a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: December 2007

Monday, December 31, 2007

Scaredy Dog and Vansetter

SUMMARY: Boost in a pet store and Ellen in her minivan.

Pet stores terrify The Booster. I don't entirely know why. Some of it is the intense smells--she has the same reaction to vendors at dog shows who sell rawhides, pig ears, and such. All my previous five dogs have considered a trip into the pet store to be a special treat akin to Doggie Candyland or maybe Doggy Disneyland--so much to sniff! Scraps of treats on the floor! Squeaky toys of all varieties!

But Boost is, and always has been, overwhelmed by the stimulus. Funny dog.

In another story, I am going to attempt to relive the lost road-trip extravagance of my youth in celebrating this New Year. Coincidentally, all my stops will be among doggie people. However, dogs are staying home.

There's a party in Petaluma this evening, just under 2 hours' drive from here, north past San Francisco. The friend is a dog owner and sometime activist: Worked hard to get the first dog park installed in the Petaluma area. She also now lives virtually next door to the Fairgrounds where my club has started holding a trial once a year, and I didn't realize it until I just looked up the driving directions.

I'll spend the night there, probably on the floor (although I'm taking my own bedding and mattress because I can no longer sleep comfortably on just soft carpeting). Then I'll rouse in the bright morning of a whole new year and drive 40 minutes east, across the top of the Bay, to Vallejo, to meet a long-time agility friend and her two cattle dogs for breakfast.

Then I'll bip 2 miles southeast to another dog-owning, professional-chef friend & family's place for an 11 a.m. hair-of-the-dog soupfest and puzzle relaxaparty--briefly, because then I have to return the hour-and-a-half home, whip up my zucchini/italian squash/tomatoes dish, and head up into the east foothills for my agility instructors' 3:00 New Year's Day open house.

My sister pointed out that, if I were doing this sort of thing across the country or continents, I'd be a jetsetter; however, since I'm doing it on a smaller scale in my Toyota Sienna, I'm a vansetter.

I like it.

Hope you all have a wonderful, peaceful, relaxing New Year celebration.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Retrospective Photos

SUMMARY: From my collection, one of each dog.

For the Power Paws new years party, Instructor N is gathering photos and video clips from students for a show. These agility photos aren't necessarily the best ones of my dogs, but they are distinctive in one way or another. For this blog, for completeness, I added photos of my first two (preagility) dogs. I have very few photos of them, turns out, and most of them are lying down. Wish I had tons more, but nooo--these are the best photos of the whole dogs.
Amber, my first dog, German Shepherd/Golden Retriever. Here she's about a year old. Got her at 6 weeks; she lived to 13.
Sheba, our Siberian Husky. Came to us at about 6-12 months just after we got married and barely predeceased our marriage (her: 17 years; us: 19).
Remington. He was about 10 months when we adopted him, and 3 when he started agility. I chose this one for the presentation because it shows the whole dog and has me in it, and I realize that it's been almost 5 years since I lost him, so there may be many people who know me but don't remember him. Almost inconceivable that it's been that long--he was just lying on that bed in the corner only yesterday, wasn't it?
This remains one of my favorite photos of Jake, who joined us when he was 6.
Tika, adopted at about a year old. Picked this photo for the presentation because it's the funniest weave photo I've ever seen.
Boost is only the second dog I've had as a real puppy--about 3 months when she came home. I don't have a lot of photos of her doing agility yet, but this surely shows off her teeter speed--although lately she's often been sliding into a slam-down, which is a joy to behold.

(Oh, by the way, here's a photo of Boost's mom, Tala. Nah, there's no family resemblance--)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

About Those Comments You've Been Posting--

SUMMARY: My hosting service does it again.

I just realized that it isn't that no one has been posting comments on my blogs--it's that I haven't been getting email notification about them. Along with the "upgrade" that hosed my blog access a couple of weeks back, they also neglected to convert my list of email aliases, including the one for comment notification.

Sooo--I've fixed that manually, and I just ran down all the December posts looking for comments that I've missed, and responded to some. Sorry about the delay!

Merles Darken

SUMMARY: Some merles get darker.

I like blue merles when they have lots of nice, light gray.

Boost has been getting darker over time--compare, for example, the left ear:

In fact, Boost had a white spot on her nose as a puppy that I kept thinking was a flower petal and kept trying to brush off. That white spot has completely vanished.

But here's a really interesting extreme example of darkening.

(Thanks for the post idea, BrisbeeTheWhite aka Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction.)

Happy Boxing Day

SUMMARY: Another lovely holiday season.

Family and Friends

My sister and her spousal unit are hosting another Boxing Day open house--really just another excuse to eat to excess. I'm lucky enough to have a family and friends nearby with whom I enjoy spending the holidays. But I do have to leave the dogs at home most of the time.

Yesterday was gifting and feasting with my extended family (let's see--at its height, we had 21 people there simultaneously for about half an hour; people drifted in and out). Dinner at another friend's. Tonight at my sister's with a mob of people. Tomorrow night with some old friends from high school. Friday night some friends from San Diego are dropping by and so I've invited others of their friends to join us. Saturday and Sunday I have off. Monday is a New Year's Eve party in Petaluma (a 2-hour drive but I haven't seen these folks in a while).

Tuesday I finally have the option of taking the dogs when Power Paws has its potluck open house for students. Haven't decided whether I'll take them; we could do a little agility play but then they'd have to stay in the car while I eat (a recurring theme this time of year) and socialize.


When I was younger (mostly as a minor), I enjoyed making Christmas gifts. In recent decades, I haven't felt that I had the skill(or time) to make things that people would actually appreciate, as I no longer have the cachet of being a cute kid from whom love provided ample excuse for misaligned, cheaply constructed, or amateurish efforts at gifts.

This year, though, inspiration struck. My parents are challenging to shop for--they have more than they need, they keep saying, and usually get themselves what they do need or want. Then I saw an ad for these cool signpost thingies-- and decided that I could do it better, for considerably less financial output, and have a whole lot more fun than by ordering. I created signposts for all the places that my Dad has lived and some other important places--fictional and otherwise--from his life. I had a great time researching and creating, and I think they turned out very nicely. (Not pictured--one for the Lake District (because of Swallows and Amazons) and 3 blank ones that I'll let him choose what to put.)


The dogs got gourmet treats for Christmas--a neighbor baked them some home-made biscuits and my cousin brought them bags of Salmon treats all the way from her trip to Alaska. I just got chocolate. Dang! [grin]

Maybe I'll take the dogs for a hike today to make up for neglecting them yesterday and for eating all that chocolate--

Wishing you all the best of the season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tika's Back Or What?

SUMMARY: Tika comes up sore, again.

Went to class last night with both dogs, intending to alternate runs. Did a little warm-up with each of them. Ran Boost one run. The next run I took Tika off her leash, played some tug, lined her up, and sent her over 2 jumps to make a U-turn to a teeter. She did the jumps slowly for her, turned wide, did the teeter correctly but slowly, and then when she left the teeter, she yelped and came towards me all hunched over, head down apologetically (or in pain).

I massaged her a bit, walked her around a bit, but she didn't even pull on the leash, so I knew she wasn't faking it. I put her away and just ran Boost the rest of the class.

This is the third time she's done this--previous two times she was in apparent misery for a while, and then suddenly with the right attention-getter was completely fine. This time, though, she was still sore when we got home. Tried to do her usual sproinging as I fed them dinner, but lifted only her front feet and only a couple of inches. Struggled to get upstairs to bed. Lay straight out all night, not curled up as usual, in my cold bedroom.

Still hunched over in the morning. A bit more massaging and gentle stretching. Still hunched over. Wouldn't play with Boost as usual while I dressed; didn't even shake her purple bedding violently which she does EVERY morning to get in the mood for the day.

I decided that, after I gave Boost some exercise, I'd call the vet. Out to the back yard, toss the toy--and Tika took off after it full speed, ears up, nubber tail up, pounced on it, brought it back, played tug of war--not a sign of soreness since then.

Argh. The incidents are far-enough apart (March 2007 and March 2006) that I'm not sure that I see a pattern, except that they ARE happening and maybe I should do something. It's just that she has such a panic attack when going to the vets that I hate to take her in if I don't have to. Is it arthritis or some other spinal problem? Muscle cramp? Plus she's such a drama queen; it could be something minor that she's overreacting to, based on how quickly she always suddenly "recovers."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday Night 8:15 Xmas Dinner

SUMMARY: The Gourmet Agility Class wraps up 2007.

In all the 13 years I've taken agility classes with 4 different dogs, I don't recall ever doing anything like this: We talked our instructor into joining us for an off-site Christmas dinner for our whole class instead of our last class session of the year, and we all showed up for Mexican food at On the Border for a 2-and-a-half hour evening of tattoo viewing, pepper spray stories, fun with clicker eyeballs, detailed descriptions of the birth of twins (I guess you had to be there--hysterical--), several pitchers of margaritas (I'm the only teetotaler in the group), and plenty of laughter.

Back row from left: Ashley, Jim, Ken. Front row from left: Cathy, Tracey, Lisa, Jennifer, Ellen, Bobbie
(More photos, including eyeballs, here.)

My dogs, however, are going nuts--for the past 2 weeks, I've split a class between them because I haven't been there for the other class, and I'll be doing the same tonight. And there's been no agility on weekends. And I've been working on a deadline so ignoring them. They've just been hugging up to me, wandering around whining, finding artful ways to make nuisances of themselves. Poor puppers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Disneyland Photos

SUMMARY: I posted photos with a little commentary here.

Disneyland and Dogs

SUMMARY: Dogs at Disneland

I don't ever remember seeing dogs at Disneyland before (except for Pluto and Goofy, of course). This week there seemed to be a tremendous number (OK, maybe 5 or 6) assistance-dogs-in-training whom we encountered at various places in the park. Maybe it was a special a-d-i-t weekend at the park.

Also met one dog in the security line before the park (yes, they check your bags now for bombs or maybe Food Brought In From Outside) who was on its way to the Dland kennel for the day. A Cocker Spaniel--a very very obese Cocker Spaniel. It's not just the human population of the U.S. that seems to need weight control--is it my imagination or are there more obese dogs now than ever before? You could've used this guy's back as an end table, it was so broad.

And speaking of Pluto--Friday night, I saw Pluto saunter out from backstage onto Main Street, and the first thing he did--surprising and amusing me--was to dash over to the nearest lamppost and start sniffing around the base. Typical dog. He did not, however, make any attempt to raise his leg, which was a relief.

Dog with keys in Pirates. This was my experiment with 1600 ISO setting. Even with the widest aperture, it was still a half-second exposure in a moving boat and although I tried 3 times, they all came out blurry.

Of course there's the dog in the Pirates of the Caribbean who holds the keys to the pirates' jail cells, and the ghost dog from Nightmare Before Christmas in the seasonally decorated Haunted Mansion. Nana, the Saint Bernard, in the Peter Pan ride. Hmm, thought I noticed dogs elsewhere, but don't recall any more offhand.

So, you see, I didn't have a weekend without dogs after all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Disneyland and Life

SUMMARY: A brief blogging hiatus for Real Life.

I had a work deadline last week that kept me pretty busy, then I packed and headed off to Disneyland for four days with my sister and brother-in-law. It was a nice break from everything.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Sad Week in The Bay Team

SUMMARY: Our club lost three dogs last week.

Sometimes it's hard having so many friends with dogs. And in particular, dogs who were The Firsts, who started their human teammates in agility and, thereby, changed agility, changed their lives, and changed mine, too.
ADCH LAA-Platinum O-NATCH Mick, 1991-2007. If it hadn't been for Mick, Jim would never have started into agility, met his wife, moved to California, become a full-time agility trainer and USDAA board member. Jim has been one of my instructors since April, 1995. Mick was the first ever to earn agility Championships in two organizations. National Champion in both USDAA and NADAC. First dog to earn the LAA-Platinum. In all four Top Ten categories for seven years straight. But more than that, Jim adored him, and the feeling was mutual. (photo by ELF)
ADCH-silver ATCH-OP MACH NATCH Chase CL4 (and some golds and plantinums), 1997-2007. A rescue dog for Erika, Chase led the whole family into agility, where they have excelled and judged and become part of the country-wide community. Erika and I often work score table together and talk about photography--many of the photos you see on my blog came from a camera that I got from her. Chase loved doing agility and loved to yell about it on course. USDAA Top Ten dog and national finalist, the tumors just discovered in his lungs couldn't keep him from competing in Scottsdale a month ago, but a bad reaction to chemo took him too soon. (photo by Sarah H)
MACH2 Aira, 1998-2007. Came with Silvina from Argentina, and they reflected each others' personalities--bright, kind, energetic. Brought the whole family into an agility video business. Represented Argentina at the FCI World Championships. Loved chasing bubbles. I was lucky enough to do a photo shoot with Aira a year ago for a project for which Silvina got no payment but gladly took an hour out of her day to help me. A fast-acting cancer took Aira too soon. (photo by ELF)

Autumn--Oh, Wait, Winter

SUMMARY: California weather cools down finally.

(And at last my domain hosting service has fixed my FTP access, so Taj MuttHall is back!)

I finally turned on the furnace just a day before Thanksgiving, which is late late late; usually it seems I need it on by Halloween.

Just a week or so ago, I noticed that the trees in my yard still had most of their leaves, and that most of them were still green. Then, Thursday morning, I looked out my kitchen window, and this apple tree had metamorphosed seemingly overnight into a glowing, golden, magically brilliant canopy. "Wow," I thought to myself (it being hard to think to other people), "I need to take a picture of that!" But life intruded, and that night we had a huge windstorm, and the next morning, the gold lay spread across my lawn. Boom, just like that, we went from summer, through autumn and into winter.

Still, with the yellow contact zones, yellow tunnel, and yellow Mutt Xing sign hanging on the tree, it made a lovely photo anyway.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

About That Scottsdale Thing

SUMMARY: Mixed experiences and emotions about Scottsdale--again--

A friend said (about USDAA's announcement about Scottsdale again): "At least there's a high probability that Scottsdale won't be rainy or snowy or just plain frickin' frigid in November."

That touched some sort of chord or pulled some sort of cord and here I went:

So far we've been lucky. The first year was very cold in the evenings. It had rained heavily the week before and, apparently, the fields were effectively flooded as they were trying to set up, but--being desert--it drained/dried up really fast and there were only some pools by the time we all got there, and the fields were fine for competing. That was also 2 weeks later than it has been the last 3 years; dunno whether that makes a big difference really.

The downside to it being in Scottsdale is that I'll want to go again. Boom, there goes another week's vacation and $1000 big ones--oh, more, because probably both dogs will be competing next year. Oh, except that they're making qualification harder & harder every year. Who knows. Maybe, unless both dogs do better locally, I won't bother. Because I'm such an inconsistent handler. Oh, except that last year Tika barely--and I mean really barely-- qualified in the team event, and then ended up in the finals at Scottsdale. So there's that random reward thing going...

Monday, December 03, 2007

2008 USDAA Nationals Announced

SUMMARY: They'll be in Scottsdale for the 5th year straight.

"The 2008 Cynosport World Games will be held October 29th through
November 2nd at WestWorld in Scottsdale."