Sugar Skull Bandana: Weekly Agility Update

img_3383Rain surveying her land.

Just before it was time for me to leave work for agility this week, word came that court would be reconvening in Courtroom 9A of the Hatfield Federal Courthouse building in downtown Portland. I had been closely following the Oregon standoff trial for weeks, and knew that breaking news about the proceedings and verdict would come from Twitter.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. I was refreshing Twitter at every opportunity I could safely do so. A few minutes after I got home the verdict (not guilty) hit the internet, and that’s when things really blew up. As I gathered Rain’s supplies for class, I realized Rain was staring at me quizzically and forced myself to tear myself away from the phone. I tried to ignore the online reaction for the next few hours so that Rain would have my undivided attention.

We headed out to class, with Rain getting in the car pretty easily this week.

The park seemed like Grand Central Terminal during our pre-class stop. When we arrived, a man and his three black labs more or less had the run of the park. The man’s ancient pickup was backed up to the berm next to the parking lot, the canopy open and tailgate down. As Rain and I galloped/tiptoed through the waterlogged front area of the field one of the labs ran over for a moment to say hi. We kept walking to dry ground, and eventually the man and his dogs left.

Then the guy with the remote controlled airplane showed up.

The airplane started circling the air over the field, above our heads, making a high pitched droning noise. Rain was distracted by the noise, even failing to take interest in her ball for a few minutes as she perked her ears and stiffened her body.


I tried my best to ignore the plane when it was overhead near us. Did it have a camera? Could I ignore it and make it go away? Would throwing the ball take it out? Not too long after the plane started whirring around the field, Airplane Guy decided to ground his plane, then spent several minutes hanging around before leaving. He only left about 30 seconds before we did.

We arrived at class to find that Molly had brought Halloween bandanas to give to all her canine students! She invited us to take one we liked so our puppers could be dressed for Halloween. As soon as I saw a colorful sugar skull print (for Dia de los Muertos) I knew that was the one for Rain.


Then we got to work. First we reviewed various iterations of the board exercise, then “tick tick tick.” I showed Molly how Rain was doing at weaving through my legs, and she gave me some tips on starting to wean off the cookie lure.

Once that was done we worked on the weave pole channel for the rest of class, reviewing what we had done before and building up the dogs’ drive through repetition. Back and forth. Sending them through from further back than the time before, that sort of thing. Rain was finding this a bit challenging, but finally toward the end she started understanding what was being asked of her.

Rain looks pretty cute zipping through the weave pole channel. Perhaps you’re wondering why there’s no photo to accompany this pretty major part of class this week. Good question! Let me tell you why by circling back to the Oregon standoff trial and the words “refresh, refresh, refresh.”

At the end of agility each week I usually don’t have much battery life in my phone. It hasn’t been plugged in for over 12 hours and during that time it may have downloaded podcasts, taken photos, texted a few people, and more. On an afternoon when I was refreshing Twitter every few minutes, it didn’t stand a chance.

After class was over I had set up a perfect photo and called Rain to come through the channel so I could take the shot. That is the exact moment my phone completely died. This meant we also had no way of calling for help on our way home—fortunately our travels home were trouble-free.

Guess you could say I threw away my…shot.

Near the end of class, someone mentioned in passing how quiet it was. Everyone’s attention turned to Rain. Our classmate Jeanette pointed out that Rain was “a completely different dog” compared to when we started coming to agility class. Her barking interruptions have been fairly rare during class, it’s true. That said, I still do a fair amount of work “offstage” to keep Rain engaged when it’s not our turn in class. I’ll have her do turns as we wait, or weave through my legs.

Still. The hard work I’ve been doing with Rain over the last year is starting to pay off! It’s really nice to have other people notice.

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