Monday, July 30, 2007

Simpsagility

SUMMARY: Convert yourself to a Simpson; I did, and you can, too!


Here I am (and Tika and Boost) converted to Simpsons in our very own Simpson kitchen. Compare and contrast with an actual photo (not the one I used for the Simpsonizer).





You, too, can simpsonize yourself from a photo. Warning: Over the weekend, I tried forever and waited forever and had all kinds of problems with the interface. This morning, it took me only a few minutes. Not sure whether that's because (a) this morning was a better time, (b) they upgraded their servers because it's been so popular, or (c) I used Safari instead of Netscape. (Don't be surprised if there's no real magic involved...I did a lot of customization using their tools after their initial scan to really make it look more like me. I don't know how much the photo really had to do with it!)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Readers and Albuquerque Residents

SUMMARY: Daniel Abraham's next book is out in September.

I make a plug for it here, with links to info on an Albuquerque signing.

Boost's CPE Weekend

SUMMARY: Spookiness, pesky jumps, and weaves.

Last weekend, Boost Qed 4 of 5 on Saturday and things were lookin' good.

On Sunday, she Qed in only 2 and spooked on 3 of her runs, and I don't really know what triggered the spooked episodes, although they were just like the previous 2 weeks in class, where she had done the same thing. I noticed that the wind had come up each time. But whether it's only that--goodness knows, she's been around wind--or a combination of that and general insecurity, or of needing to go potty, I don't know. And I throw in the nonwind choices because: This weekend, it seemed that each spooked episode was right after a hard calloff or a big mistake. And, although I try not to be negative, when she blasts past a set of weaves and I bring her back to try again, I know that she knows that that was incorrect.

AND, being an insane working dog, she doesn't want to take the time to empty her bowels while we're out in the field; she wants to PLAY! and even if I withhold play, she has the patience to sniff around only a few seconds and then ASK to play again. Or go check out what someone else is doing. The world is FULL of things that are far more fascinating than pooping! After the third spooked run, she finally did #2 immediately, and it was obvious that she had been holding it for a VERY long time.

So--wind with unusual smells, plus stress on course, plus needing to poop? I dunno. She'd just go into her danger/alert barking, semipanicked ears back, tail down. She didn't even know what she was barking AT. Tried the judge, tried the people next to the ring, tried something off in the distance that I couldn't figure out what.

I have visions of Hobbes the Wonder Baby, 2 years old and in the lead in the GP finals (2001?), going into a tunnel 2 jumps from the end of the course and never coming out.

OK, but about those weaves and serpentines:

  • Sat Full House (Q, 1st, and highest score of all 142 dogs competing! (Tika 2nd highest)) 2 sets of 6 not quite straight on, perfectly. But ran past a jump at a slight distance off the line from Aframe to tunnel.

  • Sat Colors (Q and 1st of 12 dogs; 2nd fastest of 75 level 3/4/5/C): don't remember whether there were weaves; no probs with jumps.

  • Sat Jumpers (Q but no place), no weaves, but ran past two jumps on a plain vanilla serpentine and then did several refusals at a straight-on jump with a sharp turn afterwards.

  • Sat Snooker (no Q), didn't try weaves in opening and I forgot what I was doing for an early offcourse.

  • Sat Jackpot (Q, 1st, and 6th highest of all 146 dogs (Tika 7th)): Don't remember whether there were weaves. Ran past a jump slightly off the line from tire to tunnel.

  • Sun Jackpot (no Q or place): Went into a tunnel and popped back out as I beat feet in a nother direction. HOW can she blast into a tunnel at 100 mph and do a U-turn like that??? Weaves in the gamble, but she came in to me instead of seeing them. When I finally got her to settle at my side instead of dancing around, she SENT 15 feet straight out to the weaves, made a perfect entrance, and completed them nicely (but over time).

  • Sun Jumpers (no Q): Didn't run past anything, but knocked one bar early, then after a hard calloff she spooked before the next-to-the-last jump and was looking over her shoulder when she jumped it and knocked it.

  • Sun Snooker (Q, 1st): weaves were #6 and we approached them only in the closing, she ran past them completely and then spooked; I did finally get her back and through them, but that meant that we were out of time before doing #7. We did Q, though.

  • Sun Colors (No Q): A very sharp angle into the weaves (about the same as sending her to the Jackpot weaves from 15 feet back), and she ran full speed through the first pole, out the other side, and went into spooked mode. I actually had to touch her, finally, to get her attention.

  • Sun Wildcard (Q, 3rd): Weaves last obstacle; she entered perfectly, did a couple, then popped out. But at least no spooked dog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hairy Petter Returns

SUMMARY: 2005 holiday letter revisited.

For those who missed it, and in honor of the release of the final Harry Potter book, here's the original cover of the U.S. version of one of the Potter books and as it appeared for my 2005 holiday letter. Click here to download the PDF version containing the complete text of the Hairy Petter novel.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On The Road

SUMMARY: The joys of being on the road.


On the Road Again


I love traveling. Don't do nearly enough of it. Not too keen on getting up at 4:15 in the morning, but during midsummer, the sky is starting to lighten by the time I hit the road, so there are beautiful things to see, and interesting things, and strange things. The world is full of entertainment. Don't see how so many people can stay at home and sit in front of the TV! (It's so long between my TV/satellite uses that I forget how it works. Really.)

On the way to and from Petaluma, I typically go up the east side of San Francisco Bay--along I-880 to a brief stint on I-80 to I-580 across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and finally up 101.


Morning fogbank in Petaluma valley, sunrise touching the low-lying clouds with orange fingers.
Our three-ring trial was set up just inside the Fairgrounds entrance. The morning began bright and sunny.

In all my years of traveling, don't recall ever seeing such a sign.

Souped-up Infineon cow. Not sure how I managed to make it blurry; I was stopped at a stop sign. Clever camera might have been focusing on my windshield instead.

If you're comfortable driving across very long bridges, the R/SR bridge gives great views looking out at the Bay and a couple of tiny, steep islands alongside. North of San Rafael, it's lovely rolling countryside, cattle being the main "crop". On Saturday, coming over a rise nearing Petaluma, I could see a low bank of fog hovering over a section of the valley.

On Saturday, the trial site was completely out of the fogbank, but on Sunday we had some light fog, which kept it cooler much later in the day.

Saturday evening, four of us went to dinner at Panda Express and then two of us ducked into Coldstone Creamery for a very decadent dessert. I had the Chocolate Devotion with raspberry sorbet instead of chocolate ice cream. MMmmmm!

I spent the night at Chez Bruce (a friend's place) about half an hour from the site. In the early morning, I drove back across gleaming wetlands and flat, mostly rural countrysides and towns. The most interesting aspects of this drive (which I have reported on in previous posts but not previously photographed) were the souped-up psychedelic cow on the Infineon Raceway sign, and the interesting Falling Trees warning at the beginning of a eucalyptus-lined stretch of highway.

Have Camera, Will...Wait! Where's Camera?


Sunday evening, I agreed to take one judge to dinner and then to the airport (SFO). We stopped in Novato at Sizzler (yeah, we really treat our judges upscale ;-) ) for dinner and then joined the 3-mile queue of stop-and-go traffic to get across the Golden Gate Bridge, not my usual route home. The traffic was tedious at that point, but at least the conversation was good. And then--we were presented with the most beautiful, most astonishingly stunning photo op that I've just about ever been presented with, and because (a) I had had my camera out at the last minute taking photos of Tika's ribbons, (b) I had packed in a bit of a rush to get the judge on the road, (c) everything got piled in the back rather than my usual cameras-in-the-front-seat loading, I realized that both of my cameras were underneath a bunch of gear in the back and there wasn't much of a chance at all of digging one out.
Someone else's photo; similar fog and lighting to what we saw.

Another photo from someone else. This is much closer to our vantage and view, but with lighting closer to the previous photo. Sighhhh...


What we saw was the near of the Bridge's towers, already that famous bronze gold, lit full on from *our* side by the setting sun so that it fairly radiated orange gold as if lit from inside. Not only that, but the evening fog was rolling in--indeed, racing in through the Golden Gate from the Pacific, roiling between the two towers, so that our tower was completely visible, but the top of the other tower peered just above the pure white of the living fog. And, stopping and going on the approach to the bridge, we had the perfect--PERFECT!--view of it all. And I had no way to record that view except in my head.

To make it worse--people all around us had their cameras and (probably) photo cell phones out and were snapping photos, to tell you how unusual a sight it was. Consider the odds of getting a photo op like this: It has to be midsummer, when the sun is far enough north to light the northern side of the tower; it has to be just the right 20 minutes or so around sunset; the fog has to be coming in but only *between* the towers, and *below* the tops; and you have to be in stop-and-go traffic so that you can actually get a picture of it.

And me with no camera.

I spent half an hour searching the web for a photo of what we saw, and found nothing quite like it. There were plenty from the top of the Marin headlands, up to our right-hand side, where we saw dozens and dozens of hikers making their way to the standard stunning vantage point for that sunset view. Most of the photos of the Golden Gate bridge are taken from that viewpoint. Here's a search on Yahoo of "Golden Gate Bridge fog" photos that you can browse at your leisure. All the ones from above and to the right are from that upper viewpoint. But almost none from the roadway, and none at all with our view. So I had to borrow two to try to convey our experience.

Anyway--I love to travel!

Do I Ever Learn? And Tika's Foot Fetish

SUMMARY: Say the dog's name, not "come". And watch those feet.

How long have I been doing agility? How long does it take things to sink in?

At the NAF USDAA trial in June, I reported the following incidents with Tika:
...in the Standard on a place where I knew there was an off-course possibility, I yelled "Come!" and when she wasn't coming, I yelled "Come!" louder and she still went off course. I know better than that! Especially after telling my teammates during the walk-through to use their dogs' names!

...then, in the Jumpers course, where I knew there was an off-course possibility, I yelled "Come" really loudly and then when she didn't, I yelled "Come!" even louder and she still went off course.

But here's the worst part. While looking for a post about when Tika first grabbed my feet in competition, I found this from April of 2003:
...P3 gamblers: Dag nabbit--[Jake] carried out *too* far and didn't come in when I said "come come come come COME!"

As for an actual post about when Tika first grabbed my foot in competition and I took a head dive because it came out of the blue...it must have been during the couple of months immediately preceding and following Remington's death, because there are no mentions of it before that (and she was just starting to compete then, anyway), but lots of mentions after that. You can read one typical post from June, 2003.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Perfect Weekends History and Full House

SUMMARY: Hmm, I *have* had perfect weekends before. But not this perfect, and no awards for them.

I double-checked my records, and Remington in fact got 8 out of 8 in a CPE trial two months before he was first visibly sick from cancer. But, back then, they were giving High In Trial awards, not Perfect Weekend awards, he was only 2nd high in trial, so I felt more like a loser than a winner. (And only 3 of those 8 were firsts.)

Then Tika got 6 out of 6 at a CPE trial in February '03 at her second-ever trial of any kind...all at Level 1, which has no weave poles or teeters and are pretty basic courses. Two of the runs had 5 faults. And only 5 of the 6 were firsts. :-) But, true to Tika form, even then she had the most points in Full House of all 126 dogs entered, and the fastest time of all 75 dogs who ran the same Jumpers course.

I *like* doing Full House with my fast dogs! It's essentially a Gambler's point-accumulation period with no gamble. In other words, there are no faults, and you can make your own course from start to finish. So fast dogs who can do contacts and weaves can have an absolute ball.

In the 29 Full Houses that Tika has entered (and that I bothered making notes about), she's been first of all dogs entered at least 3 times, 2nd 8 times, 3rd 4 times, 4th 2 times. If you take out the small dogs--who get 5 seconds more, which could be at least another 2 tunnels (6 points) or the equivalent for us--that moves her up to 1st at least 12 times, 2nd at least another half a dozen times. You can see why I like it. :-)

And you can also see why some 3-dog DAM teams in USDAA like to have a small dog on their team: In USDAA, small dogs also get more time than big dogs in the point-accumulation games, so a team with fast small dogs could, in theory, beat a team with all big dogs just during those few extra seconds.

Perfect Dog, Imperfect Handler

SUMMARY: Tika has an outstanding weekend despite her handler.



Well, on my 180th weekend of agility--averaging almost 2 dogs per weekend (so that's 360 dog-weekends)--we finally had a perfect weekend, and I have the ribbbons to prove it. That's 10 out of 10 Qs for Tika. As icing on the cake, she also hit 10 out of 10 first places.

In all fairness, I have to point out two things. First, three other dogs out of the 225 competing had perfect-Q weekends (10 out of 10). (I don't know whether they were all first places. )

However, this is CPE, where you can Q with faults until you get to Level C (Championship), where you must run clean and you must have the highest number of points of any level. Tika is one of only two of that group who did it in Level C (the other being another long-time Bay Teamer and sometime classmate with her second sheltie, Jagger Glantz).

Second, for most of the weekend, Tika had no other direct competitors in her height and level, so a first was a given if we didn't get a No Time (same as elimination in other venues). However, let me say all of this about that:

(Note 1: Handling issues are for my own reminders; they're important because these flaws matter immensely in whether we place or merely Q in USDAA.) (Note 2: Comparisons are versus other dogs who had the same course layout, so the number varies by class.)
  • Full House Saturday: Second highest points of 142 dogs. (The only one who beat her was...Boost. A great way to start the weekend!)
  • Colors Saturday: 6th fastest of 75 dogs. That's after I managed to pull her past one jump (overcorrecting for a mistake I made with Boost) and we had to back up to get over it. (CPE has no refusals or runouts.)
  • Jumpers Saturday:6th fastest of 60 dogs; of the 5 faster, 3 were within half a second of us. But Roxy the border collie was 2 (!) seconds faster. Tika had 3 very wide turns, meaning that I wasn't telegraphing the turns well, and she actually slipped and fell on two of them, so I was overcalling in an emergency situation, where she gamely turned as fast as she possibly could on slick, drying grass.
  • Snooker Saturday: Not a stellar round. I didn't do a comparison. In the opening, I tried a risky pull-through to #5 but she missed the pull-through and took #2, for 3 fewer total points. It was tricky course and I don't know how many dogs Qed, so she was probably up there, but not at the top.
  • Jackpot Saturday:7th highest points of 146 dogs (Boost was 6th :-) ), but 3 of the higher-scoring dogs were 12" dogs, who get 5 more seconds. Bah. One of the other two big dogs beat us by only a point--if I had handled my wide turns (there they are again) more neatly, we were half a second away from another 3 points. But...Wren Obermiller, that other lovely fast young border collie (Boost's age) had 9 (!!!) more points.
  • Jackpot Sunday: Highest score of 180 dogs.
  • Jumpers Sunday: 2nd fastest of 58 dogs. Dang wide turns again, including a couple of hard calloffs indicating that I wasn't signalling well once more.
  • Snooker Sunday: 7th of 72 dogs; we were one of 15 dogs who got the maximum 51 points but others had faster times. LOTS of hard call-offs on this one, and she started visibly slowing, so I think she was getting disheartened because she'd be blasting towards something at top speed and I'd call her off. Another sign that I'm not telegraphing turns correctly, because actually our path had a flow to if I could have communicated it better.
  • Colors Sunday: Fastest of 75 dogs.
  • Wildcard Sunday:3rd fastest of 79 dogs. I think it was a pretty good run, but it was our last run of a long, warm weekend and I was as nervous about this run as about my championship runs or Super-Q runs. I was very aware that we had 9 Qs and 9 1st behind us and only this run--and keeping the bars up, because the course itself was simple for us--stood between us and a Perfect Weekend.

(I'll come back later and cover spooky Boost and the weekend in general.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jigsaw/Agility Fans

SUMMARY: Another time waster

Now, I don't want you all getting bored while I'm away all weekend, so here's something for you to do (if your computer will let you--click the thing to mix and solve):

Click to Mix and Solve

If that doesn't work, try going here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Weave Poles and Writing

SUMMARY: Boost good in class today, except dang weaves; my fiction-writing past intrudes

Today in class I felt as if Boost and I were really in synch, going around the courses. Not quite as much as Tika and I did on the same ones last night--Tika is running so nicely!--but better than at many other times. But today, ta-da, Boost was popping out at #10 in the weave again. Argh! We shall see what happens this weekend.

Last night in class, Ashley was avoiding putting Luka over the dogwalk because he's retraining for a running contact (which they already have on the Aframe). This made me feel SO lazy about STILL not having dealt with Tika's dogwalk-up problem that I went out and bought some pool noodles (to use as spacers), and this afternoon I set up my video camera to film her doing about a dozen dogwalks to see whether I can see a pattern. (Don't know where to try forcing her stride if I don't know what she's already doing.) Unfortunately, my battery died before I could look at more than just a couple. So...maybe next week.

For some reason, my writing past has been popping up in the last couple of weeks. I'm trying to ignore it. Too much to do. But I couldn't resist this indulgence.

No, Me Go!

SUMMARY: In which Boost won't take a treat but nearly takes my hand off.

Last Thursday's class found Boost almost over the top, after no class for the preceding two weeks and no agility trials (just the Fun Match) to really take the edge off.

When she did her first Aframe, and it was a really nice 2o/2o contact, I ducked in to hand her a nummy treat, and she just ignored me, staring straight ahead. Nancy calls this the "No, me go!" behavior, which makes me laugh. Me have brain, me use brain simple thoughts, me Border Collie, me no eat--me go! So I have to insist, "No, you take treat!"--that she take the reward I'm offering to emphasize that (a) I'm scripting the show (b) it is a reward, dammit. Then she takes it realllllllly slowly, barely moving her head, eyes fixated straight ahead. I have no idea whether she's swallowed it.

She will, however, always take a toy reward. (Such as playing tug-o-war while holding her rear feet on the contact.) She LOVES her toy reward. She will go NUTS for a toy reward. I need to go back to rewarding her (with a toy & play) for taking treat rewards, since I need the option of using either in different situations.

(In the early part of that class, she panicked about something. We never did figure out what it was. Lasted about 10 minutes. Eventually calmed down and went back to work.)

Fast forward to last night. After Tika's class, I was beat and my knee was acting up, but Puppy had been in her crate for almost 2 hours and as usual I try to get her out just to do a couple of tunnels and weaves before Lights Out on Power Paws field and we head home for another half hour in the car. She was, once again, over the top. (She puts up quite a fuss in the car at times during Tika's class. I keep trying to leave the door open but eventually have to close it to shut her up or at least mute the noise.)

I did a wee bit of warm up, then led out and put her through a chute to practice calling her into a sharp turn after coming through the fabric. She went wide, but did come in to my right side and I rewarded her with the Riot Tug from my right hand. Don't remember whether I kept the toy in my hand or threw it, but I think I threw it. Now, repeat, with the intention this time of continuing to the weaves. She blasts out of the chute, turns sharply to come in towards my right side, and I step forward with right arm and leg (toy clenched in right hand) towards the weaves, and she came past at 90 miles an hour and snapped onto my hand. The pain--was tremendous--

She didn't keep holding--in fact I think I heard her teeth snap shut as she landed about 5 feet beyond me, but I was way too overwhelmed to really think about it. A couple of classmates came running over--from the far side of the field, they had heard a snap and thought it was my knee again. I thought maybe she'd broken my hand, but then realized I could move it fine, and in fact had barely even broken the skin in one spot. But it still really hurt. A little bump raised just under the skin, so I thought she'd broken a blood vessel.

They thought I should ice my hand; were afraid that I had broken it anyway and not realized it, but by the time I left a few minutes later, I could use my Monty Python voice to assure them it was only a flesh wound.

But this morning there's almost no pain at all, and just a little lump, right on top of the tendon going to my middle finger. I'm thinking that she must have hit directly on a nerve for it to hurt so much at the time and yet have so little to show for it the next day.

Dang toy-motivated dogs. Well, it IS darker on the field than she's used to, and she probably couldn't see very clearly...and she LOVES her toy reward...

Anyway, class today, we'll see how she does with everything.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Finally, Some Competition

SUMMARY: CPE this weekend

It's our club's CPE trial this weekend, up in Petaluma. That's almost a 2-hour drive, so I'll be spending the night up in that neighborhood. A friend has kindly offered to let me stay at her place, about 20 minutes from the site.

I and the dogs both need the weekend. Really, I don't know what to do with my beasts when we're not doing agility!

The weather has been weird so far this summer. Seems as if it has been quite humid along with warm, which isn't normally the case in this part of California. Of course, my body-temperature regulators have been on the fritz, too, so some of it could just be me. Dogs don't care much. It's just a matter of whether they return the tossed toy more often directly to me or more often directly into the shade.

This morning it looked like rain. They said that, if it managed to summon up at least 1/100 inch, it would be the first rain ever recorded in San Jose on July 18. (Well, so they've been recording only about 70 years, go figure.) But the overcast has burned away and it looks nothing like rain weather at the moment.

But I feel like I need to stand in the yard and run the hose over my head. I am hot and goopy. Yuck. Claims to be barely 80 F outside--77 inside since it never got much below 70 overnight to cool the house down. Dogs are lying around panting. Me too.

Oooh, yeah, Accuweather.com reports current humidity at 46%! That is so not normal for around here unless it's foggy. At least, I think not. I'd expect more like mid-20s. OK, gotta go perspire a little more.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Team Names

SUMMARY: The fun thing about doing 3-dog Team Tournaments

The three-dog Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team tournament isn't offered all that often, because it requires five classes--none of which are qualifying for normal titles--which is pretty much an entire day of competition. However, it is a qualifier for one of the three main Nationals events, and now your Championship title requires that you earn at least one of those DAM[n] qualifiers. So it's being offered much more often than it used to be.

One fun thing about it is that, unlike any other event, you get to create a team name that reflects yourselves, your dogs, your attitudes, your cleverness, or anything else that you want it to reflect. That's not to say that it's not perfectly OK to name your team after your dogs--e.g., "Fluffy, Fido, and Fang" if those are your dogs. Some people do that. But the rest of us spend weeks agonizing over just the right clever name, which NO one will ever pay any attention to except us, and maybe the trial secretary as she types it into the database.

For our Labor Day trial, Boost is on a team with her sister Bette; our third is Maiya, whose name is Klingon for "friend". So we are Sisters on a Star Trek.

Tika and Brenn are teaming once again; last DAM trial and for Labor Day with different dogs, but both border collies. In other words, our team has two Border Collies plus Tika, my famous Aussie[probably]. And we all have our issues with, say, dogs flying off contacts or grabbing our feet or such. So we are Borderin' on K-Aus. (Say it out loud.) (Thanks, Gwen, for the name.)

I just got email from a friend whose teeny tiny dog is on a team with another teeny tiny dog (toy dogs would be the correct terminology) and a very large Border Collie named Fleet. They debated Fleet plays with toys, but finally agreed on Gulliver's Travels (because they have two Lilliputians and a Brobdingnagian).

More Old Team Names


All my old team names that I've been able to glean so far. Seem to be missing some trial info for at least 3 trials that I know we did Team in (and I save EVERYthing, so I wonder where it all is?).

  • Sept '01: Dream Weavers (Jake, Haley, and Mysti: We wore shirts with photos of our dogs doing the weave poles)
  • Sept '01(?): BT Cruisers (because we're from the Bay Team; after the newly introduced PT Cruiser; Boomer, Spike, and Remington)
  • April '03: Sound and Furry (Tika, who runs quietly, and Tally Ho! and Squeeze, aussies who bark while running)
  • Sept '04: AT&T (Annie, Tika, and Trane)
  • April '05: No Ex-Qs ("No Excuse" and "Qs" for qualifying scores) (Tika, Spike and Magoo)
  • Sept '05: Got Legs? (three very tall, long-legged dogs: Tika, Haley, and Jasmine)
  • Nationals '05: G'Day Bayou (Tika the Australian Shepherd, JJ the Australian Cattle Dog, and CateE the Catahoula Leopard Dog)
  • April '06: Aussie Skeetering on the Border (Tika the Aussie, Skeeter, and Brenn the Border Collie)
  • May '06: Two Stars and A Little Sparkle (Tika, Brenn, Sparkle--although Sparkle was replaced before the event so I don't know what name we actually ended up using. Something like "Last Minute Substitution")
  • Sept '06: Three's a Charm (Tika, Brenn, Skeeter; this was Tika & Brenn's third try at a Q after failing the previous 2 times, and we wanted a new name; so, there are there of us and three times is a charm. It seems to have worked.)
  • Nov '06: Three's a Charm (Tika, Brenn, Skeeter)
  • Nov '06: Bee Gees (Boost, Gryphon, and Gryffindor)
  • April '07: Two Bigs and a Bit (Tika, Brenn the border collie, and Roxy the Papillon)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mouse Semifinals

SUMMARY: Uh-oh...

There has been no mouse activity in any of the traps for at least 30 hours. Therefore, they're out of the house now, right?

I grabbed some steel wool from the garage to seal up the space around the pipe under the sink--recommended in various places. Sure, there's already some there on the *top* side of the pipe, so I'm guessing that there used to be some on the *bottom* side, too, but is no longer for whatever reason.

I empty that half of the sink cabinet--really not much there--liquid and dishwasher detergent, a small bucket, a couple of water filter refills, a container of extra sponges--don't bother pulling the neatly organized wire storage drawer out of the other half because it's not in my way-- and I crawl under with my flashlight so I can see what I'm doing. Cram that steel wool into that hole. Hercules Mouse himself could not get that steel wool out of there, I am so brutal at cramming it in there.

I decide to leave one of the traps that's still there at the back of the cabinet; what the heck, who knows, maybe in the future it'll be an early warning system if somehow I get another mouse invasion. I put back the water filter refills, the small bucket, the detergents, the basket of sponges. I close the cabinet door. I put the flashlight away on its shelf and turn to the refrigerator and reach for the door handle--and the mousetrap goes off.

What, did I leave something unbalanced under there? Did I nudge it while I was there and somehow destabilize it? A quick glance--nope, there's a mouse in it. So the big question is--where was the mouse while I was cramming steel wool into its escape route? And does he have more friends in the same place(s)?

Boost's Weaves

SUMMARY: Much better than at Sunday's Fun Match

It's amazing. We did a ton of weaves in class today, and Boost never popped out early. Not even once. So either I have a problem that's going to show up only in trial situations, or I've already fixed it with 2 or 3 successes finally at the fun match and 3 days of working with 12 poles at home in a not-very-intense way.

Dogs. Huh.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mouse Finals (I Hope)

SUMMARY: One last one, opening needs sealing

No activity on any traps from about 6:30 last night til half past midnight; one under the sink when I came down in the morning. So I'm pretty sure that they're coming in next to the pipe under the sink and I'll just have to block that off.

It has been such a challenge to keep the dogs away from the traps! Under the sink cabinet is not an issue, although they were very interested while I was putting them there. But the ones in my bedroom, despite being behind heavy furniture with things blocking access, you can't imagine how hard they tried to get around my blocks!

Of course, they also spent a lot of time yesterday sniffing around all kinds of interesting places as if there had been a lot of rodential activity and they were following the scents to see if anything exciting was afoot. In fact, a couple of times when I kicked or bumped something at floor-level abruptly while moving things, the dogs instantly pounced on whatever it was, so they had primed themselves for vermin.

I hope this excitement is over and I can go back to setting traps in my agility courses in the yard instead of the mousey kind.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mouse Count

SUMMARY: And another...four...bit the dust

I just made the rounds of all the traps and got another one under the sink; both traps in my bedroom and one of the traps in the housemate's room. That's 8 in 24 hours; I bought 12 traps and started with 2. I hope I have enough! Jeez...

The challenge is putting the peanutbutter-baited traps where the mice will go but the dogs, who love PB, can't get their tongues onto them.

Today's Briefing

SUMMARY: Upcoming events, rodents, Jake's ghost

Only two weekends to our next actual trial. It's a CPE trial, so I'm hoping that I'll be more relaxed and focused on using it as a training experience with Boost (although CPE doesn't allow training in the ring, there's training and then there's training). On the other hand, I'll also be Big Chief Running Score Table Czar, being the resident expert on CPE scoring, so who knows how relaxed I'll really be. Fortunatly we've got a bunch of people who are good at score table.

Then--I planned my calendar out for this entire year. I was supposed to be doing another CPE trial 2 weeks after that. However, for whatever dumb reason, I missed the fact that the premium was out, and now the trial is full and I can't get in. Have I mentioned before how very much I despise limited trials for exactly that reason? There go my year's plans, down the tubes. If I had been counting on that trial for a specific purpose (as opposed to simply "convenient trial on convenient date", I'd really be floating my begonias. (Whatever THAT means. Sounds distraught, though, doesn't it?)

However, conveniently there's an ASCA trial the same weekend, and closer to home. ASCA agility is now the way NADAC agility was originally. Simple--Standard, Gamblers, Jumpers. And all the usual normal equipment. But I haven't done any of that in so long, that really I can't count it as a weekend for earning legs, because they'll be of pretty much no use to me. But they do allow training in the ring like NADAC did/does. So it's a fun match. A pricey fun match, but a fun match none-the-less.

Tika made it out of Novice to Open and Elite in NADAC, but so few of those were dual-sanctioned with ASCA that in fact according to them she's still in Novice Jumpers and open Gamblers. But apparently I can run her in Elite and they'll just apply any Qs to the levels I'm missing. For me, it wouldn't feel fair towards the other competitors to put her into Novice or Open, so Elite is what I'll do.

Apparently I didn't even bother to register Boost with NADAC or ASCA. So I had to send in her registration to get a number. Get this: It costs only $10 to register a dog. But you have to be a member to register a dog, and the minimum membership fee is $10. So what they're not telling you is that it costs $20 or more to register a dog. It's all in how you phrase it, I guess.

Her, I *will* enter in Novice because that's about where we belong, IMHO!

Even though she seems to be channeling Jake's ghost.

I used to have this old, low-slung, wrap-around-backed chair that was so crappy and ugly that I always had it covered with a throw. I kept it only because the dogs liked it. Jake in particular. One of his big hobbies was digging enthusiastically at the throw cover until he had bunched it up into a useless glob or thrown it off the chair entirely, and then going off on some other urgent chore. I'd put the throw back on. Next time he came by, he'd notice this travesty and do his artistic rendering of a lump of fabric again. This went on several times a day, for years.

When Boost came along and tore the chair into a zillion pieces, I finally got rid of it. Poor Jake, his main hobby out in the trash. I finally got him a nice replacement bed, a soft outer part with a removable inner cushion. In January of this year. Talk about bad timing. Anyway.

The bed has been sitting there. The other dogs have used it on occasion. But over the last couple of weeks, Boost has used it more and more, and Jake's spirit seems to have taken over her brain. (Sounds like a bad horror movie, doesn't it?) I've noticed her on occasion digging and pulling at that center cushion until she gets it out of the bed, and then she goes off on some other mission. So I put it back. Next time I notice, it's out in the middle of the floor again.

It's nice to know that some dog hobbies can be passed along from generation to generation.

I'd like mouse-catching to be one of those things, but apparently catching mice in the house is a lot harder than catching them outside. Outside, you can dig under the compost bin, then push on it until it tips over, then, after spending half an hour eating all the really nummy bits of kitchen waste that were inside the bin, you can actually get at the mice or rats and dispatch them. Not so easy to do with a fridge in the kitchen.

Maybe it was yesterday's weather--very unsummerlike, overcast and gloomy and windy and looking for all the world as if it wanted to rain (apparently did in san francisco & a few other places around the bay)--but the "mouse" that I have had in my kitchen and bedroom was hyperactive all day yesterday. I could hear him digging and chewing and dashing around in cabinets and behind the fridge and under the stove and dammit there was nothing I could do about it. Even saw him dash across the floor several times. Even the dogs were going nuts. They wanted to go into the living room, next to the kitchen, and were poking around eagerly at the couch as if they had seen and/or smelled the furry little beast right there. Boost even stood or lay in the kitchen for about two hours, ALMOST catching him as he scurried out-from-and-back-under. Driving me nuts.

So I finally took the two traps that had previously been sprung but caught nothing, and reset them and placed them more strategically carefully under the sink. I had barely sat down at my computer when i heard one go off. Bingo! I disposed of him in the trash can, sat down at my desk... and the other one went off. Got another one of the little buggers.

It's heartbreaking at the same time as it's a relief to catch them. I don't want or need their diseases and their pee and poop all over my house. But I do really love little furry wee beasties, and opening the cabinet and seeing the little bright black eyes (deceased) and little sweet furry bodies, oh, it tears me up. But catching them live and turning them loose outside isn't going to help me or whoeve else's house I'd put them near.

So I put THAT one in the trash can, along with the trap (I dont' bother trying to separate ex-mice from the traps--they all go to the dump together), went back into the kitchen... and heard one scamper among the items stored under the sink at the SAME TIME as one was gnawing under the cabinet on teh opposite side of the room. This morning, my housemate reported that one ran into his bedroom and back out again right in front of him. Dammit!

Anyway, bought a ton more traps today. Set them all over the place in clever strategic areas, but there doesn't seem to be quite as much hyperactivity in the heat of this sunny summerish day. Still, sat down at my desk, and heard one under the sink go off. Disposed of that one, set another one. Later--heard it go off again. So that's four down and I could've sworn that when I went up to my bedroom to set traps up there, I heard scurrying.

I've never had a mouse problem like this before, and it's a little intimidating. How many of them are there? One female can have up to 10 litters a year with up to a dozen or more babies per litter. Yikes. I might be doomed. We'll see whether I can get 'em all with billions of traps. I don't really want to use poison bait, which seems to be the more effective but scarier method.

And on that note--I'll be off to Wednesday Night 8:15 class shortly. It'll be a quiet night, as our usual instructor Jim is gone (Nancy's taking his place) and three class members--that I know of--are also out of town, including Ash and Luka, who won ALL THREE tournament events at the northwest regional last week. Jim says that he can't remember any dog ever doing that. So when they're back in town, we'll have a big old celebration. It's just amazing to think about how far he's come since he first joined our class as basically a novice, seems like not that long ago, but I guess at least 2 years now. And here the rest of us are, putzing along...

But it's good for a lot of celebrations. I hope he doesn't get tired of it and decide that it's all too easy. Although rumor has it that he might be thinking about a second dog so he can play with the big dogs--

Monday, July 09, 2007

Southwest Regional Premium is Posted

SUMMARY: Once again, our club (The Bay Team) is hosting.

The show secretary says:
The bay team Labor Day USDAA regional premium is posted on the Bay Team website under Events (direct link to PDF). Let me know if it raises any questions (since it's starting to look like an IRS form 1040!).

Fun Match Oddities

SUMMARY: Dogs are smarter than we think they are; they know the difference.


In a comment in response to yesterday's blog, Elayne said...
I always think fun matches are kind of a weird atmosphere, in a way almost more challenging than a real trial. Things are typically more loosely organized and people don't seem to watch their dogs as closely plus all the nervous energy of both the green dogs and the green and/or experienced handlers nervous about their green dogs. I sometimes get weird behavior from the dogs that I normally wouldn't get at a trial too.

How interesting that she notes this, because this is my 3rd or 4th fun match ever, and this is the first time I've noticed this phenomenon. Although I think of fun matches as being primarily a venue of novice handlers with novice dogs, in fact yesterday there were several experienced, top-flight handlers with their experienced dogs. I don't know why all were there; one was working on perennial contact problems; one has a dog in rehabilitation. That sort of thing. I ran Tika only because I was there with Boost anyway.

From the sidelines, I watched in amazement as some of these perennial USDAA masters ribbon-winners missed gambles, popped contacts, knocked bars, skipped tunnels, missed weave entries--yes, certainly, things that occasionally happen, but not all at once and not typically to these dogs. Tika's behavior fell into that same lot. Later, one of those other handlers commented, "I can't believe that [Fido] did that; she's never done that! And she also did this other thing, and that's so rare for her!" Curiouser and curiouser.

My response was that I think the dogs know it's different. We already know that they can sense things that we're only barely aware of--so they know it's not a competition; they know it's not a class; they know it's not the back yard. So what kind of thing IS this? I saw it all morning among dogs and handlers with whom I was familiar.

Neither I nor this friend have attended many fun matches. Don't know about the others. So perhaps if we did enough of them, we and our dogs would learn how to behave in such an environment. Which might or might not be such a good thing, if you're trying to use a fun match to simulate the environment of a trial.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fun Match Gotchas

SUMMARY: I work on things that I didn't completely anticipate working on.

The two fun match rings this morning were set up for Gamblers and Snooker (I didn't stay for the afternoon Standard and Jumpers). I got two runs with each dog in each ring, for a total of 8 runs. That was enough for me and my knee.

Boost spent most of all four of her runs popping out of weave pole #10. Over and over. I said "oops" and restarted the first time or so in each ring, but that wasn't getting me anywhere, as she'd just pop out again at the end. In class not long ago we discussed never putting the dog back in where she popped out, and there was a good reason for that, I'm sure, which I can't at the moment recall. But my theory is that, if she's going to consistently pop out in the same place, starting over doesn't help, whereas making her stop and come back and actually do those last 2 poles will make her brain engage. And as soon as she did the last pole, she got to get her mouth on her toy for a moment, but not a big playtime until she actually did the whole set of 4. So we got maybe 4 or 5 or even 6 big celebrations about weave poles today and almost no practice on anything else.

She didn't get all of her weave entries, either, but I was trying challenging ones, and she got some. Did some contacts and the first Aframe she left as I was saying "Good!" instead of waiting for "Break!" so we redid that, and the next couple were good. Start-line stay remains solid.

Tika--omigoodness--wouldn't stay at the start line the first time, just kept standing up and wandering around sniffing, or actually stood and started forward. We spent more than half of our first run time working on that. Then she flew off the Aframe repeatedly. Legal Aframes (feet in the yellow), but she's SUPPOSED to stop 2-on-2-off, so we did a bunch of Aframes. And there went our first run. On the second run we had to repeat the Aframe only once, then she got them nicely, and I went on to the dogwalk, and she slowwwwed waaayyyyyy dowwwwwnnnn. Sigh. I haven't found the balance between getting her so excited that she'll drive to the end, and yet pays enough attention to the rules that she'll *wait* at the end. Seems to be slow & wait, or fast and not wait. (I'm not the only one in the universe with that problem, I know.)

Then I tried doing some runouts in Snooker--running over a large aread of land, past several obstacles, which often discombobulates her and this is where she often starts turning in front of me to bark or grab my feet. First pass, she went right out of the ring into the rough field outside and wasted a good portion of our run time sniffing some gorse or something; second pass she went out into the next ring and took a couple of obstacles there; third pass she kept turning in front of me and grabbing my feet. For that one, I took her back where we had come from and tried again, but now she knows where we're going and is fine with it, so the problem seems to be not knowing where we're going and I'm not good at conveying "stick with me, pal, trust me, we'll get someplace interesting fast."

I really do need to go up to Power Paws and rent the field on weekends to work on stuff like this. Really. I do. Any day now.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mixed-Breed Dog Genetic Testing

SUMMARY: Is Fido really a Shepherd/Labrador mix? Now you can know for sure!

At a recent agility trial, I discovered this interesting thing: For a small fee, you can send in a swab from your dog's mouth and find out whether your Dachshund/Sheltie mix is really a Border Collie/Beagle/Chihuahua mix. Doesn't that sound like the stuff of fantasy? Or at least science fiction? But no--it's happening. And they are discovering, contrary to what I had read several years ago, that they can distinguish specific breeds from their DNA. (Previously, I read that they couldn't even distinguish dogs from wolves, because the DNA was so similar. Either research techniques have improved or I got the wrong info--)

I knew that DNA testing of puppies among purebreds is frequently used--yes, you can have more than one father in the same litter; yes, there are reasons why a breeder might make more than one father available to their bitch in heat; and, yes, before AKC started requiring the genetic testing, they were discovering an error rate among reported paternity of about 14% ( !! -- because people could lie, I suppose). They tested Boost's litter because Tala was bred to two different dogs. The possibilities for what can be tested for grow greater all the time.

Another friend is one of those researchers who are mapping many interesting things in dog genomes: Physical traits, diseases, even behaviors. She says, sure, do the testing for your mixed-breed dog's ancestry if you want to, but be aware that, although there are many hundreds of breeds of dogs known to mankind (OK, really, who else would know breeds of dogs? horsekind?), not all breeds have been mapped yet. So if you are pretty confident about at least one specific breed in your dog's ancestry, but it's not a mapped breed, save your dollars until it's done. I said that I guessed that, if Tika isn't all Australian Shepherd, she might be part Husky or Malemute. She said that Aussies haven't been mapped yet. Dang.

In any event, it seems unlikely that they'll get around to mapping breeds such as the Tornjak or the Smalandsstovare any time soon--but, then, it seems unlikely that any random dog anywhere in the world (except Bosnia or Sweden) would be one of these breeds, anyhow. But, for example, MMI Genomics (according to one article) has a test that looks at 96 points and can identify 38 breeds that encompass 75 percent of all dogs." (And they do note that testing on dogs outside the U.S. could give incorrect or useless results.)

Some articles on the topic:

Little Doggie Thoughts

SUMMARY: Ellen's mind wanders.

Nope, these are not thoughts about little doggies (of which I have none), or thoughts from little doggies (sometimes questionable whether there are any of those, either); they are my little thoughts related to doggies. Since I'm not competing, I have to think about *something*.
  • Dogs are useless as mousers in my houser. Was woken yesterday morning by a mouse gnawing under my nightstand, fercryingoutloud. Didn't wake the ALERT GUARD DOGS up, though. In fact, as I tried to position Tika to where she'd be able to see the mouse when I moved the nightstand--and surely she could SMELL the blamed thing, right?--she was more interested in whether she was about to get a treat for doing whatever it was that I was asking her to do. When she finally caught a whiff and looked interested, I moved the nightstand, and the little bugger streaked out the OTHER side and under the bed. While Tika vigorously investigated the now-vacated nightstand, I shoved Boost under the bed--surely she could SMELL the blamed thing, right?--but she made a u-turn UNDER the bed and came back out to help Tika check out the nightstand. Good thing they're good at agility, is all I can say.
  • Boost's weaves are getting very nice. Hope they stay that way. Interestingly, she's doing consistently better at the soft entry to the weaves (she says, bandying about this phrase that I just learned from another blogger, meaning coming at it from the right where they don't have a clear pole to wrap around). Coming at it from the left, she's more likely to skip a pole or two. In fact, that's where she'd skip 7 or 8 earlier this year when her poles had deteriorated so much. But usually I can fix it now by putting any slight sort of diverter to remind her to tuck in, and then she's good for a while.
  • No class for Boost last week due to the evacuation for Canby; no class for Tika this week because of the 4th and no class for Boost because it was too danged hot Thursday at noon. Hey, what's a little 100-degree weather where a fanatic, driven dog is concerned? Good thing we've got a fun match tomorrow. And a VERY good thing that the weather seems to have gotten its head together: It's 11:30 a.m. and it has barely reached 70. Nice after a week of scorching.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

In the Heart of Agility Country

SUMMARY: Yes, I'm lucky where I live.

In response to a comment about being lucky where I live to have 14 USDAA trials in a year--yes...yes, I am. Although, since I feel compelled to be at all of them plus a few CPEs as well (such is the nature of addiction), it would actually be nice to live somewhere were they *weren't* so convenient and I could spend my weekends doing something creative, exploratory, or even (gasp!) relaxing.

Here's a quick calendar of the USDAA events that I put on my personal calendar for 2007. Notes:
  • The ones that are nearly 2 hours, I spend the night. So there are really only 3-4 USDAA trials a year where I can sleep in my own bed.
  • The ones that are farther than that, I just don't go to (except Nationals), although many of my friends do, and I keep thinking that someday I might want to go to them again (did for a couple of years).
  • And I haven't even included the Oregon ones, to which some diehards travel. And I think there might be a few more of those southern Cal ones (5-8 hours) that I didn't even note on my calendar.
  • Times are actual driving times, not including stops.


January Bay Team Santa Rosa <2 hrs
San Diego 7 hrs
February VAST Turlock <2 hrs
Pomona5 1/2 hrs
March Fillmore 5 hrs
CAT Madera <2 hrs
April Haute TRACS Dixon <2 hrs
SMART Salinas < 1 hr
May Bay Team varies...used to be sunnyvale 20 mins, but in any case <2 hrs
Quicksilver Carson City 4 hrs
Moorpark 5 hrs
June NAF Turlock <2 hrs
July City of Industry 5 hrs
Moorpark 5 hrs
Aug SMART Salinas< 1 hr
Sept Bay Team Sunnyvale 20 mins
VAST Turlock < 2hrs
TRACS Woodland 2 hrs
Oct Haute Dawgs Dixon <2hrs
CAT Madera <2 hrs
Nov Nationals 11 hrs
NAF Turlock <2 hrs
DART Irwindale 5 1/2 hrs

Monday, July 02, 2007

Regrouping

SUMMARY: Sifting through our Q-chasing counts.

Of course agility isn't about the titles. Or the ribbons. It's about having a good time with your dogs.

OK, but I like getting titles. And ribbons. So it's the middle of the summer and I haven't practiced anything seriously with Tika in weeks, with no imminent trials propelling me, and very little serious with Boost except weaves weaves weaves.

But we have a fun match coming up this Sunday, so I need to start thinking what I want to focus on. But my mind's not there yet; it's drifting off into Title Land.

We have a CPE trial in 3 weeks, a week off, and another CPE trial. Tika is SO far from her C-ATE that, at the rate of maybe 4 CPEs a year (which is what I've backed off to), she'll be twenty-two before we get there. So we go mostly for our opportunity to collect those blue ribbons that are so evasive in USDAA--but I think we get them there because I'm really relaxing and enjoying myself.

Boost needs 2 wildcards... oops, new rules now...*3* wildcards and 2 colors to complete her Level 3 title, and she's barely started level 4. She might or might not ever get to her C-ATCH. That'd be another 72 legs beyond the Level 3. If we pick up 10 out of 10 per weekend with 4 weekends a year... OK, you see where I'm going with this. Pretty much nowhere. But I generally approve of CPE as an alternative venue to the insanity of USDAA and so I want to at least periodicall continue to support it.

And speaking of the insanity of USDAA: After the CPEs, it's 2 weekends off and then in rapid succession six USDAAs (including one regional) in the 9 weeks from then til the Nationals in Scottsdale the first week of November.

However, only the first three of those are still in this year's Nationals qualifying calendar--the last three are for next year. So Boost will have 2 or maybe 3 chances to earn exactly--crud--two Grand Prix Qs and two Steeplechase Qs, and 1 chance to earn one Team Q, if she wants to run at Nationals this year. In other words, our showing this year has been pretty sorry!

Actually we have to Q at the first GP or we're sunk because, to enter the Regional GP, you have to already have one GP Q. So if we dont' get the first one, we can't get the 2nd one, and so then the 3rd one wouldn't matter. Sigh. Did you follow that? I think I did--

Boost also needs one Standard and one Pairs to move up to Masters in everything. Or she could move up to Masters in:
- Gamblers with 1 Q
- Standard with 1 Q
- Snooker with 1 Q
- Jumpers with 2 Qs

So she's getting sooo close, my little puppy!

Tika still needs a 2nd Steeplechase Q. We've got to keep those bars up, and her mom needs to stop making stupid handling errors that she knew better about 10 years ago. Or at least 3 or 4 years ago. And I'd REALLY like, for a change, to at least get a bye into the semifinals in the Grand Prix! I'm so tired of those 5-fault runs.

As for her titles, she needs 4 for Bronze Standard, 3 for Bronze Gamblers, 4 for Bronze Jumpers. That'll make us all-Bronze (except Silver in Tournament). But still a long way from Bronze Lifetime Achievement: That's 150 legs total in Masters, P3, and Grand Prix, and she's currently at 85. Then it's a long haul--10 more legs in each of the 5 classes--to get to Silver in each, and a whopping 250 Qs total for LAA Silver. Maybe we'll do it before she retires. Our Q percentage has been hovering around 50%, but that's still not a lot, really; let's say 14 USDAA trials a year, 8 runs a weekend, 50% Q rate--it'll be another 2 years just to get to LAA Bronze. But--

Lord, won't you buy me an LAA Gold?
My friends all have platinum, or so I've been told.
Worked hard on my contacts, we've got them down cold,
So Lord, won't you buy me an LAA Gold?

I think it's bedtime.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Taking a Break from Dog Activities

SUMMARY: It's still 3 weeks to our next agility trial. What do I do in the meantime--nondog stuff? Are you kidding?

Wednesday: Because the instructors are heading up to Canby (OR) for USDAA Regionals, there's no class for Boost on Thursday, so I switch off running her and Tika in Tika's wednesday night class. It wasn't so long ago I wouldn't have dared to try it. But Boost's weaves have been MOST excellent lately--I'm very happy about it--and she *IS* only one leg away from being in Masters! Ooops, 2 legs--one standard and I keep forgetting about the pairs. Tika ran very well, too; there's definitely something motivating about jealousy of mom's time in the ring.
This photo is pretending to be from Wednesday evening, but it's actually from this morning in my back yard. It was a bit of a challenge getting set up to do this, and to convince Tika to go through the tunnel while I waited at the other end with my camera. Turns out that first we had to do some backchaining to teach her to do the tunnel under those specific circumstances, and then many takes before getting a result I liked.
When I trim things in the yard and toss the clippings aside, Boost likes to catch them for me. Mint is a special favorite.
Friday: This week's photographing-your-dog topic is action photos. I visited an agility friend's physical therapy session for her little chihuahua mix who's coming back from a broken wrist hopefully in time to get back to competing in another month or so.
Saturday: Monterey Bay Area Research Institute another great organization sponsored by the Packard Institute (of Hewlett and...) had its annual open house. Went down with an agility friend and her spouse. There were dogs *everywhere*. I don't know why on earth anyone would think that their dogs would be interested in exhibits on banthic autonomous underwater vehicles, but they were there, from chows to chihuahuas, Wolfhounds to Whatchamacallits. Neither of us took our dogs, but of course we had to look at all the ones that were there.
I love the MBARI slide shows of some of the critters that they've been able to observe with their remotely operated vehicles, like this oddity: transparent head, green upward-facing eyes that actually rotate forward, too (what you'd think are eyes on the front of its head are its olfactory organs).
Sunday: Since I don't have to do anything dog-related, I sneak out in the morning for a movie (Oceans 13), and then--spend the rest of the day trying to take some halfway decent dog action shots and sort through them. That's another 320 photos in one afternoon. Who said that digital cameras were a good idea? Gah. On the up side, it's instant feedback about how you're doing, and you can just delete the really awful ones.
Tika liked the ones where I was throwing the toy. She doesn't merely chase it; she tries to knock it aside and surrounds it from the front to pounce on it. Toys seldom get beyond her.
This was another many-photoed experiment. Main goal was to try different shutter speeds to see what effect you could get--and whether stopping motion completely was more effective in an action shot than panning along at a slower shutter speed so that the dog is somewhat in focus but the background is very blurred. This is the fast-speed shot (1/1000 of a second). Very clear, everything's in focus, you can see exactly how the dog is moving. I like this shot.
The second part was that I decided I wanted to try to capture Boost in the part of her stride where her feet are bunched beneath her. Can you guess how hard it is to guess that? So I repeatedly put her in a down stay in exactly the same position, put shutter on multiple-shot, make several passes at it; identify where in her path across the lawn her stride is in that position by trial and error, and then once that's figured out, setting myself and my camera to be ready to snap the shutter at that exact location to try to recapture it from the ideal angle and lighting. Yeah, right. Still, I got better at it with practice.
This is the slower-speed panning version (where I follow the dog with the camera for a longer exposure--1/100 second here). It does indeed look more like the dog is moving. Another good shot but with a different feel to it.

Of Mice and Women

SUMMARY: Boost finds a mouse but we can't catch it. Plums are pretty much gone and I'm glad. In a barely related story, menopause is now hip.

Three evenings ago, while I was (as usual) at the computer, Boost started her "Alert! Something is weird and out of place!" bark, except this time it was in the kitchen, not the yard, and she was staring at the microwave. I couldn't figure out what it might be. There was nothing out of place--the cover was off the toaster, but it often is; there was a loaf of bread on the counter but it had been there for a week; the lid was off the teakettle but I doubted that she could even see that.

So I went back to work and, a couple of minutes later, the alarm-barker went off again. I walked along the counter, touching stuff, to see whether she seemed particularly interested in anything, but nooo--as soon as I came into the room, she just went into "Hi, mom!" mode instead of helping me figure out what her britches were in a bunch about, which is what she usually does on an alarm-bark.

Back to the computer. Another alarm-bark. This time I picked her up and walked her along next to the counter so that she could see what was there. She seemed intrigued at the idea of being able to see what was there and felt inclined for a real close look, but nothing along the lines of cautious worry that she exhibits for other causes of alarm.

So I put her down, and she's looking at me cheerily, and Tika is buzzing around noisily at all the commotion, and I'm standing there, leaning on the counter, asking The Booster what on earth she's going on about, when of a sudden I think I hear something in the cabinet next to me. Just the tiniest of whispery sounds, and gone again. I managed to get the dogs into down-stays so that their jangling and toenails didn't interfere, and stood there and listened. After a minute, there it was again, a teeny whisper. Mouse in the wall? With all the rodents we've had around lately, it could be. And then came the distinct (but very quiet) sound of tiny toothers chewing cellophane.

I stepped to the front of the cabinet (the one over the microwave, which on the counter) and yanked open the door. Silence. I scanned the shelves. There was a package of spaghetti on the bottom shelf, in cellophane. I reached in and started to move it, and Zam Zoom! A little furry body plunged past me out of the cabinet, across the microwave, onto the counter, across the stove, and down the gap next to the fridge, all in the time I was still trying to form the thought "Eek!" and coming down out of the air.

Now, I am not an eeky person and I am not afraid of rodents. But from a still, silent cabinet, having a creature launch itself at you abruptly is more than startling.

Meanwhile, the dogs are watching me curiously (my body having hidden the cabinet from their view and the rest of the activity up out of their sight). I told Boost she was a good girl and went exploring. Sure enough, mouse droppings under the sink. (There seems to be some unwritten mousey law that, when invading a kitchen, you must deposit droppings beneath the sink.) I cleaned all that out and put mousetraps there and between the fridge and the stove. To no avail, apparently.

Which brings us to plums.

It has been plum season for about the last 3 weeks.I've harvested and eaten as many as I could, gave quite a few away, made two separate batches of plum sorbet (mmmMMM! but it still uses only a handful of plums), and picked up zillions from the ground day after day and tossed their squashed bodies into the compost bins.

This, however, is where I keenly feel Jake's absence. He was a profligate plum eater, and as you might imagine, this worked wonders for loosening up his intestinal fortitude. And he had the most luxurious petticoats on his back legs and long silky hair on his tail, and in plum season I spent a prodigious amount of time hosing him down and letting him out in the middle of night to answer the call of the bowels.

This year, there's no Jake, and the current dogs seem far less enamoured of the purple fruit. Except that in the last few days, Boost seems to have discovered the joys of decaying plummage. So now I've been letting *her* out in the middle of the night.

Last night, it was twice, and the second time, I couldn't get back to sleep. Lying there comfortably, thinking about nothing in particular, but wide awake. (With the occasional hot flash to keep me entertained kicking off the sheets and pulling them back up again.) I finally got up and went downstairs to settle at my favorite putting-my-brain-to-sleep station at the kitchen table. Made myself a nice hot chocolate and started a crossword puzzle. The dogs, of course, had gone back upstairs to bed and by all accounts were quite comfy there.

Then, out of my peripheral vision, I detected motion. Glanced to one side just fast enough to see a mouse vanish under the fridge. I cursed silently and went back to my crossword. A few minutes later, the dang thing skittered from the fridge to under the stove. A few minutes later, it skittered from there back along the wall.

OK, this was NOT relaxing. And why wasn't the dang thing kindly throwing himself upon the mercy of the mousetraps? And what could I do about it in the meantime? I debated getting the dogs and trying to chase the mouse out from under something, but who knows where he'd be by the time I came downstairs, and even if I could convince the dogs to take part and I could flush him out, I figured that my renter/housemate might not appreciate my efforts at 3 in the morning. So, unrelaxed, I returned to bed.

I did, eventually, fall asleep, along about dawn. The dogs let me sleep til 9, which is very late for me (but there's the warped benefit of letting them out in the middle of the night--they were prepared to hold anything further until much later in the day). At which point I got up, enjoyed a liesurely breakfast while reading the paper, and was amused to see (just a few days after posting my Cold Flashes blog) an article saying that it's now apparently the cool factor to be in menopause and suffering from hot flashes. And how, even 5 years ago, no one ever talked about them in public (well, I know that's not strictly true), but now women yak about them to anyone and turn them into social clubs, so that nonmenopausal women feel left out in the cold (so to speak). And, perish the thought, hot flashing women even BLOG PUBLICLY about these previously very personal issues! The nerve!

But, if those left-out-feeling women are looking for something else to do with their time while us in the In crowd are putting on our fleece sweater, taking it off, putting it on, taking it off, they're welcome to come by and clean up old rotting plums from my garden and herd the mice out of my kitchen so I can have a good night's sleep.