Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blog Symbols

Blogging inspires deeper contemplation and more thoughtful consideration and analysis of my activities and events, which is probably why I like doing it.  It helps me to live life more consciously and remember things.

I've found some small images to mark categories of thought that come to me while blogging.  I started adding these yesterday and will endeavor to add them to past pages whenever I happen to visit them again, and I may add more symbols as new categories appear.


Idea: whenever I get an idea that's new to me.

Rant: whenever I get on my bull horn and go on a rant.

Musings: things I'm ruminating about, reasoning thru, speculating on.

Gift:  Something I am given thru the generousity of another person, or by some divine intervention.  It is important to acknowledge our gifts to keep them flowing.

Other symbols I'm thinking of adding - thoughts, resolutions, prayers, journeys, achievements, milestones, epiphanies, miracles, pointers, keys, messages.

Monday Practice

Before meeting up with Nedra, Georgie, & Michele S at the field at 4 p.m. for an hour's practice on the FCI course set up last week, I dropped by Joy's to train Puddin a bit, and bring Joy a platter of food from our Christmas Party, and the first disk of The Tudors. Joy is getting around, and seems ever cheerful.  I worked in the den with Puddin's Line-Ups, fetches, bring it to me's, post turns, pull throughs, sit/stays, downs, and so forth.  He seems willing to learn, anxious to please.  Joy put most of the other D's outside, which helped Puddin to focus. I quickly retreated from the treadmill as he showed some anxiety

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Fry's Christmas - 2010

L to R:  Michele, Nathan, Allison, Jonathan,
Steven, Dawn, Audrey, John
Maxie and Willow were busy eating crumbs off the floor.
As said previously, I couldn't muster the energy to decorate nor take down Maxie's titling ribbons and photos from my mantle this year, so Audrey stepped up and offered her house. She made the sweet potato casserole, her famous oyster dressing and coccoons, salad, and rolls, and I brought a 14 lb spiral ham, loaded mashed potatoes, pecan pies, and chocolate.  And there were other goodies, like the Santa Bread.
  It worked out perfect.  Lots of hearty laughter.  Despite pleas of "no material objects, please,"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prepping To Teach First Class

In preparation to teach my first agility class (a Beginners class) starting January 3, I've been working these past few days on my Lesson Plan, making a comprehensive list of Handling Skills, trying to prioritize them, visiting websites of other agility instructors, gathering their suggestions, studying their diagrams, watching training videos.

The 3 students Nedra assigned to me are all familiar to me so I know approximately where to begin.  2 were in Kay's Beginners class last session (where I assisted) and 1 has been in Sandy's Advanced Beginners for several sessions but needs some foundation work.  I may need to convince her that she hasn't been "demoted" back to Beginners, that everything I will present needs to be practiced for the life of the dog, anyway.

Beginners, I'm told, is supposed to bring every team up to confident performance on full height contact equipment, then, I'm guessing (in the absence of a syllabus),

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jump Chutes

Learned a new term this week - Jump Chutes!  Seems everybody knows about these except me.  Found a website that describes it, and ordered the book:  Suzanne Clothier's "The Clothier Natural Jumping Method" - $13.95 includes shipping.

This method supposedly teaches your dog to perfect their jumping ability by

Motor Home Drool

Coachman Concord, Exterior view, 2 slide outs
Thursday and Friday, John's days off.  Our weekend.  Running other errands last Friday, we decided to pass by Millerville RV on O'Neal and Florida, and check out the trailers and motor homes.  Just for the hell of it, of course.  No intention to buy.  No ability to buy. We inspected a few dozen trailers and motor homes. I liked some but I fell in love with the Coachman Concord 275S0, an '05 model.  Everything in it including HDTV, surround sound entertainment center, generator, shower, hot water, full kitchen, separate bedroom with queen size bed and end tables, built in drawers and closets, all the options included. Two slide-outs. 28' long. Roomy. Selling for the dirt cheap price of $43,000!!!!!  My jaw hit the floor.

FCI World Championship Course Setup

Sheryl and I met at the field at noon and commenced setting up this 60' x 110' FCI 2010 World Championship Jumpers Course that I had seen Susan Garrett run on a video.  I created the map using my Course Designer Program, from the approximate positions I saw on the video. Nedra joined us around 1 and helped us finalize the course, then we all took turns running it til around 3.  I had both Lucky and Maxie with me, Nedra had Jessie, Sheryl had Charlie. The weather was 50's, clear skies, beautiful day.

This course is different from any other I've run.  The angles are tough, and there is sometimes 25 to 38 feet between obstacles (instead of the usual 15-20'), requiring some strong flat work

Sunday At Joy's

Today Sheryl and I  visited Joy again, shared some delicious Stuffed Bellpepper Stew Sheryl brought, then we walked Joy's dogs, 3 each at a time.  It was my first attempt at walking 3 dogs and I did not particularly enjoy it.  I felt I was always in danger of getting tangled up in the leashes, possibly tripping and injuring myself.  I didn't interact with the dogs much, so busy was I trying to manage them.  From now on no more than 2 dogs at a time.  Afterwards I tried working with Puddin' doing Line Ups on the floor and on the OFF treadmill.  It took some time but he finally started getting the hang of lining up.

Totally different experience than working with my own dogs, who trust me completely and are used to listening to me.  When I tried the "grab the collar" and turn on the treadmill maneuver that worked so well with my dogs, Puddin bolted out of there fast.  Exercise finished.  I'll try this again another day.

Upwards and onward!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December CR Central

With my clean yard and a cool, sunny day, and me VERY SURPRISINGLY no more sore than usual from yesterday's raking, today I set up the CR Central course from the December issue of Clean Run Magazine -- practice with Tunnel/Contact Obstacle Discrimination.  My dog walk being unmovable (hard to move by myself), I had to position the other obstacles in relation to it.  No big problem.  It was nearly in the right place.  Because my yard is 10 feet shorter than the course setup required, and there are a few saplings and a bush in the middle that I don't want to cut down, I had to make some other adjustments as well.  Whatever.  It will still give lots of handling practice. 

A few days back, John had spotted a crack in the underside of the dog walk, so I flipped the board over and sure enough,

Raking Leaves

Michele and John raking leaves, Agility Yard
This morning I found a fortune cookie on the counter and it read "Determination will get you thru this."  Thru what, I wondered? I dismissed it as a stupid fortune and threw it away.

It's our weekend.  We intend to do nuthin, just rest up and relax, watch X-Files, Season 1 on Netflix. The air is crisp and dry.  Temp in the 60's.  Light breeze.  Slightly overcast.  John and I up and cheerful. Nothing pressing on our agenda except hot coffee on the porch, a few loads of laundry.

Then inspiration jumps up and grabs us by the hair.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

1st Treadmill Session/Lucky/Maxie/FoohFooh

It's 65 degrees today but overcast, dreary looking, and breezy.  Not enticing.  So it's a perfect day to start treadmill training my dogs.  Yesterday I came up with some preliminary Line-Up training, described here.  Today I took it to the next level.
  • Standing beside the treadmill (turned OFF), I lured Lucky onto it and gave a treat for every 4-on contact facing the right direction. "Get On, Off, Get On, Off, Get On, Off". 10 repetitions, she had no hesitation, understood and enjoyed the game.
  • Then we practiced our Line-Ups on the floor beside the board, with treadmill running to desensitize for the noise.
  • Turn treadmill off.  Practice Line-Ups on the board, with me straddling the belt.
  • After several reps, with her lined up between my legs on the board, I grasped her collar and began the treadmill turning very slowly, barely moving, constantly praising. She was confused for a moment but with encouragement just walked along, focusing on the high value treats in my hand. Lots of praise and treats as she walked. I increased the speed one tick at a time until she was walking along at a slow pace, for about 5 minutes. Then I turned it off. We dismounted. Exercise finished.
A few hours later, we began training in earnest. 
Lucky first.  Thaw out a whole bowl of liver treats. Crate the other dogs.  Maxie goes wild thinking Lucky would get the first turn at whatever it was we were going to do.  Good.  Lucky feels the spotlight on her.  Good.
I straddle the treadmill.  I say "line up" and Lucky lines up between my legs just like we practiced yesterday.  "Line Up. Off. Line Up. Off" a few times.  Then, with Lucky in Line Up position, I turn on the machine at 1.1 mph., hold her collar in one hand and a treat in front of her nose with the other, and she walks along trying to take nips from the treat.  Within 3 minutes I get off the treadmill, hold a treat at her nose, and let go of the collar.  She keeps walking, sometimes going close to the back end and sometimes putting a front paw on the guard, but adjusting each time.  I am VERY CAREFUL to pick a single spot to deliver the treat, and never vary my hand position from that spot, such that her front paws land about 2" from the top end of the belt.  If my hand is too high, she lunges up for it.  Too low, she loses her focus and gait.  I learn to position my hand at her shoulder height, and make precise movements.

When I run out of treat and remove my hand to reach into the bowl for another, she seems to understand another treat is coming so she keeps walking.  I extend the time it takes for me to get each treat from the bowl.  She keeps walking.  I speed up the machine, hold out my hand in same position but with no treat.  She keeps walking, touching my hand for a treat. Within 5 minutes I can remove my treat hand completely and just give verbal encouragement.  "keep walking, keep up, walk along, stay on, good walking", etc.  I walk across the room to the treat bowl, and deliver a treat now and then.

A few times, at first, she hopped off when I removed my treat hand because her nose was following my hand.  I just said "get on" and she hopped right back on, belt going.  Wasn't a bit scared. I reached 1.5 mph within 10 minutes, then slowed it down another minute, then stopped it.  Off.  Exercise finished. Lots of praise, then outside for a pottie break.

Maxie's turn.  I never practiced Line Up with Maxie, but he is a quick study.  Just from watching Lucky he knew exactly what to do.  Because he is so tiny, I used a slip leash to hold him in place between my legs as I started the machine.  He just walked along between my legs as I fed him wee little kibbles of Purina Kitten Chow one at a time.  Within 3 minutes, I got off, belt running, and sat on the floor beside him with the treat bowl hidden behind my outstretched leg.  "Walk, Maxie, keep walking, stay on, good treadmill."  Such verbal encouragement, and reaching behind my knee for a treat and bringing it to his nose every so often, in one precise location, he walked right along.  I sped up the belt so he was almost trotting, and he kept going and wanted to please me but was getting a bit anxious.  I slowed it down to a walk. When I got up to try walking away, he hopped off, but hopped right back on at my signal.  I stopped after about 6 minutes, before he was ready to quit.

So those were my two agility dogs that I've worked with frequently since they were puppies. 

When John got home we did a "demo for Daddy" and both Lucky and Maxie did great, same as above.  Next we tried FoohFooh, who was whining for his turn.  Fooh Fooh is just as smart but much less trained and now getting older. We never turned the machine on.  I just had John straddle the belt and train the Line Up command.  FoohFooh was so excited and snapping for his treats, and John's hands going all over the place, it was not very successful.  I coached from the chair and we finally had some success.  It was interesting to see another person trying to train, getting frustrated, etc.  I'll try again soon on my own.

I didn't even bother with Willow, but I will because if I can train her to do this it will be a big boost to my self-esteem.  When I got her she was already 6 years old and stubborn, so if I can train her, I can probably train any dog.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Line Up" Exercise

In preparation for training the treadmill, I first trained Lucky and Maxie a Line-Up exercise.  I've also seen some handlers use the LINE UP at the start line at agility trials.
"Line Up": D goes around behind H then comes forward thru H's straddled legs, sits or remains standing. Treat. Praise. "Go Around". Repeat.

Some D's may not need Line-Up training, but others get spooked if you try to straddle them. I've never trained Line Up's before but it's a cool exercise. Lucky learned to Line Up within a few minutes. It can be practiced any where, any time, while cooking, etc. A neat floor exercise and parlor trick.

"Line Up" for treadmill practice: Straddle the treadmill belt. Ask for a Line UP, treat. "Go Around". Repeat. (Same as above, only on the board.)
After several reps, with Lucky lined up between my legs on the board, I grasped her collar and began the treadmill turning very slowly, barely moving, constantly praising. She was confused for a moment but with encouragement just walked along, focusing on the high value treats in my hand. Lots of praise and treats as she walked along between my legs. I increased the speed one tick at a time until she was walking along at a slow pace, for about 5 minutes. Then I turned it off. We dismounted. Exercise finished.

This could be done several times a day, in a few short minutes. Tomorrow we take it to the next level.

Upwards and onward!

Agility Committee 2011 Meeting

Our club elects a new Agility Director each year, and this year it's Nedra.  She is in charge of scheduling agility classes, field and equipment maintenance, and setting policy.  She called a meeting at Don's Seafood Restaurant for last night and over dinner laid out her plans for the coming year.  Lots of good changes are happening, every one of them correcting things I've had complaints about in the past:
  1. Advanced Beginners no longer requires proficiency in 12 weave poles, and concentrates on teaching short sequences and classic setups rather than running full courses.
  2. A new Intermediate class, after Advanced Beginners and before Competitive Handling, where handlers are taught advanced handling techniques as much as dogs are trained on the equipment, drills like "around the clock", difficult entries, etc.
  3. Instructors may offer "specialty classes", such as "2x2 weave poles", "handling techniques", "recreational agility", etc.
  4. Minimum course enrollment of 3 students, on a "pending sufficient enrollment" basis.
  5. Maximum course enrollment of 6 students, so every student gets 5 or 6 turns.
  6. Instructors at the lower levels can no longer run their dogs during class, except for demo purposes.  At higher levels, instructors can run their dog but that dog must count as one of the 6 maximum enrolled.
  7. Acknowledgment that a "recreational agility" category of students exists that we should also cater to.  Not everyone wants to compete.
  8. Field Fees opened to Advanced Beginners and up, and instructors are encouraged to invite their students to subscribe.  A Field Fees hold harmless clause will be drawn up. 
  9. Query members and the public for possible interest in morning classes, instead of only offering night classes, pending an available instructor.
  10. Promote from within, encouraging more students to compete, and more competitors to teach. 
  11. The damaged/downed fencing will be attended to and repaired. I am to get an estimate from Thom.
  12. For every class you teach (without running your own dog, except for demos), you get to take a free class.
    This last one is great for me, because I will be teaching a Beginners class beginning January 4, which will pay for Maxie's Monday night class.  Our instructors are required to "have put a title on a dog", but I wanted to put both Excellent titles on Maxie before I felt qualified to teach.  Teaching is what I've done all my life, so it should be fun.
In addition, Nedra offered all who pay field fees may be invited to join in on free practice sessions when she's at the field. Turns out, few people want to go out to the field alone, and dogs seem to perform better with company.  This is very nice.  Also, a new Intro Equipment area will be set up, with another short dog walk.
Those in attendance: Nedra, Polly, John R, John N., Sandy, Michele, Georgie, Noel,
Cheryl W., Cheryl H., Tracey, Kay, Mike. (TOTAL:  13, 9 instructors, 4 supporters). Except for Loralie, I think all our most active agility people came, with me being the newest member.  It was a great turnout with a bunch of devoted agility folk and I was glad to finally be included.

Onward and upwards!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Treadmill Training

Trying to figure out how to exercise Joy's 6 dogs on a regular basis while she is laid up, I finally found my inspiration to learn how to train the treadmill.  Googling "Dog Treadmill Training", I came up with mostly amateurish videos. This is one of the most professional ones:

There are several different ways to train the treadmill. Some handlers train from the side.  Some straddle the belt.  Some use leashes, others not.  Some use treats and/or clickers, some not.  But most had these things in common:
  1. Get D used to getting on and off the treadmill.  Reward for each behavior. Break it down as needed (reward for 1 paw touch, 2 paws on, 4 on, whatever it takes). Build value into the treadmill.
  2. Get D used to the sound of the treadmill running with them nearby.
  3. Have D on the belt before turning the treadmill on.  Start slow and gradually increase speed.
  4. Practice daily in short segments 30 seconds to 30 minutes long.
Leashes and Treats: The above video does NOT use treats, however in another video by the same trainer, he does lure D onto the belt with treats.  He uses a leash here, but in other videos he does not.  Guess it depends upon the dog.

I found this text on one treadmill training site:
"turn on the treadmill to its slowest speed while your dog is standing on it. The dog will automatically begin walking". While mine just jump off, here's a video that supports that claim:

Once the dog is fully trained, they can exercise a couple of times a day -- great if you have no yard, it's wet, freezing or too hot outside, or you're unable to walk them.  Be sure you don't ever leave the room, especially if D is tied to the treadmill.  Some treadmills come with a magnet you attach to the control console, and a clip you can attach to the collar.  It acts like a leash but if D jumps off, it pulls the magnet off and stops the machine.

One video showed 2 Welsh Corgis walking side by side.  Another showed a dog and a cat.

So now, looks like I have a diverse bunch of dogs I can practice on, starting with mine tomorrow!  Maybe I'll get out the camera and tripod and post my own amateurish video on YouTube!

Meanwhile, you can access some other treadmill training videos from the thumbnails appearing under each of the videos above after you watch them, provided courtesy of YouTube (I had nothing to do with choosing these).

Upwards and onward!

Monday, December 13, 2010

LCCOC's "Mission Of Mercy" to Joy

When a fellow club member goes down (literally down on the floor with a broken leg), their clubs should rally to their support.  To me, "extended family" is what a dog club in particular should be about, especially when the member, like Joy, lives alone, and devotes so many volunteer hours to support the club's mission -- participate fully in meetings, serve on the board, take classes, help conduct our fundraisers, etc.

About 20 frozen entrees for $50.
Not bad!
So I proposed, and our president authorized me, to bring $50 worth of frozen entrees to Joy's house.  I'm told this is "unprecedented", so maybe the club is moving in a new direction.

Sheryl and I gave up our planned Monday practice session to shop for and deliver about 20 frozen entrees and other nutritious goodies like Yogurt, and walk Joy's dogs.  I brought lunch -- Santa Fe Chipotle Soup!  Since it's 35 degrees out and breezy, the soup was warm and welcoming.  We'll still got some exercise and I got to further assess Puddin'Head Wilson's needs (see previous post).

Puddin'head Wilson, a 2 year old, 70 lb. boxer
Joy had high hopes that Puddin' would be her next agility dog and as you can see, the dog is built rock solid, gorgeous lines and markings, alert and aware of himself.  It's Joy's first pure boxer and she has worked her tail off getting Puddin' into good shape.  He had been found abandoned on the road, she said, slated for the needle when she rescued him from animal control a year ago, at 40 pounds, sick, full of worms and with serious skin problems. I took this photo last spring so she could register him with AKC.  He is now a bit larger, 70 lbs, and more filled out.  Beautiful face, without the smashed in boxer nose, and his jowls don't drool.  Exquisite creature!

After helping me walk all 6 dogs and a pleasant visit, Sheryl had to leave.  I started working with Puddin' on the treadmill.  That will be the subject of my next post.

We never could get all 6 dogs facing the same way for a photo,
they were all so tired after their walk. But they're all there.
 Meanwhile, I've been thinking what it would take to organize a Dog Walking/Dog Training service for club members who are temporarily indisposed. Would there be enough members who would/could volunteer? As, in Joy's case, if 7 people volunteered to rotate duties, one could show up each day to pay a short visit/walk her dogs for an hour, for a couple of months. It would truly be a "mission of mercy" for both dogs and downed club members, and by my and Sheryl's assessment of the day, rewarding to the volunteers too. The dogs were fun to be with, and Joy was so very appreciative of our visit. Playing around with a name for such a fictitious committee, I came up with the "Pooper Scoopers Soup 'n Sandwich Brigade". Joy thought that was hysterically funny as well as appropriate.

Upwards and onward!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Visit to Joy's

Whoa, I haven't blogged in 4 days!  Time flies! Moods change!  I've been busy delivering poinsetta plants and hand written cards to my dear friends who make it possible for me to leave my pets behind while Maxie and I go to trials.  Without Audrey, Laura, Thom and Judy, and Schuyler to take turns visiting my house twice a day to feed FoohFooh and cats, I couldn't go anywhere.  Can't forget about them at Christmas!  Also one for Nedra, our new Agility Director, who has been a wonderful supporter, mentor and teacher this last year. This activity has finally put me in the Christmas spirit. I'm even partially decorating the house. It's going down to 29 degrees tonight and very windy, so I even laid in a fire for later tonight.

Yesterday I spent several hours at Joy's house, walking her 6 dogs one at a time while she recovers from her broken femur.  She gave me this Christmas Card showing all 6 of them, taken just before her accident.

Notice the dingo on the far right!  Joy is the only other person I know who owns a dingo, and before I even met Joy, I saw her running Shadow at a USDAA trial in Baton Rouge.  I can remember being almost beside myself at the sight, pinching myself in disbelief, almost peeing in my pants!  Well, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much.  Now, 3 years later, Shadow is 11 and too old to compete, but he looked very distinguished out there in the ring. (Dingos aren't recognized by the AKC as a breed, but they are by the United Kennel Club and other clubs, known as the American Dingo or the Carolina Dog). The UKC has classified them as a pariah dog, which includes other primitive breeds such as the Basenji of Africa and the Thai Ridgeback.  They require strong alpha handling, but otherwise make fantastic loyal pets.

Shadow at Agility Class, 2005?
I tell everyone this is FoohFooh's photo (Joy submited it to me for use on the LCCOC website), but it is really Shadow.  Their shape is identical!    I told my story at the beginning of this blog of how it was my failing FoohFooh by not ever formally training him that made me promise not to fail Maxie and Lucky in that regard, and why I call my blog "foohmaxagility". My dog training journey truly began with FoohFooh.  They say inspiration is 9/10th of every success story, and FoohFooh was my inspiration. Maxie is the success story.

Puddin'Head Wilson,
photo by me.
 I walked Joy's dogs one at a time, to get them familiar with my company, and realized most of them are laid back and not in desparate need of walking.  But her 70 lb. boxer, Puddin', (3rd dog in from the right) a 2 year old boxer, is a healthy young athelete with boundless energy, plenty of smarts, and a great desire to please.  This dog should have daily strenuous physical exercise and mental challenges.  It's pretty obvious Joy is in no position to provide either right now.  I'm not yet sure how much I can realistically help with that, but I'm thinking on it.  Joy has a treadmill in her living room, but neither of us yet know how to train a dog to walk on one.

The picot stitch around the edges is a nice touch.
Joy and I ate some of my Tortilla Soup, then sat down for a crochet lesson, making SCRUBBIES.  We were going to do this before, but now that Joy is chair bound and needs something constructive to do, it's finally crochet time.  We listened to Christmas music, broke out the rum, forced our fingers to re-learn the chaining, single and double crochet stitches most young ladies were taught in our day, plus a pretty picot stitch we put at the outer edges, and each of us actually turned out a scrubbie by the end of 2 hours.

All the while, we chatted away and discovered lots of things about each other that we've never had time to share in class or at dog events.  It was an altogether pleasant experience, as I suppose ladies' sewing circles have been for centuries.  It really made me appreciate my intact bones, and female companionship for a change.
Scrubbies I made last year.  If you don't get the
tension right or count the stitches correctly,
they get wavy.
NOTE: Scrubbies are invaluable. They scrub everything without scratching anything -- cars, pot and pans, countertops, toilets. My Mom makes dozens of these each year for friends and family. We're all afraid if she ever quits (she's 90), we'll be in scrubbie poverty (they wear out after awhile), so a few gals in the family have begged her for the pattern and endeavored to teach ourselves how. Mom has been doing them so long, hers lay perfectly flat, look great, and she can do one in about an hour. It takes awhile to get the tension just right so they don't come out wavy, but even the wavy ones scrub good. Here are a few I made last year.  Anybody who wants the instruction sheet, ask and I'll email it to you.

What have scrubbies got to do with dogs?  Absolutely nothing, except they love to tear them up, which is probably good for cleaning their teeth!

Upwards and onward!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pop-Up Camper Improvements

Vertical Shelf -
View from the "Living Room"
While at the Lake Charles trial, where it was so cold we spent more time inside the camper than usual, I concieved a way to create more storage space utilizing some of the vertical space which is otherwise wasted in pop-ups.  In addition to providing a shelf for a microwave and heater, the upright boards provide vertical walls to hang coats, leashes, mugs, hats, etc.  (Hooks barely visible in this photo)

I bought the lumber (smooth finished pine) and pegging rod from Home Depot. The 4 uprights have 2 pegs in their feet which fit into holes bored into the blue shelf.  The top of these uprights are held in place by the cap shelf, with 2 nails that slip down thru the shelf into 2 vertical holes in each upright.   This keeps the whole assembly together.  Each lower shelf is installed at the back with one nail peg on each side.  The shelf then pivots up, then rests back down on 1 nail peg on each side that hold up the front of the shelf.

Vertical Shelf -
View from the "Bedroom"
The Sterlite drawers (from Walmart) give the shelf side-to-side stability when I wedge a piece of wood between them and the left uprights (seen in next photo).

Here is the completed shelf viewed from the bedroom, held together with nail pegs and completely disassemblable when closing up the camper.  The lower shelves are adjustable at 2" increments.  There is 3rd shelf in case it is needed. Holes are also drilled all along the upright boards for large cup hooks to be installed, wherever I want them.  The whole thing disassembles in a few minutes and stores flat under the mattress, same as the kitchen shelves I built over the sink/stove area last year (photo below).

NOTE TO THE UNITIATED: In a pop-up camper, you can't have anything permanent sticking up vertically since the roof cranks down when you travel. 

Kitchen shelves built last winter.
Thus, even the latest, newest models have NO SHELVES, meager COUNTERSPACE, and very little display space.  It has been my "engineering" challenge since last winter to claim this empty vertical space by designing attractive, sturdy shelves that disassemble and store flat within minutes, beginning with my kitchen counter shelves, which really make the bare pop-up look like a cute little house.  I've sent photos of my shelving projects to local RV Showrooms to maybe spark their interest, but they seem unimpressed.
Yesterday I bought a small Emerson, 700 watt, .7 cu ft microwave from Wal-Mart, $50, which fits in perfectly.  It's small and cute, but has a turntable large enough for a 9" dinner plate, tall enough for a large McDonalds syrefoam coffee cup. Meets my needs.

Lumber:  $46
Microwave:  $50
Total cost:  $96

Our pop-up is becoming more and more luxurious!  The small footprint of this shelf area serves as a chest of drawers, coat and hat rack, additional counter space, bedside table, and when the heater is put away, an entertainment center.  I can watch DVD's on my laptop while lying snugly in bed.

I also bought a queen memory foam pad 2" thick and put it on the master bed.  $100, but OMG, it's just as comfortable now as my king size bed at home!  I had no problem spending the money where restful sleep is involved because let's face it, pop-up camper beds are notoriously hard.
Ah! We have just about everything now to live comfortably during 4-day dog agility trials or any other place we might camp.  Of course, no hot tap water, no shower, no indoor flushable toilet, but when I compare my $4100 investment to $20,000 - $120,000 others are spending on their RV's . . . . . . . oh, never mind, I don't have that kind of money anyway so there's really no point comparing.  My little port-a-pottie works just fine for my middle-of-the-night pee, I empty it in the morning and it stores outside during the day.  All trial sites and campgrounds have showers and bathrooms, anyway, and I feel just as clean heating a pot of water and giving myself an all over scrub with a wash cloth.  For a gal on a tight budget, I'm quite satisfied.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Greetings

Yipes!  December 8th.  Only 2.5 weeks til Christmas, and I'm still enjoying Thanksgiving, watching the leaves swirl down outside my French Doors, blanketing the grass in lovely shades of brown and orange, munching on leftovers.  This year, I haven't done much shopping and don't intend to.  Neither John nor I have the energy to drag 7 boxes out of the attic to decorate the house, polish the brass, mail off numerous packages to distant relatives and grandkids, nor even send cards.  We don't want a big party.  We just want some peace and quiet.  The only gifts -- friendship.  (Unless, of course, someone wants to give us a huge wad of cash!)  With 2 of our clubs having their Christmas banquets this past week, and all the other stuff going on, I haven't had time, even, to build a nice fire in my fireplace these past several cold evenings (something I never used to pass up), nor work on my afgan, which still has a few months more work to finish.

Joy, a good friend and my very first friend from my dog club, sent me this video today, 7 year old Rhema Marvanne belting out "All I Want For Christmas Is You", which just about says it all, and is utterly amazing.  You won't believe this little girl's BIG VOICE.  If you're not in the spirit yet, this should help put you there.

Joy fell and fractured her femur last week and has to face the prospect that she won't be doing agility or obedience again for a good long while.  A few months before that she had a complete hip replacement, and she was looking forward to being able to do these activities again very soon.  Despite all this disappointment, she remains cheerful and keeps in touch with everyone.  Her good cheer is a constant inspiration to me.  I'm going to see her today.

But first, here's the first of my Glad Tidings to all my friends and family.  Enjoy, and I hope you will all forgive me if I cannot muster more this holiday season!  We'll have to see what miracles might yet happen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clean Run Photo Submission - Followup

I heard back from Clean Run via email.  They said:

We have recently done our full cover photo exploratory for the next few years of covers. Since we do have a couple of Papillons already slated for covers, we are not looking for any new submissions for quite some time. I really do appreciate your sending this to our attention. Marcy - Designer

Keeping the doors open anyway, I wrote them back early this morning, saying:

Thanks for your courteous response. I’m disappointed but I totally understand. You must receive a lot of fabulous photos and have to plan ahead. But just in case there’s ever an opening, keep in mind that I am not interested in the $300 compensation.

I’d like to share this thought with those who decide on the covers: On most Clean Run covers since I’ve subscribed, most of the dogs are extremely close-up -- mostly faces, front paws and maybe a small part of a bar or tire. I really like the whole body shots capturing all those complicated moves. That’s one reason I like my photo. Although only 7 lbs. and very dainty, Maxie’s athletic posture, eagerness and total focus doing agility rivals, I think, that of a much larger dog.

If you ever decide to use my photo in some capacity, please let me know.

I got this response back early this afternoon:

Hi Michele.

Thanks so much for your interest and zealousness in getting your dog’s shot out to us for review. I do appreciate it.  Just note, while I take your feedback on our covers quite seriously, our design policy/cover look IS the extreme close-up and we have no plans to depart from that look at this time.  Thanks again for your thoughts. Enjoy your holidays! Marcy

Well, no one can say I didn't try, and I can't shake the feeling that something is going to turn up eventually.

Meanwhile,  I wrote her back:
As always, I am impressed with the Clean Run team’s responsiveness.  It is the ONLY magazine I have ever read cover to cover, and I look forward to every issue.  Great job and keep up the good work.  Michele

So she wrote back:
Thanks for your lovely comments...I will share it with the team.

So I wrote back:
Okay, then let me add to my comments. Clean Run is one of the few mags I know of that people don’t throw away after reading.  Hang onto and refer back to for years and years.  Draw from continuously.  It doesn’t get outdated.  I know you know this already, but it never hurts to get confirmation from someone “on the outside”.  You are much appreciated by all the agility folks I know, and our dog club hands out subscriptions to Clean Run, or Front and Finish, as perks to its most active volunteers.  That’s how I get mine.

I am glad I finally got to express how impressed I am with Clean Run Magazine.  Anyone doing agility, even just for fun, would do well to subscribe.

Eye Hooks & Clips, Practice with Sheryl

I haven't practiced much since the Lake Charles trial, and when we met at the field at 1:30 today, Monday, a week later, I could hardly get myself going.  I eventually ran Maxie thru a course one time, then Lucky thru portions of the course, but none of us could focus.  It was a bit nippy but not too cold.  We just weren't up to it.  Sheryl and Charlie did much better, although Sheryl was still limping from that sciatic nerve pinch she got in Kiln.

What I was motivated to do was install the eye hooks and carborina clips in various places around the field, which Nedra had authorized me to do.  Naylor Brothers Hardware had assured me that drilling a hole in a large tree would not kill it, especially if it was immediately filled with metal, so I brought my drill and drill bits, went to Home Depot for 8 #4 eye hooks and 8 clamps, and within 15 minutes installed 8 of them.  5 are actually installed in telephone poles or 4x4 fence posts around the perimiter, and one in each of the big trees going down the middle of the field.  NOTE:  The holes I drilled were a bit smaller than the eye hook diameter and not as deep as the screw, ensuring a very snug fit.

This little addition to our field makes it possible for someone training 2 dogs (like myself) to keep them both out at the same time.  Depending on where you are on the field, clip one dog's leash to a nearby hook, work with the other one, then switch out. While both my dogs have a pretty good sit/down/stay, when I'm running the course with one D, the other one gets jealous and runs over begging for its turn.  It's always best, I've found, to train one D at a time.

Also, most of our volunteer instructors have a dog with them, who often takes a turn or is used to demo something.  It's hard for the instructor to hold onto their D and teach, too.  This way, they can tie them off nearby, and bring them forward at appropriate moments.

Upwards and onward!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Clean Run Photo Submission - Max

Maxie at Monroe Trial, photo by Tom Bridge, 
Late last night I emailed Clean Run Magazine this photo of Maxie, for consideration for their front cover.  It's not as close-up a shot as they seem to like, but who knows.  Maybe they will consider it.

I had purchased the CD of the Monroe trial videos, and got email confirmation from the photographer yesterday that I have complete rights to use/publish these photos as I see fit, so long as I credit the photographer.

Here's what I told Clean Run why I think the photo might be worthy:

You haven't featured a Papillon in quite a while.  I particularly like this photo because it shows his lead change foot pushing him off in the new direction, his head and eyes snapped in the new direction, his body leaning eagerly into his turn, flowing hair indicating jump height, speed and motion, and the complete focus he is giving to his run (in the larger photo you can see the whites of his eyes). Also, this is among the last photos of 8” AKC dogs that can be taken with 8” tire, since AKC has lowered the tire height to 4” (that is, tire resting on the ground) from now on, which looks crappy.

I also sent them these Maxie Stats:
Max is my first agility dog, a 3.5 year old AKC registered Papillon who began competing with me in April 2010 and within 7.5 months, 6 trials, has acquired his AX and AXJ titles, with 17 1st places and 1 2nd place.  He only weighs 7 lbs but is smart, fast, sure of himself and very cooperative. 

I know it's a long, long, long shot, but I'm already seeing my wee little pooch on the cover of a prestigious magazine. They probably receive hundreds if not thousands of photos so chances are way, way slim, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?  And I'm recycling, remember,  building up that door-opening, prayer-answering, mountain-moving karma.  Whether he makes it or not, it's heady fun visualizing it.  And besides which, I can't help where my mind goes.  Far better there than many other places. Wish us luck!

Upwards and onward!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Volunteer Recognition

CCCC 2010 Holiday Banquet
Today was my Cajun Clickers Computer Club's annual Holiday Banquet, where volunteers were honored for their contributions. I brought my Mom's Sweet Potato with Marshmellows Casserole, and there was tons of food and about 50 people. Turns out, I was one of the honored volunteers, being as I built the club's website earlier this year,, and still maintain it.  It was at last year's Christmas Banquet that I volunteered to build it, which required several meetings with the board and it took 3 months to build, but maintaining it is only about 2-5 hours/month so you can tell by the puzzled look on my face, I didn't really expect to be mentioned. Since I live mostly in the moment, 8 months ago seems way far back in the past. So many other people in this very active club do so much more on a daily basis. I didn't know John was taking a video and it's the only picture, so here is my presentation, given by our outgoing President, Roger Carlyle.

Gifts:  CD with 13 freeware programs, CCCC mouse pad,
box of sticky notes of various shapes and colors.
I also got a picture frame in the drawing.
Many other volunteers received award plaques, and/or were mentioned.

Roger is a gracious person.  He always comes up with gifts to give out at every function, plus he organizes drawings, raffles, and auctions throughout the year.  Here are 3 gifts everyone got at the banquet:

Phil and Michele.  We always have fun together.
I had John take another picture of me with our Educational Director, Phil Chenevert, who received a Lifetime Membership Award.  As soon as I joined, Phil snagged me at the first class I attended and got me busy volunteering.  As you can see by his Sanda hat and long blonde wig, Phil enjoys cutting up, also he's an expert at managing people, and spends countless hours at the clubhouse.  He certainly deserves his award.

Penny being honored by President Roger.
 My other good friend from way back (her son was my student for years), Penny Cano, the club's Membership Coordinator and an instructor, got a Lifetime Membership Award, too. She shies away from photos, but John got a rear view of her receiving her award.  She is very dedicated to the club, and helps a lot of members out with their crashed computers, including me.  She alone has been worth the annual dues!

 As to volunteerism, I've volunteered with lots of clubs whose mission I believed in.  Two years back, I built and now maintain my dog club's website, for which they renew my Clean Run subscription for me every year.  Sweet!  It's a $48/year subscription and the only magazine I have ever read cover to cover every month.

Recognition, even if modest, is nice.  Some clubs are better at it than others.  In my experience, most seem to take their volunteers for granted, expecting services in exchange for . . . . . er, nothing.  I think people volunteer to further a cause, and get paid back in comradery, connections, and the few perks they receive.  In my dog club's and computer club's case, it is largely for the learning which couldn't be purchased at any price if there weren't other club members willing to share their knowledge.

In any case, my feeling is that if members were better engaged from the start, better mentored, better recognized, more appreciated, there would be more volunteers.  While clubs don't generally pay for services, most clubs do have some free perks they can distribute, the biggest one being friendship.

So, it was a very enjoyable day.  I dressed up, and noticed that with me wearing mostly tennis shoes this last year for agility practice, my dress shoes with the 2" heels really hurt my feet.  I can hardly walk in heels any more!

So it's onward and upwards now, in my tennies!

Recycling - for my dogs!

My mamma taught me to be frugal, to pinch pennies, to hate waste.  My biblical daddy taught me I was a spoiled brat if I "wasted my talents".  My grandma Tilley raised me up on Poor Richard's Almanac's addages, which she quoted as conversation in our shared bedroom:
  • A stich in time saves nine.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
  • Waste not, want not.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
I have not always been the best steward of their teachings.  I have been impacted by the "gimme, gimme" entitlement generation.  But I have been equally impacted by them and more so as I grow older and realize my connections to the community.  The community of man is only as good as the people in it.

Plus, I firmly believe that if I want my prayers answered, I MUST PLUG INTO THE COSMIC FLOW.  One of the cosmic forces going is RECYCLING. Every week John and I haul a huge refuse can to the road filled with onion skins, potato peels, fat trimmings, and way, way, way more tin cans, glass bottles, junk mail, and milk cartons than we care to imagine. We can't comprehend how we generate so much trash.  We really can't.

This week, after Maxie won his Excellent titles and I decided to relax for a few months, I began to focus on my own life, clearing out clutter, tying up loose ends.  It didn't take long for me to see that I can no longer store all the beautifully tapered glass wine bottles, those Heinz Chili Sauce bottles I've been saving to make salt and pepper shakers, those cleverly fluted Maple Syrup bottles I could potentially one day use for potions.  I had to get rid of them, so I began clearing them out -- tossed them into the trash can, where they sat for a day.

To my incredible surprise, this worked on my conscience until I could not stand it any more.  All that good glass.  All that engineering and design talent, thrown away. There must be some further use to put it to besides a landfill. I became restless.  My social consciousness was aroused again.
This morning John and I talked it over and, being the dear that he is, he volunteered to contact the City Parish Recycling people, and they said we could either pick up a wheeled refuse can especially designated for recycling, or wait 4-6 weeks for one to be delivered.)  He drove right over. Reading the instruction sheet, we were amazed to discover that over half of what we've been throwing away can be recycled, and we're no longer required to divide things out into glass/paper/metal to participate.  It can all go in one can, which is picked up on Mondays same as our other trash cans. 

I used to recycle, when I had my school.  I had purchased a PVC stand with three bins you line with 3 plastic garbage bags, one for glass, one for paper, and one for metal.  They were a "station" in my classroom.  I thought it was neat teaching children to identify various materials, and we made periodic field trips to bring each bag to the different pick-up points, even collecting a few pennies for the cans.  But practically speaking, that is too darn much work.  Nobody has time for that. That's why, when I closed down my school and there was no longer any "educational value" in it, I quit recycling. And the years went by.

Until yesterday.  If I want the Goddess to smile down upon me and gratify my desires, whatever they are, I MUST do good deeds! I must participate in the cycle of life. What goes around comes around. I FIRMLY BELIEVE IN THAT. I can never be fully blessed until I become a blessing to others.

So now I am recycling -- happily building my and my doggie's "competition karma" and many other good things besides, with every bottle, can, plastic container rinsed out and tossed into the bin.  I already feel the momentum building for 2011 to be a big WIN.

Upwards and onward!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Blogger In Draft

I'm experimenting with "Blogger in Draft" today, seeing what new features Google is adding to the program. Looks like spell checker is working, finally, and one can add videos directly from one's computer instead of having to upload to YouTube first, then embed that code, then get all their stupid ads in your video. You can also "report editor issues" to Google. Those are all big plusses. I don't notice any other differences so far.

Here's my first video upload directly from my computer, Georgie and Zing, our club's fastest dog, and our best Fast Class team, at the Lake Charles trial. Looks like you can't add captions, position left/right, or resize the video from Compose mode:

To resize or reposition the video, you need to go into Edit HTML mode and find this code:

<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;">
<object height="266" id="BLOG_video-4a45601e57a85c87" class="BLOG_video_class" contentid="4a45601e57a85c87" width="320"></object></div>

You can change center to left or right.

You can change heigth and width dimensions, keeping the same aspect ratio, using this formula to solve for X:

Old height over old width = new height (X) over new width.  You solve for X.

266/320 = X/500 (where 500 is the new width you want, but can be any width), and X is the correct height you are solving for.

320X = 133,000

X = 415.63 (rounded up to 416)

New code for the video, aligned left and larger, results in this:

check spellign

Upwords adn onwurd!