Friday, July 31, 2009

Let them eat bread

I love this time of year, mostly because I love to eat. The garden is full of all kinds of good things: tomatoes, sweetcorn, cucumbers, melons and ZUCCHINI! Well, my garden is not full of zucchini but friends' gardens are and they like to share. Mostly because they know they'll get zucchini bread back.

3 eggs
2 C. sugar
1 C. vegetable oil
3 tsp. vanilla
2 C. zucchini, grated
3 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon

Beat eggs well; add sugar, oil and vanilla. Blend. Add zucchini, then dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased 9x5-inch loaf pans and bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Cool briefly in pans, then turn onto wire rack. Freezes well!

Here are some zucchini in pre-bread form. Two are from Tammy and Bill. One is from Alan at work. Tammy and Bill will get bread back. They asked for it. Alan won't. He didn't. But that's OK. His wife probably made him some.

First things first: zucchini have to be peeled before grating. Here they are in all their naked glory. Eeeeek! Naked zucchini!

Next step is grating. This is the Evil Grater From Hell. It also grates knuckles. But no knuckles were grated in the making of this bread. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, use the food processor already. But by the time I drag it out, set it up, figure out which buttons to push, forget to tighten the lid, splatter shredded zucchini all over the kitchen cupboards, well, it's just easier this way.

Here's the beginning. In the beginning there were eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. And it was good.

But it gets better. Add the zucchini. Now it looks weird. Who would eat green stuff that looks like this?

The dry ingredients come next. I add them one-half at a time. There's a ton of cinnamon in this recipe. Can you see it peeking out from under the flour? Cinnamon is good for your heart and circulation, I think. Or maybe I'm just making that up.

Here's the batter in two 9x5 inch loaf pans, ready to go in the oven. My loaf pans do not match. Nothing in my house matches. I'm just happy I can FIND two loaf pans. Maybe if I put my glasses on that would help. See my glasses laying on the table in the upper left hand corner of this picture. That would explain a lot.

A good morning's work, six loaves of zucchini bread. And I still have zucchini left over. But I was out of cinnamon so had to stop. For now. The zucchini season continues to run rampant. Must buy more supplies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dog Days

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, we are in the dog days of summer. This is from July 3 to Aug. 11, usually the hottest days of summer and coinciding with the ancient heliacal (sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. I know this because Wikipedia says it is so.

Here are 10 fun things to do with your malinois (or whippet or lab or border collie or whatever you have handy) during the dog days of summer.

1) Let him “help” you pick cherry tomatoes. Pick really fast if you want any with your supper. Don’t set your bowl down or he will eat the tomatoes you have already picked. Yet another lesson I have learned the hard way.

2) Encourage him to investigate mole runs in the back yard. Digging permitted. Actually, digging encouraged. $#@!* moles. To date, no moles have been harmed by malinois, the Farmer or the Farmer’s Wife (although not for lack of trying).

3) Let him “help” you water flowers with a garden hose. Occasionally “miss” the flowers and spray him. This offers hours of amusement. Laugh at the look of total disgust on other dogs’ faces while malinois soaks himself from head to tail while voluntarily waterboarding himself with the hose.

4) Play “Take this to your dad.” This can be played with mail, socks or small household objects. Give malinois the object and tell the Farmer to call him. Much family fun and random shredding follows. Playing with food is not recommended. Playing with bank documents isn’t either.

5) Get the Furminator. Put grooming table on patio. Put malinois on table. Furminate to your heart’s content. Remember to warn the Farmer before he walks out of the basement door into a July snowstorm of mal fur.

6) Let dogs rush back into the house after a play session. See how long it takes malinois to leap onto the Farmer’s lap if he is sitting in his recliner. For best results, do this after a flower watering session.

7) Take dogs for a walk (on leash). Go turf-skiing when baby raccoons pop out of the road ditch and run across the road in front of you. Hope neighbors are not watching. Hope pastor (who lives nearby) does not have his windows open.

8) Blow bubbles for dogs to chase. Proceed with caution, as bubble pursuit by malinois involves extreme jaw snapping and maniacal leaping about. Bonus points awarded if you do this while your in-laws drive by, confirming their suspicions that not only in their daughter-in-law insane, so is her little dog, too.

9) Fill baby pool with water straight from the well. Kick off shoes and stand in pool while dogs splash happily around. Stand until feet go numb (about 45 seconds). Go sit on patio and toss balls into the pool for underwater retrieves. Make sure in-laws see you have a baby pool for your dogs. This will remove any doubt they had about your mental status.

10) Pull weeds from flower beds. Place weeds in bucket. Make annoyed noises as malinois does drive-bys, grabbing a mouthful of weeds and flinging them hither and yon. Chewing on pre-pulled weeds are clearly more fun than having to pull your own. Use extra caution when pulling weeds around tomato plants. Sneaky picking of tomatoes by weed-stealing dog may ensue.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Living for the moment

Today I am a lazy blogger. Check out Susan Garrett’s blog at She has written two great posts about the competitive evolution of dog trainers (July 27 and 28).

In regard to the final stage of this evolution, Susan writes on July 28: “We have moved to a mental place where we enjoy the sport for how beautiful we can make it with our dog. Competing never results in dissatisfaction with the dog regardless of the outcome and all disappointments are experiences we learn from and then dismiss.”

For a long time, I defined success by wins and titles. It was tremendously important to me to have a dog who was nationally ranked, to be invited to the NOI, to carry home my obedience club’s “Highest Scoring Dog” trophy year after year (just another thing to dust; really, why did I want it so badly?!). I seemed to be in a constant state of elation or frustration, depending on the outcome of any given trial (both obedience and agility, I believed in equal opportunity angst).

As the years brought more experiences, I realized my criteria needed to change before I made myself totally crazy — not my training criteria but my “success” criteria. What an absolute relief it was to give myself permission to STOP OBSESSING about being perfect, always winning, being number one, etc. That’s not to say I don’t still train for those “outcome goals” as defined by wins and titles because I certainly do, but they are no longer the solitary focus of my training and showing. And that's why I can look back on our recent 0 for 8 agility weekend and joy of being in the ring and the lessons I learned from it and say, "That was a GOOD weekend!"

So go read Susan Garrett’s thoughts because they’re worth your time. And they’re totally cool. And you might laugh when you recognize yourself in them.

Tomorrow I’ll quit being lazy and come up with something original. Phoenix’s new Invince-A-Bell has arrived (finally!), the Farmer is putting up a gi-normous grain bin at our house and the sweetcorn is ripening. Life is good.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Glen Carbon report

“If we learn by our mistakes, I am in a constant state of education.”

The learning curve continues! Phoenix did some brilliant stuff at the four-day agility trial at Glen Carbon and I made some really stupid handling errors. Thank goodness for friends who videotaped us all weekend long (Terry and Michele, that would be you.) Watching “game films” was incredibly helpful in figuring out what the heck happened, since I have a hard time recognizing it in the heat of the moment. When the run is over in 30 seconds, it’s really tough for me to pinpoint where things went wrong, especially when my feet and arms seem to be operating independently of my brain . . . which clearly was not operating at all several times. Plus it was just plain fun getting together every night in the motel to plug the camcorders into the TV and review the day’s successful runs as well as those that didn’t go quite according to plan.

Overall, I was really happy with the progress Phoenix and I have made in running Excellent-level courses over the summer. While Novice and Open weren’t exactly easy, they were much less demanding on both of us and not really a true test of our teamwork. I do feel like we’ve made a lot of progress in our teamwork (versus individually running amuck . . . which still isn’t totally out of the question) but we've got a long way to go.

The other side of the coin was continuing frustration with the table. Phoenix stuck it one day (because I was body-blocking him from flying off), did a touch-and-go two days and totally ignored it the last day. Terry thought he was looking at someone walking by outside the ring. Oh look! A shiny object! Apparently he is just like his handler.

Weaves were another source of gray hair. Honestly, weaves and the table are the two things we have been working diligently all summer long but from the looks of it, neither of us had any idea what to do with them. Sigh. I’ll change my training strategy (the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results) and keep after it.

One of the best things about the weekend was everyone’s willingness to offer suggestions on how best to handle any given portion of the course. While this produced a considerable amount of conflicting advice, I am getting better at sifting through it and deciding what is the best approach for me and my dog. This is somewhat of a trial and error process and it probably won’t end any time soon. It’s great to have an instructor or good friends to tell you “do this” or “don’t do that” but at some point you have to decide for yourself what is the best strategy for you.

So often, we measure the success of a trial weekend by the number of Qs or the color of ribbons displayed on our crates. I’ve totally been there, so it’s a new experience for me to look at a weekend where the stats show us going 0 for 8 and call it successful! Being able to run four days in a row - although exhausting - was a great way to learn what worked and what needs work. I think we improved a little bit each day and it was a total rush to run a tricky sequence successfully, knowing that success was due to teamwork, not blind luck (although I’m certainly not opposed to that, either!).

Weekend highlights included Rilda’s wild rice summer sausage (thanks for feeding us, Rilda Sue!); doing some early Christmas shopping at the vendors (hope I can remember where I put things in December); watching Michele’s lip change colors from day to day (she had a little accident while loading her van before we left); a great meal at Zapatos after which we all suffered from “Hispani-bloat,” Tracy’s word for eating waaaaaay too much at a really good Mexican restaurant and four days spent having just plain fun with my dogs and good friends.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vacation, Day 2

I took this week off and as usual, being on vacation is more work than being at work. Yesterday was crazy busy but today? Not so much. It's been raining steadily since 6 a.m. Not so great for doing anything outdoors but good for forcing me to get after some work around the house. Dust? Yeah, we got dust. Oh, REMOVE the dust? Yeah, maybe I should do that.

Mostly I've spent the day getting ready to leave for Glen Carbon, Ill., tomorrow for a four-day agility trial Thursday through Sunday. That is probably one more day of agility than good sense dictates but the site is lovely and the company will be great. It will be a welcome mid-summer get-away. 

All three dogs are going with and we're stopping to see my folks on the way. The plan is to get to the motel early enough to beat the St. Louis traffic . . . and of course I have an ice cream stop already plotted at the DQ in Hannibal, Mo.

The Farmer is staying home. It's hard to bale hay when you're sitting with your wife and her crazy dog at an indoor soccer arena for 8 hours a day. The big item on his agenda, aside from second-cutting hay, is bug bombing the basement while we're gone. It's not something we can do while any of us are in the house and there is a serious spider problem going on in the basement. Since I have no use for spiders (I totally share Ron Weasley's spider phobia), I am happy to let him tackle the problem. In his words, "Set up the bug bomb, push the button and get the hell out of the house." He's a good man.

Will file a report on the weekend's events when I get home. My major goal is to use some of the new handling skills I've been trying to learn this summer. Shut up and run!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy birthday, Jamie!

Jamie turns 10 today! Happy birthday, Big Red Dog!

What an amazing 10 years it's been. I remember the trip to southern Ohio to pick up Jamie in September of 1999 like it was yesterday. Tammy probably does, too! And no, I am NOT sorry we did not stop to take pictures of that log cabin . . . the one with granny and her corncob pipe on the front porch and the moonshine still in the back yard. I swear I could hear "Dueling Banjos" as we drove by.

Jamie, 9 weeks
(the future OTCh., U-UD Ariel's Escape Through Time, 

Jamie, 3 months
Jamie's legacy is being the Most Patient Dog In The World. Nothing reflects this more than his tolerance of me as a trainer. I put him in the obedience ring when he was too young. I rushed to push him into Open and Utility before he was ready. I tried to make him "just like Connor," my first OTCh. He must have shaken his head in exasperation with me more than once, then slowly and gently nudged me around to his agenda.

Like his Scottish Highlander namesake in Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, Jamie is full of surprises. After a completely mediocre Novice and Open career, he went High In Trial from Open B in the pouring rain at the ABTC nationals in 2004. Suddenly, our teamwork blossomed and he finished his OTCh. a year later. His obedience career was a roller coaster of highs and lows and the lessons he taught me were invaluable.

Jamie enjoyed an agility career that admittedly was not marked by blazing speed but was one of consistency and fun. He was a steady and reliable dog and I never under-valued those qualities even though they rarely found us collecting the blue ribbon when the class was over. I sometimes wondered if he read the course maps in his crate because he was so consistent. He retired with half the DQs for a MACH but I think we would have both been old and gray before getting 750 points. (We may be gray now but we are not old!)

Jamie, 1 year old
Jamie is a wonderful dog to camp with. He is a highly efficient, snuggly heater and camp guardian. Only once in all the years I've camped did I get a bad feeling about a couple of guys who were hanging around the campground. When they loitered close to my set up, Jamie stood up, stepped in front of me and stared at them. They left and did not come back.

He also sparkles with that ridiculous Tervuren sense of humor. This usually involves poking people in the butt with his nose and the list of poke-ees is long. He smiles when he sees people he likes, a happy, fang-baring grin that shows every tooth in his mouth.

Jamie, 10 years old
Ten years has flown by, measured by training sessions, trials, classes, ribbons, friendships, lessons, celebrations and above all, sharing the journey with my big red dog. His current jobs include holding down the couch and barking to alert when the Farmer comes in from chores at night. He is a wonderful "Belgian express" dog, carrying mail, messages and occasionally (VERY occasionally) food from me in the kitchen to the Farmer elsewhere in the house.

This is boring! Where's my cake?
Jamie sends happy birthday wishes to all his friends who also turn 10 this year: Simon, Syd, Ryelee, Breeze and Nina, in memoriam. They are our wonderful '99 models.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ice cream therapy

Yesterday, Phoenix and I went to visit my dad. I'm trying to get down there at least once a week. It's such a long trip but I know he won't be around forever and I need to give Mom as much support as I can. The hospice staff is really great about caring for Dad and I don't think he's in any pain but it's still really hard to see him the way he is now, basically immobile and uncommunicative. He doesn't smile any more. Phoenix remembered what his "job" was and leaped up on the bed and made himself at home. Dad doesn't have much motor control so his movements are really convulsive and jerky. I know he knew Phoenix was there and enjoyed being able to touch him.

It was an emotionally draining day. On the way home, we stopped for ice cream at this little dairy mart just off Highway 218. I decided Phoenix deserved his own cone so ordered a baby cone for him and a small cone for me. The girl handed me mine, chocolate, of course. It was just the right size, not too much, not too little. Then she handed me Phoenix's  vanilla baby cone. It was exactly the same size as my small! 

Thank goodness that crazy dog has a cast iron gut and no lactose intolerance. I let him eat the whole thing, which he loved. I figured he deserved it; it was a tough day for both of us.

Oh, a fun thing while visiting my folks: there is a huge lake near the hospice house. It has a wonderful paved trail all the way around, about one mile long. Mom, Karene, Phoenix and I went for a walk mid-morning. At one place along the trail, you can buy food from a vending machine to toss to the fish. Mom was armed with stale bread (no need to buy fish kibble). At first, all I could see were a bunch of little bluegills swimming around. Then the catfish started coming up. Holy buckets! Those were some big cats! They must have imported them right out of the Mississippi River (which is pretty close). Even Phoenix got excited when he saw all the splashing in the water. I think one of those catfish could have had him for lunch.

This morning, 'Nix and I had a lovely workout with Michele and Cider at the 4RK9s building. He got to play with Cider and Bea afterwards. This always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling because Phoenix is NOT what you would call "dog park" material. But he loves the Lab girls and was totally in his element playing tug and chasing balls. When we came home, he crashed and I stripped out C3P0, vacuumed and detailed the interior and am washing all the crate blankets. It will be great to have a clean van for the trip to Glen Carbon in a few days. Wish it would stay that way longer!

I think there are some ice cream bars in the freezer. It may be time for more therapy . . .

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Garden tour

It's going to feel more like October than July here this weekend, with near-record lows in the 40s and highs that don't even break 70, but my flowers look great and thought I'd share some of them before it gets crazy hot again and everything wilts or gets eaten by bugs.

My criteria for what flowers to grow basically comes down to one question: can it flourish without me having to fuss over it? My gardening style is best described as trial and error and after 18 years of sticking plants in the dirt around our house, I'm finally learning what works and what doesn't.

Purple coneflowers need very little fussing. I think they would grow on the moon.

Yarrow is wonderfully tough, too. This particular clump is growing - unfortunately - right in the middle of Phoenix's shortcut from one side of the yard to the other. He could go around it or over it. He usually goes right through the middle of it. But it still looks pretty good.

Butterfly milkweed is tough and fun. I'll take another picture later this summer when the monarch caterpillars hatch. Last year, I counted about 60 of them on one plant. Yeah, they kind of munched up the plant but what the heck.

I love moonbeam coreopsis, too. It looks so feathery and fragile and it is tough as nails. It thrives in hot dry places, like this bed at the edge of the patio.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The dial up dilema

Several of you have commented on the headache that is our dial-up internet service and wondered why we don’t upgrade already. Here’s the deal: we live in the Bermuda Triangle of internet service. Seriously. There is a little area of land in Iowa County that falls just outside the service area of the local telephone companies. Guess where we live? Right smack in the middle of it. It’s dial-up or nothing, baby.

About once a year, our telephone company sends out a promotional flier claiming “High speed internet service NOW available in your area!” Apparently this is a typo. What they mean to say is, “High speed internet service NOT available in your area.”

I’ve called our ISP and questioned them about the situation. They are always very polite and assure me WELL OF COURSE you can get high speed and they’d be happy to sign me up right that very minute if I will just confirm my address and telephone number. So I do. And then there’s a very long pause, followed by some incoherent mumbling, followed by a meek apology and an offer to let me speak to their manager. No can do.

We could have a new satellite system installed and totally rewire our entire telephone, computer and television lines in the house and machine shed to get high speed access. All of this for an initial set up fee of $1,000 minimum, plus a monthly service contract, plus surcharges, plus this fee and that fee and a partridge in a pear tree.

We’ll keep the dial-up, thanks.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Therapy dog, vermin catcher

The Farmer and I went to visit Dad today. I took Phoenix with, at Mom's request. She didn't know if Dad would respond to him or not. I think maybe she just wanted to enjoy having a dog around for a day.

Who'd have thunk it - wild Phoenix was a great therapy dog. Dad recognized him and had a big smile. Once Phoenix figured out how to get on the bed (not easy with rails), he spent the day snuggling with Dad. ("You mean you WANT me on the bed? And you want me to STAY there? Well, all right then!") It was a good visit.

When we got home, I sat down at the computer to catch up on e-mail. Wasn't long before I was watching a hummingbird outside the dining room window. It was the first one I've seen this summer, a little shiny green thing about the size of my thumb. Yep, a shiny object, took my mind right off what I was doing.

Then I realized Phoenix was staring out the window, too, totally rigid, tail straight up (that is NEVER a good thing), making squeaking noises like he might launch into orbit at any moment. I was trying to decide if he was that excited about a hummingbird when I realized there was a 13-striped ground squirrel standing on the old barn timber that edges the flower bed along the patio.

At least I think it was a 13-striped ground squirrel. It didn't stand there long enough for me to count the stripes. It took off, zipping around in my flowers, scattering mulch and stopping long enough to eat a blossom off a moss rose here and there. 

Now look here, you little SOB! I have put up with bugs, moles, the occasional errant steer and three male dogs who have no respect for flowers. There's a raccoon that lives in the machine shed where I park my van who leaves 'coon prints across the windshield and I run a trap line for field mice who think they can move into the basement whenever they please. I was NOT having ground squirrels in my flower bed.

I whistled for the dogs and outside we went. Phoenix nearly went through the back porch door before I could unlatch it. That ground squirrel shot into the window well with Phoenix in hot pursuit. Yeah, straight through my flower bed. A 50-pound malinois does more damage than a 6-ounce ground squirrel but who's counting.

I didn't really think Phoenix would catch it. My intent was to put the fear of doG into that pushy little varmint and send him packing out of the area, just in case he was considering settling down and raising a family. So Phoenix is pouncing in the flowers (tail still straight up in the air) and I'm dancing around, yelling "Get him! Get him!", once again really glad we do not have close neighbors.

Before I knew it, Phoenix pounced and came up with that ground squirrel in his mouth. Holy buckets! Now what! He vaulted out of the flower bed and went prancing around the yard, totally enchanted with his prize, the other two dogs following him with great interest in this potential snack item, and I'm thinking I just spent Big Bucks worming all three dogs for tapes and now here we go again.

There is a big difference between catching and killing. Phoenix is clearly not a terrier. He did not dispatch the critter. Apparently he was not even holding it very tightly because in a flash, the ground squirrel leaped free and was on the ground, running pell-mell for the fence. It darted through the fence into the perennial border on the south side of the fence and disappeared.

Nothing would do but what Phoenix had to follow, to the immediate peril of a clump of miniature hollyhocks and one daylily. That ground squirrel was no where to be seen. Hopefully, he's still running.

Phoenix is keeping vigil at the dining room window. I'm sure I'll know if it comes back.

I haven't seen my hummingbird since then, either.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A dog, a ball and a box

This has been a pretty stressful week, what with Dad going into hospice, another round of layoffs at work and two cardiology appointments for me. Dad is doing okay. He's stable. He's not getting better and he's not going to get better. But he's comfortable. We're taking things one day at a time and probably will be for quite a while.

I still have my job. Gannett Communications cut 1,400 jobs nationwide on Thursday, including three in our office. Sigh.

On the bright side, my new heart meds are working fine and I finally bought a granny pill box to keep everything organized. Thanks to everyone who suggested this, it DOES make my life easier and right now, I'm all about that!

All this stress has effected my training time more than I thought it would. I desperately want to train and spend time with my dogs. But I don't want to do anything serious or look serious or act serious or even think serious. I tend to be way too serious about obedience work so this has been a good wake-up call. Tonight I got out my clicker and spent some time on a lovely July evening working on "Go sit in a box." Okay, that's not really the command, just the concept.

I love my clicker. I know some people cringe when they think about "clicker trainers" and believe me, there are trainers out there who give them a very bad name. Heck, for every method there are some bad apples. But over the years I've discovered people who totally reject a training method have either had a really bad experience with it or just don't understand it. That's too bad because as trainers, we can never have too many tools in our toolbox. I don't use a clicker for everything and yeah, I admit, people who run around clicking their dog for every single behavior drive me insane, but I do like it for teaching some types of things and this is one of them.

The box: This is the box. It's made out of PVC. How did we ever train dogs before PVC? Don't ask me how big it is. It's big enough for Phoenix to sit his skinny little butt in.

The send: This is a blurry photo of Phoenix spinning to turn around and sit in his box. Don't laugh at my photography. You try sending the dog, giving the command, clicking the behavior, rewarding and taking a picture all at the same time. Think you could do better? All right, I know for a fact some of you could! I love this picture because it looks like 'Nix is pivoting on one leg and swinging the rest of his body into the sit. I want him to do a fast sit, no dawdling.

Final product: a tidy sit in a pre-determined destination a distance away from me. This will eventually be incorporated into the go-out exercise in obedience. There are at least 500 ways to teach go-outs and I'm determined to try them all. 

The payoff: Phoenix's green Orbee ball. He loves his ball. I could have gone on and on with pictures that show how much he loves his ball but do you know how freaking long they take to load when you have dial-up Internet? 

Friday, July 10, 2009

First tomato!

The first cherry tomato of the summer is ripe!

Uh-oh! Invasion of the tomato snatchers!
(They mean business, too, it gets worse as the summer goes on.)

I picked that tomato and ate it right there in the garden. It's not much of a garden, two cherry tomato plants in pots atop the old cistern, but it works for me. It was only one bite but it absolutely exploded with flavor. It might have been the best tomato I've ever eaten. I stood there in the sunshine savoring that wonderful taste, watching the dogs capering around the yard and counted all the blessings in my life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Life is short - enjoy it

Things aren’t too good right now. My dad is going into hospice care today. He’s been in failing health for a few years and time has finally caught up with him. He’s simply worn out, both in mind and body. It’s hard to let him go, harder yet to see him continuing to exist when all quality of life has passed. So . . . anyway . . .

Life is too short to sit around being miserable. There is so much joy and beauty and laughter out there. Sometimes you have to get off your butt and go look for it, but it’s there.

So for a while, I’m just going to post things that make me laugh or smile or things I’m thankful for.

Today’s list — something I am thankful for:

My cardiologist, who I saw yesterday.

He prescribed another change in meds because I’ve been having some a-fib episodes again.

Gee, do ya think they might be stress related?

Now I REALLY need one of those granny pill organizers. Keeping track of what to take and when to take it may be causing even more stress! Seriously. I’m back to a.m. and p.m. meds and feel like a pharmacist with my cupboard full of bottles. They’ve overflowed the lazy susan on the kitchen table and moved into a cupboard. Decided that was a safer idea, since Phoenix occasionally steals things off the lazy susan. Since the pill bottles aren’t honey flavored, they were probably safe.

I’m sure Doc Langager wouldn’t understand, but I’ve got more important things to think about than all these pills, like if teaching Phoenix to bite the ring stanchion on go-outs was really such a good idea. My gates and stanchions are on the fourth generation of dogs (Jess, Connor, Jamie, now Phoenix) and may not hold up to repeated chompings. But he sure enjoys it. And that makes me laugh.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Nylabone police

Like so many topics in the dog world, the jury is split on Nylabones. Some folks won’t let their dogs near them because they swear Nylabones cause fractured teeth. Other folks love them and feel they are safe chew toys. Phoenix is the first dog I’ve ever owned who would give a Nylabone the time of day. He got started on them when he was a baby and was trying to eat my house. Compared to carpet and extension cords, Nylabones were the definition of safety. He’s loved them ever since. When he’s running around the house, he usually has a ball or a Nylabone in his mouth.

Phoenix’s newest Nylabone is shaped like a dumbbell, with knobby ends and a rubber-covered bar in the middle. I’d never bought one like this before and Phoenix immediately fell in love with it. Except for meals, I don’t think he put it down for the first three days. Or nights.

Time: Midnight
Place: our bedroom
Scene: Everyone is asleep. Sort of.

Sound of a dog chewing a Nylabone drifts up from my side of the bed.

Me: Groan.

Phoenix: Nibble-nibble-gnaw-scrape-growl-chomp.

Me: Phoenix?

Phoenix: Nibble-nib . . . uh-oh.

Me: Are you chewing on that Nylabone in here?

Phoenix: No.

Me: You’re a terrible liar. You can’t chew on your bone in the bedroom in the middle of the night.

Phoenix: Why not?

Me: It keeps the humans awake.

Phoenix: Too bad.

Me: Yes, it is too bad. Bring me the bone.

Phoenix: Bitch.

Me: Get over it. Bring me the bone.

He reluctantly brings me the Nylabone. I put it next to the clock radio.

Phoenix is now standing by the bed, his head resting on the mattress, about 2 inches from my nose.

Me: What are you doing?

Phoenix: Staring at my bone.

Me: Go lie down.

Phoenix: Old Jedi mind trick. You will give me the bone.

Me: You are insane. Go to sleep.

Phoenix: Noooooo! Bone!

Me: I can’t sleep with you staring at me.

Phoenix: Gimme the bone. I’ll quit staring.

Me: You sound like the grinder-mixer when you chew on that thing. (For the non-agricultural among you, a grinder-mixer is a large machine used to prepare livestock feed. It is, well, loud.)

Phoenix: Sorry.

Me: You are not.

Phoenix: I’ll go chew it in the living room.

Me: No. Then it will sound like a grinder-mixer in the living room in the middle of the night.

Phoenix: Bitch.

Me: You’ve made that point already.

Phoenix: Staring. Staring. Staring.

Me: You’re making me crazy.

Phoenix: Yep. (Tail swishes)

Me: I’m putting your bone on top of the headboard where you can’t see it. If you wait until I’m sleep and then jump up there and grab it and stomp on my face, I will put you in your box for the rest of the night.

Phoenix: You’re really crabby.

Me: Sleep deprivation.

Phoenix: Then go to sleep. Go . . . to . . . sleep. I’m being good. See?

Me: I love you but I don’t trust you.

And that explains why there was a Nylabone in the refrigerator the next morning.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth!

Have a fun and safe Fourth of July and celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in America!

It's pouring rain here at the moment and the forecast is for continued showers throughout the day, so our parade-watching and steak grilling plans may be altered a bit. 

Did a quick training session in the house this morning and tried really hard to break the glass front on the entertainment center with Phoenix's dumbbell. Fortunately did not succeed. That is why we really need to NOT work dumbbells retrieves in the house. Gloves, yes; dumbbells, no.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Poop patrol

Praise the Maker there are NOT photos to accompany this post. Even without photos, it may not be for the weak of heart. You’ve been warned. But hey, you’re dog people and dog people can talk about bloody diarrhea and projectile vomiting while eating dinner at a five-star restaurant. So read on.

Last week, Connor had a spell of bad poop (i.e., the squirts) that didn’t resolve itself so off we went to the vet. She asked if I’d brought in a sample. Since I didn’t want to support Murphy’s Law (again) by trying to catch liquid diarrhea in a baggie, the answer was no. The vet gave me one of those “What kind of a pet owner are you?’ looks. Since Connor was firing off a blast almost every time he went outside, I almost suggested she take him out to a grassy spot and have a go at it herself but kept my mouth shut. Discretion is the better part of valor and I’m learning that as I get older.

The bottom line (no pun intended) was that Connor had a bacterial infection and we went home with a week of antibiotics. Here’s the irony of that situation: the medicine that is supposed to get rid of the nasties causing the loose stools and diarrhea, can cause loose stools and diarrhea. Things are getting better but Connor is taking a rather round-about route to normalcy.

Connor also was not eating. Sound the alarm bells, a sheltie not eating! This caused me more concern than the bad poop. Anyway, the vet sent me home with a couple cans of allegedly yummy food to tempt Connor to eat. Connor did not find it to his liking but Phoenix liked it just fine. I did not intentionally feed it to Phoenix but, well, these things happen. With a malinois, they seem to happen more often than not. Lord help me.

While doing yard pickup later that day, I noticed little white things in Phoenix’s afternoon deposit. At first, I thought it was rice from the can of food he ate. For heaven’s sake, I thought, why do they even bother putting rice in dog food if dogs can’t digest it any better than that? Then I realized the rice was wiggling. (Told you. You’d been warned.)


Phoenix had a raging case of tapeworms. How did this happen?! It’s been ages since any of my dogs had worms. For years and years, I routinely trotted into the vet’s office every year with fecal samples and for years and years, they consistently tested negative for every parasite that ever occupied the inside of a dog. Finally, the vet told me not to bother unless I saw something suspicious. This was definitely suspicious. But where did he get them? It’s not like the poor creature is flea-infested or routinely catches and eats wild rabbits.

The other two dogs didn’t show signs of anything abnormal, except Connor’s poop was now orange. I decided as long as it was something resembling solid, I didn’t care what color it was. I figured I’d better take in samples from everyone. Hey, the vet wanted poop. Now she was going to get it in triplicate.

The next morning found me trotting around the yard behind all three dogs, baggies in hand, while they took their morning sabatical. Connor cooperated by making a fairly solid deposit. No spooning required. Phoenix again produced a bumper crop of little white not-rice segments adorning his deposit. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Jamie showed no indication of producing anything but my begging and pleading finally yielded results.

On the way to work, I swung by the vet’s office and started off their morning with 3 little bags of poop. (Seriously, and I thought MY job was bad some days. At least no one brings bags of dog poop into the office in the course of routine business.)

The vet thought Phoenix had probably contracted the tapeworms by eating bunny pellets. She sent me home with a dose of Drontal for each dog. Dang, those were some expensive bunny pellets. Hope they enjoyed them.