a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: September 2004

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?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Weekend results

SaturdayStandardAn extremely challenging course for large, fast dogs. 19 of 39 E'd on this course and only 4 26" dogs Qed. We hung in there--not even bars down--until 6 obstacles from the end, when I pulled her too hard and ended up with offcourse into tunnel under Aframe.
JumpersSmooth and fast, but 2 bars down. Still, not bad--17 of 38 dogs E'ed on this course.
Team StandardLooked great and then we knocked the last bar. Still, good enough for 18 of 45.
Team Gamblersr5c3
Steeplechase Rd 1Was late calling her to one sharp turn and she knocked the bar. Dropped us to 24th out of 61 dogs; without the bar, we'd have been in 14th place, earned a Q and gone on to the 2nd round.
SnookerHer first Masters Snooker. A tough course that knocked out a lot of dogs. We hung in until #6 in the closing--a threadle--and I moved too soon and pushed her past the 2nd jump. Even so, we were 7th out of 33 dogs, missing a super-Q by only 2 places.
SundaySnookerGot through 4 opening 7s with only one knocked bar on a 7, then on #3 in closing she went into the wrong side of tunnel #3, something I hadn't even anticipated. My fault--I had run beyond it and was looking back at her.
StandardMissed up on the dogwalk, plus one refusal. But otherwise very nice.
Team JumpersA twisty technical course and we ended up offcourse into a tunnel, probably my fault again.
Grand Prix Rd 1The 4th obstacle was the dogwalk and she missed the up contact again--I was on edge the rest of the way, but no other faults, so we earned another Q to the nationals and went on to Round 2. 21st of 44 dogs.
Relay Tika was very fast; her partner was very slow. Still, between them they earned a Q.
MondayStandardFinally! Our first masters Standard Q! Placed 6th of 40.
Team SnookerA good girl. Got all the way through, on a course that we ran very conservatively but that wiped out a lot of competitors. Knocked the 1st red in the opening but I had planned for it and we continued smoothly through the 3 optional reds and the closing. 13 of 42 dogs.
GamblersA nice opening. In the right place for the gamble but I probably turned her the wrong way over the #2 obstacle and she came back over the #1.
Grand Prix Rd 2We were both hot and tired. 3 5-pt faults and I don't know what 2 of them were--one was probably up on dogwalk. Known one was a refusal on badly directed weaves. But I don't think we had bars down.
JumpersLast run of the weekend. Tika's 17th of the weekend; my 28th. 6:30 on a very hot day. Offcourse almost immediately, so we kept going--she knocked 3 bars on this course. Herky jerky handling and turning.
Team RelayTika did great. But over 5 classes, our team missed Q for the nationals.

SaturdayStandardAn extremely challenging course for large, fast dogs. Of all heights of Performance dogs, 13 of 22 E'd on this course and only 3 Qed. So we were inbetween--didn't Q, didn't go off course, but not fast, not accurate, with 5 faults for flying off his Dogwalk down contact and 10 seconds over time to make up for all the wide turns and recovery times. It is so hard to run him with his deafness. If he loses sight of me, he doesn't check in, just keeps going, then I stop to wait for him, then when he figures out I'm not there, he comes back but thereafter runs slower, etc. He seems to like going out there and has fun until that happens, then he's clearly more cautious and concerned.
JumpersSmooth but not particularly fast; still, we were more than 6 seconds under course time, took a Q and 3rd of 7 dogs.
SnookerJake and I used to be a wonderful snooker team. Now I can't send him away from me and expect him to be making tight turns to come back, so it really hampers the kinds of openings I can pick and our general level of success. Picked a very simple opening sequence, then he missed the weave entry to a 6-pole weaves, completed them, then I had to pull him back around to restart them so we could go on. Got all the way through to the last obstacle--which was a 6-pole weave--and the whistle blew. We had enough points for a Q and 3rd of 4th place, but way out of place for a Super-Q (even had we completed #7, we'd have been 2 points under the first-place dog).
Babar PairsPaired with, of all dogs, Babar. Fairly smooth on a not-too-tough course. No Qs involved, just for fun. Babar not zippy. 6th of 11 pairs.
SundaySnookerGot him revved up ahead of time and we whipped through the first sets of jumps and tunnels but then he got ahead of me and I couldn't call him off of an offcourse.
StandardRan across and off the table again, dagnabbit. Got his down contacts with a tremendous amount of help. A variety of refuals and it was just a mess, finally Eed offcourse.
Grand Prix Rd 1 (Performance)Not super fast. Barely got contacts with help. Missed weave entry for a 5-point refusal, but managed to make it to Round 2. Only 2.5 seconds under course time.
MondayStandardAnother mess. Flew off contacts, I crossed in the wrong place and pushed him into an offcourse, just ugly.
GamblersPicked a conservative opening that he got through OK with a bit of a fumble on an attempted serpentine, then got to our last obst before the gamble, and the whistle didn't blow. Send him over my spare obstacle and called him back, and the whistle *still* didn't blow. Between the fumble on the serpentine AND using the spare obstacle AND my last obstacle having been an aggressive plan anyway, I yelled to the judge while I tried to figure out what to do next, "That's a lot more than 25 seconds!" Finally the timer sounded and we attempted the gamble but he had no momentum and couldn't carry out to #2. Sure enough, the timer had failed to go off after the opening, so the judge let us run it again. I gave Jake a few treats and we ran it again immediately. This time our placement was perfect when the whistle sounded and he got the gamble like an old pro. It's been a while.
Grand Prix Rd 2Another unmitigated disaster. Popped *both* down contacts, refusals everywhere, finally missed a jump for an offcourse.
JumpersJake's last run of the weekend. Amazingly, Jake was ready for it. Although we weren't fast, and had some iffy turns, he stuck with me and we were 4 seconds under time, for a Q and our first and only 1st place of the weekend, out of 4 dogs.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Boiling Toil Spoils the Goil

Our agility club, The Bay Team (external), hosted a supersized-with-fries three-day USDAA (external) agility trial at Twin Creeks Sports complex (external) in Sunnyvale. Holey sunshade, did it ever overtax my very molecules, even the athletic ones. We can enumerate the reasons (because we're using HTML and it lets us):
  1. Temperature reached 95 all three days. The slight breeze helped but not nearly enough. And of course dogs don't sweat. I do, but barely.
  2. Although the site was as compact as possible for four rings, and sat right next to the parking lot, and I hardly ever had to go to the far two rings, I stepped a tremendous number of steps. I ground myself down on both Saturday and Sunday until every muscle from my linty toes to my sweaty shoulders ached; by Monday I felt bad enough and suffered enough from a pinched something in my right hip that I concentrated my skills on sitting around rather than on doing as much casual strolling, assisting, and moving equipment. As a result, my pedometer showed, for my "sit around" day, that I covered a mere 11.9 miles (about 23,000 steps). The mortal mind boggles at how much ground I trod the two previous days.
  3. Tika competed in 17 classes, Jake in 11. Fortunately, Tika had moved up to all Masters, so I didn't need to walk completely different courses for each, although—because of Jake's deafness and Tika's speed—I did have to walk the overlapping classes (10 of them) for more repetitions than I would have for only one dog. That's a lot of bingey-hingey walkthroughs--and runs, with all of their emotional, physical, and mental intensity.
Twin Creeks has only recycled, hence nonpotable, water on the soccer field, so we had no running water with which to hose down our pups before and after their runs. We had discussed renting a water truck to come in for the weekend, but the expense (or something) prevented that. The solution turned out to be two dog-bath-sized metal tubs filled with ice water; Twin Creeks personnel appeared every hour or two throughout the weekend on a golf cart with a barrel of fresh cold water with which to refill the tubs, followed by buckets full of ice. Freshly filled tubs were numbing; they'd hit Tika just about chest level and Jake about halfway up his body. I'd get the dogs in, splash the water over them quickly until my fingers started feeling painfully numb (about 10 seconds), then let them pop out again.

By the time the time came for the next refill, the tubs were left with about six inches of brown, grassy, dog-hair laced, nearly luke-warm water. I kept thinking, "Gee, I hope that, unlike two-year-old humans, dogs' first reaction to being immersed in water isn't to loosen their bladders."

It was certainly better than no water, however. But--for the father, nothing. (Or mother, too.)

I, myself, drank prodigiously and produced barely a drop of liquid output.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


I've been trying to put in many hours at work. Both Monday and Tuesday I worked at my client's site rather than at home, and also worked long hours, and also had to rush out in the morning, so I was gone until late in the evening and the dogs got only a walk in the a.m. and a very small quantity of playtime.

Last night I dragged in sometime after 10:30. The dogs were ecstatic to see me, which I expected--they always are, that's the nice thing about dogs. However, all my dogs have always understood the concept of bedtime enough that, if I'm not heading up to bed by around 10 or 10:30, they precede me up there and start the long snooze on their own. Or start looking disgusted if I'm still mucking around actively.

That's usually true even when I've been out for the evening. They're happy when I come in, but their little internal doggie clocks get them to settle right into bed when I do.

Not last night. Tika had not had any mental or physical interaction worth mentioning for two days, and she was not going to let me forget it. When I crawled into bed, she crawled right up next to me and started putting her paw on my leg, my stomach, my arm, whatever she could reach. And then her chin. While I put drops in my ears and let them wrestle with the little bacteriae, I skritched and stroked her. When I turned out the light, even that wasn't enough. She snuggled more. Wanted more. I finally just told her to knock it off, and she did. But she was up in the middle of the night a couple of times, looking for something to do. She found a tubie-thing (empty toilet paper tube, valid dog toy) and slowly tore that into little pieces, alone, in the dark, at 3 a.m.

Poor poor dog. It sucks having a lot of energy and intelligence and enthusiasm to give and no one to give it to.

This morning, after another trip to the doctor's before which I did nothing with the beasts but feed them, we went for a nice long walk and then played a bit in the yard and tried to do some agility obstacles--problem was that by that time it was getting up well into the 80s in the sun and Tika got too hot too fast. So I hope we did enough--because I have to shower and head out to the client again for the rest of the afternoon.

And Tika has no class this week or next.

Tonight is Jake's weekly class; maybe I can split the evening between the two of them. I hate to take away from my time with Jake, but I also hate having a stir-crazy aussie thang.