Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Training at the Barn - April 30th, 2011

A few of us did a rental at the NOMAD barn today - here's what we setup and ran:


Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Sweet southern hospitality at it's best. Add a dose of magnolias, a peach tree and a 150 year old oak tree and you're in Walls of Water, North Carolina....Ghosts, old society, old money, new money and formal charm...

The Audible Publisher's summary:
The New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

It’s the dubious distinction of 30-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow—no easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes.

But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it. For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water 75 years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.

A suprise listen for me - I had intended to start George R.R.Martin's "A Game of Thrones" this week - something drew me towards The Peach Keeper - quite possibly the cover art and it's placement on the reliable New York Times Bestsellers list. It ended up being my kind of novel - the air of super-natural, old homes, old mysteries - and likable, interesting and compelling characters.

The Peach Keeper is narrated by Karen White - who at times seems to draw out words - as though she is weak and struggling over the story and the words. Which does not really mesh with the narration by the character of Willa Jackson. It's forgivable however and after a couple of hours I didn't notice the narrator's odd style.

The Peach Keeper is definitely a "highly recommend" from Team Magica - I suspect it'll be equally intriguing in novel format as it was as an audiobook. Thanks again to the NYT for another fantastic listen. Now that I've made the discovery, I also intend to one day get back to some of Sarah Addison Allen's previous works - specifically "The Girl Who Chased The Moon" and "The Sugar Queen".

The Peach Keeper was written by Sarah Addison Allen and published by Random House Audio. The Peach Keeper was narrated by Karen White and has an audible release date of March 22, 2011. The Peach Keeper has an unabridged runtime of 7 hours 43 minutes.

A video teaser for the book from Amazon:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

From winter to summer...

Here we are - the 28th of April, it was 85 degrees in my backyard yesterday - only a week ago we had a high (if you can call it that) of 35 degrees. We had a significant snow storm here on April 1st - today I noticed that my lawn really needs to be mowed... The pool is filtering through a winters worth of leaves and algae already - it's spring - time for some outdoor shorts of the boys...By the way, I'm kind of obsessed with the lush green of spring in my yard :-)

April 28th: Teller free-stacking/utility signal/stay :-)
Taken with iPhone 4 - Camera +

April 28th: Murphy working his utility stand/stay.
Not too shabby for a "senior" eh?
Taken with iPhone 4 - Camera +
April 28th: Teller on a sit-stay
Taken with iPhone 4 - Camera +

April 28th: Slow and steady progress for Murphy.
Taken with iPhone 4 - Camera +
And  now for a brief Murphy update: The healing process is slow - and on-going. It was a week ago that Humpty Murphy got sewn back together again. The Monday check-up was good, with any luck, we can keep the stitches and staples in through next Tuesday. His hair is starting to grow back and he's able (under strict supervision) to have his cone off for short periods of time. I'm letting him take himself outside for potties - neither dog actually self-exercises out in the yard anyway - of course supervision is key in these things as well...Murphy is scheduled to finish the last of his antibiotics tomorrow AM.

Time to open the pool!

Well, time to start opening the pool anyway - it was 80 degrees here yesterday, unseasonably warm for April - even the end of April. Opening the pool is almost always cold and wet business - so I decided to seize the day (and the warmth) to get the bulk of the opening over with - it was too hot (too much of a change too quickly) to take Teller for a run last night anyway and Murphy is still on the disabled list. It takes a few days to get the algae filtered and the leaves scooped out. It's usually about a week after the initial opening before the dogs can start their swim season. I inadvertently started the swim season early with a fall into this water. Always frightening when you don't know what's below the surface of the water - oh and it was 45 degrees.

Here's what our pool looked like Wednesday afternoon when I started:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Train to Maintain: The Murphy Syndrome

Oh Murphy. You know I love you - but really - we need to get our act in gear sometimes.

April 27th - Murph STILL in a cone.
Murphy - my "purely positive" dog, Murphy - my CDX dog, Murphy - my canine good citizen and therapy dog. Yes, THAT Murphy can no longer walk nicely on a leash.

Murphy doesn't get a lot of training time - my mistake - my fault. Murphy can walk beautifully on a 6' leash and on a flexi - usually on his comfortflex harness. He walks equally well on a buckle collar or a slip-lead as well. He (generally) stops when I stop and starts when I start. I no longer ask him to heel and I don't expect a halt-sit. So 99% of what Murphy needs to do on a day to day or week to week basis is what he does really well.

Now that he's retired from competition though he doesn't often have to navigate the world on a tight or short leash. He almost never has a slip lead on anymore and plus, he never liked the 'conformation' type placement of a slip lead (high and under the jaw) anyway...

Enter surgery for a mass removal and Murphy HAVING to be on a very short leash for all outings. Murphy on a short leash out for business - Murphy on a tight short leash to keep him from over flexing, bouncing and popping his stitches. It has been a disaster - an unmitigated disaster! On a short leash Murphy went sideways, perpendicular to forward momentum and on at least a couple of occasions: backwards. Murphy bounced, Murphy flailed and Murphy tantrumed...He was very much like a foal learning to walk on a lead after simply following momma for a few weeks. 

So Murphy - once he's fully healed - is going back to school. Behaviors I've taken for granted weren't there when I needed them. My fault - lesson learned. Keep training, keep maintaining. Prevent the Murphy Syndrome!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

I just finished David Baldaci's latest novel "The Sixth Man" and am please to report that it's another winner for Baldacci fans out there. I've always preferred "The Camel Club" series over Baldaci's "King and Maxwell" series - but "The Sixth Man" has me reconsidering that bias.

The Audible Publishers' Summary:
Edgar Roy - an alleged serial killer held in a secure, fortress-like Federal Supermax facility-is awaiting trial. He faces almost certain conviction. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called in by Roy's attorney, Sean's old friend and mentor Ted Bergin, to help work the case. But their investigation is derailed before it begins-en route to their first meeting with Bergin, Sean and Michelle find him murdered.

It is now up to them to ask the questions no one seems to want answered: Is Roy a killer? Who murdered Bergin? With help from some surprising allies, they continue to pursue the case. But the more they dig into Roy's past, the more they encounter obstacles, half-truths, dead-ends, false friends, and escalating threats from every direction. Their persistence puts them on a collision course with the highest levels of the government and the darkest corners of power. In a terrifying confrontation that will push Sean and Michelle to their limits, the duo may be permanently parted.

Secret government agency plus conspiracy plus politics equals classic Baldacci - and why I'm consistently willing to spend a credit for another trip to Baldacci's Washington (and in this case the northern reaches of Maine too). The plot of The Sixth Man is predictable in the end, but it's a fun ride getting there - entertaining, well written and expertly narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy.

If you're already a Baldacci fan (and specifically the King and Maxwell series) you won't be disappointed by The Sixth Man. If you are a fan of Baldacci's Camel Club and haven't started the King and Maxwell series buy (or borrow) the first book in the series "Split Second".  Unlike the Camel Club series I don't think that this series needs to be read sequentially - but I do think that Split Second has a great deal of character development that will make 'The Sixth Man' make a little more sense - at least in the beginning...

The Sixth Man was written by David Baldacci, narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy. The Sixth Man was published by Hachette Audio with an audible release date of April 19th, 2011. The Sixth Man (unabridged) has a run-time of 12 hours 36 minutes. The abridged version of "The Sixth Man" has a run-time of 7 hours 21 minutes (and is narrated exclusively by Ron McLarty). I recommend the unabridged version.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Burlington Obedience Training Club - April 23-24, 2011

Crazy weekend at our "home" show this weekend! Good friends (canine and human), lots of laughter, challenging and fun courses by Jude Valloze, some good runs - some not so good runs and lots of work running around supporting the home show! It was 5am mornings and 10pm nights - not exactly my usual hours of sleep and wake cycles. It's Monday evening and I'm still recovering!!!

Run by run recap:
Saturday Standard - started with a tunnel and as soon as I sent him into the tunnel it really felt like I didn't have a lot of "dog" left. He was hot - which I'm sure is part of the problem - but he just felt slow. He wasn't jumping as carefully as he usually does. When I realized he wasn't going to have momentum for a rear-cross at the weaves - not gracefully anyhow - I left him to put in a front cross and he took a bar. On the video he's WAY close to that jump (180). I don't know - but after this run I was concerned that he was sore or off - I couldn't feel or see anything, so I did decide to run him in JWW. When I looked at the YPS for this run, he wasn't moving as slowly as it felt like he was - maybe I'm just too used to "dirt dawg" Teller :-)

Saturday JWW - Q with a 3rd placement and 8 points.

Sunday Standard - An over-correction to a tunnel-tunnel-tunnel discrimination (yes, two tunnels - three openings in play) cost us a refusal. Nice stopped a-frame though :-) Teller went a bit into over-achiever mode - but overall kept it together a little better.

Sunday JWW - SUPER fast course - smooth run - lots of really good things. A mis-read post-turn at #17 (of 18) caused a back jump and cost us the Q (which likely would have been 2nd place too)...Teller actually went BEHIND me to back jump. We need to see a few more post-turns I suppose :-)

Here's the video:

He really is becoming a dirt-dog - turf is OK - the comfort king matting (like at High Goal Farm) is really good for him, but the Woo runs best when it's cold (and he's cool) and he's got dirt between his feet...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Murphy Update...April 21st.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - ah hell - it's just been a crazy not-very-good week for us this week. Swirling around Murphy's post-surgical complications has been a crazy week on-call with the pager and light coverage at work. On a personal note and more upsetting are two close friends in various levels of crisis, there are sad people, sick people, hurting people
Thursday AM
and I'm unable to impact change for any of them. I'm not the kind of person who does well with things that are out of my control - and that's where I've been living this week. Fly by the seat of your pants, the world is spinning and I can't put my feet on the floor to make it stop.

So for the Murphy update. Things were looking OK this morning. He's had four days on the cipro, the wound was looking better - lots of dried blood but the wound was not hot and not inflamed...

The picture above shows how things looked this AM...

Murphy resting Thursday AM - yes, that's HIS foot over
the top of his lampshade. 
I was up late last night (this morning) working on some servers - so we slept in this morning (to a whopping 6:20am). It's pretty easy to keep Murphy settled so long as we're all in bed. I've had lots of suggestions about trying various soft cones or inflatable collars - but honestly Murphy has the ability to thwart them all - he can flip the softones inside out and he's so bendy he can actually get his leg up and into his size 30 plastic lampshade...

Once we get up it's go go go until breakfast! Murphy was in relative good spirits this morning - he was even able to work on a bit of a cone-free down-stay this morning while waiting for breakfast.

Good stay this morning boys....could you look any more
pathetic if you tried?
Because of my late night server work (and the 6am and 7am pages) I took my time getting ready for work this morning, when I got out of the shower I KNEW something was wrong - VERY WRONG. Murph was in full panic mode galloping back and forth between my dressing room and the kitchen. I come out of the bathroom and there is blood EVERYWHERE! Blood on the floor, blood on Murphy's cone, blood on Q, blood on the refrigerator - you get the idea. So I'm trying to figure out why he's freaking out - and I realize there's a chunk of scabby skin hanging off his hock. I pick up the phone and dial the vet as I'm trying to stabilize Murphy enough to figure out if I could (should) remove the piece that was hanging off... (I did).

Thursday afternoon -
Humpty-Dumpty is back
together again....
So off to the vet and Murphy gets dropped off for the day while they try to clean up and stabilize the wound. A few more stitches, some staples and a lot of crossed fingers that the skin available to close will stay closed...So a groggy Murphy came home, ate dinner and crashed on the sofa. His leg actually looks SO much better all cleaned up and closed. He's up to the Cipro twice a day now - at least through Monday, still on the Vetprohen (Rimadyl) and we added Tramadol three times a day at least through Monday...

I think Teller had his first day home alone ever - I mean the cat was here of course - but I don't think I've ever left him home by himself for more than an hour or so. Looks like everything was fine here and on the way to pick up Murphy I loaded Teller into the van to take him to the school. I'm throwing the ball - with the chuck-it and I see this little boy walking towards us - from 1/2 mile away, then 1/4 mile, then 100' - ummm, he's on an interception course isn't he? I'm on the phone talking to Anita and then suddenly this random boy is 10' away. Holy crap. He squeaks "HIIIIIIIIII GOLDEN RETRIEVER!!!!!" then looks at me (Teller barely holding a stay in heel position) "can I please pat your golden retriever?". Ummm, OK, let me get his collar (Teller wiggles). Let me back up - both my dogs LOVE kids. Like they were genetically programmed to go out and find children to love them. It's kind of freaky - cause (obviously) I don't have children and as a whole, they really don't see and interact with a lot of kids.

Teller and his new friend on the playground.
So the boy pats Teller, Teller enjoys pats - but after four days without a run he's a little bit jeeped - wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.... So I throw the ball a couple of times and then the boy asks "Can I throw the ball for him?" "Sure" I say and I hand him the chuck-it. He throws the ball, Teller retrieves (to me), I put the ball back into the chuck-it, boy throws the ball - repeat - about 100 times. Teller is happy, the boy is delighted because he is SURE that Teller is his new best friend. Now it's time to pack up Woo and head over to the vet to pick up Murphy - what does this random unattended minor do? Bends down and gives Teller a HUGE bear hug and says - very seriously:  "Good bye my new friend. I love you Teller" and he walks away from the direction he came from. OMG, I don't know where this unattended small child came from -it's odd to me that this little boy who seems so sweet and so trusting is by himself on a deserted playground (vacation week). I was hesitant to ask too many questions because I didn't want to set off "Stranger Danger" alarms.

I'm not sure if I'm just physically and mentally exhausted (knowing lots and lots of people have it WAY worse than I do) or if it was just how I was feeling from the rigors of the week - but that hug and moment between the boy and Teller was enough to make me weepy.  Good boy Teller-Woo.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

BossyPants is not usually the kind of book I enjoy - or have any desire to read (or listen to). BUT, I do like Tina Fey (though I do confess to being a LATE convert to 30 Rock) and I needed a less serious, less intense listen. I was hoping that BossyPants would fit that bill...
Tina's father said of this cover: "I hope that's
not really the cover. That's really going to hurt sales

The Audible Publisher's Summary:
         Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update", before "Sarah Palin", Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. 
          She has seen both of those dreams come true. 
         At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon - from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. 
            Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy. 

Includes special, never-before-solicited opinions on breastfeeding, princesses, Photoshop, the electoral process, and Italian rum cake! 

Bossypants is a quasi biography: witty, sarcastic and down to earth. Tina is unbelievably candid and open in her narration - the result is an unvarnished narrative - at times I felt like I was listening to a good friend telling the story of her screwed up childhood friends making nachos at home - and the whole "people under 30 don't remember when you couldn't just make nachos at home". I'm quite sure the hardcover is equally entertaining, but there was something special about hearing the 'story' in her own words - and would recommend anyone considering Bossypants to head over to amazon or audible to download the audiobook instead of buying the hard cover - or - like Tina suggests, buy the audiobook and buy the hardcover and give it to your sister-in-law.

I was three minutes into Bossypants when I started to laugh and spent a good portion of the remaining 5.5 hours giggling, smirking and grinning like a cheshire cat. "Two peanuts were walking down the street - one was a-salted". Ba-bum-bum.  Also from Tina - "By the way, when Oprah Winfrey is suggesting that you have over-extended yourself, you need to examine your "effing" life".

Not only did Bossypants open my eyes a bit on the so-called glamor of hollywood (did you know Tina Fey puts in 80 hour weeks writing and acting in 30 Rock) - I never knew how hard some entertainers worked to juggle so many projects and commitments. Tina works her a$$ off! As I mentioned before - I HIGHLY recommend Bossypants!

 Bossypants written by Tina Fey is also narrated by Tina Fey. Bossypants was published by Hachette Audio and was released on April 5th, 2011. BossyPants has a runtime of 5 hours and 35 minutes - you're going to want to listen to it twice.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Murphy Update - April 18th.

Woe is Murphy.
Another Murphy update - he's now five days post mass-removal...My last update was Friday - there's been some "activity" since then.

The bandage came off on Saturday. Post-surgical instructions were to leave the bandage on 2-3 days if he'd keep it on. He was actually very good about keeping it on and when Saturday dawned and the bandage was still intact I decided to wait until after the NOMAD barn practice to remove it (and assess the situation) so that he wouldn't have to wear a cone in his crate in the van. So when we got home I put him directly up on the grooming table and began to cut the bandage off. As soon as I started I knew it was going to be ugly underneath - and it was. Moist, warm, red and ugly. There was lots of dried blood around the incision site with no evidence of stitches, though it was hard to tell with the entire area swollen.

Saturday Afternoon
Step one, while shielding the incision site, I used some waterless shampoo to get the surrounding area (low hanging feathers) de-gored as I think that was a good chunk of the putrid smell. Some feathers had stuck into the wound from above so those too were cut and cleaned. I flushed the incision site with some hydrogen peroxide. Of course it's Saturday, so my options were 1) watch and wait or 2) hit the ER vet.  After a couple of sanity checks from my peeps and taking his temperature and checking his gums (his mouth seems to be healing as expected by the way - even though he managed to pop THOSE stitches too), I made the decision to wait and watch.

Step two involved putting Murphy in a cone of shame. Yes, I know about (and I own) several alternatives to the plastic lampshade (the soft e-collar, the inflatable e-collar, the no-bite collar) - but none of those work for Murphy. Murphy is - how should I put this - phenomenally bendy. Has been since he was a puppy - it is amazing the things he can do to his body - even now as a seven year old. Yes, my friends, Murphy can get his hind leg in his mouth with one of those no-bite/inflatable collars in about 2.5 seconds. How? I have no idea - but it's impressive.

Sunday Morning
On Sunday morning, Murph's leg looked better...if only a little. Less moist, less red and not hot. Whew! Might we be on the other side of this? I cleaned it twice with hydrogen peroxide, trimmed some more feathers - and kept the cone on all day Sunday. Poor Murph had to ask for water (thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, GLARE) - something I KNOW that he takes for granted these days.

Monday Evening
This morning (Monday) the ugly boo-boo was back - I don't know what happened. It was better and then it was worse. So off to the vet we went this morning....Diagnosis infection (no surprise there), will heal slower now that it's infected and partially open. Murphy is on 12 days of Cipro, a few more days of the Vetprophen (Rimadyl) and a surgical flush 2x day...Oh, and more cone, more pathetic face.

Murph rocking the cone...
Tonight it looked better when I got home from work (left) - not great - but better than this morning. I'm trying to keep Murphy laying down - which is tough as his default behavior is actually a sit - which means he smacks down HARD on that hock every time he sits....

And I feel awful because I made the choice to have this done to him - necessary procedure or not - he's still in a lot of pain and it looks like a relatively long healing process ahead for him.

Woo is bored...
Teller would really like to spend the rainy evening at the school tonight, but alas...sorry dude. I don't want Murph moving around a lot tonight and for at least tonight that means no ride in the van (even in the middle section) and no pouting left home alone...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New look for

In preparation for our upcoming GRNews ad, our website got a face-lift this weekend - here's the new look. What do you think? 
You can check out the full site at
Here's the old one for comparison:
One of my best design concepts was to create web 'skins' - allowing for (relatively) fast change-overs to new content and new looks.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Practice at the NOMAD barn - April 16th, 2011

My turn to facilitate at the barn today - here's what I set up...

Two practice areas today - dogwalk, teeter, weaves, etc and a-frame, weaves, table, etc.

And then we ran this course:
It was kind of funny and something I didn't really think about - this standard course ended up being (according to CRCD) about 200 yards (in AKC land this would have been a 74 second SCT for 24" dogs). It's been a long time since I had the opportunity to design a course or sequence in a large space. So much fun to really stretch my creative legs (so to speak). It was definitely a running course - Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Murphy Update...

We're now 48 hours post-mass removal and tooth extraction for Murphy. He's being a good patient, though I know he's in pain - mostly his mouth I think. Murphy has even kept his bandage on (a hock bandage even) with minimal attention to it. All in all positive - but I really hate to see my boys hurting and be unable to fix it.

The boys had yesterday "off" no romps, no retrieves - just a walk around the block after dinner. Today though Teller had to get out and run off some energy. Murphy really doesn't HAVE to run off energy - but we all needed to get out today. Murph had to stay on-leash and he wasn't particularly thrilled with the restriction, but he quickly "got over it". It LOOKED gorgeous out today even though the temperature when we arrived at the school was a chilly 38 degrees...

A tethered Murphy. One of the best "tricks" I ever taught my dogs - when
the flexi drops you stop (and stay). Just like an old ranch horse. 

Meanwhile Teller is off to retrieve his ball.

Murph dragging me onto the field.

Fortunately (for Murphy) it's possible to graze while leashed - actually
his favorite part of romps at the school.

Teller keeps running.

Murphy's second favorite thing to do on romp sessions...

STILL rolling, rolling, rolling.

Teller decides to join the fun.....
 Now for "tripe-night" at the homestead (that means dining al fresco).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: Split Second by David Baldacci

I started David Baldacci's Split Second nearly 6 months ago, putting it away unfinished (three hours into the book) when Baldacci's Hell's Corner came out back in November. I enjoy David Baldacci's writing - particularly his Camel Club series - but in the first few hours of Split Second I hadn't formed any attachment to the "King and Maxwell" series* so back to the Camel Club I went. The upcoming release of a new Baldacci book (The Sixth Man) - the latest in the King and Maxwell series - inspired me to go back and finish Split Second.
* Note The King and Maxwell Series consists of (and in order): Split Second, Hour Game, Simple Genius, First Family and soon to be released "The Sixth Man" (4/19/2011).

The Audible Publishers' Summary:
Michelle Maxwell has just blown her future with the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she let a presidential candidate out of her sight to comfort a grieving widow. Then, behind closed doors, the politician whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air. 

Living a new life on a quiet lake in central Virginia, Sean King knows how the younger agent feels. He's been there before. In an out-of-the-way hotel eight years earlier, the hard-charging Secret Service man allowed his attention to be diverted for a split second. And the presidential candidate Sean was protecting was gunned down before his eyes. 

Now Michelle and Sean are about to see their destinies converge. She has become obsessed with Sean's case. And he needs a friend-especially since a series of macabre killings has brought him under suspicion and prompted the reappearance of a seductive woman he's tried hard to forget. 

As the two discredited agents enter a maze of lies, secrets, and deadly coincidences, they uncover a shocking truth: that the separate acts of violence that shattered their lives were really a long time in the making-and are a long way from over...

Launching back into Split Second with fresh ears I worked my way through the remaining eight hours pretty quickly. They style is all Baldacci - conspiracy thriller, political overtones and Washington players. The flawed characters rise to their personal strengths and ultimately redeem themselves (cosmically) by the end of the novel.  I found the characters to be enjoyable and engaging - and as a result I find the King and Maxwell series worthy of a second chance (and further listening).

Split Second was written by David Baldacci, narrated by Scott Brick and published in audio format by Hachette Audio. Split Second was released on October 24th, 2003 and has a running time (unabridged) of 11 hours 40 minutes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Surgery for Murph today...

I hate putting my dogs under for procedures - I'm a nervous nelly when it comes to dropping them off at the vets for any procedure - even x-rays. I pace, I can't think straight, can't sit still. You know - like any other pet owner.

Anyhow, a few weeks ago I found a lump on Murphy - on his right hock. Right on the tip actually - the bendy part. He was just about due for his bi-annual exam anyhow, so I bumped up the schedule and got him in (actually both boys went at the same time - that's fun!). So the usual blood panel and urine panel: thyroid, tick panel, etc etc. Everything looked good and "lets get that bump off NOW before it gets bigger and we have to worry about having enough skin to close it up on a joint". I wanted to wait for a stretch of time when I was home for a while in the event that there were complications.

Murphy also needed a bit of a dental tune-up. When his adult teeth came in there were several that were missing enamel. They even came in discolored. Could be a genetic condition, could be a result of an infection/high fever as a puppy - we won't ever know WHY. Over the last 7 years we've watched them and they've gotten uglier - but they've never seemed to bother him - though his affected canine has always looked worse than the others.

This past weekend he broke the canine - it actually was relatively fortunate - lets get both procedures done now at the same time. So Murph had to skip breakfast this morning (never a good start for a golden) and off to the vet he went.

As it turned out (and I expected) there was no saving of the tooth and I was told after the fact the tooth was actually decayed well down into and below the gum line. That tooth probably hurt a lot - and probably had for a while. I never knew. I've brushed his teeth weekly or bi-weekly since he was a puppy - I never had any indication that the tooth was getting that bad. So out with the tooth and off with the mass....

Murph post-surgery: "Yeah, I ate it - and it was good. Can
I have that powerbar too? The butterrum lifesavers?"
And on the way home from the vet I decided to let Murph ride in the middle row (so he didn't have to jump up into his crate with a bandaged hock) and I quickly remembered why Murphy has to ride in crates. In the time it took me to get from the vet's to the butcher Murphy managed to dig out of the center console (and consume) a stick of string cheese and four buttered rum life savers. While I was in the store (less than 10 minutes) Murph somehow discovered the training bag in the front seat (over the center console, over the passenger seat and onto the floor) which contained an un-opened 1# bag of peanut butter Zukes. He also managed to move said bag of Zukes back to the empty middle row - and with Teller looking on from his crate (probably with a great deal of contempt), Murphy opened and consumed a full pound (minus three pieces) of Zukes...That will teach ME to make him skip breakfast...

Tonight Murphy seems to be recovering well, I know his mouth will feel so much better once he's all healed up. For tonight he ate his dinner and pain pills with golden retriever gusto. With the help of "bitter cherry" he's leaving his bandage alone sans cone of shame...I did buy a new inflatable no-bite collar in the event that we need it, hoping we won't....

Seems like there's never a dull moment around here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

One more sure sign of spring...

The severe thunderstorms this morning (another sign of spring) gave way to overcast skies and 70 degree temperatures (more t-storms, flooding, etc on the way for tonight). I didn't think we'd be able to make it out to the school to run the dogs, but when I got home tonight the radar looked pretty clean. It was 71 degrees when I left, so I knew that it'd have to be a light evening for Teller who is still adjusting to springtime temperatures.

Video Still
I drive up to the school and was surprised to see a lot of cars in the parking lot - then I got it! The Essex Rec. department is in FULL SWING now! There were about 30 SCREAMING pee-wee soccer kids on the lower field and an equal number of 10-12 year old little leaguers in the upper field.  Not a particularly good environment for Murphy (kids STILL send him over the top sometimes - particularly screaming fast ones) so he had to sit out tonight's romp - but it was a great opportunity to work Teller on a bit of obedience work and keep the retrieve session pretty light.

I grabbed the ol' iPhone and shot some video (complete with appropriate springtime soundtrack).

Book Review: Step on a Crack by James Patterson

My next book was intended to be James Patterson's New York Times Bestseller "Tick-Tock" - until I realized that Tick-Tock was actually part of the "Mike Bennett" series of novels. Step on a Crack is the first book of this series, followed by "Run for your Life", "Worst Case" and finally Tick-Tock. I've found it's best to start at the beginning (rather than the middle) of series so I decided to give "Step on a Crack" a try.

First let me just put it out there that I don't often enjoy "James Patterson" novels that are ghost written by other authors and I'm not sure I understand why James Patterson puts his name on so many (crappy) books (presume the almighty dollar) - but I fully expect the ghost-written titles to be of inferior quality (and ingenuity) to those actually written exclusively by James Patterson. James Patterson's Mike Bennett series is co-written by Michael Ledwidge.

The Audible Publisher's Summary:
NYPD Detective Michael Bennett is about to take on the most sinister challenge of his career. The nation has fallen into mourning after the unexpected death of a beloved former first lady, and the most powerful people in the world gather in New York for her funeral. Then the inconceivable occurs. Billionaires, politicians, and superstars of every kind are suddenly trapped within one man's brilliant and cold-blooded scenario.
Bennett, father of 10, is pulled into the fray. As the danger escalates, he is hit with devastating news: after fighting for many years, his wife has succumbed to a terrible disease. As New York descends into chaos, he has lost the great love of his life, faces raising his heartbroken children alone, and must somehow rescue 34 hostages.
Day after day, Bennett confronts the most ruthless man he has ever dealt with, a man who kills without hesitation and counters everything the NYPD and FBI throw at him with impunity. As the entire world watches, and the tensions build to a searing heat, Bennett has to find a way out or face responsibility for the greatest debacle in history.

The publisher's summary is misleading -  particularly about the order of events, but also about the excitement of the plotline. Yes there's a hostage situation, yes Detective Bennett's life is in turmoil, yes his wife is dying - but there just isn't any draw into the characters. All of the characters are single dimensional and completely unsympathetic. I fought my way through the entire book, mainly because the novel was only 7 hours long.

Narration of "Step on a Crack" was okay, the "Jack" character sounded a bit like Jack Nicholson - which was actually entertaining - but it almost seemed as though the narrators were trying (and failing) to engage as the characters they were reading.

As for whether I'd recommend "Step on a Crack"? It wasn't awful, it wasn't offensive - but it wasn't a "WOW! That was awesome, I'm going to download the entire series now" kinda book. At this point I'm not rushing out to read/download "Run for your Life", "Worst Cast" or "Tick-Tock" - New York Times Bestseller or not.

"Step on a Crack" was written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, produced in audio format by Hachette Audio and narrated by John Slattery and Reg Rogers. Step on a Crack (unabridged) has a run-time of 6 hours 54 minutes and was released on January 22, 2007.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Rental and Sequencing

Woo and I had to head to NH today so we decided to pick up a rental down at Muddy Paws in Westminister, VT while we were there. Indoor riding arena (though never used by horses), packed dirt floor and today it was absolutely the perfect temperature even with the 75 degree sun outside.

Here's what we worked today:

AND we even managed to hit the school on the way home for a romp, run and retrieve session before the rain started. Forecast looks like rain all day tomorrow so I was glad to get the boys out tonight. Ahhhh, spring showers.

Feel-good story of the week...

The  federal TSA dog training program just bred it's 500th puppy for security and explosive detection work. A little known (at least previously)  fact is that each and every TSA puppy is named for a victim of the September 11th attack on America (World Trade Center, Pentagon and flight 93).

From the TSA press-release website:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Puppy Program today announced the birth of Dolan, its 500th puppy. As part of TSA's Explosives Detection Canine Team efforts, the Puppy Program names each of the puppies after a 9/11 victim to honor their memory and this puppy was named afterCapt. Robert Edward Dolan Jr., who lost his life in the attack on the Pentagon.
"My children and I are very excited to have a puppy named in Bob's memory," said Lisa Dolan, wife of the late Captain Dolan. "Bob began his military career as an explosives ordnance expert. When he was killed at the Pentagon, he was working on Homeland Defense, and so it very fitting to have one of the TSA puppies named for our hero, Captain Bob Dolan. Knowing "Puppy Dolan" will one day be an explosives detection canine in the service of our country is reassuring. Dolan's future career keeping travelers safe is a fitting addition to Bob's legacy of freedom." (READ MORE)

Grab the tissues and watch the Dolans meet Dolan.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Saturday Training at the Barn - April 9th, 2011

Another glorious spring-time day! Woo and I (and Murphy too) went down to the waterbury barn today to work at the NOMAD practice...Here's what we worked today:

Worked Teller a bit at 26" this week - I'm vaguely considering entering him in a couple of USDAA trials and my option is to jump him at 26" regular or 22" performance...two inches either way - I didn't notice a difference in his style at 26", but I haven't noticed any difference at 22" either...Nice to have some options though.


The red sequence was super fun with a neat pull-through. For the blue sequence I ended up rear-crossing the a-frame...still not something Teller likes (or maybe it's me!), he looks for me while he creeps into his 2o2o - I guess I just need to keep doing more of that...

And then we ran this course:

Friday, April 08, 2011

First hill-work of the season...

Oh the sun was out today - temps in the mid-50's even....sure made today's trip to the school the nicest one this week. The snow is steadily melting and the footing is slowly drying up  at the school - I figured today was as good as ever to start some hillwork with the boys (well, mostly Teller - Murphy doesn't really see the point).

There isn't a big hill at the school, but enough to get some conditioning reps in on this field before we transition to the summer fields (with bigger hills) and in a few weeks start getting some swim-laps on the routine (I can hope anyway - the pool is still pretty frozen).

What goes up.....

Must come down....

(and sometimes over)
Its always easy to forget that our dogs need some time to get used to the warmer temperatures....thirty five on Tuesday - Teller got a bit hot tonight.
Teller takes a break in one of the last remaining snowbanks.