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Yesterday afternoon, I sat out on the back deck to re-read the final Harry Potter book. (I read it cover to cover on Saturday, but I always immediately re-read them.) Anyway, Ginko hung out with me in the shade since temps crept toward 100. Lilly, however, stayed in her usual spot out front, where she can see the entire valley. At one point, she made a noise, and Ginko sprinted to see what was up. But, he did not get far.

He stopped short of the deck’s three stairs. He bristled in a way I’ve never seen, and he began barking furiously. It was both an unfamiliar body posture and timber. My first thought was that there might be something big — a deer, an elk, a mt. lion — in the creek bed he overlooked. I worried maybe Lilly was fighting a coyote as she did the first spring we got her.

As I scanned the area, however, I heard it …

Rattling. Really loud, really close rattling.

I looked down to find a coiled rattlesnake, with its head up, ready to strike. Honestly, it took a couple of heartbeats to register before I screamed, “Snake!”

I grabbed Ginko by the collar and raced for the back door. Once he was safely inside, I ran out the front door and called for Lilly. Her recall at home has gone to pot since a recent bath incident, so she refused to come. I felt I had no choice, so I chased her, grabbed her and ran back inside.

Home alone since Tom was out on a fire dept call, I quickly dialed two of our neighbors for help. Neither answered. I did not know what to do. Getting the pups and myself inside uninjured was first, but now what?

So, in a decision I can only blame on years of training as a reporter, I went out and took a picture of it, using the zoom function so that I didn’t have to get too close.

Dog books are HUGE

An article in yesterday’s New York Times notes the hot dog-book market. It’s something those of us in the dog world have known for years. In fact, it’s partly the reason for this blog.

Click here to read the article “Best Sellers That Woof and Meow.”

I was happy to see that Temple Grandin’s book is doing so well. I’m also a big fan of Jon Katz’s work. If you haven’t read his books and have border collies, you really should. They are very funny, very interesting.

I’m sharing this news because it’s always interesting when trends gain momentum enough to be noticed by the New York Times (who … full disclosure here … I also write for on occasion).

But, I’m also telling you this because I began blogging about Lilly, in part, because I want to write a book about her someday (soon, I hope). And, an element of getting a book deal is proving to agents and publishers that there’s already a strong readership.

I’m even going to order Lilly her own business cards to hand out when people stop us on the street, which they do … a lot!

So, first of all, thank you, thank you for your interest, support and regular visits to Champion of My Heart. I would be forever grateful if you could tell your pals about Lilly’s blog so that I can build our subscriber list.

Please … (imagine the relentless face of a begging border collie here).

Time magazine dog essay causes stir

An essay by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen from the July 2, 2007, issue of Time caused a stir and a growing pile of hate mail, it seems. In “Demoting the Dog,” Lisa describes how her dog went from pal to pet to pest after her daughter was born. That’s where the uproar began.

Click here to read the entire essay, including a link on that page to see Lisa’s rebuttal to the hate mail and a whole bunch of online comments hence.

A couple things struck me when I first read the essay. First, as a former animal shelter volunteer and former board member on the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, Lisa’s story is actually quite common. A lot can change between people and pets once kids are born.

While she will keep her dog for the rest of his life, other people in similar situations often give up their pets. What I learned all those years at the shelter is that noting the birth of children as the reason for relinquishment is only part of the story. Such pets almost always have behavior issues that people put up with until … they don’t. The baby then becomes a convenient excuse.

It’s the same with the “we’re moving” reason people sometimes use. At the shelter we used to joke, “Oh, yeah, and pets aren’t allowed in (insert name of state/city).”

That’s rarely the real reason, and it used to make me mad that people would dump pets like that.

But, after reading Lisa’s essay, I mostly felt sad for her dog and wondered whether a new home might not be the more compassionate solution. Surely, he has no idea why he’s suddenly the bad guy. He hasn’t changed. She has. Or, at the very least, the rules of engagement have. And, in life (and training), that’s not fair.

No camp this year

After much consideration and feedback from “Take my poll, please,” I’ve decided to skip this summer’s agility camp in Colorado. I really want to go. Yet, I’m torn. So, I took the advice I often give my single friends about relationships … “You either know, or you don’t.” Waffling, any on-again-off-again tendancies, signal a problem when it comes to love (and marriage). Maybe it’s the same with agility training, or any kind of dog training for that matter.

When I left my first-ever agility class in tears, I knew I wasn’t a good match for that trainer. Yet, trying to be optimistic, I stuck it out for a while. Doing so may have set a bad foundation for me and for Lilly.

The animal communicator later told me that Lilly did not trust this trainer, but I knew that from day one. Lesson? Trust my gut.

So, since I’ve been dragging my feet about registering, that tells me I’d best stay home.

Instead, I’ll use that money to arrange private or semi-private lessons, where the focus can be on Lilly’s specific needs. In fact, I just registered for a one-night speed and motivation class. Lilly may not even get out of the car, but at least I can go learn strategies aimed at her issues.

And, maybe next year camp will feel more like a love connection.

Mind your knees

Lilly molested a man in public last Saturday. While shopping at our local farmer’s market, she gave a grandpa-dude quite a shock by kissing the backs of his bare knees as we walked by.

He spun around, like “What the heck?”

Thankfully, he started laughing when he saw her smiling face. I apologized for her boldness, explaining it was somewhat uncharacteristic. Then, he asked if she’s like to visit his grandson, who rode in the stroller he was pushing. So, Lilly “poked” the baby. (That’s her word for targeting with her nose pretty much anything I point at.)

He giggled as her cold nose bumped his bare leg too. Then, she did a bunch of tricks for him, and we went merrily on our way.

Lilly has kissing fits all the time with me and with Tom. Out of the blue, she’ll just start kissing whatever she can reach. Lots of wiggling comes with it. This is the first time she’s done it to a complete stranger.

It’s like she has bursts of joy and the only way to relieve the pressure of being so happy is to lick something.

I rarely see it coming, but I sure wish I could figure out the formula. Maybe it would help in agility.

Then again, maybe she’d just run around and kiss the jump setters or the judge.