Monday, February 11, 2008


SUMMARY: Tire chain, key chain, food chain, DNA chain, chain of thought, hair chainge

Tire Chain

At Sunday's practice, they set up last weekend's Grand Prix run. There's a sequence where the dog blasts through a chute, has to go out to take the tire at an oblique angle, and then pull in to hit the weaves, probably while the handler is behind them and/or working at a distance to set up for the next sequence. In competition, Boost handled this well. Sunday, she did the chute and the tire and then missed the weave entry completely. So I sent her back to the tire--and she ran under it. I sent her again, again she went under it, and I said "No!" I mean, she hasn't missed a tire entry in I don't know how long, certainly never in competition.

I started making the entry easier and easier for her (but the side of the tire was always what I saw), and every time she flew under it, I said "no!" and brought her back. It was on the 5th try where I put her in a sit directly facing the tire that I realized that the heavy (heavy!) tire chain was dangling down completely through the center of the tire. Curses on whoever set the tire! And curses on me for not noticing that my dog was trying not to kill herself. I felt terrible! After a break and some other activities, I put her back through the tire in both directions and she did fine, so I didn't break her permanently. Dogs are so resilient; handlers can be so stupid.

Chain of thought

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza had a fabulous juggler. For me, breathtakingly talented. However, the first thing that caught my eye when he walked out on stage was his breathtakingly glittery silver lame suit. When he took off the silver lame jacket to reveal a silver lame shirt, I was hooked. But he distracted me with 20 minutes of some of the finest juggling I've ever seen, and some of it was the sheer duration without ever missing. Ever. At the end of the act, my first reaction was, "Wow! What a spectacular juggler!" and my second reaction was--and I'm sure, as agility addicts, yours would be the same--"Where can I get an outfit like that to do agility in"? You can watch the first half minute of this video to see the suit, and if you're inclined, watch the rest for the first half of his act.

Key Chain

Agility friend #2 commented this weekend, wow! That's quite a key chain! I realized then that my keychain has gone beyond being a mere utilitarian ring--after all, I have only 3 keys--and has become sort of the Swiss Army/Smithsonian/Andy Warhol of keychains.

Besides the keys (my house key is tie-dyed blue/purple, although it's worn away mostly), I have a sturdy blue metal Maglite flashlight, handy for finding stray doggie deposits after dark, a green LED extremely bright spotlight, handy for blinding yourself if you're holding the wrong end, my Weight Watchers Lifetime Member keychain, a circlet that used to have an "E" attached", the lock/beeper for my car, an I Heart My Dog tag in case anyone doubted it and needed proof, and a dragon caribiner, reflecting my dragon collection, of which I have many more than I have dogs, by a factor of probably 200.

So now you know.

DNA Chain

Quick: Which is Boost? Which is her mom, Tala? Is there a slight resemblance?

And here's a token Tika photo with her favorite Tika Toy, so she won't feel left out:

Food Chain

I keep trying to get photos of the foxes that live in the field behind me. They come up close to the fence to taunt me into frenziedly finding my telephoto lens, only to fade into the distance. They are so CUTE when they leap into the air and plunge nose-first into a gopher hole. Here is the best I've done so far:

Think it's a little blurry? That's because it's enlarged from this original, which is the nearest I've gotten with my 300mm lens for crying out loud!

Hair Chain[ge]

Well, had to make this fit into the "chain" theme SOMEhow. The instructions warn that, if you let the chia grow for too long, they become embedded and you'll have to remove their roots with a WIRE BRUSH. Heaven forfend. So it is time for Mr. Chia Head to say a fond farewell to his copious tresses. Today, we have reduced him to a mohawk. It's pretty pathetic; he needs a better stylist.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Waiting For The Call

SUMMARY: While Tika's at the vet, we have to do something to keep our mind off it.

I get scared about my dogs going under anesthesia. Especially when we don't know 100% what the problem is. I've talked myself into being reasonably calm while a teeeeny wee voice in the back of my head is screeching "panic! panic!" It didn't help that Boost was up about every hour from 9:30 until 3:30 with diarrhea. Seems OK this morning; no obvious cause.

Funny, got email this morning from a friend whose agility dog was under anesthesia YESTERDAY to have the same tooth removed for the same reason (but no swelling in their case). The tooth is a "carnasial tooth"--the largest upper premolar closest to the molars. I've heard twice today that that's the most commonly broken tooth in dogs and that it is commonly removed due to such damage.

(Image from this site.)

Still, as I emailed another friend this morning: After Remington, every little thing now makes me think "cancer!" and then I find myself thinking, "why doesn't everyone just get cancer and die and then I don't have to worry about it any more!" and then I could just kick myself and this morning I was hugging Tika and bawling about I didn't mean it don't leave me, that sort of pathetic thing. She thought I was a little over the top and didn't want to have anything to do with it.

I'm fine now.


Just waiting for the vet to call.

So Boost and I went for a long, not-too-leisurely stroll along the Guadalupe River. She whuffed briefly at another dog, but by George, I was able to stop and actually chat with another dog owner--something that I cannot do with Tika along and it's so discouraging.
My vet's pyracantha shrub. Those little tulip ears--surely it's a border collie?!
Big white bird thing (my mother would be ashamed of me) standing in the Guadalupe. Even swollen with the recent rains, it's not much of a river any more. But it is dammed in a couple of places. The one we walked past shortly thereafter (maybe 20 feet high?) has a salmon ladder.
Workers need to keep the blackberries cut back to allow flow and prevent flooding. It's a nice urban stroll along here.
So pretty, so calming. Such a nice morning (but cold--my earlobes were developing icicles as I jogged). Maybe we'll actually have class tonight.
--Or maybe not. (Back to the real world, waiting for the light rail to cross.)

And of course, where would we be without Mr. Chia Head, who has had a hair-raising experience!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Today in California

SUMMARY: Tidbits and updates of a random nature.

By late yesterday afternoon, the clouds had largely cleared away in my area, treating me to a hopeful sunset marked only by one stubborn phalanx of clouds hovering in the west.

To the east, I finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Hamilton, which has been rumored to be ensnowed for the last couple of weeks, as the sky faded through pale pink, to purple, to night.

But it was short-lived; although not rainy today in my part of the bay area, I haven't seen a molecule of sunlight all day. And it has dropped once again to temperatures reminding us that it's a straight shot down the pacific coast from Alaska to California; was still hovering around 39 when I popped Tika into the car this morning and not much warmer now. It smells like impending snow to me, but that just might be my nostrils freezing.

Even the joggers--usually clad in running shorts in the least clement weather--were out in gloves and hats today. I wasn't even sure that Californians even OWNED gloves and hats. I know for sure that no one outside of the rural counties possesses anything like galoshes or rubbers (for shoes, come on now).

In any case, what I'm trying to say is that I'm NOT going to sleep in the back of my van this weekend in this weather, even with two layers of down and a couple of 45-pound furred heat engines. Guess I need to call the hotel(s). There goes another $100.

On my drive, I passed a truck for the Pet Butler--"picking up where your dog left off"--I'd say "only in California" but apparently not.

Filled up the tank in my Toyota Sienna today at $3.09/gallon--not bad; the cheapest it's been since mid-October, when it surged suddenly from the $2.90 range well up into the $3-plus stratosphere. Good thing I get 23 mpg. Wish I got better. Good thing I telecommute. (Definition: "Blog all day and then work at night, cursing about not having worked during the day.")

Last month's PG&E bill was miserable, too--$350! And I use compact fluorescents; the furnace is on a set-back thermostat and isn't even on most of the day or night and is set for 66 from 6:30-10 in the morning and 6:30-10 at night. So I bumped it down to 65 and changed the 10:00s to 9:45s. AND I turned off my hot tub. We're talking real hardship, here; I mean, this IS California.

But then I also bought this little beauty that I've had my eye on for a while--only $18 plus postage on ebay, new. Have already started plugging things into it to see how many kwh they suck out of the grid. I'm hoping that I'll learn something new by doing this and can save myself even more.

Or else maybe it'll get warm again.

Meanwhile, of course, we'll have to satisfy our longing for summer with:

Mr. Chia Head!

His hair is light-starved, so I set him with his back to the window this morning, ergo on Day 7 he now sports that back-swept Isadora Duncan look, except without the bulging eyes and protruding tongue--oh, well, without the tongue, anyway.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Noah Would Feel Right At Home in Local Microclimates

SUMMARY: Rain, rain, go away, little doggies want to play.[1]

I'm not the only one underwhelmed by the pleasures of constant, dreary, steady rain. Yesterday's headline in the San Jose Mercury News was "When Will It Ever End?" (Subtitled "TOO WET TO GO OUT, TOO COLD TO PLAY BALL: RAIN THROUGH MONDAY, AND THAT'S NOT ALL", showing how much this country consists of Seussophiles[2].)


Sure, it stopped long enough for us to be lucky in our travel and agility yesterday, but within 20 minutes after we'd started driving home, we were encountering drizzle, and by the time we were home, I was dropping my traveling companion off in that same boring steady annoyingly wet but unexceptional in volume dang rain. Today's weather forecast in the Merc (click image for larger version):

Rain rain rain RAIN!

Keep in mind that San Jose averages only about 15 inches of rain a year, and we've gotten about 5 of that in the last couple of weeks. I'm not saying that this is a disaster area (although, now that the ground is fully saturated--finally!--the danger of landslides and floods begins to rise precipitously, so to speak). It's really about the Climatalogical Water Torture, a psychologically deadly device designed to reduce our psyches to blubbering gelatinous blobs.


However, amidst all this, students, we can take an interesting lesson in microclimates[3] in the San Francisco Bay Area. People in most of the US don't live among such amazing variances in such close proximity. The preceding map covers an area of about 120 miles, north to south. The map shows the rainfall from 4 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Saturday for each measured location. Samples:
  • South San Jose (near where I live): 0.39 inches.
  • Downtown San Jose (10 miles north in the same valley): 0.50 inches
  • Los Gatos (forming a 10-mile triangle with two preceding): 0.89
  • Boulder Creek (about 10 miles from Los Gatos, in the Santa Cruz mountains): 3.04
  • Gilroy (about 20 miles south of South San Jose in the same valley): 0.0
It has been snowing in the mountains all around us most of the time (drive time to top--maybe an hour because of curvy roads), but we're just getting rain.

So, we can be gloomy, we can be scholarly, or--

Best Choice

We can check on Mr. Chia Head!

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Successes and Challenges

SUMMARY: Post-game analysis from this weekend.


  • Jumps taken: 52. Bars down: 0. Note: Big success!
  • Aframes taken: 3. Performance: didn't wait on any, nearly flew off one. Note: Need to fix somehow.
  • Dogwalks taken: 2. Performance: One slow, got a foot in but didn't stop; one fast & running but apparently didn't get a foot in (not flyoff though). Note: Fast is very good. Need consistency.
  • Weaves taken: 1. Performance: Reliable as always but seemed slow. Note: No action at this time.
  • Tables done: 1. Performance: Very slow. Note: Monitor in future.
  • Gambles attempted: 1. Performance: Like a champ on a challenging gamble.Note: Success; she worked to help me out on this one.


  • Jumps taken: 53. Bars down: 4. Refusals: 3? Note: Back to bar-knocking drills. Keep jumping her at 24"+ in class. Find ways to work on challenging jumps.
  • Aframes taken: 3. Performance: Nice, but left early once. Note: Corrected early one (down stay); Success on fast front cross after aframe and she stuck it.
  • Dogwalks taken: 2. Performance: Fast and solid Note: Success!
  • Weaves taken: 1. Performance: Just lovely Note: Success!
  • Tables done: 1. Performance: Fast and STAYED DOWN! Note: Success, although I stayed close and never took my eyes off her. Continue to monitor and try to proof in exciting situations.
  • Serpentines attempted: 2?. Performance: Good. Note: Big success!
  • Gambles attempted: 1. Performance: Did serp beautifully; came out of tunnel at me with no hint of "out".Note: Success on serps; really need to work on redirects out of a tunnel.


  • Runs: 10. Performance: Misjudged same pull-through wrap for both dogs. Note: Practice wrap/pull-throughs.
  • Attitude: Upbeat. Performance: Didn't stress out about ANY run, not even Snooker or the gamble that many people were missing even though it was a title I wanted. Note: Success! How did I achieve that inner calmness? Continue to monitor.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Another Rainy Day

SUMMARY: Mr. C Head sprouts! On gray and windy Day 3, as promised!

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Odd Dog-Related Things

SUMMARY: Rainbows and Chia Heads

The last several days have been just plain straight water-come-down-from-sky. Unusual for San Jose, where we often get the Camelot effect ("the rain may never all till after sundown; by 8 the morning fog must disappear"), or a big downpour and then clearing. It hasn't been downpouring; it's mostly been more than drizzling; a good pace for absorbing water into the ground, which is a Good Thing, but bad for doggie brains.

I now know why they called them bored-er collies. Someone has been getting into EVERYTHING and being quite a nuisance. But the yard is just too wet and muddy (and cold!, also unusual for rainy times) to go out into, and who wants to walk in this weather?

Instead--I'm growing a chia head! Yes, have always wanted to try one but never wanted to shell out the money for it. I stole this at our agility club's annual gift exchange; apparently everyone thought I was being nice to the guy I stole it from because who would REALLY want a chia head? Who knew that doing dog agility would lead directly into this fulfilling personal experience?

Three days to germination, it said; here we are at day 2. I can hardly wait!

So, meanwhile, what are we to do while waiting? Today I had a doctor's appointment, so I loaded the furballs into the van and, after the appointment, we went for a walk (yes, in the drizzly rainy stuff) all around the Kaiser campus. And just as we were returning to the parking lot, I looked up and saw this stunning reminder that life will not always be gray and dreary:

It was one of the most brilliant rainbows I've seen. I raced to the car, shoved in the sopping beasties, grabbed my cheapie camera (always carry one, always!), and raced backed to a good vantage point. Then I realized, hey, it's a DOUBLE!

Somehow managed to not take quite the right angles to be able to merge two snapshots into a smooth arc, but the whole thing looked something like this. It was already fading from my first glimpse of it, but note that the colors are reversed on the outer arc. (Click on the panorama to see a larger version.)

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