Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's all happenin' at the zoo

I can haz tummy rubs?

I'm not a big fan of zoos for various reasons but I guess there has to be somewhere for the Michael Jacksons of the world to dump their exotic pets when they grow up and get too uppity. But the Boulder Humane Society sponsored a talk by Karen Pryor and it took place at the Denver Zoo and lecture fee included entry to the zoo so I swallowed my misgivings and had a wander 'round the exhibits. It's not so bad for a zoo, you can see they made every attempt to make a nice habitat for the animals. In her lecture Karen said it's one of the best zoos she's seen in the country and she had slides of the keepers using her clicker methods to handle one of the flighty antelope type critters. Still there were some bad moments for me. I particularly hate seeing the big cats when they're in their little indoor cages and I had to beat feet out of the lion house when the tiger started freaking out right next to the glass and everyone was standing around taking pictures and laughing. Also it was 85 degrees and a bright sunny day so the poor polar bears looked on the verge of heart attacks. I couldn't take their picture, it was such a sad sight. But overall I have to say it's not bad for a zoo, Jonny and I had a good time and I managed to escape the place without getting any monkeys in my hair.

The lecture was good as well, a mixture of stuff from her new book, 'Reaching the Animal Mind', and some new stuff thrown in. She knows how to keep it interesting without dumbing it down too much. I would have loved a more technical, scientificky talk but I knew full well that that's not what I was signing up for and I'd say I got exactly what I paid for. They had a nice spread of snackies laid out for us so we didn't have to buy the nasty zoo food and between that and the free zoo entry ($12, yikes) it was well worth the $20. She said she (or maybe her faculty?) is coming out with an agility training book which I think could be interesting. There were many questions from the audience about how to deal with fear and in particular noise sensitivities and she said they'd come up with a protocol for teaching noise sensitive agility dogs to deal with the noises encountered at a trial that involved teaching them to knock over progressively louder piles of objects (ie, plastic bottles then pieces of metal, etc.) and this would be spelled out in the new book. BTW, I enjoyed her current, got it from the library but I think once it's in paperback I'll buy my own copy because there are bits I'd like to re-read. There were some interesting real life examples of clicker training mixed with a bit of research/studies/science to keep the geeks like me interested I guess. Again, I think she does a good job of striking a balance between making the science interesting for the normal people and not dumbing it down too much for the geeks. I also liked reading about some of the amazing behaviors she's trained. Makes you realize we're just barely scraping the realm of what's possible with our dogs. Now if only I'd gotten some insights into how to deal with that darn running dogwalk.

I had some fun with my camera, sort of. I thought taking pictures of animals at the zoo would be easy but I was wrong. Most of the animals were sleeping or hiding in the shade or both because it was so hot so I had a combination of bad lighting and boring subjects and what can you do about that? But I got a few nice shots of some animals up and about. The photos look nicer if you click on them.

Strum sez he could give this guy a run for his money

Before I took the photo this lion sniffed the butt of the lion laying down, then licked it, then made that face.

This is a Secretary Bird and in person it's huge and looks like a badass dinosaur. One of the ways it kills its prey is by stomping on it.

I'll get there when I get there

The elephants always look like such old souls

I can't imagine how that's comfortable

Those guys must have some impressive neck muscles

Pssst, you wanna buy a watch?

Sleepy rhino

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I came home from work early yesterday and found Cody laying on the couch watching Oprah. I kid you not. I suppose there were a lot worse things he could have been watching. Strummer was appalled and jumped on the remote to turn it off.

One of these days I'll get back to writing about the dog training. I suppose that would entail actually getting back to dog training. I gave everybody a 2 week break and now I'm having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. I'm having a lesson with Joy this week for the first time in weeks or months or something and I'm hoping it will inspire me to get going again. Funny how easy it is to slip out of a routine.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Crazy Dog Lady Goes on Vacation

Yeah, my fashion sense doesn't get any better when I'm on vacation. Especially at nearly 12,000' on a windy day.

It's fall in Colorado's high country.

Which means vacation time for me. Jonny and I would be perfectly happy spending a week at home. We've done this before, years before it was trendy. Traveling is such a hassle and so expensive and there's plenty to do here. But I feel like it would be a good idea for us to get out of town and out of our rut, er routine, if only for a few days. We settled on Crested Butte which is a 4 3/4 hour drive and the cheapest hotel in town allows our 3 dogs with no extra exorbitant fees. Crested Butte is an expensive place though even at the cheapo place so we only go for 2 nights. Plus nearly 3 days is plenty of time away from home, long enough to get away and have a nice break but not so long that it gets tiring and stressful.

Vacation time for me also means a celebrity dies and this year it's Patrick Swayze. I'm sorry Patrick, I was only gone for 2 nights but I guess that was long enough. Last year was Paul Newman. Year before that was George Carlin. Can't remember the rest but it is creepy.

Anyway, on the way to Crested Butte you can stop at Kenosha Pass (at over 10,000') for a nice hike on the Colorado trail.

Unfortunately on the way back we got caught in a hail/thunderstorm and Strummer had a major freak-out but hopefully if you go this won't happen to you.

When we got to Crested Butte it was raining and as the night progressed it only got heavier. The clouds over the mountains where we were planning on hiking for the day were pitch black first thing in the morning but after a nice breakfast with way more food than I normally eat in real life the sun came out and the clouds turned more white & fluffy so we decided to brave it on the Copper Creek trail. I really wanted to go back to the West Maroon Pass trail that we hiked 2 years ago but it's a bit long and very steep at the end for Cody. He probably could have done it but he wouldn't have been happy about it and might have ended up stiff and sore. So we opted for the Copper Creek trail which is supposedly busy on the weekends but on a weekday in September we saw a total of one group of 2 women and their labs. And cows. Lots of cows. And you know what else there is when there's lots of cows and it's been raining heavily all night and by now I think you can see where this is going and that we're not going to get to the end of the story without Strummer dropping and rolling in a huge pile of slimy, gooey poop. In fact he did this at the very start of the hike so at least we could try to douse him in the creek but his entire left side was covered in poop and there's only so much you can do without actually touching it. Horrible stinky dog.

Judd Falls, Copper Creek Trail

Copper Creek Trail

Cody Baloney

Princess Lola

After our beautiful hike we had to deal with Sir Stinksalot. I had noticed a dog grooming place that morning in the same building where we'd had breakfast so I started there. I was hoping they'd have a self-serve place where I could bathe him myself because I was scared of what a dog groomer in Crested Butte costs plus having a stranger bathe him would probably scare the pants off him since he already hates being bathed. The groomer woman said 'no', she would have to be the one to bathe him and she had several dogs in line in front of me. When I told her he hates being bathed so could I at least come in the room with him she said oh that will take longer and told me to take a card and call her at 5:00 pm and she'll she where she is with her bookings. As I was leaving she told me she had just the special thing that would get the poop out. I thought, 'Ummmm, that would be soap and water?' This groomer option doesn't look hopeful.

So I decided to check at the foo foo pet boutique/supply place in town to see if they had or knew of a self serve place and the woman there kind of laughed at me. 'There are only 1500 of us in town, that lady is the only groomer and we have no self-serve dog-o-mats'. I thought, 'Well, you have a store in town that sells only sunglasses' but I could see that I was getting nowhere. I thought that surely the hotel must have a hose outside somewhere and purchased the most expensive bottle of shampoo ever. $17 is what a bottle of dog shampoo costs in Crested Butte at the foo foo dog supply place. This is $5 more than the special flea/tick stuff I bought from the vet. Have any of you ever paid $17 for a bottle of shampoo for yourself? Yeah, me neither. 'Earthbath, Good for the planet, Totally Natural Pet Shampoo. Oatmeal and Aloe. Relieves itching and moisturizes dry skin.' Bottle says nothing about effectiveness against slimy cowshit but I'm hoping at these prices that it can multi-task.

I go to the grocery store to buy some cheap latex gloves so I don't have to touch the poop and I see a bottle of Hartz dog shampoo for $6.50. Argh. I'm not sure if I can return the other bottle and I don't want to be stuck with more dog shampoo so I let it go. I hardly ever bathe the dogs. I still have a bottle of dog shampoo left over from Cody's rendezvous with a skunk some 8-9 years ago. This new bottle plus the bottle I already have should easily last the rest of my lifetime and then some.

Sure enough the hotel is more than happy to let me use their hose and Strummy is not happy but he's a good boy for his bath. Jonny finds a flower laying nearby for the finishing touch.

What do you get when you cross a sheepdog with a daisy?

Here is another great thing about Crested Butte in the fall. Maybe you will wake up in the morning to a fresh powdering of snow on the surrounding peaks.

Izzy's is a good place to go for breakfast. You can get the best latkes ever with whatever you want on them. I got eggs and cheddar and avocado on mine, plus a mocha. They have good mochas at Izzy's too. Plus the cook came out himself to deliver my sumptuous latkes and personally apologize for some grease on the plate caused by the latkes sliding. Or something. I'm not quite sure what he was on about, I couldn't see any grease and, hello, latkes, they are supposed to be greasy.

After you are stuffed with latkes and caffeine you will have plenty of energy for hiking the Monarch Crest trail at Monarch Pass (starts at elevation 11,300') on your way home. It's part of the Continental Divide trail and a popular mountain biking trail but on a Wednesday in September the traffic is sparse. Maybe one day I'll get in good enough shape to come back and ride it myself. It's something like 28 miles and at such a high elevation it's a challenge.

Monarch Pass

Monarch Pass

There are more pictures from the trip here.

Today we enjoyed a mountain bike ride at Lair o' the Bear which is one of my favorite fall rides except that it gets a bit crowded on the weekends. On a Thursday though, not so much. Such a luxury to ride such a popular trail on a weekday. If only I could work 4 days a week and have one to enjoy the trails when they're quiet. One day is all I'm askin'. Ah well, I can dream.

Tomorrow will probably be a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. I could get used to this life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dogs and Human Exercise

Here's an interesting survey on human exercise among pet owners and non-pet owners. In summary:

“You are invited to participate in a research study under the direction of Dr. Amanda Visek of the Department of Exercise Science, at The George Washington University. The purpose of the survey is to assess health and physical activity levels of adults in the U.S. of pet-owners and non-pet owners.

They're looking for both physically active and non-active respondents.

I originally saw a post about it here if you'd like a little more info.

This issue always makes me laugh because while studies have implied that owning a pet may increase exercise in people for me the opposite is true. The dogs have forced me to cut way back on my own physical activities in order to make time to care for them and provide for their exercise and training needs. Running and walking/hiking are about the only physical activity we can share and there's only so much I can do of that. Plus walking the dogs is not as strenuous for me as say going to masters swim practice or a 4-5 hour bike ride (not that I do much of those anymore but I live in hope that one day I'll work back up to them). Walks are o.k. but they're time and energy spent away from more effective workouts. Now please, I'm not an exercise snob and I'm not at all suggesting that there's anything wrong with or inferior about walking for people in general. If that's what you're doing for exercise then good for you, seriously, I'm a big fan of exercise for everybody and walking is great for a lot of people. But it doesn't do a whole lot for me personally. I don't get that same adrenaline rush from it that I do from other things and I tend to daydream and lose focus when I'm walking so I don't do it briskly enough to have much of a training effect. Plus the dogs are always trying to sniff and leave incendiary pee mails on the other dogs' blogs and it's often a battle to keep them moving. Sure it's exercise but it's nothing compared to what I was getting before the dogs invaded my life.

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, nobody forced me to get all these dogs and I knew full well I would have to make sacrifices to my training regime. I have no regrets at all, I love training the dogs and all that exercise probably wasn't good for me anyway. But I know so many runners/triathletes with obese dogs because they think a dog will be a great fit for their active lifestyle then they don't want to make the sacrifices to their own training regimes to look after the dog properly and it ends up laying around the house eating bon bons and watching Oprah. Dogs take time and energy and fitting their needs to those of an already active person isn't always feasible without some human compromise.

On the other hand I can't even count how many people over the years have told me they're trying to get in shape to run their dogs in agility, another aspect of the issue that I don't think the survey addressed. That would be an interesting aspect to explore.

I suppose the larger issue is the general population of pet owners-are they really getting out there and exercising more than their non-pet owning counterparts? Will be intersting to see the results of the survey.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Heh and Good Luck at USDAA Regionals

This post made me smile. Keswick is a village in the Lake District in England where you can't swing a cat without having at least 3 Border Collies chasing it.

Good luck to everyone going to USDAA Regionals this weekend! Looks like the weather should be nice if you don't mind a little rain here and there. Should be nice for the dogs. We're sitting this one out, not enough Masters titling classes being offered to make it worth the 45 minute drive and I didn't want to spend the $$$ in the spendy tournament classes since we're not going to Nationals this year. Plus last year I didn't get adequate time to walk the Grand Prix Finals course due to a conflict with the Masters ring and a stubborn judge who refused to hold the Grand Prix ring like he was supposed to so I didn't want to risk spending all that money this year and maybe a similar thing would happen. I'll miss seeing all the really good runs and handling but I'm looking forward to a weekend of sleeping in and relaxing. I'm only just starting to feel recovered from last Sunday. I was more wiped out than I was after my triathlon and I think I know a little black and white somebody who might be somewhat responsible.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Little Miss Perfect & Speedy McCrazypants

We had a long, fun day at a DOCNA trial yesterday. A 2 hour drive means an early morning wake up call which typically means I'm in a terrible fog for my first few runs and maybe the whole day if I'm lucky. Somehow I managed to pull off a great day without the aid of caffeine.

Miss Lola had a perfect day, when does that ever happen??!! 4/4 Q's and one of them in the North American Challenge (NAC) which qualifies her for Championships in 2010. Her NAC run was beautiful, a clean run and first run of the day for me. It was the one run I cared about since I'm hoping she'll be sound still in a year's time and there's talk that Champs may be in Colorado. I was thinking I should have gone home right then because it wasn't going to get much better than that. But she went clean in her Standard runs too, though in both she had some distracted moments and ran off but I managed to get her back on course in plenty of time. It's worrying though and I'm keeping my eye on her for physical problems. Her Jumpers run was flawless with a little bit of barking at me for pulling an RFP on her. I hate that move but she's not been trained for my preferred alternative as Strummer has been so I'm stuck with it and neither of us are happy about it but we pull it off. She was the only dog in the 20" vet class so she automatically got 1st in all her classes but she's first of all the 20" dogs for some of her runs, can't remember which ones. I love running Lola, such fun my big-mouthed red girlie.

Strummer managed 3/5 Q's making a total of 7/9 overall which is pretty good for me, especially after the last couple of trials. He was 4/4 on his dogwalks and 6/6 on his A-frames but his teeter went right out the window and he missed every weave entrance. We'd been working on that too and he'd been doing great. He started out his trialing career without having weave issues so I'm not sure what's going on but the solution will be more practice with him being wound up. We've got 6 weeks or so until his next trial so plenty of time to work it out I hope.

He had a clean run and 2nd place in the NAC but I was behind and late in my handling, resorting to rear crosses at some places where I'd planned fronts. He had some wide turns and run-bys so he was a whopping 11 seconds behind first place. It wasn't the prettiest of runs but he did get all his contacts and made it through a full set of weave poles once I got him in them.

His first Standard run was a disaster. He had maybe 4-5 hours between runs and I was working every class I wasn't running in so I couldn't give him too much attention in between. He was wound up about as tight as he gets when I finally got him out and of course it was thundering and I tried to get him calm and focused but he was jumping out of his fuzzy skin. He had a wonderful flip from the dogwalk to the tunnel and his A-frame was good but otherwise something of a train wreck. Poor guy went sailing over the teeter and I yelled 'HEY!' at him and had him redo it properly but afterwards I realized that the poor guy probably thought it was the dogwalk. I'll have to work on that verbal 'teeter' cue so he knows what's coming. And also work the teeter while he's wound up.

His second Standard run was much better, a knocked bar after the dogwalk and then he got tangled up in the weaves and I didn't want to fix it. I got behind at one point because I slowed and waited behind to be sure he slowed for the teeter and I ended up not handling a serpentine as I wanted to but an otherwise nice run with a lot more calm and focus.

His Strategic Time Gamble run was very nice except for another bungled teeter. I whipped him around to have him do it again and you should have seen the look of terror in the judge's eyes as she ran backward to get out of his unexpected path. I felt bad but I had no idea she was there when I sent him around. Otherwise though it was a nice run and a Q.

His Jumpers run was fabulous, a Q and 1st place. 5.99 yps, and that was with a bobble at the start line when I inadvertently released him before I'd led out due to some confusion on my part about whether the timer was ready. I was behind on a line of 4 jumps so there was some slight confusion which cost a few fractions of a second. I'm convinced he can go over 6 yps if we have a perfect run. He was calm and focused when I took him out for this last run of the day. It only took 4 runs to wear him down. I need to figure out how to get this kind of calm out of him at the start of the day.

Of course I only have the 2 worse runs of the trial on video. I came home from the trial feeling really good about things then spent today pouring over the videos noticing all the bad stuff, especially my arm still flying up which I thought I'd had under control for the other runs but who knows. I probably shouldn't post them since they weren't a good representation of the trial as a whole but I've got them so may as well.

Untitled from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I spent every run either working or running except for the very first run of the day and didn't get home until nearly 7:30 pm so I woke up exhausted this morning. It's been a while since I've done a full day like that with a long drive. Plus I'm not used to running 2 dogs in 2 different levels, it meant an extra 5 courses to walk. It's good to get tired like that every once in a while though. I still managed a mountain bike ride up at West Mag though Jonny drove to a different parking lot so we could cut the 2 hour ride down to 1 hour, 25 minutes. It was a gorgeous, perfect fall day and I was glad I hauled my butt up there despite being so tired. Don't know how many more weekends like this we'll have up there.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Stupid Twitter Fringe Tweeter Thingmee

Warning: Pointless rant about completely unimportant things to follow. Unless you are a member of FOX tv. Are you reading this, FOX tv? I know, it's embarrassing, I watch the occasional bit of tv on FOX. I'm going to hell for sure. But I'm pretty sure I was going anyway so what the hey.

It was a long day yesterday. One of those days, you know the kind. It's a little different for all of us but for me it started out with getting up at 5 dark o something to get to the Rez for my morning swim. As if that isn't bad enough the water decided to turn freezing. It was 70 degrees last Thursday, 67 on Tuesday and low 60's yesterday. This is the kind of cold where you never quite warm up even with a wetsuit and you can barely feel your feet when you get out. It takes a good long hot shower and a million cups of hot tea before you fully warm up. Some guy that finished his swim is pitching a fit about how cold it is. I'm pretty sure that's the end of his Rez swimming for the season. Might be the end of mine too unless maybe I decide to splurge on some neoprene booties for swimming. Or I could admit defeat, sleep in and go back to the chemical laden but heated swimming pool.

The rest of my day involves scrambling to pick up an impossible amount of changes for a project at work that were given to me at the end of the previous day and need to be completed by noon the next day. The client would have liked it the day before yesterday but since even we clever engineers haven't invented time travel yet they'll settle for giving me 1 1/2 days. And of course at 1:00 pm they're still feeding me new changes. Also of course the draftsman who I'm counting on to do several hours worth of work only has 45 minutes at the end of the day to spare for me then tells me he's gone the next day.

So it was a long day and when I finally got home and hit the couch all I wanted to do was unplug my brain. Lucky me, there's a show I like that's been away all summer and they're showing a rerun of the season finale which is even luckier since I'm pretty sure I saw about 10 minutes of it then fell asleep, waking up here and there to catch bits and pieces and it's not the kind of show where you can do that but lucky day I can watch it again and I'll be all caught up for the new shows. The show is called 'Fringe' and it's a blatant rip off of the X-Files which was a sort of blatant rip off of an old 60's spy show called 'The Avengers' which was about my favorite tv show when I was a kid. I so wanted to be Emma Peel when I grew up and it so didn't happen. Is it too late to go to secret agent school? Anyway, the show's not all that original or anything but it's visually nice to watch. Something about it, I don't know, it's more like watching art, tacky lowbrow tv art I'll grant you, but still it stands out above all the other drek and it soothes my brain and shuts it right down and that's probably why I only ever see the first 10-20 minutes of it and it's the perfect thing for the end of one of those days and maybe this time I'll stay awake for the whole thing. Except about 5 minutes in the Twitter feeds blink onto the screen. Huh?! WTF is this about? They take up about 1/3 of the screen and are so distracting. I'm pretty sure I don't have to go into a rant about why this is wrong on so many levels. Jonny was equally appalled and we turned it off. Did you hear that FOX tv people? Really, what sort of geniuses do you have working there? Oh uh, yeah, never mind.

I hope this isn't a permanent thing for this show, if so what a waste. I also hope other shows don't start doing this too and it's the future of tv. I'm already lobbying for cancelling the cable, this will be the final nail. If people have such ridiculously short attention spans that they need to Twitter their Tweeter while watching tv well fine, that's between them and their laptops and all the other halftwits that want to listen to them. But pleeeeeze leave me out of it. I just want to turn my brain into pudding in peace.

Good luck to everyone going to Regionals or other trials this weekend! We have one day of DOCNA and I'm going to try to be the picture of good, focused, timely handling. Oh yes I am.