a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: January 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

UKI Birthday Fun Match

SUMMARY: A good time was had by all.
Compared to a regular agility weekend, it was SO much nicer to (a) not have to pack nearly as much, (b) sleep until 6:30 rather than 4:00 a.m., (c) drive half an hour rather than 2 hours, (d) watch the sun rise and the full moon sink (wanted photos but didn't want to stop. Regretting that decision.), (d) be done with 4 runs by noon.

I'm not the best person to comment on the styles of courses; course design doesn't interest me at all; I just like the challenge of how I'm going to get myself and my dogs through in the most efficient way possible, and it doesn't really matter what the specific challenges are. I must say that nothing I saw today looked out of the range of possibility for a USDAA trial (in terms of odd turns or weird positions or that ilk). But all the courses were run on a very small rings; they might have been 70x70 (rather than 100+ square), but I'm thinking they were maybe even smaller than that.

Java Agility has a permanent fenced location set up in one corner of the Swiss Park ("available for rental! Banquet hall!") in Newark. I have no idea what the Swiss part is all about, but the building was pretty cool.

Fun matches are useless for us to work on anything that dogs do only in competition; despite my best efforts, they know it's not real--e.g., Tika did every one of her contacts perfectly. In fact, Tika just kind of glided through the courses, OK, this is fun but not REALLY serious.

Standard agility ("agility") was your basic numbered course with all obstacles but no table. Jumpers is jumpers-with-weaves, different from USDAA but same as for AKC and international. Gamblers has an interesting variation; someone said it's sort of a combination of AKC FAST and USDAA gamblers; I'm not familiar with FAST so dunno. The gamble always has an option of going over the line to do it but for fewer points, which is nice.

Their Speed Stakes is just a Jumpers course like USDAA (no weaves) but set up for speed like a Steeplechase would be. We finished with that and both dogs loved it; Tika even got excited enough once she caught on to what kind of course it was that she zoomed in and grabbed my feet at the end, which is normally an only-at-trials behavior.

Boost knocked bars but her contacts and weaves were lovely. I was trying to concentrate more on having her keep moving out ahead of me and taking obstacles rather than checking in before every one. We had some success with that, but still a ways to go.

Tika waits her turn. (This is my 4/52 in my 52 Weeks For Dogs photo group.)

On the way home, the lighting was so interesting (sunny but muted by faint cloudiness) that I stopped and took photos. These are the mountains east of Newark rising above the NUMMI plant (New united motors), a joint venture between GM and Toyota for the last quarter century that employs 5500 people--until GM announced that they're pulling out, and Toyota isn't going to keep it running by themselves, so in 2 months it's shut-down and outawork.
It's amazing what you can see while standing at a freeway overpass in the business/industrial part of town on a spur-of-the-moment stop to take photos of the mountains.
Marsh grasses surrounding a reflective pond.

Purple flowers (duh!).

Bird of Paradise

These guys cracked me up. It was clear they were talking about the neighbors.

But when they took off, pure grace.

Seagulls may be the rats o'the sea, but they sure do look nice against a bright blue sky.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

SUMMARY: Bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds, sun sun sun!

After last night's rain, the air was so clear today that the sun streamed down with no interference whatsoever. All the plants look SO green, it looked SO springish--

The parking lot of the garden center was full.

Gotta love San Jose climate!

There are no standing puddles in the yard and not even goopy mud, just plain old regular wet soil. Today--first time in what seems like forever--set up jumps and tunnels in a huge loop around the yard and just ran ran ran with a few teeters, weaves, and dogwalks tossed in for good measure. YEEEha!

Boost knocks bars. Don't tell anyone.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Statistics and Patterns Lie. I Hope.

SUMMARY: I'd like to break this particular pattern among my dogs' lives.

Six years after Amber died, Sheba died.

Five years after Sheba died, Remington died.

Four years after Remington died, Jake died.

It has now been three years since Jake died.

I'm just sayin', I'd prefer not to continue this pattern, thank you very much.

Goodbye Little Black Dog

SUMMARY: R.I.P. Scully
Scully the little black dog, whose breed is listed as Verwende Prinses ("the spoiled princess"), was going strong until just a little while ago. She made it ten days past her 14th birthday, still competing in a few agility classes here and there. Scully's human mom adopted her as a rescue because she was cute, but this cute little mixed breed (sometimes mistaken for a Tibetan Terrier) went on to phenomenal success in a wide range of canine sports.

Scully was, as I understand it, the most-titled dog in the history of the Mixed Breed Dog Club:
  • In USDAA, she earned both her regular and performance Championships (ADCH and APD), but went wayyyyy beyond that. She very nearly earned her Bronze championship (triple the ADCH), before moving do performance and doing it all over again, even getting all the way to a Gold Snooker championship. She was so utterly reliable in doing gambles--age made it hard for her to make time or get opening points (and she had such SHORT little legs!) but she always looked like she was flying through the gamble part at a distance, her long hair flowing and hiding those little legs.
  • In CPE, she earned her championship (C-ATCH) three times over and had made a noble stab at earning the C-ATE (like earning 10 championships but with more rigid requirements) before her aging body slowed her down enough to gradually withdraw from collecting more Qs.
  • In obedience, she earned her U-CD (UKC) and MB-CDX (MBDC).
  • In conformation (yes, the mixed breed dog club has conformation classes, too), she earned her championship.
  • She also earned Rally titles and participated in all kinds of activities.
  • As a result of all her activities, she earned her Mixed Breed Versatility title five times over, which required achievement in seven different areas.
But of course, more than that, she was a good girl who could be left on her chair while her Human Mom went out and about at competitions, and she'd stay there, waiting and watching. She loved being fed treats from a spoon, and often was. She was a cheerful and willing girl. She was hard to get photos of because of those little black eyes in that long black fur, often turned out to be a cute little black blob. I was always pleased when I could get a nice photo of her.

Goodbye, Scully; in so many ways, there's no other dog like you out there.

Gads, I hate it when dogs get old.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Agility Activity

SUMMARY: Class, fun match.

Halleluia, it was not raining yesterday so we had class last night! Dogs were happy to be running. Tika did beautifully, she's such a good experienced girl--and seems so slow in comparison to Boost. (Although she's not by any means a slow dog.)

Boost did pretty good. Did all her weaves beautifully, even when I cut away toward the end to get to another position (the thing she COULDN'T do correctly 2 weeks ago in class, and no, I haven't worked on it since). Knocked a bar almost, but not quite every, run--hmm, ok, I think I did three exercises with her and 4 with tika, so that's not a great sample size.

There were only 4 of us in class last night, so we all pooped out on the early side and headed home in the dark.

Sunday is Boost's and my birthday! Boost will be 5--gasp, how is it possible?--and I'll be older than that.

To celebrate, we've signed up for a UKI fun match. UKI is a creation of Greg Derrett and Laura Manchester-Derrett, and Laura's from our general agility area originally before she moved to England for a while, so it's fun to see her back again. If you haven't seen the buzz about UKI agility, here's their web site. It's up in Fremont, only about 45 minutes from home, and has limited entries and 4 classes, so we don't start until 8:30 and expect to be done by 12:30, a huge difference from regular trials.

And it's supposed to rain a bit between now and Sunday, but Sunday itself should be clear. Happy birthday to us!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Missed It By That Much!

SUMMARY: Right, Chief, final USDAA Top Ten numbers are in--

Well, curse Tika's sore toe in December.

The final tally for 2009: Tika is #11 in Snooker for Performance 22" in the entire country. But they give award pins only for Top Ten. And we missed by-- 1 point!

(USDAA Snooker Top Ten page)

Tika is #14 in Gamblers. And we missed Top Ten by--1 point! (Actually that would've tied us for 10th with 3 other people. I don't know whether they give out as many Top Ten awards as there are people tied for 10th or whether they have some sort of tie-breaking formula.)

(USDAA Gamblers Top Ten page)

Argggghhhhhh! Guess we'll just have to try to do it all over again this year and just stay injury free. Of course, our pathetic showing in Snooker Saturday didn't help our case-- but we did pick up 3 Top Ten points in Gamblers, so we're a tenth of the way there (based on this year's scores).

Still, OK--I'm pleased. It never occurred to me that we could be in that position, and in TWO classes, yet! It's been fun following our points the last 2 or 3 months and wondering whether we could hold on there.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hey, Well, Qs and Titles are Overrated Anyway

SUMMARY: One rainy day of USDAA agility doesn't have a lot of high points. But dogs were happy to be running!

Saturday was supposed to start with a little rain and then clear up. So it started with a little rain and continued with a little rain almost all day. We were under cover for the trial, but it's a metal roof, so when it started raining, especially heavily, you could hardly hear each other to talk. Wonder whether the dogs could hear one's spoken commands.

After all this rain recently, the huge lawn where we usually play some frisbee at the end of the day to burn off any remaining exercise was a bit of a lake. Dogs didn't much care.

If I had taken time to post "what I want from this weekend" before the trial, I'd have said a Jumpers Q to finish Boost's MAD and a Standard Q to finish Tika's Performance MAD-equivalent (PD3 I think). Short answer: Didn't get either.

Both dogs, however, were delighted to be doing agility after weeks of little or none and after a solid week of rain. I could tell from the way they went at it. Very, very happy dogs.

Tika remained in full healthy form, not a sign of pain at all. Halleluia! I did give her a rimadyl Friday night and another Saturday morning Just In Case. She looked great. She started the day with a lovely Gamblers run in which she completed 4 contacts--not 2o2o but completely solidly legal--and got a high enough score that she'd have beaten ALL the 30 dogs in the Border Collie height (16" Performance)--but dang high levels of competition at her height, only 11 dogs and 2 of them had higher scores (barely--3 pts and 1 pt). She made the gamble itself look like a cakewalk, so an easy Q and 3rd place.

Tika then had a simply gorgeous Jumpers run, never even ticked a bar. One challenging rear cross (for me) and she started to turn the wrong way but picked it up and went on--and that lost us 1st place by .2 seconds. Ah, well, it was another Q and a 2nd.

Then in Standard, where I really needed the contacts to be perfect for her title, she flew off both the dogwalk and Aframe without even trying to slow down.

In Snooker, I thought I had a perfect thing going after the first five jumps but then apparently Tika entered the weaves from the wrong side and I didn't notice it so got whistled off with a whole 8 points. You'd think that after all these years, I'd notice something like that. I can usually tell a bad weave entry even with peripheral vision and half a brain. Ah, well.

She ran beautifully again in Pairs, which was good because her partner had two refusals--but collectively we were fast enough to earn a Q.

Boost-- Ahhh, what can I say, this is a dog with whom I have to do the straight-ahead and bar-knocking drills constantly, apparently. In Snooker, she had a spectacular start--over a red on the far side of the course, between two jumps straight to me and a perfect right-angle turn into the weave poles. Beautiful. Then--she knocked the next two red jumps, which right there not only kept us from a Super-Q but also from qualifying at all, but we continued into the closing sequence (with combinations, 10 obstacles), which she of course did perfectly. Gah.

In Jumpers, in the first 5 obstacles, two bars down and then turned back to me and ran past a jump sideways for a runout. The rest of the course--clean although still way too much looking back.

In Gamblers, we had a good high-score opening going until our last 2 obstacles--looked back at me as she went through the tire and got caught in it and took a couple of seconds to regain her feet but continued without a backward glance, then leaped off halfway down the dogwalk down ramp to come back to me (behind her). So no points for that, and the buzzer sounded, and she was between me and the gamble entry, so I had to calm her enough to line her up, we didn't have quite the momentum and angle I'd have liked, and she hung out before the 3rd gamble jump doing the "what, this jump? what, this jump?" thing 3 or 4 times before she finally took it and then completed the gamble but over time.

In Standard--oh, the heartbreak, we were SO close to a perfect run, and then once again in a straight line of obstacles, on the middle jump, she turned back to me and backed up past the jump for a runout.

In Pairs, she crashed the second jump on a lead-out pivot, looked back at me several times before taking jumps, and then on the last jump turned back to me just as she got to the jump and ended up crashing the metal upright with the side of her head, the whole thing went flying (jump upright, bars, and wing, not her head, although I was afraid she'd knocked a tooth out--but no, she kept going without a backwards glance). We did squeeze out a Q by about 2 seconds because she had enough speed and her partner executed perfectly. Her only Q of the weekend, and it just wasn't purty.

On the up side, Boost's weave poles seem to be perfect again with no apparent effort on my part, go figure.

After we were done, I took them out to the frisbee field and let them splash their way through it until Boost lay down in the slushy grass, panting. The sun came out at the horizon long enough to backlight a few clouds nicely for us.

Then we spent the night at my cousin's house, where Boost proved that now, apparently, ALL smooth floors are evil except the ones at home and ALL water dishes except hers are evil (I never filled in that story over New Years--will have to come back to that) and my cousin finally managed to get her to drink from a large hand-held plastic pitcher. All other offerings were evil. What a strange dog.

We had a great night's sleep, very comfy, chatted with the cousin a bit more in the morning, and came home. Next trial in 3 weeks I believe.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gotta Love Those Microclimates but How About Jump Bars?

SUMMARY: How much did it rain in San Jose yesterday?
  • 2.2" per my rain gauge (south san jose).
  • 1.1" South San Jose per newspaper (not sure where exactly).
  • 1.33" San Jose airport (7 miles north).
  • 2.9"  Rolling Hills School (6 miles west).
  • 3.38" Los Gatos (8 miles west southwest).
In any case--wet. And the rain continues today. Good news is that the smaller reservoirs are now full or more full; biggest ones are creeping up on half full. Will still need more rain this year to get more runoff to feel that we're safe on water for the coming year (after 3 years of drought).

I'm debating setting up a jump in my living room and doing some close-in bar-knocking drills right there on the carpet. Not enough room for a running stride, but from a standstill to a hop over the jump, yes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Canoas Creek Says No Agility Class (Big Surprise)

SUMMARY: Sob! Dogs going nuts, need practice, oh well.

Message from the hill: "WEDNESDAY MORNING and EVENING classes are canceled due to 72mph winds (from Jim's new weather station there on the hill) and torrential rains."

So we played tug and tossed toys in the small living/dining area and practiced Tika's rear-foot limp and Boost's handstand work. If I did this every day, we'd be there by now.

And now, I know you wanted--more weather photos!

Hail around noon today (slow speed so you can see streaks of them falling & bouncing. Didn't use tripod so also blurry. Such an arteest).

Now, a block away from here, little tiny Canoas Creek runs through a culvert on its way to the Guadalupe River. Here's what it looks like on a typical May day:

Here's what it looked like at 5:00 today after the rain had been pretty much gone for 3 or 4 hours--you can see the disturbed vegetation higher up showing the earlier level--

--as in, this is what it looked like at 2:30 this afternoon after the rain had been gone an hour or so (you can see there's still wet, disturbed vegetation a foot or two higher than this).

Close Call on Lightning Strike

SUMMARY: I was spared!
Remember in yesterday's post, right in the middle, where I suddenly commented, "Oooh--just had some thunder and lightning! Boom!" It was a bright flash, the only flash I saw despite a little distant thunder, and the boom came almost simultaneously. I knew it was close. But didn't realize--

It struck a condo on the opposite side of the field from me and set it on fire! Story and news video here.

The arrow is pointing to what's probably the evergreen tree you can see briefly in the video.


Her dog escaped after the strike (hole in the wall, she said? Was that from the firefighters?) but was found soon after she arrived home. Another "Whew!"

Whether the Weather is Fair or--

SUMMARY: Whether the weather is not--
Whether the weather is cold or whether the weather is hot,
Whether the weather is fair or whether the weather is not,
Whatever the weather, we weather the weather, whether we like it or not.

(Great, now NEITHER spelling of weather/whether looks right any more! At least it doesn't throw in wether to really snarl my brain.)

The situation right now per radar on Accuweather.com (which has an "animate" button so you can see the rain as it moves). I have this window up all the time in foul weather. Where I am: About halfway between the dot representing San Jose and the grid line below it. (The color scale at the bottom tells heaviness of rain.) It's moving eastward and I'm about to be hit by another heavy mass of water falling from sky. In addition, wind has been howling--gusts up to 50 MPH (80 KPH) they say (I've seen only 30 so far). And coldish--mid-40s (4.5-ish C).

According to Weatherbug, my part of town has had 2" (5cm) of rain already today. (Not sure what their "today" is.) I love weatherbug because they provide lots more info when you go digging around PLUS they use all kinds of independent tracking stations, so you can pick the exact one you want to use. Or you can set up your own and get connected! (Detailed instructions on what equipment you need is somewhere on the site--it's not cheap stuff but not out of the realm of normal people.)

It's weather like this in which I REALLY REALLY love having a Border Collie who will run out to the end of the driveway and bring in my newspaper. Works great as long as she doesn't pick it up by the wrong end of the plastic bag so the paper falls out. So far this week she's done a fine job. My hero! Won't go out back to potty until desperate, but will go get the paper. Whatta girl!

Waiting for a break--it'll come eventually--to take the Merle Girls out for a walk at least. Thinking we're all going to be out of condition for this weekend's trial.

Meantime, I must start going through list of roofers to try to figure out why a doorframe is leaking that shouldn't be leaking. Curse you, Red Weather.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Le Deluge -- Part 2

SUMMARY: A wee bit o'rain and even loud noise from sky.

San Jose's average rainfall is about 15" a year. We've had 3 years of drought. This year we seem to be making up for it in an odd sort of way. Like, remember back in October when we got 3.5" of rain in a day?

This week they're saying 5 to 10 inches of rain over maybe a 7-day period in the low areas around the San Francisco Bay and two or three times that in the mountains around the bay area. As of about noon today, we'd had 2" in the last 2 and a half days. Most of it last night and this morning, I suspect.

We have a one-day USDAA trial this weekend. Boost's next chance to complete her MAD (with that one elusive Jumpers Q). We need to be practicing our bar-knocking drills. But--

So hoooold on there, Baba Looey, I'm thinnin'--not today! Maybe not all week! A series of storms are supposed to keep drenching us repeatedly through the weekend. It's raining again now. This is also a little scary; we have these "average" rainfall figures, but they're based on just about 100 years of history and who knows whether that's really normal?

There is a street in San Jose named Dry Creek Road. Nice winding tree-lined road below grade along which luxurious homes nestle, alone surrounded by the usual right angle grids of basic suburbia. Know how it got that way? So much rain in a single week in the winter of 1861-1862 that "most of the valley filled with water," and when the waters subsided, the creek had changed course. (ref) We've not had anything quite like that since, although a couple of winters came close. (Read a bit more about that flooding here.) I sure hope we don't have anything like that again, since most of us don't have flood insurance in this valley. No big rivers go through here, just really small ones that mostly you can wade across in several steps.

Oh, sure, Alviso--which has subsided below sea level because of all the water sucked out of the aquifers--floods more regularly than anyone would like, and downtown San Jose, which is right about sea level and right near the end of the Guadalupe where it meets the bay, has had flooding problems off and on. ("The Guadalupe River flooded downtown San Jose and Alviso in 1862, 1895, 1911, 1955, 1958, 1963, 1969, 1982, 1986, and 1995." (ref)) But not the rest of us in the rest of the valley.

Oooh--just had some thunder and lightning! Very rare for this part of California (and most of California). Boom! Dogs jumped up and barked. I did same thing my dad did when I was a child--explained what thunder and lightning are and how they're a natural part of the world and that thunder is loud but harmless. That seemed to satisfy them for the moment.

When the rain quit for a while midday, I stuffed the Merle Girls into MUTT MVR and headed down the road a bit. The air is SO CLEAR around here right after rain! Washes all that grody polluting crud right out of the sky. Climbed to the 5th story of the Kaiser medical center parking garage for some photos.

To the west, Mount Hamilton hid behind clouds but the foothills glowed green in the sun. And look at that stunning blue sky!
To the northeast--more or less towards the bay in the far far distance--the puddles in the former sprawling IBM complex are reminders of how much of this valley used to be seasonal wetlands. (Property was supposed to be developed into mixed-use retail & residential; all the old buildings were torn down after a failed fight to preserve the main building as an historic structure (read some here); then--Bust!) The light rail sweeps by in the median of highway 85.
To the southwest--oooh, OK, better hustle, the Santa Cruz mountains (coastal range) are still enveloped in rainclouds. And it's moving this way.

We hustle over to our favorite park where we can get away with off leashedness. I throw the frisbee a bunch; the dogs are delighted to be out and about and moving, although Tika takes frequent breaks to go exploring. Boost is all frisbee, all the time. When the dogs are far and away out after the frisbee, I can hear thousands upon thousands of tiny crisp pops, of air bubbles rising from the grassy ground as the water seeps in or the tension on the water breaks as it's absorbed--very interesting to hear. Like what you hear on a beach right after a wave has washed across the sand and receded.

The dogs are sopping with rainwater and mud but are tired and happy. (Happy at least til we get home and I have to hose them down. Ewwwww--don't get me wet human mom!)

We get home just as the rain begins again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Special Delivery Dogs

SUMMARY: More box work for 52 Weeks for Dogs
Here's my week 2 photo of Tika for the 52 Weeks for Dogs project.

And just so that Tika didn't get ALL the treats, Boost had to demonstrate her expertise, too. (Note that she's sitting on the edge of the box. She usually sits down in the box, but she has to be turned 90 degrees to do it and just didn't quite get there this time.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

National Hat Day

SUMMARY: As long as I'm talking about matters of great global import--
Just found out what today is: National Hat Day!
(And, sorry, miscalculated my focus so all these are fuzzy. Need to get that replacement remote control!)

AKC Wises Up

SUMMARY: Almost as if someone read my earlier post.

"While each club’s participation in the AKC Canine Partners program will remain voluntary, clubs may now choose to allow mixed breed participation at any AKC Agility, Obedience or Rally event. Mixed breeds will compete in the same classes and earn the same titles as their purebred counterparts."

Here's the complete letter in PDF.

The Importance of the World Around Us

SUMMARY: Haiti, civil rights, dog agility equality, me and the Merle Girls.

There has been some discussion among dog bloggers about whether a blog that says it's about dogs (or dog agility, or any other specific topic) is too self-centered if it ignores when the World Out There is undergoing events of great import.

Agility for all?

For example, my agility club has a policy of promoting only agility that allows all healthy adult dogs to compete. So--AKC premiums? Forget it, they're not going out on our email list. Recently, Teacup Agility has come into existence, and we've occasionally seen info on those events come around. But we've called that into question--it allows only dogs under a certain height to compete. So is that exclusionary in the same sense as AKC? Even more recently (effective this year), AKC has allowed its clubs to choose to allow non-AKC dogs to compete in their events. However, they do not compete equally against AKC dogs; they have their own events and their own titles and so on, and aren't eligible for the national competitions. So, is that still exclusionary? (Supreme Court has said "separate but equal" is not in fact equal. Does that apply to dog sports, too?)

This is a highly charged issue, and we're trying to be consistent and nonemotional about it. But does writing about that really make sense when one of the greatest civil rights battles of my adulthood has now started its hearing in the federal courts? Should I be silent when an earthquake has wreaked unimaginable destruction and death on a nearby country (or any country, for that matter).

It's not at all that I don't care about what's going on. I do, in fact, care deeply. But this blog is, after all, "surviving and thriving in dog agility."

But, OK, today. Two unrelated topics. You can skip either, but I ask that you give them a read.


As you all know by know, a 7.0 earthquake devastated the most densely populated parts of Haiti. I've watched and heard the reports come in. My heart has lurched at the sight of the national palace collapsed. (Can you imagine the white house destroyed? Or the capitol building--of your state, let alone your country?) The statistics, guessing up to 100,0000 could be dead. The population of Port au Prince is only a million--that's one out of every 10 people, dead. Ten out of your hundred facebook friends, dead.

They're a poor country and so, we like to think, their infrastructure isn't built as well to withstand earthquakes as is ours in California. And yet, well, who knows.

And not just the average Joe who's been taken down. The president is homeless--national palace destroyed. The archbishop is dead--national cathedral destroyed. The head of the UN in Haiti is missing--whole UN building destroyed. Can you imagine that in your city? Your country? It's almost unimaginable.

I have donated money for the relief effort through the Clinton Foundation. If you want to donate there, or anywhere, I suggest that you check whether the group is on the Institute of Philanthropy's list of top-rated charities. (You can see their worst-rated charities only by becoming a member to get their printed list. So if your charity isn't on the list here, doesn't mean it's not good. Just means do your research on it more carefully.)

And now, on the home front:

Civil rights

I have friends who have lived together for 20 years and love each other deeply. They are wonderful human beings. One is a retired VP of a high-tech company, the other is a skilled accountant. One loves dogs; the other loves photography. Normal people; they've bought a house together, vacation together, plan their retirement together. But, by law, they are not allowed to marry, simply because they are the same sex.

There is no logical reason why they shouldn't be allowed to; it is discrimination, pure and simple. The California Supreme Court said so. The people of California in a fit of reactionary pique approved (but very narrowly) Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that explicitly bans marriage between people of the same sex.

I have other friends who have been together going on 10 years. They love each other very much. One is an avid mountaineer who is often conflicted between love of the challenge and the desire to spend weekends at home, since they both work during the week. Normal people; they've bought a house together, live together, deal with bills and stopped-up sinks and cars that need to go to the repair shop and all that stuff, together. They are married, but only because they rushed in during the narrow window between the Supreme Court decision and the passage of Proposition 8 and hurriedly put together a simple wedding. And the Supreme Court, while it did not throw out Prop 8, also did not invalidate those marriages, which speaks volumes. So they're in an odd position where they are married but none of their friends can hope to share the joy and legal protection of marriage to their loved, long-term partners.

This week, Proposition 8 began its hearing in Federal court. I know that, no matter what happens, it will be appealed by the losing side. It is sad that it is so, as sad as when people fought *for* laws *against* the right of black Americans to vote, to attend the same schools, drink out of the same water fountains, and, yes, marry (gasp) white people. The U.S. Supreme Court stated clearly that even "separate but equal" was not equal.

I've joined a couple of casual groups of "Heterosexuals for Gay Rights." (Don't know enough about them yet to recommend them.) I'm on the mailing list of Equality California to keep abreast of what's going on. I posted NO ON PROP 8 signs on my lawn, the first time in my life I've ever posted election-related material. I donated to their campaign.

If the opportunity ever comes to you to vote for equal rights for all Americans, I encourage you to do so. It's likely to be one of the few major civil rights issues during our lifetimes that we'll be able to proudly say that we fought for.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rats 3, Me 1

SUMMARY: Rodents *again* dagnabbit.

Yesterday, 4 spring traps baited with peanut butter in the attic.

Today, one dead rat in one trap, the other three looking untouched--except there's no more peanut butter. How do they DO that?

Dogs pay absolutely no attention when there are rat noises in the ceiling. Not that they could do anything about it--but Remington would've been faaaaahscinated.

Bark! Bark! Tika Fell Down A Well!

SUMMARY: In which Boost saves the day.

Boost: Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause.

Me, on computer: Stop it! [goes back to work]

Boost: Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause.

Me: Cut it out, I can't think! [continues typing]

Boost: Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Pause. Whine. Whine. WHINE.

Me: THERE IS NO NEED FOR WHINING, CUT IT OUT! [tears hair, tries to focus on technical document.]

Boost. WHINE. Whine. WHINE WHINE Whine. Whine.

[Repeat for about 30 minutes.]

Me [finally standing up to go look]: Why are you standing next to the garage door whining?

Boost: [Puts ears back, wags tail, looks at the garage door.]

Me: [Notices Tika isn't anywhere in sight. Which she should be, normally. Especially when Me stands up from working at desk.]

Me: [Remembers that half an hour ago Me opened the garage door long enough to lean in, grab a can of Coke, and close the door again immediately so the dogs don't go into the garage.]

Me: [Opens door.]

Tika: [Comes into house] Thanks, human mom. You must play with me now.

Boost: [Kissy kissy on Tika who ignores her]

Ah, unrequited love.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tricks for Balance and Body Awareness--Part 1

SUMMARY: Limp and handstand.
Boost is SO CLOSE to doing a handstand! She's lifting her back feet in the air to place them on something above & behind her but hasn't yet made the transition to just keeping them in the air without looking for the support. Around Christmas I vowed 2 weeks, but then I haven't practiced every day like I planned--more like once a week.

Tika is SO CLOSE to limping while holding up her back foot. She lifts it pretty high if there's something near her back foot but loses it as soon as there's nothing nearby. She doesn't even have to put her foot on it any more, but there's something about that prop behind her.

I taught Remington to limp with his front paw up--that was pretty easy, actually, once I thought about it, because he could already "shake" while standing up. But back foot up? Triiiiikeeeee!

Both of these ideas came out of the Silvia Trkman seminar of tricks for building strength, balance, and body awareness for agility. If I remember to work on them every day for 5 minutes, we could be there very soon. Maybe I'll post videos if I'm not too lazy to get it out, set it up, take the vid, connect it to the computer, remember how to use the software, upload the vid, edit it to what I want, save it, remember how to include it in my blog...

You can see why I don't do videos very often.

What tricks are YOU working on?

Monday, January 11, 2010

White Elephant Gift Exhange Isn't For Chickens.

SUMMARY: Or maybe it is.

The Bay Team's annual holiday party, combined with meeting, awards, and what's now become a traditional annual retrospective slide show, took place Saturday. The gift exchange is a White Elephant Gift Exchange (read our rules for stealing--er, re-ownering--gifts). Many gifts are beautifully wrapped with dog or Christmas related themes.

First time around, I stole a gift with a huge Rollover-type sausage and a blinky collar light. That was eventually relieved from my hands. At that point, my skewed sense of reality went for the plain brown wrapper. My theory was that the best gifts come in the plainest wrapping.

I was right about that--this time, anyway--as it included both a Lance Armsquawk squawking toy (find several bird-related sports figures here):

And this luxuriously soft blanket:

 By the time I had received this treasure, most people had already had their turn, but none-the-less it also found a new home very quickly and I had to pick again. I unwrapped one more, and it was the perfect gift for me (everyone started yelling about how it was the perfect gift for me--what makes them think I like blue tie dye?), and here we are together in my office the next day.

Team Small Dog was also there, and scored big with three new coats for the Little Black Dogs:

I'm sure you'll read about it at TSD when the time comes.