Monday, January 28, 2008

agility update

Oreo is now weaving through 4 poles pretty reliably, even without a toy. Unfortunately, regulation is 12 poles. So, we are 1/3 of the way there. I bought some guide wires that you attach to the poles, to kind of make a path for the dog to follow. The trick is to set the wires at the right height, so that the dog isn't tempted to go over or under the wire. It seems to be working for Oreo. Once he is consistently weaving, I will gradually raise the wires and then remove them all together. I am amazed at how quickly he is learning the poles. A few days ago, I had my doubts, but now I know he will be able to do it. How could I have doubted this brilliant dog of mine? Smart and cute.

Yesterday afternoon, Oreo shined in the backyard. He successfully completed a series of 3 obstacles - tunnel, jump, tire jump - over and over. The best part was he seemed to really be having fun, and was proud of himself. I learned a lot about my own body language, and what works to guide Oreo to the next obstacle. How I position my body and my speed are critical to him doing what I want. A lot of times when Oreo missed a jump, I knew it was my fault for moving too far away from him, or going too fast. I really need to run, and at the same time get down to his level so he can see my hand gestures. Oreo tends to focus on my feet, so I have to get my hands down low. He's a pretty short dog, so this is an awkward running position, and my thighs are killing me today. I'm glad he's not a chihuahua. I think I may end up with bikers thighs by Spring.

miracle infomercial

I turned the TV on at 6AM this morning to check the weather forecast. The TV was tuned to an infomercial, which caught my attention. I had the sound off, but the scrolling words on the screen drew me in. At first, I thought it said "FREE 4:8 ...... woman".

There was a short woman talking to a man. My initial reaction was that they were trying to get people to call the 1-800 number, and this 4 foot 8 woman would come to their homes for FREE. Why would we want this woman to come to our house, and is there only one 4 foot 8 woman for all the callers? She looked like a nice lady, but what was so special about her? I was confused, so I turned up the sound to hear what was going on.

Numerous people came up on the screen, they all had a large dollar amount on the screen beneath them. Each person gave a similar testimonial. After bringing this miracle into their lives, they came upon a large sum of money - $6575, $25,000, $55,000 etc.

I slowly began to learn it was not a free woman they were pitching. The 4:8.... was referring to a bible passage. The man was giving away "free" miracle manna bread, made in ancient ovens in the holy land. Call the 1-800, get the bread, eat it, follow the written instructions, and within four weeks, you would come into a large sum of money, like these other happy people.

Now, I'm sure this guy spent a lot of money to air this commercial. How can he give away this magical bread for free?

I'm suspicious of the "follow the written instructions part". I wonder if the instructions say, "In order for the bread to work, you must send me $100." The instructions even provide a date and time when all these good things will happen!

Do people really fall for this? How can this man sleep at night, knowing he is preying on the people most desperate for money?

I should have written down the number and called just to see what the scam really was, but I was afraid to even give them my address. I'm sure I would have been bombarded with all sorts of "scam mail". I would have been labeled by the junk mail services as - "highly gullible, will fall for anything".

I'm sure those of you, with more biblical knowledge than me (I'll ask Jeff tonight), know the story about how this bread was linked to some sort of miracle. Perhaps some of those miracles really did happen. However, I don't think eating some bread, acquired from an infomercial, will make me rich.

I decided to just switch to the weather, and leave the FREE magical manna bread for those who really needed it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

poor mr. squirrel

Jeff and I were standing in our living room this morning, talking before I left for work. Jeff was looking out the window, watching the cars go by, when he said, "Oh no, come on squirrel." Then, he said to me, "Don't look.... Why did I have to see that?"

Squirrels get hit by cars all the time. I know I have checked my rear view mirror dozens of times, to make sure the squirrel made it across the road. The dogs are sure to point out all the dead squirrels on the road when we take walks.

Now, I'm not a squirrel lover. They are basically rodents with fluffy tails, but besides the flying squirrel that ended up in our house one night (I must blog that story someday - it's a good one), I have no reason to dislike squirrels. In fact, one of my favorite books from childhood was about a squirrel named Miss Suzy.

I didn't look out the window, but Jeff kept watching the squirrel for signs of life and thought the squirrel might still be alive. I told Jeff to go out and help the squirrel. Jeff looked at me like I was nuts. What could he do? Turns out the movement of the tail was caused by the wind from cars going by. The squirrel was dead.

Jeff was visibly upset having witnessed the squirrel's death.

I went to work and refused to look down at the road as I pulled out of the driveway.

This afternoon, I took the dogs for a walk. Of course, on our way home the dogs found the dead squirrel. Mr. Squirrel was no longer in the middle of the road, but on our next door neighbor's lawn. I said, "Oh no dogs, that's our squirrel," and quickly pulled them away, trying not to look at the squirrel's face. I figured that the cars going by had eventually pushed the squirrel carcass there.

I called Jeff to tell him I had seen the red headed woodpecker in our yard. Jeff had seen him last week, but this was my first sighting. It was then, that Jeff told me he had moved the squirrel off the road before he left for work. He couldn't leave it in the road to just get run over again and again.

This didn't surprise me. Jeff once stopped his truck on a busy road in Troy to help a turtle cross the road safely. What a turtle was doing in Troy is a mystery.

It makes me sad that our cars, houses, and other human inventions cause animals harm. I know there is a circle of life. Animals die so other animals can live, but I still don't like it.

Jeff always makes fun of me, because if I watch a movie or TV show and a person dies, I don't react much. Throw in a dead dog, deer, or bunny and I'm a complete mess, running to the bathroom for tissues.

Now, I think Jeff has no right to make fun of me. I have never moved a dead squirrel off a road.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

jumping and weaving

Oreo learned how to jump on the bed this past weekend, when I was out of town. Jeff went looking for Oreo on Saturday, and found Oreo lying on the bed by himself. Jeff hadn't helped him up, so Oreo did it all on his own. I have seen Oreo jump up there several times now. What an accomplishment.

Perhaps, Oreo was unchallenged while I was away, so Oreo decided he better teach himself something. On the other hand, maybe Oreo was becoming lazy, after all the extra food Jeff had fed him, and was just looking for the softest spot in the house. Jeff said that Oreo had become very fond of my throw blanket on the couch. Apparently, Oreo spent a lot of time cuddled up under it while I was away. Sounds like the dogs were on vacation while I was away - lots of eating and sleeping.

I'm back, so now it's time to work again.

I set up the weave poles this afternoon, and started Oreo's training. This will definitely be a challenge. Today, I pretty much had to pull him through the poles. Oreo clung to one end of a squeaky toy, while I clung to the other end, guiding him through the poles, saying "weave, weave". He did do it once without the toy, so I am hopeful that he will be able to weave on his own one day. At least he has a new challenge, for now. I'm hoping to catch him practicing the weave poles while I'm busy doing something else. He practices his tunnel and chute all the time. I'll be in the kitchen, and will hear him sliding through the chute over and over. I'm not sure weaving is as fun as the tunnel. I wish they would come up with an obstacle which requires the dog to circle around it over and over. Oreo already does that with our kitchen table, coffee table, and even humans.

I just read Jon Katz's blog about his herding dog, Rose. Poor Rose is out of sorts, because the weather has been too bad to herd sheep. Rose lives to herd sheep, rather than lay around by the fire.

Good thing I can do agility indoors or out, that way Oreo is never at a loss for things to do.

Oreo has been quiet while I have been writing this. I went to check on him, afraid he might be chewing on his new weave poles. Nope, he was lying on our bed. All that weaving must have worn him out. What a life.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's official

OK, I thought it might be true, but now it is official. Oreo is a genius dog.

I bought him a busy buddy tug-a-jug. Which works kind of like those "ship in a bottle" toys. The bottom of the jug unscrews, allowing the human, with opposable thumbs, to add treats to the jug. The dog then has to figure out how to get the treats out through the opening in the top.

It took Oreo a few days to figure out how to step on the purple part, to get the jug to tip enough to spill the treats out. Within a few days, he had it mastered. I was hoping this toy would keep him occupied for hours, or at least 20 minutes, while I was at work. He can now work all the treats out in under 5 minutes.

OK, so you're not impressed.

Well, yesterday, I came home from work and the entire bottom cap of the jug had been unscrewed! Yes, unscrewed. I knew I had put the bottom on and twisted it completely shut, because I had had a hard time lining up the grooves properly. I called Jeff at work, thinking he had loosened it to help the dog out. (Jeff thinks it's mean when I make the dogs work for their food.) Jeff denied touching the jug. Oreo did this all on his own.

So, Oreo is a genius dog. It is a little scary. Maybe I can teach him to open the doors, so he can let himself out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

fresh powder

Nothing like a fresh coating of fluffy snow. Keeps paws clean, and makes everything look pretty.
Hoping the next storm fizzles out, as it is predicted to come when I am flying out on Friday morning. They are predicting ice for that one. Ice and planes are never a good mix.
As I am writing this, I can hear Oreo going through his chute, which is in our guestroom. He keeps doing it over and over. Is he practicing? Obsessed? Bored? Trying to grab my attention? I better go play.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

mud agility

I spent a lot of my weekend practicing agility in our backyard, aka mud pit.

Yesterday, it was very hard to get Oreo focused on what I wanted him to do. He was more interested in smelling all the cool stuff that has been covered with snow, and is now wet, smelly and so enticing.

Today, Oreo was a little more willing to ignore some smells, and also ignored Misty barking at mystery things, which I never see. I feel like we made some real progress today.

Over the past two days, I've learned a lot about this sport. Here are a few:

  1. Don't run around your yard for half an hour wearing Bean Boots, when you still have an unhealed broken foot. Ouch. I am in so much pain, but at least my sneakers are still clean.

  2. Person must run faster than the dog, otherwise person and dog collide, causing person to fall over dog, while dog runs away laughing.

  3. Agility makes me sweat. I don't know how we will practice when the temperatures are above 40 degrees. I had to peel off most of my clothes today. Don't know who is getting a better workout - me or the dog.

  4. It helps to yell out your next command, while the dog is still performing the previous obstacle. Also, yell it over and over, i.e. JUMP, JUMP, JUMP.....TUNNEL, TUNNEL, TUNNEL.

  5. Hope your neighbors aren't watching or hearing all these crazy antics. Especially when you are yelling, "JUMP, JUMP, JUMP," while dog sits politely looking at you.

  6. It is so exciting when we work flawlessly as a team. Then, I hope everyone is watching!

Here is a better video of Oreo going through his tunnel/chute.

Jeff was scoping out PVC pipe today at the depot. Trying to figure out if he could make some money selling agility equipment on EBay. I was hoping he was going to build me some extra jumps. Silly me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Oreo's Chute

Here is a quick video of Oreo going through his chute. Unfortunately, the video is a little dark, but I think you'll get the idea.

All the agility books said I would need a partner to hold the chute open while Oreo got used to the feel of the chute and not being able to know where it ends. Not the case with Oreo. He went through it right away.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

cheaper to fix 'er

Have you ever heard someone say that it is usually cheaper to replace an appliance than to fix it?

That is what I was dreading when the door on my six years young dishwasher clearly had something wrong with it.

I was closing the dishwasher door and heard a really loud bang. I thought maybe something heavy had fallen off the rack. I went to open the door, and it immediately fell to the ground like a weight. Usually, the door feels light and bouncy.

I opened and closed the door a couple times, trying to figure out what was wrong. I couldn't, so off to Google I go.

Within minutes, I had our problem diagnosed, parts ordered, a diagram of the parts, and directions on how to fix it! Amazing. What did people do before google? They must have actually had to call a repair person, who would have charged $85 just to come to your house, then another $40 for parts and labor. No wonder why people just go out and buy a new one. You can get a new dishwasher for $229.

Luckily, I have a husband who is handy, has lots of tools, and refuses to hire anyone to fix anything (regardless of my pleading for him to "just call someone"). One time, Jeff decided he was going to replace our leaking oil tank, which had over 200 gallons of oil in it. I wasn't convinced this was a DIY kind of job. All I could picture was the Exxon Valdez spill in our basement. Does insurance cover oil spills? Jeff told me to have some faith in him, which I hear a lot. He was convinced he could do it. First, he transferred all the oil into our new tank, with some sort of fuel pump, borrowed from a friend of a friend. Then, he moved the new oil tank, full of oil, into place using a couple straps and an engine hoist (something I'm sure everyone has lying around - just in case you need to lift something weighing over a ton). Our old tank ended up in Jeff's truck to be brought to a scrap metal bin. Jeff did it all without spilling a drop of precious, very expensive oil. I was impressed. Who knows how much money he saved by doing it himself. I'm sure it was hundreds.

This time, I knew Jeff would be able to fix the dishwasher without much difficulty, and didn't even suggest calling someone.

Jeff was able to quickly replace the broken spring, along with the non broken spring, which the internet said to replace at the same time. All for $20. Unfortunately, during the installation the water line got jostled and the seal broke. A quick trip to the Depot and $10 later that was fixed too.

Neither of us would have known what was wrong with the dishwasher if I hadn't googled "broken dishwasher door". We would have had to call someone (gasp!) or bought a new dishwasher. I wonder how many people have gone out of business due to all the information on the internet and HGTV.

time to rest

How much does Oreo love his new tunnel? Now, he wants to sleep in it!

I'm sure this is not recommended by agility trainers. They want the dogs always going through the tunnels at top speed, with no stops or turning around, let alone a cuddly nap.

I think it is OK for Oreo to use it as a resting spot. Especially after spending the day running through the tunnel at top speed. A dog needs some rest.

Feels like spring here today - it is supposed to be 60 on Tuesday! I love January thaw time, but could do without the mud it brings.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Outdoor agility

Oreo's agility equipment finally arrived yesterday. I have yet to assemble anything, but the tunnels were easy - they just pop open. Oreo loves his long tunnel. He has been quite obsessive about running through it. It is very hard to take photos of him, as he is running so fast, especially when Misty is chasing him. So, check out the video at the bottom.

I wonder what my neighbors are thinking of all this activity.

Leaving the tunnel
doing the jumps
face full of snow after searching for his ball
out of the tunnel