Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cars Got Passwords?

SUMMARY: How does it know I made the last payment? Looking at my bank statement?
Paid off MUTT MVR in January. Figured I'd take it in for a check-up in early February, which was wayyy overdue. Didn't look bad at all, only >>gulp<< $900 worth of maintenance and repairs. Plus one more thing that they needed to order a part for, another $150 (including labor).

Took MUTT MVR back today to get that part installed. I walked home with the dogs--35 minutes over 2 miles including plenty of halts for reminders about pulling on the leash. Nice day for a really brisk walk, too.

The work was pretty quick, took them only a couple of hours, even with all of the recall business they're having to deal with at the moment. Their shuttle came & took me over there, I paid my bill, got into MUTT MVR. Rolled up the windows that the technician had rolled down--and--

Crunch, the passenger side window made an awful noise and just stuck halfway up. I know it's not something they did, just miserable coincidence. It made a funny noise a week or so ago when I had it open and reclosed it. That was the window broken into last May and replaced. Thought maybe a piece of broken glass was still in there and had jiggled loose, but of COURSE didn't think about it when I took it in this morning.

They managed to manhandle it closed so I can drive around without rain or pigeons coming through the window. Labor estimate to take it apart and see what's wrong--another $130. Best guess, it's the whooziewhatzer scissoring mechanism that raises and lowers the window. Bet that's not free.

How do vehicles KNOW that they're paid off?! Curses.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trick Dog Titles

SUMMARY: Why don't I think of these things?

Not only has this clever woman published a book of 101 dog tricks, but she has grouped them into 4 levels of difficulty and has associated Trick Dog titles with them! And for a mere fee, you, too, can register your dog, then (apparently for additional fees) get certificates with your dog's name proving that you've earned the titles.

You have to have witnesses sign a statement that they've read the trick description in the book so that they know how it's supposed to be performed, so you can't just say, yeah, I did it.

Plus now (for a fee) you can earn your trick dog instructor certificate, too!

Why do *I* not think of these things? Because the form for earning your titles is so inviting, and I am SO wanting to earn those titles. I am such a sucker--

Earn Your Trick Dog Title.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Agility the Sport of Submillionaires

SUMMARY: Time to win the lottery.

I try not to think too hard about it. I try to make sure my checkbook balance doesn't drop below zero. But, really, agility isn't cheap and it isn't getting any cheaper.

This April features the now-entrenched annual 4-day extravaganza of agility known as Haute TRACS, co-hosted by two clubs.

Not only does it cost me two days off work--plus whatever lodging or camping fees I care to pay (unless I want to drive 2 hours out and back every day--then it's just gas and argh lack of sleep...)--but just the entry fees are astounding. It's not that much more than twice a 2-day weekend of agility, but they are cramming every class known to mankind, multiple times, into their four rings of step-right-up agility entertainment.

Here's what you crazed agility addicts get for your agility dollars:
DAM Team (5 runs. Plus wouldn't "5 Run Dam" be a great name for a rap group?)
Steeplechase (1 run guaranteed plus 2nd round if you qualify)
Grand Prix (1 run)
Standard (4 (!) runs)
Gamblers (3 runs)
Snooker (3 runs)
Jumpers (3 runs)
Pairs Relay (2 runs)

That's wayyy jeeez holy dogedo a bunch of running! Particularly with two dogs. I love it--great exercise mentally and physically for me and the dogs, lots of friends and excitement.

Can't say I wouldn't be happier with only 2 or 3 days, though; four days is a very long, very exhausting weekend. Which makes one think that one should take *another* day off work on Monday to regroup one's depleted axons and muscular fibers.

And the entry fees for all this, if you choose to enter everything, per dog? $270. If you have the know-how and the willingness (latter is a big issue), you can sometimes earn free entries for ONE dog by working your buns off in a trial job all day. I do this whenever I can. And that also sometimes earns me bonus money-off certificates to save up for future entry fees. So I'm lucky enough to get a fairly big discount for this trial. But that does not, alas and alack, translate to free.

Now, horsey people (aka my sister) would tell you that the entry fees are trivial compared to horse show entry fees. Plus I can throw my dogs in the back of my van and they can sleep with me on my hotel bed. Minivans and hotel beds get a little crowded when you cram in those horses (plus you think your spouse's feet are cold under the blankets, try horseshoes).

I would have added that, with dogs, if you mess up, you're not likely to get thrown head over heels and land on your head and end up in the hospital unconscious (like you would with horses) except that exactly that happened to a club member earlier this year, but still I think it's less common with dogs than horses.

So, anyway, it's a good thing I'm the sister who grew up liking dogs. Sister can have her horses and horse shows!

Plus, "Sister Can Have" would be a great name for a rock band.

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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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    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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    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Aaaaaaand We're Home

    SUMMARY: An OK weekend. Some things to write home about and others to just hope they're better next time.
    OK, for all you short-attention-span theater types, here's what happened in a nutshell (almond probably):

    • Tika earned her 25th Championship Jumpers Q to complete her Silver-ADCH. Woooohoooo! Thrilled thrilled thrilled! (And a relief to get it done.) Now to do it all over again in Performance--
    • Tika Qed in Pf Steeplechase and Grand Prix yet again and had a lovely 3rd place Steeplechase finish to bring home a whopping $6.30. Better than a poke in the eye with a Snooker flag.
    • Tika Qed with a 2nd in today's Pf Gamblers, missed 1st by 1 point, would've ALSO been good for 2nd in Ch 22" and Ch 26"! AND that also finished her Performance Gambler's title. Yowza!
    • Tika and partner Qed and took 2nd in Pf Pairs.
    • Boost had an amazing Snooker run. Amazing. Like the Border Collie I've always wanted. (Too bad her clumsy mom negated the run with her elbow--more later.)
    • It was hot. Like, 99F hot (and I'm not sayin' what the F stands for). (37.2C) Observe the hot and sweaty:

    • USDAA has given in and now calls Performance Grand Prix "Performance Grand Prix" instead of "Performance National Standard" (try pronouncing "PNS" or "PeNaS" or whatever out loud). Now if only they'll do the same for Performance Steeplechase.
    • Boost had zero Qs on the weekend. Ze. Ro.
    So--how hot was it? It was so hot that today was only 1 degree lower than the record-setting temperature for this date.
    It was so hot that the dogs' fabric crates, under a canopy, were hot to the touch in midafternoon.
    It was so hot that, instead of leaving the dogs in their crates as usual, I surrounded the fronts of the crates with the xpen and left the crates open to give them more air and access to the grass to lie on. (In this photo, moved xpen to one side to start packing up.)

    It was so hot that even us delicate flowers of femininity poured profuse perspiration. OK, now try peeling off those sopping tight jeans so you can put on shorts. Yeh uh-hm.
    It was so hot that, in the last run of the day, most of the Performance dogs didn't want to go down on the table. Even Tika. I'm thinking it wasn't that the table was hot; it was that they knew that if they lay down, they'd have to eventually get around to standing up again!
    It was so hot that last night I left the van's doors & windows open 6-8" (any more & certain border collies might have gone exploring) and I *still* fried most of the night. (They claimed it was in the 50s overnight. Didn't feel like it.)
    It was so hot that people were applying cold asparagus poultices to their necks to cool down.
    However, I might be lying about at least one of those things. Well--maybe exactly one.

    How did the awesome Performance Tika end up Qing in only 5 of 10 classes, yikes? It was a weekend of mostly so-closes:
    • Saturday Standard: Flew off the dogwalk big time. Rest of run lovely. Time would've been good enough for a 2nd place, despite heat.
    • Saturday Gamblers: missed her weave entry in the opening and I went back to pick it up again, which means that when the whistle blew we were starting UP the Aframe instead of leaving the Aframe, which meant that Tika did the gamble perfectly but was over by .17 seconds. Arrrrgh!
    • Sunday Jumpers: I led out about 6 steps and turned to discover that Tika had left her down stay and was standing about 6 inches from the first (26") jump. Think she can get over that without knocking it? Not a chance.
    • Sunday Snooker: FLEW off Aframe in opening, which meant I had to do a front cross where I needed to do a pull, which meant that she turned the wrong way after the next red, both of which meant that she was jumping up & barking at me profusely for  not being clearer in my instructions instead of RUNNING FULL OUT which is what we needed to do, which meant that in the #7 closing (tunnel//jump/tunnel) she was only at the jump when the whistle blew. Argh. 
    • Sunday Standard: For the first time in a VERY long time indeed, when I sent her out to a jump, she ran towards it, peeled away to bounce back and me, and then turned and took it. Refusal.  Jeez. Of course this time she stuck her start line and got all her contacts and kept her bars up.
    How did Boost have a zero Q weekend?
    • Several runs with meltdowns, and not because of the heat (I don't think), but runouts, refusals, bars going down, missing weave entries--I WANT MY *NEW* BOOST BACK!
    • Sunday's Jumpers--OH so close! Pretty nice but one bar down in the middle.
    • Pairs: One refusal, but with Partner's 10 faults, we were .69 (!) seconds over time. So we were fast but not fast enough with the time-wasting bobbles. Sheesh! 
    • After assorted mess-ups, Eed entirely in Standard, Grand Prix, Jumpers, and another Standard.
    • Second-LOWEST points of 20 dogs in Saturday's gamblers.
    • And then there was Snooker.

    OK, so here's the Snooker thang. It was worse than a speed course; it was a super-speed course. To do all three sevens and get thru to the end in 48 seconds required running around 3 sides of the field three times! It was just a bloody awful lot of yardage. I tried to think of a smoother, easier course for Boost, but there WAS no smoother, easier course.

    But to get the full 51 points, you'd have to be VERY fast and, furthermore, you'd have to be PERFECT, not a bobble or wasted yardage anywhere. And, of course (and especially this weekend), Boost and I do not HAVE runs that have no bobbles or wasted yardage.

    But I just couldn't come up with a better course. We were the next to the last dog of *all* dogs to run, so I had already seen that, out of 70 dogs who had already run it, only 3 who had attempted all three 7s had made it to the end, and (a) they had run their buns off, and (b) they were top-flight competitors with super-fast dogs, and (c) two of them had made it with only a fraction of a second to spare, and the third with maybe a second.

    I came up with a plan where we'd do two 7s and a 5, which was also pretty smooth and we'd be more likely to get all the way through if we had any bobbles.

    So. We lined up, I led out halfway across the field leaving her facing the first #1 red, and I released her, and we were off.

    Well, jeez, she was PERFECT! Sure, there was the stupid thing where, on our way to the 2nd red, I hit the #2 jump's wing with my elbow on the way past and knocked the bar off. But after the 3rd red and Boost was flying and doing great, I decided to try for all 3 sevens. And she was AWESOME, just AWESOME! Did everything right! We did not complete the last 7--she was IN the last tunnel but had probably a stride to go to get out--but I was, needless to say, absolutely hyper-jazzed. THIS is the Border Collie I want! WoooooooohhoooooooO!

    But there's that little issue about the knocked #2. Judge had to think about it (or she'd have whistled us off earlier--glad she didn't!), but essentially the rule is that the *handler* took the obstacle out of play, so Boost didn't have to actually jump it in the closing (bar was down), which negated all obstacles #2 and after. So we got none of our closing points.

    I wasn't too surprised; I didn't know the rule, but I knew when I hit it that I was probably going to pay in one way or another. So our only class where Boost was not only excellent enough to get Q points but in fact Super-Q points, I screwed up by being clumsy. Sigh. But I am still buzzed from that run! What! A! Bordercollie!

    What feels good after packing up on a very very hot day? Clean hands and clean, dry shirt and socks!

    What feels good after a long, hot weekend of 21 runs? Air-conditioned MUTT MVR, ready to head home!

    Dogs are ready to go.

    What is a really really good idea after a long, very hot, very perspiring day before a 2-hour drive home with all the ice in your soda cooler melted? Stop at the Quick Mart and get a 44-oz. cup packed to the top with ice for $1.19 and then pour your soda over it!

    What's a really really good idea to keep you focused and alert on the road after a long and tiring weekend? Funny tapes!

    Okily dokily, good neighbor, I think I probably have lots more I want to say about lots of things, but I'm thinkin' that lots of lying in bed and sleeping would be an exxxxxxellennnnnt plan right about now.

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    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    The Insurance Thing is NOT Finished After All

    SUMMARY: Insurance companies are not your friends.

    I finally received my final check from the insurance company a week or so ago and started looking more seriously at cameras and lenses. But wait--my annual renewal notice just arrived--

    I'm trying hard not to be brokenhearted, but really-- Travelers Insurance pays me $1400 for a $2500 loss and now my premium goes up by $350/year for the next 5 years? This = $1750! How can this be right? Thought I could maybe afford a replacement camera but guess I can't. Have to save the insurance money to pay insurance premiums.

    The lady on the phone was sympathetic but explained, "We're insuring you for a total loss of your home, not smaller losses." She said that (a) I lose the no-loss discount AND (b) I get a penalty for making a claim! Isn't that double jeopardy?

    I haven't made any kind of claim in maybe 25 years. And this was someone ELSE breaking into my car, committing a crime against me! And *I'm* paying a penalty?

    It is true that my policy says that I get a discount, but it doesn't in fact say how much, nor does it spell out a penalty for making a claim. So I had NO CLUE that it would cost me that much--and in fact it never occurred to me to ask (doh! you'd think at my age I should think of these things with insurance companies)--but it bothers me immensely that the insurance person with whom I dealt never even hinted that it would cost me more in the long run than I would ever get out of the claim.

    Here's the catch--now no one else (so far with a couple of samples) wants to insure me except at about twice that much because--ka-ching!--I made a claim! For an amount less than 2 years of premiums!

    Today I feel more violated than when the original break-in occurred. Then, I cried a bit here and there. Sometimes these random acts of evil fall on your doorstep and what can you do. Today, I bawled my heart out. Then threw up. Then found that I couldn't do anything for about an hour and a half after the [long] conversation with the insurance company. Couldn't read. Couldn't work. Couldn't think. Couldn't blog. Nothing. Shaking. Betrayed. Stunned. Angry. Shocked. Hopes for a new camera dashed. This is not a random act of evil; this is a systematic, institutionalized screwing of customers.

    The other thing that really hurts is--I spent SO many hours getting the claim processed, for which I will never be reimbursed. And now I have to spend more hours checking with other insurance companies and/or trying to get this claim removed from the record, if that's at all possible. Hours for which I will also not be reimbursed.

    And no camera. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm sure I'll think of something eventually.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH TRAVELERS INSURANCE. Funny that just last night I was commenting to my renter that Consumer Reports rated them the lowest in customer satisfaction for homeowners insurance, and I said I wasn't sure why, mostly I was satisfied with how they handled my claim. Today--well.

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    Tuesday, July 07, 2009


    SUMMARY: Random things, agility, blog, life, and a Boost shocker.

    • Still waiting for my final insurance check from the MUTT MVR break-in. I think they said that they have 60 days to "conclude their investigation" or something like that. THEN I can go camera shopping.
    • Boost just gave me quite a shock--because she gave herself one! She was lying there quietly next to my desk, chewing on a stick, when she suddenly yelped and leaped away, tail down, to hide under the desk. I looked--and she had given up on the stick and had switched to the end of my extension cord, for crying out loud! That thing has been there all winter for my heater to plug into. Why now? Isn't that supposed to be a puppy kind of thing, not a 4-year-old dog kind of thing? Jeez, Boost! Well, maybe that taught her--
    • I try to keep my "Complete Archive of Posts" (link under Archives on the right side) but sometimes forget. Just updated from May through today.
    • I also forget to update my "Complete list of labels" (link at bottom of each post). Just updated for the last year! Ooops!
    • Maybe I'll get around to updating the photo album sometime soon, too.
    • In this post, I uploaded actual digital versions of the photos rather than scanned from the prints. They look better; thanks again, Erika.
    • In this post, I added a couple of other clarifying comments in [square brackets].
    • Updated this post with the course map of the course in my yard that I was using last week (just now got my updated CourseDesigner activation code).
    • I just realized that Tika has now competed in 7 Performance tournament events (3 each Steeplechase and Grand Prix, 1 DAM Team) and has qualified in every single one of them--AND placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in all except one (competing against 10-20 dogs usually)! How amazing is that? She really likes that 22" jump height!
    • My knee held up beautifully all weekend despite my pedometer showing about 8.5 miles covered each of the 3 days, 15 courses walked repeatedly (but not obsessively), and 28 runs with my dogs. So it's not just the activity that sometimes aggravates it; it's got to be how I'm moving it, and I'm suspecting more and more that it's certain kinds of twists, turns, torques, pushes, or pulls.
    • Tika looked fine all weekend, and I never even gave her any rimadyl! We middle-aged ladies are hanging in there.
    • On the other hand, Tika never gets up into the 6 yards per second range any more, even on jumpers courses, so I know that she's slowing down gradually. This weekend's smooth, lovely jumpers was at just 5.2 yps; winner's time (the amazing World Team tryouts winner Icon) came in at 6.12.

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    Friday, June 12, 2009

    All the News That's Fit To Blog--Plus Clothing

    SUMMARY: Boost jumps and dogwalk and weaves, Tika jumps, flying your dogs, Disneyland, Sylvia Trkman, facebook, insurance--whew! Anything else? Oh, yeah, it's all about the clothing!

    • In class last night, Boost hit bars like a new 21-year-old on amphetamines. Argh. I was jumping her at 24", not the 22" that we usually do in class (although often use 24 or 26 at home). Will be doing a private with our instructor this weekend to work on bars.
    • Also: Contacts! Last week in class Boost left her dogwalk contact early once and I punished her severely ("Oh! My! What happened!" (lean over and grab her as if to pick her up, and in a low voice:) "You have to stick those contacts! Don't be leaving early!") and all of a sudden she wouldn't blast to the end into 2on/2off but instead stopped halfway into the yellow. I immediately put her back on 2 or 3 times until she got the 2o/2o and rewarded lavishly. This week, first dogwalk, stopped halfway into the yellow. OMG have I broken her perfect dogwalk at age 4 and a half?! Dang sensitive dogs! We repeated the down-ramp part 2 or 3 times until she got it, then rewarded lavishly.
    • On the other hand, Boost's weaves were perfect all evening! Even the hard ones!
    • Jumped Tika at 24". Have been jumping her at 22" lately, too. She knocked several bars. I have to remember before a USDAA trial where she'll be jumping 26" in a couple of runs to get her back up to 26" probably at least a couple of weeks before the trial with plenty of bar-knocking drills at that height. It's always something!
    • Southwest airlines is now accepting small pets in the cabin on a trial basis.
    • I'm going to Disneyland! Nov 7-8. Staying with my sister & husby at their favorite place, the Candy Cane Inn, which has a convenient shuttle that I almost never use. Which means I won't be doing my club's (Bay Team's) November CPE. Instead I'll do either the Turlock USDAA right before it or the Turlock CPE a couple of weeks later. Nice to have choices! Disneyland, yayyyyy!
    • Sylvia Trkman is coming to the Bay Area to do 4 days of seminars! I can't afford all of them, but signed up for a one-day Masters Handling with Boost and two evenings of tricks as an auditor.
    • I'm going to try to get onto the FaceBook brand-new choose-your-username-URL land grab at 9:01 this evening to get my choice! I think I'll go for Ellen.Finch if I can get it; if not, maybe TajMuttHall. What do you think? (You have until 8:30 PDT today to tell me what you think. ;-)) The thing is, I'm mostly taking as friends only people that I really already know in one way or another--e.g., local agility folks, relatives, people I've communicated with in blogland--not the world at large. So my own name might be more appropriate. We'll see...
    • Still waiting for the final insurance paperwork to arrive for me to sign and send back to finish the settlement on my auto break-in. They said it went into the mail "late last week or early this week." I haven't gotten it yet. Hm. Starting to look into what camera & lens I can really afford on that settlement. And haven't even started looking for a replacement for my Perfect-For-Everything Coat.

    A Few Adventures of The Perfect-For-Everything-Coat

    Finding the right replacement coat is crucial because--after all--agility [and everything else] is all about the clothing!

    Photo junket at Almaden Quicksilver Park Winter 2009Touristing at Cannery Row Dec 2008Hiking at Big Basin Redwoods Park summer seminar at Monterey Bay Aquarium Oct 2008
    Flying home from Montreal Sept 2008 (reflected in seat-back TV)

    Hiked up Black Mountain Spring 2008
    Hunkering down at Grand Canyon May 2008

    With Tika, hiking at Truckee March 2008
    With Boost at Power Paws Camp 2007 (on back of chair)
    With Jake and Top Turkey Team, Nov 2005
    Tika's C-ATCH Nov 2005

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    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Insurance Part 2

    SUMMARY: Looks like things will turn out as OK as they can under the circumstances.

    Following up on my previous post, I must say that my homeowner's insurance company (Traveler's) has been quite responsive and without giving me any grief about my issues and requests.

    When I finally understood how the claim worked, I asked to resubmit the claim differently, and I just got a call that it's OK to do so.

    Here's the story, if you want it:

    • My deductible is $1000.

    • When the agent sat down and added everything up, the total loss came to a bit over $2800. [Sigh--so much!]

    • So I'd get a check for $1800, right? Nope.

    • The fine print says that, if the claim is over $2500, they give me the depreciated value up front (minus deductible), and then I have 6 months where, as I replace things, they give me a check for the difference between depreciated value and replacement value until we reach the full $1800.

    • The depreciated total value is about $1600--actually they were generous with this amount, which was nice on the face of it. So, subtract $1000 deductible, they sent me a check for $600ish. [Follow along: $1000 deductible +$600 given me so far +$1200 they haven't sent me yet]

    • They estimated my replacement cost for my camera at around $550 and its depreciated value around $400.

    • So, if I go out and buy a camera at $550, do I get a check for another $550 of the unpaid $1200? No. I get a check for $150. ($550-400)

    • Likewise, one lens replacement around $350 and depreciated around $200. If I buy a new one for $350, I get another $150. ($350-200)

    • So now I've spent $950 and received $900 ($600+$150+150). $50 out of my pocket so far, and they still "owe" me $900.

    • How do I get the rest of that $900? Answer: I have to buy replacements for EVERYTHING ON THE LIST--which would cost approximately my deductible ($1000) plus $900--that's the definition of their replacement costs--to get $900 back. In other words, $1000 out of my pocket.

    • And, guess what--I don't have $1000 available! Which means I'd never get the rest of that $900 back.

    So--I can see where this makes sense if you're talking about one large thing--like maybe--uh--I dunno, your back porch was torn off by a tornado and it costs $2800 to replace it. Well, since you can't go out your back door without your porch, you'll probably be spending that $2800. But to lump a whole bunch of small things together--argh.

    But as much as I'd *like* to replace everything I lost, there's no way that I can afford to. I'll have to pick and choose. And if I can't get more of the settlement, then I'd be able to pick and choose almost nothing at all.

    Sooo... I asked to resubmit the claim, removing one lens from the claim, which brings the total loss under $2500, so they can send me a check for the full--well--$1500 now, not $1800. But that's better than only $900 or so.

    OK, sorry, it's complicated. That's why I didn't quite get it when she explained it on the phone. Got the papers she sent, thought about it, and called back to clarify things.

    And so that phone call just now saying it's OK to do it and I'll get a check for the whole $1500ish is such a relief. Although it means I'm "giving up" $300 in claims, still, that means that I don't have to spend $1000 out of my pocket to get any more back. And I'm thankful that they didn't make this hard for me to do. Sigh. Now I'm really glad that the loss wasn't a lot higher, because I'd never have been able to make up the difference.

    Guess I have to rethink the high deductible. It makes sense for *building* loss--but for personal property... ugh.

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    Thursday, May 28, 2009


    SUMMARY: Settlement for car break-in gets complicated.

    I will get money from the insurance company for the things stolen from my car, minus my large deductible. But because the total amount is over a certain limit, they pay me up front only the current cash value (not replacement value) minus the deductible, and then I have 6 months to replace the things, send them my receipts, and get the rest of the replacement value.

    I tried to make sure I understood it before we hung up, but now I'm not sure and will have to call her back in the morning. So, let's say that my old camera cost me $400 but its depreciated value is $100. So they send me $100 (plus all similar values for everything else) minus my deductible. If I go out and buy a $600 camera, will they send me the additional $300 or do they apply $500 to the deductible and I still have to go out and buy more until I'm over the deductible? This is a little confusing.

    But, yes, the good news is that I will get some money back and, if they don't force me to spend the amount of my deductible (which is large) before I start getting more back, then I'm sort of OK. Won't be able to replace everything by any means. It'll be starting all over accruing camera gear. Even basic little stuff like the remote control, polarizing filter, and lens cleaner start adding up pretty quickly. But if I have to spend the whole deductible amount first and THEN spend more beyond that to get $ back--yikes--I don't have that kind of money!

    She's sending me more paperwork with the initial check to clarify everything, and I do have her phone # and email.

    I really didn't have in mind spending time researching cameras right at the moment. The one I want is still too expensive--unless I just don't get any lenses for it. (That's a joke...) Sigh.

    What I really resent about the jerk who probably spent 30 seconds taking my stuff is that he has taken days and days out of my life--finding info on what was missing, trying to track the original stuff down, talking to assorted folks on the phone about it, reporting it, researching replacements, shopping--on top of the money.

    I hope they got what they needed out of it.

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    Thursday, May 14, 2009


    SUMMARY: More on the break-in

    So--here is why they never bothered to open the door, which is why they took only the things they could reach through the front passenger window:
    ("Protected by Chapman vehicle security system".)

    It's funny to see that in the remnants of my side window, but not funny in that having the alarm in fact DID probably protect most of the other stuff in my car. I am grateful for that.

    The glass company came out and replaced my window--he finished exactly 24 hours after the break-in occurred (within the same 20-minute period), which is a nice symmetry. Just under $200. Much less than my auto deductible, but still a good chunk of change--although I'm trying to keep that in perspective, too; it's not much more than one dog's full entry for an agility weekend, and I write those checks all the time!

    Shattering that one window threw glass all the way through my van. Found bits in the far ends of the dogs' crates in the very back of the van. The repair guy vacuumed a lot, and then I spent another half hour vacuuming in even more detail. And every time I turned around, bits of broken glass had reappeared where I had just cleaned. Even big chunks of the safety glass. Which mostly breaks into chunks, but there are tiny shards and slivers among them.

    I am truly grateful that the dogs weren't in their crates at the time; I vacuumed up some sharp bits. (Although--would the crated dogs have deterred them? Dunno. No way to know.)

    My homeowner's deductible is much larger, but when I actually added up everything that was taken, it was way over the deductible, so I'll get some money back. Not enough to replace everything (because it's minus my deductible). But at least some small comfort. For the 12 or so hours that it took to research my losses, report them on the SJPD web site, report them to the insurance claim adjuster, go dumpster diving, make a flyer and post it in various locations, talk to Kaiser security, and so on and so on. Of course insurance doesn't cover THAT time, either.

    Take a last look at my camera, telephoto lens, belt case holding another telephoto, and black and teal all-purpose jacket that I've had for 13 years and hardly shows the wear. It'll be tough to replace that. (Thanks, Steph, for the photo.)

    But they didn't get my favorite Pluto Unleashed hat, thank goodness, which was behind the seat (covered with broken glass). Nor my hiking boots, nor my agility cleats, nor cell phone or digital camera, nor any other dog gear, nor the tools I carry for auto repair--All a great relief.

    All things considered, I'm not feeling too bad. Concentrating on the "grateful for"s and just holding up a mental "STOP!" sign every time I catch myself thinking "If only..." and either dismissing it or turning it into "what did I learn that I can apply next time." It's tough to do but I think it's working pretty well. Like--oh, well, I do still have my point-and-click camera. And I still have a ton of unsorted, unlableled photos from the last couple of years that I can be working through instead of taking lots more photos with my "real" camera.

    And I'll try to be satisfied with the point-and-click for a while. Its quality for tough lighting situations isn't great, but I can get SOME semblance of shots for things like these sunsets--April 20 and last night, after the break-in--which lightened my heart greatly, stopping to admire it--both seen from my car and dashing for the nearest place to pull over and get a photo. Not great, but OK after a little photoshopping.

    Whatever gods or physics daemons are responsible for the universe--thanks for making it a beautiful place to live.

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    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Mixed Blessings

    SUMMARY: Sigh.

    On Sunday, we had a lovely Mother's Day dinner at my parents' house. I took my camera bag just in case I wanted to take some photos. I picked up my video camera to take it, too, for my sister in Nevada, but decided at the last minute that there was about a zero chance that I'd want to take the time to video something, upload it to the computer, etc., so it stayed on the table by my door.

    Today, for the first time in a year, I decided to go work in my company's office about 45 minutes from here instead of at home. To get me into a work-social setting and to help me focus on getting more hours in, because I am very sadly short on available money.

    I've been working on this version of this 500-page manual for well over a year. In the process, I have printed 3 versions, but I have also been scribbling change notes and questions--and applying these wonderful colored tags to dozens and dozens of pages. Well, maybe hundreds of pages among the 3 copies. I've been working lately on trying to get all of those changes folded in because I'm tired of staring at 3 copies of the 500-page manual (single-sided) on my desk. Make that 4 copies, because the PREVIOUS version had some handwritten notes about things that were never resolved.

    Gads, OK, to go up to Mt. View to work, I had to haul all those with me. Plus my daytimer with all my schedule notes and where I track for my timecard and all that, my nice black leather daytimer that's been with me since 1989, with my name on a blass plaque on the cover.

    What on earth to carry all that with? Much too much paper to fit into my document bag. BUT--ta-da!-- I have cleverly saved lots of sturdy bags in the garage, and there were two double-walled Apple Store bags with drawstrings--VERY sturdy for all those papers that I had to haul.

    What to wear? Not one of my many $15 flea-market fleeces like I'd wear to agility. To look "dressed up," I donned my very pricey brown "Grand Canyon condors" embroidered fleece, my one souvenir indulgence from my hike last year into the canyon.

    I packed up my laptop, too, figuring that it would be easier to transfer files to and from that rather than having to upload to some web site and then download again, but after hauling those heavy bags of paper out to the car, I decided that I really didn't want to haul that heavy computer bag, too, so left it sitting in the chair in my office.

    And I hauled all that paper up to mountain view and into the office. When I got there, realized my camera bag was still in the car. But I have this nice lined coat with a black lining; tucked the camera backpack up against the passenger seat and tossed the black-side up coat over it. Looking through the tinted windows, you'd never know it was there.

    At lunchtime, I took my wallet out of my purse (left the purse under the jacket, too). Bought my lunch. Tucked the wallet way back under my driver's seat because it was so much easier than digging out my purse, cramming it in there, and rehiding the purse.

    Lunch was good, work was good, but those danged hot flashes--stripped off the Grand Canyon fleece.

    Just so happens that I have a regular meditation session at 4:00 on Tuesdays down here near where I live. Normally I would just bip over there from home 10 minutes before, stay for that, and come straight home. Here's the dilemma: Leave all my papers at the office, which would prevent me from doing any work at home this evening, or take them home with me, since I've made good progress and am feeling enthused and competent and really need the extra hours of work?

    OK, take them with me. I picked up my fleece, put the papers AND my daytimer back into the Apple Store plastic bags, tossed them casually onto the passenger seat in my van, and headed south.

    Because I was so far away and going into rush hour, I left there an hour early. But, glory be, traffic was good, so I arrived 25 minutes before the class was to start. Feeling cheerful and like I had accomplished things today, I decided to take a brisk 15-minute walk around the block.

    I am practicing being grateful for the following things:
    * I didn't take my laptop.
    * I didn't have my video camera in the car.
    * I tucked my wallet under the driver's seat.
    * My cell phone and point-and-shoot digital camera were buried between the seats instead of sitting on the passenger seat as they often do.

    Because, 20 minutes later, when I returned from my walk, this is what I found:

    Here's what I think happened. The car parked next to me when I first got there was gone. I think that they happened to glance in, saw Apple Store bags sitting right there on the passenger seat, smashed the window, took everything they could reach, tossed it into their car without looking at it, and took off. The alarm didn't go off, because they never bothered to open the door. So they weren't able to search for other stuff. My cell phone and small camera were still there. My wallet was still there. My garage door opener was still there. None of my dog stuff was removed from the back.

    They took my nice leather purse (well--OK, it's very old and worn. But sturdy and just the right size and configuration and color and I have no spare change to buy an equivalent).

    They took my digital SLR, 3 lenses, doubler, assorted filters, remote control, the flash attachment I'd always wanted, the nice purple backpack that I looked for for a long time to have just the right configuration of pockets (and color). I certainly don't have the money to replace that. So much for my budding career as a photographer.

    They took my long, lined teal and black jacket that's my mainstay for anything out of doors--agility, hiking. Don't have anything else equivalent.

    They took my Grand Canyon fleece.

    And they took months and months worth of work, notes scribbled on thousands of pages in those two white plastic bags, that my brain categorized as "boring papers that no one would be interested in" but someone looking through the window categorized as "probably cool computer stuff from the Apple Store." It doesn't matter how much money I have or what insurance I have. I cannot replace that. I am heartbroken. I have spoken to my company about what to do about the client. Can't really charge them to do the work over again. Can't really afford to pay me to do the work over again without billing the client. Heartbroken is perhaps a mild descriptor for how I feel.

    And yet.

    It could be so much worse. For example, if they had taken my wallet with my ID and credit cards and ATM card and plenty of cash. For example, if they had taken my garage door opener and known my address. So VERY much worse.

    And they didn't damage anything in the car except the window.

    And all the other stuff that they didn't take because through sheer luck I didn't HAVE in the car.

    Those little decisions worked both for me and against me today.

    And yet--I am trying so hard to breathe deeply. Find the muscles tied in knots and relax them. Find somewhere the strength to figure out what to do and do it.

    I spent 2 hours dumpster diving afterwards, hoping that maybe they'd pulled into a nearby shopping center or business to see what they got and dumped the papers. Of course--there are zillions of nearby shopping centers, with dozens upon dozens of dumpsters and trash cans in the parking lots. I also went up and down the freeway an exit and checked there. I'm sure I missed lots of places, but I sure did look in a lot of others, hoping I'd find something.

    Maybe--maybe--someone will find the bags, with my daytimer in one of them, with my phone number (and address), and will think, "gee, I wonder if this person wants this stuff back?" and will give me a call.

    I'm thinking I'll put a notice on craigslist.

    I don't know what else to do.

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    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    No Dog In The Night (and Other Gratitudes)

    SUMMARY: Boost sleeps through the night, and otherwise also a good week.

    I hit Boost's not-sleeping-through-the-night issue with a two-pronged attack: shock and awe... (No, wait, that was a different campaign.) ...really, Plan A: 10 days of antibiotics plus Plan B: every time she gets me up, she has to sleep in her crate when we return to bed.

    This isn't a tremendous hardship, as she slept there every night for her first year here, and she still sometimes sleeps there voluntarily when maybe Tika or I toss and turn too much.

    Before Plan A and Plan B, she got me up 10 out of 25 nights (after I started tracking). That included one stretch of 7 nights where she *never* woke me up, giving me false hope, but NOOooo, then 5 out of the next 10 up.

    So we get to Plan A and B. After the first full day of antibiotics, she let me sleep. Then ditto for the next 3 nights. Wow, thought I, it *was* some insidious infection. But NOOoooo again, 4 out of the next 6 nights she got me up. Each time, I zipped her into the crate afterwards. She grumbled some and hit on the door a bit (it's one of those lightweight pop-up nylon crates), but I told her to knock it off and she settled in each time.

    I also started Plan C: When *I* was up in the night on my own for any reason (last night: something banging around on the deck. Maybe the wind.), I did NOT let her out just because she asked. She pestered me a bit at first but since then, just accepts it. Because I think that's what started the problem--a bout of insomnia, where I just let her out every night in the middle of the night when I was up and she asked.

    So then...looking promising...after the last day of antibiotics, we went 6 nights with no out--ah, ha! it WAS an infection?!-- but wait: then one night of out plus crate, two nights off, one night of out plus crate, and now 5 more nights off. So only two nights of the last 15 has she gotten me up. I can only hope. It's still a little unclear whether it was an infection or behavioral, but I'm leaning towards the latter.

    Boost resting up from a hard night of sleeping through. Uzza wuzza cute widdle feeties all gathered up!

    I am also grateful that I can now comfortably wear all those pairs of jeans that I haven't been able to wear since October. Thank you, Weight Watchers (no meetings this time, but using their strategies).

    I am also grateful that I saved $200 on my auto/house/umbrella insurance yesterday. Thank you, Geico. (Used to have Geico auto insurance for years and loved them, but 7 years ago they couldn't insure my house and now they can. Go figure.)

    I am grateful that, on very short notice and at essentially the last minute, I have found excellent DAM teams for both dogs for USDAA Nationals. Thank you, agility friends!

    Let's hope that things keep looking up.

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    Friday, July 18, 2008

    Who Are You and Why Are You Paying All That Money?

    SUMMARY: Who we are and how much money we're paying. (Duh!)

    I can thank my Dad again (nonagility parents who've been pretty faithfully slogging through my blog) for today's topic; he responded to my Statistics post:

    Okay - Interesting.
    * Are there statistics on the handlers?
    * How many have serious problems with their lower limbs, from the hips down?
    * What are their ages?
    * How much would they have to spend, just on entry fees (forget travel and motels, restaurants, etc.) just to get all of the required wins to be a lifetime champion?
    * How does the organization get all of those handlers to fork over that much money?

    It sounds as though you really, Really, REALLY enjoy the whole thing. Keep it up.

    I do enjoy it, or I guess I wouldn't keep at it even on the discouraging days.

    Our club has no stats like that on the handlers. We need the dogs' ages because they can't enter until they reach a certain minimum age, but there are no restrictions on handlers' ages. We've seen some VERY young handlers move dogs around the course better than I can. Brats.

    Clean Run (the agility magazine) did a demographics survey in 2003 and published a summary of the results in their January 2004 issue: "90%...are female and between 31 and 60 years of age. 40% are between 41 and 50. 80% chance that you live by yourself or with only one other person. 48% chance that you have been competing for more than 4 years. 36% attend 12 or more trials a year." [Wait--their phrasing is unclear... last one might be 52%.]

    I've often wondered about the lower limbs thing; if you just sit and watch some of the classes at a USDAA trial, particularly at the Masters level, you'll see an amazing number of knee supports. There are also--somewhere out there in the world--an estimated 50-80 people doing agility from a wheelchair or similar device. Seems like half the people I talk to have had knee surgery of some kind. But is that from agility or is that because of the age demographic or maybe just because the people who do agility have always tended to be very active in sports and maybe it's a lifetime of pounding on the knees? Interesting question.

    How much would one have to spend...? Yeah, like I really want to know that answer. When that topic comes up, our universal response is "don't go there." I think we'd all just about turn inside out if we added up everything we've spent doing agility. I have a fairly good idea of how much I spend in a year, because I have a household budget in my computer, but I try not to add up all the pieces (e.g., gas costs go into my "vehicle" budget, stuff like that). Entry fees are a big chunk of it, but I don't know that it's more than 50%. There's all the equipment and/or the lessons or field rentals and traveling to class every week (or twice a week...or three times a week...) and extra seminars and training treats and, well, like that.

    I've periodically threatened to add up everything I've spent on agility, but then my heart quavers and I go back to burying my head in the chute (hey, does that work as an analog to "sand"? Maybe?).

    It's a lot.

    It's not a low-income sport.

    We fork over the money because we like doing it. We gripe about it when the sanctioning organization raises its fees, or insists on higher fees for no apparent reason. (For example, why does our club have to charge $20 to enter the Grand Prix when it's exactly the same as a Standard course which we charge only $12 to enter? Because USDAA says so, that's why. Bay Team tried to lower it once--because really, we make quite a bit of money on our regional, at least-- and they said, Uh-uh, you have to charge the higher rate.) There are occasional mostly joking comments about "Ken [the president/owner] has kids to send to college," but in the case of Tournament fees, I don't get it, because USDAA doesn't profit from the excess fees, the club does. I dunno how much Ken really makes in a year from this. I've never seen what kind of house he lives in or what kind of car he drives or where his kids go to college. It's not a public corporation, so the books aren't open.

    So how do they convince us to pay it? Well, some people pay to enter bridge tournaments every Tuesday night. Some people pay to go to movies every weekend (wait--I do that, too!). Some people pay to learn how to jump with their horse and compete (like my sister and nieces). Some people pay to play golf. I dunno, it's just something that I do that costs money. Bummer on that score.

    But I'm still here, having survived since my first view of agility, up at Power Paws in early Spring 1995, when I went up one evening to see what it was all about, and took in the bright lights, and the beautiful, brightly colored equipment in a rainbow of patterns across the lush green grass, and dogs doing the most amazing things--and off-leash, too! and running full out, too! and everyone having a good time, too!-- that I doubted I could ever get my dog to do but, oh!, wanted so badly to try!

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    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    How Credit Card Companies Mess With You

    SUMMARY: Griping.

    I almost never use my Sears charge card. I prefer to keep everything on one credit card so things don't get lost--take note. But when I bought a new dryer last month, I got a big discount if I used my Sears card. So I did.

    The last couple of months have been nuts on my work project. I've been stacking my junk mail in a pile to deal with later. After paying my bills Tuesday, I realized that I have a lot more money left at the end of the month than I had expected, and last night I (fortunately) realized why: I hadn't seen my Sears bill. Yup, you guessed it, in with the junk mail, and it's due Monday the 7th. OK, it's Thursday the 3rd. I've got 4 days to get it there. It's just over the border, in Nevada, so that should be easy, right?

    Post Office says that first-class mail *should* get there in 3 days. Yeah, right, we know how that goes. I really don't want it to be late--at 23.15% (!Yikes! How is that kind of rate legal? I mean really!), I'd have to pay $14.49 in finance charges.

    So, OK, I'll phone in a payment, maybe using my other credit card. But--No! They charge $14.95 for this service!

    So, OK, they allow you to sign up online to pay. So I go through the process, click the "pay now" button, and they say, whoa, Nelly, you've never paid using this account before, so you have to wait 6 days for us to approve this account.

    So, OK, I'll drive to the Sears store, which is 5 minutes away, and pay there. But--No! I quote, "There may be a delay of up to 5 days in crediting a payment made in-store." Now that's what I call friendly service.

    So, OK, how about overnight mail or something? The back of the bill says "...send payment by courier or express mail to..." AND *that* address is in Ohio! Glad I noticed that tiny gray fine print or I might have sent it to the REGULAR address! That could have really hosed me! Who's going to notice that, really, if all they're paying attention to is the due date? So the PO says I can pay $6.40 for Priority Mail and it will arrive in "2 days" (but no guarantee(!)), or $16.25 to send it Express Mail and it'll get there by noon on Saturday.

    OK, so what if I want to send it Priority Mail but not express mail? Do I send it to the regular address or to the express mail address? What if I pick the wrong address--do I get dinged for being late anyway because then there may be a 5-day delay in them figuring out which butt their head is stuck up? (No insult intended.)

    So, in other words, if I haven't paid the bill by 5 days BEFORE THE DUE DATE, I am going to pay SOMEONE something like $15 for the privilege of paying ON TIME.

    Screw it, it's going into the regular mail.

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    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    Cost of USDAA Nationals

    SUMMARY: It's a lot of fun, but be prepared to shell out the dough.

    If you're looking for a reason NOT to go to Nationals (it's a tough call--I had a good time while I was there, and all the final events are too wonderful to miss and five times better than seeing them in a video afterwards):
    $ 40Team shirt for one dog, with artwork from generous friend
    $ 45Grand Prix quarterfinals entry for one dog (less if you earned byes)
    $ 75Team entry for one dog
    $ 40Steeplechase entry for one dog (less if you earned byes)
    $ 30Two optional bonus classes for one dog
    $ 40Awards dinner
    $ 50Kennel space 5'x10' (for 2 dogs)
    $ 10Parking permit for 5 days
    $104.35Gas round trip from San Jose (750 miles each way at 23 mpg, $3.20/gal= $208.69, divide by 2 people; ignoring wear & tear on car)
    $333Hotel, slightly upscale & dog friendly, 5 nights: $665.95 (divide by 2 people)
    $ 15Ice for cooler
    $105.76Lunches & dinners & snacks for 6 days (all breakfasts are fruit & breakfast bars that I brought from home; 2 meals from grocery store; 3 meals fast food; 2 meals low-priced restaurants; rest purchased on site)
    $ 20Herding instinct test for unentered dog
    $ 50Five Lure coursing runs for unentered dog
    $____A week off work (or vacation time spent--your salary may vary)
    $____Shopping at the many excellent vendors whom you don't often find elsewhere (up to you; I avoided them this year)
    ~$900 plus time off workMy total (selecting from above items, as I didn't do everything)

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    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Paid Handlers

    SUMMARY: Will agility become a sport of paid handlers?

    I don't see a trend yet. But recently I spoke to a handler from Los Angeles who is running dogs for 3 different owners. I asked why, and she said, "Because they pay me." I asked why (OK, I'm nosy, but she brought it up), and she said, "Because I can Q when I run their dogs, and they can't." Furthermore, none of the owners were with her and the dogs. That rubbed me wrong. Isn't agility about spending quality time with your dog? (Says the sometimes overly competitive blogger.)

    So the dogs were traveling with the handler out of town, as is common with show dogs on a circuit with a paid handler trying to earn majors and campaign for Crufts or Westminster or similar. But this was a CPE trial, of all places, where basic qualifying is pretty darned easy, and even qualifying for nationals is extremely simple, not like USDAA where titles and nationals qualifying scores are tough to come by. And CPE is in particular about having a good time with your dog.

    Maybe she was giving a short answer to a none-of-my-business question. I got to thinking about people I know who run other people's dogs.

    Other people have run my dogs when:
    • My foot was broken and when my back was out, and I wanted my dogs to remain accustomed to competing. We didn't get a lot of Qs during that time. But I was right there ringside. And it was friends running the dogs because they were good friends. It never occurred to me to pay them. Maybe that was naive of me.
    • On a dare with a classmate whose dog ran similarly to mine, we switched dogs for one run for fun.
    • I had my two dogs as partners in Pairs Relay, and of course you can't run two dogs, so someone else had to run one.

    I know of other people who I think get some payment for running other people's dogs. In both cases, the owner has a long-term injury or handicap that prevents them from being able to run regularly in class or at trials. BUT--the owner also does most of the training, and attends the trials and is right there ringside while the dog is running.

    And I have a friend who doesn't get paid (I don't think so, anyway) and who runs a dog whose owner is not there--but that's because she has only one dog of her own, and this is her neighbor's dog who wasn't getting enough attention from the working owner, and my friend just offered to teach the dog agility and compete with her own time and money.

    In fact, I was starting to do exactly that with my previous housemate's dog before she moved out of town and I got Boost. But I'm still betting that, had I pursued that, the housemate would have been at the local trials when I competed with the dog, and she might not have wanted to be separated from her pooch long enough for me to take him to out-of-town trials.

    What do other people think about these various reasons for handling other people's dogs?

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    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    No CPE for Me This Year

    SUMMARY: How can there be so many trials and so little time? And money?

    First, you have to understand that I spearheaded getting CPE into The Bay Team. I attended the early first demo trials in CA held by other clubs, I researched it, I proposed it to the club, I volunteered to chair the first couple of trials, found a new agility site, and so on and so on. (Although we now do two CPEs a year instead of two NADACs, that was more NADAC's doing than mine. Once everyone had an alternative, almost everyone welcomed it with delight.)

    No CPE this year worth mentioning

    And yet--I'm thinking that I'm not going to be doing any CPE this year except for the two Bay Team ones and the VAST one in March that I've already committed to be chief ring steward for in exchange for free entries and maybe the Thanksgiving one at WAG, which is always a hoot. I'm really really really trying to cut back on the number of trials. Don't really WANT to, but money is a big factor--both in entry fees/hotel/gas and in time that I'm not putting in my max billable hours when I'm going off to agility for the weekend, and my finances show it. In 2005 and 2006 I vowed I'd cut back from 20-some-odd to only 10 a year. I managed to cut back to 20-some-odd. (Not one of my most successful goal-setting experiences.)

    Many USDAA trials

    I'd rather concentrate on USDAA, and I count 13 USDAA trials just within 2 hours of home this year, plus Scottsdale, and there we go, that uses up my maximum of 10 trials for the year. (Read: Ha! I'll never cut back to 10!) It's been really tough going for almost 4 months with no agility competitions because of my knee, but in some ways kind of nice. I'm horrified to see that there are 2 months during the summer when there's NOTHING (cpe or usdaa anyway) anywhere at all. (Read my personal online weekend calendar)

    Free entries would of course help, but I also don't want to exhaust myself working chief ring steward every trial with 3 dogs to tend to. And I not everyone gives free entries for that, anyway. Score table's a little better but, again, not everyone gives freebies for that, and it does tie me down a lot although not so exhausting.

    Other issues

    So I dunno. I hate to give up the opportunities to do stuff with Boost in CPE, or to eventually in some distant fantasy future earn Tika's CATE, but I just don't see how I'm going to swing it. And the lotto machine wouldn't take my dollar yesterday, so THAT plan won't work.

    AND I'm going to do power paws camp this year with Boost, I've decided--I submitted my application today--we really need the intense time together and the learning experience, and there goes another weekend and my budget all blown to pieces. :-/ Sigh. Why couldn't I take up an inexpensive hobby like... like... I dunno, graffiti? (As long as you don't get caught.)

    Take the summer off?

    So back onto those 8 weeks in midsummer: I can't believe that there's nothing to do between the VAST USDAA June 2/3 and the Bay Team CPE July 21/22. (Read Karey's Famous Calendar for agility of interest to Bay Areans) That's 6 weekends in a row with no agility! Oh, sure, if you do that namby-pamby AKC stuff or can deal with NADAC so-called agility--or drive to Portland!?!?! for USDAA-- why can't some of these folks move their CPEs and USDAAs from the winter & spring out to the middle of summer? That's a great time for agility in the Central Valley! (Read about the central valley summer climate)

    Argh! What will I do???

    Qualifying for nationals

    Plus it's scary having 3 months(!) from the VAST USDAA to the next USDAA at the end of August. I'm trying to not panic about national qualification, but since I missed a couple of chances in the fall due to my knee, I see only:
    VAST: Grand Prix and steeplechase
    CAT: stpl only
    Haute TRACS combined trial: gp, stp, team (4-day trial, argh, that's where my knee first blew out last year)
    SMART: probably stp, gp
    Bay Team--No tournament at all??? When was the last time that we ever had no tournament at all? Is this overreaction to last year when Saturday was All-Team, All The Time, and no one came?
    VAST: team, stp, gp (all in 2 days??)

    then all of a sudden we've got 3 months off before the next set of 3 USDAAs in a row (last chances before nationals) and I'll be stewing like crazy if we haven't already Qed in everything for Scottsdale. This needing *2* each of BOTH Steeplechase and Grand Prix is nuts. Thank the gods that it requires only one team so far. My Q rate is just not that high that I think I can get 2 out of 3 with both dogs in both GP and stpl! Argh argh argh!

    There are a couple in there in southern california, but driving 6 hours each way is REALLY exhausting. (I know, I know, I'm spoiled rotten.)

    Life as an agility addict is full of difficult choices. And, I know, I'm supposed to be doing this for FUN. Which it is. And think how much time and money it will save me if my dogs don't qualify for nationals for a change!

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