Monday, November 29, 2010

Mouse, 1; trap, 0

Good news: I caught a mouse in one of my fancy-schmancy new traps.

Bad news: the mouse was caught by the hind leg and very much alive.

Good news: but the trap held it!

Bad news: but now I was going to have to kill it.

Good news: I'm not bloodthirsty but I'm not horribly squeamish when it comes to mice. I could do this.

Bad news: the mouse would not cooperate.

Good news: mice can't move that fast when they're dragging a trap along behind them.

Bad news: they move faster than I thought.

Good news: I was able to grab the trap before mouse and trap disappeared into a laundry pile (yuck, yuck, yuck).

Bad news: the little SOB tried to bite me.

Good news: I have EXCELLENT reflexes when being attacked by a killer mouse.

Bad news: I have HORRIBLE aim when stomping on a killer mouse.

Good news: I didn't break the trap.

Bad news: I didn't break the mouse, either.

Good news: I got a second chance (the mouse apparently couldn't believe a human could be so clumsy.)

Bad news: I was even clumsier the second time. I stomped the trap instead of the mouse. The trap opened. The mouse bolted.

Crap. Now there's an angry 3-legged mouse running around our basement.

No wonder Phoenix doesn't want to go down there.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

10 fun things I did this weekend

1. Ate. A lot. Eating is always fun.

2. Trained with Jill, Kate, Paula and Tracy. UD in spring 2011, here we come!

3. Taught the last session of my Utility class. I am now class-free until January. Wow. What will I do on Thursday nights?

4. Played Frisbee with the dogs on a sunny, 50 degree afternoon. Won't have too many more of those.

5. Drove through a local Chevy dealer and checked out new wheels. I have Equinox envy. More precisely, I have Equinox mileage envy: 34 highway. I want one. Bad.

6. Put up the Christmas tree at home. Okay, it's just a little table top tree but it's pretty. And sparkly. I'm not a real bling-y girl but I love sparkly at Christmas.

7. Played with my houseplants. Gave them showers and trims. It's a gardner thing. If you don't garden, you won't get it.

8. Gave myself permission NOT to write a Christmas letter this year. Every year I am obsessed with condensing the last 12 months into a letter. Not gonna do it this year. I'm simplifying Christmas. Sugar cookies are worth the time. Christmas letters are not.

9. Bought a new crate. There's something I haven't done for a couple of years! Got a tent crate for Phoenix, who has proven himself worthy of one (i.e., has occasionally used Jamie's tent crate over the last year and it still has the same number of doors and windows, no new Malinois designs.) Got 15 percent off and free shipping which made it even more fun.

10. Took the shoe, glove, mitten, slipper, sock that Phoenix brought me about 147 times. I don't know what's going on with him but he's decided I need to have a shoe, glove, mitten, slipper, sock at any given time of the day and is constantly presenting me with one every time I turn around. Maybe he just does it to see me laugh. It works.

What did you do for fun this weekend?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Really giving thanks

The Farmer and I went to my mom's for Thanksgiving yesterday. A good time was had by all. Burp.

We didn't take the Belgians along because Mom was dog-sitting for the weekend for a border collie who belongs to one of the brothers who rents their farm. She said the dog was very shy and we agreed that throwing two strange new people (me and the Farmer) plus Phoenix and Jamie into the mix for the day would probably put it right over the edge.

The dog was pretty much dysfunctional as it was. I felt so sorry for him. Apparently he had zero socialization as a puppy and as a result, had zero coping skills when taken out of his home environment, although I got the impression he wasn't much of a firecracker there, either. "Scottie" spent most of the day laying on his dog bed, about as far away from all of us as he could get.

He wouldn't come to anyone unless coaxed with a treat. If you dropped the treat, he ignored it and fled. He wouldn't follow anyone around the house. He wouldn't go to investigate new smells or sounds. He wouldn't make eye contact. He wouldn't wag his tail.

Wow. I forgot dogs like that existed. Everywhere I go in my happy little universe of performance dogs, I am surrounded by dogs who want to go see people, interact with people, get petted, get cookies, play with toys and just make a general nuisance of themselves. They sleep on our beds. They accompany us to the bathroom. They "help" us with every detail of our daily lives.

Not this one. He had essentially no use for humans. Part of it was fear. Part of it was he didn't think that humans were worth much.

Apparently he is tied up all day at home on the back porch (little to no human interaction). He can go outside through a doggie door to do his business (no need for the human to take him outside). He is free-fed (food always available, ho-hum, don't need a human for that either.) He is "dog aggresive," and barks when other dogs come around his house (hmmm, fear, more likely, since he is confined by a chain and can't escape). He gets to go in the house in the evenings sometimes. And sometimes his owner will throw a ball for him. But the dog tends to take the ball and run off. Because he doesn't know how to play with a human and it's more fun to entertain himself.

It was a classic example of "Why do you have a dog in the first place?"

The sadness of this overwhelmed me. Most BCs I know are perpetual problem solving machines who view life with humans as one large puzzle that needs to be figured out. Not this guy. He just existed. Perhaps with time and tremendous effort on the owner's part, he could truly connect to this dog and they both could experience the mutual joy that comes from sharing your life with a dog. I'm not holding my breath.

As soon as we got home, I sat down on the kitchen floor with the Belgians and we had a big ol' hairy dog party with kisses and pokes and fur everywhere. Phoenix chewed on my arm. Jamie brought me a house slipper. There were wagging tails and bright eyes.

Through the evening, I started counting how many different times one or both dogs initiated interaction with me or the Farmer. I totally lost count.

I am truly so thankful for my dogs and the daily joy they bring.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Video and commentary

Here are a couple of our JWW runs from the trials last weekend.

This one goes really well until Phoenix adds a bonus tunnel at the end. He thought it looked like more fun than the silly triple. And of course I was waaaay behind him and sucking wind so not able to give him much direction. So he directed himself. I probably should have rear-crossed the tunnel and called him hard to pull him back toward the triple. Maybe? Who knows.

When I watch video, I ALWAYS see things I could have handled differently. Does that ever end? Probably not. I don't think there's such a thing as the "perfect" way to handle a course. It depends on each individual dog and handler team, their strengths and weaknesses.

This was a Q-ing run. I thought maybe the leash runner was going to join us on the course at the end.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, wherever you may be!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

That sound

When I let the dogs out yesterday morning, Jamie must have spent the entire time eating grass because he came in the house, went directly to the living room (carpeted) and barfed up about a half bale of grass.

Sigh. Could he not barf on the vinyl floor in the kitchen?

No. It has to be on the carpet.

But he apparently felt a lot better for his efforts and was all waggy tail and squinty eyes so I forgave him his sins and gave him his breakfast.

Later, while washing dishes, I heard the dreaded sound. You know the one. It is the pre-barfing sound, that horrible retching noise that you know spells doom. It can wake you from a dead sleep at night and send you sprinting through the house in what is usually a futile attempt to MAKE IT STOP. The sound can make you drop whatever you are doing immediately.

The sound makes you start yelling "Noooooooooo!" like that is actually going to make it stop. Once the launch sequence has been initiated, there is no turning back. The best you can hope for is to be able to shove the offending party A) off the carpet and onto the vinyl or B) out the door in time.

I have given up trying to get dogs out of the house in time. That pretty much ended the day I went to yank open the dining room door and the door knob came off in my hand. I stood there and stared in alternating horror at the beautiful turn-of-the-century cut glass door knob that was no longer attached to the door and Connor, who was heaving his guts out all over the dining room carpet.

With the shelties, I was occasionally able to scoop them up and race out of the house. With Jamie at 60 lbs. and Phoenix at 53 lbs., that isn't going to happen. Plus, Phoenix never throws up. Never. He turns 4 next month and I think I've seen that dog barf once in his life. But I digress.

Back to Jamie. He had barfed up some more grass (good grief, I didn't know we had that much grass left in the yard!) and part of his breakfast. He appeared quite happy about the situation. He trotted off, had a drink and started chasing Phoenix around the house.

I cleaned things up. It was on the carpet. Again. Of course.

A little later, I was puttering around when . . . again . . . I heard the sound.

Oh for the love of doG! Noooooooo!

I ran into the dining room. No Jamie.

I ran into the living room. No Jamie.

I checked the bedroom. No Jamie.


I followed the sound back to the living room.

Jamie was behind the entertainment center. I have NO FREAKING IDEA how he got back there, but there he was, apparently barfing up his toenails.

Do you know what is behind our entertainment center?

A lot of electrical cords.

A furnace vent.


They were now all covered in dog vomit. Massive amounts of it. How could this much stuff come out of one dog? His one cup of breakfast kibble and hard boiled egg had morphed into about half a gallon of of slimy, gelatinous gunk.

It was dripping into the furnace vent.

I said a lot of very bad words.

Jamie looked repentant. He wagged his tail.

I put him outdoors.

I moved the entertainment center, which thank heaven is on wheels.

I got a pair of pliers and pulled the furnace vent out of the floor, took it to the shower and washed it off. Then I cleaned dog barf out of the furnace duct. In an entire lifetime spent with dogs, I have never cleaned dog barf out of a furnace duct. I am not sure this is something I would list on a resumé.

I cleaned off all the power cords and scrubbed the carpet. By the way, I recommend Resolve spray carpet cleaner.

Occasionally I checked out the window to see what Jamie was doing. Apparently he felt fine. He was dancing from paw to paw on the patio, staring at the back door in hopes of coming back in.

That was 24 hours ago. No more barfing has ensued. Jamie had a small meal of hamburger and rice last night and another this morning. I have not seen either one reappear. It is a very good day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Is it wrong . . .

. . . to get excited about a mousetrap?

At our house, NO!

Thanks to the fact we live in an old house in the middle of a cornfield, mice are a seasonal nuisance. I run a trap line in the basement through the fall and early winter and average a couple of catches a week until A) I catch all the stupid ones and/or B) the rest of them find a place to spend the winter that is not inside our house where they would be tempted by the Peanut Butter Lure of Death.

Apparently I had worn out our previous traps by too many successful trapping seasons. (That is very, very wrong on so many levels.) The mice were eating the peanut butter right off them without springing them. Great. The only way they were going to set off the old traps was if they ate so much peanut butter they got fat enough to spring the lever when they sat on it.

So today on the way home from the Muscatine agility trial (which has so far brought varying degrees of brilliance and train wreck-age), I stopped at the new Thiesen's in Coralville.

It was a religious experience.

If you don't have a Thiesen's where you live, it's a farm store. But it's more. It's the ultimate farm store. They have everything. This new store is huge. It has more of everything.

Seriously, that's the store motto: We have more of everything.

You'd better believe it, too. (But sorry, Rilda, they didn't have 2" orange vetwrap. So I guess they lied.)

They have mousetraps.

They have BETTER mousetraps as evidenced here.

This was too cool. I am all about mousetraps that are easy to set. And these said so right on the package. So of course it had to be true.

I had to try them out.

Right there in the store.

The manufacturer had cleverly packaged the traps so you could do this.

I did. WOW! That was super easy. I got so excited I must have shaken the cardboard they were attached to.


Holy crap! Glad my fingers weren't in there! 

I looked around to see if anyone was watching.

Nobody was.

So I did it again.


I was fascinated.

I bought them and brought them home. (I also bought cat food. Is that an oxymoron, to buy mousetraps AND cat food? If the cats were doing their job, I wouldn't need the mousetraps. But that would mean the cats would have to be in the house. And the only one happy about THAT would be Phoenix.)

Here is one of the new traps, all set up with the tasty Peanut Butter Lure of Death. I'll let you know how it works. (No pics, I promise.)

Seriously, only people who have had to trap mice will fully appreciate this. If you live in a mouse-free zone, count your blessings. Start now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


This week has not been conducive to creative, funny, thought-provoking blogging. I seem to be doing good just getting from one day to the next without damaging myself.

In a fit of panicked desk-cleaning at work, looking for something I never did find, I found this, which is just as funny now as it was 10 years ago, which was the date stamped on it. Maybe if I cleaned off my desk more often than once every 10 years I wouldn't be losing stuff, huh?

I cannot train my dog today,
the sky is overcast and gray,
the air's too damp, I've got a cramp,
and the dog's just eaten anyway.

Can't find the leash, got home too late,
I'm due somewhere tonight at eight.
I've got a rash, a gash and bumps,
Too tired now to get the jumps.

Traffic's made me tense and strained,
I have to lose this weight I've gained.
How can we work when it's just rained?

The dog's too hyper, my mood is blue,
I must be coming down with the flu,
I cough, I sneeze and wheeze and choke,
Darn! My only dumbbell broke!

Too cold outside - my feet are numb.
There's a sliver in my thumb.
The house needs cleaning, it's a sight.
I have to work overtime tonight.

I had a nap. Had company.
Lawrence Welk is on TV.
My toe is sore - it might be gout,
I think my hair is falling out.

I ate too much. My day's been rough.
I think my dog has had enough
Of this daily training grind,
we need some time off to unwind.

Author Unknown

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Daily dose of cute

Phoenix's nieces and nephews (from his sister Cayenne's litter) took a field trip recently. Breeder Catherine took them to visit Lowe's. Apparently Lowe's is very dog-friendly. Or maybe it's just this Lowe's. Or maybe it's a west coast thing.

Anyway here they are. Dang, they are adorable. And YES, it made me want one in a major way. But no. Not yet. Not for a very long yet.

The puppies rode around in carts and met people and had a grand time.

In case you're wondering about the North and South litter theme, they are a dual-sired litter. One papa dog is from the north, the other from the south. Catherine will DNA test to determine who's your papa.

Thanks Catherine/Carousel Malinois for the pics!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Basement steps, Part 1

She wants me to go down the stupid basement steps.
No, thank you.
I'll stand here at a safe distance and look.
Is that good enough?

No. Of course it isn't.
Okay. I'm closer.
Are you happy now?

Oh, there is food involved!
I am doing my corgi/Yoda imitation.
Keep the cookies coming, you will.
Scary looking, this carpet is.

Okay. Fine!
I'll put one foot on the first step.
That's it.
And I'm not leaving it there for very long.
For the love of doG, woman, don't you ever vacuum?
(Um, not here. Obviously.)

Okay. Fine.
Two feet.
Where are the cookies?!?!?!
Don't you have a day job to go to?
And seriously, get the vacuum.
Or I'm not going one step further.
I mean it.
Two on, two off is good, right?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winter games

It's 36 degrees with light drizzle and howling wind. Guess summer is over.

This afternoon Phoenix and I began one of my winter projects: the basement steps. More precisely, teaching Phoenix to go down — and hopefully back up — the basement steps. He will be 4 years old next month and wants nothing to do with the basement.

Zero. Zippo. Nada. From day one.

The dog who is virtually bombproof in any given situation will not go into our basement. Like many turn-of-the-century farmhouse basements, it is kind of dark and usually dirty and not my choice of places to hang out either but it's not THAT bad. 

And don't suggest I contact the local ghost squad and have the basement exorcized. If I think about that long enough, I won't want to go down there either.

I wouldn't say Phoenix is scared of the basement. He just doesn't see any need to go there. Jamie goes there all the time. Phoenix waits at the top of the steps to maul him when he comes back up. It's a wonder Jamie ever comes out of the basement.

We live in the upper Midwest, which means tornadoes, which means we ALL may need to go there at some point. The Farmer and I have had this discussion. He is responsible for picking Phoenix up and carrying him down the stairs if it ever comes to that.

But in the meantime, I decided it would be a good winter project to tackle.

Wait. Tackle isn't the right word. There will be no tackling involved. I've managed to stay out of the hospital just fine this year and I'd like to keep it that way.

There are very few things you can force a Malinois to do. Maybe there aren't ANY things you can force a Malinois to do. I don't know. I've never tried it. Phoenix is big enough and muscle-y enough I wouldn't want to try it. This needs to be his idea if it's going to work.

So this afternoon I got some yummy treats and sat on the top step and tried to get him to put his paws on that step.

Didn't work. 

He stretched. He stuck his paw out into the air and waved at the treats. He laid down and wagged his tail hard enough to send furball flying across the kitchen floor. He whined. He drooled.

Did you know malinois have hyper-extendable necks? And ant-eater tongues?

We'll keep at it. It's a long time until spring.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Several people have asked me about “pre-stays.” It's probably not a new concept, but this fall I learned that doing a couple of brief out-of-sight stays with Phoenix at a show site BEFORE we did the formal group exercises in the ring seemed to help him get more comfortable with the concept of me leaving — specifically, me leaving and him STAYING. With more ring experience I hope this becomes a non-issue but right now, it’s helpful. After all, we do warm-ups for other exercises, why not do a warm-up for stays?

When I do pre-stays, I pick a helper who understands my criteria for the exercise. This is important. Novice trainers or those who figure “he’s pretty much where she left him, must be okay,” might not recognize the importance of correcting sniffing, wiggling, shifting, fidgeting, scooting, crawling, etc. Phoenix has done all of the above and they are a precursor to getting up and leaving, so I don’t want him to practice those behaviors.

I also need someone who will be aware of other dogs in the area and the potential for strange dogs coming close to Phoenix while he’s on a stay. I always leave him in a quiet place but dog shows being what they are, you never know when an errant dog will pop up in your own dog’s face.

I leave him in a formal sit or down close to the helper’s chair (he’s on leash) and walk away in the same direction we will leave for group stays and out the same door if possible. My helper will make mild corrections, usually a verbal scolding for fidgeting his feet or hip-shifting. If he is being really naughty, she will call me back and I’ll make the correction and start over. Otherwise, I leave for 20-30 seconds, return, praise, leave again, stay away longer this time but usually not the whole 3 or 5 minutes, return, praise, change positions, leave briefly, return, etc.

The goal is for him to see me leave, return, leave, return, multiple times before we do it for real. No big deal.

A few words about praise: when I return, I want him to know how absolutely BRILLIANT he is for staying there without me because I know it's difficult for him. My praise is heartfelt but calm. I don’t want to cheer and shout and add a lot of bouncy energy to this exercise when my goal is for my dog to perform it with calm confidence. Dogs can hear the enthusiasm and sincerity in your voice, so high volume is not required.

Occasionally, I will leave him with a friend who is just sitting ringside. She can play with him, tug, have him do tricks, etc. while I go out of sight or she can just sit and hold his leash and let him hang out. It’s not a formal stay exercise, he’s just out of his crate and I’m not there. But I’ll still disappear in the same direction we will leave for group stays and he’s not allowed to pull or try to follow me.

At the Omaha trials a few weeks ago, I carefully did my pre-stays, exiting through a door to the left because that’s where an exhibitor told me they’d gone on Friday. Oops, we exited through a door to the right on Saturday and Sunday because one of the exhibitors in our group was in a wheelchair and obviously couldn’t do the steps out the left-hand door. Phoenix was fine. He’s used to me being mixed up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Comfort food

It seems like everything is still fruit basket upset at the newspaper office. Just when we were getting our feet back under us from our editor-in-chief leaving and not being replaced, we got hit with layoffs Monday and everyone's job got reorganized AGAIN. I'm not sure how many times I've been reorganized in the last two years but I'm happy to have a job and that's the bottom line.

In times like these, comfort food is important. Here's the chicken and noodle recipe I made over the weekend. Wow. I don't know if it was that good or we were just that hungry but I made a half recipe and . . . um . . . there were no leftovers.


26 oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
10.75 oz. can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth
2 C. diced, cooked chicken breast meat (more is better)
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. seasoning salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
12 oz. package frozen egg noodles

In a large pot, mix the cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth and chicken meat. Season with onion powder, seasoning salt and garlic powder. Bring pot to a boil and stir in the noodles. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

I couldn't find a 26 oz. can of cream of chicken soup and since I was making a half-batch, just used a single small can. Yeah, I know the numbers don't add up but this is cooking, not rocket science.

Hug your dogs, kiss your partner and be thankful for what you've got, not what you've not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blue Monday

This week has not gotten off to a spectacular start. This morning I found out a good friend just lost her job. She got downsized. Another good friend is going to lose her job in a matter of months. Her corporate division is being eliminated.

Then the Mother Ship arrived at our office and laid another round of layoffs on us. Just like that. Out of the blue. Wham. Bam. Good-bye.

Not me, thank doG. I’m still here. I’m doing so many different people’s jobs these days I don’t even know what my "job” is any more. I just keep doing whatever I have to. Smiling when they double my workload at the same pay scale. Being flexible. Being patient. Being very glad I have a paycheck and benefits. Being very glad I’m already taking high blood pressure medicine (it controls the irregular heartbeat) because if I wasn’t, my head might have blown right off my shoulders today.

Would someone please tell the alleged “economic recovery” to hurry up and get here to the Midwest. Cuz we’re not seein’ it.

Here are 10 things I’m very thankful for right now at this very minute because I'm tired of thinking unhappy thoughts.

1) I have a job.

2) I am healthy, more or less (better living through chemistry).

3) I have two wonderful dogs.

4) I have a wonderful husband (should I have mentioned him before the dogs?)

5) I got C3PO back from the body shop today. She's very shiny and buff. (Jeff H., no, I didn't get the James Bond/Rambo front end package with 50 caliber machine guns mounted behind the grill. But it's a lovely thought.)

6) I finally got those bulbs planted before the ground froze.

7) I made the most awesome chicken and noodles last night.

8) My kennel club has rented a great building for winter training and I can't wait to train there with friends.

9) I have 74 hours of vacation to use before the end of the year and come hell or high water, I’m going to use them. (Seriously, after today’s layoffs and staff “reorganizing,” the Powers That Be told to use our vacation so we don’t “burn out.” Um. Yeah. Good luck with that. But I’ll give it the ol’ college try.)

10) It’s 7 p.m. and our publisher just carried in five pizzas and assorted pop. For the workforce we’ve got left at this point, that’s about 1/2 pizza per person.

Life is good.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Ah, the best laid plans . . .

I was grounded this weekend.

C3PO did not get released from the body shop on Friday as planned. The guy said he found "more extensive damage" once he started working on her and this entailed ordering extra parts which did not come in on time. (Do auto parts EVER come in on time? Seriously? Never in my automobile-owning life have parts ever come in on time.) Since the Farmer needed the Truck for doing farmer things, I STAYED HOME ALL WEEKEND.

Yep. Home. All weekend. Two days in a row. It nearly killed me. Not the staying home part, the working my butt off because I was trying to do everything I'd been letting slide all fall.

Honestly, I didn't have anywhere to go so it wasn't that big of a deal. Although I missed going to the DMOTC match on Saturday. Bummer. Oh well. It's not like I didn't have plenty to keep me busy. Apparently my house elf has migrated south for the winter.

Saturday, I dusted, vacuumed, scrubbed the bathroom, washed windows, potted some coleus and wandering jew clippings, did a ton of laundry and a bunch of end-of-the-year farm bookkeeping stuff for the Farmer. And that was all before dinner. 

In the afternoon, Phoenix and I trained for a little bit and I cleaned out the Truck, since it looks like I'll be driving it for a while longer. The Truck was very dirty. I may have mentioned that before. I'm not sure it's exactly clean now. It's just a lot less dirty.

Then I spent about 4 hours cleaning off perennial beds for the winter and planting bulbs. At the time, it seemed like a really good idea to do it all at once. I was on a roll! Look at all this work I'm getting done! About two hours after I quit, my back and other previously un-known muscle groups had second thoughts about the wisdom of my gardening marathon. I took a hot shower and a lot of ibuprofen, set the clocks back one hour and went to bed.

Apparently, I forgot to set the Belgians back one hour. I usually get up at 5:30 a.m. At 4:30 a.m. this morning, there was a lot of nose poking and pawing and generally being a pain in the arse until I convinced them it was NOT 5:30 and I was NOT getting up. Go. Back. To. Sleep. Before I beat you.

Today I did more bookkeep-y stuff, finished planting bulbs (after a healthy dose of ibuprofen) and worked Phoenix. It was a beautiful day, very sunny and warm, by November standards. Heck, it would have been a beautiful day by May standards. I hauled in all my jumps, ring gates and weave poles and stored them in the garage. Left my contact trainer and one jump out in the yard. I figure there's a balance between tempting Mother Nature by leaving everything out or being a wimp and bring it all inside too soon. It is the second week in November, after all, and never mind the fact it was about 25 degrees above normal today - the other shoe will drop eventually.

This afternoon was spa day for the dogs: nail clipping, paw and ear trimming, bathing, blowing dry and lots and lots and lots of brushing. My boys do not seem to appreciate spa day. I wonder if I had a girl dog if she would feel any different. I would love to have someone fuss over my nails and hair. Phoenix and Jamie do not share that sentiment. They think it is a serious waste of time and effort.

But now they are stunningly clean, whether they like it or not. I should have taken their picture. But it's too late now because it's almost 5 p.m. and the sun is going down.

I need more ibuprofen. I need to go back to work, where I can sit in my chair and only move my fingers on my keyboard. Which is good, because by tomorrow morning, I'm not sure I'll be able to move anything else.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Got home from teaching class last night, still driving The Truck, and was congratulating myself on having driven the great big beastie all over three counties, in and out of numerous parking lots (which required backing up, never my strong suit) and to several evening commitments with Phoenix, all involving the Iowa City I-380/I-80 interchange at rush hour, without any dents, dings, additional deer bashing, spilled cappuccino or Malinois-gnawed interior furnishings.

Then I pulled into our lane and there sat . . . a skunk.

Seriously. It was just sitting there. Looking around. Being cute in a way only skunks can.

I threw out an arm to hold Phoenix and slammed on the brakes.

I was NOT hitting a skunk in our own lane with The Truck.

The skunk looked at me.

I looked at it. I told it it had the right of way.

It got up and began to run.

This was hysterical. Wish I'd had my video camera. Have you ever seen a skunk run? They usually don't. I mean really, who would chase a skunk?

It got out of the lane. Good.

Now it was running toward the house. Bad.

Phoenix did not see it. Good.

If I kept driving this slowly, he would. Bad.

Now the skunk was galloping along, parallel with the lane. I followed in The Truck. Going very slowly. And quietly. I'm not big on passing on the right, especially when the pass-ee is a skunk. I glanced at my watch. At this rate, it would be after midnight before we got home.

Straight ahead, I could see the open door of the machine shed. How sweet, the Farmer had left it open for me.

The skunk was headed right for it.

What's worse than a skunk running up the lane?

A skunk running into the machine shed. Let's not go there. We did the "skunk in the machine shed" thing back in 1998. That's another story.

But it didn't go in.

It made a hard left and disappeared out of headlight range into the field. I punched the accelerator, zipped into the machine shed and hit the button for the overhead door before it could change its mind. Phoenix was oblivious, for once.

The Farmer took possession of The Truck again this morning and gave me a ride to work. C3PO is supposed to be finished at the body shop this afternoon. Poor Farmer. He got into The Truck, started it, looked at me and said, "What have you done?"

Um . . . the driver's seat was moved up, the mirrors were adjusted, the radio was on an oldies rock station, the air vents were pushed in a different direction, the armrest was shoved up to give Phoenix more room on the seat and I'd turned the passenger side airbag off.

Sorry, I said. Meant to change that all back. I got the hairy eyeball. He loves me. Really.

At least I didn't hit a skunk.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One down, one to go

The prison demo last night went great. Phoenix worked well and, proving that he has ZERO judge of character, was a total schmooze during the meet and greet with the inmates. You'd have thought they were all his best buddies. That's my dog - gets snarly with a friendly golden retriever but adores criminals.

But first we had to get there. Remember that Nissan commercial from a few years back? The one where the mysterious little man in colored sunglasses says "Dogs love trucks"? Well, it's true. Phoenix thinks the Farmer's truck is ALL THAT. It's a Chevy Silverado, not a Nissan, but I guess it doesn't matter. Malinois love trucks.

I abandoned the notion of the seatbelt/harness thingie. The harness fit well enough but the strap that attached to the seatbelt wasn't nearly long enough and it wasn't adjustable. If I'd attached it, Phoenix would have been basically immobile. That didn't look comfortable at all so he ended up riding loose.

First he sat up and looked out the windows. Then he laid down. Then he gave me kisses and tried to crawl in my lap. (Fortunately we were still on the country roads at that point and I could stop and show him the error of his ways.) Then he sprawled out across the seat and put a paw on my leg and went to sleep. On the way home from the demo, he curled up in a little ball and didn't budge the whole trip.

OK, back to the demo. Before we went in, I had to have Phoenix's article bag inspected, as well as his treat bag and tug stick. The fellow who did the inspecting thought the metal scent articles looked highly suspicious. He counted them. I suppose he meant to count them before we left, too, but guess he forgot. We all got stamps on our hands that showed up under black light and had to be scanned out before we could leave.

It was a group affair, with about a dozen ICDOC members and their dogs. How's this for irony - people in ICDOC (Iowa City Dog Obedience Club) shirts giving a demo for people in IDOC (Iowa Department of Corrections) shirts. First we did a little obedience demo. Then we did a little agility demo. Then we had a meet and greet where the inmates could pet the dogs.

At the risk of totally creeping me out, one man not only remembered ME, he remembered JAMIE, who hasn't done the prison visit in four years. Most of the men were polite and appreciative. They talked about their dogs "on the outside." Truly, being locked up away from my dogs would a horrible punishment.

Yesterday, the inmates. Today, the Kiwanis Club. Tonight, Utility class.

Lots of riding in The Truck!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Busy week

C3PO went into the body shop this morning to get put back together after our deer-bashing incident. The Farmer is supposed to bring his pickup into town later this morning so I can get to interviews this afternoon for work. (Doing interviews for this job, not doing job interviews. There's a big difference.)

Tonight is my obedience club's annual visit to the local prison. We go every year and give an obedience and agility demo. It's a little freaky, going into a prison and giving a demo when there are armed guards standing around. Really makes me appreciate my freedoms as a citizen. And reminds me that robbing banks, shooting people, dealing drugs, etc. is a really bad idea.

Tomorrow, Phoenix and I are giving the program for the noon Kiwanis Club. Still scrambling to get that outline put together. There's a meal involved! Food is a definite motivator.

Tomorrow night, I have Utility class to teach. Lesson plans? What lesson plans?

This means Phoenix will get to ride in the Farmer's pickup a lot in the next few days. He has never done this before. The Farmer harbors some strange notion that his pickup should be a dog hair free zone. Whenever he brings that up, I just give him The Look and refrain from pointing out the mud, cow sh*t and heaven knows what else it is full of. It's definitely a cattleman's pickup. I think a little Malinois fur will improve it.

Since I'm not crazy about the idea of Nix riding "loose," I got a harness that hooks to the seatbelt. I really think he will just look out the window because that's what he loves to do in the van — lay in his crate and look between the front seats as we go down the road.

3PO is supposed to be done on Friday, just in time to go to a fun match at the DMOTC building on Saturday.

Sunday, I plan to STAY HOME, just to see what that's like.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mystery photo

A box of cool stuff arrived in the mail yesterday.

Guess what's in all these little packages?

C'mon, guess!

But I can't tell you, even if you're right.

Cuz it's a surprise for a friend.

And sometimes she reads this blog.

Meme knows.

But she's not tellin'.

Right, Meme?

I'll tell ya in December.

Oooooooh, the suspense!