Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our first agility trial

We bombed it. I'm not sure why I let myself get talked into going, we weren't ready, but it was fun and a learning experience. No better way to learn until you actually set foot on a true course.

I was most worried about the teeter...so, last Friday I scrambled trying to find somewhere where I could go to practice working on a teeter. Luckily, we found a very nice woman who doesn't live too far from us who let us use the equipment she has. Unfortunately, in my frenzy to find a teeter, I forgot that UKC has some different obstacles than AKC and forgot about the open hoop tunnel. But I wasn't the only handler out there with a dog who didn't Q and I wasn't the only person who had a dog not responding to recalls or the only handler who's dog had their nose glued to the ground - because, oh yeah, it was an outdoor trial. How I missed that, I had no idea.

In our first run he knocked down a bar on one of the first few jumps, which is an automatic DQ. He wasn't listening to my recalls, but he didn't really refuse anything. Then he came off the dogwalk, ran over to say hi to the person sitting there who was to reset the chute for each dog, then began prancing and sniffing down the back line of the fence - and I knew exactly what he was going to do. He pooped in the back corner of the ring. If we hadn't already been DQ'd, we would have been then.

I was kind of upset because they made me stand by the pile so they "knew where it was" (it was right in the corner, hard to miss) instead of scooping him up and putting him in his crate. So, while I'm standing next to this poop pile, my dog is having a gay old time running around the ring.

The second run was better. He knocked down one bar, and refused a tunnel (it was an open hoop tunnel, something he's never seen before), but his recalls and attention were much better. Still, nose was glued to the ground. He did the teeter and the dog walk just fine, yet again proving that dogs will no always behave how you expect them to behave in a trial.

But I wasn't mad. In fact, I was happy there was much improvement between the first and second runs. Many people came up to me and said that they've all had the same probems with their dogs, everyone loved Howie and thought he would one day be a star. They thought I as doing a great job with him, and he was such a charmer to everyone who came over to say hi.

So, even though we didn't get any qualifying scores, I think it was still productive. I know what we need to work on, and hopefully this will help us get ready for our next trial.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

We have the US Department of Justice on our side!

Earlier this week, the American's With Disabilities Act revised their definition of "service animal." This was long awaited news within the service dog community, but even more of a surprise to the anti-BSL community. The good news (no, the GREAT NEWS!) is that the DOJ has rejected the comments of some people who say that the ADA and DOJ should restrict the breeds that can be used for service dogs.


Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III
(Updated July 29, 2010)
Title II: Final Rule amending 28 CFR Part 35: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
Breed limitations. A few commenters suggested that certain breeds of dogs should not be allowed to be used as service animals. Some suggested that the Department should defer to local laws restricting the breeds of dogs that individuals who reside in a community may own. Other commenters opposed breed restrictions, stating that the breed of a dog does not determine its propensity for aggression and that aggressive and non-aggressive dogs exist in all breeds.

The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks. Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions. Others have restrictions that, while well-meaning, have the unintended effect of screening out the very breeds of dogs that have successfully served as service animals for decades without a history of the type of unprovoked aggression or attacks that would pose a direct threat, e.g., German Shepherds. Other jurisdictions prohibit animals over a certain weight, thereby restricting breeds without invoking an express breed ban. In addition, deference to breed restrictions contained in local laws would have the unacceptable consequence of restricting travel by an individual with a disability who uses a breed that is acceptable and poses no safety hazards in the individual´s home jurisdiction but is nonetheless banned by other jurisdictions. State and local government entities have the ability to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal´s actual behavior or history–not based on fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave. This ability to exclude an animal whose behavior or history evidences a direct threat is sufficient to protect health and safety.

This is a HUGE victory. Now, to start getting the word out to cities and states with BSL. Federal law trumps state law, folks.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Playing catch-up

I haven't updated in awhile, and for that I apologize! We've been busy, and lazy. Summer is now in full-swing, and in between real life stuff we were busy gearing up for UKC Premier...But more on that later!

After our hard-hitting blow at the obedience trial in May, it took me a bit to bounce back and get comfortable again. I got sick, both physically and with an eye infection, so major training was postponed until I could see right again and feel well. We focused mostly on weight pulling and earning the last few points for his weight pull champion title, which seemed to take forever to complete.

Because of being sick, I slacked on record keeping, too. Which means I don't have all the weights and locations we pulled at. But I'm going to do my best to update anyway.

"Old Premier Weekend" June 18th-20th (after UKC's fateful move to Richmond, IN) still saw a show/pull in Kalamazoo, MI. The All American Bulldog Club hosted a weight pull, K9 Fanciers hosted a show, Grand Rapids Area K9's hosted obedience and rally trials, and the United Greyhound Club hosted one of the first all-breed lure coursing trials. It was a fun weekend, even if Howie only pulled one day for me and poo-poo'd on the rest. We got 2 qualifying scores in both of the rally classes we entered, placing 3rd on Friday and 2nd on Saturday; our Saturday score was a 96, and we were beaten by a very beautiful run done by a Border Collie and her handler who scored a 97.

Howie also thoroughly enjoyed lure coursing, and thinks this new sport is the best thing ever. That weekend, he became the first (LP-registered) American Pit Bull Terrier to earn UKC's CA (coursing aptitude) title.

After the Kalamazoo weekend, we took time off to train and get ready for Premier. My "ultimate plan" was to finish both his weight pull champion title and his URO1 (rally 1) titles at Premier. This show is UKC's biggest of the year, so if we were going to finish titles, we were gonna do it in style! At least, that was the plan...

It was a busy weekend. We didn't get down to the show grounds until 2am Thursday morning, and we all had to be up early for weigh-ins and check-ins. After weigh-ins for weight pull, Howie broke out in hives, and I had originally told the Pride & Prejudice American Pit Bull Terrier Association (the club hosting the pull) that I was withdrawing his entry. We went back to our camper, where I loaded him with the prednisone and benadryl, and we took a nap. A few hours later he seemed fine, his hives were going down, and he seemed more perky; P&P was nice enough to let me re-enter him, and he pulled a 10-point pull (approximately 995 pounds, 15x his body weight) for me that day. I withdrew him after that pull, and hoped he would give me one more 10-point pull over the weekend.

Howie has been kind of blah about pulling, and I wasn't sure if he would pull or tell me he just wasn't feeling it and would refuse.

Friday was Top Ten/Premier day, so many of the activities were reserved for Top Ten and All-Star dogs - these are dogs and junior handlers who showed excellent performance last year and were invited to compete. This is an invitation-only show. But after all of those shows were done, we had a rally class. We qualified with a score of 81 and placed 5th in our class of about 20 dogs, but it wasn't pretty. But this qualifying score earned us our 3rd leg and our URO1 title!

Saturday was another weight pull day, and he did good by me and pulled another 10-point pull. Sunday he was tired, and told me no. But his pull on Saturday earned his UWPCH title, and made me happy.

He also lure coursed all weekend, which he found enjoyable. And we did what we went there to do.

We're now taking a break from showing and pulling. On August 7th there is a weight pull with another club, but it is right in our back yard, so we plan on going - which means no hotel or expensive traveling costs. We're also looking at another weight pull near Ann Arbor, MI...but I haven't decided on this yet. Most everything is up in the air.

On a totally different note, we're in talks with the Ferndale Public Library to start a "Reading to Dogs" program. I am most excited about this, and can't wait to get it in full swing. Keep watching for more information on these developments as Howie, Therepy Dog Extraordinaire!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ouchies, Rally-O, and Happy Birthday!

Weird things always seem to happen to me just before we have plans to go off to some event. I was one of the "lucky" few in Michigan to have a dog get Canine Influenza (it's not a common ailment here) just before his first Christmas; before one weight pull, I clipped a nail too short when he tried to jerk away that would not stop bleeding and required a trip to a vet who, luckily, was open until 10pm; and last night, Howie tore off his dew claw on his right paw.

And we have a 3-day weight pull coming up this weekend.

He's not digging down deep enough to be using his dew claws for extra gripping power, but I can imagine having the quick exposed is not a pleasant feeling for him. According to a blog post on Saveabull.com from 2008, the author's dog's dew claw fell off within a couple days of the injury, and not much doctoring was required.

Howie never really bled much after he tore the nail off. In fact, we didn't even know he was hurt until my boyfriend noticed a few spots of blood on his right paw. A vet tech friend advised to just clip off any hanging nail, clean it up, and bandage it up; keep it clean and make sure he doesn't bother it. I was tempted to bring him into work with me to keep an eye on him, but there was no bleeding overnight, and he only showed minor discomfort when I bandaged him up again for the day (and am hoping that he doesn't tear off that bandage in the 9 hours that's he's left alone). My vet is also getting a round antibiotics ready for me to pick up on my way home from work, just as a precautionary measure.

Otherwise, I'm hoping the club will let us transfer our entires for their show in June in Kalamazoo....

In other news...

Howie turned two-years-old on Saturday! Which also happened to be our first attempt at Rally Obedience. Unfortunately, we NQ'd (disqualified/not a qualifying score) in both runs, but at least there were "good" reasons. During the first trial, no matter how much I talked to him, he was more interested in the agility going on in the ring next to us, and at one point tried to jump the fencing that was separating the rings. I literally had to pull him off the fence - the judge could have excused us from the ring because you're not allowed to discipline your dog in the ring, but I think under the circumstances, he just NQ'd us with a "tight leash" comment.

During the second trial, were were doing SO WELL until I screwed up and missed a sign. Totally my fault, but the judge told me that had I not missed that sign, we would have had a qualifying score. So, I was mad at myself, not him. We're going to try again when we're in Kalamazoo for a weight pull in June, since RO will be offered there as well, and we'll already be there. I couldn't justify spending $60 on entries for day-of-show entries for a 2nd try, when I can save so much money when we're in Kalamazoo!

In addition to being accident-prone and us working on our training and showing together, we've also gotten the great news of finding a trainer who is willing to work with us for service dog tasks, as well. So many trainers either ignored us or simply denied us because of his breed, but a friend of mine pushed me to contact Lori Grigg of Paradise Dog Training (formally of For Better Independence). Lori was nice enough to spend over an hour on the phone with me to answer all of my questions and tell me how she operates, and was not deterred by him being an American Pit Bull Terrier in the least bit. We go to meet her at her training facility in Milford on May 17th.

In the meantime, this isn't going to be a cheap training adventure (it's definitely not like our training club, where 8 weeks of obedience training generally costs me $60). I have cut down our show schedule quite a bit and putting the money that would normally go toward our showing adventures toward his Service Dog Training savings account; and I am putting away every available penny I can to save up for this training. If you are able to donate to help us, please check out his Chip In page. We need to raise around $7500 for the skills he needs to learn to help me, and any unused dollars will be donated to help other people receive the service dogs that they need. We appreciate any help and support that you are able to provide - even the well-wishes mean so much to us!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Our First Obedience Trial

I know I'm so incredibly behind on updates. So, a quick update about weight pulling: He earned his UWP in Leslie, MI (on the snow!) with Mid-West Weight Pullers in January. We took Feburary off, and this past weekend we made a go at a rail system. His personal best was 2007# - his first 10 point pull (25 times his body weight). He almost pulled the next weight increment of 2447#; he pulled it halfway down the track and then was tired - but he tried it and that made me happy. He got two 10 point pulls that weekend, and made his momma VERY happy.

This weekend, however, is a different story.

While planning out my show calendar a couple months ago, I noticed there would be an obedience show in Southgate (a mere 30 minutes from me) with 2 shows each day - I decided I couldn't pass it up, so I pre-entered. If I could get him ready enough, it was a possibility we could get his UCD title in one weekend.

Obviously, that didn't happen.

I trained and trained. He took to the recall over the jump like an old pro, we were heeling fine in class (it needed tweeking, but it was fine for a Novice A), and even though his sit- and down-stays left something to be desired for, they were passable as long as he didn't break them. Going into the show, I was more scared he would break his stays.

It was the opposite.

Day one, show one: We entered the ring and he must have left his heeling at home. I had a tight leash the entire time because he was lagging behind me the entire time; the figure-8 was just as bad. The off-leash work was a disaster - he was nowhere near me. However, he didn't break his honor down nor the sit-stay during the group stay. And he had a BEAUTIFUL recall over the jump, although his front was slightly crooked, and we only got points off for him hesitating during the finish. Total score: 141/200.

Day one, show two: Pretty much the same as show one, but his heeling was just slightly better. Total score: 143/200.

A qualifying score is at least 170/200.

Day two, show one: On-leash heeling was only slightly better - the leash wasn't as tight as on day one; but he didn't even attempt to heel with me off-leash...he decided to go sniff something in a corner (though, in his defense, even some of the people in Open and Utility were complaining about this particular corner, and the ring in general). He didn't break his honor down, but stood then laid down during the group sit-stay. During the recall, he walked up to the jump, sniffed it, then popped it; came into a front and didn't complete the finish. Total score: 43/200. Ouch.

Day two, show two: All heeling was slightly better - I'm told it didn't look as bad as I thought it did. Still forgot our auto-sits somewhere (those were missing all weekend). He kept his honor down, but stood during the group sit-stay. Jumped the jump on the recall, but immediately did a right-finish with no sign of a front, but didn't didn't sit - just stood at heel. Total score: 89/200.

While we have most of this stuff at home (and in parking lots, stores, the obedience club, etc etc etc), there was a notable difference. A friend went with me for day two and said, "Yeah, that isn't the dog you have at home in training..." We would practice fine outside the ring, but he would shut down once we crossed the threshold into the ring. But now I know what we need to work on.

Thank you to everyone at Happy Paws Training Center for holding this show, and to everyone who attended the show. Everyone was very supportive and helpful, and only encouraged us to keep trying. As a friend of mine said, and what I need to hold on to during these frustrating DNQ's: "By stepping into that ring and competing, you are doing 90% than what all other American Pit Bull Terrier owners don't do."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

UKC Ultra Dog

I have a post in the writing updating you on all of last weekend, in which Howie earned his UWP! However, I wanted to post this first. I'll finish the weight pull update post later...

My main goal for 2010 is to work toward UKC's Ultra Dog title for Howie. After earning his UWP, we're 1/3 of the way there! The Ultra Dog title goes along with UKC's Total Dog philosophy, but is only available to dogs with a Limited Privilege registration, or Permanently registered altered (fixed) dogs. Three of the top-ten Ultra Dogs are American Pit Bull Terriers, so this gives me great motivation!

To earn the Ultra Dog title, Howie needs to earn his UWP (check!), his UCD (formal obedience), and his AG1 (the first agility title you can earn). Agility is going to be the hardest, but I think that if we start training now, we'll be ready by the end of the year.

For the UCD he needs to know:
  • Honor (long down on leash in opposite corner of the ring while another dog does their test)
  • Heel on leash and off-leash
  • Figure 8
  • Stand for exam
  • Recall over jump, and
  • Long sit
The only new thing he needs to learn is the recall over the jump; everything else we just need to brush up on, and master. But I think we can be ready be summer, if I can get over my ring nerves. There's a show in Ohio in June that we should be able to go to a title out in one weekend.

Agility is going to be a whole different monster to tackle. The closest training club to me is an AKC club, but it should give us the basics until I can travel a little further to work on UKC equipment. But I think it's doable. Once all our snow melts, it'll be a whole lot easier for me to train in the back yard.

It's a goal :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ask the IRS to Audit the HSUS

While I actively support the Michigan Humane Society and all of the active good work they do, I'm very much skeptical of the Humane Society of the United States. I have the same view of churches: if your group is mainly politically affiliated and minded, I often question your true goals. Also, while your state and local Humane Societies are not-for-profit, HSUS very much is.

So...When I got this in my email, you can bet that I sent out a letter!

Please cross post

Message directly from Frank Losey
...a few thousand additional letters.

Monday January 11, 2010


The Tax Fraud Office of the IRS in Fresno, CA has now received over 2,000 individually addressed letters from concerned citizens in at least 48 different states. Each letter asked the IRS to audit and investigate the alleged excessive and under-reported lobbying activities of the HSUS. Significantly, more than 1,100 of these letters were documented - - sent by certified mail. This has created a 2,000 pound GORILLA that cannot be ignored, and this GORILLA is asking the IRS to audit the HSUS!

All letters mailed to date document that an irrefutable “NATIONAL OUTCRY” exists for the IRS to audit the HSUS. That is why I wish to express my profound appreciation for the letter-writing efforts of so many - - with special “THANKS” to those who incurred the extra expense and took the extra time to stand in long lines at the Post Office to send their letters by Certified Mail. “T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U!!!!!”

So, how has the HSUS reacted to the “Letter-Writing Campaign?” Well, Mr. Michael Markarian (HSUS Chief Operating Officer - - second only to CEO Wayne Pacelle) has used the typical “SPIN” of the HSUS for “DAMAGE CONTROL,” and purportedly stated: “We feel this is an anemic campaign, and they’re barking up the wrong tree.”

By trivializing the “Letter-Writing Campaign,” the HSUS just “BLINKED!” They “spoke out” because they could not ignore the “Campaign” with silence, or the spreading “WILDFIRE” of thousands of letters being sent to the IRS. This “WILDFIRE” has already unleashed over 2,000 “barking dogs” who are “barking” up the HSUS Tree. In short, the HSUS “response” is a sign of “concern” rather than “confidence!”

A Second Wave of First Class Letters could further fan the flames of the “WILDFIRE” and increase the pressure on the IRS to expeditiously begin an audit and investigation of the alleged excessive and under-reported “Lobbying Activities” of the HSUS, such as the $450,000 “contribution” by the HSUS for the Ballot Initiative effort in Missouri. This “contribution” was posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission Website on January 6, 2010 - - $450,000 for “Lobbying Activities” rather than direct animal care! . . . . . . . . Yet another 450,000 reasons for the IRS to begin an audit of the HSUS!

To begin the Second Wave of First Class Letters simply:

1. Write or type a note that says: “I respectfully ask the IRS to audit and investigate the alleged excessive and under-reported lobbying activities of the Humane Society of the U.S.”

2. Put that note or letter in an envelope that is addressed to the “INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, FRESNO, CA 93888.” (No street address or your return address is needed.)

3. Put a $.44 stamp on the addressed envelope and drop it in the mail box. That’s it! Nothing more!!!

If 2,000+ letters to the IRS could make the HSUS “BLINK,” . . . . . stop and think how fast the eyes of the HSUS would be “BLINKING” if a few thousand additional letters were sent to the IRS by even more “barking dogs” who wish to show their presence at the base of the HSUS Tree!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Howie's First Snow Pull

Not only was this his first snow pull, but it was his first UKC pull, too. We drove down to a tiny little town near the boarder of Ohio called Luna Pier (exit 6 on I-75) on January 1st. We went with our friends Amanda and Bruce, and their hoard of dogs: Luna, Ryker, Lyric, and Duo. The plan was to get there on Friday, settle into the hotel room, then pull on Saturday & Sunday.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday and headed down to the pull. Luna Pier is right off of Lake Erie, and the high temperature that weekend was expected to be in the low teen's - so, with the wind coming off the lake, it felt more like -50°F.

We were doing everything we could to keep warm. I was in long john's, fleece pajamas, a wool sweater, and a fleece; my coat acted more as a windbreaker than actually keeping me warm. I was wearing the warmest hat I had, which just happened to be bright orange (you'll see it in the video posted below). We were lucky that the judges let us go back to our car to warm up after our pulls if we had time to, normally this doesn't happen; this was also because we were in the parking lot of a tiny strip mall and because we were right off I-75. Still, I tried to do all that I could to keep Howie warm - he is not a cold-weather dog.

Because we were only working for his UWP, we only had to meet minimal requirements for the pull. To earn a qualifying pull, he only had to pull three times his body weight - he weighed in at 61.4 pounds, so he had to pull 184.2 pounds. The empty sled weight 245 pounds, and they added weight in 90 pound increments.

He pulled the empty cart, then pulled 335 pounds. I decided to withdraw him after that. We had earned the 1st (or 3) legs of our title, and he pulled well, I didn't want to push him too far.

We all went back to our hotel room after Amanda had pulled Ryker, and we all spent some time thawing out. Howie and I took a nap, we all ordered pizza, and then met some friends for dinner.

The next day seemed even colder. Due to a sudden change in plans, Howie's weight class went from being the third class to go to the first class to go - I had just settled into my car to take a short nap and wait for our class when someone came knocking on my window telling me to get my dog ready. Because of this, we didn't have time to warm up between our pulls...there were only 3 dogs in our weight class, so we were either "on deck" or "in the hole." Poor Howie was shivering so badly that his teeth were chattering.

Because he pulled 335 pounds on Saturday, that's where I started him on Sunday - I wanted to push him just a tad father, and had made the decision that I would pull him until he told me he was done.

He pulled the 335 pounds easily. He struggled a little with 425 pounds, but he pulled it. Then I tried him at 515 pounds, and he told me he was done. The look on his face was clear: "Mom, it's COLD! I'm FREEZING!" But, he had done what I asked him - he got the 2nd leg of is UWP title, and pulled just a bit more than he did the day before. He did a good job, and I was so proud of my boy.

We're planning to go to our next snow pull on January 15th-16th-17th to earn the 3rd leg of his title and to get some more points. Since he's neutered, we're not in a hurry to get a ton of titles, and we're just out there to have fun.