Sunday, April 24, 2011


I suppose it's time to introduce Norman.


Norman came to me as a foster from Cairn Rescue USA. He was described as a "border collie in a cairn terrier suit". He was dog aggressive, loud, and obnoxious, but would melt like butter with people. I remember the day I met him; his first foster mom brought him to the dog training facility I worked at. We wanted to do intros with my dogs on neutral turf. Norman came screaming and shrieking out of the car, ready to eat my dogs that were behind the fence.

Somehow, we worked it out and Jack, Wolfie, and Norman reached a state of tolerance that was acceptable to all. I fostered him for over a year; he was a demo dog in my classes and became a little shining star. He even made several doggy friends, including a Maltese named BeeJay who also hated other dogs. However, his involvement in off-leash playtimes with my group classes ended when he attached himself to a poor mastiff's face.

Still, he came a long way, and my mother adopted him to be a companion for her, my alzheimer's-stricken father, and our older Cairn Mugsy. Cairns tend to prefer the company of other Cairns, and despite Mugsy's reluctance, they became friends. She made her first canine friend shortly before she succumbed to various organ failures.

Fast forward to about 4 years later. Dad's disease has progressed rapidly in recent years and he was barely aware of Norman's existence. Norman still liked to sit by him and follow him, but when Dad would have a temper tantrum, Norman would often be in the way... and he got stomped. Norman's stress response is aggression... a bite occurred.

That was enough for everyone. We always knew it was a possibility that Norman would come to live at my house again, and the time had arrived. It's very sad for many reasons, not the least of which is that my mom has become very attached to him; he ended up being much more for her than my dad after all.

Someday, when it is safe for him to return, Norman can go back home. Until then, he's staying here with us. He and Wolfie have never been fully comfortable with one another, but after a couple of weeks, the posturing settled down. He has always liked Scorch, which is shocking considering how long Scorch was intact, so they're fine. He has an unhealthy love for the cat.

He did get snappy last night with Bryan and Wolfie. Again, his response to stress is aggression; yesterday, I took him to work for 2 obedience classes and then we had people over playing Kinect (lots of stomping). He snarled silently at Wolfie while sitting on the couch, and then later snapped at Bryan when Bryan told him off for sniffing a bag of Doritos. It's always an adventure in this house... but Norman will always have a home here if he needs it and overall I do think he's happy.

Awful picture, but I do have evidence of actual SNUGGLING... Scorch isn't too sure about the whole thing, but Norman wanted nothing more than to sleep next to him.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Yesterday, I taught a private lesson to a client from my puppy class. The appointment was actually scheduled for Monday, but Scorchie was on crate rest... and if Scorchie couldn't make it, she wanted to reschedule. I swear, it's really all about Scorch, not me. :)

So the dogs had a nice little playtime, and then her cocker spaniel had a nice little lesson. My client, by the way, lives in a BEAUTIFUL condo with fantastic gulf views. Scorch considers himself a society dog after having been there. So we were working the dogs in the courtyard and then took them into the small parking garage for some off-leash playtime. We entered through the open garage door and rounded a corner. There was another slatted garage door there, pulled down. My client said, "They'll be fine in here, the only way out is the way we came in."

In literature, this device would be called "foreshadowing".

The boys were running around joyfully, and no sooner had the words come out of my clients mouth that Scorch found a gap in the closed garage door and squeezed through it. He stood right outside the door looking victorious, then started sniffing a bush while we stood there open-mouthed. When I recovered my senses, I called him and he squeezed back through.

There truly isn't much that can contain this dog. Bedroom doors, backyard doors, sliding doors, windows, soft crates...

...he has opened representatives from each of these categories with ease (although no destruction, thankfully). Now we can add GARAGE DOORS to the list.

It was a beautiful day outside, so after his demo-dogging job, we stopped at Bird Key park for our daily training session (daily!!! I've actually kept up training him EVERY SINGLE DAY!).

He was a little wired at first, as always, but it definitely took him less time to settle down. The new location work we've done lately has helped. He gave me some nice heelwork (forge-y, but our criteria was more attention than position) and we worked on signals. He needed some gentle reminding that he needs to look at me when left on a stand-stay because signals might be coming. He made some nice improvements.

And of course, we worked on "stays" so I could take his picture by the water. (All photos in this post are unedited cell phone pics, so pardon any weirdness)


Overall, a beautiful, successful training day... with standard Houdini behavior.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ODTC Rally trial, 2 RA legs

As I was driving home, elated from this amazing, successful weekend, I had a thought: very few people get to be conscious of being right in the midst of some of the best years of their lives.

That's where I am, working with my dog Scorch; trialing and training with my brilliant, enthusiastic, happy-go-lucky border collie, the first dog I've ever been able to seriously compete with. Scorch really is the dog of a lifetime.

This dog has not met a training task that he could not overcome.

And so it was with Rally Advanced B. Scorch and I were up against the "big dogs". Most of the dogs in our class were also working on their RAE titles, and so had already worked in Rally Excellent that day. We don't have an RA title, but Rally rules state that any other obedience title (our CD in this case) excluded us from Advanced A, where the "green"er dogs usually compete.

Day 1, Scorch held his own, even as he rushed out of position with excitement upon spotting dad, with a respectable 93/100.

Day 2, Scorch scoffed, "Big dogs, schmig dogs," and dominated the ring. We left with a score of 100/100 and a time of 1min 8sec, nearly 30 seconds faster than the only other 100 in the class.




Day 1:

Day 2:

I KNEW as we finished the day 2 course that we scored highly... I was hoping for that 100 but you never know if there was an error you can't see from handler perspective. Overall, Rally has been a great, positive way to get more trial experience. I'm proud of Scorch for more than holding his own against "B" level dogs, even beating them.

Judge Bob Withers (probably my favorite judge so far) called Scorch a "spirited animal". Scorch's fan club has grown; "that fast dog" has gathered a group of spectators that look forward to our ring time; they ask when we're competing so they can watch. He was by far the fastest dog in any of the Rally classes; I'm finally learning the pace that best showcases his heeling.


At one point, Bryan and I crated Scorch and went to watch some more of the runs. There had been a dog nearly out of his soft crate earlier, so when Judge Withers calmly called out, "Loose dog!", I curiously looked over to see if the dog had gotten out.


Scorch was being held by the collar by another competitor, grinning and straining to get to me. The competitors laughed and remarked, "He sure knows his mama!" I don't think they would have nearly been so genial if Scorch had run amok, but all he wanted was to be with his people.

When we went back to the crate, I discovered that he UNZIPPED IT FROM THE INSIDE. There are very few doors, windows, and now crates that can best Scorch. He casually attempts to open everything; he is never destructive, just resourceful. Ugh. He spent the rest of the runs happily in a down-stay by my side.

Needless to say, it was an eventful trial.

While we were there, we heard an explosion of applause and cheering at the Utility/Open half of the building. Even though I'd never witnessed one before, I instantly knew that someone had just won their OTCH. Sure enough, a man I recognized from training at ODTC years earlier won his OTCH on his Novice A dog. I had goosebumps. A woman sitting near me mentioned, "That's always in the back of my mind, but I just haven't found the right dog."

I replied that I had... hopefully he has the right handler.

Time to buckle down on our Open level training. Unfortunately, Scorch scraped up his paws playing with some neighbor kids so we've been taking it easy. I entered him in the St Pete Rally trial and hopefully we'll finish our RA there. My goal is to be showing in Open this summer. Might that be the time we meet our first NQ? If it is, so be it; I'm just happy and honored to work with this amazing collie.