Sunday, June 07, 2009

We Live In A Fascinating World

SUMMARY: Full of dogs and hills and grass and trees and light and colors and coyote poop.

Wednesday night, rather than join the Sierra Club group for our weekly brisk 5-mile strenuous hike, I struck out on my own closer to home. I wanted to take the dogs. I wanted to be able to stop and browse upon the scenery with my camera. I wanted to prove to myself that I can and will do a strenuous 5-mile hike all on my own. I wanted to sweat.

But not too much.

So, although the day wasn't particularly warm, I waited until 6:00 to head to Santa Teresa County park, a 1700-acre park just a 15-minute drive from home whose open hillside trails on steep terrain can be a bear in any kind of warmth. The bonus would be that I could catch the sunset from up in the hills.

We started at 200 feet above sea level at the foot of the hills, passing by the historic Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch, where Tika announced a fierce interest in the chickens in their coop. We decided not to linger. Later in the hike, when a startled California quail directly in our path flapped noisily into a nearby shrub, Tika suddenly became suddenly intrigued by their distinctive clicking call coming from the undergrowth we passed.

I carried only my little point-and-shoot; didn't want the weight of the borrowed SLR, hadn't actually familiarized myself with it yet anyway, and besides, hiking with the dogs and any kind of electronic equipment is always risky. So I have no bird photos to share, and few photos with the dogs (who move too much for the P&S's personal tastes).

Boost bravely streeeeetched wayyyy out to investigate some ancient farm equipment left on the hillside to moulder away. I have no idea why that was classified as one of the many Potentially Scary Evil Things in the world--looked pretty innocuous to me, but then I'm not a sensitive Border Collie.

Most of what I saw on my hike looked pretty much like this.

But I also enjoyed looking at the views of the valley and up to the observatory on Mount Hamilton, the lurking dark peak in the distance--near the right, to the left of the cloud.

Dogs also enjoyed checking out coyote poop.

As the sun sank, everything glowed amazing golden colors, and our shadows threw themselves longer and longer before us.

Plus there was coyote poop.

We passed the Norred Stables, where apparently during the day some REALLY BIG DOGS do some agility in the arena. (My sister has one of those really big kinds of dogs.)

The dogs particularly wanted to analyze Every. Single. Coyote. Poop. On. The Trail.

Human Mom wanted to take pictures of Every. Single. Scenic. View. On. The. Trail.

We accommodated each other. It worked. The highest point on the trail was about 930 feet, but we did quite a bit of upping and downing, so cumulative elevation gain might have approached 1000 feet. Distance covered: Somewhere between 4 and 5 miles. Walked it briskly, trying to emulate the Crazed Wednesday Night Hikers Pace, but stopped often for various reasons human or canine.

We lingered on the last high hillside trail until the sun had vanished from the sky, then dashed down the trail--literally--about 450 foot drop in half a mile. Felt good! Got photos! Sweated! And successfully kept all members of the expedition from rolling in coyote poop.

These are about half the photos I took; you can see the rest of the bunch on my usual photo site (along with these) with captions. I think there are a few particularly nice ones in the bunch. Enjoy. Love your dogs. Love your dear ones. Love life.

Labels: , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Monday, April 06, 2009

Hiking Photos

SUMMARY: Fun in the sun and in the cow plop.

Sunday was just about a perfect spring day. Clear skies, temperatures just on the edge of cool, excellent for hiking.

We started out at 9 in the morning, and the parking lot was nearly empty. The dogs were delighted with the concept of being off leash and exploring. I mean, like, totally and completely delighted. Sniffed at everything. Boost promptly found a dead toad to roll in, and the day continued along those veins.

Wildflowers bloomed in every direction. In particular, lupines were everywhere. Some entire fields filled with the blue of lupines.

The trail ran alongside and across a stream. Somewhere a sign said no swimming, but we couldn't keep the Golden Retrievers out of it. And Tika, oddly enough for a dog who might be, who knows, Australian Shepherd and Husky, loves the water, too.

Renegade amazed me by carrying a toy almost the entire trip. Retrievers! He also displayed his innate agility. He and Boost were in puppy agility class together, but Ren is now retired from agility and spends his days hiking, swimming, retrieving, and writing his memoirs.

Horses and cows had laid out many delectable patties along the trail and meadows. Tika and Boost loved it.

Would you put your hand in there to try to reattach a leash to the collar?

None of the beasts apparently suffers from any fear of heights or of falling down the cliffs. Nice to have four feet and a low center of gravity.

Wendy and Keith and the beasts forge ahead while I--as usual--snap photos and then rush to catch up.

And so another adventure comes to an end. By the time we were home, the dogs were rested up and ready to play again. Everyone got a good hosing down, to their dismay.

These are just a few of the photos; see the rest--lots of wildflowers and happy dogs--here.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Monday, June 23, 2008

What a Waste

SUMMARY: Recycling and doggie droppings.

Back in high school in the early 1970s (there, I admit it), I wrote a couple of speeches about ecology and the environment, and then I got all hot under the collar about Things We Can Do At Home To Save The Earth. This was back when recycling was something you did to get back on a bicycle. Or else weird counterculture stuff. I believe that I was the instigator for my parents to start recycling bottles and cans. This was back when you had to buy your own containers for recycling, if you wanted it separate from garbage, and then you had to go find someplace that would take your recyclables and transport them there, and sort them yourself into the appropriate bins, after crushing all the cans to save space, of course.

I think I let my parents do most of the actual work. Although when I moved out on my own I did all that stuff.

Also, just to be a good person, I have always picked up my dogs's messes in public. I used to get complimented because I'd walk around picking up after my dogs. Now people swear at me because my dogs poop in public. Weird world. Anyway. In your own yard (if it's not a giant ranch in, say, Marfa), you need to pick it up or else reencounter it in many unexpected and not necessarily pleasant ways.

Eventually, when I grew up a little bit, like in 1995 or so, I went through the program to become a Master Composter because I learned that soil is SO much happier with organic matter added, and besides it makes so much more sense to process your own yard waste. (Ask me someday for why. I'm a Master Composter. I have a very long list of reasons.)

Then there was the doggie droppings thing. When I walked out in public, we used to carry a trowel and a small paper bag. Then I'd scoop the poop into the bag and then throw out the bag. When I started doing Dog Activities with Dog People, I realized that plastic bags were way more convenient in so many ways: Moisture doesn't leak through them. Before use, they crush easily into a pocket. You can do the grab and lift and don't need a trowel. You can buy them on a very condensed roll and attach them to your leash.

When I had a Really Big Yard, during the winter, when it rained, we'd mostly leave the doggie deposits where they lay, as they'd fade into the soil under their own power. But the rest of the time, we used to gather it all into a large grocery bag and toss it in the trash.

So, Taj MuttHall Mom, What's Your Main Point?

And so, here's my main point. With my Concern For The Environment and finally being a Master Composter, I decided that I needed to find some way to deal with all of the solid waste produced by my canids.

So I bought a Doggie Dooley digester, which is basically a big plastic box with a lid that you bury in the ground, like a mini doggie-doo septic tank, and you periodically throw in your dog waste and some Doggie Dooley Digester Enzymes. It's supposed to just vanish in a trice and sink into the soil in an unobtrusive way.

Well, I tried for probably 3 years to get that thing to work. I added more liquid. Less liquid. More enzymes. A lot more enzymes. Fewer enzymes. I kept a big pole by the (very-rapidly-completely-filled) Dooley and stirred it and aerated it. A really fun thing to do on weekends. But I never, never got it to work. There were notes about clay soil not being perfect, but since our clay soil drained very well, I thought it wouldn't be an issue. But noooo--- I gave up finally.

I have corresponded with people in other parts of the country who have had good success with the thing. But not here.

So here are some other possibilities:

* Put in a plastic bag and into the trash. Actually, at least one agility site near here REQUIRES that the dog poo must be in plastic bags before it goes into their trash. But--all those plastic bags!

* Put into a paper bag and into the trash. However, some municipalities now apparently ban pet waste in the garbage entirely (hmm, trying to find a reference for that and can't. I believe it was Pacific Northwest somewhere). Plus, really, stuff that goes into the landfill gets buried so quickly and thoroughly that a lot of it just doesn't break down, or won't for centuries. I don't think paper or plastic really matters.

* Compost it. Ugh. Doggie poo (and that of most omnivorous/carnivorous animals) can or usually does contain all kinds of ugly pathogens that normal backyard composting won't kill and you don't want in contact with you, your vegetables, or your children. Not a good solution.

* Same applies, maybe, to leaving it lying around the yard to break down on its own, if you have a large-enough yard. But in this case, it would be far enough from where you're usually in direct contact with it that it wouldn't matter so much. But how many of us have yards that big?

* Flush it down the toilet. Gak, carrying that through the house?

* Put it into the sewer in some other manner, like build a sewer connection in your back yard. Expensive, although maybe cost effective for larger kennels. But now there's some indication that many of those pet pathogens are not destroyed in the water treatment process and are finding their way into the waters of the world. (Limited references available; mostly applies to cat waste.)

So what's an ecoconscious dog owner to do? I dunno. My current strategy is plastic bags into trash, both for public poos (small convenient-sized bags) and for backyard cleanup (one large bag weekly).

But someone just pointed out this gadget. Looks like an interesting idea, if it really works. And if you have $400 left over after doing dog agility. Anyone out there have any experience with this thang?

Labels: , , ,

Complete list of labels

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Of Mice and Women

SUMMARY: Boost finds a mouse but we can't catch it. Plums are pretty much gone and I'm glad. In a barely related story, menopause is now hip.

Three evenings ago, while I was (as usual) at the computer, Boost started her "Alert! Something is weird and out of place!" bark, except this time it was in the kitchen, not the yard, and she was staring at the microwave. I couldn't figure out what it might be. There was nothing out of place--the cover was off the toaster, but it often is; there was a loaf of bread on the counter but it had been there for a week; the lid was off the teakettle but I doubted that she could even see that.

So I went back to work and, a couple of minutes later, the alarm-barker went off again. I walked along the counter, touching stuff, to see whether she seemed particularly interested in anything, but nooo--as soon as I came into the room, she just went into "Hi, mom!" mode instead of helping me figure out what her britches were in a bunch about, which is what she usually does on an alarm-bark.

Back to the computer. Another alarm-bark. This time I picked her up and walked her along next to the counter so that she could see what was there. She seemed intrigued at the idea of being able to see what was there and felt inclined for a real close look, but nothing along the lines of cautious worry that she exhibits for other causes of alarm.

So I put her down, and she's looking at me cheerily, and Tika is buzzing around noisily at all the commotion, and I'm standing there, leaning on the counter, asking The Booster what on earth she's going on about, when of a sudden I think I hear something in the cabinet next to me. Just the tiniest of whispery sounds, and gone again. I managed to get the dogs into down-stays so that their jangling and toenails didn't interfere, and stood there and listened. After a minute, there it was again, a teeny whisper. Mouse in the wall? With all the rodents we've had around lately, it could be. And then came the distinct (but very quiet) sound of tiny toothers chewing cellophane.

I stepped to the front of the cabinet (the one over the microwave, which on the counter) and yanked open the door. Silence. I scanned the shelves. There was a package of spaghetti on the bottom shelf, in cellophane. I reached in and started to move it, and Zam Zoom! A little furry body plunged past me out of the cabinet, across the microwave, onto the counter, across the stove, and down the gap next to the fridge, all in the time I was still trying to form the thought "Eek!" and coming down out of the air.

Now, I am not an eeky person and I am not afraid of rodents. But from a still, silent cabinet, having a creature launch itself at you abruptly is more than startling.

Meanwhile, the dogs are watching me curiously (my body having hidden the cabinet from their view and the rest of the activity up out of their sight). I told Boost she was a good girl and went exploring. Sure enough, mouse droppings under the sink. (There seems to be some unwritten mousey law that, when invading a kitchen, you must deposit droppings beneath the sink.) I cleaned all that out and put mousetraps there and between the fridge and the stove. To no avail, apparently.

Which brings us to plums.

It has been plum season for about the last 3 weeks.I've harvested and eaten as many as I could, gave quite a few away, made two separate batches of plum sorbet (mmmMMM! but it still uses only a handful of plums), and picked up zillions from the ground day after day and tossed their squashed bodies into the compost bins.

This, however, is where I keenly feel Jake's absence. He was a profligate plum eater, and as you might imagine, this worked wonders for loosening up his intestinal fortitude. And he had the most luxurious petticoats on his back legs and long silky hair on his tail, and in plum season I spent a prodigious amount of time hosing him down and letting him out in the middle of night to answer the call of the bowels.

This year, there's no Jake, and the current dogs seem far less enamoured of the purple fruit. Except that in the last few days, Boost seems to have discovered the joys of decaying plummage. So now I've been letting *her* out in the middle of the night.

Last night, it was twice, and the second time, I couldn't get back to sleep. Lying there comfortably, thinking about nothing in particular, but wide awake. (With the occasional hot flash to keep me entertained kicking off the sheets and pulling them back up again.) I finally got up and went downstairs to settle at my favorite putting-my-brain-to-sleep station at the kitchen table. Made myself a nice hot chocolate and started a crossword puzzle. The dogs, of course, had gone back upstairs to bed and by all accounts were quite comfy there.

Then, out of my peripheral vision, I detected motion. Glanced to one side just fast enough to see a mouse vanish under the fridge. I cursed silently and went back to my crossword. A few minutes later, the dang thing skittered from the fridge to under the stove. A few minutes later, it skittered from there back along the wall.

OK, this was NOT relaxing. And why wasn't the dang thing kindly throwing himself upon the mercy of the mousetraps? And what could I do about it in the meantime? I debated getting the dogs and trying to chase the mouse out from under something, but who knows where he'd be by the time I came downstairs, and even if I could convince the dogs to take part and I could flush him out, I figured that my renter/housemate might not appreciate my efforts at 3 in the morning. So, unrelaxed, I returned to bed.

I did, eventually, fall asleep, along about dawn. The dogs let me sleep til 9, which is very late for me (but there's the warped benefit of letting them out in the middle of the night--they were prepared to hold anything further until much later in the day). At which point I got up, enjoyed a liesurely breakfast while reading the paper, and was amused to see (just a few days after posting my Cold Flashes blog) an article saying that it's now apparently the cool factor to be in menopause and suffering from hot flashes. And how, even 5 years ago, no one ever talked about them in public (well, I know that's not strictly true), but now women yak about them to anyone and turn them into social clubs, so that nonmenopausal women feel left out in the cold (so to speak). And, perish the thought, hot flashing women even BLOG PUBLICLY about these previously very personal issues! The nerve!

But, if those left-out-feeling women are looking for something else to do with their time while us in the In crowd are putting on our fleece sweater, taking it off, putting it on, taking it off, they're welcome to come by and clean up old rotting plums from my garden and herd the mice out of my kitchen so I can have a good night's sleep.

Labels: , , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Poo Dog, Poor Dog, Pooped Mom, and Weekend

SUMMARY: Boost's habit of rolling in smelly stuff; Tika's anal glands; my hip & knee; more USDAA coming right up.

Poo Dog

Boost's only major flaw is her propensity for rolling in what some, more particular, people might refer to as "poo". Tika's in most particular. The first couple of times she did it, I was properly horrified, rushed her carefully upstairs into the shower, and gave her a nice bath with warm water and gentle shampoo and all that. The next three thousand times--ferget it. It's the hose in the back yard, with the nozzle set to "shower." Even though she loves to play with the hose spray when it's play time, she's not so keen on the hose dominating the interaction for however long it takes to remove the noisome globs of offensive material.

The other evening, I spent 3 hours down at city hall to try to ensure that dogs like her can continue to be born--San Jose is considering adopting a new animal ordinance that includes limiting litters to one per female per lifetime unless you're a Commercial Kennel, in which case all kinds of inspections and regulations and licensing fees and restrictions such as "must not occur within 250 feet of another dwelling" apply. Since Boost is from her mom's second litter, she might not have been born if such an ordinance had existed. (Maybe more on that topic some other time.) However, sometimes I wonder--

When I got home--late--long council meeting--she greeted me very briefly albeit enthusiastically at the door and then vanished. I didn't think about it while I had a soft drink and talked to my housemate and scritched Tika a bunch, but then realized that Boost had not been around. I went looking to see where she was, and she was lying in the cubby under my desk. Huh, thought I, that's really weird; why is she hiding? "Booster," said I, "why are you hiding under my desk?" She put her ears back, tipped her tail briefly, and scootched back into the dark recesses among the computer cables as far as she could.

My fatigued mind began to make connections. "Oh, you didn't--" I reached under and put my hand in her collar, and felt--something--on her face that shouldn't have been there. I started to withdraw my hand and I didn't have to take it very far before the odor confirmed my dawning suspicion.

I had thought for quite a while that it was my tone of voice or body language when I saw that she had enpooed herself that would make her turn and run, but in this case I had had no clue until after she had already turned, and run, and hid. So she has clearly made the association between being covered with poo and getting hosed off. And yet--and yet--she cannot help herself! It's like the worst kinds of addictions! You rue it after you're done, but the next time the temptation occurs, whammo! there you are indulging once again.

Poor Dog

Over the last 3 or 4 weeks, Tika has been licking more and more insistently at her anal area. Not all the time, but when she begins, she doesn't want to stop. I thought it might be her anal glands, but since I've never had to deal with them before (only one of my 6 dogs ever needed help emptying them, and then the vet had to do it), I really didn't know what I was looking for. Plus she's extremely sensitive about being touched anywhere except in a petting sort of mode (which makes going to the vet a major source of traumatic stress disorder right on the spot). Plus she can lock her little remaining tailbone down over her netherlands so tightly that a hydraulic jack couldn't lift it. Plus all that thick, thick fur.

I finally decided that something had to be done since it was obviously bothering her. So I took her to the vet, along with a clicker and a huge bag of cut-up goodies. Did a lot of tricks and lying down and settling and stuff in the waiting room, and every time I'd go for another handful of goodies, she'd throw herself against the exit door, desperately trying to escape. Her respiration rate doubles or triples--and for Tika the always-over-the-top-dog anyway, that's an accomplishment. Fortuately she's very food motivated, so as long as I had a piece in my hand, she'd hang in there. But so agitated that any attempts to get her to take it gently (read: leave fingers attached to hands) were unsuccessful.

The vet has never, ever, heard her normal heartrate. They always say it's quite elevated. But they can also see that she's about to hyperventilate and then explode from the stress. She was really very good for a dog who normally shrieks when the vet tries to look in her ears. She's never shown signs of trying to nip at anyone during this kind of ritual torture, but she is by far the most-stressed vet-visting dog I've ever had.

Anyway--her anal glands are infected. So I need to try to get some ointment under the locked-down tail twice a day, and give her an antibiotic pill twice a day, for about a week, and then take her back in two weeks for another stimulating visit.

Pooped Mom

My knee has been bothering me a bit. I try to walk normally, not favoring it. But my opposite hip has been flaring up for the last week, off and on. Feels more like something's out of alignment (my thumb sometimes does that, and if I kind of twist and yank it, then instantly it's better--but I haven't found a way to twist and yank my own hip) than merely sore. Feel like I need a chiropractor, not a doctor. Last night, by bedtime, it was so bad that I had trouble falling to sleep, and then it woke me constantly, probably every time I moved in my sleep, all night. I might have gotten 3 hours of sleep.

When I finally dragged myself downstairs around 9 a.m., it hurt with every step and I really was using the handrail to drag myself to the computer to try to find more info about chiropractic care on the Kaiser Medical web site. I sat at the computer for about half an hour, and apparently it rearranged itself during that time, because I was then able to walk, and shower, and dress, and even go to Boost's class, with only minor discomfort.

I haven't been to a chirpractor in many years--hmm, last time my hip was bothering me, in fact. Went to a new one recommended by my renter. Doctor seems nice, and competent, too. Also has 2 dogs and knows what dog agility is, which in my book is always a plus. But he didn't want to do any twisting and pulling until he had done xrays, and it was the end of the day and he was already staying late to see me, so he'll have the xrays processed over the weekend and I'll see him again Monday morning.

But meanwhile that leaves me with ice and antiinflammatories to get me through the weekend. What a pathetic body!

This weekend

Which brings me to this weekend: More USDAA. And a very rare trial in which there is not a single Tournament (national qualifier) class. Just double everything except Relay.

I've managed to work on Boost's weaves only once so far this week. Who knows what the weekend will bring. The scary thought is that she *could* get 2 more standard, or 2 more Snooker, or one more gamblers, this weekend, and move up to Masters in any of those. We are SO not ready. Her AAD (intermediate title--Advanced Agility Dog) requires just 2 Standard, a jumpers, and a relay. We are so so SO not ready for masters. But if she keeps failing to do weaves, the standards aren't likely to come any time soon. On the other hand, if she has fits of perfect weavage like she did this past weekend, we could conceivable finish that title this weekend.

Nope, don't even think about it.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tootling Along

SUMMARY: So far so good, still

Housemate's cooking fan club
Housemate gets Tika and Boost lined up for some good fetch.
When tug-of-war isn't good enough--Boost learns to fly.
Yummy home-made cookies from Saturday night's party.
That's me at Saturday's party, rather blurry, oh, well, but the only photo I asked anyone to take. Really, I only just met the guy five minutes before and his wife was sitting right there.

Things are progressing fairly uneventfully. Boost chose two of the coldest, frostiest mornings to go outside first thing and roll in poop, covering herself with gobbets of stuff head to tail, making us both miserable as I had to spend considerable time hosing her off with icy-cold water. I've always wanted to install a hot-water spigot to the back yard for dog care, but have never had the budget. Someday...

Jake has been eager to play fetch lately, which is grand.

All the dogs want more attention and excitement than they're getting, but they're surviving. I am going outside with them most days at least once and at least throwing a toy for them to bring back, with just a wee bit of basic agility that I can do while essentially standing still. Have worked on some basic tricks with a clicker inside the house on a couple of occasions for a change of pace, and have occasionally fed them their meals in Buster Cubes (which they have to roll around to get to dispense the kibble). It's been raining or drizzling the last two or three days, which makes me want to avoid having them run around in the yard--gets them all muddy and tears up the lawn.

But I haven't taken them ANYWHERE in a couple of weeks--no classes, no visits to the park, no walks, nuthin'. Really need to do something, anything, as soon as I can manage.

Fortunately, the renter/housemate always plays with them daily anyway, but has been making a special effort to get at least Jake and Tika well-run. And they love him for it--plus they're rather fond of helping him finish off a few scraps left over when he makes his daily sandwiches or otherwise cooks. Tika's not fond of fresh broccoli, but even she will munch a few pieces when she sees the other two gulping them down.

The knee mostly gets better. I had my first post-op physical therapy Thursday morning, where we did almost nothing (because my knee hurt at least a little with most things, and therapist doesn't want to start the pain cycle with even a little aggravation). On the way home, I stopped at Rite Aid briefly, and discovered that, even being able to park right in front of the store, I was tired and sore and my knee ached and it was quite strenuous. I slept two hours when I got home. That evening, I reverted to crutches around the house, which I hadn't used in probably 4 or 5 days.

But the next day, Friday, I felt my best post-op so far, even forgetting from time to time as I moved around the house that there was anything wrong with my knee at all. Saturday I went to the movies and did so by walking ALLLLLL the way from the back parking lot through the huge Oakridge Mall to the theater, the most walking I've done post-op, even including a couple of grocery shopping trips. I did take my crutches with me and used them just to give me a wee tiny extra bit of weight-bearing support for that leg, trying to walk normally, just braced with the crutches. I think I did fine.

I haven't used the icing machine in 3 days now, so that's been 3--hmm, maybe 4--nights I've gone without it overnight. The first of those nights I did get up in the night (towards morning) and ice it for 20 minutes, as it ached enough to be bothersome after I got up to use the facilities, and then it was fine again.

So I'm just icing for 20 minutes off and on during the day, and am doing a very few exercises when I remember to do so. Need to do some more; the weight is already creeping on (but I'm eating crappily, too--usually the exercise I get helps to accommodate that). Tried the exercycle in physical therapy briefly and couldn't do much; I'm going to try it again today and see what I can do.

Last night I carpooled with a friend on a lonnnng drive (over an hour an a half) to Pacific Grove to an agility club party/meeting. I survived the drive and the party and managed to snap a bunch of photos of club members, and although I was tired when I got home, I attributed it more to the late-night hour than to anything knee-related. So, yes, progress is occurring.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Complete list of labels