Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Agility updated

I've been avoiding politics of late, here at the Village Green. Many things have kept me busy and away from blogging. Work is all-consuming of time and energy, and there is a young dog here who is in training and doing well.

We hit a snag in agility training in September. Hamlet's physique developed dramatically. His center of balance shifted as his chest expanded and lowered into adult form. This messed up his sense of balance on the contact obstacles. He started balking at the A Frame, the Dog Walk and the Table. As you may imagine, this was no fun in the middle of a regular agility class with long lines of dog-human teams waiting to run the course.

So we are now going on a night that is for teams who need to work on specific things. It's much more relaxed and I'm doing as our regular trainer, Terence Cranendonk suggests, which is using turkey and the clicker to desensitize Hamlet to the obstacles that he used to run happily over when he was but a young pup

So tonight I took a big baggie full of turkey, a favorite squeaky squirrel, the clicker and a positive attitude. Hamlet was more comfortable with the new indoor digs. The club is year round and during the cold months, we are in an old factory in Wadsworth. It has lots of room and special flooring so the teams don't end up with leg injuries. But the echoing can be mind-numbing when lots of dogs are barking.

Using the turkey as a lure, I tossed bits of it in the direction of the A Frame. We had it lowered to about three feet at its apex. Clicking his every step toward the A Frame, and creating a trail of turkey bits, I was thrilled when he finally ate a piece that was on the bottom of the frame. By the end of the evening, I had him placing two paws. on the frame in order to reach the turkey. That's some fear that would make a dog hesitate before going for the tasty food!

It's all about patience and remaining calm. Hamlet will not function when forced to do things. He likes to go step by step. As we worked tonight, when I saw that his stress was building at any point along the luring path, I would direct him away to a tunnel or jump which he'd do quite cheerfully.

The other folks there tonight were very encouraging, sharing tales of dogs that refused to do this or that for half a year or more and then suddenly one night the dog was running the course without a problem.

There's another blue merle at the agility club who everyone calls Hamlet's Mini Me. That one is four years old and a champion agility dog. The dog is learning to work with a new human, who is new to agility. Some of the humans there have had numerous dogs in agility over the years. Hamlet and I are entering this as total newbies, however Hamlet is the one in our team with the real talent and potential.

Hamlet loves the tunnels and chutes and is doing great on the weave polls. I've been raising the bar on his jumps here at home and he soars over. He clearly loves jumping which gives me hope for the contact objects, as jumps require nimble foot work as well. All in all, for only 9 months of age, he's dong very well indeed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gloom gloom gloom

And I'm not just talking about the steel grey clouds and the damp chill hanging over NE Ohio today. I am living in a state in which the only way ahead for funding public education hangs on the hopes of gambling casinos. That's how much we value education in Ohio.

Here in the city, various recreational activities offered up for seniors and youth have been cut back or eliminated. Gotta have enough money to plow the streets in winter so that those of us who still have jobs can make it in to work.

I read that one county councilman has refused to take a pay reduction for the final two months of the year. It would inconvenience this fellow's plans for bulking up his pension.

...Crawford, who is paid $23,903 a year, said his county check is committed through this year to buying state retirement benefits — a perk afforded to government workers to boost their retirement income and health benefits. His check amounts to $23.50 every two weeks because of the payroll deduction, he said.

The voluntary pay cut amounts to about $60 withheld from each council member's check.

If he agreed to the pay cut, ''I would have to pay the county money to be working,'' said Crawford, who works full-time as an insurance agent. ''I'm not going to write out a check.''

Guess we are all concerned about our pension plans now, aren't we? Everybody in a union is facing reductions and being asked to make concessions. Only the firefighters in Akron voted to make no concessions, and thus sacrificed their most recent hires so that their elders might not face postponement of their longevity bonuses.

I wonder how much will be left of the State Teachers' Retirement Fund by the time I put in my 30 years. Will I ever be able to afford retirement? Check this news report:

The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) reported that it would take 41 years for its investments to catch up with the costs of meeting its obligations to retirees -- and that was before the worst of the financial crisis.

STRS reported last fiscal year that its valued plummeted 31 percent. The worried word used in its most recent annual report, on how long it would now take for its investments to put the fund back on track, was "Infinity."

Wow -- I don't think I have until infinity before I retire.

Since there will be no health benefits offered until some golden time beyond infinity, a public health plan would make the most sense for me and a whole lot of other people. But it seems that we must spend an infinity waiting while the corporate, governmental and financial institutions, building barricades around their interests, scramble to maintain a system of wealth for the few at the expense of the rest of us.