Our Novice A Adventure

I am a firm believer it takes a village to raise a Novice A dog.  The support you need when starting on this adventure is so very important.  Here is our story.

I share photos and stories of Willow all the time, but rarely do I include myself.  I prefer to stay hidden in the background, away from sight. But for me to tell this story I am stepping out from behind the camera, into territory that makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. I’m doing so because 2016 was the year I learned about dog sports.

Before starting obedience classes, I didn’t even know what the term dog sports meant.  Sure, I had seen agility dogs run courses before, but that summed up the extent of my exposure.  Competing with Willow was never the plan.  We went to obedience classes so we wouldn’t look like idiots when we went out for a walk.  That really was my number one goal.  I soon found out working with your dog could be fun.  We did our homework and trained.  Then trained some more. When Holli Murphy, our trainer, started making comments that Willow would make a nice little rally dog, I initially shrugged it off.  Holli didn’t push, but instead steered our training sessions towards skills that we would need if I changed my mind.  Cleaver girl, she had a plan, and it worked.

There was so much to learn.  I didn’t understand the different levels, and every time I tried to read the rule book, my eyes would glaze over.  I joked about needing a flow chart, just so I could understand what came after Novice A. I had lots of questions, and Holli always answered them.  I learn by dissecting things, whether by watching videos, reading or walking through things in my mind.  This  proved no different.  One of the most difficult things I had to learn was how to change directions. Don’t laugh! Doing a ninety degree left turn with a dog walking beside you isn’t easy.  I agree that is should be, as we turn left numerous times a day, but we don’t think about it as we do.  I had to dumb it down by removing the dog from the equation.  My co-workers can vouch for me on this next one.  Not caring if I looked like a goof, I walked the abandoned halls at work,  at 4 o’clock in the morning, with only the security guards watching.  I’m sure they chuckled as I walked back and forth on their cameras, looking like a zombie who didn’t know where it was going.

Our first trip outside of our regular training grounds was a fun match about an hour and a half away from home.  My stomach sat in my throat the entire drive there.  Willow was pretty cool, and just chilled in the back seat, oblivious to my tapping fingers on the steering wheel.  So much was going through my mind.  Would I trip and land on my face? How would Willow  react to other dogs?   My plan for Willow, was one of distraction, in the form of hot dogs.  The plan for me?  Luck, and a quick prayer.  Thankfully  our training pals, Trish, Kerry, and Reicher the GSD, were with us.  Reicher is Willow’s rock. He is so calm, and used to being around crowds and dogs, that I was totally going to rely on him to show Willow there was nothing to worry about.  Holli was also going  with her two dogs, so there would be lots of support on hand to help steady the nerves.

In the end, there really wasn’t that much to get worked up about.  Willow worked like a dream, and we got lots of positive feedback and kind words.  We even got invited to another fun match.  Below or pictures of all of us from that day.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to hand your camera off to someone who can do more than point and shoot.  The majority of photos here are ones that Holli took, and I’m forever grateful for them.  Before these I had never seen Willow’s tail wag when we worked, only because I’m don’t look at her butt.  I’m concentrating on not stepping on her, or figuring out how to do a right hand turn without  tripping myself.

When you get to the bottom of this section of photos, stop and really look at them.  Solvey is but a mere pup of 5 months in these.  She is impressive, in her working drive and attention to her mom.  Holli says it’s mostly because she is a great dog, but I know a lot of it has to do with her great mom.

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Next up, enter a trial.  Trish and I were doing this together, both newbies, both relying heavily on Holli to direct us.  Riding on the success of the fun match, I didn’t really expect to meet any difficulty.  Boy was I wrong.  Despite my best attempt to keep my nerves in check, they were back.  Willow’s breeder came to watch, as did a facebook friend that I had never met before.  These next photos are from the Dartmouth Kennel Club show, where I got a very good dose of reality.  My little nugget, while she could heal like a pro in class, and even in the ring at the fun match, found the noise and bustle of a busy show just a little too distracting.  I didn’t help, as you can see how tense I was, with no eye contact. Momma totally disengaged from her pup.  Shame on me.

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This photo below is out of order, but for a reason.  While there were serious issues throughout our entire on-lead healing pattern, the off-lead section was the best part.  Sense my sarcasm.  What you can’t see, or hear for that matter, is the ring full of Labradors  behind us. It proved to be too much for my gal, so when from this halt, I commanded “let’s go”, Willow did not hear me, or if she did, she didn’t care.  She just sat, looking over her shoulder as I progressed with our healing pattern.  I went probably about 30 ft before looking at the judge, who then told me to call her.  I’m pretty sure it was an “oh shit” moment for her, because she snapped to attention and hustled across the ring and back in to heal position.

We ended with a NQ (Non Qualifying) score, and I walked away with plenty to think about.  I was disappointed, but at least that first trip in to the ring was over.  It wasn’t all bad though, let me point out the positives.  She rocked the “stand for exam”  which was big, as she isn’t keen on strangers, especially those that want to touch her.  Her eyes were glued to mine during that exercise, just as they should be.  The second success was her recall.  Aced it, after picking herself up from doing a faceplant.  But the exercise that made me the happiest and the one I thought would be our weakness.  It was the one minute group sit/stay.  Willow is a bit lazy, and any chance to conserve energy she gladly takes.  My fear was she would slide into a down.  She did not.  As for the three minute down stay, no worries there either.  Big sigh of relief.   Looking back I am now happy with the NQ, it was a wake up call for me.  I expected a lot from myself.   I am happy to say,  Trish and Reicher  walked out of the obedience ring for the first time, with a qualifying run and a High in Class score, and their first leg towards their Companion Dog title.

The next day we went back in, and  received our first qaulifying leg.    Our healing marginally improved, but her lagging still felt like she was a mile behind me.  Oh well, any score over 170 was good for me.  We qualified, and Trish and Reicher earned leg #2.  Smiles all around.

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We entered our second trial in June.  Friday night we signed up for a practice session with a stand in judge.  I  felt we could use all the ring time possible.   Willow was spot on, even when the “judge” tried to crowd her and force her out of heal position.  Nope, she was glued to my left leg, and my heart was smiling, I had my dog back.   We had also  signed up for the Canine Good Neighbor test, and passed with no issues.  I had big hopes for the next day, and promised myself to relax and enjoy the day.

Trish sat this trial out, but was right there as my cheerleader.   She  set up Reicher’s crate with the obedience dogs and not in the conformation area, all so Willow wouldn’t be alone. Something a true friend would do.   She even had me singing (to myself), Mary Had A Little Lamb, to try and steady my nerves.  A busy mind doesn’t have time for nerves. I should mention that Reicher became a Grand Champion at this show, so Trish had some nerves going on as well.

As you can see below, we received leg #2.  I say received, as I was surprised when our number was called that we qualified.  I turned left when the judge called for an about turn, and Willow lagged to the point she was probably close to ten feet behind me, before I called to her.  With this class, there were only two entries, and the other dog got up from one of the stays, so NQ’d.  That meant we got High in Class.  The photo of me with my open mouth, looking like I’m going to bite the Judge, is me laughing at what he said to me.  He said something along the line that I had a great little dog, and the next time I go in the ring I should try to breath and not hold my breath  the whole way through.

Our breeder, Jane Bond, came out to watch, once again, but this time she got to see us qualify.  I snagged her and  outside we went for a few pictures of her with us.  My daughter who stood ring side for our first trial, was once again along for the trip.  For a change, she was the one doing the cheering on, and she also took the photos of us outside.  Holli took the ones of us in the ring.

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We now had two legs.  When I explained this to my non-doggy friends, believe me, I heard plenty of jokes about  2 legs verses 3.   After this last trial, I  suddenly realized that there was no deadline to how long it took us to get that third leg.  If it took another year, then that is what it would take.  It was actually like someone hit me over the head when this break though took place.   I relaxed and didn’t feel so stressed.  Why I thought this, I really don’t know.

The next trial I decided to enter was only an obedience trial, no conformation shows.  That meant one ring and limited distractions.   We had been doing some rally training, so it only made sense to enter a class.  Without going too far into describing rally, it’s sort of an obstacle course with signs, where you do what the signs says, then continue on to the next one.  The best part of rally is you can interact with your dog, something Willow was used to.  That class also ran before the obedience class, and  could be use as a sort of warm up. Three of us ended up with perfect scores of 100 out of a possible 100, so it came down to who completed the course the quickest.  As the Judge called out the winning number, I actually looked at the other teams to see who it was, then realized it was us.  Trish and Reicher finished right behind us in second place.  It was a great way to start the day.

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Next up, obedience.  As we entered the ring, the judge quietly said to me, ” I’m expecting great things from you.”  Lovely.  No pressure there.  In the end, things went AWESOME!  We did have a bit of a lag when we started the off-lead healing section, but I used my one additional command to call her to heal.  I think she missed two sits on halts, but other than that I couldn’t have asked for more.  Finally, we were leaving the ring, with a performance to be proud of.  The group stays went well, and we had our third leg, and our CD title, with a score of 195,  and a first place finish.

So what did I mean with the title , it takes a village to raise a Novice A Dog?  There were so many people that helped us achieve this goal.  With competition of any kind, there are always those people that don’t want to help others succeed.  I am happy to say that this has not been my experience.  First of all, there would have been no way we could have done this without Holli.  I will forever be grateful to her for showing me how incredible it is to work as a team with my dog.  Even if we called it quits here, which we aren’t,  the bond Willow and I have developed is something new to me.  Willow works for me because she wants to.  It does help that I offer good treats, but that really only gets you so far.  If there wasn’t mutual respect between us, I don’t think it would mater what I offered as a reward.  As I look at the photos of us healing, with her eye fixed on me, my heart swells with love and pride.  I’m running the risk of people thinking I’ve lost it, in saying these things, but those of your with pets will get what I mean.  Would we have had a bond had we not signed up for that first class with Holli? Probably, but I doubt it would have been this strong.  My gratitude towards Holli doesn’t stop here, as her talents are not limited to dogs alone.  These photos may be on my blog, but were taken by her.  I cherish each and every one of them.

Next on my list would have to be my husband.  He knows how important this adventure is to me, and understanding why going to training sessions sometime trumps us humans getting supper.  While he doesn’t follow us to trials, he does enjoy watching us practice at home.  I occasionally catch him using hand signals with Willow, and he has even used them on me.  Don’t laugh!  After having a nap one day, I really didn’t want to get up.  My husband came in to the bedroom, verbally told me to get up.  When I ignored him, he gave a perfect hand signal, calling for a sit, from my current lying positing, smiled then left the room. I got up.  My daughter also is very supportive and had accompanied me to 2 trials and the fun match, and has let me crash at her apartment and smuggle my Willow in for the night.

Trish has been both a support and inspiration.  Where I struggle, she picks up, and where she needs help, I can step in and offer it.  There is nothing better than having a training partner to critique you and bounce ideas off.  It also helps she travels with lots of treats that Reicher really isn’t interested in.  We usually start our training sessions with Willow”s wiggling butt sticking out of Trish’s bag, as she checks out what goodies Trish brought.  I also don’t think I would be doing this if Trish wasn’t.

Willow is now Goldwater’s Willow CD, CGN, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  We have goals for this next year, and it’s going to take  lots of training and dedication.  That pesky dumb bell may be our biggest hurtle, but I have confidence in my trainer, and more importantly in my dog, that we can do it.  I can’t wait to see where 2017 takes us.

Willow Goes to School

Have you ever done something on a whim, because you friend was going to? When Anne said she was considering signing up for obedience classes with Cali, I almost didn’t join her because I work shifts. For those who have a regular work week, and don’t have to work evenings and nights, count yourself lucky. If you do, then you are all too familiar with having to plan for something months ahead of time. Well, it was the best decision, ever.

I am so proud of my little Portuguese Water Dog. If you would have told me how far we would get, on that first night, I would have laughed. Out loud, and really hard. Willow’s focus that night was on pretty much anything but me. The room was full of barking dogs, jumping dogs, and dogs that really wanted to smell everything and everyone. Our instructor, Holli Murphy, promised that the next week things would be quieter. She was right.

Fast forward a bunch of months. I can now walk into class, put Willow in a down-stay with dogs working in the center of the room, and walk away. And she stays put, for the most part. You can actually see her switch modes when we are there. She becomes focused, and knows she has a job to do, though some of this transformation may be due to the immanent promise of treats. I honestly thought all dogs were food driven, but surprise to me, there are dogs that aren’t. Reicher, the GSD, really could care less about food, but show him a toy or a tug, and watch out. This tug thing looked like fun, so I got one, hoping to get Willow a little more motivated and worked up. I seriously thought I would have to rub bacon fat on it, but no, after a bit she did seem to catch on. One night in class, Holli and Trish, who is Reicher’s mom, were teasing me because I had my wrists inside the wrist straps. Looking down at my hands, I thought, “Isn’t that what they are for?” I guess with a 45lbs dog, that’s ok. Trish tempted me to try it with her boy. Yeah, sure, why not. So hands out of wrist straps, and a silent plea for him to go for the center of the tug, and not my hands, I call him. Wow!!!! Oh my God, the strength. It certainly got my heart pumping to see him coming at me, but I think the scariest part of the whole thing was my attempt to speak German to tell him to let go.

To have Willow look at me, listen, and do what I ask, is just an incredible feeling. My daughter asked if I was going to teach Willow how to use a toilet. I’m pretty sure I was being made fun of at that point, but I didn’t really care. It is a bit like a game, or a puzzle, that Willow is determined to figure out. When we start on a new lesson, I can see her trying to figure out what I am asking her to do. I’m sure at times her eyebrows are knit together with concentration, if only you could see them.

What have we learned so far? Heeling, both on and off lead, stays, recalls, some pattern work, pivoting, hand signals and nose work. She can now do a flip finish to the left, which I was able to teach her after watching some videos online. What this is, is when you dog is sitting/standing in front of you, and then pivots on their front feet, swings their rear to your left and finishes off in a heel position on your left side. I was really proud of us for learning this one, especially since you had to teach it in reverse order. I love it. Willow loves it. Some of our tools along the way have raised eyebrows. Like when my husband came home to find a ceramic casserole dish upside down on the kitchen floor. Well, I needed a pivot pot. Riding crops got re-purposed to help with getting square fronts. Last year’s Christmas gifts ( tea light holders made from 4×4’s and painted red) were used as pylons. You don’t really have to spend lots on teaching aids, dogs don’t really care. As long as you can ignore the strange looks from your family, your good.

I can’t say enough about our incredible instructor. My expectations for Willow have been met and even exceeded, and I have Holli to thank for that. Holli is incredibly humble about her abilities, and would likely say it is from all the hard work we have put in to class. Maybe so, but without her I wouldn’t have had a clue were to start. She breaks down the lessons into simple steps that are easy for newbies to understand, and before you know it, everything makes sense and you actually look like you knew it all along. She is the most awesomest dog person I know, and I am simply in awe of her knowledge. Check out her fb page, Rotten Dog Obedience, for info on classes. Sign up, you won’t be disappointed.

The pictures of Willow and I in class were taken by Holli, as there is no way to safely juggle a camera, treats, and a leash while avoiding tripping over dogs and pylons. Holli isn’t just good with dogs, she’s also a talented photographer, who specializes in photos of man’s best friend. For more on that, head over here.

I’m looking forward to 2016, because I know the learning and adventures will continue.

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Down to Business- Sunday Jan19th

I don’t need to say much here, the pictures speak for themselves.  My only comments would be, I’ll continue to take pictures and leave my coaching card in a box on the shelf.  Listening to the discussion of what shots to take, or what the other team might do 3 shots from now, confirms my belief that I was right in getting out while I still knew more than the 12yr olds I was coaching.

There are still lots of photos I want to share, so look for part 3 to come soon.  In the second set of photos, the curler in the bright blue shirt is Christopher Rafuse, a junior in the spare pool from the Bridgewater Curling Club.  All-in, I do believe 6 of the 8 spares got a chance to get on the ice.  An incredible, inspiring experience.  Towards the end of this post, you might notice a familiar face.  My favorite curler got to spare for Team Nunavut, and I got to take pictures of her doing it!

***So here is an after-publishing-post edit.  As you scroll down through these photos, you will notice a womens team dressed in purple.  That is Team Kolton.  They are going to be playing in the Scotties in Montreal this coming week. Incredible, right?  This was one talented field of curlers.  Read about the team here.

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M&M Canadian Juniors

My home town has a lot to be proud of.  The display of friendliness, hospitality and organization was nothing short of awe-inspiring this past week.  What we lacked in size, we certainly made up for in heart and spirit.  To be part of the planning process was an experience all in itself.  To see so many in this community come together and achieve an event of this magnitude, seemingly without a hitch, was a sport all in itself.  For many, this will be a once in a lifetime experience.  For all of our Jr Curlers that helped with this event, may you be inspired to achieve greatness in this wonderful sport. Don’t give up on your dreams, because dreams can come true.  Just ask any one of the curlers that represented their Province or Territory this past week.

Here are some of my photos from the opening ceremonies.  I will share more favorites from later in the week in another post.

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She curls for him

We take for granted that our family, be it immediate or distant, will always be there for you. This past month, we said goodbye to my grandfather. Those of us who deals with “end of life events” daily, through our choice of work, are not protect from the hurt, tears, and upheaval when we lose one of our own.

For me, one of the hardest moments, was sitting at his funeral, listening to the member of the Norweigian Consul to NS, Steinar Engeset, speak. It was then that it really hit home, I was never going to hear my grandfather speak with his thick accent again. I remember wanting to learn to speak to him in his native tongue, and tried to get him to teach me. He had laughed, and said something to me that I was suppose to repeat. Well, I didn’t know how to make the sounds needed, so that is where the lesson ended.

There are many memories that will comfort me as time goes on. Each spring we would venture outside, under the cover of darkness, to dig those night-crawling worms, so we could go fishing the next morning. I’m amazed we ever caught anything, because I can’t imagine that I shut up long enough for the fish to come near us. But we did catch some. My prize was usually catfish, which we brought home, alive, and I tried to keep them as pets.

There was car drives through Lunenburg during the Christmas season to look at all the houses with their bright lights, sitting on his lap while I played with that dreadful stuff called playdough. Napping outside in the old rubber dingy I would make him inflate for me every chance I got. Waking up to the smell of breakfast when we stayed over, and no one could fry hamburgers like he could. And the list goes on….. Knowing how to do my advanced math homework, way better then I did, when I was in grade 11. Eating all of his Jello-Pudding-Pops and hiding the evidence, thinking that he would never find out. He did, and just stopped buying them. Raiding his hard candy tin. Or how he used to tease me that when I was little I used to say, “Sandy, grampy. I want sandy”, and how it took him a while to realize I meant candy.

My grandfather, John, was born in Bodø, Norway. There were always symbols of his home land around when we were growing up. Many a Christmas, my sisters and I would dress up in our Norweigian dresses, then later, my daughter Megan, and Katherine’s daughter Mila, would wear the same ones.

I guess the reason why I am writing this, all stems from something that happened yesterday. While at the curling club in Bridgewater, my daughter called over to me, and said, “Mom, can I get a new broom head? They have one with a Norweigian Flag on it.” Well the answer to that was a no brainer, of course! My grandfather had curled for many years. Although he didn’t get to see Megan curl in person, he did see many pictures of her in action.

This weekend, as Megan and the Bachman Team head into another provincial tournament, Megan’s broom will don the symbolic flag of Norway. I hope he is watching, and I would like to think, she will curl for him.

Jeg elsker deg, grampy!

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Off to Provincials

This past weekend was an emotional one.  The Bachman Team packed up and made the drive to Berwick to play in the Western Region Zones, and really hoped to qualify for the Provincials. The quality and caliber of junior curlers in Nova Scotia is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Competition is tough, there is no room for errors, and these kids KNOW the game almost as well as the adults you see playing on TV.  Heck, these ARE the kids that we will be seeing playing on TV in a few, short years.  As a parent watching from behind the glass, I am proud to call myself a member of this family.  It is a close knit one too.  You make friends with parents from other teams, share stories, cookies and other left over 4th end break treats.  You cheer on their successes, and offer support when needed.  For me, I keep my nerves calm by taking pics of the curlers, Though this weekend, when I got home and loaded up my pictures, I realized I had missed a good part of the last game our team played. Anything that happened from the third to tenth end was not on my camera.  That is 7 ends!  How did that happen?  Might it have been related to nerves?

After winning their first game, our girls moved right to the finals.  They were set to meet a team that was not making any mistakes, who’s skip was reading the ice like a pro, and had already beaten 2 of the top teams. Nope, no nerves here.  Well the game went something like this…

  • We stole 1 in the first end.
  • Second end was blanked by the other team.
  • Third end the other team took 3.
  • Fourth end the other team stole 3 ( oh my shattered nerves)
  • Fifth end we picked up 2 ( little sigh of relief)

So the score was 6/3 for the other team. Not un-doable for us to come back, but certainly it wouldn’t be easy.  And the other team was bang on with their shots.  Our coach came back in, sat down beside me, and I asked what the girls had to say.  Ken chuckled, and said, ” They told me to calm you mothers down.  That they are going to come back”.  I took a big sigh, raised my eyebrows, and thought, “Well, ok then”

And come back they did.  Their body posture changed.  Their faces changed.  And something akin to magic happened.

  • Sixth end – They stole 1
  • Seventh end the other team scored 2
  • Eighth end we got 1
  • Ninth we stole 1

Now we need 2 in the tenth to tie and go to another end. Guess what happened?  They played the end almost to perfection, and were sitting two with Raquel about to throw her last rock. We had a rock burried on the centerline, top 4ft (for all you non-curling people, I know you might be lost, but wait, the end is comming). Our second rock was in the open, sitting back 12. After a bit of discussion amongst the girls, as we had no more timeouts, they made the right call and brought Raquel’s last rock to sit top 12.  This forced the other skip to either try and draw to the button to win, or try and cut us down to only getting 2 points, to tie.  We got our 2 after all was said and done, and onto an extra end we go.

Without boring you too much, the girls played the extra end perfect and ended up stealing again for the win.  Off to provincials we go. Raquel, Megan, Ashley and Melissa, we, your parents, are extremely proud of you and wish you all the best in your future games!

 

 

 

40 Degrees of Difference

It’s no secret that curling is a big part of our lives.  So should it be any different in the summer?  With no ice in the local curling clubs, Team Bachman (minus the Francis family), found some ice to bring us together, in the form of ice cubes.  Forty degrees of difference in the outside temperature from when we usually get together, but that wasn’t going to keep us from partying.  We camped at Kelsey’s grandparents campground in Rose Bay.  Good food, great company and many laughs, along with a friendly competition of washers.  Thanks Paul and Debbie for having us.

PS. We missed you Tom, Heather and Ashley Francis!!!!!   I vote the next get together is at your house…..