"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."

Patience is a virtue, right? It's also a struggle for me. I have had to learn this past year that no matter how hard I work, some things are just destined to take time and cannot be rushed. I can't compare my journey to someone else's parallel journey, because in reality there is no such thing as a parallel journey - we all drive on different roads. The key is to keep driving! Swerve to avoid the potholes, but stay on the road. Don't always take the highway. Enjoy the back roads when you can. The key is to always keep it in drive and not reverse, and keep on keepin' on.
Monday, January 1, 2024

*Sigh* here we go, another year of goals. When I looked abck over 2023, it was like two completely bipolar years. January 1-July 1 was fantastic. July 2-December 31 - disappointing, frustrating, and a thousand pounds of self-doubt. I am heading in to 2024 with a bit of trepidation, caution, and neutral optimism. That means I am neither super excited/optimistic, nor am I defeated (yet). Tiptoeing into 2024 with this year's goals:

1. Earn Dolphin's Master Hunter title

2. Earn Dolphin's MXJ and MXF titles

3. Earn Noodle's MH30 (Master Hunter 30th pass)

4. Successfully compete with Pizza in agility again

5. Earn FT points with Noodle

6. Reach 10 QQ's with Dolphin in agility

7. Breed Pizza and raise a healthy, talented litter

8. Reach 10 QQ's in preferred with Noodle

1. Earn Noodle's RAE title

2. Earn a MACH or PACH

3. Earn a field championship

4. Earn 50 MH passes with Noodle

5. Earn Noodle's PAX title (20 preferred QQs)

My goal list is rather short this year. Some goals I removed, not because I don't want to earn them but because having them there makes me put way too much pressure on myself and my dogs. I also have little goals for a puppy I really hope I will have out of Pizza this year, but that's a venture that I don't dare jinx by setting goals for a non-existent puppy! This year should be life-changing in many ways, hopefully for good and not bad. I hope and pray everyone stays healthy and sound, and most of all happy. The rest is just extra.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2024
   Journey, it's a damn JOURNEY!   

Both Noodle and Pizza had agility classes this morning. Oh, first, I should mention that yesterday I took Dolphin and Pizza to an agility seminar for 3 1/2 hours and both dogs were amazing! Today's classes went really well. We are back to reviewing the recalls, so today was the collection recall. I do train this often with my dogs, so both girls did great. I was especially thrilled with how Pizza did - she was SO focused and enthusiastic. I honestly feel like all that one on one time in the field and traveling with just her and Noodle strengthens our bond, and when our bond is extra strong she works so good for me.

After class I took Noodle and Dolphin to do some field training. My trainer helped me out by planting birds in the tree line for Noodle to get her working the brush instead of the open fields. We also set up some birds on strings that would fly up about 4 feet and flutter in the brush, just like the bird that took us out on Sunday. It worked like a charm - the first bird Noodle pointed caused her to jump forward when it hit the end of the string and the wings flapped madly. It was an excellent training opportunity. I also have to keep in mind that I must NEVER turn my back on her when going to flush the bird, as she takes advantage of me when I am not somewhat watching her. All good lessons.

The next few birds were good, Noodle was nice and steady. We also had a nice honor, which was good to see. Dolphin, on the other hand, was lost in space. I haven't done any field training in a few weeks, and it seems he completely forgot about what the whole concept of honoring is. He also was going in and pointing on top of the bird, which was something I thought we had fixed. He was really steady, but just way too close. We also did two stop to flush, and while he did stop, he immediately turned and came back to me instead of staying put. Dang, this is something we have been working on it seems like forever! I love that he doesn't make a move to chase, but he always turns to come to me and it's hard to stop him when I am not close by.

Interrestingly, I have a different mental perspective about all of this. Am I panicked? No. Am I overly worried? Nope! These training backward steps happen, and I know it's not the end of the world. Maybe that's my new 2024 philosophy - it ain't the end, it's just a detour in the journey. I feel like I have a much more positive outlook today than I normally have. The past 6 months I feel like I have beaten myself down quite a bit because of my failures, and what exactly did that accomplish? It certainly didn't make things better. I am going to try really hard to keep the negativity at bay. Yeah, we will see how long this lasts...

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Friday, January 5, 2024
   Field training and hitting the road   

Later today I am heading to Cincinnati with Dolphin and Noodle for an agility trial, but first I squeezed in some more field training with Dolphin. Today he was really nice and steady on the birds. First bird he was rather close on point, but the next two he was a better distance away. His honors were Yuck, Ok, and Decent (in that order). I still have trouble getting him to stay put for the entire retrieve, but I think he is slowly learning what is expected of him. I feel like he was a touch better than he was when we trained a couple days ago, so I will take that!

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Saturday, January 6, 2024
   Agility Trial - Cincinnati - Day #1   

Today was Noodle's official debut at Preferred height (20"). It was a mixed bag kind of day. The day started out with FAST, and both Dolphin and Noodle qualified. The send was tunnel - backside of jump - back to tunnel. Noodle ran amazing - probably the fastest I have seen her run all year. I had massive high hopes for her.

Jumpers was next. Noodle ran OK, not as good as in FAST, she knocked a bar and also stopped to check out something on the ground. Dolphin is still sitting at 9 Master Jumpers Q's, we have been waiting over 6 months for that last Q to finish his MXJ title. Well, we will have to wait a little longer because today is not the day. He ran really well, but ran past two different jumps from just not paying attention.

Standard was a mess. Dolphin knocked a bar, and then ran into me on a blind cross. Noodle actually ran OK, but came out of the weaves to check out something on the ground. The weaves were secoind to last obstacle and I notice she tends to have a problem with that for some reason, she does much better when they are earlier in the course. Oh well, try try again tomorrow!

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Sunday, January 7, 2024
   Agility Trial - Cincinnati - Day #2   

The morning started off with Jumpers. Noodle did awful - ran past the 2nd jump, stopped to check out something on the hround and missed a jump, and I ended up walking her off. She definitely wasn't feeling well today, very little energy and no spark. Dolphin, however, was on fire and ran a nice fast CLEAN jumpers to finish his MXJ title! FINALLY...after over 6 months of failing at jumpers...I KNEW he could do it!

Dolphin ran an awesome Time 2 Beat run, but knocked a bar. In Standard, Noodle was terrible, kept going to the ground checking out stuff, missed jumps, I ended up just walking her off after the third obstacle. I am not going to push it with her, if she doesn't feel well enough to work, then we will just take the day off. I had a double QQ on the line with Dolphin, and for some reason he turned the wrong way after a jump and then missed his weave entrance. It was such a weird mistake! I did a Fix N Go and he ran the course awesome. Can't be too mad, he pulled off a jumpers Q and that's what I have wanted for the past 7 months! I am a little worried about Noodle, but I will give her a few days of rest at home and see if she starts feeling better. She is due to have her blood levels tested this week, and I am a little afraid of what I will find.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2024
   Still normal-ish   

I took Noodle for her blood test today to see how her albumin and protein levels are looking. After we had gotten a wonderfully normal blood test last month, my vet and I decided to drop her to a half mycophenolate once a day and then re-test her in a month to see how she is doing on the lower dose. Today's results are normal! They are on the low side, but within the normal range. If you click on the graphic to the left, you can see what her current levels are, and the numbers to the far right are her last two blood tests. I am happy-ish. I would rather see the numbers smack in the middle like they were last month, but still thankfull they are within the normal range. Our plan is to now decrease her Mycophenolate down to every other day, and re-test in 6-8 weeks. I'd love to get her completely off the Myco as it is an immunosuppressant and it's just not healthy for her to stay on it for long-term. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping I am doing the right thing.

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Friday, January 12, 2024
   Get off my lazy butt...   

This has been the laziest week ever. It has rained every single day, the weather is cold and windy, I can't get the dogs outside to play, and I am desperate for some sunshine. Not today, my friend!

I took Dolphin over to do some agility training on my own. All of my agility classes this week went well (Pizza was outstanding!), but I took some time just to do some one on one training with Dolphin (and have a little fun). He was awesome, we had a great hour just working on a few things on my training agenda, and then just running some motivational lines.

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Saturday, January 13, 2024
   Agility Trial - ARF in Gahanna   

This weekend I did one day of a local agility trial, and only entered Noodle. It was kind of a last-minute decision to enter her last month, and I did not enter Dolphin as the turf in this place is very very slick for big dogs, and also he has a big trip and trial next weekend so he gets this weekend off.

I debated a lot about bailing on this trial. Noodle didn't seem to feel the best yesterday morning, but by yesterday evening she perked up and we got some nice motivated rally training in. I decided to head out in the morning and try the first run, and if she didn't seem like she was feeling 100% I would pull for the rest of the day and go home. Boy, am I glad I went! Noodle was AMAZING! Seriously, she ran the best she has probably run in a year. She was SO fast in standard, she got way ahead of me and did something totally uncharacteristic for her - she grabbed an off-course tunnel. That was the only mistake she made, and her speed and drive was fantastic!

Our next class was FAST, and she nailed the send and did my entire plan of 73 points, and did it at around 27 seconds! Jumpers was also wonderful - she was so focused and worked hard, ran great, and had a beautiful Q for her first official PACH points. The day was a huge success and was only one off-course tunnel away from a triple QQQ. What a difference from last weekend. I wish I knew why she felt so badly last weekend. Was it because we stayed the night in a hotel all weekend? Was it the cooked egg whites I used as treats instead of the Charlee Bears? I really have no idea, but I am thrilled my girl is BACK. I just need to figure out how to keep her feeling good.

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Thursday, January 18, 2024
   Oak Ridge, North Carolina!   

It's time for one last "Girls-With-Puppy-Boys" trip before Pizza gets bred and life gets crazy! We headed to Oak Ridge, North Carolina for a 3 day agility trial. As is our tradition, we arrived a day early to do some hiking. We went to Cascades Preserve and had a great hike in the woods, saw a small waterfall and enjoyed the temperatures that were at least in the double digits (it was about 8 degrees at home, around 40 degrees here). We met up with a local friend and her Weim and we all hiked together. It was a great day with great friends!

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Friday-Sunday, January 19-21, 2024
   Agility Trial - Oak Ridge, NC   

Let me start off by saying this - we had 12 runs over 3 days, and Dolphin ran wonderfully in all 12 - lots of speed and enthusiasm! Unfortunately our Q rate doesn't really show how good he was, as we had a mixed bag of results. I am thrilled with how he handled those three long days, all those runs, and he was still the happiest boy! So here is an agility recap (you non-agility peeps can scroll on by):

FAST - The Send was jump-tunnel-wrap back to jump, and Dolphin took too much time completing the send (took me a few tries!) so we ran out of time getting points...NQ
Time 2 Beat - Dolph ran past a jump, and then LEAPED off the A-Frame...CRAP! We did a Fix-N-Go and got it corrected...NQ
Standard - this one was the worst run of the weekend, a true hot mess. Dolphin ran past the 2nd jump (tire), missed the weave entrance twice, knocked the triple jump, and took an off course jump. Whew!
Jumpers - Go figure, our hardest class, he got his brain together and laid down a beautiful smooth run for a Q and 1st place!

FAST - Send was tunnel-jump-wrap back to tunnel, Dolphin missed the jump in the send, so NQ
Time 2 Beat - Nice run and a Q!
Standard - His A-frame contact was iffy, but it wasn't called. For some odd reason he ran right past the weave entrance. We did a fix n go and did the approach to the weaves again and he nailed it.
Jumpers - He almost missed the first jump but I managed it, and he had a really nice run but knocked a bar.

FAST - Send was Jump-Tunnel-out to a farther jump, and he nailed it! A nice Q
Time 2 Beat - It was a bit scrambly because I didn't time one of my rear crosses aafter the teeter correctly, but we got it and got a Q.
Standard - Beautiful run, but he slipped on the turf and missed the jump and the weave entrance. Got it on the second try and finished strong.
Jumpers - Absolutely beautiful run on a difficult course, but he knocked a bar on a straight line. Heartbreaking, but this was one of my favorite runs because he handled everything else perfectly!

It was a really fun weekend with my best friend and training partner. I feel like Dolphin is improving, but we always seem to run into "JOLT" - Just One Little Thing in each run that keeps us from those elusive Q's. I am loving his attitude and work ethic right now, though...makes it a LOT of fun to compete even if we don't do well.

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Monday, January 22, 2024
   No rest for the wicked or weary   

I got home from North Carolina yesterday evening, so what do I do today (after working all morning)? I take all 3 dogs out to field train in the snow. The girls have a field trial this weekend and haven't been on birds in weeks. Dolphin came along because he is so attached after spending 5 days with me non-stop, he wouldn't hear of being left home alone!

Noodle trained well, she was a little jumpy when the bird flew so I had to correct that. She did a beautiful honor on my friend's dog...a thrill once again! Pizza was rock solid on her birds. She did try to blow off her honor for some reason. Makes me think a bit because she did that in her first run at the field trial last month. She has always been my natural backer, so I never really had to train it in her, and maybe that's a problem? I made sure that when she did honor I praised the heck out of her to let her know that this IS what I wanted.

Dolphin was a wild man at the start, but he hunted and ranged out pretty well. He was very steady on his bird, but had trouble scenting it as it was buried in some logs. We worked an honor, and it was ok...he's a bit out of practice. We will keep at it and see how the rest of the winter goes in regards to training.

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Saturday, January 27, 2024
   Field Trial - Paris KY day #1   

I have no photos from today for two reasons - nothing great to report and it POURED RAIN almost the entire day. It was a steady cold rain, yuck.

The morning started off with better weather. Noodle was first in Open Gun Dog. She was fantastic...until the very end. She ran hard, way out front. She had three nice points, a half-hearted honor that was acceptable, and with only 2 minutes left had a wild flush that was somewhat behind her when I called her to come get some water, so she was picked up. That one was a maginal one since the bird flushed behind her, I am not positive she even saw it go up, but such is life in the field trial world!

Pizza started off pretty good, had two lovely dramatic honors, but she also had a wild flush. She stopped, and then because I was a good distance away from her she turned and started coming to me. Ugh, another pick-up.

Noodle was entered in Amateur Limited Gun Dog later in the afternoon. It was a complete downpour, and was probably the shortest brace in the history of field trials. Noodle was braced with an English Setter, we released our dogs at the start line and they both took off running over the hill. I think I took about 4 steps forward when I see a bird flying, the setter in hot puruit of the bird, and Noodle following the setter. Both dogs were picked up just feet from the line. 30 seconds and we were done...Boom!

It continued to rain all evening and all night, and predicted to rain all day tomorrow. We try try again in the morning, but the weather looks miserable...and COLD.

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Sunday, January 28, 2024
   Field Trial - Paris KY day #2   

Today's weather - 37 degrees and rain, rain, rain. Not one things changed all day - the temperature stayed steady at 37 degrees, and we did not have one moment with out blowing (30mph gusts) sideways rain. I learned that I definitely need new rain gear as mine is garbage!

The morning started off with Noodle and Pizza in Amateur Gun Dog. Noodle had a stellar run. She went on point early in the brace, I had to relocate her and she picked up an old, dead bird. We handed it off to the judge and went on. She ran fantastic - had 3 or more birds she pointed, a beautiful forward run, it was wonderful. She didn't get a placement which was disappointing, but I was so darn excited about her run, that's what mattered. She is getting a little over-wired with her birdwork, she is doing a little bit of hopping on the flush to mark. While that is OK for hunt tests, in field trials they don't seem to like to see the dog move at all to mark the bird. This may take a little work with her. Pizza was next, and she was running pretty good, had two really nice points, but her third bird was the killer. She was on point in the woods and her head was up high, so I went out a distance to find the bird. As I was kicking around, I looked over at her and saw her head start to slowly lower down...I knew I was in trouble. I went back to her and sure enough, the bird was right under her next to a tree. The air in the woods was doing some weird things so many dogs were having trouble pinpointing the birds. I went to flush it and it went up inches from her nose and she jumped up. Ugh, another pick-up.

Last for the weekend was Open Limited Gun Dog with Pizza. Her bracemate got picked up right away, so once again she was running alone. She was really good - had 3 beautiful points and two stop to flushes that she stood still on. The second one was tricky, I was a big distance away from her when the bird flew up and she slammed on her brakes, I yelled "whoa" to her and signaled her to stop with my hand, and she looked at me and froze, never moved while I walked up to her. She was very sudden and dramatic in her points, and it was fun to watch. She ended up getting 4th place out of 14 dogs, which was great!

The rain never let up all day, and it was nice to see both dogs handle the wet, running birds so well. I don't think I have ever been so wet and cold in my entire life. I am off to shop for better rain gear before the next field trial in 3 weeks!

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