Saturday, January 24, 2015

Past and Present

SUMMARY: Dogs in front of the hot tub.

2002: Tika, Jake, Remington


Check out Tika's tipped-over ear tips! That pretty much went away very quickly and they went upright, with one tending to tip backwards.  Look how comfortably they're all sitting--these are dogs who are extremely accustomed to sit-stay!


2015: Tika, Boost, Chip


Tika now can't sit very comfortably and not surprisingly kept standing up (this is her in the process of getting up already, even though she was the last to be seated, and hence put her ears back as she did so).   Boost looks like she's accustomed to sit-stays although she's nearly doing the border collie vulturing thing.  Chip--was very concerned about why I wanted him to come over and why I wanted him to sit, and it shows a bit. But I did get his tail on the same side as Remington's!

I took a bunch of shots and this was the best. Might try again with chip closer to the camera and to Boost.  Never satisfied--

Measles vs Disneyland

SUMMARY: Idiots don't vaccinate, and now we have this media frenzy and what could be a health catastrophe.

A personal journey into measles--


November 2009:
Friend comes from Australia to do Disneyland. We make plans to meet again in 5 years and do it again.

Jan 2015:
Tickets are purchased, plans are made, friend arrives from Australia for the first time since then  specifically for that planned Disneyland trip. But braces yourselves--

From AP:

"While still a scourge in many corners of the world, measles has been all but eradicated in the U.S. since 2000 because of vaccinations. But the virus has made a comeback in recent years, in part because of people obtaining personal belief exemptions from rules that say children must get their shots to enroll in school."



From AP, Jan. 23, 2015 (that would be yesterday):
"A major measles outbreak traced to Disneyland..." [starting in mid-December] ...[has sickened 70 people, most traced back to Disneyland.] "To control this latest outbreak, those who are not vaccinated were warned this week to stay away from Disney theme parks."
"Disney employees who have no proof of immunization and may have come into contact with sick colleagues were placed on paid leave until they are given the medical all-clear."


From CNN, Jan 22:

Forty-two of the state's 59 measles cases since December can be linked to initial exposure at Disneyland and the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California Department of Public Health officials said. 
Since Friday, California's public health department had been saying the disease linked to Disney was over. 
But on Wednesday, Kathleen Harriman, chief of the Vaccine Preventable Epidemiology Section for the state public health department, said the most recent case was diagnosed, in a park employee, on Sunday. 
This outbreak, health officials said Wednesday, is ongoing.
Read more: http://www.kpho.com/story/27908793/outbreak-of-51-measles-cases-linked-to-disneyland#ixzz3Po73Q900

From USA Today:
A quarter of the patients in this outbreak have been hospitalized.
Measles is damaging and deadly. From the Immunization Action Coalition:
The 1989–1991 measles outbreak in the U.S. resulted in more than 55,000 cases and more than 100 deaths. In the United States, from 1987 to 2000, the most commonly reported complications associated with measles infection were pneumonia (6%), otitis media (7%), and diarrhea (8%). For every 1,000 reported measles cases in the United States, approximately one case of encephalitis and two to three deaths resulted. The risk for death from measles or its complications is greater for infants, young children, and adults than for older children and adolescents.
From a friend:
"Measles is THE most infectious disease known."
From the IAC again:

How contagious are measles, mumps, and rubella?
Measles is highly infectious. It is primarily transmitted from person to person via large respiratory droplets. Airborne transmission via aerosolized droplets has been documented in closed areas (such as an office examination room) for up to 2 hours after a person with measles occupied the area. Following exposure, more than 90% of susceptible people develop measles. The virus can be transmitted from 4 days before the rash becomes visible to 4 days after the rash appears.

 And IDIOTS continue to not vaccinate.  Back to AP:
The vast majority of those who got sick had not gotten the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine.
From the CDC:
"You do NOT need the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR) if you had BLOOD TESTS that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella."
Well, that's scary--how quickly can I get a blood test done?

... But wait--

From the LA Times:
 "Do I need a shot if I had the measles long ago?
A: No. "The people who had measles a long time ago, there's good evidence they're protected for life. The only exception to that is if they got it in the first year of life," said Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA research professor and primary editor of the Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Virtually all people born before 1947 would have had the measles, Cherry said."

(That last sentence-- wow.  We don't realize how lucky we are that the vaccines were developed.)

From my baby book:
April 26, '62. Came home from school with fever of 102. 4 days later, developed measles rash. Maximum fever recorded--104.5. Back in school after 2 weeks.
From my doc, when I asked about whether I shd get a blood test anyway:
All patients born before 1957 even without clearly documented history of Measles are considered to be immune and do not need any additional immunization.
Well, there ya go, I had it "long ago" (doesn't SEEM like that long ago) and so I shouldn't need a blood test or a vaccine. Guess I'm going to DISNEYLAND!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ranting sadly

SUMMARY: "Balanced training" vs "Positive training"

Update Jan 22 11:30 a.m: List at end of some studies that show the results on dogs and on their relationship with their owners for reward vs punishment-based training.


For all the stuff that I've done with dogs, I'd never heard the phrase "balanced training," which came up in an online discussion. I did some reading via Google. And--what a bunch of uninformed people! Here's one page--http://www.precision-dog-training.com/dog-training...

"Balanced" uses both positive reward and positive punishment and seem to believe that negative punishment isn't a valid training method.  Here's their preferred positive punishment method: "startle tactics-- A simple, humane leash and collar correction (which is tight for only 1 second) is given."

SIDEBAR: Definition of terms.

In operant conditioning, you can have 4 types of responses to a behavior (I swear that I wrote this before but can't find it):

  • Positive reward: You give them something that they want.  Example: Sit and you get a treat.
  • Negative reward: You take away something that they don't want. Example: I'll stop shocking you as soon as you Come to me.
  • Positive punishment: You add something that they don't like. Example: A jerk on the leash.
  • Negative punishment: You take away something that they want. Example: Dog jumps up on you, you turn away and ignore them (taking away the attention that they want)  until they put all 4 feet on the ground, then you use positive reward of your attention.
So "positive punishment" means that you are explicitly doing something negative to the dog when they don't do what you want them to. Also called aversives.

(I just wanted to be clear about that.)

From their page--one of the completely nonsensical quotes:
The problem with the all-positive training method is that you can never teach your dog to obey you simply because you are the "pack leader". Touch-free training, clicker training... they all involve coaxing, luring with treats and simply put - pleading for your dog to listen. 
Oh what a complete misunderstanding! I don't plead for my dog to listen! That's no way to train a dog! I give them opportunities to do what I want them to do and I reward it. And I don't need to be pack leader--I just need to be the person in charge like a parent is in charge, and I need to communicate clearly to my dog what I want. And I don't have to hit them or shock them or jerk them around to do it.

Another quote, this about why "balanced training" is supposedly better:
The dog is trained to respond to your command immediately, the first time you say it. That's right! No more chanting the commands (stay, stay, stay....), no more looking silly when your pooch ignores you and runs away." [stating that "all-positive" training causes these bad results]
Holy moly, more crap--I have competed in agility with four dogs, earned multiple championships, and you betcha that I needed a reliable stay so that I could lead out ahead of my fast beasties--I never chanted "stay stay stay"--and that they responded to my verbal commands immediately. I'm also stunned by her description of what "positive training" schools looked like (if you read it). Wow. I'm appalled and sad that someone who doesn't fully understand operant conditioning is training other people the same way (and maybe the classes that she observed anonymously weren't experts, either--most of what she described I've never seen in any of the many classes or seminars I've taken).

Negative punishment in my view is far better than positive punishment. I'd rather ignore a dog that's doing bad things to get my attention and let them figure out how to behave and reward that--now I have a thinking dog who has figured out what he needs to do and will abandon the behaviors that don't work. It's that simple.

What you get out of the training is what you put into it, no matter what method you use. I've come to believe that hurting or jerking dogs is more than just cheating; it's the lazy way of training that also can have negative effects on your relationship with your dog. When I worked at it, my prey-driven dog would call off of a running squirrel, and all I used was treats and praise. No shock collars, no jerking. No "proving that I was the boss/pack leader," just proving that I was more interesting than running squirrels.

As someone in the discussion board said:
In general it's way better to set a dog up for success and reward the success, rather than set the dog up for failure and punish failure. The dog decides what is aversive. If adding something unpleasant (positive punishment) is sufficient enough to make a dog stop doing something, then it was aversive. Some dogs might enjoy a spritz with water. Other dogs might completely shut down. Another dog might not care either way.

A stern "no" might not be a big deal to some dogs. But can be a huge deal for others.
That's why we just set dogs up for success so we don't need to use it.
I pick the things that I'll concentrate on with each of my dogs at different times, it's true. Don't expect perfect angels by your own definition when you meet them. But they're smart dogs and they learn quickly when I apply myself.

Sorry, I think hat I'm ranting. If you can train small children without "startle tactics" or any other aversive, then you can train dogs the same way. And chickens, and horses, and dolphins, and pigeons--  there is plenty of research to prove it.

So, there you go. I've ranted out now.

SIDEBAR: Some research (if you're not already tired of reading) showing that dogs trained with positive rewards/reinforcement tend to have lower stress levels and react more positively towards their owners than punishment-based:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tika Update

SUMMARY: Hanging in there. By a toenail or two.

I've got so much recent history to fill in about Tika, but I just never want to sit down and write about it.

Her endurance and strength and appetite continue to fade gradually away.

Walks

She still wants to go for walks. Walks in a slow but excited circle when I get her leash out--versus bounding into the air and racing in circles screeching for most of her life.

Walks about half a mile in half an hour, very slow but very steady. Likes to sniff at things and I let her. I no longer walk her with the other dogs as they have so much energy and she has so little. She doesn't usually seem to want to go home, but I insist. I don't want to have to carry her home, and i have no really good way of telling whether she's had too much.

She no longer pulls on the leash, versus me trying to teach it for months and months and months and then just giving up and managing it for the rest of her life until the last year maybe. (See, if I'd been doing regular posts, I'd know.)

This morning for the first time I thought that she was going to say no. She struggled to get up from her bed, had trouble, lay back down, and just lay there, head down. But I asked again, and she managed to get up and get excited.

Playing

She still, sometimes, wants to play, gives it a very slight effort--a playful paw on a toy, or a tiny sort of half pounce--and then it's over.  Poor girlie.

Tricks and treats

She will still do tricks for treats, in fact, begs to be involved if I bring the treats out.  I don't do "Bang!" any longer or anything that requires her to lie down and get back up again, because it's such an effort for her.  But just this evening she did some backing up (Beep! Beep! Beep!) and figure 8s around my legs and back legs on the small wobble board and the usual lefts, rights, shakes, shake lefts,high fives, and Behinds.  Very slowly, but eagerly.

Eating

Appetite can be a problem. Some days she wants to eat a regular meal and is happy with some kind of kibble, but that happens less and less often. I've got so many kinds of kibble here, now, and she so seldom wants any of it.  And hardly eats any of it when she does.

She more often wants some canned food, but not very much of it, and probably not the same stuff more than one meal in a row (leaving me with 2/3-full cans).

She always seems to want to eat baby food... but SO expensive! But even that she won't necessarily eat all of.

Always seems to want to eat people food, but not always a lot of it.  Two nights ago she was happy to share a bunch of tortilla chips, but snubbed the hummus (!). Last night she had a bunch of my frozen meal of chicken risotto with veggies but didn't finish all that I offered her, which wasn't really very much. Today, a little diarrhea as a result. Tonight she had a taco for dinner and sucked it down with enthusiasm.

Stairs

She has to work to get up and down them--but does all the time, to go out to the yard and come back in, and to go down to the office-level of the house and come back up. (About 5 steps in each case.)

However, it had been a long time since she had been all the way upstairs to the bedroom hallway (about 12 steps), maybe a couple of months or more. And I had been thinking that that was it, she'd never come all the way upstairs again.  However, two and a half weeks ago, my sister's dog stayed with us, so there was quite a bit of activity and angst.  I went upstairs to get dressed, and the other 3 dogs followed me upstairs as normal.  Then, cruising in through the bedroom door as calm and cool as could be, came Ms. Tika.  She checked things out and then lay at the top of the stairs in her favorite old location--where she could keep an eye on everything upstairs and down.

However, she hasn't been back up since.



Tired, Old, Depressed, Sore, or Whatever

She spends a lot of time lying around looking pathetic, not raising her head, just watching or sometimes just listening to what's going on. Very un-Tika-like.









She particularly likes the raised bed under the table.  (Not so much the raised bed that's next to the table; not sure why.)  I've figured out that that's because it's easier for her to get up from--she basically walks her front legs off and then works her much-weaker back legs after them.  That is--if her front legs don't slip on the floor and leave her stranded half on and half off.  This is why there are now a bunch of rugs around the bed, to give her front feet traction.  Makes it hard to sweep the floor, though.

Activity

If I'm out in the yard, she'll come out, too, and wander around all over, checking things out, then come by for some butt-scritching and other snuggling, then go wandering off again.  For a while. Eventually she lies down and just watches, which would not have been the younger Tika.  But she doesn't go out much on her own.



Still, she does occasionally do a yard patrol. Just a few minutes ago I heard her out there, barking at something that needed her opinion.

Incontinence

I sometimes find that she's been lying in her own urine.  I don't know, though, whether she's somewhat incontinent and isn't aware that she needs to pee, or whether, seems equally likely, that she gets stuck on the smooth tile floor and can't get up.

She can get stuck if her rear legs slide out from under her in the wrong directions. She'll struggle some and then give up for a while.

So I wonder.

Meds and infections

I go in circles, trying to find ways to get her to take her meds without my having to pop them down her throat.  At this point, she's willing to take pill pockets with the smaller pills in them and I just have to pop 2 larger halves down her throat.  I dread the day that she figures out that there are tiny pills in the pockets because then I'll be scrambling again to find some way to get them down her.

She's off the antibiotics, though, yay!  About a week before her 2nd round of 20 days completed, I realized that I no longer smelled the foul infection/decaying smell from her mouth, so, for now at least, that's gone. (this most recent was in the floor of her mouth under her tongue--there was  a break before tha and after the first one, in her cheek. So, hoping there won't be more.)

And in the end

I dunno what'll happen or when. Discouraged about the decrease in appetite in particular.  But she's still my good girl and she's still seeming to enjoying being here in various ways.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Counter Surfer

SUMMARY: Beach Boys song: Surfer dog, surfer dog, my little surfer dog...

Little surfer, little one,
Made my heart come all undone
Do you love me, do you surfer dog,
Surfer dog, my little surfer dog?

I posted today to a dog behavior group:

OK, since [the list organizer] posted this matrix, which includes "counter surfing"--

(Graphic by Lupe Matt, used with permission.)

I'd like some suggestions on breaking that. He was three when I got him, have now had him for 9 months. I haven't had to worry about dogs taking things from counters or tabletops for many many years, and I must say that I enjoy being able to leave things out that are convenient for me--my pillbox on the table, the banana bread on the counter for easy slicing, like that. (He hasn't actually eaten any meds or shown an interest in them, but since he started taking stuff off tables/counters, I can't in good conscience leave them out any more. )

He never puts his paws up when I'm home. (Well--once, when he first got here, and I most likely did something like, "Hey! Get your feet off there!" and clapped or similar action. Don't remember.) Anyway, I thought he got the message because nothing happened for about 3 months. Then he started pulling things off the counter or table. Bag of treats that I left on the counter. Dirty napkin. Frozen-food dish that I'd left on the table when finished. Like that.

Here's one thing that I know about operant conditioning: Random reinforcers are stronger than constant reinforcers. So he occasionally finds something, thereby randomly rewarding himself, mostly likely making the counter surfing into a stronger behavior. I've been trying very hard to never leave anything with any scent or hint of food on the table (like going to Yosemite and not leaving anything that smells like food in your tent or car, so I'm used to this concept), but I still come home to muddy toeprints on the edge of the counter or table, or some papers that I left on the table that are now on the floor.

So, when I see him glancing at the counter (he never stares at it that I have seen), I might say his name and ask him for some other behavior, like Sit or Down, and reward.

But it's not stopping. And I'm not perfect and never will be (yesterday it was a used napkin on the table). And I miss being able to leave stuff out.

I had this fantasy about removing the randomness--leaving exactly the same thing out on the counter in exactly the same place day after day after day, and then one day stopping it, thinking that that would extinguish the behavior faster. But, actually, I'm not going to try that experiment. :-)

Funnyish story--over Xmas, he spent the weekend with his previous owners--man and 10-yr-old boy. I commented that Chip had started counter surfing, and the boy asked, "what's that?" and the man answered, "Remember that morning when we came downstairs and discovered Chip standing on the kitchen counter?"

So it's apparently not an entirely new behavior.

Suggestions?



If you want a quick explanation of why random reinforcers are stronger than constant ones, see: Intermittent Reinforcement.

Sunrise, Sunset...

SUMMARY: What I see on agility days that I don't usually see when at home or office.

Went to a USDAA competition to do score tabling this past weekend. I loved seeing my friends. Doing the scoretabling was a physical mistake, even though I enjoyed it. Still paying for it today. Ah, well.

But I did get up early and I did stay out "late" (enough to see the end of the daylight, anyway).

Saturday morning:



Saturday evening:


Sunday morning around the same time (7:00 a.m.):


(I took this Sunday morning one in about the same place as the first Saturday morning photo.)


Sunday evening:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Photographing Uncooperative Dogs

SUMMARY: Tika is not helpful.

Backstory:

Usually my dogs travel in their crates. However, when just making a quick local trip, like over to the park, I might leave them loose in the car. In the old days, in this situation, Tika would put her front feet up on the storage box between the front seats to keep an eye on the world.

I haven't gone a lot of places in recent months at all.  When I have taken them somewhere here, Tika mostly just lies on the floor behind the front seats, as her stability isn't all that great recently.

However, while dashing over to the park late in the day today, after I hoisted Tika into MUTT MVR in an undignified manner such that she had sprawled ungracefully on the floor, I realized to my delight that she had assumed her old position, up on her hind legs, her front legs on that storage box!  Yet again she surprises and delights me with being healthier than expected.

So I stopped, determined to take a quick photo of her doing that thing, since i'm guessing that that's not likely to be happening for a lot longer.

I had to hold the camera sort of as for a selfie, that is, out at arm's length and guessing at the angle to get her face and the box on which she was standing.  However, every time I cut off the front of her face and so  moved my arm over to try to not do that, she's move her head over, so again her face would be cut off--repeat, repeat, repeat.  So pretty soon I was reaching and leaning as far as I possibly could and she had turned her head and body alllll the way over so that I still couldn't get it!

Attempt 31--oops, she's too far to the right.


Move my arm more to the right--oops, she's moved more to the right.

Move my arm more to the right--oops, she's moved more to the right.

Move my arm more to the right--oops, she's moved MORE to the right.

Move my arm more to the right--oops, she's moved still more to the right.

Move my arm more to the right--oops, she's moved even more to the right.

Oh, come ONNNN, Tika!!!! My arm is at its limit.

Well, this'll have to do. I love my girlie.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

What this blog is really about.

SUMMARY: Every writer should be able to define why they write.

My work explores the relationship between the universality of myth and vegetarian ethics.
With influences as diverse as Derrida and Roy Lichtenstein, new variations are synthesized from both orderly and random dialogues.

Ever since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by the theoretical limits of the universe. What starts out as hope soon becomes corrupted into a dialectic of futility, leaving only a sense of chaos and the prospect of a new beginning.

As temporal forms become clarified through boundaried and repetitive practice, the reader is left with a hymn to the darkness of our condition.

And now you know what my intentions have always been with this blog.

Or perhaps not.

Monday, January 05, 2015

On Breeding, Breeds, Cross-Breeding, and Mutts

SUMMARY: Some thoughts on appearance and behavior.

In an online "random topic" discussion group for folks who think that Cesar Milan's training methods are abusive and represent only the ignorance of dog training from half a century ago, someone asked whether your next dog would be from a breeder or from a rescue or Other.  This naturally evolved into a discussion on whether purebreds were better than mixes or rescues in various ways--temperament, bad habits or destructive instincts, physical health, and on and on.

I agree that breeding affects a dog's likely temperament or ability to do various activities, but I also agree that it's not a guarantee.  Just being in agility for all these years, around huge numbers of competitors and what I'd consider to be truly responsible breeders1 and dogs who compete that are mixes, purebred (presumably) rescues, siblings from the same litter, same breeds from different litters, I've seen a huge variation in what one can expect.

One of the things that I've learned through dog sports and through two years of working to grow the [at the time] nonexistent Wikipedia set of dog articles is that people's opinions about what a breed should be, and whether cross-breeding2 is a valid thing to do, can be very strong (to put it mildly).

This is why there are different registries (in the US, anyway) for working border collies and show border collies, for working labs and for show labs, etc. I find it interesting that the AKC breed club standard for border collies describes their working instincts as the defining characteristic of the breed, yet there is no requirement for their championship that they prove it--conformation and herding are completely different tracks, so temperament and trainability and working instinct can be quite different. And that, in the world at large--by which I mean average Americans--an AKC championship, or a dog from AKC championship lines, is assumed to be the ideal Border Collie.

Or that black and brown Belgian shepherds (aka Groenendaels or Tervurens, respectively) can be born in the same litter, but by AKC rules, both parents have to be the same color and the offspring the same color as the parents or they're not "valid", whereas in other countries' breed standards, they're just types of the same breed (like different colors of cocker spaniels are the same breed) and probably have the same working instincts (depending on whether they're bred from lines with proven working instincts or from purely show lines where a heavier coat is preferred and working instinct is incidental (as with BCs).

That German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs, aka Alsatians) are very different conformationally in the US vs Europe, in that the US breed's rear legs are deemed to be more beautiful if they're very long, which means that they've been bred into having horrible hip dysplasia issues (and fear-biting is said to be more common in the American lines). That Golden Retrievers and Flat-Coat Retrievers are really the same breed--oh, no, wait, they aren't, because true Flat-Coat breeders will cull the yellow ones (is that a "responsible" breeder?), but really they'll be very similar in temperament. Here's one article talking about how these splits happen and what the possible dangers are to the breed(s) from focusing on such specific details.

My point is, if you decide that you want a specific breed, be very certain that you know exactly why you want the breed. Is it because of the way it looks? Because of the way it behaves? For example, if you want a field Lab, AKC registration isn't necessarily the best (or only) place to look; similarly with Border Collies or any other working breed. That's not to say that there aren't working dogs within AKC registries--my own BC comes from a long line of herding and (more recently) agility champions, and they're AKC registered. But they'd likely never make it in the show ring. The American Border Collie Association, however, doesn't even have conformation trials, just focuses on the breeding of working dogs.

And, of course, every breed is the result of the crossing of other breeds at some point in their history. Which, in my view, means that any crossbreed or mixed breed or whatever you want to call it--mutt--is perfectly as capable of being beautiful, hardy, healthy, intelligent, competent, and loving as any pedigreed dog, or sometimes even more so.

I find this to be endlessly fascinating; I mean it as a reminder that there's a lot going on in genetics and breeding and separation of different breeding stock that not everyone is aware of. And the results can affect your ability to get the temperament and trainability (and physical soundness) that you really want.  You can't ever do that just by looking at the pedigree.

No matter their type, let your dogs know every day that they are appreciated and loved.



1Maybe another post eventually on what a responsible breeder is, in my view.

2"Cross-breeding" generally means breeding dogs of different breeds for a specific purpose. I sometimes want to extend that specific purpose to include "two dogs of opposite sex who found each other and had the specific purpose of having sex," but, eh, whatever.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Training and Agility Thoughts

SUMMARY: What to do, what to do.

Periodically I get these wild ideas, like, "I should actually train Chip some useful things," or "I'd like to start teaching Chip to do agility," or "How about if I get me and Boost back into shape to actually do agility ourselves," or "I think I'll sell everything I own including the house, retire, buy a camper van, and drive around the country for 20 years," or "I think I'll take a nap."

[Oh crud--as I'm typing this, hearing some fireworks outside somewhere in the distance. Poor Chip is working hard on stressing out again.]

Anyway, I somehow found a reserve of enthusiasm and energy on New Year's Day and worked on tugging with Chip. I want him to latch on and not let go until told to. I introduced him to the Milker Toy in the yard and he seemed to like it. (The rubber milking attachment from a milking machine. Softer rubber, flexible, easy to grip for them and me.) I've worked with him all along for what *I* want, which is that if I touch his face or body, he should just keep going. He's having to overcome either a natural let-go reaction to that or else good training for his first 3 years of life in a family with a young boy.

I also dinked around a bit with getting him to go between two weave poles, but all that training (tugging and weave poles) made him stress out quickly.

So far to go--and then I was pooped and had to sit for a while, plus hard on my damaged back.

Still, for a good 15 minutes or so, we trained and played, trained and played.

But still not sure whether I'm going to do agility. This last week at the park, I thought I'd try jogging a bit to see what running felt like, and it scares me about putting that jarring and up-down compression on my spine. So dunno.

However, have committed to attend one agility trial in January and one in February, just to work and probably take photos. Not entering Boost. But one is out of town, so will take the dogs anyway.

We'll see where this all leads in the new year.

Happy New Year

SUMMARY: Sleepy.  Busy.

Well--stayed up past midnight on New Year's Eve for the first time in years. Because local [illegal] fireworks started going off around 10:30 and didn't quit until 1:00. And they terrified Chip.

I closed all the windows and curtains and doors in the house (normally I have the bedroom windows open a bit) and turned on the radio in my bedroom and did my best to comfort him. The radio helped until the noises became too loud and too frequent.

Best results seemed to be with him right up against me, ears/top of head at the very least covered with the comforter and my hands covering his ears as well.  Poor guy.

It was around freezing here, which is pretty cold for us, so that's probably why it was less than 2 hours, thank goodness. And the day before was cold and windy, so there was pretty much nothing then. I hate to think what it would've been like if it had been nice! Maybe more like 4th of July, which went on from mid-June until mid-July.

Then got up early to try to catch an early movie with an agility friend (Sparkle and Ben's Human Mom). Ended up getting a later-morning one instead, then a quick shopping trip, then a quick visit to a casual post-race "breakfast" party at another agility friend's house, then home to play with the dogs in the yard.

And then--tired and recovering by lounging on the couch and reviewing email and all--and then this.

Happy 2015, and dog bless us, every one!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

SUMMARY: From the whole clan.



Photo by Sarah Hitzeman

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chip Goes On A Sleepover

SUMMARY: This is a happy trio.

Chip has gone to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and a couple more days with his Previous Boy and Previous Human Dad. I dropped him off--feeling like a mom whose kid is sleeping away from home for the first time, but I knew that he'd be happy to see the Previous Family--and I was so right!

Here's the happy reunion. They haven't seen each other since March. Brings tears to my eyes. Until Chip has to pee so I stop the video.




Evil Floors Part 27 Or Thereabouts

SUMMARY: Finally got a little video of Boost freaking out about a surface.


video

This is a new bridge over a culvert at Martial Cottle Park. Ten minutes later, she walked back over it like it was nothing.

Silly but cute girly.

Here's the bridge in question:




Friday, November 28, 2014

Tika's Mouth

SUMMARY: That odor. That dripping blood.

The symptoms were the same, Thanksgiving morning, as the previous huge lumpy infection/lesion thing that she had a couple of months ago that antibiotics (and losing part of her cheek) made better.

But no matter how hard I looked in her mouth (and, surprise, she was willing to let me), I saw nothing. OK, turns out it's because it's under her tongue. This--if you've never tried it--is an astounding adventure to try to see or get at.  Anyway--on antibiotics again.  (Actually a larger one and a smaller one, and then the original site is a little iffy, also.)

Tika was not thrilled with going to the vets (AKA "This torture on top of forcing me to swallow thousands of pills all the time").

I convinced her to overcome her justified concern and get out of the car. We strolled around the parking lot for 10 minutes, and her agenda consisted entirely of coming back to the parking spot and pointing out that there are doors on MUTT MVR that could conceivably be opened to let her back in.



But mostly she handled things OK and we're now both home, resting from the ordeal.

On a side sad note, the vet said that it's possible that these mouth lesions are as a result of her kidney gradually failing. Which I already knew was happening from the blood test that we did when she had that first infection.

She seems to be racing to find as many problems to survive as she can before she leaves this opportunity for extra Zukes and crosses the so-called Rainbow Bridge.  To prove what an over-achiever she is. Which, OK, Teek, I already knew.

I can commiserate. Aging is not for the hyperactive of heart and mind.  She's so slow now. Back legs weaker. Heart hanging in there against all odds.  Abdomen full of fluid despite aggressive diuretics. Occasional bouts of incontinence. The last two of which I suspect are not unrelated.

But just look at how beautiful she still is!  And smart. Good old girl, knowing exactly what car doors look like from the outside.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Morning

SUMMARY: Not much going on this morning. But poor Tika.

Because at least two of us aren't up to it, we skipped our traditional quiet us-only Thanksgiving morning hike and instead lazed around the house.

The only down side is that Tika has another infection--or whatever it is. Something horrible that she had growing in her cheek a couple of months ago that ended up dying back and leaving a gap in her cheek. Smelled awful.  Well, thought I might be smelling the same thing, but I've looked very carefully in her mouth several times the last 2 or 3 days and have seen nothing. Thing is, the smell is somewhat like the refrigerated food I've been giving her, so I decided it must be that.  But this morning, whoa!, the smell hit me in the gut when I came downstairs. Whatever it was, is back, and somewhere that I can't find. And, of course, it's the first day of a holiday weekend.  Last time, a combination of antibiotics and, well, it dying and falling out with a piece of her cheek took care of it. Don't really want to go to the emergency room. Don't know whether my vet is working tomorrow. Crud crud crud. Why didn't I just take her in yesterday to be sure? Poor girl.

However, her appetite doesn't seem to be affected.

Because we (OK, the beasts) had pumpkin pie. Well... new recipe.



Then we dashed off to Marie Callender's to -- ahem -- finish our baking for the day. French Apple Pie. Glad that I paid in advance. That's a busy place for pick-ups today! They had a whole outside tent for Feast Pick-ups, and inside they had marked the floor with colored tape leading you to the proper place for your specific pie ordering method. Pretty efficient. I think it's interesting that plain Apple pie is by far the largest stack of prepaid pies.







Now I must head off for the human feast.

Whatever you or your loved ones are eating this weekend, I hope it's delicious.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

At the School Park

SUMMARY: Just a note.

Took the Merle Girls and Chip to the school park today--first time in a long time. Drove because Tika can't manage the walk over any more. (And not sure whether I could, either.)

Let them all out of the car uncontrolled--Tika actually picked up to an excited trot to get to the gate, then did all her favorite sniffings around. Chip toted a 20' lead because we haven't worked enough on recalls in distracting environments, but I got a lot of good responses (unlike last time) and distributed a lot of treats.

Our Park friends Jake and Sheba (and their Human Parents) showed up--Chip tried to get Sheba the Pug to play, and she wanted to, apparently the first time in a long time since she has a sore back and isn't much into other dogs. Then Chip rolled over on his back to get a big tummy rub from the Human Parents.

Boost, meanwhile: All frisbee all the time.

Followed by a beautiful sunset. And through all of this, of course, I'm wishing that I hadn't left my camera in the car.

Altogether, a good outing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Myopia in Agility Dogs

SUMMARY: Guess who's nearsighted?

I do not have detailed data nor even much in the way of data at all.  But I can give you a very quick overview of measurements that identify myopia (near-sightedness). Bear with me--I'll get to the point.

Myopia is measured in diopters--OK, you don't need to know the technical details, just get the idea that 0 is normal and -5.0, for example, is very very nearsighted. From Wikipedia's article citing numbers for humans:

Myopia, which is measured in diopters by the strength or optical power of a corrective lens that focuses distant images on the retina, has also been classified by degree or severity:
  • Low myopia usually describes myopia of −3.00 diopters or less (i.e. closer to 0.00).
  • Medium myopia usually describes myopia between −3.00 and −6.00 diopters.
  • High myopia usually describes myopia of −6.00 or more. Roughly 30% of myopes have high myopia.[27]

I can also point you to a study of myopia that shows it's more common in all breeds as they age (just like in humans)  (and incidentally indicates that it's less common in guide dogs, which makes sense really--dogs who don't see optimally are unlikely to make excellent guide dogs): Myopia and Refractive Error in Dogs.

That study includes this graph--if you follow the line across, you'll see that younger dogs tend to be somewhat far-sighted (somewhere between 0 and 2) but tend to get more near-sighted with age (see that the line dips below 0):

Note also that, even with age, there are very few dogs with worse than -2 diopters.

I have had myopia since I was in about 5th grade. Wow, the world looked so much different when everything became sharp and clear as I donned my first pair of glasses!  Now, after all these many years of aging and becoming more myopic, my left eye is -2.0 and my right is -4.5 (which, if my glasses were actually made of glass, would be very very very thick).

So.  Some folks in the agility community and at UC Davis are doing studies on myopia in agility dogs. This apparently came out of one of many discussions about why some dogs have trouble jumping or who take off early when jumping.  Or, for example, knocking bars when they jump or refusing jumps.  (For anyone who has followed along here for 7 years or so, might recognize my frequent agonizing about Boost.)

They had an event at the end of August where we drove out to Davis and put our dogs over a straight line of jumps. We did this three times with and three times without some kind of contact lens in the eye (Yes! they make contacts for dogs!), sometimes to make the vision worse, sometimes to make it better) They took several people's evaluations of whether the dog did better in the first set of three or the 2nd set of three, before anyone other than the eye doc knew the state of the eyes.

I took Boost.

I have no recollection any more of whether she did better with or without the correction. However, her measurements are -3.5 in one eye and -3.25 in the other.

To understand how extreme that was, the largest adjustment in contacts that they brought with them were 3.0.

So. No wonder she knocks bars and bars and bars, and I get refusals so often, and she looks at me more and more for what to do next.  Poor girlie, if it's been like this her whole life, she's done amazingly well. Seems like it can't have been--she always seemed superfast and confident on course to begin with.

Anyway. Now, what with my back issues and all, she's retired from jumping 22" in USDAA. I'm trying not to let it break my heart that we haven't gotten the 3rd Super-Q and completed her championship. But she has really done amazingly well, with or without consideration for her eyesight.

We'll probably just play at agility from now on, assuming that I can actually run and feel safe doing so.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Milestone! Chip Came!

SUMMARY: Chip makes the decision to stop in midcharge and come back.


Chip runs to go fence barking/fighting.

With my back as it has been--almost since Chip came home--for days or weeks on end I've not even felt the urge to do any kind of training or even playing with and rewarding existing training.

I worked occasionally on "Chip, Come!" just after he'd already made the decision to come to me, intending to gradually move that back to just about the time that he was making the decision, and then to before he'd made the decision.

Previous Owner had to walk him down and corner him at the dog park because he wouldn't come. I experienced that myself when we did a dog park to experiment. My motivation should be strong because I want to allow all the dogs off leash in appropriate places and be able to know that I can call them back. Annoying having to keep Chip on a leash or long lead all the time.  Yet, with pain and medications and all that, I wasn't taking dogs anywhere anyway, so motivation lower.

But, I've been thinking more about doing stuff. On Instructor Nancy's recent suggestion, I went just for "Chip". I liked the idea anyway, because he arrived here with a weak name response (e.g., might or might not look at me when I said his name, and with not much interest; if nothing else interesting was in process, a response was more likely). And I finally had the energy to just say Chip "a million times a day" and give him a treat every time.

I had already started that as soon as he came home, at agility trials on leash in particular or while out for walks on leash. His name response improved, but again, only at close range and not reliably and not very fast.

Is the neighboring Noise Dog there?

If ya can't see 'em, smell for 'em.


Anyway--started doing it much more often three or four weeks ago, out in the yard many times (although not every time). Just taking a bag of treats and randomly calling his name and giving one for coming.   His name response in times of no more than mild arousal had become instant--that head just whips around towards me.

Did I already talk about using the Premack Principle on his fence fighting with the Noise Dog next door?  I continued doing that as well, moving farther and farther away.  Again, I wasn't consistent about doing this regularly, but when I did more of it, he more often tended to do some barking and then immediately come back to see whether he'd get a treat.

Anyway, all of this combined to where, today, the Noise Dog hit the fence and made a ruckus, and Chip bolted straight in his direction.  When Chip was nearly there, I yelled "Chip!" from almost the other side of the yard (not near him) and he slammed to a halt, turned, and trotted back to me with no hesitation.  Huzzah! That's the first time that he's taken the initiative to come back in full flight! Yowza yowza! Every other time when I tested this, he might have slowed slightly and turned his ears back towards me, but then continued on his mission.

He got a ton of treats AND the frozen chicken foot for that!  (I knew that we were close, so I'd had it in my treat pouch the last couple of times along with the other treats.)

Everyone came away happy and quiet.

Well--quiet in part because he won't do the actual barking/fence fighting if I'm standing there trying to take a photo for evidence to be used against him. He's a suspicious kind of guy.


As I washed my hands afterwards, I thought--I have to keep up on this, repeating all the time for the rest of his life, which is what I needed to do with Tika. Because if I stopped practicing, a lot, frequently, her recall deteriorated and she'd no longer, for instance, call off of chasing a squirrel.  THAT might be one advantage to starting with a puppy: If their minds grasp the recall thing very early and before they get used to doing what they want to do, maybe it wouldn't require constant intense renewal.

Boost has a pretty reliable recall. Maybe because I taught her has a puppy. Maybe because she's a Border Collie.

Well, they can't all be Border Collies, and that's just as well. Chip is really really fast, and if I can harness that into agility, he could be a Contendah--if I can ever confidently run again.

I'm rambling again. Good night!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Introducing: The Finchester Yellow

SUMMARY: Finally figured out my favorite breed's name.

In order: Amber (in 1981), Remington (in 1994), and Chip (in 2014).