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My New Vacuum Really Sucks

Recently I kind of busted our vacuum cleaner. It was one of those bulky, heavy vacuums and it didn't have anywhere to carry it except for the actual push handle itself. So, it broke. Truth be told I was secretly glad since the thing was a pain to haul around and it hurt my back to use it.

Luckily, we had a back-up. It was much lighter and easier to use – although still bulky – but it had about half the sucking power of the old vacuum...which means it didn't really do much at all.

'Twas time to get a new one. After asking for recommendations from friends and randoms in the Twitterscape and on Facebook, everyone seemed dead set on me buying a Dyson. After reading reviews and various information, it seemed that yes, Dysons were powerful vacuums and everyone who had one would never, ever own another kind.

Problem is, the best reviews for these vacuums were for the version that costs $600.00. While I'm sure it's the Cadillac of vacuums, let's be honest – there's no way I was ready to fork over that kind of money for a vacuum.

On my way into Target to peruse the selection, I happened to be on the phone with my sister, who just happened to have purchased a new vacuum two months ago...she'd had her husband do the research, and the guy's thorough. He looked for the Dyson "comparables" and came up with The Shark. She was adamant: this vacuum sucked. Like, literally, it sucked up EVERYTHING in its path.

Plus, it was only $170.00. Sold.

So I brought home my new, little Shark, put it together and started vacuuming. And entered a whole new world of housecleaning.

First of all, it's lightweight (only 18 pounds). While at first I was taken aback by the small vacuuming surface (about 12 inches), I quickly realized how handy it is – I can get around, underneath and closer to the base of couches and chairs than I could with either of my two big, lunky vacuums. Also, there's no need to switch the "level" of the vacuum for different types of carpeting/flooring! No bending over and making sure the vacuum is in its locked and upright position while struggling to get the perfect height to vacuum.

There's a setting on the On/Off switch for bare floors, and one for carpeting. That's it. Having trouble pushing the vacuum over your shag area rug? No problem! On the handle there's a "suction release" valve that lessens the suction for easier movement across thicker pile (which, by the way, I don't even need to use over my shag area rug).

Also, in the "carpeting" mode (with the brushes engaged) the vacuum sort of pulls itself forward, so all you have to do is pull it back.


Okay. So it's put together and I'm excited about how easy it is. Then I vacuumed the entire house. And emptied the canister THREE TIMES. Now, it's not a HUGE canister but it holds a LOT of hair and dirt.

Here's the kicker, though...the next day I actually cleaned the entire house (dusted, vacuumed, the whole works) and after dusting I vacuumed again – this time with chairs up and really getting into corners, etc. – and I had a full canister after just the upstairs. AGAIN. After having vacuumed the DAY BEFORE.

Now, my German shepherd – correction, German SHEDDER – sheds constantly. This I know. But to have THAT MUCH hair in my carpet that I didn't even know about...YEESH. No wonder my allergies have been so bad in this house (the Minneapolis house has hardwood floors).

After vacuuming the downstairs, I had ¾ of a canister...yikes. I was at once disgusted and ecstatic. What a vacuum! Then I detached the canister and used it to vacuum the stairs – super-easy! – and finally got the deep clean I needed (my little Dirt Devil is easy to use but it doesn't have the suction of The Shark!).

I've vacuumed twice more since then, and each time my carpets look like they were just professionally cleaned. I'm in love.

Thank you, Shark, for sucking so much :)

If You're a Dog Owner, You're a Dog Trainer

I'm a dog trainer.

Sounds cocky, doesn't it? Well, I am a dog trainer because I'm a dog owner. That's right: if you own a dog, you're a trainer. WHAT you're training might not be the "right" thing, but you ARE training. Always.

When you get home after a day of work, if the first thing you do is excitedly greet your dog using a high-pitched voice, frenziedly petting him, you're training that dog "when my owner gets home, I'm to get immediately riled up!"

If you give your dog a treat every time you go into the kitchen, that dog will start LIVING in that room (or following you around hoping for your feet to carry you into that magical place).

Pretty simple stuff.

I've heard dog owners tell me, "well, I HAVE to play with her or she won't leave me alone." What? Really? Who's training whom here?

I might not be a professional trainer, but I do know obedience is obedience and the key to having a well-behaved dog is consistency and clear communication.

Since we humans don't speak the same language as dogs, it's important to have a good way to communicate to them when they've done something right. I've found the most effective method of training is the clicker – and before you roll your eyes and say, "that doesn't work," remember back to whether or not you've ever met my dog.

OH, right. The well-behaved German shepherd (yeah, she's not perfect in every aspect, but she IS a good dog). I trained her – correction, I TRAIN her – with clicker training. That's really just a "junk term" for operant conditioning, but for the sake of argument let's just call it clicker training.

If you know how to modify behavior by communicating with your dog via clicker, you can train anything the dog is physically capable of doing. Literally. Anything from teaching a dog to sit to teaching her to stand on a ball are within your grasp with this simple training – and communication – method.

And why use a clicker, you ask? Why can't you just mark the dog's behavior with some word of your choosing? Well, you certainly can – but dogs trained with clickers as markers learn much more quickly than dogs trained with voice markers. Why? Because our voices vary in pitch, tone, volume, etc. while the clicker is a consistent sound.

How do you begin? Well, first, you have to have a dog, a clicker and some form of "treat" the dog really loves (this can be anything from actual treats to a favorite toy to scratching a good spot; it depends on the dog). Then, once you've charged the clicker (i.e., taught the dog what it means), you can have at it.

Happy training :)

House for Sale in North Minneapolis

My cute little house is for sale on Russell Avenue in Minneapolis again. The price has dropped but you'd better hurry – there's a showing this afternoon and I'm feeling lucky. This charming, well-built little number has cute curb appeal and is move-in ready.

Quaint 1920s Minneapolis House for Sale:

  • 3 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • 1½ story
  • ~1,050 finished square feet
  • Original hardwood floors
  • New roof
  • Eat-in kitchen
  • Stainless steel appliances
  • Unfinished basement with laundry & plenty of storage
  • Spacious, light front porch
  • Back mud porch
  • Fenced-in yard
  • Detached, one-car garage
  • 10 minutes from Uptown / Downtown
  • Central/forced air

Great for a single person, a couple or even a small family, this single family home is conveniently located near bus stops, a gas station and only five blocks from Victory Memorial Parkway – a perfect place to stroll.

Relax on the sunny front porch in the mornings with a cup of coffee or hang out on the backyard patio in the shade of the old oak tree on a summer evening.

The main floor has a nice, bright living room with two bedrooms separated by a full bath.

The eat-in kitchen has plenty of cabinets and a big pantry for storage.

Upstairs, there's room for a home office or craft area that leads into a big, carpeted bedroom with its own full bath.

 The basement, while unfinished, is spacious and light (several small windows line the perimeter), with plenty of storage space and a big laundry area that boasts a washer, dryer, laundry tub and cabinet.

This space is ready to be finished, with drain tiles and sump pump already installed – no fear of flooding or dampness!

If you're interested in seeing this little jewel in person, please contact my real estate agent for a showing.

Once inside I know you'll find it as homey and warm as I do :)

My Kozies Shepherd Has Hip Dysplasia

I know I said I wouldn't waste any more time thinking and opining about Mark Kozitza down in Mankato, MN, but since Zada's health has taken a turn for the worse I feel inclined to dissuade other German shepherd lovers from falling prey to this backyard breeder like I did.

While I live in St. Paul – in a town home, no less – and Zada is a "city dog," I have her out for 1½ to 2 hours of exercise per day. I have her off-leash quite a bit so she can run; I'm constantly playing fetch with her (she never tires of chasing sticks or balls); we go for daily long walks around the neighborhood and I walk fast (she trots the entire time); and I also work her physically/mentally by down-staying her and hiding her stick or throwing it into the woods and releasing her to "find it" (she absolutely LOVES this game).

Long story short: she's in great shape. You can see her muscle definition through her fur, which for a longer-haired dog is pretty impressive. I keep her lean and she's never been over-weight.

She's Lame...Again

In spite of all that, she came up lame a few days ago – this time on a hind leg (she's had chronic problems on her left front for years). Since the only weakness she's ever shown on a hind leg has been attributed to her luxating patella, I assumed this was the same thing. I took her to the vet clinic and the veterinarian said she didn't think this limp was due to any problems with Zada's knees and suggested I get x-rays. Of course I said to go ahead, even though it was late evening and I didn't want her to be groggy for the rest of the night (turns out they didn't even have to sedate good girl :)

I wasn't prepared for the news that came back: my European-line German shepherd has hip dysplasia. Not only that, she also has arthritic changes on two of her vertebrae: lumber 7 (L7) and her sacrum. The vet said the spinal arthritis was more concerning than the hip dysplasia, since it will not only get worse over time (same as the hip dysplasia), but could end up impinging on nerves and could cause permanent damage.

If You Don't Want a GSD with Hip Dysplasia or Arthritis, Don't Buy From Kozies Shepherds

I was devastated. Zada's only five years old and already I was thinking of the years to come of playing fetch, horseback riding through the woods with her at my side, hiking for hours and how that would affect my poor girl's hips and spine.

For someone who purports to breed German shepherds of European working lines that have good genetics and are "structurally sound," Mark Kozitza sure struck out with this breeding. I've heard from a few other people who own Kozies shepherds and between the four of us our dogs have quite the list of afflictions.

Known Health Problems of Kozies Shepherds

  • hip dysplasia
  • spinal arthritis (transitional vertebra)
  • EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency)
  • aggression towards children
  • luxating patellas
  • dog-dog aggression
  • limping on a front leg after exercise
  • bad teeth

I've noticed that Zada's dam (also the dam of two of the other dogs I'm mentioning above) has been completely taken off the breeder's website. One of the other dog owners (who has a female half-sister to Zada) told me that Zada's sire was supposed to be the father of his female but at the last minute Kozitza changed the breeding. When I asked if he knew why, this dog owner told me "because the dog went sterile."

This is obviously hearsay but it seems like too much of a coincidence for me – plus I have the vet bills to prove the bad breeding practices of Kozies. If anyone wants to see Zada's x-rays, I'd be happy to share.

All of Zada's temperament issues aside – which can result from genetics AND environment, I know that – these problems (especially hip dysplasia) are solely a product of poor breeding. There's nothing I could've done to prevent this other than NOT get my German shepherd from Kozies shepherds. Period.

Dog-sitting Miss Tesa

While Mom and Dad spend the month in sunny Puerto Vallarta, their golden retriever gets to stay with us here in the cities. Being a country girl, Tesa is used to being outside all day, running hither and thither and doing, well, pretty much whatever she wants.

Here in St. Paul, we don't have a yard so the only time she gets to go out is under supervision. I do have Zada out every day for a couple of hours, and she's used to a mostly-indoor life...but when Tesa's here I feel bad that she can't be outside more often like she is back home.

However, I've put my guilt aside and realized she's just evidenced by the amount of sleeping (and snoring) she's done while staying here.

Me thinks this is the face of a content pooch. Well, except she was waiting for me to stop snapping so she could get on with her nap :)

Homemade Wooden Dollhouse

Now that Dad's partially retired he's finally got some time to work in his shop. Since the beginning of the year – when his schedule changed – he has worked at his sawmill, chopped and stacked plenty of firewood, built a shelter out in the woods for the grand kids to go hang out in during the summer, and made numerous smaller items.

He hand-made several beautiful boxes out of various types of wood (I stole one of those) and he even put together a surprise for The Girls when we were all there in January: a wooden dollhouse.

While it's only made out of wood scraps, he put a lot of work into making it...even taking the time to carve out a window in the front door and several pieces of tiny dollhouse furniture.

This dollhouse rocks: it's got a hinged roof for easy access, two windows, a kitchen, dining area, and even a loft ("that's for the kids," says Dad).

And of course, we can't forget the furniture...he even added small details that I'm surprised his man fingers could handle. He made a cute little table and chairs, put burners on the stove (my favorite!), carved out drawers on the dresser, drew cabinet doors on the tiny hutch, and even gave the beds little wooden pillows!

Dad really enjoyed making this dollhouse, and The Girls absolutely L-O-V-E-D it. They played with it constantly the entire weekend. I think Dad even plans to add to it, saying the front window ledge needs some flower pots :)

So see? You don't have to head to a department store and buy an expensive dollhouse; you can make one yourself they'll love just as much – if not more – because of all the love put into the details.

I'd like to give a shout-out to Dad, our very own handy-man, for making this homemade wooden dollhouse. Wonder what he'll make next???

Motley Crue Thinks Justin Bieber is a Girl

Even if you're not a huge Mötley Crüe fan, you're familiar with one of their signature songs. The motorcycle revs and instantly you recognize the Strippers' National Anthem: Girls, Girls, Girls.

Performed live, the song is even more powerful, with chiseled females dancing and flipping their hair about on stage while larger-than-life images of even more beautiful women flash on the screens behind Vince, Nikki, Mick and Tommy Lee.

We had tickets to the first and second shows of their 13-show residency in Las Vegas – they're playing at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel – and while the first night was fun, they definitely pulled out all the stops the second night.

The first night, when Girls, Girls, Girls came on, of course the crowd went wild and everyone screamed along to the lyrics as the gals gyrated and danced and the images flashed onscreen. Imagine our surprise when, for just a split second, we saw – or thought we saw – an image of Justin Bieber on the screen, sandwiched in between hot girls. Knowing that the Crüe members aren't big fans of the Canadian singer, we figured it was a one-time subliminal message.

The second night, even though I'd seen it before and figured we might see it again, I was shocked to find I'd captured that exact second in a photo.

I'd like to think it's a one-in-a-million shot, but of course now that Mötley Crüe fans know it's coming, we'll most likely be seeing more of this not-so-silent jab at Justin Bieber and his girlish good looks.

Well done, Mötley :)