“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dogs just want to have fun

Ruby and I attended a Schutzhund ("Dogsport") seminar recently near Hamilton. Hamilton is about 2 hours drive from home, and rather than drive to and from the training field each day, I wanted to stay down there. There are very few places that allow you to bring or keep your dog with you at your accomodation, so I was considering camping in the tent. Instead, I had the good fortune to be invited to stay at the home of a couple of the Dogsport NZ members. They have a large property, and Ruby had fun running through the tall grass on her morning walk. She slept in her crate in the truck, and I slept on a pullout sofa bed. We were both totally pooped from training most of the day. Also, there was a BBQ afterwards, where I got to know the other club members better, and learn a new drinking game that goes "one frog- fell in- the pond- plop". As you go around the table, each person says one part of that. Then it starts again, only now there's two people who have to say "two frogs" in a row, and so on. I think we got to 5 frogs at best. Anyway, I felt very grateful to be hosted by these Kiwis. That was just so nice of them, considering that we didn't know each other! I attended several Schutzhund seminars when I lived in California, but I don't remember ever enjoying this level of camaraderie.
And of course, this being New Zealand, we had rain and sun. The seminar covered tracking (on grass, see above), protection (see below), and obedience.

The photo above shows me and Ruby with Bernhard Flinks. I really liked him, and his son. They were here from Germany for the seminar. Ruby is doing really well in the sport, and would do better if I could spend more time with her training. Unfortunately, I hurt tailbone by running backwards into the corner bumper of a neighbor's parked SUV during training in front of my house. I couldn't see it, but Darin told me I had the darkest bruise he's ever seen on me, and I bruise really easily. It is still painful and healing, so I had to back off the training for awhile.

I finally got to go to Spookers! Spookers is a year-round, dedicated haunted house. We went on Friday the 13th, and the line was huge when we arrived at 8:30. We were entertained during our wait to get in by chainsaw weilding freaks and and other weirdo carachters. We went through the haunted house and the corn maze (cornevil), and the house was definitely better. I got plenty of screaming out of my system. My biggest screams were for the "dentist" who cornered me.

I finished the book Merle's Door, which I loved because the author carefully examined the dog's point of view, which, to be fair, is not "every dog's" point of view. He had a very special dog and lifestyle that not everyone can emulate. I cried at the end, because the story hit a bit too close to home. My old Rottweiler, Fargo, is having pain after exercise/play. He is only 9.5 years old, so I expect to get another few years out of him, but he has to take Rimadyl now daily. Darin and I took him into the vet last week after her was crying when trying to walk, and only wanted to sit. He didn't want to eat, was panting and drooling- all signs of stress and pain. While the x-rays showed only minor changes in his spine and hip, the vet thought that he may have partial tear of his cruciate ligament (knee) on both legs. Poor old guy, he still has plenty of life left in him, but is going to be forced to have no fun play or exercise for several months. If one or both tear completely, the only choice then is surgery or euthanasia (shudder). I chose surgery for my beloved Bacchus when his gastrocnemious muscle tore at age 5. But he was still young, whereas Fargo, approaching 10, might not be appropriate for surgery. Let's not go there, ok? Fargo is shown below in our farm pond. I love you, buddy.

For any of you vet-curious readers, let me direct you to my favorite pet/vet blog, Dolittler. Good insight and always lots of interesting comments. Go read.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

End of Summer 09

I don't know what these flowers are called, but they are blooming in our yard. Nice to see on the way out to visit the girls (the chickens).
The chicken on the left is named Elvis. We are hoping Elvis is a hen. She is more white than the other Barred Rocks, and makes adorable bark-like noises. She/he is still immature, so we haven't heard any crowing yet, but she/he is a big bird. If he's a cock, he's going to get the knife and stewed. Notice the large, rounded, full, croups in front of their breasts? The hens were stuffed with food when I took this photo. Soon we'll turn them loose in the garden, which is nearly exhausted. I picked a bunch of the basil, chopped it, and mixed it into softened butter with salt, pepper, crushed fresh garlic, plus a few drops lemon juice and tabasco. I rolled this in wax paper and froze it, to be cut into smaller pieces later, and then applied as required for veggies in winter.
These are the last of the carrots from my garden. I don't intend to grow this yellow variety again, because they weren't as sweet as the orange ones. I used these in the homemade dog food I prepared tonight. The cherry tomatoes did really well, but they have peaked and are starting to die now. I think the damage done to the leaves by bugs was a contributing factor. I could have treated with pesticide, but never made the effort. I guess I am a lazy gardener. I did get 3 nice spaghetti squash from the garden (below). This is great because they are hard to find in the market, and I love them, baked with butter, salt, pepper, and parmasean- YUM. Plus they will keep until the weather cools and I'm ready to run a hot oven.
I absolutely LOVE the tree ferns here in NZ. They are huge and prehistoric. It's good to stop and appreciate the beautiful things. This fern is in our front yard, just inside the gate, and we have to keep breaking branches off because it grows so fast and then blocks the path. Below is a photo of its koru.
A few weeks ago, on a rainy Saturday, Darin and I decided to skip the Northland Field Days (outside) and instead see a couple films at the Int'l Documentary Film Festival. We saw Architect of Dreams, about a visionary NZ architect, Ian Athfield. We went to the Mac's brewbar in Newmarket for lunch, then saw Recipe For Disaster about a family trying to live without, or greatly reducing, petroleum products. This was the husband's idea, and his wife and kids agreed to go along with it. He thinks he's saving the world and shows the math. Definitely enjoyable.
I've finished the book my sisters gave me- each independently gave me a copy of My Stroke of Insight about a neuroscientist writing about her experience of a stroke at age 37, and her recovery, which is really remarkable. I suppose they thought it would be a good read for me because of my neuroscience background. The writing is good and her descriptions are compethent and enthusiastic, but I did get a bit bored with it after awhile and in fact did not finish it. I mean, I know how it ends, she was lucky. I had a new book waiting a the library so I moved on. I'm really enjoying Merle's Door, about a man and his dog. He references his statements, which I appreciate, and he's an excellent outdoor writer. I realised after I started reading it that I'd read one of his other books, Bloodties, which is about hunting and culture.