Wednesday, January 09, 2008

January Thaw

(FYI, Firefox-ophiles, this is the first post I've written using the ScribeFire plug-in for Firefox. Guess you and I will find out at the same time how well it works, but I like having the little clickable icon on the bottom of my browser window. Comes in handy for those last-minute inspirations.)

Anyway... we have been going through a thaw for the past couple of days. Winter is a cruel season here in Maine -- as soon as you're caught enjoying a patch of relatively warm weather, Mother Nature comes along and smacks you back into the usual cold, dark stuff you're used to. People talk about the warm weather in hushed tones, pretending not to enjoy it that much, in order to soften the inevitable disappointment when winter returns.

Maybe it's due to the subtle mental lift that comes with 60-degree weather and occasional glimpses of actual sunshine, but lately it's been a good time to get some stuff done, and to change some things. I have been dying to learn more about CSS/XHTML and PHP programming, but didn't have the time to do a good job teaching myself. Come to find out, our local school district's continuing ed. program includes some online courses in just those subjects! I signed up for the CSS/XHTML course faster than you can say "nerd" -- and classes start on the 16th. I can't wait! Most of my CSS hacking to date has consisted of taking a design and messing with it until I liked what I saw, but now I can understand what actually goes on under the proverbial hood.

I have additional reasons to be feeling a little bit chuffed these days -- at least, while the sun still shines and the snow still melts. My very first article for Downeast Dog News, a Q&A-style piece about the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, was just published in the January issue. As a bonus, the editor included a photo of a Jack Russell Terrier pointing out that taking the CGC test would make a very good New Year's resolution. I loved it! Anyway, time to get serious about my next obedience-related article.

Not Just a Pretty Face

Even after working with the lovely Dinah Moe for the past couple of years, it still amazes me what the girlie knows when I give her a chance to show me.

Last night at agility class, we were working on some of the other obstacles while our classmates took turns at the portion of the course that corresponded with the evening's lesson. We worked on a start to a tire jump to the A-frame.

I'm used to a sit-stay at the start. When I'm working Seamus, I have to get him to sit, or he'll get some other idea into his head instead -- so for him, a sit-stay gives him something to focus on while I'm leading out. Dinah was reluctant to sit and stay at the start, and I'd have to explain it to her every time.

At one point, I decided to see what would happen if I just told her to stand-stay. She responded perfectly, and didn't move at all until given the "go." Since she's a show dog, she's had to learn how to stand still in the ring. She gets it!

Of course, she's going to need to differentiate between a sit-stay, a down-stay, and a stand-stay for all the other dog sports out there, but for herding and agility, it works. What a smart girlie!

Likewise, I've noticed that she tries to get back into heel position after I send her over a jump. I'll have to figure out ways to exploit that idea. This is the girl who insisted on heeling on the right all through puppy class (I explained that it was because she's British, and so she drives on the wrong side of the road). She's comfortable enough with working on the right side in agility, but she needs to be in heel position in rally-roo -- so she was just showing me what she knows. What a smart girl! Now all I have to do is train her to distinguish when I want her to be on the right versus the left, and when it's okay not to heel.

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