Monthly Archives: November 2010

So you want to write a novel

This has been making the rounds of the writing-related blogs. I finally made time to watch it and practically laughed myself silly.

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First day of vacation

Today was the first day of my THREE week vacation. (Can you tell I’m really excited about having an extended break?) I haven’t yet unplugged — from anything — but it was a fun, relaxed, productive day just the same.

The day started sunny and cold. The cold was expected; the sun was a pleasant surprise. After scraping the ice off my car, Jay and I were up and out early. The Whidbey Island Kennel Club is holding a two-day show at the fairgrounds in Monroe this weekend. I wanted to watch obedience, particularly Utility, and I knew that was a morning thing, so we tried to get going as soon as possible.

I love the fairgrounds, but I was flummoxed by the parking. Instead of parking in the exterior lots, we were allowed to drive in and park around the buildings. That’s great if you’re showing, of course, and it’s nice if you’re a spectator *IF* you know where the open spaces are. Getting parked was disorganized (though I did finally run into a helpful attendant), and I accidentally ended up parking as far from obedience as possible. Sigh.

It turned out not to be such a bad thing, though. They had a comfy shuttle bus driving laps around the venue, so we didn’t have to trek over. That was good because we didn’t get to the obedience rings until close to 10:00. I was afraid I’d missed all the Utility classes because they show first, but this show had a lot of entries. There were 20+ entries in Utility B alone! We actually found a couple of chairs and settled in ringside to watch the last 7 or 8 people in the class.

So. Much. Fun. I enjoyed all the performances (even — or maybe especially — the NQs), but it was really nice to see the nontraditional breeds. There was a Bernese Mountain Dog who was an absolute HOOT. He didn’t qualify, but he was UP and happy. We also enjoyed a Siberian in the Novice ring nearby. Every time his handler changed speed at heel or turned when he wasn’t expecting it, he woooo’d at her. Hysterical! Of course, that NQ’d him too.

There have been times in the past where I’ve been less than impressed by the handlers — people who took it all too seriously and blamed the dogs for mistakes. I didn’t see that here. These were people with great attitudes, and the dogs’ attitudes were great too. I was also pleased to see how many of them ran to their crates afterwards for high-powered treats!

We stayed in the obedience building for about an hour and a half. I could have stayed all day, but I had told Jay that we would probably be done by lunch. It occurred to me as I sat there, that I was having so much more fun than I would have had in the conformation rings. Conformation just doesn’t do it for me!

We did the walk back toward the car on foot so we could check out all the buildings and, most importantly, the vendors. We visited with lots of dogs, chatted with friendly people, and spent a ton of money on dog toys and chewies. After we hit all the buildings and emptied our wallets, we left in search of lunch. (It occurred to me on the way that I’d compeltely forgotten about River’s lunch. Yikes! Bad parenting moment.) We did a salad bar and a personal pizza, and then ran errands — grocery, pellets for the wood stove, and gas for the generator. Got home, finally, at 2:30.

The next hour and a half was spent working outside, doing the last of the work we needed to do to get ready for winter. We put away hoses and extension cords, broke down the container garden and put away the plant-related things, cleaned off the front porch, got the generator set up, drained the baby pool, and moved the outdoor furntiture from the lawn to the back deck. All in all, it was a good afternoon’s work, though I’m muddy now, my shoes are wet, and my feet are icy. The dogs got a good run out in the front part of the property too.

We got all the winterizing done just in the nick of time. It’s 38 degrees right now — same temp it was at 8:30 this morning. Trace amounts of snow are predicted up here over the next couple of days, with snow levels down to sea level until Thursday. The mountain passes are getting decent amounts of snow, and at least one ski resort has already opened. It’s a La Nina year, which means we should be colder and wetter — read: snowier — than normal. We’ll be glad enough for the pellet stove and the generator.

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Site update

I finally got around to finishing the overhaul of my Web site today. I updated the pages under each of the links at the top of the page. Explore a little!

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I’ve created a monster

Okay, he’s a really cute monster. But still.

I do this every time. I teach (intentionally or unintentionally) each dog one thing that goes horribly wrong. I taught Rain, my first Newf, to retrieve Coke cans. See, the metal scent articles in competition obedience are considered extra difficult because dogs don’t like putting metal in their mouths. I was sure I clicker train my dog to pick up metal, so I grabbed the most convenient metal object available: an empty Coke can. Sure enough, I was right. He was happily retrieving that sucker within a few clicks. The next day he figured out that some cans of Coke come with a sugary sweet bonus! And never again was a can of Coke safe around him. He used to try to wrestle the can I was drinking out of my hand while I was drinking from it. (Jay thought this hilarious.)

So now it’s River’s turn. (You’d better believe I haven’t asked him to retrieve a Coke can. No sirree! Just my car keys. But I digress.)

Our den is in the basement. It’s a long narrow room with a wide staircase at one end. My desk is in the corner of that end of the room, and my desk chair backs up to the stairs. River frequently sits there, and I turn around in my chair to interact with him.

Early on after we brought him home, he developed a routine. After his breakfast, he would sit on the stairs, talk to me (cute little vocalizations from a not-terribly-vocal dog), and then when I turned around, he’d put his front paws on my knees and ask to be picked up. I’d pick him up and set him on my knee, and he’d lean against my chest, and we’d snuggle. (Altogether now: “Awwwwwwww.”) It was seriously cute.

For weeks this happened once each morning. No problem there! No matter how busy I am, I can take five minutes out of my morning to snuggle with my baby. Then he had a couple of needy days where it happened two or three times. Okayyyy. I guess I can live with that. But you can guess where this is going.

Today he asked over and over and over ALL DAY. I know it comes as a shock to some people, but I *do* have work to do. No matter how much I’d love to spend my day playing with the puppy, I can’t do it. But when I tried to redirect him to something else, he acted like I’d sent him out to play in traffic. When I caved and picked him up, he’d wrap his paws around my neck and cover my face in kisses: “Joy! You love me!”

Sigh. Damn, he’s a good trainer.

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River update

My sweet boy is 19 weeks old — 4.5 months. I love this age. He’s still a sweet, gawky, mama-focused puppy, but he has adapted to the household and learned enough English and human body language to get along. He hasn’t yet succumbed to the inevitable madness of intact-male adolescence, and he’s also big enough to play rough with the big dogs, which makes Pflouff extremely happy.

His first puppy class ended on November 1, and he started his second class the next night. The new class is “Continuing Basic,” and its goal is to work more on the basic skills before moving up to Obedience II. Obedience II focuses more on behaviors for competition obedience, and it’s intended for dogs a year old or older — dogs who are mature enough to handle both precision and corrections. River is a clicker dog. He’ll be able to handle precision work younger than one year, and he won’t be receiving physical corrections, so I could have moved up to that class. But, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to really focus on the basics during these last weeks before adolescent-brain kicks in. Obedience II can wait until he’s older.

My plan is to finish this new class in December and then take a break through the winter (and through the first couple months of his adolescence). Even if he weren’t about to undergo a massive brain change, we’re supposed to have a crappy winter, and that will make getting off the ridge iffy a lot of nights. So no regular classes for a while. I’ll let his brain — and the weather — tell me when the time is right to move on.

I won’t waste the time, of course. If his first “Continuing Basic” class is representative, he’ll be learning lots of new stuff that we’ll need to practice. I can also get a jump on the Obedience II behaviors, when his brain is functional enough for new stuff. When it isn’t, we can focus on drilling the basics. The recall, especially, needs to be worked during adolescence. So do impulse-control behaviors (which I haven’t done enough of yet). Adolescence is the time when nature demands that “Because I said so,” isn’t good enough, so it’s the time when reinforcing correct choices becomes paramount.

I *may* drop in on a conformation class or two during our winter break. I haven’t decided to show River, but I’m considering it. He’s a nice looking pup, and I don’t think he’ll be the challenge that Pax would have been. I haven’t suddenly developed a love of conformation — thought it was boring when I did it with Pflouff — but I have an alterior motive.

I’m thinking seriously about trying competition obedience with River. The primary challenge when showing in obedience is being able to train in a show situation. I figure, if I sign him up for conformation but not obedience, I can use the time to work with him and get him used to the stress and chaos. Not that I think it will bug him too much. He is so different from Pax!

Pax, up until the moment he was neutered (at age 6!), was an extremely outwardly-focused dog. It gave him great attitude; I think he would have shown beautifully. But getting him to focus on me was HARD work.

River is much more focused. He notices and (so far) isn’t stressed by events around him, but he’s able to concentrate and work, even when there are strange dogs working around him. I’m not sure he has the attitude to do well in conformation (even if he has the structure), but you never know!

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