Saturday, March 31, 2007

Big City Adventure - 3

Getting back to dogs - which is what we usually talk about around here - I was standing on the platform, waiting for the Red Line train to go home, listening to the street (platform?) performer belting out gospel for spare change, when I noticed the large Kong toy on the tracks.

I have absolutely no idea how it got there. I'm hoping that there aren't dogs missing toys living in the subterranean tunnels. And that however it got there, its canine owner didn't go off the platform after it.

Big City Adventure - 2 (The Bean)

I hadn't seen "Cloud Gate" the sculpture installed as the centerpiece of Milennium Park. It's more familiarly known as "the bean" in the city - for obvious reasons. I think it's marvelous and fascinating - mostly for people's reactions to it.
That's me, taking my own picture reflected in the Bean.
It's a whole different perspective on our skyline when you see it reflected this way.

Big City Adventure - 1

Yesterday I went into the Chicago Loop (45 minutes by "el") to find a rare item - a t-shirt for my sister with Chicago's Olympic logo. She's absolutely crazy about the Olympics and has been collecting Olympic t-shirts since..... forever.
Knowing that Chicago may or may not get the 2016 Olympics (check out the city's bid at, I knew that we had a limited window to get the shirts, available only at Macy's (used to be Marshall Field's) in the Loop. The US Olympic committee will decide between Chicago and Los Angeles by April 14.
So I went there, did that, and had a wonderful time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Hint of Things to Come

The weather yesterday was incredible! The record-setting warmth was irresistible, so Golly and I went for a walk. We just wandered around the neighborhood, seeing how many crocuses are coming up, and how many houses are being renovated. The landscapers are starting to power up the mowers, and the kids are truly enjoying their spring break. We saw some new construction, and some holes in the ground, waiting for the contractors to start. It was a fun half-mile and Golly enjoyed every step! When we got home, though, Golly laid down on the nice cool floor.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Unlikely trio

Janie, our friend who took care of Dax and Ceilidh while we were on the road sent us this very, very unexpected picture. Our girls have never lived with a cat, never met a cat, and love chasing all critters from our yard. We couldn't believe it - although Ceilidh does have a bit of a wild-eyed stare going on!

Justified guilt

As it turns out, Roc was reluctant to jump for good reason - his right shoulder, left hip and neck are showing the first signs of arthritic changes.

But, his obedience career is not over! Yea! We've started him on glucosamine and he'll rest up for about six weeks, letting the inflammation heal and the glucosamine kick in. Then we'll be able to start jumping again.

In the meantime, we can still work on all the things that don't require jumping and start working on the Utility exercises. I ordered scent articles for the dude while we were in Louisville (custom fit, no less) and had to put the order on hold 'til I got these results.

I'm putting that order on the fast track now!

Friday, March 23, 2007

You Think You Know Guilt?

Golly's a champion at guilt. The vet wanted to do a full blood work-up on her today, so we couldn't give the princess anything to eat after midnight last night (this morning). Now, that doesn't sound so awful - it is less than a day, and we would be sending along her breakfast so it's not even a few hours that Golly would be without food. No matter. This has disrupted her whole routine. We've cut her throat (figuratively speaking, of course). We are horrible people. Her siblings were eating breakfast, and then treats and Golly got nothing. Oh, that's not right adding insult to injury we gave Golly her blood pressure medicine.

When Golly turns those big brown eyes on you, you want to give her anything she wants. It doesn't work trying to explain that it's for her own good - we just want her to be healthy. That doesn't matter. Golly has gone without food. As I was eating breakfast this morning - that's right, and not giving any to Golly - the little manipulator was lying on a pad on the floor and just breathing. Not the little normal, almost inaudible, breaths. No - the long-suffering sighing breaths of the neglected. And this evening when I come home I fully expect to get the cold shoulder from Golly. Oh yes, she knows guilt.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let the guilt begin

Where does the guilt begin?

It turns out that Roc may be reluctant to jump, run, fetch, etc. in the obedience ring because he's either injured or has something wrong in his shoulders.

Whenever we're asked about training or behavioral problems with a dog, the first piece of advice we give is to have the dog checked by a veterinarian to see if there's a physical cause for the issue. So, after struggling with Roc's worsening performance in obedience, I finally took my own advice.

I suppose that late is better than never, but I felt sooooooooooo bad when Dr. Janice was checking him out today and he started trembling when she touched his shoulders. I try to avoid guilt whenever possible, but I think I deserve some of it today.

Tomorrow I'll be taking him in for x-rays and we'll start figuring out what's going on with the little dude. I know that he loves training and working with me, so it's going to be a rude shock if his obedience career is over. I know there are only a couple of jumps, but I can't justify making him do them if he'll be in pain every time.

And I feel guilty about hoping it's an injury - because in my twisted little brain I'm thinking that an injury could heal, in time, and let us play obedience again. And if not? We'll deal. He'll always be my dog. And, as I said after every non-qualifying stint in the ring, I still get to take him home with me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Back from our Road Trip

We're back from the Louisville Shows. And we had a great time. Which just goes to prove - quite decisively - that I'm a glutton for punishment. Roc NQd every time out. And I still had fun. I've decided that we are going to work through whatever his issues are - I'm also an eternal optimist! We're not going to give up as long as he enjoys training and works so beautifully - everywhere but in the ring. Anybody ever heard of a dog with stage fright?

The best part of the weekend (aside from the fantastic ice cream at the Kentucky Expo Center) was seeing old friends and making new ones. And seeing over 100 Brussels Griffons in one place. It's the only place and time I can walk around with Roc and not hear "what a cute Pug" every other step!

We spent a good chunk of time at the Agility venue - one of these days, maybe Dax and I will give competition a try (I told you I was an optimist). It's amazing to watch the teamwork between dog and handler, especially in the Excellent classes. And, unlike the agility competitions you can find on TV, in real life there are many breeds other than Border Collies and Shelties doing agility. We saw everything from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, and most in-between. No French Bulldogs in Agility, but a wonderful one in Obedience. So maybe "Performance Frenchie" isn't quite the oxymoron it seems.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Just remember to breathe...

Just remember to breathe - that's what the stewards said the very first time I entered an obedience ring. And it's advice I try to remember every trial. But I cannot even begin to describe how anxious I am today. Tomorrow morning we leave for Louisville, where Roc is entered in the Brussels Griffon National Specialty Obedience Trial.

Now, if Roc were a Border Collie, Golden Retriever, even a Papillon, he would be one among many and the potential for humiliation would be mitigated by being "one of the crowd." However, he is a Brussels Griffon. There are six entered. Not six in his class, six in total. And with our current rate of success (0 for 10) I have to look at our entry fee as "supporting the club."

Not that I don't have very high hopes! I do. Which is what's making me crazy. I wish I could just "let it go," "give it up," "que sera sera." I know, in my brain, that Roc knows all of the exercises and my nerves are not helping one little bit. I also know that I get to keep him, regardless of how we do in the ring. I know from vast experience that once in the ring, I'll just be playing obedience with my dog and have a good time. And I know that all the spectators will be rooting for all of the dogs to do well.

But I still feel sick to my stomach and my palms are sweaty. Wish us luck!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ceilidh the Grump

Yesterday evening was Agility class, as is normal for Thursday. Ceilidh loves Agility - she gets some undivided attention, she gets to play with her Latex Soccer Ball (which I bring to class to entertain us both while we wait for our turn), she gets a yummy Chicken Z-Filet (spread over the evening, as her special treat for class), and best of all, she gets to play Agility!

When we get home Ceilidh usually tries to persuade us that she's not tired and she could play some more. We win that argument, though and Ceilidh finally concedes that she could use a nap. Last night she curled up in the Woofie Cushion in the family room and covered her with a throw. Golly didn't see Ceilidh and tried to climb into the bed. Ceilidh is not one for sharing, though, and growled at her big sister! Golly was quite startled to hear such vicousness from the bed and decided to try a different resting spot!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

If at first you don't succeed

Roc and I have been training rather intensely. We're getting ready for the Brussels Griffon National Specialty in Louisville, Kentucky next week. So I've been going to every fun match I can find.
Yesterday evening we went to a fun match at a training center owned by a top-notch Golden Retriever trainer we've known for many years. Frank is a tall, quiet-spoken man with a dry sense of humor who expects excellence from his dogs and his students. We've never taken classes from him, although I hope to in the future.
Frank wanted to get the match started, so asked if anyone was ready to go in Open. I said we were, so Roc and I got in the ring to do our thing. After the first heeling exercise, Frank told me Roc was lagging a bit. I told Frank that if lagging was our worst problem, I'd be thrilled.
Needless to say, our run-through deteriorated. Roc didn't Drop on the Recall, his jumps were terrible. Fortunately, he did a great job on his Long Sit and Long Down.
I'd signed up for a second run, so we sat around for an hour, shooting the breeze with other handlers and passing the time. When it was our turn for a second run, I could almost see Frank thinking "why does she even bother?"
We got in the ring and started the off-lead heeling. Roc was in the zone. He heeled like a Golden! He Dropped on Recall! He Retrieved on the Flat! He Retrieved Over the High Jump (on the second try - there were distractions)! He even Broad-Jumped! And after every exercise, the very tall, very quiet man said "Good Boy!"
He is. I think I'll keep him.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Can I just go into the corner and scream?

I love Roc dearly. I just want that said before I continue. Because this week I also despise every bone in his tiny, little body.

We've been training rather intensely for competition in Open Obedience. He has his Novice title, so I know he can, in fact, perform in public. In addition to class, we've been going to fun matches and other sites, wherever dogs are allowed, to practise.

This last weekend we went to trials at the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds. So I drove, over this weekend, more than 320 miles (back and forth and back and forth), in below-freezing, sleeting, icky disgusting weather.

Saturday, out of the clear blue sky, Roc sat instead of lying down for the "Down on Recall." He's never done that before in his life. Everything else - a bit sloppy, but definitely qualifying.

Okay, I figure. He was a bit nervous. We'll do better on Sunday.

Not even close. He got distracted in the first 20 seconds and I found myself heeling all by myself on the other side of the ring. And it was downhill from there. I know that he probably got all flustered when he realized he'd messed up. I know he just lost focus and couldn't get it back.

I also know that, if and when we manage to overcome this stage fright he'll do wonderfully well. But when some people at the trial suggested I give up on Brussels Griffons and get a Papillon - I was just a little bit tempted.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Skating on Thick Ice

The main topics of conversation around here have been centering on the weather. Last weekend we had another fun bout of rain, sleet, ice, and snow to top it all off. Yesterday was just snow and a lot of wind. (Yes, we live outside of Chicago and they tell me it's not called the "Windy City" because of the wind, but you can't prove it by me.) Even though we got only an inch or so of snow, the wind drifted all of it on the sidewalks. So, I shovelled about 8 inches of snow today in a couple of spots! What snow remained on the grassy areas is covering ice. Lots of ice. Poor Ceilidh. She walks on her tiptoes when it's cold out and just slides around on the ice. It's very difficult to get down to business when your legs are coming out from under you. So she has to find a little snow to get some footing. And Ceilidh's the only one of our bunch that will tolerate her coat when it's above 20 degrees. The picture of Ceilidh above was taken in the fall, in her new coat.