Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halfway There

Our PT run went pretty well today (video coming soon). We had a few minor snags, but nothing serious. The sheep started out really light – I had to set Duncan up a second time, because the first time I set him up the sheep took off when I started walking towards them. Once we all got moving together, though, the sheep turned into knee-knockers and almost plowed me into the fence a time or two. We tried to do a hold on the fence at our turn, but the sheep decided they didn’t feel like waiting for that, and they tried to sneak off while my back was turned. Duncan brought them back very nicely, of course. We had a successful hold in the corner, and then one of the sheep decided to make a break for it. Once again, Duncan did an excellent job of bringing the sheep back to me. When we got to the pen, that same sheep didn’t want to stay with the others, and she ended up on the wrong side of the gate, upset because Duncan was (sort of) between her and the pen. Once I moved Duncan, though, she finally went in. The judge said the only problem we had was that I didn’t have the confidence in Duncan that I should – I need to relax more and just let him do his job. I was better about not constantly looking back and forth to see where he was, so thats something. After the run, we (Duncan) received a lot of compliments from the folks watching. And we earned the first of the two legs we need for Duncan’s PT title. On to tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Poor Belle picked up a cold a week or so ago. She has a watery eye, a runny nose, and she sneezes a lot, but she’s still eating and drinking, so I’m not too worried. She doesn’t seem particularly lethargic, but then again, she’s a 12½ year old cat, so a certain amount of lethargy is expected. I’ll be watching to make sure she doesn’t get worse, and particularly to make sure she doesn’t stop eating or drinking. There’s not really anything the vet can do for a cold, but if it looks like its turning into something more, she’ll be at the vet’s office before she can sneeze again. My poor little sniffly girl. The other cats are fine, and paws crossed they’ll stay that way.

Such Grace

Duncan and I participated in an AKC herding fun match in Rougemont this past Sunday. We were originally scheduled to have a herding lesson, but when we found out about the match we decided to do that, instead. The match was held at the same location where we’ll be this coming weekend, so I figured it would be excellent practice for us. Nothing better than getting to check out the location and sheep ahead of time. We were able to get two runs on the Pre-Trial Test course, which is exactly what we’ll be doing this weekend.

Duncan did a lovely job. Our trainer said that if we could do that again this weekend, Duncan would earn his PT title with no trouble. She also added that I need to remember that, even though I know Duncan will bring the sheep back to me, the judge won’t know it, so I have to help reassure the judge that Duncan really isn’t going to try and eat the sheep if he has to run after one of them. Duncan did actually put his mouth on a sheep a couple of times, but he never grabbed them – it was almost like he was just reaching out to get a little taste. One cute thing that was pointed out to me was that Duncan’s tail almost never stopped moving. He so obviously loves herding sheep.

The first run went pretty well, once Duncan got the sheep back to me. The pick up went better on the second run, but we did have one little snag. Keep an eye out for something that happened around the 1:50 mark. I wish I could blame the sheep, but I’m pretty sure I did it to myself. Both runs, we had some trouble with penning the sheep at the end. Duncan and I have a lesson scheduled for Wednesday (one good thing about no job is that our training schedule is a lot more flexible), and I told Claire that we absolutely have to work on penning the sheep with a gate that latches on the right. Her main gate latches on the left with the hinges on the right, and both Duncan and I are so used to that setup that we have trouble with gates that latch on the other side. Apparently, we both pattern train fairly easily.

Keep your paws crossed that we have good runs Saturday and Sunday. If we do, Duncan will earn his PT title and I can spend time obsessing over whether or not we should move up to Course A Started for the December trial in Sanford.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just A Little Fella

Duncan had his annual exam today. Everyone was a little startled when he weighed in at a petite 117 pounds. That’s right – my boy weighs almost 120 pounds. He’s in excellent overall health, and if Duncan were anything but a GSD, he wouldn’t be considered overweight. Because of his breed and the potential for joint problems, the vet said he’d like to see Duncan about 5 pounds lighter. The vet also commented that he can tell Duncan’s added quite a bit of muscle since his last exam. We’ve all been on a diet since Reyna’s surgery, but it looks like its time to cut back on his kibble a bit more. Poor Duncan.

...Followed By A Fun Weekend

Saturday was a good day. I took Reyna for a ride in the truck and then to a small park in Knightdale. She was so excited to get out of the house and go somewhere. We rode around for about 30 minutes, and then spent another 30 minutes or so at the park. We had the park to ourselves, which was even better.

Saturday evening, I went to Pittsboro to meet Mary and Pat at the Carolina Tiger Rescue (formerly the Carnivore Preservation Trust). We’d been there before, but we wanted to check out the twilight tour, as the cats are supposed to be more active at that time of night. Since I got a lot of pictures at our last visit, I didn’t bother to take my camera. I’ll pause for a moment so you can get over your shock. Better now? Naturally, since I didn’t have my camera, the white tiger was on the tour this time (he wasn’t the last time we were there). Oh, well.

Sunday was spent in Rougemont, NC, at a herding match. I’ll have more on that later...

A Sad Day...

Friday was my last day at the office. Thankfully, I’d packed my belongings on Thursday. It was amazing how much stuff I’d accumulated in my six years there. John pointed out that it made sense, considering that I basically lived in the office. Realizing he was right was actually worse… I only stayed until lunch time Friday. I spent the morning finishing up an item for a customer, taking care of one last emergency for Dave, and saying good-bye to folks. I did okay with that, except for the times when the other people choked up or got teary-eyed. It was nice, though, in a way, to realize how upset other people were about me leaving. It didn’t make it any easier, but its nice to know I’ll be missed. For a day or so, anyway.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Silly Puppy

I think Reyna may be a “winter limper” from now on. I’ve noticed she’s been limping again with the cold temps we’ve had the last few days. The limp seems to be connected to both the temp and her level of stiffness, so its worse in the mornings than later in the day. I’m inclined to think that some of it is also due to our lack of activity since my wrist surgery, so I’m hoping she’ll improve now that I’m down to just a brace and we can start walking again.

Overall, though, she’s so much better than she was this time last year. I’ve had two clear indications of her improvement – there’s a lot more dust and dirt in my house again (which means she’s playing outside more), and she’s getting in her chair again (which means she’s comfortable both with climbing into it and with curling herself up to fit).

Last night, she gave me yet another indication of her new-found good health. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know someone flipped her silly switch. I was standing up looking at something when she suddenly popped her head between my legs, holding a big floppy squeaky toy. She spent the next 15 minutes or so dancing and bouncing around, shaking her head with a goofy grin on her face, teasing both me and Duncan, tossing squeaky toys and then her ball in the air. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages, and I really don’t remember the last time she acted like that. I laughed the entire time, and poor Duncan seemed rather bewildered by the sudden spurt in activity, although he was very willing to participate. Its so good to see Reyna playing like this again.


Finally! The splint came off today! The nurse got the splint off and pulled the fishing line out from under the skin with minimal fuss. My fingers are still a bit sore, which the doctor said is mostly likely due to residual swelling, and there’s a bit of a greenish tinge to the back of my hand (and no, that’s not mold, that’s bruising). Doc gave me a brace to wear for two weeks, as a lot of movement at this point might actually cause the cyst to reoccur – something about fluid squishing between the bones. I can handle wearing the brace, though, because it’s a lot smaller and lighter than the splint and I can take it off to wash my hand and shower. I also have to stretch my wrist a few times a day to regain the flexibility. As long as I do that, there shouldn’t be any need for me to go to physical therapy. The first thing I did after leaving the doctor’s office was to pop into the restroom to wash my hand, but they didn’t have any soap in the dispensers, the slackers. I had to wait until I got to the office to give it a good scrubbing, followed by a thorough lathering of lotion. Despite the soreness, my wrist and hand feel better than they have since the morning of the surgery.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ha! I Win!

I’ve finally beaten the cats at their own game. Well, one of their games, anyway. For a very long time, they would pull my bath towel off the towel rack almost every day. I’d come home from work to find a still-damp towel crumpled up on the bathroom floor and covered in cat hair. Since I really don’t enjoy spreading cat hairs on my wet body, I tried a variety of ways to stop them, from using different towel racks, to folding the towel in different ways (which usually resulted in a still-damp towel with no cat hair), to putting things on top of the towel to make it harder to pull down. Nothing worked for more than a day or so. Two weeks ago, I finally thought of something that actually does work. So far, anyway. I use a clothes hanger with clips (generally used for skirts) and clip it to one long side of the towel. I hang the towel lengthwise across the rack, and then hook the hanger to the rack underneath the towel. I don’t know if its too hard for them to pull the towel down now, or if the hanger makes a noise when they pull that startles them away. I can tell they’ve tried, because a few times I’ve come home to find one end of the towel off the rack (but not on the floor). My towel has been cat hair free since I started using the hanger. Its so nice. I just have to remember to unhook the hanger before I pull the towel off the rack, but that’s a small price to pay. I may be a bad parent, but I get a gleeful – and rather smug – feeling every time I walk into the bathroom and see that they’ve tried and failed to pull the towel to the floor.


Dad and Krysti came for a brief visit this past weekend. It was really good to see them, especially since its been a while (last Christmas, I think, but its been a very blurry year, so I make no guarantees). We went to the Farmer’s Market Saturday afternoon. The weather was perfect for that sort of thing, and the place apparently wasn’t nearly as crowded as it typically is in the morning.

Dinner Saturday was at Outback (always yummy!). Its nice to see that Dad and Krysti are finally eating dinner at a reasonable hour. I still have traumatic flashbacks to late night dinners, especially one with a Colonel Fink as another guest and we didn’t sit down to start eating until nearly 11:00pm. *shudder*

Sunday morning was an Excel lesson for Krysti, and then we met John and Amy at Perkins for lunch. Nothing like talking about convicts and criminals over Sunday lunch… Dad and Krysti headed back home shortly after lunch. The visit was the perfect length – not too short, and most importantly, not too long! And the really nice thing is that I can say that and Dad and Krysti won’t be offended.

Getting Better

I took these pictures a couple of days ago, so the colors have changed a little bit, but the general idea is still the same.

I was surprised at how much bruising appeared between the bandage and my elbow. I was also surprised at how much that area hurts when any pressure is applied. It doesn't hurt in and of itself (only when its touched) so I tend to forget how tender it is - until I bump it on something. When I went to the grocery store yesterday, I had to figure out how to maneuver the cart with my upper arm. I couldn't do much with my hand because of the hard splint, and I made the mistake of trying to use my forearm to push and turn. Not a good idea...

My fingers aren't quite as swollen now as they were in this picture, thank goodness. They're not as blackish-green, either. I've been lucky that the swelling and bruising hasn't been too bad, really. It was certainly much worse when I had this same procedure done on my right wrist. Interestingly enough, after the first couple of days, my wrist didn't hurt at all, except when I occasionally overdid it. My fingers, though, haven't stopped hurting.

I'll be ever so happy to get this splint off. I really, really want to wash my hand. Just a few more days of this - the splint comes off and the stitches come out Monday morning.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Less Ow

I stayed home yesterday and babied the wrist a bit. The pain meds still weren’t doing a great job, but the frequent naps sure helped. I did get a bit of work done, although its definitely slower typing with just one hand.

I’m back in the office today, as my wrist feels a lot better. There’s only a little swelling of the fingers and some discoloration right at the knuckles. As long as I keep the hand elevated, it does pretty well. If I forget for too long, the throbbing reminds me that I need to get the hand back up. The fingers are all working, and I can do a few things, but there are certainly limitations to the range of motion. I can’t stretch my fingers out to the side at all, and trying to do anything that requires twisting or applying pressure doesn’t feel too great. I was very proud of myself this morning, though – I managed to tie my sneakers all by myself.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


The procedure went fairly quickly this morning. John came over early so he could hold Parm down while I cut off a large wad of matted fur (I had enough for a new kitten when I was done), and then he took me to Duke Raleigh Hospital. I was checked in by 9:20, and a nurse took me back for prepping about 9:45. The nice lady gave me a valium (but she wasn’t nice enough to give me two), and the surgeon popped in to initial my wrist. He also initialed my palm and made a comment about making an incision there, too, but we figured out later that he must have been confusing me with his next patient, who had both a cyst and carpal tunnel.

They got me into the procedure room before 11:00, but I’m not sure exactly when. The nurse designated to distract me has two dogs, so guess what we talked about most of the time? The most painful part of the whole procedure was the shots for the local. Man, those hurt. I’m just happy they had a sheet blocking my view, because I had no interest in watching the procedure. The surgeon said the cyst was pretty large – I think he mentioned a size, but I don’t remember what he said. By then, the valium had kicked in and I really just wanted a nap.

While I was waiting for John, I dozed with my face on the pillow that was propping up my arm. The nurse told us that she’d been checking on me and she knew I wasn’t suffocating myself because I was still pink every time she looked. Of course, that was mostly due to the fact that I was lucid enough to make a little gap in the pillow just under my nose… I have no idea what time John got back to the hospital, but I do know that we got to the Target pharmacy at 12:20. We picked up my Tylenol with Codeine and a few other items that I meant to get yesterday, popped into Subway to get some lunch, and then headed home. John played with the pups for a few minutes and then headed out. I was very ready for lunch, but by then, I was also very ready for the drugs. Sadly, they aren’t doing a spectacular job, although they’ve toned down the pain from a sharp stab to a dull roar (as long as I don’t wiggle my fingers). If its still like this tomorrow, I may call the doc and ask for something a smidge stronger. We’ll just have to wait and see.

So, I’m splinted from knuckles to mid-forearm, I have to keep the hand elevated for 3-5 days (so no typing with the left hand), and I can’t take the bandage off unless I need to loosen it. Always fun to shower with a plastic bag over my hand and arm. At least its only for two weeks, as I go back to the surgeon to get my stitches out on the 19th.

Monday, October 05, 2009

GSD Picnic

Saturday, I took Reyna to her first real social event since April. Her last social outing before that was sometime last year, I think. I figured the German Shepherd Rescue picnic at Montague Park in Cary was a good first try, since she wouldn’t be the only barking and snarling dog there. I was right – there were a lot of agitated shepherds at the picnic. Reyna did fairly well, all things considered. Of course, I didn’t let her get too close to any of the other dogs. We only stayed about an hour, and we spent most of that time walking along the lake. Reyna naturally made the most of the nearby water.

While we were out and about, Reyna and I also took quick trips into Lowes and Gourmutt’s Bakery. Reyna handled the errands nicely, and was very happy to see some old human friends. By the time we got home, though, the poor girl was exhausted (and so was I). We definitely need to build up our tolerance to strange dogs and their stranger people.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Such A Good Boy!

Friday was a very long, but very good, day. I was up at 4:45, and Duncan and I were out of the house and on our way to Denton at 6:00. We finally made it home eleven hours later. Lucky Duncan, he got to sleep most of the way. The local English Shepherd Rescue was hosting the trial as an American Herding Breed Association (AHBA) event, which meant Duncan was working for his Junior Herding Dog (JHD) title. There weren’t very many people there, which was nice, and I think there were only three dogs entered who weren’t English shepherds. Duncan was the only German shepherd there.

To earn a leg towards the JHD, the dog and handler have 10 minutes to pick up the sheep, move them behind two panels (between the panels and the fence), between two more panels, and then re-pen the sheep. The dog has to be engaged in the entire process, so the handler can’t just walk the sheep through the course while the dog is off doing something else. The second video shows a much clearer example of what should happen – the first video, not so much – and Duncan was definitely fully engaged during both runs.

Our first run wasn’t great, and it took us about 4 minutes, but we made it. Eventually. Our first big problem was that we had very light (spazzy) sheep. They started panicking as soon as Duncan walked into the arena, and we had to set our start position twice. We were working 3 sheep - a dark brown one, a white one, and a light brown/red one. Watch the red sheep; she was the lightest of the bunch, and she caused us a lot of trouble. Claire, our trainer, pointed out that I was our second problem. I was following the sheep, rather than using their inherent stupidity to make them go where I wanted them. I could have slowed them down so I wasn’t having to chase them if I’d turned towards the fence several times. As a general rule, if you turn your shoulders, the sheep will turn that direction, too. I was too worried about catching up with the obnoxious things to remember that little tidbit of information. The third problem we had was, again, me. I’ve gotten used to having the gate a certain way at Claire’s – latch on the left, hinge on the right, so I put Duncan behind me on my right. I wasn’t thinking about it during our run, but the gate was reversed. Out of habit, I put Duncan on my right. Claire pointed out that what I did was essentially block the sheep from the pen (in their minds, anyway), which is why the red sheep kept taking off. If I had put Duncan on my left side, the sheep likely would have gone into the pen the first or second time – rather than the fourth. The only reason the sheep finally went in the pen when they did was because the judge told me to just open the pen, even though I didn’t have everyone in one spot. Despite the challenges, though, Duncan did an excellent job. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. Even though he had to chase down that stupid red sheep 4 times before she went into the pen, Duncan never once made any attempt to grip, nip or bite. I was so proud of how calm and relaxed he stayed. The judge's comments were “Nice dog, let him work and cover his stock, very cooperative to instruction.” Oh, and of course, when I finally managed to get the sheep to go between the center panels, the guy working the video camera got distracted and missed it...

We had our second run after lunch. Thank goodness, we got a different bunch of sheep. This time, we had no problems. At one point, I was worried that Duncan was too close to me, but the sheep didn’t seem particularly concerned. Claire said that Duncan was tucked in during the run, keeping his power more internal, rather than pushing it at the sheep. Whatever he was doing, it worked. We had the fastest run of the afternoon – 37 seconds. We picked up our sheep, went behind the back panels, through the center panels, and straight to the pen. I had to have Duncan shift the sheep for me a bit, because they wanted to wander off, but he did that with almost no instruction from me. I was so proud of him! The judge’s comments were “Great job – he’s a powerful dog but very calm, controlled. Well done.” Hear the applause at the end of the video? I didn’t hear it when it happened, but its really neat to know we earned that.

During the day, several people told me how handsome Duncan is, what a wonderful temperament he has, and how impressed they were with his sheep handling skills. Claire said he was an excellent example of a herding German shepherd.

Have I mentioned yet how proud I was yesterday? He was such a good boy – I really couldn’t have asked for anything better than what he gave me. Duncan truly deserves his new title.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

No Eating Sheep!

Tomorrow’s a big day – it’s our first sheep herding trial since July 2008. We’ve got two runs, one in the morning and one sometime after lunch, so we could conceivably earn Duncan’s JHD title. With luck, I’ll find someone willing to take photos and someone else willing to videotape our runs. I’m nervous, but I feel pretty confident about our chances, as long as a few things go our way:

1 – We get some non-spazzy sheep.
2 – Duncan stays off my butt and out of my personal space.
3 – I manage to not confuse Duncan by telling him one thing with my voice and something totally different with my body.
4 – Duncan remembers to not try and eat the sheep (really the most important thing).

Cross your paws for us!