Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scully Retires

SUMMARY: Scully--Verwende Prinses--treats her friends to ice cream and it's COLD out there plus going nuts with the camera
You'd never guess that Scully is closer to 14 than 13. She's been mostly retired, trying to get just 1 last Q for her lifetime bronze but just not quite fast enough any more most of the time. Plus she's a LITTLE dog. Plus a princess. Scully's class-time retirement party was last night, so we visited the class and took photos of everyone there to celebrate.

OK, maybe they were mostly there for class. But Scully's human dad came up for the mini-party, too; he made awesome ice cream

and it was still excellent but would've been even more excellent had it been 2 days ago and 100 degrees instead of last night at 60 with a brisk and icy wind. Yesterday: Summer. Today: Winter. Gotta love california.

Scully could hardly hold still, she was so excited. This is about the only shot where she's not in full hyper motion-- with her human family, waiting for some ice cream.

Mostly the Little Black Dog looked like this in all the photos.

You would hardly believe that this little active fluffball, multiple agility champion and possibly the most-titled dog in the Mixed Breed Dog Club's history (to be exact: ADCH APD SACH RCH-Bronze SCH-Bronze TM-Bronze AKD-Gold AGD AJD; C-ATCH3 ExSN ExJP ExCL ExFH ExWC ChSN ChST ChJP ChCL ChFH ChWC ChJU U-CD MB-CH MB-CDX MB-RA MB-VM5; EAC EGC EJC CGC), spent the weekend in the hospital being treated for just-discovered kidney disease and a tetch of pancreatitis. She will be getting IV fluids two or three times a week for the rest of her life. I guess if you get ice cream with that, it's not so bad.

Other guests/students:
Sparkle (Scully's Little Black Adopted Sister):

Bernie the Beagle:

MinPin Belle:

Porsche the Wonder Corgi:

Savannah who whupped everyone's butts in 22" Masters Gamblers last weekend:

Dylan, who looks perfect in sunset lighting:

Sooner,  the Papillon whose ears drape gracefully down the sides of his head instead of standing upright in a butterflyish manner, and who was curious about everything except what it would be like to hold still for the camera:

Boost and Tika had to wait in MUTT MVR until the 2nd class of the evening. Tika demonstrates that a really good shake, when in a freeze frame, looks pretty dorky:

Still dealing with my little crappy point and shoot, which likes neither motion (great for photographing dogs) nor any kind of darkness (great for photographing around sunset). But as long as I was there and the lighting and sky were beautiful and the nearly full moon was up--what the heck--get artsy and all that.

Waiting their turns.

Walking the course.

No hamming it up for the camera from the instructor demonstrating push-throughs, nope, not at all:

Tunnel. Moon. Agility handler. What could simpler?

Moon. Field light. Instructor. Successfully finishing a course. What could be better?

More photos uploaded here but mostly of interest to class attendees.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


SUMMARY: Random things from the treat jar of dog thoughts and lifestyle issues that have been piling up, gathering dust.
  • The Secrets Inside Your Dog's Mind -- Time magazine article about dogs following pointing fingers, recognizing words, sharing, and altogether acting more human than wolf, and why. Thanks Wishy The Writer for the link.

  • This lady (OK, me) walks into a Postal Annex (no, really!) with the merle girls, tells them to "down" and they do (and stay, I might add), and commences her transaction with the clerk, who, after a couple of minutes of business, says, "Pretty dogs. Are they trained?" Um...

  • Trying to cut back on agility events, and in particular avoid weekends of agility back-to-back... But wait (she says, remembering squillions of Gamblers briefings where everyone has to clarify the terminology--again--)--or is that weekends *in sequence*? Not sure how you'd do weekends back to back-- sat-sun then sun-sat of the same weekend? Nice trick if you can do it, and you should CERTAINLY get double points for it.

  • Johann the dog asked "What is your favorite toy?" Found it hard to answer. Varies from dog to dog. Sheba loved the floppy plastic left over from a beach ball. Amber liked hard plastic things or sticks. Remington liked his plush "flippy" and cardboard boxes. Jake was into nubby plastic squeakies. Boost likes her bone-shaped plush with a squeakie in the middle. Tika prefers nonplush things that we can play tug with, especially her Jolly Ball. Me? Hmm, maybe my Macintosh.

  • New Mac Mini arrived this week! Bought this old one in January 2001 (was a 2000-year model). Looking forward to getting the new one running. Have heard that the tools now for transferring everything are amazingly good. Or so "They" say. And you know how They are.

  • Even though USDAA has made the Performance program more like the regular Championship program--everything now the same for titling, but sometimes they shortchange awards and title names--and despite well-respected competitors' efforts to promote moving *over* to performance instead of *down* to performance, it still felt like I was giving something up to move Tika from 26" Ch to 22" Pf. But, I'll tell you, she is running so much more smoothly and comfortably at 22"--and winning and Qing a lot more, too--grins--that I'm beginning to like the change. Although I still find myself qualifying her successes by saying "in performance, of course."

  • Still haven't decided for sure on a camera. Do I go with the Rebel series (the XS or the new t1i)--or the midrange not-quite-pro series (40D, available only refurbished, or 50D)? Price *is* an object.  So many things going into the decision, though. Almost decided on XS this morning, then almost on 40D. Probably one of those two. Would love the 50D but not sure I can justify the extra, which I'd rather spend on a lens or two.

  •  Hand touches: Taught Boost a hand touch to my palm very thoroughly and then realized to my dismay that this prevented teaching “shake”/”high 5"/”wave” etc. This year I decided to  change the Touch to only the back of my hand when held straight down, and Shake to the palm held level.  Maybe will post on how I converted, if anyone's interested. Taught Tika the new touch, too; she already had the Shake. Now both dogs know the distinction. Although sometimes in the heat of the food moment, Boost touches and shakes simultaneously. Overachiever.

  • OK, I admit it: I go places without my dogs. Lots of places. Hiking. Traveling. I see them all day every day and work or play or walk with them several times a day and I'm often ready to just not do dogs.  If more hiking around here were off-leash legal, I'd probably take them more often. But, unlike so many of my agility friends, I need lots of vacation from my dogs! Perfectly happy leaving them behind. Sorry, merle girls, life's hard.

  • But now, I retire for the night to my king-sized bed. WITH the merle girls. Life's not so hard after all, is it, me pretties!

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ah, Me, Time Goes By

SUMMARY: Remembering Jake courtesy of the postman.

The summer after Jake turned 14, his license and rabies renewal form arrived and I had the choice, as always, of renewing for 1 year or 3 (at a discount). I hesitated for a while--after all, he was 14 and a half at that point, and really how much longer could he go on?--but he was very healthy, very active, still competing (a little bit at CPE's very low heights but still beating the young dogs). What the heck; I renewed for 3 years.

Now here it is two and a half years after he left me so suddenly, and here in my hands sits his license renewal notice. It's interesting, the kick in the gut it gave me to see his name on the paper; but also interesting that my next reaction was to laugh. He was such a great little dog, lived a wonderful, healthy life, and went out quickly without a long deterioration. It was worth the few extra bucks to hope for the best.

But the paper in my hand also makes it feel almost as if he's right here in the room with me; I can see his red-furred face looking up at me, see his feathered tail wagging. He won't be gone until I check the box that says "Animal is deceased." Like it's that simple. Animal. Deceased.

I mean--I could renew it, right? I've still got his collar with his tags, wrapped around all of him that stayed here--his registration cards for USDAA, NADAC, CPE, ASCA, and the Mixed Breed Dog Club, and a few ashes in a cedar box. Do you think they'd ever stop sending me renewals? How long do you think it would take them to realize that he's still being registered? 20 years? 25? Never?

Ah, me, Jakester, I'll check the box and be done with my little Animal for today.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Choices Made

SUMMARY: I make some progress with dogs but not much.

I went ahead and moved Tika down to 20" for this coming weekend's CPE trial. Oh, well, so we'll be competing against more excellent dogs. That's what competition's all about, and maybe she'll jump more comfortably. She knocked only that one bar a week ago all weekend, but she sure wasn't comfortable landing.

I'm moving Tika gradually to Performance (jumping 22") instead of CHampionship (26") in USDAA. I think. I went ahead and left Tika in the two championship USDAA DAM teams for April and June (so far)--which means she's still jumping 26"--and have left her in championship Steeplechase and Grand Prix so far--because she still needs ONE tournament of any kind for her Platinum Tournament Master. And 26" in Standard and Jumpers, because she needs just a few more of those for her ADCH-Silver. But I'm conceding to her repeating soreness and moving her down to 22" in other classes. We'll see whether it makes a difference.

I'm supposed to be giving Boost a complete rest from intense running for 2 weeks per physical therapist, just giving her excellent, long hikes over varied terrain. Well, after 2 days of 2-mile walks over level sidewalks, I decided that I'm just too busy to go driving for an hour to get to someplace where I can let the dogs off leash to hike, and I'm just not going to do it. I have to drive 15 minutes just to get someplace with uphills and downhills, and I'm just not going to do it, even though I could use it, too.

I worked on lots of tug of war, set up a cart with a platform so she could put her front feet on it and push it around with her rear legs (both dogs, actually, for everything), one exercise from the PT, and practiced with their rear legs up on a step and streeeeetchhhhing them out (also from PT), and working on sitting up. Tricks.

And by Saturday evening Boost was going nuts. Pulling all the toys out of the toy box and chewing on that. Poking at the space heater because she knows it gets my attention (dammit!). Throwing her bedding around. Standing in the yard and barking at phantom ideas. In short--that dog needs more exercise that I can give her around here without running her (dammit!). Good thing she's not *seriously* injured. We'd both go insane.

So I went back to running her in the yard. Mostly avoiding agility equipment except using a 4" bar to practice handling maneuvers, and a straight tunnel to try to avoid banking off the sides.

She's also on prescription anti-inflamatories for 3 weeks to see whether it makes a difference in her movements. I avoided paying another $100 at the vet's for supplements that I don't even believe will do anything based on recent research.

So many decisions to make, one after another. And so many of them affecting my dogs' lives and health.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Move Tika to Performance?

SUMMARY: Do I need to move Tika to the lower jump height division? What are my criteria?

I've had the gut feeling that Tika has been slowing down on her courses. She'll be 8 in February, but really I don't think of 8 as being that old, and we've gained a comfortable working relationship that works fairly well in USDAA and very well in CPE (which we're not doing much of at the moment). Plus she still jumps nicely most of the time at 26".

(Fun note: In CPE, I jump her at the highest height, 24", to avoid messing up her 26" USDAA Jumping. But she's legal for 20" in CPE. Which means that I could eventually move her down to 16" in their Specialist category--like Performance in USDAA--or even to 12" in their Enthusiast category! Can you picture Tika running a course at 12"?!)

Then there's the issue of her coming up sore periodically. This weekend she did 6 runs Saturday and was fine, then Jumpers Sunday morning and was fine, then came out of her crate before Snooker saying "I'm sore, I'm hunched over, I don't want to play tug of war, I can't do anything." Fortunately there were about 8 dogs ahead of us, so I got her moving, got her stretching, massaged her neck and spine and shoulders, used treats to encourage her to stretch her neck and back in various ways (boy, she really perked up at the treats), and by the time we went into the ring, she looked perky and comfortable. Ran fine. Ran fine in Standard, too. Ran fine for frisbee later. Looks fine today. Maybe just a cramp? But I was inches away from scratching her because she looked so unhappy.

So there's that to consider.

To help decide how much she's slowed down, I took my useful database of info I've collected on my dogs' runs through the years, threw out Novice and Advanced classes, threw out classes where we had refusals or runouts (because they'd skew the picture of her true speed), chose only Grand Prix, Jumpers, and Standard as useful classes, and ended up with data from early 2004 through this weekend. For each of the 3 classes I plotted the following in Excel charts: Her yards per second (YPS), how far off the SCT (standard course time) her time was, and how far off the first-place dog's time she was.

I couldn't clearly tell from the plot of her YPS whether she's slowing, so I did a sort of a running average, and it showed a few interesting things.

1) Her YPS in Standard abruptly shot up starting in April 2007. (--about .2 YPS--which for her would be about 2.5 seconds faster on a Standard course.) What happened in April 2007? The Aframe height changed from 6'3" to 5'10". (Caveat: At some point last year I decided that it was OK for Tika to have running contacts because she was doing it anyway and we needed the extra speed. I can't find my blog post on that, but I was still trying to get the 2o2o behavior at that time.)

I can't quite tell whether it affected everyone equally; it looks like she picked up some time compared to the first-place dogs, but not a lot.

2) Her Standard YPS has indeed been drifting slowly downward since, from 3.9 then to 3.7 now, over a year and a half. So we've lost those couple of seconds again.

3) Her Jumpers YPS rose steadily from 2004 to 2006 as we learned how to work together, peaked at almost 6 YPS in early 2006, slid steadily to just over 5.5 YPS in mid-2007, and has very slightly drifted to below 5.5 YPS since. (In other words, she hasn't slowed much on Jumpers courses in the last year and a half.)

4) Oddly, her Grand Prix YPS average seems to have climbed slightly over time--but we don't have nearly as many good data points on that.

So I'm not sure what it tells me. She's still way below SCT and is by no measures a slow dog. But the numbers from this weekend tell me that we're still fighting a battle to ever earn placement ribbons: Note that in every class, she did very well as the Q rate seemed low--but in almost every case, she was the slowest of the dogs to Q or to get the highest points.

I don't know what moving her to Performance would do in that area; Performance is not an escape from experienced, top-quality competitors. Several dogs who've beaten her consistently in the past in Championship are now in Performance.

The other thing is--she's now getting so close to her ADCH-Silver that it would be nice to finish at least that, and if this weekend's any indication, she's very capable of doing it without hurting herself. To do that, she needs 25 legs in each of the 5 regular classes, and has:
* Standard: 22
* Relay: 26
* Gamblers: 22
* Snooker: 30
* Jumpers: 20

It's always those danged Jumpers, isn't it!

So I'm sticking with a wait and see strategy on her regular classes.

I can also decide on the tournament classes. All she needs for her Platinum Tournament Championship is one DAM Team Q and one additional Q of any kind (DAM, Steeplechase, Grand Prix). There are no higher awards in the Tournament area. So I could move her to Performance's lower jump height there if I wanted to. The question is just whether--if there's another Nationals out west--I'd want to qualify her in Championship or in Performance, and whether I'd really want to go anyway, with the fact (same as this year) that she just can't compete with the top dogs.

It's only Gamblers where we can really shine on opening poins, as usual.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

A Dog's Final Care

SUMMARY: Are you a bad person if you don't do everything medically possible to try to save your dog's life, no matter the cost?

My sister-in-law, who has a dog whom she adores but is not active in "the dog world", posed this question after watching an episode of Judge Judy (?) in which it seemed to be implied that you were a bad person if you didn't spend the money, whether you had it or not.

I had just happened to read an article in DogSport magazine (May/June 2006) by Terri Arnold, whom I don't know because she's an AKC-only person, but I thought her conclusions described in "When to let go" are quite helpful. In summary, she says that she'll use the same criteria for her dogs that she'd use for herself on when to let go, and I quote:
  • Must not be a burden, neither financial nor emotional, to those who take care of me.
  • Must be able to communicate with those who love me--if not verbally, at least with my eyes and spirit. I must have an interest in the world around me.
  • Must not be in agonizing pain all the time.
  • Must be able to eat and drink and take my medicine in order to help myself.
  • Must have my dignity; I could never lose complete control of all my bodily functions and want to live. (For a dog in particular, this could mean separating the dog from the life he was familiar with.)
She goes on to describe how she made those evaluations for her beloved Stride when he developed a brain tumor. But she also said, "There is no one more capable to make this decision than the person who loves the dog."

UPDATE: May 12, 2008 - The full article is now online here.

I raised the question with agility friends at dinner this weekend, and we all agreed that there's so much that goes into the answer: The dog's age, personality, and physical condition overall. The owner's health (mental and physical) and energy and living situation and finances. The nature of the illness, the nature of the treatment. More than one of us had stories of how we fought with money and medical treatment into five digits of expenses for a beloved dog, to gain only a month. Or two. Or, in Remington's case, four. We all felt that we did what we needed to do and could do at the time, and we all felt that maybe we'd never do that again. Or maybe we would.

We talked about where the line is (as did the article)--you don't put a dog to sleep because you're moving and can't take the dog with you, or because he's, say, vomiting and you don't know why (given that the dog has otherwise been healthy and there's no other evidence of illness). Still, I don't know what you'd do if you had a young, sick dog and the vet couldn't tell more without tests and the tests would be $500 and you don't have $500. Most people I know, however, aren't in the situation where they really couldn't afford to have basic blood, urine, & xray tests done.

But there remains that huge gray area where it's just not completely clear, where the vet can't decide for you and the dog's body doesn't decide for you. I think that Terri's guidelines are a wonderful place to start.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Dog-related Medical/ Bereavement Web Sites

SUMMARY: Assorted useful dog-related URLs.

These are the URLs that I found in a magazine in the waiting room the first night that Jake was in the emergency room.
  • Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
  • The magazine said that this is the ASPCA's pet medical care site, but I don't see "ASPCA" on the site anywhere. Still, looks like lots of useful info on care and health. The only bad thing is that I don't see a search function (at least not in Netscape on the Mac).
  • Dog Age calculator; apparently you have to register to use the calculator, which I haven't done.
  • care info: This site seems to have a lot of helpful articles on care and medical issues.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Weaves, Pushing the Envelope, and Getting Old

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves--huh? Tika and me--how far can we go? Getting old: Me and Jake.

Boost's Weaves

At our last 2 weekends of trials, Boost got all of her weave entries (except once where she didn't see them at all and went past the whole thing), and stayed in all of them except twice when I tried to get ahead & she popped out at last pole. At home, I've been working on fixing that last issue by getting farther ahead, racing her to the end, doing distractions, etc. And have been working on weave entrances with a short set of poles from various tough angles, sometimes just across the lawn but more often from a tunnel or over a jump.

Today in class she couldn't do weaves worth beans. She hit the first pole entry every time but then just started skipping randomly, often the 2nd pole but just as often staying in for a few poles & then skipping here and there. Jeez! I'd even just load her in manually to the first pole and still she'd skip. I wasn't racing her or anything. Finally towards the end on one troubled attempt, Nancy had us just go to the other end and weave back towards where we came from, and she did it fine. Then she was OK going the right way if I loaded her in carefully.

Then, after class was all over and Nancy "left the building," telling us all to do the exercise one more time, Boost not only made a difficult entry in flow, full speed, but stayed in the weaves all the way through very nicely, thank you very much.

So I blame it all on Nancy.

But seriously--what a frustrating experience! Hope it doesn't remanifest itself at a trial.

Tika Pushing the Envelope

I've said before how much I like my current class. In particular, Ken with Apache the Terv and Jenn with Kye the Aussie, all of us jumping 26", and Ash with Luka at 16", and all of us pushing the limits of our handling skills. Of course, Ashley and Luka are rapidly working their way into being in the top teams in the entire country in both USDAA and AKC, and I just can't compete with his vast stores of energy and long legs, but I can feed off of that drive to succeed. We talk about "The Cool Factor" in class a lot. That's one of Jim's seminar jokes--why would you choose one handling option over another? The Cool Factor! Because everyone will think you're totally cool if you can pull it off! What it really is, is stretching what we think we're capable of. All one of us has to say is, "I'm going to try it!" and the others of us are right in there, not wanting to be uncool. :-)

I'm finding that it's hard for me to pull up a lot of energy or to move my legs and arms really fast, though. Some of it, I'm sure, is just being out of shape from the months of knee issues and post-surgery. And I'm not doing much about it, either. Like--hmmm--I could've been doing the exercycle instead of typing this blog entry. But what fun is that? (Not.)

Getting older

And some of it is just getting older. Things just don't work the way they used to. Things come up sore that not only didn't used to be sore but that I didn't even know existed. How can I be feeling the effects of aging when I don't THINK I'm getting older? It's just not right!

My knee isn't perfectly better yet. After I've been sitting for a while--say, driving to/from class or at the computer--when I first stand up, if I try to take a good step immediately, the knee half the time collapses under me with a small bit of pain. I have to stand for a moment and let the knee loosen. I'm hoping that this is a transitory phase in its healing.

The original Border Terrorist (Terrier), Bobbi, who was quite the competitor when I started agility but who has been retired for quite a while now, celebrated her 15th birthday just last November, same time as Jake. We just got word now that she's passed away. It's always too soon! And Jake's been doing pretty well, just the usual complaints from me that sometimes he just won't come out in the yard and play fetch. (But annoying me immensely because if I take it into the living room, he'll run forever as I bounce his toys off collectibles, priceless heirlooms, glass cabinets, and windows.) So sometimes I just insist. Yesterday afternoon, of 2 days of him looking at me eagerly but then trotting back into the house, I wouldn't let him go past me, and of course then he turned around, got his toy, and plunged full-heartedly into an enthused, tail-wagging all-out game of fetch. And then suddenly, after not really all that much running, he dropped his toy in the middle of the lawn (*never* does that) and just came over and stood next to me, panting and wagging his tail. Usually he wanders off with his toy to take a dunk in the pond or wander through the shady shrubs or something. It struck me as a little odd.

Then he trotted up the stairs to the porch, turned around, and just about fell right back down the steps. He started after Boost, blaming her, I guess, but when I came over, his back legs kept falling out from under him. Still, he managed to go back up the steps, but as I stroked his back, he started staggering, then would stand OK, then stagger off to the side again like he was losing his balance. Almost fell into the water bowl the couple of times he started to take a drink. But didn't want to lie down. So I just balanced him against my leg, stroking him gently, and in a minute or so he was fine again.

But it was scary; thought I'd be spending the evening at the emergency room. He's been fine ever since. People in class last night, who've had old dogs, said it sounded like a ministroke and that there could be more. So I guess at some point I'll take him in and talk to the vet about it. Argh. I'm just not ready for this.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


SUMMARY: Just thinking.

  • It's been SO dry here this winter. Not just in terms of rain (which we're quite low on), but the air. My fingers have been cracking since December. I use moisturizing hand lotion all the time. But I wash my hands so often, too, with being out with the dogs and (the last week or so) a cold and doing stuff in the yard, it's hard to keep up. Now my lips are chapping, my whole face is flaking. I think I'm starting to go hoarse--cold/cough or dry air? Ack.
  • The lilac bush is going going...hopefully soon gone! Blog commenters are good at making me put my money where my mouth is. I offered it on, thinking that no one could really possibly want an 8' tall/wide shrub, but I was swamped with replies. This is apparently the ideal time to remove it. So after 5 years in this house, it's finally going*. But this means I'm having to dig up all the plants around it that I want to keep and move elsehwere. This is why I found/bought/stole/created dozens of pots and potting soil all summer, to do this, and then it just seemed like SO much work. But with shovels impending, I've made good progress today (yessss---less billable work again) and hopefully can finish tomorrow.
  • Tip for the brain dead: When you're lifting something really heavy and you're out of condition and you want to set it on a platform (read "agility table") that's next to you, turn, don't twist at the waist. Owwwies. I knew that. OK, now I have a sore back muscle on one side. Hope it doesn't stiffen up before the weekend.
  • For 2 days straight, Jake wouldn't play fetch no matter what I tried. Would finally go and get the toy and then skirt around me at the edges of the yard to dart back into the house. Yesterday he was coaxable, but I had to coax a lot. Then he fetched forever. Today I wasn't in the mood for coaxing, and he lay on the deck watching me toss a toy for the others for about 20 minutes between uprooting irises and narcissi, then he came down and asked me to to play fetch! I was thrilled. Did it a long time, too, like yesterday. Sucks getting old.
  • My mom's closest cousin--my clever, funny, "aunt"--has been writing incoherent letters from her home in New York. Senility/alzheimers/whatever is setting in big time. I think that's the curse & the fear of the woodward family women: Live a long life with your body and a shorter one with your mind. It's scary. My mom's doing good so far but we all know from her stories of her grandmother and from the way her mom deteriorated that we all could be next in line...and now the cousin... Argh even more. I'll just assume that doing agility will preserve my mind forever. Or, the way I sometimes run courses, no one will know the difference anyway. That's probably a better strategy--just be incomprehensible all the time so you and everyone else just get used to it.
*Oops, that would be an unclear pronoun reference. The lilac shrub has not, in fact, EVER been in this house to my knowledge, but *I* have been.

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