Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Slightly Different Chapter

It seems that Pia's sheepdog training is a little on hold at the moment, so this week we *might* be off on a bit of a different adventure.  This week I'm going to see about Pia and I taking a pre-agility class.  I haven't stepped foot into an agility ring since Chuck #1 left, so it's been probably since 2007.  Boy does that ever bring back memories!  I miss the Bree sometimes.

Photos by Julie Poudrier:

 Ahhhh sweet wild Bree.  Such a fun (if naughty) little dog.

There are many things about Pia that remind me of Bree... the inability to keep her feet on the ground for one.  The speed, the joy, the opinions...

So anyway, Pia's supposed to get evaluated this week since she's never had an official obedience class.  I'm pretty sure she's going to embarrass me.  I'm even taking a back up dog just in case (Linc).  I think it would be fun to do something more than what little I'm doing right now with Pia, and she's FAST and enthusiastic. I may get her out of the car and she might lose her mind.  Then again, she may be spectacular.  I never really know what to expect with her.  She always keeps me thinking!

Then in two weeks the boy dogs get to work another sheepdog trial at Robin's. Ginger turns 16 a week from today.  June is hanging in there, mostly just holding down the couch.  Life is good for the Crazies.

Now I'm just hoping that in the face of distraction Pia can remember what a sit, lie down, or stay is.  Pia likes other dogs, though there's always the run up and grovel factor I have to worry about.  Maybe I'll smear myself all over with sardines.  Maybe she'll show our possible new agility teacher her wonderful recall... you know, the one I taught her by letting her jump up on me at the end?  That one.  She'll love it!

I hope I have something less than humiliating to report later this week.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Lamest Bridal Shower Gift of All Time

Yesterday I was invited to a bridal shower. Not just any bridal shower, mind you, but a small, intimate, classy bridal shower for one of my new coworkers.  The guest list was about... oh... ten women long.  Yes, really.  And they wanted me there.  ME.

I don't know what they were thinking.  Do they not really know me?  Apparently they do not.  Don't get me wrong, I felt truly honored to be among the elite few.  And all things considered, I knew these women well enough, and the situation was controlled enough that I didn't have any real social anxiety over it.  However, this all meant that I needed to take a shower gift with me.

That's where it all fell apart.

Last week I went online to the "Bed Bath and Beyond" website to peruse the gift registry.  I decided that I would buy this lovely, LOVELY slate cutting board.  I have a special place in my heart for cutting boards because I have strong feelings about knives, and strong preferences about cutting boards.  I thought this one looked like one I would like.

I give you the intended bridal shower gift:

The website told me I could pick it up in store, so I pulled the trigger on the big daddy cutting board, and a spoon rest or some such other ridiculous item.  However, two hours later, BB&B emailed me to say that my items weren't available and my order was cancelled.


My excellent plan was thwarted, and I realized that I needed a back up plan.  Seeing as to how I was really peeved with BB&B, I perused the Target gift list instead.  Crikey!  The Target (pronounced tar-ZHAY in my head thankyouverymuch) list was miles long, so I decided I would just go to Target early Saturday morning and find something else that I liked.

Yesterday morning, full off coffee and cheer (ok, maybe just full of coffee) I trundled over to Target and printed out the registry list.

It was nine items long.  NINE.  There were NINE ITEMS AVAILABLE IN STORE.  The heck you say! Not only that, but most of the nine items had very minimal descriptions, and NO PICTURES.  Who doesn't put pictures on a list like that?  Target apparently.

So armed with this list I decided that I'd love to get her a "Down Throw".  I wandered and searched... couldn't find a stoopid down throw.  Next item up was a canister set. What the hooey is a canister set I asked myself?  I didn't know, so I moved on.  Item three:  shower caddy!  Oh YAY!  Except... they didn't have that particular caddy, or if they did I couldn't find it.

By this time I had to pee like a racehorse (remember that coffee?) and I was desperately trying to wrap this thing up.  Besides, I only had about an hour and a half to get to the shower by that point, and I still had to buy veggies for the veggie tray, chop and prepare said tray, and get cleaned up and drive over there!

But I digress.  The next reasonable item was a Pyrex set.  I thought to myself, "That's cool!  I love Pyrex sets!"  Unfortunately for me, they had every set in stock except for the set I was looking for.  I know this because I looked at the UPC codes on every. single. one.

By that time I was getting desperate in so many ways.

I finally came to an item that I could recognize.  I had seen one about 30 minutes before.  I knew where it was, and I knew what it looked like - no pictures needed.  Full of shame I trundled over a few aisles and put into my cart what has to be The Lamest Bridal Shower Gift of All Time.

To a Bridal Shower, I took...

wait for it...

A big black plastic trash can.

To make matters worse (yeah, because clearly this wasn't already humiliating enough) I then had to figure out how to wrap the stupid thing.

Not even the yummy smelling candle I wrapped and placed inside of it could make up for this:

I'm thinking there's a chance I may never get invited to another bridal shower again.  Ever.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Has it really been a year?

I realized a week or so that it had been a year since I've last posted. Wow. How can that be?

Besides, Lora told me I had to start blogging again.

When I started this blog life was tough, really tough. I wrote to get through it. Then life got tougher and I could no longer bear to write anything, afraid that the world would see my anguish through my words. There's a limit to what I'm willing to share, and the devastation I was feeling was too much to share with anyone. I just tried to slog through it all... tried to survive.

I did it. Survive, that is. So now I've got a new job, and I feel like I finally have my life back. This is a Very. Good. Thing.

I think there's some sort of blogging rule that says you have to blog about a certain subject matter. Well, I've never really stuck to that rule very well, but somewhere along the line I thought I needed to. As a result I got stuck because the only things I felt like writing about didn't have to do with the dogs, and this is a dog blog, yes? Meh... self-imposed drivel blah blah blah.

So. Back to it for me. I'm going to write about whatever it is I want to write about. So there.

With my new job I get to travel some. Since May I've been to Geneva, Switzerland, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and now Las Vegas, Nevada. As can be imagined I've had many adventures, so I think I'll write about them too.

Oh, and I got to set sheep on the Nursery field at this year's National Sheepdog Finals. Good fun!

So there is a lot to catch up on, eh?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Working Pia

Pia had a pretty big weekend last weekend, and I was hoping I'd have a chance to sit down and get it written out. My thanks to for making this post possible.

Pia - 17 months

While farm-sitting for Julie last weekend I went over to Robin's to walk dogs and work Pia. One of the road-blocks I've had is that Pia needs a smaller space still, and she needs some fairly quiet and forgiving sheep. I've worked her very little, and she's still rocking a bit of the yeehaw. So, I loaded up some big woolies into Robin's round pen, and set about the business of trying to get Pia's attention.

We did three or four short sessions spaced out over several hours. The sheep were being fair, but she wasn't really learning from them, and didn't seem remotely concerned about fixing her messes. She was basically going back and forth between orbiting at 100 mph and then diving in for a little grab. Corrections weren't helpful, though speaking to her quietly seemed to help some. On one level she was trying to figure out what I wanted, but she just couldn't seem to get to that place.

I realized quickly as the sheep kept going from corner to corner that this situation was not a good one. Things were deteriorating.  I was getting frustrated.  Pia was getting frustrated. The sheep were not happy. I was not happy. I tried bringing in Linc, and I also tried tying him in one of the corners. It didn't seem to change the situation much.

Finally after a nice walk I decided to take the dogs back to Julie's and think about it for a while and come up with a new plan. I KNEW that if I could get into the sheep I could help her. I just had to figure out how to do that.  I hatched a new plan, and the new plan looked nothing like the old plan.

I took Nick with me, and took Pia into the smallest of Julie's pastures with her lambs that have been worked a decent bit. I'd say the space was roughly 3 to 4 times bigger than the round pen.  Maybe more. There were a few moments of yeehaw.  However, because Nick was there I was finally able to get into the sheep, and able to gently influence Pia at her problem spots - 10:00 and 2:00 quite specifically.  I tried to be as in the moment as possible and see her thinking about a dive so that I could put myself in the right place and speak to her.

I don't even know where Nick was, but suddenly everything came together.  Pia, for the first time, settled in behind the sheep and started walking them up.  She went to balance (first time) and started wearing the sheep to me.  She tucked in a few of the edges.

I almost cried right there in the field.  Ok, maybe I did a little. I think that Pia and I (because of Nick) were both able to get where we needed to be. In that moment the picture made sense to Pia.  From there I was able to lie Nick down, and Pia worked by herself.  It was good.  Really good. 

I love that moment. That first time when a dog actually settles in behind the sheep.  Poetry in motion.

Then because I love this photo, here is Linc:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Heavy Hearted

Last weekend I loaded up the doggers and headed up to farm-sit for Julie. I was almost to her place when I got the call that a good friend, Dan King, had passed away unexpectedly. I had to pull over and stop as my mind and heart were just stunned.  It has been very difficult to wrap my head around Dan being gone.

The moment I met Dan he instantly made me feel like he *saw* me, and not only that but accepted me and cared for me (and my dogs) exactly as I was. Dan was always ready with a cup of coffee in the mornings at a dog trial, or a glass of wine beside his camper upon arrival. There have been very few dog trials that I've been to where Dan wasn't there - and it won't be the same without him.  This world won't be the same without him. My heart aches for his family, and all of his friends. There have been a lot of amazing tributes to him all over the Internet, and every time I read one more I cry anew. It is touching to see that one life really can and has made a difference to so many others.

I don't have any photos of Dan that I took myself - however I have several photos that he took of me and my dogs, which I value. I will remember the weekend of the cherry pit spitting contest, and the first sushi sampling because of him. So many things to remember and I hope that his kind and accepting spirit will be something that the rest of us take away.

He saw the good in my dogs, the good in my runs (even when I didn't), and the good in other people. He was a model of how to welcome and encourage other people - and I hope I can learn more of that lesson and emulate it.

My heart is heavy, and I don't feel much like offering up anything funny (though there was this one rooster incident that involved me poking him with a leafy branch to try to dislodge him from his perch so that I could close the chicken-house door). I couldn't make the memorial, but I've been taking some time to reflect and mourn.

Godspeed, Dan, until we all meet again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sheep In Car

I thought today would be a good day for a Nick and sheep post.  My thanks to for making this possible. 

This morning I loaded up a couple of dogs and headed down the road to pick up some sheep to take to the processor. No trailer? No truck? No problem! Why not just load them into your minivan?

Famous last words, spoken by me...

"Oh, don't worry.  We'll just pop em right on up in there. I don't think we'll even need to touch them."

Hah. Hahahahaha.

Most of the time sheep I've loaded up into trailers seem to prefer to just hop in (as opposed to using a ramp). Well, let me just enlighten you, world. They don't prefer to hop right up into minivans. Minivans with Ex-Pens are instruments of sheepy death.Clearly.

There was screeching halting at the hatch. There was much shoving and cajoling. I even gave them a bucket of corn in the pen. Corn was not the secret weapon I'd expected.

So I had Nick hold the sheep while I (one by one) with the help of the friend who owns the sheep, hoisted them up in there like sacks of very heavy potatoes. I guess the best way to describe it would be one foot at a time. They weren't terribly inclined to help, but we worked it out. The very nice newspaper and shavings bedding got all  mushed around, but it actually wound up serving it's purpose well (see photo).

That photo, by the way, was what I could see in my rear view mirror. Sheep staring at me through the holes in the crate. That particular wether was the sniffiest thing.

Go figure that once we got down to the processor they were not having ANY of the whole getting out of the van thing. Oh but no. "No, thank you," said the sheep. The little unloader dude, who incidentally weighed less than the sheep,  hopped up in there to shove them out. Then he and I and Nick pushed them along the walk of doom, up the ramp, and into their holding cell.

They were Not. Impressed. They did NOT want to go up that ramp.

Nick on the other hand had a ball. He got to do some work on a single - as once I had two in there, the single tried to break and run away. We cured him of that notion, but it took some time and some really good work from my dog and I. It didn't take all that long to get the sheep loaded, or unloaded once we were there. But it certainly wasn't the idyllic lovely pop em in pop em out sort of walk through the flowery meadow that I'd pictured in my mind.

When I got to the processor and starting unloading, this (really hot) guy pulled up behind me to unload two steers.  He got out and came over to see my set up.  With big eyes he looked at me and said, "How did you get them IN there?"  Not missing a beat I answered, "Oh, my dog brought them up and popped them right up in there."

What can I say.  He was cute and I saw no need to mention belly-flopping on the back of a sheep hanging off of the back of my minivan. By that point my cool hairdo had flopped like a wilty flower, and I am pretty sure I was covered in all kinds of things. I had to save SOME face.

I've had two showers today. My hands still smell like sheep.  I am happy.

Nick is happy (photo by Dan King).

Linc is less happy since I didn't get him out, but he'll get his chance over the weekend (photo by Robin French). 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Old Dog" Vestibular Disease

This particular post is a little bit more about Ginger and "Old Dog" Vestibular disease. Special thanks to for making this post possible.


I've been thinking a lot about this, and many folks that I mention "Old Dog" Vestibular disease to seem to not really know what I'm talking about. That is, unless they've had a dog with it. At risk of repeating myself, I thought I might explain a little more about what's been going on.

The day Zippy went to the bridge I came home and noticed that Ginger seemed wobbly on the back end. It was so vague that I thought maybe she'd injured herself somehow. I even mentioned to Robin that I thought maybe her back or one of her legs was hurt. It would have been very easy to miss as it was very subtle.

That very next morning, however, Ginger was falling down on the floor. In some cases she'd actually fall and roll over several times (also referred to by some as gator rolling). Robin had mentioned the idea of it being vestibular related, so I immediately started reading up. The first clue? Her eyes. I took a look, and sure enough her eyes were tracking side to side - known as nystagmus. She was wobbling all over the place, and sometimes walked with her legs slightly splayed to the sides as if trying to get as low to the ground as possible. Her head was tilted to the side, too.

Days two and three she could barely stay on her feet. She (fortunately) was able to eat and also able to keep her food down, but she was clearly in trouble. Many dogs are unable to eat, or throw up what they do eat. I took her to our vet, and had a full blood panel and examination done. His diagnosis matched up with what I was thinking.

She was very slow to recover - in fact over the course of about 2 months she only recovered to about 90%, or what I call her new normal. Some of the things I've read suggest that most dogs recover fully, but some do not.

After having had a relapse at the end of June, I'm pleased to announce that she is actually back to better than her new normal. She's still wobbly sometimes, and seems to have the most issues when she is walking and tries to crane her neck around to see me behind her. She also seems to really struggle on uneven ground. When we're around ponds I have to watch her carefully - a few times she's almost fallen in (and Ginger does not believe in swimming, though she physically is able). She's able to jump back on the bed again without a spotter, though the ramp now lives next to the bed. She uses it as a spring board, and I'm OK with that.

There have been some things I've done to help her out a little. I do find that it's easier for the bigger dogs to knock her over now, so I've not been letting her stand on the porch and jockey for a spot with the bigger dogs. I put rubber backed (read that - won't slide around) area rugs on the linoleum floor in the kitchen, hooked her up with a ramp for the bed, and  made extra sure there weren't sharp corners/objects at Ginger height. Because she's not 100% steady on her feet it's a bit dicey sometimes.  I've also had to be very alert to not let her launch herself off of the bed in the mornings.

The scary thing about this is that often these symptoms come on like a freight train.  Many people think their dogs are having a stroke, and after seeing it I can understand why. I've even read heartbreaking stories of people having their dogs put to sleep for what may well have been vestibular related.  It's very, very scary.


Things to note if you suspect your dog is having a vestibular episode:

- It makes good sense to have a vet visit and blood work up.
- Ear infection is a possibility!
- Sometimes benadryl will help mitigate the symptoms just a little (it seemed to help Ginger).
- I shared my meclizine (for my vertigo) with Ginger per my vet's dosage instructions.
- Some vets suggest a round of prednisone.  Mine says the efficacy is debatable, but when she had the relapse we did a round just in case.
- pretty much the treatment is time - most cases resolve on their own

There is still some fear in my heart over the possibility of a brain lesion or tumor, but I keep reminding myself that we'll cross that bridge should we ever get to it. For now I'm just trying to keep enjoying every day I have with her, because it will never be long enough!

ps - Pia says "Hi Everyone!"


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Weeble Wobble Ginger

I'm updating more for my benefit than anything - as I'd like to be sure that I keep track of this all for Ginger.

After my brief relief that Ginger's second vestibular episode was so short-lived, she had another episode starting this past Sunday, 7/29/2012. Same sort of deal - wobbly, eyes jerking, and so on. It appears that this time her eyes are jerking side to side, with a slight rotation to them (the rotation is... not a good sign).

My vet and I talked about Ginger when I went in to get Linc's stitches removed on Monday. He felt (and I agreed) that it might be a good idea to throw some drugs at it. So Ginger is having a course of prednisone, along with a course of antibiotics (in case of a deep seated inner ear infection).

Ginger is, as per usual, in good spirits. She's her normal spunky self, and that is a relief in itself.

It's been three days, and just yesterday afternoon she seemed to be showing some improvement. Her mouth/eye coordination has been off (this has not been an issue for her before) and her head tilt is now to the opposite side. She seems to be sort of rocking her head back and forth side to side some, though that is lessening. I get the impression that she feels like someone trying to get her sea legs.

My vet says that he's not thinking brain tumor at this point as he would expect brain tumor symptoms to NOT get better but to steadily go downhill. On the other hand, a friend with a dog who had a brain tumor tells me that her dog's symptoms came and went earlier on, and only went steadily downhill towards the end.

I think if she has another round I will go ahead and do the neuro consult. I'm not likely to go through with expensive testing and so on, but if it continues I would like for our neuro guy to at the least get his hands on her.

I'm trying to take some comfort in what my vet is telling me, but I'm not finding myself able to do that as well as I'd like. The one good thing is that she doesn't seem to be having any other symptoms, so I keep hoping that this is simply old dog vestibular stuff. I'm not ready to lose her yet.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ginger Update

When I got home from work Tuesday evening, Ginger was back to normal. Or rather, she was back to her new normal. She's only ever recovered about 90-95% from her first round with the vestibular stuff. So I call that her new normal. Tuesday evening if her eyes were tracking I couldn't see it. She was still the tiniest bit wobbly, but she's occasionally wobbly at times now anyway.

All of that being said, Tuesday night had I not seen what happened that morning I wouldn't have noticed anything off.

The real test came at bedtime. I knew that if she was back to normal she'd just get on the bed. If she wasn't back to normal she'd wait for a spotter. When I came into the bedroom she had already claimed her spot on the bed!

I'm still feeling rather cautious about it all. Here's why: according to my Vet (and Dr. Internet), the vertical nystagmus is often associated with neurological stuff like... brain tumors. We talked briefly about that, which of course sent my terror and dread into overdrive.

I'm going to try to just wait and cross that bridge if we get to it.

Also, for full disclosure, Linc's stitch had untied itself by the time I got home the other day. So I decided to just leave it alone, since that particular portion was already healing well. He gets his stitches out on Monday anyhow.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Yes, Ok, so I'm going to break my (3 months? How did THAT happen?) silence to dribble out a post on some of my dog worries. I feel like I'm going to pop, though, if I don't lay them down.

This morning Ginger seems to be having a relapse of her vestibular syndrome. I understand that relapses do occur, but the part concerning me is that her eyes are tracking differently this time from the last. First round her eyes tracked side to side, with a slight rotation. This time they're tracking up and down and she's blinking a lot. I don't know how normal THAT is. I'm going to watch her for the moment. She's in good spirits and having no issues eating, which is a good thing. She's not nearly as unsteady on her feet as she was in round one, but it may get worse. I worry mostly about the implications of the nystagmus.

I have this irrational fear after losing Zippy in April that I'm going to lose another one of my dogs this year.

I'm stressed because I have a 14 month old puppy that's not even started on sheep yet. I've had her out a few times but I haven't really started her yet. Part of me feels like I'm not doing her justice. I know that I WILL do her justice in time. It just frustrates me to be stuck in this place that I'm in.

That being said, though, I'm doing things for myself to get my financial house in order (which once done I'll be able to get my dog started, and hopefully get Linc finished!). I'm so tired of worrying about money, so while it makes things very tight for me in the short term I see the light at the end of the tunnel. That's a good thing! But it means my dogs are getting very little work (ie and Pia's not started yet). We have a set-out job coming up in a few months, and should do some farm-sitting in the fall. That'll help.

It frustrates me that the finals are going to be so close to home next year and I don't have the financial wherewithal to even *try* to get my dogs qualified (and with Nick in his prime).

A week ago I had a suspicious lump removed from Linc's wrist. It turned out to be a histiocytoma, which is good news indeed, so I can at least stop worrying about that part of things. I was a bit concerned as the incision was still oozing ever so slightly up until Saturday night, but only after going out to potty. The oozing has stopped though, thankfully, and the incision is looking good.

However, last night it appeared that one of his sutures had come... untied I guess, for lack of a better term. The incision looked good and closed in that spot, but because it's a high tension area I was concerned about losing it altogether and applying more tension on the spots that are already struggling to stay closed. So this morning before work I got out a flashlight and two pairs of tweezers and retied it. This was no easy feat, for sure. Lucky for me the vet left long ends so I could count stitches... and so I could retie, though I'm guessing she didn't exactly have that scenario in mind.

I'll be glad when Linc is able to get out of lock down. With his incision being near his wrist it's a very un-meaty place with a lot of tension, so he's on lockdown in the lampshade of doom. He's taking it mostly in stride though.

I suppose that's enough of this rambling pity/worry party. Those are the ones most on my mind. Maybe now I can let some of it go a little.

To add a little levity - this morning I ate my yogurt with a fork. Desperate times and all.

I'm reminded and comforted by the fact that the greatest gift I give my dogs is a good life and the opportunity to do things with me, and just BE with me.

If you even managed to make it this far without your eyes glazing over, cookie for you!