Tuesday, February 16, 2010

MACH 4 Billie and MACH Forrest

I have non-agility friends who visit this page. One recently asked, "so, what's a MACH?" So maybe a little background is in order for this post:

MACH stands for Master Agility Champion. It's a title awarded when a dog and handler get 20 Double Qs (2 out of 2 qualifying runs in the same day) and amass a certain number of speed points (it's formulaic and I'm not going there because I don't fully understand it myself). It's a reward for consistency and it's a big deal. Some of us (like me and the dog sprawled out on the couch as I write this) can go a whole four day trial without a double Q.

A MACH 4 is the same x 4. That's 80 Double Qs and something like a gazillion speed points. I never knew such a thing existed until I met Billie, subject of this post.

A MACH 5 is a car driven by Speed Racer. [Ed. note: Speed was such a tool. The show totally should've been about Racer X. I mean, seriously.]

Now on to our story.

Anne & Forrest

Anne Ibach is one of the handful of people who work their butts off organizing and executing local AKC agility trials. She's done this for the last decade, far longer than I've been around the sport. She's also a wicked good handler. In March Anne's leaving us for Portland, where she's landed her "Dream Job" with Oregon Public Television.

Salt Lake's loss is definitely Portland's gain.

MACH4 Billie, MXF, PDIII Retired

Anne began training with Billie in 1999 after an invitation from Coleen Hawker, Bill's owner at the time (and another local agility pioneer). She and Bill took lessons with Monica Bush and after a whole two months of training they entered their first trial. "Five years, thousands of miles and dollars, and several bottles of thyroid pills later," she says, they earned their first MACH, becoming just the fourth dog in Utah to earn the title.

They weren't finished. I didn't ask about numbers 2 and 3 but Billie got her 4th MACH last July, at age 11. She's only the second dog in Utah to do so. With that last MACH, Bill dropped out of the circuit and into retirement.

Best I can tell Bill's a pretty laid-back cat; for the above photo we said 'Bill, you lay here.' And he held... and held... and held that pose. Easy to work with. So despite the accomplishments, Bill's no diva.

MACH Red Rock Run Forrest Run MXJ, MX, MXF, JE, MAD, RN, CGC

But it was only after Forrest got his MACH in October that we talked about getting together for a photo.

Anne and Forrest found each other in 2003, when Forrest was a four month old pup -- and only, Anne jokes, because she was not smart enough to know better. "Never buy a Jack Russell on impulse," she says.

They've had to work far harder to get Forrest to where he is today; for the first year of his life, Anne's convinced he viewed her as nothing more than an annoying weight on the other end of the leash preventing Forrest from being Forrest. But Anne decided Forrest would become an agility dog. Lots and lots and lots of hard work later, he is.

I kinda get the impression that because of how hard they've had to work, Forrest's MACH may just mean more than Billie's achievements.

Way to go, Forrest!

And Anne, doggone it, we miss you already!

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Josie Spent President's Day


We spent the day in Spanish Fork with Josie (our border collie, if you don't already know) doing what she and Suzie enjoy most. It had been several weeks since she had been on sheep but she worked surprisingly well for Suzie in the Big Field with good outruns and some nice drives.

And whether Suzie is communicating a little more convincingly or whether Josie has just decided she wants to listen, she was in control for almost the whole day. That's progress for this pair.

Of course, our friend Linda worked with Josie in the small pen (below) beforehand and probably helped Joie get some of that "Oh My God, Sheep!!" excitement out of her system.

Friends and strangers regularly tell us how sweet Josie is -- and she really is. But, above all else, she's a herding dog. The shot below is how not to behave but it happens. The sheep wasn't hurt (I promise) and that was the only gripping that went on.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Goodbye to Dexter

(Over the Thanksgiving holiday.)

Dear Dexter,

We met just that one time. You came over with Ruth and Edie. Already well into your fight with cancer, were you in pain that day? If you were, I couldn't tell! No, you did everything we asked of you: You sat - patiently. And when we asked you to, you smiled that smile. You made me smile. And between us, I think we just may have made Ruth's day that day. Of course, you made Ruth's day every day for almost twelve years.

You're a special boy.

And you are missed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

MACH Jetta!

Being able to witness a few of the MACHs won in 2009 by local handlers and their canine partners was pretty heady stuff. But the one final qualifying run I wanted to see above all others came in October in Boise. Unfortunately we didn't make that trial, so I can only imagine how nicely Jetta must've run for Leslie -- who surely must've been on the verge of exploding on the inside but was just as surely as cool as the other side of the pillow on the outside.

With that run Leslie Dixwell got her first MACH and Jetta became only the third Swedish Vallhund ever to MACH in the US.

Leslie's MACH is personal for Suzie and I because Leslie was one of the first local trainers to befriend us when Suzie began doing agility with Corky, our first corgi. Prior to Jetta, Leslie had competed with corgis, mostly in obedience but also in agility. In fact, Jetta's MACH might not have been her first but for the fact that two of her corgis, Kela and Bell, had physical problems that forced them into early retirement. Bell once did place first in agility at Corgi Nationals. (And Kela earned a UD, which Leslie says is a close second to Jetta's MACH, as achievements go.)

Obviously I am biased but I believe Leslie is one of the best agility trainers we have in Utah. She's New School in that she regularly trains with Susan Garrett and Greg Derrett, and is constantly bringing new thought and exercises to training sessions. She's Old School in that she'll ride your arse hard (but always with a smile!) about lazy handling or not getting your dog sufficiently revved up to work. Although a MACH is not in the cards for me and Wyatt, the improvements in speed and drive that he and I experienced this past year are all Leslie's doing.

How They Got There & Where They're Going

Jetta is now seven and-a-half. It took two years of trialing to get to her MACH. Leslie says things only started to gel when she began stopping Jetta on contacts -- and when she became a better handler herself. "Most of it is consistency and handling," she says, adding "there comes a time when it is second nature to go around the agility course." (Wonder if Wyatt and his numnutts handler will ever have that feeling!)

If the late-January Golden Spike Obedience Club agility trial is any indication, there may just be a MACH II in their future: at the three day trial Jetta had three Double Qs. They now stand at 6 Double Qs toward a MACH II.

The Ad

Suzie ran point on getting friends and, with Donald's help, family lined up to support the purchase of a full-page ad in this month's issue of Clean Run. The ad is unique to all of those I've ever seen. Thst'd thanks to the graphic design skills of Eric Larson, another student of Leslie's, who donated his time to put the ad together.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dragonflys, Gallery Expiration Dates for 2009 and PayPal

As if Puccini isn't reward enough for pressing the shutter, on this particular frame (taken at the Great Salt Lake Dog Training Club Agility Trial in September) I was rewarded by what I initially thought was a dust speck. What are the odds? Thanks to Anne Ibach for pointing it out.
(Click on the photo for a bigger view.)

Puccini and friend

On to housekeeping:

To prepare for the upcoming outdoor season, and to make changes to my web site, I'll be removing the majority of Agility galleries from the site at the end of February. This applies to all trials prior toSeptember. The September trials will be online until the end of April.

I hope that's not confusing. If in doubt please visit the gallery in question; each one now sports an expiration date at the top of the page.

And finally: Pay Pal

Because I have had so many requests for it, I am now accepting payments (online) via PayPal.