Friday, August 9, 2013

The Name Game

I have to admit - I have always been lousy at this game. I'm not sure why I make such a big deal of it, but I'm not sorry I never had the responsibility of naming another human being. The pressure to come up with the perfect name and not disappoint ANYONE would have been my undoing.

The first thing I remember naming was my hamster, "Harvey Wallbanger". I am pretty darn sure that at whatever tender young age I was, I had no clue what that actually was, but it came to me somehow, watching him roll around the house in his little plastic ball, running into furniture and feet and walls.

[Dear readers, I get a little long-winded in this story. It just took on a life of its own. Feel free to skip ahead to where I inserted the comment "Dog Stuff Starts Here..." That's really all I intended to write. Not sure why I felt the need to tell my whole life story along the way.]

Ol' Harvey didn't live a long life, and I went pet-less for many years. Settled into a good job shortly after college, I finally got the cat I had wanted for some 15 years. I actually brought home two tiny kittens, cage-mates at the animal shelter. On my way home from the shelter, I drove through a thunder storm. I had been studying German that year and had learned the words donder and blitzen, for thunder and lightning. I thought it would have been fun to name them "Donner" and "Blitzen". I'm not sure why I didn't.

Instead, I took the recommendation of a fellow computer programmer and named the gray tiger-striped male "Ascii" while my roommate named the Maine Coone girl "Pebbles", after a childhood dog she had had. Shame I don't have a photo scanner handy to illustrate these kitty paragraphs. I do have an album.

Ascii only lasted a couple years - hit and run with an automobile claimed all 9 of his lives in one afternoon. He was quickly replaced with another gray and white tiger-striped male. I had a different set of roommates by then, and I let one of the gear-heads name him Turbo. Seemed fitting for the speed at which he raced around the house.

Two years later, Turbo and Pebbles and I moved to Germany with some guy. We lived in a "double half house" - a duplex. It really was only half a house, as the other half was under construction most of the time we lived there. Us humans were gone one weekend, and when we came back we learned that the cats had each used up one of their lives.

Built in the typical Bavarian style, the house was many stories tall and not so wide: laundry, storage and bonus finished room downstairs; kitchen, dining and living rooms on the ground floor (floor 0); 2 bedrooms on the first floor; guest room and unfinished attic room on the 2nd floor (really the 3rd floor in American-speak, and the 4th floor in total). Except for the basement, there was a bathroom on each floor. The bathroom on the top floor had windows that cranked open onto the steep red tile roof. (Yes, this is important for the story.)

Back to the cats - when we arrived home, there were 8 sets of claw marks in parallel wavy lines running down from those top windows to the gutter. Phew! They didn't just fly to the ground from there. I don't know how we found this out. The landlord/builder was working every day on the other half of the house so maybe he told us. He always seemed so amazed at these poorly behaved American cats, who had done a little minor damage to the inside of the brand new house - Sorry, Herr Vat-ever-your-name-vaz.

At this point in the construction of the other half of the house, the thick concrete walls were in place up to one floor below the top one, so the story goes that the cats were able to jump down from the gutters on the top floor, to the top of the walls next door, and so on down to the ground. I dunno - hard to believe it now, but how else to explain 8 sets of claw marks going down a red tile roof and no bodies lying on the ground?

Sadly, Turbo didn't make it past 2 years either. The cats loved to play cat and mouse, or cowboys and Indians, or whatever games cats play, in the corn field next door. (The German cats didn't understand English so my two had to keep each other company.) Then came the end of summer and the corn was harvested. Now the cats had to wander a bit further from home to pretend they were tigers in the jungle, and one day my precious Ascii didn't come home. End of story.

[Dog Stuff Starts Here...]

After almost 2 years in Germany, Pebbles and I moved back to California along with my future former spouse. A couple years later, a 6 week old yellow Lab puppy joined our family. I'll call him #1 (my first yellow Lab). The internet had just been invented, and we were both kinda working in the computer world, so the other human in the house suggested the name "Internet". Or at least that's what I thought he said. It turns out he actually said, "Network", the name of a dog belonging to Sun Microsystems' CEO and made famous in commercials for the giant computer company. I decided I'd save my veto power in case we ever had kids, and that's the line I used for the next 13 years whenever I had to explain about his name.

#2 was easy - Lily came from the shelter with a nice name, so I didn't stress out about that one. However, as I wrote about her in her memorial post, she went by other names - Silly Lily and Houdini are two that come to mind without going back and re-reading that post, because it still makes me cry 9 years later. Not that I miss her still, but that story just does it to me every time. The author moves me. What can I say. I must be her #1 fan - I often wish she'd write more so I'd have more reading material.

#3 was called Sonny when he came to me from the rescue. The name didn't really fit him, but Sunny did! He still is a ray of sunshine.

#4 also came from the rescue. She was a stray and the shelter she came from had named her "Scarlet". When I transported her from the vet to the foster, I told the foster her name was "Scarlet" and he said, "Hi Star". I repeated "Scarlet". "Hi Star, come here Star." I gave up. She didn't want to go to him anyway. She had already picked me. My mission that day was to deliver her, so I did insist that she stay, but a big piece of her went home with me. The decision to adopt her was relatively easy - trying to decide if she would be Star or Scarlet proved challenging. I finally went with Star, as it fit in with the celestial body theme I had going with Sun(ny).

[Mind you, this was supposed to be a short story about what I will call #5. Why must I ramble so???]

#5 was named Xander by his surrendering owner so he arrived at the rescue with that name, and our director loves the name as it is the name of her beloved dog. X making a Z sound has always rubbed me the wrong way, so I tossed and turned, hemmed and hawed, as I contemplated this very important decision. I thought about changing it to Sanders. (In the rescue world when he change a name to protect the innocent we often choose a name that sounds the same so the dog doesn't notice.) I tried to imagine what it would sound like when I called it running around the agility course. I wasn't any closer to an answer and I was starting to feel that old panic about coming up with the perfect name.

One evening, I turned to the internet (thank you Network for inventing it) to do a little name research. I was hoping to find that Xander was the name of a star or a constellation, to keep with our household theme. Well, get your tissues out, dammit. What I found brought me to tears, and here I go again. All the top Google hits on that name pointed to a recent story out of Texas where a little 4 year old boy named Xander had gone into a swimming pool to save a little 3 year old girl who was drowning. (How does a 4 year old have the presence of mind to do this??) He held her over his head, even though he wasn't tall enough to keep his own head above water. He saved that little girl, but he didn't make it. A Facebook page in his honor is filled with pictures of super-heros. Back at Google again, I learned that Xander, a derivative of Alexander, means Defender of the People.

So in honor of that little boy, my Xander will keep his name, and I expect, knowing how things work, that he has a purpose in life that will live up to that name. In fact, he's already been my little hero in a couple ways. Material for future stories.

Six more days until I meet him. Here's the latest picture sent from the foster. She titled it "A Rare Down Moment".

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How Did This Happen?


Sunday, July 14

I was sitting around the agility trial in Coeur d'Alene, minding my own business, not asking for trouble, so how did I get from there to here in less than 2 weeks? Simple - I looked at my e-mail. I rarely look at my e-mail while at a trial, but was a little bored that day waiting for our turn to run, so I picked up the phone and logged in.

The innocent looking e-mail was titled "Xander coming instead of Buddy". As Medical Intake Coordinator for Safe Harbor Lab Rescue, where we rescue and rehome 250-300 Labs a year, I get 250-300 emails like this a year. Do the math, that's 5-6 new dogs per week. So what was so special about this one? Xander was described as "18 months, neutered, good with kids, cats, dogs, housebroke, loves water, very ball and play driven. Very active but settles down indoors." That's when I heard a little alarm and a voice inside my head saying, "I hope he's not yellow."

Was it because I was at an agility trial, going through the motions of trying to pump up my very un-driven (but infinitely adored) Star and wishing I had a dog that would bring me up, since I'm just as low-key as Star? I dunno what it was. On my old un-smart phone, I couldn't see pictures in e-mails, so I had to wait until I got home that night to find out what color he was.

He was yellow. Uh oh.

I wrote to the director, "I was afraid he'd be yellow, after reading the bio. Sounds like exactly what I need for my next agility dog." Of course, next agility dog wasn't something I was looking for yet. If you've been paying attention, you know I've only just gotten relieved of the expenses of Sunny's last year and just finally gotten Star to be a stable competitor. And I've got a big remodel coming up this fall. 5 dogs running around the house would not make my contractor very happy. (I haven't mentioned yet that the live-in dog sitter has 2 little schnauzers.)

So I weighed the pros and cons, and decided in the end that it wouldn't be fair to the dog sitter to add another dog to her work-load. I did, however, decide that come spring, I would start looking.

Safely beyond the threat a few days later, I mentioned the near miss to my dog sitter. She quickly responded, "Oh that's ok. You can get him."

Oh dog poop. Did she really just give me permission?

Wednesday, July 17

Xander and his 9 traveling companions have arrived safely in Colorado. The transporter reports that he is a "big, goofy pup". The vet checks him out and reports, "Nice teeth! Has lots of energy."

Friday, July 19

When I get home from playing agility this evening, an e-mail from the director is waiting for me. She's already sweet on him because his name is the same as her beloved dog's name. She writes, "Not to tempt you, but I met Xander this morning. He's lithe, energetic and very nimble : )  Needless to say, he's full of boundless young Lab joy and is adorable too." Swell. Of course he is.

My rambling response concluded with, "If it's meant to be, I'll get another sign. Like someone saying they are driving to Missoula or Coeur d'Alene for vacation next month and want to deliver him. Oh, dog poop, just this very moment I remembered, a friend in Colorado was dog sitting the dog of their neighbor who had just moved to Spokane and they were going to be getting their dog back any day now. Oh shoot oh shoot oh shoot. I wonder how/when that is happening?"

That evening, Xander goes to his first foster home and promptly gets kicked out. For jumping over a 4 foot fence. Yay! He's got the jumping gene! The foster reports, and I don't doubt for a minute, that he was not trying to get away. He was just being a big, goofy pup, checking out the new digs, chasing a ball perhaps, and took the next obstacle. As soon as he realized he was outside and the people were inside, he jumped right back in. "He LOVES his people," was the next thing I read.

Saturday, July 20

The foster, upon learning that I was possibly interested in Xander, filled a page with his virtues. This wasn't helping my resolve to wait until next year. Every question I asked, the answer was always the right one, or the wrong one if I was looking for a reason to reject him.

And then I saw this picture, with the accompanying caveat that it doesn't do him justice, doesn't capture his wonderful facial expressions and irresistible brown Lab eyes.

Sunday, July 21

I pondered the day away, and as night fell, I booked a one-way flight and told the team that if his hips were good, I'd take him. In retrospect, I had more information about him at that point than I did when I decided to adopt Star 3 years ago. I chose her, or probably more correctly, she chose me, after a 15 minute car ride and a 30 minute effort to get her out of the car to leave her at the foster home to which she was assigned.

Monday, July 22

Now I have a logistics puzzle to work out. It's still 24 days until I can pick him up. He needs a safe place to hang out and the rescue can't tie up a good foster home that long. That would mean 2 or 3 other dogs couldn't get rescued. I'm intimately aware of this situation. This is a perfect dog. He would have been adopted and in his new home already if I hadn't gotten my name in first.

But logistics is what I love best. Or was that analytics? Same difference - analyze a problem, figure out a solution, send up a wish to the universe if things aren't falling into place fast enough.

I was told I could use one of the rescue's fosters for a week. I hated to move the little guy around, he was already so discombobulated with all the change in the past few days, maybe weeks depending on how long he'd been in the shelter after his owner had surrendered him, on account of not having time to give him the attention he needed, but that would buy me time. I had three fosters that I thought could handle his puppy energy and give him some good structure as well. Two of them weren't available and the third wasn't returning phone calls. I would have paid for his time at our preferred boarding kennel, but with a recent kennel cough outbreak, that also wasn't a possibility. And he hadn't been out of the shelter long enough for a board and train kennel to take him.

Thursday, July 25

I had to have a place for him to go on Friday and I was getting nervous. It was now Thursday morning and I really had to get to work, but I had to come up with a solution to this problem. I knew there had to be someone out there that I was overlooking who could help. I calmed myself and thought through all the people I knew in Colorado. Most were already in on the story, but somehow Anna's name popped into my mind. She had just adopted a youngster from the rescue. I knew her yard was too small for 2 wild things, but I threw it out there - do you or anyone you know feel up to a 3 week foster? I sent the message and headed off to work. The universe took it from there. Anna saw my message immediately, considered a broad post, but then a name popped into her head. She sent essentially the same message: "Do you or or anyone you know want to foster this little guy for 3 weeks." The reply came immediately - Sandy would do it! It was that evening before I could make the call and confirm my gut feel that this would work. In the meantime, I had gotten word from the vet that his hips looked great on x-ray, so I signed, scanned and returned the adoption contract, and gave my credit card number to PayPal. Sandy picked him up from the vet before I had even gotten out of bed the next morning, and by the time I got out of the shower, she had sent three more pictures of him. Her family was already in love with him. He was safe. I was dizzy. 11 days from "I hope he's not yellow" to "he's mine, sight unseen".

As I prepare to sign off, I go to Sandy's Facebook page to see if she's posted any new pictures of my boy. I am not disappointed. OMG he's so cute!

Star Feb-Jul 2013

Well, Dear Star, I am so sorry that you have not gotten equal billing. I am shocked to see I have barely written a word about you in 16 months! But, gosh, I never stopped loving you. I'm pretty darn crazy about you, in fact. But I'm sure you know that by the way I can't keep my hands off you when we are together. Besides, you can't read, so you don't know that I wasn't writing about you.

After the March 2012 trial, the last time I wrote about Star, our next competition was the May SDTC trial, and we did awesome, finishing our Novice Jumpers title and getting high in class on both jumpers runs. A big ribbon weekend for us. And then the rest of the year we don't want to talk about.

Oh, ok, let's talk about it. Mommy was insanely busy with school, work and studying for another part of the CPA exam. Work was asking for longer and longer hours. They only said they were ok with 38 to get me in the door, then they just started adding more and more, including working through all the three day weekends. I changed my summer school plans and postponed the CPA exam, but still tried to keep training and doing one little competition, Moscow in June, but it was too much. Star absorbed my stress and flipped out on the course on almost every run that weekend, getting the "zoomies" - taking off and doing laps around the course until I caught up with her and took her out of the ring. Oh, it was mortifying and depressing. And it went on and on, every week at class, every run at the August SDT trial.

In August, I gave notice at that temp job, so I could finish studying for the last part of the last CPA exam and enjoy one weekend off to help out at the August trial. Helping ended up being our big win for the weekend. Star got left home on Sunday, as I feared permanently ruining her with the stress. Instead, I earned my Novice Course Builder title and my first leg of Gate Steward, and enjoyed helping out without worrying about a sad puppy in a hot tent wondering where her Mommy was.

The fall semester started (last one!) and a new temp job came along a week after I notified them I was ready again, yet still I continued to train us in agility. Star continued to zoom around the course on our first run every Wednesday night, but settled down enough for us to have a nice second run, although I think I was always on edge because I could tell by her posture that she was still tense and on the verge of letting loose with a good zoom.

During this time, Star and I also went to a weekly focus class at the club, to learn more about working together in a less stressful environment. We really enjoyed that. Around day 13 at the temp job, they offered me a permanent position, which I accepted, agreeing to go full time on November 1, after the focus class was done and one of my masters' classes finished. The other change during this time was something I call the scared straight program. Whenever Star started zooming, I disappeared and nobody paid attention to her. The coach led her to her crate, covered her up, and left her alone. Eventually I returned and took her out and we ran the course. 

A week or two into December, I finished my degree. We went to our weekly agility class the next day, and (coincidentally??) Star stopped zooming. We started competing again a few months later when the next small trials were run at Deer Park, and we did great! We weren't worried about titles, just getting our sea legs back, so we were surprised to get an ASCA Jumpers title certificate in the mail one day. I think the May SDTC trial was our first return to AKC, and we had similar results to the year before - best in class on our Jumpers runs both days, good team work, moving faster. I laid the ribbons from that one weekend out on the top-less table (glass hidden away for a while until Sunny had learned to avoid obstacles) and someone suggested I leave them there when I put the top back on, and I kinda liked that idea.

I really plan to stop taking ribbons. I have two nice collections now, from our debut, and our re-debut, and a few miscellaneous ones hanging in odd places around the house and at work, and that really is enough. But, during a drought they do help lift the spirits and keep us going, and at the end of a drought, taking a few more is a nice celebration.

Since May, we had trials in Moscow in June, CDA in July and an ASCA trial a week later. Medal count was low, but we are finally playing the same game as everyone else - running a good race but losing a Q to one little bobble, more often than not a handler error. Yay, we get to have handler errors now, because we can finally do some handling! Finally, I can start learning from my mistakes. That is the name of the agility game. Every run has new challenges, new situations to analyze, and nobody likes a good analysis better than me.

We now have 2 AKC titles on the line - just one more leg needed for our Open Jumpers and one more leg needed for our Novice Standard. And in ASCA, we are 1/2 a Q away from our Regular Novice title. But we've gone through 2 AKC trials without getting those titles, so now we need to forget about that and be surprised. It's better that way. We'll have one AKC trial in August, one in September and one in October. I just want us to keep running well together.

A special memory for me from the CDA trial was a constant stream of comments on how well we are running as a team and how happy Star seems to be when she is running. Our coach said Star seems to have figured out the game is to do what Mom is asking her to do, and that she really seems to be enjoying it now. I love the feeling of turning on the speed and running as fast as I can, because the faster I go the faster she goes.

Another memory from that CDA trial comes to mind, but that's where our new chapter starts. Stay tuned...

Sunny Feb-Jul 2013

A whole new chapter is about to start in the Karsten household and I am so excited to write about it and share pictures, but alas, I feel compelled to bring you up to date on the old stories left dangling. So, Sunny first.

I can't believe I didn't write about his first eye surgery in that Feb post. I guess that shows how we sailed right through it. I was busy for 4 weeks moving us across town - bringing a load on my way to work every morning, filling up the Pilot again every evening. It was a $60 move - only had to hire muscle for 45 minutes (2 hour minimum) to move a few heavy pieces up the stairs. Everything else was done with the help of a two young friends with big trucks to carry some larger pieces (3 trips); a few not so young helpers - Dad and aunt; and my twin for a day or two. The rest was all me. I love a good move.

Right in the middle of it all, I went to the ER for 6 stitches to repair the finger that I filleted in a vegetable cutting accident. On Super Bowl Sunday. Where I learned that this is a very common injury seen in the ER on Super Bowl Sunday. Now I was down to 9 fingers to load and carry the boxes.

Just about that time, Sunny had been running in the field, and, with his limited sight, had gotten a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Ouch! I didn't see it happen, but did notice later something looking strange on his eyeball, but with everything else going on, I failed to properly assess the damage and realize that the meds he was getting for his other issues were exacerbating this new injury. The result (hallelujah) was that I was finally able to have that eye removed. If I sound cruel and heartless, please review last year's posts - this has been coming on a long time and costing me a lot of money to keep his doomed eyes going. This one was blind already, and now the cornea punctured, so it was finally time.

The painful eye was removed, no issues post surgery, and we finished the move and immediately set about making the new house into a home and enjoying the great backyard, and no more leash walks! (ref last post)

During this time, the dogs were without their sitter for about 6 weeks, while I came home from work for lunch every day. On April 1, I got a promotion at work and started working longer hours, so hired the sitter from the apartments to come out and play with the dogs a couple afternoons a week. They had all really missed each other. A month later, Micki was able to move into my downstairs "granny unit" and I got to work even longer hours, because I now had the luxury of a live-in dog sitter! Life was good.

But then on a weekend visit to see Grandma and Grandpa, I noticed Sunny running into walls, and back at home, he was running into the whiskey barrels and patio furniture (see April post). It was clear that the sight was almost gone from his second eye. So, the doc agreed it was time for the inevitable. I was ready. I figured that without a faulty eye to rely on, Sunny would start learning to navigate his environment in other ways, and would stop crashing into things so deliberately. I say deliberately because with his limited eyesight, he was deliberately walking towards the shapes he could see, hitting a wall instead of the void of the doorway next to it.

May 21 was the date. There isn't much more to say. If it weren't for the pain in his legs, I could say he sailed right through the operation and got back to the business at hand, but something must have happened during the operation to mess up his hips because he came out of the surgery, gave a cry and laid down on the floor. His first blind walk to the car was amazing. He took a few tentative steps down the ramp but then walked confidently the rest of the way. But at home, his mobility got worse and worse. I tried pain pills and making him stay off the stairs, but after a week he was still getting worse. A chiropractor was recommended. When I left for work the morning of his appointment, he could barely walk. Micki had to pick him up to put him in her car to take him to the chiropractor. I wasn't there, but apparently he just melted in the doctor's hands, and 45 minutes later, he jumped into the car to come home. When I got home that night, he was TROTTING in the back yard, like I hadn't seen him move in months.

So, while I am sorry that he had to go through that additional pain, he is now in better shape than he was before because he already had arthritis issues that were affecting his mobility. Over the next few weeks, all kinds of things got better. All those meds he was on for his eyes were so harsh. Now his body shape was returning to normal, his hair was filling out and getting softer again, and of course he was moving so well. Oh yeah, and his sense of smell seemed to be coming back (again, ref an earlier post). We read somewhere that one of his meds had a side effect that decreased the sense of smell.

The next thing that happened, at about the one month point, is he really started getting comfortable with his environment, and this is about when he started really getting back into play fetch with his tennis balls. I suppose the game now is Hunt, not Fetch. I'll close with a video showing the game. Watch in particular how his tail spins to the left, to the right, to the left, to the right, like a rudder, as he tacks to the right, to the left, to the right, to the left. LOL!

Don't miss the bonus photos inserted below the video.

The Dance
"Hurry up, Micki. Stop talking and throw the ball!"

The Run-Out
"I heard it land! Don't worry - I'll find it!"

The Hunt
"I can smell it. It's around here somewhere!"
(Mom chose this picture because she loves the flower basket on the deck.)

The Run-Back
"I found it! I found it! Let's do it again."
(Note the flying ears.)

Hi Mom. Whatcha doin'? Did you see me chasing the ball and running fast?!?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Find Brother

This week we started working on a new command - "Find Brother". Not only is Sunny's remaining eye rapidly losing its ability to see (inflammation and pain still completely controlled by 4 different types of eye drops for 11 drops a day plus 3 oral meds) but his sense of smell is failing in parallel. The cruelest fate for a dog. I thought he'd be ok without his eyes because his super nose would take up the slack. But, alas, no dice. I liken it to the human equivalent, which must be going blind and deaf at the same time. His ears are going to help him get around as much as my nose would if that were all I had.

So we start and end the day running into walls and planters and sister's agility equipment strewn about the yard. It's worse at night and in the brightest part of the day, so it seems that he can still see shapes. Those planters will be the first things to go as I start the new home improvement projects, as he seems to move towards them at a high rate of speed, resulting in little owies and lots of bad feelings amongst those of us charged with his care and safety. At night I have to take him out on a leash or he won't be able to find his way back.

Star's protective instincts haven't kicked in yet so I'm trying to use free-shaping to teach her to "Find Brother", thinking that she can go lead him in during the winter instead of me. Today was the second day I intentionally worked on the command and I just gotta share the laugh it generated.

In free-shaping, the object is to let the dog figure out what to do and then reward for actions that are in the desired direction. Dogs familiar with this method will start throwing all the things they know at you in hopes that they will hit on something that has resulted in a treat jackpot in the past. Star's favorites are bringing me a toy from the toy box and scrambling (laying down in a sphynx position and crawling fast backwards). Sunny prefers to sit in front of me and wave a front paw, hoping for a shake, which might also be a rake if it happens to catch my leg and leave a nice 4-claw scratch.

So picture this - me standing with a pocket full of treats. Star is alternating between scrambling and bringing me toys, and Sunny is sitting in front of me whacking that arm up and down. We've got a rhythm going. Star gets a toy, I take it and toss it behind my back but don't offer a treat. Sunny's arm reaches out and hits anything within reach. Contrary to true free-shaping, I am saying "Find Brother". (I'm supposed to wait until the action is figured out before assigning a name to it.) 

"Find Brother." Fetch. Whack. "Find Brother." Fetch. Whack. "Find Brother."

And all of a sudden it becomes ...

"Find Brother." Fetch. Sunny whacks Star on the head.
"Find Brother." Fetch. Sunny whacks Star on the head.
"Find Brother." Fetch. Sunny whacks Star on the head.

Come on Star - figure it out. He's giving you a pretty huge clue!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Network

On this day in 1996, just another Glab (Golden Retriever/Lab) was born in Red Bluff, CA, to a big block-headed Lab named Coach and a pretty Golden (whose name I never learned). Five weeks later, that little tank became my best buddy. We had 13 1/2 wonderful years together. He's the only puppy I've raised. That's neither here nor there. ;')

In the photo above, he is on the far left, with Lily next. On my other side is little Chevy, a Career Change pup adopted by the son of my good friend Judy. I'm very excited to have this photo electronically. It was an early vintage "Joy" photo, and most likely on film. I found this cut out version printed on plain white paper on my mom's refrigerator, a little faded, but still one of my fav's. It was probably taken around the 4th of July, at our favorite beach north of Bodega Bay. I'm not sure what year, so I'll post it on FB soon and see who can help me put the clues together.

Today is another milestone of sorts - the first day that Sunny and Star and I woke up in our new house. Star joined Sunny and I just about three years ago (another birthday/adoption celebration coming up soon. Sunny had already been with me for eight months. They have patiently waited through apartment living and leash walks and now they get the big payoff. We aren't wasting any time starting to enjoy it. The photo only shows the main section - back behind the hedges and off on the left there is even more yard, with lots of ups and downs for Star to fly up and down.