Friday, November 28, 2014

Miss Nelson is Missing! (and November Resolution Recap)

Barley and I got to agility class on Tuesday to find a substitute teacher in place of our regular trainer.

Our agility trainer (who isn't actually named Miss Nelson) wasn't actually missing--she was visiting her new grandson--and we and our classmates hadn't been naughty or disrespectful and our substitute wasn't as bad as Miss Viola Swamp, but I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite childhood books Miss Nelson is Missing while we did our drills.

What do you mean Ms. Susan won't be in class?
We've had this sub a few times before and she's tough. She's our trainer's trainer, so it was a little like walking into an English class your freshman year of college and being handed a copy of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English--except this time I couldn't just ignore it and hope there wouldn't be too many questions about it on the test. Our turn at the drills was going to come up whether I liked it or not.

It was hard. We were working on counter rotations--which Barley does very well--but it was a difficult exercise for me to keep straight in my mind. There were four jumps and two tunnels set up in a circle, so it started out easy. Jump one jump, go through the tunnel, counter rotation over the second jump and back in the tunnel. Then things got complicated--we came out of the tunnel, did another counter rotation back into the tunnel, then went over the next two jumps before adding in another one. We kept going in one side of the tunnel and then the next adding things on until we did the whole circle. For some people, it might have sounded easy. But I'm the girl who still has to hold up her thumb and pointer finger to make an L to figure out left from right.

Even though it was hard, I love when we get to mix things up a little bit. Each trainer has a different style it keeps us from getting too comfortable (and believe me, comfortable is my favorite thing--I have 3 different live versions of John Mayer's "Comfortable" in my iTunes library). Our regular trainer is wonderful and has a solution to every crazy pants thing Barley does, but it's always nice to get a new perspective and to have someone that pushes us. Our sub had a vague idea of what we've been working on, but it's been several months since she's seen anyone's performance, so she pushes us out of our comfort zones and challenges us and that's good.

Do you mean crazy pants things like dragging you onto a snowy playground for a good romp?

We only had two other classmates this week, so we had plenty of turns to try to get the drills right. Our substitute is also the kind of trainer who shouts commands out as your running the drills to help you out while our usual trainer waits until we've finished our turn and then says, "Let me show you what you were doing; here's how to fix it." So, we had a little extra pressure on each turn--which is also good for pushing us to be better.

The biggest challenge was having someone who doesn't know my Barley girl very well. The last time we had this trainer substitute for us, Barley hadn't started nipping at me yet (but, of course, she had plenty of other issues). We haven't had that problem in the last three weeks and a lot of that is because of our extra practice on the football field, but also because our trainer has given us other tools for squashing that behavior in class. Of course, tonight, Barley was a little high strung because we had a new trainer and she also had her dogs in the training center--and even though they were in a pen, they were still visible and Bar was interested. Since her normal routine was thrown off a bit, Barley was wound up on her first few turns and started nipping. When I started to put her in an immediate down, our sub said, "Oh no. That won't work. Do this," which of course was the opposite of what our regular trainer has been telling us (and the immediate down has been working!). I tried it anyway because the more tools I have for helping Crazy, the better, but it's always a little confusing for me--and I'm sure for Barley--to be told conflicting things, so I've found it's really just trial and error with some of our issues. The new techniques worked and by our third turn Barley was back to normal, but it wasn't as natural for either of us, so we probably won't continue with them.

I did feel like we had a small victory when our sub said, "I've seen you two a few times and every time you've done better than the time before. You did a great job getting her back to you when she just wanted to run." So, it was a really challenging class on a lot of levels, but I'm really proud of us and now I know we're capable of doing some challenging drills (as long as I can remember which direction I'm supposed to go next!). 

Are you sure this isn't the same as the teeter in class?
We didn't have the best week of walking, but it wasn't our worst either at 16.58 miles this week, which puts us at 982.79 miles with a month to go in our goal. We met our new goal of walking every day, whether that was a quick trip to the end of the street or a nice extended neighborhood stroll.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and food!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Setting New Goals

Before I talk about our weather affecting our goals, I just want to say that if you or your loved ones live in the Buffalo area I hope that you (they) are warm and safe. After seeing pictures of the storm earlier in the week, I will never complain about snow again! I can't imagine how scary that situation must be. Barley and I are sending everyone affected by the snow love and warm wishes.

We've been dealing with our own unpleasant winter weather, so it's time to reevaluate our goals. I knew that there would come a day when we wouldn't be able to continue walking 3 miles every day--after all, we started off not being able to walk more than half a mile at a time in January and February--but I didn't expect that day to come before Thanksgiving.

Then on Tuesday, I woke up to a snow day phone call. There wasn't much snow on the ground at our place, but apparently campus was basically in a not-so-magical snow globe where there was very little visibility. I wasn't going to complain--it was bitter cold, so being able to stay home was fine with me!

Feels like 3 degrees!

It was too cold for a long walk. We tried to start a walk, knowing we wouldn't get far, but I thought we could make it to the end of the street and back. We made it .21 miles and my face was freezing, so I knew Barley's feet must be chilly and we turned back around.

Barley's not the type of dog to tolerate booties. We've never tried Musher's Secret because she tolerates me messing with her paws, but not long enough to apply it effectively to each one. So, we just have to keep our walks short and sweet and most importantly safe.

Yesterday, our streets were finally clear and relatively dry long enough to get in over a mile. It was still ridiculously cold, but since we had options that would at last keep Barley's feet out of the snow, we were still able to get in a good walk.

Barley thought we should really be playing on the playground.

We didn't come anywhere close to meeting the 21-mile weekly goal this week, only logging 14.31 miles. Keep my pup safe is far more important than any other goal, so it's time to reevaluate our goals. We are at 963.95 miles for the year, which means we only have 36.05 miles left or .9 miles a day. While I'm still going to shoot for 3 miles a day as often as possible, we'll consider our weeks a success as long as we hit the .9-mile mark each day. (And don't worry--we'll be heading south for the holidays, so even the cold weather there is still tolerable walking weather for us--I'm not anticipating any problems!)

So very close to 1000!

We've also been taking advantage of the extra indoor time to play with Barley's new BarkBox items and even do a little bit of noseworks practice inside.

Despite this weird face, Barley really loved her little chef hedgehog from BarkBox.

Soth has also convinced us to spend a little more time snuggling, so he's happy, too!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Twilight Zone: The Weather Episode

While I was gushing over my love of fall a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I hadn't really experienced seasons growing up. It was hot or it was not hot (but not cold, either).

On Tuesday, we had the most beautiful, sunny, warmish day. I also had the day off of work for Veteran's Day (a big thank you to all of our service men and women, including both of my grandpas!), so we got to thoroughly enjoy two nice warm walks before our agility class and logged a total of 5 miles for the day.

Our Garmin watch said this was our weather during our 4-mile walk.

By Thursday, it was like we lived on a totally different planet. Snow was forecasted throughout Wednesday night into Thursday morning, so I got my hopes up for a snow day. But there was hardly even a dusting on the yard when we got up.

Barley thinks this amount of snow is worthless.
I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to leave my nice cozy apartment and I left for work.

Thursdays are my short days, so I headed up 3 hours later and by the time I got home Barley was a happy dog--there was lots of snow to romp in.

The snow kept falling for hours. After our first play session, I ate some lunch and braced myself for a walk. We haven't missed a day since August 26, so we couldn't start now! The snow had really piled up by the time we headed out the door, but Barley didn't mind one bit. She kept sticking her head into snow drifts and prancing alongside me.

There were a few brief moments of color as a couple trees had colorful leaves still hanging on and one had beautiful red berries. 

Our Garmin weather report looked significantly different after our final walk of the week. It should be illegal for the temperature to be less than half the temperature from earlier in the week!

Despite the fact that I had to bundle up and that my recently cleaned floors have now had snow slush tracked on them, it was fun seeing my girl have so much fun.

She's spent most of the day looking out the window watching the snow.

We had one small tragedy during our evening snow romp when one of Barley's favorite toys disappeared in the snow. I had my phone out so I could make a video of her joy to share with my southern friends and she tossed it up, kept running, and then the toy was gone. At the end of the video, you can see her running into a snow drift where she'd previously thrown her toy and she's absolutely sure her toy is going to be there again--and then it's not. It just breaks my heart. Luckily, as I was retracing her tracks and kicking snow around trying to find it, she found it on her own; I was almost certain we'd be missing that toy until spring.

We got in two separate short walks and two good play sessions in the backyard. Of course, Barley thinks we should have done more and kepts trying to lure me outside--but I've gotta ease into this snow thing again, so 2.2 miles of walking is all I had in me. Thanks to the beautiful weather at the beginning of the week, we logged 23.02 miles this week, so the short week last week has almost been made up for.

Barley and I hope that everyone else is having a warm FitDog Friday or at least getting to enjoy the same sort of glee Barley's been experiencing!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Daylight Savings Time, Bandages, and the Plague--oh my!

We've had another slow week of walking. With it getting dark so early this week, we've had a tough time figuring out how to fit in our 3 miles after work, so that's contributed to our slow week. I'm sure we'll figure out how to fit the miles in after we've had a few days to adjust.

I've also become a temporary nurse--one of my co-workers rescued a dog that got hit by a car and needs daily water therapy and bandage changing. Since I'm the campus crazy dog lady and the one who lives closest to him, I've been recruited to help with this process. It really only takes 30 minutes to take care of the dog and I know the struggles of being a single pet parent well, so I'm happy to help out, but it's also been a new addition to my schedule at a time when I've already got papers coming in from all 5 of my classes and very few weeks left in the semester to get them graded and returned.

In addition to giving me a lot of papers, my students have also given me the plague--ok, not really, but they have shared some sort of germs with me. I've been sniffly and headachy, so I've opted to do short walks a few days since we've had several cold, wet days and I don't want to get worse. After a long nap yesterday, I am finally starting to feel more like myself, so I think that was a smart decision.

Even though we didn't get in three miles a day, we got at least the 1.5 miles we need to reach our goal + a little extra and got 18.16 miles in this week.

The lower-than-usual-mileage has lead to a silly Barley dog in the evenings. She's taken a liking to Sothlice's catnip spider toy. She picks it up, tosses it in the air, nibbles at it. Since she insisted on playing with her brother's toy, I insisted that we do a quick photoshoot with it.

Eek! A spider!

We're bracing ourselves for another cold, wet weekend, but I'm hoping that motivates me to really sit down and be productive with grading so that I can enjoy having the day off on Tuesday for Veteran's Day.

We aren't ready for this!

In other walking news, my Merrell shoes I got this spring have been retired. There are several spots where the sole is almost totally worn away. They went through a lot with us this year and covered ground in 4 different states. RIP friends.