Archive for the 'Strange photos' Category

Pie Zen (2nd Annual Thanksgiving Doggie Self-Control Pics)

Last year I blogged about my black-bottom pie, which I make every year for Thanksgiving. When I set it down to take a picture of it, Barnum came over. Thus, I started the tradition of Pie Zen.

This year, we had four pies for Thanksgiving, and it was my intention to take a picture of Barnum surrounded by all four pies. However, neither Barnum nor I were feeling well, so I stayed in bed while the others ate pie.

Fortunately, Betsy was available to help with a picture of pie zen:

Betsy sits at table with four whole pies in front of her. She is leaning back in her chair, eyes shut, a serene expression on her face, and her palms facing upward with thumb and middle finger touching, as if she is meditating.

Betsy practices pie zen.

Today, Barnum and I were both feeling better, so we were able to show Barnum’s skill, having gone from a Level One Pie Zen Master to a Level Four Pie Zen Master in just a year!

Barnum is lying on a hardwood floor. Next to his left elbow is an apple pie. Next to his left front paw is a pumpkin pie. Next to his right front paw is a pecan pie. And next to his right elbow is a custard pie. He is looking at the pumpkin pie.

Ooh, I like pumpkin!

Barnum still surrounded by four pies, but looking up and leaning away from the pumpkin pie.

What's that? I should leave the pumpkin pie alone?


Barnum lying very relaxed, legs spread out, with the pumpkin pie between his front legs, and surrounded by the other three pies.

This is a piece of cake. I mean, pie.


My 200th Post: A Time to Sit and Reflect? Nope, Just a Time to SIT!

This is After Gadget’s 200th post! It’s almost two years since I started this blog. With about 100 views a day, and over 32,000 views total, there’s a lot I could write about. I started writing a thoughtful, reflective post about how this blog was a way for me to grieve, and the activism I’ve ended up doing on Lyme and MCS, the resources I’ve provided on ticks, and the community I’ve gotten to know — and helped forge — of assistance dog bloggers. I was going to delve into how grief-stricken I’ve been lately, and how I’ve avoided blogging about it, but how I want to dedicate myself to that kind of self-care now.

Then I thought, “Nah! Let’s do something fun!”

So, instead, I’m hoping this will give you some idea of how far I’ve come as a trainer, and Barnum’s come as a learner, and we’ve both grown as a team, by participating in what seemed like a very silly contest.

Sue Ailsby, the dog trainer whose Training Levels program I follow, decided to launch a contest for Training Levels list members. Inspired by the trends of “planking” and “owling” (yeah, I’d never heard of them either), where people lie stiff as boards or sit crouched like owls in “unusual or dangerous” locations, Sue has launched a contest called “sitting.”

Here are the rules of the contest, where you can also see several pages of entries. The funniest part of many of the entries is Sue’s hilarious captioning. I was not planning on doing much for the contest, but once I started seeing the entries and laughing really hard at the captions, I became more interested in fanatically obsessed with training and capturing more and better Barnum stunts.

I started out with an old standby — Barnum sitting in the bathtub. You might recall this one from my post about training to make baths more enjoyable, and its photo essay addendum, “Bouv in a Bathtub.”

Barnum sitting in a white fiberglass bathtub with a large white grab bar on the edge of the tub closest to the camera.

I have totally mastered this one.

I’ve also sent in this one, just because I think it’s a cool picture, although obviously this is from before the contest started, so I don’t know if it’s viable. Maybe it could be used on the “For Exhibition Only (FEO)” page.

Barnum, King of the Hill, surveys his domain from atop his snowy peak

I Can See Russia from My Backyard (*totally* stole this caption from Sue Eh?)

But, after that, it was training time! I knew there would be a lot of cool, impressive photos of border collies and other agility stars who could leap onto tall objects, so the first hurdle (pun not intended) was teaching Barnum to hop up onto surfaces. The only surface he is used to jumping onto is my bed — a self-taught skill from an early age. Most people are not impressed with a dog on a bed, though.

Therefore, I decided to start with the coffee table. Barnum already knew how to put his front paws on the table (“Paws up!”), but since hind-leg awareness is a much bigger deal for him (and for all dogs), teaching him to get his fear feet up was what took the twenty minutes of shaping.

Barnum sits on a black, dinged, painted-wood coffee table. He is sitting the long way, so his paws are at the narrow end on one end, and his butt is about two-thirds of the way down the table. His head is tilted to the side, looking quizzical.

Ta dah!...Wait, is this right?

By the next day, if we wandered into the living room, he’d jump onto the coffee table, uncued, just in case I felt like clicking that.

A black-painted wood coffee table with Barnum sitting on it. He's looking directly into the camera. It's a rectagular table, and Barnum's is sitting mostly on the narrower part, but cheating a little by being slightly diagnonal, so his butt is at one corner and his right front paw is just barely hanging over the middle of the other side.

I can do it this way, too. This is harder. Can you tell?

(I’m hoping to condense the process in a time-elapsed video so you can see how that shaping was accomplished, and why it became such a successful foundation behavior for what came later. However, I am still trying to figure out my movie software, and I want to get this post published before the new year. Thus, today will only feature stills.)

From there, we moved on to sitting on the couch (I know this is not something most people have to shape, but I did have to actually click and treat Barnum a few times to let him know that, yes, his presence on the couch was desirable).

Barnum sits on a brick-colored three-cushion couch. He is sitting on the middle cushion, body facing forward, but head turned to the right to face the camera, with mouth slightly open in a questioning way.

Spud Puppy

And then there was no stopping us! (Cue gay disco anthem, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead, to play over and over in your head. You’re welcome.)

Barnum sits behind a glass door on a tile floor, with white molded fiberglass surrounding him on the other three sides. There is a metal handle on the door and above his head, a shower knob. Two bottles of shampoo sit in the corner.

"Chief O'Brien, energize!" Wait a minute. . . . Is that *shampoo*?

I don’t think Medicare will cover this use of durable medical equipment. . . .

Barnum sits on gray vinyl foam van seat of power wheelchair. He is sitting very tall, right in the center, with his back against the back rest. Black foam armrests on either side, cherry-apple red base, gray wheels, and black foot plate. Barnum's expression is one of a dignified bouvier.

Ooh, look how tall and distinguished I look. . . .

And then we pulled out all the stops. . . .

Before I show this next picture, here’s some background for those unfamiliar with Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels: “Zen” is the name for teaching a dog self-control. (For example, the usual doggy zen cue is “Leave it.”)

A low black table (the same coffee table as in previous pictures). The right side of the table is set with a tangerine-colored placemat and an asian-style wide bowl, with a pair of chop sticks sticking out of the bowl. A takeout menu for a restaurant called "ZEN" stands behind the place setting. Barnum sits on the left side of the table, holding a metal dumbbell in his mouth, from which hangs a printed sign. It says, "ZEN is not just a Levels behavior. They also make great sushi. (Hint, hint.)"

That's a "hup," "take," "sit," and "stay," ladies and gentleman! (And continue to stay as I take multiple shots because my hands shake, and eight-out-of-ten pictures were blurry.)

In case you don’t get the joke, here are some closeups on the props:

Closeup of Barnum holding the sign so the text is more visible Closeup of the menu for Zen restaurantSee? It’s a play on words. A jeux de mot. It still makes me really hungry, though.

Actually, though this was a lot of fun, it wasn’t just fun — some of these behaviors have useful applications. I plan to write about that soon.

I hope you enjoyed this, my 200th post for After Gadget! Thank you for reading! Please celebrate with me in the comments!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT, living up to his acrobatic name

P.S. Doesn’t it seem like this would be an appropriate post for the next Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, the theme of which is “Achievement? Well, I already wrote my post for that, but it’s not too late for you! You still have time to submit your post for the ADBC and for the Patients for a Moment/PFAM Carnival!)

The Tale of the Magic Bunny

Yesterday I was visited by the brown bunny of happiness. This is like the bluebird of happiness, except that it slips into your garden and eats all the tops off the carrots, lots of the leafy greens, and an entire huge acorn squash. And it talks — but I didn’t know that at first.

I am familiar with the eating power of bunnies, as well as their ability to fit their bodies through tiny spaces because I had rabbits as pets when I was a kid. I started with a white rabbit when I was in kindergarten, and over the years had six others of various colors and sizes. However, this bunny was special!

We’ve been seeing this bunny all summer, suspiciously near the garden (which is fenced, but so what, says the rabbit), but not until yesterday did it stay in visual range long enough for me to get some pictures of it eating one of our blackberry bushes:

A small brown cotton-tail rabbit, ears up, stands on an expanse of gravel - rounded pebbles of gray, white, and other natural colors - nibbles on a long green vine.

Bunny nibbling on blackberry vine

Imagine my surprise when, after allowing me to take its picture, the bunny spoke to me (telepathically, otherwise you would, of course, see pictures of it talking).

“Oh camera-happy human, you have managed to catch me in the act!” The bunny announced. “You have totally lucked out! For managing to take a non-blurry picture of me, despite how I hop and twitch, and despite your hand tremors, I will grant you three wishes!”

As you can imagine, I was totally shocked! I had expected two wishes at the most.

“Oh adorable-yet-destructive bun-bun,” I replied. “I have been trying for over a year to get my lemon-of-a-powerchair fixed, to no avail. Then I asked for a refund. Then I had to get involved with the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Affairs, and the related District Attorney’s office. It’s been a total fucking nightmare, because I just want to be able to get out and about, walk my dog, and be done with this useless behemoth. When I tried to negotiated with the vendor from whom I purchased the chair, all I got in response was yelling and accusations.

For my first wish, could you please get them to come to some sort of reasonable compromise with me?”

“Hm,” the bunny said, “let me think about that.” The bunny nibbled some grass, pondering.

A similar picture to one above, of the bunny on a background of gravel, except it is stretched forward, one ear up, one ear slightly tilted back, front foot in the air.

Bunny pauses to think.

“Alright,” the bunny said. “That does totally suck. The next time you talk to someone about coming to terms, he will offer you a partial refund for returning the chair.”

Thus, it came to pass that today, when I spoke to someone who had stepped in “to put out fires” for the organization from whom I bought my wheelchair, he offered me a two-thirds refund over a six-month period (because they are strapped for cash) in exchange for returning the chair. I was thrilled. I can’t wait to get that monstrosity — emblem of so much pain and stress — out of my house. I am going to use that money to try to buy a used chair that will better meet my needs.

“Great, bunny, thank you. Please excuse me if I’m skeptical. A talking bunny is one thing, but this wheelchair situation, well — I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“I hear you,” the bunny said. “I get that all the time. Let’s move on to your second wish, okay? I’m feeling twitchy out in the open like this. I am a prey animal, after all.”

“Good point,” I said. “For my second wish, will you show me that my work with Barnum has been paying off, and that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being a public access team?”

“Silly human!” Said the rabbit. “Don’t you remember Saturday, when you took Barnum to your town’s Old Home Day, and he was able to loose-leash walk some of the time, in the face of great distractions, and even — after hours — lie down quietly? And then when you took him with you into the Town Hall, how he did a working walk and then did a down-stay in the extremely tight space of the stall (with you and your powerchair and your oxygen) despite having no experience inside other buildings before?”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said, “but he also did a lot of pulling on leash and jumping around, and when I left him with Betsy so I could go dance, he barked.”

“Well, you asked for wishes, not miracles. Give him time.”

“True,” I said, feeling a little let down.

“What about the next day?” The bunny asked, with a touch of irritation. “When you took him to the local food coop, and he did a default sit upon exiting the van, and then gave you great and continuous eye contact, along with sits, downs, reverse, and a very nice working walk? And you felt so pleased with him that you took him inside the store, where he did remarkably well at staying in position, giving you eye contact, following cued behaviors, and in general astonishing you with how happy, ‘in the game,’ and attuned he was?”

“My god, you’re right!” I said, smacking myself in the forehead, practically sending my glasses flying. “He did super until the end, when there were suddenly lots of people, including one person talking to him and petting him, ignoring that I was telling him, ‘Leave it!’ and pulling him away from her, and then he also was obsessed with trying to sniff another woman’s butt.”

“Yeah, that sounds a tad embarrassing. You will have to work a lot on stranger zen and ‘interesting smells in new places’ zen.”

“Exactly,” I concurred.

“On the other paw,” the bunny continued. “After you left the store, when you were going back to the van, he gave you eye contact and followed cues while ignoring a barking dog behind him! Did you forget that? And what about how he pooped on cue before you left home in the first place?”

“You’re right! Wasn’t that amazing?” I almost squealed in delight at the recollection.

“Well, it’s not my thing, really,” said the rabbit. “But whatever floats your boat. Anyway, I think I have pretty clearly shown you that you are Barnum are totally kicking service-dog-in-training ass, so can we move on to wish number three?”

“But you didn’t do anything,” I griped. “You just reminded me of things I already knew.”

“Do I have to remind you about the lesson from the Wizard of Oz? That Dorothy just had to be reminded that there’s no place like home?”

“Wow, you’re a very literate bunny,” I said, impressed.

“I am part of a great tradition of children’s literature,” it replied. “The Velveteen Rabbit, for instance. I do my homework.”

The bunny scratched behind its ear. “Man, all this talking is making me hungry. It doesn’t usually take this long. It’s usually, ‘Gimme a pile of money, a big house, and someone to mate with,’ and I’m outta there.” The rabbit sighed. “I need more blackberry vine. I have an extremely high metabolism. I have to keep my energy up.”

Similar to two pictures above, except that the rabbit's tail is visible, and it's reaching for the blackberry vine while sort of looking behind itself.

"Nothing in life is free," sighs the rabbit. "Not even blackberry vines, apparently."

Was it my imagination, or had the rabbit just rolled its eyes?

“Well, um, okay,” I said, feeling pressed for time now. “The Five Minute Fiction contest is tomorrow again. It’s being guest-hosted and guest-judged by a speculative fiction writer, and he’s already said that it will be a science fiction/fantasy prompt. It just seems like everything is SF/fantasy these days, and that’s really not my genre. I’m quite nervous about it. Can you help me out?”

“I would think that having just written an entire blog wherein you are speaking to a magic rabbit who telepathically grants you wishes indicates that you have some clue about the fantastical.”

“Oh, yeah,” I felt my face turn red. “This is different though,” I explained. “I have been imagining talking animals since I was four. What if the prompt involves some totally weird worlds and names that I don’t grok at all? It’s very hard for me, with my cognitive impairment, to grasp and connect with seriously hardcore SF and fantasy.”

“Alright!” The bunny stomped his hind feet, cutting me off. “Tomorrow, even though it will be a prompt that will completely throw you and confuse you, you will just go with the first idea that pops into your head, relating to one of your favorite writing-related themes–”

“You mean like food, humor, sex, or animals?”

“Do you want this wish or not?”

“Sorry,” I bit my lip.

“Anyway, you will just do your best, and even though you will be impressed by the other entries and feel completely outclassed, you will still manage to get a piece in on time, and you will be a finalist, again, okay?”

“Really? A finalist? Two weeks in a row? Will I win again?”

“That would be a fourth wish. Besides, that’s up to the voting public. You’re done!” Announced the rabbit, and hopped away. I thought I heard him mutter something about “writers” and “divas,” but I was probably just imagining it. After all, we writers have excellent imaginations.

“Wait!” I called after the bunny, its white tail bobbing toward the underbrush. “Where do I tell people to go and vote?”

Just tell them to click on this sentence!” He yelled before disappearing into the greenery.

I wasn’t really sure about that third wish. And the second one was kinda a “gimme,” too. . . .

“I’ve changed my mind!” I shouted after him. “Can I change one of my wishes to a new computer that doesn’t constantly crash, freeze, and run as slow as molasses? And that won’t outgas horrible fumes and make me sick? Or how about for more people to follow my new writing blog?”

From somewhere in the underbrush, I thought I heard the sound of two hind feet pounding the ground, very  hard.

I’ll have to look up Eastern cottontail rabbits in my Audubon guide and see if they ever grant a second round of wishes. . . .

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

P.S. Woops! I forgot. I’m doing a little trivia game. After reading my entry, guess who my biggest SF influence is? I’ll post a hint after each guess in the comments.

Of Bristles, Beans, and Bouviers

Barnum has decided to follow in the bouv family tradition in my home — the tradition of eating toothbrushes.

Recently Kali at Brilliant Mind Broken Body wrote about how much daily care goes into the upkeep of a service dog. I must admit, while I try to do all the things she listed, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I’m just too exhausted. Sometimes my dog is not cooperative. Sometimes they’ve eaten the grooming tools.

It started with Jersey. Back then, for dental care I used a finger brush — one of those little white, flexible-plastic finger cots with nubs on one side. You apply the toothpaste to those little bristle bumps and rub the teeth and gums with it. This was very easy to do because Jersey was very placid and because she loved the taste of the toothpaste. (Back then, it was liver flavor. For some reason, they don’t make that flavor anymore, which is a shame, because it was the only flavor Gadget liked. But I’ll get to him in a minute.)

Jersey had impeccable manners. She was calm, quiet, reserved. She never jumped up or barked or stole food. She was a real little lady.

One day I went to get the finger brush and it was not on the coffee table, where I normally kept it. I thought I must have put it on the dog crate instead. Nope, not there. I looked and looked. I figured I’d eventually find it (which turned out to be true), but I also wondered — because it had disappeared so completely — if Jersey had eaten it.

I mentioned this idea to a friend and they thought it was ridiculous. This was a friend who does not have any pets, I should add.

I ended up ordering a new one, on the theory that it’s always good to have a backup, and that if I replaced it, I’d  probably find the old one. That’s what happened. The new one arrived, and shortly thereafter — about a week since the first one went missing — Jersey vomited in the kitchen. As I cleaned it up, I noticed a weird thing among the slime.

It was hard and yellow and fused together, but after taking a good look, I now knew for certain where that finger brush had gotten to. After that, I kept the dog dental care items on a higher surface.

Then, along came Gadget. I started out with the finger brush, and then I discovered the three-headed brush by Triple Pet. It has three sets of bristles so that you can get all three sides of a dog’s tooth at once. It’s brilliant. Gadget was not wild about it, but he learned to be very patient and put up with it. After the liver flavor toothpaste was discontinued I tried a few, some of which he hated. Others he tolerated. Poultry was the most palatable, so I stuck with that, and he eventually became very relaxed about tooth-brushing.

However, in the early days, when he was first getting used to the brush, he would chomp on it while I was brushing. After all, there was something in his mouth, it tasted somewhat like food, and it was between his teeth. Because the articulating heads are three pieces instead of one, they are not as strong as a regular toothbrush head, and one day, chomp chomp chomp, he bit the brush heads off.

So, I replaced that one, and I taught him to receive tooth brushing without chomping. We were able to use the same toothbrush for the rest of his life. So, technically, he didn’t actually eat the toothbrush. He did routinely eat bars of soap and once ate and then later barfed up some latex gloves that had been in the trash, though.

Barnum is not very fond of having his teeth brushed, and he is only moderately cooperative. However, he really likes the taste of the poultry toothpaste.

Having learned my lesson not to leave dog tooth brushes and tooth paste at nose level, I keep Barnum’s brush and paste on top of his crate. One night, he was in his crate while I was eating dinner. I heard him chewing on something. At first, I assumed it was his antler or some other chew toy. Then I thought, “He doesn’t have a chewy in there, does he?” I pondered this for a few moments while I gulped down my mouthful of food.

I decided to just check what Barnum was doing. That’s when I discovered his toothbrush had fallen into his crate. And he was chewing it — what was left of it.

Blue-handled toothbrush on the right has three piece head neat and clean. A dark blue pastic back with bristles pointing up, tucked behind and articulating neatly between a bristle head on either side, one yellow, one white. The bristles are all neat, clean, the same size and shape. Next to it is a yellow-handled toothbrush. Of the three heads to this brush, the center back piece is gone completely, snapped off at the base. The right and left sides (one orange, one gree) are severely bent, curling up at odd angles, with the plastic chewed almost flat in places. There are only three ravaged clumps of bristles left on the green head (as opposed to 12). The orange had has more bristles left but is also flattened and missing pastic as well as several bristles. Those that remain are mashed, bitten off and going every which way.

Guess which one used to be Barnum's brush?

I found an old one (the blue one), and will use that from now on.

On the left, yellow tooth brush with only two heads, both badly mangled and missing many bristles. On the right, clean, whole toothbrush with three articulating heads.

As you can see, there is a chunk of plastic, as well as a significant amount of bristles, missing.

Oh, just one more picture. . . .

view of the underside of the toothbrushes

You can see the blue piece on the brush on the right that is totally missing from the mangled one on the left.

Of course, I tried to examine Barnum’s poop for the following week to see if I saw bristles or a small piece of blue plastic. I never did, but there were a couple of times he poop when on walks with my helpers, and I didn’t see “the contents.”

However, Barnum also started having seriously rank flatulence every day. Bouviers are often champion farters, but Barnum is not usually an offender. I had recently added pinto beans to his diet, though. The question was, “Are Barnum’s emissions due to the beans, or is this a sign that the toothbrush pieces are lodged somewhere, irritating his gastrointestinal tract and causing digestive distress?”

I really did not want to have to take him to the vet for x-rays. Instead, I switch Barnum to a bland diet, without beans, and within 24 hours, the farting went away. So, I think we have escaped a brush with disaster.

-Sharon, the muses of Jersey (delicious!) and Gadget (crunchy!), and Barnum, SDiT (Where’s the rest of my poultry chewy? Why did you take it away?)

Silly Saturday (Edited)

My replacement battery came today. Things got moved around between now and a week ago, and we can’t figure out how the battery wiring harnesses attach to the battery. So, I am stuck waiting around while I get advice from more knowledgable people. (Yes, I did read the manual. The diagrams suggest one thing, the written instructions another.)

[NOTE: This post has been edited. I originally had a pun up here, using a photo, and I got some feedback that it could be triggering or in poor taste or just generally making light of an issue that is quite serious. So, I have taken down the joke. You can read the discussion about it in the comments. I asked Betsy about it, as well, and she said something like, “I wouldn’t necessarily say offensive, but maybe poor taste because it’s a serious issue. But it’s also so very you (your sense of humor).” So, I thought that summed things up pretty well.

I regret any pain my joke might have caused any of my readers. I will try to be more mindful in the future.



– Sharon (giddy from hunger and lack of sleep), the muse of Gadget (I don’t get it), and Barnum, SDiT (I went to the pond today! Wooha!)

Waspish Wednesday: Now, with Real Wasps!

Betsy got stung by a wasp today as she was dealing with one of our four composting nightmares. As she was sitting on the floor with a bag of frozen peas on her ankle, she said, “You should write a Waspish Wednesday about this!”

After I thought about it I realized she was right, it is Wednesday! I have other topics I’ve been wanting to write on, not least my post for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, if I can get it done in time. Meanwhile, though, what have I been up to?

Powerchair hell, as usual. A few weeks ago, I asked the people who built my big purple chair if I could please exchange it for a new chair or just return it for a refund, inasmuch as it is a lemon. They responded that they would completely change all the wiring and the wheel motors.

I thought about it. I knew I didn’t want that, because they’d already rewired it, and I’m convinced the wheel motors are not the issue. But I was trying to decide if I wanted to ask for a new chair or just a refund. I looked up the Massachusetts wheelchair lemon law and discovered that it is up to me, the consumer, as to whether I want an exchange or a refund.

I wrote them, referred them to the law (which is online; most states have wheelchair lemon laws), and told them I wanted a refund. They responded by yelling at me a few times. I basically said, “Can’t we please just settle this? I’m not asking for reimbursement for mileage for the many long trips. I just want a refund. I’ll return the chair.” But no, I kept getting emails saying it was my fault for using it in mud, snow, and rain, which is mostly not true, and also beside the point, as the advertisements for this chair and the conversations I had with them said it’s great to use it in snow, etc.

For the last few days I have been contacting the Better Business Bureau — who told me to file a complaint, but who have no teeth — and the Consumer Protection Office, who told me to file a complaint, and may or may not have teeth, and the Attorney General’s office, who told me to file a complaint, and who — I think — do have some sort of teeth. This is just exactly how I wanted to spend my summer. Sitting inside, reading websites, making phone calls, and doing paperwork for a chair that has caused me pretty much nonstop stress and trouble.

Right now I’m in the middle of writing a “Letter of Demand,” which the AG and the Consumer Protection office told me to write. I’ve got my calendar and all my old emails to refer to to help my sometimes rusty memory. In this letter, I demand he comply with the various applicable consumer protection laws, and then say that if he doesn’t, he could be facing big, nasty, mean court charges. It’s just a thrill, and I know he’ll be totally cooperative and reasonable once he gets it.

Meanwhile, I decided to see if I could resurrect my old pchair, my Jet 3 Ultra, which was a pretty decent machine in its prime. Betsy and I took it all apart, as this picture attests.

The seat of the powerchair sits sideways on the floor, disconnected from the base. Around it are tools, hardware, rags, cleaning solution, a flashlight, and other debris.

Actually, we'd already put the base back together when I thought to take pictures. We took it apart a lot more than this.

It turned out we didn’t need to take it apart as much as we did. We discovered this when Betsy suggested I find and read the manual and see if it tells us how to change the batteries, which it did. However, I’m not sorry we took it apart, because I learned about what’s inside and where and how to make all sorts of adjustments. It also gave us a chance to vacuum out a lot of debris and remove dust and dirt — which always harbors mold.

We adjusted the seating, which had always been too low for my long legs — raising the seat and then moving it back so my feet rested on the foot-plate like they were supposed to. (The original vendor should have done this, but he just dropped it off and left. That’s a story for another time.) Then, we had to move where the controller box (joystick) was sitting, so that would be in the right place, too. Betsy did a lot of heavy lifting; it was quite a job, but now I finally have two chairs with proper seating.

We tried taking out the almost entirely dead batteries and replacing them with some others I had lying around. Usually if you don’t charge batteries they die completely, but I thought that since the others were very-nearly dead, these others couldn’t be much worse. I was wrong. They are completely dead, and now the chair doesn’t go at all. It won’t even charge. However, it looks fabulous.

Powerchair reassembled. In the foreground, the chair, with a shiny gray captain's seat and red metal base with gray wheels. Behind and to the left, Barnum naps on his tan organic dog bed.


I even figured out a problem that had stumped me for years, which was how to make my elevated leg rests from my new indoor chair fit with it. I figured out how to remove some thingies that had been blocking the  rails. I also took the seat belts off my useless purple chair and put them on this chair. (Which is where they were originally from.) With the addition of seat belts and extended leg rests, it will be safer, more stable, and less tiring for me to use for extended periods, such as for walking my dog! Behold! . . .

Side view of the powerchair with long, black, metal leg rests and a gray seatbelt with a red buckle.

Now I'm ready for action! (Sorta.)

I have been posting on a powerchair forum called Wheelchair Junkie, which is basically a bulletin board for power mobility gearheads. The folks there have given me a lot of helpful advice. I decided to get cheap replacement batteries for the Jet, just so I have a working backup chair and one that I can use with my existing van lift — so I can go to doctor’s appointments and take Barnum for working field trips to parking lots and stores and such. And, I will see how this chair does in the rough-and-tumble of my rural setting. Hopefully, it will be good enough until I get something with more power, clearance, stability, and speed. (I’ll talk more about ideas for that another time.)

I ordered my batteries from Amazon, the same brand and type that had been in there before. They arrived within three days, and I couldn’t wait to install them and see if the chair was viable! After all Betsy’s and my hard work, I was very excited.

I took out the old batteries, put in one of the new ones, started to connect the wires to the terminals, and then decided I should put the other one in, too, before I connected the wires. So, I took the second one out of the box, and . . .

Close-up of wheelchair battery. On the far side, the red terminal stands up straight. On the near side, the black terminal is bent back severely.

Augh! The terminal was bent!

I emailed the seller and asked them to send me a new one with expedited shipping and take back this damaged one for no shipping charges (because each battery weighs 23 pounds, so shipping can be pricey!). I didn’t hear back from them. The next day, I emailed them again and asked for their shipping return address and an expedited exchange. No response. Today I sent the battery back, and the shipping charges came to almost as much as the cost of the battery itself! I wrote to them for a third time, told them the battery was on the way, and asked for them to defray the shipping costs and send a new battery. I also said I was “very unhappy with your customer service.” I hoped that would get their attention, since they get feedback scores from customers.

Surprise! Very shortly after that, an actual human from the company emailed me and said they were expediting my refund, but that my shipping charges were too high for them to cover. I don’t know what will happen in the end, because we’re still discussing it. Meanwhile, I ordered a replacement battery. I hope it arrives in perfect condition!

I want to get out of my frickin’ house! AUGH!

My theory is that I was in a wheelchair karma-accident in my former life. The only positive out of the battery disappointment was that when I tried to stand up from the ground and needed assistance, Barnum did a terrific job of bracing me. He is super solid on that skill. He stands nice and square and doesn’t move a muscle. Best stand-stay and brace on any dog I’ve had yet.

Good dog! Bad wheelchair vendors. If only I could clicker train them! . . .

– Sharon, who has used a carrot for a long time and has now taken out her big stick! The muse of Gadget (I LIKED the Jet! But not as much as the scooter, which went faster), and Barnum (Sharon never takes me for walks anymore. Sigh.)

Week in Review: Tired Trainers Tips Page, Training Log, & Miscellany

I haven’t managed to blog much this week, but Barnum and I have done a fair amount of training, and I have also been working on a couple of flash fiction pieces, which feels really, really good. It’s been so long since I have been able to do “commercial” creative writing.

There’s also a lot going on on the home front that I don’t feel at liberty to talk about at the moment. I probably will soon.

My parents picked up my outdoor pchair in my van today and took it to be repaired. (The guy who built it lives closer to them than to me.)

Even though it was 87 degrees out today (Yikes! In May?), I still have had Barnum do just a tiny bit of training in the heat, just so he gets used to the idea that he can still be called upon for work, even if he just wants to lie around panting.

Though mostly I do let him lie around, panting.

The tick season continues to rage out of control. Between days of wet weather and then heat, it is ideal tick conditions. Today, the number of ticks found on Betsy, our home, and Barnum equaled twenty. Yes, twenty. In one day. It’s disgusting.

I have several Lyme-  and tick-myth busting posts in the works. Scary times.

You may recall that in an earlier post, I mentioned Barnum’s zen (“Leave it”) going downhill as a good sign, and then my training guru, Sue Eh? said that was the best possible sign. I’ve had to go back to kindergarten with zen, but we have worked our way back up pretty rapidly, as this picture shows. It also shows that one of my PCAs makes very tempting-looking liver biscuits.

Barnum lies on the floor, his head cocked, with a square brown biscuit resting on each paw. He is looking at the camera, not at the biscuits.

He knows they're there. But he has to strike a cute pose for the camera, too.

I’ve also been collecting and disseminating a lot of grief-related information, because suddenly there are several people in my life dealing with the death of assistance dogs or pets, or having anticipatory grief over sick animals. That, along with my own grappling with my “frozen grief,” is compelling me to try to get the grief resources together here soon. Meanwhile, I’m putting them up haphazardly on the FaceBook page.

Also on the FaceBook page is my “Tips for Tired Trainers.” I try to post one a day on the After Gadget FB page. The consensus seems to be that you all prefer to be able to access those tips here, in addition to on FaceBook.

I’m not up to posting them as a blog every day, so here’s what I’ve done: I’ve made a permanent page here, with that title, “Tips for Tired Trainers,” that I will add to every week or so after I’ve collected a new bunch of tips. I will also try to remember, when I have updated the page, to include a link to it in my latest post. However, I advise bookmarking the page, because my memory isn’t stellar.

I wholeheartedly welcome feedback about the tips: Which ones you find most useful; elaborations, improvements, or your own suggestions; and questions about how to deal with specific dog training or management issues when facing your own particular pain or fatigue issue. Go ahead! Try to stump me! I bet you can!

I’ve also been trying to keep a very simple training lot going on the FB page, although it didn’t occur to me until today that I should probably also put them in status updates, otherwise nobody knows I’ve updated the document. It’s usually very perfunctory notes, though.

Here’s what we’ve been working on this week:

Shutting cupboard doors & drawers in general, and the difficult corner cupboard in particular (which he figured out on his own, which is spectacular because I don’t know how to do it without the knobs and opposable thumbs); go to mat (duration in one session, and “making sure every part of your body is on the mat as I shrink it” in another), sit/down/stand/stay (often), clik-stik, relax for tick check (every night), notice pull cord on cabinet door (have graduated to mouthing it), elimination on cue (going very well), dumbbell take training (at least once a day, sometimes twice); zen (almost every day); using nail board; alerts (has learned to escalate to pawing or nosing me if I continue to “sleep” after he’s jumped on the bed); working through weirdness about sitting in certain locations and strange fear about getting in the tub (GREAT progress on the latter — now back to sitting and lying in the tub, after eagerly jumping in); paw targeting (introduced a slightly smaller new target); play retrieve (“fetch”); coming and staying within sight for off-leash runs at pond; being calm while separated from me; crate cue; polite greeting (a bit overenthusiastic with my parents).

Lastly, I’ve been wanting to do a post, or maybe a few, on what I see through my window, because I spend a lot of time in bed, and sometimes I see some lovely things. A couple of days ago, I saw an Eastern Cottontail rabbit hop across our driveway. Last week, a red fox slunk through our backyard.

Mostly what I enjoy looking at, however, are birds. I am a birder. Yes, I am, and I have been all my life, thanks to my parents. I don’t understand why everyone isn’t, but I have discovered either you think birds are cool, or you make fun of people who excitedly tell you the names and identifying features of the birds you see. Ahem.

I used to keep a “life list” of birds. It was pretty amazing, but I lost it when I moved to my current home. So, I decided to start a new list, beginning with this month, May 2011. I’ll post that sometime, soon, I hope. Well, with me, who knows.

Anynoodle, periodically, I’ll be showing pictures of the birds I see outside my window.

I’m not the only one who likes to watch the birds:

Side view of Barnum standing looking right at a bird in a plexiglas seed feeder on a picture window. The bird is six inches long, with brown and white stripes, standing in a tray of sunflower seed. The bird is facing Barnum, with her head tilted, one eye prominent, as if she might be watching him, too.

Barnum watches a female Purple Finch. She seems to be watching him, too.

– Sharon, unabashed bird geek, the muse of Gadget (who didn’t care about any bird unless it was a grouse or a wild turkey), and Barnum, bird-dog and SDiT?

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