Friday, February 27, 2015

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's . . . Crazy Barley

We've had another extremely cold week with little opportunity for good, long walks. The week started out with a couple "warm" days where we got in a couple miles each day, but we only totaled 7.05 miles this week.

It was nice to be able to walk for more than .5 miles at a time. Barley was so excited to have a chance to sniff around and watch a few squirrels frolic. We even got a couple walks in without boots! 

I don't care if your face is freezing--there's something amazing here and I WILL sniff it.

Then the cold came back. We weren't able to get a walk in before agility class, which is never a good thing. (Does anybody else in the world have to wear out their dog BEFORE taking them to agility class?!) 

We started a new session two weeks ago, so we had a new classmate joining us (this adorable beagle mix). That always adds a little excitement to class since Barley takes a while to warm up to new dogs--and doesn't hesitate to let them know if she doesn't like their behavior if she gets the chance. Our trainer is great and any time Barley's off leash she has any new dogs go into the crate room or behind a fence before Barley's turn, so she can't go check them out, which helps me relax more and then helps Barley relax more. But the excitement of a new dog always amps Barley up a little more than usual, regardless of whether she has a chance to see them or not.

Combine the excitement of another dog with the pent-up energy of no walk before class and you have one nutty Barley dog. She started out focused--we did some heeling exercises around the training floor before class started. But on her first turn, she lost her mind almost the second the leash came off. She was supposed to go into a tunnel, come out and go to the table, then send to a jump, turn to go through a tire jump, and go back through the tunnel for our first few obstacles. I set her up for the tunnel and as soon as I said tunnel, she took off and flew onto the table. She hit the table with such force that it started rocking and almost flipped over. Then she flew of the table, ran a few laps, and hit the table again. She did this a few times before deciding she was tired of that and ready to come back to me. (Again, thank you universe for giving us the most patient, kind classmates ever!) We quit trying to get the sequence and started doing some focus work for our turn. Then we put sandbags on the bottom of the table. 

In addition to a little craziness in class, Barley's been extra crazy at home. We were playing with her toys one day this week since we couldn't get out for a walk. If I stand against one wall in the living room and toss a toy towards the kitchen, Barley can run the length of the apartment to chase it. Usually, I'll squeak the toy to get Barley to come stand in front of me to make sure she has as much room to run as possible--she'll come around the couch to get to me. When I squeaked a toy this time, she poked her nose up over the back of the couch. It was adorable. I wanted a picture of her peeking over the couch. When I tried that, I got this instead:

That's right. My crazy dog jumped over the back of my couch. Not once. Not twice. Three times. I decided it was time for snuggling before something (or someone) got broken.

Spring please hurry!

Despite the craziness, we're still right on track for meeting our goal for the year. Last year by the end of February, we were at 96.01 miles. This year, we're at 109.02 miles, so I can't complain. Rumor has it, we're going to get back up into the 30s next week, so hopefully we can have better numbers to report next Friday!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Back when I was in high school, I saw the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and decided I should read the books that the characters in the movie came from. I went to a used book store and bought copies of most of them. Then they went on the bookshelf and I forgot about them.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a book that's always interested me, so while most of the books are still on a shelf at my parents' house, Dorian has traveled around the country with me just waiting to be read.

This book was well loved before I got it.
For my third selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Reading Challenge, I chose The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde for my book I should have read in high school: partially because it was on some suggested reading lists that I ignored in high school and partially because it's been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read since high school. 

I'd tried the book before. I've always loved the preface, especially the ideas on books: "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." 

I'll be honest. Books like this are why I quit reading all throughout high school. I love the idea of the story--and I can't say it's not well written--but this book ensured that I met my sleep goals for the week! I made it through about 4 pages at a time before I began to feel narcoleptic. It took about 100 pages before I really go into the story. Then I was totally engaged for about 10 pages.

So here's what I loved about the book. It touched on topics that still ring true today. Dorian hates when his portrait begins to reveal his inner demons and hides the painting away only looking in on it occasionally. People today still get panicky when a book or a movie or a song makes them realize the uglier sides of themselves--most of us don't like being forced to look at those sides and like Dorian, we hide those things away--but they still have the power to destroy us. I've always loved Wilde's humor.  When I had to take literary theory in grad school, I loved reading Wilde's ideas on art and literature. He had way more spunk than those other old dead guys in the theory textbook. One of my favorite lines in Dorian was "To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable." There's murder, romance, intrigue. The parts of the book where something's actually happening are really interesting and I wanted to know what happened next. 

But . . . there were a lot of sections of the book where not much happened. There's a lot of repetition of ideas--so Wilde's kind of hitting you over the head with some of his ideas about art and life. Sometimes, I felt like Wilde was writing just to "hear himself talk." There were many pages that I read and then reread and then reread again--and I still couldn't tell you what I'd just read because the ideas were wordy and I was bored and couldn't focus. If I'd been Wilde's editor, I could have gotten this story down to a really nice, concise short story. There were also lots of a passages where ideas were implied--I get it. Wilde was living in Victorian England. A lot of people were very conservative. A lot of things weren't widely accepted in literature, so he had to just hint at certain activities Dorian participated in--but I just wanted to grab the book, shake it, and yell, "JUST SAY WHAT YOU MEAN ALREADY!" 

So, overall, I'm happy to say that I've finally read Dorian Gray, but it didn't live up to the expectations I had for it. If the story was stripped down, I think I'd love it.

I've checked off book #3 out of 12 for the reading challenge. Stay tuned next week when I talk about book #4--a genre I don't read often--where I get back to reading about dogs, but I do it in graphic novel form.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Well, friends, our walking streak has ended. After 5 and a half months of not missing a day of walking, we have officially missed a day.

If your Facebook newsfeed looks anything like mine has this week, you've probably seen endless posts about the frigid cold that seems to be everywhere. On Sunday, the sun was shining beautifully and there were clear blue skies. Ohio was playing the same dirty tricks on me that New Mexico used to do--it looked like a beautiful day for being outside soaking up whatever Vitamin D you can get in the winter, but then you step outside and immediately want to run back inside and hide under the covers. I thought that maybe I could suck it up and get a short walk in, but then I checked the weather.

There were big red warnings all over the Accuweather website. Warnings about frostbite and hypothermia. Warnings about making sure all of your skin was covered. Warnings about avoiding prolonged exposure to the cold. We didn't go for a walk.

I know there are people who do walk in temperatures like this, but for me, it wasn't worth the risk. I like Barley's nose. I didn't want it to get frostbitten. I like her weird little ears, but I don't want them to get any smaller, though, so I didn't want to take the chance that she'd get frostbite there, either. Plus, I'm not a ski mask kind of girl, and I'm pretty sure I'd be in BIG trouble if I lost my nose to frostbite before I was expected to be in family pictures at my brother's wedding later this year. 

We stayed inside and worked some start-line stays with our jump. We did a little wobble board practice. We worked with our nose works odor kit. We did some mat work. And the world didn't end because we had missed a day of walking. 

Barley isn't sure she's as good relaxing as her brother is.

The temperatures haven't improved much since Sunday, but there were a few days where it was still in the positive temperatures, even with the windchill, so we got out for a few short walks. We managed to fit in a whopping 5.12 miles this week. 

Rumor has it that this cold spell is supposed to end tomorrow, so we're looking forward to getting back into our walking routine again--but today is going to be another day of inside fun because it was -29 degrees when we woke up this morning. Even Barley, the abominable snow pup, wasn't interested in going outside for long when I took her out this morning, so I don't think she's going to mind spending the day playing inside.

Luckily, we got a couple fun new Mardi Gras toys in our BarkBox this week to keep us entertained with some games of tug and toss and chase.

Hope everyone else has been enjoying some fitness fun--whether you've been trapped inside or able to get out and enjoy the great outdoors! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday's Tomes: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Book challenge. I started with the first category, a book I'd been meaning to read, and read My Dog Tulip. It wasn't my cup of tea.

Around the time I started My Dog Tulip, I was out running errands. I'd been at Kohl's buying new gloves (Side note: those Isotoner people know what they're doing--best gloves ever!) and the poor cashier couldn't figure out how to use the Visa gift card I'd gotten for Christmas and I had to pay without the gift card. That meant I still had a gift card when I left the store--I used that as a good excuse to stop by Barnes and Noble.

All of the books I'm looking forward to this year don't come out until the summer (it's so kind of publishers to save my favorite authors for the months I'm not teaching so I can binge read!), so I had the luxury of just browsing.

I found myself drawn to this bright yellow book with kind of sloppy text across the cover. I picked it up. Read the back cover. Put it down. Walked away. Then I came back. I read the cover again. There was a blurb from my mom's old college pal George Saunders whose stories I usually love (even if they are a little weird for my taste some times). I decided I should get it.

So my second book of the reading challenge for the category of a book I chose because of the cover is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how I feel about this book. It's the story of a young man who loses his job and ends up working at a 24-hour book store for an odd little old man. He meets a variety of characters--some who are techies, some who are bookworms, some who are artists--and together they join in this adventure to solve a mystery. 

On one hand, it's a delightful story about the power and magic of books--something that I've always believed in. It's also a celebration of technology and the new ways we can interact with books--something I've been exploring with some of my literature classes as I've had my students engage with some of our texts in new ways like retelling Dracula via Twitter. I liked that Sloan wasn't suggesting that technology ruined literature. I also liked that he showed there's some magic in actual, physical books that just can't be captured on a screen.

On the other hand, I never felt connected to the majority of the characters. There was potential for them to be fun and quirky--like Kat, who has a dozen identical T-shirts because she decided that she "didn't want to waste brain cycles figuring out what to wear every morning" which made me think of the game The Sims. But every chapter added characters to the cast and by the end there were so many of them and very few of them had much depth. I also felt like the last few chapters were kind of rushed, so there was all this build up to the mystery and then it was just over.

I finished the books a couple weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it. I guess that must say something. I'm just not entirely sure what.

Visit The Modern Mrs. Darcy for more info on the challenge.
Halfway through February, I've checked off 2 of the 12 books and I've made good progress on book #3. I've chosen The Picture of Dorian Gray for a book that I should have read in high school--it's slow going, but since we're in full-blown hibernation mode this week and I only have about 100 pages left, hopefully it won't be long before I can check off that category as well.

I'm linking up with the Modern Mrs. Darcy--check out the other books people have been reading lately!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

Petsmart seemed to design their Valentine's Day toys specifically for my little lovies this year.

There was no way I was leaving the store without the "You drive me nuts" squirrel.

Happy Valentine's Day for me, Barley, and Soth! We're wishing you a day full of love and laughter.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland

The week started out on a good note for walking. We reached some lovely balmy temperatures of 36 degrees on Saturday and 40 on Sunday.

A few weeks ago, I posted pictures of the snowmen lining the sidewalks in town for Winterfest. This weekend was Winterfest weekend. On Friday evening, the hospitality management students from my campus carved ice sculptures in the town pavilion. I forgot that was happening, but remembered in time to get Barley out and about before they started to get all melty. (I apologize for the picture quality--ice is harder to photograph than I thought it would be.)

This cold weather makes staying in with martinis sound very appealing.

So this hunk of ice had some different logos of local businesses on it--I didn't know what it was, but then a coworker showed me pictures from the actual carving--it was a fire pit! I wish I'd remember to go check out the actual carving so I could see it!

It's a wine glass that says wine country.
We got in several nice walks over the weekend. The ice sculptures were a fun addition to our snow-covered world and our neighborhood was new and exciting again.

Then it got cold. Really cold. As I was driving home from work on Thursday, my car thermometer said 10 degrees--it kept falling. I rushed Barley out for a walk, but it was so cold my face hurt. Every time I tried to talk to give Barley a command, it felt like my face was going to shatter. I kept having to alternate which hand I was holding the leash in so I could alternate which side of my face I could cover with my other hand. We made it .6 miles. The predicted high for Sunday is 1 degree. 1 degree. We haven't missed a day since August 26, 2014, but I don't know if I'll be able to motivate myself to get out for a walk--even a short one--with that kind of weather. This little Georgia peach might have embraced Ohio's winters to some degree, but a high of 1 degree is sounding like more than I can wrap my mind around.

Despite our winter weather setbacks this week, we still made it 14.93 miles this week.

Thank you to everyone who sent well wishes to my sweet Soth boy last week. He's finishing up his last few doses of pain medication, so we'll see how he does when he's off of them. He's due for his annual check up in early March, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he's on the mend and doesn't need to go in before then.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Crazy Pants

I realized that I didn't post our January update on our total mileage last week even though it was the last Friday in January. In January 2014, we hadn't gotten into the habit of daily walking yet--if it was really cold or I was really tired, we'd take a day off--and we totaled 49.05 miles. This year, our January mileage was 72.96 miles, so we're off to a great start towards our goal this year.

Despite our great start, it's still a drastic decrease from the 3-mile/day average we ended 2014 with. After over a foot of snow got dumped on us Sunday night, we lost some more of our routes, so we only logged 13.63 miles this week--but we're celebrating that because yesterday, it didn't get above 12 degrees and with Barley's boots we made it 1.23 miles!

These are the weather conditions from our actual walk.

Barley might have new boots in her wardrobe, but her favorite winter wardrobe accessory to wear are her crazy pants. Like The Emperor's New Clothes, these crazy pants are invisible.

I'm not wearing any pants, Mom!

To the trained eye, though, the crazy pants are painfully obvious. Sometimes, she wears them to walk.  She gets into a zone of her own and even if I have the best treats in the world, she isn't interested in heeling and she wants to tug on her leash. She wants to climb on every snow mountain that the plow has created in our parking lot.

The crazy pants have inspired Barley to become a cheater at some of her favorite games: she realized that if she put her treat ball into a box that it was less work to get treats than if she has to follow it around the whole apartment.

Barley's worn her crazy pants to agility every week this entire session. She gets the zoomies at the drop of a hat--she starts off running the course and then just gets so excited that she can't stop running. 

My favorite moment, though, was when we were training the broad jump this week. Barley's seen the broad jump a few times--usually she doesn't get to excited about jumps of any kind, she'll do them, but she much prefers the dog walk, tunnels, and weaves and she lives for the teeter. For some reason, this week, Barley was all about the broad jump. She was so excited that she couldn't even sit. Her ears were perked and she just crouched and you could see every muscle just twitching with anticipation. As soon as I unclipped her leash, she was flying through the air. Every time our turn came up again, she got more and more excited. Our trainer looked at her, laughed, and said, "Barley looks like she's just heard about a party and she can't get there fast enough." That describes Barley's philosophy on life better than I ever could have done myself.

I might be wearing crazy pants, but at least I'm not wearing that silly hood, Mom!

The crazy pants have made life more fun and exciting these last few weeks--and I'm so very glad that we have agility class with understanding classmates and a trainer that find the crazy pants adorable rather than annoying and time-consuming--but we're very much looking forward to spring: the crazy shorts are much easier to handle.

Who wants spring? Snow makes the whole world my playground.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kitty Mommy Guilt

As much as I've always been a dog person, it's no secret that Soth is my heart. He's the first pet I got after moving out on my own. He's the first thing I've been responsible for besides myself. He's the pet that rushes to meet me at the door when I come home (although Barley would if she could figure out how to open her crate). 

Since Thanksgiving, my sweet boy has had no break from his FLUTD and it's been breaking my heart. He's been urinating outside of the litter box and we had to bring back the third litter box we'd been able to put away back in the early fall. There's been a lot of blood, and often crystals, in his urine. But there's not much that can be done for him when these episodes occur. 

He used to get regular pain medicine when he'd have an episode because he cried all the time and he strained in the litter box. Then he started handling the episodes better or they quit getting as bad, so we took two years off of pain medicine. 

Then last week as I was getting ready for bed, he squatted over a pile of junk mail I needed to sort through and when I went to herd him over towards his litter box, I noticed he was straining and it took a long time for him to produce any urine. I was so afraid we were going to have to make a middle of the night trip to the ER vet, but I checked on him several times throughout the night and he seemed fine. I watched him all day the next day and finally decided I should ask our vet for a refill on his pains meds.

If I hide under the dresser and look adorable, you can't give me medicine.
The effects were almost immediate. Thirty minutes after his first dose, he was romping and playing. He was hopping on the couch to keep me company while I graded. He was chasing Barley. There's been no straining in the litter box and he's using the litter box more regularly. He's been eating more consistent amounts of food, too.

He's got a week left of his pain meds and then we'll have just a couple weeks left before he goes in for his annual check up when we'll talk to the vet about options for continuing to help his bladder heal from the months of irritation. 

I'm suffering from kitty mommy guilt for not calling in a refill sooner. I knew that he'd been having a much longer episode than he'd ever had before, but he wasn't acting like he was in pain, so it didn't even cross my mind that he might benefit from some pain meds until things got really bad. If you could all send some love, prayers, or positive vibes out into the universe for my little man cat, we'd both appreciate all the good thoughts we can get!

Monday, February 2, 2015

These Boots were Made for Walking

After reading several comments and posts about the wonders of Pawz dog boots, I decided Barley and I should try them. I didn't have high hopes. Barley doesn't even like to sit still long enough for me to wipe her paws off after a walk, but after I caught her standing on the kitchen counter, I knew we needed to find a way to get regular walks in if we were both going to survive the winter.

Since I needed to order some stuff for Soth from, I tossed a package of Pawz in the cart, too.

I figured we could work on training her to let me put things on her paws while we waited for their arrival. By that, I mean I stuck one of my little ankle socks on her front paw--and when she didn't protest, I gave her a lot of treats and decided not to jinx it by going any farther.

Why are you doing this to me?

Two days later, some nice purple Pawz were waiting on the front porch when I got home.

Hurry up and open this, Mom! I think there's something in there for me.

This isn't exactly what I had in mind.

It was cold outside, but I didn't want to push Barley too far, so I decided we'd just practice putting them on. We got one on with no problems. She got a treat. So we tried for two. Before I knew it, we had all four on and there were no issues, so I decided why not go ahead and test them outside on a short walk.

I had no idea that something so small could provide so much laughter.

Inside, Barley was literally hopping through the house. I tried to take a video, but I was laughing so hard that I couldn't keep the camera on her and I couldn't keep from cackling in the background; it was not attractive.

I told you I couldn't keep the camera still--but look at that leg kick!
When we got outside, she quickly started walking normally. Except when we'd stop. Barley's trained to stop and sit any time we get to an intersection--often she also does this if I just stop to take a picture of something or fix a shoe lace. Any time we'd go from stopped to walking again, she'd kick both front legs out like a tin soldier before going back to her normal gait. It was hysterical.

Since we got the the Pawz a week ago, we've gotten in several nice long walks we wouldn't have been able to take otherwise.

Barley's mischievous side is coming out now and she's starting to be more resistant to putting them on, though. No matter how many treats I offer, she hides. I can usually get two on. Then she runs under the dining room table. Even if I put a treat on the ground between us, she won't come out for it. So, putting the boots on is starting to take significantly longer than either of us would like. Once we get outside, she's still fine, but I have no idea if we'll be able to continue getting them on for much longer--so I guess we'll start over with trying to train putting them on in the summer so that next winter doesn't become this much of a wrestling match.

What accessories/gear have provided you and your pets with the most laughter and joy?