Friday, May 31, 2013

More Thoughts on Azza

It isn't just the hallway at the training facility that is Azza's gauntlet.

It occurred to me while walking Azza and Skeeter this morning that every activity that I do with Azza outside of the house is like running a gauntlet. I have to be on continual alert for dogs, cats, sqwerls, foxes, deer, ground birds. I need to be aware of an array of inanimate objects, their current positions relative to the last time Azza saw them, or whether she has ever seen an object like that before. She is usually okay with individual people walking, running, and riding bikes around us, but if they are moving oddly or holding their arms in a strange position, that will be a problem for her.

I need to be ready to act: ask her for a displacement behavior (must have treat already in hand), increase her distance, or physically restrain/constrain her. Usually all three have to be applied at the same time. Not easy!

She displays anxiety and fear and its accompanying preemptive aggression but there are relatively predictable patterns to the behavior. And one of these patterns is that the episodes of stress are getting shorter. Her bounce back "muscle" is getting stronger: she is able to return focus to me and accept a treat sooner and sooner after the threat presents itself and is dealt with.

For example, she can now walk over metal sewer plates in the sidewalk without even hesitating or looking at them. After I dragged her across them for a couple of weeks, she at last learned a new command: walk on it. She can spot them quite a distance away since she's relatively tall and would begin to slow walk and drag behind as we approached one. Then she would gingerly step on them only after my verbal command "walk on it", skitter off them as fast as she could then look to me for a treat. Now she doesn't even appear to see them, doesn't even bother to give me an ear flick as she crosses them with a normal gait (I suspect given her heightened sense of alert that she knows full well they are there but she has decided that they no longer represent a threat that needs to be acted on). It took a full four weeks of rewarding daily gauntlets of multiple sewer plates to get her to this point. But the progress is real and documentable.

Eighteen months is about the time that predisposed dogs become overtly aggressive; the feral desert dogs are no exception. Azza has just passed that milestone. I can't detect any shifts in her behavior at this time--and we continue to run gauntlets every day.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Azza in Class (Third Week)

Azza continues to accomplish amazing things in class. This week, she walked down the center of the room on three different exercises with me, one involving cones, on loose lead, coming to front, coming around to the heel position, taking inside and outside turns, and returning her attention to me from some alternately scary and interesting distractions. The sides of the room were lined with the two instructors and the other five dogs and handlers so this was a pretty damned big deal for her.

Not too surprisingly, Azza is usually willing to approach small dogs if they are calm. Today, she was even making googly eyes at this small toy mix named Bernie, cute as a button, who she has been watching since the first week. He's a well behaved little dog who calmly allows Azza to approach him for a brief sniff. I don't let her get too close because she is still stressed and I'm not sure how she will act out on that if something scary were to happen (loud noise, etc). Bernie was a good distraction as was the other small dog in the class, a sandy colored terrier mix who had a squeaky toy today. Azza couldn't resist taking a good look at that!

Azza most definitely doesn't like a freaky female BC and a male husky who stares quite rudely at Azza and at other dogs. However, the husky owner is doing a better job of keeping her dog's attention. They served as nice negative distractions.

I was able to get her up onto a wooden bench today too. That is quite a feat for Azza since she is so suspicious of new surfaces.

Azza still growls if the larger dogs come too close, either out of interest in her or because they are drifting on the leash and the owner isn't paying attention. I make sure we always have plenty of space to move away.

But by far the biggest training hurdle of the night was what I call the gauntlet. The entrance to this facility opens to a longish, narrow hallway. There is a second, short hallway and another room off of one side and the front desk and a gate at the opposite end. When we come for class, they have us line up in this hallway and wait until everyone shows up before we can file in to the training room.

Well, as you can imagine, this hallway could not be more scary for Azza. No place to run. Crowded. Excited dogs on all sides.

I can of course finesse this experience. I can arrive such that we are first in line or last in line. All of the other handlers know that she needs space (because I told them to keep their distance) so they aren't crawling up her ass. Still, it's a tense situation for her. I was keeping her out of the way in the side room but the first two weeks were not that pretty. I decided to push the envelope a little today. I arranged it such that we were third in line, Bernie on one side and the small terrier mix on the other. I had Azza sitting with her back to the wall and stood to one side of her, Bernie and his owner about three feet to her other side. She was displaying typical but mild signs of stress though she was nowhere near a meltdown. She was taking treats and became quite interested when I offered Bernie a treat then gave her one, then Bernie, then Azza. She liked that game (we play it at home with the terriers) and that's when she started the googly eyes with him. I rewarded that too! In fact, I was able to actually talk to a couple of the other handlers (briefly). I usually can't talk to other people when Azza is with me because she's freaking out about their proximity (growling, hackled, showing teeth, sometimes barking, possibly even lunging at them to drive them away). Today, she was more, well, certainly not relaxed, but more able to handle the stress. She didn't do any of those things (well, she did growl a bit), she kept taking treats and looking at either me or Bernie.

Another successful training experience for my crazy desert hound.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Raw Bones

It's a rainy morning so I thought I'd give the dogs a treat: raw, frozen marrow bones (cuts of beef femur).

If you've had your coffee or are paying attention, you'll see FOUR dogs in the video. The little white dog is Skeeter, Anne's JRT bitch. I'm watching Skeeter for a week while she is driving to Utah to pick up a new puppy, a BC (she's gone over to the dark side at last).

Skeeter is a dominant little bitch...and so is Mimi. If they were to ever meet face to face, the particle-anti-particle implosion would annihilate the universe. So one of them is always in a crate. It's not as bad as it sounds. HellBeast quickly taught Skeeter that cats are not to be fucked with, and she gets along great with Azza and Harry. It's fairly simple to switch them out every couple of hours.

But you'll notice that all three bitches are in crates in the video for the bone treat. Yep, that's what you have to do when you have a pack of guardy, aggressive dogs. Even if it wasn't raining, I couldn't put them outside. A raw bone is a resource of tremendous value. A dog with guarding issues never gets the concept of "bird in the hand". Having a crate-trained dog is a tremendously useful thing--I never understand it when people resist using a crate. There was in fact a woman in Azza's class who said her dog, a husky puppy, ate things when left alone (pillows, remotes, etc.). The solution is so simple: use a damned crate or confine the dog to one room. But oh no, she couldn't do that. It would be mean. FFS. It's a story I heard often when teaching the obedience classes in Dhahran. As the saying goes, you get the dog you deserve.

I pulled out the dogs' bedding and replaced it with packing paper (Azza already had paper in her crate). The bones are messy, bits of fat and bloody connective tissue and slobber get spread around, so when the dogs are done I'll simply roll the paper up and toss it. Easy clean up!

Raw bones are good for dogs. (I don't want to get into an argument on diet. Too many anecdotes, too little science. But bones = good no matter where you sit on the diet fence--raw, homemade, high protein, commercial, cheap, expensive.) Most decent grocery stores sell femur cuts for this purpose. You can give the bone directly from the freezer. I usually take the bones away after about 30 minutes, refreeze them, and give them again on another day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Update on Old Man Harry and Other Health Matters

Harry is almost back to where he was before the vestibular nerve incident. His head tilt is almost gone, and I only notice it in certain contexts now. One lingering effect is a persistent rear end weakness, and he is dragging one of his feet. Since I noticed symptoms of increasing rear end weakness many months ago, this could simply be the progression of that, and unrelated to the vestibular thing. Still, it's a worry although there's nothing to be done about it.

He can still jump up on the couch unassisted (most days) although he is not allowed to jump on and off the bed anymore. And he needs a bit of help getting outside in the mornings. It is easier to carry him outside since the two steps down are proving to be a bit too challenging.

He can't wait to go for his hour-long walk every morning, rain or shine. My dogs now have fleece-lined raincoats for those damp, cold mornings. It was 41 F and raining yesterday at 7am!

And Harry is always the one to initiate a game of tug and fetch with the toys. If he's decided it's time to play, he won't settle until we play.

He's more frail than he was six months ago but he's still got a lot of heart and joie de vivre. He will be 15 years old in August.

Shortly after we got here, Azza developed a horrendous case of flaky skin. It was really getting gross. She didn't act like it was itchy but brushing her would produce a snow storm of flakes, and she left a trail of flakes everywhere she went.

Since it didn't seem to be an allergic reaction, I thought it might be diet related. (By no means can I rule out an environmental cause since just about every plant out here is blooming and spewing some sort of reproductive stuff at the moment. She just didn't have any of the usual symptoms you might associate with a histamine reaction.)

I was giving her vitamin E but I decided to increase that to six 1000 IU capsules a day (three with each meal). Then I noticed that Harry's joint supplement had flaxseed as the first ingredient so I added that to her food as well. And after some more thought, I realized that the homemade diet I had been feeding them in Dhahran had a lot more protein than she's been getting so I upped the protein content of her food.

The flakes disappeared in about three days. SInce I made all of these changes at the same time, I don't know which one helped! Bad experimental design but the outcome was good. I'll have to back them out one at a time to sort it out.

Azza in Class (Second Week)

Azza did the most fantastic things in class tonight! I am over the moon with excitement, and I'm very proud of her for tackling some difficult exercises.

She did keep growling at her reflection in a mirror that was near us but it never escalated to a meltdown as I was able to distract her fairly quickly.

Azza held a stand, a sit, and a down during strong petting and touching. The instructor was having the other participants do an "alpha roll" with their dogs for the down part but I won't do that to any of my dogs, and certainly not Azza. Still, the fact that she allowed me to touch her all over, including feet and tail and butt, in that setting is very good. She likes rough play and strong tugging so I'm trying to work in more physical contact as rewards for her.

She also accepted food from the instructor who stood about 6 feet away from her. We waited until Azza put her ears up and forward while looking at the instructor then she tossed Azza bits of cheese. I simply stood there holding the leash loosely and praising her. This is the first time Azza has taken food from a stranger. Usually she refuses it, because ew, scary stranger cooties.

I was also able to have her work some exercises just a few feet away from a cute little mix named Bernie. I think Azza would like to get to know Bernie better but she's still a bit too worried about all the other chaos going on in the room.

She did a lot more amazing things but I think that only hard core trainers would be interested in reading that minutiae.

I left on a high note, exactly at 8:30, when Azza was happy and still focused and willing to work. I didn't want to start a pattern of leaving only when she won't or can't work anymore--their brains reach a saturation point, and an hour is a VERY long time for the intensive work I'm doing with her. I prepare my treats in advance, cut them up into small pieces, and I go through hundreds of bits of hot dog, cheese, chicken, beef, and kibble in that hour. There's not much that I won't reward.

She is exceeding my expectations on a regular basis.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Azza and HellBeast

There is paper in Azza's crate because she eats everything else. Even though she tears the paper up into small pieces, it will still provide her a relatively soft, warm nest for quite some time. And since my shredder is slowly winding its way here on camelback, I currently use her to shred personal documents too.

HellBeast likes to play in Azza's crate because, duh, it's full of fun, chaseable bits of paper.

Here's the link to the video.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rhubarb 2: Savoury on the Cheap

I decided to give the rhubarb another try tonight for dinner. My plant is enormous, plenty there for more experimentation.

I find that I am drawn to Nigel Slater's recipes on BBC Food more often than some of the other food writers. He seems to revel in simple comfort food.

I was reading his crazily easy notes for roasting rhubarb and I honed in on his closing statement "Use in sweet or savoury dishes...such as ... fried mackerel fillets".

I'm not a big fan of mackerel, and most seafood is out of my budget these days, but I did have a can of tuna in the pantry. Savoury rhubarb and tuna, here we come!

I followed his directions for prepping and roasting the rhubarb, and after I popped it in the oven, I thinly sliced half a sweet onion and put it in a skillet with some olive oil, basil, dried ginger, and a generous amount of salt. Once that began to gently cook, I started half a cup of rice.

When it was done, I added the rhubarb (sliced down to about 2" per piece) to the onion, a tablespoon more of brown sugar, and then a drained can of tuna. I let this mess simmer to boil off extra liquid. The rhubarb began to break down a little and while the original chunky texture was lost, the mixture of flavours made up for it.

I served the rhubarb-tuna-onion mixture over the rice. It was simple, fresh, delicious--and cheap.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Azza in Class

Tonight was Azza's first beginner obedience class. We didn't get kicked out and I haven't yet gotten an email asking us not to return next week.

She was extremely stressed by the time we were able to go into the training room (the woman who runs this place has absolutely no concept of time management, which I think is an insult to the participants, but I already ranted enough about that). She wouldn't take food for nearly 15 minutes, despite being offered very delicious bits of string cheese, turkey hot dogs, and boiled chicken.

I was near an exit of the room which leads to a gravel run, the only potty area for the 30+ dogs they have in doggy day care. Azza fixated on this exit even though it didn't actually lead anywhere. She saw it as a way OUT of that very scary situation.

So I took her in and out of this doorway, kept her moving, kept offering her treats, kept using my marker word to praise her for entering and exiting (no clicker for this dog, she's far too freaky for that), and at last I got her to accept a piece of cheese.

That one little piece of cheese was far more than I actually expected for this first class.

So we were off and running. She can of course perform all of the behaviors we were to prepare for class this week, and more. But the big question was whether I could get her to do those things in class.

And the answer is, yes, mostly. She wasn't quick, didn't move with her usual bounce, and the best I could get was her tail at half mast. But I did get a bit of a wag out of her at one point and her ears gradually moved from plastered to her head to full extension, ready to receive radio signals from Mars.

She sat in heel position on separate verbal and hand commands, did nose touches and sit-stand reps, looked at me when I said her name, moved into heel position from various starting positions, even did some spins.

Heck, I even got her to drop into a down from a stand three times, which is a very difficult behavior for a green, anxious dog like Azza to do in a class setting.

She started to melt down right at the hour mark. She was downright tired of drilling behaviors she already knew and had had enough of being a good girl. The class started late and ran late (I suspect this is typical for them) but I thought I would stay just to make sure there wasn't going to be any last minute surprises. There wasn't. I will leave next week as soon as I detect her starting to wilt.

Pending that email asking us not to come back, I'd say that Azza's first night in class was a success!

And now she's collapsed on the bed on top of a pile of clean laundry, a well deserved nap.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sixteen Inches!

I had Azza out on the jump again this afternoon. I started her on 8 inches, then quickly moved to 12. That went well, so I decided to give 16 inches a try. This was her first ever experience with that jump height.

She was flying over it!

Azza can send over the jump (she and I start on the same side and she has to drive ahead of me over the jump), recall over the jump (she starts on one side and jumps towards me), she is learning front cross body language, she is jumping with collection (up close to the jump with a tight wrap) and with extension (we run towards the jump together from a long distance back), she can do everything from either my left or my right side, and she can even slice the jump at a very tight angle. In a 10-minute training session with dozens of attempts with constantly varying setups, she only had TWO refusals (where she went around the jump instead of over it).

In fact, I now have a new and quite unexpected training problem. She is breaking her stays on the recalls.

Ponder this for a moment. Azza, the dog who was terrified at the very sight of the jump just a few months ago, is now so excited to jump over it and get her reward that she can't even sit in place long enough for me to move into position.

Don't mistake me. In other contexts, she has an excellent stay (I return to her) and a wait (I release her) in either a standing or sitting position. She knows what "stay" means. And she is so enthused about this new jumping game that she simply can't wait to do it again.

The progress she has made in the past month is jaw-dropping.

Her enjoyment of the games of tug and retrieve have escalated noticeably. Anne made three braided tug toys for my birthday present. One of them is a medium sized ring. She left the extra fabric at the join to flop around in an enticing manner. Azza is obsessed with this toy! She can't bring it back to me fast enough so I can either tug with her or throw it again. It is hard for me to think back to those days when I patiently shaped her to first tug, really tug with me, growling and pulling, and then to chase the toy, then to pick up the toy, then to return the toy to me (and of course to drop it on command, a key component of the tug game). The terriers key off the phrase "let's play baby!" and now Azza is showing just as much excitement and anticipation when I say this.

Azza is also shoving her retrieved toys at me. Not just bringing the toy back, but SHOVING the thing at my hand or leg. Come on! Come on! I trained Harry to do this lo these many years ago and I like the behavior a lot. The dog's focus on the game and the handler is absolute at this point.

Azza's hand touch is a lot more vigorous now too. I don't get a hand touch so much as I get a french kiss, tongue and all. She is slamming her mouth into my hand. Messy, but I like this behavior too.

Can I hope to do some agility with her? Could I ever get her on an Aframe? A dogwalk? A teeter, for god's sake?

Baby steps. I have to keep reminding myself how far she has come.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


This is my front yard here in Oregon. Quite a difference from the beige landscape in Dhahran.

Everyone tells me that the weather of the past two weeks is completely anomalous: dry and sunny, dare I say even hot--almost 90 F on several days. I had to get a couple of box fans to put in the windows to cool the house down. I can't be too disappointed because I know it will start raining eventually.

The dogs are in for a surprise though. They soak up the sun every chance they get. I suspect it isn't quite hot enough for them!

Thursday, May 09, 2013


Since I couldn't pack Erika the Step/Pilates Nazi in my air freight box or one of my suitcases, I've been casting about for some additional exercise options. I already walk the dogs an hour a day along a rather hilly route but that's not enough. I have my OSU student ID card now but I can't use the campus gym facilities until the summer session starts in June.

Taking up bike riding seemed a reasonable option.

There are bike paths all over the place and they are well connected so you can travel for quite a distance without having to go on regular streets. There is in fact the start of a major multi-use path just across the street from my house. By following this path, with a few jigs and jogs, I can actually ride a bike to campus.

But first I had to get a bike.

I started by visiting some of the bike shops in Corvallis. I tested out a new bike as well as a used one, both costing in the neighborhood of USD 500. That seemed like a lot so I decided to think about it some more.

My friend Anne offered to loan me her bike, which she's kept in a clean, dry garage for some years. But it would have required quite a bit of work (labor fees at a local shop) plus some new parts to get it back in working condition. And it still didn't quite fit me. I have very long legs but a relatively short torso so most women's bikes are too short and most men's bikes are too long from seat to handlebars.

I found a used bike on craigslist that fits me pretty well. It is a crap "walmart" type bike, no-name brand, only 16 gears, but someone had done some upgrades to it. It had decent shifters and an extended stem that lifted the handlebars way up. I still had to buy a helmet, fenders (which I installed, having to resort to zip ties in the end because the Frankenbike doesn't have threaded holes with standard diameters), and a cable lock. But for around USD 180 and a bit of work, I now have a working bike. It's quite a mongrel, dings here and there, parts that don't match in style or vintage, the flywheel a bit sticky. But it works.

According to what I've been told, bike theft or bike part theft is a booming industry on campus. So I certainly didn't want to begin this experiment with some high-end affair that would get stolen. The Frankenbike won't turn any heads, that's for sure. I mean, really, zip ties.

I rode to campus today. I had a false start two days ago and had to come back to study the bike path maps a little more carefully. Today, I went loaded for bear: backpack, iPad, printed maps, water bottle. I made it to campus in almost exactly 30 minutes of not terribly horrendous pedaling. No, to be correct, in 30 minutes, I made it across campus to the auditorium where I am to spend June and July listening to organic chemistry lectures. I treated myself to lunch (only the second time I've eaten out since I arrived here) then pedaled back. That was much, much harder. My legs weren't at all ready for what amounted to an hour of bike riding.

I calculated that it's probably been 13 years or so since I last sat my fat butt on a bicycle seat so I guess that I'm doing okay since I made it back in good time and without too much trauma. (I'd forgotten how fun it is to ride a bike despite initially being a bit wobbly.)

I may be delusional but I am wondering if I can save the summer parking sticker fees and bike to campus instead. That's a lot of pedaling but no doubt it will be good for me. It certainly meets the "need more exercise" criterion. I am not delusional enough to think I would continue this during the winter. But it's summer now. The weather is decent at the moment.

There is a second option. There is a "park and bike" lot about 15 minutes' drive from my house that meets up with a different bike path that heads straight into campus and that would cut the total bike trip by as much as two-thirds. I will probably give that a try next week to see how much trouble it is to load and unload the bike into the back of the car (it will fit, the question is a matter of the trouble required) and how long this alternative takes.

And if this summer experiment goes well, I can sell my Frankenbike (which now has fenders and will probably get a new chain before too long) and upgrade to something a bit nicer.

Oh Dear

Tonight was the first meeting of Azza's obedience class. We had to show up without the dogs. I can certainly understand the value of the instructor giving the group some basic instructions without the distraction of the dogs, but almost two and a half hours of it? She nattered on about the most irrelevant and annoying nonsense and only got to the real meat of the entire affair AFTER we were supposed to have already finished (specifically, what we were supposed to prepare at home for next week's class).

Having taught such classes to dog owners who lack the faintest clue about dog training, I can tell you that rushing through the instructions for how to train the name game, collar touch game, and a sit-stand-down combo is a waste of everybody's time as she'll just have to repeat it all next week.

On top of that, not one of those green handlers got an opportunity to practice any of these new activities under a guiding eye. They didn't get to practice the timing of their marker word, they didn't get to practice the placement of the treat for luring a sit or get any advice on how to get their dog to sit by their side (many untrained dogs have problems with this since they are used to facing their owners for their treats).

The instructor showed no understanding of or respect for different learning modes (how people learn), spoke disparagingly of vets, and spoke continuously with hardly a pause for breath. For two and a half hours. The environment was not one that encouraged inquiry or exploration.

To add insult to injury, the instructor had two of her own dogs and the assistant instructor had one of her dogs running around unleashed. It seems that the assistant's dog is there "to be trained." They used these dogs to model the homework behaviors for a total of about two minutes (they didn't even offer to let one of the participants give it a try with the dogs). The rest of the time there was a lot of pointless showing off, solipsistic rambling, and a couple of times even some factually wrong statements.

When I was teaching the obedience classes in Dhahran, I fretted a bit about taking Mimi to class (I think I even wrote a blog post about this). I was worried that it seemed self serving. But I never used her to demonstrate a skill when I could use a class dog instead. I never taught her new behaviors during class. I never let her off lead.

I am not paying these clowns to train their own fucking dogs. I am not paying them to talk over questions from the handlers. I am not paying them to operate doggy day care during an obedience class.

I am not sure that I will return next week. I need to think how or even if I can make this a positive experience for Azza. It won't be a positive one for me.

Monday, May 06, 2013

It's Rhubarb Season!

I ran into my landlady in the Safeway this afternoon (I know that sounds weird but I live in a very small town outside of Corvallis, which isn't all that terribly large itself). We had a nice chat about the weather and the rental house. She and previous tenants have planted lots of beautiful trees, shrubs, herbs, and plants and I have really been enjoying discovering them as they come into bloom. The tulips and cherry trees are finished but the irises and a small dogwood are now taking over. There are three large rhododendrons in the front yard blooming in glorious varieties of pink.

She told me, the rhubarb is ready for harvesting. The rhubarb? Oh, that looming plant with the enormous dark green leaves. I had in fact weeded out that side bed just the other day and discovered the rhubarb as well as a bed of onions planted by the previous tenants. I didn't recognize the rhubarb but figured it was too large and permanent looking so I weeded around it.

I've never touched rhubarb before but I'm game. My first stop for some ideas was the BBC Food web site. If I had my Joy of Cooking, I probably would have also looked there, but it's on a slow boat from KSA. Of course the BBC comes through. I chose this recipe for rhubarb chutney. It suggests serving the chutney with gammon, a form of smoked pork, and I happen to have some boneless pork steaklets. But the recipe attracted me because I like making chutneys and compotes. They are so easy!

Here's a picture of the rhubarb cooking in the brown sugar with the rest of the ingredients ready to go in.

It took quite a while to cook the chutney down and the pork was still frozen so I'll defer the rhubarb feast until tomorrow. The flavors will be that much better!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Get That Rat!

Mimi and I had quite an adventure yesterday--her first experience with earthdog. For those of you who lack terriers, earthdog is a competitive, titling sport for the small and medium sized terriers. The dogs have to find (at the advanced levels) and enter a 9x9 inch tunnel (wood roof and sides, dirt floor) then navigate its length until they arrive at the end where they find the rat. Yes, a real, live rat. The dogs aren't supposed to run overground to the rat, they have to go through the tunnel. The rat is in a metal cage that is behind heavy wooden dowels. The dogs aren't supposed to make contact with the rat but they are supposed to "work" it for a specified period of time. Sitting and staring doesn't count. The dogs must do something like bite the dowels or dig, and it is good but not required that they vocalize. The judge sits at the rat end and has separate access to the dog and the rat as needed.

My friend Anne asked if I'd like to help the club dig and lay out the tunnels for their trial next weekend. She dangled good bait: members who helped could practice on the tunnels afterwards. She said, yes, you're not a member but I'm the VP, and I can probably arrange something if it's a problem.

It was a long, hot, dry, dusty, windy morning but many hands make short work of such tasks. In less than three hours, we had the Introduction to Quarry, a 10-foot tunnel with one 90 degree turn, and the Junior tunnels dug (with the help of a backhoe, amazing invention), laid out, leveled, and buried. Another team took care of the Senior tunnel which was quite a distance away in a brushy, wooded part of the farm.

After lunch and the club meeting, one of the club members who is a judge headed out to the Intro tunnel with a rat and her dog. Anne and I hotfooted it out there after her with Anne's JRT bitch Skeeter and Mimi.

It took some convincing but at last Mimi went into the tunnel. The judge was holding the door open at the end so there was plenty of light--at only 10 feet, Mimi could certainly see the exit once she got into the mouth of the tunnel even with the 90 degree turn.

We spent quite a bit of time encouraging Mimi to be a very good terrier: biting, whining, barking, digging, and otherwise pitching a fit to get to the rat.

Sigh. Another photo of my butt. But this is a nice one of Mimi's butt! Mimi is going into the Junior tunnel. There is a right turn, then a left, then another right, before she gets to the rat. The tunnel is around 20 feet long! Mimi stands almost 16 inches at the shoulder so she has to really crouch down to get into then move along in the 9x9 inch tunnel.

The Junior tunnel proved to be more of a challenge. It was almost 20 feet long with three 90 degree turns. Mimi was pretty disconcerted by the length of the thing and gave up twice, backing out the way she came. It took quite a bit of encouragement to get her to go in there and keep going. But she did it! Twice! And worked the rat for well over a minute each time.

You'll notice in the video that I am stroking her while she is working the rat. That is to ensure that she doesn't back up out of reach when the door is opened up--because unfortunately that usually signals that the handler is going to pull the dog out and the fun is going to end! When I did reach in to get her after her second Junior run, she dropped even lower to the ground to keep me from getting my fingers around her and kept working the rat! She did not want me to pull her out of the tunnel. Very amusing.

Even though the activity is somewhat artificial, going after vermin is what the smaller terriers were bred to do. The idea is that they are displaying behaviors that were selected for and encouraged. It was really fun to see Mimi's enthusiasm for it.

The trial is next weekend. Anne has her PRT Forrest entered in the Senior class on Sunday. I found out today from my friend DSL, who did earthdog for several years with her SFT Meggie, that I could enter Introduction to Quarry and Junior classes on the same day. I will probably take Mimi up there on Sunday (to keep within my general competition rules). Once classes start I may not have the luxury of time for these sorts of activities so I figure that I might as well enjoy them while I can.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


At the fun match last Sunday, one of the women told me that she filled one of those squishy, refillable tubes that you can get in camping stores with peanut butter and let her reactive dog suck on it like a baby bottle to get him through stressful situations. She recommended I try it.

I duly purchased a couple of the tubes the other day. My attempt to get peanut butter into one of them became rather tortuous and involved as I tried to use a spoon, knife, fork, and microwave to get it into the tube. I ended up with too much in there and had to squeeze about 1/4 cup into the other tube before I could get the first one closed. I was already having second thoughts about this experiment. However, I wiped the tube clean and set it aside for our walk this morning.

So remind me why I would expect something like this to work for Azza?

Mimi thought this was a fantastic idea and would happily nurse off the end of the PB tube at the sight of another dog. Azza simply panicked as usual.

She wanted nothing to do with this thing being shoved in her face. The only way to get PB into her mouth was to grab her collar, immobilize her head, and shove the end of the tube in there and give it a squeeze. Except that she kept her teeth clenched shut so that the PB would just smoosh out onto her teeth and lips.

There was peanut butter on her whiskers, her chin, the top of her head, the teeth of the zipper on my hoodie, my pants, my shirt, Mimi, the leashes, my shoes (from drool), the gear shift in my car...everywhere except inside Azza's mouth.

When we got back to the trail head, I chucked the damned tube in the trash can.


Warning: rant ahead. Children under 12 and those with sensitive eyes should probably just go to the next post. Go on ahead. It's a funny one. This one is not funny.

I've been meaning to write about this topic for some time. I couldn't do it while I was actually in KSA because doing so might have put me in jeopardy of being fired or even expelled from the country, and I've been diverted by other topics from some time.

But this article from the Guardian and its accompanying comments has prompted me to tap out a few thoughts.

I'd have to agree with the overall sentiment of the Guardian article, and many of the commenters, that the domestic abuse ad pictured in the article is hardly going to make a difference in Saudi Arabia. The abuse itself is widely sanctioned by the same religion giving men all the power. Please, readers, give me an example from history when those in power gave it up, in all or part, to make things more equal for their people.

When I first arrived in KSA, I was pretty appalled at the abayas and niqabs and heavy gloves and socks. They are explicitly designed to negate the reality of women as humans. The sight of those black-shrouded ghosts made me really angry. I'd want to say to them, sister, it doesn't have to be this way. You need to fight!

But time passed. I spent more time in the company of Saudis. I spent more time listening and watching. Instead of anger, I felt sad at the extent of the brainwashing and indoctrination. I felt sorry for those zeroed out women. I'd want to say, look what he has done to you, sister.

Eventually, I spent enough time listening and watching, and talking to overtly westernized Saudis, who turned out to be quite the opposite, but their westernized veneer allowed them to talk to infidels relatively easily, and I came to the conclusion that those women are architects of their own misery. Sure, the horrible, barely Bronze-age tenets at the base of Islam (and Christianity and Judaism, when you come down to it), derived from crazed desert nomadic tribes' heat-shimmering visions, that spend a lot of energy proscribing what one can or cannot eat, wear, say, do, fuck, kill, and to whom, in the end, the tenets themselves are not much more than historical curiosities unless one is willing to buy into the craziness. Then things get kind of serious.

And no, sorry, you can't cherry-pick your way out of this. You can't say, well this verse of the qu'ran or the bible says this happy, love-your-neighbor sort of thing, and isn't that nice? No. Because too much of that stuff is garbled, violent nonsense.

Sorry, back to the main point. That's where I completely lost any sympathy or empathy for fully veiled women. Some few, some very few, might be forced into it. Most are not. They like it that way, just like they don't want to drive (despite the uncomfortable yet apparently too easily dismissed theological situations that having an unrelated male driver puts them into). You will hear many fully veiled women say they find it "protecting" or "respectful" to wear the niqab yet they will in the same breath rail at the feral youth roaming streets and shops and malls harassing women. Who raised those young men? Who allows, even condones, this behavior of men?

Their mothers, their sisters, their grannies, their aunts, their neighbors. All of those women have abdicated responsibility for assuming any role as full and complete humans. Why should their sons and brothers and fathers act any differently when the women themselves fail to step up and say, hey, I am a human being. I deserve to be treated like a human being.

In my opinion, this abdication means they can't whine about the consequences. What's a black eye or a bruised wrist when you can walk around "protected"?