Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall at the Evanston Dog Beach

I made it to Chicago. Just. I thought I showed great restraint in not strangling my plane seatmate who kept neurotically tapping his foot on the ground with such speed and force that he caused my seat to shake each time he did it. It was like Chinese Water Torture. I get that some people have neuroses about flying but do they have to spread the love? It's not like tormenting me was helping him any. And the can of Coke he had certainly didn't help matters. It also didn't help that the plane took off an hour late then circled O'hare for 20 minutes or so due to some light rain. At least American let me change my flight to Friday for free so I didn't have to drive to DIA in the snowstorm. Despite getting hit by nearly 2 feet of snow on Weds./Thurs. the roads to the airport were clear by Friday morning. I love Colorado.

I only brought my dropped too many times point and shoot camera and I threw that in at the last minute. Didn't think I'd be in the mood to take pictures then ended up down at the Evanston dog beach and wished I'd brought my nicer camera. Didn't realize there would still be some fall colors here either, the leaves are nearly done in Colorado.

When that wind got going on Lake Michigan I swear it felt a million times worse than it did during our snowstorm. But there were some nice sunny spells and given that this is Chicago at the end of October I suppose it could be a lot worse.

This is my friend's dog Annie.

I'm trying to figure out how to stuff her in my suitcase and sneak her home with me. I think she'd be an awesome agility dog. And even if she wasn't, she's such a sweet pea.

This is my friend's other dog Theo. Crazy mutt was swimming in that ice water. For like an hour at least.

Theo and Annie playing it up

Scrap. Need I say more? He was my favorite at the beach today, aside from Miss Annie Banannie of course.

They're both collies but so totally different in looks and behavior. Cody almost certainly has some smooth collie in him so I have a soft spot for them. This particular girl certainly had an attitude. She was obsessed with the Border Collie who was obsessed with his toy and wouldn't give her the time of day.

Tomorrow I'll probably make another trip to the dog beach with my friend then venture into the big bad city in the evening to visit another friend who hopefully will not try to drag me into the Chicago River in a kayak.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snow, Dogs, you get the idea

We're having our first big snow of the season.

The storm is supposed to continue through tomorrow. What do you suppose the chances are of my flight to Chicago taking off as scheduled?

Yeah, I think Lola's right. Fat chance. It'll be a fun drive to the airport anyway. Strummer says don't worry, be happy, and don't forget to chew on some sticks.

My interview today was rescheduled and it was probably a good thing because I have a hard enough time walking in heels on solid, dry ground. Cody Baloney says good, now can you put those two troublemakers in the house and take me for a nice solo walk? Great, thanks.

This was taken at 1:30 p.m. and the storm is supposed to go for another 24 hours or so. Yikes. Wonder how much the final tally will be? Maybe I'll try some skijoring with Lola later. I can get on a plane in a cast, right?

I love Halloween

Especially if it means Boston Terriers and their owners doing agility while dressed like Bumble Bees.

I love Oreo, he's a kick in the pants to watch and he was giving me kisses at the DOCNA trial. Unfortunately I didn't see this in person but this is why we have Youtube.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How the recession forced me to buy pantyhose

I've been putting off this tale of woe for weeks now but I finally have a spare moment and I suppose it's as good a time as any.

I started my job on the first Friday in October, 1994 and had my last official day on the first Friday in October, 2009. Most people get a raise, an extra week of vacation and maybe some kind of pretty shiny thing for their 15 year anniversary. What I got was let go without the typical 2 week severance pay and in fact my boss owed me 2 months and 1 week of salary plus I don't even know how many months of payments into my 401K plan. Let's not even discuss the nightmare of the 401K plan. Or whether I'll ever see my back pay. On top of it I practically had to beg him to let me go. I'm no genius MBA Business Man type but I do know that if I'm going to work and I'm not working on any actual work and I'm 2 months behind in getting paid and the phone is not ringing at all with any new work that that's not going anywhere good. Plus the other engineer in the office has practically stopped even coming into the office and my boss is not doing anything about it. Not a good sign. My boss wanted to cut my hours in half but he'd already cut my pay significantly so I was effectively being paid for part-time work but being required to work full time hours so half of what I was making was about what I would make on unemployment. And cutting my hours doesn't help if there's still no work to do. I told him please just lay me off and let me collect unemployment because some money coming in is better than going to work for no money and no prospect of money anytime soon. Also, I can move on with my life and maybe, just maybe, somebody out there will have some work for me. And there was the situation with the co-worker not ever coming in for a full day, if at all, and we are struggling with not enough work and my boss cuts my pay and still keeps this unreliable guy on and clients are complaining about him and the whole thing was aggravating and stressful and I'm so glad to be out of that situation. There was a lot of other stuff going on too that was aggravating and stressful, the past 2 years have been rough, but I won't go into that here. Suffice to say it was starting to feel like NADAC where one person is in charge of the game and, well, we all know how that turned out.

The problem is that I'm in the construction industry (structural engineer) and we've been on the front lines of the recession for over 2 years now and it's not supposed to recover for another 3 years. A year ago last June I offered to work part-time because we were so slow (my boss refused). I've been informally looking for work since probably last January but maybe even before that. But there's a reason that my firm had no work and that's because there's very little out there. A big part of the problem is the credit freeze. We had a zillion projects under contract but all of them went on hold in large part because suddenly no one could get financing. Even people who were good risks. The banks took all the stimulus money and sat on it or gave out bonuses or whatever. The bridge engineers are doing o.k. because of the stimulus money for infrastructure but I'm in buildings so that doesn't help me. I'd happily switch to bridges but so far all the places that I've found that are hiring want people with at least 5-7 years of specific bridge experience. A friend suggested working for free for a bridge company at least until the unemployment runs out but the problem is that if I was offered a paying job I'd leave and then I've created some ill will. And is 5 months enough time to build up enough experience to get a real job?

Anyway, it's been 15 years since I've worn pantyhose and that was only to interview for jobs. The 'What Not to Wear' t.v. people were making fun of some poor woman for wearing them and at the time I thought, yay, those horrible things are out of fashion. But now I'm thinking I can't seriously go into a job interview with bare 45 year old knees that looked in their 40's when they were in their 30's can I? We're talking elephant knees being held together by scar tissue and lots of nice blemishes from multiple bouts of frost bite brought on by the super cold ice pack I use on a nearly daily basis. And I bashed my shin into the dishwasher this morning and have a nice long trail of scabs running down the front of my leg. Oh and I have an interview tomorrow. Not for an actual job but a local company liked the look of my resume and wanted to meet in case maybe the economy might improve for reals some day and they might have real work for me. So I consulted my good friend the Internet and it told me that yes, pantyhose are passe and you're a total dork if you wear them unless you're going for a job interview. In that case, yes please wear them, especially if you have 45 year old elephant knees and scabs running down your shin. Phew. For once common sense prevails in the fashion world. Now if only I can learn to walk in heels by tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blue Sky Trail, Fort Collins

I finally brought my little point and shoot camera with me on the Blue Sky trail.

My friends, Jonny and I were treated to blue skies, shorts weather and another awesome day on the bike.

Unfortunately my camera and photography skills don't do the place justice, it is truly special.

We ran into a local and when we told him we were from Boulder he said, 'Oh, so you're slumming it over here?' I laughed and told him this was much nicer than what we have in Boulder. He gave me a skeptical look but I insisted. We do have maybe one trail that's as nice but I don't know, this one is hard to beat.

You wouldn't think this was a place to spot bears but there was bear poop everywhere on one part of the trail and my friends saw a rattlesnake but thankfully it was gone by the time I caught up to them. Sometimes it pays to be slow.

Happy to be at the top after huffing up a steep hill.

Say goodbye to Blue Sky. Hopefully we'll get a few more rides in before the cold winds start blowing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Maybe not such a baby dog anymore

Strummer and Lola had a DOCNA trial this weekend and both had some nice runs, especially Mr. Speedy McCrazypants. In short, Lola was 3/6 in the Q department, picking up a Standard Q and 2 Jumpers Q's. Strummer was 5/8 and even better only one of the NQ's (Standard) was a crazy wild where's my brain run. The other NQ's were beautiful jumpers runs with just one bar down. He ended up with 3 Standard Q's (two 1st places and a 2nd place), a Traditional Gamblers Q (2nd place) and a Strategic Gamblers Q (some low placement but he had the second highest amount of points). He finished his Starters Standard title and moves up to Advanced (Intern in DOCNA-speak).

My most awesomest husband came down both days so we have video. On Sunday he brought me a fabulous lunch, helped with warming up and cooling down dogs, and did the 10 minute round trip walk to the car to get Strummer and put him away multiple times in addition to his video duties. He's the best support crew ever. I think Strummer does especially well when he's there to show off.

Highlights for Strummer were his contacts and his focus. He was 4/5 on his dogwalks and one of those was in a gamble. The only one he missed was in Standard during his crazy out of his head run. He was 100% on his A-frames. Can't remember how many he did, maybe 8 or 9 or so. He was focused as well except for the one crazy run and I'm sure that's because I brought him into the ring while the other dog was still running. I didn't do that for the rest of his runs and he was fine. I also used his Gentle Leader and that made a huge difference. I hate to overuse it and the goal is to wean him off of it but for now I'm going to use it so he can learn to be relaxed on the start line. Crating him in the car helped a lot as well. On Sunday he had to contend with a Mexican rodeo complete with mariachi band and loudspeakers next to the parking lot but that was still not as overstimulating as being inside the agility arena and it didn't seem to effect his performance.

Areas for improvement-weave poles. He didn't get a single entry. Ugh. We've been working on this, really. I'm wondering if the 2x2 training is making things worse since I use a toy for reward and he gets so excited that he's blasting through the poles and not rocking back to make the entry. I know the 2x2's are supposed to help with that but we've been doing them for some months now and they don't seem to be working. I'll keep up with it for one more month but if I don't see improvement we'll have to try something else. Not sure if the method's not a good choice for him or I'm not executing it properly (probably the latter).

I was so pleased with his Jumpers runs, even though he had a bar down in each. He finally broke 6 yps with a 6.25 yps run on Sunday. Whee, fun! He's a kick in the pants to run when his brain hasn't left the building.

I put some slow motion clips of his various running contacts at the start of the video. He can do a much tighter dogwalk into tunnel turn but the one on the video wasn't too bad given his overall speed. If you click on the link below and watch on the actual vimeo site the screen is larger.

Strummer-Running Contacts, Standard, Jumpers

DOCNA, OCT. 2009, STRUMMER from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Lola had 2 nice Jumpers runs despite my missing the walk through for one of them. The judge was very nice and let me run at the end of the class. She offered me a walk through but instead I ran out during the course changes and figured it out. There were 2 rings of equipment but only one judge but they kept changing the run order of the classes and I missed the announcements (if there were any) so I missed the walk through somehow, thought I would have time to do it while they were running in the other ring. Doh. Then we had a false start due to a timer malfunction but I told Miss Lo she was fabulous and took her out of the ring for a quick fishy treat and she was fine.

She had 2 nice Standard runs on Saturday, one of which was an NQ but just a little glitch, otherwise such a nice run. Sunday was another story for her. Not sure if she was tired or fed up or sore or what but she didn't seem as focused and ran off a bit for her Standard and Time Gamble runs. Her Jumpers run looked slow (for her) and tentative but it could be because the gate steward was standing next to her on the start line and screaming for the next competitor who was missing. I could see her stressing over it a bit but she pulled off a nice run anyway. It's good for her to work through those things if she can. She has one more trial in a month where she's running both days and I'll see how she does. If she seems distracted and/or tired on the second day I may start cutting her back to one day.


DOCNA, OCT. 2009, LOLA from colliebrains on Vimeo.

DOCNA Champs will be in Grand Junction next year. I was hoping for the indoor arena in Castle Rock which is just over an hour's drive compared to 4 1/2 hours to Grand Junction and outside on grass but it's better than hoofing it to Arizona. It could be hot though, mid-80's are possible as is snow so I don't quite get that choice over the nice indoor arena but oh well. I'm hoping Lola will be able to handle it in a year's time. She'll be 9 in December so pushing 10 in October. Hard to say what the next year will hold for her. Strummer is qualified at the lower level (Intern) but I'm hoping to have him in Masters (Specialist) by Champs. Look at me getting all optimistic after one good trial. We'll see what he does to me at next month's DOCNA trial.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whip It Good

Roller Derby is not a crime! We had our first real snow yesterday, 4" of accumulation and cold damp temps. in the 20's meant I wasn't up for being outside for much more than a long walk with the dogs so we decided to go to an actual movie theater to see 'Whip It'. In short, teen angst played against a background of roller derby with a most excellent soundtrack that included the Ramones. Your movie stands a much better chance of not sucking if you can find a way to work the Ramones into your soundtrack, trust me. Now that is my idea of a feel good movie. I did not like 'Juno' at all, in fact I found it icky amongst other things, so I was concerned that Ellen Page was playing the lead but she did a great job and I wasn't the least bit annoyed by her. And how can you go wrong with Juliette Lewis playing the bad girl anti-hero 'Iron Maven'? Even Drew Barrymore who I think did her best work in E.T. was hilarious as the over the top 'Smashley Simpson'. Plus I learned the actual rules of roller derby. I didn't even realize there were actual rules but there are, as well as strategies. If only they had had roller derby when I was in high school...O.K., I so would not have been on the team. I wonder if it's too late to pick it up? O.k., even if it isn't I'm so not joining a team. But it looks like a blast, too bad I bruise like an aging banana at the slightest bit of physical contact.

I totally need a roller derby name. Donna Bleed? Tina Slay? Lola's would be 'Lola Ebola' and if there was such a thing as doggie roller derby she would rule at it. I loved roller skating when I was a kid and I remember doing the 'Whip It'. I'm sure I remember doing it at punk rock shows too back in the day. When you're small people like to use you for the one that gets 'whipped'.

In the spirit of things here's the best roller derby punk rock video ever. O.k. it's the only roller derby punk rock video I know of but it's good if not a bit corporate. I can't embed it because, you know, stupid corporate America won't let me so here's the link: Bright Lights of America

(Don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of the anti-corporate punk rock band signing to the major label but that's another tired out rant for another day on another blog).

Monday, October 05, 2009

USDAA Trial, Oct. 2009

Photo by the awesome Ken Gee.

Can we please have cloudy, 39 degree weather all the time for agility trials? I'm probably in the minority here but Lola was so happy and ran so nicely, mostly. I've been at this trial when it's been a sunny, roasting 85 degrees and the dogs and I were melting into little puddles. You can always throw on a warm fleecy hat and another layer of clothes and run scribe sheets or leashes to keep warm but there's only so many layers you can take off before people start groaning and shielding their eyes and maybe involving the authorities.

We were only entered in Masters Gamblers and Standard each day and there were no Q's for us which was a little bit of a let down after our perfect 4/4 day at the last DOCNA trial but such is the sport of agility. These 2 classes are our most difficult and the only ones we have left for her championship so it's not all that surprising. I'm sure if we'd entered more we would have eked out a few more Q's but Lo will be 9 this December and I'm trying to keep her sound by not overdoing the agility thing. It's humbling entering only the things you're not so great at but I know it'll feel amazing when we finally do succeed.

The gambles were not great for Lola. They required the dog to move out ahead of or turn away and move laterally away from you while you were at a stand still and that's not something I teach. She did do one fabulous thing and that was to move ahead of me and finish her weaves while I had to stop at the gamble line behind her. I do work on obstacle independence and I was so happy she was able to do that. She was pretty happy with herself as well and immediately turned back to me with a silly happy grin on her face but the gamble required her to turn away and move away laterally to take the chute so our gamble ended there but I wasn't upset about it since it's not a skill I teach. She had a beautiful opening run on Sunday when it was so cloudy and cold. Saturday was cool, 40's or maybe low to mid 50's for our runs, but the sun was out so it felt warmer than Sunday. In her opening on Saturday she went part way up the A-frame then came off and ran off to sniff at a particular spot then had to go say hi to the judge and I'm wondering is she sore, is she somehow stressed out or what? I do worry about her shoulder and the A-frame. It's possible she was stiff from the cold and the long car ride. I gave her a nice long warm-up and did all her stretches. The world will never know and she didn't run off for any of her other runs so maybe she simply smelled something really good.

Her Standard runs were mostly really nice but for a run-by a jump on Saturday and a missed dogwalk contact on Sunday (seems like ages since she's done that). The only real downer was that the table came after both errors and she had table troubles for the first time since last January. She's been perfect since April after her retrain so I wasn't happy about that. On Saturday she got on the table and stood there staring at me. I had her get off and put her back on and she went into her down no problem. On Sunday she went into her down, then got up and refused to down so I took her off the table then put her back on and she went down then got up again then finally got down again and finished out the count. We'd practiced in the yard on Sat. night as well, one of the advantages of driving home in between, but it didn't help all that much. Guess I'll have to step her training up a bit. I've got 3 months until her next USDAA trial so I'll have plenty of time to experiment with some things.

Other than those glitches she was running great, barking and sassing me, I love running Lola. She may not be the fastest any more but she's such a character and she still loves to play as long as it's cold and there's no table.

I'm back to running both dogs at a DOCNA trial in 2 weeks. Guess I'd better get Strummer back on that running dogwalk thing and maybe think about some weave pole training.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Lola-just because

Had some fun fooling around in the yard with the camera when I was on vacation. Actually Jonny took these photos, I set up the shot.

I'm back into agility training but I've been busy with other more important Stuff and I haven't had much time for writing about it. I will get back to writing, really I will, hopefully next week.

I had my last outdoor pool workout on Tuesday and it made me sad. I hate swimming indoors compared to outdoors but I've hardly been to the pool this month because it's been so cold and stormy that it's just as well. It was a beautiful night, moon was out and the sun setting and turning the clouds pink. Perfect way to end the outdoor swim season.

Lola and I have a USDAA trial this weekend in Fountain which is just south of Colorado Springs. It's about a 1 hour, 50 minute drive and I've only signed up for the first 2 classes each day so I'm going to drive home on Saturday. I know, it's crazy driving all that way for 2 classees then driving home then driving back then driving home. It's an experiment, we'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll pop into Garden of the Gods on the way home, we'll see how tired I am. Dogs are allowed on the trails and admission is free so maybe I'll make the effort.

I was hoping Strummer would be o.k. with running with 2 rings going by this time but to be honest I've not been working on that issue and he still needs so much regular agility training that it's just as well I don't waste the money on his entry. He's got a DOCNA trial in 2 weeks and I'm glad for the extra training time. My goal as far as his self-control issues go is to have him ready for a 2 ring trial by the January USDAA trial but we'll see.

I sent in the last of my entries for agility trials this year a couple of weeks ago which was a funny feeling. After USDAA this weekend I'll have DOCNA in 2 weeks then another DOCNA trial in November and that's it unless I get a wild hair and decide to drive to Utah for a USDAA trial in December. But driving across Wyoming in December...scary thought. They have gates to shut down the Interstate across the entire state, it would be just my luck I'd get stranded in some little town with expensive, scary hotels that don't allow dogs. Or blown off the road into a snowdrift and they wouldn't find me until spring. I also had a thought about driving to Chicago since I need to make a trip to visit my grandmother and I'm nervous about getting on a plane and getting Swine Flu and being stranded in Chicago. There's a USDAA trial in Lawrence, KS in November and I was thinking about stopping there on my way to Chicago. It's a nice venue, I went to a NADAC trial there lo the many years ago and it's only 1 ring so Strummer could play. Then I thought about it and decided Swine Flu was better than that drive and KS is not exactly on the way, only sorta kinda if I go out of the way. Then there's the issue of how much all that trialing/travelling will cost so I think maybe we'll stay home and practice instead.

Happy weekend and trialling to all.