Thursday, December 31, 2009


A little while ago, both pups were sound asleep, Duncan on the couch and Reyna on the rug. Interestingly enough, they were dreaming at the same time. Reyna had all four legs moving at high speed - maybe chasing a rabbit? Duncan's back legs were going like pistons, his front paws were twitching, and I swear I saw him spitting out wool.

That’s It For ‘09

2009 is just about over and it must have been a fairly quiet year because there are only a few things that stick in my mind. Granted, my memory isn’t the best, but I’m pretty sure I’ve not forgotten any massively traumatic events. A few things that happened this year: playing in the snow (at both the beginning and the end of the year), herding sheep and earning titles, celebrating birthdays, completing a few scrapbooks, building a ramp for the back porch, playing with Horses!, learning that Reyna doesn’t actually have a heart problem, having wrist surgery, and experiencing record cold temperatures in Canada. The two most significant things that come to mind when I think of 2009 are Reyna’s hip replacement and the layoff. Reyna’s surgery was rough while we were dealing with it, but overall it qualifies as a Very Good Thing. As for the layoff – well, I haven’t made the final decision on that yet. Check back this time next year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You’re Kidding, Right?

I called the Unemployment office a couple of times Monday. The lady working the switchboard kept sending me to the voice mail of people who don’t answer their phones or return calls. I had to work at the kennel yesterday, but I tried calling again, with the same results. This morning, I was at the office when they opened. I was thinking maybe I’d wait for a while and then someone would push a button and we’d move on from there. Boy, was I wrong. The lady at the desk informed me that yes, my problem would be fixed with the simple push of a button, but it wouldn’t be fixed today. Or even this week. They’re all much too busy to push that button. So I have to go back to the office Monday at 2:30 so someone can push the button. And since the delay is so long, they’ll have to retroactively file my wait week and my first drawing week. And then I can do a normal file for my second drawing week. With any decent luck (although I’m not holding my breath), I’ll have two weeks of unemployment money deposited by Thursday, Jan 7 – just in time to pay the mortgage. I pointed out that the switchboard lady never mentioned that I’d need an appointment for this excessively complicated task, and that she kept sending me to voice mail. The desk lady said the switchboard lady isn’t trained in claims issues, so what else could she do? I replied that maybe they should train the switchboard lady to the point that when someone says they’ve already called several times, she should tell them they need to come in and schedule an appointment. But then again, maybe that’s just too much to expect from someone running a switchboard.

Monday, December 28, 2009


This morning started with an unexpected (and unwelcome) trip to the dentist. Christmas evening I had a late snack of popcorn after closing the kennel and I managed to bite down on a kernel in just the wrong way, chipping a front tooth. Looking at the tooth, the chip didn’t appear too bad – just a bit of jaggedness, not too obvious if you weren’t looking for it. The problem was that it started hurting every time I used that tooth to bite something. Thankfully, the dentist had a cancellation and managed to fit me in this morning. He filled the new hole and told me to come back if it was still hurting within a week. Sigh.

My unemployment claim is still screwed up. According to the lady I talked to this morning, I may or may not hear from the person who can fix the problem tomorrow. If I don’t talk to that person tomorrow, I’ll be at the unemployment office when they open Wednesday morning (can’t go tomorrow morning, as I’m working at the kennel). I hope we get this fixed soon, since we’re now a couple of weeks behind.

On the up side, I got my hair cut after finishing up at the dentist’s this morning. I had the lady take off about three inches. Its not as short as I’d like, since I need it long enough to pull back at the kennel, but it’s a lot less annoying than it was a few hours ago.

Christmas Travels - Part 3

Dad's place is great for us...he's got about 70 acres where the pups can run and romp and swim to their furry little hearts' content. They really love it out there.

Our first night there, Krysti was doing a bit of decorating and Duncan decided to pose by the little tree in the living room.

Reyna, on the other paw, couldn't be bothered by any of that.

Monday morning, we went out for an early romp before heading to Ganna's. The snow had a thick layer of ice on top and the dogs weren't quite heavy enough to break through in most places. Instead, they just slipped and slid and did their best. Just before I snapped this picture, Duncan slipped and fell. Being the loving mother that I am, my first thought was "Picture!" and my second was "Hope he's okay." By the time I got the camera up, Duncan had already started to get back on his feet. Reyna had turned around to see what the fuss was, though, and she slipped and fell. So this picture captured Duncan on his way up, and Reyna on her way down. It really is all about the timing...

Wednesday morning, the pups were more than happy to just relax for a while before braving the great snowy outdoors. Reyna crashed on my air mattress, while Duncan added a little more dog hair to the couch.

Duncan quickly got tired of taking the stairs from the cabin deck and decided that the easiest way was to just go over the side. Its amazing how his jumping looks so much like falling...

"Mom! Are you coming? Or are you going to stand there taking pictures all morning?"

The ice layer had melted in some places by the time we went out walking, so it was easier to tell how much snow had fallen.

Amazingly enough, despite the cold temps (and all the snow on the ground), both pups decided to get in the water. Granted, they didn't stay in for a very long time, but I was still surprised that they got in at all.

I caught Reyna in mid-excited bounce.

Reyna waiting patiently for me to decide I was done taking pictures and it was time for us to start walking again.

I like this picture because it shows the spread of Duncan's toes. The pups were really having to work at keeping their balance in the areas where the ice hadn't melted. I wasn't thinking about the need for toenails before we left Raleigh, and I trimmed their nails fairly short. Poor pups - they could have used the extra gripping power of longer nails.

Duncan had trouble walking in the tire ruts and generally preferred staying in the middle. I think most of his trouble came from the rougher surface of the ice in the ruts - the center might be slick, but at least it was smooth. Reyna typically walked in the center, too, but her problem seemed to be that the ruts were too narrow to be comfortable.

No series of pup pictures would be complete without the wrestling shots. Between the flashing teeth, lion (or grizzly, take your pick) poses, and excited chasing, I'd say its pretty clear that the pups had an excellent time playing in the snow.

As much fun as we all had, though, we were all very happy to get home - back to our own couch, chair and beds. Visiting is fun, but home is best.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Travels – Part 2

Dad's place got a lot of snow just before we went out, which made the property more beautiful than it would normally be at this time of year, but also made the half-mile drive a good bit more difficult. Dad made a couple of runs along the drive to help clear a path, but it still required 4-wheel drive. I thought the drive was actually a good bit of fun, but I'm not sure the pups were thrilled with being tossed around in the back of the truck. The worst part of the drive was the last. This picture was taken on Wednesday, so a lot of the ice is gone, but I think there's still enough there to give a good idea. To get to the house, you have to go over a creek (lower right corner), up the hill, make a sharp right turn, and up another steep hill. If you miss either of those turns, its easy to end up somewhere you don't really want to be.

The pups and I were staying the cabin in the old pasture, but we had to park at the house. Until Wednesday, the road from the house to the cabin was impassable - even for the trucks, at first due to the ice and then due to the deep mud-filled ruts. I tried to get a decent picture of that road, but none of them really did justice to the conditions.

This is the cabin we stayed in during our visit. It has a bedroom, full bath, loft, kitchen and living/dining room. On the far right is a second little bunkhouse with another bed, bath, and stove. The cabin is plenty big enough for me and the pups, and between the electric heat and the gas "wood" stove, its easy to stay warm. The tire tracks are from Dad's utility vehicle, which he drove through the woods to get between the house and the cabin.

These three pictures were taken from the cabin porch. This first one was taken about 8:20 Monday morning, using my cell phone. I think it came out pretty well.

I took this one later Monday morning - you can't see much detail of the woods, but the icicles are neat. At that point, it was still cold enough that they'd not yet started melting.

This is Wolfie, Dad and Krysti's wolf-dog hybrid. She's 10 years old now, and you can't tell in the picture, but she's actually bigger than Duncan. And its not all because of her fur - she even out-weighs him by at least 15 pounds. She has to stay penned when we visit because she has a nasty tendency to want to kill my pups.

This is a shot of the lake from just behind the house.

This is the same general view, but this picture was taken from the deck Dad built at the edge of the big hill behind the house.

And a closer look at the lake.

This chimney is left over from the original homestead on the property.

A view of the house from the dam...

This is the trout pond that Dad keeps stocked and the little cabin he built over the creek a few years ago. Looking toward the lake from the house, the cabin is to the right and fairly deep in the woods. The trout pond was low on water and frozen pretty solid.

This cabin is to the left of the lake, not too far from the main garden. The pond in front of it (also frozen) is generally stocked with catfish, but has had too many visits from otters lately.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Travels - Part 1

I was scheduled to work a closing shift at the kennel on Christmas Eve, and a split shift (opening and closing) on Christmas Day, but I managed to get the 20th through the 23rd off, so I headed west to visit family. The pups traveled with me, and John checked on Niko and the cats while we were gone. During the trip, we covered 635 miles and I took 486 photos. Yep, 486. It took me a bit to get them all checked and cropped, but that task is finally done. Have no fear, I won’t be posting them all at once...

My first stop on Sunday was at my brother Josh's house. They'd had a party for his patrol squad the night before and Peyton was up most of the night with an upset tummy, so everyone was a bit groggy. I didn’t stay too long, since I wanted to get to Dad’s before dark, but it was nice to see the family. Before we left, everyone went outside to see the pups playing in the back yard.

Stephanie, Cooper, Josh, and Peyton

Monday, I went to Rutherfordton to spend several hours with Ganna. We had a lovely visit, catching up on the last several months. Ganna made me two of my favorites – seasoned oyster crackers and my very own cherry pie. Yummy! The pups spent their time on Ganna’s back deck and didn’t seem too upset at not being allowed in the house. Their main concern was just being able to check on me through the windows occasionally.

I spent Tuesday in Forest City with Mom and Ronnie. Poor Mom had to sit and go through a bunch of pictures from the 70s and 80s with me, trying to remember who some of the people were. She held up nicely, though. Mom and Ronnie gave the pups a bag of tennis balls, the cats a bag of food, and Niko a couple of treat sticks. The animals were all very pleased with their gifts. Both pups also enjoyed running around Mom’s extremely large back yard.

Mom and me

Wednesday was a quiet, non-driving day at Dad’s. The pups and I went out walking several times during the day, and it actually occurred to me to have Dad get a picture of the three of us. I’m still surprised that even crossed my mind. Sadly, what didn’t cross my mind was getting any pictures of Dad and Krysti together, but with luck my cousin, Miriam, will send me some from the family’s get-together on Christmas Eve. I did managed to get one of Reyna relaxing near Dad while he was loading firewood…

Christmas Eve morning, I left Dad’s bright and early so I could stop by Ganna’s house for breakfast before driving back to Raleigh. I did that so I could see my Uncle Newt, Aunt Susan, Miriam, and her husband, Buck. They arrived in Rutherfordton last Wednesday evening.

Newt, Ganna, Susan

Me, Miriam, Buck

Me and Ganna

I was only able to visit with them for a couple of hours before I had to get on the road. Traffic was heavy coming back, but I arrived home in time to unpack the truck, have lunch, and get to the kennel on time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shiny. Sorta. For Now.

I finally got the muddy truck to Auto Bell today. They did an okay job, considering what they were dealing with. Once I got home, I did some more cleaning – they missed some of the mud in the front of the truck and on the seats. But that’s okay. For now, the truck is shiny on the outside, and fairly clean on the inside. I expect that to change rather dramatically this Sunday. But that’s okay, too. Nothing like a little dog spit to give a vehicle some character.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Such A Guard Dog

I’ve had my muddy rain pants hanging up by the front closet since the herding trial. Today, I finally got around to washing them and my muddy coat. The tag said the pants do best when line dried, so after they finished washing, I hung them up outside on the porch. An important thing to note at this point is that both dogs accompanied me outside while I hung the pants, and Duncan watched the whole time. We all came back inside and Duncan settled down for a short snooze. A few minutes later, Duncan decided he’d rather nap on the chair. As he was climbing into the chair, he started barking. I wasn’t sure what he was barking at until he ran outside – and then stood there, staring at the Scary Pants and barking at them. It was very brave of him to protect us from the Scary Pants, don’t you think?

Diet Woes

Poor Duncan’s got it pretty rough these days. Or he thinks he does, anyway. The vet wants him to lose a couple of pounds (mostly due to his breed and potential health issues rather than being truly overweight), but he’s already been on a diet for several months now. When Reyna got worse and most of our activity (or lack thereof) revolved around how she was feeling, I cut back on Duncan’s kibble to keep him from gaining a lot of weight. At that time, I added pumpkin to his kibble to help make him think he was getting more than he really was, but he never really seemed to enjoy the it. After he adjusted to the new kibble amounts, I phased out the pumpkin, and he’s been doing okay since then. But now we need to cut the kibble just a bit more, so I talked to some of my dog people to get ideas. Courtesy of those discussions, Duncan now gets green beans with his dinner. They’re a healthy filler, so he gets to eat more but doesn’t get a lot of extra calories.

On the flip side of this is Reyna, who is actually underweight. The vet said he wouldn’t push for her to gain weight because of her hips, but she really does seem much too thin to me. And she is always hungry. Of course, she’s a dog, and most dogs are always hungry, so I realize I can’t make an accurate judgment based on that alone. I’ve been giving her a little extra kibble with her meals, but I don’t want her to put on too much weight, or put on the weight too quickly. Plus, she tends not to process a lot of kibble particularly well… So, I decided to see how she feels about green beans in her kibble, too – again, extra food, but not a lot of extra calories.

I’m not sure Reyna actually chews her food enough to notice the green beans, but she certainly doesn’t dislike them. Duncan, on the other paw…. The first night of green beans, he ate a few of them but managed to spit several out on the floor and pick around the majority of beans left in his bowl. Even though they were covered in sardine juice, he wasn’t particularly impressed. Until I called Reyna over and she cleaned the beans off the floor and out of his bowl. Duncan wasn’t very happy about that, which is exactly the reaction I was expecting. The next night, dinner was kibble, beans, and rabbit meat.

Duncan ate a large quantity of beans that night, but still left some on the floor and in his bowl. Once again, Reyna cleaned up his leftovers, and once again, he was not happy.

The next night was kibble, beans, and tripe, and Duncan left some beans on the floor and in his bowl. But he made a point of cleaning the beans out of the bowl while Reyna ate the beans on the floor.

Since then, Duncan has left beans until the end of every dinner, but he’s leaving fewer each night. And he’s not letting them stay long enough for Reyna to eat them. I figured a little sibling rivalry would help move the adjustment process along. I’ve got to go to the grocery store tomorrow, and I’ll be getting more green beans for the pups. Zucchini was also a suggestion, so I’ll pick up a bit of that and see what the pups think about that at dinner time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mr. Fix-It

Duncan and I went to Pittsboro yesterday for another work-for-training session. Things started off a bit rocky, with Duncan grabbing at the sheep a lot more than he usually does. Claire watched us for a bit, and then said that part of what was causing us difficulties was Duncan’s need to fix everything he perceived as a problem (whether or not it actually was a problem). She said that every time I stumbled or got pushed by the sheep, Duncan tried to step in and correct the problem. Of course, what that usually ended doing was causing more trouble, because then the sheep would get agitated and bunch up around me, which meant I had more trouble walking, which meant Duncan would try to correct the problem, which agitated the sheep, and so on. There’s not much we can do to make Duncan less concerned, but its good for me to know more about what he’s thinking so that I have a slightly better chance of keeping the situation calm.

While we were there, we did some boundary work and some duck herding. Duncan is slowly getting the idea that ducks don’t herd like sheep. We also put Duncan through a farm chore - Claire had Duncan hold the flock of sheep while she trimmed their hooves. He wasn’t actually gripping the sheep, just keeping the flock in one area. If someone tried to wander off, he would herd them back to the rest of the flock. He was very stressed by this chore, because he had to sit and watch while sheep flailed and Claire worked (my job was making sure Duncan didn’t try to “help” Claire).

With the holidays coming, we’re going to take a break from herding until January. I doubt Duncan will mind the rest.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Swim Fun

The folks at the kennel have been nice enough to allow Reyna to use their pool for her rehab. Today was the first day we made it over there, and if we can use it regularly, I think it will really help Reyna. She had a lot of fun in the pool, and it was the perfect depth – deep enough for her to swim comfortably, but shallow enough that she could stand up with her front paws propped on the side.