Friday, July 25, 2008

Highs and Lows

When I got home from my meeting last night, Nora was in a fabulous mood. It seems Isaac had fished some left-over chicken thighs out of the fridge, then decided they were a little too ripe for human consumption. So Nora got some attention, and some nice greasy chicken bits, and bonded a bit more with Isaac and Lucas (who sat on the floor and played his guitar for her), and generally had a good time. Then I took her out in the field to practice some obedience commands - which of course involved cheese - and she was the most relaxed and happy that I've seen her yet.

This morning, we took off on our walk as usual. She's much better on a leash these days; she understands that when I say "car," she has to come over and walk immediately next to me. But the rest of the time she is free to follow interesting smells, lag back a little or range ahead a little, so long as she stays within the boundaries of the retractable leash. This was working out beautifully. I set the pace and direction, and she didn't pull or give me any trouble at all. But as we were walking past a field, she was trotting along in the ditch with her nose to the ground. She must have caught a whiff of something and tried to follow it into the field for a bit before I called her back. Now this was a hayfield, being used for cultivation rather than for grazing animals. There was some tall grass along the edge, but I had no reason to think there was an electrical fence. As a matter of fact, with all that dew-covered grass, you'd think any electrical fence would have been shorted out anyway. But all I know is that just as Nora hit the edge of the field (and just as I was calling her back), she let out a huge yelp and came running to me for protection. She cowered on my foot for a while, then finished the walk strictly on the pavement, occasionally shying at things like banana peels and twigs. And now she just wants to lay on the living room carpet and look depressed.

I don't know if it was a fence, or maybe a thorn, or even a snake. But after her being so happy & cheerful last night, I hate to see her so depressed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I've been involved with the prayer shawl movement off and on for maybe three years, and steadily since January of 2007. That's when I took over the volunteer position of Ministry Area Coordinator for Missions at my church, and founded a shawl team at church. That was a Sunday afternoon, and a few days later I was told that the first baptism of the year was on for the following Sunday. It didn't seem fair that the baby should miss out on a shawl just because it happened to be born early in the year, so I took a day off from work, got out my largest needles and three yarns from my stash that more or less went together, and made a quick shawl. They were a fuzzy mohair -type synthetic, a fingerling weight acrylic that my grandmother would have called "baby yarn," and a classic dishcloth cotton from Peaches & Creme. Together with size 15 or so needles and using a pattern that borrows heavily from the classic "Granny's Favorite" dishcloth pattern, I ended up with a baby shawl that was very soft, somewhat absorbent, and could stand up well to machine washing and drying. Baby and parents were very touched, the minister worked a special segment into the baptism about the baby being wrapped in our love and prayers, and there was hardly a dry eye in the house.
I liked it so much that I made another one. The shawl team was in "production" mode at that point, since we had no back stock of shawls for emergencies and it seemed like we had half a dozen baptisms in a row (in addition to several chronic illnesses and other concerns). We established bins in the church office where shawls could be stored until needed, and I had a pair of them ready for the bin when I heard that the prayer shawl website ladies were coming out with a new book of patterns and prayers. So I submitted the pattern for our "Wrapped in Love" shawl - which meant I needed to send them the pattern, AND an actual sample of the shawl, AND postage for its return. I was feeling a little guilty about taking the shawl out of circulation, and maybe a bit annoyed about the expense. It reminded me of the county fair, where I spent about $25 in printing and mounting and entry fees for a photograph that won a big fancy orange "Best of Show" ribbon . . . and a $3 prize.
Anyway, I was shocked to discover last summer that they'd selected my pattern to be in the book! It's just a simple little thing based on ideas gleaned from others. "If I have seen further than most, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants, " as the man said. They wanted a photo to go with the pattern, and I tried to submit one of the whole team; but they really wanted an individual shot, and I eventually found one I didn't hate too much. And yesterday, I got the e-mail announcing the book will be released on September 23rd. Cool.
But click on the index tab. I skimmed down to look for the Wrapped In Love shawl, and realized that I'd be sharing a binding with Nicky Epstein!! "Knitting Over The Edge" Nicky Epstein. "Knitted Flowers" Nicky Epstein. "I make so many gorgeous things that people look at my work just to sigh in sheer pleasure" Nicky Epstein.
I'm feeling more than a bit out-classed here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

There ought to be a law

What a freakin' gorgeous day. Who could be expected to work on a day like today?

I took Nora out for an early morning potty break, and kept her on a leash just so we wouldn't have to discuss when to go back inside. She stepped off the porch and then gave me an expression like "Walk! Cool!" - and then headed for the road. I slowed her down long enough to pull on some sandals I'd left on the porch, and off we went.

I'd had some concerns about whether she was ready for the whole walk thing, what with the fear anxiety and all. I still need to buy her a muzzle and then get her comfortable in it before I'm really interested in introducing her to a lot of strangers. And she still needs some training on how to walk on a leash - she tends to wander after every interesting smell, whether that be into the bushes or across the road. But we went down the road just a bit (with me in my t shirt and pj bottoms), then turned onto the path through Sybil's woods and walked down to the chapel and back. We ended up back in our East field, and I had time to grab my camera out of the car while Nora got a good long back scratch in the wet field grass. She looked like a doofus, waiving her feet around and snorting; but she also looked like a very happy dog.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Steps in the Right Direction

It's not that I often make anything directly from the patterns on (although a friend did crochet Maiden's Glory for me to wear at our little ceremony last September). But their patterns seem to trigger an endless number of ideas and useful bits and pieces. Take that baby pirate hat. The chart came from a project on that website, a shrug that I can't find just now which had colorwork skull & crossbones symbols on the wrist of each blousy sleeve. But I went back there tonight to try to dig the chart back up for the adult version of the hat, and came across this instead:

Cute, eh? The chart is 17 stitches wide, which works out well on 80 stitches worth of hat as a 4 pattern repeat with three stitches in between. I got my sticks, I got my string - I'm ready to rock.

Dog report: in a moment of joyful abandon fueled by sunshine, uncut grass and several bits of cheese, Nora let me hook a 5' web leash to her collar and lead her back into the house at the end of our after-work romp. She's a little less sure of herself with the leash in place, so it seemed best to leave it on so that she could get used to it (and so I wouldn't have to fiddle around under the neck of a nervous dog who is still learning not to snap). This meant that when I threw some tortellini and veggies in a bowl for my supper, I was able to hook the retractable leash onto the handle of the web leash easily, step out on the porch, and let her roam the full 23' combined length while I sat and ate. She was having such a good time sniffing around in the evening air, we even went for a little "walk" around the field to see how well she'd react to the leash. She did fine. I still intend to pick up a muzzle for her; I seldom run into anyone on my morning walks, but if I did I don't want to unconsciously tense up and communicate to her that strangers are worrisome. Not only do I have liability concerns, but I want to be sure that (a) she can't hurt anyone in a panic; and (b) she learns that fear aggression is not only disapproved, but useless. But I'm still very encouraged by the fast progress she's made so far.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This is going to be a challenge

She's here.
She's scared, and nervous, and defensive. She does NOT want to be touched by us, although she was very affectionate with the foster mother. She's nipped and growled a few times, warning us off and showing her fear (but never breaking the skin). She's even making some sort of "hmmmmmmmm" noise at the cats - I can't read the expression on her face, since her eyes had that "I'm not sure what to do but I'm trying to be submissive" look but her lip was pulled back a bit.

She's willing to obey my commands up to a point, although "come" and "off the couch" have met with some argument. I have reason to believe she's been abused in connection with both these commands; I may have to come up with alternative words for the same effect, then train her to understand them. Allons-Y is a bit difficult to make sound staccato and sharp. Same issue with Binga. Maybe "to me" for come, and "couch" for get down?

The trick is to win her over while giving her as much personal space as necessary to adjust and to her new situation, and yet subtly reinforce my "lead bitch" status and steer her away from any situations where we might have to argue about my authority. (At this stage, I strongly suspect that if she felt cornered and endangered, she would definitely bite.)

The good news is, we have time to work through this.