Friday, March 19, 2010

Some Things You Just Don't Take Photos Of

SUMMARY: Not the best health week ever.
One tries to do what one can to live a healthier life, given that one has exceeded half a century on this earth (could it be?! doesn't seem possible in those terms).

Plan A: Vacation

So, for example, one might go down to Carmel for a couple of days of wonderful long multi-mile walks in the perfect weather. Despite a sore throat waking one up during the night a couple of nights in a row, because surely that's just the change in the weather, maybe allergies.

Plan A1: Beach

Then after one day there, the next morning finding that one's body has no interest in getting out of bed, not very hungry for breakfast. One almost bags it and goes home right away, but no, it's beautiful down there and dammit one is going to follow one's plan and dammit go to the beach again and go hiking again.

So one goes to the beach and discovers that one doesn't have the energy or enthusiasm to go to the other end of the beach after all.

Plan A2: Hiking

So again one almost bags it and goes home, but figures, what the heck, now that one and one's beasts are in MUTT MVR, one might as well at least drop by the hiking park again for a tiny stroll in the sunshine.

So one does that. One finds that sitting down on every available bench has tremendous appeal. One's dogs are a little impatient. One ends up covering maybe a mile and a half, on the level, slowly, before discovering that one is suddenly very grateful for there being a restroom not too far from the chosen path. Perhaps something one ate the night before?

Plan B: Sleep sleep sleep

So one DOES bag it and head for home, an hour's drive, and despite a long night's sleep, one is dyin' for bed, crashes at home and sleeps for 2-3 hours before dragging one's self out of bed to try to do something useful with one's evening. Brain dead tired.

Plan C?: Common Cold

One wakes up still exhausted the next day and the nose has gone into full-time exercise (yes, running), and one is now pretty sure it's a cold, not just allergies. One sleeps a lot despite it being a work day. (So much for that Personal Time Off that one has finally accrued by doing less agility and more work--wasting it on sick days! When one works at home! That's pathetic.)

Making an effort on Wednesday

The next day, one crawls out of bed, still tired, still with a marathon nose, but puts in a full-time day to try to get the clients' deadlines met. Something, er, intestinal is telling one that perhaps one did have something that disagreed with one back in Carmel. Not too bad, just enough to notice.

Plan T: Thursday already, so on with the Chard

And that fatigue, the cold, the iffy digestive system keep one mostly in bed the next day, too, but by the middle of the afternoon, one showers (steam feels good!), washes hands thoroughly, bops into the grocery store for milk and bread and fresh garlic so one can finally cook that Swiss Chard.

Because, yes, in an effort to be healthy, one signed up for a local "CSE" (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery of fresh fruit & vegetables every 2 weeks, and the first box arrived last Friday. Fruits have been good but time to cook that Chard! If one has never cooked Chard before, or even eaten it as far as one knows, and one's renter has never eaten Chard before, one follows the farm's recipe for cooking it. Pretty easy and very tasty! And it's supposed to be very healthy. Even the renter, who's not much into "oddball" vegetables, seems to like it, and one discusses with one's renter how to use the next batch in salads or soups.

Plan ugh: Not what one had expected

Except halfway through, one's intestinal portions give a mighty alarm and now it's really serious. One hasn't been eating much all day, but still, not a happy system. But back to the Chard, finish it (very tasty, a little garlic & a little cayenne & a little olive oil).

And then--one spends the rest of the evening essentially in close personal communication with the white porcelain fixture in the Reading Room. One can't even sit at the computer long enough to read a paragraph. One finally discovers that lying down eases nature's call somewhat, at least longer between porcelain visits, so one gives up and crawls into bed.

Then one and one's renter, also, it turns out, spend the evening and most of the night in turns hurrying to each own's Reading Room, over and over, and then one hears the flushing of the facility, and on and on and on. One catches half an hour of sleep here or there but not much.

Look, now it's Friday

So then it's Friday. One is thirsty. One drinks a bit of water but it is still rejected. Later a little toast; maybe a little better received. Banana eaten slowly over a period of an hour mostly seems to be accepted. Around noon, one makes a bowl of jello that one and one's renter consume cautiously but mostly seems to be a safe thing to eat.

One crawls back into bed after that and sleeps for maybe 4 hours or so, so hooray, one's system seems to be cautiously optimistic about functioning a bit more normally.

So, more toast, more jello, a bit more water, then one has the energy to play fetch with the dogs for a bit out in the yard for the first time in several days.

By 8 p.m., one has successfully consumed two diet soft drinks and several handfuls of pretzels as well, plus a slice of very lightly buttered toast. Who knew how good such simple foods can taste when one is very hungry and very thirsty!

Who knew?

So: Apparently Swiss Chard has all kinds of useful nutrients. Which, when eaten in large quantities in particular to ones who aren't accustomed to it, can cause awful intestinal & stomach upset. (Many web sites, incidentally, point out not to give it to your rabbits, goats, or dogs, as it can cause severe diarrhea. Most human web sites point out how many healthy nutrients it has; only a few point out that it can cause issues. So one thinks that perhaps it's inherent in the Chard itself, not some infection--and one has taken it off the list of things to be delivered to one's house in the future.

Ah, isn't it lovely to live such a healthier life?!

Gratuitous nature photos to expunge mental images of intestinal distress

So, let one leave one with a few wildflowers from Monday, now that one has the energy to sit at the computer for an hour.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Who Eats Better?

SUMMARY: In which we analyze our Christmas goodies.

So, really, who eats better, dogs or us?
These are the doggie treats Tika couldn't keep her saliva off yesterday:

"You will be begging your dog for a taste!" No fooling! *I* start salivating every time I see them sitting on the table. And get this:

There's no liver or pork belly byproducts or anything else dog-like in here. So the big questions are:
  • Why was Tika so convinced those were dog treats?
  • Can I eat one? I mean, they were a gift TO Tika and Boost from my cousin's dogs, not to me. Would that be thievery? Do I have to ask permission? I know Tika would want them all for herself given a real option.

Now, students, compare and contrast to the peopleie treats that Human Mom received:

Extra credit: WHAT peopleie treats did Human Mom receive?

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Candyland Agility

SUMMARY: Best gingerbread house of the year.
For those of you who haven't finished assembling your gingerbread or candy house yet this year--and who among us has?--here's fellow Bay Teamer Tania's (and spouse's) offering as an inspiration to you. As San Jose Sharks fans, they provided a rink on which the Sharks can practice (because they need all the practice they can get), but even better a whole agility yard! With sugar-coated Aframe, candy-cane weave poles, and a red licorice jump bar balanced on life-saver uprights. I'll bet Santa will have trouble getting his reindeer back to work after they have a chance to play here! (Remember you can always click photos here for larger versions.)

(Thanks, Tania, for letting me use your photo. This is SO cool. Brings back memories of the creative candy houses my dad made for us every year.)

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Big Eating Equals Big Shopping

SUMMARY: Why maybe it's not such a good idea to go shopping at 5 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving.
I tell the Merle Girls that I am merely going to the grocery store and that it will be a boring, boring trip, but they tell me that I am a boring, boring Human Mom and I had best take them for a Ride or pay the consequences. So we drive together to the grocery store down the street. The dogs offer to guard the car for me while I shop, so that's how we arrange things.

I am a good ecocitizen and am remembering to take my reusable bags into the store with me. For once.

Here is the huge area in which normally an eager shopper can find a squillion shopping carts, all the way from here all the way down to the other door down there. But today?

We must start our hunting and gathering by hunting and gathering our own shopping cart from the completely full parking facility. There's one, trying to hide behind that tree! (Shopping carts aren't very smart.)

I am another good ecocitizen because I have returned my plastic bags to be recycled. So did a bunch of other good ecocitizens.

The San Jose shoppers mindful of the American obesity epidemic, have completely cleaned out the kiosk on which boxes of freshly baked cookies are usually stacked several deep. That is perhaps so that they are saving themselves from stuffing themselves on unhealthy items like pumpkin pie and apple pie, which actually contain some actual vegetables and fruits. Better to just have cookies.

However, the Christmas cookie stock is replete if you'd like to skip ahead one holiday.

Of course you're familiar with the Eggo Waffle shortage crisis? Have you started hoarding yours yet?

I was expecting to get some nice photos of completely empty shelves as the hungry underfed American shopping mob descended like locusts upon the store. But no, the clever grocers seemed to have everything well in hand. All the veggie bins were filled to overflowing. (Hmm, cookies gone, veggies in plenty. Obesity epidemic. Coincidence?)  Oddly enough--except the brussels sprouts. I hadn't heard that brussels sprouts were a hot thing for Thanksgiving. Go figure.

Even the turkeys and hams and roasts facility contained plenty of aforementioned meat items so that no starving San Jose American would have to go hungry even if shopping at the last minute.

The big ugly part of shopping for groceries at this particular time and day is: The checkout lines. Every lane was open. Every line extended past the front walking area and up into the grocery aisles.  Crowds to the left of me--

shoppers to the right; here I am, stuck in the middle with food. (Um, I think that's how the lyrics go--)

The Merle Girls were pleased when I returned with several reusable ecofriendly bags filled with nourishing vegetables and other mostly edible matter for them to sniff thoroughly to check for possible explosives, illegal substances, or weapons of mass destruction.

Tomorrow--Salad or the Bush!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Competitive Dog Sports -- Another Pass-Around Thang

SUMMARY: About me & my dog sports.
Found on Facebook. I'm posting here because I've answered many of these questions before and I'm just going to link to 'em. If you want to do this note on facebook and tag your dog-sport pals, copy & paste these instructions as well as the rest of the content:
Copy and paste the content below, then erase the other person's answers and put in your own. Tag as many Dog Nuts as you can think of, including the person who sent it to you as "first tag." Don't be shy to make your answers long, if need be.

NOTE: This will be a very long read if you also read the links in which I answer some questions at length. Don't you have something better to do with your time?

List the dog sports in which you compete. If you have a particular favorite please tell us, and tell us why!

Is there anyone you'd like to thank or BLAME for getting you into competitive dog activities?
My obedience instructor started taking agility classes and recommended it to me. For my active, eager dog. Who is also clearly to blame.

Please tell the story of how you got started in dog sports. Where/when (year please, don't be shy!)/why/etc.
Remember, you asked. (First competition: January 1996.)

What is your FAVORITE thing about dog sports, and what is your LEAST FAVORITE?
One answer, from June 2009, on "why agility?"
What I hate about agility? Disappointing myself, sometimes; the expense; the amount of time it takes away from everything else in my life.

What breeds or mixes thereof do you/have you owned? Please list their name, their breed (or mix thereof) and then their BEST quality as a sport dog and their WORST quality as a sport dog.
Whoa, can you believe I've never done a post on this? (At least not that I'm finding.) This would make a good future blog post. Summary:
  • Remington, Squirrelhund (Lab/Shepherd probably). Almost never dropped a bar. Loved to learn. Could be pretty fast. Extremely sensitive to my moods and shut down a lot.
  • Jake, Semidachshund (sheltie mix probably, maybe beagle?). Took forever to learn anything new. But once he got it, very reliable.
  • Tika, Craussie (Aussie cross, maybe Husky?). Pretty darned fast, loves doing agility, easily distracted, fights the "rules" every step of the way. 
  • Boost, Border Collie. Extremely fast and driven. Loves to learn. Very focused. Wants to do agility. Light on the concepts of keeping bars up and doing weaves from beginning to end.

How many dog beds do you currently own and what did you pay for the most expensive one?
  • Double-thick bathmats once were primary dog beds. (3 or 4, bought on clearance for about $15 each in the early '90s. Tucked away now or used at trials when sleeping in the van.)
  • Official dog mats, thick pile fleece with blue border. (3, one in kitchen, one in crate in bedroom, one for trials. About $15 each at pet stores through the years.)
  • Raised PVC bed frames with rip-stop "hammock". (3, one in office, two in kitchen. Bought one at giant February AKC dog show at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds. Two bought at USDAA Nationals in Scottsdale. $55 each in 2001. )
  • Big thick dog bed cushion with zippered cover. (2, both in office, one on a PVC bed frame--which the dogs take turns using--one from Costco about $20, one won in agility trial raffle.)
  • Down-filled bed with stuff bag. (1, stored in closet, won in raffle.)
  • Giant fleece/fabric sturdy throw used as dog bed in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Smaller fleece rectangle with raised sides in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Spiffy actual nice plush dog bed, bought for Jake with a Christmas gift certificate to PetSmart (so it was either free or $79.99, depending on your viewpoint, which could make it the most expensive). (Jake died only a month later, but he loved it while he had it. Tucked in the corner of my office, Boost uses it all the time. Tika sometimes uses it.)
(Short post in which this photo originally appeared.)

What is the most you ever paid for a large bag of dog food? Probably $55. Same thing sells at a discount at nearby Pet Club for $35.

What is the most you have ever paid for a dog toy, and what was it?
No clue. Probably in the $20 range from time to time.

List the vehicles you have bought specifically for traveling to and from dog competitions.
MUTT MVR! Read my 2005 post about it in the Quintessential agility car.

What is the furthest you have ever traveled in order to attend a dog event?
Scottsdale, Arizona (USDAA Nationals 2004,05,06,07,08).
Second furthest: Either San Diego, CA (USDAA Nationals, 2000 and 2001), or Eureka, CA (2002, chasing the last gambler's let for Remington's NATCH).

How many dog-related pieces of clothing do you currently own?
As of March 2007.

How many dog toys do you own? Don't forget to include the ones in the car and in various closets and at your in-laws' house.
As of November 2008. (Remember that you can click on a photo to see a larger version of it to make out more details.)

(Read the original post that goes with the photo.)

How many dog-related books do you own?

Remember that you can always click on a photo here to see a larger version of it if you want to browse bowser titles yourself. (Read the post that goes with the photo.) Here's the list of the books as of 2006. (Read the short post that goes with the list.)

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? If so what were the circumstances?
Accidentally when Jake and Remington got into a fight between me, the couch, and the coffee table.

Has your dog ever peed/pooped/barfed someplace that they really shouldn't have? If so, tell us what happened!
Are you kidding? I own dogs! Duh!

Has your dog ever stolen a major item of human food? Tell us!
Not that I recall.

When competing in dog sports, did you ever admire someone else's dog from afar so much that you will always remember that dog? If so, please tell us all about it.
So many dogs! Several Border Collies stood out, including one who would eventually become Boost's mom. Several mixed-breed dogs! I love their distinctive looks and how well they do even against Border Collies.

Of all your friend's dogs, which dog would you like to take home and keep if you had the chance? You can list three, just to be fair...or just one if you're ruthless!
I've had such a wide variety of my own, I now know that there is no perfect dog. Any one will have its issues and its successes. I don't covet others's dogs.

What has been your most embarrassing moment thus far while competing in dog sports?
Probably a tie between:
  • Me and Jake running a beautiful first half of a Pairs Relay course, to have our partner cry, "Where's the baton?!" as I came racing in, empty handed. (That's an automatic disqualification.)
  • Running into the teeter totter. Read about it here.

What has been your most shining moment thus far while competing in dog sports?

Oh, so very many! Jake's MAD (the first I ever earned). Remington's NATCH (my first dog's championship, FINALLY). Winning Full House with zillions of points over and over in CPE trials with Tika and Boost. Boost doing the weave poles correctly! Winning a ribbon at USDAA Nationals with Tika in an individual event. Making Team finals at the USDAA Nationals with Tika. Finally getting Jake's 5th Gamblers Q for his ADCH. Finally qualifying for Grand Prix semifinals with Tika with a smooth and beautiful and aggressive run. Having a Perfect Weekend with Tika. Earning a trophy at CPE Nationals with Tika--one Q away from a perfect 3-day Nationals with 1sts or 2nds in everything (and I mean of everyone competing, not just her class). Remington getting excited about agility again and running like when he first started. Jake jumping into my arms at the end of a run. I dunno--I could go on and on. 220 trials over 14 years--lots going on in there!

What are your goals for the future with your dogs?

Not sure any more. Once upon a time it was to win More First Places and Make It To the Nationals Finals. But now, I dunno, I'm thinking "retire and do a lot of hiking."

If the Dog Fairy could grant you one wish (sky is the limit), what would it be?

I love my dog family the way it is now. Love the dogs, love how they get along together, love how they've come along in their training. Don't want to have to start over again. Keep them around and healthy and active for many many years.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Thank Goodness For--

SUMMARY: --many diverse things--

  • Nieces who go to Colorado and bring me back entertaining magnets like this one!  (Thanks, Elizabeth and Katie.)
  • Agility friends who are stealth blog readers who have bought a new camera so we have arranged for me to get her barely used Canon 40D! Tomorrow! Yay! (Thanks, Cheryl.)
  • Pet Club store near me, which doesn't take credit cards, but when I am horrified that they charge $33 a bag for my dogfood, I just have to walk into PetSmart and see the same bag for $54 to be grateful for the discount.
  • Fanatical agility friends who have brought Sylvia Trkman to Silicon Valley in December so we can do her seminars! (Thanks, Ashley.)
  • Disneyland-o-phile sisters who arrange trips to Disneyland so I can just go along for the ride! Yay! Just a month away! (Hence the push now to get the camera--) (Thanks, Linda.)
  • Dogs who let me sleep in in the morning! Even to 9:00! What good girls! (Thanks, Tika and Boost.)
  • Mild California autumn days,  not too hot, not too cold, everything still in bloom, grass growing-- (Thanks --uh-- whoever's responsible.)
  • Expert Apple friends who not only arrange for me to borrow a cable that Apple didn't think to send with their new equipment, but also drive out of their way to deliver it! (Thanks, Steph.)

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Recap and What's Next

SUMMARY: Who's anal, who ate too much of the wrong things, who needs a camera, who's doing some real hikey-climbey thing.

Who ate too much of the wrong things (at Vicon)

Spent Friday through Sunday at the 25th annual Vicon (VIsalia CONvention, although it's not a convention and this year wasn't even in Visalia, so some people are calling it Sarcon because it was in Saratoga this year). It's a giant 3-day sleepover party for a bunch of college friends who have somehow turned into programmers, tech writers, parents of teenagers, VPs of engineering, PHDs in psychology, executive administrators, retired Captains, and other sorts of things that you wouldn't expect to see at a sleepover party.

Except this year, because it was closer to home, most of the weenies showed up only for Saturday afternoon and evening. Only half a dozen of us slept over, even though it was only 20 minutes from our assorted houses. It's the spirit of the thing, really. Felt kinda lonely Saturday and Sunday morning from the usual 20 people for breakfast. But it was still fun and something like 34 people (including half a dozen small children) made an appearance at least briefly sometime during the weekend, so it was pretty successful anyway. I woke up to a stunning swath of bougainvillea both mornings. What could be better? (I slept on a lawn chair; one guy slept in a tent.)

No dogs at all--TMH Merle Girls stayed home with Renter--but coming out of the kitchen on Saturday, trying to negotiate the small children's toyfield, I almost tripped over this:

The hard part was eating healthy. We had robust healthy breakfasts.

Vegetarian lunches.

Hamburgers and thickly mayoed potato salad for dinners. Plus handy snacks.

And dessert. The cakes arrived with no phrasing, so I was volunteered to add appropriate messages.


After a weekend spent mostly trying to take photos in difficult lighting situations of mostly moving objects with a basic point-and-shoot that doesn't like difficult lighting or moving objects, I really really miss having a real camera. Took my borrowed one for a few photos, but battery is getting low. The difference in photos was obvious in most cases. Sighhhh. So what to do about... [ominous fwahhhh]...the Glacier Point hike?


It's T minus 5 days. Less. In 5 days at this time I should be on the trail going up. To some AWE. SOME. VIEWS. Need camera. Will figure out something.

This weekend, to prepare for the hike, in addition to my healthy diet regimen, I walked for 2.5 miles around the neighborhood--no hills, but inclined streets--on Saturday, another 1.5 on Sunday, and hauled tons and tons of heavy gear from my house to my car (kinda like dog agility, only not as furry) and in to the party site and helped set up and rearrange and so on all weekend, for a total of about 6 miles worth of steps saturday and not sure how much Sunday, since my pedometer somehow reset itself.

The neighborhood is fancier than my neighborhood. Neo-plantation homes, fancy shrubberies, huge lawns, like that.

This 3-bedroom, 2-bath house is for sale. How much do you think they want?Did you guess $1.7 million? (Details here.) THIS is a depressed housing market? Sure, because it says that average listing price is $2.2M! Life's rough.

Here is some cool information about the trail to Glacier Point, with some photos and a link (at beginning of article) to a topo map of the trail and more photos; thanks, Dad, for the link.

That anal thing

Got home yesterday evening. Middle of the night, Tika starts licking her under-tail vicinities vehemently. Crap--could it be anal gland again? Have been trying to keep an eye on it. Will have to wait till after sleep and breakfast. By then, however, Tika had popped it open by dragging the afflicted vicinity across the hard soil. Very muddy. Bloody. Gross, actually. So I cleaned it up, applied warm compresses, applied ointment. Will repeat 2-3 times daily for a week. Plus MORE PRUNES!

OK, fans, that's all the excitement I can handle for today. And I am just not in the mood for rotating those photos because Blogger's upload is not behaving itself and I just don't have the time or patience. Turn your head sideways. I'm sure they'll work just fine that way.

I have many many photos to post for the weekend; will do later. Maybe much later.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Heart My Dog Heads and Fruit

SUMMARY: All the misappropriated lyrics you could want at K-TMH, plus fruit news.

Remember when you used to see "I heart my dog head" on everything? Yeah, like this notepad, which I got because at the time I had a Siberian Husky a long long time ago, like, she's been dead for 12 years, which shows you how long a fad pad can last: Even today, when I'm expressing affection for my dogs, I say "I heart my dog heads!" It's such a catchy phrase.

And with that comes today's song, developed after many long seconds out in the yard playing tunnel/fetch, sung to the tune of "Fish Heads":
Dog heads, dog heads, Fluffy woofy dog heads,
Dog heads, dog heads, I heart them!

In the morning, happy waggy dog heads.
In the evening, dog hair in my soup!

Dog heads, dog heads [etc.]

Ask your dog head anything you want to
When they answer, they will bark!

Dog heads, dog heads [etc.]

Sent my dog heads out to do a tunnel
Didn't have to yell to get them in!

Dog heads, dog heads [etc.]

OK, but enough of operatic tension; it's time for a non sequitur, so let's talk about fruit. Jake was the consummate fruit dog, if I may make a tiny pun; would do anything to get a banana; ate figs until he'd put on about 15-20% of additional weight within a few short weeks; pigged out on apples faster than I could pick up the fallen ones daily; even ate oranges from time to time. He particularly used to eat plums until he had pretty much a steady stream going in one end and out the other, if you know what I mean. Wish Tika would eat more plums, because her anal glands have gone bad a couple of times (May 2007, July 2008), and one simple advice was to feed her 3 prunes a couple of times a week or daily or whenever I remember. Have been doing that--she likes prunes--and so far, so good.

Neither of my current dogs seem interested in oranges, apples, or plums, but they are apparently into pears. I have been finding pear stems lying in the oddest places in the house; apparently, they are not an edible part. Here's the culprit, nibbling off the last minuscule portions of actual fruit:
Tika apparently likes them enough to not merely wait for some to fall to the ground (or disdains those because they're now soiled--after all, who knows what those other dogs have been doing on the ground around that tree), but leaps at the tree to pull fresh ones off. Sadly I have not been able to get to a camera fast enough to record this.
This year, the usually profuse plums were small and nonprofuse; usually we make at least a couple of batches of plum sorbet, but not this year. We rescued barely enough to eat a few a day for a couple of weeks, and that's it. Hardly any went into the compost pile.

The blackberries were disappointing, too. Again, normally I haul in a quart or two a day during the time that they're ripe, but this year the beast depredation was awful, the berries were small and sparse, and a lot of them ripened oddly--half ripe and the other half not ripe, staying red and hard and tart. Very disappointing; I think I had enough for about 4 bowls of morning cereal, and that was it. No blackberry ice cream or sorbet this year, either. Sighhhh

However, the lemon tree, which last year had few, teeny, dry lemons, this year is back to its profusity, as are the orange trees. But check out this orange: Looks like someone neatly sliced a quarter out of it and grafted in part of a lemon, which grew right into place. I wonder if it's possible for a quarter of an orange blossom to be pollinated with lemon-tree pollen and produce this oddity? (I didn't cut it open to see what it was like inside.)

Meanwhile, I've been practicing the "find the obstacle" game. Play tug, take toy away, point body in general direction of the agility obstacle I want them to take, say name of obstacle, praise if they take the correct one. It seems to be very true that, for my dogs, "any noun will do" for whatever the nearest obstacle is. I need to do much much more of training by obstacle name.

And for now, farewell.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Groaning In So Many Ways

SUMMARY: Waking up to dogs, groceries, and death, and groaning in a major way at the very end.

I love waking up in the morning with my dogs. It's one of the few times of the day when they'll snuggle, and they're [mostly] so gentle at that time. Boost might stretch out while I'm stroking her face or her tummy, eyes closing blissfully. Tika for some reason will curl up right against my body until I'm fully awake, then move to where I can barely reach her with my fingertips and glare at me reproachfully if I don't pet her. She particularly likes having her face rubbed--I put my palm over her eyes, one thumb near one ear, middle finger near the other, and push and rub, and she presses her head into my hand and moves it around to get everything rubbed--or she wants her ears massaged, and leans into it, groaning. Ahhhh! That's the life.

Today was Michael Jackson's memorial service. Apparently millions of people, literally, tried to get tickets to be in the actual stadium for the 2-hour performance/service, and the whole thing was broadcast live over TV and radio. I groaned. Sad celebrity death, very talented but very odd man. Only 50. There have been four major untimely deaths in my lifetime that I remember clearly as being media circuses during and after, with worldwide outpouring of grief and dismay and coverage that went on for weeks afterward: John F. Kennedy (at 46), Elvis Presley (only 42), Princess Di (a mere 36), and now Michael Jackson, the old man in the crowd at 50, which, darn it, is younger than I am, and I still think of myself as young. Well--young enough.

I decided to hit the grocery stores, since there seemed to be a huge number of people (judging by their FaceBook entries) glued to the TV for the service. I tried to be efficient in 2 ways:

(1) First, I tried to pay to get my groceries delivered so I wouldn't have to drive 5 minutes to the store, go up and down the aisles, stand in line, and drive back. Would've probably taken 45 minutes for this trip. My past experience has been that it takes as long or longer to order online as to just find the stuff in the store, but every year or 2 I decide to try it again.

First, the interface wouldn't work with my browser. Took a while to figure that out, let's say 10 minutes. Switched to another browser.

Search for dairy. There, search for nonfat milk. There, scroll through the choices, of which there are a couple dozen, to find mine. Faster than going directly to the shelf where I always get my milk and popping it into the cart? Maybe not. AND I can't check the "use by date" but have to rely on their shopper to get me the freshest bottle. Search for "whole wheat sourdough bread". Only one choice comes up, no photo. Not sure it's the one I usually get. Waffle about whether to select it, but OK. Want some small bananas. Have to choose between regular and organic. have to type a note in a separate window saying "please choose really really small ones" except I apparently have only about 20 characters for "custom order info," so have to experiment with phrasing.

Am I saving time? OK, half an hour into this event, I've got 7 things in my shopping cart and I'm not done yet. Groaannnnn! Abandon ship!

(2) Drive to the store--Lucky's is next to my bank, so that's where I end up. Fill my cart halfway within about 10 minutes. There's only one checkout line open with 3 people standing in it, so I go to the self-checkout lanes, all of which are open. Figure it'll be faster, right?

To ensure that you aren't cheating, you swipe the item and then MUST put it onto the bagging area shelf, where it weighs it to be sure you're not sneaking in some unpaid extras. So what happens when I put my own shopping bag onto the shelf? Error! Clerk has to come clear it. I foolishly don't put all 4 bags onto the shelf to sit there and wait, so the clerk has to clear it again and then again when I add more of my own bags. Doh!

Next, you have to put each item onto the shelf before swiping the next one. So, sure, you can pick up 4 small items, but you must swipe, set it down, wait for acknowledgment, swipe, set it down, wait, etc. Not efficient. And you can't just put the big items like boxes of soda back into your cart; it won't progress until they're on the shelf with everything else.

Thirdly, for produce, you have to find the info in the database. Bananas are easy, they come up as "common items" on the first screen. But the cantaloupe? The clerk has to come tell me that it's under "melon", not under "cantaloupe." I have to search for Kiwi, then type in how many I've got. And so on.

Then I have to rearrange everything in the bags because I couldn't bag them in the most effective combinations while scanning them. Then into the cart. Not efficient. I groaned when the clerk had to come over to do special processing when I wanted to write a check; OK, I said to her, I guess this wasn't the wisest thing to do with this many items.

By the time I'm done with my 30 items or so, the one open checkout lane has processed probably 4 or 5 people. OK, I love the self-checkout for half a dozen or fewer items, but from now on, with more than that, it's the regular check-out lane.

Usually I take the merle girls with me when I go to the bank or shopping, and then we walk for 10 or 15 minutes in that area for something new to scratch and sniff. Today I didn't because it was a tad warm and I wasn't sure there'd be shade. There wasn't, and it took me long enough that I'm glad they stayed home. Dogs were happy to see me; annoyed that I then sat down at my computer again.

And now, I just wanted to share with you what some dogs have to put up with to get their four square meals a day, because it made my morning when I read it in the paper: Don't say I didn't warn you about the groaning.(Source: July 7 2009 strip at

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Dog-Food Eating Zombies!

SUMMARY: In the dark, they come and steal our food.

We know that we have night-walking, flesh-eating zombies in our yard in the dark of night from time to time, because I often find plums from my tree that's on the west side of my house in the pond over on the east side of my house with some of their flesh eaten away.

We keep our dogfood in a giant garbage-can-like bin on the back porch next to the kitchen door because there's no room in the kitchen and, even though it's a nice bright kitcheny white color, really garbage can decor is out. Haven't had any troubles with that, except for one year when the really desperate rats chewed through the lid. (Had to have been desperate; who would eat dogfood when there were plums available? And oranges? And apples? And lobelia flowers? OK, I don't know who's eating all my lobelia flowers.)

Thanks to the miracle of white plastic tape--all the versatility of duct tape, except bright kitcheny white--I repaired the lid, so then they chewed under it, so then I had to repair that and also scare them away by putting rat traps in and on the bin for several nights running. Didn't catch anything, just scared them off. Clever rats.

But, to no one's surprise, I digress.

Yesterday morning, I came downstairs to discover the dogfood bin tipped over on its side with food cascaded out across the deck. I don't know whether Tika was more excited about smelling the zombies who were responsible, or about scarfing down the food. Wait--I do know. It was the food. But then, after we had collectively cleaned up the food, tremendous quantities of zombie-odor sniffing occurred.

Last night, after agility class and before bed, I latched down the lid on the bin. It latches pretty good; it is such a secure latching that I have to call a knowledgeable expert, like maybe a desperate 5-year-old, to unlatch it; I personally have to struggle with it for most of the morning to get it open after latching it.

Plus it is a heavy bin with all that dogfood (40 pound bags of food, you know; it takes almost 2 bags. Although admittedly it is now down to maybe 20 pounds) so I know that, with the lid latched, it is one secure mother-feeder.

So, at around 1:00 this morning, Tika informed me in no uncertain terms that zombies were afoot and she needed to go do something about them. Human Mom, however, was very tired and didn't want to get out of the toasty bed and argued with Tika about it for about 5 minutes and finally had to shut all the upstairs windows before Tika gave up and settled back to bed with an indignant Huff.

This morning, the bin was on the opposite side of the deck, beyond the cute little wrought iron table and chair, tipped over, lid off, with food cascading across the deck and over the side into the garden. Tika spent a good 10 minutes checking for food and zombie clues.

Maybe tonight, if Tika tells me about zombies, we'll come downstairs and give them some really good Woofs to scare them off. Might not let Tika loose in the yard; Remington tangled with a zombie one night and we both regretted it for weeks caring for his wounds. We just want to scare them a bit. Of course, these could just be giant mutant angry rats about TMH having wiped out their cousins in the attic. I wonder whether rat traps would scare them off? Or the zombies, either?

Of course, if I were a *useful* blogger who didn't want to take up all of your time, and mine, too, snapping photos and digressing along, I COULD have had a post that read simply, "Coons getting into dogfood on deck. Must do something." Better luck next time.

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Monday, March 30, 2009


SUMMARY: Taxes, earthquake, agility dangers, necks, bugs, computers...

  • There was a 4.3 earthquake not far from here this morning. Wasn't home so don't know whether dogs noticed. But my guess is not. One quick shake and then a little rolling; nothing too disturbing.
  • I finally spent the time to get my papers together for the tax guy. I noticed once again that no agility-related or dog-related expenses seem to be tax deductible. Maybe if I were an agility instructor? Or an agility lecturer?
  • An agility friend and her dog collided this weekend at an agility trial, she fell and hit her head and was knocked unconscious. Scary. Spent the night in the hospital; she doesn't remember a thing about the incident.
  • What are those horrid sort of round bugs that are smaller than the head of a pin that have been infesting my kitchen cupboards now for probably a year? I think they came in in a batch of dog biscuits that weren't sealed up. Maybe 6 months ago, I emptied all the cupboards, threw out several things that had been infested, and put everything else in ziplock bags. But they've beeen increasing with a vengeance. Yesterday I went through the process again. Found 6 things in plastic bags that were infested; two I couldn't tell whether there was an opening in the bags--maybe they were infested when I put them in the bags. The others--they had eaten right through the bags! Another scary thing. Had to toss two supposedly sealed new dog treat things again that they somehow got through the bags.
  • Yet another agility friend apparently has a little cattledog with the same neck issues that Tika has. Apparently vet said it's from all the shaking of toys. Boost still shakes things like a 7.6 earthquake when we're tugging, but Tika doesn't much shake things any more (just pulls). Maybe that's because of her neck? The friend says no more shaking toys for her dog. How do you stop it? Argh.
  • I still haven't blogged my info from last weekend's trial. Tika did pretty good. But I took a few photos and I've been busy and now my computer's down, so I can't do anything with them. SOMEday I'll talk about last weekend. I took good notes!

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Friday, March 06, 2009

News and Notes

SUMMARY: stuff..

Yesterday I did just a wee bit of agility with Tika in the yard. You have seldom seen her so excited to be doing agility! Wow was she fast--on the contacts, in the weaves, in her table down. Fast fast fast! Maybe it was good to take a couple of weeks off. Not that I usually practice that much, but we did usually have class every week and I'd do SOMETHING on the equipment with them almost every day. Maybe she will keep it up this weekend. Maybe I'd better put her over some jumps today (still too wet and slippery on the ground yesterday).

Boost wanted to go, too. So I set up a completely straight tunnel so she wouldn't slip (wet wet wet) and set it so that her exit put her in line for the dogwalk, which I figured wouldn't be hard on her backside. This was one happy dog! You can tell because she starts going into a superfrenzy on her toy afterwards. I dunno what I'm going to do with her all weekend! At least at this trial there's a huge fenced field where she can run loose and we can throw a toy or practice obedience or tricks or groundwork or something.

Daylight savings time starts Saturday night! Always interesting on a trial weekend to see who shows up at the wrong time on Sunday. I feed my dogs usually around 10:00 and 6:00. And they know it. They start hanging all over me and mooning around until I feed them. My dogs have NO PROBLEM adjusting to daylight savings time for their meals. But it takes them about 6 months to decide that it's ok to wait an extra hour when standard time rolls back in.

For some mental exercise, I've started teaching the dogs to bring me their bowls for meals. I worked really hard last week for several days just trying to associate the word "bowl" with the object and having them get it from a short distance with nothing else intruding. First time I put them out on the deck and said "bring me your BOWL," tika veered off to the side and brought me her BALL. Doh! OK, back to square one, associating the word DISH with the object. Silly trainer.

The price of everything dog related seems to have shot up. For several years I've paid roughly the same for my 40-lb. bags of kibble--somewhere between $25 and $30 regular price but you could often get it on sale for the low $20s. Last fall, BAM!, shot up to $40 a bag! It does last about 4 weeks, so I'm feeding my dogs on $1.50 a day, which is way less than *I* cost to feed. But still, wow, what a jump, and it feels worse because it was so sudden. Same thing with bully sticks. Could get a dozen at Costco for $12.99 for the longest time. Then, overnight last fall, BAM!, $20. I'm less eager to pay almost $2 each for a chew that lasts about 20 minutes. Although I *do* cut them in half usually; scarfing down a whole one usually gets me dog vomit sometime during the night (like, say, last night for example, when I didn't cut them in half).

That's all for now. This weekend: CPE. Next week: Boost visits the orthopedist.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Best News On Food Labeling

SUMMARY: Completely unrelated to dogs, but I think that the "Nuval" (Overall Nutritional Value Index) is the best nutritional aid to come along in a long time.

Nuval rates every food on a scale from 1 to 100 for its nutritional value. Developed at Yale, it's based on a variety of nutrients, grains, vitamins, sugar, salt, impact on blood pressure, and a bunch of other things. I first read about it in a brief article in the Sept 2008 National Geographic.

Think how handy it would be to compare an orange at 100 or a tangerines at 93 with canned sweetened mandarin oranges (haven't found a score for them yet, but I'm betting it's quite a bit lower). Or to compare your Wheatena at 91 with Wheaties at 28. Or Captain Crunch at 10. (Not that I'm admitting to eating it regularly.)

Sure, some of this you could kind of guess on your own. But this really makes it easy to compare. They're trying to get grocery stores everywhere to use it. I would love to see this implemented.

You can read scores for quite a few things already at

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Agility Dogs Run Errands

SUMMARY: Visiting the credit union and the grocery store.

Holy Dachsbracke, boys and girls, it's Jan 8 already! We have a USDAA trial in just 2 weeks! And what have we done for agility practice to shape up all those Issues from last year? Have we done our bar-knocking drills? Reinvigorated our 2o2o contacts? Tuned up our serpentines? Honed our gamblers distance work? No no no!

I have been doing this Miserable Cold thing for a week and a half now, going up and down, now on the uphill I think--I hope--cough's still hanging in there, but mostly I can work around that. So we haven't had class since Dec 18; we'll have class tonight if it doesn't rain (iffy), and class next week, and then I'm out of town the entire 7 days before the trial, so there will be NO NO NO agility practice the entire week!

The trial is only 1 day, 5 Masters classes; should be interesting to see whether we can do ANYthing.

So, today, to get in the right mind-set for agility, we went to the shopping center. First, we dropped in on the credit union to deposit some money so that our entry fee check doesn't bounce. The shopping center's decor, intriguingly, includes a vinyard that wraps around the buildings, right next to the sidewalk on a busy street.

Actual California grapes grow there. I don't know what happens to them; apparently not all of them get picked even though they're right next to a busy thoroughfare. Here is what dried grapes look like on a winter grapevine. I know you wanted to know.

If I did not have easily bored dogs who need a change of scenery, I would never get a chance to walk around shopping centers and discover fascinating things like that! But fortunately my agility dogs take their inquisitive noses and me on brisk walks around the perimeters. Some of these centers are quite large. And there is SO much to analyze, out there in the natural wonderland that is shopping center landscaping.

Native grasses.

Groundcover all a-flower (love winter in California!)

Shrubberies surrounded by "winter color"--pansies, cyclamen, little--uh--purple flowers--

Pizza boxes (love winter in California!).

Ah, yes, it's the 8th of January, and this is what's springing to life at our very own shopping center:

Then the agility dogs give me a shopping list for the grocery store. Do I ever complain about having trouble maintaining my girlish figure? It is the shopping lists that the agility dogs write up for me. It is my theory that they are trying to ensure that I always have a desperate need to be physically active with them, and that's why these sorts of things end up in my kitchen.

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