It’s More Fun When You Just Don’t Give A ****

Camm takes this agility thing very seriously. Not.

I truly have not missed doing much in the way of agility for the past year.

A year ago I had a great time at the last agility trial in my area that was held the weekend before the governor of the state shut everything down. However, it was also the trial where I realized that Rhys was likely not gonna be my next agility “superstar.” I made the decision that weekend after an incident at the trial that he wasn’t going to trial for at least a year, and maybe never again. I was truly okay with that, although a bit sad. In that respect, The Covid Times hit at the right time for he and I. 2019 was a full, successful and busy year for my business, but at the expense of my own dogs in many ways. 2020 gave me a chance to reconnect and fix that, at the expense of my declining business.

I suspect that Rhys’s traumatic and long overnight by himself in the woods last summer helped him realize that maybe being a Big Independent Dog wasn’t all that he thought it would be and maybe his Human was good for more than just feeding him good food, taking him to cool places so he could run and explore, and fighting him for more room on the bed.

Our bond became tighter, but we were still a hot and inconsistent mess when it came to agility classes when those resumed in the second half of the year. In our more focused private lessons we were pretty good, but we also had the luxury of having the The Relationship Counselor as our instructor and we focused mainly on skills and drills. I finally realized that the group class was souring not only me on agility, but him as well and teaching us both to work in a constant negative emotional state. Interestingly, after a bit of time off again, when we resumed our private lessons, we were both more relaxed and focused. In fact, we managed to impress The Relationship Counselor one Friday morning during a lesson when she casually suggested we do an entire course and we nailed it to criteria and perfection.

I had divulged to her that Rhys was unlikely to cut it as a serious competition dog and that I was okay with that. I was more than okay with it. I still wanted to take lessons and learn with him as agility is a great activity for dogs overall in terms of the physical and mental aspects of the training. Plus, he’s a fun dog to work with and presents me with a lot of challenges given his speed and stride length, not to mention his power, so continuing lessons helps me as a handler.

I think my actual words to The Relationship Counselor where along the lines of “I really don’t care anymore.” And it was true.

A magical thing happened. Not caring meant no pressure. No pressure meant more fun. Suddenly we were not only having actual fun, but we were good.

Still, Rhys easily goes over the top and he has a pretty negative history of association with an actual competition ring.

Meanwhile, during the late summer and fall months of The Covid Dark Times, I realized Brady and Camm were both very close to major championships in the agility organization in which we mainly compete. Brady was up for his third and Camm was up for her first. But alas, no trials. However, the organization has long had a video run program in place and it became the way in which many of us continued to garner qualifying scores in 2020. While many people I know were doing video runs every week, I wasn’t nearly that motivated, plus my favorite place to go is around 90 minutes and a toll bridge away. Still, once I had that goal in my sights, it was a goal I wanted to accomplish, particularly for Camm.

Camm and Brady earned their respective championships in early December 2020. Mission accomplished.

Suddenly, I really didn’t care about agility at all.

Sure, I missed the camaraderie. But many of the people I truly would want to hang out, I was already seeing on a fairly regular basis. During The Dark Covid Times, I was lucky enough to establish a core group of friends that I was able to go on walks with or to go hiking with, or – god forbid! – even to picnic or tailgate with. The Covid Times would have been black times indeed if it wasn’t for these wonderful women.

But back to agility. Once I accomplished my goals with Brady and Camm, I had no goals left to try to achieve. Now, I truly didn’t give a damn about agility.

With Youke being retired after obtaining multiple big ribbons, Brady turning 11 years old, having his own closet full of big ribbons and becoming the agility dog of my dreams, Camm earning her big ribbons in 2020, and Rhys clearly not being a competition dog any time soon, if ever, I thought about simply not competing anymore. It was actually an appealing thought. I’ve played dog agility for about 15 years. My life is very much in flux and with the start of 2021, even more so thanks to a tree that fell on my house.

However, I really enjoy the dog agility community here in the Pacific Northwest and I truly love the special human friends I have made.

So when a friend asked if I’d be the trial secretary for her trial that was held this past weekend, naturally I said yes.

Initially, I figured I just might enter Camm and Brady in a few runs. Then I thought I wouldn’t enter any of my dogs. Then I thought maybe I’d enter just Brady as he truly loves agility, but not enter Camm as she’s often frustrating for me as her handler to run and I’m not really sure sometimes how much she actually likes it. Also, sometimes I’m not really sure how much I like running her.

In fact, I thought about just retiring Camm.

She’s only nine years old, and for my dogs between five and ten years of age has been a prime period. Physically, with all the hiking we do, the dogs are in great condition. But when we sometimes fool around in the yard or on hikes playing what I like to call agility tricks, she’s been extremely vocal and doing her patented pogo stick up and down barking in my face. Her frustration barking and pogo stick maneuver was in full bloom toward the end of last year when we were working toward her big ribbon. The behavior ruined a number of runs because I simply could not get her to cease and desist with the yelling at me and actually get to work. In fairness to her, it’s a behavior born out of frustration, usually with me, but it’s also a pattern that she has a hard time breaking once she gets into it.

The more I thought about going into this weekend though without a dog to run, or to only run Brady in a few runs, the more disheartened I felt. Ultimately, I decided to run Brady and Camm in most of the runs offered.

As usual these days, I took the dogs out on short hikes during the week. Brady and Rhys ran really hard on Wednesday and Brady seemed to be favoring a paw on Thursday afternoon.

I decided to scratch Brady from the runs I’d entered him in for Friday and to substitute Rhys instead at the lower levels.

Camm and Rhys hanging out Friday at the agility place.

Actually, what I decided was to bring Camm and Rhys to the trial and to leave Brady and Youke at home. Camm was officially entered. I scratched Brady’s runs and figured I would maybe run Rhys in Brady’s place but at the lower levels. Maybe.

Ultimately, Rhys did do some runs on Friday. I had only one criteria. I wanted to work as a team. Not a perfect and well-tuned team, but I did want to work together. If I saw that we were disconnecting, which has been a frequent problem except during our private lessons, I would stop the run immediately, attempt to gather him up quickly and leave the ring, and not return. I absolutely did not give a shit about a qualifying score.

Because I was able to to, I ran him in back to back runs and at the end of the two classes he ran as he was the last “tall” dog of the class anyway.

A magical thing happened. For the first time since the very first trial we entered, we worked together, I could feel that invisible rope held between the two of us and it was clear he could as well. Not only that, but because I truly didn’t care about anything but maintaining the bond, I was relaxed and having fun with him. Rhys, despite being a very independent and hard-headed dog, is ultra sensitive to my emotions. He stayed relaxed and happy because I stayed relaxed and happy. And what’s even better, I didn’t consciously have to tell myself to be relaxed and happy, I just was. Because I didn’t give a fuck.

On our last run, we did have a moment of disconnection and Rhys did what he has always done, he circled me, outrun style. The magic was though that when I told him calmly that we weren’t going to play that, he came right back and worked as best as he was able to in that moment. It was a win.

Although I was sorely tempted on Saturday and Sunday to enter him in a few more runs, I ultimately opted not to and I think it was a smart decision. I was busy running Camm and Brady and doing trial secretary stuff and I don’t think I could’ve been there for him as much as he needs.

I was also tempted to run Youke is a few classes, but decided not to and I’m pleased with my decision. He didn’t get to do as much as he’d liked to have done due to crappy rain, wind and chill March air, but he still got to play Ball. He indicated several times he thought he should be getting out of the Living Room on Wheels for his turn to go run agility, but I have to wonder how much of that was years of habit and knowing that good things happen after each run like lots of treats and toy play.

Two dogs who did little to no agility this weekend but who came along for the ride anyway.

Brady was ecstatic to be running agility once I gave him the all clear for Saturday and Sunday.

It is amazing to me that running Brady now is comfortable and hugely fun. It’s always been fun, but in that edge of your seat, holy hell, better hang on by a thread, this is going to be a thrill ride kind of way. It’s still a thrill, and I still better be on my game, but in a more comfortable, we’ve been together a long time kind of way.

Brady had to announce his arrival into the ring and at the start line on nearly every run – a habit that has become hysterically funny and endearing now. His aging and greying face eagerly anticipating each run was achingly sweet and touching.

I love this face.

But lest I forget who I was dealing with, Brady got so pissed off at me on Sunday when I tried a foolish and ill-timed fancy blind cross sort of maneuver that he screamed at me the entirety of the rest of the course while simultaneously charging at me with snapping jaws and running the course at the same time. Brady is still the best agility coach I’ll ever have, human, canine or otherwise. We may be a bit older and mellower, but he does not tolerate foolishness and does not forgive stupidity, and I better not try that shit again with him!

As for the dog I thought about retiring because we both get so frustrated sometimes? Well, guess who had an awesome trial?

No one can push my buttons like Camm at times. Also, no one can simply delight me like Camm at times. Often this is one and the same. The difference? If I care about the outcome, it’s maddening. If I do not give a damn, it is simply delightful and she is the most sparkly, sassy, funniest dog to run. Ever.

For her entire agility career Camm is supposed to have adhered to a two on, two off stopped contact criteria, meaning she stops at the end of the a-frame or dogwalk (and teeter) with her two front feet in the dirt and her two back feet planted on the wood plank. The problem with this, for Camm anyway, is that she’s fast and wants to do things fast and why in the world would anyone ask her to slow down when she can go fast? The problem with this for me is that Camm is fast and I am not superhuman and able to get into position to cue her properly when she races down the contact equipment. The battle for us both is that she actually has a gorgeous natural running contact that many teams would kill to have and spend years training to have properly. However, as with every single dog I’ve ever seen in person or televised with a running contact, contact zones eventually get missed or leaped.

Camm did her patented running contacts the first third of the trial, then when I did some training in the ring on how this was not how we do it and asked for Stoopid Stopped Contacts instead, she then flagrantly leaped the contact zones, looking over her should at me with a very clear, “fuck off, this is how Cammi does it” look. We did walk off two courses after this exchange occurred, but I was laughing behind my required face diaper and she knew it. Plus, she still got cookies – even if it was only three instead of five.

In typical Cammi fashion, during the last run of the weekend with contact equipment, she nailed her two on, two off criteria while throwing me a defiant look of success that she had actually thought to do it on her own. I praised her profusely and congratulated her on doing a Stoopid Stopped Contact, while laughing as I read the thought bubble steaming out of her head – “ARE YOU HAPPY NOW??? MY WORK HERE IS DONE!” Then we promptly left the course to play a massive game of tug and to have some dried fish skin. Well, she had the dried fish skin. I had a small vending machine sized bag of Fritos later.

Camm just had me smiling with glee at her antics all weekend. All of my dogs pattern quickly and easily, meaning that they learn a course and how it flows or the directions of the course after an attempt or two. All of my dogs also scan a course at the start line and make decisions that I can sometimes not influence at the start line. This trial was a double-run format, meaning that we ran the same course twice. Every single time, whether we did it well the first time or not, when Camm went to run it the second time, she basically told me to get the hell out of her way so she could run her course. Sometimes this makes me look like an amazing handler, mostly to the uninitiated. Other times this makes me look like a tawdry accessory from a decade ago, embarrassingly unneeded and better left at home.

She was just a naughty, opinionated little sass all weekend and it was so much fun. Good times because I did not care about whether or not we qualified and the more sassy she was, the more fun it was.

Camm isn’t going to retire after all.

My dogs also learned this weekend that just because our house has suddenly become a lot smaller with the inability to use half of it and because we basically reside in either the office or the main bedroom these days due to the briefly aforementioned tree, things can actually get a lot smaller.

On Saturday we stayed in a friend’s RV for the night after the trial. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m adept at stepping around and over dogs that have to be with me at every step I take. Because I’m here to tell you that with four border collies in a RV, and not a huge RV, no one has to move at all in order to be very near to the Human.

Of course, when I went to go to bed, three of the four were already in the bed when I turned around after changing into sleeping clothes and the fourth was on the floor in front of the step to get onto the bed.

Overall, despite not caring about doing agility very much, it was a really good agility weekend with really good dogs and good people

This is mostly what we’ve been doing.
Doing a lot of exploring, and posing.
This is what happens when YoBaCaRy doesn’t give a f*ck about posing for pictures anymore because they care more about exploring the woods.

Just a Path

Hiking and walking in the woods have taught me a lot of things. It is also the time I am my most reflective and philosophical. I do my deepest thinking hiking alone or walking in the woods with my dogs.

Sometimes the trail is familiar. Sometimes I deliberately choose the tried and true familiar route. Often, I like to explore. Usually, when I explore, I have very little idea of where it is I’m going or how long it will take me. I have found some fantastic places as a result.

There are times when I realize it might be better to backtrack. Other times, I note in my head that an area is ripe for exploration, but this is not the day.

I’ll admit, I’ve been lost a few times. There are times when I stamp down the rising panic because I know that eventually I’ll reach some sort of destination, or maybe I’ll find someone helpful, or even locate a helpful marker of some sort. However, I also admit I’ve never fully panicked and that is because there is great fun and adventure in exploration if you open yourself up to it. I also have a fairly decent sense of direction and I hike with dogs that are very good about leading me places, including back home. Thank you Youke.

Despite my thirst for exploration and impetuosity, I also have a great deal of common sense. I usually know when I might be taking it a bit too far.

Hiking and walking in the woods have taught me that all paths move. The common outlook is that paths move forward. But one can also turn around and look back, or even trek back the same way they came. In fact, sometimes the most beautiful views are those behind you. Always take backwards glances. But don’t start walking backwards. That usually results in tripping or falling, and sometimes great injury.

And don’t forget to pick your head up and look around, and not just look at your feet or the path directly in front of you. The world is wild and beautiful. If you just plod along, you’re missing so much of your surroundings and beauty. You might also be missing a possibly dangerous encounter if you only plod along, head down, intent on getting “there” wherever there is.

Plodding along, head down, one foot in front of the other, also sometimes means missing those interesting side trails. I’ve found the most interesting things and seen the most beautiful views by stepping off onto a side trail. Even when they sometimes, in fact often, dead end suddenly.

I realize many like a trail that moves forward in a straightforward fashion. Sure, it may bend and twist, but you follow it. Then comes a fork and a decision must be made.

And let’s not forget loop trails. Seeing mountains and other things from different angles. A destination that takes you back from where you started.

There are those among us that merely want to conquer the trail ahead. A feather in the cap, a brag of accomplishment, and the faster it has been vanquished, the more the venture is applauded. I’ve been there and done those, but I enjoy the journeys where I can pace myself moderately and take a gander around so much more. This was something that getting older taught me.

If you haven’t figured out by now that a path is a metaphor for life’s journeys, now you know.

Today is December 31, 2020. I know that the vast majority are ready to bid the year a hearty farewell.But if you’re reading this, you’re alive. Some did not make it down to the path to the water’s edge and some did not, or could not, cross the river that was 2020. If you did, congratulations. We all got our feet wet, and I sincerely doubt that 2021 is going to be anything but a great deal of mud, but there’s still a path.

I intend to explore it and to wander where it may take me, even if I have to do a bit of bushwhacking.

Done

YoBaCaRy during a beautiful sunset on the beach

YoBaCaRy and I are on the precipice of change.

It somehow seems fitting that this should occur on the last month of December in the year 2020.

This year has been a lot of different things for most of the world, and most of it not particularly good. Still, some of those ridiculous and annoying memes I’ve seen posted do have an element of truth. If you were open to it, the year and the changes forced upon us certainly pushed many into some introspection.

I could get very deep here, but I’m deliberately choosing not to go into the deep end. Not quite yet anyway. But I am dipping my toes into the water and there will likely be some flailing around as I fight to keep my head above it all.

I think 2020 has been a very good year for my dogs. They have been the beneficiaries of a human forced to slow down, forced to nearly cease her business, forced to think about how she wishes to proceed. As a result, they received a lot more time in the woods.

I’ve lived a very dog-centric life for over a decade, but my dogs have not had this much of me since the summer of 2015 when my employer of 26 years severed my position. Much as I used that summer for introspection and thought about the next steps in my life, I finally relented and decided around May to do the same this year. As with that summer, my dogs have been my constant companions on treks through the woods over the past several months. Those hikes have taken us over miles and miles. Sometimes the dogs are a welcome distraction, other times peaceful and thoughtful partners as I meditate through forests. And admittedly, there are times when they have just been deeply annoying pains in the ass. See, unlike the summer of 2015 when I had Jasmine and a relatively stable little foursome, I now have Rhys.

Rhys was actually the first of my dogs to make me realize that the changes that March 2020 initiated were not necessarily a bad thing. Not a bad thing if you’re a young dog that needed a lot more attention and direction from your human anyway. Unbeknownst to him, those same changes were not necessarily so good for his voracious appetite and desire for regular meals. But, of course he did not know that and vastly appreciated the fact that his human was around a lot more and that he was getting a lot more attention. And within a few short weeks, I realized the difference as well. It was most profound with Rhys, but the older three, even with a much longer history of being with their human, blossomed with the additional time and attention as well.

Thus, I relented and finally decided to enjoy the shitshow that has been 2020, at least as much as is possible when you are a human forced to interact with as few other humans as possible while maintaining at least six feet of distance while your breathing apparatus is encased in a swath of cloth that advises you that coffee breath is a very real thing, and whilst worrying when your next roll of toilet paper may be in stock.

Thanks to my dogs and some of the wonderful humans I know that also enjoy the woods, the water, and nature in general, and taking walks, I’ve actually enjoyed much of the year. That is when I wasn’t a massive ball of stress and fear with endless loops of housing and employment concerns swooping in my head.

I attended an agility trial the weekend before Washington State essentially shut down in March. The trial was a blast and had an almost giddy atmosphere. On some level, most of us I think knew it was going to be the last one for a while. Indeed it was. March also saw not only the end of trialing, but the end of doing agility lessons.

Truthfully, I didn’t miss either that much. I’d been cutting back on trialing anyway due to the demands of my business and my focus on it. I also wasn’t able to justify the money spent on agility trials as I had in the past with the need to live “smaller” as a small business owner. I had also started to cut back on agility training for the very same reasons, coupled with the fact that Youke and Brady were older and had already Done All the Things.

Friends would tell me how much they missed training and trials. I just shrugged. I tried to understand. I did miss the human and social engagement of both. But I also just greatly enjoyed my dogs and watching them do other things that were a much bigger part of both their lives and mine. I started to observe them more – which is saying a lot since I observe them constantly. I noticed subtle changes, the result of more time spent with me and more time hiking and exploring.

As the months went by, I realized I did not miss trials at all. Part of this was because Youke and Brady have achieved more than I ever dreamed possible. Youke was already well on his way to complete retirement as I strongly believe in retiring my dogs while they’re still fit and able. I grimace when I think of some of the elderly dogs I’ve watched trying to run an agility course, working their hearts out either because they still like the game or, more often than not, because they are very good dogs trying to please their humans, humans that are pursuing their personal goals with an aging dog to feed their own human egos. I vowed long ago not to be one of those humans.

As the months rolled on, I was at peace with the realization that Youke’s last agility trial had been in March. He ended his career with a perfect and elegant Chances run. Perfect and elegant because at three weeks shy of 12 years old he’d been doing agility for over a decade, had nothing to prove any longer and, while not as fast as he once was, he still ran with his long, loping easy stride, making a course I used to think of as nearly impossible to do, look simple.

Brady isn’t, and may never be, ready to retire, but at some point I will make that decision for him. He ran in a trial in November, one of two that we’ve done since things eased up a bit after virtual lockdowns. During a Tunnelers run I saw changes that made me cringe, and truthfully, almost made me cry. It was the first time my superb and super incredible agility dog showed his age on a course. His time was still fantastic and his yards per second commendable – resulting in a first place – but the way he moved told me he is after all, not invincible.

The other reason why not competing in trials was okay was because I’d already made a decision in March about Rhys. That decision was made pre-lockdown. I realized that Rhys was not, and may never be, ready to play agility at a competition event. He’s talented and when he’s not overly aroused, he’s good, but competition events do not bring out his best. Once we were allowed to resume training again, I made the decision that I still want to train with him. It’s good for me as a handler and it’s good for him to engage his body and brain. However, over the summer and fall I watched him disintegrate in group classes, while he thrived in our weekly private sessions. In our private sessions I have the luxury of a super flexible instructor who can adjust according to what she sees and thinks he needs at that moment and who doesn’t have the burden of instructing and dealing with other teams in that moment, the luxury of time to work with Rhys and my instructor on those things, and the lack of pressure to do full courses or to be perfect. That lack of pressure, for both me and him, is better for the both of us. All my dogs feed off my emotions, positive or negative, but Rhys more so than the others. I become frustrated and flummoxed, begin feeling pressure and stress, and it travels right down to him.

Rhys and I will continue to do private lessons, but I’ve decided group lessons are off the table for now.

That left Camm. Camm has been the only reason I’ve remotely thought about trialing.

In early March, Camm obtained her agility championship in CPE. It was a fantastic moment and a joyful one for me – because that whole human ego thing. I think though she was appreciative of the excitement too, especially since she got a lot of cookies and her aunties were pretty happy for her too. In March, she was also six qualifying Chances scores away from her NADAC agility trial championship.

Despite not doing much in the way of regular training, we were syncing up as a team regularly again. That all came to a halt.

I didn’t miss trailing, I didn’t miss the pressure of competition – something I’ve greatly enjoyed in the past, but I did feel some measure of frustration that we could not work toward that goal. Admittedly, my goal and not Camm’s. The issue was that she and I have been stymied at various times just as we are syncing as a team. The most notable example was when she broke a metatarsal and was out of training and competition for months. It occurred just as we were really beginning to work well together. It took a long time before we were in sync again.

Plus, I know that Covid-19 isn’t magically going away at the end of 2020. I know that 2021 is still going to see the impact of the wrath that 2020 has brought.

Therefore, I got in my head that I wanted to work seriously toward that N-ATCH with Camm, and NADAC’s video runs program made that possible. Thus, we began working toward that achievement, slowly, steadily.

The good thing I guess is that my dogs are remarkably consistent. Camm’s “Q” ratio for video runs is on par with her “Q” ratio at actual competitions, which is to say that we don’t really “Q” all that much.

Camm on her ninth birthday in November

I took all of the dogs to the beach for a four-day weekend in November. It was a birthday trip for Camm and I as we are about a week apart in dates, and a sort of fuck you to 2020 for a while so the dogs could run to their hearts’ content on the beach and I could both forget about the real world for a while and contemplate my future steps. Many deep thoughts that weekend, but mostly happiness at being alone on a beach in the mist with the surf pounding in my ears while watching my dogs run, play and explore. They also attempted to eat and roll in a few dead fish and crabs, but thankfully not the dead sea lion they found washed up on the beach.

Maybe that worked. More likely, working Camm in the backyard after a failed effort the weekend before and reminding her that turning around and barking incessantly at me isn’t helpful to our teamwork, was the key that finally did it.

Anyway, this past weekend Camm finally achieved the one remaining goal in agility I had for her.

Brady also did a thing the same day and earned his third NADAC agility championship title. I figured why not. He was was neck and neck with Camm going into the summer with the needed Chances qualifying runs, he’s more consistent than she is and – SOMETHING I NEVER THOUGHT I’D EVER SAY, he’s a pleasure to run these days. Plus, he’ll be 11 years old in a few weeks and I’m not sure how much longer we’ll have to play agility games.

Brady doing what he probably loves most, hiking.

With the the achievement of Brady’s third N-ATCH and Versatility NATCH (which means we’ve Done All the Things Very Well) and Camm’s N-ATCH and Versatility N-ATCH, I have for the first time in over a decade, no agility goals. None.

I think I may be done.

Probably not done with agility altogether and probably not completely done with agility goals. But no goals for my current crew and any future goals, presently undefined, are years ahead if I continue to pursue the sport, and I’ll let the dog or dogs I have at the time play a significant role in defining those goals.

Any agility i play with my dogs at this point, training, play or competition, will be gravy. It feels oddly freeing, yet very ungrounded. I’m okay with that.

Agility, as I’ve said for years, has been a part of our lives, but doesn’t define us.

We still have a lot of trails and beaches to explore.

Black Friday hike, instead of doing an agility trial, although no Thanksgiving trial this year. I was okay with that.
So many scenic vistas to explore
Thanksgiving Day hike, an annual tradition for over 10 years.
I forgot how much I love the ocean until this recent trip. I vowed that we’ll return more frequently.
It looks like a backdrop, but it’s very real. I love this dog and I love that at 12.5 years, Youke is still doing awesome adventures with me.
Ironically, 2020 has been good for Rhys and I. I love this dog and I look forward to more adventures with him, wherever or whatever they may be.

Dog + Outside = Therapy

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Camm is a natural supermodel

I spent a few hours in the woods with Camm today. This evening, I am relaxed and am able to take big, deep breaths.

I’m in the process of writing my Life in the Time of Covid-19 post. I’m finding that I need to mull it about quite a bit. Mostly because I do have quite a bit of fear about offending someone. I’m basically over that part now, but I’m still processing it in my head.

This post is mostly about Camm. Again.

I’ve been pretty good about getting my dogs out and walked on a regular basis in the past month. There’s a lot more I wish I could do, and likely will do, but suffice it to say that everyone is brushing up on their loose leash walking skills.

However, lack of access to the millions of acres of natural lands on a regular basis is making me a bit crabby. Then I got an omen today in the form of a rock placed off of a sidewalk.

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I make my living being outside six to eight hours a day. At this time of year, I usually come home and take my own dogs out and about for another couple of hours. On average since late fall 2019, I walked 13 miles daily for just work alone. I clocked over 20 miles walked on March 12. The day before a lot of shit here got shut down.

Walking 20 miles in one day was a goal I had for the first half of 2020. I did it in the first quarter. Naturally, I now want to walk 25 miles in one day.

However, I’m presently settling for 10 miles a day on average now.

I need to keep active and fit because I hope someday soon that I can resume some form of my life that was Before Covid-19.

The other reason I desperately want and need to clock miles and breath fresh air is because I have asthma.

I know, that seems entirely irreconcilable.

However, I haven’t had the need for regular asthma medication for over three years and I haven’t used my rescue inhaler in almost a year.

But I found myself reaching for it last night.

It’s controversial, but asthma does have some emotional components, in addition to the very real physical aspects. Therefore, I decided I was feeling stressed and closed in and decided not to use my inhaler. Most of the tightness in my chest passed while I was watching a movie.

The main reason I suspect that I’ve not had to reach for my inhaler is tied to exercise and clean, fresh air. Guess what? The quality of most indoor air is pretty freaking bad.

The boys have been going on some pretty good walks and Youke and Brady went on an awesome off-leash hike over the weekend to a top secret location.

I decided Camm has been a bit neglected. Plus, Camm is my spirit animal and if I’m going to break some rules and breach a perimeter, there’s no one else I’d want as a partner in crime.

So we did.

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After we ran up the steep trail, the sun came out for a while.

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C’mon!

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I rarely do selfies, but I decided Me-and-Camm selfies might be a thing. The one and only take. SO FREAKING HAPPY!

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Trillium. A true sign of spring. Plus, they remind me of the rare Lady Slippers I grew up with in the Northeast.

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Then it started to hail and rain again a bit. No worries, I didn’t mind a bit. It seemed to clear and sharpen the air just a little bit more.

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And capriciously, the weather cleared again.

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Today, Camm and I lived our best lives. The run up the steep trail and the couple of hours in the fickle sun and rain combined with the smell of the woods cleared and expanded my lungs and loosened my tight shoulders. My legs pounded upward and then were light as I traversed trails. Camm and I were quiet as we both soaked in our surroundings. I laughed at her desire to jump and climb the natural obstacles that make up the woods, and to leap five feet straight up in the air at the occasional bug.

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We encountered a few other souls that felt as we did: a man with two rambunctious, but polite dogs who heeded my warning that Camm needed some space; a lone elderly lady walking silently with her hands behind her back who slipped noiselessly down a side trail as we passed; a couple walking briskly who gave us a hearty “hello” as we walked by; and a teenage runner with sweat making his shirt cling to his skinny back. The funny thing is that these would likely be the same people we’d have seen on any given weekday.

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The same viewpoint, but the clouds had lifted. Perhaps another sign.

 

Agility Dog

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Flying over the A-Frame

Rhys started his agility training in early 2018 and I’ve dabbled a little here and there with him in agility since late in 2018.

I stayed true to my promise to myself, and to him, to not start any real agility training until he was a year old. I firmly believe in letting puppies be puppies and although we did do formal and informal training and did some classes, I stayed away from agility equipment and formal handling. Mainly, I spent that first year helping him be the best dog he could be for my lifestyle and exposing him to his future life. Agility is ultimately a few minutes of competition. Life is everything else.

Rhys and I started agility classes together in January 2018. I decided I wanted to take a slow and steady path. I was in no hurry and had three other perfectly capable dogs to take to agility trials and compete. I also had specific goals with those dogs I was targeting and taking Rhys to trials and trying to compete with him was a distraction.

Our training progressed. Not quite as slowly and steadily as I had anticipated, but more like in fasts bursts of understanding and in bouts of frustration. That latter was more often me, but I know he’s been frustrated as well.

Despite a promising first trial, I knew Rhys was not ready for prime time and he confirmed it when I entered him in a few runs at a trial in early 2019.

I continued to ask him the occasional question by taking him to a trial and entering a few runs here and there. The answer during much of 2019 was usually a very resounding not yet ready.

There were moments of utter brilliance and glimpses of a fantastic athlete, but I had to temper my enthusiasm. I learned from my experience with Youke that starting too young and pushing too hard is not good. I also was realistic based upon my experience with my other dogs to not set expectations. Thus, I went into 2019 with no set goals and absolutely no expectations for Rhys.

We had a few really fantastic runs in competition, and we had some absolute disasters. In fact, we had both at a trial in September. It was that trial, at which I was also the trial secretary and was running my other three dogs, that I came to the conclusion that Rhys needed my full, utmost and undivided attention if we were to actually compete.

I love running multiple dogs. I love the high, I love the adrenaline and I love figuring out what each needs from me, even when running the same course. However, I’ve competed with the three older dogs for several years now and they are known entities. Youke and Brady are tried and true teammates. The fact that I feel so comfortable running Youke and Brady was unfathomable a few years ago, yet here we are.

Now that Youke and Brady are both double-digit dogs in terms of age, I must face their eventual retirement from agility. Brady will likely be competing for a while. He loves the sport. But I am the human with the allegedly larger brain, so I must be smart about how often he runs. His days of doing a complete trial weekend are over, despite what he’d like. Youke will likely formally retire sometime in 2020. He’s achieved everything I’ve dreamed, and beyond. He likes to play agility still sometimes, but at nearly 12 years old, he ready to move to something else. I’ve decided that I’ll see how he feels about truffle hunting.

Therefore, I’m going into the year with the resolve to focus on Camm and on Rhys.

I hope to achieve Camm’s agility trial championship in CPE early this year. Additionally, I am hoping we can make a few more notches toward her agility trial championship in NADAC. My goal, as it was with the boys, is to get it by the time she’s 10 years old.

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Camm, December 2019 CPE. Photo by Nina Sage. Also, not real leather pants. Although that should totally be a thing.

I entered Camm for one day by herself at a CPE trial in late December put on by my club. I discovered something rather remarkable. To me anyway. She enjoyed having my undivided attention and I was more relaxed running just her.

We are still in the experimental stage on this, so I am not entirely sure my relaxed attitude was completely due to running just one dog. I only entered a few runs each day and I had the weekend free for agility with almost no other obligations after an extremely busy December, especially around the last two weeks with the holidays for work.

One of the reasons I like running multiple dogs is that I get incredibly bored at agility trials running just one dog as there’s so much down time. But during that weekend it was mild and sunny out and Camm and I had plenty of time for some Ball and to walk around. It was a great way to bond and spend some one-on-one time with my sassy girl.

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Camm, December 2019 CPE. Photo by Nina Sage. Nailed it.

Again, an experiment, but Camm was nearly perfect all weekend.

On Sunday of that weekend, I entered Rhys.

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Rhys, December 2019 CPE. Photo by Nina Sage. Rear cross? No problem. Paws crossed? Why not?

Rhys only did four runs that day. As usual, I trained in the ring for two of them.

I cannot express enough how much I love that virtually all of the various agility organizations have loosened up and now allow some form of training in the ring. The experience of being allowed to use a toy or to repeat a sequence is invaluable with a young, inexperienced dog, especially for criteria performance and confidence.

I’d been mixing up training in the ring with doing runs for real in all of 2019 with Rhys (and sometimes for the older dogs too). Since I had no goals or expectations, why not take advantage of these opportunities? I believe that the more fun and confidence I can instill early on in competition, the better. Hopefully, I have years ahead to set goals and garner achievements. And if I don’t? We’ll still have had a lot of fun playing. And they tell me agility is supposed to be a fun thing to do with your dog.

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Rhys, December 2019 CPE. Photo by Nina Sage. Banking the f*(k out of this turn.

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Rhys, December 2019 CPE. Photo by Nina Sage. The boy has power.

I ran two runs “for real” with Rhys that day. He obtained a qualifying score in one with a lovely smooth run. He did not qualify in the other, but that was because I was so blown away by his performance during the run that by the end that I neglected to actually handle the last line of jumps.

I’m still not going to set any goals for Rhys in agility in 2020, but he told me he is ready for competition.

For real.

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Rhys, December 2019 CPE. Photo by Nina Sage. Wheee-heeee!

Christmas Day is a Good Day for a Birthday

Christmas 2019

YoBaCaRy enjoying their Christmas present on Christmas Day 2019

Despite a very busy holiday season with work – I worked this entire past week, including Christmas Day – I was still able to gift my dogs their all-time favorite present – time outside with me.

Luckily for us, the day was stunningly gorgeous. But it would not have mattered. We still would’ve gone on a hike even if it had been pouring buckets of rain – which it was the Saturday before Christmas. No pictures from that day. Too wet.

I deliberately started my holiday pet visits as early as I reasonably could so that I could carve out a few hours for my crew. I was determined not to neglect them on Christmas day.

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A beautiful day in the PNW, and rain-free.

I had another reason for wanting to get out with them. It was Rhys’s third birthday on Christmas Eve.

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Not liking that I have to do posing Human!

Poor Rhys. Christmas Eve was an insanely busy day and he got to do absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. He wasn’t too happy about it. He probably would have been even more unhappy had he understood that I ditched him when I had a few hours late that day to meet a friend for a margarita and some tequila shots. Okay, who am I kidding? He did know and so did the other three.

Luckily, I was forgiven for my sin and more than made up for it on Christmas day with seven wonderful miles (for me) and two and a half hours of joyful worship at the feet of Mother Nature.

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Just high enough to be above the fog, but low enough to be below the snowline.

And then I blew their minds with a special birthday celebration dinner for Rhys.

Birthday dinner for Rhys

Yum! A fancy feast for a special dog and his family, except for his Human. I didn’t eat any of this.

December 24 marked Rhys’s third birthday. I was going to write up a wonderful tribute to him and wax poetic about how he has become such a remarkable and wonderful dog and about how much he means to me, but that will be for another time.

Right now I want to talk about his special dinner.

Rhys 3rd birthday dinner

Just because I know you want a close up.

I know you want to know the secret behind this exciting gourmet meal that likely would rival any prepared by a famous French chef and served at some famous and exclusive bistro.

The secret was the salmon oil demi glace.

Since I’m sure you’ll want the recipe, and since it’s Christmas and I’m feeling semi-generous, I’ll share how to make this special meal, complete with the ingredients.

First, start with freezer-burned turkey burgers. The kind from your local big box club store work best.

Next, break them apart with a hammer. This part could be messy, but is a step that needs to be taken. It may help to do what I did, and that is to run them under some hot water first. However, be warned! It does make the hammering part even messier. Do this is your kitchen sink.

Next, set your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place the burgers on a cookie tray that has been lined with tinfoil. This is to capture the tender juices and weird white fatty bubbly bits that will be rendered from cooking. Allow to sit in the oven for an undetermined amount of time, but at least until they look like they’ve been thawed and cooked. They will be of a rubbery consistency. That is your sign that they are properly tender and ready to be served.

Allow to cool before placing in a fancy dish if your dog is ten years old or older. A five year birthday is also a properly warranted fancy dish occasion, but a third birthday is not. Therefore, place in individual dog food bowls.

The individual dog food bowls have already been prepared with a special kale garnish. My dogs enjoy plain old raw kale because they are a bit weird. If yours does not, you may try sauteing the kale in olive oil or butter. My dogs tell me that is even better than raw kale, but I only had so much time and energy on Christmas day, so raw is what they got. No one complained.

Set the rubbery cooked turkey burgers on top of the plentiful kale garnish. Next, drizzle some salmon oil on top of the turkey burgers. Be generous and feel free to add extra to the kale leaves for a special glistening effect.

A bit of a warning here. Do not inhale deeply. Salmon oil on top of warm, rubbery turkey burgers smells bad. Very bad. Really, it is very stinky.

Now for the special last step. Spoon a full dollops of leftover marina sauce on top. This adds a bit of a festive flair, in addition to releasing more depth to the overall tasting experience.

Sing happy birthday and wish all a very Merry Christmas. Add a few assurances of “best dogs in the world” before releasing drooling dogs to their special feast.

Viola!

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Can’t move. Tummy is so full now!

In fact, my recipe for happy, fulfilled and tired dogs is a hike and a fabulous meal.

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Viola!

Youke is not pictured because as soon as the meal was over he went upstairs to bed and was not seen again until I had to leave for 90 minutes to go finish my nighttime round of pet visits. He made a brief appearance after I got home for the last pee before bed and then we were all in bed by 9:30 pm.

It’s been a long holiday stretch for us all.

Christmas at Lake Sawyer

My favorite kind of Christmas tree. And just think – no worries about dead and dried up needles and no need to worry about throwing it in the trash or recycling it.

Things eased up today though and the next week won’t be quite as crazy, so I will be home a bit more. Plus, the winter solstice just occurred and call me crazy, but I feel like I can already feel a tiny bit of difference.

Maybe that’s just because we’ve been able to catch glimpses of the sun for the past few days.

Christmas sky at Lake Sawyer

 

The Big One

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When you’re so cool you gotta wear shades

Brady will be ten years old tomorrow.

Well, December 13 is the day I designated as his birthday because that’s the day I brought him home. Nine years ago.

Let me repeat that. BRADY WILL BE TEN YEARS OLD AND I’VE BEEN WITH THIS GUY FOR NINE YEARS!!

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Always watching

That’s a whole lot of adventures.

Nine years seems like a few minutes ago, yet also a lifetime ago. I’ve learned from every dog that has entered my adult life. Sadly, the lessons Kip tried to teach me didn’t sink in until long after his death at a far too young six years old. Sylvie gave me many, many years and I think was so grateful for her rich and adventurous life after being rescued from the streets of a slum in Lewiston, Maine and sprung from the shelter days before a very dark fate that she was willing to put up with almost anything. It’s a good thing she was such a good dog because I had her long before I was “woke” about dogs. I was still slow on the take with Jasmine, although she started me down the path toward dog geekdom and an obsession with dog agility and I did eventually listen and pay attention to what she was trying to tell me she needed. I was not allowed this luxury with Brady. Brady required that I pay immediate attention and LISTEN NOW!

Someday, I always say, I’ll write a book about Brady. And I will. Brady has taught me everything.

Suffice it to say for now that Brady’s picture could be beside so many of those adages you read about the dog-human journey.

“It’s all about the journey.”

“You get the dog you need”

In a dark, cold corner of a barn used for agility, and on the last day of a three day trial over Thanksgiving of 2010, this remarkable red dog looked deep into my eyes and asked me a question. Ive been answering it ever since.

Brady was not the dog I wanted, but he has been the dog I didn’t know I needed.

Brady, then Perry, at nine months, before that, was Banjo-wood river valley

Brady, then Banjo, a few months before I adopted him.

This meme is making the rounds in the dog training, dog agility and dog geek circles I’m surrounded within:

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I’ve seen various versions of this for many years. Brady isn’t unique in that his picture could easily be inserted here.

In Brady’s case, once I accepted him for who he was, quirks and opinions and all, both of our lives improved. I wrote about it a few years ago in Come As You Are

Now, as this feisty, opinionated, demanding, and sometimes plain weird, red dog lies quietly sleeping on the eve of this momentous birthday, I can’t help but reflect back on all we’ve accomplished together.

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Brady at around two years old. Photo credit Angie A.

First and foremost, Brady is a wonderful hiking companion. We’ve had a lot of fun adventures over the years, some a bit more adventurous than planned. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of Brady’s adventures have shaved years off my life. If I don’t live to my goal of 100 years, I’m going to blame it on Brady.

I can’t even begin to think how many miles this dog has covered in the foothills and mountains of western Washington.

Brady has also traveled a lot of miles via car for various road trips. Most of those were for agility shows, but more than a few were for some epic adventures, including the first time he got to go to a friend’s camp on a lake in Eastern Washington and was able to swim for as much and as long as he wanted. To this day I still laugh about how exhausted he and Youke were. The road trip and week we spent on the Oregon coast was pretty special too. And of course there was the trip to Northern California and the house we stayed in that had a swimming pool. My dogs are rock stars, so naturally they got to party in the pool. Brady also thought it was an added bonus that there was a chicken coop on site, complete with chickens. Brady likes to watch chickens. And of course, there are all the road trips we’ve done to Vancouver Island for agility, walks through the woods and romps and the beach.

We’ve gone to a lot of fun places and had good times sightseeing.

Then there’s agility.

Brady is quite simply that once in a lifetime agility dog. Which is actually pretty funny considering that I didn’t think so many years ago that I’d be able to compete with him.

By the time I’d had Brady a couple of months I knew he had issues and was highly reactive and had enormous environmental sensitivities. We’d started foundation training with a new trainer to me and his progress and delight with the process was fascinating and infectious. Plus, I was learning many new things too, including how to become a better handler. While I’d like to credit my trainer, who became The Relationship Counselor – and she does deserve a great deal of credit – the real work to improve my handling was done by Brady. I do not (mostly) affectionately sometimes call him The Agility Nazi for no reason. Bad handling and late cues were dealt with swiftly and harshly, and usually with a correction. Which is a nice way of saying I got bitten, a lot.

As a result of his environmental issues, his dog reactivity issues and his lack of impulse control, I decided that I’d continue to train agility with Brady for the simple reason that I was learning to be a better handler and he was fun to work with, despite his swift reprimands. I figured my other dogs would benefit from my training and handling with Brady. And they did.

Those that insisted that I’d be able to compete and trial with him one day had no idea of the scope of his issues. In fact, I think there are maybe two people that have an inkling of the extent of what I went through with Brady. After all, there were many that had no idea I even had this red dog. Two, three years after he’d come to live with me I’d still get asked if he was my “new dog.”

Fast forward to our first trial, and over two years of intense training and counter-conditioning – and after I’d entered and then withdrawn from three trials – and Brady – hugely uncomfortable outside of the ring, trying to glare at dogs and snarling  under his breath – and then it all magically disappearing for the 30-45 seconds we were in the ring.

It sounds dramatic, but dog agility saved Brady.

However, it was not instantaneous success. Our road was filled with bumps, crevices and potholes and much of the time it was an unpaved road. That training and counter-conditioning work continued for many more years.

There was the ongoing challenge of entering and exiting arenas and barns to get into the ring, there was the constant challenge of Brady’s nipping – okay, biting – of me, there was the entire year of no contact performance on the a-frame or dogwalk and there were the nearly constant arguments on course about my handling. I knew when I was perfect when he was silent and that was a rarity because Brady nitpicked about everything in the beginning and for a long time after. We had problems with end of run behavior – as in I didn’t have one and didn’t know I needed one and he invented one I didn’t care for – rushing in and biting me because the fun was suddenly over and Brady is a dog that thinks every agility course should consist of at least 30 obstacles.

And then there was Brady’s teeter fear.

Brady was unable to perform on a teeter for seven years. Of course I didn’t try to get him to perform a teeter during that entire time. I asked The Relationship Counselor to cease trying after six months. I briefly tried to train the teeter with him a year later after succumbing to some pressure from peers and other instructors. At that point in time I was competing only in NADAC with Brady as that organization doesn’t allow a teeter to be used. I was competing with him a bit in CPE, but we couldn’t run Standard courses because that organization allows the teeter, and we’d avoid it if we had other options  and we could still qualify in the CPE games courses. I pulled him from courses in which the teeter could not be avoided. During The Year Without Contacts, I trained a lot in ASCA as at the time that organization had the most generous allowed training in the ring rules, but we avoided the teeter altogether.

The Relationship Counselor though is a stubborn and determined woman underneath her understanding and wonderful demeanor and she was not to be defeated by Brady, admittedly in her personal Top Five of Training Challenges Ever Presented.

I not so jokingly told her several years ago that we could revisit Brady’s teeter fear after he got his Agility Trial Championship in NADAC (N-ATCH). Although Brady primarily trained on USDAA type courses and was fantastic, the lack of teeter prevented us from ever thinking about becoming serious about competing in that organization. I’d always loved NADAC and quite frankly, I enjoy the distance and speed often required in that venue. My aspiration was to earn N-ATCHes with both Youke and Brady and I started working to earnestly improve the distance skills we needed.

But a few summers ago, seemingly bored and after I had not seen her for a few weeks, The Relationship Counselor casually dropped that we should working again on training Brady how to perform the teeter.

I’m not sure what happened in seven years, but I suspect that Brady simply gained a lot of confidence in himself and trust in his person. He demonstrated that he was willing to learn. By the end of the summer, Brady had a teeter performance.

In September 2018, Brady earned his N-ATCH with a perfect Chances run.  It was a moment I’d fantasized about for years. But I was utterly unprepared for the enormous upswelling of emotion. I had entered the ring momentarily forgetting what was at stake, probably because I’d just run Youke and Camm on the same course. When the run ended and we’d done our celebratory run around the ring, with Brady grabbing the ribbon I was handed at one point and tearing a piece apart, huge, hot tears streaked down my face as we departed the ring. I started sobbing, not because he’d sort of ruined the ribbon – he did, but some clever stapling when we got home kind of fixed it – okay, it’s still a bit askew – but because of how very far Brady had come.

Then, this November, Brady earned his CPE Agility Championship or C-ATCH. Naturally I posed him on the teeter for his official victory photo.

Less than a month later and only a few weeks ago, Brady earned his N-ATCH 2 and his Versatility N-ATCH 2, which simply means he did a lot of things, some of them pretty hard, very well.

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Brady wiith His C-ATCH ribbon and pole. The best agility victory lap photo EVER. Photo credit to Joe Camp.

Literally so much blood, sweat and tears with this dog. Worth every salty drop shed when he crawls on top of me when I’m half laying on the couch like last night and he wants to cuddle and listen to me talk about our life together and how every single day I’m glad he asked me if I was the human who he was searching for.

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Red Dogs Rule.

 

 

Who’s the Big Dog

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Yesterday after I got home and as it was already dark out, I played some random living room trick games with the dogs and I played with all of them separately with the clicker to work on some new tricks. I’ve been doing this a couple of times a week for the past couple of weeks.

It’s fun and they enjoy it, as do I, but it’s no substitute for physical play. And much as the mental stuff works them, my dogs also need physical outlets.

I arrived home today from my daily dog walking visits with enough daylight to finally do something with the dogs outside. But one of my favorite places to take them to run around is a 20 to 30 minute drive in late day traffic and by the time we got there, it’d be dark within 30 minutes of arrival. Plus, I drive a lot as it is. I just didn’t feel like getting back in the driver’s seat and getting pissed off about the poor driving skills of many of my peers.

But my choices were limited by the fact that daylight passes so quickly this time of year. So I opted to take Youke and Rhys to Marymoor Park, which has a 40-acre dog park and is five miles from my house, and then to take Brady and Camm for a very rare walk about the neighborhood.

Brady and Camm went after dark had descended and did great passing all the commuter traffic returning for the day and the commotion of the downtown area. Despite the relative peace and quiet of my property, I only live a half-mile from a central shopping and downtown district. “Downtown” was an ironic paradox when I first moved here 18 years ago; now it is a reality, complete with irate busy shoppers and honking cars and SUVs, most of the high end luxury sort.

After leaving the relative quiet of my street, we turned toward the shopping center and braved the rushing traffic and bright headlights. My dogs do not get walked a lot on neighborhood and city streets, but Brady and Camm held it together, although I could tell they were both apprehensive. So I did what I always do and talked them through it, offering reassurances as to their bravery and commending them on their sniffing choices.

Brady hates buses and he especially hates UPS trucks, both of which are abundant at rush hour and during the holiday season. But despite seeing nasty city buses and the super evil UPS truck, he managed to hold it together, only quietly snapping his teeth at the UPS truck’s rear fender and silently glaring at the hideous bus. Camm just charged straight ahead, all business, until we finally finished climbing the big hill that makes up The Plateau and turned into the back end of our neighborhood. We then relaxed by looking at the neighbors’ pretty Christmas lights and peeing on things. Okay, that last part was mostly Brady.

Yay for me for now walking so many miles and hills that the big hill doesn’t even wind me any more. There was a time when I’d deliberately do this walk in the downhill direction. Now, I kinda relish the uphill part.

All said and done, after walking dogs and then taking my own dogs out and about, I logged 15.5 miles today. Not a bad day.

But the really awesome post-work stuff with my dogs was at Marymoor with Youke and Rhys.

Youke of course was his usual rock star self and wanted to mostly play Ball.

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It quickly became apparent that Rhys is now officially grown up. His transformation into an adult border collie snob has been completed. He was not interested at all in the other dogs running, barking, chasing and leaping. He made excellent decisions about a few dogs that came on a bit strong even when he preferred to ignore them and agreed with me when I communicated that I thought we should avoid some of them altogether. He was completely focused on me and on doing something with me, and even when we went into the quiet muddy marshy middle that few others venture into and explored, he kept checking in between checking for critter trails

I rarely go to Marymoor as the dog park scene isn’t really my thing and it’s not a scene that my dogs really appreciate. Marymoor is nice as it’s so large and on a weekday during off peak hours it’s actually fairly decent. I hate it on weekends, holidays or mid-days, but at other times, I can often find a vacant corner to play Ball with my dogs or find some interesting critter odors.

Still, I rarely go with my adult dogs. My adult dogs do not care about socializing with others and quite frankly find much of the behavior of other dogs very rude. Still, it can be a bit of a fun party scene for an older puppy or teenage dog and Youke went there a fair bit as a youngster – although he truly was more into Ball than other dogs. I took Rhys there a few times a week after he turned a year old for much of one winter. I mainly wanted to expose him to all kinds of dogs of different shapes and sizes and personalities, although not necessarily to be friends with all of them. My goal was to make myself much more interesting and fun than an entire dog park full of dogs.

Rhys was fairly social and playful, and very curious, about other dogs for a while at that age.

Not gonna lie. I like that my border collies have some select dog friends, but that for the most part they’re pretty snotty about engaging in dog park shenanigans. In fact, they’re pretty snotty about who they consider friends. And as far as play with other dogs is concerned, they aren’t really having it.

Rhys showed today he has morphed into an adult border collie. He wanted nothing to do with the play of the other dogs there. He wasn’t even enticed by the running of the other dogs. He was friendly and polite, even a bit flirty, with a couple of young female dogs that came up to him, but he just wasn’t into playing with anyone. He’d offer a brief butt sniff or nose touch to polite dogs, and he quickly disengaged from the more forward and pushy dogs, but for the most part. he wanted to play a little Ball with me and Youke, sniff interesting smells and look to me for what direction we were going to head toward next.

My puppy grew up.

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It was especially interesting as I’ve noticed he’s become a more serious dog in the past few months, but last weekend he met up with a dog he first met as a puppy. That dog, Ty, was actually his first true non-family adult dog friend. They recognized each other within 10 seconds of meeting in the big field behind the agility barn and started playing chase games. What was so very fun about this particular play is how loose and relaxed both dogs were and how the play was very much a give and take. Such a contrast to much of the play I witnessed at the dog park today, so much of which was frenzied, erratic and punctuated with shots of stressed energy.

Maybe I’ll even be so lucky as to have another perfect dog (most of the time).

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Still mostly perfect

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Still waters

Black Hole

Sometimes necessity really is the time for the impetus to try something different.

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Ignore the mise en scene

It’s a super lazy Saturday morning here. This is the first day I will not have walked over eight miles in 45 days. And don’t get me wrong. I could easily walk that distance, and more, but I am consciously choosing not to. To the dismay and expense of my dogs.

In fact, I’ve done an average of just over nine miles per day for the past 45 days. I know this because I checked this morning and because I’ve become a bit obsessive about it. The month isn’t over.

I’m not whining. Not really. But I am tired. I’m also tired of a lot of other stuff, but again, not going to whine.

I slept until 8 am this morning, got up and let the dogs out, then we all went back to bed until 9 am. This counts as a mini-vacation these days.

Upon arising, and after feeding the dogs and lingering around the yard for a while, I decided I would make a cup of coffee. Then I realized I had no cream in the house. I am not a black coffee kinda gal, although that is preferable to coffee with milk. I have milk in the house, purchased specifically for my current cereal and oatmeal fetish. I don’t even care for whole milk in my coffee unless my coffee is made by a barista who adds special syrups and such to a latte. And while a teaspoon of sugar mutes the horrid taste of coffee at home with plain milk, much less skim milk, I still don’t like it. So I decided to experiment based on something I read years ago.

I made my coffee in my french press, then I poured it into a mug and added a dollop of butter.

I also added a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cardamon.

It was delicious.

No, really. It was fantastic. I didn’t even need any sugar and even if I had cream in the house, I wouldn’t have added it.

Yes, I suppose I could’ve gotten my lazy ass out and purchased cream. I could’ve even walked a dog or two down to the store a half-mile down the street. However, that would’ve necessitated a change of clothing.

lazy saturday outfit

I used to be a fashionista …

I opted instead to drink coffee with butter, drink it on my couch while watching Camm and Rhys wrestle each other, look at Facebook and pet Youke laying beside me on the couch while Brady growled at anyone that came near his his timeworn Wubba toy.

It’s been a chaotic, frustrating and busy few months. But again, no whining.

Youke is still perfect, except when he’s not. The moments of non-perfection are precipitated by:

A. Brady going someplace and Youke is left at home.

B. It is past Youke’s preferred dinner time and his Human, and Brady, are not home.

C. Youke is worried he will starve.

D. Camm also went someplace and is not there to bark some sense into Youke before he makes a Very Poor Choice.

E. All of the above.

If anyone did not choose E. All of the above, you clearly haven’t been paying attention.

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Perfect Dog licks out my cereal bowl.

So, the combination of lazy day at home + caffeine kick has allowed me to actually make a blog entry. Sorry for many missed months because y’all missed out on some brilliant, biting and witty stuff, but it remained trapped in my head as miles + four dogs of my own + too many commitments for others + constant sense of impending doom = Human that is too exhausted or doesn’t have time to sit down at computer and relate droll stories about her calamitous life.

Instead, I’ll share some favorite pictures of late.

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I get to experience some of nature’s most beautiful finery when I’m out dog-walking.

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We don’t get to go hiking nearly as much as I’d wish, but such a centering experience when we do. I love being in these moments with my dogs.

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Utter relaxation when we come back from an adventure.

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Oh, the irony …

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Such intricacy. So delicate, yet so strong.

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Because Halloween is just around the corner and who doesn’t need to see a few werewolves in the woods?

 

Poopy Butt and Other Tails

Youke had his 11th birthday this past weekend. We celebrated with a hike, a nap, a little bit of Ball and yummy food, not necessarily in that order.

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The happiest 11 year old dog on the planet

Interestingly, Youke and I share a love for many of the same things – mostly naps, hiking and yummy food. I do not share his Ball obsession. I especially do not care for slobbery Balls found on the muddy edges of a trial, but Youke thought it was a wonderful treasure, therefore I indulged him on our hike by tossing his newfound toy a few times. But he lost it to first Rhys, who carried it around for almost a mile before forgetting it for something critter-related, and finally to Brady. Brady went off into the woods with it for some private squeaky time, but emerged finally with it dissected in half and with the squeaker mysteriously missing. Ball was therefore ruined and No Fun.

I had no work obligations this past weekend and no specific plans for the day but figured I’d spend it Doing All the Things. Approximately 90 minutes after I’d gotten out of bed though, I realized I needed a nap. I justified this in part by acknowledging that Youke, the Birthday Dog, also enjoys naps. What better way to celebrate All Things Youke by starting off with one of his favorite things? A nap with me and a big cuddle session. That turned out to be exhausting, so after 90 minutes of napping, followed by 20 minutes of eating, we decided to nap again. But first, I gave the dogs some marrow bones to gnaw on for a while.

Somewhere around 3:30 pm, I realized that Youke probably didn’t envision his entire 11th birthday celebration as a long nap, so off we went to commence the hiking portion of the day.

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Of course, every birthday should include a special feast. While I declined to share in the sardine portion of the birthday feast, we did all share some mini cupcakes, which are a birthday tradition for Youke.

All that celebrating and feasting proved a bit much for some dogs’ tummies.

Of course, Youke and Rhys, my two smooth coats, were completely unaffected.

My two rough coats with floofy tails, Camm and Brady, however, experienced a bit of diarrhea.

Poor Brady did something to his tail a week ago and has been suffering limp tail syndrome, also known as swimmers tail. Youke experienced this many years ago, but from actual swimming. Brady had not been swimming. Since dogs can experience this from overuse of the tail, my theory is that Brady sprained his tail muscles while playing Ball the previous weekend. Thus, no Ball for my tribe for over a week now. Well, with the exception of the yucky abandoned Ball Youke found, but very little throwing and catching was involved, and even then, only with Youke.

I first noticed that Brady’s tail was hanging straight down and he wasn’t wagging it. Given that Brady’s tail is a Thing of Glory and is often carried aloft like a flag, this was very sad to see. In Brady’s case, it seems his tail was actually painful. He yelped when on our hike I pulled some brambles and sticks from it. Despite the pain and inability to use his tail much, he otherwise ran and acted normally. And after our hike he seemed to have loosened up enough so that by the next day he had a slight curl to it again.

Luckily, he was able to lift it enough by the time of the upset tummy incident after too much partying to not sully himself.

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Tail is feeling better now

Camm was a different story.

After racing outside to relieve herself late Sunday morning, I noticed a streak of unpleasantness in Camm’s pantaloons.

“Uh-oh Camm. You have Poopy-Butt.”

She turned around to look at me, surprised.

“It’s okay. Everyone gets Poopy-Butt now and then. Nothing to be embarrassed about. But you know what happens when you get Poopy-Butt!”

Indeed, Camm does know.

Camm knows because a few weeks after she came to live with me several years ago, she had a series of unfortunate tummy events, resulting in several episodes of diarrhea. It was then that the phrase, Poopy-Butt was born. It was also then that Camm learned what happens when you have a Poopy-Butt.

Dogs with Poopy-Butt get hauled upstairs into the tub and get a bath.

At first, this was a completely shocking event for Camm. So shocking, so sudden, that she really didn’t have time to protest too much. On the second trip into the tub, the very same day, she tried to register her dismay and indignation at this unceremonious picking up and being plunged into a tubful of water and having her skinny ass hosed down.

“Camm! This is happening and you are going to have to deal. This is what happens when you have Poopy-Butt! You get a bath!.”

Camm is an especially brilliant dog who processes information rapidly.

By the third episode leading to the necessity of a trip into the tub, she was leading me upstairs, standing by my side while I ran the water and jumping into the tub to get her hind end lathered up with whatever fragrant shampoo I had on hand that hadn’t cost me $15 for color-treated hair.

So, when she had an unfortunate stray bit of poop clinging to her gorgeous little rear end this weekend, and I exclaimed that she had Poopy-Butt, she knew exactly what to do.

I opened the door into the house, she ran upstairs and stepped into the bathroom. Since it’s been a while since she’s had Poopy-Butt, I did have to lift her into the tub, but she was perfectly accommodating as I soaped her up with some lovely clove shampoo made especially to enhance brunette coloring and sprayed her down with the shower hose. She was perfectly still as I wrapped her rear end up in a freshly laundered towel and rubbed her down before releasing her to play with her amazed and shocked little brother who monitored the entire episode from the doorway of the bathroom. The same little brother who writhes and slides in the tub, while making growly noises when he requires bathing after rolling in something unfortunately fragrant and putrid.

Camm had one more episode of loose poop later on Sunday. I asked her if she was a Poopy-Butt again. Her eyes widened and she looked at me, then started heading toward the stairs to go into the bathroom. I asked her to come toward me so I could check. When she did, I lifted her little rear end up and checked.

“Guess what?! No Poopy-Butt! Yay! Poopy-Butt free Camm!”

Camm’s eyes lit up and she barked her sassy bark and then went and rolled her brother over. Because she could.

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Camm’s floofy tail and a special photo bomb by Brady’s floofy tail

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Gloriously Poopy-Butt free