Little Big Things

Bri has really turned the corner this last month.  She now does quite a few little things that, to me, represent BIG progress.  Of particular note is that she now carries her own ball in from the field back to the truck at work.  This is a huge milestone for her.  For months and months she would chase a ball and then when she felt any pressure on her collar (from the leash or whatever) she would drop it.  I was perpetually picking up her ball and dragging her along as Champ raced ahead, triumphantly carrying his own.  Now there is no way she's dropping that ball without a command!  This symbolizes her growing security and confidence and reinforces that prey drive that we need so much in this working pup!  This "little big thing" developed naturally over time with encouragement, trust and bond-building.  It feels like a win for both of us.

Another milestone to note is that she is now OFF LEASH at work!  She responds to her name and comes when called.  She does not take off on solo adventures and is no longer comfortable being out of sight of me and Champ.  In short, she wants to go home with us!  This is so huge for her.  For a long time I was sure that she could take or leave us and was not really bonded.  Now I see in her such a strong desire to please and to be with her "pack".

The last "little big thing" I want to remember is how affectionate she has become with us humans in her family.  She seeks out attention from both Dan and I...ok mostly Dan...but if he's not around she'll take me.  She gives "hugs" and exuberantly flops down on her back for belly rubs (the submissive wetting is also, thankfully, GONE), she has become such a lovey.

Good job baby girl!


Goodbye Moose-y

Champ's beloved moose had been with him ever since he came to live with me at 3 months old.  Moose-y did suffer the loss of all his stuffing, one antler and two legs but he was still well-loved and Champ toted him around often.  I thought Moose-y had gone the way of so many of our posessions and that Little Miss Demon had shredded (and probably swallowed) him.  As I was cleaning out the backyard getting ready to move I found him, covered in dirt and with grass growing out of him.  Poor Moose-y, he escaped the puppy but not the garbage can.  I'll always remember how cute he and Champ were when they were both young though...
Thanksgiving 2005



Oh yes, I DO still have my beloved pony, Champ.  He has been very busy lately teaching his puppy manners and almost passing his SchH1 test.  :-/  Next time for sure.  It's just that he refuses to do the long down.  All the other elements look great.  He is still by far the best house dog pet I could ever wish for so am not tooooo upset by his untitled schutzhund state!


Dear Bri,

You rock our world in so many good ways but if you would please STOP
    • eating socks
    • chasing your tail accompanied by your freakishly shrill barks
    • eating cat shit
             AND as of yesterday...
    • rolling in mysterious and hideous smelling things at 2am
that would be awesome.


Your long suffering family

    Starting Again

    After a LONG hiatus I am feeling the urge to resume blogging.  I'll try not to let it go 2+ years without a post again!  One big reason for starting again is this little one -

    Brylie, aka Briar Rose, aka Bri

    After lots of ups and downs this not-so-little-any-more girl joined the family making Champ and I very happy. (most of the time) She is now nine months old and everything you'd expect of a drive-y malinois pup.


    Trying to Feel Better

    "Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace." - Milan Kundera

    It's been a tough week for the Pony and I. Champ was wearing a muzzle that was a little too large for him and when he hit with the muzzle on it jammed under his eye. Poor guy has the equivalent of a black eye complete with broken blood vessel. It looks terrible! The white of his eye is bright red. I took him to the vet out of guilt and to insure no damage was done to his vision (there wasn't). I hate that he got hurt though. He's such a pure and happy creature, I wonder if I should be putting him through this extra training.

    Life on the human side is pretty crazy and it's hard to know what the right things to do are. I'm falling back on my same old philosophy for this year - sit tight, wait and see. Also the effort of positive thinking and trying to feel better helps. So in that spirit here is an older photo of Champ that we took one day when Auntie Donn was feeling sick and down. It came out better than expected and sits on a few desks in my office to remind us all to


    Rexx Retires

    As of this month Rexx is retired from his CHP career. He's one of the most decorated K9s in the country. He took home two more narcotics trophies in August at a competition that Frank was judging and let Rexx go in the detection portion "just for fun".

    He has colon cancer that is serious. Thankfully, he isn't in pain but does feel uncomfortable because he feels like he has to go to the bathroom all the time. He is on lots of vitamins, supplements and special food to make it easier for him. Yesterday the UC Davis vet team started him on chemotherapy in an attempt to shrink the tumor on his colon and keep it from spreading. I just hope this doesn't make him feel too sick. Up until now he's been running and playing and being his sweet self. It really is hard to not fall for Rexx, one look in his eyes and you know there's somebody in there. He's playful and sweet and will take out bad guys - what's not to love?

    This photo is from a few weeks ago. We don't have any good pics of Champ and Rexx but we're still trying! We missed a great shot when Champ was in the cab of the pickup and Rexx jumped up to kiss him through the window. Rexx likes all his puppies best when they're not out running around and bothering him, hence him on top of the bed and Champ on the ground. They really do have the same face and someday we'll capture it on film!

    John Soares Seminar - July

    So I finally got the pics from the John Soares seminar in July on the computer. It was a relaxing, informative and fun doggy weekend. Alejandra, Cristina and Ale's friend Marc helped sell snacks both days. Above: Champ is doing a hold and bark and then launching for a bite, Cristina is loving up on a visitor's dobie puppy, Lorna is making good use of the sleeves and Cowboy is showing his stuff.

    I learned a lot about dog behavior, malinois as a breed and training from John and his mentor, Roberto. I still use the breathing technique to focus Champ while heeling. Talking to Roberto about the breed has really helped me to relax and just write some things off as "mali behavior" and not stress about it. It was interesting during the seminar when John was talking about how dogs are always in the present moment and how we can re-center ourselves in the present by focusing on our breath. That's a concept that is echoed in meditation, my religion, and aikido. It just reiterates to me that no matter what you're doing you can connect to the greater universe by being as present as possible.

    Pony turns the OB Corner...

    First things first: Champ has clicked into obedience! Seriously it feels like someone flipped the switch and now he just does that happy, pretty obedience effortlessly. He learned to do the sit out of motion in one session and has continued to do it perfectly. He's also doing the heel around the group very nicely. Next thing to perfect is the heeling on leash and off the whole routine. It's a long time! Of course all this obedience is only speedy on the field. I need to work on motivating him at the office. I am feeling confident about our trial in November. He will definitely pass the BH and best of all I won't be stressed about it! I'm really glad I didn't rush or push him in obedience.

    Champ is also doing well in protection and terrible in tracking. I'm going back to basics in tracking and also reading up on it so I feel more confident in the training. Cruz was the decoy last night in protection and for some reason Champ is always more intense at less familiar decoys. So he performed very well and we left on a good note.


    Schutzhund Saturday

    Well yesterday was definitely a Schutzhund Saturday.

    Champ's tracking is abysmal mainly because I don't spend enough time doing it and because I am constantly wondering if I'm doing it right. So I decided to go back to basics in tracking and just do lots of long straight tracks. I made it out to the tracking field by 9:30 with just enough time to lay a couple 100 pace tracks. I put food in each and every step. Champ kept his nose down but blew over 80% of the food and didn't do anything near methodical sniffing of each footstep. I comforted myself by stopping at Starbucks on our way to the training field.

    Our fellow club members also reported lousy tracking - at least we're all in this together! It was a really nice day with the fog burning off into not-too-hot sun. I wanted to have our TD, Pat, watch us do OB since I missed our last OB day. Champ does his down nicely and I'm confident that he will do at least that well during his BH. We worked on sit out of motion (surprisingly easy) and fronts (not so easy). I got some good tips about paying Champ at the exact right moment. Unfortunately a little ways in, his brain just turned off and he was done working OB today, thank you very much. He hasn't done that before and both Pat and I were puzzled. So back to the truck he went.

    Protection went well. We are working on handler sensitivity while doing the hold and bark. Champ ran two blinds very nicely. He improved and didn't look at me at all when I walked by the blind. He got a couple good bites from that. I wanted to work on the speed of his "outs" because he has been slowing down lately. So we did some driving bites and then outed him with Chuck holding his pinch collar line and correcting him if he wasn't quick. Chuck and Pat thought I was being picky until we did the exercise. Champ is going through some sort of slight testing phase. He got rewarded with an escape bite and he was a happy boy at the end of protection.

    A lot of schutzhund training is sitting around with other club members for hours watching others train. Yesterday part of our discussion was about the liability of schutzhund dogs and their ability to protect in a real life situation.

    I left schutzhund club around 3, ran a couple errands and went home to drop Champ off and go swimming with my mom and sister. I pulled into our driveway and went inside. I heard noises and thought maybe Matt or Kgosi was home (since Marty's car was gone). I called out their names and no one answered. I went and used my bathroom. While I was in there I heard noises in Marty's bathroom that were definitely a person. So I walked into Marty's room saying, "Marty?" and as I crossed his doorway a man came out of his bathroom. I started screaming and backing up into the hall. He cam into the hall fast. He was holding his head and making noises. I tripped as I backed up and fell onto the floor near my doorway. I was screaming, he was screaming, it was nightmarish. I have no idea where Champ was after I fell. Before that I had him next to and a little in front of me. The man just wanted to get out of the house and he ran by me and out the front door. I watched him run down the street and then I ran into my truck, taking Champ with me and drove away calling 911.

    The police came and we walked through the house together. The thing that really made my heart sink is that when we walked into Marty's room I saw that the man had taken Marty's baseball bat into the bathroom with him. He was standing there trying to decide whether to come out with a weapon or not. So scary. More than anything I feel so grateful that he wasn't violent.

    Turning my thoughts to Champ, I am concerned. He's been raised to be social, no human has ever been unkind to him. He really doesn't know that there are "bad guys" in the world. I have wondered in the past if doing a little personal protection would be a good or bad idea. I am thinking at least a little handler protection! Although I do feel that if the man had made any aggressive moves, Champ would have bit him. The man was very defensive in his body language, as was I. I am wondering if I should have had the presence of mind to tell Champ to bite or guard or something. But honestly, the whole thing happened so fast that there was no time for anything but instinct. And I haven't trained myself to launch my dog as instinct.
    I put a call in to Frank and I plan on talking to Patrick about this. I want at least to teach Champ to do a building search.

    What a long first post!