Tropical Beach Vacation

007 “Thanks mom for taking us on a tropical beach vacation!”

Actually, I took JaYoBaCa with me on vacation to the Central Oregon Coast. And while some of you may question why I would need a vacation from my current summer vacation thanks to my unemployed status, I’ll let that hang for a minute or so.

If, like me, you question the insertion of the description of tropical in any post mentioning the Central Oregon Coast, let me explain.

It all started a few months back when I found myself suddenly with a lot of free time on my hands. Although my friend Kris suggested rather cavalierly that I take a vacation somewhere, I scoffed at the idea. I was after all, unemployed. But an idea started to germinate. I’d always wanted to attend a particular NADAC agility that’s held every July in Newport, OR. However, it seemed like such a long drive, as well as a major expense. To do the trial, I figured I’d have to plan on taking pretty much an entire week off from work, not to mention the cost of a hotel. While I earned a lot of vacation time, a week seemed like a lot of time to burn all at once, particularly when my preference was to use most of my vacation time for long weekends. But faced with a seemingly endless summer, I thought to myself that this was the time to do it.

Another reason I’d never made the effort to do the trial was that it was a July event and Jasmine, at the time, and later, Youke, are not fond of doing agility in full sun and summer heat. Nevertheless, I was assured numerous times by numerous people that although the trial was outdoors, on grass and in full sun with no shade for parking, that Newport is typically very cool in the summer. Cool and windy.

Therefore, the very week that I received The Call, I booked a cabin at the beach near Newport. Gleneden Beach to be exact. When I made the reservation in early May, the booking agent attempted to persuade me to upgrade to a seemingly nicer place, cautioning me that the place I wanted was a bit rustic – code for a bit run down. I advised him I was coming with four dogs and that we were perfectly fine with rustic accommodations..And yes, he asked me if I really was bringing four dogs. After securing the cabin owner’s permission, I had my rental and I started to look forward to a new adventure.

The thought of a cool and windy Newport became even more entrancing as the unprecedented summer of 2015 came into full swing in the Seattle area, bringing with it record heat and a record number of days of 90 degrees and above.

Sadly, or maybe not so sadly, I’ve become very acclimated to Pacific Northwest summers. It’s actually a lovely time of year. Plenty of blue skies, very little precipitation normally, but enjoyable temperatures on average – rarely getting into the 80s, much less the 90s. Luckily for me, I grew up in the Northeast and spent some time in South Florida – so I know what actual humidity and heat are. That experience came in handy. Although at first it all seemed a bit too much, I found that I could become quickly accustomed again to the heat, and despite what the locals seem to think, there really is no such thing as humidity here.

Still, I don’t really enjoy playing agility when it’s above 80 degrees and Youke doesn’t either. It’s hard to be a mostly black dog in the summer. Brady and Camm could care less. They’d run on three legs if necessary. But that’s where it’s nice to have a thoughtful and caring human as your guardian, so that as a Border Collie you don’t do foolish things, like break yourself and get heat exhaustion, hopefully.

So I was looking forward to those cooler coastal temperatures and windy and overcast conditions I’d been promised.

Nonetheless, following in the words of a former president I could never fully get behind, trust but verify, I checked the weather forecast before my departure.

Never trust. Especially never trust a weather forecast.

Nearly seven long hours later, we arrived at our cabin. Seven hours? Yes, because I was stupid and didn’t stick with my departure plan and hits loads of traffic. And I had to double back and retrieve the sun shade I had forgotten. Thankfully, I was only 20 minutes out when I realized my mistake. Do you know how hard it is to have no one to blame but yourself for a late departure and for forgetting to bring an important item? Talk about displaced anger. I resolved it though by swearing at myself a lot during the drive and laughing about how I had no one to tell “told you.”

I wish I could’ve taped the expressions on my dogs faces when we arrived. The grumpy, warm, uncomfortable previous hours were instantly forgotten as they perused the cabin, galloping from room to room, sniffing every corner and racing with delight through the fully fenced yard.

It was lovely and cool when we arrived in the early evening. The dogs rolled in the grass and cavorted through the yard, stopping frequently to smell and pee on things.

The fully fenced yard. That was accessible from the main bedroom. As in, open the door and let the dogs out, mere feet from the bed. I’m not gonna lie. This is pretty much my idea of perfection. I decided after this week, I am finally going to get my own yard fenced in.

Thus began our vacation.

For the next day or so, we just hung out, playing on the beach in the mornings, getting a coffee for me, eating a late breakfast, then me reading in the yard for hours while the dogs romped and eventually settled down by napping in the sun.

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All of that was tiring, so naturally we all had to retire back into the house for a nap too.

Mornings and evenings were at first very cool, so I was glad I’d brought plenty of warm stuff to wear. But it was starting to look like maybe the weather forecast had not exactly been spot on. For one, I was surprising very warm while in the yard. I figured that maybe the cabin’s location and the fence cut the wind. Still, I noticed that I was almost too warm when walking the beach with the dogs. I even wore the bathing suit I’d packed as an afterthought. Not at the beach, although I could’ve comfortably, but in the yard. I won’t discuss the nosy neighbor man who decided he had to stroll by a few times. A nosy neighbor man who happened to be quite tall and could easily see over the fence. Good thing I had my defense team to remind him to move along..

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Jasmine and Youke seemed to think it was pretty much the best time ever and worked on their relaxation techniques – the beauty of having dogs almost 12 and a little over seven years of age, respectively. Camm looked adoringly at me, then kept hugging and licking me, when she wasn’t chasing bees in the yard or trying to get Youke to play with her.

Brady though seemed to have a very different take. Brady somehow interpreted the trip as a romantic beach vacation for he and I.

Every time I turned around, there was Brady, tongue lolling about.and poised for attack. Seriously, I couldn’t move more than three feet for the first two days without Brady showing his deep appreciation for my decision to take him on a romantic beach getaway by attempting to hump me.

Okay, I’m going to admit I made a bit of a mistake several years ago by not discouraging Brady’s attempts to show his appreciation.

At some point early on in his time with me, Brady decided an appropriate way to display his appreciation for his evening meal was to hump me. The better the dinner, the stronger and longer the attempted hump. Leftovers are always more appreciated then just plain kibble, but really, as long as he gets fed in the evening, it’s an occasion for joy, and to show his deep appreciation. At first I just thought it was kind of funny. And I didn’t discourage it, because I’d read somewhere that humping was not merely a sexual thing, but also a way for a dog to express itself about other things. Being that I decided long ago to let Brady express his warped and slightly off-kilter feelings about many things in some manner, theorizing that the misinterpretation by other humans and the repression of his real emotions was what led to his oddities in the first place, I let him hump me.

Yes, I let my dog hump me. No, I am not a weirdo.

The rule is simple, he is allowed to hump me for five seconds, more or less, after his evening meal in a show of appreciation. Unless he is absolutely exhausted, this is pretty much a nightly ritual. I decided that this rule was easier and better than trying to run in circles around the house away from him while he hunts me down. Yes, that has really happened. Yes, I realize that’s a bit odd, but I swear there’s nothing deviant going on. My dog is simply exhibiting, in a physical manner, his deep appreciation for his evening kibble, by hunting me down in the living room and humping my leg for a few seconds while I stand in front of the TV with the remote control in my hand, flicking channels to see what’s on TV that night.

The sad thing is, that ever since Camm’s arrival, the humping has not been entirely a pleasurable expression for Brady. I guess it’s pretty hard to concentrate when your pesky little sister is either snuffing into the fur on your back or staring at your face and wondering, quite righteously, what the fuck you’re doing to her Human Mommy. Camm gets quite grievously disgusted and will stare intensely at Brady. It seems that even if he shuts his eyes, he can still feel her burning disapproval.

Anyway, Brady seemed to think he should show his deep approval of the accommodations and the trip by constantly attempting a hump. I rarely tell my dogs an outright “no,” but I had to make clear to Brady that this wasn’t a romantic trip and besides, hadn’t he noticed that I’d also brought along his siblings? Besides, everyone knows that Youke is my spooning partner.

When we got to the agility portion of the trip, Brady seemed to get the message that it wasn’t all sunsets, beach time and sharing pizza slices.

Although Friday had felt like a pretty warm day, it was mainly due to the lack of wind until later in the afternoon. When we got to the show site, it was perfect outdoors trialing weather. Probably due to the afternoon nap we’d all taken, everyone was full of pep and did pretty well. Plus, we got to see a gorgeous sunset driving back up the coast to our temporary home.

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The sunsets every night were beautiful, but the one on Friday night was stunning. I’m going to say that the sunset along Depoe Bay on Friday night alone was worth the trip.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early as it was an agility day. The problem was that at 6:00 am it wasn’t exactly cool and there was no dew on the grass in the yard. The skies were also very clear and already quite blue. I didn’t turn on the heat in the jeep as I drove to the show site, but thought to myself that the sweatshirt I was wearing was keeping me warm. That sweatshirt came off five minutes after i arrived on Saturday morning. That was at 7:30 am. I never put it back on.

Thankfully, I put on the one and only tank top I’d brought with me, but still baked in long black pants.

Yup, I actually could’ve worn my recently purchased tiny skort. Although I’d thought of packing it, two things held me back. One, I thought it’d be too cold and windy to wear. And two, well, three, Brady and Camm. I figured both would be amped up since it was a site we’d never been to before and given the history of both, I just thought it’d be wiser to wear long black pants.

Long black pants that I sweated my ass off in all day long. All day. As until 7 pm that night. It was a long, hot day. Those cool breezy beach temps I’d been promised? Nope. The official temperature in Newport hit 82 degrees on Saturday. At the trial site, it was at least 85 degrees, according to one person with a weather app on their smart phone. Personally, I’m pretty sure the unshaded parking lot where I was parked hit at least 90 degrees. Good thing I doubled back for the forgotten sun shade for my vehicle.

I was comforted at least when a woman who showed up at the trial told me she was from Newport and that weather was not typical of the area, even in July. I also took some comfort in the fact that it officially hit 97 degrees in Portland, OR that day.

By the end of the day, despite sunscreen, I’m pretty sure I was as brown as when I lived in South Florida.

I was glad that I’d pre-entered the trial only for Friday evening and Saturday. But despite the heat, the dogs, even Youke, were running really well, and I was having a lot of fun. So when someone assured me that the weather forecast called for a 20 degree drop on Sunday, I hopped right up and entered for Sunday too.

Trust, but verify. I stayed up late that night to catch the local forecast on TV and indeed, it was supposed to be cooler.

Huge relief when I awoke at 5:30 am on Sunday and it was misting rain and was actually chilly. The light rain cleared by the time the trial started at 8 am, but I ended up wearing my sweatshirt on and off for the entire day and kept on a longer-sleeved shirt. My long pants didn’t bother me much on Sunday, and in fact, I was wishing I had on heavier pants.

Not because I was cold. Because Brady was being obnoxious.

The summary of the trial goes like this: Youke was a steady rock star, Brady was a bastard, Camm was both brilliant and inconsistent and Jasmine seemed to enjoy her new role as retiree and team supporter.

Jasmine got to do quite a few walkabouts, got to greet some people and very much enjoyed having a piece of pound cake with cream cheese smeared on it. She seemed a bit confused as to why I wasn’t snapping on her agility leash and running with her into the ring, but by Sunday had figured it out.

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Youke was amazingly consistent and ran about as well as I’ve seen him run in recent months. He was consistently under time with the exception of his last run of the weekend and I felt very much in synch with him. The best moment of the entire trial was his Chances run. Youke aced the course and ran with ease and comfort. Unfortunately, I was so excited and got entranced watching his little behind sail over the jumps and into the tunnel at a distance, that I inadvertently stepped over the distance line. Realizing what I’d done, I squealed. Someone told me that If I hadn’t squeaked so loudly, that maybe no one would’ve noticed what I’d done, which was to disqualify our run by stepping over the line. Oh well. It was still a gorgeous run. Bad handler error.

Brady had some lovely moments and several fantastic runs, including a Tunnelers run at the end of Saturday – the super hot day- in which he smoked the rest of the competition with the fastest run. However, he was also a complete ass, and had to argue with me on nearly every course. It stared off Friday night with a four-obstacle serpentine. Brady loudly informed me that serpentines consist of three obstacles, not four. Hey buddy, try telling that to the judge. By Saturday, he was arguing about sends, finish lines and contacts. I ended up doing some on-course training which cost some runs, but I felt it would serve us well later. It did not. Despite the beautiful Tunnelers run and two very nice Weavers runs, by Sunday he was coming at me and made a couple of connections, which led to us being eliminated a few times.

I spent a lot of time in the last days of the vacation bathing my legs in the ocean’s healing salt water.

Camm was wild, crazy and full of potential. I realized on Sunday during a beautiful Jumpers run when she was five obstacles out from me that this dog has the potential to be a crazy NADAC distance dog. I’m not quite sure I want to go there yet, and regardless, we have a lot more training to do, as evidenced by my needing to remind her regularly this weekend about contact performance and start line stays.

Camm’s former foster mom, who she adores was at this trial too and Camm took some big leaps over the weekend in learning how to work through a major distraction. I was pleased when she realized she could focus on doing agility with me, and still be able to say hello to Anne without losing her shit.

The next couple of days after the trial I awoke with the dogs early each morning and we headed off to the beach, which we could walk to from our rustic little cabin. We got some stares from people and more than a few groups stopped to watch the dogs race each other back and forth into the surf. My guess is that probably not a lot of people vacation on the coast with umpteen dogs. But just to prove that we also had manners, I regularly asked the dogs for a down and stay when people walked by. We also found a nearby grassy field to play ball in and to explore. I explored a few shops and checked out the local espresso stands. Ironic that the only bad cup of coffee I had my entire stay was at a Starbucks.

All in all, it was worth the long drive – although much better was the five-hour trip back home – and worth the bit of money spent on the rustic cabin. I got to play some agility with my dogs, but better yet, I got to play on the beach and soak up some sun. I’ve sort of forgotten that until nearly 15 years ago, I had always lived 60 minutes or less from the ocean. I’ve grown to think of myself as loving the mountains, and I do, but I treasure the ocean just slightly more.

I’ve always loved this quote and firmly believe in its truth:

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen

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I think we’ll be going back again.

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