a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: June 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday USDAA Report

SUMMARY: Tika 60% Qs, Boost less than that.

Tika is really checking in with me, acting so uncertain on course, so many bobbles here and there. In standard, she veered off to the side of the table and turned back to me, for a refusal and NQ. In Jumpers, turned back a bit for a refusal, then I sent her to a jump and moved away and she pulled off the jump for an off course.

I didn't even enter her in Gamblers, no point in doing so, really.

She did Q in Steeplechase but there were a lot of uncomfortable places. She Qed in Snooker, thank goodness! that's one of four down!, but it wasn't pretty and we ran out of time before the 7 due to the various confusions and bobbles. And she had a pretty nice pairs relay run although she did try to turn back to me once.

Nothing like placements anywhere. I'll take the 3 Qs, but we still have 45 to go to her Platinum Lifetime. That seems so very far away these days.

Boost ran past jumps in Gamblers and I tried to get her to Down to keep her from bouncing around in front of me and she wouldn't even down. It was a mess several times in a row and of course she didn't even come close to doing the gamble, not tht we'd have had enough opening points.

Snooker, she knocked the first bar then kept running past jumps and at that point, pretty sure we weren't going to get a super-Q, so spent all our time trying to get her to come alongside me and look ahead rather than at me, so out of time long before we had enough points to even Q.

Steeplechase, had a bar and ran past a couple of jumps.

Standard, actually was a nice smooth run but had 2 bars down.

Jumpers--oh, not sure whether this hurts more than really messing up--was really lovely except for one jump that she ran past, even kept all her bars up.

Then had a spot-on-perfect 9 obstacles in her half of pairs relay and we Qed on that one.

Nice to end the day with a Qing run for Boost and Tika both.

Weather was very nice; a bit foggy in the morning but not too dense or wet. Cleared out to pretty sunshine before noon, shirtsleeve weather but a nice breeze and quite comfortable.

Both dogs looked tired at the end of the day; Boost looked more stiff than Tika did! (Which was not at all.) Well, huh, Tika was just 8 1/4 when I started moving her gradually into Performance. Jake didn't move into Perf until he was 11 1/4, about the age Tika is now. Boost could be getting close to maybe needing to go to performance and giving up on ever getting an ADCH. Her speed certainly isn't an issue. But she just doesn't bounce out of her crate any more.

So very many things to think about, all the time.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Trying To Give It Up and Not Succeeding

SUMMARY: All those elusive titles.

It's USDAA time again. Fairly local (40-60 minute drive from home). So that's good.

I've done so little training the last couple of weeks that even my previous "very little training" looks like a lot. Even skipped class last week. Did two days of really working on contacts with both dogs (that's maybe 20 minutes each on those two days). Couldn't tell in class last night--Tika's contacts are always lovely 2o/2o; Boost continued to pop her front feet off the side and look at me, although she did one really awesome old-style Boost contact that she got a lot of rewards for. Next time she still stopped off the side.

Boost knocked bars a lot last night.

Tika was checking in with me a lot and a lot of little bobbles where I think she's committed but then she glances at me & changes her mind--all the "new Deaf Tika". She's running fine, though.

I really had hopes about finishing Tika's Gold PDCH. Piece of cake, right, such a Q-able girl? But (I've commented before) this thing about not even being able to get plain old basic Snooker Qs all of a sudden is killin' me. We still need 4 of them. I keep trying simple courses and we muck it up. I'm doing better with BOOST in snooker than with Tika, which gives you an idea of how messed up we are!

I had been thinking of taking most of the rest of the year off from agility, but those dang 4 snooker Qs are going to nag at me, because nowadays I just really don't know how much longer Tika will be wanting or able to do agility.

This weekend at Bay Team: One chance.

Two weeks later at SMART: One chance, unless I want yet again to take a half day off work and do the one they're offering Friday evening. I'm so tired of using my vacation on agility.

Then a month and a half more until my next chance, another SMART, and not sure whether it'll be one or two chances.

I'm skipping the Bay Team regional over labor day.

Two weeks after that, I'm going to Disneyland (I think) instead of that USDAA trial.

Then, after that through the end of the year, there are only 4 more USDAAs, all out of town; one is in Santa Rosa which I'm skipping now--never much liked going up there, and Tika now does so poorly there because of the ambient noise that it's not worth the trip.

I'm guessing I'll be needing to do those out of town ones to try to get enough Snookers, because the way things are going, every month with Tika so greatly increases the risk that she'll be done competing, and every snooker we fail at--well--makes me crazier.


And should I even mention the ungettable Jumpers and Super-Qs for Boost's ADCH? I had been kinda thinking that when tika finished her Gold PDCH, we'd take the rest of the year off and give my energy level a break, but now I'm not sure that's going to happen.

Ah, well, the dogs seem to like going to agility things, so I'll try to do my best to just enjoy them. Weather should be SOOOOOOO much nicer than that 105 degrees two weekends ago. Out close to the coast, early morning fog, like that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Best Picture 2012

SUMMARY: My short takes on all the nominees.

OK, I'm a little late for the Oscars. But someone (a skilled and successful fiction writer whose work I love, and therefore who has exceptional cred in terms of what makes a great story) accused the winner, The Artist, of being "self-indulgent" and didn't like it.

I responded briefly:

I see a lot of movies every year and I really enjoyed it. Did it deserve best picture? I don't think it was a bad choice--and now, EHO (Ellen's humble opinion), to justify that position--your opinions may differ:


"The Artist" : I enjoyed it, acting was excellent, story was charming, issue of being outdated seemed somehow relevant to today. And of course the dog was great. :-) (But I wouldn't make a best picture award based on a cute dog.) Parts were a little predictable.

"The Descendants": Clooney was excellent and believable, raised some interesting issues, but it was a little slow in a lot of places.

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close": Didn't see it but wanted to.

"The Help": Well done, well acted, poignant reminder of where we've been and seem to still be in parts of this country; this would've been a good best picture, too.

"Hugo": OK but not great. Saw it right after The Artist and some of the themes seemed similar, so maybe my enjoyment of the Artist colored my perceptions here.

"Midnight in Paris": Fun but not classic. "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" theme.

"Moneyball": Really liked this one, Pitt was amazing, subject matter was intriguing, this would've been a good winner, too.

"The Tree of Life": Didn't see it and didn't want to. Not impressed by previews or reviews.

"War Horse": Very pretty and at times riveting, but the plot was basically, horse gets into bad spot, gets out of it, repeat, add million-to-one odds happy ending.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Street--er, Park--Photography

SUMMARY: Festival at Hellyer Park.

Today I went out to an event at Hellyer Park put on by Santa Clara County Parks and Rec, "Festival in the Park." Lots and lots of booths and entertainment with a strong focus on health--the way you eat, the way you exercise, the way you live your life... it was pretty cool.

They had free kayaking, free bounce houses for the kids, free ice cream (well...ok, ya gotta do something with sugar in it to attract the crowds).

Plus they had a snowy egret passing through.

I went primarily to participate in a "flash mob"--we knew the four basic dance steps ahead of time, and at 12:15 when the Lady Gaga music started playing, we were all supposed to stop what we were doing, do the dance, then go back to what we were doing. I happened to be up at the front of the fair when 12:15 hit, so I didn't see what might have been going on behind me at all the booths and in all the aisles, but the people on stage seemed to think that there were a lot of participants. It was a good workout, anyway.

My secondary goal was to practice event, people, and "street" photography. The latter is apparently a specialized category that I just learned about this month. Read about it on Wikipedia. Basically it's candid photography, but you're looking for those really special moments, those really interesting, amusing, unusual, creative, one-of-a-kind moments. There are whole cadres of people devoted to certain types of cameras that are best for that, certain styles of getting the shots... in short, a whole 'nother way of photographic life, when all I thought I was doing was shooting candid photos.

I found this site with some amazing examples of the best of street photography--you might be entertained to browse some of those photos.

So, energized by a whole new perspective on taking random & candid photos, I went out there to try my luck.

Got captivated mostly by cute kids and dogs, though.

In retrospect, maybe I could've, say, hung out by the big sign that had the word "obesity" on it and waited for, er, robust people to pass by and take their photos, or other clever things like that, but it was fun to just walk around and look for nice shots.

See all the rest from today here on my photo site.

(Well, not ALL the rest--I took about 160 shots, posted about 80 of 'em.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Elkhorn Slough

SUMMARY: Other things to do without dogs.

A couple of weekends ago, I joined a photography meet-up group for a chartered trip on Elkhorn Slough. The slough is quite shallow; we chartered a flat-bottomed tourboat whose skipper is not only well-versed in the wildlife but is himself a photographer, so he knew what made good photos and where to move the boat for the best lighting.

Elkhorn: Hey, did you know that there is a dog sport called "shed dog"? Basically, you teach your dog to find antlers. More info here.

Slough: Pronounced "sloo" (like "through"). A stream distributary, secondary delta channel without trees, marshy area, pond, or swamp--depending on what part of the country or world you're in.

Elkhorn Slough: "7-mile-long (11 km) tidal slough and estuary on Monterey Bay in Monterey County, California. Elkhorn Slough harbors the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of San Francisco Bay and provides much-needed habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals, including more than 340 species of birds. More than 5,000 acres of the Elkhorn Slough area are preserved. The slough's wildlife and habitats are protected primarily by two marine protected areas, the Elkhorn Slough State Marine Reserve (SMR) and Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA). The combined areas cover 1.57 square miles (4.1 km2)." (Wikipedia)

Our expectations--to see some nifty birds, some sea lions, and maybe an otter or two-- Particularly an OTTER or two!-- from right close up.

I rented meself some serious glass--a 50-500mm lens--for the trip--quite inexpensive compared to the top-of-the-line long telephotos and with a much greater range than any others. They warned up front that it's not a crystal-clear prime lens, but that the weight couldn't be beat compared to the more expensive glass. With camera, "only" around 5 lbs. (groan, still a bit weighty).

50mm length

500mm length

I hoped that would be enough to get some excellent close-ups of birds and maybe even OTTERS! I took over 700 photos; about half were tossable right up front. Here are a few that turned out ok. There are more that I like, too, but this is a flavor.

Our "Safari" boat:

The skipper, out on the Slough:

We started at the Moss Landing Harbor, which is home port for many sailboats, fishing boats, and, er, well, those black-painted schooners--

There are other ways to get around the slough-- motorboat (we didn't see many of these):
--and kayak (we saw many of these in all brilliant colors of the rainbow):

We all prepared for the trip in our own ways.

(I did some playing around with fun filters on some of the photos afterwards--like that last one above of the meet-up organizer and his sister, and this slightly stylized one of a seagull flying overhead with some nice backlighting.)

And did we see BIRDS? Yes, we did!

Western Grebe:

Western Grebe--love the bright red eye and yellow beak.

Brandt's cormorant with bright-blue mating-season throat.

Another Brandt's cormorant on its nest.

Great Blue Heron.

Cormorant gathering in his flock.

Surf Scoter giving us a wary eye.

Pigeon Guillemot with his bright-red legs.

Brown Pelicans flying high overhead--
--and winging by just inches from the water, never quite touching it:

Eared Grebe. This guy is really small compared to all the others and never came very close. This is wayyyy cropped in.

Caspian Terns darting overhead, with their distinctive red beaks:

And did we see SEA LIONS? Oh, yes, we did!

They were not particular about sharing their personal space.

Is this enough sea lions for ya?

And did we see HARBOR SEALS?

Oh yes we did!

It's the Burt Reynolds of Harbor Seals:

They also assemble along the shallows and on shore, but are not nearly as chummy as the sea lions.

And did we see OTTERS?

Oh boy, did we! But getting a really cute photo of that iconic face was really hard. I tried, though.

Must wash hands before dinner.

This guy obligingly kept diving and coming up with various food items, which he ate alongside our boat, over and over. Here he's disassembling a clam.

They might look cute, but theys gots sharp pointy toothers!

HOLY MARINE MAMMAL, Is THIS enough otters for ya? I had never SEEN so many otters-- I've probably never seen this many, total, in my life, in the wild before, and here they all were, just hangin' out in the shallows, grooming and napping and watching the occasional tourist.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012