a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: 2004

Monday, December 27, 2004

Quick Notes

My comment about the mammogram the other day: I went in for an ultrasound today and the technician said that the radiologist said that they didn't need to do any follow-up today. That's all I know. I think things are probably fine.

Christmas was pleasant other than the fact that I underslept and overate, making me pretty much a wreck by Christmas evening. I got dog toys, dog Christmas ornaments, and a gift certificate to PetCo, so I can go down there shortly and have a grand old time. Several more dragons also joined my household--but that's not dog-related.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Another Plaque for Jake

Jake's CPE Agility Trial Champion (CATCH) plaque arrived yesterday. It's a lovely thing. Something to hang on the wall to replace hundreds of ribbons.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Still More Miscellany

Elderly dog sleeps soundly: Jake always used to wake up quickly and easily. Now he sleeps deeply. When I get up in the middle of the night--as in last night, where I had a blooming headache and needed to go get a drink and some assorted lovely drugs--he sleeps through the light turning on, through me getting out of bed and getting my robe and slippers, through Tika getting rowdy on the bed and leaping off, through us both scampering downstairs (Tika more scampering, me more on the staggering side), through the sliding door opening and closing as Tike heads into the yard for a perimeter check.

Jake used to startle to his feet if one touched him while he was sleeping. Several times lately, when I've needed to wake him during the day (as in, "Wake up, Jake, it's time to go to bed"), I've had my hand solidly on his body, rocking him back and forth, without a response for quite some time. It's a very odd thing.

Elderly dog sometimes drags:The housemate & boyfriend took the dogs for a walk yesterday evening while I was out (yes! without the dogbeasts!), and reported that they had to quit a bit early because Jake seemed to be dragging and tired.

I had no such problem with him this morning.

I've mentioned this in previous posts--sometimes when out for a walk, he just slows down and looks like he really doesn't want to keep going. And then the next day he'll be fine.

In the middle of the night last night, he did eventually come downstairs and lay under the table while I nursed my drink and waited for the light and went without the meat and cursed the bread and all that. When it came time to return to my boudoir, he stopped at the bottom of the stairs, looked concerned, started to lift a foot and changed his mind, and just looked at me, tail drooped. So I picked him up and carried him up, depositing him right onto the bed, where he said, "Thanks, that's what I needed," and settled right in to sleep.

This is the second time in the last few weeks. He was never one to suffer being carried around like a lapdog. So this, too, is unusual.

And yet today he was a frisbee-chasing maniac who, in his nonfrisbee interims, gallumphed all over the parkland and hillside.

Eye goop: The last time I had him at the vet--I think because of all the goop that suddenly started appearing in his eyes all the time--the vet said he didn't really see anything but gave me some soothing ointment to apply in case the eyes were irritated. This was months ago. I regularly --daily or twice a day--clear wads of eye-goop the size of jello pudding cups from both eyes. The weather's different, the blooming plantlife is different, I dunno--I thought maybe it was something in the yard (like plunging into the mulch to pounce on a thrown toy) that was aggravating it, but in the one week we were out of town to AZ, his eyes never stopped gooping.

I'd like to know why, at 12.5, this has started happening. It worries me in a vague, I've-got-plenty-of-bigger-worries-like-the-technician's-reactions-to-my-mammo-last-week sort of way.

To The Big Park Today

Drove all 3 dogs to the big park with the hill and the huge grassy areas to play frisbee and to let them run free. Tika was very well behaved. Although she didn't come when called at one point when she got curious about another dog, she did come after a quick sniff and wag. This is the dog who goes ape-sh** on a leash when she sees another dog. There were about 4 other dogs there today at different times and places, and she showed only mild to moderate interest and had to go say a quick "Hi" to two of them.

She came when called almost every time (I was carrying junk food in a bag on my belt). Whenever she'd start to dash in a direction that I found undesireable and called "Tika, this way!", she came this way. Ohhhhhh, how different from 2 years ago!

We played a good game of frisbee (Casey will chase the frisbee and bring it most of the way back, but mostly he wants to hold it and then slam it against Tika when she starts running), then walked around the park. Temperature was in the upper 30s to lower 40s--frost bedecked some sheltered areas of grass--and my feet got thoroughly soaked and very cold. The things I do for a good time.

Then we played a good game of frisbee, discovered that the water fountain wasn't functioning, so the dogs spent a good deal of time munching the long grasses--I suspect primarily for the cool dewey water, then walked around the park. It was otherwise a beautiful sunny morning, just a little hazy. Lots more people there off and on than I'd have expected on a chilly Sunday morning starting at 8 or so.

Then we played a good game of frisbee and walked around the park. My pedometer registered 1.3 miles, but it seems to be registering low lately, so it might have been more--and some of it was up and over the hill, which would be good for my cardiovasculars.

Tika was clearly overheating again. When she's walking on her Gentle Leader, she often rubs her face on lawns. Today she never saw hide nor hair of the GL, but by this time she was rubbing her face and head in all of the dampest, longest grasses, then lying down in other patches. I surmise it was all an effort to cool down. Not that she ever runs out of energy; I'd make some comment to her and she'd put her ears back and leap up into the scootchy I'm-ready-to-play pose, then zoom off in some other direction.

Jake mostly kept an eye on me and kept swooping in for a free goodie. I was only too glad to oblige; as a hard-of-hearing dog, he's better off sticking closer and paying more attention. I practiced recalls with Casey and Tika constantly and relied on Jake watching them for his cues. Even so, once as I surmounted the tippy-top of the hill, where the sides fall away steeply and the dogs can't see me if they're not right with me, Tika and Casey came bounding into sight when I called them, but Jake had vanished. I had to backtrack a bit to see him bounding back around (rather than up) the hill, trying to figure out where I was. Fortunately he saw me bouncing and waving my arms--I was concerned that he'd head off down the hill full tilt thinking I had gone back the way we came.

Then we played a little more frisbee and, an hour or more having passed, I took the sopping wet dogs and the cold-footed mom home.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

About Crate Training

I just wrote all of this elsewhere in response to a comment from someone that he didn't like to lock his dogs up and that was probably why he didn't pursue crate training enough to be successful at it.

One challenge in getting people to crate train successfully is in getting over the idea that one is "locking up" one's dog. There are many reasons as to why it's a good idea to have a dog who is comfortable and relaxed in a crate. The thing to keep in mind is that almost all dogs are most relaxed in an enclosed place. My dogs prefer sleeping under a desk or a table--and if there's a long tablecloth over the table, all the better. The small dog in the house loves to crawl under the bookcase headboard of the bed rather than sleeping on the open floor. One dog liked sleeping in the closet. The psychological key for the human is to realize that one is simply training the dog to use a controlled crate rather than one of their own choosing, just as one trains them to sit, lie down, or stay under control rather than wandering around uncontrolled at all times with behavior of their own choosing. The crate should never be used as a harsh punishment. It should be a safe place for comfortable relaxing, and in that context can occasionally be used for a "time out" in training.

Let one converted dog owner tell her story. (That's me.) When I planned to go to my first dog agility event (not just training at the training facility), I discovered that it was not practical to have my dog on a leash on my wrist at all times. It was a long day, there were other dogs everywhere (and not all of them perfectly behaved), I had things that I needed to do without my dog and there were places where my dog was not allowed (e.g., walking the course ahead of time; cafeteria; restrooms...). Tying the dog up somewhere wasn't practical--other than there being nowhere to tie the dog, even a portable stick-in-the-ground post left the dog exposed to other dogs, other people, object flying in their direction (thrown toys, things blown by the wind, etc.). It just wasn't even an option, especially in crowded conditions with only a few feet of space for each person to set up in.

Plus, in trying to keep the dog with me, he never lay down, never relaxed, was always alert and on guard.

So with great reluctance, not wanting to "lock my dog up" in a crate, I purchased the largest metal exercise pen that I could find--I think about 4 feet by 4 feet. Here's what he did:

Stood up and leaned against the side closest to the door. All day. Sometimes he sat. Mostly he stood up, watching everything that was going on. Eventually I figured out that, if I draped a sheet over the top & sides of the pen, leaving only the front open, he would lie down--against one side of the pen--and sleep off and on.

Huh, so I was lugging around this heavy exercise pen and occupying 16 square feet for a dog who was occupying no more space than all of the other dogs comfortably resting in their crates. So after a year and a half I broke down and bought a crate and taught him what a fun place it was. So, when put into his crate (after his first run of the day, before which he NEVER relaxed), he'd immediately relax, lie down, get comfy, snooze, stretch his legs out.

I was converted.

Since then, I've found that crates are useful almost anywhere I go with my dogs; we've been invited to participate in a wide variety of events. Sometimes we're backstage, where there are 20 or 30 dogs in a space about 50 feet long. You have to have the dogs in crates in that situation. My assorted dogs have had to stay at the vet's for a variety of ailments over the years, and the vets always like them because they don't fight about going into the crates, they don't paw or bite endlessly at the doors, they wait for a release before barging out of the crate, and they relax once they're in there.

In the car, a strapped-in crate is probably the safest way to transport dogs. (Some of my dogs use harnesses instead, but I believe they'd be safer in an accident in a crate.)

At home, I acquired a dog who really does not like small children. After a few thousand good games of fetch, he goes right into his crate, where I can close him in and he can relax because he doesn't have to be on guard against the small children--and I can relax because he's not on guard against the small children.

I have an extremely energetic younger dog. When she can't manage enough self-control to be around guests, she can go into her crate. When she was much younger and I didn't know what she might pick up and chew up, I could put her into her crate while I worked at my desk and neither of us were stressed about life, the universe, and everything.

Most dogs sleep most of the day anyway--if you're home a lot and not active, just watch: I believe that 18 hours or more of a dog's day is spent snoozing. That's even for energetic, athletic dogs. They could just as easily be snoozing in a crate as under your feet at your desk.

Miscellaneous Ramblings Again

  • Casey loves to have something in his mouth. When I head for the back yard, he scoops up whatever luscious-looking toy is in the vicinity. This is promising. If it's a dumbell-style squeaky, we can easily play tug of war.
  • Casey seems to enjoy tug-of-war, and he runs like lightning through the tunnels and over the jumps, but as soon as I throw the toy afterwards, he scootches up onto the porch and hides so I can't make him exert himself again. I'm not sure whether it's the physical or mental activity that concerns him.
  • Jake snores. Not a lot, but he always has and he does more--and more often--as time goes on. And he's not overweight, either.
  • Before I started agility, I was amazed at dogs that would answer "the call of nature" on command. Now I realize that it's a necessity for most activities other than letting your dog have free run of the yard. And it wasn't that hard to teach. In fact, Jake can produce #1 or #2, even if in minute quantities, whenever he thinks he's supposed to. How come I can't train myself the same way?
  • Jake and Casey have had a couple of spats since we returned from the Nationals. Casey had the whole house and everyone in it (housemate and two guests, one of whom slept in my room) to himself for an entire week. He was deliriously happy to see Tika again, and quite dismayed that Jake came with the package. I found a fresh scab in Jake's ear the day after we got back. And Jake was very concerned, too. They both stalked around the house, trying to avoid or intimidate each other, for about 2 days, and Jake acted more like the intruder--stuck close to me and to my bedroom, as though conceding that, for the moment, Casey was the primary resident.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Added a photo to Oct 25 and an entry for Nov. 10. More later probably.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

CPE Results--Not Always Like What I'd Like

So Jake had a good day Friday, but on Saturday--now with everyone watching after I announced that he was retiring with 6 Championships after 7 years of competition (with me), 116 trials, and 876 runs--we couldn't get a Q worth beans. We couldn't hardly even get started. Standard was iffy with a huge flyoff on the dogwalk. In Jumpers and Snooker, he didn't stay at the start line, putting me in very bad positions and ending up with almost instantaneous offcourses. And Jumpers and Snooker are what he has always done best in, with the most legs in those of any classes in all organizations.

Grumble grumble grumble. Tika was wired and had problems with her start line. I pulled her off for the first time in a full year for taking off without even a hint of a release from me, and pulled her off again when she persistently scootched forward after repeated "Sit" commands until she was a mere foot from the first jump. Then we had offcourses galore, which isn't normal for us, but I think I've discovered that Tika has an Overdrive setting that I am, in fact, not always tapping into! I thought I had just learned better how to handle her speed, but I think what's also happened is that she has settled into a comfortable fast speed and I didn't realize that she didn't have the accelerator floored.

We will have to experiment more.

FridayStandard: Q/2ndScootching forward determinedly at start line each time that I started to move forward. Several harsh Sits finally got her to stay in place. No bars down but she was one wired doggie and we missed a few things because my timing was off so we had to circle around and retry. Still her course time was mighty fast.
Colors: NTShe still needs 2 out of 2 at Level 3 to advance to Level 4. We can't get the darned legs because she almost always knocks a bar. Today, she took off from the start without waiting for me so I pulled her off the course.
Wildcard: NTThis is the only other Level 3 class she's still in; needs one more of these, also. But, not to be...she skootched right up to the first jump before staying in a sit and I took her off.
SaturdayStandard: Q/1stManaged to finally get her to stay in one place in a sit. We were a disaster again in terms of smoothness, but very fast and again we earned a qualifying score.
Snooker: Bomb.I led way out, all the way across the snooker field, and she stayed beautifully. I released her and she rocketed towards me perfectly, and I spun perfectly to send her into the first tunnel--and someone I was aimed wrong or spun wrong and she went into an off-course end of the tunnel. Game over. I pushed her immediately to the table to stop the clock, and hoped that our consolation prize would be the absolutely fastest Snooker time for the day of all dogs--at 5.83 seconds--but, sadly, our teammate Mercy from the night before started on the same jump but took an offcourse jump only halfway to the tunnel, putting them closer to the table, so they beat us by .3 seconds. (But Tika traveled twice as far for those .3 seconds--;-) .)
Jumpers: Bomb.Very very fast. Jumpers is the third thing that we most need legs in because she keeps knocking bars. On this course, instead of taking challenging (for me) front-crosses to pull her to challenging sides of the tunnels, I used our well-practiced call-her-name-and-she-looks-at-me, wait until she has veered towards the correct end of the tunnel and let her go. Worked like a charm for the first tunnel; released her too soon for the second tunnel and we were offcourse again. Sigh. But she had a really fast time! And (dagnabbit nagdabbit) no bars down.
FridayStandard: Q/2ndPretty fast, almost popped the dogwalk but the judge gave it to us. Some wide turns where he couldn't hear or see me, but we survived.
Colors: Q/2ndA fairly simple course that we also made it through by the skin of our teeth. Very challenging running a deaf dog who doesn't realize he's deaf.
Wildcard: Q/1stVery nicely and smoothly executed for a change.
SaturdayStandardMade it all the way through the course, veering on the edge of miscommunication and then the dogwalk was the next to the last obstacle--I yelled "Contact!" at the top of my lungs in plenty of time, which apparently made him leap into thin air at exactly the point he was, which was only halfway down the ramp. Did so very happily. The combination of my full-gut yell and his aerobatic effort got a huge laugh from the audience--and a missed-contact fault from the judge.
Snooker: BOMBDidn't stay at the start line on a long lead-out. Didn't even get a third of the way there. And that sucks, because one of the things that has always made him a great Snooker dog is my ability to lead out to any old wild and random far-side obstacle and have him come straight to me. So I had to juggle him around to try to keep him from going offcourse, but when I sent him (from too far away) to the tunnel I wanted, he took the offcourse end. Sigh.
Jumpers: BOMBDidn't stay at the start line on a course that was very tight and twisty and absolutely required that I be doing front-crosses to keep the deaf dog's head turned in my direction. Rear-crosses would be fatal very quickly and he put me in the position of starting with rear crosses from which I couldn't recover in time to prevent an offcourse almost immediately. Fast, though.

Top Turkey and Slop Turkey

So it was Jake's last trial, so of course we went out in a blaze of glory--right?

Friday he did OK. Out of 3 classes, earned 3 Qualifying scores, but only one good enough for a first place. Then, Friday evening, we teamed up with a very fast little Cattle Dog rescue (Indy) and a very fast little Sheltie (Siggi) for WAG's Turkey Trot, a relay in which one dog does a set of jumps, another does weaves and contacts, and the third does tunnels. They divided teams into small, medium, and large groups and were awarding a single Top Turkey Team award in each category. I told my teammates that Jake had slowed down a lot in tunnels and that I didn't think they'd want jake doing contacts, so we'd take the jumps. (I had to jump him at his standard 16" height even though he was running at 12" during the day.)

I almost forgot where I was on course and started to do a front cross to the outside of the course (duh!?) but fortunately there was nowhere for Jake to go offcourse and we picked up his slightly wide turn and finished the jumping section just fine. Our teammates were pretty awesome.

The Top Turkey award, with the Top Turkey badge clipped to the front.

We had to wait until all the teams had run and the results were tabulated, and then they announced that Jake's team had won! Wahoo! Somehow appropriate for his last trial. We earned a lovely ceramic turkey stuffed with human and dog toys and goodies. (Turkey especially appropriate, since the day before I hosted 19 family and friends here for dinner and realized that I have absolutely no Thanksgiving themed decorations. Now I have one--) We also earned a Top Turkey badge that we had to wear for the rest of the weekend or risk wearing The Silly Hat. The tricky part was the dog biscuit glued to the badge--our dogs (and everyone else's) kept trying to munch them, and then there was the question: was wearing it into the ring considered to be having food in the ring?

Tika teamed with other longtime friends Spike the BorderNewf and Mercy the Terv (team named Tika's Merciful Spike). Tika did the weaves and contacts. The contacts consisted of two teeters and an Aframe, intermingled with two sets of 6-pole weaves, basically in a circle. I promised to run her with Steeplechase contacts, which means that I released her the instant that her paws hit the two-on-two-off position.

So--Mercy did her jumps perfectly, although I had to wait before starting Tika while Linda got Mercy into a controlled Down (otherwise she'd have probably followed Tika oncourse) and then while Linda ran over to me with the rubber chicken baton. A few seconds wasted--but not wasted if we avoided a fault for having 2 dogs on course.

Then I released a revved up Tika. She hit her first set of weaves like a banshee, perfectly entered and superfast. Slammed down the first teeter and I released her. Hit the next weaves at almost a 90-degree angle to the left perfectly and zipped through them; slammed the next teeter and I released her to the Aframe--and she left the yellow zone on the way down without bothering hitting the ground with her front feet. Which means that the tire--NOT part of our section of the course--which I knew during the walkthrough would tempt her--drew her so fast to it that my "Come! COME!" had no effect and she went through it for a 10-point offcourse. Argh! Then Spike whipped cheerfully through his tunnels and we were done. 12 teams in the large-dog category and I had just blown it with the offcourse.

Turns out that we had the second-fastest time of the large-dog teams, with just over 38 seconds (which is d***ed fast for 3 separate dogs with a baton change and all those obstacles), about 3 seconds slower than the fastest team. The extra time that Tika took for the tire might have closed that gap, or it might not have. Hard to say. But the 10-point fault (scored as time plus faults) dropped us to--only 4th place! (Which gives you some idea of how blazing fast the first 4 teams were compared to the final 8, which had to be at least 10 seconds slower than we were to still place behind us with our 10 faults.)

So no Top Turkey for Tika's team, but I was very pleased with the speed of her course and with her weave entries.

Jake's Last CPE--and Last, Period--Trial

The cake came with two flowers and a yellow border. I did the rest All By Myself onsite among course maps and curious competitors.
I've done it--I've retired Jake. I made an announcement at the CPE trial in Elk Grove yesterday and provided cake for all 80-or-so people there to confirm the deed. Jake was running so nicely, though, it's hard to remember the times and places where he just doesn't do things that he used to do or those days or weeks when he's in pain.

I suppose it's still legal to enter him in maybe a run a day or so. The question remains what will I do with him on agility weekends--leave him home or take him with us? I've never taken any of my dogs anywhere without the others along. This is a mistake--take my advice and often do things separately with your dogs so that they get used to it from the beginning. I don't think he'll be happy about being left behind, but he'll probably be fine here hanging out with the housemate (I wouldn't leave him here unattended, certainly).

Will I be fine leaving him behind? If there's noplace at a site where I can run him off leash to play frisbee, it seems silly to take him with me. But he's still so active it's hard to really picture him being retired. And I still haven't decided whether to keep taking him to weekly classes.

We met with a dog chiropractor at the end of the trial. She had watched him run and asked why I was retiring him. I gave her my list of Whys and she said that I know my dog best and have to make my own decision, but be sure to keep him very active because that's the best way to keep the arthritis at bay. She suggested, for example, any exercises that involve his back legs, including simply walking backwards. That's no problem for Jake--who, at the USDAA nationals, did his best to walk backwards in front of me all the way from the far inside corner of the crating building, across the parking lot, down the stairs, and across the lawn. Down the stairs was a bit of a challenge, but in fact up the stairs would be a good strengthening exercise. We'll see--

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Agility Dog Gets Faster

Our instructor quizzed us in class today on how fast our dogwalks and weave poles are. For Tika, I said confidently that the dogwalk was about 3 seconds and the weaves also 3 seconds. (The 3-second dogwalk was an improvement over where we were--um, hmm, OK, it was April at Power Paws camp the last time I analyzed a lot of our object speeds, where I think her dogwalk was 3.5 to 4 seconds because she slowed down on the down ramp--but I've checked periodically since.)

I was the only one other than the instructor who really had any idea about our own dogs' times.

Her weave poles were consistently right at 3 seconds. This hasn't improved much over time; I was using 3 seconds as a rule of thumb back at Power Paws camp. I think she did the 60-weave-pole Challenge in 18.x, but I'd expect the dog to slow a bit through that many poles. And I've been trying to really push her and reward her right at the end of the weaves while practicing in the yard. Sigh. Time to push harder--instructor's younger dog was about 2.4 and a couple of the other border collies were around 2.8.

Her dogwalk was consistently 2.5! This is much better, and I think she's probably even faster in competition. I need to review the nationals tapes from the other week with my stopwatch in hand and see how fast she was on the obstacles there.

She's also the only one in class, including the instructor's dog, who drove down to the contact in the same amount of time when the handler (me) stopped 10 feet before the end of the ramp. I wasn't positive she'd do it, although I do try to push that behavior during practice all the time--so I was glad that she actually demonstrated it. Still-- instructor's dog was about 2 seconds with handler running with her, and dropped to about 2.4 (added an extra stride across the dogwalk) when she stopped early, so even so they're beating our time. Keep pushing, pushing, pushing...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Traveling Trivia

From San Jose to Scottsdale

We left San Jose at 1:00 on Tuesday afternoon. To avoid the hellhole of 6:00 L.A. commute traffic, we took (85 to 101 to 152 over Pacheco Pass) to I-5 to CA-58 to I-40 (via 15) to Needles, where we stopped for the night around 9:45. The next day, we headed south from Needles on 95 to I-10, then swooped around Phoenix on the 101 loop to Scottsdale.

Mileage: 787. Hours driving at or near speed limit: 12.

Stops: 6, including: Needles overnight (got gas, too, and dinner--which was a bit problematic since everything near our hotel closed at 10:00), 2 other gas/food stops, 2 rest areas for us and the dogs, and a lovely half hour spent in the cool desert sunshine on 95, waiting for an escort through a construction zone; everyone got out of their cars and wandered around on the 2-lane road, craning necks to try to see over the next hill over which the line of stopped vehicles continued.

As we headed over Tehachapi pass in the dark, oohing and ahhing at all of the brilliant stars that our urban lights generally drown out, we stopped briefly and I was delighted to see the Milky Way in its pale glory, which I haven't seen in a good many years. Orion rose slowly in the east ahead of us, and I swear that with all the stars visible, you can actually see the outline of the entire man down to his fingerprints. Jackie said that the desert is actually quite beautiful when it's light and you can see it.

The drive from Needles along 95 was beautiful indeed; interesting mountain ranges of not more that a couple or three sharp and rugged mountains each; strangely shaped yucca of various types; saguaro cacti, mostly young (less than a hundred years or so) since most within our view had very few arms and even then mostly small; and the intriguing ocatillo everywhere.

From Scottsdale to San Jose

Because we left WestWorld at 6:30, we figured we'd be heading through L.A. around midnight and could take the slightly faster route through the L.A. area. We were right. We took I-10 to I-210 to I-5 (and back across Pacheco Pass, etc., just in time to catch a little bit of morning commute traffic headed from Gilroy up 101 towards San Jose.

Mileage: 741. Hours driving at or near speed limit: 11.

Stops: 10, including: Meet my cousin just off the freeway in phoenix for dinner, then get gas; one hour to fix the tire blow-out; 8 other rest and/or gas stops, mostly for me and Jackie to switch drivers and stretch our legs. After about 10:30 the dogs didn't even look interested in getting up; they are, after all, creatures of habit and this was all well within their sleep-through-the-night time.

I took over driving around dawn at the John "Chuck" Erreca rest area south of 152, and the scenery was stunning. I had my camera with me, but there were really no places to pull over. Tendrils of fog lay among the valleys, fields, and orchards; the deciduous leaves were all turning shades of red and yellow, so the vineyards and the rows of nut trees had an unusual beauty; and the rising sun bathed everything in a pale orange glow. Every time I wanted to stop, I couldn't find even a wide enough shoulder to feel comfortable about pulling over, so I have NO photos. Guess i'm not yet a Real Photographer--who cares if one risks death for a chance at a stunning scenic shot?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Xtreme Tag-Team Driving

Back from the nationals. We didn't win, but we had some nice runs. Details later, perhaps, when I'm more awake.

My friend Jackie and I left Phoenix about 8:30 last night after a quick Mexican dinner with my cousin and then a gas-tank fill. About an hour later, 60 miles from Phoenix and 60 miles from Quartzsite (a teeming metropolis, I'll tell you), in the middle of pretty much nowhere, my tire blew out. Jackie, who had been napping, called AAA and tried to explain where we were. I said that we were about 90 miles from Blythe, a couple of miles beyond a rest area about 30 miles before the next rest area. AAA asked whether we had gone through Quartzsite yet. I said no, that's very close to Blythe and we're about 90 miles away from Blythe. So AAA asked whether we had passed 95 yet, and I said no, because that's very close to Blythe and we're 90 miles from there! They asked whether we could see a mile marker.

We were very fortunate for a couple of reasons--we pulled to a stop right next to a wide sandy crossover between the east & west sections of the freeway so were able to pull a good 30 feet off the freeway upon which large semi trucks were hauling away at 75 MPH or so--and right across the freeway Jackie spotted a large "WE 74" mileage marker. She told them this, and they still wanted more information about where we were located. I figured that, by the time they figured out where we were, we'd have the tire changed, let alone sending a truck from some far-off locale.

So we unloaded the parts of our haul that we needed to unload to have access to the tools and the spare, and Lo! all told we had the tire changed in about 56 minutes, just long enough for the AAA guy to arrive. He did serve a useful purpose--confirmed that my spare is a legitimate tire on a legitimate wheel, not a wimpy compact spare, so we could drive full speed all the way home to San Jose without a care in the world.

Then we took turns sleeping and driving, stopping briefly every hour or two at a rest area.

Anyway--got home about 7:45 this morning.

I have no photos of me or my dogs at the trial (why do I carry 3 cameras around all weekend and never think of this?) but I do have a couple photos of the site.

Westworld is a large equestrian site spread out over many acres with gorgeous desert mountains behind it. Our part of the polo fields was configured with 5 agility rings. Ring 1 had large bleachers on three sides, looking out over the desert at a beautiful range of mountains under pure-blue skies (except for those pure white or pure gray clouds).

Here are a couple of view over the Grand Prix Championship final round:

The sunrises and sunsets--under which people were walking and running courses, argh--were stunning almost every day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

USDAA Nationals Day 0

Backfill: Nov 29Arrived at Westworld midafternoon. Found our crating spot in the back corner of the crating "tent" (you wish you had a tent like this for camping! You'd have to reserve the whole campground and bring it in on half a dozen flatbed trucks!).

The tent provides shelter but sound carries and reverberates like nothing I've ever seen. One dog barking fills the entire building so that it's challenging to carry on a conversation--and naturally there is usually more than one barking dog. Noise-sensitive dogs are quivering and quaking and their owners are taking them out of the building to find somewhere else to crate them. Fortunately the weather is nice, somewhat cool, so that crating in a ventilated vehicle is a possibility. Those who have RVs are crating there, even though the walk is considerably longer.

Over the weekend, I'm guessing that fewer than half of the spots that people paid $45 for actually are used. We hardly ever saw most of our neighbors. It's not a fun spot in which to hang out and chat over the day's successes, share photos and snacks, and be generally comradely.

I set up my little purple-and-teal area. Jackie has proven to be an absolute delight to have along on this trip. She manages Jake when we're out walking the dogs; she helps carry and organize and set up and keep things on track and fetch and all that sort of stuff. It's nice being a member of a club in which you can make friends like this.

My dogs are OK, I think. Jake's mostly deaf so it apparently doesn't bother him at all. Tika hardly puts her head down to sleep for a couple of days, but some of that might be that she's not getting much exercise on top of having been in the car for 2 days straight. (Eventually she does nap off and on. No apparent signs of stress at all.)

We get our check-in bag with a t-shirt, a pin (huh--I have my '00 pin but not one for '01; wonder whether I ever got one and, if so, what happened to it?) featuring our favorite overused trite southwestern icon: Kokopelli.

We check in to our hotel--a decent suite with fridge and microwave--and attempt to make the 15-minute drive back to the site for the annual awards dinner, which takes us well over half an hour between construction on the road we try to take (discover later that there's a faster back way), awful commuter traffic, and missing the nifty shortcut to Westworld that everyone else apparently knew about.

Dinner is excellent, there was plenty of food, and lots of awards for Bay Teamers. We are not in bed early that night.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Off to the Nationals

In truth, off to Yosemite for 3 days without the dogs. A bit of sun, a bit of snow on the ground, temperatures ranging from mid-20s (F) overnight to mid-50s dayside. Should be nice for photography.

Back Monday night, unload my Yosemite stuff including the 5th seat in the van that I just put in for passengers, reload all the agility and dog materiel, and head out again Tuesday morning, heading for Scottsdale and the USDAA Nationals.

I'm excited and a little discouraged in advance. I vowed that I'd practice with each dog 15 minutes twice a day every day leading up to the nationals. Huh. Lucky to have gotten in 15 minutes total with all the dogs I could find in the yard, and only about every other day, if that. And mostly with Tika, because she's my Great White(and Gray) Hope. Hardly practiced with the little Jakey dog at all, and oh brother was he in need of an agility tune-up. So I'm expecting that we're going to go and Jake and I are going to crap out early.

I never did get my teeter repaired all summer, and that's Tika's slowest obstacle, so even if we do well enough beyond all miracles and make it to the final round, we'll never have a fast-enough time to win. Ahhhhhh, we probably wouldn't anyway. Then there are little details like this: She ran great in class on wednesday. What a lovely agility girl! Then yesterday, practicing a 90-degree weave entry, she kept blasting around to the back side and entering from the wrong side of the first pole. We'd break it down, backchain a bit, even out the angle and work our way back, and then as soon as I'd rev her up again, around she'd go to the far side. Argggghhhh.

We'll drive to Needles on Tuesday & stay in a hotel there overnight, then on to Scottsdale the next day, hopefully to arrive by mid-afternoon, find the rest of the Bay Teamers who'll be there (many of us), get set up, and go to the hotel to keel over from all those hours of driving. I am going with a friend, but still-- And you know darned well that the Beasts will be sleeping the whole way and will want to romp and play when we arrive.

Then 4 days of competition--2 or 3 or I think sometimes 4 events per dog per day, although if we do well and go on to additional rounds in anything, that'll be more. I can only hope. My first year's goal was to go to the Nationals. So then we managed to "E" offcourse both dogs in the first round of the Grand Prix. As a result, my goal for the following year was to NOT "E" in the first round--and indeed, we didn't, but we had other minor faults or speed issues that kept us from advancing to the next round. This year, my goal is to make it to the final round.

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

See you in 10 days or so.

Friday, October 29, 2004

To Dog or Not to Dog, That is the Question

A friend who just got her new puppy asked, When're YOU getting a new babydog!?

I'm thinking slowly about it. My goal all along has been to have about 4 to 5 years between dogs' ages. Tika will be 4 in February, which means that the dog I'd want hasn't been born yet.

I'm torn, though. With three dogs in the house who get along really well, I don't want to introduce a problem like I had between Remington and Jake, which was a real stresser. And my budget is stretched beyond its limit, so thinking about additional vet bills, additional classes, and so on is a bit scary. Until I get all that straightened out and steady, I'm not sure I want to add to it.

On the other hand--I'll be down to only one agility dog, and what if she's sick or injured? I suppose then I could just go take a real vacation (smiley face) but I'd probably fret about not being out doing agility.

So I haven't thought really hard about a puppy from a known breeder or another rescue mix. Another rescue mix: I like how my dogs are distinctive but of course it's a crapshoot getting the right dog-- From a breeder: What breed? I don't know. I just don't think I want a Border Collie like everyone else even though I've always liked them--hmm, unless it's a really beautiful blue-- Or how about an Aussie like Paul Kirk's? The tall skinny short-haired really fast type? Or maybe something small for a change so I'm not competing against BCs all the time?--although I'm not really a small-dog person, I don't think--never that fond of shelties, don't particularly care for JRTs, Papillons are definitely not my style.

I've liked the looks of Malinois since I first saw them in agility, but I'll bet they're a lot more expensive than mixed breeds. :-) Then I saw a field Lab this last weekend at the CPE that got me quite excited. Not at all stocky like the show Labs, halfway between there & Remington, and very fast! Although I've preferred Goldens to Labs for many many years--and after watching (I've forgotten her name already--the lady in Flying Rearendas)'s goldens (Ted? and ?), hmm... but talk about not being able to tell the dogs apart from one another!

I've got plenty of time to think about it. And Mo and Gina have both said they'd be delighted to keep an eye out for a rescue or shelter dog for me. :-)

Or I could do like (one of our instructors) and get 2 puppies (BC and Sheltie...) at the same time! Crazy woman.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Little Catching Up

Walkies: I've had it with not being able to go for a relaxing walk with Tika. I dread it daily; half the time I come home more stressed than I left. No one wants to take her for a walk. Last night I tried to take the 3 dogs on leash--Tika without her Gentle Leader--just around the corner to try to see the lunar eclipse. Not only was she manic on the leash (as always) just trying to get out of our driveway and to the end of the court, but then she saw a cat and became unmanageable. Yessirree, the GL makes a big difference. But not enough.

Soooo--today I went back to Plan A, which I abandoned after 3 or 4 months with no noticeable success back when I first got her, which is to walk her alone and then walk the other dogs alone. It's not ideal because then all of the dogs get only half the exercise and entertainment, and Tika goes nuts in the house alone.

First day--every time she started past me, I turned and walked in the other direction (the old method I used for Remington, which also took months or maybe years to get him perfect). Within 10 minutes or less, she was walking docilely at my side, and I was actually able to go half a block or so in various directions without her moving ahead. Will it last? Dunno. We encountered no squirrels or cats and didn't go near the yards with barking dogs in them. How long will I have to do this with her alone before I can add her back to the pack? Who knows. I hope the answer isn't "never."

Agility Casey: Today we went over a jump, into a tunnel, and over a jump again without even really thinking about it. Often we have to repeat the approach to the tunnel or he goes past the jump the 2nd time. We still have the issue that, as soon as I toss his toy, he takes it and heads for the hills so I can't force him to do any more work. But he seems to love it--he blasts through tunnels and jets over jumps like a potential agility champ! Now to get sequences of more than 3 in a row.

Also, if I'm serious about this, I need to start EVERYthing--getting serious about teaching him the nose touch and driving to it, then doing it on the contact board, and so on. Need to work on his Down response and get him even more used to being on the table (and on getting onto it on command rather than having to be guided onto it). Then there are the weaving poles... ah, yes... And of course taking him places other than here to see whether he's still as interested in his toy. But am I serious about it?

Jakey Noodle-ooo: Yesterday we didn't go for a walk (Tika's class in the morning), then he was off doing something else during the one short time I played with the dogs in the yard. Mostly I sat at my desk and worked all day. By the time it was his classtime in the evening, he was rarin' to go. He always seems to be fast and enthused in class, but last night he was a master agility dog in all ways. What a guy. And I want to retire him? Hardly seems right.

But then he'll spend the day lounging at my housemate's feet instead of with me. I dunno, maybe she gives him more food. Right now he's dozing on the floor near my desk, and I know she's upstairs eating dinner, so maybe it just depends on--hmmmm--the vibrational frequency of brainular molecules?

Monday, October 25, 2004

CPE Weekend Results (Turlock)

Tika's weekend ribbons at the top (qualifying on the left, placements on the right); Jake's at the bottom.
It's fun for me to be one of THE dogs to watch, rather than (like at USDAA) merely another excellent dog out of dozens of excellent dogs. But we're still competing against dogs like Bob's Diva and Barb Hasey's Cody and some other very fast dogs.

We got lots of compliments both from people who know us and from people who saw us run last year while we were having the foot-grabbing, contact-popping, start-line-leaving, etc. problems.

Tika Qed 8 out of 10; of the missing 2, one was a dumb handling error and the other was one of very few knocked bars for the weekend. Took 2 2nds, 7 1sts, and one 5th.

Jake Qed 9 out of 10; of the missing one, he was a high-scoring dog but I got greedy and went over time and in that class the rule was over time=no Q. Took 6 1sts and 4 2nds.

Basic trial statistics: This was a very small trial, limited to 350 runs/day over 5 classes, which means a maximum of 70 dogs--divided into 6 levels and 6 jump heights. (Some levels and jump heights have more dogs than others--e.g., 4" jump height had only 1 dog at any level.) On average, if we ignore the 4" jump height, that's only 2.3 dogs competing directly against each other at any time. In reality, Jake competed against 1 other dog all weekend; Tika against from 0 to 4 other dogs (on average, there were 2.5 of us). Tika, however, really earned her first places, as you shall see.

CPE is kinder in time limits and number of faults allowed, but in fact both dogs truly earned their Qs this weekend. In CPE, levels 4, 5, and C (championship) (and sometimes 3) run the same course, just different SCTs and fault limits. So I can compare against all dogs at those levels.

SaturdayStandardFlawless, nothing even resembling a refusal or runout. Faster than all 4/5/C dogs except (the extremely fast German Shepherd) Diva, who beat us by .5 second but had a bar down.
JumpersAmong the fastest dogs although a handler error made an offcourse into an extra tunnel. But no bars down! No Q; 5th place.
Jackpot (Gamblers)Nontraditional with 2 on-course gambles that you could perform at any time; needed only one to Q. Each worth 15, 20, or 25 depending on how far you got... she got one 25 and then knocked a bar in the 2nd one but did it beautifully--1st in her class and 4th-highest of 28 4/5/C.
SnookerNo contacts, wahoo! A flawless three 7s and 2-7, fastest among all 39 3/4/5/C dogs.
Full House(Design your course like gambler's but with certain obstacles that you must complete.) In the rain after dark. She ran past an Aframe so missed 5 pts (friends watching says that they thought I had done it deliberately, so it must've been a gross handling error) but still took 1st in class and one point short of highest among 47 3/4/5/C dogs.
SundayStandardTika left the DW early so I made her stop, then waited until she Touched on the Afr, so we were slow; then knocked 1st bar on a serpentine. Half a Q (like NADAC).
SnookerAgain no contacts; an almost flawless three 7s and 2 thru 7A--knocked the last bar on #7 combo; 1st in her class and faster than all the dogs that successfully completed 51 pts.
JackpotSimilar to Saturday, except there were 3 gambles, one 15, one 20, one 25--she went perfectly out PAST a dogwalk entrance to the beginning of the 25 (a tunnel facing away)--but ran past the tunnel entrance, too. Got the 15 and 20 perfectly. 1st in her class; 4th highest again overall.
Wildcard(A short standard course but with some obstacle choices; you must take a certain combination of hard and easy choices.) No contacts again, VERY fast, no bars down--and an aussie named Mesa, whom I never saw run all weekend, beat us by 1.4 seconds on this 81-yd course! A little scary. But Tika was still 1st in her class and 2nd only to Mesa out of 49 3/4/5/C dogs.
Colors(Three 8-obstacle courses intertwined. You pick one.) Tika has a problem with this class because, unlike most classes in CPE, a knocked bar is an NQ at all levels. Last run of the weekend. She has knocked only 3 bars in 9 classes so far. BUT--She wouldn't stay sitting at the start line. In most classes I had to stop and tell her once after leaving her at the SL. This time I had to tell her about 5 times, and then when I finished my lead-out I waited until I knew she wasn't moving before releasing her. She knocked the 1st bar, dagnabbit, first time all weekend for the 1st bar. So NQ. BUT she did the rest flawlessly and was the fastest of about 45 dogs even with an Aframe EXCEPT for Mesa who beat her time soundly again! Still, a 2nd place in her class.
SaturdayStandard Missed a weave entry on a fast start (I was ahead of him); in CPE this is just wasted time but in other org's would have been a fault. Otherwise nice; got his contacts with me reverting to his original modus operandi of yelling "Contact!" and then he stops where he is.
JumpersNot superfast but nice and clean. Outside the ring, in lots of ways, I notice that his back legs aren't always working the way they should. He does very well for an arthritic dog.
Jackpot (Gamblers)Highest score of all 3/4/5/C dogs! One of those courses in which age & treachery (I mean experience) wins out over youth & speed. He got 20 points on each of the 25-point gambles and took a bunch of extra obstacles that I hadn't intended that turned out to be worth more than the extra 5 points on the gambles. Huh.
SnookerRan the same course as Tika, got 3 7s and 2-7. Both dogs ran nicely; Jake was 7 seconds slower than Tika over the same course with a time of 38.12 seconds. In other words, Jake is more than 20% slower than Tika. I don't often get to compare them directly where they're running the same course and both are essentially flawless. They had, overall, 50 seconds in which to complete the course, so neither dog is at all droopy. A total of 12 dogs, including mine, out of 39 dogs got 51 points on this course.
Full HouseAn excellent run although I got greedy and lost 2 of my points by being 2 seconds over time. What kills me is (and I've done this so many times before) that, at the last minute on course, I thought to myself, "hey, I can squeeze in a couple more points than the way I planned it if I do *this*--and then it turns out that my original course would have earned us about 2 more points and NOT lost us 2 points for a net gain of 4 points. And I always kick myself afterwards and then I end up doing it again some other time.
SundayStandardStarting to get light on his contacts again, but this time otherwise very nice.
SnookerA nice smooth 3 7s and 2-7; same course as Tika again but enough slower than other dogs to earn only a 2nd place. 16 other of 43 dogs also earned 51 points on this course.
JackpotSee notes in Tika's. Got the 25 pointer and 15 pointer perfectly but trying to send to the 20-pointer, which I thought was *easy* for him, he instead went out to a set of weaves going directly away from me, did them perfectly, then much to the audience's amusement, turned around and did them perfectly headed back towards me again. Among the highest-scoring dogs again, but again I got greedy on my way to the table and did one more obstacle--and ended up over time, but in this case the penalty was no Q.
Wildcard Fairly fast even with 2 sets of weaves. Same flawless course as Tika's, but his 19.77 seconds was noticeably slower than Tika's 15.44. Standard Course Time allowed was 38 seconds!
ColorsRan a different course from Tika to avoid the dogwalk. Nicely done with just one drift away from me but we reconnected before he went offcourse. Good enough for 1st place.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Some Agility Statistics

There were 212 dogs entered in this last weekend's trial. It was a medium-to-small trial.
  • 73 were Border Collies.
  • 28 were Australian Shepherds. (Including Tika, whom they still had listed as a Craussie.)
  • 17 were Shelties.
  • 18 were All-American (including Jake, entered as a Semidachshund as always).
  • 12 were Pembroke Welsh Corgis. (And an additional 3 were Cardigans.)
  • 5 German Shepherds.
  • 5 Jack Russells.
  • 4 Labs.
  • And 47 other dogs representing a total of 26 other breeds.

31 of the dogs had earned at least their ADCH. Five of them are in Jake's Wednesday night class (not including instructors but including Jake, of course); five more of them collectively belong to my dogs' three assorted instructors. 18 of them are fellow Bay Team members.

This trial didn't list dogs by age; at the TRACS trial 3 weeks ago, with 179 dogs, there was one 12-year-old dog (Jake) and one 11-year-old dog; jumped to eight 10-yr-olds. There were none older. Highest quantity was 5-yr-old dogs with 32. Dogs can't compete in USDAA until they're 18 months; only 2 entries were less than 2 years old; 2-yr-olds jumped up to 22.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Tika's Weekend

Tika feels as if she's running so nicely--fast, smooth, paying attention. Seems a pity when we come away with only one Q out of 8 runs. Pairs relay wasn't her fault; everything else seems we had only one fault each time (but that's enough...)

  • Grand Prix: Nice run, missed up contact on dogwalk, Q, 13th out of 33 dogs.
  • Relay: Nice run, no faults, partner off course.
  • Gamblers: I bobbled lead-out pivot to the weaves & wasted maybe 5 seconds trying to get back in; overhandled & put her into a tunnel instead of across the 7-pt dogwalk, and then she flew off the top of the Aframe (like she expected it to keep going up? It was scary--she looked startled and I was afraid she'd hurt herself landing) and then I tripped over her & fell as the whistle blew and it was a mess.
  • Snooker: Knocked 1st bar in opening but I recovered & got the other 3 reds; in closing, knocked bar in #5 serpentine and so didn't Q. Otherwise smooth & fast.
  • Standard: Pulled too hard to the Aframe & pulled her away from it for a refusal & wasted time; knocked a bar, too, but most was nice.

  • Snooker: Knocked first bar but I recovered & got the other 3 reds; in closing, she slipped after the first jump of #5 and lost her footing and so ran past 2nd jump of #5 (the one that other dogs were knocking)... so didn't Q. Otherwise smooth & fast.
  • Jumpers: A nice fast smooth run except the runout on that 12-to-13 threadle--she then felt that we had to have a discussion about it when she came towards me, which wasted several seconds. No bars down.
  • Standard: Very nice except missed the weave entry--I think she was looking at me and didn't even see them because she ran through them about pole #4 (which probably means I overran them); no bars down, got the DWalk OK, too.

Start line: Gina watched several of Tika's runs. I've been keeping my head turned and trying to watch her at the start line all the way into my lead-out; had to tell her to sit again immediately on about 5 of the runs. Then she'd stay sitting... but at some point I have to look away to make sure I'm in the right spot before I stop and turn and look at her. She was sitting every time. But Gina told me that almost every time in those couple of seconds she was standing up and moving forward a foot or 2 or 3 and sitting again immediately. Argh!

Jake's Last USDAA Titles, Ever

This was Jake's last career opportunity to earn legs at a USDAA trial. After this, he'll be at 2 CPE trials and the USDAA nationals and then he's retiring. We came into this weekend still shy 2 snooker Qs for his AKD-Bronze and 1 Jumper Q for his AKD-Bronze (Performance equivalents to Snooker Ch Bronze (SCH-bronze) and Jumpers Champion Bronze (JCH-bronze)--that's 15 legs each at the Masters (or P3) level).

With fine form for a dog who'll be 13 in 2 weeks, is largely deaf, and is starting to have problems with arthritis, he got exactly 2 snooker Qs and a Jumpers Q this weekend, leaving his career USDAA title list as:

ADCh APD Jake, SACh-Bronze,SCh-Bronze,ASD-Bronze,AJD-Bronze,AKD-bronze

I am thrilled, sad but not terribly so yet because he's not really retired yet--but perhaps not surprisingly I am also scared. This really means that he's old and starting to be infirm, and in my limited experience it accelerates quickly once it starts. I'm holding on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Progress with Tika on Slamma Jamma

Progress in at least one area. I've sort of realized for a long time that, when playing with toys, she always brings them back and slams into you. I think I just mostly ignore it or sidestep it, except when it's a muddy toy and I'm wearing clothes that I care about. (Neither of which happens often.)

But a couple or three months ago, my favorite computer repair guy came by to help with a problem, and while we were waiting for the diagnostics to run, we went out into the back yard. He also has a dog and enjoys dogs, so he was throwing toys for the beasts. Tika returned the ball and slammed it into repair guy's you-know-where. I suddenly realized (takes me a while sometimes) that this was a real problem, and not merely a small annoyance.

So we started two new rules: 1) that I wouldn't play with the toy until Tika let go of it and 2) she wasn't allowed to hit me with it. We worked with clicker and spray bottle, over and over. There were times it seemed that she'd never let go of the ball except on the far side of the yard when she got tired of me not playing with her. And although she'd blink when she'd get sprayed when jamming the ball into me, it didn't really seem to have a strong effect on her. Still, she was getting to the point where she'd come almost to a stop, start squinting in expectation of being sprayed, and take a couple of very slow steps towards me and PUSH the ball against me. It's as if she believed that that's what she was *supposed* to do. (Which is certainly possible.)

I realized over the last couple of days that she's almost never hitting me with the ball (except when approaching from behind--apparently this isn't a behavior that generalizes well). And she almost always drops the ball fairly quickly when she brings it back.

This has been an interesting process. I figured that it would take a while because she's been doing it the wrong way for so long, and I was right. But I've tried to be extremely consistent. Sometimes I lose track of what I'm doing, for some reason--multitasking, usually--and grab the ball while she still has it in the air.

And I've started making certain exceptions where she has just earned the reward of the ball, and she loves to play tug of war, so if she has it on the ground in the play position, I will sometimes take hold of it and play there.

It's nice to feel that I've made progress on *one* of her social issues. Now to deal with knocking out the come-from-behind issue.

We've also been trying to get her to back off and, preferably, lie down when people are eating, instead of standing two inches from the table and your elbow, panting. I think I'm not as consistent as that, although I'm trying hard to be less laissez faire about it. Someday...

Monday, October 11, 2004

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wow, It's Happening So Fast

Monday night, Jake was ill. I couldn't tell whether it was his back and legs or something else that was bothering him, but when we went to bed, he'd lie down--then get up and move around and lie down--then get up and move around and lie down--then get up... I didn't sleep much. Then starting around 1:00 he'd jump off the bed and look at the door (my dogs' way of letting me know that they need to go outside--and my motherly instincts *almost* always wake me up for this. This is one good reason why having the dogs on the bed is a good idea--if they were sleeping on the floor, I might never hear them get up, and they never stare at the door loudly enough.), and I'd let him outside, and he'd wander around a little, pee, and then go back to bed.

Then he'd lie down--then get up and move around and lie down-- you know the drill, and then I'd finally doze off, and then he'd jump off the bed and stare at the door. At about 6:45 he finally threw up a couple of times and got it over with, so it apparently wasn't his back and legs.

But all day that day he wasn't enthused about playing chase in the back yard. I'd get the toy out and he'd look slightly interested; I'd throw it, he'd start to trot (trot!) after it, then veer away and give me a put-upon look. But eventually, after wandering around the yard a bit while I played with the other dogs, he'd go over, pick up the toy, and bring it to me to throw. And then he'd chase it madly as always.

We went out in the car, and he had trouble jumping in and in fact yelped when he missed and started sliding.

Was he still feeling ill, or was it his back & legs?

But in class last night, he ran just fine, like a lovely little agility dog, although I did jump him at only 12" for the evening.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Oh, My, Age Zooms In

The old dog taking his justified rest, one white paw just visible next to his face. (And NOT on my pillow.)
This week has not been good for little red dogs. On several occasions, just touching his lower back or thighs caused him to Yipe. I couldn't figure out where or what specifically--I didn't want to put him in so much pain that he'd yelp again, and almost everything I tried caused him pain. Yet he could go out into the yard and chase the ol' squeakie with aplomb.

He's occasionally on our walks slowed down for no apparent reason and just wanted to walk slowly. I've attributed it usually to there being too many other dogs along (Tika and Casey) or maybe he's thinking about producing some environmental contributions. But yesterday morning we went down to the Guadalupe trail nearby and started breezing along, and then abruptly he slowed. Visibly limping, although it was more of an uncomfortable gait rather than favoring a foot, and once again I couldn't figure out what, where, or why. Walked slowly back towards the car about a quarter of a mile or so--

His tail wasn't down, he still looked around interestedly and sniffed at things, but he was walking instead of trotting (and Jake in his whole life has never merely walked anywhere). Nothing visible in his feet anywhere, and I checked pretty carefully. Then, about a block from the car, he perked up, picked up the pace, and went back to the usual Jake trot with no sign of the limp from moments before. Something's probably popping in and out. I keep threatening to take him to one of my many friends' many chiropractors, but then I keep looking at my wallet--

I gave him half doses of Rimadyl all weekend (that's all I had left) and got him back on Glucosamine last week. There's been no yelping the last couple of days, and this morning's walk was completely normal.

Why Do I Always Wake Up With Dog Hair In My Mouth?

My pillow is always saturated with dog hair despite my best efforts to keep it covered. I can't figure out why. (You would think that a king-sized bed would have plenty of space other than on my pillow for certain rebellioius coat-blowing dogs to do their nesting--wouldn't you?)

Fortunately, Superdog is here to save the day. At least--in her dreams--

Finally started a photo album

Have been wanting to do this for a long time. Don't really have the tools for it, but here is a start on the photo album for all the photos that have appeared here. I've included only 5 of the 25 or so photo subdirectories so far, and each one changed/got better (I hope) as I went).

Feedback welcome. First I'll try to get all the photos in (and probably not any time soon, sorry), then I'll go back and try to add captions and/or a link to the blog entry in which they appeared.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Conservation of Dog Toy Mass/Energy

Apparently there is some natural physical law concerning the quantity of mass of dog toys in the back yard. I hadn't realized it before, but, like Newton, I experienced a dramatic demonstration of the natural law in my very yard yesterday.

The ideal toy. Blue version.


First, we must detour to about 5 months ago. I had a couple of nifty latticework rubber balls, one red, one blue, about 6 inches in diameter, each containing a squeakie ball. These turned out to be the ideal Jakie toy: A squeakie that he could still squeak but that he couldn't tear to shreds when unsupervised, a ball that you could easily throw and that would bounce a bit and roll enticingly, and yet a lovely toy for playing tug that both dog and mortal could grasp easily.

On the Hunt

Well and so, about 5 months ago, the red one vanished. Toys often vanish around here--Casey loves to have a toy in his mouth, but he is also wont to drop it wherever he happens to be standing at the moment that he has some other thought about what to do with his mouth, and he seldom goes back and gets the toy in the same thought process event. I'm constantly retrieving toys from behind the shrubs, behind the waterfall, over in the side yard by the recycling bin, over in the other side yard behind the shed, in the middle of the flower bed, on top of the compost pile (don't ask), and so on. Often the retrieval involves hands and knees. Finding and retrieving Casey's dropped toys could be a full-time job if it paid a little better.

And he's particularly fond of taking the other dogs' favorite toys when they have a moment of disattention. So I was pretty sure that Casey must have taken the red one and dropped it in some place that we mere mortals would not occur to look, let alone put our little canine bodies into with a mouth full of toys. Back then, I wandered all over the house & yard looking for it.

On about three other occasions, I made concerted hard-core efforts to find the red one--moved everything I could think to move, peered under everything that I could imagine had an under to it, shoved my arms and head INTO various shrubberies to see whether it had gotten caught on, among, or behind branches. Pulled the Aframe forward from where it's leaning against the fence--that's where we found his missing collar after a couple of months, but I was pretty sure we had narrowed the gap to where even Casey couldn't enter, and indeed there was no collection of dog toys back there. Mangled myself on the blackberry vines just to be sure it hadn't gotten lost in the bramble. Went into parts of my yard that I never dare go because there are spiders and things.

My final conclusion was that perhaps some visiting child or guest had tossed the red one over the fence somewhere and, if no one had returned it by now, it would never see the light of day again.

Handing Myself Over to Fate

Therefore, finally, last week, I gave up. Now, although I still had the blue one, I always like to have a backup version of Favorite Toys because the one I expect to be around occasionally goes walkabout (see also, "Casey loves to have a toy in his mouth," etc.) and then I and the dogs can do nothing but pout for days until it reappears. Hence, backup versions. SO I went to the dog store, paid an exhorbitant amount for *two* rubber latticework balls (because the blue one is already torn in one spot and is acting a bit creaky), and added the new purple one to the collection of backyard toys.

You know that getting a new one tempts the hand of fate, right?

Tika's Toy Ties In

Shortly thereafter, Tika's favorite teal Jollyball (about 6" in diameter, with handle until Casey removes it, see previous posts in this blog) started exhibiting signs of having had enough. All those months of tug-o-war and dog chomping have sliced myriad tiny slits into its surface, and several of them finally banded together into one large slice near the handle side of the ball. I hate throwing away a Jolly Ball that still has nominally a handle, but yesterday afternoon, while we were out playing (pre-Dogwalk move), Tika chomped hard on it, her nose and upper jaw went right into the large slot, and it grabbed right down onto her schnozz, harder as she tried to pull her nose out, and she looked a little panicked.

I just happened to have a brand-new Jolly Ball, bright purple, waiting in the garage. SO I set aside the holy (sic) teal ball, got out the new purple one to Tika's quivering delight, and played with her for a few minutes. Then I returned to the garage for a few seconds to get my tape measure to begin measuring the yard for the dogwalk moval. (OK, come on, if you can have a REmoval, you've first got to have a moval, right?) As I came out of the garage, Tika was kind of shaking her head to one side as if something were in her ear. I *think* she had the purple jollyball in her mouth at the time, but I really don't remember clearly. I called her over to me to look in her ear. A bit dirty, didn't see anything, but kind of rubbed it and scraped it with my finger and sure enough got a tiny bit of grass. Then I had to scritch her a bit and she had to rub her head around a bit.

Another Vanishment, More Mysterious Still

Then we couldn't find the brand new purple jolly ball. It's purple, right? So it's not going to be hard to see among all of the green shrubberies and such. I kept prompting her to find it, and she bounded all over the yard and even into the house, looking for it, to no avail. I eventually joined the hunt, and we looked and looked and looked. I even went back into the garage, although I was pretty sure that she hadn't followed me in. I crawled under shrubberies (found several Casey-deposited toys even though he's been out of town for 4 days), looked behind all the furniture, even sent the dogs through the tunnels in case it had somehow gotten in there, looked in the ground cover on the one side of the yard.

How is it *possible* for a bright purple 6" diameter brand new ball to vanish while it's allegedly in plain sight of an allegedly intelligent human and two toy-motivated dogs? I can only begin to describe my level of frustration. Eventually I had to relent to the "It'll Show Up Eventually If I Pretend To Ignore It" strategy, got out the old cruddy teal ball again, and continued playing with the dogs while beginning the arduous dogwalk-move episode.

Little did I realize that the purple jollyball was merely a sacrifice in the conservation of dog-toy matter.

A Revelation From Above

So there I was, rapidly moving towards exhaustion, sweat trickling down my delicate feminine form, 400 pounds of dogwalk in my hands, lifted forward and above my head to get it between the tree limbs, struggling to drag it against the clutching tufts of lawn grass just another couple of inches so I could rest it on the branch AND simultaneously trying to lift it just another six inches, and as I shoved and yanked and looked up to see what was preventing the dagratted thing from going UP--what to my wondering eyes should appear, lodged in the very highest center branches among the foliage of the apple tree, but a red rubber latticework ball.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that Casey didn't put it there.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Why Agility Is So Much Work

I moved my dogwalk today.

About Moving Equipment In General

Many people move their agility equipment all the time. For example, I move my jumps and weave poles around as much as possible in my little hanks of grass and mulch. I occasionally move my tunnels, but mostly I leave them wrapped around trees in the yard's corners and looped around the patio, which makes the yard seem bigger because I can send the dogs over jumps or weaves in the middle of the yard and blast them full speed through the tunnels and on to more obstacles, making the yard seem bigger and getting more speed from the beasts.

Plus the tunnels are heavy. Plus if I move them where there's grass, I have to move them again right away or the grass dies. A whole lot more of it than dies when I leave my weaves or jumps in place for more than a couple of days, which I do too often.

Away Way Back In the Ages Dark

I got myself a dogwalk and an Aframe at Power Paws Camp, hm, I believe it was 2 years ago last May. Sort of a housewarming present to myself. Back when I thought I had unlimited money. I scouted around the yard and determined that there was exactly one place where I could set up the dogwalk. It took me a couple of hours to figure out how to assemble it, to assemble it, and then to get the tension right so that it would all hold together.

I should explain--it's not that I didn't know where the tension needed to be--there was a perfectly obvious loop, clip, and wire. The problem was in how to get the tension tense enough to be able to slip the clip over the loop. Somehow I managed it--don't remember how (that was way way back in the ages dark, you know) but I do remember that it took me a very long time and I worked up a big piece of oozing sweat.

After that--well, even if I had had someplace else to move the dogwalk to, that sucker's heavy, even broken into 3 pieces. And it doesn't have wheels.

Why the Time Has Come

You're supposed to move equipment around often so that the dogs (and you) can work different approaches & strategies & learn that equipment can be located anywhere at any time, not always 5 feet out from the shrubbery along the back fence. So I decided it was time to move my dogwalk around (2.5 years is "often" for this equipment, IMHO). The dogwalk is almost 36 feet long. You'd like to be able to give the dogs a running start straight at it. In its previous position:
  • One end had a fairly clear straight-on approach--except that the ramp ended in a depression, so really the dogs were forced to leap onto the ramp, in Tika's case always missing the contact zone. Since she's had so many problems with faults for missing the up dogwalk contact, I stopped doing that a few months back.
  • The other end had a fairly straight on approach--if I took the dog back between the back shrubbery and the apple tree and the pond, in a little narrow gravelly area that's wide enough for the width of a dog. But that kind of precludes running straight on from any other obstacles.
So, for months, we've been practicing speed dogwalks from one end to the other, and wraps onto the dogwalk, but nothing straight on.

Plus I'm getting a little tired of it taking up so much space (5' out from the rear shrub & fence; I couldn't move it any closer to the shrubbery because there's a big old mongo apple tree in the way). (It takes me a while to get tired of things that would require work to change.)
The best seats in the house. Squirrels, beware!

The Move Begins

Soooooooo--I remeasured the yard. I discovered that there is, in fact, exactly one and only one other location in the yard where it would be available for straight-on runs for both ends, take up a bit less space closer to the back fence, be off more of my lawn and more into the mulch area, therefore taking up less visual presence in the part of my yard where people are ever likely to go.

It took me over an hour to move the son-of-a-catwalk. (Which is another reason I don't move it all that often.) First, the ramps have to come off. They merely have a tab (A) that fits into a slot (B) on the main walk--but the suckers weigh about 60 pounds each and they have to be at the perfect angle to slip in and out of that slot. If the downside ends are higher or lower than that perfect angle, no-comie-outie. And my yard is just not level back there. So I had to do some clever maneuvers involving several muscles (I dosed up on Aleve at my back's request later on), bricks, shovels, and convenient profanities just to slip tabs A out of slots B.

Then I had to move the main part with the legs and supporting pipes. (Decided it would be easier to do that than to attempt to disassemble the legs & reassemble.) After trial and error I found that, if I managed to get the bottom of the frame into the air at waist-level, then the legs on the other end would more or less slide across the grass rather than dig in and hold. Getting it to waist level, however, required considerably more muscles and a good sense of balance, because one has to lift about 100 pounds (guessing) straight up from ground level without doing anything stupid with your back or knees, and the shape of the framework made that ding-dangily difficult. But I did it. More than once, in fact.

Aye, There's The Rub(s)

Then I had to get it into the designated position. To do that, however, I needed to unhook the tension-wire clip from the loop. It took much huffiment & puffiment to get enough slack to wrestle the clip off. At which point the supporting pipes fell out, which I had forgotten about. At least that lightened the whole shebang by probably another 50 pounds. (It is possible that my aching back and shoulders were not allowing an accurate estimate of the weights involved.) THEN getting it into position required some more muscles that I don't usually recognize as regular participants in my anatomy, plus luck, plus sweat, plus balancing a 200-pound dogwalk on one of its feet while running back and forth from front to back to inch it gradually between two big solid wood limbs without dropping it on anyone or anything fragile. (Interesting, related, story about conservation of dog-toy matter tomorrow.)

THEN came the tension thing. I replaced the supporting pipes, then tried and tried and tried to push one set of legs hard enough towards the other set of legs to be able to slip the wire-clip back over the loop. I got the gap from 3" down to 2" down to 1"--and gave up and called my sister, who conveniently moved in down the block so that she could provide assistance with agility equipment and conveniently has a fiance with a strong back and an agreeable personality. I begged him to stop by for *one minute*--which he did, came up with a clever way of getting the slack I needed for clip slipping (required one person for tension and one person for clipping even so). As his minute was up, he took his cleverness and went home again.

Then I had to get tabs A back into slots B. By this time, well into my second hour, I'm sure, I was getting the hang of lifting one 300-lb. item with one shoulder while balancing the end of another 100-lb. item on the end of the one on my shoulder and nudging carefully with random parts of my anatomy to get it to *fall* into the proper position--ensuring that in the meantime assorted dog assistants hadn't wandered into the work area without their hardhats.

But Wait--There's More!

Then I had a bunch of vegetation trimming to do. Then there were all of the flower planters that I had judiciously arranged this spring into areas that were complementary to the dogwalk, didn't kill too much of the lawn, were out of the dogs' ways as they slalomed among the breaks in the back shrubbery, and yet still received water from the lawn sprinklers. Now, with the new dogwalk position, none of those positions worked, so I had to rejudiciously rearrange them all, including replacing one sprinkler head (and probably need to do another) for better coverage.

Golf isn't the only sport with hazards.

I took Tika over the dogwalk, slowly, in both directions (not simultaneously), to see whether she'd freak out at its new location or whether it would collapse and kill her. Fortunately neither occurred. The second time, Jake followed on her heels, not wanting to miss the unique experience.

I still haven't figured out what to do with the crocodile. At the moment he remains sunbathing directly in the newly created head-on path from the tunnel to one end of the dogwalk. And, in case you haven't moved a croc lately, they're bloody heavy, too.

So--I moved my dogwalk today. I can hardly wait until I recover enough that I can acutally use it in a practice session.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Artist's Life is a Hard One

Read and view the story of trying to fulfill a request for Wikipedia for a big dog and little dog together.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Added a photo

Backfill: Fri 9/24, added a photo to Tuesday's entry.

Mixed-Breed Dogs in the World of Knowledge

I've been working in my stray spare hour on a public-domain online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.org. One of the articles that I worked on and provided photos for will be a featured article on the main page on Sunday, Sept. 26.

You can get a preview (or, if it's now LATER than Sept 26, you can still see it here thru the end of the month)
-- scroll down to Sept 26
and just click on the "mixed-breed dog" link to see--well--do any of those dogs look familiar?

New Dog Shelter Opening

On Oct 1, the new City of San Jose Animal Care Center opens. Supposed to be a huge, state-of-the art facility with room for hundreds of dogs and cats. The Humane Society will no longer be providing this service--I'm not sure what they *are* going to do. Close up entirely?

Anyway--it's at 2750 Monterey Road near Umbarger Road.

There's a sneak preview/pet adoption madness this Saturday, Sept. 25. Too bad I'll be out of town doing agility. Or maybe it's a good thing.

Where Do People Get These Ideas?

You notice that there's a big difference in the hidden meanings between these two semantically similar questions: "Where do writers get their ideas?" and "Where do people get these ideas?"

The dogs and I were perambulating in a new neighborhood (while JiffyLub changed the van's oil--look at me! I'm multitasking!), and a nice man came out and asked to pet my dogs. Of course I said yes. But what he really wanted was to ask whether I knew a lot about dogs and dog training (assuming I did because I had 3 dogs who weren't pulling on the leash, sort of, most of the time). He bought his nieces and nephews a Border Collie. He said he was having trouble because he'd tell it to "sit" and it wouldn't and he'd tell it to "come" and it wouldn't and he wanted to know whether they got smarter as they got older. I told him, well, of course, dogs don't understand English; they're dogs. I said that you have to teach them each step, and that he needed to go to a training class to learn how to train dogs. And as soon as possible, because BC's have a lot of energy and he needs to know what to do with the dog or it could become destructive, chewing and digging for example. He said his Great Aunt (who apparently is responsible for the dog) was worried about the dog not behaving. I suggested that he go to the local pet store and ask for recommendations for dog training and to not delay.

He said, "So I can't just train it the old-fashioned way?" I had many questions vying to be the first out of my mouth in response to that, but wiser brain cells prevailed and I asked, "What do you mean?" "Well," he said, "my grandfather got a dog when he was 14, and he told it to sit, and it would sit!" I pointed out that he must have known something about dogs, but the guy emphasized, "He was only 14!" I said that there was no way of knowing--but back then, maybe there were more people around with dogs whom he had seen training or had had some other experience with dogs. But that this guy himself needed to learn about dog training. Then he said it wasn't for him, it was for his Great Aunt, who wanted to know about dog training.

This isn't the first person who has ever asked me this kind of question in this kind of situation. Be afraid! Be very afraid! I'm thinking I'm seeing the possibility of yet another BC rescue--

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Can You Teach an Old Dog to be a New Dog?

Does this look like a dog who's turning 13 in a month?
Jake is getting old. It's hard to accept.

It seems to happen to dogs--I know that surprises you, as it did me--but Jake seemed eternal. Now that I've allowed myself to decide that it truly is time for his retirement, it appears that I've also allowed myself to see the signs more clearly. And yet, sometimes I wonder--when I thought he'd go forever, like the Everready Agility Dog, did I see only the positive signs to rationalize my perception? And, likewise, now that I'm working towards his retirement, am I seeing only those things that rationalize my decision that the time has come? One wonders. Perhaps more than one wonders, perhaps even two or three.

Now I have been telling people that the USDAA Nationals will be his retirement show, but I found that that wasn't easy enough for me: There's one more trial that we'll attend this year, a CPE trial Thanksgiving weekend (2 weekends after Nationals), with just 3 runs a day, and I thought--you know--he finally earned his CATCH in June, just in time for the CPE Nationals the following weekend, and at the Nationals we just totally sucked. And that would be our going-out for CPE with his still-new CATCH. I couldn't bear it. So I have entered him at 12 inches (for the dog who earned his ADCH jumping 24" and 22") as a Veteran for the first--and last--time. Six more runs. And then--that's it. The end. All gone. No more agility competitions for the JakeyMon--my Jakemeister--my JakeyNoodle-oo, my little red Jedi Gambling Master.

I might be repeating myself from earlier posts, but it'll be the first time since May of 1997 that I've had only one dog to run at a trial. And I don't even have another one in the works (unless I get serious about training Casey My Man the Emergency Backup Wired Dog). And, for a few, very few--too few--weeks, I was running three.

Tika's first fully-entered trial (rather than just 1 or 2 jumpers runs) was Remington's next-to-last. So, painfully, Jake's retirement brings back those memories--I thought I'd have another dog to keep running for a while after Jake got too old.

Yelling and clapping and whistling won't wake the sleeping Jake any more. No reaction whatsoever. I have happend upon the tactic of lightly touching one of his feet to wake him; I believe that it avoids his wild-eyed frantic awakenings where I'm afraid I'll end up with dog teeth embedded in an unfortunate part of my anatomy.

He seems to sleep a lot more. (Except that every time I turn around and look at my snoozing dog, he has another apple stashed under his chin, dagnabbit. He's got to stop eating those! Putting on weight! So he's going out long enough to hunt down the elusive apple and bring it to heel.) Several months back, maybe as much as a year ago, he stopped wildly chasing Tika out to the yard when some eventful activity (e.g., squirrel, bird, cat, noise, fence, tree, grass, air, exciting things like that) occurred. He'd start to follow, but slower, then stop at the sliding door and just look out, woofing, wagging his tail if that seemed a strategy appropriate to the level of threat. I had thought at first that it was because the new, young, wild Casey had moved in and was always 3 inches from Tika's heels as she blasted through the doggie door. And that might have been some of it--he himself suddenly realized that he wasn't part of the A team any longer.

When my housemate is here watching TV upstairs, Jake seems to prefer snoozing on the floor with her than downstairs here with me and the Wild Things, even when I'm working at my desk. (Just to balance things out, Casey likes to lie under my desk near my feet--Tika and Jake used to take turns doing that. Who knows how these hierarchies work...Casey always waits for Jake and Tika to finish eating before he starts.)

I think he hears me clearly sometimes, and then I'm sure he doesn't. We were sitting at the dinner table the other evening, and it was quiet, and Jake went to stand and look out the door. To test, my guests started calling his name, clapping, whistling. This is people at the dinner table. Food is potentially involved. Other than my inability to imagine Jake ignoring people paying attention to him in any situation, this was so clearly exhibiting deafdoggedness that it was almost startling.

I have noticed for quite a while that his back legs do not always behave perfectly. Months ago, when Jake started sometimes missing his leap onto my bed, I again set up the makeshift steps that Remington had used in his illness. True to form for a one-brain-celled dog who takes a while to learn things, it took forever to convince him to step up onto the box, thence onto the chair, thence onto the bed, rather than leaping from the side as he has always done. But, once figured out, he seemed to seek it out.

I see more of it all the time. Last night I was downstairs late, reading at the table, and he was snoozing underneath. When I woke him to go upstairs, he was undoubtedly stiff and woozy; when we started up the stairs, his back legs didn't carry him at all and he slipped and almost fell back down. I grabbed him and steadied him, but he seemed frozen with fear and incomprehension at what had happened.

It will only happen more. What then, when he can't walk up the stairs on his own? When Sheba got to that point, she just didn't go up--but then, it seems to me that she often slept apart from us anyway, exerting her Husky independence. But Jake always wants to be sleeping where I am. Taking a nap on the dining room floor with a view of me and my desk isn't enough; he has to be here in the office with me.

And yet--he flies after his toy in the yard with the same vehemence and speed that he has always shown.

We are in transition.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Sheba's Page

I finally put a little something in Sheba's page.

Oh, For a Little Dictionary Help--or Some Common Sense--

Entries from this week's Pets classified in the San Jose Mercury News' The Guide:

Under Cats: "Cheetohs! Wild/domestic hybrid." Do they mean cheetah? Do they mean cheeto? Huh, no, here's what I found: "the Cheetoh is supposed to be a unique, new breed blending Ocicat and Bengal. Unfortunately, it's not unique, new, or a breed. The Cheetoh is just a mutt. It is not recognized in any registry, and is no different genetically than a Bengal, albeit an unregistered one, because the Ocicat was used to develop the Bengal" Now you know. And they want $1000 each. (Quote from this site.)
This breeder (note, site plays music everywhere), identified as the "Cheetoh founder", feels that I am being unfair by posting this comment without talking to a breeder first. Feel free to do a web search on "Cheetoh", read a bunch of the pages, even call some breeders, and form your own opinion. (Addition posted 10/29/04)

Under Dogs: "Alaskan husky-wolf pups." You can *always* find wolf hybrids in the ads. In California. The last time there was a wolf in California was 1912. (A fact that I just made up.) (Oh, wait, I just found some true information; 1924 is more factually accurate.) In the whole mainland U.S., there aren't more than a few hundred wolves, mostly in Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Michigan, and that kind of neighborhood. Where are these wolf hybrids coming from? Why or how do people go out of their way to get their dog bred with a wolf? Or are these Nth generation wolf hybrids (so that they're essentially 99% domestic dog) but it sounds cool to have a wolf hybrid? Inquiring minds want to know.

Pit bulls for sale, from--yes, you see it in print--"Bully Kennels." Yes, officer, we breed these dogs as pets; oh NO how could one even THINK of these as fighting dogs? Also listed: Argentine Dogo pups and Dogue de Bordeaux pups. Not familiar with the breeds? No one was familiar with the Perro de Presa Canario, either, until two of them killed Diane Whipple.

"Austrian/Shep" also for sale. OK, if we assume that the slash means a mix or cross--what is it a mix or cross of? There ain't no Austrian anythings that I'm familiar with ('cept the Austrian Brandlbracke, which as we know is an American breed that is so common that familiarity breeds contempt so it could easily be ignored by its owners such that it's out cavorting with Shepherds and getting a little too cozy). Could this be (no, not working for a NEWSpaper) someone who took the ad by phone and had no clue about what an Australian Shepherd is?

"Chihuahuas:" There are twelve--count them--a Baker's Dozen minus one--ads for Chihuahuas. The next closest are Labs with 9, then Poodles with 7. Chihuahuas make up a full 10% of the ads! Do you ever see any Chihuahuas? No one ever sees Chihuahuas! Where are they hiding these dogs? Is it a conspiracy to take over the world? Most of us think that Labs are the dominant canine force, but we can easily control them because they're essentially agreeable and amiable. Chihuahuas are clever; they don't want you to know that they're slowly becoming the most common pet next to probably only husbands.

"Dolmation:" Also for sale. Is this, like, a toy Dalmatian (Doll + Dalmatian)? Or are they confusing it with Doll Motion? Or is it the fact that more American homes have Chihuahuas than have dictionaries, and Chihuahuas are notoriously bad spellers?

"Golden Ret/Malpoos/Labs AKC $550 to $800." OK, I'll give them that Golden Retrievers and Labradors are registerable with the AKC. But Malpoo?? I'm guessing: Malamute plus Poodle? Was it a toy poodle? What is it with Poodle hybrids? There's nothing else so commonly mixed, at least according to what people call their dogs. For a partial list--not including Malpoos, BTW, unless perhaps the Maltese/Poodle is it)--see here. Would you pay $550 to $800 for a mutt?

"Golden Retreiver:" How's that go--I before E, except after C...? You don't even need a dictionary for that! Or you could just look at the ad right next to it, "Golden Retriever". Maybe they spelled it both ways to be sure they'd be right at least once. Maybe that's why most are listed as Golden Ret, Golden Retrvr, and so on; can't spell it? Abbreviate it!

"Great Dane puppy: Harliquin." Oh, yes, a dictionary would be a nice thing to have. At least it wasn't Grate Dane.

"Lab, AKC, Yellow, Spaded." Do we have to dig our own?

"Labradoodle. Sacrifice $800/900." There are two ads for Labradoodles. Same price range. I ask again--how much would you pay for a mutt? Is it a breed? Is it a scam? Here's a brief overview of the so-called breed.

"New Foundland puppies." I wonder how much they want for Old Foundland puppies?