Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Herbivore Whisperer

I have a dog. I am a dog owner. For those of the more PETA oriented view I have a Canine Companion. Now, I have to admit here that I did have a choice in my canine purchasing decision making. I could have gotten one of those dogs of smaller stature and sock tasting constitution. I could have gotten a dog that specializes in snoring and slobbering on the furniture. I could have gotten one of those dogs that knows sign language and can balance your checkbook. But no. I got a Lab.

Owning a Lab is a lot like having a male child that is both hyperactive and addicted to espresso. And unctuous. I don't actually know what unctuous means and I'm too lazy busy to look it up, I just always wanted to use it in a sentence because I'm hoping it'll make me seem incommodious. Yeah. You ever notice how multifarious some people are? Me too. I hate that.

Anyway. So I have this dog, a Lab to be precise. He's a good dog in a black hole of misdirected energy kind of way. He is what is euphemistically referred to as a 'pain In The Posterior' by those folks who specialize in casual dog insults, also known as dog trainers. Is there a college for that profession and if so is there an entrance requirement that all applicants must be the type of person who insists on telling you things you already demonstrably know over and over again at approximately the speed of mange? I know they mean well but telling me my two year old Lab will act like a brain damaged Tree-Kangaroo (they actually exist) until he's two years old causes me to question your grip on sanity. Especially since I just told you he's two years old and acts like a brain damaged Tree-Kangaroo. Also, Tree-Kangaroo.

But back to my dog. He has to be walked or otherwise exercised approximately 7,000 times a day. That's an estimate of course but according to my strictly kept diary that I update religiously 'every once in a great while' it's close enough. So we go on things my wife refers to as 'Walkies'. Walkies are a lot like walks with the added benefit of carrying around a plastic bag to scoop up the odoriferous exhaust system deposits of aforementioned brain damaged Lab. Hopefully without getting any on one's fingers. But, of course, I am repeating myself. All Labs are brain damaged and I don't really have a plastic bag. Just a paper towel which works for poop picking up pretty much like you'd expect. I am also informed by my athletic and well meaning wife that Walkies are good for me as well. Something about Spleen health or something. My mind tends to wander whenever the topic turns to things not related to beer, sports or sleep. Maybe boobies but only after I've had a few beers watching Synchronized  Head Injuries and a good nap. Still, another reason to resent my dog. If not for him I could spend my days ensconced happily on my barcalounger in a blissful alcohol induced haze enjoying the spectacle of dangerous, semi sports related activities being performed by someone else. But no.

He also does the Dance of Joy whenever we get ready for one of our special outings. As soon as he sees me reaching into that box where we keep his leash he starts running around the house like a crazy person, barking and wiggling from nose to wildly gyrating tail. He quivers with whole body excitement like a politician regarding a particularly lovely pile of 'campaign contributions' in a paper bag left in his refrigerator. He grabs the collar while simultaneously trying to convince me to 'Hurry Up!' and drag me to the door. He crowds the door so I can't actually open it and let him out, apparently completely ignorant of the operation of that particular device that he's gone through at least a million times before. I'm convinced that he's convinced the whole things works by magic and if he just believes hard enough it will open in spite of having his nose pressed against it so hard that he's leaving drool smeared teeth marks in the paint. Past experience notwithstanding.

So we go Walkies and Angus...have I mentioned we named him Angus? No? Well we did. Why? For the life of me I can't remember. I think it was Biblical, that whole passage about 'Hearkening unto Angus because he has the Doritos and really needs your guacamole for the big Superbowl party next Sunday'. Maybe not.

Anyway. Angus really likes his walks around the neighborhood. At first I thought it was because he just liked to walk around smelling and pooping and peeing on the neighbor's lawn like you'd expect any brain damaged Lab to enjoy. But I have come to understand that there is a much deeper and possibly slightly unsavory element to his Walkie Joy. He can talk to the herbivores and maybe even believes himself to be one.

It started with horses. My other dogs were frightened by horses. Reasonable since they also scare me. No one in his or her right mind willfully consorts with animals that weigh as much as a Buick and can squish you with a casual arrogance usually only associated with Chicago Aldermen. To a dog they must look like Dogzilla. A gigantic and possibly nefarious dog who is also probably on steroids. I know they do to me but then I'm more than a bit of a wuss so there is that.

But not Angus. He immediately went to the fence and stuck his nose through. To my amazement (and not a little consternation) the horses quickly ambled over and exchanged a series of nose touchings and lickings with my dog that reminded me of strongly of an episode of Doctor Doolittle if Doctor Doolittle was a weird dog instead of an alleged veterinarian on who is clearly on psychotropic drugs. This went on for a few minutes until exasperated that apparently my dog has more friends than I do, I called him away and we went on with our 'fun'.

Until we got to the big open field that someone had mysteriously populated with goats of various sizes and dispositions, few of them pleasant. Again a doggy nose through the fence and again a stream of goats trading disgustingly drippy salivary messages with my dog. I have no idea what they were saying to each other and I'm not really sure I want to know. One hopes none of it was along the lines of "Hey baby, what's your sign?" or "Want to come up and see my etchings?" But the less information on that matter I have the better. A little more jealous concerned now I reigned in my recalcitrant dog and on we went. For exactly a block. Where the cows were.

Now horses I can maybe understand and accept. They're big, strong and to a certain segment of the female population symbolize strength and character. Stuff we husbands tend to display none of. Goats are Meh. The babies are kinda cute the those horns are gnarly knife like and I can so totally respect that. But cows? I was approaching their enclosure with a mixture of disgust and outright fear. "Please, oh please, Oh Please don't let those cows come over and offer bovine love to my dog" I was thinking. Surprisingly I think things like that a lot. Or maybe not so surprising to anyone who has known me longer than five minutes. In any event I was trepidatious and I don't even think that's a real word. Sometimes I invent words. That's how bad the situation was.

But no. Over they came, of both the male and female varieties, with a dancing step that told me my greatest fears were about to be realized. But they didn't stop at nose touching and slobbery communication. Oh no. They gamboled and pranced and generally made Bessie like fools of themselves. Angus was in heifer heaven. He did The Dance of Joy and would have undoubtedly gone off immediately into a life of grazing and cud chewing if I hadn't had a firm grip on his leash. After much tugging (and even a few words my mother would be aghast to learn that I both know and on occasion employ) I managed to drag my dog away from the embarrassing scene. Not without many wistful glances back and at least one attempt to convince me to return. At least that's how I'm interpreting him piddling on my leg no matter what my wife says or how hard she laughed. Really, it wasn't nearly as funny as she seemed to think. But I suppose that's what I get for marrying a philistine. Ok, it may have been a little funny but that's all.

The rest of the Walkie was thankfully uneventful. So long as you regard grasshopper chasing, random leaf pouncing and cat poop eating uneventful and I assure you that after what I experienced I was grateful for the cat poop.

What to make of all that? Well, as near as I can tell Angus either thinks he's a herd animal and in love or he's the canine Herbivore Whisperer, able to converse with all things four legged that exist by eating grass and sticks.

I'm going with the latter. At least then I can fantasize that he's simply gathering an army of evil minions to do his nefarious bidding in a quest for world domination. Considering the alternative that's almost cool. Plus, since I know him and all, maybe he'll save me to be his personal pooper scooper instead of consigning me to the Bermuda grass mines to feed his growing legions. I hate grass stains.

Then again, perhaps I should just stop drinking so much cough syrup.


Monday, July 25, 2011

A Kipling For Cadel

Dedicated to Cadel Evans, the Aussie who conquered the roads of France.
Good on ya mate!

A Song of French Roads

"The National Roads of France are numbered
throughout, and carry their numbers upon each
kilometre stone. By following these indications,
comprehensible even to strangers, the tourist
can see at a glance if he is on the correct road.
For example, Route Nationale No. 20 conducts
from Paris to the Spanish frontier at Bourg-
Madame, in the Eastern Pyrenees; and No. 10
to the same frontier at Hendaye, on the Bay of
Biscay: "-GUIDE BOOK.

Now praise the Gods of Time and Chance
That bring a heart's desire,
And lay the joyous roads of France
Once more beneath the tyre-
So numbered by Napoleon,
The veriest ass can spy
How Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Sixteen hath fed our fighting-line
From Dunkirk to Peronne,
And Thirty-nine and Twenty-nine
Can show where it has gone,
Which slant through Arras and Bapaume,
And join outside Cambrai,
While Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye!

The crops and houses spring once more
Where Thirty-seven ran,
And even ghostly Forty-four
Is all restored to man.
Oh, swift as shell-hole poppies pass
The blurring years go by,
And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye!

And you desire that sheeted snow
Where chill Mont Louis stands?
And we the rounder gales that blow
Full-lunged across the Landes-
So you will use the Orleans Gate,
While we slip through Versailles;
Since Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Sou'-West by South-and South by West-
On every vine appear
Those four first cautious leaves that test
The temper of the year;
The dust is white at Angouleme,
The sun is warm at Blaye;
And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Broad and unbridled, mile on mile,
The highway drops her line
Past Langon down that grey-walled aisle
Of resin-scented pine;
And ninety to the lawless hour
The kilometres fly-
What was your pace to Bourg-Madame?
We sauntered to Hendaye.

Now Fontarabia marks our goal,
And Bidassoa shows,
At issue with each whispering shoal
In violet, pearl and rose,
Ere crimson over ocean's edge
The sunset banners die . . .
Yes-Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
But Ten is for Hendaye!

Oh, praise the Gods of Time and Chance
That ease the long control
And bring the glorious soul of France
Once more to cheer our soul
With beauty, change and valiancy
Of sun and soil and sky,
Where Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Drugs And Bicycles

I'm a cyclist. I love my bicycle. As I've aged and the injuries from repetitive lifting have gotten easier to suffer and harder to heal my bicycle has become my number one source of exercise.

I found out a few years ago that I also like to watch competitive riding, including the Tour de France. The problem is that professional bike riders are synonymous with performance enhancing drugs. The drug of choice is EPO but Blood Doping and stimulants are and have been used extensively. Many pro riders have been caught but the doping was so widespread and endemic that the entire sport was in real danger of dying. And good riddance it would have been. Riders have been banned and teams have dissolved, doctors have been stripped of professional credentials, some have done time for smuggling. It even seems pretty clear now that Lance Armstrong was doping and that is a real kick in the nuts to fans like myself.

Lu and I started watching the Tour in 2001. We watched as Armstrong won and continued to win. 7 Tours in all. It was always apparent who the strong men were and there were damn few of them. Compared to those few the rest of the peleton looked pretty average. In succeeding years the script was the same. Two, or at the most three, riders were light years ahead of the rest (think men against boys) until one would kick in the next gear and simply blow the competition away. The winner most always seemed to win fairly easily (for certain values of easy).

Of course we now know that their competitive edge came from a syringe and a transfusion bottle rather than being honestly won. I got disinterested fairly quickly. The various anti doping agencies, both in Europe and here in America, were pretty ineffectual but then the systematic doping with doctors and experts involved made any detection chancy at best. There is now a new system in place called Blood Profile or Biological Profile. It's based not on a failed drug test or a criminal investigation but rather on telltale changes in the blood that signal the use of performance enhancers. There is no way to be certain but anecdotaly it seems to be working.

This years Tour is like no other I have watched. Everyone seems to be on an even level. The current leader, a man who should have had absolutely zero chance of winning, is a Frenchman named Thomas Voeckler. He's a good rider but not in the same league as those past, enhanced, winners. Yet this year he leads by almost two minutes after stage 16 of 21. The big names are down, some way down, in the standings. My pick, Cadel Evans, is an Aussie who I am confidant has been racing clean for years. He's in second and, if reports are to be believed, in "incredible"physical  shape. That means his performance edge is coming from his body and training and not from a moral shortcut. The rest of the peloton, the mass of riders who  make up the body of the race, are taking turns racing heads up against the big names and are more than holding their own. The racing is close, intense and sometimes violent. There's been more crashes, and more injuries, than I can ever remember seeing. Such conditions are indicative of racers who are evenly matched and trying for every advantage on the road that they can get. Heck a sprinter, Thor Hushovd from Norway, has won two mountain stages. A feat previously unheard of. Jonathon Vaughters put together the Garmin-Cervelo team, derived from the old Slipstream-Chipotle team, expressly to show that clean riding was not only possible but clean riders could win at the very highest levels of the sport. In a case of great minds think alike, Vaughters agrees with my assessment.

We're seeing riders and teams choosing not to dope. It may be because of the fear of getting caught (along with the literal millions of dollars at stake). It may be an attempt to emulate Vaughters. It may be because the participants realize just how close they came to losing their sport. Or it may be that the riders are finally just plain wising up.

Whatever the case I'm watching this years race with renewed enthusiasm and excitement. I want an unexpected winner. I want those domestiques, the nameless faceless drones shepherding the name riders, to win and place high. I want to be amazed by the sheer guts and determination of a Frenchman riding for glory and honor, hanging on to the yellow jersey with his teeth and his nails and his courage. I want people to know my sport is clean and to be awed by the things these men can do from the saddle of a bicycle.

I have admitted many times that I am a man of deep emotions. A man who can be easily moved by demonstrations of human exceptionalism. I make no apologies. Anyone who cannot be moved by courage and effort and overcoming long odds is missing out on a wonderful experience.

Finally, I can watch and cheer and be completely and wonderfully ignorant of the final outcome. And that is a very good thing for those of us who love bicycle racing and the men and women who abuse their bodies in search of fleeting and elusive glory.

Viva le Tour!


Thursday, July 14, 2011


Can someone please explain to me why Poker is on ESPN? I know it's Entertainment and SPorts Network but the emphasis has always been on the SPort with the Entertainment relegated to Cheerleader competitions and hot dog eating contests. They don't even have pro wrestling on for crying out loud.

Poker? Really? With play by play and in depth color commentary?

"Greasy Pete really took a big hit on that hand Cool Hand Jesus."

"That's right Mortimer. He really should have folded that hand when the flop turned up Duece, Seven and the Death Card."

Apparently I'm watching waaaay too much TV.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Canine Prosthetics

I've been spending a lot of time getting ready for the new puppy, some of which has been internet searches. I ran across this during my surfing.

How can something be so sad and yet so uplifting at the same time? Dogs and the people who love them. It's a beautiful thing. Spirit, it can't be measured but you know it when you see it. You can read the whole story about Naki'o and his owner, Christie Tomlinson here.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm headed out to California on Thursday to pick up the new boy. I'm staying with Car Guy and his lovely bride Thursday night. I'll pick him up at the breeder on Friday morning and immediately return to Utah. I hate to do the hit and run with Car Guy but I have things that must be done both Wednesday and Saturday so my window is small.

I've been getting ready for his arrival. Re-reading some old favorites

And especially this one. No finer work exists regarding the raising and training of a good lab.

This is my literally dog eared copy. Proof that Trooper loved it as much as I did. I think the new boy will be as interested as he was.

The DO and the grandkids bought him his first collar. I found some puppy sized bumpers I just couldn't resist. Hey, gotta start 'em early.

The toy box is full with any accoutrement a retriever could ever want. More toys equals fewer chewing incidents. At least that's the theory.

The house is ready. His crate is beside my bed and waiting for it's occupant. The back yard is newly fenced. The lake has been scouted and the best spots picked out. We've been talking to Chrisi about her new little brother. She talks a good game but I don't think she really understands. Come Friday night it'll all become clear to her. She loves friendly dogs, especially little ones. She's missed Trooper badly so I think the new boy will be a welcome addition into her life.

I'm nervous. Perhaps anxious is a better word. On the day I pick him up Trooper will have been gone exactly 11 months so it's been a while. It's important that I do this right and I haven't had a puppy in almost 16 years. I'm hoping it's like falling off a bike because we all know how well I do that.

I'm as ready as I can be and really looking forward to meeting my new friend. It's going to be a wonderful ride and I plan on sharing it with you. Pictures as soon as I get a chance, probably Saturday night.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garage Build Pt. 2

After finishing the basic structure it was time for the exterior walls. They went up fairly easily. This is where prior preparation is critical. The sides (and roof) attach with metal screws through pre-drilled holes. If the slab isn't perfectly flat and even the holes won't match which is fixed by a lot more work accompanied by fits of bad language.

Here's the South side done.

The North side

And the Back

Here are the trusses, gables and roof I-beams installed and ready for a roof. Have I mentioned how hot it's been cause it was a mite warmish. I figure I sweated approximately 5 Gatorades per hour. That's real construction speak right there.

The roof corners go up first. See that ladder I'm on, the 6 footer with the inviting step at the very top? Yeah, I fell off causing much bruising and more colorful metaphors. Don't be alarmed, I'm a professional where it comes to falling off ladders. I mean, I've fallen off ladders put up and held by professional Firefighters. Seriously, I've fallen off a lot of ladders. Explains many things. I ended up hanging from one of the roof I-beams by my right armpit. You may not know this but your armpit wasn't designed for holding up your body weight. Just a tip. It was spectacular enough that Lu even noticed. Usually when I hurt myself doesn't even look anymore, she just asks if we need to visit the ER. No? Then get back to work you lazy bastard.

The ladder incident (or rather the latest ladder incident) led to an epiphany. I have a large truck. It has this really nice and strong camper shell. The garage is open at the moment and, you know, it's right there, so...
Presto! Instant scaffolding. That's Sphincter Boy standing up there in case you can't see him.

Here is our now much smarter hero, installing the roof panels the safe way. See, I actually can learn from my mistakes. Provided they're painful enough.

We finished the day with the roof about halfway done.

The next day we got up and finished it off. Hey, there's a building there!

A couple of pictures from inside. It was at least 20 degrees cooler in there making my motivation to go back out in the sun pretty much nonexistent. See the man? See the huge sweat stain? Don't get too near the man.

After finishing the roof it was time to anchor the building. We did the final squaring and got ready to install the anchors. Uh. We might have a problem here. Take a look at the 2 anchors at the bottom of the picture. The one on the right is what was supplied in the anchor kit I bought, paying perfectly good money for it. It's 1/4 inch and was woefully inadequate. To fix it I went to the hardware store (Oh Joy!) and bought fifty 1/2 inch by 3 inch anchors. You can see the difference here. You do not anchor a 14x31x10 foot building with tinker toys.

This change in the plan required the purchase of a new tool. Oh yeah, I love tools especially new ones. Lu wasn't even mad. That bad boy is a Dewalt hammer drill and it's fabulous in the extreme. It drilled 1/2 inch holes 3 inches deep in my 6 bag concrete like, well, something sharp going through something soft. Hey, I'm tired and my brain don't work too well at the moment.

The day wouldn't be complete without thanking the support staff. Good ol' Chrisi. Where would we have been without her? Pay no attention to the fat man on the floor. Cheap labor.

Tomorrow I'll post the final build. We have to finish the trim, put on doors and build some shelving. Plus there's all my crap to lug and store in there. Come back, it'll be epic. I swear. There will probably be more pain and maybe even some bleeding.

Hey, I aim to please.