Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday at the Barn - January 31st, 2012

Another "June-uary" day here in Vermont with temps in the mid-thirties today, rising overnight and super-awesome 45 degrees tomorrow. We had a great session at the barn for both Kipling and Teller. Here's what we worked on (light numbered circles for Teller, dark for Kipling):

Kipling working some rear-crosses on the green and blue numbered courses...

On a personal note: my 2012 goal was to get better about taking care of myself - to that end I've given up anything white - no rice, no pasta, no bread, no cereal, no sugar - nothing at all processed. Other than greek yogurt which has become a staple - if I can't cook it in my kitchen I'm not eating it - which makes dining out with me super fun :-) It's been easier than you might imagine - though there have been a couple of days where I've really craved a sandwich and a diet coke! Oh and the day the office had a going-away party for an employee with trays of lasagna and mac and cheese and a giant red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting (I ate my salad like a good girl).  Frozen sauce-less veggies have been my salvation along with super lean proteins (in large part from my favorite butcher shop The Meat House) in handy dandy vacuum sealed packages. 

I've also been walking or running at least two miles at a time, five or six nights a week. In the back of my mind I'm eyeing the Disney Half-Marathon next January (2013) - BUT thirteen point one is a whole lot more than two miles though!  It's nice to finally use that super expensive treadmill I bought a few years ago! 

And here's the point of this personal note. This morning knowing today had a high probability of being CRAZY, I got up extra early this morning to run 4 miles on the treadmill, went to work - put in a 7 hour day in the office before I left to drive home, pick up Teller and Kipling and head to the barn. I taught a 30 minute private lesson, worked my own dogs for an hour, drove home, put Teller and Kipling in the house, leashed up Murphy and out for a walk - I was planning to do a pretty relaxed 1.5 mile walk (two laps around the neighborhood) as I was about to start the second lap I was feeling pretty good and Murphy wasn't having any 'cold feet' issues with the salt on the road and sidewalk so I decided to take a detour around the village finishing with a 3.5 mile walk. My pedometer reports an impressive 19,258 steps (as of 8pm) which is a little over 9.5 miles for the day. Go me, go me, go, go go me!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Videos from the Barn - January 28th, 2012

With the busy day yesterday it took me a bit to get videos processed and uploaded.
Here's Teller working on his obedience:

And Kipling working on Figure-8's and speed circles:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Busy Saturday...

After my week oncall with the pager we needed a good sleep-in this morning - very pleased that my perfect dogs all slept until 9am this morning giving me approximately 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep - after 10 straight days of sleep in 2 hour increments, it was much needed!

1/28 - Family Portrait
Teller (5), Kipling (9 months), Murphy (7.5)
After all that sleep we hit the ground running! First to partially thaw, separate and re-package 60lbs of duck necks and 20lbs of chicken necks. Then I decided I'd had enough of furry ears and grinch feet so all three dogs got tossed up on the grooming table for brush-outs and trims. Off to the barn to work Teller and Kipling - great sessions with both - and some video to post tomorrow of their sessions.

Then we headed off to the school where the entire pack had a playdate with the absolutely adorable and totally handsome Gusto! Another rare (though certainly pretty common this winter) 40 degree January day, it's been so icy lately that the boys just haven't had the chance to really get out and run. With temperatures hanging above freezing for the last 72 hours there was some ice leftover from storms but mostly just MUD, MUD, MUD - so home we go where all three dogs got bathed (rinse, shampoo, rinse, shampoo, rinse, conditioner, rinse, towel dry, blow dry) to get all the sand and grit out of their coats and nether regions don't recall the last time I had to spend so much time rinsing just to get all the grit out from the undercoat!

Then it was my turn to hit the treadmill for two miles - done, done and done! I don't feel like I got to sit down at all today - until I sat down to edit and tweak photos of course.

Some pictures from today:
1/28 - I told the boys not to run on the ice..I left out the part
about doing so with grace.

1/28 - Murphy


1/28 - Teller staying off the ice

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1/28 -  Two CLEAN goldens eh?

1/28 - 

1/28 - Yellow dog is now grey.

1/28 - 

1/28 - "Alright white-boy, you're goin' DOWN"

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday at the Barn...January 27th, 2012

It was another obedience night for Teller at the barn this afternoon - Of course I left the camera at home tonight because both boys had sessions I would have liked to watched...Teller is so brilliant, he's heeling like I've actually worked obedience with him recently - just right there where I want him to be. Fronts are great, drops are fast and clean and his up attitude is just perfect!

Decided that Kipling should do some speed circles and variants of speed circles - something he hasn't done yet. I mention to folks that he's a pretty clean slate - he's got some fundamentals on-board, but he hasn't gotten a lot of formal agility training, my philosophy is that there is still so much time to do that when he's more physically and mentally mature.

Nevertheless, one of the next things I want to help him with is looking for the next obstacle. He's at the stage where he has his favorite things 'to do', the things he's gotten a lot of reinforcement for doing (the dogwalk, tunnels, etc) and he's at the stage in his understanding where he's offering equipment a lot. That's great Kippie, but I haven't introduced you to the whole a-frame, kindly get your furry bottom off it please :-) On the one hand you applaud the enthusiasm, but you need to interject a bit of control into the situation.

So when I setup said circle I delibrately put jumps near the dogwalk ramps, tunnels and a-frames. I broke down the initial speed circle into about four pieces, clicking and treating for working WITH me. Tough lesson Kippie! In typical Kippie fashion he figured out the new game pretty quickly and had some nice sequences - I'm particularly impressed with his ability to SEE the tire in a pinwheel. In the process I also introduced some baby-rear crosses (you want me to do what while you almost run me over?) and a few blind crosses as well. No biggie says Kippie.

Here's what we worked today:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday at the Barn - January 24th, 2012

A light agility day for Teller at the barn today - it's been months since he's worked any formal heelwork (or any of the open/utility exercises for that matter). If my goal is to get that CDX this year I need to train a bit of obedience here and there. So here is a very rusty Teller-Woo pretending to be an obedience dog. He loves to play the game - any game...this dog is such a huge piece of my soul.

He did get to play a bit of agility after all that 'work':

Kipling got off easy tonight - no obedience for Kippie, but probably the hardest sequences he's seen to date. He was particularly amazing in the baby sends to the jump #1 while I moved away for crosses. Don't quite remember teaching him that trick :-)

And Kippie the video:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Birding - January 22nd, 2012

I love cardinals!
Canon T2i
This little fellow chatted with me a bit - totally unphased by my intrusion.
Canon T2i

Canon T2i

Canon T2i

Canon T2i
Canon T2i

Canon T2i

Artsy Crabapple
Canon T2i

Canon T2i

Obviously the squirrels are unphased by the cayenne pepper in the bird seed.
Canon T2i

Teller says: "Please stop messing with the birdies and let me inside"
Canon T2i

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday at the Barn - January 22nd, 2012

Teller had the last week off after the SAAC trial, but today after a week of not so much exercise Teller (and Kippie too) needed to work. So, just a simple setup before launching into a busy week of working and teaching.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review: A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

A Lion Among Men is the third novel in Gregory Maguire's "Wicked Series". Reviews for the first two novels: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (the novel from which Broadway's Wicked is based) and Son of a Witch.

The Audible Publisher's Summary
In the much-anticipated third volume of the Wicked Years, we return to Oz, seen now through the eyes of the Cowardly Lion.
While civil war looms in Oz, a tetchy oracle named Yackle prepares for death. Before her final hour, a figure known as Brrr - the Cowardly Lion - arrives searching for information about Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Abandoned as a cub, his path from infancy is no Yellow Brick Road. In the wake of laws that oppress talking animals, he avoids a jail sentence by agreeing to serve as a lackey to the warmongering Emperor of Oz.
A Lion Among Men chronicles a battle of wits hastened by the Emerald City's approaching armies. Can those tarnished by infamy escape their sobriquets to claim their own histories, to live honorably within their own skins before they're skinned alive?
Gregory Maguire's new novel is written with the sympathy and power that have made his books contemporary classics.

It took me a bit of time to get back to Gregory Maguire's Wicked series - actually it took the release of book four "Out of Oz: The Wicked Years" and that novel's subsequent appearance on the New York Times Bestseller list for me to pick the series back up. As noted in the publisher's summary this novel is written from the perspective of the Cowardly Lion (Brrr) and Yackle (as interviewed by Brrrrr).

My complaint with A Lion Among Men is that there really wasn't a plot. The writing was OK, the narration was fine - I just kept waiting for something-anything to happen. There was background information on Glinda and Leer. Obviously we learn more about Yackle (the creator of the ruby slippers, the oracle at the montery, she who gave Elphaba her broom, etc) and Mr Maguire set up the war of Munchkinlanders and the residents of Oz in a post-wizard era. Just about the best part of the novel was that many of the characters made reference to "the great and wonderful WOO" (wizard of oz and of course Teller's nickname).

A lot of this would be forgivable if the fourth book (the recently released 'Out of Oz: The Wicked Years') didn't spend the first 45 minutes or so catching the reader up on everything we learned in A Lion Among Men. I'm partially through Out of Oz and finding the plot points MUCH more entertaining - there is hope for the series to end as strongly as it began.

A Lion Among Men was written by Gregory Maguire and produced byHarper Audio, copyright 10/14/2008. A Lion Among Men was narrated by John McDonough and has a runtime of 12 hours 1 minute.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I'm several books behind on my reviews here, so in the next couple of days I'm going to try to catch up with my December and early January reading. Shortly after finishing Stephen King's 11-22-63, I reached for another novel from Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The Shadow of the Wind and The Midnight Palace were previously reviewed here on Magica Goldens).

The Audible Publisher's Summary:
In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martin, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld.
But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.
Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed, a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.
Once again, Zafon takes us into a dark, gothic universe first seen in the Shadow of the Wind and creates a breathtaking adventure of intrigue, romance, and tragedy. Through a dizzingly constructed labyrinth of secrets, the magic of books, passion, and friendship blend into a masterful story.

The Angel's Game has several striking parallels to Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind - namely the tortured existence of a writer trying to succeed in Barcelona's literary circles. The Cemetery of Forgotten books makes another appearance and a mentor who fosters the love of reading and writing. I suspect that Mr. Zafon must have such a guiding force in his real-life past.

The story of The Angel's Game is a bit darker than the other two Zafon novels I've reviewed here and there is a mythical element to a couple of the characters (that I can't delve into without a spoiler). I did find that the novel got to about 15 hours 10 minutes and then suddenly there was a bit of a "whoops! we've got to wrap this sucker up fast" vibe. To some extent this was a bit uncomfortable for the reader (or listener) - we're cruising along at 55mph when suddenly we accelerate to 90mph and then abruptly crash to a tangled mess. When we step out of the wrecked car completely unharmed the ride all makes sense and we're satisfied - but we're a little stunned trying to figure out exactly how it all happened! Vague? Yes - deliberately so. I needed a second listen through the last 30-40 minutes to bring it all together in my mind.

Now for a bit of criticism - minor though it may be. I was not as invested in this novel as I was with (in particular) The Shadow of the Wind. I liked the characters well enough, but I didn't get sucked into their stories as much as I would have liked to. There is a bit of a fable in the main character David Martin's life - be careful what you wish for, because if you get it you might find that you didn't really want it in the first place.

Worth repeating for The Angel's Game is my preference to skip translated novels - as a rule, I find translated novels to miss a connecting quality between runs of thought and dialogue. All three of the Zafon novels I've listened to were translated by Lucia Graves - who so expertly manipulates the language that it seems impossible that these novels were not read in the language that they were written. I liked Dan Stevens' narration of the novel, with the usual semi-complaint that for my liking I wish he'd read at a bit faster pace. Thanks to the audible app on my iPhone I can (and did) 'fix' that by listening at an accelerated rate of playback.

The net result was a satisfying novel that perhaps just didn't shine as brightly as The Shadow of the Wind. I'd recommend it to any fan of the genre - perhaps David (and Daniel) will be more compelling to you :-)

The Angel's Game was written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and produced by Random House Audio, copyright 6/16/2009. The Spanish language novel was published in April 2008. The Angel's Game was narrated by Dan Stevens and has a runtime of 15 hours 29 minutes.

How Kipling rolls....

Or...how to make a 2.5 hour car ride FEEL LIKE a 10 hour car ride:

Thankfully we were able to divert his attention with a couple of baby carrots and the squeak-a, squeak-a stopped shortly there after. Gee, it's too bad that my puppy is so stressed on long car rides eh?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Feeding raw on a budget.

Today I unloaded just over 2,800 pounds of dog food off the back of a commercial truck. All frozen, all in 30-40 pound boxes. After I unloaded the entire thing and sorted everyone's order into piles (thus moving most of those 2,800 pounds twice), I unboxed and stocked our freezer, then lugged 70 pounds of duck and chicken necks into the house to thaw in the bathtub so that I can break the cases down into smaller (more manageable) packages for feeding... Oh and while I spent these two hours outside it was about 30 degrees and raining - which STILL beats minus 5 and windy, so I won't complain too much!
Good thing the goldens didn't see this!
I had too much stock  to fit in a summer/fall
freezer defrost. High on the priority list for spring
chores! Ahhhhhh, SPRING!!!! 

All told about 375 pounds of this order was mine. That's enough to feed my three for about 12-15 weeks - perhaps a bit more, perhaps less. I usually have a few folks who call for semi-emergency rations and most of the time I have enough to help out. I keep very close tabs on my inventory knowing that my window for wholesale orders is every three weeks.

Tip: Use a magnetic whiteboard on the outside of your freezer to keep track of your inventory - you'll know at a glance what you have inside.

My freezer holds about 450lbs of raw food (I learned that one the hard way) and in a pinch my kitchen freezer can hold another 50lbs - but I do try not to order too much more than what I'll need until the next order - first so I can rotate stock, but also because it just doesn't make sense to carry much more stock than I need. My last order (6 weeks ago) was in the beginning of December and now in mid-January as Old Mother Hubbard would say - our pantry was bare!

So what does this have to do with feeding raw food on a budget? A lot actually. I hear a lot of people say "I wish I could feed my dogs raw, but it's too expensive!" When I ask them what they're feeding for kibble and how much they're paying for that kibble more often than not they could feed raw for about the same price.  Here are my eight tips for feeding a high-quality raw diet without breaking the bank:

1) Buy in bulk.
Wholesale orders are a lot of work to put together, but the cost savings over MSRP is huge - on almost every product. Find out who delivers raw to your local pet supply store, go directly to the source. Almost all manufacturers have a price-point at which they will sell wholesale. Factor in shipping costs to your door (Oma's gives me the option of having food delivered here at my home or pickup at a pre-arranged drop-point for a bit less). Remember that even when buying in bulk, buying in more bulk means more savings. Most places have a tiered wholesale pricesheet - the more you buy the more you save. For me, this means getting some friends to order with me as a co-op - for you it might mean placing one large order rather than a couple smaller orders (order every 12 weeks instead of every 6 weeks).

2) Feed a variety of pieces and parts.
The most expensive items are the mixes - whole meats, bone, organs and blanched veggies all ground up into a ready-to-use product. On the other end of the spectrum leftovers from the restaurant supply business can be pretty inexpensive - chicken necks can run around $.70/pound, chicken backs (with a lot of meat on them) at about $.50/pound. If you feed half of your dog's rations in necks, backs and frames (aka meaty bones) you lose nothing on nutrition and save a lot in price.

3) Grind your own
I understand some people aren't thrilled about handing their dog a whole chicken frame or chicken back. I totally understand. Some dogs don't chew their food well and sometimes those larger pieces do become portable (thus outdoor foods). Some manufacturers will sell ground frames or ground necks (for prices that are pretty close to the whole pricing and much less than the pre-made mixes). Or, you can always grind your own - commercial grinders (used) can be reasonably priced if you find the right situation - under $500 if you're very lucky and they (truly) last forever.

4) Shop the Specials
Oma's Pride offers specials every round of orders - some are ok deals, some are teaser pricing for new items and some are smokin' deals with the catch that pricing is only good for full case lots. When Oma's offers a special on mackerel (for instance) the pricing is usually around half of the initial wholesale price. I don't order mackerel every order, but I will order a case when they're on special. A case of mackerel will last me several months - usually until the next special on mackerel!

5) Hit the grocery store clearance rack.
Want to add veggies to your dog's chicken necks? Shop the produce clearance rack at the grocery store, blanch the veggies and add them to the bowl. I have a friend who spends one Saturday a month doing just that and freezing a month's worth of semi-cooked veggies. A local grocery store has a February meat sale - they buy in bulk to fill special orders (pre-order) and pass the savings onto the customers. Last year I was able to buy 40 pounds of chicken wings for $22 - lots of meat, nice amount of bone and a great size for a couple (then) of golden retrievers.
Our freezer stocked up for another 12 weeks.

6) Augment raw rations with one of the dehydrated 'raw' foods.
Sojo's, Addiction, The Honest Kitchen - all make really good products. Some are designed to be fed as complete diets, others like the Sojo's mixes and The Honest Kitchen's Preference are designed to be a meal base that you can add your own protein (raw or cooked). This gives you a lot of the ingredient control of raw with the flexibility of a kibble.

7) Feed a larger variety.
You might find that turkey is really expensive, but tripe is cheaper - tripe is a great protein (usually considered a complete food). Figure out the balance point and don't dismiss any one item type or protein altogether. I ordered tripe, turkey mix, chicken mix, chicken frames, chicken necks, chicken backs, duck necks, ground duck, sardines, tripe and tripe mixed with ground trachea.

8) Choose your brands carefully
If feeding a commercially prepared diet note that prices vary pretty significantly - especially on the raw mixes. Some brands of mixes come only in patty form - buying raw in patty form is always going to be more expensive than buying tubes or bricks, but even among the patties there's a huge variation in pricing without (in most cases) a huge difference in ingredients. You could go broke feeding a small dog on some of the more expensive patty options!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Southern Adirondack Agility Club - January 14-16th, 2012

Kippie modeling his Baker Blanket
January in New England, January in upstate New York - you never know. Last weekend it was 55 degrees and we were playing outside (in NH) and this weekend it was...well....25 degrees and sleet and snow on the drive down (yuck), Saturday brought rapidly falling temperatures the official high was 23 degrees at 2am down to -1 at 8pm with 50mph winds with wind chill of -15. Ugg! Sunday's high was a whopping 10 degrees but the wind had moved out and we had brilliant sunny skies, today temps got into the mid-20's again again without the wind. In retrospect at home temps never got out of the single digits from Friday night through Monday afternoon - I missed the worst of it!

We had to hit WalMart for long underwear, a hat and some new mittens. The result was that Saturday was pretty miserable, but Sunday and Monday weren't so bad! I generally work out of the van whenever possible and with a couple of strategic starts (and leaving the car running for a while), coats on the dogs and the sunshine, my boys were comfortable all weekend - I think my van was warmer than the trial building. All three days the dogs got out for some really nice long walks - a half an hour at a time a couple times a day - everyone got to stretch their legs, keep their muscles warm under their coats and they all got some extra cookies and work the crowds.

It ended up being a fantastic weekend for Teller. In short Teller was 5 for 6 for the weekend - three standard legs plus two JWW legs = 2 QQ's and 72 MACH points!

In long we had a bobble in our Saturday JWW runs - I drove too deep to a tunnel and ended up too far behind him to get an 'out' jump down another line. I hadn't intended to go that deep to the tunnel and I hadn't intended to be on that 'off' side after it. Oh well!

In related news, while Kipling was in the building - between classes - I took the opportunity to work him a little over the practice jump. Wait, recall over jump, rear cross left, rear cross right - distractions all around focus on the task, get chicken and lots of squeaky 'yays'!!! You can do a lot with one jump!

In related news I got to watch Kipling's mother and grandmother run this weekend - both Chyna and Carlie had great runs and a couple of Q's: Carlie finishing her OA and picking up her first AXJ leg. YAY mommy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Then and Now...

Every so often I stumble upon a picture of Teller at exactly the same age Kipling is now, yesterday was one of those 'so oftens':
Murphy (3 years) and Teller (8.5 months)

Murphy (7.5 years), Kipling (8.5 months) and Teller (5 years)