Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Sleek

On this day in 1998, my friend Xena came for dinner. She brought Sleek with her. I'd met Sleek a week earlier when Fluff and I went to see a rescue Aussie that Xena had. The Aussie wasn't a good fit for either Fluff or me, so Xena and I were sitting around the living room talking. She let Sleek in because it was cold outside and Sleek had been spayed a few days earlier. Fluff liked Sleek, even though Fluff doesn't normally like other girls. After a while, Xena asked me if I'd ever thought about owning a Malinois as she might be willing to place Sleek. We agreed to think it over and talk later in the week. Xena brought Sleek over on Christmas, and, since the girls still seemed to get along, we decided to see if Sleek would fit in long term. Nine years later, I think we can say this was a good fit!

Fluff is my heart dog, but Sleek is one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen, especially when she was younger and doing her own thing in a field.

Sleek in January, 2007, age 12.

Sleek had the most beautiful movement. She was breath-taking. She's still pretty, but arthritis has robbed her of some of her glide. January, 2007.

Sleek in January, 2003, watching another dog work sheep. 8 years old. This picture took me 4 years to get -- Sleek doesn't like cameras and usually puts her ears back when she sees one.

Sleek in joyous possession of a floating Kong. Probably 2003. Washington coast. Age 9.
Sleek and Fluff the year we traded in a septic system for a sewer connection. The side yard had to be put in the front yard to dig deep enough to have the pipe run the right direction.

Updated with Christmas 2007 photos. We were supposed to have rain today, but some of it is white.... Dogs were anxious to enjoy the snow rather than hold still in it, so pics are quick. Sleek is wearing a coat because she is trying to switch from being a sleek, blonde beauty to a sleek, bald beauty. Not bright in this climate, but arguing with a dog about its haircoat is pretty pointless. Now I just lecture, and she does her thing. Fluff looks okay in these pictures, but if we get serious snow she's going to look like a "before Clorax" ad.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pet Sitting at Christmas

Oy vey, it's already a long Christmas, and compared to more established sitters, I have a light load!

Get ready to do 5 visits this morning. Before leaving, find out my kitchen sink is almost completely stopped up. Why? Because I ran the freakin' garbage disposal is why. You know, the thing you use to speed up the sink? Murphy rules.

My usual plumbers (2 companies) neither answer the phone nor call back. They also do not mention on their voicemail that they will (apparently) not be working Christmas Eve. I'm guessing they're also not working Christmas Day.

Did I mention the sink full of dirty dishes? And the dirty crockpot on the countertop?

How about my need to take a hostess gift Christmas Day to the wonderful soul who is feeding me? And did I mention I had planned to take homemade spiced nuts as the gift? That aren't made yet. That will require some of the dirty dishes to be cleaned for the making? And again after the making?

I need a dogwalker for my own dogs. I walked them this morning, but it's after 5pm now and they're ready to go again. I'm ready to go, too. To bed. But I have to wash dishes in the bathtub and make spiced nuts. At this point, I'm a nut. Can I just rub spices into my skin and attend the dinner? Too bad this isn't the kind of crowd for that. Maybe the 2nd time I meet them, but not the first. Tacky on the first meeting.

Now Murphy is threatening this post. Whew! Successfully saved. More installments to come, but I am going to take a nap.

7pm update: one plumber has called back. No, he's not working today or tomorrow. Heck, he's not working the whole week. He said he will try to find a way we can work something out.

The clog is moving. I think it may be near the bathtub now because the drain was pretty slow when I was washing dishes there.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fluff Turns Twelve

I don't know her exact birthdate, but I celebrate Fluff's birthday on December 22. Give or take a month, it's about right.

This is Fluff at about 3 years old, maybe 4.
Fluff during an agility run. Fast, responsive to her handler, but not always tolerant of handler error.

One of my favorite pictures of Fluff. "You want this stick? It's a really good stick. You know you want it. Catch me, and we'll talk!"

Fluff at the Washington coast. She loves retrieving from water. I think she's about 8 or 9 in this picture.

My best girl. Looks, personality, and a whole lot of love. Thanks, sweetheart.

Friday, December 21, 2007


It's Solstice Night tonight. The moon is nearly full and only covered by a thin veil of clouds. We may even get frost tonight, if the cloud cover stays thin.

I walked the girls near the Columbia River in the late afternoon. It was a beautiful solstice, and we still had some light after 4:30pm. Likely this wasn't the shortest-feeling day of the year this time!

Sleek was feeling young tonight (I know it was today, but we were in twilight, so tonight feels right). She dug after a few moles or mice and trotted along quite happily. I was the first one to see the deer, and I grabbed Sleek's collar about the same time she saw them. She whined, and yowled, and barked because they were so close and she felt young and strong enough to catch one, surely. When I felt the deer were far enough away to be less interesting, I let go of Sleek's collar. Darned if she didn't take off after them, as deaf to my calls as ever when faced with that valuable a resource. She ran straight toward barbed wire, much to my cringing horror. But Sleek still has it. Just like in her younger days, she managed to slide between the wires unscathed. She is amazing.

Fluff did well today, too. She had a grand time splashing in puddles and kindly refrained from actually lying down in any of them. She bounced at the deer when she saw them but is far too smart to actually want to go near them.

In addition to the deer, I saw a raptor of some kind. I used to always see a pair of bald eagles in that area during Christmas week, but I've not seen them for several years. I miss them.

I'm really bad at coming up with a concluding paragraph or sentence to tie my thoughts together. I was bad at that in those high school 5-paragraph essays, too. I always wrote the body paragraphs first, then tried to come up with an interesting introduction and conclusion. Now I just write something closer to stream of consciousness and end when I want to leave. Sometimes I want to come back later, but I never seem to get around to that.

Linus & Lucy

One of my favorite pieces of music, this piece by Vince Guaraldi appears to be among the most frequently used songs for synchronized Christmas light displays.

This one has a pretty good soundtrack, but the camera movement can cause a little queasiness.

I used this song about 5 years ago when Fluff and I competed in Canine Musical Freestyle. I ran out of time (and patience) to choreograph it properly because I have no musical talent or rhythm or knowledge of how to choreograph. It's tough to find someone who can help with choreography for a dog. Telling the dog to "do that spin just a little faster at this point, slower at that point" doesn't really work well. It's entirely possible to teach a dog to spin at a certain speed (assuming the dog is physically capable of it), but it takes exquisite timing on the trainer's part. Then there are human and canine nerves at exhibitions. Many dogs tend to slow down when their handlers appear nervous or uptight in a doggy effort to let the handler know everything is okay and it's time to calm down. Fluff, on the other hand, tends to get amped at this stage and try every behavior she knows in rapid succession to see if any of them are the key to calming me.

Anyway, this song worked for us. Despite my notorious dislike of costuming, I could deal with a red & white striped turtleneck and socks combined with green tights and a Santa hat. Fluff, who really needs no adornment with her flashy colors, wore a jinglebell collar. We got out there and did our favorite moves and had fun. There are advantages to completing your title the day before -- I was relatively relaxed because I had no intention of moving up to the next level of competition. At one point, Fluff curtseyed to me then looked over at the audience and grinned at them to a collective "Awwwwww" from the crowd. We won a special award for Most Bonded Team that day.

One of the best local trainers in freestyle later asked me how I taught Fluff to pay attention to me because "she never takes her eyes off you in the ring." Unfortunately, I didn't really know. I thought I hadn't specifically trained attention because it seemed to just flow out of our lives together. Thinking back now, I realize I did teach some of it as a way of dealing with Fluff's insecurities around other dogs. If she didn't stare at them, she didn't get so nervous about dogs being near her. If she was staring at me, she wasn't staring at them, so I encouraged her to watch me carefully in show environments. Fluff learned "watch Mum carefully whenever you are nervous or uncomfortable." Since she picks up on my nerves in competition, she's nervous and uncomfortable in those situations.

In fact, 4 months later Fluff let me know she was retiring from competition. The night before a national competition, she went lame to the point where she could barely get to her feet. I apologized to her because I had ignored her saying she didn't want to do this any more for several months. In my selfish way, I wanted to show her off one last time, so I ignored her very unusual lack of enthusiasm for training. We did not compete that weekend, and she has not competed in freestyle again, although she has done a few demos. She's happier retired, I think, although we both miss some of the connection that comes through training. I'm too lazy to think up training goals when I don't have a competition behavior to focus me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Vicious Cycles

(note that these are not viscous cycles, even when runny noses are involved)

I taught my dogs that my clearing my throat is often a good clue that they need to reconsider their current behavior. If Sleek is thinking about chasing the neighbor's cat, then she had darn well better think about staying where she is. If Fluff is thinking about barking at somebody walking down the street, she gets to think about how golden silence really is.

Now I have a cold that has settled into my chest. Now I have to really clear my throat for physical reasons, not just canine behavioral ones. Now my dogs have decided that throat clearing is not a significant event. Now what do I use for a warning signal?

December depression is an extremely vicious cycle. You know, it does feel viscous as well. I feel like I'm walking (on a good day) through a very thick, sticky, nasty mess. I like molasses or else I'd use it as an analogy for the fluid. Maybe this is dark Karo corn syrup in December. I'm semi-paralyzed by this depression. I can get things done for other people, meaning I'm going on my pet-sitting visits. I just can't do much for myself. My slippers are still unknit, bills are not always getting paid on time, papers are not filed so I can find the freakin' bills, and the house is a disaster area. My diet (never good) has gone to hell in a very fast handbasket, and I'm not doing much to clear up my cold. Fine.

Unfortunately, I have this little cognitive dissonance from my upbringing that means I can't ask for help unless I'm strong enough to not need it. When I'm depressed, I feel needy and that no one else needs to be subjected to a depressed kabbage, so I avoid people. Then I get lonely, which is depressing, especially near the holidays. Hell, it's damn near unAmmurican to be lonely during the godly holidays of excessive spending, eating, and getting together with people. Which means I have to hide that I'm alone which means I must become invisible which means hermitting more than usual.

I try to avoid the holidays as much as possible. I went through a period of being a pleaser who tried to keep my family as happy as possible during the holidays. I think this led to no one in my family, and possibly my friends, to really know who I am. That led to a series of Christmas gifts I found devastating in their deviation from what I would want. I wondered if any of these people had any clue who I was or am. After blowing up a few times (including my memorable use of the F-word at the Christmas dinner table at my parents' house -- to the best of my knowledge, I'm the only one of us who ever did that -- such an award -- too bad more of the sibs weren't home to hear it), I decided to start avoiding holidays.

Then I get pissed and afraid that I'm turning into my mother. I proceed to act even more like her by avoiding people because I'm afraid I'll act like her around them, which is not nice and not lovable. If any more people stop loving me, I will completely run out of people who do love me. Not that I don't feel suspicious about the ones who do love me because they're obviously crazy if they love someone like me. The dogs are simply trapped by biology -- they NEED someone to love, and I'm the one most consistently available and I control their access to other people.

Meanwhile, back to the vicious cycles. Depression fuels itself. I get up later, when the (nominal) sun is already up, so I don't spend time in front of my lightbox (Fluff is happy because those lightbox sessions are most-likely-times-for-Fluff-grooming which she hates). I'm running later, so I don't go exercise. Food becomes problematic when running late, too, so decent nutrition goes out the window. Sugar, on the other hand, comes a-running. I'm sensitive to sugar -- I can spike and crash pretty easily, and it sure doesn't help cold-recovery. Let's summarize: poor self-care.

Now, off to what I CAN do. I started on St. John's Wort today. Although that stuff is supposed to take weeks to have a visible effect, I find the tinctures can kickstart me almost instantly. If it's placebo effect, I don't give a rat's ass. It works. I'm going to finish this post, feed and potty the dogs, and go to bed. Now.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Star Gazing

Although it's clear outside, there is a lot of moisture in the air. I took the dogs out and looked to admire my beloved Orion. I could only see his belt on my inhalations. When I exhale, the moisture in my breath condenses to form a mini-cloud, blocking my view of the stars.

It's a beautiful night. There are some ground clouds (aka fog) forming, but looking up gives me a clear view.

I still remember my first sight of the Milky Way. I was 18 years old and a freshman in college. A group of us went out to one guy's dad's farm for a hayride. I was a child of suburbia, and I attended a suburban college with all the streetlights suburbia embodies fading the stars. Yes, I knew there were stars above, but I had no concept of the glory of the Milky Way as seen from an Indiana corn (or maybe soybean) field. My childhood horizons were hemmed by trees and mountains, not the limitless flat expanse of northern Indiana.

I had never seen so many stars before, and perhaps I haven't since that night. It was a magical, safe, wondrous night. I leaned back into my dear friend Edge's arms while he talked of the stars and pointed out the many stars and constellations he knew. He wanted more than anything to spend time in the sky as a pilot with those stars to guide him. There were so many stars that it was difficult to see some of the constellations -- was he was pointing to this star or that one?

I shivered with cold. I shivered with awe at the size of the sky and the size of the universe. I shivered with the rightness of my being there right then, a part of the universe. An integral part of the universe, despite being so tiny in the universe. It was me, and I was it, and the stars sang.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Answers

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first aired in 1964 when kabbage was a teeny wee lass of 3.

Despite its dreadful attitude toward women, I love this show. I suspect it's a matter of identifying with the misfits and hoping that someday I too will fit in. I love the music and can sing (albeit badly) most of the lyrics. I remember the old GE ads that used the elves from the show.

My family of origin abused the song "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" when we were growing up. We found out, somehow, that singing this song when someone was already in a bad mood was a nearly foolproof way to enrage that sibling beyond reason. Once they're beyond reason, it's easy to set them up so you look like the injured party in front of Mom and/or Dad. I struggled while in my 20s to not react negatively to this song each December. People don't understand why you would be riding along with them in the car in a perfectly good mood and suddenly go berserk and smash the radio when that particular song comes on. Go figure.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


You know you are blocking your emotions when, catching only the last 10 minutes, you tear up when, after Hermie removes the Bumble's teeth, the bumble and Yukon Cornelius fall over the edge into the ice ravine.

Name that TV special. When did it first air? How old was kabbage at the first airing?