Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

2012, coming right up.  Woohoo!!!! 

May all of your wishes come true. 

Here's to Hope, Joy, Kindness...and Adventure!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A New Day

Yesterday's agility lesson was fun.  I did a spot of "running" again and oh golly, moving faster feels great!   (Even though I have a special talent for running to the wrong spot, or arriving at the correct spot too late, or too early....)

Riff looked splendidly happy (even when he was confused), and he jumped well.  We need to work on being able to tell the difference between a right-to-left rear cross and a decel right-turn into a 180, with me quite a ways behind him, and with an enticing obstacle off to the left.  We also need to work on our weave entries.  And brush-up on startline stays.  And then there's the fact that when I do manage to get ahead of him on-course, he's pretty surprised to see me there.  For about seven months I've been behind him....  But!  If we can pull ourselves together a bit more....I think we might make it to the January USDAA trial.  (Knock on wood!)  It would be a 'training trial.' 

Sandy the Vet surprised me this morning by dropping by our house with some Krill capsules for Keeper.  She says a lot of people give Rimadyl to their older dogs who have trouble getting up, but she's seen some great results with this stuff.  She also felt the lump on Keeper's chest.  She thinks it's probably a fatty deposit and that I shouldn't worry about it.  YAY!  Of course she still wants me to keep an eye on it, and report any changes.  Sandy is super nice. 

When I photographed the sunrise this morning I had a feeling today might be wonderful.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Calling the Vet

While it's true that I love our vet Sandy, I'm not wild about having to call her. 

This morning I found a lump on Keeper's chest, very close to her right front leg.  About the size of a marble.  Not the itty-bitty kind of marble, but a shooter.  I was sitting on the ground, one dog on either side of me, which is a pretty common occurence.  Both dogs had rolled over onto their backs, and were very relaxed.  It shocked me to feel this little lump, and I could tell Keeper wasn't happy about me manipulating it.  I was trying to gauge exactly how big it is.  She'd had her eyes closed when I found it.  She didn't yelp or act like it was totally hurting her, but she was clearly uncomfortable - raising her head to give me "that look," and moving her feet around. 

Let's hope it's nothing.  Sandy suggested it might be some kind of fatty deposit, which sounds okay to me, comparatively speaking.  I'm to keep an eye on it for the next few weeks, and let her know right away if it gets any bigger. 

Cross your fingers?  Mine are crossed, about ten times. 

Keeps has been moving a bit "sore" lately, even though we haven't done agility.  She does run around the backyard with Riff, though, and we've taken them on a couple of it's that.    She's gotten crabbier, too.  She was delighted that my son Will was visiting, but she did get growly/snappy with him one time...and she's gone after Riff twice this week.  None of us were actually in the room, so we don't know what Riff may have done - but we certainly heard the conflict.  Are these signs?  Should I worry?  More than I'm already worried?   

On the positive side, she was very, VERY sweet last night during our "Boxing Day Beef Bourguignon Dinner"....especially with KC.  She and KC fell hard for one another.  KC kept saying, "You all know I don't like dogs...but THIS dog...Oh my god, she's really special...!"

Riff was there too, of course.  And he did have a couple of fans.  But he's a shy dog, in a crowd, so he kept his distance.  Mostly.  

I hope you all had a marvelous Christmas Holiday. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas Eve eve:  The kids tear into DREADFLEET (a pirate board game)! 
Reminded me of when they were little.
Christmas morning, Riff and I explore the "hill trail" at the quarries...

...a beautiful day for a hike.  (And boy do I ever need to lose some poundage!)

Good boy Riffster

Beautiful lake.

Will brought his new guitar and has been playing it every day.  Yay!

Later went to mB's for her annual Christmas Lasagna Dinner.  Good friends.  Good food.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Lesson

Riff and I had fun catching up with our missed Tuesday lesson at LeapDog yesterday.  It was so warm, we started out the afternoon in shirtsleeves!  But don't get too upset, the time the lesson was over and the sun was low on the horizon, we were all shivering in our thick coats.  (Secretly, I'm wishing it would rain rain rain.  It's DRY around here.) 

We worked quite a few weaves, going through the courses.  Some of the weaves had odd entry angles.  Riff hit well-over half of the entries, which wasn't too bad, considering.  I was happy with him!  (Nevertheless, I bought some more fence poles to stick in the ground at local parks.  We're going to try "back to 2x2 basics" right after Christmas.  It would be grrreat to have consistent weave entries.) 

Riff and I are still trying to work out our communication regarding which jump to take.  Try as I might, I can't seem to predict whether he's going to go wide around the outside of a jump and take one further away, or come in too close and go off-course that way.  Is he paying attention to me?  Our instructor says he definitely is...but he's still getting used to me being so far away.  I know he's ultra-willing, and that he tries really hard to do his best.  Hells bells, I'm still working out the cues and their timing, too.  It's not easy.  There are days when I feel completely discouraged....but yesterday was not one of them.  I kept noticing how beautifully Riff jumps, and it made me smile.  (When you're some distance from your dog on course, you get to notice stuff like that.)  I think he has a great jumping style. 

But the best part of the lesson occurred during one of our attempts at the second-half of a course.  It included a jump / teeter into a somewhat distant 180 entry on the weaves, then an angle-away toward a jump / tunnel and back around another tricky angle to the last two jumps.  I had to "escort" him to the weave entry...which he finally got  after two false starts...then I had to beat him in the weaves to that angled jump-into-the-tunnel, so I could front-cross there, and front-cross again right after the tunnel.  Riff is a lot faster than I am, even when he's weaving...but I decided to try it anyway.  All that to say:  We made it!  Our instructor said, "Wow!  You were really moving by those weaves!"  And so my BIG CELEBRATION is two-fold:  I got ahead of Riff in the weaves without him popping out, AND I got ahead of Riff in the weaves.  I actually really ran for a few strides!   And my back is only a bit tweaky/creaky today.


PS.  Riff was good on the startline, even though I purposefully hustled him out there whenever I could while classmates were still walking the course.  (Hopefully he will get re-acquainted with "action" around the startline.)  AND he hit all of his 2o2o contacts. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Flower Lion


scanned, prior to framing

Flowers and leaves used in this one:  Dianthus, Helleborus, Clematis, Mum, Shasta Daisy, Viola, Marigold, Tree Fern, Japanese Maple.

A few photos of the "process" (sans gardening and pressing...!)

....along with a few prayers/comments to the flower gods....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Riff Art

Tamra just sent an iPhone pic of a 15x15" painting she did of Riff.  She said the colors may look a bit darker in the photo than they are in real life, and the picture is a little fuzzy.  She just ordered a frame - it will be the same color as the dog.  So exciting!!  I can't wait to see it in person!  RIFFLE! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Procrastination is a fine art. 

As Mark Twain put it:  "Never put off until tomorrrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."

Hey, I'm not really procrastinating, because I'm filling up my time with other things.  True procrastination is "doing nothing."   Right? the word actually means "putting off doing something," as in "something specific"...

I'm definitely doing stuff!  Just not Important Christmas Stuff.  But I got a few little Christmas-y things done today.  The first batch of candied walnuts is done, and I wrote a stack of Christmas cards.  You have to admit that's progress...and that it's only the 17th.  Pppffft.  Plenty of time left for the biggies.  Like shopping.  Like mailing packages.  Yes?

Okay - I'll admit it.  I'm procrastinating.  I do this every year.  Just really, really not a shopper.  (How do you shopping-types do it?  With one foot stepping into dotage, I still don't have shopping figured out...)

But Riff and Keeper are happy, because we've been playing a lot.  (NOTE we play with Christmas colors!)

There's an AKC trial going on over at the fairgrounds, but Riff and I stuck to the neighborhood early this morning for our walkies, and we've been hanging in the backyard for our training and playing. 

Because I thought I'd go shopping this afternoon.  (HA!)  Well....maybe I'll go out this evening.  Or...tomorrow.... 

Here's an even better quote:

"Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have."  Yes!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tom Waits

I like Tom Waits. 

Does this have anything to do with dog agility?  Hmm.  Maybe...

Listen to a few of his songs.  Try "A Little Trip to Heaven."   You can google it.  My middle-son Brett chose this song for his wedding dance, back in September.  It's a nice number.  You can think about your agility dog while you listen to it!  :-)  
It's not the song that first made me like Tom Waits, though.  That was a video / movie / live recording of a tour called "Big Time"...made in the late 1980's.  I rented it from a downtown video joint (many years before Netflix) and watched it three times. 

Please understand that I'm far from a Waits expert (try Wikipedia for that) but I know what was good about "Big Time."  It was was the heart-and-soul of the man, laid right out there in the lyrics for all to see, the catchy melodies, and the marvelous driven percussion in his band.  (Wow!)  It was the way he had about him.  Waits seems to understand a lot about life - specifically the "underbelly" of life, but he also understands the flights a soul can take.  His singing is not average, in any way.  He gets into his music, and just "goes there," without reservation.  Some folks think he's too weird.  His early recordings are amazing - try the CDs "Small Change," or "Closing Time."  He's a terrific songwriter.  He's been in movies - a genuine character.  At ACT I once saw an opera/musical he wrote.  He still hits notes that resonate with me.  He's a cool mixture of open-eyed-recognition-of-how-things-are, and the-wonders-of-dreaming.

I've seen him a few times, around town.  He lives near by.  I watched him look through a magazine at Sawyer's News.  I once stood behind him at the Valley Ford general store.  I was waiting to buy a box of Junior Mints while he was shooting the breeze with the couple behind the counter.   I wanted to say something, or - really - I just wanted to hug him.  I wanted to thank him for his music, but I didn't.  When he glanced back at me, his eyes seemed to signal "not now"...and so I just shut up and bought my candy. 

"Groupie" does not generally describe me...but maybe it does, when it comes to Tom Waits.  Maybe, if I see him again, I'll speak to him.   I'll say "Love your music, and Thank You!" which he's probably heard a million times.  But what the is short....and there's always room for a little more enthusiasm.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Today it seems to be truly over...this war in Iraq.  Holy Moley, Hallelujah, and Thankyou, Obama.

It looks like Everyone is coming home by December 31!  Can this be true?  Thank goodness! 
(Everyone....except the approximately 4,500  American men and women who sacrificed their lives in the English and European troops, and countless Iraqi citizens....)

I well-remember the day this war started some ten years ago.  We had tickets to the "Broadway by the Bay" production of THE PRODUCERS.  We went to dinner with friends, then walked to one of the premiere theatres in San Francisco, to see the touring show.  I was totally out-of-sorts, knowing that G.Bush was pushing war.  Shortly before we went into the theater, we heard that WAR had indeed been declared against IRAQ.  Why?  Because they had "Weapons of Mass Destruction."  (And now we all know how true that was...)

THE PRODUCERS was well done.  But during the show-stopping number - "Springtime for Hitler" - while everyone around me was clapping and laughing - I dissolved into sobs, and couldn't stop.  We were at war.  It horrified me, it left me devastated.   My poor husband whispered, "What's wrong?" and offered me Kleenex.  I was speechless. 

"Springtime for Hitler" - from the 2008 SRT production of THE PRODUCERS
After we got home that evening, I lit a candle and put it into the window, determined to keep it there until our boys came home.  Later - for some strange reason - while looking at GW Bush standing in front of a "Mission Accomplished" sign on one of our aircraft carriers, I decided to put the candle away.  It was a premature action, to say the least. 

I still don't know exactly what to say about this war.  If only I were clever....if only I had the words to express my feelings about war....and about the end of this war. 

Perhaps the best I can do is 'Thank God It's Over.' 

I still hope for the best, regarding All the Rest of It.  Afghanistan.  The Middle East.  Russia.  China.  The Ghettoes of America. 

YIKES!  My plan was to celebrate the end of Iraq....but I'm totally depressing myself!!  Time to get up and move


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Puppy Lust

Okay - so, really.  How many dogs does the average champion world-class dog agility person own?  I'd say four.  Maybe five. 

And they probably keep an eye on breeder websites, and often think about adding to the pack.  (Listen to me use the term "they" they're someone else!  Well the "world-class" part is definitely someone else...but...the rest of it?  Hmmmm....)

Puppy lust.  It strikes at the oddest moments. 

NO NEW PUPPY FOR ME!  I make this statement loud and clear. 
( my!  NO!  NO!) 

I have all I can handle with two dogs.  Riff is so young.  He still acts like a puppy.  Puppy zoomies at least twice a day.  Yep - he's a big a puppy!  Plus, we live with a Two Dogs Only rule.  That alone sets me apart from the Totally Serious Dog Agility Person.  They have at least three dogs.  Most often four.  Yes?  Except...Ashley has only two dogs.  And...I can probably think of others.  Or....maybe not.  Who else?

If the world-class competitor is married, or co-habitating, which is the same thing in my book, their partners are probably also running dogs.  Or their partner Works in Another State and is Gone A Lot.  Or they live in a huge house with a huge yard and maybe even a kennel, and running the dogs is a breeze, and their partner isn't constantly "annoyed."  Plus they probably have a Terrific Dog Sitter, so traveling is easy peasy.  Plus they probably have a king-size bed, and sleeping with multiple dogs is NOT a problem. 
So I guess my question is:  How do married dog agility people (those with a partner who isn't really a dog person) manage to have more than two dogs?   Are you one of those lucky people?  Want to tell me how you did it?  Or...maybe you better not. 

Because, no....I really, really don't want a new puppy.  Honest. 

Christmas Day, 2008

Getting Ready

Brought our tree in, and decorated it.  She's done about a bazillion Christmases, and I've been thinking about putting her in the ground after this round.  I even bought a baby tree, the same size as this one was when I got her.  We'll raise him into Christmas-Future.   

Or, maybe this tree will last another year or two.  We'll see.  You reach a point where the pot is too big to move, and you have to make a decision...   

Or, maybe we'll just go somewhere next Christmas.  Maybe we'll run away from the whole traditional homestyle thing and kick up our heels somewhere else.  Hmmmmm.....

...stolen from FB, for my Hanukkah friends....

Monday, December 12, 2011

It was a Weekend....

...of discovery and tradition, with a bit of regret mixed in.  I regretted not competing at the Bay Team trial - Riff and I had planned it as our "come back" show.   Instead, we just visited.  As luck (good or bad?) would have it, 'not entering' was the right decision.  It was mighty cold.  My back ached like the devil, and my leg was cramping like mad, in spite of all the Advil.  [Sometimes you begin to think you're supposed to get tough and just run through it.  Especially when you see videos of people in wheelchairs at competitions.  Or you watch someone who's waiting for hip surgery run through courses, then limp around between classes.  It's a weird thing.  You begin to wonder if you really didn't enter because your dog just isn't well-trained enough. Or did you not enter because you can't fake running, and your dog doesn't get it?  Are you just a big  wimp?  Or...are you hanging on to this crazy idea that you'll actually heal, if you take it easy for a little while longer...?] 

LOVED seeing many of my agility friends, though.  And Riff had tons of fun.  So the bottom line = it was a good day, dammit!

Rampage and Riff play well together.

Goombah and his tug toy.

Channan tested Riff's sit-stay.  He was a good boy!

Big hugs for Aunty Channan. (She enjoyed them.  Really!  I think.)

Big smile for Aunty Kathy.
Jeff and I went to two art galleries over the weekend.  A friend is part of a new show up at Hammerfriar in Healdsburg, and they were having an artists' reception.  Nice.  Most of the art was really pricey (jeez!) - but it was great to be out and about.  We played our usual "museum/art gallery" game, which is to go into a room or section, pick a favorite, then guess which one the other likes the best.  Always good for a few laughs.  I took some iPhone photos of paintings, but they didn't come out well.  Here's a photo from the parking lot.   Haha!

The other gallery space is called Feed Barn (here in Santa Rosa), and is run by the founders of the Handcar Regatta, plus a few other folks.  We didn't see an art show there, but went to a Crafts Fair.  Lots of tables loaded with interesting steampunky stuff, and the place was crowded with young people.  I swear we were the only "gray-hairs" there, but it was a comfortable environment....I loved it.  They were playing excellent loud music on a great sound system, and we found a beverage bar (were they serving alcohol? possibly...), a coffee/cookies bar, a big comfy couch, a yummy chicken tamales stand, and everyone was super friendly.  Beautiful artistic crafts were presented both indoors and outside.  The outside section was framed by an old white school bus and a rope that looked like it was once used to attach a cruise ship to a dock.  One of the Handcar creations was sitting by the door.  I stole the photo below from their website.  This one was taken in front of an old rope factory in Petaluma.  (I remember going in there to by rope for our braided horse halters and leads that we used to sell, many-many moons ago...)  This gives you a good idea of the size and look of the handcar at the Feed Barn. 

There was no 'cover charge' for the Crafts Fair - just a donation jar.  (Nice!)  Have since discovered that this Feed Barn is a bonafide new venue "for worship[?], DJs, live music, art exhibitions and many other events."  (Yes, I once bought a bale of hay at this place.)  Sounds like fun.  Check it out!

Last, but far from least, we went to the Annual Snowflake Party at our friend J's place.  J makes the Best Holiday Sugar Cookies Ever.  Everyone brings marvelous munchies, and/or a bottle of wine, and their favorite scissors.  J then tapes as many snowflakes as she can onto her big picture window, as part of their decorations.  As we've done for many years, we also watched the old cartoon version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  We know all the words to the songs!  And we're mighty proud when one of our snowflakes makes it to the picture window.  :-) 

I hope your holiday season is unfolding just as nicely as this last weekend did for us....

J and J, pre-party....
Busy snowflakers.  :-)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

40 years ago...

Christmas was fast approaching.  I'd been employed at the downtown Library for only a few months, and my finances were still running amuck on the wrong side of the street.  It was one of those years when I made Christmas cards for family gifts, then scrounged for the postage.  My roommate, an old friend from SoCal, had gone home for the holidays.  He offered me a ride, but I didn't have any vacation time and couldn't leave work.   

My first Sonoma County rental.

The folks I worked with had a few days off, and vamoosed the caboose.  My job for the holiday was to 'hold down the fort' in the book processing department.  The department was in the basement.  It was basically a large work table and several old chairs, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling shelving.  The shelves bulged with hundreds of both broken and brand-new books.  We handled books from all over the county system.  A side cupboard was filled with plastic sheeting for covers, and manila pockets for front pages.  The table was littered with glue pots, brushes, rulers, scissors, paper cutters and rubber stamps.  That Christmas a half-dead 4" poinsettia reigned supreme in the middle of the chaos.  Off to the side, a small typing table carried our precious IBM Selectric and a stack of blank catalogue cards.  A manual Underwood was on another table, to be used as a "back-up" when the Selectric broke.  Several book carts lurked nearby, waiting to be either emptied or filled, excited about the prospect of a trip upstairs, or perhaps a real adventure on the county truck. 

Libraries are considered quiet places, but I never found that to be true.  Libraries are filled with the noise of people and books.  Paper rustling, books thumping, covers sliding and complaining on conveyor belts, books of all sizes skittering into tall tenuous stacks, then slamming back out....   Books are not quiet.   Even though many librarians prefer the company of a good book to a roomful of people, library staff members can be a noisy bunch.  The radio in the breakroom was usually on, and staff members were always chatting and it seemed to me.  No worries about getting in trouble for being too loud at Christmas, though.  Most of my new work buddies were gone for the holiday. 

It was my first Christmas on my own, away from any family, and I was looking forward to it...or so I thought.  My dear old roommates in Oakland were spending the holidays with their families, and expected me to do the same.  I didn't make any announcement about my total lack of plans because I didn't want to get scooped into their family scenes, described the previous year as "incredibly awful."  I decided to just forge ahead and celebrate on my own - "My First Christmas As A Grown-Up!"   (Having just turned 21...)  Besides, I wasn't alone.  Sammy was with me.

SAMMY - Christmas Day in Oakland...before we moved North
As Christmas Day approached, I had to fight off a big Loneliness Bug.  The department was way too quiet.  I tried singing loud Christmas carols, but my scratchy little voice was soaked up by the basement walls.  I danced around with a big picture book about Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer, but that didn't work either.  A few tears followed.  That evening I decided to spend five precious dollars of food money on a tiny cut tree, and make a paper-chain for decorations. 

The next morning one of the librarians sought me out.  She came into the book processing area (a rare trip for a glorified librarian), and invited me to join their family for Christmas dinner.  "Just my husband, our two daughters and their husbands and kids, plus a few of the cousins...."  "Thank you so much, but no, no.  I'm good, thanks."   "Are you sure?"  "Yes, yes, I'm sure...."  I felt terribly shy about barging in on someone's family time, and my shyness was magnified by the fact that I barely knew the lady's name, much less anything about her. 

She came back downstairs after lunch.  She had two small boxes in her hand, and a big smile on her face.  "Well, you have to take these then.  I don't need these crummy old things any more.  I have a lot of decorations.  These are too old.  Please, just take them." 

The most beautiful little ornaments ever.  I was charmed.  The lady - I soon realized - was one of the kindest people in the world.  She gave me a hug, too, even though I wasn't into hugging, in those days. 

Sammy and I enjoyed a mac-and-cheese dinner on Christmas Eve, and I gave him a nice bone.  We hung as many ornaments on the tree as we could.  I treated myself to a glass of whiskey.  I'd had some beer in Oakland (blech) but this was my first very-own half-pint of "serious alcohol" - a gift from my roommate.  I thought it tasted awful.   But that didn't keep me from bringing it along when Sammy and I drove out to the beach on Christmas Day. 

It was a gorgeous day on the coast - bright, clear, and COLD.  Sam and I spent the entire afternoon at the beach - we were the only ones there.  I had water and whiskey, crackers and cheese.  We made a huge peace sign out of footprints in the sand.  I sang a few Christmas carols and Sammy (understandably) howled.  I'd been worried about the Lonely Bug, but it was no where to be found.  The coast was far too beautiful, the sea shells far too plentiful, and my precious dog was most excellent company.   My thoughts often drifted to the kindness of the old librarian.

Today, after forty years of acquiring all kinds of marvelous Christmas ornaments, the little heart she gave me is still my favorite.  I even gave it a name.          


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remembering the Good Parts

December is Operation Riff-Is-My-Best-Buddy Month (Subtitle:  Always Look On the Bright Side of Life). 

We've been going on morning walks without Keeper.  I even took him to Riverfront Park - alone - after many apologies and some extra treats to Keeper.  We had a fabulous time. 
Heading out.


Riff the Shadow

We're working on a new trick - crawling.  He's just about got me trained....(hahaha).  Might have to video that one sometime - you'd get a laugh out of it. 

Our Tuesday agility class was fun, too.  The social scene was terrific, as always - oh, those ladies can make me laugh - but I need to remember the good parts of Riff's work, too.  Otherwise the bits that seem to be (!)utterly and completely untrained(!) will leave dark twisty trails all through my brain - a well-known cause of handler motivation malfunction.  

Riff's wraps were decent.  He was very attentive - which is to say he did not design his own course this time.  (Yay!)  He had excellent startlines, with lo-o-ong lead-outs.  His lateral work was great.  Once he loaded into the weaves, he was fast.  Once he was weaving, I could get as far away from him as I wanted (quite far) and he still sped through to the end.  He didn't knock any bars.  We got to play lots of tug.  [I know, I know...the back says No, but the brain says Yes - so the compromise is "don't lean over."]  His down on the table was lovely.  He seemed Happy!  Also - and this is the most important - he looked handsome. 

Well, I do have a list of things to work on.  Couldn't help it - I left with a couple of notes.  We need to continue working on fundamentals while our instructor, classmates and agility friends get ready for the big Bay Team trial coming up this weekend.    (Jealous?  Me?  Maybe.  Kinda.  Sorta.  Yeah.)

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