Sunday, February 17, 2013

Old Dogs, Old Handlers

It’s hard to imagine that our Justice is now 10 years old, and older than me - at least in dog years.  It seems like only yesterday when I picked him up at age 8 weeks.  Justice and I began our agility training when he was 5 years old which, by most standards, was a rather late start for each of us, allowing relatively little time to accomplish our goals.  However, at times, I believe that Justice is just as competitive as I am.  I quickly learned that, by working diligently with the resources available at LCDA, the “Qs” started to come and the benchmarks we strove to achieve began to materialize.

In our early training, Justice may have even been a little embarrassed for me – especially the times when a visiting instructor announced that my success was due to the brilliance of my dog or when I was referred to as “diaper butt” because Justice always had me covered.  It was somewhat discouraging at times, but we both loved agility and we didn’t give up on each other.

We were 2 years into the sport when Karen Denton convinced me that I could learn a very important maneuver known as the “front cross,” notwithstanding my age and my having the grace of a linebacker.  If not for this type of encouragement, and the support and coaching we received from Mike, Wanda, Kathy, Kim and Ruth in our early years, we may not have continued running agility; and most assuredly, we would not have been as successful as we have been.

This blog is meant to convey the message to both newcomers and agility veterans that no matter your age, or that of your dog, there is no limit to what you and your best four-legged friend can accomplish as a team, if you choose your goals and work tirelessly toward those goals.  At LCDA, we are extremely fortunate to have a great field and equipment on which to train, a good library of instructional CDs which I would highly recommend, classes designed for all training levels, and a number of local trialing events each year where we can compete on local turf.

After Justice earned his ADCH, I promised him that he would no longer be required to do the dreaded weaves which were, at times, a little rough on his old bones.  I moved him down to Performance III, running him only in Gamblers, Jumpers and Snooker.  He may have thought I was planning to put him out to pasture, because he immediately stepped up his game and challenged me as well.  The 2012 USDAA Performance III (22”) standings are out.  Among all dogs in the Southeastern United States competing in this division, Justice finished first in Gamblers by sizeable lead, first in Jumpers by a sizeable lead, and first in Snooker by a sizeable lead.

Not bad for a 10-year old pup and his handler (also a pretty old dog).  While this may sound like quite a “brag,” my purpose in writing this blog is to publicly say to my pup, “Justice, well done!” and to say to LCDA, ‘Thanks for your training, support and encouragement!” and to anyone entering the sport, “If these 2 old dogs can do it, so can you!”

I’m not ready to be put out to pasture either – In addition to running Justice, I’m also working with my 2 girls: Circe (who earned her 2nd ACDH in 2012) and my 4-month old, up and coming agility dog, known as “The Cutter.”

Randy Hunter
Justice, Circe, and Cutter

Sunday, February 10, 2013

LCDA's History Part 5

Today should be called the adventures of trialing. For years we held two trials per year at Palmetto Islands County Park. It was a huge ordeal to put this show on. Someone would have to go out and mark off where the rings would sit in the open meadow. Then we would have to put up orange fencing. This all used to be done by club members until our backs all went bad and we starting hiring day labors to pound in the stakes. Then both of our trailers would have to be moved to the meadow. We would start on Friday morning setting up for a trial that was to take place on Saturday and Sunday. This was a huge event for the club. We ran two rings and hired two judges. It was not until the down turn in the economy that we gave up the two ring show at Palmetto Island. We had started to have smaller shows at our training field. This was approached with the idea that if we can put on a trial where our club members do not have to travel, and we can break even then we have saved all of those that participate a couple of hundred dollars each in travel fees. The first show we put on at the training field was a starters/advanced trial. We were able to make it work. So we gradually added more and more trials. We have also made changes to the training field to make setup for trials easier. We can now setup the same day of the show by arriving 30 minutes early. Some of our newer club members have not been to a trial at Palmetto Islands. At Palmetto Islands we had lots of spectators with all sorts of distractions. We have had petting zoos, soccer games, baseball games, food, and jump castles to distract the dogs and the handlers. In the attached pictures, you will see a child just outside the ring, along with pictures of our trial rings being built for the show.

Our Club Website

I know it may sound crazy, but without a doubt, our club moving to the Club Express platform has made a huge impact on our club. Prior to club express, we had the Elaine Magliacane and Elaine Hawes that very dutifully developed and maintained our club website. We appreciated all of their efforts, but it was a major pain for both of them to make changes to the website. They possessed knowledge and skill set that the rest of us do not have. As our club grew, we needed to be able to have numerous people be able to make changes to the website to post classes and events etc. When Kathy Price took office as President, Wanda asked her if she could look for a “package” designed for clubs. Surely there must be something. Wanda found club express. We did a free trial opening for board members only and we knew within 2 days that we wanted this website. When we unveiled the website to our club members, they were as excited as we were. Everyone was setting up profiles and adding pictures. We could check the calendar and sign up for classes. It was a wonderful thing. Christine took over as our webmaster and she “owned” the website. She is fantastic. The website truly is our first impression for most people and a major convenience for all of our club members. So, we do love our club express website. So, if you have not visited your profile lately, make sure to go out and update it for all of us to see.

Below are two pictures of our old teeters.  I think one reason that we seem to have more pictures of teeters, is because they have changed so much.  Kim Peyser and Lucy are in the picture.  They used to really drop  s l o w l y. Very  S l o w l y.

Getting lights at our training field was a complicated and very expensive process. We started out by syphoning off of the machine shop. Then we increased our wattage my adding two additional poles. We ran those off of a generator. The question should be—how many years of higher education does it take to be able to operate a generator? We had major trouble starting the generator and keeping it running. I can remember our landscape people coming out to start it for us during a trial. When light bulbs needed to be changed (which was quite often) we would all have to pray when someone climbed up the ladder that was propped against a pole that was split. The addition of our stadium lights changed our world. Not only did they make us able to see, it made our training field much safer and enabled us to be able to have the electricity needed to put on our trials. It is hard to remember what life was like prior to those lights. It was dark. The addition of the electrical outlets let Mary and Linda open up their famous soup bar that we have come to love at our trials. Cindy Floyd was very instrumental in helping us get the permitting that was needed to get the lights installed. Also Rick Mappus at Rick’s Lighting went out of his way to help us find someone that could install the special type of lights that we needed. We love our lights.  It would be so nice if we had water. We are looking towards the future.

When I began this journey to tell our twenty year story, I was very apprehensive. As all of you can tell, I am not a writer. We have an English professor and a professional writer in our club and I cringe at the thought of them reading my ramblings on a daily basis. With all that being said, I hope that everyone has learned something about our club. I tried to be as accurate as I could. There were so many people that contributed to our success and I hope that I have not hurt anyone’s feelings by not mentioning them.

I also want to thank Lori, Caroline and Courtney, for sharing their stories with you as well.

When I look back on how our club has managed to survive and thrive for 20 years, I think it all comes down to having a group of club members that are willing to put the club’s best interest ahead of any personal interest. These people love our club. The club is a made up of people and dogs and we are not ashamed to say that we love and care about all of them. We have been to weddings, funerals, graduations, birthday parties, and dinner and drinks. We have laughed and cried together. We have celebrated accomplishments and given hugs of support in those hard times. We are a family. A very weird dysfunctional type of family, but at the heart of all things we truly do love each other and we work things out.

I think that Mary Evans and Bill Farmer should be very proud of this club that they founded and continually supported for the last 20 years. They have created a club that will outlast all of us. So, when Mary Evans tells you not to tie your dog to the fence, remember...she can remember when there was no fence.

Wanda Usher
Splash, Shelly, and Sailor

LCDA's History Part 4

In the early 2000’s we are plugging along with our Saturday classes and our Armory classes. We have settled into having two trials a year at Palmetto Island County Park. We have developed a great relationship with the county parks system and with the armory. Both Karen Denton and Kim Peyser worked as our liaisons with Palmetto Islands County Park. At one point in time, our club was the number one lessee of Palmetto Island Park shelters. We rented the Big Oak and Sweet Gum shelters for our trials. Anytime we had a party, we rented Big Oak. We had two big parties a year - Christmas and Spring. We also rented for seminars. We were also the number one rental for the Mt Pleasant Armory. They loved renting to us, because we knew that place as if it were our own house. 

Wanda became the liaison with the Mt Pleasant Armory. She worked next door and it was very easy for her to coordinate with them. 911 came and our training world was also turned upside down. Our very hard working club members were busy searching for an alternative site for us to hold classes. You must remember that this was a time when lots of paperwork was still done via hand. All of the class registrations etc, had to be mailed in for processing. We had telephone trees etc. to contact people. We were so lucky to find the school, but the room was too small for agility. In the meantime, Wanda is watching the construction at the armory. Fencing is going up as well as lighting. She would occasionally talk to the guys when she saw them in the parking lot. We were out of the armory for about 6 months. When they allowed us to come back, they took Wanda on a tour. Our equipment would now be stored in an outside shed. This was baby equipment, but it had to be put together. Our A frame was made of two interior doors and was hinged together at the top. The baby dog walk was about 3 feet high and was also hinged and supported by milk crates. We had about 10 jumps, all nonwinged. Each jump had to be broken down and stored in 3 pieces. The teeter was stored in two pieces. We had two small tunnels and we used soft sided lunch bags filled with sand as our sand bags. We had a table that did not adjust, so it was always at about 12 inches. We also had a baby chute.

They had really secure fencing and lots of light. They are thinking security and Wanda is thinking agility. This also allowed us to double up on our training. We could teach obedience indoors and agility outside at the same time. When it rained, we would share the main inside half was agility and half was obedience. Doubling up on classes helped grow our bank account. The first time we taught intro to agility outside, we had some club members that got very angry because they could not believe that we would hold classes outside. They wanted to be inside. In the summertime, the armory people would go away to a two week camp. That became our agility training camp. We could leave equipment setup for the entire two weeks. We were dumb and happy.

Below is a picture of Wanda’s Surfer Boy. Check out the metal tunnel holders. They were a Mike Adam’s invention. They are the same color blue as the tunnel.

We are still teaching away at the armory. The entire outside setup depended upon the dumpster and its contents plus the direction of the wind. Lord help us if they parked a tank or something in our little patch of grass. Back at the park, people were constantly complaining about us. They did not like us taking up space and they wanted to be able to throw a tennis ball in the middle of our setup. We had a couple of regular complainers, and when they drove up, we would pretty much cease class, and just take a break until they left. We are continuing our Saturday morning class tradition when suddenly Palmetto Island County Park informs us that they are turning our practice area into a dog park. They showed us the plans and we could not believe it. They gave us about a 6 month notice as to when we would have to stop with our regular Saturday setup. In addition to losing the practice space, we were also losing our trailer storage. We put together a committee to look for alternative sites. We also surveyed the club to see how far people were willing to drive. We looked into the possibility of purchasing some property. We had several club members that had offered to loan the club money. Bill Farmer, our founding member, offered to loan our little club $20,000. Charlie Simons heard Mike Adams talking about our problem and told Mike to look at the property adjacent to the driveway at the machine shop. Mike looked at it and called the rest of his committee. We went out to look at it and it was rough. It had not been mowed in years. There were little “volunteer” trees everywhere. There was also the question of being able to afford it. It was a good thing that we had saved all that money.

Below is a photo of Mary Evan’s first agility dog. Her name was Abby and she is performing a slatted teeter.

I believe we made the move to our West Ashley location in 2006. For about a year, we held classes at the armory and used the training field on Saturday mornings and for Sunday run thrus. That is why so many of the older club members will refer to the training field as LCDA West. We were kind of like a chain. We had a location East Cooper and West Ashley. We had the field for several months before we actually used it. Remember it was in rough shape. We did have perimeter fencing thanks to the highway department. The fence that runs along the driveway had to be reinforced. For the longest time, there was just a bunch of equipment setup. There was no crating, or tents etc. At some point, we took our scorekeeping tent and set it up so we would have some shade. Then people started to bring chairs and crates. Little by little, we moved in. Finally Mike agreed that the surface was good enough that we could put up that temporary orange fencing. Suddenly it looked like an agility field. We kept the drive through gate closed all the time. When a car pulled up, the driver would yell that the gate was opening and everyone would hold onto their dogs when the car pulled in. How in the world we have made it all these years without having a dog run over, or driving away with one tied to the car, is a miracle. It was Kim Peyser’s idea to run the chain link fencing and tie into the two other existing fence lines. We had no money, but we managed to find some cheap labor to put it up and thank goodness it is still standing. Kathy Price and Wanda went to Home depot and bought all of the fence materials. When they finished with the fence, they returned enough left over parts to pay for the labor to install the fence. It is a miracle that it is still standing.

Below is a picture of Mary Evans's Peaches.

I guess we had been at the field about 6 months and were really beginning to get a grip on the financial responsibilities that the training field would bring to the club. The leaders of the club had some tough choices to make. In order to cover the cost of the training field, dues had to be increased. We also needed to figure out a way to stop paying for rent other places, and make better use of our training field. We needed lights. Our first set of lights was rigged up by Bob Lanier and Charlie Simons. We were basically running off of the machine shop electricity. We had two sets of lights down at the crating area and one electric outlet. We had to be very careful not to overload the system and throw the breaker. This allowed us to have classes at the training field. We eventually moved all of our classes from the armory to the training field. It was also during this time that we use to have a regular Sunday night run through and cook out with Jason Price on the grill. If you came to run throughs and had supper you had to pay $10. Attached is a picture of one of our Spring Parties that was held at Palmetto Islands. The Easter Egg Hunt was one of our most favorite games.

To be continued...

LCDA's History Part 3

LCDA Ribbons

Elaine Hawes is responsible for creating our beautiful ribbons. For those of you that are lucky enough to have a set of them, perhaps you have noticed the rainbow characteristic. The prominent color in each ribbon stands for a titling class. The rainbow ribbons frame the center titling color ribbon. Light blue is for Snooker. Green is for Jumpers. Dark Blue is for pairs. Hot Pink is for Gamblers. Purple is for Standard. Dark Pink is for tournaments. As you progress up the titling ladder the rosette gets bigger and the streamers get longer. People come from all around trying to finish a title at our show so they can go home with one of our beautiful ribbons. These ribbons have put a smile on the face of many competitors and they are unique to our club. We have Elaine to thank for making our trials special.

There was a lot happening in our club in the late 1990’s. We are starting to look like an agility club. We are hosting competitions and we are getting to see what other competitors look like. It was during this time that Elaine Magliacane pushed for us to have a seminar. There were two events that set the course for our club’s agility training. We had Bud Houston come into town and do an instructor’s seminar. He taught us how to train dogs on equipment and the basics of handling and movement. Bud sees value in all dogs and all handlers and he had his hands full with us. He left us with a notebook full of setups and explanations of how to teach them. The other event that shaped our training program was our club sending Mike Adams to a Clean Run Camp. It was a lot of money for our little club, but it was money well spent. The camp lasted a full week and was held somewhere in the Northeast. Mike came back on fire for agility. He had seen some of the best instructors in the country and he had a notebook full of things to teach us. I can still remember the first class that Mike taught when he returned from camp. He nearly worked us to death. There was no time to talk and socialize. Mike was all business.

Below is a picture of Karen Denton’s Blaze in a set of weave poles with a spring base. They were state of the art at the time and 18 inches apart. They would literally spring back and forth and beat the poor dogs to death as they went through them.

We seem to be spending money like we had some. We were financing this agility habit by teaching obedience and puppy classes. We were teaching 32 weeks of the year, two to three nights a week. Each night generally had two classes. Y’all can do the math. We were the place, East of the Cooper, to teach your dog some manners. Most of our club members that have been members longerthan 10 years came to the club via an obedience class.

LCDA Classes – The Early Days by Carolina Hunt

If you found yourself time-warped back to observe LCDA’s classes 15 to 20 years ago, you wouldn’t believe it was the same organization.  Classes took place in the National Guard Armory in Mount Pleasant. Though indoors and easy to find the venue was dark, echoing, and given to various uncertainties (such as occasionally being locked out or superseded by another event). Concrete floors were a challenge. I had to write to AKC about a Whippet that wouldn’t down on them; the CGC department authorized an alternate substrate (their word), the owner brought a bathmat, and the dog passed. Sometimes we’d find a tank or mysterious packing crates in the middle of the floor and worked around them. After 9/11, the Armory understandably wasn’t available for several months, and we were fortunate enough to be taken in by Trident Academy. 

The visitor from 2013 wouldn’t recognize the dogs, either. With the notable exception of Karen Denton’s Bandit, Border Collies were not much represented among LCDA students of the mid-1990s. One early training director, Elaine Magliacane, did have a BC, Crispin, who had retired after a stellar career in competitive obedience. The largest contingents seemed to consist of Standard Poodles and Weimaraners, followed by mixed breeds and then perhaps Aussies. Often we would have a series of Labs or Goldens whose owners had not grasped quite how boisterous these breeds could be.
Most of the classes were obedience classes. We had three sections(!) of the basic CGC class, then usually Beyond Basic and sometimes instruction at the Open obedience level, or special ad hoc classes. The basic CGC class incorporated what we would now call obstacle familiarization, partly on the theory that it would make the dogs more confident and hence both more trainable and better canine citizens. Equipment lived in a shed outside the Armory and had to be toted in each evening. Clearly, agility for its own sake had not yet arrived.

CGC participants received a snap-choke collar, a short lead, and a six-foot lead (which they did not use until several weeks into the course). Each instructor had at least one assistant, often two. After assisting, one often became a lead instructor – helped, in the case of the inexperienced, by veteran assistants. One of my first assistants was the incomparable Mary Evans, who knew more about teaching dog owners than I could ever learn. (Other memorable early assistants were Sis Nunnally, Pat and Don Frey, and, for several years, Mike Adams.) Once, as Mary demonstrated a CGC auditory distraction, my 90-pound German Shepherd misinterpreted her falling clipboard in typical GSD fashion. Launching through the air, he snatched the clipboard before it hit the ground and delivered it to me. Mary went right on explaining the CGC auditory distraction as if Kohl had been part of the act.

LCDA pioneered in the use of food treats for training, guided by our longtime early training director Cynthia King. Incredibly, many students had to be cajoled or bullied into using food. We did a lot of mental exercises, partly to overcome the rather physical approach of dog owners of the time. For instance, I used to make classes walk the length of the Armory with leashes made of sewing thread. This was a great incentive to practice loose leash walking at home! We also pioneered in encouraging, helping to train, and helping to place therapy dog teams. Our impressive number of therapy visit hours was one of the factors that helped us gain our 501(c)3 status later.  Useful to the community? You bet. Fun? Ditto. Some things don’t change.

The photo below shows Courtney and Sandy, Deb Bennett and Lily, Wanda and Surfer, and Pat Frey and Sam(?)

Classes by Courtney Holscher

Classes and class locations have changed many times over LCDA’s history. When I first started taking classes with LCDA in Fall 2002, Basic Obedience and Puppy Kindergarten classes were taught at the Mount Pleasant Armory on Mathis Ferry Rd. Wanda Usher and Bob Lanier taught Sandy’s puppy kindergarten class and at the end of each class the puppies got to try some baby agility equipment (this is what initially got us interested in agility). 

Because of what was going on in the country post 9-11, LCDA was not allowed to used the armory for the following winter session. Basic Obedience CGC and Puppy classes were moved to the cafeteria of Trident Academy in Mount Pleasant. Caroline Hunt and Mike Adams were teaching the obedience classes at this time. The room was so small that when we took the CGC test we had to wait outside because we couldn’t all fit with the stations set up. 

Introduction to Agility classes were moved to Palmetto Island County Park at the same time. Because Sandy was older when we started training, we took the CGC and Intro to Agility class simultaneously. Our class met on Saturday mornings and there were only four dogs total in the class; two poodles, a really overweight mixed breed dog, and Sandy. Elaine Magliacane was the instructor. Training methods were much different then as we didn’t have access to adjustable equipment, and the goal was just to get the dog to go over the equipment. We didn’t have targets (I don’t remember ever hearing about any type of contact training until at least a year later with Bud Houston) or any way to train weaves other than luring around straight poles. All of the equipment we used was in the dog park area of Palmetto Island County Park and was permanently set up. Being in a public park, we were not allowed to prevent people using the dog park from coming in while we were having class. So it occasionally happened that we had dog park dogs running all around while we were trying to have class. 

The following session in the spring was moved back to the armory. Lights and a fence had been put up in the back grassy area of the armory so we were able to have agility classes there in the evenings. The equipment was kept in a closet inside the armory (later moved to a shed outside) and everything but the jumps was much smaller than competition size. We had to bring everything outside and set it up every time we had class. If it rained, we rolled out thin rubber mats onto the concrete floors and hallways inside the armory and set the equipment on top of that. Both intro and higher level handling classes were taught at the armory, along with the indoor obedience classes. Classes continued to be held at the armory until we acquired the field and even then obedience and intro classes were still held there until we got lights at the field. 

The final place we had classes pre-LCDA West was the open field next to the fenced in dog park at Palmetto Island County Park. This is where our tradition of Saturday morning classes began, as we couldn’t have our major classes in the evenings because the park wasn’t open. Every Saturday Mike had to pull the trailer from where it was parked on the other side of the park to where we held class. The next thirty minutes were then spent setting up the equipment, followed by an Advanced and then Novice class. This was the only time that our dogs were able to practice on competition size equipment. The Advanced Beginners class(basically what our Obstacle Skills 2 class is now) was taught simultaneously inside the dog park fence using the baby equipment. Various people instructed and a significant portion of our lessons came from Bud Houston.

The pictures below are of some of the puppies celebrating their graduation.

To be continued...