Sunday, September 30, 2007

Our Grand Day Out

So I spent the week dreading Saturday, imagining dire consequences and sleeping poorly, as I was scheduled (due to my misplaced zeal at having a cute dog that everyone wanted to pet and thus entering him in a therapy dog class despite his spastic behavior) to drive to the Parkrose Max (light rail) station off Sandy Blvd., meet the class, place "therapy dog in training" vests on our unsuspecting students, board the Max, get off at the airport, and wander around the baggage claim area, waiting for our dogs to freak out. Actually, I fully expected the freak-out to occur upon boarding the Max train. I was happily disappointed.

I started the day by taking Scotty for a long run, hoping for a little fatigue-inspired laid-backedness. It was a thought.

After two wrong turns, and therefor slightly behind schedule and in my own full red alert, I found the Max station and met up with my class. Scotty was already pulling on the leash in a way that you could either interpret as excited to see other dogs, or sheer panic. Thus I began a long day of stopping, backing up, and giving Scotty another chance to walk on a loose leash.

Gathering at the Max Station

He looks dashing in his vest. He pulls on the leash. He gets on the Max train without any signs of fear, but he won't sit down without a muscular form of assistance (disallowed in the coming test). We get off the Max at the airport. He pulls on the leash. I stop and back up once, twice, seventy times, maybe.

The Max ride.

He likes the people, does not spook at any of the baggage handling equipment or rotating doors (although they spook me a little), mostly sits nice (for treats), gets lots of pets and coos, and finally falls apart when he sees his classmates going down some stairs and is delayed from following.

Scotty, trying to camouflage his trainee vest with hair.

Not a bad day, considering the prospects for chaos. I was expecting total wild dog freak-out with catch poles from a scene out of Animal Cops.

Scotty chilling on the way back to the Max station while I feel grateful to be alive and have a full tank of gas to get home. Yes, his trainee vest is still on. It has just been completely overgrown with hair.

Drew came home from his day of sportsmanlike leisure activities with a bottle of champagne to celebrate my courage.

In school, I learned that bravery was not being afraid, even though the circumstances and logic call for some fear. Courage was doing stuff even though you were afraid.

If that still applies, then I earned my champagne. Scotty got Sunday off.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

There's A Reason Why Collies Don't Do Humiliating Dog Sports

Collies are not border collies. Exhibit A.

There's a reason why those dog obedience trials are basically the Retrievers vs. the Border Collies.

Those dogs are like gambling addicts with eating disorders. They will do anything to get a tennis ball. They will do anything for a piece of food. Even if it's not good food. They will do anything to get to play a game. Right there, you've got a perfect storm for tight and sticky obedience winners.

Collies are not like labs. Collies will not do this.

Training a collie, on the other hand, is like training your college roommate. If you tell them to do something, they'll ask you why. If you ask them to do something for a reward, they will decide that apathy is the best reward. If you punish them for not doing what you say, they will become deeply offended, and ignore you until the Resident Assistant agrees to give them a new room assignment.

That, except maybe for the access to an RA, is a collie.

This is a classic collie pose.

So, it's slow going here in training land. Scotty is tired of sitting when I ask, and he's tired of having to perform for treats. His treats have to be so delicious for him to work for them that his regular food is looking rather boring to him.

Once this week, we covered a mile in an hour and a quarter because (according to training rules) I had to stop every time Scotty pulled on the leash. Start. Spazz. Stop. Start. Spazz. Stop.

But training must go on. If I stop now, it's going to be because I would rather live with a spazz for another ten years than put in the effort to mold him into a good citizen.

See you at the farmer's market. We'll be the ones walking two steps at a time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Haka - New Zealand Vs Tonga

If you play the New Zealand All Blacks, you must first be yelled at.

It's the law.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Oh, And One Other Thing...

How awesome is it that one of the stars of the New Zealand All Blacks is named Rokocoko?

I know. Lots. Lots of awesome.

This is how he scores.

This is a typical rugby tackle. It looks painful. And makes American football players look like pansies.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This Class Is Bumming Me Out

It turns out that this class mainly teaches you what your dog should already know in order to be admitted as a Therapy Dog, and that you are responsible for teaching your dog those things.


Secondly, it turns out that a class full of dogs is a little too much stimulation for Scotty. (Surprise!)

Yes, Scotty was the evil child, whining and carrying on while the other dogs were sweet and laid back.

All the stimulation made him completely forget all his (admittedly spotty) training. He was so excited by the other dogs that he could not pay attention to me, or care about behaving, even for treats.

Guess I'm going to spend the next five weeks walking Scotty around the farmer's market, the playground, and Main Street, and relearning our good-dog behavior.

What a bummer.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Burning, Itching Question: Can You De-Spazz a Dog?

I guess we are going to find out.
Scotty is going to finishing school. The first class is this weekend. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Was There

Know how it's all cool to see a total eclipse of the sun, or a comet that comes around every 120 years? That's what it's like to experience a 90-plus-degree day at the Oregon coast. Those days come around once in a lifetime if you're lucky. Factor in the improbability of such a day without a howling wind, and, well, I can't think of a number that high.

And we were there.

It was Sunday. All the families with kids had to pile in their minivans and head back to the city, but we had Monday off, and we just waved as they left. Then we put on our shorts (shorts!), sunblock (lots!), and hiking boots, and headed up the road to Yaquina Head.

We sweated!

Then we had local fish and chips and chowder. Okay, that part really wasn't improved by the weather, in fact, the Yaquina Head Cafe has no air conditioning (for that one day per century need), but still.

I walked barefoot on the beach!

I saw two girls in bikinis! I had to rub my eyes at that one. That's like seeing cows walking upright, shopping at the mall. You might as well put two girls in bikinis questioning General Petraeus on the Senate floor. Sometimes girls try to wear bikinis on the Oregon coast, but they usually end up with a sweatshirt on over the top, and goosebumps visible from the lighthouse.

Anyway, we were there. It was our 25th anniversary.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Don't Miss Rembrandt and Friends! Or You Could Always Go To the Netherlands.

Okay, "Rembrandt and Friends" is what I named the show. The Portland Art Museum calls it The Dutch Masters. Whatever.

These pics are on loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam while they do a little dusting and polishing, so it's now or never if you don't plan on stopping in the next time you're in Amsterdam.

There are a lot of not-Rembrandts (Rembrandt pupils and wannabes), but there are a few, but good examples of actual paintings from Rembrandt van Rijn, his own self.

What is heartwarming about Dutch art is that there are dogs in maybe 90 percent of the paintings. I like that in art.

Another heartwarming lesson we learned is that 17th century Dutch porn consists of a picture of a fully-clothed Dutch stud offering a pheasant (!) to a fully-clothed Dutch hotty. I can tell you it certainly shocked me to the core. And in a family museum.

What is also apparent from the exhibit is that it is not the modern style "whoever-has-the-best-press-agent-must-be-the-best" type of determination that allowed Rembrandt to rise to the top. His stuff is better. It is more creative, more daring, and more (for lack of a better word because it drips of pretentiousness) painterly.

Rembrandt's pupils learned their painting lessons well, but rarely strayed from the lesson, while their master was all over the place, showing bold brush strokes, leaving deep dark areas where you are forced to peer into the blackness to make out the figures, using crazy lighting effects with candles, and painting facial expressions into faces that even digital imagery cannot beat.

Here is Rembrandt, in a sort-of self-portrait, but morphing his own features to match the story he is telling, namely, that of the Apostle Paul. Now he's old, beaten-down, and careworn. With an awesome turban. Look at that expression.

Look at the way Rembrandt hides a candle behind the girl's hand in this painting depicting the moment that Peter denies Christ. And I like the way you can barely see Jesus looking back at his friend, all "I told you so." You can't really see that part in this little picture, but he is back there at the right and behind Peter.

Don't look for examples at the Portland Art Museum website. They would rather you pay your 15 bucks and come on in. I can understand that, I guess. I'm sure that snagging this show was not cheap.

But all the paintings come from the Rijksmuseum, and they have a very nice website.

Dave Barry for President

Here he outlines his wide stance on several key issues, such as the improbability of the name "Arlen Specter."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

If You Are Traveling Near Me, For God's Sake, Look Where You're Going

Hey, sometimes? On the highway? During rush hour? The traffic stops. That's when you should LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING, DUMBASS! And don't use my FAVORITE CAR AS A BRAKE! With your lifted-up gas guzzling earth-killing-emission-spewing FORD F-250!

This was the only car I've ever patted on the hood and thanked for the ride. I feel pain.
Good thing that dude had insurance. We have learned from fellow Prius owners that the collision bills on these babies can be steep. The last one who backed into a post with her freshly purchased Prius got a $7,000 bill. And she didn't have a dented hatchback like I have. Makes you kinda shudder, doesn't it?
We were on our way back from the Rembrandt and Friends exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, and I had plenty to say. That will all have to wait until I can access the non-rage portion of my brain.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Some Fascinating Ivy Facts to Enjoy as I Gloat Over My Ivy Kill

Q: What decorated the church at your wedding?

A: Garlands of ivy.

Q: What stencil, designed by your own self, did you use to decorate the bathroom of your first house?

A: Um, some ivy.

A Sentimental Retrospective

There's Kleenex available in the lobby.

Victory Is Mine

You may all go about your lives now,
safe in the knowledge that I have won and the ivy has lost.
Proof that I got Drew to help me with the final push.
Drew's front.

Satisfaction. Ivy goes down.

Tabula rasa. Now I've just got to plant something less evil.