Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Chapter 6 – Confinement …on a larger scale

For this chapter I will step back in time slightly. Because the following events actually started prior to the Obedience School and .... are actually ongoing.

Riggs does not come when you call her. If you take a step towards her – this is a game. The object of the game is to elude your captor. The loser usually gets a bath (often times we both lose). The winner gets to run wild and free.
This was part of the catalyst behind Obedience School. But you see where that got us.

So obviously we needed a FENCE.

(on a side note: we had tried tie outs, runs and kennel enclosures with our last dog. They were ineffective at best and in some cases simply cruel. I did not want to have a dog tied to a chain in the backyard.)

We are intelligent and thoughtful pet owners, so we discussed our options at length. Our choices were of course: Invisible fence…or an actual fence… hmm.

If you recall from the last chapter – this dogs threshold of pain is remarkable. This made us leery of the invisible fence. Since it was a fairly big area we wanted to enclose, the theory was she could get a running start and at top speeds would be on the other side of the wire by the time she felt the shock. Then, of course, would not be able to get back home across the wire again. So, although it would have been more attractive and certainly more affordable, invisible fence was not for us.

Now onto the myriad of choices for fencing. The first thing we learned is: Fence is expensive, and attractive fence is astronomical.

Compromise was in order.

The most affordable fence is chain link. The ugliest fence is chain link.
Ok, so the compromise-- we would get chain link fence for most of the enclosed area, but it would be the black-coated chain link to make it somewhat more attractive.

So 3k later – we had ourselves a fence. Complete with two gates, one large enough to pull the tractor in, and plenty of room to run.
But we were not quite fully enclosed yet.

Part two of the compromise was that no chain link fence would be near the house (for aesthetic reasons).
First we priced attractive black aluminum – knowing that the iron we really wanted would be out of reach. For the two short runs of fence we would need the price was higher than the entire chain link. That wasn’t going to happen.

And so… we returned to our DIY roots.

Saving thousands of dollars-- the whole family chipped in and we built ourselves a fence.

An attractive fence for just a couple hundred bucks in materials.

Oh, and we learned one other thing about fences… .

Monday, October 25, 2004

Chapter 5 – Control

With Riggs continuing to get bigger and stronger, we soon realized we needed to gain control over this happy beast.

So we asked around, and asked our vet. Everyone suggested Obedience School.

At first we scoffed. C’mon how hard can it be to teach a dog some basic commands?
But Riggs was willful. And so we succumbed. We enrolled in school, $125.00

We were told to have a long lead and a chain slip collar…another $25.00.
Off to school we went.

My very patient, animal loving wife took the classes with Riggs. I went to the first couple classes to observe. Which was probably not a good idea because every time she noticed me she wanted to come visit. With Riggs over 70 pounds now (remember…this is ALL muscle) when she wanted to go – you followed.

It became readily apparent that we had no ‘control’. The stern Obedience Instructor suggested we may want to invest in a ‘prong’ collar – since Riggs did not seem to respond what-so-ever to the simple chain choke collar. Conveniently she sold them there…for only $20.00. So after about two classes of Riggs pulling my 120 pound wife around the room like a doll. We coughed up for the prong collar

The collar worked… a little. She still pulled – this dog’s threshold of pain is remarkable (remember that point, as it will affect decisions down the road).
But we could make it through a class, so we had hope. We did have to replace her lead (was it once or twice …I can’t remember) cuz she bit through it.
But by this point we were basically just hoping for a passing grade. The Stern Obedience Instructor nicknamed Riggs ‘Mr. Muscle’ (mistaking her for a male).

Riggs readily learned commands. But she had an attention issue. So many dogs, so little time to play. And she couldn’t seem to understand why none of the dogs wanted to play with her. If we weren’t so tired and frustrated I suppose it may have been sad or endearing.

The prong collar was helping to keep her from running like a maniac all over the room… but there was going to be no lying down, or sitting and staying when there was another dog right next to her to play with. It got so bad that other owners tried to position themselves away from us in the circle.
Suffice it to say we were not at the top of the class.

At the last class…the one where you find out if you pass (at this point we really just wanted it to be over). I needed to take over for my ailing wife.
I …we… were doing miserably. So bad in fact that once when Riggs jumped up on me, the ‘stern Obedience Instructor’ made me hold Riggs up by the front paws to teach her a lesson. I was to stand there holding her up, as the class continued on, until she told me to stop.
So here I am holding up the 75-pound unwilling beast. Who is gnawing politely at my fingers to get me to let go… until the apparently insane instructor felt like telling us to stop. After a short time my arms started to shake. I began to wonder just who was getting the lesson here. I was finally allowed to release her and we were both relieved. Although neither one of us was more obedient from it.

On the very verge of failing I remembered I had a pocket full of dog biscuits.
So I slipped her one.
She sat immediately and obediently at my side.
A short time later she poked me with her nose.
I slipped her another one. She sat like an angel.

We were then told to walk around the room in a circle. This was a common class exercise that on the last three attempts we managed to turn the entire room in to chaos.
But now… now we had a plan. I showed her the biscuit…palmed it and began walking. She followed my fist like a pro.
I stopped …she sat. I slipped her the biscuit. Perfect.

She must have had 30 of ‘em that night.

When it came time for the Stern Obedience instructor to walk around the room and give each of us a Pass/Fail. Riggs was sitting sweetly by my side. Poking my hip every so often for another biscuit. The instructor came up to us… looked at Riggs approvingly. She told me we passed, and isn’t it amazing how that technique of hers worked on such a wilfull and strong animal.


Ok. So – ‘bought $200 bucks, and 8 classes later… we still have no control.

Time for another plan.

Friday, October 22, 2004

We will return to our regular blogging shortly.

Not enough time today to blog Chapter 3 - please tune in next week. (promise)
In the meantime, perhaps we could all spend the weekend just trying to be more conservative.

To calculate the average size of each person's [footprint], it measures land use, pollution, energy consumption, and the level of carbon-dioxide emissions. It then determines how many hectares of land are necessary to produce or absorb what one person uses.

The impact of an average North American is double that of a European, but seven times that of the average Asian or African.

read the article

Thursday, October 21, 2004


***We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging to bring you this:

It's Spirit Week at the high school.
The kids show their school spirit by dressing differently each day. Yesterday each class was to wear a different color. Seniors wore black, Juniors wore blue, Sophomores wore red…you get the point.

Well, you CANNOT tell Ferris to wear blue. They were just asking for trouble.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Chapter 4 – The Beast Within

Riggs continued to grow and grow.
Beyond our expectations and much to Ferris’ delight.

She started to go through her mischievous stage. I suppose if we tally up everything she destroyed during this period it would up our grand total considerably. However, the losses were happening at such a rapid pace – I don’t really even know what we lost. We are still finding stuff out in the back yard – years later. We do know she ate a number of Ferris’ hats, a lot of pens and pencils, any Tupperware should could get her teeth onto and then… there was the Kermit massacre.

Yes, Riggs had developed a taste for …. stuffed animals.

We also learned during this period that Riggs liked to …no… NEEDED to run.
She ran in circles mostly, big circles and very, very fast. With seemingly no purpose other than to RUN. Sometimes she would carry huge sticks when she ran. It was also during this time we learned she had an incredibly high threshold of pain and was more powerful than any other dog we had known.
Clearly we needed a way to deal with this new phase and this freakishly strong dog.
And so we contemplated our next phase of confinement… and control.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Chapter 3 - Confinement

And so we learned – Riggs was not easily contained.
Since we really had no doors on the first floor with which to contain our new puppy (doncha just love an ‘open’ floor plan) we decided to invest in a crate. Crate training is supposed to be very good for a dog. They say they actually grow to love their crates as their dens. Julia is crate trained and that works very well. So off to Wal-Mart I go.

Hmmm, what size, what size. Based on the size of Riggs mother, and that the dog is only supposed to be able to comfortably turn around, I select one of the larger medium sized crates, (yes, I am sure you know where this is going) and for $29.95 I am outta there.

Riggs was adjusting nicely, and she and Julia started to play together.

The crate was working out pretty well (except we had to have it in our room at night to keep her from bouncing it all over the house looking for us).
But, as you may have guessed, it wasn’t long before we couldn’t stuff her into the crate anymore.

Luckily we are able to borrow a larger crate.

We put her favorite Batman comforter in there and she seemed happy enough.
As you can see we lined it with some rubber flooring material because she would dig so hard at the metal bars to get out – we thought this would protect her. HA.

Shortly thereafter, we gave up on the idea of a crate altogether.

She was happy, which of course made us happy. But this still left us with the problem of not being able to confine her.

We decided we needed a door.
So we bought an interior French door (we needed a door with some glass) from Home Depot for $125.00 and some hinges and a doorknob for another $25.00 bucks.
I hung it myself.
It’s a little crooked.
But it keeps the dog in the mudroom.

There, problem solved. Dog contained for only $180.00.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Chapter 2 - The First of Many

When we got her home…she and Julia were the same size.

Our kids had already picked out a name.
"Riggs" - after Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon – they actually wanted us to get two puppies so they could name them Murtaugh and Riggs. Luckily when we arrived to pick her up all the other puppies were spoken for.
Our other pet’s names are also from the big screen – the kids are movie buffs. Julia is named after Raul Julia, because she has those big dark eyes; and our cat Willow is named after Willow Ufgood from the movie Willow.

On her very first night, we made a cozy bed for her in our mudroom. She had her water bowl, newspapers for the inevitable accident, a toy we brought home from the pound with the scent of her litter mates and a little soft music to sleep by.
Since there was no door on the mudroom we put up a baby gate to confine her for the night.
After about an hour or so of whimpering and crying there was finally quiet.
Silly us to think that she had fallen asleep – when in fact – that little darling 6 week old puppy ATE her way through the baby gate. She chewed a hole in the heavy plastic mesh making a small little hole, and squeezed her way out. Her first successful escape.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Free Dog - Chapter 1

There is just so much to say about our FREE dog that I have been avoiding blogging about it.
I have decided to do it in a series. Hopefully this will make it more manageable. Kinda like when your kids start to get older and their bedtime stories become chapter books, you read one or two chapters a nite. So I will begin this series, and as regularly as I can will blog until the story is finished. I will try to keep the chapters short and I will include pics whenever available.

In the beginning….
A brief history.
Years ago we had a black, pure bred Lab named Rikki (Rikki Tikki Tavi). She was a phenomenal dog. She was that dog that would lay on the porch with you or catch and return anything you threw and follow you everywhere (sometimes she used to follow behind the tractor as I cut the grass …back and forth, back and forth). She helped Ferris to learn to walk …he used to pull himself to a standing position by grabbing her fur. She never flinched. The girls (the daughter and my sister in law…who we used to refer to as ‘the girls’) used to put hats on her and make her be in their Barbie movies. Rikki was a remarkable dog. I know that now more than ever.
We lost Rikki when she was 10 years old to our busy street. Black dog at night running across the street… it was my fault … I let her out and expected her to stay in the yard as she usual. She didn’t.
We miss dear Rikki.

After Rikki died, well, we still had Julia…who is really just a tiny replication of a dog. She is a 6 pound mini-pincher. And she never really filled the ‘dog’ requirements.

So I suppose there was always a hole in our lives.
Oh, about 2 years later, the daughter comes home with some information about some lab puppies at a local pound. I really can’t tell you what possessed us to go and look…but we did.

Now, dogs from the pound are FREE, which seemed such a deal after the hundreds of dollars spent on our last dog. We had to go through a rigorous interview process to be sure we were going to provide her with a suitable home. I was actually nervous. We plotted and conspired on how to answer questions so that we would pass, so that we would be granted permission to take home a FREE puppy. We assured the animal control officer we were not the type of family to simply give up when the dog started chewing or barking or shedding. We were competent dog owners and there was no way this dog would be returned to the pound or tied out in the yard all by herself in the cold. We were RESPONSIBLE dog owners.

This is the puppy we chose at the pound.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Catching up...

ok ok...trying to catch up.
Had an exquisite birthday weekend. Thanks to my generous wife and awesome kids.
The wine tasting adventure was so much fun. Here are some shots from our day. Also got to have birthday pie (which is from now on a tradition at our more birthday cakes - just pie!). And lots of presents :o)
I do so like October. The daughter's b-day is coming up at the end of the month. So more birthday pie to come!

In other news....
Do try to tune into the debate tonight - if for no other reason than to get handy one-liners to toss around the office tomorrow. Atho, the wife and I have made a pact - that if they start off as nasty as they did last week we are going to watch Sopranos repeats.

Why can't just ONE presidential candidate answer a question with ...
1) the ANSWER (this clearly must be rocket science)
2) no derogatory comments about his opponent (not part of the answer now is it)
3) some data, statistic, facts even conjecture to back up the ANSWER
4) and focus people... when asked a question about the budget - don't answer with someone's attendance record
5) and this is probably too much to ask - but if most of what you say already sounds like a joke - don't try to make jokes, we can't tell the difference

Remember Perot... wasn't he a hoot. If we can't have a really good candidate - why not have a really funny one.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

back real soon

sorry been busy. busy at work ...well actually, we took yesterday off to go wine tasting. i have some pics. will post them soon.
Monday is my birthday. Its also National Coming Out Day.
So if you were planning to come out this weekend, you may wanna hold off until Monday. More on this next week....

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Couple-a-new ones

I am matting and framing some pieces for my artsy wife for some upcoming shows she will be entering this fall. I take photos of them as I frame them generally - so while I was sitting here...thought I would post 'em.
Won't she be surprised. :o)

This is Ferris in Italy. They went last summer. He is enjoying a gelato and its about 120 degrees. (remember that crazy European heat wave last year!)

Gelato by the Trevi

This next one is currently untitled, as Ferris is researching an accurate name for this architectural detail from Madrid.


My adventurous wife took our daughter to Europe when she was a teenager (which is probably coming up on 10 years ago now). The daughter got to pick all of their destinations. She favored London, Belgium, Paris and of course Italy.
Well, last year was Ferris' turn. He surprised us with a strong desire to visit Madrid, they also spent a bit of time in Italy visiting Rome, Naples and the beautiful Sorrento.
The daughter wanted to take in as much as she could, she's an adventurous traveler with non stop energy. Her goal was to visit as many places as time would allow. He wanted to stay as long as he could in each spot. Getting to know the rhythms of real life in other countries, relaxing and making the most of each visit.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Weak for Appliances

I just went down to the local Sears store to buy a new filter for the vacuum.
This store has just added appliances to their offerings. I can’t just walk by appliances. I love them. I need to open the doors on all the fridges and look inside to see if our stuff will fit, and how the shelves work and how they can be configured. I need to examine the ranges to see if the stovetops and controls will be easy to clean. I look into the washer tubs… just because the lids are open. For some odd reason I am drawn to appliances. I want new appliances.
Actually… we need new appliances. No… really we do.
Our fridge is about 10 years old, I have repaired the door hinge at least 3 times and the door still bangs loudly when you open it. The bottom drawer has completely broken its tracks so you can’t put anything heavier than a couple bags of salad in there. I have replaced the butter door…but it doesn’t really match. And to my wife’s dismay it’s a side by side. She would love a bottom freezer. The stove too is in a sad state. We are down to three burners now, and really, its just plain ugly. I want a new snazzy one. Actually, I really, really want this one. I have been waiting for someone to invent this. I can’t imagine why it’s taken so long. I don’t want an over the stove microwave, and our counter space is very valuable. But it is Ferris’ single source of food preparation so… we have to find a way to live with it (remind me to blog about how we are getting rid of the microwave, 4 of our TV’s, cable and a couple of pets when the kids get their own places), and this seems like the perfect solution.
I left the store today without any major purchases of course. But shortly there after I emailed my very, very patient wife with some thoughts on getting some new enameled wonders for the kitchen. Have I ever mentioned she was the most patient woman in the world? Which is good because I am now emailing her links for new fuel efficient, cost effective cars I want to buy.