a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: June 2019

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Eine Kleine Agility Training

SUMMARY: New dog, new handler, new class, some pondering

Today Zorro and I started with the first session of a 4-week class of agility-for-fun, Jumps and Tunnels. I felt so clumsy with even basic things, and it occurs to me: It has been 14 years since I last started a new dog in agility. (Discounting a very few previous class sessions with Zorro.)

New agility dog in 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005... I sort of figured it would keep going on like that. But nooooo--  Even had I been healthier, Chip arrived in 2014, so a big gap there. And Zorro in 2015. It should be time for me to be thinking about a new agility dog because my current ones would be getting up there in age!

Funny how things work out.  Instead, today I fumbled over how to get a leashed dog over a jump, how to use treats to lure a dog to turn with me, and how to do anything without bending over and waking up my back or my knee.

Today's lesson was nose touches to your hand (we had that down already), following your hand to circle with you as you move and turn into you as you turn (ditto), standing perpendicular to a jump and having your dog go over and back while tossing treats, then the same thing at an angle, then "around the world" from different angles. Then going through a very short tunnel, then a gradually longer tunnel, then jump-tunnel. Whooo!

I had to jam a treat in front of his nose as he blasted out of the tunnels to get him to not just keep going. Toy, even filled with treats, didn't cut it.

Zorro still won't play with toys anywhere but here at home, where he's crazy about them. Have known this for 4 years. No good excuse for not having worked on it. Should do so. Because it's a very fun feature to have in a dog.

BUT other than being super-excited to start with, he was really a Good Boy, willing to do All The Things for Zukes Minis and never running after any of the other dogs. And it all wore him out, which is really what I had in mind all along.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Best New Lyrics From Working In The House Today

SUMMARY: More corrected lyrics from your favorite station, K-TMH
First posted on Facebook June 29, 2019

TWO songs today--one by a guest poster who was inspired by my first song! (Below the photos.)
Such fun on Facebook!

But first: Taj MuttHall original:

Who's that barking in my yard?
Who's that making that noise?
Do me a favor, open the door, and tell 'em "Quiet!" 
Little Zorro, Brother Chip
Spunky Zorro's got some lip
Handsome Chipper, might take flight
Open the door and tell 'em "Quiet!"

-- True story. McCartney just got the words wrong.

Zorro barking while playing the tunnel game with Chip

Chip barking through the fence at next-door dogs

More lyrics from Kevin Cunningham, another creative dog owner (but Chip is not his dog's name).

Who’s that barrrrrking at my door?
Who’s that barrrrrking at my door?
Who’s that barrrrrking at my door?
Said the sleepy Ellen.
It’s Zorro and me, and we had to pee!
Said barkiful Chip the doggie.
We’ve got a squirrel trapped up the tree!
Said barkiful Chip the doggie.

-- Sung to tune of Barnacle Bill the Sailor (don't blame me if you look up the originals online)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Things That Super Frightened My Pups

SUMMARY: Brave dogs, scardey dogs

I'm talking about things that are way outside the norm, things that could flat-out terrify them.

Who What Notes
Amber Nothing that I remember
Sheba Loma Prieta Earthquake and aftershocks She'd lie on my chest for hours (45-lb husky), panting and shaking, eyes looking like she was going into shock. (Amber would just look up and go back to sleep)
Remington Smoke alarm testing He'd go hide in the farthest point of our long half-acre yard and not come out for ages
Jake Nothing that I remember
Tika Vet's office In her last few years, would give her a little sedative ahead of time to take the edge off
Boost Pet stores. Unfamiliar uncarpeted floors. Various other random things
Chip Thunder, fireworks O...M...G
Zorro Nothing that I can think of

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Problem With No A/C When You Want To Take A Shower on a Hot Day

SUMMARY: More reimagined lyrics from K-TMH.
Facebook: Posted there originally earlier today.

I have no A/C in my house. I close all my windows early to keep hot air out. Which works about as well as standing and waving your arms in front of roaming buffalo to get them to stop moving, which is maybe not as effective as you might think.

I showered around noon today in my bedroom shower. The results inspired me to provide new words to an old favorite song.

Home, Home, San Jose

I took a hot shower
At a very late hour.
Now it's humid in here, I must say.
I think I am hosed:
With the windows all closed,
My room will be steamy all day. 
Home, home, San Jose,
Where the skies are not cloudy all day,
Where the temperatures soar--
Dang, I can't take much more--
I wonder how much a really good central air conditioning system costs to install ... anyway?

Original music and words

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On Expectations

SUMMARY: Getting a dog who wasn't as successful as a previous dog
Originally posted in a Facebook comment on June 19, 2019

A friend asked (and I shortened this):
I was just wondering if people had a similar experience. I had/have an amazing agility dog who was/is getting older so I got a new puppy. [...] Unfortunately, my dreams that the pup [now 4 years old] and I would supersede the success of my first dog were unrealized and I let my disappointment rob dog and handler of the joy that should have been ours.

Has anyone else had an experience that the subsequent dog never met the greatness of the first dog? How did you handle the emotions?
Here's my first perspective:
As someone who lost an amazing companion (Boost) to cancer when she was barely 10 and *forever* one superQ away from her ADCH--something that we all *try* to do and some are more successful than others: Just have fun with him! Live every day for joy, whether your agility goals are being met yet or not! How you'd hate yourself if your last agility training or trialing experience with the dog was being upset about not doing well on course, whether at yourself or at the dog. I can think of many runs and many days that I wish I could have a do-over for, not to fix the run, but to fix my attitude. Seriously. Lots of people appear to be successful at it, but Sarah George Johnson in particular leaps out at me at this moment--she whoops and hollers and rewards every run as if they'd just won the world championship.

Here's my second perspective:
Remington, my first dog, was good... started out very good, deteriorated rapidly, and didn't get better again until I was able to truly own that preceding perspective for him (I just kept running full out whether he was off course or not and whether or not the error was fixable, and just whooped it up at the end). So, he ended up a pretty good but not great dog. 
My 2nd dog, Jake, was very good to excellent. My third dog, Tika, was super duper awesome. 
So it wasn't first-dog-itis when I got my 4th agility dog and we couldn't be consistently successful for the world. I tried to embrace the first perspective above, but she was SO fast and SO smart, and I really did expect that she would be even better than my 3rd dog. Damn expectations. I could've practiced more on our weaknesses, for sure, but I didn't always understand why things that worked fine in drills and practices fell apart on the course. 

I understood in many cases that it became my own level of stress--we started failing super-Qs that were gimmees for the skill set that we did have (e.g., "all I need to guarantee a super-Q today is for her to get to the #6 aframe--and she ALWAYS sends ahead to aframes and ALWAYS gets the contact" I mean, literally always... and then a refusal at the aframe. I KNEW how stressed I was by then and wasn't good at choking it down.). 
But I wish every day that I had her back in my life (fuck cancer) and wouldn't care about agility, I swear it. The irony for me was that, the more I cared about agility instead of simply loving running with my dog (which is why I started agility originally), the worse we did (both my 1st and 4th dogs). Jake and Tika dealt with it, but I was so seldom unhappy with them... I dunno which came first, success or happiness. 
So, your question, how did I handle these emotions? Answer: Badly. I try to atone for the times she knew I was unhappy (or people watching me on course knew I was on happy) by saying, See my first perspective above, please please please. Find a way to embrace it. I can't promise that it will improve your agility. But you'll be much happier and so will your dog.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Folsom Toenail Blues

SUMMARY: If Johnny Cash had a dog...

Radio Taj MuttHall (K-TMH) hasn't posted in a lonnnnng time. So here ya go. True story.

I hear those toenails comin',
They're clicking down the hall.
I ain't clipped those dog claws since
Adam was small.
I've got to grab those clippers
And then the Dremel tool.
Then I must clip them shorter
While doggies sit and drool.

When they were only puppies,
My groomer told me, gal,
Keep their toenails shorter to
Improve the dogs' morale
But I let them grow like bamboo,
So now they're ten feet long
And if those puppers jump me,
That sure will end thi

Monday, June 10, 2019

Chip is a Very Good Boy

SUMMARY: And a tattletale. Which keeps Zorro safe.
        Posted on Facebook June 9, 2019, without photo

Dogs can convey so much with their voice and body language. If only we understood. Sometimes I succeed. I was sitting here quietly typing away, beautiful quiet morning, and heard Chip whimper in the front hall. Well, earlier he had said, "I just heard something and it was scary," so I figured it was more of the same.

But then he came into the kitchen in a little trot on his tippy toes, little whines, head and ears down like "something's wrong" but in a bouncy happy way, if you can picture it, like "something's exciting but different and I don't know if it's OK." I asked him casually, half paying attention, "Is there a cat in the front yard?", then >>sudden lightbulb!<< I leaped up, raced to the front door to open it, and sure enough, there was Zorro wandering around out front. I said HI! to him and he dashed into the house. Chip was very happy and I praised him enthusiastically.

Side gate was open. Latch apparently isn't working properly and needs repair. Thank you, Chip! I think I recognized the message because on a very few other occasions Zorro has been out front or accidentally closed in the garage (latter is not quite so exciting, but still concerning, apparently).

Buds playing, September 2015

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Vantage Points

SUMMARY: Yardmasters must be able to see clearly to protect from squirrels and other evils.

Note: Haven't found a single photo of Jake up on the deck or a hot tub. Ah, well. All the other seven are represented here.

Zorro on the shelf attached to the deck
Chip in the same special spot

When one dog isn't enough! on that same shelf

On the bench on the deck

Tika, same deck, older paint job, looking under the bench

Boost, same deck, looking down at me through sliding glass door

Remington, like all of my dog, loved lying on whatever hot tub was available

Zorro, same hot tub
Chip, same hot tub
Sheba and Amber on hot tub from long time ago and far away

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Celebrating Four Years Together

SUMMARY: Zorro's Gotcha Day (June 7)

On June 6, four years ago, I drove 3 hours up to the Sierra foothills into the relative boonies for Chip and me to meet "Luke" at the rescue who'd taken him in. I had fallen in love with his photo and his description. We met with him that evening and the next morning, and somehow he ended up in my car to come home with us.

Chip wasn't entirely convinced yet, but he wasn't entirely against it, either.
I eventually renamed him Zorro, and we've had our issues and also plenty of successes, but wow, my heart overflows with delight when he looks at me with those bright eyes and the big smile and says he's ready for anything, Human Mom, Teach Me Something! His tail always wags--when he's up and about, that little curled white flag never stops--he is one happy dude.

On our way home from that trip four years ago, we stopped to share ice cream.

So, two days before this anniversary, we shared ice cream again.

 (They did get a bit more gourmet peppermint stick ice cream than this before we were done)

And on the actual Gotcha Day fourth anniversary, we shared a jelly donut.

Zorro is impatient and has a huuuuuge tongue.
Chip tries to be delicate but is also in a hurry

The memories, and these photos, and these dogs, made me smile or laugh out loud.   Thanks for staying, Zorro.



Joining, for the first time, The Weekly Smile. Click the logo for more things that people have smiled about this week.

Thanks to Dawn's Change Is Hard A Smiley Kind Of Week post for the smile idea.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Keep your pets at home. Thank you.

SUMMARY: I do not want your cats in my yard. Any part of my yard.

I have been unhappy about this ever since I got a yard, which is a long time, indeed. Because the same problems keep coming up. So, if you've heard me rant about this before--or even if you haven't but just don't want to hear a rant, stop here, scroll to the end to see pretty cat photos, then go have a nice cup of tea, and read something fun.

Today this started because a neighbor asked other neighbors to keep their cats out of her yard. Wow, a lot of people landed on her. "Don't you like cats?" "It's not hurting anything." "They are excellent at catching rodents and bugs; you should be glad to have them." Like that.

What ever happened to consideration for people you live among? (Oh, right, people have been complaining about this for thousands of years. Dammit.)

Actual photo of ancient Roman neighbors arguing about cats in each other's yards.

And this: "How do you expect them to keep their cat out of your yard?" I try not to let my blood boil. Probably the same people who think that cats can't walk on leash and can't learn tricks or do anything else that the cat might find interesting.

So I'm putting my long response here.

My dog is an excellent ratter (and catches bugs, too). And he loves being out and about. And he likes people. So I guess no one would mind if he roamed free in the area to reduce the rodent population?


  • I hate finding cat poop in my garden beds and planters when I'm working in them--why should I go out of my way all the time to protect front and back yard from invasive cats to protect my health and the quality of my yard? It's my yard, not theirs!
  • I hate having cats sitting in my tree or on my fence all day while my dogs make a racket about it (sure, I could take them inside for several hours until the cat decides to leave, but it's my yard, come on, not yours or your cat's).
  • I hate that, when I had a dog who was an intense hunter, she didn't distinguish among any small furry critters who ran through the yard, such as rats, mice, or cats that people irresponsibly let run loose.
  • I hate when I've seen a cat with a dead bird or found feathers in my yard from what I suspect to be a cat's kill--I have birdbaths and bird feeders and I want the birds, not the cats, in my yard.
  • I hate nearly running over cats when I'm backing out of my driveway, or when they run in front of me as I drive down the street in the evening.

Too bad about feral cats if they're injured or killed by dogs, cars, other cats, raccoons, or coyotes, or are trapped and turned in to a shelter where no one adopts it and then who knows what happens to it. But if you care about your But if you care about your beautiful, loving, sweet pets of any kind, keep them safe. And out of my yard. Thank you.

If these are your beautiful cats--take care of them! You adopted them; take responsibility!

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Recalculating Route...

SUMMARY: Life isn't always what one expects or hopes for.

U-turns? Streets blocked off? Got lost and hence found things that one wouldn't have otherwise, or just wasted time? Map not up to date?

I have been pondering my life over the last week or so; not sure of the trigger, but I'm diving deep upon finding that I'm considerably less happy than I've been trying to be for quite a while.

A lot of it still has to do with loss in recent years. At a pace that continues accelerating--which shouldn't be surprising as I grow older, but still...

So much of it also has to do with my expectations about life, and although (seriously) most of my life has gone very well, still, I'm counting many things that have mattered to me and scoring them lower and lower.

At a high level, for example:

I expected to be married until he or I died, but that ended after 20 years.
I expected to be doing agility and hiking until I died, but arthritis is making that prospect dimmer--and that started showing up about the time of my divorce.
I did move on, bought a house, changed my expectations about the rest of my life.
 I've been lucky enough that the arthritis more or less was manageable for a decade and a half after that, but the last 4 years have been a rollercoaster.
Still trying to change my expectations about the rest of my life--or maybe trying again--but trying to change also is a rollercoaster. You know, wah wah, kicking my heels, I don' wanna!
People who have rediscovered themselves after much bigger challenges than mine are inspiring in reminding me that I have a lot to work with; just have to decide, again, how to do it.

[TO DO: Insert Future is Here photo when blogger/google drive is back up.](1)

I want to tell the Dungeon Master: Please, I'm tired of this game, and the challenges are getting harder and more tedious, and I'm just feeling like--like I'm having a low percentage on making my saving rolls. May I please start over? Or at least start a new game with all of my points intact? Dexterity, Agility, Energy, Enthusiasm, Health, Endurance, and also nice would be high scores in, say, Healing, Spellcasting, Unarmed Combat, Charisma, Falconry, Acting, Pottery, and particularly Philosophy and Wisdom and Financial Planning. And Dog Training and House Cleaning.  And Poesy.

Am I asking too much?

Sadly, the DM isn't answering my calls, texts, or emails, so I'll have to figure out something on my own. Hate when that happens.

Purely coincidence: After typing all the previous, a friend posted a link to this Green Day song, which hits me here, right in the middle of my blog.  I'm Still Breathing.... (asks: Are you scared to death to live?) Graphics are grim but in a hopeful way...


(1) Why I had trouble uploading images.

Photo credits: Signposts: Ellen Levy Finch (back yard--and also I made them); Future Is Now sign: Ellen Levy Finch (downtown San Jose)