Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene - An update from here.

Because we've been getting a lot of notes and calls asking about our post-Irene status, here's an update. The short answer is that we're all fine and we're feeling VERY lucky. For us where we are, Irene basically amounted to a very rainy Sunday, some wind - but mostly just wet. As far as our damage - it was limited to some small branches that came down, some debris in the pool (leaves, pine needles, twigs) and soggy bored dogs for the day.
The freezer stocked and hopefully well insulated.

I fully expected the worst and while we had planned a dog show last weekend I stocked up on supplies earlier in the week. With lots of frozen dog food in the old chest freezer, I was concerned about protecting the dog food in the event that we lost power for hours or days. A full freezer is more efficient than an empty freezer and will stay colder longer than a partially full or nearly empty freezer. An old 'florida' trick is to fill plastic bags with water and let them essentially form-freeze into any open spaces. Given my luck with ziplock bags (never once filled a ziplock bag with ice and come home to a dry cooler - all ziplock bags leak) I opted for three different sizes of water bottles - 8oz, 20oz and 1.5 liter. I was able to fill nearly every empty space in the freezer. Note that it takes water a lot longer than you'd think it would to freeze in a chest freezer - especially if you're freezing multiple bottles - a 1.5 liter bottle (Poland Spring) takes over two days to freeze solid in a chest freezer - smaller bottles obviously take less and the shape matters too. So time is of the essence. On Thursday morning, I removed everything I'd need between then and Sunday afternoon and moved those items into my house freezer - that gave my chest freezer 36 hours to freeze everything.

We skipped the full bathtub step of preparation because the last thing three water dogs need is there very-own indoor pool. We're on public water so we don't have a pump and in a pinch we could always flush using buckets of pool water. All of our agility equipment, pool toys, dog toys, etc all got tucked away in the garage in preparation for the storm. By and large though (and in hindsight) we luckily didn't need to use any of our plans (A, B, C or D).

Now for the bad news: here's the hydro-dam near my house. There's a lot of population downstream who are going to be affected by this water. Both along the Winooski river and when it drains into Lake Champlain and the St Lawrence River.

Lots of places in Vermont weren't so lucky as we were. For a huge portion of Vermont it's just as bad as you've seen on the news and possibly much worse now that the water is receding a little and the true extent of the damage is apparent. The bottom-line is that some classically beautiful New England places are utterly devastated. Quechee and Woodstock Vermont - meccas for fall tourists are largely impassable. Covered bridges that for many people represent quintessential New England and Vermont are completely gone or destroyed beyond repair. In the "Grand Canyon of the East" the Quechee Gorge there are some 200 propane tanks leaking gas and bobbing around in the turbulant's only a matter of time before there's an explosion.

The dam in drier days (Google Maps)
Also in Quechee, Simon Pearce a glass-blowing mill has been severely damaged. I don't know if they lost product, but handmade inventory is really hard to replace quickly, not to mention the folks now out of work in that community (the mill, the restaurant that is part of Simon Pearce's campus). Tourism is a huge part of that area - fall tourism in particular, it's really hard to see how they can recover if they loose the fall season and it's hard to imagine these places passable in the next several weeks or months - let alone open for business for tourists.

 Route 4 which runs East/West from White River Junction, VT to Fairhaven, VT is in large part gone. On the evening news tonight there are still 12 towns and communities that are completely cut-off from the outside world - no roads in, no roads out. Some are accessible by hiking or ATV - but still isolated. Killington Ski area is devastated, their baselodge has collapsed and the ski area is not accessible by road, Killington's sister resort Pico is similarly unreachable. Hundreds of vacation homes inaccessable - the extent of their damage probably won't be known for weeks when roads are repaired enough to get in there to make evaulations. Ludlow, VT at the base of Mt Ascutney has been all but destroyed.  Brattleboro, VT had several feet of rushing flood water from the Connecticut river running through the downtown business district.

Closer to me Richmond's bridge street was underwater. Several commuters had to be rescued - by boat - from the Richmond park and ride - just feet from I-89 in Richmond. State offices in Waterbury had several feet of water inside the agency of natural resources - the flooding is everywhere. State offices in our state capital of Montpelier are still underwater and offices are still closed.

Springfield Vermont:

There are many many many more communities affected in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York of course - Irene's wrath was indiscriminate - it's safe to say that recovery is going to take a long time - and a lot of people may never recover. We can handle blizzards and bitter cold up here in the sub arctic - water is punishing and unrelenting.


Flooding on rt4:

We're so lucky and so thankful here - and thinking of our fellow Vermonters who weren't so lucky.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Training - August 30th, 2011

Irene is history, we're relatively dry and unscathed here (southern Vermont is still devastated and will be for a long while). The sun was out for a few moments so we went out to play a bit before the next rainstorm (which occurred approximately 90 seconds after I finished working Teller). Here's what I setup tonight:

Just a quick sequence tonight - one of those sequences that took longer to 
setup than it took to actually run. 
This might look a little scattered - a couple of sequences I worked separately:
BLUE: Left Teller near the tunnel opening, lead out to the weaves. Pushed into
the tunnel, pivot into the weaves. RED: Left Teller at the tunnel again - lead out
pushed for some speed to the a-frame 2o2o, front cross to the tire/table. PURPLE:
Handler path along the dotted line, layered the jump near the tunnel accelerated
passed the a-frame pushing the 2o2o.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

The Publisher's summary for Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close.

Wry, hilarious, and utterly recognizable, Girls in White Dresses tells the story of three young women grappling with heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love - all while suffering through an endless round of weddings and bridal showers.
Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are going to be bridesmaids in Kristi's wedding. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, eat tiny sandwiches, and drink mimosas. They're all happy for Kristi, but they do have the ups and downs of their own lives to cope with. Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, where she's extremely successful, and wildly unhappy. Mary is in love with a man who may never love any woman as much as he loves his mother. And Lauren, a waitress at a midtown bar, finds herself drawn to a man she's pretty sure she hates.
With blind dates and ski vacations, boozy lunches and family holidays, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.

The premise sounded promising and Girls in White Dresses came highly reviewed by an editor. I'm not a fan of the chick-lit genre - but there was enough promise that I rolled a credit and took a chance on Girls in  White Dresses.

I tried really hard to get through this novel - in the end I just couldn't do it. I listened to six and a half hours of the eight hour novel and still hadn't found a single enjoyable aspect of the listen. The characters are vapid and shallow and their lives are ordinary and boring. The story rotates around several loosely connected women who say "oh my god!" a lot -really a lot. All I could picture was a ridiculous chick-flick style sitcom a'la Sex in the City (I'm not a fan by the way) with an even more annoying audiotrack. Girls in White Dresses was narrated by Emily Janice Card, who so perfectly captured the vain and superficial nature of the women in this novel.

Skip this one folks.

Girls in White Dresses was written by Jennifer Close and published by Random House Audio. Girls in White Dresses was released on 8/9/2011 and has a runtime of 8 hours 3 minutes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kipling's Training Journal: Part Four

We're stuck inside today with the effects of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. We're very lucky to have just rain so far - but as I understand it, the bulk of the storm is still 100+ miles south of here and the big winds and heavier rain will pick up this afternoon and evening. Perfect time to update Kipling's training journal!

Kipling is 19 weeks today, he measured 18" at the withers yesterday morning. I joked that he's now out of the 16" (AKC jump height) class. The cutoff for the 20" jump height is 22"
Kipling wearing Teller's Cool-Coat (Saratoga Horseworks).
Think he's got some growing to do!
at the wither. The breed standard for dogs is between 23" and 24" at the wither so Kipling has a lot more growing to do - and should not end up in the 20" class. If anyone is wondering, according to the breed standard bitches should stand between 21.5 and 22.5 inches. The breed standard is here:

Kipling watching Fisher the PWD and modeling his
ComfortFlex Harness (purple) size medium.
So the measurement means (to me) that he's grown 1/2" in the last two weeks and that even though he'll only need a single measurement for a permanent height card he's really not at all phased by judges getting close to him on the table (touching, moving feet, etc) while I'm several feet away.

Kipling's correctly sized ComfortFlex arrived on Monday - he's firmly a size medium - I tried to get ahead of myself with a size medium/large thinking we might be able to stretch two sizes into one by splitting the middle - not so much.

The boys and I went on a couple of pack walks this week - all three boys out for a walk at the same time, greeting people along the walk, ignoring other dogs and people who weren't interested in interacting with two BIG and one mini golden retrievers.

Continuing that theme I had them all out for potty walks together at the hotel this weekend - particularly handy when I got locked out of my room several times (stupid card-keys)! It saves me a lot of time in the morning to get them all pottied at the same time.
Patiently? waiting for dinner.

Kipling's wait is now sufficient to enforce in another part of hotel routine - while I'm making their dinner (or breakfast) the boys need to wait on the bed, in a down - silently - for the duration of the meal preparation. The also must maintain their stay while I put all three bowls down and then release the dogs (in order of seniority - Murphy then Teller and THEN Kipling).

Kipling slept in a pop-up crate Friday night at the hotel. If he's trustworthy in there (and he seems to be) that means one less heavy object that I need to pack for trial weekends. I think he'll still be in the heavier and sturdier Noz crates at trial sites - but it's very easy to pack one NOZ crate and five pop-up crates (two for the trial site for the BIG dogs and three for the hotel if we need to leave them in the room to go to dinner, etc).

Look, It SLEEPS!
This was an oncall week for me - which always means a little extra chaos - less sleep, weird hours of sleep, dropping what I'm doing at the chirp of a pager....On call weeks I generally don't have a lot of time for formal training sessions and this week was no exception. Despite the informal nature of our week, Kipling had a lot of really fantastic successes. He saw the plank for the first time on Sunday and a I introduced the teeter with what was supposed to be a bang session on Tuesday. We're still going with the 'let puppy be a puppy" theme so I'm more than happy with the successes we got this week.  In informal sessions worked some play/tug games, a couple of retrieving sessions and then worked house manners and daily routine stuff with the pack.

Kipling is getting (and has earned) a lot more freedom in the house. He's not teathered to me as much, he's learning to settle out with the BIG dogs. Being off the tether and out of the expen does not mean that you have to wrestle and play (with the BIG dogs, with the cat, etc) - this has been one of the hardest lessons I've had to impress upon Kipling, and it's FINALLY paying off.

One of the things that is mandatory in my house is that dogs don't get to be in the kitchen when I'm cooking or preparing the dog's meals. It's a safety issue for everyone involved - but mostly for the sake of my knees. I toss treats 'out' when the dogs set themselves up on the other side of the threshold. Dogs gravitate to where they're reinforced - Kippie watched the other dogs getting free cookies and assimilated the good behavior. Kipling got partial credit for this particular 'out' - half on each side of the step, but extra credit for offering a bi-level down without looking completely ridiculous (even with one flipped ear).

Friends are FUN!
I've been getting Kippie out a bit to meet and greet other dogs. He needs to learn that dogs come in colors other than yellow. We had a play date here on Tuesday with Gus (BC mix) and Kippie met and played with Ann's PWD puppy Foxxy.

This week - more focus on stays and waits - particularly out of sight stays in higher levels of distractions. Also, I'm hoping to find Kippie a CGC test :-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yankee Golden Retriever Club - August 27th, 2011

The August edition of Yankee Golden Retriever Club's agility season was shortened to one day due to the impending arrival (and effects) of Hurricane Irene. So a reasonably long trek for a one day of agility. This weekend's judge was Terri Campbell - who I'm sure is currently stuck in a NH hotel riding out Irene hoping her afternoon flight tomorrow isn't canceled.

Teller had a mixed bag - a ten point JWW run in the AM and one mistake short of a standard leg when he failed to turn tightly enough in the chute to come around to the panel. We got home safe Saturday afternoon in time to stow our gear and re-check our tropical storm preparations.There's always another agility weekend!

On a random note, on my way to the show site on Saturday AM (6am) I saw a flock of pelicans crossing I93 just north of Salem NH. First, I don't think I've ever seen a flock of pelicans - second, it was a little scary at how  low a flock of pelicans fly and third, always amazing to see animals reacting to changing weather conditions WAY before humans.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Post-bath yellow dogs

All three boys got full baths this morning - Kipling's first real bath with us and he bathed like he'd been getting indoor tub soapy baths forever. Probably the easiest puppy-bath I've ever given. He stood there, moved when asked to, didn't move when asked to not move. No leash, no collar - fifteen minutes from first rinse to towel dry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Kipling's loose leash walking skills have progressed enough to start joining the BIG dogs on leash walks around the neighborhood. I walk them around hotels three at a time if necessary - but have found that between Kipling wanting to bite at the other dog's leashes (which has mostly stopped now) and (by virtue of being a puppy) not walking in a straight line I found three dogs, three leashes just not very efficient. It's a skill we need to have in our bag though - sooner than later too. So, let's see what we've got!

Off we go! So far so good!
Look at those loose leashes! Nice work boys!

Can we stop and chat with a neighbor on our pack-walk? YES. WE. CAN!

June 19th, 2011 ------August 24th, 2011
Thought this one was fun. The picture on the left was taken the day after Kipling came 'home'  and the one on the right is virtual today. Just a bit over nine weeks later now 18 week old Kipling.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Publisher's Summary:
Return to Fillory in the riveting sequel to The New York Times best-seller and literary phenomenon of 2009: The Magicians.

The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.
Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent's house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.
The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the modern heir to C.S. Lewis and at the cutting edge of literary fantasy.

The US cover of Lev Grossman's
The Magician King

It was the publisher's description of The Magician King that inspired my read (listen) of  The Magicians (by Lev Grossman). Start the series at book one. If you're hitting this review prior to reading The Magicians, go back and read that one first. I don't write spoilers, but even the publisher's summary contains details not obvious in The Magicians.

The Magician King is actually quite different from Lev Grossman's original work, while The Magicians was the discovery of magic, the path of Quinten's coming of age into a Magician (notable it's NOT 'wizard'). If The Magicians had some Harry Potter themes, The Magician King carried strong themes of Narnia and C.S. Lewis (minus the religious undertones and pseudo-lectures on morality).

The UK cover of Lev Grossman's
The Magician King.
I like the UK version better.

While The Magicians centered on Quinten's path, The Magician King introduces us to Julia. She sat the BreakBills exam but didn't make the cut. Her replaced memory (of the exam) was incomplete and she desperately wanted 'in' at the exclusive school. At the end of The Magicians we are re-introduced to Julia - then a magician, throughout The Magician King we are walked through Julia's story - including her attempt to summon the Gods of Magic.

As a result The Magician King is a very different novel. A bit more mature in the writing and somewhat in the content as well. There is less magic and less discovery - more travel and adventure. Quinten is still likable, Elliot as head king is a stronger presence in book two - Janet is barely heard from after the first two chapters.

In all The Magician King was a decent read - enjoyable even. The quality of Mr. Grossman's imagination was certainly still there, the implementation was as solid. I don't believe pages were wasted and the plot didn't stray from the storyline. There was a superb natural flow from Quinten's narration to Julia's and back again. I do feel like The Magician King wasn't not quite as "WOW" (for me) as The Magicians, perhaps a result of reading them back to back. Given a bit of separation of time my perception could have been different.

Narration of The Magician King was by Mark Bramhall (also narrator of Chris Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden and Skeletons at the Feast). Mr Bramhall's narration suited the novel completely - expertly (and unobtrusively) blending into the narrator's voice - smoothly and convincingly portraying various voices and accents.

The Magician King was written by Lev Grossman and published by Penguin Audio. The Magician King was released on August 9th, 2011 and has a runtime of 15 hours 48 minutes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kipling and the Teeter.

I'm functioning on all of three hours (2 hours and one hour) of sleep last night, so I left work a bit early this afternoon to let the dogs out, thaw their dinner (cause I forgot to pull food out for them this AM) and get a session in with Kipling before dinner and a potential play-group. Kipling had a super session on Sunday on the plank so I decided to take the teeter out of storage (damn, I forget how heavy that thing is to lug around) and introduce him to the bang game on the lowest teeter setting (link). I suspected that he'd run the board pretty quickly so I was ready at the pivot point to ease the board down for him with one hand while cookie'ing.

Teller and Murphy both learned the teeter by playing the bang game (here's a good example of a dog playing the bang game) - Murphy never had a fast teeter, but he always knew where the pivot point was and got there, trotted off the end. Teller started with a fast teeter when he first learned it (at 12 months or so) but at 15 months he managed to flip a very light teeter (8" board) and the board actually fell on him. SUPER SCARY (for me and for Teller)! Teller worked through it - but anyone who's read our blog for a while knows that the teeter (seesaw) is not Teller's favorite obstacle. I've worked hard to make the teeter self-reinforcing with Teller and I want to do the same thing (but earlier) with Kipling.

Yes, I've said that Kipling's job right now is to be a puppy and my plan is (and still is) to let him be that puppy. He doesn't need to work for a living yet. BUT, there are plenty of foundation/play games that we can be working on now that we'll build on in the future when he's ready to play agility for real. Near the top of those foundation skills (for Kipling) is that 2o2o behavior. I've paid heavily and generously when he offers 2o2o on objects, I've shaped 2o2o on any number of props. We started on the end of a board about two weeks ago, he got to run the full board on Sunday (here). 

So today was the bang game - or that was the plan anyway. Kipling (like his father) tries to guess the game as it's evolving - one of the things I LOVE about operant conditioning. If X is good is X plus Y better? So the first rep, Kipling ran at the board, hit the pivot point, I lowered the teeter (slowed the descent), gave him a bit of hotdog at the landing side and then he promptly got himself into his 2o2o behavior. That's pretty cute Mr. Kippie! So what did he offer next? He turned around, walked back up the plank and banged it again (this time less help from me). Within 4 reps he was trotting right over the board and into the 2o2o. Confident and happy.

I didn't intend to videotape the session today, but decided to go get the camera after I realized that he was just going to just run the teeter. Watching this I realize that I need to put some more value into the release off the 2o2o - I love that he's getting there and staying there, but he's not always releasing on the first "OK". This means two things to me. I need to delay the release cue (for now) until he's finished chewing and is ready to hear "OK" and I need to put some value on the release. I'm not in a hurry for either - It's perfectly OK with me if he LOVES to hang out at the end of the contact boards.

Here's the second half of the session, I cropped out the squeaky tug reps for your viewing pleasure.

Project 'Replacement A-Frame Surface'

Out with the old, in with the super awesome....Earlier this summer I brought home shiny new-to-me a-frame and dogwalk. I had hoped that I'd be able to get through this season with the wood on the J and J dogwalk and a-frame, I was planning to rubberize them (over the wood) in the spring. When I setup the dogwalk for the first time, ran Teller over it a few times and he put a foot through the "wood"** up contact of the dogwalk. Thankfully Woo wasn't phased by this unexpected give and I only noticed it when I ran him back over the other way and he jumped over the hole in the plank. I can't imagine if another dog had punched their way through - or if Teller had gotten hurt. I don't want to think about it actually!

So clearly we're not going to get through THIS season, let alone another fall or spring. We need to replace surfaces NOW. So I went scoping around for my options. Honestly I started and finished my search on Max 200's website - once I determined that Max was going to be able to help me with my contact equipment problems, I didn't look for other alternatives. I also knew there was a local (we only have two a year) trail coming up in 4-5 weeks when I could (in theory) have the surfaces delivered to trial (free shipping).

The back of my a-frame replacement surface, molded rubber
slats, pre-drilled for your installation convenience...
So some general information. Max 200's replacement surfaces come in several options (with or without slats): Wood with Paint/Sand, Wood with rubber, Alumaskin with rubber and Plastaskin with Rubber.

Things I learned when talking to the Max 200 people: Plastaskin is lighter, but is not suitable for exterior applications in Vermont (freeze/thaw, cold, etc). I bring my equipment inside in the winter, but there are several weeks when we have frost, sun, mild temperatures, dusting of snow, etc when I don't (yet) want to put the equipment away for the winter, so plastaskin wouldn't be a suitable surface. From the Max 200 Website:

Alumaskin is an aluminum coated sheet on either side of a pvc foam core. It is 1/8" thick and 40% lighter than wood.
Plastaskin is a dense plastic that is equivalent in weight and thickness to wood but will never rot.

Overhead view of the rubber/alumaskin replacement surfaces.

I purchased the alumaskins with rubber - slatted a-frame and slatted dogwalk. The pricing was very reasonable. If the wood surface on the equipment was in a good state (salvageable) I would have purchased and applied the rubber skins over the existing surface (I rubberized my teeter last summer with Rubber on the Run skins from Max200).

Pre-made skins for the a-frame would have cost me about $400 for the a-frame and $350 for the dogwalk, plus cement (I'd imagine another $50 in contact cement - but the contact high from the cement would be a bonus right?). My complete replacement surfaces set me back $600 for the a-frame and $600 for the dogwalk. Soup to nuts. Finished products will (essentially) be a brand new dogwalk and a brand new a-frame for not much more than the cost to rubberize the two pieces.
Side view of applied surface

The great thing about Max 200 (aside from their super products) is their customer service. My order got put in the queue such that it'd be ready to ship with trial equipment to my local show. While the replacement surfaces are stock on the website, I got the distinct impression that every piece is made to order (custom order). I sent in several sets of measurements and pictures and I had a couple of requests for more information about the specifications of my equipment (ie: what kind of feet does the a-frame have?). The end result was a replacement surface that would make my equipment whole again - and a product that looked good and fit perfectly. Just looking at the final product it's clear that whomever made my surfaces cared about the workmanship.
Isn't it beeeee-you-tee-full?
I had the surfaces (HEAVY) shipped to my local trial and was so lucky to have really great friends help me load/unload and transport the replacement surfaces. This saved me a considerable amount on shipping. I never asked the folks at Max 200 what they would have charged to ship them - both pieces would have to go freight from western NY state.

Max's replacement surfaces came with all necessary hardware*** (which I promptly put someplace safe never to find again) and patch kits for the rubber to fill the bolt holes. The replacement surfaces were pre-drilled, so the application process was 1) remove crappy wood, 2) measure and drill holes in aluminum frame and 3) mount surfaces to frame.
I still need to fill the screw
holes with rubber and epoxy.

I had a friend tackle my a-frame this weekend and I have to say I LOVE it. It looks like a million bucks and I'm thrilled to have a safe a-frame for my dogs to train on - Even Murphy had a turn!

Woo Approves!
In the end (and this is not scientific) I believe that the alumaskin/rubber a-frame is about as heavy as the wood/sand a-frame. If the alumaskin is 40% lighter than wood, there's about the same weight penalty added back in for the rubber. Well worth the weight for the safety of rubber vs sand surfaces. Durability is another huge advantage - but in my opinion safety trumps all.

The dogwalk is next - hopefully in the next week or so. Should be the same procedure as the A-Frame.

**J and J's wood planking is particle board! Those surfaces were so water logged from two or three seasons (packed away in a shed for the fall, winter and spring) of use that they were basically disintegrating. The rot was helped along by water pooling at the lower slats, all four contact zones (dogwalk and a-frame) were weak.

*** In the event that someone else 'loses' their hardware for their new replacement surfaces - I found that the 10-24 2" machine bolt was the perfect fit :-) The 10-14 2.5" bolt was too long!

The original surface:
The original surface - now removed. Rotted particle board around where the slat was.

Some of this is a result of the demolition - but you can see the rotten parts of the board.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kipling at 18 weeks.

I spent the day trying to catch up on life, but aside from a trip to the farm stand to pick up some CSA
items, I ended up catching up on some sleep after a rough couple of on-call nights. I did manage to get all three dogs brushed out and trimmed (forgetting entirely how much work it is to trim an 18 week old puppy) and dremeled all 70 toenails (54 canine, 16 feline). If that sounds exhausting (2 hours start to finish) it totally was! The big boys really needed significant furnishing trims (ears, feet, tails and rear legs) as I've been lax on their grooming  for a few weeks. This was Kipling's first real grooming experience - up on the table for a reasonably long amount of time and while he lost patience with the whole process, he really was a super star. After I got them all groomed up (and before they got covered in puppy spit) I dragged them out for another group picture.

August 21st, 2011: Murphy (7 yrs), Teller (4 yrs) and Kipling (18 weeks).

August 21st, 2011: Two cheeseballs cut from the same cheesecloth.

August 21st, 2011: YELLLLLLOOOW! (that's for Ann).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kipling walks the plank.

Arrrrr, mateys. You scurvy dawg - walk da plank! So I'm a little early for talk like a pirate day, hard to let a plank reference go though! Anyhow, now one day short of 18 weeks, Kipling has gotten a good chunk of reinforcement for offering two-on two-off (2o2o) on various objects: The basement bulkhead, the cookie tin, the tippy board, curbs in hotel parking lots, etc. Time to try a real plank!

I'm using the cones to direct his end behavior to the end of the board - he has to do his 2o2o at the end of the board between the two cones. The cones will fade over time. The high end of the plank is on a milk crate (remember those? Mine is from Idlenot - New England folks, remember Idlenot Farms?). This is as high as the plank will go for quite a while while Kipling grows up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kipling's Training Journal: Part Three

Now 17 week old Kipling is really starting to loose his puppy looks - sometimes I look at him and he looks like a real dog, other times I can still see the baby-dawg. I missed his 16 week old training journal entry so we have a lot to catch up on.

Waits and Stays
Leaps and bounds in the last two weeks. He's got s super sit stay in and out of sight. Probably a minute in-sight and I have not pushed out of sight stays more than 10-15 seconds for now. I have about the same (perhaps a bit more) with the down stays, still doesn't have the ability to hold a stay for the duration that it takes me to make them dinner or breakfast (even though said prep is basically just scooping ground chicken (and veggie) parts or tossing some necks or a back into a few bowls). That will come - I have no doubt.

Kipling is now tall enough and long-legged enough to climb out of the ex-pen if he chooses to exercise that option. I am under no illusion that my perfect little puppy will continue to willingly remain where I put him! I really only need the expen option when he's eating, I'm cooking (yeah right), I'm having dinner or during the morning scramble (dog-potty, my shower, laundry, getting ready for work, etc). So I have been putting value into respecting boundaries. Cheerios for settling in there for chewies, toys for staying off the side of the ex-pen when dogs/people walk by and waiting until he downs (and stays down) before he gets let out. It's working so far!

A funny thing happened just yesterday evening. Kipling was loose in the house, he had been chewing a bone - the cat sauntered up to him, mmmmmuuuurrrrrr'ed at him and then ran away. I was on the phone at the time so when Kipling jumped up to follow the cat (at high velocity) I didn't say anything right away. To my surprise he got about two strides away, turned around and came barreling back at me (I still hadn't said a word). Wait a second! We've got a behavior chain here! Touché Kippie, Touché. So I've added a bit to the don't chase the kitty rule, subbing in a new default behavior - down. In the span of 24 hours Kipling is already downing when the kitty entices a chase. (Kitty entices all three dogs to do bad things when he's hungry).

Recalls/Attention/Name Recognition
We have really good days and we have not so good days with the name recognition/recalls. I'm still not using the word come unless he's already moving towards me and I'm still holding the collar for a few seconds before releasing him to play/get into trouble/be Kippie again.

I'm still not doing a lot of formal agility training with Kipling - but I am working a contact board with him. Basically flat (8" off the ground on the up side), running the plank, stopping at the end.

Stand and Gaiting
Both are coming along, he's a really good sport about the exam and holding still. I'm playing with some free-baiting and he's really getting it.

Kipling had another super-successful weekend on the road with us. He's still respectful and quiet in his soft-crate, he's walking nicely (99% of the time) on a leash. He's big enough now to have earned his own comfortflex harness (which arrived yesterday, didn't fit - boo-hiss), his replacement will arrive on Monday. I like getting the leash off the collar for 90% of our walks, we still need to work on the collar for sure, but the harness really makes my life easier.
The trial last weekend was a long day. Dinner for Kipling (and Murphy and Teller) was well after 6pm on Saturday and close to 9pm on Sunday. Part of the glamorous life on the road my friend...He actually handled the change and late dinner better than Murphy - who even at 7 just can't understand why dinner is EVER late!

In all the other things going on and to learn we're still playing retrieve or fetch. I'm working on sending him into  places where there are more than one toy and rewarding him for bringing back the right one. He's up to two decoys and one 'hot' toy. Attention span being what it is, I'm not going too far too fast with this skill. He's doing great on retrieving to hand, really good on the give - even with forbidden objects (my shoes). He saw his first serious dumbbell session this week, I'm not asking him to retrieve one yet - at this point just take it and hold for a second or two.

Still shaping the 2o2o on the board, I also added a new prop this week a cookie (chocolate) tin, ideally I'd like to get an offered 2o2o (rear feet) on that this week too...

Get on the ball
Kipling has slid into the peanut routine with the other boys, once again no fear and a can-do-anything-for a cookie enthusiasm.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Look who's famous!

My GR News arrived today and Kipling made the cut for candids - this was a month ago, he looks so little!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kipling 17 weeks

I'm in process of putting together a training journal post for Kipling at 16 and now 17 weeks (with a brand new video). My on-call week was a bit chaotic which always puts me a behind. So a few pictures of 16-17 weeks. Kipling went in for his rabies shot on Friday and weighed in at 32lbs, on Saturday I put him up on the table for measurement and he came in at 17.75" at the withers....they don't stay small for long do they?

Kipling practicing his stand on Saturday - Technically still 16 weeks here  :-)

Teller and Kipling Saturday night...aka Woo and M-Woo (mini).

Saturday Night chillin' with frog-Murphy chewing some bones.

Monday: 17 week old Kipling has mostly outgrown his days ex-pen confinement. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Post-Dinner Ritual

Much to Murphy's chagrin, this has become Kipling's post-dinner ritual - Finish dinner (fish, necks, tripe or meat/veggie mix), lick bowl completely clean, pick up bowl, throw in air and push it around the ex-pen until bowl is removed....Murphy leaves the room and won't come back until the bowl racing has stopped. I love the part (at  0:14 where he moves the toy out of his way).

Oh and I fear that he's rapidly outgrowing ex-pen containment even though he's really only in there at his mealtimes, my dinner-time and a bit during the morning chaos.

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Publisher's Summary:
A thrilling and original coming-of- age novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world.
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin's fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren't black and white, love and sex aren't simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

If you pick up this novel expecting a redux of Harry Potter you will be disappointed, not because Lev Grossman's The Magicians isn't an outstanding novel with 'magical' characters and an entertaining journey - because it truly is - the disappointment would come because comparing Harry Potter and The Magicians is much like comparing a carrot to a mango. They're both orange and tasty but they are hardly interchangeable produce. Admittedly I read Harry Potter greedily - I first read each novel in one long consuming 'vacation day' serving. I then went back and listened to all of the audiobooks. Don't mistake me, I liked Harry Potter - but I had the great advantage to having read them as an adult, from that perspective. Sure I somewhat impatiently waited for the next book to come out, hitting Costco for the hardback during waking hours (not 12:01am at Barnes and Noble).

There are some themes in the novels that are similar (namely magic - Hogwarts/Breakbeak school and the shock of discovering that "you" are a wizard/magician), there are references to Harry Potter as a unit of fiction (Quiddich was mentioned for example) but very quickly that's where similarities end.

The Harry Potter series had some dark moments and a couple of scenes that would make a 12 year old blush a little, but the genre is firmly youth/young adult oriented. Lev Grossman's The Magicians is firmly in the young adult/adult genre, with content I'd classify as not for young readers or listeners. I've heard the phrase "Harry Potter for grown-ups", but that's wrong too - and unfair to both novels (series).

The Magicians is a compelling and entertaining novel from start to finish. At the same time poking a bit of fun at fictional magic books while it becomes this fantastic tale depicting MAGIC as possible. Quinten Coldwater is likable and honest - his faults and biases are out there for all to see. The characters who orbit around and with him are equally compelling in their humanity - even as I picture them as college grads who are lost in the world and decide to backpack around Europe for a summer (obviously one must replace 'Europe' for Fillory).

Fillory is almost certainly inspired by Narnia - one of my favorite novels (again a series) of my childhood - I have fond memories of crawling off  for hours into my reading nook with my tattered C.S. Lewis books (and later with the SUPER book that contained all seven books under one hardcover with Lucy, Susan, Edmond, Peter and Aslan.  I also fondly remember at least one heated over-night debate in college that discussed what the proper order was to read the Chronicles....ahhhhh, good times.

Narration of "The Magicians" was by Mark Bramhall - who did tend to read more slowly than I wished to digest the novel. I easily fixed this by listening at 2x speed which delivered my content in a more satisfying pace. I did find that the novel ended somewhat abruptly - which I found easy enough to forgive knowing that I had more Fillory and Quinten to follow in the series.

There is a new novel out (release date 8/9/2011) by Lev Grossman entitled "The Magician King" continuing on Quinten's journey in Fillory, I already have The Magician King on my iPhone and plan to start it tomorrow morning.

The Magicians was written by Lev Grossman and published by Penguin Audiobooks. The Magicians has a runtime of 17 hours 24 minutes and an audible release date of 8/11/2009.

P.S. - I loved this quote from George RR Martin (author of Game of Thrones - a novel I still can't get into even after many attempts):
"The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea." 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tartan Gordon Setter Club - August 13-14, 2011

A late night back from the Gordon Setter Trial this weekend. I forget how much time FAST adds to a trial day. The show ran Ex FAST, Open FAST, Novice FAST, Ex Standard, Open Standard, Novice Standard, Ex JWW, Open JWW, Novice JWW. When the trial runs small to tall and excellent standard doesn't even start walking until 10:30 it's going to be a LONG day and a longer drive home. We finished our second run of the day (no FAST for Woo) around 5:30pm after a 5:00am wake-up call.

Silly R (my fault) off the double. I thought he'd committed to the double and moved for a front-cross. He came with me. Silly. We redeemed ourselves with a JWW Q, 8 points and 3rd place.

The #17 obstacle was the a-frame, with a VERY tempting tire at the bottom of the a-frame - beckoning the Woo who was amp'ed at the end of his run. He didn't take the tire and came off when I called him, but he was already past the refusal plane for the three jumps out. Too bad. The Sunday JWW run (at 5pm) was a tough course, Woo in classic Woo form pulled off a JWW Q, 6 points and another 3rd place.

Other things worth noting:
My iPhone went stupid on Saturday morning and the alarm never went off. I woke up at 5:48am and had arranged to meet someone (and leave for show grounds) at 6am. DOH! I totally would have made it for 6:05 if I hadn't gotten locked out of my room (with two of the three still inside the room). Card-Key doesn't work so Erica sprints to office to get new key, morning manager made me a new key, Erica sprints back to room - no dice, Erica runs back to office, talks manager into coming down to open the door with master key, master key doesn't work....Manager has to call corporate. Manager finds some magic device that plugs into bottom of lock that opens the door. Meanwhile Murphy and Teller demonstrate extreme patience from inside the door and Erica tries to insist how urgent it is that I get my dogs out REALLY REALLY soon while trying not to be "that" annoying psycho and yes shrill customer.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Puppy Problem Solving...

It's hot in here and sixteen week old Kipling has a problem. His 'girlfriend' (frozen water bottle) is in his crate. Kipling (not in his crate) wants to lay on the bed and chew on his bone, he'd also like to lay next to his frizen water bottle...what's a puppy to do?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: The Ghosts of Ragged Ass Gulch by Bill Pronzini

The Publisher's Summary:
Ravaged by time and abandoned by the people who once flocked there in search of golden nuggets, Ragged-Ass Gulch is a ghost town. What’s left is a small, proud, and close pack of people who aren’t looking for change. But change seems to be afoot as several mysterious fires plague the town. That’s where the Nameless Detective comes in….

The Ghosts of Ragged Ass Gulch came through as a "free" download for audible members. Most of the freebies don't appeal to me and I never try them. I finished The Map of Time yesterday so that puts me squarely between books at the moment (I'm secretly hoping that my advance copy of Sarah Jio's The Bungalow arrives in my mailbox tonight) so I figured I'd give this short story a try.

I'm reminded why (in general) short stories don't appeal to me. With a runtime of 1 hour 23 minutes there's not a lot of potential time and pages for a writer to build characters while developing a storyline. This was most certainly true for The Ghosts of Ragged Ass Gulch - a private detective investigating arson, superficial towns-people and a village idiot. The above reference ghosts are not the supernatural kind, rather they are the abandoned buildings that remain standing after the gold dried up and the town shut down. This same story might play well as a law and order episode, but as a short story the result was flat and fleeting.

The Ghosts of Ragged Ass Gulch was written by Bill Pronzini and published in audio format by BBC Audio 2011in conjunction with AudioGO. Narration of The Ghosts of Ragged Ass Gulch was by Nick Sullivan. The original publication date was 1982 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. The Ghosts of Ragged Ass Gulch has an audible release date of March 2nd, 2011 and a runtime of 1 hour 23 minutes.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Book Review: The Map of Time by Felix Palma

Last week  Felix Palma's The Map of Time appeared on the New York Times, I had just finished Ann Patchett's State of Wonder and was looking for something a little less 'summer novel' and a bit more 'original work of fiction'. From the publisher's description I thought The Map of Time was right up my alley.

Publisher's Summary
Set in Victorian London, with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time boasts a triple play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence. What happens if we change history? Félix J. Palma explores this question in The Map of Time, weaving a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting—a story full of love and adventure that transports listeners to a haunting setting in Victorian London for their own taste of time travel.

The Map of Time is essentially divided into three parts - the story and time travel of wealthy Andrew - who has lost his true love and wishes to save her from the past; present day (1898) Claire bored with eligible bachelors in her own time falls in love with a hero from the future (May 5th, 2000) and in the third part the life of H.G. Wells author of  'The Time Machine' who's inventive novel starts it all! It was interesting that all three sections could have easily stood on their own as short stories with equally satisfying results.

There were some times- particularly in the first third of the novel where I found myself impatient with the author and annoyed at the concepts of fiction that he presented. It was almost a struggle with disbelief - I didn't 'buy' the explanations offered for various technologies. However, dear reader, it's imperative to stick through these omissions and explanations to understand the rest of the novel - and the genius within. There will be an ah-ha! moment or moments that will make all of the yarns and pieces complete. In the end thoroughly enjoyed The Map of Time - nearly always staying back in the car at my destination to get through just a little bit more before I left my friends in the past.

The Map of Time was narrated by James Langton, who captured the role of observer and storyteller perfectly - the novel was a great story, Mr Langton's narration enhances that story into something so much more.If there was any criticism it was that at times Mr. Langton's normal speech was slower than I wanted to get through the story. C'mon, C'mon hurry up! This is not surprising with a novel of this duration and for me, this was easily solved with playback at 1.5x.

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma was published by Simon & Schuster Audio and was released on June 28th, 2011. The Map of time has an unabridged runtime of 20 hours 14 minutes.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Family Portrait: 16 weeks.

Kipling turned 16 weeks yesterday - how time flies! He's beginning to look like a big boy now.
August 8th, 2011: First the 'out-take'. Teller looking all
suave and polished, Murphy and Kipling looking like lurchers.
iPhone 4

August 8th, 2011: Now for some family togetherness.
Teller working a 'CHEESE' face, Murphy hoping for a piece of cheese and
Kipling pretending to be a perfect puppy.
iPhone 4

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Agility Club of New Hampshire - August 6-7, 2011

The boys and I were at the August edition of ACNH's agility trial season - fun club, super judge and best of all - dramatically air-conditioned on this hot and humid weekend..

Saturday we were a very disappointing 0 for 2 - not exactly how I wanted to start the weekend. Teller had a bar in JWW (my fault) and a wrong course tunnel in Standard (also my fault). The WC in standard put Teller back into over-achiever/fix it mode and he completely blew me off on the dogwalk contact...To be fair, I think this is his first blown DW contact since November 2010 - so I'm not too worried about it. It's classic form for us to have cascading failures once we make one mistake.

Sunday was a new day - thankfully - and we finished strongly with a double Q - #14 - I'm relieved to be over the THIRTEEN hump!

Here's the video from the weekend:

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Kipling's Training Journal: Part Two

Kipling is now 15 weeks, where does time go?
Family portrait.  Left to right: 
Teller (23.5" tall ), 15 week old Kipling, Murphy (25" tall)

Kipling continues to do well, we had a local three day agility trial last weekend which means that he got a lot of puppy exposure - but not a lot of formal training time. Kipling spent the weekend in to soccer facility in a noz crate. Sometimes covered, sometimes not covered. He was pretty quiet all weekend. He'd get up when I walked back towards the crates, but he also settled right back down again when he realized he wasn't coming out.

Exposure to new things
At the trial he met a bunch of new people, a couple of new dogs and I got to show off my puppy! Kipling is growing a lot right now but so far he's growing really evenly. He looks really leggy to me right now, but he's balanced front to rear. A friend pointed out that he now looks like a little dog instead of a puppy.

Kipling has earned a bit more freedom in the house in the last week, he's bombing around 'helping' me from time to time. I'm paying him when he chooses to check-in with me and I'm really not letting him roam without me knowing where he is. In the evenings he's been able to settle with a chewie with the BIG boys while I get some work done on the computer/have dinner - this has been one of the hardest things for him to "get" - he could be out and about with the boys and he doesn't HAVE to be playing, poking or exploring.

Doggy Manners
Kipling HAS decided that Teller's rule of "no climbing on me" does not pertain to Murphy (who absolutely WON'T correct him) - so I've had to step up enforcement of the no-paws on dawgs rule. He has a guilty conscience though and will often stop in his tracks and give me this "I wasn't thinking about jumping on Murphy" look. 'Thinking and not doing' is preferable to 'thinking and doing' (anyway), or 'not thinking and doing' - so that's certainly something!  :-)

Gaiting and standing
Kipling is gaiting really well,  has a nice little down and back - without even trying really. We are working on stacking, free-stacking and a stand on cue. I'd very much like to get someone with breed-handling experience to work with him a couple times a month...if there's anyone out there who wants to swap obedience/agility/training lessons (or cookies) for gaiting and stacking they should be in touch :-)

Sit, Down and Duration
I worked a lot of waits this week, mostly in the sit. As a result I've lost some of my fast-downs. They'll come back with some work - tonight for the first time I put all three boys into a fastest down 'competition' - asking for a down and rewarding the fastest down. Kipling got the idea and I got some nice speedy drops from all of them.
Duration of sits and down. I've got 30 seconds of duration now on his sit and his down. I've started adding some distance to the sit - and now get about 20' away and back (walking around behind him back into heel position). I have similar distance and duration on the down stay. I need to start adding some duration on the stand next week.
I had a great opportunity to really proof the stays/waits last Thursday night when we took all three boys (and three border collies, two rough collies and a Rottie up to the hill for a photoshoot. I put Kipling in a wait and he was really good at holding it while four photographers twittered and chirped at him. He was a super-star baby dog

Shaping Games
This week I introduced a FitPaws pod. They come in a set of four and the idea is for dogs to get one under each foot in a stacked position. I had one out on the floor aiming for one rear foot on the pod. It became apparent however that in choosing the pod I'd chosen an object that was small enough that we really didn't have many accidental offered behaviors. I ended up putting the pod away for another day. I think we might work on a paint can first, then move to the much smaller pod.

I did put him on the pods this evening as a stacking exercise (physically placing the pods under his feet) - he did a great job - even with the weird nubby tactile surface.

Kipling remains my easiest dog to dremel, we're still doing nails every other day. Right now I'm flipping him over on my lap and while he's on his back, I'm doing an entire foot at a time - cookie, then the next foot. As his legs get longer though it's going to get harder and harder to dremel this way.

Leash Walking
This is coming along. We had some moments at the show this weekend where he was really pulling - and it took a lot of patience (from both of us) to work through it. We did, but we're still having good days and bad days keeping the leash loose. Last night I did a bit of 'choose to heel' at the agility field after I'd worked Teller, once he figured out the game he was staying right with me.

Don't Chase the Kitty
This week Kipling has really taken an interest in Q  and has been tempted (and successful) in giving chase. I'm trying to prevent the chase as much as possible. Q is complicit in this chase/be chased scenario though, so I have to keep an eye on who is starting the game - it's not always the puppy.

I had people over for a BBQ last weekend, Kipling and Teller were invited at various times (Murphy was uninvited pretty early into the party when he proved himself unable to keep all of his feet on the ground). Kipling did keep his feet on the floor and even demonstrated some pretty sweet swimming skills!

This week I've combined recall with the collar game. Kipling! (he starts to head my direction) Come! (click as he's moving towards me) and when he comes to me I'm treating him and taking his collar, holding the collar for a few seconds or a minute and then releasing him. The idea is that coming to 'mom' doesn't end the fun, collar games are good and that he'll likely get to go play again. This is all preparation for going for walks and runs off-leash. I need to be able to get a hold of him if we're in the woods and we run into people or other dogs....

More updates next week!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday Training - August 3rd, 2011

Super short session with Teller today - here's what I worked on:

Then Kipling came out, did a little bit of choose to heel (he did) and a bit of shaping 2o2o on the base of the dogwalk. Mr NO FEAR attempted to climb up the ramp, necessitating re-attachment of the leash! Kipling didn't get the "no agility for puppies" memo!