What a difference a year makes

I’ve ignored my blog for a year.  This makes me sad, but i have a good reason, and that reason is actually the topic of today’s entry; it’s the Homestar Runner!

Baby Homestar

Homestar Runner came home to us in July, 2011 as a perfect little 8 week old puppy.  We had high hopes for him and we were so excited to have a puppy from two fabulous parents, even though the breeding was an accident.  Leerie and I have long admired Moose and Tantrum and we felt extremely lucky to welcome Homestar Runner into our doggie pack.

Just a few weeks after coming home, our little puppy suffered an accident.  While wrestling with another puppy outside, he fractured his leg.   A trip to the vet and an xray revealed a non-displaced tibial fracture, not in the area of the growth plate, and it seemed to be relatively mild.  The plan was 4-6 weeks in a splint, the vet expected it to heal easily.  Since he was still such a young puppy, we planned on bringing him back to the clinic to change his splint once a week, allowing for growth of the leg while it healed.

August 2011, photo by Kim Russell

Of course, keeping a 3 month old puppy quiet is not fun, but we instituted some tough love. Little Homestar rested and healed, we got a fresh splint at the vet every week, and life went on.  Six weeks after the initial injury, our vet removed the splint and handed my puppy back to me ‘good as new.’  My instructions were to gradually increase his activity level and allow his atrophied muscles to rebuild at their own pace.  Having previous experience rehabbing a puppy with an atrophied leg from a healed fracture, I felt  i knew what to expect.  Homestar was thrilled to be out of his splint and we were all optimistic.

The day the splint came off! Hooray!

Within two weeks of the splint coming off, I knew something was wrong.  Homestar was still  lame on  the left rear leg.  The muscles remained atrophied and the leg just looked “off.”  I brought him along on a trip to our excellent canine chiropractor, Dr. Perrin Heartway, and asked him to feel around and evaluate his leg.  I’ll never forget the look on Perrin’s face when he palpated Homestar’s knee.  It was very wrong.  His patella (knee cap) was in completely the wrong place.  Luxating patellas are common in some breeds of dogs (not border collies or whippets), and they are rated I-IV, IV being the worst.  Homestar’s was a grade IV, of course.  Perrin recommended consulting with an orthopedic specialist.  I’d be lying if I said i didn’t cry all the way home.

We were days away from leaving NC and driving to Indy for the NAFA Can Am Championships.  We got an appointment to see an orthopedic specialist in Illinois.  Here’s the radiograph taken at that appointment.  The quality could be better in this photo, but hopefully you can get the idea that it looked VERY, very wrong.

Radiograph, Oct 5, 2011

After examining Homestar and looking at the image shown above, the vet tried to show me on a “model knee,” what was going on.  But Homestar’s leg was so completely F-ed up, he couldn’t even force the model to do it.  The movement of his patella (it’s floating up to the left of his femur in the xray above) resulted in all the soft tissue, tendons and ligaments attached to the patella pulling his tibia out of alignment as well.  The original fracture had healed perfectly, and no one can say for sure what caused the patella to start moving in the first place.  I believe that his original splints did not fully immobilize his knee, and the patella actually went out while he was splinted.  The doctor explained that in his  opinion, although a surgeon would probably be willing to operate, the chance of Homestar regaining anything near full function of the leg were tiny. He recommended that I consider amputating the leg, and doing it soon so that Homestar could start adjusting to life as a three-legged dog while he was still young.  I’d be lying again if I told you I didn’t cry all the way home.

The following days, at Can Am, were hard.  I was still processing the news, but I constantly had to repeat it and re-tell the whole story to many concerned friends.  Leerie and I hadn’t had any time to make a decision, and we were bombarded with (all well intended) advice and condolences.  Fur Fun had our best showing ever at a Can Am event, but our happiness was a little bit tainted by the black cloud of Homestar’s diagnosis.

Some very good friends convinced us that we should at least seek a second opinion, so when we got home to NC we took him to Raleigh for an appointment at NC State vet school.  I met with the orthopedic surgeon and they examined Homestar and conducted a CT Scan of his leg to get more accurate info.  Here’s the CT

October 17, 2011 CT Scan


There’s that lonely little patella again, floating off in space, far away from it’s rightful home.  The CT image also shows much more clearly just how much his tibia had rotated out of place as well.  The good news that we got from the CT was all the bones of the leg were still the right length, there was only a millimeter difference between the bone length in the good leg vs. the “lucky leg.”

Dr. Simon Roe explained that Homestar’s injury was pretty unique.  Most dogs who have luxating patellas are genetically predisposed to them and present for surgery at a much later age.  He explained that he thought surgery was a good option, and he was optimistic that with the right post-op care and rehab, Homestar could regain at least some practical use of his leg and be free of pain.  The challenge was getting his patella back where it belonged, straightening out his tibia, and then keeping them both in place long enough for the soft tissue around them to heal and stabilize the whole knee.  Doing all this WITHOUT cutting any bone or compromising any growth plates was going to be difficult as well, but Dr. Roe had a plan, and I thought that sounded pretty good.  We scheduled the surgery.

Thanks to the generosity of our wonderful community, we were able to raise the money to operate immediately.   Leerie and I are forever grateful to our special friends who stepped up and helped us through this very tough time.  We couldn’t have done it without them!  Here’s what Homestar looked like the day after his surgery.

Good little patient

The surgery took 6.5 hours.  Dr. Roe anchored the patella and the tibia using some very high tension sutures basically wrapped around the knee.  After surgery, he reported to me that all of the soft tissue connected to the patella has seriously shrunk from being out of place for so long, and the big challenge in rehab, aside from keeping his bones in place, would be getting those muscles and tendons to loosen up and stretch out to a normal size.

The following two months were very difficult.  Here is Homestar 2 weeks after his surgery.  The bandage had come off and we got a real look at his ‘improved lucky leg.’  Gotta say, it didn’t look very good.

And a few weeks later……

By now, Homestar was a six month old puppy who had spent most of his life in a crate or on a leash.  As heartbroken as Leerie and I were, Homestar took everything in stride.  Through the entire process he was a model patient, and always so happy and sweet, greeting all his fans at the vet school with his whole body wagging.  We began the long process of rehabilitation and wondered where it would take us.  The vets at NC state had cautioned me not to expect any miracles.  Dr. Roe told me “it’s probably never going to be perfect,” and I never expected it to be.  The rehab specialist at NC State was even less optimistic.

Post-op check-ups 1 and 2 months after surgery revealed that orthopaedically, every thing was still in place.

After two months of healing, the knee was holding and stabilized.  But the muscles of his leg were still extremely tight and his range of motion was very limited.  His leg muscles were also still quite atrophied and puny looking.  From the outside, it did not look like a normal leg at all.

The next six months were devoted to rehab.  Homestar’s rehab routine consisted of 45 minutes of heat and stretching in the morning and at night.  The stretching was painful and neither of us enjoyed it. Here he is being very, very tolerant.

In addition to stretching and passive range of motion exercises, we had to work on getting him using his leg again.  With so much trauma and drama, surgery and splints, the poor little guy had gotten very good at hopping along on three legs and he was happy to continue that.  I had to literally retrain him to use his newly improved leg.  Here’s the very first session I did with him, less than 2 weeks after his surgery.  My goal was getting him to bear even just the smallest amount of weight onto that leg.  The short/tight muscles wouldn’t allow him to reach the ground, but i used my own body and various props instead and he picked up on the game.  In the following videos you can see him targeting with his bad leg foot.

Still a long way from normal.  We kept at it and he slowly improved.  It was extremely difficult.  Hard on Homestar, hard on me, hard on Leerie, hard on our other dogs who suddenly weren’t getting nearly as much attention as the little crippled boy.  I know it was hard on our family and friends too.  They wanted us to succeed, but really, things looked pretty grim.  One month after surgery, he was bearing weight, but still far from normal.  Here he is, out for a walk.

Instead of learning the things a normal puppy learns (sit, down, stay, fetch, come) Homestar learned to use his leg normally.  Here’s a session from November, 2011, focusing on hock flexion, where his range of motion was the worst.

We continued our routine of two sessions/day of heat and stretching, and we started walking him on the treadmill to build muscle.  The results were excellent.  Here he is 3 months post surgery, January 2012.

It even looked better when he was standing still

January, 2012

Homestar received some great supportive medical care along the way.  In addition to monthly check-ups at the vet school, he got regular massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments.  I truly believe that these were really helpful in his recovery.  Here he is, five months post surgery

March, 2012

Homestar’s recovery surpassed everyone’s expectations except for mine.  Last year when I listened to the surgeon explain his expectations, I listened carefully and never heard him say “it’s impossible for this dog to recover full function.”  He did say it was very, very unlikely, but he never said impossible.  I took that to heart and decided it meant that if Homestar and I worked hard enough, there was a chance to regain full function of his leg.  Here he is in April, 2012, building muscle and flexibility.

And here he is running on the treadmill in May

Call me crazy, but I started training him for flyball:)  It’s what we do in this family!  His knee was stable, his muscle mass was good, he wasn’t in any pain and he was as sound as he was probably going to get.  In the spring, we also opened our swimming pool and that added an entire new layer to his rehab routine!

And here is his first flyball lesson:

We worked hard all summer.  I purchased a 4 oz weight that wrapped around his leg above the hock, and I believe it was very helpful in building up his muscles while on the treadmill and in the pool.  As his muscle mass improved, his flexibility and range of motion improved as well.

In September, Homestar debuted at his first flyball tournament.  He didn’t run in any heats, he just warmed up, but it still represented a  huge milestone for him.  Here is his last warm-up of the weekend:

Next Tuesday, we will return to Indy for Can Am 2012, and Homestar will warm-up on a Fur Fun team.  We will come full circle, but I know we still have a ways to go.  Throughout it all, Homestar has been just perfect.  Whenever someone comments on how much work it must’ve been to rehab him, I tell them “He’s worth it,” and he is.  He is the happiest, sweetest dog I’ve ever known, and so willing to do anything and everything I ask of him.  It’s been a very long road to recovery, but it was worth it.

Playing flyball, Sept 2012

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so the can am classic has come and gone. and it’s taken me nearly a month to write about it. that’s how giant it was! you know what the can am classic is, right? http://nafacanam.com/ if you don’t actually live in my world. thanks for visiting!

it was incredible. first, incredibly BIG. really REALLY big building with 6, count ’em 6 rings of flyball racing. you know what a ring is, right? a ring is made up of 2 lanes, one for each team in the race. that means, when all the rings were up and running (all day saturday), there were 12 teams actually racing at one time. That’s 48 dogs and around 50 people. and that’s just in the lanes. waiting outside the lanes are another 12 teams who are on deck. it was just massive. someone who isn’t a flyball person would also have described it as LOUD. whatever, i don’t notice the noise at all any more. it’s just not important.

of course, i play flyball all year long, in places alot closer than indianapolis. so what makes this event so special?
#1 on my list is definitely seeing friends. i play flyball, a team sport, because the social aspect appeals to me. i love playing with my dogs but at the same time, i’m playing with my friends, and their dogs, and we’re all in it together. all fur one, one fur all! one person or dog’s victory is the whole team’s victory. we care about each other. we’re tight. you gotta be tight to wear that much pink (that’s actually a direct quote, someone from another club, observing us at ring side).

it is very easy to find your team in the crowd when you run on fur fun

At can am, we see friends from all over north america, as well as our trusty, in region buddies. we cram more fun into 3 days at can am than you can shake a slat at. catching up, telling stories, sharing rants, talking about dogs, and yes, probably consuming a few adult beverages, it’s all just priceless.

you don't pass up a chance to see these 2 knuckleheads

of course, we also come for the RACING. it’s kind of a big deal. pretty much the fastest teams in NAFA all under one roof. and the also rans. we were those in spades:) there are GIANT trophies for the Can Am Regular and Can Am Multibreed champs. this year, there were also slightly more modest trophy cups for the champs of the “classic” divisions……….regular 1 thru 7 and Multibreed 1 thru 3.

wow, those are good looking trophies!

we did alot of racing! fur fun entered 7 teams and i’m here to say, next year, less than that. we were so freakin busy! on saturday, we had a 45 minute stretch when we were UP ALL THE TIME. literally. race, put dogs from one team away and grab the ones for the next team and truck on back to the lanes.  repeat. for 45 minutes. it was a little excessive. i felt a bit as though the only teams i got to watch were fur fun teams. and no offense, guys, you know i love you, but i watch our dogs racing at every tournament i attend. i was kind of hoping to watch some teams race that i DON’T see every weekend. on sunday, all other racing stopped while the Can Am elimination races happened, and that was awesome. i just wish i’d had just a SMIDGEN more down time to hang out, do some shopping, watch some racing, etc. next year!

Marisa and Rose cheering Fur Play to victory

at awards on saturday, they announce the top times in regular and multibreed, and invite teams to participate in the single elim bracket racing for the Can Am cups.  everyone who DOESN’T race in the can am final bracket, is seeded into their own speed divisions.  those divisions made up  the “classic” part of sunday’s championship.  the classic teams ran regular round robins and each division came down to one race, between the 2 top seeds, in the big championship ring, for the pretty trophy.  every division got a champion.  super fun and inclusive.

hard drive howie is ALWAYS up for a dance-off!

now let’s be blunt. there are only 3 or 4 teams that have a really good shot of winning the Can Am cups. these are the teams that are seeded 1-2-3, who post the fastest times all weekend long, the ones everyone expects to see in the finals. the rest of the field filling out that bracket, are “also rans,” who will probably get knocked out in one race. but every one of them has a chance to be a cinderella story on the big stage, and that is something REALLY special.
did you know there are only 2 clubs who had teams in the regular and multibreed can-am brackets in 2009 AND 2010? hint: one has a slightly better record than the other. but whatevs, we’re still pretty proud
*and of aside*
back to the bracket. i was shocked at how many teams DECLINED the invitation to compete for the Can Am cups. their reasoning seemed to boil down to “we don’t want to be done racing at 7:45am after we get eliminated in the first round.” pragmatic, for sure.
fur fun accepted our invitations into both brackets, and we were honored to do so. we were the last seed in the multibreed bracket, and i think #12 out of 16 in regular. we knew we probably wouldn’t make it past the first round, we would be “one and done,” and finished racing by 7:45am. we were cool with all that. there is always a chance, even if it’s slim, for an upset. even the fastest, best, most consistent dogs spit balls, bobble, and pass early sometimes. and sometimes, the slower team on paper wins the race.
once upon a time, there was a nafa championship in arizona. and fur fun beat (twice, in a double elimination format) a team that was faster on paper, and favored to win. and itwas AMAZING.  we didn’t win the whole championship, but we got alot closer than anyone expected.

the chance for our dogs and handlers to run in a high pressure environment, with everyone live and livestream, watching us, and pushing us to do our best, that’s something you don’t get very often.  in fact, it only comes once a year.  It’s a chance to push your limits, test your skills and your nerves.  what have you got to lose?  our philosophy was, we had raced for 2 full days, so if our top regular and multi teams just raced one and done, it wasn’t like they hadn’t done anything all weekend.  and maybe JUST MAYBE we might have gotten by one of those faster teams, and been a cinderella story at can am, and wouldn’t that be great??  we weren’t afraid of failure, because we’d won already, just stepping out on the floor.  We didn’t choke, we ran as well as we could.  Our multi team, Faux Fur, raced the #1 seed, Rocket Relay, who went on the win the whole thing.  We ran clean and fast (for us) and they beat us in 4.   Formula Fun raced Positive Pups, and we were pretty close in times.  we ran a 15.9 in the first heat and they just edged us out.  second 2 heats, someone (who might be me) had an early pass.  hey man, i was pushing it!  we had to run our very best to have any chance of winning on time, so we tried.

i don't know, do you think we had fun racing in the finals?

the point is, now those handlers and dogs have an experience under their belts that is unique in our sport.  and experiences like that matter in the long run.  testing yourself under pressure and in front of lots of people who might watch you fail pushes you to be better.  the next time those handlers step into a race that decides the winner of their division for the weekend, or region for the racing year, or whatever, they will have this experience from which to draw confidence.  keeping your head under pressure becomes a habit, and it’s a good one.   we were proud to be one and dones, and we’ll happily do it again if we get the chance.

so that was the big dance……..of course, we still had 5 other teams still racing on sunday.  “what about them?” i hear you asking.  well i’ll tell you.  our teams in veterans 1, regular, and open teams were a bit over matched in all their divisions.  the dogs ran well, the people handled well, they just weren’t quite fast enough to do a whole lot of winning.  however, one of our teams did ALOT of winning.  at the end of the day, we saw that Fur Play would race in the championship race for Multibreed division 3!  How exciting!  the line-up was tony (BC) and erin, emmie (yellow lab) and donna, cameo (mix) and penny, hop devil (sheltie) and deb, jetta (corgi) and susie, and the faithful back-up, freak (mix) and me.

Donna and Emmie, Erin and Tony, in the Multi 3 championship race

around mid day on sunday, hoppie threw in the towel.  she said that 2.5 days of flyball was more than enough for her, she was tired, thank you very much.  cameo and penny did a great job filling the spot for the rest of the day, but in the finals race, a super cute fuzzy mix on music city road dogs just proved too tempting.  cami reminded us that she’s still fairly green, and still enjoys visiting a dog who catches her eye, we lost the first heat due to interference.  CALLING THE TRUSTY BACK-UP!  i race back to our crating area and wake up freak.  he has not stepped into the lanes once all weekend.  he’s a back-up on 2 teams and just hasn’t been needed.  we didn’t even have time to step outside for a pee, just grabbed his wubba and back to the lanes.  freak is a trooper, and he and the rest of the line-up ran 3 perfect heats and brought home the win!  it was a very exciting moment for our whole club, but especially the handlers on Fur Play.  3 of them were there at their first championship event, running their first flyball dogs, and they won!  we were all pretty proud, arms are sprained patting ourselves on the back.

multi 3 champs

watching the rest of the finals, both classic divisions and the can-am, was so freakin’ exciting.  here’s the final heat of the can am regular division.  if it doesn’t give you goosebumps, check your pulse!

overall, i can’t say enough good things about our trip t0 can-am.  it was fun and rewarding for all our teams………from the fastest to the not fastest, we all did our best and have a unique experience to always remember.  to all our flyball pals, we highly recommend making the trip to Indy next year.


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Vote for Honey!

my sheltie, Scandal (her friends call her honey), is nominated for MVP of region 9 this year. here are some reasons YOU should vote for her. if you aren’t a club owner in region 9, i encourage you to badger anyone you know who IS a club owner in region 9, until they surrender, i mean see the light, and reckanize scandal as the nominee most deserving of their votes.

photo by alise baer

10. she’s a sheltie and she kicks ass
while shelties often make stellar agility dogs, they are not typically as successful in flyball. i think there are a few aspects of the game that are extra challenging for them. it’s often very loud and lots of shelties are noise sensitive. many of them are softer and more sensitive than border collies, terriers, and retrievers……..flyball can be scary at times. a crash, or a dog crossing over can totally shut some dogs down forever. that’s not to say there aren’t a few dynamite shelties who play the game with speed, consistency, and longevity; but they are few and far between.

9. She’s a height dog
not just a height dog, but one of tremendous value to her team. scandal jumps 9″, though she raced half her career over 10″, before the NAFA rule change of -4″ to -5″.

8. she is a valuable multi breed dog
seems like every MB team has a mix and a BC, right? other standard speedy breeds like whippets, malinois and dutch shepherds are common to the MB class, especially on the more competitive divisions. on fur fun, we really love fielding a multi 1 team and trying to be competitive. as a height dog AND an odd breed, scandal has been very valuable to our multibreed teams.

7. she has her own bus

Hny'sbus: the ultimate flyball vehicle

anyone who plays flyball in region 9 has seen honey’s bus.  it’s a flyball bus for honey, all her friends and family, and all her stuff.  she is the smallest dog in a household of 9, but the bus belongs to her.  if elected MVP, she wants to put a bus in every driveway;)

6.  she is FAST!
flyball is a race and speed counts, right? scandal’s best time is 4.32 (set over 10″ when she was a smokin’ young thing). she was the height dog for the first Fur Fun team (and region 15 team) to break 17.00. 3 border collies and scandal ran a 16.88.

5.  she’s a champ

scandal has raced on regional championship teams (Regular and/or Multibreed) in 3 different NAFA regions for the last 8 years.   she has over 70,000 NAFA points

4.  she’s a old but she’s still gots what it takes

even at the age of 11, scandal can still run full time and keep posting sub 5 times.  she is a valuable dog who can help fill out a veterans team and add speed to slower line-ups.  she can back up a green dog and sit out if they start running brilliantly, or run full time while they use warm-up time to get going.

3.  that girl can eat

for a long time, scandal has wanted to enter the world of competitive eating.  she would certainly dominate any head to head contest that involves eating, begging, or general scrounginess.

2.   it took alot of hard work, but she learned to really RACE

when we first started her in flyball, scandal ran wild, literally.  she was a crosser.  you know you’ve seen crossing shelties before……usually it’s the wild and crazy driven shelties, who just can’t stand the dog in the other lane running a little ahead of them and they just HAVE TO CROSS and go give that dog hell.  i operated on the philosophy that if i wanted my sheltie to be fast, she was never wrong.  unsophisticated? certainly.  effective?  eventually!  it took a while, alot of patience, and quite a few lost heats, but scandal emerged on the other end as a reliable flyball dog who with an intensely competitive streak.  she turned on extra speed to race the dog in the other lane and in her day, she usually won.

1. she is portable, agreeable, and happy to run for anyone

every team has had it happen; team member with a personal issues, injured or sick dogs, car trouble.  there are a million ways your line-ups can fall apart the day before a tournament.  fur fun is lucky to have a dog like scandal who is small (easy to add to a packed car) gets along with other dogs (perfectly fine going on a road trip with a group of dogs who aren’t her regular crew) and has no issue running for different handlers.  she is always there when the team needs a height dog or a vets dog, or a multibreed dog, even if her folks are indisposed at the time:)  she is easy to manage and easy to handle, easy to integrate into any line-up, easy to pass.

scandal will be racing at Doggone Fast in september and Can Am in october.  stop by and meet her and watch her race, better yet, feed her a cookie!

those are some reasons *i* think you should vote for honey.  i gotta thank kate wentz for writing a wonderful nomination and sharon harrell for officially nominating her on behalf of new river rapids.  you can read nominations for all the regional MVPs  at flyball.org


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Just Own It

we ran in an akc agility trial last weekend. i know, pick your jaw up off the floor. akc has come a long way! i, for one, am thrilled about the canine partners program that allows mixed breeds to compete. the trial site is 15 minutes from our house, and the host clubs are awesome, we like supporting them. plus, agility is agility, any way you slice it. you get to hang out with your friends, maybe make some new friends, and play with your dog.
i am a casual competitor in akc, usdaa, and cpe agility. usdaa is by far my favorite, for lots of reasons. but one common thread running through all these venues, is a tendency by handlers to blame anyone but themselves when things go wrong. i hate this. and i’m here to vent about it.

in all venues, we have the ALMIGHTY Q, or qualifying score. collecting Qs is the way one earns titles, and also the way to earn an entry into national championship events. requirements for earning Qs depend on the venue (akc, usdaa, cpe) and also the level (novice, level 3, masters, etc). in the highest levels, you pretty much have to be perfect to Q.

i saw way too many handlers who clearly blamed their dogs when their runs went wrong. they came off the course with a scowls on their faces, leashed their dogs, shoved the dog back into it’s crate, then walked back to gripe at their friends about their bad run; blaming everyone from the judge to the gate steward, to another competitor, but most often, the dog.

i love cpe agility for many reasons, but in that venue especially, i see dogs who are NOT ready to trial, running in trials! they are distracted, stressed, aroused, or just plain unable to focus in their runs. these dogs are given leeway to fail miserably, and practice bad habits like disconnecting from their handlers, zooming around the ring, charging the fence at other dogs outside the ring. i am not saying these are bad dogs, just that they are definitely NOT READY TO TRIAL. if you cannot trust your dog to stay with you during a run to the point of insisting the gates to the ring be closed, perhaps you and your dog need a little more practice, that’s all. blaming other people or dogs outside the ring for distracting your dog is cheap.

people, just OWN it. take responsibility for what your dogs do. everything that happens in your run at a trial is your responsibility, and yours alone. you are the one steering the dog around and you are the one who taught him the skills he’s performing. if he goes off course, you probably sent him there. if he misses a contact, you are the one who trained him. if he disconnects from you and has a case of the zoomies, you haven’t adequately prepared him for the stresses of trialing. our dogs do these silly sports for us and for the rewards we provide (however haphazardly).
celebrate every run with your dog. he’s doing the best he can with what you gave him; training, handling, preparation. this is a GAME we play that is supposed to be fun. even those among us whose livelihood is agility, their character is best revealed by a bad run. the ones who come out of the ring angry have lost perspective. i wouldn’t want to go to a seminar taught by someone who blames their dog for a bad run. the best agility instructors understand that every run is a gift to be treasured, and they celebrate the good instead of dwelling on the bad. they play the same games and give the same cookies after a run where their dog went off course as they would if they’d just won a national championship.
own your failures and learn from them. don’t blame the judge for setting up that wicked contact/tunnel discrimination that is WAY TOO HARD for ______(whatever level you’re in). don’t blame your dog for missing a contact or knocking a bar. don’t blame the spectator standing outside the ring with their well-behaved dog or their hamburger. don’t blame the gate steward who rushed you into the ring. just own it. take responsibility for your own shortcomings has a handler or trainer, resolve to be BETTER, and move on.

i’ll leave you with my favorite quote about agility. if you’ve never met gail storm, too bad for you, she is one heckuva lady, and she doesn’t take any nonsense.
“The real JOY is in the privilege and ability to step to the start line with your dog by your side, not in the crossing of the finish line victorious over others.”
– Gail Storm
wise words we should all take to heart!

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big ass trip to texas, part 4

sunday morning dawns, bright and squirrel-y. birds chirp, bunnies hop, frogs croak, and peaceful-morning disney music practically plays in the background at the Ford ranch.

on sunday morning at the flyball tournament, no need to be there quite as early as saturday. no measuring of lanes or dogs, no filling out paperwork, no captains meeting, easy peasy. so our 2 esteemed judges, leerie jenkins (beloved spouse) and ule james (all around hoopy frood) get to wait for the sun to rise before they have to leave for the tournament site (45 minute drive from ford ranch). sam (our host with the most and tourney director extraordinaire) still leaves while it’s dark out because he has just that many very important TD super-duties. that leaves Terri in her excursion (plus her dogs), Ule in his rental focus (phat ride, ule), penny-erin-julie-9 dogs who all drove down from NC together in honey’s bus. and leerie, who flew from NC and has been mooching rides off the others.
where oh where will leerie ride? he starts to load himself into Ule’s car, and then at the last second, decides he’d rather drive honey’sbus and ride w/ his fur fun girls. righty-ho.

honey’sbus is blocking in all the other vehicles in the driveway, so we are the first ones out. leerie carefully backs down the driveway, clears the fence and the gate, and starts to cut to the left in order to turn around and drive up the street. only we don’t get further than cut to the left and then THUNK——-AAAAAAHHH, WE ARE IN A DITCH!

notice the tire IN THE AIR

very speedy evacuation of the van. people all out. now what about the dogs? we are all so scared of shifting weight inside the precariously balancing van, we just leave the dogs where they are. we open up the doors and verify everyone is ok (if a little tilted). all safe inside their crates.
"it's ok june!" penny kept saying

many options are then discussed. ule was pretty convinced that if we could put enough weight on the right side bumper (that’s the one suspended in the air) and the push from the front or pull from the back, shift the bus back to level ground. lever action! to me, that sounded like a way to bust my bumper off and possibly tump the van onto it’s roof in the ditch.

terri helpfully produces a tow-rope and her big ‘ol diesel excursion. upon close examination, it sure looks like ANY wayward pulling, pushing, towing or shifting could easily result in total tump-age. one front tire resting on the culverts, one back tire in the air and the other back tire teetering on the brink of the ravine. professionals should handle this

PLEASE don't try this at home!

luckily, i have a AAA membership. definitely got my money’s worth out of this years membership (ahem) but that’s kind of another story.
Call AAA, they say someone will be there within the hour, which means approx 7:30. tournament starts at 8, and fur fun is in the first race (OF COURSE).   hmmm, should we load some people and some dogs into terri’s car, so that they can get there in time to race? should leerie now ride with terri or ule so that he can be johnny-on-the-spot, always got his ducks in a row, supervising mr. judge? answer to all those is no.  as previously mentioned, we feel a bit nervous about shifting ANYTHING in the van for fear of tumping. we don’t mind missing one race, it’s not the end of the world. leerie feels kinda bad about putting poor honey’sbus in the ditch and his sense of chivalry kicks in and makes him stay with us to wait for AAA. fur funners stick together through thick and thin, right? all fur one and one fur all! terri and ule shake their heads in sympathy and ride off to the tourney to deliver the news of our misfortune.

and we wait….for what feels like eternity. really, only an hour, just like they promised.
I cannot recommend AAA highly enough. it’s $40 a year or something and they come take care of you when you do dumb shit like this. the fellow who rescued us absolutely FINESSED that van out of it’s pickle. pulled this way a little, then climbed in and cranked the wheel over the other way, pulled a little more, tinkered a little more, pulled a little more, and then it was out! no damage! HOORAY! we happily give him a big tip and hit the road.
we ended up missing 1 race with each of our teams, so we attempt to play some catch-up in the standings. both teams ran pretty smoothly, everyone in a nice groove. at one point, i did have an early pass with scandal, and as dave released ginny he yelled over to me DON’T RERUN. no shit, man, i don’t want any part of running behind ginny ever again in my life. whew.
OUR LAST RACE OF THE WEEKEND, our regular 1 team, formula fun, racing top dog chain reaction, who has been kicking ass and takin names all weekend.  we manage to somehow win 2 heats and in the last heat, i see our opponents flag.  i let go of sonic and turn around in place to penny who runs june in anchor.  i say, “EASY, they have a flag!” and then i turn around to run up and call sonic and HOLY SHIT HERE COMES DEXTER!  THUD! YELP! OWWWIE!

let this be a lesson to all of you, children.  whatever happens do NOT stray from your set pattern of flyball racing.  when we are talking about dogs running at 30mph, the slightest change or miscalculation can spell disaster.   i am now walking proof of this.  of course dexter slammed right into the SAME LEG ginny hit.  he squawked on impact and then skidded along the mat on his face for a second and came up looking like this:

don't use your face as brakes

meanwhile, the heat is still going on.  penny, who had a front row seat to dexter vs. julie, shows remarkable poise and releases june at the right time, she and june leap OVER me on their way up the lane, then bob and weave around me coming back.  once the heat is won, they come over to check on us.  that’s a true fur funner for you.  finish your race, then assess the casualties.  if i hadn’t been writhing on the mats in pain, i might’ve gotten a little choked up with pride!

2 high speed dogs to the same leg. i have real talent for this!

cursory examinations of dexter and I show that both of us will probably live.  we hobble back to our crating area and treat dex with some neosporin and rimadyl, and me with some more ice and ibuprofen (and maybe a jello shot).  we thank buddha that we are done racing and have no more opportunities for death, dismemberment, and destruction.

we thoroughly enjoyed the awards ceremony and were shocked to learn that both our teams placed 2nd in their respective divisions, despite having to forfeit 1 race each on sunday morning.  our prizes were travel mugs, which i always appreciate, as they are quite useful and i am all the time losing the ones i have.   we decided that we will NEVER AGAIN run without leerie jenkins, as he clearly did not appreciate it and did his subconscious best to sabotage us all weekend.  ok, dude, we get it!  we love you too!  at the awards ceremony leerie is presented with a beautiful cowboy hat that all the clubs signed (there must be alot of artists in region 5, all their logos looked perfect.  the fur fun logo looks like a 2 year old drew it.  he also got a nice pink shirt, in case he ever forgets………

real cowboys aren't ashamed to wear pink

we packed up all our stuff and got ready to hit the road.  hugs and kisses exchanged with all our buddies, we drove to baton rouge sunday night, then all the way home to NC on monday.

i can’t say enough good things about region 5 flyballers.  everyone was so friendly and helpful.  we really will be back to texas someday (anyone up for Reliant 2011??). seeing as how we were calamity janes all weekend, they were probably relieved to see us go, but their manners were much too good to show it.

And it’s true, everything IS bigger in texas, especially fur fun’s big ass adventure!

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big ass trip to texas, part 3

race day! we started bright and early saturday morning, and everything seemed pretty par for the course. kudos and thanks to lonestar ruffnecks (the host club) for providing just delightful hospitality. the food table was fully stocked with coffee, breakfast goodies, fruit, and of course, mimosas. we could tell there were only 3 fur funnies present because we only went through 1 bottle of champagne (and yes, that’s pronounced sham-pag-knee).

we were running a division 1 team, but with a few modifications. no stetson, instead Badabing and Erin were in the start position, and since Leerie was judging, we had to find a handler for dexter. seriously, try not to laugh too hard. we somehow convinced linda may to take on this mighty task.
if you don’t know dexter, one of his nicknames is “hunnert mile an hour dexter” and it really suits him. the boy does everything at full speed and with 110% enthusiasm. he hasn’t even been racing for a year yet, but he knows what he’s doing and he knows to do it fast. of course our first race is against the #1 seed, top dog chain reaction. definitely the race for which you want your ducks in a row and your proverbial “shit together.” mmmm, yeaaaaah, that was not the case.
leerie gives linda a 5 minute rundown on running the blue bullet, and away we go. well, it turns out leerie give linda some bad advice. usually dexter passes into stetson. this weekend, passing into bing. stetson is a few tenths faster than bing, so an adjustment is required, right? say it with me kids, if the dog running ahead of you is SLOWER than what you’re used to, should you move UP or move BACK?
the correct answer of course is BACK. is that what leerie jenkins told linda? nope, he told her to move UP from where he usually stands. anyone surprised that poor linda had 3 early passes in the first race?

so, off to a rockin’ start. then the day picked up. our open team really clicked and was running beautifully. the regular team won all the rest of their races on saturday. we all wander around a do a little sightseeing at the giant dog show and oooo and ahhhh over all the cool vendors. then, the race of DOOM.

the open team line-up is tony, scandal, davis and ginny. ginny is one crazy fast nut of a golden, and it’s just best if she runs last, for lots of reasons. in this particular race, i had an early pass with scandal, and the other team also had a flag, so i say to myself, “ok, gonna get ready to re-run.” i wait for davis to run, and as ginny goes by, i line-up in the lane for my re-run. the rest, i remember in slow motion. i released scandal and started to run up towards the line behind her. i realize that ginny is coming STRAIGHT down the middle of the lane at me. i think, “no big, i have totally jumped dogs before in this same situation” and i attempt an evasive maneuver. only it didn’t quite work. as i’m going up, ginny’s head connected with my right kneecap, and i go up, UP and away, straight up in the air. eye witnesses say that it first looked like a swan dive, then it looked like a belly flop, as i hit the ground face first. all the air in my body went WHOOOSH and i couldn’t breathe while i tried to figure out if i’d broken anything. no matter how many times you get the wind knocked out of you, it’s scary and i felt pretty shaken up. poor ginny didn’t look so hot either. we somehow managed to finish the race and then limped back to our crating area to recuperate.

julie vs. ginny, round 1 goes to ginny

missy daily kindly came over and gave ginny a once over.  she was doing some serious squinting with one eye, but other than that she seemed ok.  she is definitely one hard-headed dog, i can tell you first hand.  i proceeded to ice and elevate my knee and self-medicate with a few of linda’s excellent jello shots (vodka cran, rum and watermelon, and pina colada).  each team raced one more time and we wrapped day one, packed up, and headed back to sam & terri’s house.

As we’re driving along I-10, heading away from houston, suddenly, from the back seat, penny screams “OH MY GOD, HE’S NAKED!!!”  leerie, erin and i are are all “who, where, whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis?”  Hand to god, there was a tattooed, naked man climbing over the concrete barriers and onto the highway!  penny was definitely traumatized, and kept repeating “i saw IT, i saw IT!”.  the things you see when you haven’t got your gun………..

Saturday night we were treated to some top notch mexican food.  we definitely stuffed our faces, it was awesome.  after a few years of just eating NC style mexican food, the real stuff tasted absolutely amazing.   i took some massive quantities of ibuprofen and we bundled ourselves off to bed, anticipating sunday full of fun.  little did we know what the fates had in store…………….

to be continued!

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our big ass trip to texas part 2

on friday, our journey continued, and we made it through mississippi, and louisiana without incident.

penny and julie & the super professional "Texas or Bust" sign

early in the day, i realized that perhaps my shirt that reads “You can’t spell fur fun without a couple of FUs” wasn’t the best wardrobe decision ever made. understand this; i carefully plan my wardrobe out for dog weekends. this weekend, we were all planning to wear our new jerseys on saturday, and our coconut classic shirts sunday. the FU shirt is so awesome, i wanted it to at least make an appearance, i knew we’d get to reliant before racing was over on friday, so i put it on friday morning. clearly, i was not thinking that we had a WHOLE DAY OF DRIVING AND STOPPING AT REST AREAS on friday before getting to houston. every single place we stopped, people STARED at my shirt and turned away with puzzled/mildly offended expressions.
when we stopped in louisiana (which, by the way, was hands down the best state welcome center we encountered) the cute little lady behind the desk felt she needed to read it out loud. when she got to the end, instead of F-U’s, she said foo foos. then she had to hear all about flyball (oh it’s so much fun to explain it). she was cute as a button

the coffee was great, and the welcome committee was friendly indeed

Penny and Erin posing at the nicest welcome area of our trip

for the rest of the day, i did my best to keep my purse in front of me or my arms crossed. sometimes it’s just not worth explaining.

we stopped for lunch at an AWESOME local seafood place in louisiana called Crawfishtown USA. not too far off the highway, and luckily they had a drive thru (leaving 9 dogs in a van in louisiana in july is NOT an option). we all got po-boys (shrimp, oyster, soft shell crab) and MAN, they tasted like they’d been swimming around the bayou earlier in the day. so fresh and delicious, what a treat!

i think i see lunch swimming down there

this place gets 5 stars from the fur fun girls

the strangest thing we saw in louisiana was a place called Restroom Suites. it was actually attached to a gas station. it was a place you PAY to use the public toilet. the owner, exceptionally creepy man who told us all about how NICE it was, and how, as women, surely we appreciated a public restroom with real towels and that got cleaned after every use. ONLY $5 to pee in luxury! and we can TOUR it for FREE! and here’s a brochure all about it, this is actually the first one, but he really thinks it’s gonna take off and have lots of locations soon.
we failed to get a picture of this because of the high creep factor and wanting to escape from what surely was a hidden camera in the bathroom operation. eeewww.

at last, we made it to texas, and one big ass lone star at the welcome center greeted us.

welcome to texas, y'all

we did make it to Reliant park in time to catch the very end of racing and unload and set-up all our paraphernalia. always better to do that in the afternoon rather than the morning. erin and penny did some shopping and i had the pleasure of spending a little time with pam martin. got to watch while she trained her own dog some (the incredibly eagle, hotblack’s uncle/hero) and then she watched visa and i do a few little musical freestyle tidbits. pam gave me some excellent pointers, can’t wait to get back to working our routine. thanks, pam! (whispered aside, stay tuned for news of Pam Martin seminars right here in central NC)
After racing wrapped for friday, we drove back to stay at Sam and Terri’s gorgeous house. they were wonderful hosts, not only running the tournament, but putting up a rowdy crowd of girls and dogs in pink. thanks for the great hospitality, y’all.
we all turned in on friday night, excited for our first day of racing in texas. if we only knew……….to be continued!

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