Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thank you, Wit!

This is the lovely WIT (aka Hob Nob Oh So Clever; aka Little Wittle).  She won a bunch of first and second places last weekend at the big TRACS AKC show in Dixon.  Three QQs!  She decided to give Riff a present - a little treat bag that has dog faces on it.  I think she misses seeing him at the trials. 

♥♥♥   Thank you, Wit! 

Here's a kiss:

with love, from RIFF (aka Hob Nob Set the Beat; aka The Big Riffster)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Lots of folks to remember today.  The WWII soldiers from my Dad's generation.  Friends from my youth, who lost their lives in Vietnam.  Our generation's children, who are in the Middle East. 

And all the people who made it back from war, forever changed.  (Folks like my brother-in-law, pictured here during a 1992 trip to D.C.)  

Yesterday Jeff and I went to two cemeteries, to check on the burial plots of our parents.  (My dad's resting place is too far away to visit...but his energy is threaded throughout my life, so that's okay.)  

It's been a few years since we've done this sort of thing. 

At my mom's cemetery, they'd added a whole new building in front of her building.  There was a new winding path, lovely landscaping, and plenty of artwork.   We cleaned the spiders out of her bronze vase, and put a couple of flowers in it. 

At the the cemetery where Jeff's stepdad and his mom are buried, we found Vivian's flower vase filled with dirt and overgrown with grass.  I figured we might be doing a bit of sprucing up, so brought gloves and tools, and was able to reclaim it. 

There are lots of veterans at this cemetery....the whole field behind this one was filled with flags for the weekend ceremonies.  Jeff was glad to see that Frank's grave had a flag, too.  Frank served as a Captain in WWII. 

WE SALUTE YOU!!!!          

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tweaking a Threadle Through the Family Room

We have a lot of books.  Real books.  (Kindle is intriguing, but I haven't gone there yet.)  Since my back got hurt I've been reading a hella lotta books.  We often give books away to friends, or to Hospice.  We sell a few, too.  Did you know you can sell books through Amazon?  It's almost as easy as buying them.  It takes me a while to let go of some books, though.  For instance, I'm likely to hang on to my Mecklenburg books for months....maybe years. 

It depends on how my new approach to agility goes.  I think of my new approach as HYBRID HANDLING, and - in my imagination - it's a brilliant mix of the Derrett and Mecklenburg handling methods, geared toward people with "issues." 

Hybrid Handling solves some of the issues faced by Ladies of a Certain Age.  For example:  lumbar issues, knee problems, bunions....      Hey, sometimes the simple act of stopping and turning for a front cross, threadle, or 180 (and we must turn quickly enough to WIN a Big Dog class) leaves us dizzy or disoriented.  So-o-o-o.....we must make adjustments.   

Hybrid Handling would also, naturally, solve some of the issues faced by Dogs of All Ages.  The dogs whose handlers always get twisted up and lost, for instance.  (Ahem.) Or dogs that don't like lead-out pivots.  Or dogs with ETS!  Wouldn't that be cool?  (Yeah.  Dream on...!!) 

I have every Greg Derrett DVD (except the last one, which I should get), I've been to a few Laura M-Derrett workshops, plus a couple with Sharon Freilich, and Moe Strenfel, and now I have Linda Mecklenburg's books.  I've watched quite a few videos - especially while laid up these last six weeks (thanks to friends on FB and various YouTube accounts).  Many of the videos are examples of one method or the other.  However, it must be noted that some of the videos show handlers using a mixture of both method - woohoo! Hybrid Handling already exists!   Other videos feature what I call the Unique Handling Method, otherwise known as UHM.  (A method I myself have fallen victim to, in days gone by....) 

Because my brain is at least as old as the rest of my body (figure that one out), it's going to be a challenge for me to get up to speed on this.  But I'm working on it.  I started my new handling notebook.  I have two new rules in it already - although they are about "salvaging the damaged lumbar region," not hybrid handling.  (See "The Art of Waiting" blog entry for Rule #1.)    Here's Rule #2:

NOTE TO SELF:  Want to change the word "RULE" to something else?  Rules are made to be broken.  Isn't there a better word??   Mmmmmaybe not.  It's fun to break rules.

This morning my husband asked me what the difference is between the GD and LM methods.  I chatted about "position-based" vs "motion-based" but he just went blank.  So I tried to show him a threadle.  We recently moved the furniture in our family room (so I could lay flat on my back and watch the Giants lose a few games on TV) - and it's in a pretty good threadle configuration right now. 

I jumped up (carefully) and showed him how I thought a Derrett disciple would do a threadle, versus how an APHS afficionado might do one.  (APHS = Awesome Paws Handling System.  Hey, don't look at me - I didn't come up with the name.  It all started with a much-loved dog named "Awesome"....)

Anyway, I tried to show him two different moves, using the furniture as jumps....

...forgetting that Riff might want to join in on the fun. Wowsers, for a second there I thought he was going to jump the couch!  and then the chair!  ....but it was easy to him call off.  whew... 

I need to do a bunch of thinking and note-taking on this - plus PLENTY of training and experimental practice, once I'm back in shape.  Hopefully I won't be an antique by the time I get to try it out.   

Yes.  Well.  For now, I'll just get back to my novel.   This is a Holiday Weekend, right? 

Ever onward.   

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dear Keeper! ♥

"Wait.  I have to shake my head."

"Argh! You know I'm only wearing this ribbon because you asked me to..."

"....not because it looks cute.  Okay.  Okay maybe it does look a little bit cute."

"But I'm much happier outside, without that darn ribbon.  Let the birthday games begin!!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


My heart goes out to the people of Joplin, MO....with prayers (such as I have) and Good Thoughts (of which I have many) for them, and for everyone else in "Tornado Alley."  

I can hardly imagine.  We live in Earthquake Country, so I can sort of imagine.  But hardly. 

As far as I know, you get more prep time for a tornado and, for those who can afford it, a basement seems to be a good idea.  (I'd hate to be in a basement during an earthquake.)  But I wonder - how do architects and contractors design buildings that can withstand the twisting force of large tornadoes?  It doesn't seem possible.  It seems to be all about basements.  And windowless rooms, with thick walls sunk well into the earth?  I have the same question regarding the shearing force of earthquakes, but people around here seem fairly confident that our buildings can withstand a quake.   It has to do with a building's ability to expand and contract.  I don't get it, but I try to have faith in it.  I'm pretty sure our house wasn't built up to earthquake code, back in the early sixties.  My husband says we're good because the house is built on a hill of granite.  A solid bed, as compared to.....shifting land-fill, for instance.  Hmmmm.  You just have to have....faith. 

The closest I've been to a tornado was back in the late 80's, shortly after my ex and I purchased a house in suburbia.  We had a little ranch cat named "Mexie," who was used to leaping into our old laundry room through an open window, and sleeping on the dryer. 

When we moved, I tried to approximate her "safe house" (and its attendant relief from our German Shepherd and Other Creatures) by setting up a crate/bed on a wide window sill.  Happily, Mexie liked her new spot.  Until, one windy day, a tornado touched down in our backyard and whisked the crate, cat and all, up into the air - spinning it around before dropping it to the ground, where the crate broke and the cat skeedaddled.  (Okay, okay - maybe it was only a sudden gust of wind.  But I saw it happen, and it sure looked like a twister to me.)   It took Mex about three days to come back home, and she never went near the window sill again. 

Actually, the closest I've ever been to a 'tornado' was sitting through five or six different community theatre productions of WIZARD OF OZ, over the years, plus a preview performance of WICKED, in San Francisco. (Wait - we didn't need a tornado to get to OZ in WICKED.  But I do remember a very cool dragon.)  And I've watched the old OZ movie on TV about a bazillion times.  I'm sure many native Californians have the same story. 
Here are some photos of the tornado in an OZ production at the local Junior College:  

Not much like the real deal (Joplin photos from news sources):

Yeah.  Like that.  So. 

Good Thoughts.  Best Wishes.  and Prayers.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Paradise during The Rapture

Laying in bed at O'Dark:Thirty this morning, I seriously thought about driving out to Dixon, to watch my friends compete in an agility trial.  Cheerleaders R Us!!!  But once I got up, my back helped me think about it again.  Should I drive that far???   Ummmmmm....NO.   

Riff and Keeper wanted to go to the trial.  They'd like to visit other dogs. 
Instead:  This afternoon, Jeff and I went to a friend's Art Opening up at the Paradise Ridge Winery.  How can you worry about the Rapture when you're already at Paradise??? 

Driving in, you can't help but notice the crooked fence. 
It means you have arrived at the Sculpture Garden.

But if you drive past the Sculpture Garden and on up to the Tasting Room,
you'll see this lovely sculpture...

...and this lovely view.

You'll soon drive back down to the Garden, though. 
I liked this sculpture quite a lot.  I'm partial to flowers, and wings...

...and Jeff looks pretty cute in the middle of it.

This sculpture has been in the Garden for a few years.  Simple.  Elegant. 

Jeff is sitting with our artist friends.  You can see Peter's concrete "Hand" in the background.
Peter's concrete "Zeus" (with visitor)...

...features a mosaic by Robin on the inside of the head.

Jeff, Robin and Peter, through the eye of Zeus.

There are lots of great sculptures in the garden.  If you get the chance, you should check it out!
It's FREE!
(A pretty good place to take dogs, too...)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday Fun

My Physical Therapist called in sick today.  Kaiser offered another, but I opted to wait until my next regular appointment on Monday.  (While the cat's away, the mice will play!)
The dogs love it when "Pops" joins them in the backyard.

Of course Riff knows exactly how to get what he wants from Pops. 
(Look cute.  Stare beseechingly.  Wag and wiggle.) 

And there it is! The green ring!  And a chance to run around with one of his favorite toys. 

The game isn't complete without a little competition, though....

....so Keeper obligingly teases Riff with the red ring. 

Keeper gets talkative at this point. 
Her little hums and barklets sometimes develop into a full-blown "Let's play!"
howl, which is not at all hampered by the fact that her mouth is full.   She's a noisy one. 
Riff likes to put his energy into Motion, rather than Sound.
She'll quiet-down and keep up with him pretty well, for the first few minutes. 

After that, 
Keeper prefers to rely on trickery and wisdom. 
She'll run to the Best Viewing Spot, 
where she'll make a few moves that remind me of my old cutting horses,
while Riff runs around with no apparent plan....
or she'll lay down under the azalea bush (her Very Own Bush - the one she taught him to stay away from)....
or she'll drop the red ring in the ivy and then pick up the green one, while he's busy looking...
or she'll just let him have both rings
and run unencumbered, 
taking the short cut by the deck,
panting easily,
saving energy...

...while he continues zooming around at about 110% capacity.

Ah, youth.

Their game reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beautiful Riff

Every once in a while

your best pitcher falls apart... 

...and even he wonders what the heck is going on. 

Some days are like that. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Upbeat Update

My son, after spending over six months recovering from a bicycle vs. car accident in San Francisco, has returned to work!   And HAPPY to be there!  He now buses to the Opera house, instead of riding a bicycle.  He doesn't seem to want another bike [a secret YAY! from me].  He talks about getting a small car.  But after living in San Francisco for over 10 years, and knowing what having a car is like in The City, he doesn't talk about it often.  He still has a bit of a limp.  His doctor told him to forever avoid activities involving "high impact"....like playing basketball.  His attorney is trying to make sure the bills get paid.  Will is a "million dollar man"!  (Remember that old TV show?)  It's amazing how expensive everything is.  We really need healthcare reform in this country...

I grabbed these photos of 'Will at work' off of the TV, when PBS aired a special called "Journey of The Bonesetter's Daughter: Making of the Opera." So the pics are poor, but you get the idea.  The special was filmed in 2008.  Will still looks the same, although skinnier and scarred.  He's still on "the juice crew" (electrics/lighting).    :-)  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Art of Waiting

Sometimes I feel like a border collie.  Anxious to work.  Does that sound a little crazy? 

Sitting around - taking it easy - being careful - not bending over (ha!) - walking only on flat ground (ha!) - not jogging - not lifting much of anything - sleeping only on my right side....all the physical therapy rules.... it just isn't much fun.  Waiting for my back to get better makes me imagine what it might be like for Riff to sit at the startline of an agility course, waiting for my "Okay." 

Let's go!  Let's go!  Let's go!  Let's go!  Let's go!  Let's go!  Let's go!  

So I went ahead and had an epidural spinal injection on Thursday afternoon.  I purposefully stayed somewhat ignorant about the procedure, because looking stuff up on the Internet (particularly medical stuff) can be Really Scary.  And I hate needles.  The doctor and my physical therapist thought it would be good for me.  My only question was: "Can I take Ativan for it?" 

Ativan is like Valium.  I've heard that some agility folks take Valium to dull the nervousness they feel at a trial, so that they can run their dogs better.  Which is fine with me - I'm a "whatever works" kind of girl - but I wouldn't take it, because I like adrenaline.  But it's not good to be "nervously excited" and "ready to run" when you're supposed to lay perfectly still for a shot in the spine.  So I dug around in the medicine cabinet and found an old bottle of the Ativan my husband needed a few years ago.  It had an expiration date of 2006...but beggars can't be choosers.

The whole thing - from Outpatient Surgery registration to discharge instructions - took less than three hours.  I felt a little floaty going in.  (Perfect!)  I forgot to ask if I could take a cellphone picture of the x-ray machine they used to guide the needle....oops....but I remember seeing a big gray machine off to the side, with a young lady at some sort of control panel.  The doctor spoke to her throughout the procedure, saying things like "A little more to the right..."      I never wanted to see the needle (pretty sure it was the approximate size of the Empire State Building), so I avoided looking at all trays, and kept my eyes closed during the procedure.   Basically, they shot some Lidocaine and Prednisone directly into my back. 

Like your average cold medication, this does not cure the problem.  It only masks the symptoms.   It's designed to "allow the patient to more quickly improve her spinal condition with physical therapy and an exercise program."  And it doesn't work for everybody.  I think the success rate is around 50% or so. 

Happily, I already feel better.  The nerve pain shooting down my leg has almost disappeared.  My back still feels anywhere from aggravated to awful, depending on how I treat it, but it's such a relief to have the leg feel better!  Now I need to get it back into shape.  My right thigh is now noticeably smaller than my left.  Noticeable to me, anyway. 

They say the effects of the shot can last anywhere from a few days to a year or longer.  I vote for 10 years!  I was instructed to avoid physical therapy exercise for one week, even if I feel well.  But right now feels like a great time to exercise!  But NO.  Okay, I understand.  I'll be good.
I started a new journal:

....and ordered a few books:
NERVE: POISE UNDER PRESSURE....  by Taylor Clark.  (It's supposed to be both helpful and funny.)

WITH WINNING IN MIND  by Lanny Bassham  (We do like to win - hopefully with a calm, happy, fun attitude.)

(Because I want to see if there's anything there that I can combine with the Derrett system that might make running agility easier on my back and knees.  And two books by the same author are often better than one.)

...and I'm researching phrases like "pre-cue" and "off arm" and "forward motion front cross."  So much to learn. 

Ever onward!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

LeapDog Workshop

This was the first time I've attended a workshop as an Auditor.  Must admit it was kinda' nice to sit wrapped up in a cozy blanket, on this chilly May day.  Although it would've been a lot easier to stay warm if I'd been running around!   Riff would've benefited greatly from today's lessons.  We hope to participate next time.

During one of the exercises, LP told the workshop handlers that they'd need to make it all the way to this stanchion, close enough to touch it, just as she is doing in the photo above.  Getting into this position, she explained, while preparing for a front cross, will help your dog turn tighter, because he'll understand exactly where to go next.  The turn into this front cross needed to take place as the dog crossed the jump's plane of refusal.  (Sometimes the turn into a front cross will need to take place prior to the handler reaching the "correct" position, due to the speed of the dog, or slowness of the handler.  But the position by the stanchion is the GOAL.  For one thing, it allows you to be far enough ahead of your dog to set up for the next obstacle.)  Due to the configuration of the course, many handlers doubted they would make it there in time.
But they did!  All of them! 
Here are a few pics of handlers training their dogs to come up to them while they were at the stanchion...

...so that their dog wouldn't cross behind them and take the jump prior to the front cross.   (Oops!) 
All the dogs figured out how to do it correctly - helped by the watchful eye of their handlers, good footwork, and timely rewards.  
And all the handlers figured out that they COULD reach the stanchion in time! 

Wit stayed cozy in a new blanket while she watched.  (We were "the blanket girls.")

LP and the teams had a lot of fun during the workshop!

Jeepers jumping.

Fawkes jumping.

Willy jumping....

...and giving Barb a workout.

Kimba, adoring Micky.

LP, giving advice from one of her favorite resting places.

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