Monday, January 14, 2019

2018 Resolution Recap: A Family Affair

For the last 6 years, we've set goals for our mileage each year. For 2018, our goal was 1050 miles and Barley had to be along for at least 850 miles. I thought that would help me give Rye a little more solo time and give Barley a chance to relax a little because she is 9 and walks are a little slower than they were 6 years ago.

2018 started out rough with a lot of snow and extremely cold temperatures. We managed to get 61.74 miles in January and 63.45 miles in February, but we were not making much of a dent in our mileage. In March, Rye and I started agility trials and March and April were abysmal months for walking because we had several weekends occupied by trials. Eventually, I figured out ways to get walks in between runs so that Rye and I could earn some mileage, but for the first third of the year, we dug a deep hole that was hard to climb out of to meet our goal.

By December, we were at 917.04 miles total, so we needed132.96 miles to meet our goal. Barley had 775.99 miles. I felt confident that Barley could get the 74.01 miles we needed to meet her goal for the year, but we needed an additional 58.95 miles to meet the total goal for the year. We needed to get 4.29 miles per day every day in December to meet our goal.

We walked a lot in the first couple weeks of December. It didn't matter if it was cold, wet, windy, or any other kind of miserable conditions. We were out there.

One day, we were walking in a cold drizzle and I was trying to convince Barley that she did want to walk. I was trying to convince myself that I wanted to walk. Rye had to poop and was walking like she was a feral animal attached to leash for the first time. We looked up and saw a man with a camera--who ended up being the photographer from the local paper who was taking pictures for their photo section. Thankfully, none of us looked as miserable when the photo was published as we felt when it was taken!

By the time we got to my parents' house on December 18, we had 984.35 miles--and still needed 65.65 miles with only 13 days to get them. 

Y'all. My family was amazing. My mom entertained Barley while I took Rye for some solo walks in their neighborhood. Both of my parents took us to trails where we could get walks without the interference of neighborhood dogs that roam their neighborhood.

My parents, especially my mom, didn't complain about joining our "boot camp" and walking every day until our legs felt like they might fall off.

Rye was so happy to be reunited with me after I left her with her grandma while I ran in for a potty break.

My sister was also fantastic. She had to log some miles for her half marathon training plan, so she went to various trails with us on several occasions and ran while we walked.

Rye thought running with Aunt L sounded a lot more fun than walking.

Despite several very rainy days, we got out every single day (most days, twice a day). One day, there had been so much rain that the trail around the lake had flooded. This flushed an armadillo out of its home and up along the trail, which Rye and I found equally exciting. Rye also loved splashing through puddles on the trail where there were several inches of water over the trail (Barley did her best to find the high ground and tip toe through the puddles).

On December 31, my parents, my sister, and my brother and sister-in-law, all headed out to a trail with us to finish out our goal with a 2.8 mile walk. 

We got in 66.87 miles in 13 days and finished the year with 1051.22 miles for the year and Barley was along for 895.19 of those miles.

It was nerve racking and exhausting and for the first time in years, I really didn't have any confidence that we'd make our goal. Without the support of my family, we definitely would not have made it this year.

I spent several days thinking about our 2019 goal. We missed 30 days of walking in 2018 due to weather, agility trials, injury/illness, and life in general. 2019 is only going to be more hectic now that both dogs are competing in scent work and agility and Rye's competing in barn hunt. Barley's also 9 now, and she does get tired more quickly than she used to. I didn't want to set us up to fail. I also didn't want to choose a goal that was so low that we'd become complacent. Walking has been a huge part of lives and I didn't want to lose that.

For 2019, our goal is to walk 1025 miles--and that can be made up of any combination of dogs, either solo walks with Barley or Rye or family walk, as long as I'm walking with one of my two dogs, the miles count. That averages out to about 2.8 miles per day. Right now, our goal is just to walk every day--whether that's half a mile or 5 miles; we're taking whatever miles Mother Nature will let us have right now and once spring arrives, we'll focus on actually meeting the daily mileage goals. Hopefully, a slightly smaller goal will keep us from having to walk 134+ miles in December while still getting us up off the couch most days.

Friday, January 11, 2019

There's No Q Like a Res-Q

November and December were busy months, especially for Rye! We had five weekends in a row where she had some sort of activity on our social calendar.

My favorite moment was our adoption weekend agility trial. We usually don't do three days of agility, but I figured there was no better way to celebrate two years together than with a full weekend of Rye's favorite thing. I'd ordered a couple new rescue agility shirts for the weekend and saved my "There's No Q Like a Res-Q" shirt for our actual adoption anniversary.

That Friday, we only ran one course--the FAST course--because they were only offering Excellent/Master classes for everything else and we were only in Excellent for Standard. Doing FAST seemed like a fun warm up for the weekend even though we NQ'd. On Saturday, we were entered in Standard and Jumpers and we had some fabulous runs, but NQ'd on both courses. We got to take some fun pictures with the Christmas decorations they were putting up during the trial. 

And on Sunday, our adoptionversary, we got the Q we needed in Jumpers to get our Open title and move up to Excellent Jumpers. 

We had to make sure that Rye's BFF the cat was in the picture.

The next weekend, we were entered in one day of a Barn Hunt trial. It was our first Barn Hunt trial. I went into the trial feeling pretty confident. We'd done a run-thru the Monday before and Rye was on fire. We'd done three runs and in the last one, she'd found the rat, done her climb, and gone through the tunnel in 25 seconds. We started with the Instinct course where they have three tubes in this tray; one is empty, one has litter, and one has a rat and the dog has to identify the rat tube. We hadn't done much training with instinct in the past, and I think Rye was just confused. She kept wanting to search in the hay instead of paying any attention to the tubes, so I called "Rat" on the only tube she really paid attention to and it wasn't right. We also NQ'd on our first round of Novice because we just ran out of time. She was one bale away from the tube, so if we'd had another 10 seconds, she would have found it. In our second Novice run, she climbed, tunneled, and alerted on the rat in 1 minute and 9 seconds, which was fast enough to earn 4th place.

We were back on the agility course the next weekend. Rye had some really nice runs and we walked away with our first Excellent Jumpers Q. (We moved up to Excellent on the Standard courses in late October and we're still waiting on our first Excellent Standard Q!) There was a professional photographer from Columbus Sports Photography Network at the trial and we were able to purchase some photos from him. I was torn between purchasing the really good photos and the ones that made me laugh really hard, so I decided not to choose. 

Rye does NOT like stopping on the table and she's very vocal about it.

We followed that weekend with another weekend of agility with one day of birthday fun for Barley in between. We had some good standard runs, but still NQ'd on both courses. On Friday, we got our second Excellent Jumpers Q.

On Sunday, we started with FAST. There are only really three ways to NQ in a FAST course: fail to get the send bonus, fail to get enough points, or start with the finish jump. We needed 2 more Qs to move up to Excellent Fast and we'd been struggling to get them because we kept getting sends with an A-Frame in them and Rye has been inconsistent in getting her contacts, especially when I'm far away from her. We finally got a jump-tunnel send and I was confident in my plan for getting it. I set Rye up for the first jump and she went rogue and took the finish jump first. I think we had the shortest FAST run of the weekend. We ended up getting our third Excellent Jumpers Q and now we're competing at the Master level. Our third Q wasn't exactly pretty--and I definitely squealed a couple times when Rye thought about off course obstacles--but it was effective!

It took us 5 1/2 months to move up from Open to Excellent and two weekends to move up from Excellent to Master!  To get our next title, the Master Excellent Jumpers title, we'll need 10 Qs--but the Master level courses are exactly the same courses that we've been running for Excellent, so I'm really excited to see how this goes. We'll also be collecting points towards our Master Agility Champion (MACH) title, which needs 750 points and 20 Double Q's (or qualifying scores on Jumpers and Standard courses on the same day). You get 1 point for each full second under standard course time. We won't be able to collect any QQ's until we move up to Master for Standard, too, though. It's crazy to me how fast this little girl has caught on to this sport. We really feel like a team now and I'm having so much fun with her (although I still love the zen of running with Barley). 

Our fifth weekend of sports was a weekend of AKC Scent Trials for both dogs. We took a nice two week break to relax and enjoy time with family, but we're looking forward to a full calendar for the next few months. We've only got one free weekend between now and the end of March and we wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

An Agility Debut

I always said that Barley would never compete in an agility trial. As much as she loves her crate, she will not crate around other dogs that she doesn't know. She also doesn't tolerate barking and excitement from other dogs well. I knew that the environment would be too stressful for her. Apparently I should have listened to that whole "Never Say Never" message when I watched An American Tale over and over again growing up. 

I love running courses with Rye. Running with Rye is a lot like riding a roller coaster: you get faster and faster and hold your breath and your stomach is in butterflies while you wait for the bottom to fall out. It's fun, it's thrilling, it's entertaining. But it's not running with Barley and that has made every single trial bittersweet, especially our very first trials. We've met some really amazing people at trials, but none of them knew Barley, who is the very biggest part of my life. Without Barley, there would be no agility in my life. Spending time with people and talking to them without them knowing Barley was really hard. Once we got to trials where our classmates were competing, it was a little easier since they all know her, but there's always been a part of me that wished Barley could compete.

Rye and I have started trialing fairly regularly at a place that's less than an hour from home that's in a fantastic building. There's a ton of close parking with multiple doors (that are all glass, so you can always see if someone is coming out when you're trying to go in). It's one ring and they run the Novice and Open dogs at the end of the day, so most of the dogs are already gone by the time those courses come up. When Rye ran in the Open level there, she was often the only dog in her height and often there were fewer than 10 dogs in the entire class. The Novice level was often even smaller. That seemed like a manageable size for Barley.

At the beginning of last month, I made the decision to sign Barley up for two early January Sunday afternoons and this past weekend, we had our very first trial after 7+ years of agility training. It was a really small trial with less than 200 runs each day (the max is 350 for one ring trials) and there were 6 Novice dogs, including Barley. It was the perfect introduction to trialing. 

For our Standard course, Barley was the only 16-inch dog (she's technically a 20-inch dog, but since she's 9 now, I'm running her preferred so she can run at 16, which will be easier on her joints) and she was the second dog to go on the course. That meant that we could wait until the bars were reset to enter the course, giving the dog ahead of us plenty of time to clear the course, and the dog behind us wasn't coming in until the bars were set to their height.

I had no idea what to expect going out on the course. Our training center is tiny, so every course is wide open spaces for Barley and Rye. Barley has never had that much room to run and I wasn't sure what she'd think about that. When our training center moved to a new building a few years ago, Barley couldn't even run a full course because she was so distracted by the new environment. Barley got a little distracted by the environment after the first two jumps and went to explore alongside the weaves, but she quickly came back and did the weaves and finished the course with no issues at 3.02 yards per second.

Our Jumpers course was the same--we were the only 16-inch dog and the second dog into the course. She was much more focused this time around. She ran the course cleanly--the weaves gave us a little trouble; she went through the first four and then thought about stopping, but I got her through the rest of them and we were back on track. She was much speedier this time around, too, at 4.12 yards per second.  

She got her first Q in both courses (and since she was the only dog in her height, she was in first place by default). 

While running with Rye energizes and thrills me, running with Barley centers me. When Bar and I are running a course together, everything's right in the world. When my car died in October and I had to get a new one that came with new car payments, Barley had to stop taking classes. I still can't talk about it without getting teary eyed. That hour a week was when I felt most centered. Barley's missed it, too. She doesn't love agility. She likes it. But she loves spending time with me and now that she's not coming to class, we don't get as much time together. Lately, when we've been walking with Rye, after a mile or so, she'll slow down and walk behind me instead of at my side like she's always done--on solo walks, she'll walk as far as I want to go without slowing down. At night, she was sleeping in her dog bed or under the bed instead of in bed with me, Rye, and Soth. When we did our December Scent Trial, she perked back up on walks with Rye and started snuggling up with us again. I realized that she needed more time with me--and I needed more time with her. That was a big motivator in signing her up for a trial. 

Since Rye taught me that a first trial can be a bit crazy, I went ahead and signed Bar up for two back-to-back Sundays as a test run, so we'll be back out there next weekend. Since she seemed to really enjoy this, we'll be signing up for a few more trials before it gets too warm for her to stay in the car while I walk the course. We probably won't go past the Open level because I still firmly believe she wouldn't do well with a lot of dogs around and once you get to Excellent and Master, there's a bit more chaos. But if we can have a few afternoons of fun and maybe get a title or two along the way, I think that will be more than enough. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

9 on the 9th!

It's hard to believe, but my Barley girl turned 9 on the 9th of December. I was a terrible dog mom and I signed Rye up for an agility trial that day without thinking about the actual date, so Barley and I celebrated a day early with a solo adventure.

Barley's favorite ways to celebrate anything involve being the center of attention where she can get love form as many people as possible. Rye prefers to avoid Stranger Danger and often keeps Barley from being doted on appropriately. Barley and I started our day with a stop at my new favorite Ohio brewery, Sibling Revelry. They have a nice patio for good weather, but dogs are also allowed inside the tap room. We ordered a flight of beer and Barley soaked up attention from the other beer fans. She was especially happy when a couple walked right by a yellow lab without batting an eye and then stopped to pet her and tell her she was wonderful.

Then we hit the road to try out a new park. Our Doggin' Cleveland book listed Rocky River Reservation as one of the top 50 dog walks in the Cleveland area, but it didn't have a very appealing description and was towards the bottom of the top 50 list, so we'd never tried it. Earlier this year, though, my mom had sent an article about dog monuments to me and there's a monument to Smoky, the first certified therapy dog, in the park (how could Doggin' Cleveland leave that tidbit out?!) and we'd been wanting to check it out for months. 

It took a while to find the monument. There weren't clear instructions on any of the map apps on my phone or any of the websites we found mentioning the statue. For a while, I didn't think we'd actually find it. We eventually just parked and walked for a little while so that we could at least enjoy the trail. 

After taking a short stroll, we went back to the car and drove in a different direction. This park is a long, skinny park that runs north and south for about 13 miles and I wasn't particularly interested in driving from one end of the park to the other since we'd entered around the middle--thankfully, we chose the right direction and after several miles we found a parking lot right beside the statue of Smoky. 

Barley seemed to really enjoy having a solo adventure and it was nice to try out a new park, which is really close to one of the trial sites where Rye sometimes does agility and both dogs do scent trials, so we have a new place to walk if we have long waits in between runs.

It's hard to believe that my baby girl is already 9. I have trouble thinking about that number. Thankfully, Barley is still so happy and healthy and vibrant and always ready to go out and do anything I want to do. Our walks might be a little slower than they used to be, but she still loves getting her 3+ miles a day. She still loves playing on the agility course and doing scent trials. So, I'm trying not to think about that number at all. Our let our vet think about that number during our check ups, but I'm going to just focus on the dog beside me and try to convince myself that age is just a number. 

We've got all kinds of adventures planned for the next year, so I have a feeling 9 might be Barley's best year yet!