Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Leo's Excellent Adventure, Day Two

When we finally got to my parents' house we hit bed pretty early (thankfully there was a small spot of actual green grass down the block for poor Leo to do his business before he exploded!). The next morning it was time to explore...and for some quality time with my brother's KIDS! Lauren is almost five and little Graham is not yet two years old. Leo had been very good meeting them on leash the evening before, so I decided to let him loose with them that morning while I kept an eagle eye on the proceedings. I needn't have worried, as it turned out--Leo, usually the bouncy crazy dog, was very careful around the little ones! He let Lauren brush him and give him obedience commands, and Graham and he took turns following each other around the house. After the initial shock of meeting such a BIG dog, both kids got pretty fearless with Leo!

My parents have a beautiful desert-landscaped backyard. Leo really enjoyed exploring, though the plants were a little unfriendly for him! Here are some shots of Leo the Desert Dog. Just click on the pic for a bigger version!

Let's Explore!

Ow, this one's pointy!

And that one is prickly...don't they make normal plants here??

Can you find the Leo in this pic?

The obligatory Cactus Pic, sadly it turned out a little dark:

After playing with the kids and exploring the desert-scape, Leo got some much-deserved nap time while all the humans went for a canyon cruise to celebrate my mom's birthday! The landscape was beautiful but no dogs were allowed on the boat. Sorry Leo! I took some pictures anyway; a few of them follow. Arizona is a much greener state than most people realize!

As we ended a wonderful fun and relaxing day, Leo and I prepared to get up early for our next bit of fun--the IABCA Desert Sieger dog show in Tucson!! Stay tuned for show pictures of us...and many friends!

Leo's Excellent Adventure, Day One

So a few weeks back the Tucson IABCA show was brought up on the Shiloh Shepherd Friends forum, and I'd been feeling like a road trip ever since gas prices dropped. Michelle, who owns Leo's sister Ginger, was going to be there, and Liz, who owns another Leo sister, Sunny, was thinking of going too! Add to that that my brother and his family were visiting my parents in Phoenix for my mom's birthday and VOILA! In no time we were registered for the show and before we knew it, Leo and I were off on a cross-country adventure!! Above is Leo after his grooming appointment, complete with snazzy purple bandana; below is a sleepy Leo in the car just as the sun came up, a few hours into our trip!

Now Leo has always been pretty fussy about where he chooses to "do his business" and we have run into some marathon sessions where he just would NOT go because he wasn't comfortable in the place we picked out for him. But this trip would tax Leo's picky bathroom habits more than any other. Horror of horrors, we realized several hours into the trip that there was NO GRASS! No green grass anywhere! And what "grassy-type vegetation" there was was BITING GRASS! Everywhere poor Leo thought he might like to relieve himself he found nothing but sand burrs, horrible little sharp pods that dogs pick up between their toes. They are hard and sharp and they even hurt you when you pluck them out from your dog's foot! After the second attempt to find a nice spot of grass, Leo just gave up. He did around ten hours of the trip with no place to piddle!

I was worried about my poor dog, who was also not too interested in eating or drinking. So I distracted myself with scenery! I got pretty adept at pointing my camera out my window when we had to go really slow for traffic or construction and snapping a pretty pic of the terrain. The trip out seemed to take forever (it was sixteen hours total) but when we saw our first mountains it was all worth it! Living in the north Texas flat country has really made me appreciate how beautiful the desert mountain landscape is!

As the sun set on our long day on the road we were only a half hour from my parents' winter home up in Phoenix. Leo had no idea what was in store for him...but the picture below contains a hint!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Best in Show!!

We got Leo's Best in Show photo in the mail and I managed to take a decent digital pic of it. You can tell we were tired because the silly dog kept shutting his eyes!! And the photographer must have thrown something because he was leaning back, too...oh well. :) It's still a good photo and we got the judges in this one!

Speaking of judges, I thought I would post here my synopsis of the judges for this show and what they seemed to like in the show ring. I first posted this on our Shiloh Shepherd forum. You can see the entire discussion from the show here. I would also like to THANK all our judges for their great advice, encouragement, and feedback!!

Okay, here were the judges for our show, for future reference because I know they judge IABCA shows elsewhere (and one of them was a licensed FCI judge too).

Show #1: Ms. Judy Bennett, who made sure to tell me "you have done amazing things with this dog in only three shows" and was one of the judges who awarded us our BIS! Future reference: She likes to see our dogs GO! Trot 'em as fast as you can with as much lead as you can. She was the one who said "To the Shiloh with the REACH!" with a big smile!

Show #2: Ms. Luane Williams, who reminds me so much of Tina it was funny! A real no-nonsense, down to earth type, she made me run Leo a couple times to get it right...or at least better! She was the one who asked me if Leo was the same dog she had noticed in the other ring, and who shored up my confidence by telling me he had run better with me--without her comments I think I would have been much more "down" on myself after my first show with Leo. A very amusing thing is that she lives near us, and used to teach at the Obedience club we are taking Kyrie to right now (for Kyrie's blog you can look here) For future reference: She countermanded the other judge and asked me to take Leo around a little slower so I could keep better control, which worked to override the "top secret kangaroo genes"!

Show #3: Ms. Jane Roppolo, the UCI-licensed judge, the one who gave us our third place in Herding Group and one of the ones who gave us our BIS! She was soft-spoken and was very thorough and hands-on--she ran her hands down over Leo's back, sides, and flanks and spent a lot of time feeling for the structure beneath the fur. She's an old hand at the dog game but she seemed plenty charmed by Leo and Bruno's shameless flirting with her! When she was writing us up after the breed judging Leo nudged her pen hand and she said, "Look what you made me do!" and held up the clipboard in front of him with the scribble on it. And got a big nose print on there for her trouble! For future reference: This is another judge who wanted me to give Leo his head so she could really see him move. I think she's co-owned show dogs from more breeds than the AKC even recognizes!

Show #4: Ms. Julianne Kowalsky was THE Shiloh enthusiast among the judges! She was the one who took Christi aside to tell her how lovely Bruno was, who awarded Leo his Herding Group first place, and who REALLY wanted to give us another ribbon in the final round of show four (but Leo was just about pooped at that point). Of all the judges she gave me the impression that she just really honestly loved the dogs. She put endless energy into her judging and still made time to encourage the newbies like me. When she was writing her notes after our breed judging Leo decided to flirt and got his face right up next to hers and started giving kisses and I apologized--she put her arm around his neck, gave me a big smile and said "Oh, no, he's just fine!" She was the one who was sad there weren't more Shilohs at the show. Smile For future reference: Another movement judge. She made me re-run at least three times every time we came under her, with the "give him his head!" every time!

We hope you've enjoyed the story of Leo's 2009 IABCA Winter Sieger! What's next? The Tucson show--later this week!! Wish us luck!! :D

The Winter IABCA Hutto Show, Part Two!

The next day was Sunday and we're up at 6 a.m. (as you can see from the above pic, the dogs were still asleep) because we have an 8 a.m. ring time. No time to worry! Christina Tanon and her dad were there with Bruno--what a handsome, handsome boy, with beautiful coloring and structure! This was show three, which you need to compete in to qualify for the Rare Breed Best of Show specialty competition, so Kyrie was entered in this one too! When the three of them went in for Best of Breed Leo got first, Bruno second, and Kyrie third. After we came out of the ring Blair and Charm showed up--ohh, Charm is soooo pretty! I sure hope Blair starts showing her! They got to watch us in the ring for show number four. Leo again came out first over Bruno, but the judge took Christina aside to tell her how wonderful Bruno was! He just needed a little more time to mature, he is going to be a stunning dog.

Here's Leo relaxing between shows:

So there we were with two more herding group competitions coming up, and Rare Breed Best in Show too. We went in for show three's Herding Group and pulled a third--a bronze medal for Leo!! YAY! This did loads for my confidence. Maybe I wasn't screwing up as badly as I thought! And Leo was running a lot better now. The practice was paying off! Then we went into the ring for show number four herding group. The judges made us run more than usual. Then one judge--the one who had complimented Christi on Bruno--asked me to run Leo again, and to give him his head completely. I was like Oh great, here comes the kangaroo! But Leo didn't bounce--he ran great!

WE WON FIRST IN HERDING GROUP FOR SHOW FOUR! We were headed for the Best in Show competition!!

After Leo took his Best in Group I went outside to walk him, and another Shiloh friend showed up! Dan Walker showed up outside the ring building on Sunday, accosted me with questions about Leo, and totally didn't tell me who he was! Well, finally he did, the big silly. Thanks Dan for your admiration of Leo and I hope some of those pictures you took turned out!!!!

So now we had to sit and wait...and wait...and wait...we were getting really tired, it had been a long weekend, and the dogs were crashed. Finally we came up for Rare Breed Best in Show. We got beat soundly by a wonderful Australian Cattle Dog and a beautiful Aussie. Oh well...we still have the overall BIS for show four...but wait--did they just call our number again??? What's going on?? A rather baffled me showed up at ringside...for the Best in Show for show three? OH--the two dogs who had beat Leo in show three's Herding Group had LEFT! We got to go in...I was all frazzled and totally not ready...and again they ran us more than usual. Finally the judge told me (constant refrain) "Run him around and give him his head this time". Oh boy...we did. Leo ran beautifully. WE GOT BEST IN SHOW!!!! "To the Shiloh with the REACH!" the judge announced with a big smile!! Oh boy oh boy Leo we did it!!!!!!!!!

After that I didn't care. In the BIS competition for show four we did our best and I think the Judges really wanted to give something to Leo but he was just too tired and wasn't extending--I heard them talking about it as we left the ring without another ribbon. I had noticed that he was running slower and the lead was loose. He was just so tired! And so was I...I begged Zak to get signatures for our win sheets and managed to muster enough energy to go get a show photo done with our huge ribbon.

And that was that...somehow we managed to drive home. Somehow I made it to work the next day. And boy were my legs killing me! But it was worth it. :) Here is a picture of "daddy" Zak, so proud of his Leo!!

The Winter IABCA Hutto Show, Part One!

Wow, what a crazy and yet awesome weekend!

Friday night we drove down to the show. We stayed at the Wingate hotel--the nicest hotel I have ever been in that allowed dogs! It was wonderful! We were smart this time and brought two jugs of water from home so the dogs would not go "off" from new, strange water like they did at Homecoming. It made things much less stressful. Smile

Those of you who were at Homecoming know that Zak has always been the one to show Leo. First, Leo is definitely Zak's boy, and second, Zak has the longer legs!! I can only keep up with Leo in a full extended trot if I am flat out running, and I'll tell you, in the shape I'm in I can't keep that up for long! :P So we started out as usual with Zak taking Leo into the ring in show number one.

It didn't go well. Leo bounced all over the place and generally made it look like Tina's first outcross must have been kangaroo!! He was the only Shiloh (Kyrie was only entered in show three as we didn't have a lot of money for this one) and so he got Best of Breed, but he did not even get close to placing in Herding Group. We were demoralized and poor Zak, who loves his Leo, was so frustrated.

We did have something nice happen, though--Christine Rydzeski with Mazie and Barbera Betcher came to the show to visit! Barbara and her husband Stephen were the owners of Betterways kennel and the people who created and ran our awesome pedigree tracking programs, and Christine is their daughter! We were very happy to see them and even in the face of Bouncy Leo Syndrome the ladies were very encouraging. And Mazie is a beautiful dark sable, and such a sweetheart! Here is a picture of Barbara (left), Christine (right) and Mazie (bottom, in case you couldn't guess!).

I had worn my "show clothes" just in case we had decided to enter Kyrie in more shows at the last minute. I went out to trot Leo in the parking lot (hoping some exercise would take the edge off). When we came back in I trotted him up to Zak to show him that Leo was behaving better, but Christine told me that Leo and I looked really good together, and Zak asked me if I wanted to take Leo into the ring for show number two.

Now, I was nervous as all get out at the thought of taking Leo into the ring! Kyrie, she's a pushbutton dog--simplicity to handle, stacks in five seconds, easy as pie. Leo is a challenge! He is so big and so fast and he is one boisterous, silly dog who does not like to have his feet put places. But even more than that, I know that Leo is an amazing dog when he is at his best and I worried that I was not good or experienced enough to get his best out of him, and that I would keep him from doing well. I did finally agree to take him in, mostly because Zak was obviously so frustrated.

I got some tips from other handlers and headed into the ring. Leo wanted to pull but he did look a little better thanks to a friend with shepherds who advised me to start him out a little slower. It wasn't as terrible as I feared and the judge took me aside to ask me if Leo was the same dog she had seen in the other ring. She told me he ran better for me, which did WORLDS for my confidence. Maybe I could do this after all? Maybe I wouldn't trip over the dog and make him lose? Maybe! In Herding Group for show number two we still did not place, though. Here is a picture of a tired-out Leo in his x-pen at the end of day one!

I tried to not be nervous about the next day and decided to try to stay calm myself so maybe Leo would be. I also ran Leo around like a crazy woman, back and forth practicing trotting (and my handling)! Zak reminded me that Fred Lanting had told us not to worry about running in circles--just practice getting a solid trot back and forth, back and forth. We did a lot of that, because Leo would get bored and anxious waiting to go into the ring--so we trotted! And I could see the moment it "clicked" in Leo's head! Finally, maybe we would do okay the next day!

(and what DID happen the next day? Well here's a hint: