Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How 'bout a cup of kindness?

I try, at least in this blog, to avoid the politics of dog ownership. I do have strong opinions on the topic, but I'm not entirely sure the rest of the world wants to hear them.

What I know for sure is that we should all respect the informed, well-considered opinions of others, whether they agree with us or not.

Recently, on the Twitter social network, (I'm GollyGear there), someone commented that people who own and compete with purebred dogs have to be rather "shy." Apparently, if we choose to have a purebred dog we can't really talk about it in public these days. The people owning mixed-breeds, preferably those adopted from shelters, seem to have the moral high ground.

Dog ownership is a choice. It is the only love money truly can buy. They are not my children, nor am I their guardian. I am wholly and completely responsible for my dogs; their health, safety, and their behavior.

I hope to have many, many years with each of my dogs. I have particular needs and preferences to consider when choosing a dog, and I want to train my dogs from their puppyhood on. For these reasons, and many others, I choose to own purebred dogs.

I respect the fact that my choice is not everyone's. And I hope that others will respect mine. I hope we can all discuss our points of view civilly - each contributing his knowledge and experience to polite debate.

So I'm hoping for a kinder, gentler 2009, where, as Voltaire said: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Happy Day After Christmas, everyone! Yesterday was a quiet day at home - snuggled with the dogs, watched movies and appreciated the fact that we didn't have to go anywhere! To get in the mood, we watched "A Christmas Carol" with Patrick Stewart (it was on TNT a few years ago and perhaps in reruns since). Got the warm fuzzies. I knit a few rows on my afghan, read a few chapters. Great day. And then this morning woke up to an ice storm. The newscasters said there were too many crashes and fender-benders on the expressways to talk about. Yup, back to reality! (No worries - made it to work safely.)
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sweet deal

Yesterday I got home to a bonanza of riches! Our front sidewalk had been snow-blown!
It doesn't seem like a such a big deal until you know the history. It's been snowing around here about every two days. At the moment, looking out the window of the shop, the parking lot across the street has piles of snow that are, literally, over my head. (I know, that's not as impressive when you know I'm only five feet tall, but it's the principle.) You get the idea - there's a lot of snow on the ground.
Several years ago, being younger and brighter than I am now, I bought a snow-thrower. I did my research and got a really, really good snow-thrower. It has an electric start, it has separate tanks for oil and gas so I didn't have to mix them, and it's too wide to get from the garage to the front of the house. Never even thought about measuring between the fence and the house. I can hear you giggling. Stop it.
So the snow thrower sat in the unattached garage. And developed an impressive array of spiderwebs and dust. Until the other day, when our wonderful neighbor Ron was caught in the act of being an angel and clearing our front walk. So I went out to talk to Ron, who said he was happy to do our walk. And that he was thinking about getting a snow thrower, so he could do his yard, ours, and an elderly neighbor's.
In an astonishing burst of brilliance - I offered the abandoned snow thrower in the garage! I can't believe I thought of it right then and there. He could have it! Forever and always! At this point I wasn't even sure it would run, but what the heck, worth a try!
Ron came and got it the next day (walked it all the way around the block). Lo and behold! He told me last night it only took about a half hour of tinkering to get it going. Yeah, Ron!
Everybody wins! Ron gets a snow thrower, we get space in the garage and clean front walks. And cookies from Ron's wife, Kitty!
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just having fun with my dog

Yesterday I had an agility lesson with our instructor (whose Airedale was tops at the Agility Invitational last week!). It occurred to me, driving home, that I am so incredibly lucky. I may not be very good at agility handling (although I am trainable!) and I may not have the grace, style or instinct to ever compete at any elite level - but I can play agility with my dog!
I'm sure that everyone who has a hobby they enjoy can identify with the feeling. Doing something just for fun is a great joy and privilege. And to be able to share it with my dog, to forge a partnership with her and have fun together - it's the best!
I may not feel that way as the butterflies flutter in my stomach before our next trial (wish us luck - it's Jan. 2, 3 and 4!), but right now, we're having a blast!
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Enough already!

The Winter Storm Warning that we had from last night through this morning was actually legit! In our area we got about 5 inches of really heavy, wet snow and sleet. But it was better than the freezing rain that fell just a little further south. Needless to say the dogs did not want to go out this morning. Snow that's above Golly's belly is frowned upon by the princess. I tromped a path through the back yard to make it a little easier to get to the kid's familiar place but that didn't make it any nicer out. Ceilidh shivered and tiptoed her way to the back. Roc was yapping at the snow, expressing his displeasure. And Dax is just plain miserable.

Is it spring yet?
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bears have the right idea

You know it's going to be a long, long winter when you're tired of it before it starts. December has been a brutal month, weatherwise. Not improved by the furnace dying in our shop - two days with temperatures in the forties, inside! It was practically impossible to think - totally impossible to type. (Apologies for all those typos on the packing slips to our customers!)
And I have a question - Why is it that of all species of apes, only the furless one doesn't live in the tropics?
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Monday, December 15, 2008

The friendliest girl in the world

Yesterday was Dax and my first Obedience Trial as a team. We've been working at it since she was a baby and I probably should have started trialing (how's that for dog-specific jargon!) long ago, but I didn't.
And, just like her first Agility Trial, Dax proved she's the most social butterfly around. She had to go see the little girl sitting ringside. It didn't seem to occur to her, momentarily, that she was supposed to be heeling with me! And that speck on the mat had to be investigated. And what's going on in the ring next door? That looked very, very interesting!
The upshot was we didn't qualify. It's not that she totally blew any of the exercises - it's just that our total performance was, shall we say, not exactly noteworthy.
I really didn't expect to qualify her first time out. Trials can be nerve-wracking experiences for competitors (both human and canine) with years of experience.
So - we got some experience. Which is what you get when you don't get what you want.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Why don't I ever have a camera?

It's always the same story. I never have a camera handy when the dogs are doing something incredibly cute. Yesterday evening we were watching the news when Ceilidh and Dax started play-bowing, then wrestling, then chasing each other around. Then Golly started bouncing at us - her playful sign. Then she started playing with a big stuffed bear we've had for years for the dogs to play with. But naturally, the camera was in the other room and we knew everyone would abandon play to follow us if we got up to get it! That's how it always is ...
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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Reindog Parade at the Chicago Botanic Garden

It was snowy
and cold

But even Cubs fans had a good time!

Cute dogs!

Santa was there!

The winner was this Yule Dog Log!

Over 300 dogs were entered - it was crowded and fun!

Dogs are only allowed in the Chicago Botanic Garden 1 day per year - naturally, the nastiest weather-one around! Everybody had fun, though!
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Saturday, December 06, 2008

We never thought it would happen

We tried to get a picture of Dax and Ceilidh together, but didn't want to leave the room to get a good camera - we knew one or both would be up in a flash if we did! These pictures were taken on my cell phone. The two girls were actually sharing the bed! Dax lied down first and Ceilidh really wanted that same bed. We did put her in the bed and told her it was OK to share. It took her a few minutes, but as you can see Ceilidh did settle down to enjoy a nap, using her sister's butt as a nice pillow!
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Friday, December 05, 2008

Lost day...

Yesterday was a day for putting out fires. Not related to the store or customers - worse - computer problems! This time it was a new modem causing fires. We had been having intermittent problems with the internet and were told by techs that the modem was getting old and we should replace it. You would think that this would be an easy proposition. Think again. The box came with the new modem, all the requisite cables and cords, and an installation CD. Now with every other piece of new equipment, the first thing you do is stick in that installation CD. Not so here. It turns out that the CD installed Norton security programs on the PC that not only duplicated existing security but created a new firewall that prevented our two PCs from sharing files. Sounds simple, doesn't it. The problem was that we didn't know about this software installation until late in the day, after Hope talked to tech support at our DSL provider (who actually should have known about the new security programs, having provided that installation CD) and Dell (who shed light on the problem). So, we helped customers, mailed out orders, and came home totally frazzled.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quirky? Eccentric? That's my girl!

Dax is a thirsty dog. Whenever she's done with anything she goes and has a drink of water. And if I happen to forget to bring water when we go to class, she sulks until she's home. Then she runs right to the water bowl.
There's nothing wrong with her - she just really, really likes water. Not usually a problem, since she's also very well-trained!
She does have this one really bizarre quirk. She won't touch her "travelling" water bowl if any other dog touches it. The only exceptions are the dogs she lives with; Golly, Ceilidh and Roc.
At trials, fun matches or at training class I can never leave her bowl on the ground. Invariably another perfectly nice dog would slurp a drink. Then, in Dax's universe, the bowl had cooties and couldn't possibly be used again until it was thoroughly sterilized by a run through the dishwasher.
I found this really great water container. Upright, it's a spill-proof bottle. Horizontal and the bowl fills up. No muss, no fuss! I can just pick it up when Dax is done and not worry about other dogs' cooties.
Not so much. Being a little dog person, it never occurred to me that an Irish Water Spaniel would have no trouble checking out Dax's water bowl on top of a table. Ooops. You should have seen the "mother, how could you!" look I got from Dax.
Yup, it's another trip through the dishwasher.
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Friday, November 28, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving! (A day late, but the sentiment is there.) I'm thankful for my dogs, bringing me joy every day. No matter how frustrating my day is, Ceilidh is at the door jumping on me, wanting to play. Gotta laugh at Dax stealing Ceilidh's toy and Ceilidh taking off after her! Golly and Roc are always at the door too, wanting to say hello. I'm thankful for being able to enjoy my dogs. I may not be able to get down on the floor as easily as I did, but I still get down there and play with them.

So, today I'm thankful for the small things!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Working on conditioning

When I told my friend Betsy about the results of the Agility Fun Match last week, she reminded me of something really important. I can't ask my French Bulldog to do something she's clearly not designed to do if she's not in condition to do it.
Aside from the training of "how" to do the obstacles in agility, it's vital that she's in shape to do them, too! I may have lost sight of that - life can be so hectic that I've minimized the importance of that chunk of time spent working on my dog's physical fitness.
And Dax does her best to help me slack off - especially when the weather turns a bit colder. She's all warm and cuddly and snuggly - it's difficult to bounce her off my lap and plop her down on the treadmill. Snuggling with a bulldog is way more fun.
But we have instituted a new regimen - and I'm planning to stick to it, regardless of how adorably she looks at me. From now on we're strengthening her core so she can haul that cute butt up the A-Frame. We're building her stamina with treadmill time. We're sharpening her jumping skills with close, clean repetitions. And we're honing her heeling with lots of little drills.
Poor dog. If it weren't for the rewards she's getting, she'd be screaming "get me outta here!"
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Agility - ups and downs

Dax and I went to an Agility Fun Match last night. HORRIBLE TRAFFIC! 2 hours to get there during rush hour (I know, what was I thinking!), only 45 minutes to get home. The things we do for/with/about dogs!
Mixed bag of results. Very, very happy she's tugging like a lunatic with our new toy (, and our first run was pretty smooth and terrific. Second run - major, major A-frame issues. A really nice woman who runs Pugs came to help and share some sympathy - Pugs and Frenchies are not built to run A-Frames! Then, my fault totally, Dax got hung up a bit in the tire - nobody noticed it was set for 16 inches, instead of 12. I'll have to be way more careful about that. Fortunately, it didn't bother her. Really nice people at the facility, and a very nice facility: . After everybody was done with their runs, they let me take Dax back out and do the A-Frame and tire again.
We know what we have to work on - let's hope we get it right by our next trial at the beginning of January.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

More cold

I woke up today and it was 18 degrees F. I'm already tired of winter. It should be against some law to have to wear your parka before Thanksgiving! Of course this means the dogs need their coats as well. Golly says she doesn't need one, and so does Roc. OK - for now we'll go with that, but when it gets down to single digits they won't have a choice! Ceilidh eagerly puts her pretty flower coat on to go outside. Dax got a new coat that she doesn't seem to mind quite as much as the others. Silly girl, she doesn't like the cold but seems to dislike wearing a coat even more, trying to scrape it off on the fence outside.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dax the Huntress

I've been hesitating to write about this - it's kind of disgusting. But I guess it's part of having dogs. Dax added to her body count Sunday night - she ran down and killed a rabbit in the back yard. That's not the icky part. The grossness is when I pulled her off of the carcass and had to tell her to drop the eyeball. Ewwww.
Dax is the first dog I've ever had, in the decades I've had dogs, that's managed to actually catch anything. All the dogs have run after squirrels and rabbits. A couple had run-ins with skunks (not fun) and one challenged an opossum that was bigger than the dog. But Dax is the first successful hunter in the family.

If you'd have asked me which dog had the greatest prey drive - she wouldn't have been my first choice. She's lackadaisical about playing, doesn't enjoy fetch, and I've had to really work on getting her to play "tug" for agility training. She's really a rather laid-back, cuddly dog most of the time.

It's been a challenge wrapping my brain around this new concept of my adorable baby girl. My friend Betsy thinks I should be proud of her prowess. I'm not quite there yet.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Sarah wants me to visit!

I got this envelope in the mail yesterday. "Hmmm," I thought to myself. "What could Sarah possibly want? The election's been over for a week and a half. She couldn't possibly want a donation... Well, maybe she could but that's not going to happen..." I usually toss solicitations into the recycling bin without even opening them but this one was irresistible. It turns out that the Governor of Alaska has some geniuses on her staff. Nothing like striking while the iron is hot! This is an offer to receive an official Alaska travel guide! Absolutely free! The letter inside rhapsodizes about the "breathtaking glaciers, deep blue fjords, the midnight sun or dazzling aurora borealis, rain forests, volcanic landscapes..." Want to go? As appealing as it sounds, I'm going to turn Sarah down. I'm staying in my nice warm house.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mixed bag of a day

Yesterday started out so good! The sun was shining, the air was crisp and delightful. I had scheduled an obedience and agility lesson with our instructor Dee - our first private lesson. We're getting ready to compete and we needed a fresh eye and perspective on our skills.
I learned a lot - lessons aren't really for the dogs. Dogs can show what they know, but the learning comes at home in small daily sessions.
The funniest thing I learned is that I walk crooked! Apparently most people do, but I had no idea! Dax and I started heeling down a long, long room. Most obedience mats have ridges, so we usually have some sort of guide. Not this time! I wound up in the opposite corner! No wonder Dax heels a little wide - she's been afraid I'll step into her.
I learned a whole slew of tiny little "kitchen exercises" - stuff we can practise in just a couple of minutes, at home in our own kitchen. Dax really seemed to have a good time, I know I did!
She also enjoyed her first ride in the new crates in the new car. I've always had plastic, solid crates in the car before, so this was the first time she's been able to see where we're going as well as where we've been. I get the feeling she's going to be quite the backseat driver.
Then I got to work and things went downhill fast. A nasty piece of malware had taken up residence in my computer and shut me down. It took forever to find the right software that could deal with the trojan and remove it. I can't understand the motivation - what twisted mind gets a kick out of making strangers' lives difficult? And where do they find the time and energy? Don't they have anything better to do?
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Blueberry's all kitted out!

I spent a good chunk of yesterday getting the dog crates secured on the deck I built last week for Blueberry's cargo area. I had to be a bit creative - the crates can't be a permanent installation, since I do so much schlepping for the store. I have to be able to get them out relatively easily. My buddy Mark at the hardware store came up with a great solution - U-shaped thingies with threads on both ends. I secured them under the platform with wing nuts. Pretty nifty, hey?

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Ceilidh's New Toy

Aside from Ceilidh's beloved Latex Soccer Ball, there's no other toy that she's particularly attached to. Until now. We got in some new Good Karma Rope Toys at the store and tried to figure out which Ceilidh might like without causing too much damage swinging it around. We settled on Ted the Turtle - not too many long bits. I must admit I was unsure if Ceilidh would really like it. But, just as Hope suspected, Ceilidh loves her turtle! We took the ribbon off immediately, of course - we all know what would happen to it if we left it on! Much to my surprise, in the evening Ceilidh likes to chew on the legs. They're starting to look a little frayed, but they're supposed to do that - the flossing effect, keeping Ceilidh's teeth in good shape. Let's hear it for Ted the Turtle!

I took a shot of Ceilidh's Ted the Turtle last night - a bit worse for wear - but beloved!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Is obedience supposed to be painful?

Fate has a way of keeping us humble, doesn't it? Last night at obedience training I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Dax and I have been practising regularly, I've been looking at premium lists and deciding which obedience trials to enter. I've also been getting a bit of a swelled head - thinking myself pretty hot stuff as the "expert" trainer on the FrogDog Ask The Experts blog. Especially when I've been getting some nice e-mails from people thanking me for my help and letting me know I was right!
Being right is a good thing. Paying attention to what you're supposed to be doing is smarter. During heeling exercises in class, our instructor (and a wonderful one, at that) explained that showing Dax a "big honking treat" right in front of her face would help her become more enthusiastic. She even encouraged us to get our dogs jumping up for the treat - showing some energy, style and panache!
It works wonders. Unless you let your mind wander during the exercise, which I did. And your dog mistakes your finger for the big honking treat, which she did. My "owie" is still oozing blood today. And it serves me right. One of my favorite obedience t-shirts reads: Obedience Help Line - Call 1-800-It's-my-fault
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

What happened to Halloween?

Friday is my day off. I was totally, totally psyched for trick-or-treaters. For some reason, it's usually Fran who gets to see them and I get to hear all about how adorable they were and how cute their costumes were and how they even dressed their dogs in costume to go trick-or-treating.
Trick-or-treat hours in our town are 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. So I got totally ready - even prepared a casserole early, so I wouldn't be busy cooking when the doorbell started ringing. Candy was ready in a bowl, top window of the screen door removed so the dogs could see the kids and not get out. I was ready!
And nothing. Hours and hours of nothing. One group finally showed up about 5:30, another one child about a half hour later.
After the second time the doorbell rang, Dax sat by the door waiting for the next time. She adores seeing the kids. It never happened. She was disappointed. So was I.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big grins at the agility fun match

Dax is such a good girl! Yesterday evening we went to the Agility Fun Match hosted by the Lyons Dog Training Club. My goals were pretty basic - make sure Dax did the A-Frame (which she avoided like the plague at the trials we entered) and get the bar-setters and tunnel-straighteners to discourage her from visiting (okay, I went up and begged them to scream "no" at her if she came visiting.)
She was wonderful! The first run I decided to start with a jump and then the A-Frame to make sure we had time to get it done right. No problem. Dax jumped and headed straight for the frame like it was her favorite obstacle! She stayed with me the whole time, didn't even glance at the other people in the ring. We managed to complete the whole course. Almost. I was so happy she was with me I didn't notice that Dax ran over the broad jump instead of jumping it until we were well past it. I figured I'd fix it on the next run.
As it turns out - I didn't need to! She jumped the jumps, touched the contacts, listened to me and grinned from ear to ear. Me, too!
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

More than just a river in Egypt

So we look at Ceilidh and can't believe anything's wrong with her. If I hadn't seen the EKG for myself, I wouldn't believe it. But there's not much arguing with two separate tests with scarey flat lines that seem to go on forever before that reassuring little bump that says - not done yet!
And she's not. Not by a long shot. Because Ceilidh has no symptoms, her vet says we can work with medication, trying to get her dosage right, seeing what effect it has, etc. Another EKG in three weeks and we'll see where we are.
In the meantime, we intend to ignore the situation entirely, aside from giving her the pills. There's a lovely view from this wonderful place called "denial." Visit anytime!
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Friday, October 24, 2008

Quality it is!

Here's the good news: Ceilidh's blood pressure is normal!

And the bad news: not only are Ceilidh's heart valves bad, they're really bad. And she has arrhythmia - her heart stops beating at times for several seconds.

There are pacemakers available for dogs, but if we had one implanted in Ceilidh, her activity level would have to be restricted. For a normal, couch potato dog this wouldn't be a big deal. But for Ceilidh, who only knows full-speed, this alone would kill her.

So we hope to be able to treat Ceilidh's condition with medication. The vet also said that any new stress factors are to be avoided. Keep doing the things Ceilidh loves to do - play with her beloved Latex Soccer Ball and go to Agility Class - but if I ever had any dreams of competing with Ceilidh, that's out.

Hopefully, Ceilidh will be around for a very long time, wanting to play, play, play...
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Facing choices

I'm off to pick up Ceilidh at the vet in a few minutes. She spent the day getting checked out - the vet said the heart murmur she found last year had worsened considerably - from a grade 1 to a grade 3. Ceilidh's only seven years old, and we don't even want to consider the implications if she has exercise restrictions. Not the full-speed, party girl! We're dreading having to face the choice - quantity or quality of life?
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Golly!

Today is Golly's 13th Birthday!
Happy Birthday, baby princess!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

New member of the family

Yesterday I did something I only do about every 10 years. I bought a new car! It's a Blue Honda Element. It's cute, distinctive, and rated the best dog car around. (Sort of the leitmotif of our lives, isn't it!) Tomorrow I'll be measuring and planning and building a platform for the dogs' crates in the back. And removing the back seats - probably not to be seen again until I go to trade it in in 10 years.
I don't know how many people name their cars, but I tend to. Strange names - the last one was Broccoli (Green Grand Vitara). So I'm talking to Fran and ask, "what should I name it" and she says "Blueberry." It stuck. So - welcome Blueberry!
Buying Blueberry was sort of surreal. Last time I bought a car the internet wasn't really a factor. This time, I built it online, asked for quotes, went to the dealer with the best one, got a good deal (I think - please don't disabuse me of this fondly-held notion), great financing, and drove away in my new car. Weird. Pleasant, but weird.
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Friday, October 17, 2008


I'm taking this session of Agility classes off - hopefully rest my knees and hips. Because, as fun as it was, walking miles around Disney World and then a trade show did not help. Fortunately, Ceilidh doesn't know that yesterday was Thursday, the day she usually goes to class. As long as her routine doesn't vary, she's pretty happy. I'm the one feeling the guilt. But, I know in the long run this will be better for me, and better for us.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The raking begins...

and continues for months.
Because this is the tree in front of the house this morning:
And this is the tree in the back today:
The front is the first one in the area to lose its leaves, the back hangs on until New Year's Day some years. Whoever planted these - what were they thinking?
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