Rethinking Thistle

You know, the thistle plant isn’t much loved. I think it’s because it’s a spiny and inhospitable thing that serves prickly torment to the least caress. It makes a little purple flower, certainly not spectacular, but crowned and framed by a thorny presentation of stickers.

A prodigious number of thistle plants have been growing up the hillside next to my training building. I don’t much care for that hillside at all and have an even live and let live temperament about what chooses to grow there. And lord knows I have my hands full being at war with poison ivy and multi-flora rose, without having dispute with annoying things like mustard plants and thistle.

This morning I went down to the building to do some work and noted what seemed to be a display of yellow flowers high in the thistles. I walked over to take a closer look and was surprised by a flock of brilliant yellow finches most of which took flight and swooped down into the woods below as I clumped my way over. I say most of them… but a half dozen stayed clenched in the thistle eating the seed and impervious to my intrusion.

Okay, now I’m liking thistle quite a lot. I spend a couple hundred dollars every year feeding birds. Mostly we do this at wintertime when seed is hard to find on the landscape.

I feel a perfect balance to a world that has harmony for both thistle plant and yellow finch. All is well.

So, Where the Hell Were Mark & Maggie?

Milton wrote Paradise Lost… and my best contribution to the literary world seems to be Entertainment Lost. To bad we didn’t have Mark & Maggie here this weekend (to say nothing of Katie and Dave.) We might have had even more spectacular entertainment.

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I’ve been treating the couple hundred readers of my blog over the past several days to my split-room sequences for the semi-monthly mini-clinic here at country dream. I didn’t publish all of the sequences. Maybe I will in due course. But I’m not so complete a chronicler as I was back with I was doing the Notebook. Hell, I’m supposed to be in semi-retirement, after all.

I include this illustration to show how I’ve divided up the building. This was Marsha’s innovation actually. We’ve marked off a space central in the building that everyone gets to sit and crate their dogs. So when we change sides in the building all my students have to do is… turn around their chairs. It used to be that I’d have to get everyone to gather up their stuff and their dogs and haul it all to the other side of the building. This is simpler.

The Stumper

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Late in the afternoon when Marsha and I changed sides of the building (split group/split building work, after all)… Marsha had this sequence numbered. Of course it wasn’t a sequence that I had predesigned. But Marsha does that…

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I observed this phenomena several years ago… and I’m certain that I documented it in the pages of the Just For Fun Agility Notebook. Fully 50% of the dog’s running veered away to focus on the tire when the handler led out with dog on right.

From my first look at Marsha’s sequence I remembered this. And felt that I could predict a couple dogs taking a good look at the tire. But 50% was rather surprising. Note that even if the handler managed to draw the dog’s attention away from the tire, it as often as not resulted in a refusal alongside the correct jump (red path). And at least one dog veered away into the pipe tunnel after jump #2 (green path).

So what I showed my students was an attack on the opening line with dog on left. I showed both a Rear Cross and a Bend and Blind. Both worked admirably. And no dog focused on the tire. I shall probably put this interesting challenge into course work… and probably in a very similar sequence that suggests a straight line of jumps with a turn away. This is the kind of very interesting sequence that deserves a test with a hundred or so masters dogs and their handlers.

Columbus What?

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Reconstruction of Crates Globe (150 bc)

Okay… a globe? A round planet? 1642 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue? It looks to me like history can be a little myopic. I googled around to figure out what the word “Perioeci” means. The best I can figure out is that it means “Free men… not of Sparta”. Okay that works for me. More likely it’s something like “outlanders” or “foreign devils”.

Not believing that the world was round in those days is kinda like not believing in global warming these days. It’s adamantine ignorance. Note that the only thing that’s relatively accurate on the globe is Europe. They didn’t much get Africa right, except for the Ivory Coast.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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