Saturday, February 06, 2016


SUMMARY: It's crying time again.

Maybe this is why I don't come here to Taj MuttHall very often.  Crying. How could it be 11 months since Tika left? Nine and a half for Boost?  They were just here, just here. I miss these Merle Girls so very much.

Problem Dog Children's Visit to the Vet

SUMMARY: Chip was mostly good, then bad, then a little good. Luke was mostly ok, then scared, then crazy, then good.

Both dogs were perfectly happy to walk from the car into the vet's office and put their feet up onto the receptionist's wall to get some treats.  Luke was a bit nervous, leaping from floor to bench to floor to another bench (yes, pet-proof seating of course).  Chip seemed fine.

Both dogs were perfectly happy to greet the vet and get treats.

Chip wasn't thrilled about getting onto the exam table, but did it with a little collar tugging, and stood there quite calmly during the whole exam. Although you could tell that inner turmoil existed from the size of his pupils.

Luke became agitated and a bit fearful when the table for Chip raised and then later lowered.

When it was his turn, I had to lift him onto the table and hold him there firmly while he went into full "this is a slippery surface on a scary thing that I don't understand" mode.  He did put up with the exam and shots once we convinced him to stand up on his own (rather than leaning or the toes-extended, legs-askew thing).

Vet said that Chip's heartbeat, despite his adrenaline factor, was 90/minute, which is nicely healthy for a stressed dog.  Luke, however quietly he was standing, shook all through the short exam, and his heart raced at 150ish, so  he was, as usual, wayyyy overstimulated by what he was experiencing.

The vet takes the dog "into the back" for the blood draws for heartworm tests. He said that both dogs sat, not the first time, but when he used his big, commanding, deep voice.  Other than that, Luke was apparently a wild thing but entertaining to some degree back there.  Chip, however, snarled and showed his teeth when they tried to hold him for the draw, so he had to wear a muzzle briefly.

I take a long time to figure things out.  Chip is very sensitive about his personal space being invaded.  He loves to be petted, but if I move slightly into where any part of his body is resting, he jumps up and moves away.  If Luke does so, Chip jumps up with a low-key snarl and open mouth towards Luke, sometimes putting his mouth on him.  No bites.

But the one time we tried to do a restrained recall with him at the few agility-basics classes that we attended, as I walked away, he turned and snapped at the trainer holding him.  She didn't say anything else, just that he was clearly scared and worried and we'd find some other way to do the same thing.

So now he's threatened to do the same thing with the vet, so ugh another thing to figure out how to work on.  So odd from a dog who'll lie there and let you pet him all over.

Still--successful checkup and shots for everyone and hopefully we won't have to go in again until the next bordetella shot.

Then we all went for a short stroll around a nearby park.

Camera batter expired, so no photos at all, darnit!

Dog-photo envy

SUMMARY: One of the world's best dog photographers.

If you want skill-envy or fast-lens envy or location envy, all of these things are yours with these beautiful dog photos and accompanying article:

Kaylee Greer - One of the best dog photographers in the world

(And really I didn't post it for the envy factor.  I posted it for the inspirational factor, because, wow, does she show something to strive for! Here's one of the images.)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Big Fluffy Toys

SUMMARY: Lambchop, poor little Lambchop.

Oddly--or maybe not--I couldn't get over Luke and/or Chip trying to disembowel the giant squirrel toy that I bought for Remington the Squirrelhünd when he completed his NADAC championship. None of Tika or Jake or Boost was ever as excited about it, so it has remained intact in the living room behind the chair with the Special Living Room Toys for a dozen years, although we all played with it from time to time.

New dogs--Luke loved it! But when one or the other of he or Chip started to open up a seam and pull its stuffing out, I hid it away.  Silly human emotional things over a probably inexpensive toy.

SO I ordered these (about $13 each) from a favorite,, the other day, and they're already here! (One of the reasons I love that site.)

And here's what happened.

(1) Joy!

(2) True love!

(3) Destruction!  (Nice work, Chip, didn't even take 15 minutes before you started in on him.)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Luke officially in Taj Mutthall

SUMMARY: He now has his own photo in the right sidebar here--big ears and all.

What exactly is "high drive"? And is it useful?

SUMMARY: Luke might have some, but also has some other stuff.

I've used the term "high drive for Luke when he's focusing on certain things: Catching that lizard. Getting someone to play with him and his Flatball. In those cases, his energy never flags and it takes a superhuman effort to distract him, but he is deliberately going to work on those tasks with a single purpose in mind.

I have also used the term “overstimulated” for him, which is in just about any newer situation or when random dogs appear on the horizon (say, while we’re walking in the park).

Although some of the appearance is the same–takes superhuman effort to distract him–I have always recognized the difference in him. In the first case–high drive–he is focused and not frantic. In the second case — overstimulated–he is frantic and barely aware of who or what is around him other than the one or thousands of things that are setting off synapses in his brain.

Interesting that another dog friend just pointed out this article, High Drive Dogs (drive vs. arousal), a fairly quick read.

Thursday, December 31, 2015


SUMMARY: My dogs' ghosts inhabit my life; do yours?

Disclaimer: I do not believe in ghosts. And yet--

For months after Sheba was gone, whenever I made popcorn, I heard her toenails trotting down the hallway for a snack. For months after Remington was gone, I swear that I heard him behind me turning his head and shifting his weight to see the cattle on either side of the car. Tika and Boost, in life, traveled maybe hundreds of times in the crates in the back of my car; now, I hardly take the new dogs anywhere, and yet I hear dogs resettling themselves in the crates as I drive.

These do not strike me as unhappy ghosts, just revisiting some pleasurable things before moving on.

[Repost from my Facebook page]

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Taking the Christmas Photo

SUMMARY: A photo essay on the challenges of a selfie in a tight space with badly trained dogs (reaping my own rewards).

Goal: Our upper torsos with nothing but tree behind us.

First, scouting out the camera position (and a little bit of focus and light/flash checking).

Too high; need the bottom of the tree in the frame. And center it.

Centered but too far away and too much floor.

Centered, floor is better.  Chip is helping [not].

Nope, from this position, I might have to edit out the white lampshade.

Move the camera to over here. Um. Not enough  floor showing for us to fit in front of the tree.

Moving camera back some more looks OK.

I plan to sit on a stool with dogs next to me because it's so hard for me to get down and up.  No, not facing this way, as my feet would be out in front.
Try my feet off to the side--doh,  the corner of the coffee table--and Darth-- are in the photo.   (Notice the remote control in my hand.)
Move the camera back to the left. Tighter fit, but Darth is now gone.
Photo check. --nah, I'll be higher than the dogs. And not enough tree showing behind me. Giving up on the stool.

Now I put a bag full of tacos on a shelf directly behind the camera to draw the dogs' attention. Oh, boy, does it. Thus begins the struggle where, in position on the floor, I can't move easily but must keep the dogs away from the tacos and sitting next to me. Both at the same time. Both facing the camera. NOT lying down.

Eventually they are securely grasped under my arms to keep them in position. FINALLY I can start clicking the remote. I try to reengage their interest in the tacos: "What's that? Do you want it?" Ah HA!-- merely doing a remote focus focuses their attention momentarily on the camera! A huge assist.

I choose the one that is most in focus and has all of us looking at the camera nicely. Some lighting adjustment and such, crop out everything I don't want (including my knee with the knee brace), and there it is.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

From Taj MuttHall, A Happy Christmas to All

SUMMARY: And to all a good night.

(This was one of the most physically demanding selfies I’ve taken in a while—with untrained dogs. Used a bag of tacos behind the camera to get their attention—you BET it got their attention. Thank goodness for remote controls and tripods).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Stalking Tiger

SUMMARY: In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the tiger sneaks tonight...

Cleverly disguising himself as a large wild predator, Luke sneaks up on an unsuspecting Chip.

(Darn it, I couldn't get the photo where it was all the way over his head like a cowl.  He had rolled around on it and when he stood up, it came with him.)

Neil Armstrong's Moon Suit

SUMMARY: My patch arrived!

You know how each NASA shuttle mission had its own patch? Well, I donated to the Smithsonian's fundraiser to get Neil Armstrong's moon-walk suit restored and displayed -- Reboot the Suit -- and this is my chosen reward!  Yayyy!  (And they made well more than their original request, so even more things will be preserved!)

Cleaning House

SUMMARY: I'm trying to be tough with myself.

I've been wading through my parents' (mostly my dads') collection of papers in file cabinets.  Inspires me to come home and try to get rid of Stuff.

Gritted my teeth and did it. Tossed 10 years of agility competition catalogs.

(What? You say but I competed for 19 years? Shhhhh.)

Luke is confounded at how someone could have that many catalogs. 
Chip is waiting a safe distance in case they decide to explode.

Puppy Environments for Fun and Learning

SUMMARY: I love how friends have set up their puppy enclosures.

If you want your litter of puppies to grow up being unafraid of different kinds of surfaces, things that make noise, things that wobble or movie under them of various stabilities, random objects of various sorts, what better thing to do than to fill their environment with that in mind?

One friend posted a video of her litter in their playground. So much fun to watch! (Puppies are about 4 weeks old here.)

Another posted a photo of the playground, ready to go as soon as soon as their little legs and eyes can get them moving. All kinds of mini teeters, tunnels, things that make noise, that roll, that can be climbed (a little bit), different surfaces, similar thing to what's in the video.  Lovely!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Looking Back -- Moving Tika to Performance

SUMMARY: The emotions are still so fresh.

I just read Nancy Gyse's latest blog post,  Endings and Beginnings.  It took me back to the summer of 2009.  Just wanted to capture my response here.

I went through the Performance-or-Championship decision with Tika when she was only 8–still running fast, still making jumps, no Early Take-Off (ETO), but was coming up sore more and more often during or right after a trial (not always–but enough to finally decide that it wasn’t just a random tweak, so went to the vet). Xrays confirmed that she had arthritis in her neck and lower back.

 I do watch my title counts, and I know that it would be better to not do so, but she seemed to love being out there with me and running and jumping like crazy and I LOVED watching her do the courses. I cried because, you know, “all my friends have their platinum ADCHs” and moving to Perf meant that I’d never ever get that on any other dog, because she was so good.

That was a personal thing, so true…but it also hurt because I was sure that this would just be temporary–if she had arthritis, she’d soon be done with agility completely, and I SO wasn’t ready for that.

She was only a few Qs away from silver, or had finished, in all the classes, so I moved her to Perf in each as she finished them.

The surprise benefit to me, then, was that, at that time, I stopped thinking so much about titles because I thought that she’d be completely done in only a few months. The surprise benefit to her was that she started running like a young dog again, didn’t get sore, and started pulling in Qs and ribbons against some pretty tough competition!

In fact, my other surprise benefit was that we blasted through all of the performance titles and were less than 20 Qs away from that coveted platinum when heart disease sidelined her suddenly at 11. I’d never dreamed she’d like that difference in height so much or that she’d be able to compete that long comfortably, as big as she was.

(So, even when I started caring about titles again, it was almost all pure fun because her Q rate became so high.)

I don’t really have much of a point, except that, yes indeed, I understand the feeling about it being a physical milestone that one doesn’t want to see because it means essentially that the dog is moving on towards being an old dog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tiny Miracles Happen: A Walk In the Morning With the Dogs

SUMMARY: No photos, just a note.

I took Handsome and the Beast (aka Chip and Luke) on a mile walk first thing this morning.  Got up out of bed. Got dressed and walked downstairs. Put on my windwall fleece and flannel-lined coat.  Leashed them up and out we went.

Once upon a time, this would have been normal for me, nothing even noteworthy.  Did it a lot. Used to do it nearly every day for many years.

Then The Spine Thing happened.  I haven't talked much about it here. Keep meaning to, but somehow it's hard to qualify.  But here's the thing:
  • Got up and out of bed. Without screaming in pain. Without pain. Without a twinge. Yeah, being careful (as my whole physical life is now, but that's OK and becoming habit). But no pain that made me have a second thought. 
  • Got dressed and walked downstairs.  For well over a year, walking downstairs and doing anything else without a warmup (hobbling to the exercycle and gradually increasing the pedaling as the pain eased over 10 minutes or so), then strengthening exercises and many stretches.  Then maybe I could tentatively sit and eat breakfast and then lie in wait for the assorted pain-controlling meds to fully kick in after an hour or so. Then maybe I could walk around and do some small chores.  
  • Leashed them up.  Haven't walked these 2 dogs much at all until very recently. Bending to put their harnesses on has, at times, been excruciating for my back, hence a deterrent. Also, they're not gentle on the leash and just a single tug in the wrong direction could put me back into agony & returning home for icing and stretching.  That I felt solid enough to try this with both of them amazes me.
  • Went for a walk.  There were a few months where simply doing that, with or without the dogs, was out of the question.  I worked on it when I could. Some days it was to the end of the cul de sac and back. Some days going out to get the paper was too much.   It wasn't perfect today, but we had a walk at a pretty normal clip and both of them tugged fairly often and I survived.  And I was able to bend to pick up the poops without much pain at all--this also has been a deterrent to me taking them out, because if I bent the wrong way, the blast of pain would knock me to the ground, and besides being potentially dangerous, it was embarrassing doing so in front of other walkers.
Still, walking has been easier  (that and lying down, which has always been OK) than standing still (e.g., for washing dishes) or sitting (e.g., for working), which are not as bad as they were, but remain problematic.

Yet--Today I did those walking things and felt pretty darned good.  I hope that this lull in The Spine Thing's progression will last.  I'm feeling content about all that this morning.  And the dogs loved being out and about.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Dogs Meet Art

SUMMARY: A surprise at yesterday's USDAA trial

Yesterday I went down to Morgan Hill (only half an hour from here) to work full time as a scribe (NOT as a score table person, how weird is that?!).

One of my [many] agility friends is an artist who creates pet portraits in pencil, pastels, and colored pencil and sells them at local trials.  A couple of people suggested that I go check out her Christmas ornaments and drawings.

I did. I looked at the drawings.

I cried.

It was perfect.

I didn't know that she was working on that. She did it from one of my favorite photos of Boost and Tika from the first month that Boost came to live here. And she was clever enough to fill in Tika's back where the actual photo cuts it off!

And guess whom I also found in the ornaments? Apparently Tracey does some paints, as well.

(Luke REALLY wanted to know what I had in my hand, so he had to be in the photo, too.)

Thanks, Tracey.

Contact Tracey at wildkelpies (@)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Simple Thoughts About Hard Things

SUMMARY: Simply written.

This is the year when everything changed.

Maybe not everything.

But it feels as if it were everything important.

My old dog who knew how to do the dog jumping and climbing game very well is gone. Because she was old and sick.

My younger dog who also knew how to do it very well suddenly became very, very sick with bad things growing inside her that killed her very, very quickly.

And both of these girls could walk and run without a six-foot holding thing between me and them and still be good girls.  And would come when called (mostly anyway). And knew how things worked in the world and loved to be out in the world and checking everything out. Now I have dogs who know or do none of these. And I miss my girls so much.

My father, whom I have known for more than half a hundred years--that is, my entire life--had bad things growing inside him, also, which also killed him quickly and also made him angry because, being human and not dog, he knew what was happening and didn't like it much.  And he knew so very very much that I can't even begin to say what.

The set of bones running down my back have decided to go in different directions than they should go and do other things that make the sensing-feeling things in my legs and back hurt so much that some days I can barely walk. Or sit. Or stand.  Lying down is usually pretty good and I like that part. But it's hard to do that and do any of the other things that I want to do--hard to do almost anything, in fact, when lying down.

So my dream of ending working for money and traveling the world and walking through and up and down many forests and hills and mountains and very dry places seems to be fading. And of taking photos of many creatures and places and things from many points of view such as lying down or on my knees or back seems to be fading. And of playing that dog jumping and climbing game until I turn eight times ten years old is fading. And also of staying in this house in this area for several more years until I have carefully thought things through seems like it cannot happen. Which means that I must be faster at getting rid of many of the many things in this house, and that is something that I find hard to do.

So. I am getting up every morning and doing the things that I must do and finding ways to still enjoy life and trying to slowly come to know the truth of my life and what I need to be doing within me, not just in my head.

These are all hard ideas to grab. And yet, in many ways, it is quite simple.  To help me think simply about it all, I have written this story-thing using this thing that helps people to write using only words from a simple word set*. It is hard to be simple.  Maybe that is why I feel so tired so often.  Trying hard to be keep things simple. Being simple is hard. And so many simple things are hard.


*I thank xkcd for creating this Simple Writer thing.   Here is a good one of his funny drawings that I think uses the simple words.

("The thrower started hitting the bats too much,  so the king of the game told him to leave and brought out another thrower from thrower jail.")

I have so many things to say to myself that I want to track--

SUMMARY: --and yet they stay in my head.

About my current dogs.

About my past dogs.

About my friends' dogs. Who are getting older as I'm not doing agility and not seeing them and their new dogs whom I don't recognize and whose names I don't know and I don't know what they're like. And

About agility and missing it and not missing it.

About pain and pain and pain, inside and out.  About still finding pleasure in life.

About back surgery being very likely in my very near future. And being very afraid.

About my dad who is gone. And still have no words.

About good friends and good times--I don't have many close friends, and I'm not excellent at staying in touch, but somehow we manage.

About Trail Watch Academy coming up and trying to walk 10,000 steps a day and seldom being able to do so.

About Disneyland! In 4 weeks and very excited because I love going there yet with trepidation because trips in January and May were excruciating.  But still wanting to go.

About truly feeling like I'm working towards being Old, not merely Older Than Before.

About beautiful weather and terrible drought and even with that, the survival of civilization with no zombies at all. So far.

About photography and loving it.

This was supposed to be my daily diary of my life with my dogs. Now it is just rather a personal version of Pinterest.

OK, I have another post to do, so on to that.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The pain is so big

SUMMARY: Time is passing but I don't know how

My pain and grief belie the calendar. Only yesterday my Merle Girls left me, the pain and grief are so big that they tell me this. Yet it has been 6 and 7 months, I realized suddenly just now.

I don't even know how to begin talking about my Dad's absence.

I am enjoying my life for the most part (except for the self-destructing spine pain issues), yet the knife still cuts deep and the tears explode, sobbing so much beyond mere weeping.

Now I'm joining friends for this evening for Cumberbatch's Hamlet. Drying my tears. Collecting my missing breath. Continuing.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015