out through being an idiot, there has also been some great things too.  Always my special girl, superstar princess.

Davy dog next, the most chilled out dog ever and I don't think he will ever really be any different, apart from the few things that stress him out!  He has settled into the house well and hasn't been too stressed by many of the noises or changes that normally phase him.  Quite often the three boys are left in our utility room during the day, with toys, chews and beds, which seems to have helped him relax more as well.  Since the new year he has started playing more with the others too, especially Risk which is great to see, he takes a while to 'get used' to them so it shows us he is happy.  Alex and Davy have entered a few more shows (or I have for them!) and have had some great results, and are getting so much more confident and consistent with everything - but especially weaves and contacts, and actually enjoying it together.  Most recently they have had a couple of low places, but have also had two second places in agility and jumping so really getting really close to winning out now!!

Risky-roo is doing really well and has been getting more confident still, he still takes a lot of his traits from the other dogs - so copies them quite a lot - its funny to see but he picks up good and bad habits. He will always be a needy little dog, he likes to be touching you on the sofa or up on the bed, and is really not very trusting on some things, but very trusting on others - I have taught him to jump into my arms or Alex's from the ground or from a wall, obviously we always catch him but it is very trusting of him to do that, odd dog!  Generally though Risk is a happy little soul and loves most people and dogs so that's the important thing. In agility he is now mainly successfully doing running contacts on the a frame and dog walk and understands the see saw waiting to drop - they are all mainly for confidence as it keeps him flowing across a course.  He is usually entered in two runs a day and he has been getting some low places too, most recently a 4th, 11th and 13th, I just need him to speed up now but I think that will come with age and confidence.

What can I say about Evan puppy, he is a bit more grown up now, and is just so much fun, he makes
us laugh endlessly.  In fact in exactly two weeks he will turn a year old, can't believe how quickly that has gone!!  He loves the big garden at our house, and is quite independent so loves to spend time 'surveying his kingdom' and seeing what he can find to eat! I'm not sure that we realised how special this little boy was going to be, with the perfect working attitude, sound temperament and lovely dark gold retriever colour, with a broad head and expressive eyes.  Evan has started with his agility training recently, and loves to work either for food or a toy, so hopefully he will enjoy it properly when he is a bit older.  We think Evan is fully grown but at the moment he is still very puppy like with his legs and paws all over the place when he runs around, so I think it will be a while before he matures!!  He is a little bit handsome too, but I think he knows it.

In other news, the house is taking up a lot of our time, its quite fun but hard work looking after the land that we have, proper 'farmer' style!  It did take quite a while for it to even start to dry out after the grim wet weather we had, but now that it has finally started to, we have been harrowing and rolling to flatten it and get the grass growing... And that it has!! Alex has his new toy the tractor and mowing deck, which is going to come in handy very soon!  We hand cut the garden area - what I mean is with a push mower rather than a ride on - its hard work but it is going along with my new fitness regime / lifestyle changes, to lose weight. So far I have lost 5kg, and counting, aiming for around 20kg eventually but doing it seriously, so it will take me a while.

In terms of the house obviously it is the first time we have seen a springtime (and will be summer) and it is really starting to come into bloom, the main border in the back garden is full of lots of unusual plants - quite likely planted from the previous owner who was a landscaper.  There are ornamental poppies, some kind of tall 'stalk' poppy, apple mint, lemon balm, geraniums and lots more - I'd like to say its me that knows that but its other people's knowledge helping me out there!! We also have two bird feeders in a hawthorn tree (so the squirrels cant get it!) in near sight of the house, that we have to fill up twice a week with peanuts. We don't mind though as there is so much natural wildlife around - woodpeckers, sparrows, yellowhammers, great and blue tits, pheasant and more.

Most recently we have just come back from a week's holiday, down in beautiful Cornwall that we adore and the dogs do too, and combined with a short agility show too.  We were pretty lucky with the weather too and had a good few sunny days, only a little rain when the dogs were happy to sleep and rest on those days too. They were pretty patient on the photo taking opportunities as well, lots of biscuits given out that week!!  We ate far too much good food - cream teas, Cornish pasties, gastro pub food, ice cream (shared with the dogs of course!), Cornish cider and rick stein fish and chips but also spent lots of time on the beach with the dogs - what could be better!!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Kiah's Funny Turn

On the 16th January at about 3.30 in the morning (not quite sure why I noticed the time!), Kiah gave us all a bit of a scare - especially when you're not really with it in the dark.  She had what we think was some kind of seizure, it only lasted a couple of minutes - though felt like hours, and caused by what we don't know but hope to hell it never ever happens again.  It was so frightening - mainly for me as I hadn't ever seen anything like it before, and to watch her in a 'spaced out' kind of place probably scared us more than her, she was really good and quite brave too (and the boys stayed calm and in their beds too, good boys!), and very calm as she came back to normal so I'm pretty proud of her for that.

Of course we were straight to the vet in the morning, found out that these funny moments really can just happen once and never again, or could be epilepsy, or somewhere in between.  We have no idea what caused it, but I have made a few minor changes with Kiah's diet and lifestyle, probably more for my own peace of mind but again they could or could not be related.  We are also currently awaiting the final results of some blood tests, as her thyroid seemed a little bit low - it could be something or it could be nothing to do with it, but we will see, hopefully just one of those 'one off' sort of things.

After word got around, I received literally hundreds of messages of support and offering experience and help, understanding and advice, it is so nice to have such a huge agility community and it makes you realise how many people care and have been in similar situations and are happy to share and help where they can.

I do truly hope that anything like this doesn't happen again, but if it does we are a lot more educated now about what to do.  Thankfully she has been absolutely fine since that morning, and hasn't shown any form of relapse, bright as a button and very much her usual self being as naughty and funny as normal, so keeping fingers and toes crossed for my very special girl!!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Evan the Natural

We knew that both of Evan's parents are working gundogs, but we didn't expect him to so naturally pick it up - without any direction or training from us...  Just for fun when he was a youngster we bought him a puppy dummy and the minute that comes out the pocket, he knows exactly what his job is!  From an early age he has always watched birds and other animals' movement, but at 4 months old whilst out on a morning walk in a dewy field, he obviously got a fantastic scent of something, dashed off across the field, retrieved ever so carefully and dropped to hand on command perfectly - a cold dead whole rabbit, clever boy.

Also - just a week ago while Evan and 9 of his friends (Belgians, Shelties, Collies!) were playing and on toilet break in a friend's garden, somehow a dopey dazed wood pigeon got into the garden - the next thing we knew is that Evan had collected the pigeon carefully and was holding it by its wing, and again dropped it perfectly to hand with no damage done, ready for it to be put out of harm's way.

As much as you have the urge to tell them off for bringing back something cold, rigarmortised, flea ridden and nasty, its in his genes and he is doing exactly what he is bred to do, is exceptionally careful and soft mouthed - and Evan is very proud of his 'prizes' that he returns to us so he gets lots of praise and reward for his collections!!  We are planning to hopefully attend some gundog classes and do some training with our gundog friends - GSPs and working cockers, as with a bit of instruction (mainly for us humans!!) he could be a real star, he clearly is a natural, clever puppy!!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Happy New Year - 2014

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!!  Our year has been quite eventful - but fortunately for us all, containing nothing too worrying, however various groups of our friends have had some serious ups and downs, so we wish everyone a peaceful and happy new year.

Since my last blog post almost three months ago, we don't seem to have stopped, but mainly in a good way; Risk, Davy and Kiah have all had their birthdays, turning 2, 5 and 8 respectively and are all very well; Evan puppy has been socialised lots, and has turned 7 months; Alex and I have both had flu, we've been to a few winter agility shows; attended discover dogs with Kiah and Evan, had some fantastic professional photos taken, caught up with lots of great friends, and finally, the impending move that I spoke about, finally happened in December after a lot of form filling and paperwork!!

A quick recap of some of what we have been up to - there has been a little bit of success at some of the shows we have been to, from Kiah of all dogs - miss inconsistency has been doing great!!  At Norfolk at the beginning of October she got two clear rounds, one brilliant one ending in a 2nd place in grade 6 agility!! The other one was a frustrating clear - there was a scrappy dog walk entry so ending in a 5th - pleased, but annoyed with myself at the same time as I could have done better - and the top four qualify for the ABC semi final.  Later in the year we went to Downland show, where we got another clear round in grade 6 agility, and got a 6th place!!  The final show was North Downs, the final run of the day - again grade 6 - we had a couple of wide turns but still got an 8th place!  The surprising thing about all three of these shows is that they are all indoors which sends Kiah as high as a kite and she struggles to control her excitement, so even more pleased with her, my nutty girl.

Davy and Risk have been fairly uneventful over the last few months, Davy (and Alex) can really take or leave agility so haven't been competing over the winter, I don't think that he minds that choice!! Risk I have decided will be slightly re-trained over the winter to complete running contacts, he already runs the a frame and see saw well, but just to put no further pressure on him - he does sometimes not stop - but we even keep that positive as anything else would knock his confidence further - so I think adding a running dog walk will really help him.

The professional photos we had done were by friends of ours Sue and Chris Armstrong, who gave up their entire afternoon to ensure our four were settled and comfortable before clicking the camera - we know how Davy helpfully scrunches his face up usually when he looks at a camera so him being relaxed (more than normal!!) was so important.  They took photos with different backgrounds, various poses, us with the dogs, groups, individual ones - every single shot was fantastic, personalities perfectly captured and exactly what we were after, its difficult to choose a favourite, there are a few really special ones.

Evan puppy has been growing up too, he is the same height as the other three and about the same build, were not sure if he will get any taller at 7 months old, but he is a good size.  From the moment he joined our family he really is a gem to live with, almost immediately house trained, and makes us laugh all the time with his puppy antics.  As much as we miss our old man Yahoo, Evan has quite a few similarities and is such a lovely little dog.  He has been up to a few things too, the most fun was at a puppy foundation skills day run by our good friend Lisa, he was a little star taking everything in his stride, stepping over, under, through, on wobble boards, learning things so quickly, enjoying getting things right for his treat, not phased by anything and he is just so funny, constantly makes us laugh.  Looking back at the photos he was so long leggy at that age, he has filled out a bit now.  He loves playing with his fluffy and tuggy toys, and we did another slightly different puppy session learning recalls and chasing toys, following hand movements working around cones, all put him in good stead for the future.

We have almost been in the new house a month now - we chose to move ourselves rather than use a moving company - and to be honest once we had packed, the moving week was thankfully quite uneventful and the weather was kind, quite mild and even sunny which made it easier.  In that time we managed to start and complete the fencing on one side within a couple of days so it is secure for the dogs, and they adored (and still do love it) running about in the attached paddock of about 1.5 acres.

I can't quite say the same for the 3 weeks following  - it has rained almost solidly so everywhere is sodden, we have been in the centre of a power cut lasting 67 hours across Christmas and Boxing day, we have had strong winds that has brought down two large trees - but we were lucky in the circumstances really, as thankfully we didn't flood, and I feel for those who have suffered because of this freak weather.

So, the new year for us is a real new start in our lovely new home, plenty of work to keep us busy in maintaining the house and improving it; looking after and keeping control of our associated land, and of course trying my best to keep my blog updated!!  Somewhere around that we also need to work annoyingly - Alex has started another new job but hopefully seems a little more settled and happy there, and though I work at the same place I now do four days a week - its nice to have that day off to spend with the dogs.  Most importantly however - the dogs absolutely love it here and have really settled in so well which is just the best thing; it is quiet and slightly rural too, a different way of life really, but an enjoyable one for us all!!