Thursday, February 25, 2010

Arnie's story

I have volunteered with Pug PROS (Pug Rescue of Sacramento) for over 10 years. I help with fundraisers, have served on the board, edited the newsletter, and serve as a foster and/or hospice home. Through the years I’ve had many pugs come through my home. Some stay for hours, some stay for years. Some leave for loving homes. Some stay forever, both my choice or because of circumstance.

Arnie came to me after I received a phone call from our county animal control. The kennel administrator asked if PROS would take the pug that had just arrived as a stray, and had not been claimed. Ordinarily, they would allow the general public to adopt him, but she felt that he was unadoptable, and would just be returned over and over. I am very thankful that she did the right thing and contacted us, knowing that we would work with him and find him a great home, with the least amount of stress to him.

He was, quite frankly, out of control. And I don’t throw that term out lightly. You see, my first PROS adoption was Puck, my nutty pug mix that at twelve years old, is still climbing trees, chasing squirrels and tearing around like a youngster. So I know energetic. Arnie was frantic. He was spending his days in the kennel at animal control running along the block wall; running and running and running.

I picked him up, with every intention of rehabilitating him to find a great home. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he might make a good agility dog. My current competition pug, Levi, was slowing down, and I was missing a pug to run. So I decided to adopt him, and see what we could do.

My vet thought I was crazy to adopt him (she neutered him, and had to sedate him with drugs she never gives pugs, in order to get him to calm down just a little), and told me to rethink my decision. My friends couldn’t see his appeal, and doubted he would ever see competition. The other dogs were irritated by him. But I saw his potential.

His first year was spent just teaching him manners and control. He spent many hours chewing on a nylabone, to keep him out of too much trouble. He was NEVER off of a leash, and rarely in a situation where he might escape. I spent hours, weeks and months just teaching him that he should respond to his name, come when I call him, and to stick around close to me. I took him to all different places, teaching him to not lunge at dogs, not chase anything that moved, and to stay calm in every environment. He learned to not pull on his leash, to sit for a few seconds, to lay down, and to ride quietly in a crate. Crate training was a struggle. My license plate says SCRMNK9 – and he is the ultimate screaming canine – he screamed whenever he was confined. Slowly, over time, he learned to control himself. Now it was time to prep for his agility career.

I am lucky enough to have all of the agility equipment in my yard, and the experience to teach my dog to perform the obstacles. I’ve competed in agility since 1993, and have trained a lot of dogs. Once he was comfortable on the agility equipment, I enrolled him in a class with the sole purpose of teaching him to pay attention while he ran. It was a very remedial class, but very chaotic. It was perfect for Arnie, since all he had to learn was to focus. It took a year, but eventually he started working sequences instead of running off to dig through everyone’s training bags.

I decided to test the waters, and entered him in a trial. His first run was horrible. He took off running, ran around in huge circles, then went and pooped in the corner of the ring. It was horribly embarrassing, but gave me feedback on what we needed to work on. Off we went, back to class, and worked some more.

A year later, I decided to enter him in our national specialty, in Ontario, California. He wasn’t ready, and as show chairperson I knew I was going to be pretty distracted, but I wanted to support the trial and have fun. Well, Arnie had fun for sure. I was just thankful that the ring had a fence around it. Arnie ran around, did an obstacle, ran around some more, did an obstacle; you get the picture. But he behaved himself on the trip, and relaxed quietly in the hotel room, and in his crate at our vendor booth.

It was back to the drawing board, working on attention for the next few months. I decided to enter some more AKC trials, even though I wasn’t sure he would be any more ready than he was in Ontario. I had only entered one day on the first weekend, and I spent all day working on keeping that connection with him. He’s a very nosy pug, so I walked him around to see EVERYTHING around the rings. I would encourage him to check things out, and then give him a cookie when he looked back at me. After hours of waiting and working, we stepped onto the line. He was focused, fast (leaving me in the dust) and connected to me. There were a few minor glitches, but we crossed the line with our first qualifying score! As I walked around afterward, friends kept commenting about how fast he was, and how much fun he was having. We were on our way.

But I know that every day is a new day in agility, so I didn’t let my guard down the next weekend. I was showing both days, and wasn’t sure how he would do. Again, we worked on attention, and checked EVERYTHING out around the rings, even though it was in the same location as the weekend before. And again, when we crossed the finish line, we had another qualifying score, this time a perfect 100 and a first place ribbon. Two down, one to go. The next day, more attention, then up to the start line. And again, we qualified, had another perfect score, and another blue ribbon. Arnie’s first agility title, in 3 straight tries, with 2 perfect scores, and 2 blue ribbons. Most importantly, he had fun, ran fast, and waited by his leash at the exit with his little curl tail wagging madly.

That was a year ago, and he's gone on to get 2 more titles, and is working in the top level of AKC agility.

I’m not crazy enough to think that I’m out of the woods yet. There will be lots of inattention, running out of the ring, visiting people and dogs while he should be working. But he’s shown me that he has what it takes to run in agility. He started out as a homeless stray, that nobody claimed. He’s had to learn to behave himself, and has gotten into an awful lot of trouble. But he’s turned into a sweet, funny, willing, fast and fun agility partner. Where most people saw a dog that was hopeless, I saw a diamond in the rough. I knew I had what it took to polish it into a brilliant companion.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More agility updates

Gracie here: I let Arnie go first, but I really have the most to brag about.

I ran the same Snooker class as Arnie, and I rocked it. I'm REALLY good at Snooker. I'm really focused on mom, so I never even notice the other obstacles. I did almost the whole thing, but I'm in a low level, so I don't need as many points as Arnie. I got a blue ribbon in that class.

In Standard, I ran fast and furious, and FLEW over the dogwalk. My time was really good, and I made no mistakes. ANOTHER blue ribbon.

On my second Standard run, I was almost done, then I ran up the dogwalk, got scared and bailed off. Mom knew that I might be scared, since lots of dogs were jumping off on this round. She wasn't sure if it was bouncier than normal, or tippy, or what. But once we got to the dogwalk she totally forgot to stick with me. I was flying SO fast on the dogwalk, that she just took off running. She's pretty sorry about it, and was really worried that it might scare me permanently, but I'm OK.

On the 2nd day, we ran Jackpot first, and I did the exact same course as Arnie. We got the same points (although mom didn't even try the harder Jackpot with me. She knew it was too hard for me.) But I shocked her when I did the easier Jackpot the hard way. I ran AWAY from her, towards the far end of the tunnel. I still did it right, but it made her job easier. And she thought I couldn't get it. Ha!

My first Standard run was flawless, and another blue ribbon. But I was getting more and more crazed as the day went on, and on my second Standard run I flew past the tire, saw mom, and jumped through it backwards. I guess that's not OK (geez, I'm not sure I'll ever get these rules. She wants me through the tire, but only in a certain direction?) So we just ran like crazy, and mom raced me to the finish line - I LOVE when we play that game.

On the way home the first day, mom saw our neighbor Patty. She's my first mom's aunt (found out by accident when my mom was picking me up for rescue). So mom fills her in about how I'm doing. She got to tell her that I had just gotten some blue ribbons, and was running really good. I don't blame my first mom for giving me up - I'm a "lot of dog" as my mom puts it. And it's nice to be able to let my first mom know that I'm doing what I was born to do - run like the wind!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Agility Update

Arnie here: Gracie's letting me go first, since I'm older, so here goes. We went to WAG in Elk Grove this weekend, to show in CPE. A few weeks ago, we showed 5 runs each, both days. But this weekend we only had 3 runs each, both days. Mom entered us in Standard, where we get to do ALL the equipment. Since the courses are longer in Standard, mom only entered us in 2 Standard runs and one game each.

On Saturday, we had to drive in the pouring rain the whole way there. We got there really early, and I was SO happy to see my friend Jack was there! We're best buddies, and hang out together in class every Wednesday. His mom had already set up our crate next to him, so we got to hang out all weekend together.

We were in the ring really early, and the course was really confusing. I had some trouble with a lot of things - it just wasn't working for me and mom. But we had fun, and I got all my contacts, weave poles and did some hard front and rear crosses. I also had to go past tunnel entrances, and take the far one....that's REALLY hard for me. I LOVE tunnels!!! Mom's really making an effort to get me focused before we run, so we've been doing a lot of obedience work. I'm also learning more tricks. That's really fun. I'm perfecting putting my head down. I'm also learning to look in things. She makes me look in the tin buckets that hold hammers and nails and stuff. It's really fun to do that. It's a cool trick, I get a treat, mom is happy AND I get to check things out (have I mentioned that I'm really nosy?)

We ran Snooker as our "game" the first day, and we did GREAT. I had to pay close attention to mom, so I didn't accidentally take the wrong obstacle. We got lots of points, and I finished the whole thing. After we ran, I got to play with Jack in the big dog pen. WE peed and ran and barked in the mud. It was so much fun.

On the second day, we had to get there early again, but it wasn't raining this time. Mom had to walk both rings together, then we waited for a few hours until we got to run. Mom was working, so Jack and I couldn't play in the pen, but I was kind of tired anyway.

On our first run, Standard, the course was even harder than the first day. It was easy to remember, but really hard to run. There were even MORE tunnels entrances to run past. And a lot of "traps". But we DID IT!! Lots of dogs didn't do it right, but I did it perfectly. And, more importantly, it felt "right".

We ran again in Standard, but I just HAD to go into a tunnel instead of up the aframe. I just couldn't help myself. Mom didn't get mad - she knows how I am :-)

We got to run Jackpot as our "game" on that day. We had choice of 2 different Jackpots, but mom was pretty sure I could only do the easier one. She was right, but we tried the harder one anyway. I was little confused when we tried the hard one, but she stepped across the line to help me. Then I knew what to do. We ran around a LOT, and got lots of points.

We finished early, which was good, since mom had to go out to dinner. So I won't find out how Jack did, until I see him at class.

Gracie did good, too, but I'll let her fill you in tomorrow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hiking Memories

Arnie here: mom wanted to put up a picture of me from when we were camping this past summer, so you know we do other things besides run agility. We go to Silver Lake, and get to play in the water and hike on lots of trails. There's geese to look at (we're not allowed to chase them), and LOTS of good smells. She doesn't know what kind of life I led before she adopted me, but now I get to do all kinds of fun stuff, like run agility, hike, camp and go on trips.

We're going to another agility trial this weekend. I'll let you know how we do.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Meet Zip, our new friend

Arnie here: I have a new dog friend. Her name is Zip, and she's the newest dog for our instructor, Kathi. Kathi has 3 Shelties, and mom says she's gone "to the dark side" this time - she got a Border Collie. Kathi likes herding, and she's thinking Zip will be good at that.

She stopped by mom's work on the day she got her, so mom got to meet her, but I haven't yet. I hope we get to see her before she gets too big. I'm not scared of big dogs, but Gracie gets all snarky around bigger dogs (and little dogs, come to think of it). She really likes to play, so we should have lots of fun once she starts going to dog shows.

Here's her picture: