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.


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


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 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.

The Best Dog


Why is it that I never see how much white there is on her face until I see a photograph?

I’m not ready to have the discussion with Jasmine yet, but it’s close enough that I do sometimes think that I’ll have to have it sooner than later. I think I had it with Sylvie when she was 12. The discussion varies as much as the dog it’s with, but for Sylvie and I it was a promise to live to 16. She was fairly healthy and it seemed like a pretty simple thing to ask. In return, I asked that she let me know when it was time and when she ready and I’d honor her wish without a fight. It worked out well for both us.

This happened yesterday.


Jasmine earned her third championship title in an agility venue. Since her “registered” name in Canine Performance Events (CPE) is Jasmine K. Vitch, her official title is something like: Jasmine K. Vitch, CT-ATCH 3.

I’m all about a simple catchy name that sounds good when it’s yelled, be that for an emergency recall or as an abrupt warning to ward off the naughty. I abhor fancy breeder type names that are a pretentious 15 syllables or that take up more than two lines. However, I decided many years ago when signing up for CPE registration numbers for competition that I’d play off that dog-fancy crap and play off my dogs’ nicknames.

Jasmine apparently has other fancy titles given the certificates that randomly appear in the mail, but since I don’t really pay much attention to that stuff and never track anything but the basics, I don’t really recall what they are. As you might guess, I also think it’s ridiculous to follow a dog’s name with all the fancy alphabet letters.

It’s not as if the dogs care at all. Although, I suspect Jasmine did kinda enjoy getting to do a silly run around the agility ring with me waving the huge ribbon and carrying a pole (yup, when you win something big you get not only a fabulous pretty-colored ribbon, but a decorated jump pole too). I can’t speak for all dogs, but for Jasmine, I think just running around for no real reason and not being specifically pointed toward an obstacle was reason enough for a celebration.

005 Hard to believe she’s accomplished this three times. While I’m sorta amazed, she’s bored with it already.

004 That black spot is dried blood from a scrape under her eye she got from chasing a critter last week at 1 am on a potty outing. That is much more fun to do than ‘gility.

Which is why this weekend will be Jasmine’s last weekend of official competition. Yup, I’m retiring Jasmine.

I haven’t really made a big deal out of it and I’m not sad about it. At least not really.

I’m a little sad that the end of an era has come and that a change is happening. But I’m very happy with the decision that I’ve made for us both and know that Jasmine will be thrilled. Since the best part of ‘gility for Jasmine has always been visiting with people and bossing around her siblings, she’ll still get to ride along on occasion and keep things in line.

I decided shortly after I started competing in agility with Jasmine that when the time came, I would retire her when she was still on top and still in good condition. Jasmine is now almost 12 and one of the fittest dogs I know. No exaggeration – she’s in better condition now than when she was two years old. A lifetime of playing and chasing critters will do that. And eating good stuff, along with the occasional cupcake.

This is no recrimination on anyone else. When it comes to their dogs, people can be very defensive and righteous. I’m no better.

I just made a decision quite some time ago that I didn’t want to cajole a decrepit dog around an obstacle course. I love that Jasmine obtained her third big title by jumping the same jump height she started with. Jasmine also actually made the decision phenomenally easy by not finding doing dog agility nearly as much fun as I do.

Jasmine has always done agility to humour me.

I think she liked it well enough when we first started out. But probably by the second year of doing it, I ruined it for her.

I first heard about dog agility about 20 years ago. I’d met a woman with a Siberian Husky at a deserted cemetery that served as the de facto dog park at the time in the city I was living in. She admired my recently acquired husky mix Sylvie, and encouraged me to give it a try. I was intrigued, but felt I didn’t have the time to explore a hobby like that, although it stayed in the back of my mind for years. I eventually moved to another city on the eastern seaboard that had a dog park with agility equipment in it. Like any fool with an athletic dog, I encouraged Sylvie to take an a-frame and jump 30 inches high with no thought or training. I think I got her to jump through the tire once, but never again. Probably it being set at something like 40 inches above the ground had something to do with that.

When Jasmine came into my life, I discovered I had a crazy smart athletic dog that needed some kind of outlet for her energy. Obedience work and trick training were fun, but eventually became boring for us both. Enter agility.

I never intended to compete. I suppose many people say this. I enjoyed our weekly classes and the occasional homework and reveled in the fact that Jasmine was the most focused dog in class. I distinctly remember a woman who is now a friend substituting for the usual instructor and asking me why I wasn’t competing with Jasmine and encouraging me to do so. I’ll write another time about that first agility trial, but an addiction was launched that weekend. For me. Jasmine was more of a nervous wreck than I was, something I did not immediately realize and wish now I had. That nervousness and dislike of the pressure so often involved in a performance sport, especially from a stupid new handler, colored agility for her.

Some other time I’ll write about the first year of competition and how I became a textbook case of everything not to do. It’ll be long and wordy and perhaps heartfelt and educational. Jasmine would probably put it more succinctly – the time my human became all weird and pushy and not very much fun.

Eventually, Jasmine and I re-trained and came to a working truce when it came to agility. I learned to laugh and that it is truly a game only and to enjoy those off course moments. Jasmine learned she could just continue being Jasmine.

We’ve had a lot of cool things, funny things and embarrassing things happen along the way. And the entire time, Jasmine humoured or humbled me.

  • Being eliminated for “eliminating” (pooping) in the ring
  • Walking, not running, through weaves
  • Walking a tunnelers course
  • Trotting a tunnelers course countless times before seeing the wisdom of not doing a tunnelers course with Jasmine
  • Watching the look of disdain on Jasmine’s face when I thought doing a hoopers course would be fun for her
  • Watching the look of dismay and disdain on Jasmine’s face upon encountering a barrel in a NADAC course
  • Seeing the look of amazement on Jasmine’s face countless times as I tried to convince her a course went a different way than she thought it must
  • Seeing the look of amazement on a snookers course about a tunnel entry and then the look of pride when she emerged from taking the other entrance because clearly i was being stupid – the judge saw that look too and admitted his course was stupid
  • Going to CPE Nationals and seeing my non-distance dog up until that time get the gamble discrimination that only 30% of the dogs competing got
  • Watching Jasmine very deliberately nail a distance course at the elite level in a trial I substituted her in because her brother was hurt – and it was 90+ degrees outside and she was hot
  • Seeing Jasmine occasionally forget to be slow and deliberate through a course and actually show off that she’s got speed
  • Watching Jasmine sight her favorite people at trials and pull me toward them so she could jump on them and lick them
  • Seeing Jasmine scan a crowd of people at an event, looking for someone she knew or just to make a new friend
  • Seeing the look on Jasmine’s face the first few times she ran a tighter, twistier CPE course and knowing she liked it far more than a flat out speedier NADAC course, especially boring ones comprised of all jumps, or hoops, or tunnels
  • Watching Jasmine’s eyes brighten when she realized I realized I needed to stop making annoying clapping sounds, stop making exhalations of defeat and was doling out the canned food for every single run, no matter what happened
  • Running back to the car after a run and allowing Jasmine to loudly and exuberantly tell Youke how incredibly awesome she was and then to wrestle with him
  • The time Jasmine got her first CT-ATCH and I didn’t even know it until the day after the trial when I added up points

Those are just a few of the many memories I have from Jasmine’s agility career, which was not so much a career as it was a way to train me to be a better human. Thanks Jasmine for being my first agility dog and so much more. You are truly the best dog.


Echoes of Twee

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.

It’s Five O’Clock. Somewhere.


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.