Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest is the third book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy. These novels should be read (listed to) in order starting with "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played with Fire".

I don't post spoilers on the books I discuss here - and there is no exception for my review of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" - unfortunately there's not a lot I can tell you about this third installment of the trilogy without revealing important plot points of either Dragon Tattoo or Played with Fire. So I'll keep this post brief and limited to a few points.

This audio book is a staggering 20 hours and 20 minutes. That means in total I spent over 55 hours listening to the trilogy - typically when I think about that much content I imagine lots and lots of useless irrelevant content. That just isn't the case with this series. There was a moment in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest that I thought Mr. Larsson was jumping the shark - you'll get there too - probably on the topic of toilets. Yes, toilets. Swedish Toilets. BUT, even as I indulged in that moment of "wow, this should have been caught by his editor WAY before publication" I trusted the characters to work it out and make it relevant - and it was - and it's really GOOD too!

I was unsatisfied by the ending of the "The Girl Who Played with Fire" - the audiobook ended without any closure on any of the plot lines specific to that novel and it was incredibly frustrating. I understand that the print publication of Played with Fire contains the first few chapters of Hornet's Nest which cleans things up considerably. I am totally satisfied with the end of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" though and there's an opening for a 4th novel if Larsson's widow decides to finish and publish his partial manuscript posthumously - but it's not necessary.

Lastly, if you haven't started the series - do so. Yes it can be a very intense read. This is not a light and fluffy story of bad girl goes good. There's a fair dose of brutality, some abuse and some moments where I squirmed with discomfort, but these scenes aren't overly so and they aren't exaggerated without making a point.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest was released to Audible on May 24th, 2010 by Random House Audio and has a run time of 20 hours and 20 minutes. The entire Stieg Larrson series was narrated by Simon Vance.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Intro to Agility III - August 26th, 2010

The sequence we worked tonight:

Agility Skills - Thursday August 26th, 2010

The Sequence from tonight's Agility Skills/Advanced Agility/Agility Sequencing class (I don't know what we're really calling it these days!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Sequencing - August 24th, 2010

The course for tonight's Summer Sequencing class:

Update (Aug 24th @ 8:30pm): The discussion of working some of these bits and pieces the other direction? Here's the mirror image of the sequence. Mind Freak right?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Two new pics of the boys...

August 23rd, 2010: Murphy (left) and Teller relaxing at home.

Murph lost interest in portraiture and went off to do other things. Teller watches.

Vermont can be a beautiful place.

Some pictures from our recent travels:

5am sunrise over Mount Mansfield:

Camels Hump from Richmond, VT

Camels Hump from Richmond, VT

View of the Mansfield ridge-line from Hyde Park,  near Morrisville, VT

I may need a reminder of these pictures come January when there is 3' of snow on the ground and night-time temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill of minus 30...Just sayin'

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bath and groomed....

Lucky boys had a photo shoot this afternoon so both boys got baths and trims this morning....They clean up pretty well I think!



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Intro to Agility III - August 19th, 2010

The sequences from tonight's class:

Agility Skills - Thursday August 19th, 2010

The sequence for tonight's Agility Skills class:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An apple a day....

I've said it before, I've emphasized it in class - we don't get to choose the things that are reinforcing to our dogs. Just because YOU think something is wonderful, fantastic and tasty, that's no guarantee that your dog will find it even remotely pleasing. We have to listen to our dogs - they'll tell us.

So Teller and I are re-working his teeter. My goal is to rebuild his confidence on the obstacle regardless of variables (surfaces, weight, etc). To that end, we've been doing three teeter sessions a day this week. I've dragged my teeter all over my front and back yards - on the concrete walkway, on the grass, tarp under the teeter, covered by a tarp, weighted by a brick, covered by a towel, sprinkled with leaves, etc. I'm pretty sure my neighbors think that I've completely lost my mind!

All of this is going pretty well. The first few times I changed things I was able to reproduce the confidence issues. Teller bailed a few times and froze a couple of times - but he got over it. And hit the teeter the next time confidently. The idea is that the teeter is what it is, teeters might be different, but trust me not to put you on something that is going to hurt you. Lots and lots of patience right now and a measure of creativity! After this morning's teeter session I picked a particularly delicious looking apple off my apple tree (still seems early for APPLES!!!) and offered one to Teller. When we got back in the house I cut up his apple and divvied up the pieces between Teller and Murphy. I don't think I realized that they liked apples - particularly these apples which are pretty tart.

Anyhow, back to the subject at hand...I was throwing one of Teller's woollies (as I call them) from A Cheerful Pet, as reinforcement for bounding over the teeter. Bang, "get it"! After the third "get it!" he launched into the air and grabbed an apple off the tree.. You want an apple Teller-Woo? So I put the ringzee away and traded cheese for the apple and the next half a dozen reps were for "the apple". Let's see, fun (for me) toy? Or retrieves and teeters for apples? Woo apparently chooses the apple. Message received, I'll start picking more apples I think we can store them safely in the basement for treats all winter long Woo.

New Pool Toys: Duck and Gator from "Chuck-It"

Our friends at Chuck-It sent us a couple of samples last week from their upcoming line of new toys. I'm behind in my posting so it's taken a bit for me to process the pictures and post my (our) review of the new toys. First of all here's what showed up on our doorstep: One large chuck-it stick (with large tennis ball), one large rubber Chuck-It ball, one large Chuck-It Duck and one large Chuck-It Gator (though I'm not sure if Chuck-It Duck and Chuck-It Alligator come in smaller sizes). Up until this point we've always used the shorter arm and smaller chuck-it balls. Teller likes the "whistler balls" for his runs at the school.

Part dog-toy, part weeble, Chuck-It Duck and Chuck-It Gator wobble but do not fall down! I have to admit that from a cuteness factor I actually considered not letting the dogs play with "duck". I love the little rubber orange feet!

The duck even looks cute in the chuck-it arm!

Here's Gator!

Chuck-It Gator looks terrifying in the water.....You can run, but you cannot hide. The Gator is like Chuck Norris. Don't mess with the Gator. Chuck-It knows when you're sleeping, Chuck-It Gator knows if you've been bad or good. Chuck-It Gator is always watching.

Chuck-It Duckie bobs on the surface with his tail in the air.

The heatwave had finally broke so I packed gator, duck and the new chuck-it arm and headed off to the school to play with the dogs. I haven't used the large chuck-its before so I'm not sure if it was the size of the arm, the heft of the larger object or the aerodynamic properties of Duck and Gator, but I wasn't able to get a lot of distance on the throws. When we're in an open place with the medium chuck-it arm and whistler "tennis" balls I can get about 250' on each throw. I don't think I was able to heave the Duck or Gator further than 50' or so even with the longer arm. I ended up going back to the van and grabbing our usual chuck-it and whistler balls.

The real fun though happened when we got back home and the boys hit the pool. As you can see (above) both Gator and Duck float above the water. Many of my complaints about some of the other "water toys" including regular tennis balls is that they're really hard for dogs to see in the water. Yes, they float - but they're right on or just below the surface of the water.

One of my dogs' favorite pool toys is the "flying fish" from Ruff Dawg. Yes it floats, yes it's fun to throw, but when you have a dog that marks the landing of the fish, swims out there, gets within 5' of it and still can't see it, my concern is the dog that won't ever find it and also won't stop looking for it. This is not the case with Duck and Gator. Gator bobs on the surface, it's "chin" hitting the water - high visibility orange against the surface of the water is easy to see even at a long distance. When I threw Duck I was happy to see a similar effect. Chuck-It Duck's fanny waved back and forth in the water current - both keeping the dog's interest and helping them find the object at a distance.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer Sequencing - August 17th, 2010

The course from tonight's Summer Sequencing class - super FUN course tonight!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tartan Gordon Setter Club AKC Trial

Back down to Amherst for the Tartan Gordon Setter trial. Mr Teller saw a bunch of teeters this week and I was hoping we'd worked through our teeter issues - no dice, so we're back to the drawing board. I'm going to rubberize my teeter this week with hopes that will help. He knows the obstacle, I've just got to rebuild his confidence! He's got a couple of weeks off, an appointment with a chiropractor tomorrow and an upcoming glamor photoshoot so he'll be plenty busy!

Mr JWW was 50% this weekend - Saturdays JWW course just wasn't a good run for us - Teller had a wrong course tunnel and a wrong course jump that I just didn't handle well. Sundays JWW course was right up Teller's alley (perhaps MY alley) and we put in a nice run - though somewhat slower than our usual JWW though, but finished with another 4 points...

Packing and organizing...

So the van has been christened "Vanessa" (get it? VAN-Essa) and we've been on our first (relatively short) road trip to trial. I have to say that the concept of a van is growing on me. With absolutely NO thought or planning I loaded all of my usual trial gear with tons of room still left over. I'm still hauling two 36" Noz Crates for setup inside the trial building, a rubbermaid tub of misc road gear (tarps, shade cloths, bungees, alligator clips, cool coats, extra leashes, fans, etc), an overnight bag for myself, one for the dogs, a cooler and a laptop.

All of this gear takes up less than half of the backseat - I could actually bring along some passengers (and a third or fourth dog)!

Friday, August 13, 2010

On da grain again....

Just can't wait to get on the grain again...The carbs I love are the noodles in my bowl - I can't wait to get on the grains again....{end cheesy Willie Nelson song parody}

So I did it. After six months of (mostly) grain and gluten free living my boys are regularly eating grains and grainy carbohydrates again. I've been most recently feeding a combination of Bravo, Honest Kitchen's Embark and Sojo's Complete supplemented with whatever additional proteins I could get my paws on - ground turkey, raw eggs, fish filets and all of the fresh in-season veggies I could carry home from the farmers' market. I was also adding a dab of coconut oil to the morning meal for both dogs - one of our favorite summer supplements actually.

The problem was Teller - with all of his swimming, training, exuberance and Teller-isms I just couldn't keep weight on him - I'd bump him up some more and he'd look really good for a few days - and by really good I mean he was lean, heavily muscled, I could feel his ribs but couldn't see his ribs...in other words he was really fit at an agility weight (which does seem to translate to "pet" emaciated most of the time). Just a few days later he'd  be looking and feeling skinny again (Starvin' Marvin) so I'd increase his food a bit more.

On an average day in July when he wasn't trialing or training (but still got out for a couple of swims and a run) he was eating  three or four meals a day spread out around all of his daily activities (I don't feed them for 2 hours prior to exercise or an hour afterwards). Each meal about 2lbs of either the Bravo (Turkey formula), Embark (Honest Kitchen) or the Sojo Complete (also Turkey formula). Teller was eating me out of house and home and he was still having skinny days and weeks. I couldn't up his food any more for many reasons - mostly because more food made a VERY sick Teller-Woo.

So out of desperation I cooked up a huge pot of elbow macaroni (don't worry folks it was the healthy Barilla PLUS+ elbows) and started carbo-loading him once a day. I tossed the pasta in coconut oil to keep it moist in the fridge (one box of macaroni feeds Murphy and Teller for about 5 days).

Within a week Teller's weight stabilized! The next week I was able to cut him back to two smaller meals a day and now (a few weeks later) he's eating a much more reasonable 2lbs of raw/dehydrated raw a day (plus eggs, veggies, etc) and maintaining. He's still Mr. "Zero Percent Body Fat" though.

Murphy generally eats what Teller eats - so while he's not thrilled about being "down" to 2 meals a day right now, he is happy with his share of the carbs too - Murphy's food seeking behavior has decreased significantly... I shall not soon forget the morning I pull out of the driveway at 4am on the way to a dog show, get on the highway, reach into my bag for breakfast only to discover that SOMEONE ate my blueberry muffin without even disturbing the paper wrapping. Ahhh-hem.

I don't think that all dogs need grains - but I think that some dogs do feel better on some amount of carbohydrate loaded grains in proportion to the proteins that they're eating - and I don't think it has to be pasta - there are lots of good and healthy grain options to supplement with - oatmeal, qinoa, barley, etc.

Let me add a caveat: I'm not advocating feeding commercial (or otherwise) kibbles with grains - I wouldn't feed any dog a food that contained corn filler or corn by-products and I'm not at all encouraged by the increasing amounts of wheat as a binder and filler in the bags of dog food sold by the big guys. However, I can say that I really tried to feed gluten and grain free this summer and I couldn't do it any more...maybe if Teller wasn't intact, maybe if he wasn't as active as he is, maybe if he was a little less fit right now. Murphy maintained beautifully grain and gluten free - both dogs have absolutely fantastic coats right now and even Murphy has been pretty peppy even with our hot and humid summer. Its all a balancing act for sure!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Agility Skills - Thursday August 12th, 2010

The lung-busting sequence from tonights Skills/Sequencing class:

Monday, August 09, 2010

ACNH - August 7-8, 2010

Murphy, Teller and I trekked down to the ACNH trial this weekend - two gawd awful early mornings! I love the ACNH trials: fun peeps, super light vibe around the entire trial, lots of laughter, cheering and the air conditioning :-) Ahhhhh, It was great to be COLD this weekend - Teller and I both appreciate playing agility while we're COLD!

Two more JWW legs for Teller (and I think about 12 points). We're in fall-out mode right now after the rubber teeter at the GMGRC trial - we've got some fixing to do - overall I have a plan. Not sure yet what that means for the rest of our season though - it does mean that someone (me) is investing in a rubber teeter skin for my teeter.Teller can be surface sensitive - he's odd about his feet (all around - he hates having his nails trimmed every week). In agility, he runs slower on footing he doesn't trust and he moves out on footing he's happy on (he particularly likes the footing at American K9 Country). Teller knows his job, he likes his job but he doesn't like it when the rules change. He wasn't thrilled about ping-ponging between 20" and 24" weaves and he doesn't like going back and forth between rubber and sand teeters. So my job is to make both surfaces part of his resume experience :-)

I love the moment at the end (Sunday JWW run) when the leash runner is depositing Teller's leash in the basket as he's coming over the last jump - she's not quite sure if Teller is going to stop before he crashes into her - don't worry - he does stop :-)

On another note - it was fun to watch a one of our agility friends (and our esteemed videographer) finish her first MACH yesterday - A HUGE congratulations to Bee and MACH Dolly!!! All told I think there were five MACH's this weekend - GIANT pink MACH ribbons!!! Well done gang - well done indeed!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Agility Skills - Thursday August 5th, 2010

The sequences from tonight's Agility Skills Class.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Summer Sequencing - August 3rd, 2010

Holy cow! How did we get into August already? Happily we were inside and out of the storm tonight - here's the course from Summer Sequencing..

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Green Mountain Golden Retriever Club AKC agility trial

God I LOVE local trials. Sleep in our own bed, hang with our local agility friends and even with a long day we get home at a (more or less) reasonable hour. It's amazing!

Teller had three super JWW runs adding two more MXJ legs (#19 and #20) - it would have been three but for a botched front cross that was as usual 110% my fault. Standard runs were all over the place - he doesn't like the rubber teeter - I've got to get him on some more rubber contacts and I may very well be rubberizing my teeter at home in the VERY near future.

Murphy the gimp...

So I had a little scare with Murphy this weekend...I came home Thursday afternoon - in time to quickly swim the dogs, pack the VAN (still getting used to that) for the trial weekend, run out to Shelburne to setup their crates, then back to Williston to teach my Thursday night classes. When I got home though I found a very limpy gimpy Murphy - right front leg. No heat, no swelling - some weight bearing, but moments of walking on eggshells. Of course I went into complete worry mode (because that's what I do). Left him home Thursday night (he doesn't like that), rested him, gave him a bit of anti-inflammatory and some Arnica and hoped for the best. He was better Friday morning (but still got left home) and by the time I got home from the trial and over to the vet's office (picking him up along the way) he had already improved to 90% or so. I wouldn't normally take a dog in for minor lameness within 24 hours, but I didn't want to go the whole weekend if there really was a problem (like Lyme - or WORSE). So the end result is that the 4-way snap test (Lyme/HW/Erlichia and Anaplasma) was all negative.

It doesn't help that Murphy does not walk in a straight line - or normally. Murph bounces while he's on leash - usually flicking his front feet all over the place and moving on four different tracks. Sure, he can heel when asked (but not particularly straight)  but his normal mode of locomotion while on leash is up and down and side to side - which makes soundness exams a little tough on the vet!

Anyhow, by Saturday morning he was close to 95% so he got to come to the trial - work the crowds, get some serious public attention, trick food-stuffs from small children and get free hot dogs just for being Murphy.

He's continued to improve and got to have a swim tonight (whew - that's a relief).