Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Dog Needs A New Handler!

Do things always go perfectly and is everything always won-der-ful? Of course not.

Sugar's tracking has been going SO WELL, I should have known it was coming.

This week has been the tracking week from hell.

It starts off with our Tuesday night make-up class, since we missed our Sunday class while I was away showing Tiffany. Training at home has been going fine though, so all is hunky dory. I brag (aka an invitation to the gods for an immediate slap-down) to the instructor about the last track I laid for her, a tough one, and she aced it. Yes, we are hot stuff!

Not so fast.

We each lay a track in a different part of the field and she comes over to watch me do mine. She looks at my markers and says "what did you do with your track?...the turn legs are too short and too close together". Hmmm. She has a point. Well, I didn't take out enough bait for the food drops so I decided to make the legs shorter before I ran out of food, but looks pretty nasty. Add to this it's HOT out. Really hot. And the field has really grown since the last time we were there, Sugar is way down in the grass. We start. Kinda. She has trouble when the track starts to scrunch up. She is scenting but also sneezing in the long grass. I can tell it's really HARD for her and it's my fault! I'm ruining my dog! Finally she does get to the end. This can't have been good for her! So the instructor says to try her on the track she has just laid for her dog. I don't know if it was too old, too hard, too hot, too soon, but the long and the short of it, Sugar gave up. This was going from bad to worse! The instructor wants to know where my termination article is, give it to her now (the spare article you carry if you have to terminate the track for any the dog is always successful). Termination article...I have several of those!!...back in the van. Luckily the instructor has one and we terminate the track. I feel like you do when your new show hopeful freaks out at a show! Just sick. I wish I hadn't gone out at all. Sometimes it is better to just stay home and watch TV.

Not to worry, these things happen in training and you have to learn from your mistakes (I can hope!) and move forward. (I tell myself). I give Sugar a day off and then lay a nice, easy track for her. It's very easy and she does it, but I can tell heat is going to be a problem for her. I haven't got my dog back yet.

In the meantime I'm reading the Tracking "bible" and trying to pick up all I can. He gets into tracklaying and how it's not as easy as people think, most people can't walk a straight line, etc. He gives some examples like the tracklayer who used a car as a landmark and then someone reparked the same car in the same lot (ppffft...moron I'm thinking...). And how important it is to KNOW FOR CERTAIN exactly where that track is at all times, otherwise you will be pulling the dog off the real track and/or praising the dog for following nothing, just going for a walk, and HOW CONFUSING IS THAT? to the dog. And I couldn't agree more! This makes total sense!

But I don't need to draw physical maps yet, I'm still using flags and my tracks are relatively short. Right?

So today I set off in the a.m. to set the perfect track, using a different (much further away) part of the field. I get it all laid out, two turns, properly spaced, nice jackpot at the end. Back in the house I go, age it just a little, then go get Sugar and we head across the field. The track is set quite a ways back in the field, I've got four flags out there for the start, turns and end (I don't need a directional flag...) and I've taken mental note of the terrain, starts between those two pine trees going just right of that twig thingy. Or it is that other twig thingy and those pines there? I CAN'T FIND THE START. I don't see the start flag, there IS no directional flag, I can see a turn flag, but that's it. THIS ISN'T GOOD. We wander around a bit and I still CAN'T FIND THE START!! How can this be happening? THIS ISN'T GOOD AT ALL. (My instructor's voice "you need taller markers now, the grass is longer" plays in my head. Apparently she knows what she's talking about). So I decide to go to one of the turn flags, start there instead, and get to the finish that way. Half a track is better than the wandering we are doing, probably over part of the track! When I get there I see ahead what I am sure is the start (the directional flag I didn't use would have told me) so I decide to head for it instead, only to realize it's the FINISH and the START is W-A-A-A-Y over there. So I say "find it" five feet from the article and that's our session. WHAT AM I DOING TO MY DOG!!??

The good old days when we were both "on track".

I'm just completely disgusted with myself for all my mistakes at her expense!

I head to the store, I am going to remedy this flag problem so this never happens again. Everything is obviously going to have to be as idiot-proof as possible. Our instructor is always showing us the neat items she picks up, always from the dollar store, so we all refer to the dollar store as the "tracking supply store".

So don't I find these long yellow metal stakes with a big red reflector on top at the tracking supply store (Dollarama) for $1.25. There's even a little ring on top so I can tie something obvious to it to distinguish my start flag.

What they look like in the field. The red reflector, the red reflector with a bright yellow bag tied to it (aka a start flag for dummies) and my original little orange harder-to-see flag. Yeah, this might work.

Satisfied with my purchases, I leave the store. I can't find my car in the parking lot!! Should I keep looking or just start banging my head on the nearest wall?! Honestly!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Swan Guy Called

I filled out the online form on the Trumpeter Swans that I wrote about here, particularly on the wing tagged A38 swan. Imagine my surprise to get a phone call about "my" swan. She is a female, she was tagged in 2004, and she has been here, there and everywhere since then, basically in a big triangle, Newmarket, Georgina, Uxbridge, Burlington, Palgrave.

The guy that called me is the one featured in the Toronto Star article and the accompanying video found here. What an interesting guy who has basically devoted his life to the reintroduction of the Trumpeter Swan in Ontario. So we asked each other a bunch of questions, I wanted to know if the swans might nest on Palgrave pond, he wanted to know how deep it was...I have no idea, deep enough that people fish in it, shallow enough in some places. He asked if the swans were "tipping"......and you know, I totally got that term the first time I heard it......YES! Yes, they ARE tipping (tipping like mad!!..big tippers) So he said yes, if there was food within tipping reach, they might nest here.

I mentioned that I had noticed a leg band on the other swan (I noticed it in the 4 bums up picture after I posted it), he said they used to do leg bands only, but now do both, the wing tags sometimes get ripped off, but are so easy to see from a distance so it's easier to track the swans. (She has been wearing hers for six years and both are still there, so they're quite effective). He then told me how to try to get close enough to the leg banded only swan to read his leg band..!! (Right....) I can try, but somehow....I don't see it happening.

Anyway, I went through my pictures again and the wing tagged swan also has a leg band that can be seen in one picture. But the two swans are banded on different legs. In a clever move, male swans are banded on the right leg, and females on the left, so they can be forever sexed at a distance. I guessed that might be the case and I was correct, but personally I would have put the females' leg band on the right to be able to remember it more easily, since females are always "right"!

The male swan with his leg band on the right leg. The yellow wing tag can be seen on the female "tipping" beside him.

Leg bands showing on both. Male on the left (right leg), female on the right (left leg).

I haven't seen them in a few days so I'm wondering if they've moved on or maybe they're on a part of the pond that can't be seen (it goes around a corner). Time will tell.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Perfect 10

At the age of 11 1/2 years young our beautiful Tiffany has won her 10th Specialty Best of Breed. This was from the Veterans class at the CC&SSA Specialty held today in Dollard des Ormeaux, Quebec under Collie breeder-judge Joan Bulger.

10 x BISS/BIS Am./Can. Ch. Laureate Fifth Avenue. Pictured one year ago.

It was an easy trip, I stayed with friends, got to see a little bit of where I grew up (West Island of Montreal), had a great time and I'm back home in time to enjoy the last day of the May 2-4 long weekend. A bit of a blast from the past, I saw a lot of people who were in dogs in Quebec back in the 1970's who are still around. This included the breeder of my very first Sheltie, Audrey Gray of Grayfield, who is well into her 80's. She was there to be presented with a plaque and flowers by the Canadian Kennel Club Director for Quebec for 50 years continuous membership in the CKC. Using a cane but otherwise looking much as she always has, I'm so glad I was there to see her honoured in this way.

Tiffany was awesome as usual. She hated the WAY too much crate time (compared to her usual zero amount of crate time), she thought the food offerings were good though! As usual I was lucky enough to be holding onto her lead and gazing into her gorgeous face. Because at her age we can never know which show might be her last, we just have fun and are SO PROUD of our always owner-handled girl and anything that might come our way. She doesn't owe us a thing.

She's always very, very happy to get home and back to normal!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mrs. R.B. Grosbeak

So it turns out the male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak I posted pictures of earlier does have a partner. Although I didn't see them together, there's the potential at the very least. Much plainer than the male, she's still pretty.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making A Comeback

In the town of Palgrave is Palgrave Pond, which is really more like a small lake, in any case, it's a big pond. I once posted a picture of it in winter. I drive past it almost every day and always take note what is going on. I noticed the swans were back, these are not wing-clipped, private pond swans, they are the real deal "wild things". I even once had the privilege of seeing them fly away from the pond in the evening, what a magnificent sight! I had seen them last in the fall, and thought then that I must take some pictures some day. I never did see them again until now. So I had to stop and try for some shots.

Part of Palgrave pond. The white dots are the swans. Not too many choices of vantage points to take pictures. All of them were "long shots".

The beautiful pair of what I later found out are Trumpeter Swans. This is an indigenous species that is the largest waterfowl in North America. However, the last one was shot in Ontario in 1886.....hunted out. In 1982 a re-introduction program was started by one man to bring the Trumpeter Swan back to Ontario and now there are approximately 1,000 of them in the wild. And growing in number. How do I know all this? Because of what I saw when I downloaded the pictures.

I thought this was a cute "synchronized swimming" shot. And it is. Then I noticed the big yellow tag on the bird on the right. What's that?

Wow, a wing tag. I didn't notice the tag at all while shooting the pictures, since I was far away. Only one of the swans was tagged. Hello, yellow A38.

This picture shows the two tags on the one swan that is diving, one on each wing. No matter what side you were on, you could see and read the tag (if you were close enough). So of course I had to find out what this was all about. And that's when I discovered the story of the comeback of the Trumpeter Swan in Ontario. A happy story about the swans and their champion, an 86 year old Aurora man who is retired from the MNR, was in the Toronto Star. It can be found here. What an accomplishment!

Then of course after finding all this out I had to report yellow (means Ontario) A38 to the interested "taggers". I did say on the form that I would be interested in hearing about this swan if there is any special information about it. So we'll see.

Right near the swans was a family of Canada Geese with just one gosling. A bigger gosling than the ones I had posted about a couple of posts ago (that family was on a small private pond). The geese and the swans weren't bothered with each other at all, even with the baby in the mix, and were quite close together on the big pond.

The Canada Goose family with their "singleton".

The geese and the swans were diving in the same part of the pond, must be good stuff under there. Most people know the size of a Canada Goose, so this shows how big the Trumpeter Swan is in comparison.

I waited for just the right moment to get this next shot of the two swans and the two geese, synchronization at it's finest!!

Four Bums Up!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

We Had Joy, We Had Fun, We Were Tracking In The Sun!

Finally, finally and at last! ... on week 4 we get ideal weather (for the handlers!) for tracking. Our instructor always says the dogs don't care about the bad weather, but I say it's nice when both dog and handler are happy!

Sugar is doing very well! She really likes it and pulls me into the field every time, she can't wait to start her track. We're doing longer legs, turns to the right and left, fewer treats. I'm learning her style, her cues and not to worry about negative indications (eliminating what is wrong before proceeding with what is right). I can relate to that from Utility obedience scent articles, most dogs find the right article pretty quickly but will still sniff the remaining articles anyway to conclusively eliminate them before returning to the right one and retrieving it. I never fail to be amazed at the power of a dog's nose!

The flag in this picture is a directional flag on the long leg of the track. She is moving along "on the right track" at a pretty good clip! :

Getting closer to the left turn:

The corner (a left turn) is right about where she is, I am waiting for her to decisively take the corner before I follow her:

She has made the left turn and is on track:

Heading towards the article on the last leg:

Indicating the article with a down, praise from me:


Friday, May 14, 2010

New Family Down The Road

I discovered this new family of Canada Geese down the road in a neighbour's pond, so I decided to try for a few pictures. I've seen them out with these wee ones, but I've also seen the parents just on their own, so I think they're still keeping them under wraps most of the time. I haven't seen any other Canada Geese pairs out with their babies yet, so this couple has either had theirs a little earlier, or are just more brazen, perhaps since they have this pond to themselves.

Love the head turn in this picture as she wonders if I'm coming in her direction. Four little fluff balls.

Now I'm getting the complete "halt, who goes there?" stare. The babies are really young!

She herds them quietly to the water, Dad has already got in. They are always framing the babies.

Making their getaway.

Safely across.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bird Is The Word

I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this bird outside our bedroom window today. Not only have I never seen one here, I've never seen one anywhere. I really didn't think we had these Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks in this area. Wrong, and I hope I get to see him again!

Quite the looker. I'm still loving my Cardinals the best, but this guy is right up there. I'm wondering if there is a wife.

Monday, May 10, 2010

CSSA National Specialty - Part II

It's always an honour to be asked to judge and I was very honoured to be asked to judge the Puppy and Veterans Sweepstakes at the CSSA National Specialty.

I have been asked to write a critique for the CSSA magazine, which I have already submitted, so anything I say here (which won't be much!) is different from what I included in that critique, which will be published in June.

Most people know that I was a licenced Obedience Judge for 25 years. I judged all over Canada, sometimes many weekends in a row, thus gaining plenty of ring experience and confidence as a judge. This has been so valuable to me in the Sweeps assignments I have done as I have already learned not to be nervous, to tune out ringside, to run a ring with authority, to put exhibitors at ease without being familiar, to make decisions without excessive deliberation and I am not easily intimidated (thick skin!). So with all that already out of the way, it makes it so much easier to just get right down to judging the dogs.

I thoroughly enjoyed my assignment and had some truly lovely dogs to sort through. What a process of give and take sometimes! It was a very enjoyable experience. Maybe I'll even give some serious consideration (again!) to filling out that application, assuming the CKC survives!

My main winners were top notch, and I would be thrilled to take any one of them home with me!

And they are:

Best In Sweepstakes - Toven On Angel's Wings from the 9-12 month bitch class. Breeder Toni Mapes. Owner/handler is Shelley McHugh-Boumans. Sired by Am. Ch. Belmark Lo And Behold ex Ch. Toven On The Wings Of Winter. I found out at picture time that this lovely tri girl already has a 4 pt. U.S. Specialty major. I'm not surprised!

Runner Up In Sweepstakes - Hillstone Honky Tonk from the 6-9 dog class. Breeder Pat & Dennis Mahoney, Owners Cathy Reid and Cindy Callaghan, Cathy Reid handling. Sired by BISS Am. Ch. Macdega Notorious ex BISS Am. Ch. Hillstone I Love Trouble (RWB ASSA '05, 2 x ASSA AOM). A beautiful blue merle with a stellar pedigree to boot!

Best In Veterans Sweepstakes - Ch. Attridge Pandora from the 7-10 year female class, bred by Beverly Klassen and owner-handled by Karen Linkletter. By Ch. Skywards Versace ex Attridge Black Brocade. I found out that this exquisite bi-black girl had been RWB at ASSA 2007. Again, not surprised!

It's always such a thrill to find the quality you are hoping for!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn.....Tracking On The Tundra

Holy freezing cold with snow. Our third tracking lesson and I STILL don't have the right clothes. I have the right dog though! What a good girl...!! Today was not only an a.m. polar expedition, but Sugar's first turn!! On a pretty long track! And did she nail it!! Like she has been doing it all her life. Now me, if I can "get" wind direction, untangle my line before we start, get the harness on with frozen fingers, remember my article, not fall into a gopher hole, learn to dress for conditions I have never been out for in my life, we might be okay!

In just three lessons we have progressed to this point. From this. Now, it might very well be all quite normal but I am SO pleased. This is the first "newbie" thing I have done with a dog in a very, very (did I mention very?) long time. Refreshing to the old hands at tracking, right? Newbie enthusiasm! Refreshing to me too. This is SO all about the dog's natural abilities, I love it.

I am wearing 4 layers, including two coats. Two hoods, an earband, gloves. Jeans (Fail!) and CANVAS running shoes over a thin pair of socks (Epic Fail!!). I have never been so cold in my life, because of my soaked, freezing feet and lower legs. That "white stuff" on the grass is snow. This was this a.m.!! Proper footwear, here I come. I hobbled back to my van after this and had to leave, I was thinking frostbite. I am still slowly recovering feeling in my feet (it's possible I'm exaggerating slightly, but only slightly). My instructor said this photo showed good line handling skills. (She is very kind...also known as...pure LUCK). Look at my little girl though...what a star. She just loves it and literally hauls me out there.

Me staring at the corner .... oh my God, I think she actually found it and turned. Good thing, as I wasn't totally sure it was there myself until I was on top of it. Meanwhile, Sugar is long gone on the way to her article. Trust your dog, trust your dog!

Friday, May 7, 2010

CSSA National Specialty - Part I

On April 29 I headed out to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for the CSSA National Specialty. This was to be a special trip as I would be judging the Puppy and Veteran Sweepstakes at the National, which was to be held on the Friday morning. I will talk about that part of the show (my assignment) in another post. The Club put the judges up in the beautiful Parktown hotel. After my assignment though, I did move to be with friends. I have to say that the only negative thing about judging is the isolation. Luckily, that was over with early on and I got to socialize with everyone, so the best of both worlds!

I didn't take a lot of pictures as indoor shots are never very good but I did take a few to give an idea of the show.

The view from my hotel room window of the South Saskatchewan River that runs through downtown Saskatoon. It rained pretty much the whole weekend so this was the colour of the sky until the day we left, when it started to clear. No matter, we were indoors anyway!

This National had several "firsts" that I thought all worked out extremely well. It was the first "condensed" National, with all conformation judging done in two days, excepting Breeder's Sweeps which was Thursday evening. I had been pushing for a condensed format since almost the beginning so I was anxious to see how it worked out in practice. I thought it was great. The only drawback is it cut down on socializing time a bit, there were people there who I would have liked to have been able to spend more time with, but other than that, the format, I thought, was ideal.

The second first was that it was held with an All Breed show. I wasn't sure how that would work, but with this particular site, it was perfect! This venue had a building that was "attached but separate", you would never have known there was an All Breed show going on. The part of the building the National was held in had a big ring and all the grooming space that was needed. Washrooms, a restaurant and bar, and just upstairs a room for the banquet. The venue could not have been more perfect and several of us felt that this was a perfect permanent site for the National! Not sure how the committee would feel about that...! Sure wish we had a building like this in this area.

Grooming spaces on the right and left and in the back, all with views of the ring. Seating on all four sides. To get to the All Breed show, just step through a door on the right and you were in it. Every chair around the ring was a comfortable, upholstered chair. The perfect site.

The National got a very good entry of 130 competing for Breed (i.e. excluding Stud Dog, etc.). I found it really odd and very telling that the All Breed shows only got a total Sheltie entry of 28 (Fri.), 28 (Sat.) and 24 (Sun.). Wow. That is really a pitiful percentage of the entry. (Even the Sweeps was double that). Kind of in the same vein, I did ringside mentoring for all of the classes on the Friday after I judged (i.e. all classes, both sexes, right through to Winners Bitch) and only ONE non Sheltie breeder licenced judge showed up for that. I understand it was the same the following day, for the 44 Specials, ONE (non Sheltie) judge. I did have a couple of other people, licenced or aspiring, but with a solid background in the breed that attended, BOTH days. I consider these people already knowledgeable but they told me they still enjoy hearing other points of view and discussing the standard. Like many seminars I have been to, the people that could really learn something, aren't there. On the plus side, the judge that attended got lots of one on one, asked some excellent questions, and said she really got a lot out of it. What an opportunity lost for those who couldn't be bothered!

I was really happy to see such a great turnout of the Executive, and most importantly a quorum at the AGM! That was great. It is so utterly discouraging to work away for two years, travel to a destination for meetings, have enough members present at the show for a quorum, but then not get it and so not be able to get things accomplished. It really made me happy that people came out and participated.

Just a couple of ringside shots when the Specials were being judged:

Judge Judy Kelsey, Sheltie bitch Am./Can. Ch. Shadland Just In Time, handler Rod Oishi.

Judy Kelsey going over BISS Ch. Tremolo Simply Hpnotiq, a tri girl B/O/H'd by Lee Ramsden.

Full results can be found at:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

She Got Accepted!

What a day. It turns out it's harder to find a spot for a raccoon in rehab than it is to get a kid with bad grades, no money or connections, into Harvard. I spent most of the day on the phone but I did get her a spot with a wonderful woman about an hour North of me who does wildlife rehabilitation and is recognized by the MNR, etc. Everyone else said no or were closed. One said they would euthanize her for me but not take her. And it is a "her", they are easy to sex like a puppy, not like a kitten (learn something new every day).

Anyone who is interested in doing wildlife rehabilitation, there is lots of room for you! What a job though...she will need to keep her for almost a year before she can be released. She has 21 raccoons right now, but she took her anyway. And didn't she just reach right into the crate, no gloves, pick her out, protesting, by the scruff of the neck and then just pop her into her sweater, where her head emerged, suddenly content. She'll be fine.

It was fun having her for a day. She relaxed quite a bit from the night before, and when they aren't sleeping, they chatter A LOT!

They sleep in a ball with their faces covered. She is at the back of a 200 size crate, she is pretty little. The rehabilitator guessed six weeks old or so.

Waking up.......

Hi there!

I took a little video of her where you can hear her constant chattering, even while she is eating. She did this even if you weren't right there looking at her. She was getting pretty friendly, but I didn't dare to handle her, since I don't have a clue what I'm doing. The food is canned dog food with Esbilac, mushed up.

Hint for videos - start it, then stop it and let it buffer, come back to it and watch uninterrupted.

My tracking instructor went back to the field at 6:00 a.m. today but no sign of the littermates. We did what we could. Good luck baby!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Tracking Find

Tonight was Sugar's make-up tracking lesson. We found more than we bargained for when my instructor discovered a baby raccoon lying beside it's very dead mother at the edge of the tracking field. How incredibly sad! She had been at the field in the morning and was surprised when three baby raccoons came out towards her, she figured the mother was around but maybe not back yet and just left them alone. However, now we know their mother was already dead. After Sugar's lesson (she did well, I need work!) we looked around for the other two babies but they were nowhere to be seen. Returning to the body, the baby was now lying on top of the mother, clutching her fur and crying. It was absolutely the saddest sight. It would never survive if we left it, so I got a spare dog crate and we got the baby into it. It was so terrified, trembling all over and hissing at us. We want it to go to a wildlife rehabilitator as a first choice, a humane society as a last choice as they would likely just euthanize it. (Better than dying a slow death outside, but I would prefer not to do that). I thought there was a rehabilitator near me, but it looks like that place has closed down, so tomorrow I'll be searching out a spot for him/her. There is definitely one in Midland so that's an option. My instructor will go out tomorrow again and see if the other two babies have come back.

A sight to just tear your heart out. Poor little thing.

The baby as we were trying to get it into the crate. It's hard to tell by the pictures, but it's about the size of a 6-8 week old Sheltie puppy. I've got it here at home in the crate, nice and warm with some kitten milk replacer mixed with canned dog food making an almost liquid mush, along with a bowl of water. Poor thing. I don't know how long it's been on it's own, the mother has been dead for a couple of days at least. It has eaten some of the food I've offered, so that's good.

I'd heard that tracking can turn up some pretty unusual things! I guess I know what I'll be up to tomorrow. I hope things turn out well for this little one.