Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

It comes around every 4 years and makes Spring that much further away. But, we know that it's on the way because we listened to a Cubs game yesterday! Yes, it was live, not a recording from last season. Spring training games are great, because anything is possible. All the Cubs players will stay healthy, Ron Santo will travel to New York for playoff games, the Cubs will win the World Series, and the 100-year-old curse will finally be lifted! Wrigley Field will stay Wrigley Field. There will be no construction on the road I'm travelling, and yet there are no potholes. And last night's 2 inches will be the last snow of the season! I'm dreaming big!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Worth forwarding

An old college buddy of mine forwarded this to me today. I laughed so hard I almost embarassed myself at work. If you know any Chicagoans - pass this along!

1. Grachki (grach'-key): Chicagoese for 'garage key' as in, 'Yo, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki? Howmy supposta cut da grass if I don't git intada grach?'

2. Sammich: Chicagoese for sandwich. When made with sausage, it's a sassage sammich; when made with shredded beef, it's an Italian Beef sammich, a local delicacy consisting of piles of spicy meat in a perilously soggy bun.

3. Da: This article is a key part of Chicago speech, as in 'Da Bears' or 'Da Mare' -- the latter denoting Richard M. Daley, or Richie, as he's often called.

4. Jewels: Not family heirlooms or a tender body region, but a popular name for one of the region's dominant grocery store chains. 'I'm goin' to the Jewels to pick up some sassage.'

5. Field's: Marshall Field, a prominent Chicago department store. (Sadly, now swallowed by New York intruder Macy's) Also Carson Pirie Scott, another major department store chain, is simply called 'Carson's.'

6. Tree: The number between two and four. 'We were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da udder night.'

7. Over by dere: Translates to 'over by there,' a way of emphasizing a site presumed familiar to the listener. As in, 'I got the sassage at the Jewels down on Kedzie, over by dere.'

8. Kaminski Park : The mispronounced name of the ballpark where the Chicago White Sox (da Sox) play baseball. Comiskey Park was renamed U.S. Cellular Field (da Cell)

9. Frunchroom: As in, 'Get outta da frunchroom wit dose muddy shoes.' It's not the 'parlor.' It's not the 'living room.' In the land of the bungalow, it's the 'frunchroom,' a name derived, linguists believe, from 'front room.'

10. Use: Not the verb, but the plural pronoun 'you!' 'Where use goin'?'

11. Downtown: Anywhere near The Lake, south of The Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo) and north of Soldier Field.

12. The Lake: Lake Michigan (What other lake is there?) It's often used by local weathermen, 'cooler by The Lake.'

14. Braht: Short for Bratwurst. 'Gimme a braht wit kraut.'

15. Goes: Past or present tense of the verb 'say.' For example, 'Den he goes, 'I like this place'!'

16. Guys: Used when addressing two or more people, regardless of each individual's gender.

17. Pop: A soft drink. Don't say 'soda' in this town. 'Do ya wanna canna pop?'

18. Sliders: Nickname for hamburgers from White Castle, a popular Midwestern burger chain. 'Dose sliders I had last night gave me da runs.'

19. The Taste: The Taste of Chicago Festival, a huge extravaganza in Grant Park featuring samples of Chicagoland cuisine which takes place each year around the Fourth of July holiday.

20. 'Jeetyet?': Translates to, 'Did you eat yet?'

21. Winter and Construction: Punch line to the joke, 'What are the two seasons in Chicago?'

22. Cuppa Too-Tree: is Chicagoese for 'a couple, two, three' which really means 'a few.' For example, 'Hey Mike, dere any beerz left in da cooler over by dere?'
'Yeh, a cuppa too-tree.'

23. 588-2300: Everyone in Chicago knows this commercial jingle and the carpet company you'll get if you call that number -- Empire!

24. Junk Dror: You will usually find the 'junk drawer' in the kitchen filled to the brim with miscellaneous, but very important, junk.

25. Southern Illinois : Anything south of I-80. This is where 'smothers' is from.

26. Expressways: The Interstates in the immediate Chicagoland area are usually known just by their 'name' and not their Interstate number: the Dan Ryan ('da Ryan'), the Stevenson, the Kennedy (da 'Kennedy'), the Eisenhower (da 'Ike'), and the Edens (just 'Edens' but Da Edens' is acceptable).
27. Gym Shoes: The rest of the country may refer to them as sneakers or running shoes but Chicagoans will always call them gym shoes!

This is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Chicago:
If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you live in Chicago.
If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Chicago.
If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in Chicago.
If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you live in Chicago.
If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of I-80 for the weekend, you live in Chicago.
If you measure distance in hours, you live in Chicago.
If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you live in Chicago
If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Chicago
If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you live in Chicago.
If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Chicago.
I f the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph -- you're going 80 and everybody is passing you, you live in Chicago.
If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in Chicago
If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in Chicago .
If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you live in Chicago.
If you find 10 degrees 'a little chilly', you live in Chicago .

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sapping our strength

I'm so darn tired of writing about the weather. But there's nothing that's had more impact on our lives lately. You don't feel like going anywhere, doing much of anything, because it's just such a hassle. Boots, coat, scraping ice off the car, treacherous driving (the village ran out of road salt), and on and on.
If I put on my PollyAnna hat, I'd say that it could be a lot worse. I love my job and my home. Even if it's been hard to find under all the snow this season.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The amazing flying Frenchie!

We did it! Dax and I not only survived our first night in Intermediate Agility class - we had FUN!!! I was so nervous before class I was shivering, although the sub-freezing temperatures may have had a little to do with it.
The nerves have way more to do with me than with Dax, or class, or anything else. I'm not an athlete - I have no instinct whatsoever about where I should move, or how, or even when. I am adept at listening to people who actually know what they're doing and practising until I can do it right. I call my condition "educable klutziness." When I started in Obedience training I spent hours "heeling" by myself, just to get the footwork right. Dogs really don't like getting stepped on!
This class was the first time I've done any "courses" with Dax - multiple obstacles in sequence. She runs, she jumps, she tunnels, she climbs - most important she pays complete attention to me when we're running the course! I've never had a dog so attentive to my body language - it was very obvious when I got confused because Dax did, too. When we were on a roll - just call her the amazing Flying Frenchie!
We may not be ready for primetime competition yet - but maybe someday!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Agility People are Nicest!

We had Agility class last night - Ceilidh and me, Dax and Hope (I'll let Hope tell everyone how much fun they had in Intermediate class!). The big International Kennel Club show starts today at McCormick Place in Chicago - a huge dog show right here in town - and many of our classmates are entered. If they're not entered in Agility, then they're in Conformation, Obedience or Rally. And everyone wants everyone else to succeed. There's no sniping, no boasting, no superiority. I said it before and I'll say it again - Agility people are the best!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Moving on up!

Last night our agility instructor had an open practise session for all of her students, so Dax and I went to play. Fran decided (wisely) that Ceilidh's little brain would explode if she saw so many dogs she didn't know playing on HER stuff, so they stayed home.

Dax and I have been in Beginner's for about a year (with time off for poison recuperation). I used the practise last night to see if it's time for us to move on to Intermediate Class. Dax can certainly jump - if I'm too slow with the treats I get a French Bulldog hopping up to eye level to remind me of her presence. And while I'm a really, really short woman (5 feet), it's still an impressive sight to see Dax hopping to 4+ feet - straight from a "sit." She has no problem with the Teeter - although it was higher than she's seen it before. Her Weaving is pretty terrific - I just have to remember not to talk to her when she's looking at me, so that she concentrates on where she's going. Her Dog-Walk is at a dead run, I have to gallop to keep up so that she doesn't turn around to see where I am! She Tunnels jim-dandy-peachy!

And then there's the A-Frame. I have to make sure she gets a good run-up, so momentum can help her get over the top. And she's going to have to learn to use the slats on the Frame to help her slow down. We tried about a half-a-dozen times, the last couple were really good. The one that worried me was the run that had a flat Frenchie splatted on the mat at the end. She just slipped the last foot or so, but still....

So I asked Teacher and we got the go-ahead to move into Intermediate class. Yeah! And now Dax is going to have to be patient - the learning curve for this half of our team is rising sharply!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

All smiles!

With six months off of agility class, I'd forgotten how much Dax loves it. We're still in Beginner's class, because I didn't know how much she (or I) would remember, but she's doing great! She loves the teeter, she's a weaving fiend, and jumping is a joy! If we can get the A-frame, we'll be all set. I'm trepidatious (if that's a word) about it, so I'm sure it's rubbing off on Dax. We just have to make sure she gets up a good head of steam on the approach. Like all Frenchies, Dax is top-heavy. But I think she can, I think she can, I think she can....
I've discovered that when she gets a bit nervous, it helps if I laugh! She loves laughter - her whole demeanor changes, her adorable Frenchie butt wiggles, those enormous ears rise back up, and she laughs right back. I know that I'm anthropomorphising - but I know a smile when I see one!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Patience is Not one of Ceilidh's Virtues

Ceilidh loves Agility! She does not, however, love to wait. Since Hope is taking Dax to Agility this session, we figured that it would make sense to drive together even though Hope's class is an hour before mine. No big deal - Ceilidh and I can just hang out for an hour. It is impossible for Ceilidh to "hang out." She must be in motion, playing with her ball, wanting me to play with her and her ball, practice some obedience, do some warm-ups, and on and on... or she's whining in the crate. I don't feel that I can leave Ceilidh in her crate in a room removed from the lobby area (yes, waiting dogs are relegated to chilly "Purgatory") so I'm entertaining Ceilidh while we wait.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lack of persistence of memory

Remember when I went to that seminar and got all inspired for obedience training? It was just a week and a half ago. But class got cancelled last week because of a blizzard, so I couldn't share my new-found gung-ho-itivity with my fellow handlers. Now, because the memory is a whole 10 days old, I have to check my notes before class tonight. There were so many absolutely brilliant points I wanted to present. If only I can find my notes....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nothing's easy

Not easy to get to work
Not easy to get home

Winter is HARD! I don't know what early ancestor thought it would be a good idea to populate the "temperate zone" but he was WRONG! He should have stuck to the Tropic and Sub-tropic zones. Now we're stuck and can't move because of all the essential trappings of life - silly little details like family, friends, home, business, clubs, and the entire network that makes life fun the other eight months of the year.

The Chicago Tribune had a headline last week: "Shovel, Salt, Repeat." So we are.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A kick in the gut - Dax's gut

Yesterday was Dax's appointment with Dr. Royal to try to find out why she's losing hair, cold and lethargic. The visit went pretty well - Dr. Barb fell under Daxie's magic spell and thinks Dax is the cutest thing ever, ever, ever. It could be that she says this to every client, but I've known Dr. Barb for about a billion years and she pretty much says what she's thinking.
What she thinks is that Dax is pretty much malnourished. How's that for a kick in the teeth for a dog-mom who does her darnedest to do right by her pups? Oh well. When you know better, you do better.
As a bit of an explanation - Dax has been on a prescription diet since she started developing UTIs and crystals at about 10 months old. As Dr. Barb explains it (and I love logical explanations), dogs are carnivores/scavengers. Scavengers can go a good long time with minimal nutrition, their systems are designed to take some ups and downs. But when you have a series of traumas to the system - it can collapse.
Apparently, the rat poison incident last May and the cracked tooth late in the year (which required surgery and anaesthesia) were enough to put Dax over the edge. So while her blood chemistry didn't show anything - it was just a matter of time.
Dax is on a whole new regimen - we'll see how it works. So far, not much. But it may be unreasonable to expect results in 12 hours.

Friday, February 08, 2008

It's No Wonder We're Grumpy!

Walk into any public place around here and you'll be faced with snarls. Yes, from the people. Just try to strike up a pleasant conversation and you'll get an argument. And the dogs are no better. Last night at Agility Class there were a couple of minor spats. My Ceilidh will generally snarl at other dogs if she's being held and the dogs get too close but last night she almost started in on other dogs when she was on the ground, and the other dogs just looked at her!

This morning I heard an interesting statistic that may explain things. Here in Chicagoland, during the month of February (granted, today's only the 8th, but still...) we've seen a total of 11 minutes of sunshine. Combine that with the 40+ inches of snow we've gotten this season so far and we've got massive cases of cabin fever! No relief from the snow in sight, but - wait - is that a break in the clouds I see?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Last Saturday I went to a seminar on Obedience (and Rally) from a Judge's Perspective. Every time I go to class, or training, or a seminar or fun match, I get all inspired to train smarter, better, and more productively.
I can almost hear Dax thinking "Oh, no. She's at it again." It is Dax who bears the brunt of my enthusiasm - and thoroughly enjoys the extra treats it entails.

Basically, the lessons of the seminar were valuable for life as well as competition:

  1. don't piss off the boss (judge)
  2. make nice to the people who can help you (stewards)
  3. if you screw up, take responsiblity (don't blame the dog, the judge, the venue, or your neighbor)
  4. pay attention to what you're doing
  5. we do this for fun - act like it!

I have to get one of those t-shirts I've seen advertised.

Obedience Help Line:

Dial 1-800-Its-My-Fault

Monday, February 04, 2008

Nap time!

Just lately Roc has been snoozing on the back of the couch. Naturally, when he started climbing up there to nap, we put a nice, plush pad on the spot. Dog-forbid the little guy should have to lie on the un-fuzzy leather! This is my view of him when I look over my right shoulder when I'm watching tv. It's like he's turning prematurely gray just to highlight all the softest spots!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Too much snow!

I woke up Friday to 10 inches of freshly-fallen snow. What's the first thing (OK, not quite the first thing) most dog owners do in the morning? Yup, take the dogs out. I opened the door, grabbed the snow shovel and started digging! Because a foot of snow is over my dogs' heads! The first few minutes were touch and go - the dogs anxiously trailing me, looking between my feet, around the shovel, and craning their necks to look over the top of the snow. But I finally managed to plow a path through the snow to the back yard, and a little way onto their usual area. My dogs like their habits - and I happen to like their habit of wanting to go in the back yard to do their thing!

A little later I shovelled a much longer path into the back yard - around the tree and onto the wood shavings at the other side of the house. The dogs are happier now, but they're still looking over the snow to see what's around!

Today is Groundhog Day. It's cloudy here - does that mean there are six more weeks of winter? or more? maybe less? Either way, I'll be really happy when this stuff melts - but that poses other problems...