Monday, October 14, 2013

Hurrying along...


Okay, I haven't blogged here in a while, although I've blogged about my cooking efforts and about my foster dog.

I have yarn I haven't photographed, but I need to sort it, wind it, enter some of it on Ravelry--and I can't stop long enough to do it because I've got lots of knitting to get done. I'm still working on the baby blanket, I have a cousin expecting a baby in November, I have hats for charity to do, dog stuff (also for charity), and Christmas stuff. And I have to work and earn a living (sorta). And SEGA has had meet and greets at the Marietta Farmer's Market in the Square nearly every Saturday. This coming Saturday is the all-day Harvest Square, and Silver and I will be hosting SEGA's booth from 1 to 3.

And, because things weren't nearly hectic enough at this time of year, I've started getting the ball rolling for Silver to be a therapy dog.

Actually, we'll be a therapy team, Silver and me. It'll be my job to watch out for her--make sure nothing frightens her or hurts her while she's working. What we want to do is the R.E.A.D. program--where kids too self-conscious to read to adults read to dogs instead. There's an evaluation she has to do (this next Saturday, I think), then three visits that have to be observed (two to medical facilities like an assisted living home). At that point, she and I will have liability coverage with Therapy Dogs, Inc. Then I have an all-day seminar on the R.E.A.D. program (November 2), and we have to make a couple of supervised library visits. If all that goes well, we'll be working for the CAREing Paws group. In addition to hospice/hospital/nursing home visits and the reading program, CAREing Paws teams do stress-relief sessions at colleges at exam time, and other special requests.

Since some of our visits will be to an assisted living location, where patients might have breathing issues, therapy dogs need frequent baths to get rid of loose hair and dandruff. Silver got a bath at a do-it-yourself dog wash place that's nearby. We'll be going there once a month.


When you do the R.E.A.D. program, you look for things you can give the children as souvenirs: a bookmark, a sticker--something with a photo of your reading dog. Lisa Poole, who's a therapy dog partner with a couple of her own dogs, snapped some lovely photos I can use for Silver's souvenirs.


Friday, September 20, 2013

The Fair

The North Georgia State Fair. Here, you can read the name on the ribbon. :)


The shawl is Barbara Benson's Curiosity pattern. It's knitted in Malabrigo Rios, Fresco y Seco ("cool and dry") colorway. (Links in those two sentences go to Ravelry.)

The pattern is for a scarf or shawl, and it's designed to show off lovely variegated yarns. You start at the skinny end and just knit until you run out of yarn, increasing two stitches in width for every ten rows in length. My original photos of the shawl were taken with the shawl draped over my Sam.



This is the first time I've entered anything in the fair. This was entered in the Senior Needlework Division (stitchers are 60 or older), in the Knitted Article class. (One entry per person per class.) This fair has the following classes (potential knitting entries are in bold):

1- Afghan Throw, crocheted
2- Afghan Throw, knitted
3- Baby Blanket, knitted or crocheted
4- Crocheting, 12" x 12" and smaller
5- Crocheting, 13" x 13" up to 24" x 24"
6- Cross-stitch, any article 14 count or less
7- Cross-stitch, any article 16 - 18 count
8- Cross-stitch, any article 19 count or greater
9- Cross-stitch Hand Towel
10- Dressed Dolls - crocheted, knitted, or sewn
11- Embroidery
12- Knitted article
13- Needlepoint
14- Plastic Canvas
15- Scarves, wearable
16- Scarves, dresser
17- Miscellaneous, any article not listed above.

That #17 has got to be a beast to judge. It'll get overflow from #12, and it'll get any crochet (say, a sweater or tablecloth) larger than 24" x 24".

Entries were delivered to the fairgrounds last weekend (September 14-15), judging was Wednesday (September 18), and the fair opened Thursday (September 19). The fair closes at 6pm on Sunday, September 29, and needlework entries can be picked up that night between 6pm and 9pm.

Oh--and there's a cash prize: $4 for second place.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


There have been changes around here since I lost Sam.

First, there's a foster under my roof:

GRA Peter

His name is GRA Peter, and he bounced from his previous home. He came home with me 31 August, and he'll probably be here until he finds a home. He's been a wild man since he came through the door, but he's calming down and doing better. Peter's blog is here, his racing history (awful!--31 races, most spent going backwards) is here, and his link on the SEGA site is here. For the record, his adoption write-up is from his arrival in Atlanta back in February. We know more about him now, as his blog makes clear. (He arrived in February, was fostered until mid-May, in a home until the end of August, and back to us.) Three-year-old Peter is very much like my Sam was in the beginning. If I survived that, I can survive this.

GRA Peter
I found his "off" switch. It's called "a pillow."

But Peter is only a foster. My finances are a wreck right now, and I can't afford to be on the hook for vet care for another dog. (Silver's bills have been plenty, but she's finally healthy ~knock wood~) If I foster, SEGA pays vet bills and heartworm meds; I pay food and flea/tick prevention. Also, I'm looking at the long view. I'm 60 years old, and if I adopted a young dog now, in ten years I could be a little old lady with a big old dog. There were times in the last few months that I had to lift Sam; I don't want to have to give up a dog I've adopted--or have it suffer--because I can't care for it properly. So as long as I'm physically able, I might eventually adopt older dogs that bounce to SEGA. For the foreseeable future, though, I'll be fostering.

Chloe, a local greyhound, got lost last Friday evening--bolted, trailing a retractable leash. (Retractables are no-nos for greyhounds under any circumstances. They're also illegal in Cobb County once you get off your own property, which she was.) We turned out dozens of searchers Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning, and she was caught by her daddy early Monday afternoon. The terrain was terrible--woods, culverts, streams, the Chattahoochee River, stables, a polo field, power line towers, a water treatment plant, curvy and hilly roads with very short sight-lines, and an active railroad track. Making things more fun, we had orange air quality alerts and orange pollen counts (ragweed), and swarms of mosquitoes.

A lovely Google map. All that green means a rough search area. Google maps on my phone are the only reason I'm not still out there somewhere...

I spent 14 hours on the actual search, another five hours driving to and from the search (30 minutes each way), and a final hour and a half or so pulling flyers off street signs once Chloe was safe. Chloe wound up with raw paw pads from running on asphalt the first night, when she bolted. We had very few sightings of her during the search, and I'm betting she did most of her traveling down the cleared track that houses the big power towers between the polo field where she was captured ("horse chocolates!" --her favorites) and Log Cabin Road, where we had a couple of sightings. At some point the retractable snagged on something and broke, and Chloe was found wearing just 6 inches of the leash.

Baby Blanket

There has been some knitting going on here--but not nearly enough of it. The baby blanket I'm making (shown above--baby arrived Friday the 6th) is just a little over half done. There's no way I could have it ready to enter in the local fair since entries are due this next weekend. I do have one item to enter for the fair, which makes Saturday a bit busy: Marietta Farmers Market Saturday morning, Acworth meet and greet Saturday at noon, and turn in my fair entry after that. (I'll post photos of the entry and details about the fair in a future post.) SEGA has another shipment of dogs arriving this Saturday, but I'm bowing out of the Dirty Dog Posse (the dog bathing). No Pope football game this weekend. Silver's blue toenails didn't work their magic last week, as Pope got thrashed for the second week in a row.

You have entered the Greyhound Nation

Silver Hornet

Alan C. Pope High School, Marietta, Georgia

(Oh, great! I'm typing away on this blog entry and not paying attention to Peter, who decided to get up from where he was sleeping. He got in a few licks of the raspberry vinaigrette dressing left in the bowl my salad was in. I hope the taste was what he wanted.)

The construction is finished at my sister's house, and Mother is getting her things arranged the way she wants them. I need to get a little billable work done and submit an invoice so there'll be money for bill-paying later this month. I also still have work to do on my kitchen to get the dehydrator and crock pot set up. I'm going to try to make healthy treats for the dogs and snacks for me with the dehydrator and do some cooking with the crock pot: hoping to save money and eat better than all the frozen processed dinners. (I went with Mother to the doctor last week, and he had diet recommendations for her. I'm 19 years younger than Mother, but it wouldn't hurt me to start eating better now.)

The knitting schedule from here to Christmas is packed: baby blanket, hats for sailors (ship by 11 November), chemo hats, baby sweater for a cousin's impending grandchild (due early November, but I won't knit newborn size), snood and pointy hat for some greyhound people (they're making charitable donations to SEGA in return for the knitting), then scarf, cowl, and hat as Christmas presents.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

Silver and Sam

That photo was the source of the avatar I've used everywhere for nearly two years. It's being retired--replaced with a photo of Silver.

For now, Silver is an only dog. She's enjoying longer walks than we used to take when Sam was around. She's adjusting to the idea of only two meals a day instead of the four meals she and Sam got when he needed to take lots of pills, but I think she misses having someone else's food to steal. She's sticking close to me. She doesn't seem to miss Sam (Sam never missed Jacey or Oreo, either), so that makes things a little easier. She thinks she should get to come with me every time I go out--as though she only stayed home in the past to keep Sam company.

She went to her obedience lesson last Saturday. She's minutely better about working on things in class, but she'd still rather stand there and watch to see what the other dogs are doing. We've worked some at home, and she's getting more reliable about down, although stay is still something she does only when she's too lazy to get up right that second.

But she's not dumb. She wants to run to the door when I go out to get groceries from the car. I tell her to lie down on the beds in the living room, and she tries to sneak to the door behind my back. So I stand there next to her crate and say, "Kennel up or go to bed," pointing in the appropriate directions. She runs to the living room and hunkers down on a bed, ready to cling to it and protest if I insist on the crate. At least that means I can come and go with groceries and not have to worry about her trying to sneak out. (Sam never wanted to follow me to the car. He wanted me to go to the car while he checked out the contents of the bag I'd just brought in. He'd usually steal something and carry it to his bed in the living room. Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide was a favorite.)

31 July 2002: Sam's adoption photo. He was 2 years, 2 months old.

Silver eventually will get a new sibling. At present, I'm thinking I don't want another two-year-old (as Sam was when I got him); if I get a dog that lives another 10 years, I'll be in my 70s, and that'll be a little old lady trying to care for a big old dog. It might be feasible if the dog is smaller than Sam (who, at 65 pounds, was a small boy), but I just can't cope right now with a crazy young male dog. (And there's no telling what Silver would do to a male dog with more energy but less sense than Sam.) But before I adopt another dog, I want to get my finances in better shape, so maybe I'll just foster for a while. We don't take foster dogs to meet-and-greets and other events because it can be stressful for them; also, their just-off-the-track behavior might be unpredictable; and while they're still sporting track coats (and track behavior), they don't always show to the best advantage to eventual adopters. So a shy, happy-to-stay-home foster might be perfect for us; Silver would still get to do all the meet-and-greets that she enjoys, and I could try to get my finances straightened out while caring for a dog whose vet bills would be SEGA's responsibility. (When I adopt again, I want to be sure I can afford vet insurance.)

December 2003: Crazy young Sam was 3

Before I bring home a track-fresh dog, I'd need to do some dog-proofing. The last track-fresh dog I brought home was Jacey in 2006. Since then, I've gotten more casual about items I leave out based on what my dogs have been interested in. Sam never cared about my knitting or yarn. Silver has only liked wool yarns, and she's never messed with a project on the needles--wool or not. I can't count on the same behavior with another dog, so I need to straighten things and rearrange some yarn storage. And when you foster, you're expected to be more careful of how you handle a foster dog (and your own): don't let a foster on the furniture or your bed for fear of teaching a behavior that the eventual owner will have to correct. And if the foster and your dog(s) are out of the crate, they all should be muzzled to prevent any snarkiness from escalating to bloodshed. I've got the crate Silver doesn't want to go in, and I think I'd also set up an ex-pen so that the foster could be in the pen in the living room with Silver and me, but the dogs could be separated by the pen and thus not need muzzles very often. And I think I'd want to move the crate from the breakfast room to the dining room, so a crated dog could see Silver and me in the living room. Lots of stuff to consider and work out. SEGA is getting in 10 dogs this Saturday. I'll meet them when I help bathe the new arrivals at the kennel. But new arrivals will need neuter/spay surgery and other vetting before they're ready to head to a foster home, so I have time to do some work around here. And I don't feel the urge to rush into getting another dog right away. It's pleasant to realize I could take Silver and go someplace for the day and not have to worry about a dog at home needing food or a potty break.

December 2003: Watching for squirrels. And cats.

And another thing to organize around here is the dogs' ashes. I got three containers yesterday at Michael's. When Oreo died, I neatly stored her ashes, muzzle, collar, photos, notes, etc., on the bookshelf in the dining room. When Jacey died, I put her stuff on the shelf, but I never organized things, or made a CD of her photos, or anything like that; after fighting to save her over four days at the ER, I didn't want to deal with the results, and Silver came here the day after Jacey died, so I could concentrate on her and just leave Jacey's stuff alone. But now Sam's ashes are home, and I need to deal with that stuff. I got a case--it looks like a small, theatrical suitcase, black with white slogans on the side, and the slogan on the front is "DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING"--and it's large enough to hold Sam's ashes, his old, beaten-up muzzle (I had to get a new one earlier this year, but I kept the old one), collars and tags, photos, and more than 10 years' worth of vet paperwork. The boxes for Jacey and Oreo are smaller and prettier. They don't all match each other: the dogs were all very different. I need to sit and organize a CD of Sam's photos. I also want to print condolence messages to PDFs and save them on the CD as well. There's a mountain of vet paperwork in the corner of a kitchen counter; the paperwork goes back at least through Jacey's days because it usually was easier to just add papers to the pile, rather than try to straighten things out. I'll go through all of that, too, and maybe make a CD of Jacey's photos. I can get prints of some favorite photos and get a couple of those little 4 x 6 albums to go in the boxes with the ashes.

Sam_By Amy
21 June 2006: Sam (by Amy Romanczuk)

(My sister has orders about what to do with the ashes when I die. I promised the dogs we'd be together forever. I prefer cremation for myself, and all the ashes can just be combined at the end. After that--well it seems my sister (and my BIL) and I are of one mind about disposing of ashes. Bury us somewhere, throw us into the wind, toss us on the water. We're not fussy about how or where.)

27 August 2011: A few days after Jacey died and Silver came home

Today is the first day I haven't burst into tears over Sam. It's been those frustrated, temper-tantrum sort of tears, where I bang my fist into the pillow and wail, "I want my Sam!" The tears spring up all of a sudden.

6 December 2006: Sam's drooling. I said the word "Cookies!"

Sam had a whole routine he followed: He'd wake up from a nap, struggle to his feet, wobble until he got his balance, then smoothly stretch (as if he hadn't just been wobbling and about to fall). Then he'd go from the living room to the dining room to get a drink. He'd shuffle across the dining room--it's a hard floor and I think he was worried about keeping his footing if he moved too fast, and sometimes he'd knuckle a back foot, so just sliding his feet across the floor was safer--he'd shuffle over to his empty food dish and give it a lick. Then he'd move into the kitchen, which is long and narrow, with doorways at either end. He'd move slowly, checking the floor and the counters for spills or forgotten food (although it's been years since I was silly enough to leave food on the counters). At the far end of the kitchen, there are folding doors to the closet that houses the water heater and the kitchen trash can. He'd poke those doors until they opened (they squeaked, which is how I knew what he was up to), stick his head in and flip up the lid on the trash can. He'd root around in the can, licking anything that looked promising. Then he'd wander out that end of the kitchen into the breakfast room, shuffle through there, into the foyer, down the hallway, and back onto the carpet in the living room, where he'd come settle on a bed in front of the box fan. He's done this over and over for the past couple of years--every day and often during the night. So every time I hear a noise from the front of the condo--the AC switching on, or someone outside making a noise--I look toward the foyer to see if it's my boy coming back to the living room. When I realize it isn't him--isn't ever going to be him again--it's hard to take.

9 November 2009: I'd let him lick the nearly empty jar--until he started trying to eat it.

But picking up the pieces means getting back to normal. I've done a minor bit of freelancing (and I need to invoice my big client so I can bank a little money). I've started knitting a baby blanket for some friends expecting their first (a girl) in mid-September (one month!). I'd like to enter the blanket in the North Georgia State Fair, and the entry deadline is about mid-September, too. (The fair is 19-29 September.) Yesterday, on the same trip to Acworth to pick up Sam's ashes, I stopped at an LYS in Acworth and bought a lot of cotton yarn from their half-off bin. It should make some nice chemo caps for Halos of Hope. I also bought some good wool Monday at a different LYS; that will make two hats for Hats for Sailors. Lots of hat knitting after the fair; then Christmas knitting to do.

12 November 2011

Meanwhile, Silver has obedience classes the remaining Saturdays of this month. SEGA has new dogs arriving Saturday. Football season for the Pope High School Greyhounds will kick off 30 August with an away game; their first home game (greyhounds invited) will be on 6 September. There are greyhound events of one sort or another every weekend in September and October.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Saying good-bye to Sam (Stat K Sam -- 5/10/2000 - 8/8/2013)

I said goodbye to my wonderful boy this morning.

Holding Mom's hand...

Sam lived with me for 10 years, 10 months, and 2 days. He has slept at my side every one of those nights. (Tonight is going to suck.)

Oreo & Sam
Oreo & Sam

He's made me laugh every single day. He was a stubborn, single-minded, high-prey, food motivated, goofy doofus. He's driven two of three housemates crazy. Only Silver managed to keep him in line.

And Sam trumps Jacey with his tail
Jacey & Sam

Sam's been on meds for years. He had arthritis and some slightly herniated disks, LS, LP, and was starting to have kidney issues. He's been taking gabapentin, tramadol, methocarbamol, metronidazole, doxepin, thyroxine, and prilosec, in addition to glucosamine, fish oil, and probiotics. And he was remarkably patient about taking a mouthful of pills after every meal, four times a day.

Sam 0503
Sam, in the days before arthritis and LS

But the pills were no longer controlling the pain, and there were episodes of panting triggered by pain. He went to the vet Monday for a shot of dexamethasone to see if that would help with the pain in his back. The shot gave him good results on his legs--Sam wasn't having as much trouble getting his legs under him when he needed to stand up--but it didn't help with the pain, and it only helped his legs for two days. He was maxed out on pain meds, but still in pain, and he didn't deserve that. I knew I needed to let him go.

Stalking peanut butter crackers

And we were able to time this right: he still loved his food and his trips outside, so we didn't wait so long that he was miserable. But this morning, his legs gave out on a very short walk, so his body was letting him down, even if we'd been able to find another painkiller that worked. He just had too many things wrong at once.

A Pair of Heads
Sam's most famous photograph, which has shown up on lots of websites

I made the appointment with his vet. On the way, we stopped at McDonald's and I got him the current "2 for $3" special--two sausage and egg biscuits. I'd never given him sausage before. I sat in the backseat with him in the vet's parking lot, and Sam ate every crumb--sausage, eggs, and biscuits.

Jacey's last pictures were sad: she felt so bad, and I hate to look at those photos.
Sam's last pictures are triumphant: "Food! I've got food!"

I got him into the vet's office, and once he was able to get his legs back under himself, he started surfing the countertops, looking for cookies, and he stuck that long nose into the trash can. By the time his vet came in, Sam was ready to lie down in his favorite sphinx pose. After the sedative, he put his head down on his forelegs and fell asleep. He didn't stir when the vet gave him the final shot. I cried--and so did Sam's vet. "He was such a goofy boy," the vet said.


I'm going to miss you, Boo-boo.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lesson 2b--Back to Basics

An earlier post that Silver was improving in the obedience department was wishful thinking.

Silver Flirts

She's still adorable and charming as all get-out, but when we practice the obedience lesson--and we practice twice a day--she clearly doesn't get it and just stands there. She looks off in the distance in the classic I know you want me to do something but I don't know what it is so I'll just stand here until you get a better idea attitude.

I've emailed her instructor. Jen has an agility competition with her dogs this weekend, so I'm not expecting to hear from her right away. Meanwhile, Silver and I will do the Marietta Farmer's Market Meet & Greet tomorrow: she knows how to work a crowd.

I think there's probably a parent-teacher conference in my future next week.

Meanwhile, folks, don't forget that there's an auction to benefit the adoption efforts of SEGA over here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We interrupt this obedience update to bring you the following commercial announcement

We have not suddenly discovered an obedience gene in Silver, although the obstinacy gene is there. We're still looking for the other one.

Blue-Green-Purple Pointy Greyhound Hood

Meanwhile, SEGA is holding its online auction fundraiser, with items for dogs, dog lovers, and pretty much everyone else on the planet.

There are art prints and photographs--some greyhound-related, others not. There's a lovely original 12" x 12" acrylic painting.

Greyhound Snood

Not yet advertised on the auction site is that there's a hat that matches this snood. We'll probably add the hat to the auction at the last minute as a bonus add-on to the snood:


There are books on greyhounds, an actual racetrack lure from the track at Ebro, specialty services like one hour of behavior training (Silver!), a photography session, and a session with an animal communicator. A canine first aid kit, t-shirts and sweaters for people, a donation jacket and sweaters for dogs. Snoods, pointy hats,  and a crocheted footstool (I'd never dare rest my feet on!).

Hand-made wooden items, ceramic mugs, bowls, and plates. An Oriental rug.

A one-week stay (for up to 4 people; no pets) at the Lodge Alley Inn in Charleston, South Carolina, for the week of 30 August through 5 September 2013.

A king-size quilt with dog-themed prints, machine- and hand-quilted, with the binding hand-quilted by the donor's 94-year-old aunt.

Hand-made note cards, jewelry, a new Coach shoulder bag, a camera bag, gift baskets of goodies for dogs and for people. Martingale collars galore, dog bowls, statues and figurines.

For Barbie collectors--a set of nine Holiday Barbies.

There is a pendant I'm not listing here; I've bid on it, so please keep your fingers off. :) And I'm also not advertising the pink Perla bed I've bid on. I've often been tempted to order one online (although not necessarily a pink one), but the shipping usually adds another $20 to the price. If I buy it locally, I can pick it up and save myself the shipping charges. If both dogs like it, I'll order a second one through Amazon Prime.

Pointy Pink Greyhound Hood

◊ ● ◊ ● ◊ ● ◊

Lately, I've been taking the dogs out back to pee instead of out front, where the asphalt is so hot. The dogs and I are going out back even after dark, and I wanted some lighted collars so we could all watch our footing on the uneven ground. I ordered two of these collars, and I've already discovered some drawbacks to them (and posted a review on Amazon). But these will do well enough, for now, and I might borrow one now and then to hang around my own neck to illuminate my knitting.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lesson 2a--We have lift-off!

Maybe. I'm all happy and pleased because Silver played touch-the-cup in our pre-lunchtime training session.

The real trick will be to see if she remembers the point in the pre-dinnertime training session. And can she branch out? If I move the cup to a less-obvious and easy-to-reach spot, will she still make the effort?

(Sam definitely will. He got so excited during his attempt he kicked the cup across the patio, then lunged to reach it.)

And Sam is better today. His problems yesterday were all my fault. After a training session with both dogs, I came in and gave them lunch...and forgot about the lunchtime meds. By supper last night, it had been more than 9 hours. He can go longer than that overnight, but not during the day, when he's moving around more. So last night I loaded him with all the pills he could safely hold and let him sleep off the whole load. By this morning, he was on his feet (unassisted), and limping much less. Trust me, he's had breakfast meds and lunch meds today.

And this really-need-to-work day hasn't gotten off the ground yet. I've screwed around on Facebook, Ravelry, Greytalk, Twitter, and on the website for SEGA's auction. (Auction ends 4 August, and all the auction items haven't been uploaded yet. But there are a couple of greyhound hats and a snood...I'll post about them later.) I'm still blaming allergies for my inability to get any work done in the morning. I'm in such a fog when I first wake up. Grass pollen is still high.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lesson 2--Back to the Drawing Board

Silver was awful in class yesterday. Not a big deal, but she's learned that if she's confused and doesn't know what I want, she should just lie down, chin on the ground, and look all pitiful. She knows I won't fuss at her when that happens.

Silver Hornet
Silver does "down" when she wants to, but not when I ask her to.

She'll make eye contact, for which I click+treat. Then we tried touch-the-cup, but she wasn't playing. I could put a treat on the cup and wait for her to touch it, but she turned around and laid down. (On today's practice, I kept her moving around so she couldn't lie down.) She still doesn't touch the cup to get a treat, and if she doesn't learn that her behavior dictates when treats occur, she won't get the hang of clicker training, and I really don't see her being willing to engage in any other kind of lesson.

Then, in class, it was time to practice down. You don't teach down by putting any physical pressure on the dog. You use treats to lure the dog into position, and you use something called "shaping"--where you don't wait until the whole trick is performed before you click+treat; instead, you click+treat when the dog even starts to perform the desired behavior. So we started the training, Silver lowered her head in the direction of the treat, and I clicked. That startled her and she jumped back and wouldn't try again. She didn't just lie down; she stretched as far away from me as she could (4' leash), turned her back on me, and then laid down. (While lying down is the behavior I wanted, she needs to learn to do it in response to a command from me--not because she's mad at me.)

We have two weeks before the next class. We'll keep working on this. She's not dumb--she's just confused. Once she gets the idea that she's controlling the treat dispenser (aka, me), I think things will go better. We can practice two or three times a day, just before mealtime, when Silver's hungry enough to be more cooperative.


When I tried to train Oreo before I took Jen's class, Oreo's reaction to training--and I wasn't doing clicker training--was much like Silver's reaction now. Oreo would give me a sad look (Poor fool human, I don't do this stuff), cross the room, lie down on her bed and refuse to look at me. So although Silver's behavior is frustrating, I know enough to realize this isn't going to be her behavior forever.

◊ ● ◊ ● ◊ ● ◊

In scary news...Sam's having a really bad day today. He's not walking well; his left rear foot is knuckling, and if he puts it down correctly, he's limping--and he won't lie down and stay down, which makes me think he's in pain. (The foot-thing might just be that the foot fell asleep the last time he was sleeping.) About 90 minutes ago I gave him his usual evening pills; and just I threw in an extra tramadol and gabapentin for him. He's lying down now (but breathing more heavily than I think he should be), and he'll get more meds later tonight. We'll see how he is tomorrow. Poor baby.

--Working on the orange thing. I'm not as far along as I thought I was. The skein of remaining yarn was loose and floppy, and I think part of it must have been dangling off the scale. But I've rewound the yarn into a snug ball, and when I weigh that, there are more grams (36 of them) than I wanted there to be. I'm knitting tonight (and planning to stay up late because I slept all morning). Tomorrow needs to be an all-work/no-knitting day (so I can earn some money).
--Tomorrow also needs to be a grocery shopping day. I'm getting low on almost everything.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lesson 1b--Making Progress

A happy girl: "Mom's not shooting that clicker at me!"

For a couple of days, I clicked while in the kitchen and waited for the dogs to come running. I did this just before lunch time or dinner time, when the dogs were doing their "Feed us--we're starving" routine. At first, if I clicked, Silver would flinch and draw back (and Sam would lean in for the treat--after all, he heard the clicker, too, and he knows what it means). Eventually, I stood there with a handful of treats, let Silver try to poke her tongue or teeth between my fingers to get the treats, and I just clicked away. Silver started ignoring the clicker.

This was a little risky. I don't want Silver to ignore the clicker. I just want her not to be afraid of it.

Today, before lunch, I took Silver out onto the patio and we worked on touch-the-cup. She still doesn't understand what she's supposed to do--and if she gets frustrated, she'll just lie down--but she has learned that she'll get a treat when she hears the click. If she touched the cup, I clicked and she turned toward me to get the treat. This is something she should have figured out last week, but at least we're on the right track.

So then I took her for a walk on a 30-foot lead so we could work on recalls. She came right away when called and I praised her a lot, but she was not so deeply involved in what she was sniffing at for this to be any indication that recall training is working.

So then I put her in the house and let Sam practice. He came out the door onto the patio and went and slammed his nose into the cup. Click-treat. He knows the drill, but at least this time he didn't lie down with his chin on the cup. After a few more click-treats, I took him for a walk on the 30-foot lead. He doesn't stick to my side the way Silver does, and if he's interested in sniffing at something when you call his name, well--you'll just have to wait your turn. We'll keep practicing, but his recall skills will never be reliable.

Both dogs have had their lunches and are sleeping now. Actually, Silver had about half of Sam's. (Some things never change.) They're sleeping soundly, as if they've actually worked hard. The training sessions were less than 5 minutes per dog. Greyhounds don't have a long attention span.

It's time to chop up more treats. Today they finished off the abundance I cut up before last week's class. Another class tomorrow morning, then we skip a week, so I hope Silver can catch up.

On the knitting front, there's not much to report. The long, orange triangle is still orange, still a triangle, and a bit longer. I'm more than two-thirds of the way through the yarn on this never-ending, knit-till-you-run-out project. I'm put in mind of Penelope, weaving her shroud by day, unraveling it again by night--except that I'm reasonably sure no one is unraveling this (except for those times I've had to frog a few rows to fix a glitch). Anyway, I really want to get this finished: I've figured out what pattern I want to use for my next project (a baby blanket), and I have the yarn, and I want to get it started!

Shawl to enter in the fair

The North Georgia State Fair runs 19-29 September. Fair entries in the craft divisions are due 14-15 September. I have one shawl I'm planning to enter, and I'd like to enter the baby blanket in the fair, too. (The shawl is the same pattern as the orange triangle I'm making now. The photo above doesn't do justice to the color, and the actual shawl is super-soft and very warm.) The baby is due 15 September, but the blanket could be delivered a bit later than that. If I remember correctly from past years, the fair gets lots of crocheted baby blankets entered, but not many knitted ones (and knitting doesn't usually compete against crocheting except for "best in show" awards).

The remodeling at my sister's house is nearly, nearly finished. Everyone is looking forward to the conclusion, and Mother will finally be able to get settled. She's been sleeping in my sister's guest room since early January, and she doesn't have her craft supplies or anything like that in places where she can get to them. (Half her stuff is still in the storage unit. The rest is piled in my sister's living room, dining room, and den.) Also, pollen counts (grass) have been really high lately, so Mother (and I) have been groggy and drowsy and prone to napping the days away. I think if she really had something to do, Mother would be a bit more mentally alert than she has been lately.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lesson 1a--Click! (flinch)

I do not believe this.


She's afraid of the clicker. Every time I click, she flinches. She doesn't run; she's not terrified. But she flinches.

The red clicker above was furnished for the class. It's a nice, crisp, fairly loud sound that will carry well if your dog is a little bit away from you.

The blue clicker is one I picked up at PetSmart or PetCo or something. It's a more muted sound--and she flinches from that one, too. She flinches even if I hold it right in front of her so she can see my thumb move. Click. It's hardly the trumpet of doom.

But this fear might explain why, this morning, I could click and she wouldn't turn to take a treat until I called her name. When I tried again this afternoon, I stood in front of her (with Sam standing beside her) and I clicked and treated and didn't let her turn away. (I'd click and then treat both dogs, Silver first. I let Sam stand there as a good example--and because it would have been mean to treat her right under his nose. When I need to work with her alone, she and I can go on the patio to practice.)

This morning, Sam wasn't standing nearby, so I don't really think he's part of the equation. I'd click and treat, and she'd turn her head away and lie down as soon as she got her treat. She never once tried to sniff the clicker or poke at it or my hand to produce a click. She didn't watch me to see if I'd make it click again, and if I did click, she'd only turn back to me if I also called her name.

At this point, I'm reminding myself that this is the girl who had to be taught to eat a turkey neck. The first time, she took the neck out of her dish, put it on the doormat, licked the empty dish, and laid down beside it. Later, when I put the neck in the dish right under her nose, ostentatiously ignored it.

Turkey Neck #4

But that lasted just a couple of times. Soon, she was ready to grab her turkey neck and chow down (which she won't be doing anymore since she and Sam both suffered disastrous digestive mayhem from their last turkey necks). I'm betting she'll get the hang of click + treat pretty soon. Tonight, I'll keep a clicker in the kitchen. When I go in there to get ice or something to drink, I'll click and wait to see how many dogs show up. Whoever shows up will get a treat. And I'll hold treats in my closed fist and make her sniff at that before I click again and let her have the treat.

If that doesn't work, I'll have to look for another signalling option.

Silly goose.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lesson 1--Saturday

I've started obedience classes for Silver with trainer Jen Bachelor.


My first greyhound, Oreo, took classes from Jen. Oreo was a good, food-motivated student, and forever afterward greeted Jen by diving nose-first into Jen's right pocket. The things dogs learn by accident... Oreo took the classes, and I came home and did homework with Oreo and Sam.

After I adopted Jacey, I used the same lessons to work with her--with Sam getting some additional training as well. Jacey tried hard, but she never managed a decent sit, and stay was not a syllable she ever was willing to hear. (Oddly enough, Sam was better at stay--at least, after you'd said it three or four times.)

Jacey sits (more or less)

I've had Silver for nearly two years, and I haven't tried any lessons with her. For one thing, she's more independent than Oreo or Jacey ever were. For another, while she's food-motivated, she's only food-motivated on her own terms. She'll happily push in front of Sam to eat from his bowl, but sometimes she'll turn her nose up at treats (treats she happily eats at home) if there are distractions. (Nine other dogs in her class = nine distractions.) But I'd like to get her certified as a therapy dog, and that requires at least a tiny inclination for a dog to do what it's told; I'm hoping the class will teach her that doing what I say for a food/praise reward isn't a bad idea. And I'm teaching her through class so I've got an expert's input on any issues with her.

(I'm not going to give away Jen's lesson plan. If Jen wanted to give away the info for free, she could post it on her blog. So I'll talk a bit about the goals or theory of a lesson, but I'm going to avoid the actual how-to steps.)

Our first lesson was this morning. Silver spent most of her time watching the other dogs and didn't show the first sign of interest in lessons. (The treats--chopped up turkey franks and sticks of string cheese--were fine. But I was just supposed to shovel treats into her mouth while she watched the other dogs.)

The lessons involve clicker-training. The idea is that you click to signal the proper behavior. First you have to teach a dog that the click-sound means treats. Then you have to teach the dog that she can make you click by doing something you want her to do. You do this by getting the dog to touch a target, then clicking and rewarding for the touch. The first few times, you may have to lure the dog into touching the target; at some point, though, the dog is supposed to make the connection and touch the target on her own.


So we practiced this afternoon. I'm not 100% certain that Silver understands click = treat, so we need to work on that without complicating the training by adding touch-the-target at the same time. When we tried touch-the-target, Silver would touch if I lured her into it, but otherwise she'd stand there. She'd sniff my hands to try to squeeze out a treat, then she'd give up and stand and wait for something to happen. We started working this outside on the patio, but when Silver lost interest, we went back inside.

Meanwhile, poor Sam is absolutely beside himself watching this. He remembers touch-the-target. He excelled at it when he took lessons with the other girls. Sam's all, Me! Mom! Me! I can do this! Me! Let me, Mom!

From earlier this year: the old man is still as food-driven as ever

So I took pity on him. I put the target down where he and Silver could both see it. I put a treat right on it, and Silver lunged in for it. I clicked and treated and waited. When another treat didn't show up right away, Silver walked off and laid down. I moved the target toward Sam, but I didn't put a treat on it. Sam touched the target immediately (click+treat). If I moved the target to the side a bit, and he'd reach over and get it (click+treat). That smart ass actually laid down and put his chin on the target! I let him finish off the treats I had in my pocket. Perhaps Silver will learn by example, and I'll work with her on click = treat, too.

While we were outside, I worked with Silver on recall. I put her on a 30-foot line. The idea was to walk her, let her get distracted sniffing something, I'd sneak a little distance away, then call her to me. But the little stinker glued herself to my hip! I'd try to sneak away, turn to call her and find her right on my heels! We're going to have to work on this.

--BOMC book arrived. I left it with my mother. It's crocheted blocks, and Mother is doing some craft stuff for her church where she makes blocks at home and donates them to the church. Now she has some extra patterns to choose from.
--Order from Joann's arrived: yarn and needles.
--Drs Foster & Smith has shipped the heartworm meds and Missing Link.
--I signed up for more Craftsy classes. (This makes 4 classes I've signed up for, and only 1 that I've taken.) Craftsy is having special offers with reduced prices for classes, so I signed up for a couple of sweaters-that-fit classes.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Update

BOMC says there was a glitch in their system, and they're sending me my June 28 book.

Found stamps to send heartworm prescription to Drs Foster & Smith. Damned expensive snail-mail.

Expensive Mail

Netgear has decided that I really do know my own email address. Their products may be good. Their website and tech support are the worst kind of annoying. The site won't let you set up an account if it hates your email address for some reason; but if you want to send an email to tech support, it wants you to log-in to your account first. (Um, fellas...) And their live chat is one person. Technical issues often don't go smoothly, especially since there seem to be some language mismatches along the way. Average wait time for a live-chat session is more than 30 minutes. (What kind of language issues? Well, how does Tech Support by email not understand "When I tried to register my purchase, your site said my email address was wrong"?)

Sam was better on Thursday morning--no soft poop. He's been fine since then until this morning. He's had no raw turkey (nor anything other than his regular kibble and meds), but apparently he's still having issues as of this morning. I've changed his metronidazole dose. Instead of getting his maintenance dose of half a pill, every other day, he's getting a full-bore dose of two whole pills a day for a while. (But since I'd already chopped his pills in half, he'll just get a half, four times a day.)

I bought some re-issued knitting patterns from Patternfish (old Sirdar patterns for baby sweaters). I don't like that the PDFs are encrypted. I do not use printed patterns. I work from on-screen PDFs using my Acrobat Pro, which lets me mark correct size info, leave myself notes about pattern changes, put a colored box on the screen to mark where in the pattern I've gotten to, highlight info like changes in needle size. The Patternfish PDFs do not permit any of this. I will make usable PDFs one way or another, and probably in ways Patternfish wouldn't approve of (although the site's Terms of Use don't prohibit my methods). I won't violate copyright on any of these patterns, and no one but me will ever see my usable PDFs. But I think I probably won't be buying much from Patternfish in the future. I've spent $5.95 per pattern; it's ridiculous that I have to work to make the patterns usable.

Did two meet and greets with Silver yesterday: Marietta Square Farmer's Market and the Acworth Petco. At the Farmer's Market, an artist-vendor donated 20 martingale collars to SEGA (1 large, 8 medium, 11 small that will fit whippets or small greyhounds). We'll be offering many of them at SEGA's upcoming online auction. I've done individual photos of the collars; I just need to write descriptions for them so the auction managers won't have that to deal with.

Pile of collars on my laptop yesterday, before the individual photos were taken.

There's one lovely collar I have my eye on...


...prettier in real life, with shiny gold outlines on the flowers.

Poor Sam is sound asleep in front of the back door. I think he doesn't want to get too far from the nearest exit...