Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And To All a Good Night

As I sat preparing for yet another accounting test last week, my mind wandered (par for the course while reading a text book), and in its wandering it started accounting for the past year. If you haven't heard from me in a while, this might explain why.

In the past 14, almost 15 months, these are the classes or equivalency tests that I have studied for and taken: macro economics, micro economics, GMAT (graduate school entrance exam), principles of accounting (2 semesters), intermediate accounting (2 semesters), cost accounting, advanced accounting, accounting theory, auditing, survey of the practices of tax, audit and financial accounting, 1 tax class, 1 stats class, 2 finance classes, marketing, and a partridge in a pear tree. And last but not least, my girl Star and I passed the Canine Good Citizen Test and started taking agility lessons. That nets out to about 3 weeks for each class that is usually taught over a 15 week semester, with no breaks, except for a cross-country move, if you call that a break! And Christmas 2009 in Mexico at the amazing Luna Blue Hotel - now that was a break!

Because that wasn't quite enough, I also wrote (almost) monthly newsletters for my two favorite organizations, Safe Harbor Lab Rescue and Canine Angels Service Teams. I continued to serve on the board of CAST, but was frustrated that I could not be there to help out and take pictures at the events, and now I realize why!

Before leaving Colorado in May, I logged a lot of hours and miles doing transports and adoptions for Safe Harbor, and after I got away, they roped me back in to remotely perform the daily duties of Medical Co-coordinator. That means that I am one of an amazing team of volunteers who helps process more than 3/4 of a dog into the program every day, and I am thrilled because I get to track the medical status of all those dogs in 3 dimensional multi-colored spreadsheets. With 9 days to go in the year, we are striving to set a new record of 300 dogs rescued this year!

For fun, I do some after hours work for a former colleague, and as a bonus, he lets me attend the huge Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and "herd cats", managing a growing team of bloggers and podcasters. (Watch us on the first week of the new year.) This gives me a project management fix, more practice in logistics coordination, and a little winter thaw.

And in other news:

I have enjoyed keeping in touch with many friends and family members on Facebook, although they may have all hidden me by now after all the posts about what my dogs did today, Sunny's latest operation, and what test I was taking now. I also enjoyed writing this blog, and another where I tracked my agility training, until the graduate classes at Gonzaga sucked the remaining life out of me.

I guess I must have moved again in there somewhere, if I started in CO and ended up somewhere else (Washington state, 100 miles from my parents again after 20 years of distances of up to 6000 miles). The move is a blur, the fifth in as many years I think, but I'm too tired to count them up. Actually, if we can count "by proxy", I actually moved twice this year, because I sold the house in CA and was reunited with the other half of my stuff that was still stored there. These two moves were made possible by my clone, Karr. Couldn't have done it without you, Big Sis.

This is an accounting of 15 months, instead of just 12, because it was on October 1, 2009, that I adopted my new boy, Sunny, and also when I started on this education track. Star joined us on March 1, 2010, completing my little family.

Never content to sit in the present, I am already itching to get started on 2011, because the grand-daddy of all tests, the CPA Exam, is calling out to me (has been for 20+ years). After the intensity of the above, I will allow myself a leisurely (ha!) year. Because I will be studying at home for the 4 parts of the CPA exam, I will have time to get back into the agility with Star, and (gasp!) start competing. I'll try to drum up some little internship opportunities and develop some relationships with the intention of (double gasp) real employment again in 2012. I plan to keep up the routines with Canine Angels and Safe Harbor, two very deserving organizations. And who knows, I might even move again. (locally ;')

I believe I am truly making the most of my first retirement, the one that followed my first career. Or sometimes I just say that I'm taking my retirement out of the middle of my working years. After two years of working as a retirement planner, well, let's just say I have a lot of thoughts on that matter.

The 2010 move separated me from the overwhelming number of people in Colorado that I call friends, but reunited me with some of my very best friends from way back, Paul and Julie in Montana (heck, 200 miles up here is practically neighbors) and this Agility stuff is all their fault. I really am grateful to the technology that keeps me close to you all despite the miles. Know that I think of you often.

Happy Holidays, my friends,
and Best Wishes for 2011!

And to all a Good Night!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Head to Head

Picture this. 2 dogs lying head to head. Tops of their fuzzy heads joined like siamese dog twins. Stretching from the upper left to lower right corner of the bed. Where is mom supposed to sleep? And why do I let them do this to me. Why don't I make them get up and move?

'cause it was so sweet when we started out. I was laying the wrong way across the bed to stretch my neck out over the edge, and they came up on the bed on either side of me and laid down in my arms. I don't remember how we got from there to siamese dog twins, but there we were, for better or worse.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Prelude to a Giggle

The title refers to the post below, from last night.

But first a word about this morning. In bed.

About an hour before I had to get up, Sunny climbed onto the bed, put his head on my pillow, the warm soft top of his head resting against my cheek.

Not to be outdone, Star rolled over and put her head on my stomach.

I reached my arms around, under and over until I could reach the head and soft ears of each dog with one hand, and we dozed this way until the alarm started going off 45 minutes later, and even then we didn't stop through 3 snooze buttons.

What a great way to start the morning!

And how did we end the night before - almost as well, as posted to FB.

When I want a quick giggle, I just lay down on the carpet and soon my face is being washed and my neck is being tickled by soft pink tongues and wet noses. And the next thing I know, there's a tennis ball dropping on me somewhere.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Dog is a Cat

It's been a while since I played with a kitten, but 3 things stand out in my memory.

1) Kitten sitting on its haunches or standing on its hind legs batting at the feather stick that I waved over its head.

2) Kitten laying on its back, arms flailing in the air, at the same teasing toy.

3) Sharp little claws and teeth grabbing at my arm if I tried to tease with my fingers.

Now imagine a 60 pound cat.

With teeth like a dog.

And toe nails like a dog.

That's my dog. She plays like a kitten. I wonder if she was raised with a kitten and learned how to play by watching and emulating the kitty.

Ya just never know the history when you get a rescue pup, but it sure is fun to speculate. And sure is painful to get swiped by those claws.

She also acts like a jack rabbit, or maybe kangaroo, when she hops around out in the weeds.

And here's wazzup with my boy:

His propensity to sleep with his head smooshed up against a wall baffled me until I brought a crate into the house. He climbed right in, smooshed his head against the wall, and proceeded to take a catnap. Security I guess.

Here's my pretty girl, glancing out the window at the morning.

And here are some precious moments with the kids in bed before we got up to start our day.

Please forgive the low quality cell phone pictures - dragging the big camera into bed would probably spoil the moment, not to mention I couldn't even take them this close with it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Star Invents Tug

It was a stormy summer day.

"Mom's moving furniture again. I'm getting nervous.
My bed's in the middle of the living room floor.
I better stick by it."

"Good idea. I'll join you."

Mom got the furniture just the way she liked it,
and then realized she was missing the best sunset in two weeks.

The next morning, the furniture was on the move again.
Now the work table is in front of the window.
Mom has a commanding view of all she surveys.
And the dogs have a great cave under the table
and against the wall under the window.

The next day was warm with picture perfect clouds floating
aimlessly across the sky. While Mom built agility equipment,
Sunny posed in front of nature's backdrop.

While Star tried to get comfortable in her hot rock sauna.

Hey, nobody's forcing her to lay there.

But by far the most fun of the weekend was when Star invented Tug. I had tried to get her interested in tugging before, but she didn't get it. So I think this was an accident. I wasn't even thinking about what I was doing. She was just laying on the floor chewing on carcass of fox when I happened to pass by.

Out of habit, I reached down and picked it up to try to get a game going. I don't think she was thinking about it either when she instinctively got up and started tugging back, and realized she liked it. Yippee! Something else to do with this dog other than just training.

If I were to actually tug against her with the fox's tail, it would come off in my hand, so I ran out the next day and got a real tug rope. I didn't even have the minimal packaging off when Sunny grabbed hold, and the games were under way.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Synchronized Sulking

Why the long faces, kids? Heck, their whole bodies were synchronized. Exact same posture from tip to tail. Right arm sticking out, left arm tucked under, and their (rear) legs were folded up the same way too, I realized after I put the camera away. Oops - ears aren't synchronized. Sunny's airing out one of his - they both got ear drops this morning. That might explain the depression.

But why were they depressed here? Beautiful weather finally. Mom home all day. Sunny just loves to have his face squished up against a wall. Sleeps that way all night and most of his naps too.

No fenced yard for spontaneous play? I guess that would be depressing.

And here's the "barricade" that's keeping them fenced in. I was worried that we wouldn't be able to enjoy an open door policy without a fenced patio, but since we don't have people walking by (except our 2am prowler) this does the trick to keep them in.

We went up to Idaho for the 4th of July weekend. Uncle Timothy took some more jump pictures so I could check out Star's lazy lab legs. She sure has good clearance up top.

She needs it, since those back legs hang down so far.

Looks like on this one she might have kept them stretched out.

Got another picture of Sunny fetching the dog bowl - he wants to enter another contest. This one is about dogs that do work. Good luck, my little boy! And thanks for your help twice a day handing those bowls up to me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dog Sitting Redefined

This car episode isn't nearly as graceful as this one, but it sure was entertaining. Fortunately I had already pulled the car off the road for something else, so I could watch it unfold.

Similar to the previous story, Sunny was again trying to get into the front seat. This time he got hung up because his silly sister in the back seat was sitting on his leash. I'm imprecise on a lot of the details here but stick with me.

For some reason he couldn't move backwards either. I looked back and it seemed that he was stuck with his rear end wedged against the back seat just to the point where his back feet didn't touch anything, so he couldn't give a push. So I gave him a nudge backwards. And next thing ya know, the poor little guy was really stuck. And I am not kidding when I say this is exactly the position we had gotten him stuck in:

He was sitting on his rear end just like a zebra, his hind legs dangling and not able to reach the floor. Arms probably flailing - I can't really remember. And I was laughing and trying to figure out where the cell phone camera was and could I get it out in time and laughing some more and then decided to just watch and see what happened.

He got himself unstuck, but a minute later I couldn't recall how. I guess my mind was just so full of the image of him dog sitting there, wondering how I would ever tell the story. I wouldn't be surprised if it's the funniest thing he ever does. I'm sure the look on his face was priceless too. But, alas, I didn't record that image anywhere either.

Star needs equal billing - sitting on Sunny's leash and making his story happen isn't enough of a story about her. For creating his most embarrassing moment, I'll share her most embarrassing moment.

This one happened on June 9th, which I note from her training blog, is about when we got serious about her agility career. We had been doing jumps and such for a few days, and getting into a training mindset.

When I am getting ready for bed, she has a habit of hopping up onto the bed and claiming the best spot. That evening, I was training her to wait until I got settled into bed before claiming the left-overs. She was on the ground by the wall, Sunny was between her and the bed when I gave her the all clear. She was so excited that she vaulted OVER Sunny to get on the bed!

It was not her shiniest moment - she had a bit of a crash landing on the edge of the bed, and I don't recall how Sunny made out - if she cleared him before the crash or if he was dragged down in the mess.

Anyway, no animals were seriously injured in the making of this episode. I got back out of bed and made her do a few more mounts and dismounts to make sure she ended on a good experience. Then lots of cuddles in bed.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Catching Up

We've been pretty busy the past couple weeks.

Grandma and Grandpa stopped by on their way to Alaska, and Sunny found a playmate in Grandpa . . .

Star got what she likes best from Grandma . . .

It rained a lot so we got to splash in the mud . . .

Star got a used crated for Agility, and Sunny moved right in . . .

Now I know why he naps smooshed against the wall on his dog bed, and sleeps jammed into the corner on top of the blanket chest in my room at night. He was apparently raised using a crate for a safe sleeping place.

Star did a great job getting used to the crate (without the door on) when we were in Moscow. Then a bad thing happened. Mom went away from the crate and Star, whose leash was clipped to the window bars, tried to follow Mom and pulled off the top (which wasn't attached).

The next morning a good thing happened. She did the same thing, but a bowl of treats on top of the crate spilled all over the ground. What a great reward for the wrong behavior, but it did remove the sting of the roof falling on her head. Now she sits calmly inside, watching me prepare my strategy or the equipment for her agility exercises . . .

or just waiting out of the way while I'm putting my shoes on to take a walk . . .

Sometimes they both get in together . . .

We went up to the mountains for a day - we sure took a lot of stuff for just one night.

But we gotta keep Star practicing her moves . . .

And Mom has to keep up on taking pictures in preparation for the Safe Harbor 2012 Calendar Photo Contest.

The dogs posed very patiently and professionally for 25 shots in this configuration . . .

and 29 shots down below on the grass . . .

One of Sunny's favorite activities in the mountains is intently staring at the hummingbird feeder 6 inches outside the window . . .

And Star shows off her new crate once again . . .

Aren't I Just The Cutest?!?

But Star Sure Missed Sunny

Totally wiped out from the weekend hanging out at the Agility Trials, Star snuggled up next to Sunny and slept all the way home when we picked him up after his weekend with Uncle Tim(othy).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunny Doesn't Miss Me

On Jun 18, 2010, at 4:51 PM, Timothy wrote:

the good news is that your dog was oblivious to your departure.

the bad news is that your dog was oblivious to your departure. I mean he jumped in an unfamiliar truck without being invited, curled up, and went to sleep.

when you said "gentle leader," i thought you meant a prong collar. The leader looks too complicated for me to figure out, but we don't seem to need it.

I'll try brushing him with the clippers. The ears seem a bit long, anyway.

From: Kara
Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:40 PM
To: Timothy

I meant to give you the dog brush, not the nail clippers, I realized
as i pulled away. He goes comatose sometimes when you brush him.

I hope he wasn't too traumatized when I pulled away.

Have fun!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thump Thump Thump

I lied! Here I am writing again, after I just said I wouldn't write again for 2 weeks.

I just had to share a couple fun images, mental images, alas, from last night.

I didn't feel like getting up and getting the camera, even though I knew the moment was developing. Sunny has a new habit. As soon as Star and I are all cozy, snuggled into bed at night, Sunny goes back out to the living room and gets another tennis ball. I guess he figures he's finally got a captive audience. So I indulge him, having declined him earlier in the evening when I sat in my microfiber rocking rotating recliner that I don't want destroyed by wet tennis balls.

The game has become Kara tries to toss the ball into the laundry hamper, in the closet across the room. The first time I got it in the hamper was empty. It's a tall one, so I had to get up and retrieve it after watching his desperate and futile attempts and rescue and recovery.

But last night, it was about half full so I decided to let him work it out. I have learned from observing the dog groups that I do that letting a dog solve a problem is a good thing, and it was a fun exercise. One of the best parts was when he got his teeth around the handle and tried to lift the whole hamper up. This hamper is taller than he is so it was a real stretch. He managed to move it around the closet a bit that way.

At one point he went behind and I thought for sure he was close to figuring out how to tip it over, and of course that's what he eventually did, after moving it around by the handle a few more times.

Good job, Sunny! You got the prize, and your reward was a dozen more ball tosses before bedtime was enforced.

The other image that I love happens frequently. The dogs and I will be laying on the bed. They have their heads on my shoulder and my stomach, or are sandwiched up against my side. They'll be totally still, but when I say something, one or two tails will go thump, thump, thump. When I stop talking, the thumping stops. I start again - thump, thump, thump. It's so cool. I guess it's fun because I can turn it on and off so easily. But I wonder too what it means. Does the sound of my voice make them happy or excited? I just love it.

And as a final note - I went back last night and re-read a lot of my old posts. I was surprised to see that when I wrote less often, it seemed more inspired. I chose more recently to write weekly, to capture more of our story and to get more practice writing, but I don't feel the result is as good. I miss the old stories that were better stories, in and of themselves.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tricks and Train Wrecks

I'm developing quite a backlog of pictures and stories, and, after being in our new home for a month now, things are starting to get busier, so the backlog might get deeper. I probably won't write again for 2 weeks after this post, because Star and I will be away next Saturday watching Agility in Moscow (the one in Idaho) in the midst of crashing through the last 2 weeks of this crazy summer school class.

And you might ask - where is Sunny going to be?

Well, Sunny met his uncle Tim(othy) this week when we fetched him from the airport. Sunny seemed to think Tim needed his face washed and Tim seemed to like it. They bonded pretty quickly during the car ride, so Sunny is going to spend next weekend with his uncle in Idaho.

Before he heads up there, Sunny wants to share a couple pictures with Tim so he knows what his smart, furry nephew can do.

First, he picks up his dinner dish and hands it to you at meal time:

And he can also pick up his leash and hand it to you. We haven't tried this trick recently so it might be a little rusty.

This next set of pictures was taken in rapidly fading light, hence the blurs, a week before we left Colorado, in the backyard of another Uncle Tim. Sunny had just started playing ball again after his 2nd knee surgery, and Star hadn't even been with us when we put the balls away in preparation for the 12 week recovery, so I didn't know what she would do. The behavior you are seeing here I hope has almost been eradicated because when they collide like a high speed train wreck, poor Sunny gets seriously slammed around.

It starts with Sunny enjoying a nice game of fetch. Fetch the Tennis Ball, that is. To Star, this becomes a game of Fetch the Other Dog, as she roars down the track after Sunny.

Just as he turns around to bring the ball back, she slams into him, spinning him back around. Often the ball goes flying out of his mouth.

Then she grabs an ear or a scruffy piece of neck and rides him halfway back.

Eventually he manages to shake her off and they trot back side by side, ready to go again.

After we got to our new home and started enjoying our "back yard", this game of Fetch the Other Dog became a real problem, with potential for a real injury. While I started working on keeping Star seated next to me, Sunny started working on evasion tactics. First, he learned to jump out of the way at the last second before getting the full contact body slam.

Meanwhile, Star was getting smarter too. She learned that by sitting next to me, she could scarf down treats while Sunny was off doing the hard work of chasing down that little green ball and bringing it back.

The other thing Star learned was that she could wait until Sunny was about 10 feet away on his return, and then she could charge out and slam into him. At that short range, he doesn't have time to change direction and avoid the direct hit, but she also isn't going as fast.

This has all happened over about the past 2 weeks. This week I made even more progress with Star and only about once per noon play session does she slip away to chase after him chasing after it.

All in all, they are pretty good friends.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chuck-It Induced Insanity

Today you are going to get a guided tour of our new dog park. We really lucked out - there's just one in the whole area and we are only 3 quick miles away, both of us right at freeway exits. In fact, the park is an old highway rest stop at the state line. I thought Colorado was making some awesome dog parks, but this one is nothing to be ashamed of.

It has the required double gate entry but also has running water at a few places around the park. All the parks in CO were dry and folks brought bottles of water with them to fill the bowls.

Nice big trees and covered picnic tables ...

A lightly wooded area with meandering walking paths in the back corner ...

And a big huge open grassy area with 2 pipe tunnels. Count 'em - two. (The other one is off-screen. Ha!)

Does it seem odd that there are no dogs in the pictures? There are rarely a lot of dogs at the park, especially not down in the field. They all seem to congregate around the people, who congregate around the tables. But they say it is a heavily used park, and portions will be closed off for revegetation or whatever that word is supposed to be.

It's just lucky that we can go mid-day and mid-week when not many others are there. Star and I can practice agility stuff in the tunnels and on the table, while Sunny chases the ball. But I like it when a few other dogs are there sometimes too, so Star can have a good romp. She likes to get the whole pack chasing her and she runs so fast that all the spectators just ooh and aah at her speed.

Now that I've figured out how to get the Chuck-It in and out without beating Sunny over the head with it, I might get brave and try taking the camera in with the dogs to get some pictures of that chase. Have I talked about CII before? It's a horrible disease that Sunny has. CII stands for Chuck-It Induced Insanity. If I have the Chuck-It in my hand, we can barely make it across the parking lot and through the gates without me wanting to strangle him. If I hold it up over my shoulder, he practically climbs up my back to get to it. We can't walk in a straight line. And it's down right embarrassing to have so little control over my dogs with everyone watching our approach.

So now the C-I comes out of the car first and gets threaded through the fence. Then the dogs get walked calmly to the gate. And life is good.