Shelfie!

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3 pm sleepies / Best Of challenge

I’m having trouble settling on a book. I’m back and forth between several right now. Threw in a dinosaur graphic novel for a quick read and brain break.

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Cameron and his Dinosaurs by Scott Christian Sava, art by Adres Silva Blanco

And yeah, this one isn’t uplifting, but I’m enjoying it.

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So, a reading mini-challenge:

Best of Your Reading Year:
Best Book of Your Reading Year: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I’ve read her blog for a long time, and when I saw her book at the bookstore, I bought it immediately. I laughed. I cried. I identified. Her depression comics are so SO on the mark, and I wish that everybody would read them and maybe understand a little bit better what mental illness is like.

Best Non-Fiction Book of Your Reading Year: Gulp by Mary Roach. I always enjoy her books, and this one did not disappoint! Full of weird, engaging things that I never knew I didn’t know. Fascinating, entertaining, sometimes downright funny. I can’t wait for her next book.

Best YA Book of Your Reading Year: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Without question. Even though it made me cry my eyes out.

Best Graphic Novel of Your Reading Year: Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan. This is the story of a pride of lions in the Baghdad zoo during the war. It is beautiful and brutal and amazing. War breaks my heart. This book broke my heart a little bit more.

That’s all for now. Back to the books!

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Readathon- On to book 3

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I have nothing but the highest respect for military working dogs and their handlers. And I love that they have progressed largely to reward-based training, at least with detection dogs.

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Hambone, however, finds this all quite boring. I’m soon going to have to go get the new chewies out of the car that I bought last night so that the dogs would have something to do with themselves while I read. They’ll be very happy.

Total books read: 2
Graphic novels: 1
Juvenile fiction: 1

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Readathon update and Intro Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Pennsylvania, USA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story by Michael Collins which I just happened upon in a used bookstore yesterday. I was happy to add it to my stack!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I’m thinking there should probably be pizza involved with today.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of a dog-a-holic. I’ll be taking a break late this afternoon to take my little brown dog to his flyball class. Sometimes you just have to set your priorities! (And there are only two dog books in my pile, btw.)

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? More water, less caffeine! Although I am starting out the day with a Pepsi Max. Breakfast of champions I tell you.

Book two came with a change of venue. What a beautiful morning!

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Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon: Go time

I’m participating in Dewey’s Readathon again, theoretically for 24 hours though I doubt that will actually happen. I am sleep-deprived enough as it is. Anyway, I’ll be posting progress reports here throughout the ‘thon.

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Lots of options.

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Starting here.

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Building the flyball dog.

Ham and I are taking a flyball class to get him up and running. He is different for me to train– he is DEFINITELY not a Border Collie. He doesn’t automagically laserfocus on a tug once he starts heading toward me. Instead, he likes to make victory laps, preferably with a ball in his mouth. That’s going to be our biggest struggle.

But he is making progress in leaps and bounds in this class. It is cool to have video; it is cool to see how fast he is.

Class is always two parts: box turn work, and then retrieve/jumping work.

To teach Ham a boxturn we started him on a board. At first, because he was afraid, it was flat. I rewarded him for any interaction with the board, and eventually we got all four feet on. Then I started luring the turn using food at first, and then a ball. We gradually increased the angle of the board until it was steep enough that he can’t stand on it, he has to hit it and turn off it. We want a quick-on-quick-off the box.

At the end of the video, we introduce a tennis ball stuck on velcro. This blew his mind completely. At home, I dropped the angle of the board dramatically until he understood that he was to get his ball off the board, and then increased the angle again. At our last team practice, he was turning off the actual flyball box and taking his ball from the ledge. So much progress so quickly!

He is such a cool little dog and I am excited to get him up and running.

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The weirdness of having a service dog. And a plea for donations.

One of the things that I really struggle with as a result of having a service dog with me in public is how much attention he draws. It’s an oddity to see a dog in the grocery store. I understand that. Honestly I do. But he is clearly marked as a service dog, and I would think that people would have at least some idea of how to behave around one.

Some do, some don’t. Most people are just curious. Mostly they assume I’m training him for someone else. Sometimes I correct them, most times I don’t unless they ask me who I’m training him for. They comment on how beautiful he is.

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I can’t exactly argue with that.

It’s an exercise in boundaries for me. You can ask me personal questions, but that does not mean I need to answer them. So generally I don’t.

Occasionally, people really throw me, though.

Like the girl at the cash register at the grocery store who asked me if I was blind.

I had been conversing with her for several minutes, making eye contact.

No, I’m not blind.

Then what’s your dog for?

He’s a medical alert dog.

What’s that?

So I explained to her how there are all different kinds of service dogs who alert their handlers to things like drops in blood sugar, seizures, etc.

I laughed and laughed and laughed once I got to the car. She was just innocently ignorant, but it was still hilarious. And now she knows a bit more.

It amazes me the number of adults who pet my dog while he’s working. Or who try to. You expect it from kids, and I try to fend them off the best I can (some of them are freaking persistent and their parents are useless), but adults? Come on, guys. You know better than that!

Sheesh.

Anyway, I wrote a post about Steve specifically and about how to act around a service dog in general for the Team Unruly website. You should go check it out.

In addition, on May 17th, I will be walking in a fundraiser event to help raise money for the Susquehanna Service Dogs organization. I am fortunate enough that I had the ability and the right dog at the right time and could train my own service dog, but many folks can’t. SSD trains dogs for a variety of different types of assistance jobs, which is an expensive undertaking. They’re good people, and it makes my heart feel good to be able to give back a little bit, to maybe help somebody get a dog that they need by helping the organization raise money.

My personal page with donation information is located here and while I’m not trying to pressure anybody, if you are so inclined to donate, the link to do so is there. I am excited about this. I have several girls from work who are also going to walk, so I’m looking forward to that. It should be good.

My little way to try to help, to try to make a difference. Every little bit counts, right? Something is more than nothing.

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Fun with gutters.

We are working on trying to fix Steve’s striding in flyball. He jumps too early before the startline and he leaps at the box from too far away, which causes his whole body to collapse onto the box. Which isn’t great for his body, the boxloader’s body, or his speed.

We’ve been playing around with plastic gutters trying to get him to change where he lands and where he takes off from. It’s been an interesting process. I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of where things need to be set now, though. 4 feet before the start line, 5 feet after the last jump, and 5 feet before the box.

Hopefully this will help him run more smoothly and be gentler on him. Hopefully.

In other flyball news, Bean is now officially the fastest dog on the team with a slew of 3.9s at our last tournament and a new personal best of 3.917. I’d love to see a 3.8 out of him. He got his Flyball Dog Champion- Gold title a couple weeks ago.

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He’s not particularly impressed.

And Hambone is coming along nicely. I am stuck with a dog who comes back to food, unfortunately, but at least he’s coming back now? Tonight was his first time triggering the flyball box and catching his ball and he rocked it. I am really proud of him! We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re getting there.

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Touching lives: PTSD Service Dogs

I was at the store the other night with Steve, and there was a gentleman with a table set up outside the check out lanes soliciting donations for a group that provides support for veterans.

Since I’ve really started dealing with my PTSD stuff and learning about it, I’ve started to feel a really strong connection to our veterans who suffer from it as well as a result of their experiences during their service. My therapist suggested I watch the Hurt Locker, and that was a really powerful experience for me. So I try to give where I can, which admittedly is not much at the moment. Money is hard.

Anyway, I did have a few spare dollars on this night, so Steve and I went over and dropped them in his jar. The gentleman thanked me, and complimented and asked about Steve.

I don’t look disabled, and so many people assume that I am training Steve for some organization or another, so they frequently ask who I’m training him for. I said he’s not in training, he’s my dog. He looked a little surprised, and asked what I use him for. I don’t like to answer this question– I find it really intrusive and it makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed– but for some reason, it felt right to answer him.

He nodded and asked if I’d mind telling him what kind of things he does to help me. So I told him. And I told him how happy I am that there are people recognizing how much psychiatric service dogs can help our vets who are coming back with such awful PTSD, and how Steve makes it possible for me to live my life again, and how blessed I feel to have him.

This is something that is so important to my heart right now– I wish I knew of an organization specifically for providing PTSD service dogs to veterans in need that I could contribute to, and I wish I knew how to raise funds for them. Maybe I could start selling some of my photographs? I don’t know. I don’t know if anybody’d even want to buy them.

But it’s something to think about.

I love that we had this conversation. I love that he listened, and that I could provide him with information. I love that I was strong enough in that moment to be vulnerable, and my vulnerability was helpful. I love that I found connection with a stranger because of the dog who saves my life every day. I wish that everybody who needed one could have a dog like Steve.

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Our flyball weekend in pictures.

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I think it’s time for new skid boots for Steve.

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Steve took part of the box with him on one run.

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Boxes and balls.

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14″ jumps. The world changes when your height dog craps out.

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The photographer happen to catch all the insanity. Scary pictures! (We went For Exhibition Only after this race and jumped four big dogs over 7″ jumps. No points, but good experience for a green dog and our dogs still got to have fun.)

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New title for Bean, along with a new personal best for him of 3.917. He is now officially faster than Steve has ever been.

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