Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sedona, Jerome, Flagstaff

Is it possible to take a bad picture in Sedona? These photos are from a hike in Fay Canyon. Sedona is famous for its 'vortexes' which are supposed concentrations of energy or something. You can take vortex tours and even get hippy trippy new age guides to help you experience the vortexes to the fullest extent just in case you're not feeling the love all on your lonesome. I'm not sure if Fay Canyon is a vortex but Boynton Canyon, which is the next canyon over and the hike we've done for the past 2 years, is a vortex and I think it had enough energy to spill over because both Strummer and Cody went completely loopy. I remember that Cody went all freaky last year as well. I think it had more to do with the nuts there were all over the trail rather than the vortex though. He has a nut obsession, I can barely get him past an oak tree at home esp. during the fall when the acorns are everywhere. Strummy was a vortex of energy in his own right and tore up and down the trail full speed ahead.
You can see an arch at the middle/bottom of the picture below.

Mmm, tasty. Vultures give me the creeps but Jonny loves them so we stopped for a photo. He eventually took flight with the roadkill in his talons when a raven or crow came over to challenge him for his lunch. I just missed the shot so you don't get to see the gore but I have a lovely memory of it.
Welcome to Jerome.
We stayed here last night and we're here for one more night. It's, uh, interesting. The town is built on the side of a hill, which I knew, but I had no idea how incredibly steep the hill was and how steep all the streets in town would be. The only grass we've been able to find is a small 'park' across the street from the hotel which sounded convenient when I booked the room but it turns out you have to go up a long steep concrete staircase to get to the 'park' which likely will have loud scary drunk people in it if it's after dark. And there is an old, worn 'No Dogs' sign which we ignored because there was nowhere else. Except when the loud scary drunk people were way too loud for even us to risk it so the dogs had to make do with a tiny patch of weeds at the edge of a parking lot. Though the hotel is very dog friendly the town is not a great place for dogs.

Walking about it almost dizzying. All the streets are steep and there are incredible views. Here's a view from one of the sidewalks in town.

It's a weird, freaky little town with lots of weird freaky people. Back in the day it was a huge mining town and was called the 'Wickedest Town in the West'. The Connor Hotel where we're staying used to be a brothel. Now it's just a funky old hotel. Much better than staying at the skeezy motel chains that we normally have to go to with the dogs. The woman who checked us in was a bit eccentric and a busy body. The check-in area was in a gift store and we had to haul our bags through the store to get into the hotel. There was a separate night entrance/hallway right next door and I asked if we could haul our stuff up that way and she said 'no' and gave me a terrible suspicious look, like I was smuggling in who knows what. I'd told them I had 3 dogs when I booked the room and it was all o.k. but still I didn't want to drag them through the fancy gift shop if I didn't have to. Thankfully the woman was busy with another customer when I took the trouble twins up and though she snagged Jonny and Cody dear sweet Cody went into a nice sit and behaved perfectly while she asked questions about him.

Here's a photo of the Connor Hotel (est. 1898).
Here's a view from the San Francisco mountains just outside of Flagstaff.
We went on 2 short hikes, the first was a new trail called 'Aspen Meadow Loop' where the picture above was taken. Unfortunately the grasses on either side of the singletrack trail were jaggy and had terrible foxtails so I spent most of the hike pulling them out and worrying about them. It was only 2 miles so we went to the Kachina Trail which was just across the road. It was a beautiful trail through woods with the occasional view. We walked for about an hour total, didn't want to wear the dogs out too much, especially Cody. Here's a picture of me with my special boy in a nice Aspen grove just off the Kachina trail.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Snot or lung butter?

How about both? I managed to catch Jonny's super fun illness and spent Friday expelling a fair amount of both. I found out that's it's possible to sneeze and cough simultaneously and repeatedly. Thankfully today is better, still hacking stuff up but not nearly as much and not simultaneously. Should be able to hike tomorrow, maybe even taste food again soon.

USDAA trial this morning in Albuquerque, just Standard and Snooker. Unfortunately Cody didn't pick up any Q's. Snooker was especially a heart breaker. He was the last dog to run of the 16" and 22" dogs and I knew that all we had to do was make it through the course I had planned and we'd get a Super Q, only had to do one set of weaves in the opening too, totally doable. Silly boy had one of his flaky moments and wandered off to make up his own course. I held it together until the closing then he went off again to take an off course jump. Also had a most bizarre run by in his standard run then had table issues again. I got him into a down then ran out of the ring to reward. Lola also had a bizarre moment in her standard run, came out of a tunnel then turned around and went right back in. I don't think I could have gotten her to do that if I tried. Then she flat out refused to lay down on the table so we left the ring. We've been practicing fast happy tables in the backyard on an almost daily basis but of course the trial is not the same. She had a great snooker run though and got a Q. I ran her off the course after the #6 obstacle, no point in making her do more weave poles which were #7 of course and she has all her Super Q's but had I run her through the weaves she would have had a Super Q.

We made it to Flagstaff by dinner time. Thankfully that's the bulk of the driving done. Our hotel is near the Northern University of AZ campus so we stretched our legs and had a nice tour of the campus. Cody strutted about like he was Big Man on Campus while Strummy flirted with all the co-eds. Lola thinks that actually Skateboaring is a Crime thank you very much and had some words for the skateboarders. Plus lots of rolling around in the ample amounts of nice lush grass.

Hopefully I'll have some photos of the San Francisco mountains tomorrow.


'How right you are dear Paul
That we hear of famous people's deaths
while on vacation'
-Algebra Suicide

A celebrity dies every single time I go on vacation. Last year was George Carlin, this year Paul Newman. A few years ago we skipped celebrity deaths and had Hurricane Katrina instead. I can't remember the rest but the list is long and impressive. Maybe I should send a warning to Hollywood before I leave for vacation from now on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


We're off on vacation soon and I'm trying not to freak out with the packing and preparations like I did last year before USDAA Nationals. The ultimate destination is Prescott Valley, AZ for DOCNA Championships but on the way we'll stop in Albuquerque for 2 runs of a USDAA trial then Flagstaff/Sedona for some hiking then Jerome, a supposedly funky little artist/tourist mountain town (hmmm, sounds like what Boulder is supposed to be) for more hiking then on to Prescott for even more hiking and some agility thrown in on the side.

Cody needs a standard leg and a snooker super Q leg to finish of his champ. title in USDAA and the local trial I hoped to do it at is the same weekend as DOCNA Champs. I decided I'd rather enter Cody in his last ever champs of any kind than go for the title. Not sure how many USDAA trials he has left in him since he has to jump over his shoulder height as a 10 year old but I'd rather have the experience of going to Champs than a piece of paper and fancy ribbon. And as it turns out there's a USDAA trial the weekend before in Albuquerque which we have to drive through anyway to get to AZ and the first 2 classes of the day on Sunday are Masters Standard and Snooker so I thought what the hey, we'll give it a go. It'll be a nice warm up for Champs as well. It doesn't look so great for a Super Q since there aren't enough 22" dogs and we'll have to be combined with a really competitive 16" class. There are 20 dogs combined for only 3 super q's, just one more dog and there would be 4 and maybe we'd have a fighting chance but oh well. Hopefully the course will be good for Cody and we'll give it our all. The judge is the same one we had at Regionals that didn't give us a proper walk through for the Grand Prix but since we're in the same ring for both classes it shouldn't be an issue this time. He has tough courses, we've had him several times before, so I'm not sure how it will go but we'll give it our best shot anyway. The next local USDAA trial isn't until Jan. of next year and who knows if Cody will be able to jump that height by then. I'm hoping he'll last until the April USDAA trial but we'll see. There are some USDAA trials in Utah and Nebraska but I'm not driving all over huxpux for a title, that's for sure, I don't care if we're 2 legs away.

I'm hoping Sedona isn't too hot this time of year for hiking. It's been hot when we've been there in November, I can only imagine what it's like a month earlier. If so maybe we'll try hiking in the San Francisco mountains outside of Flagstaff for a change. I love hiking amongst the red rocks of Sedona though, they're something I don't get to see everyday.

Prescott National forest is supposed to be nice, we'll have several days to check it out. DOCNA Champs start with a warm-up trial Thursday night. They offered standard and jumpers but I only signed up for standard. I don't want to fry the dogs out with too many days of agility. Champs start for real on Friday and run through Sunday but to make the finals of standard and jumpers on Sunday your combined scores from Friday and Saturday's runs have to be in the top 25%. So if we don't make the finals we can leave after Trigility (3-dog relay) on Sunday. I wish it was a different game on Sunday so that if you don't make finals you can leave Saturday night but I'm supposing most people won't want to go early and leave their teammates in the lurch. Who knows, maybe we'll make the finals and/or maybe I'll want to watch the finals anyway.

DOCNA Champs have another unique aspect in that they run simultaneous Champs in the east and west. The regular classes (standard and jumpers) and games are scored regionally but scores for the North American Challenge (DOCNA's version of the Grand Prix) are combined. Obviously there can be a huge difference between the 2 venues and how the courses are set and judged (biggest difference is that the east's champs are outside and the west's are inside) but there were big issues at USDAA Nationals with discrepancies between courses and judging from ring to ring as well. I'm not sure how you get around this, I think it's good to include as many people as possible from as large a region as possible so you get the most competitive field but once you move away from one ring it's never going to be equitable and you can only have so many runs in one ring. I think DOCNA's solution is good because you have both the regional and national competitions. It'll be interesting to see how it works out.

I'll try to post updates, photos, video, etc. from Champs but in my experience hotel wifi can be iffy so I'll see how it goes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Photos, Just Because

I'm way way behind on stuff I want to write about but no time at the mo. I was playing around with my new camera lens so here are some photos. I'm going to take a photography class this winter, really I am.

Miss Lola playing up her cuteness

Mr. Guaranteed Personality giving me a dorky smirk

Cody Baloney

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How's Your Aspen?

Fall is my favorite time of year, I love it. I've been up in the mountains riding the West Mag trails for the last 3 weekends. Probably not supposed to be doing it because my knee is still messed up. It seems to be tolerating the riding but doesn't seem to be getting much better either. But I missed riding all summer and I'm going to take advantage of every last weekend I can squeeze in before the snow starts to fly up there. This weekend the Aspens finally started turning. Seems like it was a bit late this year.

Jonny's friends call this part of the trail the 'car wash'. I call it the 'Ewok Trail'. Actually I call it the 'fuzzy little Star Wars creatures on those fast motorcycles that flew through the air forest' because for some reason I can never remember the name 'Ewok'.

Don't know how many more biking weekends are left up there at 8000' but I'm going to try to take advantage of every single one that I can, screw the knee.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lance Lance Underpants

I've never been a fan of Lance Armstrong. I know, I know, blasphemy. I read an interview with him, maybe it was in Outside magazine, back in the early 90's and I thought man what an arrogant, obnoxious little asshat. In fact he was quite proud of his arrogance, said it was what was going to make him such a great cyclist. Well, that and the EPO. Oops, did I say that out loud? Anyway, I felt bad when I found out that he had cancer and was glad when he pulled through but could have cared less about all his subsequent Tour Day France wins. And the way he used/uses cancer and other cancer victims and survivors to stroke his ego makes my stomach hurt. Yes, I know, I'm clearly in the minority here. I was one of the few who celebrated news of his retirement and now is disappointed to hear of his return to pro cycling. Apparently though I'm not the only one. Jonny sent me this great quote by Paul Kimmage from a radio interview:

"My reaction … I’m reminded of that memorable scene in The Shawshank Redemption, where Andy crawled through a giant pipe of steaming excrement in order to escape to freedom. That’s how I feel right now about Armstrong’s come back. I feel like we’ve been dragged through this pile of steaming excrement. And the enthusiasm that I had built up about the sport in the last couple of years has been all but completely wiped out in the last couple of hours.

Let’s turn the clock back to Armstrong’s last apparition in the sport. The Tour de France 2005. He’s standing on the podium. And he makes this big impassioned speech. Which is basically saying ‘The last thing I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics, the sceptics: I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry you can’t dream big. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.’ That was 2005, his last ride in the the Tour de France. And the people flanking him on that podium were Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich [For those of you unfamiliar with the cycling world, these are 2 top cyclists who were eventually busted for doping]. And a month after that race ended the French newspaper L’Equipe reported that in his first winning Tour de France, in 1999, Armstrong had tested positive for EPO. Six separate samples taken during that race revealed positive tests for EPO.

This return, he wants us to believe that it’s all about saving the world from cancer. That’s complete bullshit. It’s about revenge It’s about ego. It’s about Lance Armstrong. I think he’s trying to rewrite his exit from the sport. He’s sat back and he’s watched the last two years and he cannot stand the idea that there are clean cyclists now that will overtake his legacy and buy the memory of all the crap that he put the sport through.

When I heard it being mooted first that he was coming back, I thought well that’s fine, because the first thing ASO are going to say is ‘sorry Lance, we’ve seen your results from the 1999 tests , you’re not coming back.’ I expected a similar statement from Pat McQuaid. What’s happened instead is that Christian Prudhomme has said ‘yes, you can come back, no problem.’ And Pat McQiad has said ‘I really admire this man, he’s a tremendous ambassador for cycling.’ What we’re getting here is the corporate dollars and the money that’s going to accompany this guy back into the game. The money that’s going to bring for Nike, one of the big sponsors of the Tour. And for the UCI, who have been experiencing some serious problems in the last couple of years.

Much as you want to say the sport has changed, as quickly as they can change their own opinions – McQuaid, who says one thing in private and quite the opposite in public, and Prudhomme – if they can change so quickly then I’m sorry, it’s really very, very difficult to have any optimism with regard to Armstrong and the way the sport was moving forward. For me, if he comes back next year, the sport takes two steps back.

I spent the whole Tour this year with Slipstream, the Garmin team. That wasn’t by accident. I chose that team deliberately, because of what they were saying about the sport and the message they were putting out. But also the fact that so many of that team had raced with Armstrong during his best years and knew exactly what he got up to. And the stuff that I learnt on that Tour about him and what he was really like was absolutely shocking, really shocking.

What’s going to happen now is he comes back and everybody’s going to wave their hands in the air and give him a big clap. And all the guys who really know what he’s about are going to feel so utterly and totally depressed. And I’m talking about Jonathan Vuaghthers, who raced with Armstrong that first winning Tour and who doped. And if you look at that Tour, Armstrong’s first win, there were seven Americans on that team. Frankie Andreu has said he used EPO. Tyler Hamilton has been done for [blood doping]. George Hincapie was exposed as a doper by Emma O’Reilly, the team soigneur. Christian Vand Velde and Jonathan Vaughters … both are members of Slipstream and would promote the notion that this was not a clean team by any means. When you look at that and what Armstrong’s done and how he’s seemingly got away with it, it just makes his come back very hard to stomach.

Astana’s the absolute perfect team for him. He’d be renewing his old acquaintance with Bruyneel, who wanted to hire Basso last year. Will he be renewing his old acquaintance with Ferrari, the famous doctor? Will Bruyneel be taking pictures of the questioning journalists and pinning them on the side of his bus?

When Armstrong talks about transparency, this is the greatest laugh. When he talks about embracing this new transparency … I’m really looking forward to that. I’m really looking forward to my first interview request with him and seeing how that comes back. Because that would really make it interesting.

This guy, any other way but his bullying and intimidation wrapped up in this great cloak, the great cancer martyr … this is what he hides behind all the time. The great man who conquered cancer. Well he is the cancer in this sport. And for two years this sport has been in remission. And now the cancer’s back."

I'm not really sure what I can add to that, just glad someone of note said it and that I'm not the only one who thinks he's full of it. The only shining light here is that maybe, just maybe he'll slip up and get busted for doping while in the spotlight. Otherwise, like Kimmage says the sport of professional cycling takes 2 steps back.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Running Dogwalk Practice

A busy weekend but I finally managed to set up the video camera to get some running dogwalk footage. This is Strummer's second attempt at the 16" table height. He was at nearly 100% at the 12" height before I moved him up to 16". His first attempt at 16" was abysmal, I didn't track the success rate but I'd guess maybe 30% or so. He's up to 56% on his second attempt and most of his misses were at the start of the session so I think he's getting the feel for the steeper board. I'm standing still for most reps, I want the dogwalk to be independent of my motion but I ran with him for a few reps towards the end because I don't want my motion to be a distraction. He sped up for the reps where I ran with him. I'm not sure how realistic it will be to expect him to totally ignore my motion. I'm also wondering if I'm being too strict in my criteria which is a front foot hitting in the bottom 2/3 of the contact and no jumping. He's only jumping on the first couple of reps and there are several where he's not jumping but he misses the yellow with his front feet but makes it with his rear. I didn't count those as hits but I wonder. For now I'll stick with the stricter criteria and see if he can do it. I'd like to see him extending more and hitting the board only twice with his front feet because I think that's what it will look like on the real dogwalk. I think once the angle gets steeper he'll have no choice. For now the important thing is that he's learning to adjust his stride, not how many strides he's taking.

Here's some video. For every rep I included a slow motion version, not sure if this is helpful or tedious to the masses but it's helpful to me. Not sure if the internet needs another video of a dog running across a plank but oh well.

Monday, September 08, 2008

More Weekend Trial Stuff

I did have fun at the trial even though that last post may have sounded tired and grumpy (I've had a good night's sleep and some caffeine so I'm feeling better now). I got to visit with people, work on Strummy's manners, watch some great runs, play with the dogs, hang out in the sun. Better than mowing the lawn and doing the chores though that always catches up with me in the end but it's good to have a day of hooky from the endless 'to do' list.

Heard a great word for A-frame from a novice handler-'Upstairs'. Always funny to hear some of the untraditional words people come up with. Though I suppose that bites you in the butt if you ever need someone else to run your dog if your dog is heavily dependent on verbals for the obstacles.

I was jump setting for 2 rounds of standard for both the novice and advanced classes so I got to see a lot of new dogs I've never seen before. Lots of mutts and rescue dogs running in the novice ring, very cool to see. One awesome little dog handled by a junior handler looked for all the world like a McNab but when I asked him he said no, it's a Dobie mix, probably Dobe with BC. What a cool little dog though and he did a great job of handling her. Also lots more small dogs, big dogs and variety of breeds than you normally see at a USDAA trial.

Overall though watching the novice ring was something akin to enduring fingernails on a blackboard. Let me preface by saying that Cody had many stress/distraction/control issues when we started out so believe me I am more than sympathetic to the teams that have these issues, especially those handlers just starting out who don't know what to do about it. If you could have seen Cody's Time Gamblers run you'd have wondered how on earth this dog ever made it to masters. But the amount of dogs taking off after 3 or 4 obstacles and the ensuing screeching, clapping, yelling and cajoling that followed was something I've never experienced before. And the judge let it go on and on and on. One woman was chasing her dog around the ring for 4-5 minutes and the judge never forced her to leave. Believe me I realize that if you have these issues sometimes the only way to work through them is to keep plugging away at trials. However if a dog is taking the first 3 obstacles then running off to a far corner of the arena to cower and then maybe a minute later taking a jump or 2 and running off again, well, chasing them around the ring and screaming their name a million times and clapping your hands is not going to solve the problem. The shocking thing is that it was not one or two dogs either, I would say 1/2 to 2/3 of the class had some serious issues. There were also quite a few handlers who had handling and/or baby dog mistakes (eg run bys on jumps) who insisted on stopping and making the dog 'fix' the mistake, screeching and clapping all the while. Many of these dogs were trotting by the ends of their runs or simply shut down and refused to continue which only brought on more screeching and clapping. I've never seen so much ring stress in the novice ring in my entire agility career. Very strange and somewhat depressing. Hopefully just a weird day and not a foreboding of the future of agility.

Along those lines though I wish the instructors out there would place more emphasis on the importance of it all being fun rather than getting titles. I talked to one woman who's dog was actually shaking just walking around the grounds and by the middle of the day still had it's tail tucked under its legs. I told her some of the things I did with Cody, including keeping on running even if he missed a jump or did something wrong, I didn't worry about the NQ. She said 'oh, running by a jump is just an NQ and not an E? Because I don't mind an NQ but I don't want an E'. I told her so what if it's an E? It's not like they kick you out of DOCNA or you get a bad report on your permanent record. She looked at me like I was crazy and I'm not sure why. I told her none of it matters if her dog won't run with her so go out and make it fun for your dog and don't worry about the rest of it. Take 3 obstacles, run out of the ring and have a big party with the treats. She smiled and looked like she was about to burst into tears at that point. She was a nice lady, I hope she works it out. With agility becoming more popular I wish the teachers would focus more on fun and motivation rather than Q's and titles for those dogs that have stress issues. In the end it's supposed to be about fun with your dog right?

Sunday, September 07, 2008


4:00 am Sunday morning. The time when all of us non-morning people reassess the value of whatever dumb ass hobby it is that has us up at such an unsociable hour. I almost rolled over and said 'screw it'. Well, I did roll over and say 'screw it' but then rolled back over and said 'o.k., o.k., I'll get up and drive 2 hours so I can run around in the dirt with the dogs like an idiot for a total of maybe 4 minutes. It will be fun, really, I promise. Then I'll drive 2 hours back and spend nearly an hour unpacking and putting stuff away then I'll get up for work on time on Monday.' Makes perfect sense.

But I went and it was a beautiful day and I had a great time and yeah I'm tired but I suppose it was all worth it.

The trial was at an agility training facility in the middle of nowhere on the plains east of Colorado Springs. I've never been to this trial for various reasons but I did come out here once before when I went to look at a rescue BC (the owner fosters many rescues) that I did not take home because she and Lola did not see eye to eye. Anyway, I'd never been out to do agility and it's a shame because it's a lovely place, nice dirt ring and plenty of space for parking, crating, running dogs off lead, etc. It's too bad it's so far and there are no hotels nearby, they have 2 DOCNA trials a year now. If only I was made of time & money.

Anyway it was so nice and cool, 50's-60's and breezy, perfect weather for dogs and humans and my crew had a blast. Cody had a little bit too much of a blast and went 0/3 for his runs but oh well, I'm just glad he can run. Lola made up for him and went 3/3 for her runs (2 standard and the NAC which is DOCNA's version of the Grand Prix), running her little butt off and barking her head off at me. She got some nice fleecy squeaky toys for her efforts and I gave her one in her crate to amuse her in between runs. I heard her in there squeaking away, it was very sweet. If I had any energy I'd get her to pose in front of all her ribbons and loot but I'm way too sleepy and she's giving me a dirty look for even thinking about it so you will all have to use your imaginations.

One of the main reasons I went to this trial is that DOCNA Champs are in a few weeks and we're going and I have no idea how some of the games work so I thought I'd give the Time Gamble a try. Let's just say that it's different from the Time Gambles you see in USDAA in that there's a minimum time limit for the gamble as well as a maximum so you have a window of a few seconds where you can leave the ring and still Q. Let's just say we're probably not a threat in the Time Gamble at Champs this year.

Strummer came with to add to the chaos. Jonny is still in Scotland and I couldn't leave him home for 13 hours. He was so good except for when he was bad. The histrionics he threw whenever I left to run a dog were a bit over the top. Other than that he did great, sat next to the ring for short spurts, got to meet a friendly BC, said hi to just about every single person at the trial. Maybe there's some hope for him after all.


Had a wonderful bike ride on Saturday on the trails near my house and an even better ride last Monday with some friends up in the mountains outside Nederland. My knee seems to be on the mend finally. Maybe I can finally start a back to running program in a week or two. Just in time for tri season to end, oh well. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Table Photos

Cody could maybe use some shorts in this shot.

Lola chilling out on the table. See, she can do the table just fine as long as there aren't crowds of people watching her. Notice how Strummer imitates the pose of the other dog. He's such a little freak.

Yeah I know, not the best photos, kinda dark but I snapped these in a rush before leaving for work. Agility class tonight means it'll be dark or close to it when I get home.

I still have some touch up painting to do and it would look more impressive if I was using the longer table legs but that's the height I need right now for running contact practice and it's a bitch to get those PVC legs out of the fittings. I tried some baby powder because 'when in doubt use baby powder' is what I say but I'm not sure how much it'll help, especially after the dogs start flying on and off it for a million and one reps and pound those legs in good and proper. I'm thinking now that butter might have been a better choice. Or maybe not. I have legs for a 12", 16" and 20" table and plenty of PVC left for more legs if I need to go to 2" increments. I may also make some PVC supports for the plank as it gets taller but maybe it won't be necessary. Now to get back to training.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Go ahead and laugh Home Depot man

I know, you all thought I was going to wuss out and buy a ready made agility table. This would have been the wiser choice from both a time and money perspective. The possibility of losing one's fingers to the power saw certainly makes the DIY approach a false economy. But I kept looking at the photo of the table I was going to buy and thinking 'this is stupid, I can make that, it looks so easy, it'll be over $200 probably by the time I pay tax and delivery, I can so make this myself'. And I did! I'm not handy at all and I had no idea what I was doing but I did it and emerged with all my digits and limbs intact though my already rather small DIY ego took a beating from a sarcastic salemsman at Home Depot who had the nerve to laugh at me right to my face. I knew it would take longer than I guessed it would take but it ended up taking even longer than that, mostly because I had to practice with the saw and figure out what I was doing and how many trips to Home Depot did I make? But I really wanted to do it, more for my own sense of satisfaction than to save money which is a good thing because if you add up the cost of tools, materials and most significantly my time this is one helluva an expensive table. Cost of finally Doing It Myself-Priceless. I guess.

Here are some things I learned for future reference or for anyone else silly enough to undertake these shenanigans:

1. Protective eyewear and ear plugs people!

2. Clamps are your friend, but not too tight. Best to put a piece of scrap wood between the clamp and your 'work'. That's what the handy people call the thing you're cutting-'work'. See, I've got the jargon down already.

3. An mp3 player comes in handy for drowning out the screaming noisy rich brats in the swimming pool next door. Otherwise they will distract you and give you a headache and maybe you'll measure something wrong.

4. Keep a cell phone and a cooler handy just in case you have to call 911 and transport a severed digit.

5. Both hands on the saw at the same time. The Home Depot guy can sneer at you all he wants.

6. Getting laughed at by a Home Depot salesman is super fun.

7. It doesn't have to be perfect, we're talking toys for dogs here.

8. How is your math? See if you can figure out ways to minimize the amount of PVC pipe you waste using algebra and the quadratic formula. Calculus may be overdoing it, there's no need to show off. Bonus points if you can do all the calculations by hand because you're such a genuis and left all your calculators at work.

9. Your Border Collie may be smart but he makes a terrible assistant. Lock him in the house where he will stare out the window at you for hours in a most unsettling manner. Even more fun if you have 3 staring at once. You can pretend you're putting on a seminar.

10. PVC shavings make one helluva mess. Not sure how I'm going to get them out of my ski bindings. I had no idea there would be such a mess and by the time I did it was too late.

11. It will take 20 times longer than you think it will.

Now if only I can muster up some more DIY princess energy to paint over the horrible minty green walls in my living room that have been barfing me out for the past 10 years.