Friday, December 21, 2012

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead- 2012-2013

Another year has almost come and gone. Since I know for a fact my work schedule is about to start getting hectic, I figure I'll toss in this post now.

My goals for 2012 were simple: RUN! Start handling more clearly, and educate myself with more dog training goodness.

I really did not trial very much this year. Whenever I did put trust in our training and run I was rewarded with a wonderful run. My past self was wise and did not leave any titling goals for the year. Thank you past self! I do not feel like I let you down.

This year I learned a lot. There was a lot of stress, so many opportunities to grow. I'd like to think I took advantage of those opportunities. Friendships were deepened, new friendships were forged. I have a better grasp on setting my priorities, I regret nothing!

Just to recap in the year of 2012 I:
-was in my first car accident
-got to show my Grandma everything I do with the dogs at a trial up north
-Met some awesome Juniors down in NC
-Lilly got some of her best times in jww
-Spent a week running around a farm in KY with a pack of papillons
-Went to SO many midnight movie premieres and 3 marathons :)
-Graduated High School
-Finished my first semester of college
-got a bit  better at finding balance

After getting a lecture from Pat Hastings back in May, Lilly has gone on a diet and has regained her girlish figure! She never limps after laying down for long periods of time anymore, she's in an XXS comfort-flex harness, and her MACH points in jww have DOUBLED! My goal for the new year is to keep her fit and in excellent shape, get that Q-rate up, and make some progress on that MACH!

Knight has been a bit of a roller coaster. We have awesome runs, and then runs where I'm just dragging him around the course. He really does the love the game, it's heartbreaking when he simply goes along with it because I want him to. So, I've bumped him down to 4". We're re-evaluating our goals, trying to get our motivation up, and we're just going to go out and try to have fun. Nothing beats that moment in the run when he realizes how much fun it is. His whole face LIGHTS up. He gets this stupid goofy grin on his face and I can't help but grin just as stupidly back at him. I want that all the time.

2012 has been a great year for goofing off with Mia. Selina kicked ass and got 2 points on her towards her CH. Misa and I really evolved as a team. She's such a special girl, I'm really looking forward to what the new year brings us! My goal with her is to get a few more CH points on her, and kick myself into gear with her training. Let's get this girly out of novice and trialing with the big dogs!

2013 will be a year of setting the stage.

I have a potential new job in the works, progress to be made on a degree, and hopefully Qualify some dogs for some National events! Bring it on.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Novice Trick Dog Games

I though a description of the games shown in our "Novice Trick Dog Games" video might be helpful. So here it is!

1. Bobbing for Hotdogs (AKA: "Weenie Bobbing")

The full game consists of using a baby pool, but we went with the "Indoors Friendly" version. You place a few hot dog slices in a bowl of water. Then release your dog to go get them!

I actually first started using this game at agility trials to trick Lilly into drinking a bit of water. She has fun with it and learned how to breath out so water doesn't go up her nose. That results in bubbles, bubbles are always amusing right?

2. The Muffin Tin Game

For this game, you place treats in an empty muffin tin and then place tennis balls over top. I use this game to get Mia to slow down while she's eating. That fuzzy thing wrapped around the tin is just a tug toy I'm using to keep the tin from moving around.

3. Roll out the Carpet

Rolling out the carpet is a fun one I hadn't heard of until I looked into Kyra Sundance's book. You leave a line of treats along a towel, roll it up, and release your dog. Super easy and looks pretty impressive!

4. Hide and Seek
Exactly like it sounds: You leave your dog in a stay somewhere in the house, you hide, call your dog once to release him, and let him find you.

This is an extremely simplified version for the sake of the video. Lilly is a master at this. I used to go over to Maggie's house (GSP I took care of during the week) and play this game for hours! With two dogs they got the extra challenge of it being a race. Hiding all over the house, very fun stuff. The dogs get a kick out of it :)

5. Which Hand Holds the Treat? 

Two closed fists are offered, only one holds the treat. Can your dog identify the right choice? 

6. The Memory Game

For this game, you leave your dog in a sit stay and place a treat in one of 3 possible bowls. The challenge is for your dog to remember which bowl you placed the treat in during the duration of the stay.

I started out placing the treat in a bowl and releasing Lilly right away so she understood what I was asking. "Treat goes in bowl, I go straight to that bowl to get it, fun!" Then I started adding duration slowly.

7. Laundry Basket Challenge! 

This is, without a doubt, one of Knight's favorite games. It's not really the Laundry Basket Game that Sundance describes, but it's just as challenging, if not more so! I wrap up a ball in some blankets and toss that big mess in a basket. It usually keeps Knight entertained for a few minutes. Sometimes he'll even hide it in there himself! 

8. Find the Hidden Toy

Another one of Knight's favorites! If no one seems willing to play fetch with him, he'll often hide it himself. His favorite spot is under bookshelves. I use this game when I have large amounts of homework to keep the Knight-man entertained. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Inside the "National Dog Show" 2012

Three years ago, I went to the National Dog Show in Oaks, PA to visit my Kooikerhondje breeder for an update on my newborn pup "beans" and to catch up with the breeders. After we were done chatting my mom quickly dragged me over to the papillon section. She was still set on talking me into another pap. We spent a long time chatting with Nancy and petting her papillon Mojo.

Fast forward 3 years to 2012.Not only did I attend this year, I was competing in it.

I was there showing for all 4 days of the Philadelphia Cluster. I dragged Selina along with me on Thursday to help me with Mia. I was so stressed out with the idea of showing two dogs with such a low breed entry. On top of that... Well, honestly? I was scared to go back in the ring with Mia. Whatever connection we have on the agility course evaporates in the show ring. We had gotten to the point where she'd gait nicely for me, but was absolutely dreadful on the table. She'd try to melt into me, act absolutely terrified of the judge, and just look all around awful.

When Selina took her into the ring, Mia showed beautifully. Not even the tiniest waver on the table. Together they took Best of Breed. I left the show site thrilled that Selina and Mia took a BOB, but a little saddened that I lacked the confidence to show her to her best ability myself.

My plan had been to have Selina show her all 4 days. I wanted her to be shown to her best, with such low entries there was a high chance of her getting a point each day. I had entered Mia Thursday and Sunday, so I tagged along Friday just in case Selina took WD with Twister. The only way for Mia to get points would be for her to go BOB again. Since Jackson was there Selina encouraged me to show Mia, just to get in some good practice. She agreed to watch how we handled the table and give me tips to improve.

I tossed caution to the wind and quickly set her up on the table and stepped back. Mia held it. For the first time, she didn't melt on the table for me. I was over the moon!

Selina generously allowed me to practice some more with Mia on Saturday and we had similar results. Sunday followed a similar suite. Little to no melting on the table front. Thanks to Selina's persistent encouragement, we made progress. I feel so much more confident in the ring with her. That's not to say we have a long way to go before she's finished... But now it's something I can seriously see myself contributing to. Before I had the will, and now I can see the way.

Knight also showed Thursday and Saturday. Thursday we took a 3rd in class, naughty boy growled at the judge. All my fault, I knew the judge's hands would be cold, I should of brought bait to distract him. Saturday went much more smoothly. Knight took Reserve Winners out of 4 dogs. I'll be entering him in a few more shows for sure, he's really great practice :)

All in all, a fantastic weekend. I'll be entering next year again for sure! It was so much fun hanging out with Selina, campaigning papillons, showing off a few tricks, very fun stuff. Terribly tiring, but oh so much fun! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Going Up

"I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend." -John Green TFIOS

We are officially back on track for dog events. Starting November 11th, I have a few weekends lined up to get out and run around with my crazy crew. It feels good to be back in the game. 

Last weekend I attended another Dream Park trial. This was one of the cases where I thought I read the schedule and decided to give myself an extra hour or two to sleep in.... Those days never go well.

I pull up, get one of my 3 dogs out of the car, and swing by to see how the rings are progressing. Much to my surprise, 12" standard is already running and Open Jumpers is walking.

At this time I have Lilly with me. Without walking either course I run back out to my car to swap dogs. I managed to watch the dog before us run so I had a general idea of what the course was. Oh boy. Mia was on FIRE! NQ due to skipping the last pole, but wowza. She pulled in a 4.35 yps run even with all the wide turns she had to take due to me not really knowing the course.

That girl just rocks my world. I'm loving every single second out on the course with her. She's built so much on what Lilly started. We go out and we have FUN. The highlights of the run are always foremost in my mind, while the rough patches are little side notes that I'll strengthen through training. No matter how things go, I always leave the ring grinning like an idiot. Love my Missa Mi.

I run back to the car to put Mia away after our "victory" party, and swap her for Lilly again. Not having walked this course either, I wasn't expecting too much. I was stressed, Lilly had just been dragged back and forth... I had no idea what I was going to get.

I strutted into the ring with the familiar confidence I feel when training Lilly. I set her up and instantly felt her with me. She was ready to bring it. She nailed her RC and turned exactly when I asked coming off the dog-walk. She had some BEAUTIFUL verbal rear crosses at a distance too. I messed her up in standard with a fumble of being on the wrong side at the wrong time (side effect of not walking the course). She took her turn too wide and didn't see the chute. Once she passed it I could see the light go on, she tried to save our run by attempting to duck into the chute the wrong way.

She gave me a huge play bow and just charged. It was hilarious. I'm laughing, and next thing I know she's got another explosion of energy. She finds the right end of the chute, charges through, and dives into the weaves like nobodies business. That insane drive caused a few missed poles, but no biggie. I know she can weave, there was no way I was going to risk this attitude going unrewarded. She polished off the last two jumps like a pro and out we went. NQ, but so proud. Here I was, 20 minutes into my arrival at the grounds and I already had two amazing runs with my unbelievably awesome girls.

After a victory dance with Lilly, I trade her off and run into the Novice jumpers course. I manage to walk this one once before I have to rush off and get Knight. (He's running 4" these days)

Knight, attentive to detail as always, brings home the first Q of the morning. My goal was just to keep him speedy and having fun. I didn't disappointing him. I brought my A-game and bag full of reminders from the Tori Self seminar. Kept my steps shorter and kept everything exciting. He bounded over the last jump and proceeded to engage in little tiny zoomy donuts until I grabbed his lead.

Next up was the Novice standards. Mia still needs some touching up yet before we'll be bringing home a title in that, but her dog-walk confidence has improved by leaps and bounds. She was certainly much more daring this run. If I wasn't on top on my next cue she was off trying things herself. Love it! Crazy Fun.

Knight whipped around Novice Standard bringing home another Q. Again, focus on keeping it fast and super fun. He ate it up. Complete 100% difference from the dog I had in the ring last year. I'm hoping the combination of the lower jump height and my contagious excitement will keep reminding him why trialing is so much fun. Nothing beats that moment in the run when he remembers how fun it is. His whole face lights up with this goofy smile. Again, I'm out there, laughing like a fool and cheering on his excited romps.

Lilly's jumpers run ended the day with another Q. It was a tricky course. One that I really needed her to be "with me" for. We had a few shakey seconds... and then we clicked again.

The key to handling Lilly is trust and confidence. She really showed me that this weekend. Trust in our training, and confidence in my handling. Everything else falls into place. Every single time she went wide, it was due to me babysitting, hanging around a second too long. The millisecond I started moving in the right direction she would pick up speed.

Also, the extra weight she lost this summer helped too ;) Fun fact, last year her average was 2-5 points per jumpers run. Now 11 is her average. She rocks.

All in all, I love my paps so much. I'm evolving (slowly) as a handler. We laugh in the face of NQs and have just as much fun getting them as we do when we Q. Paps FTW

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Another soul crushing day of AKC conformation.

...Does that sound depressing? Down cast? Perhaps like the speaker of such words is teetering on the end of an "I give up"?

Fear not! I don't really believe in giving up these days. I used to get really discouraged upon leaving the AKC conformation ring without any points won. Key word there. Did you see it? I "used" to get really discouraged. Past tense. Now I take it more as a challenge.

Note: I'm typing this a good 12 hours after the show. I'd by lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed when it happened. I tend to go through a whole whirlwind of emotions after leaving the ring with a loss. First I'm almost embarrassed, I feel a wave of "Why do I even try!" as I pack up all my belongings. As I leave the show grounds I usually move into denial, "The other dogs could barely even gait on a lead! insert other BS conformation complaints here."

And then, when I finally settle down, usually about a half hour into the drive, all that embarrassment, disappointment, and frustration evolves into something else. Determination. The "Why do I evens" turn into "Just wait till I show them!"s

"You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than everyone else." -Albert Einstein

So I set out on a sort of insanity driven mission to learn as much as I can and be the best handler I can be. There are countless new tips to learn and tricks to master.

Now that my hand is all healed up I've been keeping up with Mia's weekly bath, daily brushing, and striding cavalettis 3 times a week. I feel like I've already seen improvement within these two weeks, we'll see how well the 7 weeks till our next show treats us.

The biggest thing I need to really work on with Mia is the table. She was completely convinced the judge was going to murder her while I stood by, just watching. She tries to worm her way inside my soul instead of standing on the table. It's aweful, firstly because it makes her look dreadful, and secondly because now the judge thinks she has a horribly fearful and timid personality. If you spend 5 minutes with this girl you will quickly discover that is not the case. That's 5 minutes we don't have in the ring, and you only get one chance to make your first impression. Today we blew ours. I'm determined for that not to happen when she jumps back into the ring in November for a 4 day circuit. Going to try to do weekly outings to work on Mia's table exam woes. 7 weeks, totally possibly to train a proper stand for exam on the table that shows her wonderful personality.

So. No Points? Very well. Consider this a challenge accepted. The conformation ring better prepare itself, Mia is going to rock it when she comes back.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All in a Day's Work: New UKC Champion

UKC CH Patuxent's Black Tie Affair RN AX AXJ NF CL1
On Sunday, September 23rd, Knight-man and I drove out to Carlisle, PA for a UKC show. This would be Knight's second day of showing at a UKC event and his 3rd and 4th show through UKC.

We walked into the weekend needing 50 breed points, and 1 win with competition. Knight walked away with 50 points and 2 more wins with competition. We didn't have any breed competition, but there were 5 breeds in the companion group ring. That means Knight's Group 4th and Group 3rd placements from Sunday counted as wins with competition.

UKC certainly is quite the confidence booster, for both of us. The judges have all been very friendly, Knight shamelessly did a little happy dance for both of them when he received his ribbons.

We're taking a break from Conformation like things next weekend, and will be doing a one day AKC Agility trial! As much as conformation is starting to grow on me, I'm itching to get back in the agility ring. Our last trial was way back in... March I think? Way too long ago! That's for sure!

In order to keep my sanity, I'm forcing myself to stick to 1 day trials and shows for the majority of this first semester. I don't want to completely burn myself out haha. Still trying to keep things pretty balanced, each day of agility is matched with 1 day of conformation in the month. Until Miss Mia has her AKC CH I'm going to try to keep it up. It certainly can't hurt to keep my face familiar in the conformation scene.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

That Dog Nerd VS. The Grooming Marathon!

Man! I am still playing catch up with this blog. I took way too many pictures for this day not to turn into a post though. Without any further ado, I present to you:

That Dog Nerd vs. The Grooming Marathon

Victim #1- Mani: The Before 

Mani After-bath
I took advantage of my friend Sarah's fantastic grooming shop for 2 whole glorious days. Thanks to my hectic work schedule this summer, I did not get to do anything close to "regular grooming" on any of the dogs for months. Day 1 in the grooming shop mostly consisted of giving everyone a good brush out. 

Mia: Before
Mia: After-bath

Day 2 of my grooming marathon was a very full day of bathing. Wash, rinse, blow out, and repeat. With 5 papillons to play with, I can confidently say I got plenty of practice with my blowing-out technique.

Knight- After brushing, before bath
Knight-man: After Bath

 My hectic work schedule was done for the summer, text books had been purchased for the fall semester, a new chapter of my life was unfolding. 
Lilly: After Bath

Mani, Knight, and Mia
 I ended Friday, August 24th, with 5 clean papillons and one very sore back.Saturday, August 25th, I'd be heading back to campus to begin my first official day of being a "student" there. College life, here I come. Let the adventure continue! 

Twister! Bathed and basking in the sunlight

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tori Self Seminar: Advanced Handling 2012

As previously mentioned in my post "Recharging the Soul" I managed to drag myself away from work for a few days in August to attend one of Tori Self's handling seminars. It was a really fun seminar, Rev was super cute, and Tori didn't object to me creepily asking if I could take of picture of Twister, Rev, and Knight together.

Here's all the video clips I pulled off my cellphone from the seminar. I apologize for the low quality. The iPhone footage combined with me uploading it straight from nero to youtube resulted in a bit of a quality suck.

I walked away with a few things to keep in mind with my handling. I figured I'd share them, mostly as a reminder to myself.

Watch Your Shoulders 
 Not literally, but be mindful of them. Tori reminded me of this while I was running Knight, but it's something important I can use with the whole gang. All my dogs are now confident enough in the ring that if I'm not giving them enough input as to where we're going next they will take an educated guess. That educated guess almost always has to do with where my shoulders are pointed.

A perfect example of this is right at the start of the video, right about 12 seconds in. We're supposed to be turning to the jump parallel to the wall. Since I wasn't trusting Knight with my handling, I was looking back at him. That opened up my shoulders to the off course jump which he confidently took.

In the next clip, when I keep my shoulders forward to the correct jump, the off course jump is no longer an option in his mind.

Drive Your Lines
  Something I'm usually pretty good with in training, but tossing it in here cause it never hurts to have a reminder. When you have a line, GO FOR IT! Race your dog down the line, not only will it get you a faster time, it is so much FUN! Be Confident and go boldly.

Run with Enthusiasm 
  If I had to walk away from this seminar being reminded of only one thing, it would be this. Run with enthusiasm. Bring energy into your handling! It's hard to be excited while you're waiting for your tiny dog to do a 270 degree turn while you're on the inside, I know. But when you bring more energy to the table you give your dog a reason to bring more energy to the game too. The difference between when I walked and waited, and when I shortened my steps and pretended to run was insane. Knight was much more excited about running when I made running exciting. That should be a no-brainer.

Sometimes though, those simple no-brainers are the easiest to forget.  I want to expect speed and enthusiasm from Knight every single run. Isn't it only fair that he ask the same of me?

All in all, it was a fantastic seminar. Getting out and running around with my little dude was a much needed break from everything going on in my life at the time. I highly recommend checking out one of Tori's seminars if she's ever in your area.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How The Summer Was Spent

Now that we are well into September it's time to do some catching up. This summer flew by in a long blur. Work became the priority in my life. I was working a full time job 5-7 days a week, and a much lighter part-time job between shifts 3 days a week.

Days ran together. My life was the kennel. Thanks to Selina I managed not to work myself to death. We were out of the house for over 12 hours for a few rocky days. There were many days when rolling out of bed was a battle, and finding time for my own dogs seemed impossible. It wasn't all bad though, I certainly walked away with a ton of hands on experience of running a kennel. I'd like to say my phone skills with clients improved a bit, that's not to say there's plenty of more room for improvement though haha.

In June, before the insanity at work kicked off, I entered Lilly, Knight, an Mia in an AKC conformation and rally-o event. The Friday night before the show I got a grooming lesson from Selina. This occurred after  she watched in horror as I flailed around with the blow dryer. A few hours later, after a few corrections here and there from Selina (okay.... more than a few) Knight was done. He looked pretty fantastic if I may say so myself.

Knight Q'd both days in Novice Rally, finishing off his RN. While Lilly had a triumphant NQ both days in her Advanced classes. Something about the wide open fields of Rally rings sends Lilly's brain out the window. We NQ'd in style though, showing off some distance sends to the jump and a verbal rear cross. Lil strutted out of that ring like she just finished her MXJ. I couldn't help but laugh it off, she lives to keep me humble.

On Saturday I missed the dog classes thanks to doodling around the rally ring. Mia gaited well for me on the go-around, but acted like I was going to step on her the entire time for the down and back. Walked away from the ring with no points, but with something to keep working on.

Sunday, with a bit of paranoia, we made it to the ring in time for the class dogs. Twister took the class, Knight-man followed with a second over another dog. Mia continued to lean far away from me on the down and back in her class, further proving it is something I need to work on, not just a random fluke.

All in all it was a great weekend. We set up our grooming area over with  Sarah and the Unique Poodle Crew. It was so much fun! I, Hillary Graff, was having FUN at a conformation event. Having people like Selina, Sarah, and the Unique crowd made a huge difference. I walked away from that weekend wanting more. For the first time, I didn't leave the ring feeling disappointed, frustrated, or lost. I didn't want to give up. I felt ready for more.

And more will certainly be coming, I've tossed together a fall show schedule that has agility and conformation  pretty evenly divided. We'll see how things pan out!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Recharging the Soul

For the first time all summer, I managed to sneak away from the kennel for two whole, glorious, and refreshing days. Words cannot express just how much I needed this break. It was such a breath of fresh air.

I was mentally and physically recharged, right down to my very soul. 

So much, yet so little, has happened since my last update. I've been working too much probably, but I don't really want to talk about that. It's become a bit of a vortex that's overwhelmed my life. I waste too many moments dwelling on it. Instead, I want to talk about adventures up north. 

Selina and I took the boys, Knight and Twister, up to New Hampshire for one of Tori Self's seminars.

The above is just a glimpse of the footage that was taken. When I have my next day off I'll take all the video off my phone and put a proper youtube video together. 

The seminar ran from 9 till 5, Tori was fantastic, Rev was adorable, and Knight-man was a rock star for me. It felt so good to just get out and run him again. After a rocky few first sequences, we got our timing together and things went smoothly. After two months of no agility, this was heaven. For the both of us, Knight would never turn down a day to play fetch and have me all to himself. 

Knight and Twister got to meet Rev. I was a bit of a creeper at the end and asked Tori if I could get a picture of the boys with Rev. She agreed to it. She's kind of awesome like that. 

That evening and the following day were spent running around the woods and wading into various bodies of water. Knight and I loved every second of it. 

We spent Friday night after the seminar on Newfound lake, found in the first picture on this post. That place holds it's own kind of simple magic. I've spent countless summer nights out on her shores,  just taking a moment to drink in that calming presence the lake seems to give off as the sun sets. 

Friday night was no different. 

Finding joy in the simple things. A quick swim after a long day of agility and a promise of romping through the woods the next day. These kinds of things are good for the soul. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gotta Try: Enjoying the Ride

I know, again with the Watsky songs?! When I snapped this picture of Lil today I couldn't help it. She deserves a more triumphant picture after that "Failure" one I posted. 

I have a lot of exciting things going on this summer. All sorts of opportunities keep popping up in my life, some of them might dwindle to "just a cool offer", but for now I'm basking in the bright light of possibility. 

After all, you never know what will come of an opportunity if you don't give it a try. Even if you only have a fool's chance, isn't it better to just take a stab at it instead of dwelling on the "what if I would of.."s later in life? 

On a less vague note, I entered Knight and Lilly in two days of Rally-O, and Knight-man in two days of AKC conformation for the first weekend of June. I'm keeping up my conformation streak, lots of learning to do! 

**ps- How do you guys feel about these more frequent updates? It's like I actually use a blog now haha.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dark Knight FTW

I'm happy to say that our UKC debut was a success! After getting some strange looks from the equestrian people, I found the dog rings and got settled in.

I've heard it again and again how much more laid back UKC is compared to AKC, but never really quite absorbed that little nugget of information till today.  It really felt exactly like an AKC match. There was no stress and no pressure. I walked into the ring confidently, and kept up that state of mind throughout both shows.

There are a few things I, as a handler, need to work on. The biggest being how I set Knight up on the table. When it's just us in the class the judge is watching the entire time and usually walks closer before I'm done getting him just right. I'd like to smooth out and speed up my table stacking process before we hit the AKC rings again.

That being said, when we actually have competition Knight shows wonderfully! Both groups were SO much fun!

Long story short, I only got 4 hours of sleep last night so I'm a little beat. Knight was awesome.

Results: Show 1= Group 3rd out of 7
Show 2= Group 4th out of 7

50/100 points towards his UKC Ch, and 2/3 wins with competition!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I've been listening to a lot of Watsky again. Those two lines in particular caught my attention.

Conformation has been an ongoing mental battle for me. I get all excited with the show prep, training, grooming, final ring prep, and always end up walking away with a sour taste in my mouth.

 I find myself thanking the judge, then quickly escaping the scene. Handing a few half-hearted treats to whoever I'm showing while tossing them into their crate and getting out of there. Embarrassed that another show has past with no points, another class win with no competition, or a reserve out of two. Frustrated that my dog was the only one to keep it's feet on the ground for gaiting, and still walked away with nothing.

I don't peg our losses as a total "failure". I usually walk away with something more to work on, or some new notes as to what that particular judge is looking for. That doesn't make the awkward shuffle leaving the ring feel much better in the moment though.

I was skimming through Pat Hasting's book "Tricks of the Trade: From Best Intentions to Best In Show" and came across a tip to new conformation people. Something along the lines of "Winning creates confidence." That line is raw truth when it comes to me personally in conformation.

I've yet to win a single point, the one time I truly felt at ease in the conformation ring was at an unsanctioned match where Knight nearly took Best Adult in Match. I've decided it's time for a good dose of motivation.

This weekend Knight and I will be attending our first UKC Conformation shows. They're much more laid back than AKC, they have strict "no overgrooming" rules so even the ring prep is pretty chill. We're going to go out, have some fun, maybe bring home a group placement or two. It'll be good, just me and the little man, bringing in a bit of confidence and motivation.

I've been "involved" in conformation for 2 years exactly now. It's time I step up my game. If I can be a confident and respected handler in agility, I sure as hell can do the same in conformation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Agility, Avengers, Adventurific!

  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that last week actually happened. It flew past in a blur of adventures with the paps, movie outings, and agility.

  I woke up around 5 am Monday morning, only to be greeted by a violent thunder storm. I took advantage of said storm and snoozed for a half hour longer before loading the paps to the papmobile and starting our 12 hour drive.

 I listened to EVE 6's new album "Speak In Code" the entire drive. It was rainy and windy until we hit WV, and then smooth sailing from there on out.

 When I arrived we took out the paps and went on a trial around the property. Lilly wasted no time at all finding the nastiest pond on the entire property and promptly flopped right in. She came out covered in algae up to her chest. To say she was enjoying herself would be a major understatement.

 Thursday/Friday, was the craziest day I've had in a LONG time, and it was FANTASTIC. In prep for the Avengers premier, we had decided to go to the Indianapolis site for the "ULTIMATE MARATHON".

We kicked off around 6:30 am with Selina behind the wheel to get to the theater. We arrived at 10:30 (time change), an hour before the event started, and were greeted by a long line of fellow nerds(Or "co-crazies"). It consisted of well over 12 hours of Marvel Movie watching.

1- Ironman
2-The Incredible Hulk
3-Ironman 2
5-Captain America

This was the first time I've watched all 5 movies back to back, that in itself was so much fun. Then the Avengers came along in a constant stream of awesome. Seriously, if you haven't seen it yet, go, now, do it!

To top it off, we got really cool passes that allowed us to leave and re-enter the theater whenever we pleased. Oh yeah, and some special 3D glasses. Yes, I do plan on wearing these to many future 3D movies.

After staying till the very end of the last clip, Selina took her spot behind the wheel again on the trip back to her place to pick up the paps. I took advantage of being a passenger and slept for the 3 hour drive.

Upon arriving back at base, we loaded up our papillon posse in my papmobile and set course for an agility trial. Looking back, it was not the wisest thing to drive after an all nighter... but 2 cans of mountain dew later and I was golden for the drive.

Mani, in his usual awesome form, pulled off a Double Q and finished off his MX. While Twister finished off his AXJ.

I have horrible luck with mailing out my entries to new places (Like 2010 PCA Nationals agility entry) so I wasn't running anyone this weekend. When Excellent Jumpers was all done we set off back to base once again.

I managed to take Lil, Knight, and Mia for a romp around the property before passing out on a bed and sleeping for a good 12 hours.

Saturday morning we let ourselves sleep in a while, then ran off to see the Avengers a second time. Oh don't give me that look, I'm not crazy, it was just a really awesome movie! Stayed till the very last clip again, ran home, loaded up the paps, and off to a ring rental we went!

Since it was so close to Selina, we decided to check out the agility site for the 2013 PCA National Specialty.

So, all in all, this week we ended up seeing:

Tuesday- The Raven
Wednesday- The Hunger Games
Thursday- Ironman, The Incredible Hulk, Ironman 2, Thor, Captain America
Friday- Avengers
Saturday- ....Avengers!

Had 2 days of trialing, and 1 ring rental.

Week well spent? Absolutely.

Photo by Selina Fluker

Monday, April 9, 2012

Not Dead Yet

It's late and my brain is totally fried, so I apologize in advance for the dreadful quality of the writing in this post.

Another holiday has come and gone. Passing in a bit of a blur thanks to the insanity that is working full time at the kennel, but all in all a very enjoyable week.

Tonight was the first night of the 3 weeks of Masters agility classes I signed Knight up for.

The little dude had some FANTASTIC weaves tonight! With the courses Barb set up we had a few chances to  play around with really pulling away from the weaves.

All in all, super proud of the little man!

The handler.... needs to learn to control her flailing haha. Did get some nice timing on a few front crosses though!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Be Confident

"Be confident. Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to other and wishing to be something we aren't. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses and it is only when you accept everything you are- and aren't- that you will truly succeed." -Unknown Author 

Thanks to the small size of my dogs and a bit of creative packing, I loaded up the Malibu and made my way up to Boston for our first agility trial in New England.

My Grandmother used to trial her Goldens in AKC obedience, and is an avid watcher of the Westminster Kennel Club Show, so I thought it'd be fun for her to what I do with my guys.

All in all the trial was an awesome experience. Our Q rate wasn't the highest because I officially tossed fixing my handling mistakes out the window with this one. I feel like Knight is still at a fragile point with his speed at trials, any missed jumps were due to my not cueing properly so I decided his speed was much more important to me than a Q. It was sooo rewarding to see him with his ears back in "zoomie" position with a crazy grin on his face zipping around the ring with me. I'd take that over a slow Q any day :)

This trial was a HUGE test for Lilly. This was the first time in 2 years that my family was there watching while we ran. In the past she'd totally ignore me and just make a b-line for them. We did have a small blip of distraction on the family front, but once I got her back she was speedy and right with me!

Have I ever mentioned that Lilly is kind of extremely awesome? She was 1 of 7, out of 79 dogs in the Level 4/5/C Jackpot (Gamblers, distance game) to Qualify.  Due to the low Q rate there was lots of cheering whenever someone made it, and Lilly just ate it up. To say I was proud would be an understatement.

Mia rocked all the jump and tunnel games. Snatching up 5.5 yps in one of her colors runs, and finished off her CL1-F title.

It was a little different being one of "those" people at the trial. The ones who have their own personal cheering squad, with people ready and willing to help walk dogs whenever it's needed, or hold them during ring conflicts. I've gotten so used to juggling everything on my own, it was a nice change of pace. I certainly look forward to trialing up there with my gang again in August!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Death of the Papmobile

So thanks to some prodding from Mica I have returned to the land of blogspot. Let's do this.

Although not directly training/trialing related. In February, the Papmobile was almost laid to rest. As I was driving my sister home from crew one night, I was rear ended in the horrible stop-and-go traffic that plagues one route home.

A wave of dread swept over me as I heard the dreadful sound of crunched metal and shattered plastic. As the Papmobile is not officially mine, my first thought was "Oh shit, dad is going to kill me." which quickly changed to "Oh shit! I actually have no idea what I'm supposed to do!"

As naturally as one can, I asked the driver that hit me to hold on one moment while I called dad. The whole thing went over much more smoothly than I would of previously imagined possible. My dad is without a doubt, the best person to call in my family during any sort of state of emergency. After confirming that my sister and I were okay, he told me exactly what I needed to do now and when I got home, and that was that.

There was a slight moment of panic when I stepped out of the van to see the damage. My though process went from "Oh wow, first car accident, not bad at all" to "I AM MISSING A CORNER OF MY CAR AHHHHHHHHHH"  and then back down to a relatively collected state of calm. All in all, I'd say I handled it pretty well.

When I took her (the papmobile) to the selected auto body shop, there was a great debate on whether or not it was actually worth fixing her. Thankfully, they decided, that she just barely fell into the "worth fixing" category. I was given an estimated week or so before I could get her back. We'd be making our journey up north for our next CPE trial without her.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Completed Fortress Of Solitude

After sleeping on the air mattress for 4 days I was ready to knock off the rest of the work that needed to be done.


I know the black wall looks sad and lonely, but I plan on ordering some pictures to hang up there... eventually.  Right now there's Lilly's MX and MXJ certificates with her picture. Then Knight's OA and OAJ certificates, soon to be a picture of him at a trial between them.

But yes! There it is! Lots more space for training/crate space when friends come over. Not gonna lie, kind of love it :)

The First Trial of 2012

The Fortress of Solitude makeover went on hold for 3 days while I took the paps to a CPE trial at one of our favorite sites. This year was our first time in the new building, the dogs liked it just as much as the old building, and we got the added bonus of not freezing our feet off.

Saturday was spent time with Sarah and Blake, two fantastic young handlers with some amazing dogs! If you haven't already you should absolutely check them out.

I had Lilly entered in 5 runs each day, Knight in 3, and Mia in 2 a day.

Our last trial had been a Friday night trial, it consisted of a handful of handlers, 2 runs per dog. It was a perfect first trial for Mia, and a low stress environment for me to be able to just focus on getting Knight running. Both of them blew me away, Mia acted like she'd been doing this for a while, and Knight-man was back to the ball of enthusiasm that he was when he first started trialing.

This trial was the next level, a small step up before we dive back into AKC agility. We had a much more "real" trial environment, more people, more noise, more dogs, but still the super short and fun courses of CPE.

I wanted this to be a extremely fun experience for all my paps. I'm happy to say that my mission was accomplished.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Extreme Makeover: FOS- Part 2

Look at that, dividing posts into "parts" so it looks like I actually update on a regular basis! Very Clever, I know.

After 2011 added two more dogs to my trialing adventure, I came to realize that my walls simply cannot stand to hold all the ribbons anymore. Only our bigger ribbons will remain (Lilly's MX, MXJ, and perhaps CPE level completions?) while the rest are retired to drawers in my closet.

Ribbons came down, taping began. The girls "helped" as I worked.

The following morning a few more preparations were made, and then the painting began! 

Please note, that's the primer, not the actual paint.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Fortress Of Solitude Edition

As more and more variables get tossed into the puzzle that is the next year of my life I've tossed myself into yet another project. I find some degree of physical and creative labor can usually help clear my mind from all the "what if"s.  This time, I've thrown myself into redoing my bedroom, or "Fortress of Solitude" as my younger siblings like to call it.

It might be a little silly to redo it now, as I probably won't be living here primarily next year. But paint isn't too pricey, and I needed a project, so this is what it boiled down to.

The Before

I apologize for the mess, kind of realized I wanted to take before and after pictures half way through "organizing" everything.

Here goes nothing, good bye green- Hello something new.