Normal Will Never Happen

I had a major epiphany this evening, August 24, at approximately 7:01 pm. This major breakthrough occurred just after I’d left a rambling, rather frantic message for a friend about when and where to meet her tomorrow morning for the completion of a good deed that I myself sucked myself into.

I will never have a normal life.

It’s taken me 35 years to realize this. (I’m not counting the first 18 years of my life because really, does anyone 18 or under even want or know what normal is?)

The impetus for this deep realization is that I’m up to my eyeballs in a number of things right now. Those things include being a small business owner and dealing with an ever-growing client base (that really is a good thing, but lately many ups and downs), my decision to volunteer as a trial secretary for an upcoming agility show (I knew that one was going to lead to stress, I just didn’t think I’d be dealing with other stressful things at the same time), my ever-present willingness to jump in and help and try to do good deeds (even if it means that much more work for me), the fact that I have four dogs – one of which is a month shy of 13 years old and is driving me freakin’ batty because we haven’t gone out to do anything in like four days and last, but far from least, Camm’s rehab.

Say what??!!

Yes, it’s true, Clunky Foot Camm is no more.


Can I get a Hallelujah?!!

Now she’s Shriveley Foot Camm. Okay, shriveley isn’t really a word, but it should be.


We’re saving the clunk though as a memento of the past 12 weeks.



It smells stinky. Am I ‘sposed to chew it?!

On Monday, Camm had her second set of x-rays taken to determine the progress of her broken metatarsal bone healing. (The first set taken at eight weeks showed the bone had not healed completely, meaning Camm got to spend some extra special longer bonding time with her splint/bandage apparatus.)


I had an inkling that the news was good when I could hear the vet tech bringing a dog back into the waiting room area and that dog was not making a clunking sound as she walked.

Sadly however, we must now work on ridding ourselves of the shriveled-up, tiny and inadequate foot.

Camm’s rear foot is a very, very sad dangling thing at present. It’s shriveled, it’s punctuated by some very sore pink spots and it’s bent into the same position it has been in for the past 12 weeks. The sight of it makes my want to cry, it’s so pathetic.

Today, we had our first appointment with an underwater treadmill.

The side benefit to weeks of seeing the vet twice a week for bandage checks is that Camm now loves the vet office. To her credit as a charmer and as a well-behaved dog, she has publicly been named as a favorite by many of the staff there. (Sorry Brady. I think the Sexy Vet Office Lady Friends are appreciative that Camm doesn’t feel the need to poke her nose in their privates. Every. Single. Time.)

Today Camm went to a new vet office. She was nonplussed by this.

As chilled out as she was, she was still prepared to get a bit snarky when the vet started handling the tiny dangly body part that used to be a perfectly functioning rear paw, but was taken aback when he informed her he would snark back. Therefore she decided that she’d let me hold her collar while he rubbed and manipulated her sore little pink foot.

Then, much to Camm’s amazement, she was hustled, at least with me by her side, to another room that had a cat wandering about inside. But before she could find out that the cat wasn’t kind to dogs (I was told this, she quickly forgot about the cat as a result of the next series of events), she was hustled into a large box with clear glass sides. Confusing to say the least, but all handled in stride.

And then the box started filling with water.

Holy mother of gods! Camm stared at the rising water, then looked at me. To her credit though, she wasn’t frightened. Camm had a plan. Swim to safety.

Poor Camm who hasn’t gotten to go swimming all summer was suddenly swimming for her life in a glass box and the water was rising fast.

And then the floor moved.

Holy motherfucking hell!

Camm thrashed about looking for a way to swim out of the glass box.

The vet and therapist dryly observed she was swimming and not walking on the underwater treadmill as was the proper protocol.

Well, duh! Did anyone explain to Camm the proper protocol? Did anyone explain there was an alternative to swimming in a box of water?

Thus, the water level dropped.

Ah! Camm instantly understood. She started to walk as best as she could on the moving floor despite the high water. And despite a sore foot that hasn’t been used in 12 weeks and she didn’t think she’d ever get to use again.

And then the moving floor began moving faster.

What the hell? Can’t a border collie girl get a break?!

It was an exhausting 30 minutes.

Still, as far as Camm was concerned 1) she did get to finally have a swim, 2) shriveley foot isn’t as stinky now, 3) the new vet place gives out really good treats, 4) she made some new people friends, and 5) she finally got out of the house and DID something today!

Surprisingly, shriveley foot isn’t looking quite as pathetic already and Camm is very fluffy.

Now, we get to do that twice a week for at least the next month.

Good thing I got another new client today.

Sorry, Youke. Won’t be any time for any naps in the next several weeks.


I’d rather take a nap than be normal.



Weekend in Pictures

Or at least less words.

Friday. Hot. Planned hike with friends. Stupid Friday traffic. Friends had to turn around. Went hiking anyway. Very hot. Still had fun. Excellent day.



Brady like to live a bit on the edge


Most of the hike was under the trees. Unless you were Youke. Then you were on the trees. Trees make legs looks even longer.


On top of the world! Here’s the funny thing. We hiked to the top, I posed the dogs for a picture, the dogs said a friendly hello to the only other people up there (and asked if they’d already had lunch), and then we turned right around and went back down. Brady was not interested in lingering for the sights. Youke was a little, but only because he knows we usually have snacks when we get to the top.

Saturday. White chocolate mocha with three shots. Me time. Pedicure. Green sparkly toes now. Read a book on my deck in my bathing suit. Too hot to move much. Forced dogs to nap.


It’s important to hydrate when it’s this hot out. Light, entertaining summer read. Can’t really see my new sparkly dark green toes.

Sunday. Agility. Extremely sunny. Not quite as hot, but still hot. Ran dogs barefoot as no time to put on shoes. Youke not feeling the agility thing due to hot. Brady crushes Elite Chances. Who is this amazing dog? Youke continues to not feel the agility thing due to very hot despite dip in the stock tank. Also probably due to hours between runs. Brady not feeling like doing contacts and opts for very deliberate amazing super flying leap from the a-frame. Right in front of the judge. Looks at judge to make sure she noticed how incredible he is. She comments. He is sure it is in approval and chooses not to listen to my comment. Leaves ring with prance in step and tail flagging in the air with misbegotten pride. Tunnelers is a bit of a disaster due to Youke not feeling it due to hot and Brady being sure I was sending him to THAT tunnel. Maybe I did. I was hot.

Boring day for Jasmine and Camm, but at least got to visit.

Now we are done with weekend.

Let Me Tell You Where We’re Going

This is a story about a dog. Not just any dog. This is a story about a Border Collie.

49549634-HME_5576 Photo taken by Heidi Erland

Okay, it’s true. I have a bit of a prejudice. But I’m here to tell you, those stories you hear are true. Border Collies are scary smart.

But first, a bit leading up to the episode of brilliance.

I spent an impromptu weekend playing some CPE agility this past weekend. Impromptu because I was originally only entered for a few runs with Brady on Saturday. I’d entered the trial months ago with Brady and Camm, but only entered Brady in a few runs and had intended to spend the weekend running mainly Camm. Then she got broke.

I had withdrawn Camm, but never got a refund. I figured I’d get it this weekend. So I headed up north a little ways to play with Brady in three runs on Saturday.

It’s been six weeks since I’ve done an agility trial with any of my dogs – and since I was occupied as a trial chair at the last event and my head wasn’t in the game, it’s really been more like eight weeks. Plus, we’ve not done that much practice since one instructor has been out of town and I’ve skipped several lessons with another instructor due to Camm’s vet appointments – scheduled and otherwise.

I was less than enthused to head out on Saturday for the trial and almost bagged. I didn’t feel even the tiniest twinge of excitement or anticipation. Truthfully, it felt like a chore to be headed to the trial.

As a result, I got there late and missed the walk-through for the first course I had scheduled with Brady. But I watched a little bit and picked up a course map and saw how the course worked, therefore selecting my handling plan in my head. Plus, I really didn’t care. I just figured we’d be rusty. We had a couple of off courses, but Brady didn’t really know that and the errors were mine from being unable to walk and take note of certain spacing issues.

Here’s the thing. Brady was so happy and excited to be at the start line and doing AGILITY! It was infectious. We then had two really stellar runs later in the day that magically followed the exact vision I had when walking the courses and making handling decisions. It appeared our mojo was back and it felt mah-val-ous.

Never thought I’d see the day when I’d come home feeling all good and relaxed because I just spent a day doing agility with Brady.

Because I had such a fantastic time with Brady and with friends, plus a couple of friends were debuting their newest up and coming agility dogs and I wanted to see that and support them, I asked if my credit from Camm could just be used for day-of entries on Sunday with Brady and Youke. Thus, I took the entire gang up with me on Sunday.

Camm and Jasmine came to support and cheer-lead the boys. In Camm’s case, I think she was convinced that she was finally going to get to do something. Sadly, I had to inform her she was there to socialize a bit and to hang out in a crate most of the day. Disappointing for her, but at least she got to see a lot of human friends.

Jasmine decided her contribution was to bark, a lot. Highly annoying. However, as she seems to be losing some of her hearing, almost impossible to get her to shut up, which could lead to me losing some of my own hearing.

Both Youke and Brady were excellent. Youke was perfect for the day, qualifying in all four of his runs. He started off a bit ditzy on his Standard run, but regained his focus about a third of the way through the course, ended up with both a clean run and decent time. He did both distance challenges in CPE’s version of Gamblers, although only one was needed and made Snooker feel and look incredibly easy – including a threadle. This is interesting, because I don’t recall ever actively teaching him a threadle, but he’s great at them. Our judge threw down a gauntlet at us as we were on the start line for Jumpers, challenging us to beat a speedy dog that had run a bit previously. I knew we wouldn’t beat that time, but a challenge is a challenge – right? – so I pushed Youke a bit and we nailed a lovely smooth and speedy run.

Brady was not perfect, but only because he got snookered by the threadle in Snooker. Despite that, our connection all weekend was perfect. I think he very much enjoyed having me all to himself on Saturday as the other dogs didn’t come, plus he got to spend it doing something he really likes.

Brady&TugPhoto by Nina Sage


Which leads me to my story.


Photo by Heidi Erland and cropped by me

I noticed a long time ago that Brady scans the arena and the equipment when he sits at the start line. When I first started doing agility with him, he was scanning the arena for the environment and mainly for the location of other dogs. As I worked with him on his reactivity and his environmental sensitivity, as well as on playing the game of agility, gradually, the game became more important. Nowadays, he’s completely into the game.

On days when the run order is tall to small, and he’s the first dog on the line, we’re both a little bit more relaxed. In fact, often times we need to wait for the ring crew to get set up. This is when he has the most time to scan the ring and scan the equipment.

I mentioned this to one of my instructors a while ago and she agreed that there are many dogs that scan the ring and thinks that many of them make decisions about the course right then and there. In the case of Brady and Youke, if it’s a NADAC course set up with a contact/tunnel discrimination right at the start, I’ll whisper in their ears at the start line which one it is that we’re taking. Unless my body language is saying otherwise – which happens sometimes, they usually take what I directed.

On Sunday, I entered the ring with Brady for the Jumpers course as he was the first dog to run the course. But we had to wait for the ring crew to get into their respective seats. It took a while. We didn’t set up at the start line as they clearly weren’t ready for us, instead hanging out closer to the entry gate.

I crouched down as I usually do to softly pet Brady a bit before our run. I noticed he was intently focused on the course. I watched his eyes as he carefully noted the placement of the obstacles. This isn’t really new and I often “tease” him a bit and tell him we’re going to start “in front of that jump and then take that tunnel.” However, this time, we had to wait for a fair bit and I decided to tell him exactly how the course went.

“Hey Bug. Let me tell you where we’re going,” I said softly. His ears flicked a bit. “We’re going to start with that tunnel,” I pointed to a tunnel slightly to our left. “Then we’re going to take that jump, then that jump, another jump, to that tunnel.”

His eyes followed my pointing finger.

“Then that jump, to that jump, that jump, this jump. Then, you have to pay close attention to me, to that tunnel, But you have to pay attention cuz it’ll be a little bit tricky.” I was telling him about a not so obvious tunnel entry.

His ears flicked forward and he glanced at me quickly.

“Back to those two jumps,” I continued pointing along the course, taking him one obstacle after the either.

Then I pointed to the straight line of four jumps – deceivingly set up to the human eye as a not straight line.

“And that part is ‘GO’,” I said, pointing to the straight line to the finish.

His eyes followed my finger and his ears flicked forward as he turned his head slightly to the right to see. He glanced slightly at me again. “Got it,” he communicated.

Finally the judge and ring crew were ready. We stepped forward to the start line. Brady’s eyes were focused forward, then he looked at me.”Ready,” he said.

The run was amazing.

I’m not saying that my handling didn’t help, because it did and it was spot on, even if if I do say so myself. However, Brady quickly glanced at me at the slightly tricky entry into the third tunnel that I’d warned him about.

“This is the part you were talking about, right?”


The run was a piece of cake after that. Often times Brady struggles with a straight line “go on” of several obstacles in a trial setting. Not this time. I told him “Go” and watched as his right ear twitched back a little bit with the cue and his gaze stayed forward and he sailed without even glancing back at me over the straight line of jumps.

It was magical. Best run of the weekend.

So, I feel like I cheated a bit by telling him the course ahead of time. Granted, it was only some 30 seconds before we ran it, but it did feel like we had a bit of an advantage. My apologies to my fellow competitors.

Still, it was clear that Brady appreciated knowing a little bit ahead of time where we were going.

49549631-HME_5574Photo by Heidi Erland

None of these photos are from this past weekend unfortunately as there was no photographer at the trial. However, they all are of Brady and me!

Adulting. Or Not

I see I have neglected to blog anything for nearly a month. I could offer many excuses, but being an adult is not really one of them.

My ancient dryer broke this week. Because I’m paranoid about running appliances when I’m not at home, I was luckily in the house when this dramatic event took place. Dramatic due to the screeching metal-on-metal sound it made as it was attempting to perform what was no doubt its last job.

So I need a new dryer now. As luck would have it, I really had no plans this weekend. Sears isn’t that far away.


Yeah. This is a picture of me not adulting.

I decided purchasing a new dryer this weekend seemed too overwhelming and instead I hung out all my laundry today. I even purchased another $9.99 rack to assist with the job.

Okay, well, I am sort of adulting during the weekdays. I am finding I definitely enjoy being my own boss. The lack of a safety net at times is sometimes scary, but as I’m not prone to being terribly adult, I try not to think of that too often. Being as it’s scary and all. Yet, it’s also rather exhilarating. I’m one of those sorts that find the thrill of the unknown basically pretty fun. Scary, immature perhaps, but fun.

I did adult a little bit, and gained some new business as a result. I’m thinking I should be adulting more come early fall. But only after August is over because summer.

One thing I’m not doing much of, in addition to being much of an adult, is agility.

Camm being broken took the wind right out of my sails.

That sounds like I am sad and disappointed. I was a tiny bit the week she broke her foot, but I was also planning on an agility break with the boys anyway. Originally, I was just going to play with her all summer. But she got broken and was ordered to be basically inactive for eight weeks.

How’s that going you ask?

Camm & Me at Lake

Surprisingly well actually.

This photo was taken by a friend and was one of three occasions in the past nearly eight weeks where Camm left the insane asylum that also serves as her home.

I’m extremely lucky in that all of my border collies understand the concept of being chill and seem to have some innate sense that healing is taking place and being dull and boring is good for them. Notice I said border collies. Lord forbid if Jasmine ever needs some extended downtime.

It does make me very sad though when Camm gives the other three dogs a very thorough once-over when we return from a hike and then leans in to me and offers hugs and kisses. I try to assure her that soon enough she’ll be running and playing and going on all the fun adventures too.

This week will be eight weeks since the break and I’m hoping the x-rays will be positive and we can start rehab work.

In the meantime, the break from agility has been downright wonderful. To make the break even more complete, my relationship counselor has been traveling to exotic locales and offering her sage advice to others. This has allowed me to spend time and bond with Brady and Youke on a more organic level. We’re still doing once weekly agility classes, at least when not interrupted by Camm’s vet appointments, but oddly, I’m feeling zero compulsion to really do agility. Conversely, this has resulted in what dawned on me a few weeks ago as the first major breakthrough in training I’ve seen for a while.

I’ve fretted for some time about the exceedingly slow pace at which I accumulate Chances qualifications with my boys, despite having the apparent skill set. Yet in the last few weeks, I’m seeing the boys do some very cool stuff distance-wise that makes me so happy. This translates to me having more confidence in what I’m signaling, which in turn translates to them having more confidence in me as a handler. And if one or the other of us fucks up, who cares? It’s just training – basically play – and I can’t take it that seriously. Plus, the most marvelous thing of all is that I feel no real desire to trial and see if the skills translate into a trial setting.

I was actually super happy that I gained a new client this month who required service over the weekend, thus preventing me from possibly arising at o’dark thirty to trek up north for a few hours and enter a trial. Yeah, we went on a hike instead.

Hiking. Back to basics with Jasmine, Youke and Brady and back to old haunts that I haven’t taken them to for the past couple of years. Also, back to late day, almost evening, hikes.



Last night I took Jasmine, Youke and Brady up a trail that was gloriously free of other hikers. It was the second hike this week for the three of them. That’s down from three hikes the prior week.

We haven’t really done anything epic this summer as my work schedule revolves around morning and midday hours, thus limiting our jaunts to late afternoon if I’m feeling energetic, or evening if I’m not.

Of course, I should be doing grown-up things, like grocery shopping, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, doing paperwork, maybe even updating my blog.

Eh. So overrated.

I was so happy the other day when I discovered a bag of tortilla chips in the garage. They weren’t even that stale and made a great dinner with leftover salsa from something I can’t remember but at least wasn’t moldy.

Even getting my oil changed seems like  huge commitment of time these days. Time that I could be spending with my dogs out on a trail somewhere. or time I could be planted on my couch or in a chair on my deck, reading.

I did at least use one of my agility free weekends to vacuum my house and tidy up a bit. Two weeks ago.

I find it very hard to adult when I’m not working. Woods and books are just too appealing.

Brady Time

Brady may valley

“Mom got her lazy ass out of bed early and it wasn’t even an agility day!”

Got up early this morning to go have breakfast at the Senior Center with my clients, “Jack Lemmon” and “Walter Matthau” and decided to take Brady with me. I figured Brady might not be as overwhelmed with the attention from the old guys if it was just him and I was right. He still didn’t appreciate their curiosity and vast admiration of 1) his incredible peeing skills, 2) his fluffy pantaloons, and 3) his athletic ease of movement, but he was tolerant. There was a fair amount of coming to tuck his head between my legs, which is apparently to my dogs a safe place.

All my dogs seek out safety between my legs at times and when there’s some disagreement or someone doesn’t like what someone else did or said, then they seek solace with their heads tucked in tight between my legs. I’ve learned that a  little bit of a leg squeeze is also comforting at times like this, as is a gentle murmuring of comfort and understanding about the wrongs in life. It reminds me of when my youngest brother, Saul, was little and he’d literally hide underneath my mom’s skirts or hide behind her legs.

I get it. Sometimes it’s just hard to deal.

But Brady’s morning turned around because I then took him for a hike.

That was the plan all along. It’s been a while since it was just me and Brady doing something together and exploring the woods is one of Brady’s most favorite things in life.

But I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go until I got to where I was.

I decided to hike this trail that I’d gone on partially with a friend early in the week. I was curious about where it went and we didn’t get too far the other day. The area is one also, that despite its close proximity to me, I haven’t actually hiked that much – at least from this particular trailhead.

Therefore, feeling adventurous, and with no pressing time constraints, I decided it was Brady Time.

And so we wandered. First, I explored some smaller “interpretive” trails just off the parking lot merely out of curiosity. Then off we went on the actual hike. Now, having made a last minute decision – I’d been contemplating three different spots for Brady Time and ultimately chose the closer one – I wasn’t clear on distance, elevation, trail conditions, or trail features. Kids, don’t do this at home. One should always be well prepared when dealing with nature. Me though? I just figured we’d wander until we were tired.

It was peaceful and, despite being the Saturday of a long holiday weekend, the trail was nearly devoid of other people. We did encounter two separate men walking their dogs, but both were quiet and seemingly also in for the solitude and peace of the woods. This is what happens when you get your ass out of bed early. Hardly anyone else hiking except for old guys.

Although I didn’t know it, the hike was six miles. Plus we added on a bit with the exploration of the lower side trails. Despite not knowing the distance at the time, my legs are a fairly good judge of distance and I figured we’d done between five to six miles when we returned to the car.

The fantastic thing about a meandering, woodsy hike like this is the incredible peace one feels when done. And I wasn’t the only one. Brady hopped into his crate in the back of The Living Room on Wheels and plopped down, face relaxed and happy. As we drove out of the parking lot, my body felt flooded with relaxation chemicals and a sense of peace and well-being.

I stopped for a coffee at a local stand on the way toward home and sat enveloped in the comfort of The LRoW. Even the line for gas at Costco couldn’t ruin the complete sense of peace and relaxation I felt.

Brady is now curled up in is dog bed, also relaxed and peaceful. I can’t imagine all the things he’s remembering about what he sniffed, the squirrels he saw, the sounds he heard and I hope, the peace he felt having me solely to himself for a while today.

Camm dirty laundry

“Mama, you took your pants to interesting places! I smell woods!”

Of course we did have to deal with the other dogs when we got home. Camm, who really hasn’t gone much of anywhere since she broke her foot, was entranced by the smells on my pants. It makes me sad that she had to console herself by laying next to the laundry basket and stuffing her nose into my pants leg. However, soon enough it’ll be Cammi Time again.

Sexy Senior


This is a picture of a spry and fit senior. This is Jasmine.

So, a couple of weeks ago I took Jasmine with me for a five-mile hike. Didn’t really think about it. I just knew she’d be compatible with the dogs of the friend I was going with and that she’d be well-behaved on the hike. I never really stopped to think about if she was fit enough or if she’d get worn out. She’s incredibly fit and I knew that the distance, even with the added “dog miles” wouldn’t be a problem for her.

See, I’m convinced that Jasmine is a genetic marvel. Sure. I feed her good food, she gets decent exercise and she has three younger tribe members to keep her on her toes. I sincerely believe those factors have contributed to her longevity and spryness. But I also know dogs her age that are treated similarly and haven’t quite hit the genetic lottery she apparently has. Perhaps there is something to be said for mutts and genetic diversity.*

The day after that hike, while Youke was willing to lollygag about and nap, Jasmine was pestering me to do something. When that didn’t work, she started turning somersaults on her dog bed in my office. Because that’s what Jasmine does.



Interesting factoid: Jasmine started fetching balls at the age of nine. This was not due to a lack of attempt on my part.She still only does it if she feels like it, but she’s made it pretty evident that she knows exactly what is involved and the idea of constantly running back and forth to gather and bring back a rubbery sphere is plain stupid. And people think Border Collies are brilliant.

I’ve always referred to Jasmine as my state worker. I can say this because I used to be a state worker a long time ago. Jasmine is in it for the excellent benefits and the pension only. For Jasmine, the pay was just never high enough to warrant too much effort.

When I retired Jasmine from agility, I was a bit worried about the next stage. Although I’d long ago stopped taking her to lessons (as a state worker she saw no reason to stick around and learn anymore about a job she’d already been doing and clearly wasn’t going to be paid highly enough to do), we still did agility on a pretty regular basis. Although a lot of people mentioned doing Nosework with her, I know Jasmine and I know how easily bored she gets. The downside to being brilliant I suppose with the work ethic of a state worker.

So being the fun-loving CEO that allows the president (Camm) to take on most of the actual running of things and supervising hikes has been Jasmine’s “job” of late.

This week, I discovered I may have found her true calling.

I’m taking care of two older dogs that are quite the stately gentlemen. Actually one is a total goofball, but age gives him the illusion of having some eminence. They are total sweethearts. However, age and size – both are large mixed breed dogs – are taking a toll. When both boys feel well and I take them for walks, I feel like a small boat in the wake of two stately ocean liners cruising along in a calm sea. The goofy guy is still pretty spry, limited only by the fact that he’s getting up there in years. The older dog has great days, good days and days where he really doesn’t want to do much of anything except piddle a bit and then lay down.

Both had met Jasmine several months ago when I was caring for them and were immediately smitten. Despite being seen as the Ann-Margret of the senior set, Jasmine was overwhelmed by their attention. Probably because both guys tower over her and outweigh her by a good 50 pounds or more.

Nevertheless, despite Jasmine asking me to place her back into my car where she could recover from the unwanted attentions of two old men with major crushes, I made note of the effect she had on both and how perky they had become. In fact, during that particular set of visits, the “younger” old guy, who makes me think of Walter Matthau, kept looking for her.

“Hey, where’s that hot sexy little redhead you had with you last night? I’d sure like to see her again!”

So this week I noticed that the older old guy, let’s refer to him as Jack Lemmon, had really slowed down. He wasn’t that interested in eating, despite the addition of some stinky wet food and while I think he wanted to go out for walks, he could barely lift himself enough to go out into his yard to piddle.

The next morning, I brought Jasmine with me.

Apparently, Jasmine knew she had a job to do.

Jasmine in Car

She jumped out of the car to come greet Walter, the younger older guy. Being the very polite gentlemen that he is, he greeted her with delicacy and tenderness. seemingly knowing his size. She clearly indicated she was all business, but he was allowed to gingerly sniff her. The funniest part was when he would accidentally walk into her and feign looking at something else, like he knew he could possibly offend her by being too direct.

“You are but a delicate tender flower my dear. I will attempt to only sniff your enticing fiery redheaded aroma that makes me slightly dizzy. It is precisely that dizziness that makes me bump into you. Please do not be offended magnificent lady creature!”

As if that part wasn’t amusing enough, the instantaneous and miraculous recovery of Jack, the older old guy was even more droll. He was laying on the garage floor when I came in with Jasmine. Upon sighting her, his ears pricked forward and he struggled to his feet.

“Madam! I’m afraid you’ve caught me slightly incapacitated! I was not expecting company, much less company from such a fine specimen as yourself!”

Suddenly, he was strolling in his yard, following Jasmine as she sniffed all the old man pee spots. Instead of a dribble, Jack found the strength for a full on spurt. He also discovered that he was somewhat hungry after all. It does take an appetite to pursue something as spicy as Jasmine.

Jasmine seemed quite pleased with the response her mere presence had elicited. I realized that I was now dealing with a sexy senior. Hence, Ann-Margret.

This evening when I visited the two old guys, I purposefully brought Jasmine with me. She nonchalantly greeted the two senior guys and casually allowed the faintest lingering sniffs.

“Ah redheaded fiery beauty! You grace us with your presence again. May we interest you in peeing on a few things?”

I’m pretty sure Jasmine would be the one at the retirement home causing a ruckus and leading the other old ladies to gossip loudly and disapprovingly over her wanton ways and revealing outfits. Meanwhile, the old men would be drooling and more than a few dentures would fall out from gaping mouths.

The funny thing is that seeing Jasmine with these two I have now realized that she morphed from a ridiculously goofy one-year old loose-bodied puppy, into an athletic punchy tomboy, then into a beautiful and even elegant queen, to now that spry, sexy senior that wears skorts and lycra outfits and puts the 20-somethings to shame.

But one that still does somersaults to amuse herself, because some things never change.


* According to a DNA test I did several years ago, Jasmine is half German Shepherd and half Catahoula Leopard Dog. I believe the former. Not quite convinced on the latter. I still tell people she’s a cattle dog mix, but I used to register her for agility trials as a Yakima Mutt. I think that last bit speaks to her true heritage.

**Walter and Jack’s owner knows of Ann-Margret’s visits and heartily approves. She also thinks it’s quite funny.


Cat Food, Balls and New Friends

Although the afternoon started off on a not-so-good note thanks to Youke not only eating all the cat’s food, but also investigating cupboards for treats while I was gone today (yay for me for placing them on the second shelf and not the first), it ended up being pretty sweet for him.

I should’ve known something was up when I came home. I didn’t even enter the house after being gone for several hours, instead calling all four dogs into the garage and going outside from there. Immediately, Youke started rubbing himself all over me and grinning up at me like an idiot with his appeasement gestures. Sure enough, I found the emptied cat food bowl and the open cupboard doors when I went back into the house.

I decided anyone capable of not only jumping up on high kitchen counters, but also capable of opening cupboard doors and rifling through the contents of said cupboards was not too tired to do some more agility. Thus, despite being intensely pissed off at him, I took him to see The Relationship Counselor. How ironic.

 Naturally, he was awesome and clearly the reason we don’t Q more often in distance games like Chances is because we just want to leave enough Qs for others.

Still, there’s always something to work on, such as a certain spotty dog’s tendency to see jumps as something to go around instead of over. Our instructor started rewarding the desired behavior with bits of cheese. Youke likes cheese and naturally worked for it. But I also didn’t see quite the enthusiasm I would’ve liked for the game we were playing. So I asked about rewarding with a toy as Youke values toys far beyond food. Specifically, I asked about rewarding with Ball. She was agreeable and suddenly Youke wasn’t so tired from the 45 minutes we’d already had of the lesson.

 This was Youke’s opportunity to cajole Andrea into a game of Ball. I watched as Youke’s magic BCB powers kicked into gear. Sure, he was doing some valuable learning, but what was also happening was that he’d just convinced The Relationship Counselor to endlessly toss that little orange sphere back and forth. I was relieved that it’s not just me that gets sucked into the Ball vortex.

 The trance was broken finally by the clearing of the throat of the next student patiently waiting and whose patience had likely worn out as we’d gone quite a bit over time. This is the power of Ball. It makes time disappear.

Sadly Brady didn’t get to see The Relationship Counselor today, but both boys got to go swimming immediately afterward and after I politely asked some gentlemen fishing off the dock if two insane splashing border collies were going to ruin their fishing. They assured me that splashing dogs would be just fine as they figured all the splashing would drive the fish closer to their fishing poles.

Okay then.

So dogs playing in the water are like little kids playing in the water. They look like drowned rats, they’re shivering from the cold and they’re exhausted, but they still want “just a few more minutes, please??!!”

 After I loaded the two dripping wet dogs into the vehicle, off we went to a friend’s house so I could drop some stuff off for her for next weekend. Youke and Brady got to meet up and play with her dogs and a guest dog she’s watching for a friend. It was fun to watch the shenanigans, especially the high-speed running with no real purpose except to burn off energy. As Youke was rolling some worm-dirt perfume on himself after the running/chasing activities, Brady made a new friend named Hodie, who happens to be an older gent of a dog and was staying with my friend. Not entirely sure the admiration was equally returned though. However, they did match pee for pee, which was comical to watch. Sort of like watching the back and forth of tennis .. without the pseudo sex noises.

Brady tends to become overwhelmed in social situations involving other dogs, even when he’s in a great mood, but there was something about Hodie that he liked and was at ease with, even after Hodie snapped at him to back off with the friendly overtures. So Brady decided to go find things to pee on by himself for a while. The strategy worked. Soon he and Hodie were peeing on things together again.

Brady and Youke don’t pee on things together. Youke never grasped the concept of peeing on things for the sake of peeing on things. I guess some guys just need a friend to go peeing on things with.



So while this was happening …


The boys were out playing.


These two pictures pretty much describe our entire past week.

While Camm’s broken foot isn’t bothering her in the least, not a tiny iota, she is being drugged (by me) to prevent her from insisting upon doing all of her normal activities with her usual aplomb, vigor and joie de vie. The drugging reduces her enthusiasm about 20% at the most.

Luckily for me, the vet said that the splint and bandage looks good and remains in place. I didn’t tell him about all the activity she’s had that she shouldn’t be having, but he certainly witnessed her jumping on her hind legs to visit with the vet staff, running into the exam room, running out of the exam room, and probably saw her jump into The Living Room on Wheels. Nothing gets Camm down.

She has been highly suspicious of my activities though over the past week and gives me a thorough inspection when I return. No matter how many frozen kongs and new toys, it still apparently does not make up for the fact that I went hiking without her – taking Youke and Jasmine instead, and that this weekend I went to an agility trial without her – taking the boys instead.


Youke was fantastic this weekend. He was one knocked jump bar away from a perfect weekend in fact. What was most wonderful was not the Q rate (qualifying scores), but that fact that we were so in sync and that Youke was running happy, smooth and efficiently.

Shockingly, after adding up his points from this weekend, he’s now about 3/4th away from completing his C-ATCH 4 title. Apparently this is what happens when you have a consistent partner. Who knew??! Certainly not me before.

However, that will have to wait. This was Youke’s last CPE trial until the fall. I made a vow earlier in the year that if he qualified for CPE Nationals 2017 in the first half of 2016 I wouldn’t trial him at all this summer. We have one trial next weekend, a NADAC trial, and then nothing until September.

I’m keeping my promise.

On the other hand, Brady was in a grumpy mood Saturday, but ran perfectly, qualifying in all of his runs. On Sunday, he was in a great mood, but was a jerk on his first run of the day in jumpers.


This is Brady after he thought about his choices.

I was excited to run the jumpers course with Brady. It was a really fun course and also lent itself to the distance work I’m doing with him again.  Except, Brady was pissed that I wasn’t running with him, instead was mainly walking. He exhibited this irritation by barking and spinning, and then by an attempted drive-by bite. Brady is especially adept at the drive-by bite.

Except I shut him down. Hard.

I immediately got pissed myself, informed him we were done, grabbed him by a bit of his ruff and out of the ring we walked. It may have looked harsh to some, but I’ve found now this is the only way I can get across to Brady that these drive-bys are totally not acceptable.

I was pissed too because I really wanted to run the course. At least I got to run it with Youke.

Some Baileys in my coffee helped me think about Brady’s choices too.

I guess Brady did consider his options when I left him in the car for a while, because when I went to get him for our next run he was happy, sassy, but very much willing to work with me. We then had our best run of the weekend, smoking a course in under 16 seconds.


It was kind of nice to be just hanging with the boys.

Youke isn’t opposed to hanging with his brother, but Youke sometimes wishes all the things could be just his.


Like this.


File this under Resource Guarding.


Convalescent Camm aka Clunky Foot Camm



Look closely. Despite the new plushy squeaky toy, Camm is not a happy camper, and it wasn’t because she was having her picture taken. We all know by now how much she enjoys being a supermodel.

Camm is not happy because she is a convalescent at present.


Please note Camm’s new accessory. Nope, not that sassy collar that I’d hoped she’d debut at last weekend’s agility show. (It is really fabulous and speaks volumes about her sass. Black and red, with red lipstick kisses and it says “kiss this.” Was that not designed with Camm in mind or what?)

Camm broke her #4 metatarsal in her left rear foot. Basically, she broke a bone in her foot. A weight-bearing bone no less.

While I’d like to tell you it was while she was doing something incredible, or while you might think it’s agility-related, neither is true. She broke it playing Ball. It was just a weird, freak thing where she slipped on grass racing to a Ball before Brady – even though she had a Ball in her mouth already.

Camm’s idea of playing Ball is to hold her own Ball in her mouth, but race out to get to the boy’s Balls before they do. Once there, she points out where the Ball is, just in case they didn’t already know  (they almost always already know) and races back to me to be ready in case I’m about to launch another Ball. Camm plays this way because she is the ultimate uber bossy controlling Border Collie bitch.

During a break in Ball play, which must always be called by me because no one ever voluntarily decides there’s been enough Ball play, Camm goes around and gathers up the boys’ Balls and lies down with them in front of her nose. I’m convinced that she counts them. Camm doesn’t have a flock of sheep to control, so she controls all the Balls.

I actually witnessed the slip. But it’s not like that hadn’t ever happened before. She never yelped or cried out. In fact, she raced back to me. I think I threw Balls two more times and she was fine. We then headed off to walk in the woods for a while but I noticed her extreme sashaying walk. Camm has an extremely cute behind but doesn’t sashay. Bossy girls don’t have time for such nonsense. When she turned toward me and started forward on three legs, my heart sank.

Although she flinched later that night when I touched her left foot while trying to assess what the injury was, by the next day I’d convinced myself she’d ruptured her knee. That’s an all too common injury in dogs that often requires surgery and rehab. I know this because far too many of my friends have gone through it with their dogs.

Even the vet thought so when I took her in to see him the day after the injury. However, by then she was bearing weight on her leg. He figured her knee was torn, but not ruptured. Because she was being a little snippy, even though she was still taking cookies from him, he brought her into the exam room in the back. I braced myself for the news.

He came back three minutes later and confirmed it was indeed her foot and that she’d need to be fixated and put in a splint. He told me four to six weeks of recovery and probably light walks.

The vet that actually adjusted the bone and splinted her told me eight weeks in the splint and no walks. Basically, she advised me Camm couldn’t do anything except go out to relieve herself on-leash.

When she saw my crestfallen, horrified, thunderstruck, incredulous face, she casually mentioned that she could consider giving me more meds to keep her “calm.”

However, she also prescribed a pretty heavy dose of tramadol which she assured me would have a tranquilizing effect.

Camm came home very doped up and although she walked out of the vet’s office, I think it took every unbroken bone in her stoic body to do so. I had to carry her into the house.

Although she was a sad little doped up mess that night, when morning arrived, it was a different story.

Overnight, she had come to terms with her new “clunky foot” reality. She jumped off the bed, and once outside for her morning pee break, ran. She is not supposed to be doing any of these things. When I arrived home that day after walking clients, she leaped up on her hind legs as always to greet me and gave me a hug as she always does. When she though I wasn’t delivering her meds to her fast enough, she leaped up on her hind legs, placing front paws on the counter, to see what the hold up was. (Giving pills in my house is a joyous occasion. All the dogs know the word “pill” and race to get them. This is because pills get delivered with something super tasty.)


This is Camm on drugs.


This is Camm on not enough drugs.

I think I need a tranquilizer gun. Despite the addition of benadryl (or as I like to call them, “bennies”) to her tramadol, Camm still is perfectly capable, and very willing, of running around in the house, running after an errant bunny that happened by while she was on a potty break, soliciting play from Youke, bossing Brady around – okay, bossing everyone around, chasing after a fly in the house, going up and down stairs, getting on the bed … you get the picture.

It’s not like she’s a whirlwind of constant activity. She’s actually very good and very quiet in the house most of the time, like she usually is in the first place. Camm just has no concept of taking it easy and being slow. None. Zero. Nil. Zip. The minute I move, she’s in action. Camm’s response to my plea of “Camm, you can’t run!” is “Um, yes I can! See, I’m doing it now!”

It’s gonna be a long few months. I have ideas to keep her brain occupied and I’m going to ask for x-rays prior to eight weeks to see how the healing is progressing and to see if I can get her out of a permanent splint faster. Ideally, healing progresses quickly and I can start taking her swimming and maybe walking in a splint I can put on and take off myself before the eight weeks is up, but time will tell.

In the meantime, some dogs are pretty happy that annoying, bossy little sisters have to stay home and they get to play Ball without interference and go on hikes without someone running up their butt. And bonus! Pesky little sisters get new toys when they are convalescing that are really great to steal and play with yourself!





Today’s highlight: a nice long nap with all four of my dogs.

Got up super early, but it’s no longer o’dark thirty. It’s not even dark at all. Even on a super cloudy, kinda rainy day. Yes indeed, 5:15 am is disgustingly cheery and light. Headed off to run the BCBs (for the uninitiated, that’s Borderline Collie Boys) in a few runs at a NADAC trial.

Yeah, so this was supposed to be “Camm’s weekend,” but due to her presently being on the injured list, subbed out her runs. The boys were game, the handler… maybe not so much.

Despite a vat of coffee on the ride there, I was very fuzzy-brained. Did manage to be nearly perfect for Brady in his weavers run, as evidenced by his silence. (I did receive a quiet comment from him that I should have signaled a straightaway a bit sooner, but it was barely a grumble). And then jumpers happened.

So I have a curious thing with how my brain works sometimes. More often than not, if I cannot connect to a course immediately – as in it doesn’t make sense on that first walk through, then I have a hard time remembering it properly and positioning myself correctly for how to handle it with my dogs. Thankfully, that rarely happens. I’m not one to take forever walking through an agility course and memorizing it. I basically do three run-throughs. First, I walk it as the dog – something a couple of instructors have taught me to do. As I’m doing that, I take note of where the numbers are. Second walk-through, I walk as the dog again, taking more note of off-course opportunities and where the handler should be and don’t look at the numbers. Instead, I take note of the patterns of the course. On the third walk-through, I plan how I am going to handle it for my dogs and walk it in the manner in which I will run it as the handler directing my dogs through the course. Because I have different dogs with different skills and needs, sometimes I have to have as many as three different options in my head as to how I will handle a course.

 All that sounds tremendously complex, and memorizing agility courses is actually great brain exercise,  but most of the time I can walk a course and do all of the above in five minutes or less. I just find that for me personally, obsessing over how I’m going to handle a course does me no favors and I end up second guessing things. There have been times when I had time to walk a course once and handled the run far better than when I had multiple walk-throughs and plenty of time to analyze and plan. There’s also something that my Canadian friends have named as a “pirate run.” That’s when you don’t walk a course at all and run it. I rarely do it as Brady is a dog that needs (and deserves) some amount of precision (or I hear it … or get bitten). I’m proud to say though that I have done a few pirate runs – with Youke and Brady, and they went spectacularly. My favorite was when I got to an event much later than planned, saw they were running Brady’s height division and quickly asked a friend for a run-down of the course. I then watched one dog run it, asked the gate steward to move me and Brady down to the last dog of the height division, and ran to get him. We arrived, breathless, at the gate for our run with barely a second to spare and freakin’ nailed it. Still not sure how we accomplished that. The stars were aligned I guess.

The stars were not aligned today.

Back to me being fuzzy-brained. The jumpers course today seemed a bit off. I had a hard time reading the course numbers due to the glare from the overhead light and the material of the markers. While I ended up quickly assessing most of it, there was one section that even on my third walk-through I kept going in the wrong direction. I ended up walking it a fourth time. Then I headed to the car and practiced in my head how the course ran. I did that several times. I call it “the invisible dance.” You see many handlers at agility trials doing “the invisible dance.” It’s marked by silent lips moving, hand flailing and turning in small circles in the middle of an aisle or a walking path to the vehicles.

Youke was up first. He was moving beautifully through the course, sailing with ease and stretched out over the jumps. And then I forgot where we were going.

Tre embarrassing. I rarely forget a course, but I did today. Poor Youke. He is so incredibly forgiving and adores me so much. No argument, not even confusion. He trusts me so much. So I just made a bunch of crap up and fled the course with him.

Luckily, today’s jumpers course was in NADAC’s “double-run” format, where the team gets to run the exact same course for a second round, and can still qualify.

As I headed back to the car with Youke to get Brady, feeling terrible as Youke had been so beautiful on course up until my fugue state, I told myself that could absolutely not happen with Brady.

Brady is not forgiving. Brady would be mad. Brady would bite me.

And guess what? Got my freakin’ act together and ran the course perfectly with Brady. In the space of less than 10 minutes I went from  Super Crappy Brain-Dead Handler to Super Awesome Knows-Her-Stuff Handler.

So I figured I’d get to redeem myself on Youke’s second jumpers run.

Yeah, not so much.

I forgot the fucking course  AGAIN. Worse yet, I forgot it in the exact same fucking spot. And the very worse thing of all, when I recovered, and pointed Youke in the right direction, I sent him straight into a jump standard. Youke, the sweetest, most accommodating dog of all, went where I sent him and nailed a jump standard, knocking it and the whole jump assembly over.

I was horrified.

Luckily, he was fine and was not hurt. I think in all truth he barely noticed it. I stopped for a second, played with him and then we completed the course.

I’d say I was humiliated, but in all honesty, my dogs, and my own dumbassery, taught me about humility a long time ago.

So Youke and I went to play Ball for a while.

I remembered the course with Brady, but was late signaling a few times and he ended up knocking a few bars. At least I didn’t forget the course again.

Since those were the only runs I’d entered for today, left with the boys just as the rain started pouring down.

A client had asked me to walk her two dogs today, so I dropped the boys off at home, checked on the girls and then went on a nice leisurely walk with two favorite dogs that are not my own.

But I couldn’t shake the fuzzy-brained feeling despite all that. Therefore a nap was in order.

If there’s one thing that my dogs do well, it is taking naps.

I announced to them while I was upstairs changing clothes that it was “time for a nap.” Youke raced downstairs to secure his nap spot on the couch. Camm, who is not supposed to be racing anywhere, raced downstairs to assume her post with a chew bone  on the floor next to the couch. Brady, already downstairs, curled up in his nap spot beside the couch on the floor as well. Jasmine, who thinks naps should last a maximum of 30 minutes, accompanied me downstairs, then jumped up beside Youke on the couch.

I arranged a fuzzy coverlet over myself, leaving plenty of fuzzy softness for Youke to share and didn’t even pretend I was going to read a book for a while. We ended up napping for a couple of hours. Even Jasmine, who usually gets restless and often downright rude after an hour, was quiet today.

Maybe I wasn’t the only one that was fuzzy-brained today.
Brady is tired