Saturday, December 15, 2012

Moving Forward

After a couple of very emotional weeks and saying goodbye to Soda it's been nice to immerse myself back into training with Cassie and Fizz.  Cassie is now just over 17 months of age and it's hard to believe that she is old enough to trial in less than a month.  I had her measured a couple of weeks ago and she is a strapping 26.5cms so into the 200 height she goes.  There is a part of me that would have liked to have seen her make 300 given that there are a lot more dogs competing in that height but hopefully we'll get that opportunity at ADAA trials.

Cassie's dog walk is looking pretty good, although when there is a tunnel in front of it she's not quite so careful as to where her last stride might be.  But generally speaking it's consistently nice and fast and there is no doubt that it's one of her favourite obstacles.  She's more than capable of running a novice jumping course now and she is reading my body and handling really well.  While I'm waiting for my new AF to be build I've started working with a half size AF that I have.  She understands how the mat game works and picked it up really quickly so hopefully the full size one won't take long.  We've also worked our way to twelve weavers and have started see-saw training.

Over summer I'll be working on novice sequences and tying all the bits of equipment together.  Of course our biggest issues is still Cassie visiting everyone.  Although we had a few weeks there were it looked like we'd worked through it her disappearing mid sequence has reappeared.  What can I say, there is such massive value for her in other people and dogs and it's going to take me a lot of work to get through it.  I do have a plan.  How long it will take and how successful I may be is yet to be seen but we have to start somewhere.  I have no doubt we will have some ups and downs for a while yet.  I'm probably feeling a little more frustrated than normal given how much natural ability she has.  I did want her first trial to be the Western Classic in March but I'm not optimistic that she'll be ready and if I have even a sceric of doubt that she won't stay in the ring with me then I won't run her.  Failing that I'll aim for the State Agility Trial in April.  I can't wait to trial her as she's going to be a blast but I'm sure that patience will pay off.  And I have to be even more determined than she is!


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Goodbye Beautiful Girl

Soda came to me quite unexpectedly in October 1997.  I had realised that my then five month old border collie Murphy needed a companion while I was at work which I happened to mention to his breeder.  She offered me a seven month old black and white border collie female that she was looking to re-home.  And so the legend of Miss Soda-Pop was born.

Her superstar beginnings were rather humble.  I joined a local dog club to start obedience classes with Murphy and my then housemate Felicia came along and joined one of the classes with Soda.  Murphy was a bit of a natural and picked it up pretty quickly.  I was enjoying it so much I wanted to get more involved in obedience so I ventured down to Southern River and the Collie and Shetland Sheepdog Club to join in obedience classes.  It was at the Canine Grounds that I started to meet other border collie people that were into obedience and from there I became involved in the wonderful sport of agility.
Our first team win 2001 Western Classic Agility Teams.  The BC Bandits with Helen & Dee, Rod & Bundy.
Again Murphy was the one who I jumped in with, Soda coming along for the ride.  I had no idea what I was doing and was just trying to learn what I could from those who'd been around a lot longer than me. Both of them learnt about the same speed but because it was Murphy who I'd gotten for obedience and agility I always focused on him not realising the untapped potential that was lurking inside Soda.  So I went through and got Murphy's CD title following on with Soda shortly after.  Then it was onto CDX once again getting the title with Murphy and then Soda.  When we got to UD I started training both of them but found that Soda picked up the scent work so much quicker than Murphy.  With the amount of training required for UD I decided to continue with Soda only.  I have limited memories of Soda doing CDX but bountiful ones of UD.  She just loved it.  I can remember her charging off to get the seek back article and throwing it over her head in the excitement and having to look for it again before charging back to me at full speed.  She'd jump the directed jumping jumps with the same gusto as if it was an agility course.  She would heel all day if you asked her to and my biggest issue was her rushing me and trying to get in front.  I can never remember a time when she'd lag behind.

Western Classic 2003 Masters Jumping winner
When I began agility it was Murphy who led the way.  He wasn't super fast but was extremely consistent and very sensible.  Although Soda showed lots of potential as a young dog it wasn't until Soda was about five that her star started to really shine in agility.  It took me that long to get the hang of handling her properly and when that happened things started falling into place and the wins started to come.  She shone brightest in jumping.  Although if it wasn't for my poor training and subsequently her inconsistent contacts I'm sure she would have achieved far more in agility.  As it was she won over 40 Masters Jumping classes over the course of her career.  Not a bad feat for the early 2000's when there were about half the amount of agility events on that there are now.  She won multiple State Titles, Royal Shows, Western Classics and made the WA National Agility State Team twice, in 2004 being the top point scoring in making the team.  We never managed to win a National final but in 2004 in Canberra she never placed lower than fifth in all the clear rounds she completed.  One of my favourite wins was at the State Agility Trial in 2005 where she won the Masters Jumping class beating not only the local dogs but all the eastern stater's that had come over for the Nationals being held the week later.

ANKC National Agility Trial 2003 - Victoria 
I find that I can't help but think her agility success had a lot to do with all the UD training I did with her.  With all the hours we put in together it seemed to change our relationship.  We developed a very deep bond and understanding of each other.  When we were running a course it sometimes felt that she was reading my mind.
Never happier than at the beach!
In 2004 I started to notice some changes in the way she was running agility with me.  We were getting massive over runs and off courses.  At first I thought it was her just not listening and doing her own thing but then after watching videos back it became quite clear that she wasn't ignoring me rather she couldn't hear me.  Basically over that period her hearing seemed to disappear quite quickly and I ended up retiring her when she was nine.  Apart from the fact that her body was starting to show serious signs of wear and tear the slats had come off the dog walk giving me no way to let her know if she was running up a see-saw or a dog walk.  Obviously there was no question I was going to risk her flying off the see-saw and seriously hurting herself so we called it quits.

Soda enjoyed a long and healthy retirement until probably the last year of her life when she slowed right down.  Her arthritis had made walking slow and uncomfortable for her but being the tough individual that she was she never stopped trying.  In the end at the age of fifteen years and nine months of age it was clear that she'd had enough and it was time to let her go.  A decision I'd been dreading for the few months prior.  But as I'd been told by friends who had gone through the same thing, when it was time there was no doubt in my mind that I had to be brave and let her go.  With one last weekend to spend with her I plugged the very dusty VCR in and sat down and watched hours of old agility video footage with Murphy and Soda asleep by my side. It brought such a smile to my face seeing her in her prime, black coat shining in the sun and such joy on her face.  Such joy on my face.  Soda was without a doubt my one in a million.  She was special and I'll never see another like her.  I'll certainly never forget her.  Rest in peace Soda.