Olympia has the most amazing atmosphere, and it was fantastic to qualify to be there. In the past Zazzy has been overwhelmed by big occasions, and I said beforehand that if I could keep her happy and confident, then I would consider the day to be a success. Zazzy was brilliant, she ran really well, after a little wobble to start with, she seemed to relax and enjoy her day, so I was very happy. However, I underestimated how easy it would be for her to pick up the wrong end of the tunnel, so we got eliminated. I was very disappointed with myself for that mistake, but still, overall we had a great experience.
To end the year on a high, Zazzy won the Agility Club points league for large grade 5, clever Zazzy :-)
We had a fantastic day out at the UKA Grand Finals at 'The Hand' Equestrian Centre, Bath. It was a well organised and very enjoyable event. There was a lovely atmosphere, great people, and Deece was adopted as an honoury sheltie for the day! I was really pleased with Deece, he had three runs and was brilliant. Clear in the first two, but not quite in the final LOL.
It's a beautiful sunny day, so rare in November, and it's a terrible shame that I feel too ill to fully appreciate it! I have got the cold that is going round all my friends and colleagues, the annoying thing is that after over a week of it, it just seems to be getting worse and worse. Bit of a set back, I am impatient to get on with my own training, but the slightest exertion leaves me wheezing and weak, I have lost my voice, and I feel exhausted and can't think straight. Everything is on hold until I get over it, but with Deece's final next weekend, time is running out! I did still go to the North Downs show, it is my club and I wanted to help. Luckily I was given jobs where I could sit down! It was lovely to catch up with people, well the ones that risked getting close enough to talk to LOL. Unable to run, and with the dogs unable to hear me, we didn't manage to do anything great in the competitions. Deece really enjoyed the noisy environs of the indoor school, but Zazzy got flatter with each run. Thanks to Karen for videoing this run, Deece's 4,5 jumping.
That is, the weather is cooling down, but it's time the dogs and I started getting a sweat on with some training! Both Deece and Zazzy are back doing agility now, but all too quickly the finals are rushing up towards us! This weekend we get to run at the North Downs indoor show, so I guess we will see how we are getting on. I would love it if some kind person would do some videoing :-S
Deece's final is next weekend, and Zazzy is at Olympia the second weekend after that!! Eeek! I don't feel ready! It is getting colder now and I am glad to have 'Back on Track' coats for them for warming up and cooling down in (above is a picture of Kaydee modelling hers), the coats keep the body warm and so a good supply of blood is kept supplied to the muscles. This helps prevent injuries or muscle soreness.(I have t-shirts that I wear at night that help the shoulder I injured this summer too)
In these colder darker days, I love cuddling up with my dogs on the sofa, and I look forward to the Christmas sparkling lights, the promise of a season of peace and goodwill, and of course to eat, drink and be merry. Recently I woke up cosy and warm, but just a teeny bit uncomfortable, because Deece was stretched out over three quarters of the bed surface while I was squished up by, and just about to fall off, the edge. I voiced my complaint and reminded him that some dogs have to sleep out in the cold; he responded by grinning, wagging his tail and rolling onto his back offering his belly for a rub. It’s at times like this when coming across pictures of starving, abandoned, unwanted or mistreated dogs is particularly painful. The thought of anything horrible happening to my dogs is unbearable to me, yet no one can ignore that potentially wonderful loving dogs like them are out there, sometimes in a desperate state, sometimes just unwanted, thrown away, and facing their final day in a pound. They are not abandoned / starved / imprisoned / mistreated, or facing their seventh and final day, through any wrong doing on their part. It is a terrible and sad thing. Now turn away from this and see something wonderful and amazing, a miracle for these dogs; there are some remarkable people out there who are devoted to helping them. People like Val Phillips-Pollock who runs Valgrays Rescue http://www.valgraysbcrescue.org.uk/todonatehelpvalgrays.htm , Sylvia & Bill VanAtta who run Many Tears Rescue http://www.freewebs.com/manytearsrescue/ and Donna Cain who runs Morgans Rescue http://morgansrescuedogs.giving.officelive.com/aboutus.aspx For these wonderful people that are devoting their lives to help redress the balance, we can help. We all know that after Christmas, the rescue centres will be over-run with unwanted dogs, and these are the people who will be working so very hard to help them. We also know that times are hard and they are struggling for funds to treat them. If only we could all spare a little cash, just a pound or two, well if we put all our pounds together, it would make a lot of pounds, and in so doing we could make a lot of difference. I have decided to try and facilitate this, this is my plan...... I would like so much to help all three deserving rescue centres, but objectively have realised that to start with it may be best to focus on helping my most local centre, Valgrays. For an example of what Val does, here is one example:
'This is Wei Wei - he is a 14 week old Whippet/Lurcher type pup, found as a stray in an appalling condition. This little pup had to stay in holding kennels for the legal 7 days - but sadly no one claimed him, his condition in the kennels deteriorated and the dog warden contacted Valgrays to see if we had space as we have in the past helped other strays....of course we said yes immediately....unfortunately for many strays after 7 days if they do not get claimed or rescue space is not found these poor dogs do get put to sleep....that is fact.......anyway unknown to us we had no idea that he was in such a bad state - but the morning he arrived our heart sunk - this little bundle of bones arrived with us on Tuesday 23rd August in a terrible state, he was emaciated, dehydrated, weak and had no will to live, he was also very cold, he was put under a heat lamp and had a nice fleece coat put on, we knew that this pup needed urgent medical attention, we phoned our vet immediately and told him we needed to bring down a very sick puppy, we arrived at the vets with Wei Wei, when we arrived the vet was horrified at his condition - weighed in at 7kgs (just bones) running alive with fleas, and he was put onto a drip where he stayed for the some hours..... Urgent funding for dogs like Wei Wei is so important to get them back to health, veterinary care is very expensive so if you feel you would like to help and support Wei Wei - Valgrays would be so grateful. Updates will follow with his progress and we are keeping our fingers crossed that he makes a good recovery...for the time being he is having the best care possible and he even had a cuddly teddy sent him in the post today, so thank you to the person who sent this - this poor little pup needs our help, he did not ask to be born - he did not ask to be dumped How could we deprive this poor young dog a chance of life.... he's just a baby and has the rest of his life ahead of him, he could be dead by now.... along with many other helpless dogs...... Wei Wei . deserves every chance of a long/happy life with a caring family...we need to get him better his future is in our hands. Thank you'
Helping: Part 1. Between now and Christmas, I have pledged to lose 9 lbs, and I am hoping that those of you who don’t want me to at your Christmas meals despondently sipping tap water, complaining of hunger, and holding up pictures of Wei Wei, will sponsor me, if only to make me stay away. All proceeds will go to Valgrays.
Part 2. Please donate: • Bedding (vet bed, etc) • Collars - always needed • Leads, harnesses, head collars, etc • Dog coats (for older rescues) • Dog Treats / Toys / Chews • FOOD! (for the dogs that is!!)
Part 3 Would you would like to do some training, and help Valgrays at the same time? I am in the process of organising some workshops: Weaves (channels and V-weaves for dogs still learning) Weaves (proofing and more challenging weave sequences for dogs that can already weave) Jumping workshop (getting the dog to go on and concentrate on jumping well; handling and cue-ing turns) The first three are in the planning stage with a tentative date of Dec 10th and venue Brinsbury college, near Pulborough West Sussex (indoor school) Co-ordination and balance workshop – still to be arranged. -Can anyone can offer a venue free or cheap, to help Valgrays?
If you are interested in any of the above workshops, or would like something different, please do let me know ASAP!
Edited Jan 2012 I am sorry and very embarrassed to say that although I lost the weight, I haven't made any money for Valgrays from doing so. In fact colleagues at work laughed at me when I asked for sponsorship. Very embarrassing. It seems if you want to raise money for charity, the bar has been raised pretty high, and you need to do something pretty extraordinary! At least run a marathon or cycle from Lands End to John o' Groats! I also ran a workshop to see how viable running a few to raise money for charity would be. It went very well, but I found the cost of venue hire, buying/borrowing and transporting equipment, and the amount of organisation and effort required to make it happen, are all much greater than I realised. I think raising money for charity would only work if it was added on to a pre-existing set up. Back to the drawing board. HOwever, my sister made some delicious cup cakes and £13 was donated to Valgrays from people enjoying these at the workshop.
Just a quick note on getting my dogs back to fitness for agility. I believe that dogs have to be fit to do agility, because twisting at high speeds, 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. I have read articles by many experts in canine fitness, who talk about the importance of background fitness and conditioning in agility dogs. So what does it involve? Having been involved in the past with athletics and training horses, I found the same idea was employed in both cases. If you want you, your horse, or your dog, to be fit enough to sprint and jump, the first conditioning phase involves a gradual increase in low impact cardiovascular conditioning, improving stamina and strengthening muscle, tendon, ligament and bone. Although muscles respond very quickly to exercise, tendons and ligaments have a relatively poor blood supply and may take 6 weeks to repair, so the increase in work must be gradual to avoid injury (no more than a 10% increase in load per week). For my dogs this means that I am increasing their walks (and trying to find hilly places to walk them!), taking them swimming if time and finances will allow, we are going back to self control games (for waits etc.), and including lots of co-ordination and balance games which are so useful to build or maintain core muscle strength: http://agilitynet.co.uk/training/co-ordinationandbalance_hannahbanks.html
The dogs and I have enjoyed a break from agility, photos of a fabulous recent trip 'up north' to be posted soon! I still miss Becky hugely, and find waves of grief and sorrow wash over me at unexpected times... when we reach a new hill top and she is not there, when we get home and she is not there.... My wonderful friends had a huge canvas print of her made up and it now sits above her ashes in my living room. The end of season news was that Zazzy won the Agility Club points league for her grade, and Deece won his first G5 class (fortunately jumping so he is still in novice, phew! :-)) They are both looking well after their rest period, and now seem keen to be getting on with things again! Soon we will start looking forward to starting to train towards Deece's final at The Hand arena at the beginning of December, and Zazzy's visit to Olympia in the middle of December. Meanwhile I have been dreaming up schemes to raise sponsorship for animal rescue charities, more news on that when the plans are more concrete! The other news is that the London Low Emission Zone is being extended from Jan 1st 2012, and my old van will fall into a £100 per day charge for driving into work under this scheme (!!!!!!!) so it will have to go.....
What a season we have had this year! Zazzy won her fourth G6 agility class at the Dogs In Need show, and is now grade 7. She has also qualified to go to Olympia. Clever Zazzy :-) Deece qualified for the Novice Cup final at the Kennel Club International Agility Festival with the highest score, and then went on to qualify to run at Crufts. He has also qualified to run in the UKA steeplechase final at the beginning of December. We still have plenty to work on, and I am hoping that he will start next year in novice so he can have a go at trying to qualify for the novice Olympia final, although he took me my surprise by winning his agility class last weekend, so now he is in grade 5! Eeeek I don't want him to be clever again until the Olympia qualifiers, which start next spring!
View from Haystacks On teh way to Grisedale Pike Stopping for a drink on the way up Grisedale Pike View from CatBells, near Keswick Whinlatter Forest - the inscription reads 'Nature's peace will flow into you like sunshine flows into trees' Looking back to the Lune Valley showground from Farleton Fell (walked there from the show on a day off) Zazzy looking out towards the sea from Farleton Fell
Deece continues to be the loviest dog. He is still quite goofy and gullumphs around making me laugh all the time. We are not going clear around many courses! Mostly just a pole, recently he has had quite a few faults in the weaves (I think the weave bases at that show were spaced more narrowly than most). Some of the courses have had very tight spacings all the way round. Here is one video of him, you can see how many bounces he puts in, and just the one pole! Having said we haven't gone clear that often, he has had four jumping wins so has now moved up to g4! He is doing some lovely bits and I am really pleased with him.
I haven't written about how the season is going for ages, so here goes. The shows started for us in April, although I am not doing as many competitions as I have done in past years (due to rocketing fuel prices and a frozen salary), and have also been judging rather than competing at some of them. Just as the vet said, it took at least six to nine months for Zazzy's hormones to settle down after her op, but here we are a year later, she is sooooo much happier. At her first show of the season she had a jumping win and a second in agility at grade 5. She has gone on to get 10 wins and 11 seconds which, along with her other top 10 places, has taken her to the top of her league in the Agility Club points system, despite missing the first 6 months! Clever Zazzy has qualified for both novice Olympia semi final days, and at the Thames show not only won her Olympia qualifier but came second in the CSJ novice qualifier. Unfortunately, due to work committments, we will not be able to make the CSJ final though which is disappointing. So Zazzy moved up to grade 6, and I thought that would be the end of the trophies, but to my surprise and delight on her first day at g6 she won her agility. On her second day she had another win and a second. On her third day she had a second and a third. Unfortunately I only have a video of that third place (thanks to Lorna for filming) - I had been scriming all day and my timing was late throughout the run (great dog shame about the handler...), in fact towards the end I momentarily forgot my handling plans and made something up.... clever Zazzy for going clear despite me LOL. At this point the bubble did finally burst. Zazzy went acutely lame for a few hours, however thorough examinations by Dave Munnings (osteopath) and Donna Cordon-Stacy (vet) only found a small mark on her toe, our best guess is that is was a wasp or bee sting! Anyway, I didn't run her at Tuffley and she had a week off agility. The following Sunday we had a day out to Chipping Norton and Zazzy won her third g6 agility. Then she broke a toe nail right down to the quick so that was Rugby out and another week off! The following weekend she broke into my friend's picnic and stole and ate a pack of half a dozen cooked chicken drunsticks. OMG I was so worried, but she was absolutely fine (didn't want to run her for a few days though, to be safe she had another week off!). Last weekend was the Agility Club show, I was judging Sunday and got food poisoning Saturday.... I will try and blog separately about judging, and also the fab holiday we had in the Lake District, but that is the shows up to date, no shows this weekend and oh I really hope that's our run of bad luck over!!
I have been trying to put together a video tribute to Becky, but it seems my operating system is too old to cope with editing software! However with a bit of help from my friends I hope to have one soon...
Why do some people form such a deep attachment to dogs and/or other animals? I came across a really interesting and well written article today that suggests our connection with animals is ancient and has been an important and significant driving force, defining the path of human evolution. Have a look at this: http://patshipman.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/New-Scientist.pdf This article suggests that the human-animal link makes sense of three of the most important leaps in human development – tool-making, language and domestication. It explains how developing an understanding of prey and predators was required to develop and make the most of tool-making skills. Prehistoric art from 50,000 years ago shows that understanding animals was the most important thing to the people that depicted them, and observing animals, compiling and sharing information was a strong impetus to developing language and communication. It suggests that the first domesticated thing was the dog, the earliest known dog skull is estimated to be 32,000 years old. Domesticated dogs may have provided hunting assistance, protection, and possibly even transport, and could live on animal remains that were not so desireable to humans (meaty bones and tripe!). In addition, domestic animals could be seen as a mobile source of wealth and personal power (and continue to be seen as such on the streets of cities today!). It is easy to see how important, beneficial and valued it would be to develop an understanding of how to keep them alive and well, of being able to communicate with them and control them, and of understanding how to change their genomes to enhance or diminish certain traits. All these things may have driven human evolutionary success and development. We probably owe dogs a great deal more than we realise! Food for thought.
In the beginning of May, less than a week after finding two lumps, Beckys lymph system was overpowered by cancer (multicentric lymphosarcoma). Within a few days she was unable to eat, struggling to drink, and fighting for every breath. By the time I knew what was going on, it was too late to even take her somewhere nice for a last walk, as she was too ill to walk far. I couldn't leave her side that last week, being torn apart as I watched her fade away so quickly.
It was the worst week of my life by far.
RIP Becky I miss you so much
Becky always gave every bit of her spirit and soul in everything I asked of her, all she ever asked in return was to be near me.
It breaks my heart that she did not have the many happy golden years that she deserved, that I expected her to have.
The evening she died I wrote this for her:
How quickly time slips away
We were having such fun only yesterday
Plenty of time for our lives to be totally entwined and united
Not as much time as was taken for granted
Not enough time in forever to make this feel right
Part of my soul, part of my shadow, is lost tonight
Now, some six weeks on, I still think about her (and therefore cry) many times every day. However, I realise that the reason it hurts so much to loose my Golden Girl, and the reason that loosing her has left such a huge hole, is because of the enormous amount of life and great and good things that she brought into my life. I am grateful for every single day that I had her there with me. My other dogs have pulled me back to functioning in the real and present world, and I realise how lucky I am to have them, how precious every moment is. I think I appreciate them more than ever now. I feel the need to enjoy every moment I can with them. After all, the only thing we can be certain of, is that we have the moment that we are in.
Hoorah! The show season is starting up again. I have been to a couple of UKA shows so that I could do some training in the ring, particularly so that I could relax Deece into his first experience of competing and could give him lots of reward. It was also lovely to see people that I haven’t seen for a long time and I have had many interesting chats. It’s really good to be getting out to shows again! Thank you to the lovely people who came up to me to say how much they enjoy reading my blog, what a nice surprise! I have been asked to write something about warming up the human part of the partnership in readiness for stepping into the agility ring, so I have been thinking about that. I have a routine for warming up my dogs, as they obviously have the most athletically testing part of the performance, but I don’t have a warm up routine for myself. Probably partly (OK mostly!) because I’m lazy (for example, at the recent UKA show I was up at 5am and constantly on the move from the time I arrived at the show until the time that I left 8 hours later, apart from sitting down for a 20 minute lunch break, so didn’t feel like expending any more energy!) and partly because I’m self conscious about prancing around where people can see me! As a consequence of not warming up, I have tweaked something. So this is definitely something that is good to think about (and more importantly to action!). Why is warming up important? Movement is powered by skeletal muscle contractions. Our muscles are made of bundles of muscle fibres, and in turn these are made up of smaller structures called myofibrils, where the actual contraction occurs. Within myofibrils, there are two types of filaments; actin and myosin. According to the sliding filament theory, when a muscle is activated and movement occurs, these two interlocking filaments grab onto each other and pull like a ratchet system, which causes the myofibril to shorten. This shortening causes muscle contraction. The contraction is powered by calcium ions, an energy source (ATP), and for the contractions to continue beyond a few seconds, oxygen is also required. So the first requirement to efficient movement is to have a good oxygenated blood supply. By the time you reach the start line, ideally your heart should already be pumping, and you should be breathing more deeply, so that your circulatory/cardiovascular/pulmonary systems, muscles and physiology are fully ready to power your sprint round the course. Because it takes five to ten minutes for your body to respond to the demands of moving faster, your warm up should involve enough exertion for at least five to ten minutes beforehand to get to this state of readiness. Hmmm, I haven’t been doing this – unless the end of the class has been called and I have to charge back to the van to get a dog before I miss my run! However this is important, because an appropriate warm up should improve performance by: 1. Releasing adrenaline, which: Increases heart rate to a level appropriate for faster movement Enables oxygen in the blood to travel with greater speed Increases blood flow through active tissues as local vascular beds dilate, increases metabolism and muscle temperatures Increases production of synovial fluid located between the joints to reduce friction allowing joints to move more efficiently Causes dilation of blood capillaries, and therefore a better blood supply to the muscles 2. Increases muscle temperature Decreases viscosity of blood Enables oxygen in the blood to travel with greater speed Facilitates enzyme activity Encourages the dissociation of oxygen from haemoglobin facilitating oxygen utilization by warmed muscles Allows greater economy of movement because of lowered viscous resistance within warmed muscles Greater extensibility and elasticity of muscle fibres Increases force and speed of muscle contractions 3. Increases muscle metabolism Increses supply of energy through breakdown of glycogen Increases speed of nerve impulse conduction. Facilitated nerve transmission and muscle metabolism at higher temperatures; a specific warm up can facilitate motor unit recruitment required in subsequent all out activity 4. Aids mental preparation Allows time for you to become mentally focused on the training or competition ahead.
So warming seems like a very good idea, but what happens if you don’t warm up? Best case scenario - if your body isn’t ready to react to a sudden sprint, it simply won’t be able to respond quickly enough and you won’t be able to run as fast as you potentially can. More worryingly, ‘cold’ muscle, tendon and ligament is more prone to rip and tear if put under sudden stress (comprehensive warm-up programmes have been found to decrease injuries in soccer and athletics).
What would be a good warm up? A good warm up should be specific to task. Warming up before competing or sprinting should start with 5 or 10-minutes of jogging. Gentle running will get the blood flowing. This can be followed by dynamic flexibility exercises and some faster running. Current opinion is that static stretches are not a good idea while warming up. Firstly because if you stretch cold muscle, ligament and tendon you could over-stretch it and cause damage, a strain or a tear, secondly because it is not logical to want to have your muscle fibres stretched before you want efficient muscle contractions to power your sprint, and thirdly static stretching for too long can weaken the muscles temporarily. However, stretching all the muscles in this way after exercise is important to help prevent injury, shortening of muscle fibres, and allow greater flexibility and agility in the long term. Examples of dynamic stretches include: Arm Swings Swing each arm in a giant circle, maybe five forward rotations and a five backward rotations with each arm. Leg Swings With your left hand on a wall, stand on your right foot and swing your left leg backward and forward in an exaggerated kicking motion. Complete 10 swings and repeat with the right leg. Star jumps High knees – slow and fast Form drills include a slow motion, exaggerated high knee run. The aim is to concentrate on your running style, to make it efficient, smooth and powerful. Your arms should be moving straight forward and back, not across your body. The knee lift should be a powerful movement getting the knee as high as possible, rising onto the ball of your other foot. Once you have good form try a faster running on the spot with high knee movement. Heel kicks to bottom In a fast running style. Squats Imagine that you are going to sit down, so you are pushing your bottom out and back, and keeping your knees from going too far forward (you do not want them further forward than your toes, this will save your knees).
Warming down As mentioned above, it is a good idea to stretch after your run, but while your muscles are still warm. Stretching will aid recovery, keep you muscle fibres long and flexible, and help prevent injury.