Rainy and Barky: Agility Fun Run in Aurora

About a month ago I signed Rain up for another “fun run” to keep us working on our agility skills. This event would be held at one of the Columbia Agility Team practice barns, this one near Champoeg State Park. As usual there wouldn’t be a lot of space inside the building so dogs would need be crated in their cars—prepare for heat, they said.

That’s not quite what happened. Instead, we got an afternoon with long periods of rain showers, at times heavy. Regular readers of RitF probably remember how much effort I’ve put in to Rain’s periodic aversion to cars, which appears to be based on rainy weather. As you may suspect then, Rain wasn’t terribly happy waiting in the car while I went inside to orient myself, sign in, and walk the course. I hadn’t brought a raincoat either, so I was less willing to hang out with her outside.

This fun run had significantly fewer participants than the one we went to in September, and that was partly by design. Columbia Agility Team has apparently set some rules on their events: registration was done in advance, a limited number of spots was available, and the price structure was a little different as well. It cost more for us to go, but I think the event ran better overall.

The run order was tall to small (based on jump height) so Rain was roughly in the middle of the group as a whole.

Rain’s first run mostly consisted of her putting more effort into barking than paying attention to my cues. This was quite similar to our prior fun run! I cued going up the A-frame, she went into the tunnel. I cued it again, she jumped on top of the tunnel. Finally on my third attempt I put my leg where I thought she HAD to do the right thing. We didn’t even get through the whole course during our first run.

We exited the arena and the rain had died down so we went to check out the grassy lot around the arena. It wasn’t until I started making efforts to move toward the car that Rain switched into frozen mode, with wide eyes.

When that didn’t work, she switched into toddler mode and decided to lie down and refuse to move.

It was during this time a woman with two small dogs started expressing that she was having some problems with her car. It seems the electrical system was having an issue of some sort. She had a late-model Subaru Forester with keyless entry and ignition, so this was a big problem. At one point her dogs were stuck inside the car, but once that got figured out then she was just unable to start her engine. A mighty problem, given that she lived in Washington.

As for the rain, it did eventually die down and while Rain wasn’t entirely happy waiting in the car, we made it work.

Our second run was better. We made it through the course, but Rain didn’t get the channel weaves correctly, even once. That’s okay though—she’s just starting to get it in class. Shortly after our second run I had a realization: it was all quite a lot to ask of Rain. Taking her to a completely new place, not giving her time to check out the arena, putting her in the scary car with the scary noise and then expecting her to perform shortly after getting her out—it could take a lot out of a doggo, so it’s no wonder she was so discombulated during her first run.

The lady with the broken car and the small dogs had called AAA, who would dispatch someone to help her. In the meantime she ran her second round and I held both of her dogs while she was running the other. They were both cairn terriers, one brown and one black. Both very cute and open to a stranger’s pets.

Once everyone had cycled through the second run there were very few people left and still 45 minutes before the arena needed to be vacated. We did a third run, of which the organizer suggested we “end on a positive note” by only doing obstacles the dog enjoys or finds fun. So that’s what I did with Rain—mostly jumps, tunnels, and the dog walk. Just whatever struck my fancy.

After some of us helped the organizer straighten up the space a little bit, I figured it would be safe to head home. AAA had arrived for the woman with the dead car, but the contractor had a policy of not going on grass for calls—a big problem! A few people were gathered around her and the dispatched trucker to find a resolution to her issue as Rain and I headed back north toward home.


Smells Like a Horse-Dog Friendship is Blooming

After a wonderful week of from both our doggy classes, it was time to go back to nosework. And I was tired even before we left for class. The evening was fun enough though, and mentally engaging enough to keep me awake for a couple hours.

Once again Rain and I wandered the grounds before class started. Rain sniffed around and I discovered that the large area with bright orange litter in it was in fact the remains of probably thousands of clay pigeons.

It wasn’t long after we started walking in a certain direction that Rain started pulling fiercely. I looked off in the distance and our new horsey friends were watching, trotting over to our prior meeting spot. We were still far away, but it seemed pretty clear to me that Rain wanted to visit the horses just as much as they wanted us to visit them. In other words, we seem to be pioneering East Portland’s first doggy-horse mutual appreciation society.

I’m still being really careful with Rain. I don’t let her get right up next to the fence, as I don’t want her to get barky and spook the horses. I don’t want her hurting, getting hurt, or angering the people who may be in the adjacent stable. We spent a few minutes saying howdy to the few horses that like to come say hello from a distance of about 7-10 feet away. Hopefully one of these days we will be able to get close enough that I can bring some carrots to feed them.

The horses moved to and fro on the other side of the fence a couple of times, and Rain was clearly trying to get a good read on their scent. She extended her nose above her eyes and I could see it twitching. Surely these creatures smell very unusual and interesting to a creature that can pick up scent on the molecular level!

We managed to avoid parking by the barky puppy German shepherd this week, who it turns out is one of the regulars. Her name is Trinity and she’s roughly six months old, all legs and just starting to learn the fun of searching for treats.

An array of plastic containers and boxes were the focus on this night. There were different plastic containers with holes drilled in the lids, there were cheapie toolboxes with nooks where scent could collect. There were even a few boxes with “aged scent,” meaning they had been used over the weekend at a trial and scent had likely permeated the whole box. This meant a trickier find.

Rain and I did three runs, and someone was able to capture all but the second on video. It’s too bad—Rain was doing a few things that Kristina needed interpret for me, and I really would have liked a chance to revisit that run again on video.

During the third run, Kristina pointed out as Rain was sniffing around a table before we got in the room, that Rain could actually be using the scent over there to pinpoint the box that was in the front left of this video. (Her first find.)

Another interesting observation Kristina made after our third run: Rain was searching in a slower, more methodical manner than she had prior, and she was more successful because of it. Instantly, I thought of our recent agility fun run and pointed out that the same was true for agility. But how do you fix it? I asked. Is there anything one can do to encourage the dog to slow down instead of trying to race to the hot dog? Kristina said it would come with experience and time.

It was a keen observation, and something that I think will have greater ramifications than just our nosework efforts.

Once all the dogs had finished their third run, class sort of petered out into discussion and storytime. Kristina tells many amusing anecdotes—my favorite on this evening was of a dog that slapped a distracter box so hard the chunk of cheese flew out, which the dog caught in midair. Of course then it started slapping all the boxes, looking for its next payout. The trainer and the handler had to work for a few weeks after that to help the dog unlearn that behavior. 😀

Despite part of me wanting to stay and hear more amusing stories though, it was well past our class end time and I had already spent the day feeling pretty underslept. Rain and I headed home feeling good about our evening and with plenty to think about for next time.

Week Off, Week On: Weekly Agility Report

After a wonderfully restful week without any doggy class, it was time to get back to agility! For just one week. Because we wouldn’t have class again the following week. Week on, week off.

Rain was in the forecast for the afternoon. The Portland area hadn’t had any rain in roughly a month, surprisingly, but the overcast skies and cool breezes at the park suggested our dry spell might be up that afternoon.

Rain had fun running around at the park, but it wasn’t too long before we ended up walking around the path that surrounds the big field. At the west end, the end opposite of where we usually play, there’s a hill. On this afternoon we took the opportunity to get a photo in this unusual vantage point.

Moments after class began, we started hearing rain on the roof. The shower crescendoed and the arena filled with petrichor. It was really nice! Especially nice since we were under cover. 🙂 Soon the small holes in the arena roof started to drip, and the wet spots on the sand were signs of where to avoid standing. Even so, I got dripped on once later in class.

Our course was broken up into two chunks, the first mostly stationed on the sides of the arena. Rain and I both did pretty well—and Rain even went through the channel weave fairly consistently during this class period! Even so, Molly had us stop and work on a couple of details to give us more success in the future—namely, setting Rain up at the end of the dog walk so she would know her line to the channel weave.

Flute was attending class again, and she and Aria worked on other obstacles instead of doing the second chunk of the course like Poppy and Rain did. Rain is getting used to Flute being around, so she was able to sit closer to us without Rain making a bit ruckus!

We had a pleasant time in class! The rain stopped for a while not long before it was time to leave. There was no hounddog nor residual drama from last class. Originally I thought I might want to delay heading home due to the seemingly inevitable traffic crashes that would happen as the result of the rain showing up again, but we got lucky because the crash(es) happened going in the opposite direction. We had a pleasant time heading home and a relaxing evening.

Two’s Company, Six is a Crowd at Nosework

Rain got to come face to face with some horses this week before our nosework class! We were given the all-clear during our last class to explore the grounds, so this week we meandered around while the prior class was wrapping up. After finding some spilled dog kibble in a gravely area, I lead Rain over to the adjacent horse arena and outdoor pens.

The horses in the larger pen were curious enough to run over to visit as they saw someone approach. Rain showed the slightest apprehension at first, but soon she was sizing them up in silence. The horses sized her up as well! I kept Rain a comfortable distance from the fence, and once she showed the slightest inclination toward barkiness, we turned around and left. Safety first, after all. And I didn’t want any horse people to come out and bite us.

Earlier in the day I had taken some Benadryl, and I felt fairly loopy during the afternoon and well into the evening. I was really confused, then, to find two new cars flanking mine, both with really barky German shepherds inside. The dogs stay inside their vehicles between runs, and it was not going to work to have that many dogs barking next to Rain, whether I was around or not.

The confusion continued when I came inside to find six people in our class. Did I come on the wrong day? Eventually I was able to ask and found that two women were sort of scoping out the class with their two German shepherds (in separate cars), one person was the regular class member who had just been out of the area a few weeks, and one veteran who I think was just coming to our class instead of her own that week.

So with either six or seven (honestly, I don’t know) dogs in the running order, class went really late. There were puppies that Kristina was just trying to get interested in searching for treats, there was another dog that was searching for the same hides that Rain was (having been trained on scent already), and there was our classmate with the Rhodesian ridgebacks who was wanting to use class to practice for her odor recognition test (ORT).



Once I moved my car to a less barky area and got oriented toward the details of the day, class was pretty good. Rain’s first search was outside, which is more of a challenge, and she found the hides faster than the older beagle mix (above) who had been doing nosework for a while.

Videotaping searches is apparently a thing for nosework people, and last time Kristina offered to do a video with us. My cell phone is perpetually without enough space for such things, but I recently remembered I have a cool little device specifically for making videos, called a Bloggie. I brought it to class!

Our class ended with one of the Rhodesian ridgebacks doing part of their ORT practice. Their person had brought an armload of boxes with her, as the ORT is set up with doing finds in identical white boxes, much like we had done toward the end of our Intro to Nosework class at OHS. Silly me—I thought that since we had our metal boxes, I no longer needed the cache of perfectly nested cardboard boxes I had been using at home. SO I BROKE THEM ALL DOWN AND RECYCLED THEM LAST WEEKEND. 

Since Rain only got to do two short runs, I’m not sure that she was sufficiently tired at the end of class, but I sure was. We headed home as soon as possible, with at least one of us ready to go to sleep.

Rain Gets Some Beach Time

Rain got to go on another beach adventure this past weekend!

After agility our neighborhood was abuzz with activity and I was eager to leave it—and Portland—all behind. After packing our things, Rain and I headed west to our friend Steven’s house to decrease our travel time in the morning.

Rain had never been inside Steven’s house before! She relished the opportunity to sniff everything and explore. She got lots of attention, and even got to meet some strange-but-familiar faces in the mirror (spoiler alert: one of the faces was her own). Miraculously, she managed to stay out of mischief!

The reason Rain was able to come into the house is sad—Steven’s lovely kitty Tanha had died the week before. Tanha was a lovable cat—a stately older fellow—and there were some mysterious elements to his unexpected death. I’d rather have seen the kitty recover than letting Rain into the house, but fate wasn’t interested in my opinion.

The next morning we did our final preparations and headed westward to Rockaway. The morning clouds burned off en route, giving way to fabulous blue skies and a pleasant afternoon. I was delighted upon arrival to discover my mom has planted some “Night Sky” petunias in a container outside their place.

After getting settled we all had some quiet time before heading out for our first of many long walks on the beach. Rain got to play ball on the beach to her heart’s content, sniff interesting things in the sand, and bark at me when I wasn’t throwing that ball again fast enough for her. (Note: this is all standard operating procedure for Rain on the beach.)

During a sunset walk that evening, Rain found the long-gone remains of a sea lion and we all learned that sea lion flippers have some skeletal structure, given what remained of this one.

The next day we decided to explore a different beach so we headed to Oceanside, a little town teetering precariously on the edge of a rocky cliff. It was pretty busy, and I felt nervous navigating Rain along a road lined with cars with no shoulder, down to an even busier beach, and through the swarm of visitors. A group of Asian travelers in front of me slowed down, then spread out just as I tried to pass. I was hit in the face with the string of a kite that a group of children was attempting to fly. A sullen granny was bundled up and seemed to only be there to keep her party’s blanket from flying away in the wind. I felt like I was in the middle of a Where’s Waldo spread.

We were past most of the people when Steven stopped to take photos of the rock formations off the shore—and I discovered that I had lost the lens cap of my own camera. Thus, Rain and I had to go back through all those people to retrace our steps. Ugh. (But you know what? Miraculously, I found my lens cap! I spotted it in the sand near a log a few feet from where I had walked—it had been blown over by the wind, no doubt.)

What camera? Don’t you mean your iPhone?
I recently dug out my family’s old Minolta X-700, which uses film, in an effort to see if I can do better with it now than I did in my young adulthood before getting my first digital camera in the early 2000s. Accompanied by Steven, surely I can’t do any worse than I did then, right?

When we FINALLY made it through the crowd for real, Rain was happy to get off leash and get on with our walk. The only problem? I had forgotten to bring a ball! Over the next two hours, Rain kept stopping in front of me as I walked, expecting me to throw a ball, and I could not deliver. I thought we might find a ball—and when I found an unused poop bag flapping in the wind, we thought we had for a moment. When we pulled the plastic detritus out of the sand we discovered it was instead the lid to a sippy cup, or half an ex-ball or something. There was no ball-playing during this excursion. We did, however, see some of the coast’s dangerous eroding cliffs, a kiteboarder who launched herself about 30 feet high in the air a few times, and an oystercatcher peeping next to a hillside stream.

Once we were back in Oceanside I asked Steven to take a photo of me wearing my new Aussie shirt, a fundraiser for Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline. (Want a shirt of your own? Get one here!) Rain wasn’t very cooperative, and once again I felt nervous until we were all back inside of Steven’s pickup truck.

We were pretty chilled, wind-blown, and sun-kissed at the end of that walk. In the evening we did brave the wind again to have another attempt at taking sunset photos of Twin Rocks, but it was relatively short.

Our last morning we took one more walk, heading south this time toward Barview Jetty. Rain got to play ball, say howdy to a couple of other dogs, and run as much of her doggy energy out as she possibly could. The humans discovered an impressive driftwood fort with STUMPTOWN written over the entrance, and the dog discovered the remains of a large, dead sea bird about 20 feet away. There’s discovery for everyone at the Oregon coast!

After eating lunch and packing up, we were on the road back home, our toes caked with sand and our faces whipped by wind. Yet another successful beach trip was behind us.

A Grand Afternoon Until It Wasn’t: Weekly Agility Report

Agility was pretty quiet this week—just two people and two dogs as students, as some people were getting an early start on our holiday weekend. It was another beautiful spring afternoon, and we enjoyed a relatively quiet stop at the park before class.

Once we were in class, Molly had Rain and I work on the afternoon’s course first. This course ringed the room, 12 obstacles officially but we were invited to add the natural 13th if we wanted, so we did.

There were a few tricky spots, such as the multiple times we approached this part of the course:

If you were a dog racing toward what you see here, which obstacle do you think you’d be inclined to take? Which obstacle depended on which number we were on (as seen by the numbered cones) so it really depended on the dog to listen to the handler.

I’m quite pleased then, to say that Rain and I had no problems with these obstacles whatsoever during our runs!

The obstacle that Rain did have trouble with, sort of inexplicably, was a simple jump on the other side of the arena. Rain was inclined to run toward me, and in one case still didn’t take the jump despite my placing myself in a way to almost force her to do so. Was it because the jump was at an angle? Was there something that didn’t look quite right? This was the only repeated issue we had in class on this day.

We worked a little bit on channel weave poles and I showed off our work on Rain’s “feet” command, so I was feeling pretty good at the end of class. Rain got to splash around in the kiddy pool that was still set up, so I think she was feeling pretty good too.

We had exited the barn to head for the car, and we heard a hounddog baying in close proximity. I knew the sound, as we’ve had run-ins with this dog before.

The farm next door has two dogs who are often loose, and the farm is not fenced. In the past this hounddog has heard Rain barking with excitement inside the car as we travel down the road, and come running out into the street to chase the car. He has approached people coming and going from class, sometimes barking, sometimes not.

Not knowing where the dog was, I took Rain back into an area of the barn I could use as a visual blind for her while I looked for the dog’s location. No big deal, I just wanted to know where the dog was and keep Rain calm before we load up.

One of the property owners came out and seemed to want to “help” us, while seemingly blaming us for wanting to be aware of this dog’s whereabouts. “He’s harmless!” “He lives here!” (I thought he lived at the farm next door?) “Your dog is the reactive one!” She herded us to our vehicle and watched us in close proximity from behind as I loaded Rain. Once that was done to her satisfaction, she turned toward the arena and soon I heard a sweet “Soooooooorry, Molly!”

It was deeply unsettling.

And that is what I got to mull over during our ride home, after what was otherwise a pleasant class. Fortunately, we were heading to the beach—and hopefully as far away from people as we could get—in the morning.