Regular readers of Rain in the Forecast know that Rain and I had to find a new pre-agility hangout this week, as the park we’ve been going to since April is now nearly pitch black and covered in fog when we arrive.
At first I thought we might end up tooling around outside a strip mall along our route, but I had a flash of inspiration while we were heading out. WILCO!
Wilco is a local chain of farm stores, and there’s one not too far off our route. What makes it so attractive as a pre-agility destination? Dogs are welcome to come inside the store! Rain and I visited once in the spring and the staff were as nice to her as could be.
Rain first took a thorough survey of the parking lot, checking her peemail and doing a quality control check of the straw baled up inside an outbuilding. Once we went inside there were all kinds of interesting things for her to check out, from an aisle of fasteners to bags of horse chow. Here she is checking out the aisle of dog food…
Rain checked out every single aisle at Wilco, then met the two young women working the registers. When I beckoned her back into an aisle for a second round, she seemed to know she had already seen it—only then did she start being mouthy and barky.
She was nonetheless very pleased with our new destination.
It turned out that Rain was the only dog at agility again! One of our classmates is having a longer-than-anticipated recovery from knee surgery, and Linda came but Kate the Westie seems to be having a joint issue that may preclude her from agility moving forward. 😦
That means Rain got to work the entire hour of class—and while she was perfectly capable of handling the task, things got a little tricky at the end.
Molly had us warm up (figuratively and literally, as it’s now December) by circling the arena and practicing our bypass cue. That is, the assignment was that we would be going by lots of agility obstacles and Rain wasn’t allowed to take any of them!
We ended up working on the dog walk during a fair amount of class. Molly installed a hoop over both ends of the dog walk, intended to help the dog keep their head low as they move.
Next we reviewed weave poles by using the channel weave, putting bait in a Lotus Ball so she would drive through the weave poles toward her reward. We started adding a little challenge by feeding Rain in a step or two to the side. Dogs are always supposed to enter weave poles by passing the first pole on their left side, and that’s where the challenge seems to be for Rain. Practice, I am sure, will make perfect!
Next Molly started teaching us an introduction to the tire obstacle, if for no other reason than to break our class up a bit. Rain starts checking out when she does the same exercise for too long. The tire obstacle was presented as a shaping game—I wasn’t telling her what to do, she was figuring it out and getting rewarded. She seemed to enjoy this new game, as it was pretty close to a similar game we’ve done with the wings of jumps in the past.
Soon we were back at the dog run, and Molly had me start racing Rain to the other side. We set the baited Lotus Ball on the other side again after Rain was demonstrating a desire to launch off the incline when we’d first set off. Once we started using the Lotus Ball, things were going better.
Things were going better UNTIL one run when Rain decided to jump off the dog run from the highest part! Her paws were over four feet off the ground. We were racing to the other side, then suddenly she was in front of my face, then suddenly on her side on the ground. I had to brake hard myself just to make sure I didn’t run into her and trip myself or kick her. GASP.
“ARE YOU OKAY????” I asked Rain, with my eyes as wide as saucers.
Rain got up, ran over to the Lotus Ball, and pawed it open to get her cookie reward.
When she was done she came back to me and shook off some dust. “Okay, let’s get back to it,” she seemed to be saying.
I gently ran my hands across her ribs to make sure she wasn’t sore to the touch. Linda offered, “she did a good parachute landing!” Once the three humans (Molly, Linda, me) verified she wasn’t in need of immediate medical attention, we took her on the dog run a couple more times just to make sure she didn’t get spooked from that obstacle in the future.
Australian shepherds are bred to withstand some rough-and-tumble activity. Working long days around large stock like cattle will regularly result in a hoof on a paw, or getting bumped by a larger animal. While it’s not in the Australian Shepherd Club of America breed standard, physical resilience is definitely in character with the Aussie’s usual character and temperament. In other words, an Aussie’s got grit to spare!
After class, I was still in shock about Rain’s fall. Rain had absolutely no problems that evening, no indication this tumble had hurt her in any way. I was certain her ribs would be sore in the morning—but they weren’t! She was a little subdued the next morning on our walk, but she also was having some gastrointestinal upset which could have also lead to the absence of her pulling on her leash.
During that walk though, I didn’t work her as I usually do. Rain got to just sniff the ground and take it easy. She’s now fully back to her usual self, barking at squirrels and running circles around her human companions.
Rain, this song’s for you this week!