Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Suck it up

Every morning when I go to feed the dogs (or afternoon, if I forgot to thaw out their breakfast the night before!), Koira looks exceptionally skinny. Her spine appears to stick out, her ribs are super obvious, with sunken spaces between them, and her waist is teeny tiny. She almost had me convinced she needed to gain some weight. I even increased her food a bit for a while. It didn't seem to make any difference.

Then, I noticed something. Koira doesn't look exceptionally skinny any other times. She is in shape, her ribs certainly show a bit, and a tiny curve of spine, but that is a healthy look on a dog with her build.

I think Koira is sucking in her belly at meal times. I think she has realized it makes her look starving and pathetic, and is milking it for all its worth. Silly beast.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Black and White Sunday

Koira Wheat Sepia

I think Koira is dreaming of summer already. She doesn't care much for the cold and wet of fall, winter, and spring.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pit Bull Awareness Day

Today is Pit Bull Awareness Day. On all of the previous years, I have been at a flyball tournament for this particular day. This year, the flyball tournament was last weekend (and I had to miss it due to work). But, that meant I was free to participate in a Pit Bull Awareness event for the first time.

Koira was giving some good pittie kisses

I ended up heading to Portland for the Coast to Coast Bully Walk put on by the Portland Pit Bull Project. I set up Koira with the new GoPro harness I made for her yesterday (which I'll share with you later). I was hoping for some good pictures, since it was raining too hard for me to have my camera out.


Unfortunately we seem to be having some technical problems with the camera. I'm wondering if I messed up some settings somehow, because I would hope that being outside at noon would be enough light to take clear pictures from the speed of a walking dog, even when cloudy. Apparently not.

This is the best picture we got of London, the two legged pit bull, during the walk.

In any case, we had a lot of fun doing the Bully Walk. There were pups of all sizes there, from littler than Koira all the way up to 100+ pounds. A number of people asked what was happening, which was a great opportunity to spread the word about Pit Bull Awareness Day and a great time for our dogs to be breed ambassadors.

A couple of bystanders who were interested in the goings-on

There was also a costume contest after the walk was over. Unfortunately it started to rain pretty hard, so people were already taking off. Koira had her first chance to wear the AWESOME costume I made for her this year. She came in second place in the contest, and won a nice warm coat.

It wasn't a huge deal, but it was a lot of fun. I hope similar events around the country and around the world will help people see pit bulls for what they are: just another breed of dog, and a wonderful companion to share your home and your life with.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Puzzles

I occasionally will use treats or kibble to play games with my dogs. One of the games I like to play is having them use a treat puzzle. It is interesting to see the different methods each do uses to get at the treats.

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This particular puzzle both has removable pieces (the white bones) and sliding doors. It means that the dogs have to use different skills or methods to get to all the treats hidden in it.

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The instructions say to use treats in all the slots at first, then go down to only putting treats in a few of them. I still load it up and put at least a few treats or kibbles in each slot.

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I think this puzzle is a great way to entertain the dogs for a little while, and I find it even works for entertaining guests watching the dogs try to get at the treats.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Koira's Camera

Quite a few people asked questions about Koira's camera on the Wordless Wednesday post this week. I thought I would take a post to answer them, instead of hoping people checked back on the comments on that post.

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First off, the camera Koira uses is the GoPro Hero. There are now two newer versions, the Hero 2 and Hero 3. I'm perfectly happy with the version we have for now. Since the Hero 3 was just released, the original Hero went through a major price cut, making it much more affordable. I picked mine up at Best Buy along with a fast and large SD card (faster cards allow you to record steadier video). There are a lot of point-of-view cameras available other than the GoPro brand, so you might want to do a little research if you plan to get a camera for this kind of thing.


I use the camera upside down attached to Koira's collar. Using a strip of double sided velcro and a tiny keychain buckle, I attach the camera to dangle from Koira's collar. I probably wouldn't trust this set up in deep water, or somewhere that I wouldn't be able to get to the camera easily if it came loose (though it has shown no signs of falling off as of yet). There is an easy in-camera option to automatically flip pictures and video so that I can use the camera upside down but have pictures right side up when I upload them to the computer.


I find that the camera sways a LOT when attached to Koira's camera this way. It dangles down too far to even use with Pallo. His build and short little legs mean that he knocks into the camera with his legs, and it restricts his free motion and makes him uncomfortable. Koira doesn't mind the camera banging away on her chest, but some dogs might be more sensitive to it.


Dangling the camera from the collar is not a good method for taking video unless you want to get severely sea sick. The motion is way too much to get a watchable video. Instead, I have Koira take still pictures. The GoPro allows you to set it to automatically take pictures at intervals of 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds. Using this function, I end up with a lot of really funky pictures, or totally unusable ones. Unless the lighting is amazing, many of the pictures are blurry from the motion of the swinging camera. I generally set it to take pictures every 5 or 10 seconds, and out of about 400 pictures from a walk, I might end up with 10-20 that are interesting enough and good enough for me to want to keep or share. The better the light, the more pictures that turn out usable.


I don't really find it difficult or time consuming to go through and delete all of the blurry or bad pictures. It doesn't take very long for me to go through them. I find that taking a picture every 5 or 10 seconds gets a lot of pictures, and takes pictures of a lot of things (mid play, etc) that would be missed if I used the 30 or 60 second intervals. If I were to take the dogs on a day long hike, I might set the intervals to be something longer versus going to the park to run and play for an hour.


As soon as I get my sewing machine back (it was borrowed by my mom for a project), I plan to make a harness to attach the GoPro more securely. The goal will be to eliminate the worst of the swinging motion of the camera, which should help with the more severely blurry pictures and help get some clearer pictures while the dogs are running and playing. If I come up with a good harness design, I will share both pictures of the finished harness and a short how-to for anyone wanting to make a similar system. I do have a hope that I can make a harness secure enough to do dog's-eye-view videos of lure coursing, flyball, dock diving, and all the other sports and adventures we participate in. We'll have to see how the harness works, though, before I promise videos!


*All opinions in this post are mine from my own experience. I was not compensated in any way by GoPro, Best Buy, or anyone else for this post. I simply purchased this camera and wanted to share with my readers about what I like and don't like.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A bit of an update

Pallo is doing fine. No more seizures, nothing out of the ordinary. Though, he looks anything but ordinary when his picture is taken with the GoPro, in poor lighting, at high speed, and at close range. (I shall now proceed to pepper this update with unrelated pictures taken with the GoPro while on a walk at the park.)

Lets see...

I've been battling a cold, and still am, but feel like I'm on the mend. I think the stress of Pallo's seizure did me in, since I got sick the next day. I did still take the dogs to flyball practice Thursday night, because at that point, I just thought my headache was from not enough sleep the night before, rather than the precursor to a cold.

Koira laid down to rest every few feet on the way back to the river

Koira is doing really good with her turns. Her box work is coming along nicely. Right now, we are working on fading the upright of the box jump so that we can switch to using gutters in front of the box. The upright on the box jump can do a lot of shaping of a dog's turn, making them turn tighter. Some dogs don't notice it much, while others have a hard time with it suddenly gone. Koira is doing okay with it fading, so hopefully in another few practices we will be able to take it out entirely. Her turns are showing a little bit of double hitting occasionally, but since her rear is staying high, I'm not going to mess with it. As long as she hits high enough to do a safe turn, I'm happy. I'm hoping she will be ready to race by the next tournament (which, since I have to work during the weekends of every tournament for the rest of this year, might actually be a realistic goal).

It is a Pallo-centric world

The dogs are pretty bored stiff since I have basically been working, then laying in bed concentrating all my energy on getting well. The couple of play sessions in the yard are not enough for them to really settle, but I think taking them out in the steady rain and getting soaked to the bone would be bad for my health at this point.


So here's to another great week ahead of us. Hopefully we'll get a few breaks in the rain and I'll feel more up to taking the dogs out for some serious energy burning time.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Watching CanAm is Dangerous

I've been sick the past few days, but have had a chance to watch the CanAm racing happening this week in Indianapolis, Indiana. For those not in the know, CanAm is basically a HUGE flyball tournament put on by NAFA at the end of the racing year. I've never been, but have watched the live stream for the past two years.

You can still catch some of the live stream, including the Classics Finals, at http://www.livestream.com/danphillips.

I have to say, though, watching CanAm makes me want to do things I should. Like, spend a bunch of money to travel to Indiana to run flyball. Or get a new puppy. Or spend a bunch of money on training seminars or videos to help "fix" Koira.

I don't get to have a puppy yet. Two dogs is my limit, so unless I move, it will be quite a few years before I can have another dog. But watching CanAm makes me want a brand new, untrained, blank slate of a dog who can be trained up to be an amazing, super fast flyball dog. Seriously, some of these dogs are running times as fast as 3.5 seconds! Its scary fast. And makes me really want a border staffy, or border jack, or any of these other dog breeds I know I don't want to live with long term, but who are rocking the flyball lanes right now.

Friday, October 12, 2012


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Wednesday evening, I walked out of the bathroom and saw Pallo being weird. It was obviously not right. He was still standing up, but was repetitively slamming his head forward and into the ground, and pawing at his face and head with his paws. He was weaving while doing this, and every movement appeared drunk. Huge amounts of saliva were pouring out of his mouth in streams. I called his name to no response, and hurried over to him. He didn't respond or seem to notice when I touched him, when I placed him on his side (so he would stop hitting his head), or when I held onto him. I couldn't tell if he was breathing.

Thinking that these symptoms had three possible options, I pried his mouth open to check to see if he was choking on something. The pawing at the face was what led me to think it was a possibility. While all of Pallo's muscles were stiff in his entire body, I did manage to slowly open his jaws, move his tongue around, and sweep his mouth out with a finger. I felt no obstruction, even in the very back of his mouth/upper throat area.

With his eyes in a fixed stare, but steady, I felt pretty sure that Pallo was no experiencing a vestibular episode. Generally, a vestibular episode will present with nystigmas, or rapid eye movement, either side to side or up and down. Additionally, dogs having a vestibular episode normally respond to outside stimulation, at least somewhat, and Pallo seemed to not "be there" when I talked to him or handled him

Of the three possibilities, then, it left only one on the table. Pallo was having a seizure. And I have never encountered that before. In something along the lines of panic mode, I grabbed my cell phone and called a good friend of mine who also competes in flyball and has dogs. I blurted something along the lines of "Pallo is having a seizure, what do I do?" at her as soon as she picked up the phone. She very sensibly told me to go to the emergency vet.

I picked up Pallo, who was still completely tense in his whole body with the occasional violent twitch of the head or front legs and ran out to the car with him. I jumped in the car, holding onto Pallo, and drove down the road toward the emergency clinic. My phone rang and it was Greta, another good friend and fellow flyball-and-dog person, who Nicole, who I originally called, had asked to call me. Putting the phone on speaker and balancing it on my shoulder, she asked me what happened and I explained. She was most worried about Pallo still being stiff. Most dogs come out of seizures quickly, but sometimes a seizure can last and last until there is brain damage or death. Pallo had been stiff for 5-10 minutes by the time I pulled into the vet (who is thankfully just down the street).

As I pulled into the vet, still on the phone with Greta (who has a border collie with epilepsy, making her the perfect person to be talking to), Pallo's muscles relaxed and he started breathing more normally. He lifted his head and looked at me, and began to respond to my touch and voice. The emergency vet would, at that point, not be able to do anything for him, since he had come out of the seizure. With Greta's advice, I felt okay following my own inclination to give my personal vet a call and skip the emergency vet, unless Pallo went into another seizure.

My vet called me back within 20 minutes (it was about 9pm when this all happened). She agreed that it was safe to wait until morning to bring Pallo in and we scheduled an appointment first thing in the morning. I was told to keep an eye on him over night, keep him from hurting himself if he had any additional seizures, and go to the e-vet if he had a seizure last longer than 5 minutes or if he had more than three seizures during the night.

I had a restless night, but by the time I went to bed, Pallo was acting normal but tired. I had him sleep on the bed with me (which he normally does anyway) so that I would be woken up if he had another issue. Every time he moved through out the night, I woke up and checked on him. He had a good night with no more problems and we headed to the vet in the morning.

We decided that the only real thing to do was to run some blood work (mainly for kidney and liver values) to rule out a poison or organ failure as a cause for the seizure, and wait and see how he does. The blood work came back this morning as completely normal. Which is good, of course, but it leaves me in a bit of a limbo, since I have no idea what caused the seizure, whether to expect more, or what is going to happen. Pallo is doing just fine, with no apparent lasting issues.

At this point, we just play the watch and wait game. The hope is that the seizure was idiopathic, with no real cause. Pallo will not be getting Comfortis (the oral flea medication) ever again, as it has a possible side effect of lowering the seizure threshold. Other than that, there is nothing we can really do except wait, watch, and hope.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Portland Meadows

Some of my readers may know that Oregon banned greyhound racing a few years back. However, we do still have a horse racing track in Portland called Portland Meadows. I have never had a chance to see live racing, and really wanted to give it a try. So, the dogs went and spent the weekend with my mom while I worked Saturday and then took Sunday for a day at the track. I went with a fellow flyball person who has a history in the horse world, and we had a total blast!

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Arriving in the lobby of Portland Meadows, there were a bunch of paintings and photographs on the walls of famous horses, both at this track and Oregon bred horses winning elsewhere.

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I spent a bit of time poking around the lobby inspecting the pictures while waiting for Nicole to arrive. She got there just in time for us to go see the horses for Race 1 in the saddling paddock. We walked around, saw the horses, then headed outside to watch the race. Some kids next to us told us that number 8 was going to win.
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While in at the paddock (which is indoors at this track due to the amount of rain we get in the fall), me and Nicole were commenting how small 8 was, so we just smiled and nodded. But the kids not only were right, and Foxy (as they called the 8 horse) not only won, but turned out to be owned by their family.

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Foxy, number 8, pulled ahead of the rest of the pack for a win in Race 1

We went and got some food, drinks, checked out the horses, and watched another couple of races.

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I had made the decision even before heading to the track that I would bet on a few of the races, but that my total limit to spend at the track was $20 including food, drinks, and betting. If I won anything, I could spend it if I felt like it. That way, I knew I wouldn't go too overboard. A minimum bet is $2, so I figured I could bet on a few races easily enough.

We bet on horse 7 in race four, because he was shiny. Turned out not to be the winning stroke of luck, because we lost. Then, me and Nicole decided we probably needed to get a program so we could bet based on something other than purely the horse's looks.

In race five, we were a bit better informed. I bet on #5 to win, while Nicole bet on #4 to win, with the agreement that since we both liked both horses, we would each bet on one and split the winnings.

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Horse #4, Legendary Madame, pulled through for us and caught us a win. Since I was out of cash, its a good thing, too, because otherwise my betting would have been done for the day!

In the next race, the program had #5 listed as the favorite. Taking a look at the stats, I would have chosen him for my bet, but when we actually went in and looked at the horses, Enterprise Zone, horse #4, caught my eye. He was a total fireball, rared up and ready to go. He was obviously eager to get out and run, and every other horse was a bit leery of him when walking by in the paddock. His jockey had no wins listed in the program. But I decided why not, the betting was just for fun, and I really didn't expect to or plan to win anything. So I put my $2 to win on them.

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During the post parade, one of the owners was walking by where I had stationed myself (at the best vantage point for pictures) and asked who my pick was. I told him #4, and when asked why, because every other horse on the field was scared of him! Turns out, he was Enterprise Zone's owner, and told me that if he won, I needed to come be in the Winner's Circle photo. I just laughed and said okay, as #4 was, at the point, listed with some of the longest odds of any horse in the race.

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Wouldn't you know he pulled it off though? That little guy sure knew his business, and his jockey really helped bring him home in a great run. And sure enough, his owner told me and Nicole that we needed to get up in the Winner's Circle with him and his family and the horse. So, somewhere out there, we are in that picture, and were on national TV at the same time!

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The rest of the races were still a lot of fun, and both me and Nicole both got another payout ticket (on two different races), but they were both in the $4 range instead of the $20 payout I got on that little guy above. I came out of it even, with my wins offsetting the money I spent on food and the bets, which was more than I even hoped for.

Overall it was a great, really fun day.  I'm hoping I get a chance to go out there at least one more time (if not more!) before the fall season closes in December. It was great to see all of the horses and how excited they were to run. A lot of them reminded me and Nicole of our dogs lining up for flyball, all business, trembling and twitching, ready to get out there and run, and sometimes causing some problems in their excitement and single mindedness!

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

New Photographer in the Family

Koira is trying out her hand at photography now. I mounted the GoPro onto her collar (using a velcro wrap meant for going around your pants and ankle when biking to keep the chain from grabbing your pant-leg) and set it to take pictures every thirty seconds. Then, we headed down to the beach.


It was a surprisingly warm, sunny, clear, and calm day. That doesn't happen much on the Oregon beach, especially in the afternoon. Fog and high winds is more the norm.


While a lot of Koira's pictures were repetitive, or of nothing in particular, a lot of them were quite good, if a little artsy at times. She managed to get some decent pictures of me and my mom walking on the beach.


She even got a pretty decent shot of her own shadow, which I thought was pretty darn awesome.


The best part, though, was that she could take pictures while playing and enjoying herself, and I could just watch her play and have some fun, without having to lug around a camera myself. And, lets face it, she also got the best shot of Pallo of all time.