Thursday, November 26, 2009

An S&S Turkey Day Hike

Whenever Mom's walking partner is otherwise occupied, I get to hike with her instead. Today her walking partner did Thanksgiving Boot Camp, whatever that is, but Mom still wanted to burn a few calories so she took me with her. Yippee!

Mom put the leash around her waist so I HAD to heel no matter what good smells needed sniffing. At least as soon as we reached the shortcut (the first S) she let me off-leash to climb the hill and run on the Ditch trail. When we reached the switchbacks (the second S), I was very patient with my slow Mom--it's easy to be patient when there are so many interesting smells to investigate, BOL! Mom jogged the downhill sections on the way back and it's fun to go faster than a walk.

Best of all, the quail were waiting for me near the end of our walk. I chased them all over the hill and into the street and across the road. Mom wasn't happy when she finally got me back. Somehow I can't hear her calling my name or yelling "NO!" when I'm chasing birds, but I think the neighbors probably could. (Did I mention it was only 7:30 a.m.? Poor sleeping people.)

Mom told me that I was a naughty dog, then added that at least I had fun. She's a pretty smart human because as soon as she said it, she laughed and said that naughty dogs always have fun, that's why they're/I'm naughty!

Happy Turkey Day, everyone--I'm off to scarf some leftover skin and broth with my kibble. I wish it was Thanksgiving every day!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What $3.96 Will Buy

Kharma and I finally took the agility plunge. Mostly we've been practicing our foundations--flatwork like heeling, sit/stays and attention. But our instructor introduced us to skills using a "gate".

One trip to Home Depot and $3.96 later...
Knocked this gate out in less than a half hour. Maybe someday I'll put mesh on it instead of this fabric--but it puts the fabric to use and it was FREE...Kharma is now practicing "switch" and "tight" with her new gate. Toys are fun whether you're a little kid or a big one.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beginning Agility

Kharma and I had our first agility class recently. Alas, her lack of foundation skills quickly became apparent to me as she tried socializing with the other canine pupils, barking at the workman next door to the ring and bouncing around on her leash. So we've spent the last week brushing up our heeling skills and some manners.

In the process I'm trying to convert to a training system that our instructor uses: the dogs in Beginning Agility are on-leash naturally (and I rarely work Kharma on-leash); a marker word rather than a clicker; naming an obstacle right from the beginning; and projecting calm rather than excitement.

It's a lot of changes for me right at the beginning. I catch myself training off-leash and using a clicker at home. So I'm going with it and then adding a leash, losing the clicker and using our marker and release words. I think of it as proofing our behaviors.

We're supposed to be practicing flatwork--our teacher wasn't exactly clear what she expected so we are focusing on driving to a target with food on it just like in class. Kharma figured out that touching the target was what I ultimately wanted within the first five minutes. She ate the treat, looked at me, nosed the target and looked at me again. She got a laugh out of me and a treat. Now she's trying to figure out if it's better to nose the target or paw it. And I'm clueless whether it's either or both until the next class.

Clearly it's more about training the trainer than training the dog (at least at this point)!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Mom says that the biggest difference between us dogs with creatively-mixed bloodlines and the pups with papers isn't our intelligence or our price or the love we give, it's a fancy name. So Mom decided that I deserved a fancy name too.

You may now call me "Pogonip's Always Good Kharma". I feel pawsitively regal.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Good Walk

Mom sneaked me and my leash out this morning. Shhh, don't tell Zelda. I'm ready to go!
Uphill is not an excuse. Get a move on, Mom!
Look, Mom, I found some goldenrod. Doesn't that mean autumn is just around the next bend? And doesn't that mean school is starting again? Time to practice Dog Zen, Mom--live in the moment!

What's that smell? Squirrel? No. Hmmm, bear? Not hardly. Might have been, yes, I think it was that friendly pair of golden retrievers that just passed us.
More good scents...bullfrog? duck? lawnmover?

Playing the "Up" game: it took me a few tries before balancing on this little stump.

I love rolling on green grass. Especially after I've splashed through the creeks and ditches.
That was fun, Mom, are we gonna go for a long walk again?!Please?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dog Pie

Mom is so nice. She made a beautiful apple pie for The Big Guy's birthday. She must really love me because she left a giant piece out on the counter just so I wouldn't feel left out. Yum!

Mom's Note: The dogs have been eating so many windfall apples from our tree, that they (actually Kharma) must have thought the apple pie was fair game! Ack!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kharma Cousins

Border collies run in the family.Okay, sometimes they just lie in the shade and chew sticks.

Mom visited these two guys, Ruff #3 and Time, and she didn't take me. I smelled a lamb dinner on her when she returned. Doubly unfair!

Time was bred by Mom's uncle who's trained champion Sheep Dogs. Time cost about fifty times more than me, but Mom says I'm actually priceless.

I would believe her more if she'd pulled some nice tender lamb scraps out of her pocket. Sheep dog, smeep dog, I know what lambie pies are actually for (and it's not herding).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bed Time

Vegetable bed? The baby green bean plants will probably bounce back. And if they don't, I don't like green beans much anyways.

Flower bed? I think Mom planted these petunias just because they'd look good in case I laid down here. She knows pink is flattering to my complexion.Dog bed? Aaah yes, nice warm sunshine. I can nap here and add some nice blonde highlights to my freshly-washed coat at the same time.

Mom loves me anyway.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

My mornings are filled with dogs--just not with my dog. (I can walk with my walking partner and get some exercise or I can walk Kharma. She gets her walk later when I can give her my full attention and where she can be off-leash and run to her heart's content.)

While Kharma stays at home eating her breakfast, we never know what dogs we will meet. Apparently this is Great Dane week--yesterday an eight-week-old puppy the color of a Weimaraner and today two grey-and-black adults. Their size amazes me each time I see them. What are the odds of seeing three big dogs in two days?!

We've met Yorkies and mini-Cockers and Lhaso Apsos and German shepherds. We've rescued a poodle who somehow got separated from his owner. We've met some rare breeds, at least in our neck of the woods. The breed we meet most often? Probably Labs followed closely by Border Collies.

We've met some really cute crosses too. My favorites were a Schnoodle (Schnauser x Poodle) and a Westie x Poodle (does that make her a Woodle or a Pestie?). Good thing the Queen Mother didn't see that Schnoodle or our dog family would be just a bit larger!Speaking of crosses, nothing is smarter or more fun than a Jack Russell x Rat Terrier. Big dog/little package! I still miss her after thirty plus years. (On the other hand, the less said about our headstrong and extremely friendly Cockapoo the better! She was undoubtedly the most challenging dog my family had when I was a kid.)

Back to the present. Although we are supposed to be exercising on our walks and keeping our heart rates up, we can't resist stopping (how old is he? what's her name? what breed is she? where'd you get him?) for each and every puppy we encounter. Our walks probably last an extra thirty minutes due to puppy meet and greets.

Kharma and Zelda both greet me at the gate, delighted with all the wonderful new doggy smells I bring home just for them. My pleasure, girls.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Dad thinks our crates stink. In fact, he suspects that Zelda is pooping in her bed. (She's not.)

What he's really smelling is ditchwater from our nightly pasture romp. Our undersides are fairly black after we splash through the irrigation ditch. It's so warm that we just hang out in the backyard to dry off before Mom lets us in the the night. Mom thinks the black has something to do with all the cowpies around. (She might be right.)

It's a conundrum. If we have the pleasure of a pasture romp, it means a cold water bath when we get home. Zelda doesn't mind; she thinks it's a chase-the-water game. Mom can't fool me though. And I don't even like warm baths. Mom says that she's not washing our pillows again for another month so we have to get washed off. If only there was a clear stream I could run through instead!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Miss Independence

Friday: East began fluttering when Mom fed her.
Saturday: East surprised Mom by hopping up on the side of her box. And then flying across the room!
Sunday: Mom took East into the front yard (after a big breakfast) and East decided that freedom was more fun than breakfast in a box. So Mom let her go and is trying not to worry about her being out in the World without a mommy to take care of her like the other little baby birds. The family room isn't quite as exciting now without a baby bird that smells just like dog food around!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Growing Up Sparrow

Our little East girl is eating and growing and cheeping and driving the dogs nuts because they can't touch her! Her nestbox also smells like dog food (she's a messy eater) and that just entices Kharma and Zelda even more.

I'm grateful for the Internet or I would have been clueless about what to feed her. As it turns out, bird parents all seem to feed their babies protein. And dog food has a nice balance of protein and grain, it's readily available, and East is thriving on it. I pulverize a handful of kibble in my blender, let it soak up some water, refrigerate it until needed and then add enough warm water to make a nice gruel for our little sparrow.

Sparrow clicker training would have been a breeze! I tried locating her box directly underneath the nest, right outside our window, but her parents never came to her rescue. She quickly associated the sound of the window sliding open with food. Due to thunderstorms, she's living inside now, and the appearance of a certain spoon makes her open her beak wide as she demands to be fed.

I had doubts about a successful outcome a week ago--now I'm amazed and grateful for this opportunity to raise our adorable little sparrow!

More photos tomorrow, even if I have to steal a working camera! She's too cute to miss.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Golden Princess

TBG (The Big Guy) gave Zelda a bath last night. It didn't take very long 'cause Zelda doesn't get creme rinse and conditioner. But we are both clean now.

Zelda spent most of her day chewing up the stray bits of wood from Mom's raised planter project. I think she must like the taste of old cedar. Mom muttered a lot as she picked up wood slivers from the lawn later.

Zelda left the wood alone and started pulling the stuffing out of our stuffed puppy and when Mom took it away and went outside she began chewing up my plastic hamburger toy instead.

Mom told Zelda, "You have the appetite of a Lab." Zelda started wagging her tail as she thought of our friend Echo the black Lab. I saw Mom's face and told Zelda, "Dude, that was not a compliment."

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Mom is always rescuing something. Me. The poodle straying on the Ditch Trail last week.

This nestling sparrow. She's named him/her "East"--his real nest is on the east side of the house, but too high for her to get him back where he belongs. And s/he reminds Mom of Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman.

Mom's mind works in mysterious ways sometimes. All I know is that East smells really really good.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Feel Pretty...Oh, So Pretty!

I had a bath tonight. I'm clean and soft and sweet-smelling. Mom is just wet to the skin, BOL!

After I was all dry and brushed, Mom attacked my rear. She cut out lots of mats on my right bun and is still wondering why there weren't any on my left side. She trimmed my feathery skirt off for the summer too. Dad fed me cheese the whole time. I was so focused on that yummy treat that Mom even was able to brush out my tail. She used so much creme rinse on me that it didn't pull even once!

Here are my before and after shots:

I'm a little tired of all her picture-taking, but she is so thrilled to have a clean dog for a change that she's talking about taking more pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Monster Evisceration

Mom went for a long walk this morning. Without us.

Fortunately she left our monster toy outside for us to play with. So we played with it.
Actually, Zelda played with it, not me...well, maybe I tugged on it just a little bit.

Zelda chewed off the monster's toe a couple of months ago. This week she amputated his leg. Today she chewed his head off his body. Then it was really easy to pull out all the stuffing inside.

Mom was sure surprised when she came back from her walk and found the monster strewn all over the new sod! She didn't get mad though; she just commented that we had created a new tug toy. We have a pretty nice mom. Zelda and I learned a new word though: eviscerate. Every dog should expand her vocabulary.

Monday, June 1, 2009

There's Hope

Mom has only a day and a half until her summer vacation begins.

I'm hoping that means I'll have over two months of daily hikes along the ditch trail, swims in the lake when we visit Quincy at his cabin, and lots of treats. And new tricks to show off!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Mom's feeling a little queasy and maybe a little guilty too.

TBG (The Big Guy, in Zeldaspeak) let us out for our evening potty break and when I came five minutes later I was bleeding. Mom and TBG cleaned me up and found I had a cut on my right foreleg.

(I haven't told them what I did, and I don't think I'm going to. It's more fun to watch AlphaMom feel guilty.)

It stopped bleeding quickly, so Mom thought it was okay and put some gooey stuff that kills bad bugs on it and wrapped it up and tucked me in for the night. It felt fine (although I chewed off my bandage) and she kept me kinda quiet the next day. Then Daddy threw a ball and I wanted to get it before Zelda did. Zelda didn't have a chance, 'cause I'm so speedy, but Mom got upset because my leg started bleeding worse than before. I'm glad she gave Dad The Look, not me. Anyway, I'm tough, but my leg hurt and I was glad to have Mom carry me and put on a new bandage.

She knew it wasn't quite bad enough to require stitches, but she thought it might heal better if it did, and just couldn't make up her mind. I notice her wince when she looks at my cut and I knew she regrets not taking me to see Dr. Mark. It feels better and I'm playing and running lots when she's not looking. Mom hasn't taken me for a walk or thrown my frisbee or gotten me to jump in sooooo long. I wanted her to take a picture of my leg for this post, but she got that funny look on her face.

Come on, Mom, it's just a little cut and it probably won't leave a bad scar at all...uh, she got that look again.

(sigh) I wish she's get over it. I want to start training and earning clicker treats again. Maybe if I stop licking it and demonstrate some border collie zoomies in the backyard, she'll get the hint.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


When it's dog versus car, the dog usually loses. And when it's a little Min Pin, it's got no chance at all.

It was an accident--a set of circumstances and timing that would never happen again. The sorrow and horror will not soon be forgotten by any of us who heard or saw. Worst of all, our dog-loving, kind-hearted neighbor will find it hard to forgive herself.

R.I.P., little Jazz.

Note to dog-parents (and to myself): teaching your dog not to cross the street ranks right up there with teaching them to come on command.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Working Dog

Boy, did I work hard today! This morning instead of feeding me, Mom said there is no such thing as a free lunch. Then she got the clicker. I love it when the clicker comes out because that means yummy treats for me if I can figure out what Mom wants.

Usually it's just one thing, like putting my back toes on the hearth. But today I had to stand right by her side in the kitchen. I'm not sure exactly where she wants me to stand yet, but as long as I'm close to her she seems happy. I got some new kibble for that. Then I had to remember which foot was Pa and which foot was La. (Just shaking hands was much easier, but I guess that's only for puppies.) Every time I gave her the correct paw, she gave me some of her peanut butter bars. Delicious.

Tonight was the BEST! She got out the tuna fudge! And all I had to do was jump through her arms. Golly, I hope lunch isn't free tomorrow either. Regular kibble is nice, but today was scrumptious.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dust Bowl

Rain does this.

Even in the rain, I have to patrol my perimeter, just in case the scrubjays or robins or field mice or raccoons have trespassed. Mom doesn't like rain because it makes mud. Mud doesn't bother me, except I'm not crazy about Mom dunking each of my paws and wiping them clean. I'd rather just trot inside like on a sunny day and check out the kitchen smells.

Poor Kharma, she tolerates my mud routine but she doesn't like it. I'm not happy about having to dunk eight paws, multiple times on some days, each time she and Zelda come inside either. I'm grateful that we have a laundry room that can serve as a canine mudroom, with warm water and doggy towels.

This has been the worse year ever for mud. We lost lawn and gained dirt during our fence rebuild. By summer's end, all the construction was complete, but we had large areas of dirt--it turns out that if you don't water grass and if you have big dogs romping over a lawn daily, well, turf just gives up the ghost. The new landscaping has evolved s-l-o-w-l-y. Plans for altering sprinkler heads got postponed while the pond took precedence. New soil didn't get tilled in until we finished struggling to remove tree roots, so irresistible mounds of soft diggable humus beckoned puppy paws.

Two dogs, eight paws, three or four times each day...I'm sure I've washed at least a cubic yard of soil down the drain this winter.

Mom has been mumbling about sod all day long. She even talked about it on the phone. I smell change in the breezes blowing through the backyard. It

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Treat 1 - Soup 0

What's for dinner when the cupboard's bare? It's cold and blustery out as the storm front moves closer--how about some nice chicken noodle soup? Yummy!

Take three cans of soup, open them up, dump them in the big pot and add water. Listen to the wind howl outside.

Get another big pot, fill it with water, turn the burner on high until it boils. Add some nice whole wheat noodles (because we like lots of noodles in our soup) and cook them until done.

While the two pots are cooking, defrost the very last chicken breast (because you can never have too much chicken in chicken noodle soup). Decide that you'll strain out the cooked noodles when they're done and reuse that nice hot water to boil the poultry. Cut the chicken into five smaller pieces so it will cook faster.

Check the timer--the noodles still have five minutes before they're al dente--that's plenty of time to go upstairs and check my email before the bell starts dinging.

Ding. Ding. Ding. Go downstairs and transfer the cooked noodles into the simmering canned soup. Turn around to get the chicken. Look blankly at the cutting board. Why is there just a wet juicy circle on the board? Wonder outloud where the chicken went.

Notice that Kharma suddenly has a very guilty look while Zelda just looks hopeful. Put the K-dog in timeout.

Add some curry powder to the soup instead and call the guys for dinner. Try to wipe that half-exasperated, half-proud dogmom smile off your face before they ask why you're grinning.

Naughty dog! (Grin.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If You Love Aussies

What an incredible trainer Jay Sisler was! And to think that this was back in the 50's makes it even more amazing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The Magic of the Match online workshop continues for my MDSA group. Challenging, intense, and fun all describe my evenings.

It takes time to watch the pairs as they heel while three or four or five possible music choices for their freestyle routine plays in the background. Sometimes the match just jumps out at me (Magic!) and it's easy. Most times I compare, dither, change my mind, and eventually come to some sort of conclusion.

My daily mailbox typically has about forty-five emails from other members contributing their musical matches for the "On Stage" teams. One piece of music usually receives approval from the majority, but every melody has at least one fan that thinks it's the perfect match for that team. Well, maybe Hot Canary irritates us all...thankfully, since I pity the dog that has to listen, much less dance to it.

I'm sure I've picked at least one melody for a team that has made others wonder what I could possibly have been thinking. My only excuse is that if I really like a piece, then I want to find a dog that can dance with it. Or sometimes I dislike a song intensely enough that nothing could persuade me to match it with a dog, so I end up choosing something less than ideal.

Things that I've learned so far:
  • Music must compliment the dog's tempo while heeling. If it does, the dog could do nothing but heel and the couple would look wonderful.
  • Tempo is not everything, the music should also suit the dog's style--athletic, dainty, graceful, youthful, energetic, deliberate, etc. A musical selection could match the canine footsteps perfectly but be too heavy for a toy poodle or too feminine for an outdoorsy Labrador retriever.
  • Golly, then you have to consider the lyrics. Great tempo and style don't fly unless the lyrics soar too.
  • Lots of music is really "almost" perfect. I think some dogs move well to a wide variety of songs and it can be hard to choose which is best.
  • Fortunately, every song has been recorded by a plethora of artists. An "almost" song can become pure Magic with the right recording.
  • The better you know the dog, the easier it is to choose good music for a freestyle routine.
  • Conversely, not knowing the sex or age or personality of a dog can contribute to a poor musical choice.
  • Musical carries emotional weight (which is why there is never universal agreement about which melody is Magic).

Thank heavens that new matches come up On Stage only two or three times per week, otherwise my brain would be subject to Musical Overload! As it is, I dream of dogs and music way too often. Not to mention that I can't get Blue Tango out of my brain!

Here's the link but remember that this carries an earbug warning:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dance Fever

My mom has it. That's why she hasn't been keeping up with our blog recently.

For Christmas, she gave herself (and me, of course) a membership to the Musical Dog Sports Association. Mom has given up trying to get Dad to dance with her, but I'm willing to do whatever she suggests as long as it involves either food or fun.

There are lots of groups devoted to dog dancing or canine freestyle, but she chose MDSA for lots of reasons. Number one has to be this amazing team:

I think Rookie is having way too much fun dancing with his person. And if he can have that much fun, so can I!

Turns out that Carolyn is a founding member of MDSA and that was enough for Mom who both laughs and cries each and every time she watches this video (she's a little misty-eyed right now).

Right now, Mom is spending time every day watching videos of dogs heeling with their persons and then listening to music. She says it's a trial-and-error process, but that there is something magical about having the right dog and right music. (If you say so, Mom.) She spends a lot of time sitting at her computer matching dogs and music, but she seems to enjoy it.

Sometimes you just have to let your person have some fun, even if it doesn't make much sense. Mom doesn't understand why I think cow flops are so enjoyable and I don't know why she likes YouTube so much--but we love each other anyway.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's Puppy Love

The dogs set me straight when I tried to get them to play tic-tac-toe with their x's and o's treats. It turns out that the treats are not made for canine tic-tac-toe games at all.

I don't know how I missed the fact that they are actually "hugs" and "kisses"! What a silly Dog Mom am I.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Poor baby, I feel guilty for laughing but I've replayed this ten times and it's still a hoot.

Bizkit also barks loudly and actually sleepwalks. I feel guilty enough posting this video without embarrassing him any further.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Fortunately, out of focus. Where did Zelda get a bacterial infection from???

Did she cut herself chewing on the sardine tin (yeah, we give our pups strange toys) and then drink from the rotting-leaf-filled pond that finally thawed? Did she get a cut chewing on fruit tree branches that I pruned and then dig in my load of topsoil? Did some bacteria sneak up on her and attack while she was dozing in the warm spring sunshine?

We've no clue. The only change we can figure out is the thawing of the mucky pond that she loves to drink from.

It started like scrapes on her chin, spread to her lower lips, and when it reached her nose we consulted the vet. One IV, a large vial of Keflex pills and a tube of ear ointment (we wouldn't have realized it had spread there but Kharma began to lick Zelda's ears for her) later...and a bill for over a hundred dollars...doggies can be expensive.

Day after day passed and the infection spread and the pustules enlarged. Her hair fell out. Do we call the vet again or not? Look at it each day--any improvement? We Googled "canine bacterial infection" and "Keflex" and decided the treatment was appropriate. If it would just work. Sometime soon.

By Saturday she'd been on antibiotics for six days and we thought maybe we were seeing granulation, but if there was any further spread another vet visit was in order on Monday.

This morning she turned the corner. She came out of the crate with a tinge of healing pink on them. No puffiness. Definitely better!

This was a long week. Let's hope the improvement continues!

Friday, February 27, 2009

We Keep Our Promises

Hi, all! Kharma here.

This video opened my mom's eyes to the possibilities beyond sit/lie down/rollover/bang. I'm glad because I get super treats whenever she works with me! For some reason, mom always cries when she watches this. She says love always makes her cry happy tears. Must be a human thing...

Here's my friend Xsara doing some cool tricks. Since Barby just added Tani to her family, does that make Silvia and Barby related?? I think it must because their dogs have learned such wonderful behaviors.

The cool thing about YouTube is that you can subscribe to these two channels and see all their new videos. Like La's TV commercial. Or new puppies acting silly. Or doggy tricks. Mom gets lots of cool ideas from YouTube.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Favorite Dog Blogs

Good dogs will always find each other--even in the blogosphere! Or should that be dogosphere?

Today we added our favorite daily reads sniffs, and got a big happy surprise! We knew that Barby was getting a new puppy, a pyr shep born on Christmas Day, to be Xsara's sister. We kept checking her blog hoping for photos of the new puppy but there hadn't been anything new since early February. We figured no news probably meant good news--the puppy was home and taking all her time--but we didn't know for sure. Until today when we added her blog to our list and realized she had just posted about Tani! We are grinning ear to ear with delight. New puppies are one of our favorite happenings. Welcome, Tani!

Tani, aka Desiree de Loubajac, is a half-sister of La and we can already see the resemblance. If you haven't met La, along with Lo, Bi and Bu--you'll have to check out LoLaBu Land. Their mom Silvia is an incredible and inventive trainer. Her specialty is happy dogs! Our dream is to one day have a seminar with her.

All these dog friends live far away in Europe, alas. We love them anyway and delight in their antics and successes.

Tune in tomorrow for our favorite YouTube videos featuring our friends!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who She Smelled When I Returned

Airline miles make for a very cheap three-day weekend. Total cost to Albuquerque and back--$10! Gotta love it! Dogs don't get to fly, so Kharma had to stay home with Dad. I had plenty of canine company once I arrived.

First of all, Donner, the newest member of the family--New Mexico branch. Donner's a recent rescue--part golden, part lab. He wasn't too sure when I walked in the house after midnight and let out a few questioning woofs. I won him over with lots of rubs and sweet talk and frequent tuna fudge treats during my visit though.

He has a very wise look when he's at rest and grins nonstop when he's out on a hike. Well, nonstop smiles unless his best friend and partner is sitting on top of a twenty-foot granite outcrop without him. This look clearly said, "Dude! How'd you get up there and why didn't you invite me?"

He was much happier once he was up there too.He may be considered a "senior" in the adoption world, but he has enough energy to accompany his BFF on daily two mile morning runs. He's been known to chase the local deer herd through the hills before he decides to check back in with his main man.

He has a nice sit, a good down, and the beginnings of a spin. The rumbling lecture he gives after his partner takes off and abandons him for any length of time at all leaves no doubt that he's given his whole heart to my son. I wonder if Kharma could smell the love between them when she had her nose glued to my jeans when I got back?!

I know she was wondering why I didn't take her along to play with Romeo (that's him up on the rock with Donner and my son. Romeo may be a teacup poodle, but he has enough heart to hang with us during a three-hour hike up hill and down.

Kharma loves to steal his toys and play keep away during our visits. The two of them will run a circular pattern through the kitchen and around the living room over and over and over. When Romeo begins to give up, Kharma will slow down so he can catch up, usually staying just far enough ahead that Romeo can grab her tail plume but get nowhere near his stolen toy.

The last scent that I brought home was that of Juicy, the toy poodle pup. She's a cute fluffy apricot bundle of undisciplined energy. She's a member of our extended family and we were puppy-sitting for a couple of days. Donner not only tolerates her, but actually likes her--puppy craziness and all.

Here they are, cuddled up together on the pillow in front of the fireplace. Donner, you're such a good dog!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Her Third Bark-day Celebration

Kharma got a bath for her birthday.

(It may not have been her favorite present.)

By the time we were done, my flannel shirt, jeans and undies all were soaked and had to be tossed in the laundry hamper along with the two huge beach towels used to dry her off.

Kharma wasn't nuts about the hair dryer either. I eventually got smart and put it on the quiet setting and she settled down. By the time she was dry enough to carry back downstairs, Kharma had sparkling white stockinged feet and her fur was conditioned and softly shining. She was brushed from her freckled nose to her white tail plume. Even her purple daisy collar got a good cleaning.

I'm not a complete monster--I made her a nice batch of tuna fudge to celebrate and we've been taking it around to her best doggy pals for an extended birthday celebration. She got a new toy and she's had an entire week of exciting walks (no matter what the weather was doing).

There's no extra money for the agility DVD I've been wanting or for the agility class we'd planned. But...I did sign us up as members of the Musical Dog Sports Association (think Carolyn, Rookie and Grease) and we are excited to begin working on more tricks that we can incorporate into a freestyle routine.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pretty Darn Accurate

Yesterday was a damp gray day, so I wimped out on dog exercise and declared it a browse-the-internet day instead.

I stumbled across this very cute site (the actual link is way far below, I just couldn't resist including the cute puppy graphic) called

I answered all their questions about size and care and family demographics, none of which involved a breed...and the dog they recommended for us was a Golden Retriever-Australian Shepherd cross. Uncanny!

Our first family pet was a Golden-collie cross who was very protective of our two little boys, loved car rides and taught us reams about raising a puppy.

Next in line was our half Aussie-half mutt cross who our vet insisted also had some Golden in her. I still miss her silky soft hair and her loving ways. She single-pawedly converted the entire neighborhood into dog lovers.

When it was time for another pup, we scoured PetFinder for anything Aussie or Golden. Our current girl was listed as Aussie-Border Collie, but I could see Golden in the cross almost immediately. I thought it might have been wishful thinking until I compared the photo of Zelda to the picture of Kharma's brother.
Yeah, definitely Golden!

So all of our dogs have been part Golden Retriever and the last two have also been part Aussie.

Dog Chooser was right on the mark. Try it and see how close they come to your idea of the perfect dog!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two Words: Bad Idea

(Please pause a moment here while I have a mini-meltdown over the article I just read and Kharma chews some grass so she can hurl. Deep breath.)

Michael Vick.

PETA withdrew their offer to have him tape an anti-dogfighting public service announcement. He wanted their support of his reinstatement as a condition of his participation. And here I thought public service by definition indicates a donation of one's time and/or energy, without reimbursement. Silly me.

My guess is that inmate Vick has lived in his alternate universe for so long, where athletic talent excuses any behavior, that he can no longer differentiate wrong from right (no duh, there). Twenty-three months in the slammer haven't taught him that he has a debt to repay. Or maybe he thinks he's already repaid society for his behavior and gets a free pass?

In my universe, second chances are freely given. We all make mistakes. We learn from them and we move on. We don't use our mistakes as bargaining chips though--that's immature and juvenile.

Some errors are big ones, really big. And the consequences for those are appropriately big. You have to earn your way back before being forgiven. Dogfighting isn't high up on the list of attractive occupations, but it didn't stop there. Let's be clear here, Michael Vick viciously and maliciously took innocent lives. He killed personally. There was no mercy, no second chances, no humanity displayed.

I knew what I thought the instant I heard the details. I said it then and I'll say now--if the NFL allows him to play ever again, I will never watch another football game. It would cause me pain to give up watching the Niners on a Sunday morning. I'd miss the fun of Super Bowl parties. But there are some lines you don't cross.

I'd like to believe that playing for an NFL team again is just a pipe dream that Michael Vick's had while in prison. I hope that Commissioner Goodell continues the indefinite suspension. It's an appropriate response to Vick's "reprehensible" actions. With reinstatement, any team, any owner, any commercial sponsor had better be willing to face a mass boycott from their more thoughtful fans. The bad press possible just boggles the mind.

Michael Vick might consider some other job a janitor or pipefitter or stevedore. Somewhere far from the public eye, making a living wage, while contributing a necessary skill to our economy.

Many football fans commenting on the Fox Sports article are willing to defend his actions and would like to see him play again. That's disheartening. Fortunately, there are many others who are disgusted by his actions and forthright about saying so.

Quite honestly, any message from Michael Vick would have turned my stomach. Shame on PETA for even considering him as a spokesman. If they really wanted to find a worthy voice against dog-fighting, they don't have to look any further than one of the sweet and furry wiggle-butts who escaped Bad Newz Kennel and their murderous owner.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I just finished reading Merle's Door, a book I received for my birthday. It got me to thinking how different having a dog is now than it used to be. Better different. Better for the dog and better for the people.

Back in the day, the fact that our family dog could not only sit and roll over but play dead when we pointed our finger and said bang! was an amazing thing to most folks. Now Kharma rips off a series of ten or more tricks for just one of her homemade little peanut-butter treats. Obedience class was for very few people and now nearly everyone has attended Puppy Kindergarten. Walking Fido has become Agility Classes. Dogs have their own seatbelts (at least Kharma does).

I'm no longer comfortable saying I "own" a dog. It's not a PETA thing; it just feels wrong. I'd rather say that I share my life with a dog and she shares her life with me--I guess that's the change I've been thinking about in a nutshell. I'm well aware that I've been blessed with her love and confidence for an all-too-brief time and I want Kharma to develop to her full potential.

I'm learning not to micro-manage though. She's great at hand signals that eventually have been paired with audibles and will respond to both. In our Team-Relationship Building class, our instructor would have us take our dog though a tunnel in the way that seemed foreign to me at the time. There was very little luring and no naming--both things I've done regularly and successfully with Kharma. A little lightbulb went on for me: agility happens fast and a dog who can read your intentions via body language or pick your wishes out of thin air is greatly preferable to one who needs to be told every detail.

After reading Merle's Door, another Aha! moment happened. I need to respect my dog's ability to think for herself. We aren't so lucky as to live next to a wilderness, away from speeding cars and privacy fences, where a dog can roam safely all day, choosing his own activities.

But we are lucky to live next to an undeveloped park where we walk off-leash with great satisfaction. There are cowflops for her to smell; goose poop for her to sample like See's Candy for dogs; geese families who should be wintering in the Imperial Valley instead of the Sierras and thus are fair game; voles and coyotes and other dogs leave scents to be thoroughly investigated. I walk and she ranges. Sometimes we play with neighbor dogs who are also in the park off-leash. Frequently I bring the Flippy Flopper along and we play Frisbee until her tongue hangs out far enough to show off her two blue tongue spots. There is no Calm Assertive Energy involved, no Pack Leader. We just hang out and have fun. I can't imagine always having her on-leash and I suspect she's pretty happy I think that way.

I know she enjoys meeting other dogs, although she checks in with me frequently. Running full tilt to catch her Frisbee just feels good to her. Putting a flock of lazy geese into the cool morning air tickles our mutual senses of humor. Our unstructured time together is every bit as important as clicker training or working on a new trick or taking a class. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe it's the most valuable thing we do together.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Might Be a Dog Lover If...

You own dog socks. Three pairs.

When people ask, you can show them photos of your dog, but somehow you don't have any recent ones of your kids.

Every pocket you own has a dog treat in it.

Your Christmas tree has ornaments that you've painted to look exactly like your dog.

It's easier to know what to buy your dog for Christmas, than what to get your family.

You bought a purse because you knew you could use the photo windows to showcase your favorite puppy pictures.

Your cell phone plays a puppy video when you open it.

It took you longer to decide on the perfect name for your dog than for your children.

A "relationship building" class refers to your dog, not your spouse.

When visitors complain about the blonde dog hair on their black slacks, you suggest that they invest in tan pants or Levis instead.

You smile when you go to bed because you have a puppy pillowcase on which to lay your head.

You sewed breed-specific pillowcases for your neighbor girls as soon as they got their puppy. And learned how to spell Shih Tsu properly.

When you travel, your preference is by car with a dog-friendly itinerary.

Your former canines reside on the bookcase in wooden boxes engraved with their names, which you touch tenderly each time you dust.

You'll park in the shade of a tree even if it means you have to walk three times as far to the store. Then you speed shop so she won't be out there a second longer than necessary.

You know everyone at the dog park by their dog's name instead of their human name(i.e. Cody's dad, Tootsie Roll's mom, etc.).

When you have to fly somewhere, you call the dogsitter so you can talk to your dog. Every day.

You celebrate your dog's birthday and anniversary. At home AND at work.

You don't bake cookies for your human family, you bake dog treats for training sessions instead.

Your birthday wish list consists of more doggy items than jewelry, clothing, and "toys". Combined.

Your dog has her own blog.

Your favorite parts of the day somehow involve your dog.

Guilty on all counts, and loving every minute of it.

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