There’s No Peeing in Nosework! Nosework Report

Oak Trees and Gun Club Sign

Nosework this week was a fairly quiet affair. We only had three people and four dogs in class: Desodo, Two Bird, Hector, and Rain. We did three searches, but it was still light outside when we headed home!

Our first search was outside, and Rain was first in the evening’s search order. Kristina warned us that there were some pee spots to watch out for, and to keep our dog moving fast if need be.

WHOOPS! As usual I was the weakest link in our team and failed to ‘spot’ (ha ha) when Rain was smelling the pee. I didn’t know how to respond—the only other time I’ve seen a dog pee during a search in class, the person had a fairly unsettling (to me) reaction and Rain can be a delicate creature in some moments. I didn’t want to follow the other person’s example, so I just resumed the search as fast as I could and asked Kristina for advice.

After our turn was over and I returned from stowing Rain, Kristina pointed out that the hide was high and the pee was low, so it was an easy way to tell when the dog was zeroed in on the wrong thing. In our defense, I didn’t know until Rain found the hide that it was up high. 🙂

The second search was inside, utilizing both the side room and one half of the great room.

Since we hadn’t had class the prior week Rain was once again demonstrating how much drive she has when she returns after a break. I want to keep this in mind and maybe take a break from practicing before she does her ORTs.

Desodo Searches Table in the Great Room

During this class Two Bird got to graduate from boxes to looking for his carrots in the room. He did this exercise in the same area(s) we worked in: at first he searched in the same area the other dogs searched for odor outside, then he used the same areas inside.

Two Bird Searching the Side Room

Our final search was for a single hide, and after we got ourselves tangled up in the bank of chairs, Rain found the source pretty quick, if you ask me!

Hector was right after Rain and even though I came back in the building almost right behind them, I think Hector had found the same hide nearly as soon as I was inside! Everyone else did their searches off-leash this night (I’ve been trying to do them on leash to practice my leash handling skills if nothing else—and you’ll see I very much need it!)

Heading home from Puzzle Night, Rain and I were happy to climb in bed and get right to sleep.

Moody Sunset Over Powell Butte
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Rain Gets a New Kiddy Pool

Rain in Small Kiddy Pool

Back when Rain’s Uncle Atticus was pretty young, I read a book by Greg Louganis, wherein he talked about how he takes his dogs hiking in the Los Angeles mountains, gathers returnable bottles and cans, and the money goes toward their toy fund. That sounded like as good a reason to pick up returnables as any other, so on our outings I started picking them up. When The Daily Atticus started I took advantage of other found objects along the way (back in 2012 we found a $100 in the street!), and somewhere in there I started helping other trash make its way to a trash can or recycle bin.

In recent years our neighborhood park has become more heavily-used, and trash has ticked upward. Depending on my mood on a given day, I may go out of my way to pick up several bottles and cans, putting them in any space in my coat and bag that I can find. On other days, in other moods, there might be so much extra trash (or food in the grass, now) that I just scowl and think ill of other park users.

Last Friday we arrived at the park to see a new one: a pretty big kiddy pool sitting toward the corner of the park.

Rain in Big Kiddy Pool in Park

We walked past it on arrival, and I was intrigued. Rain has a small kiddy pool and loves it. It would be the perfect time to upgrade. Should we try to haul it home? I pondered as we did our usual park business over the next half hour.

As we headed toward the same corner to leave, it was decision time. It looked to be in good shape, I was just a little worried about drawing a lot of attention to myself in the two blocks needed to schlep it home. After deliberating for a few more minutes, I decided what I thought the best way to get it home would be.

Well, it was too big to just prop up at shoulder height and walk, so I ended up extending my right hand skyward, pool in hand, while Rain’s leash was tight in my left hand. Once my arm started tiring I adjusted the load slightly, over my head. A passer by might think it looked like a weird turtle or maybe just a kiddy pool with legs.

HA Schleps the Big Kiddy Pool Home

Rain walked pretty easily so there wasn’t too much trouble until we were nearly home. This is when Rain spotted two skwerls in the trees across the street from us. At that point she wanted to chase and bark at them, so I put the pool on my back (full turtle mode) to free up my hands for Rain-wrangling. A few moments later we were free to make the last several feet into the front yard where I tossed the pool on the grass. After putting Rain in the backyard, I had both hands free to stow the pool.

Rain in Big Kiddy Pool in Backyard

Does this thing have a leak? Will the added size be worth it or was Rain happy with the small, more portable wading option? Only time will tell—but if we need to pass it along via Freecycle or another avenue, it’ll be worth having given it a shot.

That, dear readers, is how Rain got a new kiddy pool.

Rain Splashes in Big Kiddy Pool

Keeping it Cool in the Pool: Weekly Agility Report

Wet Rain Wants to Play Fetch

It was a warm one this week for agility! In the upper 80s, according to the National Weather Service. In fact it had been warm enough all week that Rain’s mudhole is officially dried up, possibly for the season. As Rain is showing her age a bit and I didn’t want her to get overheated before class, we mostly walked around the park during our pre-class visit.

Dried Up Mudhole

Rain has definitely shown signs of warm weather bothering her more than her Uncle Atticus ever did. She does have a thicker coat, tends to run more as a default, and when it’s warm she is clearly happier once she has had a dip in some water. That said, doesn’t seem like a bad idea to go back to visiting Wilco (which has air conditioning) over the summer.

When we arrived for class we weren’t surprised to see the kiddy pool out, but we were surprised when we went into the pen and it was empty! There was a hose that seemed to be unfurled for hosing down dogs and the like, so I dragged it up to the pen but then had second thoughts. Would it be okay to fill up the pool, especially as we were the last class for the week? I didn’t want to further annoy the property owner or anyone else. I wandered back down to ask Molly, who said she just hadn’t gotten to it before her first class started, so I had her blessing.

Rain Splashes in Kiddy Pool

Once Rain dipped her toes in, she was a happy dog. She would get in the kiddy pool, splash around, climb out, roll around with her back on the grass, get up, shake out, then climb back into the pool to start the cycle again. Sometimes she would decide she wanted to fetch the ball, and she was clearly happier while wet and in the shade.

Jackie was at class when we arrived, but during the earlier class Cedar had started limping so she had switched dogs and was going to head out. Hunter and his person were absent from class too. This meant that our class only consisted of Linda, Aria, Rain, and me! Because the other dog was angelic little Aria and they sat far away, Rain was way more chill during class than she normally was. At one point she and Aria were even saying howdy. It was such a nice break from spending the whole class hyperfocused on engaging with Rain just so she wouldn’t make a ruckus.

Linda and Aria Running an Agility Course

First Rain and I ran a course of 11 obstacles, mostly down and back so it wasn’t very difficult to get the order straight in my head. Molly also suggested lowering the jump height to keep Rain from working too hard in the warmth.

Once we had run through the course once Molly asked why I had done a lead out with Rain on my right side. I didn’t have a solid answer, and Molly pointed out that because the course curved the other direction at the end of the line, I was making it more difficult than it needed to be. She had asked someone else the same thing in another class, and he said that he usually walks his dog on the right so it felt more natural. Rain is usually on my left but I’m right handed so it’s possible that’s why I gravitated to it. At any rate, we ran a second time with Rain starting on my left side, and turns out it did go a bit better!

Even so, I felt like I had some difficulty with a specific jump, and we were taking it twice, in opposite directions, during the course. After our second run I suddenly felt like the arena had warmed up so we let Linda and Aria go before doing the course a third and final time. Which we nailed!

Aria doesn’t yet know all the obstacles, so they only ran seven of the eleven Rain and I had done. Afterward they worked on the next step for introducing Aria to the teeter (obstacle #10).

Then we worked on weaves, which I now have a renewed excitement and determination about. Rain and I had practiced with our first two poles every weeknight using Molly’s recommendations from the prior week, but I had come up with even more questions that we talked about in class. Specifically, I had realized the night before that Rain wasn’t learning how to do the weaves approaching from my left side, and not every course is going feature an approach on the right. (DUH, self.) Molly got us going on correcting the thing I had been doing wrong (WHOOPS!) and gave advice on our ongoing challenges with treating after a successful weave. (Our fake Lotus Ball tends to open when I toss it, often tossing the treat into the grass again and slowing things down while Rain looks for it, which is exactly the problem we had before.)

Aria is way ahead of us on this one, as they’ve been working on 2×2 weaves for months. She is currently using a total of four poles, and while they’re not in a straight line yet, they’re getting closer. During class Linda and Molly will often stand on either side of the poles and run Aria back and forth through them. She still makes mistakes, but she’s doing great.

Apparently my renewed determination about weave poles has been contagious. When I stated that weave poles are the only agility obstacle Rain doesn’t have now, and I’d like her to learn them before she dies, Molly claimed that it would be the “Summer of Weaves,” that Rain would be weaving before our summer break in August. I do like having goals but I’m not sure that one is realistic, so I’m going to try not to give that ‘deadline’ much weight. Dogs above a certain age may need longer to learn new things, and as I’m starting to notice Rain aging I feel a bit like we’re in a race against time.

One thing that Rain has no problem with, however, is enjoying the pool on a hot day. When class was over we went back to the pool for a while to splash around before heading home. We wanted to make sure that it was worth filling the pool up even though we were the only ones using it. So use it Rain did before we headed home for a quiet evening.

Rain Splashing in Kiddy Pool, Backlit

Five Seconds: Nosework Report

Hidden Odor Under a Garbage Can

A day or two before before nosework this week, I remembered to check the NACSW calendar for any odor recognition tests (ORTs) that may have been added since the last time I checked. ORTs aren’t organized as frequently as trials, but you can’t participate in a trial until the dog has passed an ORT. And the last ORT that would have been relatively convenient, I found out about a day after I had committed to working a different event the same day.

It turns out there was a new ORT listed when I checked, in mid-July in the Puget Sound (Seattle) area. I looked at the premium (details/registration) and noticed the price was given differently in two places, so I decided to ask Kristina about it during class before registering.

When we got to class, I ran into Jackie outside and I mentioned the ORT price to her. She said the more costly option listed in one of the two places was generally normal, but also gave me an insider tip: ask Kristina before registering, as she might know if there’s something closer that hasn’t been announced yet. I filed that in my brain and headed inside for class.

Rain was up first in the run order, and Rain was raring to search! She found her first hide in five seconds.

At some point while we were waiting for another pair to come in, I asked Kristina about the ORT I discovered. She confirmed that the price is done per odor (meaning doing all three tests would be over $100) and that she did indeed know of another option that would be closer to home! The date is later in the year, but I think I’m willing to wait longer for something across town over getting it done sooner.

Hector Finds a High Hide

Our second search was in the great room, where Kristina had put more very high and very low hides. A few of the dogs did a great job rearing up to indicate the hide on the very top of a dry erase board that was on a metal easel! (Hector is demonstrating this, above.)

Things went pretty fast in class as we had a smallish crew. I enjoyed starting class while it was pretty light outside, but the sun had set by the time we were done. (In about a month, we may still have light in the sky when we leave for home!) Rain enjoyed using her brain in class, and we both went home happy and ready for bed.

Where Rain Shows How Far She’s Come?

Rain has been doing a great job so far this year at getting in the car. It’s possible that she’s finally getting it in her head that getting in the car leads to going to fun places—or it’s just because we haven’t had any serious rainstorms during her car time for a while now.

On a recent morning we spotted a scrap car bound for the wrecking yard during our morning park jaunt. The trunk was open, the lock was stripped out, it had no license plate and was hooked up to a junk truck. I approached it and started opening the trunk just a little bit more. Rain jumped right in—she knew what was up.

Rain in the Geo Metro Trunk

Moreover, Rain has come a long way with being photographed since 2015 when I could barely get her to stay still! I really enjoyed taking photos of her Uncle Atticus with found objects on our walks. I guess our found objects are just starting out on a larger scale?

Rain’s Nose Finds a Beach Treasure

Rain on the Beach
Rain with Her Tongue Out

It had been too long since Rain had a decent beach adventure, so we headed for the usual place last weekend. Our trip was mostly the same old thing—two long walks a day along the beach playing ball at Rain’s insistence—but on Saturday night things went briefly awry.

It was getting to be sunset. The nearly constant Oregon coast wind had picked up a bit, blowing down the beach from the north. The third or fourth time I threw the ball for Rain to fetch, she started making larger circles on the beach, and before I knew it she was plum headed away from me.

It is pretty unusual for Rain to take off like that, especially with no SKWERLS in sight. I immediately started following her, periodically calling her name, fully realizing with the ocean waves and wind it was unlikely she’d hear me very loudly, if at all.

Part of me was convinced that I’d be chasing her until we got about a mile up the beach to Rockaway City Center. There, I feared, some hapless family was having a weenie roast on the beach and they’d get joined by a visitor expecting a reward.

Where was she going? I just kept following, as fast as I could.

A few minutes later I saw a seagull ahead. Was Rain interested in chasing the bird? When she slowed nearby to approach a lump on the sand, I started wondering if she had found another dead sea lion. As I finally caught up with her, I could tell it was no sea lion.

Dead sturgeon in the sand

It was an enormous dead sturgeon or similar fish. Roughly six feet long, it was surrounded by the footprints of sea birds, and now Rain’s footprints too.

Rain and the Dead Sturgeon

I texted Steven, who was back taking photos at the place we had accessed the beach. “Rain noseworked a dead sturgeon,” I said to explain our disappearance. Before too long, he joined us to check it out and take some photos.

Finding some serious irony in the thought of a “romantic” sunset photo with a rotting sturgeon as a focal point, I took one last photo of my own.

Dead Sturgeon in the Sand, Romantic Beach Sunset

Before Rain came into my life, I don’t think I had ever seen or noticed a dead animal on the beach. Now, we seem to find all kinds of dead animals on every trip! I’m not terribly pleased she took off up the beach like that, but when you train a dog for high-level scent detection, I guess you should expect some unintended consequences.

Butterfly Drawn in Sandy Beach

New Weaves: Weekly Agility Report

Rain Basks in the Sun

Rain and I ventured out to agility class this week with some beautiful spring sun to keep us comfortably warm. Rain has been slowing down a bit, so I was careful to stop playing ball with her after a few minutes. After that, she wandered over to the mud hole to find a relatively shallow puddle, then we just walked around the giant field enjoying the scenery and the weather.

Bee Hives at Agility

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed what looked to be bee hives in a different part of the agility property. This week Rain lost her ball in the furthest pen over, requiring us to go to the far side and skirt the area. We got a good look at the hives, and they were buzzing with activity!

Not long after that, Jackie brought Cedar and Poppy into the pen with us. (Jackie and I have dreams of the three of them becoming friends, but Rain always gives them the cold shoulder.) Cedar seemed interested in playing with the ball, so I threw it and was shocked when I saw him posturing his body just like a border collie! He has been slimming down over the last several months, and he even jumped up a bit to catch the ball when I threw it! I’m now learning as I write this that there is such a thing as a blonde/yellow border collie, and if I had known that before I would have totally known Cedar was one.

We started class out by doing an exercise to work on sending the dogs to the non-obvious side of the tunnel, and threadles. The idea was for the dog to cue from what we were telling them instead of taking what they assumed the right thing was.

Poppy in the Tunnel, Kid on the Ground

Jackie’s husband and two young granddaughters had come to watch Nana and Poppy in class. The older of the two granddaughters spent much of the class playing in the dirt on the arena floor. At times she would like flat on the ground and scoop sand on her chest as if she was trying to bury herself. Rain seemed distracted and antsy because of her, and I realized that there could be trouble.

Rain hasn’t had a lot of exposure to small children. On our way home from the park each weekday morning, there has been a one-child bus stop since January. Every day when we go by, Rain watches and drifts toward the young boy. I’ve been handling this in a Reactive Rover way, but I’m not sure if she’s curious or thinks he’s a small animal she needs to bark at and herd.

When it was our turn at the tunnel then, I noticed that Rain’s line of sight to the tunnel might tempt her to rush the visitors. Once Rain got going and really focused on the exercise she was fine, thankfully.

At the beginning of class I had made a point of telling Molly that we had set up our weave poles to start working on 2x2s again and we had done two sessions, two nights in a row before class. I had gotten tired of not making any weave pole progress and the season was making practice more easy to do. So when we went to doing weave poles next, it was a chance to show her how we were doing and the challenges I already felt we had. Molly pointed out that I had been starting the exercise at the wrong angle relative to the two poles (whoops!), but we worked with Rain and she got the new angle pretty easily.

At home I also felt challenged by tossing a treat in the grass, as it would slow Rain down to have to sniff it out—it was actually slowing her down on the exercise rather than driving her ahead. Molly suggested we use a target object with a treat inside, like our fake Lotus Ball or a miniature cooler like the one she uses in class, to help this issue. I had wondered if we needed to switch our practice area to my parents’ driveway, but Molly was concerned that asphalt might be harsh on Rain’s joints, especially after time.

Class felt like it was over quickly because of the beautiful weather, but we didn’t stay long after class. We had a beach trip to pack for!