Poi Dog Ponderings

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Back in Action

Seven long months ago Ruby was diagnosed with Idiopathic ITP. As a result Mary Jane and I had to pull her from competition and training while we treated her for low platelets. Last month we started her training again and yesterday returned to the ring for the first time since that horrible day back in September. The saving grace through all this, aside from the great medical help we have received from Texas A&M and Angela, our vet at Westlake Animal Hospital, has been that Ruby has never acted “sick”. She is as full of life as ever. When we restarted training, Ruby was driven! She was eager to play and seemed to have fun running with me.

This weekend MJ and I competed with Ruby in Belton, TX at an AKC event. We chose to compete on Friday as this is usually a calmer day compared to Saturday and Sunday, where emotions run high, and the number of dogs doubles. We ran in 4 events and I had one very specific goal “have fun”. I do love to win, and I do love the titles, but today was about getting Ruby back into the ring and just enjoying the day. Overall, she ran great, she had a few “Ruby Moments” but overall she was athletically beautiful to watch and clearly had a good time in the ring. Outside the ring she was relaxed and calm.

Back in action

In the coming months Ruby and I will work on her weaves to figure out why she balks. I was perfectly happy to finish this run in Second place with a qualifying time. Besides, red looks good on our girl!

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Negative is not necessarily a bad thing

I just heard back from Ruby’s doctor at TAMU clinic and the more thorough tests for Tick Borne Diseases is negative. Part of me is disappointed because I want to know WHY, but another part of me is relieved that we don’t have secondary issues to deal with on top of the immune response issues we already face. So, for the time being, we’re in a holding pattern. Ruby is getting steroids daily and we will recheck her platelets on Tuesday to figure out the next steps. In the mean time we have cancelled her competitive schedule for the next 2 months and will figure out “what’s next” after the vet visit Tuesday.

So, we just need to keep her happy (she’s hungry all the time on the drugs) and try to keep her from licking her bare skin. We finally resorted to Vet Wrap to protect her IV injection site. It’s still healing and must itch like crazy. Here is a photo MJ took after I took off the bandage and just gently scratched the skin for her, she was frozen in pleasure.


I can’t wait for her hair to grow back!

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ruby’s Back Home

We just arrived back in Austin with the golden girl. She has a bit less hair than when we dropped her off, but she was EXTATIC to see us. Earlier today we got the news from the docs at Texas A&M Small Animal Clinic that Ruby’s platelet count was up to 66,000 and that was good enough to bring her home. (When MJ got the news I was in the middle of my teaching my web cast so she quietly wrote it on the white board in my office.)

Now that she’s home it’s going to be pretty calm, no interactions with dogs and no agility training until she back to healthy. The drugs she’s on suppress her immune system, so she can’t fight infections. (Think Bubble Dog)

Ruby rode home with Shamu, but didn’t get into the “zone” until entering the house. After a roll in the yard she grabbed Shamu and headed to the office with me to watch me post this update. You can see where the clinic shaved her for her ultrasound (which was negative!)


The doctors at TAMU were awesome. They care so much for Ruby and it appears that Ruby really liked them because as she was greeting MJ and I she was also mashing her head into the docs in her ever persistent need to be loved-on. After a quick good bye to Renee we headed home.

Thanks to everyone for their words of support. We’ll have updates as Ruby works through this next phase of recovery.

Mary Jane and Matthew

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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Good Day Gone Bad

We have been working Ruby through the summer to prepare her for the busy fall agility schedule. When it gets cooler we tend to have more trials in this part of Texas. Yesterday we were back in College Station for a NADAC trial. Ruby and I are competing in Elite for some events now. What I am finding is Ruby is ready and I need to elevate my game.

Elite Jumpers

What you will notice about this run is how focused Ruby is on me (after she breaks her stay...) for the rest of the run she is brilliant, right up to me mis-queueing her over the wrong jump. All in all a great run for her...not so much for me.

Chasing the dog…

And Then Things Got Worse

After the run MJ was rubbing Ruby's belly and noticed some red blotches on her belly, thighs and near her tail. She flagged me down and after looking her over we decided it looked worse than we were comfortable with (she had crusty blood on her tail and it just looked scary), so we packed her up and headed to the on-call vet. The folks at Kingdom Vet Hospital were really great about taking us right in. (Quick note to anyone traveling with a dog, scan your rabies and vaccination certificates and save them "to the cloud" so you always have them ready. In my case I keep them on SkyDrive and just sent a link to the vet. This made it a lot easier to get right in.)

Following a brief examination the vet told us it could be a number of scary things but wasn't a simple allergic reaction. A quick blood test revealed that Ruby had no platelets. There are a couple reasons why this could be the case, none of them good. Generally, it's either a tick borne disease (TBD) or autoimmune reaction. Ticks carry all kinds of horrible diseases and they are very bad for dogs. Autoimmune issues are caused by the body going after itself for any number of reasons. It could may be a tumor or for some unexplained reason. The thing is, we may never know. The vet knew that the help we needed was over at Texas A & M University Vet School. They arranged a referral and we headed right over and admitted Ruby. They confirmed the diagnosis and the gravity of the situation.

What We Do Know

We know that Ruby has no idea that she is sick, and that's a good thing. We also know that if you are going to have a veterinary emergency it’s great to have instant access to a Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital like TAMU. The medical staff is in love with her. Many times this disease goes on so long the dogs is VERY sick and cannot fight the battle. We caught it very early. Early tests are negative for TBD and the X-rays of her chest and abdomen are clear, so no gross tumors. The treatment at this point is to get her platelets back up, so that means steroids to suppress her immune system. Tomorrow they will perform an ultrasound to ensure there is no cancer and they'll take blood for a more definitive TBD test.

The worst part yesterday was driving back to Austin without Ruby, then spending the night without her on the bed, then waking up without hearing her wagging tail pounding on the mattress. The house is very different without her. Please keep Ruby in your thoughts and prayers. We'll post updates as we learn more.

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Focus, Focus, Focus

Back At It

After a bit of a hiatus, Mary Jane, Ruby and I are back at it. We headed to College Station, TX yesterday for the first of 3 trials. MJ and I have been training Ruby at a new level since she will be competing under tougher times and harder courses. One of the things I have really been focusing on is Ruby’s motivation, mostly her motivation to stay with me in the ring and not “run’d oft”. There are a ton of little things that go into a “clean run”, but her attention on me, and my ability to keep her on course are the basic necessities. This time around, I think she showed amazing improvement.

The other focus for us is FUN. We don’t want to stress her out by being agility freaks, though by some accounts we are still a little freaky, it was nice to see how relaxed Ruby was at this event. When we were not competing she would either sleep or sit and watch the other dogs in the arena, no panting, no scratching, just chilling out.

One of the things I love about this sport is it can be played two ways (or both ways at once). You can compete against the other dogs in your class (and be awarded 1st-4th place ribbons) and you can compete against the course. Most courses have a Standard Course Time, SCT, and if you “run clean”, with no faults like dropped bars, and you finish under SCT, you are awarded a Qualifying run (a Q) and points toward your title. 30 points per class awards a title. So for example, we entered this event with two previous qualifying runs in Novice Tunnelers, so Ruby had 20 points toward her title. All she needed was one more qualifying run in Novice Tunnelers to get her Novice Tunnelers title and move up to Open. After 30 Open points she’ll move up to Elite. This explains how a dog can be Novice in one challenge, like Tunnelers, and elite in another, like Jumpers.

Elite Jumpers

Ruby loves Jumpers and she’s very good at it. This was our first time competing at the Elite level. The course had 21 obstacles, the most I have ever faced in competition. Mercifully, the course really flowed. Ruby took two departures from the course, both my fault. You will see me encroach on her and push her off the jump. After getting her back on course she finishes strong. We had no course faults, but were 2.4 seconds over time. not bad for our first Elite run!

Watch her clear the last jump, a huge leap!

Novice Tunnelers

Tunnelers is just plain fun! Ruby is still a novice because I only just started entering her. This was a great run and she completed it in Elite time. This was her third Q and earned her a Novice Tunnelers title.

Run Matt, Run!

Open Weavers

Ruby and I have been working on weaves. I finally invested in a set of real weave poles and will add 6 more this week. In practice she is fast through the weaves, in competition she slows way down. So it’s time for me to figure out what I am doing differently. She also lost focus for a second as she comes out of the tunnel, watch her chase a dirt clod that she kicked. She did Q on the run though.

Great weaves

Regular 1 & 2

Constant Readers will remember that Ruby has had issues flying off the contacts in competition. In practice she has not been doing it, but the ring is a whole different story. In her first run she executes perfect discriminations but flies off after my spastic and horrendous front cross at the A Frame. In the second run she runs clean for 1st place and a well deserved Q.

Beware of low flying dogs

Look at that contact!

What a day

The tally for the day was 5 Runs, 4 ribbons, 3 Qs, 1 new title! Ruby really seams to be enjoying the attention.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Bizarro Ruby

Today was a weird day. Ruby has advanced to the Open class for her events. This means I have to handler her through more challenging courses and she has to pay attention to me more than she has in the past. We signed up for 4 events, two she excels at (Jumpers with Weaves and Standard) and two that we have not been successful at (Time to Beat and FAST). As usual, nothing we do goes according to plan…


This course had a couple challenges for us, the first is the turn away from the tunnel into the weaves. I knew I had to throw a big signal to Ruby to get her around (big dogs tend to take big turns). Next time I’ll get a flare-gun.

Turns like a Battleship


This looked like a fun and challenging course for us. Ruby has had solid contacts and her focus on me gave me confidence that we’d do great. Ruby had something else in mind, at the A-Frame she missed her contact and blew the run, then to add insult to injury (and thankfully she did not get hurt) she launched herself off the top of the down ramp to finish our run. Every thing else was beautiful. Back to remedial contact training for us!

No time for scratching


OK, to review, the object in FAST is to get points. You will hear the judge calling numbers out as we complete obstacles. We can run it in any manner we choose, except for the “send”. For that Ruby has to move to the other side of the line and perform two obstacles in order. After Ruby comes down the A-Frame you will not hear the judge…because she failed to get her contact…again. After that she is awesome and then I tried to push her into the weaves from a bit too extreme of an angle. Seeing her hesitate, I decided to move on. Listen carefully at the finish line and you will here the “buzzer of doom” just as Ruby crosses the finish line. Turns out she managed EXACTLY 55 points at EXACTLY the course time. That means, though it was not pretty, it was good enough for a Q and 3rd place.

Beat the clock

Time to Beat (T2B)

Time to Beat is new to us. There are no classes, all dogs run separated only by jump height. I know Ruby is fast, and these courses flow, so you can get up a lot of speed, but Ruby and I need accuracy. Ruby does a good job with the run, but I know we can do better. My missteps cost us time, as such we finished about 10 seconds slower than the fastest dog, still good enough to qualify.

Handler in training

Bizarre Day

So Ruby did great at courses she usually does not, and poorly on the ones she usually crushes. All day I was anxious too, though I don’t know why. I imagine that translated down the leash to Ruby.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

SAR Dog Demo in Slidell, LA

My constant readers know that I have a soft spot in my heart for the kids in Slidell, LA. After arriving home from our Ireland trip, MJ and I packed up Ruby and hit the road for an epic push on Friday to talk to the kids at Our Lady of Lourdes School about K9 Search Austin, Staying Found and SAR Dogs.

The kids were wonderful and Ruby did a great job for having spent 7.5 hours in the car and then being thrown up on stage. We left the house at 5am and MJ drove most of the way in order to get to Slidell in time for me to change into my uniform and start the presentation at 2:00.

I had just asked the kids to “Do the Impossible” and hold their voices down for Ruby. Usually she’s amazing in front of an audience. Today she was a little skittish on a new stage. I said “…this will be hard to do, but wait until she does her search to ‘Ohh and Ahhh’” That is where the video picks up. Here is a short clip of the fun.

Ruby and Matt present at Lourdes School

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