Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bad decisions and regrets

I've decided that I don't like northern NSW anymore, I don't care how green and picturesque it is. I also hate paralysis ticks, particularly the little bastard that hitched a one way ride to WA attached to Sonic. Quite honestly I wish I'd never gone to the wet, humid, crappy place.

Last Saturday afternoon I noticed that Sonic was favouring a back leg about lunchtime. At the time I thought it may just have been because he had been overcompensating with his sore front shoulder from earlier in the week. As the afternoon went on he didn't seem "right" to me and his back end was definitely not as it should be. I did another tick check just in case because I knew there was the possibility that he had picked one up while we were away even though we had treated them as instructed before we left and regularly checked them while we were there. I still couldn't find anything so I just kept him inside with me to keep him quiet. A bit later I had a text message from Steve and Nicola and when I called they told me that Kyte had been taken to Murdoch Emergency Vet Centre after Nicola found two paralysis ticks on him. He had been showing similar symptoms to Sonic before they checked him and found the ticks. We still couldn't find any on Sonic but I just wasn't willing to risk it so off the Murdoch Sonic went too. By that time of the evening he was noticeably quiet so I was pretty sure that something serious was going down.

Sonic's recovery pen - otherwise known as the Taj Mahal

Once we got him to Murdoch they took him straight in and started treatment for paralysis tick. The vets were also unable to find a tick on him after an initial check but as his symptoms were the same as Kyte's they had to assume that was the cause. It was incredibly hard to leave without him but I knew that it was our only option if Sonic was to survive. By the time we got home I was exhausted but all I could think about was if he was going to be OK and if we'd gotten him to Murdoch in time. The vets had told me that no news was good news so when the phone rang in the morning my heart almost worked it's own way out of my chest. Sonic wasn't in good shape but he'd made it through the night. One of the vets had worked in NSW's so had seen many previous cases of paralysis tick in dogs so she was on top of the treatment required. They decided to shave him to see if that helped find the tick however the only obvious sign that was found was a lump and red mark on one of his front legs.

Somebody stole my fur!

Sunday sucked. Sonic had quite bad paralysis in his back end and no gag reflex so he was unable to eat. The vets were pretty confident that he wouldn't be coming home for a few days and were unsure how long it would take him to recover. I just had to wait and see if he got worse or better. Not a fun day at all.

Monday I had to go to work and eventually built up the courage to ring Murdoch and find out how he had gone through the night. I expected her to say that he would have to stay in longer but the vet was very happy to tell me that she had come in to find a very bright and happy boy who had even managed to eat a small amount. It was likely that he could come home that afternoon. I shed tears of relief after that phone call and my day became a whole lot better. I stopped on the way home from work to get him and he was a happy boy indeed when I went out the back to collect him. I was met with much squeaking of joy and licks.

So he has been home since and is going very well. The paralysis toxin stays in the body for at least two weeks so he has to stay quiet as there is the potential for heart failure which can be caused by over exertion. I also have to be careful of aspiration pneumonia so he's being hand fed to stop him from inhaling his food (literally). Now that he's feeling better keeping him quiet is challenging. He is full of beans and has resorted to laps of the house with toy to entertain himself. Not sure what he'll be like come this time next week. There will be no agility for Sonic until next year. I just can't take the risk that his body isn't ready for the sake of the two unimportant trials that remain. Although he'd probably go faster as with no fur he'll be super aerodynamic! His skinny little tail looks like it could take an eye out.

Great new too for Nicola with Kyte able to go home on Tuesday afternoon. They were lucky boys indeed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The green green fields of NSW

Jody, Tracey, me, "Lucky Phil" our waiter, Penny, Sue & Nicola attending our nightly dinner party

I have indeed returned from the mystical land of NSW where it rains daily and there are endless hills of lush green grass as far as the eye can see. My sneakers smell like a swamp from walking through water logged grass every day. It felt somewhat like a parallel universe coming from the rain starved city of Perth. You notice it even more in the plane over NSW which is very green and WA which is a decidedly brown colour.

The green machine - definately not recommended for four wheel driving

The resort where we stayed was lovely and couldn't have been more dog friendly. The dogs could stay in the rooms, run free on the property and sit with you in the restaurant while having dinner. The drive out there was unexpectedly challenging with a few kilometers of winding hillside dirt roads with hairpin corners and sheer drops off the side to navigate. We also encountered an array of wildlife including an echidna that apparently you should avoid, not because they are endangered but because they really wreck your car tyres if you run them over. I'm not sure that a Commodore wagon was the best choice of hire car and was filthy dirty by the time we made it to the resort. Luckily all the rain washed most of the dirt off as I was pretty sure I was going to have a hard time convincing the hire car company that it had never left a bitumen road.

We had originally booked into one of the rooms in the "bunkhouse" for the duration of our stay not realising quite what that entaled (picture a box with four bunk beds in it and you'd be close). Call me soft but dorm style accomodation which may have seemed quite acceptable when I was 15 on school camp, is not quite so much fun as a almost 40 year old. We swiftly moved to a much more comfortable resort room for the remainder of our stay.

2 x 2 Session with Susan

Sonic and Kyte travelled well although I think Kyte was a bit freaked out by his first plane ride. Sonic handled it like a seasoned performer given that this was his third time in the air. Up until now Sonic has never been a big fan of Kyte as Kyte is a very "I love everyone" type of individual and Sonic, well isn't. However in the face of "it's Kyte or your on your own", Sonic decided that Kyte was his very bestest friend in the whole world and gave him loves and licks at every opportunity. Other than Kyte chewing his way out of his soft crate on the last night of his stay to raid a bag of apples and museli bars the two boys were brilliantly well behaved and I think Sonic would love to always have four women fussing over him.

Sonic slumming it in the resort room

The Susan Garrett seminar was full on. The more I understand her methods the more I like them and I felt very inspired to become a significantly better dog trainer at the end of every day. I wrote copious pages of notes to try and suck up as much information as I could. Some aspects of the seminar were a little frustrating. I felt surprised that some of the people who I'd seen at the Lynda Orton Hill seminar back in February appeared no further along with their training than what they were then. I'm pretty sure that Susan was surprised too and unfortunately I think she adjusted the content to match the lowest skill level. At this point in time you have to wonder if seminars like these are better split into ability levels as it's not fair to have new people rushed in their learning but it's also not fair for those who are more experienced to be held back by novice trainers. I don't want to miss going to big name overseas agility trainers because the seminar content is the same every time you go because many of the participants don't bother to actually do the work in between the visits.

Horse riding in the green fields of Upper Monkerai NSW on my trusty steed "Princess"

I would also have loved to have delved into the nitty gritty of dog training so much deeper. We ultimately only spent half a day on contacts and realistically all of us from WA would have been happy to spend three days on the subject to really understand the information that had been presented to us. However I did still come away with a lot of things to work on with Sonic and a much better plan of action for when my new puppy eventually joins the house. There are things that I won't retrain Sonic to do at this stage but things like start lines can be significantly improved and I have a better idea on how I can work to improve his drive in between obstacles.

Nicola riding Brandy

I very much enjoyed our handling working spot. Sonic went sore in a shoulder on the Sunday so I thought for a while I wouldn't be able to work with him. Luckily one of the attendees was a vet and prescribed him a short course of an anti-inflammatory which worked immediately and Sonic has been fine since. I don't know that he felt 100% on the day and certainly didn't stretch out like he normally would however at no point did I feel that he was compromised. As always he worked his little heart out and seemed to really enjoy himself. We all got some really great information on improving rear crosses and getting tighter turns from our dogs.

More green fields

Really the next thing I have to do is sit down and actually plot a plan of action. Decide exactly what my goal is and then work out how to achieve it using the information that I have been provided. I'm convinced that we leave way to much to chance here at the moment and I firmly believe that it's not about if your dog happens to have "it", it's what you do with what they have that decides if your dog can be great.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Highs and lows

It's been another very sad week for agility in WA. Tracey Wansbrough had to say farewell to Jake her best mate of 17 years and Jody Bronovich lost her beautiful Tivy unexpectedly at only four years of age. One a star of the past and one a star of the future who have both left very big holes in their owners hearts.

Trialling is still a mixed bag for Sonic and I. We can't seem to get a clear round to save ourselves. He's flying around courses and it's awesome to see him put his head down and drive hard towards tunnels. It's taken a lot of work but I can see the benefits starting to appear from all the reinforcement work I do at training. In a weird turn of events Sonic "flicked away" from me in both Masters Agility and Masters Jumping last Saturday night. Both times I presented him with a very obvious shoulder rotation around a corner and both times he's gone in the total opposite direction. I've never purposely trained anything even remotely close to that. I've even gone out of my way to never do that type of thing in open class for distance challenges but somehow it's snuck in from somewhere! I certainly have a pretty good idea what I'll be training this week...

This week is going to be very exciting with Sonic and I heading off to NSW for the Susan Garrett seminar. We fly out on Thursday to Sydney and then drive up to Upper Monkerai which is apparently 2 1/2 hours north. Friday will be a day to relax and enjoy the property where we are staying and then Saturday it all starts. The property itself looks amazing and Sonic is going to love it. Sonic and I have a working spot in the handling basics class which is quite fitting given our current state of play. It's all happening over 5 days. I love travelling away for seminars like this as there's nothing quite like immersing yourself in your hobby without the distractions of home. Sonic is such a good boy when we travel too which makes it all the more fun. Driving through Sydney should be interesting...hopefully the GPS behaves itself and doesn't send us on some random adventure!

I'm still obsessively grass planting pretty much every day. Every day I have to go out there to see if it's grown a little more. I'm very determined to have at least half the area usable by mid next year in time for my new puppy.