Aug 252014

by Doranna

The dogs are far from bored around here.  We’re getting ready for an obedience trial next weekend, so just went to an obedience match this past weekend.  After that comes an agility weekend.  In the meantime, we’re training for the December VST test, without any real assurance that Dart will be ready.  He’s got the nose, he’s got the understanding, but he works so intensely that he uses himself up about halfway through and turns into a puddle of goo.

So naturally, it’s time to introduce a little chaos into their lives by way of Mickey Cat.

We still don’t know if Mickey will be largely an indoor cat or largely a barn cat.  Ideally, we’d choose “indoor” and so would he.  But the household is no more logistically prepared for the insanity of “adolescent cat” than it was when we got Mickey just under a month ago.

Well, maybe just a little.  As in, we’ve added a top-entry litterbox to the center area of the house and we’re waiting to see if either species will use it/ignore it appropriately.  And while Mickey is still crated while unsupervised, this past week he added a number of skills/experiences to his repertoire.

He visited my dad at his hospice residence.  He spent carefully metered time in the barn alone.  He experienced rain (he disapproves).  He spent extended time loose in the house and learned no jumping on the counters, no crawling around behind my computer (where he’d managed to step on my UPS for a cold shut-down on two computers at once), no flying through the air to cling to the humans as one would cling to a screen door.

He also proved that he will come racing when called regardless of distance, and killed his first mouse.  (He’s been “killing” and eating already dead mice from the barn trap since the day he got here, but this was a…well, it was a wounded mouse.  And he took care of it.)  He’s in the process of learning the command to kennel up (get in his crate), and I suspect that one of these days he’ll stop flying through the room to settle down and have a good couch cuddle.  He has already has the ferocious purr down pat.

And oh yeah…

He met the dogs.

Poor Connery. He just wants to be friends. But after a brief period of fear behavior, Mr. McKittypants turned him into a play thing…stalking him, leaping out at him from secret places, and in general being a Mean Cat.  They’ve been out together twice and at this point Connery walks warily and removes himself from Mickey’s orbit as possible. (The action pic isn’t as dramatic as it looks. “Over-reaction” would be one way to put it!)




 In between meeting dogs, Mr. McKittypants had a Big Adventure.

I was doing my usual five things at once that morning, and Mickey cat was outside in the fenced yard in his harness. I was on a long biz call when he began flinging himself against the various screen doors. Then the biz call was interrupted by a hoped-for vet call (for sick DuncanHorse) and I was struggling with the bad cell reception there when I glanced out the window and saw a frantic little cat. Outside the fence in the PADDOCK.

“MEOW! MEOW! I don’t know how this happened MEOW!”

I rather incoherently finished the call while Mr. McK disappeared…somewhere. Finally I was able to run out and open the gate to call him. Boy did he come running!  “Where WERRRE you? Why was I out HERRRRE?”

So we answered the question, rather sooner than intended, about whether he’ll run off if he gets outside the yard.

Then Mr. McKittypants and Dart met in the wilds of the living room. I think Dart’s approach to the whole thing–cautious when faced, chasing when McK dashes past–will teach McK some excellent lessons about the best way to avoid attention from dogs.


And finally…

Dart gets a bone. Connery gets a bone. Mr. McKittypants gets a bone. Because of course he does!




Aug 182014

by Doranna

This year, with the varmint invasion at an all time high–from rabbits to squirrels to pack rats to mice to gophers–we put into action tentative plan to acquire a barn cat–a cat of such nature so as not to be a viable adoptable indoor pet.

We have an agility friend with connections in high places at our awesome localish (in the city) shelter, Animal Humane. Okay, very high places. She runs the thing and is also a talented animal yenta. She hooked us up with a reclusive 7-year-old named Calypso whose ability to cope with humanity deteriorated daily during her stay there…and during her transition period here. She fled upon release, disappearing into the arroyo. No one was truly surprised, but it was hard all the same.

In short order, another kitty opportunity cropped up: a fourteen-week old little guy who had made clear his hatred of being handled. We hoped that at this younger age, we could at least gain his understanding that barn = good, people = food.

So home he came, and was immediately christened Mr. McKittypants (don’t judge me). He hissed at everyone who so much as looked at him, no doubt about that.  But three immediate observations changed everything about his future:

He hissed, but he recovered. And became curious.

He’s intensely food driven.

He’s intensely social. 

Well, not the least bit socialized in training terms, but social. “Where ARRRRE you? Why don’t you come and be in the BARRRRN with me? I can HEARRRRR you in the house!”

Add in the mouse he “dispatched” within 24 hours of his arrival*, and we were in love.

*That is, he thoroughly hunted, smacked around, and delivered killing bites to the already dead mouse I provided from the barn trap, and then he ate it. nom nom nom.

Because he was crated, I had the chance to control our interaction (as much as one can). Within thirty-six hours he learned No Claws. He learned No Teeth. I was able to shape a default behavior–if in doubt, back off a bit and lie down. He is fierce-wicked smart!

But this all put us in a quandary. First of all, he’s too young to be outside on his own right now. Coyotes, y’know.  But here we are with the dogs and a household that’s completely and totally not cat-proof. The plan, after all, was for a Barn Cat.

So we’re on a very unexpected journey. Not unlike, I must say, writing a book by the seat of one’s pants. You have an idea where you want to go, but no clear idea how you’re going to get there, or even quite where you’ll end up.

So these are the McKittypants Diaries. If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen them–or not, because…Facebook Timeline Hijinks, amIright? But either way, I’m going to try to collect them here. Because timeline scrolls on, but blog is forever. (Ish.)

And if you’re wondering what this has to do with dogs…let’s just say that when McKittypants (AKA Mickey) came home and I was pondering the things he had to learn (like, no claws and no paws!), I was repeatedly told that my expectations were too high (although my past cats from way back when might have disagreed). Of course, I’ve heard this before, as regards my dogs.  “Beagles are stupid/untrainable/too sniffy/what are you THINKING/OMG WHY?”

He’s a cat, people said. He is what he is. And I, a dog person, had unreasonable expectations.


Mr. McKittypants made it out into the yard today! Just in time–the stove guys came early and the rain followed them…

I included the standing picture so you all wouldn’t think he’s one of those cats who has no legs in a harness. Thanks to our early shaping, he now chooses a quiet default “down” position to assess the world when he’s in unfamiliar surrounds. Most wise little kitty!


Mr. McKittypants received a toy yesterday from a friend. Oh yes he did.


Mr. McKittypants would like to share with you all his progress on those plans for world domination. Most recently, walkies out to the agility yard. Next step…inside the fenced back yard without the long line. When I get the nerve.



Now we’re working toward our happily ever after. If McKittypants doesn’t take over the world first!

Jun 042014

by Doranna

cb.dogwalkbay.crop.0058Qualifying!  Winning!  Titles!  W00t!  Rah!

Because hey, that stuff is fun.  It’s lots of fun.  The green Q ribbon is a revered thing.  Add a bit of placement ribbon color and…you know…


But if it was the only marker of success, I can’t imagine many of us would keep training, keep entering…keep running.  Keep on with our little public humility lessons.  Because with some dogs, those placement ribbons never come, and with others, the Q ribbons are a rarity, and with still others, the lessons in humility are ongoing. Continue reading »

May 212014

We take a lot of photos of my dogs when I’m competing.  Partly for the same reason one takes photos of anything–keepsakes, bragging rights, and (these days) Facebook shares.

But in large part, it’s a great way to figure out exactly what happened in the ring—things that seem inexplicable in the moment, but become all too clear with a series of photos or a bit of digital recording.

paw.916The thing is, it’s easy to blame a dog for what happens in the ring.  And it’s true, sometimes Dart simply “gives me the paw.” But more often it’s worth digging down for deeper understanding, because more often it’s about subtle things that humans don’t take into account because it doesn’t bother them.

The weekend before last, we went to our area’s biggest yearly AKC obedience and rally trial.  It’s a regional qualifier with a huge draw, and it’s held inside (unusual for this area).  The building is a thing of unceasing chaotic din even when humans and dogs alike are using their indoor voices. Continue reading »

May 062014

yymm.dd.dart.storycover.28.NOT.SMDart, as usual, is teaching me lessons.

All three of the dogs stay pretty active, like little elementary school kids with a stack of play dates.  However, Connery is a mature boy with lots of seasoning who never did need a ton of proofing, while Rena is on a hiatus from most things (another story altogether.)

Meanwhile, Dart is a spark-bright boy who lives intensely, notices everything, out-thinks himself at every turn, and needs extensive proofing in all possible circumstances.  He needs to do, not to practice doing.

But there are only so many opportunities to do, especially in this area.  So when they come along, we make the most of them. Continue reading »

Apr 222014

by Doranna

Connery is a breedist Beagle. 

cb.MACH.bawhBEWARE!” he bays, if a problem breed comes into his orbit.  “DO NOT WANT!”

If he spots such an individual while we’re running an agility course, I can be pretty sure he’s going to bring down a bar or pop a weave, because he just can’t think beyond the worrisome presence of that dog.  He tries so hard that it’s palpable but he just.  Can.  Not.

To be fair to Connery, he has reasons.  Good ones.  Like his objection to Boxers?  The first dog who attacked him was a Mastiff—a huge creature with a head the size of Connery’s whole body.  A big fawn dog with black points and a big squoosh face: close enough to a Boxer, if you’re Connery.

Obviously, if that Mastiff had closed his jaws around Connery, it would have killed him.  But I screamed, and Connery screamed, and he fled a desperate circle at the end of his leash.  Will I ever forget the sight of those massive jaws snapping closed against his tucked butt? Continue reading »

Apr 072014

by Doranna


Agility milestones for Connery Beagle!  Now that he’s earned a MACH3, Connery is running in Preferred classes (that is, jumping four inches lower).  He was always the shortest and heaviest dog in his jump height…Beagles are meant to be sturdy little things.  And he likes it Very Much!

He’s qualified in eleven of his twelve runs since then, and taken first place each time.  At ten years old there’s no telling how long he’ll have this much joy in running, but right now we’re having a blast with it!

connery_DSC6958-(ZF-1106-69731-1-002).SM Continue reading »

Mar 252014

by Doranna

On the doing of things…

Sometimes life piles up so fast it’s hard to keep up–and it’s hard to remember why you’re doing what in the first place.

cb.bone..506I started this blog while listening to the grind of merry little hound teeth on a Nylabone, while the hound in question (Connery) happily sprawled over the world’s ugliest hotel carpet.

Not kidding. World’s UGLIEST. Continue reading »

Mar 102014

by Doranna

In the last tracking blog, in the wake of a difficult experience in El Paso, I was getting ready for another tracking test on the 3rd.  I muttered about some of the challenges of getting tracking tests–finding the tests, dealing with the luck factor, maintaining the focus, blah blah blah.

So, on the third, we took the test, along with five other teams.  This is what we all woke up to:

Ooh.  Look.  Clouds caught up on the Sandias.  Cannot bode well for us.

Ooh. Look. Clouds caught up on the Sandias. Cannot bode well for us.

Continue reading »

Mar 052014

A Blue Hound Beagles Blog

(A Dog Agility Blog Event: Starting your puppy)

0405.31.connery.bone.19Talk about awesome reinforcement timing!  This past month, in some weird universal coincidence, big lots of people (okay, a couple) asked me exactly this–when did I start training?  How?  And now here we are, officially chatting about it for the Blog Event!

So here’s my easy answer:  I start my puppies the moment they come home.

Now, anyone who’s gasping, “She puts her puppies over jumps/on the a-frame/dogwalk/WHUTEVER” should just slap their own heads.   Just pause right now and take care of that little chore for me.
Continue reading »