YoBaCaRy

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.

Next Level

Having a dog is a wonderful.

Having a smart dog is wonderful, challenging and sometimes scary.

Having a border collie is a whole other level.

Saying a border collie is intelligent is like saying Albert Einstein was a kinda smart dude.

Behind this sweet, innocent, beckoning face is an intelligent life force plotting her next move toward world domination. Or at least how to best get what she wants, when she wants it.

camm-smiling

A border collie, at least most of them, truly can outsmart the average human. Or at least the uninitiated human to the way of the border collie. Think not? Then I challenge you to hang around with a ball-obsessed border collie for any length of time.

Camm took it to the next level this evening.

Last week, on our way to see The Relationship Counselor, Camm discovered she could roll down her own window in The Living Room on Wheels, which made her immensely happy and me immensely surprised. There I was, driving along when I felt a breeze where I shouldn’t have. I looked around and saw Camm sticking her nose straight up in the air, air scenting the breeze from her partially rolled down window. Luckily The LRoW comes equipped with child safety locks, which I activated for the first time that day.

I’m going to have to remember that latter bit.

I gathered all four dogs up late today for a quick romp before dark at a favorite spot. They were all incredibly happy and excited about this. The LRoW fairly tingled with electric excitement as we drove there.

I rolled into the parking lot and was pleased to see that there were no other vehicles there, indicating we had the place to ourselves.

I struggled into my coat as I exited The LRoW, pocketing my mobile and my keys as all the dogs barked in excitement inside the vehicle. Or so I thought.

I went around the rear to let the boys out and was greeted by Camm, grinning ear to ear.

Hmmm… how in the world did Camm get out? Had I temporarily entered a fugue state and forgotten that I’d let the dogs out already?

“How’d you get out??!” I exclaimed. (Because I talk to my dogs and fully expect them to answer.)

No answer, but she did pogo stick up and down and lead me to the other side of the vehicle. It was then that I noticed the window was rolled down.

Camm apparently opened her own window when I was parking and jumped out when I got out – all completely unnoticed by me.

And how do I know she didn’t roll the window down earlier? Because I actually looked at the window when I parked. So in addition to being smart, she’s also very fast.

I really hope she doesn’t think she’s taking one of the cars anywhere. I don’t think insurance companies look favorably on canine drivers.

Perfect

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Youke.

Just because.

Mostly because he is perfect. Most of the time.

Mission Accomplished

Braved the first frontal attack of what is being called “the strongest storm in 50 years,” and which is “potentially historic,” and that some have dubbed “Stormaggedon” to retrieve this today:

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That is Youke’s Fourth of July collar.

He lost it on a hike with a friend this summer. Late July, I think. Or maybe early August. I know it couldn’t have been beyond the first week of August as there’s no way I would have left a Fourth of July collar on him into August. That’s just not proper.

Notice the rust on the bear bell and on the link to his Batman tag. It’s been in the elements for a while.

The day he lost it, I only noticed it was gone when we were headed back. My friend asked if I wanted to go back and look for it, but I declined. I knew it was useless given all the lush greenery that time of year. I kind of figured that he’d lost it when he was poking around in the underbrush by a creek, where the greenery was especially dense. Also, there were lots of prickles there that I didn’t feel like getting poked by. I told her I’d go back and look another time, but that in all likelihood, it would show up sometime in the fall, when all the growth died back.

I did go back twice this summer to look, but of course didn’t find it. Then, I got too busy starting in September and forgot all about it. Until this week.

I was out dog walking when I got a call from an unknown number on my mobile Tuesday afternoon. I usually don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers, but I saw it was a local area code and for some reason, I answered. Turns out, it was a good samaritan calling the number on the tag attached to the lost collar.

She informed me it had been hanging off the railing of the bridge structure that crossed over the creek bed and had been there for a few days. Obviously, she was a regular on that trail system.

However, while Tuesday and Wednesday were absolutely gorgeous, sunny, blue-skied filled and slightly crisp days, I had no time to go for a hike, even a quick one, to get it.

Instead, I went this morning.

This morning it was dark, even at 9 am, it was extremely wet and it was not warm. Not cold really, but not exactly warm.

Luckily for me, I have hiking partners that absolutely do not care what the weather is and that are game for adventure any time. They also don’t worry about needing a lot of wet weather gear, or really any gear at all. And best of all, they are always ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Therefore, I piled Jasmine, Youke, Brady and Camm into The Living Room on Wheels and off we went.

The dogs were ecstatic. They probably thought I was unemployed again. It’s been a while since we just randomly took off in the morning for a hike.

This is the beauty of being self-employed. Off for adventure, and return in time to work. I just need to remind myself that this is doable and a good thing to do when the days start getting darker and shorter. The time is growing short for our usual late day or evening outings.

Of course, I also need to not dwell on the fact that I’m putting in even more miles by playing with my own dogs. Instead, I need to focus on the fact that I can eat like a horse and get away with it.

I watched the dogs zoom in circles around The LRoW in the parking lot as we started out. The fantastic thing about this weather, and the time of day, is that no other people are out and about. The dogs got to be completely off leash, which delighted them immensely. Youke and Camm started playing chase and tag games, while Brady and Jasmine explored all the bushes and peed on all the things.

There is just something deeply contagious in the joy of a dog out exploring the woods. A dog, or at least mine, doesn’t care about the rain. The rain enhances the sounds and smells of the forest. A dog doesn’t care about the mud. The mud is simply another element and is embedded with the prints of woodland critters. A dog could care less about a fallen tree on the trail. It is merely something to clamber over, perhaps over and over again as part of a game, or it is an obstacle to jump over so the other side can be explored more diligently. A dog doesn’t get cold just because the sun isn’t out. A dog doesn’t care that soggy leaves stick to its coat, that pine needles are scattered across its face, or that its belly is covered in rich, dark mud.

A dog lives in that spectacular moment, surrounded by fresh scents, the sounds of thousands of things, its bladder and bowels emptied, accompanied by its beloved human and the canine companions it knows best.

I looked at all four of those open-mouthed, side tongue sticking out and bright-eyed faces looking back at me as we headed back down the trail and felt their joy stealing over me. Even when I had to point that we were going to the left – back down the trail – at the sign post, instead of right and off in a new unexplored direction, their happiness never left.

I suspect there’s a lesson in this for us all.

Fact v. Vision in My Head

Subtitled:

I Am So NOT Killing it.

or

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

So, I locked my keys in my Jeep today.

It was the first time in 18 years that I’ve locked myself out of my vehicle. Until the moment I realized I had locked my keys inside, I was totally awesome today. Until I wasn’t.

This seems to have been the theme of my week.*

This will not be a post about JaYoBaCa. Today, they played mere background roles. They’d like you all to know that their roles should’ve been much, much larger.

The day started off with me deciding to be sly and dressing in running tights, a skimpy tee-shirt and a fashionable pullover. I looked totally athletic, totally pulled together and totally like the poster child for the snotty little city I live in.

People, this is real. I live it everyday: Activewear

It really doesn’t matter the specifics of the city, although I truly feel my particular town is fast approaching – if it hasn’t already surpassed, the ultimate snot factor. As in a house that costs below $500,000 in this town is a complete shack. And I’m not kidding. My own house is barely above the shack factor, but that’s because no one’s peeked inside and seen how dirty it is because I never have time to vacuum and clean anymore.

We’ll call this magical place The Eastside. This is fact because this town is positioned east of Seattle, WA and east of Lake Washington.

Because I get to drive around a lot these days, visiting various neighborhoods and occasionally stopping for coffee at the official coffee place of The Eastside- Starbucks, I frequently witness the various prototypes that reside here. The most common daytime prototype is The Eastside Blonde.

The Eastside Blonde is typically wearing athletic wear, these days usually the running tights that are so popular, is blonde and is wearing her hair either in a sleek ponytail or perfectly coiffed, cut and colored. The highlights are perfection. I know this is a fact because I’m friendly with a few of the colorists/stylists that do those foils. The Eastside Blonde is often tall and leggy, with perfectly perky boobs, but can be shorter and sometimes a bit plumper. She is always not sweaty. That’s right. Despite the uniform of gymnasts, long-distance runners and hot yoga aficionados everywhere, The Eastside Blonde is never sweaty. Even after completing her hot yoga class located conveniently within the same shopping plaza as the Safeway and Trader Joe’s. Sometimes she sports a slightly rosy glow, but she is always decidedly unsweaty. She also usually carries a paper cup emblazoned with the Starbucks insignia as she rushes by, sometimes kids in tow, often laden down with a recyclable shopping bag and she carries out her daily routine and is incredibly busy. So busy.

So, being the sardonic bitch that I am, I occasionally like to think I’m being exceptionally funny and clever and dress in the uniform of those I most like to make fun of.

One time, while attending a dinner event at the local country club, back when I was married to someone that cared about being part of the local country club, I wore a stunning 1950s-style dress that had little martini glasses printed all over it. I accessorized with charming kitten heels and pulled my hair back with a perky barrette with a bow on it. I proceeded to act like a Stepford Wife the entire evening.

No one got it.

Still, I’ve never let one disappointing experience prevent me from continuing onward.

That is how, today, I found myself in printed running tights, a skimpy white tee-shirt and a fashionable pullover. I didn’t match per se, but I was very coordinated in a fashionable sense. I know this because at one time in my life I actually cared about such things. It helps that although I am not tall and leggy, my thighs don’t touch when I walk. This is not because I have the apparently coveted “thigh gap” – because I don’t. This is because I’m walking somewhere around at least 25-30 miles a week  walking dogs.

I’m also sort of blondish right now. This is because I’m trying to convince myself to just let my hair go gray and face the fact that I’m no longer a brunette with wide blue eyes, but am likely a white-headed older lady with blue eyes that don’t take crap from anybody.

I feel that I started off the day fitting in well with The Eastside, even though I do get sweaty. I even planned on a trip to Starbucks for the favored fall drink, a PSL. (And if you don’t know what that is, then clearly you’ve been living under a rock that has been untouched by the aroma and flavor of pumpkin spice for the last few years.)

Things probably took a turn for the worse when I opted to go to a small, local and specialty coffee  shop that serves far superior coffee. Actually, I intended to get a matcha green tea latte, my latest obsession. Instead, I ended up getting a 16-oz triple Hawaiian Silk (because homey decided if I have to say “grande” ever again I might have to choke on my own vomit).

This decision was made after I’d already done half of my dog walks for the day. I continued on to my last client of the day.

I suppose I should not admit to having some favorite clients, but I do. This particular guy is a bit older, but still very spry, and a little bit sad and lonely because his person works super long hours at a big techie-type company based here that pretty much dominates the world. Also, it is owned by the richest person in the world. I should add his person isn’t all that crazy about the long hours either, but at least he had the good sense to hire me.

Since this guy, we’ll call him J-Dog, was my last client and because he’s super sweet and I enjoy his company, I figured I’d walk him a little bit beyond the allotted 30 minutes. Still, I’d been super efficient all day and figured I’d have time to get back home and play a bit with my own dogs before heading out again to take care of a late day scheduled visit.

At the end of the walk, I played a bit with J-Dog in his owner’s apartment. Sadly, I then had to take my leave.

This is when I realized I had no car keys. Panic ensued. I checked and re-checked my dog walking fanny pack (yes, I wear one and that is an entire other blog post), I checked the lone tiny pocket within the waistband of my sleek and spiffy running tights. Nope. Occupied only by my very uncool and old-fashioned flip phone. I peered helplessly inside the windows of my Jeep. No keys to be seen, anywhere. I dimly recalled that I threw them down in the driver’s seat as I was pulling my fashionable, and yet slightly too warm, pullover over my head. I surmised that the missing keys were lying underneath the abandoned pullover that had been thrown in the driver’s seat.

Luckily, I am a member of AAA. Luckily, I had my uncool flip phone with me.

I informed the kindly woman who answered my call and immediately asked if I was in a safe place (AAA is so caring and thoughtful) that I was in a safe place but that I did not have my AAA member number because of it being locked inside, along with my keys. We were able to resolve the matter of me being a member though thanks to modern technology, and the fact that I gave her my name and address and she verified I’m in their system.

Then she asked for the address of my location.

Um….

I was in the parking lot of a giant apartment complex that is labyrinthine. I also don’t memorize client addresses.

Just then though, I noticed some maintenance workers in a nearby apartment. I asked them for the address of the apartment location. No surprise, they didn’t know it either. However, one of the guys did locate it on the back of a shipping box he was unpacking and gave it to me to relay to AAA.

I was told the AAA contractor would be there lo later than 4:45 pm. It was presently 2:45 pm.

This was when I realized I had only a skimpy white tee-shirt over running tights.

The back-up plan was to utilize my client’s apartment for the wait, but that felt improper and invasive.

Therefore, I decided it was appropriate to engage in a little bit of exercise, to not only warm me up a bit, but to help pass the time.

I utilized my client’s door step as a bench and proceeded to perform a few push-ups, several forward lunges and some back lunges.

If one is going to wear activewear, they really should be prepared to be active. I figured this was a good opportunity. I confess I stopped a few times and tried to act all casual when a couple of kids coming home from school walked by. Also, when the mailman appeared to be watching me.

Thankfully, the AAA contractor arrived within the hour.

This was all very good, but now I had no time to play with my dogs and I was also starving. I popped into the nearby toney organic food store near the apartment complex on my way out and purchased very expensive organic black plums, a container of probably organic garbanzo bean salad mixed up with some ancient grain that is super-good-for-you-and-full-of-antioxidants-but-you-can’t-spell-it. Also, I purchased water in super pretty plastic bottles. It was all far too pricey. Except surprisingly for the pretty water. Actually it was cheaper than most bottled water. I’m sure it is also organic.

When I arrived home, I ate half of the magical garbanzo bean salad, figured someone as active as I have been should imbibe in something healthy and nutritious. But I was still hungry, probably because I gulped it down in five minutes.

So, I then had the rest of Jasmine’s 13th birthday celebration tiramisu cake. I would’ve had some ice cream too, but I finished that off the other night.

I realized as soon as I had the creamy delicious and sugary goodness – watched carefully I might add by four pairs of intensely staring eyes imploring me to share – that it was a mistake.

I’m quite positive that most wearers of activewear do not stand around in their kitchen gulping down a healthy slice of tiramisu cake. It just seemed like a good idea when I was doing it.

On my way to my last client of the day, I felt the garbanzo healthy goodness and the tiramisu naughtiness hit my stomach. Usually this causes a crash in energy level for me and I want to nap.

Unfortunately, I’d agreed to walk an energetic dog for an hour.

As things so often happen though, it turns out eating that tiramisu was a good thing and I benefited from the sugar load.

As I walked outside with my Australian Shepherd charge, I felt a surge in energy kindly provided by umpteen calories of sugar.

Now, I’ll add that this is the kind of dog I normally love to walk. Energetic, quick-paced, wants to take numerous pee breaks and sniff things, but super quick about it. Not much lingering with this guy. Some of my clients could probably literally sniff one spot for 10 minutes. But at the end of a busy day, never mind the end of a busy week, a dog like this can be just plain taxing. Not tonight.

I walk fairly fast as it is, especially for someone that is not long-legged, but tonight, I might have entered speed walking territory. Let’s just say my energetic Aussie was not quite so prance-y when we ended our multi-mile walk this evening.

I also might have possibly burned off the tiramisu caloric intake.

But now my ass hurts from those lunges I did earlier today.

 

*Also noteworthy this week, was an encounter with local landscaping maintenance men.

Because all the fancy and pretty houses and neighborhoods need to continue looking fancy and pretty, The Eastside employs a lot of gardeners and landscapers. Earlier this week, I was walking another favorite dog and a crew of landscapers started whistling at her. I think she’s kind of adorable and I figured they thought she was too.

Because she is extremely reactive and can be very vocal, she carries a tennis ball in her mouth on our walks. It’s an arrangement she actually decided upon, but that I’ve encouraged. It’s interpreted by those that know nothing about her and her intense fears as being cute and silly. I figured the gardening guys thought so too, and smiled at them as I walked by.

Yet the whistles continued, as did some chatter is Spanish.

It then dawned on me that maybe they weren’t whistling at the dog.