Archive for the ‘Agility’ Category

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Puppy Mill Shelties

July 20, 2012

All women are born Kelly And Her Sheltiesequal, then some accessorize.  Kelly Twilley accessorizes.  She makes jewelry and sells it at Trade Day in Collinsville, Alabama.  Her profile picture shows her with a beaded necklace, earrings, and two Shetland Sheepdogs.  Kelly knows how to accessorize.  But when I got to know her, I quickly learned that her dogs were not an accessory.  Her dogs were rescued from a puppy mill.

In February of 2008 Kelly heard that her local SPCA had a male Sheltie that was in pretty rough shape.  Kelly wanted a female but went to see him anyway.  When she got there she learned that the Sheltie was rescued from a puppy mill along with 130 other dogs.  It took her ten minutes to catch him, but when she did, it took only a few seconds for him to fall asleep in her arms.  Kelly took him home and named him Bailey.

About two years later, I set up an agility field in Dogtown, AL and started giving lessons.  Kelly brought her Border Collie, Emma.  After class I was talking to the group about the work I was doing teaching agility to reactive and fearful dogs.  Agility gave the owners’ and their dogs the confidence to go for walks and socialize. Kelly told me Bailey’s story and how he was still of fearful new people and situations.  I said, “let’s give it a try”.

The following week Kelly and Bailey had a private lesson.  He was afraid of everything.  Just walking through the gate to get onto the field was a challenge.  Bailey quickly found a safe spot in the tunnel. Each time he got scared, he would go in and not come out.

Bailey’s most difficult obstacle was the dog walk.  We started slowly by putting him on the contact zone of the descending plank and let him run down.  Each week we moved him further back, closer to the top of the ascending plank.

When he did not progress as quickly as Emma, I reminded Kelly that the work we were doing was not about agility, it was about building confidence.  Once Bailey gained confidence on the agility field he would be more confident in other situations.  Then one week he surprised Kelly by jumping into the car to come to agility class.  Soon Bailey was running all the way through the tunnel and over the dog walk.  Then he started greeting people and letting friends and family pet him and hold him.

Kelly’s self-esteem grew, she was ready to rescue another puppy mill Sheltie.  Kelly searched PetFinder and found a 5-year-old female in a Sheltie rescue just three hours from home.  After a four long weeks of filling out applications, phone interviews and waiting, Molly was hers.  Kelly said, “I had no idea what bad shape a dog can be in until I met Molly”.  She set up a kennel in the front yard under a shade tree for her.  Molly spent her first weeks there; she escaped 3 times.  Kelly started her in agility.

As soon as Kelly put Molly down on the agility field she ran away. Before we could teacher her anything, Molly needed to feel safe, she didn’t trust anyone yet so we taught her to come to a spot, the table.  Kelly put food on the table and we waited.  Molly came and went.  Kelly put more food on the table and we waited.  Molly came and went.  After each repetition the time between recalls got shorter and Kelly’s patience grew longer.

When Kelly got home, she put a dog bed just outside the patio door.  Then she used the same technique and taught Molly to come to that spot.  Soon Kelly felt safe enough to let Molly out of her kennel.  Molly now spends most of her time in her spot by the door watching for squirrels to chase away.

Bailey and Molly will never compete at an agility trial.  Their trial happens everyday.  They struggle to conquer their fears and to love and trust people.  Although Kelly admits she had no idea what she was getting into when she adopted a puppy mill rescue, she says she is more confident and more patient than she ever was before.  She is now designing jewelry based on the collar Molly was wearing when she got her.

If you want to see her jewelry and more pictures of Kelly and her dogs visit her website at

http://www.emma-doras.com.

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Layers

January 5, 2012

My friends have decided it was time to get my field back into condition to do some dog agility.  The tornado did a lot of damage to it.  But it is not the damage from the tornado that is keeping me from the field, it is what happened the day before the tornado, the day my mother died.

Agility Field in December 2011

 

Today my agility field is covered in layers of debris. It is in the woods and in the summer the trees that shade it, cover it in the fall with leaves.  Under the leaves are weeds.  Weeds that grew from roots that were there long before it was an agility field.  Below the weeds is a layer of soil brought there by the rain that washes down from the woods.  The bottom layer, which may be gone, is wood chips.  Wood chips that were brought in to create a natural footing for the dogs to run on.

 

My higher power, Nature, who protects my field with a cover of organic materials, also wrapped me in protective blanket of family and friends.  Much of the time I wouldhave spent on my field, I spent with my father and my sister and brothers. Each with our own fields of debris, we grieve for our mother who lies peacefully in the earth, in a field of lawn and trees.

The layers of tears and excuses, reasons why I cannot return to my agility field are my grief.  I can’t go there.  It is too thick, too heavy, to overwhelming to clear away.  It will take a leaf blower, weed eater, chipper mulcher, rakes and shovels to get the bottom.  The bottom that nature has worked three seasons to renew is the foundation for me to build a new field, a new life, a new beginning.

Agility Field January 2012

My friends are coming on Monday.  I will provide the tools.  They provide the strength; the power to peel off the layers that Nature has protected me with.  With each layer, they will be helping me get my life back.  Together we will shred the debris, the pain of the past year and spread it on the field as Nature has done.  My husband will bring new wood chips to make the footing for me to run on as Nature has intended.

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Inspiration

October 10, 2011

For the first time in our life, my younger sister weighs less than me.  Big bones are what she was always told, and she believed it.  Her weight was normal.  She wasn’t fat; I was skinny.  I remember one time when I was in junior high school.  Our parents made us trade seats at the dinner table so I sat next to my father and she sat next to my mother.  My father was to make sure that I ate.  Not that my mother wasn’t attentive, I just did what my father told me to.  This was the alternative to putting me in the hospital.  I was too skinny and they worried I had something wrong with me.

No one has called me skinny for a long time.  When I joined the Navy after college, I had to drink a gallon of water on the way to the induction center so I would weigh the required minimum of 105 pounds.  At boot camp I gained almost 20 pounds and after four years in the service I weighed 145, the heaviest I weighed in my life.  The pounds came off, but I had to work at it.  For the first time in my life, I had to watch what I ate and exercise.  My weight has fluctuated between 135 and 150 ever since.

My sister Maryann on the other hand has always weighed more.  Not much more, but more, always more than me.  Earlier this year, there was an oil spill at her house and she had to move out for a few months.  Her and her husband stayed with friends and family until they finally settled into a hotel.  By the time the environmental protection agency allowed them to live in their house again, she lost 8 pounds.  It was a good start, so she tried to lose more.  As of today she lost 45 pounds.  She now weighs 15 pounds less than me.

Becky called me last week.  Becky and her husband have dedicated their life to reducing the excessive population of dogs and cats.  They run a non-profit group called Dade Animal Resource Team.  The primary mission of DART is spay and neuter.    They raise money and transport over a thousand dogs and cats every year to low-cost spay / neuter clinics.  They also facilitate temporary care and adoptions of stray, abandoned and unwanted pets.  I have helped them out occasionally by providing free training for foster and adoptive families.  I haven’t done much, not as much as I could do.

“How are you doing?  I haven’t heard from you in a while”. Becky said.

“I am fine, getting better”.

Becky’s father died just one week after my mother.  He also had diabetes.

“How about you?”  I said

“Okay, there is more work to do to sort through dad’s things and get the house ready to sell.”

“I am so sorry.  I am in Massachusetts visiting with my dad right now.  I plan to be back home in a few days.”

“How is he doing, okay?”

“He is adjusting.  He doesn’t like living alone”

“It will take some time.”

“I know.”

“Debbie, are you still doing dog training?  Ruff and I would love to come and do some agility.”

“Funny you should ask, Bob and I were looking at the field and discussed getting it cleaned up.”

“Cleaned up?”

“The rain from the tornado washed most of the wood chips off the field and replaced them with a layer of dirt.  We now have weeds growing.  Bob and I want to solve the drainage problem before we buy new wood chips.  We have a plan, we just need to get going on it.”

My sister looks great.  I told her she inspired me to lose some weight.  I am at the high-end of my acceptable range.  Maryann was surprised and said I was the second person that week that called her that.  Her weight loss coach was the first.  She didn’t say it, but I wondered if that was the first time anyone ever called her that, an inspiration.  She has trudged her way through life, just getting by and trying to be happy.  She went to school, worked, and raised two kids on her own.  It was hard, it is hard, but she does it, she has done it for a long time.  After a life time of doing for her family, Maryann is finally doing something for herself.

“If you need some help, I don’t mind doing some of the heavy work.”

“Thanks Becky, I may just take you up on that.  But I want to put some drainage in the road, before I start on the field.  I think that is where the dirt is coming from.”

“Okay, just let me know, Ruff and I are anxious to come over and see you.”

“I can’t wait for you to see Wisconsin.”

“Who is Wisconsin? Did you get a new puppy?”

“I did.  Wisconsin was born at the end of January; I got her the beginning of April.  I thought you knew.”

Oh no.  Did I not tell Becky I got a puppy, that I bought a puppy?  I thought I had but Mom died three weeks after I got her and I have talked to so many people, and I don’t know what I said to whom, and…and.  Oh no.  I didn’t tell her.  When I told her I wanted a puppy, she asked me to adopt one, “there is such a need”, she said.  I bet I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want to tell her.

Since I last spoke to Becky I agreed to foster a dog.  A young Irish Setter named Zoey.  Her owners couldn’t keep her, so she is staying with Bob and I until a permanent home is found.  We can’t keep her.  Five dogs are too many.  It is too expensive and I can’t manage that many dogs at once.  Besides, Zoey needs a home with a family; she is a great family dog.