Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside

According to, it's a little bit chilly here right now:
I say ugh!
By 3:30 this afternoon, I was already curled up and snuggled in bed with my lamby jammies, my bunny socks, my pup, and a book.  I'm an excellent hibernator.
Could a girl possibly need anything else on a cold, blustery day besides lamb jams and a dog?
Tuesday and Wednesday were such lovely days (if an overcast day can be called lovely); Barley and I got in great walks and I didn't need more layers than a light sweatshirt.  After Barley's behavior in class on Monday, we NEEDED some great walks.

Monday night's class became a three-ring circus with Barley and I as the lion and lion tamer.  She couldn't focus on anything except romping.  Last week, Barley had done so well and had gotten so comfortable with her classmates that we worked off-leash, so I decided we should give that a whirl again this week.  I can't remember which activity was our downfall, but about halfway through the class Barley decided to make a break for it.  Instead of coming to heel at the end of whatever obstacle she was doing, she zoomed past me.  Our training center has folding gates that can be stretched across the room to divide the space, and since we have dogs that are just beginning the course and dogs that have taken it before, the gates usually separate our two sides of the room.  This means that even when Barley makes a break for it, she's stuck on the side with dogs that are calm and focused and owners that pay attention.  New dogs and owners aren't always that way.  For whatever reason, this week the gate wasn't pulled all the way to the wall.  Barley ignored all of my commands to come to heel, come to front, and down.  She ignored me running away from her.  After zooming past me several times, Barley  ran through the narrow opening proceeded to herd the new dogs and owners into a group in the middle of their side before coming back to our side and getting trapped behind A-frame that we weren't using and the wall.  She was on her leash for the rest of the night until we switched sides to work on jumping and closed the gate completely.  Jumping went a little better, but after her escapades she was worn out and didn't want to work anymore, so she'd do her send out over the first two jumps of the pinwheel and then run away from me instead of coming to side and going over the last jump.  She never ran far, though, and she'd stop and let me catch her this time.

I can't really blame Barley.  For the entire week between classes, she'd had very few walks; with the wind chill making it below zero in our neck of the woods, it was just too cold for us to walk.  On the few occasions we did venture out last week, we'd walk a few feet and Barley would start to limp, sit down, hold up her little paw so pathetically, and then I'd clean off the clumped up snow; then we'd walk a few more feet and start all over.  Neither one of us has the patience for that, so we didn't walk far or often.

The weather here is not supposed to get any better in the next several days, so when I got home from work this afternoon I decided I should get Barley out for a quick walk.  I thought that if I had to spend too much time layering up, I'd lose my will to walk, so I piled on upper body layers and hoped that plain old jeans and walking fast would be enough to keep my legs warm.  By the time we got to the end of our street, I was already regretting my decision not to put on leggings and decided to make our walk as short as possible. 

We hurried home and I drowned my sorrows in leftover lo mein; homemade Chinese food isn't quite as comforting as the takeover version, but it helped me forget the cold for a minute.
Delish! Thanks  for the recipe Woman's Day magazine!
After our hibernation session, Barley and I practiced some jumping and patience.  We set a new record for the number of treats on the paws--14!  
I don't know what our record was before, but I know that we've never gotten that far up her legs with treats before. We might not ever get too many more than that, either; I'll need a taller dog if we're going to fit too many more treats!

I guess I should be thanking Mother Nature for keeping us inside because despite the weather, we still had a pretty good month of walking.
44.21 miles--even after taking 8 days off!
That means that in order to not fail my resolution at the very first opportunity, Barley and I have to walk at least 44.3 miles in February!  With the way the weather's looking tonight, things aren't looking like they'll get off to a promising start.  Wish us luck!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Answer Your Cat's Question Day

According to my Honey Badger calendar, Tuesday was Answer Your Cat's Question Day.  I asked Soth if it was okay if we postponed the celebration until today . . . when we could go to the vet to get x-rays and try to figure out why my baby boy hasn't had a break from his FLUTD for months; usually, FLUTD goes in cycles where the cat has an outbreak for several days and then is fine for weeks or months.  Soth's has been constant for months now.

After Christmas, we made an appointment for his urine culture and had an adventure trying to get a sterile sample.  On our first visit, he wouldn't hold his urine long enough for them to get a sample; every time his bladder had anything in it, he'd relieve himself--and they needed to get a certain amount in order to test it.  I had to leave him for the day and after being at the vet from 9:00-5:00, he still hadn't provided them with a sample.  They couldn't even get a non-sterile sample because as soon as he'd peed, he'd drag the blanket in the cage into the pile and soak it up.  The vet said we could either leave him overnight and they'd try again first thing in the morning or I could bring him in and leave him all day on Monday.  I hated the thought of my baby spending the night in a cage at the vet's, so he came home and we tried again.  Eventually, they got a sample, but I'm not sure if they got the sterile one they were hoping for or not; he kept up the pattern of going the second he felt anything in his bladder for most of the day, but they were able to get enough of a non-sterile sample to send it to the lab.

Of course, the results came back negative for a bacterial infection.  I was so hoping that it would come back positive--not because I want my boy to be sick, but because if we knew he had an infection, we could treat him and he'd get some relief.  So, then we had to move on to plan B: x-rays.  We had an x-ray when he first started having problems two years ago to make sure he wasn't in danger of becoming blocked by any big crystals or stones and everything had looked okay then.

This time, the x-rays were different.  His bladder was teeny tiny and there appeared to be a small mass of some sort in his bladder.  It's not clear yet what this is; it might be the crystals that are sort of floating around in there--and if that's the case, there are a lot of them, so it makes sense that his bladder is really irritated.  It could be a stone of some sort; the vet said they usually look more like bone on the x-rays, but that depending on what kind of stone it is, it could look this way.  But from the x-ray we still don't have any definite answers.

So now we're on to the next step in Plan B.  Our vet's sister clinic in the next town over has a vet who has done some experimental kitty bladder techniques on cats.  Apparently, he's used a catheter many times to flush out a kitty's bladder with saline and rinse out whatever's in there.  He's also done more invasive surgery to look inside the bladder and remove things that shouldn't be there.  Our vet is going to send the x-rays to him and see if he has any ideas on where to go next.  We've decided we're going to try to find a less invasive way to do it, but we're not taking surgery off the table yet, either.  So keep your fingers crossed that my sweet baby boy cat is on his way to have answers and that they aren't too invasive for him (or my wallet!).

Monday, January 21, 2013

6 Reasons Why I Love My Dog

The other day, Barley and I were out walking with my mom and her dog.  Mom and I had almost finished building a second jump and I mentioned that Barley would probably be doing plenty of jumping Monday before class since I'd be home all day and she'd have plenty of time to make me crazy.  My mom said, "Oh, I thought she'd have plenty of time to make you proud."  I spend a lot of time recounting Barley's struggles and the things that make me crazy (even though they are also a big part of why I love this dog), so I thought it might be nice to take a few minutes to reflect on the things she does that make me proud.

1.  Barley loves life.  This dog is always happy and always ready for adventure.  Her tail never stops wagging and most of the time her whole entire body is wagging.  When we were in obedience classes, a lot of the class time was spent practicing stays.  Most other dogs would lie down and put their chins on their paws and stay perfectly still; some would even roll onto their sides.  Barley lies down in the sphinx position, tail wagging, tongue hanging out and ready for anything the trainer would throw our way.  Even though the ideal posture would be a little more relaxed, she's so happy and you can tell how much she loves learning and it made even our grumpiest classmates smile to see her goofy expressions.

2.  Barley is beyond patient with me.  I can do just about anything I want to this dog.  I can dress her up in reindeer antlers and santa hats and scarves and do a three-costume-change photo shoot.  I can dress her in a t-shirt so we can cast our vote for Andrew McCutchen to be on a video game cover.

3. Barley loves her fur-sibling.  Even though she likes to herd him, Barley is so good with her brother. When Bar and I play, Soth will crouch under the dining room table and leap out and latch on to her back legs and she runs by.  Barley doesn't bat an eyelash.  When Soth has had to stay at the vet for testing, Barley has moped around the house and kissed him when he came home.

4. She tries REALLY hard not to react to other dogs.  We had a lot of success this weekend with walking by other dogs.  There's a new border collie-lab mix puppy in my parents' neighborhood and we walked along beside him for about a block; Barley was interested in him, but never barked, snarled, or lunged.  We also took my parents' neighbors' corgi for a walk with us and even though the corgi barked at Barley for the entire walk, she didn't react at all (until he stuck his nose up her butt . . .).

5. She's REALLY good at recall.  Most of the time, Barley comes when called.  For example, this weekend Mom and I were making the second jump in the garage.  I took Barley down into the basement and opened the garage door without thinking.  Lo and behold, Mom had the big garage door wide open.  Barley trotted right through it, but as soon as I called her to front she was sitting at my feet.

6.  She gives me EXCELLENT stories to tell.  Since today is Squirrel Appreciation Day according to my Randall's Honey Badger calendar, I'll leave you with the story of the Great Squirrel Slaying of 2011.
Once upon a time on a lovely fall day, I was in the backyard with Barley cleaning up dog poop.  Barley was on her retractable leash and peacefully sniffing the yard while I scooped piles into a plastic bag with a little trowel.  All of the sudden, I heard a chirping noise.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a squirrel on the bottom of the closest tree.  Before I could react and reel Barley in, she was tearing towards the tree.  The next thing I knew the squirrel was hanging limply from her mouth.  I screamed bloody murder, tossed the plastic bag and the trowel into the air, and ran towards the door.  Barley, knowing that scream means "Mom's horrified" (after all, she had heard it when she tried to lick the bird that had hit our window and landed dead in the bushes), dropped the squirrel and ran with me.  I peaked out of the spare bedroom window and watched the squirrel's tail wave once in surrender and then it was still.  Not being one to deal well with dead animals, I left the squirrel--hoping it would either get up and scurry away later or be carried away by one of the neighborhood's feral cats; mostly, I was afraid that it wouldn't be dead, but would be paralyzed--and I knew I couldn't finish it off.  (I have since gotten better and did remove the mouse Barley caught from the front step after I was sure it was dead.)  All day, I kept checking out the window only to see the small brown lump still in the yard.  Barley and I avoided the backyard for a week until the lawn people came to mow the yard; I watched to see if they would scoop up the carcass, but instead they simply ran it over with the riding lawn mower.  Barley and I continued to avoid the backyard for a significant period of time.  Ever since the Great Squirrel Slaughter of 2011, Barley has been obsessed with squirrels on our walks; before, she wouldn't react when she saw them sitting beside the sidewalk or freezing on a tree trunk, but now that she knows the taste of victory, she's on a mission to catch as many as she can.
Barley with Herman the Vermin: my aunt and cousin thought this would be a hilarious Christmas present for Barley.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Liebster Award--yay!

So, my sister did a post on the Liebster Award at her blog, Lindsey Likes to Run, and gave me a little blog love at the end, so I guess I should continue the trend. My understanding is that this is a way to get the word out about awesome blogs without a lot of followers--and since all of the blogs I follow are awesome, it seemed like a good idea to me. Linds posted the following guidelines from one of the blog's she followed, so I'm also going to continue the copy and pasting trend:

Liebster is German for “dearest” and this award it given to fellow bloggers with less than 200 followers as a way to spread the “new blogger” love! The guidelines are that you must:
1. Write 11 random facts about yourself;
2. Answer the 11 questions set forth by the nominator(s); and
3. Write 11 new questions for 11 new nominees!

11 Facts
1.  A big part of the reason I'm doing this is because it reminds me of those lame MySpace questionnaires that used to ask like 100 questions or have you put your iTunes library on shuffle and write down the first however many songs came on to see which songs went with which events in your life; even after getting rid of MySpace, my sister and I loved the iTunes ones so much that we did them and only sent them to each other--sorry for outing you, Linds!
2.  I love birds. Wild birds, pet birds, decorative birds, birds in poems, birds on jewelry, birds on dishes. I love them all.
3.  10 years ago, I picked out a car because my best friend had told me girls couldn't drive manuals. My dad had to drive the car home from the dealership, but I've been driving stick ever since we got Abby the Cavy home.
4.  The only recurring dream I've ever had was about my first dog, Possum, being trapped in a swimming pool full of sharks.
5.  I'm terrified of alligators.
6.  Part of the reason I'm named Elizabeth is because of Beth in Little Women.
7.  Speaking of things I'm terrified of and Little Women, I'm terrified of frozen bodies of water (lakes, rivers, ponds). I guess I will never get over the scene when Amy falls through the ice chasing after Jo and Laurie.
8.  I think everyone should be in love with Ted Kooser.
9.  Once, I gave up meat for Lent, but I was going through BBQ withdrawals, so I ate BBQ sauce and white bread sandwiches.
10.  When I was little, I had Pound Puppy and Pound Purry sheets on my bed and I wouldn't take a nap until all of my puppies and purries were arranged on their matching pictures on the sheets; then I'd wiggle in around them (this was good practice for snuggling with Barley and Soth, apparently).
11.  I am obsessed with Dogfish Head beers (Barley has a Dogfish logo collar!) and am on a mission to try all of their beers. I finally found my holy grail, Bitches Brew, and will be celebrating surviving the first two weeks of the semester by drinking it this week!

11 Questions from Lindsey
1.  What food can you not live without? If condiments count, I guess I already answered this one. The world is a better place because of BBQ sauce.
2.  Where is your favorite place to exercise? The Holden Arboretum
3.  If you could have any pet, what would it be? I've got all of the pets I need, but one day I'd love to start out with a border collie mix puppy and see just how far we can go with training if we start as early as possible.
4.  Favorite music to get you pumped? Most anything by female country singers; nothing gets me motivated like belting out some Reba or Trisha, but new country's good, too--I'm loving Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart" right now.
5.  What's one weird food you've always wanted to try? Maybe this isn't that weird for anyone else, but the next food experiment I'm doing is brussels sprouts! Stay tuned for an update on whether they are eaten by me or Barley in the near future.
6.  What did you want to be when you were little? I've pretty much wanted to do it all for my entire life, but I think the earliest memory is a writer-photographer-editor-marine biologist so that I could work for National Geographic and they wouldn't need to hire anyone else in order for my stories to be perfectly polished.
7.  What is one thing you NEED for a workout? Barley--the only workouts I have every been able to stick with are our walks and hikes; without her, I have no will power to not nap with Soth in the sunshine.
8.  What is your favorite color to wear? Purple; it's probably my least favorite color, but I look damn good in it.
9.  What is your favorite pair of shoes? My Merrell's. They might not be the most attractive shoes, but they are so comfortable and I feel really stable and secure even when the areas Barley and I are venturing into are a little bit less than stable and secure.
10.  What is your go to meal? BBQ sauce on whatever protein I have in the house, usually pork chops.
11.  What is your typical Starbucks order? If it's below 50 degrees, a grande peppermint mocha; if it's between 50 and 80 degrees or if it's warmer and I'm in desperate need of a caffeine boost, a grande mocha; if it's above 80 degrees, a venti iced passion tea (sweetened)

11 Questions for the Bloggers I think are Award-Worthy
1.  What is your favorite book ever?
2.  If you could pick any one city to live in for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
3.  If you could pick any job besides the one you have now, what would it be?
4.  What's your favorite vegetable?
5.  What's your biggest pet peeve?
6.  Are leggings pants?
7.  Do you own a snuggie?
8.  What are your favorite burger toppings?
9.  What's the best thing you've ever eaten?
10.  What's your favorite animal?
11.  What's one tv show or movie that you are embarrassed to admit that you love and watch regularly? 

And the Bloggers I think are Awesome
So, I don't actually follow 11 different blogs (who has time for reading blogs, grading papers, and living with a border collie?!), but here--in no particular order--are the super smart people that make me wish I had more time for reading blogs:
Rhetoric | Play | Composition
The Daily Pugle
The Most Special Things
True Images
and after outing her in my #1 Random thing, it seems wrong to leave Lindsey Likes To Run off the list, even though she's already done all of this on her blog--so go read about her adventures in running and pretend that you've been working out, too :)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What Is That?

"What is that?" is one of the most frequent questions in my life with Barley.

For one, it's an awesome training tool we've been using since the last attempt at the TDI test.  After I told our wonderful trainer about Barley's rude behavior toward the jogger, she taught me how to use "What's that?" with Barley.  Basically, I point at something--a squirrel, a jogger, a dog that's far enough away it hasn't noticed us and therefore hasn't started barking yet--and say "What's that?" and Barley looks at the thing and instead of reacting negatively she looks at me and gets a treat.  It works beautifully--98% of the time.  Today, we even made it past a squirrel that was sitting a foot away from the edge of the sidewalk munching on an acorn.  Success.

More frequently, though, it's a question people ask while they point at Barley: "What is that?"

In fact, when I sent my mom a picture of Barley a few minutes after I signed the adoption papers for my discount doggy, it's exactly the response she gave me.
Barley's first picture: Looks like a dog to me.
Even the shelter couldn't decide what she was.  The dog license sheet and two other papers said her predominant breed was border collie.  Another sheet listed her as a border collie-blue tick coonhound mix--and while she's got the spots and the eyebrows of a coonhound, her body shape and her personality are anything but hound--this dog couldn't track something to save her life while my parents' dog tracks rabbits and deer that hopped through the neighborhood three days ago.  The vaccination sheet said she was a border collie-shepherd mix (although what kind of shepherd--German? Australian? Anatolian? English?--is still a mystery).  I'm guessing the collie-shepherd guess is probably closest to accurate.  The reality is that she's got a little head, a huge neck that gives her the appearance of a quadruple chin, a very wiggly body with a thick coat, and a curly tail that never stops moving.

Today, we were out walking (3.7 miles! We're not going to be able to take any days off in February if we are going to keep up our resolution!) and an old man was getting into his car as we walked by.  He stopped and said, "What is that?" I gave him my best guess and he said, "Well, that's a real nice dog you have there.  I like the curly tail."  A little while later, another man was sitting out on his front steps and said, "I see you walking all the time.  That's a really gorgeous dog you have there.  Just beautiful."  So, regardless of what she's made up of genetically, she's aesthetically pleasing.

Ever since my dad met Barley, he's been calling her a Wuzzle (how my dad can remember a tv show from 1985 that according to Wikipedia only had 13 episodes made is a question for another day).
After tracking down the theme song on YouTube, I think my dad is probably right.  Although, I also think she could actually be a tigger--after all, "their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs. They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun" and "They're loaded with vim and vigor. They love to leap in your laps."  Sound like a description of Barley if I ever heard one.

The truth is there's no telling what my Barley girl is and it really doesn't matter.  My dad sent me this The Other Coast comic (in addition to both being border collie mixes, Koko the comic dog and Barley have a lot in common, so I love when Dad includes these comics in his daily comic emails).
I've been a mutt person my whole life, and while I think many purebreds are gorgeous and know several people with wonderful purebred dogs (in fact, my best friend is getting an English Bulldog puppy as soon as she's ready to leave her mama--I'm going to have my first niece!), I really can't imagine ever being a purebred owner myself.  There's just too much fun and mystery in a mutt :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Copies, Pictures, and Pets--oh my!

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you've been really productive and then when you look back on what you've accomplished you haven't actually done much?

I woke up around 8:00 this morning and felt really good about that since I've been embracing my last week of not needing to set an alarm.  Somehow, by 2:00 all I'd done was run up to campus to copy my syllabi (which turned into a two hour fight with the copier!) and eaten a PB&J.

Barley and I walked almost 3 miles after that (I think we're in trouble when February roles around and we have to beat this months mileage!), but we only walked that far because someone was acting like she'd never been on a leash before and clearly needed more practice and to get rid of some energy.  There's a horrid brown dog--it looks like a boxer mix--that I dread walking by; it stays in it's unfenced (invisible fence?) yard, but she barks and runs circles around her house--there is a path that circles the house where the grass has been worn away by her circles!--and she continues barking even after we've turned down another road and is usually still barking when we circle back around to go home.  Most of the time, she's not out, but today she was.  Luckily, the weather's warmed up enough that the sidewalks are just slush now, so there wasn't the slippery factor.  Our usual game plan when we see the beast is to cross the road and walk on the other sidewalk, which is what I tried to do today, but a certain border collie mix lost her mind.  Instead of sitting on the curb while I checked for traffic, she jumped, twisted, and flung herself off the curb.  Thankfully, we live in a relatively quiet town and there's rarely traffic on that road.  Didn't I just say that she instinctively knows (aka has been conditioned) to sit when I stop while we're walking?  I guess we'll be working on reinforcing that one--I wouldn't handle a pancaked dog very well.

My only real accomplish was my pet art wall!  My sister got me awesome border collie art from Krista Brooks at for my birthday and it's been hanging above my bookshelf since October, but I've had plans to add more to the wall.

See, Krista Brooks is from Santa Fe and when I lived in NM I found a greeting card she'd done with a little white cat on it.  I bought one with the intention of framing it one day.  Needless to say, I moved across the county and it stayed in a box with other cards for 3 years.
My ravenous cat is currently knocking food cans off the counter to tell me he's ready for dinner.
I also had another sweet cat card that I had forced my sister to get me and send me when I moved into my new apartment.  It had also been sitting in a box for almost 3 years waiting to be framed.
All cat cards should have white kitties with pink noses
My awesome border collie art was the perfect motivation!  But I am not a handy person or a math person and these cards were not normal sizes like 4x6 or 5x7, so when I went to look for  frames I was lost.  I took them to my parents over the holidays because my mom is the handiest, craftiest person I know.  She solved all of my problems, by figuring out what size frame we needed and matting them on black paper to fill up the extra space.

My sister got me more awesome border collie art--a picture of a border collie printed on a encyclopedia? dictionary? page with descriptions of various famous Elizabeths--for Christmas, too, so I had even more material for the pet wall.  Since I am a little obsessed with taking pictures of my pets, I figured I should actually do something with them--besides fill up Facebook with 1,000,000 pet pictures, of course.

So, I had 9 frames that need to be hung and look good next to the original border collie art that was already on the wall.  As I said, I'm not handy.  I have four framed New Yorker Dog Calendar pages in my dinning room--in order to get them evenly spaced and level, I did a lot of nailing--there are about 4 holes in the wall behind each picture (luckily, I do know how to spackle!).  I figured that if I did that with 9 frames that would be much closer together I would not have a wall anymore.  Lucky for me, my brother's sweet and brilliant girlfriend visited over break while Mom and I were framing things.  She reads a DIY blog and had seen a post about making a photo wall and was nice enough to share the ideas with me!  She suggested cutting out paper in the size/shape of the frames, hanging that on the wall with tape (with a mark where the nail should go), then you pound in the nail and pull the paper off and put your picture on.

Kate may have overestimated my ability to cut on a straight line
Now, this sounds really simple.  And for most people it probably should have been.  But, I'm pretty sure my sister's kindergarten students can cut better than I can.  I have NEVER been successful at cutting on a straight line, but my brother's girlfriend reassured me that as long as things were close it would be ok.  I won't lie--there are a couple frames with more than one nail hole behind them . . . and there are still some that aren't perfectly where I want them.  But this project turned out much better because of the paper templates!  In addition to not having to pound in nails extra times, it also helped me see how things would look on the wall instead of just hanging things haphazardly.  The left side took a LONG time to get right.

The two horizontal pictures on the left still need to get pictures put in them--the ones in there now are vertical (why don't I take any horizontal pictures of my lovies?) and I just couldn't find an organization that looked good with two more vertical pictures, so I had to print a couple new ones.  My new printer (yay no more pee printer!) cautioned against framing photos before they were completely dry, so I went ahead and hung up the frames just to get a feel for the finished look.  I'm pretty much in love.

Close up of the Christmas border collie art
While I was in the hammering spirit, I went ahead and hung up Barley's CGC certificate and ribbon above her crate.  It took me a while to figure out where I should hang this (even though this was one thing I did frame immediately!), so it's just been sitting on a chair in my spare room for months.

I know it might seem silly--and maybe even a little pretentious--to frame this certificate, but it's a good reminder of how far we've come in our two years together.  Especially on days like today when my Barley girl makes me a little bit batty.  It's good to remember that we have accomplished a lot with our training, even if we do have little relapses here and there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Life without Cable

In the last post, I left off one of my resolutions, mostly because I was pretty sure I couldn't stick to it, so I figured there was no reason to put it out there, but I went through with it today, so here we go: I got rid of cable.

It was turned off at 8:00 this morning, so I spent the day trying to figure out how people live without television.

First, we walked about two miles.  We've been doing a lot of that lately, so hopefully we don't fail at our walking resolution at the end of February.  Hopefully we can keep this up once classes start next week!

After our walk, I did some cleaning and planning for next week.  I'm just starting to realize just how much work (and fun) teaching American Lit to 1865 is going to be.  So, not having cable is going to be extra helpful (how is it that my super brand new classes always come in the spring semester when I only have a couple weeks to prepare instead of in the fall when I have all summer??).

I also had more quality time to train my dog.  We started class last night, and even though she was really really really good, there were still a few things we needed to improve before next Monday.  Mostly, we needed to work on focus and control.

To work on the teeter-totter in class, our trainer puts Bil-Jac on the end of the teeter to get the dogs to go across it without worrying about the movement.  Bil-Jac is doggy crack.  Barley is obsessed with it.  Before our first agility class, I'd never heard of it. Now, I know Barley will do ANYTHING for Bil-Jac.  She's not actually even afraid of the teeter--she's done it full height and fallen off many times and she's not worried about it at all.  She's not really afraid of anything, except thunder, fireworks, and gun shots, so Bil-Jac isn't really necessary, but she enjoys it just the same.  Even though she isn't afraid of the teeter, she isn't exactly graceful going across it, so we spent some time wobble board to work on that.  As you can see, grace is not her middle name.

Another tiny issue we had in class was patience.  Even though she was well behaved, she didn't like having to wait for her turn and I was afraid I'd lose my arm trying to keep her from running over to the dog walk or jump on the teeter to steal someone else's Bil-Jac.  When we first started training, we learned the your choice game, which builds up to balancing treats on the front paws and builds patience and focus. We had gotten up to 10+ treats per paw when we were working on this game daily, but since we've taken a little break, we started small.  By the end of the evening, we worked up to 8.  I didn't want to push her more than that because my brother says you can see her thinking so hard you know her brain is going to explode and I didn't feel like dealing with another pet mess ;)
4 treats per paw!
I also actually cooked a real dinner (coconut chicken nuggets--why is it that 95% of the time I cook with coconut I always am sad that there's not more coconut in it?) AND did the dishes while it cooked instead of letting them pile up for days.

After dinner, Barley began her nightly Soth-chasing, so I decided if she had energy to chase she had energy to jump and we worked on jumping a little.  By the end of practice, she finally got worn out a little (but some how has still had energy to chase Soth every time I get settled down on the couch to do more work).

So, day one with no cable has been a success.  Maybe by the end of the year, I'll have an organized apartment, an even better trained dog, and fewer unread books on my bookshelf.  But for now, I've got the best dog in the world regardless of whether she's balanced and patient or not.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter Weather Woes

I'm not snow's biggest fan, but Barley is, so I'm learning to enjoy it.  When she's bounding through the snow like a gazelle (I know, I know, gazelles probably don't see a lot of snow, but I can't think of an accurate snow animal comparison--suggestions welcome), it's hard not to smile.
Happiest little snow dog!
Uncle Ben wanted to enjoy the snow with Barley, too.
But he failed to stay upright and she decided to herd him.
So, on days that I can just stay home and follow each snow experience with hot chocolate or a good winter beer and I don't have to wake up early to clean off my car, I don't mind snow.  I even got on a sled for the first time in my life over the holidays.
Bar with my parents' dog watching her Uncle Ben and his sweet girlfriend sled
Since I still have a week left before I go back to work and nowhere that I HAVE to be any given day during that week, I planned to enjoy the snow with my pup for the next few days and get in as many good walks as possible.

Unfortunately, my neighborhood had other plans.  The parking lot to our complex is one big sheet of ice and that isn't likely to change as long as it stays under 30 degrees, so we have to basically skate out of the parking lot, which is a little frightening with my romping snow dog (who seems to forget the word heel the second she sees the first snow flake).  There's a few feet of clear sidewalk right outside of our complex, but then the sidewalks on all of our regular walking roads are sheets of ice, too.  Since most of our regular streets are busy roads, we can't just walk in the street instead most of the time, which means we have to either take short walks or walk down the same roads several times.

Bringing a border collie mix into an apartment might not have been the smartest decision I've ever made, but most of the time we can walk enough to burn off her energy.  But my little snow puppy seems to get more energized the more time we spend in the snow, so exercise is even more important now than ever, especially for poor Soth's sanity.  (Thanks to all of the Christmas goodies, Bar also has a little holiday weight to work off--2 lbs. to get back to her usual weight, 4 to get back to her ideal weight.)
Uncle Ben brought Bar a Grinch cupcake from a ritzy pet store
Since we've been back home, we've been able to piece together at least a two-mile walk every day, but today it just wasn't enough.  My crazy girl has been running in circles and chasing poor Soth all day long.  After almost busting my butt several times just trying to get out of the complex, I just wasn't feeling up for a second walk today, so we had to resort to other types of exercise.

Remember the posts that Barley and I have for our figure eights and practicing our agility crosses?  My wonderful mom modified them over break so that they could be turned into a jump!  So we practiced a few crosses with the jump and then I had her do figure eights with a jump until she was worn out, which only gave me and Soth about 30 minutes of peace and quiet before she was back to her energized, crazy self.

It was time to break out the wobble board that Santa brought.  I highly recommend wobble boards for anyone living in an apartment with a dog or in a snowy, icy area like mine or both.  They are fantastic exercise and lots of fun.  There are lots of uses for a wobble board.  For agility, they are good for getting dogs accustomed to wobbly things like a teeter-totter.  They also help build balance and core strength.  You can have your dog do lots of things--sit, stand, down, a couple feet on--to target different muscle groups or work on different skills.
My off-centered dog
It's been about a year since Bar's been on a wobble board--we first used them in agility class last year--so right now we're just working on getting all four feet on the board.  For the first few days, Bar would only put two or three feet on the board, but now she'll get all of them on and sit.  Since we've got that down, our next goal is to get her to actually be balanced in a sit.  We're also going to work on standing, balanced or not, because every time I try to get her to stand she takes at least one foot off the board.  

The best part about the wobble board is that she's having so much fun she doesn't even know that we're actually training.  She thinks it's all play.  

After a good jump session, a wobble session, and a late evening toy-tossing session, Barley is finally worn out and sleeping in the spare bedroom so I can watch my guilty pleasure, Pit Bulls and Parolees, in peace.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Goodbye 2012, Welcome 2013

I feel like my first post of the new year should be something profound, but so far the new year has brought nothing profound.  We ended the old year with a bang--Soth threw up and then peed on my dry-clean only jacket, Barley cowered in her crate while they neighbors set off fireworks (but mercifully only set off a handful!), and I drank good beer with my wonderful family.  The new year started with a celebration of Barley's adoption day yesterday (2 years together feels more like 20, and I wouldn't change it!) and a trip back to our apartment after two weeks at my parents' house--if you've never come home to an apartment where the thermostat has been sent to 52 degrees for two weeks, I don't recommend trying it!

Since there's not much to report for 2013 yet, I'm going to copy my sister and give you the highlights of 2012.  Here are the top 5:

5. Graduations.  Two of my favorite fellas graduated in May.  First, my baby brother graduated from William and Mary (if anyone is hiring someone with an economics/marketing degree, call him!).  Then my best friend graduated the next weekend from the Medical University of South Carolina (I'm still waiting for him to find me a rich doctor husband).  It was really great to be able to celebrate with them--and now I have an itch to get another degree.

4. Hiking. As almost every 2012 post mentions, Barley and I spent a ton of time hiking this summer.  It was really fun to be able to explore our home and see all of the cool places that are hidden less than 50 miles from our house!  We still have plenty of places left to explore to visit every Doggin' Cleveland site, but we're really happy with the handful we've already been to!  We got to show a few our favorites to family members, but we're hoping that we can show them off to even more in 2013!

3. Emily Dickinson. I got to teach my dream class in the fall semester: a major author study on Emily Dickinson.  The class was super small and every single student was incredible; they were enthusiastic (and didn't roll their eyes too much over my enthusiasm) and brought a lot of great insights to her poetry and made their own beautiful representations of Dickinson.  I could not have asked for a better group of students to have in my dream class.  I feel really lucky that I'm not even 30 yet and I've had the chance to teach the class of my dreams.

2. Training.  Even though our training goals didn't all turn out quite the way we planned, Barley was awesome this year and has come such a long way!  We learned how to do doggie pushups (combos of down-sit-down, sit-stand-sit, down-stand-down, etc.) to get her refocused when she is being obstinate.  We've both gotten MUCH better at agility--and while I still don't always know my left from my right the different crosses don't always confuse me (maybe we'll make competition of 2014 resolution . . . but don't hold me to that).  We passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test in May.  Most importantly, though, we made our bond even stronger--she responds to what I want from her without me even telling her: when we get home from a walk, she sits when we get to the front door and waits until I unlock it and then when we get inside she sits again until I get the door shut and release her; when I stop while we're out walking, she stops and sits.  I really couldn't ask for a better dog.

1. Family and Friends. This year was filled with quality family and friends time.  I had a chance to reconnect with some old friends and to spend time with several close friends that I don't see nearly enough.  As a pit stop between the different graduations, I got to spend the night with my wonderful college roomie and meet her sweet little boy.  In addition to going to my BFF's graduation, we also met up at my sister's in December--we never get two visits in one year!  We finally got to eat perogies (and about 1,000,000 other calories worth of food) together and my incredible sister chauffeured us around DC to see zoo lights and the monuments!  One of my other very best friends stopped by for a sleepover on her way to a wedding.  I love having friends like these!  Even though I don't see them nearly as much as I want to, we always pick up right where we left off and it's like we haven't been apart a single day.  And most of these visits wouldn't have been possible without my wonderful family who babysat the pets while I galavanted or let me crash at their places.  I love that I'm within a day's drive of my family again!

It will be hard for 2013 to top 2012, but since most of these things (training, family, hiking) are constants in my life it's definitely possible!  I normally don't do resolutions, but this year I have two: walking more miles each month than the one before (let's hope we're not up to something crazy by December!) and to have happy healthy pets.  So far, they are both well under way.  Barley and I walked 6.3 miles during the first three days of the month (I'm still trying to convince myself to go out into the cold today) and Soth's currently at the vet so they can culture his urine--hopefully by the time I go pick him up we'll have some answers as to why he hasn't had a break from his FLUTD for months.

Hope that everyone had very happy holidays and that 2013 brings love and happiness!
"Do you herd what I herd?" t-shirt!