Friday, February 26, 2010

Chick a dee dee dee dee

I filled the bird feeder yesterday afternoon. No sooner had I replaced the lid on the feeder when at least 20 chickadees appeared all at once, flitting here and there, taking turns at the feeder and being their generally cheerful little selves. I've seen grateful birds at the feeder but never so quickly and so many.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on Snooker

The game of Snooker in agility is challenging,and some people claim to hate it. Others, like me, love it. And having played it the past two weekends, I've been thinking about it.

Snooker is a game that brings out the worst in our handling, until we get good at it, and then it brings out the best in our handling.

A winning strategy has to include the most efficient path for your dog, and if something goes wrong, requires thinking while running. Most of us don't practice these skills and so when we get a course map, when we walk the course, sometimes it's a real challenge to find the best course for you and your dog. And there are all those handlers on course, and no one seems to be walking the obstacles in the same order! And then, if you're on the running order later in the class, you might watch others and think "Oh I wish I'd thought of that!" and try to decide whether to abandon your plan in favor of one you didn't walk. It's something that you could practice, and should, as it might come in really handy!

Snooker can reward the bold plan--trying for 4 reds, trying for all 7s. It can also reward the safe plan, lower points but getting all the way through the closing sequence. Knowing what's best for your team on the day, on that course, is the BEST plan though.

I think (and trust me, I am no Snooker expert!) that finding a Snooker course with FLOW is the real key. One thing that I have learned to do is to number my course once I settle on it. Would that look OK if some judge designed it? (of course, Snooker does not lend itself to this, but the closer you come, the happier your dog will be) I watched Toni Osonicki run a course on Sunday that made so much sense! Her dog knew exactly where the next obstacle was. It was beautiful (and yes, it made me change my plan a bit. Successfully!)

And when something goes wrong--a bar comes down or your dog chooses a different path--you have to be able to think, and move before your thought is finished! Yesterday a bar came down and I tried to decide whether to add a red and a combo. Did I have time? Somehow I decided I didn't. I won't ever know if that was the right decision, but I knew it wouldn't be the wrong decision. As it happened, a dropped bar in the closing at #7 was our downfall.

Back to my thought though, about Snooker handling. I see a lot of handlers get so flustered in this class, and they either make some herky jerky moves, or scream at the dog, or stop on course to try to find an alternative path. CPE snooker courses are a great way to get the hang of the game. You can ONLY complete 3 reds (a 4th is an emergency red) and that takes out some of the risk-taking craziness. The lower levels are easier and as you progress, they do get more and more challenging. USDAA Snooker is harder in comparison.

But there is nothing more satisfying than conquering a Snooker course by creating a fast, flowing course that allows for maximum points.

I love Snooker, and I aspire to be a great Snooker handler.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Nature Notes

I drove to LaCrosse, Wisconsin last weekend for an agility trial (more on that in a bit) and it was a great road trip. Late Friday afternoon, as I rounded a downhill curve into the river valley, the largest full moon that I have ever seen was rising. The color of the sky at that moment was sunset, pink/purple. All evening the moon was huge and bright, as was the moon-set the next morning. Later, I was told that this particular Wolf moon was actually larger (at perigee) and brighter than it would be for many many more years. How lucky am I to have seen this, and that the sky was clear for the next two nights too!
On the drive back, since it was early afternoon and the weather mild, I drove up Highway 61 along the Mississippi. I'd read that the recent bitter cold had resulted in more bald eagles gathered, earlier than the usual March numbers. And it was true. Between LaCrosse and Lake City I counted at least (I didn't stop) 48 eagles soaring in the air, parked on the ice near open water, or sitting in trees right next to the road. And as I peeked (no traffic behind me so I could slow down!) through the trees at Reed's Landing, I saw a flock of swans on the water. Wow.

Regarding the agility trial, it was a weekend to remember! Winn completed his "Triple Triple" Superior award on Saturday. This reflects the Superior award in all three classes (Regular, Jumpers and chances) in all three levels (Novice, Open and Elite) in NADAC. And then on Sunday, Maggie earned her NATCh #3 (Championship).

Back home, we are amused by the local deer. In the morning, a group marches single file along a path through our front woods, heading south, towards the swamp, along the edge, and then into the neighbor's woods. Around five p.m. we see them return, heading back north along the same path. It's as if they are commuting to and from work. It's usually two, or five, in separate groups. There's one "alpha" doe, too, who sometimes makes them stop and turn around. They are fun to watch.

For the last few mornings, there have been coyotes in the back woods. They are quite close to the house I think. They usually howl (two or three it seems) and then Stormy starts to bark outside, and the corgis woof a bit from inside. It's a beautiful sound, but I'm glad we haven't seen them during the day this year. The deep snow has to make it harder for them to find rabbits and mice.

The birds are busy at the feeders. My friend Lissie claims to have seen yellow on a goldfinch, but not here, yet. I think the winter has been hard on these guys, too, but we still have lots of activity. And I've seen lots of pheasants as I drive around.

With this much snow, I am both looking forward to and dreading spring. I am tired of the cold, but we may have an exceptionally muddy mud season this year. Time will, of course, tell, and there's not a damn thing to be done about it.