Posted by: jility | June 23, 2015

The Biggest Bully of All

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes and they are all MEAN! But there is one bully worse than all of the bullies in the Universe put together.

This bully doesn’t care if you are young or old, fat or thin, beautiful or homely, rich or poor,  brilliant or stupid, wildly successful or living on the streets, black, white or any other color.

This bully will rob you of your dignity and strip you of all modesty and pride.

This bully kicks you when you are down, while others watch helplessly.

This bully plays wicked mind games, and just when you think the bully has moved on, BAM you get ambushed again.

This bully is beyond the law in every way and there is nothing anyone can do to stop the horrific mental and physical damage.

This bully is the worst serial killer ever known.

This bully cannot be arrested or jailed, even for murder.

This bully is cancer.

Posted by: jility | June 3, 2015


the sjy is falling

Stress comes in many forms and is different for everyone. Some people stress over what to wear, while others stress over what people think of them, while others manage most things just fine, even the worst of the worst news. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Dogs are not immune from stress. Quite the contrary! My current agility dog is the epitome of Chicken Little! The smallest thing can send her over the edge into a full on panic attack. She loves people outside the agility ring. Inside the ring or right after she runs is a completely different story! Once in the ring, people, including the judge, should not move, speak or laugh! Those are Pankies’ rules. If we have a very mobile or loud judge, I cringe because I know it will be more than she can stand.

I have actually asked a few judges to please count quietly when she is on the table and not to move around much. Some oblige but others do not. I have to ask the leash runners to stand away from her and not to speak or move until we leave the startline. I hate doing it and always apologize for being a pain, but it is just a part of our life. It has taken many years for her to be able to deal with her demons well enough to compete. She was four before she could do contacts in competition. Once she did them, however, she never looked back.

We once had a feral dog whose immune system would shut down if she became too stressed for too long. One time she developed pseudomonas all over her skin after being stressed. Another time she nearly died when she spiked an extremely high fever after a stressful situation. We tried to avoid putting her in stressful situations, but we lost her to stomach cancer when she was 12 years old. I am sure that stress played a huge roll in that.

My life has been very stressful for many years due to personal stuff over which I have no control. I am convinced it is one of the reasons I am battling stage 4 colon cancer that has now spread to my liver. Stress STINKS (cancer ain’t so hot either)

Way back in the 1980s, I did a lot of soul searching and read a bazillion self-help books. I read everything I could to help lighten up my emotional baggage. It helped me a lot, but I still struggle to release stress from my life.

One of the things that scared the heck out of me was flying. It truly cramped my style and I missed out on a lot of good stuff because of that fear. I was never afraid as a kid, but a very bumpy ride in a small plane when I was 16 did the trick. I hated flying after that.

One of the books I read to help me with irrational fears was by Dr. Wayne Dyer (actually, I read a lot of his books and still do. I love him!). That little book changed my life back then. It is called “Gifts from Eykis.”  Amazon carries it if you would like to read it.

When I was young I competed a lot with my horses. I was petrified every time I was about to enter the ring. I shook like an IG at the North Pole going in and coming out of the ring.


Then, after I spent a summer in Ireland at a riding school, I was cured and never worried about competition again. We went to a show with a bunch of horses, but I was not scheduled to ride. They knew how petrified I was to compete. At the last minute, they told me I was showing in an open jumper class! I had three minutes to get ready. One of the kids had secretly brought my gear so I got ready quickly, protesting as I went, but my pleas for a reprieve fell on deaf ears. They put me up on this huge open jumper and sent me into the ring. The fences were close to six feet high and very wide as well!

Most of that round was a blur, but we went clean! Unfortunately, I was so excited that we were clean, I forgot to go through the timers at the finish line and was disqualified. I didn’t care! I had done it. I was never afraid to compete after that. I never get one bit nervous when I run in agility.

The same is true for public speaking. I used to be petrified to speak in public. Then when a fellow Connemara Pony inspector and I were giving a report in front of a crowd at the annual meeting, everything changed. I stood there shaking, scared to speak. I knew if I opened my mouth I might start crying I was so nervous. What was it that scared me so? What was the worst that could happen?


Then, we knocked over the mountain of papers we had brought to share. They went flying all over the floor along with our notes! WE NEEDED THOSE NOTES! As the other person and I bent down trying to gather up all the papers as well as our wits, we started laughing. We laughed so hard we were crying. As we stood up we could hear the crowd starting to chuckle awkwardly. Then we really lost it. With tears of laughter streaming from my eyes, I choked out, “Well, we may not be very organized, but we are very nice!” Then everyone lost it. It took quite a while for all of us to regain our composure. We finished our presentation and I never had fear of public speaking again.

Sir Cussalot gets very stressed before every agility run. He is extremely shy and always convinced that everyone is pointing and laughing at him (even though it is quite the contrary!). If he gets a compliment on a run, he will say, “They only said that because I am old and they feel sorry for me.” WTF???? I wish I were HALF the competitor he is!

His ring nerves go right down the leash to whatever dog he is running at a trial. Some of the dogs do fine with it but others feel that surge of fight or flight running through his veins and want to turn tail and RUN for the hills! Crush, Josephine, MiniMe and Stacy Winkler’s Cheyenne (the Westie that taught Sir Cussalot how to do agility many years ago) actually got pumped by Sir C’s stress in the ring. However, Millie (the aforementioned feral dog), Barque, Pankies, their mother Charisse Poodle and Xoom get frozen with fear when they sense how scared Sir C gets before he runs at a trial. They work great for him at home or at class but a trial is a different thing. Xoom is teaching him how to let go of those nerves but it is not easy for one so shy, self-conscious and withdrawn.

The important thing is to recognize our stress. If there is a way to let it go, then we need to do that, or at least work on it. I try to avoid people who cause me angst. I just pretend they do not exist. If they engage me in a conversation, I will be polite, but I will never give them more than I need to. They are dead to me. I have too many amazingly great people in my life to let those who love to cause trouble get under my skin.

When I see people at trials or in training get upset with their dogs for mistakes, I want to cry. Don’t they know that every second they get to spend doing what they love with a creature who loves them no matter how much of a butthead they are, is precious? When I see a dog blamed or punished for mistakes, I want to cry. Why don’t people understand that everything that dogs does is because of the training their person has given them? If a dog blows a startline or contact or flanks them or misses weaves or goes off course or you fill in the blank, it is NOT THAT DOG’S FAULT SO WHY ARE THEY PUNISHED??? The handler should get the walk of shame for the errors, NOT THE DOG!

I hear ignorant people blame their dogs all the time and I just shake my head. It is OUR job to teach our dogs how to perform a behavior correctly, and then to maintain that behavior so it does not go away! There is enough stress in our lives and in our dogs’ lives that we do not need to add to it by blaming them and punishing them for our shortcomings as their trainer and/or handler! We need to be able to put things into perspective!


Once you are told that you have stage 4 cancer and that your time on this marvelous earth is limited, the rest is all just small stuff not worth a sweat.

Rather than worry about the little things that could or do go wrong, go for the gold with gusto! Embrace what life has to offer, hang on and ENJOY THE RIDE!


For more blogs on this subject please visit you will not be disappointed!

Helen Grinnell King 

Posted by: jility | May 24, 2015


It has been a while since I have written about my health. Unfortunately, to quote my oncologist at my last scan results meeting, “…the news is not good.”

Cancer sucks! It robs people of their lives and it is a real pain in the ass! All I want to do is train and run my dogs. Most days I can’t even do that without it being a terrible chore. I honestly do not know what I would do without Sir Cussalot. He is an amazing man and I am so blessed to have him! He goes above and beyond for me. I know it is not easy at times, but he always steps up!

The reason I have not written anything or said much to people is that I hate talking about it. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me and I don’t want people to look sad when they see me. I do NOT want sympathy! I just want to run my freaking dogs!

Last fall two cancerous things showed up in my abdominal cavity. When they did surgery in January, they found three cancerous lymph nodes and two places on the outside of my colon that were cancerous. Everything was removed and my colon was resected in two places. There is not much left for storage! I told the surgeon that I did not want a bag. I have visions of running at a trial, falling and the bag splits open and everything spills out all over the course!

Now, dogs are NQed for soiling in the ring but what about the handler? It would be my worst humiliation nightmare. I guess I shouldn’t have written that because the Universe has seen fit to send me all of my worst nightmares. They have come in many forms but the fun just keeps coming my way.

About six weeks after my surgery, I had a pet and ct scan. Those scans showed two places in my liver that were cancerous. They put me back on chemo and scanned me again six weeks later to see if it was working. “I am afraid the news is not good,” Dr. Lenz said in his thick German accent. “The report shows that you have at least a dozen tumors in your liver now and something in your lung and gallbladder.”

My heart sank but I was getting used to bad news. I have never cried over this or felt sorry for myself. I was a bit pissed but that too is not a reaction I want. There is no way I want to go through the rest of my life pissed or sad.

Dr. Lenz went on to say that he had more options. One was a controlled study. He said he may have a spot opening up and if it did I could have it. Long story short, it never opened up.

So, the old chemo was doing nothing for me and the chemo I was on in the beginning that made my face, throat, hands and feet tingle and burn from the cold, was ruining my liver so I can’t have that either.

He said there was a fairly new drug called Erbitux. It is not a chemotherapy drug but targets the tumors and prevents them from growing. It contains mouse genes. Some of the side effects are acne and errant hairs on your face where the acne is. LOVELY!

He said that the more zits you get, the better it is working. LOVELIER!!

My first thought was that I hoped I didn’t spread the hantavirus or crave cheese. LOVELIEST!!!

A friend told me NOT TO GET A CAT! You gotta laugh ‘cause the alternative sucks!

I never had acne as a kid but I am ashamed to report that I made fun of those who did! Payback is a bitch! Sure, I had the occasional pimple, but nothing like the horrific burning and itching pizza face I am dealing with now!

This is about the only stuff that gives me relief but ain't no way I will go out in public like this! I will just post it for everyone to see who reads my blog LOL HUMILIFICATION!!!!

This is about the only stuff that gives me relief but ain’t no way I will go out in public like this! I will just post it for everyone to see who reads my blog LOL

When we were kids, my siblings and I (there were six of us – two boys and four girls) were brutal to each other. One of the things we used to say to each other was:

“Does your face hurt?”

We always had to answer, “No why?”

“BECAUSE IT IS KILLING ME!” was the patented response.

That has never been truer than it is for me now!

So I was talking with my friend Claudia the other day. I was telling her how my face was terribly broken out as was my scalp and behind my ears. I said that I thought God hates me and keeps sending shitty crap to me (no pun intended) to make me humble (as if I am not humble enough after all I have been through!). I said, “The humilification is killing me!” Claudia, being the great friend that she is said, “Is that a word or did your chemo brain make it up?” Then we both laughed like crazy.

Honestly, I really wasn’t sure! My brain, once a pretty dang good one and about all I ever had going for me, is mush from the chemo. I can’t remember from one minute to the next. My wonderful friend Jef Blake, who always leaves me laughing, and that is a very good thing, asked me how I remember agility courses. I thought about it and realized that I had not lost my ability to walk a course once and get it. I guess I still have that to hang on to. Unfortunately, I rarely trial anymore because I am too weak from the treatments. I am missing my favorite trial in Pomona this weekend! We thought it was a chemo week so we didn’t enter. It turned out they rescheduled treatment and pushed it back a week so I could have entered after all.  Another cruel joke!

WAH WAH WAH!!!! SOMEBODY CALL ME A WAMBULANCE! OK, so I do feel sorry for myself once in a while but I hate it when I do!

It is amazing how we take our lives for granted until something happens to snatch everything away from us. Enjoy and embrace every moment you have. Life is too short to be angry at your dog for a training or trialing issue. Be nice to your loved ones and friends. Avoid those who cause you angst. There is no place for stress in this world!

LOVE YOUR LIFE OR FIX IT IF YOU CAN! If you can’t fix it, enjoy the ride!


Helen Grinnell King

Posted by: jility | May 3, 2015

I’ll See It When I Believe It!

Recently, Sir Cussalot and I were driving to a nursery to buy some trees for our new digs when I had a MAJOR epiphany. We wanted to put a clump of three palms on each side of the gated entry, but we couldn’t decide which type of palm to use. We were told that the king palm looks the best when grown like that, but it was not very cold tolerant. We read and people also told us that the queen palm was more cold tolerant, but we thought we liked the looks of the king better. The problem was that, as is not the case when identifying same in humans, we were not sure how to tell which were the kings and which were the queens.

Queens of the day.

Queens for a day.

We read descriptions of each and even looked at photos of both, yet we were still not sure how to positively tell the difference. I likened it to describing the colors red and blue to a blind person. If, all of a sudden they were no longer blind, would they be able to identify the different colors from the written or verbal descriptions they had received before they could see? I doubt it because they would have no frame of reference really. Everything we had read online described the king as having a tall green leader and green at the top of the trunk. Well, I saw plenty of palms like that sorta looked like that. I tried and tried to figure out which was which, but to no avail. Then, as we were driving through a residential neighborhood, I saw it! There they were, side by side, and it became as plain as the nose on my face! I finally SAW the green at the top of the trunk and the color of the fronds. The difference, once unseen by me, became completely clear. They were as different as red and blue, but it wasn’t until I saw them next to each other that I was able to see that!

We Three Kings...

We Three Kings…

So who cares? You may be asking yourself. Ah, I will explain my epiphany.

For years I have worked with people to help them to see structure in horses and dogs and how it relates to real performance (not just trotting around the show ring). Some never “get” it and that frustrated me because I was unable to help them see. When, however, I see the look on somebody’s face when they DO “get” it, well, that makes all of the crap I take for my structural beliefs from those who don’t believe it, well worth it!

Many can read the words or be told over and over and over again and even look at photos, but until they put their hands on the animal and stand there comparing more than one dog or horse or pony, they just do not see it. Some even go so far to exclaim that what they are reading or being told is just not so. If they don’t see it, they don’t believe it. If, however, somebody is determined to see it and they believe what I am telling them, they will continue in their quest to learn and eventually they will see it.

The same is true for most things in life. Dog training and handling is another example.

For one example:

I see people at trials who try to do a lead out pivot but have not had good instruction on how a LOP should be trained and executed. Some even try to say that the LOP is lying to your dog. That is because they do not truly understand it. If they did, they would understand that the dog knows exactly where they are going and what is going to happen because they have been trained to do so. I see people at trials all the time who stand in the wrong place or face the wrong way and their dog is genuinely confused. So others look at that and claim the LOP doesn’t work. That is just one handling example but there are many more.

When we train our dogs, we always try to show them what it looks like if we want them to do one thing and what it looks like if we want them to do something different. Let’s use an aframe/tunnel discrimination as an example. This weekend I messed up Pankies in standard because I headed her to just such a thing and expected her to read my mind as to which one to take. I knew I needed a threadle arm and to tell her verbally which one to take in plenty of time. I did neither and got the tunnel instead of the aframe. I know from practice that if I don’t let her know with a threadle arm and a timely verbal that she will pick the wrong obstacle much of the time (and that wrong obstacle is not always the same one. Sometimes she may choose the AF and sometimes the tunnel but she will make the executive decision if I drop the ball).

To train it, I show her what is looks like and sounds like when I want the AF and then do the same with the tunnel. It is a skill that must be maintained or it goes away quickly. If I just trained the AF with a tunnel underneath and never did the tunnel in the same session, she might not get that there is a distinct difference. Then, of course, I need to not be a moron at a trial like I was today and drop the ball!

You can apply the same thing to raising kids or training people for jobs or in school. Sometimes we need to show them the difference in person in order for that light bulb to glow!

Posted by: jility | January 9, 2015

There Must be a Pony in here Somewhere!

Shortly after Christmas Sir Cussalot and I were driving along chatting. I said something like, “Can you believe it is almost New Year already?” Here I was thinking how lucky I felt to be alive another year. Sir Cussalot’s perpetual half empty mentality responded in a most disgusted tone, “Yeah, I can hardly wait. Another F#@K!^G year older.”

Ever since I have known him (he was 36 when we met and is about to turn 77), he has gotten particularly grumpy around his birthday. I have only gotten depressed once over a birthday and that was when I turned 40. Now I look back and realize just how silly that was! I would give anything to be 40 again!!!

The way I see it now is that each birthday is a gift, and I appreciate them more than I can express.

So on Tuesday of this week I went for ct and pet scans. I hate the two day wait to get the results! Every minute is agonizing. I can make up crap in my head that is much worse than the results!

We were escorted into the office room and waited for Dr. Lenz. After a few minutes he burst through the door with his usual smile and said, “VELL?”

“What do you mean, ‘Well?’ Well to YOU!”

He responded, “You are za vun who vent to see Dr. Moore. Vat did she say?”

“I told you what she said!”

“I know, I have her report here.”

“Then why did you ask me?” I responded with a smile. I adore this doctor! He is so perfect for my personality it is scary! He is blunt, irreverent and now feels comfortable enough to cuss in front of us. I feel right at home!

He read me what she wrote. She didn’t want to do surgery. She thought the tumors were too small to find and that I should be treated with more chemotherapy.

Dr. Lenz got serious and yelled in his high upset voice, “I DO NOT KNOW VY ZEEZ SURGEONS DO NOT VANT TO DO SURGERY! ZAY ARE SURGEONS!!!! DO YOUR JOB FOR PETE’S SAKE!!!!”

Sir C and I laughed. Then Sir C tried to ask a question but Dr. Lenz, who was sitting next to him, put his hand on Sir C’s wrist and shhhed him. We smiled.

Finally, Sir C got bolder than normal and just interrupted him to ask, “What did the scans show?”

“VAT SCANS? Did you have scans?”

“Ah yes,” I responded.

Sir C said boldly, “She had them on Tuesday!”

Dr. Lenz looked surprised and jumped out of the chair. “I vill go get za results! I have not seen zem.”

At that he burst out of the room and disappeared for five or so minutes. It seemed like an eternity. My normal blood pressure is about 112 over 65. When I am waiting for scan results it jumps to 170 over 100!!!!! CRAZY SCARY!

He finally came back in the room.

“It vuz not read ven vee looked at za scans yesterday. Zat is vy vee missed it.”


“It is mixed.” He said he said softly.

What the F#@& does that mean???? I thought. OK, here it comes, I am full of cancer and I am dead meat. Now how will I finish Pankies’ MACH???

Dr. Lenz saw the horror on my face.

“NO! NO! It is not BAD!” He shook his head at me and waived his expressive arms and continued.

“Vell, za big tumor is melting avay. It vent fum 7 cm down to 3.7 last scan and is now down to 1.4! But, za small tumor started at 1.7 cm and went down to 1.2 last scan but is up to 1.6 this time. Zat is not much, but it grew a little.”

I tried to process. Wondering why one would be dramatically melting away while the other one grew.

Then I thought about how the surgeons all said that the masses would be very difficult to find so maybe growing wasn’t all that bad. I had to find the pony in the manure!

Sir Cussalot asked, “Were there any new growths?”

“NO!” Dr. Lenz responded in his higher happy voice. His voice range is amazing! I wonder if he sings. J

We discussed the chemo side effects. I told him that my hair is falling our much more so than the last time. He said that the new chemo I am on causes more hair loss. I told him that pretty soon I would look like him! He got a very offended look on his face, pointed at his thinning flat top, looked over at Sir C and said, “CAN YOU BELIEVE ZISS????” We all laughed. I do look like the moths have gotten to me.

So surgery is scheduled for January 29th at Keck Hospital at USC in LA. I hope they find those two ponies in all that manure they have to dig through!


The BEST news is no chemo for NINE FREAKING WEEKS!!!

When Dr. Lenz told me that, I yelled with joy. He said, “zis is your life vee are talking about and all you sink about is agility!”

“Well,” I responded, “agility IS my life!” I looked over at Sir C and we smiled. “HEY! I did a four day trial last weekend only two weeks out of chemo and I did FIVE runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and SIX runs on SUNDAY!” Dr. Lenz threw up his hands, shook his head, smiled and left the room.

Meanwhile, I continue on my journey of wellness and good eating and juicing. Still no oil, no sweeteners, vegan and unprocessed.

Helen Grinnell King

Posted by: jility | December 3, 2014

If It Ain’t Broke…

When I started agility nearly 15 years ago, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That may still be the case today, but I feel pretty good about my agility and the direction it has taken. My recent Q rate  with my standard Poodle UPGRAYEDD (aka Pankies) is extremely high (right around 90% at the time of this writing – but I know in agility that can change in the blink of an eye, especially if I keep making dumb ass mistakes as I did this past weekend!). Pretty remarkable when you consider she wouldn’t train or run a lick for several years! She was petrified of everything.

In the beginning of my agility life, I struggled and went from instructor to instructor. My first agility dog was my standard Poodle, Isabella. She had drive, but I had no idea what to do with it or how to bring out the best in her. In the end, she got an AKC  MACH but her health issues caused her to retire at 6 years old.

Isabella had no startline stay, a horrible habit of leaping from the top of the aframe and I did so many messed up handling things, she was totally confused. I went to as many seminars I could. Each presenter had new advice for me. We did all those “new” moves we see in the ring today, but once I began to understand agility better, I saw the fallout from those moves.

Eventually, I found our current instructor, Stacy Winkler, and the things she said made total sense to me. I learned about criteria, drive building, confidence, handling in a more straightforward manner and the art of balancing drive with self-control. We have been with Stacy for twelve years now, and her approach to training and handling is still as meaningful today as it was twelve years ago.

Early on I continued to attended seminars from others, trying to soak up as much information as possible. After a while, I realized that jumping from seminar to seminar was doing more to confuse my dog and me than the good it might be doing, so I stopped my search for that magic pill. I learned that it was all about hard work!

I was completely happy with the results I was getting from Stacy’s training and the Greg Derrett handling system she taught. So I limited my working spots in seminars to only those who were of the same mind when it came to training and handling.

I do love to attend seminars to see what is new or experience the fun atmosphere, but in order to avoid confusion,   I limit my selections to those who understand the handling system I use and whose training methods I admire.

I think if you choose to handle a certain way, then it is important to stick to that in order to have consistency. Jumping from seminar presenter to seminar presenter can add much confusion to your dog’s agility performance.

For what it is worth…

  • Pick a handling style and stick to it.
  • Learn from those who truly understand your system of choice.
  • Don’t attend seminars with presenters who like to make people cry and feel bad about themselves. This will do nothing to progress your learning or your dog’s. Being in a state tension and worry, waiting to be belittled or singled out, can make things much worse. It does not make for a good learning experience and will certainly shut down or at least, slow down your dog!
  • Find an instructor with whom you gel and stick with them, assuming they truly understand dog training and handling. How do you know if they are good instructors? Look at their students. Some instructors are great trainers and handlers themselves, but are unable to produce students who do well. Other instructors may not be wildly successful on the National and International scene, but they consistently produce great agility teams.
  • Most importantly, find an instructor who is not only kind to the students, but kind to the dogs. If you see somebody blaming their dog for their lack of training or correct handling RUN RUN RUN in the other direction! Everything our dogs do or do not do on course is 100% our responsibility, either as their handler or their trainer!
  • I know I wrote that the above is the most important, but this is moster important :). HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • HAVE FUN!!!!!!

    HAVE FUN!!!!!!

  • This blog was inspired by Dog Agility Blogger Event Day subject, “Continuing Education.” You will find lots of great blogs on this subject at.  http://dogagilityblogevents. education/

    Check them out!

    Posted by: jility | October 27, 2014


    It has taken me nearly a month to be able to write about this. I have had a difficult time coming to grips with it and couldn’t deal with thinking about it until now.

    As most of you know, about a year ago I was diagnosed with advanced (stage 3C) colon cancer. I had a nearly three pound tumor removed from my colon and seven of the seventeen lymph nodes they removed were cancerous. The tumor had grown outside my colon and had nearly blocked the inside of my colon completely.

    They told me I had had this for close to twenty years. As a vegan, I had always felt smug that this was one cancer I would never get. Consequently, I had never had a colonoscopy. WRONG! Not all vegans are created equal. There are good vegans and bad vegans. I was a HORRIBLE vegan! I lived on junk, oil, salt and sugar. If it is fatty and salty, SIGN ME UP! I love all the fake processed vegan meats and vegan cheeses. The Veggie Grill Buffalo wings were one of my favorites as are the vegan nachos. Deep fried mock chicken covered in a yummy hot sauce full of fat and sugar. What could be better?

    Well, I knew all along that vegetable oil is just as bad as animal protein when it comes to being carcinogenic, yet I continued to gorge myself on these foods. Sir Cussalot and I attended the movies about once a week and I filled my fat gut with movie popcorn smothered in that fake grease they call “butter.” It was the only reason I went to the movies!

    Once I was told I had colon cancer, I saw the light. I gave up all those crappy things and moved in a new direction. I lost a ton of weight and, until they started poisoning me with six months of chemotherapy, I felt like a million bucks! I hadn’t felt that good in YEARS!

    My doctor, Dr. Heinz Josef Lenz at USC Norris Cancer Hospital, did genetic testing and found that I carry four genetic markers for colon and other cancers. I am also the lucky holder of a gene that makes my cancer resistant to chemotherapy. Lucky me.

    I was scanned every three months and all was clear. They did ct and pet scans because my liver is weird looking. I have a fatty liver (big ass surprise there!). I don’t drink, smoke, drink coffee or eat animal protein but that is NOT enough to be healthy!

    By my fourth clear scan I was feeling pretty dang cocky. Slowly, all my old beloved foods began to creep back into my diet. After my clear scans the end of June of this year, I went wild. I gained twenty-five pounds in three months by eating from my favorite food groups; fat, salt, processed foods and sugar.

    Well I paid the price.

    A month ago I went to LA for my three month scan. They found two masses in my abdominal cavity. One was 3.2 cm and the other 1.7 cm. How had they grown so fast when my other tumor was so slow growing? I was freaked out and scared to death! As my doctor continued talking to me, all I heard was cancer is back WA WA WA WA WA like in the Charlie Brown cartoons. I was beyond stunned.

    I called Mel and sent texts to a few friends. Other than that I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. I think I was more upset about having to go through chemo again than hearing the cancer had returned. I hate chemo so much (of course who wouldn’t!).

    The trip home was sad. I was alone and as close to a panic as I have ever been in my life (and I am not a panicky type person). I vowed to eat better for the rest of my life (a promise I plan on keeping!).

    So far I have had two cycles of chemo. I am on some of the same drugs and some different drugs and it has hit me harder than the last time. It now takes week before I feel well enough to get dressed or talk to anyone on the phone. Luckily, most of my friends know that and they give me space and just send a text or brief email telling me they are thinking of me. They know not to send too many because just reading is a chore as chemo has really done a number on my eyesight this time too.

    Poor Sir C has had to do everything once again and that is a LOT because he is trying to get rid of thirty-five years of crap so we can sell this place. He is overseeing the painting and repair of the house, the cleaning up of the grounds and so much more as well as taking care of seven dogs on his own.

    We hope to leave for Temecula in early November but it will depend on how I feel. I want to get back to trialing again! Pankies is sitting on 10 double Qs and I would love to finish her MACH.

    There are so many things I want to do. I want to watch my Grandollars grow up, get married and have their own kids. I have a coupled of books in me and I want to see the Shetland Islands and Greece and Sicily! I want to live in a house again!!!! Sadly, we must sell the farm before that can happen. But most of all, I want to grow older with and torment Sir C for many more years to come. I need this chemo to work. I need to be positive but that is proving extremely difficult right now.

    Everyone has a cure for me. Just take this and you will live. Just drink that and you will find a miracle cure. I know they all mean well but I am overwhelmed with things to take.

    Doctors tell me they can’t do surgery on the tumors where they are. Perhaps if the chemo shrinks them they will. They don’t know. As advanced as science is, in the big scheme of things we know nothing about cancer really. Chemotherapy is so barbaric. It is right up there with bloodletting and leaches.

    In 1995 I watched my sister Pam die of cancer when she was fifty. She had melanoma. She lived with it for twenty years but eventually, it got the best of her. Tumors popped up here and they would treat, then there and they would treat. Finally, there were just too many to treat and she left this earth. I wish they knew more now but they don’t.

    I feel like I am in a real life game of Whac-A-Mole, only it is more like Whac-A-Tumor. Science is in its infancy when it comes to cancer so it is like watching a toddler play Whac-A-Mole.

    Treating cancer is like watching a toddler play Whac-A-Mole!

    Please send me healing thoughts and prayers. I need all I can get. So does Sir C.

    Posted by: jility | September 29, 2014

    Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Smartest of Them All?

    Most of my life I have wanted to know which was the smartest canine breed of all. Some say Poodles are the brightest, while others say the Border Collie. Well for almost fifteen years I have had standard Poodles and Border Collies for almost nine years now. I have had six standard Poodles and three Border Collies. We spend 24/7 with our dogs and know them inside and out so I feel quite competent to write on the subject of which one is more intelligent.

    I happen to be biased when it comes to my Poodles. I adore them. I have no desire at all to run a Border Collie in agility. They are fun to train, but I will leave the handling to the fleeter of foot. My Poodles are just right for me and they are more of a challenge to train. I like a challenge.

    In humans, we measure intelligence by one’s IQ.

    Now, in my “research” for this blog (a couple of Google searches), I came across this telling page.

    Check out how far down the US stands on the average intelligence list of countries! YIKES!!!!! Not so sure I really want anything that is made in America!

    But I digress.

    There is also an intelligence list for dogs. Here is one I found that bases the intelligence of dogs on how long it takes for them to learn a cue and do they do the task after one cue. In MY mind, that measures the intelligence of the trainer, NOT THE DOG! What a dumb ass test of intelligence! Of course the Afghan (which is last) would score low! How many great trainers would choose the Afghan for high level performance work?

    Here is the list.

    I have owned many of the breeds on the list, including Afghans, and I can tell you that Afghans are extremely intelligent! They are just not very trainable so it takes a good trainer to get through to them.

    Up until last week, I would have told you, HANDS DOWN, that the Border collie was FAR more intelligent than the Poodle. I have always said that the Poodles are kindergarten and the BCs have PHDs. So what happened to change my mind?

    Below is an overhead of the IQ test our dogs faced last week, which shall be referred to as “Exhibit A.”


    Exhibit A

    Exhibit A


    Normally, to get to the house yard, we walk out through the small gate in our GW yard (see Exhibit A) and into the house yard through the gate marked as such on Exhibit A. However, on this particular day, for some reason I can longer recall (chemo brain – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!), we chose to exit our GW yard through the big gates (see exhibit A).

    We walked out through the big gates and all four of the Poodles soon followed. The Border Collies, however, ran down to the small gate because that is normally how we go from the GW yard to the house yard. The dogs love running in the house yard more than the orchard for some reason, so we take them with us to feed the koi. We feed, they run. Sometimes they “accidentally” fall in the pond.

    Back to the story:

    The Poodles walked/ran with us (WE didn’t run but the Poodles did) to the house yard. They were exhibiting full blown IPE (Irrational Poodle Exuberance)! The Border Collies were beside themselves. All three of them ran frantically up and down the fence between the small gate and the big gates, trying desperately to find a way out. They never thought to go up and around the gate. Now, remember that one of the big gates was open about three feet, but the Border Collies couldn’t figure it out.

    I walked back up and told them to go up and around the gate to get to us. They looked at me like I had three heads. Meanwhile, the Poodles kept running back up from the house gates and through the big gate to show the BCs how to get out. The BCs looked bewildered. They had only one thing on their mind: They normally go out the small gate so that must be where they have to go to get out! No matter how many times those brilliant Poodles tried to show them how to get out of the yard, the BCs just couldn’t do it. It had always been one way and now we had changed the rules. The poodles had no trouble at all adapting, but the BCs were bewildered. I thought for sure Crushie would be smart enough to figure it out, but NOOOOOOOO!

    It reminded me of that old joke about Scandinavian American who said, “It took me twenty years how to say Jelly and now they call it yam.”


    Shameful Dunces

    Shameful Dunces

    Helen Grinnell King

    Posted by: jility | September 3, 2014

    GIrlz Just Wanna Have FU-UN…

    The Dog Agility Blog Event for Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 is:

    “Outside the Ring”

    This subject was chosen to help us all learn ways to build our relationship with our dogs and improve our performances in the ring.

    To read other blogs on the subject go to

    Dogs have been a huge part of my entire 64ish years on this earth. I adore them. I love watching them play, interact with other dogs, people or other animals. They make me laugh and they make me cry, but most importantly, they enrich my life in so many ways.

    I love training our dogs for agility, but I also love taking them places they love to go. Their most favorite extra curricular activity is a toss up between swimming and ball chasing so we try to combine both as often as we can. The more fun we have with our girls, the more they love playing with us. We must spell S-W-I-M-M-I-N-G or B-A-L-L or ALL hell breaks loose! Their excitement is intoxicating.

    No matter where we travel, we always try to find a place where our girls can have fun!

    Rather than write a long blog about why these things we do are so good for their body, mind and soul, I will let the photos and videos speak for themselves.

    Millie was such a good swimmer and she loved swimming in this lake at Four Paws.


    Crushie’s first swim in Indiana


    Lure Coursing at the 2006 USDAA Nationals in Kentucky

    Miss Millie Angel LOVED lure coursing!

    Posing for the obligatory group photo (great for proofing sit stays :))

    In Texas at a trial. More sit stay practice, balancing and staying focused with a ton of stuff going on in the background


    Josephine loved to go dock diving so we took as often as we could.



    The beach is a great place to keep the dogs fit. Crushie loves to be chased by the Poodles. They learn to run fast and turn sharply.

    On Assateague Beach after PCA 2007 BEACHES ARE THE BEST!

    On Assateague Beach after PCA 2007 BEACHES ARE THE BEST!

    Swimming is good for fitness, fun and fraternization.



    Learning to react to body languiage

    Learning to react to body language

    The most favoritest thing on the planet!

    MUD WAMPIN!!!!!

    The End


    Posted by: jility | September 1, 2014

    Dangerous Challenges in Agility

    Agility is a sport we do with our dogs. As with any sport, there will always be risks. Our dogs do this sport for us and it is OUR job to keep them safe!

    There is one organization that prides itself on being more difficult than others. Under this veil of pride, is an A-frame that is set higher than any other organization here or in Europe. Why is that? Why won’t they listen to their competitors who are begging them to lower the A-frame to conform with the other, more reasonable organizations? The dogs hit harder on the way up as well on the way down on the higher frame. I refuse to put my dogs on that high piece of equipment so they don’t get my entry. I am sure they don’t care what I think, but they should at least consider the dogs’ safety and the more important competitors’ opinions!!!

    Serpentines and wraps are extremely hard on fast large dogs! Serpentines cause dogs to load all of their weight on one rear leg to push off. That is a lot of force on a large, heavy dog! Wraps are horrible! Dogs are going all out, then asked to wrap tightly around a standard and come back in the direction from whence they came. This puts HUGE torque on the dog’s body and legs. The only thing worse is a wrap from the backside of a jump! The dog is completely stalled out and then has to hurl its body over the jump. Where is the common sense in this sport?

    But the BIGGEST safety issue in all of agility is the dog walk! I have seen so many horrific falls from the dog walk it makes me sick. WHY OH WHY is the dog walk four feet high? WHY OH WHY is the dog walk only a foot wide? WHY OH WHY do judges put HORRIBLE approaches to this VERY dangerous obstacle? This should NOT be considered a training issue. There are novice people who have no clue how to teach a dog to load onto the dog walk safely. There are handicapped people like me who can’t always get there to help their dog when judges put in a terrible approach to contacts.


    WE are the adults! WE ask our dogs to do agility. It is up to US to make sure that we keep our dogs safe! Our dogs do incredible things for us. We need to use our heads and not set them up for a fall or worse! Angled entries onto the dog walk need to be removed from agility! Even better, the dog walk should be lowered to three feet or LESS. It only needs to be high enough to put a tunnel underneath (but not for wraps up it!).

    The video below is sickening. Turn up the sound for the full effect. This little dog was never the same after this fall and ended up having to retire from agility.

    As if the height and width of the dog walk were not bad enough, some judges still design a wrap out of the tunnel up the dog walk! WHY IS THIS LEGAL??? ANYONE with an IQ higher than their belt size should know how dangerous that is! My first agility dog had to retire at SIX years old because of damage done to her back due to falls from the dog walk! I didn’t know how to help her. Even if you do know how to help a dog to get on straight, wraps out of a tunnel make it extremely difficult for a very fast dog to set themselves up for success.

    Even worse than a wrap out of the tunnel up the dog walk, is setting the tunnel exit to angle towards the dog walk up ramp rather than straight! WHO DOES THAT??? That sends the dog past the up ramp so they have to come back to load, making their approach to the dog walk even more crooked!

    That was the case recently. The result was a bad fall for our dog ending in a rear leg injury.

    Here is that fall in regular and slow motion. It could have been a lot worse had she been a large dog. The dog walk was very close to the wall shelf and had she fallen on that, she really could have been hurt badly, OR WORSE! As it was she hit the dog walk support leg (which should really be padded!).

    I BEG judges with all my heart to PLEASE stop putting in wraps out of tunnels up the DW!!! If the organizations are too stupid to figure out just how dangerous they are, then it is up to YOU to help keep our dogs safe! I have begged AKC to lower the dog walk but there is a vocal minority who want it to stay where it is. Evidently, International competition dog walk  practice is more important than our dogs’ well-being.

    PLEASE stand up for our dogs! When others make fun of you for wanting the dog walk lowered or certain safety issues addressed, DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! THEY ARE WRONG!


    Helen Grinnell King

    Posted by: jility | August 20, 2014

    Sir Cussalot Strikes AGAIN!

    Salsa Sassy FIRE!

    Salsa Sassy FIRE!

    So the other day Sir Cussalot, the Granddollars and I went “out town” (as the locals say). Town, Chehalis, Washington, is about twenty minutes away. We had some errands to run and one of those took us to the local pet store for some Wellness Core Reduced Fat kibble for MeMe. She has had several bouts of pancreatitis and needs a low fat food.

    This particular pet store is a smaller version of Pet Smart or PetCo, but still a good size store. As we walked up and down the aisles in search of some new toys for FIRE, the girls spotted the cutest dang doggie dresses They pulled one off the rack and came running over to us, “TACO! LOOK! IT IS ADORABLE!!!” A while back the Granddollars picked nicknames for all of us and Julia dubbed Sir Cussalot, Taco. Julia loves to play the song, “It’s Raining Tacos!” for him when she wants to see him smile. It works every time.

    Taco took one look at that skirt and said in a very stern voice, “NO WAY!”

    “Why not?” both girls asked in disbelief.

    “Because it will make her look like a sissy girl,” he grunted.

    The three of us pleaded with him but he refused to budge. We couldn’t believe his shortsightedness! She would look ADORABLE in this outfit. It was so SASSY! I could just see her strutting her sassy little red behind wearing the colorful ruffled skirt.

    We finally gave up. It was clear he was not changing his stubborn mind.

    A few days later, I took Sicily to have her bangs cut. Afterwards, we had lunch right next store to that pet store. After lunch I said, “Do you want to go to the pet store?”

    “SURE GRAMMA!” Then she whispered, “Let’s get that ADORABLE skirt for FIRE.” I smiled in agreement. No mean ole Sir Cussalot Taco Killjoy to spoil our fun!

    Sicily picked out a great one for FIRE. We smiled at each other knowing how cute she would be in her skirt and off we went.

    I never said a word to Sir Cussalot Taco Killjoy about it. I wanted to surprise him. So late that afternoon when we got home from agility class, I grabbed the hidden skirt and FIRE and headed outside. As I was leaving, I told Sir Cussalot to grab the camera.

    “WHY? I’m tired!” he mumbled in disgust. Then he slumped his shoulders in despair, made some noise to show how exasperated he was with me, picked up the camera and followed me outside. After forty plus years together, he has learned that he might as well give in early because eventually he will have to anyway.

    He still did not know what we were doing.

    “Where the F#@K are we going and what are you doing????” he demanded.

    I smiled and kept walking. “You’ll see.”

    I had put the skirt on her already but he couldn’t see it. I told him to get ready because the camera needed to start running as soon as she hit the ground. He grunted and started the camera.

    I put our fiery little redhead down on the ground and off we went. The video captures Sir Cussalot’s response to seeing the FIRECRACKER in her ruffles for the first time. Although he wouldn’t admit it, I saw a smile on his face after a bit. He couldn’t deny just how cute she was!

    Puppy: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    TuTu: $$

    Sir Cussalot Taco Killjoy’s reaction to seeing FIRE in her TUTU for the first time: PRICELESS!!!!



    Posted by: jility | August 13, 2014

    Playing with FIRE!

    It all started about two years ago. Xoom was diagnosed with a deformed C-1 vertebra and became paralyzed at four months. Long story located in many earlier blogs so I won’t go into detail. It was not hereditary, just a crazy “spontaneous mutation” as the specialists called it. Angie Johnson, her husband Guy and their children Clay and Katie, of Double J Border Collies in John Day, Oregon, were heartbroken, as were we. As Xoom’s breeder, they wanted to give us a replacement puppy. The Johnson’s are one of the nicest families on the planet and I adore them more than words can express.

    Sir Cussalot will be 77 years old in February and said he thought he had one more agility Border Collie in him. I hope he has about 10 more but I want him to live forever . When we bought Crush, she was on a spay/neuter contract, but the breeder said when the time came, we could talk about reversing it. Unfortunately, when the time came, Crush’s breeder would not communicate with me. I tried emails, phone calls, friends, etc. but she would not respond to anything I tried. I was heartbroken. It seemed like a shame to eliminate such a great dog from the breeding pool. I HATE spay/neuter contracts! SO many great dogs and their genes are lost forever. I feel it is terribly short sighted, but that is for another blog!

    I thought about breeding Crush anyway. I toyed with the idea of breeding her to a miniature Poodle. I also thought about breeding her to a Border Collie and just not registering them. Then ethics got the better of me and I very sadly abandoned both ideas.

    I was on several puppy lists for Double J puppies but there were no red females. Right or wrong, I love the redheads and only want female dogs (an oxymoron I think). Things were not looking good for us in the red puppy department.

    When Neta Jones contacted me about breeding Crush’s sister, Trendi, I got very excited. Trendi was the Border Collie featured in Susan Garrett’s 2×2 Weave Training video. Since Sir C and I filmed that video for Susan and Sir C did all the graphics, music and editing on it, we were very familiar with Trendi. She is a great dog! She is rangier than Crush and about an inch or so taller. Oh, and she is RED!

    Neta asked me about stud dogs for Trendi. I suggested a Double J dog. So last year she tried to breed her to Jef Blake’s Klepto using shipped semen, but it didn’t take. I LOVE Klepto. He is a great dog himself and a full brother to Stacy Winkler’s Groove, Justine Davenport’s Summit, Jessica Patterson’s Trix and so many other amazing agility dogs. Jef’s other great agility dog, Hob Nob I O Ewe (Voucher) was the best agility dog I have ever seen. I always felt AKC really missed the boat big time by not taking him on the World Team; their loss really. Voucher has the perfect structure for agility and he proved that many times over. I used his photos in my books on structure as the ideal for agility.

    When Jef was ready for another dog, Jan DeMello of Hob Nob Border Collies told him to check out an ad for a BC puppy in John Day, Oregon. He was the last puppy left in the litter but his mother and Voucher’s mother shared the same mother. Most importantly of all, he was red.

    Jef bought the puppy sight unseen and Angie’s mother transported him from John Day to Portland, Oregon. Jef and his wife Rossie, drove down from Federal Way to Portland to pick up their new puppy. On their way home, they came by our place to show him to us. I loved him. Klepto, as Jef and Rossie named him, turned into an awesome agility dog too.

    So back to Neta’s Trendi.

    Trendi was not getting any younger so we felt that the next time Neta tried to breed her, it needed to be by live cover. On a whim, I asked Angie if they would be willing to ship their dog Howdy, a full brother to Klepto, to Florida at our expense, to breed Trendi. We were afraid the stress of flying might cause Trendi to not settle. The Johnson family agreed to let us fly Howdy to Trendi. It was a once in a lifetime thing and I will be forever grateful to them for their amazing generosity! I truly love that family!

    Howdy arrived in Florida without a scratch and walked out of his crate like he had done this all his life. He is not only a beautiful and extremely athletic dog, but also an incredibly stable dog mentally. He walked into Neta’s house and Trendi immediately fell in love with him. It was definitely love at first sight! Howdy obliged Trendi’s wishes and they had much fun over the next week.

    Howdy returned home JUST in time to breed the Johnson’s bitch Lucky (another list I was on). The results of Howdy’s travels were four beautiful red puppies but only one female. Lucky also delivered four puppies and also only had one female but all her puppies were black and white. I really lucked out with Trendi having the one girl!

    Trendi and her beautiful Howdy babies

    Trendi and her beautiful Howdy babies

    Little FIRE! was the last puppy born and was quite a bit smaller than the boys. She had very little white on her face but lovely white legs. She was stunning and I fell in love with her.

    Neta did a super job raising the puppies. She sent frequent photo and video updates as they grew.

    It was so much fun watching them grow and explore their new world.

    On one hand it seemed like an eternity waiting for the time to bring our little Fireball home, but, on the other hand, it seemed like a nanosecond when the time arrived. Funny, the older I get, the faster time flies!

    A pile of puppies on pink

    A pile of puppies on pink

    Neta and I found GREAT homes for all the boys. Two went to Canada and one to my friend Ken Kennedy who also trains with Stacy Winkler.

    This past Friday, I boarded a plane for Atlanta. The plan was to visit my friends Bob and Carol there for the weekend (they have two Double J dogs, a couple of Poodles and a blazing fast Papamajack). We had a great visit and did a lot of dog training. It was much fun! I so love training dogs and watching people train dogs.

    On Monday I flew to West Palm Beach, Florida to get my first real life glimpse of FIRE! It was love at first sight! The entire litter was uniform i and I loved their structure and temperaments. I felt blessed and honored to be getting a puppy from such an amazing litter! The combination of bloodlines and conformation was a dream for me!

    We spent the evening playing with puppies. Ken fell in love with Rain (now known at Jake – registered name Bo-Tyne What Are You Wearing? If you have seen that State Farm ad on TV you will get it.). Jake ran right up to Ken, jumped on him and wouldn’t leave his side. It was the perfect match.

    We got up early the next day and tired out the puppies best we could.

    Neta stuffed marrow bones with their raw food and froze it for them to eat on the plane (brilliant idea!). We left for the airport around 11 AM Eastern Time (8 AM West Coast time) and that was the last time FIRE! got to potty for the next 12 hours! I tried several times to get her to go but she wouldn’t.

    The flight attendants were incredible! They wanted to see FIRE! so they told me to bring her back to the galley. I carried her back the length of the plane, set the bag down on the galley floor and opened the end just a wee bit to let her stick out her head. They both said in unison, “TAKE HER OUT! We want to hold her!” I obliged. They took turns holding her and FIRE! fooled them both by being sweet and cuddly. She hugged them and kissed their faces. We stayed back there for a very long time. Finally they said they actually needed to go back to work. They told me to put a pee pad Neta had given me on the floor of the bathroom and see if she would potty. I tried, she wouldn’t.

    FIRE! in the hold!

    FIRE! in the hold!

    She was so quiet and good for most of the flight. Near the end, she whimpered and cried just a little but really not much at all. Nobody heard her except the 14 month old baby across the aisle and down one row, who kept saying “DOGGIE! DOGGIE!” I could hear her mum telling her there was no dog on the plane and I smiled to myself. That baby knew! When we were getting ready to land, I showed the baby a photo of FIRE! in the bag and pointed down to where FIRE! was. I thought it might help to take her mind off the landing. She was getting fussy and I didn’t want to listen to her bawling then entire landing. The baby smiled widely and her mother looked shocked. “WOW! There IS a dog on board!” she said in disbelief. “She has been telling me that the entire flight and I couldn’t figure out why she was so insistent!” I smiled. Babies know so much more than adults think they know. I know that because I remember so much from when I was two!

    Once on the ground, I collected my luggage from baggage claim, made one last failed attempt to get FIRE! to potty and left the terminal. Sir Cussalot met us on the curb, loaded up our stuff and off we went in search of a cleanish potty spot. FIRE! has only had one set of shots so we need to be careful where she walks. We found a closed office building with some pristine grass and took her out there. She squatted and peed for an eternity! Then a loud motorcycle went roaring by and she spooked. I managed to grab her right before she disappeared into the bushes.

    Sir C brought Charisse Poodle with him to keep the puppy company. She is great with all dogs, but especially babies.

    On the hour and a half trip home I brought Sir C up to speed on my trip. The ride went by quickly (well, for me anyway. Sir Cussalot may have been tired of listening to me squawk). We walked in the gate and the dogs told me they were happy to see me but they hoped we could get our money back on that little red thing we brought home with us!

    Barque was the exception. She fell in love and claimed FIRE! as her own. She kissed her and wagged her tail. Barque is so sweet and kind. Pankies growled and told that little pipsqueak to stay away from HER Gramma! Eventually, Pankies will tolerate her and down the road she will actually play with her, but for now I will have to keep her away from FIRE!

    MY puppy!

    Barque says, “MY puppy!”

    Crush ran for the bedroom in disgust and Xoom went to her cave under the driver’s seat. All was right in the Global Warmer.

    It was pouring rain and late. We didn’t want to put the puppy down and have her run under the GW and then one of us with the initials Sir Cussalot, would have to climb under there in the pitch black to get her. So he put up an x-pen under the awning to keep her dry. He placed her in the pen but she wouldn’t go. She just sat there or tried to eat rocks. I got the bright idea to try a pee pad in there. I got one, put it down on the gravel and she immediately pooped.

    She got her dinner, some chew toys and we went to bed.

    I was out like a light. It was a long and tiring trip carrying the puppy and another bag through the airports. I nearly missed my connection in Atlanta because our plane was 45 minutes late leaving due to thunderstorms in WPB. Ken did miss his connection to San Diego and had to take a later flight home. I rushed through the Atlanta airport, puppy and carryon crap in tow (one on each shoulder). I grabbed the first train and off we went. Escalators were not fun but I managed. FIRE! was a dream traveler too.

    Sir Cussalot said he took FIRE! out to potty a couple of times in the night. I never heard a thing. I slept like a log.

    The Granddollars came up in the morning to greet the new addition. They too fell in love with her! She is so sweet and cuddly (for now anyway).

    Puppy love!

    Puppy love!

    It is so much fun getting a new puppy. Dreams are rich and exciting; SO much to look forward to. It is going to be a wonderful journey with little FIRE! She is already living up to her name! I plan to sign up for Stacy Winkler’s Foundation 1 class in a few weeks. It will be opening soon for the next session. Ken is also going to take it with Jake so that should be a lot of fun!

    Fire’s first day home!

    I have so many people to thank for making this puppy possible for us. FIRE! was definitely a group effort. It took a long time but the wait was well worth it!

    Bo-Tyne This Girl is on FIRE!

    Bo-Tyne This Girl is on FIRE!


    Helen Grinnell King 

    Posted by: jility | June 28, 2014

    The Queen is Dead ~ Long Live the Queen!


    She started it all. Without her there would be no agility in the King household. She was the inspiration for my logo that I use everywhere. She was amazing, remarkable and about the best friend a person could ever want.


    She was naughty and loving, kind and mean. She never met a stranger and once she met you, she was your best friend for life.

    She taught me about dog training, agility, distance and lead outs.

    In the year 2000 I told Mel I wanted a standard Poodle. He responded, “Over my dead body!” I replied, “How would you like to go?” I reminded him that I had wanted a standard Poodle since I was fifteen years old.

    The year was 1965 and I had gone with my mother to pick up our horrible, evil mini Poodle from the groomer, Esther Akerly, in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Besides grooming, she raised and showed standard Poodles. I remember standing inside the front door waiting for my mother, when this very large, very black and very hairy dog came bounding through the house and jumped up on me. He put his paws on my shoulders and stared into my eyes. I saw something in that dog I had never seen in a dog before. All I could say over and over again for the next month or so was that he was a person in a dog suit! I couldn’t get him out of my head.

    The time was never right to get a Poodle, but that day in 2000, I knew it was then or never. Mel went on to say, “OK, if you get one, I refuse to be seen with it! I will not walk it, I will not feed it, I will have nothing to do with it! You are on your own!” We all know how THAT played out!

    I knew he was full of it. He was afraid his masculinity might be questioned, which really surprised me! Normally, he was very secure in who he was, but this Froo Froo Poodle threw him for a loop.

    Our wonderful old dog Bear was getting very old and we needed another dog so when she left us, the pain would not be quite as great. My friend of forty years, Jane Treiber, a breed show judge so she was familiar with many dog breeders, found a standard Poodle breeder for me. I contacted her and got on the list for a puppy. I was so excited I could barely contain myself! It was finally going to happen after 35 years of waiting!

    The father of the litter was a top winning sire with MANY Bests in Show, including several at the Poodle Club of America Specialty. The dam was a group winning champion. I had my name already picked out, Queen of Spain; call name Isabella. Coincidentally, the dam’s call name was also Isabella. I took that coincidence as a sign that it was meant to be.

    When the time came to get our puppy, we drove to Bothell, Washington where the litter was born. The breeder put us in a room and went to get the two remaining puppies from which we got to pick. She opened the door and put the two pups on the ground. I got down on the floor and called them. One ran and hid but the other ran as fast as she could and jumped into my lap and leapt around like a wild thing. Without missing a beat, I said, “This one’s for me!” SHE WAS CAWAZY!

    Mel wanted the other one. He felt sorry for it because it was so timid. I would not budge. I wanted the CAWAZY one. On the way home she lay on the floor of our truck and never made a peep. We had brought our old dog Bear with us but she hoped we could get our money back.

    Baby Isabella

    Baby Isabella

    Isabella figured out how to make Bear Dog love her and they became inseparable. Isabella followed Bear everywhere. We would dress up Bear for Christmas every year and she loved it. Isabella was underwhelmed her first year in costume, but she grew to love being adorned in various things throughout her life.

    We lost Bear to bone cancer the following year. She was 14. We still miss her after all these years. Bear’s mother was a Border Collie and her father was a champion Rottweiler. It was an oops breeding but she was the best dog we have ever known. After Bear was gone, I went online searching for a dog to adopt to keep Isabella company. I found a face that was an Aussie mix and I fell in love. She was in our local shelter so we immediately got in the truck and drove over to see her. She was petrified of us and life, but it was love at first sight and we brought her home. She was a feral dog and it took some doing for her to adapt to home life but eventually, she fit right in and she and Isabella became best buddies.

    When Isabella was six months old, I decided to take her to obedience class. I would have shown her in breed competition, but she had developed an horrific overbite. I didn’t know much about training dogs, except that as a teenager, I had trained my German Shepherd to happily run hundreds of feet from me to jump in the pool or jump over the horse fence. I had trained many horses and ponies but dog training was a different story. My only experience with formal obedience was when I was about 15 or 16 and I took my GSD to obedience classes with my older sister, Pam. It was all jerk and pull training back then and I didn’t like it but had no clue how else to train so I quit going.

    The first class I took with Isabella was taught by a very punitive man. He believed in shock collars, prong collars and lots of corrections. I went looking for something better. The next instructor was slightly better but still not what I thought was fair for my dog. Then I found a clicker trainer. At our first lesson, I spotted some agility equipment in the bushes and asked what it was. She explained agility to me and I said, “I want to do THAT!!!!” Isabella and I never took another obedience lesson again. We had a blast in agility!

    Isabella began showing signs of digestive issues at a very young age. Certain things made her very uncomfortable and she would moan and groan most of the night. I took her to many different vets but they could never figure it out. She also suffered from something in her mouth but I was not sure what it was. I took her to EIGHT vets for that before one of them, my friend Dr. Kathy Wendt, figured out immediately that her lower canines had grown through the roof of her mouth. We took Isabella to a canine orthodontist and he ground them down and filled them. He removed rocks, bone and food from the holes in her palate! NO WONDER SHE HAD PUS COMING OUT OF HER NOSTRILS!!! He said she was lucky it had not gone into her brain and killed her!

    A year later, her lower incisors punctured the roof of her mouth and they had to be pulled. We called her “Granny Gums.”

    With her teeth fixed, she felt like a new dog! Her joy and flair for life returned and she became her old obnoxious self. Isabella was three years old at the time and had suffered for years from her dental condition. She was amazing.

    Her digestive issues got worse and worse and the things she could eat got less and less. She saw so many vets but no luck in figuring it out. Finally, we took her to a specialist who scoped her. We had had her scoped a couple of years earlier but he only took stomach samples, not from her intestines. This new vet said Isabella had “severe IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).” She wanted to put her on heavy duty steroids and immune suppressant drugs (the kind they give to transplant patients so they don’t reject donor organs). Isabella, 23” tall, had gone from a lean but healthy 42 pounds down to a very skinny and unhealthy 36 pounds. The vet told me Isabella would be dead in six months if I didn’t put her on those drugs. She was four years old then. As a vegan myself, I knew that people with IBD and other autoimmune issues got great relief from a healthy vegan diet. I decided to try it with Isabella. I switched her to Natural Balance Vegetarian dog food. She thrived and stopped regurgitating her meals! As long as she remained vegan, all was fine but as soon as she got even a tiny piece of animal protein, she would get sick as hell.

    About a year before that, shortly after her teeth were fixed, Isabella had her first seizure. It was a focal seizure, also known as a partial seizure. It was not the grand mall type where they flail around like a flounder out of water, she would just be out of it and vibrate. When it stopped, she would act like a newborn foal trying to stand. She continued having these seizures for about a year or so before we put her on medication. They happened every few months but began to happen more frequently. We chose to put her on Keppra because it was the least damaging to the system of all the drugs. It worked great.

    One day in the winter of her fourth year, we took all the dogs to the beach after a trial. Isabella had barked and barked at the beach and seemed stressed. Once back at the RV park, she started pacing up and down our trailer. It was obvious something was wrong. I had had Great Danes that had bloated so I knew what it looked like. She had none of the signs. She was not trying to vomit and her stomach was not distended at all but I knew something was terribly wrong! Mel took her outside to walk her and she was trying to chase squirrels. We went to bed and I brought her in bed with me. She was motionless now and her eyes were glazed over. I knew it was emergency vet time! As I got her out of the car and headed towards the vet hospital, she then began to wretch. Now I knew she was bloating for sure.

    X-rays showed she had bloated and torsioned. They did surgery on her to flip her stomach back and tacked it so she would not torsion again. It did not prevent her from bloating, however. Over the years, Isabella bloated about a dozen times. I always found a vet to lavage her stomach and she always bounced back. I was told on many occasions that her system could not take any more stomach pumpings but I knew her will to live and love of life was so great that she would come back over and over again and she did, much to the amazement of the many different emergency vets who treated her. She had a knack for finding food that would make her sick. Then she would gorge herself on the forbidden delicacies only to bloat again. One time it was horse poop in the far corner of a field in Colorado where, by the time we reached her, she had eaten so much it was obvious the emergency vet was our next stop but mostly it happened when Josephine, the biggest counter thief of all time, dragged down some treats from the counter or ripped open a sealed box in the shed full of treats. Isabella had not had an incident since Josephine passed a year ago.

    Isabella was such a character. She loved to show off, chase small critters and try to kill something whenever possible. Once at an agility trial, we were at the warm up jump and there was a top winning Papillion not far away obsessing and yapping at the ring. Isabella took off and ran over to it, grabbed in her toothless gums and began mauling it! I managed to grab her and she let go before any damage was done, but it was very scary! Luckily, the owner was a super nice woman and she liked me so no charges were filed and Isabella got to keep doing agility, but I never took her to a warm up jump again! I just couldn’t trust her.

    She was hated at most dog parks when she was young because she would relentlessly poke other dogs with her long nose until they went at her. If people brought kids to the park, she would run them down and poke them to make the scream. She loved chasing squeaky things, human, canine or otherwise. It didn’t matter as long as they protested in a squeaky voice and ran, they were fair game for her. She adored my granddaughters and was always great with them. She also loved herding sheep.


    Isabella the Immortal!

    Isabella the Immortal

    Isabella’s Joie de vivre was obvious to all her knew her. It was captured beautifully in a painting a woman from England did of her. She contacted me to ask if she could paint this from one of Isabella’s photos. I said sure! It was chosen to be placed on display at the Kennel Club gallery for all to see. It was so fitting for Isabella to take such a high honor!

    Isabella had long hair for several years. Then I got the idea to shave her all over and a tradition for King Poodles began!

    After she was spayed, I would ask her where her “booboo” was and she would lift her back leg to show me her tummy. That is how she got her nickname Boo Boo many years ago. After that, whenever she would get hurt, she would lift her back leg to tell me she hurt someplace. She could be so sweet, it broke my heart when she got hurt.

    Isabella fell off the dog walk too many times to count. It never bothered her one single bit. She always jumped right back on it. She was fearless. Once her teeth were fixed and her infection cleared up, she stopped falling. I guess it made her balance off. DUH!

    She only had eyes for me and wouldn’t run for anyone else.

    Once my dear friend Jef Blake (aka Uncle Jef) was going to run her in a USDAA jumper class because my back was really hurting. He set her up and left running. Isabella decided she wanted her Gramma and ran out of the ring in search of me. Uncle Jef pleaded with her to return to no avail. No whistle had blown so I stepped over the ring rope and off we went! I hadn’t even walked the course so I had to read the numbers to know where I was going making for a slow and awkward run. We somehow managed to run clean and even placed fourth in a large class. Turn up the sound ’cause it is pretty funny. Isabella barks at Uncle Jef right before she takes off as if to say, “HEY! You are NOT the boss of me and don’t forget! I’m OUTA here!”

    Here is another attempt by Uncle Jef to run Isabella that ended in her choosing to ditch him. This time she got about half way through the run before she gave him the finger and left. Uncle Jef and I always joke and say that Isabella thought that only her Gramma really knew how to do big jility and Uncle Jef and everyone else SUCKED!

    She taught me so much about agility and life. She was so honest in the ring and always gave me her all, no matter how badly she might have been feeling. I didn’t know any better back then. Even with all of her health issues, she managed to become and AKC agility champion. I retired her at six years old, just shy of MACH 2 because I felt it was the best thing to do for her. I never regretted that decision.

    Two weeks ago, at the age of 14 years and almost 3 months, Isabella’s body finally had enough. It was time. She fought so bravely for so many years to stay alive. Up until now, I was unable share the news because it was just too painful. Only a very few people in my life knew. The tears will not stop as I write this and I know it will take a very long time before I can talk about her without crying.

    On Monday, June 16, 2014, I got down on the floor with her for the last time and wrapped my arms around her frail and failing body. Sobbing, I told her how much I loved her. I gave her “kissy head” for the final time. She never looked up. She was ready. Her spark was gone.

    Isabella on my birthday this year

    Easterr Isabella3

    Mel took Isabella to the trial with him in April of this year because I was too sick form the chemo to deal with her special needs. He dressed her for the last time. She so loved being dressed up. She still had some life left in her then, but that flame slowly faded as the months went on until the flame could no longer be seen.

    Long live the QUEEN!


    When Isabella was young she was afraid to jump so I taught her to fly!

    Every time I hear the song All of Me I cry. It sums up my relationship with Isabella. She always gave me her all. Sometimes her all wasn’t much and sometimes it was breathtaking. It didn’t matter to me, I knew it was always the best she had to give me. I was so lucky to know her.

    This one’s for you Boo Boo.


    I love you so much Isabella. I will miss you forever and a day. There will never be another like you. Good-bye my Boo Boo.

    MACH Penhurst Queen of Spain (Isabella)

    March 1, 2000 – June 16, 2014



    Helen Grinnell King






    Posted by: jility | June 3, 2014

    If at First Ya Don’t Succeed…

    Keep on suckin’ ‘til ya do suck seed! NYUK NYUK NYUK.


    When my brother and I were young, we were glued to the television every Saturday morning (assuming I didn’t have a horse show). Our very most favorite TV shows to watch were old episodes of The Three Stooges. We liked the “REAL” Three Stooges. We only accepted the original Curly and hated Curly Joe and barely tolerated Shemp. We were purists when it came to our beloved Stooges!

    My favorite line from all of the nearly 200 shorts they made, was Curly’s line from Movie Maniacs, “If at first ya don’t succeed, keep on suckin’ ‘til ya DO suck seed!” Back then, there was no such thing as “to suck” as in not to be good at something, yet this quote is genius! It didn’t make sense back then really, but now that we have the verb “to suck” (as in YOU SUCK!) it makes total sense and is how I try to live my life (not the sucking part but the trying part).

    If I suck at something, then I keep suckin’ ‘til I don’t! In other words, I keep trying.

    Everyone has their own idea of what success means to them. Some think that only winning a gold medal in International competition spells success. Others think that only getting a million MACHs spells success. To many, having their dog run the highest yards per second is all that feeds their egos. My latest agility dog taught me that just doing a contact in competition spells success!

    There was a time in my agility career when winning was the only measure of one’s success. That just never happened to me once I reached the Master level. Sure, every once in a while, all the fast dogs crashed and burned so my Poodle would sneak in for a win, but that really wasn’t the success I wanted. I wanted to be competitive with the big boys. It never dawned on me that I am old, fat and unable to run well because of polio, post polio and now cancer and chemotherapy. I was told often by one person I admired and looked up to that MACHs were stupid and meaningless. Since that was about the only thing I managed to do fairly easily, it was very hurtful to me. I was told that the only real agility was USDAA and that AKC was a joke, unless of course you were a member of the AKC World Team, then you were cool. Since AKC is my organization of choice, that too was hurtful. I felt like a loser in every sense. I was beginning to wonder why bother? Clearly, I was never going to be on the World Team (nor did I have any interest in that), or win a bunch of classes, but I loved agility! I struggled to find my motivation.

    According to some, not winning made me a loser, not being on the World Team made me a loser and not wanting to compete in USDAA made me a loser. Clearly, I was an agility loser in every sense! I pouted and hung my head in agility shame.

    I struggled with my attitude and searched for a better mental outlook. My friend and instructor, Stacy Winkler, kept telling me to find joy in the process. In other words, stop being goal oriented and become journey oriented. She said it over and over to me. “HAVE FUN!” was her mantra, but I kept hearing the words of others that I sucked because I loved AKC agility and didn’t give a fig about the Euro style courses or World Team stuff. I was told by some that I needed to improve by challenging myself! WHY???? That may be their idea of success, but I am SO over challenging myself. I, like the song says, “…just wanna have fu-un.” Why did that make me a loser?

    I had arguments with others about the fact that I didn’t like the Euro courses. I can get around them just fine, but I hate them! So does my 25 ½” standard Poodle! It takes her a few strides to get up to speed and those crank around courses SUCK for her.

    I want to see the wind whipping through my dog’s imaginary hair while she runs freely and fast around a flowing course full speed ahead! PLEASE don’t tell me to do NADAC! It is not an organization that appeals to me for many reasons, but think those who do love NADAC have every right to do so ;). I used to do NADAC many years ago, but AKC is just right for me!

    Eventually, when the Universe sent me an EXTREMELY difficult and incredibly fearful dog with no drive at all in Pankies (aka UPGRAYEDD) and forced me to rethink my idea of success. Stacy’s words finally sunk in and the light bulb went on in my head. I learned to find pleasure and joy in the process. Success began to mean totally different things to me.

    In the beginning of  Pankies’ training, success might have meant she didn’t bolt in fear because she choked up a treat, or that she actually played with me or tried or didn’t look at me with daggers in her eyes. Success was getting her to interact with the teeter or press her nose into my palm. I learned to accept crappy behaviors at first while I worked on her confidence. I learned to SUCK BIG time and to keep on Suckin’ ‘til we did suck seed!

    Had I been goal oriented during her training, she never would have made it to the ring. I had to STOP comparing her to her littermates that were amazing agility dogs, and other Poodles that were burning up agility courses at half her age. I learned to LOVE our little tiny successes, one at a time over the years. Just being able to have her near the ring around other dogs was a HUGE success for us! While we watched others tearing around out there, setting new speed records, Pankies just struggled to not bolt in terror.

    We made fools of ourselves many times in the ring. I never knew if she would run or not. I had to suck it up and suck and we sucked a LOT! I heard people laughing at us and making comments about how I was getting what I deserved for all the preaching I did on how one size training and rewarding fit all. The joke was on them though, because I learned a TON from my experiences with this incredibly spooky, unmotivated dog. I had to learn how to build drive where there was NONE and how to find a reward that worked other than tugging (I had managed to make tugging an aversive for her early on AND it hurt my back). I had to eat a lot of crow and humble pie and learn from that too.

    I learned that smiling at Pankies really helped her AND me! It is difficult to be judgmental towards your dog if you are smiling at them. Pankies has taught me so much about dog training. There was a time when I WAS convinced that one size training fit all. Pankies taught me otherwise and I had to eat a HUGE portion of humble pie on many occasions! I had to go searching for answers that worked for her. But most of all, I learned to have fun and, more than anything else, it was MY genuine joy in my Pankies, my Pankins, my Pankin Pants Poodle, my BooBoo Baby, my Pankinstein, my UPGRAYEDD, that spelled SUCCESS! A Pankies by any other name…

    Now I feel sorry for those who think the way I used to when I was goal oriented. What a huge burden it is to measure success by a score sheet when you can measure success by the joy in your dog’s eyes!

    UPGRAYEDD (aka Pankies)went from this not long ago (we sucked a LOT for a LONG time!):

    To this a few months ago (notice her extreme joy!):

    In our first attempt to do contacts in competition when she was two years old, Pankies freaked out because she thought the dog walk was a teeter:

    We trained for two MORE years before trying contacts in a trial again. Unfortunately, the first time we tried standard in competition, she was unable to handle the pressure of contacts in a trial. She was more than four years old before we entered her again (once again, we sucked):

    We tried some different things (documented in another blog ) and they worked. Here she is a few trials later:

    And a short few months later and she even picked up her first double Q:

    The moral of the story is NEVER GIVE UP! No matter what happens; smile, have fun and enjoy the ride!

    Over the years I have seen many top agility people go through dogs like water until they found the one that would be successful for them without a lot of effort. That is not how I roll. For me it is about the process and the journey no matter what kind of dog the Universe sends me. As the song says, I believe it’s best to”LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH!”

    This blog was inspired by the Blog Agility Action Day topic for June 2014, “Success.” You can find more blogs on this subject at this link:

    Please check out the other blogs. Some don’t get posted until late in the day or the next day so be sure to keep checking on the site. It will be worth it! There are some great blogs there!

    Helen Grinnell King

    Posted by: jility | May 6, 2014

    Chemo Report and I DO NOT SNORE!

    With only two chemotherapy treatments left, I am so very excited to look forward to feeling like my old self again. I might not have been the fastest or the youngest or anything else great, but it will sure beat what I am feeling now and have for the past year or so!

    It was more than a year ago that I first began to get sick. It was horrible! It took seven months to figure out what was wrong with me. Once the enormous tumor was removed from my colon, I felt SOOOOO much better! Then, six weeks later, the chemotherapy began and I felt like crap all over again, only even worse. I have written many blogs about my journey, so I won’t go into detail again, but until they figured out just how allergic I was to the chemo and added steroids and other things to my treatments to help me cope, life was pretty much horrific.

    After five treatments, my liver values began to rise. After eight treatments, they were scary high. My oncologist took me off Oxaliplatin, explaining that was the culprit. I can’t say I was sad to see that crap go! It really made me sick. The 5 FU and the other drug (the name escapes my chemo brain) are bad enough, but that Oxaliplatin just sucked big time! It made me unable to withstand any cold at all on my hands, legs, face or in my mouth or throat. I had to wear gloves and a mask much of the time to keep the cold air at bay. About the only things the remaining two drugs do is make me weak and tired and my brain is often quite fuzzy. Unfortunately, without the Oxaliplatin, my appetite is back with a vengeance so I have put on weight. I really need to watch that because I have to lose another fifty pounds!

    One of the other side effects of the chemo is mood swings. I can be sad and tear up at sappy TV shows one minute, higher than a kite manic the next and madder than an irrational wet hen the next. It seems to depend on where I am in my chemo cycle as to how I react to things, but I am always weak and tired and I am REALLY sick and tired of that!

    There was a time when I could easily run two dogs in an all-day seminar and do so for days without ever missing a beat! Now I can barely take a shower without having to lie down on the bed for a few minutes afterwards to rest.

    This too shall pass.

    Sir Cussalot knows to ignore me when I am in my madder than an irrational wet hen phase of chemo. He is so good. No matter what I say, he just goes about his business. The good thing is that I know I am being irrational and I know it is the chemo, so I can pretty much control my behavior and stifle my anger. I also know that my anger is not about anyone else, it is about me and my chemo brain. I can’t control what anyone else thinks, feels, does or says. I can only control myself and my reactions to others’ insensitivity or poor behavior. There are, however, a couple of people on this earth who test me to my limit. I would like to take a leash, wrap it around their neck and drag them to a high cliff and let them fall to their demise, but alas, I am too weak and tired to do so. The only recourse I have is to stay away from them and avoid conversations with them (electronic or in person). When I see these two people, I remove myself from their space so I don’t say something Sir Cussalot will regret.

    Just two more chemo treatments to go and I can get back to building up my stamina, my health and my good mood.



    One of the crappy side effects of the chemo and steroids is insomnia. Normally, I sleep like a log, but depending on the stage of chemo, it might take me a while to get to sleep or back to sleep once woken. Take last night for instance:

    About midnight, I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. I lay there listening to Sir Cussalot snore. Now, he is convinced that he does not snore! One of these nights I am going to tape him with my phone to prove it to him!

    It must have been an hour or so before I could no longer take it. As I lay on my side of the bed contemplating my course of action, I got angrier and angrier. Yes, I am in that phase of chemo at the moment. We bought a couple of boxes of Breathe Right Strips to cut down on the snoring, but Sir C doesn’t like wearing them so I suffer. If he sleeps on his side, the snoring is not that bad, but when he is on his back it sounds like a freight train is bearing down on us!

    When I was at the end of my rope and could no longer take it, I moved my leg across the expansive king bed and past little MiniMe, who always sleeps under the covers. I finally reached Sir Cussalot’s hairy legs. I accidentally kicked him five or six times until the snoring ceased. As soon as he was quiet, I quickly removed my foot from his space so I didn’t implicate myself in the accidental kicking.

    I waited an appropriate length of time to distance myself from the awakening and said, “Turn over please.”

    Sir Cussalot, “Why?”

    Me, “Because you are snoring!”

    Him, “I AM NOT!”

    Me in my oh so sweet voice, “Ah, yes you are.”

    Him, “How can I be snoring? I am wide awake!”

    OKAY, DUH!

    Now, we have been down this conversation road MANY times. He always says the same dumb ass thing! “How can I be snoring if I am awake?”

    Me, “Well, you are awake now, but a minute ago it sounded like a freight train was coming through the bedroom!”

    Sir C –  silence.

    He waits long enough so the turning over seems like HIS idea, then I hear the covers rustling as he maneuvers to his side.

    Not able to leave well enough alone I say, “If you would wear a nose strip, this wouldn’t happen.”

    Him, in his best Sir Cussalot grumble, “I hate those F#@K!^G things.”

    I say nothing but the seed has been planted.

    About ten silent minutes go by and I hear him get out of bed. He walks to the bathroom and switches on the light. The cabinet door opens and I know he is going in for the nose strip!

    HALLEFREAKINGLUJAH! Now I will be able to sleep!

    He crawls back in bed without a word.

    Me, “Thank you.”

    He grunts.

    All is well again in the world.


    Posted by: jility | April 22, 2014

    Dear Diary

    If you grew up before the electronic age, you will remember diaries. That is where we wrote about our feelings and secret thoughts. We wrote the ups and downs of our lives and our deepest secrets. They even had a little lock on them to guarantee that the words hidden within were for the author’s eyes only.


    I had several such diaries where I kept a record of my feelings and secrets. Unfortunately, I kept losing the keys so I would write a little in one, lose the key and have to start a new one. The funny part was that nobody in my family cared enough about my thoughts to give a crap what I wrote. I really didn’t need the key at all.


    Fast forward to now.


    When I first heard about the blog, I was fascinated. I didn’t know what they were but kept hearing about Soandso’s blog. Once I realized what blogs were exactly, I was hooked. I love writing short things and what better vehicle for that than the blog?


    The first one I started is still around, but the second one (with some of my most favorite blogs) was taken down and all my blogs were lost in the process. Kinda like losing the key to a diary only worse ‘cause you can break into a diary. Those blogs went down permanently the day I dropped my laptop and killed the hard drive.


    So blogging for me is cathartic, especially now with what I am experiencing with my cancer and treatments. What once was kept private, is now on the open market for all to see. It is amazing to me that people actually read other people’s blogs. I don’t. The only blog I read is Denise Fenzi’s because she writes some kick ass training stuff that interests me. I don’t read anyone else’s blog. I have no interest in other people’s lives or private thoughts. I have no idea why people are interested in what I write, but they seem to be.

    I am flattered when people write to me expressing support and nice things about my writing. I love writing and it makes it even more special when somebody appreciates what I write. Not so much when somebody writes me a nastigram about my blogs. This has happened three times in my blogging “career.” In two of the three, two different folks thought my blog was about them. I found that very amusing since neither one was even a blip on my radar when I wrote those blogs. I even wrote a blog after the first nastigram I received. It was titled, “You’re So Vain…”


    If somebody doesn’t agree with me, they are certainly entitled to their opinion, but I write my blog for me. I am not paid for it. I don’t get advertising to support it. It is just my very public diary containing my opinions on life and agility.


    I love to laugh and I love to write about things that make me laugh. However, I am not a laugh machine, especially lately. I am going through some pretty crappy stuff in my life right now and the worst stuff I have never shared publically. Only my closest friends know. I have been very open about my cancer and treatment in hopes that I can help somebody else going through the same thing.

    Sometimes, I have a nothing is very funny day or week or month or year. Other times, I find humor in the blackest of things. That is where my great friend, Uncle Jef, helps me. He and I can laugh about things that might shock and horrify others. No matter what I say or write, there is no judgment from him, just laughter. Friends like that are priceless. It is so funny how some tell me not to judge and in their next sentence, they pass all kinds of judgment (foundation based or not) on me. That too makes me laugh out loud.


    So, to those of you who enjoy my blogs, THANK YOU! It means so much to me, especially in these times I am facing! Thank you also for taking the time to let me know when you enjoy what I write. You are special for caring enough to brighten my day.

    For those who want to send me nastigrams, keep them to yourself please. Or better yet! Write your nastigrams on your own blogs. That way, I won’t ever read them or your negativity towards me.


    Thanks also to the person who invented the blog to give people like me a place to vent, tell stories or just pour out our hearts.


    On the Cancer Front


    Last Monday I had a blood draw before my chemo treatment. My wonderful Doctor told me he would come get me if anything showed up on the results.


    While in the waiting room, I began talking with a young woman across from me. She was in her mid to late twenties. Her significant other was by her side, holding her hand. They made such a beautiful couple. She asked me who my doctor was and why I was there. I told her and she responded, “Me too! I just got the news that I have a spot in my lung and on my liver as well.”


    As she spoke, her beau got up from his chair next to her and climbed into the same chair with her and cuddled with a huge grin on his face. She too was grinning from ear to ear. They were so cute together. She went on to say that they had only been married a year and they had been through the year from hell. It was obvious he was completely devoted to her and she to him. I told her I was so sorry. To which she said, “NO! Don’t be sorry! I am going to be just fine! I know it!” I smiled at them and knew that with her attitude, she was right!


    Just then, Dr. Lenz came zipping around the corner towards me. My heart sank. I said, “OK, what’s wrong?” He put his hands on his hips and looked at me as only he can and said, “Now vat makes you so negative?”



    He gave me a smile and a “TISK TISK” and hit me over the head with the papers he had in his hand and said in his thick German accent, “Look, your liver values vent up quite a bit since last time so ve are going to vizhold ze Oxiliplatin today. You vill only have two chemo drugs zis time. Ve vill not start ze other back up until your liver is happier.”


    I liked that I was not going to get the Oxaliplatin! It does the most damage to me and makes me very sick, but I also was concerned about my liver. It doesn’t do me much good to be cancer free only to have my liver fail! YIKES! I am getting weaker and weaker from the treatments now and I hate it. I can’t really train my dogs or do much anymore. I so look forward to better times when I have more energy and can live my life fully again. Never take health for granted!


    On the way home I sent a text to a physician friend and told her my liver values. She assured me they were not THAT bad and things were going to be fine. I love her. She always makes me feel so much better (well, except for the time before I was diagnosed and she took one look at me after not seeing me for a few months and exclaimed, “HELEN! Are you OK? You don’t look well at all!” It was then I really knew I was in deep doodoo LOL).


    Yes, just like that young woman across from me, I feel I will be fine. Sometimes it is hard keeping a positive attitude when I feel like, in the amazingly eloquent words of Sir Cussalot, “I have been drug through a knothole backwards!”


    I promise this MIGHT be the last of my dark humored blogs. I will watch the Three Stooges to lighten up my mood and try to get back to my formerly positive, funny self.


    In the meantime, please cut me some slack. I need it right now.




    Posted by: jility | April 21, 2014

    The Emperor’s “New” Clothes

    It really doesn’t matter to me which handling system or fancy moves people use in agility. Honestly, I truly don’t give a crap. Everyone has the right to make a choice but that choice should be an educated one.

    A while back I wrote a blog titled “In the New Old Fashioned Way.” I outlined how I feel about all the “new” fancy moves in agility (that really aren’t new at all). I won’t go into that again here. What I will go into is the attitude by so many converts regarding the system they once touted as the “ONLY” way to handle, that they now say is completely wrong.

    It is a mystery to me how those people who told me, and everyone else, over and over and over again how horrible blind crosses were as well as landing side front, rear crosses on the flat, off arm turns, etc., now do all those things and then some. How were those moves so horrible then but so “NEW” and relevant now? They claim they have “broadened their horizons” but all they have done is gone backwards to handling moves that were used fifteen, twenty or more years ago!

    So the fact that they use these old moves and rename them and call them new isn’t the problem I am having. The problem I am having is how they make fun of the moves they once told me and others were so wonderful and how they are so convincing that the way they handle now is the RIGHT way!

    Take, for instance, the lead out pivot. I was at a camp once a long time ago where we were given a long lead out. We were told to run it several different ways. There were timers. We did a lead out pivot (LOP), moving front cross, a rear cross and a blind cross. Guess which one was fastest back then? The lead out pivot! So I guess the LOP got slower because people are now being told that the LOP is a very slow way to do a lead out. Now, if the dog has not been trained to do a correct LOP, of course that is true. In the system we use, you do actually have to train the dogs! If my dog doesn’t pick up the LOP, adjust its stride and turn sharply, then I best be getting some training done. I am much too slow to stand at a jump with my hand in my dog’s face to turn them, then get to the other side of the ring to handle something else!

    The same is true for front crosses. If you are slow and get in your dog’s way, turn slowly and force your dog wide to get around you, then of course a forced front cross will be slower than a well done blind cross. A forced front cross will also be slower than a well done rear cross! I work too dang hard to get and keep my connection with my dog to purposely break it doing a blind cross! I refuse to go backwards in my handling. I used and perfected blind crosses years ago and then felt the fallout from them and quit using them.

    Some claim they use a “motion based” system that is intuitive and requires little or no training. Really? LOLOLOLOL Last I looked, that system we use also uses “motion” as well as other things like handler’s position, acceleration, deceleration, etc. Don’t they all? What a moronic argument! Who buys that crap?

    How on earth do these people who are so convinced that what they are doing now is the right way, think we are all such morons that we have forgotten how they were so convinced a year or so ago that what they are now doing was all wrong? How on God’s earth is that possible? Were they lying to us then or are they lying to us now? Either way I feel betrayed by them and sad they think we are so gullible or they are.

    They justify the switch by saying the courses have changed, or they run slower now, or faster, or older. I am surprised they don’t say they have gotten younger! As much BS as so many are swallowing about the “new” moves, I am sure there are some great marketers out there who could actually convince some that is true!

    I remember being told many years ago when I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to use the system we now use, that even though I can’t move, this system would allow me to walk around a course and be successful. At first I didn’t buy it. Then, as I learned more and more about the Greg Derrett system, it became obvious that was true. That was twelve years ago and Sir Cussalot and I still use the system today and use it very successfully.

    As I wrote above, I don’t care what others do in their handling, I really don’t, but as the great Judge Judy says, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining!” I really am not that stupid! HONESTLY! I know my IQ!

    I am seeing a lot of fallout from the “new” moves. I am seeing handling cues that mean several different things, biting handlers in the butt. I saw it twelve years ago (the main reason I changed what I was doing back then!) and I am seeing the same fallout now. I experienced the fallout firsthand many years ago and have no desire to go backwards.

    If a handler is fast, they can pretty much use whatever system they choose, or no system, and get away with it. Those of us who are mere mortals, have to train our dogs to a higher level and use a system that allows us to get around without being ahead or in our dog’s face.

    Recently, a friend told me that somebody, who was once a HUGE user of the system we use, went into great depth as to why all the things she used to say were great, now stink. Why is that? HOW is that? At first I laughed! Then I got angry. The reasons were ludicrous! They made zero sense, yet so many people are buying them hook, line and sinker! NO QUESTIONS ASKED! Many of those instructors used to call the people who used the “new” moves, morons. If that is the case, were those instructors morons then or are they morons now, ‘cause it can’t go both ways? So many are buying these reasons why the “new” way of doing things is so much better! If they just took some time to think it through and see the fallout, perhaps they would see that the Emperor is actually nekkid.




    Posted by: jility | March 5, 2014

    Jack Sprat and His Fat Arse Wife

    Jack Sprat could eat no fat.

    His wife could eat no lean.

    And so between the two, you see,

    They licked the platter clean.


    Agility has been my life for the past fourteen years. Animals, particularly dogs and horses, have always been my life. I love them and I love training them. I love how they want to make the person they love smile. Dogs know when we smile and are happy with them. They also know when we are not happy with them. They may not know WHY we are unhappy with them, but they don’t like to displease us. It is our job to teach them how to make us happy, which in turn makes THEM happy.

    The biggest compliment somebody can give me is that my dog looks happy when working or just hanging out with me. That is my goal in life. My dogs deserve to be happy. If they are unhappy because I am unhappy about a performance or behavior, then it is MY fault and MY fault alone!!! I do not want to punish my dog verbally or physically for my shortcomings as a trainer. In my mind, that is just not right! Dogs can’t distinguish the difference between us being angry with them or ourselves. We need to hide disappointment, no matter what the cause.

    So, what does all this have to do with Jack Sprat and his fat arse wife?

    I love training foundation on our dogs. Sir Cussalot HATES it! He, however, is BRILLIANT when it comes to the aftermarket behaviors like weaving, running contacts and other advanced behaviors. Other than training weave poles, I have little interest in the aftermarket behaviors. I want all the hard stuff out of the way before the puppy is old enough to begin the work on the obstacles.

    With the exception of Barque and Xoom, I have trained all the foundation work on our dogs. Sir C has done all the work on Barque and Xoom, but has declared that his days of teaching foundation to puppies are over. He said he will stick to what he does best, AFTERMARKET stuff! As a former electrical engineer who designed satellite trackers and other very complicated things, he expects things to just work. Show a puppy the table a few times and they should have it right? Do a few end behaviors on the contacts and you have instant understanding. Show them a treat once in a while and you get brilliant focus! Well, dog training doesn’t work that way. They AIN’T ELECTRONIC MACHINES! It takes consistency and countless repetitions to solidify and maintain behaviors.

    Now, he will spend countless hours perfecting their skills once trained well, but the initial training to get the skill is another story altogether!

    I prefer getting the skill and spending the time there but hate maintaining them. So together, we make a pretty dang good team; just like Jack Sprat and his fat arse wife.

    As Bob Bailey says, “Some people are good at getting behaviors and some are good at maintaining them, but few are good at both.” Or something like that. The BRILLIANT Bob Bailey also says, “Training is simple but not easy.” He is right on with both! Of course he is right on with all things animal training. The man is a training genius!

    I LOVE Poodles, particularly standard Poodles. I love almost everything about them with the exception of all that hair. I would like to see better structure, but that is for a different blog. Rather than mess with the hair, we just shave it all off. I have actually had some show type Poodle people get very angry with me because we shave our Poodles SHORT. They ask why we don’t just get a short haired breed! BECAUSE I LOVE POODLES! I just hate all that hair, especially the dumb ass dome head look!

    We let our Poodle puppies have some hair until their big girl coat starts to come in, then it all has to go!

    Cute and cuddly fuzzy Poodle puppy

    Barque at 14. 5 weeks 006

    All growed up with her Sinead O’Conner look

    Barque without dots

    Sir Cussalot loves Border collies. They are too serious and too quick for me. I do LOVE training them, however. My perfect dog would be a Poodle with Border Collie structure (or close). Someday I may see what a Borderpoo is like but that too is for another blog. Oh wait! I already wrote about that in “Mutt or Magic” and “Mixed Breed Hell” if you want to know my thinking on it.

    But I digress.

    The first requirement for my next Poodle puppy is that it has ALL of its body parts intact. I will never again have another Poodle with a docked tail or amputated dew claws! They NEED and deserve all their body parts, not just the convenient ones.

    I also want a confident pup with great drive and structure. That is what I was going for when I bred my own litter of standard Poodles four years ago. I doubt I will ever breed again because I know if there is a defective puppy in it as there was in my last litter, I will keep it to spare anyone else the anguish of dealing with it. Breeding is NOT for the faint of heart!Pankies (UPGRAYEDD) has turned out to be a super agility dog, but the road to get here has been laced with mines.

    My first agility dog, Isabella who just turned FOURTEEN on March 1, 2014, was a difficult dog for a first time agility person. She had over the top prey drive and I had no clue how to train focus, drive, self-control or anything else for that matter. I started with instructors new to the sport who didn’t know much more than I did. We put squeeze cheese down the teeter and dog walk, led them over the Aframe on a leash (same on the other contacts too) and taught weaving using the hand target method. I can’t believe we EVER got into the ring let alone Qed! My first instructor didn’t believe in stopped contacts (2on 2off) but had no clue how to train a good and reliable running contact. We had HAIL MARY… contacts and most of the time Isabella leaped gleefully from the top of the Aframe. I never understood how that was better or safer than a good 2on 2off. It was the blind leading the blind leading the blind.

    I still believe that a properly trained 2on 2off is a lot easier on the dog than running contacts because running contacts take MANY MANY more repetitions to train AND maintain than a correctly trained stop. It is also a lot easier to train a 2on 2off than running contacts! I laugh to myself when I hear somebody with crappy stopped contacts exclaim they are going to train a running contact. If you have trouble with a stop, good luck with running contacts! Sure, some dogs just do them and make their handler look brilliant, but most take longer than any other behavior to get right. I watched Sir C for years when he was training Crushie to run her contacts. He trained her for two or more years before he ever dared to break them out at a trial. She has a stop and a run! Now that is the aftermarket stuff I HATE training but at which Sir Cussalot excels!

    Sir Cussalot and Crush winning a recent USDAA Master standard class


    Eventually my first agility instructor and I  parted ways and I went from instructor to instructor until I found our current instructor of the past twelve years, Stacy Winkler. She opened my eyes to things I had never considered! Rewarding builds behaviors???? WTH! I thought you just showed them the way and they should do it for the sake of doing it! I never thought about breaking down a behavior into tiny pieces and building on that! What a concept! We did more talking about training theory than actual training for the first several lessons and I was mesmerized by every word! I LOVE talking training theory! It was like nothing I had ever heard before and it forever changed the way I looked at training and my dogs! How lucky I was to discover this brilliant instructor and how fortunate we are to still have her as our instructor! We are so blessed for that. I know I can ALWAYS ask her a question and I will get a thoughtful answer that makes perfect sense to me. She not only answers all my questions happily, but ENCOURAGES questions! Some instructors think questions are an assault on their knowledge rather than just a question! I have had more than one instructor get very angry with me for asking questions. I find it unacceptable! I am there to learn and if that involves a question or two, so be it. I expect an intelligent answer. That is exactly what I get from Stacy and I SO appreciate that!

    So back to Isabella.

    There were times when I thought we would never get it right in the ring. We were HORRIBLE early on before we found Stacy. Isabella would often run away from me in the ring to look for ground squirrels and gophers when we were in Southern California. In Washington, a good mole hill was always a great distraction. One time she was going full speed in the ring and slammed on the brakes to sniff a couple of TINY dead toads. Birdie feathers were another great distraction for her.

    We struggled and struggled. Slowly we got better, but those critters were always there to distract her in the ring. Then one day when Isabella was about four years old, out of desperation I decided to experiment with something I had seen when she was about a year old. I wasn’t sure if it would help or not, but it was worth a shot.

    It was a video I had found when I was searching for a better way to train Isabella. I had been doing obedience with her and the instructors were jerk and pull with praise types. I knew there had to be a kinder and gentler way. The video was called “Choose to Heel.” It showed a woman just walking around inside a building and a dog running loose with her. Every time the dog came over to her, she clicked and treated it. Eventually, the dog realized that all the wandering and sniffing was not nearly as rewarding as walking next to this woman and getting treats for paying attention and focusing on her. I thought it was brilliant at the time, but never thought to apply it to agility for focus.

    I was at a trial where there were ton of gophers. One actually had popped its head out of the ground at the end of the dog walk while Isabella was coming down the ramp! Well, Isabella took one look at that little bastard and took off. She ran from gopher hole to gopher hole which led her out of the ring and on to bigger and better rewards in the ground. I stood there watching as she disappeared into the distance. I knew calling would do no good. I just threw up my arms in surrender and walked after her. I finally ran her down because she was too busy digging out a critter to notice me sneaking up on her! I grabbed her collar and knew I had to do SOMETHING different!

    I couldn’t let her off leash in the wide open spaces of the park, so I did my Choose to Heel variation on leash. I walked around with her on a long leash. I allowed her to look into every critter crater she wanted. I just stood watching her, but as soon as she even looked in my direction, I said, “YES!” and gave her a treat. It took a few sessions for her to get it, but eventually she did. The best part was that I got it too! Like the song says, “I can’t make you love me…” but you sure can manipulate things to make the dog WANT to love the work! It was at the moment when Isabella started to look towards a moving gopher hole but chose to look to me instead, that the light bulb truly went on and everything Stacy had been telling me for years sunk in! REWARDS BUILD BEHAVIORS!!! THEY SURE DO! BINGO!!!

    Isabella went on to become MACH Penhurst Queen Of Spain MXC MJC EAC O-EJC NTC OGC AAD  JM RA SA RS-E JS-E RN CGC HIT VCX but had to retire at six due to health issues. I still miss running her! She became a GREAT agility partner and taught me so much.

    MACH Isabella, Queen of Spain. My first agility dog and the silhouette on my coats and avatar


    So after that, I used this method with all of our puppies over the years and got incredible focus with each of our following agility dogs. It was just something I did religiously.  It strengthened recalls, focus, work ethic and my relationship with that puppy. I never once ask them to look at me or tell them to leave it. I just wait and when they look up to me, “YES!” smile and treat or tug. It is THE most important training I do with our young dogs! My friend Claudia asked me what I called it. I said I don’t call it anything. So Claudia named it “Choose ME!” and that fits it as well as anything else.

    The other thing I work on with puppies are lots and lots of restrained recalls. I reward for them coming to my side and I also yell “GO!” as they approach and then throw a toy or ball ahead of me and move forward as they pass me to get the toy. That is the beginning of independent work, something I truly need because I can’t run a lick!

    I do tons of front crosses while walking my puppies and post turns and put words to the post turns so they can distinguish close work from distance work (the close work is much more difficult for me to train than the distance!). I teach directionals to fluency as well as other verbals for various things I need because I can’t run.

    I train the table to be so exciting the puppy LOVES it and loves that down position. I LOVE training the table, sit stays and contacts. I truly enjoy training a balance between drive and self-control. The secret is to make the control positions as much fun as everything else!  Punishment or verbal threats do not a fun behavior make. I love to see a dog so excited to go they are quivering and ready to explode, but they stay because they love their control position as much as the release. I am lukewarm about training weaves, although, pretty good at it if I do say so myself. Sir C is brilliant at training weaves! There’s that Jack Sprat thing again. We use Susan Garrett’s 2×2 method to train weaves. I have used every other method on the planet over the years, but think the 2×2 method is by far the best. We don’t even bother to train weaves until our dogs are at least a year and a half. It takes only a couple of weeks so why rush and put unwanted strain on immature soft tissue? We are so “lucky” to always have great weaving dogs that love to weave more than anything.

    I do Susan Garrett’s Crate Games right off the bat. I keep an extra copy of the video in my car in case a friend or somebody I like would benefit from it. Crate Games are a terrific way to train that quivering sit and explosive start to little tiny puppies. They learn early on that control positions are a ton of fun!

    I do lots of shaping behaviors. That teaches our puppies that failure is an option and not the end of the world! I love teaching them to back up while lying down. I call it “THE LOBSTER!” Pankies loves it. It is something I can do at trials while waiting between classes. The pups learn to work in a vulnerable position with lots of dogs, people and commotion around them. It really helps them when they start to trial for the first time.

    I spend months and months training the end behavior for contacts before my dogs ever see a contact for real! Most of our puppies are well over a year old before they ever get on the real contacts for the first time. They learn the end behavior away from the contacts before they ever get near the real thing.

    I am ALL about patience and foundation. Another great Bob Bailey saying, “What they learn first they learn best” is ALWAYS on my mind! I try to do things right the first time, but sometimes I have to learn the hard way. That was certainly the case with my current agility dog, Pankies (AKA UPGRAYEDD).

    Her fears were overwhelming for her. In the beginning I managed to make tugging an aversive for her. She associated tugging with all things agility and learned to hate agility training as much as tugging. I was convinced that the only way to have a great agility dog was through tugging. Pankies taught me otherwise. If a dog does not find what you offer rewarding, no amount of force will change that! Sure, you may eventually get the dog to tug, but you will have a much happier dog if you use something the dog TRULY finds rewarding! Work on the tugging AWAY from agility and just have fun with it. When/if they learn to LOVE tugging, then use it in training. For super high drive BCs and such, forcing the issue might be fine, but for a dog like Pankies, it is the WORST thing I could have done and I paid the price, as did she! It took me quite a while and a major shift in thinking to realize that I would rather work for a thousand bucks an hour than be paid in Brussels sprouts! YUK!!!! No amount of telling me how wonderful those horrid things are, or forcing me to eat Nature’s nasty nuggets would make me like them! So why not just skip right to the thousand bucks and toss the Brussels sprouts in the trash? That would be a win/win situation in my book.

    Pankies will now tug going into the ring. It keeps her mind off the monsters lurking in and around the ring before her run. I also taught her to bark at the start line. It keeps her focused on a job while I lead out a million miles. In some of the videos, you can see her turn around to see what made noise behind her, or if a dog outside the ring is getting too close for her comfort. There are so many demons in her head.

    There are plenty of studies out there that have proven dogs understand our facial expression and body language. They actually read humans better than humans read humans! I always try to smile when I train. Stacy used to have to remind me to get rid of my “poopie face” on more than a few occasions! I didn’t even realize I was doing it! I work hard to smile at my dog and be the most fun I can be and it has paid off ROYALLY!

    Pankies has gone from a fearful, insecure, reluctant dog, to an amazing dog in every single way! Just a year ago, she would barely run a lick at trials, now she is on fire!

    One of Pankies’ runs from last year when she was incapable of doing a course at a trial


    Here is a run from this past weekend where she ran a whopping 6.3 yards per second with me hanging on for the ride


    It took four years to get her where she could do contacts at a trial. I hadn’t entered her in standard until a few weeks ago because she was incapable of doing the teeter or dog walk in competition. She got confused the first time at a match a couple of years ago. She thought the dog walk was the teeter and went into her slide but realized too late it was not the teeter. She smashed her chin on the board and bailed, never to do either again in competition for the next two years.

    Is it the teeter or the dog walk Gramma???


    Pankies needs to know exactly what she is doing or it is a NO GO! She was not sure which obstacle was which at trials, a common thing for young dogs, but not acceptable in her oddly wired mind. I had tried in FAST classes, but she would have nothing to do with contacts. At home she would slide the end like a BC! She was OK at class, but NO WAY at trials. She managed to do one or two when under cover at a City of Industry trial a while back, but refuses when outside.

     Pankies just says NO to contacts at trials


    While I have been sick from the chemo treatments, Sir C has been training her. He would take her out with the other trialing dogs and put them all in an x-pen near the teeter to watch. With all the dogs screaming, he would do Crushie on the teeter, then Pankies. She got better and better and had more and more fun! Sir C would take turns doing the teeter with the dogs so the ones in the x-pen would scream for their turn! IT WORKED LIKE A CHARM! PURE GENIUS ON HIS PART!

    This past weekend, Pankies not only did the teeter in competition, she finished her novice standard title in three straight runs with three straight wins, all at 100%! THANK YOU SIR CUSSALOT!!!! You are an AWESOME JACK SPRAT and your FAT ARSE WIFE’S HERO!

    What a difference a few weeks make!


    It is a good thing I spend a TON of time training verbals to fluency or I never would have gotten her around that course! I was a million miles away and had to direct her through some tricky parts, especially the four obstacle discrimination to the table. She came flying out of the tunnel looking at four obstacles, but got the correct one when I told her table. What a good girl she is! I am so glad I waited until she was ready.

    This past weekend, somebody asked me why Pankies would now do the contacts if under cover but not outside. I told them they would have to ask her that because I have NO clue what goes on in her mind. I have learned I don’t need to know either. I just need to keep my Pankinstein happy.

    I believe in taking all the time it takes to build a great foundation away from the equipment before getting to the obstacles. It is worth every second spent building that solid foundation. Without a solid foundation, the house will crumble and fall.

    This blog was inspired by Blog Agility Blog Events current topic “Starting Your Puppy.”

    To see other blogs on the subject, please visit the website at:

    Helen Grinnell King

    Posted by: jility | February 22, 2014

    Mixed Breed HELL!

    Well, it seems I opened the floodgates of mixed breed hell with my last blog, “Mutt or Magic?” I should have known that discussing the mixation (my new word) of breeds would be right up there with religion, politics, raw feeding (well that seems to be dying down of late), positive training vs. the use of aversives and shock collars in hunt and obedience training and veganism.  I try to avoid all those subjects but sometimes it just can’t be helped!

    Yesterday I got a bee up my butt to write about breeding one of our Poodles to a Border collie for fun and for agility. If (and that is a BIG FAT IF) I did it, I already have great homes for at least a dozen of them :). One of the many arguments against such practices is that there are already too many mixed breed dogs in the shelters. Now that is the lamest argument ever. Yes, there are too many dogs in shelters! MIXED AND OTHERWISE! I wish we could stop that. However, if I didn’t breed my Poodle to a Border collie, I would breed her to a Poodle. So, why is bringing pups into this world from a mix worse than bringing pups into this from “pure” bred parents? It makes ZERO sense to me!

    Why is this such an absurdly hot button for so many on both sides? The logic against mixing dogs, as long as it is done with the welfare of the puppies and breeding dogs at the top of the check list, is lame at best. I just don’t get why people don’t see that! Breeding dogs is breeding dogs. That was the whole point of my last blog. We are still bringing puppies into this world that may or may not end up in a shelter regardless of their parentage. Hopefully, EVERY single breeder does their best to “vet” buyers and give those puppies the best possible life, “pure” or mixed. THAT is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WHEN IT COMES TO BREEDING!!!!

    When we were breeding horses, we often crossed our Connemaras with our Thoroughbreds. I LOVED that cross. Those male offspring were gelded but the females were sometimes bred back to either side depending on what the owner was looking for in the next generation. Normally just the first cross was done. Depending on how good the parents were, the results were stunning for the most part.

    Mixing breeds is common in horses but in dogs we are sent straight to hell for doing it. Why is that?

    Anyway, I think that one of the “purists” must have put a curse on me because today was a $#!TST0RM of CRAP (LITERALLY CAROL!).

    The alarm went off at 4:45 this morning. Sir Cussalot got up, pottied dogs, made himself a sandwich and left at 5:30 with Crushie to drive up to Irwindale to the USDAA trial. I am not hot for USDAA so I stayed home with the dogs. It was nice to have the weekend off too.

    He said good-bye and I turned over and tried to go back to sleep. That was a bust. I turned back over and checked the views on my blog. It was out of control! Comments flying, views skyrocketing from all over the WORLD, tempers flaring. I sure hit a lot of hot buttons! Some folks didn’t get my tongue-in-cheek humor so I had to explain it to them. I guess if you have to explain, you are not as funny as you think you are. Somebody else tried to explain to me how you create a new breed (not sure why she thought that was my goal! I am much too freaking old to even think about doing THAT!).

    Anyway, pretty soon I heard retching from the other room. I got up to go see who was sick. Poor little Xoom had thrown up some yucky looking granular crap and bile. Unfortunately, she had done it on the hardest dog bed we have to wash! It is a laundromat bed only.

    Puke cleaned, I went back to bed. Pretty soon I heard Xoom whining and giving me short yips to go out. She has a fit if Sir Cussalot goes out to work Crush without her so, assuming she wanted out to find Sir C and Crush, I told her to go back to sleep but the low short yips continued. I continued to ignore her.

    Not too long after that I got a whiff of something really disgusting! At first I thought it was sewer gasses or that one of the several dogs on the bed with me had a gas issue. It persisted and got stronger. It was making my delicate chemo stomach turn over. With the chemo, my already incredible sense of smell is even more so. It is a curse and a blessing (when I smell orange or lemon blossoms it is a huge blessing! Dog poop not so much). I got up and walked into the living room of the Global Warmer. There it was, RUNNY CRAP EVERYWHERE! Poor little Xoom had tried to tell me she had to go but I ignored her pleas. I deserved it!

    She had pooped on the same bed on which she had puked so at least she was consistent! It was watery diarrhea and had run down the bolster sides in both directions; into the bed and onto the rug. Then she had tracked it across the floor and all the other rugs. NICE! This was a job for SUPEMEL, not CHEMOME!

    I cleaned it up the best I could, then took the stinking bed outside until I could get it to the laundromat. I had slipped on a pair of Birkenstocks to go outside. While out there, I looked around to see if she had done any more. She had.

    I walked back into the GW and made my way back across the rugs into the bedroom and to the far back of the bedroom to the washing machine with the first rug. When I turned around I saw a streak of crap along the bedroom carpet. I followed the trail to the door before I realized that I had stepped in poop when I went out and had a huge amount on both birks! Have you ever seen the underside of Birkenstocks? CRAP!!!! They are full of squiggly lines and crevices. Plus now I had managed to make fifty million times more work for myself with my wall to wall crap spreading!

    I removed the sandals, grabbed a wooden chop stick from the drawer and scraped away forever! Eventually, they were clean!

    All I could smell was dog crap! I wanted to barf, but then I would have MORE stuff to clean and nobody to help me.

    It took a while but I cleaned up the best I could. By that time I was wide awake so no reason to get back in bed. I got dressed and took the Morons out to walk. I grabbed the pooper scooper and off we went. That is our ritual in the morning when I feel well enough, but usually after we train. I was just too tired after all that cleaning to train, however, so we just walked. Sir C does the scooping when I am too sick.

    We walked around the two acres scooping and walking, walking and scooping. Then I looked down at my shoe because it felt funny. CRAP!!!! All over the bottom of my trail running Nikes! That are even more difficult to clean than the dang birks!

    I cussed for a while, grabbed a stick and sat down in the chair outside to pick away at the mess. Finally, with it all removed. We resumed the walk. The whole time I was cleaning my shoe, the Morons kept bringing me things to throw for them. Pick crap, throw toy; pick crap, throw toy… Each one had their own favorite thing for me to throw. Pankies the little soccer ball (she likes me to kick it for her), Charisse Poodle a tiny stuffed person that she loves, Barque with her white polar bear and MeMe with her stick. Xoom would just steal one of the other’s toys and bring it to me.

    We walked around the place a few more times but I got pretty tired. The chemo wipes me out. I used to be able to go forever, but now I am a big fat wimp!

    I can’t remember the last time I stepped in dog poop but at least a couple of years. Today I did it twice and one incident embedded that crap deeply into BOTH SHOES!

    I wrote after one of the comments on my yesterday blog that I thought Adam and Eve must have created all dog breeds we see today. Then the broke the mold and etched in stone a little known commandment from God, “THOU SHALT NOT MIX BREEDS UNDER PENALTY OF HELL!

    Well, today I was punished and sent straight to dog crap hell!

    Either that or one of the “purists” put a curse on Sir C and me.

    He didn’t get that advanced snooker leg he has been trying to get for FIVE FREAKING YEARS (ELEVEN TRIES!)! Normally it is bars, but today she turned left when he said right and went off course and she didn’t hit a bar all day long. She is such an amazing little dog and we are so blessed to have her in our lives. She is a once in a lifetime dog and that is for sure! Funny, we have had a few once in a lifetime dogs come to think about it. Great instruction!

    Sir C and Crushie Qed in Gamblers, Grand Prix, Standard and Steeplechase today, but that GOSH DANG snooker Q still eludes them! They have enough Qs for an ADCH in everything else but can’t get out of advanced snooker! Last year he got it but the timer failed so the judge made him run it again! They failed the second time. I wanted to STRANGLE HER!

    I am so proud of them for the rest of their runs today. Eventually they will get it. Everything happens for a reason, (right Bob? ;))

    And thanks to everyone for entertaining me today while Sir C was away. All those many comments on my blog and Facebook were great fun!

    Oh, and just in case you were wondering, YES I TOSSED THAT CHOPSTICK!

    Posted by: jility | February 21, 2014

    Mutt or Magic?

    Lately I have been thinking a lot about mixing breeds for our new dog sports like flyball, agility, etc. The practice of mixing breeds is frowned upon by many in the dog world. A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a gal who raises Staffy Bull Terriers. She shows them in breed and dabbles in some sports. I asked her if she ever did flyball. She looked down her nose at me and gave me a look of pure horror and exclaimed that she HATED flyball. I asked her why.

    “Because it is so noisy I can’t stand it and those people don’t think anything about mixing breeds! It is DISGUSTING”

    There was a time in my life when I bought into the thinking that the only dogs that should be bred have registration papers. I no longer feel that way.

    There are responsible breeders who mix breeds and irresponsible breeders who mix. There are responsible breeders who only breed same breed to same breed and irresponsible breeders who only breed same breed to same breed.

    Why was it OK to develop breeds for hunting, herding, swimming, protection, etc. but NOT OK to breed dogs specifically for the sports we have today? I honestly don’t get that mentality! If a breeder does appropriate testing and background health checks on sires and dams and makes sure the puppies get the best homes possible, why is that any worse than breeding papered dogs?

    I know that most Poodle breeders HATE Labradoodles. I have to admit they are not my favorite, and I have to wonder how much background and health testing are done with these dogs. I am also not a Lab type person. I am not into dogs that drool and pant. I used to raise Great Danes and they are the kings of drooling and panting. I like the dry mouth Poodles and Border collies we now have.

    Poodles RUle

    What was the cutoff date for creating new breeds or mixing to create a great dog for any purpose? Was it 1860 or 1900 or 1920 or 1935…? Why is mixing dogs for agility or flyball or any other activity we want to share with our best friends, a horrible thing? How are the breeding dogs kept? Do they have high quality food, a great place to live, are not stuck in crates most of the day and have a person or persons to love? Does the breeder “vet” the buyers to give those pups the best chance at a wonderful life or do they take them to the local grocery store and hand them to folks?

    I know a lot of “purebred” breeders who house their dogs in kennels all day and the only time the dog sees anyone is at feeding or kennel cleaning time. They thump their chests about people NOT mixing breeds but their dogs have HORRIBLE lives! Sure, there are people who mix breeds and keep their dogs in crate and/or kennels all day too. However, there are responsible breeders on both sides as well.

    I know that most “purebred” breeders are now thinking I am going to straight to mixed breed hell when I die! I know many of the die hard show breeders already call me “a nut” for my views on structure and performance. Most have had little or no exposure to high level performance dogs.

    I love our Poodles and I love our Border collies. I would really love to breed one of our Poodles to a Border collie. I think it would make an awesome combination! Why?

    I love training both breeds, but much prefer trialing the Poodles over the BCs. I LOVE the structure on many working BCs. It is much better than Poodles of today. The original Poodle had lovely working structure but, alas, the fads and fashion of the show ring have ruined that! I won’t even get into the health issues created from all the line and inbreeding to “fix type” on show dogs! I love the sense of humor of the Poodle and the abilities (mentally and physically) of the BC. Certainly, the Poodle structure could only be helped by breeding to a well built, great working BC. But the BC needs a little lightening up in the personality department for me. They are fine the way they are for working sheep, cattle, or whatever they are asked to do! I am NOT looking to improve on the BC, just add a sense of humor to match my personality.

    If I could find a Poodle with great working structure like they had originally, I would be all over that! Sadly, they no longer exist. The early Poodles had great LONG pelvises and good properly constructed fronts. They had long bodies and short backs. Their heads did not come out of the same hole on top of the back as their tail. They were much more than the high headed, high tailed, high prancing coat racks seen winning in the show ring today. Many of today’s Poodle temperaments stink along with their structure and most wouldn’t get caught dead in the water! Yes, there are exceptions so don’t write to me telling me I am all wrong because your uncle Joe had one once.

    Early Poodles below. Note the long pelvis and proper tail set, not the 12 o’clock tail set so prized today! Look where those front legs fall! They are BEHIND the neck.

    old poodles

    Top winning modern Poodle. Check out the pelvis and croup <sigh>

    Poodle pelvis

    If a Poodle had the correct structure of the original working Poodle of a hundred and fifty years ago, they wouldn’t get a look in the show ring by today’s standard! That is just plain sad. The show ring has not improved the Poodle or any other breed for that matter. They have turned most into caricatures of their former selves. How is that an improvement? Go look at the original German Shepherd Dog or the original Bulldog or any other breed bred for a specific task. They look NOTHING like the overdone, grotesque show dogs that are so prized and precious today.

    Original GSD:

    VA J

    A modern top winning GSD (the photos speak for themselves):

    Current GSD

    Will I do the mix of a Poodle to a Border Collie? Probably not. I am too conditioned to think that would be a very bad thing. But is it? REALLY?

    Helen Grinnell King

    Posted by: jility | February 17, 2014

    Poor Sports in Sports

    In life there are and will always be poor losers and poor winners. It is just a sad fact. I am not sure which one is more irritating really, but they are both annoying. In agility, we all come across them. Win or lose, they walk around like they are cock of the walk. What is it about their personality that makes them behave so badly? Is it a genetic character flaw, a learned behavior, insecurity or a small d!c#?

    You all know those people. When they win, they brag to all and when they lose, they always have an excuse and make sure everyone hears it, especially the winner. They know how to suck the joy out of anyone who beats them. They know how to pound those they beat into the ground. They shoot off their mouths like Mohamed Ali before a run. They NEED that limelight and hate anyone who takes it from them.


    Sir Cussalot is one of the most gracious winners or losers I know. He would never go up to anyone and give an “IN YOUR FACE!” move to those he beats or make excuses to those who beat him. I SOOO admire him for that! He is very secure in who he is. I am never in a position to be the winner so it is all foreign to me, but I watch Sir C week in and week out, take it like a man, no matter how it ends up.

    The video below says it all!

    This past weekend, my sister Lizzie and her husband Dana came to visit us. Although dog people, they have had no firsthand experience with agility. It was quite an experience to sit with them and hear their observations at their first ever agility trial. I loved it! They were in awe at the fun the dogs had (and most of the people), but the thing that hit me most was when somebody walked by with their Border collie after a bad run. All the way this person was telling the dog that he was terrible and didn’t deserve anything for that run. My sister sat there listening. Then she got tears in her eyes. She had seen the run and thought the dog was amazing. She couldn’t believe that anyone would talk so poorly to their dog that had just tried his heart out. She turned to me and said, “Why is that person so mean to that poor dog? Why do they blame the dog? Isn’t it their job to train the dog?” Out of the mouths…

    I also heard a woman berating her dog this weekend for his lackluster run. The dog gave it all he had to give but she didn’t think it was enough. I listened as she walked by our tent and all the way down the lane telling her dog he was terrible and he would NOT be getting any treats. I wanted to cry for that poor dog. Why don’t people understand that their dog messes up because of their training? I will go to my grave pondering that one! It is like blaming somebody for catching a cold or the flu! When our dogs go wrong, it is ALWAYS 100% OUR FAULT!!! People who say otherwise are foolish at best, and until they get it, their dog will never improve. When they say otherwise in front of others, don’t they know how ridiculously ignorant they sound?

    My dog has terrible fear of the teeter. I tease her and tell her she is a big baby, but we have fun with it. I adore my Pankies. No matter what she does in the ring, I take full responsibility. If she runs slower than usual, as was the case this weekend, I know I am at fault. If she goes off course or has a refusal, I know it is my fault either as her handler or her trainer. She is not my tool to an end. She is my friend and I adore her and she deserves my respect, love and responsible training. It is my job to teach her that the teeter is as much fun as her weavins.

    There are many forms of poor sportsmanship from the “IN YOUR FACE” winning move to “THE TIMER FAILED! NO WAY YOUR DOG IS THAT FAST” to “YOU ARE NOT GETTING ANY TREATS FOR THAT RUN!” to “THE ONLY REASON YOU BEAT US IS…” to…

    The next time you hear some (insert my new favorite word. My friends know what it is) telling their dog they won’t get any treats for their poor performance, remind them that they are responsible for the dog’s training and it is NOT that poor dog’s fault that they SUCK as a trainer!


    Helen Grinnell King

    Posted by: jility | February 10, 2014


    OK, this is going to be one of the most politically incorrect blogs I have ever written. If you don’t like that kind of thing, you need to quit reading now. If you don’t quit reading, please don’t write to me to tell me how horrible I am. I just hope that those who actually GET IT, also get a good laugh.

    I am one of the least bigoted people on the planet. I don’t care what race, color, religion, sex, weight, height, or whatever else you are. I believe that ALL people deserve to be equal! I believe in marriage for all, equal benefits for all and love for our fellow man (assuming they are not buttheads to others). I do not tolerate mean,

    I was raised to see all people as equals. Yes, sadly, some are still more equal than others, especially in certain parts of the world and in certain parts of this Country.

    I was brought up in Gloucester, Mass, a crazed hockey town. We had season tickets to the Boston Bruins and we sat right behind the visiting bench. We heckled the heck out of those guys. I can’t believe they didn’t turn around and deck us!

    Those were the days. There were only SIX teams in the NHL. NOBODY wore helmets in the pros. If you did, you were a BIG WIMP! The fights were legendary! Now THAT was hockey at its best!

    I remember when the Bruins great goalie, Gerry Cheevers, showed up wearing a mask! We all thought he was a HUGE baby! Then he made the goalie masks cool. Every time he got hit in the face by puck, skate or stick, he drew stitches on his mask. That made the mask fun and acceptable. Here is the story.


    The history of the goalie mask can be read here

    It wasn’t too long after Gerry made the goalie mask cool, that more babies on the ice started wearing helmets! It was a given in high school hockey and college, BUT THE PROS???? COME ON! What was the world coming to? Eventually, the helmet became mandatory. Sure, it had its advantages (like saving lives) BUT THIS IS HOCKEY!!!! This is not badminton or croquet! It is down and dirt, slam ‘em against the boards, check the crap out of ‘em, then beat the S#!T out of ‘em! It didn’t get any better than a knock down drag out fight. First the gloves came off and then it really got good! The more blood the better!

    Then what happened? THEY BANNED FIGHTING! That was right up there with banning victory dances in football! That was the only reason I watched freakin foosball in the first place!

    Not only did they suck all the fun out of hockey by regulating it to death, the hockey league grew from six AWESOME teams with great rivalries,  to THIRTY teams, most mediocre and not worth watching. I lost interest in my beloved sport of hockey after that.

    Hockey doesn’t belong in cities that can grow palm trees and citrus! Now don’t get me wrong! Two major criteria of where we live are that palm trees and citrus must grow there. JUST NOT HOCKEY!

    Now I tune in Olympic Hockey and what do I see? WOMEN!!! WTF????? How can I cheer for body slams against the boards, checking and dirty play with a bunch of girls on the ice? Two words for them, FIGURE SKATING!!!!


    Posted by: jility | February 7, 2014

    A Good Ribbing

    Men are babies. No matter what is wrong with them, NOBODY has ever had it as bad. Sir Cussalot is no exception.

    Now don’t get me wrong, Sir Cussalot is my hero! He can do anything, fix anything and make me laugh like nobody else. This week he spent three days replacing the hot water heater/heat heater in the Global Warmer. It was an enormous and expensive job. Had we had to pay somebody else to replace it, the cost would have been even higher than it already was. THANK GOD he is so handy.

    There was a time when it would have been a snap, but at 76 years old, he is not as flexible, nor does he heal like he used to. Somehow, while crawling around underneath the GW and wrestling with the 200 pound Aquahot, he pulled or tore something around his ribs. He has a knot the size of a marble and can barely move.

    I do know how painful that is. Back in the 1970s I was breaking a HUGE and very crazy Appaloosa who threw me against a round pen made of pipe. I could barely drive myself home! It hurt so much I couldn’t believe it. So I do have some sympathy for him.

    I would still like to see him, or any man for that matter, push a bowling ball with arms and legs out his…. and see how that feels! There is a reason God made women have the babies. Had men been the ones to give birth, the human race would have gone extinct before it ever got off the ground.

    Every time Sir C moves he moans and groans. Luckily, this is my second week out of chemo so I am able to help out a lot. Come Monday, he best be all better ‘cause I will be useless once again! We are both rambling wrecks!

    His brother told him to put something around his ribs to keep him from breathing deeply. He disappeared into the bedroom and emerged with his leather belt buckled up around his ribs. He looked so ridiculous, I started laughing and couldn’t stop. He said, “DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH! IT HURTS YOU KNOW!!!!” Which, of course, made me laugh even harder! More moaning and groaning followed.

    So he finally settled down in his chair to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. For those who did not see it, they brought in some floating islands suspended with wires. On one of the islands there was a large active volcano. I thought and thought and could not think of a Russian volcano. Chalk it up to chemo brain.


    So I said to sir Cussalot, “What the heck volcano is there in Russia?”

    He answered very seriously in his very low and very serious voice:

    “Mt. Baboomski.”

    I lost it. There he was, sitting pitifully in old baggy sweats and a ripped blue t-shirt, looking like Pappa Smurf, with that ridiculous belt tied around his upper ribs. I couldn’t stop laughing. I was laughing so hard I could barely talk. He started laughing and the harder he laughed, the harder he moaned and whimpered. The more he begged me to stop laughing, the harder I laughed. It was an endless vicious circle that seemed to go on, to my great amusement, forever. I have not laughed that hard in a very very long time.


    Just when things started to settle down, my friend Claudia called me. I was still chuckling to myself. I am sure she thought I was hearing voices in my head. I started to tell her the story of Sir C injuring himself and I started laughing all over again. She thought I was terrible for laughing at him for getting hurt. I tried to explain that it wasn’t that he was hurt that I was laughing, but I was laughing too hard to explain.

    Finally, I was able to tell her about the floating islands and the volcano on one. Then I tried like hell to explain the volcano story but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t talk. Every time I got to the Mt. Baboomski part, I could no longer speak coherently. It took me about ten tries before I was able to get it out of my mouth.

    Then, Claudia made my night.

    “Is that the name of the volcano?” she asked with sincerity.

    Well, that is when I really lost it. Tears were streaming down my cheeks and I was unable to speak.

    By now, Sir C had gotten up and gone into the bedroom because listening to me laugh was making him laugh and that led to more torture. When I stopped laughing so hard, he started back towards the living room of the Global Warmer and I said, “You know what Claudia just asked me?”

    “DON’T TELL ME!!!” he said trying very hard not to laugh. “IT HURTS TOO MUCH! I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!!!!”

    Well, of course, that was my cue to tell him. It took a few tries but I finally blurted out incoherently, “She wants to know if that is the real name of the volcano!”

    We both broke down in hysterics, only Sir C’s laughs were mixed with cries of, “OW OW OW OW OW!!!!!!!!!” and various cusswords.

    I promised Claudia I would change the names to protect the morons (oops I mean the innocent), (actually, instead of moron, I used my favorite new word that is not appropriate for this blog but those who know me well will know the word to which I refer).

    Sorry Claudia, I lied. I didn’t change the names ;).

    Thanks to Sir Cussalot and Claudia for the incredibly fun and laughter filled evening. I SURE NEEDED THAT!

    Posted by: jility | February 2, 2014

    Teetering on the Edge

    Training dogs for agility is an up and down journey. Even with the most confident, drivey dogs that is the case. With an incredibly fearful dog with no drive, it can be extremely painful, but when things finally start to come together, it is most rewarding!

    Those who have followed my struggles with Pankies (aka UPGRAYEDD, Uppity, Uppity Puppity Piddles When You Pat Her Pankin Pants Poodle, Pankins, Pankinstein, etc.) know some of the highs and lows I have experienced training this remarkable dog over the past four years.

    When it became clear at 7 ½ weeks of age that there was something not right in her head, I knew I had to keep her. I had bred the litter to get my dream dog but what I got, or thought I got at the time, was a nightmare.

    I have written many blogs about Pankies over the years so I won’t go into all of our struggles, but the short version is that she had zero drive, zero interest in training or working with me, zero toy drive and at times, she didn’t even like me much. She didn’t like anyone or anything much for that matter. I shed a few tears during our early training. I had never struggled so hard to train a dog in my life.

    There were more than a few people who suggested I quit and get another dog or place her in a pet home. The problem was that I knew most pet owners would not be equipped to deal with her incredibly tricky and, at times, disagreeable temperament. It wasn’t until this past year that I considered giving up. She would just sit at the startline staring and not move when I released her or she would run the fence looking for a way out. Then, there were the contact issues. Her A frame was decent and her dog walk was at times brilliant and at other times dismal. Her teeter would go from a Border Collie slide to a NO GO! NO WAY JOSE!

    I think I have retrained the teeter from the ground up more than a dozen times. I would get her sliding and looking GREAT, then some little itty bitty thing would go wrong and she would refuse to have anything to do with it. I would go from higher than a kite to lower than a snake’s belly! Every time she quit, my incredible instructor and friend, Stacy Winkler, would talk me off the ledge and suggest ways to fix it. I would work even harder. Sometimes I would get out there in the early morning in my bathrobe and flip flops with her food dish doing teeters. It always got better until something happened to scare her and we would be back at square one again.

    Last summer I learned at an AKC B Match (I wish ALL trials would hold B matches at night after trials!!!! They are invaluable!) that if she saw her sister Barque do the teeter at a strange place, then it was OK for her to do it. Sir Cussalot and I would pay for our runs and I would have Pankies in the ring watching Barque do the teeter, then we would do it. That helped, but when she was on her own in competition, the fear would override all else.

    Even though she has her MXJ a few times over, we had never entered a standard class until a couple of weeks ago. Sir C was bugging me to try, so I caved in and agreed. I had entered her in some FAST classes a few times. She did her teeter once but refused to do it after that. That seemed to be her MO. For some reason, she hates the teeter at trials. She slides her own and will do others well if Barque does them first but once she sees the teeter is different, NO WAY!

    This weekend was a bad chemo week for me. I had three hours in the hospital and went home with my chemo pump for two days. Sir C unhooked the pump from my port on Wednesday and I drove to the trial Thursday. It was tough. I felt like crap!

    On Friday morning we had FAST. Pankies was AMAZING! Her A frame was pretty good. We had a miscommunication going to the send but we recouped and she nailed it! The problem was that I was still reacting very badly to cold and it was FREEZING up on the hill at the City of Industry trial site. I wrapped up in a scarf my friend Carol gave me and wore my gloves, but sucking that cold air caused my throat, windpipe and lungs to seize up. The only way I can describe what happens is to relate it to a shock collar. If you have ever touched one, that is how it feels. It starts in my fingers. They tingle as if the collar were on the lowest setting. The same happens to my mouth and nose. My sinuses burn like hell. As the exposure to the cold goes on, the tingles gets worse. The shock collar goes from a 1 to a 4 to a 10! By the time it gets to a 10, my muscles begin to cramp and freeze up. After that, everything starts running and I mean RUNNING! My eyes, nose and mouth all water like crazy. Then the sneezing starts. Add terribly annoying weakness and fatigue to the mix and you get the chemo picture.

    Now, imagine this happening in the middle of a run. That is exactly what happened to me Friday morning. About half way through the run, I felt it escalating and just prayed I could get through it and finish the run. Then, as Pankies approached the teeter, everything froze. I couldn’t breathe! I felt like a three hundred pounder with asthma running up a five mile hill with no inhaler! Then the wheezing began. It got louder and louder. I knew it would scare Pankies as she was approaching the teeter. I tried hard not to breathe but my body was demanding I at least try. Much as I tried to stay quiet, the wheeze took over.

    Pankies approached the teeter cautiously, but did it very nicely! I tried to tell her good girl but the words just sounded like jumbled wheezing. I sent her to the backside of the next jump and headed out. By now I think people could hear me wheezing in the next county. It was embarrassing. Pankies was so freaked out I couldn’t catch her to put on her leash. She looked at me like I was a three headed alien going to eat her.  Finally I asked her to sit and she did. I buckled her collar and out we went.

    By now, I was not only wheezing but liquid was flowing from every orifice on my face. My eyes were pouring tears, my nose was running like Niagara Falls and I was drooling like a starving dog at the dinner table! A woman was sitting outside the ring as I exited. The look of horror on her face said it all. I knew I had to look and sound pretty dang bad. I thought I might drop dead right there. But what a way to go.

    Good thing I don’t wear makeup or I would have looked like that infamous photo of Tammy Faye Bakker! For those too young to remember that photo, I am so sorry you missed that classic.

    BEtter TF

    I hung out at the wall outside the ring until I could breathe again without sounding like a broken radiator, then I slowly worked my way back to the set up to collapse.

    I was supposed to run two more times but I couldn’t. I asked Sir C to try and I struggled up the hill of the parking lot to the Global Warmer. I took off my shoes and climbed into bed and dozed off to sleep.

    Pankies wanted her Gramma. She ran OK for Sir C, but they struggled in jumpers and she wouldn’t do her teeter or her A frame in her novice standard class. She is Gramma’s girl through and through.

    Back to the drawing board. The dog will be 12 before she ever gets into Master standard!

    The next day I felt slightly better. Everything still tingled in the cold. A friend gave me chemical hand warmers and they were a miracle! I never would have made it through the day without them. We started with Time 2 Beat. There were two A frames – no teeter. She did well and qualified!

    We Qed in jumpers but she took the scenic route twice; once out of the tunnel and once when she went the wrong way on a 180. It was pretty dang funny. She did a figure eight around the 180 but we still managed to hang on for the world’s ugliest Q!

    Standard started out amazingly! She was flying. Her A frame was pretty good. Her dog walk was awesome. Then we came to the teeter. NO WAY! The judge was very close and walking towards her. I think that didn’t help much. I gave it a few tries, then decided to cut my losses and leave in shame.

    Sunday started off with Time 2 Beat. I debated whether or not to run her if there was a teeter. I walked the course and figured we would go for it. She was very versited. It was early and she was as fresh as a fit race horse on a cold windy morning! She got up at the start. I should have expected it because she was scooting at the start the day before. I told her to sit but she just glared at me. I took my chances and led out (I really need to be careful about the hill on which I choose to die with her). She stayed put. I will deal with that this week.

    It was three straight jumps to a tunnel. I pulled her to the near end but neglected to release her in time. She danced around waiting for further instruction. Once given the tunnel cue, in she went. Then it was up over the A frame and around to the weaves followed by a big loop to the teeter. I sent her to the weaves and took off waddling towards the teeter. I had not planned to do a front cross in front of the teeter but I had plenty of time and went for it. By the time Pankies came around to the teeter, she didn’t have time to think about it. She was too busy trying to figure what the heck I was doing. She was up and over the teeter before she knew what hit her. I was so proud of my Pankies! Then we were home free.

    We also Qed in jumpers. Our time was not great though. It was a runner’s course and I AIN’T NO RUNNER! I had to call audibles from afar but she got all of them! We had wide turns to go along with her questioning choices, but we made it all the way through.

    So now I will try to get her on as many strange teeters as I can find. She is not a dog that generalizes well but I do think I see a tiny light at the end of the teeter.

    We packed up and headed home. I went for Stuporboawl vegan Pizza and all was well.

    All in all a pretty dang great weekend.


    Posted by: jility | January 17, 2014

    Helen 2 – Chemo 1

    The first two chemotherapy treatments I had were tough but not nearly as bad as they are for some I guess. The latest one, however, really kicked my A$$!

    It was well before the buttcrack of dawn when the alarm sounded. Sir Cussalot jumped out of bed and pulled on his clothes. I lay there, dreading the next 72 hours.  I pulled the covers up around my neck, closed my eyes and hoped the whole thing was just a bad dream. Perhaps the anticipation was worse than the actual happenings would be.


    We drove most of the way to Norris Cancer Center in silence. I now know how my dogs feel going to the vet. I turned on the radio to Kiss FM and listened to Ryan Seacrest and the hip hop music he plays. Sir Cussalot hates the pop music I love, especially when they rap. He prefers the oldies (I mean the REALLY REALLY OLDIES). Other than hip hop, I love the Great American Standards (Frankie and gang type stuff) and the forties music as well.

    Sir C always complains that current pop artists ruin good songs by putting that $#!TTY rap in there. I don’t mind the rap, really, especially if it is Pitbull’s stuff. I love him, but I do get Sir C’s point. Some of the songs are going along with a lovely melody and just when you are grooving out to the mellowness, some gangsta like person comes on and jerks you back to reality doin his THANG and ruins the moment. At least it all sorta took my mind off the reason for the early morning trek to LA.


    Traffic was a lot heavier than the last time we went. Schools were still out then and many workplaces were still off. With the Christmas holidays long gone, everything was back in full swing. It would be a lot worse if we left at six instead of five in the morning!

    Sir Cussalot used to drive in bumper to bumper traffic back in the early 1970s from Pomona to Canoga Park. Theoretically, that drive should take an hour. In rush hour, it usually took him two to three hours, depending on whether or not, in his words, “Some inconsiderate A$$#%!E wrecked.” He did that commute for many years back when he was an engineer designing satellite trackers. He said he had each foot of the freeway figure out as to when to change lanes. He drove as if that were still true but as soon as he would switch lanes, everyone else would also switch and that lane would slow! I figure just stay in the same freakin lane and deal with it! At seventy-six he still drives like he is in his twenties.

    We arrived at the parking garage off Biggy Street about seven. My stomach was churning pretty good at this point. We parked on the seventh floor. Sir Cussalot stayed behind to feed Isabella and Crush and I exited the Stinkmobile and walked towards the elevators.

    One of the two elevators was out of order. I pushed the button for the other one but it never came. Being the impatient patient I am, I chose to walk down the four flights of stairs to level three where the ramps takes you to Norris. Not thinking that it has been an eternity since I have done stairs, I didn’t give it a thought. It was no big deal then. I got to the ramp and made my way to check in at the front desk.

    No line! YEAH! I checked in and walked down to the Day Hospital for my blood draw. It doesn’t open until 7:30 so I stood outside the door waiting for Sir C to join me. Once he showed up, we walked to the waiting room to sit until it opened.

    The blood draw went fine. Last time it hurt like hell when they poked into the port in my chest. This time I barely felt anything. That must have been part of my anticipatory anxiety because I stopped feeling as nauseated after that. I was down to just a little queasy.

    Next stop Dr. Lenz for a checkup and then back to the Day Hospital for more F#@K!^G chemo.

    Dr. Lenz was in great form as usual.

    “Well, look vat za cat dragged in,” he said with his thick German accent and boyish grin.

    He cracks me up. He can be a stern German and hysterically funny at the same time. He listened to my heart and lungs and checked for enlarged lymph nodes. He said all looked good. I asked him about the elevated TS values they found on my tumor. He told me proudly that his team discovered TS (here is a paper on it for anyone interested).

    It scares me some but I really need to not think about the negative and focus on the positive right now and continue eating an organic, vegan, clean diet free of oil, sugar and processed foods.

    I told him I felt a bit queasy but had been fine in the days leading up to that day. He threw back his head, laughed his loud laugh and poked me in the head.

    “It is all up zere! NOT FROM ZA CHEMO!!!” He bellowed with a smile. He went on to say in his excited high voice, “One voman saw pink ven she had chemo. Now every time she seez pink she vomits!” Then he threw back his head and roared in laughter. Then he got serious, lowered his voice and poked my head a few more times, “Zis is all in your head. It is too long after for it to be from za chemo.”

    You gotta love this guy! I sure do!

    He came very close and looked deeply into my eyes and got very serious.

    He gently took hold of the front of my shirt with one hand and tapped me gently on the leg with his other and said quietly, “Look, you vill NOT get sicker zan you already have.” Then he got louder, “NOT MORE SICK! I TELL YOU! VUT YOU HAVE FELT VILL NOT GET VERSE!!!”

    I got it!

    I asked a few questions and he teased some more, then he left.

    “See you in two weeks!” he yelled as the door shut behind him.

    “I guess we are done,” I said to Sir C.

    “Guess so,” he muttered.

    Back we walked to the Day Hospital. The Death March played in my head and my nausea got worse. I could hear Dr. Lenz’ voice in my head playing over and over again, “Zis is all in your head…”

    We waited for nearly an hour this time. I think they forgot about me. Finally I went up to the desk to remind them I was there. They said they were just waiting for the pharmacy to send over my poison (my words not theirs). Eventually they called my name and took me back to a bed. I settled in and Sir Cussalot went in search of vegan food (a real rarity in those parts). I was starving.

    It has been four days since my treatment and I am still getting urpy writing about this! I like to get it down before I forget the details but I may have to hold off a few more days next time.

    Finally I was hooked up to the poisonous crap that is, hopefully, going to kill any remaining cancer cells if any. Sir C and I often talk that someday chemo will be looked upon like blood sucking leaches that were once used for curing patients. Chemo is a barbaric and crude treatment at best, but all science really has at the moment.

    Some time later, Sir C returned with a sandwich for us to share. “Mock tuna,” he mumbled. Then he opened the package and handed one half to me and he kept the other for himself. He also had spring rolls but I couldn’t eat that.

    I enjoyed the mock tuna but that “pink” association would later bite me in my big not-as-fat-as-it-used-to-be A$$. At my first chemo treatment, he found some wonderful vegan sushi and inari. Now, inari was once my absolute favorite! Sadly, now that it in the “pink” category, I want to hurl just typing this! File mock tuna in thst same pink category. I have smelled that crap all week and never want to see another mock tuna sandwich as long as I live! Even after showering I STILL smell that DANG CRAP! GROSS!!!!! Proof reading this was even worse than writing about it. Sir Cussalot suggested he bring in some movie popcorn for me to eat while getting chemo! PURE BRILLIANCE! I would never want that crap again as long as I live!

    The odd thing is that I am not sick to my stomach when I am eating those things, but the association with chemo is enough to cause a HUGE aversion!

    Talk about classical conditioning! It has given me a much deeper understanding of dog training and how I created an aversion to toys in my early training of Pankies! When I should have been letting her find comfort in her environment and with the process, I was running around like a wild woman trying to get her to engage in tugging! LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!! She not only learned to hate tugging, she associated it with agility or any training and learned to hate those things as well! Once I pulled my head out of my A$$ and offered her what SHE wanted and not what I thought she SHOULD want, our training soared to new heights! But that is for a different blog or my book about her and not my digression here.

    When the Oxaliplatin was finished, the nurse hooked up my mobile chemo pump. She handed Sir C the things he would need to unhook my in two days and we were outta there!

    I knew I had only a few good hours left before I hit the chemo wall. I talked on my phone to some friend on the way home because I knew I would not be able to communicate from Monday evening until Thursday or Friday that week. Most people leave me alone during that time and just let me hibernate and be sick. Once I start to come out of it, I am able to answer emails, texts and talk on the phone again. Only a couple of folks call me during my down time: one being my friend Uncle Jef. I don’t mind when he calls because he doesn’t talk long and he always says something incredibly rude, insensitive or politically incorrect that makes me laugh. Although he has given up agility, we are still close friends. I am grateful for that because nobody can poke fun at me or make me laugh at myself the way he can. I love to laugh at myself or anything else for that matter. I sure miss him at agility trials. We always tented together and I would often be brought to tears and the inability to speak I was laughing so hard. He is very selfish for abandoning agility. Sir Cussalot also enjoyed Uncle Jef’s humor. Jef would often say things about me that Sir C knew better than to say. That would make Sir C belly laugh. I miss that.

    The wall of chemo flame struck about 3:30 that afternoon. That was a little earlier than usual. I tried to stay up for an hour or so more but it kept getting worse and worse. Finally, I told Sir C I needed to go to bed. Once I got up, however, I realized how sick I really was.

    I nearly fell over and held on to things on my way to the bedroom. I asked Sir C to help me. As I stood helplessly trying to undress myself, it all hit me at once. My eyes were spewing liquid, my sinuses were on overdrive and gushing like Niagara Falls and I couldn’t stop coughing. There I was, weak, sick, hunched over, crap spewing out of every orifice in my fat face and unable to undress myself. While Sir C tried to get me to bed, I felt completely useless and burst into tears, which made the flood waters even heavier! Sir C chuckled and just said, “Poor Gramma.” That made me laugh. So I laughed and cried as we struggled to get me to bed so I could crash for the next three days.

    I turned on the heating bad, pulled on some warm gloves for my tingling and cramping hand, bundled up with covers and whimpered myself to sleep.

    I honestly don’t know how Sir Cussalot resisted taking me right then and there! I was such a sexy mass of blubbering poison.

    Nothing could get me warm but I knew it was only a matter of a few more hours before I would be sweating like a boxer after lengthy match on a hot, humid day. Sure enough, about midnight, the heating pad was discarded, then the gloves, then the covers. The sweat began pouring from my body and every ounce of me hurt.


    I waited as long as I could to get up to go the bathroom, but finally decided I best be headed in that direction. The moment I stepped out of bed, I felt those four flights of stairs twisting at my calves! HOLY CRIPPLE BATMAN! I couldn’t walk! The lack of use in my calf muscles, coupled with the cramps from the chemo was a lethal combination! You see my calves are another place I always feel the chemo, even when I didn’t walk down a bunch of stairs.

    There I stood, one hand on the bathroom counter and one of the opposite wall for support (one good thing about the small spaces in an RV). I was frozen! I couldn’t go forward nor could I go in reverse. I HAD to get to that bathroom and QUICK! Well, that just wasn’t going to happen. Finally, I took the band-aide approach and went for it. The pain was EXCRUCIATING! I screamed and groaned and whimpered but I made it! I sat for a while, trying to muster the strength to get myself back to bed. How I did that is beyond me but I did.

    All in all, this third round of chemo was by far the worst. Or was it? Could it be all in my mind? I still smell that crappy mock tuna even though I am showered and long away from it! The power of suggestion is pretty dang powerful indeed!

    Here’s hoping the next round is not as bad and I manage to make it through all nine remaining treatments.

    This weekend I will attempt to run Pankies. She has been my loyal companion and nurse throughout my ordeal and I adore her so much. I am so sorry for trying to make her into something she was not early on in her training, but we are on track now. Even though I messed her up, she still loves me with all her heart. Knowing I am loved is more important than anything else on the planet.

    Posted by: jility | January 7, 2014

    In the New Old Fashioned Way!

    In dog training, especially agility, some folks love claiming that they invented certain training and/or handling techniques. I think agility was invented by Adam and Eve. Cain probably blamed his dog for his own lack of good training. I bet he carried his dog out of the ring every time something went wrong. He probably killed Abel because Abel, being the good guy, mentioned to him that perhaps his dog kept messing up because Cain’s training and/or handling sucked.

    Every time somebody carries their dog out of the ring for messing up, or gets pissed at their dog and marches them off, all I can think of is how they are bringing attention to themselves for their crappy training and/or handling. Don’t they know that our dogs are honest, loving creatures that do only what they have been taught by us? Our dogs deserve better!


    But I digress.

    Anyway, the “new” handling maneuvers so often seen in the ring today were around when I started agility in 2000. I remember practicing blind crosses until I was blue in the face. I also remember the “flip” turn which is now called the K turn or the J turn depending on whose camp you are in or how you execute the turn. I can accomplish the same thing using a post turn and not lose my connection with my dog! It doesn’t look as fancy but whatever. I used big off arms to turn my dog away from me and I layered everything I could. I tried to lead my dog around by the nose but, being a slow a$$, all I did was teach my dog to run as fast as I did.

    It took me years to UNLEARN the crap I learned in the beginning. I remember way back when, the first time I was told that blind crosses were OUT! I was flabbergasted! I had worked so hard to perfect mine! I was told that my dog might duck behind my back when I least expected it on course. I sure see that happening now with the reinvention of the blind cross!

    I also remember being told that using my off arm to turn my dog was confusing to the dog. Brining up that arm might look the same to the dog as the beginning of a front cross or a cue to go on straight ahead. That made sense to me. But it was when my first agility dog cut in front of me because I put up the arm next to her to tell her to go straight that I really understood. Regardless of what I thought I had taught her, SHE had learned that my left arm up meant turn right and my right arm up meant turn left and that is exactly what she did. I nearly tripped over her as she darted in front of me. However, the off arm move was so ingrained in my handling, I found myself bringing up that off arm for years after I “saw the light.”

    I was told by many instructors in camps, seminars and privately that we needed “rules” to follow so our handling was clear to the dog. One cue needed to mean one behavior. The list of things went on and one and on. My head was spinning at time when I was first learning that new way of handling.

    So now I see some of those same instructors who once told me I would go to HELL for blind crossing or using the off arm or any of the other old style handling moves I was taught fourteen years ago, using those same moves they once said were evil! I am not sure how I feel about throwing all that money at them for years and following blindly down their path of  self-righteous handling, only to now see them going in a completely different direction! Were they wrong then or are they wrong now?  They used to make fun of all those folks using the same moves they are now using themselves and now they make fun of that very system that served them so well for so many years. I honestly think I feel betrayed by them!

    I LOVE having guidelines in my handling. I use a lot of distance on course because I can’t move. I am old, overweight, had polio as a child, post polio later in life and am now going through chemotherapy for cancer. I love the Greg Derrett system of handling because I never have to pick from the many moves o’day when it comes to my handling choices. I love being able to walk out on a course and know immediately how I am going to handle it! I love his meat and potatoes approach to handling. It is nothing fancy. People don’t watch and go “OOOOH!!!” or “AHHHH!!!” because there are no fancy behind your back, over the shoulder, run low to the ground, do a somersault then cartwheel moves in his system. It is just straight forward handling and I love it. Sure, I wish I could run but I can’t. I have to rely on my dog training ability and a good handling system that doesn’t require me to be in my dog’s face constantly.

    Below is another run I did five days after a chemo treatment. I was very sick but figured I would feel a lot better running my dog than sitting around feeling like crap.

    How does seventy-six year old Sir Cussalot with bad knees, old legs and a bad back get a very fast BC with running contacts around without being able to run fast and get in her face to lead her around by the nose?

    Very well with the handling system we have come to know and love.

    So, for now, even though we are a dying and nearly extinct breed of handlers,  I will just stick with what I know best and let the other people entertain me with the latest and greatest moves that were first invented so long ago . I think it is awesome that so many want to try new things. All the power to them! Those agility handlers teaching all those “new” moves are entitled to make a good living giving seminars. For me, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I tell people who try to get me to put more tools in my handling toolbox that a jeweler doesn’t need a crowbar ;). I am perfectly happy being placed on the  endangered handler species list.

    There is a great quote from Albert Einstein that my friends Bob and Carol told me yesterday “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” I love that quote! I think it applies to all things agility.


    After reading some of the comments regarding this blog, I thought I needed to clear up  few things:

    I am not defensive or bitter ;). I have NO idea where that came from! I guess some people are unable to understand my humor.

    I don’t give a hoot what other people do in their handling!

    The point of the blog was that those “new” handling moves are not new at all! They have been around FOREVER!

    As for my reluctance to change that was stated by some, I did change. I changed years ago AWAY from the “new” handling we see today to what Sir Cussalot and I are now using (and have for the past twelve years). If somebody can show me something that is actually NEW rather than recycled and renamed, I am more than willing to take a look! I am not interested in going backwards, however. The system we use works beautifully for fast, medium or slow speed dogs and/or handlers. I can walk around a course and follow the same principles as a fast runner.

    Some  mentioned that people in North America need to change handling styles because those Euro style courses are headed this way. Guess what? The HANDLING METHOD WE USE WAS DEVELOPED SPECIFICALLY FOR THOSE EURO STYLE COURSES! It has thoughtfully evolved and changed over the years along with the course changes.

    Finally, as I have stated in the blog AND here AND on Facebook AND elsewhere, I think everyone needs to use what works for them! I don’t care what anyone else does as long as they are nice to their dogs! I will continue using what works for me and, hopefully, will be able to do so without finger pointing and laughing  from fellow competitors:).

    Posted by: jility | December 31, 2013

    Because It Feels So Good When I Stop!

    The alarm sounded at 4 AM. I turned over with a groan and let the melody continue so I wouldn’t fall back to sleep. I knew if Sir Cussalot woke, he would be responsible enough to make me get up. He didn’t disappoint. I resented it but appreciated it at the same time. I just wanted to sleep. One of us must be the responsible one.

    It was a rough weekend on me physically. Everything hurt and I didn’t want to get out of my warm, snuggly bed.  I felt like a million bucks, but I overdid it. The muscles in my legs ached, but in a good way. They told me I had done something for a change. It has been a long time since I have done anything other than stroll around the yard. I had not planned to run a dog for a few more weeks, so I hadn’t made an effort to get into better shape. The only running I had done was to the refrigerator! I have gained about 15 pounds now since my lowest weight right after surgery to remove a cancerous three pound tumor from my colon back on October 29th. I am not worried about it though. I think with the six months of chemo, I will be OK with the extra poundage. I do need to get back to Dr. McDougall style eating though! I felt better and looked better when I stuck to it.

    It was our first weekend back to agility in more than three months. Crushie hadn’t run since July! She was having shoulder troubles in the same side as the tumor she had removed from her triceps last year. We did shock wave on her shoulder this fall and she spent several months on crate rest and leash walking only, during her treatments. At almost eight years old, her career is coming to an end and we want her to stay sound and healthy for many more years. However, without a job to do, Crushie is miserable, so we need to do our best to keep her sound and happy. A bored Crushie is a miserable Crushie! A miserable Crushie means misery for us and all the other dogs!

    Crushie is about one and a half to two seconds slower than she once was, but she still loves agility. It is difficult to see her run so much slower, but we need to remind ourselves that we are doing this for fun and not for bragging rights. Been there – done that! She is now just normal fast, not alien fast. In her prime and before her injury three and a half years ago (which happened running in the back yard), she was hard to beat. J That is no longer the case. Now it is about the joy on Crushie’s face after a run. God help her, she loves it so. We were very happy with her runs. It took a few for Sir C and Crush to get in sync, but they won Master Standard on Sunday. They had a wide turn to the weave but otherwise a great run!

    Sir Cussalot has been working all five dogs since I got sick. It is a lot of work! The plan was for him to run Pankies for me, along with all of his dogs. Even though she has trained well for him, I was apprehensive about her running for him. That messed up mind of hers is very fragile and Mel’s ring nerves are ever present. Pankies is used to be directed strictly by my voice. Sir C runs silently like a submerged sub trying to go unnoticed. They might not be a great fit. I hoped for the best.

    Their first run on Friday was Excellent FAST. They qualified and placed second! The timer wasn’t working so there was no buzzer. That put them 10 seconds behind the time or they would have won. She was stressed on the Aframe but otherwise ran well for him. However, she refused to tug with him so I knew it was only a matter of time before she had a meltdown in the ring. Her routine must be exact every single time before and after she steps in the ring or she can’t deal with it.

    The Master Jumper run was another story altogether. Her stress got the better of her, so she did a bunch of jumps for extra credit. When she stresses, she just runs around doing jumps and ignoring her handler. I decided that even though I was not supposed to run a dog for another few weeks, I would give it a try anyway.

    So, the next day, I asked her if she wanted to go running, jumpin and weavin with Gramma. She looked at me with great excitement! I got goose pimples thinking about running her. I gave her the stink eye. She returned it.

    Game on BITCHES!

    She flew out of the x-pen and grabbed her thick rope leash and began tugging like a fiend! I tried hard to only tug with my left arm only but it was difficult as she leaped around like a trapped gazelle. The port arm is off limits for now for tugging, or supposedly anyway. We tugged and leaped our way over to the ring. I warmed her up by doing tight turns in place, front crosses and directionals and sit stays with releases. It tunes her into me. I use all verbals to run her and that takes a LOT of practice and work so she will be able to process what I tell her in the heat of battle. We can’t do the practice jump or she stresses. I have no idea why.

    We have our routine down to a science. Right before we enter the ring, I ask her, “Are you ready?” She gives me the stink eye. I return the look and goose her butt. Then I tell her, “We’re next!” That means, the treats are gone and let the tugging begin! I tug her into the ring through the ring gate to make sure her mind is off her surroundings and other dogs and people. I tug her into position. My adrenalin is pumping. Her adrenalin is pumping. I can’t wipe the S#!T EATIN GRIN off my face! I ask her to sit, hope the airplane taking off overhead will clear out quickly. At least she no longer ducks and tries to bolt when they go overhead! The roar of the ascending plane is so loud I can’t hear the robotic, “GO.” I look toward the table but they are not looking at me. So I look to the judge and shrug. She gives me the thumbs up to go. I carefully toss Pankies leash to the side, being careful not to spook her (easily done!), while still holding onto her collar. I ask her if she is ready. More stink eye exchanges. That means, “LET THE BARKING BEGIN!” I had to teach her to bark in order to take her mind off all the things that go bump on the show grounds. It keeps her head in the game and on me and off all the scary monsters about to jump ut and get her at any given moment. I tell her, “EXCELLENT! GOOD! EXCELLENT!” as I take the long walk to my position for the lead out pivot.

    I set myself, take a deep breath, ask Pankies one more time if she is ready, then yell, “OTAY GO!” At this moment and until the end of the run, nothing hurts. For the next 26 blissful seconds I am free from the bondage of my crippled old body and pain. My heart sings and my soul soars. It doesn’t get any better than that! I have never had cancer or chemo or polio or anything else. It is just Pankies, the course and me. In my mind, Pankins is faster than Crushie and I am Flo Jo; smoke coming out of my shoes and the wind at my back! Nothing can touch us. We can never NQ. We are INVINCIBLE! After the run, Pankies, who is a million miles ahead of me, runs to her leash in the waiting chair, then looks back to see where the hell I am and runs back to me with a HUGE smile on her face! I tell her how wonderful she is and lean in to smack her behind. Of course she scoots and I miss but the game is still fun for both of us. We are both on a big A$$ adrenalin rush. Pankies is very proud of herself and I am very proud of her bravery!

    Later, I watch my video. Can you see the balloon flying around the room as it deflates? That is no balloon! That, my friends, is my wounded and deflating ego! <SIGH> OK, so we are slow and I run like I have hot potatoes in my shoes. WHATEVER! WE HAD A BLAST AND I AM LUCKY TO BE ALIVE AND DOING WHAT I LOVE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD! GOD I LOVE AGILITY AND PANKIES!

    We pulled out of the driveway at 4:45 the next morning. It was still pitch black but we needed to feed the diesel guzzling Stinkmobile/Extortion. She was broadcasting her hunger pangs through the low fuel dinger and we had a long drive to USC for my blood draw, ct scan results and chemo treatment. Back to my reality: a far cry from that 26 second run the day before! I was a million miles from my wonderful weekend of agility. I was just starting to feel AWESOME and it was time for another chemo torture. Such will be my life for the next six months.

    With many still on Christmas break, traffic was very light and we arrived at USC about 6:30. I signed in and they sent me to the blood draw room for my labs. I told them they were supposed to use my port but she explained she couldn’t. “Only the nurses can access ports for blood draws,” she explained. CRAP! The day hospital didn’t open for another half hour so I just figured I would let her get blood from my vein. I could see her eying a vein I knew wouldn’t give up anything. I told her don’t even bother trying to get something from that vein! I said,” Everyone tries but nobody is able to get blood from that one. Please try this other one.” Well, every time I say that, they take it as a FREAKING CHALLENGE! I SHOULD HAVE DEMANDED SHE USE A DIFFERENT VEIN. BUT I DIDN’T. <sigh> I can be a real DUMB A$$ AT TIMES!

    She poked and prodded and poked around. I said, “I think you need to try another.” She said, “No, I will get it.” Then she poked me more. It hurt like HELL! I finally said, “You need to move on now.” So she says, “Do you want me to pull out the needle?”

    WTF???? REALLY?

    So, then she tried the one I told her to use in the first place and got blood on the first try.

    I related the story to my doctor later and he said sternly in his thick German accent, “Why did you go to blood draw???? You were supposed to go to the day hospital! NEVER go to blood draw again! You are a smart woman! Why did you do that?”

    I said, “Because they told me to at the front desk check in.”

    He just looked at me in disbelief and shook his head. He started to say something but stopped and shook his head some more. I got the message loud and clear. I was a dummcopf! Sir C and I laughed. I love this guy! There is no guessing what he is thinking!

    He informed me that my ct scan was clear! YEAH!!!! I was relieved to say the least. They scanned my entire torso before my last chemo. He asked about my side effects from the chemo. I told him the sensitivity to cold sucked. I also told him about the cramping in my hands and jaw. He suggested taking four Tums when that happens. He said the chemo drug is trying to suck calcium from my body so feed it Tums and that will help.

    After seeing him, we walked to the day hospital for my chemo. I really didn’t want to give up how great I was feeling! I knew it was for the best though. Even though I was sore  from running Pankies and Barque, I felt like a million bucks and was about to feel like rat crap. I knew I would feel like rat crap for at least nine days; then by day fourteen I would start to really feel great just in time for more chemo. <another big fat SIGH>

    It really hurt when she pushed the needle into my port. I think I must be a big fat baby. I can’t wait to get rid of the port and the chemo! Two treatments down, ten to go.

    Chemo is like that old joke:

    Why do you bang your head against the wall?


    Because it feels so good when I stop!

    As I type, my hands are tingling and cramping, even with gloves. My lips are involuntarily pursing and my throat is objecting when I drink water and I am starting to feel very cold and achy. I want to finish this blog but it is difficult at best. I think I will go to bed and finish it tomorrow. I normally have four or five hours before the side effects start to kick in, but I think I have reached my limit.

    Fast forward next day when I drag myself out of bed to finish this blog.

    It was a horrible night! It started with my tasered and cramping hands, then I was so cold, no matter what I did I couldn’t get warm. I curled up in bed with a heating pad, gloves, many blankets and pillows piled all around me. Sir C turned up the heat but nothing helped. I fell asleep about six last night and woke up about midnight soaked from sweat. I removed my gloves, asked Sir C to turn down the heat (I am sure he really loves this as much as I do) and tried to cool off. The problem is if I get too cool, then the tasering and cramping starts all over again. Some of the other lovely things I experience are:

    Somebody sticking a knitting needle in my eye, stomach or leg. It seems to be random.

    The left side of my chest felt like I was having a heart attack but it was just muscle cramps.

    Every time I woke, my eyes were glued shut from gunk.

    The side effects feel like I have Dengue fever all over again. When Sir Cussalot and I were on one of our many trips to South or Central America (back before agility was discovered in our household so we still had money), we traveled to exotic places with Dr. John McDougall, his family and others. The McDougalls put on great vegan trips and we saw most of South and Central America. We floated down the Amazon River, took widow maker showers with water right from the Amazon and saw things that blew my mind. We took a train to Machu Picchu, climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu, SCUBA dove in the Galapagos Islands, and came face to face with an enormous sea lion that swam within an inch of my body and circled me up and down and blew bubbles at my mask, spent the night at Carnaval in Rio, saw where the scary drug lords live in Colombia, visited Mayan ruins in Guatemala (we had to have two jeeps with armed guards to keep away the bad robbers there) and so much more!


    Anyway, while on one of our trips, several folks got gravely ill. Some had to be airlifted to the hospital. One nearly died. We didn’t get sick until we got home,  but when we did, it was HORRIBLE! I had to crawl on my belly to go to the bathroom because I was too weak and sore to stand. I have never been so sick in all my life, except for now that is. The locals down there called it the “bone breaker flu.” It is also known as “breakbone fever” because you feel like all your bones are broken,  but the real name is Dengue fever! That is how I feel on chemo, like I have Dengue fever all over again. Every inch of my body hurts.

    The other day I was talking with my insurance company. I asked them how much my chemo cost. When she told me, I nearly fainted! $23,000 a treatment! That is $46,000 a FREAKING MONTH!!!! FOR SIX MONTHS!!!!! $276,000!!!! I could take that money and fly first class around the world several times and stay at five star hotels and have a much better time! The trouble is, I don’t think my insurance company would spring for that. I am thankful to God I have great insurance! I sure feel for those who don’t. Starting January 1st, that will change, but those of us who can afford it, will pay through the nose for those who can’t. I don’t know why medicine costs so much. I would love to know how much it costs to make my chemo drugs! OK, I am getting a bit too political for my liking.

    I should have gone to a veterinarian for treatment! It would have cost a fraction and my care would have been terrific. Unfortunately, I don’t think I would have fit in their crates.

    Now I am headed back to bed.

    Happy New Year everyone! May 2014 bring you joy and prosperity in every way you want!

    Posted by: jility | December 23, 2013

    A Shift in Consciousness

    All of my recent blogs have been about my colon cancer journey. I have described the procedures and side effects. What I haven’t done is write about the good things that have come from this ordeal.

    In some ways, my diagnosis was a gift, and it is the gift that keeps on giving – good and bad.

    My first chemo treatment ended nine days ago. Today I feel awesome. I have another treatment due in a week. I know I will feel like crap after that, but at least I had some time to recover.

    Today I got up about 7 AM, took a shower and headed out to beat the Christmas shopping rush. Normally, I HATE shopping! I hate shopping for me or anyone else. It is a pain in the A$$! Funny though, today I smiled through the entire process. It didn’t bother me one bit. I actually enjoyed it!

    The greatest gift I received from being told I have cancer? Not sweating the small stuff. I have plenty of big stuff if I want to stress.  I am lucky to be alive with a hopeful outcome. It could have been a lot worse. Sure, it could still go south, but if I dwell on that, I will lose out on enjoying what is happening now. What a waste that would be!

    Ever since I can remember, I have been a hypochondriac. Every pain, every sore throat, every cough or twinge and I was convinced I was going to die. Shortly after my diagnosis, I stopped worrying. I was at peace. It no longer worried me. I had been told the worst of my fears. Yes, it could have been worse and still could be, but it doesn’t matter. I let go and accepted how things are now rather than how they might be.

    It was a relief actually – a HUGE relief.

    Somehow, getting angry, frustrated or stressed by small things now seems so silly! Instead, I have learned to love my life and the small things I once took for granted, now make me smile.

    Rather than being upset by traffic, I am grateful I am able to drive. Rather than getting upset that my meal didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, I am grateful I can and want to eat. Rather than getting upset that my dog doesn’t perform a behavior the way I want, I am grateful I can work my dog at all.

    You get the picture. I am sad it took cancer to get me to appreciate life more and let go of stress. The Universe tried everything for the past 63 years to teach me that, but it took a cancerous 2×4 over my thick skull to get through to me. While I was sweating the small stuff,  great things passed by me unnoticed.

    On my way out of the mall, I spied a nail shop. It was about 9 AM and there was nobody in there but two manicurists. Why not – I thought. So I went in and had another manicure. This one turned out even better than my other one! Unfortunately, the photos don’t do it justice, but you get the gist. She painted snowflakes on four nails and placed a gold sparkle in the center of each one. What you can’t see in the photos is how sparkly my nails are. They are so festive! I LOVE THEM! They make me smile.

    Snowflakes this time

    Snowflakes this time

    Snowflake closeup

    Snowflake closeup

    That is what life has become for me. I try to smile as much as I can and let go of things that used to make me stress. I am grateful to be here and be able to experience so many wonderful things in my life.

    Merry Freaking Christmas!

    Posted by: jility | December 16, 2013

    5 F U

    “Now, you need to avoid cold.” My nurse said as she hooked up the IV to my newly installed and still aching chest port. She continued in her thick Jamaican accent, “Don’t open the refrigerator or freezer without gloves. Drink through a straw and do not use ice. Make sure everything you drink is room temperature or warm.”

    I asked her why.

    “Well,” she shrugged her shoulders and cocked her head noncommittally, pursed her lips and reluctantly went on, her Island roots quite obvious in her speech, “Some people feel uncomfortable with cold.”

    Being me, I pressed her for more information. “What do you mean by ‘uncomfortable’? How long will it last?”

    Again she shrugged and looked like she wanted to run away. She hemmed and hawed but never gave a straight answer. Finally, she said, “Everyone is different.”

    I got it. She didn’t want to put ideas in my head or to cloud my thinking about the drugs I was getting  to kill any cancer that may be lurking inside, just waiting for that opportune moment to expand and grow.

    I have always thought it was stupid when viruses or other diseases kill their host. That is very short sighted of them. It reminds me of the fable about the frog and the scorpion.

      A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the

    scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The

    frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion

    says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

       The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,

    the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of

    paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,

    but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

                             Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”

    Once the IV was firmly in place and covered in the clear tape window, the saline solution began to drip. It always burns when it first enters my body. The nurse explained that I had to lie there and wait for the USC Norris Cancer Center Day Hospital pharmacy to formulate my chemotherapy drugs. I was to receive three different drugs:

    1. Oxaliplatin
    2. Leucovorin
    3. 5-FU (the big gun used for my specific colon cancer)

    Each drug is given separately but the 5-FU goes in last and is delivered by a pump I wear in a fanny pack for 46 hours.

    Once the first drug, Oxaliplatin, was hooked up to my IV, Sir Cussalot went in search of some food. I was starving!

    He was gone a while and returned with a huge score! VEGAN SUSHI and INARI ROLLS!!! YUM!


    I greedily gobbled both with great gusto and gratitude.

    While we were eating our sushi and inari, my nurse came over and place a life sized bust on my table. She wanted to demonstrate how to remove the needle from my port once the pump was finished. This was the part that really made me nervous. Now, as much as I love him, Sir C is more like Lenny from The Grapes of Wrath than a neurosurgeon with a delicate touch. To say he is a bull in a china shop would be an understatement.  He is extremely intelligent and capable of many things. Finesse or patience, however, are not his strong suits.


    My nurse carefully demonstrated how to remove the needle correctly. There was a butterfly thing you had to squeeze to release the needle, then pull straight back. Sounded easy enough. Sir Cussalot grasped the demo needle and perfectly demonstrated his ability to do the job.

    I felt some relief.

    That, however, was short lived!

    Next she pulled out two ginormous syringes.  She explained in her soft voice that one was filled with saline to flush the port and the other was filled with heparin, a blood thinner to keep clots from forming in the apparatus. THOSE THINGS SCARED ME! I could see Sir C pushing down so hard on the plungers that my vein exploded or the port went flying around the room! YIKES! BEWWY BEWWY SKAWWY!

    The volunteer came around asking what the chemo patients would like for lunch. Still not full, I asked her if there was a possibility to find a vegan meal. The well-dressed lderly woman smiled and said, “Sometimes they send over vegan sandwiches. I will check for you.”

    I lay in the bed trying to read while listening to the man in the next bed snoring loudly. Sir Cussalot worked on his laptop. Not much time passed when the volunteer returned. With a twinkle in her eye she said, “They sent ONE vegan wrap! I snagged it for you.”

    “THANK YOU!” I exclaimed happily surprised!

    It was a nice looking hummus wrap in a spinach tortilla. I gave half to Sir C and enjoyed the rest of my meal.

    Since my surgery, I am a bottomless pit. However, I have been very good about sticking to oil free, sugar free, whole vegan foods, so my weight has been dropping slowly. Last week I was naughty and ate out a few times and gained about eight pounds. As soon as I go back to eating my McDougall type foods, I lose it right away. I am trying hard to avoid all sugar. My downfall is not sugar so that is not very difficult. My food pitfalls are fat and salt. I love greasy things covered in salt! Those ribbon chips you get at the fair call me in my dreams!

    Not long after we finished out second lunch, our friends Greg and Roger walked in carrying a magnificent bouquet of two dozen pink roses! I was so happy to see them! They are two of the nicest and most supportive people I have ever known. I am always happy to see them! I am blessed and honored to call them my friends.


    We talked and laughed and those three hours of chemo passed like lightening. When the final drop entered my IV and the alarm sounded to tell the nurse it was done pumping cancer killing poison into my body, I was SOOOOO ready to go home! The nurse explained that we had to wait for the pharmacist to talk to us. That seemed to take forever!

    Finally, he entered my bed area with fanny pack and 5-FU pump in hand. While the nurse attached it to my IV, he explained how it worked and the side effects I might experience.

    I heard, “BLAH BLAH BLAH tingling. BLAH BLAH BLAH nausea. BLAH BLAH BLAH antinausea medicine. BLAH BLAH BLAH…”

    He explained that people who get car sick or sea sick, usually have a harder time than those who do not. F#@K ME! I suffer from both, especially sea sickness! I told him my seasickness was easily controlled with Meclizine, and asked if I could take that instead of the heavy hitter prescription drug. He said to try it. If it didn’t work I could add the other.

    He also said that MOST of the time, the neuropathy I might experience in my hands and feet would go away after treatment stops. However, he went on, sometimes it never goes away.

    FREAKING AWESOME! I already have balance issues!

    Even though I react poorly to just about every drug known to mankind, I am convinced I am going to do GREAT with this crap!

    When the frightening speech was over, he handed me his card and said to call anytime with questions. I got out of bed and the four of us headed out to a vegetarian eatery.

    I grabbed my lovely roses and we all walked out of the hospital. Sir C and I, parked in the covered garage so Isabella and Crush wouldn’t overheat, went one way and Greg and Roger the other. We would meet up at the restaurant.

    After a few steps outside, I noticed that the hand holding the roses began to tingle. I switched hands. The new holding hand also began to tingle. I kept switching back and forth until we got to the Stinkmobile. I didn’t think much about it.

    The first thing I did at the restaurant was take a sip from my ice water. WTF????? Oh yeah, what part of AVOID COLD AND NO ICE WATER DID I NOT UNDERSTAND???? DUMB A$$! My lips tingled, my throat tingled and my tongue began to cramp. My esophagus felt very strange.

    I asked for water without ice.

    When I took my first bite of food, my salivary glands felt like somebody was sticking needles into them! THEY HURT LIKE HELL!!!!! Once the initial rush of pain passed, I was able to finish my meal painfree.

    We finished our food, said our good-byes and headed home.

    The dogs were very happy to see us finally return. They wanted us to go play with them and didn’t want to come back inside so we left the door of the Global Warmer open. My chair is very near the door and the warm California day had turned into a chilly California evening. The colder I got, the more my hands tingled. At one point, I could no longer type or hold the computer mouse. My hands were now in spasms and cramping so much they were closed tightly and I couldn’t open them! I felt like a claw plugged lobster! It was very scary. I decided to call USC.

    They told me to put on gloves or mittens and go to bed and get warm!

    I got up and headed towards the bedroom. Now my legs began to tingle. My lips joined in and began to cramp and spasm. It was the strangest bodily experience I have ever had!

    I found my heavy winter gloves, bundled up and climbed into bed with a heating pad. It took a while, but pretty soon, the spasms stopped and finally the tingling also went away.

    Once warm, I began to experience the opposite. Now I was having hot flashing wherever I was warm. It seems the Oxaliplatin demands a constant body temperature of 98.6 or it would really let you know about it!

    NOW I got what my Jamaican nurse actually meant by “uncomfortable!” MISERABLE!!!

    Every so often I would yell out to Sir Cussalot another weird side effect I was feeling. He is so sick of this whole process. Even though he is trying harder than I have ever seen him try, sometimes he just can’t help himself. After about the billionth new side effect discovery I yelled out, he said, “I don’t know why you are so surprised! They told you a bunch of weird shit was going to happen!” Clearly I needed to keep my experiences to myself for a while. He was on overload.

    Every sense and every sensation was heightened to an “uncomfortable” degree. Blessed (or cursed as is sometimes the case) with a super sense of smell, that too was heightened even beyond my normal doglike smeller! I could enter myself in a nosework 3 trial and win!

    So far no nausea, so that was a big fat plus!

    I felt like I was getting the flu. I had no energy and only wanted to lie in bed and watch HGTV. Poor Sir Cussalot was on his own, AGAIN. I feel so bad about the fact that he has to do everything around here. I wish I could do something for him. Unfortunately, spending money on him would make him sad. The only thing that would make him happy at this point would be to win the lottery. FAT CHANCE OF THAT HAPPENING!

    Sir C wanted me to get out of bed, so he offered to take me for a drive by a place for sale. I felt like SH!T but I dragged myself out of bed, pulled on my pants and put a sweatshirt over my head. I didn’t even remove my nightgown. I just pulled it up out of sight and tucked it under my sweatshirt. I looked lovely with my hair a mess, my 5-FU pump sticking out in front of my belly, my sticky hospital socks on my feet in my sandals and my nightshirt hanging down in the back. I am shocked Sir C didn’t want to jump my bones right then and there! I was dripping in cancer/chemo CHIC!

    I did still have my lovely painted nails and toes. I am sure that made up for all the rest.

    As soon as we returned, I climbed back in bed and fell asleep.

    The next day was pump removal day. I dreaded it! I felt a little queasy, so I took a couple of Meclizine tablets. They helped.

    I made myself get out of bed and sit at my computer. About 10:30 the pump began to beep at me. Sir C came over to my chair with his syringes. I heard horror music in my head as he approached.

    He disconnected my 5-FU, alcoholed the end of the thingy where he would put the syringes and attached the saline to the thingy. He began by pushing much too fast! I knew that would be a problem. I started yelling, “SLOW DOWN!!!SLOW DOWN!!!” I had to repeat myself about four or five times before I got him down to a speed that made me comfortable. He does everything fast ;).

    That finished, he then alcoholed the thingy again and attached the heparin. His speed was good and he finished the process to my great relief and no screaming to slow down.

    Next he had to remove the needle. We removed the tape. I carefully removed the clear sticky window that held the needle in place. Not that I didn’t trust him to do it or anything ;).

    We saw the butterfly tabs he was supposed to press together but they were yellow instead of red and looked very different than the model she showed us in the hospital! He pressed the wing tabs together but nothing happened! They were supposed to flare but they didn’t. Obviously, it was a different apparatus than the one on which he practiced! YIKES! F#@K ME!!! Now I was very scared. He pressed and pulled and pressed and pulled but the needle wouldn’t budge! IT HURT and I was beginning to panic!!!! I had visions of blood spurting all over the place like that old Saturday Night Live skit with Dan Aykroyd as Julia Childs!

    I told him I wanted to go to the ER or the Urgent Care down the street. He kept fumbling with it. I continued to protest and was about to head out to have a pro remove it when he said, “I think I’ve got it.” Before I could tell him to stop yet one more time, he pressed his fingers on the tabs that were against my chest and pulled out the needle.

    My relief was beyond words. He went from zero to hero. I hugged him and thanked him. He grinned.

    Still feeling like I had the flu, I crawled back in bed and bundled up to more HGTV.

    The next day was an early one. We were supposed to go to Stacy’s, a forty-five minute drive, for a four and a half hour seminar, beginning at 9 AM. I dragged  myself out of bed and headed to the shower. After which I had to lie down to rest. How pathetic I have become! There was a time when I could work dogs all day in a week long seminar without even a hiccup or heavy breathing! Now I can’t even take a shower without being exhausted! I HATE CANCER! IT SUCKS!

    The seminar was awesome and I made it through the whole thing without too much trouble! Even though it was almost 80 degrees, I sat in the shade and wore heavy gloves and a coat. It was so great to see Stacy and her students again. They are such a fabulous group!

    The tingling was not quite as bad, but still there if I got cold. The worst thing, though, is taking that first bit of food and having my salivary glands hurt like a YOU KNOW WHAT when they first go to work!

    The seminar was terrific! Stacy made some fabulous vegan soup and carrot bread she sent home with us. She is so thoughtful!

    When we got home, Sir C’s AMAZING daughter, Les, sent me a text saying she had made her dad’s favorite meal and it was all in our fridge. INCREDIBLE! He didn’t have to cook! She made mashed potatoes, gravy and tofu loaf. For desert she made a fabulous blood orange carrot cake with icing! Sir Cussalot LOVES sweets so he will have something nice to eat for several days. We were both SOOOO appreciative of Stacy and Les. Normally, I do all the cooking. Unfortunately, Sir C has had to take over for the past month and a half. There have been a few days I felt well enough to cook, but those days are rare. Dinner was amazing.

    Today, Monday, was the first day since Thursday’s chemo and my 5 FU disconnect on Saturday that I felt like getting up and doing something. I feel pretty dang good today too. It has been a week since the port was installed. It still aches just a bit occasionally, but not bad at all. My next chemo is the Monday after Christmas, so I have two weeks to enjoy the simple things I one took for granted. For one, I can now sleep on my right side because the pain from my port is almost gone! Little victories!

    As my brother recently told me, I need to stop whining and take it like a trooper. So true.

    5 F U Cancer!

    Posted by: jility | December 10, 2013

    Port in a Storm

    It was still pitch black outside as I walked up the driveway to open the gate for the Stinkmobile to exit. The steam coming from my mouth as I breathed reminded me how cold it was for Southern California. The stars twinkled brightly overhead and I made a wish on all of them.

    The phone alarm did its melodic wakening at 4 that morning. We had to take care of the dogs, get dressed and be out the door before 5 AM. I hate getting up early! Somebody once asked me if I was a morning person or a night person. I thought about it and answered, “Well, I hate getting up early. I am useless after 5 PM. I go to bed between 9 and 10 PM. So, I guess I am a late morning, early afternoon person.”

    The drive to USC Norris Cancer Center took about two hours with traffic. It should have taken an hour and twenty minutes with no traffic. It could have been a lot worse! Traffic really wasn’t all that bad for early morning LA.

    We parked in the garage off Biggy Street and walked over to the Norris Cancer Center. We always take Isabella and Crushie with us when we go for any length of time. Isabella is almost fourteen and can no longer get in or out of the Global Warmer on her own. Crushie is just a trouble maker and needs a sitter. The rest of the pack stay in the GW and we leave the door open so they can come and go as needed. It is a big ass doggie door.

    Before I left, I scattered Easter biscuits to keep them busy, pulled the curtain shut across the top of the door and headed out for my day of torture.

    It all started at 7 AM with a blood draw for evaluation. No longer anemic! YEAH!!!! Iron normal YEAH!!!!! Red blood cells beginning to mature nicely YEAH!!!! All but two things back to normal. That is great news as some were WAY out of whack!

    Next stop a walk to the HCC2 building (that is what it is called) for surgery to implant a port in my chest for ease of chemo delivery and blood draws. My veins are tiny and difficult to get. Even using baby needles is of no help. The good ones get the blood easily, but hackers end up doing just that! I come home looking like I was in a sledge hammer fight without a hammer! I had one guy in Washington pulling the needle back and forth in my arm a billion times until I finally asked him to try another place!

    I arrived at HCC2 about 7:30 for surgery that was scheduled for 10 o’clock. I am not sure why they allowed so much time but they did. Sir Cussalot drove me there and brought his computer to occupy his time while we waited.

    He got me checked in, waited a few minutes, then left to take care of Crush and Isabella. He said to text him when they took me back to the room. I sat until about 8:15 when a nurse came and got me. She was very nice and had a thick accent. She later told me she was 61 years old and from Romania. I asked her if she was a gymnast in Romania. She looked at me strangely, then said in disbelief that I even had to ask, “OF COURSE! That is what little girls did in Romania! It was the time of Nadia Comaneci” I smiled.

    Now about fifty or sixty pounds on the wrong side of a balance beam, she still was attractive and obviously took great pride in her appearance. Her makeup and nails were perfect. Her red uniform pulled tightly across her very large midsection. She was very nice, very empathetic and very caring.

    I so wanted to send Sir Cussalot a text that read Wait until you see my nurse! She was a Romanian gymnast! You see, he has a thing for gymnasts, especially if they are from Romania. Ernie, Jane and I used to tease him endlessly about it all the time because he sat next to one on a plane on one of our trips. He talked more to her than I have ever heard him talk to anyone! I couldn’t believe it. When I teased him about it, he blushed and said she had interesting stories. Ernie was relentless in his teasing. So I couldn’t resist.

    Sadly, my gymnast took away my phone so I couldn’t send that text. I smiled every time I thought about messing with his head.

    The gymnast, who shall now be known as Nadia after You Know Who, explained the aftercare to Mel. “No lifting anything for a month. No water on the site for FIVE days.” NO this. No that. I asked her if she would write into the contract that I couldn’t feed dogs for a month. Sir C smiled a little but he is so sick of doing my chores. When she said no lifting or heaving anything for a month, I choked up. I had planned to run Pankies after Christmas. I haven’t run her since Labor Day. Clearly that was not going to happen! We have our ritual and it involves tugging her into the ring. She also drags me around when she is excited, so that just was not going to work. <SIGH> Sir C will try to run her, but I doubt she will have anything to do with that plan. She is her mummy’s girl.

    They prepped me for the procedure. I had on a gown about eighty sizes too big that kept flopping open. There was a man sitting with his wife in the next bed. I finally asked Nadia to pull the curtain shut by my bed. Maybe he wasn’t interested in my old saggy boobs, but, even with some of the mortifying things I have endured throughout this ordeal, I still have a little dignity left! Sadly, that little bit was about to disappear with the rest of my pride.

    Hooked up to an IV, dressed in that ridiculous mesh cap and baggy gown, I asked her to please find Sir C. She went into the waiting room but came back empty handed. So she called him. He had been in the waiting room all along. He just hadn’t heard her call him.

    As he walked into the room I said with a smile, “This is my nurse. She was a Romanian gymnast!” He looked at me and said something nice and smiled. He then looked at me and gave me that, OK, you got me smile. We exchanged knowing grins and life went on.

    I was second in line for the procedure. They told me the woman in front of me would take about forty-five minutes and I was next. I heard them talking about some dumbass who had eaten a burrito at 5 AM and the doctor was asking how long he needed to wait to do the surgery on him. There was a difference of opinions. Some said six hours, while others said eight. He had a long wait either way! What part of “Eat nothing after midnight” did he not understand?

    They kept asking if I wanted anything. They brought me warm blankets that felt great. I finally said I could use another pillow. Well, it seems they were short on pillows so they doubled up the one I had. I hoped this was not an omen of things to come! What if they ran out of drugs????

    By the time they wheeled the other woman back to our room, it was 11 o’clock! Finally, about 11:30 my nurse asked me if I could walk over to the procedure room. WTF? They couldn’t wheel me there like most places? I was all hooked up for the love of God! I smiled nicely and kept my nasty thoughts to myself. She was taking care of me and in charge of my night night drugs and the doctor would be cutting on me. I didn’t want them spitting in my open chest or her skimping on my drugs!

    They unhooked everything and off I went, holding my ridiculously large gown closed so nobody would go blind with a sneak peek of my saggy old lady parts.

    I walked into the room. There was a long narrow table with a ct scan machine above so the doctor could see what he was doing easily. They told me no pillows in that room. I had no blanket, no pillow, my upper body part exposed to the world and the room was FREEZING COLD! The tech, a rather gruff middle-aged man with an accent from someplace and a shaved head, opened what was still closed of my gown and told me he had to disinfect me. Now, most of my life is an open book, but there are still some things I like to keep private. One of those things would be my private parts. No such luck. He flopped open my gown, exposing me for all the world. They placed my hands in restraints so I couldn’t whack a mole during surgery (those of you who read my blog about my abscess will know that I am not beneath smacking a doctor who hurts me!). The restraints were wide soft cuffs. I looked over at my gymnast and said, “I really feel exposed here.” She said, “We are all professionals. Don’t worry.” Professional or not! I FELT EXPOSED BECAUSE I WAS! I was just one in their assembly line of surgeries for the day. I was a number.

    As I lay there exposed, the tech began swabbing me like a pig ready for slaughter. What little pride and dignity I had left, was now entirely gone. I have not really cried through any of this cancer crap. I got choked up a few times when talking to a couple of people, but I never cried. I cried more when I broke my knee because I knew I wouldn’t be able to run my dogs. But lying there, exposed to the world brought on a feeling of almost panic. I had lost all control of my situation and was wide awake to experience one of my worst nightmares. There is a reason I don’t wear skimpy or tight clothing, even when I was thin! I choked back the tears and shook my head to answer any yes or no questions. I thought they should have put me out before doing the sterilization procedure. It would have lessened the humiliation, but that is just me. Nadia said some soothing things to me that only made it worse. One thing I really hate is sympathy. It makes me choke up and feel sorry for myself. I told her that it would be better for her to make fun of me than to give my sympathy. She didn’t get it. I tried to explain, but our personalities were just too far off.

    FINALLY, the gymnast began administering my drugs: a combo of fentanyl, Versed and Benadryl: a powerful combination that induces a deeply under but still awake state. Better known as “Twilight.”

    I drifted off into lala land and didn’t care what they did to me at that point. I am beginning to understand drug addiction! At first, I felt nothing, but towards the end of the hour long procedure, I began to wake up and felt him hammering on my chest, literally! I felt every prick and poke and began to really get uncomfortable. Nadia told me that it was almost over. It seemed to go on forever after that. After some time, the doctor said, “HMM.” I said, “HMM good or HMM bad?” He didn’t answer me! Nadia said it was good and we were done (I am still not sure why he said that).

    At least they didn’t make me walk back to recovery. Having only gotten three hours sleep the night before because of worry, I was really tired. I fell asleep for a few minutes, then I just lay there with my eyes closed. I could hear the nurses talking. They wanted to go to lunch, but because I was not awake, they couldn’t. I tried to summon the strength and energy to wake up but it was just too hard. I really wasn’t ready to leave. I dreaded the ride home in rush hour LA traffic with Sir Cussalot at the wheel rushing to get home to the dogs.

    At last, after listening to the nurses antsy for me to get the heck out of there, I told them I was awake and ready to get out of their hair. Nadia was very nice and told me to take my time. I really did like her, she was just too sympathetic and empathetic for my messed up psyche.

    They fetched Mel and told him to bring the car around. I got dressed and Nadia escorted me out to the waiting room where she left me by the window waiting for Mel. It didn’t take long before I saw him pull up. I made my way through the doors to the Stinkmobile. I opened the car door with my left arm. I guessed my days of having the door opened for me were now over. I was on my own. I grabbed the handle with my left hand and carefully dragged my fat arse up into the seat. The Stinkmobile is very high off the ground. Off we went.

    The traffic was heavy, but I was still slightly out of it and didn’t care. We stopped for vegan Chinese food, which I gobbled with gusto. It was late afternoon and I hadn’t eaten since the preceding afternoon.

    By now the sun was low in the sky and on its way down. Sir Cussalot said he wanted to get home before dark so the dogs could play and run. I told him that I felt every single bump in the road and asked him to take it easy. He said he needed to get home for the dogs. That showed me where I stand in the big scheme of things! I can’t say that I blame him for being sick and tired of all this crap. So am I. He has gone above and beyond taking care of me for the past few months. As a friend pointed out to me today, this has been hard on Sir C too.

    We got to our long and VERY bumpy dirt road. By then the sun was long gone and daylight was about to end and quickly. I asked him to PLEASE not fly down that road. He informed me that it was better to go fast than slow on that road. I just sighed and took a back seat to the dogs’ needs.

    When we got home I told him I was not going to get the gate as I normally do. It was too hard and painful to get in and out of the Stinkmobile. He gladly did the gate without even a “HMPH.”

    Once home, I climbed into bed, put the heating pad on my tummy and dozed off into a deep sleep.

    Thursday we have to do it all over again. I have a cat scan and my first chemo treatment.

    Cancer not only can rob people of their lives, it also robs us of our dignity. It is a humbling thing. It has changed me in many ways. Some for the better and some not so much. They say there is a reason for everything, but I am not sure about this one. We are both ready for me to be well and to get on with our lives.

    Posted by: jility | December 4, 2013

    Chillin be Thrillin

    A very wise friend was talking to Sir Cussalot one day about his ring anxiety. Sir C, a man of few words, was listening to our friend with his head, but his heart was closed. Sir Cussalot suffers terribly from ring nerves and stress before a run. Our friend tried to get through to Sir C that his ring nerves were unwarranted because everyone in agility is more concerned with themselves than with him. He also said that being worried that others were watching and judging him was egocentric. He said they had better things to do than make fun of Sir C in the ring (besides, most people would love to be as good a handler as Sir Cussalot, but Sir C thinks he stinks. I wish I stunk as much as he does!).

    Anyway, the only time I get nervous in agility is when I am nervous for Sir C. I rarely, if ever, get nervous for myself. I also don’t mind speaking in public or making a fool of myself in front of others. If I smile and laugh, I know others will be more likely to have fun watching me run my dog or listening to me speak than judging me. If I make fun of myself, people are less likely to make fun of me behind my back. They will do it to my face and I don’t mind one bit. Agility is all about having fun and if that is at my expense, so be it.

    I rode hunters and jumpers growing up and competed in three day eventing and dressage as well when I was older. You don’t have numbered courses in hunter classes and you have to memorize dressage tests unless you have an annoying reader. I learned to memorize things early on, so remembering courses is not a big deal for me. Normally, I can walk a course once and have it down. Sometimes, however, when a judge does some weird loopy things over and over I might need a few walks. I rarely, if ever, look at a course map, unless somebody asks me to. I just don’t need to.

    There was one time on course when I got lost big time. I had a cold and had taken Contact. That stuff throws me for a loop. I was still in Open with my first agility dog. It was a standard course and I could not remember where I was going for the life of me! Finally, after trying like crazy to find numbers, I just threw up my hands and stood in the middle of the ring. The judge asked, “Did you have your coffee this morning?” I replied, “I don’t drink coffee.” She laughed and responded, “Perhaps it is time you started!”

    We both laughed and I continued after I finally spotted the next obstacle number.

    Ring nerves are not something with which I can identify. I don’t care. I am out there to have fun with my dog. I know people who get nervous at seminars. I really have trouble relating to that! If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need a seminar! I go for the social aspect of it and to learn.

    Life sometimes throws us curves to help put things into perspective. This past year has been beyond belief for us. The Universe sent us a puppy with a deformed neck bone, a tumor in Crushie’s shoulder, the loss of our beloved Millie Angel to stomach cancer, bloat and more for poor Isabella, the loss of one of our very dearest human friends of forty years, the loss of our incredible Josephine and for me, so I didn’t feel left out, colon cancer. Somehow, all those things help to put life and agility into perspective. Ring nerves would be welcome over any of the things we have been through this year.

    I hear people say they are stressed because their dog hasn’t Qed in weeks, or because they are selling or buying a house, or whatever. I laugh and think I would trade any of the crappy things the Universe has sent us recently, for a year of NQs ANY DAY! There was a time when MACHs, ADCHs or other titles meant a lot to me. Somehow, they don’t really matter much to me anymore. It is now about being alive and having fun with my dog. The rest just happens.

    Today, five weeks out from my cancer surgery, I decided to treat myself to a pedicure and manicure. Because of the three large abscesses at my incision site with which I have had to deal for the past few weeks, I have not been able to shave my legs, so I added on a leg wax to my fun day! I have never had any of those things in my life! Can you imagine that? I am 63 years old yetI have never waxed or had a professional manicure or pedicure. It was about time!

    Christmas nails

    Christmas nails

    I chose a Christmas theme and went for bright red polish with green sparkles for my fingernails and gold sparkles for my toenails. Then I asked if they could paint Christmas trees on my big toes and thumbs.

    Christmas tree thumbs

    Christmas tree thumbs

    The entire process took two and half hours! I loved every minute. Sir Cussalot said sarcastically, ”Gee, I wish I could have done that too.” All through the wax, the waxer, a seventy-one year old lovely woman from Vietnam, kept exclaiming in her thick Vietnamese accent as she shook her head, “OH, Mamacita! You have so much hair!” I just smiled. There was a time when that would have embarrassed the heck out of me. I never would have let anyone see me like that! Now? I am happy to be alive and the fact that I have not been able to bend over to shave my legs, is nothing. Hair schmair. Cancer sure changes one’s perspective in life!

    Christmas toes

    Christmas toes

    I would give anything right now to be able to train my dog, let alone have a chance to get ring nerves or ring stress. I so look forward to the day when I can once again run my dog. Next week I start chemotherapy. I will go every other week for six months. I plan to try to train and run my dog during that time, but I will have to see how I feel. I do know I will not feel stress in the ring. I will feel deep gratitude to the Universe that I am still alive and able to run my dog again.

    Take a deep breath, let go, SMILE and HAVE FUN! It ain’t life or death. It’s agility. 🙂

    To read more blogs on this subject, please visit:

    Posted by: jility | November 26, 2013

    The Producers

    Having great friends is a HUGE perk in my life. I am so blessed I can’t believe it. Two such friends are Greg and his partner Roger. I have known Greg for almost 40 years. He was a young teenager when he first started hanging around our place in Simi Valley. He was horses crazy (still is) and was so easy to be around (still is). He is like a son to us.

    Fast forward 38 years to my colon cancer diagnosis in October. When I told Greg, he said to let him and Roger do some research to find me a great oncologist in southern California. Roger had had his own experience with cancer and they searched and searched until they found the right place for him to be treated. That was Dr. David Quinn, Medical Director of the Norris Cancer Hospital at USC.

    They asked him for a referral for my cancer and he recommended Dr. Heinz Josef Lenz:

    With his very impressive resume and high praises from Dr. Quinn, how could I possibly go anyplace else? I trusted Greg and Roger to be the Producers of my cancer treatment.

    When I first told Mel that I wanted to drive a couple of hours to USC for treatment, he lived up to his nickname. More than forty years ago, he commuted in that traffic disaster every day. It took him hours to drive short distances and he still has nightmares about it. Needless to say, we both had concerns, but in the end, I won (big surprise).

    Yesterday was the big day for me to meet with Dr. Lenz. It has been four weeks since my surgery to remove a very large tumor from my cecum. I feel pretty dang good other than the incision hole that is still oozing and getting drained and hosed out twice a day. I thought it was healed, then last might as I was getting ready for bed, it broke open again and drained a bunch of stinky crap all over the place. It wasn’t as stinky as a pig farm this time; perhaps just a chicken farm. I wish it would get better! I am sick of this! I knew it was coming back because I felt like I was getting the flu. That is my telltale sign the abscess is returning.

    But I digress.

    We left Temecula about 12:30 to make the long drive to USC. Actually, traffic wasn’t bad at all that time of day. We arrived about 2:20 and parked in the covered parking garage. We have to bring Isabella and Crush with us whenever we go anyplace. Isabella because she can no longer get in and out of the Global Warmer by herself to potty and Crush because she is evil and will cause trouble of some kind while we are gone.

    My appointment with Dr. Lenz was at 3 PM. We checked in and took a seat to wait to sign in and do paperwork. It was almost 3 by the time they called my name. By that time, Greg and Roger had arrived. They made the drive from Simi Valley to come see us! They arrived bearing gifts too! I got lovely flowers and Roger’s homemade almond butter and wonderful lemons from their trees! It was super to see them!

    20131125_210212Greg and Roger's flowers

    The beautiful flowers Greg and Roger brought me

    We made our way to the next waiting room where we sat for quite a while before being called into an exam room. It was nearly 4:30 by the time we saw Dr. Lenz’s nurse practitioner. Greg and Roger were in the room with Mel and me. I told everyone I brought my entourage. It was like old home week for Greg and Roger. They spent a lot of time there when Roger was being treated. They chatted with lots of the staff and I got to meet Dr. Quinn as well. He has a thick Aussie accent and a GREAT sense of humor to go with it!

    This place just felt right. I had met my “peeps” of the cancer treatment world and I knew I had made the right decision thanks to Greg and Roger!

    Dr. Lenz’s nurse, a very attractive, slightly built brunette with stylish shoes,  asked me a lot of questions. She had obviously done her homework on me. I was quite impressed! She also had a good sense of humor to go with her good looks! I love a good sense of humor and the USC Norris Cancer Center is full of great minds and great senses of humor! A perfect combination for me!

    I had no idea what to expect with Dr. Lenz. Dr. Quinn told us he was in a very bad mood that day and he was being stereotypically “Germanic.” That scared me as I do not like stern, angry men! They irritate me to no end! My orthopedic surgeon was a stern German. When he told me I needed surgery to repair my broken kneecap I cried. I did so because I knew I would miss out on a lot of agility! His response was, “I don’t know why you are crying. It is not like you have cancer!” Little did he know LOL.

    So I waited apprehensively for my German oncologist. It was an easy wait because Greg and Roger were so entertaining and interesting! Even Sir Cussalot enjoyed their company. How do I know? Well, Greg said it best, “He laughed and even smiled a few times.”

    After a long while the door opened and this short, stocky, round-faced man with a thinning flattop haircut walked into the room. I took one look at him and his face broke into a huge welcoming grin. It was then I knew that Dr. Quinn was pulling our legs.

    Dr. Lenz said a couple of words and I knew immediately that I LOVED him! He was hysterical! His very thick German accent and his bigger than life reactions and gestures made him incredibly interesting and delightful. He would talk seriously, then throw back his head and laugh and get loud, then get quiet, then loud. He was unlike anyone I had ever met. Obviously brilliant and caring, but most importantly, his sense of humor was amazing and irreverent. I truly connected with him.

    When he left the room briefly, I looked at the guys and we all started laughing. I said, “HE IS PERFECT!!! I LOVE HIM!!!!THANK YOU!!!”

    Greg said he reminded him of some movie character. Then it hit me! He looked like he would be perfect for the Mel Brooks movie, The Producers! I expected him to break into the song from the movie, Springtime for Hitler and Germany at any moment.

    Here is the real Dr. Lenz in a video.

    He told me that I was at high risk for a return of my cancer and for it to metastasize. That is because the tumor was so large (several pounds he said!) and the fact that is was in seven lymph nodes and had grown through the wall of my colon. I also carry four genes for cancer. I told him I was such a dumb ass for not having a colonoscopy at 50!!! He agreed! I told him Mel has never had one either and he yelled, “YOU KICK HIS ASS!!! YOU KICK HIS ASS!!!”

    He said I need to have ct scans every three months for a year, then they would reevaluate the plan.

    He also said that chemo wouldn’t start until six weeks after surgery. I am scheduled for my first chemo treatment on December 12th. I will need chemo once every two weeks for six months. They will put a port into my chest near my shoulder so I won’t have to get poked a billion times. I will go there every other week and they put some poison in me, then send me home with a pump in a fanny pack. That will pump chemo into me for 48 hours, then we disconnect it (they show us how). The whole process takes about 6 hours each time, plus the nearly two hour drive up and four hours in rush hour traffic for the drive home.

    I am not looking forward to the next six months. It is going to be a lot of driving and a lot of unknowns. He said my hair might thin but he doubted it would fall out. He also said I would get very tired and nauseated three to five days after treatment. I think I am going to do GREAT!

    I told him I wanted to live another forty years. He threw back his head and laughed loudly. I also told him I wanted to get a puppy to train. He was already in shock from learning we had seven dogs and lived fulltime in an RV. He threw up his hands and screamed, “NO PUPPY UNTIL YOU FINISH CHEMO!!!” Then he went on to yell, “ZAY PEE AND POOP EVERYVERE! HOW VILL YOU CLEAN ZAT UP? NOOOOOO PUPPPPYYYYY!!! NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!” He shook his head vigorously.

    I laughed, Mel laughed, Greg and Roger laughed and he laughed. It was awesome!

    We talked about diet and being vegan. He thought that was a good thing. He stood up to leave and I reached out to shake his hand. He said, “NOOOO! I VANT A HUG!” which I gladly gave him. I told him I loved him. He smiled and left the room. We all just sat for a minute smiling and shaking our heads. I could not have found a more perfect doctor for my personality.

    We left the Norris Center about 5:30 and headed north to Pasadena to Charm Vegan, a vegan Thai place, for dinner. Greg and Roger (not vegans) were very nice to go along and eat vegan food with us. I keep trying to turn them vegan but I fear my efforts are falling on deaf ears. I only try to turn those I love.

    We didn’t get home until after nine at night. It was a very long, but MOST EXCELLENT day!

    Posted by: jility | November 19, 2013

    My Day of Doctors – MORE TMI and Grossish.

    Today was my marathon day for doctors.

    It all started when I woke up at 5:30 this morning and turned on HGTV. I find it helps me to forget my troubles. I lay in bed and watched until about 7:30 when I tore myself away and got into the shower. That is a chore I put off until the last minute because I have to get in there and squirt out the gaping hole above my naval.

    The wound had begun to fill up again yesterday. I knew it because it was getting firm again around the opening and it was getting red and painful. That told me I needed to get aggressive and open it up again or I would be back on the evil doctor’s table for another round of torture.

    I pushed and poke at it and squeezed with all my might. I came at it from every angle until I felt a release and the wound gave up its painful and disgusting filling. It didn’t smell and didn’t appear to be infected. I pushed until the draining slowed, then I rinsed it out the best I could in the shower. I dressed the wound and went to bed. I was so much more comfortable now that the pocket was once again empty. I need to keep it that way too!

    Morning brought a new day and a new mind for me. As I got going after my HGTV fix, I realized just how good I felt! I did have to lie down after my shower to rest (how absurd is that? I used to be able to go all day long and never tire. Now I am a wimpy mess but getting stronger!)

    We left the Global Warmer shortly before 9 AM and headed out for the hour long drive to Olympia for my day of doctors. It began with an hour wait in the office to see my surgeon. Evidently he got tied up with a “procedure.” I wanted to go out and walk a mile. I was antsy and full of energy! It was the best I have felt since last spring!

    After an eternity of waiting, they called my name. FINALLY!

    They weighed me. I was wearing my heavy shoes and a bulky sweatshirt. What was I thinking? Even with all I have been through, I am still freaked out about being fat. I thought about the absurdity of that and jumped on the scale. I was up two pounds (subtracting five for my clothing). I am okay with that considering I am going to need reserves for chemo. I have plenty of time to get fit and lose more weight. I guess excess blubber is the least of my worries right now!

    I began to notice that the color in my gums had improved and my palms were getting very pink. No wonder I had more energy! I was building up my red blood. It was a slow process but seemed to be going in the right direction.

    The nurse took my blood pressure, temp, oxygen level and pulse. I passed.

    The doctor came in fully informed about my day of torture with his colleague on Friday. I told him that the other doctor who had opened my wound would have made a good torture doctor for the Nazis. Now this doctor knows my sick humor and “gets” me. So I don’t hold back with him. I can be my sick self. He said he didn’t think “Kevin” would appreciate being called a “Nazi torturing doctor.” Then he smiled at the little guilty pleasure I gave him. I am sure most of his patients are very solemn. Not me. Nothing is sacred. We laughed. He knew I really didn’t mean it, sorta.

    I looked over at Mel. He was laughing. I do really love that he still laughs at my sick and twisted jokes after 39 years together.

    The doctor looked at the hole in my gut. “WOW!” he said, “This looks GREAT! You have done a really good job keeping it open and clean!”

    I was very proud :). I didn’t tell him how many abscesses I have drained and cleaned on horses, dogs and cats over the years. COUNTLESS! I am feeling a newfound respect for the pain they felt, as well as regret for not having more compassion for that at the time. The torture doc should have put a twitch on my nose and called it good. Probably would have helped more than the lidocaine!

    My surgeon slapped a piece of gauze over my wound, taped it with the only tape that doesn’t make me break out in hives and sent me on my way. As we were leaving, he gave me a huge compliment. He said, “You have an impressive attitude and a great spirit. You are going to do well!” He smiled and shook my hand.

    Next stop; the oncologist and my iron infusion.

    The first thing they did at the oncologist was to draw blood. My veins do not stand out well at all. One of the perks of that is I was spared the horrific varicose veins that my mother and two of my siblings had. The downside is that they can never find my veins and they end up poking and poking and poking my arms. I turn red, then black and blue and it HURTS LIKE H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS! (I am addicted to that phrase right now and, as a woman with OCD, be prepared to see it a few more times before I move on to something else).

    Anyway, Mel stood in the doorway of the lab while she poked and prodded to find my vein. She moved from one to another, as usually happens, until she found a winner. I told her in the past month I have been poked more than a Vegas street walker!

    She smiled. I looked over at Mel. He laughed and shook his head. He loves my naughty potty mouth. He is my best audience.

    After the bloodletting, we were escorted to the room where, for the second time that day, a nurse took my vitals. Once again, I passed.

    We waited quite a while. Finally, the tall, handsome oncologist finally entered the room. I like him. He is extremely bright, sharp and quick. I love that in a person. You can see it in their eyes. You can see a lot in people’s eyes. He is from China and, although he has been in the country for a long time, still has a very thick accent and is difficult to understand.

    He went over my blood work and said I was, as my body had told me that morning, headed in the right direction. GOOD NEWS! Of course I had to ask him to repeat a bunch of things. I felt old not being able to easily understand his heavy Chines accent.

    He said I would need to have chemo for six months. He said most likely once every two weeks. Since the plan was to leave for SoCal in the morning, I would do it down there.

    Next stop, the chemo room for another iron transfusion.

    My dear friend Claudia is a gem. I am so blessed to have such amazing friends. I love them so! Claudia lives about an hour and a half from Olympia. She went to Veggie Grill near her house in Seattle and bought food for Mel and me. She met us in the chemo room. She and Mel went out to the car where she gave him his food. Claudia graciously offered to sit the several hours with me while they did the infusion, then drive me the hour south to Silver Creek so Mel could finish packing for our three day trip that would begin early in the morning. How incredible is that? Even more so when you figure she then had to drive two hours north back to Seattle!

    What would I do without friends like Claudia and Angie who took me to my last infusion after driving EIGHT hours to get me and EIGHT hours back! I am the luckiest person I know! I have the BEST husband and the BEST friends!

    The nurse poked and prodded and poked and prodded looking for a good vein. She tried one arm until I finally suggested she move on. Then she ended up using the back of my left hand (I am left handed!). I hate IVs in my hand but it seemed like the easiest way to go. I gave her the Vegas street walker line and she smiled. I got a lot of mileage out of that one! I had to read my emails on my phone and text with my right hand. Good thing I am pretty good with my right hand too.

    Claudia and I ate the great food she brought. Then I watched her videos of Ally and Jesse doing agility. I was so jealous. I want to do agility! They looked terrific! Ally is a super dog and Claudia is doing a super job with her! Jesse is close to my heart and when he I good he is good but when he is bad he makes me smile 😉

    Then I played on Claudia’s MAC laptop and helped her set up some accounts with avatars. I love doing avatars.

    We didn’t leave the clinic until nearly 5:30. It was pitch black and raining. I felt for Claudia having to do all that driving in the wet dark cold Pacific Northwest night.

    Tomorrow I face a LONG three day drive to Temecula. I think I am up to it. I hope I am up to it! I will drive the Sprinter and pull the trailer. Mel will drive the Global Warmer and pull the Stinkmobile.

    All things considered, it was a very nice day!

    I feel AWESOME!

    Thank you Claudia :).

    Posted by: jility | November 15, 2013

    WARNING!!! TMI!!!!

    As if things weren’t bad enough.

    On Wednesday, two weeks after my surgery, I began to feel like crap. It felt like I was getting the flu. My incision was very red and getting worse. It was quite hard to the touch and hot. IT HURT!

    By Thursday, I felt even worse. I called the doctor in the morning. They said to watch it for a day and if it got worse to go in to see them. It got worse and worse by the hour. About four that afternoon, I called them back and told them I was getting worse. They said they would call in a prescription for antibiotics and see me the next day at 1:45. I told the assistant I didn’t want to die. She laughed and said I was not going to die but I sure felt like I was!

    Mel drove the thirty minutes to town to get my prescription. He got home about six that evening. Besides the pills, he brought me a beautiful card and orchids for our anniversary, which was the next day.

    I took my first pill. The pills they gave me are to be taken every six hours so I got up in the middle of the night to take my next pill.

    By 8 o’clock that night I felt like I was going to die and that is no exaggeration.

    By morning I felt a lot better but still felt like crap. I had to hold my stomach up with my hands to walk or it hurt too much. The incision was getting redder and redder. The dogs were very worried about me. They think they are being helpful but they are always in my way God bless them.

    My stomach hurt so much I had to hold it up when I walked. It is still very swollen from the surgery. I am fat but not that fat! I have lost almost 60 pounds but am now holding steady. I want to lose another 40 but am not going to worry about it now. I need all the reserves I have to get through chemo.

    So when we got to the doctor, his assistant took a look at my incision. She touched it and made a face. I thought that couldn’t be good.

    The doctor came in and made the same face at my incision. He said he was sure there was an abscess in there. He injected some lidocaine around my incision and it burned like H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS!!!!

    With Mel sitting next to me, the good doctor took a scalpel and cut open my incision. He got nothing. Then he said, “Just to humor myself and make sure I don’t miss anything, I am going to try to aspirate deeper to see what I get.”

    Then he stuck a big A$$ needle in my belly (OUWIE!!!!) and he poked around until he said, “FOUND IT!” He extracted a bunch of puss. I know TMI, but it gets even better!

    So, then he says that the abscess is very deep and he will have to cut deeply into my stomach fat to release the puss. He said that is the only way to heal it because there is very little blood supply in fat tissue to rid the body of infection. He injected more lidocaine which stung like H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS AGAIN. Then he cut into my stomach. Now, remember, I was WIDE AWAKE!!!! I had nothing but the lidocaine! He might as well have spit on my stomach. It would have been as effective as the lidocaine!

    I grabbed Mel’s hand as he cut deeper and deeper. Then I smelled it. GROSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was the most vile and disgusting thing I have ever smelled in my life! Mel said that even with his lousy sense of smell, he thought it was disgusting! I couldn’t watch but I felt his every move. Mel told me later that the doctor stuck his entire finger into the abscess and wriggled it around to make sure it was completely open! Then he pushed and pushed to make sure he got it all out. Mel said he took about a CUP of that disgusting puss out of the abscess!

    After that he flushed it with three or four HUGE syringes of saline solution. Then he took a cotton swab and reamed it around in there. It hurt so much, I involuntarily hit his arm! Thank GOD he was not holding a scalpel! I had no control over that reflex at all! I grabbed Mel’s hand with my right hand and my shirt with my left so I wouldn’t hit him again. I told him I hated him. He just said, “I know, but you will love me tomorrow because you will feel so much better.” I doubted that!

    THEN!!!!!! He packed the HUGE hole in my gut with cotton gauze!!! He said it needed to stay open. IT HURT!!!! He went on to explain that I should remove the cotton packing in the morning. Then he said to take a handheld shower and blast the hole to keep it flushed and open and oh, “If you can,” he went on to say, “take your finger and stick it in the incision to opened it up.” WTF?????

    I replied, “THAT AIN’T HAPPENING!” I could maybe do the flushing but ain’t no fingers going in the belly abscess hole!

    I turned to Mel and said, “This is the most romantic anniversary we have ever had.” When the doctor left I said, “Didn’t that make you want to jump my bones?” We laughed. I STUNK! IT WAS DISGUSTING! Poor Mel, what an anniversary. Thirty-nine years together but this will be one of the most memorable anniversaries ever and even after all those years, Mel still laughs at my stupid and inappropriate jokes

    The doctor explained that the abscess was in the fat and far from the muscle. I said, “Well, good thing I am fat huh.” The doctor said, “I have been around long enough to know not to comment on that.” We all laughed. It hurt.

    He covered the cavern in my stomach with a large pad and told me to lie there for a few minutes until his assistant came in.

    She came in and apologized for dismissing my fears the day before. I said not to worry. The torture was done and hopefully, the worst was behind me.

    Finally I was allowed to sit up and a gush of icky, stinky stuff (mostly saline) came gushing out. OK MORE TMI?


    Mel and I walked to the Stinkmobile. He opened the door for me and I climbed in slowly, still holding my swollen and very sore belly up with my hands.

    After that we went out to eat. I am sure I stunk out the whole place but really didn’t care much.

    It was quite a day. I do feel better now but my stomach hurts like H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS!

    I smell like a pig farm.

    I hope tomorrow is better.

    Posted by: jility | November 6, 2013

    Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln How Did You Like the Play?

    The ct scan whirled overhead as I lay there thinking about my life and how things may have been different if only… The robotically melodic voice from the machine repeated over and over, “Take a deep breath…and hold it. Breathe normally.” Those five minutes in that machine seemed like an eternity.

    It all started six months earlier when I became violently ill one night. I assumed it was from all the Celebrex I had taken. The next few days were horrific. I went from hot to cold and back to hot again. The sweat would pour off my face. I couldn’t keep anything down. I had to cut out all fat, acidic foods and eat small portions or I would be up sick all night long. This continued off and on for months.

    They say that God doesn’t put any more on our plates than we can handle. Either God overestimated my plate or He got me confused with somebody else. The past ten years have been difficult for us, but the past few years have been overwhelmingly difficult. Only our family and closest friends know the whole story, but my blogs have only told a fraction of our struggles.

    My illness continued off and on over the months but it seemed I was slowly getting better. Every time I got sick, I felt like I was going to die. It was very scary. My life would pass before my eyes each time. It was horrible.

    After months of off and on illness, I saw another doctor. He felt pretty sure it was my gallbladder. He said the symptoms were classic. Others also thought my symptoms were classic gallbladder but something inside me said otherwise. I had been ignoring the signs for much too long now and it was time to get to the bottom of it.

    A blood test showed I was anemic and the ultrasound showed sludge in my gallbladder but nothing alarming. Because of the anemia, the doctor said he wanted to check my stool for blood and gave me the kit to take home.

    I mailed in the kit and a few days later got an urgent call from the doctor’s nurse that I needed to come back in ASAP for follow up because I was positive for blood in my stool sample.

    Now I was totally freaked out and couldn’t think or breathe.

    They scheduled me for a visit to Dr. Buckner, a gastroenterologist in Olympia and off I went. She examined me and looked over my records. I told her I was petrified. She reassured me that she would be “shocked” if she found anything horrible in there. I felt a lot better. I really liked her and she had dogs so we talked dogs. She scheduled me for an endoscopy and colonoscopy.

    They put me in a semi-conscious state with fentanyl. I was once again reassured that everything was going to be fine.  First she scoped my upper GI tract; then the colonoscopy. Everything was going fine until all of a sudden I was in excruciating pain. It seemed to go on forever. I remember coming out of my deep sleep and screaming in pain. Somebody held my hand and told me it was almost over. Then it stopped.

    As I came to in the recovery area, I overheard them making an appointment for me to have a ct scan the next day. Even all doped up, I knew that meant she had found something very bad. I asked but they said the doctor would be in to talk to me after her next procedure.

    Once recovered (more or less), I dressed and walked to the waiting room where I sat with Mel. It seemed like an eternity. Finally, we were told to enter a room and have a seat. Dr. Buckner sat across from us. She didn’t mince words.

    “You have cancer.”


    I heard nothing after that. I put my head down on the desk and just muttered, “Of course I do.”

    I think I heard Mel asking some questions or Dr. Buckner saying something but I am not sure. All I heard was WAAA WAAA WAAA WAAA WAAAAA like the Peanuts shows.

    Then she passed a photo across the desk of the rotten mass inside me. It was disgusting. I think I heard her say “This is curable!” Sure, you also said you would be shocked… Not her fault. I am a dumb ass who had never had a colonoscopy and her words were comforting.

    As we were leaving, she said, “OH! You do have ulcers. They are healing but there are quite a few in there.”

    At that point, ulcers seemed unimportant.

    The next morning, Friday, we met with Dr. Krug, the surgeon who would be removing the junk from my colon. I liked him very much. He scheduled surgery for Tuesday and said he would call me that evening with the results of the ct scan and x-ray.

    After that we drove the hour home to wait to leave later to go back to Olympia for my ct scan and chest x-ray to see the extent. It was one of the longest and scariest days of my life.

    The tech who did my ct scan was awesome. He couldn’t tell me anything, but as I was leaving, he took my hand and said, “They are going to remove that thing and you are going to come see me to say hi and you are going to do great!”

    I waited for a call from the doctor but it never came. I kept telling myself no news was good news. It was so hard though. I was still in total shock. Vegans aren’t supposed to get colon cancer. I, however, was the crappiest vegan on the planet! I guess it is like blaming a handing system for poor execution.

    I was an oil swilling, junk eating, processed food loving fat pig. I always said that movie popcorn was my last vice and I was not giving it up! Well, it cost me more dearly than any other vice I ever had. Just read the info on colon cancer and you will see that oil and obesity are at the top for causes. I SUCK!

    Couple that with the fact that I had never had a colonoscopy and you have a recipe for disaster.

    I jumped every time the phone rang that weekend but the doctor never called. I think what I was making up in my mind was a lot worse than anything he could have told me.

    Most of the weekend was a blur. I barely remember anything.

    I went through no solid food for two days before surgery and drank a bunch of castor oil. I won’t go into details but it was not pleasant.

    At 5 am on Tuesday, I got up and walked down the long driveway in the freezing weather from the shop to the house to take a shower. The Global Warmer had been in the shop for two weeks being  fixed from the wreck Mel had (another long story). We were staying in the shop. It has a bathroom but no shower or stove so we showered at the house and cooked on a hot plate.

    We drove mostly in silence to St. Peters Hospital in Olympia. I got checked in and two hours later was wheeled into surgery. The next thing I remembered was seeing Mel and Kathy in my room.

    When I told my friend, Saint Kathy, that I was having surgery, she insisted on canceling her appointments that day to wait with Mel. She knew he would not be in a great state of mind to ask questions or interpret information. She promised not to make him talk. She was a Godsend and we will be forever grateful.

    I am the luckiest person on the planet. I have the best friends one could every possibly want. Mel and my friends came to see me and those with medical backgrounds were incredibly helpful answering questions I forgot to ask the surgeon. I won’t name everyone but my friends and family who supported me though this ordeal mean more to me than I can ever say. I truly am blessed.

    I only told a small number of people because I knew I would have trouble answering emails, texts and phone calls. I directed them to Mel and he did a great job keeping everyone informed. I mostly wanted to sleep and it seemed I would no sooner doze off and a text would come in or the phone would ring. The doctor suggested I turn it off but my OCD would not allow that.

    I got some of the most beautiful flowers you can imagine! I love smelly flowers but they proved too much for some of the nurses. A few started into my room but fled yelling something about being allergic and their day was now shot or something like that. I loved the flowers and that was all that mattered to me. Most of the nurses and assistants were amazing in that hospital! They took awesome care of me.

    Spectacular Flowers!

    Spectacular Flowers!

    I had very generous offers from friends to come take care of me during my recovery. Since we are now back in the GW, I chuckled thinking of where they might sleep. The dogs have claimed the sofa, so picturing my friends curled up in one of the dog beds on the floor made me smile.

    The doctor came in to see how I was doing and let me know what he found. The ct scan was clean, as was the x-ray. He said that doesn’t mean it is not there, but that they can’t see anything. GEESH! THANKS FOR THAT BIT OF ENCOURAGEMENT!!! He went on to say that there were lymph nodes involved but the organs looked good. The pathology report came back. Seven of the seventeen nodes had cancer so chemo was indicated. The mass had grown through the colon wall as well and looked like it had been there quite a long time. They figure at least ten years from beginning of polyp stage. It was classified as stage 3 B. Had I had a colonoscopy, it would never have advanced to this point.

    I had a wonderful steady stream of visitors. They made me laugh until it hurt. They brought me wonderful food and helped to take my mind off my troubles.

    My wonderful granddaughters Sicily and Julia came to visit me in their Halloween costumes. It was so great to see them!

    My wonderful granddaughters Sicily and Julia came to visit me in their Halloween costumes. It was so great to see them!

    The funny thing was that the first morning after surgery, no flowers had arrived and I had no visitors that morning. The nurses were worried about me and asked if I had any support. I smiled and said yes (they had no idea!). I guess they felt so sorry for me being alone the day after surgery. They sent in the chaplain who very sympathetically asked if I had anyone to help me through this. I laughed and reassured her I did. Shortly after that the flowers began to arrive as did the visitors.

    The doctor said I needed to stay in the hospital from Tuesday until Sunday. I asked if I could stay one more day as my husband was about as nurturing as a scorpion. I knew Mel would do the best he could but nurturing is not his strong suit. So he said sure. As it turned out, I really needed that extra day.

    Being told you have cancer is shocking. I am so angry with myself for not eating according to the strict and HEALTHY vegan plan I know is the best for preventative measures. I know that frame of mind plays an enormous part in the development of cancer as well. Anger, bitterness, stress, etc. can really play a large role in allowing those unwanted cells to develop. I wouldn’t call myself angry of bitter, but my stress level has been over the top for years. My vegan diet may have helped keep it somewhat contained, but had I not swilled oil and crap, well, I doubt it would have ever happened.

    The reason I am telling this story is NOT for sympathy! That is the LAST thing I want right now. Sympathy makes me sad. I want to laugh! I am writing in hopes to get those who have avoided having their stools checked for blood or who have put off that colonoscopy to GET ON IT! Sure, we all hate seeing the doctor, but one little day of discomfort could truly save your life!

    Thank you again to my INCREDIBLE friends who came by to see me, checked on me often (too often sometimes 😉 and sent me love and support. I can’t tell you all how much you are appreciated and what an enormous difference you made in my recovery.

    Most of all, I want to thank my amazing husband of 39 years, Mel. I know this sucks but we will get though it just like everything else. I love you and plan to torture you for another 39 years!

    Posted by: jility | September 29, 2013


    Fall is here now, how do I know?

    The rain just won’t stop and the grass it does grow.

    I hate the rain, it makes me all wet,

    I’m moving down SOUTH, on that you can bet!

    Sittin’ in my hot tub, watching steam rise;

    All this damp weather will be my demise.

    If I had to live here for the rest of my life,

    I would slit my own throat with a big scary knife!

    I’m bored just to tears, with nuthin’ to do,

    No more big jility, ‘cause our ground turned to goo!

    I hate not competing; trialing clears out my head,

    Now I just want to hibernate and lie in my bed

    And pull up the covers, ‘till it’s time to head south,

    I can’t even put anything good in my mouth!

    My gallbladder’s on strike from all the damage I’ve done,

    So now I stick to no fat and that’s not much fun!

    The upside is that I am losing some weight,

    It’s giving up movie popcorn that I really do hate!

    The dogs are all healthy, so that ain’t so bad;

    We needed some time without anything sad.

    This rhyme is depressing, but so is the rain

    How anyone lives here, well, that is not plain!

    I HATE the cloud cover and the liquid it spews!

    Palm trees feed my soul and the sun is my muse.

    I long for the desert and the warmth it does bring,

    It warms up my bones and makes my heart sing.

    So soon we will leave this horrible place

    Where the rain is so cold it freezes your face!

    I long for the beaches, the sun and warm sands,

    Walking beaches up here blows the skin off your hands.

    That’s all the depression I can take for one poem

    My mind will be better, once we get home.


    Posted by: jility | September 9, 2013

    Xoom’s BIg Abenture at the UKI Trial

    This past weekend, Mel and I attended the UKI trial at Argus Ranch in Auburn, WA. There were very few people there which is a big mystery to me! With AKC trials every single weekend, I am blown away that people are not willing to give up one AKC trial to attend UKI in order to train in the ring or practice Euro style courses! I hear the Be’s and the Wanna Be’s bitching all the time that the AKC courses are too easy! Why weren’t all these people at the UKI trial getting their fix of Euro courses??? We don’t like the Euro courses so we enter beginner classes. We train anyway so we just make up our own courses. UKI is FABULOUS! I wish we had more of them!

    At a UKI trial, you can TAKE A TOY INTO THE RING AND TRAIN!!!!! The runs are only $12 if you enter online and $15 if you enter the day of the trial! If you want a redo after the run, you pay $5 and get to do it all over again! Where else in agility to you get a Mulligan for FIVE BUCKS? The second run is not for competition but WHATEVER! If you run for real and want to work on something in the course, you just pay five bucks and fix it! Why wouldn’t you enter UKI just for that?

    So Mel & I took the weekend and drove up to spend three days training our dogs in the ring! It was also the first time our little Xoom had ever been in a ring (or ever done more than 3 jumps in a row for that matter). Xoom is 17 months old now and just started jumping recently. We have not started her weave training but that will go fast I am sure.

    Pankies is freaky about her contacts so what a great opportunity to work that! She gets brave watching Barque do them, so I let her watch and then ran her. Pankies did not balk at ONE SINGLE CONTACT ALL WEEKEND!!!! Last week I was ready to quit again. That will not be the last time I want to quit either; I guarantee that! She is such a roller coaster ride!

    Last winter and spring, Barque decided that leaving the startline was just too scary and quit running. The whole litter is a bit touched in the head. We pulled her from competition last December and she is just now starting back. It was a HUGE confidence builder for her and for Mel! She was AWESOME!

    There were five of the eight puppies form our Brag x Charisse litter there on Sunday! It was WONDERFUL!!!!! I was SOOOOOO PROUD! They are all doing SUPER!

    Almost a year ago to the day, Xoom was completely paralyzed due to a mutation in her C 1 vertebra and we were not sure if she would live or die. They said she would never do agility for sure. She had surgery to remove the top of her C 1 vertebra and slowly but surely, her movement returned. Here is a blog I wrote if you want to know more about it.

    She spent four months in a crate, only allowed out to potty on a leash for the first two months, then careful monitoring for the next two months with no activities other than to potty off leash.

    Here are some blogs I wrote right after she came home:

    On November 8th, Xoom was given the OK from her neurologist to be off leash for the first time. The first time she was allowed to run free, I cried. It was so wonderful, but her coordination left a lot to be desired! She bunny hoped behind and could barely run but she was running! She was happy too! Xoom is always a happy girl!

    Agility may be too dangerous for our little (who is actually not so little and measured 20 ¾” tall!) Xoom Xoom but she LOVES it! So she is not particularly fast, nor will she ever be, but she is WALKING! SHE IS RUNNING! AND SHE IS A LOVELY JUMPER! She had a HUGE smile on her face the entire time Mel had her in the ring. It brought tears to my eyes, but this time they were tears of joy! He just did a little loop with her. I adore this little girl with her adorable freckles and smiling face!

    Here is her BIG ABENTURE in the ring!

    Is she the cutest thing you ever saw in your life? OK, even if you don’t think so, keep it to yourself and just nod yes J.


    Posted by: jility | September 4, 2013

    It Sure Beats the Alternative!

    This Dog Agility Blog Day’s topic is “Aging.” If you would like to read some positive thoughts on handler and dog aging in the sport, visit the group page

    If you are looking for positive aging gems from wise and wonderfully positive writers, then perhaps my blog is not for you. If, however, you enjoy irreverent, politically incorrect, dark thoughts from an aging curmudgeon, read on!

    Me to Sir Cussalot:

    “This Blogger’s Day topic is on aging. What do you think I should say?”

    Sir Cussalot:

    “Getting old sucks.”

    True that!

    Turning thirty didn’t bother me one single bit. It helped that I still got carded and looked about 16.

    Forty, however, was a different story.

    I HATED turning forty! I cried and felt very sorry for myself. It was one of the worst days of my life.

    Then I turned forty-one and wished I were forty again. That was when it hit me:

    I might as well appreciate every single birthday because I will not be getting any younger.

    It is so true that youth is wasted on the young! If only…. <SIGH>

    Agility came into my life when I turned fifty. Sir C was sixty-two. We lament every single day that we hadn’t discovered agility when we were younger. How’s that for unproductive thinking?

    Everyone says agility keeps you young. Not sure that is true, but in what other sport could two old farts like Sir C and his crippled old wife step on the same playing field as the world champions? Now that is amazing to me!

    Sadly, those world champions are mostly young and can book. It is depressing to watch those youngsters fly around the ring in front of their dogs, showing the way.

    AND…by the time we get our dogs trained up so they really know what they are doing, they are at least six or seven years old. By that age, they are slowing down,, sick, injured or worse.

    I live for agility. So does Sir C. He is going to be seventy-six years old in a few months. I am going to be sixty-four. We are both vegans. We don’t drink alcohol, soda or coffee. We don’t smoke or use drugs of any kind. I took Advil until I burned a hole in my stomach. Then they put me on Celebrex. It took a few years, but I eventually burned holes in my stomach using that too. I had polio as a kid and now have post polio, a rotten gallbladder and a broken knee from falling on it. I am a mess. But I still manage to go out there and walk my dog around an agility course, sans painkillers.

    We feed our dogs organic when possible. All are raw fed except Isabella who is a vegan because she is intolerant of animal protein. I retired her at 6, just short of MACH 2. Josephine ran until she was 12 ½ when her eyesight failed. She was just 4 double Qs short of MACH 8. Sure, we could have dragged both dogs around the ring to finish those titles, but why?  We need to know when it’s the right time to retire our agility dogs so they can long lives, free of arthritis. Their wellbeing is much more important than any titles!  Every year our dogs get at least two months off with no agility at all. That gives them, and us, time to regenerate our minds and bodies. We trial about twenty weekends a year: some years a little more and some years less. It is just right for us. Everyone has to make the right decision for themselves and their dogs.

    Sir C had knee surgery two years ago and back surgery last year. He whines all the time that he is so much slower than he used to be; even slower than a few years ago. I have always been slow so that is not an issue for me. Sure, I wish like crazy I could run! My dog would be so much faster if I didn’t have to use distance, and I wouldn’t have to train so damn hard. People who can’t run have to train a LOT more than those who can run! We slowpokes need crazy ass verbals in order to direct our dogs around the courses while we trudge along behind or to the side, and it can take years to perfect verbals!

    So there is good news and bad news when it comes to aging in agility. The good news is that it allows old people like us to stay active (sorta). The bad news is that it is a constant reminder that you are old and slow.

    So yes, Sir Cussalot is right: getting old does suck!

    But it sure beats the alternative!

    AGE ON!!!

    oldman and dog shutterstock

    MACH 8 MeMe

    MACH 8 MeMe & Sir Cussalot

    MACH 8 MeMe & Sir Cussalot

    With only two trials to go, our agility year is winding down. Our dogs will get about two to three months off from all things agility before we start back up in December.

    This weekend, our little MiniMe got her 160th double Q to earn her MACH 8 title. She is now MACH 8 PDCH Tiara MiniMe  RN, MXB3, MJG3, PTM, HIT, CGC, VCX. MeMe is nine years old and when she was a year old, she was diagnosed with Legg-Perthes disease. Consequently, she underwent an FHO to remove the head of her femur. We were told that she would never be able to do agility. With intense rehab, we got the surgeon’s blessing to continue in agility with her. He said she was the best rehabbed FHO dog he had ever seen. He uses her videos when he lectures on FHO vs. hip replacement.

    MeMe has slowed down considerably in her advancing years, but, she is nine and only has one hip! I think, under the circumstances, she is doing pretty dang well! So what if she is about 10 seconds slower than she once was, she is happy and doing what she loves most.


    Take One More Step You MORON!

    Today Pankies and I had a great run going in JWW. I was feeling pretty pretty good about myself too. I was mentally thumping my chest and getting downright cocky as we approached the final obstacles! We had made it through all the hard parts and  I had gotten to places I thought I would never get to. I had even done TWO front crosses! Our distance work was pretty awesome and inspiring if I do say so myself! I serped the third to last jump, then did a rear cross and told Pankies “ LEFT!!! TUNNEL! GET IN! GO!!!” I figured we were home free. Instead of following her and driving her to the tunnel mouth, I took a step left and waited for her. WTF???? Stacy Winkler has been telling me to take one more step for TEN FREAKING YEARS!!!!! As I watched my trusty and brilliant dog NOT go into the tunnel, all I could think was, WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE THAT ONE EXTRA STEP TOWARDS THE TUNNEL YOU LAZY FAT F#@K????

    balloonI hung my head in shame. My briefly inflated ego flew around the agility course like a deflating balloon. It landed on the Argus Ranch arena floor and lay there, flat as a pancake, exhaling its last breath and waiting for future competitors to trample it and put it out of its misery.  I had once again snatched defeat from the very jaws of victory. I tried quickly to get happy so Pankies didn’t think I was upset with her. I told her I was a moron (in a happy voice of course) and we left to celebrate HER victory. I had the walk of shame. Pankies was nothing short of brilliant!

    As I exited the ring, somebody yelled to me, “I WANT TO TRAIN WITH YOU!!!!”

    “WHY???” I responded, “So you can learn how to make your dog miss the last obstacle?”

    Poor Pankies, we coulda been contendas!



    That Old Rich Guy Who Runs the Ugly Labs That Look Like Whippets and Greyhounds

    As I was leaving the show grounds, somebody called me over and said they had something funny to tell me. I listened as she told me a story about some A$$#@!E who was standing behind her at the trial. It went something like this:

    The uninformed know-it-all evidently said to somebody behind her, “You know that old rich guy who runs those ugly Labs that look like Whippets and Greyhounds? Why doesn’t he use some of his money to buy some good dogs?”

    HMMMM. If this idiot knows so much about us, why don’t they know that we live in an eleven year old beat to shit motorhome and drive a 2005 Stinkmobile (both paid for at least)? I never buy new clothes, my manicure is done by my teeth and Sir Cussalot wears old holey white socks. Oh yeah AND OUR DOGS ARE FREAKING POODLES YOU MORON!

    How quickly people forget. Many of the folks who were around when Josephine was beating almost all of the dogs on the planet, are gone from the sport. Crushie hasn’t been on top since she smashed her shoulder three years ago, Pankies is a total freak that is limited by my slow, fat a$$, Barque has stage fright as bad as Sir Cussalot and poor little MeMe is nine now and only has one hip. We run a rag tag team of misfits and old dogs. And whose business is it anyway where we spend what little money we have left after spending it all on agility and vet bills?

    As I was walking down the aisle, somebody asked me what number MACH MeMe had gotten. I responded, “MACH 8.” To which they said snidely, “I can’t afford to get that many MACHs.”

    I replied, “We do about 20 trials a year.” What I wanted to say was, We do about 20 trials a year and I see your sorry whining ass at most of them. Don’t blame your lack of success on money and say dumb ass shit like that to me to make me feel like crap.

    Agility is very much like raising horses; you can make a small fortune! The only catch is in order to make that small fortune, you have to start with a large fortune.


    Posted by: jility | August 27, 2013

    Crushie’s Ulcers

    It has been two weeks since Crush was diagnosed with a severe case of ulcers in her mouth, throat and stomach. She has improved daily and is now back to her obnoxious self.

    The photos of the ulcers taken with the scope are very scary!

    One of the mouth ulcers

    One of the mouth ulcers

    Tummy ulcer

    Tummy ulcers

    More ulcers

    More ulcers

    Nasty tummy hole

    Nasty tummy hole

    No wonder she wouldn't eat!

    No wonder she wouldn’t eat!



    We took her back to Sumner today for a follow up scope. CLEAN AS A WHISTLE! Auntie Kathy (Dr. Kathy Wendt) said there was a lineup of doctors and techs waiting to see what the scope would reveal. She said everyone was shocked today when there was not a single ulcer to be found! Fwushie does everything fast, including healing herself ;).

    Clean as a whistle!

    Clean as a whistle! The white spots are just light reflections.

    While she was there, we had them do a shock wave treatment on her shoulder. She is lame again and will need three treatments., three weeks apart. If it works, she will return to agility. If it doesn’t, her incredible agility career may be over. Let’s hope it works. I can’t imagine Crushie without a hard hitting job to do! Sir Cussalot can’t imagine not running her.

    Poor little Fwushie.

    Poor us! She is going to drive us insane!

    Crushie is on leash rest. She is going to go even crazier than she already is..

    Watching TV from her crate. Very sad.

    Use that dang remote GRAMPA!

    Use that dang remote GRAMPA!

    Posted by: jility | August 18, 2013

    The Butler

    It was a walk down Memory Lane. Some memories good, some not so good, but the movie was fabulous!

    The Butler is based on a true story about a man who was a butler for eight Presidents, starting with Eisenhower. It is a history lesson seen through his eyes. Having lived through most of those times, it really hit home.

    I remember when African Americans had to sit in the back of the bus, drink from a separate drinking fountain or eat in a segregated area. God forbid if they tried to vote or date anyone outside of their own race!!! It was a shameful time in our history.

    I entered college in Upstate New York in 1968. That year marked the first time in the history of the school that African Americans were allowed to attend. Having grown up in New England, sheltered from racial hatred and intolerance and raised by very nonbigoted parents, that little fact blew me away!

    As I ventured outside my own little New England world, I saw ugliness and hatred I couldn’t believe. I was ashamed of the human race on many occasions. I am still ashamed when it comes to the way gays and lesbians are treated. It is hard for me to believe that bigotry and hatred still exist on so many levels just because of the color of somebody’s skin, their sex or their preference in partners. SHAME on society for not giving equal rights to ALL people! We were all created equal but it is clear that some are still MORE equal than others.

    Perhaps I am more emotional than I normally am because of the sad and stressful events in our life over this past year, but I found myself in tears throughout much of the movie. Those who know me well, know that crying in front of others is something I hate to do just about more than anything. Some of my tears while watching The Butler were tears of joy, some were tears of empathy, some were tears of sadness, some for the inhumanity and some just because. This movie really hit me hard.

    The Butler got decent reviews but, in my opinion, they should have been even better! I loved this movie. The cast were AMAZING!

    If you are sitting on the fence about seeing The Butler, RUN to the box office. You won’t be sorry!

    Posted by: jility | August 15, 2013

    The Fwushie Song

    The phone rang about 6:30 this morning. It was Sumner Vet Hospital. I had been lying awake for an hour or so, trying to get enough courage to call them for a Crushie update. As of 10:30 the previous night she still had not eaten.

    I answered and the voice on the other end said, “Hi, this is Doctor Aluas calling about Crush.” Dr. Aluas is the overnight critical care vet at Sumner and he always sounds so serious.

    My heart sank and butterflies went wild in there. I had assumed if things were okay, nobody would call. I am a tad gun shy at this point.

    “Crush is doing well,” he continued in a guardedly optimistic voice. Now that is a HUGE improvement over yesterday morning’s, “Crush is doing okay,” delivered with a sad, sighing voice. I heard those words in that voice over and over about Josephine when she was in the emergency hospital down in Medford (and we all know how that ended).

    “She is a lot brighter than she was yesterday but she is still not eating. We tried putting food in her mouth but she spit it back out and looked very indignant.” Well DUH! She IS the princess you know and you guys are NOT the boss of her!

    I asked him about giving her an appetite stimulant and he said he thought that was a good idea and would do so in a bit. I told him Mel and I would drive up with more goodies to try to entice her to eat something. It had been four days since she had eaten anything significant and she couldn’t last many more days without food.

    I asked about tube feeding her but the doctor explained that because her throat and stomach were so ulcerated and the way she fought them putting food in her mouth, that tube feeding could cause more trouble than it might fix. His gut feeling (no pun intended) was to allow Crush more time to decide to eat or not.

    He had a good point.

    We fed the dogs, took a shower, loaded Isabella in the car so she wouldn’t be left alone and headed out the driveway for the two hour drive to Sumner. Auntie Kathy called just as we were pulling into the hospital to tell me that Crush had actually eaten a little bit on her own that morning. I assumed it was due to the appetite stimulant.

    They took us back to the isolation ward to see Crush. As you walked through the glass doors of Crushie’s room there was a large tray (cat box) with an antiseptic soaked towel for wiping feet coming and going. It was more to protect Crushie because of her low white blood than to protect the outside world from her plague.

    Crush saw us and came barreling out of her cage; IV in tow. Mel intercepted her before she ran out of tube. Luckily, it was attached to the rear leg so she had more wiggle room before she hit the end of the line. The tech grabbed her back end and removed the tube from the catheter while Mel held on to her front end. She was trying so hard to climb on him. Once she was free, it was as if I didn’t exist. She only had eyes for her Grampa. She jumped on him and hung on for dear life. She was so happy to see him.

    She looked much brighter than she had the day before. Mel brought Carnivore cookies for her. I didn’t think she would eat them because they are so dry, but Mel’s instincts were right and I was wrong (now, you won’t read that statement every day! ;)). Mel broke them into little pieces to make them easier for her to eat and she gobbled them down!!! It was obvious by the way she ate them that her mouth and throat still hurt. BUT SHE ATE!!!! We got her to eat three or four Carnivore Cookies and some dehydrated treats by having her do tricks and catching the treats. Then I tossed Easter Biscuits on the floor and she did the big Easter Biscuit hunt and ate all of them. We smiled for the first time in days and Fwushie did too.

    Finding the Easter Biscuits!

    Finding the Easter Biscuits!

    Dr. Bronk peeked in to say hi. I told her Crush had eaten fairly well and that I was glad they had given her the appetite stimulant. She said with a smile, “OH they DIDN’T give her the appetite stimulant!”

    Okay, now for the first time in MANY days, I was encouraged! Crushie had eaten without the help of drugs!

    Mel sat on the floor with Crushie and had her turn over for her belly rub. They do that every night. Crushie loves it.

    Assuming the position for a tummy rub

    Assuming the position for a tummy rub from her Grampa

    Then he sang “The Fwushie Song” to her. She LOVES it when you tell her she is a good girl. She gets incredibly excited when you say, “GOOD GIRL FWUSHIE! GOOD GIRL FWUSHIE! GOOD GIRL FWUSHIE!”

    Singin the Fwushie song

    We took her for a little walk out in the potty yard (she is underwhelmed by that potty yard. It is for DOGS but not princesses). We stayed for a while and tried to get her to eat sardines, but no go. When it was time to leave, I told her to get in her cage and she ran to it with anticipation of further direction. I tossed in some treats while singsonging, “EASTER BISCUITS.” She ate a few but then looked uninterested. I threw in some of Isabella’s vegan kibble (they all love that stuff) and some Dr. Harvey’s dehydrated sweet potato fries but she just sat looking at us. We so wanted to take her home with us. Life in the Global Warmer is very dull without our little insane crackhead running the show.

    Later that afternoon the phone rang and it was Dr. Bronk.

    “We have the results of the respiratory culture and the biopsy of her ulcers.”

    I held my breath. I almost didn’t want to know. All I could think was please don’t let it be cancer or fungus.

    Dr. Bronk read the repost to me. NOT CANCER! NOT FUNGUS!!!

    Yippee aye oh ki yay!!!!!!

    The respiratory stuff was ho hum kennel cough crap, nothing exciting.

    Still no idea what those ulcers are or why. The report suggested irritation from a foreign body. Perhaps that window screen she tore to shreds when Mel was playing with MeMe Saturday had something to do with it, or then again, perhaps not since she gets those ulcers in her mouth and throat every year about this time. I don’t think we will ever know for sure.

    All I know is our little red crackhead is on the mend.

    Dr. Bronk said that Crush had not eaten anything more for the tech but that all the treats I had thrown into her cage were gone! J

    They said she may get to come home tomorrow!!!! I sure hope so cause all these days in the hospital, well ca-ching ca-ching!


    PWEEZE can I go home now Auntie Kathy? I pwomise to eat all my dinner.

    PWEEZE can I go home now Auntie Kathy? I pwomise to be a good girl and eat all my dinner.

    PS. When I forget, Mel reminds me that my smack talking days are over. I never realized how much smack talking I do on a daily basis! Making fun truly IS a sport for me and it makes me laugh to poke fun at myself as well as others. No harm meant, I just like to laugh and it doesn’t matter at whose expense.

    I am trying to be a better person, even if it means I have to find a nicer way to make myself laugh.

    I wonder if my pact includes talking smack about myself. HMMMMMMMMM

    Posted by: jility | August 14, 2013

    No More Talking Smack

    For the uninformed, the past few weeks in the King world have been pretty pretty crappy. You can read about the loss of our beloved Josephine in my previous blogs. Then all the dogs got kennel cough and it was a really nasty strain! We missed out on working our dogs in most of the Stacy Winkler 5 day seminar I planned for more than a year and have withdrawn from at least two trials.

    Crushie and Xoom Xoom got the kennel cough first. Xoom really hacked and coughed up a bunch of crap but recovered in a few days. Crush seemed to be on the mend but then relapsed. Meanwhile, Isabella got sick and ended up at the vet and Crush ended up in the Olympia emergency hospital at midnight last Saturday with a 105.5 temp and wouldn’t eat. They sent her home with some antibiotics and said she had a sore throat. In retrospect, saying Crush had a sore throat was like saying Moses went for a walk.

    Then MeMe got very sick and ran a temp of 104 and wouldn’t eat. WTF!!!!! I had never had kennel cough this bad. We put MeMe on antibiotics and she is on the mend. Temp normal and eating but still hacking like a goose.

    Crush ate Sunday morning like she had been starving for a week. Then, Sunday night she refused to eat again. Temp back up to 105. We knew she was really sick because she was not trying to grab the remote out of Mel’s hand and didn’t care about the TV. On Monday, Mel drove her to Sumner Emergency Hospital to see her Auntie Kathy (Dr. Kathy Wendt). They ran a blood test and her white blood cell count was only 1,000!!!!! Her platelets were very low and her temp was 105. They kept her.

    Cold wet towels to bring down the fever

    Cold wet towels to bring down the fever

    Her temperature fluctuated between 105 and 103 and she refused to eat. They mentioned all the possibilities but all I heard was bone marrow cancer. Then I kept remembering Uncle Jef telling me that, except for poor Millie, our dogs always get “fake cancer.” I prayed that was once again the case with Fwushie.

    I reminded them that every summer about this time, Crush gets some weird throat infection. It started in 2009 when a grass seed head worked its way from the inside of her throat to the outside. It created a big ole abscess on the front of her throat. We got it healed up but every year about the same time, she has flair ups. I thought scoping her throat was the way to go.

    Auntie Kathy PWEEZE make my FWOTE  stop hurting

    Auntie Kathy PWEEZE make my FWOTE stop hurting

    The plan was to do a bone marrow aspirant to rule out cancer but after consulting with a hot shot veterinary internist, they decided to scope her after all. If all looked good in her throat, they would then do the bone marrow aspirant.

    Before going in, they ran another blood count.

    White cells were up all the way to 4,000 :). Good news! Temp 103 🙂 Not eating 😦

    Auntie Kathy bought me some Fresh Pet but it hurtz too much to eat it.

    Auntie Kathy bought me some Fresh Pet but it hurtz too much to eat it.

    We were scared to death that, in her weakened state, she would not do well with the anesthesia. I trust Sumner and Auntie Kathy to take great care of her so I told them to go ahead. We had to do something!

    Kathy called to say Crushie had ulcers! They were very bad too. The ulcerations started in her mouth and extended down her esophagus and into her stomach. She said her stomach was wall to wall ulcers! No wonder she felt like crap!

    No bone marrow aspirant! 🙂

    So, now they knew what was wrong but not why. They took biopsies but we don’t have the results back yet.

    Her treatment plan was doxycycline, Baytril,  metronidazole (Flagyl) and scralfate  to coat the lining of her digestive tract and to aid in healing.

    We crossed our fingers.

    By evening, her temp had dropped to 102.9! FABULOUS NEWS!!!!

    Still not eating 😦

    When I called at 10 last night her temp was down to 101.5!!!! MORE fabulous news! 🙂

    Still not eating 😦

    When I called at 6 in the morning, temp still down to 101.5!!!! 🙂

    Still not eating 😦

    So, hoping she might eat for me, I drove the two hours each way to go see her this morning (Mel had to go to the dentist so I went alone). I brought all her favorite foods: Costco grilled chicken, sardines in water (no salt of course), ZD canned dog food (go figure but they ALL love that crap) and K9 Magic from

    When I walked into the isolation ward at the hospital, Crushie was lying in her cage with the door open and her little tail went THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. She pulled back her little lips and smiled at me as she exited the cage and slunk over to see me. She looked very sad and very sheepish as only a Border collie can. She jumped up on me (they had removed the IV to take her potty so she was not attached to fluids when I arrived). She buried her little Fwushie head in my legs and hung onto me for dear life. I told her something wonderful was going to happen so she sat looking at me with great anticipation. I tossed her a small piece of chicken which she gobbled with great enthusiasm, then made a terrible face like it really really hurt. I got her to take on more little piece but she promptly spit it out on the floor. She wouldn’t take more after that.

    So then I tried the sardines; no go. I was shocked.

    She looked like she really wanted to eat but it was just too painful.

    So then I got out the K9 Magic and offered her a small piece which she ate eagerly, then made that, OH CRAP THAT REALLY FREAKING HURT face. She took another but immediately spit it out on the floor.

    Then we tried the ZD. YUK she said. We tried making a slurry out of the ZD so she could lap it but she would have none of it.

    So then I thought about how I had taught her early in her life that when you are offered a treat, you must take it. I played a game, a Crate Game :). I sent her into her cage and she turned and sat waiting for further instructions. I tossed in a piece of K9 Magic about the size of a millet ball (TINY). She gobbled it. I threw in more tiny pieces which she also gobbled with joy. Telling her they were her beloved “EASTER BISCUITS!” I managed to get her to eat a few tablespoons worth of the treats before she decided it was just too painful.

    We went outside and she was excited at first until she realized we were going to the potty yard. Crushie is grossed out by potty yards. She must go to a pristine place to do her thing. She tiptoed over the pea gravel like it was a bed of hot coals, trying to stay as close to the edge of the yard as she could. Crushie hates to walk where cur dogs have pottied. She is a princess through and through.

    Auntie Kathy said they were about to run another blood count. It would take an hour or so for results, so I decided to drive home (the granddollars had a dance recital in the evening at the Lewis County Fair and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t late).

    White blood cell count 11,610!!!!!! Was 1,000!

    Platelet count NORMAL!!!!!!!

    Still not eating :(. Has not eaten since Sunday. :((((

    So, we are far from out of the woods. We need to know why she is getting those ulcers every year. I am sure they were so bad this year because her immune system was wiped out from the kennel cough. We will know more in a few days when the biopsies are back.

    All of the prayers and positive thoughts from our wonderful and supportive friends (Facebook and otherwise 🙂 have meant the world to us and, I am sure to Fwushie. Positive energy is everything!

    Oh, and I made a pact with God. I said,”Dear God, if you make our Crushie well, I promise to be a better person. I promise to stop talking smack about people.”

    I told a friend about it she said, “How are you going to do that? It is a sport for you!”

    I guess she has a point.

    Uncle Jef said I should have thought it through a little better.

    He too has a point.

    But, a promise is a promise! Especially to the BIG GUY upstairs.

    So, the next time you seek me out to talk smack, don’t be surprised if I just silently nod my head and smile. I promised not to talk smack, but I never said anything about not listening to it ;).


    Please continue to keep Crushie and all our Hooligans in your thoughts and prayers. I hope this run of crap luck is over and all nice things happen from here on out.



    Claudia and Mel say writing a blog about a happy ending (which this was not!) is the kiss of death. Let it be known that I am fully prepared for more s#!t storms but pray they blow out to sea.

    Josephine & Mel

    Josephine & Mel

    She was arguably the fastest standard Poodle ever to step onto an agility course. In her prime, there were very few dogs that could beat her, including the fastest Border Collies.

    When Lisa Greene became ill, she asked us to take her amazing standard Poodle, Josephine into our care. We agreed to take Jose and Lisa’s other Poodle Charisse. Jose was almost six years old at the time and Charisse was almost three. Lisa said she wanted Mel to run her because he was faster and a better handler than I was. I agreed and thought that was a great idea.

    Mel and Josephine tore up the courses. They were an amazing team, winning large classes Coast to Coast.

    With her first owner, Lisa, Josephine became the youngest standard Poodle ever to MACH. Lisa and Josephine also made the finals of the AKC Nationals one year! Pretty amazing for a standard Poodle because that was back when the World Team BCs ran in the 24” class and there were a LOT of great 24” dogs. Then, with Mel, she became the highest MACHing standard Poodle until others came along to take that honor. Jose ran in agility until she was 12 ½ years old. She retired due to her eyesight, just 4 double Qs short of MACH 8. Her body was still willing but her eyes were weak.

    We let her do some jumper courses in matches at 12” and she loved it. She lived for agility and as recently as last week, she got very excited to just be in an agility building.

    13 year old Jose in a match at 12″

    Jose was the boss of the world and she let everyone know it. She was the queen and demanded to be treated as such. We obliged her in every way possible. She gave us her all for as long as she lived. I never thought it would end.

    Two and a half weeks ago, Josephine had a mass rupture on her spleen. We had her spleen removed and the tumor was benign. I wrote about it in my last blog.

    Jose struggled in her recovery and spent many days in the emergency vet in Olympia, Washington as well as in Medford, Oregon where we were trialing. We finally thought she had turned the corner. She was doing SUPER! She was eating well. Her temperature was staying down and her attitude was terrific. She was growling at the other dogs again and bossing them around as usual.

    This morning, we went out about 8:30 to the seminar we are attending in Sequim. She was doing so well. When we came back in at noon, she didn’t greet us at the door. When I found her, she was lying on her side on one of the dog beds. Isabella was lying back to back with her snuggled up. That has never happened in all the years we have had Josephine. Isabella took good care of her until we returned.

    We can’t stop crying. We will miss her forever and are blessed to have had a dog like her in our lives. We have spent all afternoon watching old videos of Jose.

    Below is something Mel wrote about her. He loved her so.

    Our great Standard Poodle Josephine has died.

     During her agility career it was lucky for me that Josephine could read numbers. I don’t know how many times she saved the run when I had tried to mess it up. At the last split-second she could change direction to go the correct way when I had miscued a turn or obstacle. She let me know I had screwed up too: “Woof” (Tell me sooner Grampa).

    She always tried her hardest for me. If it wasn’t for me, she would have Qed every time.

    Her funniest behavior was when we did a MACH victory lap. She would refuse to do most of the obstacles. “I know the run is over Grampa. Where’s my treat?”

    I enjoyed running Jose the most of all our dogs. I’m very sad that she’s gone. She loved agility. She loved me and I loved and still love her. She was truly a great dog.

     In her prime, she usually beat all but the very fastest BCs. She ran most of her Jumpers runs about 6 yps or more and most of her Standard runs about 4.5 yps or more. She enjoyed dock diving, sheep herding, Obedience, Rally, endlessly retrieving and swimming in a pool or in the ocean.

    But most of all she loved agility.

     Josephine would have turned 14 in November. She eagerly did everything we ask of her and more. After her retirement at 12½, she still got excited when I went out to train or take one of the other dogs to the line at a show: “My turn Grampa, my turn.”

     Teller’s Hollywood Dream (Josephine) November 28, 1999 – August 4, 2013

     The only standard poodle to ever have an ADCH and MACH 7

    Just 4 DQs short of MACH 8

    Enough points (11,417) for MACH 15+

    224 Ex B Jumpers Qs

    206 Ex B Standard Qs

    One Q short for her CDX


    I hope she is doing agility with Lisa in heaven. We are so grateful to Lisa Greene for trusting us to care for her Josephine and to Janice Teller-West for breeding the most amazing standard Poodle that ever lived.

    Long live the Queen!


    OK, so the year isn’t over but I am certainly hoping the Universe sees fit to stop torturing us mentally, physically and financially.

    AUGUST 2012:

    It all started last August of 2012. Well, actually, it started more than three years ago in the spring or 2010. Crushie came in the Global Warmer on three legs. We assumed she hurt herself running outside. She runs like a maniac (or at least she used to). We took her to see a couple of vets. One said shoulder and the other toe. We rested her for six weeks and she seemed OK. She would go on and off lame for the next 2 1/2 years with no definitive diagnosis. There were a lot of different opinions from a lot of different vets.

    Then we were having a veterinarian do some body work on her and he found a tumor. First biopsy said cancer. Second report on the tumor said cancer. Then our wonderful friend and vet, Dr. Kathy Wendt, asked me if she could send it in to Dr. Powers in Colorado. Kathy said she was the BEST. We said sure. The report came back that is was NOT cancer. It was something her body made to encapsulate a ruptured tendon sheath. Bingo on why she was originally lame!

    You will find the whole story in the links below.

    So the good news is that Crushie is still running agility. She is nowhere near as fast as she once was, but she is missing a large portion of her triceps muscle that they took with the tumor to make sure they had margins. So she gets her little ass whooped now, who cares, at least she is alive! I overheard somebody saying today that she was slow in the weaves. At first it really hurt and I wanted to punch her in the face. Then I thought about it. Crushie gives it her all, she is sound, she is alive and gets to do what she really loves to do. When her run was over, I turned to the woman and said, “She is slow in the weaves because she had a tumor removed and is missing much of her triceps muscle. She can’t extend her leg like she used to. Oh, and guess what? She ran that STANDARD course in 5.1 yps second and won. So she is not as fast as she once was, but under the circumstances, she does just fine. She is now just normal fast rather than freaky fast.

    On the same weekend last year that we thought would be Crushie’s last agility run, our four month old puppy, Xoom, began falling. Each time she fell (the three falls were about two weeks apart), the results got worse. On the third fall, she was completely paralyzed. The diagnosis was not that she was hurt because she fell, but that she fell because she was hurt. It turned out she had what they called a “spontaneous mutation” in her C 1 vertebra and a boney protrusion that had grown down onto her spinal cord, compressing it by 50%. They thought it might be cancer so they removed a large section of the vertebra to relieve the pressure on her spinal cord and to make sure they got margins just in case. Well, it was NOT cancer, even though several folks suggested it was.

    I have already written detailed blogs about both dogs and the links are below so I won’t go into more here. So it was surgery, rehab and six months in a crate for Xoom, Sadly, it was all during the most important time in her life for physical and mental development. She really suffered for it, but she has a good life now and lives to chase her idol Crushie.

    Here are some links to the original blogs I wrote about both girls:

    So that pretty much took up our August and September.


    October – December 2012:

    Sir Cussalot got to a point where the pain was unbearable so he had back surgery. I had to manage two recovering dogs, seven other obnoxious dogs plus a convalescing man. It was not a fun time as I hurt ALL the time myself! It was beginning to feel like Queen for a Day around the Global Warmer, only without the Queen part (if you understand that, you are as old or older than I am!).

    Here is the REST of Sir Cussalot’s surgery story:

    Shortly after Sir C’s surgery, our feral dog Millie started throwing up bile. They thought acid reflux, then IBD and some other things. I knew it wasn’t though. She had never shown signs of anything like that and now to start at thirteen years old, well, I had my doubts. She got progressively worse until she could no longer keep anything down and finally she lost her appetite completely. The final diagnosis was stomach cancer. Unfortunately, her cancer was very real and we lost her in December. It was a tough two months and heart wrenching to say good-bye to our wonderful girl.

    Here is the entire story:

    January 2013:

    All the while this was going on, our friend of 40 years, Ernie Treiber, was battling lymphoma. Ernie was Sir C’s best friend and nobody got me or laughed at my stupid jokes the way Ernie did. Not only did he laugh at them, he encouraged me. Losing Ernie was devastating. Ernie and his wife Jane were our traveling buddies. We have traveled the world with them and will miss those travels more than I can say.

    We just attended Ernie’s Celebration of Life last weekend. I still can’t believe he is gone.

    Here are the blogs I wrote about Jane & Ernie:

    February – May 2013:

    This time the Universe spread our bad fortune out over a few months. I am grateful for that! In late April, I got very ill. I won’t go into a lot of details, but a couple of times I thought I was going to die (literally) or wanted to anyway. It takes something horrific to send me to the doctor but I dragged myself there. Turned out I burned up the lining of my digestive tract taking Celebrex so I could “run” Pankies on the weekends. I have never been so sick in my entire life and I have had Dengue fever! It was horrible! Here it is the end of July and I am still scared I am going to get sick again. I hurled my guts out about every week or so for hours and hours (nice visual eh?). The pain was excruciating and I would break out in sweats that wouldn’t stop. I was in a supermarket once when a sweat struck. I thought I would pass out I was so hot. There I stood; sweat literally pouring from my face and neck when a little boy walked by with his mom. We were in front of the refrigerator cases at the time. The little boy looks up at his mom and says, “Mom, I’m cold! It is freezing in here!” I was horrified. That was when I knew I was in even worse shape than I thought. Even at 63 and totally spayed in 1997, I have never had a hot flash. Now I have great empathy for those who do!

    I am so much better but still messed up. I have to be very careful what I stuff in my fat face. If I don’t overeat or eat fat, I am good to go. However, if I have any dietary indiscretions, I am toast! Not a fun way to go on a diet but hey! Losing weight is losing weight and I will take it ;). If I do agility in a hot place, the sweats return. I tell people what my brother’s friend Snap Snap (long story) used to say, “Fat people sweat” and shrug.

    So while I was in my acute stage of holes burned in digestive tract, Isabella decided to get sick again and ended up in the emergency vet while we were at a trial. As if things were bad enough, she bloated for the tenth or eleventh time (I have honestly lost count). HAHAHAHA Universe! Very funny! Way to pig pile on us! Isabella recovered but our bank account was bleeding out.

    So time marched on until mid-July. We held our breath as most everything, other than my iffy stomach, was going pretty smoothly. Then the Universe remembered that it was time to torture us and our dogs yet again. The following is what Sir C wrote about what happened on July 17th:

    “The dogs all went to the groomer yesterday. While they were there, we took the granddollars to Seattle. We rode the new big ferris wheel on the waterfront, ate at Bamboo Garden and went to a movie. Anyway, we picked up the dogs on our way back from Seattle. The groomer said Josephine wasn’t acting right. When we got home, she could hardly walk and just wanted to lie down and wouldn’t eat. If she won’t eat, something is wrong; she’s a pig. So we watched her for a while and then noticed that her feet and tail were cold. So we thought she was in shock either from trying to bloat or from stress of being at the groomer’s all day. Jose stresses easily in here old age (she is 14). She wasn’t getting better, so about 11 PM I took her to the emergency vet in Olympia. I didn’t want to drive the extra hour to Sumner for fear she wouldn’t make it.

    The vet examined her and did an ultrasound. Turns out she had a tumor the size of a grapefruit on her spleen that had ruptured. Her abdomen was full of blood. That’s why she was in shock: from the blood loss. Before he performed surgery to remove the spleen, the vet x-rayed to make sure there were no masses in other places that he could see. He said there was a 70% chance that she wouldn’t make because of blood loss, shock and the surgery, but she did. He doesn’t know old Jose very well. He felt the tumor was an Hermangiosarcoma:

    It had to be sent in to a lab to determine if it’s malignant. If it is, the cancer has probably already spread and she may only live another few months. If it’s not, she could go on another few years. She’s 14 now so not much time left anyway.

    I had the option of spending another $5000 for the surgery or just putting her to sleep. At 14, it would have been smarter to put her to sleep but I just couldn’t do it so there goes another $5000 to vets.

    Somehow, she made it through the surgery and went to recovery for blood transfusions.

    Poor old Jose. She gave me everything she had to give on the agility course for years. I figured she deserves the best that I can do for her.”

    We waited with guarded optimism for the results from the lab. We hoped for the best but were prepared for the worst.

    This morning the vet who removed Jose’s spleen called. I had avoided calling in to get the report because I figured what I didn’t know couldn’t hurt me. That is the normal approach I take to life in general.

    Anyway, I told him she was not eating much at all. It has been a week since they removed her spleen and the ruptured mass. I asked him how large it was and he said about the size of a grapefruit. So we talked a while about her eating and drinking and he said it was not unusual for a dog of her advanced years (14) to take so long to recover from an “heroic surgery” like the one she had.

    Finally, not being able to avoid the subject any longer, I said, “Well, I have been avoiding calling you and I have been changing the subject here enough so you can’t tell me, but I guess I need to know about the report. Is it back?”

    The vet said, “Well, that is why I am calling you.” His voice sounded very down and I was prepared for the worst. I said, “I don’t think I want to hear it.” Vet said, “Oh, I think you do. It was BENIGN!!!”


    How is that even possible? Mel & I shed tears of joy. We have shed many tears of sadness this past week (heck, this past year!) it was good to have some joyful tears for a change.

    When I called my friend Uncle Jef this morning to tell him, he said, “Why do your dogs always get the fake cancers? Why couldn’t our dog have had fake cancer too?” (He lost his beloved Lab, Milo, to cancer the same day and time we lost Millie) He failed to remember that we may have had three dogs with “fake cancers” this year alone, but we lost our beloved Millie to real cancer (stomach) in December as well as our wonderful friend, Ernie, in January. Jef said Isabella could get real cancer but she would still live to be 20 (those of you who know Isabella and what she has been through in her 13 ½ years on earth will get a kick out of that one).

    The vet thinks it could have been caused just by normal aging, or she could have had an injury long ago. Who knows? All I know is that she has used up another life but she is alive and, hopefully, will live to torment all the other dogs for a few more years. Josephine lives to torment all the dogs.

    I do hope the Universe is done messing with us for a while anyway (a LONG WHILE!!!). Several people have suggested we buy a lottery ticket because of our luck with the fake cancers this year. We have had our share of the real thing as well so neither off us feels lucky enough to blow a few bucks on the lottery. Even if we won Powerball, it probably wouldn’t pay for all the vet and medical bills this past year!

    Another friend said she was sick of my gloomy blogs and wondered when I was going to get back to writing funny ones again. Well, she can thank the Universe for that! We have had the Nothing-is-funny-year-from-hell so it is up to the Universe as to when this shit storm of bad luck ends. Hopefully NOW!
    …and then I was diagnosed with colon cancer The real kind too, not the fake kind.

    Posted by: jility | July 20, 2013

    A Celebration of Life

    Jane & Ernie Treiber have been our closest and most wonderful friends for 40 years. We have been through pretty much everything together. Last winter Ernie died after a 16 year battle with lymphoma. After he died, I wrote a blog about our friendship.

    Travel buddies

    Travel buddies at the Old North Bridge in Concord,  Massachusetts

    Ernie loved summer, so Jane waited to have his celebration of life ceremony until the chances of the sun shining down on the Curtis Valley were pretty good. Today we celebrated all that was Ernie. We spread his ashes on the farm he loved so much, ate lots of food and shared wonderful stories. It was sad, funny and cathartic.

    Ernie was Mel’s best friend. Mel doesn’t open up to many, but he felt comfortable around Ernie and Ernie knew Mel better than anyone. Jane asked Mel to do a video to celebrate Ernie’s life. Mel worked on it for months and months. It was very difficult for him but he adored Ernie and wanted it to be great. No matter how many times we watched it, we cried.

    Life goes on but there is a HUGE hole in our heats. We will miss Ernie forever.

    Here is the video Mel made.


    Corn and Bean Salad for a Crowd


    This is a dish I came up with for Ernie’s Celebration of Life. You can cut down on the amount but the leftovers are very good. There were close to two hundred people there for the pot luck and this went fast. I was competing with a roasted pig and lots of other great but not vegan pot luck dishes too J.


    6 cups frozen or fresh corn

    2 – 15 oz cans black beans (drained and rinsed)

    4 large or 6 smaller tomatoes or more if you prefer (chopped- I used the hand cranked salsa maker to prepare all the veggies )

    1 red bell pepper (diced)

    1 green pepper (diced)

    1 bunch green onions or 1 red or white onion (diced)

    3 or 4 cloves garlic (minced)

    4 stalks celery (sliced)

    1 jalapeno pepper (minced)

    1 bunch cilantro (finely chopped _ I did it in the salsa maker too)

    3 or 4 limes depending on size (juiced)

    1 – 15 oz can black olives (pitted and chopped)

    1 – 4 oz can diced green chilies

    1 TBL chili powder

    1 TBL cumin

    Salt & pepper to taste


    First chop the garlic in the salsa maker, then add the jalapeno pepper to the garlic and continue grinding then add the green onion (cut up into smaller piece first) and grind. Empty into a large bowl.

    Then chop all the veggies in the salsa maker or hand cut into small pieces.

    Add all the ingredients to the large bowl and stir well. Make sure the spices are evenly distributed. Chill until ready to serve.

    Here is what my salsa maker looks like. Amazon has it cheap.

    Posted by: jility | June 27, 2013

    No Rest for the Wicked

    3,500 miles and 60 hours of driving in two months.

    3,500 miles and 60 hours of driving in two months.

    We began our 1,000 miles trip home to Silver Creek, Washington from Temecula, California two weeks ago. We arrived on Saturday a week and a half ago. Sir Cussalot drove the Global Warmer and pulled the Extortion/Stinkmobile. I drove the Sprinter van and pulled our 12’ utility trailer that houses our two 600 pound freezers, agility equipment and various other “necessities” that don’t fit in the GW.

    We were home only a few days and turned around and left for a three day agility camp in Bend, Oregon. The camp was at Desert Sage Agility owned and operated by Stephanie Morris. The instructors for the camp were Stacy Winkler, Laura Derrett, Moe Strenfel & Sandy Rogers. We had a lot of fun and we were exhausted and sore. Because I burned a hole in my stomach taking NSAIDs, I can no longer take Celebrex. I have been sick for almost three months from this dang ulcer. I am SO SO much better as long as I stay away from certain foods.

    ANYWAY, the day before we left for the camp, we went to the movies with our friend Jane to see Superman. I ate movie popcorn and got really sick (serves me right). So the five hour drive to Bend was more than unpleasant. You see, when the ulcer acts up, I sweat like crazy no matter how cold it is, feel like I swallowed a bowling ball made of spikes, am sick to my stomach, get anxiety and panic attacks (go figure on that one  –  I had never had a panic attack in my entire life until this ulcer!) and all I want to do is sleep. Driving under those conditions is not much fun. Luckily, my great friends kept me talking on the phone so the drive was unpleasant but uneventful.

    Sir C drove the Global Warmer and I drove the Sprinter. I had to leave earlier than he did in order to evaluate a litter of Border Collie pups by Stacy’s wonderful dog Keen. The Sprinter is not towable sadly, so I have to drive it everywhere I want to go instead of riding in the GW.

    I arrived about 1 in the afternoon and went to do the puppy testing at 2. I got sicker and sicker until I had to sit down with a few to go. I thought I wouldn’t make it through a few times, but I did. I did the temperament testing that day and the structure the next. It was a very nice litter of confident, good looking pups.

    Sir C ran Crush in the camp and I ran Pankies for most of it. Pankies was on fire for the first few sessions but threatened to run out of gas so I traded out for Barque for a session. Pankies did her dog walk and a-frame beautifully and fast! I was thrilled since it was new equipment to her. We didn’t attempt the teeter. We are still working our way back to full height for the billionth time and I didn’t want to risk it. I got some nice compliments on her drive and speed. I never thought that would happen :).

    Pankies had one moment in the final session of the three days where she unraveled a bit and went to sniff. Now Pankies has many issues but sniffing, THANK GOD, has never been one of them. I knew she had had enough, so I put her away and got Barque to finish up.

    It was a great camp!

    After Camp we drove another 5 hours east to John Day, Oregon to the Double J Ranch where I evaluated two more litters of Border Collies. It was a fun trip! We let Xoom see sheep for the first time (see video below) and Crushie got to chase some sheep around as well and had a blast! In the Xoom video you will see they let her half-brother, Howdy, out to show her how to do it. After she watched him for a bit, she got more confident. We were not trying to teach her anything, just let her get used to being in with them and not being afraid. I think she is adorable!

    Both litters of pups at Double J were fabulous! There was one male, Pep, that really took my heart, but no boys for this home!

    We had a great visit with the Johnson family. What a delight they are, as are their wonderful dogs. It is always a pleasure seeing them. Jef and Rossie Blake also drove down to John Day to see the pups by their fabulous Double J dog Klepto. It was so nice to see them again and spend some time playing with dogs and puppies.

    We got home last night after a nine hour drive. Tomorrow I leave for the weekend to attend a Denise Fenzi seminar in Sumner with Barque. Then, next Wednesday we leave for Medford, Oregon (seven hours away) for a four day trial. Then we get to then stay home for a week before we drive up to Sequim for a five day Stacy Winkler seminar!

    For those counting, that is about 3,500 miles and 60 hours of driving in two months and doesn’t include the small 100 mile trips we take a few times a week to go grocery shopping (Silver Creek is pretty isolated and we like to buy organic)!

    I am exhausted! No rest for the wicked.

    Posted by: jility | June 6, 2013

    In Defense of AKC

    There is nobody more disgusted with the state of purebred dogs today than I am. What breeders have done to the Poodle, the German Shepherd, the Doberman, the Bulldog, the Bull Terrier, the Pekinese, the Shar Pei and so many more breeds, is revolting!

    GSD cowhockedIn the not so distant future, the Poodle’s neck and tail will come out of the same hole on the back. They will have no idea where they are going because they will be staring straight up to the sky and they will have very little ability to go anywhere because of their extreme structure! The German Shepherd is nothing more than a caricature of its once magnificent self. How do breeders expect them to work all day when they can barely walk? When they do walk, it is on their hocks (which, for the most part, knock together!).

    The Poodle was once a magnificent all around working dog! They hunted, herded, hiked and hauled carts. They were a medium sized dog with a bombproof temperament. Now, sadly, many are spooky, gigantic messes with no ability to swim or hunt or herd or much of anything else except parade around a show ring. They have been reduced to absurdly built coat racks full of dye, hairspray and wigs. How on earth is that an improvement over those grand working dogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s?

    The bulldog can barely walk or breathe and are incapable of giving birth naturally. Please tell me how that is better than the moderate Bulldog that was used to jump up and grab the nose of a bull and be athletic enough to get out of the way and have puppies on its own?

    The Border Collie is a working dog. They are supposed to come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter as long as they do their job well. The show Border Collies all look exactly alike. They look like little cloned cookie cutter dogs with no drive. When I see them at shows, I think of Stepford wives marching along compliantly, no questions asked and no spark in their eyes. The legs on the show Border Collie are getting shorter and shorter with each generation while the coats are getter longer and longer and their bone bigger and bigger. Soon we will be looking at Cousin It trotting around the Border Collie ring! It took no time at all to transform a great, functional, high drive working dog into a show ring zombie. Thank GOD there are still MANY breeders who understand what it takes to produce great working dogs with herding instinct intact and with pure love for the work.

    I could go on and on and really wish breeders would objectively look at what they are doing to the dogs! I have heard from many that they are “improving” the breeds! WHAT??? How can they look at the original dogs and not see how ridiculous most breeds look today in comparison?

    All one needs to do is look at the progressions of the GSD to truly understand that things went horribly wrong for this breed!

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. If a grotesque three headed alien made of slime flew in from outer space, chances are pretty good we would find it quite unattractive. If, however, that is what we grew up with and the ONLY thing we ever saw, chances are pretty dang good we would find it beautiful! Some of you old folks will remember that Twilight Zone episode where a woman keeps undergoing plastic surgery because she is considered grotesque on her planet. You never see the doctors and nurses until the unveiling when you see this beautiful person under those bandages surrounded by grossed out ugly aliens.

    I know my view is not popular with many of the show ring set, but it is my view. I used to show dogs forty years ago and I had that same mindset that the show dogs were the only true purebred dogs of any value. Then, through many years of experience, I learned the truth about performance and structure.

    So what does my rant on the destruction of purebred dogs have to do with defending AKC?

    How many times have you heard or read somebody’s opinion that they refuse to support AKC because of the structural and health issues found in today’s purebred dogs? I know many people who refuse to participate in AKC agility because of those reasons. I completely disagree!


    Blaming AKC for the state of the purebred dog is like blaming the DMV for crappily made cars! The DMV doesn’t make those cars and AKC doesn’t set the standards or tell the breeders what to breed! All they do is keep the records!!! I don’t understand why people can’t see that!

    AKC is an organization, not the breed police. They publish the breed standards that are WRITTEN by the breed clubs! If people want to boycott anything, boycott the breed clubs! It is THEY who have turned the dogs into what we see today! NOT AKC!

    The best way to create change is through education. Boycotting alone will not educate. People need to realize what is happening to our wonderful dog breeds for the sake of a ribbon and work to change things. Sadly, many breed organizations, like the Poodle Club of America for instance, are closed to new membership. The only way to join is through sponsorship of a current member. That is like leaving Dracula in charge of the blood bank! As long as Dracula is running the show, things will never change for the better. They will only continue to get worse!

    If judges only put up sound dogs capable of working at their intended job, they would never get hired! Judges put up what the breeders present to them in the ring. These are the same breeders who educate the judges. There’s that Dracula/blood bank thing again!

    Sadly, unless people work their dogs at the very highest levels in performance, they would not know what it takes to make a great working dog! Trotting around a ring is certainly no indication that a dog is capable of working hard in the field, or swimming tirelessly or running down a gazelle in the desert! Trotting will never guarantee any of those things! As a matter of fact, most highly successful hunting sighthounds are not attractive movers at the trot, but they can gallop like nobody’s business! I have seen the same with Border Collies. A great working Border Collie is not necessarily a beautiful trotter!

    If the show type dogs were the best at their intended jobs, THAT is the type of dog the working folks would be using. They are not and for good reason!

    So the next time you hear somebody bashing AKC, please remind them that they are just the record keepers, not the breeders. Tell them to go to the source to complain and try to make changes! Good luck though, those show ribbons are evidently incredibly dear.


    There are plenty of other breeds in big trouble as well but I can only piss off so many people at one time :).

    Helen Grinnell King

    Posted by: jility | June 4, 2013

    …and the Three Bears

    Much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ porridge, I find some agility organizations too hot,


    some too cold,


    but one is just right (well almost just right).


    You see, unlike Ms. Goldilocks, I am more difficult to please and can find fault with most anything. Just ask Sir Cussalot.

    It was in the year of 2000 when I first discovered dog agility. The first trials I saw were NADAC. Things were quite different back then. There was no training in the ring, no hoopers, the contacts were exactly the same as AKC, there was still a teeter and the jump heights were also the same. My how things have changed! Those who do NADAC love the organization for the changes, but it was those changes that drove me away. Well, that and the rule about no tugging or treating within 10 feet of the ring and the arbitrary interpretation of training in the ring.


    Not that NADAC cares about my opinion, but I would do NADAC if they allowed treating and tugging next to the ring and tugging inside the ring. I am still not sure about those hoops though. They take the excitement out of it for me. You see, doing agility gives me the same rush I used to get riding show jumpers or flying over huge fences cross country. Hoops are, well, just hoops on the ground. No adrenalin rush there for me.


    ASCA seems to be a good alternative to NADAC. It maintains all the good things NADAC used to offer, without the silly changes and rules that made NADAC so frustrating.

    My husband, Sir Cussalot, prefers USDAA, but were it not for him, it is not an organization in which I would ever compete. I DO love the fact that my dog can be off leash at the USDAA trials. I don’t like the higher jump heights or the higher aframe (yes, when I do compete in USDAA I do so in performance to get the lower jump height and aframe) or care much for the master courses. I love to feel the wind ripping through my hair (I WISH!) and watch my dog open up on course (as long as I don’t have to run very far) and with many courses today, it is crank them down after crank them down after crank them down. I find those courses demotivating to me and to my 25 ½” Poodle who struggles with no momentum to make very tight turns. USDAA is a Border Collie and agile handler sport, not a Dogzilla Poodle and handicapped fat old woman sport.

    fat woman running

    When the courses are designed intelligently, which they are most of the time, I do enjoy UKI. I LOVE that you can train in the ring – WITH A TOY!!! How great is that? Unlike NADAC, you are not limited in what you train. You are given your maximum time and you get to do whatever the hell you want. It is YOUR time. YOU paid for that time in the ring and can spend it however you like (as long as you are nice to your dog that is). I do wish there were more UKI trials around. I also love that you can enter the day of the UKI trial! I wish other organizations allowed that!

    I have never done a CPE or UKC agility trials so I have no opinion about those two organizations.

    shutterstock_106110713So my choice organization is AKC. Sadly, however, things are changing there as well. I do understand that agility must grow, but growing is not always a pretty or healthy thing for a sport. I hate the Euro style courses. I hate all the cranking around of dogs and the fact that there are times you need to be Usain Bolt to manage: crank – sprint – crank – sprint – crank – -sprint….

    I am far from Usain Bolt! I am a 63 year old, overweight, handicapped woman who had polio, now post polio, a broken (literally) knee and a bad back. I consider myself a pretty good dog trainer, but there are only so many hours in the day to train verbals and such in order to get around those International style courses. I want my dog to be able to open up and rip without me having to do the same. I have found most AKC courses fit that bill, but, unfortunately, that is slowly changing and, should that trend continue, it will drive people like me from AKC agility.

    I really don’t much care what the other organizations do about their equipment and rules. I do care about AKC because that is where I choose to spend my money and my time. I do love that AKC forms a committee every few years to listen to its competitors’ wants, needs and wishes. How great is that? Every time I send in my wish list for change, sometimes I get lucky and they listen and sometimes I don’t, but at least I feel heard.

    So as soon as the wish list period ends, I start a new one to submit for the next AKC Advisory Committee.

    Here is my wish list for this Advisory Committee:

    My AKC Wish list for the 2013 Advisory Committee

     1. Time plus faults!!!

    Dog agility was modeled after show jumping. Even they have time plus faults! It is time for AKC to have the same. You can have huge time faults for each knocked bar (say a 5 or 10 point penalty added to the dog’s time for each knocked bar). It would be pretty hard to qualify with 2 knocked bars if the penalty was 10 points per bar. Another alternative would be a 10 second penalty for one bar plus 20 additional seconds for each bar after. Let dogs with a bar down still Q!

    GET RID OF REFUSAL calls in all classes! They are subjective and arbitrary! Let us eat up time and still Q if we are fast enough.

    5 or 10 second penalty for missing the yellow on a contact but still can Q.

    2.  Start an Excellent C or equivalent division so the “wanna bees” and the “bees” quit complaining that courses are too easy for them. Many of us like the AKC courses and don’t think they need to be more challenging. PLEASE give that minority of competitors a class of their own so they leave the majority of us to go on loving agility, not dreading it!

    3. LOWER THE DOG WALK for the love of DOG! Dogs will still be challenged but falling will not be so dangerous! One of our dogs had to be retired due to DW falls. I was a novice and she was my Novice A dog. I had no clue how to train her not to fall off. There are many others who don’t know how to train for that and sometimes, and even if you do train the dog to enter correctly, stuff happens. Why risk the dog’s health and wellbeing?

    4. If you won’t lower the dog walk, at least make wraps up the DW out of tunnels or angled approaches illegal. They are DANGEROUS to the dogs!

    5. If you are not going to lower the DW, teach judges about creating SAFE DW approaches. Falls from the DW can end a dog’s career or the dog’s life. If the DW is lowered, then the approach is not as important. Only straight approaches to the dog walk should be allowed at the height it is now. You can leave the DW full height in the EX C division with international style courses and let their dogs take the falls.

    6. Remember, some of us are handicapped and/or old. Runs from one end of the ring to the other and back to a discrimination will drive the handicapped and old folks from AKC (less revenue for AKC). Remind judges of that too. It is DOG agility, NOT PEOPLE AGILITY! Leave the long runs, backside of jumps and twisty courses for the EX C classes. Then people have a choice.

     7. Explain to judges that backsides of jumps don’t belong in T2B! It is about speed and flow! Save those HORRIBLE Euro style courses for the Excellent C classes!

     8. PLEASE BAN FLEXI LEASHES!!!! Nothing is worse than having a fearful reactive dog and some idiot comes along with their goofy obnoxious dog that bounds to the end of the flexi into a fearful dog. Then they get huffy when the fearful dog reacts in terror! AKC doesn’t allow head halters, yet they allow flexi leashes. The head halter is MUCH more reasonable to allow. At least people have control over their dogs. Most of the public know it is not a muzzle. It is time for AKC to allow head halters on the grounds. Let us educate spectators who show up with pinch and chains on their dogs.

    9. Allow bitches in heat to compete at the end of a class. They do it in other Countries! We are WAY behind the curve on that one.

     10. Please get rid of the four paw rule. People have maximum time on course. They should spend it however they want.

     11. Get rid of slats completely and make rubberized contacts mandatory. Slats are death on the dogs’ toes!

      12. Get rid of fixed jump cups so there are only cups where the bar rests. Fixed cups are dangerous. Our dog was injured badly by them and I have seen many others injured by fixed jump cups.

     13. 12 weave poles in novice please! 6 poles make no sense.

      14. Make Aframe 5’ for regular classes and the International height for Excellent C class.

     15. Get rid of the 3 weave attempt rule. People pay their money and deserve to spend it anyway they like until they run out of time. We are blessed with great weaving dogs so it is not an issue for us, but I really think it is a terrible rule.

     16. Allow training in the ring WITH A TOY! We pay our money and deserve to be able to use all of our allotted times in the ring. Allow a choice for people like UKI does, where we can declare training or not and take in a toy.

      17. Make dogs jump at their own jump height unless they do Excellent C, then put in the international heights so they have a choice.

     18. How about all dogs run the same course except the Excellent C dogs? Just allow for the same faults you do now in novice and open. It would make the day go so much faster and save the course builders’ backs! Dogs would come in better trained and more prepared to run.

     19. Make taking the backside of jumps or the same jump in both directions in sequence illegal in the regular classes! Save that crap for the Excellent C class.

     20. If you don’t make all dogs run the same course, then make all dogs run clean in order to qualify, even at the novice and open levels. It is culture shock for people to go from being able to have faults to having to be perfect in Excellent.

    Thank you for having this committee!!! I LOVE AKC agility and appreciate that you take our wants and needs into consideration. I feel heard! I ask for many of these changes because I want to be able to continue to compete in agility for many more years to come!

    fat woman on scale

    Thank you!


    Helen King

    Our Dogs and More

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    To read lots of other Blog Action Day posts on “Improving Agility Organizations” for Blog Action Day, please visit:

    Pankies puppy test

    Pankies showing zero interest in the toy at her temperament test

    Her story is far from over. Our work is far from finished. The road ahead of us is a long one with lots of bumps and turns in it, but I think I can see the Autobahn in the distance!

    Some of you have followed the trials and tribulations of Pankies (AKA UPGRAYEDD). The ride has been a roller coaster at best. There have been many times I have wanted to throw in the towel and quit. Then I would think about how much I love agility and that she is my only competition dog at the moment. Also, and a bit less self-serving, is the fact that the bolder she gets in agility, the easier life will be for her in general.

    I have written many blogs about Pankies. My hope has been to help and inspire those who have similarly fearful dogs with zero drive. I have learned that training a dog that is fearful but has drive or a dog that is confident but lacks drive, is a LOT easier than training a dog that is both fearful and driveless. That is a lethal combination and not one I EVER want to tackle again as long as I live! Now, I do thank the Universe for sending me this incredibly brilliant but humbling dog, but my humiliation level is more than full so I would ask for an easier dog for my next project. PLEASE?????

    When I kept Pankies from my litter, I knew she would be a tough one to train. I kept her because I didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with her. She exhibited some major behavioral issues at 7 ½ weeks old. I bred the litter from my MACH 2 bitch but, because we live in the Global Warmer, there was no room to whelp a litter. A friend whelped and raised the litter for us in exchange for a puppy. We made the two hour drive to visit the puppies every week. We were so very excited!

    Mel picked out Pankies when she was a week or so old to be his next agility dog. She was terrific too, until 7 ½ weeks that is. On one of our visits, Mel went to play with her just as he had in the previous visits, but this time she didn’t want to play. He snaked the tug toy on the ground but she just stood there like a statue. When he went to pat her, she growled and tried to bite him, then she ran away and hid. She refused to come out with the rest of the litter. She just sat in her hiding place staring into space. When she did finally move, her tail was tucked and her ears were pinned, and she would bolt from one place to other trying to find a better hiding place. We were speechless and heartbroken.

    One of the first things I did after I brought her home was to fly with Susan Garrett to her puppy camp in Canada. In hindsight, this was much too much for Pankies to handle. At the time, I didn’t realize just how fearful and different Pankies actually was/is. While sitting in the waiting room at the airport, Susan suggested I try to get her to play with me. Nothing I did worked. Pankies would just sit there like a stuffed dog (ironic because she is scared to death, even today, of stuffed dogs). Finally, Susan took her and tried to get her to play. Susan tried for a long time. She did everything she could to get Pankies (then called Uppity or Up for short) to play. She even rolled around on the floor with her. Pankies just stared into space as if Susan didn’t exist. Finally, Pankies got up and wandered over to an old man sitting on the other side of the room and sat in front of him. Susan and I just looked at each other. I was crushed. If Susan Garrett couldn’t get her to play, WHO COULD???? Certainly not me! I am just a mere mortal. My disappointment grew.

    Susan partnered me with Lynda Orton Hill for the camp. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. Lynda was supportive and empathetic but didn’t let me wallow in my sorrows. Again, I had no idea just how much work Pankies would end up being. I had NEVER had a dog like her (and I have had a LOT of dogs in my lifetime!). I cried many times during that camp and I am NOT a person to cry at all! While everyone else was playing with their puppies and doing the work, I was running up and down the building doing everything I could to get Pankies to tug. Finally, I figured out that if I gave her fake “pankins” on her bottom, she would get really pissed at me and growl and I would stick the toy in her mouth and get her to tug. Hence the name Pankins, which morphed to Pankies.

    I left Canada an emotional mess. All my hopes and dreams were tied up in my litter and I had no choice but to take the problem child. I watched as the other puppy owners did great things with their littermates and listened to them gush about how they had the best Poodle on the planet! I wasn’t jealous, that is not my nature, but I was sad and dripping in self-pity.

    I worked on the tugging but she would get angry with me and run away most of the time. If she coughed up a treat, that was the end of any training for days. She would look at me as if I had caused it! She held a grudge like nobody’s business and made training, something I used to love, a dreaded chore for me.

    The behaviors I could get with treats were OK, but as soon as the toy came out, she would tug for a split second, then quit and get angry with me or run away.

    Meanwhile, we would throw the ball for all the dogs. They fought over which one would get it. Pankies had no interest in the ball or any other toy. She would chase our Border Collie, Crush, who chased the other dogs while they chased the ball. Chasing Crush was the ONLY thing that Pankies loved to do on the planet (besides eat her meals). She lived for chasing Crush and would run right on her hip barking at her.

    Chasing Crushie is the BEST!

    I continued to try training her but hit brick wall after brick wall. One time at a Susan Garrett seminar in Washington, we were supposed to be shaping a simple behavior. Pankies got confused (something she HATES more than anything else!) about what I wanted so she bolted out of the arena. I went after her and could see her projectile urinating and air snapping as she ran for her life. She went from standing there calmly, to panic mode in the blink of an eye for no apparent reason other than confusion! When I caught up to her, she stood still, paralyzed with fear. She was trembling all over. Her tail was tucked and her ears pinned and lips drawn. When I reached for her leash, in her panic, she tried to bite me. I hadn’t seen that behavior since she was 7 ½ weeks old.

    Later in the seminar, we were to do recalls. I placed Pankies in a sit (She wouldn’t let anyone else hold her and she had a great sit stay so I just used that) and led out. When I called her to me, she ran in the opposite direction. I couldn’t catch her! Somebody else had to catch her for me! She wanted nothing to do with me. Had I seen this behavior with anyone else, I would have bet you the farm that they were mean to their dog! I was humiliated, mortified, discouraged and a bag full of other emotions, none of which were good.

    Life went on and so did my struggles. If you want to read more, just do a search on my blog for Pankies, Pankins, Uppity, Up or UPGRAYEDD and you will find them.

    One day while we were throwing the ball for the dogs and Pankies was chasing Crush as usual, one of the dogs brought me the ball and dropped it into my hand. At first I didn’t think a thing about it. Then I did a double take. It was Pankies! WTF??? I threw it again and by God she brought it back and spit it at my feet. She repeated over and over again but eventually learned in one session, to put it into my hand. How had this dog gone from no ball or toy drive at all, to knowing exactly what to do?

    We never looked back. I finally found something SHE loved to play with. At first, I didn’t use the ball in training. I continued to struggle with the tug toy. I was building her love for the ball AWAY from agility instead of putting contingencies on it. Pankies taught me that a reward has to be something a dog loves or it is not much of a reward at all! It is up to the dog to tell us what is rewarding. We can’t force a reward on them! If a dog has some tug drive, we can certainly nurse it along and grow it. If, however, they are scared of it or hate it as she did, we best get creative!

    I was in the middle of training her to weave using the 2×2 method when we took a turn for the worst. She started out fine, but when things got difficult, she would quit on me. I didn’t want a dog to hate weaving so I got creative. I used the one thing she had learned to truly love more than anything, including chasing Crush! THE BALL! Pankies had learned to love chasing and retrieving that ball on her own terms. I had not forced it. When I introduced the ball to her 2×2 training, it went to another level. She went from walking slowly through the weaves to this in a few short weeks.

    Sure, I still think tugging is THE BEST form of reward, assuming the dog is on the same page, but a reward is a reward, whether it be tugging or the ball. The ball has some major limitations when it comes to rewarding, but it is still better than offering a dog a reward it really doesn’t much like.

    I can now tug with Pankies when she is going into the ring. I taught her to tug on her leash (THANK GOD I DID!) and to bark at me while on the startline. Both of these things keep her mind off all the scary dogs outside the ring and on her job INSIDE the ring. The funny thing is that once the run is over and her adrenalin stops pumping, she comes back into her real world of vigilant fear and her entire being changes. I can no longer touch her and she won’t tug. It is as if she has woken up from a trance and realizes there is danger all around her. All she wants are her treats. It takes a good 30 minutes or more before I can once again pat her or touch her on her head without her ducking to avoid my hand. Watching Pankies’ behavior is fascinating to me.

    Pankies got her novice agility jumper titles in three straight runs when she first came out. One of her runs was 19 seconds. We went right into open (a big mistake). She got her first Q in open on her first try. Then things went to hell in a hand basket. She began to stress because courses were more difficult and Pankies HATES uncertainties! The more handling involved in a run, the more she would quit or bolt. Things got so bad, she would sit on the startline and refuse to leave! I have no video of that because I made Mel hide, but I do have video of her a year ago when she wouldn’t even sit at the startline! I tried to get her to tug on her leash but she would have nothing to do with it. A friend taped this while Mel hid.

    I continued to try to run her and we continued to struggle and suck. If she did run, she would do one or two jumps, then run around jumps or run the fence looking for a way to escape her torturous time in the ring. It was heartbreaking and humiliating! We took her to UKI trials where she could have the ball and ASCA trials where we could train. I would just go out there and let her do whatever she wanted. Sometimes she would jump and sometimes she would just run around. I didn’t care. I just wanted her to have fun! If it wasn’t fun for her, it wasn’t fair TO her!

    In our first ASCA trial, I just let her do her thing and went along for the ride and told her how wonderful she was.

    Here is her second day of ASCA. This was a HUGE improvement!

    Here is our first time back in AKC. My plan was to do a few jumps and leave. I wanted to put one handling move in there to see how she could handle it. She LOVES serps so that is what I chose for her. She handled it very well.

    As long as she had her ball in training, she was fine and could work through ALMOST anything. Take away the ball and FORGET IT! She has shown the same behavior with the teeter. At first, she had a BRILLIANT teeter. She would slide it like a BC. Then one day she had a fly off. That was the end of the teeter. We retrained it from the beginning and got her to do a great teeter until something else scared her and that was that. I have retrained the teeter nearly a dozen times now but every time something is not quite right, she quits and we start over.  Once in a UKI trial (where I can use the ball), she came flying out of a tunnel and up the dog walk. Evidently, as most young inexperienced dogs do, she mistook it for the teeter. She went into her crouch in anticipation of the tip. She smashed her chin on the top board, bailed and refused the dog walk AND the teeter from then on out. Back to the drawing board.

    Here it is in slow motion:

    In Pankies’ world, things MUST be as expected or they are evil and life threatening. What you see MUST be what you expect to get. If not, FORGET IT!

    Last year I worked with Julie Cantrell of Aldaron Essences and she formulated some flower essences for Pankies. I saw a HUGE difference almost right away! I quadrupled the dose and she seemed a lot more comfortable. Her runs got better and better and she got more and more confident with each run. I didn’t care if she qualified or not. I just wanted her to find the fun. That went for me too! I put her back in novice preferred. I figured that way I wouldn’t care about the outcome so I wouldn’t transfer MY stress to her. That really helped. Here is her first AKC novice preferred JWW run. To keep her stress to a minimum, I didn’t lead out very far.

    You can see she still looked for a way out for the ring at one point, but was a world better!

    The next day she was even better. She even tugged a bit on her leash.

    I knew we had turned the corner.

    I continued doing as many matches as I could with her. The more I could use her ball in a trial situation, the better she got. We limped along with little improvements here and there. We have had MANY backslides along the way. I tried taking her off the flower drops once and that was a disaster! A plane went overhead while on course. She looked up and ducked, then quit. I thought we were back to square one, but she recovered. Each time I introduce something new to her, she panics about it. Eventually, she learns to accept it or even love it! Not sure that will ever happen with the planes, trains or automobiles.

    As recently as March of this year, I was ready to put her on puppy Prozac. A veterinarian happened to be tented next to us at a trial. I mentioned it to her but her reaction was DO NOT do it! She said she had seen great results using the DAP collars. You can read about them here.

    As soon as we got home, Mel ordered one for her to try. I was amazed at the difference in her behavior at trials! I still have to keep her FAR away from other dogs (she is PETRIFIED of dogs) and as happy as I can make her, but the difference in the ring was remarkable.

    This past weekend, was the best she has ever run. Here is a run in which she Qed and placed third. She even growled with joy as she was approaching the weaves.

    It was not, however, her best run of the weekend. That was an NQ on Sunday. It was by far the best she has ever run at a trial. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help her at the end of the run to know where she was going, so she crashed a jump. The bar rolling on the ground scared her, but unlike the old Pankies, she recovered and looked for and took the final jump all on her own! I was SO proud of her!

    Here is the same run in slow motion (sorry about the long lead out wait. It wouldn’t be bad if I were a swim suit model instead of, well, me). The slow motion also really shows all my handling errors. I need to get better about my rear crosses THEY SUCK! You can see her react slightly after the bar rolls but her recovery is fabulous!

    Pankies got her MXJ this past winter but still has not run in standard <sigh> but I hope we will eventually get there. Perhaps next year it will happen.

    I could go on and on and on about my Pankies. I love her so. Someday, I might even write a book, but, as I wrote earlier, her story is far from over. We are a work in progress. As of this blog, we are retraining the teeter for the umpteenth time! I fear she may never see the inside of a standard ring, but we will keep trying. Who knows, perhaps someday she will learn to love the movement, the noise and the uncertainty of whether it is the teeter or the dog walk. For now, we will keep plugging along and hope that our struggles will help others who are going through the same things.

    TRAIN ON!!!!

    COI Pankies


    As you can see by some of the comments below this post, I have taken quite a bit of flack about my training of Pankies. Yes, I have made a lot of mistakes along the way with her. I didn’t know any better. I pushed her when I shouldn’t have and I placed her in situations that caused her great angst. I regret that. However, everything I did and continue to do with her, was and is done because I truly felt and still feel that the more confident she gets in her training, the more it will transfer to everyday life.

    It has been suggested that she never should have been a performance dog and should be in a pet home. I disagree with that. Pankies wouldn’t have lasted long in the average pet home. The first time she went after her human or bolted or panicked, who knows what would have become of her? One weekend she and I were attending a workshop and stayed in a motel. I was pottying her when I heard a train approaching. Before I could get a stronger grip on her leash, she also heard the train, panicked and bolted. She broke away from me and took off running as fast as she could. She was also projectile urinating and air snapping as she had done in the seminar the year before. Luckily, the motel was on a dead end road and it was early in the morning. She ran to the front of the motel and stood in the entryway shaking like a leaf. Another time we were driving on a highway with all of our dogs when a boulder fell off a truck and took out the driver window. All the dogs jumped and looked, then went back to sleep. The noise was loud from the wind coming in the window and it was a while before we could pull over safely. Pankies panicked. She drooled, shook like I have never seen a dog shake, her ears were pinned and she was glassy eyed. If she had been able to jump out of that window, she certainly would have. None of the others cared.

    I am doing the best I can with her. I have taken her to veterinarian behaviorists, non-veterinarian behaviorists, BAT trainers and more. She now has the skills to look at me and tell me when she needs to move away from what she perceives as danger. She is ALWAYS in a hyper vigilant state, but it has been almost two years since she has had a panic attack. It is not only when she does agility that she is hyper vigilant. She LOVES agility, tracking, hunt training, rally and nosework. She now SCREAMS with joy as we approach any of the training facilities we attend. It is my opinion, and obviously there are those who disagree, that all the training I have done with her, has helped her to become more comfortable in her own skin and THAT is a very good thing for her.

    I truly adore this dog. If she never competed in anything I would adore her. I believe that learning to deal with stress and pressure in training, has helped her immensely to deal with the everyday things in life that she sees as stressful.

    So, judge me if you must, but I will continue along the same path with her and we will learn as we go. Meanwhile, she gets mentally stronger and happier.

    Here is a run from Memorial Day weekend 2013. She was really happy!

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