Friday, January 15, 2010

National Hat Day

SUMMARY: As long as I'm talking about matters of great global import--
Just found out what today is: National Hat Day!
(And, sorry, miscalculated my focus so all these are fuzzy. Need to get that replacement remote control!)

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The Importance of the World Around Us

SUMMARY: Haiti, civil rights, dog agility equality, me and the Merle Girls.

There has been some discussion among dog bloggers about whether a blog that says it's about dogs (or dog agility, or any other specific topic) is too self-centered if it ignores when the World Out There is undergoing events of great import.

Agility for all?

For example, my agility club has a policy of promoting only agility that allows all healthy adult dogs to compete. So--AKC premiums? Forget it, they're not going out on our email list. Recently, Teacup Agility has come into existence, and we've occasionally seen info on those events come around. But we've called that into question--it allows only dogs under a certain height to compete. So is that exclusionary in the same sense as AKC? Even more recently (effective this year), AKC has allowed its clubs to choose to allow non-AKC dogs to compete in their events. However, they do not compete equally against AKC dogs; they have their own events and their own titles and so on, and aren't eligible for the national competitions. So, is that still exclusionary? (Supreme Court has said "separate but equal" is not in fact equal. Does that apply to dog sports, too?)

This is a highly charged issue, and we're trying to be consistent and nonemotional about it. But does writing about that really make sense when one of the greatest civil rights battles of my adulthood has now started its hearing in the federal courts? Should I be silent when an earthquake has wreaked unimaginable destruction and death on a nearby country (or any country, for that matter).

It's not at all that I don't care about what's going on. I do, in fact, care deeply. But this blog is, after all, "surviving and thriving in dog agility."

But, OK, today. Two unrelated topics. You can skip either, but I ask that you give them a read.


As you all know by know, a 7.0 earthquake devastated the most densely populated parts of Haiti. I've watched and heard the reports come in. My heart has lurched at the sight of the national palace collapsed. (Can you imagine the white house destroyed? Or the capitol building--of your state, let alone your country?) The statistics, guessing up to 100,0000 could be dead. The population of Port au Prince is only a million--that's one out of every 10 people, dead. Ten out of your hundred facebook friends, dead.

They're a poor country and so, we like to think, their infrastructure isn't built as well to withstand earthquakes as is ours in California. And yet, well, who knows.

And not just the average Joe who's been taken down. The president is homeless--national palace destroyed. The archbishop is dead--national cathedral destroyed. The head of the UN in Haiti is missing--whole UN building destroyed. Can you imagine that in your city? Your country? It's almost unimaginable.

I have donated money for the relief effort through the Clinton Foundation. If you want to donate there, or anywhere, I suggest that you check whether the group is on the Institute of Philanthropy's list of top-rated charities. (You can see their worst-rated charities only by becoming a member to get their printed list. So if your charity isn't on the list here, doesn't mean it's not good. Just means do your research on it more carefully.)

And now, on the home front:

Civil rights

I have friends who have lived together for 20 years and love each other deeply. They are wonderful human beings. One is a retired VP of a high-tech company, the other is a skilled accountant. One loves dogs; the other loves photography. Normal people; they've bought a house together, vacation together, plan their retirement together. But, by law, they are not allowed to marry, simply because they are the same sex.

There is no logical reason why they shouldn't be allowed to; it is discrimination, pure and simple. The California Supreme Court said so. The people of California in a fit of reactionary pique approved (but very narrowly) Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that explicitly bans marriage between people of the same sex.

I have other friends who have been together going on 10 years. They love each other very much. One is an avid mountaineer who is often conflicted between love of the challenge and the desire to spend weekends at home, since they both work during the week. Normal people; they've bought a house together, live together, deal with bills and stopped-up sinks and cars that need to go to the repair shop and all that stuff, together. They are married, but only because they rushed in during the narrow window between the Supreme Court decision and the passage of Proposition 8 and hurriedly put together a simple wedding. And the Supreme Court, while it did not throw out Prop 8, also did not invalidate those marriages, which speaks volumes. So they're in an odd position where they are married but none of their friends can hope to share the joy and legal protection of marriage to their loved, long-term partners.

This week, Proposition 8 began its hearing in Federal court. I know that, no matter what happens, it will be appealed by the losing side. It is sad that it is so, as sad as when people fought *for* laws *against* the right of black Americans to vote, to attend the same schools, drink out of the same water fountains, and, yes, marry (gasp) white people. The U.S. Supreme Court stated clearly that even "separate but equal" was not equal.

I've joined a couple of casual groups of "Heterosexuals for Gay Rights." (Don't know enough about them yet to recommend them.) I'm on the mailing list of Equality California to keep abreast of what's going on. I posted NO ON PROP 8 signs on my lawn, the first time in my life I've ever posted election-related material. I donated to their campaign.

If the opportunity ever comes to you to vote for equal rights for all Americans, I encourage you to do so. It's likely to be one of the few major civil rights issues during our lifetimes that we'll be able to proudly say that we fought for.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Good News/Bad News

SUMMARY: To start the year running, I've got good news and bad news. And more good news. Etc.

Gratuitous dog photo: Dogs love riding in the car around the neighborhood when they don't have to be in crates.

  • Good news: My house appraised for much more than I thought it might in this market.
  • Bad news: That means my property taxes will keep going up, not down like so many other people's.
  • Good news: That might mean that it's a shoo-in for my refi application to go through. Just waiting to hear when closing should be--I think--

  • Good news: Paid off the last 73 cents on MUTT MVR last week!
  • Bad news: It's wayyyy overdue for its xxx,000 mile check-up.
  • Good news: Passed its smog check again.

  • Good news: Tika has been running around like a lunatic without her bootie and no signs of a sore foot. Ran her two runs (jumpers courses with weaves) and she was fine. Haven't tried contacts again yet.
  • Bad news: She continues to look, every once in a while, like she's sore for a few minutes or more.
  • Good news: It goes away again. But I wish I knew--our next trial is in just under 2 weeks, and she's signed up for a day of agility.

  • Good news: Boost loves doing agility.
  • Bad news: In class last week, after we've done virtually no agility for 3 weeks, she popped out of the weaves EVERY time at the 10th pole as I moved away from her. Instructor said, well, I had to support in in N following ways, and I was maybe rude and said, no, I don't have to, this is why we practice weave distractions down to the bone at home until I can't get her to pop for any reason.
  • Good news: When I finally just picked her up, carried her off the field, and put her away until the next run--then the next time, she did the weaves all the way through.

  • Bad news: Shattered tooth down into the root. Happy New Year! The dental surgeon I had to go to to get it excavated said I didn't *quite* win the prize for the most pieces of tooth to be dug out.
  • Good news: Didn't hurt before, hurt afterward more than I had hoped but less than I had feared, and only for that first evening, and it's been fine ever since.
  • Bad news: I dread finding out how much an implant is going to cost. No dental insurance.

  • Good news: Doctor says, Those things? They're harmless. They're called ruby spots (cherry angiomas).
  • Bad news: Yeah, you'll probably keep getting more. Yeah, they can get bigger.
  • Good news: Can burn them off with liquid nitrogen. [Like warts, I guess.]
  • Bad news: THAT's not a fun procedure. And it can scar. Either way, I'm going to end up looking like a giant polkadot by the time I'm 100.
  • Good news: Remind myself: they're harmless.

Tika sees another dog while on leash:

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    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    Gotta Love January in San Jose

    SUMMARY: Photos from my yard.

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    Monday, December 28, 2009

    Got Animal? Got Agility?

    SUMMARY: Agility is not speciesist.
    Agility was invented for dogs. Apparently dogs have such a great time doing it that all kinds of different animals want to get into the act. What did all the species of the world *DO* for entertainment before that fateful exhibit in England in the late 1970s?
    Added these additional links January 4, 2010 (thanks, you guys, for the suggestions in the Comments on this original post):
    Thinks I haven't found:
    • Pig agility (one pig doing one jump, not worth a view)
    • Snake agility
    • Ostrich agility
    • Other suggestions or links you've found?

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    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    How Do You Find Me? Let Me Count the Ways

    SUMMARY: Search phrases that got people to click somewhere on my web site. is my primary domain; it consists primarily of almost 7 years (!) of Taj MuttHall blogging ( is a subdomain, in case you hadn't noticed), but its other main section is pages of information about my experience with hemangiosarcoma. There's also a little bit of other random stuff, but not much, really. So it's mostly Taj MuttHall.

    My hosting company track searches that people do on the web, when they click on a result of the search that's one of my pages.

    So, of the 500 or so search phrases in November, some make a lot of sense to come here:

    • various phrases with the word "hemangiosarcoma" (22) and other illness-related questions (30 or 40)
    • "taj mutthall" and "taj mutt hall" (5). But woe to those who came here while searching for "taj internet call" or "in what cartoon was a dog named taj".'
    • Searches for fellow bay teamer Rob Michalski and Wings the Tervuren, who won the Scottsdale Steeplechase (and whom I posted about briefly I'm sure), like "Robs Wings Steeplechase" or "Belgian Tervuren Wings Steeplechase" (15).
    • Searches for bellow Bay Teamer Ashley Deacon and Luka (won 2 Scottsdale finals and I've posted about somewhere) (2)--I'm guessing there were fewer searches landing on my site this year in part because I said less (maybe) and in part because they've won so much now, but Wings hasn't.
    • Assorted searches for agility course maps (14).
    • Requests for info about snooker (30), including "agility snooker for beginners", "border collie snooker rules", "how to play snooker in agility", and others.
    • "Crate games" in various forms (15); have mentioned these on multiple occasions.
    • Rachel Sanders running Aframe info in various forms (well over 10); did post a couple of times after doing her seminar.
    • "dam team names" and "dog team names", oh, cool, there's a potential fun web page to create!
    • "kate elliott wallpaper". OK I did one post that had her name and "wallpaper" in it. But why would someone be searching for Kate Elliott wallpaper?!
    • Geri Hernandez and Focus--I did post about that after her dog died suddenly. Many searches ended up here.
    • "coyote poop pictures". Yup, I really did post some.
    • "getting started photo chia pet sequence". Yup, I really did post some.
    • "alternate verses for there is nothing like a dame". Yup, I really did post some, but not sure they were looking for dog-agility-based lyrics.

    Some things, however, amused or bemused me:

    • Why on earth was someone looking for the world's most expensive polo shirt? ("most expensive polo shirt", "expensive polo shirts",  "polo shirt most expensive", "why are polo shirts so expensive", and so on (20).  Because they probably ended up on my post about my USDAA semifinals shirt, The World's Most Expensive Polo Shirt.
    • "dog playground equipment", "dog play equipment", and similar (34). What did they find here that matched?
    • "what's going on with facebook" (3)
    • "mud mud glorious mud mp3" (3) (Yep, I posted a link to it at some point, but even I can't find it now.)
    • "candy" (2)
    • weaving flowers (2)
    • "there's a dog doing the limbo" (2)
    • "agua e vida or sierra club or amnesty international or greenpeace" (1) (yeah, they'll get a lot of that kind of info here. Not.)
    • "names of the dogs at Havasu Falls" (2). Well, isn't that interesting. I never thought to ask about any of their names, but I did post a bunch of their photos last year.
    • "free video sex", "self checkout should get a discount", "child exploitation at cirque du soleil", "purple christmas" (Hee hee hee), "unusual chairs", "poo diary", "squish the tunnel", "mongol horde costume", "how to play away in a manger in xylophone", "head for the hills paint color", "what are all the storms bad posture can cause", "scary things to do outside at night", "can a cat gnaw through wire mesh", "beth ann bonner nude photos"-- well, who knows what thoughts lurk in the hearts of web searchers!

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    Sunday, December 06, 2009

    Best Dog Quotes

    SUMMARY: Well put, from Roger Caras.
    "Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."

    “If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”

    "I am as confounded by dogs as I am indebted to them.”

    “Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place in museums; others, we take for walks.”

    From Wikipedia:
    Roger A. Caras (May 28, 1928-February 18, 2001) was an American wildlife photographer, writer, wildlife preservationist and television personality. Known as the host of the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Caras was a veteran of network television programs including “Nightline,” “ABC News Tonight” and 20/20 before devoting himself to work as president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and to becoming an author.

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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, November 20, 2009

    Friday Morning Thoughts

    SUMMARY: Top Ten, bored dogs, nifty dog stuff in nondog catalog, agility class and schedule and training and weaves, dog noses.

    Top Tens
    • Why does USDAA have Top Ten Tournament for Championship dogs but not for Performance? I notice this because maybe Tika would have had a chance to be there this year. Maybe.)
    Bored dogs
    • I've been finding out what my dogs are like when we're not doing agility. Why? No class Oct 22 (Power Paws Camp preempted it). Class Oct 27. No class Nov 5 (Disneyland). No class Nov 12 (USDAA Nationals.) Class this week. No class next week (Thanksgiving). 
    • We did have agility competition Oct 31-Nov 1. And will have one day Nov 27, then two days Dec 12-13.  Feels like long times between when we're short on classes.
    • Doesn't help that  I've been trying to do an early 6:00 Thursday class; leaving home at 5:00 is still in my normal work day, plus traffic means it's a 45-50 minutes drive instead of 20-30, all of which means I have been getting in 15-30 minutes late, therefore missing class time. Am going to have to switch back to Wednesday 8:15 which means no more Sierra Club hikes until some other later class opens on another day.
    • Meanwhile pesky bored dogs. Walking a couple of miles a day isn't a good substitute for classes & competition, apparently.
    Improvements Catalog supplies the well-heeled dog (so to speak)
    • Beautiful folding wooden gates if you don't want to use cheap-looking standard gates to keep your dogs out of certain rooms.
    • Back when I had a Siberian Husky--for 16 years--every year I meant to get around to making a light-up Santa and sleigh display pulled by huskies. Good intentions, not enough time to figure it out. Now I could just buy one! And it's gorgeous, too.
    • Or how about just a light-up doggie holding a gift?
    • Check out their pet listings; a "Paw Plunger" for cleaning dirty paws; an embossed "Potty Rock", beautiful wooden crates, plus several actual useful items.
    • Wish I had implemented click-through payments for this site so that if you went to these locations I'd get 10 cents for it! Ah, well, another opportunity missed. Get in line behind making a husky santa sleigh.
    Don't you wish you had a nose like a dog?
    • Boost always knows when one of Tika's  treats has rolled under the closet door at some time earlier in the day.
    • When I sent Boost out to get the paper yesterday morning, she stepped outside and then went into ferocious danger action--hackles up, bouncing on stiff legs while making some serious barking, looking at my porch, my tree, my eaves, my fence--and Tika followed suit, barking up an angry storm.  I saw nothing. It was an hour before I could get Boost out the door without the same reaction. What did I miss?
    Agility training
    • My yard is just not big enough for all types of agility practice, for dogs who can cover 18 feet in a single full-speed bounce jump, 60 feet is nothing--not enough space to GET to that kind of striding.
    • Both dogs have been making some nice, tough weave entries in the yard. And in class last night. And then--missing some in the yard. Gah. It never ends.

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    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    So What's Going On on Facebook?

    SUMMARY: A status cloud generated from (in theory) all of my status posts since I joined facebook.

    This means (in theory) that it picked the most common words (other than "and" and like that) and represented by size the relative frequency. [And apparently it uses only words of more than 3 letters, and probably avoids common words like is, does, and can-- hence appearance of isn't, can't, doesn't but not the positive versions? I don't think I'm that negative--] So what does this tell us? Hmm, it says that I have enough time on my hands to squeeze in a use of And that I do a lot of thinking, pondering and wondering.

    You can compare and contrast to my September 29, 2008 clouds (generated by "wordle") for August and also September 2008.

    Or here's the wordle for some portion of my recent posts--the tool takes RSS feed info but I don't know how it collects it. It's interesting that "Boost" doesn't seem to show up here at all (you can click on this to see a larger readable version).

     Do you think that, in both cases, it shows a preoccupation with the USDAA nationals?

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    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    And Another Day Bites the Dust

    SUMMARY: Rainbows, shopping, cameras, walkies, parks, bad lyrics--

    Don't you love finding that your magical rainbow is just beyond your kitchen door? Do you dare open the door to look for your pot of gold?

    Don't you love going for a long walk through the park and both your dogs put up with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old giving them attention?

    Don't you love talking to adults wherever you go and explaining what "blue merle" is and that yes Boost is an actual Border Collie?

    Don't you love trying to find a word that rhymes with "leashie" so you can post the lyrics to another badly abused song? As in (think Yankee Doodle for this one):
    Boostie doggie used her teeth to pull upon her leashie,
    Glad we're in the U.S.A 'cause that won't wash in Vichy.
    Don't you love wondering about little idioms and wondering how nonnative speakers of English will ever figure them out? "That won't wash--" "That won't float--" "That won't fly--" "That won't go--" ?

    Don't you decide to completely rearrange the lyrics to find something that's easier to rhyme with?
    Boostie grabbed and tugged her leash while going on a walkie--
    ...mumble... walkie...bawkie..cawkie...dawkie...fawkie...gawky (maybe)--...hawkie...jawkie (jockey? sort of)...  mumble...

    Don't you like taking your little crappy point and shoot and the dogs up to the 4th floor of the local shopping center and taking photos of the sunset in combination with various man-made shopping center attractions?

    Don't you love finding a friend for your dogs at the shopping center? Do you suppose he does agility?

    This cute skinny little guy looks very agile and like he wants go go home with you!

    Don't you love posting the rest of your photos from your shopping center trip on your regular photo site, with captions?

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    Saturday, October 17, 2009


    SUMMARY: Twenty years ago today.
    Twenty years ago this evening, just after 5:00 p.m., the Loma Prieta earthquake hit.

    It was NOT the big one; registered a mere 6.9. For most of the millions of residents of the San Francisco Bay area, damage looked no worse than this (one of our chimneys) and mostly much less:

    or this (a neighbor's chimney)

    I already posted a brief, general account here two years ago.

    And I posted some of my photos and other memorabilia on my photo site, with additional commentary about the quake.

    I took no photos of the dogs and their behavior (well, I was a little preoccupied). But here's how it went with the dogs.

    I was at work when the quake hit, about 15 miles from the epicenter and about 2 miles from home. After the main shaking stopped--and it continued for about 30 seconds, which feels like an eternity when the ground is shaking so hard that you can't really walk--we all evacuated rapidly into the parking lot, where we gathered around our cars listening to the car radios. (Remember--no cell phones, no world wide web. This was "the good old days"!) Aftershock followed by aftershock rolled across the earth, but none so bad as the original quake.

    When the aftershocks had died off somewhat, upper management checked out the building quickly: It was a mess (yes, that's the air conditioning ducting hanging out of the ceiling and my co-worker's collapsed bookcase), but didn't look like it was on the verge of collapse. so they escorted us into the building in groups of 3 at a time--to dash in, grab our purses or car keys or wallets, and go back out the the parking lot.

    So I couldn't get home for at least half an hour to an hour after the initial shake. I made a quick pass through the house, saw the disaster of broken glass and liquids in the kitchen and assorted disarray, damage, and breakage in other parts of the house, so hustled my dogs out of the house into the driveway. There we sat in the pleasant evening on lawn chairs, listening to the radio (battery-operated--no power!) and hoping that eventually my husband would call and tell us he was OK.

    Sheba, our Siberian Husky, was panic-stricken. She was a known escape artist from way back, and the moving earth drove her into a frenzy of trying to get away. We were lucky once because my mother-in-law was staying with us at the time, was in the kitchen looking out at our driveway gate when the quake hit, and could see the gate swing open and Sheba try to make a break for it. We were lucky again as the days and aftershocks wore on that Sheba never did escape; one friend's dog took off and was never seen again, despite all of us plastering the neighborhoods with LOST DOG signs. The humane society reported a vastly increased number of stray dogs in the days after the quake.

    Sheba hated every minute of it. I think that she was in a literal state of shock herself; eyes wide, panting uncontrollably, not interested in eating, shaking and trembling every time an aftershock came, and continuing to do so for a long time after each one. On that first night, I didn't feel comfortable sleeping in our second-floor bedroom (especially with the bureaus and closet doors and such strewn around, and especially not with the aftershocks continuing). So we opened the sofabed in the one-story part of the house and slept there.

    Or, should I say, TRIED to sleep. Sheba was not a cuddling dog. But all that first night, she lay on my chest, her haunted eyes staring almost blindly at me, panting and shaking and drooling. She was 9 at the time, and I was afraid that she was on the verge of a heart attack. Took me a very long time trying to get a dial tone on the phone to call the vet. Not because the phone lines were down, oh no! But because everyone's first reaction was to pick up the phone and start calling people! So all the lines were overloaded. The radio kept telling us to STOP CALLING if it's NOT AN EMERGENCY so that people who NEEDED to use the phone for important things (e.g., calling 911) could do so.

    Eventually I gave up on contacting the vet that day (and possibly the following day). She didn't relax for several days, and I'm not sure how much sleep she got during the first couple of days.

    Amber, our German Shepherd/Golden mix, as a counterpoint to the husky, remained unimpressed by anything having to do with the earthquake. On an aftershock, she'd lift her head wherever she was sleeping at the time, look around in mild annoyance at the disturbance, and go right back to sleep immediately afterwards. Thank goodness, because having TWO dogs shaking and drooling and panting on my chest all night would have been a little too cozy.

    And neither of them EVER gave any indication that they had an inkling about an earthquake or aftershock about to occur. None of my dogs ever have. Dang worthless earthquake predictors.

    I was amused, however, when my office eventually reopened (after the earthquake safety inspectors had been through) and discovered this on my Far Side calendar for the day after the quake:

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