Thursday, August 24, 2006

A shift in priorities

Diesel loves plush toys. I have a weakness for buying them and he has no less than three dozen. He does have his three favorites though – bull, bungee dog, and Love Hound – at the moment.

Diesel accompanied me on a recent trip to the pet supply shop. His favorite aisles are the dry, bagged dog food aisles, where he snouts under the lowest shelves in search of loose kibble. For some reason the store nearest our house doesn't sweep up as often as other stores we've visited so he has plenty to sample.

He also loves the plush toy aisle and on this visit he decided to shop. He perused the different compartments of toys until he came to Love Hound, where his decision was made. He pulled his very own hound off the shelf and began tossing it around in the aisle. Love Hound isn't much to look at and certainly wouldn't have been *my* first choice. For starters, it's mainly white which means it morphed to a dingy grey in the matter of a week. It has Love Hound embroidered in red on the white body and it has blue spots. But I was sold while he was playing with it in the store. With every little bite or nibble he took it made a hilarious sound. Not a squeak like all his other toys … more of a moan that rose to a desperate squeal depending how hard he bit. It was like he was communicating with me through the toy. I couldn't stop laughing and that was Mark's reaction too when we brought it home. You'd think we'd get tired of hearing Love Hound but it still makes us laugh.

It's been his favorite toy for a solid three weeks which is a pretty good run. After I went to bed two nights ago Mark came in to wake me and tell me that Diesel had chewed a hole in Love Hound's neck and pulled out a bunch of stuffing (very unusual as he rarely chews holes in toys, hippo amputee being an exception). Mark hid the damaged hound in the back room. Apparently Diesel was pacing looking for it.

Somehow this became a priority for me. Yesterday during lunch I went to the pet store and purchased a new Love Hound. Later last night I retrieved the grey, dingy hound from the back room to assess the damage. Simple fix, nothing a needle and thread couldn't handle. Stashing the new toy away for a special occassion, I began my repair. Diesel watched and waited patiently. Once I handed it back to him, it didn't leave his side all evening.

I noted to Mark as I was sewing that I've had rips in my own clothes I didn't bother to repair for weeks, but Diesel tears a toy and I'm on the case in less than 24 hours. His response? "It's cuz you're a dog mum."

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Friday, August 18, 2006

Tribute to a losing love: How a beagle can alter one's life, Part 2

Looking through a batch of photos from a couple years ago, I came across these. If this was your motorcycle, would you ride it?

That's my bike. A 2001 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider. When I bought it I had a part-time job as well as my full-time graphic design job. I had disposable income (huh? what's that?!) so I customized it as I saw fit. Lower rear shocks, pull-back handlebars, hard saddlebags, a windshield, additional chrome, and other details. Before this bike I had a 1997 H-D Sportster Hugger. I loved that bike. It was nimble and narrow and I could zip around corners without worrying about scraping the pavement as I do with my very low Low Rider. But when I had the part-time job and the disposable income I figured it was the right time to upgrade so I did.

I never considered riding a motorcycle in my past life, although I've always appreciated vehicles of all sorts. In 1996 the design firm I work for acquired the account of Harley Owners Group's (H.O.G.) bimonthly membership magazine. Working on the page layouts of Hog Tales and reading articles about adventures people had with motorcycles fascinated me. What a perfect combination: driving (especially something fun) and travel. I love both so it was a match made in heaven. By May of 1997 I had completed the motorcycle safety course and was a proud Harley owner.

I was scared of the Sportster at first. Way heavier than the school bikes, it was intimidating. Not to mention I knew full well that if you don't hold it up securely, something with two wheels drops to the ground, as it did the day I picked it up from the dealership … um, oops. After attending a H.O.G. rally with the editor of Hog Tales that summer and seeing women my size handling Harleys twice the size of mine with ease, a flood of confidence rushed through me and I couldn't ride enough.

The Sportster and I had wonderful adventures that were later continued with the Low Rider. Excuse me as I reminisce over the longer tours:

1998: My first long ride. Milwaukee to Sturgis, SD. I was sent for work and traveled with Christine (the editor of Hog Tales) and her dad. Badlands and the Black Hills … a beautiful part of the country I'm looking forward to visiting with Mark sometime soon.

1999: I traveled all around Wisconsin and Illinois on weekend trips, obsessed with the tiniest, most out-of-the-way roads on the map.

For work once again (those were the days!) Christine and I went on H.O.G.'s Posse Ride: Sea to Shining Sea tour. We shipped our bikes from Milwaukee to San Diego. In two-plus relaxing weeks, we rode from San Diego all the way across the bottom of the country to Tybee Island, Georgia. From deserts to rains from the aftermath of a hurricane we experienced it all in those 3,000 miles. A trip like that bonds you to your bike and I will always feel most connected to the Sportster because of this experience.

2001: Now with the Low Rider, I rode from Milwaukee to Prince Edward Island, Canada for H.O.G.'s Canadian National Rally. Mainly highway driving with a group that needed to arrive ASAP because they were organizing the event, it wasn't relaxing or overly scenic (until we got there), but it was an accomplishment covering a total of 4,000 miles in just over a week.

2002: A big summer for riding. First, in May, was the California Touring Adventure. Organized by Buell Rider's Adventure Group (Buell being the sportbike affiliate of Harley), I tagged along on my Low Rider with the group of Buell riders. By far the most technically challenging ride to date with the mountain switchbacks … if I would have known what I was getting into before I went I'm not sure if I would have signed on. I managed the 600 lb. Low Rider without mishap and enjoyed every minute of the amazing California scenery that varies so greatly from the southern part of the state to the northern.

In early July,
a close friend from work, Lisa; her son, Adam; my boyfriend at the time; and I rode to Duluth, MN for H.O.G.'s Great Lakes Tour: Lake Superior. We did day trips to Bayfield and Madaline Island and rode north to hop across the border to Canada. On our way to and from Duluth we were sure to take the scenic route and followed the Mississippi River.

Not long home and later that month, Lisa and I rode from Milwaukee to Atlanta. We met up with a group of non-riders from work for the Open Road Tour celebrating the upcoming H-D 100th Anniversary. Our ride home was wrought with misfortune when coming to a stop at a light on a wet and oily intersection my back tire slipped out and the bike and I went down. With an injured shoulder, we trailered our bikes back to Milwaukee from Nashville and I suffered a lingering sense of defeat.

But things soon brightened …

2003: I celebrated Harley's 100th Anniversary with my brand-new fiance while he was over from England for the event for work. Can't even put that experience into words.

Enjoyed my first summer with my new bike-less husband who was now living in the same country as me. Riding not a priority.

With Mark now the owner of a Buell Firebolt, he, Lisa and her son, and I enjoyed a trip from Milwaukee to the ever-so-scenic southeast portion of Ohio.

Now back to the original question: If that was your motorcycle, would you ride it?

I don't. Well, maybe twice locally this summer. We have a beagle now. And I really love him. Oh yes, I've considered rigging a crate to the bike but, seriously, I don't believe dogs and motorcycles mix (even though I have seen it on a few of the rallies I've attended). Just when I start to think how wonderful it would be to ride to Colorado, just Mark and I on our bikes, I think how wonderful it would be to load Diesel up in the OB so we can take him to Denver to visit my friend, Renee, and explore some brand-new dog parks. Afterall, she and her husband just got a puppy so they are head over heels in the same way.
We've already experienced an amazing dog vacation in June. I just can't imagine going away without him. He's a big part of the fun.

I do miss the bike and riding. Just because I'm writing this I'll most likely put on my helmet and take a ride this weekend. But I find the real joy of motorcycle ownership is in those extended adventures where you are away long enough that you forget about work and everyday responsibilities.

I'll get back to it. I'm sure I will. But for now I'm playing favorites … and Diesel wins.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Late morning in the sun

… until interrupted by the camera.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hooping for joy

Sometimes interests spark in the most unexpected ways.

One of the goals I had set for Diesel at the start of our tricks class was for him to jump through a hula hoop. I mean, if you're talking tricks
, that's a classic – not to mention a good preliminary to agility training.

I never took into account that Diesel might be afraid of the hoop.

We covered jumping though a hoop in last week's class. Thankfully Heather used Diesel as the example dog and she was "glad" that he was skittish because that made him an even better example. She lured him to the hoop with tiny hot dog pieces and cheered him on in a way that made me feel guilty for not giving him as much attention for success (luring behavior, clicking, and treating with the proper timing is tricky enough ... praise too?!). After a fairly short amount of time she had him stepping through. She must have built his confidence enough for him to do the same thing with me when it was my turn to try. With an assistant holding the hoop and me luring and treating and cheering we were on our way to him jumping through while the hoop was a couple inches off the ground.

Practice makes perfect, so the next day I dug up a kid's hula hoop at work used for games at our company's summer picnic. For fun I gave it a whirl around my waist and it fell to the floor after a couple spins.

This is where the focus shifts.

I work with an energetic and chronically cheerful project coordinator named Beth (who I'm quite envious of due to her petite and well-toned figure). I've known for some time that she is a fire hooper. She literally hula hoops (tricks and all) with a hoop set ablaze. As I was leaving the office with the feeble toy hoop I commented to her how Diesel is now jumping through hoops but I can't do more than a couple of spins. Seeing the toy she could understand why and showed me a handmade hoop she uses for practice.

My eyes lit up.

It was huge, almost to my chest when set on the ground, and beautifully decorated with crisscross fluorescent yellow and green tape. It was substantial and inspiring. I was mesmerized. Beth offered to gift me with a hoop that she would make and I left work very happy that day.

I found I couldn't wait to learn more. I looked up hooping online. I read articles, watched videos, and discovered that making my own hoop would be quite easy. By the time I left work on Friday I was on a mission.

I spent the weekend rounding up materials, crafting, and decorating. The excitement and enthusiasm I felt making the hoops (two so far) and decorating them was unlike anything I've felt in a long time. I was giddy! It was blissful and freeing and playful. And that was just *making* them. Trying them out made me laugh with joy. The grass was greener, the sky bluer. The size and weight of the hoops made them easy to spin and my mind soared. I daydreamed about new tricks I would practice and learn. I don't care that all I can do right now is waist hoop as I slowly turn my feet to move in an awkward circle. I see something bigger. And I'm fortunate to have Beth as a resource.

Anxious to share my enthusiasm I invited Diesel to jump through one of the newly crafted hoops. Back to square one, the boy skirted off and hid behind me. Even with more luring and treats and cheering, he has yet to regain the level of cautious confidence he felt in class. So we'll concentrate on "take" and carrying a basket for now.

But I'm hooked. Where I least expected it Diesel opened up another world for me.

Perhaps after enough hot dogs he'll learn to love hoops like I do. Besides, who said only the beagle would learn new tricks from tricks class?