a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: June 2021

Friday, June 25, 2021

I Count 3030

SUMMARY: I've blogged how many times?!
Backfill: date

Yesterday, blogger friend Dawn posted on her Change Is Hard site: Time Warp. In it, she muses on her history in blogging, and how in July of 2014 she had already posted 1500 times. Which got me thinking, which is always dangerous.

Like her, I have met many people through their blogs across the continent--reading, commenting, conversing, reading their comments on mine--and eventually meeting three of them in person, including Dawn. Seems so recent, yet that was 10 (ten!) years past. I need to jump into my Winnebago and start driving for more visits!

If only I had a Winnebago.

A friend's equivalent, when I visited in 2018

But I digress (as is my wont).

This makes my 3,030th Taj MuttHall post. Is it cheating to get to that number with a post about the number? I claim Not Cheating: All's fair in love and blogging.

3030 is a lot of blogging.  From my first post on August 5, 2002, when Remington earned his NATCH (his only championship), to the next post on August 26 in which Tika has her first-ever competition run and Remington exhibits sickness for the first time (won't know it's cancer for a couple more months), and I was off and running as a blogger of dogs and dog agility.

Not being one to miss an opportunity, I started rescuing text about my dogs and dog agility from old emails and Backfilling them into the blog-- for example, this post dated May 5, 1994, which looks like the first post, but I actually posted it on October 20, 2004  from an email from 5/5/94.   (Once upon a time I created the tag #backfilled for all posts that I've done like this--but I've never applied it to all the really old ones! Another blogger project for my imminent retirement.)

I don't know whether there is a way to count back to find my 1000th or 2000th posts, but I can count back using my fingers and toes and my fingers again to my 3000th back in April, discussing divesting myself of agility equipment, which dovetails nicely with the first posts in 2002, as it's where I'm really realizing that I'm transitioning out of agility. ...Probably.

Along the way, I also started posting about my past, my photography, my travel, my food (!so cliché), my family, health, hiking, happiness, my rewritten lyrics to songs or poems, and so much more. Invented my alias Human Mom (first occurrence in June, 2006). Created around a thousand tags (see sidebar). A real olio.

I'm not sure where this blog will head from here on out. Will I find a better way to tag or organize things? Will I start a different blog for travel, for photography, for humor...?

Unknown. But I hope to see you all here, there, or anywhere.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Having an Old Dog Means--

SUMMARY: Prepare to smile and weep.

By my friend and fellow dog blogger: What it means to have an old dog

My Jake at fifteen.
January, 2007

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Happiest Day of Your Life

SUMMARY: Which day was it?
Inspiration: Facebook June 22, 2021

A friend asked: "What was the best day of your life? You cannot count the birth of your kids."

I thought for a long time.

I'm not sure that it’s possible to define that. It would have to be something so amazing that nothing like it has ever happened before and nothing like it has ever happened since. But that would be just kind of sad, wouldn't it? Just one day like that? 

But maybe I simply haven’t had astounding-enough life-changing moments. Such as suddenly being freed from prison after having been wrongly convicted? Or someone you loved dearly was presumed dead and then suddenly you found them? Winning a presidential election? Didn’t know.  Would those be the happiest day of your life or would they be merely be anticlimatic or a huge relief after everything leading up to it? 

How about ending up with a house full of bendy aliens? Oh--well--that's pretty fun, but over and over. 

I can think of many days or times where happiness and contentment welled up within me and stayed with me throughout the day:

  • Lying against a warm granite boulder in a sunny high Sierra Meadow next to a stream.(Picture me here (lounging and holding camera). Paradise!) 

  • Sitting on the grass at an agility trial with several friends and laughing so hard we couldn’t stop. 
  • Completing an important title in agility with one of my dogs that had been a struggle for us. 
  • Arriving at Disneyland. Spending time there. Even just strolling. 
  • Going on trips with my camera as companion and taking photos and just spending the time looking around and taking things in. 
  • Learning that I was accepted to the Clarion West writers workshop. 
  • Pulling off a successful surprise party.
  • Winning a debate in a competition against a top-level opponent. 
  • Watching an amazing sunrise or sunset with a lovely foreground as well.
  • Walking or hiking early, at dawn, with my dogs and no one else around.
  • Passing clever notes back and forth with a friend between classes as we walk past each other.
  • Rereading something I've written and realizing that it's very good.
  • Spending Christmas Day with my large family.
  • Solving a problem at work that others weren't able to.
  • Helping a dog learn something new and useful and cool and suddenly s/he gets it.

Once I started thinking, more and more things came to mind. Lots of happier-than-everyday days in my life. But I don’t know if any of the hundreds of days like that stands out from the rest. Which is fine by me: That means that I have had a steady influx of happy days over my many decades.

How about you?

  • When I completed my college degree. 
I are bachelor of science!
No more pencils, no more books...
Sister is also happy with me.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Second Annual Chip High-Heat Ice Cream Wake

SUMMARY: This could become a tradition

Chip left us last year, on June 17. It's been really hard for me this week.  

Also I can't believe that I've gone an entire year without  a 2nd dog. Zorro just turned seven last week, and for the last couple of months, he hasn't been so cavalier about jumping up into his crate in the back of MUTT MOVER. I have to do things to give him extra space or gear to help him get up. 

But that's a different story.

Last year, on June 18, Zorro and I headed down the street to Baskin Robbins to have some memorial ice cream in honor of Chip.  In 100+ degree heat.

I don't know why blogger accepts videos, uploads them, and then displays what looks like a control pane--but it's just a PIC of a control pane. And then says video not available.
Sorry for now, folks.

So, this year, we did the same. In 108-degree weather. And so is born, ta-da:

Annual Chip High-Heat Ice Cream Wake

Wasn't going to leave Zorro in the car while I got ice cream unless (a) I could park in complete shade and (b) Baskin Robbins didn't have a huge line.  Turns out, yes! Full parking spot in the shade, and yes! no one else at BR! Freaky.

And then all this happened.

Empty Baskin Robbins! In this heat?

Still wearing masks to be safe. Plus my buttons saying I'm not one of the unvaxed.

It leaked all over my hand just walking back to the car, no matter how fast I licked.
Had to keep licking to try to take photos.
Now my phone/camera is sticky.

Rest assured, Human Mom ate almost all the ice cream.

I was glad that I kept his crate door closed and latched, because right about then a huge Standard Poodle trotted up from behind us and tried to stick his nose into our business.
Zorro was not pleased.
Owners did not have him on leash.

Biting through the wires is strenuous!

Fun with animated gifs, part 1
Wagging tail, hard-working tongue
(from 6 photos; need to figure out how to crop it more betterz.)

That was TOTAL nom-nom-noms!

Took the rest home because in the heat it was liquidating beyond  control.
(Fortunately only 5 minutes away.)

The last bite.

Fun with animated gifs, part 2 (from two photos).
Guess who gets to lick the bowl.


I do have a history of drowning my dog grief (or sometimes celebrations) in frozen concoctions that help me hang on. (No--not margaritas--) .--in addition to 2020 and this year-- at least the followings:

The Dangers of Dictation

SUMMARY: Don't let this happen to you
My comment responding to a friend's comment on FB June 16, 2021

I almost did a terrible, terrible thing. 


After I have finished eating something, depending on what the food was and how much is left in my dish or bowl or plate, I might let Zorro know that it is available for him to lick.

Also background: 

I typically dictate into my phone rather than trying to type responses. 

So I was about to respond to your comment here. I had just finished the last of the ice cream.  After I finished scraping as much as I could out of the ice cream container, I set it aside until Zorro should show up at some point. 

Then I sat back to respond to your comment. I hit the write-a-reply spot and clicked the dictation microphone. That was about the time Zorro appeared and looked expectantly at me. So I stood up with the ice cream container and wandered off to set it down someplace for him to enjoy. 

A while later, I wandered back and picked up my phone and saw that there was text waiting for me to send to you; I do this too often: put in an answer and then don't hit Send. So I almost hit send until I realized that the text said--

 “hello do you want to lick my thing”

My head just about exploded thinking: Had I been hacked? Someone playing a crude joke on me?  And then I realized: Yep, forgot that dictation was turned on and started talking to the dog… about my ice cream container.


Technology is a dangerous thing.

I have avoided or not quite avoided similar issues SO VERY MANY TIMES.  There was the time, for example, that I think I actually clicked Send after dictating something like, "I want to wish luck to all my agility friends this weekend" and discovered to my horror that it had turned into "I want to [something that rhymes with luck] all my agility friends..." and fixed it before (I think) anyone noticed.)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Waiting for that Lifetime Platinum...

SUMMARY: It's tiny in the grand scheme of things, but still--

--I did so want to get there. Particularly now that I'm unlikely to compete again, ever, let alone enough to earn all those Qs with a single dog. [I'm not heartbroken about that not-competing thing. But, you know--yes, about that award. ]

  Tika was only a few short of the 500 required when her heart decided that she was done. 

Tika's LAA Bronze (150 Qs)

But then, in January 2020, USDAA announced:

With new crossover rules in effect, these qualifications [counts for Lifetime Achievement Awards] may come from either the Championship or Performance program, and are limited on a combined basis to no more than 3 qualifications per class (the number to earn a class title) for a maximum of 15 qualifications at each level (i.e., Starters and Advanced), for an overall maximum of 30. This is in keeping with the definition of “Lifetime” and recognizing performances from the beginning of a dog’s career to retirement. This change will be reflected at a later date, following implementation of other programming changes. (https://www.usdaa.com/regulations/upload/USDAAChanges01_10_2020_announcement_Update01_23_2020.pdf)

Translation: Starters and Advanced Qs that didn't used to count towards LAA awards now do. And they'll retroactively update the records and titles for all affected dogs... and Tika had 13 Starters  and 11 Advanced Qs!

Tika's LAA Silver, 250 Qs

And then--COVID hit. So, I waited.

A year after that announcement, I finally asked USDAA In January 2021:

Did this actually go into effect? Specifically, my dog Tika had to retire just 12 short of her LAA platinum, but I see that none of her Starters or Advanced Qs are applied to her award.  Is there any action that I need to take?

Tika's LAA Gold (350 Qs) 

The response was:

Thanks for your patience  - we are still completing the work to update the formulas from the January 2020 updates. The pandemic and cancellation of events nationwide required that we shift all programming energies to the USDAA@Home platform.

LAA awards formulas should reflect the change this quarter. Dogs that were competing and earned an LAA at the time of the change will be awarded their plaques automatically.  We are working on a case by case basis to recognize dogs that have earned these retroactively and are no longer with us. Certainly a great accomplishment in either case.

Last year was a rough year for everyone, I understand that. Her record is still not updated on their web site. I am still trying to be patient. Sigh. I wonder how very many dogs are in a similar place with their LAAs of all 4 levels? (oh--wait--now there are 2 levels even higher!)

She was an amazing dog and gave me just about everything I could've imagined in agility.  But, yes, I greedily want just that little tidbit more.


(See previous blah-blah-blah-agility-awards posts on the topic of Lifetime Achievement Awards)

Tika, 2006
Photo by Erika Maurer

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Zero Point Snooker Runs--the Epilogue

SUMMARY: I'll probably not compete again. Who knows. But, for now--
Backfill: Post & comment on Facebook, June 15-16, 2021

This is sort of an epilogue to Zero Point Snooker Runs from June, 2012 [hmm, my stats from that post don't match the stats here; there, I say *two* with Jake...].  I competed only another two years, and that last year, 2014, was sparse. But--here's my agility competition tracking database's info.

Posted June 15 on FB;
> Theory #1 from another discussion was that anyone who plays snooker is bound to get 0-point Snooker runs;
> Theory #2 is that no one else has ever gotten two 0-pointers on the same day with the same dog on different Snooker courses, like I did with Tika:

OK, those of you who play Snooker in agility, two questions:

1)  Estimate how many snooker runs you have done.

2) Of those, how many do you think have been zero points: A. At least one.  B. none. C. [Fill in whatever number you estimate you’ve done]

3) Have any of you had two 0-point Snooker runs on the same day with the same dog (on different snooker courses, not just reattempting the same one)?

I blame Julie Rice for taunting me into posting this!😉

A Snooker course. Snooker has three  (or more) red jumps worth one point (red flag). 
You have to start with a red jump, then take a non-red (e.g., the tunnel for 3 points). 
Er...you have to start with a correctly executed red jump.
So, if you knock the first one, you have to take a different one before you take the #3.
If the dog hits #3 after a knocked red, oops, all done.

I received several comments, including some people who've never had a 0-pointer, or maybe dogs with no 0-pointers, which astounded me. Until I looked at my own stats, which I posted in response on June 16:

Here are my stats (except for the last year or so [of competition]). Because, if I'm going to have kept track, I might as well use the info. Envy me, database mortals! 😉

  • 15 out of 530 snooker runs were 0-pointers 
  • 1 with Jake, 
  • 3 with Boost--2 comments that I thought her first bar stayed up-- 
  • the rest with Tika [who is still the #11 all-time USDAA Snooker P3 22" dog despite that]
  • None with Remington! out of 46 runs--but he did get one 1-pointer. (He hardly ever knocked bars and, if he did, he was slow enough that I could redirect him.) 
  • My comments on those 15 runs:
    • kn[ocked] 1st bar & I didn’t realize it soon enough.
    • kn 1st bar & I didn’t react
    • 1st bar ticked, thought it was staying up, fell as she took next obstacle
    • knocked first bar & I didn’t react quickly enough. A billion [people got the full points of] 51s...
    • knocked first bar and while I was stunned he went into next obst [Jake *never* knocked bars!]
    • set her up to go past 1 rather than over. Very amazingly stupid [Human].
    • Ran past 1st (angled) jump & into tunnel before I could stop her.
    • Knocked 1st bar & hit tunnel before I could stop her.
    • Tried to do angled lead-out pivot & she ran past first jump. Dagnabbit. But a nice SL[start-line] stay!
    • kn first bar & couldn’t react fast enough. Sigh. Nice SL stay, too
    • thought she had gotten 1st jmp and heard it fall just as she was making perfect wv[weave] entry...
    • kn first bar and I just quit crap
    • moved at SL so kn 1st bar, veered to right instead of “come” with me standing still & facing her
    • kn 1st bar.
    • kn 1st red & over next jump before I could move.

Tika taking a 4-point obstacle.
(Brown flag = 4 --flag colors are consistent no matter where you go.
MOST flags also display the number on both sides, not just one side.)
Color rules and numbers match actual billiards-type Snooker! (except agility has fewer Reds)

Monday, June 07, 2021

Happy Gotcha Day Toys

SUMMARY: Zorro's 6th anniversary

Six years ago, I drove 4 hours home from the Sierra Foothills with a year-old pup named Luke in the crate next to Chip in his crate.

Five years ago, he became Zorro. And his favorite toys are Jolly and Squeaky Snake. He shares them with you for this anniversary. With his favorite game--pretend to fetch but instead tease Human Mom by showing, from a distance, how rewarding it is to chew on it.