Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of 2008

I have been feeling a bit in the doldrums lately. With Zazzy's cut paw followed by that strange morning when she couldn't stand up, she has only been let off the lead recently after the best part of nearly six weeks. That might not sound long to you, but I can assure you it felt like a mightly long time to both of us!! I am going to seek more professional opinions on both Zazzy and Kaydee, but have cancelled all agility training and shows for the foreseeable future. Although I have enjoyed some lovely walks, including a recent outing with 30 dogs in total, I like to feel purposeful with things to plan for and look forward to, so I am not at all enjoying this lull and lack of certainty about whether any of my dogs should continue doing agility. In fact, I did reach a point recently when I wanted to give up agility altogether, just so that I can make a decision and move on! Also because I now worry so much that by asking them to do agility might lead to accident or injury. On the other hand, it also keeps them mentally and physically fit, and actually under controlled conditions I guess they are less likely to hurt themselves than, for example, running round madly out on walks where there might be all manner of dangers (broken glass, sharp branches, holes etc). I would also miss my friends if I gave up agility! And I struggle to think of anything else that is as exciting and enjoyable to do with my dogs. I have realised that agility is more than a hobby to me, it has become a way of life! It would be dull and boring without it. I love travelling around the country, camping with my friends, meeting folk, the camaraderie, developing such great bonds with your dogs, and the exhileration of competing. I am missing the training too. I dropped in on a training day to see some friends, but wow it is cold when you are not running around! I have seriously considered getting a new puppy or rescue to hopefully do agility with, and if I could afford it perhaps I wouldn't even hesitate! Instead I have decided to leave that for a bit longer, and to not to give up on Kaydee yet. I will work on building fitness - long hilly walks, strengthening (particularly strengthening her core muscles to protect her back) and suppling exercises at home (including lots of tricks to keep her thinking), plus massage and gentle stretching. I will keep up the raw food diet (with additional high magnesium foods). Hopefully I will eventually be able to build up some speed work, and finally, if all goes well, maybe some small amounts of agility. It is possible that she might never compete in agility again, so maybe I should find out about HTM! On a brighter note, I cannot see anything wrong with the way that Zazzy is moving, so I am hopefull that she will get the all clear. Then I will have an opportunity to go through all her agility training again methodically from scratch (starting with small jumps and building up slowly), to make sure that she does understand it as well as I think she does, and to build up her confidence.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Olympia 2008 report!

What a fantastic experience going to Olympia is! The glitz, the glamour, the noise, the electric atmosphere! The first year I went there, I remember sneaking down to the arena early in the morning, and being aghast at how big the arena is (when compared to normal agility ring sizes). Oh and how absorbant the flooring is, I remember feeling like I was running through treacle and not being able to get where I wanted to be! It was a long and tiring but very enjoyable day, thanks very much to Karen for being a fantastic helping hand. Unfortunately (like very many others) Kaydee and I had the first pole down in the morning semi final, so it was all over for us rather quickly! I don't really want to dwell on any negatives as the event is very well organised by the dog agility team, especially considering the extremely pressurised conditions, however it is virtually impossible to get 36 dogs properly warmed up in a short area of busy corridor with horses and tractors needing to constantly pass through. Some dogs cope better than others with minimal warm-ups, but it might have saved a lot of first poles being knocked if dogs were allowed to use the practise arena. Dogs such as mine with her chronic muscle problems would definately benefit from a bit of running around and ideally a practise jump - well the horses get one! With dog agility firmly established now as a major attraction at Olympia, isn't it time the dogs were allowed 10 mins in the warm up arena? Despite loosing some top dogs (in all the height categories) through hitting the first pole, there was some really awesome agility to be seen. There are some videos being put up on YouTube, here are some of Saturdays semi final runs: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=5nvSkdAsghI
Huge congratulations to all the finalists and winners.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Good Luck to everyone who has qualified for Olympia

Well done to everyone who has qualified for Olympia this year, it's so tough to qualify that it is a fantastic acheivement in itself. The atmosphere is amazing, there is just nothing else like it. I know everyone has worked really hard, and for some (myself included!) there have been problems and the preparation has not gone as well as hoped. I hope that everyone enjoys their day, gets a good run, will bring back nothing but good memories, and that their dogs enjoy it too! I am looking forward to experiencing the buzz of the crowd, the 'backstage' camaraderie of the competitiors, and to seeing some of the best agility in the UK.
This is a good video to watch at such a time!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh dear

I took a day off work yesterday and took Kaydee, Zazzy and myself to the osteopath. He has done wonders with my problematic achilles and back. Kaydee has been going to see him every month since April. I said in my last blog that I was pleased with her fitness and training, well I must have jinxed myself! At the Rugby Christmas show, she did not run well. There was no power and she was dropping her right hind leg on the poles. It looked like her old problems had returned! However, the osteopath said it was not like before, something more like she has slipped in the mud, most of her problem is in a back leg muscle, although he did work on her back as well. So I will keep her quiet and just walking, with some massage, for the rest of the week. Just two more days after today before Olympia! With a cloud hanging over me wondering whether I should retire her from agility or what other options we have, I am having trouble finding the right frame of mind for it. More so because I am so worried about Zazzy. The osteopath found a trauma in her spine above her tail, as if she had fallen back onto her bottom. He was very worried about it, as her symptoms could at worst suggest a partially prolapsed disc pressing on the spinal nerve, or it could be just bruising, but to be cautious suggested lead walking for a month. So that really scared and upset me. I have been letting her off the lead for the last few days and she has been running like a demon, just what he said not to let her do! I am also worried because she gets so bored if restricted to lead walking, her energy levels build up and she ends up going crazy bouncing round the house and garden, which is probably how she hurt herself in the first place.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Beautiful morning!

It was a beautiful sunrise, colourful sky and sunshine on a white frosty world. I love my dogs because if I didn't have them, I would not have been trotting round Richmond Old Deer Park this morning enjoying such a beautiful scene. By the time we were done and I was on my way to work, the sun had gone into the clouds, and the day is now grey and ordinary. I am grateful for so many things about my dogs, from making me find time to go out for lots of walks and runs whatever the weather, for the happy grins and enthusiasm, and in truth for making me a better person. Because that has to happen when you take on the responsibility of knowing that the way they are is a result of how you interact with them. An extention of the old agility adage, 'if it goes wrong, you either trained it wrong or handled it wrong'. So I try to learn everything I can to understand the things they do, and to make me communicate and teach better. Anyway, I found myself musing on what today means to me. My dogs came top of the list of The Best Things. I have been distracted by preparing for Olympia, and suddenly find I have done no preparations at all for Christmas! Not a present bought or wrapped, or a card yet written. Getting back out running (and loosing a stone!) has been a very positive thing for me. But if asked for a prediction about Olympia, I would have to say that although Kaydee has natural talent (she is a faster more athletic dog than Becky, who has acheived so much despite not being very quick, bless her), with all her problems over the last year (and six months completely out of agility), we do not yet have consistency, the fine tuning that is needed to work courses at top speed together, that you get by competing regularly. So oddly that makes me relax, what will be will be. I am pleased with her fitness and training, and she is now a happy, huggy, cuddly little dog again which is so important to me. I wish I could say that maybe it will come together next year instead. But looking to the future I can't really say whether Kaydee is going to stay in good form, or have more problems and retire from agility. That makes trying to plan what shows to go next year a lot harder! I am very excited about next year, though. I am looking forward to camping with my friends, and hoping to get to walk up some hills or even mountains if I can afford the diesel to get that far. Also fingers crossed that there will be a puppy for me from Virginia Harry's Zoe this time next year, she sadly didn't come into season in time for it to happen this year. And of course, I have been looking foward to running the gorgeous and fun Zazzy, I just hope the scare she gave me this week is just a temporary thing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


At training last night, out of eight people that I asked, two could relate a similar tale of a one-off episode of one of their dogs not being able to stand up temporarily. The vets did not find a cause and the symptoms were transient (a couple of hours) and did not re-occur. Zazzy appears completely normal now, however I will keep her on lead walking only until she has seen the osteopath, and obviously she will not be making her debut at the Rugby agility show on Saturday, so her first run will be in 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Zazzy worries

Zazzy cut her right front foot between the pads, it was a slice that took a while to heal because putting weight on the foot (and when she bounces around I guess that is quite a significant amount of pressure!) kept opening it up again. Unlike my other two who would have been on three legs and worrying about it, she didn't notice it at all. She is a very good girl and lets me fiddle around cleaning it as much as I want, and never tried to remove bandages, however I couldn't make any bandage strong enough to stay on her for more than a couple of minutes when I took her out, even when keeping her on a lead. I guess I underestimated her exuberance and joy for life, which she shows by bounding around, and restricting her exercise just made her bounce more around the house..... Anyway the cut seemed to be healing at last. Then yesterday I had an awful shock because when I woke up, my beautiful exuberant dog could hardly move. Her hind legs could not carry her weight, and she lay on her side on the ground with all four legs stretched straight out in front of her. I gathered her up in my arms and rushed her to the vet. By the time I eventually got to see the vet, she could stand and walk a bit. Frustratingly, the vet could not find anything wrong. The only unusual thing that has happened to her is the cut foot, so I wondered whether infection might have caused this response. Typically for Zazzy, she really made me laugh as she had her temperature taken for the first time, which obviously caused her some surprise as the thermometer was (ahem) inserted. Instead of the usual scrabbling/running away response the vet normally gets, she said Zazzy just turned her head to look at her with profound distain and disappointement. Her temperature was 102.5. Zazzy is on antibiotics and had an anti-inflammatory injection. I will take her to the osteopath as well to have her back checked out. She seemed pretty much back to normal by the evening although I will keep her as quiet as I can for a few days, until she has had her back checked, just in case she has had a back trauma, even though I can't see how or when that could have happened. Since cutting her foot she has been made to take it easy. Any suggestions from anyone who has seen something similar would be welcome!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Co-ordination and balance course report

I really enjoyed running the course at the weekend, there were two exceptionally good groups of lovely dogs and very competant handlers. I always thoroughly enjoy watching how each individual dog moves through each exercise, and it is always a thrill to see them figure out the various 'foot placement puzzles' that they are set. There were more naturally balanced and co-ordinated dogs in the groups than usual, but it was particularly nice to see a few who arrived at the class with a bit less co-ordination than the others, develop throughout the exercises and almost change body shape by the end. It is almost as if gangley dogs become more gathered together, looking more like a coiled spring! So overall a very fulfilling day for me, and judging by the lovely feedback I got (thank you!!) the dogs and handlers who attended enjoyed it too!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More on walks....

I have just discovered Susan Garretts blog, http://susangarrett.wordpress.com , and love reading it, not only because it is interesting, fun and thought-provoking, but also because her young dog 'Feature' is Zazzy's sister! Because I am preparing to run a co-ordination and balance course, today her post seems almost to have been written about my own thoughts! Spooky!! Have a look at: http://susangarrett.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/fair-weather-walker/
I strongly believe that a dog should be fit before you ask it to do agility. Twisting, braking, landing impact, and sharp turning movements are demanding on muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones. A dog must be fit in order to be able to do all these things without getting injured. The slow controlled exercises such as those in the co-ordination and balance course I will be running on Saturday, help develop proprioreception, and in doing so also develop large and small muscle groups that ‘fine tune’ exact movement. These muscles stabilise joints, and therefore protect them against excessive movement leading to wear between the joints, or overstretching that may lead to injury. Also important are aerobic and anaerobic exercise that dogs will get from lots of good walks. I am happier knowing that my puppy has developed a good musculature from low-impact exercises before letting it charge around too much! As Susan Garrett suggests, I am sure that good runs over the hills, including flat-out runs as and when they feel like it, are good for developing speed, stamina and co-ordination and balance at speed. However, this kind of exercise needs to be built up slowly so that the dog does not damage itself. Just like human athletes, a well conditioned and muscled dog that is properly warmed up and not suffering from any over-use injuries, is far less likely to suffer from sprains, pulls, tears, back or joint problems. Strong muscles protect the joints and back from injury, as anyone with back problems who undertakes pilates classes will tell you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Richmond Park

I am trying to figure out how to get my camcorder tape videos onto the pc, it looks pretty boring without them! Until then you will just have to have my written descriptions!
Richmond Park is my favourite place to walk at the moment. It is plenty large enough for an hours walk at lunchtime (2500 acres), hilly, beautiful, and only a couple of miles from work. As it is dark now when I leave for work, and when I return home, it is really good to have somewhere so nice that I can take the girls to at lunchtime for a good walk! Also I have found that there are less problem dogs walked there than my local park. Possibly because it is big, open and there are lots of cars and deer around, so you need a recall! My local park is small, fenced and gated, and probably every other walk in there a dog will charge over and into my pack. Half of these dogs will behave in either a bad mannered or worryingly aggressive way. Now if I was out in the park and saw a group of teenagers playing, I would neither rush over and try to steal their football, nor try to join in the game uninvited, and I certainly wouldn't charge in shouting and try to jump on someone's back! Also I'm pretty sure that telling them that 'I only want to play' would really not go down too well! Yet, to me, that is exactly what some people are allowing their dogs to do.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Paul Moore!

Of course posting these bumper stickers, which made me laugh and I hope they make you laugh too, and wishing Paul a happy birthday, are completely unrelated.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OMG agility people are the best

Yet again, I have been choked by how great agility people are. In just a few hours of my (half) joking comment about my deteriorating dog walk contacts on the last blog, both Bernadette and Rosie contacted me to say that I was welcome to use their dog walks, and of course I would be nowhere today without Pollys' hugely generous and welcoming nature, not only letting me use her field of equipment, but also putting up with me chatting away for hours over cups of tea or the odd beer and take-away! Thanks you guys!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kaydee in her lovely new coat - thank you Auntie Karen!!!! xxxxx

Training NOT going to plan!!

Well Kaydee and I have hit a few setbacks this week. I guess I thought that if I could just get her back to fitness without any more physical problems, then I would get the great little agility dog back too. How silly and naive of me!! Fitness and basic equipment training are only part of the very complex sport of agility! Additionally I thought that if I could just motivate myself to get fit, then I would be able to run better. Wrong again!! Doh!
I'll start with Kaydee. A week ago we went to the Downlands show, and I could not get Kay clear round a course. She looked great, powering off, but just in the wrong direction! So this week I wanted to get her going in the right direction, and indeed she did three clear rounds. But three very slow clear rounds! In one she was even slower than Becky, and she has been between one and three seconds faster than Becky on every course for a couple of years. Oh dear. Is something physically wrong again? Is this the end of her agility career, should I retire her after all? Thanks to Karen who videoed her running, Nancy who made me realise that I was checking her (rather than sending) her all round the course, and Matt for suggesting that it was timing issues rather than a total disaster and reason for pulling her out of Olympia. I shouldn't need reminding that she has has six months out of agility this year! Much discussion and analysis followed, thanks to everyone who has to put up with me, you are stars!! I think I can see the way forward now, although I was unpleasantly glum for a while! She is currently only in one training session for half an hour a week, she shares an hour group lesson with Becky. I am still worried about doing too much with her, but clearly we need to do more training so that we can both run confidently. Unfortunately my finances are still overstretched from all the van problems I had so I have cut down on training. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Karen, amongst other things for letting me share some training at the weekend which really helped, and for giving me a fantastic early Christmas present, in the form of a lovely new coat for Kaydee to keep her troublesome muscles warm. (Hopefully I can add the picture that she took of Kaydee in it when she sends it!) Oh dear it feels like we are running out of time though, just one more 'dress rehearsal' (better not say practise competition, it sounds too much like 'training in the ring'!!!) before Olympia now!
Meanwhile, having been really pleased with the recovery of my achilles, and having been really smug with myself for being good about getting out running regularly, I went to step up the pace a bit last week when TWANG!!! something went in my lower back/left hip area and I could barely lift my knee for days. Although it feels better now I am left with a fear of trying to sprint in case it goes again. Ouch! Doh! Bahh!!
Now here's an odd thing. Kaydees dog walk contact was pretty good not so long ago. I was also pleased with how Zazzy's contacts were coming along. But in the last few weeks both of them have gone just a bit wrong. Is this some sort of autumn syndrome, are the contacts getting slippery or something?! Recently both of them have decided that either they will do them at a fair speed and not stop, or if I will insist on a stop, then they will haltingly venture down quite gently and slowly...... don't suppose anyone can lend me a dog walk?!!
Just one more short bit on fireworks following on from an apalling weekend besieged by them. It seems that everyone I talk to hates them too! I just want to mention Poor Becky, who rather naughtily did some sneaky horse poo eating at the show on Satuday, and having a tummy of delicate constitution, had a really bad Saturday night. She desperately needed to go in the garden, but even though Pookey and I went with her, the fireworks made it impossible for her to stay out there long enough to relieve herself. We tried half a dozen times as she got more and more desperate, then I tried putting newspaper down in the kitchen but she couldn't be persuaded to go there either. Poor Becky! Finally as she circled panting and distressed around the living room she couldn't hold the floodgates shut any longer, and it sprayed all around the room. So a lovely evening for me spent scrubbing the rug. To he honest I don't think it will ever be the same again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fireworks - rant alert

Like many others I dislike this time of year. For weeks I cannot predict when or where the next firework will be set off. My lifestyle is restricted during these weeks. I avoid being out with my dogs in the evenings, I have a curfew of about 4pm and cannot leave my house after then. My dogs are terrified and my anxiety levels go up accordingly. It not only affects my quality of life, there is a very real possibility of it being life threatening. Like many others I know of firework tradgedies. I spent a week looking for a friends dog who had been spooked by an unexpected early firework in the park. We found him in the end, he had been hit by a car trying to get home, but not managing to make it home he had curled up and died under a bush.
I try to make my dogs 'safe dens' in the house, buy expensive calming products like DAP, and find every way I can to make life more bearable for them. Market research for pet insurance companies in 2004 estimated that 52% of the population had a pet. Some media reports suggest there could be 7 million dogs kept as pets in Britain. (Wow at £20-£30 a time for DAP that's a nice little earner!) There is an enormous number of people negatively affected by this, so I can only assume it continues unabated entirely for reasons of profiteering. Shame no one has managed to find a way of suing the retailers for causing such distress, that would seem to be the only way to stop it. Personally I can't see how selling explosives to loads of irresponsible and thoughtless people can be legal. People are free to do what they like as long as it does not harm others. But setting off fireworks irresponsibly DOES!! (Harm others). I think the law should be changed so that their fireworks should, at the very least, only be set off so that they cannot go beyond the boundaries of their own property, although I think it would be much better if fireworks weren't publicly available at all. This morning I had firework remains on my doorstep, and I've had fireworks exploding in my garden. All the open spaces available for dog walking near me have been used to set off fireworks. A few organised events would be something I could work around, fireworks set off any time of the day or night, and a constant barrage lasting weeks, is crazy. If this is a social tradition, then make it a social event, not a one that is 'private' but actually causes greif to a lot of people that you are not even aware of. Get together one night a year! Let the other 52% of the population have a life too!
OK rant over.
(Other rants to look forward to include people with uncontrolled agressive dogs in public places, agility cheaters, and evil neighbours).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sadness upon sadness

I have been devasted to hear that Zazzy's sister, little Stitch, died last Sunday, aged just 17 months old. She suffered from hydrocephalus ('water on the brain'), a condition where too much cerebrospinal fluid accumulates around the brain. According to Wikipedia, this condition has around 180 causes, including infection and premature birth (Stitch was the tiny puppy in the litter). She had the best treatment, love and care possible throughout her short life, and a lap to lie on when she was having a 'bad head day'. My heart goes out to David and Sharon Alderson.
RIP Little Stitch.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Autumn sunshine

Thanks to Karen for this lovely picture of us out on a walk on Chobham common. (Shame Zazzy was so convinced I was up to something odd that she wouldn't turn around! She just had to keep an eye on me!!)


I have not mentioned Zazzy much before which is appalling, because she is a gorgeous ray of sunshine. Thanks to Karen for this lovely picture of her at 16 months old.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


As the days get shorter, and the weather makes outdoor agility less inviting, my thoughts turn to winter training. I am very sorry to report that getting the osteopath-run joint mobility course going is an up hill struggle. I know it is a bit expensive, although I am certain that it would be well worth every penny. However there are not enough people interested in it at present to make it viable. I am quite disappointed, as from the small amount I have already learnt from Stuart, I know that what I could learn would make a huge difference to Kaydee, Becky and Zazzy. I am going to a one day massage course this weekend, I hope to learn as much as I can there.
Also I will be running a course on co-ordination and balance, which is of course so fundamentally important for agility dogs, in December. More details can be found at: http://www.agilitynet.com/training/agilityfoundations_co-ordinationandbalance_hannahbanks.html
A nice warm, dry hall with unlimited cups of tea makes a great venue for winter training. This course is intended to help teach dogs, especially puppies, how to use their whole bodies, but particularly how to engage their hind legs, in a balanced and co-ordinated way. I use a number of different exercises, using ladders, cones, rocker boards, wobble boards, pilates balls, ramps to walk up and down over, things to walk over, boxes to stand on and move around etc., for the dogs to negotiate in a slow and controlled way, using lots of reward. The games are great fun, and I have seen these exercises make such a huge improvement to how dogs move, including my own puppy Zazzy, that now that I know about them, I would never start doing agility with a dog without doing them first. I have often seen a dog learn how to 'connect' with their hind legs seemingly for the first time during the course, and learn how to place them rather than them just 'following' the front end. For example when walking through the rungs of a ladder, some dogs find it hard to accurately put their hind feet down between the rungs. Having a good sense of where each part of your body is in space is obviously extremely useful for running up over high, narrow planks (dog walks) safely! Additionally, the hind legs produce power for acceleration, de-acceleration, turning etc. so teaching a dog to fully utilise this power, and using it with good balance and co-ordination, will have a massive effect on its future agility career.

Mid Downs

I took Kaydee to the Mid Downs agility show to see how she was going after her most recent lay-off. I wanted to see whether I should take her to the Chippenham Championship show the following weekend (although that has now been cancelled due to bad weather). The morning was sunny and she had a grade 7 jumping class, which she won. There was also an agility class in the afternoon. After queueing for what felt like an hour, although it probably was only 45 mins, we finally got to the start line..... and the rain started tipping down! I didn't really want to run her in that rain just in case she slipped. But having queued so long I thought that I could at least leave her in a wait, and take her out if she moved..... so without even taking my coat off I left her on the start line. She did a really solid wait, and as I stood there, arm raised, three jumps away, I admit I was weak and thought maybe a training run wouldn't hurt..... so I recalled her and set off, worked her very carefully around the turns, running her to a breif stop on the A-frame, and sending her to the end of the dog walk on her own. Afterwards I was cross with myself for taking a chance, but so pleased with her! She didn't slip at all, her contacts were lovely, and she did most of it working well away from me but still controlled. I couldn't ask for more! She even managed to come fourth, so overall I was very pleased with how she is looking.
Becky, on the other hand, looked a little stiff through her shoulders and I realise that now that she is eating a lot of raw (barf) food, she is not getting as much glucosamine/condroitin supplementation. So I will make sure that I up that for her. Apart from that I am really pleased with the new feeding regime.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Saying goodbye to Hex

The last few weeks have been awful, as Bernadette and Dennis Bay lost their young little dog Hex (Agility Champion Obay Truly Wicked) to poisoning by toxic fungi. Bernadette's posting makes my heart ache: http://obayshelties.blogspot.com/
I know only too well that a long time after such a loss, you realise that you don't just 'get over it', as some people promised me I would, but eventually you learn to live alongside the sadness.
I am still struggling to believe that fit, young, amazing, naughty, agility champion Hex is gone, and am full of greif and sorrow for their loss. Each time I finally motivate myself to get out for a run as I look forward (with great trepidation!) to my biggest event of the year, Olympia, I remember that Bernadette was also in the middle of preparing to taking Hex to that Big Event herself..... and there my heart stops for a moment every time.

This poem is Proud Songsters by Thomas Hardy, it was read at a friends funeral and gives me much to reflect upon in such times of sadness:

The thrushes sing as the sun is going
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales in bushes
Pipe, as the can when April wears.
As if all time were theirs.

There are brand new birds of twelve-months growing,
Which a year a go, or less than twain
No finches were, nor nightingales
Nor thrushes
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air, and rain.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Kaydees behavior has been slightly deteriorating again, and some muscle problems have re-appeared. I realised that I have been lazy about keeping on top of what I am giving her to eat, especially while away, she has just been getting kibble. SO I have read more about magnesium in the diet, and thought perhaps other people might find this interesting too.

Most of this information has been obtained from a human perspective, gleaned from a google internet search.

What it is:
Magnesium is a mineral needed by every cell in the human body and is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions. Magnesium is usually referred to as a "macromineral" (The other macrominerals that all humans must get from food are
calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and chloride).
Most of our magnesium is found in our bones (60-65%) combined with calcium and phosphorus. Magnesium is also found in our muscles (25%), with only a very small amount, approximately 1%, found in our blood. The human body regulates the level of magnesium in the blood to keep it at a fairly constant level. This makes detecting deficiencies difficult, as blood tests will not show up a deficiency until reserves stored in the bones and muscles are severely depleted.
Like all minerals, magnesium cannot be made in our body and must therefore be plentiful in our diet in order for us to remain healthy.

What it does:
Nerve and Muscle Relaxation
Magnesium and its fellow macronutrient,
calcium, act together to help regulate the body's nerve and muscle function. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as a chemical gate blocker - as long as there is enough magnesium around, calcium can't rush into the nerve cell and activate the nerve. This gate blocking by magnesium helps keep the nerve relaxed. If our diet provides us with too little magnesium, this gate blocking can fail and the nerve cell can become over-activated. When some nerve cells are over-activated, they can send too many messages to the muscles and cause the muscles to over-contract. This chain of events helps explain how magnesium deficiency can trigger muscle tension, muscle soreness, muscle spasms, muscle cramps, and muscle fatigue.
Other functions of magnesium:
Many chemical reactions in the body involve the presence of an enzyme. Enzymes are special proteins that help trigger chemical reactions. Over 300 different enzymes in the body require magnesium in order to function. For this reason, the functions of this mineral are especially diverse. Magnesium is involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It helps genes function properly. Some fuels cannot be stored in our muscle cells unless adequate supplies of magnesium are available.
The metabolic role of magnesium is so diverse that it is difficult to find a body system that is not affected by magnesium deficiency. Our cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, muscles, kidneys, liver, hormone-secreting glands, and brain all rely on magnesium for their metabolic function.

What happens when there is a deficiency:

Early signs of magnesium deficiency in humans include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). Magnesium deficiency is also associated with low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia).
Because magnesium plays such a wide variety of roles in the body, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency can also vary widely. Many symptoms involve changes in nerve and muscle function. These changes include
muscle weakness, tremor, and spasm. In the heart muscle, magnesium deficiency can result in arrhythmia, irregular contraction, and increased heart rate.
Because of its role in bone structure, the softening and weakening of bone can also be a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Other symptoms can include: imbalanced blood sugar levels; headaches; elevated blood pressure; elevated fats in the bloodstream; depression; seizures; nausea; vomiting; and lack of appetite.

What factors might contribute to a deficiency of magnesium?
In addition to poor dietary intake, problems in the digestive tract are the most common cause of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is water soluble, so anything causing increased elimination of water from the body may also cause the loss of magnesium, although healthy kidneys should be able to recoup most the magnesium from fluids before they are eliminated from the body. Digestive tract problems causing magnesium loss include malabsorption, diarrhea, and ulcerative colitis. Many kinds of physical stresses can contribute to magnesium deficiency, including cold stress, physical trauma, and surgery. Kidney disease and alcoholism can contribute to a deficiency of this mineral.
There is anecdotal evidence that stress and very high activity levels can also cause a higher requirement for magnesium, and that ‘hypey’ excitable dogs could suffer from deficiencies.

How to get enough:

In humans, eating a variety of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables (especially dark-green, leafy vegetables) every day will help provide recommended intakes of magnesium and maintain normal storage levels of this mineral.

In dogs, most of the high magnesium recommended human foods do not form part of a normal balanced canine diet, although I would have thought a fish based diet would be better, I have not found any figures on this. It might be useful to know that whole grain rice has some magnesium but white rice has hardly any. However, even if whole grain rice is used in the production of high quality ‘complete’ dogs foods, my big question is, is this enough for high energy, ‘hypey’ dogs that are regularly competing in agility? Adding fish to the diet may be very beneficial, as many types of fish are known to be high in magnesium (and also omega 3 oils which also have many health benefits). Finely, freshly ground sunflower and pumpkin seeds should also provide good quantities of magnesium. Finely chopped dark green leafy vegetables served with eggs (to aid digestion and absorption of the magnesium) may also be beneficial. Although you would expect to find magnesium in bones, I have not come across any dietary figures for the levels of magnesium to be found in bone, only that ‘the amount of bone magnesium is only 1/40 to 1/50 that of calcium (Duckworth et al., 1940). However, it is reported that there is relatively little magnesium to be had from eating meat, therefore it does seem likely that a meat based canine diet would not provide enough magnesium.

How do other nutrients interact with magnesium?
The relationship between magnesium and calcium is one of the most actively researched, and yet not fully understood mineral-to-mineral relationships. On one hand, magnesium is required in order for calcium to maintain a balanced role in the body's metabolism. On the other hand, magnesium can compete with calcium and prevent calcium from trigger certain events, like the relay of a nerve message or the contraction of a muscle.
Because of the complex relationship between calcium and magnesium, healthy diets almost always need to contain foods rich in both minerals. Magnesium also has an important relationship with potassium, and helps regulate the movement of potassium in and out of our cells. Finally, because magnesium can be attached to certain building blocks of protein (called amino acids), increased intake of protein can sometimes help improve the body's magnesium status.

Although on one hand it may take a long time for magnesium deficiency to show up as there are stores in the muscles and bones, once the diet is enriched in magnesium, it will also take a long time before those stores are replenished.
Magnesium deficiency may be of significance to performance dogs who may have a higher requirement for this mineral (especially ‘highly strung’ personalities), because foods that contain high amounts of magnesium do not form part of many normal commercially available ‘complete dog food’ ingredients lists. Additionally, dogs are not good at digesting high fibre, high carbohydrate foods, where magnesium may be found (they do not chew foods or have amylase enzymes in their saliva), therefore adding high magnesium content foods, such as spinach and seeds, may only be useful if they are prepared by grinding them up first (do not boil!)

Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing
The impact of cooking and processing on magnesium can vary greatly from food to food, since magnesium is found in different forms in different types of food. In some foods, where a greater percent of magnesium is found in water-soluble form, blanching (boiling or steaming for 1-4 minutes), steaming, or boiling of these foods can result in a substantial loss of magnesium. For example, about one third of the magnesium in
spinach is lost after blanching. Similarly, when navy beans are cooked, they lose 65% of their magnesium.
In other foods that are rich in magnesium, like
almonds or peanuts, there is very little loss of magnesium either from roasting or from processing into almond or peanut butter (as long as the whole almond or peanut is used).

What forms of magnesium are found in dietary supplements?
Magnesium can be purchased as a dietary supplement in one of two basic forms: chelated or non-chelated. "Chelated" means connected with another molecule. In the case of magnesium, the most common chelates fall into the category of amino acid chelates. In these supplements, magnesium is attached to a building block of protein (called an amino acid). The most widely-available amino acid chelates are magnesium glycinate, magnesium aspartate, and magnesium taurate.
Magnesium can also be attached to an organic acid (like citrate) or to a fatty acid (like stearate). The non-chelated forms of magnesium include magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate, and magnesium carbonate. There is some research evidence that the chelated forms of magnesium (like magnesium citrate) are better absorbed than the non-chelated forms (like magnesium oxide).
Food Sources
Nutrient Rating System Chart
Have a look at:

· Abbott LG, Rude RK. Clinical manifestations of magnesium deficiency. Miner Electrolyte Metab 1993;19:314-322 1993.
· Bengtsson BL. Effect of blanching on mineral and oxalate content of spinach. J Food Technol 1969;4:141-145 1969.
· Duckworth J, Warnock GM: The magnesium requirements of man in relation to calcium requirements, with observations on the adequacy of diets in common use. Nutr Abstr Rev 12:167-183, 1942.
· Duckworth S, Godden W, Warnock GM: The effect of acute magnesium deficiency on bone formation in rats. Biochem J 34:97-108, 1940.
· Groff JL, Gropper SS, Hunt SM. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. West Publishing Company, New York, 1995.
· Iseri LK, French JH. Magnesium: Nature's physiologic calcium blocker. Am Heart J 1984;108:188-193 1984.
· Lindberg JS, Zobitz MM, Poindexter JR, et al. Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. J Am Coll Nutr 1990;9:48-55 1990.
· Meiners CR, Derise NL, Lau HC, et al. (1976). The content of nine mineral elements in raw and cooked mature dry legumes. J Arg Food Chem 1976;24:1126-1130 1976.
· National Research Council. Recommended dietary allowances. 9th edition. National Academy of Sciences Press, Washington, DC, 1980;134-136 1980.
· Pearson HA, Campbell V, Berrow N, et al. Modulation of voltage-dependent calcium channels in cultured neurons. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1994;747:325-335 1994.
· Shils ME. Magnesium. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, and Shike M. Modern nutrition in health and disease. 8th Edition. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia, 1994;164-184 1994.
· Touyz RM. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Mol Aspects Med 2003 Feb 6;24(1-3):107-36.
· Wester PO. Magnesium. Am J Clin Nutr 1987;45(suppl):1305-1312 1987.


I have taken Kaydee back to the osteopath, and he found plenty more to work on. So the plan now is to go back to lead walking for a while, rest her for a few weeks, take her back to be checked, then start her build up for Olympia. Will she ever be problem free?
I also had some work done on my ankles, as they have got very stiff and my achilles has been so tight I worried it might tear. Here I am after my second visit, and now I can spring down the stairs when I get up with no problems, how fantastic is that?! Hope to get back into some running now, I have let myself go, and feel the need to be fitter!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August update

Sorry I have no news on the course as yet, I think Stuart is on holiday. However, I have seen a lot of people at shows so know people are still keen! I have been to a few shows recently, and just when I'm getting into the swing of it again, there is only one left! :-(
Kaydee has been going quite well, she has qualified for the last Olympia semis, but now she won't be going to them..... because she qualified for Olympia at the KC International Festival semi !!!! Wooohoooo!!!! I can still hardly believe it! Even more amazing, Becky also ran at that semi and managed to come 6th so is first reserve, so if Kaydee can't run on the big day, Becky can take her place! Kay came second in grade 7 agility at the Agility Club show, and in the grade 7 jumping at Burridge, but then suddenly couldn't weave for a week in the run up to the KC Fest, which caused me a lot of stress! I went a long way round in the course to give her every chance of completing the weaves in the semi, which payed off, although I nearly lost her in the sequence of 3 jumps at the end of the course. She nearly missed the penultimate jump, I got her back, then she nearly back jumped it, but phew we just made it clear! At the KC Fest her weaves were not reliable, although she got a couple of nice places when she managed them. Becky on the otherhand, although not quick enough to get many places any more, has been doing clear round after clear round bless her, and she did make it through to the British Open finals. (Kay was placed 31st but only 30 went through!) DIN started with wild wet and windy weather, my awning was nearly a gonner but I came back at just the right moment and managed to rescue it. I was judging one day so there were not many runs for my girls, just a champ and four others. Perhaps I will go to Northern Week next year instead, you can do that many runs in just one day! Becky did some lovely runs again, but with places to only 8 she came away with nothing, and Kay and I only managed some 'nearlys'. The last day Kay went peculiar and I worried she was injured again. After pulling her out of the ring took her back to the van to find she had broken into the new bag of food that I had bought for Becky, and she had eaten a huge amount. I was worried sick that she would have a problem, but luckily she suffered nothing more than missed runs, great thirst, and having a lot of pooing to do the next day. Naughty girl!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Course news

We now have possible dates, the first two weekends in November, or one day a week over four weeks.
Stuart writes:
'The course will involve the Mobilisation of all joints and relevant muscles and the necessary anatomy and joint physiology to enable the techniques to be applied safely and effectively.
It will probably need to be covered over more than one weekend, probably at least two, or one day per week for four weeks etc. The cost will be in the region of £100 pounds per day per person allowing for ten people.
If the course takes place here in Wantage, I have a hall so there would be no hall hire charge. '

Please let me know what you think about this!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Thanks to everyone who has asked about Becky! She has been very poorly, but made a good recovery and is fine now. She was due to run in the Olympia semi finals last Friday. When I got home after taking Kaydee to the Thursday semi, she had been sick a number of times, but I thought (hoped!) that she would be OK by Friday. However on waking early the next day I found that she was very poorly indeed, she was tucked up and miserable, her stomach was hard, she felt hot and clammy and was trying to crawl behind and under the furniture. Someone had been talking about torsions the night before, and with that seeding horrible premonitions in my head I went into a panic, she looked so very ill. Huge apologies to Dave Ray, who had a horrible (blubbing female) phone call and very early awakening last Friday morning, as I thought that a reserve would need as much time as possible to get there ......

Monday, July 7, 2008

Update on Kaydees progress

Thanks to everyone who has asked about Kaydee! She is now back in training (although at the moment she is only doing about a third of her training, and of course I worry all the time and keep looking for any signs of discomfort!). All in all I have to say she is looking good, and is in much better shape than me! She has a mostly raw food diet now and is looking really good on it. She has started competing again, a week ago at St Edwards she came 5th in the Olympia qualifier, which I was thrilled about, and then she looked even better in her grade 7 agility and came 4th. Last Thursday she went to Stoneleigh for day one of the Olympia semis (she qualified at Ribble in January just before her 5 month lay off!). I was really pleased with her, she came 2nd in the morning invitation run with solid contacts. In the main event she did a lovely run, and although she clipped the long jump (my fault - it was the penultimate jump and I got carried away and pushed her too hard off the end of the dog walk, it was only a short stride and she couldn't quite stretch to it after stopping on the contact, I should have let her put another short stride in), she was comfortably within the qualifying time, in fact she had about a second over the third placed dog. She had this weekend off, but there are loads of shows booked for the next couple of months.....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Just to let everyone know, I saw the osteopath yesterday and he is now spending some time putting a course together for us. (Us being people interested in learning how to keep our agility dogs in good physical balance, learning how to feel that our dogs muscles and joints are aligned and in perfect working order, and using joint manipulation and massage as part of a regular routine). He is keen that we understand exactly what we are doing and why, and was also keen to stress that it is not just rubbing/massaging the muscles as part of the warm up/cool down but a much more in depth understanding that he wants to put across. Of course this is not a course in canine osteopathy, but should put us in a good position to keep our dogs in good working order, and to feel any problems that may start developing and prevent them from developing into anything more serious.
Until he has worked out the details, I do not know how long the course will be or the cost, but he was talking about running it after the agility season and over a couple of Saturdays.
I have been really impressed with the strength and depth of his knowledge and abilites while witnessing how fantastic his work on Kaydee has been.
For all those nice people that have asked about her, she was very unfit after such a long period off, but I have taken a month to bring her slowly back into agility training and she is looking good now..... I will try and get a bit of video up if I can work out how so that you can see for yourselves!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Diet and magnesium

When Kaydees behavior began to worry me (see earlier blog), I noticed a product called 'stress less' on the market. The website claims: 'All animals need to have the correct balance of calcium and magnesium. When a dog is highly strung or becomes stressed, anxious, nervous or excited, they burn off magnesium. This allows calcium to overload muscle and nerve cells and replicates the rise of adrenaline. This can cause erratic behaviour, aggressiveness and/or tightening of muscles.' (Muscle cramps in humans have been successfully treated with magnesium compounds). The vet added a magnesium assay to Kaydees blood tests, and this indicated that she was a little low in magnesium. So I gave her the stress less product at the recommended level. A month later the test was repeated, and the magnesium levels were only slightly higher. My vet did not seem terribly convinced by any magnesium level theory. I stopped supplementing Kaydee, and this happened to coincide with the time she went lame again. Her behavior also deteriorated. Possibly coincidendal, and possibly her behavior is associated with pain and nothing to do with magnesium. My vet has suggested putting K on a veterinary diet to exclude anything that might cause digestive aggrevation, which in turn might cause reduced absorbtion, which might lead to low magnesium levels. It is likely to be much more complicated, as all the electrolytes need to be balanced for the biochemistry to work properly, however I remember from A level biology that a balance of calcium and magnesium ions is required for muscle contraction and relaxation. I have tried to find a canine nutritionist for some knowledgable insight into this. I did get the following useful information: 'Unsuitable diets can cause a build-up of waste toxins which accumulate in the body and build-up over a period of time, eventually beginning to interfere with the proper function of the body’s system. As the body tries to maintain a balance the toxins are eliminated in many forms, including muscle cramps.' Also: 'Muscle glycogen stores supply approximately 70% of the energy required for exercise with fats providing the rest. High carbohydrate levels in a diet maximum muscle glycogen reserves which may reduce the occurrence of the muscle cramps as well.' And finally: 'We do recommend cutting out all treats and tit-bits however adding cooked green vegetables, potatoes and boiled eggs will increase the magnesium intake.' The path I have decided on is to change her diet, to try and learn enough to make informed choices to make her diet as nutritionally balanced as I can, and one that contains as few other added chemicals as possible (and one that I can keep her on long term, including affording it, so the prescription diet is out!) I have started investigating barf, have started adding raw and home prepared foods to her diet, and will probably do half raw food and half a premium quality organic pre-prepared dog food. At the moment she is still getting the extra magnesium supplements. My other dogs have been fine on a premium kibble for years, but can I do better?
All comments welcome!

To swim or not to swim?

That is the question!

All comments welcome please!

Here is the background: Kaydee (4 year old collie bitch) has not competed in any KC agility shows since Ribble (Jan 2008), because although her agility runs looked really good (she recently won into grade 7, won five of her last nine classes and qualified for an Olympia semi), she hasn't been 'right'. She didn't look lame, but was she looking hunched? Were her strides shorter and choppier than usual? Her movement is not that classy, she paces a lot, rolls her hips and has a short choppy stride. Her behaviour changed over the winter, now she was ranging from extremely anxious and worried (suddenly breaking off in the middle of playing, or running back to the van) to completely hyper, over the top, grabbing at toys (often getting me in the process), barking hysterically. Three of her litter mates have developed epilepsy and I was beginning to fear that this behavior was on the edge of that too. I had her physically checked (by a chiropractor) but there didn't seem to be much wrong. Then one day she got up and limped for a couple of strides on her rear right. The next morning I got her to the vet, and she was referred to many specialists, x-rayed etc, and lead walked for weeks. I found a great osteopath, and after the first visit her back was no longer roached but flat, and she was also able to give full extension of her right back leg for the first time. HOwever, after months of lead walking and swimming, and frequent visits to the vet, physio and osteopath, we put her on a water treadmill for five minutes, and that evening she went lame again. Hugely worrying for me, what on earth could be wrong? Would she ever run again? The osteopaths' opinion is that a muscle connecting her right hip flexor to her ribs is shortened, and when overloaded this spasms, causing the roached back and pain down her back and right hind leg. I stopped swimming her at that point (no expert advised this, but my personel observation was that swimming forced her to move in a certain way, whereas if this problem is due to her conformation, she has been compensating well for it for the last 4 years, so I thought lets just let see what happens if I let her move in the way she is happy moving) (I have kept up with the stretches the osteopath showed me though). Two weeks later, she looks and behaves more like the dog I used to know. She is getting back to normal exercise and fitness and looks great. All her problems started in the winter..... and for the first time I have been taking her swimming regularly through the winter.... pure coincidence? Swimming can't possibly hurt a dog though can it? I have talked to a couple of people who have told me that swimming had not been any good for their dog. Does anyone else have similar experiences? Comments welcome.

Part 2 will be about the role of diet and particularly of magnesium....

Monday, June 2, 2008

Of course I left out the important details of how to contact me in my last blog! If you are interested in the canine stretching and joint mobilisation course, contact me either by leaving a comment on the blog or by emailing hannah.banks0 [remove the spaces and put in an at sign] gmail.com

Friday, May 30, 2008

First post!!
I have a great interest in getting and keeping my dogs fit, so that they can live a long, happy, healthy life, and also be in the best physical condition to compete in agility without becoming injured.
Unfortunately my dogs have had some physical problems, and my interest in how I could possibly prevent and/or cure these problems has grown with each experience. (Hence developing the co-ordination and balance workshops for pre-agility dogs).
Right now, resulting from my current visits to the brilliant osteopath Stuart McGregor, I am trying to find out how many other people might be interested in attending a course that Stuart is considering designing. Stuart runs the postgraduate courses for qualified (human) osteopaths to train in animal osteopathy. Recently he expressed an interest in also running a course for those of us with sporting dogs who are interested in learning more about stretching and mobilising the joints - see David Munnings has to say about the value of that: http://www.agilitynet.com/features/davidmunnings_sorayaporter.html
So here I am at stage one, which is finding enough (12-15) people who have a strong interest in learning these skills. (For some of us their might also be some canine anatomy homework to do beforehand).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

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For a bit about what I do for a living, see: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=AeEKryTUo-Q