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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Favorite Visit

Laurel and her family have come to visit. We've all been having a lot of fun, and it's especially sweet to see the dogs and kids together. Cyrus has some new friends.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Oscar and Sarah were abandoned by their owner along with three other siblings and their mother. Fortunately, they lived near a kind-hearted lady who also works for the library and she fed them, made sure they were immunized and altered and found what homes she could. Oscar and Sarah were the last of the bunch and serendipity matched their need for a home with our need for feline company for Moira.

They didn't settle in immediately, since they had been outside kitties and Moira was surprisingly, well, catty. But soon they became part of the crew.

Moira teaches Oscar the fine art of begging in the kitchen (important - never from the counter!)
Sarah investigates the plush surroundings.

So does her brother.

Cyrus and Sasha warn them to behave with their dog-pod laser-eyes.

The cutest thing was Mya's concern for Moira. At the first confirmation that there were strange cats in our house, Mya ran to find her buddy and check her all over, very carefully, to make sure Moira was ok and safe with these strangers.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Harvest Moon Dog Show

We just finished up 4 days of showing (the cluster runs through tomorrow, but 4 days is definitely enough for us). Cyrus is doing much better in the ring, more at ease, less worried about being touched in the face by strangers (judges). We do have some things to work on, of course. I, for one, have no clue where to put his feet. I do okay if he walks calmly into a nice stand, but if he's nervous or wants to sit down, then I'm less sure where his feet ought to go.

We did get some lovely gaiting, as you see in the picture. Cyrus managed to get in the ribbons on Thursday, which is the day the Swedish handler flew into the States to put the final couple points on his dog to qualify for Westminster. Just so you know what we were up against. :)

All in all, fabulous work, Cyrus. Your handler could use some improvement, though.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Professional Photographs

These shots were taken by Gary Ellis at the SCGSF lure coursing practice we went to last month. Don't I wish I was a professional photographer with a really nice camera? Yes, I do. Sighthounds are always pretty, but these shots are great.

The five shots of Cyrus are a perfect encapsulation of his experience that day. Except without the peeing (because photographers have class).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One visit, hold the title

This last weekend we had the pleasure of visiting Mike and Georgette, and Cyrus' sister, Layla. Layla had the biggest personality of all the puppies in the litter when we used to visit them as tiny things and she's grown up to be a lovely dog, still sweet and spunky. On Sunday, she earned her Junior Courser title, since she is mad for the lure! In the meantime, our hosts shared with us some prime dog-walking spots, since they have so many at their disposal.

Incidentally, Cyrus declined the lure in favor of peeing on some handy bushes. If only there was a title for that.

Cyrus is very jealous of all the lovely dog-walk scenery.

This is in Golden Gate Park, only a short walk from the house. Aren't you jealous, too?

Before we met up with Mike and Georgette, we checked out the Embarcadero and the wharves. Cyrus was a champ, even when a huge Great Dane barked at him (obviously not in this shot).

Many people stopped to ooh and aah over such lovely dogs.

Here, Georgette is talking to a lady who pulled her car over on the street and jumped out to meet our dogs. Perhaps this has something to do with her work for STOLA, the Saluki Tree of Life Association, the saluki breed rescue. She was very nice, but Layla stopped listening when she stopped talking about parti's.

At San Francisco's single fenced dog park, also within walking distance of the house (did I say jealous?), I met a lovely, sweet Dalmatian who reminded me of Emily. His name is Duke and he would come up oh-so-politely and sit by you for petting.

Run, Layla, run!

Run, Cyrus and white dog, run!

Overlooking the ocean, but the dogs were more interested in watching a poodle retrieve along the path.

Cyrus doesn't really understand the purpose of stepping stones. Then again, it was a nice day for getting your feet wet.

Cyrus struts his stuff with the Pacific Ocean in the background.

So does Layla.

Much fun was had by all.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Goals and sucesses

Unfortunately, I have no photos for this post. It's hard to hold clicker, treats, and leash, let alone a camera. I'll try to come up with something in the future...

There is an SCGSF (Saluki Club of Greater San Francisco) specialty in October. For my non-fancy friends, this means lots of salukis all in one place. This specialty will offer obedience trials as well as conformation, which means that the judge will only be scoring salukis.

I read over the Novice requirements - heeling patterns, stand for examination, long sit and long down, a recall. I thought these were all things Cyrus is capable of, and at a specialty, he will not have the misfortune of trialing right after the judge watches some flawless border collie. They will all be salukis. So I decide I will try this out.

Even better luck - SCGSF is having a fun match in September with conformation as well as Canine Good Citizen tests. This test is the AKC's bridge between pethood and obedience trial dog, and includes many of the same basic behaviors but easier. In the heeling pattern, for instance, the dog just has to have a loose leash, not strict heeling position, and the handler can talk to the dog all she likes.

So I decide I shall enter Cyrus in this as well.

In the meantime, I have read Karen Pryor's new book "Reaching the Animal Mind". In it, she recounts, among other things, her experience training six wild-caught spinner dolphins and one spotted dolphin to jump on cue. She only had one whistle to mark the behavior - dolphins who were jumping when they heard the toot got fish, those who weren't, didn't.

This is exactly the thing I worry about: one clicker, three dogs. Clearly, it works for Karen Pryor and I need to stop being a wimp.

I wimped out, and on Friday, while prepping chicken, I worked on the dogs' downs. They know to stand quietly and patiently in hopes of getting scraps, but if none are forthcoming, they get bored and lay down. When any of the dogs did so, I tossed them a treat. Over the course of dinner prep, Sasha did ok. Mya already knows this game, so she did fine. Cyrus was getting the idea toward the end, but the big dogs weren't exhibiting the "I know this will work" attitude that marks learning in a clicker dog.

Today, I brought out the clicker. If more than one dog was laying down when I clicked, then more than one dog got a treat, if anyone was standing, they lost out. Within 10 minutes or so, the big dogs were laying down as soon as they'd gotten up and fetched their treats. Cyrus was even scooting himself around on the floor to reach the goodie, if it was close enough (I tried to throw them far enough away to make the dog get up, which gives it another chance to choose to lay down, without being so far that another dog could steal it).

Power to the clicker.

Second success:

Sasha is half-husky. It is enough husky that she is determined to be a sled dog. When we got her, putting a leash on meant Sasha would be at the end of it, pulling. If you stop so that she cannot go farther forward, she would just pull in a circle around you. I tried with the clicker and treats, but she had no interest in treats when the leash was on.

What does she want more than treats? To go forward. So, the "treat" became going forward. She pulls, I stop. She stops and eventually eases back just a bit. I click and take one step forward. Repeat. Eventually, I would ask her to turn and look at me, then step toward me, then come to stand in front of me, before moving again. This worked, to an extent. We learned ping-pong. Sasha pulls, we stop, she leaps back toward me, I click and step, she jumps to the end of the leash.

I realize, I have taught this jump-forward, jump-back: she can't release the leash unless it's taut. So I try clicking the moment between the first click and when she hits the end of the leash, for "loose leash", however short it lasts. By this method (which we practiced for 2 blocks tonight, only), gets us from one loose-leash step to about 4. For the second of those two blocks, I can't get any farther. There's no way to reward her for keeping the leash loose for any length of time, since she is already walking, which is the reinforcement. "Loose leash" in this case, means that Sasha is still bouncing around like a pinball, but managing to confine it to the "loose leash" area around me for a limited time.

I get frustrated and decide to turn home. I have an empty water bottle by this time, and decide to put it in my pocket for the walk back. In my pocket are treats, which Cyrus refused to eat on his frustrating attempt at a walk. I hadn't even offered them to Sasha, because she doesn't eat treats on walks.

Sasha hears the crinkle of the plastic bag and gets excited. I offer a treat and she eats it, happy to wait for more. Hmm... I take a couple of steps, she pads along beside me, keeping her eye on me. Click for that, and we walk a bit more as she eats her treat. For the first half-block, I click her every time her mouth is empty, since she is making no effort to drift outside the magic zone of close-enough-to-feed. Then I wait until she begins to think treat time is over and looks around her. Click for walking close, loose-leash, while looking straight ahead. When she is looking ahead reliably, I wait a beat more. She expects me to click, so she looks back to see why I don't. Click for checking back in with me as we walk. By the time we're near home, she is walking close, checking in frequently, and keeping control of herself.

Interesting things I noticed... She needed the earlier training to teach her enough self-control to accept the later training with treats. An unexpected bonus to the ping-pong-ball lesson was that a tight leash is now a signal for Sasha to turn back toward me. In the last stages of our walk, as I was letting her sniff around, she would occasionally follow a scent to the end of her leash. When she hit the end, instead of straining, she immediately turn around and checked in with me.

Karen Pryor is my hero.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Half of a Junior Courser

Early this morning, we drove up to Dixon for a lure coursing trial courtesy of the Northern California Whippet Fanciers' Association. It was worth the drive and the early rise, since Cyrus had a great time. We entered him for a Junior Coursing test, somewhat optimistically. He had never run on a lure before, although he had seen a trial as a puppy. Even so, he had a good instinct to chase and took off right away when it was his turn. 800 yards was a bit long for him, but he finished pretty gamely (a bird swooped right in front of him in the last 50 yards or so, but he found the lure again).

All he needs now is one more successful completion to get his Junior Coursing title.

He slept soundly on the way home.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Off Leash Wilderness Area

We just visited Sunol Regional Wilderness Area, part of the Bay Area watershed. Our goal was a rocky gorge where the Alameda Creek cascades through a tumble of boulders. This spot is so lovely it has earned the name "Little Yosemite."

It was a very beautiful area.

The best part is... dogs are not only allowed, but they are allowed off-leash on trails once you leave the parking lot/camp ground area. I tagged along with Mom and Dad and their friends Maribelle and Ernest. Since Matt can't hike yet on his knee, I was restricted to one dog. Which one should I take? Cyrus is best on a leash but hates the car and has feathering that catches everything. Mya is smallest and therefore easiest to control and doesn't take up much space in the car, but I wasn't sure she was up to the hike. Plus, she's not really friendly and two yappy dachshund mixes were already on the guest list (ha to Dad, if he's reading this). Sasha is the least pleasant on leash - she pulls as badly as Mya does but is nearly 4x the weight - but is very friendly and is most in need of something to wear her out.

Sasha went.

Here she is, delighted with the prospect of a trip. Also, not afraid of the camera. Apparently they are only scary when one is at home. I figured the leash time would be good for her. Then we found that the dogs could be off leash.

After much internal debate (and a lot of being hauled up and down the trail by a husky mix) I decided that she was up to the challenge. She has never been a dog to take off and leave her pack and is fairly good about checking in, even if her classic recall is not picture perfect. (In fact, her pack instinct is so strong that she got very upset when anyone would leave the group, even crying when Mom walked back up the trail to one of the restrooms.)

Sasha was exceedingly glad to go leashless. She and Max zoomed up and down the trail, impatient with us slowpokes, but very good about checking in. And they didn't even chase any cattle (the trail went right through grazing pasture! It was very odd...).

Waterdog Sasha enjoys splashing at Little Yosemite. Max, Lab that he is, jumped right in and swam around. Then found a stick and begged us to throw for him.

Pisco was not a big fan of wilderness areas. He prefers laps. Molly does not like it when Dad climbs on rocks and she cannot follow. They both enjoy some comforting, which moms excel at.

Dad photographs the gorge.

Little Yosemite from the "front" side.

Molly loves it when she can follow Dad, no matter where he goes.

Sasha loves it when she can go anywhere. At high speeds, for preference. Note her instant response to being called... It's a work in progress. At the very least, an excellent day was had by all.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


So, above, you see the brand new family. A single parent family. Cute little fluffy dog (looking sad in this picture) is the little dog I found lost and lonely in February in the parking lot of the Kingdom Hall. I didn't want to take such a sweetie (and she is absolutely sweet, even with my dogs who are all marginal at best) to the pound, so I decided to foster her while we looked for her owner. I filled out lost dog reports with both of our area shelters and put up ads and posters all over. The county shelter informed me that after 2 weeks she would be considered my dog, "nonreturnable" in other words.

Or, in a nicer way of looking at it, adoptable. Enter a good friend from Fresno, who indicated that he and his new wife were kicking around the idea of adding another little fluffy dog to their family, which already included a charming, pleasantly spoiled dog of similar description, named Honey Bear. This is how Sad Little Lost Dog became Polar Bear, beloved member of a wonderful family.

As you may have guessed, Polar Bear came with some surprises of her own. These lovely 5 pups arrived a week ago (they are only 4 days or so in this picture, though). I imagine they will have personalities just as sweet as Mama, who is shy but utterly without aggressive tendencies, and to whom everyone is eventually a friend.

Good job, Polar Bear. I know you'll be a good mom to these great puppies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where does the time go?

I would love to say I'd been superbusy with this or that. But it turns out to just be an awful lot of this'n'thats (and an unhealthy dose of Farmville) but I can still come up with some updates.

First of all, the little lost fluffy dog we found in February has surprised us. She was adopted by William and Rachel in Fresno, after we gave up hope of finding her owner. Apparently, she was a week or so pregnant by the time we found her and she has given birth to five healthy, adorable puppies. Whoever daddy was, he must have looked a lot like Ms. Polar Bear, because her puppies look just like her. She couldn't have picked better people because Will and Rachel are delighted with them, as anyone who's Facebook friends of theirs can attest. Lucky girl.

Next, and nowhere near as exciting as puppies, my garden is starting to produce. I've been harvesting lettuce and other greens. I've eaten all my broccoli raab. I've learned that I should plant these kinds of things earlier in the year (and I'll probably have a better time of it in fall, too). The dogs have helped, such as it is. When they dug out the bed I had in the backyard, they seem to have spread radishes far and wide. I have so far found five radishes that managed to tough it out and grow in the most difficult of circumstances. Who knew a radish was so determined? Forget The Landscaping Ideas of Jays, next time I'll just ask Sasha's opinion.

Finally, I am working on the design for my first Yudu screen project, loosely based on these photos from the Desert Botanical Gardens. I just love the idea of those poppies and bluebells together. (The images are large size so I can print them off the internet later. Our printer is too cheap for nice prints)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Arizona Blitz

We got back early this morning from a three day whirlwind tour of Phoenix and Sedona Arizona. We had a wonderful time and saw and did many post-worthy things. Unfortunately, there isn't enough time this evening to do the trip justice, so I'm going to put up a selection of the best pictures and fill in on the rest of it later.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Desert Run

I had a wonderful invitation from Maryanne and Karen to bring Cyrus out to Reno to run with the big dogs. We had a lousy time getting over Donner Pass, what with the snow and road closures, but the great time we had in the desert was worth it. Here are some pictures.

Cyrus, pretending he's lost in the Sahara. He spent much of the time about 8" from my heels, as is his preference when strange dogs are about.

Getting ready to set out, here are Karen and Jan along with dogs Zoe, Sansar (I think), Summer, and Mystic.

Maryanne's Keno, having a postcard moment.

In the foreground is Maryanne's Blaze, zooming along. The beagle in the middle distance is 12 year old Trooper. I have never seen a dog more aptly named.

My camera is too slow to catch any real running action, but we had a wonderful time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A breath of sun

The dogs have gotten sick of the rainy weather. They love the couch, of course, but there is only so much curling-up they want to do. Especially Sasha.

What's that? Dog park, you say? If she had hands, she'd be clapping. Instead, she roo-roos, as should not surprise anyone who's ever been to my house or talked to me on the phone when I've just come home.

He is just a lovely looking dog. If he was this happy and relaxed at the dog shows, he would come home with a ribbon for sure.

Happy dogs come from California dog parks. See how the weeds very nearly make a lawn? All the dogs were frisky that day, even the little old Lab mix with the gray face.

The mallows were growing up rather clumpy, which provided endless fascination for all concerned. "Have I sniffed this one yet? Peed on it? Has someone else peed on it since I sniffed it last?"

Only dog owners will think this is funny. Everyone else, just enjoy the pictures... :)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Garden Time

One of the things I looked forward to in this new house was the possibility of a garden. The majority of the yard is slated for a native/wildflower sort of scheme (though I'll have to make sure and avoid anything with feathery/stickery seeds. They felt up in Cyrus' fur like crazy). But I picked the least clayey (it's a real word), sunniest part of the yard for a veggie garden.

In preparation for starting work on this section, I've been doing what I always do before I start a new project...

Check out people's blogs. And put about 30 library books on hold. This made me realize how lucky I am, gardenwise. I know, I live in California where you're supposed to be able to stick a stick in the ground and it'll grow. I am not sure I'll be able to garden that well, but I'm referring more to seasons. Granted, the summer is pretty hard to growing things. But while most of the garden bloggers are bemoaning the inactivity of January, February and March, gazing at their brand new seed catalogs or new seed packets in impatience, I can start up with anything that says "Plant as soon as the ground can be worked" or "Sow 2-4 weeks before your estimated last frost date". (By the way, did any of this matter a month ago? No. Welcome to my hobby-gathering.)

So, I did receive some of my seeds a few weeks ago. But I've been waiting for a fence to protect the veggie patch from the furry tornado that is the dogs. Matt took care of that today (Yay, Babe!), but unfortunately that was after the following pictures were taken. I'll post that next time. But I can sow my peas (Sugar Sprint Snap Peas), the free carrots (Nantes, we'll have to see if they can take the clay), the Broccoli Raab, the Bok Choi (for Matt) and the radishes.

Hopefully I don't kill everything. I did already plant some sprouting garlic that volunteered in my pantry. It's doing well. The greens are about 8 inches tall after 3 or 4 weeks. The dogs knocked one over, so in the picture, they are protected by the lawn chair.

Anyway, here is what I'm working with, as of the end of January. This is a poorly stitched together "panorama" of the vegetable patch area. Notice that the dogs (Sasha) has pitched in by digging holes for some drought-garden-friendly buried watering jars. Good dog, Sasha.

Here are my foes. The round, scalloped-leafed weeds are commonly called mallows and aparently a sign that your garden has rich soil (I think that's what I read on the internet, anyway). The clover lookalike is actually goatshead/puncture vine. Evil. Mallows, who cares. Puncture vine must be eradicated. Have you seen Cyrus' feathering?

These, I'm not so sure about. I think the lighter ones those plants whose seedheads look like little swords (and little kids make scissors out of them) and the dried seeds have the little tails that wind around and around into a corkscrew by themselves. You can tell I know this one from childhood. Other adults I've asked don't even have a glimmer of recognition in their eyes when I mention this. Where did they grow up?

And the ultimate nemesis: the cutworm. They are everywhere in my yard. Every weed I pull up has some of these guys curled up around its roots.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More Artwork and Updates

So I've been preparing for the ArtWalk show at the Modesto Library. Here are some prints I have in the works, in addition to the one I posted last time. They need some work, and the jellyfish probably won't be displayed with the others (I'm going for a tree theme if I can... of course, if I can't, then I'll throw in whatever's framed by then). The jellyfish linocut needs some clean-up to fix all those little black bits that printed and shouldn't have. Ditto the bird print. The last one was a drypoint attempt to see if I might can do intaglio on the press Matt built. Good news: it worked a little. Bad news: it didn't work very well. There could be a few reasons... the paper is sketchbook paper, not the $2-a-sheet etching paper I bought from Blick Art. Also, the lines might be too shallow to hold enough ink. Lastly... the press might not be able to handle intaglio. I'm hoping it's reasons 1 and/or 2.

Jellyfish - linocut with hand tools on newsprint

Bird pair - woodcut (pine) with dremel and hand tools on newsprint.

Tree/birds (can't see the birds, huh?) - plexiglass drypoint on sketch paper.

Updates: after reading up on Team Small Dog blog, Susan Garrett's blog, and Silvia Trkman's website, I've been shamed into taking up the clicker with my wild three again. So, Mya's working on her down and some directional commands to targets I point out to her. Sasha's doing remedial leash-prep - free heeling with me around the house. With his hurt knee, Matt can't walk a dog who pulls anymore, so I need to get at least one dog reliably heeling. I'm particularly proud of Cyrus. We've been working with shaping only, and he's got a pretty good Moonwalk going on. He can back across about half the room. We're working on more distance and a straighter path. I'll post some videos if I can get them.

Well, that's the zoo. Thanks for your visit.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Artwork

Ok, so I hear that I can start putting artwork up at the Modesto Library in a couple of weeks for the Art Walk. Very cool. Only, it means I have to have artwork ready for display in a couple of weeks. So I've been a little obsessed with getting art made rather than documenting the process on my blog. As an apology, I present a new linocut I'm working on, based on a couple of pictures I took while in Chile with my mom at the International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses.

For this image, I transferred the original sketch onto the linoleum block and then inked it with a Sharpie to see if I like the layout. I've started carving already, which is why some of the lines on the scan look a little funky. Also, I didn't place it squarely on the scanner bed, so it's not really as crooked as it looks here...

Now you have to tell me, what do you think?