I Broke the Pull Rope!

The long and lingering winter finally released its grip on the world. And so I found myself outside one day in my garden with our ever-faithful tiller. It’s an old machine, actually. Probably been around since the late 60’s; and is in such good shape because it has formerly been owned by persons who valued owning and storing to a greater extent than tilling. Tilling, of course, can be a bit of work.


It took me a couple minutes, yanking away at the pull rope to actually break it. I’ve never actually broke a pull-rope before and it gave me a moment of virile satisfaction that the machine actually broke before I did.

Anyhow, what’s more work than running a roto-tiller? I grabbed myself up a pick and did it the way I used to do when I was younger. I heaved open the dirt and dug a couple trenches. I was satisfied to see that the soil was healthy and full of fat wrigglers. I’ve been amending this soil for years now. So that pleases me.

I’m struck by my ponderous start-up of Top Dog. And you must see the analogy! Here I have a marvelous concept, a machine of great beauty and design. And, it has defied implementation as though I’d broken the pull-rope after just a few good yanks. But, just like my garden I will plant a few frail and optimistic seedlings and see how they grow with just a bit of care and weeding while I go on with the busyness of my life.


Oh I had to share this with you… it is a violet growing in the crook of a tree, at about shoulder-height. I took this picture in my mother-in-laws back yard (Darlene). It is a reminder that beauty and nature are sometimes unexpected.

And Life Goes On

A couple weeks ago now I returned from a weekend running USDAA agility in a marvelous mood. I had a very fun time and began writing in my blog something sappy sounding like “A beautiful morning!” But timing coincided with that awful bombing of the Boston Marathon. I went into a bit of a funk. And a couple days later there was that terrible industrial tragedy down in West, TX. It seemed terribly inappropriate and egocentric for me to gloat and grin about playing a game with a dog while such disasters plague our neighbors.

Life goes on though, don’t you know. While the horror of recent events is bruising to the soul, we have no real choice, you and I, but to go on with our lives unchecked and without fear or particular trepidation. That’s neither bravery nor pluck.

I was impressed by the speed and competence of the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing. Maybe that will be a deterrent to other worthless little anarchist zits. I expect not. We live in a changed world.

A Quest for Perfection

Before going into the last couple trial weekends I appreciate that Marsha has been setting up for me for several weeks some awesomely technical courses. She has an uncanny ability to design things that have little real logic, or flow, or compassion… just like a real agility judge. I’ve written in the past about my propensity for designing within the realm of my own logic. As a consequence I tend to train to my strengths, rather than my weaknesses.

The Velcro game, with the dog tied at your hip, isn’t the game that I play because I really can’t. Don’t get me wrong, back in the day I was a master of this game. Today I have to solve the most gnarly technical challenges with no real warranty that I am going to be anywhere near my dog as I solve them.

The USDAA weekend was an absolute blast. While I was nowhere near perfection, the problem solving part of the game was exhilarating to me. I managed to own two masters gamblers courses and even won the Steeplechase by outlasting all my competition.

We also ran Masters Challenge Jumpers. You know, I’ve heard people complaining about the technical density of these Masters Challenge classes. But I can’t remember having so much fun with a course. I actually got a wrong course, and an “E”, late in the course, in the transition to jump #17. If anything were to change about the game (the USDAA should take note)… it would be in rates of travel. The 4.5 go 5.0 YPS is based on a flow that allows you to release the dog to work. Almost everything in the course that I ran had to do with taking stride off the dog. I think there was only one dog, a very fast and efficiently handled Border Collie who came in under time; and that was by .1 of a second.

The AKC weekend was a different kind of weekend altogether. While I walked away with a couple qualifying scores it was a weekend of one-little-flaw kind of runs. One of the judges, in her course designs ran you from a technical challenge in one corner of the ring to another technical challenge in the long opposite corner of the ring. She was especially fond of the five-and-six sided box with wrong-course option discriminations going in and coming out.

Of course, I was faced with solving these challenges at a magnificent distance. Kory was actually quite amazing. And each “one-little-flaw” was entirely handler. His contacts were solid (thank you Pati Mah!); and he was constantly ready to go and followed my every cue perfectly.

No weekend of competition in agility is complete without coming home with homework. I find that Kory and I have a unique weakness… giving him a direction cue while at a distance as he dismounts a pipe tunnel. This is no big deal for the Velcro handler, who can scoop at the exit and draw the line with movement nearby. I’m already designing a series of exercises to this end.

I also need to add as a developmental/training skill: drawing a static line from a contact obstacle. On two standard courses on the AKC weekend I NQ’d my boy from the dismount of a contact obstacle by earning a refusal (run-by) on the following jump. It’s ironic you know, to survive the snarky technical stuff and then NQ on something that should be simple.

Oh… I had several courses to share with you. But I am on the road at this very minute and didn’t bring any of them with. I’m judging USDAA in Indianapolis for the weekend.

A Beautiful Morning



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


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