a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: December 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015


SUMMARY: My dogs' ghosts inhabit my life; do yours?

Disclaimer: I do not believe in ghosts. And yet--

For months after Sheba was gone, whenever I made popcorn, I heard her toenails trotting down the hallway for a snack. For months after Remington was gone, I swear that I heard him behind me turning his head and shifting his weight to see the cattle on either side of the car. Tika and Boost, in life, traveled maybe hundreds of times in the crates in the back of my car; now, I hardly take the new dogs anywhere, and yet I hear dogs resettling themselves in the crates as I drive.

These do not strike me as unhappy ghosts, just revisiting some pleasurable things before moving on.

[Repost from my Facebook page]

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dog-Walking Poetry

SUMMARY: Because Longfellow didn't get it quite right
Originally on facebook; posted here 12/30/2019

December 30, 2015 at 8:10 PM
Just something that my brain thought while out walking (Apologies to H.W. Longfellow):

BETWEEN the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the dogs’ occupations,
That is known as the Dog-Walking Hour.

I hear in the hallway behind me
The patter of little claws,
The sound of a toy that is squeaking,
And the clatter of toothy jaws.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
A-prowling with collie-like flair,
Grave Chipper, and bright-eyed Luke-meister,
Both shedding their summer hair.

A whimper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the kitchen,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By two doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

(Maybe to be continued. Or not. Need another walk.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Taking the Christmas Photo

SUMMARY: A photo essay on the challenges of a selfie in a tight space with badly trained dogs (reaping my own rewards).

Goal: Our upper torsos with nothing but tree behind us.

First, scouting out the camera position (and a little bit of focus and light/flash checking).

Too high; need the bottom of the tree in the frame. And center it.

Centered but too far away and too much floor.

Centered, floor is better.  Chip is helping [not].

Nope, from this position, I might have to edit out the white lampshade.

Move the camera to over here. Um. Not enough  floor showing for us to fit in front of the tree.

Moving camera back some more looks OK.

I plan to sit on a stool with dogs next to me because it's so hard for me to get down and up.  No, not facing this way, as my feet would be out in front.
Try my feet off to the side--doh,  the corner of the coffee table--and Darth-- are in the photo.   (Notice the remote control in my hand.)
Move the camera back to the left. Tighter fit, but Darth is now gone.
Photo check. --nah, I'll be higher than the dogs. And not enough tree showing behind me. Giving up on the stool.

Now I put a bag full of tacos on a shelf directly behind the camera to draw the dogs' attention. Oh, boy, does it. Thus begins the struggle where, in position on the floor, I can't move easily but must keep the dogs away from the tacos and sitting next to me. Both at the same time. Both facing the camera. NOT lying down.

Eventually they are securely grasped under my arms to keep them in position. FINALLY I can start clicking the remote. I try to reengage their interest in the tacos: "What's that? Do you want it?" Ah HA!-- merely doing a remote focus focuses their attention momentarily on the camera! A huge assist.

I choose the one that is most in focus and has all of us looking at the camera nicely. Some lighting adjustment and such, crop out everything I don't want (including my knee with the knee brace), and there it is.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

From Taj MuttHall, A Happy Christmas to All

SUMMARY: And to all a good night.

(This was one of the most physically demanding selfies I’ve taken in a while—with untrained dogs. Used a bag of tacos behind the camera to get their attention—you BET it got their attention. Thank goodness for remote controls and tripods).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Stalking Tiger

SUMMARY: In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the tiger sneaks tonight...

Cleverly disguising himself as a large wild predator, Luke sneaks up on an unsuspecting Chip.

(Darn it, I couldn't get the photo where it was all the way over his head like a cowl.  He had rolled around on it and when he stood up, it came with him.)

Neil Armstrong's Moon Suit

SUMMARY: My patch arrived!

You know how each NASA shuttle mission had its own patch? Well, I donated to the Smithsonian's fundraiser to get Neil Armstrong's moon-walk suit restored and displayed -- Reboot the Suit -- and this is my chosen reward!  Yayyy!  (And they made well more than their original request, so even more things will be preserved!)

Cleaning House

SUMMARY: I'm trying to be tough with myself.

I've been wading through my parents' (mostly my dads') collection of papers in file cabinets.  Inspires me to come home and try to get rid of Stuff.

Gritted my teeth and did it. Tossed 10 years of agility competition catalogs.

(What? You say but I competed for 19 years? Shhhhh.)

Luke is confounded at how someone could have that many catalogs. 
Chip is waiting a safe distance in case they decide to explode.

Puppy Environments for Fun and Learning

SUMMARY: I love how friends have set up their puppy enclosures.

If you want your litter of puppies to grow up being unafraid of different kinds of surfaces, things that make noise, things that wobble or movie under them of various stabilities, random objects of various sorts, what better thing to do than to fill their environment with that in mind?

One friend posted a video of her litter in their playground. So much fun to watch! (Puppies are about 4 weeks old here.)

Another posted a photo of the playground, ready to go as soon as soon as their little legs and eyes can get them moving. All kinds of mini teeters, tunnels, things that make noise, that roll, that can be climbed (a little bit), different surfaces, similar thing to what's in the video.  Lovely!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Looking Back -- Moving Tika to Performance

SUMMARY: The emotions are still so fresh.

I just read Nancy Gyse's latest blog post,  Endings and Beginnings.  It took me back to the summer of 2009.  Just wanted to capture my response here.

I went through the Performance-or-Championship decision with Tika when she was only 8–still running fast, still making jumps, no Early Take-Off (ETO), but was coming up sore more and more often during or right after a trial (not always–but enough to finally decide that it wasn’t just a random tweak, so went to the vet). Xrays confirmed that she had arthritis in her neck and lower back.

 I do watch my title counts, and I know that it would be better to not do so, but she seemed to love being out there with me and running and jumping like crazy and I LOVED watching her do the courses. I cried because, you know, “all my friends have their platinum ADCHs” and moving to Perf meant that I’d never ever get that on any other dog, because she was so good.

That was a personal thing, so true…but it also hurt because I was sure that this would just be temporary–if she had arthritis, she’d soon be done with agility completely, and I SO wasn’t ready for that.

She was only a few Qs away from silver, or had finished, in all the classes, so I moved her to Perf in each as she finished them.

The surprise benefit to me, then, was that, at that time, I stopped thinking so much about titles because I thought that she’d be completely done in only a few months. The surprise benefit to her was that she started running like a young dog again, didn’t get sore, and started pulling in Qs and ribbons against some pretty tough competition!

In fact, my other surprise benefit was that we blasted through all of the performance titles and were less than 20 Qs away from that coveted platinum when heart disease sidelined her suddenly at 11. I’d never dreamed she’d like that difference in height so much or that she’d be able to compete that long comfortably, as big as she was.

(So, even when I started caring about titles again, it was almost all pure fun because her Q rate became so high.)

I don’t really have much of a point, except that, yes indeed, I understand the feeling about it being a physical milestone that one doesn’t want to see because it means essentially that the dog is moving on towards being an old dog.