My princesses

My photo
Sava Sara Brakada, AKA Xsara was born on 06-27-2004. She was raised in Kennel Brakada spending the first two months of her life on beautiful countryside Gorenjska (Slovenia) with her siblings and parents. As soon as she came to Ljubljana we started a puppy class, followed by an obedience class. She passed her B-bh exam with 96 points (instructor Agility EO winner Polona Bonač). We now continue with Rally-Obedience under Polona's supervision. Our biggest passion however is Agility. We started our first Agility class in October 2005 (club Agility Ilirija, instructor Silvia Trkman, two times agility world champion). When Silvia stopped teaching agility classes, we switched to Daša Zakotnik. We regularly participate in Agility trials in Slovenia and sometimes abroad. Xsara also loves to learn new dog tricks, you can see some of them in our videos. Her other passions include long walks, big meals and playing with dogs, specially her pyr shep sister Tani, her crazy agility pals and her sister Sena.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Little Furry Thief's Outing

We had another case of cleptomania this week. It was completely my fault because I left an opened baggy of dog treats on the counter and went to work. I don't know any dog who would resist such temptation. As you can see in the photo, Xsara felt extreme guilt after stealing and eating all of them. Lucky for me, it was a small bag this time so her tummy is fine.

This weekend we decided to go to Gorenjska, which is the part of Slovenia North from Ljubljana (it's where Xsara was born). We went to a very popular touristic destination - Bled, famous for the castle, the lake and the only island in Slovenia. One of the most interesting things for Xsara was being so close to the ducks. After the walk we went to visit my friend in Dovje and the countryside was so beautiful that I decided to make a slide show. If you want to know a little more about how Slovenia looks, just click here.

Apparently the "remix" function of Photobucket is experiencing some problems (and I'm never using it again), so if you can't open the film, you can see the pictures in an old-fashioned slideshow in my album - this version has no music and effects, but the pictures are the same.

We were out the whole day and Xsara was so tired that she went straight to bed. She is snoring incredibly loudly right now, apparently dreaming of something very interesting because she is barking in her sleep. Every time she goes to sleep because she is tired and not bored, I feel like a good Mom.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Holidays Are Over ...

... and so is our snow. I'm not snow-crazy but Xsara loves it very much, so it's nice to have it - for a couple of days at least. We also made another trip to the sea (I know, I'm obsessed), so we actually had both: the pleasures of snow and sea in one weekend.

Unfortunately the weather was kind of depressing most of the time, so I spent an entire day planning our summer holidays in Tuscany. Long walks among beautiful hills, vineyards and fields full of sunflowers are just what we need (well, who doesn't, right?). I can't wait :)

We are working on a new trick. I'm not revealing what it is, I'm just telling you it's something awesome and also kind of complicated. We are making great progress with it, so I'm really happy about it. Xsara likes it, too - she gets so excited and I just love to watch her learn new stuff.

We also started to jog. For the first couple of days Xsara seemed to be the perfect jogging partner. Being a true beagle however, she soon discovered that I wasn't keen on making stops and she decided to take advantage of this. She would slow down, let me go on, and when I would be far enough she would roll in something delicious or even try to eat it. The whole jogging thing would then turn into me chasing her around the fields, which she thought was way more fun. I don't want to jog with her on leash because it took me years to convince her to run at least one step ahead of me in agility. So now we jog with a ball in my hand. It's not even jogging any more, it's more like sprinting as fast as we can and in a certain moment I say "go on", throw the ball ahead and then reward her if she outruns me to the ball (she always does). It's fun but I would still like to jog, too. If you have any ideas, I'm opened to suggestions.

We have no trials for two more weeks, so we are just doing our usual training. When the season starts we will have trials every weekend, and hopefully the weather will improve by then. Our biggest challenge this year is to get accepted to European Open 2008. Last year it was probably my favorite trial because we were camping there for the weekend and we got to see many excellent handlers in action - even a couple of very good beagles, which is always a wonderful experience for both of us.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm Dreaming Of A White ... Easter?

The trip to Miramare planned for today was postponed due to ... snow. The weather had been weird for some time now. During the first ten minutes of training on Thursday we had heavy rain, some snow, and sunshine which lasted until the end of the training session. And when we woke up this morning, I was surprised to see it was snowing again (I don't believe in weather forecasts so it's possible other people knew that it was coming).

So it looks like we've got a white Easter this year. I don't think it's going to last for more than a couple of days because it's quite warm outside, so we will enjoy it while it lasts.

We wish you all very happy holidays with your loved ones!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Little Things Make A Big Difference

We didn't go to the trial, but we had a great weekend nevertheless - at least until Sunday afternoon when I had to go to work. On Saturday we went to the seaside. It was cloudy, but a little warmer than here. I really love the sea and luckily Slovenia is so small that it only takes you one hour to get from Ljubljana (in the center of Slovenia) to any border, including the coast.

While we were there, we also stopped in Italy to buy some pills against heartworm which cannot be bought in Slovenia (even though the mosquitoes on our side of the coast are just as much infected as the Italian ones). Unfortunately we didn't have the time to go to Miramare this time, but we will probably go there next week.

Miramare is a castle in Italy, just by the sea, and there is a wonderful park around the castle. They were both built by order of the Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg in 19th century. The park had no vegetation in the beginning so the Archduke filled it with exotic plants. Today it is a natural reserve and it is just incredibly beautiful.

Sunday was the day for charity. Before I had to go to work we attended a charity event for Repkov sklad (Little Tail's Fund), which helps to provide money for veterinary expenses for rescues, strays and animals with owners who simply cannot afford to pay for a lifesaving operation. They also provide food and temporary residence for these animals. They are doing an incredible job and Xsara and I donate them practically all of the food we win on competitions.

The event was a race, but not a competitive one so you could walk slowly if you wanted to. They also had a presentation of canine disciplines and one of the organizers asked me to demonstrate some tricks. We actually never performed tricks in public before - we do it for friends and as a warm-up routine before runs, but not like that. I was happy to do it but Xsara was still a little uneasy because there were so many unknown dogs. She did well, she only refused to do the handstand and she needed a little more encouragement, but the tricks that she did were very nice.

Events like this one always make me remember how lucky we are. Big thanks to those who are helping the less fortunate dogs and making their dreams of a happy home come true!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Here We Go Again

After the injury the vet said Xsara should wear her shoe for about 2 weeks. I waited for an additional week to be sure, and took her outside barefooted. And while she was playing with a friend, her nail started bleeding again.

It's just a little scratch and it doesn't seem to hurt her at all, but it's hard to know since she's one of those dogs who never show when they're in pain. That's actually something that's freaking me out, because I fear it would be so hard to notice if she got really hurt. That's why I really pay attention to her movements. I think I know them quite well (I guess agility handlers often do since they spend so much time looking at their dogs in action). I hope I'd notice if there were any changes. But when she hurt her nail, none of us noticed until she finished the course and stopped to drink - only then she lifted her paw.

That means I have to be the one who sets limits for her and sometimes it's so hard to decide. I feel like I'm torn between her desire to be active and my desire to protect her. Xsara's health and happiness are my absolute priorities, so as her handler I have to figure out how to maximize them both.

I choose to let her run and do agility, even though I know there are some risks of injury. I just can't imagine Xsara spending her life on some couch, maybe she would get used to it but a dog like her wouldn't be happy in this situation. And I find quality of life extremely important. However if she doesn't know when to stop and doesn't let me know she's hurt, I have to set limits. That's really difficult because I don't know if I'm actually doing us a favour or if I'm just being overprotective, so I rather choose to protect her.

That's why I decided I won't take her to the trial tomorrow. If the trial was outside on the grass, I would maybe consider it more. But it's in the stables again and sawdust gets everywhere so I don't want her to be barefooted on that kind of surface yet (we currently train with the shoe on). Instead, I'll take her to the seaside again and I'm sure we'll have a great time together. After Saturday there will be no trials for almost a month, which should be sufficient for a full recovery.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trust Not a New Friend

Yesterday we went to the first agility class after the injury. It was raining quite a bit so we didn't stay very long but Xsara was soooo happy! She was on the A-frame the second I unleashed her and than she ran back and forward over the dogwalk while I was trying to memorize the course - she even did the contacts while running around like that, at least those that I was able to see were nice.

First we did a couple of very short combinations (some jumps and a tunnel) to see if she would be fine. Since she apparently felt great, we ran two courses (each of them twice), with breaks between the runs. It was so great to run with her again, she lightened up in a second and seeing her so carefree and happy is always just the best feeling ever.

The tricks-training-session after agility (also known as "the dinner") started without any shaking! She was a little more nervous for breakfast, but way more confident than last week. She is still a little uneasy around the dogs she doesn't know, but fine with those we meet at least occasionally. I'm happy with the improvement but I hope she will soon rediscover the joy in meeting new dogs.

I don't really care about forcing her to interact with other dogs if she doesn't like them. I don't socialize with strangers just because they're people, eather. That's up to her. But I do want her to feel confident around them and not be intimidated, scared or even aggressive. So I'll watch her behaviour really carefully for as long as this moody feeling lasts.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Yes, we got rid of the stupid collar-satellite-lampshade or however you want to call it. And Xsara's tummy looks fine so I let her run around with her friend this morning. It started to snow again so I had to put on her shoe, but it doesn't bother her anymore. It doesn't look like the snow is going to stick, though, since it already turned into rain.

However I noticed some behavioural changes since the operation. I don't think it's hormones, I think she just got so scared because of the procedure. She is very shy around other dogs and she is afraid to do something wrong. We are working on a new trick and when we start a lesson I have to encourage her a lot more than usually. I am more generous with rewards and I keep telling her she's the best and that she can't do anything I wouldn't like. This only lasts a couple of minutes and then everything is back to normal, the tail is wagging and she performs beautifully again. But then the next training session again, starts with her feeling insecure.

I try to encourage her as much as I can during the day, when I see her behaving bravely (I don't ignore the shyness but I try not to reward it too much either. When she gets shy I only use verbal encouragement if possible because I don't want her to think that I want her to be insecure). The progress is evident, we managed to really shorten these flashes of insecurity and hopefully they will disappear soon.

I'm taking her to the agility training on Monday, if she won't feel like jumping yet (which I highly doubt, by the way!), we will just play with a ball or tug or do some tricks there. It's an important part of her life and I want her to know we will still be playing agility together.

Another thing: I want to thank CollieMan for the beautiful post he's written and for the poster he made for Xsara (with the soccer ball). That was really nice of you, so thank you again :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Stupid Stitches, Silly Collar

27 hours until we take out the stitches and lose the stupid satellite-collar! This week we learned that we really suck at this whole resting and being still thing. Xsara is incredibly bored and wants to go play. She is feeling fine, the collar is bothering her but she acts like her usual self. She still needs to wear the shoe when we go outside, but she doesn't limp or show any signs of pain.

To cheer her up I naively thought taking her to a trial to see her friends would be nice for her, since it is so normal for us to spend weekends in their company. The weather was sunny and warm and the trial was in the stables near an old castle, so very pretty. But Xsara didn't understand why everybody else got to run and play and she had to watch them, so we didn't stay long.

The trial was also the final of Eukanuba Winter Cup. If we could compete in at least one of the last two trials, we would very probably win it, but since there were only four Winter Cup trials, we missed half of them. So the Cup ended yesterday with Xsara's Parson Russel friend winning the series. We are very happy for him and his handler because we know how hard they've been working to improve his contacts and stop having off courses. They will compete in A3/J3 from now, so we went to celebrate with them afterwards.

We were almost happy to see that the weather is kind of crappy today. It's so much easier to stay inside :)