a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Boost's Bars

SUMMARY: The bar-knocking expert does it again. We look forward to the weekend--

Two weeks ago in class, I reported that our instructor (Jim B) said "Wow" when Boost careered around a jumpers course knocking half a dozen bars or more. This week we repeated the exercise with our other instructor (Nancy G); when I got to the end of the course--which, incidentally, Boost did without any runouts or refusals--knowing that we had left a trail of at least 6 bars down (one loses count eventually), I glanced over at Nancy and she had sort of a stunned look on her face.

So the new plan--at least in training--is to take her off the course when she knocks or ticks a bar. I'm not sure that I'm ready to do that in competition this weekend, since we've just started that. For my dog, this actually means picking her up and murmuring in her ear that that's too bad, because merely walking her off the course doesn't seem to sink in as a negative reinforcer (bounce bounce bounce "mom this is exciting!").

It's USDAA this weekend. Not a modicum of rain in the forecast, and supposed to be highs around 65 F (18 C) but lows around freezing, and I'm planning on sleeping in my van to stay on site. Taking lots of down.

Recap: Boost needs one Jumpers for her MAD (one opportunity), one Standard for her StCh (two opp's), two Gamblers for her GCh (two opp's), three superQs pleeze pleeze pleeze (two opp's).

Tika needs two gamblers for her GCh-silver (2 opp's) and either the grand prix or the steeplechase to finish her Tournament Master Platinum, as high an award as one can get in the Tournament classes.

And everyone needs to keep her bars up!

See you Monday--

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ribbon Wall

SUMMARY: We earned 'em; we'd like to enjoy 'em.

Photo by popular request. This is 2 years of ribbons at my current participation level and the dogs' current Q/placement level. In theory, at the end of every year, I take off the oldest year's worth.

Right now it's full and I'm starting to accrue ribbons in a pile at the bottom. Bad. Maybe in February, when I have no trials for a whole month.

P.S. Click photos for larger views to see how I overlap the rosettes and tuck the placement ribbons into the rosette to take up less space.

25 Things About Me, and 25 More

SUMMARY: Another homework assignment from Facebook.

There's this thing going around on facebook. It's like a virus. You post 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about yourself, then you tag 25 other people to do the same. It can be pretty interesting. But you can't just open up facebook notes to the entire world like I can with TMH, so I don't post there.

Plus, I don't place the tagging onus on others; I like to let people volunteer. So this doesn't have to be in FB anyway.

But what the heck who doesn't like talking about herself? Perhaps it'll reveal something new to herself, some innermost meaning, desire, or strength that she hasn't previously discerned? But to post on Taj MuttHall, it's supposed to be dog related, according to the rules that she makes up as she goes along.

So here, forthwith, are 25 Random Dog Things About Me:
  1. Used to like cats more than dogs. Until we got our first dog.
  2. I'd rather play with my dogs than groom them. Where'd all this dog hair come from?
  3. Six of the eight dogs I've ever cohabited with have been mixed breeds.
  4. I've earned the equivalent of 11 agility championships: Jake in NADAC (twice over), CPE, USDAA (championship and performance), and ASCA (although almost all those legs duplicated the NADAC legs); Remington in NADAC; Tika in CPE and Bronze Ch in USDAA (triple ADCH).
  5. My Siberian Husky lived to be 17. She had one litter of puppies after we adopted her from the pound at about a year's age.
  6. I promoted and chaired the first-ever Bay Team CPE trial. A brief pause now for acceptance of thanks or curses.
  7. Herding dogs rock.
  8. I created my first web page in 1995, same year I started agility lessons. Taj MuttHall was fated to become!
  9. Kibble: Yes. Raw: No.
  10. Ideal dog: Not really sure. None of mine have been perfect, but I've loved them all and miss the ones that are gone.
  11. Minivans: Bleah. Only because I regularly haul dog butts around (MUTT MVR).
  12. Blue merles forever!
  13. For 2 years on wikipedia, I spearheaded the dog breed project to expand, edit, and standardize all dog-related articles--of which there were only a couple dozen when I started. I created the first version of the dog agility article. I created or edited virtually every dog-related article during that time. I have 85 dog-related photos there.  Go look. (User:Elf)
  14. I competed in 65 agility trials before I ever bought myself a canopy. Sun umbrellas and sheets worked fine. You canopy wimps don't know real roughing-it!
  15. I love teaching dogs tricks. Remington won a few small tricks contests. I'd like to spend more time teaching tricks to Tika and Boost but somehow instead spend it honing agility skills. For all that gets me.
  16. Wanna see my childhood dog scrapbook?
  17. Big yella dogs forever!
  18. Agility trials entered: 206. Runs run: 3,052. Qs earned: 1157. NQs for leaving the collar on: 2, both Jake, darn that long hair! Bars knocked between Jake and Remington: About 5. Bars knocked between Tika and Boost: Oh, good lord, why would you ask such a thing?
  19. My dogs have all learned to hold biscuits on their noses. Even the Siberian. Boost is still an apprentice. Remington could balance almost anything on his nose. I'm sure he thanked my friend's Nikki-dog regularly for first showing me that trick.
  20. I have a clicker in every room of my house, in my car, and in my yard. I rarely use them these days.
  21. My dogs sleep on my bed. I love it and I hate it.
  22. Number of times Jim Basic has used my dogs' before/after gambling statistics in his seminars as an example of how well his distance training works: Many.
  23. I had ugly experiences with AKC trainers with my first dog and I've learned so many more reasons to dislike AKC since then.
  24. Spaying and neutering dogs and cats should be encouraged but not required. Cosmetic docking and cropping of dogs' tails and ears should be illegal. 
  25. I take all my agility ribbons home and hang them on the wall.

And now, since there are parts of me that aren't attached at the hip to my dogs, here are 25 Random Nondog Things About Me:
  1. Found a human body once while backpacking with the Girl Scouts. They didn't have a badge for that.
  2. I played flute and took lessons for 12 years. I was almost pretty good. 
  3. That enabled me to march in the Cal Band, one of the great experiences of my life.
  4. I'd love to take voice lessons.
  5. Glen Campbell enthralled me in junior high school. They didn't have a badge for that, either.
  6. I was picked on terribly in the 3rd-6th grades by the horrific Nancy S and her "in" cronies. It really hurt.
  7. Color of my teen years bedroom furniture: Blue and purple. Colors at my wedding: Blue and purple. Colors on display everywhere in Macy's this season: Blue and purple. W00t!
  8. I still buy stamps for my stamp collection and postcards for my postcard collection even though they just go into a big box. They did have a badge for that. (Collecting, not boxing.)
  9. I earned the Sign of the Arrow and the Sign of the Star in girl scouts. Pretty high honors. A couple of years later, I quit.
  10. Shoe shopping: Gag me with a spoon.
  11. In high school speech and debate, I earned the National Forensic League's Double Ruby, the highest pin available at that time, and in my senior year made it to the state finals in Extemporaneous. 
  12. Seven No Trump. Doubled. Redoubled. Vulnerable.
  13. I'm the oldest of 5 sisters.
  14. My geek code is  GCS/CC/M/TW$/O d- s+: a++ C++$>--- UBLHS P+ L>+ E--- W+++$ N o? K? w$>--- !O M++$ V PS++ PE+@ Y PGP t !5 X- !R tv-- b++>+++ DI++++ !D G e++ h-- r x?  Use THAT to find out more about me. This should count for about 40 items right here.
  15. As long as I'm at it, I've programmed in SPL, Basic, FORTRAN, Ada, Jovial, Pascal, PL/1, ALGOL, various assemblers, machine code, COBOL, C, Java, Javascript, PERL... and probably some others that I thankfully don't remember. Don't ask me to do it now. But I can currently whack out some rugged HMTL.
  16. My 512K Mac is still in my attic.
  17. No-bake fondant! Mmmmm!
  18. From July 2004 through March 2006 on Wikipedia, only between 200-300 people had ever made more edits than I had. Fortunately, I recovered. 
  19. Style guide quantity in my office: at least 25. Quantity read most of the way through: Most.
  20. Places lived: 18 different buildings in 9 different cities in 3 states. I've set foot in almost every US state except Alaska.
  21. Sold two fiction short stories. Started dog agility. Sudden change in obsession.
  22. Abortion should be safe and legal. Gay marriage should be safe and legal. Curse you, Red Baron! Go Bears!
  23. Once upon a time, I could recite all of Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant". While playing some of the guitar background.
  24. My fastest time for a Mercury-News crossword in the last 2 years is 3 minutes and 47 seconds.
  25. Household dragon count: 262 and climbing. Yes, thanks for asking, it does include a dragon-head stapler and a dragon-shaped toilet-seat lid.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Throw the Book At That Dog

SUMMARY: Compare and contrast: Powell's City of Books vs Taj MuttHall's unincorporated village of books.

One thing I did while in Portland--which is required if you ever go to Portland, you have sign an affidavit before you leave town that you've done it--is go to Powell's City of Books. This is bookstore paradise (you could lose yourself blissfully for hours just browsing) and bookstore hell (why do I always suddenly own 42 more books than I did just a couple of hours ago?). It is amazing beyond amazing words. It is the largest new/used bookstore in the known civilized universe, Jupiter included. It has sucked up an entire city block--and more than one floor of it, too. Without remodeling, either, so you kind of go up and down and around and in and out through holes in what used to be the walls; no redecorating, either, except by the application of bookshelves to everything that vaguely resembles a vertical surface, and all of the space in between.

And everything is SO organized and SO neat--all the book spines are pulled neatly even with each other so that you can browse easily while adding to your stack of 42 books. And there's an extrahumanly helpful person at the helpful person booth in every room. PLus they have little tags dangling from all the shelves that tell you their personal opinions about books, or useful facts, or helpful lists of all the books in a series so that you don't go home with Episode 3 missing from the middle.

You can get an online tour to get you in the mood, and you can even take a real tour when you get there, and pick up a map at any Helpful Person Info desk so you don't get too lost. For those who want to remember their day in paradise/hell, you can even buy souvenirs.

Some of us walked over there our last afternoon in town so's we'd be able to sign our Powell's affidavit, and I thought I'd just kinda look around for old times sake, but it turns out that (a) if you don't want to carry your books on the plane, the cashier is all set up to cheerfully mail your books for you anywhere you want them mailed. In a jiffy or even a trice. Even 42 of them. And (b) we got to Powell's around 2:00, a 10-minute stroll from the hotel, and I had to be back by 5:15 to meet my sister-out-law for dinner, and I almost missed the whole thing. A little looking around, my astronomical unit.

Here is what they have in the way of dog books (and we're not even talking favorite fiction like Jim Kjelgaard or Albert Peyson Terhune): not merely one monolithic bookcase, 4 feet wide by 8 feet tall so that I can barely reach the books on the upper shelf. Not two. Not three, but six and a half of those sections.

I'm not sure how long I spent browsing the books. Maybe 5 minutes. Maybe 95. So many books. New and used side by side so you can save money without any extra effort. Sitting on the floor (which was invitingly clean) half the time.

One fun thing was to note that, on every shelf, there were at least 2 or 3 books that I already owned. So perhaps it's not surprising that, after all that woofer-book browsing, I did not buy a single book from that section.

Because I have my own little burgeoning mini-Powell's woofer-book section. Not only does it have several shelves of woofer books, but it has little ceramic plaques with clever dog-related sayings (e.g., "DOG") on them, and a couple of very nice cedar boxes containing the only earthly remains of former Taj MuttHallers Jake and Remington, plus my childhood favorite china statuettes of a German Shepherd and a Collie, plus various awards and mementos--although I don't have any big dog agility trophies like the Power Paws overflowing awards display or other similar talented agility friends, still, it's a collection of randomness that's starting to fill up a shelf all by itself.

So, remember that you can always click on a photo here to see a larger version of it if you want to browse bowser titles yourself. In preparation for your own trip to the world-famous Powell's City of Books.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Build an Agility Jump--or Win One

SUMMARY: Need jumps in your yard? Here are a couple of ways to do it. (AKA: Entropy 2: Jumps don't last forever.)

Once upon a time, after I had taken agility classes for a few weeks or months, I decided to build my own jumps. I can do PVC stuff, so I adopted some plans that I got off the web somewhere and built 3 jumps. They looked like this (except less broken):

I made them from thin-walled ("Schedule 120") 3/4" PVC, then drilled holes through the uprights and inserted bolts, which I laid the jump bars across.

Well, funny dang thing happens over time: PVC becomes brittle. Especially the narrower, thin-walled kind. So then, hitting them with the Favorite Jolly Ball Toy, or bumping into them too hard, or any other little accident just snaps them apart--as you can see from all the small and leaning pieces in the top photo.

So it's clear that it's time to build more jumps. The bolt-style jump cups were never ideal, and nowadays you can buy jump cups from all kinds of people online (couldn't back in 1996 when I built mine), so yesterday I bought several 1" snap-on cups from a local vendor at the trial, Miller's Agility Jumps & Weaves. (Huh--I don't see a web site for them; phone is 707-542-2923. They sell complete PVC jumps as well as the cups separately for either 3/4" or 1" PVC.)

On the way home, I stopped at the local OSH (nice hardware store) that sells precut PVC pieces or will cut them to size for you at no charge. For each jump, I bought 1" PVC connectors and 1" thick-walled ("schedule 40") PVC in the following lengths:
  • Two 4-foot
  • Two 3-foot
  • One 18" (although what I wanted was two 9" or so--this was the smallest precut they had, and I can cut my own at home)
  • One 18" to cut into smaller pieces
  • Two T slip-slip-slip connectors
  • Two elbow slip-slip connectors
Throw in two of the precut jump cups that I bought, and these are the materials:

I cut one of the 18" into 2 pieces using my PVC cutter. You can do it with a hacksaw, too.

Out of the second 18" piece, I cut two 2-inch pieces. Then I lined up the connectors with these smaller pieces like this to make the sides of the base:

I dry fit (no glue) the pieces together so they looked like this, including one Favorite Jolly Ball Toy that kept getting dropped into my working area by some furry beasts who thought that this project looked dull:

Then I put one four-foot length between the sides of the base to serve as the ground bar, put two three-footers in the upright-facing connectors, snapped on my purchased jump cups, and laid the other four-foot section on the cups, so my assembled jump looks like:

When your jump is fully assembled, move the jump cups up or down until the top of the bar is at your favorite height; this one is at 22". Then mark on the upright where the cup has to attach for the bar to be there. IMPORTANT: If you're going to glue your bases together, do that BEFORE marking the measurements, as the pieces will fit more tightly with the lubrication of the glue.

Gluing: You don't have to glue things, but dry-fit PVC will come loose fairly easily, so I recommend gluing the parts in the sides of the base and the uprights, NOT the long ground bar, because it's nice to be able to disassemble and store them or move them. You can buy a small jar of PVC cement for not very much. Do it this way to make sure that all the angles are correct:
  1. Disassemble all pieces
  2. Glue one 9" piece into one side of one of the Ts; glue the other 9" piece into one side of the other T (see photo above as a reminder).
  3. Glue ONE end of one of the 2" pieces into ONE of the Ts.
  4. Glue one end of the 3' upright into the TOP of the OTHER T.
  5. Put one end of the groundbar UNGLUED into the "stem" of the T with the 2" piece. Now you've got this:
  6. Glue ONE end of the other 2" piece into ONE of the elbows.
  7. Glue the other 3' upright into one end of the OTHER elbow.
  8. Put the other end of the ground bar UNGLUED into the elbow that has the 2" piece glued in one end. Now you've got this:

  9. Working quickly, put plenty of glue on the inside of the open end of the elbow and the end of the 2" piece so they'll slide really well. Holding the 3' upright in an upright position, slip it onto the 2" piece all the way, and quickly adjust it so that it is standing straight up at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Let it sit for a minute or two to set a bit.
  10. Do the same on the other end: lots of glue on the open end of the T and the end of the 2" piece, hold upright upright, slip together quickly and twist the upright as needed so that it's perfectly straight up and down. Double-check the other end to be sure you haven't changed its alignment.
  11. Let dry completely before doing anything else, preferably a few hours.

Here's another way to get jumps, although it's not as reliable. Enter a cool workers raffle and win one. I've been tossing a ticket or two into the jump and tunnel raffles for many years. Back in 1996 or 1997, I actually won one, of the type with PVC that slips through the bases of the uprights for ground support, like this:

Well, funny dang thing happens over time: Metal rusts. Especially if you leave it out on the lawn 24/7/365 for 12 or 13 years, until there's nothing left to hold the PVC in place, and then your uprights start being downright un-up:

So then you can get lucky again, as I did Saturday evening, when they pull your name out of the box to win a lovely new purple jump! Woohoo!


SUMMARY: Not a bad day altogether.

The short list for the 5-class, one-day Masters-only trial is this:
  • Tika: Three Qs (one a Super-Q), also two 4ths and a 2nd place. (Out of 8-10 dogs competing in her height.)
  • Boost: One Q.

  • What Tika needs to finish her ADCH-Silver: 3 Standards, 3 Gamblers, 4 Jumpers.
  • What Tika Qed in: Gamblers, Pairs, Snooker. (I guess there's a reason we're behind in Standard and Jumpers!)
  • What Boost needs for titles: 1 Standard for STCh, 2 gambles for GCh, 3 Snooker Super-Qs for SCh, 1 Jumpers for MAD
  • What Boost got: 1 ordinary Snooker Q.

The full story:
Jumpers: A tricky handling course but not annoyingly tight and twisty; you just really had to be in the right place at the right time at all times, needed a wide repertoire of handling moves, and it helped a lot if you had a dog who could send to obstacles. Tika handled OK, but she started by knocking the first bar and then a second one not too long after that, and then I rather gave up and didn't bother doing all the rest of the jumps. Boost started by running around the 2nd jump on a lead-out pivot (a KNOWN problem that we KEEP working on -- from time to time -- time to spend that time again--), and had a couple of little refusal problems, but really she was carrying out to obstacles nicely, knocked only one bar (better than Tika for a change!), and we got all the way through without Eing. Except for the first problem, I wasn't displeased with this one for her.

Gamblers: Only 17 of 86 dogs got this gamble, which included a tough turn to the weave poles made even tougher because they sat parallel to a fence with lots of vertical bars of about the same size and color. I abandoned a higher-point opening to start both dogs in the weave poles so that they'd know where they were. Tika did a nice opening, almost missed the weaves in the gamble--came in towards me but not past the runout line before I convinced her to turn around, and fortunately she's good at working to find the entry, so we did it--whew! Of course, 5 (!) of the 17 dogs who got it were in Tika's height class (out of 8 height classes counting Performance); we ended up in 4th place. I tell ya, the 26" class around here is so astonishgly competitive.Boost and I had a few miscommunications in the opening, mostly because I didn't get to where I needed to be to give her enough info, and she knocked a bar, but despite all that--because she's so fast--ended up with the same opening points as Tika, and although she got the first part of the gamble--which many dogs failed at-- I confused her immensely before the weaves and she ended up going back into the tunnel she had just come out of. Not her fault. So not bad, really.

Standard: Another challenging course, although a lot of the nonqualifiers were simply bars, weaves, or contacts rather than off courses. Tika's run was very smooth and fast--she and Boost were both delighted to be out and running, after my week's absence in Portland--but she knocked a bar near the end on a double-front-cross that I might have timed badly. Still, she was 4th place even with that fault! Boost -- sigh -- Didn't stick her start line and so I took her off the course and put her away.

Snooker: Required all four reds, and it was a Jumpers course--all tunnels and tons of jumps--and the 7-pointer was a 3-jump serpentine--so it was a challenging course to try to get all 7s in the opening and a challenging course for bar-knockers. I timed and retimed the course during my walkthrough to find a way to do all four 7s in the opening, and just couldn't do it, so I planned a tricky lead-out with the first red jump near the start line, going BETWEEN three 4-point jumps to a 5-point tunnel on the far side of the field. This meant that both dogs had to stick their start line and then not knock the first bar in their excitement to get to me, which is a known risk for me. But I decided it was less of a risk than trying to actually take the 4-point jumps because--well--my dogs knock jumps and the fewer jumps we had to do, the better.

Then I'd follow it with three 7s and into the closing, but it was still a very aggressive timing with a lot of running and direction changes. Tricky.

Tika's height was last, and Boost ran near the end of her height, and I was delighted to see that, among the 30 22" dogs, it required only a 4-7-7-7 in the opening to WIN the class, so my 5-7-7-7 should get both dogs Super-Qs and wins if we could pull it off. Two of the 16" dogs actually got 7-7-7-7 and through the whole course, but that was Wave and Luka, the world-team members, and OK I don't expect most people can equal them.

Boost held her start-line stay (huzzah, the punishment worked!) and came through the jumps beautifully to the #5 tunnel. We then had to dart halfway across the field over another couple of jumps, which was too far for me to gt there, so we did some of the refusal-dance thing, but she did the first 7-point serpentine, knocked one bar on the 2nd serpentine, did the 3rd serpentine, and got all the way through the closing from 2 to 7, despite a couple more refusal-dance empisodes, she's so fast she made up for it!-- except that we ran out of time one jump from the end. Still, to get through the whole thing with only one bar and no incorrect obstacles and get so close to completion made me pretty happy.

Tika had a couple of iffy moments where, once again, I wasn't really giving her info quickly enough, but she was happy and fast and, as she was in the air over the last jump for the last seven points, I heard the judge call "sev--" and the whistle blew. So we did get the points, but you couldn't cut it much closer than that! So we had the same points as the top dogs among the 30 in the 22" class--but one dog in our height managed 7-7-7-7 in the opening and got all the way through, so we ended in 2nd place. Still a super-Q, for bragging rights.

Pairs Relay-- Tika ran nicely with a really fast "baby-dog" (with many of the same issues that Boost has), and despite them having some trouble with the weaves, we were together fast enough to Q. Boost and her teammate both pretty much crashed and burned.

So that was our day--up to the alarm at 3:50 a.m., pick up a friend and her dogs at 4:30, arrive in Santa Rosa about 6:30, leave Santa Rosa about 6:00 p.m., stop briefly for dinner, drop off friend about 8:30, home around 9. LOONNNNNNG day!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Making the World Safe--

SUMMARY: --for dogs and other living things.

I step away from the agility field for just a moment.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)

And now, a quote from a man who knows his history: My President Said That.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Here and There in Portland

SUMMARY: From the river to the hills.

How can I possibly miss my dogs when they have cleverly attached large portions of themselves to my clean black pants?

Walked about six blocks down to the river, then along the river for a ways. Happened upon Mill Ends Park, billed as the world's smallest park.

I couldn't even get in, just sat around outside the park and admired the landscaping.

After returning to the Hilton for lunch and a rest, I walked about 2 miles (and 500 or more feet uphill?) in the opposite direction to the Rose Garden in Washington Park specifically to get nice views like this of Mount Hood. (BTW, yesterday's volcanoes were Mount Saint Helens all blown away on one side and Mount Adams).

I have many other photos, but this slow computer defeats me. Will try to get them up when I'm home again.

From My Hotel Window

SUMMARY: So much to see, from just one rectangular glass-filled hole in the wall 20 stories up.

It's now 9:20 SUnday morning; it's 37.4 F out there (3.1 C). I'm bundled up and ready to go for a long brisk walk if these photos would ever finish uploading.

Shots from my window:
Saturday afternoon, a couple hundred loudly chanting marchers declare "Stop Funding Israel Apartheit."

Night falls:

The sun rises slowly:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Long Portland Walk in the Poo Capital

SUMMARY: Hybrids everywhere. Of course that's what I meant.

Here's my friend and her dogs, Beppé the Maltipoo (Maltese/Poodle) and Rio the Standard Poo(dle).

They actually have a little off-leash grassy area, right near downtown! How non-Californian is that! Rio seemed pleased.

We walked for a lovely 3 miles--and then back again--along the Willamette.

We saw a lot of dogs on our walk. Didn't identify all of them--a Boxer, a probably Shepherd mix, maybe a MinPin. But there seemed to be an inordinate number of nonshedding type Poo dogs--besides Rio the PooDle and Beppe the Maltipoo, we met this GoldenDoodle:

And a Labradoodle (whom I did not photograph) and saw half a dozen other dogs of various sizes who might have been Poo(Dles) or FillInYourFavoriteBreedPoo mixes. I don't think I see this many Poodles or hybrids in our area. Portland seems to be a hotbed. At least along the riverfront on a crisp, cold, sunny winter day.

In Portland

SUMMARY: Just arrived and going for a walk.

Just flew in here to Portland, Oregon, this morning. In about half an hour, I'm going to go walk the Riverwalk with a local friend and her dogs. A good way to keep my dog fix going. Realized this morning as we got our morning canine snuggle in that I would, as usual, miss the furry beasts and yet be glad to have some time away from my obligations with them. They'll be nutso when I get home again, though.

My old laptop is SOOO slow, and I've been shooting photos in RAW format lately, so I might not be posting many photos until I get home.

The trip was completely uneventful. No terrorists, no flocks of birds flying into the engines, no landings in the nearby river. It's cold, though! From 70s (F) in San Jose to 40ish here. But sunny, woohoo!

Not the best day for photos-from-planes, though; everything a bit hazy. Still, got some identifiable shots (heh--doesn't that sound like quite a positive review!). We could clearly see Moffet Field's controversial giant blimp hangar, that preservationists want to keep for historical purposes, and the Navy just wants to tear down because of the asbestos and such. For now, they're just going to tear down the cover and leave the frame. And alongside, the wetlands that were once salt flats that were, before that, wetlands.

In Portland--the volcanoes! So stunning, every time I see them.

There is a 4-day AKC trial going on locally at the Expo Center, and there are even folks I know competing, but I think I'll take a pass on going over. AKC, you know. Plus I'll be doing USDAA agility for the next 2 weekends down home.

Now it's off to play tourista!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Here I Am, Stylin' As Always

SUMMARY: Guess the year.

Can you believe out hiking in white pants? I don't even OWN anything white any more.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


SUMMARY: Thoughts on the long walk last night with the dogs.

Backfill: Posted Jan 28; for some reason this got saved but not posted on its original date!
I met up with my usual Wednesday Night Sierra Club group for a long walk through the pathways in the neighborhoods near Stanford. The walk's description said it was about 5 miles; my pedometer said 7.4.

This is funny, because the last hike I went on (lots of steep up & down the Saturday after xmas), the leader's GPS said it was 8 miles and my pedometer said 7.4. Really, I do reset it between walks!

Took Tika and Boost with me. They wanted to be out in front of the crowd, but I didn't, so we had the battle of the leash pulling the whole time. Tika wore her newish anti-pull harness for about 2/3 of the walk, and it worked very well at keeping her from pulling. But by then, she had slowed considerably and walked gingerly beside me, and I figured that she doesn't usually wear the harness that long and it might be hurting her. So I took it off, and she perked right up; joined Boost in the leash-pulling battle.

Felt good to be out and moving briskly. But managing my dogs made it tough to actually chat with anyone. One of the dogs was bound, sooner or later, to veer directly in front of the other person, even if I had them on very short leads.

One of the other walkers commented, "Your dogs'll sleep well tonight after this long walk!"

I laughed. I pointed out that they'd have half an hour in the car to rest up while I was driving home, and would want to play and RUN when we got home, and that's exactly what happened. They seemed amused by the idea of dogs who didn't mostly lie on the couch and sleep. We know that they don't have herding dogs!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's About Time! Saving Purebred Dogs

SUMMARY: British Kennel Club makes it unacceptable to breed dogs whose features make them unhealthy.

The RSPCA (British version of ASPCA) pulled out of Crufts (the major purebred dog show) last year over concerns about the bad effects that breeding for exaggerated appearances have done to dogs. The Kennel Club (British equivalent of AKC, but older, possibly first in the world) has since revised its standards somewhat, among other things now disallowing incestuous breedings to be registered. Mixed reviews, not surprisingly. Read the article.

North America (and AKC) is already far behind Europe, where most laws now prohibit docking of tails and cropping of ears. We'll undoubtedly be way behind in this, too.

Friday, January 09, 2009


SUMMARY: My goodness gracious what an evening.

Ah, bars, the bane of my existence. Not--bars as in saloons; not--bars as in "D. Boone cilled a bar on this tree in the year 1760"; not--bars as in trying to pass the MBE; not--bars, as in units of pressure; not--bars as in 4 full beats in 4/4 time. Man, I knew that bars were complicated! I feel so incomplete referring simply to crosspieces on agility jumps.

In last night's class, I ran Tika at 22" (instead of the usual 26") because (a) we haven't done any jumping worth mentioning for 3 weeks, (b) it was quite wet out (hit the dew point in a major way) so I worried about slippage, and (c) she has been known to get sore for mysterious reasons. She ran beautifully! Of course she was also very excited to be running after 3 weeks off and me being sick and useless for a week and a half. Sometimes I have trouble getting her to play with a toy before or after a run in class (not at home), but she laid into the tugging game with tremendous gusto. A VERY bored, pent-up dog!

And she knocked no bars.

Boost also expressed great delight to be running. Only a couple of places where she refused a jump, but I was rushing my turns. However, she knocked bars every which way. I tried not being/feeling so rushed myself (go with the flow--be one with the agility course-- you know--) and it seemed to help a little, until I had to rush to try to catch up with her again. She is SO fast and I'm never super fast anyway and last night I was a bit droopy still.

Bars bars bars. We might never get a jumpers leg!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Agility Dogs Run Errands

SUMMARY: Visiting the credit union and the grocery store.

Holy Dachsbracke, boys and girls, it's Jan 8 already! We have a USDAA trial in just 2 weeks! And what have we done for agility practice to shape up all those Issues from last year? Have we done our bar-knocking drills? Reinvigorated our 2o2o contacts? Tuned up our serpentines? Honed our gamblers distance work? No no no!

I have been doing this Miserable Cold thing for a week and a half now, going up and down, now on the uphill I think--I hope--cough's still hanging in there, but mostly I can work around that. So we haven't had class since Dec 18; we'll have class tonight if it doesn't rain (iffy), and class next week, and then I'm out of town the entire 7 days before the trial, so there will be NO NO NO agility practice the entire week!

The trial is only 1 day, 5 Masters classes; should be interesting to see whether we can do ANYthing.

So, today, to get in the right mind-set for agility, we went to the shopping center. First, we dropped in on the credit union to deposit some money so that our entry fee check doesn't bounce. The shopping center's decor, intriguingly, includes a vinyard that wraps around the buildings, right next to the sidewalk on a busy street.

Actual California grapes grow there. I don't know what happens to them; apparently not all of them get picked even though they're right next to a busy thoroughfare. Here is what dried grapes look like on a winter grapevine. I know you wanted to know.

If I did not have easily bored dogs who need a change of scenery, I would never get a chance to walk around shopping centers and discover fascinating things like that! But fortunately my agility dogs take their inquisitive noses and me on brisk walks around the perimeters. Some of these centers are quite large. And there is SO much to analyze, out there in the natural wonderland that is shopping center landscaping.

Native grasses.

Groundcover all a-flower (love winter in California!)

Shrubberies surrounded by "winter color"--pansies, cyclamen, little--uh--purple flowers--

Pizza boxes (love winter in California!).

Ah, yes, it's the 8th of January, and this is what's springing to life at our very own shopping center:

Then the agility dogs give me a shopping list for the grocery store. Do I ever complain about having trouble maintaining my girlish figure? It is the shopping lists that the agility dogs write up for me. It is my theory that they are trying to ensure that I always have a desperate need to be physically active with them, and that's why these sorts of things end up in my kitchen.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Boost's First Herding Lesson

SUMMARY: Maybe should be titled "My First Herding Lesson"

Drove to Gilroy (about 45 minutes) with a friend and her 10-month old puppy Dig. Dig has had a couple of previous lessons; friend has had quite a few more with a different dog whom she'd decided doesn't really get the herding thing.

Spent a lot of time talking about what works and what doesn't, what the dogs are thinking and what they're not, what the livestock is thinking and what not, how to communicate, how to establish control, how to know that you're in control, and so on.

Watched friend and Dig work a bit (Dig wants to grab the goats); watched instructor work a young border collie, watched another student work a dog, watched instructor work Boost, watched friend and Dig, watched instructor work his young but excellent Kelpie, then I got to work the Kelpie to give me a feel for what it's like being in the ring with the livestock and not have to worry about the dog. Watched friend and Dig. Tried to watch instructor and Boost again but Boost wanted mommie, so I joined them. More watching. More talking. Worked Boost on my own.

All of that took about 3 hours, I think, and Boost was in the ring for probably no more than 10 minutes each of 3 times and maybe less than that. I got about the same, but not all with her.

OK, details. Boost's first time in the ring, she expressed great interest in the goats. Checked in with me (watching from outside) a couple of times but went right back to it. She circled quite a bit and went back and forth quite a bit but the big issue was wanting to dive in at the goats, so the instructor gave me a running commentary on what he was looking for and what he was doing to avert the behavior.

Second time in, he tried to walk her out to the livestock and she just wouldn't go with him; tried halfheartedly to jump out of the ring to get to me or to my friend. When I came into the ring with the instructor, she was perfectly happy to go back to the livestock.

We had a discussion about how ending a session involves just walking in towards the dog, basically cutting them off from going anywhere except waiting for you, and how threatening or intimidating that really can be to a dog, and maybe that's what concerned her after the end of the first session.

She got better about not diving in at the goats, but slowed way down, almost to a walk. Kept working them, but looked sort of half-hearted to me. We didn't stay in all that long (I think--I was trying to follow his instructions to "stay behind me"--yeah, right!).

When she and I finally went in alone, she seemed calmer but also back to being interested and running again, although not full-out, just comfortably (seemed to me). Went to mostly circling behavior, which isn't desirable in the long run (want them to always keep the livestock between them and you) but instructor said not to worry about it for the moment.

I had to push her back from coming in at the goats only a couple of times, and I had started to figure out how to walk with the goats without tripping over them or getting my coat caught on their horns. So then I practiced getting her to change direction and mostly just tried to keep walking the goats in straight lines back and forth across the small pen without getting them too close to the wall and keeping my eyes on my dog (a lot like agility--the instant you take your eyes of your dog, bad things happen!) and on using the long stick appropriately when needed to push Boost back or give her a little directional help. Another thing where the human needs to be at least as agile and coordinated as the dog, if not more so!

That's basically all it was. Someday I might have enough clue about what's really good herding and what's really bad and what the terminology is and all that. Or maybe not. This turned into a 6-hour trip including commute, lunch, waiting, and the long combined lesson. And not cheap, either.

But I really liked the instructor, I had fun chatting away about dogs and herding and agility on the way there and back, and it was well worth the experience.

Oh--I took my camera but it never came out of the car. The herding instinct test video from a year ago looks a lot like her first session today.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Scary Things In The Night

SUMMARY: Do we have a sick dog or do we not?

It's five in the morning. It's dark, it's cold. I'm awakened suddenly by that too-familiar hyook...hyook... sound of a dog about to toss her cookies.

My first thought is always: Don't do it on the carpet! I try leaping to my feet while simultaneously disentangling the bedclothes, turning on the light, and trying to figure out which dog it is and where she's located. I'm not very efficient at this process, still half in dreamland.

Lights on, it's Tika, her head over the side of the bed like a seasick sailor over the edge of the boat, except No no it's so much easier to clean up on the bed (or in the bathroom) than on the carpet!

Too late--as I grab for her to either push her back or pull her into the bathroom, one final double-size HYooeahhh-- but all that comes out is one solitary long tendril, which adheres to the side of the mattress, on the multicolored floral-print sheet.

The tendril looks reddish.

OK, is she vomiting blood or isn't she? I can't tell exactly with the pink-and-yellow-and-blue pattern underneath, and there's so little there. Wipe it with a paper towel (always on hand in the bedroom for such situations)--OK, yeah, I think I see a spec of red in with the usual color.

But there's so little of it, Tika looks so happy to see me up and moving around, and I'm so tired and my head is so congested. Dogs go briefly outside to do whatever relieving they need to do--I hear no more hyooks-- and we all go back to bed and everything seems completely normal this morning.

But now there's this horror in the back of my mind--why would she have blood in her spit-up? Why?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Cold and Wet and Buster Cubes

SUMMARY: When it's cold or wet (or both) outside, how to burn off some doggie ergs?

Sunday morning at 9:30, in the back yard, frost and ice still reigned supreme, on grass and ground and forlorn agility tunnels:

The dog's water bowl was not immune, startling thirsty dogs; I enjoyed the beautiful ice patterns:

Hedge trimmings from the previous day took on a delicate new aspect:

Today, it's just plain raining and muddy. Certain human household members don't want to be out in that weather, not to mention recoiling from cleaning dozens of mudded canine tootsies. So how to burn those ergs/joules/calories/enegies/demons? One strategy is Breakfast by Buster Cube.

Tika finds that the nose nudge works well.

The foot fling also comes in handy.

Boost goes for any method that strikes her at the time.

Sometimes it goes under furniture and you just have to make a detour to chase it out of there.

When all else fails--or you're concerned that Tika might encroach on your BusterCubing domain--just pick it up and carry it around. (They're not supposed to be able to do that--are they?) Oh, yeah--and that inside-out ear thang again--