Sunday, March 25, 2012

TMT is alive and kicking!

But I'm very late. Oh well, I can still play along!

And this week's questions:

1. Where were you born? Did you grow up there?
2. How did you come to end up living where you are now?
3. What is the most unusual trick you have taught your dog? Or the most unusual animal you have taught tricks?
4. What is the most unusual food you enjoy?
5. I know this has been asked before, but I'm always looking for a great book to read so what was the last book you read? Did you like it? Would you recommend it?

So here we go!
1. Where were you born? Did you grow up there?

I was born and raised in a little place called Fairview Beach in King George County, VA. Fairview Beach is along the Potomac River, and King George is east of Fredericksburg. After graduating college I lived in Frederciksburg for probably 15 years, so I stayed close to home for a good part of my adult life.

2. How did you come to end up living where you are now?

That's a bit of a long and convoluted story, but I left Fredericksburg for northeastern North Carolina the year after my mother died (so this would be 1999). I had a sister living in that general area and I needed to get away from where I was. I worked in that area and in Hampton Roads, VA for a few years, then in 2005 took a job in Durham and moved to the central part of the state. I have lived in several locations since then, and although I'd like to move back to VA, somehow I seem to be stuck in NC.

3. What is the most unusual trick you have taught your dog? Or the most unusual animal you have taught tricks?

I can't claim to have taught any of my animals any tricks that would be considered especially special....

4. What is the most unusual food you enjoy?

That's a tough one. I like a lot of different cuisines and I'm always open to trying new things. Around here, that's a bit tough--if I want something interesting, I have to drive to the Triangle area, which I don't often do.

5. I know this has been asked before, but I'm always looking for a great book to read so what was the last book you read? Did you like it? Would you recommend it?

Now this is one I can answer. I recently read Jennifer Nivens' Velva Jean Learns to Drive and Velva Jean Learns to Fly and enjoyed them both immensely. Velva Jean is from the North Carolina mountains, so the nearby locale of the story also gave added interest. Before those it was Definitely Not Mr. Darcy. I don't remember the author right off the top of my head, but it was a FUN read, and if you're at all a Jane Austen fan, you'll probably like it. Let's see, I just finished The Sixth Extinction. The story was intersting, but the writing was a bit florid for my taste, almost like the author was trying too hard to be descriptive. But although the writing style annoyed me at times, the story was still good. And the book I just finished is Restoration, by Olaf Olafsson. It's the story of two women in Italy during WWII. Both are ex-pats, one an English society woman who has given that life up to restore a crumbling villa with her Italian husband, the other an Icelandic artist who finds her greatest skill is restoring old masterpieces. The come together after Rome is taken by the Allies and Kristin, the restorer appears at Alice's doorstep. As they face the retreating German army, they both have secrets they wrestle with--secrets that could change their fates and those of the people who have come to depend on them. I would definitely recommend this book. In fact, if I had to recommend just one of these books, it would be Restoration (okay, and Definitely Not Mr. Darcy if you want a lighthearted read). I've just started The Cat's Table, by Michael Ondaatje (author of The English Patient and Anil's Ghost). It's too early to say much, but I've been drawn right in, and that's a good sign! Okay, I'll stop now. I admit, for me books are like crack.

Thanks for taking over TMT Jaenne!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stream of consciousness TMT

So rather than Q&A this week I'd like to know whatever random tidbits you might have on your mind today.

In honor of Laura's request for random tidbits, I'm just going to post things as they pop into my head.

* Puppies who put holes in old dogs' heads, especially right over their eyes, might just have to have some sense knocked into them (though it seems said put-upon dogs are trying, to no avail).

* Why is it that when I offer my friends eggs because I'm being overrun with them that other people suddenly come out of the woodwork wanting to buy eggs? Is it some sort of cosmic "I only want it if someone else wants it" thing?

* I wonder if Chili Pepper is happy that I set her on a towel on the windowsill in my bedroom so she could enjoy the fresh air and watch the chickens, or if she's just too feeble to bother to get herself down (even though I left a little step stool there just for that purpose).

* It irks me to have to do many loads of laundry knowing that more rain is forecast for the morning and everything I cleaned (well, as clean is it can get in my less-than-stellar HE washing machine) will likely be muddied again.

* Kestrel can stand both ears up, so why doesn't she just leave them that way???

* I wonder how Willow really feels. I wonder the same thing about Jill.

* I wish ticks the world over would drop off the face of the earth. I figured out that the dogs are excavating the yard because we no longer take nice long walks in the woods. I miss those walks and I know the dogs do too. Not to mention that if I ever move from here, it will likely take several dump truck loads to fill the tiger pits in the back yard. Where does the dirt go?

* I have some set out jobs coming up and wonder how I'll afford the gas to get there and back home again.

* Why can't I have an endless supply of chocolate and never get fat from eating it all?

* Could someone please give me a lifetime supply of Cadbury mini eggs? Or even a week's supply (that amount would be relative, I suppose).

* If I'm really, really nice for an extended period of time, would the cosmos send me a decent, enjoyable job?

* I wish I could figure out a way to farm full time and still make a living.

* I wish for patience. Probably the rest of the world wishes for me to have patience too.

* Grow, grass, grow!

I could go on, but the other things that are on my mind mostly fall into the category of things unprintable!

Sadie says, "Don't be an ass!"

* Why, yes, if gum balls were a commodity, I'd be RICH!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who misses a week now and then!

So I actually have some breathing space from freelance work, short-lived though it may be. And what am I going to do with that little bit of free time? Well, play Tell Me Thursday, of course!

1. What blogging tip would you give other dog-bloggers?

That's a tough one. I don't think very many strictly dog people follow my blog. In fact, I don't think very many people, period, follow my blog. Not to mention the fact that I seem to go AWOL from the blog from time to time. I guess my tip would be that if you're going to put yourself out there with training ideas, etc., develop a thick skin, because there will always be folks who disagree with you and who are willing to say so, loudly and not so kindly. Sorry, that's the best I can do, lol!

Well, and not specific to dog blogs, but if there's any chance someone like your boss or disliked co-worker would read your blog, watch what you say!

2. If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island and could take five things with you (aside from the clothes on your back), what would they be?

Does a sheep flock count as one thing? And a chicken flock as another? With those two things, I could certainly feed myself and the dogs and cats, who of course would come with. (Dogs and cats count as one thing, too, right? Under the general heading of household pet?) For the rest, probably books and chocolate, each of which also counts as one thing, no matter how much of each I actually have. lol! I guess I better be traveling on a container ship full of all my stuff if I'm going to get stranded....

3. How much pain are you willing to endure in the name of physical appearance? Do you have painful things done to enhance beauty?

You're asking me? The one who has gone native? Enhance? Does that mean something like not wearing my highwater sweats with the holes in the crotch but instead choosing something less white trash to wear? Or perhaps changing my clothes more often? That could be painful, having to bend and stoop and search through my dresser drawers for something else to wear.

Oh, you mean something like painful procedures. Well, it is a pain to shave after all. And the longer you put it off, the more painful the act of remedying the situation is, so best just to avoid it altogether. At least until the weather turns warm enough that you don't want to lose the few friends you have by appearing in public with them as that great hairy sasquatch woman. Well I can fix that; I just won't go out in public with any of you.

The only pain I'm willing to endure is the pain that comes with exercise, though it's clear to anyone who knows me that I haven't been experiencing much of that sort of pain lately either!

4. Speed limits... how fast do you drive? Do you drive Miss Daisy? Do you do the Indy 500 to work?

Ahem, I think I've actually passed the two-year limit on speeding tickets, for once. I wouldn't swear to it though. It's amazing how working from home and not being able to afford to go anywhere can save one on speeding tickets. lol! Oh, and when I do drive, I try very hard to emulate Daisy, er, Laura and keep it down to a dull roar. (Okay, Laura and a dull roar probably is an oxymoron!)

5. What trial (that you go to) is your favorite, and why?

That's a no brainer for me. There are a lot of trials I like, but my absolute most favorite is Donald McCaig's. I'm prefectly happy to make the long drive and live without cell service for the weekend in order to relax with the dogs by the Cowpasture River; spend nights gazing at the stars, which are surely more abundant there, in God's country, than anywhere else on the planet; and just revel in the peacefulness and beauty of the place. If I could figure out a way to squat there permanently, I'd be living in Highland County right now. And, yep, it's the kind of place where you could go native and no one would notice.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

More questions answered, and no brain explosions....

Yep, it's that time of the week again!

1. Robin wants to know what your ideal number of dogs is?

Fewer than I have. Probably five or six, maybe seven. But then again I'm not the type of person who can pass a dog along, so my numbers tend to grow, especially at the geriatric end of things. It was the same way when all I had was cats. I'd have an ideal number, one would pass, and two or three more would come along to fill the void. I expect that in the next two or three years I will be down by three, and then my numbers will be more manageable. Well, unless some perfect pup comes along in the meantime.... Still seven is what fits most easily in the van.

2. Lora wants to know if you find that your dogs are better or worse after time off from training?

In general, I'd say better, especially for the trained dogs. Of course some sloppiness can sometimes creep in, but since I don't like drilling, I think we're all happier with time off. I know the sheep are.

3. What is your favorite power tool? What power tool do you wish you had?

I have just one power tool, a cordless drill, and I have that only because I lost my lovely old yankee drill. If I had more than one I might have a favorite. I'm not really acquisitive of power tools, but if there was one thing I thought might be really useful (potentially), it would be a sawzall. Don't even ask why. You don't want to know.

4. What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was really little, like 5 or 6, I wanted to be a jockey. But at that age I was small and fearless. Once I was a little older, I wanted to be a vet, specifically an equine vet and more specifically perhaps a racetrack vet, and in fact followed that dream all the way through college (hence the dual major in biology and chemistry) and into the obligatory work situation with a vet. Then my health interfered with that plan and it was by sheer luck I suppose that I ended up as a science writer. I still regret not taking the chance and going ahead to vet school anyway, but the career change did lead me in some very interesting directions and allowed me to travel to places I'd never have managed to see otherwise. But occasionally I still ponder the "what ifs."

5. How many of your friends are not "dog people"?

I don't really know, probably most of them are, to one degree or another. Or if not dog people, then certainly horse, cat, or other animal people. In other words, most of my friends are animal lovers, even those who became my friends for other reasons (school, neighbors, etc.).

Well, that was an easy one!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why are Thursdays the Only Time I Post?

Because Laura over at Crooks and Crazies inspires me to.

So this week's line up:
1. Julie would like to know one frugal tip this week.
Even though I want to hear others' ideas, I guess I can post a frugal tip of my own. Except my brain has gone blank and I can't really think of anything. I feel like I'm already living as cheaply as I can, but I'm sure I could cut more if I worked at it.

One thing: I use the crock pot a lot. If veggies and things are getting past their prime in the fridge, then into soup they go! If they've gotten far enough along to where even I can stand the idea of making them into soup, they go to the chickens, who are always very appreciative.

2. What are you reading this week?

Well, I just got back from the library--had to go out to pay the rent and decided to return the books I had finished and get some more. I came home with eight (yes, eight!) books. Do I really think I can read all of them in three weeks? No, but books are like crack for me (I should amend that to say that I don't really know what crack is like, but I imagine my addiction to books is like any other addiction) and so I always come home with more than I can read in the allotted time.

I think I will start with a nonfiction book (I got two of them): The Eighty Dollar Champion, by Elizabeth Letts. It's the story of Snowman, a plowhorse turned show jumper. I recently read Renegade Champion: The Unlikely Rise of Fitzrada, by Col. Richard Rust, which was a lovely story recommended to me by my friend Kay, since a good part of the story takes place in Virginia horse country (Leesburg area). We were talking about it because one vignette in the story takes place on Shelburne Glebe (for those of you who know of it). And of course Skyrocket: The Story of a Little Bay Horse, by Margaret Cabell Self (illus. by Sam Savitt) was one of my childhood favorites (it took me forever to find a copy for my library), so I expect I am going to enjoy Eighty Dollar Champion. In fact, I'd like to crack it open and start reading right now, but I have to earn some money so reading for fun will have to wait.....

Sister, are you reading this? Do you have my copy of the Fitzrada book (either of you)?

I intend to restart my informal book reviews that I used to post on this blog, so you can see what else I'm reading (or have recently read) here sometime soon.

Oh, and for any of you who enjoy Jane Austen or Jane Austen-inspired books, I read one recently that was very entertaining, called Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos. I couldn't put it down, and I was actually laughing out loud at parts of it. It reminded me in some ways of one of my other favorite laugh-out-loud books: Bridget Jones' Diary. Anyway, it was a rainy weekend when I started Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, and I found that a good excuse to park myself in front of the fire and just read. It's the story of a midwestern single mom whose business is failing and whose life seems a bit bleak. She's also a huge Jane Austen fan, so when the chance comes to audition for and later particpate in a documentary set in England during the Regency period, she jumps at the chance. When she gets to England, she is surprised to find herself in a reality dating show, set in the Regency period, where she must compete with women younger and more accomplished than she for the handsome and wealthy Mr. Wrightman's hand. Although I figured out the plot twist pretty early (and you likely will too), it's still a really fun read and was just what I needed on a dreary weekend.

Well, that got a little long. I guess we all know that books are one of my great passions. I don't want to know what that says about me.

3. Barbara wants to know: do you hit the snooze button on the alarm clock, and if so how many times?

In my new unemployed, um, freelance life, I don't have need of an alarm clock. In fact I don't really ever need one. Jill is my alarm clock--she starts getting antsy, whining and breathing/panting really loud around 6 a.m. (no matter how late we go to bed--2 a.m. to bed? Well we're still up at 6!). There's no hitting the snooze on that.

4. If you had to travel in a sedan (or if you already drive a sedan type car) and you had five or six dogs, how would you handle it?

When I had my Honda Civic, this is what I did. Dogs in seats; dogs in the floorboards. Dogs everywhere. I was not terribly comfortable with that arrangement, but you do what you gotta do. I eventually traded the Civic on my old Astrovan. Seriously though, I think I'd try to put a few crates across the seat and figure out a way to strap them in. Maybe a dog in a seatbelt thingy on the outsides (crates in the middle, dogs with seatbelts by the doors). The small dog would go in a little tiny crate in the front floorboards. If this is just a temporary thing and you won't be doing a whole lot of traveling this way, I'd probably use a crate for those who most needed it (puppy and Zippy?) and let everyone else ride loose, with folding crates in the trunk for use at the destination. Not ideal, but you're just trying to work something out for the short term (for now anyway).

5. How much do you filter what you put on your own blog?

A great deal. If I didn't filter, people would think I'm exceedingly strange, to put it nicely. Even my bestest friends would probably start giving me a wide berth. So best to filter. The dark, crazy stuff I would just keep in a private journal for my eyes only. See, I really want to filter this, but I won't, for once.

Friday, January 27, 2012

TMT on Friday, because, Well, I Forgot (Can I Say I Was Busy?)

How could I forget? I look forward to Laura's TMTs!

1. How do you search for and then choose a trainer?

I start with word of mouth. My first trainer came to me that way. I also go by what I see of a trainer out on the trial field, which includes accomplishments and handling style. I won't go to a BIG NAME just because they're a big name and everyone else is doing it. I learned this from my horse showing days, when the woman I showed for had a dressage clinician come out reguarly and I was expected to attend (paid for by the woman I rode for). That particular clinician was an excellent dressage rider and I didn't dislike her, but we didn't click. She just set me on edge for some reason I can't explain. It wasn't a lack of skill or any specific behavior, but just the fact that we didn't click, and so I know I didn't learn as much from her as I could have had we had a connection, so to speak.

I've carried that over into working dogs. I've gone to trainers who wouldn't be considered big hats but who were good teachers and who clearly knew what the big picture was supposed to be, even if they weren't out winning everything in sight. Granted, one will likely outgrow such teachers, but that's okay, because it's when you're getting started that you really need the good teachers. Later, when you have something of a clue, you are more likely to get it when dealing with a really good handler who maybe isn't the best teacher, if you know what I mean.

And of course if the trainer is one whose values (toward dogs and livestock especially) don't meash with mine, then I won't even bother. If the training methods are ones I'd never use, I wouldn't bother. The one thing I won't do, no matter how successful the trainer, is compromise my own ethics when it comes to the animals I'm working with.

2. The dog world is small and... uh... talkative. After choosing a trainer how do you handle those people in your life who don't believe in that trainer/trainer's methods and criticize them to you?

Depending on who the person is and what their specific complaint is, I might engage them (i.e., tell my viewpoint) or I'll just ignore them. It is a small world and there's planty of backbiting. I particulary dislike when folks start throwing the blame and snide comments around, and really it just makes me wonder what underlying problem exists, which may have nothing to do with the actual training practices themselves (that is, one individual's personal issues with another).

That said, if the person doing the dissing is someone whom I respect and trust, then I'll probably listen, but I still will do my own research and decide for myself.

3. Do you believe that a person's personal life should influence your choice of a trainer? (i.e do you believe a person's choice to be a party animal outside of work would affect your choice?)

That depends. If what they do in their personal life doesn't go against my own moral and ethical standards then I don't really care. What's most important to me is how the behave in the context of working with me and my dog(s). But, for example, if I know that someone is routinely abusive to dogs or livestock, then I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. If the person is the greatest trainer on the planet, but has, say, defrauded people or behaved in a way I wouldn't want to be associated with, then no, I wouldn't consider them as a trainer.

If the person has different political beliefs, parties on the weekends (as long as they're not doing illegal stuff), or similar behaviors, it wouldn't really bother me unless it specifically affected our training relationship.

4. When you have a break through moment with your dog, do you feel that moment makes your connection stronger with that dog and makes the next step in training easier?

Hmmmm...I don't know that breakthrough moments necessarily improve my connection with a dog, but they probably improve my training relationship with that dog. Breakthrough moments to me imply that a struggle has ensued (for whatever reason) up to that point, and so in that sense, yes, breakthrough moments definitely improve the relationship (and maybe I'm just splitting hairs over the meaning of connection vs. relationship here), but my overall connection with a dog involves many different levels of interaction, and only one of those is training.

I do think when the dog (or human) has an aha! moment, it does refresh the relationship and probably makes the next steps easier simply because both of you gain a sense of accomplishment from the breakthrough and then can build on that.

5. Do you stick with just one trainer, or do you go to multiple sources for help?

I haven't had a regular trainer in years, but generally I would stick with one trainer and then go to clinics to expand my horizons, so to speak. I think trainers who insist that their students go nowhere else are deliberately limiting those students. In the beginning, especially, I think it's important to have consistency in training; at that point in a newbie's training life trying on a bunch of different trainers could just result in entirely too much confusion. But at some point it makes sense to expand one's horizons, and trying out different methods is one of the best ways of developing a method that works best for you. When you start making those excursions is pretty much an individual thing, but I think it makes sense for everyone to see what's (who's) out there and avail themselves of the trove of knowledge that exists. You just have to be sure enough about what you want to be able to discard the parts that don't work and keep those that do.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If it's Thursday, it must be time to reveal a little more about ourselves.

1. What is one lesson you've learned this week?

Hmmmm...that's a tough one. I know it all already, lol! Maybe that some times you just have to pay the late fine if you want to finish the book....

2. Who or what might you have been in another life? What might you be in a next life?

Where do you come up with these? I hope I was a good person in a past life and that I'll be an even better person in a future life. I could think of animals I might have been, but given how many animals are treated, I'd rather not go there.

3. What unusual things do you like the smell of but don't usually admit?

I don't know that I wouldn't admit it, but I love the smell of a pipe. And I actually like the smell of coffee, although I can't stand the taste, or the smell it leaves on someone else's breath. I kind of like the smell of bleach, and a sweaty horse's body, or really any smells around a stable. As I was staking cut wood last night I realized that I should have included the smell of freshly turned earth and the smell of freshly cut wood.

4. What are your thoughts on continuing on vs. retiring when a trial run is going badly? How do you decide? Where do you draw the line?

I probably tend to retire sooner rather than later with a young dog. It's too easy for them to learn bad habits if you let them just keep floundering. I set sheep a lot and I have to say that I see a lot of cringeworthy runs that people just let happen. You know, if the dog is blowing you off at a distance, it doesn't make sense to think "Oh well, he'll listen when he gets closer." You're just reinforcing the bad behavior. With an open dog, if the run isn't a complete disaster, and assuming the trial host isn't pressed for time, I might continue longer. There usually the real problem is time, and if it looks like I'm not going to, say, complete the drive, I might retire, but if it looks like I could make it to the shedding ring, I'll keep going. Then again, the open dog isn't learning bad habits (necessarily) if I let it keep going a bit longer.

5. This is a call for questions or subjects you'd like to talk about - I'd appreciate suggestions (and please come link up so that I'll be sure to see your post), so here's your chance!

I'd like to see people's tips on living frugally and sustainably. I know there are websites for this, but I'm still interested in the ideas my friends have found useful about ways to save money or the environment.

I'm sure there are other things I'd like to know, but I'm a bit brain dead at the moment....