Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jef's Guide to Dog Agility

I thought I was the laziest dog trainer in history! Watch and enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Soggy Doggy Fun

Yesterday, Greg and I loaded Charlie and Dinah into the Subaru and drove to Belfast for their annual Celtic Festival. Our friends Bill and Cathy live there with their Beardie and Bouvier, and I had never seen the new place -- plus the Festival offered a showcase for Celtic dog breeds. Why not?

We encountered typical weather for this summer -- gray, alternating between rain and mere drizzle -- and ended up looking mighty bedraggled by the time we made it to the exhibition tent to give our little spiel. Charlie had a fine old time flirting with the Lassies...

When it came time for the Beardies to give their spiel, we stepped up on stage and delivered the usual stuff. I was particularly tickled that people asked questions about the AKC Canine Good Citizen program when I mentioned that Dinah was my demo dog. Of course, we fielded the usual questions about how much they shed, how much they eat, and so on. (My sister has threatened for years to make me a T-shirt with all of the standard answers to the standard questions. "Yes, we know they don't look like Lassie...")

After we finished our portion of the program, we browsed the other vendors and picked up some absolutely wonderful pulled-pork sandwiches from the BBQ vendor (whose stand kept wafting glorious scents in our direction as we waited our turn in the Celtic dog breeds demo). Greg tried the cornbread and pronounced that wonderful. We had a delightful old time, sharing beer, BBQ, and Beardies and Bouviers with a couple of my old friends. I'd never seen their Belfast house, though I'd been to visit them when they lived in Owl's Head.

After lunch, Greg and I decided to explore the rest of downtown. I LIKE Belfast. It still retains a little of its old "real Maine" funkiness along with all the boutiques and galleries. It definitely reminds me of how Portsmouth and Newburyport looked before Starbucks and The Gap came to town.

I sacrificed a week's worth of Weight Watchers points for a frozen yogurt in a homemade waffle cone (still warm!). Greg asked the nice woman at the counter about gelato. "Oh, we've run out," she said, "but we've just started making more in the back." They make their ice cream and gelato as well as the cones! I want to move into that shop.

(Oh, and I did find the yarn shop downtown. Great place -- small, but amazingly well-stocked, and with enough room for three regulars to hang out together and knit. They even stock local yarns!)

This Week in Web Stuff

I'm feeling a little bit better in general about my post-employment life as a freelancer these days. I'm still not earning squat, but I do have to keep an eye on what squat I do earn. Unemployment has an upper limit on the amount of money one can earn while still collecting.

The client whom I thought hated her site actually liked it a lot, but wanted to meet in person to trade thumb drives of photos and other stuff. She asked me to create another page and move some stuff, and she's actually delighted with it. I won't hear from her for a little while -- her "high season" started last Friday, and she's going to be out straight for a while.

With Greg's help, I also managed to get the site that wasn't working to run the way I wanted it to. Now that it's actually useful and usable, I've been making behind-the-scenes tweaks and additions to get the other stuff I promised online. This makes me happy.

I'm ready to start another site for a friend of mine, but she's been a bear and a half to track down. I've called, I've emailed, and I would send snail mail if I had her address. At least she doesn't appear to be in a rush to get the work done. I'll just move on to some site updates for another client and a mini-site for some friends-of-friends who really just want something simple.

I really love the work. I just wish I could make enough to live on -- I would walk away from technical writing forever if I could. In the meantime, I'm still seeking out and applying for the few jobs that are available, all of which are located in some other city where management really only wants people on-site, and less-expensive ones at that. One recruiter keeps sending me announcements of every job in Maine that he can find. He means well, but I don't think he's read my resume. Otherwise, he might think twice before sending me announcements of jobs for QA engineers in Augusta. The entire state of Maine is right next door, right?

Your Call Is Important To Us

This too shall pass, but today I think I've reached my volunteering limit. The problem with being at home, having a computer which you haven't broken yet, and belonging to any organization is that people constantly badger you for free, immediate technical support. I am currently ignoring two phone calls and an email demanding my immediate attention. It wouldn't even be so bad if I could just fix the damn problem and get off the phone, but I'm just not ready to invest a couple of hours in listening to someone else's life story AND trying to sort out their computer issues -- particularly when people aren't really interested in learning how to do things for themselves, so the phone will definitely be ringing again shortly thereafter. Sometimes I think that people should have to pass a test before buying a computer.

On top of which, I just plain got annoyed at a couple of emails I received this morning. One demanded that I sign up for yet another work detail for our National Specialty (to which I really wanted to reply, "I've been working on this show all year, too. Pick on someone who hasn't done dick yet."). Another email remarked that no matter what our financial circumstances, we ought to attend at least one of our desperately-overpriced banquets to show our support. The only way I will be able to get to the show in the first place to work all week and attend numerous lengthy and dead-boring meetings is to carpool with other people and minimize my expenses. Comp my effin ticket and I'll think about going. Otherwise, no. Ask someone else to volunteer for a change.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Animals in Showbiz

A very nice person frm SnagFilms contacted me about this 3-minute feature on canine actors. Bear with the too-many commercials and enjoy!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Every year, we look forward to the BCCME Beardie Bounce & BBQ at my friend Val's house. We set the Beardies free to romp in their big fenced yard with a couple of dozen of their friends, grill up some burgers, smooch some puppies, and see friends we haven't seen in ages. When the weather is good, it's very, very good. When the weather is bad, we try to muddle through.

Last year, we not only had to contend with rain showers, but a tornado (or a facsimile of a tornado) had visited the neighborhood only a few days before, ripping up trees, wrecking fences, and smashing a hole in Val's roof. Through the herculean efforts of Val and Pat, several family members, and some hired guns, they managed to get the yard ready for a Beardie invasion... but we still couldn't fix the weather. I've decided that I just don't enjoy holding a meeting with rain running down my back.

This year, Mother Nature did us a solid by giving us a lovely sunny day — maybe one of the two or three we've had in this region since the solstice. Apart from the fact that the winds kicked up and actually bent the legs on one of the EZ-Ups (it was tied to a tarp that tried to set sail for Portugal), our weather was perfect. It wasn't too hot, it wasn't too cold, and it wasn't too wet.

We had so much junk to bring that we barely had room for Charlie (Dinah was in the crate). He had to endure a ride sandwiched between coolers and plastic storage bins, but he refused to stay behind. I only wish we'd been able to bring all four pups, but Seamus and Badge would have had to have ridden on the roof rack or in the glove box. Every cubic inch of the Subaru was already stuffed full.

In spite of the uncomfortable ride, Charlie had a fine time.

So did Greg and Dinah Moe.

The canine guests ranged in age from 15-year-old Raleigh (who proudly sported a tam o'shanter in the Royal Stewart tartan) to 9-week-old Archie (whose paws rarely touched the ground because everyone wanted to pick him up and smooch him). Sadly for Charlie, we had no kiddie pool this year — the old one sprang a leak.

Charlie and Tucker Ashworth did set up a browns-only clubhouse in the absence of a pool...

One tradition we've continued through the first three Bounce & BBQs (this is our fourth) and all other BCCME events is the offer of free lobsters for all Beardies. A few years ago, I managed to score some of the last boxes of the old PetEdge "Daily Catch" lobster toys. Little Denbigh Marshall, who was born in Ohio and who recently moved to New England, was quick to embrace our Mainiac traditions...

The club's chefs did themselves proud by covering a groaning board with multiple fabulous hors d'oeuvres, munchies, salads, and desserts. Oh, the desserts! I probably blew my Weight Watchers points allotment completely by indulging in a single delicious homemade strawberry cupcake, but it was sooooo worth it.

Eventually, we sent home a couple of dozen tired Beardies with their people, packed up the leftovers, and declared another successful Bounce. We're fairly sure that a good time was had by all...