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Friday, July 31, 2009

It's Taken Me Years to Publically Say...

I'm a diabetic. Oh yeah, and I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Basically, these came on due to a viral infection when I was 23 years old that has forever weakened my Immune System. But this isn't intended to be a sob-story post, so let's just focus on me coming to terms with my Diabetes. There, I said it publicly again - heck, I might even get good at this!

Sure, I've talked with select individuals about being a diabetic, but overall I have tried very hard to hide it because Diabetes has had such a negative stigma in the past. Did you know that Mary Tyler Moore has Diabetes? So does Larry King, Randy Jackson, Nicole Johnson Baker (Miss USA '99) and the Seattle Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow. Did you also know that most of these people hid their disease for fear it would derail their careers by giving the impression that they were damaged goods, high-maintenance or be seen as unable to keep their commitments.

In this day and age, it seems strange that people have been denied jobs, promotions, access to airplanes, treated as if they had the plague, looked at as an oddity and dumped in relationships because the other person "couldn't handle it." All because they were labeled 'Diabetic'.

I remember the first time my doctor said "I'm certain you have Diabetes, but we need to run a test to confirm it." I began to cry and quickly refused the test, explaining that if I was diagnosed with Diabetes, I could be dropped or denied future health insurance (which is true in many states). The negative stigma related to Diabetes is strong and it is still in existence.

There have been countless times that I've started to write about my experiences with Diabetes, but didn't want it to come out in a 'poor me' kind of way. I just think it's time I state the facts, not just for myself, but for everyone around me and for those who may be facing the same scary issue.
  • First, I am a Diabetic. I'm a Type 1 so that means I will ALWAYS be a Diabetic
  • Yes, I can have deserts & carbs, but only in moderation
  • Next, if you see my 'pager' it's really my insulin pump (a medical device). If you hear a beep, it's probably my insulin pump. If I'm pushing some buttons on it while we're talking, please continue on, I'm not ignoring you or taking a call
  • I'm sorry (I'm apologizing in advance), but when my blood sugar is low or high, my moods aren't my proudest moments. It's a chemical thing in the body and I really, really can't help it. Please don't take these moments personally, but rather as a clue that something is going wrong in my body and I need help.
  • Oh yeah, when my blood sugar becomes too low, I have discovered that my breathing becomes very quick, shallow and labored. I become very hot & sweaty. I also become incredibly task-oriented and can no longer multi-task. As mentioned previously, I might be a bit short in our conversation. This means I need sugar NOW so please ask if I need to check my blood sugar level or just hand me some sugar.
  • If I need sugar you need to know it comes in all types of forms such as sugar packets, orange juice, regular soda, a candy bar and my favorite for traveling, gummy bears.
  • My sugar can drop quickly when I'm exercising, it's hot out, when I eat a high carb meal (which I generally try to avoid) or for no apparent reason at all. What a pain it is!
  • Does Diabetes scare me? Of course it does. I know that statistically, the chances of me dieing at a much earlier age because of this disease is a very real future for me. I'm more susceptible to organ failure, limb amputation, blindness and much more.
  • With that said, I'm certainly not going down without a fight! I have heart, I have gumption and I work hard to focus on other things besides the negative what-could-be.
Having Diabetes is a challenge and there are days I'm just tired of it. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of taking a vacation from it, although I so wish I could just have 1 week a year! But on the flip side, Diabetes has put a lot of things in perspective for me. I don't sweat about a lot of things I used to and I feel like I live in a great place that supports a healthy diet - which is key for my daily living.

Diabetes has also shown me that my husband loves me unconditionally. He was there for the diagnosis, the 3-day hospital stay that followed and for all of the education 'we' have had to endure! I say 'we' because the first thing Dan said when I was diagnosed was "What do WE need to do..." I wouldn't have blamed him if he would have chosen to run far, far away - it's no secret that I wish I could have had the option to run from Diabetes!

After almost 5 years of living with this disease, the one thing that continues to surprise me is how my friends and family accept and support my Diabetes life. It started when my mother-in-law took an entire day of her personal time to come & support me at an informational Diabetes Conference. She doesn't have Diabetes, but boy did she jump in to help me get educated that day!

More recently, I went on a long hike with some friends and with the exercise and heat, it was challenging to get my blood sugar stabilized. I had to keep stopping along the trail to bring my sugars back up and in my embarrassment, kept apologizing. My friends didn't think it was a big deal and my husband was his usual supportive & patient self (which also meant he carried a loaded backpack full of supplies for me).

Taking that hike was a big deal to me and a bit of a milestone. I've read about real people who do triathlons, long distance cycling and marathons, so accomplishing my 9 mile hike (which really turned into a 12+ mile hike) was a start. Next I really want to get back to swimming, which means having my insulin pump injection patch in plain sight thanks to the swimsuit. Since being diagnosed with Diabetes, I've been playing it safe when it comes to physical activity, I've been living in fear of the sudden drop in my blood sugar and I've been hiding my patch. I think it's time to move forward, get back to full living and to remember that the what-ifs are going to happen whether I'm sitting at home on the couch or climbing a mountain.

I may have a disease that requires intensive daily management, but I can still make & accomplish goals - it just takes a little extra planning and a contingency plan.

I know I'm not the only one out there with Diabetes who is trying to keep their chin up each and every day. I just hope that my story will inspire someone else to keep going, to stay engaged and most importantly, know that you're NOT alone.

Thanks for letting me write this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Would You Do on a 106 Degree Day?

Our friends Steve & Laurie invited us over for dinner and fun on their lake with the dogs - a perfect day for it since the high was at or above 106 degrees here! Ah yeah, a new city record...

Any way, the water was wonderful! With all of the hot weather, the water was a comfortable temperature which is good, because I'm a wimp.

I wasn't sure how Zulu would be in the water so we brought bumpers to throw, a long line "just in case" and my bathing suit so I could coax him in if needed.

Well, the joke was on me because little did I know that our little Zulu is a water fanatic! Within moments of spying the water he had me on my butt!!!

It all happened so fast. One minute he was diving in the water to fetch a toy screaming with delight the entire time. As I was checking to be sure my ears weren't bleeding from the high pitch, he came in, gave me the bumper, proceeded to wrap me in the long-line and then before I could calculate my predicament, he dove back in and down I went!

I just have one thing to say...remind me to talk to his breeder on the lack of warning regarding his water fetish - LOL.

After a good 30-45 minutes of hard swimming (I did keep the long line on him the entire time), I went out in a raft and Zulu came up to join me and get some rest. The first picture attached was after we settled in. The second picture was us trying to settle in!

Last, but certainly not least, Burton is pictured doing one of his many water retrieves. He too is a water fanatic!

We're going back on Saturday and plan to bring Ru in the hopes that Zulu can get her to graduate from the baby pool to the adult lake. Should be fun!

Dog Days of Summer

The Seattle area is under a major heat wave with temperatures into the 100's.

While this may seem normal to folks from the South, last night was the first night in Seattle's history that the temp didn't drop back down below 70. Today we're in for another record high of 105+.

So the plan for the week has been to get the dogs out early so they can peacefully spend the day inside with the A/C going.

On Monday, we had an early play date with our friends Dave & Heidi and their pups. Dave is an amazing photographer and all of these pictures are courtesy of him - Thank you Dave!!!!!

The first picture has Ru & Zulu cooling down in the pool, which was also known as 'home-base' for the dogs while playing. They'd run and run and run, then jump in the pool to cool down and then go off to run again.

The next picture is Ru & Zulu playing a great game of tag.

In the third picture, Dylan is a part of the game and witnesses Ru being taken down by Zulu...not that that stopped the fun as they all played for a good 45 minutes to an hour without a break.

Next we've got Zulu & Ru tugging on the Frisbee and last but not least, a picture of Zulu framed in by an Agility Tire. Don't worry, my 6 month old puppy wasn't jumping it, but rather he was standing at attention just waiting for the other dogs to start the next game of chase.

His breeder asked what I thought his ear set would be, prick, semi-prick or a combination. It's so hard to say at this point! There are moments they're as prick as can be, then there are the times they're semi-prick and then there's that lazy left ear of his that just wants to hang around while the other is straight up. It will be interesting to see which way they end up : )

Stay cool everyone. I know I'm going to take advantage of the heat and take a siesta later with the pups.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Update on Zulu 7-26-2009

It's been a little while since I did an update on Zulu so I thought I took a few updated pictures to share.

Zulu's been with us for about a month now and we're still so glad we got him. Unlike in the beginning when he thought Dan was the best, Zulu's since warmed up to me and can often be found acting as my personal shadow. Of course since I work from my home, I have an advantage, but more importantly, Zulu likes to work for me and is always ready to go.

His adult coat is coming in and it's just beautiful. He still looks like a baby coyote, but his face and mannerisms are maturing and his eyes are incredibly expressive and are now a warm brown color (hard to see in these twilight pictures).

This next week our temperatures are going to be in the 100's, which is unheard of in Seattle. Poor Zulu's going to think we're back in Louisiana!

The dog room has it's own A/C unit so they'll be nice and cool. However, with temps like that, I'm probably going to have to cancel my classes as NOBODY is used to such heat, including the dogs. I guess if I'm going to practice, I need to get up at about 5:00 a.m. and get my butt out there!

For Zulu, I've got a 2x12' board inside so we can practice our contacts. I also need to bring a cone in so we can start working on some turn work...see, there's lots to do in the air conditioned house!

Hope everyone has a great week. Stay cool!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Class Course - July 22 & 23, 2009

This week I thought I'd do a course featuring contacts and a whole lot of other stuff going on.

I lulled my students into a sense of confidence by using the first 4 jumps from last week's opening sequence, but put the table out there as an appealing off-course option.

This is a good refresher for my advanced folks on the art of 'pulling' while still moving forward and it's a great opportunity to introduce the younger pups to multiple body language cues (i.e. the pull AND forward motion). I think this is a long lost skill not mentioned in the latest of handling systems that personally, I think is a fancy term for basics and allows the marketing wheels to churn and offers a place for cash to flow. But, that's just my opinion although I'm getting the sense that people are getting bored with the whole topic.

Back to the course...the contact obstacle placement and course flow gave handlers an opportunity to see whose dogs really knew their contact performance and whose dogs were dependent on their handlers for correct placement. It was an eye-opener to many and gave us a chance to work on 'the fix' and give each appropriate homework.

The superstar on Wednesday was Beth and Cassey. Beth semi-recently had 2 partial knee replacements so part of her lesson each week includes a reminder on how to appropriately use her body and how to run. Remember, she's spent the last decade compensating for knees that wouldn't bend and has really embraced the learning curve on body usage & placement. It showed on Wednesday when she kicked butt and had several absolutely gorgeous moves that I wish I would have been able to video. Kudos to this team for not only getting out there for the mental challenge, but for the physical one as well.

Weave Exercise - July 15 & 16, 2009

After having come back from judging in Louisiana, were the weave-pole performance was to die for, I decided to setup a nice little weave exercise for my class last week.

When folks first saw my concoction, there were definitely moments of shock, which then turned to dismay and a few who said it looked like I had puked up a few weaves and then tossed in some jumps . But as usual, there is a method to my madness...

The spacing on this course is intentionally tight for two reasons. First, it allowed the baby dogs to stay focused and not get too far ahead of their owners. Second, it forced the experienced dogs to collect.

There was plenty of flow through this course and the speed was anything but slow which forced handlers to be right-on with their timing and cues.

Since spacing was tighter, I required my advanced folks to stay ahead of their dogs. This included:
  • a front-cross between #5 & 6,
  • handlers to be in the middle of the #8 weaves so the dog had to find their entry with the handler 3+ poles ahead (a great skill we don't often practice)
  • a TIMELY front-cross between #10 & #11 requiring handlers to pick-up their dog immediately and wrap them around the last pole
  • to have the handler be ahead and between the #12 & #13 obstacle so the dog had to seek out the #12 jump
  • I did require a rear-cross after the #15 weaves to the #16 jump AND
  • a well executed & timely rear-cross between #17 & 18 which resulted in the dog wrapping to the right of #18 and still make the #19 weave entry
There certainly were a ton of skills going on here and a multitude of weave pole entries to boot!

A couple of side notes. The #8 & #10 weaves were also channel weaves to help my baby dogs out a bit (although we didn't open them up more than 2 inches) and once folks were timely with their cues, the teams did GREAT and had a ton of fun!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hiking Tiger Mountain

Today we finally had a chance to hike Tiger Mountain. As the name suggests, it's a mountain, which means it's up-hill. Then there's more up-hill and have I mentioned steep up-hill?

The 'trail' is a series of old logging roads which, as we soon found out, are unmarked which meant there were a few critical decision making intersections. Our 4.5 mile (one-way) hike turned into a 6.5 mile (one-way) trek as we took the wrong path not once, not twice, but almost 3 times! This added a lot of extra mileage, but it was a beautiful day and the exercise was good.

Along the way there were a ton of butterflies and I was able to get the shot of the one pictured. Ru often liked the sporadic behavior of them and often ran to try to catch either them or their shadow - it was very cute to watch.

Once we hit the top, we were greeted to some great views, including the one of Mt. Rainier pictured here. We sat and let the dogs cool off in the shade and that's where I took the picture of Ru inspecting the Daisey's and of Burton falling asleep on Dan's backpack.

Now that we're home, I think Burton had the right idea and I'm ready for an early bedtime myself!

In total, we did at least 12 miles and had a ton of fun. Our friends Lisa and her husband and their dog Annie joined us, making for a ton of laughs and support like "We're almost there!" just as us some of us were starting to fade.

We're already planning our next hiking trip!

Zulu, Spot & Pinky stayed home. Zulu's too young for such an extreme 'walk', Pinky's in retirement and Spot's on the injured list (not sure what he did, but crate rest is doing him wonders).

Summers here in Washington are gorgeous and it's wonderful to get out and enjoy the trails and nature.

Oh, did I mention we saw a few piles of Bear scat & Cougar poo? Luckily these guys made their natural deposits and were out of site by the time we came across their remains. An NO, I didn't take a picture of it, although I'll admit I thought of it...

Any way, happy hiking everyone!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Update on Zulu, the Dogs & Life

Since I LOVE pictures to accompany my blog posts, I thought I'd share the attached of Zulu when he was younger. The breeder sent us a wonderful packet with a ton of Baby Pictures so we can see him from a mere rat-like-pup to the young adult he is now. It's so nice to have all of that stuff!

Things have been semi-quite around the house. I'm trying to take it easy since I'm coming off of 2+ months of being sick and RuRu had some sort of allergic reaction last week that had us taking some drastic measures to get her better.

For some unknown reason, her front feet swelled up, she started to get sores on them, on her lips and red bumps all over her belly which was spreading. To top it off, she had a fever of 104. Dogs generally top off at 101.5 so we knew something was going on, not to mention she just radiated heat.

We began dosing her with Benedryl, changed her food, sterilized her environment and tried to figure out the source of her discomfort. We'd had topsoil brought in, used a pesticide a few days prior (although we thought we'd kept the dogs separate), opened a new bag of dog food and later found a tick on her. In other words, lots of directions to investigate. After calling the dirt company to find out if they added any weed control or non-local ingredients, the pet food company to see if there was a change in their formula (none of our other animals showed any symptoms) and stripping her food and environment down to basics, we're still left wondering what the trigger was, but she is now doing great and back to her playful self.

In the meantime, Dan and I are slowly working on some of the many little projects we need to do around the house. I've begun staining some of the new kitchen cabinets and need to get motivated to strip, sand and stain the remainder of the older ones. We also have a few details to finish up on the dog room and need to build shelves in the garage to better organize that space as well. Oh yes, and all of this while watering, watering, watering our new hydroseeded areas.

It's so nice to be taking time-off from Agility. The last few weekends we've been sleeping in, making breakfast, eating nice and healthy, working out and spending a TON of time with each other and the dogs.

While out judging, some have mentioned they envy our life together in the dog world. I agree, it's really great to share that common interest with each other. The other thing that I think makes our marriage work so well is that we have a life together outside of Agility. Dan and I work with each other on house projects, have common friends, like similar things such as sitting around a bonfire and we'll often do nothing and relax together (the dogs fit in perfectly on this last one!). We're also comfortable enough to go do things on our own. Dan likes to golf with his Dad & his buddies and I like to go to breakfast or lunch with my friends or just do 'girl-stuff'.

I don't want to give the impression that we're perfect because we'd both start rolling on the floor after having been taken over by a laughing fit. To be honest, there have been a few moments when I found myself daydreaming about the various ways I could suffocate him while he slept and I'm certain there have been a few moments were he's planned my demise as well. The good news is we can joke and laugh together about it and face the situation for the reality it is.

The better news is we have more highs than lows. I wouldn't trade my marriage for another any day. : )

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Zulu Visits a Ranch & Starts Agility

Zulu's been a busy pup the last few days. Besides his usual play time at home, I've also had him accompany me to one of my client's home.

My client has 2 children, a very intelligent young lady who loves animals and her younger brother who is so curious and loves to be a part of things. Perfect training for them to handle a young and obedient pup and excellent training for Zulu to learn that kids = food!

Today we expanded Zulu's horizons when I brought him with to the arena where I teach Agility. The bonus is that it is on a working ranch so there was a ton for Zulu to check out.

Zulu's favorites were the chickens which are pictured in the first two photos. As you can see, he thought they were WAY, WAY, WAY interesting. Next were the sheep. He was interested when they moved and showed some beginner interest, but since these sheep are pretty tame (they're quite used to dogs and humans), they didn't move so much and were not as interesting as the chickens who were always on the go.

While I don't have any pictures of Zulu's first introduction to Agility, I was so proud of him!

In preparation, this past week I've been working on his body position relative to me. Since Zulu's habit is to come around in front, I'm teaching him to be comfortable next to me so the two of us are parallel and in close proximity. I also did a quick lesson on a flat board for a beginner 2-on-2-off contact performance. He's a quick and eager learner and it's a pleasure to work him.

Zulu has also taught himself the tunnel which was out in our Agility pasture. It's funny how my last two dogs have initiated equipment training on their own...makes a Mom proud!

In the arena, Zulu followed a friend's dog up the very low a-frame (approx. 3' off the ground) and later followed her into a tunnel as well. Ah, Border Collies are so darned easy to train (y'all know I'm going to eat those words later...).

In all seriousness, my only goal for Zulu this evening was to work attention and to see how reved up and excited he would be with the other dogs running about.

The answer was 1) Yes, he was very excited by the other dogs running and 2) He had beautiful attention. Another benefit was that his recall was to die for! When I called him, he spun around on a dime and came in for his treat.

I began some tugging on the leash as well (which had been done previously) so I could fade the treats and have another means to interact with him.

Zulu was very excited to be there and working. He is a very happy dog with us and as expected, we're so enjoying him.

The last picture is of him after he fell asleep laying next to me on the chair. As you can see, he is a tired little puppy!

Night-night Zulu...

Monday, July 6, 2009

L& D Dog Club

You've seen lots of photos of Zulu, our new pup, so I thought it would be fitting to show a few of the rest of our clan.

As I mentioned in my previous note, the dogs spent the day outdoors with us. As you can imagine, that gave me some time to take pictures of the rest of the clan to share - so here they are!

The first is Pinky, our oldest. It's tough to get good pictures of her these days. Age is catching up with her and I'm treasuring every moment with her because I know my time is limited.

Next is Spot, our next oldest. Spot will be 9 in a few months and although in great shape, he has developed a heart murmur over the last year. However, thanks to Agility, he is in terrific shape and so we've been advised to keep his life as is. This means he still gets to enjoy romps and agility, his favorite things!

Next is Ru, who just turned 18 months a few days ago. I'd have to say she's the most photogenic of the group, although Burton comes in a very close second. He's the best at portrait shots while Ru is great in action shots : )

Speaking of Burton, his striking pose brings up the rear on this page. Burton is now 2 years, although we got him just a short 7 months ago.

It was great to get such wonderful shots of the gang.

Zulu & the 'Big' Apple

Zulu had a fun-filled day yesterday with the rest of the clan. While Dan and I were tending to our yard work duties, the dogs spent 6+ hours outdoors with us having full access to both the wooded and pasture area for the day.

After running, exploring and romping for the majority of the day, all of the dogs were barely able to keep their eyes open by dinner time.

Just as Zulu was slowing down for the day, he discovered an apple on the ground from one of our fruit trees. Of course it's not close to being ripe and Zulu agreed it wasn't edible material. However, it made a GREAT 'ball' to play with and had just the right amount of squishiness to chew on and hardness to withstand his puppy teeth.

Zulu proceeded to take his new toy on top of one of our downed cedar logs to play with. The logs are very large and he was able to easily settle in comfortably to check out his new toy.

Soon, he began to occupy himself by flipping the ball around in his mouth and at times, let it roll off the log so he'd have to go chase and retrieve his new toy.

I'm not sure what eventually happened to the 'big' apple, but Zulu had a great time with his new toy and it allowed me some wonderful photos to add to his scrapbook as well.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

It's been a few days since I wrote. It's been busy/hectic around the house, but Dan and I have also been focusing on our home, our pups and the wonderful weather. It's a happy time for us and we're really enjoying it.

First, a quick update on Zulu. Simply put, he's wonderful, he's happy and he's become a part of our clan very easily.

Zulu and Spot had a 10 second scuffle yesterday. Basically in play Spot nipped Zulu and Zulu came back at him and Spot grabbed his collar and scared him. The good news is all was forgiven in 1.5 minutes.

Over all, Dan and I are thrilled to have Zulu and it brings us joy to watch him playing, hanging and snuggling with us and the dogs. Today he'll come with over to a friend's house to celebrate the Fourth. Oh, another bonus, thanks to his breeder, fireworks don't bother him in the least - thank you Barb!!!!

So yesterday we had 60 tons of dirt delivered - 6 dump truck loads to spread around our property . I hired 3 laborers to help us and they were amazing. I would highly recommend this type of help for anyone who tackles such a large project like we did. Most of the dirt went out to the pasture area since there were several places that were hilly and holey. My goal has been to bring in dirt to flatten and level a few places, especially in the Agility area. Amazingly enough, I'm afraid we may need more dirt, but we'll figure it out tomorrow when we're done spreading the last 1.5 truck loads.

As for today, we're doing NOTHING! To say we're sore is an understatement. The laborers completely put us to shame on the physical work. Just another reason to hit the gym!

We've had a nice day relaxing and playing with the dogs. It's fun to see Zulu blossom and to see Ru play so much and continue to build muscle. With her body structure and short coat, it's easy to see each chiseled muscle and she looks so darned good! Wish someone would throw a ball for me and ration out my food : )

Any way, Happy Fourth everyone!