Friday, December 23, 2011

Weeks of firsts

As you know, Hope and I are the proud owners of an RV. It's stored at Knights Key right in the middle of the gorgeous Florida Keys. Our intention is for one or the other of us to drive down every month and spend a few days relaxing and working. That's the nice part of owning a mostly-internet business - we can work anywhere there's an internet connection! So Hope and I thought I should go down first. I don't know why. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But, my car was ten years old and showing its age badly. I'd had to put more money than it deserved in it over the last few months. So, I traded in the old rattle-trap and got a 2012 Subaru Forester. Able to handle our vicious Chicago winters, and roomy enough to handle all the stuff I schlep. So in my brand new car and with Tango along, I drove to Florida. 1500 miles and about 2 1/2 days one way. I arrived at our campsite, where we'd directed the nice people at Knights Key to park the RV. I connected everything and set up my laptop! Here are some pictures.
A Snowy Egret walking past our RV

My workspace. I did switch things around so that I faced the water. Tango is relaxing on his cot.

Tango enjoying a new Himalayan Dog Chew!

Sunset from our site.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

Happy Day After Thanksgiving, everyone! After digesting that huge meal, we're staying home! Who has time to shop? There's training to continue! Yikes - Tango and I have an agility trial tomorrow and Sunday. While we've practiced and trained, I always feel that there must be more I should have done to prepare. Well, we'll find out tomorrow! - Fran

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Hard to remember now that last year at this time Dax was doing her best to ignore Teddy's existence. She's finally figured out that he's warm, cuddly, and not getting out of her favorite bed. - Hope

Friday, November 18, 2011

Keep practicing everything!

Last night was Agility Class, and our instructor included the broad jump in the courses. The broad jump is not an obstacle that we see on a regular basis, but it is required in Novice Standard, and can be included at any level. We hadn't practiced it in a while, and Tango walked across the boards. Boo. But, he was not alone! He remembered what that obstacle was about the second time, but at an Agility trial, you don't get a second chance at anything except the weave poles! Of course, today when I got to the shop with Tango, the first thing we did was practice the broad jump, the chute, and the low table. For dogs who jump 12 inches, like Tango, at a trial, the pause table is set to 8 inches. But in class, to accomodate the most dogs, the table is always set at 16 inches. Not a problem for Tango, but he has to recognize the 8 inch table as a table! So, keep practicing everything! - Fran

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you!

Thank you to all the men, women and dogs in uniform. Now and before. Without you we wouldn't be where we are. -

Friday, November 04, 2011

Back to reality

Enough with the pretty pictures. We've been playing catch-up for the last couple of weeks. Finally caught up on orders at the shop - thank goodness in this technologically advanced age we were able to keep in touch with customers through email while we were away, and were even able to place tag orders remotely! (If you haven't seen the new Red Dingo Tribal-design tags, you should. I especially like Tribal Arrow.) 
This last Saturday we hosted the first annual C.A.R.E. Scare to benefit the volunteer organization for the local animal shelter. Check out the photos! Everyone, especially the dogs, had a super-fun, scary time!
And on the training front, we've been working away. In Agility Class, our instructor has been bending our brains with mind-twisting, confusing layouts that make no intuitive sense whatsoever. (This is in the Intermediate Class....) She said her objective is to test the dog's ability to stay with the handler. OK, we both got it wrong!
Back to work! - Fran

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Camping in paradise

We love spending time in Marathon, Florida. It's in the "Middle Keys" - about halfway between Key Largo and Key West. It's usually beautiful, relaxing, and has the added benefit of our wonderful friends at the Dolphin Research Center ( - both human and cetacean.
The weather usually isn't an issue. It can pour torrentially for about 15 minutes, then it clears up and the day is gorgeous. Not so much, this time. We had "rain with no name" every day but one. With thunderstorms, lightening watches, tornado watches and over 10 inches of rain in 12 hours.
We had one beautiful day. And a whole wonderful vacation. Our campsite was right on the Atlantic, in this gorgeous spot, with amazing sunrises and sunsets. Can't wait to go back. - Hope

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Working obedience

A couple of ladies are practicing Open obedience in the ring (Dogs in the Ring) with their German Shepherd Dogs. It's inspiring me to perhaps start working with Tango in obedience. He's been so much better at following my instructions. Agility has really given both of us focus and direction. Tango already walks at heel without my saying anything! And sometimes he sits when I stop - again without my saying anything. Something to think about. Maybe. - Fran

Friday, September 30, 2011

A sensitive guy

Does your dog pick up on your emotions? Tango does. When I'm happy, he's bouncy and silly and races over jumps and through his weave poles. If I'm stressed or unsure, Tango is, too. Figures. I really wanted a "box of rocks" who would do what I told him to, no matter how I was feeling. But Tango is going to MAKE me relax at class or wherever we are. I have to remember that at home, too. No more blowing up at the TV. I guess I need to practise more yoga. - Fran

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hard at work

I'd wager everybody'd love to have the perks of my job! Ted's a wonderful butt-warmer and it's really hard to have a bad day with that face around! - Hope

Friday, September 23, 2011

Our heads hurt...

Last night was Agility class, as most Thursday evenings are. Our instructor, Dee, usually posts the sets (series of obstacles to be performed in sequence) online a couple of hours before class so that we can get a feel for them and plan how to handle our dogs through the obstacles. I don't have a whole lot of experience, but I can generally see a pattern if I look at the sets long enough. Yesterday I had no idea. Do 2 jumps, run across the room and do the weaves, do a jump and a tunnel, run to the far side of the weave poles and weave them back. Then in the next set, more of the same plus back-side jumping. Hunh?? We each took a turn and fumbled through once. Then Dee reminded us of some fundamentals, and it became clearer. Until then, though, Tango's and my heads hurt! - Fran

Friday, September 16, 2011

Speed weaving

So this week Tango and I have been working on speed through the weave poles for Agility. It's all well and good to do the poles properly, but our instructor Dee keeps telling us to "move it! Agility is a timed event!" Tango has become more interested in his rabbit fur pocket toy which I put his string cheese treats in, and while he doesn't consistently tug on it, he chases after it. So I've been tossing the toy past the poles and he's been running through them to get his "bunny." We've also been using our Premier Manners Minder which has a remote control to dispense treats beyond the poles - we "beep" the remote which acts like a "click" when Tango is past pole 4 or so. He's started to bounce and run through the poles! So exciting... - Fran

Friday, September 09, 2011

Two weeks

It's been two weeks since we lost Ceilidh and sometimes it feels like last night, other times like she was never a part of our lives. The other dogs don't miss her, aren't looking for her, and sometimes that's hard. While Ceilidh didn't interact with them much, you'd think that something about their demeanor (the older ones - Roc and Dax - especially) would be different. But no.

We've asked the younger ones - Tango and Teddy - to step up and be big boys. Tango is no longer confined to his crate at night. He sleeps with me. And we're asking both Tango and Teddy to make better choices during the evening. If Hope and I want dessert after dinner while we're watching TV, the boys are not in their crates but are not allowed to bother us - after we give them treats, of course. And for the most part they're doing really well. We're going along and things seem to be normal in our everyday lives, and then I see Ceilidh's beloved Latex Soccer Ball and it hurts all over again. But life goes on, and I'm sure one day I'll be able to let the other dogs play with the Latex Soccer Ball. - Fran

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ceilidh's gone

Our Boston Terrier, Ceilidh, the bravest soul I've ever known, died yesterday.

Ceilidh was young for a Boston - only 10. As the vet who'd taken care of her since she was five weeks old said, "It was a hard 10." I think she was tired of trying so hard and needed to rest.

Ceilidh's brain was wired wrong. One of my best friends from college, experienced in the travails of autistic and ADHD children, liked Ceilidh best of all of our dogs. She recognized her for the "special needs" being that she was.

And because so very few knew her for the dog she really was - I'm going to indulge myself and my sister and write her biography here. Because we think this special little girl should be remembered.

We know the right way to buy a purebred dog. We knew we wanted a Boston Terrier, so we contacted the local Boston Terrier Club. We attended a couple of shows, talked to breeders and waited for their litters to be born. Both of the litters "missed" - there were no puppies. In the meantime, we'd lost another dog and our house was echoingly empty.

I did something stupid. I read the classified ads

in the newspaper and called a backyard breeder who was advertising puppies. I went to see the four-week old puppies and fell in love. Which is why you should never, ever do what I did.

The "breeder" called us a week later and told us that the puppies' mother had stopped nursing them and they were leaving for the summer. Come get your puppy. So we did.

Ceilidh was adorable.

That’s a regular old maple leaf she’s carrying. She was tiny.

At this stage, there was no hint of anything abnormal about her. Puppies at five weeks old eat, sleep, poop and pee. She did all of that very well. She adored Razzmatazz, our blind Brussels Griffon boy. And he, who never tolerated any other dog getting too close, allowed her to cuddle against him, walk with him, nuzzle in his fur. Ceilidh always loved the feel of other fur. Perhaps because she was fur-challenged herself (more on that later).

We took her to our dog club picnic a few weeks after we brought her home. She spent the whole time trying to cuddle our friend’s Border Collie, because he was soft. Luckily Chaser was a very sweet BC. He couldn’t quite figure out what that thing underneath him was, but it didn’t bother him.

We lost Razz when Ceilidh was just a few months old. And none of our other dogs took his place in Ceilidh’s life.

We started noticing how different she was when we started serious obedience training.

I would take Ceilidh to the local train station every morning to acclimate her to crowds, noise, people, etc. And every morning she was so excited to see everyone and everything, she couldn’t stand still. Not for a second. She was a happy flibbertigibbet – always dancing on her hind feet.

In Obedience class, our friend and instructor told us that heeling should be done with all four paws on the ground. We knew that, of course – it was the same friend who owned Chaser. So we dared her to try it herself. Ceilidh went all the way around the ring, in perfect heel position, on her hind legs.

In those early years Ceilidh attacked life with zest. She ran into every new situation – eager to meet new people and dogs. Her uncurbable exuberance was too much for most. People don’t want dogs constantly demanding attention but unable to stand still to receive it.. And dogs were put off. More often than not, her constant, hectic motion was met with growling and snapping.

We noticed when she was about 10 months old that Ceilidh had many bald patches – as if her fur just disappeared. She was diagnosed with an immune disorder and so began the weekly, medicated baths that continued the rest of her life.

Ceilidh’s hyperactivity made it difficult to have company, or to take her anywhere. We tried agility – she was incredibly athletic, long-legged and muscular. She excelled at the obstacles (jumping, climbing, weaving), but the excitement of being in class was incredibly stressful. And it was hard to explain to your classmates that Ceilidh just wanted to rub herself in their dog’s fur when she went dashing off after them.

It turned out that, hard as I tried, I wasn’t Ceilidh’s person. She made it pretty clear that Fran, my sister, was her special person. It was an adjustment – the dog that I’d counted on being “mine” simply wasn’t. And Fran probably sighed and said “fine, then.” And Ceilidh was hers.

Being Ceilidh’s person meant having guardianship of her beloved latex soccer ball. It had to be the smallest one – the one that got too gooey to hang onto when she wanted to play tug. And she had to play with it every day, or she wouldn’t settle down. We had to train her to “drop it” – and even then she would grab her ball time and again to get it in just the right spot. We learned not to reach in until she’d backed off – very few people could beat her to her toy. After “drop it” we had to teach her “leave it” and “bring it closer.” Ceilidh was also rather obsessive/compulsive.

So like a ritual in our house, Ceilidh had a special kitchen timer. When the timer came out, it was time to play ball. When time was up and the timer beeped, it was time for the ball to go away. It took months of training to teach her, but she accepted it and enjoyed her playtime. Then she would get a drink of water, go outside, settle for the evening. No part of the ritual could be shortened or omitted.

Ceilidh had two speeds – full and off. She was a will-o-the-wisp, never lighting in a single spot for long, and never amenable to petting or cuddling. The only time Ceilidh could accept stroking or petting was when she was asleep. The vet once advised us to massage a certain spot “when she was relaxing and sitting on your lap.” She never did that. She never even sat next to either one of us. In some ways, Ceilidh was more feline.

I’m rambling as memories and thoughts come to the fore. That’s okay. I doubt anyone but Fran will read this all the way through. And she’ll be smiling and nodding. And weeping, just a bit.

Because of her personality, very few people actually got to know Ceilidh. Those that did know she was truly sweet – she wanted only to kiss you. Again and again and again. And again. Her “registered name” – the one the American Kennel Club knew about – was Sugar Sweet Party Attitude. Be careful what you name your dogs.

About three years ago Ceilidh was diagnosed with a couple of serious heart conditions. One involved the valves, the other caused her heart to skip beats. For long moments, like it just didn’t remember it had a job. We kept it under control with medication, but over time, her wiring seemed to deteriorate. She became very sensitive to the weather – changes in barometric pressure resulted in her not eating, sometimes for more than a day. We always had trouble keeping her weight up – she used so many calories. Thunderstorms were terrifying. Any loud noise was scary. Her attitude became more fear than joy – it was probably the first sign that her time with us was shortening. Of course, we didn’t know it then. The signs are always clearer when they’re behind you.

Ceilidh was the bravest girl in the world – not because she wasn’t afraid. Because she was frightened, and charged on anyway, just because we asked her to. In her own way, she loved us as fiercely as we loved her.

So our beautiful, small, smiling girl is gone. I’d like to, but I don’t really believe in the Rainbow Bridge, where our dogs wait for us to join them. I’d like to think that a healthy Razzmatazz, with his sight back, is once again taking care of the little, fragile, sweet Boston puppy. So, for now, I’ll pretend I do. - Hope

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


So the last bits of our tree, recognizable as a tree, disappeared today. This machine is huge, noisy and fast. A tree stump over 30 inches in diameter disappeared in less than an hour. It was actually kind of cool to watch - back and forth just pulping that thing. Now we have lots and lots of mulch. It's a good thing. - Hope

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gas Explosion

We live in a quiet neighborhood. Aside from the occasional explosion. Lightning during a storm early Saturday afternoon hit a power line which hit a gas line igniting a fire. Flames shot up 25 - 30 feet in the air. Authorities evacuated those living closest to the fire. Power was shut off for those of us unlucky enough to live in a four-block radius. As dramatic as this appears, fortunately no one was hurt.

Gas company crews beginning to tear up the street after the fire was extinguished to repair the gas leak.

The poor stop sign after the fire was put out. (This is a close-up from the above picture.)

The nice electric company crews working to restore our power. The fire had been burning for four hours. Our power was restored after about five hours. Five gas company, four electric company, numerous police cars and a couple of fire trucks were on the scene all afternoon. -Fran

Friday, August 19, 2011

A good training night!

Last night was Agility Class and I think maybe, hopefully, perhaps? - Tango is starting to get the idea! No snarking, very little barking, he paid attention and pretty much did what I wanted him to do! We worked on handling jumps last night. At the start of our second set, I took my lead-out (yes, Tango stays for a lead-out!) and gave him his release word, pointing at the jump he was supposed to take - and he sat there. And sat there. I waited for him. It felt like days but was only a few seconds. Tango screwed up his courage and jumped, following my direction! And was happy doing it! He got lots of cookies! -Fran

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dynamite (T and T)

Teddy and Tango were being unbelievably cute this morning. Teddy's chomping on a Nylabone, and Tango waited his turn. Because, of course, there's only one good toy in the house. And it's the one the other guy has. - Hope

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yesterday and today

Yesterday we had the Norway Maple tree in our backyard cut down. We were convinced of the need by the number of huge branches, narrowly missing our power lines, house, and garage that had come down during each of the storms that have blasted through our area this summer. It was a bit of a sad/relieved feeling. Relieved we won't have to worry about the tree coming down on its own. Sad because our father planted that tree more than 50 years ago and it's been a constant in our lives.
We are hoping it will have a second life - as our new kitchen cabinets. We found a local company that recycles trees into lumber. Watching them maneuver the giant logs out of our yard yesterday was a nail-biter - but the loader was amazing.

This is all that's left of the tree today. Teddy, as always, sees it-climbs it. Dax always enjoyed lying in that spot when the tree was there. Don't know what she'll do when they remove the stump.

Tango likes to dig in the wood chips and chew on them.

And he thinks its funny. He's right. - Hope

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Waiting for supper

Dax and Teddy look calm, but they're ready to spring into action as soon as their bowls start moving toward the floor! - Hope

Saturday, July 30, 2011


This is what it looks like when I let the dogs out on my day off. Fran has Tango at work, so he's not in the picture, but he probably wouldn't be anyway because he's always in motion. Ceilidh (Boston Terrier) lies in the sun, Teddy (fawn Frenchie) finds a stick to chew on, Roc (Brussels Griffon) is on alert for anything to bark at, and Dax (brindle Frenchie) eats grass (which she promptly regurgitates). - Hope

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stormy weather

The last few nights have been interesting here in the Chicago area. Lots of lightning, thunder and inches upon inches of rain. It's now the wettest July on record here. We've learned just how much we depend on electricity for simple things. Almost 20,000 people in the area are still without power from last night's storms.On a personal level, I'm really tired of it. I'd like to get some sleep tonight!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

On his way!

Teddy competed last week in his first-ever agility trial, ran two courses (1 Jumpers with Weaves and 1 Standard), qualified in both runs, got perfect scores in both runs, and won third place in both runs. I'm hoping these are just the first of lots of ribbons Ted will earn - but I'm just so thrilled with and proud of these first ones! I apologize to everyone who's been listening to me rave about my little guy for the last week - just can't help it! - Hope

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stay cool! That goes for the dogs too!

Much of the country is gripped in a nasty, long-lasting heat wave. The heat index (what it actually feels like outside) rose over 100 degrees F. the last few days here in the Chicago area. The news reports emphasize how important it is for us to hydrate and get relief in the air conditioning for at least a few hours each day. That goes for our dogs too! We have to make sure that we limit their time outside in the heat and provide lots of clean water. If you're on a walk, bring along a Water Rover so your pup can take water breaks.
My crazy Boston Terrier, Ceilidh, and Hope's French Bulldog, Dax, love the heat, though. They'd bake on the grass for hours if we let them. We end up carrying them inside because they refuse to leave the heat on their own! Silly girls....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dax and Teddy

I spotted Dax and Teddy relaxing before breakfast today. And to think that a year ago Dax did not recognize Teddy's existence! - Fran

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chillin' in the RV

After we arrived at our campsite last Sunday afternoon, Tango and I took some time to just chill out. This was before the storm Monday morning that knocked power out to over 800,000 people. And knocked out our internet for the better part of the week. This was, in fact, relaxing before the storm.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Enjoy the day!

We don't get many days like today - bright and sunny, not too hot, not too windy, not too humid. Tango is enjoying a break. Life's too short - go outside and enjoy nice days! (Then come inside and shop for your little dog online at

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Dirty, dirty Teddy

Every Sunday (when we're home) we have assembly-line dog-clean-up time: mani/pedi, tooth-brushing, face-washing, etc.
Teddy is the only light-colored dog we've ever had. And what does Teddy do after his clean-up? Rolls in the dirt, of course!- Hope

Friday, July 01, 2011

Can't win...

We've told you about the 50-year old maple tree in the backyard that was damaged in the storm last week?? Well, since there are so many limbs that come down whenever the wind blows, we decided that the tree has to come down. We got the estimate and sent back the contract to the tree service just a couple of days ago. But we had another storm last night - brief but violent supercell with extremely high winds. More branches came down - Teddy got to chew on some really big sticks! One is resting on the house and on another branch in the tree. Don't blow too hard.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Enjoying the (partial) sunshine

Things have settled down in the weather department here, after the storm. We have electricity back at the shop (thank goodness!) and things have gone back to normal.

Wait a minute, no they haven't. No class Thursday evening for Tango after a strange day shuttling Packing Slips and other paperwork from home to the powerless shop where orders were packed. Our instructor was out of town at an (what else?) Agility Trial. We made up for it last night, going to a fun match nearby. It's great for the dogs to experience new places and situations. Plus, this was a UKC match! We'd never seen some of the equipment before! A window! And a Sway Bridge! and a hedge?! And an odd number of weave poles... That confused the dogs more than the hoop tunnel!

Everyone did really well. Dax was on fire! Teddy wanted to eat the hedge at first, but then he discovered that it wasn't real. And Tango had problems sitting or lying down in the box. "Sit? OK, I'll sit. Now I'll lie down. Now I'll sit." Arrgh... Just stay put!!! Oh well, we knew we had to work on that. And then on our way home we were stopped at a Security Checkpoint! The Cook County Sheriff's Police were checking drivers licenses and proof of insurance. Many drivers instantly made U-turns when they realized what was happening, but true to form, we said, "Cool! Never been through a Security Checkpoint before!" -Fran

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


A brief but violent storm swept through the Chicago area last night. We were lucky at home - even though quite a few large branches came off the big maple tree in the back yard, none struck the power lines or the house. Below are some pictures we snapped before we hauled the branches to the street for the Village to pick up. We weren't so lucky at the shop - no power. I did make my way to work this morning with Tango, noticing all the storm damage along the way. but since there's no power I came back home to work. (I did a little bit of training with Tango, opening the back door to let the light in!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daxie Tuesday

Tuesdays it's Dax's turn to come to work here at Golly Gear. And as you can see, we really make her slave away at her job! - Hope

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tango's in Big Boy Class

Last night was Tango's first Intermediate Agility Class! He did great! (Better than I did - I got lost a few times...) I've said it before, but there's nothing that Tango loves more than doing "stuff" - put a jump or a Dog Walk in front of him, and that's what he'll do. I'm so grateful for that, because there was a room full of new dogs and new people - all kinds of opportunities for getting into trouble. But even off-lead, and with a handler (me) who was confused with longer courses than we'd been used to, Tango did the obstacles that I pointed him to. There were a few times between runs that Tango looked askance at a nearby Golden Retriever, but when I told him to knock it off, he looked right back at me! What a good boy! I expect that I'll be able to remember the courses more easily in the next few weeks, and Tango will get used to these dogs, but I was very happy with our first Intermediate Class!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One of the very best things about working here at Golly Gear/Dogs In The Ring is bringing our dogs to work with us. Just taking 5 minutes to play with our dogs is really energizing. I wish everyone could!

How can you possibly have a bad day when you've got this face to look at? Ted's even starting to get the whole concept of "stay!"

And of course my darling Daxie-girl is wonderful in practice. Classes and trials may be stressful for her - but she loves playing with me here. Excuse the devil-flash-eyes, please. They looked even creepier when I tried to fix them. It's a wonder we get any work done at all! - Hope