Sunday, April 22, 2007

We need a ramp for this thing!

Had some down-time yesterday, and so eldest daughter & I loaded Kodos up into the new SUV, and headed over to the dog park. Kodos had a wonderful time of course, and everybody exclaimed at how big he is (and only 10 mos old!). He got kind of mount-y toward the end there, but in general was a gentleman. (So says the very biased daddy--hopefully the other dogs would agree.)

K has climbed himself up into the new car only once so far. The other 4 times he's been in, I've hoisted him in, one end at a time (e.g., I put my arms around his upper chest & hoist his front end up onto the back part of the car, and then I crouch down & lift him in by his rear legs). Not optimal, but it works.

Well, upon returning home from the dog park, K did not want to jump down from the car. He may have hurt a leg while romping w/the other dogs (tho he seems fine now) or he may just have been tired. Either way, he wasn't coming down & so, after 10 minutes or so of waiting for him to recharge, I kind of hugged him sideways around the tops of both sets of legs & brought him out. It worked fine, tho I really didn't think I'd be strong enough to do it (K was 100 lbs. at last weigh-in).

But enough of this foolishness--I ordered a petstep II ramp from Amazon yesterday, and we'll be working on getting K to use it as soon as it comes. Wish us luck!

Saturday, April 14, 2007


We finally got our new RAV4 yesterday--very exciting! Here are some pictures:We went through a freelance broker sort of person, and so they delivered the car right to our house on a trailer.

Here are a couple of pics:

After being bilked into buying unwanted mud flaps, floor mats, and a very lame looking (hopefully it's more functional than it appears) protective rear bumper "appliqué", I was feeling too poor to splurge on the one dealer-installed-option I really wanted--a rear cargo tray/mat to protect the carpeting & foldaway 3rd row seats against the slings and arrows of muddy Newf feet. Fortunately, Costco was selling these lovely $18 industrialish rubber entry mats--the sort of thing you'd encounter upon walking into a supermarket, say. I had to do some (rather inexpert) surgery on it to um, "optimize" it for the space, but I think it's going to work just fine. Check it out:

There are actually 2 "stow-and-go" seats underneath that mat, which means that when we're not hauling Kodos around, we can accommodate 7 people in this beast. Which rocks.

In keeping with family tradition, we have named this vehicle. The name we chose is Plavalaguna, after the blue alien character from Luc Besson's The Fifth Element (scroll down to the Soundtrack section to see a picture of the Diva Plavalaguna herself). We have a bit of an alien streak going I guess--we call our Accord Banichi, after a character in C.J. Cherryh's novel Foreigner.

In the main, I'm pleased with the independent-broker process we went through to get this car. The guy we worked with (Mark Heinemann) had relationships w/dealers in a four-state area, and could sort of reach up the distribution chain to identify and divert the vehicle we wanted. In theory he wasn't a salesman, but in practice he seemed pretty close to one. But no matter--the fact that we were able to do all the wrangling via e-mail was absolutely wonderful. Anybody who's spent 3 hours in an auto dealership trying to hammer out details and/or make credible threats of going elsewhere, while trying to keep their children reasonably entertained knows what I'm saying.

I had ordered the consumer reports invoice report on this vehicle, so I had independent verification of the dealer costs on the various options. I feel like we got a good deal on the vehicle as configured, but the configuration is not exactly as we wanted. The things that were really important to us were the 3rd row seats, the 4wd, and the roof rack. Anything else was pretty much gravy--and not gravy we wanted to pay for. We knew we were going to have to accept the sunroof (which is a plus for me, but L thinks it's just something to leak), the enhanced stereo, and the daytime running lights, just b/c that's the way Toyota manufactures these things. These were all acceptable, but the vehicle Mark found for us also had the aforementioned mudflaps, appliqué, and floor mats, which most certainly were not worth what they charged for them. So I'm 80% happy, but not 100%. But I have yet to be 100% satisfied w/any car purchase, so, c'est la guerre.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Kodos' First Swim

Yesterday we had an unseasonably warm day (80 degrees!) and as Laurel's brother Jay was in town visiting, I took the day off & we headed over to Scenic Beach State Park for some fun in the sun.

We of course took Kodos along (had to drive in 2 cars, but we were more comfortable that way anyway) who wilted a bit in the heat, but was very eager to get out & about in the wonderful forest there.

We set ourselves up on the rocky but not unpleasant beach, and then had a stroll. I led K down to the water (still not confident enough to let him off-leash) and he seemed a little interested in the water, but not overly so. It was mostly about the new smells and creatures at that point, and as I didn't want to get wet myself, we just padded around the shore.

Cut to after lunch. Some kids started throwing rocks into the water (a very common occurrence of course--you put kids next to water, and they're going to throw stuff into it). For some reason, this set K off--he was barking and seemed to really want to get down there. So okay I figure--let's see if he'll actually get into the water. We go down (away from the rock-throwing kids) & I lead him into the water (always on-leash w/his gentle leader harness). You could tell the water resistance felt really weird to him by the way he was watching his own front feet.

I cajoled & goaded him out further and further by throwing his tennis-ball dumbbell toy nearer/farther away, until he finally got to a place where he couldn't really just walk, and--check it out!--his legs started that familiar paddling motion and my boy was actually swimming! He even retrieved the toy a couple of times (tho as often he just nudged it w/his nose & then turned back, leaving me to wade further out into the water to get the toy back). He had a couple of revelations, including that he couldn't breathe when he stuck his face into the water, which I think sobered him up some.

It was really interesting to have his attention on me. Up until that point, he was pretty heedless of me, being completely engrossed by the park, the other dogs and people there. But when we were in the water and I was throwing the dumbbell toy around, I had his attention. It wasn't quite as as intense as that of the border collies we see at the dog park when their person is chucking tennis balls, but it was close. At one point--possibly overconfident--I took his leash off to see if that would embolden him in his swimming out for the ball. It didn't seem to have that much effect, and he lunged toward a thrown rock, so I grabbed him & leashed him up again.

We may have a water dog on our hands! :-D

Once we got home, I tethered K up to the deck & gave him his first garden-hose shower (up until now it's all been tub showers). He was not amused. I discovered later that he'd cut one of his paw pads a bit--no doubt on a rock in the water. It bled some, but seems fine now. We'll keep an eye on it.

Girls first skiing

This week Laurel's brother Jay came up from Wyoming, and we took advantage of his skiing instructional skills and put the girls on skis for the first time in their lives. We went to Crystal Mountain, over by Mt. Rainier. Both girls did great!

Here, Jay & Annelise contemplate the conveyor belt in the beginner area:

Here's a picture of Simone getting her first bit of sliding in, on the training slope:

Here's one of Annelise on the training slope:

Annelise--naturally--took to skiing like the proverbial bat out of hell. Simone is much more tentative about being off-balance however, and I was a little worried that she wouldn't have fun.

After they got used to sliding on their skis and 'snowplowing' to stop and steer, it was time to tackle the ski lift up to the bunny slope. My dim memories of ski lifts were that they were pretty challenging, and guaranteed to make you fall at some point. But we had a pretty decent time of it, all told--they actually slowed the thing down to let us get in place. Jay told us later that Annelise loved the lift--loved being up in the air. Simone didn't love it, but she did just fine.

Now, the bunny slope had two grades on it--a fairly short, steep one right down from where the lift let off, and then a longer, more gradual slope down the hill. On the steep part of the slope, my fears for Simone were realized--she was scared and very angry that I would lead her into such a dangerous place. She wiped out a couple of times.

But to my delight, the second part of the slope was gradual and long enough that 'Mo was able to get herself under control and up to a speed that was comfortable and fun. She made a couple of lazy loops, and could pretty much stop at will. By the time we got to the bottom, she was very willing to get back on the lift and have another go. After all the driving we had to do to get there, and all the preliminary practice, we only got 3 runs in, but on the third run 'Mo didn't wipe out at all on that first, steep slope.

So--it looks like we're going to be able to do family ski trips once in a while--very cool!