Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coming Home! (almost)

I'm headed home tomorrow!  Yipee!!  My flight leaves India just after midnight Iowa time, and if all goes well, I arrive home at 7pm.  My layovers are shorter this time, so overall travel time is lower.

Since Monday I've been in Pune, India.  My schedule has been something like this:  Leave hotel at 7am.  Work until 6:30 or so.  Back to hotel to drop off work stuff.  Out to dinner with work colleagues.  Back to hotel at 10:30 or so.  I'm WORN OUT and ready to come home.

Another reason I want to come home -- our company's security/traveler tracking service sent this alert out yesterday:
Information about your trip which may affect your travel.

Travel Alert: India

Consular Affairs Bulletins

South / Central Asia - India

29 Oct 2009

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to continuing security concerns in India. The U.S. Government continues to receive information that terrorist groups may be planning attacks in India. Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack targets where Americans or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.
Apparently the complex where my company's office is located is suspected to be a target (lots of western companies have large operations there).  I know the odds are low that anything would happen, but still......
In dog news, here's a dog that was sleeping outside our office building on Thursday.  It didn't even move when I approached, and I had to work quite hard to get it's attention.  Funny that the word "biscuit" didn't even work.  Works every time with the Trio of Trouble ;)

It turns out that our driver for the week is an animal lover.  I asked him some questions about the dogs that are everywhere.  Here's what I learned:

  • The dogs are stray/wild (not a surprise)

  • Dogs are considered a holy animal in Hinduism

  • Many people don't like all the dogs - they think the dogs are dangerous (and, realistically, some probably are)

  • The dog populations continue to increase

  • The government made it legal to shoot these stray/wild dogs

  • The majority of the population doesn't agree with this - many think sterilization is the way to go

  • Mostly the dogs fend for themselves and eat trash, but some people feed the dogs (see note on holy animal listed above)

Our driver prefers dogs to cats, and has 5 cats, and 8 kittens.  His cats don't like to go outside because of all the stray dogs, but he agrees with the sterilization point of view.

Here's another dog pic I was able to get.  The land surrounding the dog is pretty representative of the public space overall (lots of trash & debris)


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why I'm not training: Travel Karma

As I mentioned in my last post, occasionally my my travel plans go a bit awry.  I've been stranded on trains in London, stuck in traffic in a diesel van in Paris, been in tram accident in Germany, gotten lost and ended up in a "bad" neighborhood in Toronto, and stuck in more airports than I can count.  I still believe that it's all part of traveling around, but some of my frequent travel companions are beginning to question this, and are starting to see me as a common denominator. 

What does this have to do with India? 

Here are a couple examples from my trip to Delhi & Agra:

Story one.  "We're not going to all fit in that car"
So we land at at around 10pm at the Delhi airport.  4 of us are traveling together, and the hotel has arranged ground transportation from the airport to the hotel. 

All's well, right?  Not quite. 

There are 4 of us, and  we're all in India for nearly 2 weeks.  3 of us are women (sorry for the stereotyping) so we all have quite a lot of luggage.  The hotel shows up with only one car.  We look at the car, and don't see any way that the 4 of us plus our luggage are going to fit. 

Things aren't looking good, but the driver seems undeterred.  This is why:

Yes, this is our bags being strapped to the top of the car. 

I expressed some concerns to my travel companions, as the case containing ALL of my clothes is the middle one in the picture.  Normally, I might think losing a suitcase off the top of a car in one of the largest cities in the world is just a great excuse to buy more clothes.  Unfortunately, I'm in India.  I don't know that I could find any clothes to fit me here, much less buy more than a week's worth.  One of my travel companions commented, "well, if you're going to have your suitcases strapped to the car somewhere, they probably know how to do it right here."  Good point.  We piled in the car with the remaining cases and made it to the hotel with no luggage loss.  (I must admit that I was watching out the back window in case my suitcase fell off.  I have no idea what I would have done, but still, I was watching...)

Story 2:  "Let's change that flat tire"
My friends who grew up in India told me to take the train from Delhi to Agra.  It's quicker, apparently.  I'm on a business trip, though, and our corporate travel and security departments don't allow this.  We booked a car and driver instead.  It's 2 lanes of highway each way, and only 200km.  We were told it would take 2.5 to 3 hours each way.

I'm not sure what kind of trip planning provided those estimates.  It took us just over 4 hours to get to Agra.  I lost count of how many hours it took us to get home (5-ish, I think). 

Why the delay in getting back?

A flat tire.  Yes, a flat tire.  You may be wondering, "Is that really complaint-worthy?"  Normally, I would say no.  However, if this is the spare tire that's put on the car when the  tire blows, I think there's a case to  be made for complaint:

Yes, that's a split in the side of the spare, and some type of organic material (sticks, as close as we could tell) plugging the hole in the tire.

When the first tire blew, my colleagues and I thought it was just another fun adventure and got out to take pictures.  Oh, and one of my colleagues had to help, as the jack included with the spare didn't work properly on the car (no surprise) so my colleague had to lift - yes lift - the side of the car so the driver could get the jack in place.

When we saw the condition of tire, however, we didn't think it was such fun.  As soon as I saw the picture, I knew the probability of us getting back to Delhi on that same tire we very, very small.  The roads are not that nice, and that was an ugly patch. 

Sure enough, a couple of hours later the tire blew.  Not just gently went flat.  It blew.  We pulled off on the side of the road.  By this time it was dark.  We're parked next to a busy, should-be-four-lanes-but-is-really-used-as-eight-lanes highway.  We're outside of Delhi, but in a populated area.  The driver got out to look at the tire (with my colleague to act as a human jack again) and the driver left.  Yes left. 

The driver came back a couple of minutes later with another man.  They stared at the tire for a while.  One of my colleagues suggested that we call the car service and have them send another car.  Our driver replied, "No, it can be fixed.  Just five minutes."  And off he went, with the tire and the other man. 

Meanwhile, left alone again, our car started to attract some attention from the locals.  When stuck in car, at night, outside of Delhi, with no way to get away, attention is not what I want. 

5 minutes passed.  No driver.  10 minutes.  Still no driver.  15 minutes.  I call The Husband and tell him where we are in case we go missing.  20 minutes.  Still no driver.  30 minutes (or was it more?).  Who's that man running towards our car?  But yes, the driver!  The tire is finally fixed and we're back on the road.

Back to the hotel for a large glass of wine.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why I'm not training: Delhi & Agra

After our work was done on Saturday, we set off on the second leg of our journey, and headed north to Delhi.  Why did we fly to Delhi for 2 short nights and one long day, you may ask? 

For the joy of domestic air travel in India?  No 
Because I enjoy checking in and out of hotels?  Nope
Because I wanted to see if the traffic in the North of India was better than in the South? Nada

THIS is why.....

Oh yes, we went to Delhi so that we could drive to Agra and see the Taj Mahal.  What an amazing building!  I can't explain it.  So much marble, such gorgeous symmetry and architecture. 

Here are a couple more pics:

And just in case you think I may have downloaded these pics off the internet, here I am, thinking that I really should have brought sunglasses and a sun hat to India....

Oh, and here's my Delhi & Agra dog picture.  In real life this dog looks a lot less like a doberman than it does it in the picture.

For my next post, I'll share a few "adventures in travel" moments.  Anyone who's heard my travel stories (or who's traveled with me) will realize that I don't always have the best travel Karma....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why I'm not training: Chennai

For the first leg of my trip, I'm in Chennai.  After the afore-posted horrendously long plane trip, my colleagues and I arrived shortly after midnight on Thursday.  We then had meetings all day Thursday.  Fun, eh?  Thank goodness for caffeine.

Thankfully, our hosts understand that we don't get to India often, so they took us on a short sightseeing side trip.  The trip was to a shrine at the top of a hill, overlooking Chennai.  We had a beautiful view of the city and there was a nice breeze, which gave us some relief from the heat (the locals say it's "cool" here now well over 90 degrees plus humidity).

One of my colleagues became a local celebrity on this stop.  The girl's school was just letting out for the day, and my colleague was very popular.  The students LOVED her blonde hair, and insisted that they take pictures with her (she spent about 15 minutes posing w/ various groups of students).  My colleague says thanks to her hairdresser for the lovely blonde hightlights!

I also saw an amusing sign on one of the buildings at the top of a hill, a secluded location at night - you get the picture.  But what a polite way to ask.....

Our work included a visit with a local customer.  It was wonderful to visit the customer's home, and sit on his veranda for a chat.  He didn't speak English, and my colleagues &  I don't speak Tamil, so we were relying on our local marketing manager to do the chatting on our behalf, and to translate.  I felt like I was in a Saturday Night Live skit.  Here's a sample conversation:  Lani or colleague asks marketing manager to ask customer a question.  Marketing manager asks customer the question.  Customer spends 5 minutes replying.  Marketing manager tells us, "He thinks that's ok."  Repeat this scene over and over for about 45 minutes.  Now picture yourself trying to keep from laughing if you were in my place.

Tomorrow we work most of the day, then fly to the another city.  I'll keep you posted on how the trip is going.  Oh, and remind me to do a post about the traffic in India.  Not for the faint of heart, or the carsick.

And, since this is a dog blog, here's a picture of a local canine (a pretty good representative for the many, many, dogs I've seen wandering the streets).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why I'm not training the dogs tomorrow

26.5  hours.  That's how long I'll be traveling tomorrow, and into the next day, and into the next day.  I'll be seeing only a few hours of Wednesday.  From the time I arrive at my local airport to check in, to the anticipated arrival time at my destination airport I'll have been traveling for 26.5 hours.  Sigh.

On the up side, I'll have a lot of time to read, and I've got 4 new books to keep me going!

Since I won't be home to train the dogs for a couple of weeks, I'll try to post some photos from my trip.  I'll make the link to dogs by theming the posts "why I'm not training today."

Saturday, October 17, 2009


We did it!  We Qualified!  And took second place, too!  What a good corgi!

Things to notice in the photo:

  • The non-plussed look on Maggie's face.  This was her attitude today - yah, ok, another dog show.  Our heeling wasn't great because of this attitude but she was steady and good on all the exercises and didn't move a paw on her stays!
  • The Ecstatic look on handlers face - I was dreading the show today.  I really just wanted to stay home. And to be honest, if I hadn't posted on my blog that I was going I would have stayed home today (drat that feeling of accountability).  Once I got to the show I was SO nervous - I think the most nervous I've ever been before a class.  And we were the first ones in the ring, which made it a bit worse.  
  • The "just get it over with" look on the judge's face.  Little did he know that when he agreed to one photo it would turn into a photo-shoot (we wanted to stand in front of a jump, then non-plussed Maggie wasn't interested in putting her ears up for the photo, etc.)
So Maggie's new official name will be:
C-Myste Sweet Dreams CDX RAE MXP AJP

YIPPEE!!  oh, did I already say that....  :)

And a side note for Janet - this show didn't have title ribbons.  Maybe we should have traveled to Tennessee....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why not just wing it?

Maggie & I have another obedience trial this weekend.  Another chance to Q in Open A and finally add CDX to our name.   Life has gotten in the way of my training lately, and I'm ashamed to say that Maggie & I have only had about 6 short training sessions since our last trial.

My preparation philosophy before the last trial was "have fun and don't school the exercises."  I guess you can call my prep strategy for this trial "just wing it."  My obedience instructor asked me if Maggie & I were entered in the trial.  I said yes, and told her about my wing it strategy.  She said it just might work.  Sometimes dogs come back more "on" after some off time.   Perhaps she was just trying to make me feel better.  But heck, the trial is only 10 miles from home, so I won't be out large amounts of cash for hotel & gas if my new "strategy" doesn't go well.

I'll let you know.....!

Oh - and for those of you who may not know the "dog terms" I used:
Q = Qualifying score.  In obedience this means getting 170 of a possible 200 points, and passing every exercise.  It takes 3 Q's to earn the title Maggie and I are working for, and we're at 2.
Open A = The obedience class we're competing in.  This is the "middle level" of obedience.
CDX = Companion Dog Excellent - the title we'll earn if we can just pull in that last Q!  These letters would be added after Maggie's name, in place of the CD she's got there now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sleeping arrangements

Lest I make it seem that the dogs don't sleep in harmony, I thought I'd share these pics of Maggie & Ziggy. Both of them are sofa dogs, and they enjoy the new, larger sofa since 2 dogs and one human or 2 humans and one dog can fit comfortably.

Ziggy, Maggie & I were watching some HGTV the other night, and I just had to get a pic of the 2 of them snuggled up.  Ziggy was on the sofa first, then Maggie made her way up.  Neither of them seemed to mind.  The 2 brindles do get along well....

After a while they really started to relax, and Ziggy flopped his leg over Maggie's back to make himself more comfortable.  She didn't even flinch.

In other dog-sleep news, Denzil has ceased his midnight growling for the moment.  I took Traci's advice, and moved the beds around, including moving the favorite dog bed to the end of our bed - near the other dog beds.  So far, all is calm.  If the growling comes back, I have a crate at the ready.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is this the face of a bully?

Could it be?  Could a corgi with such a sweet face be a bully?

The answer, sadly, is yes - and it's costing me sleep.

A few weeks ago, Ziggy was whining in the night.  I figured he just needed to go out and go potty - which is unusual, but you never know.  So out of bed I got at 2am-ish to let Z out.  Then it happened again a few nights later.  Strange.  And Ziggy didn't seem to be rushing to the door.

Then a few nights after that, I was still awake and reading and I figured it out.  As Ziggy walked up to go to his bed (all 3 dog beds are lined up against the wall near my side of the bed) I saw Denzil's stare, and heard a low growl.  Denzil didn't want Ziggy to walk past him, so Ziggy couldn't get to the bed.  I gently explained to Denzil that Ziggy could go to his bed, and the behavior stopped.

Stopped that is, until the past couple of nights.  This time it's not whining on Ziggy's part, it's pacing back and forth, back and forth, at the end of the bed.  Let me tell you, the gentle sound of corgi nails on laminate is not what you want to hear in the dark of night.  Both nights I've gently explained to Denzil that Ziggy CAN go to his bed.  Unfortunately the furry, little, sweet-faced bully doesn't seem care.

I've tried setting up the dogs' favorite dog bed on the opposite side of the bed, so Ziggy will have a place to lay down.  Ziggy doesn't want to sleep there - it's away from the rest of the pack.

I'm at a loss for what to try next.  Any ideas??

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's easier after your first dog

I haven't been showing much lately (as you can likely tell from my posts), but our club recently hosted its fall agility trial.  I hung out at the show for a while visiting my friends, then spent 1/2 day as a transcriber (my favorite job at an agility trial, as one can serve an official function whilst also watching the competition).  This gave me time to chat, then sit around and think.  This is sometimes a dangerous combination if you're a person like me who likes to think, ponder, and mull.

So where am I going with this, and what's with the title of this blog post, anyway?

Well, I was chatting with a woman I met at a recent seminar (she has a pem, so she and I naturally got to know each other).  I asked her how the trial was going for her and she said that she wasn't competing - her dog wasn't ready yet.  She was having some struggles and she commented to me that this was the first dog she's trained in agility - and the first one is always the hardest - it gets easier after that.

Hmmm.... That doesn't exactly hold true for me.  Maggie was much easier to train than Ziggy is.  Much easier.  Sometimes with Ziggy I wonder how I even taught him to sit.

My reply to her was that this principle was not holding true for me.  Ziggy was #3 and my hardest dog yet.  I realize now that this was probably not the most encouraging thing to say to a dog training newbie, but then there's a reason I'm not a life coach.

Then I started to think about the comment.  Was it true?  Is the first dog the hardest?  Should the going be easier with Ziggy?

After much (probably too much) reflection - here's where I've landed:

1 - I was spoiled with my first dog.  She was (and still is) easy to train.

2 - If I didn't have such an easy dog first, I may not have become a dog training aficionado.

3 - There ARE things - in fact quite a few things - that are easier after the first dog.  Such as:  

  • I now know the "lingo" and can understand what performance (i.e.: agility, rally & obedience) folks are saying
  • I know how to walk a course - in rally and agility both
  • I know the agility, obedience & rally regulations - most of them, anyway :)
  • I know how to fill out an entry form to enter a trial
  • I know all the stuff I have to take with me to trials in order for my dogs and I to be relaxed and comfortable
  • I know the difference between bronze, silver, gold & platinum treats and I'm getting better at deploying each strategically
  • I'm more coordinated and clear with my commands (and always trying to get better!)
  • I know what the finished product should look like (be it a rear cross on an agility course or a lovely, quick, straight front)
  • I have experienced that link with your dog that happens when both of you are "in the zone" and working together really well
  • I know good when I've got it
Yeah, in some ways it did get easier after my first dog.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New additions to our Wii family

We love the Wii fit.  It holds us accountable for our weight and BMI, while providing fun exercises to improve balance and strength.  So when the new Wii Fit Plus came out today we had to have it!

One of the fun things about the Plus is that you can now have Mii's for your pets!  The human child and I created Mii's for all the corgis (their coloring, ears, tail, and fur can all be adjusted) and logged their weights.  Ziggy weighs the most (no surprise - he's the biggest), Maggie's in the middle, and Denzil weighs the least.

Here's a screen shot of our Mii family:

Now I can chart the pack's weights.  Too bad they don't have fitness exercises for corgis.  Maybe in the next version.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Since my last post had me happily trotting down the road of offering too much information, I might as well continue merrily along.

Regarding my Naughty Maggie post:  we now have plastic!  She's been doing fine the whole time, and things started moving on Tuesday night - but The Husband & I now feel better that all is out.


I promise to post something a little nicer next time. :)
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