Sunday, February 24, 2008

Concerto for Nose Honk and Tissue Box

Well, it's time to make the annual announcement: I'm officially Sick of Winter. This is true in both the figurative and the literal senses, since I'm still struggling to throw off the last remnants of a nasty virus that not only hit me once already, but backed up and ran over me again. The paper industry has me to thank for single-handedly increasing sales of facial tissues for this month.

Since I can no longer stand the sight of cold and snow, I finally cracked and bought myself a ticket to Phoenix for the first weekend in March. Every other year or so, my girlfriend Lise (a fellow Sox fan) and I escape winter in our respective areas by meeting at the home of a mutual friend of ours out in Scottsdale, Arizona. We enjoy the sunshine, watch the Cubbies in spring training, wear shades, and drink beer in the bleachers with all of the congenial snowbird Cubs fans who have also converged on Ho-Ho-Kam Park to escape winter back home for a while.

Why don't we go to Florida to see the Sox? Because Liz lives in Arizona, and we get to visit her while we're out west. We don't even know anybody in that part of Florida.

Alphabet Soup

A few weeks ago, I received my certification as an . You may now call me Tester #35219 for short. and Judy, my rally instructor, both graciously allowed me to use them as references. Thanks to them, I'm now official!

It sure didn't take long before my newly acquired services were needed. One of the reasons why I became a CGC tester was to help the with the "final exams" in their CGC classes. (Instructors may not test their own students; thus the need for an outside tester.) I'll be helping Sue with one of her classes in April -- that's my very first assignment as a CGC tester. I've also been asked to offer the test at the picnic in mid-June.

More Alphabet Soup

This week, I received my membership materials from the . One of my rally classmates has been a longtime member, and she suggested a while ago that I join. She and a Beardie buddy both sponsored me into the group. I am now a card-carrying member of the dog press -- literally -- and a pin-wearing one, too! (DWAA sent me a very nice logo pin that also says PRESS across it.)

Why did I wait so long? Although I've been writing reams and piles and miles of prose for my Web sites since the mid-'90s and started blogging in 2004, I've always been strictly a "new media" writer. I didn't feel I had a legitimate place alongside the trained journalists and other more "traditional media" folks. Now that I write the occasional piece for one local print publication and am about to contribute to an online edition of another paper, I finally have some traditional print "clips" to add to my portfolio. I sent a copy of my very first article on the CGC test for , plus printouts of posts from this blog and my .

Some years ago, one of my college friends asked me why I never wrote a book. "I have nothing to say," I told her. Wouldn't say that was exactly the case these days--!!

And In Music News...

Greg is pleased that two of his songs will be performed in New York in June at the . I forget which one will be performed on which program, but his works get to appear in two concerts this year. April is a song for SATB chorus and soloists plus piano. The Waking is scored for solo voice (mezzo-soprano or baritone) and piano, and I think the soloist for this performance is a soprano. The NYC concert is the world premiere for The Waking. April was first premiered in Boston a couple of years ago, but this performance is its New York premiere.

The best part about this year's programs is that both of the concerts with his songs occur early in that week, when the press is most likely to be present to review the works. Greg's had pieces in the ACA festival for several years now, but they have almost all taken place at the end of the week, when none of the music reviewers are around. He's hoping that maybe a reviewer from the , or even the might come to one of the concerts and include a review of one (or maybe even both) of his pieces. (Yes, I'm a member of the press now, but I don't count. It's unlikely that Downeast Dog News would be overly interested in a music critique.)

Well, At Least We Didn't Go Home Empty-Handed

In retrospect, it might have been a less-than-sane thing to do, but Dinah and I entered the trial in Manchester, ME a couple of weeks ago.

We aren't really ready for prime time as far as our agility skills are concerned. Whenever I begin showing in any new performance venue I get stage fright, tense up, and am an absolute stumblebum of a handler. My commands are off, my sense of timing is warped, and it's all my poor dog can do to figure out what I want. I do work through that given enough time, but it's rough going at first when you're as coordination-challenged as I am.

Our main objective was to get Dinah to experience the trial environment. Since she's a show dog, she's used to barking dogs, hanging out in a crate, and all manner of noise and confusion at dog events. I wanted her to be similarly used to the sounds at an agility trial: banging teeters, more barking dogs, wild applause, and all that. Dinah didn't even blink.

As for me, I was still coming off a raging head cold left for me by the flu monster that's been smacking me around this winter. It's really quite amazing how important a regular air supply is when you're running around a course! We ended up with three NTs (time disqualifications) and one NQ with time faults, simply because I couldn't get out of my own way and my handling was just appalling.

We did get a first-place ribbon for our one NQ run, for what it's worth. We were the best non-qualifying run in our jump height class. A leg would have been nice, but at least we got a souvenir.

At Least It Was Inspirational

Did I mention how miserably frickin' COLD it was at the trial? It was ONE lonely, wretched degree out in the early mornings when we came in, and the arena was unheated. About the only time I was comfortable was while I was running (and gasping) on the course. You could spot the handknitters in the crowd, since they were the ones sporting the best and warmest wool hats and mittens. A Sheltie person I knew lifted the cuffs of her jeans so I could admire the hand-knitted socks a friend had made for her (out of one of the Regia yarns. I have a couple of balls of that pattern in my stash, so I'd know it anywhere.) Another woman sported a chullo hat with earflaps, for which she'd spun her own yarn. I even met a couple of people from when I pulled out a sock and started to work on it during a long wait between runs. People huddled under quilts and blankets until their turn to run came. I ran score sheets for some of the runs just so I could keep moving.

Everyone was so helpful and congenial, though -- I can't wait until we're good enough to come back and collect some Qs! In the meantime, I've been scheming about an entire wardrobe of knitted survival gear: maybe a chullo hat with some agility motifs on it, flip-top mittens, sweaters, and definitely more socks.

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