YoBaCaRy

Snowy and Clean

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Snowy and Clean. It pretty much sums up the last few weeks. There’s presently a lot of snow here – at least for the Pacific Northwest portions that aren’t in the mountains. Also, my house is now very clean.

This all seems quite boring, and I assure you, it really is.

However, inside my head it is very, very dark, tumultuous and extremely grumpy. Very not boring at all.

That would be why I haven’t written much of late.

Between Jasmine’s sudden death making me incredibly sad almost all the time, sad and angry people trying to make their bullshit about me and the sudden loss of my agility mojo, I’m not really feeling it lately.

Jasmine being gone has affected me far more than I would have guessed. For instance, the other day, as I was hiking with Youke, Brady and Camm in the snow about 45 minutes east of home, I became teary as I thought about how much Jasmine loved snow and how sad it was that this winter, when we’ve seen the most snow in the lower elevations than we have since about 2008, Jasmine isn’t here to frolic in it. Repeat this very same scenario two days later when snow hit hard where I live. The three dogs were rolling, diving, shoving their noses in it and running that crazy tails tucked between the legs run that dogs do when they became extremely playful and excited. I suddenly missed Jaz so much. The bitter. metallic taste of grief signaled the first sob, followed by tears.

Of course I didn’t indulge in tears for long, because really, it’s hard to maintain sadness when three dogs are doing zoomies at 80 miles an hour so very near your knees.

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Camm coming for Youke at warp speed.

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Dogs posing for me on a snow-covered trail.

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Dogs love playing in the snow.

While I could blame hormones on the moments when I’m so unexpected caught by grief, I truly think it’s more that Jasmine got ill very suddenly and while 13 years old, never truly grew to be an old dog. The weekend before she passed. she had been running like crazy with the other dogs in a great big field, barking her fool head off and bulldozing over anyone that got in her way.

I mourned Sylvie too when she died, but she was about 16 years old and had been a very old dog for the last two years of her life and an ancient dog in the last six months. Her death was different in that it felt very natural and she had lived an incredible, adventure-filled long life. Jasmine did too I suppose, but I still feel she died too young. Her death also resurrected a lot of the grief and pain associated with the loss of my first dog as an adult, Kip. Kip died at only seven years old, in the prime of his life, from an aggressive cancer.

There’s just something about losing them when they are theoretically young and still full of promise.

So here’s a thing. Everyone knows I hate housework. I literally have cleaned out barns and shoveled out multiple cow and horse stalls in my life to avoid housework. But when I become upset about life, I clean. I suppose it’s some form of catharsis. It also would appear to be some form of surrogate for ridding myself of the people, feelings, things that I cannot literally discard.

I literally vacuum to suck up the figurative dirt in my life.

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Only a few of the cleaning products used in The Purge of 2017.

Over the course of four days I became a cleaning whirlwind, scrubbing bathrooms, vacuuming not only floors, but crevices as well, mopping floors, washing walls, rearranging furniture and heaving so, so many things.

Strangely, I didn’t even recognize at first what I was doing and why. It was only on the last day, when my hands were red and raw and my back and legs were aching from all the heavy lifting that it suddenly dawned on me. I only clean when I’m upset or pissed. And as it turned out, I was both.

As for agility, I competed with the dogs in two trials since the New Year. They were trials I had entered a while ago, and before I realized I’d lost my agility mojo.

At one trial, I almost left midday to go hiking because I just wasn’t into it. My dogs knew it too and we were a hot mess. Except for me and Youke. He and I have been a hot mess for many years, so he is very good at compensating. Plus he was only entered in one run that day. I guess he wanted to give me a present and therefore was awesome.

So, instead of hiking, I took off for an hour or so to find a book to read and ended up finding formerly expensive candles on sale instead.

I ended up going back the next day and this time the pre-agility routine of a ginormous cup of coffee with multiple shots of espresso and playing KC and The Sunshine Band really, really loud on the way to the trial site did its magic.* I was pumped and ready to play. Needless to say, we did fairly well that day. Well, except for me and Camm. Camm and I still have extended periods of being a hot mess.

*(The pre-agility routine always consists of a ginormous cup of coffee – 16 ounces or larger, with at least three shots of espresso and a flavor because the added sugar from the syrup just can only make things better. This is because I am not a morning person and doing agility apparently requires early mornings. I do not know who made that rule. I would like to stuff a bagel down the throat of the person who made up that rule. The pre-agility routine also requires loud excitement-inducing music. Since local radio stations cannot always be counted on to supply this requirement – nothing worse than hearing a Journey ballad on the way to an agility trial for me – I provide my own CDs that I regularly rotate through. In the past, AC/DC, Aerosmith or The Rolling Stones could be heard blasting out of my speakers, but I am currently in a dance music or disco phase, hence, KC and The Sunshine Band. Last month, Michael Jackson was also in the rotation.)

Last week, we also went to an agility trial. Same pre-agility routine, but it was pretty anticlimactic. I only ran Camm on Saturday and decided to skip the first two runs of the day, instead choosing to sleep in. I arrived, not really ready to rock. However, Camm decided she was ready to rock, so completely overcompensated for my lackadaisical handling, scoring two number one qualifying scores. I’m pretty sure actually that would not have happened had I really cared at all.

The second day was better. I arrived for the first runs of the day this time – but mainly because I had entered all three dogs and six runs is a lot to throw away money on. However, by the second half of the day I was over agility again and just wanted to leave and go watch the Super Bowl.

The current lack of agility mojo does not bode well for CPE Nationals.

I sent my entry in last week. It’s a draw and everyone is on pins and needles about getting in. Except for me.

I truthfully don’t care if I get in or not.

It’s like I blew my load on qualifying Camm – which happened finally on the last weekend of the qualifying period. We were way behind because she was out with the broken foot last year for several months and we could only start competing again in the fall. So I busted my butt (and pocketbook) on getting her qualified because it seemed really, really important at the time.

Now I’m all like, blah, whatever.

If you believe in that sort of thing, my horoscope for 2017 says this is supposed to be a very good year for me. I’m still kind of waiting. I’m not whining. It’s been fine so far and the year is still very early.

Signs do point to some major and exciting events though. So, I’m expecting.

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Dawn on the new year.

 

 

 

This is How We Ring In the New Year

How to end the year and start the new year? With an agility trial of course!

Really, did you expect anything different?

So by the skin of her pearly white teeth, got Camm qualified for CPE Nationals in May 2017 at this trial – the last freakin’ trial of the year and the last of the qualifying period. She was kind though and didn’t make me wait until December 31. We actually got that last Snooker Q (Q= qualifying score) on December 30. It wasn’t pretty and it was not a proud moment for me. There was a lot of shrieking involved on the part of the Human. Thankfully, neither of my agility instructors was there to witness this awful moment or I’m pretty sure they’d ask me to take my business, and shrieking, elsewhere.

“Louder is not clearer,” in the words of one of my instructors.

I’m lucky that Camm was so dismayed by my sudden transformation into a shrieking harridan that she forgot to scold or bite me and instead did the course as I instructed, er, screamed.

I did get bitten that day though. Not by any of my dogs, a fact that seemed to perplex and surprise those that know me and my dogs when we do the agility thing when I posted this on Facebook. I was bitten by a potential client dog. The word potential being the operative descriptive here. However, before the bite occurred – when my back was turned and as I was headed out the door – so very not cool buddy! – I’d received just enough information to consider giving the dog another chance, and therefore did not immediately tell the human client, no freakin’ way am I walking that dog! I’ll admit, I did consider saying it though.

The dog in question has lived in three different places within the past year and his family only moved into the current house a month ago, and then left him at a boarding facility for two weeks during the recent holidays, where he was injured and had to receive stitches and wear the dreaded cone.  In fact, on Friday when I met him he was in the cone. So, I could see where maybe he was a little stressed out and I opted to give him another chance.

Our second meeting, which occurred today, went better and he’s – at least for now  – on the client list, although sort of in the probationary category. I’m hopeful that this will be one of those situations where several months from now I can laugh with his humans and say, remember that time he bit me? First though, the nasty mark he left will have to have gone completely away.

Back to the more joyful and fun time I had this past weekend, and after the dog bite.

I had the dogs wear Jasmine’s old agility leashes again on Friday, hoping that again they’d bring us good luck. Sure enough, Camm scored her needed Snooker Q wearing Jasmine’s special leash I’d purchased for her when she went to CPE Nationals in 2012.

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While bought for Jasmine and her coloring, this looks sexy on all of my dogs.

I’ll note too that Youke, Brady and Camm have all worn one of Jasmine’s agility leashes for their first run in competition. I’m just a little superstitious.

I’ve thought about Jasmine a lot over the past few weeks. Okay, every day. From a purely observational standpoint, it’s interesting to see how the dogs are responding to her absence.

That’s a post for another day. But, I have made it official and today put this collar on Camm.

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Let’s hope the title doesn’t go to her head ….

And speaking of accessories for dogs, because this trial did take place over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, all three got to wear their most blinged out agility leashes on Saturday and Sunday.

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It’s possible you saw this last weekend and thought fireworks were going off.

I also wore some bling on Saturday. I wore the World’s Most Shiniest Skirt.

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Much more gold than it appears in this crappy photo. Also, much blingy-er.

I decided that since this trial was on New Year’s Eve, I’d better look the part. Yes, I ran agility with this thing on and about five layers on top. Also, with insulated running tights underneath. I was still cold all day. Well, unless I was running one of the three dogs. I think I may actually run faster with a skirt on. Or maybe that’s because I was wearing a skirt in freezing temperatures.

Interestingly. Youke and Camm did not care that I was running them with this much distracting bling. Brady also didn’t care once he was running, but he did stop several times when getting him out of the car to peer underneath and gave me several appreciative sniffs and looks.

The dogs ran great and we had some stellar runs and some not so stellar runs. Oddly, the moment that sticks most in my head from this past weekend in terms of running with my dogs was being on the start line with Brady during some timer delay and bending down to kiss him on the top of his head. Now, I do this quite a lot with my dogs, and it’s not so much a smooch as it is a big deep breath of the top of their heads. I have a thing about smelling my dogs, in that I love the way they smell and it’s a way for me to connect with them before we run if we have time at the start line.

Brady’s smell caught me a bit off guard as he smelled really, really good. Actually Brady smells really good most of the time. He naturally seems to have the aroma of cedar, pine and grass in his coat most of the time. But on Sunday, he had all those smells and something extra special mixed in too. Not sure what it was, but he smelled fabulous and at that moment I could not stop sniffing how fabulous he was. I stood bent over the top of his head breathing in his specialness and wondering if there was a way to develop and patent that smell. Probably not the kind of thing most people think of just before they are about to run their dog on an agility course.

It was all good though. We ended up having a really awesome run and probably my favorite with him of the weekend.

I had a lot of fun hanging out with friends, seeing ones I haven’t seen in a while, making some new ones and just laughing.

I’m not big on the drama, histrionics and expectations of the year’s end and the start of a new one, but I do love when a year ends with laughter and starts on that same note.

Happy Festivus!

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Christmas Eve’s Eve in the Pacific Northwest … very green.

Happy Festivus from Us!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You! Goodwill and Peace on Earth and Good Fortune for All.

Camm: Happy Christmas birthday adventure day!

Brady: Finally. Outside and doing fun things.

Youke: Ball!

Youke, Brady and Camm seemed pretty convinced it was a special day today.

Camm: Must be special holiday?! Probably Camm Day!!

Youke: Got to run and PLAY BALL!!!

Brady: Got to run, play Ball and PEE ON ALL THE THINGS!!

The joyous occasion was a slower work day, which translated into having time to do something fun with my own dogs. So I took them to not just one fun place, but two.

Camm: Got to run and explore in the woods, then splash in the river!

Youke and Brady: And PLAY BALL in a big field!

Camm: Run super fast!

It really was pretty much the ideal Christmas present for a dog. Well, at least my dogs.

We went on a mellow hike in the soaking rain, which was wonderful because the dogs got to be off leash for most of it as no other crazies were out in the cold rain and snow flurries that visited us today. We did see a couple walking when we were nearly back to the car.

“Collies! Are they friendly?” As Brady proceeded to wiggle his butt frantically and show them just how congenial a soaking wet border collie could be.

Just as we rounded the last curve before getting back to the car, we met a young guy out with his own two dogs.

“What a great day to be out here, huh?!” This was said without an ounce of sarcasm, but instead with pure unadulterated happiness. And I knew exactly how he felt and what it meant.

“Indeed it is!” I replied, before cautioning him to keep his dogs back a little way from Camm. “She can get snippy,” I explained. Sure enough, she snapped at the face of one of the dogs that got a bit too close to her own face, and her treasured Ball. But all was good. The young man was happy to be out playing with his dogs, as was I with my own, and all the dogs were just happy to be out being dogs. Even Ms. Snippy Face.

Camm: Was afraid that dog try to steal Cammi’s Ball!

Then off we went to another location to play Ball and to dip paws in the river. The dogs were beside themselves once they realized they were about to embark on a second adventure.

As we headed home, the snow started to fall a bit more consistently and in the slighter higher elevation it is actually sticking. I haven’t been much in the Christmas Spirit so far, but this was lovely to see and made the landscape seasonally appropriate.

For all that trudging about, I served myself a small glass of eggnog and had a Christmas cookie. The dogs had already had a couple of dog cookies, but their pleading eyes informed me that I’d left out a certain taste of the season.

So I gave them all a dollop of eggnog.

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Camm sings a Christmas carol .. or maybe its the song of her people. Brady and Youke are not impressed. “Want to go inside and get more cookies please.”

 

 

 

Perspective

There’s nothing like a collision with a normal pet dog owner to oust me from my insular existence.

My perspective:

Having only three dogs now has made my household a lot quieter. Of course that’s due not only to the absence of merely a number, but also the absence of a presence and the effect of that absence on the remaining three (and me). Still, I find myself thinking how I now only have three dogs.

My dogs are far from perfect. In fact, they are very imperfect. I am incredibly conscious of this fact. For my life, I allow a great deal of latitude when it comes to certain things. Such as this:

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Paws on the counter! While I’m cooking! So much NAUGHTY!!

The worse thing about this picture? I encouraged it. Yes, I actually encouraged Camm to do this. Why? Because she did it on her own and I realized how adorable she was with her expressive face asking me what I was cooking and if she could have some. However, I did not have my camera nearby. So I ran to grab it and asked her to repeat her offered behavior. Which she did all too gladly. And was rewarded with profuse praise. I was actually smart enough not to reward it with a nibble of what I was cooking. I already have Youke the Counter Surfer. I don’t need another.

I’m also very lackadaisical about actual leash training, which is why if I’m serious about actually walking my dogs on leash, I use a harness. Being that they often are not on leashes though, they have excellent recalls and know several important cues, such as “wait” and “close.” When actually on a leash, I’m pretty sure my dogs believe we are trying out for an Iditarod team.

My dogs are not necessary great with other dogs. I’ve written before about this. Mainly, they are snotty border collies with intense breed snobbery and firmly believe that only herding dogs know how to behave properly and know how to be polite. Most other border collies are acceptable. Some Australian Shepherds are also deemed admissible. Australian Cattle Dogs are also permissible. Youke will tolerate most anybody if he is off leash and as long as they aren’t trying to butter up to me. Brady, surprisingly for his lengthy history of dog reactivity, off leash will greet other dogs, even the boorish Labrador or unruly Golden Retriever, in a friendly manner, as long as they don’t push it. I guess this means I did an okay job with Brady. On the other hand, Camm prefers to live in her own little space bubble, her space uninvaded by any but members of her own immediate tribe. Hell hath no fury like Camm when another dog dares to solicit her when she has made it very clear that their presence is unwelcome. I don’t feel she’s aggressive per se. She is amazingly tolerant of other dogs around her and near her, as long as they are very much minding their own business. In fact, their eyes should not even touch upon her majesty.

So, with this, and much, much more naughtiness, I am acutely aware of my dogs’ shortcomings and faults. This is why most of time we visit places or go at times where we will not encounter others – other dogs or other humans.

The ordinary pet owner’s perspective:

I finished up work today at 4 pm and made it home at 4:15 pm. Being that it is mid-December, I was literally minutes away from it being pitch black.

This time of year sucks. It sucks for me, but mostly it sucks for my dogs. The lack of daylight seriously cuts into our fun adventure time, particularly as I must work for a living.

As soon as I parked this evening, I called the dogs and invited them into the vehicle for a romp. Needless to say, they were extremely pleased about this unexpected invitation.

I took them to a nearby park, taking a calculated risk that while it was dark at 4:30 pm, it would not be gated shut, and I was right. I had also calculated that the small dog park within the larger park area would be uninhabited and that the trails winding through the park would be deserted.

I was mostly right.

I did see a lone walker and dog off in the distance when we first arrived, but they were easily avoided as we took an alternate path going in another direction.

Silently praising my brilliance for choosing to walk the dogs in near darkness on a  literal freezing cold evening, my foolish pride came crashing down when two male trail runners suddenly appeared behind us. Because Brady cannot be trusted after dark off leash, he was attached to me via a long line. Camm and Youke were off leash, a little bit ahead on the trail. I quickly called Camm to me. She came instantly, but not before the two young men burst upon the scene as well. Needless to say, she was startled and started barking fiercely. In their haste to avoid Camm, one of the men quickly ran inches past her – a move that would’ve earned him a nip if I didn’t have such a firm grip on her collar – and the other tried to go around. Unfortunately, the runner’s going around made him narrowly avoid slamming into me, but did not prevent him from tripping over Brady’s long line, shortened hastily by me to a mere four feet or so, but apparently still two feet longer than it should have been per his miscalculated attempt to get between me and the bushes.

I didn’t know whether to be pissed about the sudden ambush or apologetic about being out in the near dark in the middle of a trail with three dogs who clearly were not expecting trail runners when clearly we should’ve been.

As my brain was trying to process this, but slowly erring on the side of being apologetic, the two men stopped ever so briefly and offered an apology themselves.

So there the three humans stood for 4.5 seconds, profusely apologizing to one another. Meanwhile, Youke was happily exploring the bushes, Camm had her mouth wrapped safely around her Ball and Brady was wriggling enthusiastically hoping one of the men would notice him.

Luckily, we did not encounter any more living beings on the trail.

Once we reached the small dog park area, I took a look around and it appeared deserted. It was by then quite dark. I figured I could let Brady off his long line and let him run around a bit since the area is fully enclosed by a fence.

No sooner had I let my three free, when I saw a man with a headlamp and a small white terrier enter the enclosure.

Interesting factoid here: It is the nature of most humans, especially most pet dog-owning humans, to gravitate immediately toward the area in which another dog owner is playing with her own dogs. It does not matter if there are two possible enclosures to enter or many more acres of park to explore.

Thus, my three dogs and I found ourselves suddenly sharing a rather small space with a curious man and his curious small white terrier.

As is my way, I opted not to address the man or point out his rather undiplomatic intrusion. Instead, I talked quietly to Youke, Brady and Camm and pointedly (I thought) walked in the opposite direction. Those versed in body language will recognize that I was making a concerted effort not to engage. Okay, most humans would realize I was shunning this man and his small white terrier. I say most humans, but not the average pet dog-owning human.

The man and his small white terrier followed us.

Brady decided to introduce himself to the other dog, as did Youke. Camm, like me, was actively shunning him. However, like me, she was becoming increasingly annoyed with the invasion of personal space and personal time.

Being clueless, the man and his small white terrier continued to shadow our moves. I spoke quietly to Camm and advised her to “leave it” when I saw her lip lift ever so slightly. Although it was quite dark, I saw this quite clearly as her teeth are quite white. I handed her Ball to keep her mind on other things, and her mouth off the intrusive little white terrier.

“You don’t want to play with her. She might bite you,” I said quietly, and yet clearly to the small white dog. Then I called my three to me and suggested softly that we go “this way.”

“Are all of those dogs yours?” the man asked. Puzzled, since I only had three, I replied in the affirmative.

“They’re so well-behaved!” the man exclaimed. “Are you a dog trainer?”

For the first time in my life, and after giving a long two seconds of thought, I replied in the affirmative, while also praying that he would not ask me for training tips.

“Wow, you’re good! I can’t even get one dog to behave! And look at how yours listen to you.” And with that, the man decided to part ways and left, taking his small white terrier with him.

I stood in the enclosure, with my three apparently well-behaved dogs around me, pondering his words. It certainly did not seem true, and yet he seemed to think so. And then I realized that it was all about the perspective.

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My perspective from a hike early last summer.

The Picture Tells

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Camm and I at the start line at the Fleet Feet CPE agility trial, December 4, 2016

“Every picture tells a story don’t it?” – Ronald David Wood, Steve Harley, “Every Picture Tells A Story”

“The photographer took some pictures of you two. You should check them out,” said the leash runner to me at an agility trial yesterday as I leashed up Camm after we finished our first run of the day.

I was extremely grumpy, tired, cold and sad Sunday morning. I realized when I arrived at the trial site that being there was not really something I wanted to do.

I’d signed up for Sunday only of this particular trial weeks ago, and for the sole purpose of trying to qualify Camm for CPE Nationals next year. Despite the set back of her injury and the months of no competition, we only needed two more qualifying scores in Snooker.

Snooker is a really hard game to play with a very fast dog.

After losing Jasmine (A Good Dog) last week, playing agility was not first-most in my mind. I almost canceled the four-hour trip to Oregon. But then I figured that a night out of the house and in a different environment and thinking about other things might be helpful. I met up with Cheryl and Angie on Saturday evening and enjoyed some good Mexican food and absolutely the best margaritas I’ve had in a very, very long time. I wish I could’ve gotten a few pitchers to go.

But despite the nice evening with friends, and even hanging out with them and with Lisa on Sunday morning, I was still feeling out of sorts. I wasn’t in tears, but I wasn’t far from it either. In combination with the sadness, I was incredibly irritable. Being completely truthful, I was especially irritated with the dogs.

The constant tangling of leash lines while we walked the grounds was suddenly something beyond what I could bear.

Youke, Brady and Camm have also been a little lost this past week and my sadness and tears don’t help.

So when I stepped to the start line with Camm on Sunday for the first run of the day, I felt disconnected. Then I realized she was trembling.

Camm has never trembled at the start line before. She’s not a nervous or stressed dog and she has handled going to even brand new venues with cockiness. This particular barn she’d been to a couple of times before as well. I suddenly understood she was trembling because I was being weird and sad and frustrated for reasons beyond her immediate understanding and she wasn’t able to fix me.

The photographer managed to catch this picture as the bar setters were moving jumps to Camm’s height class.

I crouched down to comfort her and to whisper in her ear how much she meant to me as we waited. I’m not going to lie. I was also seeking comfort from her.

The picture above, as well as those below, are now my favorite agility photos. I have a tons of photos of my dogs doing fantastic, incredibly athletic things. But none of that really matters, to me anyway, if what is in these pictures is missing.

Thanks Joe Camp.

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Me and Youke at the start line before a run on December 4, 2016. Youke is wearing Jasmine’s first agility leash. All three dogs each wore one of Jasmine’s old agility leashes this weekend.

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Brady and I at the end of a run on Sunday, December 4, 2016. The picture at the start line with Brady is fuzzy, but I adore this one of the run’s end. 

A Good Dog

“But life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last” – Prince Rogers Nelson, “1999”

Life is just a little less colorful right now. The oranges and yellows and bright reds vanished last week and remain faded even now.

I said goodbye to Jasmine last Monday night.

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Her decline and subsequent death came fast, a week’s time. I foolishly always thought a rather sudden death would be easier than a long, languishing illness. I was wrong.

This hurts. A lot.

For most of the past week I’ve felt as if my heart was being stabbed by a million pieces of jagged, broken glass. I could even visualize the shards. They looked as if they came from a mirror. I’m sure that means something, but it’s too painful to think about it for too long and contemplate the possible symbolism of that.

Today, a week later, I mostly feel hollow. And yet, how is it that a person with a giant hole in their middle can still feel gut-punched by the memories that keep flooding in?

Many of the memories make me smile, albeit sadly. In time, I know they will bring me healing and joy.

And there are so many memories. Someday, I’ll write them out more completely.

Jasmine was a one-of-a kind, canine or otherwise. In reminiscing this week, I’ve realized just how much color she brought to my life, and to many of the lives around her. I can’t possibly recite all of her quirks, adventures, naughty escapades, fears and bigger than life moments.

Jasmine is the dog that voluntarily played with a coyote in a big field on a late April evening.

Jasmine loved to be vacuumed. She would see seek the apparatus out in the early days when I cleaned the house and nose me until I let the hose suck on her fur. She even liked the shop vac.

Jasmine chased off bears and treed two of them.

Jasmine liked to flirt with big intact male dogs. The bigger and uglier they were, they better. She once almost lost her marbles flirting madly with the ugliest Akita I ever met. He was huge and his face looked like that of a prize fighter. Youke was scared to death of him, but I think Jasmine’s flirting bothered him more.

Jasmine had separation anxiety. It was an issue that I worked extensively on with her and eventually counter conditioned her to an acceptable degree. Still, she figured out how to unzip the soft top on my ’99 Jeep Wrangler. Most of the time I could run an errand quickly enough before she’d worked the zipper, but at our first agility trial –  where I was so nervous my hands were shaking and unbeknownst to me, she was scared to death – she complete unzipped the top and ran into the arena to find me.

Jasmine would nip at my heels in excitement and push at the back of my knees if I mentioned that we were “going for a ride.” I learned to leap down the stairs to the garage very fast. She also would occasionally nip at the hands of hikers as they walked past us on trails. Most of the time I caught her before she made contact and most people never even noticed. The one time I didn’t catch her in time, the man turned around and exclaimed, after the fact, “Hey that dog just bit me!” He looked at his hand, looked back at Jasmine sitting there smiling at him, and appeared surprised, then realizing that his hand was unhurt, shook his head and went on.

Jasmine also barked ferociously at people if she found them threatening. I’ve never had a lot of door-to-door solicitors stick around as a result.  I honestly also believe that her ferocious barking at a man on a lonely trail-head many years ago saved my butt.

Like most dogs, Jasmine did her fair share of running ahead on trails, but most of the time she could be found directly behind me, walking in my tracks. She literally had my back. I will miss that immensely

Jasmine thought playing fetch was the stupidest thing possible. I even tried to teach her with sticks, which she always thought were far better than any stupid Balls. She understood how to play it, she just didn’t see the repetition of going back and forth as being very fun. I gave up even trying anymore with her when Youke decided at six months old that Ball was magical. But when Brady came along and I managed to teach him how to play Ball and taught the boys to take turns, a light bulb went off in Jasmine’s head. Stealing Balls meant for someone else and tackling them in the process to achieve that goal was super fun. As a result, the boys most of the time, and later Camm, learned that when Jasmine was running for the Ball, best to keep the hell out of her way and let her get it. She eventually learned, at the wonderful nine years of age, to bring the Ball back to me. Her reward was generous praise and a pat on the head. All the efforts at trying to teach her the game for food rewards had gotten me nowhere.

Jasmine faithfully picked up my washcloth from the edge of the tub after showers and dropped it in the laundry basket. I did not teach her that behavior. It was also the only laundry she would put in the basket.

I did teach her to track down the finished kongs scattered around the house and to bring them back to me so I could clean them out and refill them.

I’m pretty sure that Jasmine was the only one of my dogs that did not wish to be a single dog. While she did like one-on-one time and attention from me, her most joyful moments where when her entire tribe, canines and human, were together and doing something fun.

Mostly, Jasmine was an incredibly patient and loyal teacher. I often let her down. However, she never gave up on me. For that, I’ll always be thankful and blessed.

Jasmine is the dog that taught me about Dog. Everyone assumes Brady has been my most difficult dog. Not true. It was Jasmine. But without Jasmine, I could never have had Brady in my life.

Jasmine made it clear time and time again, even when I wasn’t listening, that she was my dog. No one else’s. She would share her licks and love, but ultimately, she was my dog. I’m so glad that I finally woke up and realized that.

The house, and life in general,  is quieter right now and the other three dogs are also a bit lost right now. They all know she’s gone. With time, we’ll find our way to a more joyful and colorful life again. Jasmine was all about joy and life.

Jasmine was more than a dog. Jasmine was a good dog.

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Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving to All. I hope it is a wonderful day for all, but in the event it is not, I hope that better days are on the way for you.

And I just have to say that it irks me that people go around at this time of year “being thankful.” Really, why aren’t you thankful all year long? Why do you have to wait for a special day to express that thankfulness? Are you not thankful to have families and friends and a bed to sleep in and food to eat and dogs and cats or other critters to pet the other 364 days of the year?

I understand taking all of this for granted and not fully grasping how lucky it is to have these things. I certainly do it enough myself. Still, I wish a certain sense of mindfulness would permeate the masses a tad bit more often.

Sorry to be a bitch, but this seriously bugs me.

Every day I wake up, usually groggy and wishing I could sleep just a little longer, but I always find something to either be grateful for or that makes me smile or laugh – and that latter in and of itself is something to be grateful for.

So I’m not going to list a bunch of stuff, mainly because that list would go on and on and on. We should all be grateful for the little things in life. Those small things gather weight and become the big things.

I am going to say though that I am very thankful that the gold-colored not-a-border-collie pictured below is still annoying the living crap out of me with her loud bark and obnoxious insistence earlier today that she join the rest of the tribe on an outing in the pouring rain. In fact, I’m thankful I have four obnoxious mutts that insisted an adventure in the rain and mud was much better than snoozing on the couch.

Therefore, I broke down and am cooking them a turkey.

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Is turkey done yet? We’z are starving!

Yeah, I’m Still Alive

With all due apologies to Stone Gossard and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, but yeah, yeah I, oh, I’m still alive, after eating my adulterated Cuban Beef Stew.

And holy jeezus but was it good! Not just good, freakin’ fantastic mind-blowing good!

So I’m not sure what exactly made it so fantastic and I’ll be turning away requests for the recipe, both for the fact that some of the ingredients were perhaps questionable, but also because I didn’t measure anything and made a whole slew of substitutions. Sorry Tom Douglas.

Was it the substitution of the cognac for the sherry?

Was it the copious amount of cumin inserted – over a quarter of a spice bottle’s worth rather than the suggested half-teaspoon?

Was it the last minute addition of parsnips when I discovered I didn’t have enough potatoes?

Was it the ancient jar of pimentos?

Or perhaps it came down to my archeological find of the canned tomato sauce from 2009 that I added because I was too lazy to hop in the car and drive the half-mile to the grocery store for a more modern can?

I think it was all of the above and more. Because in my world, I rarely meet a questionable and possibly bad idea that I don’t at least flirt with.

That’s Just a Suggestion, Right?

It’s fall in the Pacific Northwest.

Okay, it’s fall in the entire western hemisphere, but I reside in the PNW, so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.

Apparently it rained a lot in October, setting world records or something here. I was so busy that I admit, I didn’t really notice that there was an apparent deluge. But perhaps that’s a testament to my rain gear? I mean, I noticed there was rain, but there’s always rain after the middle of September here and it really didn’t seem any more than it usually is. I know these things because as of yesterday, I’ve lived here for 15 years.

It was dark, cold and raining the night I arrived too. In fact, it was dark, cold and raining until sometime between Christmas 2001 and the first day of 2002. That was when I realized that the mountain view that was in the description of the house my ex and I bought – the one that we thought was just put there as a blurb and we figured was a realtor’s lie – was actually true. I vividly remember him shouting at me to get out of my hibernation-induced stupor to come outside and look. Mountains! Glorious beautiful sun-capped mountains!

A few more months of adapting to constant drizzle and cold dampness after a few years of sunny South Florida winters , then a summer of glorious blue sky and perfect temperatures, after a few years of South Florida’s unbearable sticky and humid summers, and I was in love. And I still am.

Fall always encourages me to cook. Well, at least since I actually learned to cook.

My mother was a fantastic cook and an even better baker. The bar was so high there that I figured my contribution was to lick the beaters and wipe – or maybe that’s swipe – the bowl with my index finger. I was really, really good at that. So good in fact that my mother called it my Educated Finger. I didn’t even care about the whirring beaters of her trusty electric mixing bowl, a machine that became legendary in my house while growing up, mainly because so many magical things started inside it.

My mother also wasn’t very good about following recipes or writing down her favorites. She improvised. A lot. The very gifted are annoyingly good at that. Thus, on the few occasions when I expressed some minor interest in learning how to cook, the directions were extremely difficult to follow. Or maybe that was just me and my impatience.

I was far more interested in the pay-off than on the waiting to be paid part.

My mother did give me a Betty Crocker cookbook one Christmas after I had graduated from college and gotten my first apartment. I cracked it open and became instantly overwhelmed. She helpfully offered to share with me some of her favorite recipes that also happened to be staple dinner fare at my house growing up.

Of course, I had to write the recipes down myself. That was mostly because no one could read her handwriting. This also trusted that she was remembering them correctly.

Luckily, my own handwriting back then was somewhat legible and I still have those handwritten recipes tucked in the back of the Betty Crocker cookbook. A cookbook that I actually learned to eventually use, although it was still many years later.

The impetus for learning how to cook was my brilliant idea, in my 29th year of life, to cook the entire family Thanksgiving dinner.

Honestly, I think it went pretty well. My sisters seem to remember otherwise. Something about the stuffing I used for the turkey.

Fast forward many years and I grew to enjoy cooking. I’m still not a good baker, but I’m quite positive that has a lot to do with repressed memories and fear of maternal conflict.

I don’t cook a whole lot these days as 1) I’m busy, 2) I never learned how to downsize my cooking and still cook as if seven other people live here with me, and 3) I can only eat so much by myself. I realize I have four canines that helpfully offer their services on a regular basis, but as much as JaYoBaCa are spoiled on a regular basis – and yes, they have eaten off the fine china thank you very much – I’m not that over the edge. Yet.

The cool, drizzly and shorter fall days inspire me to cook. Mainly I cook stews or soup this time of year. I can make a big pot of something and have it for the entire week or freeze a portion of it for later. This satisfies both my desire to cook and create something over time, as well as for instant gratification later when I’m super hungry and inclined to make Very Bad Food Choices. Not that I’ve ever eaten a pint of ice cream for dinner or anything. With hot fudge sauce. Last week.

I purchased some beef stew meat a few days ago. It looked great, was on sale and met my vision of a warm and hearty fall meal.

My original thought was to use my slow cooker. The only problem with that is that Youke is a counter surfer. Therefore, I can really only safely employ my slow cooker during a time when I’m home all day and able to supervise, er, guard. I am positive it is not in the best interest of my future grumbling stomach to trust Youke in the presence of tantalizing warm and spicy stew scents wafting through the kitchen all day.

I also knew I didn’t really want to make a traditional beef stew, heavy on the starchy gravy and laden with potatoes and carrots.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to spend time pouring over my small accumulation of cookbooks – sorry Betty Crocker – because these days we have The Internet.

I found a recipe – or as my mother liked to call it – a receipt – for Cuban Beef Stew. Yum! This appealed to my taste-buds and love of spice.

Of course I did not look to see if I had all the ingredients on hand. Improvisation is the mother of invention, is it not?

The first substitution was the sherry. Despite a Thanksgiving many years ago that had a very heavy sherry theme, I apparently used it all. Cognac seemed like a good substitution, so that’s what I used.

Let me also mention that I did inherit from my mother a rather intense dislike for measuring. The dogs started sneezing, so I might have been a bit liberal on the cognac.

I also discovered I had no garlic around. This clearly shows that it’s been a while since I last really cooked. No problem though, just was a little more liberal on the onions.

I am famously heavy-handed when it comes to spices. I view those measurements as mere suggestions. Therefore, I added about five times as much cumin as the recipe I found suggested.

Next, I found that I did not have any pimento-stuffed green olives around. No problem, I found I inexplicably had a jar of pimentos. So sans green olives, I added them.

Now, read on at your own risk, as it gets dicey from here.

Turns out the jar of pimentos had an expiration date of 2013 on them. Saw that after I added them in to the stew. No worries, I thought. They smelled fine and the jar had been a bitch to open. They were fine.

The recipe also called for a can of tomato sauce. No problem, that’s a staple and I knew I had some. Except that I couldn’t find any cans of tomato sauce. I found jars of prepared spaghetti sauce and cans of diced tomatoes, but no plain old tomato sauce. This puzzled me as I clearly recalled seeing some recently.

After some digging around in the pantry, I finally found a can of tomato sauce. However, the can looked very sketchy. Quite rusted and the label was very faded. I threw it out and dug a bit further. I found another can of tomato sauce. It too looked old, but the can wasn’t as rusty and the label seemed in better repair. I rinsed the dust off of the can and opened it.

It passed the sniff test.

I threw it into the stew.

As I was about to recycle the can, I looked curiously at the top for the expiration date.

First, let me explain that of course I knew it was past its so-called expiration date. But I also know full well that those are just helpful suggestions.

From The Internet:

Most expiration dates on foods in cans range from 1 to 4 years—but keep the food in a cool, dark place and the cans undented and in good condition, and you can likely safely double that shelf life from 3 to up to 6 years.

Turns out that particular can of tomato sauce was supposed to be “best used by XXXX 2009.” The XXXX part denotes the date in 2009 that was illegible.

Hey, it was just a suggestion, right?

I let Camm and Brady lick the spoon and they seem alright.

My stew is still simmering and for the best flavor it needs to sit a day or so. I guess you’ll know if things didn’t go well if I don’t post any updates for a while. Or ever.

Soul Sister

camm-in-the-leaves-5-yrs-old(Photo credit: Angie A.)

I’m fond of saying that allowing Camm into my life was the best mistake I’ve ever made. In truth, I cannot imagine ever having passed this girl up.

Camm becomes five years old in a week’s time. She entered my life at 18 months old. She appears to be a grown up in this picture, and while she’ll always be a bit of a puppy to me, she truly has grown up a lot.

For the first time in many, many years, I have a houseful of adult dogs. It’s a wonderful thing.

I love teenage dogs (tiny puppies not so much) and still often consider the addition of a new one, but I truly love the known qualities I have and how everyone knows where they fit. I enjoy the relationships they have with me and with each other. In other words, I have a good dynamic going on and I don’t want to fuck it up.

I enjoy a special connection with each of my dogs and my relationship with each one is unique and different, largely based upon their personalities and our personal history.

Another thing I’m fond of expressing is that in a household of very large personalities, Camm has the biggest one of all.

If you’re into astrology, Camm is a Scorpio. Actually, she was born nearly on the cusp of the sign, but her personality is all Scorpio.

Scorpio is nothing, if not fierce! The 8th Sign of the Zodiac, the Scorpio loves a good fight, and can give ‘intensity’ a run for its money (worth). To put it simply, the Scorpions are strong, commanding, intense, passionate and zealous. Driven, dedicated and loyal, they also are ambitious and security-loving.

Focused

One of the major strengths they have is their ability to focus. If a Scorpio-born has decided on something, it’s almost impossible to divert them from their path.

Brave

The Scorpio-born will never lose their sleep over disruptive times and failures. The Scorpio will take it head on regardless how difficult the situation may seem.

Balanced

The Scorpio-born are jovial and passionate, but not immature and careless. They are quite mature and balanced, and you will prefer to remain in the company of a Scorpio as they are interesting personalities.

Faithful

The Scorpio-born are trustworthy and faithful. It’s great to have a faithful Scorpio around. He will always stand by you if he has promised he would.

Ambitious

Power, position and money are the key motivators for a Scorpio. The Scorpio are an ambitious lot. They will aim for the stars and will ensure that they reach there.

Intuitive

The Scorpio-born are lead by their instincts and they take the right decisions at an opportune time. They are so intuitive that they can easily read the mind of other people. 

Negative Traits

Jealous

The Scorpio tend to be extremely possessive and jealous. And the jealousy more often than not disturbs their relationships and affects their peace of mind.

Resentful

The Scorpio are very sensitive and can get hurt easily by negative treatment and comments.

Manipulative

Manipulative and domineering as they are, Scorpio-born have a knack of getting things done their way.

We can argue about anthropomorphizing, and I’d argue that words like manipulative should be replaced with phrases such as getting what she wants and doing things to assure that that happens, but the above description fits Camm to a t.

I am also a Scorpio.

And speaking of anthropomorphizing, Camm at nearly five years old reminds me of myself in my late 20s and throughout most of my 30s.

See, it takes a bold, wise-ass bitch to truly appreciate another one.

Intensity. Camm has it in spades. Especially when she wants something. That intensity, the kind where she practically vibrates with desire and her eyes are like laser beams boring into the object of her wishes or the subject of her will,  is scary to those not appreciative of it.

There was a time in my life where I’d have been moderately well-off had I been paid a dollar for every time someone called me intense, mainly co-workers and ex-lovers. That word is a trigger for me. While I see being intense as something that is not bad, it is often used with a negative connotation.

Mostly it seems to mean that people are scared as shit about you and don’t know how to handle it.

So while there are certainly many times when Camm is a bit too confrontational, a bit too bossy, times when she snarks first instead of actually seeing what the situation is, I can appreciate it. In fact, I have to admit there are many times when I admire it.

True confession. I might be wearing a frown and be telling her she shouldn’t be doing something, but inside, I’m laughing my ass off. This is probably why she continues to be the wee bossy naughty bitch that she is.

Part of me hopes that Camm learns to tone it down a bit, much as I have, but on the other hand, I love that she is true to herself. I guess dogs don’t really know any other way to be. That is actually awesome.