a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: May 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Never What I Expect

SUMMARY: Nor necessarily what I want. USDAA trial results.

I had hoped (quietly) that this weekend maybe I could finish Tika's last Standard Q at 26" (two chances) and get one more of the three 26" Jumpers legs she needs for her Silver ADCH, and then she'd be all in Performance at 22".

Didn't do that. Instead, in the tournaments we had a repeat of the last trial in Performance: Won Steeplechase round 1, came in second in Grand Prix. Would be nice just once in our lives to finish first in Grand Prix to get that bye into the second round at the regionals, but not this time. [I'm getting greedy already--she never won steeplechase in Championship and I don't think ever placed this high in Ch GP.]

Tika also got the P3 gamble--barely--she works so hard to make up for my lack of clarity!--and came in 2nd; ran clean in Pairs (although partner had 2 faults) and she and partner were fast enough to still Q and take 4th of 10 performance teams.

For Boost, would be nice to SOMEDAY get a Jumpers leg to earn our MAD. Didn't do that, either. But she did run clean in Masters pairs, and although partner had an Aframe flyoff, together they were fast enough to make up for that to qualify and place 3rd of 23 teams. Dang fast dogs! And Boost's run was absolutely lovely! No complaints from me at all.

I told my renter--a bit cynically--that if BOTH Tika and Boost qualified in Steeplechase, maybe I'd stay through Sunday morning for the money runoff, and figured I was safe because Boost has Qed only once ever in Steeplechase and it wasn't at the same time as Tika.

So--Boost ALSO qualified in Steeplechase! She knocked a bar and yet was plenty fast enough to squeak under the qualifying course time (just 2 seconds slower than the fastest dog, and I can attribute that to (a) holding her on her 1st Aframe contact and (b) spinning towards me instead of running straight out at the end). She's just so fast--it would be wonderful to be able to really see that come through!

However, in the end, I didn't stay through the night to do round 2: Hopes of monetary return worth the extra night in my van were extremely slim (1st place in Performance around $15, f Tika managed it; Boost was the last of 16 22" dogs to Q, and the odds of her placing in the top 6 or 8 or whatever for checks was about zero) and I was tired and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

So, out of 8 runs, Tika Qed 4, Boost Qed 2.

Snooker was a bust mostly because I walked it wrong, combined with issues in the opening. Sigh. My plan was to do three 7s and a 5 in the opening. Well-- Tika did two 7s and then took the 5 due to insufficient handler communication, which put us so far away from the 4th red that I went right into the closing. Boost knocked her first red, so we were able to do only three sevens and then go into the closing.

Problem was that I walked the #4 with the wrong obstacle. So, Tika did 2-3 in the closing and, as I put her over what I THOUGHT was #4, I was surprised to see a red "1" flag on that jump. Doh. With Boost, learning from my mistake, I was able to get her over the #4 correctly, but the angles were sufficiently weird that, without walking it, I couldn't handle getting her into the #5 correctly.

Boost's runs, over all, were starting to feel decent this weekend. We still had the oddball refusals and going past jumps backwards while looking at me and then backjumping, that sort of thing, but not as many as sometimes. And didn't knock an excruciating number of bars, although they still came down.

Boost mostly had lovely contacts; on one Standard run where she already had faults, when she left the dogwalk without a release, I thanked the judge and picked Boost up and carried her off. She got the rest of her contacts, with one exception--end of the day, Steeplechase had 2 Aframes. She did the first one perfectly and I released her much more quickly than is good for training, and then she self-released the 2nd time. On the other hand, if I hadn't release quickly and she hadn't self-released, we wouldn't have made time because of her one knocked bar. So take your pick.

Tika was absolutely delighted to be running after me being sick in bed for 3 days and too weak to do anything with them at all save a couple of pathetic ball tosses in the back yard. So delighted, in fact, that in our first run Friday night, she didn't stick her start line and knocked the first bar (which is what told me that she was heading up behind me), and then flewwwwww off her dogwalk. She calmed down as Saturday wore on and it got quite a bit hotter (at least mid-80s, maybe 90ish).

The best moment of the weekend came during Saturday's standard round; Boost already had at least one fault on the course. We hit the table, she went into a down, and I noticed that BOTH her ears were inside out on top of her head. I hate that! At home and in class, I reach down to flip her ears over all the time. So there she was, there I was, waiting for the judge to count off the 5 seconds, and I couldn't stand it--reached over and flipped her ears over. Which is a 5-point fault for touching my dog. Judge laughed. I realized just as I was doing it that flipping the ears actually counted as touching my dog in the ring. Just glad she already had a fault; would've kicked myself if that had turned out to be one of her few clean runs. OK, we had faults, but at least her ears had dignity.

I actually remembered to have someone videotape the last couple of our runs. Maybe if I have time this week (always the issue) I'll try to post a couple.

As always, it was great to be around friends, although Risk's death gave everyone a gut-punch. Because I had been posting my health status on facebook, many people asked about me and checked up on me frequently to make sure I wasn't overdoing it.

And I did fine, symptoms almost entirely gone today, although I'm very glad I didn't stay for Sunday.

My Browser Life is Complete

SUMMARY: Gotta love my browser's auto-completion feature: Easy access to all things dog agility! And--ahem, yes--important things like work.

Maybe all your browsers have this feature--autocompletion of a URL based on the the first character(s) you type and the frequency of your past accesses. So I can type:

"b" to get Bay Team, my local agility club (where I'm also webmaster).

"e" to get the english-language version of Wikipedia, where I initially signed on so that I could create an article on dog agility, which at the time was sadly absent.

"f" to get facebook, to which I was lured by a bunch of agility friends and bloggers, and where 60% of my FB friends are agility friends.

"fi" to get my own personal calendar of all my weekend plans for the next year or so, primarily agility.

"m" to get mapquest, which tells me how long it will take me to drive to whatever agility event I'm off to this next weekend.

"g" for Google. For everything! For Taj MuttHall, when I talk about how hot or cold it is, for my non-American friends I like to give the C as well as the F. So I can go to google, type "95F in C" in the search bar, and it tells me. Is that so totally rad or what?

"o" for Onelook dictionary search, which peruses a bunch of different dictionaries to find possible meanings for a word.

"p" for Power Paws, where I take agility classes with my dogs.

"r" for Google Reader, where I've subscribed to all my favorite blogs and can see any updates in one page; very convenient! At the moment, includes 13 agility-related blogs and 3 others. (I don't put my favorite LiveJournal blogs in here, although I could, because those I can sign up for permanent email notification as soon as someone posts something.)

"s" for Snopes, the urban legends reference page, which I check *constantly* to verify those emails about 20 beagle puppies who are about to be put to sleep because they can't find homes, or the parody of My Favorite Things sung by Julie Andrews, or a photo of a tsunami frozen to ice in an instant, or SO many things that come through the mail-- (Have used them for years, and they do display some advertising to pay for their site, which is fine; lately they seem to have some ads that open windows that do crappy things to my browser. Not always, but sometimes. But I haven't found a better reference site for this material.)

I type "t" to get Team Small Dog, my daily dose of dog-and-agility-related laughter or sober thought or brain-twisting set of analogies.

"ta" to get Taj MuttHall (here--although I don't have to type it often because it is also my home page).

"w" for Weatherbug, which is cool because you can see exactly where the station is that's reporting your time and temperature, and (if one is available) choose one closer to you or to the site of your agility trial this coming weekend.

"x" for the company that employs me so that I can do dog agility.

"y" for youtube. (Surprised me when I just checked it--I'd have thought Yahoo, which it was for a long time, but I guess all those agility videos have skewed it a bit...

"z" for my photo site on Smugmug--and the only way I can explain the "z" is because all the galleries are coded with random character-string names, and "z" must be pretty common. Lots of photos from dog agility trials and the nationals there, among other things.

Probably more with 2-letter combos that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

Do you detect certain themes? Perhaps themes starting with the letter "a" or "d"?

Perhaps it's time to get off the computer and go for a long hike with the dogs in Risk's memory.

Hug your dogs, your cats, your children, your siblings, your parents [parents--hope you're enjoying your 50th-anniversary oregon trip; here's your virtual hug: (( ))]. There might not be a tomorrow to do it in. And I don't have to browse the web to know that up close and personal.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Tragic Loss

SUMMARY: R.I.P. Risk Scannell.

Our achievements and defeats over the last two days pale in comparison to this: That a friend's Border Collie went to the start line friday night eagerly playing tug as usual, basically took two steps and collapsed, and three hours later died at the emergency clinic. Necropsy showed a ruptured tumor on his spleen. The friend didn't say whether they specified the type of tumor, but the symptoms and manifestation are completely typical of hemangiosarcoma, which took my Remington.

They reminded us to hug our dogs and appreciate them, because you just never know what the next moment might hold.

I just sent a response--
I did hug my dogs several times today, thinking about Risk. I so carefully felt the textures of their coats under my hands and the weight and warmth of their bodies next to me. Tika wasn't thrilled about that and took the opportunity to squeeze loose and go run ferociously at a passing dog to ameliorate her the humiliation, reminding me that dogs bring things to our lives in so many ways, so often not what one might want or expect.

Risk was just 8 and a half, only four months older than Tika, and one Steeplechase away from his Gold ADCH (something that Tika will never achieve)--one which he might well have gotten today, as he has become a steady and reliable competitor. And he was a beautiful dog, too. I mourn his passing, but can only just imagine what his human family is going through.

I was lucky enough to have some photos of him from last July, when my dogs and theirs played in the field after a day of agility.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Yes! I'm Going!

SUMMARY: I'm off to Turlock for a day and a bit of agility.

I had enough energy to clean and load the van and not be wiped out by it; nose has stopped running (although still congested), and I think I'm good to go. Plus dogs need to do SOMETHING after 3 days of nothing.

There are 2 classes tonight, 5 tomorrow, and then we're coming home. Sunday is Team and I just wasn't in the mood to sign up for that. That does mean that if either dog Qs in Steeplechase, we'll miss the money run. Ah, well. Tika won last time in Performance and came home with a check for a whole $32 or so.

See you-all readers Sunday or so.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


SUMMARY: Settlement for car break-in gets complicated.

I will get money from the insurance company for the things stolen from my car, minus my large deductible. But because the total amount is over a certain limit, they pay me up front only the current cash value (not replacement value) minus the deductible, and then I have 6 months to replace the things, send them my receipts, and get the rest of the replacement value.

I tried to make sure I understood it before we hung up, but now I'm not sure and will have to call her back in the morning. So, let's say that my old camera cost me $400 but its depreciated value is $100. So they send me $100 (plus all similar values for everything else) minus my deductible. If I go out and buy a $600 camera, will they send me the additional $300 or do they apply $500 to the deductible and I still have to go out and buy more until I'm over the deductible? This is a little confusing.

But, yes, the good news is that I will get some money back and, if they don't force me to spend the amount of my deductible (which is large) before I start getting more back, then I'm sort of OK. Won't be able to replace everything by any means. It'll be starting all over accruing camera gear. Even basic little stuff like the remote control, polarizing filter, and lens cleaner start adding up pretty quickly. But if I have to spend the whole deductible amount first and THEN spend more beyond that to get $ back--yikes--I don't have that kind of money!

She's sending me more paperwork with the initial check to clarify everything, and I do have her phone # and email.

I really didn't have in mind spending time researching cameras right at the moment. The one I want is still too expensive--unless I just don't get any lenses for it. (That's a joke...) Sigh.

What I really resent about the jerk who probably spent 30 seconds taking my stuff is that he has taken days and days out of my life--finding info on what was missing, trying to track the original stuff down, talking to assorted folks on the phone about it, reporting it, researching replacements, shopping--on top of the money.

I hope they got what they needed out of it.

Bleahhhhhhh Part 2

SUMMARY: Cold? Flu? Aardvarks? And who is that other person in my bed?

By late yesterday afternoon, I felt a bit like I was floating somewhere behind my body and looking out through my eyes from several feet back. Whole body felt odd, numb but not actually numb, just in an achey, removed way. If one of the dogs shifted position, I'd jump in complete surprise, forgetting there were actually dogs in the house. Trying to work on an interesting project for work and I kept thinking it was something else (not entirely sure what).

Dogs were going nuts all day because I had no energy all day to even throw the toy for them. Neither are good about bringing it back--that's all a long story and i keep meaning to videotape it for everyone's entertainment so you can all think "Ha! At least my dog brings the toy for me to throw!"--and when I finally gave in midday to the incessant pissing and moaning, I ended up yelling at both of them for not doing what I wanted and sort of realized that wasn't normal behavior on my part so gave up even trying.

Dogs really got pissy and annoying as the early evening wore on and my patience was pretty much nonexistent; eventually realized that I hadn't given them dinner. Poor dogs with Human Mom's mind not functioning on all pistons.

Finally occurred to me to take my temperature, and sure enough, running a low-grade fever (not over 100, but my normal is in the 97.6 range). I haven't had a fever in so long I hardly remember what it's like. Don't remember feeling halfway hallucinatory ever, though. My mom says that my dad used to start having hallucinations if his temperature went up by just a degree or two. So I crawled up to bed way early and lay there, sort of wide awake but couldn't concentrate even on reading, and I love reading. Although I was able to do a couple of "difficult" sudokus eventually, in record time, go figure.

I'll tell ya, though, I was very careful every time of the many times I half woke up all night to cough or blow my nose not to disturb my sister who was sleeping on the other side of my bed. I kept hoping I wasn't keeping her awake; it must be miserable sleeping with a sickie, not to mention possibly contagious. When I had to get up to visit the loo, I realized with a shock that I hadn't closed the door even though there was someone else in the room, even though it was dark and she was probably still asleep, and then I couldn't remember whether it was Ann or Linda sleeping there, and then finally I realized that I was still feverish and it was only the dogs on the other side of the bed.

Very very odd experience.

Thermometer said no fever this morning but I still feel almost the same, though not quite so disconnected. Nose still running around like a nutcase. Dogs are very unhappy with me. Apparently I can type and string sentences together at the moment (by late yesterday afternoon that wasn't happening very well).

But I'm thinkin' no agility class tonight.

And I'm wondering about tomorrow--the Turlock USDAA trial starts Friday at 5 p.m. (or 6?) and I'm scheduled for score table and I'd have to load everything into the car in the morning, leave by 1 probably to avoid goshawful traffic-- Not feeling confident about ability to do that at the moment. Certainly couldn't do it today.

I can't remember that I've ever missed an agility trial due to my own illness since I started in 1996--210 trials or so-- And I hate to lose the entry fees or cert's.

OK, feeding the dogs (yay! I'm remembering), crawling back to bleaaaahhhh bed.

P.S. I must point out that not only have I not ever to my recollection slept in the same bed with any of my sisters, I also haven't slept in the same room since 1966 and not even in the same building since 1977 or so, with only occasional shared hotel rooms with significant others (and separate beds). In case you were wondering.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


SUMMARY: By dose is all stuffed up.

I thick I wore byself out so thoroughly this weekedd that by resistetce wet wayyy dowd ad dow I have ad awful code id by head. Bleahhh. The dogs still wat to play id the yard. Bleaaahhh. I am so tired. By braid is so dub. Dub. Dagdabbit I'b tryig to say "dub" oh dabbit.

Dogs will dot be happy today. Huban bob doeset have edergy to eved throw the ball. Hubad bob also will dot be goig hikig todite. Baybe we will be doig a lot of dappig id by cosy bed upstairs. Baybe we will have to go buy bore kleenex.

I will try to stick with words that are usable with a stuffy head. This is hard to do. Especially with a stuffy head. Avoid ebs & eds. Bleahhhh. Agility hiatus is the phrase for today. Possibly thursday, too. Hope it's better quickly, because friday/saturday is USDAA agility at Turlock. Will require health. Bleaahhhhhhhhhh.

Dabbed ems ad eds.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stretching...or Not

SUMMARY: Cramps, stretching, fruit in my very own yard.

Last night as I dozed off in bed and changed position, the muscle inside my right thigh and halfway down the side of my calf started to spasm/cramp like crazy. Man, those things really hurt. Tried to massage it and keep the leg stretched to make it go away. Sometimes my lower spine compresses the nerves and I get some of that, but usually in the sciatic nerve, and usually if I can get to a position where I can do some relaxing stretches, it eases off. This time, every time I moved, it went again.

I finally got onto the floor to try to do some stretching, and it went again. Repeatedly. Then, as that eased, it shifted to the top of my thigh. I'm sure the dogs thought I must be rabid, rolling on the floor and moaning and cursing and begging for it to stop. I think they were looking for the shotgun already. Then, after it taunted me with several repeats and then eased off and I moved slightly, it started on the inner thigh in my other leg. When that finally eased, it moved on down to the shin and foot of my first leg. Every time it would start to ease, I'd move, and it would start up again. Over and over.

That was 20 minutes of abject pain. I was ready to tell anyone where the treasure was and betray all my fellow double agents to make it stop.

When it all finally decided to quit, and I was able to do some stretching of the spine (hard to tell which came first), I hobbled downstairs to research about leg cramps. Yeah, I worked very hard the last 2 days, hauled a lot of agility equipment that I don't usually haul, sweated a lot when I don't usually sweat. Could've been the weight on my spine. Could be mild heat stroke--I did feel unnaturally cool in the evening before bed. Could be dehydration--I drank 4 sodas, a glass of milk, a bottle of water, and had a bowl of ice cream and some fruit between getting home and going to bed 5 hours later. Could have been I lost salt and potassium. Could've just been the unusual type of exercise. OK, so much for research. But everything said, drink more. And some said, bananas and orange juice are good sources of potassium. And some said add a tsp of salt per quart of water and drink that.

I was still thirsty, so grabbed another soda. (These are all diets, BTW, no calories.) Having had my fill of bananas for the day (2 already), I stood there in the kitchen at midnight peeling oranges (fortunately I had a huge bowl sittign on my table from the tree in my yard). Couldn't deal with drinking salty water, so I had a couple handfuls of salty pretzels instead. I'm sure that's VERY healthy.

And then I slept just fine, thenk yew. But the muscles that cramped *hurt* today--not ache from the work they did, but like they were yanked in the wrong directions. Bleah.

Meanwhile, back at the dog training arena: I've been working for many months to try to get the dogs to stretch on command. Susan Garrett says it's easy, just have a clicker and treats with you when you get up in the morning and are doing your morning rituals. So mostly the dogs have learned to stretch in my upstairs bathroom. Every time I go in there, night or day, for any reason, the dogs show up to stretch. But only their front ends; I can't catch them stretching their back legs out often enough for it to have registered, although I'm thinking that Boost is starting to do it more often.

Boost has also converted her front end stretch into more like a play bow, although her elbows are straight and it's better than nothing. Tika does actually get the shoulder and neck muscles stretched when she does it. Obviously I didn't hold my criteria well enough with Boost.

I've been putting a command to it, and they've responded really well...in my upstairs bathroom. Have recently been experimenting with it in other locales. Was just out in my side yard, thinking about how much the muscle in my inner thigh hurts, when the dogs wandered over. I had no treats or clickers, but I did have my camera, so thought I'd give it a try. Tika did a perfect front-end stretch, but danged pocket camera wouldn't focus fast enough to take the shot. And she wouldn't do it again when she realized there were no treats.

Boost, however, did it after my 3rd or 4th request... VERY quickly.... and then had to be coaxed to try again, and DID! Long enough for a photo.

And the reason I was in the side yard was to scout out my absolutely favorite yard-grown fruit:

Blackberries! This is apparently the season, RIGHT NOW! Got to get out and start pickin'. I'm SURE they're jam-packed (ha ha?) with potassium and salt and electrolytes and muscle relaxants and all like that. I can just tell!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Memorial Day to Remember

SUMMARY: Agility demo and complete exhaustion. A good time was had by all.

We did an agility demo today for our neighborhood association's Memorial Day parade and fair. (We didn't do the parade.) We used my agility equipment rather than trying to find a driver and bring up a trailer from wherever they're currently located--Salinas or some such place. And here is all my agility equipment (save the dogwalk): three tunnels, Aframe, teeter, 7 jumps, chute, table, weaves (partly borrowed), broad jump, tire, fence posts (some borrowed). [Remember that you can click photos here to see a much larger view for details.]

I have never done so much equipment hauling and cleaning and mending in my life. Hours yesterday, hours today. I'se all wored out. Fortunately, BAS, who also lives in the neighborhood, came early with her strong-backed spouse and helped me set up and then helped me haul everything home at the end of the day. Here she is talking to interested parties, while interested Jersey puzzles me out.

I vowed to take a photo of the whole group of us and our dogs together for posterity, but... it got busy, I got tired, I just forgot.

We started setting up at 8 because they wanted us done by 11 for the parade to arrive at 11:30, and there were only 2 of us, so it took a while. When the parade arrived, so did a bunch of interesting vehicles. Like the Sharks fire engine.
And these vehicles. Holy Achilles Tendon, look at how skinny those ankles are! How do they hold up those huge beasts? (I mean the horses of course.)

The fair included the main "stage" (canopies over part of the pavement), one burger stand with a huuuuuuge line, one drink stand, a few crafts stands, half a dozen games booths, and a central volunteers booth at which to buy tickets for food and games.

Looked like there might have been a thousand people there (I'm not convinced...maybe 500? A lot, anyway.

They had a long program of sequential entertainments. Frankly, everyone came, ate, checked out the games, and left. We were supposed to be after the high school jazz band and by the time the band played, the crowd was down to maybe 50 people scattered around. Then they stuck in the Tae Kwon Do exhibition. Quite a few people stopped by from time to time to ask when we were going to do our demo, and some said they couldn't wait and sorry.

So--the parade arrived at 11:30, the main Memorial Day ceremonies and parade awards took less than an hour, and within an hour after that, pretty much everyone was gone.

We were finally on around 2:30, and the 30 or 40 people who were left came over and were a very good audience. Nothing like the hundreds we'd been expecting.

If we do this event again, we won't do it under those circumstances. It had gotten quite warm by then, and three of our dogs didn't want to be out in the heat doing agility. And while I understand that they have a program and everyone wants their turn to do their stage bit, they'd be much better off running parallel programs, which would give everyone their turn but also allow the audience choices of things to do AND maybe therefore get them to stay around longer to WATCH the things. And I can assure you that, if I'd thought the audience would be only 30 people, I wouldn't have volunteered to show up.

But, even given all that, it's always a blast to get to run your dogs on a fun course, away from home, not in class, not in competition, and for free! (Except for the time involved.) Everyone did a bit of practicing here and there while waiting our turn. We also talked to a lot of people who had come over and were hanging around waiting for the official demo to start, and we talked to them about our dogs, demonstrated some tricks and some training methods, showed some individual obstacle performances, and like that. Then maybe 15-20 minutes of demo, including explaining the equipment and then running a course. Then, after the demo was over and everyone had run, the audience vanished from the site POOF! and we all ran it again and did little sequences and things with our dogs.

Boost is SO FAST! Man, she hauls! Got tremendous OOoohs from the audience when she slammed into the weave entry and continued correctly at her lightning speed... but then, dang, popped out at #8. More than once. And she was knocking bars. But her contacts were excellent, we didn't have any runouts or refusals, although we did have a little confusion and I just couldn't keep up with her! She loved it! Tika was her usual fast-enough consistent self and enjoyed schmoozing with the audience and getting treats for tricks (backing up to "beep beep beep" like trucks do was a crowd pleaser).

I met a couple of new agility people and got to see a couple of folks whose dogs have retired from agility so I don't see them at trials any more, but they were willing to come out and do this and jump at a nice easy low height. And for sure I burned a tremendous number of calories! I should sleep well tonight! Bring on the ibuprofen!

And I learned this valuable lesson: When you clear EVERYTHING out of the van to try to fit in all the agility equipment, don't remove the bag with the sun lotion!

Looking in the mirror after a long hard sunny day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Don't Ever Do This Again

SUMMARY: In which we offer to do an agility demo for a big event down the street.

Next time I say, "Hey, cool, there's a big event just down the street from my house on memorial day, what a great opportunity to do a demo, we can just haul all my equipment over there!" remind me that it has already taken me hours to gather, clean, repair, disassemble, and haul stuff out to my van, and tht's not everything yet.

And then there's tomorrow... set up, hang out until it's our turn in the scheulde, then tear it all down again. I'm thinkin' it's going to consume from 8 a.m. until maybe 5 p.m. For two 15-minute demos!

What a dork.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

We Don't Get No Respect

SUMMARY: AKC and the public perception of agility.

My sister brought me a souvenir from her recent trip: An in-flight magazine (USA Today Open Air Magazine) containing the article "See Spot run...and jump" by Steve Dale. A full page article about dog agility! Cool! Some people get souvenir t-shirts from their relatives. I get copies of free magazines. But she knows what I like!

Even cooler: It mentioned 6 people from around the country, and I know 4 of them! (Laurie Leach, local, author of The Beginner's Guide to Dog Agility and USDAA nationals winner with her sheltie a couple of years back; Marj and Bruce Vincent, used to own Starfleet Agility--now WAG--in Elk Grove; and Sara McKinley and the local Haute Dawgs Agility Group.)

Gives contact info for AKC, USDAA, NADAC, and DOCNA (wth? no CPE? Which has been around twice as long as DOCNA?... weirder, DOCNA's not even mentioned in the wikipedia article. Guess I'd better fix that.)

But, OK. Here's the thing. The article starts with a brief intro sentence and then, WHAM UPSIDE YOUR HEAD, "Dog agility is a bona fide dog sport, sanctioned by the American Kennel Club." [italics mine] Argh! Like, it's not a bona fide dog sport if it's NOT sanctioned by the AKC? There wasn't even any AKC worth mentioning when I started; USDAA was already big and televised regularly before AKC agility got any traction. USDAA pretty much started agility in north america (short of a year or so of effort by Bud Kramer), and USDAA is huge. USDAA isn't even mentioned in the article until 3/4 of the way through. All the statistics about how many dogs are competing are AKC statistics.


When AKC associates their name with something, then they own it. In the public's view, at any rate.

Fah, I say.

Of course, USDAA added to the confusion by cleverly creating a logo by taking the AKC logo, changing "AKC" to "USDAA" and adding a little yellow tint here and there.

And, P.S., the author missed an excellent opportunity to say the sport is a bona fido sport. Or bone fide sport. What's the world of professional writers coming to?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Dogs Tonight and Sore Legs

SUMMARY: In which we realize why we shouldn't slack off on the uphill/downhills.

I've been trying to be very good about getting out with the dogs for at least a mile or preferably two every day, like I used to BK (before knee [issues]). It's good exercise; I move at a brisk pace--to the dogs' dismay, because they NEED to minutely examine every shrub, tree, and large weed along the way--and I get my heart rate elevated. But the elevation changes around here are a bit slim: in the two-mile loop down past the high school, I'm thinkin' my elevation change is cumulatively about 5 feet. If I turn right instead of going straight, we can dive under the freeway and actually get in a--what?--30 foot each way? elevation change.

Last night was my first outing with the Sierra Club since it's been light enough to go into the parks with hills (mostly flattish walks during the winter in suburban areas and parks). A brisk 5 miles round trip, up at least 500 feet to the top of Black Mountain above Los Altos Hills. My legs were SO tired by the end of the trip... Lost all that conditioning from last year!

You'd think that, with legs this long, they wouldn't get tired.

We were quite a crew--in addition to my out-of-shapedness, our Fearless Leader damaged her ankle (or achilles tendon?) last year and is still recovering, so she wasn't as brisk as she was last year; the schoolteacher who hikes hundreds of miles in Europe every summer, 20 miles a day, is still recovering from a broken foot this winter and is still in pain although she's up to (she says) about 8 miles she can do in a day. Who knows what the other 16 people were up to, but I am certain it wasn't as brisk a hike all around as we were doing last fall.

View to the northwest from the summit near sunset.

A wonderful friend loaned me her digital Nikon D50 SLR to try out for a while, so I hauled that up to the top with me, took about 6 shots, and then got an "Err" display. We tried all kinds of things but I didn't find the answer in the instruction book until I got home. It's better now.

The air over the valley and bay was too hazy for worthwhile photos.

But it caught the amber light of the setting sun on the view to the southwest, where a deer made a brief appearance on the hill below us, spotted us, and dashed away.

On the drive back down the mountain, a coyote crossed our path and then a deer nearly ran into us. And 10 minutes later we were back at the Interstate with thousands of vehicles streaming by.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Puppy Blog by Nancy Gyes

SUMMARY: Enjoy puppy-training thoughts with a real pro.

Our instructor, Nancy Gyes, has a brand-new Border Collie puppy and a brand-new blog about training a future agility champion to go along with it. (I helped with some of the technical set-up so I feel a tiny bit of ownership. ;-)).

Follow along and see how a new puppy's training is approached by someone who has been training other people and her own dogs (at least a couple dozen by now I'm guessing) in obedience, behavior, and particularly agility, for many years; who has been national agility champion in various venues with multiple dogs; who has been on the agility world team multiple times and won; who is now world-team coach; and who has many current and former students who are national and world champions and team members (at least three this year on world team).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Early Start on a Hot Day

SUMMARY: Another 4-mile walk at dawn with dogs and camera.

Today's forecast is for temperatures approaching 100F (38C). Hot. Missed out on most of our exercise yesterday because of the heat. So this morning, starting at 5:30 (temp 68F/20C), the dogs and I took a brisk 4-mile stroll through the neighborhood. With point-and-shoot camera. It was gorgeous--perfect hiking temperature, and although there were no cloudy bits to make for a truly spectacular sunrise, that wonderful morning golden glow suffused everything.

Our 3.5-mile (5.6 km) walk took just under an hour and a half, with frequent stops for photo snapping (mostly me), shrub sniffing (mostly not me), and reminders about not pulling on the leash (community effort). For some unfathomable reason I never thought to take photos of my merle girls this morning. But this well-behaved dog earned a photo.

And, so that you don't feel merle-girl deprived, here are some gratuitous, previously unpublished shots from a trip to the park back in March.

I brought up Boost to consider her leash to be a fun toy. This enables me to always have a toy with us to use as a reward. At this park, the dogs are usually off leash, but we were approaching some small dogs on leash, so I put Tika on leash as well. The only one more surprised than me was Tika, when Boost grabbed Tika's leash out of my hand and started hauling her around the field. Go ahead, Tika, pull on the dang leash NOW!

Now--if you want to see the full 19 shots from this morning's hike, in larger format (you can even display as a slide show), with descriptions, go here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

TaJ MuttHall Yard and Local Deities

SUMMARY: In which we take a camera tour in our very yard to prove that lacking an SLR doesn't mean that we can't take quick unartistic snapshots anyway. Plus an inventory of yard deities of many persuasions.

Visit here for a lot of fun photos like these, but with captions, to see what kinds of activities and lives go on in the Taj MuttHall yard.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


SUMMARY: More on the break-in

So--here is why they never bothered to open the door, which is why they took only the things they could reach through the front passenger window:
("Protected by Chapman vehicle security system".)

It's funny to see that in the remnants of my side window, but not funny in that having the alarm in fact DID probably protect most of the other stuff in my car. I am grateful for that.

The glass company came out and replaced my window--he finished exactly 24 hours after the break-in occurred (within the same 20-minute period), which is a nice symmetry. Just under $200. Much less than my auto deductible, but still a good chunk of change--although I'm trying to keep that in perspective, too; it's not much more than one dog's full entry for an agility weekend, and I write those checks all the time!

Shattering that one window threw glass all the way through my van. Found bits in the far ends of the dogs' crates in the very back of the van. The repair guy vacuumed a lot, and then I spent another half hour vacuuming in even more detail. And every time I turned around, bits of broken glass had reappeared where I had just cleaned. Even big chunks of the safety glass. Which mostly breaks into chunks, but there are tiny shards and slivers among them.

I am truly grateful that the dogs weren't in their crates at the time; I vacuumed up some sharp bits. (Although--would the crated dogs have deterred them? Dunno. No way to know.)

My homeowner's deductible is much larger, but when I actually added up everything that was taken, it was way over the deductible, so I'll get some money back. Not enough to replace everything (because it's minus my deductible). But at least some small comfort. For the 12 or so hours that it took to research my losses, report them on the SJPD web site, report them to the insurance claim adjuster, go dumpster diving, make a flyer and post it in various locations, talk to Kaiser security, and so on and so on. Of course insurance doesn't cover THAT time, either.

Take a last look at my camera, telephoto lens, belt case holding another telephoto, and black and teal all-purpose jacket that I've had for 13 years and hardly shows the wear. It'll be tough to replace that. (Thanks, Steph, for the photo.)

But they didn't get my favorite Pluto Unleashed hat, thank goodness, which was behind the seat (covered with broken glass). Nor my hiking boots, nor my agility cleats, nor cell phone or digital camera, nor any other dog gear, nor the tools I carry for auto repair--All a great relief.

All things considered, I'm not feeling too bad. Concentrating on the "grateful for"s and just holding up a mental "STOP!" sign every time I catch myself thinking "If only..." and either dismissing it or turning it into "what did I learn that I can apply next time." It's tough to do but I think it's working pretty well. Like--oh, well, I do still have my point-and-click camera. And I still have a ton of unsorted, unlableled photos from the last couple of years that I can be working through instead of taking lots more photos with my "real" camera.

And I'll try to be satisfied with the point-and-click for a while. Its quality for tough lighting situations isn't great, but I can get SOME semblance of shots for things like these sunsets--April 20 and last night, after the break-in--which lightened my heart greatly, stopping to admire it--both seen from my car and dashing for the nearest place to pull over and get a photo. Not great, but OK after a little photoshopping.

Whatever gods or physics daemons are responsible for the universe--thanks for making it a beautiful place to live.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mixed Blessings


On Sunday, we had a lovely Mother's Day dinner at my parents' house. I took my camera bag just in case I wanted to take some photos. I picked up my video camera to take it, too, for my sister in Nevada, but decided at the last minute that there was about a zero chance that I'd want to take the time to video something, upload it to the computer, etc., so it stayed on the table by my door.

Today, for the first time in a year, I decided to go work in my company's office about 45 minutes from here instead of at home. To get me into a work-social setting and to help me focus on getting more hours in, because I am very sadly short on available money.

I've been working on this version of this 500-page manual for well over a year. In the process, I have printed 3 versions, but I have also been scribbling change notes and questions--and applying these wonderful colored tags to dozens and dozens of pages. Well, maybe hundreds of pages among the 3 copies. I've been working lately on trying to get all of those changes folded in because I'm tired of staring at 3 copies of the 500-page manual (single-sided) on my desk. Make that 4 copies, because the PREVIOUS version had some handwritten notes about things that were never resolved.

Gads, OK, to go up to Mt. View to work, I had to haul all those with me. Plus my daytimer with all my schedule notes and where I track for my timecard and all that, my nice black leather daytimer that's been with me since 1989, with my name on a blass plaque on the cover.

What on earth to carry all that with? Much too much paper to fit into my document bag. BUT--ta-da!-- I have cleverly saved lots of sturdy bags in the garage, and there were two double-walled Apple Store bags with drawstrings--VERY sturdy for all those papers that I had to haul.

What to wear? Not one of my many $15 flea-market fleeces like I'd wear to agility. To look "dressed up," I donned my very pricey brown "Grand Canyon condors" embroidered fleece, my one souvenir indulgence from my hike last year into the canyon.

I packed up my laptop, too, figuring that it would be easier to transfer files to and from that rather than having to upload to some web site and then download again, but after hauling those heavy bags of paper out to the car, I decided that I really didn't want to haul that heavy computer bag, too, so left it sitting in the chair in my office.

And I hauled all that paper up to mountain view and into the office. When I got there, realized my camera bag was still in the car. But I have this nice lined coat with a black lining; tucked the camera backpack up against the passenger seat and tossed the black-side up coat over it. Looking through the tinted windows, you'd never know it was there.

At lunchtime, I took my wallet out of my purse (left the purse under the jacket, too). Bought my lunch. Tucked the wallet way back under my driver's seat because it was so much easier than digging out my purse, cramming it in there, and rehiding the purse.

Lunch was good, work was good, but those danged hot flashes--stripped off the Grand Canyon fleece.

Just so happens that I have a regular meditation session at 4:00 on Tuesdays down here near where I live. Normally I would just bip over there from home 10 minutes before, stay for that, and come straight home. Here's the dilemma: Leave all my papers at the office, which would prevent me from doing any work at home this evening, or take them home with me, since I've made good progress and am feeling enthused and competent and really need the extra hours of work?

OK, take them with me. I picked up my fleece, put the papers AND my daytimer back into the Apple Store plastic bags, tossed them casually onto the passenger seat in my van, and headed south.

Because I was so far away and going into rush hour, I left there an hour early. But, glory be, traffic was good, so I arrived 25 minutes before the class was to start. Feeling cheerful and like I had accomplished things today, I decided to take a brisk 15-minute walk around the block.

I am practicing being grateful for the following things:
* I didn't take my laptop.
* I didn't have my video camera in the car.
* I tucked my wallet under the driver's seat.
* My cell phone and point-and-shoot digital camera were buried between the seats instead of sitting on the passenger seat as they often do.

Because, 20 minutes later, when I returned from my walk, this is what I found:

Here's what I think happened. The car parked next to me when I first got there was gone. I think that they happened to glance in, saw Apple Store bags sitting right there on the passenger seat, smashed the window, took everything they could reach, tossed it into their car without looking at it, and took off. The alarm didn't go off, because they never bothered to open the door. So they weren't able to search for other stuff. My cell phone and small camera were still there. My wallet was still there. My garage door opener was still there. None of my dog stuff was removed from the back.

They took my nice leather purse (well--OK, it's very old and worn. But sturdy and just the right size and configuration and color and I have no spare change to buy an equivalent).

They took my digital SLR, 3 lenses, doubler, assorted filters, remote control, the flash attachment I'd always wanted, the nice purple backpack that I looked for for a long time to have just the right configuration of pockets (and color). I certainly don't have the money to replace that. So much for my budding career as a photographer.

They took my long, lined teal and black jacket that's my mainstay for anything out of doors--agility, hiking. Don't have anything else equivalent.

They took my Grand Canyon fleece.

And they took months and months worth of work, notes scribbled on thousands of pages in those two white plastic bags, that my brain categorized as "boring papers that no one would be interested in" but someone looking through the window categorized as "probably cool computer stuff from the Apple Store." It doesn't matter how much money I have or what insurance I have. I cannot replace that. I am heartbroken. I have spoken to my company about what to do about the client. Can't really charge them to do the work over again. Can't really afford to pay me to do the work over again without billing the client. Heartbroken is perhaps a mild descriptor for how I feel.

And yet.

It could be so much worse. For example, if they had taken my wallet with my ID and credit cards and ATM card and plenty of cash. For example, if they had taken my garage door opener and known my address. So VERY much worse.

And they didn't damage anything in the car except the window.

And all the other stuff that they didn't take because through sheer luck I didn't HAVE in the car.

Those little decisions worked both for me and against me today.

And yet--I am trying so hard to breathe deeply. Find the muscles tied in knots and relax them. Find somewhere the strength to figure out what to do and do it.

I spent 2 hours dumpster diving afterwards, hoping that maybe they'd pulled into a nearby shopping center or business to see what they got and dumped the papers. Of course--there are zillions of nearby shopping centers, with dozens upon dozens of dumpsters and trash cans in the parking lots. I also went up and down the freeway an exit and checked there. I'm sure I missed lots of places, but I sure did look in a lot of others, hoping I'd find something.

Maybe--maybe--someone will find the bags, with my daytimer in one of them, with my phone number (and address), and will think, "gee, I wonder if this person wants this stuff back?" and will give me a call.

I'm thinking I'll put a notice on craigslist.

I don't know what else to do.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Boost Plays to the Max and Tika Has a Lot to Say

SUMMARY: Small dogs come visiting.

On Friday, an irrigation specialist person came here for an hour to discuss my irrigation mess, and he brought his Italian Greyhound, Dante. Dante and Boost couldn't have been happier. Dante chased Boost, and Boost blasted through the various tunnels full speed, then would skid to a halt inside one end, Dante would run over and bark at her, and she'd u-turn and skeedaddle fast as lightning to the other end, Dante would run over and bark. Repeat. Until that tunnel got dull, then there'd be sprinting into other tunnels, behind shrubs, and so on.

Very happy dogs.

(Although Tika is a little suspicious about the whole thing:)

And Boost got well worn out.

Tika, who is funny funny funny, isn't much into playing with other dogs (although she and Boost played the same way when Boost was younger--Tika doing the chasing and barking for the most part--and they still wrestle with each other pretty much every day). But she gets off on the excitement exuding from the other dogs, and she barks BARKS BARKS!!!

For some inane reason or other it never occurred to me to get my camera out.

The next day, a friend and her two French Bulldogs came to visit. Now, the older Frenchie--Elliot--and Boost are about the same age, and they had several opportunities in hotel rooms and when visiting each other when they were between about 6 months and a year and a half to play play play, and they loved it! And they still remember each other. (Dang, thought I had photos posted from wayyy back, but not finding them.)

The problem is that Elliot is recovering from a damaged disc in his spine and wasn't supposed to be playing. Boost tried and tried and tried to get him to play, and he tried and tried to play with her, but his Human Mom kept putting the kibosh on it. So sad! The other, younger Frenchie was delighted to play with Boost, and they did a bit of running but mostly wrestling, although Boost kept going back to Elliot to try to engage him.

Ah, well.
Boost: Elliot, c'monnn, play with me!

Elliot: Boost, c'monnn, play with me!

Boost is so gentle with the tiny dogs. And she gets right down to their level to play, like she's doing here with Babette.

Babette always looks so cheerful AND has a pointed tongue. How cute is that?

OK, really, I'd never have a Frenchie myself, but just look at that face on Elliot!

Meanwhile, Tika had a lot to say about all that excitement, too. MAN, she has a loud bark!

I did finally remember to get my camera out, after they were all pretty tuckered out.

Babette's and Boost's tongues hung wayyyy out. It was a good workout for them both.

Boost got well worn out AGAIN.

Life is good.

Friday, May 08, 2009

No Thanks, No Puppy for Me

SUMMARY: In which I continue to realize that I am content with my current dog population and that my current dog population has some agility issues.

There's a brand new border collie puppy at Power Paws, and it visited class last night. It was very cute. It was happy to see everyone. It had delightful puppy breath. It wiggled and ran and fell over and got up and wiggled some more. As astonishingly freshly cute as every puppy ever made. I snuggled it.

And I had absolutely zero, not one, not a whit of, desire for a puppy of my own. Puppies are hard work. Training is hard work. Taking care of dogs is hard work, and expensive, too. I like having two dogs. Me and my twos, we be a happy little family unit.

Someone in class suggested that, when I said, "I have no interest in a puppy," that I was trying to convince myself. Funny that that's the reaction--does everyone else want a new puppy so badly that they can't imagine someone NOT wanting one?

No thanks, no no no--I've got enough training and attention challenges with the dogs I've got!

But I do like having lots of friends in agility. I left my Wednesday night 8:15 class a while back, but I'm still an Honorary Member. So when certain members of the class promised human treats to celebrate his 3rd consecutive placement on the World Team, I invited myself along.

Then they invited my dogs to participate in class, so I got a bonus class this week (in exchange for giving up my Wednesday night sierra club hike).

As an additional bonus for going up to class on Wednesday, I had an opportunity at a stop light to capture the sunset.

Then, as yet another bonus, in Power Paws' driveway, Mr. Owl awaited me on the phone lines for a photo op in the twilight. No tripod, but not bad anyway. (Great Horned Owl.)

And so, with two nights in a row of class, I have established this: Tika runs well at 22", and Boost knocks a lot of bars.

So here we are again.