YoBaCaRy

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.

Feeling Fine

As if the past 60 days haven’t been chill enough, thanks to my forced summer vacation, also known as “thanks for the past 26 years, but we no longer need your services and feel you do not fit with our new vision”  – I am about to take it to a new and even more chill level.

The beach.

Actually, I’m combining several of my most current favorite things in life into one week of bliss – a road trip, the beach, my dogs, agility, checking out a new place – and did I mention the beach?

Currently contemplating what to pack up. All I really need are the dogs, some balls, their food, the sun shade, a pair of cargo pants, a tee shirt, some shorts, sandals, sneakers, sunglasses and a hat. It’s really just that easy.

Feeling fine
I’m feeling fine
I do believe the world is mine
when I’m feeling fine
Feeling fine
I’m feeling fine
I make it reality…it’s just my state of mind

Feeling Fine
Janice B./N’Dinga Gaba

Feeling Fine

Following the Signs

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Took Brady for some one-on-one time with me today and decided to explore the trail I meant to explore last week when I took the A+ team – Jasmine and Youke.

This time I did it right. I followed all the signs.

Truthfully, it was hard not too. There were so many of them. It especially amused me when there were trail signs in parts where really there was no other option, unless one wanted to go bushwhacking. And being extremely thoughtful, some of the signs had helpful up and down arrows so one would know that the trail went up in one direction and down in another. Of course, using one’s eyes could also lead to that conclusion.

Whilst I jest, the plentiful signage was actually helpful in several spots where there were multiple choices.

In fact, there were a lot of off course options. So very tempting. But I stayed true to the mission of the day and did not take any off course options. I’ll be back though to check those out. Just way too tempting for me.

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Very pretty in parts. Good spots too to pant from the fairly continuous elevation gain  – at least for the first third.

009 A few downhill spots. But what goes down, must come back up. Except for the way back down the trail mostly. And that’s the part I hate.

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This is from a “view” spot. Obviously not meant for short people.

Sunday Morning

First, a bit of a disclaimer here. Nearly every morning for the past almost two months has seemed like a Sunday morning. Not that I’m complaining or anything.

This Sunday morning was a real Sunday morning though and JaYoBaCa acted like it. After I woke up and indicated I was about ready to get out of bed, instead of the usual where everyone who was on the bed jumps off and those not on the bed run around, those that were on the bed stayed on and those that were off the bed jumped up to join everyone else. It was like dogapalooza on the bed.

Well, pretty much every day around here is like dogapalooza. Good times for canines.

Brady doesn’t typically sleep on the bed. I theorize that he finds it too warm with everyone and I’m too wiggly for him. Truthfully, some nights I don’t know how Camm stands it. She and Youke stay on the bed all night long with me. Jasmine hops on and off, depending on if she’s too warm or if my legs get restless. Youke long ago claimed the “special spot”, which is right beside me. He likes to either spoon me or cuddle up right against me, no matter what the weather. I’m not gonna lie – it’s pretty nice. But Camm likes to curl up either on my legs or right up against them. Some nights, that must be like riding a rowboat in the ocean.

I truthfully don’t think I have restless legs syndrome, but then again, I’ve never been checked out for it. I just get really restless sometimes and need to stretch or kick my legs out. I know when I have bad dreams that I kick my legs a lot too.

This Sunday morning, all four dogs stayed on the bed for some talking and cuddling time. I like to encourage this with Brady. He’s cuddly on his terms and a moment with him curled up against me and all relaxed in bed is rare.

So there I was, Youke on one side, Brady on the other, and the two girls at the foot of the bed, both with a leg to claim as their own.

I’m not into taking selfies, so no pictures of this madness, but even if I was, there’s no way I could have. Every extremity was claimed and the minute I tried to draw a hand away from either of the boys I get a very hard shove informing me that under no terms was this love-fest over. So very sweet.

It’s pretty much the only time where my fingers can rake through Brady’s fur freely and I don’t get warned about invading some personal body area. That sounds kind of kinky, but it’s not. Brady has very strict rules when it comes to touching and petting. For the most part, I’m allowed to pet his head, neck and chest. Everything else is only on a medical and urgent need basis. Every now and then he offers his belly up for some rubbing, but after a few minutes realizes how dangerously close to a personal area that is and shoves my hand away. Because I very much value Brady’s trust, I abide by his rules most of the time.

Luckily for me, the other three have no such boundaries.

Everyone was all happy and wiggly when we did finally emerge from our nest. The lack of barking on the parts of Camm and Brady as we headed outside for a bit was especially relaxed and peaceful – a true lazy Sunday morning.

What is kind of funny about this is that on Saturday, Youke and Jasmine got to go on an adventure, but I was too lazy to take Brady and Camm out at all when I came back. Maybe not entirely laziness. I actually didn’t feel that hot by the afternoon and even though I napped, I still went to bed early. Whatever it was disappeared by morning. Maybe it was all that furry and warm attention.

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Cammi Pants here. Human Mommy told me she felt bad about not taking me out the day before, so I got to go on my own personal adventure with her this morning. Very nice of her. We were hardly in the car for very long and arrived at a new place I’ve never been. Weird. This place is so close and seemed pretty cool, but it was all new to me. Not sure why I never been?

Not gonna lie – mostly cuz I can’t really. I was a little nervous. Human Mommy put me in my harness for one. I can’t even remember the last time I was in that thing. I figured we must be doing some Big Thing.

And all the new smells! It was sorta exciting, but now I was getting really nervous. Human Mommy is pretty smart though. She knew I wasn’t panting cuz I was so hot. She gave me smiles and nice blinky eye faces and told me I Gotcha. She always says that to us when we’re nervous. It was scary cuz I was practically by myself. Usually my tribe is there and that makes things okay, even if I get a little scared. Sometimes I just want to bite Jasmine, but I gotta admit she’s really brave. My brothers can be really annoying and most of the time I need to boss them around a lot, but I know they got my back too, but this time it was only me and Human Mommy.

Human Mommy played a game with me when strange people walked by me. She calls it the Look game and gave me treats. That’s when I knew I was out on a learning walk. But just when I was doing some learning, she let me sniff around a lot. Then she showed me that she remembered to bring my Ball. Super good times! Its hard for me to be nervous when I play with my Ball. Human Mommy was making me do some more learning though, even playing with Ball. I had to do a lot of Waits and Downs and not pay attention to her running and moving her arms until she said that Okay word.

We stopped for a while and walked past a dog park. I was really hoping Human Mommy wouldn’t take me inside. I don’t like going to those places cuz the dogs are rude and everyone wants to say hi to me. Human Mommy knows me so well. We walked by the place.

I love my Human Mommy so much. She helps me when I need it and I help her. Like when she gets mad or upset, I hug her and kiss her and lick her until she laughs and I can feel that she doesn’t have that weird stuff inside her anymore. Human Mommy kinda does that for me too. She says it’s cuz we’re soulmates and scorpio bitches. Human Mommy says stuff I just don’t understand sometimes. Except for the bitches part.

We did more walking and sniffing and then we came to a spot with water. Yippee! I asked if I was gonna swim and stopped to see if she remembered I like to swim with my Ball. She did! I jumped a little wall thing and it was pretty deep water and I had a hard time getting back up to the wall with my Ball. Human Mommy helped me though and grabbed my harness thing. Cool! I realized then that all I had to do was swim up the wall and Human Mommy would help me out every time.

It was kinda hard though, so after a break, we found another place that was easier to get in and out and swim.

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While I was swimming, I saw a teenage boy talking to my Human Mommy. I heard him saying something about his huge goofy-looking ladradoodle dog that was barking at me cuz I was swimming and playing with my ball. I guess he wanted to know if that dog could play with me. Human Mommy told him that wasn’t a good idea and said I was snarky. Whatev. Human Mommy seemed happy he asked.

We got to a different part of this place with a pretty big field. There was a dog playing with a Ball on one side of it. I looked for a second, but I knew I was supposed to mind my own business. Human Mommy seemed to think that was good, cuz again she tossed my Ball for me after she took off my leash. Woot! So there I was playing with my own Ball and my own Human Mommy when that dog, a big yellow lab kind, comes trotting over to me to say hi. I glared at him to leave me alone, but he seemed like he wanted to be friends or something. I growled at him low with Ball in my mouth and said I didn’t want to make friends. Rude! Couldn’t he see I was doing my own thing? But he got the message and trotted back to his own Humans. Cuz I didn’t know him or anything I wasn’t interested in playing with his Ball too, although when I play with my brothers I think I should have all of the Balls.

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Human Mommy let me play for a while and we did more learning things, then she decided we were done. Good thing. My brain was getting tired. Human Mommy took me for a short ride to a place she calls the post office. Looks to me like she drives a long way to dump trash in a trash thing, but whatever. She said it would give me time to process things before I got back home and the other dogs were all over me. I guess that makes sense. I was really quiet for a while, but after I spent a little time thinking on things, I popped my head up and sniffed out the window until we got back home.

She was right, soon as I got in the house everyone wanted to know where I was and what I was doing. Now, I just feel like taking a nap.

Itty Bitty Skort

Yeah, so I bought a tiny skort today. And socks too.

I also wore a hoodie for the first time in what feels like at least a month because it got cold. 68 degrees. That felt pretty damn chilly after becoming acclimated to 90+ degrees. Truthfully, I always throw on a hoodie if it’s below 70 degrees unless there’s a steep uphill climb or unless I’ve run three dogs and am about to run a fourth at an agility competition. Felt slightly odd to have an additional layer on after so long, but comforting too. It was also strangely comforting to see a layer of puffy gray clouds above, sort of like a security blanket.

I’ve become acclimated to those clouds. So much so that I miss them when they’re gone for long.

But back to the skort.

I was wearing a skort too when I bought it. but it was a more proper going-out-on-a lunch-date skort. Appropriate since that was exactly what I was doing.

The luncheon date was at a local mall. Let me explain that I’m really not a fan of The Mall. Seriously, someone asks to meet at some eating spot at a mall and I break into a cold sweat. The reason? I know it’s going to be hell to find the place. It’s far better if I do not know that the designated meeting spot is at a ginormous mecca of mass merchandise and chain restaurants practically shouting their unique place in the mid-scale, family-friendly, casual-dining sector. That way, when I actually find the place, no thanks to my GPS unit, and am a stressed-out mess, running at least 20 minutes late because it took me that long to find a parking space, I’m more likely to forget about not having a drink and will therefore be much more fun to hang out with, but only after the 30 minutes it will take me to chill out.

Despite knowing all of the above, my friend still insists on meeting up at locations that are difficult to pinpoint and that will call for me to circle numerous times before I can locate a sparking space. And I drive a highly maneuverable jeep.

I used to be a very big fan of The Mall. Then again, I used to work at The Mall.

Many, many years ago I was a manager of a retail women’s chain clothing store. I thought it would be slightly glamorous. A store discount, arranging displays, lunch breaks at Panera Bread. Alas, it was working 60-hour weeks on a good week, managing the never-ending soap opera drama of the teenage girls that worked part-time at the store, following store design layout plans that came from corporate every week that involved back-breaking movement of display units and signage, and getting paid diddly-squat for the pleasure of it all. Also, I was old when I worked at The Mall. I was 26. That’s practically being a grandmother in mall-dom.

I’m not quite sure what spurred my romp through the mall today. Of course, it was there for one. Secondly, I was actually without any dogs and it seemed a waste to spend that dog-less time only on a lunch, then to turn right around and fight Friday traffic back home. And, I’d spotted an Urban Outfitters store.

Urban Outfitters used to be one of my favorite places. I remember falling in love with it in Boston. How funky and hip it was. How very irreverent. Cool and unique styling too. Something happened though in the past 20 years. Either I grew up a little or Urban Outfitters has lost its cool edge.

So sad. I walked in telling myself to tighten my purse and be sensible, and walked out with nothing. Not a single item appealed to me, It pretty much looked like any mall store.

I wandered on, telling myself I’d take a glance at a few places. Which is pretty much what I did. I guess I’m officially old. The Mall was full of young mothers with their screaming, running children, a few elderly mall walkers who must not have gotten in their morning strolls and lots and lots of teenagers trying to look uber cool. At least I have verified for myself now that the sagging pants trend is long over and tight pants for boys is in.

Naturally, I was drawn to a store advertising itself as an outdoors apparel shop.

Yeah, I’m kinda over fashion. Bring on the waterproof, the ripstop, the fleece, the tech fabric.

The first thing I see were a fabulous pair of tech fabric capris. Not only functional, but uber cool. Except they were bright, stark white. That was my clue that this was a shop for the upscale, hipster-leaning, Bellevue-dwelling outdoor enthusiast that can scale a peak in the Cascades on a  Saturday, yet not ruin the Friday afternoon pedicure and still look fabulous for Sunday brunch.

Um, I seemed to be over my head. And over my spending limit.

I fondled those white tech fabric capris longingly, but in the end, simply could not justify them taking up residence in a house shared with four dogs; four dogs that regularly tattoo me with their muddy paw prints.

Just as I was about to walk away and walk out, a helpful salesperson informed me of the 40% off sale. My ears perked.

I’ve written previously, and with some derision, of the trend in agility of wearing skorts. I’ve also explained why that is not me.

Let me remind you that this has been an exceptionally hot summer so far. Let me also tell you that wearing long black pants, even those of a light, wicking tech fabric, is hot.

I accidentally broke my personal rule a few weeks back and wore shorts while running Brady in competition.

I’d been wearing long pants over my shorts every time I went to run him, quickly pulling them on at my car before I pulled him out for a run. Apparently, I simply forgot at one moment. It was on Sunday, the third day of an event I’d been not only competing in, but was also chairing.

I emerged that weekend with my legs unscathed. In fact, until some unwittingly self-inflicted wounds from earlier this week – a razor cut, prickle scratches and a stick I stepped on and got stabbed with, I’ve been scab-less for a month.

So when I saw that adorable off-black flouncy very short skort, that also happened to be 40% off the original price, I was entranced. Maybe I too can be like all the other super cool agility gals and run my super cool border collies in a skort!

So I bought it.

The short is pretty short though. And it isn’t a straight, serious skort. It’s a bit flirty with its slight ruffles. Being a reformed fashionista, I couldn’t help myself. If I’m jumping on this bandwagon I’m doing it with major flair.

So, I’m toying with wearing this thing next weekend at an agility trial I’m going to. Or maybe some other weekend this summer. Not really sure If I’m daring enough to temp the fates – that being mainly the appeal of my naked legs flashing in front of my argumentative dog. We shall see.

If nothing else, I can wear it to my next lunch date.

Tribe

Julydogs JaYoBaCa gathered around the campfire.

A friend of mine recently asked how my tribe was.

It was a phone conversation, so he couldn’t see me do a double-take. It was the first time anyone has ever addressed JaYoBaCa in that fashion, and I loved it.

First of all, I was thankful he did not address them as my “pack.” I freakin’ hate that term. Hate it. Did I mention I intensely dislike it?

It conjures up all these false assumptions about dogs and dog behaviors and their similarities to wild wolves, that to this day many people still seem to think is gospel, despite the fact that the original study was done numerous decades ago and has since been disproved. Scientific study in the last few years has uncovered far more interesting data and the study on “wild” wolves done nearly 40 years ago was actually conducted upon wolves living in captivity.

Turns out, wild wolves more often live in what can be best be described as a group of extended family.

One definition of tribe particularly strikes me. “A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.”

I think my friend hit the nail on the head. And he’s not even really a dog person. Funny that.

I often learn so many things from my friends that are not dog people. It’s as if by not being so immersed in the culture of dogs and dog training that they can see some things more clearly and can offer, at least to me, a fresh perspective. It’s happened more than a few times.

I like the description of JaYoBaca being a tribe. I definitely see behaviors that are learned and passed down from different dogs. I also enjoy seeing different dogs integrate and bring in new behaviors, or as I like to call them, customs.

I admit, I’m weird about words and the use of certain words, especially when they become labels and hold a larger implication.

JulyCamm This is the tribe princess.

Julyflowers Ventured out on a beautiful day and saw this.

JulyWoods   JulyWoods2

The colors were actually far more vibrant. I guess to many these are weeds, but to me this is nature’s landscaping at its best. No rain for weeks and still the hillsides were full of purples and yellows. Also full of berries.So many of the berries were hidden, low on the ground and close to the remaining trickles of water. Picked some for me, and of course Jasmine, Youke and Camm had to have their share too. Brady was too busy running ahead, scouting out what was beyond the twists in the trail and beyond the long grasses. He did take time to relax though and watch us pick and eat berries from higher hill perches. He takes his scouting responsibilities very seriously.

He also was on look-out duty when I had to pee.

I’ve become quite comfortable about peeing out and about in nature. Although I try not to piss on nature. Anyway, again, probably a sign that I’m weird, but I always find it flattering when after I pee, Jasmine pees over my pee. It’s pretty rare when she doesn’t do that. Sometimes, Brady will come on over and also mark on the spot.

I am admittedly a bit obsessed about the whole marking behavior thing and when it is warranted and when it is not. I’m mostly fascinated with it though in the context of overmarking within a familial group. If I had millions of dollars, a lot more free time and a more scientific bent, I’d study this. Seriously, I’ve observed the behaviors for years and still do not quite see a discernible pattern or reason to it. Just when I think I have it figured out, someone doesn’t do what I anticipate.

But I’m good with the peeing on my pee thing. I figure it’s part of what makes us a tribe.

Exploring in All the Wrong Ways

JazYoukeWoodsWalk2

Took my “A” team today to explore a new hiking trail. New to us that is.

My A+ hiking team consists of Jasmine and Youke. They can usually be relied upon not to cause trouble and not to get in trouble. Which is pretty much why Brady will always be on the secondary hiking team. 😦

Both Jaz and Youke are reliable off leash, don’t typically go too far ahead, have solid recalls and their chemistry is such that when together they are also typically friendly to both other dogs and people, although sometimes Jasmine’s barking becomes a bit strident, leading to her being leashed up.

Since I’d never been to this particular trail, I was reluctant to bring all four dogs at once and thought it’d be a lovely and relaxing time to check it out first with these two. Besides, such a treat to take two at a time. For them and for me.

Easy enough to get to the trail head and discovered we seemed to be the only ones there. The trail signage though? That kinda sucked. Of course, had I bothered to stay on the obvious path straight ahead, I would have found the visibly marked trail. Additionally, had I bothered to really look more closely at the large area trail map I could’ve figured some things out. And lastly, had I looked left of the large area trail map I would’ve seen the handily provided trail maps clearly giving me a closer view of the trail system.

But screw all that. I’m an explorer!

So off I went with the dogs in a completely different direction. After a little bit, it seemed obvious no one else was around, so unclipped the dogs. Naturally, a deer chose that moment to go bopping about in the woods. Both dogs alerted, looked at me, strained forward, but when I quietly advised them to stay with me, that’s actually what they did. A win! Again, this is why Brady will never be on the A+ team.

What we encountered was a morass of intertwining roads, faint grown over trails and dead ends. All mysteriously signed with tree names, but with no explanation. No problem, I thought, I have all day. And I have a decent sense of direction and a good memory. At least I did discover we were on state Department of Natural Resource (DNR) land. That was good because I saw a couple of houses a few times that were fairly close and worried I might be trespassing.

Jaz and Youke had a blast smelling the new smells. I decided to just keep heading in a general direction, but also opting to explore a lot of side trails along the way, just to see if they went somewhere or dead-ended. No one had been that way for a long time. Lots of spider webs. Ordinarily spiders freak me out. But there’s something to be said for flooding. As in flooding me with their pesky webs and tiny bodies. So much so that after a while I didn’t care.

The A+ team heard another deer and decided to check it out, but returned in less than 10 seconds. By then, they were both getting pretty hot. I didn’t bring water for them because I knew we wouldn’t be out that long and figured we’d stumble on some water source. I’m sure that makes me a really crappy hiker and dog guardian. If it makes anyone feel any better, I didn’t bring any for me either.

Youke checked out a culvert, but it was dry. Clever little dog that he is though, he started checking the area. I agreed with him that it was usually a very wet area – very lush green growth and plant types that one often sees in swampy places. And of course, he found it. Water. Youke ran down a little hill and jumped in to splash around. I was so happy for his happy little self. Until he stepped out.

Caked in mud. Again. Jasmine saw how happy he was and that he was wet and looked at me. I could’ve told her no and she would’ve listened. But she was hot and I’m indulgent.

So off Jasmine went into what I knew by then was a giant wet mud puddle. Like Youke, Jaz emerged more black than anything else. It just shows a lot more on her than on Youke.

More exploring. More trying to make sense of the twists and turns.

We came a little too close to one residence. The resident dogs heard us and one came racing into the woods to check us out. Not gonna lie. My heart dropped a little bit when I saw a pittie mix that looked very similar to the ones that got in our faces a few months back and caused havoc.

No worries, Jasmine is a bad ass. She bounded over to the other dog in three huge leaps, got in his/her face and the other dog turned tail and went back down the trail. Jasmine trotted back to me with this pleased expression, tail high. I did spot the other dog turn around and look after us, but he/she did not follow, maybe because it saw Jasmine stop to check where it was too.

We took a few more lefts, a few more rights and I had started to figure how some of the roads hooked up with one another. Meanwhile, Youke was in a spectacular mood.

YoukeWoodsWalk This is Youke’s uber happy face. I can’t always catch it on camera since he has a habit of looking like a Victim – yes, capital V – in pictures. Today was pretty much Youke’s perfect day. Outdoors, exploring, no real agenda, out with his favorite human and his bestie Jasmine, sticks and pine cones to play with, mud to splash in. He even did something I haven’t seen him do in a long time and that’s to solicit play from Jasmine with growls, burst of barking and play bows. Once she responds, he twirls around and does his best ninja moves on her. Then she ignores him. Rightfully so. It’s sort of obnoxious when your friend is acting like a ninja and pulling those annoying moves, but when you didn’t sign on to play a part in the ninja movie yourself.

By then I’d figured out where we were, where we’d been and where we needed to go to get back. Will have to go some other time to explore the actual trail we came to find.

I’ve Become My Grandmother

Whatever happened to common courtesy?

Most of the time, I’m pretty good about letting things go and not dwelling on rudeness, inadvertent or deliberate. But every now and then, the spirit of my paternal grandmother rises up inside me, making my eyes squint and twisting my mouth into a pursed pucker of pissedness. Actually that expression is more often seen on the face of my friend Kris when she is pissed off about something or is in complete disagreement with my decision about something because she continually forgets that I’m me and not her. An example of this latter would be the time I winced in dismay because she’d kindly prepared for me a cup of coffee when we were on vacation together but placed a sopping amount of sugar in it because that’s how she likes her coffee.

“Oh, I forgot you’re not me,” she said. That’s a direct quote. I have an excellent memory. She does not.

Although she wasn’t above swearing every now and then, but only when the situation warranted a good ” god damn,” and wasn’t above donning a pair of barn boots to go with her sarong as she helped to muck out the barn or feed chickens, my grandmother was above all else, a lady. A grand dame if you will. I’ve never met anyone who had more fine silver and actually used it on a regular basis. A meal at my grandmother’s, even if it was Italian sandwiches from DiPietro’s on Cumberland Avenue, warranted fine china and a centerpiece. As I’m sure you can imagine, I definitely know how to use my small fork.

Old luxurious silver tea set at tray

Old luxurious silver tea set at tray

That knowledge came in handy for the first time when I attended a ball at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy while in college. While my friend was freaking out about which fork to use, how to approach her salad course and numerous other things, I knew exactly what to do about the dinner portion of the evening, but not so much as to what to do about my dunce of a blind date and how to make it abundantly clear that just because I was his blind date and we were staying in a hotel room, I wasn’t having sex with him. Turned out the very direct approach and me putting on my Lanz flannel nightgown got the message across perfectly fine.

See, honest and direct works every time. Now, If only I had figured out how to shag that tall, dark-haired cadet with the strikingly sarcastic sense of humour.

Thanks to my grandmother and her lessons in etiquette, I’ve been well prepared for any number of events. A lunch with the boss? No big deal. A dinner at the boss’s house? Piece of cake. A work trip to New York City and staying at The Pierre, the iconic five-star U.S. hotel? Been there, done that. Partying in Miami with venture capitalists? Super fun because it turns out that pretty much everyone is the same kind of classy when they’re drunk off their asses.

Common courtesy and politeness have been on my mind a lot of late. The recent Fourth of July holiday is filled with rudeness and angst. While it confounds me how one can think it’s perfectly okay to not only break the law and shoot off cannon-sized fireworks all in the name of celebrating personal rights to freedom, but to also endanger the lives of neighbors because it’s incredibly dry and who cares about a random spark, that same person is probably going to take offense to my first amendment right to call him/her a mindless and inconsiderate asswipe.

A friend recently posted on her Facebook page about how a very rude person honked at her from his car and then barreled around her at speed when she was headed to her own car with her grocery cart. The cause of this display of rudeness? She wasn’t moving fast enough to please him BECAUSE HER FOOT IS IN A HEAVY BOOT DUE TO A RECENT INJURY! Unless you’ve just eaten a fiery habanero salsa taco with extra chorizo and cheese and your ass is on fire, there is simply no excuse for that kind of rudeness. And even then, you better have eaten 10 of those babies. And if you were stupid enough to do that, then you deserve to die a slow, fiery and stench-filled death.

Another area were common courtesy is often lacking are hiking trails.

Although I’m not at all an early morning person, that is truly the best time to hike. For one, the trails are not nearly as crowded. Years ago I discovered that many of the slackers that define themselves as hikers prefer to sip their French press coffees or lattes then start off about mid-morning or so. Noon is preferable. I know this because I dated one. I also know this because I’ve become one as of this summer.

Early mornings are also the best time to hike because that’s when the old guys are out there and they know their trail etiquette. I know this because I dated one.

Simple rule people; hikers going uphill have the right of way. I could go on about trail etiquette and being polite, but instead will throw in this convenient and handy link: http://blog.rei.com/hike/trail-etiquette-who-has-the-right-of-way/. Read it. Don’t be these people.

hikersbreaking rules

More recently, I’ve been dating a guy, on and off, more off than on, too weird and complex to explain, who is a born and bred Texan. Let me just say that those mommas and papas in the South know how to raise their boys. They may be assholes in many other respects, but they know how to open doors for ladies. Being a suspicious and somewhat rude native Yankee, I at first mistook this for a show. It’s not. On a recent night out, I inquired as to whether Tex’s shoulder was bothering him again as he’d suffered a shoulder dislocation a few months ago. The reason behind the query is that as we were walking around downtown Seattle, crossing the streets and searching for adult beverages and small plates, he kept switching sides and taking me by the arm. I’m not helpless and I long ago realized I can’t walk in high heels anymore and therefore do not, so that wasn’t the explanation. So when I asked about it, he explained that he’d been taught to walk with a woman on his arm with the woman on the inside and himself positioned on the outside and facing the street. He also does things like help me put my coat on, walk me to my car and open my car door for me.

Apparently chivalry isn’t dead. Only in Seattle and Boston.

When I was younger and far more foolish, I admit I’d have been slightly offended by all of that. I am after all, and have always been, very independent, very stubborn and very full of myself. Now I just realize it’s called being polite.

What prompted all of this rumination was an incident that occurred this evening. Naturally it involved my dogs. You really didn’t think I’d go an entire post without at least some mention of JaYoBaCa did you?

dogleashes This picture was taken in 2012 when I had just three dogs. Now imagine a fourth dog, except the leashes are more tangly and imagine the trail is a sandy one that leads to a beach.

I opted to again take the dogs swimming at Lake Sammamish after a lovely session of ball play and a long walk at another location. My faulty thinking was along the lines of – “It’s almost 9 pm, the park will be practically deserted on a Monday night!” Insert sparkles, rainbows and innocent babies riding unicorns after this sentence.

Except it was still pretty busy, just not as busy as over the weekend.

The dogs were a lot more pooped out though and I could see that the people gathered at the beach itself were dwindling in numbers. So off we went, down the narrow sandy little trail to a deserted area with water access. I knew I’d made the right decision when I saw a couple of people coming up the trail and heading back to the parking area. Since I strive to be polite, I gathered my dogs to the side to let the people pass, kept them on leashes and said a friendly hello to each person that passed by us. Saying hello serves the dual purpose of making me not look quite so like the crazy dog lady and lets my dogs know that I’m calm and relaxed and they should be too.

We got to the water, took off leashes and proceeded to have a grand time playing and splashing about. It was a beautiful evening, complete with a gorgeous sunset setting just off the water. The water was just warm enough to be comfortable to wade in and not fear getting soaking wet as the dogs rallied for balls. Alas, all good times must come to an end. I called the dogs to me and leashed them up for the walk down the path to the parking lot.

Just in the nick of time too. We’d only gone a little way down the path when I saw a large black lab mix in the middle of the path. The dog was off leash. Not necessarily a big deal, but I admit I’m a little shaken up still from the dog attack we experienced in April.

I called my dogs to come closer around me and stopped. An older man and a younger man came up behind the dog and to my dismay, continued to walk right into me and my dogs. I held up one of my hands, still entangled in a leash, and politely asked them to step to the side so that I could pass with my dogs.

At issue here is that this path is very, very narrow. Just to their side was a spot of trampled grass, whereas I was surrounded by brush and greenery on both sides and couldn’t step to the side. I thought my request was reasonable and simple.

To my dismay, the men kept on coming.

Ordinarily in situations such as these, I’m cool and keep my calm. However, that dog attack had an impact and I quickly decided I wasn’t going to pussyfoot around with these two idiots who seemed to lack any common courtesy or sense.

“I NEED YOU TO STEP TO THE SIDE OVER THERE NOW AND LET ME PASS WITH MY DOGS!” I shouted.

“What?”

I repeated the instructions, at a shout, and also demanded, “AND TAKE THE DOG WITH YOU!” when they stepped to the side, but left Blackie in the middle of the trail staring at my dogs.

“THANK YOU!” I said.

Although I broke my cool, and ordinarily I’d expect my dogs to react accordingly, they seemed a little dumbfounded that their human seemed so exceedingly pissed off. Brady of course barked at the lab mix, but it was fairly subdued. Maybe he is still a bit traumatized from being bitten. Youke and Camm just wanted to get the hell out of there. I suspect Jasmine might have liked to have flirted with the dog – he was just her type, big, muscular and slightly ugly – but I was in mean mommy mode and she knew it. She kept her head down, but not like I missed that sideways lingering glance girlfriend.

Among the many things I’m grateful to have learned from the strong, independent-minded and dominant women in my life, including my grandmothers and mother, is that being courteous, kind and nice works most of the time, but sometimes you’ve gotta be a BITCH.

Private Idaho

It started out as one of the most eery and quiet July Fourths I’ve experienced.

Several years ago, my town banned fireworks. Didn’t stop many for a while, but seems that there’s been some enforcement in the past few years, so the holiday is typically pretty quiet at my house these days. Even the neighbors with kids, who used to at least have sparklers, don’t do that anymore. I think they actually go out of town now on all major holidays as I never hear or see them during holidays. And the “party house” up the street must have sent the last kid off because even that place has been quiet of late.

The parents must still drink a lot though. I regularly hear the clinking of numerous bottles going into the recycle bin. Or maybe I was wrong all along and it was the parents and not the kids? Hmmmm.

It’s so dry here that I halfway joke about spontaneous combustion. Only halfway. Seriously, I’d be terrified if anyone was shooting off fireworks. My lawn would explode.

I actually like fireworks. The professional kind. I like to “oooh” and “ahhh” with everyone else. In fact, I find synchronized ooohing and ahhhing hysterically funny and soothing all at the same time. Such a shared human experience.

These days though, I make sure I’m home on July Fourth because I have scared dogs.

It all started with Sylvie.

Sylvie was a somewhat nervous dog. For the most part, she didn’t have much reason for fear and in general was a pretty happy girl. Then I moved to SoFla. That’s South Florida. Land of afternoon thunderstorms nearly every summer day. Land of hurricanes and tropical storms. I’m not a big fan of the latter either, and luckily during my time there only experienced a couple of tropical storms and one very weak baby hurricane. In fact, Sylvie was able to catch squirrels for the first time in her life during that hurricane and one tropical storm. I think that turned a potentially negative experience into a miraculously cool one for her. So, interesting scientific fact here, squirrels hydroplane in standing water, making it much more difficult to cut across, say, a lawn and up a tree. That lack of traction enables a fairly fast dog to actually grab ahold of a squirrel and violently shake its body until its neck is broken. That in turn leads the dog, who has been trying to catch a squirrel its entire life up until that point, to drop the dead squirrel in complete disbelief.

Thunderstorms in SoFla are loud and violent. But at least they move out pretty quickly. Didn’t help Sylvie. She started heading for the safest spot in the house – under my clunky huge work desk. Until the end of her life, that spot remained the safest and was her “go to” place whenever anything upset her.

Today, I’m blessed with not one, but two noise-phobic dogs.

Brady has been noise-phobic since I’ve had him and Youke, after careful observation of Brady over the past few years, has figured Brady is on to something and has also decided he too is scared of thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots. In all truth, Youke has shown a tendency to be sound sensitive since I had him as a puppy, but I did all the right things and cajoled him out of any nervousness. But it was there all along.

Jasmine should’ve been a hunting dog or a police dog. Blowing up shit, either by Mother Nature or by dumbass humans, doesn’t bother her in the least. She’ll get a bit concerned as to why the boys are cowering or want to turn back on a trail, but the concern doesn’t last too long, especially if there’s a critter scent ahead.

Cross my fingers, Camm so far is also nonplussed. She’s a very perceptive dog, so she becomes a bit more distressed over the boys’ fear, but the actual noise itself doesn’t worry her. But, because she’s a border collie, I worry that I’ll soon enough have three noise sensitive dogs.

This July Fourth, I was able to sleep in thanks in large part to a fun match at a friend’s house the day before that I took all four dogs too. It was too hot to do much, but they all got to do some playing around and I got to hang out with nice people. The heat seems to make doing anything more tiring for the dogs, so while it really wasn’t a lot, it was apparently enough to take the edge off for them.

Because I’d done not only to the fun match, but had met up that evening with another friend, I was ready for some Private Idaho time. The agenda called for sipping coffee, reading, doing some writing, intense napping and then maybe taking the dogs out for a bit before the evening festivities started. I wasn’t worried really about fireworks during the day, but the town does a professional show and the location is about 2.5 miles from my house.

JaYoBaCa were all too happy for Private Idaho time. While I read outside for a while, they napped inside. When I brought my book inside, they were all too happy to gather around the couch and nap. All that quiet led to my own nap.

Sometimes the problem with daytime napping is that it gets surreal. I find I often sleep harder during a daytime nap than at night. Maybe it’s the shorter duration and the REM sleep, which often leads to bizarre dreams. Not sure, but I awoke to the kind of intense quiet in which the only sound is that of the sun frying the atmosphere. Seriously, I didn’t even hear any insects buzzing about.

I covet my time alone, but even that kind of quiet was a bit weird.

After I roused myself, I decided the plan of action would be to take the dogs on a walk and then maybe for a swim. My thinking was that after some physical activity, I’d give them some bennies – code name for Benadryl, to help them relax a bit during the fireworks show and to help them sleep afterwards when the occasional dipshit decided to celebrate with a personal firework or two late into the night.

Sometimes, I don’t have the best laid-out plans.

The walk turned out to be a bit stressful. Somehow, in my own Private Idaho where things were quiet and peaceful, I’d forgotten that the rest of the world, even at 7:30 pm, would be likely shooting off celebratory cannon shots in recognition of our rights to freedom and dumbassery. Brady heard one cannon-like shot, got all white-eyed and dropped his ball. Never a good sign when the ball is forgotten. I quickly leashed him up since he was starting to exhibit a wide-eyed stare and desire to head off in a safe direction. Since I couldn’t be assured that we’d agree on which direction was safe, I opted for the leash. Youke kept looking at me and asking if going on a walk was really such a good idea. Camm got worried about her brothers and opted to walk very close to them.

Thus began our funeral walk. I seriously did not know until yesterday just how slowly three dogs could walk. At least Jasmine walked ahead most of the time. The three border collies gathered in formation around me and proceeded to keep my pace as slow as possible, or to trip me. Because clearly walking that slowly doesn’t make you a target for anything. Or maybe it was a preview for 10 years from now.

There was a break thankfully in the slow death march. Youke decided he was really hot and dashed off into a ditch filled with water. Except it wasn’t. It was filled with slimy mud.

I took one look at Youke’s mud-caked body and decided that despite how miserable the outing was turning out to be, I still had to take them swimming.

We proceeded onward, covering roughly two miles in an hour when ordinarily we’d cover that distance in at least half the time, all the while me trying to convince the border collies that we could walk faster. I don’t think my swear words helped with the convincing. The only time we stretched out at a decent pace was when the dogs saw the car. Brady acted as if he’d just met up with a long-lost friend.

The second part of the evening was probably not my brightest idea.

I couldn’t fathom Youke sleeping in my bed with that mud caked to himself and I haven’t replaced my warped and broken hose yet. So off to Lake Sammamish we went.

Somehow, I figured that at 8:45 pm the party would’ve ended and people would be flocking to area fireworks shows and the park would be quiet.

Ah, no.

Dumbstruck, I entered the park and saw a huge crowd. A more sensible person would’ve admitted defeat and headed home.

Instead, I calculated that the dogs would be at least a little tired from the walk and we could head to an area of the park where I was sure they’d be okay to take a swim. But first, we had to navigate the crowd.

My dogs are assholes about walking on leash at the best of times. I freely admit I don’t really work on leash walking as a skill, which makes me a probable asshole. I freely admit I really should. I freely admit the situation is amplified when all four of them are on leash at the same time.

Thus, after clipping on the leashes and untangling them at least five times before I could even walk away from the car, I was dragged by the collective force of four bodies weighing an average of 40 pounds apiece in a random direction.

Know how to look especially not cool? Being dragged about by four panting excited beasts who all want to go off in different directions.

After a few muttered swear words, most involving “fuckers” in some form or another, I managed to collect the dogs into a reasonably collected group and headed for the path that would take us to a secluded spot.

But first we had to face down a pack of pre-teen girls.

The girls were gathered on a bridge we had to cross to get to the path. I saw them as I was untangling the dogs for the 92nd time. They also saw me and the dogs. As pre-teen girls are prone to do, they gathered into a formation themselves and uttered “puppies!”

Clearly, they were ready to assault us with their own oohs and ahhs and outstretched hands, clenching and unclenching in anticipation of petting.

Brady was into this. His eyes lit up and he started getting all wiggly and pulling harder to get to the pack of young humans, ready to immerse himself in their adoration.

Camm, not so much. Young humans, especially high-pitched screaming girls, frighten the crap out of Camm. Camm, when frightened, starts barking, and it’s not a friendly bark.

I asked the girls if we could get by them please. They seemed willing enough at first, although it became apparent some were still going to try to sneak in some petting, But Camm’s barks grew sharper and she started bouncing up and down, which easily persuaded the girls to move aside and let us pass. Brady was very disappointed.

At least we got to the water finally. The trip down the narrow path wasn’t without more untangling, more muttered “fuckers” and more pulling off interesting smells among the weeds.

It was all worth it though when I got out the balls and threw them in the water. Even the fact that across the lake a condo complex was putting on its own fireworks show, didn’t deter JaYoBaCa from their fun. Water and balls trumped fireworks, at least for a while.

After we played for a while and everyone was sopping wet, including me, got all four leashed up again for the walk back down the path. A homeless man who’d been watching us, and the free fireworks shown across the way, commented as the dogs walked by and said hello to him that I’d have tired dogs now. I laughingly replied that was the whole idea and wished him a good evening.

At least on the way back there were no packs of little girls to contend with.

Fed the dogs when we got back and popped them their bennies just before the big show in town started at 10:15-sh. A repeat of Diane Sawyer’s interview with Caitlin Jenner was on and I decided it was as good as anything else on television to turn up a bit loudly to drown out the outside noise while I fixed myself a tuna fish sandwich.

Just another July Fourth in my own Private Idaho.

Dry and Delicate

Nope, this isn’t a post about a feminine hygiene product.

It was 87 degrees Fahrenheit at 3 pm today when I got back with the dogs from an outdoors adventure. And although that in and of itself is absurd for this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, what is more absurd is that today was supposed to be one of the cooler days of the week.

Since the temperatures here actually tend to peak a bit later in the day, I’m sure it was another 90+ degrees. Un-freaking-real. I’ve lived here since 2001 and cannot recall it being this hot, ever, this early. In fact, the local television news stations confirmed tonight that it’s been the hottest June on record, with the average exceeding 78 degrees. That’s pretty wild considering how many Junes I recall shivering and debating about turning on the heat in the house. Just the fact that I watched the 6 pm news tonight is a testament to the heat. Usually I’m out with the dogs doing something. Too motherfucking hot, so instead I laid, very still, on the couch. Of course, it’s actually pretty hard to get cooled down when there’s a dog draped across your legs.

The uber scary thing here right now isn’t really the heat. It’s the dry. Everything is like tinder. Although I really have no lawn to speak of, what grass I do have turned into hay weeks ago. The dogs that like to roll in the grass do their thing enthusiastically as ever, but emerge looking like they just visited Uncle Buck’s Hee Haw Country Zoo. Okay, no such place, but maybe I’ll consider the name for my place given how overrun with stupid bunny rabbits and ground-nesting birds my place is. Even the deer walk casually across my property. It’s like all the critters know I could care less about landscaping and that my dogs are inept hunters.

Today’s adventure involved shade in the woods, with some open stretches of grass in full sunlight. The sunlit stretches actually weren’t bad thanks to a breeze – although that’s also a recipe for disaster when it comes to fires. JaYoBaCa seemed to still think it would be a good idea to play ball on those open stretches. I allowed it a little, but they wisely listened when I informed them that we were “on a break” after a few throws. One of the many phrases they know. Jasmine and Brady immediately cease and desist, but Youke and Camm always come back five seconds later to see if I really meant it. Interestingly, today, no one turned back to question if that’s really what I meant to say.

Luckily, we did find that one of the water holes is still a water hole. A bit more mud, but still the mud to water ratio is decent enough for a cooling swim. Sadly, and I’ll cruelly admit, hysterically, one of the water holes completely dried up. All four dogs raced ahead – because they map out everything and know where all the trendy and cool water places are. I found all four of them standing in a dried out hole in the earth, staring disbelieving at me, as if it was totally my fault that the Pacific Northwest has turned into an Africa-like sub-continent.

We found this though.

June303 Bad picture quality as I only had my not-smart phone on me.

Sometimes in the winter this culvert will have a pool of water in it. Guess the dogs were hoping there’d be water there. Alas, not so much.

Youke seemed to think it did provide some respite from the sun though. It’s hard to be a mostly black dog sometimes.

June302 That’s desperation right there.

Youke then remembered a hidden water hole deep in the brush and soaked himself.

I refer to Youke as my delicate dessert flower. Probably because he’s the only dog I’ve ever raised from a puppy, I worry about him a lot. As in near constantly.

Someone chided me once when we started agility training after he’d passed his first year birthday about treating him as if he was so delicate. After all, I was informed,  his ancestors were bred to work big tough cattle. Okay, I thought, he’s only one-quarter heeler.

Truthfully, Youke is a tough guy. But his body is delicate and breakable. He just doesn’t seem to fully realize that. Sure, if there’s a bear in the woods or a bigger Great Dane-sized dog, he wisely seem to know his own size. But when it comes to tests of endurance or getting to something he really wants, i.e. A BALL, he knows no limits.

I’ve watched as Youke races Brady in what is very clearly some kind of macho man test of who is the faster dog on land and as he races Brady in the water to retrieve a ball. Brady easily beats him on the latter test if he remembers to employ his superman launching skills to get into the water first. Not sure why Youke hasn’t mastered that skill. It’s fascinating that most of the competition seems to be between him and Brady. Clearly a guy thing. But then again, Jasmine is like a mother-big sister-dog god and Camm makes it very clear to anyone that absolutely no one is to even try to beat her at doing anything. The boys pay serious heed to those instructions. Jasmine, sometimes not so much.

Took Youke to the vet yesterday for his annual check-up and to Mr. Bob for a massage. I’m a little, okay, a lot, concerned about him. But then I always am. When Youke is feeling good, his movements are beautiful and fluid. This weekend, despite the higher temperatures, he seemed to feel good and ran fluidly in agility competition. But two weeks ago, he seemed stiff and his leg hitch was back. Mr. Bob had a good point. Youke is now seven and that’s middle age in dog years. Or something like that, because middle age isn’t 40 anymore right? Of course, Youke is following the genetic marvel that is Jasmine.

Jasmine is nearly 12. If she was a human, she’d be that enviable type like Christie Brinkley, rocking a bikini and showing off sculpted abs and a defined, non-sagging butt.

After talking with the vet, seems a preventive anti-inflammatory before a big adventure and a follow up later in the evening might be in order.

Visits to Mr. Bob may too need to become more than the occasional or when it seems like he’s broken. Youke, who’d only seen Mr. Bob one time before in his life, went immediately into the special massage room when we arrived yesterday and plopped himself down on Mr. Bob’s massage mattress. Given that Youke is usually a bit reserved and suspicious of strangers being so intimate with him, it was apparent from his full body stretch, closed eyes and relaxed face that he was enjoying the experience.

Youke seemed fine today, moving beautifully with no stiffness and no hitch in his get-along. I suspect my delicate boy just sometimes suffers for his lack of attention to his limits.

Of course, things like tumbling 20 feet off a narrow bridge ledge into a creek below because he couldn’t keep his balance as proficiently as Jasmine – who had jumped to the top of the bridge like a gazelle and perched on the ledge with perfect and precarious balance – don’t help.