I just don’t understand ground-nesting birds. Small birds face enough hurdles to survival as it is.
I’ve known for the last couple of weeks that there was likely a nest in the yard when Jasmine pounced on something about two weeks ago and a very upset bird began vocalizing profusely. I just figured she’d destroyed it and I silently thanked the stars that I wouldn’t have to rescue another Twiddledee and Twiddledum.* Then this weekend, Youke seemed to uncover something in the same spot. Youke isn’t much of a hunter and quickly left the spot, but Jasmine and Camm nosed right in and scruffed their snouts around in the ground cover for a while. At that point, I realized there was either an old nest there or maybe a nest with eggs in it.
Again, I figured that all that nosiness from the dogs meant the nest and/or any eggs in it was destroyed. I watched closely to see if they’d picked up any eggs and were enjoying a Rocky-style meal, but surprisingly, at least to me, I couldn’t see that they’d found any eggs. So I went back to my assumption that the nest was done, boosted by the angry vocalizations of the bird piping away higher up in the brush.
This morning, Jasmine casually went back to the same spot, but only after doing her usual rounds of the yard. Then she walked away. Youke looked at the spot, but seemed uninterested, as did Brady.
Camm, being the curious little thing that she is, decided to visit it a bit more, which piqued Jasmine’s interest again.
I watched as they both rooted around the spot where I now gathered the nest to be.The birds were vocalizing again, but didn’t seem as upset as a couple of days ago. I stood and watched Jasmine and Camm for a while, again thinking that maybe they were looking for eggs.
Jasmine walked away again. Camm, though, stayed and seemed pretty intent. Still her pawing at the ground seemed gentle with whatever it was she’d found.
Waking up a bit more, I realized maybe there were eggs still in the nest, so I walked over and bent down to take a closer look. I saw what might be a single egg, but it was unbroken despite the dogs.
Camm was still gently pawing about and sticking her nose into the ground.
And I saw it. A gaping, bleating little baby bird mouth. The nest was very much active and there was at least one baby bird in it.
I called my fearless hunters to me and we went to another area of the yard.**
I praised Camm for being so gentle and not harming the baby bird, all the while hoping that was actually true. She started getting all wiggly and then starting hugging me – her signature move. I then asked her if she was proud of herself for making a birdie friend. I guess the answer was yes, because she started zooming about the yard, periodically stopping to hug me with her happy grin on her face.
I really hope the baby bird makes it, but I also hope the mother bird picks a different place next year to nest. I don’t want to be an accessory to murder.
* On Memorial Day weekend of 2010, Jasmine found a bird’s nest in the brush at the back of the yard. Being my one and only fearless hunter, she pounced on it and found four baby birds. One was killed instantly. She tentatively brought me the remainders of the nest. She may be fierce, but she does have a conscience. Being the sap that I am, I was immediately horrified and wondered what I could do. I remembered that we really shouldn’t mess with wildlife and placed the nest back in the brush as best as I could to let the mother deal with it. I then proceeded to check every 30 minutes on the nest. By mid-afternoon, it looked like things were not going well, so I opted to bring the nest inside and try to rescue the baby birds. This is typical. I had zilch for knowledge regarding the care and feeding of baby birds, didn’t even have a clue as to the species except that they were maybe sparrows of some sort, but insist that I have superhuman powers.
A third baby bird died pretty quickly, passing away a few hours later. Two survived. They became Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
At the time I had Jasmine and Youke and Sylvie, my by-then ancient husky mix. Sylvie was disgusted that birds were brought into the house and pretty much ignored them. Sylvie had a lot of rules. They were inconsistent and only she really understood them, but that’s another story for another time. Jasmine and Youke – especially Youke – were incredibly excited about the new housemates. The cat, being a cat, pretended she wasn’t impressed and intrigued.
It became apparent pretty quickly that Tweedledum was what one could call developmentally delayed. I never knew what it was. Perhaps he was harmed somehow when Jasmine discovered the nest. Whatever it was, Tweedledum grew very slowly and didn’t thrive, unlike Tweedledee. Tweedledum survived a week or so. I found his delicate, not-quite-right deceased body one morning when I went to check on the birds. Tweedledee seemed very distraught and was screaming loudly. Or maybe he was just hungry.
By then, Tweedledee, who was thriving, had luxury accommodations in a bird cage I’d purchased especially for him, a stick perch I’d fashioned for him, a little grass nest and other things I thought seemed bird-like. As a singleton, Twee – as that was now his name – got fat and fluffy on his regular meals of what I’d researched a bay sparrow should eat.
Twee hung out in my office with me and got a lot of attention from Youke. Youke was beyond fascinated. If allowed, he’d have stared at Twee for hours on end. As it was, he’d stare so long and intensely that it looked as if his eyes would cross with his nose pressed up within a half-inch of Twee’s abode. He’d get whipped up in a frenzy when Twee would flap around in his cage or when I’d bring Twee out for a visit on my desk. Youke quickly learned Twee’s name and perked up whenever I mentioned the bird’s name.
Twee lived with us for several months. However, a sparrow isn’t meant to be a pet and I figured that as part of Twee’s rehabilitation, he should have outdoors time and hear the song of his people. I also thought he should practice his flying. At first, flying was in the house. The dogs were quite concerned about that, as was the cat. I limited Twee’s flying to the office and then only when the door was closed and no dogs or cats were present.
Eventually, I had Twee mostly outdoors on the deck and left his cage door open. Twee, would flit about, but mostly he stayed close and would either return to his cage or allow me to catch him and bring him in for the night.
By then, it was early July. I have no idea of the time frame for a bird, but it seemed that Twee should soon be finding his way in the world and not be so friendly with dogs that liked to stare at him. I was also growing concerned as it appeared Twee had a bit of a hitch with one of his legs. He could fly fine, but one of his legs seemed a bit deformed. Still, I was determined Twee should be a sparrow.
As the month progressed, Twee took to taking day trips. I’d check on him and would call his name “twee, twee” in my most sparrow-like impersonation. Youke quickly picked up on this and would scan the yard and sky for Twee when I called for him, often leading me right to Twee.
Finally, the day came. I had to let Twee go. I left his cage door open as usual in the morning and checked on him several times as he flitted about on the deck and in the yard, but didn’t insist he come back. That continued for a few days. I’d hear his call – by then I’d honed in on his distinctive voice – and I heard with joy other sparrows with similar voices call. I still left him some food, but he seemed to ignore it. I’d call “twee, twee” and Youke and I would look for him.
It was all very Disney-esque. But I’m not delusional. Within a week I couldn’t track Twee down anymore, despite Youke’s helpfulness. Youke would helpfully point toward a sparrow in a bush when I called, but his questioning look would tell me it wasn’t our Twee.
For months, through the fall and even into the next spring and summer, I’d sometimes go into the yard and call “twee, twee.” I’d get replies from other birds, but never from the actual Twee. There was one moment the following summer when a sparrow perched on one of my rhododendrons and sat there calling to me in what seemed like Twee’s special voice. Was it? I couldn’t be sure.
I want to believe Twee made it, but the realist in me is pretty convinced Twee died in the end. Still, I cling sometimes to that Disney picture in my head. And to this day, Youke still searches the skies when I call “twee, twee.”
** Jasmine is my only true killer. Jasmine’s tally now includes numerous moles and mice, several bunnies, a chipmunk and a pheasant. Keeps missing those pesky squirrels though. I’m not counting the baby bird as that seems to have been more of an accident. Surprisingly though, I’ve been able to easily call Jasmine off a racoon and a couple of possums, as well as a skunk (thank you jesus). I’m pretty sure she thinks she should have been deployed as a bear dog, and deer and elk are a sport. As in it’s super fun to flush them out, but being true to herself, it’s far to much effort to really chase them.
The borderline and border collies though are terrible hunters. Brady appears convinced he’d like to be a big-time hunter, but truthfully, his efforts suck. Not for lack of trying though. Camm just doesn’t have the attention span for any prolonged hunting efforts.
I’ve literally seen bunnies hop right in Youke’s path and he ignores them, or looks to me and seems to ask if he should do anything. He’s mildly interested in squirrels, but seems confused by mice. If I have a ball in my hand, I’m pretty sure a tasty tenderloin steak could drop from the sky and Youke would ignore it.
Youke: I’m hungry. Can you feed me now?
Me: Youke, you’re always hungry.
Youke: I know. But I didn’t get fed this morning and I’m really hungry right now.
Me: Youke, it’s only five o’clock. That’s really kinda early to eat.
Youke: But I did the agility for you today and everything! I’m starving!
Meanwhile, I notice three other hopeful faces listening in and awaiting the outcome of this conversation.
Me: Okay. I guess I can feed you now, even though it’s super early for food. (Big sigh.)
JaYoBaCa race into the kitchen and assume their positions.
I am a horribly mean and stingy human. To make matters worse, my poor dogs don’t even have a set feeding time.
Let me explain this.
Growing up, we never had a set schedule. Eventually, when everyone starting attending school, we had a sort-of schedule. But since myself and the majority of my siblings were “home-schooled,” for many years prior to regular public school attendance, there was no schedule but that of my mother’s own whim. That part in quotation marks and last part of the sentence seem to infer that she was a flake or a bad parent. Neither is true, but that’s a story for another day.
I eventually stumbled upon the knowledge that all of my friends were being fed their suppers between 4 pm and 6 pm, with the preferred time between 4:30 and 5:30. This made sense. For them. It was after all a former mill town and there were still a lot of people that farmed or used to farm. However, this made no sense to my mother, whose preferred time for supper was anywhere between 7 pm and 9 pm. Dinner at 10 pm on a summer night was not unheard of, especially after a fun, adventuresome day at the beach.
My mother was an excellent cook. However, like many with a brilliant gift, there were times when she was creatively constrained or just plain burned out. There were also times when she was nose-deep into a book and had to finish the chapter – or the next five chapters – before she could think about dinner preparation. She was after all trying to feed five, then seven of us. We were lucky. For the most part, we ate extremely well, despite being extremely money-challenged. Still, there were plenty of times where it was soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Because of her marvelous skills, the grilled cheese sandwiches were awesome. Sadly, for many years we advised her we preferred Campbell’s chicken soup over her own homemade soup. I discovered accidentally too after telling a neighbor kid about our sometimes suppers of plain cereal or of eggs, toast and bacon, that it wasn’t exactly traditional among my peers. It was only when I became an adult that I found out one normally has breakfast for a late-night dinner after a night of drunken debauchery. Or if in the proximity of a Denny’s restaurant.
My mother was also fond of sometimes bringing us to the local frozen custard stand and telling us we were going out for dinner.
I see now I was well prepared for life as a single woman.
I have no children to pass along this unfettered way of life to, therefore, I practice this haphazard, some might say, unkind feeding methodology upon my dogs.
I’ve heard the horror stories about dogs waking up their people in order to be fed at 6 am on a weekend morning, or the dogs that don’t understand the strange North American human tradition of time changes in the spring and fall. I know numerous people whose dogs become extremely upset if they’re traveling and have not been fed by a certain time. I’ve vowed not to have those dogs.
And because dogs are not wolves, and are in fact, scavengers, I made the completely cruel decision some time ago that two square a day is not always a necessity. And, guess what prey diet followers? Wolves don’t eat regularly either.
What it really comes down to is that I sometimes lead a rather chaotic life, do not live by a set schedule, am easily bored by a regular routine, rarely eat three regular meals a day and sometimes enjoy ice cream for dinner. Therefore, my dogs don’t have a set time in the mornings or evenings for meals, nor do they always get a certain prescribed amount of of food per meal.
I vary the amount fed by activity level and by judging belly pudge or lack thereof. Really, someone should do that for me.
I rarely feed the dogs the morning of a competition, with the premise being that they’ll be getting umpteen treats throughout the day as rewards for good behavior. In fact, sometimes on competition weekends they receive super special things like meatballs, steak, grilled chicken, jerky, or Jasmine’s personal favorite, canned wet dog food – the more gravy, the better. Depending upon the amount of competition and the in-between runs play activities, they may get a whopping meal that night, or only a half-cup of kibble.
In the summers, when the days are long and we can be out for adventures until 8 pm or later, JaYoBaCa get fed when we get home. Sometimes that’s at 10 pm or much later.
Poor Youke. Despite having such a schedule-dissing human, he insists upon some kind of regularity. The other three are much more free-flowing in their thinking. Or at least they’re not as demanding. Youke can’t tell time, but he knows my tells. He knows that when I go downstairs for the first time in the morning it’s to grind and prepare coffee, so no need for him to rush out of bed. The second time I go downstairs though is to pour water over the beans and since the magical caffeine concoction has to sit for a few minutes, that time can best be served by feeding dogs. The whistle of the kettle used to be a better indicator, but Youke quickly figured out it was the second trip downstairs that was the real tell after the kettle’s whistler broke. So it really doesn’t matter if we’ve arisen at 6 am or 8:30 am. The important part is those trips up and down the stairs. He also knows he and the rest of his tribe get their dollop of cream after I pour my coffee. Since waiting for me to take these actions is annoying for Youke and gets him stressed out with anticipation, he prefers to lounge upstairs on the bed until he hears the refrigerator door open. Once he hears that noise, he races to his chosen spot to be served his special cream dollop. Once that happens, he can relax and resume his intense schedule of lounging.
This weekend was a tad bit stressful for schedule-loving Youke. He only got a half cup of food on Saturday morning. Something about having a stuffed frozen kong later in the morning. He got that, so life was pretty good, and he got to avoid an agility practice. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not nearly as much fun as a ball is or things like swimming and hiking. When I came back in the afternoon with Brady and Camm, he was able to relax for a while on the couch, catching up on some much needed sleep from his heavy activity load with his momentarily unencumbered-by-employment human.
Life was still pretty good when I left in the early evening because he and the rest of the gang all got a stuffed frozen kong. Practically unheard of to get two on one day! But then I didn’t come back home until well after midnight.
I received the usual happy greeting from JaYoBaCa, but after cooing and grinning at me, Youke gave me an imploring look that very clearly communicated he was going to be fed, no matter what time it was. I fulfilled that request, which made everyone else pretty happy too, but it was late, so not the usual dosage.
Then I had the nerve to skip this morning’s breakfast. Youke, remember that part about how you ate super late last night? I’m sure Youke initially thought it was just going to be a late lazy morning, with brunch being served a bit later, but I loaded him up with Brady and Camm for another agility practice. He was pretty happy about getting some cheese and mostly a lot of ball for his efforts. Still, a spotty dude cannot live by ball alone, hence the conversation at 5 pm about being fed.
In Youke’s world, it’s pretty much food o’clock somewhere, all the time.
Although my favorite time of year to hike is in the fall, just when it starts to get cooler and damper in these parts, I do love wandering about in June. Not only are the skies often the bluest they get and clear, but the salmonberries come out.
I love salmonberries. I especially love them right now when they are jewel-like in appearance and dance along the edges of the woods.
I used to hike with, and date, a guy that disliked salmonberries and could never understand my love of them. Guess how that turned out?
So hiking and wandering takes a bit longer this time of year. Too many stops for tasty salmonberries. I can usually tell which ones will taste good, but not always. And I’ve learned from experience to always look them over carefully before popping them in my mouth. Bugs and worms also like salmonberries.
You know who else likes salmonberries? Bears. Bears adore them. It seems I’m pretty much guaranteed a bear sighting in June. Nearly every year for the past eight, I’ve spotted at least one bear during June gorging itself on tasty berries.
Bears aren’t the only critters that enjoy eating salmonberries.
Youke and Camm love them. Jasmine and Brady will eat them too on occasion, but they don’t beg for them like Youke and Camm do.
Those two are like little baby birds. Rushing over, eyes eager with anticipation and instant sits in front of me for a berry. Sometimes it gets downright obnoxious, pushing on the backs of my legs or pleading with extra large eyes just as I’m about to plop an especially ripe and tasty large one into my own mouth. I sorta get the stress parent birds must have over feeding those gaping crying baby birds.
Youke is worse. He literally runs to me if he spots I’ve fallen behind and am in the bushes picking berries. It’s just hard to get a shot of that while trying to both pick a berry, give it to your dog and take a photo. Camm was fairly cooperative though.
It was a beautiful day for a walkabout and berry eating.
Yeah – so if you thought I’d be posting a picture of me in hot pants – not so much. Those days are over. Unless it’s on a beach where people don’t know me. Although I will freely admit to rocking that look here in the comfort of my own private Idaho, which is comprised of my deck or the back edge of my lawn, and looking pretty damn fine doing it. I know this because I’ve looked at my reflection in the window walking by. I choose to ignore the Buddha belly part.
I actually was hot wearing long pants this weekend where temperatures soared into the mid to upper 80s. Hot as in sweaty. Not hot in an All-That kinda way. However, the alternative of running dog agility in shorts or in the uber more trendy alternative of a skort is not an option for me. That would expose my legs.
If I’m vain about anything, beside my enormous smartassedness that is, it is my legs. That was before I got dogs though. Specifically, that was before I got Brady.
I’ve never cared that I have enormous matching scars on my knees from a pre-laser micro-surgery time where surgeons took great delight in cutting open human flesh, flaying it open to do medieval torture, like putting screws into the growing parts of young pubescent girls, then closing the slices with sutures than could be measured in inches rather than millimeters. And then to repeat much the same, sans the inserting of screws because those had to be then removed, a mere year later due to the rapid growth spurt of the aforementioned pubescent female person. Those scars remind me of dear deceased Dr. Marcotte with his strange pedophilistic admiration of my 12-year old body. However, those scars are exactly the reason why I would not allow Dr. Marcotte and his far more sadistic orthopedic surgeon colleague to perform back surgery on me. I much preferred Dr. Marcotte’s soft admiring eyes goggling my nearly naked teenage body – naturally to monitor the curvature of my spine and to assure it got no worse – a few times a year.
Um, so back to Brady.
Brady is not a tolerant dog.
Many years ago – and I rue the days I said it – I used to say, even out loud and to many people – that I was so very glad I did not have a dog that barked at me when running agility.
The universe has an odd way of working sometimes. It’s called karma and karma is a bitch, beaotches!
Fast forward to training Brady. As Brady’s training progressed, there came a point in time where Brady’s learning curve clearly surpassed my own. In retrospect, he was paying attention to our instructor much better than I was. I guess this makes sense; he’s a border collie and I am only a human.
As Brady’s confidence grew, he began to “correct” me when I made mistakes. In the beginning, he was lenient. A bark here or there, a swerve into me with a bark. Typically, fairly gentle and in practice, only when I made grievous errors.
I can’t properly remember the first time he nipped me during competition. I do remember the first time he drew blood.
Now, before all the pack leaders of this world draw up in horror and start berating me for not being more dominant, please know this happens a lot in agility. We just don’t like to openly talk about it. It’s like a super secret special club you kinda don’t really want to belong to. Therefore, we don’t. We do whisper sometimes. Yes, that’s probably us in the corner conferring quietly as we compare battle wounds and discuss the best techniques to ward off teeth.
And we totally pretend we didn’t see anything happen when it happens to a fellow competitor. Actually, many of us have become very, very good at not only fending off the incoming nip, but also at covering the offense.
I have a personal “Curt Schilling” moment when after some poor handling move I made, Brady came in at me and got in a solid bite (okay, we had moved beyond nips at that point) to my lower calf. Did I flinch? Of course not, I walked off that agility field, head held high, smiling like a beauty queen, my horrid asshole dog prancing at my side (“I showed her not to do that dumbass move again!”), while the blood flowed into my sock. I know this because as soon as I got back to my vehicle and had thrown asshole dog in it, I pulled up my pants leg and hoped I had remembered band-aids.
I dearly love Brady. But he is the most unforgiving instructor. I make a poor handling choice and he runs at me screaming and with mouth wide open. This is why I hear Aerosmith songs in my head at start lines with Brady. Brady is Steven Tyler, minus the spandex.
Brady has made me a much better handler. Still not perfect, but things have improved a lot in the past 18 months. Now we have an agreement that he will be a bit more tolerant of my errors and I will not walk him off the course for being a jerk.
Then I started Camm.
Like Brady, and so unlike the extremely forgiving Jasmine and Youke, Camm isn’t very tolerant of handling mistakes on course. So despite the fact that I think I’m a better handler than I was a few years back, I’m far from perfect and Camm needs information at the speed of light.
Great, I finally get a handle of the need for speedy information to Brady and I get a dog that needs it even faster. It’s just a lot for a slow human to process.
Unlike Brady, Camm prefers to deliver her punctuation points for my poor choices at my hands or wrists. Until a month ago. A month ago, she delivered her supreme dissatisfaction with something I’d done with a chomp to my leg. Luckily for all concerned, it was while we were working in a practice ring and not during the actual competition. Judges do not look favorably on this kind of behavior. But this time, instead of being horrified that my sweet dog that has nurtured me through the death of my mother and the loss of a job, and chewed the snot out of hundreds of tear-soaked tissues, did this horrible thing, I reacted instantaneously.
I whipped around and faced Camm down, put my finger in her face, grabbed her and marched her, and I do mean march, back to the car. She’s wasn’t thrown in, but there was none of the usually coos and cuddles. I then refused to acknowledge her existence for the next hour. This is a devastating punishment for Camm.
Needless to say, no nasty cheap-shots since and any other attempts to nip have been, well, nipped.
All of which is to say, that although I wore long black pants to run agility this past weekend, I came home with all body parts intact and unmarked.
This still doesn’t mean I’m donning a skort any time soon. For one, is anyone but myself aware that when one bends over to remove the leash from their dog at the start line that there’s often a great deal of southern exposure? Sorry realtors of the world, sometimes southern exposure is not such a good thing.
Um, so this started out as a post about Cammi Pants and how super awesome she is right now. Seems to have ridden off on a bit of a tangent. So if you’re still with me on this ….
I became acquainted with Tiger Mountain in the first year I moved to Washington State and have had a long enduring love affair, now entering its 15th year. That love has not been without its ups and downs.
I think my first visit was the summer after I’d moved here. I recall my ex and I were looking for something to do and somehow we stumbled across a description of a trail called the bus trial, Back then, there was actually an old decrepit rotting bus just off the trial, hence the name. Not sure if it’s still there as it’s been many years since I walked along that trail. The last time I was there, I don’t recall seeing it.
The second time I can recall going to Tiger Mountain was in the winter, a year after I moved to the area. I think I was taking some vacation time around Christmas and took my husky mix Sylvie to explore. It was that trip that I became hooked. I became a regular with Sylvie, exploring the trails and letting my feet carry me in whatever direction seemed interesting. I became bold and randomly took trails, wondering where they went and eventually discovered how they intersected and looped up with other trails.
To this day, I’ve never looked at a map of the trail system at Tiger Mountain.
Tiger Mountain is where I saw my first bear in the wild, as well as my first cougar. I’ve seen coyotes, raccoons, possums, rats, owls, hawks, deer and various assortments of smaller critters. Notably, Tiger Mountain is also where I first learned that bears possess enormous paws with frighteningly long and powerful claws. I know this because I could not help by notice the bear’s gigantic paws and claws as it ran downhill by me 20 feet from the trail I was ascending with two of my dogs on a lovely mid-June late afternoon several years ago. That got my heart pumping.
I spent a lot of time exploring trails on Tiger when Jasmine was a crazy adolescent and followed suit with Youke as a puppy and as a less crazy adolescent than his sister had been. We hiked the infamous West Tiger 3 trail nearly every year, in heat and in sloppy rain that turned the trail in a slushy chute on the way down. But that trail is too well trekked and becomes especially obnoxious on weekends. So I prefer to wander the lesser, often overlooked routes.
That’s become more and more difficult in the last few years. I noticed more people on the trails around the time I got Brady. Due to his need for space from other dogs, I started going back to the lesser traveled paths, including trails that were so overgrown I had to crawl between brambles and try to secure my footing between puddles of mud and rocks. It was an area where I rarely saw another soul. But then something started happening. A new trail was built to bypass one of the twisty, steep animal tracks I was used to taking. I’d drive to Tiger Mountain with the intent of a short hike, but would see a handful of cars parked where before I’d see none or only one or two.
Eventually, I stopped frequenting Tiger as much. I’d still take an occasional romp usually close to dusk, and there were many times where I was out after dark, but the growing popularity made it not as much fun for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that people are into exploring the trails. But I cringed as I saw more trash and as I witnessed rude behavior, among people and their dogs. And, it simply became unpleasant. I freely admit that part of that lack of pleasure was the management that was required regarding my own dogs.
It was also around this time when Brady became seduced by the pleasures of the forest and would take off, only to show up well past my worrying point, panting exuberantly and tail wagging low, as if to say, “What’s wrong? I wasn’t gone that long and it was so fun!”
A hike on Tiger Mountain is also the one and only time Youke became lost. I blame Brady. We were on some lonely trail and I should’ve paid attention to my gut as soon as I saw Jasmine, Youke and Brady furiously air scenting. Suddenly, they were all off. Their usual reliable recalls were of no use and I found myself in a near panic when about 15 minutes later Brady came crashing through the brush to come sitting at my feet, tongue lolling to the side. About five minutes later, Jasmine came up the trail behind me. But where was Youke?
Long story short, and after yelling for him until my voice was hoarse and attempting to find him by turning not only back down the trail we came but also down an alternate trail that looped back up with the original, I headed back to my vehicle with the intent of putting Brady in the jeep and grabbing a flashlight and going back up with Jasmine. However, when I returned to the jeep, there was a slightly panicky Youke, waiting for us and clearly exhausted. I wasn’t crying when I thought he was lost. Panic never does any good in those situations. But I cried with relief when I saw him.
That day made a large impression. Youke may now occasionally charge off into the brush, but he never goes far and gives up the chase within short seconds, eagerly looking for me. Needless to say, I stepped up the recall training and rewarded heartily for some time after that. To this day, I also usually carry the highest reward on earth for three of the dogs – a ball.
Still, despite the many adventures and lovely times, Tiger was no longer a refuge. It was too crowded.
I pretty much abandoned going to Tiger for the past couple of years. The only time I’d go was in the winter, and even then maybe on one of the days that are infamous here in the Pacific Northwest – when the skies are dark grey and the mist is so heavy that it soaks you through within 10 minutes.
But although I left Tiger for a while, I still drove by often, shaking my head at the amount of cars parked on the road, especially on weekends, a clear indicator that the parking lot – not a small one – was full.
Today, I grabbed Jasmine and Youke, determined to explore again a favorite place. I opted to try for the option that is usually less traveled, thinking as well that a recently set-up homeless encampment might be a deterrent for many, despite it being a picture-perfect warm June Friday.
I felt marginally bad striding through the camp with Jasmine and Youke leashed to my sides, but wondering – not for the first time – why they chose there and justifying in my mind that i was far from trespassing as it’s state land and I own a state park pass (which i did not see on any of the vehicles which appear to belong to some of the members of the camp). Once we cleared the camp and where on the trail, I let the dogs off leash and off we went.
It was gorgeous. Sun dappled through the trees. The ferns are huge, lush and very green. The salmonberries are just starting to ripen, but as the area is well-shaded, it’ll be another week or so for them. The trail is well-worn, but due to the time of year, and probably less foot traffic in recent months due to the camp, is hedged in by the grasses and bushes that comprises the undergrowth of the forest. It was also incredibly peaceful. The only sounds were the sometimes jingle of Youke’s dog tag, Jasmine’s panting right on my heels and the occasional sound of my own footsteps. Of course there were birds singing and the gentle rustling of the forest, but that was more like quiet background music.
Both Jaz and Youke followed the trail, sandwiching me between them – Youke in front and Jasmine behind, as is the usual pattern – both of them relaxed and smiling. I don’t know if they felt it – I suspect they did – but it was akin to visiting an old friend. A friend that you know well and can be yourself with and that welcomes you with a smile no matter what your state of mind.
I was glad to be back. The walk today was short as it was more of an exploratory feel, but I vowed that I’ll come back more often to my old friend.
Spent a lovely quiet weekend doing not much of anything. Not doing much of anything is something that I excel at.
Full disclosure though – I did finally vacuum my house. Fuller disclosure – and some may wish to turn away now – I hadn’t vacuumed in about a month. Yes, I do have four dogs. Also, I have a cat. Disgusting, yes? Your wrinkled noise and pursed lips give you away.
During a phone conversation Friday with my youngest sister, I actually made this confession out loud about the lack of vacuuming. It was a surprisingly easy confession to make, mainly because she lives something like 3,000 miles away and could not verbally berate me while also throwing nasty looks my way. Also because it’s not like she ever picked up her room when she lived at home. Lastly, because she’s my little sister and sorta has to keep looking up to me, even as I give her good reasons not to.
Still, she voiced the expected response: “Ewwww!”
Admitted one’s problem is the first step toward fixing it, right?
Therefore, despite it being a lovely warm day, I tackled the vacuuming on Saturday. I won’t go into lengthy details about the over-sized dust bunnies I tackled, the copious amount of dog hair pulled up from the carpeting and furniture or the actual pebbles that got tracked into the house, along with twigs, bits of moss and other sundry organic bits of matter. I will tell you it took two and half vacuum bags. I don’t consider that bad. I fully expected it would take three.
Since that was a large step to take toward self-improvement, I opted to skip on floor scrubbing and bathroom cleansing and move right on to the reading outdoors portion of the day.
Immediately became immersed in a new book. I love that sensation of being drawn into a book within the first few pages. Ideally, I like when I became entangled in a story within the first paragraph or the first page – that is always some fine storytelling, but I’m equally satisfied when the words drawn me in within the first few pages or the first chapter. Always so disheartening when I cannot find a connection while in the first chapter. Sometimes the story may unfold a bit more slowly, but more often than not, if I cannot get drawn in from the start, the book is a dud.
Since this story was quite enchanting, despite the frequent use of French phrases and I don’t speak or read French, I forgot I’d been outside reading for an hour in the sun. JaYoBaCa were not a big help with this either. They were so exhausted from the adventures of late, they seemed perfectly content to just snooze inside. Windows were open in the house and the house stays pretty cool unless we get several days of 85+ degree weather. Perfect for dog napping. Once I realized that I was becoming sunburned, I joined them inside to read some more.
Usually a move to the couch to read turns into a nap for me as well. Not saying this time it didn’t, but because the book is good, it did take another hour or so before that happened. There is something so peaceful about a warm day, insects buzzing and birds peeping outside, a book, and a dog cuddled up against your butt – that would be Youke, the best nap partner, ever – that is conducive to drifting off. Except I dreamt about vampires, killers, bloody corpses and people beating each other up. No doubt the after-effect of the movie I watched the night before.
So when Sunday dawned … okay, I suppose I can argue that 9 am is not exactly dawn.
So when Sunday came around, I opted for a day of completely doing nothing. Again, this was met without a whole lot of protest from JaYoBaCa. I train my dogs well. Be ready to go at a moment’s notice and go all out, but when it’s time to chill, it is time to nap.
I briefly considered all the more ambitious folks out there with their home improvement projects and trips to the big box home improvement stores, and scoffed. My idea of a weekend is NOT doing home improvement and certainly NOT spending money at a big box store.
See, I hate housework (the month between vacuum jobs should be evidence of that) and I’ve never cared about how my house looks. When I was a kid, I’d tell my mother I was going to the barn whenever she told me and my siblings we had to pitch in and help with housework. I’d actually bribe my brothers and take on their barn chores in exchange for them taking on my share of housework. I’d happily muck out every single stall in the barn instead of raising a hand to dust or plug in the vacuum cleaner.
I also don’t care about House Beautiful. As long as I have a roof over my head, appliances and a heating system that work, and a bed (and couch) that is comfortable, I don’t care that my lawn isn’t a picture of manicured perfection instead of a mix of overgrown grass and bare dirt patches, that my deck needs to be re-stained and that my sliding patio door doesn’t slide very well and goes out to a mess of dried up and sometimes too wet dead leaves instead of pretty flower boxes. I don’t really care that my overstuffed chair has stuffing coming out of it from some mysterious and obviously very violent dog attack from two years ago, because throw a cheap fleece-y blanket from Bartell’s Drug Store over it, perch a cat on top of that, and really, would anyone know? Yes, so the pictures that hang on the walls are sometimes askew because sometimes I indulge JaYoBaCa in a indoors game of tug or fetch, but I live here, not anyone that cares about such silly things.
All of this is to say that I cannot imagine wasting time shopping for and doing home improvement. It seems like a big conspiracy started by retailers that start with “H” and “L” during the housing boom. Perhaps it’s conceited on my part, but I refuse to be a lemming.
Instead, on Sunday I read, napped and played with dogs in the overgrown grass and dirt patches that serve as my lawn. Major highlight of the day – playing The Pine Cone Game with Youke. Youke is very fond of making up games and The Pine Cone Game is an old favorite. He finds a pine cone, tosses it to me and I am expected to toss it back to him. He bites the pine cone each time upon its return to him, thus making the pine cone smaller and smaller, less attractive, more slimy and eventually impossible to play with. The game is even better if I toss the pine cone in among other pine cones or in the long grass for Youke to figure out. I’ve never been able to trick him. The game is expected to continue ad infinitum, or until I grow bored and tell him we’re done.
This incredibly stimulating weekend led me to sleep until 10 am Monday. Egads! Even I was a tad embarrassed at that. And what in the world is wrong with the dogs that they would allow that to happen?
Even though I felt like a noodle, I vowed that today called for some kind of physical activity. Of course, it was raining and at least 15 degrees cooler today than over the weekend. Nevertheless, plunged forward without the benefit of coffee and off to the woods and fields we went.
Several hours later, soaking wet, but steaming from the breaks of sun trying to break though the cloud cover, and breathing deeply through my nose the sweet earthy, woodsy fresh air and captaining an invisible ship with my dog-mates in their designated positions across the bow and astern, I realized I wasn’t a limp noodle as much as I was al dente.
Sometimes it’s nice to take just a dog or two and meander.
Brady had an appointment with Kerry, his groomer, today and Youke is hurt, so took Jasmine and Camm with me to explore trails. Pretty sure Youke did something to his paw, although not clear what it is. Hopefully only a tweak of some sort. Gave him doggy aspirin when we got back from the beach yesterday and some more meds this morning. He seemed actually happy to stay home alone, with a frozen stuffed kong of course. And maybe the rest time worked, because he already was favoring the paw far less when we got home late this afternoon. Looks like rest for him for the next few days, then will reevaluate. It’s possible he stepped on something wrong on any of the various trail explorations and beach trips we’ve taken in the past week or so.
The thing about having four dogs and doing so much with all of them so often is that doing anything with any less than four feels easy. Almost like a vacation.
JaYoBaCa get along very well, but the dynamics are constantly shifting and moods and attitudes change daily. It’s like watching a soap opera on Telemundo. You can grasp the basic content, but the language is spoken so fast and just when you think you’ve figured out that Carlos is Maria’s brother, you find out that he’s her step-brother and that he hates her best friend, the maid Wanda, but Wanda has a secret crush on Roberto, who is married to Maria …. and, well, you get the picture. It can be exhausting.
Yesterday, Jasmine was driving me crazy with her barking and jostling of the others. One would think, at nearly 12 years of age and numerous adventures over the past two weeks, that maybe she’d tone it down a bit. Nope. That’s not Jasmine’s style. Still, she was finally pretty tuckered out last night after three hours at the beach and hikes over the past couple of days, so I figured I’d be taking just Camm today. Wrong. Jasmine raced downstairs to the garage entry, making it pretty clear she intended to be included.
Dropped Brady off and off I went with my girls.
Hiking with the girls is actually very relaxing. It’s like the exuberance of Camm’s youth almost cancels out Jasmine’s sometimes high, frenetic energy. Not sure what it is, but the two girl-dogs get along very well in these situations and are most relaxed with one another.
Today’s plan was to explore this trail I accidentally discovered a few months ago.
I stumbled across the trail in March while exploring a scrappy, rough area I frequent with the dogs. Because until recently I didn’t always have a lot of time to divvy up dogs during the weekdays and frequently like to take all four with me and because I don’t necessarily enjoy constant management concerning mine and others (human and canine), I have a general circumference of places within a reasonable driving distance that I go. Most of these places are not particularly pretty or scenic, but the general public aren’t usually out and about either and it allows me and the dogs to just relax and explore.
Anyway, I accidentally found The Secret Trail while following the dogs as they explored the various paths made by animals. The way to The Secret Trail is completely hidden and more so now since I found it in March. The remarkable thing about The Secret Trail in March was that once I followed the faint markings of an animal path, then up alongside a rock face and pack down the faint animal path, the trial opened up and shone before me like a gem. But that particular day I was out in the early evening and had an hour before dark would descend. Not a good time to explore some unknown trail in parts where I’d seen bears before and cougar scat.
So I filed it away to explore some other day.
Fast forward to today and finally, time to check that secret out.
This is what the trail looks like in May. Pretty overgrown and barely discernible.
Which way to go? Chose right, and then realized we’d made a loop back to a spot that I knew well. So, since we’d spent no where near the time I thought we’d spend exploring, opted to go left and onto another trail I’d never had time to explore before.
Another meander down the trail and found out it also looped up to another trail previously known to us.
So, off we went to another offshoot of a well traveled path. This one also pretty overgrown.
Three hours of exploring later and we headed back.
And no, I can’t tell you where this trail is. It’s a secret.
I nearly died today.
Human-mom finally got off the couch, went in the scary water closet and dressed for adventure. Knew it was gonna be an adventure cuz the whole family got to go. Except for Sadie-Cat. She always has to stay at home. Human-mom tells her she’s in charge unless one of us stays at home too.
As usual, the drive to adventure took waaaay too long, but finally we got to one of my favorite places. It’s super cool there cuz we always get to play ball. Ball is good. Like usual, we got to play ball first. Finally felt so good to stretch my legs and fly like the wind. Okay, sometimes I let Jasmine or Camm get the ball first, but that’s only cuz I learned they will knock me over if I don’t pretend to be kinda slow sometimes. Especially Jasmine. She makes this weird noise that means she’s getting it first. When I hear that, I just let her get it or I’ll get bowled over. Human-mom says Jasmine is like a linebacker. Camm is just trying to be Bossy Pants cuz she’s always already has a ball in her mouth. Only me and Youke understand the true rules of the ball game.
After we played ball for a while, Human-mom called us and took the balls away. No worries. That means it’s time for me to explore the woods. Human-mom doesn’t put the stupid-um leash on me at this place and I can pretty much pee on anything I want, sniff around and try to find interesting critters. I do humor her though and keep an eye on them all. I don’t want to find out they were doing something fun without me.
Had a super fun time, running around, sniffing stuff, asking Human-mom to play ball some more, but she kept telling us we were on a break. I was just really getting my groove on when I caught a scent of something pretty fine. I went off the trail we were on and went deeper into the woods.
Then it happened. A woodland critter and a pretty big one that can run really fast went by me. I started screaming when I found it and went running through the woods after it.
Traveled to Salem, Oregon this weekend for an agility trial. Mainly because the option of staying home on a long holiday weekend wasn’t very appealing. I get very grumpy when I have to share trails with the masses that decide to come out on long holiday weekends. I realize that’s not a very gracious attitude, but being bumped and jostled, being constantly told how friendly other pooches are and seeing a lot of inappropriate footwear pisses me off.
So off me and JaYoBaCa went to Salem. Originally intended to leave super early to avoid any and all holiday traffic. But the nagging premonition of being stranded with a flat on a highway with four dogs saw me off instead to the nearest Les Schwab tire center Friday morning. Okay, the premonition was not so much some eerie extrasensory glimpse into the future as it was my low pressure sensor coming on suddenly last week, then going away, then coming back on again. Turns out, screw in a tire. Which sounds like some kinky sex thing, but not. Easily fixed and for no charge, thus all danger averted. And since I get obsessed with these fears, opted to purchase a new spare to replace the one that was punctured in April when I was rear-ended. That was not free. Yikes – big ass tires cost a lot, even single big-ass tires.
Still, thanks to the efficient folks at Les Schwab and the fact that I dragged myself there by 7:45 am, back at the house by 9 am to load up the rest of our stuff and get on the road by 10 am. I’d originally thought it might take six hours to get to Salem with the anticipated holiday traffic, but instead, it was clear sailing. Until Portland. This trip, I decided to be smart and go around Portland since it’s always hell getting through there, not realizing that the alternate took me by the airport. Anyway, bogged down pretty much from Portland to Salem. Nonetheless, the trip didn’t take as long as originally thought, so still a win, and that was with a stop for the dogs for a potty break.
Checked into our hotel room – extra special expensive this time due to the holiday weekend and some conference where people dressed up in what appeared to be their best ’80s Sunday church-going outfits. Needless to say, pretty sure I was the only person there that had four dogs and looked disheveled all weekend.
Despite the hotel’s pride in the “recently renovated” rooms, our room still smelled like an armpit. I learned a long time ago, this is the price to be paid when traveling with dogs. Se la vie. I was able to ignore it most of the time and it wasn’t like we spent a lot of time there. At least it had a mini-fridge. These things are important when traveling with cheese and meats … for the dogs.
Oh, so yeah – the trial. Super laid back, one-ring CPE, only four classes each day. Which doesn’t totally explain why the trial ended at 6 pm on Saturday, but still fun.
Camm thought this one was pretty, but found out bees thought it was pretty too. Later Brady peed on it. Didn’t see any bees after that.
I was super happy with how all four dogs did, especially as this was only the second time we’d been to this trial site. But then, they did really well the first time there too last November. The only bummer about this site is that despite a big field, dogs can’t be off leash and run around and the small fenced paddock was always occupied and didn’t seem good for ball throwing for my crew. Nonetheless, JaYoBaCa were tired out.
No room on the bed for the human that feeds them, takes them on fun adventures and purchases overpriced hotel rooms for them to sleep in after an exhausting day of waiting in the car and doing a few minutes of jumping, running through tunnels and climbing a-frames. Nope. So I read a book for a while before I forced them to move over and make room for me. I was very tired too and still managed to sleep with dogs on my legs, spooned against my back and on top of one of my pillows.
In the interest of trying to provide my suddenly footloose and fancy free life some structure, I’ve vowed to do something constructive every day. Yes, every day.
I made myself commit to this about three weeks ago, on the very same day I got The Call. See, my first reaction to The Call was “what the fuck am I gonna do with all this free time I’m gonna have???!” Other reactions and thoughts followed, but seriously, that was the first thing that slapped me upside of the head.
I know myself well enough that if I don’t make a vow to so something productive, I’ll be completely unproductive.
How’s that going so far you may ask?
Lay off with the demands! It’s not even the first week!
Okay, but I have at least done something each day. Mostly it’s been about the dogs, but anyone that knows me would figure that’s pretty much a given.
So this didn’t happen. It’s on the list. In fact, it’s at the top of the list.
Despite the fact that giant clods of dog hair, dirt and other assorted items from the natural outdoors world that people don’t usually want in their house have taken up residence, they are still there, right now.
I’m taking this as a sign of my personal well being. I tend to clean when I’m angry or upset about something. My house is a freakin’ dirty mess. Therefore I must be quite happy and content. Either that or it’s simply so overwhelming that it’s depressing to think about. Moving on…
Instead, I opted to do this:
That’s right. I looked up points for each of the dogs for their various levels in CPE (Canine Performance Events) and I entered Brady in a trial coming up in June now that he’s been cleared to return to normal activities.
Since that took a lot of mental concentration, I moved on to this:
Actually, this felt like a major accomplishment. I cannot even remember the last time I sat down and read a book for several hours – in the middle of a weekday. Well, I did do it a few times last summer, but always after the east coast office had closed for the day.
I was joined on the couch by Youke, who is pretty much the best nap partner ever, and everyone else assumed their nap positions in various spots near the couch. They sort of look like satellites orbiting around the mothership that is the couch. Tuesday’s beach trip completely wore JaYoBaCa out and they were still feeling the impact yesterday when this took place. Naturally, all that peaceful happy snoozing lulled me in a nap as well.
Today, I decided it was time for more physical activity. This was actually part of an evil plan I concocted earlier in the week when Brady was given the all clear. Three weeks of restricted activity and he’s entered in a trial this weekend. Lord help me! Time for a trip into the woods.
Off we went. Four hours later, I returned with four happy and tired dogs. I think I accomplished the mission, Brady, who has to spend about half of every hike on leash due to the tempting nature of nature itself, was walking, not jogging when we got back to the Jeep. Poor Youke was so tired, I briefly contemplated carrying him for a while. Of course Camm was still perky. And Jasmine too. Hard to believe she’ll soon be 12. The thought occurred to me today that she might outlive us all.
Of course, I might have over-accomplished. Had to take a hot shower when I got back to loosen up. Never a good sign when the aches and stiffness start the second you disembark from your vehicle and waddle back into the house.
But still one more priority for the day – other than making Brady’s day perfect and letting him rip at tonight’s agility class. Yup, should be entertaining, and frightening. He hasn’t done agility in a month.
Had to pack up some stuff for this weekend’s show.