Last winter (when the pond froze), the blind was removed. The next day Thorson Pond became a roost.

Aug 24...Wednesday..up early at 6 am to let the dogs out and it was cold (low 50's)....the hint of winter was not pleasant...spent the middle of the day working on my goose blind. Forced labor is good for someone that is 82 years old. I took a few breaks to sit in the shade. Gigi and Pounce watched.....quietly. Now that the 4X8 sheets of wafer board have been cut into smaller sections, the struggle to attach pieces to the frame is about 75% finished. The only tricky part left to deal with is the " flip open shooting window" . It will be light, easy and quiet. With the sun from behind, the advantage is with the shooter. However, with the drought whether any geese use the pond will be "iffy". Most geese are several miles to the west on the Rock River. However, the goose season is not just about shooting. I seem to forget about my age when sitting in a blind...with a retriever...waiting, watching and wishing. Anticipation is cool.

Aug 30 Tuesday...cool in upper 70's with a good breeze...Today's work was ambitious. I wanted to finish  painting the remaining "bare" wood, attach a few "fast grass" panels and "whack" some tall, shoreline weeds. The painting was fairly easy. The Fast Grass installation went well. Since all the panels are backed by plastic fencing 1) they hold their shape (more sturdy), 2 can be easily tied together with heavy-duty, black plastic clamps and 3} screw eyes with horizontal ropes with more clamps (quite a few) to make each panel fit together like a jig-saw puzzle. This is much easier now because I have experience.  

After all of that was completed, I decided to move on to the third job which was to "whack" one tank of gas with my weed eater. This is a routine that I have followed for years (too many).  The pond bank is about belt buckle high with weeds and wide since the pond is lower than normal. It was not long before I began sweating and my bad shoulders (that is plural) began complaining. I quit looking at the blind because it was soon obvious that I had bitten off more than I could "whack". About half-way there, I began to wonder (but I was closer). Soon it was obvious that I might run out of gas before the weed whacker did. As things got worse, I was persistently prodding myself about how close I was. So like an old man, I needed to prove that I wasn't (too old). 

As the last swing of the whacker lurched forward, we were back at the blind. I literally dropped the heavy "weed killer", climbed up the bank to my van and collapsed on the shady side. There was a good breeze blowing under the van and I stayed down (in the shade) for quite awhile. When one is older, the light of good sense is often dim. Since I am entering this in my journal, it is probably obvious that I survived. Tomorrow I will do some easy "stuff" on the blind and probably NOT do any weeds. The Illinois goose and early teal season open on September 1st. The routine on Thorson Pond is scout first and then go the next day if anything discovers this might be a good place to be. If any geese or teal show on the 1st, we will be back early the next morning.

August 11...Thursday..Pounce and Gigi ran a set of water blinds early in Wisconsin..attended group training session in the afternoon. The blinds were for working on handling. They knew the destinations, but dealing with water factors was the premise (practicing handling skills). Pounce's group training session was supposed to be the prep for Saturday's HRC Finished test. Recently, it appeared that her creeping at the line was not appearing. Just when the barn door seemed closed, it opened up again this evening. Therefore, today's session will focus on that issue. I am sure more time would be better, but we are stuck with the present. One day, quick fixes generally are not productive. Saturday will be a Yoda training day. "Do or do not. There is no try."

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August 7...Sunday - scattered thunderstorms all day...hot afternoon...day off from training. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be  cooler with hour drives....do it. There will be a nearby, group training session on Thursday with a close, easy, training session on Friday morning. Saturday is Pounce's Key City HRC Finished test...near Maquoketa, IA (long drive). The following weekend, Pounce will be running two WISILL HRC Finished tests at the Bong Recreational area in Wisconsin (hour drive).
August 8...Monday - rain moved through yesterday...This morning the lake Michigan effect caused cool air off the lake to funnel in behind a warm front as it moved through. The result was the Bong Recreation Area temperatures in the afternoon were at times in the upper 60's. No one else was there. The Runway Pond is well designed for setting up wingers in many different locations.  After some light sprinkles moved through, three wingers with mallards were setup to run a triple plus a blind with Pounce. After reloading, Gigi ran three singles. Pounce was really on her game. Gigi was not.....so we spent quite a bit of time slowing down everything at the line. Gigi did not like that...too bad...not sad. She had no choice. The only issue was the cost of gas to drive to and from the training area. One hundred and thirty mile round trips (just to train) adds up quickly. Tomorrow will be closer.

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Years ago, when I was much younger my retrievers would hunt out of a dog hide while I used a layout blind. Being able to go where the scouting indicated meant being mobile. However, when you get to a certain age mobility begins to decrease. It kind of sneaks up on you like an old Indian woman. The solution is to find a place that forces ducks and geese to seek your location. Of course, if it is public land, everyone wants your spot. The following link "Kwick Dog Hides" reveals places my retrievers and I found before anyone else got there. Good luck with that if you like to sleep in. The coolest sound in the dark (after you have just set up) is hearing a boat slowly move in close while out of the darkness floats "Someone is in there." Most of the time, my dogs would hunt out of a hide. My "hide" was mostly a layout blind. Then I got old. The old photos were taken when I was much younger. At that time I was in my early 70's and hunting alone seemed fairly easy. The younger hunters at duck camp were always wondering who was going out in the dark to find me. The permanent blind on private property that I have now is a stroke good luck and just a five minute drive from my house. 

August 9...Tuesday...in the 70's early afternoon. The five minute drive to the Thorson Pond DTA was a good change of a pace. Three remote wingers with mallards in the eastern "grassy" area began with Pounce doing three HRC walk-ups. Gigi was up next and ran three singles with no HRC gun at the line. However, the HRC gun was replaced with a heeling stick. The result was a better focus and more responsiveness at the line. At first, she was not a willing participant. Then it became "OK...if you say so." Pounce then came back out to run an HRC line triple...."Practice". 

The next three weeks should prove to be interesting. I have decided to not click on, read or post to the "Refuge Forums" or "The "Retriever Training Forum". This means I will have quite a bit of time to do other things.....in theory. I will evaluate my progress or lack thereof in three weeks.

August 10...Wednesday...hearing aids appointment at 9 am. We trained at Harrison Road DTA later and Pounce ran a set of seven blinds (practice). Those went well (precise and cooperative). The plan was to have Gigi practice her lining and handling skills by working a longer pile. It is about time to push a bit on her slow growth toward running blinds. She has a difficult time being a team player. The distance made it easier in that with her speed there was more time for each step - line/roll a bit, whistle sit and cast. What took me a bit by surprise was her response....a quick turn/pivot and stop with way less "loopiness", off line "stuff". OK....why? out of the blue?  About two days ago, I decided that she was not being responsive/attentive enough to the handler (me).  On a different note (but somewhat related) she has not seen a heeling stick for quite awhile....about three days ago one surfaced. Suddenly the heeling stick has got her attention and  quickly began doing things right because it was rewarding. There is a bonus for being attentive. Being responsive and focused results in retrieves and praise. Therefore, in kind of a circular logic, the heeling stick promoted balance.

August 12...Friday....Trained Pounce and Gigi in the afternoon at the W Property. Occasional sprinkles were a nuisance. The set up for Pounce was an HRC triple with mallards (run twice - right to left and then left to right) plus two blinds. She was calm and solid. In between Pounce's two runs, Gigi ran three HRC line singles with the shotgun as an extra exciter. This type of training alone would not be possible without the UTV. The alarm will be set for 4 am with a two plus hour drive to Iowa for Pounce's HRC Finished test.

shoreline weeds
June this spring

note: grammar & spell checks take about a week

Monday...August 15...week off for Pounce...Gigi will work on handling and lining skills...if it is cool enough. The weeds around Thorson Pond need the annual "shoreline whacking" one gas tank at a time. In addition, the lawn needs mowing...switching gears. The following six photos are of last year's shoreline "whacking". This needs to be completed in a few weeks before the Illinois early goose season (15 days in September).
                  note: The lawn needs mowing..."stuff" just does not get easier.

Goose Blind (Phase One) - The Frame

August 1 - Monday...the only time available to train was in the afternoon. The normal one hour drive to the
Bong Recreational Area was a bit longer (detour). There was someone at the Runway Pond, but the Gravel Pond was ours. The main focus was doing water marks. The best way to use the time was to have Pounce and then Gigi run a set of six "stand alone/send back" singles. The length of a shotgun made an excellent, distant presentation "out there" for each mark. After each retrieve, they returned to the line and sat while I moved to present the next longer mark. Both know the routine and it was not long before a dozen marks and retrieves were completed and we were on the way home. The only "equipment" to pickup was the white flag at the line and a "placeboard".

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Aug 28 Sunday...Rain was forecast, but it held off until today's goose blind construction efforts were completed. When rain arrived, it was a good drenching. Since quite a bit of what was done to make the blind warmer and more permanent, the idea of it becoming a permanent (year around) structure seemed like a good idea. I am getting too old to put in a new one every fall and then removing it in December. The plan is to make this one do for a few more years. Today, the enclosing, fiber board panels were painted with a thick coat of grey Kilz primer which should last a few years. When hunting season ends it will be covered with a tarp. At times. the blind will be used for taking bird photos in the spring. The plan includes taking my non-verbal, autistic granddaughter along on some of those birding trips. In addition, Pounce and Gigi will do some routine, retriever training out of the blind. 
Aug 29 Monday...high of 80°F with severe thunderstorms in the late morning...worked on the goose blind and decided to not paint (rain). However, the door to the blind was installed. A thunderstorm hit just has the morning "storm door" was finished. Pounce and Gigi watched the blind work from the van. It is time to rearrange the UTV load from training equipment to goose hunting gear and two days left to prepare (crunch time).  

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note: After the paneling and shooting window are completed, fast grass and brushing are next.

Tuesday...August 16...Pounce will be semi-retired for awhile...some regular, fun exercise will keep her in shape for hunting. After several years of training her, it has become rather obvious that we have reached a point of no return. Gigi will be doing a full load of field and water training until winter takes over. I have some serious doubts about whether my age and body parts issues will permit attempting to run hunt tests in the future. The line in HRC has become a bit too complicated when age begins to say "no". Then there is the eye issue (only one can see anything). What are the alternatives? Doing nothing and mostly just getting older seems like giving up. Pounce has a few conditioned flaws in her line manners that complicate testing. She will soon be nine years old and that does not bode well for suddenly putting it all together. Gigi has a lot of potential. The real issues are can I tap into that and will she let me? The timing of today's journal entry is a bit unnerving because tomorrow I will be eight-two years old. It is not very encouraging to suddenly feel too old. One thing might help a bit and that is to quit thinking about my age. There are things to do that must be done. Therefore, get on with it and stop complaining in the journal. 
Wednesday...August 17...I wrote this post a day earlier (nothing to do). Anyway, I am another year older and both dogs just let me know it is time to eat. They don't care how old I am. My hearing issue had a negative impact on Pounce's last hunt test. Initially, it revolved around my loss in hearing. Obviously, the judge's conversation was not clear to me plus the other issues led to poor results.

The initial attempt to avoid any problems was to begin using hearing aids. It took awhile to realize the necessity. My hearing issue had a negative impact on Pounce's last hunt test. Initially, it revolved around my aging issues. Obviously, the judge's conversation was not clear to me plus the other test issues led to poor results. The attempt to avoid any problems was to begin using hearing aids.
It was not the only issue.

Perspective is fickle. About a week ago, I was driving up into Wisconsin to purchase (and be fitted with) two hearing aids. The specialist tuned them up just for what I needed. Driving home proved to be revealing. Up until now, I was always amazed at how quiet my big Ford 12 Passenger Transit Van sounded when driving down the road. With the hearing aids providing a reality check, it was really noisy. So I took them off. Smooth and quiet was back. When you are doing something that needs some focus, the hearing aids are cool. They proved useless in a hunt test. Most of the time, having hearing issues makes life seem more calm. After one day, the three thousand dollar "things" have sat in their box in a desk drawer. "What" is the key word for getting through each day. As an aside, the TV is not an issue. Wearing my wireless RCA "head phones" paired with a special TV jack makes hearing programs simply outstanding. And lastly, our autistic, non-verbal twelve year granddaughter screams often. She does not seem that loud. 

Getting back to dog training with two dogs in the house, they spend a lot time in their wire crates (better referred to as dens). They are buddies that eat, sleep, rest, train and live side by side quietly every day. There is a predictable, daily routine of exercise, feeding, resting and sleeping. They have a fenced in airing yard which is often visited....upon request. Pounce will be taking an extended break in training. Gigi will continue
training until the cold or snow makes that inefficient.       note: Illinois early goose Sept 1-15
August 18...Thursday - Gigi and Pounce took a short drive to Thorson Pond and both ran the 195 yard point blind twice..."the run is fun" and it is a quick exercise. The decision to begin building this year's blind had me working on a new and easier design. I already have quite a bit of the material and tomorrow it will begin. Pounce and Gigi remained in the van.....watching. The construction's design was simple and quick. It took about two hours and the PVC frame was finished. The whiteness of it stuck out like a sore thumb. Even though it will be covered soon, I decided to spray paint it in "camo" green so that it was not easy to spot. In a few days, the frame will be covered with cheap paneling and then stapled fast grass panels with a vinyl fence  backing. The following link provides information about fast grass panels (in the 2021 September 28th
Journal entry).

Speaking of strokes and or loosing your mind, I was reminded (often) of the fact that I am getting old.
To some extent, the WEB that I make entries into every day is a large part of my plan to avoid needing Prevagen. A person's brain is somewhat like a muscle. If you do not exercise, muscles will atrophy.
Given this parallel, the daily exercise of solving issues, puzzles, correcting spelling, writing a journal or even designing a daily entry Website keeps a person's brain sharp. I should mention that quite a bit of time this morning was spent on building a goose blind and training two retrievers. The list to describe everything that was done just today is much longer than this one paragraph. My freshman English teacher would quickly interject that this not a paragraph but a run-on paragraph. A "paragraph" (as "officially" defined) is supposed to consist of one or more sentences -- one "topic" sentence (usually the first), and zero or more additional sentences which expand on the topic. Given the thrust of this run-on paragraph, if a person has a plan in place to avoid forgetting then it stands to reason that person will forget less. And if perchance you do not recall "something" there is the opportunity to find the answer because of the plan to forget less. Now if there was a way to find my wallet or the keys to my car (right when I need them), I might feel a bit more comfortable with my solution for remembering "stuff".

Aug 31..Wednesday...into the 80's by noon...work on the blind until about 11 am...should be "ready" to use

August 3...Wednesday...quite a bit of rain is in the forecast     note: a day off is good
August 4...Thursday - cooler, Pounce and Gigi did a late morning training session with four mallards. It was the practice routine of an HRC line triple with a blind. Doing this in the late morning made finding a position where the running line would be in the shade did not happen. However, it is good to have a training place that is five minutes from the house. Training regularly and gas expenses have been a bit overwhelming this summer. Therefore, training will be confined to the nearest  areas with a focus on maintenance. Pounce has five more Finished tests on the schedule with the last two in September. After that, the daily schedule will be relaxed considerably (regular/easy exercise and hunting). Gigi will work on developing her hunt test skills for next year.         note: 4th-7th Madison field trial
Today Pounce and Gigi attended an afternoon training group at the Harrison Road DTA. Pounce did an HRC triple with two blinds really well. I continue to struggle with seeing the small flags on longer blinds. This is an issue even when I use my range finder. The only solution is to keep practicing. Gigi was much improved today...mostly because I am learning how to anticipate her energy and thus keep her more focused. She is not nearly as easy to run as Pounce.  However, we were more on the same page today. Since she will not be running any tests until next year, this keeps her training at a more reasonable pace.
August 5...Friday...it will be a warm day and my amazing wife's 80th birthday....Both dogs did so well with their Thursday training that we took today off. No one complained.

August 6...Saturday...into the 90's quickly today with a heat index of 98°F. Therefore, Pounce and Gigi trained in the morning early enough to have the running line in the shade. The setup was designed around three piles and run like an HRC triple. The focus was at the HRC line using a shotgun. The dog's "job" is to "watch" the gun and listen/pay attention to the handler. It is practice. The only things removed from the setup are marks in the air. Eliminating this very distracting aspect of the session permits the dog and handler to focus on the interactions between each other. Three large piles of "objects" were located (identified) by purple stakes which are not exactly easy to see (but enough). The first triple was run left to right (the easy way - push). The second was run right to left (the more difficult way - pull). This training approach makes push and pull easier to teach because there are no distraction (birds in the air) "out there". After each dog ran their HRC push and pull runs, they remained at the line and ran a lining and casting drill to the three, large "piles" of bumpers/Dokkens. Again, this many skills setup is about teamwork and practice. Since it is close, exciting and challenging that combination become easier to deal with. The five factors of a balanced retriever are - focus, control, responsiveness, retrieving and "birdiness". Running this setup presents a visual picture of how well each of the five factors are represented. One must learn what to "see, measure and adjust" each factor. 

August 25...Friday...worked on the blind, then exercised Pounce and Gigi, mowed the lawn and purchased  the federal waterfowl stamp. A hunting license was purchased this spring for the Illinois turkey season. Time is closing in on the Illinois Early Goose Season which begins September 1st. The very first day has geese looking for a safer, different place. With five more days, there is not much time left for finishing the goose blind.  The fast grass cover will not take long. 
August 26...Saturday...good weather, but some rain on Sunday. After today it became clear that the new
blind was more permanent than in the past. The platform was there, but a metal, folding frame was put in
place, covered and then removed when the season was over. However, it has become too much of a chore (at my age) to rebuild it each fall. Therefore, what is up will be painted to make it last a few more years. Wind and rain will not have much of a negative impact on the basic structure. The fast grass covering is easy to remove and store. Last year was unique in that it was the first time using a propane Little Buddy Heater. What a huge game charger that made in December and January when there was a winter thaw. Most of the winter hunting depends on being able to use my trailer and UTV. Snow piles along the drive-way make that impossible. I could not resist re-visiting a few of the more recent goose hunting photos.

August 13....August 13....Saturday....the two and a half hour drive to Iowa for an HRC Finished test supplied some answers. Yesterday, Pounce went to the line for an HRC triple plus two blinds in a training alone setup and was "on her game" focused and responsive with a long walk to the line.....OFF LEAD. She sat, watched the mallards and did those retrieves easily. The blinds were responsive and accurate. Yesterday, in the group training session the hint of her creepiness was too obvious....dang did not want that. In hindsight, which dog would show up was kind of a naive question. So there was the three hour drive to Iowa (it gets longer every time I think about it) and Pounce is ready...at least I thought so. We arrived and the Finished HRC was in a small pot hole (neat and "ducky" looking) about sixty yards in diameter. Yesterday's training setup was perfect (small and close). I took my shotgun to the judges to examine and place at the line when it is my time to run. I've done that before with no issues. 

As I take her out of the van she is raring to go....pulling on the leash wanting to air and that was out of the way quickly. I watched the setup being run and it was straight forward, close marks with a blind and diversion duck thrown close to the line. The only concern was the approach to the last holding blind. There were three holding blinds with the first at the top of a steep, wet, grassy decline with quite a few erosion ruts. I walked it a couple of times with my cane and it was a struggle....especially going down. So I did a few practice walks (with no dog) and figured there was no choice but to use my cane.

I decided to put a pinch collar on her to the first holding blind then switch to the slip lead for the second and third. She was relaxed and pleasant with the pinch collar. At the second holding blind, I switched to the slip lead 'cause the pinch is not legal after that. In an instant, a different dog surfaced...pulling while I staggered down the hill. Then one nearby hunt tester grabbed a hold of my belt from behind to keep her from yanking me down the steep incline to the third blind. There were erosion ruts that almost tripped me up but the help of someone holding, dragging me to the last blind succeeded. It was kind of frustrating. By now it was rather obvious that my age, bad knees and not being too agile were getting the best of me.

Well, the third and last holding blind was finally occupied. When asked to come to the line off lead...she did...without me...and decided she needed a drink....a long one. As I approached the line, i soon realized that my gun was not at the line. With bad shoulders, I had practiced, trained and used my own gun. The situation was soon complicated by my decision to just use that gun (not mine) because Pounce was already at the line. As moved forward (you could not make this up), it should be mention that there was no bucket to sit on at the water's edge. In every HRC Finished test up until this one there has always been a bucket at the line. Every training session or test in the last 15 years has had the HRC bucket. So obviously the conditioned responses were not in place (no pun intended). In fact, in all the years I have hunted ducks and geese, I have never been standing right out in the open waiting for something to land close by.

Anyway, I should have put the lead on her right then, but she was too busy IN THE POND getting a good drink of water. Evidently, she got heated up in our struggling decent down the hill to the test. As I turned around to get that shotgun (not mine) things got worse. The judge was trying to clean things, but obviously did NOT know I was hard of hearing. Then it got really clustered up. However, the gun issue did not actually cause a failure to pass the test. There was enough wrong before that to fail. 

That unfamiliar gun (that no one else had trouble with) jammed, mallards were landing and she finally brought everything back.....almost. In my many years of testing I have never had one of my dogs mess with a diversion bird. Can't say that anymore. Judge said, "Hand me the gun and get the duck out of the water". I think he said "duck"....coulda' been something else...not sure.

As an aside, I recently spent over $3000 for two hearing aids. My hearing loss has become an issue. Thinking that would help when hearing the pre-test and during the test the judges is important. I usually stand as close to the judges as possible to make sure of what is expected...before the test However, I soon realized that the hearing aids need to be turned off when shooting/running. It becomes too busy...running the dog, shooting and hearing what is going on just does not work.

Then I had to put a lead on her and try to climb that slippery, steep hill so as to make a fast get away past all the onlookers that were glancing away obviously glad it wasn't them. There was nothing fast about that except when we finally got loaded and drove away quickly from the scene of the crime....now that was fast. Upon arriving at home, I immediately contacted the Hunt Secretary and scratched US (her and me) from the next four hunt tests. So there...We Are Finished. She is going on nine years old and I will be eighty-two in four days. I am fairly certain that we will not be training tomorrow. On a side note, early goose season in Illinois will soon be here. It is time to put the blind back up on Thorson Pond. The only one training will be Gigi. Pounce will be nine years old next spring and will continue a regular, easy exercise routine with no group training for a few months...taking a looong break.Frankly, we may just be too old to run anymore tests.  

 

brushing & "fast grass" soon

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right click on icon for larger photo

Aug 19-20...Friday & Saturday...bought three panels of wafer board to go along with what was in the storage shed. This will cover/attach to the PVC frame and then all will be "tied" down to the rigid/solid foundation.
The next step will be attaching the "already made last year" fast grass panels. Gigi and Pounce are mostly just sleeping and taking several days off. This is downtime for them (taking a much needed break).
              note: No rain until Thursday which means the goose blind should be finished this week.
              note: I need to purchase an Illinois hunting license plus the Federal and State waterfowl stamps.

Aug 21..Sunday...great weather...transported more construction material to the goose blind set-up site and putting it all together should take about four more days.
Aug 22...Monday...high in the 70's...Pounce had a VET appointment at 1:30 PM. While waiting for our time to
go in, Gigi ran a few send-back singles in the large, grassy area to the north. Once Pounce's updating shots and her exam were completed, Gigi was taken into the waiting room to find out how much weight she put on after getting over her intestinal and skin issues plus being spade. Her gain of nine pounds was impressive and verified that her new feeding routine did what it was expected (more food and eventually feeding most of it in the late afternoon). Basically, it is once a day. 
Aug 23...Tuesday...I spent a few hours organizing tools, wood and paneling for the goose blind construction
and managed to put up almost two panels. They are awkward and this day was not easy. The challenge is
working on a sloped bank near the pond. Tomorrow will be easier. When a person is old, it is not easy to be agile. The best part of working is when you stop for the day. Some progress was made. Most of the time is spent modifying the design. The next phase is to install a pivoting shooting window. The learning curve will not be as steep. Gigi and Pounce ran a couple times to a point blind location for exercise.

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My battery powered drill and skill saw worked well.

August 2...Tuesday...this afternoon was going to be hot, hot (almost ninety). Therefore, Pounce and Gigi
trained in the morning at Thorson Pond working on their HRC line skills. When training in warm weather, there is an effort to find a way to place the running line in the shade. If there are blinds to run, stepping out of the shade makes the handler more visible. Wednesday will be a repeat using mallards with Dogtra Remote sounds "out there". The present focus is on practice. Thursday morning will be a three-peat.  Pounce will be doing the Thursday afternoon, group session. Friday morning was planned to take a brief break from training.....mostly for me.