Posted by: jility | April 22, 2013

They Smell Badly

In an earlier blog I wrote about Sister Mary Rose and how horrible she was. One of the things she drummed into my head, besides her fist, was the correct use of certain words. Having grammar jammed into my brain during my eight years of Catholic school has stuck with me all my life. The misuse and/or misspelling of many common words in today’s world, drives me insane (short trip, I know).

The misuses of certain words have become common place in our internet society and many have just become accepted. You can read about the naturalization of once unacceptable words by looking them up online. Even though many of these misuses have become acceptable, they still push my hot buttons! Now, that said, I am NOT PERFECT in my English or my spelling! I am FAR FROM IT! See, that’s the thing with people, myself included as I too am people, we all have our own hot buttons and we expect others to magically know our hot buttons and act accordingly in our presence. That is the judgmental part of the human brain. It makes us feel better to find fault with others whether it is their grammar, spelling, comments, views, scent choices or anything else that may differ from the way we see or want things.

Now, as I wrote above, I am FAR from perfect when it comes to grammar, spelling or punctuation! When I was in school, we were taught to NEVER EVER use a comma before a conjunction. Evidently, that is not how it is taught in school these days, but (notice I have used or misused  – depending on where or when you went to school – the comma before but) that is evidently not the case today. I was also taught to spell the number 90 as ninty. A friend who is a school teacher made fun of me thirty years ago so I changed the way I spelled it to bring myself into the 20th century.

So, here are some of MY grammatical hot buttons (so you can get it right when you are in my presence 🙂 and  see I drew a little happy face too so you don’t get pissed at me for correcting you).

  1. At the top of my list is: “I feel badly.” WTF??? Are your fingers not working? Did they go numb? The emotional feel is a “LINKING verb!” You do NOT say I feel “BADLY!” That implies you have no feeling in your fingers! It is I feel BAD! NOT BADLY!!!! If you don’t believe me read this: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/bad-versus-badly.aspx
  2. Second on my “drives me insane list” are the mixing of the words allot and a lot. LOOK IT UP!!! One means you have a lot of things or a lot of baggage, the other means you have things to allot or to give out or distribute Check it out here: http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/alot_a_lot_allot.htm THERE ARE NO SUCH WORDS AS alot or allott or any other dumb ass way you want to spell A LOT!
  3. “I am breeding to that stud…” Really? You are breeding to a farm or a kennel? It is stud dog or stud horse! NOT STUD! The stud is the farm or kennel that stands the male animals used for breeding. The male horse or dog belongs TO the stud so it is the stud dog or stud horse to which you are breeding NOT THE STUD!
  4. “That’s alls I know.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/magazine/12onlanguage.html?_r=0   nuff said!
  5. “Holy smokes!” THERE IS NO S ON THE END OF HOLY SMOKE!!! http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/holysmoke.asp
  6. “It’s between you and I.” NO IT IS NOT!!! It is between you and ME! If you want to know whether to use I or me, her or she, him or he in a sentence, drop the other person from the sentence and you will know. For instance: “John gave the book to she and I.” Drop the I first. “John gave the book to she.” Now THAT ain’t (see below) right! So now we know that it should be her. What about the “I” thing? “John gave the book to I.” Really? I don’t think so. I often hear people use I in all the wrong places. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/between-you-and-me.aspx
  7. “I could care less.” That implies that you care a lot! The phrase is, “I COULDN’T care less!” Do you see the difference?

Dishonorable Mention:

There are some minor words that get on my nerves but they have become so common, I just take note of them, but they don’t bother me much anymore.

“I seen…” Once like fingernails on a chalkboard to my ears, it often goes unnoticed now that I have become so used to hearing it on the West Coast for the past 40 years.

“I ain’t” I use the word ain’t often to make a point. It is like using nuthin or doin or any other accepted slang. They can be quite useful to emphasize a point.

“These ones.”

Smackers and Smellers:

Sir Cussalot has his own pet peeves. They are not as many as mine, however. He was not raised by rigid New England parents and nuns who thought your English and manners (table and otherwise) defined you as a person. So about the only hot buttons he has are about food, or should I say how one eats their food and how much noise one makes while eating.

Sir C often claims there should be three sections in restaurants and on airplanes, “smokers” – “nonsmokers” and smackers.” OK, so there are no longer smoking section in restaurants or on planes (THANK THE LORD!), but you get the idea.

When Sir C was a young boy, he said he hated to eat across from his father because dear ole dad chewed with his lips open and made terrible smacking noises. Sir C said he could barely stand to be in the same room let alone across from him. So, in the morning at breakfast, Sir C would line up the cereal boxes between him and his father (Yes, him would go first in this situation. Look it up) so he didn’t have to witness the carnage; just hear it.

Uncle Jef fueling up for the finals

Crunch this old man!

Our friend, Uncle Jef, loves to hear himself eating as much as Sir C’s father did. “If you can’t hear the crunch,” he will say, “why bother?” Before Uncle Jef comes into the Global Warmer, Sir C tells me to hide everything crunchy from view. So Uncle Jef rummages through our cupboards and/or fridge until he finds the loudest food he can. Then he sits there and munches away with a shit eatin’ grin on his face until Sir C can no longer take the deafening sounds and leaves without a word. I find it all very amusing. I LOVE crunching food when I eat. I have learned, however,  that it makes life more pleasant if I don’t when in the presence of Sir Cussalot.

As a matter of fact, Sir C just left the GW with some garbage and headed to the trash cans because I am eating some very noisy seaweed as I type. Sir C’s smackin hot button is SO bad, he can’t even eat an apple himself! He has to cut it up into bite sized pieces so the noise damage is minimal. I wonder if a thunder shirt might help him.

He just walked back into the GW and as I reached for another small piece of seaweed, he muttered, “You STILL eating those F#@&!NG THINGS?” and stomped out the door. Of course I laughed loudly as he exited the deafening torture chamber of seaweed.

For years we couldn’t go to the movies because there might be, as he calls them, “Popcorn PIGS” nearby. He was unable to enjoy going to theaters because of the possibility somebody might make some noise when they ate their popcorn. Luckily, most people know how horrible movie popcorn is for us (well except for us. We have allowed it to be our last big vice in life). We always go to early movies during the week which pretty much guarantees that there won’t be many people there. Should a popcorn pig sit within earshot, we can always move far far away.

One of his favorite expressions to use when somebody makes loud mouth noises is, “Don’t you have any lips?” Just ask our granddollars. They look at him like he has two heads every time he says it. I laugh.

Popcorn noises don’t bother me in movies, but stinky perfume sure does! Nothing can ruin a movie or any other experience for me faster than the smell of strong perfume nearby. There are only a few scents that don’t make me sick to my stomach. We had a real stinker in the theater today! I almost gagged a few times. Why do people think others want the sickening smell of perfume in their noses? It can really ruin things for me. Sir C hates it too, just not quite as much as smacking.

So there you have it! Our hot buttons in a nutshell. I am sure I have pushed a few hot buttons too in this blog but those hot buttons belong to others and are of no concern to me J.

Now, if I could just stop writing form instead of from <sigh>.

Posted by: jility | March 4, 2013

…And Hitler Was a Tweeker

adolf-hitler-joke-4_681576c-8x6

This time the subject for this DABAD agility blogging day is “Internationalization.” To read all the blogs on this subject, visit:

http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/internationalization/

The following is my interpretation of “Internationalization.”

England gave us The Beattles and bangers, but most importantly, AGILITY (THANK YOU ENGLAND!!!)

France gave us the Statue of Liberty, the guillotine and Napoleon.

Canada gave us hockey, curling and the Mckenzie Brothers.

Italy gave us pizza, the Lamborghini, and Mussolini.

China gave us silk, pasta and TOTALLY AWESOME takeout food.

Finland gave us the sauna.

Germany gave us Beethoven, Mercedes and Bratwurst.

Spain gave us bullfighting, tapas and Antonio Banderas.

And Austria gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger and Adolph Hitler.

Now, depending on your point of view, you may hate or love the things listed above. One person’s elixir may be another’s poison. I happen to think the Lamborghini is the coolest car ever made. I would have loved to own one in my lifetime, but, alas, I am now too old and, thanks to dog agility, too poor. I am sure Sir Cussalot would love to drive one, but the last thing I want to see is my 75 year old husband driving 110 miles per hour in a Lamborghini  on a twisty mountainous road! Some things are best left to the young and/or professionals.

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Just because something comes from a foreign country, it is not by definition a good thing! Some things that come to us from other countries are awesome, while other things not so much.

How many times did one of your parents ask that age old question: “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, should you?”

jumping_bridge

When was the last time you heard an Olympic hurdler or steeplechase runner whine because the courses were not challenging enough? They go around in a mindless circle leaping over the same jumps in the same way, yet you never hear them complain about the courses being too easy. They run harder and try to set new records, win a medal or beat their personal best!

Not too long ago I was talking to my friend Uncle Jef, star of Jef’s Guide to Dog Agility, about this subject. He brought up some great points.

  1. If the runners started complaining that the courses were boring and not worth running, perhaps the Olympic committee could spice things up by putting alligators in the water jumps or making them take the backside of jumps.
  2. Or maybe they could have people positioned around the track with bows and arrows shooting at the runners. That would make it more challenging.
  3. They could have cars driving on the courses in a figure eight pattern so the runners had to LITERALLY run for their lives.

alligator hurdler

So would all those things make track and field more interesting and challenging or just more dangerous? The gold might go to the bravest runner rather than the fastest.

For many dogs, back sides of jumps, super tight turn after super tight turn and other International challenges, are just plain demotivating. I know I find them demotivating! There are some dogs that just don’t have what it takes to keep going in the face of physically demanding challenges seen on some of the International courses. I am a pretty dang good dog motivator, but trying to get my 25 1/2 “ standard Poodle to wrap jump after jump after jump from the front or the back side would just take its toll on her very large body and very fragile mind. Her agility career would be over before it started.  These tight and demanding courses favor a smaller and more nimble type of dog, like a Border Collie and not everyone wants to own or run a Border Collie

Our little Border Collie, Crush, would do those tight maneuvers all day long and never quit or even slow down. If the courses continue to go in the direction they have, the only dogs we will see in agility are Border Collies and other highly motivated breeds. Just go to any USDAA trial and watch the 22” and 26” classes. Count the number of breeds seen that are not Border Collies.

Now, before you yell at me that there are plenty of “off” breeds that excel in USDAA, I will tell you that yes, we had a standard Poodle who, in her prime, could whoop the best of them of any breed! She was one of a kind. Dogs like that don’t come along every day and we were blessed to have such a dog. My point is that these freak dogs are few and far between. It is like racing an Appaloosa against a Thoroughbred. Pretty soon, people get sick of beating their heads against the wall and either get themselves a Thoroughbred or quit the sport.

AKC is my organization of choice. I don’t want to go to a different organization to get my agility fix. As the courses get more and more International-like in design, I am finding it more and more difficult to physically get through them. Those of us who are handicapped and can’t run, or if we run an off breed that is not gifted in the drive department, will eventually get so frustrated, agility will lose its luster for us.

I love the courses just the way they are now in AKC. My husband, the infamous Sir Cussalot, prefers USDAA. I have no interest in it. He prefers more of a challenge than I do. Even at 75 years old, he is pretty darn athletic and a billion times faster and better handler than I am. I am a pretty good dog trainer, but I really don’t want to train any harder than I already do. I am too old, too fat and too lazy.

Hopefully, AKC will start running that Excellent C class for the “bees” and the “wannabees.” They can then put all the marksmen, cars and alligators they want on course and leave the rest of us to run the same “boring” courses we have come to know and love. We can then go for speed rather than turning our agility dogs into contortionists. Putting all those twists and turns into a course bleeds off speed. That leaves the door open to those who can run like the wind and lead their dogs around by the nose. Dogs on super tight courses don’t need to have the foot speed a wide open course requires, but they need to be able to turn on a dime, accelerate and decelerate easily. Neither my 25 ½” Poodle nor I can do that.

The other advantage to an Excellent C class is that I won’t have to listen to anyone complain that the courses are too easy and how they are just too cool to bother running them, or how I need to challenge myself more. I am SIXTY FREAKIN THREE YEARS OLD! I don’t have to challenge myself or my dog. I just want to go out there and have fun in AKC agility. For me, International courses are no fun at all. I find them tedious, boring and requiring much too much handler athleticism and speed. I grew up riding hunters,  jumpers and foxhunting. My favorite thing to do was to ride full speed over a steeplechase course. I much preferred that to a twisty jumper course. I feel the same about dog agility. I think having the dog be able to run full out over a jumper course is much more exhilarating than cranking the dog around jump after jump after jump. What I also hate are the LONG ass runs followed by a challenge that requires me to be there to handle. I just can’t! My polio riddled body just won’t allow that to happen, and I find those challenges just plain mean for those of us who can’t move.

Did you know that crystal meth was invented during WW II? Did you know that Adolph Hitler was injected with meth daily? Did you know that his officers and soldiers used it as well? Look it up! Read about how crazed those soldiers were. We all know that Hitler completely insane! It sure explains a lot don’t you think?

So what does Hitler being a tweeker have to do with internationalization? Well…

NOT EVERYTHING THAT COMES TO US FROM A FOREIGN COUNTRY IS NECESSARILY A GOOD THING!

Posted by: jility | February 4, 2013

You’re So Vain…

…You probably think this blog is about you, don’t you, don’t you…

The year was 1972. I was 22 years old and deeply into raising show dogs and horses. Carly Simon belted that song beautifully over the radio, and I sang along loudly as I drove. It was a great song! It was a great time! I was young, fit, lean, foolish and thought I had the world by the tail. Life was good. NO! LIFE WAS GREAT!

Now I am old, fat, out of shape, wiser and I ain’t got nuthin by the tail ‘cause I am too old and slow to catch any tail.

It is fun to be young and think you have all the answers. Hopefully, at some point we grow up and realize we don’t. That is when the learning really begins.

But I digress.

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed writing. During the prime of my life, however, I did very little writing. Things may have been different, had I not ever laid eyes on Sister Mary Rose.

Sister Mary Rose was the meanest, nastiest, most sadistic person I have ever known (with the possible exception of my mother). She could pick up and body slam the largest boys in the class with one hand. I witnessed her body slamming one of the more independent boys in my 7th grade class against the large old iron wall radiator more than once. She slammed and slammed and slammed him up against that radiator until she was satisfied that he had “learned his lesson.”

She once (or lots of times actually), pounded her closed fist against my back because, when she glanced over at me, I was looking down to my notes and not paying enough attention to her. I was sent to the first grade class with a bow around my hands for biting my fingernails. I had to stand there until I nearly wet my pants, not allowed to move from the front of the class while the first grade teacher went on about her teaching. I can’t count the number of times I had a ruler come down on my back or my hands.

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Life for a rebel like me was difficult in her classroom. I just never learned, and the angrier she got, the more I passively aggressively poked at her in any way I could.

Anyway, Sister Mary Rose did not foster creativity; at least not in me. I have no idea what she was like to the students she liked because I was too busy trying to survive and needle her at the same time. No matter what I did, she found fault. When I drew pictures, she made fun of them. She made fun of the way I drew trees. She made fun of the colors I chose when I drew. She made fun of pretty much everything I did in her class and publically belittled me every chance she got. I don’t remember one kind or encouraging word from that evil woman’s mouth for the entire seventh grade.

She changed the course of my life.

One assignment we had was to write a story about something we loved to do. I was excited! I loved to write. I wrote everything from silly rhyming poems to serious accounts of my life. I rarely shared them with anyone. I wrote because I loved it. I thought here was something I could do and maybe even please Sister Mary Rose!

So, unlike most of my life in school, I actually did my homework. I wrote a story about riding my horse. So my two favorite things came together; writing and riding. It was a slam dunk A+ in my book!

I handed in my paper on time (a rare event for me in school) and was excited to receive her feedback and my guaranteed A+ grade!

When Sister Mary Rose handed back those papers I smiled in anticipation of her approval for once! Can you imagine my shock when there was a huge red C- angrily written over the top of the paper? Red marks littered each page, criticizing everything I had written. Spelling was good, grammar was good, but, evidently, the content stunk. I looked up at her in disbelief and shock. Anyone who knows me knows that hiding my feelings is not my strong suit. She stared down crossly at me, her lips pursed as usual, then an evil, sadistic grin developed on her mean ass face as she proceeded to tell me that my story was a piece of crap. My words, but you get the drift.

That was the end of my writing for MANY years. Had she given me even a little encouragement, things might have gone differently in my life. From that day on, I was afraid to put myself out there for fear of being told I sucked. I spent many years avoiding something I loved to do because of my fear of failure, or of displeasing somebody. All this because of one nasty nun.

Fast forward to recent times.

When I first heard the word blog, I was confused. I had to ask several people to explain it to me. That sounds silly now, but it was a mystery to me then. According to Wikipedia, the term blog is a portmanteau of the term web log. The idea fascinated me.

So, when Sir Cussalot and I decided to go fulltime in the Global Warmer, family and friends encouraged me to write a blog about our travels. I thought it might be fun so I agreed to do so. My very first blogs were done on my Yahoo webpage. http://jility.com/Blog/index.html/

Then I switched over to Yahoo Pulse. I wrote some of my BEST blogs there, including my favorite blog of all-time, “Revenge of the Global Warmer.” Sadly, all those Pulse blogs are lost forever. They took down the site and with that went my blogs. They were also on my laptop, but I dropped that off a high bed and it gave up the ghost along with my blogs. So, those blogs are all gone. “Revenge of the Global Warmer” was the best thing I ever wrote, but I also lost all of my travel blogs from our cruise up the New England Coast. I wrote a lot about my memories of the stories my dad used to tell of his fishing trips along the Grand Banks and such places.

But, again, I digress.

Anyway, my blogs are my way of expressing my feelings. I don’t care if anyone else likes them. It is nice that some people do, but I write them for me. They are cathartic.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog titled “EWWWWWWWW GROSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” that struck a chord for some. A former friend of mine wrote to express her disapproval of my blog. She said that I should refrain from calling meat “flesh” and that the illustrations I used in that blog were typical of me: over the top and offensive. I suggested that perhaps she should stop reading my blog if she found them that offensive. She went on to say that my vegan beliefs were all over Facebook and she couldn’t avoid anything I wrote. I suggested she stop reading my Facebook page AND my blogs and went on to tell her that I wrote for me, not others, and that everyone has a delete button and the right to have their own blog with their own beliefs…

Well, she not only unfriended me on Facebook, she blocked me LOL. I guess that taught me to write my own blog the way I want!

Of the hundreds of blogs I have written, one has evoked more emotion than all the others combined. Which one? My last blog titled, “Who Died and Left You Boss?”

When I wrote that blog, I was getting something off my chest that had been bothering me for years. It was not about anyone in particular, it was just about my feelings and nothing more. Well, it seems I hit a few hot buttons, because I got responses from more than a few people who thought I had written the blog about THEM! LOL!!! LOL!!! LOL!!! How many times do I have to write LOL!!! for some people to get that I write my blogs for ME! They are MY blogs. I can write anything I want on MY blog! If you don’t like what I have to write, DON’T READ IT! Hit delete! BUT PLEASE DON’T WRITE TO ME DEMANDING I PRINT A RETRACTION! PRINT YOUR OWN DANG RETRACTION! ON YOUR OWN DANG BLOG! One person even had the audacity to suggest that everyone would think my blog was written about them so I better set the record straight! DEAR LORD! GET A GRIP ON YOUR EGO!!!! This person was not even on my radar when I wrote that blog! They are not somebody I EVER think about! I don’t even know them for the love of God!

Not only did I get emails telling me I had it all wrong, some people gave some very nice people, including Mel’s brother, a thumb’s down next to their comment! Mel’s brother only said he liked what I wrote! He doesn’t have a clue about OCD or wobblers or ETS! He is not even a dog person! I am flattered he reads my blog and enjoys it! Why would some A$$#0!E give these nice people thumbs down? If you hate what I write, tell me! Leave the nice people who take the time to comment on my blogs the hell alone! SHAME ON YOU AND YOUR OVERINFLATED EGOS!!!

We all have the right to our own opinions. That is why God created the blog. After I wrote “Who Died and Left You Boss” I felt like I was back in Sister Mary Rose’s classroom. Then I realized, it doesn’t matter what a few egomaniacs think of me or my writing! I don’t have to do what people tell me to do or write what people want me to write! I AM ALL “GROWED” UP!

Back in Sister Mary Rose's room

Back in Sister Mary Rose’s room

So, I will continue writing whatever pops into my head. To those of you who enjoy my blogs, thank you! Please continue to let me know. It really does mean a lot to me that you like what I write.

For those who hate me and/or my blogs, well, no accounting for anyone’s taste. J You can keep your nasty comments to yourself or post them on your own blog (which I won’t read because, as they say and write, what you think of me is none of my business).

PS. I think Sister Mary Rose came back from the dead to give me a low star rating 😉

Posted by: jility | January 25, 2013

Who Died and Left You Boss?

Self-righteous indignation is everywhere. It has been around since the beginning of man. It inspired the Scarlet Letter, the Salem witch hunts, stonings and so much more. I am guilty of it myself at times and I hate it.

You see it in politics, religion, eating choices, dog feeding choices, training methods and in agility handling choices! I even know somebody who refuses to sell puppies to people who use a certain handling system! Now, on a stupid scale of 1 – 10, that right there, is a 12 stupid!

Why do people feel the need to make choices for others? Why, do they verbally stone others if, in their self-righteous mind, think people are making wrong choices.

What constitutes a wrong choice?

Anything that is different than the self-righteous do-gooder feels should happen?

Does badmouthing and judging others make the self-righteous  feel superior? Is their own life so empty, they feel better about themselves when they bash others? Telling anyone who will listen how evil other people are must put the self-righteous on a pedestal in their own mind.

I believe that people have the right to make their own mistakes. If I am asked for an opinion, I will give it, but I try very hard to not judge others for their choices. We are all doing the best we can with the information we have.

If I see a friend going down what I see as the “wrong path,” it is none of my business. That is their choice in their life and nobody’s business but their own. What if this is not really a “wrong path?” What if, they actually know better than I do about their choice? HOLY COW! Is that possible? Can somebody who makes a choice with which I disagree actually be right? But wait! Wouldn’t that make me wrong? GOD FORBID!

Well, if the people making the “incorrect choice” don’t want to hear what the self-righteous have to say, the self-righteous always have the option to go to anyone who will hold still long enough to listen and bash the person making those choices. That is certainly an acceptable behavior in this world.

Anything that justifies and validates the self-righteous indignation is worth pursuing, right? That seems to be the method of choice for some.

One agility related example of this is ETS (early takeoff syndrome). It is a real condition seen in some agility dogs. It is thought that this condition is due to an eyesight issue. Nobody knows for sure. I hope someday they do know for sure. Perhaps then the current witch hunt that labels every dog that takes a misstep before, during or after a jump as having ETS, will stop.

Is it expected by some of these self-righteous do-gooders that all dogs even distantly related to an ETS dog be removed from the breeding pool? This type of shortsighted, uneducated and ignorant thinking nearly ruined the miniature Poodle before they had the DNA test for PRA. SO many Poodles were removed from the breeding pool because they were related to dogs that went blind. That was what the self-righteous wanted to happen, so breeders complied. Consequently, genes from MANY wonderful mini Poodles were lost forever due to a witch hunt. Once they finally developed that DNA test for PRA, it was too late for so many great dogs.

I used to think we should throw the baby out with the bath water. I no longer feel that way. There will always be health issues in every line of every breed. Obviously, we do the best we can with the information we have at the time. Many diseases are thought to be polygenic. Hip dysplasia is a good example of that. It is just not cut and dried and that makes breeding choices difficult at times.

When we were raising horses and Connemara ponies, we began to see contracted tendons and club feet in some of our Connemaras. It was heartbreaking! Our stallion was amazing, but he was producing these conditions in some of his offspring. Most were coming from the same farms; ours and one other. We didn’t know what to do. There were many offspring from other mares, born to other owners that were fine!

Then we produced a magnificent Thoroughbred. He was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. He was my dream horse! He would mature to be close to 17 hands and moved as beautifully as he looked. When he was about a year or so old, he began to move very oddly behind. Then I noticed his front legs swung out to the side as they went forward. Long story short, he was a wobbler. We loaded him up in the trailer and drove him to Oregon State University. He could barely walk by the time we got to that point. My heart was broken.

Dr. Pam Wagner was there at the time and she had worked with Dr. Barrie Grant at Washington State University. They developed a procedure that helped horses suffering from wobbler syndrome http://www.equinewobblers.com/about_us.html  so we felt very lucky to have access to such a brilliant veterinarian.

As they were unloading our horse carefully from the trailer, I looked around the stable. It was full of huge Warmbloods. I asked Dr. Wagner why the barn was full of Warmbloods. She went on to explain that she had a grant to study osteochondritis dissecans; a condition that was seen more often in Warmbloods than other breeds. I asked her why. She explained to me that their studies had shown that the major reason for OCD in the horses they were studying was diet. Mares that were fed a diet too high in protein produced foals much more prone to OCD. It also depended on how much the foals were worked before they matured. The light bulb went on in my head! I asked her about our wobbler and the club feet and contracted tendons our stallion was throwing. She explained that these conditions were most likely also caused by diet.

It all made sense! Why did this happen in some Connemaras and not others? This is a breed of pony that developed on scrub in Ireland. The ones that could live on air and gorse made it. The ones that required more nutrition didn’t. Then we brought the ponies to America and fed them up. In the West, we fed rich alfalfa, grain and supplements. It was a lethal combination for these “easy keepers.”

Once we got rid of the grain, supplements and alfalfa, we never had another club foot or contracted tendon. I was very lucky to find Dr. Wagner or we would have castrated a fabulous stallion because of our ignorance and fiinger pointing by the self-righteous busy bodies.

Someday, we will know exactly what causes every health issue we have in our dogs, horses and ourselves. For now, we must do the best we can with the information we have. If breeders get rid of everything suspicious, we will have nothing left. We must use common sense (or as I am learning, there is nothing common about good sense, so I think we should rename it UNcommon sense!) when breeding dogs. We can’t be irresponsible, obviously, but at the same time, we shouldn’t throw out great dogs because of something we know nothing about. Someday maybe we will have that definitive DNA test as they do for PRA and so many other diseases, but for now, we just have to do our best.

Those know-it-all, holier-than-thou, chest-thumping, self-righteous, A$$#0!E$ will continue their gossiping witch hunts with anyone who will listen. We will always have those people in our society. Sadly, it is human nature. We do have a choice. We don’t have to listen! Tell them to clean their own house before pointing fingers at others!

Breeding dogs is not for the faint of heart. Things go wrong. Issues come up. Owners get pissed. I am grateful to all breeders who step up, take responsibility and continue on, trying to produce the best dogs they can so those of us who want dogs will have a great source.

Oh, and that Thoroughbred had the surgery to insert the basket of bones in his neck. Recovery was a bitch, but he did recover. We rehomed him and he went on to have a successful career in dressage.

Posted by: jility | January 18, 2013

Friendship

If they measured friendship in dollars, I would be a trillionaire. In my life, I have been blessed to have the most wonderful friends. Some have come and gone quickly, some have stayed for a while, then drifted away, but many have stayed long term. Two such friends have stayed in my life for forty years.

It was the summer of ’73 as I recall. I was living in New Hampshire at the time, raising my son, Great Danes, Basset Hounds, Afghans and horses. I received a phone call from a young couple in California who wanted to breed to one of our Great Danes. They had been sent to us by their California breeder. Arrangements were made and they drove all the way across the Country, diagonally, in their Winnebago to breed their bitch to our harlequin Great Dane, BISS Am & Can Ch. Dinro’s Simon Templar.

BISS CH Dinro's Simon Templar

BISS CH Dinro’s Simon Templar

The minute I met Jane & Ernie, I liked them. We took them sightseeing and down to my hometown of Gloucester, Mass to eat pizza and to Essex for fried clams. As they were leaving to drive home to California, they said if you ever get to California, please come stay with us!

Well, the breeding to their bitch didn’t take, but the friendship did.

When it became obvious it was time for me to leave New Hampshire in the summer of 1974, my then three year old son, Trent, and I boarded a plane for Northern California. It was as far away from my life as I could go before I ran out of land. We had the clothes on our backs and a suitcase (that was all I could carry). We stayed with an older friend in the Petaluma or Sebastopol area (it is all a bit fuzzy now). All I remember is the summer fog rolled in about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and stayed until 2 o’clock in the afternoon the next day. It was so gloomy, it drove me mad! I lasted three days in that weather.

I asked the kind woman I was staying with to take me to the airport so I could fly south to see some other friends. She asked me if I had a place to go and, even though I had NO idea where I was going, I assured her I did. She dropped me off at the San Francisco airport and I went searching for the nearest phone booth. I called Jane & Ernie, whom I hadn’t talked to in over a year I think, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, this is Helen

Jane: (long pause while she tried to think who in the world I was).

Me: Helen with Simon. You drove back to New Hampshire to breed to him.

Jane: OH HELEN! YES! HI!

Me: (uncomfortable chuckle) Does your offer to come visit you still stand?

Jane: OF COURSE! When are you thinking of coming?

Me: Today?

Jane: (uncomfortable laugh on the other end of the phone)Where are you?

Me: At the San Francisco airport.

Jane: WHAT????

Me: Well, this is a bit embarrassing but…(I explained our situation briefly to Jane)

Jane: You are welcome to come and stay with us as long as you need to.

Me: Thank you. How do I get there?

Jane: You fly into the Orange County Airport (This was long before it was known as the John Wayne Airport) and we will pick you up.

Me: OK, I will let know when I get a ticket.

Trent and I went to the ticket counter and I bought a ticket to Orange County. Then we sat in the terminal for hours waiting for our flight to leave. While waiting, Trent picked some old, chewed gum from a chair and put in his mouth before I could stop him. I tried to explain to him that was not a good thing to do, but it fell on deaf ears.

Jane & Ernie met us at the airport. It was a tiny little strip mall type thing where you walked down the stairs from the plane and across the tarmac to the little terminal. My how things have changed. The current John Wayne Airport is quite large and the terminal is covered in travertine, granite and marble. It is quite spectacular these days.

Both teachers, Jane & Ernie had the summer off, so we spent many of our days lounging by their pool. I was blown away that most houses in their tract had pools. I had never seen a tract let alone so many swimming pools in a square mile!

Swimming pools galore!

Swimming pools galore!

Jane and Ernie were so good to us. Shortly after we arrived, Trent developed trench mouth from that old gum he found at the airport. Life was pretty horrible. He screamed much of the time, wet the bed every night (we shared a bed in their guest room) and had terrible nightmares. My breakup was very hard on him, but it was a LOT harder on Jane & Ernie I think!

Life was too easy for me. I made no effort to find myself a place to live, or to get anything that resembled a life. I had it made! All I did was clean up after their two dogs and they did everything else. How they put up with me for all those months is beyond me!

After about five months of mooching off my new friends, Jane said very nicely and kindly, “I think it is time for you to find your own place.” She was right, it was. So after looking high and low, I found a place in Agoura Hills, got my California driver’s license, borrowed some money from my brother to buy a van and off we went on our new adventure.

I often made the two hour trip down to Garden Grove to visit Jane & Ernie on weekends. They helped me find homes for many of the dogs I had in New Hampshire, but the best ones I gave to them.

Eventually, I met the breeder of their Great Danes who had sent them to us in New Hampshire. She was a self-proclaimed match maker.  She couldn’t stand anyone to be single. She kept trying to fix me up with guys. Sometimes I accepted, but most of the time I refused. There was this one guy she worked with, and electronic engineer, whom she said was perfect for me but “a little older.” She lied to me about his age, and lied to him about my age. She bugged us both so much that we finally gave in and agreed to go on a blind date, as long as the matchmaker and her husband went along too.

Well, that guy was Mel (Sir Cussalot to most of you) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mel hit it off with Jane and Ernie and the four of us were inseparable. We went everyplace together. We visited each other on weekends; either they came to our place in Simi Valley or we went to their place. We corrupted them and eventually they moved out to Norco (then mostly farm country) where they could have more dogs and some horses.

We laughed together, we ate together and we traveled together. Jane & Ernie have always been the kind of people around whom we could be ourselves. We never had to pretend we were nicer than we were, or more politically correct or anything else. They were true friends who allowed us to be us with no judgment. Everyone deserves friends like that, but not many are lucky enough to have them.

Eventually, Mel and I decided to move to Washington State where he was born. We wanted more room for horses and to get the kids out of Southern California. When we told Jane and Ernie we were moving, they said they were going to follow us. So, the four of us left our lives in So Cal behind and headed north to find room, peace and quiet, less traffic and eternal happiness.

Jane and Ernie settled in Curtis and we in Silver Creek about 45 minutes southeast. Over the years, we all got busy with our lives and drifted apart. I was very sad about that, but those things happen in life. Our multiple daily talks went to once a day, then every few days, then once a week and so on until we rarely had contact at all. They adopted two beautiful girls about four and nine, who kept them forever busy. We no longer could go anyplace because our nags kept us in chains. Jane would invite us to dinner, but we couldn’t leave the farm. Eventually, she stopped asking and I don’t blame her one single bit. Mel and I had turned into recluses.

When their oldest daughter was married, they invited us to the wedding and we were thrilled. Our lives had slowed down by then. We no longer had nags and we had sold our business. That wedding helped the four of us reconnect. It was as if nothing had changed.

Jane and Ernie retired from teaching and had plenty of time on their hands, and we were out of excuses to not leave the farm. Jane asked if we would consider going on a cruise with them. Mel didn’t say no, so we made arrangements to cruise out of Seattle to Alaska. We had a blast! There are very few people who “get” me, but Jane and Ernie always have. Ernie laughed at my stupid jokes, while Jane looked on in disgust. It was our shtick. Mel would chuckle with approval and even join in with the jokes. There are VERY few people around whom Mel feels comfortable enough to do that, but he was always comfortable enough around Jane and Ernie to be himself. If cornered, Mel will talk to somebody to be polite, but given a choice, he would rather not. There are few exceptions to that rule, but Jane and Ernie are two people around whom he feels safe enough to talk comfortably.

Ernie could always make Mel laugh

Ernie could always make Mel laugh

The Alaska cruise went over so well, we continued cruising.

Our Alaska cruise was a huge hit!

Our Alaska cruise was a huge hit!

At the end of our Alaska cruise

Jane and Ernie at the end of our Alaska cruise

We went up the New England Coast in the fall to Quebec City and around the Mediterranean. When we weren’t cruising, we were traveling by car or plane. We traveled to Crufts in England and then to Ireland.

The four of us in England

The four of us in England

We toured Washington DC and dragged Jane to a vegan eatery in a VERY bad section. Jane was convinced we were all goners that day. I don’t think she was far from the truth actually. It was a pretty scary place! We sure had some great laughs over it though. Poor Jane, we were always dragging her someplace she hated, like the racetrack in Tijuana Mexico, or some dumb ass movie with slapstick sophomoric humor, or some restaurant in the worst part of town. It always gave us something to laugh about later. And boy did we laugh.

On one of our many trips together, we stayed a few days at a friend’s cabin on the coast of Maine. The mosquitos were so thick, we would take turns sending one of us ahead to draw them away while the rest of us would make a break for it! If you opened your mouth during the sprint from the car to the cabin, you would swallow a hundred mosquitos in one gulp! Even though I grew up in New England, I never saw anything like it! We laughed so hard we cried.

For a while about ten years ago, Mel had a gig making cold cast bronze plaques for Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. It was a pretty good gig too. As the orders grew, Ernie, then retired, offered to help him every day. Mel accepted. I don’t think he would have accepted help from anybody else. Actually, I know he wouldn’t have. The only thing Ernie asked for in return was a vegan lunch. He refused to take any money at all.

The Disneyworld plaques

The Disneyworld plaques

So, Ernie drove 45 minutes each way, every day to help Mel for a lousy vegan lunch. I tried to be creative with what I prepared and he never complained (unlike some ungrateful grumpy old vegan man I know who seem to be getting picky with age ;). When the job was over (these jobs would come a batch at a time) we would surprise Ernie with a unique gift of some sort. No amount of money could ever repay him for all that work, but we wanted him to know how much we appreciated him and his friendship.

This year we were scheduled to take a cruise to Scandinavia. It was Ernie’s dream trip. About a week or so before we were scheduled to leave, it became clear the trip wasn’t going to happen. Ernie had been fighting lymphoma since 1997. They had given him two weeks to live back then, so he really beat the odds and I was sure he would again. He had to! I needed my partner in crime. Who else would laugh at my idiotic jokes the way he did? Who else was just as irreverent and absurd as I was? People like that are very hard to find in this world of political correctness.

Jane kept us updated, but it didn’t sound good. Even so, I knew Ernie would be fine. I just knew it! Surely, the Universe would not break up such an incredibly devoted couple! How could it be Jane and not Jane and Ernie? That just didn’t even sound right!

Then, this past Tuesday, January 15, 2013, just one month to the day short of his 68th birthday, our wonderful friend lost his battle with cancer.

My heart aches for my incredible friend Jane and her girls who lost their amazing dad. It also aches for Mel who lost his best friend and for me, who lost half of the greatest pair of friends anyone could ever want. I long for the day when I can stop crying.

I only hope that wherever Ernie is, the humor is tasteless, sick, twisted and irreverent; just the way he liked it.

Rest in peace my incredibly funny friend. I will miss you forever and a day.

Bad boy Ernie

My favorite photo of Ernie and how I will always remember him

My favorite photo of Ernie and how I will always remember him

Writing on the graffiti wall in Spain

Ernie writing on the graffiti wall in Spain

Want to know what he wrote?

This says it all

This says it all

2010-09-25_18-31-50_320

Posted by: jility | January 1, 2013

New Year Resolutions

Ever since I learned about New Year resolutions, I have made them. Every year is pretty much the same:

Eat better

Lose weight

Don’t be a big fat pig

Every year my resolution lasts a few minutes, a few days or, if I am lucky, a few weeks. They never last longer than that.

Every year I get fatter.

I hate being fat.

I love eating.

Clearly, eating is more rewarding to me than being lean.

I used to want to lose weight so I looked good in clothes and a bathing suit.

Now, at nearly 63, who gives a crap what I look like in clothes? And, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bathing suit, regardless of how much I weighed!

All my life I have dieted. I have changed my eating to be healthy. I went vegan more than 22 years ago. Being vegan doesn’t mean you get to eat whatever you want and maintain your girlish figure. Potato chips are vegan. Movie popcorn (my last horrific vice) is vegan…

I can take some wonderfully low fat vegan recipes and make them fattening. I do a great job of that if I do say so myself.

There have been times in my life that I was lean and fit and looked pretty dang good. I was skinny as a post when I met Sir Cussalot. I am 5’8” tall and I weighed 118 pounds then. That was during the time of Twiggy, so I was trying to get down 115! I ate about a half cup of food every other day (LITERALLY!). I looked like a starving Ethiopian! Sir C made the mistake of telling me I was too thin! HA! That’ll learn him!

Here I am with my son, Trent. I actually was thin once or twice in my life!

Here I am with my son, Trent. I actually was thin once or twice in my life!

I did find advantages to being fat when I was younger:

  1. Men didn’t hit on me.
  2. I was no threat to my sisters.
  3. Women didn’t get jealous of  me.
  4. I could talk to anyone’s significant other with no chance or worry from their other half.
  5. I didn’t spend a lot of money on clothes because I didn’t want the horror of looking at the size on the tag.

With the exception of number 5, not one of those things matters anymore at my age. Nobody wants to hit on a wrinkled old woman even if she is lean and fit (well, with the exception of a certain AKC agility judge perhaps, so I guess there is still THAT advantage of staying fat).

So, this year is going to be different.

Instead of making my yearly resolution to lose weight, I am going to make a resolution to get as fat as I possibly can. I plan to answer Sir C’s question, “Just how fat do you plan on getting?” I figure, since I break all my other resolutions, maybe I will break this one too!

FAT CHANCE!

My money is on this resolution being the only one I have ever kept.

Starting off my New Year resolution in style, I made a vegan version of Claire’s fudge. Claire Papows lived next door to us when we were kids. I adored her and she took great care of us. She actually talked to me! She treated me like a person worthy of being alive. That was a rare thing in my childhood. I loved hanging out with Claire. She was a kind and loving saint in my book.

Claire Papows and me. She made me feel worthy of being alive.

Claire Papows and me. She made me feel worthy of being alive.

So, this is for you Saint Claire, wherever you are (I am sure, however, you are in a heavenly place where all your most wonderful dreams are a reality). Thank you for always listening to me and always treating me as if I mattered.

Claire’s Fudge

1 2/3 cup Evaporated milk (not sweetened)

2 Tbl Butter

4 1/2 cups Sugar

2 cups Semi-sweet Chocolate chips

3 Bars Baker’s German sweet chocolate

1 jar Marshmallow Fluff

2 cups Chopped walnuts

dash of salt

1. Combine sugar, butter, milk & salt in saucepan.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 6 minutes.

3. place chocolate in a double boiler and melt, being careful not to burn it or let water spit into it.

4. Place Marshmallow & nuts in a large bowl.

5. Add melted chocolate & sugar mixture and stir till well mixed.

  1. Pour into a greased pan (13 x 9) and chill. Store in the refrigerator!

My vegan version for maximum weight gain:

Vegan Claire’s fudge

3 bags Semi-sweet Chocolate chips (vegan)

1 cup Silk coconut milk creamer

4 1/2 cups raw sugar

2 Tbl Earth Balance margarine

1 tsp vanilla

1 jar vegan marshmallow fluff (10 oz) Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

pinch of salt

1. Place chocolate in a double boiler and melt over medium heat. Stir often and do not allow water to spit into the chocolate.

2. Mix sugar, milk & salt together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 6 minutes.

3. Add marshmallow fluff and stir well to melt. Continue simmering for another minute.

4. Mix sugar mixture & melted chocolate in a large bowl. Blend well with a hand mixer until creamy. Sir in nuts with a spoon if using.

5. Pour fudge into a greased (I used Earth Balance) 13″ x 9″ baking dish and cool.

6. Refrigerate until chilled. Keep refrigerated so the fudge stays hard.

Happy New Year everyone!

P.S. If your New Year resolution is to learn more about your dog’s structure, come join my 5 week online structure class, What’s Your Angle, in Daisy Peel’s classroom. Registration opens tomorrow.

We have great discussions, learn lots about the dogs and have some fun too!

Check it out: http://classroom.daisypeel.com/online-class-signup/whats-your-angle/

Angle-Covers

Posted by: jility | December 30, 2012

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 30,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted by: jility | December 27, 2012

Political Humor or Offensive Rubbish?

When I was a kid, I was addicted to political humor, especially the satirical type. Mark Russell was/is one of my favorites. One of my favorite things to listen to as a young girl, was the hysterically funny album named “The First Family” (yes, an actual record album made of vinyl. That was long before iPods, DVDs or the internet).

I was 12 years old at the time “The First Family” record was released. You really need to understand the times then to find it as funny as I did. I listened to that album over and over again. I laughed as hard each time I listened to it. It didn’t matter if you were a Republican or a Democrat, it was funny.

You see, back then, you could make fun of a political party or politician and, for the most part, not be chastised or condemned. The times were lighter, and there was no such thing as political correctness.

In our home, my mother was a Democrat and my father was a Republican. He always said that if the Republican Party was good enough for Abraham Lincoln, it was good enough for him. There weren’t many political discussions in our home, so I didn’t grow up to be very political.

Republicans were quite different back in the 1950s and 1960s than they are today. Back then, one of the biggest concerns of Republicans was that the new Democratic Catholic President, JFK, would bring his church views into the office and Republicans were very concerned about the separation of church and state. My how things have flip flopped in that regard!

Anyway, back then we could tell jokes on just about any subject and people laughed. It didn’t matter who was the brunt of the joke, if it was funny, we laughed. Nowadays, you must be very careful who hears or reads your political jokes! Some of the people don’t find political humor very humorous at all! It depends on which side your political bread is buttered I guess or how seriously you take yourself and/or your political affiliation.

Since I don’t take much of anything very seriously, nothing is sacred in my book. I try to surround myself with people who feel the same way. I have neither the time nor the energy to deal with people who take politics, religion or any else too seriously. Life is just too dang short and, in the big scheme of things, WHO GIVES A CRAP? A million years from now, the world won’t care about some dumb ass joke I posted on Facebook, or some irreverent thing I said about a politician or a religion or anything else.

I believe that everyone has the right to their beliefs! I admire people who stand up for their beliefs, but I also expect to be able to express my humor and my beliefs without fallout from those on the other side of the buttered political bread. I don’t force my beliefs on anyone (or at least I try hard not to!). I try hard to allow my friends and my family to think how they think and believe in what they believe without judgment or reprimands from me. Their beliefs are just that: their beliefs! They don’t have to be my beliefs! I don’t have to agree with them, but I have no right to try to change them or think less of them for their beliefs, even if I think they are a dumbass for said beliefs.

I post things on Facebook that I find funny. I am sure that many people don’t find them as humorous as I do, but if it makes me laugh, I might post it for others to enjoy. On several occasions, OK, on quite a few occasions, I have been chastised for some things I posted that I thought were hysterical.
One such joke I took down because, after reading what the offended person wrote, I thought, yeah, maybe it might be offensive to some, so I caved and removed the joke.

I honestly don’t care one single bit about anyone else’s political or religious beliefs and I expect the same in return. Even though I was raised Catholic and attended eight torturous years of Catholic school (coincidently named Saint Mel’s Day School!) I now spend many of my Sundays worshipping at the Church of the Holy Rear Cross. Many other agility folks have converted to The Church of the Holy Blind Cross, but there are still quite a few who continue to worship at The Church of the Holy Front Cross. Disagreements as to which agility church holds the true key to happiness can get just as heated as political or other religious arguments.

The bottom line is: What difference does it make, where we worship, which crosses we use, what we eat, feed our dogs or laugh at.

When I posted what I thought was an hysterical cartoon of the “Homo-slackass Erectus” on FB, I never even bothered to read past the name of the newly discovered species. I didn’t even realize it contained political humor (or horror as some pointed out). I guess poking fun at the current administration is off limits for some. Sorry, but NO Politician is off limits to me, regardless of their Party affiliation.

So, just in case some of you may have missed that cartoon, here it is again. Now, remember, I didn’t write it! I just appreciated the humor enough to post it.

PLEASE, if you are offended, don’t bother to write to me. Do some digging and find the extremely clever person who wrote this masterpiece. I am sure they would love to hear from you regarding how politically incorrect it is.

Homo SLackass Erectus

Posted by: jility | December 19, 2012

The Blondest of Blondes

A friend recently suggested we purchase a Nayoya Acupressure Mat for back and neck pain.

The Pad of Pain

The Pad of Pain

I originally purchased the mat for Sir Cussalot because he suffers from horrible back and neck pain. He took one look at it and said, “You lie on that F#@K!N@ piece of S#!T!!! Did you feel it?” I went on to explain that our friend said it worked for her and that if he really wanted to feel better, he should at least give it a try. I went on and on making, in my opinion, a very convincing argument.

Eventually, he gave in to shut me up and prepared to lie on the mat of torture. He disrobed, placed the mat on the bed and slowly lowered himself down on the masochistic mat’s sharp little shark teeth. Well, he lived up to his nickname and then some that day! He cussed in tongues so loudly, neighbors a mile away could hear him. I laughed and called him a big fat baby.

Sharp little shark teeth

Sharp little shark teeth

Then I tried it myself to see what all the hollering was about.

Well, it seems this lovely little torture device works because it hurts so freaking much when you lie on it, you forget your back and/or neck hurts from other things! I tried, I really did, but Sir Cussalot was correct in his evaluation of this horrible pad of pain.

We both decided that living with our back pain was better than lying on that thing, but Sir C did find a good use for it! Every day, the dogs would get on our bed, dig back the bed spread, blankets and top sheet, then root around on his pillow until they found just the right spot on which to roll around and shed fur, mud and dander. He laughed an evil laugh as he tossed the menacing mat onto his pillow. It worked! Well, with the exception of one dog.

Barque, as blonde as they come (literally and figuratively) likes to lie in Sir C’s place. One day, Sir C went into the bedroom for something and I heard him laughing his a$$ off as he returned to the front room of the Global Warmer.

“Poor Barque,” he said through his laughter, “Not much in her head.”

He went on to describe Barque as she lay there with her head on the torture mat. Every once in a while she would jerk up her head from the mat as if she was saying, “OUCH! MY HEAD HURTS!” then she would lay her head back down on the prickly pad only to jerk up her head again in a few seconds, “OUCH! MY HEAD HURTS!” This went on over and over and over.

Sir C said I really needed to go take a look. I did. He was correct. I watched in awe as she continued this routine over and over and over, never once realizing that she could ease her pain by moving.

Not much in that head.

Poor Barque.

Continuing along those lines, all blondes do not necessarily have light hair. I was incredibly blonde today but, when I was much younger, had very dark brown hair.

My new nosework class was supposed to start at 3:15. Last week I attended the 4:15 class. I had planned to leave the GW at 1:30 to allow plenty of time to get there in case of LA traffic. Somehow, my incredibly fogged up brain decided that I didn’t need to leave until 2:30 because that was the time I left last week. I never gave it another thought. UNTIL, that is, I was about three quarters of the way there. I glanced at my GPS to see what time I would arrive. The screen read 3:54.

“WHAT?????” I screamed out loud! I need to be there at 3:15! How did that happen? Then it hit me! I was supposed to leave at 1:30 NOT 2:30! CRAP! I hoped they would let me in the next class. They did J.

I put my K9 Magic tripe treats in my bait bag, slug it over my shoulder and went inside to watch some of the dogs work. I kept smelling something foul. At first I thought it was one of the older women in the class. Perhaps she had a problem. Then I smelled it when she wasn’t there. I began to wonder if it was a natural gas leak. I mentioned this to one of the instructors. She said she didn’t smell anything. Then I asked the other instructor. She didn’t smell it either. She suggested that perhaps it was somebody’s treats.

BINGO! I had a couple cups of cow S#!T slung over my shoulder. DUH! No wonder that stink was following me around! I bet all the other people in the class were thinking I was the one with the problem. Talk about blonde!

Those young instructors must think that old woman wearing the ridiculous Poodle coat is a real moron. And they would be correct.

Barque has nothing on me. OUCH! MY HEAD HURTS!

Posted by: jility | December 13, 2012

A Pact with the Devil

The idea of making a pact with the devil is as old as the devil himself. We have all seen the stories on the screen and read about them in books. The scenarios are all pretty much the same:

Person down on their luck or looking for something wonderful in their life.

Devil shows up and offers them love, peace, happiness, success, companionship, wealth or whatever that person thinks they need at the time.

Everything goes great until the devil comes to collect.

That is where the fun stops and the person goes through hell (literally).

Having dogs in our lives is very similar. They give us many years, although not enough years, of pure unconditional love and devotion. No matter what we look like or how much of a jerk we might be, our dogs adore us anyway. It just doesn’t get any better than that! They don’t try to change us or judge us; they just accept us for who we are flaws and all. There could not have been a more perfect creature designed.

I have always thought that dogs were one of the greatest gifts from God. If that were the case, however, it wouldn’t be so painful when we lose them would it? We have years of perfect love, and then, when the time comes to pay the devil, we go through hell and then some.

Yesterday, we lost our beloved feral dog, Miss Millie Angel. It is difficult to type through the tears. She has been part of our lives for twelve years. I thought she would be part of our lives for another 12 years at least. OK, maybe not that long, but I never thought she would be the first to leave our current pack. Not so long ago, I wrote a blog about Millie. She taught me more about dogs than all the other dogs that have graced my life put together. Here is a link to that blog if you want to know more about her.

https://jility.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/living-with-a-feral-dog/

About a month and a half ago, Millie began to throw up bile in the morning. After three days of that, we took her in to see the vet. Blood work was normal. Then her eating began to deteriorate.

After many trips to vets and a specialist, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of stomach cancer. When it became clear that she was in great pain and there was nothing more we could do for her, we let her go. It was the most difficult and heart wrenching decision we have ever had to make.

I buried my tear soaked face in her soft fur. She kissed my face and I said good-bye.

I have cried so much over the past week I don’t think there is any fluid left in my body.

Even though the pain from losing her is overwhelming, it won’t stop me from making another pact with You-know-who when the time comes for another four legged friend.

I would give just about anything to hear Millie bark just once more.

Hug your dogs and cherish every day with them.

table

Posted by: jility | December 5, 2012

There’s No Place Like Home

The subject for today’s Dog Agility Blog Event is Backyard Training.

About 6 ½ years ago, we decided to make some major changes in our lives.  We gave our Washington home to our son and his family, sold our California home and bought an RV with the money from that sale. We moved into the RV (or as we call her, The Global Warmer) full time. We only had seven dogs then. Now we have nine.

For the first five years, we traveled extensively across North America going from trial to trial. We bought four fold up jumps and stuck them underneath the Global Warmer with great intentions. We never took them out of the box until this summer when we gave them to a friend. Our plan was to take these four jumps to a park to train during our travels. That never happened.

We found that the only way we practiced while on the road was to find an agility field to rent. We did that by checking Clean Run as well as some other websites. We were pretty lucky to find some great places to train along the way.

Home base was still Washington. Our house, built by Sir Cussalot, sat on 55 acres, so there were lots of places to set up the GW for the summer and fall. We have our own agility field full of equipment while there, so training is only hampered by the amount of excuses I can find.

WA agility

Our Washington agility field

When in Southern California, we park at Sir C’s daughter’s place. There the girls have about 2 ½ acres to run. A lot less than Washington, but 2 ½ acres is Ponderosa sized for California. So we also have our own equipment on which to train while we enjoy the Southern California sunshine all winter and spring.

Out Temecula resting place for the winter

Out Temecula resting place for the winter

So, why am I even writing this blog about limited backyard training? I have no clue at all! I really have nothing of value to write, but since this is Blog Action Day, I felt I must write something.

I can tell you that my friend/instructor, Stacy Winkler of Vista, California, has done a video on using three jumps to perfect your dog’s understanding and your handling. Hopefully, this video will be released soon. It is fabulous for people who have limited space for training, or even for those who have acres and acres!

If you would like more information on this video, drop me a note and I will let you know when it becomes available. You can find my email on my website www.recipetowin.com

Happy backyard training!

Posted by: jility | November 22, 2012

Thank God for Tofu Skin!

People often ask me why, if I am so against eating animals, do I eat food that looks and tastes like animals.

My answer?

BECAUSE I LIKE IT!

Sir Cussalot and I didn’t give up eating animal products because we didn’t like the taste. We gave up eating animal products because we felt it was healthier for us. Eventually, we realized it was also healthier for the planet, and that was a nice side effect.

One of the things I loved to eat most when I ate meat was turkey skin. I could have stripped a 30 pounder of its skin in one instant and still wanted more and, as Sir Cussalot just pointed out to me, have done so on several occasions much to his dismay! I LOVED turkey skin! I also loved the stuffing and the white meat. I wasn’t so crazy about the dark meat. I found it gamey.

GIMME SOME SKIN!

Nearly forty years ago (38 to be exact), Sir C turned me on to chestnuts in the stuffing. Now I am addicted to them. Sadly, peeling them takes hours and I no longer feel like doing it, nor does Sir C. So, instead I buy dehydrated or cooked in a jar. I prefer the dehydrated over the jar but this year they seem to be having THE GREAT CHESTNUT FAMINE!

I thought I had bags and bags of the wonderful creatures, but alas, they were nowhere to be found. Sir C searched high and low for them in the trailer, shop and the Global Warmer to no avail. I too searched; same results.  <Insert major sigh here>

So this year, we will have to use chestnuts from a jar. <Insert even bigger sigh here> OH THE HUMANITY!

I did find some good looking organic fresh chestnuts and almost bought them, but Sir C discouraged it. Next time I won’t listen and will take the time to roast and peel the real thing!

But I digress.

I used to buy Tofurkey or the Un-turkey (which I much preferred to Tofurkey), but Tofurkey sold out and got dumbed down to crap and the Un-turkey went out of business much to my chagrin. Why did I prefer the Un-turkey?

SKIN BABY SKIN!

Now, before Tofurkey sold out, they too had wonderful vegan skin, but the Un-turkey skin was out of this world! How do they make vegan turkey skin you might be asking?

Soy beans!

In my more ambitious vegan years, I made my own tofu, just so I could make tofu skin. I honestly don’t think there is anything on the planet that tastes better than fresh sautéed tofu skin. http://asiansupper.com/theslurp/soybean-series-making-yuba-or-tofu-skin

I am told they make tofu skin in huge drums on the streets in Asian cities.

Experiencing that is something to put on my bucket list along with seeing Bermuda, New Zealand, Australia and the Shetland Islands.

When the Un-turkey people went belly up and Tofurkey sold out and lost its skin, I thought Thanksgiving would never be the same. Then, when all seemed lost, I found it! EUREKA! I hit the MUTHA LODE!

One World Vegetarian Cuisine makes an incredible vegan bird complete with that delicate, delicious skin I crave! Their stuffing is also quite good, even if it is sans chestnuts.   I just put the chestnuts in my gravy and that fills the bill just fine for me! They used to make little drumsticks and attach them to the side of the vegan bird, but they got complaints that it made the turkey look too real. GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK! Some people are just idiots.

One World Vegan Turkey

Here is a better looking one that they cooked instead of me!

One World Vegan Turkey

I did tell them I miss the little legs and they said I could request them and they would make them just for me! It pays to be nice to people in this world J. Next time I order vegan birds, I will take them up on it! I usually get several at a whack.

Thanks to my friend Stacy, I recently discovered Vege USA. They also make a vegan bird with stuffing and skin. I have yet to try it, but plan to take a trip up to Monrovia and buy a couple for Christmas. I will report back once we have given it the taste test. It too has little fake legs.

Vege USA Vegan Turkey

So, this year I am grateful to all the people who have turned vegan. It is a good thing to do for ourselves and for the planet.

God bless TOFU SKIN!

PS. A couple of years ago I wrote another blog about Thanksgiving and turkies. Here is the link in case you want more.

https://jility.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/ewwwwwwww-gross/

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

It has been my experience that the most difficult things for most people to see when evaluating dogs are the angles. Growing up with horses and dogs, I learned early on how to see angles and what they mean to the performance of the animal.

When I was sixteen years old, I spent a summer in Ireland at a school dedicated to riding and learning how to evaluate horses and ponies for performance. It was an amazing experience to say the least! We rode jumpers, broke youngsters and attended shows and horse fairs where horses and ponies were bought, sold and traded.

Horses and ponies line the streets of the villages during a horse fair

The horse fairs were incredible! I remember my first horse fair like it happened yesterday (well, that is not saying much, since these days I can barely remember five minutes ago!). As we approached the small village where the fair was held, we passed the Tinker wagons lined up one after another on both sides of the country road; the horses that pulled the wagons grazed unattached near their Gypsy families. The wagons were domed on the top and highly decorated inside and out.

Tinker wagons lined the road leading to the horse fairs

They were pulled by the Tinker “Harses” as the Irish called them back then. I guess to be politically correct, the Tinkers are now called “Travellers.” Anyway, most of the Travellers’ horses were spotted, but regardless of color, their horses were beautiful!   It was there that I saw the most magnificent Knabstrup horses for the first time.

Knabstrup horse

Here is a little history of the Irish Travellers: http://www.ehow.com/facts_7444162_history-irish-traveller-tinker-gypsy.html

Before we were turned loose at the horse fair, we were told to go out and find what we thought was the best jumper prospect and report back. The instructor, a world class show jumper rider, would then listen to our reasoning and tell us why we were right or wrong. Horses, ponies and donkeys filled the village streets. It was obvious that some were being ridden for the very first time. Others had been brought to town tied to tractors or wagons. It was like a puzzle we had to solve; find the horse or pony we liked best, and be prepared to defend our choice. It was like finding the best fish in a school of thousands!

It was like trying to find the perfect fish in a school of thousands!

I loved that part of the riding school most and equine structure became a HUGE part of my life that summer. I guess you could say that summer in Ireland shaped my life and planted the seed in my head that good conformation was incredibly important for performance, soundness and longevity in our equine or canine sport of choice.

Here I am, forty-six years later, still obsessed with structure. The difference is, however, I now concentrate on canine structure rather than equine structure, but my passion remains. I love talking about structure to anyone who is interested. I learn something new every day and hope I continue learning for the next forty-six years!

When I wrote my first book on structure, “Picking Your Performance Puppy,” I figured that would be the end of it. I was wrong. I realized after the fact that I needed to share my method on how to see angles. What had become second nature for me seems difficult for many. When I try to explain what I see in a dog, many look at me like I have two heads. It dawned on me that it is very difficult for people to learn how to train their eye to see the angles in dogs or horses. I know it certainly was for me in the beginning! It took years for it to become second nature.

So, I thought about what I do when I look at a dog to see the angles. From that came my “Six Steps to 20/20 Canine Angle Vision” process. This six step process allows anyone to learn to see the angles in dogs. Once they have mastered that, then it is time to learn why the angles are important and how they affect performance.

The first part of my new book, “What’s Your Angle,” takes the reader on a journey through the six step process and teaches them how to develop their eye for angles. The second part of the book is dedicated to explaining what the angles mean to performance.

I am so excited about this book and the awesome illustrations and cartoons by Robert M. Henry and so many photographs taken by so many talented people! I hope whoever reads this new book will be as excited about it as I am!

http://recipetowin.com/whats-your-angle

Posted by: jility | October 9, 2012

Just Like New and Poor Bambi’s Gone

It was very dark when I pulled into our driveway Sunday night after the seminar. The two hour drive home seemed never-ending. All the way along the thirteen mile stretch of Highway 12 from I-5 to our road, I kept thinking how horrible it would be if a deer ran out in front of me and I hit it. They come out of nowhere at night and freeze (hence the expression, “deer in the headlights”). Well, I didn’t want the actual deer to be in my actual headlights, so I used my high beams whenever possible and was on the lookout for those telltale shiny eyes by the side of the road.

I hate driving at night! I don’t see well in the dark, and I am so afraid of hitting a deer, elk or some other four legged creature. I obsessed about the deer all the way home. As I turned into our driveway, relieved I had not come in contact with that dreaded deer or elk, I saw it; a poor little deer, not even a year old, lying dead on the side of our driveway. Poor little Bambi. Well, at least I had not killed her myself, but dead is dead. Had I manifested her with my twenty minute meditation of dear deer? If I am that good, I need to start manifesting some great things! 🙂

Pankies and I pulled in tired but ready to face the hoard of canines awaiting our return. Pankies and her sister greeted each other with their typical growls and accusations of their mother wearing army boots. Silly really, ‘cause they have the same mother.

Whenever I go away without Sir Cussalot, he nests. It is one reason I love going away! When I come home, he has fixed or made something I have tried to get him to do for years. He is kinda like that bird that builds shit to attract a mate. It is called the “bowerbird,” here is a link http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/bowerbirds.html

This was no different. Since he was going to go in for back surgery the next day, Sir C decided to make a set of stairs for me so I wouldn’t break my neck trying to get Xoom out of the Global Warmer to potty. We are supposed to carry her down stairs, but at thirty something pounds, NO WAY was I going to risk falling down the GW stairs with her in my arms! Poor thing would be flatter than a pancake if that happened!

Anyway, while I was gone Sir C made this “beautiful” entry for me from spare parts. He used the stairs he made for me to train contacts, added some scraps of wood from our pig pile of crap, attached a lovely railing made of PVC, placed an x-pen on the other side so Xoom wouldn’t spin and fall off, and finally, he added the pièce de résistance; a “lovely” porch light to show us the way. I think this masterpiece belongs in House and Garden magazine!

Sir Bowerbird’s lovely front porch

It was dark when I got home Sunday night and still dark when we got up to get ready for Sir C’s big day in the hospital. He was scheduled for surgery at 10:45 but had to be there by 8:45. I was hoping for a miracle that would have removed poor dead Bambi in the night. No such luck; the little lifeless body remained undisturbed, right where it had been the night before.

As we drove down the road, Sir C at the wheel, I called the “Animal Control” guy. Turns out, if a deer dies on your property, the homeowner is responsible for its removal! CRAP! Some A$$H0!E kills Bambi and we have to pay to remove the carcass!

“How much?” I ask

“$150.”

“WHAT???” I reply incredulously.

I continued telling “Jack” what a rip off it all was and how I should have drug Bambi back into the street so the county had to get her…

“Whatever, come get her!” I finally said.

After I hung up, my daughter-in-law, Joey, sent me a text telling me there was a dear deer in the driveway. I texted back and told her I knew, and that somebody was coming to get her that evening. Then I wrote, “150!!!”

Joey wrote back, “YOU SOLD IT?”

OK, I laughed about that off and on all day long. I am still laughing as I write this. I needed a good laugh. When I told her that I had to pay them to remove it, she said she would ask the “rednecks” who go into the place where she works if any of them wanted to come get Bambi for dinner.

Sadly, no takers. I guess hunters are picky about how long a deer is dead before it is gutted. Something about poisons or some other lame excuse. Too bad Sir C and I are squeamish about such things or the dogs could have enjoyed some venison for their dinner!

We arrived at the hospital about 8:30. There was a waiting room full of people, but not a one waiting to check in. They checked in Sir C, placed his croak bracelet on his wrist and told us to have a seat. He kept telling me to go home and stay with the dogs, but I wanted to stay with him. It was an hour and a half drive home and not really worth it to drive all the way back, just to turn around and drive back down to pick him up after surgery.

We waited only a few minutes before somebody else came over to let us know what would happen next. No sooner did she leave when somebody else came over and took us back to the pre-op area. Turned out that Dr. Le was running AHEAD of schedule and Sir C would be next to go under the knife! How often have you heard of a doctor running an hour early???

They had Sir C dress into the lovely gown, placed an IV into his vein, took his blood pressure, listened to his heart and lungs and placed a lovely cap on his head. There were two nurses doting over him and making sure I knew what was going to happen.

Nothing is sacred with me

Then the surgeon came in and spoke to us! I told him to make Sir C twenty-four again. Shortly after that, the anesthesiologist came in to talk to us! I have never seen a hospital so efficiently run and so informative! They were INCREDIBLE! If you ever need a great place to get sick hot foot is to Peace Health SW Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington! (I know Carol, too may exclamation points!!! 😉

As they wheeled Sir C off to the operating room, I was worried, but felt certain that he was in great hands!

Take good care of my BAAAAABY….

I walked down to the car and took the two ailing Border Collies potty. Xoom and I went for a walk around the buildings, while Crushie cried for Sir C. She was very upset that I had come back but he had not. She cried and cried for him while scanning the surrounding area for a glimpse of him. The sun was moving higher in the sky, so I moved the no longer shaded Stinkmobile to the underground parking lot. Then I walked back to the waiting room with my new dog training book, “Behavior Adjustment Training” by Grisha Stewart, M.A.,CPDT-KA (I am still stoked about the seminar I attended this past weekend but that is for another blog).

The surgery was scheduled to last two hours, but it only took an hour and a half. The nurses and volunteers, kept me posted the entire time. I couldn’t believe it! When I had my knee surgery, they left Sir C sitting in the waiting room for three hours after they were finished! Nobody ever told him I lived, or got him or anything! The surgeon left for a convention the second he was done with my knee, and poor Sir C sat waiting for an eternity! Finally, I asked somebody to go find him. It took a while, but they finally did. Now that was a poorly run place if ever there was one (but I wrote all about that in a blog four and a half years ago).

The surgeon came out to talk with me in the waiting room. He said, “Well, will thirty do?” I looked up at him, scrunched my eyebrows and cocked my head. “Well,” he said, “You told me to make him twenty-four. The best I could do was thirty!” He reamed out his backbone to make room for the nerves. Sir C should be painfree and runin again in no time.

They took me back to the recovery room. There lay Sir C, groggy as hell, but alive J. I had told them all not to croak him because I couldn’t drive the Global Warmer and I was too old and too fat to find somebody else who would put up with me. I was grateful life would go on as usual (well, once Sir C was healed enough for me to not have to do all the chores by myself).

They wheeled him down to the Stinkmobile, Crushie screamed with joy at the sight of her “Grampa!” Xoom screamed for the sake of hearing herself. Groggy and drugged, Sir C dragged himself into the car and off we went.

Back surgery at 10 in the morning – home at 2 in the afternoon! Pretty amazing! Xoom stayed in the vet hospital for 5 days for a similar surgery!

Thanks to everyone whrote asking how he was doing. We really appreciated the concern and support. It has been a rough couple of months in the King household.

So life goes on. Sir C is recovering along with Crushie and Xoom Xoom. He says he’s “Just like new.”

CALGON! TAKE ME AWAY!

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

 

Posted by: jility | September 26, 2012

Do You Believe in Miracles?

When they found the tumor on Crush’s right shoulder, we were scared to death. We held our breath waiting for the return of the biopsy results. We were told it was most probably cancer. We could hardly breathe. Crushie’s friend and vet, Dr. Kathy Wendt, was in Texas attending continuing education, so Dr. Uhler took great care of us and Crushie through that very trying time. Throughout the process, Kathy continued to tell me she didn’t believe it was cancer. It was Crushie and she could never get cancer! Our friend Uncle Jef said the same thing. Kathy felt it was due to an injury of some kind. We hoped she was correct, but when the biopsy came back, our hearts sank.

Here is the report:

SOURCE: Firm mass within caudal aspect of right triceps muscle DESCRIPTION/MICROSCOPIC FINDINGS/COMMENTS:

DESCRIPTION: The slides contain a small amount of peripheral blood as well as a moderate number of mesenchymal cells. These cells have oval to elliptical nuclei with prominent nucleoli. Cytoplasm is variable with some circumferential and some polar. The cells are present singly and in variably sized clusters. No infectious agents are seen. There is no evidence of inflammation. MICROSCOPIC FINDINGS: PROBABLE SPINDLE CELL TUMOR. COMMENTS: Granulation tissue formation, fibrosis/fibroplasia, and spindle cell tumors may all appear similar cytologically and should be included in the list of differentials. This group of tumors include nerve sheath tumor, hemangiopericytoma, among others. These tumors are all locally aggressive and commonly recur after surgical excision. However, metastasis is rare. Other more aggressive mesenchymal tumors such asfibrosarcoma, liposarcoma, lymphangiosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma should also be considered. Biopsy or complete surgical excision with histopathologic evaluation is recommended for a definitive diagnosis and accurate prognosis.

Scary stuff!

The surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled immediately, and it went well. Dr. Uhler said he thought he got it all, but that it had invaded the triceps muscle so he had to remove some of that muscle along with the tumor. The mass was sent in to the lab. Once again, we held our breath. It seemed like an eternity before the report came back. When it finally came in, it wasn’t good. Our hearts sank as we wondered what would happen to our Little Red Rocket.

Here is the report:

CLINICAL INFORMATION: Mass removed from right triceps muscle. Previous cytologySEBC03210057 (08/30/2012) – PROBABLE SPINDLE CELL TUMOR.

SOURCE: Right triceps muscle. Received a 2 X 3 cm tissue.

DESCRIPTION/MICROSCOPIC FINDINGS/COMMENTS:

DESCRIPTION: This is a mass type lesion involving fascia and skeletal muscle. It is moderately infiltrative into skeletal muscle and there is mild fibroatrophy along the parameter of the mass. The mass is composed of fairly dense intersecting streams, fascicle and bundles of spindle to fusiform shaped cells. They are accompanied by fairly abundant dense fibrous stroma. The cells have fibrillar osinophiliccytoplasm or poorly defined margins.

The nuclei are ovoid shaped, with moderate pleomorphism. They are slightly vesicular. Mitoses are fairly uncommon, at 1 per 3 high power fields. There are few neocapillaries and minimal nonsuppurative inflammation within the mass.

MICROSCOPIC FINDINGS: UNDIFFERENTIATED SPINDLE CELL SARCOMA, STRONGLY SUSPECT, INFILTRATING SKELETAL MUSCLE.

PROGNOSIS: Potentially guarded.

COMMENTS: Very difficult biopsy in attempting to distinguish markedly proplastic and reactive

granulation tissue from an area of injury to skeletal muscle, thus representing reparative highly cellular scar tissue, from possibility of a spindle cell sarcoma. In some areas the mass appears as granulation tissue with mild inflammation whereas in other areas it has the appearance of a spindle cell tumor. I suspect this is a lowgrade fibrosing nerve sheath tumor, infiltrating skeletal muscle. It does appear completely excised, though some margins of excision are very narrow at 1-2 mm. Watch the site for possibility of local recurrence.

Even scarier stuff!

 Mel & I cried together for our little Fwushie. If we lost her at such a young age, we would feel so robbed. Sure, she has her quirks and is difficult to live with, but she is our little nut job, and we adore her! Life would go on, but we would always wonder if the tumor would come back or if it would spread. Nobody knew for sure.

We had so many questions and so few answers. How did she get cancer? Why did she get cancer? Was it something we did? Could we have prevented it from happening? Nobody had answers.

Kathy continued to tell me she didn’t believe it was cancer. She asked how I would feel if she sent the mass to a pathologist she really respected. I said, “SURE!” Then I forgot about it. I figured the report would come back telling us what we already knew.

Today, when we were at rehab with the redheads, I got a call from Kathy. I knew she was at the USDAA National Agility Championships, so it must be important. I stepped outside the rehab room to talk.

“I HAVE GREAT NEWS!” Kathy explained that she had gotten the results back and it was not good news, it was GREAT news! The new report found no evidence of cancer!

WHAT???? How could that be? How was that possible? It was just as Kathy has originally suspected: an old injury that had thickened into a tumor like mass. It explained why she had been slowing down for the past couple of years, but IT WASN’T CANCER!

HOLY CRAP!!!

Here is the report:

So, in the pile of dung under which we have been living lately, there is a shaft of light and hope! Our Little Red Rocket may never be the same in agility as she was two years ago, but she DOESN’T HAVE CANCER! I am convinced all those prayers and well wishes did the trick. SOMEBODY was listening J.

Little Xoom continues to recover. Her gait is stilted and wobbly, but her spirits are high and getting higher by the day. She would love nothing more than to take off running and body slam Barque. The leash prevents that (much to her dismay).

Now, if you will all focus your positive energy and good thoughts on Xoom, Mel and his back… 🙂

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

 

Posted by: jility | September 26, 2012

ALL Puns Intended

Sir Cussalot walked into the Global Warmer and announced, “The poop bags are almost gone and I can’t find any more!”

Normally, that wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most, but with nine large dogs, it could spell disaster. Not only that, but these are not you ordinary s$!tty poop bags! These are the best poop bags on the planet! We should know; we are poop bag aficionados! The worst part of this world class disaster is that there is no name on the bag and we had no clue where we bought them! All my info went down with the ship when my computer crashed last spring. I had no way of knowing where these little blue gems originated!

Last night I spent three hours on the computer looking for blue poop bags. All I could find were those useless small rolls. Not only are there about three bags to a roll, they are next to impossible to open, and more often than not, your finger might poke through to the disgusting contents within! I searched and searched to no avail. I found black bags and white bags and yellow bags. I even found bags that came in designer colors, but no super duper pooper scooper blue bags that come on a roll of 200 and never allow human contact with its crappy captives.

All I could remember was that I bought them from a website with a name that had nothing to do with poop or scooping it.

It all started six years ago. Sir C and I were on one of our cross-country trips in the GW. I believe this was actually our very first big abenture in the GW. Sir C was driving the GW and I was driving the Extortion because we had our little utility trailer with us. The plan was to drop it off in Texas at Sir C’s daughter’s place where we were delivery some family furniture to her. We decided to take a different route home, so the trailer had to go with us. We were the Global Warmers x 2 on that trip! We hauled that damn trailer from Washington to California to Texas to Indiana to Canada to Massachusetts to Florida back up to Minnesota back down to Tennessee up to Maryland and then home via Nebraska. GEESH! I am tired just thinking about that trip!

Anyway, our friend Uncle Jef talked us into driving 1,000 miles (each way!) out of our way to support him and his great dog, Voucher, at the World team Try Outs. He needed a place to escape and somebody to cook vegan food for him. He got us in a weak moment and we agreed to do it. I wonder if he appreciated that we did that. NAH, what are friends for?

But, as usual, I digress.

We found a campground that accepted multiple dogs (we only had six back then) and made the drive up to Minnesota; Sir C in the GW, and me in the Stinkmobile pulling the trailer. It was a very nice campground and we had no trouble fitting all our vehicles into one space. Quite remarkable when you think about it!

The campground was very dog friendly. It was there that we were turned on to the “World’s Best Poop Bags.” I knew the minute I slipped my hand into the silky but tough bag, I could never go back to the other crappy brands we had been using. It was like finding the rarest gem of all! There was no way a finger could ever poke through one of those bags! They were just the right size, didn’t stink like perfume, easy to open, easy to tie shut or open again if the need arose and best of all, TOUGH!

I asked Sir C to go to the office and ask them where they got these incredible things. He refused. “I’m not going to go ask them where they get their F#@K!^G POOP BAGS! If you want to know so bad, YOU go ask them.”

So I did. This was not something I could let slip through my fingers, so to speak.

We placed our first order, and it was waiting for us when we finally returned home a month or so later. We guarded the source so we would never forget where we got them! Over the years, we reordered more. Once we made the mistake of ordering their cheaper bags. That was a horrific mistake! Oh the humanity! FLIMSY POOP BAGS! They were half the thickness and not much better than regular bags. Our blue gems were 1 mil thick! Those cheap pieces of S#!T were only .56 mil thick! Only the best for our girls’ poop!

We normally ordered the bags by the case. That gave us 2,000 bags per order. That will scoop a lot of poop! We use a metal scooper at home so that stretches those 2,000 bags out pretty dang well.

I knew the minute Sir C told me there were only a few more bags that we were in trouble! I knew that there would be no record of where we bought them or how to get more! I panicked! There I sat for hours; searching the internet for some hint of what these illusive bags were and from whence they came. NOTHING! All was lost.

Then I got the idea that I could call the RV park where we first discovered the rare blue gems to find out what they were! BRILLIANT! Oh oh. I couldn’t remember the name of the RV park either. Knowing that his brain is even less retentive than mine, I still took a chance and asked Sir C if he had clue what the name of that RV park might be. “ARE YOU KIDDING?” that was all he needed to say. Now I KNEW all was lost.

The first thing I had to do was figure out the name of the park, so I brought up Google maps and searched for RV parks and campgrounds near Hopkins, MN. NOTHING sounded familiar. I spent hours searching. I went to dogfriendly.com and other RV listings. NOTHING! IT STUNK!

I went to bed a very old and sad blue poop bagless lady.

In the early morning, Sir C and I packed up the two little red headed BCs and headed south to Vancouver. Mel had a doctor’s appointment for his back and the girls were going to see Robin Pellitier for some rehab work. Robin is only 4 miles from Sir C’s back doctor. While he was being told whether or not he needs surgery, I went online to do some more searching for the elusive blue bags.

I searched first for blue bags. Then I searched for 1,000 bags, then other dumb ass crap that turned up nothing. I needed the scoop on those bags! I sent Uncle Jef a text. “Do you remember the name of the RV park…” He replied promptly, “No.” OK, dead end there. “Do you remember which year it was?” my plan was to see if I had a blog someplace that might give me a hint. “No clue.” CRAP!

I tried one last search for RV parks near Hopkins, MN. A name popped up that sounded very familiar, “Town and Country RV Park.” Could it be???? NO S#!T? I scrolled in to take a closer look and lost it. When I scrolled out it was gone! No harm, I did an online search for “Town and Country RV Park” and found a phone number!

“Hello, Town and Country RV Park.”

“Hi, I have a very strange question.”

“OK,” she replied and let out an uncomfortable giggle.

“Are you the RV park that has those amazing blue poop bags?”

“YES!!!! We are! They are called ‘Poops Away!’”

“I LOVE YOU!!!!!”

More uncomfortable giggles. What she didn’t realize was that I MEANT IT!

She proceeded to give me the name and phone number for the manufacturer. Leisuremore Corp! I knew it didn’t sound like it had anything to do with poop bags! There is nothing leisurely about picking up crap from NINE FREAKING DOGS!

I placed my order for 2,000 of the heavy duty ain’t nuthin scapin from dem bags poop bags. The will arrive next week.

All is well in the world.

Oh, except that Sir C is having back surgery on October 8th.

Ain’t that just the S#!t$?

http://www.leisuremore.com/PageBags01.html

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | September 22, 2012

Rehab

Today was the second time in the underwater treadmill for Crush and Xoom. Xoom thought it was the box of death last time. This time, however, she was much less frightened. No towel was needed on the floor to get her to step inside. She is petrified of white floors (the hospital that did her surgery has white floors). I have no idea why those floors scared her, but they did and she generalized that fear. She could have slipped or it could have to do with her heavy duty drugs ;).

Crushie started crying as we pulled into the parking lot of Sumner Vet Hospital. She loves swimming and doing her rehab. She dragged me to the door, and put her front feet on the counter to tell them to hurry up and take her to her work. She is going stir crazy not having a job to do, or jolly balls to push around. Crushie did a mile and a half in the water treadmill today and even trotted for some of it. She thinks her rehab is great fun/work and that is what life is all about for Little Miss Overachiever.

Xoom, on the other hand, is typical of the younger generation. She expects everything in life to be free and fun and, for the most part, for her it is. I saw a glimmer of Border Collie work ethic a few times today. Crushie didn’t come with work ethic either. She learned to love her work. Xoom’s seemed to kick in today for the first time. Perhaps it is because she no longer is in pain every time she tries to do something!

Ken, their rehab specialist at Sumner, put peanut butter on the door of the tank and Xoom thought that was pretty dang saweeet! Luckily, her food drive is so high, it can overcome any fear she might have. Xoom walked for about ten minutes on the treadmill. It was awesome to watch her working!

We forgot our camera today, so I had to take the videos with my phone. They are shaky and not very clear, but you can see how Xoom is starting to really enjoy the work. She bit at the water a few times. I know a certain tall, redheaded uncle of hers with the initials of Voucher Blake who was nearly lost down the river because he was so preoccupied biting at the water as it splashed from his front feet! I hope Xoom learns not to do that in her treadmill sessions.

After their rehab session, we took the girls down the street to the Mud Bay Granary. They got to pick out some goodies, and we even bought some frozen beef knuckle bones for them. Xoom has never had one. For the first five months of her life, she was unable to really chew anything. Now she is making up for lost chew time. She is insane to chew! She thought that knuckle bone was the best thing that has ever happened to her.

It was quite the day for our two little red heads. Even Crushie slept some on the way home. Xoom chewed on her bone until she passed out about an hour into the two hour trip. When we got home, they taunted the other girls through the fence yelling, “SMELL OUR BREATH SUCKAS! WE GOT STUFF AND YOU DIDN’T!”

SMELL OUR BREATH SUCKAS!

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

 

Posted by: jility | September 20, 2012

Just Treading Water

Things have been a bit crazy around here. Between trying to keep Xoom quiet and entertained, Crushie up on all her rehab, and rally and nosework classes with Pankies, there isn’t much time for things like writing. My brain is fried and full. Well, it has been fried for a long time, but now it is so full, I am forgetting things like my nosework class and other things I love to do. It is amazing how stress will cause all intelligence to vacate one’s brain. And to top it all off, on Monday I start a structure class I am teaching in Daisy Peel’s Online Classroom. I think my brain is going to explode out of my head and fly around the Global Warmer like an exhaling balloon.Mel has been great about doing the rehab work on the girls. Xoom is still very wobbly and crossing over a lot in her front legs. I have no idea how long that will continue or if it will ever get better. Only time will tell. She is incredibly enthusiastic to be released from her fabric prison. I did a good job of teaching her how to explode from the crate when given the OK. Mel has to catch her by her little harness handle before she can make a break for it! Mel doesn’t trust me to release her or carry her down the stairs. He says my reaction time is much too slow. He is correct.

Today Mel loaded the CD of Xoom’s MRI into the computer. It was shocking to see the compression of her vertebra, and mind boggling to think about how she managed to get around at all! Look just below her brain. It looks like an hour glass!

You can see where the spinal cord is compressed!

We waited with great anticipation for the lab results on the bone that was removed from Xoom’s C1 vertebra. Just when we thought our worry level couldn’t get higher, it was suggested by a few well-meaning people that Xoom’s condition sounded like chondrosarcoma. Well, I am so happy to report it was not! Here is the report:

GREAT news! We will keep our fingers crossed that is doesn’t grow back.

Mel made a little video of their first rehab session at Sumner Vet. Crushie LOVES her rehab exercises and is a pro in the underwater treadmill. Xoom thinks it is the box of death. When she was watching Crushie tread in the water, she was shouting obscenities that is was her turn (yes, Sir Cussalot’s language rubbed off on her). Once she was faced with the box of death, her tune changed. She too will earn to like it in time.

Crush doesn’t know there is anything wrong with her. She is the lucky one who gets to run and play and do fun things.

Xoom, on the other hand, is miserable. She is confined to her crate and only allowed to walk on a leash for many weeks. It is going to be tough. She is enjoying all her chew things. Up until her surgery, she never chewed on anything. I always thought that was odd.  Now she is making up for lost time. It really must have hurt her to chew.

We are going back up to Sumner on Saturday for more physical therapy on both girls, and then we head south next week for yet more. We will try to get them both in twice a week for some work and do whatever we can at home to help them progress.

Crushie and the Community Pup send their ever grateful love to all.

Dear Lord, Please make little Xoom and me all better soon.

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | September 18, 2012

Xoom (aka PayPal – The Community Puppy)

Last night Xoom came home. When they brought her into the exam room, she was underwhelmed to see us. We were not going up to see her for fear she would get too excited. HUH! She acted like we beat her daily. She went right to the bed they had in the corner and wouldn’t leave it. We called and coaxed to no avail.

I went over to her but she had no interest in me at all. She wanted the tech more. It was so sad! The tech gave me some treats and I fed her. She liked that, but as soon as the treats were gone, she lost interest in me. In my defense, she was stoned out of her mind on tramadol and a muscle relaxer. For all I know she could have been seeing us with two heads. I hate tramadol! They put me on it when I had my knee put back together. I saw some weird S#!T when I was on that stuff! I took it a few times until I hallucinated, then I never took it again! I can only imagine what kind of hallucination poor little Xoom has!

After getting all the instructions and paying them more money (not necessarily in that order), we carried Xoom outside to the car. She happily went potty, barked at the tramadol phantoms across the street and then was lifted into her crate for the long ride home.

Once home, Mel carried Xoom into the Global Warmer. The dogs all looked at her and said in unison, “HEY! I WE THOUGHT YOU TOOK THAT RUNT AWAY FOR GOOD! WHAT GIVES?” Millie sniffed her a bit and the others ignored her altogether. Their attitude was CRAP! SHE’S BAAAAAACK!

Xoom ate like the piglet she is, got her drugs and fell fast asleep. For the first time in ages, she slept through the night. I think she was just so uncomfortable before, that she was restless. Either that or the drugs knocked her out. Mel got up in the middle of the night to let out MeMe (a normal nightly occurrence) but not a peep from Xoom (not a normal nightly occurrence). She was quiet as a mouse. Normally, she barks to get out of her crate and demands to be freed. She waited patiently until Mel took her out about 6:30.

We did her exercises after breakfast and again in the afternoon. She loves going out for her potty breaks but is no longer demanding like she was before her weeklong stay in the hospital. We must be careful on her walks, because she wants to jump up and run. When she saw our granddaughter, Sicily, last night, I thought she was going to jump out of her skin with joy! We expected the same greeting, but all we got was the cold shoulder.

Here is the MOST remarkable thing I have noticed since Xoom’s surgery. We have always given her things on which to chew. We tried everything from rawhide (I know –I know) to bully sticks to beef tendons. She would take them with great gusto, mouth them a little, then never touch them again. I found it so odd. Here was a puppy with an incredible love for food, but she wouldn’t chew anything we gave her. Now she is chewing on those same things like there is no tomorrow! They said that boney growth stuff was right next to her brain stem! I bet the chewing action made her head hurt! It must have made the spine compress even more and hurt like crazy. She has chewed nonstop all afternoon!

Here is a little video Mel did of her this afternoon. She would love nothing more than for me to remove the leash and let her rip. She is restricted to that leash for 8 to 12 weeks! It is not going to be easy once she is off the drugs and she wakes up more! She is very wobbly still.

Tomorrow she goes to rehab for the first time. Crushie will go with her. The family that rehabs together…

Xoom is finally starting to show affection for us again and that makes me feel a lot betterJ. I adore her so much. We were pretty tight before all this happened, so I am glad things are returning to normal.

Thanks again to the many incredibly generous people who contributed to the Crushie & Xoom fund! Thanks to your generosity, both girls are going to get the rehab they need! I will be driving them 2 hours each way to the underwater treadmill once or twice a week, and in the other direction about the same distance for more rehab. I will post lots of photos and videos when possible.

Please continue sending good thoughts their way :)!

PS! As I was uploading this blog, one of the neurologists from SVS called me to say they had the results back from the lab on the bone material they removed from Xoom’s neck. IT IS JUST NORMAL BONE! YEAH!!!! It is NOT cancer as some suggested it might be. It is just bone that grew in the wrong place. Let’s hope it doesn’t decide to grow back! Mel & I needed some more good news! :))) THAT MADE ME FEEL LIKE DANCIN…!!!

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | September 16, 2012

Gratitude

Origin:
1400–50; late Middle English < Medieval Latin grātitūdin- (stem of grātitūdō ) thankfulness, equivalent to grāt ( us ) pleasing + -i- -i- + -tūdin- -tude
Related forms

o·ver·grat·i·tude, noun

un·grat·i·tude, noun

Synonyms
thanks, thankfulness, appreciation, gratefulness.

For the most part, my life is an open book. There are, however, a few things that are off limits to all but my closest friends and those I trust to keep what I tell them in a vault until told otherwise. The more painful and personal, the less I like to talk about it. There have been more of those times than I like to think about in the past twenty or so years.

When Crush was diagnosed with cancer, I debated whether or not to share the news. It took me about a week to make that decision. I finally decided to share because I thought it might help others who are, or will be, going through the same thing. I also thought it might give others the push they need to really dig for answers when they know in their heart that something is wrong with their dog; even when they are told otherwise.

As if the blow of being told that Crush had cancer weren’t enough, the Universe chose to send us a puppy born with a mutation that caused her to have a defective C1 vertebra. That condition would eventually lead to paralysis. Even though undetected cancer was taking its toll on Crush for the past couple of years, it took a lot longer for Crush’s tumor to grow large enough to be palpated. It took about five months for Xoom’s weird boney mutation to close down on her spine enough to cause paralysis. All of this bad news hit us in a matter of days. Mel & I have been through a lot worse in our 38 years together, but this has hit us pretty hard. When we got the news about Xoom, I thought long and hard for a few days, whether or not to write about it. In the end, I thought her story might be helpful, so I chose to share the details.

Not only were we devastated emotionally, it hit us pretty dang hard financially as well. We knew trying to fix these two girls was the right thing to do, but it wouldn’t be easy. One surgery is bad enough, but two was overwhelming. When we got the email last Friday that Suzanne Wesley had set up a donation page on Fundrazr, we were blown away! The support and generosity from the agility community and beyond, has been mind boggling. I have been brought to tears of gratitude on several occasions.

When I read the comments on Funrazr, Facebook and my blog, I am overcome by the warm and fuzzies and the outpouring of support from some of the most amazing people on the planet!

Nancy Kemna, Lisa Kaufman and Toni Cramer have gone multiple times to feed, stroke and kiss little Xoom. I LOVE the photos, videos and reports they so kindly send to us. We decided not to make the eight hour round trip to see Xoom because they are trying to keep her calm. We fear she will get too excited to see us and too agitated when we leave. My favorite report is the one about how she rolls over and lifts her rear leg for a tummy rub when anyone gets with half a mile of her pen. I SO miss kissing her freckled nose and soft tummy.

Both girls are on the mend and doing very well indeed! Crush has begun her physical therapy and Xoom gets to come home tomorrow. Things are looking up. We will cherish every single day we have with these very special girls.

Ready for action! BATGIRL!

Sometimes a word by itself is just not enough. I have been accused of using too many exclamation points, adjectives and adverbs in my writing and in my everyday speech. I am told that, with overuse, it can diminish the point I am trying to make. It is who I am. I wear most of my emotions on my sleeve, and need a lot of words to describe how I feel.

My lovely, but recently departed neighbor whom I adored, used to share some of the very clever word combos her then young granddaughter would use to express herself. Some are universal to most youngsters, but some were unique to that clever girl. One of my favorite word combos was “versited.” Coincidently, I have heard my own young granddaughter use the same word combo. When you think about it, word combos make perfect sense. “Versited” originates from “very” and “excited.” It saves time and really slams home the spirit of how the person is feeling.

Think about how young children feel on Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa to deliver all of their wildest dreams. As a young child, that feeling started for me about a week before Christmas (which feels like a few years when you are five or six years old). Feelings of excitement and anticipation built as that very special (“vercial”) day of all days drew near. By the time Christmas Eve arrived, that feeling was much more than just simple excitement! I was MORE than excited! I was more than VERY excited! I guess you could say I was VERSITED! Just saying VERSITED feels like more than just saying “very excited.” Say it out loud, “VERSITED!!!” Now, if you are even more than versited, you can be “VERY VERSITED!” That might describe Crushie as she is getting ready to go in the ring at an agility trial, or a small child as they descend the stairs towards the Christmas tree on that special morning.

Versited!

VERY VERSITED!!!

There are also grownup word combos. Some might not be appropriate to use here (I am not sure why, because that has never stopped me before). Those would be the kind made up by Sir Cussalot. The first word might start with the sixth letter of the alphabet. You can use that word in many different situations. It can be a noun, a verb, an adjective and, for most of Sir C’s purposes, an adverb. It might be a “FUTIFUL DAY” or you might have a “FUBULOUS RUN” at a trial or, if you have two dogs going through horrible health issues and a brilliant community rallies around to make you feel like the most special people on the planet, in Sir C speak, you might feel incredibly “FURATEFUL!”

We have tried to personally thank everyone who contributed to the vet bill fund and sent well wishes to Crush and Xoom. There have been quite a few anonymous contributors as well, so those we would like to thank here. I hope you all know just how VERY GRATEFUL we are (or “VERATEFUL”)!  We are also VERATEFUL to Mary Van Warmer for putting the bug in Stacy Winkler’s ear, who set the ball rolling, and to Suzanne Wesley for setting up the fund. You can be assured
that every penny will go to Crush & Xoom’s vet and rehab bills.

We now refer to Xoom as “The Community Puppy” and have jokingly threatened to change her name to PayPal ;). Just when things seemed so dark for us, our community of friends have made us feel so warm and loved. You all (I guess since I am combining, that should read Y’ALL) have no idea just how much you picked up our spirits with your show of support. I have read every single comment on the Funrazr site over and over again. Those comments have lifted my spirits and renewed my faith in the human race.

Saying thank you just isn’t enough. To tell you we are grateful just isn’t enough. We are incredibly FUVERATEFUL to ALL of you FUCREDIBLE people!!!

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | September 13, 2012

Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events

If somebody had told me that Crushie having surgery to remove a cancerous growth would not be the worst thing that would happen to our dogs this month, I might not have believed it.

What tumor? I need to RUN BABY!

About a month ago, we were visiting a friend up in Sequim, Washington. We stayed a week and brought all nine dogs. Of course having the Global Warmer makes visiting easier because we stay in our own space (if you can call living in an RV with nine dogs space). The dogs were running outside having a great time. I glanced to my right just in time to see little Xoom go tumbling down the hill. When she landed, she screamed and screamed and screamed. She just lay there motionless; screaming. It was sickening and heart wrenching.

Mel and our friend went running down the hill. Xoom stood, but the bloodcurdling screaming continued. It didn’t look as though anything was broken, so they brought her up the hill. She was very wobbly but continued screaming. It was horrible.

It was Sunday evening so our friend scrambled to find us a vet in town. She finally found one who agreed to come in to the office to see Xoom. We carried her inside in the crate because walking was too painful for her. She continued to scream off and on but it had lessened. The vet x-rayed her from her neck to her tail. She thought she had a separation in her pelvis, but I kept saying it was in her neck. She moved her neck around very carefully. She did get some reaction, but she said it wasn’t enough to indicate a broken neck.

We left with painkillers, anti-inflammatory pills and a very sore little puppy.

Xoom improved every day. The radiology report said her pelvis was normal. It seemed she just had bumps and bruises that needed time to heal. We took her to see the veterinarian chiropractor for good measure. He said she felt like she had been in a train wreck, and basically she had.

Things went very well for about two weeks. We were at an agility trial in Auburn and I took Xoom and Crushie out to the field to run. Xoom was about back to normal and she wouldn’t dare body slam Crush like she did the Poodles for fear of retaliation from the red headed monster. I figured we were safe. They ran for a while and had a great time. Then I called them to go back to the GW. As we made our way towards the bus, Xoom went down again. She landed directly on her head and flipped a$$ over teakettle. She screamed and screamed. Mel came running out of the GW, as did our friend who was parked next to us. Xoom lay there motionless. She looked like a newborn fawn lying in the grass. It looked to me as though she had stepped in a hole and gone down.

By the time I reached her, she was trying to stand, again looking much like a fawn trying to take its first steps. Once on her feet, I could see that her left front leg was limp and just sickeningly hanging there with toes curled under. She was clearly paralyzed in that leg. I scooped her up in my arms and carried her back to the RV.

She remained paralyzed in that leg for about an hour. She slowly came around. We took her to Sumner Vet but by then she seemed fine. I asked them to do more x-rays anyway. I felt strongly it was in her neck or head. I said she was having trouble eating her chicken necks and wings. They took the x-rays and two radiologists said she looked fine. You couldn’t see anything on them at all.

We went home thinking we were morons for allowing this little puppy to fall twice in two weeks. Two more weeks went by and she seemed to be OK. We had her adjusted again, and he felt she was a lot better.

This past Monday we were walking all the dogs in our orchard. Xoom took off running after the dogs. She ran about 200 feet, screamed and went down again. We watched helplessly as she rolled over and over. It seemed like it was happening in slow motion. When we reached her, Millie was standing over her keeping the other dogs away. That was odd because Millie has never liked this puppy from day one, and Millie loves all puppies. She has raised all of our dogs from puppyhood, but has shunned this one from the start. None of our dogs really cared for her. They all tried to drive her away as if they knew something about her we didn’t.

Once again, Xoom lay motionless in the grass. She tried to stand but couldn’t. Mel & I both were thinking out loud about what idiots we were for letting her run. Mel picked her up and carried her limp little body back to the GW. Her soulful brown eyes pleaded for help.

We placed her down on the floor but she couldn’t move. We put her in the car and started up to Sumner. They sent us to Seattle Veterinary Specialists in Kirkland where they have a neurologist and an MRI.

We explained her problem to a few different people. Finally, a young vet came in for the initial exam. We explained Xoom’s story once again from the beginning. She was very thorough and asked us all kinds of questions like, “Could she have gotten into poison?”

“No, she fell.”

“Is she ever outside by herself to get into a dead animal?”

“No, she fell.”

“Do you have any ticks or have you ever seen ticks on her?”

“No, she fell.”

She asked more questions that seemed completely irrelevant to us until I finally blurted out, “NO! SHE FELL THREE TIMES AND NOW SHE CAN’T WALK!!!”

She stopped asking questions and got on with her exam. I felt bad that I had been short with her. She was just doing her very thorough job and doing it well. She was very patient with me and very kind.

She tested her reflexes front and rear. When the little hammer hit the spots Xoom reacted in the rear legs but not at all in the front.  The young vet was very patient with me as I asked my dumb ass questions. After she finished poking and prodding Xoom, she said she was going to go talk with the neurologist. As she closed the door behind her, Mel said, “What is she, three?” We laughed. That was nice to laugh.

Young Doggie Howser soon returned. She told us she was going to take Xoom to see the next level vet or something like that. She picked up our little angel and carried her off. Tears welled in our eyes as she disappeared around the corner.

It seemed like an eternity before she returned. She didn’t have little Xoom with her. She explained that the next level vet had taken her to see the head honcho neurologist. Doggie explained that the neuro guy thought Xoom needed an MRI (YA THINK?) but he couldn’t do it until morning (it was quitting time) and he wanted his full staff there when he did it. Most of what I heard was like in the Charlie Brown cartoons when there are words coming out but they don’t register, “WHA WHA WHA WHA…”

The gist of it was; Xoom was a mess. It was very serious. He didn’t think it was as simple as a pinched nerve. It could be meningitis (no she fell and had none of the other symptoms), it could be cancer (YIKES!), it could be a broken neck, “WHA WHA WHAAH WHA WHA…” The one thing I did hear was that he really didn’t think the fall caused this condition. He thought the condition caused the fall. That made no sense to me.

Then we were shocked back to reality when she began talking about the estimate. OUCH!!! And this was just for the MRI! If she needed surgery, which she surely would, as long as they thought she could recover, it would be double! CRAP! We maxed out our credit card and emptied out the checking account, but little Xoom is worth every penny with her sweet eyes and cute little red freckles.

After they got their money, they took us in to see Xoom. We were led through the emergency room. There were dogs lying on tables all over the place. I thought of the sterile surgery rooms you see on TV. Then I realized this was the recovery room or something like that. My brain wasn’t really functioning on full power.

There, in a large pen, was Xoom. She had a very plush bed and a folded blanket on which she was resting her little head. The pen was open at the top so you could easily reach in to pat her. She lay there looking up at us with her soft eyes. We patted her and told her everything would be fine. Tears were rolling down our cheeks as we said good-bye.

It was a long three hour drive home.

The next 24 hours seemed like an eternity. I didn’t think we would ever hear about the MRI. I called several times to check on her. No change. The neurologist finally called late in the afternoon on Tuesday. He explained that there was a thickening of the C1 vertebra. He said the inside of the vertebra was flattened and closing down on her spinal cord, and that her spinal cord was compressed 50%!!! No wonder she was paralyzed! He wouldn’t know until he got in there if it was from a break, cancer or some other horrific thing. He explained it would be a three to five hour surgery. He was very nice and very patient with all my questions. He didn’t think it was a break at all, but was convinced that the falls were caused by the problem and not the other way around. That still didn’t make sense to me, but he was pretty certain and I trusted him.

The surgery would be very expensive and, if we agreed to go ahead, it would take place the next day. The only other choices were to wait and see (we had already done that and things were getting worse not better) or euthanasia. The latter option was not acceptable to Mel or to me. Xoom deserved a chance to live.

I called and bugged them for updates a few times in the next 24 hours. Surgery was scheduled for about one in the afternoon on Wednesday. I called right before we went to bed Tuesday night; no change – still paralyzed. I called at 6:30 Wednesday morning; no change – still paralyzed. The surgeon called at 11:30 Wednesday morning; no change – still paralyzed. Then about 1 Wednesday afternoon he called again. Xoom had regained the ability to stand and walk! There was no question we would still go ahead with surgery. It was the right thing to do for her. The wait and see hadn’t been a great choice so far. The low doses of prednisone she had been taking had reduced the swelling enough for her mobility to return.

I told him to go ahead with surgery and we waited. And we waited. And we waited…

It seemed like an eternity. The surgeon promised updates as he proceeded, and he did not disappoint. He had attendants phone us a couple of times during the procedure to let us know Xoom was hanging in there. It was a very long time for our baby to be under, but she is a fighter! Of course they couldn’t tell us anything except that she was fine.

The surgeon finally called about six that evening. The surgery had taken three hours and not five so that was good. He didn’t have to stabilize the neck as he thought he might have to, so that was the difference in time. He explained that once in there, he surprised by what he saw. There was no evidence of a break or even injury. She had some weird boney formation inside the vertebra that had grown down around the spinal cord, compressing it by 50%. He said the bone was almost like a cross between cartilage and bone but not really. It was almost spongy; think molasses candy. He explained that if bone were like the crust of a hard sourdough loaf, then this was like the crust of white bread. I asked if he could feel the difference as he carved it away, and he said most definitely. He was able to remove all the misplaced boney-like material and that things looked good.

He went on to tell me that he had never seen anything like this. He had also consulted with two colleagues, neither of whom had ever seen or heard of anything like this either. He said he had never read anything that described this in books or veterinary papers. One of the colleagues he consulted was a professor of veterinary medicine for thirty years and he had never seen nor heard of this condition! WTF!!! How did we get so lucky?

OK, so what are the odds of this happening to us? Could not the Universe have sent us a winning lotto ticket instead? I am sure the odds of winning the lottery are better than the odds of this happening to one of our dogs!

Xoom’s prognosis is good, or so they say. But, how do they know? If nobody has ever seen this bizarre spontaneous mutation (and that is what the surgeon is calling this condition –well the bizarre part is mine), how on earth do they know what is going to happen? Only time will tell.

Our biggest concern now is how we will rehab her in the GW with eight other dogs. Will she get hurt? Can we protect her? Would placing her be the best thing for her? I really don’t know the answer to that.

We have not gone to visit her. We are afraid that she will get too excited and she needs to stay quiet. I am thankful to Nancy Kemna, who lives very close to the hospital, for taking a trip over to see Xoom for us today. Nancy was kind enough to take some photos, as did the hospital. Doesn’t Xoom look just like a little angel with her silver halo? As Nancy said to me, there is nothing sadder than a sad puppy.

Our little angel (aka Yoda)

There is nothing sadder than a sad puppy (Nancy Kemna)

Sir Cussalot (AKA Mel), says I will never be allowed to choose another dog again. I might be great at choosing good structure, but I seem to have a knack for picking the ones that are slightly (or not so slightly) defective. My track record is not so good: Isabella (severe IBD, canines grew through the roof of her mouth, epilepsy, bloat and torsion and eight more bloats, and now some weird neuropathy that severely limits her movement), MiniMe (parvo, Legg-Perthes disease, severe allergies and chronic pancreatitis), Crush (some unexplained thing where her liver was enlarged two years ago, then her spleen and an unexplained very large abscess and now cancer), Pankies (psycho dog, but in my defense,  I knew that going in) and finally little Xoom.

Between Crush’s cancer surgery and Xoom’s Roto-Rooter neck surgery, we are pretty much grounded for a while. So what if we have to eat beans and rice for the rest of our lives, these girls are well worth it, and we adore them. Oh wait, eating beans and rice wouldn’t be any different than we do now. We are vegans!

Crushie continues to heal. She is back to running around with her Poodle “pups” glued to hip. She runs out of gas easily and her speed has diminished, but she gets to do what she loves most; RUN AS FAST AS SHE CAN.

Please keep both of our red girls in your thoughts. We need all the positive thinking we can get J.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the movie by the same name as the title of this blog, check it out.

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

 

Posted by: jility | September 8, 2012

The Little Red Rocket

The day she was born I knew she was for me. Her coat glistened like a shiny new sports car. She had a small white patch on her rump and exactly the right amount of white. She was stunning!

For about a year I had searched for a Border Collie. Ever since I was a teenager, I had wanted a Border Collie and a standard Poodle. I had the standard Poodle (well actually I had four of them) and I wanted the Border Collie. I had read and heard that they were the smartest dogs on earth and I wanted to know for myself which breed was actually more intelligent.

I was full of excitement as I started my search. Instead of being met with open arms, I found door after door closed in my face. It was the same story over and over: I had only trained Poodles, surely I was incapable of training a Border Collie. One of the stud dog owners actually wrote me a scathing long email explaining that I would NEVER get one of the puppies from the upcoming litter, because I was clearly not high profile or good enough to own one of those precious pups.

It was the same story with each breeder I contacted. One breeder actually took my deposit and sent me a contract. I signed it and sent it back. The next day she sent me an email stating that she had contacted a local competitor in my area and was told there was NO way she should sell us a dog! Because we had only trained Poodles, we would never be able to train or handle a fast BC.

I was about to give up my quest for a Border Collie when Susan Garrett offered to help us. Susan introduced us to Lynda Verna of Bo-Tyne fame. Susan’s brilliant dog, Encore, came form Bo-Tyne and the sire of the upcoming litter was a littermate to Encore. We were placed third on the list. The breeder would take first pick, then a high profile trainer got second pick and then us. I will be forever grateful to Susan for arranging that purchase for us!

I held my breath as the pups grew. The breeder wanted the one with less white, which was fine with me. The trainer wanted the male (first pick in my opinion, but I didn’t want any male dogs, although I might have made an exception for him!), and we got next pick.

The trainer suggested that, because it was our first BC, we should not take the little red and white one. She said that this puppy was over the top crazy. She suggested we take the next puppy that was more mellow but almost nearly white.

Being the structure fanatic I am, I chose the little red and white pup because she has the prettiest color. I have never regretted that choice. OK, maybe once or twice in the beginning.

With the help of our friend Jef Blake, we named her Bo-Tyne Crush on Ewe. Crush, Crushie or Fwushie for short. She arrived at six weeks old. She proceeded to fence fight with the older dogs, bit me when I tried to hold her, and she screamed like a wild Banshie in a torture chamber when she wanted something, didn’t want something or just felt like it. She really was over the top high drive and crazier than loon. When she was about 10 weeks old, a friend came to meet her. She brought her nine month old Shih Tzu to “play” with our new puppy. HUH! Crush took one look at that fluff ball and attacked the crap out of her! I grabbed her and hauled her off the back of the bewildered puppy, told her that her behavior was unacceptable. I thought she got the message so I let her go. She proceeded to nail that puppy again! She meant business too. She was not messing around. I had never seen a puppy that young be so aggressive! It was scary.

I wrote to Susan and told her what we were going through with her. Susan suggested we send her back. I was starting to think that we really we incapable of training a BC! We adored this little girl and just needed some direction.

Eventually, we worked it all out. There were plenty of pitfalls along the way, but I learned how to train a crazed, over the top dog to love self-control. She was challenging but a blast to train.

When she was about a year old, several people suggested I turn her over to Mel. They said I was not fast enough to get her around. I figured they were right, so that is what I did. I had already trained her to do a pretty darn good 2on 2off, a great sit stay and had a good foundation going for the teeter. I had done her focus work and drive work (not like I needed to do much of that). I knew letting Mel take over was the right thing to do.

Watching her run and jump, I figured she would be about in the middle of the pack time-wise. She wouldn’t be the fastest, nor would she be slow. I figured she would place third or fourth in most of her runs. I mentioned this to our instructor, Stacy Winkler. She looked at me in disbelief and said, “What are you smoking? She is CRAZY fast!” I just didn’t see it. She was tiny and took a million little strides to get anywhere.

When Crush came out for the first time, I was shocked. Stacy was right. Crushie was pretty dang fast. She went through the levels very quickly. Unfortunately, she also went through the bars. It was and continues to be a struggle for her. Had it not been for knocked bars, she would be at about MACH 6 now instead of only half way to MACH. She placed third in jumpers at USDAA Nationals a few years back. Mel was really hurting, so he just loped in at the end and Crush slowed down. They were only 7/100s of a second out of first place. Not bad for a little dog and an old man in the stiffest competition in North America. Had Mel not had to slow down, they would have won by a fairly large margin!

Six months later I noticed her limping in her right front leg. We took her to a vet and she diagnosed sore toes. I felt it was in her shoulder but figured the vet knew best. We rested her for six weeks. She came back sound but not quite as fast as she was. I would say that she was about a quarter of a second slower on average. Dogs that couldn’t once touch her, now were getting close.

A few months went by and she started limping again. We rested her for three months that time. She once again was sound so we started running her. A few months later that limp showed once again. We took her to several different vets. Some said shoulder; some toes, We didn’t know what to think. Once again, we rested her.

By now she was about a second or so slower than she once was, but she seemed sound. Crushie lives for agility so we wanted to allow her to continue running as long as she was sound.

I told friends I thought something was very wrong with her but they all poo pooed me. Dogs are getting faster I was told. Mel is getting older and slower. Training is getting better…. But I knew. Something was definitely wrong with our Little Red Rocket. She was now about two seconds slower that she once was and she had lost stamina when running in the field (her second favorite thing to do).

About three weeks ago our young pup Xoom fell down an embankment and hurt herself very badly. She screamed so hard I thought she was going to die. X-rays showed nothing so we took her to Dr. Salewski, a genius of a veterinarian chiropractor. We took Crushie along as well. We like to have body work done on her as often as we can. Dr. Salewski had worked on her a few times this summer.

As the doctor went over her shoulders, I saw a look of horror come over his face and I knew something was terribly wrong. He said he found a mass in her triceps muscle. I prayed he was wrong but knew in my heart he wasn’t. I had known for a year and a half something was wrong.

Dr. Uhler at Sumner Vet did a biopsy. It was inconclusive, but the lab felt it was a spindle cell sarcoma. We scheduled surgery for her for the next week. Dr. Uhler said we should go ahead and run her that weekend. It was the last trial in which we were entered, as our dogs were due for their yearly two month rest. Crush was not limping and she had been off for three weeks due to being in season. She was jumping out of her skin to run. So, run she did. Mel let her run her contacts in every run and it was the most relaxed I have seen Mel run in a long time. After each run, he and I would go outside and try to not let anyone see us cry. We knew this might be her last agility trial. Only a handful of people knew what was going on.

Had it not been for a few bars and one miscommunication, they would have had a perfect three day weekend with three runs a day. Her last standard run was 5.5 yards per second and with one bar in jumpers, she was about 6.6 yards per second. She was on fire and having a blast doing what she loved to do more than anything else in the world.

Two days later she was in surgery. We waited with great anxiety until Dr. Uhler called to say that is all went well. He had to take some of her muscle to get it all because the tumor was imbedded quite deeply in her muscle. By this time, I had resigned myself to the fact that Crushie would never be her old self in the ring, but she was alive and that was the most important thing.

The pathology report came back today: spindle cell sarcoma. They felt it had originated in her nerve tissue and then grown to invade her triceps muscle. It is a slow growing tumor and they think they got it all. However, most spindle cell tumors grow back in time, so we have to keep a very close watch on her.

At this point, yards per second, who is faster than whom and bragging rights seem so silly. She was once the most amazing little super dog I have ever had the pleasure to watch run. Now she is just a normal fast dog. There was a time when she could have wide turns and bad trips and still win, but those days are long gone. It really doesn’t matter though. We have her. She is a crazy little crackhead that loves to watch TV, bite at the TV controller and run huge circles as fast as she can with her big Poodles right on her hip.

When I think of her future and what is going to happen, I get scared.

At times, I can barely breathe.

Long live the Little Red Rocket.

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | September 5, 2012

Teacher’s Pet

The theme for this Agility Blog Day is “What Makes a Good Coach/Instructor.”

I have plenty of opinions on this topic! Big surprise eh?

For about six months back in 2000, I took obedience lessons from a couple of different “conventional” trainers. There just seemed to be something missing for me in their methods. I had never heard of positive training, clicker training or even agility back then. I had started my Poodle, Isabella, with a pinch collar and was talked into using an electronic collar because she had no recall. To this day I hate myself for listening to that advice! However, I didn’t know there was a better way back then.

After a few sessions with a couple of different instructors, I went searching online to find a better way. I loved my dog and felt she deserved better than what I was giving her. I found a clicker trainer about an hour’s drive from us and scheduled a lesson. While she was explaining clicker training theory and the process, I spotted something shiny lying in the grass. If you ask anyone who has been around me for any length of time, they will tell you I am very good at spotting something shiny in the middle of a conversation.

Intrigued, I pointed to the objects lying on the ground and asked her what they were. A bit frustrated with me for not paying attention, she exasperatingly said that it was agility equipment and tried to continue telling me about clicker training for obedience, but my head was totally on that agility equipment. I asked her what in the world was agility? She explained as I stood mesmerized. Right then and there, I knew that obedience was OUT! Agility was IN!

Where could I take lessons for this agility stuff? She said she was going to start teaching it, and  I could sign up for her class that would be starting shortly. That was it. I never looked back. I had no idea if she was a good instructor or not, or how much she knew about training dogs or people for agility. I didn’t care. All I knew was that growing up on a horse and riding hunters and jumpers for years, I wanted in on this agility and NOW!

We started class and I loved it. I had no idea if what we were doing was right or wrong. It didn’t really matter to me. I didn’t know any better and I loved it so much I didn’t care. Isabella and I were having a blast!

When I attended my first trial to watch, I was blown away! Those dogs were blazing fast (well some of them anyway). That was what I wanted! I wanted that crazed speed around the course and through the weaves. When I finally started trialing myself, I realized that my dog had no clue what she was doing, nor did I.

I asked a lot of questions and watched a lot of people run their dogs. I searched for an instructor who could teach me what I wanted to learn. I wanted somebody who really understood training theory and could answer my endless questions knowledgeably without getting angry with me. That took some doing! I used to drive my father insane asking questions. I am not one to just do something because somebody told me to. I want to know why! I NEED to know why! Without the why, it just won’t register for me.

I went through a LOT of instructors in a very short time. Some were better than others, but I still felt like there were many puzzle pieces missing. Then my friend, the late Lisa Greene, introduced me to Stacy Winkler from Southern California. That was ten years ago and I have been with Stacy ever since!

Why did I stick with Stacy over all others? Because she was exactly what I was looking for. She was/is a great instructor/coach.

What makes a great instructor/coach? Here are some of my criteria:

  1. The instructor must be as kind to the student as they expect the student to be to their dog (for me, only positive training would be acceptable).
  2. They must be kind, empathetic and have endless patience.
  3. There would NEVER EVER be a harsh word muttered towards the student or the dog.
  4. They would NEVER EVER blame the dog for ANYTHING that goes wrong, and they would not accept that from their students either.
  5. No matter what happens on course, a great instructor teaches their students to smile as they leave the course and be kind to their dog.
  6. A great instructor teaches their students to be good losers as well as good winners.
  7. They would never roll their eyes at a student, belittle them or use sarcasm when teaching.
  8. Instructors should never ever tell tales outside of class. What happens in class stays in class. It would be unprofessional to do anything else.
  9. Great instructors gently encourage their students to be more than they think they can be. They never shame them into anything or ridicule their students.
  10. A great instructor will not over face their students. They know how to train reliable behaviors and will break things down into small pieces so the students and dogs gain confidence as they learn and never feel overwhelmed.
  11. A great instructor is not afraid to search for more answers from others who are successful.
  12. And finally, a great instructor will not only answer any and all questions the student asks, they will do so with a smile.

It has always been a mystery to me why some instructors feel the need to shame or belittle students. It is bad enough to do so in private, but when I see this happen in public I lose all respect for that instructor. In my opinion, there is no place for intimidation in teaching. It is just dog agility. It is not brain surgery.

I encourage all agility students to stand up to instructors who teach through intimidation or who bully their students. There are plenty of good instructors out there who are kind. There is no need to take crap form anyone, especially when YOU are paying them!

HAIL to the great instructors and coaches in this world! Thank you for your kindness, knowledge and patient encouragement.

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | September 2, 2012

Sportsmanship

What is it? How do you define it? I am not sure, but I know it when I see it.

There are plenty of good sports and poor sports in this world. They come in all shapes, sizes and ages; from little league to senior league; from spelling bees to the Olympics, and in just about every single thing we do in life, there are people who are fun to be around and those who are not.

In the category of sportsmanship, the only thing worse than a poor loser is a poor winner. In agility, we all know good sports and poor sports. I don’t like being around poor losers. I am embarrassed for them and they make me uncomfortable, but of poor losers and poor winners, I really hate being around poor winners.

There are more ways to be a poor sport than just winning or losing.

Poor sports are also those who only care about their dog, or their kid, or their whatever. They never ask others how they did or how their dogs are or mention anything about other dogs. They bring their dogs over to you and expect you to fall all over them and tell them how wonderful they are, never once even acknowledging anyone else’s dog, let alone saying anything nice about it!

When I do well, I don’t go up to all my friends or anyone in earshot shouting how wonderful I am and how wonderful my dog is or how wonderful my run was. Oh wait, I would actually have to have something to brag about in order to do that wouldn’t I? Never mind.

Anyway…

It is one thing to brag on a list, or to tell friends of our successes, but listening to somebody talk ad nauseam about how amazing they and their dog are gets old very very fast.

There are some people who thump their chest so hard and so much, I am surprised they don’t beat a hole in it!

I love being around good sports! You know the kind. When you ask them how their run went, they never go overboard. No matter how great their run was, they never rub it in. I am blessed to be married to that type of good sport. The most you will get out of him when you ask is a smile and a comment that goes something like, “Pretty good.” In Sir Cussalot speak “pretty good” means, “OH MY GAWD! THE RUN WAS F#@K!NG AMAZING!!!!!” I love that about him.

Sir C hates it when I brag about him on my Jility list, but I am so proud of him and his little dogs, I find that sometimes I just must. Sir C is my hero. He is a good winner and a good loser and I wish I could be more like him. He may get very sad when his dogs don’t do well, but I guarantee, you will not hear about it (only I will :)).

People who are truly secure in who they are have no need to brag or cram their success down everyone’s throats over and over and over. Whenever I hear somebody bragging like that, all I can think of is, ”Don’t you wish that YOU were HOT like me…” (kinda like that song).

Evidently, I am not that secure because I am going to end this blog with a brag about Sir C and his little red and white Border Collie, Crush. Today they had the most amazing standard run I have ever witnessed. OK, perhaps that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but then again, maybe not :). Little Crushie ran an incredible 5.5 yards per second on this standard run for 32 MACH points! Not bad for a tiny little dog and an almost 75 year old man. My heroes.

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | August 1, 2012

Felony Dumbass

For the past month I have been on call for Superior Court jury duty. Evidently, Lewis County Washington has a hard time finding enough people to sit on their juries because the ratio of criminals to noncriminals is pretty poor. It is cheap to live in Lewis County. It is not as cheap as it was 10 years ago, but it is still cheap. It is so cheap, meth makers can afford to rent houses to make their drugs and not live there. It is not uncommon to read about low rent houses blowing up due to a malfunction in the process or whatever else causes meth labs to explode.

The courthouse docket in Chehalis is filled with cases due to meth use or meth making or meth selling. It is a County full of characters right out of Breaking Bad. The robberies are done to fund users’ habits, and we have fallen victim to two such robberies in the past year.

The way the jury duty works is you call in every night after six to find out if your panel is scheduled to show up the next day. There were FIVE panels (each panel consists of about 50 people) for the month and some of us were called in more than a dozen times! It doesn’t matter if you are chosen for a trial or not, you still must show up when your panel is called.

I was picked for the first trial in which my panel was chosen. This was Superior Court so the bad guys were very bad guys. After a while, they all began to look alike. They had short shaven or bald shaven heads, lots of tattoos and clenched fists (unless they had been in the jail long enough for the meth to wear off). It is interesting to me that meth users all sound like they spent some time in the South or Texas. They all have a rather slurred drawl that is unmistakable. Many walk with clenched fists held out from their shrunken meth bodies.

The attitude of the prosecutors is, “THROW AWAY THE KEYS!” The attitude of the defense attorney is, “We’ve all done things we regret right?” I found my sympathies more drawn to the defense than the adversarial prosecutor. Every time he attacked a witness in the first trial, I found myself disliking him and his methods of attack. I wonder why prosecutors haven’t figured that out. Curious.

When I left for the second trial, Sir Cussalot suggested I act insane so they wouldn’t want me. I said, “You mean just be myself right?” “Right,” he answered. We were scheduled to leave for an agility trial in a couple of days and a court trial would really put a crimp in my style.

When I arrived at the jury holding room, I told the woman in charge that they would get a lot more people for jury duty if they didn’t make us wait on standby all freaking month! I suggested they only trap people for a few days or even a week. She informed me that if they did that, they would have to deal with 1,500 different people every month! BIG FREAKING DEAL!

Once in the courtroom, we were informed of the charges.  Same as last time; possession of meth and threatening mortal bodily harm and vandalism or something like that. After that, the attorneys ask questions of the potential jurors to try to get the best advantage for their side.The tweeker sat listening, as they read his charges. His legs fidgeting under the desk while his hands played with a pen. He was a good looking guy in his late 20s or early 30s but hard to tell for sure with tweekers. They age fast.

The prosecutor asked a bunch of questions. I was spared in that round. The defense attorney then got her turn to question us. She asked if any of us knew any of the witnesses or were we related to any of the witnesses. That was a big NO from me. Next question, “Are any of you on Facebook?”

Duh.

“If so, are any of you Facebook friends with any of the people involved in these proceedings?” Now this is where I was conflicted. I didn’t think so, but I have almost 2,000 “friends” on Facebook! I could be friends with one of them and not even know it! So, I stupidly raised my hand.

“Which one number 19?”

“Well, I am not sure. I have almost 2,000 friends on Facebook so it is possible that I am and don’t even know it.”

“TWO THOUSAND FRIENDS!” was the unified cry from the courtroom. Now I felt like an idiot without a life!

“Why do so many people want to be your friend?” the defense lawyer asked in disbelief.

“Wouldn’t you?” I asked in equal disbelief. After I said that, all I could think of was that I sounded like Kato Kaelin in the OJ trial when he was asked why so many people wanted to be his friend. People laughed, so I guess I didn’t sound sofa king we todd it. I was being myself and I figured that was enough for them to reject me. I didn’t even have to try! Idiocracy comes easily for me.

Next she asked if anyone had ever said anything they regretted. She called on me. I said sure I had. She asked what. I said when we were kids, my siblings and I would threaten to kill each other pretty much on a daily basis. She asked if we meant it. I said, “NO! We were idiot kids.” Then she called on an older man in the row in front of me. “Yup,” he muttered in a low gruff voice.

“What was it that you said and regretted sir?” she asked.

His response:

“’I do’ to my first wife.”

We all lost it. I continued laughing long after the rest of the room had stopped. I found it hysterically funny. I had a similar experience in a Lewis County movie theater some years ago. We were sitting there in a fairly full theater of rednecks watching “The Bird Cage.” Sir C and I were laughing so hard we were in tears. The rest of the theater were silent! GOD I loved that movie!

But I digress.

Next she called on a sweet young girl sitting right in front of me. She asked the same question of her. The young woman thought for a moment, then answered, “No, I can’t think of anything.”

“Why do you suppose that is?” asked the attorney.

“Well, I tend to think before I speak,” she said quietly.

“WHAT?” I blurted in my outside voice, “CAN YOU TEACH ME HOW TO DO THAT?”

There were some uncomfortable chuckles in the room, including some from the attorneys and the sheriff sitting next to the prosecutor. I looked down, wanting to take it back and become invisible. I could not believe that had come out of my big fat mouth.

Embarrassment aside, I knew I was unintentionally helping myself to freedom from jury duty. I was beginning to make quite a name for myself, and not in a good way either!

So then the defense attorney asked how people felt about drug use. I put the icing on the cake when I said, “I think drug users should be treated, not prosecuted.” The look on the prosecutor’s face said it all. See ya biatch!

Many were called but few were chosen, THANK GOD I was not one of the chosen that day!

So as they read the charges on the various people brought to court during my stint on jury duty, I couldn’t help thinking that the justice system doesn’t need all those different fancy charges for their perps. They really only need three different charges:

Dumbass (most juveniles and and other bad guys in training)

Misdemeanor Dumbass (sorta bad but not evil)

And finally for the really bad dudes:

Felony Dumbass

Those three charges pretty much cover them all.

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | July 19, 2012

I Don’t Repeat Gossip So Listen Carefully!

Most of us love gossip unless, of course, it is about us. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but I don’t know of any personally. Gossip is about status. We all want status and do our part to get as much as we can. Status makes us feel more important, but there is a biological need for status that actually served a purpose in the early development of man.

The need for status is actually in our DNA. It is what helped our ancestors fight the fight and keep the villages safe from murdering marauders. Those with the most status led the charge and took care of business.

When we raised horses, it was always the mares that were lower in the pecking order that caused the most trouble. WHY? Status! The lead mare rarely fought. She just ruled without the need for violence or threats. She was secure in who she was and nobody challenged her. Those below her duked it out on a regular basis. Sometimes these fights for status got downright nasty. The more status a mare felt she needed, the nastier the fight and the more determined she was to gain ground.

The interesting thing about the mares was that their babies would take up where their dams left off. Sometimes, even challenging their own mums for status. I always found that the lowest mare in the pecking order was usually the sweetest thing on the planet. All the other babies hung with her because she never kicked them or bit them or chased them away. They would often nurse from her too. We used to say she had chocolate milk so all the babies went to her to nurse. We had a couple of mares like that over the years and they were always my favorites. They were the Mother Theresas of the horse world and I adored them for their pacificity and kindness.

Last year I attended the McDougall 10 Day Program in Santa Rosa, California where Dr. Doug Lisle was one of the speakers. He is a brilliant and entertaining man. He taught us about status, and he has some wonderful videos and books on the market (some are available here:

http://www.drmcdougall.com/books_tapes.html)

There are some free lectures by him online too. Here is one I found.

http://www.giveittomeraw.com/video/douglas-j-lisle-phd-discusses

Anyway, gossip is gossip, but there are some forms of gossip that do a lot more damage than others. The worst form of gossip is the made up or embellished kind that leaves the listener to draw their own damaging conclusions. The gossiper can then deny saying anything nasty. Clearly, if the listener jumps to conclusions, that is on them and not the gossiper, but the gossiper leads the way to those conclusions very diligently.

Some people might begin their gossip session with the line, “I really care about [you fill in the blank] and I want to help them but I don’t know what to do…” Whether or not the gossiper really cares about the gossipee is immaterial. It is still gossip and still damaging and hurtful. To take it even further, if the gossiper really cared, they would shut their gossiping mouth and go talk to the gossipee personally. Caring about somebody does not involve gossip! It is about the gossiper feeling more important (raising status) because they know something the listener might not.

The next thing to think about when it come to gossip, is whether or not it is useful for people to inform others that they were the victim of malicious gossip. In my mind, this CAN BE just another form of gossip. However, if I am the gossipee and the information is untrue, embellished and/or spoken by somebody I thought was a friend, then I MOST CERTAINLY want to know. I will not let people into my life if I think they are not trustworthy or true friends. I have plenty of great friends in my life, I don’t need mean or nasty ones!

If I hear gossip about a friend, I will stop it in its tracks. When it comes to my friends, I am a momma bear and I will defend them to my death! If I think that knowing the gossip would do more harm than good to my friend, I will keep it to myself. If, however, I think my friend needs to know, I will tell them. The important thing I ask myself is will knowing the gossip hurt my friend more than not knowing? It is a fine line! If a friend tells me something and they ask me not to repeat it, then I am a LOCKED VAULT!!! If, however, there is no mention of their news being private and it is funny, then I might repeat it for a good laugh (assuming that repeating it would NOT hurt my friend in ANY way shape or form!).

There will always be gossip and people to spread it. Please don’t get the impression that I am above gossiping. I am not. I NEVER gossip about my friends (unless, as I wrote earlier, it is funny and they won’t mind :)). Anything I might say about a person MUST be something I have said or would say to their face! Just like war, there are rules to gossip. And just like war, I am reminded of the General George S. Patton, Jr. quote, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance. God help me, I do love it so.”

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | July 16, 2012

Juror #12

Every time I am called for jury duty, I am out on the road and they let me off. There was one other time a few years ago I was called but nobody wanted me on the jury. It was a domestic violence case and they asked me if I thought a slap was abuse. I told them I thought yelling was abusive. That ended any chance I had on getting on that jury. Big surprise.

Today, I reported once again for jury duty. I was number 25 of 50 potential jurors. This time I got “lucky.” I was really surprised at how much information they leak during the jury selection. I pretty much knew what the case was all about before we even started the trial! They sneak hints in with every question. They start planting seeds in your head long before you are seated in the jury box! I guess they are trying to sway your final decision, but it is only obvious.

One of the questions they asked was, “Have you ever been cut off by another driver?” If you answered yes, they asked if you ever reacted with a wave of your hand. The defense attorney called on me and asked me if I had ever waved at the offending driver. I said, “Yes.” She then asked if my wave consisted of less than two fingers.

I answered, “Maybe.” They laughed. I got picked.

The trial took about 5 hours and the deliberations about 45 minutes. They wanted us to convict this scary looking shaven head dude of felony harassment and threatening to kill the other guy (who didn’t exactly look like a choirboy).

What they should have charged this guy with was “Felony Dumb Assedness” instead! Now that would have gotten a felony conviction from us for sure! Long story short, they didn’t prove their case (or even close really), but the defendant got on the stand and admitted to threatening the other guy, so he was convicted of a lesser charge of plain harassment.

I have come to the conclusion that most street criminals aren’t smart enough to be any good at their chosen profession. The defendant and his witness/fiancé in the courtroom today, had totally drug fried brains. All I could think of was that old commercial, “This is your brain,” then they crack an egg into a hot skillet and say, “this is your brain on drugs,” as the egg sizzles in the pan. It was very sad actually. I am not sure what their potential IQ might have been as young children, but they had taken so many drugs, there weren’t many brain cells left.

I hate drugs. I hate what they do to people and those who love the users. I hate alcohol too for the same reasons I hate other drugs. I fear this problem in our society will never change. People will always want to numb their senses with their drug of choice. My drug of choice is food.

Sadly, when your drug of choice is food, people can always look at you and know that (unless of course you are bulimic, then you can get rid of the evidence). Druggies and drunks can hide their issues, but fatties like me wear their drug of choice for all to see and judge.

Sorry for the serious blog tonight. I promise to lighten things up next time. Now, if I could just lighten up my own body.

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | July 4, 2012

Just Say NO to Bullies!

Bullies are bullies. It doesn’t matter if they are 2 or 102! The only difference is that the bullies who are in the middle age ranges, are stronger, harder to catch, and they can write and use electronic methods to bully, so they can do more widespread harm and follow up with damage control.

If you are not sure what constitutes a bully, think Chef Gordon Ramsey. He is one of the biggest and most obnoxious bullies I have ever seen.

The Fourth of July seems like the perfect day for a blog on bullies. After all, didn’t we get this holiday because we fought off a big ass bully from across The Pond that led to our first Independence Day in 1776? What if our forefathers had done nothing? We would all be driving on the left side of the road and doing whatever we were told by our King or Queen(oh wait, that bossy government part is now about the same as it was back then).

Anyway, bullies are a part of life. They are people who want their own way and expect others to agree with their every word (I won’t write “right or wrong” because the bully always believes they are right). I also believe most bullies suffer from a narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection

If you read the symptoms listed on the website below, it will explain what this disorder is about and you may recognize some personality traits of people you know:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001930/

Here is another very good article on NPD: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/narcissistic-personality-disorder/DS00652

If you would like to know if you suffer from this disorder, below is a link to a little test you can take (although people with the disorder won’t think there is anything wrong with them, so they wouldn’t take the test):

http://www.melanietoniaevans.com/quiz-npd.htm (if you are curious, I scored a 34)

The other problem is that people with this disorder will not answer the questions truthfully because they must always come out smelling like a rose! People with NPD will put their own spin on everything rather than take responsibility for what they say, write or do in life. They don’t care who gets hurt as long as they look good and/or get their own way.

We all know people like this. Many of them seem so wonderful at first. That is how they suck in new victims to bully. Many are very driven and very good in their chosen field, but some think they should get accolades because, even though they actually suck at what they do, they believe with all their heart that they are “THE GREATEST” (to quote the famous Mohamed Ali).

If you call these people on their behavior, they become enraged and strike back. Some may do it openly, while others choose to do their damage control one captive listener at a time. Eventually, most smart people get wise to their game. When that happens, the bully will either dump the person before they are dumped themselves, or the wised up person, if smart, puts lots of distance between themselves and the bully. Either way, the bully will always trash talk the person who is no longer stuck in their spider-like bully web. It makes them feel better about themselves and, in the bully’s mind, makes the person who escaped the web look bad to others. It is all about damage control!

I have come across bullies all of my life. We all have. I was bullied as a kid for being fat. I was bullied by my mother at times (well most of the time actually). I was bullied by older siblings (I did my own share of bullying to my younger siblings). I was bullied by my riding instructor (he was a master bully). Before I met Mel (38 years ago) I was in a few terribly toxic relationships with BIG BAD bullies. I have also come across some pretty good bullies in agility, most of whom I try very hard to avoid.

There comes a point when we must stand up to these bullies! There are a few of them in agility who are in a position of power and, if provoked, able to make our lives a living hell. How does that happen? How do these mean narcissistic people get to this place of power? Why don’t the people above them see it? Why are they allowed to go on day in and day out bullying people in order to make everyone see things their way and get what they want?

There are also quite a few instructors in agility who are bullies. Why do people continue going to theses bullies? I have reached a point in my life where I refuse to allow people to bully me! I refuse to be treated like crap when I am paying good money to learn from somebody! I can find lots of nasty people to bully me for free! WHY ON EARTH WOULD I WANT TO PAY FOR ABUSIVE TREATMENT??? Mel & I are blessed to have the most wonderful agility instructor in Stacy Winkler from Vista, California. She has spoiled us with her kind treatment and wonderful teaching.

Many bullies want adoration and unquestioned respect, but respect is a two way street. If they do not give respect to others, why should they get it? Respect needs to be EARNED! It is NOT a given!

The more bullies are allowed to go unchecked, the more likely they are to continue their evil bullying ways.

If you have a bully in your life or know of somebody who is bullying others, I challenge you to stand up to that bully! If they are mean to you, yell at you, belittle you, use nasty sarcasm to shut you up, humiliate you in private or in public, gossip about you or embellish a story to make you look bad and themselves look good, SAY SOMETHING! STAND UP FOR YOURSELF!

If bullies are not called on their bad behavior, their bad behavior will continue, and they will find more victims to bully.

JUST SAY NO TO BULLIES!

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | June 10, 2012

They Hope We Can Get Our Money Back

The plan was to drive the four hours to Madras, Oregon from John Day and spend the night at a lake resort. The weather was cold and wet, so we decided to keep on truckin all the way home.

Eight week old Double J Xoom only screamed for three of the eight hours we drove. The poor little thing had just been separated from the only family she had ever known, stuck in a crate having to look at strange dogs and ignored by people. She cried for an hour straight, then she fell asleep for about 10 minutes until Sir Cussalot called me on the walkie-talkie and she took up where she left off. She screamed, she howled, she screeched in a high pitched blood curding call and she moaned in a low yodel. It was nonstop and it was horrible.

At one point, I thought I was going to have to pull a Van Gogh and cut off my ears! My brain hurt it was so loud. I tried some music. It helped at first, but soon it was dueling noise. I love to talk on the phone when I drive, but the noise was deafening. I tried a couple of times when friends called, but the conversations didn’t last long. I needed entertainment from friends to shorten the feel of the long drive!

The other dogs in the car with me were MeMe and Charisse. I thought they would be good because they are tolerant and kind. We stopped a few times to take Xoom potty with no success. Finally, she piddled. Pankins decided she really really needed me so I let her come in the car as well. I was concerned at how she would react to the puppy. She is fearfully aggressive and vocal about it. There was no way she could get to Xoom, but I didn’t think she needed the intimidation.

As we pulled out of the rest stop, the screaming began all over again. This time it lasted for only about a half hour. Pankies finally had had all she could take and snarked at the puppy’s crate. The pup stopped. It was the only time I have ever been happy that Pankies has a crappy temperament. Xoom was quiet for a few minutes, then started up again. Pankies told her to shut up once more and she did.

I heard a few more whimpers from the back of the Stinkmobile, but the next five hours were quite peaceful. I enjoyed the silence.

It seemed like forever, but we finally pulled into our driveway in Silver Creek, Washington. What a great welcome we received! Our family was waiting for us with smiles and hugs. The granddollars were waiting with their noses pressed up against the fence. Their mom said they had been waiting there for hours. I truly felt loved.

Waiting for Gramma & Grampa

The girls were so excited to be home again and ecstatic to see the granddollars! MeMe, Pankies & Crushie were especially happy. Crushie jumped up on Sicily and held on to her leg with her front paws as tightly as she could. MeMe jumped and licked. Her tongue went nonstop. Pankies wagged her long tail as fast as it could go and she smiled and smiled at the girls. Barque barked (never name your dog Barque. The universe has no clue about spelling, only the sound of the word).

Crushie took offto the swamp in search of her huge Jolly Ball.  Constant barking told me she had found it. She soon arrived back at the Global Warmer covered in mud and looking very much like a small, but just as nasty, Cujo.

We settled in for the night and I looked forward to a good night’s sleep. Right.

The screaming began as soon as she was placed in her crate. We began the long training process of covering and uncovering. Crushie was a terrible screamer too (worse, actually because she screamed in AND out of the crate!). I knew it would be a matter of time before little Xoom would learn the game and decide to be quiet.

When it was time for bed, we put everyone in their nighttime spot, climbed into bed and turned off the lights. The screaming resumed and there was no end in sight. So, Sir C went in, picked up the small crate and placed it on the bed between us. Xoom was now happy, secure AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, QUIET!!! Luckily we have a huge bed. There is no room for a crate next to the bed, so the only logical place was on the bed. We will wean her from that ASAP!

Xoom slept quietly until 4 AM. We tried to sleep in but she demanded another potty walk at 7. Sir C, the official “middle of the night dog pottier,” was kind enough to do the honors. She did pretty darn well all night. I only heard a few very faint whimpers and pitiful sighs coming from the crate.

In the morning, Sir C took all the dogs into the yard to begin setting up the hot tub and other things. Xoom trucked along with him. When feeling intimidated by the eight large dogs, she ran under the GW. After a while, her little head would appear from under the bus and she would creep out slowly and go in search of Sir C.

After starting the breakfast cereal in the rice cooker, I took everyone for a walk a couple of times around one of our fields.

Happy to be home again!

Little Xoom came along too. Now getting used to the pack, she was virtually fearless. Isabella must walk on leash so she doesn’t have any dietary indiscretions. Xoom kept trying to tug on Isabella’s leash.

Tugging on Isabella’s leash

At one point I dropped it so MeMe, the official “bringer” brought Isabella back to me.

MeMe is the official bringer and she says, “DON’T FORGET!”

I dropped the leash again on purpose and Xoom tried to bring it too. Well, actually, she was trying to tug on it but she will be a good “bringer” I think.

Another “bringer” in the making

Barque and Isabella are the only dogs that have tried to play with Xoom so far. The others ignore her or warn her to stay away from them. She listens.

Close encounter of the Barque kind

Sicily and Julia came up to visit for the day and they are taking turns tugging with Xoom. Sicily, the older of the two, is on much appreciated potty duty. I missed these girls so much! They are great kids and quite dog savvy.

Puppy love

Clay & Katie Johnson did a great job teaching the puppies to love tugging!

OH NO! It’s a miniature FWUSHIE!

We are just starting a new adventure with Xoom. One we hope will last for many years to come.

What do we think of our new little girl?

WE ADORE HER!

What do our other eight dogs think of her?

THEY HOPE WE CAN GET OUR MONEY BACK!

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | June 8, 2012

Look What Followed Us Home

It was almost 3 in the afternoon by the time we got on the road for our annual trip back to the Pacific Northwest. Normally, we leave sooner, but we stayed to film two agility training videos for Stacy Winkler that will be released sometime in the fall. We also stayed a bit longer to time our trip to coordinate me testing a litter of Border Collies puppies for The Johnson Family of Double J Border Collies.

Sir Cussalot the filmmaker

The plan was to get on the road by 1 in the afternoon on Monday, but setback after setback delayed our start. I walked next door to say good-bye to my elderly neighbor. She is very lonely and really loves the company. She is a former dog breeder and AKC judge, so we have a lot to talk about. It is always hard to leave once I get through her door. Sir Cussalot finally got tired of waiting for me so he started up the engine in the Global Warmer. I knew that was my cue to hurry up and get back.

I slowly dragged myself out her door, one step at a time. She had me mentally tied up and she had the saddest face. She kept saying over and over that she didn’t want us to leave and that she loved watching us work our dogs so much and just knowing we were there gave her comfort… I felt so sad leaving her but I finally said I just had to go. We hugged and I hot footed it up her driveway and back to ours.

We gathered up the dogs, loaded those who were going with Sir C into the GW, and I took MeMe (who insists she MUST ride with me under penalty of law), Pankies & Charisse Poodle. Walkie-talkie in hand, I climbed into the Stinkmobile and off we went. I drive the car and pull our utility trailer that contains two large freezers full of dog food, agility equipment (that is in the trailer not the freezer) and other miscellaneous crap we have accumulated over the 6 years we have lived in the GW.

We pulled out of the driveway, Sir Cussalot and his mighty black and gold steed leading the way, and headed north for the leisurely four day trip to John Day, Oregon. The plan was to drive about 4 hours to the Boulder Creek RV Resort in Lone Pine, CA. We didn’t even get a half mile down the dirt road leading away from our Temecula paradise, when Sir C pulled his mount over to the side of the road. OH OH. I knew something was wrong already. Then I heard his troubled voice on the walkie-talkie, “G@*DA%N MUT%*@F#@&$R (and more that even I won’t type) cabinet came open and all the Corelle bowls fell onto the tile and a bunch of them shattered all over the F#@K!^G place!!!!” If you have ever seen Corelle break, “it ain’t pritty.”

I climbed out of the Stinkmobile as the three dogs with me barked their heads off at the curious horses next to us. Pankies gave them what for and demanded they move to a safe distance from her. They seemed to enjoy the challenge and thumbed their noses at her while sticking close to the fence and making threatening gestures in horse language.

There was broken glass everywhere! Sir C opened one of the slides and we tried to get as much as we could while keeping the mutts clear of the sharp shards. The bowls hadn’t just broken, they had EXPLODED all over the GW. We found pieces of glass clear up in the front of the GW (about 10 or 15 feet away!). It had sprayed up onto the furniture, the counters and everyplace else. It took forever to make the place safe again for the dogs.

Glass cleaned and slide back in, we once again started out on our 4 day trek to John Day Oregon.

There were reports of gusty winds in the high desert. The only thing I hate worse than driving in the wind, is driving in the wind AND rain. The only thing worse than wind and rain is wind and snow!

So the wind reports were saying 40 to 65 mile an hour gusts and that high profile vehicles should not be on the road! GREAT! We had no choice but to go because we had a puppy test to do. As we left the dense population of Riverside County and headed up route 215, the wind began to pick up. Tract after tract of cloned homes gave way to the sparsely populated high desert.

In Hesperia, we split off from the 215 onto the 395. The towns got smaller and smaller as we drove farther and farther away from Victorville, until there was nothing but desert on the right side and craggy hills on the left. The wind grew worse and worse until I thought my hands, jaws and my butt cheeks would go numb from clenching.

Warning signs flashed overhead that high profile vehicles should go back. We pressed on. Weighing in at 60,000 pounds, the Global Warmer advanced solidly and steadily as the relentless wind tried hard to blow her off the road. My little 12 foot utility trailer swayed to and fro as I cussed those strong gusts.

We drove on very slowly for many miles. Then I saw flashing lights ahead. Police cars, tow trucks and emergency response vehicles were on the side of the road. A very large, very beautiful and very new fifth wheel had blown over and taken its large brand new matching truck with it. What a mess! That scene made me even more afraid! But we continued.

What should have taken us less than 4 hours, took more than 5, but around 8 PM, and with great relief, we saw the welcoming sign for the Boulder RV Resort. I let out a huge sigh, and all my muscles relaxed as we pulled in for the night.

The weather reports said the wind would die down by morning. Sure enough, it was quite calm when we pulled out of the resort about 8 the next morning. We drove through the charming town of Bishop, California. Famous for its wild burros and rock climbing.

After leaving Bishop, the winds began to pick up where they had left off the day before. My knuckles grew whiter and my jaws and cheeks tighter. I got more of a workout than I have had in ten years trying to keep the Extortion on the straight and narrow. My gas gauge got lower and lower but we were in the middle of nowhere. I tried not to think about it but my mind kept drifting back to the winds and my lack of fuel. We finally entered a small town whose name escapes me, and found a station right on the main drag that sold diesel. With much relief, I pulled in and fed the Extortion, who was by now, running on fumes.

I asked the sour puss store clerk if it always blew that hard there. She said in a deep rough and unfriendly voice, “Good thing you weren’t here yesterday, the roads was all closed. Had a couple a big rigs that blowed over and a six car pileup.” Nice. She was correct; I was certainly glad we hadn’t been there yesterday.

We pressed on towards Fallon, Nevada, known as “The Oasis of Nevada” for obvious reasons.

The wind slowly died down some and I was able to loosen my death grip on the wheel. Road construction brought our trip to a halt right next to Walker Lake, a beautiful small natural lake that ranges in color from a deep blue to turquoise blue.

As we sat waiting for our turn to go, I noticed an incredible sight! WILD HORSES playing on the shores of the lake! They were at the water’s edge, running and bucking into and out of the water. What a grand time they were having and what a grand sight it was for me! Evidently, Walker Lake is a hot spot for wild horses and other wildlife in the area.

Below Photo by Bonnie Rannald, www.bonnierannald.com

I hated to leave Walker Lake. Perhaps someday we will return to spend more time there.

The trip to Fallon was uneventful and the Fallon RV park was a welcomed sight at the end of a long day.

From Fallon we headed north on Route 95 towards our next planned stop; the Steens Mountain Resort in Frenchglen, Oregon. About halfway into the trip, we turned off 95 to NV 140. The traffic went from normal to nothing. We drove about 40 or 50 miles without seeing one other vehicle. I felt like Moses had parted the seas and I was driving across the ocean floor. I could just picture enormous prehistoric sea life swimming all around me.

For the entire 140 mile stretch of deserted road from where were turned off of 95 until we reached the “booming metropolis” of Frenchglen (population 12), we only saw about a dozen other cars. For mile after mile after mile, there was no evidence of civilization other than the road under us and the poles that dotted the side of the highway (and I use the term highway very loosely).

We finally arrived in Frenchglen. Sir C turned off the paved two lane road onto a gravel road (which I think was even wider than the 140 miles of highway we had just driven). I hoped he knew where he was going, because it sure was an unlikely place for an RV park in the middle of NOWHERE!

We drove for what seemed like an eternity on the gravel road. We passed small ponds and marshland teeming with ducks, birds and, as we found out that evening, mosquitoes! Along the edge of the marshes were tons of my favorite birds on the planet, red winged black birds. I love their beautiful color and their even more beautiful song.

After what seemed like an eternity on the gravel road, we saw the sign for the Steens Mountain Resort. It was a sight for sore eyes. Once settled in, I took Crushie for a walk to see some cattle grazing on the other side of the RV park. There was a cowboy on a horse keeping the herd close up to the fence so they would eat grass and reduce the fire hazard. We watched for quite a while as he whistled and waved his large cowboy hat at the grazing cattle. He moved them up and down the fence line. Crush was a bit intimidated by the large snorting beasts and romping calves. She jumped up on my leg and wrapped her paws around me. She squinted her little crossed eyes at me and pleaded to take her away from those fire breathing dragons. Clearly not a cow herding BC is she! Sheep are great but cows not so much.

The mosquitoes began to infiltrate the Global Warmer, so we closed her up snug and turned on the air. It was a beautiful evening and the night air smelled of juniper and cows. The only noises were the occasional bovine calls.

I was sad to leave that peaceful place, but we had other places to go. We left historic Frenchglen early in the morning and drove towards John Day, Oregon.

View from the Global Warmer in Frenchglen:

The drive from Frenchglen was a deserted as the drive to it. We only saw a couple of cars for most of the trip until we approached Burns, Oregon. On the way to Burns, we crossed over an interesting body of water called Malheur Lake. There were bird watchers stopped in the middle of the highway! They were just parked there watching birds with binoculars! I couldn’t believe it. They didn’t budge as the GW roared past them on their left. I so wanted to lay on my horn and scare the crap out of them, but thought better of it. If they weren’t shocked when Sir C powered by, I guess my little Stinkmobile wouldn’t faze them.

Malheur Lake

The scenery turned from high desert sagebrush and scrub junipers to pines and grass. The sky began to spit on us and I knew we were back in the Pacific Northwest. I was already yearning for the desert and parching sun of Temecula that has turned my once flawless, well nourished skin into a dried out roadmap of my life. There is something about all those trees that makes me feel claustrophobic and I have come to hate all the green because I know what causes it! Give me the wide open desert any day, just add water and palm trees and watch it grow.

Just too dang green!

Angie Johnson kindly saved us an RV spot at the Clyde Holiday campgrounds. It was large enough for the GW, the Extortion and the trailer. Sir C set up the GW for the stay and then we headed to town for the puppy evaluation testing. It was a great litter and a lot of fun hanging out with the Johnson family. They are all such a delight! Angie’s mom cooked a vegan dinner for us on Friday night that was delicious! We were so appreciative. After dinner, we were entertained by the Johnson family and a friend. They are all fine musicians! Young Clay is just an incredible fiddle player as well as a top notch Border Collie breeder and puppy raiser!

Saturday morning we’ll pack up and head out for the last two legs of our journey “home.” Next stop, somewhere near Madras, Oregon, then on to Silver Creek, Washington for a summer of fun with our wonderfully entertaining grandollars.

Oh!!! I almost forgot!

LOOK WHAT FOLLOWED US HOME!

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | June 6, 2012

Don’t You Know Who I Am???

The topic for this Agility Blog Action Day is “Attitude.” There are plenty of attitudes in agility; some good – some not so much. For some reason, there are people in this sport who believe their own press. They think that being able to get a dog around an agility course successfully, gives them permission to treat those they perceive as less worthy, poorly.

I have seen it over and over and over in this sport. I have to sit back and laugh really. I like to see how people treat those they see as “nobody” in the sport. It speaks volumes about that person. If the “nobody” can offer the superstar something, then they may make an effort to be nice to them. If there is nothing in it for them, then, forget it.

Then there are those who are just plain nasty to everyone except their inner circle. I am not sure what life event happened to cause these people to think they have the right to treat others poorly, but they have perfected it to an art. I experienced this recently at a trial. I will not enter another trial put on by these people. Why would I enter where I neither feel wanted nor am I treated well? There are plenty of trials to enter that are run by nice people.

A few years ago I attended a large Regional trial. There were four rings going at once with plenty of conflicts. The gate stewards had a nightmare on their hands. There were lots of folks from out of town, but most of the gate people were locals – many were novices, just there to help and learn. I was standing on the sidelines as it all unfolded.

Picture this:

Gate steward yelling over and over and over for a certain dog.  Competitor never showed, so she called for the next dog. The competitor was off to the side talking and never heard the call. When she realized they had skipped her, she went over and blasted the gate person, telling her that she was standing just outside the ring and pointed to where she had been blabbing.

“Why didn’t you come get me? I was right there!”

“Well,” the gate steward said apologetically, “I called and called, but you didn’t show so I called for the next dog.”

“I was standing right over there!” she repeated. Her voice was now getting very loud and very angry.

“DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM???” She asked incredulously.

I was dumbstruck by the arrogance.

Agility is a sport we play with our dogs. It is not going to create World Peace or stop hunger or cure cancer… It is a fun thing to do on the weekends. Sure, some make a good living doing it, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to be rude to others.

It seems that the people who are the pioneers in agility in certain areas set the tone for the rest. It only takes a couple of people to bring down the happiness level for the rest of us. There are some folks who go out of their way to complain and cause trouble for others. It brings them great pleasure. I have seen them drive more than one person from the sport.

I normally write about lighthearted things, but attitude is everything in my mind. It can make or break a region. I try to avoid those who enjoy causing trouble for others. I love competing in the San Diego area. The people are great and the trials are friendly and accommodating. I wish everyone could experience this wonderful trial atmosphere. The other place we experienced a very supportive trial atmosphere was in Virginia. They clapped and cheered for each other and appreciated a great run when they saw it.

I like to be around nice people who make me laugh. I love it when something goes wrong in a run, but the handler smiles and never blames their dog. When the run ends, they smile at their dog and their dog smiles back, never knowing anything went wrong. Now THAT is a great attitude!

The next time you trial, try an attitude experiment and watch what happens:

SMILE at the volunteers!

SMILE at the novices!

SMILE at your fellow competitors!

But most importantly,

No matter what happens,

SMILE AT YOUR DOG!

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

WARNING! THIS BLOG IS R RATED AND EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE!!!

Continuing along the same inappropriate and offensive lines as some of my previous politically incorrect blogs…

Here are the top ten things you might be too chicken to say at agility trials.

10. YEAH, YEAH, I get it, if your dog hadn’t been wide he would have run that course in 20 yards per second and kicked our dog’s ass. Get over yourself.

9. HEY! MORON! It’s ALWAYS our fault when our dog goes wrong! Why do you keep blaming your poor confused dog for your shitty training and shitty handling?

8. You’re old for F#@K SAKE! PUT ON A BRA! Nobody wants to see those things swinging down past your waist!

7. (For the uptight Pacific Northwest trials only) Has anyone seen the Pope? I need permission to change my dog’s running order.

6. If you don’t shut that F#@&!^G dog up, I am going to debark the little bastard with my bare hands! (OOPS – never mind, that’s my dog).

 

5. HEY! Judge! I’d like to see YOU run this crappy course with a fast dog!

4. Pardon me judge, but what do YOU run, old fat Chihuahuas?  Can you say FLOW? This sport is supposed to FUN you miserable killjoy!

3. I have watched your dog break its start line stay for the past year and a half. Why do you always look shocked when it blows by you as you are leading out?

2. Do you REALLY think you look good in spandex? C’mon! REALLY??? LOOK IN THE MIRROR!!! Cover that shit up for F#@K SAKE! Nobody wants to look at your junk!

1. I prefer to know how cold it is outside by checking a thermometer, not your boobs.

(These are available at most stores. You can easily slip them into your bra to prevent tipping off the whole world of any temperature fluctuations – BUY SOME AND USE THEM FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!)

Please add the thing YOU would most like to say at a trial but are too chicken! Please add your favorite line to the comments below.

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | May 15, 2012

The Leash Saunterer

You can learn a lot about people when you leash saunter.

Normally, we are very spoiled down here in Southern California. The local professional trial secretary hires workers for the trials she does. It is wonderful! This takes the burden off the competitors who, for whatever reasons, choose not to work. There is rarely guilt slung at those trials for people to volunteer. I appreciate the people who work tirelessly and endlessly at these trials so I can sit on my fat ass, talk to my friends, spend more time with my dogs and concentrate on getting around a course. I hope all those people know how much they are appreciated!

My thoughts (and I have expressed these in another blog called “All Play and No Work”) about working is that the clubs are making big bucks at most trials. The club members need to step up and do the work, pay their trial workers well with vouchers for future trials or hire kids to do it. I don’t walk into Wal-mart and ask if I can volunteer or get guilted when I don’t.

I used to chair a large trial in the PNW and the club made great money then on that trial. I tried to “pay” the workers well with entries and food and take the pressure off those who preferred to not work.

If the club is poor and their trial is not making money, then I am more than happy to pitch in and help. If, however, they stand to make 4 -12 grand profit on their trial, they can certainly afford to hire help.

So, recently, we attended a trial that is not staffed by “working” competitors. It was all volunteers. The club membership has dwindled from 80 to 12 so workers are scarce. Perhaps they need to look at what (or who) is driving away their members and try to repair and replenish but that is really none of my beeswax. A smile from those in the score tent goes a long way ;).

Sir Cussalot and I got there early on Friday with the Global Warmer. Well, Sir C did, I went shopping for groceries and arrived a few hours after he did. There were only three club members there to help unload and set up all the equipment, tents, ring barriers, tables, etc. Sir C, an active 74 years old, helped carry a lot of heavy equipment. Sadly, his back is very sore now and I hope  all the stem cell stuff he did on it hasn’t been stripped away by a few hours helping out the club. I did better because I didn’t help with the heavy contacts like he did.

It was a shame that more people didn’t get there to help out.

Only having one dog to run in one class per day, I worked whenever and wherever I could. I sauntered leashes for hours and set bars for many classes. The poor judge had to set most of the bars in a couple of classes. I felt sorry for him out in the HOT sun all day long while people looked on from the shade of their tents. It was mentioned to me that the “professional trial secretary” had “ruined” it for the rest of the clubs by spoiling all of us. I am forever grateful to that pro for spoiling us! When I go other places to trial, I feel the guilt, and my body pays the price for working. By Monday morning I am toast. Post polio is not very forgiving when it comes to exercise. The pain lasts for days from only a little bit of work. As long as I am loaded up with Celebrex, I am styling. As soon as it wears off on Monday, I am miserable.

If the club members and others involved in these nonpro run trials were nicer to people and more appreciative, they might find more competitors willing to step up and lend a hand. Now I am not saying that ALL nonpro clubs are not nice or that ALL members of these clubs are not nice! There are some that are VERY nice (and they know who they are :)), but their niceness doesn’t override the nastiness of a few others! I have been to quite a few trials up and down the West Coast that are, let’s just say, less than nice and try to get workers through intimidation.

Anyway, off my soapbox and back to leash sauntering.

So, there are many kinds of unleashing:

1. First you have the extremely considerate folks who put their dogs in a sit, look around to find their leash mover, smile and hand off the leash. Sometimes I try to predict which ones will do that, but often I am fooled! There are people I think will be considerate, who are not, and those I expect won’t give a crap where that leash lands but hey fool me and hand me the leash.

2. Next you have those who look around trying to locate the leash person. Then they give the leash a good toss at the saunterer. This is my favorite exchange. I like to try to catch the leash but, alas, I am slow and my reaction time is less than good. Many are mortified when I  miss the catch(and I usually do). I had one woman this weekend who was so mortified when she threw and I missed, that she kept apologizing. She was so sweet! I told her not to worry, just concentrate on her dog (which everyone should do). Her throw was pathetic really, but I didn’t want to bring that to her attention. She was very nice.

3. The third type of handler, doesn’t look for the leash person, they just toss the leash in the direction they think they might be. I don’t have a problem with this person either. Some people come to the line very nervous and they need to concentrate on their dog and not who is going to deliver their leash to the other side of the ring for them. Been there – done that myself!

4. Next you have the drop and go. Their dog doesn’t have a start line stay so they just remove the leash and let it fall wherever as they run off after said ill trained dog. I always get such a kick out of some people who have dogs with no start line or an iffy start line stay. They turn their back on their dog as they walk out. All of a sudden their dog passes them up and they take off after it. Every single time they look amazed and shocked that heir dog would do such a thing! I am always so ticked by that. If I had a dog with a crappy start line stay, I think I would be keeping my eye on the dog as I led out. If nothing else, so I was prepared when the dog took off.

5. Now you start to get into the oblivious handlers. They have no idea how their leash gets to the other end of the ring for them. They are also the first to angrily scream, “WHERE’S MY LEASH???” if it is not there waiting for them. They think the leash apparates or levitates into the waiting chair at the end of the run.

6. The final leash tosser is the worst and I saw a few of these this weekend. They remove the leash from their dog and throw it as far as they can in the OPPOSITE direction. One person actually managed to throw the leash outside the ring this weekend! They neither notice nor do they care. Their dogs sit at the line just fine and they don’t look nervous at all, they just don’t seem to care. One such person ran more than a few dogs and she threw that leash as far away in the other direction as she possibly could each time she stepped to the line.

This last type of leash toss is extremely difficult for slow saunterers such as myself. I try to stay out of the picture so the dogs do not even know I am there. I never walk towards the leash until the dog has been released and is long gone and my movement will not disrupt them.

If the leash chucker has a very fast dog and I am sauntering leashes in jumpers, I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in HELL of getting that leash to the other side before the dog is finished running! Now I know I am going to catch hell from the chucker for not doing my job in a timely manner. My only prayer is that the dog goes off course or has some other time wasting fault while I try to get my fat ass across the ring.

Leash sauntering is my favorite trial job to do. I get a little exercise, get to watch the dogs and I learn a lot about my fellow competitors as well.

The next time you step to the line, take a glance around to locate your leash runner (saunterer if it is I), give them a little smile and toss your leash in their direction. I guarantee they will appreciate it 🙂

Helen  Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | May 7, 2012

Jib

He wasn’t famous. He was never on the World Team and he hated having his toenails cut.

It was about 10 years ago that I first met Jibby. He was a striking blue merle Border Collie who belonged to Stacy Winkler.  Jib was about the fastest dog around back then. He put in times that blew the competition away. Unfortunately, he also hit bars. Jib was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at a young age and had a TPO. I always said Jibby was the best unknown dog on the planet.

We often babysat for Jib when Stacy had to go out of town on business or to visit her family. He fit right in with our pack of dogs. He never complained. He was always respectful of our dogs (8 bitches and I mean bitches) and he LOVED Gramma’s EASTER BISCUITS! When Jib came to stay with us, he was quiet as a mouse, but ready to go crazy running with the pack at any time.

About the only thing Jib loved more than Easter Biscuits and turkey necks was swimming. He squealed with joy at the mere mention of the pool. He loved to take a mightily leap off the tall side of our pool (something that usually got me in trouble with his mom :)). He was fearless,  had no regard for his own safety nor did he have any sense of self preservation. He did everything a million miles an hour and always gave it everything he had to give.

One of my favorite Jib stories took place at our farm in Washington. We were still living in the house at the time rather than the Global Warmer. I was sitting upstairs at my computer and Sir Cussalot had walked the quarter mile to the end of the driveway to get the mail. Stacy was visiting her family in Oregon, so we were taking care of Jibby for the week. He loved Sir C, but was a bit conflicted at times because it was Sir C who held him still while I dremeled his toenails.

Anyway, I heard the front door shut followed by size 14 shoes clomping up the stairs. Then I heard muttering. “Goddamn f#@k!^g JIB. Get the f#@k off me for f… sake.” Normally I wouldn’t have turned around to even look because I have learned to ignore the cussing as just a normal part of life (he isn’t called Sir Cussalot for nothing). It was the THUMP, drag, THUMP, drag, THUMP drag…  that got my attention. Just as I turned around, here came Sir C with an armful of mail, helpless against the humping  dog attached to his leg.

I burst out laughing. More cussing and grumbling followed until I called Jibby and he released the death grip he had on Sir C’s leg. Jibby was known to hump Sir C off and on for years. He never did it to anyone else. It was almost as if it were payback for the dremeling. When Stacy got her own dremel and did his nails herself, the humping of Sir C ceased.

My next favorite Jibby story took place at Stacy’s a couple of years ago. We were in Stacy’s living room visiting. She had a large crate in the corner of the room. The door was closed but not latched. As we were leaving, I looked at Jibby and asked, “Hey Jib, you want Gramma and Grampa to do your nails?” As the last word came out of my mouth, Jibby looked at me in horror, his already prominent eyes got even bigger, and ran towards the crate. He never missed a beat. He ran up to the crate, banged his foot on the door so it bounced open, ran in the crate and closed the door behind him! We nearly fell down laughing.

I didn’t think we could reproduce that scene in a million years but I wanted to try. I got the video camera, coaxed poor unsuspecting Jibby out of his panic room and asked him the same question. With camera rolling, Jib did not disappoint. He once again ran to the crate, pushed his paw against the door so it bounced open, ran into the box and shut the door behind him. The sad thing is, we have searched all day and can’t find the footage.

For whatever reason, Jibby loved our Poodle Isabella. Nobody likes Isabella, but Jibby did. He played with her like a puppy. She enjoyed it too because she played back with great joy.

I will miss the harmless but fierce sounding Chewbacca like growling Jibby did when you asked him for a kiss. I will miss hearing him talk to me on the phone at night. I will miss the endless ball throwing I did for him and I will miss his wonderful full eyes.

I can’t stop crying.

Good-bye wonderful Jibby. I will pray they have Chuck-Its and pools in heaven.

The lovely digital portrtait below was done by Laura Rothstein. You can visit her website at:  www.flyingfurpetportraits.com

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | April 10, 2012

…But She’s PERFECT at Home!

Agility is a humbling experience for some of us. If you are a miracle trainer, then perhaps things are different. Alas, most of us are not, and hearing that the reason our dogs stress and have performance anxiety is because we suck, does nothing to help our self esteem or our stress level.

I thought I had all the answers once. I thumped my chest and parroted things I had been taught and it all worked fine for the first six dogs I trained in agility. Five of those dogs are standard Poodles with various degrees of drive and softness and the other is a crackhead Border Collie who started with major self-control issues. My husband runs most of them, but I did the early training up to a year or so, then handed the best dogs over to him and kept the difficult or slower dogs for myself. He is a much better handler than I will ever be and a lot faster (well who isn’t faster than I am?).

Then the Universe sent me a major lesson in humility…

One of the Poodles I trained and ran in competition is Charisse Poodle. She is as sweet a dog as ever set foot on the earth. She is also dumb as a post and was quite fearful in the beginning. I chalked it up to her upbringing. We didn’t get her until she was three and she had no agility training at all except for some jumping. I couldn’t get her within 50 feet of the teeter at first, so the process was long and arduous.

Charisse Poodle went on to earn her USDAA Performance equivalent of a MAD title as well as two MACHs in AKC. I bred her a couple of years ago and we kept two puppies. Sadly, there was one in the littler that had major fear issues, no drive at all and couldn’t have cared less about toys or playing. She is the one I kept for myself because I didn’t want to stick her with anyone else. I have written about her many times and will many more, I am sure of that.

We have struggled on our roller coaster ride and will struggle lots more. There have been times people suggested I place her in a pet home. I thought I would never do that, but recently the thought has entered my mind on several occasions. Just when I think we are over the hump, the Universe, convinced my course in humility is far from over, kicks me in the face with another lesson. One such lesson happened this past weekend.

Pankies was spayed about a month and a half ago. I have seen definite improvement in her behavior, so I wanted to try trialing her again. It had been a couple of months since our last try.

When I first trialed her last fall, she was brilliant! We went through AKC Novice 1-2-3!

Pankies getting her Novice JWW title.

Then she suffered from IPE (irrational Poodle exuberance) in her first Open run, but I didn’t think anything of it. Clearly, she did!

Her IPE run in Open

At her next trial after that, she was obviously stressed. We finished the course, and even qualified, but she was not the happy, carefree dog that came out in Novice.

We put trialing away for a bit after two unsuccessful tries and a stress level that was escalating with each run. I decided to train her more and get her to some show and gos if possible. The problem is there are none around. When a local UKI trial came up, I jumped at the chance to enter (you can train in the ring with toys). I took in my trusty ball and she was brilliant! There was zero stress. Her state of arousal was so high, she forgot all bout the scary trial atmosphere and all the big scary dogs around. We did two runs and the second run was ever better than the first. I was STOKED!

Her UKI run.

So, I entered her in another trial. It had been months since our last try, and she was running so well in training at home and at class. We even did a Greg Derrett seminar and she was awesome. Her skills are fabulous!

The trial was at a place she has often been so I didn’t expect a problem. She started off great but, when she got to the weaves, stress took over and she couldn’t do them. Eventually, she did but she was not happy. Weaves are her favorite obstacle too, but stress overrides all with her. The next day she was even more stressed so I decided to quit trialing again.

A couple of months passed and I entered her in a local USDAA trial (jumpers only) She did half the course, then ran to the score table (where somebody FED HER!!!!). So, back to the drawing board and more training.

Sir Cussalot and I decided to hold our own private trials in our training yard. We called it The Big Jility Invitational. Pankies was the winner of the first one, and has done well in each one, but Sir C cheats and wins it with Crushie now, so we don’t stand a chance.

Pankies in her BJI win

With the spaying behind her and our triumphant BJI, I decided to enter her again. Since she already has a leg in Open, we couldn’t go back to Novice so I decided to put her in Novice Preferred. My plan was just to go have fun. The courses are so easy, we should be able to do them in our sleep!

Here comes another humility lesson. WHACK!!! BAM!!! BIFF!!! SMACK!!! (Hey! Where’s my toy? – read Easter Biscuits). Thanks Universe! I needed more of that!

NOT!

So now, what little ego I have left is on the line with Pankies (literally). Pankies tugs outside the ring but, as soon as I step through the gate, she refuses to tug and begins to scope out her surroundings. I knew I was in trouble, but went for it anyway. She had warmed up beautifully at the practice jump so I thought we might have a chance.

HUH!

The video speaks for itself.

In the race horse business, they call that “refusing to break.”

Things have been going downhill with every run. She has gone from brilliant to cautious  to stressy to paralyzed with fear. We have really been going in the wrong direction and only a miracle will bring us back.

On the incredibly LONG and silent ride home, I thought about it.

Do I give up?

Do I place her in a home where she can do nothing?

Do I keep trying?

If I give up, that means no more agility for me for at least two more years assuming I got a puppy tomorrow. We already have EIGHT dogs so that is really out of the question.

I don’t want to place her. I adore her and she adores me! So, that was also out of the question.

So, that only left “keep trying.”

I talked to my friend and instructor, Stacy WInkler, and Sir C about it and we formulated a plan. Sir C would stay in the set up so she didn’t have the excuse to go looking for him. I would not warm her up at the practice jump right before entering the ring. I would do that earlier, put her away, then rewarm her in other ways before I ran her. I would keep her far from the ring until it was her time (she is petrified of other dogs). Stacy would stand down by the ring and wave at me when we were two dogs out. Then, I would get her out and run (or waddle faster than I normally do) down to the ring, tug her in, if she will tug, take off her leash, do a couple of jumps and run out and celebrate.

As we entered the ring, she was tugging hard. AWESOME!

She was engaged. AWESOME!

She actually looked at me! EVEN MORE AWESOME!

So, I made an executive decision to take a few lead out steps before releasing her. She actually ran with me! She was slow and tentative, but she ran AND she jumped!

We did six jumps and celebrated! I even did a serp.

Here is her video (thanks Nancy :).

So where do we go from here? We keep trying and we celebrate baby steps. If I have to flush money down the toilet I will and I will do it for as long as it takes. If it gets to a point where she can’t even do a few jumps or is really miserable, I will stop and limit our trials to the BJI, but I am not ready to quit yet. Our roller coaster ride is far from over, my ego is the size of a tit mouse’s ear and I am sure the Universe is not done messing with me, but we will keep going.

My new tag line?

If at first you don’t succeed, keep on suckin’ ‘till you do succeed.” The Three Stooges.

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | April 7, 2012

EASTER BISCUITS!!!!

When we were kids, holidays were a big deal. Our mother went overboard with everything from celebrations to gifts to punishments. Many times the gifts followed the punishment. It was kinda like SMASH! “Here’s a toy.” Talk about a conflicted childhood.

Anyway, holidays were always over the top and Easter was no exception. I loved Easter; perhaps even more than Christmas. I was a fat kid (big surprise eh?) and the Easter candy was incredible.  I couldn’t wait to see what goodies I would find when I opened my bedroom door. There were six kids in my family and each one of us had our very own Easter Bunny trail leading from our bedroom doors. As I was typing just now, it dawned on me that my brothers shared a bedroom upstairs. I never asked how they knew which trail was which! Now THAT question will haunt me for the next year or until I forget about it, whichever comes first and, at my age, that may only be until I finish this blog!

I would lie awake for hours, thinking about what tasty morsels that bunny might leave for me. The Easter Bunny would wait until he/she thought we were fast asleep, then lay that trail of chocolate, marshmallows and jelly beans. At the crack of dawn, I would open my door and THERE IT WAS, leading me on a path of major caloric discovery that wound through the halls, behind chairs and couches and under tables until it ended with a pot of tasty gold hidden in some imaginative place. I loved the hunt! The trail, made up mostly of marshmallow duckies, assorted jelly beans and other small Easter type delicacies, was broken up every so often by a large sugar egg with a scene inside, or a tall chocolate bunny or some other interesting confections.

No wonder I was a fat kid! Oh wait, I am the one in control of my own diet now and I am STILL FAT! Oh well.

There I was, thinking about Easter one day and how much I loved that hunt, when it hit me! I could do the same for our dogs! It only seemed logical to give our dogs the same wonderful experience of a delicious hunt for treats! So, each time we go out the door for any extended period of time and leave dogs behind, we make leaving them not just an OK thing, but a GREAT thing that goes on and on and on. Kinda like the gift that keeps on giving. The way we do that is to recreate the Easter experience I loved so much as a kid. We take a huge fistful or two of kibble and yell, “EASTER BISCUITS!” as we cast the delectable goodies across the floor of the Global Warmer.

It is something we have done for a hundred years so it is second nature for us, but the first time an outsider sees this ritual, they are shocked. It seems like such a logical thing to do, I am always mystified by their reactions. We always do the same when a dog has to go into a crate or x-pen, or if we have company and shuffle the girls to the bedroom of the GW (8 dogs and company doesn’t work well in such a small space).

So, the next time you leave your dogs, think of us and throw them a big fistful of EASTER BISCUITS! You will be amazed at how much they look forward to seeing the backside of your arse going out the door.

PS. It also works great as a lure to get them to come in if they have better things to do. We just yell, “EASTER BISCUITS” out the door and your should see them all come a runnin! OK, so it goes against everything you have ever heard or read from good trainers, but we never claimed to be good :).

HAPPY EASTER BISCUITS EVERYONE!

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

 

Posted by: jility | April 3, 2012

Monkey Man

Moving to Washington State from Southern California was a real culture shock for all of us. The year was 1979 and I had moved to California from New England five years earlier. I loved California. I loved the scenery, the climate, the great services, the beaches and even the traffic. It all got my adrenalin pumping.

I grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts and, in the early 1970s, lived about four years in New Hampshire raising dogs and horses. I had gone to California in the early ‘70s to show dogs and fell in love with the place. When it became obvious that I needed a change of scenery, California was the only logical place for me to go.

So, in the summer of 1974, I sold my farm, packed a light suitcase, gathered my then 3 year old son, and off we went in search of adventure, sunshine and a happier life. We found all that and more!

Here I am with my son, Trent at my New Hampshire farm. It was a LONG LONG time ago!

My plan was to avoid all long term relationships, but later that year, a friend introduced me to an electronic engineer geek. I only agreed to go out with him to shut her up. Thirty-seven years later, I look back and thank my lucky stars I agreed to go on a blind date with that guy. Needless to say, we hit it off. Even his geeky cardigan sweater and polyester pants didn’t turn me off.

Blah Blah Blah, we fell in love and became inseparable.

We bought a nice little place on an acre and a half in Simi Valley (things were very cheap then!). I think we paid about $75,000 for this wonderful 2,500 sq foot home with a pool and outbuildings. What a steal! I wish we had that now! We turned down the acre next door because they were asking $15,000 for it and we, in our infinite wisdom, thought that was much too expensive! Instead, we bought some loser horses that I planned to train and resell for a profit LOLOLOLOLOL. We also invested in Thoroughbred race horses. They say you can make a small fortune in horses! The only kicker is, you must start with a large fortune in order to do so.

Eventually, we had 18 horses on an acre and a half and rented that overpriced acre next door for pasture. Sir Cussalot was still working as an engineer designing satellite trackers and other aerospace wonders, while I was busy getting my ass kicked (literally) by our expensive nags. I had lots of experience with horses, breaking, training, jumping, and such, but I was still very naive in my mid 20s. OK, stupid.

We talked about moving to a larger place but prices had risen in California by the late ‘70s and we just couldn’t afford the amount of land we needed to pursue our dream of breeding big winners on the track.

Sir C’s grandmothers still lived in Washington where he was born, and he convinced me Washington was the place to go. His grandmothers sent us newspapers and we searched those papers for real estate we could afford. Sir C would have to quit his lucrative job but, as I convinced him, it would be fine because we would make plenty of dough selling foals from those wicked fast horses we had purchased.

Anyway, we found a great little place in Lewis County, Washington. The town was Silver Creek, right next to Salkum, the other side of Ethel and on the way to Harmony and Mossyrock. You get the picture. Our little slice of heaven was very isolated. There was only one stop light in the entire county! There was a little market about a mile down the road, right across from the Brown Shack Tavern. Population about 180 (the town, not the tavern – although some nights there were a lot of cars parked along the street outside that popular dilapidated pub).

The place we bought had an old mill row house, about 900 square feet. It had been moved to its current location from “downtown” Salkum in the 1940s using only logs under it as rollers. The 55 acre farm was surrounded by hand spit cedar posts the original owner, still living on a five acre corner of the farm at that time, had cut and split himself. He had also hand dug every single hole (and there were thousands of posts!) and strung every single strand of wire. He was a full time logger, so all this was done in his spare time!

The house had only recently been given indoor plumbing and electricity. The only heat came from a wood burning stove and there was no outlet for a clothes dryer, so I had to dry everything on a rack over the wood stove, or outside. Sometimes the weather made that very difficult, especially when it was too warm for a fire, yet too rainy for outside drying. I did all the dishes by hand of course and, with three kids still living at home, laundry sometimes piled pretty dang high.

I will never forget the day we moved there. It was June 20, 1979. We were about 2 miles from the place. I looked around and realized I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. It was too late to turn back. The new adventure was just beginning.

So what does the title, “Monkey Man” have to do with the price of beans? I am about to tell you.

The first morning I woke in our new home. I remember how damp it was. SW Washington is still very wet in June. Summer doesn’t start until the third week in July. Sadly, it ends the fourth week in July. Anyhoo, I dragged my cold, damp ass out of bed and felt the moisture in my clothes as I pulled them over my freezing body. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, or Simi Valley.

Once dressed, we walked outside to take in the peacefulness of isolated living. With birds chirping, a light breeze whispering through the many trees, and horses naying for breakfast, it seemed, for that moment, like paradise.  Then we heard it! Clamoring, clanging, backfiring and a very loud muffler from a mile way. As it grew closer, we realized the bed of the old truck was filled with barking, screaming dogs. All hanging over the sides of the truck yelling obscenities at all they passed. The closer they got, the louder they got. Our dogs went wild at the challenges they were spouting from their chariot.

As the truck drove past us, we could see not only more dogs in the cab, but a monkey screaming at the window as well! WTF? We stood there, speechless as the old truck sputtered past us and on up the hill. We looked at each other, jaws dropped and eyes wide, in total disbelief.

Monkey Man, as he was called for obvious reasons, just liked to travel up and down the  rural roads of Eastern Lewis County, so his beloved critters would have entertainment. At the time we found it all quite impossibly ludicrous. Who, in their right mind, takes that many dogs, and a monkey, for a ride, just to give them the opportunity to bark and have a blast?

After a while, Monkey Man and his melodic passengers became a normal part of our Salkum life. Everyone laughed at him and his noisy friends but, secretly, I admired him on some level. The whole thing just looked like a lot of fun to me. Remember, this was in the 1970s, so the fact that he let his dogs ride in the back of a pickup truck was no big deal. We didn’t even wear seatbelts back then.

As time went on, we wrote our own little Monkey Man song. As we heard the old truck rounding the corner a half mile or so away, the performance would begin. It started with the percussion of the trucks’s clickity clack, clickity clack, followed by the periodic backfiring. As the group approached, the background singers in the bed of the old jalopy,  barked out their harmonies. That was our cue to begin the melody. It was a singsong chant of “MOOOOONKY maaaaaan” over and over in a very high pitched falsetto, while our dogs cheered loudly for the brilliant performance with a screaming  standing ovation.

The saga of Monkey Man has been passed down from generation to generation of our canines. The story is well kept because, at any time, we can whisper his name in our sing song way and all our current dogs go bizerk! Even though they have neither seen nor heard the now long gone, real Monkey Man group, they know the legend well.

One day, while driving my son, then about 12 years old, home from one of his many different sports practices, it happened. I had brought a few of our dogs with me for company. I think we only had four or five dogs back then. We stopped at the local market to pick up something for dinner. As we pulled into the parking lot, my son hit the floor in front of his seat at warp speed.

“What are you doing?” I asked incredulously.

“MONKEY MAN MOM!!! WE LOOK LIKE MONKEY MAN!!!” he replied in a terrified voice. “I don’t want any of my friends to see me in this Monkey Man car!!!!”

Then it hit me! I hadn’t even noticed the harmonious barking coming from the backseat. As I looked back, I saw it. My Dane had his humongous head out the cracked window on one side. The other two dogs were screaming out the other window and my son was curled up on the floor in the fetal position, petrified one of his friends might know he was in the car with this traveling circus of poorly behaved dogs. Much to my son’s dismay, I burst out laughing. I couldn’t stop. I laughed so hard I cried. Eventually, I think I even got a smile out of him.

If you have ever seen us arrive at a trial, training center or anyplace else for that matter, you will see that nothing much has changed in the past thirty plus years. No matter where we go, we pay homage to Monkey Man. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery. The only thing missing is the monkey and Sir C might argue with that ;).

Things haven’t changed much in Salkum either since we arrived in 1979. There are, however, lots of stop lights in the county now, but the nearest one to us is about 8 or 10 miles away. They did put in a Walmart about 30 miles down the road a few years back! That caused a HUGE buzz. Home Depot followed soon after. What’s next, a vegetarian restaurant? Well, doubtful, they still think being vegetarian means eating grass fed beef.

About ten years ago, a medium sized tornado went through the east end of the county. It was a very rare event for sure! It took the path of least resistance and traveled right down the middle of Highway 12 from Mary’s Corner to Salkum. After it was all over, Sir C and I took a ride to assess the damage. Not much else to do for entertainment in Salkum. As we drove down the road taking in the devastation, we would yell things like, “HOLY SHIT! LOOK AT THAT!” or “WOW!” or “BUMMER” and so on. Old barns that had stood for a hundred years crumbled like match sticks and, to this day, remain where they fell as a monument to the tornado of 2000. As we approached one old farm, I exclaimed, “WHAT A MESS IT MADE OF THAT PLACE!” Then, in a split second as it hit us both, we said, almost in unison, “Oh wait, that place always looked like that.” and laughed.

A friend who recently drove with me to our farm in Salkum remarked, “Helen lives in Deliveranceville!” I started to protest, then looked around and realized she was right. I shrugged.

So what ever happened to those destined to be famous racehorses?

Long story short, I could outrun the nags and most of you have seen me run. The only fast horse we bred set a new track record, then broke his leg in his next race. I think the Universe was trying to tell us something. We got out of the horse “business” and went in a different direction. Things worked out.

Our Deliveranceville Farm

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | March 18, 2012

The Big Jility Invitational

Since retiring my nine year old agility dog, MACH 2 Charisse Poodle MPD, I have done a lot of agility soul searching. My goals haven’t changed much (just go have fun), but my expectations have come full circle. My youngest standard Poodle, UPGRAYEDD (aka Uppity, Upp, Pankin Pants, Pankins, Pankies, etc.) has taught me more about agility and life than anything or anyone else.

Recently, I wrote a couple of blogs about how agility was before I knew what I know now. One is titled When I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know and the other, more recent post, is Ignorance is BlissAgility was more fun for me before I learned how it was supposed to be. Now, unless my dog performs everything at World Class speed, I feel disappointed in myself as her trainer. I am never disappointed in my dog, only myself for being a big fat failure! I hate that about me and vow to change it! I am trying hard to silence the voices in my head that keep telling me I am not good enough no matter what I do.

Now, if somebody wants to get on an agility World Team or compete Internationally or win the Nationals, all the power to them. Just because that is not something that holds interest for us, however, it doesn’t make us damaged or lazy or less than. It also doesn’t make the overachievers better or more important or their goals more valid. For me, having fun with my dog in my backyard is just as good as a Gold Medal AND the dog doesn’t give a crap what titles it wins: another lesson I have learned the hard way in agility. I have had people tell me that the quest for MACHs is stupid and meaningless. I say, WHATEVER and anyone who feels the need to judge another’s goals and tell them what they enjoy is stupid, is not worth listening to. We trainer/handlers deserve as much positive reinforcement as our dogs and belittling students has no place in teaching. The ONLY person who looks bad when that happens is the bullying instructor.

When my friend Uncle Jef quit doing agility because it was no longer fun for him, I felt betrayed. How dare he quit and leave me  without my partner in crime at trials! We have been friends since the beginning of our agility careers. We met at our first match in 2001 and became instant buddies. I love nothing more than laughing and Uncle Jef makes me laugh. We have the same sick and irreverent sense of humor (think 12 year old boys).

So, when we were talking recently about agility trials and how they have become less fun, I started thinking about how to change that. My solution? Have our own trials! We could make up the rules, set the courses and invite only the people we like (or, more importantly, only those who like us, or at least pretend they like us).

I have learned a lot from email lists. There was a time when I was part of a billion email groups. Because I am opinionated and vocal about said opinions, I am not always a popular poster on those lists. It got to a point on many of the lists, that no matter what I wrote, there was somebody waiting to jump on me about it. Slowly, I realized that these lists were no longer fun, so I left. Sure, I could have stayed and lurked, but that  just isn’t me. Consequently, I started my own list  for agility called, the Jility list.  We have some great discussions and there are no members just waiting to ambush me. I love my agility list and the people on it! They “get” me and my twisted sense of humor.

So, with that in mind, I thought how wonderful it would be to do the same thing with agility trials. The results? The Big Jility Invitational! We would only invite people who make us laugh, or who laugh at our sick, warped jokes. At first, my thought was to only invite nice people, but that would have precluded Uncle Jef, Sir Cussalot and me. So, nice aside, the only requirements for an invitation to the BJI would be a great sense of humor and no overt nastiness towards any of us.

The rules are as follows:

  1. You must be nice to your dog
  2. Food and toys are allowed in the ring
  3. You may pat or kiss your dog anytime during a run.
  4. Training in the ring is encouraged
  5. You must never blame your dog for ANYTHING that goes wrong or risk being booed out of the ring and called names!
  6. You must have a sense of humor and not take ANYTHING we say seriously!
  7. You can jump any height you like up to 20” but be prepared for boos if you run a big dog in the 12” jump class (unless the dog is old), or a small dog in a tall jump height.
  8. Contacts are optional (teeter is not allowed – Uncle Jef made that rule) and are always low (dog walk at 2’ or less and A-frame at 4’ or less) so if a dog falls off or jumps off, they wont get hurt (my first agility dog had to reite due to falls from the DW. It is the most dangerous piece of equipment in agility!)
  9. Contact performance is not judged but is booable
  10. All approaches to the contacts must be straight!
  11. Weaves are optional. If there are weaves in a course, you can choose to do them or not
  12. Table is optional and will be set no higher than 16″
  13. There will be a 5 second penalty for each dropped bar, but since we don’t time the runs it really doesn’t matter
  14. The winner is decided by popular opinion

So, last week Sir Cussalot set up a course for the first ever Big Jility Invitational (BJI). The only people in attendance for this one were Sir C and Yours Truly. The course was a blast! It was an AKC jumper course Sir C found online at agilitycoursemaps.com and it was designed by Terri Campbell. There were no backsides of jumps or back jumps or other absurd and demotivating elements to the course. It was straightforward agility, just the way I like it. The course was about having a blast with your dog and going fast.

The jumps were set at 20” (the highest jump height allowed in the BJ Invitational) and the tension in the air was nonexistent. Sir C was the first to go. Barque was fast and tight on her turns, however, a misplaced front cross cost him time and bars. It would come down to how Pankies and Crushie handled themselves on course.

Pankies was only two weeks out from being spayed. It was done with a laser, so the recovery time was extraordinary! She was released to go full out at two weeks after the surgery, so we went for it! Ball in hand, we approached the startline. She sat. I led out while she barked, scooted and bounced. Sure, I could fix that and make her a little lock step soldier, but why? She loves doing her startline dance and I love watching her be happy and excited, so whatever.

I released her and took off walking. We made the first turn without a hitch. She was wide on my next post turn but drove well. Then, it was all the way down the arena to the weavins. Two jumps out I yelled “WEAVINS! GET A WEAVINS!” and she took off like a shot and dove into the weavins. She wubs her weabins. While she was in the weaves, I layered two jumps to get to my next location; the tunnel. She ran into the tunnel, I called and she came to me as she exited. Then it was two tight turns to the finish. I bungled my verbals and let the first verbal turn cue go on much too long, so she didn’t get the second verbal cue until she was taking off. She read my mind and got a nice tight turn to the left. Then it was home free and the ball toss baby!

GREAT RUN! YEAH The crowd (me) screamed, cheered, jumped for joy and went wild! I was deafening!

Sir C went to get Crushie for her turn. It was a beautiful run but, sadly for Sir C and Fwushie, a bar dropped, giving them a 5 second penalty.

I WON!!!!! I WON!!!!! We were only 2 seconds slower than Crushie too (Sir C timed it on the computer.  I think that was against my rules, but, since it went in my favor, I let it go).

Now, in what other organization can a 62 year old, fat, crippled woman with polio, post polio and a freaky scared Poodle, beat one of the fastest dogs in agility?

THE BIG JILITY INVITATIONAL!!!! WHERE ELSE?

Agility just the way I like it 🙂

Here is the winning run in slow motion.

Posted by: jility | March 7, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

If I had a quarter (OK, it used to be a penny, but with inflation and all…) for every time over the past 62 years I have uttered the phrase, “If I only knew then what I know now…,” I would be living in a mansion overlooking the Amalfi coast in Italy. I would have a private pool with a disappearing edge and I would sit all day watching the yachts sail in and out of the quaint harbor. I would eat amazing Italian pasta morning, noon and night and sip lemonade made from famous Amalfi lemons.  

But, as usual, I digress.

The other day I was lamenting about all the stupid mistakes I have made in my life. I told Sir Cussalot that nobody on earth has better hindsight than I. Just like my eyes, my hindsight is a perfect 20/20. For 62 years I have blundered along, making choices I thought were the right ones. At least they felt right at the time. Several days, to several years, to several decades later, I usually look back on those decisions with regret. I am sure if I had made the decisions I think I SHOULD have made, there would be reasons to regret those too in hindsight.

I envy people who say, “If I had it to do all over again, I would do it exactly as I did the first time. I wouldn’t change a thing.” I want to bitch slap those happy MUTHA F#@K$R$ with their perfect choices and their perfect lives. If somebody asked me if I would rather be happy or have anything I wanted, anytime I wanted, I would choose happiness without a second thought! Wait, would that be a trick question? Would I regret that choice too? Probably, but at least I would be happy about making the wrong choice!

There I go digressing again.

As a part of the Dog Agility Bloggers group, periodically we are given a theme around which we base our blogs. This time that theme is “If I Knew Then What I Know Now.” I guess that means whatever I write should apply to agility since this is for the Dog Agility Bloggers. I will try to refrain from further digressions.

About the ONLY time I am glad I didn’t know then what I know now, is when it comes to dog agility. If I had known everything I know now when I started agility, I might have given up before I was hooked! When I started in agility, I was as ignorant as ignorant can get! I actually wrote a blog about it a while back, I called, “When I didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know.”

When I started agility, I had never seen fast dogs run in training or in competition. I had never seen it on TV or in person. I thought the way you trained the contacts was to put squeeze cheese all along the planks, kinda like Handsel and Gretel finding their way in the woods (only they used breadcrumbs or white pebbles or some such things).

OH OH, I am beginning to digress again!

ANYway, it wasn’t until I actually began competing at the excellent level that I realized we needed to run faster, harder, cleaner. After a year of leapt contacts, I figured squeeze cheese wasn’t enough. There had to be a better way! (please refer to my blog “When I didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know” so I can refrain from more digression).

When I went out and just had fun, oblivious to the way agility was “supposed” to be done, I had a blast! Agility was fun! Now, sadly, agility is work, disappointments, heartaches and, if things all go as planned, FUN! I think I am back to that wish about happiness or everything I want.

I spend day after day after day trying to perfect my young dog’s contacts, drive and boldness (well, I would settle for her not bolting in terror whilst projectile urinating and air snapping). She had a bitchin teeter! She slid all the way to the end from the pivot point, SLAMMED into her 2o2o position and waited with quivering anticipation to be released. Then, one day, after performing the teeter (her favorite obstacle!) with incredible enthusiasm, it happened. She slipped off the side at the pivot point. She just jumped off really and landed on her feet. After months and months and months of performing the teeter with great gusto and speed, one slip and that was it! She wouldn’t go near the teeter! We had to go back to square one.

In the early days, I would not have been going for a world class teeter. I would have settled for squeeze cheese teeters. Slow and steady, instead of fast and furious; is that so wrong? Back then, BEFORE I knew what I know now, the answer would have been a resounding NO! It wasn’t so wrong. I was ecstatic that my dog would even walk over a teeter let alone run. I had never seen a dog slide a teeter, so that was not in my mind at all when I had a picture of what I wanted my dog’s teeter to look like. Now it is SLIDE BABY SLIDE! Now it is ALL or NOTHING! Now it takes years to perfect my dog’s performance instead of calling it good after a few weeks or even a few days or a few sessions.

Recently, I brought my nine year old MACH 2 standard Poodle, Charisse,  out of retirement to run in the novice preferred jumper class. She had been out of agility since I retired her last September. We hadn’t done a lick of training since then (almost 6 months). She was in great shape from running with the other dogs, just no agility training. Watching Sir C run his three dogs, made me yearn for that 25 or 30 second adrenalin rush. Since I didn’t have a dog that could do that, I settled for 18 seconds in novice. 18 seconds would be better than nothing (TWSS)!

We waited all day long for our chance to have fun together again. I walked those 15 obstacles twice and called it good. Unlike the excellent courses that require some thought, the novice course was straightforward and simple, like it should be when one only wants to have fun. Charisse Poodle couldn’t believe she was going to get to run again! She begged every weekend to go to Big Jility, but she had to settle for her Easter Biscuit hunt. Each day of a trial, I snuck out the door of the Global Warmer to go watch Sir C run his dogs, whilst casting a handful of treats on the floor (hence the reason I named the biscuit casting “EASTER BISCUITS!”  Easter Biscuits referenced, I promise not to go into digression about how we hunted for hidden candy delights every Easter as a kid…).

Charisse came out of the x-pen bouncing in her normal fashion. She boinged to the warm up jump with great excitement! We settled into our old routine; treats until 2 dogs to go, then tugging. We tugged into the ring; I pried open her mouth and removed the leash; threw it in the direction of the leash runner, far enough away so Charisse wouldn’t go get it to resume our game of tug; Boinged her to the start, asked for a sit and led out. I couldn’t believe I was once again running with my best agility pal. I walked into my release, said, “OK!” Charisse came a runnin. Not as fast as she was in her younger days, but obviously happy to be jumping only 16 inches. We continued on the short course with huge smiles on our faces.

No pressure, no expectations, only pure fun! It was 18 seconds of heaven! For those few seconds, I forgot about all my aches and pains (physical and mental). Nothing hurt, nothing mattered. It was only Charisse Poodle and me; having fun doing what we both love most in this world.

I will continue to run her once in a while in novice preferred jumpers. We won’t be moving up to excellent or even open. We will stay where we can have a blast, even if it is only for a few seconds. We won’t train between trials and we won’t care what happens in the trial. We will just go out there and have fun doing our thing together.

I long for a simpler time in agility. I long for a time when courses were easier, dogs were slower and ignorance was bliss; a time when I didn’t know what I know now.

www.recipetowin.com

Posted by: jility | February 12, 2012

What’s Your Angle?

When Daisy Peel asked me to teach a structure class for her in her online classroom, I wasn’t sure. Having never done anything like that, I was unsure as to how to go about it. Daisy assured me that she would help me find my way around the classroom. Her faith in me gave me the guts to go ahead and say yes. Daisy made it easy for me to have the courage to go forward.

Online classes seem to be the way of the future and I am thrilled to be part of this incredibly exciting electronic age. The sad part is that this generation may be one of the last to see paper books. With all the new technology, it is an exciting time to be alive!

My biggest fear of online teaching was that nobody would sign up for my class? Daisy assured me that would not be a problem. Skeptical, but hopeful, I proceeded to set up my classroom. Daisy agreed to to let my agility list members have first shot at registration. I was tickled with the response! Within one day of opening to the public, my class filled! WOW! I was overwhelmed!

Auditing spots were unlimited and slowly, but surely, people began to register for auditing! There has been such a great response, if we hold the class again, we may also have to limit auditing spots as well!

It is going to be a great four weeks! People work at their own pace and the class is open 24/7. The material will be up for six weeks from the opening, so there is plenty of time to soak in the material. The title for the class is, “What’s Your Angle?” We will focus on learning to see angles.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased my new book, Picking Your Performance Puppy, and to all those who have signed up for my online class! Registration for the class ends February 13th so there is still a little time to join us!

http://classroom.daisypeel.com/online-class-signup/WHATS-YOUR-ANGLE/

Picking Your Performance Puppy

Posted by: jility | January 1, 2012

All is Lost

When I started blogging, I never in a million years expected such a great response to my writings. I have always loved to write but a certain angry, bitter and very frustrated nun once told me I had no talent for it so I quit writing. The people who read my blog and encourage me are to blame for all my ramblings.

I am like a dog; just click and treat me once and I am all over it! However, lately I have lost my desire to write. The first few years I wrote, I used Yahoo Pulse to write my blogs. About a year ago I switched to WordPress and assumed that all the blogs I had written before would be safe until I put them altogether in a book. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Yahoo decided to get rid of Pulse and with it, went all my past blogs up until October of 2010.  When I think of the lost blogs I get sick to my stomach. Gone is the marathon blog I wrote about my hospital stay from hell after my first knee surgery. Gone is my favorite blog of all time called “Revenge of the Global Warmer.” In this blog, I chronicled the happenings of one fateful night when we were locked into the GW and the door wouldn’t open and Sir Cussalot stood framed in the door window in his birthday suit while he cussed and trying to get the latch to release us from our prison on wheels.

There were many more blogs that are gone forever. I have written to Yahoo several times but they continue to tell me tough luck. I wish I had a solution but I don’t. Some I have on my “new” computer but all the posts I wrote during our New England cruise last year are gone forever and that really upsets me. I had them stored in my laptop but it fell off the bed and the hard drive gasped its last breath and with that, all my travel blogs died as well.

 So, I start the new year in sadness, grieving the loss of my writings.

Posted by: jility | December 18, 2011

When I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know

It was a simpler time. There were only so many things to know and I knew them all. I was hot stuff. I had all the answers and didn’t want to be confused by the facts. Then I turned thirty.

With every passing year, I learned new things I didn’t know I didn’t know. At first it was exciting! New doors opened, while others closed, but it was a journey that added new paths as I went along. Each new path had more new paths that had new paths.

Then, at the age of 50, I found dog agility. The year was 2000 and I had lived more than a half century! In the beginning, agility was so simple. Just coax the dog over jumps while on leash, put squeeze cheese on the contacts and you are good to go. I learned how to do a front cross and a rear cross. I even learned the blind cross. Who needed a sit stay or stopped contacts? I sure didn’t! Drive? What was that? Rewards? Sure, toss a treat once in a while! Agility was a snap!

Then I went to watch my first trial. Some of those dogs were FAST! Some of them stopped on the end of the contacts and most had a stay at the start line. WTF? Bunch of babies! I didn’t need no stinkin stay or stop on the contacts! You drag your dog over the equipment on a leash, lure or drag them through the weaves and call it good. That was all there was to agility training!

We went to class once a week, but forget training at home! We were good to go. So, we entered our first trial. We WON jumpers! I was reinforced for knowing nothing. Standard, well, that was another matter. WE STUNK! No table, no contacts, no start line NO Q!  HMMMMMMM Perhaps it was just a fluke that we didn’t qualify. Sadly, it was not a fluke. We continued to suck and fail.

So, I sought other instruction and learned about training a 2on 2off. We just lured the dog into position a few times with string cheese and figured they had it down. It was the Hail Mary method of training contacts. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time it didn’t. Hence began my search for the perfect instructor. I bounced from trainer to trainer to trainer. With each one I felt like I was missing a few huge puzzle pieces. I needed to know more about what I didn’t know!

So, I sought other instruction. My next instructor taught me how to use a clicker to shape the end contact behavior and that you HAVE TO PRACTICE! HOLY CRAP! PRACTICE? WTF? It was so easy before when I didn’t know what I didn’t know! That method worked for a while but then the whole thing went to hell in a hand basket and I realized there was MORE I didn’t know I didn’t know! GEESH! This was supposed to be a fun sport I did with my dog and now it was becoming a job!

So, I sought other instruction. Not much there.

So, I sought other instruction. Handling choices? WTF? Don’t you just run around and do whatever you have to do to get it done? Start line is important? Train it? WTF? I needed more answers that weren’t there. They told me to do these things but never took me through a progression that made sense to me and my dog.

So, I sought other instruction. THat was when a friend introduced me to Stacy Winkler. At our first lesson, Stacy talked and I listened. I was mesmerized! There was so much more I didn’t know I didn’t know, than I could ever have imagined! HOLY CRAP! Contacts and tables and start line stay OH MY! Contacts and tables and start line stays OH MY….

That was nearly ten years ago and I am STILL learning what I don’t know! Through Stacy I found Susan Garrett and Greg Derrett and continued learning what I didn’t know I didn’t know! I learned that training reliable contacts takes months and months and months, not a few lures with string cheese. I learned that it takes thousands and thousands of fun sits to create a fabulous sit stay and that making the table a fun place to be creates drive and love for the “boring” table. I learned that having a consistent handling system makes for more Qs and clear choices on course. I LOVE knowing exactly what to do when I walk a course! OK, so I don’t always exicute it correctly, but at least I know what I WANT to do.

After all these years, Stacy is still our instructor and we are so blessed to have her.

Now, however, training a dog from puppy to ring ready seems never ending. Gone are the times when I put a little squeeze cheese on the contacts or across a teeter and called it good. Gone are the days of the Hail Mary standard runs. Gone are the days of dragging or luring a dog through poles to teach reliable weaves. Gone are the days of only training in class. The more I know, the longer the training takes. At times, it seems overwhelming. I wonder if I will ever train everything I want to train. I wonder if my young dog will be 10 before she is really trained and ready to trial. At my current rate of learning what I don’t know, my next dog will be 15 before it is ring ready!

How much more don’t I know I don’t know? That question scares the crap out of me! I am now 62 and not sure how many more agility dogs I have left in me, especially if I continue to learn all the things I really don’t know!

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | November 11, 2011

Politically Correct

NOT!

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as political correctness. We were equal opportunity bashers. We made fun of everyone and everything. No person, place, religion, ethnicity or anything else was exempt.  We even made more fun of ourselves than of others.

One year my sister gave me the best gift I have every received: volume one and two of Truly Tasteless Jokes. I laughed so hard I couldn’t speak (which is probably why she gave them to me! They were always trying to shut me up). Those books were hysterical but they are most likely banned in today’s society.

Where did we go wrong? At what point did laughing at the world become so bad? Why are we expected to take everything so seriously? It was a simpler and funnier time in the ’50s and ’60s.

Now I admit that a lot of things are much better now than back then! I do believe in equality for everyone, but that equality should also extend to ribbing!

Just the term “politically correct” alone is offensive! Since when are politics correct? In whose eyes are they correct? Most politicians I know are FAR from correct!  Many are corrupt cheaters who live secret lives (until they are caught, that is).

Political correctness gets worse with every generation.  The current generation of 6 – 10 year olds don’t even know what the phrase means. It is just a given now that they are all so brainwashed into Stepfordism! Just before we left Washington to head south, my granddaughters (7 and 9 years old) spent the day with me. Everything funny I said was met with, “Gramma! We don’t say things like that!” or “GRAMMA! We are not allowed to use those words (and they were NOT cuss words!).” or “GRAMMA! That isn’t nice!”

WHATEVER!

What kind of world is it where you can’t even call your own granddaughter a “dumb ass” once in a while? I tell them I am just joking but they shake their heads and tell me that it is NOT fun for the person who is on the receiving end of the teasing. WTF? Who knew?

Things have gotten so bad that now I can’t even make fun of myself without being chastised by others! They make me feel worse for making fun of myself than I already do (which is why I make fun of myself in the first place!).  I may not be able to poke fun at other people or use certain words that were once harmless but now mean something completely different, but if I want to slam myself, I have every right to do so without a tongue lashing from some uptight, F#CK$D up do-gooder!

Political correctness SUCKS! It is stupid, controlling and just plain dumb AND I am sick of it! Now I am not talking about hate crimes or hate words towards others, THAT IS WRONG AND MEAN! I AM NOT INTO MEAN! I am talking about good old fashion ribbing and teasing!

As my generation dies off, the need for the term will lessen.  As the next generation goes, so will the term. The youngest generation have grown up with political correctness and most wouldn’t think of calling somebody a dumb ass in jest or a slacker or a lazy slob. No, they would gently nurture those dumb ass, lazy slob slackers and help them find a way to improve their situation. We live in a society where everyone wins a blue ribbon (red for you Canadians) and nobody is left behind and everyone has warm and fuzzy feelings towards everyone else.

It is all enough to make me puke but that too would not be PC.

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | November 5, 2011

USDAA National Champioships

Dear USDAA,

You are taking a real beating on your Sounding Board about the time and location of the 2012 Nationals. First there was the uproar about the breed ban in your city of choice. Then the time of year was questioned due to possible weather conditions, so you changed the date. Then it was pointed out that a certain religious holiday was scheduled during that time. Didn’t they know that USDAA National was on that date??? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Then we had another large agility event close to that time in Europe so that would be inconvenient for a few people as well!

So the debate went on and on and on until your moderator put an end to it.

I was going to post this to your Sounding Board but, because of the fact that we were told to stop all debates on the subject until USDAA had time to make a formal statement, I decided to post my request here on my blog instead.
It is my understanding that there is a T-ball practice in Mossyrock, Washington that weekend you picked in September! I also heard rumors of a possible pool tournament at The Brown Shack Tavern in our neighboring town of Salkum! Why would USDAA be so callous as to not check on these possible conflicts before scheduling their National Championships? This is supposed to be an all inclusive NATIONAL EVENT!!! Now you have chosen dates that make it very inconvenient for us to attend! I don’t understand why on earth USDAA did not consult with us! We actually did two USDAA trial just last year and if USDAA continues to ignore our requests, we may just cut that number in HALF!

It is my feeling that, if held before Halloween, the 2012 (and all subsequent) National championships should be held in Silver Creek, Washington. If the championships are after Halloween, then they should be held in Temecula, California but not for at least three days after Halloween so we have time to make our annual trip south for the winter. Actually, when I think about it, you should not hold them for at least two weeks after Halloween because we need time to rest after our drive down, and then we need time to train so our dogs have the best shot to do well.

You might be asking why Halloween is the cutoff date. Well, we like to see our granddaughters in costume and oooh and ahhh over how cute they are, and they count on us to be there for them at Halloween. This is very important to us and our family so we hope you will think long and hard about accommodating our schedule!

Now, since my husband and I are getting up there in age, we don’t like to drive too far, so if you hold it in Washington, you can have it at our farm and we won’t even charge you. There is enough room for quite a few rings and parking. You might have to spend a few hundred thousand dollars conditioning the surface as it is used for farming oats and hay now, so it is a bit rough (well, in all honesty, it is a lot rough) but you will easily make that up in crating and parking fees, especially since we have no ban on bully breeds. It could rain that time time of year so you might also want to put up a covered arena for the event and put umbrellas in the gift bags. Don’t worry about taking down the covered arena though, as we can use it to train after the event is over. I prefer dirt for training because artificial turf can get slippery and our dogs might slow down to avoid falling. However, last year we did trial in Kansas City,  Missouri at a soccor arena and that artificial turf was not slippery (and it was old) so now that I think about it, why don’t you do some research and put whatever they had in the new arena you are going to build on our property? Our Poodles don’t like their toys to get dirt or sand on them.

We only have 2 1/2 acres in Temecula where we park in the winter so you will have to rent a few other properties near our place for parking and more rings. It is close to motels and shopping though.

I think that the rattlesnakes and scorpions are hibernating by the end of November so those wimps on the East Coast won’t have to worry much about taking any home in the suitcases. We could offer a day of rattlesnake aversion training before the Championships if people want to come a day early. Of course, USDAA would be expected to pay for that!

Oh, and we don’t think we should have to qualify for Nationals either because, as I stated above, we are old and don’t like to travel to trials much now and we have some young Poodles that haven’t ever been to any USDAA trials but we would like to attend the Championships with them. Consequently, in order to come to Nationals, you should relax your qualifications to suit our needs.

Thank you for your consideration. We are positive that everyone else in the world will agree with us and have no problem with this proposed schedule.

PS. We prefer there be no tire used in the courses for Nationals. We run very tall Poodles and they over jump so they might make the tire open up (assuming you are using the breakaway tire). We would not want to be faulted for that and be at a disadvantage over the smaller dogs.

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

 

http://www.jility.com/Signaturepage.html

Posted by: jility | October 28, 2011

South For the Winter

With the temperature of the water set at 101, I barely noticed the chilly morning fall air as I sat soaking in the hot tub. Dense bursts of steam rose from the swirling water while, above my head, a conveyor belt of cloud sculptures rolled by. Most of the white puffy artwork were abstract by design, but every once in a while, a recognizable shape floated overhead. They soon disappeared as the assembly line moved on bringing new shapes into view.

Early moring hot tub bliss

I love this time of year. I love the fall colors and the crisp air but most of all I love the smell of burning wood; the fuel of choice for heating most Lewis County homes. It reminds me of the peat they burn in Ireland; another incredible smell that, for some strange reason, comforts me.

Growing up in New England spoiled me for all other locations in fall. Most of the indigenous deciduous trees in Washington are alders. They really don’t turn a nice fall color. They just wither and fall off the trees making the scooping of dog poop nearly impossible. With eight dogs, it is like trying to walk through a minefield while eliminating the yard of smelly brown bombs. Those pesky brown alder leaves mingle with the poop to create dangerous, gushy camouflage ground cover.

Nearly nekkid alder trees

But I digress

Lovely little goldfinches, now dressed in their dull winter woollies, flitted from branch to branch in the ancient nearly naked alder tree. I wondered what they find to eat once the seeds are gone but I guess they do fine.

The hot tub jets turned themselves off after twenty minutes but I wasn’t ready to leave my warm water cocoon. As I floated weightlessly, I forgot about my evil foe, gravity, and how, when I am on land, it nails my feet to the ground. Then I glanced down and the sight of my floating blubber jerked me back into reality. CRAP! I closed my eyes and floated off into weightlessness again. With the jets turned off, I enjoyed the sounds of the red winged black birds in the distance.

As much as I love fall, I also hate it. All the things I love about fall also mean that winter is close behind and I HATE WINTER! I hate cold and snow and cold rain and short days and rain and cold and short days and rain and… The Canadian geese have already left and it is time for us too to head south.

On Monday, we will leave for Temecula. I won’t miss the cold damp miserable Northwest winter, spring and early summer but I will definitely miss my son, my incredible grandchildren and their mom. I will also miss my PNW friends but they are only a phone call away.

I look forward to the warm California sun, working our dogs with my friend and agility instructor, Stacy and seeing Mel’s daughter and granddaughter. I love California! I love everything about it, well, except for how hot it gets in the summer and early fall but we are not there then so the shiny never wears off. I love the agility there too. Stacy’s students are so very supportive and nice as are most of the other competitors in the San Diego area.

I will definitely miss the PNW but so look forward to being warm again without having to sit in the hot tub to get there.

Out Temecula resting place for the winter

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

 

Posted by: jility | October 27, 2011

Putting a Flat Earth into a Round Universe

There is a certain email list I frequent that is made up mostly of highly educated dog people from all over the world. Then there are the others on the list who, like me, are uneducated ne’er-do-wells. This list discusses some very good, educational topics, and it is great reading what some of the highly educated folks who really understand their field, have to write. There are many on the list whose opinions are worth reading but some others fall into the category, defined by an old veterinary friend of ours, as having “too much education for their intelligence.”

There are often more posts on this list trying to defend points of view than are substantive. I have watched them spend days and days bickering over whether one should post in plain text or html and even where to place the reply (top, bottom or in between the original post). They actually spent a week or so once arguing over who had the more impressive letters after their name (what they were and/or where they got them)! Of course, it is not really about how or where one should post or the proof of education degrees, but about being right. It does amuse me to watch as these people with more letters before and after their names than most performance dogs, duke it out over such absurd, trivial matters. More often than not, these exchanges turn to personal attacks. They take ad hominems to a new level. It is like watching a train wreck at times. When I see them headed to a collision course, I really should just hit my delete button but my sick sense of humor makes me read them.

We all love to be right. It is our nature. Being right might elevate our status amongst our peers and that is the driving force behind most human behavior (or so modern psychologists say). I know I love to be right and if I can’t be right, I, at least, need to be amusing, even if it is only to put a smile on my own face. Sometimes, my humor is not appreciated or perhaps not understood. I am often irreverent and try to never ever take myself or anyone else for that matter, too seriously. This might get me in trouble but, as long as nobody is getting seriously hurt and it is funny, then it amuses me and, hopefully, others as well.

So, when they started to go off on a rant the other day about a new study showing that dairy is not as good for you as earlier Dairy Industry funded studies have shown, I just had to put in my two cents. I knew the retaliations would come fast and furiously, but I just couldn’t resist. The last straw for me was when somebody posted that this new study must have been backed by a certain infamous animal rights group and that the study was nothing more than “junk science.” Then they began vegan bashing.

So, rather than turn the other cheek, I posted that just because a study shows that animal products are bad for us, it doesn’t mean it is “junk science.” Then I posted some links and suggested they read The China Study. It took no time at all before a list member posted a few links to papers “debunking” The China Study. The attacks continued so, having witnessed the blood baths of the past, I chose to lie low until I could formulate a plan of action. The attackers were all much more educated than I but I had truth on MY side ;). Isn’t that what gets all well intending martyrs beheaded or burned at the stake in the end? Where is the intelligence in THAT? It is right up there with suicide bombing. They are both self-limiting acts.

SO, like a modern day vegan Joan of Arc, I stormed in to reclaim the truth about the plant based diet! When will I learn? Most confirmed meat eaters don’t want to read anything that might convince them that eating the putrefying flesh of dead animals is maybe not a good thing or that consuming liquid from the teats of a completely different species, long after we have been weaned, really screws with your system. No, they want to kill all opposition to their beliefs so they can continue on their path of self destruction by ingestion.

Now, hard to believe as it is, I am FAR from perfect! I do, however, believe strongly that humans were meant to exist on a plant-based diet and to not eat processed foods (something with which I struggle on a daily basis –  I am 99.99% vegan but I do love my fake meats). A friend once called me “The veganpire” because I am always trying to turn people I care about, vegan. I don’t care what most people eat but I do want those I love to be as healthy as they can be so they will be around a long time.

But, I digress.

So back to the list from hell.

Not being able to hold my fingers any longer, I posted the following to the group. I did get a few private emails thanking me but nobody dared post publically nor did they join my crusade for martyrdom for fear of being burned at the adjoining stake. One person did write to me that she bought a vegan cookbook I recommended to her privately (Vegan Italiano IT IS AMAZING!). So, without further ado, here is that infamous post.

For the better part of civilization, man thought the earth was flat. There

were periods in history when you could be put to death for saying otherwise.

It took a few brave men in the beginning to question that theory.

Eventually, over many hundreds of years, it became accepted that the earth

was indeed round. There are, however, still people who swear that this is

false! It is amazing to me that there are still some who refuse to accept

that the earth is round but there are. They even have an organization called The

Flat Earth Society.

When I was a young girl, most people smoked. They smoked on trains, planes

and in automobiles. They smoked in restaurants, businesses and just about

anywhere they pleased. Nobody gave a thought to second hand smoke let alone

firsthand smoke. My father smoked five packs of non-filter Camels a day! I

remember advertisements on television where men dressed as doctors and

looking very official would state, “Four out of five doctors recommend (you

fill in the brand) cigarettes.” I even remember ads stating how good

cigarettes were for your health!

Then, a few brave people began to question whether or not smoking was

healthy. People had been smoking for thousands of years! Just as the beef

and dairy lobbies do now, the tobacco industry fought tooth and nail to

“debunk” all of the scientific research that claimed smoking was bad for

you. For every paper you found telling you how bad tobacco was for

your health, you could find one “debunking” it. With all we know today,

people continue to smoke. I am mystified by that! I used to smoke two packs

a day and quitting was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life

(and I have quit a lot of things!) but I knew that quitting was the right thing to do.

We just returned from the Mediterranean. I was blown away by how many

Europeans smoke. You cannot walk fifty feet down the sidewalk in any town

without having to inhale somebody’s second hand smoke. It is disgusting.

The tobacco industry is alive and well in Europe and Asia.

I feel the same about consuming animal protein as I do about tobacco. The

dairy and meat lobbies spend millions every year to “debunk” any study that

shows a correlation between consuming their products and poor health. We can

always find a paper or “evidence” or a group to support our point of view,

even if we want to think the world is flat.

As for the claim that Dr. Campbell, author of The China Study, manipulated

data to fit his agenda; he did not start out as a vegan trying to prove

himself right. He started out as a meat eating, main stream scientist doing

research on diet and cancer. If you would like to read about where he got

his degrees and where he did his research, here is a link

http://www.thechinastudy.com/authors.html  

I predict that someday, in the not so near future because it is SO

unpopular, that we will accept the fact that eating animal protein is just

as bad as tobacco use. One of my favorite lines from Dr. John McDougall is, “People like to hear

good things about their bad habits.” I know I sure did!

I will leave you with this parting shot:

Helen Grinnell King

http://recipetowin.com/

Posted by: jility | October 22, 2011

Sleepless in Salkum

Ever since we returned from the Mediterranean cruise five days ago, our internal clocks have been haywire. I am not sure if it is the time change, our age or the cold/flu souvenir that followed us home. It is doubtful that the time change is to blame because we have travelled abroad many times and have never had a problem in the past. We have not aged more than a couple of weeks since we left so it is doubtful it is our age. That leaves our illness.

Even with all the sanitation spraying of hands on the cruise, some of those persistent virus germs managed to find their way through to infect us with snotty running noses, aches and pains, coughing and spewing, fever and chills and lethargy. It was a lovely parting gift.

We arrived home Tuesday afternoon to some very happy doggies and a very relieved dog sitter. Poor Laura, who did an AMAZING job holding down the fort, was ready to go back to civilization and human contact. Our place here in Washington State is pretty isolated. Even though there were eight dogs for company, there is nothing like human interaction to keep a girl from going insane.

We had been awake for more than 26 hours by the time we hit the hay Tuesday night at 7:30. We both slept well until I woke up about 3 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. I downloaded some cookbooks on my phone, read emails, thought about the trip and listened to Sir Cussalot snore. Laura stayed the night so I didn’t want to go out to the living room and wake her.

I got up about 7 in the morning and we took the girlz for a walk in the back field. I made a slow oven roasted Tuscan bean stew that turned out pretty darn well (except for being too salty). We ate the stew in midafternoon, then Laura and I headed to the SeaTac airport for her redeye flight home to Boston. Laura wanted to get to the airport early, which was a good thing because I don’t do well driving at night.

No words could thank Laura enough for taking incredibly good care of our girlz so we could travel. I feebly tried to let her know just how amazing it was that she flew across the Country to cater to the Hooligans for more than a week while we gallivanted around the Mediterranean.

It was almost dark by the time I got to the freeway for the two hour trip home. About halfway home, my eyes began to get heavy. I called a bunch of people but nobody was available or they didn’t want to talk to me. I finally found a friend on the East Coast who was headed off to bed for the night but he was kind enough to stay on the phone with me so I didn’t crash. Eventually, he too was falling asleep so I released him from his talking gig and looked for somebody else to bug. Sir C called me to see if I had crashed yet and convinced me to stop at the next rest area and walk around. As those who have been around him know, Sir C is not much a conversationalist, but he did a good job trying to find words to keep me awake.

After a while, I had to stop torturing him too so I let him off the hook (no pun intended). My eyelids got heavier with each passing mile. I slapped myself in the face, drummed my thighs and, as a last resort, held my eyelids up with my fingers to prevent them from snapping shut.

With the rest stop in view, I gratefully exited the freeway and pulled up in front of the bathrooms. I went in and splashed water on my face, walked around some, then got back in the Stinkmobile and headed south towards home for the final hour of driving. I managed to make it home in one piece. Those grooved lines are a blessing when you are so tired you can’t keep your eyes open. They jolted the crap out of me several times that night as I drifted out of my lane.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was coming down with the cruise ship crud. My watering eyes didn’t help keeping them open one bit! It was about eight when I got home but I dragged myself to bed anyway. I should have stayed up longer! I slept well until about three, then I couldn’t go back to sleep. My nose was running, my eyes watering, my throat was scratchy, I had chills, then I was hot, then I had chills and my muscles ached all over. I dragged myself out of bed but was too cold so I crawled back under the covers. I repeated this several times, then went outside and sat in the hot tub to warm up. It helped.

I stayed up until midafternoon then I crashed and headed off to bed. I slept until midnight, then I couldn’t get back to sleep. Sir C began to get restless about 1:30 so I suggested we turn on the TV for a bit. We watched a few shows we had taped during our trip, then we both tried to go back to sleep. I listened to him snore for an hour or so, then I finally dozed off about 4 and slept a couple of hours.

The next day I made sure I stayed awake until 10 at night. I thought I was home free! I slept hard for what seemed like an eternity. When I woke, it felt like it was 5 or 6 in the morning. It was still dark but, this time of year, this far north, it is not surprising. Sir C was also awake so I suggested we watch some TV. He switched it on and we again watched a couple of programs. When they were over, I asked him what time it was. “Two-thirty,” he said!

WTF!!! How could it be TWO FREAKING THIRTY? It had to be later than that! I looked out the window and realized it was still dark. CRAP! My internal clock was WAY screwed up! Sir C’s wasn’t so great either.

The same thing happened AGAIN last night! Only this time I checked the time BEFORE asking him to turn on the TV. It was TWO AM!!! I lay there until I abandoned the idea of ever falling back to sleep and downloaded another vegan Italian cookbook (vegan Italiano). This was a good one too! I read it for a while, then listened to the rain beat against the Global Warmer roof.

I finally got up about seven to think about the homemade pasta I am going to make today.

Not sure how long this is going to continue but I am pretty sick and tired of it (puns intended).

Sorry for the boring blog but I plan to read it tonight if I wake up early again. If this blog can’t put me back to sleep, NOTHING can!

Posted by: jility | October 17, 2011

Don’t Diss The Black Mary

Flying at sunrise to Amsterdam

It was pitch black when we got up to get ready to leave for the airport. Why wouldn’t it be? It was three freakin o’clock in the morning! The cab was to pick us up at 4:15; plenty of time for the 6:25 flight to Amsterdam.

The hotel packed us a box breakfast consisting of a cheese sandwich, a KitKat bar, banana yogurt, juice, water, an apple and a pear. We put the apples, pears and drinks into one box and handed the rest of the non vegan things back to the concierge. It didn’t really matter as we had ordered vegan meals for the plane. RIGHT!

How the taxi driver managed to get all those suitcases into the tiny trunk is beyond me but he did it! We piled cozily into the midget car and off we went into the darkness towards the Barcelona International Airport. It was a brief ten minute drive – so far so good.

We unloaded, paid and made our way into the surprisingly crowded terminal. It was only 4:30 in the morning but it was already bustling with travelers. We had a hell of a time finding the KLM counter. Evidently, even with guidance from two different employees and signs all over the place, our brains don’t work at that ungodly hour! Finally, after a scenic tour of the airport, we figured out where to go. Boarding passes in hand, we stood in the baggage check line.

“How many?” the efficient looking older woman behind the counter asked.

“Two each,” I responded.

“Did you pay?” she asked curtly.

“No,” I said. “There was no place on the screen to pay when I checked in.”

“Well you must take this piece of paper and go around the corner to the ticket counter and pay before I can give you boarding passes.”

Off we went in search of the ticket counter. Meanwhile Bert and Ernie were waiting for us. Sir Cussalot went back and told them to go on to the gate and we would catch up later.

The line for tickets was long and SLOW! It seemed the only people there had issues with tickets and that took some time to resolve. It also appeared that most of the passengers were deaf because the agents kept repeating the same thing to them over and over and over but the passengers just looked at them blankly. This happened to more than a few! Evidently, they were as dull at this hour as we were.

Finally it was our turn. I handed her the slip of paper and my American Express card: NO LIMIT – NO HASSLE! RIGHT! It was declined! We had used it all through our cruise with no problems but now it seemed they had decided that the card might be stolen so they turned it off. The message was, “Call American Express for verification.” Of course, they wouldn’t do that so I handed her my debit card. I knew that would work. There was plenty of money in the account AND Sir C had gotten out cash the night before with no problems. RIGHT! I turned to Sir C and said, “SEE! That’s what you get for dissing the Black Mary up in Montserrat yesterday!” He laughed.

DECLINED! WTF? Our debit card has been hijacked no less than a half dozen times in the past ten years. It started when we were on a trip to South America and has continued ever since. It was stolen just this spring! Every time those assholes get it, we have to cancel the card, do a ton of paperwork and start all over with a new card. It is a royal PITA, especially, if you happen to be 5,000 miles away from home with no way to call them and tell them it really was US trying to use the card!  I looked at Sir C and said, “Never Diss the Black Mary!”

Now, I appreciate that they have our best interests in mind but we were down to one more card. Sir C, who, by design, had used up most of his Euros so he wouldn’t have to exchange them at home, tried to offer them US dollars but NOOOOOOOO! “EUROS ONLY PLEASE!” So I handed her my last card, this one IS usually maxed out, held my breath and hoped for the best. SUCCESS!!! It was on 99 Euros for Pete’s sake! So, unless we need a credit card between now and tomorrow, we are OK.

The 2 hour window until our flight was due to depart had now dwindled to about 45 minutes and we had security to pass and a gate to find. Luckily, the lines weren’t that long through security and we didn’t have to remove our shoes! We got to the gate with plenty of time to spare and boarded the plane shortly after.

We have a running joke that Jane (aka Bert) is a screaming baby magnet. Sure enough, there was a balling brat in line to board right in front of us. We looked at each other and laughed. Surely the chances of that kid being near us were slim. RIGHT!

Sure enough, the kid was right behind Bert and Ernie. We were laughing at them until we realized that we were right behind the kid! Not so funny now! Then ANOTHER kid, about 2 and not happy, showed up and sat right in front of them! Sir C roared loudly to make sure Bert and Ernie heard him making fun of them and their sad luck.

Just then, somebody showed up and said we were in their seats. Knowing better than to argue, we looked at our tickets and sure enough, we were. So, we packed up our crap and moved one row back. SUCKAS! Now THEY HAD TO DEAL WITH THE BALLING BRAT IN FRONT OF THEM!

We smugly settled into our new seats that would be home for the next two hours. Sir C had the window and I got the middle. WAHHHHHHH. I hate the middle seat! There was a very large woman in the aisle seat. She was larger than I am and that is saying something. We were going to be quite close for the ride to Amsterdam. She was very nice and at least she didn’t stink of perfume like so many on the cruise ship tours!

My hyper sense of smell is a blessing and a curse. I love the smell of flowers and lemons and eucalyptus and other pleasant odors courtesy of Mother Nature. However, I HATE the smell of perfume, or most anyway, especially the fruity kind. It makes me sick to my stomach! I don’t know why anyone wears it! On the train ride we took on Mallorca, I am not sure what was worse; the strong musty smell of the long tunnels through which we passed or the strong smell of musk on the woman in the seat behind me. I think I liked the tunnel stench better.

But I digress, as usual.

Just when we thought all would be well, a family moved into the row across from us with two young kids. One was barely a year and the other about the minimum he could be older than that. The wife was an almost attractive, tiny bleached blond with enormous store bought bosoms, dripping in diamonds and other expensive jewelry (the woman not the bosoms). She looked like Barbie with a large nose and a very short chin. Her expression was sullen or sad or hopeless. I am not sure which.

Her husband was a large, scary looking guy with extensive acne scaring on his stern face. He looked like a hit man (not that I know what hit men look like); the kind you see in all the movies. Maybe it is the same actor who plays them all and that is why they all look alike. Anyway, when he spoke, it was obvious he was Russian or some other former USSR Country. He sounded exactly like the Russian pilot in the movie 2012.

Their children were surprisingly beautiful. Both had almost white hair, cut like the early Beatles. The older one, less than two years, was screaming. I looked at Sir C and muttered something again about dissing the Black Mary.

The kid wanted his little computer to watch cartoons. Momma, holding the littler one in her arms as it suckled a pacifier, ignored him, so Daddy got his computer and started a cartoon for him. Soon he forgot about crying and quietly settled in to watch Bugs Bunny. When the flight attendant came around and made them turn it off for take-off, I expected all hell to break loose. Surprisingly, it didn’t! They explained to him that he could watch it after they were in the air, which he seemed to accept.

Momma, sat, expressionless, holding the youngest as if she were not even part of the family. It was very odd. I was fascinated and wanted to know the whole story. Perhaps she was just tired but she looked so sad and so uninvolved. It was as if she were their hostage. I mentioned this to Sir C and he responded, “Wouldn’t you be sad too if you had two screaming rug rats under two?” Yes, yes I would.

I wanted to take a photo of them but thought the hit man might pull out his revolver and shoot me. So, I waited until they were asleep, turned off my flash and snuck a photo. CRAP! It was too dark! I set it to night shot, expecting it to hold the shutter open longer and not turn the flash back on! RIGHT! I clicked the shot and the bright flash startled the hit man. I tried to get the camera away so he wouldn’t see it but he caught sight of it and glared. I looked away and set the camera on Sir C’s tray table. If there were repercussions, Sir C is bigger than I am, OK, he is NOT bigger, he is taller. WHATEVER!

The hit man closed his eyes and dozed off. I think I dodged a bullet; literally. When I looked at the photo I had stolen, it became obvious that he was watching my every move. You can see his eye is directly on me. I tried to think of something clever to say just in case. Let’s see, how about I was mesmerized by your wife’s fake tits? No, that might sound a tad rude. I KNOW I KNOW! I have never seen kids as beautiful as yours! I just HAD to take their photo! Surely he would buy that line. RIGHT!

Sometimes having a good imagination is awesome but it can also be troubling. It does keep me entertained, however.

We were nearing the end of the flight when the captain announced that there was heavy fog so we had to circle in a holding pattern until we could feel our way down to the ground. We only had an hour to get to our connecting flight and the distance between gates was huge! CRAP! The attendant kept us posted on whether we would make our connections or not. Evidently, those going to Glasgow, Helsinki and some other places like that, were screwed. Their flights had left them. We, however, were still safe she said.

It seemed like we circled for hours but, in reality it was only about 30 minutes. We had made up time in the air but lost more time to the fog. It was going to be very close. We would have to run or at least walk fast. RIGHT!

Landing in the fog

As we finally approached the ground, I thought we were still in the clouds and had a long way to go. The next second, there was the ground! the fog was so thick, we were  only about 4 feet off the tarmac before we could see it. I didn’t think they could land in fog that thick!

It took an eternity to taxi to the gate, then another freaking eternity to get off the damn plane! We gathered our crap and took off walking when we passed through the cabin door. We followed the signs on the never ending trek to find Gate E 19. We had come in to the D gates but the airport is so big, it took forever to make it to the E Gates.

First we had to stand in line to show our passports. They let us go through the First Class line because we were so late. Unfortunately, not only did they let a lot of other folks cut into line in front of us, there was a large family ahead of us and they took forever! By the time we got through the passport line, we had fifteen minutes to get to the gate, still a mile away, and go through yet ANOTHER dumb ass security check! This time the check included a body scan. I always wonder what they see when they scan people. Actually, it might be better if I didn’t know.

This security check was at the gate and they had three very tall, official men there as well as a woman guard. We must have looked frazzled because they said to calm down and go stand over there, pointing off in some obscure area. We started walking to where they had pointed when the guards started yelling at us to come back. WTF? Make up your stupid F#@K!^G MIND! Again, I looked at Sir C and just said, “BLACK MARY!” He smiled but I was starting to think there might be something to it! Perhaps, in the future, our humor should stop just short of religious irreverence.

“We are going to miss our flight!“ I protested. “No you won’t,” he said sternly in a thick Dutch accent. “They wait for you.” Then he pointed to where we were to go and wait while he and his equally suspicious colleague studied our passports and studied the words on a computer monitor. I swear we are on some kind of strip search list! Every time we enter the US, we have to go through the biggest PITA ordeal ever! We are always singled out and taken through weird lines to be scanned and searched. Ever since that time coming in from Canada when I was driving the car behind Sir C, who was in the Global Warmer and I said on the walkie talkie (trying to be funny), “We need to circumcise our reason for visiting Canada.” I always loved that Three Stooges line about “circumcising“ their watches.

Anyway, come to find out, they listen in on all the over the air talk at the border! WHO KNEW? I guess everyone but me! So, my innocent dumb ass smart mouth comment, put us on some idiotic list I guess. We must be known as “Gramma and Grampa Possible Terrorists.“ It is really quite ridiculous.

After the body scan, I then got a thorough pat down! “What’s you hurry?” the woman guard asked. “The plane will wait for you.”

“The plane might wait but the bathroom won’t! I really have to PEE!!!!” At least that got a smile out of her. I felt like we both should have smoked a cigarette after she had her way with me and I ran off to the bathroom just in the nick of time.

It turned out, there were lots of folks delayed due to the fog so the plane was a good forty minutes late taking off.

Our seats were in the 10th row. It was a bulkhead row! OMG! How did we luck out? Unfortunately, they weren’t together but one very nice young college student offered to switch with Sir C so we could sit together. Leg room AND nobody to either side of us (we had the odd middle row of seats that only contained two!), Sir C and I settled in for the ten plus hour flight to Portland.

There was a family behind us with three very young boys from about four or five down. The littlest one was about 6 months old and quiet as a church mouse. There was not so much as a whimper out of any of them! They had great parents who kept their kids happy! The middle boy, however, reminded me of me. He had to talk. It didn’t matter what he was saying as long as he could hear himself saying something. He counted. He said the alphabet. Then he sang the alphabet. Then he sang as he counted. He never stopped. His infinitely patient mother and father allowed him to be him and never once told him quiet or stop talking or anything else that would frustrate him. I tried to not let it get to me but I could see it was starting to get under Sir C’s skin. I looked at him and said, “Black Mary!” He grinned.

The flibbertigibbet quieted after a bit until he had to pee. His dad, just as patient as his very nice mom, got up, lifted him over his mom and carried him off to the bathroom. Once settled back into his seat, he was quiet for a bit then, out of the blue he said, “Mom?”

“Yes dear,” she answered.

“I looked at my penis in the bathroom and I think it grew.” he said quite proudly.

“Really?” Mom remarked.

“Yup.”

And that was the end of that. Soon he fell proudly off to sleep.

The food cart rolled down the aisle, stopping every few rows. The woman across from us received her special vegan meal. I asked about ours but, alas, they had no record of it. She asked if we had received one on the way over. “YES!” She was baffled by the oversight. Then I realized exactly what had happened. When I tried to change our seats to first class using miles, they had cancelled our original reservation so when they finally figured out that we couldn’t upgrade after all, they had to reissue our seats but the special meal went down with the original reservation.

Whatever; airplane food sucks anyway and I had brought along those delicious corn cakes Sic C bitched about for the past 10 days! They’re not lookin so bad now are they Sir Cussalot! And THAT is what you get (or don’t get as the case may be) for dissin the Black Mary!

The Black Mary

Posted by: jility | October 16, 2011

The Last Day in Heaven (at least for now)

Back in the port of Barcelona

Check one huge item off my “Bucket List.” For years, I have said that, before I die, I wanted to see the Mediterranean. The problem is, now that I have been there, I want to come back – AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN…

There is no place I have seen as beautiful as the Mediterranean. Not all Mediterranean places are created equal. Some are more equal than others. The best place I have seen so far? One word – AMALFI! The most beautiful place on earth; perhaps in the Universe. Now granted, I have not seen it all or experienced it all but, to date, Amalfi wins hands down. Mallorca doesn’t suck either.

I yearn to see the southern Coast of France and hope someday I do. I also want to see the Shetland Island, parts of Greece, Venice, the Canary Islands and the Azores. I have seen a lot of Central and South America as well as the Galapagos Islands (a place I wouldn’t mind visiting again). I like Hawaii but don’t have the yearning for it that I do for Amalfi.

We left the Norwegian Epic at 7:30 this morning and boarded a bus for a tour of the Montserrat monastery, high in the mountains above Barcelona. Today our guide was the opposite of Boris the Silent One. She NEVER SHUT UP!!! We learned EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING! Now, for me that is good but many fell asleep. We even got a political lesson as well as the meaning of FU@K in various dialects of  the Spanish language. For instance, in Spain, the word for catch (as in catch the bus or catch the train) is the word in Mexico that means FU@K. So, when our Chatty Cathy guide went to Mexico to visit a friend and said in, as she called it, “REAL SPANISH, let’s catch the bus,” Her mexican friend was horrified!

Our guide, evidently not realizing how uptight most older generation Americans are about he F word, went on and on about how meanings are different depending on the location. She used the F word liberally throughout her talk as she described the words that mean FU@K in one dialect but not in others. She also told us about rude words for various body parts, male and female, not normally discussed in public. It was quite entertaining but I imagine some on the bus were a bit flummoxed by it all.

Montserrat in the distance

The road up the mountain to Montserrat was as windy as any road we have taken to date. The driver, a very young man, drove confidently and with too much speed for my taste! The scenery was spectacular! The mountains, pushed up by many large earthquakes, were interesting and unusual. Some looked like figures that could walk off at any time.

Montserrat

We passed by a convent where the nuns live, that had the most incredible view and finally reached the monastery.

Where the nuns live

It was 9:30 on Sunday morning yet the crowds were already beginning to swell. There were young boys there arriving to study music with the monks. Our guide said that many parents are afraid that their sons will fall in love with the life of a monk and join but, she went on, that has happened only once in the past 75 years. I hope it is only the brass flute they will be blowing (sorry, I am a recovering Catholic and have a warped sense of humor about all things Catholic).

The Basilica at the monastery was magnificent. The amount of gold, marble and bronze was staggering. The statues were breathtaking and the Icons MAGNIFICENT! I have a thing for Icons. They also have what they call “The Back Madonna.” It is a statue of the Mother Mary that was shellacked to preserve it and turned her black. The line was a mile long to see her and, we were told, say a prayer and kiss or rub her hand and your prayer will be answered. It reminded me of the line to kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland.

Icons, gold and marble

As we SLOWLY made our way up the stairs to where the Black Madonna is kept, I reminded Sir Cussalot, a devout agnostic, that he was to make a wish (the same as prayer in agnostic speak) and rub the statue so it will come true. His response? “Do I rub her boobs?” ALRIGHTY THEN!

On our way to see the Black Madonna

I am sure that no matter what we prayed/wished for, it was ignored because we are much too irreverent.

The Black Madonna

Sir C refused to rub the hand because, as he so eloquently put it, “I’m not touching that thing! Everyone and their uncle touched it! GROSS!” ALRIGHTY THEN!

After I did my thing at the statue, we walked back down to the street level. On the way I lit a candle. Sir C said, as I asked for the 2.20 Euros to buy the candle, “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO PUT THAT THING?” I explained that you don’t keep the candle, you just light it, say a prayer and leave it. “WHAT? he asked incredulously,”YOU DON’T GET TO KEEP IT???? WTF? What good is it?“ I tried to explain, then gave up and said, “Because that’s how you do it.” THen we walked along and there were some HUGE candles. Sir C said, “HEY LOOK! You could have bought one of those big ass things for a billion dollars and left it too!” ALRIGHTY THEN!

My candle is the last yellow one

The line to enter the Basilica was much too long so we went off in search of food. We ended up with a piece of bread and a salad. Being vegan is sometimes very difficult but we didn’t starve.

We boarded the bus and headed back to our hotel for the night. Our plane leaves at 6:20 in the FREAKING MORNING! That means we have to get up at 3:30! CRAP! Then we get to spend all freaking day on the plane with ZERO leg and ass room (and I am about 20 pounds fatter than I was a week ago!).

I can’t believe the trip is over. It went by much too fast. I think the minimum for a Mediterranean trip is ten days but two weeks would be even better.

Magnificent mountains of Montserrat

Posted by: jility | October 15, 2011

Magical Mallorca

Sunrise in Palma

It is hard to believe this is the last day of the cruise. Every other time we have traveled, I was glad it was over and ready to go home. Today – not so much. I do miss my family, my friends and my dogs. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I have wanted to see the Mediterranean my entire life. I was not disappointed and I want more. Having the addictive personality I do, when I find something I love, I can never get enough of it. That is how I feel about the Mediterranean. I was not happy when we were inland and north a bit but once we got to Rome and the sea, I was hooked.

The Mediterranean is romantic, beautiful, quaint, busy, tasty, warm and just plain magnificent. It is everything for which I have search my entire life. I have always felt a bit of a void in my life and now I have found that missing piece. It is here and I will leave it behind and yearn for it until I return or die. Then, if I am lucky, heaven will be the Mediterranean Region and I will be able to travel around and see all I want and need to see and experience.

Typical Mallorca village

Today the experience took us to Mallorca or Majorca as I always knew it until today. In a word? SPECTACULAR! We arrived in Palma, Mallorca at 7 this morning from Napoli and our tour left at 9. It took us to a wooden car railroad that was built in the 1920s and, except for converting to electric power shorty thereafter, has remained the same for nearly 100 years.

Antique wooden train

Palma is a city like any other city but the backdrop is incredible. Surrounded by the Mediterranean on one side and beautiful mountains on the other. It is unforgettable. The climate here is near perfect. Cool breezes from the sea keep it comfortable, even when the sun is hot. I could live on Mallorca if you twisted my arm but Amalfi is still my heart place.

The railroad took us up the mountain, past olive trees, almond trees and citrus trees. We went through tunnel after tunnel that burrowed through the mountain. One was more than 2 miles long! The old train rumbled past gardens that were terraced just as they were on the Amalfi coast. The ancient olive trees were beautifully gnarled. Some, we were told in a rare talk, were 300 or more years old!

Valldemossa

The train stopped in the upland town of Soller; population about 10,000. When we had  boarded the train, we chose the wrong seats, as our knees were crammed up our throats the entire trip. For some idiotic reason, we passed by the seats that had a bench  opposite it facing backwards so there was plenty of leg room. We sat behind Bert and Ernie, envious of their leg room, when we had a “I could have had a V8” moment. By that time it is was too late. Two vertically challenged people sat in the open seats across the aisle from Bert and Ernie and our window of opportunity vanished. It was only an hour or so ride so having our knees in our throats wouldn’t last too long. It was a bigger deal for Sir Cussalot than for me because of his very sore knee that stiffens when he has to sit in one place too long.

Our tour guide, who shall be known as Boris, said about two words the entire trip, told us if we wanted air conditioning, “Open window but watch. Sometimes they fall on arm.“ Those of you who know Sir C will get this. Those who don’t know him, well, your loss ;)). This guide had to be the worst tour guide I have ever seen. He looked and sounded like a villain from a James Bond movie, only with a Spanish accent instead of Russian. So back to Sir C and what he has to do with the guide. If you know Sir C, that is how much this guide spoke.

He would point to something and say, “Cathedral” or castle” or whatever else he was trying to show us. Some moron left his backpack on the train (we were only taking it one way) so instead of letting us shop while he took care of finding it, Boris made us wait for 15 or 20 minutes standing around with our thumbs up our collective asses doing nothing. By the time he returned, it was too late to shop. Sir C loves orange marmalade and we were in the Orange Valley. We had walked by a farmer’s market booth with homemade orange marmalade that Sir C wanted. When it became obvious that there would be no time to shop, I told him to hurry down there and buy some for himself. So he took off in that direction and, of course, as he disappeared out of sight, Boris (not his real name but he sounded just like the villain in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons) returned, said nothing, held up his group 15 sign and started walking.

Boris - the tour guide form hell

I waited behind for Sir C. Jane went ahead with instructions from Ernie to only go as far as she could still see him and Ernie would walk ahead as far as I could see him. That way, we wouldn’t get lost. It seemed like an eternity before Sir C came back up the hill but he made it and we hoofed it as fast as his bum knee would allow. Boris never looked back to see who was with him and who was not. He never counted or checked. He just walked. It was a long walk and some of those in the number 4 category (refer to yesterday’s blog for explanation please), lagged behind huffing and puffing and looking like they were goners.

See Sherri! He can too smile!

We dodged the dog shit all along the sidewalk and street (it seems people in the Mediterranean don’t believe in picking up after the dogs) and proceeded to the bus. Boris, now realizing he had lost half of his charge, walked back down the lane to collect the dead and dying. Pretty soon, they all made it back and, wheezing like mad, struggled up the steps into the bus.

From Soller, the bus traveled back up another hill, then wound down towards the sea, stopping first in the beautiful town of Valldemossa;  population about 1,900. On the way, we went through another busy small mountain town. Tour busses were coming in either direction and the roads were very small and windy. As we started through the town, we met another large bus coming in the other direction. There were scooters, cars, bicycles and posts lining the streets so there was barely room for cars to pass each other, let alone two large busses! Once again, we had a very good driver! At first I was positive we needed our fearless Vincenzo to guide us but, after our guy, Pedro, gave the other driver what for and told him how to pass, I was a believer. They jockeyed back and forth only inches from parked vehicles and posts but, from where I was sitting, it looked like a no go to me. Finally Pedro told the other driver that we needed to pass each other on the opposite sides of the street. So, very carefully, each driver maneuvered the huge chariots to the other side and they passed each other very slowly and very carefully on their rights.

NO WAY will we fit past that other bus!

The passengers once again cheered loudly for the driver to which he responded with a “Thank you very much,” in a thick Spanish accent. We continued down the mountain towards our next stop, Valldemossa.

The quaintness of Vallsemossa

The only time Boris said more than a few words was when he was telling us about all the movie stars who stayed on the island and, particularly, in the town where the buses had passed. Tom Hanks had stayed there not too long ago, he told us and they had closed down the streets while they shot a movie. He named star after star and said  that at least one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies had been filmed there as well. He was a regular chatty Kathy when it came to his Hollywood gossip about Michael Douglas and how he got a divorce and that he and his ex split custody of the house there, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… It is understandable why Mallorca is THE place for the rich and famous. Once you have seen it, you will want to come back!

“You can follow me to the monastery or shop. Be back here at 2,” Boris muttered as he wandered up the street. Sir C asked me what I wanted to do, to which I responded, “Shop. He will only point at the monastery and say, ‘Monastery’ anyway so we might as well just look at it from here and call it good.” He agreed as did Bert and Ernie.

Off we went in search of lunch and bargains (HUH!). We took about the first place we saw to eat, ordered pasta (what else is new), wolfed it down and left to shop. It was not like that incredible pasta we had eaten in Italy! The pasta itself was fine but the sauce tasted like Chef Boyardee from a can. Later, Sir C and I passed an upscale eatery that had roasted Mediterranean veggies. Now THAT sounded awesome! No time, however, to stop again. We had last minute shopping to do.

I tried to get Sir C to buy this amazing shirt I saw there. The brand was GAW and I loved it! He grunted something about it being too much money and refused to even look at it. So then I sarcastically  suggested he buy one the whitish gauzy puffy shirts the writers and poets and all the cool men who live on Mallorca wear. Not missing a beat, he responded, “Yeah, then I will get some white pants, gold chains, unbutton my shirt to my navel and go run agility. How long do you think I will stay clean?”

Whatever. He decided on a hat. He had refused to buy a hat anyplace else because they were all high fronted hats (GOD FORBID!). This was a nice beige hat that had Mallorca written on it. It will go well with his 50 (no exaggeration) other hats. Some women love shoes, Sir C likes hats.

Known for its olive trees, Mallorca was the perfect place to buy some locally made things of olive wood. Mallorca is also known for its pearls. I bought myself a pair of small opalescent pearl earrings. I LOVE them! Now I have earrings that match for a change (well, until Frushie eats one of them which she is bound to do when she jumps up to greet me!).

We boarded the bus at 2 PM and made our way back to the port of Palma and to our ship.

All in all, this trip has been SOFA KING GOOD!!!

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