Updated: March 29, 2022

"Your life is made up of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash."

If I've learned anything from last year, it is that life is unpredictable. More than ever I recognize the brevity of life, and I am determined to make the most of every healthy, living moment I have! No moment is wasted, because you learn something with every breath you inhale. Breathe deeply!
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
  The dip in the roller coaster of training   

What goes up, must come down...and that includes dog training and my mood. Not so surprising, the two are tightly connected.

I started off the morning with Noodle getting a massage from our local canine sports massage therapist. As I had expected, she was very tight and out of place after getting crushed by her bracemate on Sunday. I still have nightmare flashbacks when I think about that incident. Thankful she came out of it better than when it happened to Pretzel years ago.

After the appointment, I took all 3 dogs field training. It was a perfect field day - cool, dry, with varying winds. Dolphin got to go first. She tried to jump on his first bird, but didn't actually touch it and I was able to get him stopped and back on point. The next few birds were much steadier. He struggles with impulse control when he ends up too close to the bird on point. The wind was very shifty, so at times he pointed from a good distance away and was really solid, and other times the wind died and he pointed the bird right under his nose, and that was harder for him. I need to work a LOT on heeling because he seems to have zero concept of it out in the field.

Pizza's turn was next, we worked her with a dog that was in training for senior hunter so she could deal with his mistakes, chasing birds, etc. She was rock solid on everything, including pointing and holding on a bird that fluttered up into her face and all over her head. Her self-control is awesome. What isn't awesome is her retrieve...still. She backed the other dog while he did several retrieves and got very excited, but when it was her turn, she wanted to either stop about 5 feet from me and put the bird down, or just run out and pick up the bird and put it down where she stood. I worked on playing with her and the bird, getting her excited, and she had a lot of desire to grab the bird, but would freeze up when asked to bring it to me. This was such a downer to my mood, I really don't know if we will get this fixed in time for our next test in three weeks.

Noodle was last, all we did was back another dog on point 3-4 times. Repetition is the key with her, I feel her backing (honoring) is getting better and better.

Later at home, I left Pizza alone for a while, and then got her out and did 3 nice retrieves with the tennis ball in the front yard. 3 and quit - that's my plan. I bought some frozen chicken nuggets at the grocery store, and tomorrow she is going to get a tasty treat after every retrieve of the ball. My plan is to do the ball in the front and back yards for the next week and a half (always rewarding with high value stuff), and then transitioning over to a dead bird with the same reward. Honestly, it's all I can come up with to do. I have talked extensively with my trainer and also watched dozens of videos on fixing retrieve problems. I am not willing to do the forced fetch training, so I have to find a different path. Wish me luck, I am going to need it.

One thing I hate about myself is that my obsessive personality tends to take over my mood. I should still be on a complete high after my successful weekend - 6 tests and 5 passes - but yet all I have been obsessing over is that one fail with Pizza's failed retrieve. I just can't sit back and be happy with what did go right. Life would certainly be easier on me if I could stay a little more even-keeled, but I guess that's just not the way I am wired. Sure wish I could change, though...

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Friday, March 4, 2022
   My Bi-Polar Day   

We had another agility trial today! Just the girls got to compete (Friday is Masters/Excellent only). We started off with Jumpers, Noodle knocked the first bar (I tried a 2 jump lead out...not a good plan, I guess), and then she left the weaves (which were at the front of the ring) to check out the girl scout cookies on the table next to the ring fence. Silly girl!

Pizza left me after jump #2 and went all the way across the ring to visit the bar setter. We finished strong, though she did miss a jump or two. I wasn't about to correct her, especially since we already didn't qualify. Keeping it positive!

Noodle was in Masters FAST. She got the send bonus, but it took forever to get her committed to leaving me to go ahead into the tunnel, so we ran out of time.

Standard went better. Noodle was CLEAN until she decided to miss the A-Frame and just run alongside of it...why? I have no idea! So we incurred a refusal, and an NQ. Pizza managed to visit the bar setter in flow, so we were on a roll and actually qualifying until she popped out of the weaves for no apparent reason. Always something.

Overall, the day wasn't bad, just very disappointing that my dogs keep doing these dumb little mistakes. I came home and worked Dolphin on his weaves in the front yard in preparation for tomorrow, and then on a great note, Pizza did THREE wonderful retrieves with the toy! I started the afternoon a bit down in the dumps, and those three silly little retrieves made me so happy, my whole day was fixed. Weird, I know!

I spent a little time outside in the sunshine with my bestest old man Pretzel. He is such a steady, quiet presence in my life, he keeps me grounded. Plus he takes the BEST selfies!

Side note: It looks like Noodle is coming in season. I noticed her a bit puffy this evening, and when I wiped her I thought I saw the faintest tinge of blood...maybe? Ugh...

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Saturday, March 5, 2022

Welp, Noodle is definitely in season. There goes the agility trial tomorrow, and her hunt test in Missouri that I was SO looking forward to. I am a bit crushed to be missing that test yet again...I missed it last year because Mark had his accident the night before I was supposed to leave. On the plus side, this means Noodle will not be in season for nationals in May, and it also means Pizza gets a little more retrieve work before our next hut test the first weekend of April. Trying to look on the bright side...

Today at the agility trial was all Dolphin, and he decided to keep my zero-Q streak alive by NQ-ing in both of his runs. Open Jumpers was actually pretty nice, although he ducked behind me at jump #2 and got a refusal. We were cruising along well until he knocked a bar about 3/4 of the way through the course, but he ran well and focused well so I am pretty happy with that run.

Open Standard was a bit messier. He kind of walked off the dog walk when he saw something on the ground he wanted to investigate. I gave him a pass on that and we continued. He almost missed the weaves by turning towards the table, but I got him straightened out. Unfortunately I didn't notice that he pulled out of weave #11, I didn't see it until I watched the video later. He went on and jumped well, had a great A-frame stopped contact, but weirdly enough he walked off the stopped contact on the teeter (our teeter is usually 100% solid!). I had to do a fix-n-go and make him repeat it, where he stuck it beautifully as I ran on past. So no Q for us today, but tomorrow is another day, right? Either way, it was a blast today.

On a side note RE: Pizza's retrieve, tonight I was playing with Dolphin and trying to do a double retrieve with two toys, when Pizza went out without asking and picked up the second toy and brought it all the way to me. PROGRESS!!! I am going to train through this problem, inch by inch!

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Sunday, March 6, 2022
   Thirteenth Time's the Charm!   

Day #3 of agility, Noodle sat at home since she is in season, so ti was just the young bucks - Pizza and Dolphin.

Pizza started off the morning with Excellent Jumpers and Excellent Standard. Jumpers was a hot mess She left me at least three times to go visit the bar setters (I lost count after 3), missed her weaves, missed a jump or two that I just ignored and went on...ended up having to just walk her off the ring after she wouldn't leave the bar setter. I am keeping it all positive but it doesn't seem to be making much difference.

Next was Excellent Standard, and although she did visit near the beginning, she did it in flow so we were still on a Q-track. She was going strong, almost missed the table completely to visit but came back and we were still OK. Then, she missed her weave entrance. We fixed it and kept going, she took the wrong end of the tunnel but I kept running and she finished strong. Definite improvement over our first run!

Next was Open FAST, and both Pizza and Dolphin were entered (I forgot to move Dolphin up to Excellent...oops!). Pizza's run was a mess, a long visit in the corner, we didn't get the send, but finished strong. Dolphin's run was actually pretty good and he did get the send, but I spent a lot of time trying to get him to send to the tunnel, and that wasted time. We finished strong, but the buzzer went off and we were ONE POINT short...ugh!

Dolphin had a decent Open Standard run. On the plus side, he got all of his contacts and I didn't have to do a fix and go on any of them. On the minus side, he missed his weave entrance, ran past a jump that I had to circle back and get, and then obliterated two jumps in the ending. Lots of faults, but a strong run and he stayed with me beautifully.

Last was Open Jumpers. This was Run #13 of the weekend. So far in the previous 12 runs with three dogs, I have ZERO qualifying runs. Dolphin came through and pulled out a be-yootiful clean Open jumpers run to finish my bummer of a weekend on a high note.

I have to do a lot of analyzing to figure out why Pizza is doing all of the visiting of the bar setters. We have some practice trials scheduled later in the month so hopefully I can get her confidence up and make some positive strides in fixing the issue. Her drive is awesome, speed is fantastic, but she leaves me at completely random times to obsess over people sitting in the corners. I WILL figure this out!

Dlphin's CLEAN run in Open Jumpers

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Tuesday, March 8, 2022
   Mistakes create learning   

Pizza and Dolphin went field training today, sadly Noodle had to stay home since she was in season.

Dolphin worked by himself, and we immersed him in birds! We went out to the far field where he has never been, and put out a bunch of quail. He went on point on the first bird and then couldn't control himself and tried to jump on the bird. I yelled at him, and that was enough for him to make him back off. The second bird was perfect, he held his point beautifully. We went on and worked about 7 birds total, with varying degrees of success. Dolphin is so soft, I have to do a lot of praising when he handles things correctly, and very light scolding when he gives in to impulse. It was a good training session. His field training is going really slow, compared to how fast Pizza picked up on things. It's hard to keep myself from making comparisons, they are such different dogs and learn differently.

Pizza worked with another dog, and had some gorgeous long-distance honors again. She is getting a little more "paranoid" on honoring, and will put the brakes on whenever she sees the other dog stop for any reason. Pizza actually made a very rare mistake for her - she went on point and the bird was up and walking and fluttered wings right under her nose and she pounced, so I had to correct her. So unusual for her, because she has been pretty rock solid for the past year! It's good to see she isn't a robot, and making a mistake actually helps reinforce what the right thing is to do.

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Friday, March 11, 2022
   Some more goals (because I need more!)   

I was finally able to go out and spend some quality time in the saddle on Cadence this morning. From this day on I am only riding in my English saddle, because I need to make it more familiar to me like it used to be. I never used to ever ride in a western saddle, but all last year I worked Cadence in a western, and I think my English seat went haywire. Back to basics for me!

Cadence rode wonderfully for me. Her canter transitions are so easy and smooth now, what a change from last fall! It's funny, I feel so disconnected from my riding life anymore, but all it takes is one morning in the saddle and I remember why I love it so much. In the plans for this spring are a show in Conyers, Georgia in early April, and my big goal for the year - the Level 1 Championships in Wilmington, OH at the end of April. By "big goal" I mean just a goal to show and have a good ride. I have zero aspirations to win, I realize now that it just ain't gonna happen for me. My goals are so much lower than they used to be - I want to have a good ride and have FUN, unlike my miserable Congress experience. I guess I am at the age now where winning isn't really the most important thing anymore. If it isn't fun, I have no desire to do it because I am looking at the dwindling days of my life...I am on the downward slide and I want to make every single moment count. And...I want to LOVE every moment. So, we shall see how this all goes next month! Until then I will keep on keepin' on

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Noodle had her annual vet appointment today. She weighs 63 pounds! That's a pretty good weight for her, I think she looks just about perfect right now. Altogether a very healthy girl, I am so thankful!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022
  A little bit of everything today   

Today was a packed day, and Dolphin got to do a little bit of everything! We started off the morning with some agility practice with one of our training partners. He did pretty good, I worked on his tunnel bypass command (did great!) and sending him out to jumps (needs a little work). After agility, we went out to do some field training with a friend of mine. It was the most beautiful day, but really warm - 75 degrees - which is extremely warm for early March in Ohio. I worked Pizza first, and she was awesome....up until the retrieve. It was not a great retrieve, we got it done but she hesitated and put the bird down a multitude of times....ugh.

I worked Dolphin on one bird. He gave me a gorgeous, steady point, and held through the flush and blank. Yay!

After field training, Dolphin and I headed to scent work class. We worked on containers tonight, and Dolphin is really starting to get it! Meaning - I am really starting to be able to read him! Good thing, since I just sent in my entries for his very first scent work trial at the end of April. It's a pretty big financial commitment, so I hope he is going to be ready.

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Thursday, March 17, 2022
   Happy St. Pizza Day!   

Today Pizza got to do the two activities she loves the most. We started off the afternoon with some field training. Pizza got to train with Hilde, who is Noodle's littermate. That was a lot of fun. It was pretty hot outside and very sunny, absolute gorgeous day to spend outside. Pizza was pretty fired up, had some really nice long range in her running style, and was solid on the birds and also the honors.

Dolphin got to train with Josh, who is Pizza's daddy...very cool! Dolphin did a great job, we had much more steadiness on point than we did last week. He did a beautiful job of holding his point when the bird got up and started walking...enough that I was able to fire off a few photos. He still has a long way to go before he is ready for Senior Hunter.

Oddly enough, we tried a little retrieving with a dead bird and Dolphin didn't seem to want to pick the bird up. That is weird. He easily passed his novice retrieving ratings test last summer with pigeons. I am not sure if he is just so conditioned not to grab birds that he hesitated, or what? I will definitely have to work with him and a dead bird at home to get him through this.

After fiend training, I picked up Noodle and took her to a chiropractor appointment. I wanted to make sure everything was OK after being t-boned by her bracemate at the last hunt test. She passed with flying colors, so that is one less worry on my mind.

I took Pizza to a drop-in agility class at 8:30pm. She was pretty darn awesome, more focused than usual. She seemed more confident, so many all the confidence building stuff I have been doing with her is now showing up? Who knows?

Pizza on point, Hilde (Noodle's littermate) honoring
Dolphin holding his point on a walking bird
Probably my favorite photo of Dolphin on point to date. SO much like daddy Pretzel!
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Friday, March 18, 2022
   UKC Midwest Classic   

Today I took Dolphin to a big UKC show nearby called the "Midwest Classic". Kind of funny - this weekend I was supposed to be in Missour running Noodle and Pizza in a hunt test. Since Noodle came in season, I ended up pulling both entries a few weeks ago. I was laying in bed 2 weeks ago trying to decide what to do with my newly cleared weekend, and I saw the information on this show. It closed at midnight, and it was 11:35 pm. Got my entry in online...whew!

Anyways, we headed to the show early in the morning. Dolphin got an opportunity to show two times, and also do two groups. He improved each time he went in the ring - although he wasn't perfect he was a bit more confident each time the judge went over him. Still not his favorite part of showing, but as long as he tolerates it I am fine with that. He ended up getting a Group 4 in a nice big gun dog (sporting) group. Overall it was a great experience for him. He had a blast in the ring and left the show with his tail up and very happy. Big win for me!

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Sunday, March 20, 2022
   Pizza and Dolphin hit the CPE Agility Trial   

Who is crazy enough to wake up at 4am to go to an agility trial? ME! Oh yes, and Mark also! We headed to Dayton with Pizza and Dolphin to a CPE agility trial. Dolphin needs the practice, and Pizza needs the de-stressing of a less intense venue.

Well, it was mostly good, and somewhat not. Dolphin was on fire, earning 4 qualifying runs out of 4. Keep in mind that CPE does not count refusals/runouts, so Dolphin's runs weren't exactly clean, but they were pretty darn good. He made some baby mistakes that I had to fix, but in 4 runs he didn't knock a single bar! He stayed really focused, and I am so so pleased with how he ran.

Pizza, however, was a bit of a mess all day. We did earn one qualifying run (in Jumpers) out of 4. She ran to multiple bar setters in every single run. I am at a loss as to what to do - she ran to them after making a mistake, but then she also ran to them before she even had a chance to mess up. It's hard to figure her out. She runs with such speed and enthusiasm, and she has such blazing talent. I guess the truly talented ones are always the hardest. I am going to keep plugging along because I know someday she will be incredible.

This evening, I did some retrieving with Dolphin - using a bumper and a ball. Pizza seemed excited, so I threw the ball a couple times for her and she did two really nice retrieves to me. Granted, it was in my office so it wasn't exactly a long retrieve, but....I will take it! Next hunt test is in less than two weeks.   Hopeful!  

Pizza's Jumpers run - if you ignore the extended visit to the barsetter, she looked amazing!

Photo dump from the trial!

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Monday, March 21, 2022
   never can have too many photos!   

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day, perfect for a field photo shoot! Unfortunately it was a bit too warm, and the dogs got hot pretty quickly, which made them pant (not great for photos!). I did get some good shots of each dog, and a LOT of good shots of Noodle!

We put two birds out under tip-up cages (so they would stay put) and worked each dog one at a time. Noodle was stellar (as usual!), holding her point forever so I could get photos from every angle. This was her first time out in the field for weeks, since she has been in season and had to stay home. My girl did not miss a beat!

Pizza did great - and her most dramatic point was actually on a wild bird that was nestled in the weeds. It was getting warm by this point, so it was tough getting good photos with her mouth closed. Dolphin was up next, and on the first bird I did get some pretty good shots. He ranged ahead of me and went on point pretty close to the second bird, and before I could get to him he broke under pressure and jumped on the tip up cage, knocking it over and flushing the bird (who got away safely, thank goodness). Bad boy! His enthusiasm is wonderful, but his self-control is sorely lacking. A work in progress, that's what he is!



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Tuesday, March 22, 2022
  Making it all work   

I started off the morning heading out to ride Cadence. Today I rode in my English saddle - I haven't ridden in MINE since Cadence was a 2 year old. I hated it then, today I didn't really hate it but I definitely didn't like it as much as Darla's CWD saddle. My butt has some damn expensive tastes. Cadence was a little sparky this morning, but nothing I couldn't handle. She leaves for Georgia next week, and I fly out the following week for 4 days of showing. I haven't shown her since Congress, sure hoping for a better experience! I am just hoping to have fun and enjoy the ride again, I lost that at Congress and I miss having that motivation.

After I rode, I loaded everyone in the van and headed to field training. It had just stopped raining, so everything was pretty wet. We worked Pizza first, and she was really nice and steady (we didn't do any retrieving). Dolphin took up the majority of the time. We had three birds planted, and he worked the three perfectly - staying fairly steady without jumping in on them. I am still keeping a check cord on him so I can grab it if he decided to jump in. We decided to push the envelope a little bit and try him on a fourth bird, and on that one he did crack and jump in. I scolded him and put him back on point, and he stayed steady. Learning! I have to constantly remind myself to be patient with him, he is taking things at his own pace.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022
   All about the Dolphinator today   

Dolphin had a full day today! We started off the morning with our agility puppy group (funny, calling it a puppy group when all of our pups are not really pups anymore!). He was fantastic, lots of drive and speed and great focus.

After that we headed out to field train at the local bird dog club. I started off working Noodle, just having her back another dog (which she did beautifully from a distance). Then it was all about Dolphin again. He jumped on his first bird, so we backed up a little bit. I need to get him to stop on point as soon as he gets the slightest scent of the bird. Instead, he is creeping up until he gets full scent, and then going on full point. By that time, he is way too close to the bird and it is hard for him to control himself. I used the check cord to steady him and get him to whoa earlier on the scent. He did get a little better. We also did some backing, which it actually seemed like he was kind of getting the idea. Progress!

After that, we headed to scent work class. Dolphin has moved up into the more advanced class, so this was his first time doing three odors. We did some interior work, where the odors were attached on the wall and on different objects. He searched wonderfully, but I think the two new odors confused him as he has only done birch odor up until this point.

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Friday, March 25, 2022
   Welp, that didn't go as planned   

I had an agility seminar with Dolphin all morning, he did well. We worked on tunnel/dogwalk discriminations, rear crosses, and different angles to jumps. After that, I headed to the barn for one last ride on Cadence before she leaves for the show in Georgia next week. Man she was sparky. OK, sparky is putting it mildly. She was wanting to buck and misbehave the entire ride. Seriously, Cadence, NOW you have to act this way? This was so unlike her. The only thing we could think of is that the farrier dug out a pretty good-sized abscess in her right front hoof 2 days ago, and maybe it was her way of acting out because it was painful? She didn't limp or show pain, but quite possibly she is a lot tougher than her wimpy mother Corky, and this is just her way of showing pain. I guess we shall see...I fly out to Georgia in a week to show. Fingers crossed!

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Saturday, March 26, 2022
   CPE Agility Trial with Dolphin   

Today I did a CPE trial with Dolphin. He had a whopping 5 runs today, which is a lot! He Q-ed in 2 out of the 5 runs (Standard and Colors). He wasn't really bad in anything, just made some mistakes...no biggie. I was really happy with his attitude, it was happy and enthusiastic all day. BIG WIN for me!

Be prepared for another photo dump today and tomorrow. I love it when there is a photographer at the agility trial! I rarely say no to photos.

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Sunday, March 27, 2022
   CPE Trial with Pizza   

Today was Pizza's turn at the CPE trial. My goal was just to have some positive experiences for her, get her to have fun, and no stress

We had 4 runs today. The first run she did run off the A-Frame and visited the bar setter, but I got her back moving and we finished the rest clean. Pizza Pie just got better and better with each run, so by the last run she was super fast and clean without looking at anyone sitting in the corners! We ended up 4 for 4 today, which I would have never expected. Best of all, she was super happy and excited, and I kept the entire day as a 100% positive experience. I feel like I made some major progress with her today. Quite possibly this might spill over into her field work, maybe this will help boost her confidence on her retrieve? She has been doing really well retrieving toys at home. I do maybe 2 retrieves at a time, and always after Dolphin does his retrieve and she gets fired up. Hunt test is this coming weekend, so we shall see!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022
  Not feeling very positive about all this   

Today I did some field training at the local bird dog club. Let's start with the good parts - Noodle got to work one bird, worked it to perfection, my gunner shot it and she did a perfect retrieve. Boom!

The bulk of the time was spent on Dolphin, still trying to get him to steady up and hold his point during the flush. As soon as I move around him, he wants to move. I am using the check cord to keep him still, and he is making inches of progress. We did several backs today, and I think MAYBE he is getting the hang of that? It's hard to tell when your progress is in inches instead of yards. As long as there is progress, I know I am on the right track.

I saved Pizza for last. She worked her bird perfectly, but the bird ran off before we could get a shot. I tried to do a little retrieving with the dead bird that Noodle had gotten, but it was bad...bad bad bad. She did finally bring it to me with enthusiasm, but only when the other dog was brought in really close. I thought for sure it would be better since I have been working on the retrieve with toys at home and I feel like she has improved. I can't help but feel discouraged...she is so freaking talented and has such a beautiful steady point and a natural back...all the pieces parts are there except that darn retrieve. I guess what is the most frustrating is that the retrieve was there this fall...and then it wasn't. Hunt test this weekend...if she fails then we will call it in for the spring and try to regroup/retrain.

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