Life skills. Rhys may be a naughty puppy at times, but I’m finding he’s really good at getting down the skills he’s gonna need for his life with me. And in the greater scheme of things, that’s far more important to me than him knowing a whole bunch of cool tricks – although eventually he’ll know some of those too.
His gold star for Sunday was letting me sleep until 9 am. And that was after he went to bed at about 9 pm.
I know that a lot of people follow a pretty strict schedule with their puppies and dogs. Just like many people follow a pretty strict schedule with their children. I believe the terminology is called structure. I was not raised with a lot of structure as a child. We didn’t eat at certain times, we didn’t go to bed at certain times, we didn’t have lessons and play dates. In fact, now that I reflect upon it, there was a certain amount of chaos. This might explain while I’m an individual with a craving for structure and routine, but that thrives on chaos and madness.
I raise my dogs the same way. Don’t expect to eat at specific time, don’t expect to get up every day at a certain time, don’t expect to go to bed at a certain time and don’t expect that we’re gonna have a fun adventure every day.
My hope and belief is that this helps to create a fun, resilient dog that has mad coping skillz.
Interestingly, Youke was raised in much the same way that Rhys is currently being raised, but he is a dog that would prefer a regular eating and sleeping routine. Sorry, dude. After nearly nine years together you gotta know that’s just not gonna happen. However, he really good at just chilling out when what he wants – usually to eat – isn’t happening when he thinks it should be. He’s also really good at rolling with the unexpected.
Brady and Camm embrace the uncertainty because the reality is that all of the eating, sleeping and playing will eventually happen. Both just roll with whatever the day may hold. They may ask questions along the way about what is happening, or not happening, but are generally pretty good with waiting or not doing the thing that they may think is about to happen, but isn’t.
I’m also very good about telling my dogs what’s coming up, or not coming up, as it happens.
Therefore, in my house, being willing to settle down, or go back to bed, is an Extremely Important Skill.
Because Rhys went to bed pretty early last night, I fully expected him to wake up earlier than usual to ask to go out to empty his bladder. He actually slept until almost 7 am. Much as I didn’t want to get up, I knew he really had to pee, and I realized I did too. So after I quickly used the bathroom, I let all four dogs outside. Then I led them back inside and said “back to bed.” All four, even the baby dog, trotted up the stairs. Rhys actually went back over to his nighttime crate. I opened the door, petted him softly for a second and placed him inside, repeating “back to bed.” The other three settled in their respective favorite places and we all slept in until 9 am.
This scenario contrasts drastically with an agility weekend or any other time I have early morning plans and must wake them all up and expect them to be ready to go by 7 am, or in some cases, earlier.
It’s all about rolling with the moment. I witness this resilience nearly every day with Rhys. I cannot take credit for much of his boldness and willingness to deal with what is thrown at him as he was raised with that expectation from the get-go. I can though take credit for continuing with that expectation.
I watched for instance today as he came into a puppy class that he was at once before a few weeks ago and upon entering immediately dealt with all the strange and loud noises from the high-pitched and sqeaky-loud voices of women to the lower and louder voices of the men and the barking of stranger puppies to him. I watched as he dealt with different introduction and play behavior from various puppies, to attentively interacting with human children and fearlessly navigating through a bunch of strange objects, even offering to ride on a skateboard and hand cart.
After the class, I took him into Home Depot with me to make a couple of purchases. He walked through the busy Saturday parking lot and shopping crowd into the store with me. He met complete human strangers and rode in a shopping cart, before deciding that walking beside it was better. He took in the strange and new sounds and scents and navigating through the busy parking lot beside the shopping cart with me.
All the while, he was calm. I cannot say for certain that he did not feel some apprehension as I’m sure he did. But he was never afraid and he checked in with me when he felt the need to. I talked with him throughout, and reached down to pet him on occasion, letting him know I was there if he needed me. He willingly interacted with people and sought out a few himself and mouthed a new welcome mat purchase I was making.
It was a fairly quick trip as I knew what I needed and I felt a bit overwhelmed myself with the Saturday shopping crowd due to lack of caffeine intake prior to the class and shopping trip. I didn’t want to overwhelm him and I didn’t bring any food rewards into the store with me. That last part was okay as Rhys discovered that Home Depot employees are apparently trained to dole out the dog cookies to canine visitors.
Rhys had a super busy Saturday too. I think it may have been the first day since he’s come to live with me that he did not partake in a nap of some sort.
While we didn’t arise super early, I did have a morning appointment for him at the vet’s for his puppy shots. After eating, Rhys played with Camm for a while, then chewed on a bully stick in his daytime crate while I showered and dressed. He was charming and polite at the vet’s, even showing off a skill that I did not know he had – sitting politely by the vet’s side as she opened the door to take him into the back area for his shots. Apparently he did more cool and charming stuff while back there because the vet and vet tech were all smiles when they brought him back and kept telling me what an awesome little puppy he was.
Since he had been all wiggly when we first arrived and I couldn’t read the scale for his weight – it’s hard not to be wiggly when everyone wants to pet you and oohs and ahhs over your cuteness upon your arrival through the door – I asked him to sit and wait on the scale so I could get an accurate reading.
Rhys has sit down pat. Wait is still a work in progress, but he held it for a sufficient number of seconds for me to get a reading on the scale. A whopping 19.4 pounds at 13 weeks.
Then I took all four dogs off on a walk and romp at a local park that has river frontage and some fun little trails. Naturally they all had a blast. Rhys is excellent about running with The Big Dogs, but also with coming back to check in with me. I’m not sure if that’s a life skill that border collies are born with, but it’s something that all of mine thus far have done. Since I’m out of the habit of carrying food rewards on me at all times,*I tend to reward with play or toys when we’re out on walks or hikes. Maybe it’s the border collie thing of wanting to work with a Human, but the look of joy of their faces when they’re out and about, then come running back to briefly touch my hand or give me a quick poke in the leg, then run back out again, is contagious and a pleasure to see.
Rhys is also at this stage in his life where pretty much everything and anything is an adventure. It’s fun to watch him stretch out his gangly growing legs and clumsily torch through the woods and brush. I adore that he is so bold and fearless, tearing up the banks of hills, through thick undergrowth, over fallen logs, through mud and mud puddles. Yesterday, he even waded into the river with his paws, unafraid of the rushing current farther out or the happy barking and yapping of Camm as she and Youke splashed in the water while Brady ran up and down in the sand. A quick whistle from me standing at the top of the bank over the river and all three of The Big Dogs came bounding from the water, through the sand and mud and flew over the bank to continue running on the trail. Rhys followed as fast as he could, but his legs are shorter and he’s still learning how his body works, but he navigated the same path, intent, and intense, about following The Big Dogs. That intensity was tempered though by the look of joie de vivre on his face as he came running as fast as he could. It’s almost as if he couldn’t believe how fast he was going and how strong his body was. Or maybe it was the opposite and he was delighting on exactly what his growing body could do.
Either way, it made me smile and laugh with shared joy.
Sadly, all good things must end and we headed home. My plan was to clean my house and I figured the dogs would want to nap for a while.
When I got out my vacuum, I crated Camm and Rhys and gave both a bully stick to gnaw on. Camm wants to supervise and herd the vacuum and giving her something to chew on is a good way to keep her calm and occupied. She has learned to chill out when I vacuum once in her crate, but since I was giving Rhys one too, figured she wouldn’t be jealous that way. Youke and Brady just chill out upstairs on my bed while vacuuming takes place as they’ve learned I rarely vacuum the bed.
Thus far, Rhys has not reacted to either the noise or motion of the vacuum, but I figure that encouraging alternate behavior cannot be a bad thing. In fact, he usually falls asleep.
But for whatever reason, he did not yesterday. He chewed on his bully stick and/or played with some toys in his crate while I vacuumed, then cleaned and mopped floors, cleaned the bathroom, picked up stuff strewn about the living room and kitchen, did a load of laundry and clean and replaced the cat’s litter.
After I finished cleaning up, I let Rhys and Camm out to play together. They are best friends and ran around chasing each other with toys, then played bitey face games while I checked email messages and Facebook for a while. Youke and Brady continued to keep it chill and lounged on my bed, although every once and a while Brady would bounce down to go watch Cam and Rhys play.
Brady is funny. He doesn’t really want to play with Rhys himself, but he seems to really like watching Rhys and Camm play together.
I had a bit of company come a short time later and Rhys came out into the yard to play for a while and do some posing for pictures. Okay, posing is stretching it as he has no concept of that, yet. But he did get to do super adorable puppy things while my friend took pictures of him.
By 5:30 pm, all cleaning was done and all company was gone. I knew Rhys was tired by the telltale look in his eyes of exhaustion and by the fact that he was becoming very fierce with his teeth. I fed him and the other three dogs – who were ecstatic at the unexpected early dinner time , especially Youke – and put him in his crate. A massive groan, followed by him collapsing into the bed I’d placed in the crate told me he was overdue for a long nap.
It was then that I decided it’s be a good idea for me to catch up on Bates Motel for a few episodes. I was joined on the couch by Youke – who has mad nap skillz, and Camm and Brady spread themselves out on the floor beside the couch, butt-to-butt. I got through two episodes before I too decided I had to close my eyes for a little bit.
I had originally planned to take the dogs out late day for a romp to “tire them out” so I could read and watch a bit of TV last night. Turns out, that was not needed. Everyone, even 13-week-old Rhys, was so chill, that the evening was peaceful and quiet. I almost felt like I was on vacation.
And yes, I live with four border collies. This is what I mean by life skills.
* I got out of the habit of carrying food rewards on me at all times when I began hiking more regularly with the dogs and due to the critter-filled areas that we often frequent. Because you know who else likes food rewards? Critters, including big omnivorous and carnivorous critters that might see me and/or my dogs as food rewards. That decision had the unexpected bonus of making me less of a pez dispenser and forced me to carry alternative rewards – usually Balls – or to find alternate rewards within the environment – such as twigs or water – or to create alternate rewards, including non-tangibles such as a game of chase. However, food rewards have their place and as Rhys enters the even naughtier teenage stage of his life, the food (and other) reinforcers will be coming out in full force.
So You Think You Want to Be a Rock Star
Alternative title: How to Socialize Your Puppy in One Weekend.
Second alternative (more accurate) title: Sleep is Overrated.
Yikes! Five weeks in and hardly a peep on the blog about the new tribe member, Rhys. Plenty on Facebook though. My friends probably want to kill me. Or do an intervention. The lack of blog posts and the millions of Facebook posts are all due to the fact that Rhys is a huge time suck, but super cute and wonderful. Mostly.
So I’m not going to even try to make up for the lost time on the blog – that would be thousands, upon thousands of words. Instead, I’m going to jump straight to this past weekend.
Over Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, I took YoBaCa and Rhys to the first “away” game of the year. Yup, we traveled for an agility show.
Now wait, I know you’re thinking, “She what??! Traveled with a 12-week old puppy??! (Although you may not have known he is now 12 weeks old, but he is.) “Is she insane???!!”
Apparently even more out of my mind than even I knew.
Rhys already is super fantastic on car rides, so naturally he was fine with the Friday afternoon I-5 crawl south. He was also fine with the pee stop at a rest area in the steady soaking rain, accomplishing all major business like a pro.
Of course I realized he was recharging the entire three hours it took us to get to Longview. Luckily, as a result of the time change the weekend prior, it was still light when we arrived at the hotel.
Wait! The puppy stayed at a hotel??!! Hold on. I’ll get to that part soon.
Checked into the room, which very, very sadly for me was on the second floor as arrived too late to secure a first floor room.
Now, normally I do not care if I’m not on the first floor, but all I could envision was trying to hustle a puppy with a teeny bladder outside first thing in the morning and actually making it outside without any leakage.
However, it was what it was and yet another thing I couldn’t do anything about. Therefore, after umpteen trips out to The Living Room on Wheels and up and down the stairs carrying my own and one “go” bag and the dogs’ various paraphernalia, got settled into the hotel room. But first, had to burn off some of that puppy energy.
So instead of taking the dogs up to the room and feeding them, I took them across the street from the hotel to a local park and made them run around for almost an hour. The three Big Dogs were all about this as it mostly involved Ball and exploring a new place. Rhys was also fine with it as it involved The Big Dogs, exploring and stealing Ball.
After that adventure and before it became pitch dark, grabbed some take-out food for myself and then back to the hotel. Because I’m a generous person with my dogs, I shared my fries and a bit of my sandwich. Rhys thought that was pretty wonderful.
Thinking that after he ate he’d be a bit tired and ready for a nap, I stuck him in the canvas crate I’d brought for just that purpose.
Rhys was all about the novel experience and he was only just starting the party. He gnawed on a bully stick for a little bit, then decided he had to go out. After we came back, he decided the canvas crate was icky and that he wanted to play with his brothers. Except they were ready for bed and were already up on the bed and didn’t appreciate his efforts to try to jump up on the bed with them. Luckily for them, the bed was way too high for him to leap into. He tried to entice Camm into playing, but she decided she also wanted to be up on the bed.
I took Rhys out on a walkabout of the hotel grounds and through the hotel where we met a few admirers, including a very talkative man and a man with his young son. Rhys just soaked it all up.
Meanwhile, we – and when I say we, I mean all of us that were not a 12-week old puppy – just wanted to snuggle on the bed and watch a little TV before going to sleep.
Not Rhys. Rhys thought he should either be outside again or running around the room. He did not appreciate my efforts to corral him in his crate.
Finally, just as I thought I was going to lose it, he settled – unhappily, into the crate. Finally, there was peace and quiet.
Until 2:30 am.
That was when Rhys made it known he was awake and did not want to be in the strange crate.
So, I took him and the other three dogs outside – rotating of course – for potty breaks.
I foolishly thought that was it and we could resume our slumber uninterrupted until the alarm went off at 6:15 am.
Nope. Rhys thought it was time to party.
Since I was worried he’d scratch through the mesh on the crate or break the zipper, I brought him into bed with me.
Rhys thought that was delightful. He has not been in the bed with me since his first two nights with me and since Camm and Youke were also in the bed, he thought it was a perfect opportunity to work on his social skills with both of them.
At this point, Camm and Rhys are best friends. In fact, I now refer to Camm as Big SisterMommyAuntie Camm as she is all those things and more to Rhys. They are tight.
Much to Rhys’s dismay though, he and Youke are still not best buddies. This is not from lack of effort on Rhys’s part.
However, taking advantage of Grumpy BigBrotherUncle Youke while he’s snuggled up to his Human and at his most softest and vulnerable by jumping on his head, then covering him in puppy kisses, followed by draping your wiggly puppy body over Youke’s body is not the way to win friends.
Youke made it known that behavior was not appreciated in the least and pointedly jumped over to the other unoccupied queen bed in the hotel room, joining Brady. Grumpy BigBrotherUncle Brady is wise to Rhys’s friendship solicitations and removes himself immediately. Rhys realized the error of his ways the first time he tried to jump onto Brady’s back when he was laying down and wisely has not attempted it again. This does not stop him though from sneaking puppy kisses at Brady, or alternately, trying to surreptitiously nip at his heels when he’s not looking.
I suspect Rhys is trying to model some of his behavior on Brady. I base this on his close observation, and clear admiration, of some of the things Brady does. However, he is obsessed with getting Youke to adore him. His efforts though are along the lines of the super geeky clumsy sweet kid at school that is smitten with the super cool mean but cute girl and Youke’s reactions are pretty much all mean girl. Still, Rhys is undeterred.
After causing Youke to leave his coveted spot in bed by my side, I decided enough was enough and clutched Rhys close. I’ll tell you that this was in an effort to contain and calm him, but really, I was about to throttle him.
Magically, it worked. Or he realized that his short life was about to remain short. Regardless, Obnoxious Crazed Bitey Puppy turned into Sweet Magical Puppy Breath Puppy.
Turns out, Rhys is a first class snuggler. He cuddled up against my face first, breathing in my breath, even as I breathed in his. Then he placed his head underneath my chin. That move gradually had him moving to place his nose and head up against my neck.Every now and then he’d give me a gentle little lick. Sometimes that was followed by him trying to eat my hair, but most of the time, he was just trying to snuggle in closer. We slept like that until my alarm went off at 6:15.
Like most rock stars that party all night, Rhys was not eager to get up when the alarm went off. Truthfully, neither was I. I turned it off and he re-positioned himself on top of my head – after trying to chew some of my hair first – sighed heavily, and then fell fast asleep again.
We arrived a bit late to the agility trial. Luckily, the show started off a bit late as well, which was good, because Youke was the first dog on the line that day.
In between runs with The Big Dogs, Rhys got to socialize and explore. I was positive he’d be worn out by the end of the day.
I was wrong. So very wrong.
After eating out with friends after the trial ended for the day, I was mentally and physically done. The Big Dogs were also mentally and physically done after a day of trialing, playing Ball and exploring. They ate their dinners when we got back to the hotel room and promptly curled up the sleep.
Rhys was not tired. Rhys thought we should be doing something that did not involve being curled up on the bed with the TV on.
After getting sick of him pestering me and the other dogs and him being unable to settle even with a bully stick in the canvas crate, I took him on a little walkabout. This was great because he got to meet a bunch of kids that were staying on the same floor. All that admiration went to Rhys’s head, because when we came back from his potty break, he made a bee-line for the room where the kids he’d met were staying.
Sadly for him, I took him back to his own boring hotel room.
I’ll spare you all of the details, but suffice it to say that Rhys almost spent the night in The Living Room on Wheels. In fact, had the temperatures not dropped into the lower 40s, he would have.
Rather than killing him, I fell into a state of exhaustion somewhere between actual sleep and daydreaming of an alternate universe where I had not made the decision to get a puppy, much less made the decision to travel and stay in a hotel room with a puppy. While I was in this altered state of reality, Rhys was happily cavorting about the hotel room by himself, doing god knows what, because even Camm was too tired to play with him. I remember wearily hoping he wasn’t destroying the hotel room and pissing and pooping on the rug.
I awoke at about 11-ish when he was attempting to fling himself into the bed with me. I hoped that it was a sign that he was ready to settle down and go to sleep. I was too tired to check the fate of the hotel room and scooped him up. He promptly started batting me with his paws and tried to chew my hair.
Again, I held him tight, but trying not to squeeze the life out of him. Apparently he got the message. He curled up and went to sleep.
Again, the alarm went off at 6:15 am. I needed the time to pack everything up and make the numerous trips up and down stairs and out to The LRoW before heading off for the second and last day of the agility trial. Luckily, I knew the run order was reversed and my dogs would be running last in the first class of the day.
I shut the alarm off. The dogs didn’t even raise their heads. Rhys readjusted his position against my body and heaved a heavy sleepy sigh.
I decided that I didn’t really need anymore Fullhouse Q’s and fell back asleep.
I awoke 90 minutes later and only because the sun was coming in strongly through the seams of the curtains covering the hotel window.
When I stumbled out with the dogs for their morning potty breaks, I dully observed that the hotel parking lot was nearly empty and not a single one of my friends’ cars remained. Naturally, they’d already left for the agility trial down the road.
I’m also pleased to say that Rhys made it outside every single time without incident for all potty breaks. Well, except for one time the first night when he didn’t even make an attempt to tell me he had to go and simply stopped to pee in the middle of running around being all crazy. That’s a rock star move right there.
While I made no attempt to hurry, and even waited at the espresso stand drive-through for what seemed like ages for a humongous cup of coffee (six shots, thank you very much!), still somehow managed to arrive to the trial Sunday morning in time for Brady to run, who was the first of my dogs to run that day.
If possible, Rhys had an even more social day on Sunday than he’d had on Saturday.
Because the weekend is a bit of blur and I can’t recall what exactly Rhys did or who he met on which day, this is a simple summary of all of the weekend social things he accomplished.
Met many small Humans and was petted by many of them.
Met lots of new grown-up Humans – men, women, elderly, in hats, in sunglasses
Lept into the arms of some of the above
Met a ton of adult and teenage dogs, most friendly. He did meet an elderly female border collie that did not suffer foolish little puppies. He was appropriate and polite with all of the older dogs – that included border collies, Australian Shepherds, Doodles, a Briard (whom he loved – the dog was seven months old and Rhys thought he was lots of fun!) , a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and others I cannot even remember.
He also met an Australian Shepherd puppy that was 11.5 weeks old. A peer. I’m finding though that he is so incredibly confident and sure about himself that he is a bit overwhelming for many of those within his age group. This little female puppy in particular was a bit shy.
Rhys also saw lots of cars driving by, motorcycles and cyclists too, as well as some big trucks. None of those things fazed him.
In fact, the only thing that seems to give him pause are dogs barking. That has become a lot better, but if he doesn’t recognize the bark, he becomes a bit concerned. He also heard what I think were gunshots – or something that sounded sort of like them, and while the sound made him stop and look around, he wasn’t very concerned after the initial few seconds.
In addition to the hotel grounds, Rhys explored a new park, the fairgrounds where the agility trial was held – ingesting some horse droppings as part of that fun process and got to walk around inside where the agility trial was. He also practiced his leash walking, played lots of tug with me (and even with Youke!!), tossed his food dish all over a big field and then ran off with it, but came back at a full run with it when I called him to me, and did a lot of “sits” for me and for the many people he met. We even managed to work in a few “downs.”
Rhys thought the entire weekend was just fabulous. He finally crashed when we got home and slept for nearly nine straight hours.
I apparently have an amazing bold and fun puppy. I fear I am raising a future rock star.
One Week In …
As promised, I’m keeping a journal of sorts on my first year with Rhys. I wish I had taken better notes of what Youke’s puppy-hood was like, and I’ve always regretted that I did not document all that happened with Brady – the bad, the very ugly and the good and the very remarkable.
In many ways, I’m grateful I started blogging as it helps me recall things and situations with the dogs. I guess I should have started blogging about a decade ago.
Rhys arrived last Saturday. He had a very long drive from Oregon home with me. Although my friend Patti was with me and had offered to drive so I could hold Rhys or to even hold him herself, I made my first “mean mommy” decision. I had him ride in the crate in the back of the The Living Room on Wheels.
Needless to say, that was not a popular decision. Rhys had never been away from his litter-mates and there he was, suddenly plucked up and plopped in a box all by himself.
He cried and howled a lot.
However, eventually, he quieted down. I could occasionally still hear some muted cries or grumbles, but for the most part he settled down roughly an hour into the ride. I had him padded in the crate with a lot of old towels, a piece a fleece and a fleece bit that his breeder gave me that smelled of his litter-mates. I also placed a toy from her that had their odor on it in the crate with him.
Rhys was upset and stressed when I got home. He did not want to eat at all. However, at 3:15 am he awoke and decided he was ravenous. Appetite for the most part has not been a problem since then.
Meeting the Tribe
I introduced Youke, Brady and Camm individually and one at a time to Rhys upon arriving home. My place isn’t that huge and we all have to live together and get along. I’m a believer in just getting the introductions over with and proceeding from there. I realize that this doesn’t work for all. It’s worked well for me in the past, so it’s what I do.
Youke was soft and gentle, but wasn’t super impressed. He took a few sniffs and then wanted to leave.
Brady was also soft and gentle, even slowly wagging his tail very softly and low. But he also wasn’t super impressed and wanted to leave quickly.
Camm, as I had fully expected her to do, lifted her lip a bit and did a low growl. Then she turned around and walked away. Camm has never been one to like puppies and I’ve learned to steer clear of young puppies with her. She was the one I was most worried about and I figured I’d have to carefully manage the puppy around her for a while.
Meanwhile, Rhys was deferential to the “big dogs” but did not grovel. That’s kind of important in my tribe. Youke intensely dislikes when dogs grovel. It seems to trigger some rage inside of him. Camm probably would have preferred a bit more groveling given that she is The Queen of All Things. I was just happy that Brady did not start off the introduction with one of his trademark grumpy growls.
Interestingly, all three dogs knew immediately that Rhys was here to stay and was the newest member of the tribe. How do I know that? I guess mainly because I know my dogs and I know how they treat visitors or dogs that are familiar but that do not live with them. I observe my dogs closely all the time and while disconcerted initially, no one was stiff and snarky.
I had Rhys sleep in bed with me that first night. I didn’t feel it was fair to him to thrust him in a crate again and expect him to deal. He immediately snuggled up against the curve of my neck and fell asleep, but only after snuggling up against an astonished Youke while I washed my face and brushed my teeth before bed. At some point during the night, Rhys moved off of me and found his own spot on the bed. That was the first sign of a bit of independence from him.
The First Full Day
Rhys settled back down after his dinner break at 3:15 am and awoke with a new outlook on life. In fact, he strutted outside with the Big Dogs like he’d been doing it all his life.
Okay, not quite. There was the element of novelty on his face about it, but he was clearly quite tickled to be included in Big Dog activities. He was very charmed to be exploring the outside yard and perimeter and immediately peed and pooped, just like a Big Dog!
Rhys had apparently not been exposed to dogs barking, because that was really the one thing that most startled him. Unfortunately, Camm and Brady do bark, while Youke is generally quiet. However, by the end of the first day, he wasn’t being startled by the barking any longer and now when we head out the door and Camm is barking because she’s excited, he wags his tail in anticipation of fun times.
The fun really started when the adult dogs realized the baby gets baby food and gets fed three times a day. So much jealously about that.
Camm started to warm up to him more on Sunday, while Youke and Brady steadfastly avoided him. The boys weren’t mean or snarky, but just didn’t want to engage. If he made too many overtures or got too close, they just moved away.
Unfortunately, my first week with Rhys was also one of the busiest work weeks I’ve had since I started my business. This meant that he’d need to spend several hours each day alone and crated or in an ex-pen.
My original intent had been to pick him up this Saturday, instead of last Saturday, based on two factors, one of them being that I knew this past week would be super busy. The other factor was that Rhys was only seven weeks old and I’d have preferred to pick him up at eight weeks. Actually, my preference would have been to take him home at nine or ten weeks old. However, there were nine litter-mates and they were being alternately bottle fed and nursing off by their mom. Rhys was also at seven weeks old the largest puppy of the litter. He weighed eight pounds – not huge, but by no means small either. He was also developmentally ready to leave. Thus, and a bit against my better judgment, I decided to take him home. The decision also saved me another five-hour drive, which was nice, but if he had not been ready, I wouldn’t have taken him.
Therefore, it was super affirming to see that despite his dismay at being yanked from his first family and thrust into a strange new world, by his second day with me he was convinced that he is one of The Big Dogs and was perfectly comfortable.
Rhys slept through the night with me in my bed. I foolishly did not set my alarm on Monday because I figured he’d get me up early. Wrong! Rhys slept until after 8 am!
By Monday, Rhys was predictably taking care of bathroom business outside and comfortably exploring his new world. He was also very actively trying to engage the other dogs, but being very mellow and charming about it.
Despite my misgivings about leaving him alone, after eating, peeing, pooping and playing, I left him enclosed in his ex-pen while I went to work. I came home several hours later, expecting to have to clean up a mess, but to my complete surprise, there was none. Hustled him out and he immediately took care of business.
On his second day with me he also discovered Ball.
This was not intentional. Much as I love playing Ball and enjoy having Ball fiends, I don’t believe tiny puppies should be playing fetch. However, Youke dropped his Ball and Rhys picked it up and immediately started playing with it.
I’m in trouble.
Rhys also enjoyed his first adventure that day with The Big Dogs, going along to one of our favorite spots. He held his own as the other dogs raced around him playing and even went down a trail a little ways with us.
He’s very young, so he’s not going on hikes with us yet, but since it’s a life skill he’ll need as it is an activity we do a lot, he’s going in small doses. He is quite amazing, confidentially walking and running along, sniffing spots, going off a little way to explore, but always staying within close proximity and coming quickly when called. He ended up going four times this week with us on similar little adventures and is just gaining more and more confidence.
I should note that I’m not using a leash on this ventures. He will have to be reliable off leash and this is a great way to start and I’m very pleased with how he either stays right behind me, very close to my side, sometimes a little bit ahead, and quite often, underfoot. Okay, we need to work on that last part.
On Tuesday I came back home from work and was greeted by The Big Dogs .. and by Rhys. Um, what??
Yes, Rhys was outside of his ex-pen and it looked like he’d had help. I immediately suspected Youke who is obsessed with how much food Rhys is getting and the fact that it is different from his food. I’ve since realized that Rhys could’ve been helped by any of the other three dogs as I’ve caught all of them pushing the ex-pen around in an effort to get to Rhys’s food. I’ve since learned to not leave any uneaten food down. It also helps that Rhys is getting better at eating all of his food when it is given in just the past few days, instead of being a bit of forager.
By Thursday, I was leaving Rhys in his wire crate while I left for work and he was fine.
The sleeping arrangements also changed.
Youke was extremely put out that the puppy was sleeping on the bed and so close to me. Youke has only not slept with me a handful of times, and most of those have been because we were miles apart. However, he refused to come into the bed after that first night when Rhys was sleeping in it with me. Since he looked so miserable, and I can’t stand when he is so upset, I decided Rhys had to take another “big boy” step in life and be crated at night.
Despite my misgivings, that actually went super well and he’s been fine sleeping in a good-sized travel crate at night. I figure this is a good way to get him used to being in a crate – a skill he’ll need when traveling, which he’s gotten very good at (no carsickness!) and if he is to ever do agility or other dog sports type things. And if he ever wants to sleep in the bed, that’s fine, but I think I’ll wait until he is a bit older and after he and Youke have established a friendship.
I’m a light sleeper and Rhys is pretty clear about when he needs to go outside. Thus far our routine seems to be to bed between 10:30 pm 11:30 pm, up for a quick pee at between 3-4 am – but not always, and then up at 6:45 am.
Perhaps the most major development of the week has involved Camm. As in she is now head over heels smitten with this puppy.
It started Thursday night after we’d all gone to agility class. Rhys did well meeting new people and met two lovely female dogs that were appropriate and playful.
Camm had gradually been warming up to Rhys, but he’s been most persistent about trying to initiate a friendship with Youke. Youke has just been more and more standoffish though. Brady continues to avoid him and Rhys has quickly picked up on Brady’s signature grumbles and growls. He seems to understand he might want to tread a bit carefully with Brady, although that has not prevented him from once jumping on him (met with a quick but appropriate correction) and several drive-by attempts to start some fun. However, while Youke and Brady will only tolerate the occasional nose touch, Camm has been initiating contact.
On Thursday night, she initiated play. Yes, actual play. Play that is appropriate and self-handicapped. The Bitey-Face game has now become a nightly ritual. It’s incredibly entertaining to watch. Pretty much better than anything that’s on television right now. I especially enjoy watching Rhys become better coordinated with each evening and try to employ some cool ninja moves. However, cool ninja moves aren’t really that cool when your body is not yet well-coordinated.
I do look forward to the progression of the cool ninja moves though.
The Bitey-Face game even started on Saturday morning, although I admit I asked Camm if she wanted to play with him as I’m fighting a cold and the game with Camm tires him out.
Rhys also got to meet the garage door repairman this week. While I figured it’d be a good socialization opportunity, it was still awesome to see Rhys initiate contact after being curious about the noise going on in the garage. The repair guy was great too in that he didn’t fawn over Rhys, but pretty much just went about his work. Rhys reciprocated by checking out the guy’s tools and the ladder he was standing on. The noise that went along with the repair did not concern Rhys in the least.
I’m loving that Rhys takes things pretty much in stride and is not fazed, thus far, by very much.
This coming week will be a lighter week in terms of work, which will allow for more time with Rhys and some managed socialization opportunities. I’ll also work on more training with him. While he’s playing tug and learning to give and take with tug, I want to introduce him to some more toys and to the clicker.
A final note about Rhys’s first week here. It is very fascinating to watch him watch The Big Dogs and follow their cues. I said that with Youke I was eternally grateful how much Jasmine took him under her wing and brought him up just as much as I did. It seems that history is repeating itself between he and Camm and it makes my heart sing.
Welcome to the Next Year of My Life
I only got about three and a half hours of sleep between the late hours of Friday evening and very early Saturday morning. Probably not the way to begin a new journey, with sleep deprivation. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a deprivation-induced stupor for the next year or so, so in that light, it was an auspicious start.
I did it. I caved. I couldn’t resist any longer.
Some 530 miles and a speeding ticket later, I brought a puppy into my life on Saturday.
Everyone, meet Rhys.
Rhys is a black and white Border Collie. He hails from Oregon. He will be making Washington his home. Specifically, my house will be his home.
Lest ya’ll think this was some sudden knee-jerk reaction or weakness on my part, it was not. Homecoming for Rhys has been in the works for several weeks.
I had been contemplating a new addition for the past year or so. Much as I love teenage dogs or getting dogs as young adults, and much as I have had great experience obtaining dogs from shelters or breed-specific rescues, I could not shake the thought of going for a puppy again.
I’ve always joked that I must’ve done a pretty good job with Youke as he’s perfect. Obviously he isn’t really, but he’s about as perfect as any dog of mine is likely to ever get. I credit his utter perfection to how he was raised as a wee puppy to how I raised him after he became mine after only a few short months in his life.
Youke came into my life sort of by accident. I’d read a message written on a big board at the place I was taking agility lessons about pups that were available. I nervously made an inquiry, figuring it was about time that I really find out if Border Collies were everything I thought they were. I was at that time in my life, in the perfect place mentally and financially to finally raise a puppy. And I had support and help. Or so I thought. Going through a separation and subsequent divorce when your puppy is under a year old is not well advised. Of course, I did not know when I picked him up that my life was about to be broken to bits for a while.
Anyway, I fell in love with Youke when his picture was sent to me via email. It’s a modern love story really. And once I heard the story of how he and his litter-mates came to be, I was beyond smitten. See, I really love nothing more than a really good and engaging story.
So, despite the fog that was pretty much Youke’s first year in life, he turned out pretty well.
I also have a bond with Youke that I don’t have with my other dogs or have had with any other dog. This is not to say that the bonds I have with or have had with, my other dogs are less, just that they are different. What Brady and I have gone through on his journey with me has cemented us for life. Camm designated herself long ago as my therapist and indispensable right hand gal.
But what I have with Youke is those first months of his life and I don’t have that with my other dogs. That stage is crucial for so many things, but especially for early learning, how to learn and impulse control.
I had decided some time ago that my next dog would be a puppy. The question was would it be a puppy from rescue or not.
I figured I had plenty of time to decide and to look around.
About a week or two before Jasmine became ill last November, I had a dream.
Now, I dream a lot and can recall a great many of them shortly after I awaken, but I’ve had a dozen or so dreams in my life that I have never been able to forget. The dream I had in November was one.
In fact, it reminded me of the dream I had several months after I had lost Kip, the first dog in my adult life. In that dream, Kip was frolicking in the big field in front of my mother’s place, when all of a sudden a big black dog appeared and they started playing tag under the old oak tree in that field. In the dream, Kip told me he was okay and it was okay to have this dog and the dream ended with Kip bounding by himself across the field and the unknown black dog running across the stream to come see me.
The dream shook me. I’m not a religious person and I’m ambivalent about the whole rainbow bridge thing; as in “nice concept, but really?” but still very comforting to think about. I’ve had people tell me since the dream was merely my subconscious informing me I was ready for another dog. Perhaps …
My next dog was supposed to have been a six-month old black Labrador Retriever, but he ended up getting parvo at the shelter and died. However, on the same day that I saw the Lab, I saw a skinny, severely malnourished Husky mix that I could not stop thinking about and that I instantaneously named Sylvie in my head that day. She went home with me a week later.
She was not black. But she was somehow still the dog in that dream.
Early last November, Jasmine was still very much alive. Yet I had a dream that she was standing right in front of me, very serious, and looked toward a tri-colored Border Collie and communicated that this was my next dog and that she really liked him/her and approved.
I woke up in the morning, completely baffled and a bit shaken. It was so odd. Plus, I’ve never really been drawn to tri-colored Border Collies. But Jasmine had been so serious in the dream. It was just strange.
When she died only a short time later, the memory of the dream shook me even more.
Still, I had vowed not to get another dog for a while.
Fast forward to January and driving with a friend to see a new litter of Border Collie puppies. I calmly went along to support a friend, firm in my resolve and calm because I knew I wasn’t interested in a puppy and therefore this was not my circus so to speak.
Imagine my disbelief when I saw that this litter had several tri-colored puppies.
Still, they were not for me.
However, when I learned my friend would not be taking one home either (a female will best as her next dog and only males were available), a germ seed began to sprout.
I then proceeded to literally spend many sleepless nights, consumed with “should I or shouldn’t I” thoughts. This whole adding another dog thing is a serious process for me, until the moment it is not.
I sent another friend, who did take a pup from the litter, a message asking if the breeder would even consider me. See, these were out and out serious sheepdog puppies and I don’t sheepdog. Don’t get me wrong, my dogs lead big lives and do a lot with me, the least of which is agility, but while I’ve put Youke on sheep a handful of times, it’s not anything I see myself becoming serious about. Although one should never say never, right?
I was prepared for a “no” answer and would be ready to move on, but in one of those odd twist of fate moments that so often comprise life, one male pup had suddenly become available the evening before my message reached the breeder. Plus, I had met with approval. So I got this picture.
And thus I found myself falling in love again over the internet. This picture only sealed the deal.
I got about five hours of sleep total last night, after being awakened at 3:15 am by Rhys for a potty break (seriously, we’re off to an excellent start!), and then back to bed after a late evening/early morning snack.
So far, YoBaCa are a bit miffed, puzzled and very, very curious. Youke is soft and gentle, but can only deal with the new baby in small doses. Although Rhys seems to like Youke very much.
Brady is, as usual, conflicted. He softly wags his tail and has been very polite and gentle, but there’s no way he wants Rhys near his toys or near his freshly dug dirt holes.
Camm has been the biggest surprise to me. Naturally she lifted her lip when she first met Rhys. And she is insanely jealous of his fresh and new baby toys. But she’s also been the first one to initiate play, and appropriate play at that.
Rhys is a classic black and white boy. He’s not a tri-color. Yet as I drove home with him last night on the last leg of our long car ride, I was suddenly moved because deep down I know he’s the dog in that dream.
There will be a lot of entries in this blog over the next several months that are specific to Rhys. That will be more for my benefit as I want to journal his progress, but feel free to skip over them, or maybe enjoy them with me. Eventually, his name will somehow become incorporated in the blog as well. But time is limited right now.
Rhys just woke up from a nice long nap and I want to get him outside to enjoy the late day’s light in the woods. The first of many, I’m sure.
Footnote: Rhys is a Welsh name and the Anglo pronunciation is “Reese.” No, he’s not named for anyone. His name just came to me when I saw that first picture of him. Yes, the name is a departure from my Boston sports figures tribute theme. And yes, I’m done with that theme now. Lastly, no, I do not deliberately seek to confuse all future gate stewards on the correct pronunciation of his name. Although I cannot say that the confusion surrounding Youke’s name has not been without some degree of humor.
Snowy and Clean
Snowy and Clean. It pretty much sums up the last few weeks. There’s presently a lot of snow here – at least for the Pacific Northwest portions that aren’t in the mountains. Also, my house is now very clean.
This all seems quite boring, and I assure you, it really is.
However, inside my head it is very, very dark, tumultuous and extremely grumpy. Very not boring at all.
That would be why I haven’t written much of late.
Between Jasmine’s sudden death making me incredibly sad almost all the time, sad and angry people trying to make their bullshit about me and the sudden loss of my agility mojo, I’m not really feeling it lately.
Jasmine being gone has affected me far more than I would have guessed. For instance, the other day, as I was hiking with Youke, Brady and Camm in the snow about 45 minutes east of home, I became teary as I thought about how much Jasmine loved snow and how sad it was that this winter, when we’ve seen the most snow in the lower elevations than we have since about 2008, Jasmine isn’t here to frolic in it. Repeat this very same scenario two days later when snow hit hard where I live. The three dogs were rolling, diving, shoving their noses in it and running that crazy tails tucked between the legs run that dogs do when they became extremely playful and excited. I suddenly missed Jaz so much. The bitter. metallic taste of grief signaled the first sob, followed by tears.
Of course I didn’t indulge in tears for long, because really, it’s hard to maintain sadness when three dogs are doing zoomies at 80 miles an hour so very near your knees.
While I could blame hormones on the moments when I’m so unexpected caught by grief, I truly think it’s more that Jasmine got ill very suddenly and while 13 years old, never truly grew to be an old dog. The weekend before she passed. she had been running like crazy with the other dogs in a great big field, barking her fool head off and bulldozing over anyone that got in her way.
I mourned Sylvie too when she died, but she was about 16 years old and had been a very old dog for the last two years of her life and an ancient dog in the last six months. Her death was different in that it felt very natural and she had lived an incredible, adventure-filled long life. Jasmine did too I suppose, but I still feel she died too young. Her death also resurrected a lot of the grief and pain associated with the loss of my first dog as an adult, Kip. Kip died at only seven years old, in the prime of his life, from an aggressive cancer.
There’s just something about losing them when they are theoretically young and still full of promise.
So here’s a thing. Everyone knows I hate housework. I literally have cleaned out barns and shoveled out multiple cow and horse stalls in my life to avoid housework. But when I become upset about life, I clean. I suppose it’s some form of catharsis. It also would appear to be some form of surrogate for ridding myself of the people, feelings, things that I cannot literally discard.
I literally vacuum to suck up the figurative dirt in my life.
Over the course of four days I became a cleaning whirlwind, scrubbing bathrooms, vacuuming not only floors, but crevices as well, mopping floors, washing walls, rearranging furniture and heaving so, so many things.
Strangely, I didn’t even recognize at first what I was doing and why. It was only on the last day, when my hands were red and raw and my back and legs were aching from all the heavy lifting that it suddenly dawned on me. I only clean when I’m upset or pissed. And as it turned out, I was both.
As for agility, I competed with the dogs in two trials since the New Year. They were trials I had entered a while ago, and before I realized I’d lost my agility mojo.
At one trial, I almost left midday to go hiking because I just wasn’t into it. My dogs knew it too and we were a hot mess. Except for me and Youke. He and I have been a hot mess for many years, so he is very good at compensating. Plus he was only entered in one run that day. I guess he wanted to give me a present and therefore was awesome.
So, instead of hiking, I took off for an hour or so to find a book to read and ended up finding formerly expensive candles on sale instead.
I ended up going back the next day and this time the pre-agility routine of a ginormous cup of coffee with multiple shots of espresso and playing KC and The Sunshine Band really, really loud on the way to the trial site did its magic.* I was pumped and ready to play. Needless to say, we did fairly well that day. Well, except for me and Camm. Camm and I still have extended periods of being a hot mess.
*(The pre-agility routine always consists of a ginormous cup of coffee – 16 ounces or larger, with at least three shots of espresso and a flavor because the added sugar from the syrup just can only make things better. This is because I am not a morning person and doing agility apparently requires early mornings. I do not know who made that rule. I would like to stuff a bagel down the throat of the person who made up that rule. The pre-agility routine also requires loud excitement-inducing music. Since local radio stations cannot always be counted on to supply this requirement – nothing worse than hearing a Journey ballad on the way to an agility trial for me – I provide my own CDs that I regularly rotate through. In the past, AC/DC, Aerosmith or The Rolling Stones could be heard blasting out of my speakers, but I am currently in a dance music or disco phase, hence, KC and The Sunshine Band. Last month, Michael Jackson was also in the rotation.)
Last week, we also went to an agility trial. Same pre-agility routine, but it was pretty anticlimactic. I only ran Camm on Saturday and decided to skip the first two runs of the day, instead choosing to sleep in. I arrived, not really ready to rock. However, Camm decided she was ready to rock, so completely overcompensated for my lackadaisical handling, scoring two number one qualifying scores. I’m pretty sure actually that would not have happened had I really cared at all.
The second day was better. I arrived for the first runs of the day this time – but mainly because I had entered all three dogs and six runs is a lot to throw away money on. However, by the second half of the day I was over agility again and just wanted to leave and go watch the Super Bowl.
The current lack of agility mojo does not bode well for CPE Nationals.
I sent my entry in last week. It’s a draw and everyone is on pins and needles about getting in. Except for me.
I truthfully don’t care if I get in or not.
It’s like I blew my load on qualifying Camm – which happened finally on the last weekend of the qualifying period. We were way behind because she was out with the broken foot last year for several months and we could only start competing again in the fall. So I busted my butt (and pocketbook) on getting her qualified because it seemed really, really important at the time.
Now I’m all like, blah, whatever.
If you believe in that sort of thing, my horoscope for 2017 says this is supposed to be a very good year for me. I’m still kind of waiting. I’m not whining. It’s been fine so far and the year is still very early.
Signs do point to some major and exciting events though. So, I’m expecting.
This is How We Ring In the New Year
How to end the year and start the new year? With an agility trial of course!
Really, did you expect anything different?
So by the skin of her pearly white teeth, got Camm qualified for CPE Nationals in May 2017 at this trial – the last freakin’ trial of the year and the last of the qualifying period. She was kind though and didn’t make me wait until December 31. We actually got that last Snooker Q (Q= qualifying score) on December 30. It wasn’t pretty and it was not a proud moment for me. There was a lot of shrieking involved on the part of the Human. Thankfully, neither of my agility instructors was there to witness this awful moment or I’m pretty sure they’d ask me to take my business, and shrieking, elsewhere.
“Louder is not clearer,” in the words of one of my instructors.
I’m lucky that Camm was so dismayed by my sudden transformation into a shrieking harridan that she forgot to scold or bite me and instead did the course as I
instructed, er, screamed.
I did get bitten that day though. Not by any of my dogs, a fact that seemed to perplex and surprise those that know me and my dogs when we do the agility thing when I posted this on Facebook. I was bitten by a potential client dog. The word potential being the operative descriptive here. However, before the bite occurred – when my back was turned and as I was headed out the door – so very not cool buddy! – I’d received just enough information to consider giving the dog another chance, and therefore did not immediately tell the human client, no freakin’ way am I walking that dog! I’ll admit, I did consider saying it though.
The dog in question has lived in three different places within the past year and his family only moved into the current house a month ago, and then left him at a boarding facility for two weeks during the recent holidays, where he was injured and had to receive stitches and wear the dreaded cone. In fact, on Friday when I met him he was in the cone. So, I could see where maybe he was a little stressed out and I opted to give him another chance.
Our second meeting, which occurred today, went better and he’s – at least for now – on the client list, although sort of in the probationary category. I’m hopeful that this will be one of those situations where several months from now I can laugh with his humans and say, remember that time he bit me? First though, the nasty mark he left will have to have gone completely away.
Back to the more joyful and fun time I had this past weekend, and after the dog bite.
I had the dogs wear Jasmine’s old agility leashes again on Friday, hoping that again they’d bring us good luck. Sure enough, Camm scored her needed Snooker Q wearing Jasmine’s special leash I’d purchased for her when she went to CPE Nationals in 2012.
I’ll note too that Youke, Brady and Camm have all worn one of Jasmine’s agility leashes for their first run in competition. I’m just a little superstitious.
I’ve thought about Jasmine a lot over the past few weeks. Okay, every day. From a purely observational standpoint, it’s interesting to see how the dogs are responding to her absence.
That’s a post for another day. But, I have made it official and today put this collar on Camm.
And speaking of accessories for dogs, because this trial did take place over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, all three got to wear their most blinged out agility leashes on Saturday and Sunday.
I also wore some bling on Saturday. I wore the World’s Most Shiniest Skirt.
I decided that since this trial was on New Year’s Eve, I’d better look the part. Yes, I ran agility with this thing on and about five layers on top. Also, with insulated running tights underneath. I was still cold all day. Well, unless I was running one of the three dogs. I think I may actually run faster with a skirt on. Or maybe that’s because I was wearing a skirt in freezing temperatures.
Interestingly. Youke and Camm did not care that I was running them with this much distracting bling. Brady also didn’t care once he was running, but he did stop several times when getting him out of the car to peer underneath and gave me several appreciative sniffs and looks.
The dogs ran great and we had some stellar runs and some not so stellar runs. Oddly, the moment that sticks most in my head from this past weekend in terms of running with my dogs was being on the start line with Brady during some timer delay and bending down to kiss him on the top of his head. Now, I do this quite a lot with my dogs, and it’s not so much a smooch as it is a big deep breath of the top of their heads. I have a thing about smelling my dogs, in that I love the way they smell and it’s a way for me to connect with them before we run if we have time at the start line.
Brady’s smell caught me a bit off guard as he smelled really, really good. Actually Brady smells really good most of the time. He naturally seems to have the aroma of cedar, pine and grass in his coat most of the time. But on Sunday, he had all those smells and something extra special mixed in too. Not sure what it was, but he smelled fabulous and at that moment I could not stop sniffing how fabulous he was. I stood bent over the top of his head breathing in his specialness and wondering if there was a way to develop and patent that smell. Probably not the kind of thing most people think of just before they are about to run their dog on an agility course.
It was all good though. We ended up having a really awesome run and probably my favorite with him of the weekend.
I had a lot of fun hanging out with friends, seeing ones I haven’t seen in a while, making some new ones and just laughing.
I’m not big on the drama, histrionics and expectations of the year’s end and the start of a new one, but I do love when a year ends with laughter and starts on that same note.
Happy Festivus from Us!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You! Goodwill and Peace on Earth and Good Fortune for All.
Camm: Happy Christmas birthday adventure day!
Brady: Finally. Outside and doing fun things.
Youke, Brady and Camm seemed pretty convinced it was a special day today.
Camm: Must be special holiday?! Probably Camm Day!!
Youke: Got to run and PLAY BALL!!!
Brady: Got to run, play Ball and PEE ON ALL THE THINGS!!
The joyous occasion was a slower work day, which translated into having time to do something fun with my own dogs. So I took them to not just one fun place, but two.
Camm: Got to run and explore in the woods, then splash in the river!
Youke and Brady: And PLAY BALL in a big field!
Camm: Run super fast!
It really was pretty much the ideal Christmas present for a dog. Well, at least my dogs.
We went on a mellow hike in the soaking rain, which was wonderful because the dogs got to be off leash for most of it as no other crazies were out in the cold rain and snow flurries that visited us today. We did see a couple walking when we were nearly back to the car.
“Collies! Are they friendly?” As Brady proceeded to wiggle his butt frantically and show them just how congenial a soaking wet border collie could be.
Just as we rounded the last curve before getting back to the car, we met a young guy out with his own two dogs.
“What a great day to be out here, huh?!” This was said without an ounce of sarcasm, but instead with pure unadulterated happiness. And I knew exactly how he felt and what it meant.
“Indeed it is!” I replied, before cautioning him to keep his dogs back a little way from Camm. “She can get snippy,” I explained. Sure enough, she snapped at the face of one of the dogs that got a bit too close to her own face, and her treasured Ball. But all was good. The young man was happy to be out playing with his dogs, as was I with my own, and all the dogs were just happy to be out being dogs. Even Ms. Snippy Face.
Camm: Was afraid that dog try to steal Cammi’s Ball!
Then off we went to another location to play Ball and to dip paws in the river. The dogs were beside themselves once they realized they were about to embark on a second adventure.
As we headed home, the snow started to fall a bit more consistently and in the slighter higher elevation it is actually sticking. I haven’t been much in the Christmas Spirit so far, but this was lovely to see and made the landscape seasonally appropriate.
For all that trudging about, I served myself a small glass of eggnog and had a Christmas cookie. The dogs had already had a couple of dog cookies, but their pleading eyes informed me that I’d left out a certain taste of the season.
So I gave them all a dollop of eggnog.
There’s nothing like a collision with a normal pet dog owner to oust me from my insular existence.
Having only three dogs now has made my household a lot quieter. Of course that’s due not only to the absence of merely a number, but also the absence of a presence and the effect of that absence on the remaining three (and me). Still, I find myself thinking how I now only have three dogs.
My dogs are far from perfect. In fact, they are very imperfect. I am incredibly conscious of this fact. For my life, I allow a great deal of latitude when it comes to certain things. Such as this:
The worse thing about this picture? I encouraged it. Yes, I actually encouraged Camm to do this. Why? Because she did it on her own and I realized how adorable she was with her expressive face asking me what I was cooking and if she could have some. However, I did not have my camera nearby. So I ran to grab it and asked her to repeat her offered behavior. Which she did all too gladly. And was rewarded with profuse praise. I was actually smart enough not to reward it with a nibble of what I was cooking. I already have Youke the Counter Surfer. I don’t need another.
I’m also very lackadaisical about actual leash training, which is why if I’m serious about actually walking my dogs on leash, I use a harness. Being that they often are not on leashes though, they have excellent recalls and know several important cues, such as “wait” and “close.” When actually on a leash, I’m pretty sure my dogs believe we are trying out for an Iditarod team.
My dogs are not necessary great with other dogs. I’ve written before about this. Mainly, they are snotty border collies with intense breed snobbery and firmly believe that only herding dogs know how to behave properly and know how to be polite. Most other border collies are acceptable. Some Australian Shepherds are also deemed admissible. Australian Cattle Dogs are also permissible. Youke will tolerate most anybody if he is off leash and as long as they aren’t trying to butter up to me. Brady, surprisingly for his lengthy history of dog reactivity, off leash will greet other dogs, even the boorish Labrador or unruly Golden Retriever, in a friendly manner, as long as they don’t push it. I guess this means I did an okay job with Brady. On the other hand, Camm prefers to live in her own little space bubble, her space uninvaded by any but members of her own immediate tribe. Hell hath no fury like Camm when another dog dares to solicit her when she has made it very clear that their presence is unwelcome. I don’t feel she’s aggressive per se. She is amazingly tolerant of other dogs around her and near her, as long as they are very much minding their own business. In fact, their eyes should not even touch upon her majesty.
So, with this, and much, much more naughtiness, I am acutely aware of my dogs’ shortcomings and faults. This is why most of time we visit places or go at times where we will not encounter others – other dogs or other humans.
The ordinary pet owner’s perspective:
I finished up work today at 4 pm and made it home at 4:15 pm. Being that it is mid-December, I was literally minutes away from it being pitch black.
This time of year sucks. It sucks for me, but mostly it sucks for my dogs. The lack of daylight seriously cuts into our fun adventure time, particularly as I must work for a living.
As soon as I parked this evening, I called the dogs and invited them into the vehicle for a romp. Needless to say, they were extremely pleased about this unexpected invitation.
I took them to a nearby park, taking a calculated risk that while it was dark at 4:30 pm, it would not be gated shut, and I was right. I had also calculated that the small dog park within the larger park area would be uninhabited and that the trails winding through the park would be deserted.
I was mostly right.
I did see a lone walker and dog off in the distance when we first arrived, but they were easily avoided as we took an alternate path going in another direction.
Silently praising my brilliance for choosing to walk the dogs in near darkness on a literal freezing cold evening, my foolish pride came crashing down when two male trail runners suddenly appeared behind us. Because Brady cannot be trusted after dark off leash, he was attached to me via a long line. Camm and Youke were off leash, a little bit ahead on the trail. I quickly called Camm to me. She came instantly, but not before the two young men burst upon the scene as well. Needless to say, she was startled and started barking fiercely. In their haste to avoid Camm, one of the men quickly ran inches past her – a move that would’ve earned him a nip if I didn’t have such a firm grip on her collar – and the other tried to go around. Unfortunately, the runner’s going around made him narrowly avoid slamming into me, but did not prevent him from tripping over Brady’s long line, shortened hastily by me to a mere four feet or so, but apparently still two feet longer than it should have been per his miscalculated attempt to get between me and the bushes.
I didn’t know whether to be pissed about the sudden ambush or apologetic about being out in the near dark in the middle of a trail with three dogs who clearly were not expecting trail runners when clearly we should’ve been.
As my brain was trying to process this, but slowly erring on the side of being apologetic, the two men stopped ever so briefly and offered an apology themselves.
So there the three humans stood for 4.5 seconds, profusely apologizing to one another. Meanwhile, Youke was happily exploring the bushes, Camm had her mouth wrapped safely around her Ball and Brady was wriggling enthusiastically hoping one of the men would notice him.
Luckily, we did not encounter any more living beings on the trail.
Once we reached the small dog park area, I took a look around and it appeared deserted. It was by then quite dark. I figured I could let Brady off his long line and let him run around a bit since the area is fully enclosed by a fence.
No sooner had I let my three free, when I saw a man with a headlamp and a small white terrier enter the enclosure.
Interesting factoid here: It is the nature of most humans, especially most pet dog-owning humans, to gravitate immediately toward the area in which another dog owner is playing with her own dogs. It does not matter if there are two possible enclosures to enter or many more acres of park to explore.
Thus, my three dogs and I found ourselves suddenly sharing a rather small space with a curious man and his curious small white terrier.
As is my way, I opted not to address the man or point out his rather undiplomatic intrusion. Instead, I talked quietly to Youke, Brady and Camm and pointedly (I thought) walked in the opposite direction. Those versed in body language will recognize that I was making a concerted effort not to engage. Okay, most humans would realize I was shunning this man and his small white terrier. I say most humans, but not the average pet dog-owning human.
The man and his small white terrier followed us.
Brady decided to introduce himself to the other dog, as did Youke. Camm, like me, was actively shunning him. However, like me, she was becoming increasingly annoyed with the invasion of personal space and personal time.
Being clueless, the man and his small white terrier continued to shadow our moves. I spoke quietly to Camm and advised her to “leave it” when I saw her lip lift ever so slightly. Although it was quite dark, I saw this quite clearly as her teeth are quite white. I handed her Ball to keep her mind on other things, and her mouth off the intrusive little white terrier.
“You don’t want to play with her. She might bite you,” I said quietly, and yet clearly to the small white dog. Then I called my three to me and suggested softly that we go “this way.”
“Are all of those dogs yours?” the man asked. Puzzled, since I only had three, I replied in the affirmative.
“They’re so well-behaved!” the man exclaimed. “Are you a dog trainer?”
For the first time in my life, and after giving a long two seconds of thought, I replied in the affirmative, while also praying that he would not ask me for training tips.
“Wow, you’re good! I can’t even get one dog to behave! And look at how yours listen to you.” And with that, the man decided to part ways and left, taking his small white terrier with him.
I stood in the enclosure, with my three apparently well-behaved dogs around me, pondering his words. It certainly did not seem true, and yet he seemed to think so. And then I realized that it was all about the perspective.
The Picture Tells
“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.
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.
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.