Thursday, April 21, 2016

Childhood (and adult) Influences

SUMMARY: How did I end up with the breeds I did?

As a kid, I loved German Shepherds from Rin Tin Tin reruns and Lassie from, yeh, Lassie reruns. Hence, wanted:
  • A German Shepherd  (GSD)
  • A Collie
So my parents started getting me Albert Peyson Terhune books, which I read and reread (and it was his Grey Dawn that made me decide I wanted a blue merle when I grew up). So I wanted:
  • [Replacing "Colllie"] A blue merle Collie
I also read all the other dog fiction in the elementary school library (oddly, although I read all of Jim Kjelgaard's dog fiction, I did *not* decide I wanted an Irish Setter. Maybe because a neighbor down the street had one and although he was sweet, he was also a gangly doufus). Everyone knew they could get me a book about dogs or dog breeds as gifts and I'd be happy. I could list all the AKC breeds in each of the groups from memory. (Wish I'd known that non-AKC breeds even existed back then! Americans are so unaware of the other few hundred breeds out there!) So it was confirmed that I wanted:
  • A dog of any kind
When I was maybe in 5th grade, we got a big yellow Collie/Shepherd mix (who was more like a big yellow collie in coat and shape). She was really smart and a lot of fun.  Oddly, I didn't have any interest in training of any kind.  I'm pretty sure that that had *no* influence *whatsoever* on my interest in:
  • Big yellow mixed-breed dogs
Then when I was in college, I saw a Golden working on obedience practice at a local field and fell in love with Golden Retrievers. Talked with his human quite a bit. So I added Golden Retriever to my Big Three list (including a GSD and a blue merle Collie):
  • A Golden Retriever
 THEN I saw a border collie working and learned more about them and so of course I wanted one of THOSE, probably more than I wanted a Collie collie (my sister got a tricolor Collie collie. Very smart. Demonstrably of the Lassie Come-Home ilk. But ugh, those heads and huge huge coats). So I wanted a:
  • [Replacing "Blue merle Collie"] A blue merle Border Collie
And eventually learned about Aussies and loved them, too, but that was after I grew up and had my first 2 dogs already, but before I knew about dog agility. And my sister had one, a beautiful red merle, smart, too. So now I *also* wanted:
  • Blue merle Australian Shepherd
After I started agility and realized that *everyone* had Border Collies or Shelties or Goldens or Corgis or whatever, I realized the great value of mixed breeds, which is that they don't look like anyone else's dogs! So I wanted
  • Emphasis on mixed breeds
After all those exposures, I've had:
  • A big yellow shepherd/golden mix (knew the parents), so I got a twofer
  • a blue/gray husky (my ex's choice, but my colors!), 
  • a sheltie mix, 
  • another big yellow Shepherd mix, 
  • a blue merle Aussie/husky mix, 
  • a blue merle border collie, 
  • and now two random mixes that fit only that qualification. (One is supposed to be a tricolor BC mix. Other supposed to be a big yellow whippet mix. Not sure whether I believe either of those.) 
How about you?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Last night a year ago last night a year ago today

SUMMARY: Oh my little Booster. And everyone else.

This is not a happy post.

Today is Monday.

Saturday night I dreamed. I hurried from place to place in the yard and then out into the neighborhood and then back to the yard to places that I suddenly remembered existed there although they hadn't necessarily existed before, searching desperately, knowing she was gone but wanting to find her.

A year ago yesterday, I put together all the pieces that I had stupidly not realized the significance of and insisted that we had to see the vet TODAY. We saw the vet. Everything was completely normal as far as the vet could tell. Took blood and urine samples, and then we went home for the weekend.

In two weeks, she'll be dead.

Saturday night, I dreamed. I asked the neighbors if they had seen her. I said that she'd been looking for a place to hide away from everyone and it could be anywhere, any dark, quiet, out-of-the-way spot. I knew that she was gone, but I wanted to know where she was, even though it was too late.

A year ago in 48 hours from now, I learned that what the blood test found was that every indicator of a body in full destruction existed therein. All that we had left was to learn what it was that was killing her.

Yesterday, after dreaming, I woke up and cried and cried and cried.

A year and one month ago: Tika died.

A year and two weeks ago: Dad's cancer, thought to be in remission, the doc comes into the room and explains that it's determined to be stage 4 metastasized colon cancer. In several places in his body, liver, lungs, kidney...

Today I'm crying. Luke is trying to hug me.

Saturday night, I dreamed: I knew where Boost had hidden the last time she died, but she wasn't there, although I kept looking there over and over.

In two weeks, I tried to stay up with her all night, would doze off slightly and she'd be gone and I'd hurry outside to find her, and she'd be slowly, droopily, examining some dark hidden spot or other. I'd say her name, and her ears and head would come up, and she'd come back inside and lie down with me in the living room again.

In four days, the vet comes into the room and says, it's bad. It's the worst it could be. It's stage 4 metastasized cancer. In several places in her body. liver, lungs, kidney, lymph nodes...

A year and two weeks ago, Dad opted to try some mild chemotherapy, on the advice of his oncologist and doctor, since he had other issues that anything more intense his body likely couldn't handle.

A year and two weeks ago, Tika's ashes in their decorated wooden box are ready, and I bring her home again.

Saturday night, I dreamed: I kept looking at that little concrete pad under that little shelf next to the stairs, somewhere where neither the dogs nor I ever went, a cool spot out of the sun, away from the traffic and the activity of life.

I opted not to try to treat Boost. It was so advanced and her blood count so low that simply doing a biopsy could kill her. And I'd been through Remington's cancer. And yet, when a tiny glimmer of hope arises, in six days, I take her to the specialists on the chance that they might have some other news. But they don't.

In about 2 months, my dad is so miserable with the chemo side effects, and there's so little indication that it's doing anything, that he elects to stop treatment. He is adamant that he won't die at home. He doesn't want to be a burden to his family and he doesn't want them to see him die. We'd be fine with both, but he isn't. There are no options, however.

In two weeks, when I doze off near morning, she goes to that concrete pad that I'm now seeing empty in my dream, away from the traffic and noise and the responsibilities to people who love her, and slips away, alone and on her own terms.

Four months from yesterday, after a 911 emergency call involving the dying body giving up its blood, the ambulance took Dad to the hospital just for overnight, because the in-patient hospice unit had a bed for him and would be able to check him in there in the morning. The emergency room doc agreed to admit Dad with just the care of keeping him comfortable and out of pain until the morning, not to treat beyond that, per his own signed wishes. We tell Dad, although pretty sure that he can't hear us or understand us or even knows that we're there, that we'll be back in the morning.

In the living room, in two weeks I fall asleep from exhaustion even though I'm trying trying trying to stay up because I know that she's dying, I know it, and maybe today. I don't know why I want to be with her at the end, but I do, I don't want her to be alone ever. And the vet is coming in the morning to help her out of her pain. And she has a different idea.

At home, in fourth months I fall asleep easily for the first time in weeks, knowing that he won't die at home and that that was his wish, since I'd been afraid he'd die at home and I had known that it was coming, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, but we were out of time. At one in the morning, while we slept at home, the call comes. In his quiet hospital bed, away from the traffic and noise and the responsibilities to people who love him, he slips away, alone and on his own terms.

Tika, Boost, Dad. It has been a hard year for me and this past week began pummelling me in all the raw places that have barely begun thinking about a start on healing.

In two weeks the vet will come and take Boost away for cremation. In four months the mortuary will come and take Dad away for cremation. Tika's ashes are already on my shelf with Jake and Remington.

In a year, I will remember everything, all the details, all the sounds and expressions and suffering and release, and it will be today, and I will be crying because it's only yesterday.

Saturday I dreamed, and even awake, it's so hard.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Keeping Up With Oscar

SUMMARY: Which Oscar-nominated films have I managed to see so far?

I'll get back to the hummer babies (2 of them, so far so good), but for now, there's this. I don't watch the Oscar show, but I do look for movies that are presumably of high quality in one area or another.  Hence, I do try to catch the nominees, when they come out, that I haven't already seen.

How's your Oscar-nominated-movie watching doing this year?


** = Those I have NOT seen as of Feb 28 ‘16
(Winners are first in each list)
  • Best Picture
    -----------------
    Spotlight – Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, an  Blye Pagon Faust 
    The Big Short – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner
    Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, and Kristie Macosko Krieger
    Brooklyn – Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey
    Mad Max: Fury Road – Doug Mitchell and George Miller
    The Martian – Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, and Mark Huffam
    The Revenant  – Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent, and Keith Redmon
    Room – Ed Guiney

    Best Director
    -------------------
    Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant 
    Adam McKay – The Big Short
    George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
    Lenny Abrahamson – Room
    Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

    Best Actor
    ---------------
    Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant as Hugh Glass
    Bryan Cranston – Trumbo as Dalton Trumbo
    Matt Damon – The Martian as Mark Watney
    Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs as Steve Jobs
    Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe

    Best Actress
    -----------------
    Brie Larson – Room as Joy "Ma" Newsome
    Cate Blanchett – Carol as Carol Aird
    Jennifer Lawrence – Joy as Joy Mangano
    Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years as Kate Mercer
    Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn as Eilis Lacey

    Best Supporting Actor
    -----------------

    Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies as Rudolf Abel
    Christian Bale – The Big Short as Michael Burry
    Tom Hardy – The Revenant as John Fitzgerald
    Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight as Michael Rezendes
    Sylvester Stallone – Creed as Rocky Balboa

    Best Supporting Actress
    -----------------

    Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl as Gerda Wegener
    Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight as Daisy Domergue
    Rooney Mara – Carol as Therese Belivet
    Rachel McAdams – Spotlight as Sacha Pfeiffer
    Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs as Joanna Hoffman


    Best Original Screenplay
    -------------------

    Spotlight – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
    Bridge of Spies – Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen
    ** Ex Machina – Alex Garland
    Inside Out – Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen
    ** Straight Outta Compton – Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus

    Best Adapted Screenplay
    -------------------

    The Big Short – Adam McKay and Charles Randolph from The Big Short by Michael Lewis
    Brooklyn – Nick Hornby from Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
    Carol – Phyllis Nagy from The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
    The Martian – Drew Goddard from The Martian by Andy Weir
    Room – Emma Donoghue from Room by Emma Donoghue

    Best Animated Feature Film
    -------------------

    Inside Out – Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
    Anomalisa – Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, and Rosa Tran
    ** Boy & the World – Alê Abreu
    ** Shaun the Sheep Movie – Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
    ** When Marnie Was There – Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

    Best Foreign Language Film
    -------------------

    ** Son of Saul (Hungary) in Hungarian – László Nemes  (It's still in theaters, has been on my list, and I'm hoping to catch it this week)
    ** Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia) in Spanish – Ciro Guerra
    ** Mustang (France) in Turkish – Deniz Gamze Ergüven
    ** Theeb (Jordan) in Arabic – Naji Abu Nowar
    ** A War (Denmark) in Danish – Tobias Lindholm

    Best Documentary – Feature
    -------------------

    ** Amy – Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
    ** Cartel Land – Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
    ** The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
    ** What Happened, Miss Simone? – Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby, and Justin Wilkes
    ** Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom – Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

    Best Documentary – Short Subject
    -------------------

    A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
    Body Team 12 – David Darg and Bryn Mooser
    Chau, Beyond the Lines – Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
    Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah – Adam Benzine
    Last Day of Freedom – Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman

    Best Live Action Short Film
    -------------------

    Stutterer – Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage
    Ave Maria – Eric Dupont and Basil Khalil
    Day One – Henry Hughes
    Everything Will Be Okay – Patrick Vollrath
    Shok – Jamie Donoughue

    Best Animated Short Film
    -------------------

    Bear Story – Pato Escala Pierart and Gabriel Osorio Vargas
    Prologue – Imogen Sutton and Richard Williams
    Sanjay's Super Team – Nicole Paradis Grindle and Sanjay Patel
    We Can't Live Without Cosmos – Konstantin Bronzit
    World of Tomorrow – Don Hertzfeldt

    Best Original Score
    -------------------

    The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
    Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
    Carol – Carter Burwell
    ** Sicario – Jóhann Jóhannsson
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams

    Best Original Song
    -------------------

    "Writing's on the Wall" from Spectre – Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith
    "Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey – Music and Lyric by Ahamad Balshe (Belly), Stephan Moccio, Jason "Daheala" Quenneville, Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd)
    ** "Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction – Music by J. Ralph, Lyric by Antony Hegarty
    ** "Simple Song #3" from Youth – Music and Lyric by David Lang
    ** "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground – Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren

    Best Sound Editing
    -------------------

    Mad Max: Fury Road – Mark A. Mangini and David White
    The Martian – Oliver Tarney
    The Revenant – Martin Hernández and Lon Bender
    ** Sicario – Alan Robert Murray
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Matthew Wood and David Acord

    Best Sound Mixing
    -------------------

    Mad Max: Fury Road – Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, and Ben Osmo
    Bridge of Spies – Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Drew Kunin
    The Martian – Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, and Mac Ruth
    The Revenant – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom, and Chris Duesterdiek
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson

    Best Production Design
    -------------------

    Mad Max: Fury Road – Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson
    Bridge of Spies – Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich, and Adam Stockhausen
    The Danish Girl – Michael Standish and Eve Stewart
    The Martian – Celia Bobak and Arthur Max
    The Revenant – Jack Fisk and Hamish Purdy

    Best Cinematography
    -------------------

    The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
    Carol – Ed Lachman
    The Hateful Eight – Robert Richardson
    Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
    ** Sicario – Roger Deakins

    Best Makeup and Hairstyling
    -------------------

    Mad Max: Fury Road – Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin
    The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
    The Revenant – Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman, and Robert Pandini

    Best Costume Design
    -------------------

    Mad Max: Fury Road – Jenny Beavan
    Carol – Sandy Powell
    Cinderella – Sandy Powell
    The Danish Girl – Paco Delgado
    The Revenant – Jacqueline West

    Best Film Editing
    -------------------

    Mad Max: Fury Road – Margaret Sixel
    The Big Short – Hank Corwin
    The Revenant – Stephen Mirrione
    Spotlight – Tom McArdle
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

    Best Visual Effects
    -------------------

    ** Ex Machina – Mark Williams Ardington, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris, and Andrew Whitehurst
    Mad Max: Fury Road – Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams, and Tom Wood
    The Martian – Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, Richard Stammers, and Steven Warner
    The Revenant – Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, and Cameron Waldbauer
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Paul Kavanagh, and Neal Scanlan

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mama Bird is Back!

SUMMARY: The hummer love story continues

Mama hummingbird is back in her nest again this year. How exciting is that? Yes, very exciting.  The only scary part is that she's in the same nest that kept dumping the baby birds (well--twice) and it was only through sheer luck that I saw them and replaced them. (See last year's Saga Part 1 -- guess I should fill in part 2. I never got back to it when various life tragedies started happening here. ... later the same day, finished part 2 and part 3. There are now links at the end of Part 1!)

Looks like she's done some intense rebuilding, but still, the fact remains that it's essentially attached to one wire.

We'll see how this goes!

See her wayyyy up there? No?



She's there!


Mind Your Pees. And Pee Cues.

SUMMARY: Pee wars.

Oooooohhhhhh noooooo there seem to be Pee Wars going on in my house.

All of a sudden every time I turn around in the house someone is raising his leg or someone's leg is already down and there's a puddle/spray or I'm finding a place where someone's leg has been raised. I mean, almost literally.  Five times in the previous 2 days!  And several times in the last week or so.

Which means time with rags and/or paper towels, my small carpet cleaner, and Nature's Miracle--over and over and over and over. Really?

What's with this?!?!?! Guess I'm going to have to go back to puppy handling with BOTH supposedly adult supposedly house trained dogs: Take them outside when they wake up. After they've been playing. After they've eaten. And so on. What a pain in the butt. I don't remember this ever happening with Jake and Remington!

This morning I made an effort to go outside with the dogs right after any of those occasions. Luke peed exactly once that I could see, first thing in the morning after he'd been outside for about 5 minutes.

I walked him around the yard about 3 other times for 10 minutes at a time, and nuthin'. Even with Chip wandering around cooperatively peeing on things in front of us to give Luke a hint.  Since they do have free access to the yard, and he has been out on his own, I'm hoping that this means this isn't going to happen inside today.

Several friends suggested belly bands.  Like these: Male Wrap/Dog Belly Band. Will have to give them a try.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Grief

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, Chewy.com, 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

Ghosts

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.