Monday, December 17, 2012

I ❤ My Town

My town is seriously the cutest place.  It's a lot like Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow, but a little creepier.  The people are unique, like the characters in Stars Hollow, but mostly they celebrate EVERYTHING!

There are parades for many occasions (but probably not as many as there were when I lived in LV, NM and had to plan my comings and goings around parades so that I didn't get blocked out of (or in) the drive way).  Most recently was the Christmas parade, but I didn't make it out to see that parade--parades were much easier to catch when I just had to look out of my living room window :)

They also decorate for everything.  The really big celebration is the Grape Jamboree, and they hang baskets of purple flowers that look like grape bunches all up and down the road in downtown.  Around Halloween, they put scarecrows made by various businesses and organization on all of the light posts for a ghoul fest of some sort.  The last couple winters they have had wooden snowmen also decorated by various groups.

They also have fantastic decorations for Christmas.  There are the standard garlands and wreaths on the light posts.  One of the banks downtown also has a speaker attached to the light post in front of it; I'm not sure if that is the bank's doing or the city's, but it blares Christmas music throughout downtown.  You can hear it for blocks.  This makes cold walks with Barley much cheerier.  There are Christmas carolers made out of lights.  The clock in the middle of the town has a Santa hat (it used to also have a mouse on a ladder, which reminded me of the old Night Before Christmas movie where the young mouse has to fix the clock to summon Santa, but that's not out this year, which makes me sad).
This is the clock tower last year.  The mouse was there, but it's hiding behind a peppermint.
They also have some little wooden decorations.  Today, I made Barley go take a few pictures with them.
Will Barley's stocking have anything fun in it this year? 
Skate faster, Timmy! It's Dogzilla!
Seriously, how cute is my town??

I went to the library to get a library card today--I figured that since I have an iPad now, I could check out books from the comfort of my bed!  When I walked into the library, I found another reason to love my town.

THEY HAVE A LIBRARY CAT!  His name is Crash and he's orange and I'm partial to orange kitties.  You can read his story here.  Crash met me at the door and sat there looking rather stately.  I was giddy.  I read Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World over the summer (Soth was getting upset by all of the dog books, so I decided to make an exception to my no cat books rule) and I've been obsessed with the idea of a library cat ever since.  The bookstore I loved in my town in NM had a bookstore cat, which I also loved (and the fabric store had a fabric store dog--why don't more shops have pets?!), so I was really excited to have a library cat in town!  He seems like a popular fellow.  When I left the library, he was sitting outside and an older man walked by and said, "Hi cat. Whatcha doing?"  Even though I got the card to get ebooks, Crash might be a good reason to go get regular books, too.  

Side note: When I went into the library, a man behind the front desk read my Queens hoodie and said, "Queens University?  My daughter used to live down the block from there."  Such a small world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Christmas Miracle

Today was Santa pictures to benefit Barley's mothership, the Ashtabula County APL.  For $5, you get a picture and the money goes to the APL.  The pictures are taken at a vet's office close to our house, so I thought if we got ready to go a little early and walked down there a few minutes before pictures started then there wouldn't be too many dogs.

I was wrong.  There were many, many dogs inside the vet's office when we first got there.  I was nervous because people don't always keep their dogs under control.  A lot of times, they just let their dogs walk up to Barley and sniff her, which never ever goes well.

I came prepared with a pocketful of treats and had Barley sit beside me.  Any time she started to look at anything, I told her to watch and fed her a treat.  We were in a good place in line.  Ahead of us were two American Eskimos, whose mothers had to carry them into the building because they were afraid to go into the vet.  Behind us was a MinPin in a red dress, and when its mother saw me keeping Barley focused said, "Oh, is she in training? She's doing great!" and held her dog.  Only one dog sniffed Barley and she looked to me for a treat instead.

It was a big test for her, and she did great!  I think the effort wore her out, though.  She's been napping ever since.

Our picture isn't the best picture ever--the photographer didn't really give us any instructions to move or look at a certain time, so we're missing half of Santa and my awesome "Do You Herd What I Herd?" shirt isn't very visible and I was in mid-laugh at Barley, but whatever :)  The biggest success was that Barley didn't eat anyone.

I think she might have even been good enough for Santa Paws to have forgotten that she tried to eat her aunt Lindsey's Christmas present yesterday.

Now Soth just needs to find a way to make up for the snowman ornament he plucked off the tree and tried to kill and Santa Paws might be able to make an appearance soon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I ❤ My Dog

I love my pets.  I really do.

Anyone who comes into my office can tell I'm a little obsessed.  I have an "I love my dog" collage on my bulletin board (which also contains many pictures of my little man cat).

There are a few family pictures in the top right, a few NYer cartoons, my syllabi and assignment sheets, and the rest is pets.
I also have several picture frames on my shelves (and more on my desk) that have pictures of my pets.
There are equal numbers of family pictures and pet pictures on my shelves.
I genuinely enjoy spending time with my pets (except when I'm cleaning up cat pee).  Walking with Barley is my favorite part of the day.  Without Barley, I never would have discovered so many cool places.  Without Barley, I would literally hibernate from October until May, with the exception of going to work; I'd stay on the couch in sweat pants or under a blanket (have I mentioned that this southern-born girl hates cold?).  And Soth, when he's not destroying things out of hunger or peeing on things, makes me laugh countless times a day (and he's the BEST napping buddying).

Ok, so they are both good napping buddies.
Yesterday, I was at lunch with a few co-workers and one of them mentioned that she was considering getting a dog for her husband for Christmas because he loves them even though she's more of a cat person.  We were telling her that the right dog would probably grow on her.  My friend, who I walk with regularly, mentioned that she couldn't mention her life without her dogs.  When I said I could, she looked at me like I had just admitted to some horrendous crime.  All I said was, "Sometimes, I think my life would be easier without pets."  I didn't say better.  I didn't say I wanted it to be a life without pets.  My life without pets would suck (Cue Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You").

But honestly, in some regards, life would be easier without my pets.  My carpets would be cleaner.  I wouldn't have to detour by my parents' to drop pets off if I wanted to visit my sister for a long weekend (or impose on my parents by dropping the pets off).  I wouldn't have to rush home, spending more time in the car than at home, at lunch on days I have to stay at work late.  I would have SIGNIFICANTLY more money without all of the vet bills, treats, pee cleaners, toys, training classes.  Having a pet is work.  Having a pet means making sacrifices, and they are worth it.  But I recognize that I sometimes I have to make choices between going on trips and being a responsible pet owner, buying an iPad and paying vet bills, having a normal and relatively calm day at work and having to rush home at lunch.  I don't regret the decision to have pets.  I love them and want them, but I think anyone who has pets and can't admit that they don't make life more complicated is in some serious denial.

When my friend looked at me that way, I felt like one of those working mothers that write books on the work-family balance and talk about the way non-working mothers look at them when they say they enjoy work.  Maybe a book on the pet-life balance will be my break through book (and my key to getting on Dancing with the Stars?).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Cat From Hell (or a post where I say pee a lot)

I am so very tired of cleaning up cat pee.

Jackson Galaxy from Animal Planet's My Cat From Hell says that cats are not spiteful pee-ers.  I say he hasn't met my cat.  I know that part of Soth's pee problem is his FLUTD; there's enough evidence of crystals and blood to convince me that he is sick.   But you can't watch him and tell me that he isn't also peeing out of spite.
Tell me this isn't the face of a spiteful pee-er.
When that cat is hungry and I don't feed him quickly enough, he pees.  And not just in his litter box.  Yesterday, I found a secret pee lair under my desk (which I don't actually use--laptops are made for couches, right?).  He had knocked several old receipts and a pair of sunglasses off the desk who knows how long ago and has been peeing on them under the desk for what appears to be a very long time.  He's also taken a liking to peeing on my printer (let's hope Santa comes through with a wireless printer that can be shut in the closet! otherwise, that will be my first purchase of 2013!).  So, I have been unable to print things for months.  He doesn't just pee on the top of it; he squats right over the paper feed, so it's gotten all up in the printer.  His favorite spot when he's hungry, though, is to pee on the mail or other important papers.  Yesterday, I caught him squatting over a pile of mail on MY DINING ROOM TABLE!  Luckily, I chased him away and into his box before anything happened.  And I'll be honest, sometimes bills make me really cranky, too, but that's no excuse for peeing on them, right?

I love my little cat.  I mean, who wouldn't love this face?
He can be the sweetest little pet in the world, but he's exhausting.  I know this crystal-pee life isn't all rainbows and sunshine for him, either, which just makes me feel worse.  It's hard not to be mad when your printer is no longer functional, but it's also hard to be mad when I know he's in pain.

After we get back from our holiday travels (for some reason, he does less spiteful peeing at my parents' house), I think we'll make another vet appointment.  Our wonderful vet, who puts up with all of my hypochondria and all of our real issues, suggested considering culturing his urine to make sure there's not some sort of infection going on.  Since his vomiting has gotten better and he's been maintaining a healthy weight, I thought we should put it off.  He seemed like he was doing better; then this month I have done nothing but follow him around with the pee cleaner again.  Plus, I hate needles and culturing his urine requires a sterile sample--and the only way to get that is to insert a needle directly into his bladder, so it just makes me a little nervous to do something that awful to my baby boy cat.  

So, we'll have a nice Christmas and he can play with his new toys (even though I already broke down and gave him one!), and then we'll ring in the new year with a visit to the vet.
A little hand-knit Spider-Man toy
Cuddling with Spidey--again, tell me this isn't the face of a spiteful pee-er.
What the heck is this?! We were at the mercy of the company as to which toys we got; this one goes to my parents' cat for Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nurse Barley

Remember Nana from Peter Pan?  Barley's not quite as good at pouring medicine into spoons, but she's been an excellent nurse today.

For the last year, I've been not feeling quite myself and finally I decided to go to the doctor.  I've been having back (and other joints) pain; on the worst days, I can't roll over in my sleep, so I end up waking up all night long, and I can't bend over to put Barley's leash on her, so she has to hop up on the bed for me to do it.  Luckily, it's been about 6 months since I've had one of those days.  But it's still enough that the only time I really feel good is when I'm out walking Barley--and there are only so many hours in the day (and only so many miles my legs can take!).  I've also been more tired than usual (my regular 30 minute naps have become 2 hour naps), even in the summer when I wasn't teaching and rarely had to set an alarm.  When I started thinking back on when this all started, it was right around the time my Barley girl was diagnosed with lyme disease.  Even though I never found one of the disgusting tick-bite targets on myself (check google images if you are unclear what they look like), I do have some of the symptoms--and since I never found a tick on Barley, either, I decided it wouldn't hurt to get tested.

So---11 months later, I finally got around to calling a doctor and making an appointment.  Today, I had to go in and get blood work done.  In addition to the lyme test, the doctor ordered like a billion other things to rule out everything else under the sun.  She also wanted to check my cholesterol--apparently you're supposed to start doing that when you're 18.  Who knew?  That meant that I had to fast for 12 hours before the test!  Luckily, the lab didn't need appointments, so I ate until I didn't want to eat any more last night and then started the 12 hour count (most of which was spent sleeping).  Anyone who knows me knows that I live to eat.  Once, my sister and I were reliving our youth and watching episodes of Gummy Bears.  One of the bears said, "It's been 30 minutes! I'm starving!"  I often feel this way, and 30 minutes after the fast started I was hungry again.  Somehow, I made it, though.  Luckily, I had very few interactions with people before I was able to eat.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I tend to faint when I have blood taken.  Last time, I felt fine until I got to my car, then I felt really dizzy and had to nap in the backseat in the parking lot for 30 minutes.  This time was better, but I was so excited to eat that I rushed around the kitchen gobbling up everything in sight.  Then I didn't feel so well.  My sweet Bar spent all day snuggling in bed with me (Soth made a few appearances throughout the day, too).  She was so good and didn't even get up to chase Soth when he started knocking books off the dresser to tell me it was his lunch time.  It always amazes me how calm Barley can be when she needs to be.  For a dog who can walk 5 miles without feeling tired, she can also be the best snuggle bug ever.

After a full day of napping and reading and pet snuggling, I'm feeling much better, so hopefully the weather cooperates and I can make it up to her with an awesome walk tomorrow.  Wednesday, I get the results of today's tests, so let's all keep our fingers crossed that I'm not like my pets and that weird, obscure things don't show up every time I have a test done.

In other news, the pets and I are ready for the holidays! I started with a quick trip to visit my sister and see my best friend who was in DC for the weekend last week.  We ate, drank, and were merry.  It was a fabulous trip!
Besties with Lincoln!
Gingerbread habitats at Zoo Lights in DC!
With my other bestie at the Flying Dog Brewery tour

Big dog, tiny tree
It doesn't smell real, but Soth doesn't care.

Last night, my friends and I made a tragic gingerbread barn--it looked nothing like the picture on the box--we had skylights and tilting walls, but if you look at the barns around here, many of them look like that, so we figured ours was more authentic.  The pictures are on my friends' phones, or I'd post one for your entertainment.

I just have to make it through this next week of finals and then I can spend the rest of the month lounging and watching all of the fabulous holiday specials on tv!  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Boardwalks, Acorns, and Tunnels . . . oh my!

Can you spot the black squirrel trying to hide from us?
"Frequently the woods are pink--            
Frequently are brown.
Frequently the hills undress
Behind my native town."

Emily Dickinson perfectly described the world Barley and I saw at the Arboretum today.  The hills were definitely undressed.  But it was sunny and 50 degrees, so we were not missing a chance to romp in the woods--even if they didn't have the vibrant colors we had gotten used to over the last few months.  Even though everything looked dead, there was still a beauty about the woods today.  Usually, you can't see anything too far off the trail, but today you could see really far into the woods since there weren't all of the leaves and the shade was gone.  (And since the leaves and shade were gone, we had a really nice warm walk without having to pile on a billion layers.  Yay.)  We saw all kinds of birds, including a woodpecker and a blue jay, so the woods weren't totally devoid of colors.

We stopped by the new Meditation Point on our walk.  Barley wasn't very sure about it at first.  When things are different, she notices.  And she's been to the Arboretum enough that she knows how it's "supposed" to be.  When she saw the start of the boardwalk off of the trail, she stopped in the middle of the trail and stared at it.  It took a little bribing with beef and potato jerky to get her to keep going.  Once we got on the board walk, she pretty much sniffed every board and nail and then it wasn't so bad.  Meditation Point was nice today, but I think it will be excellent in the spring/summer when the leaves are back on the trees.  A boardwalk takes you a little ways off the trail and ends at an overlook with a few benches (and according to the Leaves magazine I got this weekend, they are going to plant some more native plants around the benches to make it even prettier in the spring).  Right now, you can see the benches through the trees, but once the leaves are back it will be totally secluded and peaceful.  Even without the seclusion, though, there was something very peaceful about it.  For some reason (even though we hadn't seen a single other person in the woods), I felt like I had to whisper to Barley while we walked down the board walk.  It's probably good that we didn't see other people--they would have probably thought I was like Brick on The Middle
All smiles
The weather's been perfect the last two weekends, so it's made up for the gross cold weather we've had during the week.  It doesn't make me feel quite as guilty about taking a short neighborhood walk after work every day when we can go on awesome hikes at the end of the week.
We found giant acorns!
Last weekend, we were at my parents house and we broke out Barley's new birthday present (even though her birthday isn't until December 9!).

Tunnels are so fun (unless you're Uncle Ben and crouched at the end of the tunnel for a photo when Bar comes tearing out!)

If you look closely, you can see Maz's nose--she was watching intently.

Barley and my parents sweet dog, Maz, got to play with the tunnel several times throughout the weekend.  They both loved it!  At first, Maz wasn't sure exactly what the tunnel was for--and even laid down in the middle--but after a few minutes she was excitedly awaiting her turn to run through.

We can't wait until next week when my sister's dog will be there, too, and we can have all three dogs playing in the tunnel!

Soth has been enjoying having sunshine coming through the windows, too!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back to School

Last night, Barley and I braved the hurricane-related wind and rain to go to our first night of Intro to Agility class.  We took the class twice last year.  Usually, dogs take the class twice to get used to the equipment and for their people to learn the footwork (although since I am the world's least coordinated person, so I could probably take it 50 times and not remember it).  Since it had been a long time, we decided to sign up for Intro again.  Plus, the intro class is small (there were 5 dogs there last night) and the fewer dogs barking and running, the easier it is for Barley to focus and feel calm.

Bar was a very good girl in class last night.  She even got to be the example dog to show her classmates how to approach a plank and how to get on the dog walk.  We only had one little incident when we were practicing send outs--she wanted to visit the dog next to her (and by visit I mean charge--she doesn't something similar in the video below with poor Soth, but Soth runs away and the other dog engaged, but there was no actual contact between them and she calmed down and focused immediately).

Our normal agility trainer wasn't there because of an injury--I'm sure it was an emotional pain she felt when she saw Bar's name on her roster again--so we had a sub, who was awesome.  Last time, I really struggled with the different footwork.  This is probably because 1) class is at 8 pm on the day I teach the most classes, so I'm tired and 2) I have trouble with telling my left from my right and always have to hold my hands up to see which one makes an L (and when you have a dog to keep track of, treats to hold, and hand movements to do making Ls gets tricky).  I also just have trouble remember which name goes with which moves.

Last night, though, our sub gave us hand outs that have pictures of the movements!  I need to see things before I get them, so in class our sub showed us how to do it and gave us the picture handouts and I'm already feeling more confident about it!
The "Arthur Miller" steps for agility--Dancing with the Stars here I come!
Our sub even said that I had the movements down, so I think we're making progress!  We practiced them all today, too, so maybe one days I'll be able to make the connection between the names and the moves without any thought!

We also spent a little time working on getting the dog to sit in the contact zone at the end of the dog walk the dog walk and running over the A frame.  Barley LOVES the equipment--I wish I had a few extra hands so that I could take pictures/video of her having fun.

The dogs were so cute last night.  The training center has a tin roof (and a leak!), so the storm made things pretty noisy.  There was a baby pool set up to catch the drips, so sometimes there would be big splats in the pool and the dogs would all jump and stare at it.  Then when we were waiting for our turns and the dogs were sitting patiently, they all kept staring at the ceiling trying to figure out what the thumping up there was.  They are such dolls.  We had some small fluffy thing (his sister is a keeshond, who was in our agility class), an adorable little mix that looks likes my nephew pup but brown, a yellow lab, a black lab, and my Barley monster.

So, here's a little video of our practice tonight--just the send outs.  I don't have the steps down well enough to want to record our front crosses and blind crosses and everything else, but maybe someday soon I'll set the ipad on the window sill instead so that you can see those, too.  For now, Barley's the main star of this video.  We're working on adding distance to our send outs and I think she's getting pretty good! 

Big thanks to my awesome mom who made us two of these poles, so we can practice!  With all of the rain, we've desperately needed to have something to do to get Bar's energy out, so class started at the perfect time!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not a Therapy Dog Yet

I'll cut to the chase.  Barley and I did not pass our TDI test, and it wasn't nearly as good an attempt as the first try.  It's ok, though.  In reality, with the end of the semester quickly approaching and my slightly southern migration to my parents' house for the holidays for a few weeks in December and then the start of the spring semester and new classes, I wouldn't have much time to devote to therapy dog visits until probably mid-March anyway, so while our certification might have been delayed a bit, therapy visits really haven't.  So, we're going to spend the next six months really training and focusing and then test again in the spring whenever out training center offers it.

It's also ok because I just have a really awesome dog.  Even though we didn't pass, she still did really well on the things she passed.

So excited before the test.  Don't judge me by the dog fur on the side of the front seat.
Heeling was awesome.  She was with me the whole time with a loose lead.

She was perfect for accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, and appearance and grooming.

She sat and conquered our problem area from last time--down on command--and did a beautiful recall.

Reaction to another dog went ok the second try and really the first try wasn't bad; she just wanted to say hello and the dogs aren't allowed to cross in front of you, but there was no growling or barking or mohawking of her back fur.

Our first problem area was reaction to distractions, which was strange because Barley is usually fairly oblivious to the world around us when there aren't dogs and squirrels involved.  She was fine with the clanking of metal objects, but responding to someone jogging by was the problem.  (So, I hope her Aunt L is ready to help us practice at Thanksgiving and Christmas by jogging past us daily!  Maybe it will be good running blog material to talk about the vicious Honey Badger Barley!) We see a lot of joggers at the Geneva State Park and a couple in our neighborhood, and Bar's never given them more than a passing glance.  But today, she decided she wanted to bark at the jogger during our test.  That is not acceptable.  Then when we tried a second time with a different jogger, she didn't bark but she did try to approach the jogger.  I felt a little bad--the first jogger was a pre-teen boy and even though Barley wasn't barking aggressively and was just being noisy, she scared him.

Supervised separation wasn't perfect, but I don't think we would have failed for it.  She whimpered a bit, but I don't think it would have been considered more than "mild agitation" if everything else had gone well.  I think that one is harder on me than it is on her--although I did get to pet a sweet golden retriever (my first dog breed love) while we were separated.

Most of the items that are just on the TDI test and not the Canine Good Citizen test were cake, though.  She was not bothered at all by the medical equipment, the infirmities (I think I was more bothered by people hacking and wheezing than she was--damn hypochondria), and reaction to children.  She didn't bat an eye at any of those things.  She was even more perfect with the Say Hello item, which is approaching someone in a wheelchair to be pet.  Even though the person in the wheel chair wasn't actually in need of a wheelchair, Barley acted as if she needed to be extra gentle.  She is so good in these situations--just like she is with our neighbor with special needs (sorry if that's not the politically correct term--I can never keep up with what's in fashion now)--she approaches so slowly and calmly and sets her chin on the person's knee and lets them pet her and then after a few seconds of getting to know each other the crazy tail wagging begins.  But she never jumps or acts like a crazy dog.

Our other huge problem area was Leave-It.  I take full responsibility for this one.  We haven't practiced nearly as much as we should have.  I know she's food motivated, so it didn't surprise me at all when she  saw the chicken and cheese on the floor and acted like she'd never seen a meal before.  I was a little surprised that she didn't even pretend to pay attention to me when I said "Leave it" or "Watch," though.  I thought after we passed two glazed donuts on the side of the road during yesterday's walk and all of the left over Grape Jamboree food a few weekends ago that we could make it through this one.  But from now on, we're practicing inside with  people food at least once a day until we pass.  I really can't blame her for living to eat, though, when my whole life revolves around meal time.

Even though we didn't pass, it's still been a good day.  We woke up early (for a Saturday) and walked two miles at the State Park.  It was cloudy and preparing to rain--which happened while we were warming up in the yard at the training center--but it was a really nice morning.  We had good interactions with other dogs and some good reinforcement of heeling, stays, and recalls.  And we got a couple cute pictures (as far as pictures with my stupid phone can be called cute).
Ears blowing in the wind in front of my favorite tree and picnic table in the park.
Watching the clouds roll in over the marina.
Probably the best news of the day is that I got a $500 check from State Farm today!  Almost a year ago, my 5-month-old awesome car was hit and the woman didn't actually provide me or the cop with accurate information, so I had to pay my deductible to get it fixed.  They finally got that resolved and recovered the money they had to pay as well as my deductible, so that was a lovely surprise to have in my mailbox this morning.  I almost burst into tears when I opened that envelope!

This also means that Barley and I can afford to sign up for a new class at the training center again! So, I've emailed our trainer to see which class (agility, repeat of obedience, etc.) would be best to help Barley with the issues we had today.

So there are no regrets and no sadness over today's test results.  When I got this dog almost two years ago, I never would have thought we'd do as well as we did today, so, to me, this is a training victory.  We've come a long way and I can't wait to see where we end up together.

Friday, October 19, 2012

1 Day to Test Day!

Last night, Barley and I took a much needed break from work (for me!) and training (for her) to have a little fun with our friends.  

This has been a rough month of grading and other stress (and how is it possible that there are still 12 days left in it?!).  Last weekend, I graded so many papers that my hand was inflamed and swollen and I couldn't hold a pen anymore by Tuesday afternoon (which I decided was a good enough reason to not grade anymore this week), so we needed a night off of everything serious.

We went to my friend Abby's house for a girls night (plus her two boy dogs) with Abby and my friend Laurie that involved Chinese, cupcakes, and pumpkin carving (oh my!).

Part of my birthday present from my best friend was Crate & Barrel devil's food cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting and halloween cupcake papers, so the girls and I decided our pumpkin carving party was the perfect occasion to make them.  (And they were delicious!)

We also carved really awesome pumpkins--although we felt a little inferior in our carving skills because we've all been watching too many episodes of Food Network Challenge lately and have seen the work of the professional carvers . . . ours are a little rougher around the edges (literally).

Abby's skeleton, Laurie's bat, and my raven :)
Crux was very impressed by his mama's work 
Soth loves family photo time
Barley got to spend the evening stealing pumpkin guts (she also ate part of the lid to my poor pumpkin on the ride home!) and romping with her BFF Paradox--neither one of them held still long enough to get a picture during the carving party.

We both slept beautifully until 9:30 this morning (with the exception of Soth's morning wake up call at 6:30 that got him kicked out of the bedroom).  Since we were both recharged, I figured we should start our morning with a walk down to the park to practice heeling and stays and recalls; we even got a bonus lesson in downs on wet grass--if only we'd had that practice a month ago ;)
Sitting in heel position--she's focused on something (but it's not me!)
Heeling so beautifully.
You want me to do what?!
That's right, I wanted her to stay down in the wet grass and leaves. Doesn't she look happy about it?

Look at the crazy face I get to see during recall!  She's running like the wind :)
Yup, I made her down in the grass again! And she's still grinning.
But there's a bigger grin when I let her sit in it instead. 
Just a little proof that the ground was wet.
Our test appointment is at 2:15 tomorrow afternoon!  Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

One Week 'til Test Day

Tests always seem to sneak up on us.  I had grand plans to practice several times a day every day between our last test and this one, but then last weekend rolled around and I realized that we had 2 weeks until our test and we'd done very little practicing besides our regular heeling and leave it on walks (and of course practicing stay during our extensive scarecrow photoshoot at the Arboretum last week).

This week, we've been better.  Barley's really making progress walking over food on the floor--although she's still a little more interested in it than I'd like, so hopefully over the next few days we'll work on that.  We started on Monday using half of the worst PB sandwich ever (I have got to remember that even though reduced fat peanut butter is healthier it also tastes like paste and is not a satisfactory lunch).  Luckily, Barley doesn't mind pasty PB, so I figured the half of the sandwich I couldn't gag down would be the perfect temptation.  So, I made a circle of toys, a rawhide, and the terrible sandwich and we got to work.  The first few times around were rough.  She was straining to get to that sandwich and the rawhide even when she was on the outside while we looped around.  She grabbed the sandwich on our first loop with her on the inside, but dropped it when I said leave it for the 5th time--and it survived without a bite being taken out of it.  After that, something clicked and we walked right over the sandwich and the rawhide multiple times without incident.

We've also successfully walked over cat food and a bowl of dog treats this week.  This morning we used the plastic container that the apple dumplings I bought at the grocery store came in (curse Giant Eagle for putting out wonderful fall snacks that I have no will power to avoid).  She really wanted the yummy, gooey, cinnamony goodness in the bottom of the container, but she decided she wanted to listen to my commands more and did a great job.

Today we walked down the street to the park to practice some sit stays and down stays.  There was a lot of traffic going by this morning, but Bar did well even with the added distractions.

This is boring! Give me something more challenging! 

Laying down on crunchy leaves is almost as bad as doing it in wet grass.
So, it looks like we stand a chance of passing this time around.  As long as there aren't pumpkin pancakes to walk over on the test!
Please share pancakes with me!
Seasonal pancake recipe from my sister and seasonal coffee mug from my BFF! Yay fall!

The only other obstacle is going to be getting out from under the covers to keep practicing for the rest of the week.  It's gotten cold here!  According to, it was 45 degrees, but felt like 38 when we started our walk this morning--my ears are still not all the way warm!
Barley trying to snuggle on the forbidden couch.  She was kicked off as soon as the picture was taken.
Insisting that I share my blanket with her.
And just because I couldn't go a whole post without mentioning my handsome man cat, here's a picture of my sweet boy looking slimmer than before.