Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Pneumonia Looks Like

See? MUCH less energy....


To clarify, that really is much lower energy than normal (see how he's not vibrating when he's waiting for me to release him?) Every single time I take him out, that's what I get - it's never been any worse than that. But that's why I didn't realize how sick he was. He's still not feeling great, but he's not getting worse, and he's eating like a champ, so I think he'll be getting better soon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Damn Pit Bulls

About a week ago, I noticed that Oscar was wheezing slightly and sort of spitting. At the time, I shrugged it off, thinking it was occurring when he was excited, so he'd probably just eaten too fast or something (I just said to my brother on the phone, it occurs to me that this was a pretty damn stupid rationalization of a dog that's as high energy as he is. Comatose for Oscar is like the average family dog having a good day. Excited and awake are the same thing for him.)

But he was eating normally, drinking normally, and (delicately put) eliminating normally, so I didn't really worry too much, though I did keep an eye on things.

Yesterday, the spitting up went from a teaspoon or so of frothy grossness, to what a herd of really pissed of slugs would leave behind if they were all frightened suddenly, now measurable in cups rather than spoons. He was still behaving normally, eating, drinking, eliminating, all fine. I made an appointment for the vet, pointing out that a breed trait of the American Pit Bull Terrier is that something hurting isn't a reason to stop (this is a reason they are good with kids - being poked in the eye isn't worth stopping the love-fest. It's also a reason they can be a bitch to diagnose - they don't show signs of pain easily.) An appointment was made for late this afternoon, and instructions for what to look for that would require emergency treatment rather than waiting.

After a sleepless night of checking on him frequently, I thought he was feeling much better this morning. He had very close to his typical response to a snow day (imagine a short, furry child who doesn't have to take the world's hardest exam because of the snow) - he ran and jumped and twisted and turned and smiled. I left to run an errand, came back forty-five minutes later, and he was shaking and holding his head in a way that lead me to believe breathing wasn't the easiest thing he'd done all day.

Off to the emergency vet, right then.

He was very well behaved, until they tried to x-ray him. They took him away from me for the initial exam, and I heard his name a few times, and then someone came around the corner and said "would you mind stepping --" and he came trotting around the corner, naked as a very naked jaybird, very pleased that he'd found me. I caught him, brought him back, got into a very heavy lead jacket, and held him while they did the x-rays and drew blood.

And there they found normal blood counts, but a little congestion in his lung.


Early stages, with an excellent prognosis. But pneumonia.

Damn pit bull, if only he'd shown me he really didn't feel good instead of just cheerfully doing every little thing I asked of him. If only he'd let me know sooner, instead of just sucking it up to make me happy.

He's going to be fine, after a three-week break from dog-school that both of us will miss. He's going to be fine, and that's all that's important.

But still.

Would you pray for him, please?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Be More

Tonight, I was in the parking lot of my housing complex practicing with Oscar on his obedience (we're working on making heel look more "formally trained" and less "two drunks losing a three-legged race"). After a few minutes, one of the feral children came running up and (in a demonstration of the only evidence that she actually has caretakers) asked if she could pet Oscar. Well, not really, cuz we're training, but he's now wiggling so much the heel is out the window, so sure. So as she's petting him and he's generally making a fool of himself kissing and wiggling at the little person, I notice three dark figures circling one of the units further down the street. After a second, I realize that the dark figures are wearing badges and guns. And making those gestures that I've only previously seen on Law & Order that clearly mean "you go that way and cover the exit, Smitty's gonna go left, and I'll cover the front". I chose to end Oscar's training/snogging and get him inside, very grateful that they had seen my pit bull doing training and cheerfully nuzzling a small child.

About two months ago, not too far from here, police shot and killed a boxer in its owner's yard. The dog barked at them when they tried to enter the abode. The police had the wrong house - they were off by something like two doors. I understand a police officer has to keep him/herself safe (my husband is in law enforcement, I really, honestly do get it). But I'll be damned if my dog is going to be the victim of someone else's mistake because he warns them not to trespass on his mommy.

Anyway, it's stories like that boxer's that bring me to an explanation of why I've been so busy lately.

A few months ago - October, maybe? - one of my doggy friends (that is, friend from the doggy world, not that she herself is a canine) said she felt the need to do something about the causes of BSL (at the time, legislation was proposed that would have forced me to either give up Oscar - NOT going to happen - or move - not financially possible). Erin wanted to know if we could take a page out of BADRAP's book and make some differences in the way the Baltimore area looks at pitbulls.

So we did. A group of women - all pit bull owners, all responsible, legally sound women - got together to make a difference. We have officially formed a Maryland State Corporation, are in the process of filing for non-profit status, have by-laws and officers (I'm secretary) and are going to make a difference to make it a safer place for us to have our dogs.

We call ourselves "B-More DOG" - which stands for the Baltimore Dog Owners Guild - and our mission is to teach dog owners to be more - be more responsible, be more safe, be MORE.

We'll go to community centers and schools and teach children how to behave properly around dogs. We'll provide opportunities to learn the most basic training all the way up to the most advanced, competition levels. We'll help connect people to vet services and teach them how to keep their dogs healthy. We're targeting areas that are "pitbull" dense, but not excluding any breed of dog.

As you can tell, this is so exciting and inspiring to me. The way Oscar has changed my life is inexpressible - how he's saved me in the past four years of living with him, how he's opened my heart, given me courage, made me laugh in the darkest times... and now I have the opportunity to do something to repay him that will last - he's like a raindrop in the ocean, causing this amazing ripple.

And that's why there's been less blogging, and more dog stuff when there is blogging. The starts of a non-profit are a little all-consuming. And I am honored to be a part of it.

Also honored am I to be friends with that woman who had the idea to begin with (watch how I deftly turn this back to knitting). Her birthday was about a week ago, and she spent it in the emergency vet with one of her dogs. Not a fun day. So I sat down and decided to make her a little something to soften the blow.

A doggy hat in neutral colors based on the "dogs" pattern from Anna Zilboorg's Simply Socks (love that book) - two simple stitches made it hearts instead of triangles.

The brim is a garter slip-stitch, wrong-side out.

(and the top view, cuz I like how things come together like that)

Anyway, of course I'll still talk knitting and spinning here, because that's who I am, but who I am is also someone who loves animals - as I said to my husband when we first brought Oscar into our home "you knew this is who I was when you married me" - so you're probably going to be hearing more about B-More DOG along the way. I hope you'll be interested, or at least read with an open mind, and help me make a bright change in a dark world.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cabling Without a Needle

Fiber-folk are a tricky people, aren't we? We gain your confidence by using straightforward names like Knit-2-together (in which two stitches are knit together as one) and yarn over (in which the yarn is wrapped over the needle) and then just when you think you've got it all figured out, we tell you that worsted is a yarn type and a yarn weight and you could have a worsted spun lace weight or a woolen spun worsted weight, or we mention that a cable is a stitch pattern involving changing the order in which stitches are knit, and it's also a kind of yarn that, while involving multiple singles and plying and yet is not considered a plied yarn.

Anyway, today, for Single's Awareness Day Valentine's Day, I'm giving you a little tutorial on how to make that confusing "cabled yarn."

A cabled yarn is, in essence, a plied yarn plied with a plied yarn. It's stronger and more visually interesting than the equivalent yarn made from only once-plied singles. More on its specific properties in The Knitter's Book of Yarn (specifically, page 177) but for now we're going to talk very simply about making your own.

You can do whatever combination of this you'd like - spin three twelve-plies together if that tickles your fancy, but in this case, out of laziness (and so as not to waste a drop of fiber) I worked from opposite ends of the ball twice, giving me a two-by-two cable - a two-ply plied with a two-ply.

Follow the process, and in no time, you'll be cabling without any needles at all!

Of course you'll start with roving. This method is lovely on a solid roving, but particularly stunning on handpaints that can otherwise be tricky to spin. You'll want colors that would blend nicely together - like this pretty purple/blue concoction Coleen gave me for my birthday.

Do think about that color blend - things will merge together, so too strong a contrast in your roving could appear muddy.

You'll begin by spinning your singles.
Most people spin singles with the flyer going clockwise - called Z-twist because the resulting twist on the yarn follows the direction of that center bar of the Z.

In a cabled yarn, you're going to want to spin these singles a smidge softer than you normally would. We'll talk about why in just a bit, but for now remember soft Z.

Next, you'll ply your singles.
Just like any other yarn, you'll ply by putting the yarns together with the flyer going in the opposite direction - if you spun the singles Z, you'll ply them counter-clockwise - S (same reason for the same, just check out the main direction of the letter)

Generally this would be the step right before setting the yarn, so you'd be shooting for an appropriate balance in the ply depending on the intended project. But in a cabled yarn, there's more to be done, so you're going to want to ply this a little tighter than you would for a normal yarn.

Now you've got plied yarn, and you need to ply it back on itself. That means going back in the same direction your originally spun the singles (or ending up with a big mess). Back to the beginning, or Z. Gosh, that's not confusing at all, right? It's easier if you think of this step as "re-spinning" rather than plying, and you always spin in the same direction. So you'll spin, then you'll ply, then you'll spin again.

Remember how, in the first step, I mentioned that soft Z? You'll have that again here.

Think about it - you're spinning Z twice. The second time, you're actually undoing a little twist from the ply where you spun S. So the Zs need to be a little softer, and the S needs to be a little tighter.

You can see here in these very-off-color photos that the resulting cabled yarn looks really bumpy and textured. It's not - it's actually very round and smooth. But those little blips of color have a similar effect to a fabric of seed stitch - visually bumpy, but functionally flat.

It's even more obvious in the knitted fabric - the stocking stitch has great depth and texture, but is in fact perfectly smooth. And you can also see why you'd want to pick colors that blend together well in your roving - everything mixes and melds, and you'll have sparks of the original colors and flames of the blends of them.

It's really a fun way to play around with spinning and roving combinations!


I haven't given any official updates about the walk to Kick Cancer in the Butt lately, and today seems like a good day to do so.

The biggest news is that you can now give directly to the charity here. We've gone over 200 miles so far, and will keep on truckin' so if you want to give by mile or whatever, watch that ticker up top to see how much to donate!

The donation tally on the blog will remain accurate, the tally there won't be because of registration fees and such, but all the money will go to the charity (and for the record, I "donated" my own registration fees).

Six weeks to go - let's break a thousand and really Kick Cancer in the Butt!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More boring dog stuff (aka "When Squirrels Attack")

I promise I'll have knitting later this week - and (gasp!) maybe even a spinning tutorial!!!

But for now, a Public Service Announcement: If you have a dog, please take a brief moment to check your dog's equipment. You never know when an evil, bushy-tailed mastermind will recklessly taunt, and by then, it could be too late.

Early Saturday, while harmlessly minding his own "business", Oscar was the victim of just such a squirrel-on-dog crime.

Yes, my friends, this sweet, innocent dog was mocked.

But he refuses to be a victim, I tell you, refuses!

He took off after that squirrel - determined to give it a stern talking to.

Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, there were apparently some trees that may or may not have been in different places than they have been for the past four years of his life, and the length of his tether was misjudged.

The rogue squirrel reached one of those migrating trees just seconds before Oscar reached the end of his (literal) rope. The little bastard (I have it on good authority his parents were not married) is lucky with his timing, because when Oscar reached the end of his rope, Oscar did not stop running (after all, he thought he had a good ten feet left to run, and he would have if he'd run to the right of a tree instead of to the left of it).

Nope, Oscar did not stop running at all. He did a funky kind of little flip, landed solidly, and kept running.

Fortunately for everyone involved, most fortunately for my cardiac health, Oscar is not completely untrained in the recall.

Because when he did come back, hanging from his collar was this.

Now, Oscar is about 48 pounds.

That right there is the clasp for his tether, packaged as the "Monster - for dogs 250lb and up"

*calculating on fingers*
48 is still less than 250, right?

And yet that metal (I'd guess 9 or 10 mm around - so a US 13 needle) snapped like a pretzel. Sure, a little rust around the edges, but the thing was probably less than six months old, and certainly not corroding away.

Just a motivated dog, I suppose. Or an evil plot hatched by the rodent population?

You decide.

Completely unrelated except that it seems to be a pit bull
I bought this on "clearance" at AC Moore the other day. It's an odd shape, so will be tricky to frame, though I'd like to do that eventually.

In the meantime, it's held to my fridge by four magnets.

One, the contact info of my wonderful vet, and the other three say "Beware Pickpockets and Loose Women", "Warning: Strange Dog" and "Attention Chat Lunatique"

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Testing... Testing...

Okay, I'm planning on using my actual camera for some video of Oscar I need to send to someone (nothing exciting, just getting a third or fourth opinion on things to try to correct the lean before he breaks my neck) and so took this in the yard today. If anyone knows how to get the Mac to turn the movie sideways (I turned the camera on its side to get the long shot, and can't figure out how to get the computer to compensate for that), and can explain to me, I'll do so and repost. As it is, please take a break from the Puppy Bowl (which has everyone in the house absolutely fascinated - we like the high percentage of bully breeds) and tilt your heads so that your left ear is on your left shoulder.

As you may be able to tell, Oscar is around the corner and can't see me in the beginning. I think it was a distance of about 100 feet. That was the first (and only) time I asked him to come, and with energy like that you might be able to see why one of my dog friends told me she was trying to teach her dog to do "an Oscar come". Shortly after passing the large tree, some of the feral neighborhood children ran by behind me. He stopped just to my left (and then leaned on me) so he could watch them. He had a hard time focusing on me after that (thanks to those same feral children, Oscar is pretty sure small people excrete Cheetos and he's a firm believer that you should always be ready just in case they want to give you some.)

While I'm sure you are smart enough to recognize the extreme adorable-ness that is my dog, my main reason for posting that is to see if I've figured out the camera.

To compensate for my gratuitous doggy shots, I give you....

the hat that I forgot to get pictures of:

(I really love the top view)

A few weeks ago I was commenting on how much I hate corrugated ribbing. Three guesses what I cast on mere hours later. (hint, if you can't see it, the ribbing for this hat is purple and black... corrugated.)

***EDIT FOR SALLYJO (and anyone else interested)***
He "missed" by going slightly past me. He's supposed to stop directly in front of me and sit automatically. This is tricky, though, as it took me ages to convince him to slow down before he got to me, and when he doesn't slow down he hits, and when he hits, he hits HARD (it's a bit like being hit in the shins by a sledgehammer that wags). The same friend that's trying to teach her dog the "Oscar come" pointed out that I tend to flinch when he comes running like that. Conditioned response, and all. My instinctual response to this was to step to one side right before impact, so now he tends to go just to one side. We're working on that together.

The yarn for the hat was I think Cleckheaton 8-ply Superwash. I really, really enjoyed it - very soft and pleasant to work with, came in a good bunch of colors, and of course superwash for the handknit virgins is a good thing. Inexpensive, too.

I've never sought out commission knitting work - it seems to find me. It doesn't happen a lot, which is good, but when it does, that's okay, too, usually. I try to be very honest with myself about how much I'll hate doing someone else's idea of a knit item (having learned the lesson from the god-awful stockings a few years back) and don't ever count on the income.

Marriage is love.