Monday, February 28, 2011


This one is too good to pass up! I hope this link works okay for you.

Hyperbole and a Half: Dog

Sunday, February 27, 2011


We got two beautiful sets of weaves today. Yay! We got shaky start-lines. Boo. Riff jumped eagerly, and well. Yay! We got lost in Open Standard. Boo. We made the judge laugh a lot in Open Standard. Yay?? We almost Q'd in Excellent JWW (because Riff was good). Yay! His handler caused a refusal (with a late, and possibly unnecessary, RFP....which means Riff did not make any mistakes, other than turning back to me for a moment - because I asked him to....). Boo.

It was a good day / bad day, if you make a little chart out of it. But if you just look at the over-all was a good day.


Actually, Riff has come a long way, and for that I'm truly grateful. He's amazing! He's challenging! He's teaching me a lot.

I'd like to thank my trainers (would you be embarrassed if I named you?), my lovely friends, Riff's mom and dad, and all of Riff's toys.... (yes, we're watching the Oscars)....I'd also like to thank LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, SmartWool and Salomon for providing my ensemble for the day. My hair was done by SmashHat. My canvas bag was special-made by Cable Leakage Technologies and Trilithic, for a CED corporate swag-fest, back in 1998. The toys? PlanetBlueDog.

Is the space between agility rings the equivalent of the Red Carpet?

To be honest, I was pretty shook up after our Open Standard run today. Immediately started with the "kicking myself around" even though I was playing tug with Riff. [Stupid! Too slow! Can't think on my feet! Did everything wrong, wrong, wrong!] And had to put a kabosh on that as soon as possible. The Riffster has a sensitive soul. (The goober. He got very creative on that course. Maybe we should get him into the movie industry....?)

And I resolved (again) not to quit agility. You know. It just takes time. Every dog is different. You just have to keep practicing. Blah blah blah. Yeah. Here's a good saying: "Keep calm and carry on." I like it.

So that's-a what I'm-a gonna do. Keep calm, and carry on. Tomorrow.

Tonight? A glass or two of wine, please....

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday AKC trial

We made it to the show. Riff wasn't as energetic as usual, after his illness yesterday, but he ate his breakfast with gusto. He was bright-eyed and eager enough that I took him over to the fairgrounds at about 9:am. What can I say? I like to compete. I like to think my dogs like to compete.

It was a chilly morning. No snow (alas), but the thermometer said it was 28 degrees on the backporch of our house, at 5:am. Plenty of chill (for California). And what a gorgeous, gorgeous, clear, star-studded sky! At the fairgrounds, I covered three sides of Riff's crate, and made sure he had his binky and an extra blanket.

This was how a lot of folks looked this morning:

I totally went with the Layers, but I don't have any "people heat" devices, nor do I have a "dog coat." I'm thinking about buying a dog coat. Mostly because the kind I like (see photo above) reminds me of the coats we used to put on our horses. (Bearing in mind that our horses had much, much finer coats than our border collies do.) I'm not in line for a propane heater. I move around too much at trials, and my heater would go untended.....

Riff wanted to break his start-line stay in his first-ever Excellent Jumpers class. I lined him up very close to the feet of the scribe/timer, and I think that shook him up a little. He stood up immediately, and moved forward. I said "SIT!" and he did. I decided to move to the other side of him. I thought, "AKC rules say that I can still run this..." and I moved to the other side of him, looked at him, said "OKAY" and ran....

In hindsight, I should've taken him off after that first break.

He ran pretty well over the jumps, considering I was on the wrong side of my planned route. But he missed his weave entry....twice....before he got it. In Excellent, you can't have any mistakes. Ah, well. I celebrated his jumping.

We still had Open Standard to go, however, so we waited for three hours. I walked him several times, played games with him...and took him to the practice jumps twice, to work on start-line stays. During this lay-over, I found out that the people near his crate had been feeding him. Why do people do that?! They fed him salmon brownies, and cheese. They said "He was being so good, he was so cute. We decided to reward him." I tried to be nice about it. But when I took him to potty....yuck, yuck, yuck. Poor Riffle! I told my neighbors, Please Do Not Feed My Dog. Especially When I'm Not Here. aka: Ask Me First!

During our Open Standard course he broke the start-line. We left the ring. We went home.

He seems intestinally fine this evening. I'll keep an eye on him, and decide whether or not to go to the show tomorrow, by 9:am.

Tomorrow is another day. A whole new day. Anything can happen.

Ever onward!!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Getting Ready, Part 3

Riff woke up with a tummy ache this morning . At about midnight. And again at 3:am. And again at 5:am. No temperature. Bright eyes, a cool nose, and plenty of tail wags. But yuck. And more yuck yuck yuck. A 7:am incident followed the 5:am incident....then he seemed to level out. I fed him a very light breakfast, which he ate with gusto. I meant to take him to a little training session at about 10:30am. But he has seemed subdued for much of the day. He's taken more naps than usual. I let him rest.

So when the time came, this evening, to set up our crate area at the show grounds, I took him along. If he seemed happy and energetic playing in the field, I would leave my stuff. Otherwise....not.

I left my stuff.

He seemed totally jazzed to play in the field, and romped just as he normally romps.

But after we came home:

So I'll keep a close eye on him for the rest of the night. And I'll decide tomorrow morning, at the last possible moment, whether or not to show him....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Getting Ready, Part 2

Sadly, our morning agility class was canceled due to scattered showers. I didn't notice any rain until I pulled into the parking lot! Of course we were the only ones there. So the Riffle and I went to Crane Creek Regional Park instead.

We started out on the creek trail, which is beautiful this time of year, and the best trail in the park. This is one of my favorite little picnic spots by the creek (which was running full)....

I decided to train Riff on sit/stays. He was nervous, at first. He's only been to this park twice before - once at about 6 months old, and once at about a year old - and he was wired for sound. Jumpy, reactive, and having fun taking in all the sights and smells....

....and he stayed nicely! I brought his orange ring along, so we had a good game of tug as a reward for each sit/stay/recall. We tried it again, farther down the trail.....

....Yes! Good dog!
We saw only three or four people in the park. Riff was so attentive and eager-to-please that I felt totally confident, letting him off-leash for a few minutes at a time.

We worked our way up to longer distances.

It was a great walk. We stopped at the top of the hill, to take in the view. I think this view is of the Santa Rosa plain....and that the city in the foreground is Rohnert Park. Someday I'll look it up on a map.
Riff was much more relaxed by this point in our walk. He enjoyed looking at the sheep pasture.

And that's our training for today. Ever onward!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting Ready

We're getting ready for the AKC show, and luckily the weather is cooperating. (Knock on wood. They say it may snow by Friday!!)
Riff and I had some practice time out at LeapDog today. So pretty! This is a view of the horse ranch next door.

And the field was in fine shape...

....but I forgot to bring my video camera, so couldn't record our practice. Video is such a great way to learn, but to be honest with you, it was nice not to worry about setting up the tripod for good camera angles. I was glad I didn't have to remember to push the button.

We have such a plethora of recording devices these days, and sometimes it seems like everyone is shooting everything. We all have phones with cameras, and Flip videos are de rigueur. Security cameras, intersection ticketing cameras, health scanners, airport scanners. We're surrounded by electronics! Everything is automated, and so much easier/faster/smaller/sharper (more intrusive?) than it used to be. We're interconnected in ways we never imagined, even back in the sixties. These connections are damn powerful, too...we can Skype our friends in Europe. People can stir up flash mobs, revolutions, new governments. It's mind-boggling. It's amazing.

Yesterday our agility instructor even reminded everyone in the class that our dogs are not robots. Sometimes we give a signal, then turn and run and just expect our well-trained dog to follow - as if they don't have their own moods, as if they don't ever glance away, or get distracted. (In my mind I could see that Japanese robot dog - remember him? - running a little table top agility course....) But the point was: Your Dog is Not a Robot. With the bottom line: Stay Connected!

The Riffster is about as far from being a robot dog as he can get. He is always full of delightful surprises....some of which fill me with dismay. The little bugger. He is teaching me alot about how to "drop back and punt"....

Today we had a very fine practice, however. We worked on weave entries (with a guide and without), and I checked him on all the contact obstacles. (He did great!) We worked on serps. I think I'm finally figuring out where to point my feet, and where I need to be for him to "get it."

The last ten minutes of practice were the most fun, though, because we just played fetch with the ring toy. I sat on the ground and we played tug. I tossed his toy and tried to get a good photo of him. (See? I do love my electronics....!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Update on The Unexpected

The unexpected could be a Japanese maple tree, unfolding in a flower pot that had been seeded for purple violas.

It could be a cellphone grabshot that captures the eye of a hummingbird.

Or it could be being hit by a car.

My son took the photo of the hummingbird. And he lived through being hit by a car. After four surgeries and nearly as many months, he's well on his way to recovery. Yay....!

He recently reclaimed the bicycle he was riding that day. The first hospital had been storing it, all this time, under the name "Mike." I was surprised to see that it wasn't smashed to smithereens. Will was shocked, too. He's been trying to remember exactly what happened....which part of him hit the car first, if he and the bike flipped over the car, how he landed in the street....but he can't remember. Our bodies and minds can be very protective, which is sometimes a good thing.

The only real damage to the bike was to the handlebars, which are now 90 degrees from normal.

The bike is currently living in Will's garage. Don't know what's going to become of it, in the long run. It lives in the company of two other "dead bikes." (Bicycles have been his main mode of transportation for the last ten years.) Will mostly uses the bus now. He tries to take cabs, when he can. He has to call an hour ahead. He says when it's raining they won't come out at all. His friends help out, as much as they can, but most of them ride bikes, too. He's thinking about buying a small car, even though he doesn't really want one. It depends on how his right leg heals....

In the meantime, he continues to improve. He'll see the surgeon again on March 1. They'll take more x-rays, and we're all hoping they'll let him start putting weight on the leg. He's tired of hopping....and anxious to walk! He'd like to get back to work in April. He's been reading books, watching movies, playing guitar, mixing sound tracks, drawing, painting, and visiting with friends. Sounds great....but he's restless.

I spent today in SF, with Will. We got a few chores done. We ate lunch at The Blue Fig. I particularly liked wandering around a crowded little hardware store (what is it about hardware stores??)....but Will had the most fun shopping at Safeway. He was like a kid in a candy store! Sometimes life is all about loving the mundane routines, like shopping for food.

Will can make himself a nice dinner tonight, with yummy dessert. His refrigerator and the cupboards in his little kitchen are well-stocked. He said he's feeling incredibly rich.

I hope you enjoyed your dinner, too. Life is good!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Recap

Our friends from Redwood City visited this weekend. This is Margaret. She's English. Her husband has been Jeff's good friend ever since they were knee-high to a grasshopper...

We spent most of Saturday afternoon chatting. M and I went to a mall for a short while (!) where I bought a spy-camera case for my new spy-camera, and a spoon holder to replace the one that shattered in the dishwasher. J & J had their own shopping foray. Electronics.
The rest of the day was about homemade spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, wine, and sitting in front of the fireplace, swapping stories. Subjects included family histories, the state of the world, Middle East revolutions, cameras, dogs, the mysteries of the brain, aging, new discoveries in the universe, and recent books and movies. Roughly in that order.
Today we enjoyed a great breakfast at Jeffrey's (local restaurant / too many calories) and went to Cornerstone Gardens. I liked the Gardens immediately, because they have a chair that makes my butt look small.

Jeff found a new buddy right away.

And I found a way for Jeff to pose as Whistler's Father. (It is possible that Whistler's dad was shy, and distant. It might've had something to do with Whistler's Mother.)

Cornerstone Gardens is home to many sculptures and interesting objects. Some random photos are below (NONE taken with my new camera, which I forgot at home. D'uh. All cellphone pics.)

On our way out, Olive Oyl flirted with Jeff....
This is the "totem pole" in our backyard. It would fit right in at Cornerstone Gardens, don't you think?

We spent a couple of hours in the backyard, enjoying the glorious SUNSHINE...chatting, chatting....playing with the dogs.....
...and after our guests left.... was time for a nap.
Weekends like this fill me with gratitude and wonder....

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Couple of Days Away from Agility....

....and this is what you get -

Riff, the Whirling Dervish. Riff and the Zoomies. Riff, the Young and the Restless.
Our little "Monday break" from agility is quickly turning into a full week away from agility.
Pain! Agony!
Actually, Riff seems pretty happy (although restless). I am, too. We're having some fun. We've gone on "rain walks" around Spring Lake. (Marvelous way to have the lake to yourself.) We've gone for a run at the fairgrounds. (If you wear your mudders, and know where the high flat spots are, you can still have a rousing game of "fetch" out there.)
But mostly we're wandering from room to room.
I'm not entirely sure if he's following me, or I'm following him.
We look out each window, hoping against hope that the patter against the pane in the living room will magically turn into sunshine in the bedroom. Once or twice, it seemed to work! A glimmer of sun! Then, as we walked down the hall, the clouds gathered and the rooms once again turned dark.
We saw our neighbor Dawn, walking her little Shih Tzu. Dawn wore a cheap plastic pancho. Her dog wore a high-class yellow slicker, worthy of any deep-sea fishing boat. (I promise to get a better photo next time.) That yellow slicker, floating over the street, is quite a sight to behold.
My dogs don't have any clothes. I like to think they're comfortable in their fur coats. They seemed fine at the lake. They seem comfortable when we play in the backyard. (Must admit I go through plenty of towels, drying them off....)

Riff even looks warmed-from-within, at times - like right after he's stolen Keeper's ring from her.
He runs, and runs, and runs. And he's happy.

Keeper doesn't seem to mind. She lays down in her favorite spot, under an azalea bush, and watches.
I've discovered that rainy weather is a great time to pull out the clicker and train your pup to "shake" on command. Not with his paw, though. We're going for the "full body shake"....
Jeff and I went to a play last night - CYRANO, at The Rep Theatre. It was absolutely lovely. We're going to another play tonight. It's a "culture" week! Tomorrow morning some friends will arrive from out of town, and spend the weekend with us.
Oh, heck - look at the time! I've got to get back to cleaning the house.....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Younger / Older

A Weather Moment

This weather moment is brought to you by our backyard. The trees are being combed by a gusty wind, a rainstorm on its way. We're facing the North/Northwest corner of the yard. Jeff's sun sculpture has been turned around by the wind, so all you catch is a glimpse of the sun's back. You can almost hear the chainsaw being used by a neighbor to clear a small oak that had fallen across his driveway. This was yesterday afternoon.

During the late afternoon/evening, the wind blew a smattering of water-sodden branches out of the trees. Some of them were covered with beautiful sage-green lichen. None were over two inches in diameter, although several were over four feet long. Old oak trees seem to like being groomed by the wind.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


A big part of me wanted to be down in Turlock last weekend, instead of in Santa Rosa. The Riffster would enjoy the wide open, flowing courses of a USDAA trial, wouldn't he? And that pretty grass field. Going to Turlock would've meant driving south for several hours, however, and I would've had to rent a motel room or set up my tent. (The tent would've been chilly at night, but wonderful during the day...) I miss my USDAA friends! Some of them had great runs in Turlock, which I've enjoyed on FaceBook. (Thank you!)

Look what else I missed! A lovely cake, celebrating the VAST club's 10th anniversary.
VAST is a great little agility club.
Must admit I love cake. I love all kinds of pastry. Here's a photo of a cake made by Sadie, the daughter of one of my best friends. (Check out her cakes at CakeandCupboard, on the web...) Cute and yummy!
I get in trouble when I eat cake, goes straight to my behind, and I start having difficulty with gravity. (I used to try to avert my eyes from the spectacle of me "running" in videos of Riff. Not easy to do. So I'm over it now. As you know, We-who-like-to-win will put up with Almost Anything, just to get ahead. Even if it means watching videos of ourselves floudering around.) So I'm trying to be good. Trying to lose a bit of weight, and to practice RUNNING. When was the last time I ate cake?? Um....let me check my new iPhone "sin tracker app." Oh. Thursday night. (Cake is not easy to resist!) And god no, I don't really have a sin tracker app...although I hear a someone wrote one for Catholics. (!)
At least cake doesn't cause as many problems for me as it did for this young lady.

And some CAKE is risk-free. Like the band. I love CAKE! Even though the only CD I have is "Comfort Eagle"....

Even CAKE-the-band has made trouble for me, though. Like the day I agreed to sing at a Staff Talent Show (some 8 or so years ago) during SRJC's Summer Repertory Theatre season. I was listening to their music fairly often then, and had the brilliant (?) idea to perform "I Am An Opera Singer." Basically because I'm not much of a singer. And because stagehands and technicians really get that song. No one else on the staff was familiar with the song, and our pianist didn't know how to play it. But I gave it a go anyway....

....and, luckily for me, our audience of college students was cool. They were CAKE fans! They loved it!!

Since that day, being occasionally capable of learning, I've never been in another Talent Show.
I do, however, still sing around the house. Usually when I'm alone with the dogs, and the CD player is turned up LOUD. I love to sing!!
Riff is not a huge fan of my singing.
Maybe his ears hurt. But if I keep at it long enough, he always joins in:
"b-a. b.arrr. bark? bark! barK! baRK! bARK! BARK!" "BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARK!!! BARKBARKBARK!!!!!!!! BA-A-A-R-R-R-RKKKK!!!!!"
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