a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: May 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Things That Boost Doesn't Know

SUMMARY: Things I learned in class last night about rear crosses and bar knocking.

Instructor N last night pointed out that Boost isn't even trying to clear the jump bars; she's hitting them with her stifle. I was running as silent as possible so I wasn't saying ANYthing to her as we went around the course, because "talking to her on top of the jump" is one of the things people keep saying I'm doing that causes the bars to come down. So I really do need to get to teh hardware store and buy some wooden closet rods and paint them to look like PVC bars so she's got some motivation to not hit them.

The other interesting thing was that she has no clue about rear crosses in tunnels--she always turns towards the side that I started on, not the side I ended on. I tried it several times in class with the instructor helping, and the conclusion was that she just doesn't get it and I need to go home and practice with a short tunnel.

I must've done 30 attempts at home today with a short straight tunnel in the middle of the lawn. I tried tossing the toy on the final side, I tried placing the toy ahead of time on the final side, I tried really realy blatant rear crosses like when she is approaching the tunnel I am running perpendicular to her line of travel into the tunnel so there is nowhere I can go except to the other side, and variants thereof. Not once, not even one dang time, did she turn to the correct side as she came out.

So I'm missing something in how to give her that info. I know that she has a tough time with rear crosses anyway sometimes, so it's back to very very basic learning to turn one's head when mom moves behind you sorts of groundwork. Ack.

Now I'm packed and ready to head out for the weekend--first walkthrough at 5:30 this evening. ACK! I didn't pack my clothes yet! ACK!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Little Bit of Everything

SUMMARY: Busy busy busy.

OK, 1500 photos is too many. I knew that. Really I did. But it's taking forever and my brain is frying from choosing which of the many mediocre photos of Havasu Falls "The Most Photographed Waterfall in the World" are worth saving or even posting. And like that.

I am very tired. I am either still very tired or again very tired. On the trip I never had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep except one night in the canyon when my knee throbbing and jabbing in pain woke me up and kept me awake for a while both from the pain and the worry about being 8 miles from my van with a 20-lb. pack and a disgruntled knee. But eventually I went back to sleep and so did my knee. Which otherwise mostly behaved. But I was so tired that the morning we were supposed to leave the lodge at 4:30 a.m. I apparently slept through 4 alarms of two alarm clocks and my Hiking Friend had to wake me up. Today, I am tired like that, without a good excuse.

Last night I did the Wednesday evening hike with the Sierra Club group and this time instead of snapping photos, I was determined to keep up with everyone and just keep moving moving moving. I did OK. I stopped only when the leaders stopped at trail junctions or the like. But those folks can really haul! Even concentrating on just moving moving moving, a good portion of that crew would gradually pull way far ahead of me. I sweated a lot, although it was a bit chilly and I don't usually sweat much, I'm that kind of dry person.

We hiked Monte Bello Open Space Preserve to Black Mountain again--a few hundred feet elevation change over 4-5 miles. The air was pretty clear for the South Bay Area.

Nice views from the top of the mountain, where we all had time to share snacks that we brought. I took a bag of dried apricots and they seemed pretty popular. There were 18 of us on this hike, or maybe 17 if you don't count the interesting guy who never really hung out with the group but instead jogged back and forth and up and down around us the whole time, never really coming closer than about 50 feet. I was challenged just walking briskly.

Then we hiked out just as fast and made it out around sunset.

So maybe I am tired from that. Last night I was so tired that I dreamed about being so tired that I went to sleep on saturday and didn't wake up until Wednesday. Then I woke up and it was Thursday. Except I went to sleep on Wednesday. But it was 8:30 in the morning, which is late for me.

And maybe it was from the really brisk sweaty hike or maybe it was from dealing with a brand new laser printer setup and a brand new disk drive setup and a start-up disk that's too full to be functional and stuff like that. I'm not quite dead in the water but almost. I hate that.

So I woke up, tired, after dreaming about being tired, and I'm tired.

The dogs are bored with me doing photos and upgrading my computer equipment. I'm trying to get them ready for this weekend, which is a 2.5-day USDAA trial, by running them around the yard like crazy dogs, like into a tunnel on one side of the yard, over a jump in themiddle of the yard, into the tunnel on the far side of the yard, over the jump, etc. I figure that if my dogs can run really really fast through tunnels then I don't have to practice fast contacts (or actually reliable contacts), or not knocking bars, or distance handling for gamblers, or challenging weave pole entries or exits, or running past obstacles for snooker. Yes, really really fast tunnels will fix everything.

But I am too tired to think about any of that other stuff. I will hate myself this weekend when I drive out to the central valley and sleep in my van and end up not getting any Qs because I didn't practice anything that I needed to practice and why on earth did I enter DAM Team with both dogs again?

But at least this year the temperature should be only in the 70s or maybe 80s in Turlock; a couple of years ago at this trial it was 100 or so.

And then Saturday morning I pulled both dogs from Gamblers because it's first thing in the morning and my First Nephew is graduating starting at 8 a.m. from Stanislaus State, which is only about 8 minutes from the agility site, so I'm going to try to see him graduate and get back in time for Pairs Relay.

Then that evening maybe I'll try to join his family for celebrating. Why am I tired already thinking about it? At least I mostly unpacked everything from the Havasu/Grand Canyon trip, but I still have to pack for this weekend.

And my blackberries are ripening like crazy now; I could spend half an hour a day picking the ripe ones which is physically tiring, but they taste soooooo good for breakfast.

And really I'd like to have my annual blackberry ice cream (or sorbet) party in my back yard, which would have to be the weekend after this, and no time to finish planting all those flowers I bought, let alone actually planning and inviting anyone.

I am really tired, did I mention that? Naptime.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some Trip Photos Available

SUMMARY: Days 1, 2, and 3 are up.

I've posted photos, with narrative, from the first 3 days of the trip in the following subfolders for your viewing convenience:

Maps of Trip

Maps of our trip, with places we stopped or noted points of interest marked with numbers. I haven't yet entered info related to those numbers.

Day 1A Romero Visitor Center San Luis Reservoir

(#2 on the map.) My theme the first two days was "We've got plenty of time!" I intended to stop at every intriguing place that I usually whip by on my way to dog agility events. First up, an hour into the trip: Romero Visitor Center at the San Luis Reservoir, which is 9 miles long and 5 miles wide and very hard to miss as you skirt its shores along highway 152.

Day 1B San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery May 2008

(#3 on the map.) I've often passed the sign pointing up route 33 towards Santa Nella and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. But this is not an important stop for motivation on the way to dog agility events. This time I wanted to see it. Turns out that it's in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, which is very way out in the middle of nowhere. It's quite peaceful. Just the place to put an expansive lawn and reflecting pools: the middle of a semidesert. But at least it's near a reservoir.

Day 1C Los Banos Park and Museum, Sunset

(#4 on the map.) It's nearly 2:00 in the afternoon now, and technically we're still only an hour from home, so we still have 6 hours of driving to do today. So much for having lots of time! Still, we decide to take the more interesting 99 south instead of the barren I-5, which means cutting across on 152 through Los Baños.

Day 2A Calico Ghost Town

(#7 on the map.) My chosen goal for our first night's sleep was the campground at Calico Ghost Town, just outside Barstow, so that, in the morning, we could tour the town. It has been considerably restored and touristized, but still an interesting place to browse around.

Day 2B Kingman, Seligman, I-40, and Route 66

A very hot drive through the eastern California desert and on into Arizona. With a brief stop at the Historic Route 66 Museum in Kingman.

Day 3 Hike from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai

We left Seligman around 6:30, arrived at Hualapai Hilltop around 8:30, and started our descent. Arrived in the village of Supai midafternoon and kicked back in the heat. Lots of rocks and cliffs and sky and trail photos, plus flowers, dogs, horses, mules and even antelope.

IMPORTANT: Have uploaded only a portion of days 4-7, none with labels. There will be more coming later. View at your own risk of missing the better pictures (these were only a few shots of less important things with the cruddy camera).

Havasu Trip Summary

SUMMARY: So much to do, so little time!

  • We put just under 1800 miles on my van.
  • We spent part of 3 days in Havasu Canyon sweating to death and hiked about 10 miles in and then out again, part of 3 days at the Grand Canyon south rim getting snowed on, and various parts of days on the road and seeing sights.
  • I took 1500 photos. This is too many. It's taking a long time to sort through them. Some will be posted soon. Probably.
  • I have photos--nothing stellar--of antelope, elk, lizards, California Condors (!), turkey vultures I think, Havasupai dogs of wide varieties, horses and mules, fish, lots of flowers, lots of beautiful rocks and skies and waters. Didn't get the camera out fast enough for a coyote photo. And the danged ravens wouldn't let me take their pictures.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


SUMMARY: Drove most of the night.

Well--an interesting contrast--we got tired of the freezing, biting wind and blowing snow at the Grand Canyon (and turning to rain everywhere else), so we just blitzed our way home except for about 4 hours of sleep in the van.

It was a wonderful trip. There will be stories & photos--when I've sorted through the 1000+ of them. Jeez. I hate digital cameras. And I really like them, too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On the Road--Or Trail

SUMMARY: I've been to Havasu Falls!

I'm at the lodge in Supai, Arizona. Just got back from Navajo, Havasu, and Mooney Falls. Tired. Dehydrated. But what gorgeous falls!

Who'd have thought we'd find a computer after 8 miles in, 1900 feet down, the only way in by foot, mule, or helicopter?

Left Saturday morning from San Jose. So far we've visited the SanLuis Reservoir visitor's center, the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery and Korean War Veterans Memorial (with a hike up the hill to the flag), a cool little local museum next to Los Banos Park in--guess it--Los Banos, a really apallingly broiling rest stop somewhere between Somewhere and Somewhere else, Calico Ghost Town, the Historic Route 66 Museum in Kingman, and now Havasu Canyon.

Tomorrow we hike out. Fortunately the weather has cooled considerably from the last 2 days and it's supposed to continue this way, more overcast (although it's completely clouded over now at about 5 in the evening), and we're hoping to be on the trail by 4:30 tomorrow morning. And I thought getting up early to drive to dog agility was a challenge!

The Havasupai dogs are everywhere and just hang out loose around the village, or decide to follow horses or hikers up and down the trail to the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop. They're all very friendly; some have collars and tags but most don't. Don't look badly treated except overfed, and they're all very dusty from the dusty walkways. But some very cute dogs in the bunch. One I could swear is an aussie but he was too busy allthe time for me to get a good photo. One looks like a St. Bernard mix. One that looks like a big miniature pinscher. I took photos of several to show the wide variety--no two alike! No hoity toity breed standards going on down here.

No way to upload photos here because I didn't think to pack in my card reader. Might not see another computer until I'm home Saturday or Sunday.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Workout Hike With Pack

SUMMARY: The canyon trip will be a challenge.

Last night the Sierra Club group hiked something like 6 miles, a good portion of it uphill fairly steeply and in very warm weather, and I carried a heavyish pack to prepare for next week. Whoo! Workout city! Photos with absolutely nothing to do with dogs posted here.

Fellow hiker Karin with camera took a ton of photos, a bunch with me in my teal CPE Nationals t-shirt and hauling a blue-gray pack; view hers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hiking and Topo Maps

SUMMARY: I'm almost on my way to Havasu Falls!

Tonight's my last Sierra Club evening hike before I leave for Arizona Saturday morning. Tonight's description:
Okay now we are going to get serious. This will be a fastpaced cardio hike of at least 5 miles and 500 feet gain with only brief stops at trail junctions. Now that the days are longer we can do more mileage and gain. We will hike into Rancho and if it's cool enough do two peaks, first up to the water tower and then up to the Vista Point. If it's too hot we will take a cooler route up part of the PG&E trail and then loop around the vista point. Bring layers and water. We need to be out of the
park by 8:41. (Download PDF topo/trail map)

"Too hot" could be interesting. The weather has been mostly beautifully balmly the last couple of weeks, but now that I'm heading for the desert, the west is heating up! Sunday's high was 70 in San Jose, Monday's 71, but yesterday 87 and today's paper blasts "100! Yikes! Near-record heat expected through Friday." (Flagstaff, not too far from the Grand Canyon, was 47 (!) yesterday but predicted 62 today. Keep it cool--)

Back in The Day, when I wanted a topo (topographic) map, I'd go to a hiking kind of store, find their huge rack of maps, and select the appropriate quadrangle--about a 2'x2' map, always sold flat and unfolded. If the trail I wanted happened to be in the corner so it split across 3 quadrangles, well, I bought 3 quadrangles and carried them with me. If you're into maps and want to read interesting status about the state of U.S. Geological Survey topo maps, check this Wikipedia article.

This time, I went to REI. There are nice-quality, large, folded topo maps of some key places. Like, there was a gorgeous one of the Grand Canyon main area, but it didn't quite go out to the canyon that we're going into. What to do? Use the computer to select the area that you want, and the scale that you want, and print the map on the spot! These are not huge maps--just 8.5x11" sheets--but nice quality, and mine perfectly covers the section of the Havasupai Indian Reservation from our trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop, down the Hualapai Canyon to our goals, Supai village and Havasu and Mooney Falls.

Now I can see that our hike won't be horrific to the canyon bottom. The first quarter mile or so of trail goes pretty much 600 feet straight down a cliff (well--switchbacking the whole way, I presume), then eases off slightly for the next half mile down another 400 feet, then a comparatively gentle 200 feet down over maybe three quarters of a mile.

Then we've got a 6-mile hike along the canyon bottom, which drops another 1,000 but gradually and gently over about 4 miles.

What's in the back of my mind this whole time? How insane will the dogs be when I get back after 8 days of minimal entertainment and exercise? Auuuuuuggggghhhhhh!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Naming Names--Or Not

SUMMARY: Trying to decide on a Taj MuttHall policy.

For most of the life of Taj MuttHall, it has been TMH's general policy to use names only of dogs and not of actual humans. For example, for the whole year and a half that Casey the little black dog lived here with my Housemate, I always called her Housemate and not by her actual human name. I'll often use something witty and unique for each person, such as "Bump's mom" or "Steamer's mom" or "Sparkle's mom"--although now upon close examination it appears that perhaps they've not been quite as witty and unique as one might have hoped.

However, there have been exceptions. Sometimes when the person is well known and the mention is about them in their well-known capacity (e.g., a Rachel Sanders seminar, or Ashley and Luka winning yet another national competition). This will probably continue. But sometimes just in passing, for whatever reason, I mention the actual real name. Some people have told me that they've done a search for their name (or a friend's or relative's name) and dog's name and ended up at Taj MuttHall and enjoyed the results. This might be an argument for using actual given names. Although this was intended to be a diary for my own use and not specifically with any other audience in mind. (Yeah, right. Like that happens any more. Take this post, for example.)

On the other hand, the blog is SUPPOSED to be about life with agility dogs, not life with agility people (although they do for some reason play a large part there), so just like the Peanuts cartoon that never ever showed an adult, my theory was that I would never ever mention actual people's names.

So, if you've ever wondered why I maybe said something like "I finally met a fellow blogger from _______" or "a friend and I went...." and didn't say whom, that's why--it's not because I was avoiding going on record as having such-and-so as a friend, it's that I was dancing the line between not admitting that humans exist in my agility-dog world and yet acknowledging what actually goes on in my life.

So here's what I've--I mean TMH's--been thinking. If you want to know. Which you apparently do, since you've read this far. TMH is thinking that people will exist but they'll now have their own special Taj MuttHall names (which they already kind of do in the back of TMH's brain). And maybe TMH will eventually get around to creating a key for who is whom in case someone wants to do a search on hers or whoms name and end up here. Or maybe not.

Can you tell that I'm good at goal-setting?

Hiking to the Mall

SUMMARY: In which TMH, sans dogs, strikes out across the suburban wilderness to see a film.

So, after the other week, where the Sierra Club went for a really brisk "hike" of 5+ miles, all on paved walkways in the suburbs of Palo Alto, with some folks snapping photos left and right, I thought--hey--let's take a new view of my own neighborhood as a Hiking Destination! But when to do this? Photo snapping isn't the easiest with Tika and The Boost on leash.

Saturday morning I agreed to meet my sister and bro-in-law at the mall to see Iron Man. (Good film! If you like films like this one! I enjoyed it, and I was a DC, not Marvel, reader in my misspent youth.) I always drive because it's a LONG way over there--gosh, at least 5 minutes, or maybe less! But then, Saturday turned out to be a gorgeous day, and I realized that hiking 1.8 miles each way to the mall was a whole lot less walking than I've been doing Wednesdays with the Sierra Club. So, what the heck!

Have camera, will hike. So off I went. Here are some things that I wouldn't have seen if Tika-meister and The Booster had gone along.

I don't know what this feline had locked her gaze upon, but she didn't twitch the whole time I stood there and snapped photos.

Mr. Ground Squirrel doesn't care that he lives in the suburbs instead of some ugly dusty field somewhere. In fact, he's got a great deal: His entryway is that Soviet industrial block-concrete look that I've seen in so many office buildings around here. He's the envy of all his neighbors. Oh--wait--he doesn't have any neighbors. Wonder where he finds a date?

Ooooh nooooo! I have to give The Boost to Kiara or she won't graduate! Noooooo! I won't do it! I won't! She'll have to get her own Puppy!

All the rest of the photos, plus attempts at witty commentary, here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

SUMMARY: Friday night at San Jose Giants

No dogs involved. I suggested that they ought to at least have a frisbee dog at halftime, but they all tried to convince me that baseball games don't *have* halftimes, but I was wise to them. Half of 9 is 4.5, right? Am I right?

Photos here.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Entropy 1: Moisture Removal Machine

SUMMARY: The old dryer died.

This is to inform you of the untimely--or perhaps timely--demise of Mr. Dryer, who joined my household in 1981 just after Mr. Husband. He's been a good member of the household, cheerily removing dog hair from human bedding and mud and gunk from dog bedding for...a long time. His only main repair was right after we got him, when he wouldn't heat in a fit of dryerly pique, but was still under warranty and soon cheerily returned to loading his lint trap with dog hairs of assorted colors.

(Mr. Dryer and Mr. Washer made a lovely couple--even though we had to replace Mr. Washer with a clone around 1994, we were able to completely match the almond color and high-tech back instrument panel. Aren't they lovely in their almond-colored laundry room?)

Sometime after 2001, after Mr. Husband had departed, Mr. Dryer's lint trap handle broke off, but I cobbled together a replacement and you'd never know from talking to him that he had any kind of handicap. The replacement handle recently broke off, too, and it didn't cobble quite as well this time. The latch for the door broke a couple of years ago but I was able to buy a replacement inexpensively online and fix it myself, which made me quite cheery.

But one weekend in March of 2008, he failed to generate any heat at all. The fire was gone from our relationship. Could have been his heat coils. Could have been his thermostat. I suppose it could have been the moisture sensor. Or maybe something else; who knows. Too many dogs, too much dog hair, succumbed to dog dander allergies. Or, upon closer inspection, perhaps this had something to do with it:

In any event, all those aforementioned possibly bad parts were available online for $50ish each including postage, but I'd either have to pay someone $100 (maybe more?) to replace them, or spend the time myself, and as we all know, I have no time any more except for important things like work, dog agility, and Taj MuttHall. Sometimes eating but I try not to do that too often.

And, well, even though PG&E says that I won't save much in energy costs (I guess dryer technology hasn't changed as much as washer technology in the last 27 years--the Sears saleslady says that, yes, they're forced to put energy stickers all over their washers, but no one gives them any info about dryer energy costs), none-the-less Consumers Report suggested that repairing dryers over 7 years old if it cost much money wouldn't be worth it. Seven! Mere infants! Apparently Mr. Appliance Dryer is not merely old, he is ancient, decrepit, beyond imagining in appliance years! But then CU made me think, because they also said that it would definitely be worth replacing if the repair were to cost more than half the replacement cost.

Wellllll replacement cost is an interesting thing. I tootled on over to Sears, where I could buy *a* dryer for under $300. But the rough equivalent of old Mr. Dryer is up around $600 (on sale, with rebates...). Still, I didn't want to gradually use his replacement cost with nickeling and diming, which he has obviously been showing signs of doing. And who wants to deal with a senile dryer, too, which could be the next step? He might leave the laundry in the refrigerator! Or try to dry gasoline-soaked rags, which everyone KNOWS is a no-no! No, too much risk.

So I opted to remove life support, and the replacement arrived the next day. Only--they no longer provide almond (or "bisque")--they said it was so unpopular that they stopped offering it last year. (Dang, a year too late!) So it was white or blue. (BLUE?! People want BLUE appliances more than they want ivory--I mean almond--er, bisque-- appliances?! Sheesh. I'll bet BLUE looks REALLY chic ten years from now.)

I ordered white, feeling like I was back in the '60s or maybe '50s. And the instrument panel looks ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE Mr. Washer. Furthermore, since my walls and Mr. Washer are all off-white (bisque/ivory/well you get the idea), now they all look DIRTY compared to new young upstart Mr. Dryer. It's a sad, sad legacy.

On the up side, however, the young upstart Mr. Dryer is much quieter to have around the house; you'd hardly know he was working in the other room. His wrinkle-guard cycle, instead of being "stay on forever until someone notices" mode like old Mr. Dryer, is "tumble briefly every minute or so until someone notices", which is WAY more energy efficient. And his lint trap still has a handle, if you get my drift.

Anyway, that's the sad story--R.I.P. Mr. Dryer August 1981-March 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Does Your Dog Bite?

SUMMARY: Responding to strangers in the Real World.

Reading posts on three other blogs (Days of Speed, Agility Nerd, dog-li-ness) about encounters with less clueful people and their dogs, I am reminded of a recent incident involving mere humans and not even dogs at all, except mine.

I've always been irritated by the first question that many people say upon seeing my dogs: "Do your dogs bite?" Are they planning on attacking me and want to know whether they're safe to do so? Are they planning on attacking my dogs? Do they think I'm walking my killer dogs around on leash and am planning on releasing them suddenly as soon as I espy a likely looking human victim?

For years, I've just said, "No," because none of my dogs ever bit anyone for any reason, except Jake, whose first reaction when someone stepped on his tail (which was often) or crowded in closely to him in a very confined area was to whip around and grab the nearest ankle. He broke the skin a couple of times when we first got him. We really worked hard on adjusting that tendency, but he never completely got over it.

And "No" seemed like a better answer for publicity purposes in a world where dogs seem to be more vilified and more excluded every year. Especially after the well-publicized Preso Canario murders (according to the trial verdicts) up in San Francisco a few years back. I didn't want complete strangers and non-dog people to continue thinking first thing that what dogs do is bite.

Except that somewhere in the last recent years I decided that honesty is a better policy. Because I've decided that I'd rather have people be cautious around dogs they don't know (and I'd rather be cautious around people I don't know) and the hell with good publicity. Last week I went for a walk around a shopping center. Because I was there. And it's good practice for Boost to be exposed to unfamiliar noises, sights, and smells. And it's a lovely thing for people who like dogs, because my dogs love meeting people. But one of a couple of guys hanging out by a lightpost as I approached said, first thing, "Do those dogs bite?"

Scared of these cutey wootey widdle baby puppy toofers?
Remember, this question has always annoyed me and I don't feel obligated to explain myself. So these days I usually respond the way I did this time: "Of course they do; all dogs bite." Both guys jumped back away from me and my dogs so fast it'd make your head spin. So much for good publicity. I figure that anyone ignorant and/or frightened enough so the first thing they ask is whether dogs bite is not necessarily someone I want approaching my dogs, and even more so if they can't read between the lines of my response: "All dogs bite sometimes."

And it's true--all dogs bite given the proper provocation. It's what they do. They don't have fists to hit with; they can't speak English to tell someone to back off; they don't understand the world in the same way that we do to be able to analyze whether there's really a threat that they need to respond to quickly and violently.

I'm much more agreeable with people who ask, "May I pet your dogs?" With Jake, if a small child was involved, I'd have to say, "No, sorry, he doesn't like children." But now, with these dogs, "Sure!" I say. "They'd love it!"

Compost Happens

SUMMARY: An award from one of my other lives.

In April of 1995, I enrolled in my first agility class. In October of 1995, I went through the County of Santa Clara's Master Composter program and became a--yes, you guessed it--Master Composter. The program was free, except, wait, you had to agree to give 50 hours related to composting back to the community.

In January of 1996, I entered my first agility trial, and eventually entered another 5 during that year. Back then, the World Wide Web was young, email was (relatively) young (who ever heard of spam?), bayteam.org wouldn't come into being for another 2 years, Taj MuttHall wasn't even a gleam in TMH-mom's eye. In other words--I had time!

I gave dozens of workshops to the community. I worked tables at fairs and home shows. I went to schools and gave talks. I answered questions by email. I constructed PVC sign frames for the program. I helped harvest the big demo worm bins and fill demo compost bins at Emma Prusch Park. I worked at city-wide and county-wide bin-sale days. I gave demo presentations for new classes of Master Composters. I put in many, many, many hours and I had a blast.

I earned my polo shirt for graduating, my sweatshirt for putting in 50 hours, my hat for 100 hours. And I kept going; for the next couple of years I must have put in, oh, 300 hours at least.

But then, as you also may guess, something insidious and really addictive started to take up all my weekends, and evenings, and spare moments everywhere, and gradually dog agility displaced most of my Master Composter activities. I clung to being an active member of the group, though. At one point I thought that my life's work might be as a compost evangelist, although I'm probably less likely now to produce shovels full of compost for party guests and say, "See? Doesn't it smell great?" Maybe only a little less likely. I've been working only maybe one or two compost-related events each of the last several years, just to keep my hands in it, so to speak.

Of course I compost volumes in my yard.

Well, the Home Composting Education Program did something new last night: Together with handing out certificates for the new graduating class of 25, they had an awards banquet for existing Master Composters. I sat with some gung-ho folks from the '04 and '05 classes who are already up in the 300-400-hour range. We saw some slides with impressive statistics about how many hours were volunteered back to the community during the last fiscal year. We saw that there is at least one person still active from every class dating back to the program's origin in 1995 (guess who!).

And then they handed out the really new thing: Pins for people based on how many hours they've worked. This is where I discovered that I've put in something like 465 volunteer hours, and I got my 250-hour pin.

Of the people attending, only 3 had more hours than I had. But, dagnabbit, there's a 500-hour pin, too! And I'm so close! Not that I'm competitive or anything, but...well... I want that pin! But where the heck in the next year am I going to find 35 hours free of dog-agility-related effort to put in those hours? Sheesh! They sure know how to give a kick in the pants to compost-crazy, award-motivated maniacs like myself. I'll do it--somehow, I'll get that pin by next May!

See you at the compost pile.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Favorite Dog Lyrics Part 3

SUMMARY: From K-TMH (K-TajMuttHall), only the finest in dog-related music and hijacked lyrics!

There Is Nothin' Like A Dog:

There is nothin' like a dog,
Nothin' in the world.
There is nothin' you can blog
That is anything like a dog!

Don't Fence Me In:
"Oh, give me air, lots of air, on the freeway that I love, don't fence me in;
Let me ride with the wide open window that I love, don't fence me in!"
- by the Andrews Setters

I Left My Mark--
"I left my mark in San Francisco,
High on a hill, I raised my leg..."
- by Bony Bennett

Bonus--Famous quotations: When Samuel Morse saw that his terrier had dug up his vegetable garden: "What hath dog wrought?"

Previous related posts

Monday, May 05, 2008

Handling a Sore Dog

SUMMARY: What to do when your dog is sore?

I'm a terrible patient in some ways--not very patient, really. When I'm injured, I tend to push the limits of what doctors suggest. Thank goodness, modern human medicine now wants you to do as much as you can as fast as you can, rather than resting abed.

So, for example, if I've badly sprained an ankle (enough to go see the doctor), and confirmed that it's not broken or torn, and the advice has been to rest it for [some period of time], I rest it until I can run on it... a day? three days? (Of course I have to keep testing it, not resting it, to see whether I can move without, like, screaming.) I don't seem to have done myself any serious damage this way. Sure, it's not 100% when I start being active again, but if I don't move, I put on weight (it lurks in the shadows, waiting for any sign of weakness, and then LEAPS onto my hips at a moment's notice!). And maybe I have to ice it and take NSAIDs for longer than I would if I had given it the full rest, but in so many ways I feel better by pushing the envelope.

(Aside: OK, really, how much work is pushing an envelope? I mean, really!)

When my knee was so screwed up that I could barely walk, I did listen to my physical therapist when she said "you are scratching yourself from the trial this weekend and you are NOT running, NOT!" When the orthopedist said, "I can't say that I give my blessings for you to go to the Nationals and run your dogs, and I don't think it's a good idea, but I can't stop you from doing something that you want to do, so [fill in assorted medical advice]," I did in fact go to the nationals and I did run my dogs and I borrowed a bicycle to get around, and I did not suffer greatly for it except that it was damned dull sitting in my chair icing my knee constantly when there was so much to do and see that I couldn't [do or see]. But that was possible because the knee had improved somewhat in the preceding 2 or 3 weeks so that I COULD, in fact, run on it without, like, screaming. And, furthermore, Tika's team made it to the finals and she took home an individual placement ribbon, her first ever. So what did that teach me?

But that's not what I came here to talk about.

So, now I have, in my care, lovely furry athletic beasts who are in much better shape than I am and who rely on me for intelligent, well-reasoned choices about their care. Ha! I try to be a better patient for them than I am for myself, but I am of mixed feelings, because failing to follow my own medical advice to the letter seems, in fact, to have been good for me.

So, what to do when the dogs are hurtin'?

When Jake, at nearly 10, first came up sore--suddenly so painful that he couldn't even go up stairs--x-rays proved arthritis. Vet prescribed 6 weeks of complete rest. Six weeks! On a wild and crazy dog who ran full out chasing tennis balls for 20-30 minutes daily! He got full rest for maybe 3 or 4 days, and then very limited exercise for a couple of weeks after that and then we did just a little tiny bit of class at a lower jump height, and all that time he showed no signs of pain, none! OK, he was on anti-inflammatories, too, for at least a couple of those weeks, and I knew that, and I was cautious. But not six weeks worth of cautious. And this 17.75"-tall dog continued to jump 22" in USDAA for another 18 months, then jumped 16" for another 3 years (eventually only one run a day) until he died at 15. He still jumped at 12" beautifully with no signs of pain.

So now Tika, just 7 this February, has been turning up sore more and more often. What's the right answer? How to treat her? I know that active dogs are at least as bad as active people--they don't care if they're in pain as long as they're moving moving moving! Until the pain gets to be too much for them. I know that they don't necessarily show it until it's pretty thorough.

I can't afford regular chiropractic visits (for myself or for the dogs). Some people swear by it, since dogs can't and/or won't tell you when they're sore, you need to do some massage and hands-on evaluation of all their joints on a regular basis, whereas with a person you can get away with it only when you need it. But not all of us have those resources. So it's my own limited-skill dog massage and limited-skill dog stretching and just trying to pay very close attention to what the dog's behavior tells me.

For instance, when it's mealtime, does Tika spring fully into the air several times? Does she just lift her front feet off the ground but the rear feet stay down? Does she just wriggle in an excited little dance? Does she play full-out with Boost or does she play a little and then tell Boost to get lost, or does she plop down and refuse to play? Things like this tell me a tremendous amount.

So, to run Tika this last weekend or not? She seemed painfree and rarin' to go Thursday and Friday with no drugs since Tuesday. I was cautious by scratching her from 2 of her 5 runs a day and picking ones that I thought would be easiest on her body.

Over the weekend, I watched her carefully and constantly for any sign of soreness. Did she stand up as soon as I approached her crate (versus staying lying down)? Did she stretch comfortably (versus not at all, or minimally, or even too much--which was a sign with Jake that he was feeling a bit off). Would she take a toy? Would she try to shake it? Did she bounce when I brought out the frisbee?

I avoided playing tug with her as much as possible, and when I did, I worked on keeping her head down instead of at my level and keeping it less intense to avoid the real insane neck-wrenching kill-shakes. We did a little frisbee first thing in the mornings but I kept the throws short and at ground level. I tried to get her out of her crate a little early for extra warmup and stretching, and to walk her around several times during the day so she didn't stiffen up. She looked great on course, landing lightly on her feet, turning smoothly without slowing down.

We played a bit more intense frisbee at the end of the day Sunday, but not nearly as much as I let her the previous weekend. Still no sign of any soreness today. Next trial isn't for a month, and they'll have a complete week off while I leave them at home going to AZ.

It's a balancing act with tough choices. I have plenty of friends with dogs with chronic injuries who struggle often with when to rest the dog, and how much, and what other treatments to try, so I'm not unaware of the risks of running a dog who has had issues. Having mere pet dogs is so much easier.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Things Is Looking Pretty Good Here

SUMMARY: Tika has a good weekend and Boost improves.

The weekend was mostly sunny, with a chill breeze, rising to a frigid wind in the afternoon. The shade fabric bellied out like the canopy was making way for Tortuga. This is a site where you have to stake your canopy very well. I know of only one that took flight on this weekend, but there may have been others. Cold fingers, working the score table! But good for running dogs.

Because Tika had been so sore earlier in the week, I scratched her from all but three runs a day. She seemed to thrive, either because she was jealous of Boost getting so many runs, or because of the wind, or because she was just feeling good. On Saturday, She qualified in Jumpers (that's four in a row! Amazing!) without placing. She got very excited for her Gamblers run and I decided to even put her over two dogwalks (something I usually avoid for her in Gamblers) plus two A-frames, and she got all four (barely), and fast, too, not slowing to a cautious pace. Didn't get the gamble, though--I didn't handle it well.

AND Tika qualified in Steeplechase! Two weekends in a row! Now *that's* astonishing. We were 6th of 7 Qing dogs, so again just a little over a second under qualifying time, but I'll take it!

On Sunday, she and her pairs partner ran clean and placed third of 32 teams, woo! She did Snooker, and earned a Qualifying score and again seemed happy and driven, but a little matter of an Aframe flyoff kept her out of the placements. At the very end of the day, we were last in the scheduled runs for Jumpers, with Steeplechase to follow quickly thereafter. I almost pulled her from Jumpers because I wanted her full effort for Steeplechase, but when she came out of her crate and started playing like a lunatic with her frisbee, I decided to leave her in. Glad I did--she won! One of our very few 1st places in Masters--our fifth. Not a huge class, only 17 dogs, but--OK, I'll take that, too! So that's FIVE Jumpers in a row.

And then, for Steeplechase Round 2, she again went for the frisbee with gusto instead of wanting to sniff at the ground. She had a lovely run, although I didn't give enough notice on one turn and she went VERY wide. That probably made a difference in our placement, because she took 3rd and the difference in time between 1st and 4th was only about a second. (Of the fastest two dogs from round 1, one scratched and one had a 5-point fault, knocking them out of the running.) So we got another lovely placement ribbon and another small handful of money to take home.

So she Qed 5 of 6 and placed in 3 of 4 runs today. A very good USDAA weekend for Tika.

Boost had a few stretches or full runs that looked very smooth. Still bobbles with some hesitation or turning the wrong way afterwards, still bars coming down, but not so haphazard and confused-looking as it was even just 3 weeks ago. She had I think the second highest opening points in Gamblers, but the gamble was beyond me and Tika, so I really bungled it with Boost.

Her weaves were spotty--did two sets of 6 in Saturday's snooker, made her entry in Saturday Standard but popped out early, did them beautifully in Steeplechase Round 1 after first turning back to me because she was so far ahead. In fact, other than that and running past the last jump before I caught her and brought her back, her Steeplechase run was lovely--and, despite the two bobbles, Qualified!

That's The Booster's first Steeplechase Q. Her sister, Bette, also qualified with a similar time--we were 13th and 14th out of 15 Qs.

On Sunday, she had a very nice Relay run, with only one runout, but her partner was off-course, so no Q. Her weaves were nice in the relay (6 poles); in Standard, she made the first pole and then turned back to me, then after entering correctly, popped out at the end (our only fault in that class! Dang!). But in Steeplechase Round 2, she did two full sets of weaves perfectly without a blink, with no babysitting.

Furthermore--her Steeplechase run was a thing of beauty! Fast, focused, only one brief hesitation before a jump where I didn't get my front cross in, probably added a second or so to our time--but her time at 29.60 was faster than the winning dog at 29.72. (Compare to the fastest dog--who had faults--at 27.81, and Tika's time of 33.09.) A beautiful, beautiful run with only one, er, well, tiny fault--she cut the corner on the broad jump for an off-course. (I wouldn't have bothered to try bringing her back to correct it even if I could have possibly pulled her away from doing the following tunnel.) The run felt good! She looked good! And she proved that she really does have that speed, even with a 2-on/2-off Aframe. It was a truly lovely way to end the weekend.

So--only the one Steeplchase Q for her, but lots of promising things.

A fun side note is that, of the 7 26" dogs in Round 2, four were from our Thursday night class; one scratched and the rest of us placed 2nd/3rd/4th.

And I had lots more I was going to talk about--what a great group of people to work with at the trials and how they make me laugh; other friends' successes; bittersweet visiting with an agility friend who's back in town because her husband (also agility) recently passed away. Hearing all weekend at the trial how well Ashley and Luka were doing at the AKC tryouts for this year's World Team, and how they won today, thank goodness; as someone else commented, they're the right team for the job, they do so well so consistently and he seems unflappable. The dogs chasing Ken The Gadget Man's (owner of the Segway I rode the other week) kite. Miscellany like that. But I'm exhausted. To bed.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Catching Up

SUMMARY: Hiking around Stanford, Tika's status, Bay Team trials.

Wednesday evening I went for the usual 5-ish mile hike with the Sierra Club group, this time on relatively level surfaces in and around the Stanford campus in Palo Alto. There are miles of trail-like walkways lacing through the neighborhoods and campus in that area. A lovely walk, especially in the spring with rose gardens in profuse bloom. But I didn't take many photos, one of my friend's house before the hike, with her wisteria and many roses in bloom. (She lives just a couple of blocks from where the Sierra Club group was meeting, so she and her BCs Bump and Styx joined us.)

We walked out to Lake Lagunita on the campus, which currently has water in it (seems to me that it doesn't always) and arrived right at sunset, which probably would have made for some nice photos if (a) I had taken a good camera and (b) I hadn't been, as usual, rushing so as not to fall behind. As it was, we jogged a block afterwards to catch up after I took the time to snap half a dozen shots.

An experiment that didn't turn out quite the way I had hoped. But something to play with in the future.

The highlight of the hike was the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, just below the lake, at the corner of Santa Teresa and Lomita. Amazing sculptures by New Guinean artists carved here at Stanford of wood and stone and nestled among the trees as if they had grown there. Enchanting, but far too dark for my camera; the flash just washed out the details. I'll have to get back there sometime in better light.

One of my fellow hikers took a ton of photos all along our hike that she has made available for viewing.

Tika's status

Tika was in full form yesterday all day with no aspirin. I didn't try keeping her locked up, and she was charging around the yard after squirrels or whatever with no signs of soreness, and bouncing straight in the air again at mealtime. I ran her for one very short jumpers-with-weaves run in class last night at a lower height, and she was very fast with no signs of problems going over the jumps or making the turns, and begging for more, but I didn't want to push it.

I think I'm going to scratch her from a couple of runs a day so that she's scheduled for only 3 a day instead of 5; guess I'd better do that now.

Boost's weaves

Boost can make some very difficult weave entries, as we proved again in class last night. That's because they force her to slow and collect herself, while straight-on, full-blast, she just doesn't slow enough to get around the 2nd pole after making the entry, or just skips the first pole. I amused myself last Sunday, in Pairs Relay, when I told my partner that Boost was having trouble making weave entries so could I please have the 90-degree approach rather than the straight-on, simple approach--which she made easily.

I just don't have room in my yard to do that with 12-pole weaves, and she doesn't seem to do it with 6-polers! Dang dog.

Bay Team trials

The Bay Team gung-ho folks are insane. We had a trial in January, one in March, one this weekend, a 3-dayer in early July, another one in late July, our 3-day Regional in September, and another in December. Here's what I've just learned: We're going to offer Strategic Pairs at our December trial. It's been a long time! Will tell more later.