a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: January 2004

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Another *#@$ Dang Addictive Thing

Wikipedia. Read the article on agility I just wrote and posted, then go exploring to see how you can contribute to the universe's online collection of knowledge in encyclopedic form. It's very cool.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Honed Instincts

Through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, canines' senses and instincts have been honed to become fine-tuned instruments of survival. Dogs have been known to anticipate earthquakes, predict their owners' heart attacks, and detect imminent danger when the humans around them see, hear, and smell nothing, such as the bioterrorist threat when raccoons wander onto the porch.

My dogs, for example, employing the fine-tuned senses inherited from their prehistoric ancestors, know instantly, no matter how far away they are, when I am reheating pizza. They also make strong use of their atavistic ability to catch air-popped popcorn in midair when it escapes the gravity of the popcorn bowl.

Are they amazing, or what?

Monday, January 12, 2004

Miscellaneous After the Weekend

There's now a rough list of Remington's tricks available.

I had an intriguing conversation with an interesting woman about her dog-trick business.

(Have you noticed that referring to someone as a "woman" makes her sound like she's your mother's age? I don't know why that is--just that anyone my age and younger is clearly too young to be a full-fledged "woman." But "young lady" sounds like a 10-year-old. So I don't know what to call them. Or us. "Broad"? "Chick"? "Dude-ette"? "Female-type person"?)

Both dogs did great at this weekend's CPE trial in Elk Grove. Both qualified 7 out of 8 runs. If I have time, I might fill in more later. No photos, though, sorry.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Still Larnin' After All These Years

On Wed. morning, Tika and I finally had agility class again after two weeks off (then one week on before that and three (?) weeks off before that). The excitement was so thick you could chew it if your dog wasn't so busy jumping around like a crazed thing.

She was wild for the first run. Paid complete attention, but ran and jumped as if it were an extreme sport rather than mere standard agility, so we had to cycle around and try again several times.

Our threadle performance wasn't perfect (see Aug. 25 entry for diagram). So our instructor suggested that we practice by sending the dog out over the first jump, back between the first and second with my bod facing opposite the path along the threadle and a goodie in my hands in front of me for her to follow; walk backwards *past* the 2nd jump to give her a better idea of how we're moving together, and then go out over the 3rd and back in afterwards. Haven't tried it yet.

Our front cross performance wasn't perfect. (This is sounding way too familiar.) Instructor pointed out that when I'm trying to do a "chop" (point firmly towards the ground next to me with a "come" intended), I am in fact *first* raising my hand and arm out to the side, which looks like a gesture directing the dog in that direction, when I'll actually want the dog to change directions. After it was pointed out, we all watched pretty much everyone in the class do it repeatedly on the front cross exercises. How have we all gotten so bad/not realized it/forgotten it?

So we talked about keeping that hand down until the opposite (original) hand passes its path, then taking over with the new hand; one way to imagine it is that the original had has a leash connected to the dog, and as your body and arm draw the dog into a change of direction, your new hand takes the leash as the original hand passes its path. I think of it alternatively as your original hand and arm wrapping around your body until the dog follows your path and then the new hand takes over as your body turns in the new direction.

Wish I had some photos to demonstrate with. Or mini films. Huh--could be my chance to experiment again with my digital camcorder-- Just what I need, more things with which to suck up my copious time.

Now it's out for our daily walk and I'll see whether I have the energy to deal with Tika for a mile today. Often I just don't any more.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Food Cubes Rule

Just bought Casey a Buster Food Cube (Mini). He's such a delicate-behaving dog that the regular-size ones, which Jake has no problem with at all, were not tumbling and rolling for him. He still thinks a lot about the process, about where everyone else is, about what he'll do for his next vacation, about whether the furniture needs rearranging, about the best color scheme for spring fashions, and so on in between pawing or nosing the cube around.

My dogs love these things. They are particularly good for days when I don't have much time to spend with them (because, for example, I'm doing critical activities such as updating their Web site) or it's raining and nasty out so that they're not getting much exercise or stimulation. Jake, Tika, and Remington all work(ed) hard at the cube until the food is gone, so they're typically panting when they're done. At the "easy" distribution setting (which is all I ever use), it takes maybe 5-10 minutes for them to empty the cube.

Jake relies primarily on flinging the cube behind him with one front paw so it tends to crash off of walls and furniture. Not for use when you've got your antique crystal collection set up in the middle of the floor. Remington relied primarily on nudging it gently with his nose to roll it all around the room, using his paw only when he'd get it into a corner. Tika's more the nose type, too, but uses her paws more than Rem did. All find it easier to use on the carpet than on smooth floors. And I prefer lighter or more solid color carpets, because otherwise little bits of food hide in the pattern.

The bonus entertainment value that you get from the food cubes is that little bits of food end up rolling under various piece of furniture and the dogs don't always find them while doing their post-cube room evaluations. Then, hours, days, or weeks later, one of the dogs will go nuts trying to crawl under the couch--or the stove--

Fence Be Done

Yon fencers worked until well after dark both days, but indeed they replaced all 100 feet of the fence in 2 days. Thank goodness, since Tika took every opportunity to go exploring in the neighbor's yard. And, indeed, mostly didn't come back when called. Who trained that animal anyway? So for 2 days whenever she was out she had to be on a longline.

AND I just added more photos to preceding days' fence and mulch entries.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Fence, Glorious Fence--

Wayyy back when I moved in, and the hunnerd feet or so of back fence kept falling in, the neightbor wasn't interested in paying for half a fence.

I think his wife finally got tired of having to send him out every couple of days to nail together rotting boards that their dog or my dog (or a collaboration) knocked out of the rotting frame--and tired of the miles and miles of old cruddy plywood and random pieces of lumber that they had stacked against the fence on their side to cover the really bad parts.

What did I care--I didn't have escapist dogs and MY side was covered with a truly fine shrubbery!

But the wife finally came around and started pestering me on Christmas Eve. She already had a fence guy at work on their fence with the other neighbors.

So today he has arrived to spend 2 days dismantling the old fence (done by mid-morning) and install new fence. Which means no unsupervised dogs in the yard. My beasts have always had doggie door access, so we have no agreement on how canine inhabitants can signal that they need to visit the large grassy (and mulchy) dog restroom facilities. I've been taking Tika out on a long leash, where she whines and bounces around and does nothing in the way of Business. Jake marks a few shrubs and periodically trots thru the shubbery to the other yard since I hadn't yelled at him not to in the previous 15 seconds.

Fortunately he comes back when I yell loud enough. I doubt that Tika would return that quickly.

Still much debate about whether Jake's going deef, blind, crippled, senile, or just curmudgeonly (in a nice sort of way).

If it weren't for da dogs, who'd care about fences & mulches? These critters are getting to be an expensive hobby. ["Getting" to be???]

Mulch, Glorious Mulch! Who Cares What It Looks Like?

Muddy feet finally overwhelmed my resistance. Half a dozen times a day or more, wiping them there chunks o'mud off each dog's four little mud collectors. And all the footprints from their ins and outs through the doggie door that I couldn't catch or wasn't there to catch--wiping down the floor and wiping and wiping and wiping-- And the last couple of weeks of sometimes never-ending rain were the last straw (the last mudglob?).

I've muttered threats for over a year to buy a dumptruck full of mulch to cover the dirt in the yard until it can be all dug up, reirrigated, conditioned, and lawnized. Finally did so over the weekend. Wanted something biodegradable, not too expensive, and that my Fine Agility Dawgs could run and jump on with impunity. Decided on wood chips--what they called Pro Shred (if my feeble memory serves me well). Supposedly it's dyed--although they couldn't tell me with what, they assured me it's nontoxic to all living things, just "makes it last longer." I bought their line as well as their mulch.

The mulch arrived Saturday morning, and I spent the day in the yard finishing the removal of all of the old decrepit landscape fabric. It was, and has been all along, an agonizing chore because thousands of roots had grown through it, clutching it tightly to the ground. In each case, either the root or the landscape fabric had to be cut to make a few inches of progress. But now it's done!

Also sledged & hauled away a few linear feet of concrete edging that had lingered after the first demolition last spring and that had been blocking the path of some agility layouts.

On Sunday, ten fine friends appeared at ten in the morning. We got a shovel/haul/rake assembly line going and were done by 11:30. Took us longer to order and consume pizza and chitchat about what studly mulch haulers we all were.

(Thanks, Steph, for the 2 preceding photos--I was so busy being the Evil Overlord of Mulch and directing the minions that I got a before shot only--nuthin' at all of the slave labor.)