Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in review

I can’t remember what happened in January, except we had record cold. It was -29 one morning. That was air temp, not wind chill. I probably spent the month thawing pipes in the basement, which I’ve gotten really good at. Practice makes perfect. At least our toilet doesn’t freeze, like Gotsyzygy’s. Lay-offs started at work. Three of our papers closed.

February was basically a waste of time. Took my first week of unpaid furlough from work as the newspaper industry began a downward spiral.

I launched “Exercise Finished” and spent a lot of time obsessing about Phoenix’s obedience debut. 'Nix earned his OAJ.

Phoenix and I went into the obedience ring for the first time and got his first two CD legs. Three days later I was in an ambulance headed for the cardiac unit at St. Luke’s. I don’t think there was any connection between the two. Took the National Weather Service’s storm spotter training, which resulted in a nearly non-existent severe weather season. Sigh. I should probably be careful what I wish for. Phoenix finished his CD.

Took my second week of upaid furlough from work. Had a lot of doctors’ appointments and took a lot of tests. Passed them all, followed by the declaration, “You have a strong and healthy heart but you have heart disease.” Bought a pill organizer to keep track of all the meds. Got decaffeinated. Did a lot of gardening. Did a lot of training. Went with Michele and the cougars to a Linda Koutsky obedience seminar in KC. What fun! Went with Marsha to O’Hare to pick up Vinnie. More fun! More lay-offs at work. My job got reorganized. Wet field conditions delayed the planting season. Farmer was impatient. Cardiologist mentioned I should avoid stress. Phoenix finished his U-CD.

Made my first (and only of ‘09) phone call to the National Weather Service to report flash flooding after we got 3.5” of rain in about an hour. Spotted my first rotating wall cloud to the west of our house. Didn’t get to call it in to NWS because Williamsburg Emergency Management beat me to it . . . they were parked at the end of our lane, watching MY cloud. Katie and Beau came to visit for a weekend, bringing the dog total at our house to five: three Shelties and two Belgians. A good time was had by all.

I baked zucchini bread. Lots of zucchini bread. Lots and lots of zucchini bread. Jamie turned 10. Dad went into hospice care. The first cherry tomatoes ripened on the vine and the dogs ate them. Phoenix caught a ground squirrel. I obsessed about finding the ideal dumbbell for Phoenix after he broke his perfect Joe Fiest dumbbell. I finally spent the money and ordered a custom-size Invince-a-Bell from J&J. July set a month for record cold temps.

Showed Phoenix in UKC Open. Obsessed about heeling with my left arm up or down. Finally decided on up. Rilda threatened to "help" my decision with duct tape. Poweshiek Water trenched a line to our house and we hooked up to rural water. No more orange well water! The Belgians continued to eat tomatoes off the vine as fast as they ripened. August set rainfall records for the month. Connor turned 15, then passed away a week later. He gave me so many wonderful things. I miss my Skunk Dog.

I did nothing but show dogs and camp this month: obedience at the Amana and Des Moines clusters, agility at Granger and Scott County. Took some actual paid vacation time off work. Wow, what a wonderful, FUN FUN FUN month! 'Nix finished his GN on my birthday. Can it be September forever?

Big transition at work, as our press room and mail room closed and all printing and distribution was moved to Des Moines. My job changed. Again. Many new procedures to learn. Many irate subscribers who did not get their papers to deal with. Cardiologist reminds me to avoid stress. Hauled in flowers to winter-over before the first frost. Took cuttings from others. Bought a remote control rat and had too much fun with it. Record rainfall delayed harvest. Farmer not happy.

Phoenix finished his U-CDX and AXJ. He celebrated by chasing a cat into the rotary hoe. Eight stitches sewed his side back together. The cat was fine. Weather finally dried out enough for the Farmer to continue harvest. The combine went up in flames. Stress? What stress?

Snow. Snow. Snow. Ice. Fog. Rain. Snow. Ice. Dad died after five months in hospice. Thank doG he is finally at peace. Gannett announced more furloughs in the first quarter of next year. Christmas came and went with very little fanfare. Phoenix turned 3. He wanted a cat. Santa brought him a Big Mean Kitty. He loves it and is trying to dismember it. Life is good.

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s a toast to our dogs, our friendships, love, laughter, joy and optimism in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I took this picture as I drove up our lane last night on the way home from work. The sun was setting and everything was very quiet and very cold. I was lazy, didn't even get out of the van, just rolled down the window.

This picture represents one of the best things about winter: coming home at the end of the day. I know at the end of the lane is our warm (relatively speaking), comfortable house with two dogs who will be crazy happy to see me (because I'll fix their supper) and the Farmer, who will be crazy happy to see me (because I'll fix his supper . . . hmmm . . . I'm seeing a pattern.)

Today, I am thankful for creature comforts.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy birthday, Phoenix!

Yep, two posts today. It's Phoenix's birthday! He is three. Happy birthday, Wild litter!

Here's his bad little self at 10 weeks, in March 2007.
(Thanks Sheryl, for these pics.)

And last fall at the Des Moines cluster
when he finished his Graduate Novice title.
Where does the time go?

Remembering Kay

Anyone who showed in AKC or UKC obedience around the Midwest during the last 20 years will remember Kay Lowe. She passed away Dec. 25, 2009, and the sport lost a great supporter and tireless worker, as well as a kind and gentle woman who was a friend to all.

Kay shared her life with a variety of breeds, including goldens, shelties, pomeranians, samoyeds, American eskimos, border collies, a labrador, a brittany, a greyhound, an Australian shepherd and others. Many she trained and showed in the obedience ring. Some just hung out at home. All were beloved pets.

Most of Kay’s dogs came from rescue groups or animal shelters. She adopted dogs that had been thrown away by other people. Many times, these dogs went on to excel in obedience. That ability to see a diamond in the rough and turn it into reality was one of the things I admired about her most.

I met Kay in the early 1990s, when I was showing my first sheltie. We soon began traveling to matches, trials and seminars together, which provided no end of funny stories. Traveling with Kay was always an adventure.

Kay had absolutely no sense of direction and she freely admitted it. Of course, I had to learn that the hard way. The first time we traveled together, we were going to the UKC trials at Fort Dodge. I drove to her house and we loaded her van. When we were ready to leave, she told me I could drive. I soon found out why.

I had a pretty good idea of how to get to Fort Dodge from Springville, about a 3 hour trip, but Kay started giving directions (rather vague ones, but who was I to argue). An hour later, I realized we were still in Linn County. That’s when I got out a map and started ignoring her suggestions to “Turn here” and “Why don’t we see where this road goes?”

After that initial learning experience, we enjoyed many years of traveling together. I always drove, no matter whose vehicle we took. And I always plotted the route ahead of time. Our trips took us across Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota. Yeah, we got lost a few times but we always ended up in the right place eventually.

Kay was not into packing light. She brought everything you might need for a show weekend and more. We joked endlessly about her “subsidiary bags.” I teased her about taking so much stuff but if I ever needed any obscure item during the weekend she always had it.

Kay had one sheltie, Dreamer, who bore a striking resemblance to my Jess. He was a shaded sable with the same blazed face as Jess. He was a very pretty dog to look at. At one show, Kay was showing multiple dogs and asked me to take Dreamer in for Novice sits and downs. Of course I said yes. Dreamer reminded me so much of Jess. What could go wrong? We got through the sit just fine. When the judge told us to down our dogs, Dreamer looked at me with that beautiful, friendly, intelligent face and totally refused to lie down. I stood there, sweating buckets, giving every down command I could think of while the rest of the class waited, the judge stood there impatiently and Dreamer gazed at me and swished his tail and totally ignored me. It was a classic example of “IT’S NOT MY DOG!”

Kay was plagued with knee problems that reduced her mobility but never limited her enthusiasm for training, showing and teaching classes. She was a wonderful instructor and gave many newcomers to the sport an introduction to gentle, humane training methods. She taught for ICDOC, CRKA and 4RK9s. Kay used food liberally in her training and you could always count on her to have cheese to share. Her favorite line was “I suppose you want a piece that hasn’t been in my mouth.” She was one of the kindest, most patient trainers I have ever met.

I was so lucky to call her my friend. She was willing to help with whatever training problem you might be having and she would never give up on a dog or say it can't be done. When Connor and I were struggling with his jumping issues in Open, she offered constant encouragement and support.

Kay had a great sense of humor. On days when her dogs did not perform well in the ring, she would ask me, very seriously, “Is your van unlocked?” If I had a dollar for every time she threatened to put one of her dogs in my van, I would be rich. She also threatened routinely to put her misbehaving dogs on the raffle at a trial if one was offered.

Kay’s husband Kenny was a saint. Back in the good old days, Kenny drove Kay to all the local dog events. You could always see him carrying crates, pottying dogs and going to get whatever Kay needed. We were all so jealous and wanted our own “Kenny.”

I will miss Kay’s smile, her off-beat sense of humor and above all, her friendship.

Exercise finished.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

It's a rainy, windy day here. The predicted drop in temps and accompanying snow have not arrived. Yet. 

The threat of bad roads is keeping Mom at home. I think Sunday is Plan B for our family Christmas. We had Christmas with the Farmer's family last night. Today I'm going to be lazy: bake, read and play with the dogs. I have a recipe for chocolate covered cherry cookies I'm going to try.

Hope you are all able to enjoy the day with your loved ones. Phoenix is bringing me socks so I think we are going to work some retrieves now. What? Doesn't everyone train their dog on Christmas Day?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The official Christmas card pic

Merry Christmas, everyone!

And thanks again to Marsha for designing the card.

Phoenix was really disappointed there wasn't a cat in the package.
Maybe next year, buddy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A malinois Christmas

Phoenix got his Christmas present early. It's one of those toys that have more little toys stuffed inside it. I got him a jack-o-lantern last fall that had a ghost and two bones stuffed in it. He was CRAZY about that thing but it seemed a little wrong to be playing with pumpkins and ghosts at Christmastime so I got him this gingerbread house.

Phoenix is a good boy with his toys. Seriously. You don't see a picture of Jamie playing with plush toys here, do you? There's a reason. He won't just squeak them and run around, throwing them in the air and pouncing on them and bringing them back to me to throw again like Phoenix. Oh no. The minute Jamie gets his teeth on a fuzzy toy, it's all over. He goes off in a corner and field dresses it. End of story. End of toy.

Phoenix occasionally does a little field dressing, too, but generally he is very careful with his "skeeks" and enjoys bringing them to me and shoving them at me to play.

Nix' birthday is Dec. 28. Of course he'll get another present then. Really, how could I NOT keep giving this dog presents?

Don't worry, Jamie will get a Christmas present, too. It will be something that's meant to be eaten in the first place.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Happy winter solstice! It's officially winter now, in case you had any doubts.

With three days to go until Christmas, the weather guys are forecasting, well, a mess for the rest of the week. Rain, freezing rain with ice accumulation and heavy snow all appear to be headed our way as a monster storm system stomps across the Midwest.

I hate ice. I hate ice like Indiana Jones hates snakes.

"Ice. Why does it have to be ice?" Sorry, Indy.

Tonight I'll be in full storm prep mode. Snow storms don't bother me. Ice storms bother me. I'm still in therapy from the ice storm that knocked out our power for a week in February 2007. I really don't want to do that again.

So my theory is, if we're prepared, it won't happen. That means making a grocery store run tonight after work, stocking up on batteries and food that doesn't need cooking, digging out the lanterns and candles (yippee, camping in the house!), finding extra blankets for the bed and yeah, my stocking cap and Carhartts to wear around the house if we lose power. The Carhartts are NOT overkill. Ever sit around in a 40 degree house for a week? Body fat is not a bad thing.

At least now we have rural water at our place so we're not dependent on an electric well pump for running water. Granted, it will be cold water if the power stays out very long but I can heat it up on the grill if it comes to that. I can also grill a pizza! Oh, the things I learned in '07 . . .

Hopefully, the whole system will fizzle or turn to snow and skip the ice part totally. What are the odds?

By the way, the new header pic is the last of the Christmas card picture outtakes. The Santa hat is no longer with us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Taking a break . . . or not

Every year, I swear I am going to give my dogs and myself a break from training for a couple of weeks. We'll still do "stuff," like play ball or go for walks or whatever, just absolutely no skill training for either obedience or agility.

It never works for me.

Never, ever.

Chris Zink (Coaching The Canine Athlete) says she gives her dogs a month off once a year. She feels it is mentally and physically helpful and they come back recharged and ready to tackle whatever performance venue she is pursuing. I always think that sounds like such a great idea until I try to do it. Then it just doesn't happen.

The reason I'm writing about this now is because I actually did go for six days last week without training. It took my father's funeral to make it happen. There have been very few times in my life when I didn't feel like training my dog and that was one of them. But after the funeral and all its draining social demands were over, wanting to work with Phoenix came back like an almost physical need.

Apparently, I am addicted to training. Like a junkie, I crave the rush I get from interacting and communicating (or trying to communicate) with another species. Take that away from me for a couple of days and I start going through withdrawals.

There are times of the year when I train harder than others but in reality, I train year 'round. I love to show and can't justify mailing entries if I'm not consistently preparing my dog and me to be ready. No, I'm not talking about hour-long sessions at the club building every day. I try to go to the building at least once a week but most of the time, we just train at home most evenings, after work or after supper, for 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever we feel like. 

One thing I've learned is if I'm feeling worn out, frazzled, drained, annoyed or just plain crabby, DON'T TRAIN THE DOG! Those are the nights we sit in the recliner and drink cocoa. In other words, there are times when you SHOULDN'T train and it's good thing to recognize them. If I want my dog to be bright, energetic and creative, I need to be, too.

This is a slower time of year. The holidays bring a ton of other demands on my time, plus with a foot of snow outside, going out to the back yard to train isn't going to happen. In fact, right now I'm missing the first session of an Open/Utility proofing class because it's snowing, not a blizzard, but hard enough to make me reluctant to drive the 50 mile round trip to and from Iowa City for class. 

So Phoenix and I worked finishes (doG, we're going to be working finishes until we're both old and gray) and signals in the living room, then Jamie joined us for stays. Apparently that took every ounce of energy both dogs possessed because now they are crashed out by my feet, sound asleep. Or maybe that's because we had some friends over last night and both boys were up late and stayed VERY busy keeping track of A) people and B) plates of food.

For me, the bottom line is I enjoy training very much. Even when we're having a problem with something, I still enjoy interacting with my dog and trying to resolve the issue. Training has never been something I feel I have to do. It's something I need to do, like eating or sleeping.

Yep. Addiction. There's probably a 12-step program out there for me.

What about you? Do you schedule "time off" from training for your dogs?

Friday, December 18, 2009

White sugar cookies

When the Farmer and I got married, my aunt Rosemary (Dad's sister) gave me a cookbook of family recipes. This sugar cookie recipe was in it and I stumbled across it totally by accident that first Christmas. I'd never been a big fan of making sugar cookies, mostly because all the recipes I'd used before produced dry, crumbly cookies that seemed like more work than they were worth.

Not these! They are soft and never dry. I hesitate to say they're fool-proof but in 18 years of baking them for Christmas and other special occasions, I've NEVER had a batch fail. They are simple and very good.

I know everyone has their own favorite when it comes to cut-out cookies. These are mine. Aunt Rosie said when she made them for her church holiday bazaar, women would meet her car when she pulled into the parking lot and buy them all before she ever got them into the church.

I used to spend a lot of time using different shaped cookie cutters, making colored frosting and decorating them to the nth degree but, well, let's admit it, simple is good. Or I'm getting lazy. Or practical.

1 C. margarine, softened
1 1/2 C. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs, then almond and vanilla. Mix well. Beat in dry ingredients. Chill dough at least two hours, overnight works best.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out in small amounts on floured surface to desired thickness and cut into shapes. Bake approximately 8 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets (I use parchment paper), removing from oven when they are barely brown. Cool on wire racks and frost.

3 C. powdered sugar
1/3 C. margarine, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
about 2 T. milk, more or less as needed

Beat all together until smooth and spreadable. Frosts about 4 dozen cookies.

These cookies freeze very well, even after frosting.

Today, I am thankful for the Christmas luncheon and cookie walk we're having at work.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Outtake #3

Christmas Eve is a week from today! Here's another outtake from the Christmas card photo shoot. Jamie apparently finds the whole process extremely boring.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Funerals are exhausting

Dad's funeral was today. I am glad it's over. It's been 48 hours of too many emotions and a totally sleepless night on the motel bed from hell. 

The service was nice. The church was beautiful. It was already decorated for a wedding this coming weekend. Guess we got bonus decorations. Actually, it looked like people sent us about 75 poinsettias and evergreen wreaths.

I am exhausted. I've done nothing for two days but sit and stand around and talk to people and cry and blow my nose and change my clothes and fix meals and go to the grocery store (3 times in two days, possibly a record, even for me) and remind my mother what she was doing when she got halfway through it, then couldn't remember.

Big thanks to Tammy and Marsha for coming down for the visitation and Mary and Liz who came to the funeral. THANK YOU. It meant a lot. Of course, it also caused more crying and nose blowing. My nose feels like it might fall off at any moment.

The dogs took it all in stride. They got to shed on all the relatives who came to Mom's house after the luncheon. Phoenix did a lot of testing to see if any of them really didn't like dogs so he could pester that person in particular, but they all passed the test. He spent the afternoon working the room in a clockwise circle, giving everyone equal time. Although I think he spent more time with anyone wearing black pants.

The Farmer and I left Mom's late in the afternoon and went back to the church to load up flowers. I was tempted to take an extra poinsettia or two but we had gotten a huge and beautiful one from Mom and Dad's bank and really, how many poinsettias does one need?

I've gotten everything unpacked and put away. Now I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for about 12 hours. 

Today, I am thankful to have the next two days off work.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Last pictures

Here are a couple more family pics from back in the day. From left to right, Jack, Rosemary and Dad. The little boy in bibs in front of Dad is his brother Dave. The two little kids in front of them are cousins. It's funny how many dogs pop up in these old photos. There were six kids in Dad's family. One died when she was a toddler. Dad was the middle kid of the five who lived. Yep, they were pretty much stairstepped.

This is the house that belonged to my Grandpa and Grandma once they settled down. They were really quite nomadic during the early years of their marriage. I'll have to blog about that sometime. They even car camped with a tent that attached to their Model T. I come by the camping gene honest!!!

Grandpa and Grandma retired from farming and moved to town in the 1960s, Dad married Mom and bought the family farm and this is where I grew up. It was a cool old Victorian, built around the turn of the century. It had beautiful woodwork, stained glass windows, carpenter's lace, pocket doors and high ceilings. Most of that is gone now, "remodeled" in the name of energy efficiency and ease of maintenance. But this is what it looked like in the 1930s or 1940s. The big tree on the left is a Dutch Elm. Obviously, it's not there anymore. 

PS. My aunt Rosemary WAS a dog person. She and her husband had a sheltie they loved very much and who traveled with them wherever they went. Meghan stood 17" at the withers and probably weighed 45 pounds. She, um, never missed a meal.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More family pics

Spent today at Mom's. Her sister Karene was there (she just lives down the road) and Dad's brother Dave from Indiana and sister Joyce from Wyoming arrived in the afternoon. Other brother Jack from Texas is coming tomorrow. He lives on the Gulf coast and is not excited about coming to Iowa in December.

Here's Dad (left) and Jack (right), circa 1938. Their bibs must have been brand new in this picture. They look like they still have the store creases and starch in them. And they don't look like they have any holes in them yet. Look how long the legs are. I'm guessing they "bought big" and expected the boys to grow into them.

This pic was taken in the early 1930s. From the left is Dad's sister Rosemary (she died in 2007), Dad and Jack. Don't know who the dog is. Notice Jack's rolled up bibs again. Dad looks jealous that he doesn't get to hold the dog. Rosemary looks like she's thinking about shoving both boys off the bench. 

Finally think we're ready to leave tomorrow. The weather sounds questionable on Monday with predictions for a freezing rain/snow mix so I ended up packing extra clothes and dog meals in case we need to stay for another day after the funeral. I really, really, really wish the next 48 hours was over. 

Today, I am thankful for support and cheer from a lot of friends and family.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Love the old pics

Dad's funeral is Monday. The Farmer and I are going down to Mom's tomorrow, driving home tomorrow night, then going back again Sunday for the visitation and staying over night for the funeral on Monday.

We decided to get a motel room instead of staying at Mom's house. There's room but . . . sometimes you need a little breathing space from family. So I called the local motel and asked if they took dogs. The clerk said yes and wanted to know what kind of dog. I told him a Belgian shepherd. There was a long silence. I could tell he was trying to decide if he wanted to know how big one was and what the potential was for it eating the room. But he didn't ask any more questions. Ignorance is bliss.

I got to looking at some family pictures one of Dad's sisters put together for a family reunion a couple of years ago and thought I'd share a few. 

Dad served in the Army during the Korean War. He got shot and honorably discharged. He never talked about the war. 

Dad went to a country school in Iowa. This pic was taken in 1938. He would have been about 10. Some days my hair looks just like that.

I'll post some more pics tomorrow if I have time. I'm trying to get things packed. The dogs' things are all ready to go. It's always easy to pack for them. I'm having a little more trouble putting together good clothes for me. It's easier to pack for an agility weekend. Mom would probably get a little excited if I showed up for the funeral in jeans and my Team Orange sweatshirt.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


My father died this morning. He passed away quietly in his sleep at Great River Hospice, West Burlington, Iowa, where he had been living since July.

It is both a blessing and a relief. He had been struggling with a number of health issues in recent years and there was no cure for any of them. The people at Great River were wonderful and kept him as comfortable as possible during his final days.

I'm not sure what I'm feeling right now, mostly just relieved and numb.

Today, I am thankful my father is at peace.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow day!

We were right in the path of that big winter storm system that steamrolled its away across the Midwest Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday. I stayed home from work today. Figured 10 inches of snow, 40 mph winds and a blizzard warning were a pretty good excuse. It's almost 5 p.m. and the county snowplow hasn't been by our house yet so whether I can get out tomorrow is anybody's guess.

Phoenix and Jamie enjoyed playing in the snow late yesterday afternoon. It was snowing but still warm at that point. Warm is a relative term. It was about 30 degrees. 

Jamie thinks he is superior to his li'l bro because he has all this wonderful fur. Which just means he can drag twice as much snow into the house.

I have no idea what Phoenix is digging up here. I don't think he did either.

It started snowing hard about 7 p.m. I love watching it snow at night, especially when I'm warm and snug at home. 

Winter is tough on livestock and farmers alike. The Farmer did a little snow relocation first thing this morning so he could get around to do chores. The wind was blowing so hard it made shoveling pretty much a waste of time. The temps dropped all day. It's in the single digits now and the wind is still howling.

This is not an almost 4-foot drift. If it hardens, it is a malinois escape plan. I may have to attack it with a shovel when I am feeling ambitious.

I had a great day at home: finished Christmas cards, caught up on laundry, read, made a Crock Pot of vegetable beef soup and did a little front and finish work. But first I baked and frosted sugar cookies. You gotta have priorities. I'll post the recipe soon. 

Today I am thankful for a warm house and hot food.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas card pic, Outtake #2

Here's another version. Seriously, next year I may forget about getting a "good" picture and just put one of the silly ones on the card.

Enjoy. Sounds like we have a bunch of snow headed our way so this is probably the last green grass I'll see until spring.

PS. Phoenix did NOT eat the ball off the Santa hat. Although he tried.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

ICDOC weekend

This weekend was my club, the Iowa City Dog Obedience Club's annual agility trial at the Iowa Equestrian Center, Cedar Rapids. For the first time in the last three or four years, we got through the entire weekend without snow, freezing rain, snow, high winds, blizzard conditions, well, you get the idea. 

I am exhausted, my feet hurt, my back aches and you don't even want to know what three 10-hour days in a dusty horse arena has done to my respiratory system. I probably have dirt in my bloodstream at this point.

But I am ecstatic! Phoenix earned his first two MXJ legs with second and fourth places and had some lovely Standard runs that proved we CAN run as team in the Standard ring in spite of frequent evidence to the contrary. Granted, deliberately sending one's dog over the off-course jump leaves a bit to be desired in the handling department but well, everyone deserves to be an idiot now and then. I'll try not to make a habit of it.

Phoenix's down contact on the dog walk has apparently disappeared (Should I stop now? Now? Maybe now?), so that needs some repair. He's still making some pretty wide turns, the auto drop on the table seems to come and go and weaves could always be faster but I'm really proud of my skinny little dog and totally happy with how we ran this weekend. As usual, I had to learn a few things the hard way.

Got home shortly after dark, unloaded the van, started the first of many loads of laundry (how could things be so clean Friday morning and so filthy by Sunday night? I swear, after Christmas, I'm going shopping for a dirt colored winter coat!) and am now headed for a nice long, hot shower.

Today, I am thankful to be part of a club that works well as a team and knows the value of laughter and friendship.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dear Santa . . .

Since Christmas Eve is three weeks from today, I thought maybe we’d better get our letters written to Santa.

Dear Santa,

Would you please bring me a new John Deere 9500 combine? A fireproof one would be nice. A mild winter, strong cattle prices and an early spring for calving season would be appreciated, too.

I have been very good. Built a sit-box for the wife’s dog. Started doing dog chores on the night she works late. I don’t get mad when the big furry dog nibbles on my jeans.

The Farmer


Dear Santa,

I have been very good this year and only bit my little brother once. He deserved it. Mom said so.

I would like more food and fewer green beans in my food bowl. I am not plump. I am furry.



Dear Santa,

I want a cat.

Or a hamster in one of those hamster balls. That would rock.

And I can totally explain about all the socks.

But I really, really want a cat.



Dear Santa,

We have been perfect this year. Of course. We are cats.

You do not need to bring us anything. In fact, we want to give YOU something. Please take the dogs with you when you stop at our house. Especially the skinny one. Although it is amusing to watch him do stupid things.

The Barn Cats,
Winnie, Beauty, Brass, Dora, Cat With No Name and Fat Bastard


Dear Santa,

I have tried to be good this year. Some days I tried harder than others.

Would you please bring me and my dogs enthusiasm, attitude, speed, focus, drive, joy, animation, teamwork and accuracy in the ring and endless motivation to teach and maintain it? Plus brilliant ideas for students in my classes. And energy. And creativity. And patience.

Or you can just bring me a lot of chocolate.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas card pic, Outtake #1

My Christmas cards have been safely delivered to the the printer (thanks Marsha for doing such an awesome job designing them!) so now it's time to share the "almost-but-not-quite" photos.

I have a LOT of pictures of Jamie licking his nose. I think he finds picture taking very stressful, even though he did get to chew on a Santa hat. And yes, the package is supposed to look like that, although it got to that state a little faster than I anticipated.