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Here are some of the previous articles in the Dog Blog. 

Thursday 7th September - Update on the Channel 4 show, Britain's Top Dog

Mike Clark, whose dog Jess and wife Sally won the competition, has sent his comments on the post "At last, agility on TV."  We're delighted to hear from the winners and the comments have been added below.
 

Monday 4th September - A funny thing happened on the way to the start line

We approached the start line all fired up and ready to go and the scrimer said,
  "When you're ready Pat."  I glanced up to check that the judge was ready, which is always a good thing to do, and there she was with her back to me.  Ahem.  We're about to go so what's the hold up?  Then as the judge turned round I spotted the reason for the delay. On the far side of the ring, a couple were strolling along without a care in the world and they clearly didn't realise there was a competition going on and that they were holding it up.
  "I think we'd better wait for these people to get out of the ring," said the judge.
So we all stood patiently watching the couple as they made their way towards the rope on the far side. Then the pantomime began.   The lady was wearing a long skirt and she had decided that the best way to get over the obstruction was to climb over the top of the rope.  Meanwhile the gentleman had decided that in order to help his lady friend he must remove the corner post of the ring and so he lifted the whole thing up, rope and all.  I suppose it was just unfortunate that he chose to do so just as the lady had one leg over the rope and well....you can guess the rest.  The lady's skirt went up in the air and it was watched by all the people who'd been hoping to see Starters Jumping.  
At last the pantomime came to an end, the couple climbed out of the ring and we were able to start.  The funny thing was that during the whole performance the couple never once seemed to realised that they were in a dog agility ring during a competition and that dozens of people were watching them.  Oh well, it takes all sorts.  We came seventh in the class and then went on to get fifth in the agility so we were well pleased with the day.
 

Tuesday 29th August - Stinking out the aristocracy

It's August bank holiday and I haven't been able to
persuade Bernie to go to the show at Buckland Philleigh.  Jamie got stung by a hornet last time and had to go straight home, so Bernie's decided we'll all have nice afternoon out at Pencarrow House.  He should know better than to try and take Jamie into polite company but who am I to argue?

It started soon after we entered the gardens and Jamie found some mud.  The paths are very narrow and I had to keep putting myself between a muddy dog and the smartly dressed visitors who always seem to wear white or cream trousers.

By the time we'd made it to the lake I was now the muddy one and Jamie was soaking wet all over.  I'm not sure where he picked up the seeds that were clinging to his coat.  I don't even know what they were but when we sat down on a bench I discovered that he was covered in them.  I tried to pull some of them out but it was hopeless.  They were firmly lodged and they wouldn't budge.

At last we reached the field next to the house and I let Jamie off the lead to have a bit of a run.  He gambolled playfully across the field and threw himself down on the grass for a roll....and he rolled and he rolled and he rolled.....right in the biggest dollop of cow pooh he could find. 

The only thing for it was to go back to the lake with our wet and smelly dog.  Some of the visitors who'd avoided him before, now realised that they must keep an even bigger distance as the hairy monster emerged from the water and shook himself all over us.  He was still stinking.  It's a wonder he wasn't sprouting, what with the combination of mud, seeds water and cow pooh.  If we hadn't been gasping for a cup of tea we'd have shoved him in the car and taken him straight home. 

Bernie did the honours with a tray of tea and cakes and a Bonio and we scoffed the lot as quickly as we could.  In just a few minutes we'd be able to take our disgusting animal away from the home of the aristocracy and back to where he belonged in his more modest surroundings.... and then we spotted Lady Molesworth St Aubyn.

She was bearing down on the tea gardens waving and smiling and saying "Good afternoon" to the visitors.  Then she spotted Jamie and that did it.  She wasn't wearing any glasses and she positively beamed at him,

"Oh good afternoon."  She approached our table as if she was going to give Jamie a cuddle and I shrieked.

"He's covered in cow dung."  At this point Jamie decided that something must be wrong and he leapt up and started barking furiously at Lady Molesworth St Aubyn.  By now we had the attention of everyone in the tea gardens.  They watched with interest as the lady took several steps backwards and then made a dignified exit.   We could still feel the eyes of all the visitors watching as we made a rather more hurried exit in the opposite direction.

They say that tomato ketchup gets rid of the smell of cow dung.  Unfortunately we didn't have any but I can tell you now that talcum powder and a good brush doesn't work.  The house stinks!

 Pencarrow House is near Wadebridge in Cornwall and it's well worth a visit.

 

Tuesday 15th August - Scaring Ernie

Last night I saw a little Jack Russell on TV that looked exactly like a dog that used to
live up the road. It reminded me of a very funny thing that happened a few years ago. 
Ernie was lovely little dog and he was very well cared for, but unfortunately he had an inclination to wander.  It started when he took a shine to a family who lived down the lane.   No sooner had he returned from a walk than he was off on his own to visit his new friends and to ramble around the countryside.  His owners couldn't understand it.   They fed him well and walked him daily but whatever they did he just wouldn't stay at home.  In the end it was me who cured him and it was entirely accidental.
I'd gone down to the vegetable garden to tend the runner beans.  (This was in the days before it was an agility course.)  I hadn't been there long when I spotted Ernie trotting down the path with a merry little swagger and a very purposeful look on his face.  I didn't bother to stand up from behind the rows of beans, I just called out,
   "Ernie.  Go home."
Ernie stopped in his tracks and looked around.  I had a job not to giggle at his puzzled little face.  He knew the voice had come from somewhere and the voice was talking to him but who on earth was speaking?  He obviously couldn't see me.  He took a few tentative steps forward and as he did so I said again,
   "Ernie.  GO HOME."
Ernie stood stock still and stared all around him.  He even looked up at the sky and then all of a sudden it dawned on him.
  "It's the voice of God" 
He didn't wait to find out if he was right.  He turned and fled and and I collapsed in fits of laughter as he took off up the lane.  A short while later I returned home laden with runner beans and new potatoes and Bernie was there to greet me.
  "Here," he said, "I don't know what happened to Ernie but I saw him him going up the road hell for leather and he looked scared stiff."
It was a few days after this that I met Ernie's owners and they were delighted to tell me that he had stopped going on his travels. 
  "It's a funny thing," they said, "he came in the other day looking really scared and he hasn't wandered off since." 
I just had to tell them what had happened and I'm afraid we all had a good laugh behind Ernie's back.  it did the trick though.
 

Monday 31st July - At Last, agility on TV

I don't know if any of you have seen it but I'm delighted that Channel Four is giving some air time to agility.  The programme is called Britain's Top dog and it features agility, heelwork to music and scent work.  The handlers and dogs that are are competing are given just six weeks to train for these three disciplines from absolute scratch and most of them are doing really well.  Jo Fraser is teaching the agility but I'm sure she didn't show one of this week's handlers the rather novel way of learning the A-Frame.  The dog was a sheltie and the handler persuaded his girlfriend to climb up one side of the A-Frame and waggle a toy over the top of it.  I notice the handler stayed firmly on the ground...funny that!
This week I was very impressed with a mad jack russell.  As the dog flew round the agility ring Jo Fraser shouted "That's a championship dog."  The handler was thrilled to bits and I hope she doesn't just leave it at that.
In fact it will be interesting to see if any of these handlers go on to compete in agility.  Some are very taken with the heelwork to music or doggie dancing as they call it on the programme.  You can almost see the stars in the making. 
Hopefully programmes like this will raise the profile of agility and who knows, perhaps one day we can persuade Channel Four to televise the world championships.
Britain's Top Dog is on Channel Four on Sunday at 17:45 to 18:45.  (Video it if you're at a show, it's well worth it.)

Sophie Hadaway writes:
I love the programme it's so great. I loved the one on last week- really wanted the labby x collie to win (not being biased) AND absolutely loved the JR he would be such a FAB agility dog!!!

(and yeah loved the method of teaching the aframe!! LOL) 

The overall winner of this competition was Sally Clark with Jess.  Mike Clark writes:
Britain's Top Dog Channel 4
Hi, I just read your blog about Britain's Top Dog show and would like to thank you for lending your support. Over the past few weeks I have read countless threads on websites with nothing but negative things to say about the programme. The people involved seemed to be the breeders and competition types who haven't seemed to grasp that all the dogs taking part were novice pet dogs. My wife and I worked very hard to train Jessie and are very proud to have won. Sally has always aspired to work with dogs and if it wasn't for a few medical issues she'd ideally be a police dog handler. We hope to keep up the agility work and still play little scent games with Jessie. We'll be breeding from her late this year or early next. Once again thanks you for your support, truly a breath of fresh air

Pat says: Thanks Mike and congratulations on a magnificent performance.  We watched every programme and we were truly impressed with the standard of agility achieved by the dogs in such a short time.  Clubs and websites have noticed an increase in enquiries about agility and I think it's wonderful that people want to get out and do things with their dogs.  They will be rewarded in bucket loads.   Jo Fraser has said on the agility forum how hard you all worked under near impossible conditions.  To quote from her posting on the forum (I hope Jo doesn't mind) "
They were all amazing. I wouldn't have attempted to do what they all did. It was hard hard hard. Well done with Sally and jess. They deserved the win after putting their lives on hold for the three months of filming. "
 

Tuesday 11th July - The Contacts are like the Courts at Wimbledon

Let me explain.  I was watching Wimbledon last week and I couldn't help thinking that the judges who have to decide whether a ball has bounced in or out of the court or on the line are really doing the same thing as agility judges when they look at contacts.  Our judges have to decide whether a toe went on the contact or just outside and just like the tennis judges they can't always get it right. 
I was reminded of the time when I saw someone get a winning round in starters.  The dog was very fast but as it jumped off the see-saw several people said,
     "Aaaaah, what a shame."
Then I noticed that the judge's hand hadn't gone up.  The error that we had seen, had gone unseen by the judge and the dog was clear.  
   "That's not fair," said Bernie, "the dog's won and it jumped off the see-saw."
   "It happens," I said.  "If there's any doubt about the contact the judge will usually go in the dog's favour and obviously if they didn't get a good view they can't give five faults."
 It's swings and roundabouts.  I'm sure Jamie's got away with some dodgy contacts in the past and got himself a place and I'm equally sure that he's been faulted when he's got a toe on the contact.   I'm just grateful that there are so many people willing to give up a whole day to judge all those dogs going round and round a course. 
Mind you, if dogs could talk there'd be some interesting debates in the ring. 
 
  "Whaddya mean I missed the contact?  I got at least three paws on it!"
  "Man you are the pits of the world.  That paw was in I tell you!"
  " I'm just not jumping any more.  If you're going to keep sticking your hand up I'm going home
."
  "
Man, you cannot be serious. That toe was on the contact.
  "You fault me on that and I'LL NEVER JUMP IN YOUR RING AGAIN!!!!!"

 

 

Wednesday 5th July - Cool dudes at training

 

Some of us actually turned up for training this week....on Saturday morning.....under a boiling sun.  Jamie took off for a mad run with Teg and dashed all over the place.  Then it came to jumping. 
  "Oh what?  You you want me to jump over those jumps in this heat."
The mad dash forgotten we went flop over the first jump and walked slowly to the second.  "You can't be serious.  I've just done one jump and now you want me to do another one.  It's too much for a dog."
We staggered through the best part of an hour like this with frequent breaks for drinks and then we suddenly noticed the dog bed was missing.  We didn't realise it had been put away until Tilly the beardie cross went racing down the field and came back looking puzzled and forlorn.
   "WHERE'S  IT GONE?"
The dog bed is one of those plastic jobbies and when it fills up with rainwater it makes an ideal pond for hot dogs.  After a dry spell it has to be filled manually of course but those dogs that are water orientated really appreciate having somewhere to get nice and wet.  Jamie has only recently discovered the benefits and he's still a bit wary.  It's nice to sit in but it doesn't quite come up to the standard of a big muddy puddle.  Still, it's better than nothing.  Now here's the dilemma.  I have a spare plastic dog bed and the weather's really hot.  Do I or don't I take it to the show on Saturday? 

 

 

Saturday 17th June - Dogs' Washing

 

This morning I got up bright and early.  We're going to stay with Jamie's grandma tomorrow and I thought I'd wash his blankets.   I did it all nice and early and then I realised that the weather was too good for me to bung the blankets in the tumble dryer.  They would have to go on the line.  Now under normal circumstances I'm quite happy to put the washing on the line.  My knickers are as good as anyone else's knickers and the whites are reasonably white, but when it comes to dogs' washing....oh dear.  I know Jamie's blankets nearly all come up clean but there's just one that I don't like to hang out.  It's Jamie's sucking blanket. 

Jamie took possession of the sucking blanket from day one and it immediately became his comforter.  He wouldn't go anywhere without it.  He carted it all over the house and when he laid down he sucked it.  In fact he still does suck it at night.  Unfortunately the blanket is now rather the worse for wear.  The pale green colour has given way to a sort of dirty muddy grey and there are several holes in the middle.  As an item of bedding it leaves much to be desired but we can't throw it out.  It has to go on the line on washing day and now our neighbours look at us with pity.  It's even worse when the sucking blanket is joined by the dog towels.
   "Oh those poor people in that house there.  You should see what they put on the line.  They must be ever so poor".  I grin and bear it.  So what if my washing looks like the last knockings from a refugee camp.  At least it's not as funny as the thing I saw on someone else's line, and  it was in their front garden.
 
I was out riding with a friend when we spotted the thing.  It was big and pink and scary and it was obviously designed to control the sort of blubber you might find on a whale.  It had fearsome looking stays that gave away its identity as a corset and it was so big it stretched from one end of the line to the other.  We rode past giggling and all the way up the road we kept looking back to see if we could spot the wearer.   Sadly we didn't but I couldn't help thinking that that's the sort of washing I'd keep to myself.
 

 

Thursday 25th May - Indian Head Massage for Dogs

 

I've actually had a very interesting day at work today.  It's Learning at Work Week and we've all been offered one hour taster courses in various things from doing sums to reflexology.  I chose Indian head massage.  I was going to do reflexology but I was going with my friend and Bryony and she persuaded me to do the Indian thing.
  "Have you washed the nits out?" she asked. 
  "Of course," I said "How about you?"
  "Ah yes.  No nits....but there might be a bit of slug goo."
(I'm coming to the dog bit in a minute.) 
 We all sat in a long line while our tutor expertly guided us in what we were supposed to be doing.    Bryony pummelled me first and it was wonderful.  Bits of my back and shoulders were pushed and pulled and muscles were pinched and kneaded all over my neck and head.  My hair was rearranged in a sort of dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards style and finally my chakras were balanced.  Then we were asked to swap over.
  "Would anyone like to swap with the young man I've been massaging?" asked the tutor. 
  "Yes please." Bryony shot across the room and flumped down in front of the tutor.
Well thanks a bunch.  That left me to massage a strange man who worked in an entirely different part of the office and whom I'd never met before.  
I knew I should have gone with someone else.
After the lesson I asked the tutor if the massage techniques could be adapted for dogs. 
  "Absolutely," she said.
First of all I would need to get four rose quartz crystals.  These would need to be cleansed under a tap and then placed under each corner of Jamie's bed.  I didn't tell her his bed's oval.  They need to stay there for about four weeks.  Every week I must take them out and cleanse them again and leave them on a sunny windowsill to recharge. 
I must find out where a dog's chakras are located.  The tutor drew a small diagram and indicated where she thought they were likely to be.  Having found the chakras I would also need to find the right pressure points.  I could then begin to give Jamie his Indian head massage and this would have enormous benefits. By this time I was feeling completely spaced out and I was nodding stupidly and agreeing to anything.   Jamie was going to love this.
When at last we were all done we staggered back into the office and smiled gormlessly at the manager. 
  "Love and peace man," I said.
  "Far out," said Bryony.
I'd sobered up by the time I got home but I still I explained all about the Indian head thingy to Jamie.  He wasn't very keen.  In fact he gave me a sort of "You leave my chakras alone" look when I told him about the pummelling bit.
Anyway, all I have to do now is ask in Tescos if they've got any rose quartz and then type "dog's chakras" into Google and I'll be away. 
 

 

Thursday 18th May - Talk About Accident Prone!

 

I can't believe that Jamie's done it again.  He was just going nicely and winning
the odd rosette when he went and injured his hind leg.  He wasn't doing agility at the time.  He was careering round and round a tree with another dog when he somehow got caught up in the tree roots.  Jamie came off worse.  The tree wasn't hurt at all and it had no idea it's put my agility dog out of action for several weeks. 
In total, Jamie's hurt three different legs in the last year.  He's only got one leg left that's still intact.   But what I want to know is why is my dog so accident prone?  I'd love it if anyone could answer the following:
How did Jamie manage to cut his paw so badly in a big safe field?
Why was it that when Jamie raced over a bridge with another dog he was the one that fell in the stream? 
Why is he the only dog in the training class to bite his tongue and end up with spots of blood on either side of his mouth?
Why is it that when Jamie races around a pond with his friends he's the one that falls in the deepest part and hurts his back getting out?
Why is it that when we'd got up at an unearthly hour to travel to a show and we saw a notice saying "Beware of the hornet's nest" we knew immediately we were doomed?  Yes, he did get stung and yes, it was before the first class, and yes, we did have to go home.   
The list could be endless but I think I know the answer to all these questions.  It's our family curse rearing it's ugly head.  It's goes something like this:
Whenever you hire a workman to do a job it doesn't matter where you go or how much you pay, you will get Frank Spencer.  Whenever you contact any government office it doesn't matter who you want to speak to or what the question's about, you will get Frank Spencer.  The Frank Spencer curse will follow you wherever you go and in whatever you do.
Unfortunately I've come to realise that Jamie is the canine equivalent of Frank Spencer.  He bumbles through life causing chaos wherever he goes.  He should work for Revenue and Customs.  That's why I've got a tie.   It's good job we love him.
 

 

Saturday 13th May - Snoring

 

All the dogs I've had except for Jamie have snored and barked and squeaked in their sleep.  Being a lazy dog Jamie never goes to all the trouble of dreaming about jumping and running.  When he sleeps he just sleeps.  He doesn't snore at all. The latest time at which you can reasonably disturb him in the evening is nine o'clock.  After that you don't get any response.  In fact a couple of days ago Bernie asked if he was still alive. He was of course, but he was well away with the fairies. Not even the tiniest snore escaped.
 
Now here's the odd thing.  Jamie doesn't snore himself but it seems he doesn't like his beauty sleep being disturbed by other snorers.  It's just unfortunate that Bernie can snore for England.  At times it's like sleeping next to a road drill.  The whole house seems to shake.  It's hardly surprising then that Jamie gets up half a dozen times a night to stop the offending snorer. Thank goodness we've got thick walls and the neighbours can't hear what's going on.

  "Snore, snore ore ore ore ore ore ore zzZZZZ, pheeeewwww."

Pad, pad, lick, slurp.

  "uot;uot;GEROFF"

Silence. 

"Snore, snore zzZZZZ, pheeeewwww."

Pad, pad, lick, slurp.

Well you get the picture.  This is actually wonderful for me.  I used to get the blame every time I booted and elbowed Bernie for snoring.  Now I just leave it all to Jamie.  What a horrible owner I am letting him get the blame like that.  Bernie can't believe it. 

"It was bad enough enough having a wife who woke me up, but fancy having a dog  that objects to me snoring!"

Poor Jamie.  Could this be why he's knackered by nine o'clock every evening?

 

 

Tuesday 2nd May - Harry Saunders - Building agility jumps question

 

I've built my basic frame for a jump with no wings, what should I use for the bar and any other ideas for the cups? Also could anybody recommend a tunnel that's  good value?,  cheers.

Pat's suggestions:  I use one and a quarter inch waste pipe or one and a half inch pipe for the bars.  You can get these at any DIY shop or builder's merchant.  Any plastic bottle can be cut and shaped to make the jump cups. You can buy the cups, but they cost 1 each and I'm too mean to pay that much!    You can make a flexible tunnel using plywood for the entrance and a light tarpaulin for the chute.  I made one for Jamie but we hardly ever use it.  The entrance wasn't circular, it was more of a box shape and the tarpaulin was tacked on.  I used some old bathroom carpet tacked around the entrance to prevent injuries.  Does anyone else have any suggestions for Harry?

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