Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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Reboot, restart, refresh, redo.

At least they hold really still when they sleep.

Ruby, always the optimist although she sometimes hears witches in her brain and I'm not sure you really go on what she says, would tell you yesterday was a lovely day of napping in the rain.

I would say otherwise. In fact, I am stamping my foot and declaring that this blog is closed until Gustavo and Otterpop feel better. They both got terribly sore legs from their rabies vaccine. Monday is our day off. Instead of fun, dogs limped and whimpered, then slept, making funny noises. Many checks were written to US Treasury and Franchise Tax Board. It rained. My pants were too tight. We would like a day off do-over, please.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The hippie doc comes down off the mountain.

I don't like to go to the doctor's office. Neither do the dogs. When it's time for them to get a shot we wait for the hippie vet to come down off the mountain. I don't give my dogs many shots. Kind of a minimalist vaccinator. 3 year program. Today, everybody went to see the hippie doc for a rabies. She sets up shop in a closet at a local dog wash, and carries the vaccines in from her beat up old car in an ice chest.

She wears purple tie dye scrubs and a helper that looks like she used to help Dr. Frankenstein in the castle. Cloris Leachman but way taller. Hippie doc has scraggly gray hair, and is a little stooped like she lives under a tree, her helper is briskly efficient and seems like the type of person that doesn't put up with idiots. I actually like this doc very much. I'm not sure what her business plan is, she charges just $10 for each shot. There's always a line to visit her in her closet, you take a number and sit in a chair, where you can watch people wash their dogs. It was raining today. No one washing dogs.

There was a cat in a cage on a greasy haired lady's lap. A guy with a pitbull. A guy with a lab. Some ladies with puppies, each with a posse of kids. I was sitting there dogless, holding number 5 in my hand. The dogs stayed out in the car until number 4 went into the closet.

I asked one of the kids, "Te amo su perrito?"

My Spanish grammar sucks. Probably right at 5 year old level. But he got it and head butted the baby lab, laying in his mom's lap under a pink baby blanket. The mom had eyebrows that were just thin painted lines and tall hair. The kids ran off to play by the empty dog tubs.

It's not medicine for everyone. I go in and tell her what the dogs need, hang on to them while she sticks them, and hand her over some cash. Fast and easy. Good for ferals. There are bags of dog food stacked up in the closet, Ruby climbs on top and contemplates opening one. It's a little less stressful than being in the vet hospital. Just everybody hanging out together in the broom closet. Next year our big trip to the broom closet is for a 3 year DHLPP. She's a minimalist too. But also realistic. There's a lot of vaccines out there, and I just don't think that every dog needs them. Hippie doc, not trying to make sales.

I've never asked my vet friends what they think of the hippie doc. Not even sure if they know about her. She's a DVM, but I think she flies a little low under the radar. It's pretty DIY. Works good for me.

Cloris Leachman stomps out to find number 6. The dogs are done with standing around in the closet, we'll see her again next year.

Everybody's got an opinion on dog vaccines. I've been getting emails about a bill in California about rabies vaccines marked URGENT but I'm not sure what it's about. Is it forcing Californians to get rabies vaccines? Or it's sneaking something else up on us? Like making us get rabies more than every 3 years? Going to make us keep giving it to old dogs? I stopped giving it to Timmy at some point. Maybe I was breaking the law. I guess I should have asked hippie doc, but she had a row of dogs and cats waiting in the pet suppies section for her.

I know it hits the small dogs hard. Does the same thing with ponies. Gustavo and Otterpop are both limping around and just enjoyed some baby aspiring, gave them some last night as well. Hate to do this to them. But would hate someone to ever get rabies. Maybe you can enlighten us?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

If you listen carefully, you can hear when the monkeys start jumping all over the snare drum.

Gustavo has a soundtrack. Imagine mariachi surf music, except played triple fast by a marching band made up of very talented monkeys. With go go dancers. When you see him coming, he's always got his soundtrack on.

When he stops, there's little brake sounds like from the Flintstones. Like when Fred has to scrape his feet on the bedrock to stop his rock car. Eeeeeerrrr.

And he's all, "I LOVE YOU!" Even if you are a lizard.

He loves to harass Otterpop.

She might be just laying there, guarding a hole in the ground.

The dog rules are, everyone should just dig up their own squirrel hole. One dog per hole. Do not steal someone else's squirrel hole. Unless you are Otterpop, in which case you can have anyone's squirrel hole. But do not steal Otterpop's squirrel hole. There are penalties for this.

Gustavo tends to ignore rules. This drives Otterpop crazy.

It can be quite a standoff of the wills. Someone has a very stubborn will and someone has mariachi surf music played by monkeys. In little bolero jackets.

And so we go.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Practicing with the Team-Heat seeking laser missile drill you can do in 5 minutes even if you're late for work.

I have mentioned this before. Gustavo's weave pole performance lacks a little feature that we all know in agility to be very important. The aerospace one. The dog must lock on to their missile target from the launch silo and hit it dead on from any point in space, at any rate of speed, and kill their target with a ruthless, dead on efficiency each and every time.

We love this, right? You stand there, in the safe room, by the BatPhone, and when you push the red button, the one decorated with a tiny little skeleton face and lightening bolts, your dog blasts out of the secret mountain hideaway and pops into the correct pole no matter what, and flies through those poles in record speed.

There are different ways to build in this feature. Otterpop is implanted with a radar chip and I keep the remote device under my big toe. When I see those poles up ahead, I just hit the toe remote and she's in and I can run off anywhere else I want and never have to worry about what's going on in those poles thanks to the work of the satellite dish and government grants.

With Ruby, I don't know. I think once I fed her a hot dog sandwich near the poles and she just learned how to do this. She isn't so much heat seeking as hot dog sneaking.

With Gustavo however, we had a pole challenge. There was some artful training required at the boot camp levels. For a while there, I assumed I would have a dog that never, ever would do weave poles, and that he'd never have a use out there in the sea, swimming ahead of the ship, wiggling through the floating land mines with grace, speed and ease, and delivering the explosive devices like the other dogs.

I felt bad. My poor training meant he'd have a miserable office job and never, ever get to blow anyone up.

We persevered though, and I nearly have the carefully crafted death machine that we all dream of in our agility training. There are just a couple places though, that the timing is still off and at a high rate of speed, he blows past the first pole. And when the mission is critical, this becomes a life or death matter. Because, you know. Do not kill the civilians. It's not, TRY not to kill the civilians. You just are not supposed to do this. You only kill the guys that George Bush intended us to, so very long ago.

My friend Mary had a great way to teach her poles during which no one was killed or maimed or had to wear the Hurt Locker suit made of kevlar and steel. She just sat on her deck drinking a beer and waved over to the poles and her dog ran over there and went through them. No chips, hotdogs, or high frequency transmitters needed. I, on the other hand, just leave a little early for work, and set up challenging drills for Gustavo and we still are working on this. Because I like to do things the hard way. And you are not supposed to drink beer on the way to work.

In our little quickie drill today, we start out with some tight little turns from anywhere and everywhere into the poles. Once you are successful with each of these, ever time, and your dog is crazy mad to get through those poles because reward! reward! reward!, then you just back the missile off into the silo. And hit the speed button.

As you set your long range device unit, you hopefully, at those long runs in, at speeds of over 350 knots due starboard, eastboard and longboard, your little death machine is now complete. Shampoo, rinse repeat. From everywhere. All the time. Happy hunting!

Friday, April 09, 2010

A few things that might be nice to discuss.

Speed traps. IE, like when a cop sits in the bushes by an apple packing plant where, yeah. The speed limit MIGHT be posted as 35, but EVERYBODY drives way faster there. How do we feel about groveling? IE, "Please please please please pleeeeease Officer, PLEASE do not write me a ticket?"

Leaning out of the car window. "PPPPPLLLLEEEAASSEEEEE!"

The officer was a stout lady with a very, very short, and might I add, unflattering haircut. She said, "I'll see what I can do." And then walked back to the squad car and wrote me a ticket.

I have learned not to take pictures of cops.

Tarantulas. I think one of the nice things in my life right now is that I do not have to worry about tarantulas in the house or falling from the sky on to my head. Or the heads of loved ones. If I remind loved ones of this fact, sometimes loved ones are not as impressed as I and turn the sound back on the guys playing tv sports.

Dog agility. I do not think I used to wheeze and huff and puff from running dogs like I do right now. I believe that there was an exercise program and it has fizzled into nothing. Into shambling, actually. Susan Garrett said we should get a little round trampoline and bounce our ways into size 4. I am pretty much just trying to stay pleased about lack of tarantulas (see above.) There isn't much bouncing or running, just huffing and puffing. To this I say, hell's bells.

The lazy bum in me keeps thinking, every day as I rush out the door, life is too short to work this hard. What happened to all the fun bits? The doodling? The painting studio? Huh? Huh? HUH?

Which do you think is worse? A boring, whiney blog post, or Kate Gosselin and hair extensions having a new reality show with her pack of something something tuplets?

This also, could be a nice thing to discuss.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Hello from Dirt Nite, wish you were here.

Dirt Nite was swell. I let Otterpop and Gustavo run last night, Hobbes had to stay home with a sore fingernail problem. We missed him. Ruby took one for the Team and stayed out on the bench. It was fun to trade off little dogs back and forth though, real fun until Gustavo who has been so good at sitting quietly in his soft crate ringside decided to claw a hole through his door with his decidedly non sore fingernails while I ran Otterpop. So much for all my well behaved Gustavo in class project.

His friend Wings sits quietly in her crate and doesn't chew holes in it. Actually, I take Gustavo out for a little walk when Wings has her turn because Gustavo monkey screams just as loudly for Rob running Wings as he does when I run Otterpop and Hobbes. But then again, Wings is going to the Czech Republic in July for the European Open of Dog Agility and Gustavo was not invited to this. A coincidence? I think not. But we are VERY excited for Rob and Wings.

Pop and Gman ran great, speedy and pretty much a-ok, until their very last run when both had little teeter totter moments. Did Otterpop watch Gustavo freak out and jump off? I dunno, because she did the same thing. Maybe it was me and some weirdo handling? Entirely possible, and I will go with that. First Gustavo, some post traumatic teeter stress thing, then Otterpop with an abandon ship right after.

To my teeter bailers, I say life goes on. Teeter totters are part of the big time space continuum, and you got your ups and you got your downs and some days, you go with it and other days, good god. You just want to fling yourself off the side and lay on the closet floor drinking a mai-tai, listening to Wilco really, really loud. Really though, you have to learn, even if you are just a dog, to hang on tight and the second it hits the floor, go running fast on to the next thing. It's a blip on your horizon. Just deal with it.

So then we just ran around some more again and everything was fine and we dragged the stuff back into the trailer and called it a night. There's always something. I was happy to have fast, focused and generally error free dogs. I look past a gaping hole in the crate door and some deviant teeter behavior and am happy to see them, right now, all bitey facing each other on the couch.

Right on, over and out.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

In case you ever had any question about Otterpop's hobby.

We all have these things to do we enjoy. Me, for instance? I find it relaxing to type out little stories. I also enjoy dog agility, wandering around, taking photos, and walking briskly in solitary venues. I like to draw things with pens or small brushes. I have some collections, mainly, but not limited to vintage deer and squirrel statuettes, paint by numbers of horses standing still, naive paintings of small black dogs, old commemorative plates with decorate state maps, and sub standard taxidermy.

I'm a simple person, these things amuse me to no end. Dogs, I think, also enjoy hobbies, although I am not sure if they view them as such. Otterpop takes what at first glance, seems to be a hobby, very seriously. Likely for her, somewhere, deep inside, is genetically hardwired for her to MUST HAVE STICK. It could be worse. Like the people who wear wigs to Star Trek conventions?

Stick can be a seaweed, or a tree branch, a chunk of driftwood, or a fence post. She's not very picky, as long as it's the biggest one. Her eyes go glazey, and if you take it from her and throw it more than once or twice, her pupils upgrade to total screwball, and the manic demon inside takes over. Stick can send her over to her dark side. That's Star Wars talk, if you are wearing a wig.

Fetching Stick is fine, but the main draw of the fetching part of hobby is the possession. She's a collector. This is something that she has to have. She knows it when she sees it. One Stick per day is how it works. This particular stick pictured in today's photoshoot was drug up and down the beach, up and over the sea wall, pulled up the high rocks, and even yanked out of her mouth and thrown in the sea for her to retrieve by a brave, wetsuited surfer. Otterpop does all of her own stuntwork, by the way.

I know obsession with things is a pretty standard herding dog behavior. Not sure what Otterpop was designed to herd. Sticks seem to work well for her. Because once she has collected, she likes to spend some quality time chewing on and barking at. Do border collies enjoy this with sheep? Is this why we have agility, to keep sheep safer?

It's not really a hobby for the whole family. I would say, me and the other dogs, we all like sticks ok, but not to the degree of obsession that Otterpop has about Stick. We are all, on the whole, less obsessive types than she is. That's ok, everybody has their own thing. Gary shouts at gentleman playing sports on tv. Ruby goes to bingo. Everybody needs to be a little bit different. We do other things together. Agility. Walking around. Hell, most of the time I am just going to work and don't even have time for hobby. So have at it, Otterpop. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

That stuff, back there, would be the agility stuff.

OMG. Team Small Dog got to practice. This is not a tall tail. God Bless America! No one was lame. No one freaked out and ran away into the forest. No one flung their body through any jumps. No one leaped off yellow paint. Then I ripped out the caulking in my shower with a sharp thing and no one can take showers at my house. Can I just say it again? God Bless America!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Team Small Dog's Easter Picnic at the beach.

From what I recall about Easter, Jesus died and is the reason we are always VERY careful when using the nailgun, and then we might be able to go to Heaven unless we neglected to go to confession with a priest that may or may not be a pedophile, and then a secret rabbit hides eggs layed by chickens, and the day cumulates in See's candy and a canned ham.

Oh, and bonnets. To do Easter right, someone is supposed to be wearing the bonnet. We have one somewhere around here, but we call it scurvy monkey bonnet and it's really just a dirty chunk of polar fleece.

And now I'm already a liar, we didn't even exactly have a picnic. I better not be going to Hell. We just walked down to the beach like we would on any old day. It WAS Easter though, and it was low tide. And we did stay down there long enough that the other dogs all left, and we watched the sky go from cloudy to sun to here comes the storm on our own private beach. So, I think this is sort of like having a picnic. If it isn't, then for now on, it is.

This winter, the beach closest to my house, affectionately known as Shit Beach, for it's rancid sewage smell of rotting seaweed all summer long, has been tiny to nonexistent, with winter tides and the sand being washed south to the new sand bar at Cowell's. Some days I can boost the dogs and boost myself up the old sea wall to find a patch of running sand, but that's the closest thing to actual beach it's been for a while. The first low tides of spring have brought some sand back, albeit about 10 feet lower than it used to be.

Later on Easter morning, the girl behind the register at Trader Joe's had skeleton tattoos on her neck. I was buying some pancake syrup. Her eyeliner was as thick as my thumb, and I right away hoped she would still be happy about the big skulls and crossbones under her ear when she was 40. I wonder if she was looking at me thinking, I wonder if I'll ever turn into THAT, when I'm 40. She smiled at me when I left and said, "Have a good night, dude."

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Where a little wind, and animated fox puppets help clear away the fog.

This week I went sort of brain dead for a too many days of busy-ness. Work gets busy and life gets busy and I am sensitive to busy. It affects my constitution. My brain pores get clogged, and anything of lofty, empirical value becomes foggy and congealed, sort of like you are looking at things through a coat of pineapple jello in a haze of finely shredded corduroy. I like to have blank spaces in every day to think about important things.

I can't think of any of these important things right now for an illustrative example.

Maybe, like, where are my sunglasses?

No. More important than this. FOCUS. Big picture things. The delicate relationships between human and animal behavior. Nostalgic reflection, Chloe Sevigny and do the people who write little poems for Hallmark cards wear those really high heeled platform shoes and pencil skirts? FOCUS. Can dog agility handling systems be described using words from French deconstructionism and which is more relevant if you just feel like making cupcakes? Why didn't I think up the Fantastic Mr. Fox?

These are poor examples but I am still brain dead so if you have any better ideas just let me know. Like this but better. And really, where ARE my sunglasses?

You get the picture. It's still foggy in there. Where was I?

Also, I left the dogs home for a few days. I felt bad for Gary. He was held captive of knee surgery and no driving or walking or anything good, so what would someone held captive need at home? Their own Team Small Dog! My sidekicks got lent out for their therapeutic value. He didn't ask for them, but it is my belief that the presence of these dogs make everything certainly better.

Usually, I take the dogs everywhere. Even work. Even the grocery store. Because you never know if there could be a detour to the forest or the beach or just a walk down some railroad tracks somewhere. The feral in me is easily called to distraction, and missed opportunity, so sad. Opportunity, fizzled, shizzled down the drain. So we just go every place, together. We are all attached at the hips. I am never alone with a whole Team Small Dog riding shotgun, as we roll from one sunset to the next.

Driving down the freeway with empty dog cages in the back, I tried the car stereo on really loud in the back speakers with that little button you wiggle under the volume. Something I wouldn't ever do with the dogs in the back of the car. I am not one of those free range, cage free, dog drivers. My dogs get held captive in plastic airplane crates in my car. Ruby and Otterpop share the blue one, and Gustavo has the bachelor version. I put stickers on them to make them look cool, like skateboard decks but actually this doesn't help. My car is hopelessly full of geeky, plastic dog cages. But the dogs like them ok. Maybe not Gustavo. He stares at the back of my head through his door all the time. Ruby and Otterpop just sleep.

Listening to a Meat Puppets songs blasting out from behind empty dog crates, it didn't really sound any different. My car is missing one of the speakers anyways, so stereo is sort of a misnomer. The mono. Have you ever heard David Bowie songs played mono? It sounds weird. But it's how me and the dogs enjoy our music, all the places we like to go in the car. From the front speakers so sensitive canine ears, that usually twitch at the tiniest sound from far away, don't get blasted out; I like to listen to music really loud in the car.

When I got home every night, there were stories about Otterpop and the mailman, and dogs sleeping outside on the sun, and everyone together during knee icing on the bed. Big happy freakouts when I got home. I sat on the floor, throwing Ruby's ball for her and tug of warring with Otterpop with her soggy Christmas doll, and throwing bits of fluff in the air for Gustavo, which I suspect he stole out of a couch pillow which is something I should be cross about except actually, I kind of don't care. Did they miss me? Did they notice I was gone? Gary thought yes, but we aren't really sure.

The next blank moment I had, we had a walk to the whale skeletons, where the North coast winds are already drying the green grasses into foxtails. Gustavo turns into one of the animated foxes out there, like they modeled the puppets on his face. His eyeballs quiver and spin, running through the scrub brush, under delicate bridges of tough old wood and tiny spring buds. Those North coast winds, slam loud into your ears when you walk straight into them. If your ears are sensitive like dogs, you have to drop your head and maybe walk sideways. But if you get down low, crawl on all fours down into the brush, and just lay low for a while, all you'll hear is the prettiest sound of grass blowing. Much better than one stereo speaker chugging out Dark Side of the Moon from behind empty dog crates in a car. For a while, we all just sat out there, where no one could see us, under the bushes. Listening to nothing but the wind sounds. And this helps clear away the fog.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The slim window between mud and foxtail.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who did we meet in the forest today?

One retired mailman with ipod ears, who comes up to our secret forest running spot to count the fish. He showed me where he keeps the fish food. What? You think I was going to say he showed me something else? If I told you where the fish food is, I'd have to kill you. I showed him the hill I run the dogs up and down, and up and down. Then we parted ways. Here's how I like to part ways in the forest. I just ZOOM away down the hill with the dogs while you are talking about fish and we vanish. Poof. You never saw us.

Then we met a sketchy looking fella with an orange cap and a long black raincoat. He was thin as a rail and crept out of the redwoods. He did not know I had an Otterpop. SurPRISE, sketchy fella! He scampered back into the woods. Scamper, scamper, rail thin forest man, or I let the Otterpop off the stump.

Then I re-met the mailman. He hiked back up the hill to warn me that the sketchy black coat fella was lurking around. I thanked him. He didn't know I have an Otterpop that keeps us safe in the forest. He, himself, carried a large walking stick, which I suspect Otterpop had her eye on. Mailman says, "Huh. I guess you never know. I mean, I guess I could be the sketchy one." I check his eye for an evil gleam and wonder if Otterpop has ever picked up any shutzhound attack skills from her friend Wings. He has no evil gleam. He's a retired MAILMAN for gops sakes. And once again, we vanish separate ways. Him, slowly back down the hill, and us ZOOM, we run fast down the same way the spring drips, through the ferns.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The worst therapy dog in the world.

Yesterday, I wrote a squooshy little bit about Gustavo and visiting the old folks home. Gustavo was made for this job, just like I was made for the job of wandering aimlessly in the woods and spending long hours with no interruptions in a room full of blank paper, black pens, and endless stacks of magazines and vintage engravings scavenged from hoaders in an abandoned desert trailer park. Oh, or pie testing. Some things are our destiny. Gustavo would be happy visiting old people or kids or actually, anyone, except for bus drivers on loud buses with hissing brakes, all day, every day.

It would only be a better job if he could run laps around the building at top speeds for 10 minutes between each visit. And have a snack.

Otterpop, on the other hand, is best kept away from frail patients who cannot defend themselves against pure evil. She is the anti-therapy dog.

Gary had his knee surgery yesterday. It was all very efficient, he was in and out of the offensively southwest teal and dusty rose hued surgery center in just a few hours time. Peeling wallpaper and horrible carpeting doesn't necessarily inspire confidence, but there was a staff of jovial nurses and a icy cool surgeon who brought me arthroscopic print outs so as better to admire her masterful work in cleaning out the ragged tear inside poor Gary's knee joint.

When I brought the patient home, stumbling in a post anaesthesia haze up the driveway on crutches, the dogs ran out the back door to greet us. They knew something was up. Otterpop, on seeing the ogre-like figure, limping up the driveway supported by metal sticks, proceeded to FREAK OUT and was ready to attack it. She was nearly all the way over to the dark side when I corralled her and tied a leash on her and tried to point out that is was her beloved Gary but she was having none of that crap. Her pot had boiled over already.

She was sentenced to her bed while I got the poor patient in the house and followed instructions of ice packs and elevating and pain meds. Gustavo quietly jumped right up and took up residence on a pillow. Ruby was off doing projects, likely making herself busy in an effort to be nowhere near Otterpop. Otterpop barked her head off from her dog bed in the living room. Impulse control with a really loud soundtrack.

When released, under a verbal, "OK, you are FREE you over-reacting drama queen bratface!", she proceeded to launch from across the room onto the now elevated and ice packed, heavily bandaged leg. Which had just had a camera and a sharp knife and pokers and prodders pulled out of it a couple hours before. How much do we love tiny little arhtroscope cams? Much more than tiny little tanks of dogs who cannot control their emotions and leap across rooms due to these emotions that, if were coming out of a human package, would have police cars and EMT's with straight jackets and assault weapons surrounding our house in full riot gear.

Otterpop eventually settled down and can administer therapy now by leaping straight to Gary's chest and head instead of leg. Therapy from Otterpop is somewhat frightening as it is loud and involves massive amounts of face licking and leaping and slamming. Sort of the mosh pit rules of bedside manner. Gary was on pain meds. He didn't seem to mind.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Me and Gustavo and some of our friends.

Every Sunday that I can, I take Gustavo to visit some of my favorite people. He likes to go ok, but then again, he likes to do pretty much everything that doesn't involve power tools, especially nail guns and sheetrock screws. Sometimes he gets a bath, sometimes he doesn't. I don't think our friends can really tell.

They live in the nursing home down the street from the mall. It's not fancy, but it's clean and smells just fine, and a lot of the rooms have windows that you can see a tree from. We usually show up after singing, although most of the residents that are in the front room for singing can't really speak, so I'm not sure how singing actually sounds. We wait outside til they're done with the singing lady. They're just sitting there, in a circle when I get there, looking at the air.

Some of the people still look out at nothing as I set Gustavo on their laps, then their hands creep up super slow to pet him. He's gotten better about sitting still on the oddly shaped laps, delicately set in the chairs, different body shapes than you see anywhere else. Legs have changed sizes and laps have disappeared. He has learned not to squirm when frail old hands pick through his fur. Sometimes they pull it, but not too often. Usually they pet his ears.

Abran, with his giant glasses, Hawaiian shirt and fedora, brought out a folder of photos today, and we spent a while looking at pictures with him. He took our picture with a disposable camera, and I took one of him with Gustavo. Abran used to be heavy and loved country western dancing in boots. He's little now, and his dancing days are long gone. It's hard to understand what he's saying, but I think his brother in law shot his dog once upon a time. He loves Gustavo almost as much as I do. He is room 27, and don't you forget it. He wishes us to come every day.

I spent a while with a gentleman who never looked up. I had to put my ear right up to his lips, sound was coming out like a whisper. He told me that they come at night, through the ivy outside his window. I'm not sure who. He had on 2 heavy flannel shirts and Gustavo laid down on his lap. His hands didn't move, only his lips, with words that just sounded like breathing.

There was a lady I don't think I've met before, she told me she was part of an agency. If I remember this right, she has 7 cels and 2+2+2 until they find her, they are dangerous and they are an agency. She told me this a lot of times, while she rolled up magazines and stuffed them up her sleeves. But she also loved Gustavo's ears and scratched them thoughtfully. She was pretty worried about the agency. I told her I would make sure they weren't out there when I left. For this she was thankful.

I always thank Gustavo for bringing me there when we drive home. I thank him for being the dog he is, for hopping up on those narrow little beds and laying down next to someone that might tell me an abstract story about a cocker spaniel from long ago or who might just repeat a syllable, over and over. We both think a lot, on that drive home, every time we go to visit those friends.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maybe you can help figure out what this means for Team Small Dog.

When the alarm went off this morning, I was still having this epic dream that involved a creepy psychic performance art punk rock cult in Utah where I had been sort of kidnapped with my consent after wandering into this Latina show girl's horse training hovel where her horses could do stuff like ride bikes wearing Louis Vuitton graffiti prints and slide down her driveway on their stomachs.

Turns out, the horses were the fire squad for the cult.

I know!

Anyways, the big dream problem was, I had left the dogs in a hotel with my mom and dad. Oh no. And not just any hotel, a dusty, post armageddon one in San Francisco that was nearly abandonded, but for an old diner on one floor with leftover sandwich fixings.

What was I dream thinking? And there I am, having been removed from the San Francisco in a driverless car with doors that had no inside handles, all the way to Utah, thinking, oh man. What are my poor mom and dad going to do with THE DOGS?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Behind the scenes at Team Small Dog-Feeding Time.

Sitting or laying down in a row at the bottom of the stairs, not making noise or squirming or spinning in little circles to the right or bitey facing one's neighbor or shaking tennis balls to break their little tennis ball necks or yelling would be way too boring.

But that is the evil Nazi dictatorship that I run here. I am a little bit like Obama I guess. Apparently he's an evil Socialist dictator now, from what I hear. Because he is a fan of health care for all. And I like everyone to sit and wait for their name to be called to come in and get food. I think that Mao did that, right?

When things start to get out of hand, I just shut the back door and walk away. I feel bad for the innocent, patient members of the team, who are ALWAYS Ruby, and can sometimes be Gustavo. Although he has weird habit of getting up and spinning in circles to the right which is also penalized.

Otterpop, though. That dog makes me crazy with her yammering. She knows, and has only every known, her entire life, that dog food is put in bowls inside, and dogs sit outside, and that dogs have to be invited in based on their name and quality of behavior, to eat their food. And boy oh boy do they like their food, a teensy, tiny handful of dry, crackly little dirt colored nuggets. And yet, guess. Just guess. Who is always, without fail, the last one to be invited in?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Otterpop is lame.

It's always something, righty-o? But, on the upside, because I am an OPTIMIST, goddamn, I found a pair of clean trousers to put on this morning. Righty OH! Carry on.

Bright Side Addendum Numero Uno: At least the streets weren't infested with vampire toothed little blood sucking fish this morning! Also, my car is not infested with tarantulas! Life is good.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gustavo has really crappy teeth.

He probably had distemper as a puppy. There's no enamel on them, and when he opens his mouth he looks like an alligator that went up against a backhoe. And he's only 3 years old. His canines look like teensy tiny elephant tusks, with little balls planted on the ends that keep the tusks from impaling the elephant handler when elephants go wild, only causing massive head injuries instead.

If I was a really good dog owner, I would brush them every day. Gustavo would have his own little toothbrush in the bathroom, in our little toothbrush cup decorated with Canadian mounties and ponies. Every morning he'd hope up on the sink and I'd get the liver flavoured dental paste out and brush away and sing him a song, probably Frosty the Snowman.

Instead, I just throw him a lot of bones to chew on and hope for the best. The other dogs have shiny white teeth. I don't worry about theirs.

We visited a new vet just for Gustavo teeth. I am pretty lucky when it comes to vets. I am lucky and they are horribly abused. They come out to work to ride their horses and frequently get lame or blinking or barfing dogs shoved in their laps instead. Let's just say my dogs aren't very used to going to the doctor's office. Neither am I.

When we do go, I always get sticker shock. In the horse world, trainers have to be junior vets much of the time. We don't take horses to the doctor for every little thing. Just today I had to deal with sore feet, puffy legs, swollen eye, weird coughing, a weird looking hair issue cut thing on a back foot, a sore back, and a completely unrelated weird bump on a back. All of these I triage and treat and decide if and when the real doc needs to come out and take a look. With the dogs, it's sort of the same thing. I have an arsenal of meds and dole out as I see fit. We save the docs for the big guns, like crappy teeth.

And crappy teeth it was. I very much liked the new vet, who has a modest office near my house and prices that didn't freak me out. And one of my agility pals works there as a tech. You all know her. She's a sheltie lady with a million MACH's and VERY fancy fingernails. This made me feel happy and not quite so worried, that Gustavo would be with a friend during his traumatic day at the doctor's.

And traumatic it was. I warned them, he has more strength and wiggles than any dog I've ever tried to hold on to and HE WILL TRY TO ESCAPE. He's sort of like a whole bag of feral cats, all rolled into cute little Gustavo. You would never, ever believe that he only weighs 11lbs when you are trying to hold him still. When the doc pulled blood the day before, holy smokes. What a project. So today, even sedated, to get that IV in, apparently many techs and the docs and then the Spanish speaking tech to see if that helped and then 3 shaved legs and I dunno how many attempts later, poor Goo ended up with clean and polished teeth. Very impressive teeth, in a horrible and frightening way. Don't see many like his, and likely in the future we will be meeting the special genuine dentist for dogs.

Sure was nice to know he was in good hands, and Crissy called me with updates and to tell me how he was doing all day. And that compared to Ruby, who was a genuine feral dog and has terrorized Nurse Crissy before, he exceeds all expectations and then some and could I please train my dogs. I was worried all day long. Was so easy and quiet to just have the girl dogs all day, they are so, trained, compared to him. He's a little out of it, he had a field trip to the dump with Gary post anaesthesia and came back to me tonight at home, a little woozy but with sparkling clean chompers. And boy oh boy, was I happy to see him.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Derrett System and Threadling redux as retold without proper amount of caffeination.

Oh my. We were a pathetic lot on Monday night. So uniformly so that it was frightening. Our focus topic was Serpentine and Threadle. Something we are all quite well versed in at this stage in our lives, sort of like taking a course in Washer and Dryer, or Hair Bands of the '80's. Everybody KNOWS these things. A topic that should not be cause for dog agility disaster.

But there was flailing and forgetting and flicking and double pointing and backy upping and numerous other sins of dog agility happening all around. If everyone there was like me, they must have all forgot to make their giant coffee for the freeway ride to class. I know that was the tip of my iceberg. I did a lot of gazing about at the sky and at the carpeting of bark chips, dreaming of coffee between my turns. It's the little things.

I didn't even take notes. When I went out to the car to dig around for a pen all I found was the chapstick I lost last summer and an old, oozy stick of string cheese. So I may be a bit hazy, but if I'm correct here though, I believe what we learned was the preferred threadle move in Derrett Handling System is now called Stork. This is easy friends. We don't even need Twister to explain.

Everybody up now, you need to be standing to do this. Wear comfortable trousers. But not so comfortable you are showing everybody your Blind Cross Crack. That is a No Go Zone.

Left Stork. Face away from the computer, left foot up, left hand pointing at your Pleasure Zone. It gets a bit disco for the moment now, hustle steps back with your left foot, quickly now and then right hand flies through the wind like the egret in flight. Your hands should move gracefully and shove that toy in your dogs mouth as they are in mid flight. No matter how bad it hurts.

Good. Right Stork now. Face away from the computer, right foot up, right hand pointing at your Happy Zone. Never, ever confuse your Happy Zone with your No Go Zone. I mean, you can, I guess. Who am I to judge. I am addressing a wide audience here. But then you won't even be in Stork anymore and by now your dog is in the left side of the tunnel so just point, damnit. Down. Pleasure zone. One hand. Point with one hand.

Are you pointing? Can you envision the birds, grasshoppers? The grace and balance of the one legged stork, poised for attack. I think storks attack, right? They are sort of the giant, silent killers of the bird world? It's a fleeting moment, before a tiny little disco moment, little hustle steps. Without spinning. Don't spin. The dogs are confused enough as it is. Quickly bring left hand back up, and off they go.

I'm just passing along what I heard. It's possible some of it is muddled. The coffee issue. Hope this helps, top handlers! Good luck storking.


Monday, March 22, 2010

I often slip my tiny camera in my pocket when I go places. Even if it's just to run quick down to the beach. I actually don't mean to take pictures of the dogs. It's for if I see something important. Alien craft sucks up surfer. Junkies fighting in the front seat of a van. A parade with reindeer and sparkling floats and 100 marching dwarves wearing kilts.

I always end up with pictures of the dogs. Most of the time, I'm mad at my photos. In my dreams, my tiny pocket camera would take those crisp, beautiful photos like National Geographic guys of man eating seals or the border collie ladies who can get every scrap of detail of their dogs leaping to the tennis ball, every hair caught mid air.

Instead, they get stayed on the rock one more time. When there could be running into the water after sticks or jumping on to the chest of the sleeping guy that turns out, can curse really loud in I think what is Korean. Or watching a smackdown between Gray Pitbull Number One with Balls and Tan Pitbull Number Two with Balls. Many things at the beach just get us all running and it's really not as somber as my tiny little photos always say.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Ides of March were last week and they look like Shane MacGowan's teeth.

The way that my life goes lately, there aren't too many times to practice with the dogs where I'm not rushing around, coffe mug in hand, jump bar in the other. It's been a hella busy month, there have been Ides of March lurking around everywhere. I'm not totally clear on how we got stuck with these Ides, but the Soothsayer predicted them and Julius Caesar died, then everyone's lives go somewhat off course and there's damage control all around.

Damage control. An important theme in Shakespeare and an unfortunate, backasswards approach to agility that sometimes happens. Although every time I see Shakespeare, I go instantly to sleep, and I am pretty sure that has never happened at agility yet.

We won't be competing this spring until the end of April. Our lives are dog show free for a while. Lots of time to work on things like Gustavo You are Supposed To Wait on the Table During Everyone's Turn Including Otterpop's. And agility. He ran beautiful and free and fast and focused the other morning, even though I was rushing and brushing off Ides with a stick. He's up, he's down, he's all around. I take a deep breath every time I run him, have a sideways glance to see if his startline is cleared from the undead, make eye contact to make sure his brain is in gear, and hold tight as he tears off like a bottle rocket. This is the preferred Gustavo for this season's trials.

Not guaranteed, but what is?

Otterpop, by the way, knows how to stick tight to that table. When the other dogs run, when Ruby chases her ball and Gustavo runs after his furry thing on a rope, when the wahoo truck guys drive by in the biggest truck in the world with the super mega engine. I let her sit with her frisbee, and she watches steely eyed at what goes on everywhere. She has Ides of March every day of the year, I believe them to have tentacles like the prawns of District 9. If she kills Julius Caesar or Shakespeare or Hamlet, she knows the frisbee vanishes and you have to sit in the car.

But she's learned to look horizontal at that horizon no matter if it tips or not. Ruby knew this a long time ago. She has always talked to Soothsayers. Gustavo and me, we're trying to straighten out our views, line them up, then smash those Ides out of the field.

Friday, March 19, 2010

She swells sea shells by the sea whore.

I throw less crap out to sea for Otterpop than I used to. She has limited time on her crappy left leg and the more times she dive bombs into waves and sand, ass over tea kettle, face full of sand, all in the name of The Must Have Tennis Ball or Stick or Pinecone or Seaweed or whatever, the more wear and tear we put on that leg. But the slice of light we have left in the sky when we get done at work makes it too tempting not to give the dogs a good run before dark now.

The beach has a million crunched up shells on it at the crunched up shell part. Sand dollars and mussel and sea clams, I guess, sometimes whole or sometimes cracked, lay in the shallows where the tide was before we arrived. I am not much of a lollygagger on the beach, I am one of those scowling brisk walkers, or, if you're not watching, galloping and loud singing classic Sex Pistols tunes. The beach is a place to move forward and far as we can, as close as possible to the surf line. But the shell piles, where gulls drop crab limbs and the empties wash up in the tide, are enticing to sift through to find the biggest ones.

I don't know why I started throwing these for the dogs; it was funny to see them running to find them in the waves, poking around then plucking the big shells out of the water, gingerly running them back to the sand, then dropping them and crunching them into bits with teeth and feet, and really, gleefully smashing to smithereens. Something kind of punk rock about the way they kill the shells. So much for reduce, reuse, recycle. Sorry, clams and homeless crabs but your shell is now smashed to bits and reincarnates as sand some day. Circle of life and all that.

Otterpop is now obsessed. Sticks are so winter 2009, and the shells are Spring 2010 collection. All I have to do is keep finding bigger and better shells, she will never pick them up on her own. She freaks out each time I show her the new one, and then hurl it out to sea. Take THAT, sea shell. Runs her black little heart to the water where it hit, diving her head in to find it. The one and only. If she can, runs it back in and hoards it, until I find the next one. Which WILL be superior. Screaming like the shrillest little anti-christ out there, leaping and flinging and biting, until that clam shell goes back out to sea, and the whole thing starts again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today, I will deflect your attention away from the naughty and apparently untrained dog by viewing our new puppy friend.

I will show you Autumn's border collie puppy today, because last night Gustavo ran so wretchedly that I can barely speak about it. It was all I could do, last night, not to throw a fit, stomp around screaming, and then carry him away in my pocket. If I had been able to catch him when he was running away from me, his brain melting away in some bucket in a parking lot on another distant planet, then maybe I would have. I think instead I muttered, and then went and got his 20' long rope out of the car.

But since I'm not speaking of this, never mind. Because how cute is Autumn's new puppy? And I know I'm trying not to speak of my wretched night last night, but I even ran Hobbes poorly. And finally had to just go and get Otterpop out of the car so I wouldn't go home with a losery taste in my mouth.

The puppy's name is Jesse. Unless it is Scout. Unless you have a better idea for Autumn. And you know, later on I did get Gustavo to run about a bit, just not like the little dog of my dreams. But enough to cut the loser flavor just a bit. The way a shot of Jameson's might. Make that a double.

I hope that Autumn has smooth sailing with her puppy. Autumn is one of my favorite agility students. I try to be a good example for her by never, ever getting frustrated when I am challenged with training quandaries such as, why doesn't this agility business always go how I want it to? Autumn has made such leaps and bounds in training her other dogs, I am very proud of her. I know she will always be patient with her new puppy and accept her puppy for who she is. I am done muttering now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This is pretty much how a normal day goes, and it might be boring, but that's just how it goes sometimes.

In the morning, I had to leave very early, and it was pitch black again when I got up. We have had a new hour added on to our days, but it arrives in the evening and in the morning, darkness fills that hour's void. My days are long right now, but I hustled my morning along so we could stop at our practice field, at least for a few minutes, on the way out to the ranch. I hustled out so fast and I wore unflattering pants and the very worst socks.

The grass was wet, but the sun was out, and I ran-dragged some obstacles around to build a Grand Prixish course. I left my coffee in the car. I made sure it had one of everything-maybe, my non dog agility friends, you will skip this long sentence that speaks of a lead out pivot to poles, an extendo send to a tunnel, a tight front cross to the teeter, a sharp slicey rear cross, a tunnel mouth calling to the dogwalk, a tricky pull through, an uncomfortable serpentine, and Gustavo's dreaded sending out left side right angle into the poles. We shall call this course Something for Everyone. If you're in to that sort of thing.

We all ran it, even Ruby, who I now realize sees agility as a place to follow my lead literally, her eyes see a course different than the other dogs. We ran enough times so that my feet were soaked and the dogs were drenched in grass dew and I was sweaty and after we ended with everybody frisbee, we were all panting and tired. This is how we look at 9am. It's not that I want to go to work covered in mud and sweat and disheveled and red, but i guess it's good to have a job where I can. It is a job that is a long drive from coffee, but far away from a computer or reruns of Lost.

First thing at work, on a beautiful day, I put my most lovely and favorite horses out first in their paddocks, so they can enjoy the sun and roll around in the dirt. Their feelings are important to me. The dogs lay on their saddle pads and slept hard. I sunk one foot deep into a mud bog, up past my ankle. The sound it made as it tried to suck me in and chew my boot to shreds under the water from last week's rain, only heard by me and my best horse and the turkeys down the hill. If you chuckle at the turkeys, quietly so they don't run, they fluff up their feathers and look like Thanksgiving. There was no time for that today.

All day that foot was wet through and through, and in the sun the footing has gone to dust in some places, which clings to skin on top of the sweat. By our extra hour though, the end of the day means no longer do I have leave along our bumpy road in the black, there is still enough sun to end the real day at the beach. Where once again, the shoes are wet, the pants legs now clinging in sea salt up to a wet muddy sneaker, as me and the dogs run out as far as we can to the surf line, everyone chasing after seashells I throw into the waves. Otterpop goes manic now for seashells, which was funny for a little while but gets a little scary eventually. We do this until sun goes down there, through the clouds and the air is dark again, just like how it started out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In this branch, occasionally employees bring in moderately dead items with teeth still attached from outside and hide them in secret lairs.

1. Hello and thank you for enrolling in the online universe where some people have flat enough stomachs to go to the beach and can do this somewhere during the week bringing a little cooler full of cool drinks and colorful beach towel with them and others enjoy wearing colorful dog cartoon sweatshirts and love to print the logo in whichever color would look most peppy.

2. For security purposes your login id number has been sent to you in a separate letter which you have already lost, perhaps you can locate it under the drawing of a cat driving a car which someone who wears colorful cat sweatshirts has decided would be absolutely perfect to base the new advertising campaign on.

3. Since you forgot to give out heartworm medicine for a couple months, the penalty is that the vet tech is now going to get quite cross on the phone because she has finally found a way to GET you, and the bill is going to run you hundreds and hundreds of dollars because, good god, lady, you might as well just SLIT YOUR PETS' COLLECTIVE THROATS at this point in your dismal care of God's little furry people friends.

4. When you log in to check your print account files, you will be assured that the internet is no longer working due to the warm spring air trifling in through the open doors, it's soft, floury fingers toying with you cloyingly.

5. If you have had a large box living in the exact middle of the kitchen floor now for at least 4 weeks please press 1. If you did not hear what I just said, please hang up and call again after 10am Pacific Standard Time in this new era of the clocks springing ahead since now we have added an additional 25th hour to the day when we will still not answer the phone but it may be in that 25th hour when we finally provide you with the edited copy so do keep your eyelids propped open with those sharp little sticks.

6. Here are (QTY 14) 1-800 numbers that you can call in case of cultural relevance drop off; kindly make sure you are aware of the new Lady Gaga loves Beyonce girlfriend video where we are now pretty sure she is actually a lady and not a gentleman, and compare and contrast with the new Runaways movie in which they are wearing the same outfit as we did in Junior High but with better hair.

7. If the amount of the final column of numbers is really quite far off from the previous column of numbers, please start again at Instruction Number 1.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Team Small Dog, a spotty vapor that will hopefully reappear soon.

We here at Team Small Dog would like to tell you something bright and cheery yet simultaneously snarky and barfy for your Monday morning but we here at Team Small Dog would like to have a day off in which to do this. So if, ha HA! you are back to work and you wanted to read something amusing about dogs here, or a useful training tip which is likely not even all that useful, then ha HA! boy oh boy have I fooled you this time.

Team Small Dog should reappear soon. I saw them recently, somewhere. Clicking your heels together 3 times and chanting just like the snake wielding Satan worshipers in the 1975 classic film Race With the Devil Starring Peter Fonda may or may not bring them back. You KNOW what happened to Peter Fonda in that movie, righty-o?

Until then, keep calm and carry on. Or freak out and throw a fit. Be agitated and stage a coup. But if you are up to your earballs in horses, taxes, and graphic designing like me, you will just stick that nose back to the grindstone and throw those dogs some bones.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In my dreams this is how I spent the day today and yesterday and tomorrow.

The dogs have a really hard life. Sit around. Maybe go for a walk. Maybe if very lucky do some agility. Sit around some more.

Maybe I can turn into a dog if I use the power of my mind and am open to the possibilities of growing hair in weird places.