Friday, November 30, 2007

Agility show-and-tell

Here are some photos from our beginner's agility "graduation" evening (mentioned in the WauwatosaNOW article I posted yesterday). I debated posting these because the photo quality isn't the best. We've only used this camera outdoors so I should have researched the settings more carefully prior to class before expecting to get perfect indoor action shots. Poor Mark split his attention between trying to get decent photos and watching our runs ... I certainly thank him for his effort!

They may be blurry but I find the colors nice. Besides, they give a general idea of what happened so I've decided they're worth posting. Next time we'll try video!

Patiently waiting as we walked the course


Dog walk

Weave poles to tunnel

Tunnel to A-frame – second run

Dog walk – second run

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I just googled "snoutbeagle" to see what would come up. Google asked, "Did you mean scoutbugle?"

Surely I couldn't have meant snoutbeagle. That would just be silly.

Perhaps scoutbugle will stick.


Two Mondays ago, on our last day of beginner's agility, there was a staff reporter for WauwatosaNOW sitting among us. Just as Marvin and I were settling in, she began asking me questions – our names, what breed of dog Marvin is, why we signed up for agility. I admit I forgot about the whole thing until our instructor, Dave, e-mailed me this morning telling me we were "famous".

Here is the story:


How to keep Fido flying

Programs keep dogs active, healthy during winter

By Lori Weiss
Staff Writer
Posted: Nov. 28, 2007

Jackie Ratcliffe gently pets her multi-colored beagle, Marvin, as she leans down to take a blue leash off his neck.

She points him toward a yellow cloth tunnel that gently winds around a corner.

She soon begins to run toward the tunnel with Marvin on her left side and points to it, saying "tunnel, tunnel" in a gentle voice.

Marvin's black, brown and white speckled body disappears into the tunnel and his face soon appears at the other end and he quickly looks for his owner, who is preparing him for the next obstacle - a jumping bar.

The two challenges Marvin and Ratcliffe tried to conquer are part of an agility sport for dogs.

"By giving (dogs) activities using their minds, bodies, they are much happier," said Patti Muraczewski, owner of For Pet's Sake that has a branch location at Central Bark Doggy Day Care, 6442 River Parkway. "It's nice because it's positively trained. It's something dogs enjoy immensely."

Started in UK

Agility involves dog owners who direct their dogs over a course filled with jumps, tunnels, teeter-totters, dog walks, A-frames and weave poles.

Agility came to the United States from the United Kingdom in the 1980s, and For Pet's Sake began offering agility courses about eight years ago.

"It just took off like wildfire," Muraczewski said. "Agility has become a good portion of what we offer."

Muraczewski said the sport is a good outlet for dog owners, especially in the winter.

"It gives people another activity if they aren't going to the park as often," she said.

Dave Fink, an agility instructor who runs the class in Wauwatosa, agrees.

"We see a big spike in the winter because you can't take your dog outside running and it's driving their dogs crazy," he said.

Fink started his 7-year-old boxer, Sasha, in agility about five years ago.

"I needed something to do with her," he said. "I did it just to give Sasha something to do, to run around and have fun."

There are many older dogs like Sasha who take part in the sport, even though they have arthritis.

"It's good for them to do," Muraczewski said. "It can be a low level and still keeps them active."

Any dog can participate

While it's a popular sport for border collies, any dog can do it.

Muraczewski said mixed breed dogs and even dogs as big as Great Danes are often seen in agility.

"Any dog can be motivated to do agility," Fink said.

That is the reason Laurie Wannemacher enrolled her border collie, Payton, in the beginner's agility class.

"(I enrolled Payton) because he is shy and needed some comforting, and I wanted him to be around other dogs," she said.

Wannemacher said Payton has been better with people since taking the class.

"It's a wonderful outlet for people, no matter what your occupation, to be able to enjoy something like this with your dog," Muraczewski said.

Some try competitions

While many dog owners enroll their dogs in agility classes for the fun of it, some pets move on to trials where they are judged on speed and accuracy.

Even though it takes hard work to be prepared for competition, Fink said it should remain a fun activity.

"If you're not having fun, you shouldn't be doing it," he said.

Lori Weiss can be reached at or (262) 446-6645.


Upcoming area agility trials

• Dec. 6 to 9 - Hounds for the Holidays at Uihlein Soccer Center, 7101 W. Good Hope Road, Milwaukee

• June 13 to 15 - United States Dog Agility Association at the Kenosha County Fairgrounds, 30820 111th St., Wilmot

• July 18 to 20 - American Kennel Club agility trial at the Kenosha County Fairgrounds

• Sept. 13 to 14 - USDAA agility trial at the Kenosha County Fairgrounds


Agility training through For Pet's Sake

• The classes are eight-weeks long, one hour each session.

• Beginners courses cost $115.

• Intermediate and advanced classes cost $95.

• Contact For Pet's Sake at (262) 363-4529 for the next available eight-week session.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sound sleeping

Last night I was woken to the sound of a beagle snoring. Loudly. I don't have a good guess as to who it was because I don't know who was sleeping where.

Since we brought Diesel home we've had a well-padded wire crate in our bedroom. Now that we have Marvin, the prized donut bed is moved from the living room to the bedroom each night so they each have a place to cozy up. Heaven forbid they share a bed! Marvin will let out a little growl if Diesel gives his bed of choice a second look. And if Diesel is curled up in his chosen spot and Marvin walks by, Diesel gives him a look of absolute disgust.

Anyway, they change their minds nightly as to where they prefer to sleep ... it's not like the prized donut bed is everyone's favorite all the time, nor is the cozy crate. Whoever comes into the bedroom first picks their spot and that's how the decision is made.

That's why I don't know who was making such a racket last night. The beagles came into the bedroom shortly after I had turned out the light and crawled into bed myself.

All I know is it was coming from the crate. It would have been a much easier situation to remedy had it been Mark snoring and I could have just nudged him with my elbow. Since that wasn't the case, I drifted in and out of sleep until the offending beagle woke himself up and adjusted his position.

Peaceful silence once again ... until the alarm clock went off.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Humbled, but not surprised

Last week Monday night Marvin and I finished our first 8-week session of agility. It was our intro/beginner course and it went well (really well). Marvin is a goof ball so my gut feeling that he would enjoy trying different jumping and climbing obstacles proved to be right.

We both enjoyed it a lot. I loved seeing the light bulb go off when he figured out what I was asking of him and watching him prance across the dog walk. I felt some frustration at first when he just didn't "get" that he needed to run through the tunnel rather than turn around inside and come back out the same end ... or jump up and walk along the top (okay, we all laughed at that one!). I didn't loose patience or faith in him though. He was doing great. And suddenly, one week he just went through the tunnel. And went through every time after that evening. He got it and I was so proud!

But what I loved the most was the feeling of teamwork. I was so surprised to discover how attentive he was to me. He actually watched me to see what direction I was going to give and, especially once we got moving through a course, he stayed with me and remained attentive on the task at hand. I expected his beagle nose to take over more often than not as I'd stand helpless while he'd flit from this scent to that. Sure there was some of that before we started a run, but if I stayed really interesting to him (read tasty treats), he kept his snouting at bay.

I would be so proud of him after we left class each week that I would play Josh Rouse's song, Marvin Gaye, in the car over and over and sing along as the lyrics repeated "you are a star, you are a star ..." (I'm not sure what the rest of the lyrics are about really – all that mattered to me was to tell him he's a star!). (Funny, I just realized as I typed this that the song I sang to him is named after a Marvin. :)

Everyone in the class, instructors included, were so supportive of all efforts made. It was such a positive experience. And Marvin made an impression of his own ... people started calling him a "rock star". That's my boy!


Last night we started our 8-week intermediate session. A whole new group of people and dogs. A whole new set of potential expectations. Initially it felt like a whole new experience all together and I wondered if we were in over our heads.

I was immediately taken aback when I saw fellow classmates walking the pre-set course before class. What? Dave didn't mention anything about walking the course ... why are they all out there? So we went and followed along, and crap, those six jumps are awfully close together in that weird shape ... I sure hope I remember the order once it's our turn ...

All in all each dog and handler did first one half, then the other half of the course once. It turned out everyone dealt with their own little version of chaos. Mine of course was the beagle nose rearing it's persistent head. I wasn't interesting enough nor were turkey hot dogs tasty enough to keep Marvin focused without breaks of snouting on both of our runs. He did take all the obstacles however, even the tunnel especially enthusiastically. And instead of calling Marvin a "rock star" last night, instructor Melissa called him a "little hound"! Oh no, there goes the reputation!

We'll call it temporary though, as apparently this is typical chaos of a first class. It's all new so who can blame them. It certainly felt very new to me.

So with some extra "focus" homework hopefully our rock star will reappear to the class in a couple weeks.

Of course, to me, he's a rock star "as is".

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In motion


A random sampling of the goings-on at the dog park over the long holiday weekend.

Waiting for some action.

"Dog Aunt" Wendy saying hello to "the competition".


Square ears.

On the attack. Typical beagle-brother behavior.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Handsome chappy.

Nothing like a fresh dusting of snow and a bit of camouflage to assist in tracking deer. Since I doubt many deer make it over the 6-foot fence at the dog park, the jacket mainly helps to keep the boy from shivering. We better be on our way!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving thanks

I join the beagles in giving thanks for ... Thanksgiving!

Let me tell you, we all had a hard time crawling out of bed this morning at our workday rising time of 5:45. Once up, I was motivated by the fact that this is the last day of work before having off for the next four days. And having off for the next four days means sleeping until I wake up for the next four days. It's probably still fairly early by some people's standards, typically not past 8 a.m., but the chance to have a bit of a "lie in" (English term Mark brought over from across the pond) is certainly something to be thankful for.

In the summertime on our lie-in days, Diesel is first to get up, not long after the sun rises, waking me with tapping toenails on the wood floor, insistent whines under his breath, and C-shaped tail wags. But on these chilly, dark mornings of late fall even Diesel is snoring away when I make my way out of bed. And on our early workday mornings ... well, I practically have to put treats in front of their noses to rouse them out of sleep and convince them to join me for a morning walk.

Yes, it is a dog's life when I'm ready to head out the door for some
fresh air before the beagles even consider their morning stretches. Starting tomorrow I'll have a taste of that dog's life, and it is partially for that reason I am especially thankful for Thanksgiving!

Marvin vows to research pumpkin pie recipes online to ensure a slice in his bowl.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some people's kids

Our company picnic was held on a Saturday in mid-September, the day after Mark and I returned from a trip to Maine and New Brunswick. Since our plane was seriously delayed on our return Friday and we didn't actually arrive home until 1AM on Saturday, Mark and Marvin took a pass on attending the picnic and Diesel and I arrived just as most people were leaving.

It's a tradition at our picnics for the adults to hijack the bouncy castle for a while and, since I missed that, Diesel and I took our turn after everyone but Jack, our copywriter's son, had left the castle.

Jack was pretty sure dogs aren't allowed in bouncy castles ... and, in all honestly, I was quite sure of that too. But, well, Diesel "insisted" so we made the exception. Just this once.

Some people's (furry) kids ...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Many thanks to Laurie, founder of Beagles on the Web, for featuring Diesel and Marvin as guests on her Daily Digital today (our archived page can be found here)! I'm a frequent lurker on her site and have always enjoyed the chronicles of her beagle boys, Clayton (huge ears like Diesel), Spenser, and the charming late Scooter. In fact, I would partially credit Laurie's Daily Digital to being one of the reasons I seriously considered adding another beagle to our family prior to adopting Marvin. Many times her photos and stories put a huge smile on my face and thoughts of "we could *do* this!" would cross my mind. And yes, two can be (more than?!) twice the work but definitely a million times the joy.

I was thrilled to see she included a link to our SnoutBeagle blog so perhaps we'll have some more visitors. I love to share our beagle experiences with anyone who's interested in having a look. All part of the turf of being a proud dog mum.

Thanks Laurie! I hope your and Phillip's vacation was a good one.

Monday, November 05, 2007


nar•co•lep•sy (nahr-kuh-lep-see) n. a condition characterized by an extreme tendency to fall asleep whenever in relaxing surroundings.