Thursday, July 30, 2015

Life of a Dog - Panhandling Pancakes

A house without a dog
With a dog.

Abby had her one year gotcha day not long ago.  As many rescues are, she was quite shy the first couple of weeks but is now is simply a happy lab playing with her toys, retrieving a ball, the tail thump thump thump against the couch when I come into the room. She is very well behaved, not chewing on anything that's not a chew toy, obeying basic commands and learning new ones each week. She's been allowed on the bed to sleep but prefers the cool surface of the leather sofa or her big poofy Orvis dog bed.
She does well in her harness and likes her rides in the vehicles to visit friends or run a quick errand while one of us stays in the car with her. The "exploding retriever" experience of our first trip north is but a memory (hey, we've all gotten car sick)  On the last  trip home from she laid quietly on the seat snoozing the whole time but for one time I turned on some Classic Country and she sat up with an irritated look that said "they're playing LeAnn Rimes - if she yodels I'm going to start barking". I turned it off.

The only other non snooze moment was a stop to stretch legs and get a Chick Fil a. Like her Mom, Abby loves Chick Fil a, the smells from the bag setting her tail on high rpm.
Like all labs,  Abby does like her food, going into a full body wag each morning as I get up to feed her a bowl of kibble.

We are looking forward to a few days off at home, suitcase unpacked, and pancakes to be made  I think back to the LAST bath I made, a little experiment.

With everything quiet the last time I was home, Sunday called for pancakes, but the big puffy baked ones, of which I'd not made one in a couple of years and had no idea where the recipe went to. There was one in this little book of Swedish recipes I picked up out West, though and I thought I'd try that  In mixing it up, the proportions seemed a bit off, and the amount of batter seemed like too much for the size pan recommended and the recommended temp a bit high. But I tried it anyway thinking, "it's a published cookbook, how can it be wrong".   But I said that about the "overnight, no knead yeast bread" recipe I got from a well known website. And we know how THAT loaf turned out
The pancake was assembled and after 45 minutes  I had what looked like a giant pan of hot jello in the oven, even after cooking an extra 15 minutes. I'm not sure how the edges can be  almost burned dark brown AND raw inside, but they were.  I poked it with a spatula and it rippled and growled. I've had science experiments that looked less toxic.
I disposed of it like any good bio-hazard.

Abby played dead to avoid having to act like she wanted to try it. . . .
while my husband started looking for cold cereal (or the nearest exit).

I double checked the recipe and I'd made it just as directed.  Oh well, that's what I get for following the rules as opposed to my usual cooking style of "Watch this!" with the fire extinguisher handy.

Not willing to admit defeat, I tried again, this time just winging it, Husband patiently waiting, as anyone that hangs around someone that likes to experiment with stuff, often does. Since an oven pancake is sort of a cross between a pancake and a popover, I adapted my standard popover recipe to the bigger pan and added some Cardamom and Lemon Zest. Melting four Tablespoons of butter in the pan, getting it all nice and hot before pouring the batter in, didn't hurt, either.

Ta Dah!  Puffy Oven Pancake. (recipe in the comments)

This is what the doctor ordered.  It was perfect, with a tender crunch to the edge, and soft and fragrant in the middle.
Served the traditional way with powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
I do think the second try was worth the wait, as my faithful lab assistant seemed to agree.  For yes, she begged for a piece and I gave in.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Black Lab Memories

Christmas 2013.  Barkley was unimpressed by The Force.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

For Mary - Still Life and Quantum Mechanics



had a post up today that was heart-rending. One of the dog bloggers hit with a sudden and terminal diagnosis. I had just met this person and their wonderful dog Casey on-line on facebook through them, felt the smiles they brought, and now she will be gone? So for tonight, not anything light, no dog hair or squeaky toys, but words from the heart, from one who has pushed the envelope enough to know how very, very precious each day is.
------------------------------------------
For Mary -

It was once said in an age-old axiom, that an object cannot occupy two positions at the same time. Yet now, with today's technology, it may be argued that it is just possible to do that. The number of places science can go is far greater than I ever believed, even growing up reading Clarke and Asimov at every turn. Most physicists today trying to unite Einstein’s theory of gravity with quantum mechanics focus on microscopic realms beyond the reach of any conceivable experiment. Perhaps the solution that eluded Einstein is much closer at hand, in the strange territory where quantum mechanics just barely emerges into the human world. And we could be in two places at once. Or occupying the same position at two different times. Or fervently wishing we could

You've all had days like that, when simple things went awry, plans made that mattered little to you, mattered much to others, things said, bridges burned, moments that repeated themselves for weeks or months in your head. If only I'd done this, if only I'd said that. Moments in which you wish you could turn back on itself, as if you've never been there. Moments that repeat themselves in your memory, minute by minute, wrong place, wrong time.

Things happen when it is time for them to happen they say, and that moments like those long ago, likely were meant to be. Perhaps today is, as well. It's a sentimental notion, wishful thinking, or to some, a projection of some great plan by some divine power. But where would we be without wishful thinking? How much hard-bitten logic is there in the world? Would an electron have split with simply cold hard logic, and not a bit of wishful thinking by minds whose conceptions are beyond logic. How much hard reasoning is there really? Maybe somewhere out there in the world there is a place where reason is never as comfortable as a familiar sweater, where thought is as flat as a glass of stale ale left forgotten on the counter when the phone rang.


There are people happy to live that way, who lie in quiet acceptance of what is thrust upon them. People who numb the reaches of their mind in the same way someone with chronic pain eases their movements with pharmaceuticals. That person thinks there could be more, that possibilities exist, but there is too much effort involved in the motivation to take them there. It would mean giving up what is safe, getting up, moving forward, and who knows if the outcome would be the best thing they ever experienced, or simply shed more light on a world they would prefer stay comfortably dim. Best to stay still, quiet, and in the dark, they say.

Certainly such a place is safer; where no smudge of desire affects debate, prediction is not contaminated by untried theory and actions aren't clouded by concealed agendas. Still, it is a world flat and colorless as tap water. A world I don't want to live in.

I still have moments where the lone tear for things past come unbidden, yet in each day in me is an increased curiosity for the world around me and what I can take from it, even if reaching for it sometimes causes me to teeter on the edge of a precipice in which only my fate echoes. D.H. Lawrence wrote that in every year we pass an anniversary unaware. That of our own death.

I regularly visited that place. Authors such as Laurence Gonzales write about it in Deep Survival. Where we, as adventurers of the world, circle and circle, climbing faster and higher, up to that spot marked X. That spot that will mark their own demise, flirting with it, teasing, poking the bear. I've seen it enough to recognize and know when I need to stay, and when it's time to leave.

You can do the same in an ordinary life, you can fall off a ladder and break your neck on a lunch break, but we do that blindly. In a life fully lived we engage our fate deliberately, we speak the words we may later regret, but we have to say them. We engage life as a indefatigable opponent that others will wish to tiptoe by, so not to awaken it. We risk our necks, and we risk our hearts, both, cajoled by the spirit of adventure that whispers to us from the dark like a lover, with honeyed voice and strong arms that draw us out of our complacent sleep.

I look at the photos around me on the mantel. Behind a dogsled in Alaska, perched on the side of Mt. Rainer or Mt. Hood with friends, in the pilots seat of a T-6, face flush from doing aerobatics, in one frame, a leaf plucked from the upper levels of an alpine slope. I look at pictures of the last 15 years, time spent alone, graduating from the academy, giving a lecture at a university, a dinner party for friends, Mexican train dominoes and much laughter and beer.   I look at more recent pictures, of paths taken, not always straight, but as pristine and intact as the road to glory itself. I look at other frames, vacated or new, awaiting new photos, noting those places to be filled by a heart that is. I am still an adventurer, I'm just an older, wiser explorer of the world, whose limbs and heart though tested still yearn for that last great adventure

I am two women, at the same place, at the same time. The woman here at the apex of life, and the young woman in the photos seeking untarnished dreams. Two women; the one that I have was, and the one that I am. That woman today,  green eyes wise with age, will hopefully look at pictures from the past,  remembering the woman that I brought me here to this day, hopefully wiser than the young woman I was, but retaining all of the dreams.

For although many years of life have passed, here still lies ahead miles of water to drift down, if only in my dreams, endless chasms of sky to cross; horizons that will tilt and change, fueled by dreams that I will take on until until I can no longer draw breath. Dreams that bring with them moments in which I feel the rush of air and catch the scent of warm breath on my face, entering into that other plane of being in which I see my whole life ahead of me, death still beyond it. Moments in which, in the rush of emotion, I am outside of my body. Outside, yet in, looking away, looking beyond, in a rush or pleasure so intense that I know, that even with that risk, I will chase that moment again. I am in two places, within my heart and outside of it, tasting, seeking, reaching up to touch that last crimp with the tips of my fingers, to climb past that X into the light.

I will never fully understand the science that can transport matter, or the circumstances of quantum mechanics that allows for wonders that we can't conceive of. But I can grasp the wonder of my world, in a volcanic rock formed in the earth that holds in place letters from those long gone. In a pressed leaf in a photo frame; a leaf once green, nature's compromise between life and poison, a pragmatic conformation to circumstance, retaining beauty even as it fades to dust.
-- LBJ

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Black and White - Stuffie Haiku

Oh New Stuffie Toy
I Will Love You Forever
Unless Squeaking Stops
 
 
Thank you Nola and Sugar for hosting the Blog Hop
 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Night Labs - Escape Artist

Abby travels back and forth from home to the little crash pad in the city where I work. It's a cozy little place with some  the furniture from the house I owned when I met my husband and little things that make me smile.

She has a dog walker at both homes, someone to let her in and out, and stay overnight with her if need be or have her stay with them.  She's pretty laid back and minds really well, including having to block her into a specific room  at the crash pad when the landlord sends someone by to change the furnace filter, check the smoke detector or replace a bulb in the high ceiling fixtures.
Barkley would have bounded over the chair.  Even a baby gate was no match for him. Abby just stays behind it with plenty of windows to spot when I come home, and goes to sleep.

Or so I thought.

There were two days in a row she was blocked in the living room with her toys and water bowl as a small repair was being made. When I came home the first day she was in her usual position - on the couch in the blocked living room,  half asleep and looking slightly bored.
If Mom really loved me she'd have one of those baby toys that goes over the crib with music and dangling bacon.

She does occasionally change positions.  Lat night when I went to take her out one last time before bed she was on sprawled out on her back with one leg straight UP in the air towards the ceiling  like John Travolta in Saturday Night ever.  Low light kept me from getting a photo but I cracked up.

On day two, I came home, but it was Friday, so she was reading the tabloids, looking less than happy about the most recent celebrity divorce.

But today, when I got home I talked to the dog walker to set up next weeks schedule.

She said "Abby was so cute, meeting me by the front door".

 I said "huh? No, she was blocked in the living room for the maintenance guy".

 L said " No, she must have jumped over the chair when you left for work."

AND jumped back and pretended to be asleep when I got home.

I'm on to you Abby.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I better go count my beers there's no telling what ELSE she was up to.  :-)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Barkley Memories - That First Trip to PetSmart

Mom - I need more squeeky toys.  You leave, you're gone for days and you come home all tired out, without any squeaky toys.

I remember that day, my fiance  was visiting me in Indiana  and we had a few errands that needed to be run before our Fall wedding.

First a stop at the BigBox store for some cleaning stuff ("hey look - the WalMart Brand of foaming bathroom cleaner with "Scrubbing Bubba") and a trip to the UPS store to pick up all my mail.

Then off to PetsMart.  We'd not been to one before.  He had another groomer that was co-located with his doggie day care, and most of the time when I needed something, I'd order it online.

But here were were, on our first trip.

 I wasn't sure how Barkley would do, as he hates tile floors, but once he saw all the toys and the smells and the other dogs, he just charged right in pulling  his "Dad" like some sort of Nantucket Sleigh Ride.
Look! People!
Hmmm, giant tub of dog cheetos or the chewy snacks. Can I have both?
I think we need the "Beware of Dog" sign to intimidate that wimpy mixed breed terrier next door.
Oh look, it's dog adoption day!  I'm so lucky to have a home, I hope some folks will take these dogs home today and give them treats.

From the distance came the sound of several squeaky toys going off in a single round and the rest of the pictures were just "dog shape blur"

He did behave himself at the check stand while his treats, a new leash and a  $1.99 sale toy were bagged up. (The duck was on sale apparently due to a pneumothorax.)

See Barkley - you behaved so you get a toy of your own.

squeek squeek squeek squeek squeek squeeky squeekkkkkkkkkkk!!!! OK, that's enough toy for now Barkley.
You can have my duck when you pry it out of my cold, cold jaws.

Yes, I think everyone had fun! (look carefully at the sticker on my shirt)


So many good memories Barkley while you were with us, and so many new ones to be made with our Miss Abby.
Look Mom - I got a scarf from the PetSmart groomer that matches my squeaky elephant! 

Don't I look adorable?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Black and White Sunday

If I stare at it long enough, the bowl will magically refill.

This is a blog hop hosted by Nola and Sugar.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sepia Saturday - a Wedding

Mom's still doing the weird work hour thing, but I found a post to put up for Sepia Saturday.  It's her wedding picture, as she put Dad's ring on him.  It was taken with a friend's cell phone but it is her favorite picture from the day.This was in October 2 years ago. Mom and Dad were friends for a lot of years, the bestest of friends. Mom said he was so much younger than she (24 years) she knew they'd just be friends. But Dad thought otherwise. Dad's an engineer - he's smart like that.

They wore Victorian garb and told their friends in the wedding party to dress however they wanted. They had a bridesmaid in a kilt, some in Renaissance wear, and all sorts of fun things.The minister who married them is a retired  prison chaplain, married to a female pilot friend of Mom's. They got married at Mom's house and there was toasts and cake, followed by dinner at an English Brew Pub. It was a grand day, one where Barkley ran off with the pillow for the ring and they stayed that night in a haunted bed and breakfast that had a garage full of British Cars while their friends stayed with Barkley. They only honeymooned one night as they didn't want to leave Barkley, who was a senior dog.

I'm sorry I wasn't there, but I'm SO happy they love each other so much and are my Mom and Dad.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cow Appreciation Day - Don't Say You Weren't Warned

Abby the Lab here while Mom is busy.  This week, on the 14th, was Cow Appreciation Day at Chick Fil a.  Mom LOVES Chick Fil a's food. She gets the grilled chicken sandwich or salad, fruit cup and a diet lemonade 2 or 3 days a week when she's working or the wrap with the flaxseed wrap and the oriental dressing followed by an ice cream cone or their diet soft serve/lemonade slushie thing.  It's on her way to work, no one at the drive up window has dreadlocks and face tackle and the food is pretty tasty.

But don't be fooled by those ever so  cute, friendly Chick Fil a cows.

Regular cows aren't like that.   I read in an article that you have more likelihood in the U.S. of being killed by a cow than struck and killed by lightning.

Yes - Cows.

Here's one disemboweling his latest victim.
Is there anything we can do about this danger?

-Cow locks required on all cows and cow pastures.
-The formation of organizations to keep the media informed of the danger, such as BADD (Bovines are Deadly, Dummy)
-Cow Owner Identification Cards (have it ready to show the law officer).
-N.C.R.A.: National Cow Registration Act requiring the registration and marking of all cows with non-removable serial numbers.

Perhaps not - but until there are better laws protecting people from cows, here are a few safety tips.

Yes, cows, seen in screen and print as a gentle lowly creature, the cow can easily turn into a grumpy mooing menace. Mom has lived on a farm, she KNOWS.

Think about it, you're doing a bit of pheasant hunting, crossing land you got permission to roam, having a wonderful time. The sky is balmy, the birds singing in the trees. Then up ahead, you head the yell of one of your companions. You run up ahead to find him scrambling up the tree as Mr. Bull tries to give him the "high five" with a horn.  You turn and run, but guess what. He's gaining, and you're next.

You might be surprised to know that few people know how to defend themselves from cow attack. Between 2003 and 2008, 108 people died from cattle-induced injuries across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of cow-related fatalities were caused by blunt force trauma to the head or chest; with over a third of the victims working in enclosed spaces with cattle. Normally, the perpetual battle between man and bovine is one-sided (and involves steak sauce). But people who work around cattle have associated risks, and have to be aware of both the animal and their surroundings at all time. "Like what they say about dogs, they can smell fear," one local rancher said.

But you're thinking? I'm not a farmer, I don't have a ranch. Why should I worry about cow attack? Well I worry about running out of treats, of vacuum cleaner conventions, of having "fresh and minty breath" when I'm out on a date with my favorite wiener dog.  So for those that worry entirely too much about such things - ome cow safety tips.

How to tell a Gentle Cow from a Really Angry Cow.












See the difference?

Now, don’t get mixed up, non angry cows can still be dangerous in certain conditions. But it can be difficult to tell them apart. Color, however, is not a reliable identifying characteristic for either sex and the claws, which can rival that of Wolverine of the X-men, are difficult to see at a distance.


Precautions when camping in cow country. Now that you know to watch for a cow that's in a bad MOOd (pun intended). it’s time to learn what you can do to prevent an attack when camping out. Do not cook or store food in or near your tent, unless your tent is equipped with the latest in anti-cow technology. Do not sleep in the clothing you cook in and properly stow garbage, wash dishes and wipe down any tabletops. Hang food and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, haggus, etc.) out of the reach of cows, if possible. If no trees are available, store your food in airtight or specially designed cow-proof containers. Avoid taking odorous foods and keep food smells off your clothing, lest you be molested or mugged and have your wallet stolen by gangs of cows.

Hiking in Cow Country. You must avoid surprising the cow at close range. If the terrain makes it hard for them to see you as your approach, make lots of noise. Talk loudly, wear a bell, sing the Monty Python Lumberjack song. If spotted by a cow, try to get its attention while it is a good distance away. Help the cow to recognize that you are a human by talking to it in a normal voice, waving your arms. Try not and travel alone. In a group, cows will attack the weakest link. Try and hike with people much slower and fatter than yourself and if the cow rushes you, point at that obnoxious guy with short legs that complained the entire hike.

Watch for signs that cows are in the area. That can include rubs and scrapes, cow patties, unusual explosions and booby traps involving spikes. Identifying these clues may help to prevent an encounter.
If you Encounter a Cow. Remain calm and avoid sudden movements. Give the cow plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. Every living thing has a zone of danger or personal space -- that is, the distance within which a cow feels threatened. If it changes its natural behavior (feeding, foraging or hay huffing) because of your presence, you are too close. If you push that limit, the cow may react aggressively in the form of a bluff charge, or even an outright attack. Cows are famous for the bluff charge and may run at you and suddenly stop or continue right at you. You never know, which it will be, they have a terrible poker face. If they charge and stop, try and stand still and slowly back away. If they continue, try and get something between you and the cow, trees, outbuildings, a chili cook-off. Then get away from the cow as quickly as you can.

If a confrontation is unavoidable. Kick, punch, yell, the welfare of the animal is not important if your life is at risk (and how much damage do you think you are going to do to a 1300 pound side of beef?)

Do not play dead. Unless you want a fresh steaming cow pile on your head.

Don't get cornered. Like politicians you elect, trust them and get used to how they work, but don't trust them so much that you ever turn your back on them. Avoid getting into a confined space with cows. A lot of farmers are killed when cows smashed them against the sides of gates, fences and barns.

Don't forget the little ones. A calf may be cute but don't forget its "protective and charging at you Mama" is not. When a cow gives birth she becomes another animal, one that a bottle of Midol, a backrub, and a glass of White Wine will NOT help improve the mood of.

Thanks for listening to our cow safety tips - Next week - the barn cat - ignoring you or plotting something involving mice and C4.
Hope you all had a smile and a nice evening - Mom's heading back to work but we'll have a post up Sunday. 

Abby Lab


Thursday, July 16, 2015

DIY Dog Hair - Life in a Vacuum

has a great little post up about the further adventures of "Jim" who resembles a vacuum cleaner (or a baby giraffe) and has a life all of his own.

If you have a pet - with resultant pet hair and treat crumbs, you likely own a vacuum cleaner..  It's one of those appliances that seem to sit in the corner when not in use until they don't work at ALL, then get thrown out and another purchased.

Every one has different standards of what they are comfortable with, cleanliness wise.  I am perfectly fine coming home to a Triumph TR6 carburetor disassembled on my dining room table as long as the bathtub sparkles.  Some folks aren't happy unless one can perform brain surgery on their floors while others are perfectly happy not getting out a bottle of Windex and the paper towels until the bacteria in the kitchen is big enough to enter a tractor pull.
Personally I like to keep a reasonably clean house, both my own and my elderly Dads (I redecorated his bathroom with new paint, curtains, cabinets and a sign!) I also like to do so economically, even making up some of my own cleaning solutions. (Note to readers:  Do NOT clean your toilet bowl with Diet Coke and Mentos.)

So I noticed how expensive vacuum cleaners had gotten.  Then after going through a couple in about as many years I did two things.

I ignored the urge to buy another cheap one.  This is one appliance where paying a little extra is worth it. Mine gets a pretty good workout between dog hair in two homes and that Christmas party where someone made a glitter bomb.

I then learned how to to do basic upkeep and read the owner's manual.
If it  doesn't turn on:

First make sure the outlet it's plugged into isn't controlled by a switch on the wall (now don't I just  feel stupid now?)

Next, check the connection and make sure it hasn't blown a fuse.  When that happens, no one is happy. Fuses are like safety valves, if a circuit overloads then its fuse or circuit breaker triggers and the electricity is automatically cut off.  Resetting a blown circuit breaker is easy (though I learned you need to think about WHY it blew first, especially when at 40,000 feet) while that blown fuse needs to be replaced.  That in itself is an easy fix, and ladies, if you can do this without help, your man WILL be impressed.
(1) To turn off the power to the house at the fuse box, pull out the main fuse block, which looks like a rectangular block with a handle. It is usually located at the top of the panel. Tug hard and straight out on the handle. Use caution; the metal parts may be hot. (Your power company may well have an online tutorial for this, which I'd highly recommend.)
(2) Screw out the blown fuse in a counterclockwise direction (it's it the cartridge type, pull straight out)
(2) Replace the blown fuse with a new one of the same capacity.
(4) Replace the main disconnect panel to return power to the residence.

Isn't he impressed?  Now don't do this while coming in from a rainstorm, all wet -  you may end up with a perm where you really didn't want one.  Electricity and water do NOT mix so be careful of standing water in your basement or laundry room if there's a breaker box there.
The power source is good, but still no power?

Check the electrical cord.  If it's frayed and not connecting properly, re-splice the wires together and patch the splice with lots of electrical tape. (Please unplug it first unless you want your new nickname to be "sparky). This is a temporary repair only, but it will work.

If the motor has simply conked out, there's not much you can do but take it into a repair place or replace.

It just doesn't suck properly.

You've all done it. Vacuumed over that tiny little corner of paper, again and again, and it just stays there on the floor. With a sigh, you bend over and pick it up, only to throw it down and try and vacuum it up again.

Yes you have.
If your vacuum isn't picking up properly, there are a few simple things you can do before pitching it.

If it's old it just might need some minor adjustments.

First check the bag.

Make sure you have the right type for your vacuum.  Not just any bag will do.
Then see how full it is.  You know the "honey not now, I'm in a meat coma" after dinner at Fogo De Chao?  Well, overstuffed bags (or clogged filters) don't operate very energetically either.  Operating with a full bag also reduces the life of the vacuum.  Replace the bag when it's 1/3 to 2/3 full.

 If you have household pets, also buy a small flea collar and cut it into small pieces (wearing gloves) and put one into the bag (sealing the remainder in an air tight baggie) the night before you replace it.  That will kill any fleas before you remove it and put it in your trash (some recommend leaving a bit of one in there all the time but I'd rather not have the insecticide fumes in the house with all the air that moves through it).
Barkley - The Original Flea RV, in Park

Check that the hose doesn't have any holes in it. Holes in Swiss Cheese are good, your vacuum, not so much. Aren't you glad you bought that electrical tape.  Tape should be just a temporary fix until you can replace. Don't drape the disconnected hose up over a nail to store it, this is often the cause of the damage.

If it is the type that has a tube, make sure there's nothing clogging it (Hey - it's Mr. Squeeky!)
Though little kids love to go for a ride astride a canister type vacuum while you pull it, it's best to say no (look, the ice cream truck!).  Such vacuums aren't designed for that kind of weight, and you'll soon find yourself with a very expensive hose replacement.

The round spinning brush under the vacuum cleaner (basically an agitator) should spin freely.  If  it doesn't, there might be hair or small debris wrapped around it, keeping it from rotating and doing its job.  Use a small pair of scissors to cut through the build up, gently pulling it free. If it's finer hair or a piece of string, remove with a seam ripper (available in hobby stores or where sewing supplies are found).  If it's your better half's favorite bore snake for cleaning their squirrel hunting firearm, hide the remains quickly and distract them with a pie.
If the rubber belt attached to is is broken, you can replace that by removing the bottom place assembly with a screwdriver. Belts will need to be replaced every 6 months to 1 year, depending on how much it's used. Compare your belt to a new one to check its quality. It should be tight, without worn spots, cracks or unevenness.

I didn't think they still MADE shag carpeting? 

Some vacuums with agitators and brushes need to be adjusted for the height off of the carpet.  Too close and there won't be adequate suction to really pick up anything. Too high and they merely wave at the dirt.

And finally - 
It's not a vacuum cleaner.  It's a Dalek from BBC's Dr. Who and when you removed that bottom plate and poked it in the rear with a pair of needle nose pliers, you pretty much sealed your fate.