Monday, April 23, 2012

Agility Hounds

   On Thursday night I took the dogs to Swanson's Streamway. A few weeks ago, frustrated with Tay's destructive behavior (due to lack of exercise—from my bum ankle, and being crated to keep him off the kitchen counters), it occurred to me that an agility class would be a great way to wear him out. I wasn't sure that Aki would enjoy it enough to actually perform, so I just brought her along to observe.
   It was a huge class—14 people with their dogs!—so I tied Aki's leash to the fence in a far corner, to keep her out of everyone's way. Rachel, the instructor, had us all introduce ourselves and our dogs, and as we went around the circle, the crescendo of cries from Aki's corner became louder and louder. Everyone was amused. Mary Coleman and her husband were there with their dog, Tucker, a young bearded collie. (Tucker was gorgeous and more interested in flopping over for belly rubs than agility—a real doll!)
   First we practiced going through tunnels, which Tay was already very good at, since he's practiced a couple times at Happy Tails park. Then we attempted to teach our dogs to weave around the 12 weave poles, one of the hardest stations. There were guide wires in place to keep the dogs in line, but it was still tough to keep them from jumping out of the path. But Tay did great! Meanwhile, Aki cried and cried.
   When the class ended, Rachel came over to me and suggested that Tay & I join the intermediate class next week, since he's progressing faster than the other beginners. I was so proud of him! We went over to retrieve Aki, and she did a victory lap around the ring, running so fast her ears were back and her tail went straight behind her. The two goofballs buzzed all over the dog park together, overjoyed to be reunited. I love her happy, squinty face and huge smile!
   I thought, she wants to do this too—so I'll start her in the other beginner's class on Sunday! (Later I remembered that when Aki's original owner surrendered her to MSIR, she took Aki to a vet's office very early in the morning and tied her leash to the door... and abandoned her. I think that's why she got so upset... she was crying, "OMG—Don't leave me here!!!", and maybe not "I want to do agility too!") No matter. I had already decided it would be good for her.  ;)
   There was a large picnic table in the dog park, and with no more than saying, "Up!", Tay sprung up easily, right to the table top. This dog's back legs are springs. He was MADE for this! I wish I would have started him soon after I adopted him, in July 2008. Have you ever seen a bigger smile?
   Today we were back at Swanson's, with only 8 other teams, so Aki got a lot of practice running through both tunnels, and then weaving. She moved rather slowly much of the time—not nearly as excited as Tay was—but she knew what to do and did very well. I really liked a couple of the other women in the class, and we shared treats with each others' dogs and had a ton of fun. Not all the dogs wanted to go through the tunnel, which was part of the fun. Poor Ellie!
   After the class, Rachel invited Aki & Tay & me to stay and practice on the equipment, and Taylor learned the chute (he did it perfectly on his second try), the dog walk, and the see saw (he did both perfectly on the FIRST try!), the jumps, the tire, the table, and the TALL A-frame... nothing threw him! Aki, not to be outdone, was slightly more tentative about each obstacle, but also breezed through it easily. Who knew that stubborn Shibas would perform so well?
   After TWO HOURS of practice (they had a blast!), Aki posed for her own picnic table portraits and we headed home.
   About thirty seconds after we hit the road, I snapped this pic. (Tay was slumped so far over the seat, I'm surprised his heavy head didn't fall off. And that IS Aki's tired tail, at mid-curl, on the right.) MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.