DRAFT TODAY, POST TOMORROW: Some posts may be in draft status until I (aka procrastinator extraordinaire) get around to posting them.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hybrids, or not

It appears that Consumer Reports' analysis finds hybrids are not yet "worth it."  I'm driving my car "into the ground" but have to come to a decision, probably in the next six months or year at the most, what is next.  I would love to do what is "good for the environment" but can't seem to figure out what that is!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Food Links

**My Empire of Dirt (how one man turned his big city backyard into a farm) by Manny Howard sounds like it might be an interesting read.  Here is a racy excerpt from an interview with the author:

(Q) What are some mistakes that we all, as hosts, make?

(A) I can’t bear it when a host apologizes for the condition or flavor of food in advance. Announcing that the main course is over-cooked as people are unfolding their napkins is akin to assuring your partner that you don’t and will not EVER swallow.
Beyond that, everything else is forgivable. That, coming from a guy who thinks nothing of serving his guests in excess of an hour and a half after the event’s advertised start time.
**We usually don't eat out on Valentine's Day, but I'm still surprised to find out that Olive Garden is the most popular dining destination on this Hallmark holiday, according to Google.

** I have most of these essential kitchen tools.  I need to use some of them more often though!

** Check out what KFC cooks abroad.  I guess they don't HAVE to sell us crap, they just choose to sell us the Double Down and other "food" products.  But I still love their cole slaw.  It must have crack in it.

** I would like to make perfect roasted potatoes, which I found from a link on (same as the interview above.)

** A whole lemon can be used to make something that gets great reviews: whole lemon bars.  And I think I can follow this recipe!

** Surprise--working folks might find cooking dinner on work nights to be difficult or think it can seem like drudgery!

** I try not to follow TOO many food blogs, but OMG...Oatmeal, Cranberry, Walnut cookies and No Crust Quiche.  I need to find more time to cook...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Does this clutter make my butt look fat?

My February (audio) book selection is written and read by Peter Walsh.  I used to watch him on Clean Sweep, to the point that M knew the show's music, and hated it.  He has a new show which I have only started to watch.  I actually HAVE this book, and started reading it, but have not finished, and truthfully, I'm not 100% sure where it is right now.

When I started listening to the book, it seemed pretty simple.  As I continued to listen, I found that it IS simple, but it reminds the listener of things we know, but don't know.  I found parts of the book powerful enough that I would listen to this book again; I would even consider purchasing the audiobook myself.

This is not a diet book--it is about my relationship with my body.  *sigh*  I do not have a good relationship with my body.  But I do know, more or less, how I want to live--I want to live a healthy, active life.  And that is his focus.

I would summarize this book by comparing it to a budgeting tip that suggests thinking "do I need this?" as part of the spending decision (put a post-it in your wallet, on your cards).  He is essentially saying: think about everything you bring into your house, put in your pantry or refrigerator, or consume: "does this help me live the life I want to live?"  The answer doesn't have to be yes, but we should be aware of this decision.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Agility class and stuff

Teka stayed at A's house today.  When I went to pick her up, I had a chance to talk with A and D.  A thought that Grade 2 on Cassi's biopsy definitely warrants a trip to the oncologist.  She went through something similar with Deacon, and she thinks she would not have done all the chemo with him but just the naturopathic treatment.  If we don't find another, she will give me a vet in the Arrowhead area.  She also talked about Dr. Julie--a lot of the agility crowd take their dogs to her office.  After putting Teka in the truck, I was able to visit the puppy, Flirt, for a few minutes before heading to class.

Since Cassi was not in class, we went with the 16 inch (jump height) dogs.  The first sequence was set up in three rows, first a tunnel, then two jumps (long-wise, same direction as the tunnel), then the weaves.  There was also a jump on each end of the grouping.  We sent the dogs over the end jump, through the weaves, over the other end jump, into the tunnel.  While in the tunnel, we only came halfway, to pull over the jumps in the middle, ending with the end jump.  (The three jumps made a serpentine.)  Teka had trouble going in the tunnel if I didn't get right there with her, but she did her weaves just fine.

Next, we worked on a jump sequence.  Teka had trouble with the around-out section on one end (pushing)but not the other (pulling).  All of the dogs were having trouble with sniffing in this exercise; it sounds like puppy class (lots of treats on the ground) is the night before.

Our last exercise was a distance exercise.  A dog walk and a teeter were parallel, with a tunnel on one end and a jump on the other.  Teka wanted to skip the jump every time.  I have trouble with distance on the tunnel with her, having to go in closer than anyone else does.  But she does the dog walk and the teeter without any issues, no matter what I'm doing or where I am.  I should get my tunnel out at home and work on this more...

The instructor (I'm not sure of her name but I think she used to be with Jumping Chollas?) was running her dog in our group too and not paying much attention to what her dog was doing at the the end of the leash while she was watching the other students, so I told her that Teka is not polite with other dogs.  What a huge mistake.  She spent the rest of the class asking if we tried this (Cesar Milan method) and we tried that (socializing) and on and on.  At one point, I commented that people don't believe me when I tell them about Teka, until she snaps at their dog--and then they won't let their dog around her; the instructor commented and acted surprised that people would do that.  Then she walked around Teka with her dog (without asking me) and then declared that Teka was fine, see, she didn't react at all.  Well, actually, yes, Teka did react--she was giving me that look that means she's nervous.  I tried to give the instructor a bit of a brush-off and I guess she finally got the hint.  She said that she wasn't trying to nag, so I interrupted her and said that we have been dealing with this for a long time (which she already knew from the original conversation that she partially or completely ignored) and we don't want to deal with it in her agility class.  It's Teka's time to have fun and work with me on agility training.  I don't know if she really got it but she acted like she did.

Be killed. Or evolve.

Pesticides kill more than pests (what a sad story). 

So does caramel coloring in sodas.  (We already know that aspartame in diet sodas is killing us.)

But maybe we'll just evolve like the bottom feeding tomcod, a Hudson River fish that has evolved in the past 50 years to resist toxic PCBs.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coming up roses

Saturday, I posted about my roses on FB. I was disappointed when the lady at Baker told me that the Arizona rose wasn't being grown by suppliers anymore. It's the one my grandma had suggested for my last garden and I loved it. The only one I think comes close is the Rio Samba, which is similarly multi-colored but more yellow. I didn't see Rio Samba at Baker but, if I plant more in the back, I can order it from J&P, although M prefers the potted ones from Baker rather than bareroot roses from online/catalogs.

M's cousin, K, (via FB) gave me a website to order the Arizona rose, so I have placed my order and we will put it in the one open spot left up front. Exciting!

I also received some tips on caring for roses in the desert, which led to when to prune roses in Arizona, and I'll have to go back to read some additional information on planting trees.

Weave 201C

Teka was very friendly with my partner, E, tonight.  Our first exercise was a jump into the weave-o-matics.  I kept them only slightly open.  The purpose was to work on independence and completion.  So I moved away while she was in the weaves.  She had a lot of trouble with it but did complete them when I really, really supported her, even from afar.  And she was so excited when she completed them.

Next we worked on the channel weaves, with three jumps set up to give three different entry points.  This let us work on weaves and front crosses while practicing different entries.  Teka did really well and was very excited about doing well.  In fact, she really made a decision to complete the set once while I was moving away.

Our last exercise was the four weave entry exercise.  There was a jump at each end to work on entries again.  Teka did pretty well, although she had trouble with one of the entries, so we repeated it a couple times.

She stayed very upbeat throughout class, even with a dog being too close for her comfort during our last exercise.  So I let her take a turn on some of the contact obstacles that were still out.  She did the teeter, the dog walk and the table with a down.  She acted like it was a fun reward!

Contact 301

I took Cassi to class and let A know that she wouldn't be able to jump.  We worked on the contact board.  I wasn't able to keep it up on the phone books since it was too unstable, so I put it flat again.  Cassi had a lot of trouble getting more than two feet on, but she did actually end up laying down on it twice.

Next we had a sequence of four jumps in a straight line, with a contact box after the third jump.  We took the jump bars off for Cassi.  She ran around the box the first time, so we backchained the sequence, starting with the third jump.  She did really well throughout the sequence then.  In fact, my partners were excited about her speed and she hit the box each time.

Next, we worked on the dog frame.  Since I didn't want her to jump, we just started midway on the ramp and let her run down to the treat pouch.  Next, we did the A-frame, still low, and her speed was very good.  In fact, A was as excited as me about the way Cassi leaped over the apex.  It was kind of a breakthrough for Cassi.  There was no hesitation--she just leapt over the point of the A-frame.

D was not there tonight, so she left instructions with A.  Those instructions included that she wanted Cassi to skip the teeter.  It sounds like the reason was due to Cassi's fear of the plank in our last class.  So D wants to be there when Cassi works on the teeter or plank again.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Since running is pretty hard on my back, but my dogs could use some running, I tried roller skating with them a few years ago. I never learned to roller blade, so I bought "outdoor" quad skates. I did alright on them, taking one dog at a time. I wore the gear--knee and elbow pads, wrist guards and a helmet. I had trouble with the curbs (and hills) in the neighborhood and fell, right in front of my house. I fractured my elbow and decided I would not use the quad skates outdoors anymore.

Eventually, I thought I would like to try outdoor skating again, so I ordered some Landrollers. (Caution: link goes to site with video/sound.)  We had started packing for our eventual move, so I tried the skates on and left them for after our move to a flatter neighborhood. And then I waited for our move.

So now we are here. Tonight, I went with Teka and M followed with Cassi. It was more difficult than I thought it was going to be--I don't really know how to stop, and Teka stopped to pee and later got distracted by cats, and I BARELY managed to stay up the whole time. But it was fun. I'll do it again. I definitely need the practice, and the exercise.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coming up roses

After bowling and lunch, we planted the rest of the roses. It took several hours. Like the locations we planted yesterday, the two on the north side (left of the unpaved driveway) were previously planted with something else and were not the Arizona clay I expected. These were the other two GF--Gold Medal and Crimson. In that same area, there is another place we can or cannot plant something. If I find an Arizona rose, it may go there.

Coming from the paved driveway to the front door, there was room for two roses near the "grass," so we placed the Tropicana and Peace (HT) roses there. We started to see more clay--harder and messier digging. The other four HTs--Blue Girl, Queen Anne, Oklahoma, and Gemini--went in the L-shaped bed to the right of the front door (facing the door). This area was very clay-y too.

I'm amazed at how M knows how and what to do to make sure they will be on the watering system. He's very handy to have for his brawn and his brain!

A to Z about me (Cuz I saw it on Just For Fun blogs)

(A) Age: 39 (forever?)
(B) Bed Size: King
(C) Chore You Hate: Cleaning the bathroom (toilet included)
(D) Dogs? Two--Cassi the Weimaraner and Teka the Vizsla
(E) Essential Start Your Day Item: required--medicine; essential--doggie love
(F) Favorite Color: Yellow
(G) Gold or Silver? Gold
(H) Height: 5'7"
(I) Instruments You Play: Piano (okay, not really, but I try--and would be a lot better if I tried more often)
(J) Job Title: Staff Planner (or wife. or pet mother.)
(K) Kids: 2 dogs and 2 cats. Oh, human kids? borrowed (nieces and nephews or friends' kids)
(L) Live: in Arizona
(M) Mom's Name: Mom
(N) Nicknames: Vee, Ginia, Honey, Virgi, Ginny....
(O) Overnight Hospital Stays? yes, more than should be allowed at my age
(P) Pet Peeve: over-connected people (yes, you can put your phone away for an entire meal/movie/10 minutes)
(Q) Quote from a Movie: "I want you to know, despite my appearance at this function, I remain now, and will always be, the Duckman."
(R) Right or Left Handed? Right, but I was born left-handed
(S) Siblings: Lots!
(T) Time You Wake Up? 6:30am, more or less
(U) Underwear: yes :P
(V) Vegetable You Dislike: cooked carrots
(W) What Makes You Run Late: hitting snooze (more than once) and trying to do too much before I leave the house
(X) X-Rays You've Had Done: back, left leg, right ankle, left elbow (plus MRIs of the spine and brain)
(Y) Yummy Food You Make: cookies and cakes, salmon cakes, lasagna, enchiladas....
(Z) Zoo, Favorite Animal: Tiger

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Survey says...

done for this month.

Coming up roses

It's been rainy, dusty, windy today. I went out with my friend M for some mall walking (shopping) and lunch. I think my DH wanted me to cancel to do something else, but the timing (weather) worked out better that I didn't cancel.

When I got home, we went to Baker Nursery. I was nervous about dragging him and his parents all the way to Baker, but it's one of the oldest nurseries in the Valley. It's near my office and I love it! The rain had stopped when we arrived, but we found out they had some serious weather earlier. We checked out the roses and picked out our 6 hybrid tea (HT) and 5 grandiflora (GF) roses. My MIL and FIL picked out a rose for their garden as well as some zucchini seeds. We asked about planting the roses and got an earful of useful information. We bought 3 bags of Forest Magic (compost mulch) and a bag of pelletized gypsum to use for the 11 roses.

I thought it was too late to plant them when we got home, but M disagreed. We were able to plant the three GF on the southeast side of the yard (right side as you drive into the paved driveway).  They are Cherry Parfait (closest to the road), Sonia, and Ch-ching (closest to the house).

Friday, February 18, 2011


Dr. C called to give me Cassi's test results. She has "clean borders--more than a centimeter is unaffected." That was the good news. The bad news is that the tests showed "grade 2--the middle ground" that we previously discussed. According to the pathologist, the growth is not highly aggressive, nor is it necessarily benign.

Our options are to consult with an oncologist or to watch for recurrence, probably in the same vicinity. I talked to M briefly but he didn't seem to understand anything I said. I think I'll wait until I get her staples out and talk to Dr. C about it again. And maybe have M talk to her as well.

She also said that Cassi would probably be okay to do agility soon afterwards--she doesn't have any restrictions once the staples come out. That's good news since the trial secretary says that AKC doesn't have a provision for pulling her entry, meaning that I can NOT run her and NOT get my money back. The other trial secretary (for next weekend, the earlier--not AKC--trial) said she can pull the entry for medical reasons. What a relief.

Valley Fever Seminar

I attended a Valley Fever Seminar presented by a vet.  I was going to put my notes here, but they are pretty extensive.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


A friend of mine has been taking Tysabri and had some issues with her insurance a while ago. And then the news come out (see the first bullet point).

Today was her return to Tysabri--she had her infusion. It makes me nervous, but she's had a lot of success with it, so I cross my fingers for her continued success.


I get a lot of information through my computer. I often come across something I want to read but not while I'm in the middle of something else. (Okay, probably 3 something elses!) When my dear hubby, M, uses my computer, it drives him crazy to see all the tabs open, waiting for me to read them.

My DH has been a critical support for me while we deal with this whole MS thing. However, he doesn't have MS and sometimes, like me, doesn't deal well with it. Sometimes, like me, he acts like I don't have it--just go, get it done, don't complain, go, go, go, you can do it. I appreciate that his pushing prevents me from using MS as an excuse to be a slacker (which I secretly am or want to be). Sometimes, he makes comments that make me realize how much he doesn't get it. And then he turns around and expresses his thoughts like he got them from my head!

When we first started hearing about CCSVI and the Liberation Treatment, he made a comment about how so many people with MS are so desperate, they will try anything, even if it's dangerous or doesn't work. I know he's concerned about ME trying something dangerous or getting my hopes up about something that doesn't work. But I remember feeling that he just doesn't get IT--the uncertainty about the future, the lack of control, the skepticism of the medical profession. Okay, that last one, I'm pretty sure he gets--he knows that there is no profit in a cure, at least not in comparison with the profit in drugs.

I've had a few tabs open this week about CCSVI information I wanted to read. A friend of mine had the procedure done this week so I have been more interested than I might be otherwise. (I can't get the treatment done while I am in my Alemtuzamab drug trial.) While I was making dinner, M saw that I had a tab open to a video of a TV report, so he watched it and I listened.

We talked about it afterwards, and I think he seemed almost excited about the treatment and the fact that someone is looking at MS in a different way--what causes it or what is a treatable symptom of it. I reminded him that MS societies in the US and Canada are reluctantly starting to research the treatment and going about it in a way that will take a decade or more to approve (if appropriate) this testing as a standard for MS patients. He acknowledged that he knows I have this constant worry about what might happen to me--and it's a huge stress. My friend is at a stage I have not experienced with my MS. I am thankful for my blesssings, but I hope and pray that I do not progress to some of the stages I have seen others experience with their MS. And I hope and pray that my friend's treatment is a huge success.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Agility class

We skipped class last night since Cassi can't go due to her surgery and M wanted me to go with him to the HOA meeting where they would be discussing the fee increase.

Tonight, I decided to take Teka to class. It was course night--a jumpers with weaves course. The weaves were after 5 jumps in an arc. Teka missed her entry EVERY time. Once she got started, she was quick and completed them. AND I did a front cross at the end of the weaves in front of her and she didn't pull out or freak out! The course included a tunnel rear cross from the right; coming out, going around (out) to a come over a jump and continue on--very similar to what we did in one of our recent exercises. Teka did really well (but I did go in quite a bit near the jump) although she did hesitate going in once so I had to really tell her to go in the tunnel while I moved forward on the right and then pulled back to go around on the left. sigh.

After that, she picked up speed and DISTANCE on the last few jumps which were in an arc and included a switch. It was a great way to end. Since she was missing her weave entry and there were some (6 pole) practice weaves, I took Teka to try them. And she got the entry and completion EVERY time. It didn't matter where we started or what I was doing (mostly), even if I crowded her, which the instructor thought was the issue. Hmmph. The only practice scenario that she had trouble with was when I stayed at the beginning and sent her. She would start, then stop and look at me, and then continue when I told her to go on, finish. But she did just fine if I moved away. Pretty cool--she's made a lot of progress.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I took Cassi to the vet this morning. I talked to Dr. C briefly and then left Cassi with her; I went to the office. I called around lunchtime to see how Cassi was doing (is she ready to go yet?) and talked to Dr. C. Cassi was just coming out of her anesthetic so they wanted to keep her a couple more hours.

Cassi's bloodwork was normal. They removed the mast cell tumor and some extra skin around the margin, just in case it isn't benign. They will send it for testing. They also burned 3 very small fatty tumors off with a laser. They cleaned her teeth; Dr. C said they are in great shape and they gave me the "special" pricing that is starting next week. (They do it several times a year, but I never do it since I don't want to put my dogs under more than necessary.) They also trimmed her nails--yay! They gave her a pain medicine by injection.

I can give her Ascriptin if she seems to be in pain. The staples are in an area that Dr. C thought might not require a cone, so we will just need to watch how she acts. The stitches come out in two weeks. That is after the next agility trial she is already entered in, so I need to think about that and see if we need to pull our entry. I could just take Teka, but maybe they would let me pull both entries.

Since Cassi's bloodwork was normal, I will wait for the results of the lab test on the growth that was removed. If she doesn't start gaining some weight, I wonder if we'll have to do a Valley Fever test. *sigh*

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cassi's test results

Dr. C called to let me know that Cassi's test results came back. The large, flat area is a lypoma and there is no concern or action regarding the lypoma. The smaller firmer, protuding bump is a mast cell tumor. This could be benign or can aggressively mastecize to other areas. Because of the unknown nature of the tumor, we are going to get the growth removed. It will then be tested, but the results may or may not be conclusive.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lump on Jill

My beautiful but moody scaredy cat, Jill, has a growth on her face. It has been there for a while. (see photo below from early December.) I've been watching it and it hasn't changed. Well, until I wasn't watching. Friends were at the house, and K tells me that Jill's lump got HUGE. So we look at it (before Jill runs off), and it is probably double the original size. It looks uncomfortable. She tries to keep me from looking at it or touching it.
K also pointed out that Jill's ears are red. We know this is a recurring ear infection due to her allergy to life. Well, I guess it's not recurring if it never goes away--it's just a constant ear infection. So I need to chase her around to give her ear drops a little more often. Jill kind of runs when she sees me coming, and as I explained to K when she commented, I've been giving Jill these ear drops for YEARS, and she hates it. And I hate it too!

So now the dilemna. Jill is no longer using the litter box, but mostly using the puppy pads. She has missed a couple times recently that we know of--once in my (carpeted) closet and once on the dog bed she was laying on in M's office. In addition, she is vomiting hair balls and we don't know how often since we have dogs. (Figure that one out? ewww!) M is against shutting her off in one of the bathrooms, like we did for a month at our previous house when she had constant diarrhea. Now, like then, the question becomes, do we put her to sleep or keep working at it? Surprisingly, M thinks that she feels fine and we should not consider putting her down yet. But he is concerned that thing on her face is going to explode. I think we (I) need to get her into a new vet near the new house to see what they think. We are not willing to spend a lot of money on an 18 year old cat, but we will have to spend some to make a decision.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

MS in Australia

This "blog" has some good explanations and funny stories of one guy's experience with MS in Australia. I say "blog" because it looks more like a website than a blog to me. His experience is much different from mine. But it's cool anyway. Here's an example from the Home page:

Apparently some people see MS as an abbreviation for the Microsoft Corporation. It is very easy to tell them apart. One is a debilitating and widespread affliction that renders the sufferer barely able to perform the simplest task. The other is a disease.

Scrapbooking and Starbucks

I registered for an all day (9 to 9) scrapbooking event before my DH committed us to a charity dinner on the same day.  All my scrapbooking gals backed out but I went anyway so I could get one of my albums near-done.  (plus I had paid and couldn't get a refund)  I forgot that we stopped doing the event at the Phoenix Civic Center because it has some logistical issues.  I did get a reminder the week before that parking was not super-close, so I trimmed my supplies to the least amount I thought I could "carry" in my rolling cart.

I also got a reminder that no outside food is allowed, but they have something there.  I did not get a notice that some huge cheerleading competition was also happening.  Or that the "cafe" only had junk food.  So I left to look for lunch.  My phone's Navigator found a Paradise Bakery, which I eventually found.  As many others who found it, I stood there a minute in disbelief.  It was closed.

I wandered around, looking for something light/small to hold me over till dinner.  I eventually found a Starbucks and had a latte and perfect oatmeal.  The toppings for the oatmeal came in a paper bag that said this:

flavors my senses
sweetens my disposition
stirs my imagination
nourishes my dreams

I think that should be apply to everything we eat!  (and it was really good.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

My butter won't catch fire!

Flame retardants have been found in varying amounts in butter. It is thought to come from the packaging. Of course, the FDA says it is still very minimal. The minimal amount is not what I want to hear about. What I want to know is what are they going to do to determine the source and to eliminate it?

The research is further evidence of why the Food and Drug Administration “should do a better job of studying how food is contaminated with PBDEs and other chemical pollutants.”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vet visit

I made an appointment for Cassi to go to the vet because she is looking very thin since being sick from her bug bite and also because A commented on her concern about the fatty tumor on Cassi's side. Cassi's weight today was just over 51 pounds, which is 5 pounds less than her last visit a few months ago. We saw Dr. C and she took some samples from the two fatty tumors Cassi has. The one bump on the side was the one she said she got some fluid from; the other, flatter one, Dr. C said is definitely a lipoma and she was not all that concerned but we will send it to the lab just to be sure. We should hear back next week. Because of the weight loss, she suggested that we could also do blood work but we decided to wait until the results of the lump labs.

Since I had agility class nearby later, I brought Teka with me and Cassi, and we went to my work office for a couple of hours. In agility class, I mentioned that Cassi was moving like molasses at the trial on Sunday and D suggested giving the dogs either molasses or honey before running them--like us having a protein bar. Interesting suggestion. I was already thinking of giving Cassi some molasses (ingredient in fatballs) to try to get more weight on her.

Agility class

Tonight was the first class that Cassi and Teka had together that wasn't a course night. We were grouped with two other dogs, so I went with Cassi, then one of them went, then I went with Teka, then the other one went, and so on. Wow, I'm glad I was feeling well. If I did this more often, I wouldn't need a gym membership. Oh wait, I don't have one!

Our first exercise was a pinwheel. Essentially, there are 4 jumps in an arch, with another 4 mirroring the first 4; in between is one straight jump. Without the last jump, the dog would make a figure 8. Because of the last jump, there is a front cross; otherwise, we're working on out, leaving the arm out. It's a distance exercise, with the goal of me not going out with the dog, just turning in the arch. It worked pretty well for Cassi once I figured out what I was doing (and we were able to do it both directions) but Teka had more trouble. I had to go further with her, which put me in the wrong place for her front crosses. This was a lot of fun and could easily be done at home if I had nine (any) jumps.

Next we a sequence with two jumps on each side of a tunnel. After the first two jumps, the dogs had to take a sharp right into the tunnel. We practiced this as a front cross, rear cross, and no cross. Coming out of the tunnel, they had to make a sharp left over a jump to the last jump. If a cross had been chosen at the tunnel entrance, the dog had to go "out" to come over the jump. This was very difficult for Teka. For the rear cross, we were to call the dog while they are in the tunnel--but I called Cassi too soon and she came back out. This exercise was also one we could do backwards.

The last sequence was 5 jumps leading to weaves. The first two were lined up normally, with the third moved to the left ("out") and then turn right to the fourth and then right again to the fifth. However, the dogs had to go out and then come over the fifth--and of course, they wanted to go over from this side. When they went out and came over the jump, they took a left into the weaves. Cassi did great on her weaves. And Teka did FANTASTIC on her weaves. I think they were the best weaves I've seen her do. She was quick and excited and got her entry and completed them. What a great way to end!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


During Teka's class, D answered some questions about rules for AKC Excellent A and B levels, which are quite different from Novice A and B levels. In Novice, A is only for a handler AND dog who have no agility titles. Once that threshold is crossed, the handler is in B, never to enter A again. In Excellent, all dogs go through the A level, and once completed, start the B level. There is a little more to it and the rules for Excellent titling can be found on page 25 of the rule book.

She also talked a little about USDAA pairs. She wasn't as sure of her knowledge of the rules, but essentially, titles can be obtained without getting a lot of pairs titles. Moving into Advanced (P2) can potentially be done with only one Starter (P1) Pairs Q, along with the 3 Qs for each of the other classes (Standard, Gamblers, Snooker, and Jumpers.) She did say that I should consider doing lots of pairs with Teka at the Starter (P1) level since she will need more Pairs Qs when she gets to Master (P3) level. She thought the other instructor, A, would be able to help me find appropriate (under control) P1 dogs to run with.

Our first sequence was channel weaves with a tunnel directly out from one end, a jump to the left of each end, and an angled jump to the other end away from the tunnel. The second sequence was 2 jumps in an arc into the weave-o-matic weaves, to the left going into the far end of the tunnel, coming out to a jump on the other side of the weaves, to a parallel set of 6 weaves, over a jump, back into the first set of weaves, into the near end of the tunnel to the left, and back into the weaves. Last, we worked on the 4 pole weave entry. Teka had fun and did pretty well.

Contact 301

Cassi worked first on the raised contact board. We worked on treating only for 3 or 4 feet. The trick is to treat VERY QUICKLY to prevent her spazzing out.

Next we worked on the dog walk, which was low. She is running across, with a pouch at about 4 feet to increase her speed.

Then we worked on the teeter, also low, running across, and pouch at about 4 feet. She is doing really well on this!

The next exercise was the table with a teeter plank coming off one side. Cassi is not as far as most of the others in the class. We're only using the end of the plank, with a pole set close by one corner or the other, so she learns to go onto the board straight. She gets a QUICK treat as soon as she has 2 feet on. D actually had to put a gate on the opposite side to keep Cassi from keeping her back end (butt) from swaying out to the side. Eventually her back end has to go onto the board right behind her front end!

The last thing was the Aframe. We're still at the black notch (very low) and she is now running across, with a pouch at about 3 1/2 feet.

She is improving as we are moving up on most of the exercises next time.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Although titled in a slightly misleading way, An Author Escapes From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (should say "by writing") is a lovely interview about Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken. As she describes, the fatigue of CFS is not what is sounds like. After reading the interview, I read some of the comments and one led to this autobiographical article written by Ms. Hillenbrand.

She says about one of her doctors, "My problem, he said gravely, was not in my body but in my mind; the test results proved it. He told me to see a psychiatrist." Wow, how many doctors are out there that think that pain is a mental health issue? The more I know of chronically ill people and their doctors, the more disgusted with doctors I become. One of the commenters says "I was also embarrassed about being sick because, after a while, you too begin to think you're a head case & could be healthy if you wanted to be." Yes, sometimes I feel that way--shamed into acting like I am healthy, like I have no choice in the matter.

The commenters who have suggestions of tests or treatments for someone who is suffering with such a horrible disease are well-meaning but perhaps misguided, in my opinion. It is so hard to read about all the things you should do and tests you should try, especially if it's all been done. She has been living with this disease a long time, so maybe there is something new that she hasn't done. But sometimes it gives the rest of us some hypochondria moments. For example, one says that her food poisoning symptoms are the first symptom of Lyme disease; others talk about gluten allergies or intollerance. I had food poisoning within the first year after my car accident and started having fatigue issues (that I didn't recognize) sometime, I don't know when, after that. And my food poisoning was weird, nothing like what I have heard from anyone else. But my MS symptoms have been fairly clear for me to recognize other than fatigue. So am I to get tested for Lyme disease? I don't think so. Although I am becoming a little paranoid about the gluten, soy, dairy, egg issues being thrown into discussions of every disease now.

The article is worth reading--don't let the length dissuade you. I agree with her husband (in the interview) who thinks she should write her own story. It is a beautiful story of suffering and coping and love.

In Defense of Food

I returned the audiobook "In Defense of Food" (by Michael Pollen) to the library.  The book explains how what we eat is not food and how we eat is not really eating.  I thought it was extremely interesting to hear about the history of food regulation and how we got to this point in history, when products like Lucky Charms can make health claims.  I heard a couple of things I might question or disregard (and don't remember now--a disadvantage of listening instead of reading a book), but overall, I think he is right on the mark.  I RECOMMEND this book!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Contact Zonies USDAA Agility Trial

Teka got her second official measurement at exactly 21 inches. (We want 21 inches or lower; her first official measurement was 20 and a quarter inches.) She needs one more to get her official card and then I won't have to worry about being at USDAA trials super-early for the measurement.

Our first course was the P1 Gamblers. I tried to walk it with a lot of "what-if's" since the opening is all for points and getting in position for the closing. (Unlike AKC FAST, the closing cannot start until there is a buzzer; then it must be completed before the second buzzer.) Teka was working with me but I felt like I was urging her along. When we started the closing, I was concerned (as everyone else was with their dogs too) that she would go out to the teeter instead of staying closer for the jump. So I called here and she came in too far, missing the jump. So we did not get our Gamble.

Cassi started out well but went over a jump I sent her over and the judge called zero--and mentally, I think I was thinking about that, but later found out it was not bi-directional. He had not said anything about it in our briefing, so everyone was doing the same thing I did. We went on but got done with my planned course before the buzzer, so I fumbled for something to keep Cassi going without heading into the closing. During my hesitation, she headed to the Aframe, so when the buzzer went off she was at the top and headed in the wrong direction. I panicked a little (a lot?!) and got it in my head that I needed her on my right but couldn't get her there, so we wasted some time. She almost went to the teeter but came in and did all four jumps in the closing. Unfortunately, we were over time.

On our P1 Standard course, I felt like I was cheerleading Teka through every single thing (this is a trend for the day). She missed her weave entry, then I changed sides and she popped out at the last one, and then completed it on the third try. She completed the course, over time.

Cassi also missed her weave entry and it wasn't even a hard entry. She did everything else but she seemed to be in slow motion (this was all day really). There was a long pause before she decided to go through the tire jump. (I just stood there in one place and tried to support her without moving.) Her teeter was pretty slow, not at all what I was hoping for but she did it. Cassi ended over time.

I walked the P1 Snooker course and looked for the best flow I could find for both Teka and Cassi. Since they were both moving in slow motion today, I was able to get them through without taking any extra obstacles, and I remembered to run off the course after the last obstacle, so they both qualified. That completed Cassi's P1 Snooker title.

I was a little frazzled at the end of the day since I had P1 Jumpers with Teka and P2 Jumpers with Cassi. I walked Teka's course while they were setting up Cassi's course. They started walking in the other ring while Teka's group was running. I let A (the instructor from my TNC class) have Teka and the cream cheese while I walked Cassi's course. Then I came back and ran with Teka. I came out of that run feeling like she made me work for every jump out there. She did it but she was over time. A said that I should do more front crosses to build her desire (?) but I couldn't see how I would do it with the hand-holding I had to do for her. It was a draining way to end with Teka for the day, but I stayed positive for her and gave her "good girl" treats.

I ran with Cassi a very short time later (there were only 11 dogs for her class) and I was concerned that I would forget where I was going. Actually, since she was going so slow, that wasn't an issue. However, she almost missed a jump, and she went around one so we missed time. I thought she made a good effort and I gave her lots of "good girl" treats to end the day.

Overall for the day, I felt that the courses were too difficult for Starters (P1) and the Advanced (P2) course I ran had some funky stuff too. It was so discouraging to have Teka acting like she couldn't do anything herself when we've worked so hard at getting distance and independence. While I don't feel totally responsible for the issues we had, I do think I could have done a couple of things better at least. The only thing I felt I messed up for her was calling "here" instead of "this way" on the Gamble. I am beating myself up about Cassi's Gamble because I could have put her back in a tunnel for no points just to keep her busy and lined up for the gamble and she would have had it. If Cassi was her normal self, I think she would have done better and had more fun. I'm going to get her into the vet and see what they think is going on. She's so skinny since that bug bite. M also said that a lot of people felt their dogs were "off" this weekend and the grass (straw) was not good.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Memory and other MS News

We all know that walking is good for our health. It is good for memory, increasing the volume of the hippocampus--improving spatial memory, even more so than yoga or resistance training. There we are, with another thing we should do....

And in the news:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Trial update

I met N at Sonora for my blood draw. Yep, I was late--I forgot to take the 101 exit (driving on autopilot to work) and then traffic on the north side was really bad. I think it would be best to do these appointments mid-day as much as possible so that I'm coming from work.

The blood draw wasn't bad, and only a couple of tubes. I didn't notice before then, but by the time we got to Hope, I noticed a pain in the back of my right arm, above the elbow. That was the arm of the blood draw, so I asked N to do the blood pressure on the left. Maybe it's just a coincidence--I did do planks during my yoga Wednesday night.

They have put a photo in the lobby at Hope of R and his sister. (R was my care coordinator until he died in Haiti visiting his sister.) Wow, they looked alike. The frame had a bible verse (I don't recall what version), John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (King James Version)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This crazy weather

I took the dogs to A's for the day so that I would not have to drive home to get them before driving all the way back to agility class. And then I got the call--M was home and there was a message that class is cancelled due to the wind and cold. So I left work to get my dogs and go home.

I talked to A for a little bit before leaving her to get ready for her puppy arrival. She thought Cassi looked really thin. I thought it was still from the five days she couldn't keep food down due to whatever bit her (we now think it was a black widow--M found and killed a lot of them on the gate side of the house), but she pointed out that was almost 2 weeks ago. She was also concerned that I have not had Cassi's "fatty tumor" biopsied. She did not want to scare me but thought I should get her in. I have asked about it at least once or twice when she has been in to the vet but she wasn't concerned. However, Teka has been sniffing it occassionally, which does concern me quite a bit.

I mentioned that she is eating and drinking normally, but she does wolf her food down, so I've been interrupting her eating to make her slow down. A gave me one of those food bowls with the knobbies that slow dogs down. She also said that Cassi didn't have any real issues with the kennel. She lets her "boarding dogs" out every 2 hours after she puts her dogs away so they get to know the routine. The only time Cassi acted anxious was when A put her dogs away and then did something else instead of letting her out. They were gated in the back (Arizona or dog?) room when I arrived.

We also talked about Teka's issues, specifically about the dogs visiting at our house, and she felt that we should have just ignored Teka (while muzzled) and played with the other dogs, among other things. If C and R decide to bring the dogs next time, I might ask A to come over and help out. If nothing else, I need a mediator since everyone has an idea of what should be done or what should happen.

We were looking at Teka's muzzle, a size 6, and one of A's muzzles, also a size 6, and noticed hers is bigger. I mentioned that I have a size 7 that I never got around to returning. She said she could probably use it, so I'm going to let her have it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Weave 201B

Teka's class did 3 sequences tonight. The first one was a long straight tunnel to a curved tunnel to weaves (parallel to the long tunnel). From the weaves, we did a front cross to the jump to the right and a 270 (out and around, without sending over another jump to the right) to another jump, lining up perfectly to go back into the weaves. From the weaves, back into the curved tunnel, calling in to a jump in the center-ish leading back into the weaves, bringing over the jump to the right and serpentine to the last jump, further out to the right. There was only one set of weaves for this sequence, but used 3 times. The first time through was essentially the same as the weaves course that we just flubbed. (Is that a word or did I create it?!) My partner, N, said I should have stayed with Teka to the end, but the instructor, A, said that we need to work on "independent completion." Whoo-hoo, that's what I thought when M told me I pulled Teka out of the weaves--she is supposed to finish them once she starts, no matter what I'm doing. A told me to work on it at home by moving out while she is doing the weaves. She said I could put a treat pouch out at the end.

The second sequence was an entry practice exercise. We did a 4 pole, left to a 4 pole, sharper left to a 6 pole, angled back to the first 4 pole, right out to a jump and wrap back to the original weaves but going the opposite way, to the 6 pole, out to a jump on the left, with a wrap back to the second 4 pole (again not the original direction), and to the first 4 pole. Teka did great on all the entries.

The last sequence only had the 3 pole, surrounded by jumps, to practice entries, but we also were able to practice wraps. For some reason, Teka had trouble with one of the entries and it was only slightly off perfect alignment. Once she got it though, she got it all.

Contact Class

I was late and Cassi did not have a partner tonight. We worked first on the "self correction" exercise--a low table with a plank coming off it. At the end, a pole (in a little concrete bucket type thing) is placed for her to go around and find the up-contact. We only did it with the pole very close to the end but we did both sides. She was about 80% successful; she wanted to go onto the plank as much as possible without going around.

Next we worked on the teeter, which D put at 10 (very low) and we put the treat pouch about 4-5 feet out for her. She did really great--she only hesitated the first time. I used "high value" treats--chicken--for this.

Last we worked on the contact board with D. I am still having trouble with the timing of the clicker and treats. D even has some trouble, commenting about Cassi's crazy behavior. Tonight she mentioned that Cassi moves like she is two different dogs--one is the front end and the other is the back end. We put the contact board up on 2 phone book stacks so she could get the idea of where her feet were going better. As homework, D requested that I work on Cassi's down--without saying down--using a treat in my hand with a closed fist so Cassi sees the knuckles on top. I'm not sure I got it but we'll see.