Jan 31, 2011


PARTNERS IN TIME, a column published every so often by DogTails columnist Reed S. Anact (Column XXI, all rights reserved, comments welcome)
Recently I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview the incomparable Posey and her guardian Lucy. Wow. Posey’s and Lucy’s journey began eight years ago at SF/ACC. Posey, all of 4 weeks old, was in the custody cat room, too small and too young to be kenneled in the puppy room.

poetry in motion
Jump to December 2010, Posey having been invited to the AKC Agility Invitational. How this shelter pittie wound up winning 3 ribbons (out of a possible four) at this national event is the story of today’s column. This interview is taking place in a typical agility ring, and I’ll tell you, folks, watching Lucy and Posey together is the real deal. I’m sure enjoying being here, I must say.
Reed: Tell me about the first day you saw Posey and how you wound up taking her home. Did you name her? You were volunteering for Give a Dog a Bone at that time, were you not?
Lucy: Well, I first saw Posey with a shelter employee outside of SF/ACC. I was a GADAB volunteer, coming in for my shift. She was so tiny, her legs looked the size of my finger. Her eyes were blue and she was blinking in the bright sunlight. I was told her name was Posey. I thought she was cute, but went on my way. I had no idea she would become a huge part of my life.
Posey: May I interject? I knew, I just knew that Lucy was the right person for me, I can’t say how I knew, I just did.
Reed: So you took the little American Pit Bull Terrier mix home, and then what? How did your life change?
Lucy: Well, she was so energetic, I suddenly had my hands full keeping her busy. I worked hard to housebreak her, and made sure she got lots of socializing with both people and dogs. Back in those days, we went to the dog park so she could run around, and to tennis courts to throw the ball for exercise. She needed to be taken out for running twice per day
Posey: Boy, did my life change. I was just a baby after all, and looking back to when I was just a puppy, from what I can remember, Lucy had a lot of patience with me – I didn’t know much of anything and I kind of got into everything, well, I tried, but most of the time Lucy let me know what was cool and what was totally uncool. I had to learn a lot. Lucy is a good teacher, and if I may say so, we do teach each other.
Lucy: That’s so key to a good relationship with your dog.
Reed: So you took Posey out twice daily and threw 100 balls for her in an enclosed unused tennis court? That’s amazing to me – she needed that much exercise. Can you comment on that?
Lucy: Posey really settled down after our exercises. I can’t emphasize enough how priceless exercise is. She needed to run her little tail off, pretty much before anything else we did, like manners training, so that’s what we did.
Posey: I plead the fifth.
Reed: So you moved due to work, and is that when you began agility with Posey? What brought you to agility?
Lucy: I actually started agility before I left San Francisco for Seattle. I thought that Posey was a smart dog, and deserved something more than just throwing a tennis ball around, so I started looking online. Agility seemed like the most fun thing to try. I found an agility school close to my home that had a great reputation so I sent them an email and enrolled in a beginner class. That’s how the addiction started.
so graceful
Posey: I loved going to agility class!! I knew when you brought out the treats and tug toy that’s where we were going!!
Reed: I understand that a lot of people like to do agility with their dogs because it’s fun, and then there’s a whole other realm of the agility world: competition agility. I know our readers would like to hear more on that. I hear the words “positive reinforcement” and “the human/animal bond”. Is competition agility a good fit with those two phrases?
Lucy: Absolutely! I think competition agility is a perfect fit! To me, having fun, bonding with your dog, and doing competition agility are all one in the same. I can’t imagine anything more fun to do with my dog! Agility is a timed sport, so both the dog and handler need to be fast, motivated, and enthusiastic. The way you get that is through positive reinforcement and making the obstacles highly rewarding for the dog. When you are able to give clear cues and the dog understands your body language, it strengthens the bond between the two of you. It’s the perfect match for us.
Posey: Totally. Agility is amazing. I love everything about it. My mom and I rock. We just love this.
Reed: Lucy, before I turned the mike on, you used a word with which I am not familiar: the “zoomies”. Can you tell us what that means, especially for you and Posey when you are trialing? Lucy: (laughs) Well, Posey sometimes runs like a crazy dog in circles, especially in cool weather. It’s one of those things, you can’t say what it is, but you know it when you see it. Some people say it’s stress relief, some people say it’s a training issue. I just think that Posey is an active, exuberant dog who enjoys life and sometimes needs to get her ya ya’s out. Before a trial in cool weather I need to run her around a little bit with things like long-distance stays/recalls so that she can focus.
Posey: I literally can’t help it. It feels like, oh, it feels like I’m flying, as if all the joys in the world were compressed into me, actually, and I just burst with the unparalleled energy of it all. It’s sheer ecstasy. Does that sort of explain it?
Reed: That’s quite a description, Posey, you said that very well. Very well indeed. Might I say that I myself would like to experience the “zoomies” sometime! Another question for you both: could you elaborate on the past six years, from starting out to where you are now?
posey relaxing with her ducky
Lucy: Well, we’ve been doing competitive agility for six years now, and I can’t imagine my dog-related life without it. We’ve progressed from ‘please pay attention to me’ into a great team that had the privilege of attending the 2010 AKC Invitational. I’ve learned how dogs respond to my body language and non-verbal communication, and that has strengthened the bond between me and my dogs.
Posey: I am the luckiest pit bull in the world. My mom and I are tight. I mean tight. Agility brought a renewed depth to our relationship and it keeps on giving. I LOVE agility, especially the tunnel. Going through the tunnel rocks big-time. Now the weave poles, not my strong suit, but Lucy and I are getting there – it is hard work, tons of practice time, but when you get to do the thing you love most in the world with the person you love most in the world, tell me what could be better than that.
Reed: Looks like we’re almost out of time here, but Lucy, I feel it’s important for our readers to know how deeply you feel about trialing a shelter dog, especially a pit bull. They get such bad press.
family: posey and hammer
Lucy: That’s very true. I feel that if you have a shelter pit, it’s so important to do positive public things with them to improve their image. Agility is physically demanding, and as Posey gets older I will look for other things to do with her so that her breed can be put in a positive light. I’ve started competitive obedience with Posey recently, and that will be our next adventure.
Posey: My mom is so proud of me. And she shows it too. Boy, does that make me feel mucho mucho bueno, I just can’t tell you. I can roll with the obedience, too, it’s a whole different challenge for us.
Reed: Anything you’d like to add, ladies?
Lucy: The most important thing to me is to enjoy your dog and have fun with what you do. If you do that, everything else will follow.
Posey: She nailed that one. I totally second that.
Reed: Ladies, I can’t thank you enough for giving me this time with both of you. Readers, I’ve learned a lot here with Lucy and Posey, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have. Now, we have a special treat for you. A professional video of Posey and Lucy’s first run at the invitational. For you agility buffs, here’s Lucy’s explanation of why she chose this round (around a minute long):
“I like Round 1 the best, because it's standard and we ran clean. It shows all the obstacles, including teeter, tire, A-frame and dogwalk. Our other two Jumpers runs are clean, but just shows jumps and weaves.” http://www.youtube.com/agilepit#p/u/3/4-11vkmcsWQ
Notice the teamwork these two have and listen for Lucy’s praise to Posey at the end of the run. It’s beautiful.
Lucy: Thank you, Reed.
Posey: Woof!
Reed S. Anact on special assignment

Jan 13, 2011

Princess Pepper T. Lincecum

She's 11 years old and looks it. Greying muzzle, warty, lumpy, wonky hips, but one doesn’t really see all that. One sees that happy tail, that beautiful face reaching up for touch, and the carefree body wiggle when she spots pretty much anyone.
                 She wasn’t that open when she came to live at my house. It’s been a new and wondrous adventure for all of us; myself, my two little guys - Munchie and Mutley, also from Give a Dog a Bone - and her especially. After having led an unbelievably barren life for most of her 11 years, moving into a home with furniture, music, television, other people, doggie beds and water bowls everywhere, and in particular, enough food, she’s well on her way to being a regular dog. All new to her.
                 She eats regularly, something else new, and when she first began to recognize doggie meal preparation indicators, my heart stung at the sight of her drool on the floor. She was so very anxious. After around three months, she still gets a bit worried around meal time, but her progression from high level anxiety to almost mere nervousness is so gratifying.
           She rearranges the dog beds frequently, and curls up in the smallest of beds. She hops in pleasure and heads for the front door when she spies her leash in my hand. She is able to settle now, unlike when she first moved in, unable to relax.       
She loves riding in the car. She loves going on walks.  Her favorite place to go turned out to be Bernal Hill, as soon as she discovered the joy of trolling for gophers. If staring into holes on the hill for long periods of time was an Olympic event, the Princess would win the gold medal hands down.                
            She’s slowed down some, my theory being that she finally feels safe, and I think that if she spoke English, she would now be able to define the word “home”. She IS safe, she is cherished, the boys are comfortable around her, and she with them. I do not allow her to make mistakes with them. We have had, of course, some “faux paws”, not at all unexpected, but our learning curve continually steadies.
            When we go upstairs at night, she hums softly as I kneel and tuck her into her bed, covers up to her neck. Bedtime rituals have developed. Pepper sleeps on two soft beds, with a lovely heavy quilt covering her.                                                                   
         I feel almost compelled to photograph her. I have to document that she has a life, that she is a good weight now. Not just for me, but for her shelter family, who have greatly loved and cared for her. Each of us remembers being stricken by our first sight of her, every rib visible, her bony skull, her graying muzzle.                                                                                                    We’re well aware that Pepper’s life, her life now, is to be recognized and cheered. I don’t need to say why that is so. Soon she’ll just be a regular dog. I can’t think of anything better.

 For more on Pepper and from whence she hailed:                   
 read incorrigible animal lover Eileen Mitchell's column in the San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgif=/c/a/2010/12/29/DDAV1GUCSQ.DTL
              "Give a Dog a Bone cares for animals in custody"
  (Please note Pepper’s unique necklace.
     It’s made of 2010 World Series tix.
        The Princess is a diehard SF Giants fan.
            She looooves Orange Fridays in particular)  
 - AND -  from the January 2011 issue of the Bay Woof:
    (scroll down Happy Tails for Princess Pepper T. Lincecum )