a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019


SUMMARY: That was the tagline for this on Facebook.

Another one of those "all about you" things that goes around. Because apparently I like talking about myself. And hoping that this doesn't give away so much of me that scammers can get into all my accounts.

I played this serious rather than funny.

▪︎1. What was the last thing you drank.
Diet Feisty Cherry Coke
▪︎2. Where was your profile picture taken?
My living room on Xmas day. Selfie.
▪︎3. Worst pain?
Physical: When my spine shifted and pinched a nerve; on narcotics for weeks and could still feel it. OR the backpacking trip where I got talked into doing the 2nd day even though I was already in pain and they had to eventually carry all my stuff and find someone with a vehicle to come up into the mountains to take me off. I literally could barely walk for 3 or 4 days w/out crying. Emotional: Losing people and dogs I love. That includes death and divorce.
▪︎4. Favorite place you've traveled to?
Wherever I am is my favorite place at the moment. Never found a place I didn't want to come back to someday.
▪︎5. How late did you stay up last night? 10:30.
▪︎6. If you could move, where would it be?
I wish I knew! That's my hardest decision facing retirement and *wanting* to move!
▪︎7. What do you collect?
Too much! Things I collect that just sit there and I'll get back to putting into albums "someday": Stamps, postcards, pin-on buttons (like smiley faces, campaigns, funny stuff, etc.). Others: Dragons. Xmas tree ornaments. Books.
▪︎8. Favorite day of the week?
Any day I'm not working.
▪︎9. Amusement park or concert?
Disney!!! No thanks on concerts.
▪︎10. When was the last time you cried?
About 2 weeks ago.
▪︎11. Who took your cover photo?
▪︎12. Who's the last person you took a picture with?
Do dogs count? My dogs Xmas Eve. Actual humans: Friends at the latest Star Wars movie Dec 22.
▪︎13. What's your favorite season? Not Snow.
▪︎14. If you could have any other career, what would it be?
If I really knew, I might have actually done it. Have considered gardening, writing (oh--I do write for a living: Technical stuff for companies but I mean on spec writing), photography, hiking travel guide, dog trainer, house flipping...
▪︎16. If you could talk with anyone right now who would it be?
Mom and Dad
▪︎17. Are you a good influence?
▪︎18. Does pineapple belong on pizza? Yep.
▪︎19. You have the remote, what are you watching?
IMDB to decide which theater to go to next.
▪︎20. Who do you think will play?
Anyone who is procrastinating like me.

What Kind Of Animals Are Chip And Zorro?

SUMMARY: My breed guesses before the DNA results arrive.

PART 2 of the Chip/Zorro DNA saga. Here's PART 1.

What is Zorro (aka Luke on occasion)?

See this previous post for lots of photos and observations and musings about Zorro's breed.

When I first saw him, there was something Basenji-like, and I have a photo in one of my books to prove it.

He was listed as a Border Collie mix. So I give some credence to that on the assumption that maybe someone who came up with that listing knew what the mother was. Maybe not: Maybe someone just guessed as I am doing.

Early on, I had already started thinking Australian Cattle Dog (aka Heeler) by appearance and personality (stubborn, smart, eager to DO stuff). I haven't seen any herding behavior, but then he hasn't been around anything that he could herd. (Unlike Boost, who clearly went into herding mode when other dogs were chasing frisbees, for example.)

See this previous post for another cattle dog photo comparison.

And I know that at least BCs and ACDs can be obsessive about things, including hunting rats (and lizards, and squirrels, and birds, and snakes...), but still there is something terrier about him. Like maybe a rat terrier. Like really maybe a rat terrier. (I can't find a full-body tricolor legal reference here, but here's a tricolor face from Wikipedia public domain.)

Zorro Breed Best Guess

1. Cattle Dog 2. Rat Terrier 3. Border Collie 4. Basenji

Finally, Zorro's results are in.

What is Chip?

See this previous post (scroll to the bottom half) for lots of photos and observations and musings about Chip.

I am seriously lacking in guesses.  I think that the previous owner's idea of a sighthound is decent. Like a Whippet? Fairly deep chest compared to waist, although not super differentiated. He is basically a couch potato who loves to run full out a little and then he's done. When Zorro is chasing a toy, Chip's full attention is on him and he'll often zoom in full speed to grab at his neck or shoulder. (Like all attributes, many breeds have them.) (Both from Wikipedia: Standing whippet, running whippet.)

But he has those naturally upright ears and the tail is certainly not sighthound.

He loves to dig. People have also suggested Malinois from his appearance, or German Shepherd Dog, but he just doesn't seem to have the working-dog working ethic.  He's smart enough, but not driven. (Except for biting at spray from the hose, or digging digging digging.)

I'm thinking more likely Lab or Golden Retriever mixed in there, mostly because they're common, and mostly because my first dog, Amber, didn't look horribly different from Chip and she was a known GSD/GR mix. I have no idea how to account for the digging!

Chip Breed Best Guess

1. Whippet or Greyhound 2. Golden Retriever 3. Labrador 4. German Shepherd (had to get the upright ears from somewhere! )

Finally:  Chip's results are in.

Dogfellow Poetry

SUMMARY: In case you missed it

Just posted this from Facebook Dec 30, 2015: https://dogblog.finchester.org/2019/12/dog-walking-poetry.html

Friday, December 27, 2019

On Having A Completely Free Day In Which To Finish Off Some Projects...

SUMMARY: ... in which, that doesn't happen.

Best laid plans and all that. Plus the cure for everything.

Had great ideas for things to do today that I've been waiting for time in which to do them. Up before sunrise. (7ish.) No clouds to make a pretty sunrise, so that was that, BUT: Something interesting to look at in the yard: First frost I've noticed this year. So I grabbed my iphone and my DSLR and headed into the yard (in my bathrobe, I might add; all the good photographers do it). Then, after some time out there freezing my fingers and other parts,  quite a bit of photo reviewing and labeling and editing time ensued.

Posted on Facebook today around 9:30:
Frosty plants taken by DSLR: zoom in on this photo and you can see the square ice crystals. 
(I compared the phone and DSLR shots, noted that it was just barely below freezing point, showed my floppy dog door frozen in flopped position, and presented happy dogs doing tandem tunnels: This is just a screenshot of the Facebook Album thumbnails).

 The DSLR frost one:
And then... things happened. Or didn't. Blah blah blah for hours until I posted on Facebook around 2:00:
So this is midday
And what have I done
Another hour over
And my chores not begun
And so this is crazy
I meant to be done
But I'm still on Facebook
Not feeling very young
A very Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without too much time spent frivolously.
Posted about 2 hours after that:
I decided I had spent enough time today on Facebook, chats, photo editing, dog trick training, and other oddities; time to get back to the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and haven’t because they take time and effort. I’ve made great progress the last few days. But… I kind of need lunch. 
I grabbed the radishes from my refrigerator where they’ve been sitting since Christmas Day. I stepped over to the sink to rinse them, and there’s a big pool of water drizzling out from under my kitchen cabinet. I threw some rags on it, grabbed a knife, and started to trim my radishes and discovered that they’re...frozen!? I have not changed anything in my refrigerator settings. I can see how I’m really going to be spending my time today.
So, I had lunch. I mopped up the water from the floor and under the sink: Not much there at all, and now I know exactly where it's coming from AND it's not dire. While I was at it--heck, I had wet rags and was on my knees already-- I did some general floor mud removal.

When I stood up, I noticed that the sky was spattered with clouds that looked like they could make a lovely sunset, and the horizon wasn't covered with thick grey clouds. Wow! So--

Posted around 5:30 today:
Today I actually noticed a pattern of clouds in the sky before sunset (not much before sunset), grabbed my camera, and drove a couple of minutes to the nearest place where I might get a decent urban sunset shot. So: I’m not technically in a parking lot. Scroll left and right to see the whole scene. 
(If you don’t already know, if you’re using an iPhone, and maybe others, if you hold it up in front of you and move your head as you move the phone, it’s like you’re looking through your own camera at the scene.) 
(I don't know how this works on my blog site. We'll find out, I guess.
OK, I see that it simply posts as a panorama, which means that it's distorted: The path is not U-shaped--I'm standing on one spot on a straight path and turning in a half circle to take the shot.)

So, then, because I hadn't accomplished nearly what I wanted and because maybe the fridge is broken after 25ish years of service, I applied the Solution To Everything: I went shopping!

Posted on FB before even leaving the Target parking lot:
You might *think* that because winter began less than a week ago you'd find stores stocked up on mittens, scarves, anoraks, and the like. But, no. This is California. You won't see any more of *that* sort of stuff until July. Christmas is over. So: Suddenly, now, if you want to drive over to Yosemite to see the snow, guess what you'll be wearing?!

So, do I post my entire life on Facebook? Not really. At least, not usually. Today has just been scattershot. Maybe I'll try to do other stuff for the rest of the evening. In the whole hour before bedtime. Like, hmm, eat dinner???

Shadow Knew Back in 2017

SUMMARY: Now you will, too.

Just posted this from 2017 facebook:https://dogblog.finchester.org/2017/12/the-shadow-knows.html

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Blues and Reds and Purples--

SUMMARY: Finding ways to feel less grief this year.

This year (4th year w/out parents or cousin), I have found that xmas music--which I have always loved, yet in past years has made me cry-- actually seems to envelop me in a warm, loving, safe place, so I've been playing it a lot and singing along loudly (I just try to avoid, say, Blue Christmas). I think I got my love of Christmas music through my mom, who was the most musical parent.

And I have deliberately taken on hosting xmas after these few years with almost nothing going on for me. Stressful--SO much to do!--but happy stressful. I am very much looking forward to having much of the family here, even though I'm not entirely clear yet on what kinds of new traditions we might be keeping from the last few holidays. I want traditions.

I'm well aware that it's all different for different people, or even for the same person on different years, or different days! (As it is for me.)  Here's an excellent article on this topic.

So far, I've hung almost all the purple (including ones that have some purple somewhere) and blue ornaments. Five boxes of ornaments to go! I'm thinkin' I'm not actually going to get them all hung, and that's OK, too.

Wishing you all whatever you can find during this Holiday season to bring you some peace, or some feeling of being cared about, or some joy.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Zorro Gets the Weaves!

SUMMARY: A wee liddle bit of agility class.

I've been doing stealth agility classes with Zorro. At Fetch Sam (a small indoor facility closer to downtown, with solid rubber mat flooring). Not instructors I've worked with before, no one I know in our class, etc. Not deliberately avoiding anyone, but Fetch Sam is perfect for us at the moment: My knees are so bad that all I can do is hobble with him. A small "ring" and a smooth surface are ideal for me. And it's indoors, so no wet surface to slip on. And it's only 10 minutes from my house (traffic willing), which isn't true anywhere else.

Started at the end of June, mostly for something to do with him to get him around other dogs more often, in a controlled environment, and to take an edge off his energy since I'm doing nothing else with him. Really, doing pretty much nothing else but a little bit of throwing a toy in the yard when I feel like it. Class was "Jumps and Tunnels" and I figured I could just keep enlisting in that. He does tunnels in my yard all the time on his own, and will send to them all the way across the yard.

In class: "Come ONNNN Human Mom!!"

Turned out that sending to tunnels that have been in exactly the same places in my yard since he arrived 4 years ago does not translate to going into unfamiliar tunnels from even a few feet away (go figure! Doh Human Mom!), so that has been an ongoing challenge.  Here's just jumps, tire, tunnel, from July, when he actually DID go into the tunnel (this was our 2nd or 3rd time trying this sequence).

I feel as if I'm completely relearning how to get around a course, too. I know exactly how I want to "run" it with him--my brain  and yet then am nowhere near where I intended to be, even with the small field and courses with only 3-7 obstacles. Different when you can't move well or fast--I mean, after nearly 2 decades of living and breathing agility with 4 different dogs, I still know where I need to go, what I need to do: But doesn't translate when I start moving! Yikes!

Despite owning a full set of agility equipment , I just stopped doing anything after Tika & Boost stopped, so everything he has learned has been in class once a week (or, on average every 2 weeks, I suppose, given time I've been gone for Reasons or when classes were called due to heat).

And I didn't stick with Jumps and Tunnels class: We went ahead to Contacts and Weaves and that's essentially where we've been after the 6th week.

They teach weaves there using using offset poles with channels (guides) on only one side of only the first 4 poles on a set of six. We've not made rapid progress--weaves are the most challenging thing for dogs to learn, I think, particularly without plenty of practice--and the class hasn't covered them every week, either.

Then I missed several weeks due to my planned absences, unplanned illnesses, and such. We just went back last week for the first time since mid-October. He was still not really getting the weaves, although he has slowly managed to get from widely offset poles to gradually narrower ones, but usually taking several attempts to get through even 6 in that situation.

I tell you this to tell you that today, in class, he did the first time through on the wide-ish offsets as if he's been doing them his whole life. We narrowed them; ditto. Narrowed them again, ditto. Narrowed them yet more, and I went a little fast so he popped out, but then did them fine. Not flying through them, but at a low trot, anyway, and clearly getting the weaving idea, and, like, boom! Dog is getting weaves! He's so smart. If I'd ever once done a whit of training with him outside of class, he'd be super by now.

I'm so happy with my little guy. And, BTW, he loves class and has loved it pretty much since we started doing contacts there (wow, running and climbing AND treats at the end?!?!). Maybe someday he'll be able to do enough to put him in a fun match.

He's five and a half already, and has gotten overweight this year, shame on Human Mom--*I'm* not feeding him anything more or different, and not sure whether I can chalk it up to all the Squirrels he ate during the year... But, you know, not an insurmountable issue.

No videos to show. Maybe next week I'll ask someone to film us doing something.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Are These Really Dogs?

SUMMARY: DNA testing, I just finally gave in.

PART 1 of the Chip/Zorro DNA saga. Here's PART 2.

My title, "are these really dogs?": Why? It's cuz of the guy near Santa Cruz who asked me 4 years back what kind of animal Chip was, and when I said "dog," he said something like, "maybe, but I doubt it."  Guess I'll find out now if I was so very wrong! Maybe an alien?

I thought about DNA tests for Jake and Remington. And for Tika. Decided not to, because (a) it's expensive, (b) it doesn't affect anything at all, (c) accuracy is iffy--people I know in the genetics world have said that they are a *fun* thing to do for mixed breeds, but don't count on them being correct. (To test accuracy, I'd need a mix whose parentage I knew for certain...  Amber qualified there, but the world in general didn't know anything about DNA back then.)

So, why now? Why these dogs? Dunno. Wanted to. So I have sent away for the packets. At some time in the future, I'll have their results.  Now is the time to place your bets on their breeds! (No actual money bet, no actual money given.)

Here's what I know about them:

  • Chip: Original owner, who had him from 6 weeks, had no idea, but guessed part Whippet. (Also see my recent post about what he might be.)
  • Zorro: Listed by rescue as Border Collie mix. Not sure where that info came from, as he went from original absent owner to shelter to rescue. (Also see my post about cattle dogs...)
And now for some photos, plus lots of adjectives to try to describe their personalities.

Zorro the high energy, no-fear, smart, eager to participate, desperate for activity, sleep-sprawling, dinnertime jumping into the air and food inhaling, over-the-top-wild learning, big-toy loving, no-fear, car/trip loving, huge-eared, happy, big-tongued, binkie-nursing, obsessive and very successful 18" hunter who always wants to be in the middle of whatever is going on, has earned several tricks titles, and loves doing contacts and tunnels

Big ears. Rapt attention. Always hoping for more.

Fully alert, tail and ears up. Note the one leg that's a different color.

From the back so you can see the white making a triangle on the back of his head. Looking for squirrels.

Fully alert, hoping for squirrels; tail curls almost all the way over.

Loves his big toys. Eager to play and chase toys.

Sprawls in his sleep, usually upside down, sometimes with both front legs raised.

Chased a squirrel in there. Won't give up until I haul him away by his collar.

Loves loves LOVES to be in the car. Open door is an invitation.

Huge tongue for a not-that-big dog.

Those ears!  (Note Chip's in comparison)

Side view of his left side.

When I come home, this is what I see: Him waiting with his Jolly Ball. Sometimes he'll stand there for 5 or 10 minutes while I do whatever I need to do.

Face. And ears.

Often plops himself down with back legs behind him.

Loves nursing on his binkies. Quiet, calm--I think he uses it to help calm himself because he  he can be so wired.

No fear! Soft crate is not safe for standing on, but he doesn't care  if it wiggles around and nearly dumps him.

Chip the worrying, thunder/noise fearing, gentle, snuggle-loving, smart but thoughtful and methodical learning, cautious, hole-digging, crate-loving, dinnertime patiently sitting and calmly eating, small-toy loving, hose-spray enthusiastic, very fast but only under his own initiative, car/trip fearing, talkative, small-tongued, sweet 20" boy who waits to see what's going on before making an effort to join in, loves doing tunnels by himself, and stresses out too easily for me to want to take him to more classes of any kind but he has learned several tricks

Chip is sometimes terrified of getting into the car. Other times he hops right in. No idea what the deal is.

He can run very very fast when he feels like it. 

Face. Black on his forehead and muzzle. Has always had some white there, too.

Alert and happy, with tail up; something must be happening right now.
When not immediately stimulated, he usually stands more like this, tail relaxed.

Loves the tunnel game! Hide and seek full speed, then blasts out like a missile to find another tunnel.

Loves to snuggle next to me in bed; this sitting on my lap, however,  is because there are fireworks outside and he's quite unhappy about that.

When happy, often rolls around on the bed or floor, grabbing anything that's near just for the joy of grabbing.

Little tiny tongue. Compare to Zorro's earlier.

Fully alert and eager! I don't often see him like this--

He lounges better than anyone, in anything available.

Another alert shot--this is about as high and curled as his tail goes.

Man, does he love to dig. I should show you my moonscape back yard sometime.

Chip LOVES to grab at spraying water. (Zorro heads off for safety when the hose comes out; not a fan, and I've never sprayed him that I can recall, so I don't know where either of these got these traits.

Snuggle boi.

He's very vocal. Talks or woofs about many things all day long. When happy and rolling around on bed or floor, he makes many happy talking noises.

I see him like this a lot-- a bit worried about what's going on but still hoping that something good might be happening.

I took him to a class on massaging/etc. your dog. He loved checking out all the other dogs and he really enjoyed the parts where I was doing hands-on with him. But near the end, when the mini teeter hit the floor and the whole building resounded, he was terrified and done.  So I think indoor training isn't appropriate for him...

Loves little toys! This is one of his 2 favorites.

Feels safe in his crate. Often goes in to get away from Zorro or simply to relax while Human Mom is doing whatev's Human Moms do.

SOOOOO what's your guess?