Tuesday, November 29, 2011


For the first time in a long while, life is pretty good for me. Today, I'm in a great mood :)

As my master's degree work comes to a close (I will be DONE in a week and a half--ahh!!), I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. In spite of what happened with my thesis, and the annoyance of having to come back for an extra semester, I am glad that I did so, and didn't just leave it unfinished. I am feeling really good right now about it all. I am glad that I will be able to leave the program with positivity instead of a chip on my shoulder.

Dog stuff is going amazingly well, too. Back in October, I applied to be a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluator with the AKC, and just found out this morning that my application was accepted! I took the test earlier today and got 100% on it... so that means I am now totally approved as an Evaluator :D I am excited to see where this takes me.

Agility is going great. After our last trial, I feel really good about the progress Cedez and I have made this year. I think we are both a lot more confident in our skills, and I have been working really really hard on my attitude. I am excited to work hard over the winter so that Cedar and I can aggress the courses together with a vengeance next year!

After some not-so-good experiences with herding, I thought my love for it had died. It felt more like a job that I HAD to do out of obligation than something fun and interesting to do with my dog. Thankfully, as I've discovered over the past few months, I was wrong. I found a new group of people to work dogs with up in Eastern Washington, where I (technically) live and will be moving back to in just a few weeks. I had the opportunity to go out and work Moss several times over Thanksgiving break, in addition to the few times I worked him on my weekends back in town this fall. I am having an absolute blast. Moss and I are learning and progressing, and there is no pressure. I love it. I can't wait to do more once I am out of school and back up in WA full time. I would like to do a few herding trials (USBCHA and maybe ASCA or AKC) with Moss next year... but only if I feel we're ready. It feels great to take control over my own destiny.

I know it's early to be thinking about this stuff, but I already have my new year's resolution picked out. Next year, I resolve to stop being afraid... afraid of putting myself out there, taking chances, making waves. Stop being afraid of feeling good about myself or of being successful. Try not to stand in my own way. Bravery is good, right?

Oh, and also? I'm getting a puppy early next year. Details to come soon... ;)

I think 2012 is going to be a banner year for me. I can't wait.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Working Pictures

I had the opportunity of going out three times over this past week to work Moss on sheep. The Walla Walla area is amazingly beautiful and there are lots of big fields to work in. Moss worked amazingly well for only having sporadic herding training since the spring. I am learning to trust him more and making an effort to give him the space to figure out how to be "right." I am so impressed by him :)

Here are some of my favorite photos that I took over the last few days:

(The first four are of Moss's brother, Toss)

Aaaannnnd the Moss Man :)

Today, Moss got the opportunity to herd cattle for the first time. What a kick! (no pun intended, haha). He wasn't sure what to think, and actually barked at them! I would like to try it again sometime with him, though :-P ...

Here is a video of my friend working Moss on sheep on Wednesday. This was his first time on sheep in almost three months, and I figured it would be a good idea for him to be worked by someone who knew what the heck they were doing the first time, LOL. Pretty good, eh? ;)

I have some video of me working him on Friday that I need to edit. Look for it to be posted soon!

Tomorrow, I am going back to the "real world" to finish up my last two weeks of school. If everything goes as planned, on December 9th I will, at long last, have my Master's degree! Wahoo!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Cedes of Change!!!

Cedar, Moss, Scully and I wish our American friends and their families (both furry and non) the happiest of happy Thanksgivings! Today, what are you thankful for?

Moss, I'm sure, is thankful that he got to work sheep yesterday after a long hiatus:

For feeling the wind whip through his hair, running through the alfalfa fields.....

And for a nice cold drink when it's all over ;)

I bet if Cedar could talk, she would be thankful for agility...

The thrill of stepping up to the start line, every muscle tense, the anticipation...

Running for the joy of it.

Scully would probably be thankful for food, her new dog bed, and her new sweater:

I'm thankful for all of them <3

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: Show Dog Sings The Blues by Devin O'Branagan

Devin O'Branagan's new novella, Show Dog Sings The Blues is a story of mistaken identity, hope, and the power of persistence. On its most basic (and most important) level, however, it is a story about DOGS.

Writing from the perspective of an animal is a challenge not many writers are able to conquer effectively, but O'Branagan manages to create a strong, memorable character in Talisman, a pampered Australian Shepherd show dog who finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the role of ranch dog for a day. Tali tackles each test with candor and a healthy dose of attitude. She may be a "prissy" show dog on the surface (organic kibble, professional grooming, manicured nails and all), but when she is faced with real danger, she welcomes it head on and proves that she is more than just a pretty face.

Show Dog Sings The Blues surprised me in many ways. It was all at once humorous, sad, hopeful, and suspenseful. I found myself going back and reading parts of it over again just to relive certain moments in the story. Although the story is told from the perspective of a dog, the lessons she learns are applicable to and understandable for people, too.

Looking for that "just right" holiday gift for a dog (or Aussie)-loving friend, or for a fun, light read to take with you on vacation this winter? I would highly recommend Show Dog Sings The Blues. You can buy it on Amazon here, in either e-book or print formats. At only $1.99 for the e-book and $5.99 for the print version, you can't really go wrong!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trial Videos!

Thanks to Three Pines for these awesome videos, taken last weekend at the BARC NADAC trial:

Novice Chances:

Open Hoopers:

Elite Jumpers:

Open Regular:

Novice Tunnelers:

(I know this one wasn't a Q... but look at that distance! I decided to try for the bonus line, since we had already flunked, and she did it!)

I am pretty proud of how far we have come in a year. For reference, here's a "highlights" video from this trial last year, our first trial ever:

And here are the "greatest hits" from last weekend:


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Favorite Agility Blogs

I know I'm not the only person that can waste hours of their life reading random stuff on the internet. And because I'm crazy obsessive (human Border Collie, much?), I spend a lot of time browsing agility blogs.

Sometimes I'm looking for sympathy, other times inspiration, and sometimes I'm looking for specific information to address a question or training challenge. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order (this is a totally NON-comprehensive list and I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out, but these are the blogs that came to mind off the top of my head):

Agility Nerd
Full Tilt Border Collies
Johann The Dog
Exercise Finished
Say Yes! Dog Training (Susan Garrett)
Daisy Peel
Greg's Dog Blog With Skye and Rip

What agility blogs do you read? Are there any that aren't on this list that you think I should check out? Leave me a comment if you have a suggestion... I'm always interested in checking out new blogs!

Monday, November 14, 2011


This past weekend was my local agility club's winter NADAC trial... which marked our one year anniversary of competing in agility!!!!

We have come so far this year. SO far. Last November, Cedar had one title (ASCA herding, STDs). We were solid on the basics of agility, but her weave pole performance (on 6 poles) was iffy, especially her entries. I still felt overwhelmed by her speed and drive on the course, and felt like I was handling a rocket... and by "handling," I mean barely controlling, LOL. We were starting to become a good team, but still had a looooong ways to go. In many ways, we still do. Now, we are a much stronger team, have earned ten agility titles (!!!) and our rally novice title, are on our way to more consistent weave poles, and I feel like we're starting to get into a really awesome groove. I can't wait to see what next year brings!

Last November we competed at this same trial, and walked away with nine Q's and two new agility titles. I was so proud of Cedar and felt overwhelmed by it all, sure, but I also felt my enthusiasm for agility grow and my sense of purpose solidify. Competing in agility just felt "right" in a way that most everything else hadn't. We were both totally hooked on agility after that trial.

Me and Cedezz with our ribbons from our first agility trial:

After our first trial, we had the months of December and January "off" from trialing, but we didn't exactly take it easy. We spent the winter training hard, learning new skills and working on our teamwork. In February, we competed in our first AKC trial, earning our first two legs in Novice Standard and FAST, and our first leg in Jumpers. We finished up those titles at our next trial in March.

Our "loot" from the March trial ;)

Now, because we had been practicing on International style and Excellent level AKC/USDAA courses in practice, the openness of Novice courses made it pretty easy for us to be successful.

We finished our Novice titles and "moved up" pretty quickly.... and just as quickly, hit a giant wall in Open. We could handle the courses, but Cedar just couldn't weave 12 poles in a trial. For almost six months, we didn't Q in a single Open or Excellent run that required weave poles. We did really well in FAST (because weave poles weren't required) and in NADAC classes without poles, but were very unsuccessful overall, over the summer and into the fall. I got very frustrated because we could run the courses fine; everything was within our skill level except for the weave poles. She would occasionally get them right, but it always felt like an accident. I got really, really, unflatteringly frustrated.

After a trial in September, I decided to take a step back and work on some obedience and freestyle. We took a few weeks off from agility and just did fun stuff to work on her obedience and impulse control. We competed in rally (and earned our RN), started to think seriously about canine freestyle, and are currently working up a routine to Liza Minelli's version of "All That Jazz" to submit to a video trialing event with the MDSA in December. It was great to not think about agility for awhile... and when I finally felt we were ready to come back, I had a whole new attitude.

Our trials in October (AKC) and November (NADAC) were, at least to me, the most fun. I feel like Cedar and I are starting to get into some kind of groove. Things are just "gelling" better. I think all of our "other" work in obedience and freestyle has helped with her weave poles too, indirectly. I feel like she is thinking more on the course, overall. She loves the game so much that sometimes it's hard for her to make me part of the equation ;) After all, she likes to go REALLY REALLY FAST, and I, well, am not LOL. I love her so much... she is such an incredible dog. Anyways, at the October trial, we finished up our Open Standard (OA) title and earned our first Q in the new Time 2 Beat class.

Which brings us to the trial this past weekend... the purpose for this post! Jeez, I sure am long winded ;). So anyways, this was a really fun trial! We ended up Q'ing in 7/17 runs, breaking our recent "tradition" of only earning 2 Q's per weekend ;) and had a lot of fun doing it. It was a three day trial, which is normally really exhausting for us, but I wasn't as tired on Sunday as I normally am. Friday's trial started off a bit slow, and I was a little bit discouraged that we couldn't seem to Q. But we did qualify with a first place on our last run, Open Hoopers. It was our first time running the new Numbered Hoopers style, and wow, what a blast! When I first looked at the course, I thought that there would be no way that I could keep up with Cedar, but when we were actually out there running, it was so smooth that it felt slow! That was sort of our "theme" for the weekend.

We really hit our groove on Saturday, earning three Q's in Elite Jumpers (first two legs) and Open Regular (first leg). Sunday we repeated with three more Q's, finishing up our Novice Chances title, earning our second leg in Open Regular, and our second leg in Novice Tunnelers. We had several other really, really nice runs that were "near misses"... one dropped bar in Elite Jumpers on Friday in an otherwise perfect run, several heartbreaking off courses (handler error, doh!) in Regular, Tunnelers and Touch N Go, and one run that was just a disconnected trainwreck ;). But I was SO pleased with her this weekend. She was awesome... a total partner and teammate. I felt really connected to her in most of our runs. We even got all but one or two discriminations! After flunking the first round of Tunnelers early on yesterday (handler error... ugh), I decided to play with some distance handling on the rest of the course. She was AWESOME. We would have made the 15 pt bonus line! We Q'd on the next tunnelers round to end the weekend with a little "tangible" success. I couldn't have asked for a better trial to end our first year of competing.

One of the best parts of this weekend? She didn't pop out on the tenth pole ONCE .. all our weave pole issues were due to the NADAC rule of not nailing down the poles. She hits them so hard that they rock, and switching from the first to the second set would sometimes knock her out... but she would ALWAYS do them right the second time! And most of the time she did them right on the first try :) And because there are no refusals in NADAC, we never NQ'd on the weave poles.

The very best part of the weekend for me, though, was spending it with Cedar doing what we both love to do. A few weeks ago, I took Cedar in for her OFA hip and elbow x-rays. I was considering breeding her this winter or next spring, so it was something that needed to be done. Well, unfortunately she came back mildly dysplastic in one hip. She had normal elbows, though ;). The vet who did the x-rays told me that she did have some "concerns" about that hip, so it wasn't a total surprise, but it was still really sad for me. Fortunately, the vet ALSO said (and this was also confirmed by the OFA report) that she had NO arthritis in her "bad" hip, just a shallow socket, and that if I keep her fit and in good weight (yeah, not hard for her! lol) she will most likely never be lame or have any problems from it. So that is good news.

Since then, I've just been really thankful for the opportunity to train, run, trial, and just be with her. Things could be so much worse... we could not be able to do agility, or I could not have her at all...so that makes all our little problems seem that much more insignificant. I am so grateful for my girl dog. She's funny, weird, beautiful, talented, smart, and perfect...for me. We're like peas and carrots, my Cedez and I.

I ordered some professional videos of our runs from Three Pines Productions. What fantastic people! I would highly recommend utilizing their services if you happen to attend a trial where they are videoing runs. Once I get the videos, I will edit a highlights video as well as a year in retrospect video, and post them here with some more commentary. But y'all are just gonna have to wait for that ;)
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