Friday, September 13, 2013

Bing's shaping games

Bing is a very energetic little character! I have started teaching him tricks, which are fabulous in so many ways; a) keeping him out of trouble, b) teaching him how to learn, c) teaching me how to teach him, d) expanding his problem-solving abilities, e) progressing his body awareness, proprioception, balance and co-ordination, f) building a stronger bond between us.
Here he is playing 'get in the box'


Bing learning to front feet target

Bing learning to balance on a wobble cushion

Bing teaching me the 'five second rule', I got up off my chair, turned around and this is what I saw!!

How hard is it to be healthy?

My energy is slowly returning, it has felt like a long slow process! But at last my joie de vie is seeping back, and this makes me feel relieved as well as very happy! I keep hearing of more and more of my friends and colleagues who have become seriously ill, and as a result are no longer eating gluten. Wikipedia tells me that coeliac disease is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 40-60 (yes sadly myself and my friends are now moving into this age bracket!). I guess the effects of the auto-immune problems and malnutritian take a long while to take hold, and build up to a level where it becomes a big enough problem to stop you dead in your tracks. So how difficult is it to be healthy? Harder than I thought to be honest! (And more expensive!!) (and I didn't think I was that unhealthy before, but helllooo! Wake up time!). Now (and forever more) grabbing a sandwich, pie, biscuit or bit of cake are all off the menu for me (along with most ready meals), so I have had to allocate more time and effort into sorting out what I eat. Funny also that when I'm out at meal times and ask for gluten free food, people think I have put myself on a calorie controlled diet and must only want to eat a lettuce leaf plus maybe half a tomato. Hmmm, no!! I would like to eat a tasty filling nutritious meal that does not poison me! I am not purposefully depriving myself of food because I want to be thin, what I would like is to be healthy and full of energy, as opposed to being really really exhausted and ill. So now I have to put together a balanced nutritional plan, making sure I am making up for previous malnurishment. Quite a lot of things to consider! but I am feeling so much better, so it is most definitely worth it. (Actually I would love a cream tea or a beer with a pizza but - well tough! If I wanted to I could drink crabbies ginger beer or cider, and eat chocolate, so all is not lost. Although now my body is a temple of course....)(Ha ha ha). Life is good.

Puppy progress

I took Bing to a co-ordination and balance (body awareness/proprioception) workshop last week, and was very embarrassed to realise that, despite having wobble boards and lots of other equipment available, I had not shown Bing many of the things before. It was a fun evening; three of the Basileas Babies were there (Bings brother and sister).They found everything easy! They are all incredibly well co-ordinated, full credit to 'Grandma' Fran as she had all sorts of wobble cushions and other things for the pups to play with from a young age. So what have I been doing? I thought perhaps I should blog about it, so that I don't forget! The day I bought Bing home, he objected every time I got more than arms length away from him. He has a very good pair of lungs!!! He also, despite having hundreds of toys, much prefers chewing wires :-S  So the first thing was to find a way to get Bing to be happy (and quiet) in a crate.

Next, of course, the big important thing for puppies is to make sure they are happy and confident in all sorts of environments, so Bing has been out and about to have as many positive experiences as possible around people (shops, cafes), horses, cattle, sheep, birds, noisy places, childrens playgrounds. Finally, I always say, if you only teach your dog one thing, teach it to come when you call!!

Friday, August 16, 2013


I am very happy to introduce 'Bing' (Basileas Bing It On), my little bundle of joy :-)

The roller coaster of life

Well I haven’t blogged for a long time. I have had a bad patch and not only have been feeling too poorly and exhausted to think about blogging, but also I don’t think many people would be interested in reading about nothing but my woes! So what do I have to bring to the table that makes it worth me blogging now? I want to say something that might be useful to others now, and so this blog will be in two parts. Part one is what has happened and what I have learned from it (the bit that might be useful to others). Part two will be the positive things that have resulted.

 So, to start with,  many major things broke on the home front (I have had no central heating all winter as I couldn’t afford to get it fixed, then had a major greenhouse collapse, then more household, caravan and van problems followed). I won’t dwell on too many details, but in addition I have not felt well for quite some time now. During June I suffered a serious kidney infection, and for a few weeks while the infection took hold of me, I was overcome with fever, chills and pain, and was unable to do anything but sleep. Worryingly my local doctors surgery were so booked up I couldn’t get to see a doctor immediately, and by the time I was seen, I was told I should probably be in hospital. Luckily for me my wonderful sister took the dogs and I in to look after us all. Because there is another, as yet unidentified, health problem or problems underlying that infection, I have been in and out of the surgery and hospital for tests ever since that time. Again, worrying that it is so difficult to find out about all my test results. I keep chasing, but they just seem to go missing. If you cannot get an expert opinion it is too easy to google in order to look for answers. I think I am fairly pragmatic in my self diagnosis and treatment, and have chosen to believe that eating healthily, getting enough sleep, exercise and looking after myself is the front line approach to a return to health (although I have decided to take multi-vitamins and some immune system stimulating herbs as well). Because coeliac disease was implicated I have been eating a gluten free diet (harder than expected, especially considering that there seem to be such a lot of people avoiding gluten). Most of my symptoms have lessoned or gone, although I still feel absolutely exhausted.

So the result of all this as far as agility is concerned is that I have missed the majority of the competition season this year, and now find myself at the end of the season unfit, exhausted, and with my dogs untrained and not as fit as they could be as well. I have managed to go to those shows where I had a commitment, ie I judged at Easter Celebration, Thames and the KC International Agility Festival, and ring managed both days of the Agility Club show. I apologise for not being able to judge the whole day at KCIAF last weekend, I did not feel well enough to do the whole day. Thanks so much to Clive Hildersley for taking over the judging in the afternoon. Apologies also if I have looked surly, I know one person did comment that he thought that I was blanking him, I assure everyone that is not the case, I just have not been feeling very well (I must have a grumpy ‘ill face’). I will also say that I have never been sure how much of chronic fatigue syndrome is in the mind, but now I can tell you, although I cannot find sufficient words to express it well, how being exhausted all the time is devastating, and it has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Neither my mind nor body are working very well. What I want to say to everyone is that generally speaking we just don’t appreciate our health enough, until it is compromised. When I think how often women think that being thin is more important than being healthy! How could we get it so wrong! Health is so important, because nothing is terribly important any more if you have no energy. So I want to say to everyone please, please eat for your health and look after yourselves!

I will try to be brief but want to give a demonstration about the escalation of problems once your health is compromised. Let us consider the case of coeliac disease as it is topical to this blog, and according to some research may affect up to 1% of the population (in the USA). Wikipedia tells us that Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a prolamin (gluten protein) found in wheat, and similar proteins found in the crops of the tribe Triticeae (which includes other common grains such as barley and rye). Upon exposure to gliadin, and specifically to three peptides found in prolamins, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the small-bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. That leads to a truncating of the villi lining the small intestine (called villous atrophy). This interferes with the absorption of nutrients because the intestinal villi are responsible for absorption, effectively leading to malnutrition. The only known treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. While the disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as wheat allergy. Once malabsorbtion is occuring, Anaemia may develop in several ways: iron malabsorption may cause iron deficiency anaemia, and folic acid and vitamin B12 malabsorption may give rise to megaloblastic anaemia. Calcium and vitamin D malabsorption (and compensatory secondary hyperparathyroidism) may cause osteopenia (decreased mineral content of the bone) or osteoporosis (bone weakening and risk of fragility fractures). Vitamin D malabsorption may cause problems with your immune system working effectively, and  Coeliac disease is also associated with bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, which can worsen malabsorption or cause malabsorption despite adherence to treatment. I could postulate that a kidney infection (usually caused by E. coli, a bacteria present in the intestines), would not be surprising. A small proportion of cases have abnormal coagulation due to vitamin K deficiency and are slightly at risk for abnormal bleeding. Coeliac disease has been linked with a number of other conditions including:  IgA deficiency is present in 2.3% of people with coeliac disease, and in turn this condition features a tenfold increased risk of coeliac disease. Other features of this condition are an increased risk of infections and autoimmune disease. Hyposplenism (a small and underactive spleen) occurs in about a third of cases and may predispose people to infection, given the role of the spleen in protecting against bacteria. Abnormal liver function tests  are randomly detected on blood tests. Coeliac disease is associated with a number of other medical conditions, many of which are autoimmune disorders: diabetes mellitus type 1, autoimmune thyroiditis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and microscopic colitis.


 Part 2.

Although I don’t want to be overly dramatic, being very ill does make you think about your own mortality, especially while you are awaiting diagnosis and are aware that you could be facing something that you might not recover from (the doctor did test for cancer; coeliac disease if left untreated can lead to cancer). In addition, while I don’t want to disclose the details of the lives of my friends, knowing that some of those who are dear to me are facing some serious challenges is also quite sobering. We are all equal in that we are born, we live a while, we die. I will leave you to ponder more on that if you want to, aware that I could easily digress from the positive outcome I am intending to write about. One of the most comforting things someone said to me during a particularly low point when I was mourning the loss of Becky, was that it was less important how long she lived than how well she lived. This low point was earlier this year, leading up to the second anniversary of her death. Those words brought comfort because she was indeed very much loved, and we really did have a wonderful time together. My attitude began to improve from melancholy when I thought more on the reason that losing her left such a big hole was because of how much she brought in to my life, and I  felt with more and more certainty that I would rather feel that sadness and mourn her loss, than never have had her here. All these factors also keep reminding me of how important it is to live now and not put things off, make the most of any opportunity that comes your way. Around the same time I remember joking with a good friend that I would be very annoyed if, having scrimped and saved for the next 20 years so that I can pay off all my debts, I died in 10. Although I didn’t know it at the time, all these changes to my outlook occurred on the day a special little puppy was born.

I have loved Pyrenean Sheep Dogs for a few years now, but have not been able to find the right puppy here in the UK. Encouraged by friends I have been searching on the continent, and thought I would have to drive over to France (or Sweden) to get my puppy. Then a freak series of events led me to discover a little merle puppy born not very far from me. He was everything I was looking for, except he is not a PSD! He is  Mini American Shepherd A rather quick decision had to be made as he had been booked but then had become unexpectedly available, however there was quite a list of people who wanted him had I decided not to have him. Getting him feels absolutely the right thing to have done. He is full of joy.  I expect he will be featuring on this blog in the future, he is a little dog with a big character, and has already made a huge impression on my heart.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

Zazzy running dog walk March 8 2013

Here is a bit more video of Zazzy's running dog walk training March 8th 2013

Zazzy's running dog walk

It has not been that easy to decide whether to blog about Zazzy's running dog walk. I rather hoped that I would be able to retrain her from a stopped contact to running over the winter, but unfortunately neither hope nor determination turned out to be enough! What we absolutely did need is regular access to an adjustable dog walk!! The training was going so well that is makes me really sad to admit defeat. But unfortunately, the only adjustable dog walk I have access to requires a 50 mile round trip and to hire an indoor school. This means that we have not even managed to keep up once a week training, it has been a couple of months now and we have had very few sessions. On top of that the show season has started, and as the running contact behavior is not ready for competition, we have been using a stop. At the last training session I could not get Zazzy to run the contact, she seemed to think I was proofing her stop (even though the two behaviours are on different cues, I think the new run cue is just too new and too infrequently used). I don't think it would be fair to keep going with it now, I don't want to confuse her. The mat and plank work went really well, and I have to say Zazzy absolutely loved the running contact training! She was shouting for more!
Mat work is easy to do as I could take mats anywhere, we could do some lunchtime running where ever we were. Making transportable planks was fairly arduous, but once I had made them, I could take those on occasion too, and/or use them in my back garden. Once we were on a dog walk plank, and the early stages of raising it, well that wasn't too difficult to set up at friendly venues. However, March came around too soon, so we went back to a stopped contact for our Crufts team event. Around that time I started to struggle with not having a full dog walk set up that I could use regularly. If we had not started the show season, if I could have let her forget the stopping behaviour, and if I had a set up that we could use regularly, I have no doubt that Zazzy could have acheived a successful switch from stopped to running. She really seemed to 'get' it. Here is a bit of video to show where she had got to by February.
I am glad that I have given it a try, we have both really enjoyed it, and I have learnt loads about how dogs move, as well as getting more experience of shaping behaviours. I could not get a second video to load, but it shows clearly that without shaping, zazzy would not run just through the end of the contact, she would stride over it most the time. I also would love to have another go! Teaching it as a first behaviour, rather than a re-train, is something I would love to try.


Unfortunately early May has become a sad time of year for me, as I lost my treasured little Becky to cancer in May two years ago. Because I always cry when I think about it, I don't speak about it very much, even two years on. She was only 11 years old and I feel she should have had many more years, she was taken from me far too soon, and I still feel a huge amount of grief, sadness and devastation. When I lost her I learnt so much more than I previouly realised about how precious my dogs are to me, how their time with us is far too short, and how it is really important to make the most of every moment. Someone very wise said to me recently, it is not the length of life that is important, it is the quality of the lives we live while we are here. Well Becky and I sure had one hell of a good time together! I don't think I am exaggerating to say that she turned my life onto a different path, perhaps that's why I miss her walking next to me so much. However, slowly (thanks to my wonderful friends for their patience!) I feel that I am thinking more about all the good, amazing, brilliant times she filled my life with, and dwelling less on the sadness of losing her. I felt for a very long time that I could not have another dog because it was just too painful when you lose them. However now I also realise that the reason that they leave such a big hole in your life is because they enrich your life so much when they are here. If you try to avoid the pain of losing your best friend by not having one, you miss out on an immensely rich tapestry of life, and it is even sader to not live to the full during the relatively short time you are alive and able! Every day my little guys make me laugh with their joyful antics, and I feel so lucky to have such a great rapport with them. 
Rest In Peace Becky, thank you for the wonderful time we had.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Short adventure!

I have had a wonderful time away, stopping off in the Lake District on the way up to Scotland. We competed at the Kingdom of Fife Championship show, where Deece was more enthusiastic than accurate, but Zazzy did really well and won the championship reserve ticket :-)
Then we went on to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, where we only had one good day of weather sadly, but made the most of it! This is Loch Katrine viewed from Ben A'an.

 The wind then got up, gusting so hard it was hard to keep walking even halfway up the hills, and the rain came down in bucket loads. So we didn't get to the top of any more hills, instead headed for the beautiful west coast.....
 After a run on the beach, we made our way back through Glen Coe, which was awesomely beautiful

 The weather eased up enough for a lovely walk there

 We even had a rainbow.....
 Then two!! (Bit faint but you can just about make them out)
Despite lots of weather....
One thing I love about Deece is that he always makes the most of every situation, and even in the cold and pouring rain made me chuckle by his enthusiasm for a paddle in any puddle :-)
I am astonished that anyone can survive up there with just a bit of tartan to keep them warm! I can only say that the Highlanders must be an extremely hardy bunch!

At the end of the week I headed down to Lincoln for the British team try-outs, a weekend of tests set up to select eight of the very best large sized dogs with their handlers (plus 4 medium and 4 small sized dogs) to compete for Britain in the European Championships. It was a brilliant weekend, I really enjoyed the courses and skills tests, loved seeing some great agility, and loved the fab company! I really enjoyed immersing myself in agility for the weekend :-) There were some outstanding performances, there were some unlucky runs, and there were a couple of dogs for whom sadly it was just not their weekend at all! I am pretty sure we all know how that feels! A good agility run is exhilerating and can  make you feel on top of the world, but equally the next run can (and usually does) bring you right back down to Earth! Neither myself nor my two dogs really managed our best performances, however I absolutely loved the FCI style courses and the skills tests, learnt a lot, it was great to watch, and I got a good shot of motivation, so all in all a very worthwhile experience! Perhaps I shouldn't be too harsh on reflection, Zazzy was lying nineth until a tiny lapse of judgement on my part got her eliminated in the team run. The only fly in the ointment was that we had an FCI tyre as an obstacle in our last test course (having not seen one before, and as an owner of a particularly large sized, inexperienced young dog - the aperture they had to jump through looked tiny and surrounded by a metal frame and lots of tapes/ropes). This upset me for many reasons, safety of my dogs being top of the list, plus I thought it was not strictly necessary at this stage as it would only test who had trained on a FCI tyre before rather than speed and accuracy, and possibly even inappropriate to have it in the course because it belonged to one of the competitors. I felt it would not be fair to ask Deece to attempt it at speed so chose to miss it out, rather than take any risk of him hurting himself, even though this would get us disqualified. Under FCI rules stopping him to set him up to attempt the tyre more safely would also result in disqualification so I saw no point in attempting it at all. I only watched half the large dogs run this event but even so saw three dogs hit the tyre hard enough to break it, another five hit it not quite so hard, and one missed the tyre but jumped through the surrounding metal frame. Anyway here is Deece's run, missing out the tyre:

and here is his jumping run (Thanks to Becca for filming these!):

Although cold, the sun came out at last, horrah! and there were many sunburnt (and windburnt!) faces at the end of the weekend.
I would like to thank to some lovely people over the last couple of weekends, to Peter and Tricia Elms who were so kind, helpful and generally lovely up in Scotland (where everyone seems so nice!), and everyone at Lincoln for a great show and being such good company, we had loads of laughter and a really good time.
Finally, thank you to the 'gentleman' I passed on the trail at the top of Ben A'an, who certainly embodied the spirit of the current advert that says 'Visit Scotland..... Surprise yourself'. Well I certainly got one big surprise! I was chuckling all week following our encounter, which started with him saying 'Oh hello, I wasn't expecting to see anyone up here... I haven't got any clothes on....' It seems very strange to want to be in the cold and windy hills without any protection, but each to their own I guess!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Easter Celebration agility show

Easter Celebration was my first open show in over six months, in fact our last KC show was the KC International Agility Festival last August! It has been a really cold March, actually I have been the coldest I have felt all winter.
I competed one day and judged the next. My dogs were brilliant, but I felt a bit rusty, and some sloppy late cues got both dogs eliminated in the Olympia qualifier which was a shame as I loved the course set up by Leslie Osborne. Deece was excited to be competing but unfortunately had one or two poles down in every run. Zazzy was around two seconds slower than Deece around each course, but was clear! She came 10th in her jumping and 3rd in her agility.

On Sunday I judged jumping classes, grade 7 large, grade 6 large, grade 6 and 7 medium, and a helter-skelter of jumps and tunnels for large grades 1 and 2. When judging I really will everyone on to do well. It was thought provoking when someone said perhaps I should just put up a circle of jumps then, so everyone can do well. To me agility is a test of control and speed, and I love to see a harmonious partnership attack a course with a good display of both. A circle is a test of who has the fastest dog, but the joy I got from watching the good runs around the courses I put up showed what fantastic trainers and handlers there are around right now. Brilliant displays of control and speed were exactly what I saw in a large number of runs around my courses at the weekend. I saw lots of different ways to handle the courses too, which was great. There really was some spine-tingling brilliance. I hate to single out one run, but Toni Dawkins guided Cute round the grade 6 course to win with about three seconds to spare, which is a massive margin, especially when it is more common for the top ten rounds to all be within the same second of each other in competitions here in south east England. I was very pleased for her as it was Cute’s final win to take him up to grade 7.

Here is the G7 jumping course:
This is the G6 large and G6/7 medium jumping course:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mini holiday

We have had a fabulous little break. After Crufts my sister and I went on for a few days holiday in the Peak District, which was beautiful. Deece and I also got to do some training with Janita Leinonen & Jaakko Suoknuuti which was fantastic.

Zazzy at Crufts

I was so pleased with Zazzy at Crufts, she was the happiest and most and confident I have ever seen her at a big event, and we had a fabulous time and really enjoyed it. You can see her run on the video at about 26 minutes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Back to training!

My dogs have had a nice break from agility, and now I have carefully and gradually brought them back into training. They have had lots of walks, swimming and running, plus we have been doing lots of core muscle group strength games. I have started on Zazzys running dog walk training and am pleased with how it is going. Considering I am trying to re-train her at 5 years old, I knew it would take a while, but actually it will probably take longer than I thought. I am keeping a stopped dog walk in training on a different cue, I will need this for Crufts in a few weeks! Here is her running A-frame, extract taken from a Matthew Goodliffe training day I went to over the weekend:
I am pleased with Deece as well here is a video of him on the handling section of the training day:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Can anyone help look for Ian Balchin's sheltie?

Update - Trouble has been found, he is safe and well. Ian wants to thank everyone who has helped

Lost: Tri - Mostly Black Shetland Sheepdog Male In South East (GU51)

DogLost - Reuniting Lost Dogs With Their Owners - TROUBLE's Lost Dog Poster  

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