Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tropical Assault

I am glad this weekend is over.

I am SO glad this weekend is over.

People across the country are (childishly, if I might add) laughing at the response to a barely-Category 1 hurricane here in New York, but, as a person who has never experienced a hurricane, I will freely admit that I was terrified.

We got word around 2:00 PM on Friday that we would have to evacuate our home by 5:00 PM the next day.  While that left us plenty of time to do whatever we had to do to prepare, I could already feel the environment around me getting more and more hysterical.  I was volunteering in the PT Department at the nursing home at that point and was watching as they brought in old and/or sick evacuees from the hospital, whose walls fell within the dreaded NYC Flood "Zone A."  Hospital beds were being wheeled in to elevators and placed where ever there was room for a patient to ride out the storm. It was unnerving.

The scene became too much for me to deal with, so I headed home without finishing my hours.  I was way too strung up.

I definitely overpacked for both myself and my animals, but I wanted to make sure that I had absolutely everything I needed in the event my house was damaged or we needed to stay out of the area for a long time.  

For the pets, I had..
  • 20 cans of food for Layla plus several pounds of dry food
  • Enough cat litter for two or three litter changes, plus the litter box
  • 15+ pounds of kibble for Marge
  • Several bowls and containers for food, water
  • Treats and treat-dispensing toys to keep Marge occupied
  • Marge's giant soft crate, Layla's carrier, plus a spare 36" wire crate
  • Towels, blankets
  • Several leashes and collars including THREE collars with identification information
  • All of Marge's important paperwork, including my NYC Dog License, vaccination information, and ownership documents
  • Photos of both Marge and Layla
  • Medicines/supplements for each of them
.. And God knows what else. 

With most of my packing done Friday night, I made the difficult decision to attend the UKC Obedience trial that I had entered for that Saturday.  I only stayed for the first trial, but decided that since the weather was safe and my packing was complete, that it would be mentally beneficial for me to stop worrying and remove myself from the chaos of the incoming storm.   Marge qualified, despite my extreme stress levels, with a 191, for her UKC Companion Dog (U-CD) title.  More on that another time.

I didn't want to leave the trial - I was finally able to relax a bit while there and didn't want to venture back out in to the world.  The Mayor was taking this storm seriously and therefore I was as well.  I knew the possibility of extreme flooding at my house was possible, depending on the size and strength of the storm when it arrived.

When I got home (approximately 1 PM on Saturday), we prepared my house for the storm.  We adorned the basement windows with several towels and taped plastic garbage bags around the inside of them to prevent water from coming in.  My dad boarded them up from the outside.  We moved all of our valuable items in to closets and away from windows.  We disconnected the computers and moved them  off of the basement floor. My mother hunted down sand bags at one of the stores and placed them in the yard around the house.  We taped up the windows to prevent them from shattering if they did, indeed, crack.  We were essentially preparing my house for a worst-case scenario.  Overkill? Maybe.  But I have truly never experienced a feeling quite like that before.  

By about 4 PM, police were blaring sirens in my neighborhood, telling people to GET OUT.  It was starting to rain at that point.  Long story short, by a bit before 6 PM, we (my mom, sister, Marge, Layla, and me) were at my grandmother's house, which was not in a flood zone, with all of our many things.  My dad, as well as several other neighbors, decided to not heed the evacuation warnings and opted to stay with the house.

New York City was already becoming a ghost town.  Most businesses were already closed at that point Mass transit would slow to a halt by the following morning.  The airports were closing.  Bridges and roads were being closed or used only as evacuation routes.

Without getting in to painstaking detail, it was a long night.  In addition to the hurricane drama, my grandmother found out that her brother on the West Coast passed away, which, of course, upset her greatly.  My mom, sister, and me all opted to (not so comfortably) sleep in the same room.  When the lights started to flicker a bit, I opened up Marge's crate and put her in there so I didn't have to worry about knowing where she was if the power went out.  We wound up staying up practically all night, watching the TV and checking for updates on the track of the storm.  Thankfully, we never lost power.  We did feel like we were going to lose our minds.

Around 5:30 AM, being cooped up started to get to Marge.  I let her out and she went absolutely wild.. jumping up, panting, yipping and whining a bit.  I don't know if that was her way of letting us knew that she felt the storm coming or what.  I decided to brave the elements outside at that hour and took her out to pee, on leash.  I was extremely worried about the dog pottying situation, since they predicted several hours with strong winds and heavy rains.

8:00 AM was T-time.  That's when the tide was at its highest and storm surge would be at its peak.  The TV showed video from all over the city of water creeping up on boardwalks, roads, and parking lots near the shore.  It was extremely unsettling.  We spoke to my dad back at home, and he said that there were no water problems; the surge had not reached my block (which is a half mile from the shore).

Conditions started to improve rapidly from there.  Perhaps it was simply because we could exhale a bit after apparently missing the worst of the storm surges that were predicted, but I was definitely much more relaxed at that point.  Aside from a few bands of rain and some wind, things died down.  We were home by about 3:30 PM.

We did have a lot of damage in the borough.  Downed trees, thousands without power, several streets flooded.  My block, as well as my grandma's, was spared from the worst of it.  Thank goodness.  Thank goodness.

On Saturday night, I thought about moving my car in to this driveway.
On Sunday morning, I was glad I didn't!

All of the packing and preparing may not have been put to as much use as we anticipated, but I am glad that we followed the advice of the authorities and got out of our home. I do NOT regret at all taking a few extra safety measures just in case things got bad.  You should always prepare for the worst scenario, not the best one.  That's what we did, and we were lucky to walk away from Irene without any severe damage.  The same cannot be said for some others in our community, our city, and in the neighboring states.  It wasn't a storm to screw around with.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Well, my worst fear about this storm has pretty much happened, as I am due to evacuate my home before 5 PM tomorrow.  For those who are not familiar, I am on the East Shore of Staten Island, which is one of the boroughs of New York City.  I am a half mile from the Lower New York Bay.

Luckily, my grandmother lives nearby, outside of all evacuation zones.  So that's where we (including Marge and Layla) are heading.

While this evacuation is likely precautionary, I am taking it seriously and starting to round my things up.  Marge's important documents are all in my agility backpack already.  I have stocked up on food for both the cat and the dog, as well as cat litter.  We have tons of bottled water.  I am taking Marge's giant soft crate, my cat's carrier, as well as my spare wire crate with me.

We've experienced lots of bad storms here, but never storms severe enough to warrant the type of evacuations we're currently seeing.  I don't know whether I should be more worried about the wind or the prospect of flooding.

Several bloggers have my contact information, so rest assured that I will be in touch.

Good luck to all of you who are also dealing with this storm.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Two Sundays Ago

So this is, oh, two weeks overdue. Yeah.. sorry about that.

But now that I'm stuck in the house with a nasty ear/nose/throat cold yucky icky thing that I probably caught while volunteering in the Physical Therapy department of a nursing home, I have no excuse not to update.

Thankfully, the agility gods must have read my last blog post and rewarded me with a great day of agility the next day. It was quite a long and busy day, actually, so I guess it didn't leave me time to get upset about the snarky people at the trial.

The reason it was so action packed was because I had double the work to do! I had two dogs with me - my own lovely MargeDog as well as one of her best friends, Spirit, the Golden Retriever, who I ran and qualified with last December. I'm also her dog walker, which makes me one of her favorite people in the world.

The Jumpers course was lovely and I knew it when I walked it (which isn't always a good thing - it usually leads to me not qualifying!). However, Marge totally rocked all of my rear crosses and powered through the course, picking up 8 MACH points and her second MXJ leg.

Spirit, too, had a lovely run with me. I handled it exactly the same way as I did with Marge, and, aside from her one error (popping out early at the weaves), I actually thought her run was nicer than Marge's. If you want to see the run, you can find it here.

Next was Standard, that class that Marge and I just can't seem to qualify in. Unfortunately, in this run, we were extremely close. If she would have held on to the teeter for literally another second before bailing, we would have qualified. Unfortunately, this was a new teeter that squeaked at the tipping point, so Marge was startled. I think that's why she bailed.

But there is a lot of good in this run.  Look at how close the freaking judge is to Marge while she's on the A-Frame - and notice that she doesn't even look at him!  She did notice him when she got to the table, but I kept verbally praising her and tried to position myself so that I was kind of in between the table and the judge.  She also hit that really difficult weave entrance, which I am SO proud of her for.

Spirit ran very well, also. But she, too, did not qualify. In her case, hopping the dog walk contact and incurring a refusal at the weave entrance (which was EXTREMELY tricky) prevented a clean run. Her video is here.

After Spirit's run, we stuck around to see Amy and Layla's Standard run, and then headed home.  I really don't know how the heck I would have managed to get two large dogs and two large dog crates back to the car without Louie and Amy's help.  I can see why all of these top agility handlers like working out of the car so much!

And that was our weekend! I would have liked to qualify more than once out of the 6 attempts that I had all weekend (and really wanted to bring home a ribbon to Spirit's momma), but, aside from Marge's zoomy run on the first day of the trial, I had 5 really solid runs with my two girls. I was so glad that Sunday was a pleasant and fun agility day - which is how it should be!

Our next trial is the trial that I kind of flipped out at last year. It's still about 3 or 4 weeks away, I think. It still remains my worst weekend of agility ever, but, because the both of us (ESPECIALLY me) have done a little growing up since last year (in addition to the fact that they will not be using the automatic table counter), I was willing to give it one more shot. If this year goes icky, too, we'll sit this trial out for good.  It ain't worth the stress!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

That's Agility For Ya

Today was one of those agility days where I seriously wonder why I actually do this stuff.  The day ended better than it began, but the whole thing was just so stressful.  I apologize in advance, as this whole thing is just going to be one giant rant.

It started out rough, as, thanks to a faulty alarm clock, I woke up at exactly 6:13 AM, giving me 17 minutes to get to my friend's house.  I ran around the house like a maniac, getting my last bits of things together, which stressed Marge out from the get-go.

Miraculously, thanks to the fact that I packed the night before, I made it to her house by about 6:35 AM.  My speedy performance was a far cry from yesterday, when I hit my snooze butter for 2 straight hours.

The drive was fine.  Marge shared the back seat with Spirit, the Golden Retriever who I walk and sometimes run in agility.  A dog I absolutely adore.

We got to the trial site to find very little parking.  OK, no biggie.  We managed to score the last spot on the blacktop and then took the dogs out to potty.  Unfortunately, there was almost no where to walk them.

When we went inside with our crates and things, we found a crating room that was absolutely packed.  It was only about 7:20 AM and the first run of the day wasn't for more than another half hour, but there was no where for us to go.  People wasted so much space with ex-pens being used for one single dog and inefficient arrangement of crates.  Not only was some of their behavior against the rules, but I also found it extremely inconsiderate.  Seriously?  Do your three border collies all need a separate octagonal ex-pen?  Can any of them be crated or put together to make room for us poor saps looking for a place to put our crate?  And does your Golden really need a 5' by 3' ex-pen when he is curled up in about one-third the space?

Long story short, we did find a place to go.  My friend squeezed herself in somewhere and I, with the help of my other friend, Gloria, found a place as well.  But it set the mood from the start, since the crating room was not only cramped, but not air conditioned, either.

We went down to the rings to check out Excellent Standard.  Some woman with a hunting breed walked past Marge, who was standing directly in front of me and out of the way, and allowed her dog to get up in Marge's face. Well, Marge gave that dog some lip.  The woman continued on her way and said something like, "Oh boy."  Really, lady?  Shorten your God damn leash and then maybe my dog won't feel the need to get upset.  That's in addition to another woman who walked her two giant hounds on the end of a 6' leash without gathering them at all when people passed.  Okay.  Yeah.  Real safe.

Anyway, back to the agility. I didn't like the course from the beginning; it looked deceiving.  I also found out that there were poles in the ring (like support beams or whatever).  Marge has obviously never seen these before, so I expected there to be some issue.

And there was.  The run started off on a sour note, with the dog before us getting whistled and Marge eyeballing the judge like I have never seen her do before.  She was extremely concerned.  I was able to get her head again pretty quickly, but she veered off course after the 4th obstacle.  Then, after a nice A-Frame and table (thank goodness for that, at least), I attempted to rear cross her in to the weaves and that was it.  Full. blown. zoomies.

I got whistled, which I didn't really think was fair since I saw people telling their dogs to lie down in the middle of the course (which is training in the ring), and they didn't get whistled.. never mind the people who do that extremely snail-paced walk, with head down,  dog screaming like a banshee and spinning at their side, back to the beginning of an obstacle after their dog screws it up the first time.  What a time waster.

At that point, I was really upset.  I was unhappy with the trial site, I was unhappy with how tightly packed and testy the environment was.  I was unhappy about the person who told me that my run was "not bad" despite the fact that I got whistled off around obstacle 12 or so and that "she was having fun!"  I'm sorry, but I know my dog, you don't.  Please don't tell me that she was running zoomies because she was filled with so much joy.  She was STRESSED.  I have a STRESSY dog and I don't want to hear about any more of that nonsense about my dog having the time of her life.

Thankfully, I had Amy and Layla to hang out with, which made me feel a lot better.  Layla is such a funny, sweet girl.  It's impossible for her to not bring a smile to your face.  And I always appreciate how Amy is willing to tell me where the bright spots are in my crappier runs without being all like "but it was so WONDERFUL!" Having my other friends around made me feel good, too.  Gloria's kindness in lending me a spot to put my crate helped to overshadow all of the craziness in the crating room, and the fact that my friend Marge (not the 4-legged one) let me hitch along for the drive to the site was something I appreciated immensely as well.

I didn't have to wait very long for my next class.  I was excited and confident for Jumpers, the polar opposite of how I feel during Standard.  I walked the course a couple of times and decided not to overthink it.  I also decided that I didn't wish to stay in the walk-through any longer than I had to, as people seemed pretty nasty there was well.  I bumped in to someone accidentally and she spent the rest of the walk giving me dirty looks!  Seriously?  What is WRONG with some of these people?

We had start line trouble in this run, too, as Marge saw an AmStaff-looking dog walk by behind the start line and thought that he should NOT be there.  Hence why I held her collar for an extra few seconds in the beginning.

The beginning of the run was beautiful, and after getting through what I thought was the hardest part of the course (the front cross to the weaves), I became very excited that we might be qualifying.  However, Marge took a crazy off-course jump - I think just a moment of disconnect - which squashed that idea.  Other than that and a little blip at the tunnel, she ran very nicely, though.  So it was an upgrade over the morning for sure, and I run I was happy with.

After that, Marge, Spirit, Marge and I (gets confusing, doesn't it?) were ready to high-tail it out of there, so after moving Spirit's crate as well as Layla's crate in to our little corner so that we could all be together for tomorrow, we headed home.

Round two coming up shortly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Little R&R

My summer has been extremely hectic, so days out doing fun things have been few and far between, except when explicitly scheduled (like agility events).   The heat doesn't help, either.

However, we did get to sneak to the park a couple of weeks ago with Mable, who I often puppysit.  Mable's mom was away for a few days and I was one of the people helping to care for her.  I decided that she might like a nice long walk in the park. I knew Marge would!

Nothing like a little R&R with friends to de-stress.  It's so wonderful that Mable and Marge get along as well as they do.  Both of them have their reservations with some strange dogs, so it's pretty lucky that they hit it off as well as they did.

P.S. - for those of you keeping track of my academic endeavors - I was extremely pleased with my GRE score, enough so that I will not have to take it again.  I also earned A's in both my Anatomy and Physiology class and my Independent Study/Teacher Assistant gig.  What a wild ride June and July were...

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