Saturday, February 06, 2010

Team Small Dog Interviews Caninitarians Susan and Kraig Paulsen today.

I bet a lot of dog agility people have dreams of living on a beautiful 5 acre agility spread in the country. Lush grass agility fields and a view of the foothills and the wide open spaces. Walk out your back door first thing in the morning, and work on those contacts over a cup of coffee. Perhaps have a few adorable farm animals trotting about. Life is good. Restful. Quiet.

Bayteam's 2009 Caninitarians of the Year, Susan and Kraig Paulsen had that vision, and their agility spread, Workin' Paws, has become an important resource to the agility community in the Bay Area. Susan, a high school science teacher, Kraig, your typical Bay Area software engineer, and their pack of Aussies and Border Collies moved from Fremont down to the outskirts of Hollister, an area known for stock dogs, tri-tip and beer. Over the years, they've learned a few things about life in the country.

Susan and Kraig are originally from the East Coast. Susan grew up in the rural dairy country of Upstate New York. Kraig, originally from Long Island, was a yacht boy that grew up on the water. If you ever asked him, would he live on 5 acres with farm animals, he'd of said you were nuts. But now, he's got a whole new way of looking at things.

I was wondering what a typical day off around Workin" Paws is like for the Paulsens. They toted their camera around with them one Saturday so we could see.

Laura: So, did country living make you guys acquire any fancy new skills?

Kraig: Day off?? Skills: Tractor repair...boy I hate tractors because the grass grows faster than I can fix it.  Sprinkler man: working with irrigation.  It's not a skill but I've learned what not to do.

Susan: Weekends are feeding, mowing, watering, weeding, fixing, killing varmints, all the stuff we don't get to during the work week. The skills I've mastered are not what I expected.  I thought I would be mastering agility skills, but alas, my new skills include getting rid of squirrels. I was so proud I caught 13 in a trap once I mailed photos to friends. Upon reflection, that's just weird! They still like to get into the agility fields so it's a constant battle. Weeds are another OCD topic for me due to the endless fight against fox tails. I'm getting better at both with trial and error. 

Laura: Sometimes, do things go not so according to plans? Like remember when Lucy and Ricky moved to the country on I Love Lucy and what happened when Lucy rode the riding mower into Betty Ramsey's prizewinning tulips? This ever happen around your house?

Kraig: We put in the large field sprinkler system,  and we glued all the pipes together. All excited to turn on the water to see how it worked and when we did it blew..all the pipes blew.  We have 100 PSI pressure in the pipes so it was like a Las Vegas water show.
Susan: Yep, that's was the worst! I bought the wrong glue!  It was a major disaster, not to mention let down!!!  Water shooting up in the air..everywhere.  That was our most memorable; and I can say it seems funny now but at the time..we were not laughing!

Laura: Can you give me a run down of all those dogs, and what they do?
Susan: I have Kolbe, an Aussie age 13, Surely an Aussie, age 8, and Kipper a BC, age 5.  Besides performance events, I really like to go hiking with my dogs. I look forward to going to the Trinity Alps each year so we can spend doggy time swimming and hiking. 
Kolbe was my first true performance dog and we did obedience, agility and conformation. Surely was my first working line dog.  I cried when I found out we got our WTCH I was so happy, which was the same week as our ATCH.  Kipper is my first BC, and of course Red Dogs Rule!
Kraig: Konner an Aussie age 15, he has Novice Open ASCA, CD and CH and he can open the freezer door and pull out all the TV dinners.  Kaz age 6. He's in Masters USDAA and a WTCH in ASCA, he loves to do herding.  He's won buckles in ASCA.
Susan:  Our male dogs all have "K" names because of Kraig's family.  ALL of his family names everyone with "K"'; so of course this goes with our doggie family as well. 
Laura: Any fancy titles or cool achievements? 

Susan: We've competed in ASCA, and some AKC.  My happiest achievement in recent memory was at a Turlock trial last year when Surely made her dog walk contact, which if you know "the princess", she likes to leap off super-gal style, anyway I was so excited she made it with a fast clean run!!.  I love that little black dog!
Kraig:  My achievement is that in my back yard I win "Worlds" everyday. I enjoy the journey.

How many sheep do you guys have?
Susan:  I'm not sure at the moment because we just got some new ones.  I have my favorites that we keep as breeding ewes such as Willamina, her daughter Mina, Arnold-ina, and Abby.  We have a bunch of new ones we just bought because we needed "fresh" working sheep.  If you work  the same sheep all the time they become knee knockers, new ones shake up the training.
Kraig: 20: four knee knockers, 1 mama ewe which is a pain in the ass, and two troublesome goats.

Susan:  Hey, my goats rule!

Laura: Do all your dogs do sheep herding (Not sure if using proper terminology here. My sheep experience is limited to making sure the gate is always closed and one fiasco of a morning involving 3 humans trying to move one sheepie away from it's pals into the back of a pickup truck. That was a mind opening experience to the way of sheep thinking for this interviewer)?
Kraig:  They all do it (laughing), but what you consider well is relative.  Konner roam and barks, Kolbe doesn't care at all about sheep.  If you need to get a job done, then Surely is my choice.  But if you want it done with style and grace then Kaz and Kipper are the ones.
Susan: Can't add anything to that.... pretty much sums it up. 

Laura: Did you two start agility at the same time, or was this one spouses idea and the other one just got pulled along into it?

Kraig: I intinally thought that my dog could be trained by another handler, and then and I would just run him on on the weekends, but I slowly learned that it's a dog handler team effort. Then when I got Kaz I got hooked.

Susan:  I got started into agility because of the ASCA club, and a member took us up to Power Paws Agility, and of course here we are!

Laura: What are some cool things about having your own dog agility pad? Since we should probably be encouraging people to say Goodbye, city life, and help further our sport like you guys have.

Susan:  Truly, the great people!  It's given me the opportunity to create new friendships, and train with amazing people.  I really enjoy fun matches, fun days, and seminars.  It's wonderful to watch people improve, not to mention it's fun to just hang out at the field with a bunch of friends on a sunny afternoon.
Kraig:  It gives me the opportunity to go out and play in my backyard and be able to share with others. 

Laura: Any good advice for people wanting to move to the country and build their own dog agility mecca? Or perhaps, warnings?

Kraig: Make the choice and don't look back. Just be prepared for a lot of work, and make sure you have help. We got a lot of help from ranch friends.  It's also a slow process.

Susan:  Use the right glue when putting pipe together! 


Friday, June 26, 2009

Where we interview someone new, because basically, I am super nosy, and this person will be Katie Trachte.

We're all so over Team Small Dog. Didn't win the lottery, blah blah blah Teeter Totter, took a hike. Let's face it. Bo-Ring. So I started my new hobby of investigative journalism with a series of interviews of people I know on the internet who were weirdly game to answer my slew of questions.

I'm about as good at investigative journalism as I am at succulent farming, but coming up is the first of my series of interviews with people who met my highly selective and stringent criteria of:
1.) Had a bunch of dogs
2.) Didn't say no to my interview request

All right. I bet a lot of you know Katie and Jeep. They have been on the AKC World Team, they have some MACH's, and they also have a whole bunch of USDAA accomplishments. And then there's her border collie, Tag. And of course Taco. Shivery chihuahua who owns a lot of tiny little dog jackets. Who is sort of like the HyCaliber cheerleader. Like does agility in a pinch but not gonna make a career of it. And that's just the start of them. I met Katie at the USDAA Southwest Regionals last year. She brought Jeep on the airplane in a sherpa bag. And got super sun burned.

Then all of a sudden, Katie has her own giant agility park! Actually probably not all of a sudden but in my universe of time and space and how often I visit the Facebook, let's just say all of a sudden. And because I'm super jealous, and also super nosy, I'm all over it like my mayhem of small dogs on a 6pack of carnitas tacos. I'm thinking, who wants to read about boring old Team Small Dog when you can learn here about having your own 290 acre park?

All right, Katie. One day I go on the Facebook and here are all these pictures of Katie and her gigantic, 290 acre park in Vermont with this very Susan Garrett/Greg Derrett layout of agility stuff spread out over the perfectly mowed 2 acre grass field. And so right away, of course I'm like, HATE HER. But then I remembered, oh yeah, there is snow and so forth there so I totally take back the hating part. But then like 5 Facebook seconds later, it's like, this is AgilityVision too, which I thought was Eric Larson who videos us out here in California, not on a giant 290 acre park in Vermont, so I'm like completely confused and I am going right to the source here, which is you. And you are a good emailer. You are young and equipped with Blackberry texting abilities. So what gives with this whole Vermont Agility Park thing which is also your house?

We're pretty low drama here. Yep, Eric Larson is totally a Vermonter now, and I'll leave it at that! I'm formally from Connecticut and got a chance to snatch this place up, and I TOTALLY grabbed at it. We do have crap weather here, about 4 months of the year, but we're making the most of the good weather while we DO have it! The Vermont Agility Park is the new AgilityVision home... we have classes/seminars and more planned here for the summer. So much that I'm having trouble finding days for all the cool stuff going on. Think LIVE seminars!! Total of 6 dogs here at the Vermont Agility Park but they have plenty to do. Taco takes pride in being the cheerleader and home security system.

Wow! This is very cool. Well, maybe except the part where Eric Larson, who was our favorite person to take videos of us at dog shows, moves far away and becomes a Vermonter. It just took me sort of a while to even find Vermont on the map. It is very, very far away from California. So what's on the rest of your acres? Did you have to do a lot to the house or was it HGTV ready to go? And all wired?

Mountain on one side, river on the other! My dad and uncle were logging on my mountain, so there are a bunch of logging trails which are now excellent hiking trails. Complete with real dear and fisher cats! This was my old grandmothers house... it was so not HGTV ready but has now turned into super 21st century hi-tech!

Are you in a town or is this in the middle of the forest somewhere, in this far off land of Vermont?

I am pretty much in the middle of no where. Of course I came from the city, so not having a Wal-Mart or CVS within a mile is out in the middle of nowhere. We have 2 major grocery stores within 25 minutes and we're adjusting. We plan Trader Joe's bulk visits around the trials and seminars we have to travel too. So far the beer has been well stocked and no one has starved to death.

So when you have, like a giant park, can you just leave it and go gallavanting off to agility trials? Can you tell I am kind of just completely freaking out here about your 290 acres? Who is going to water all the trees? Taco won't get lost will he?

Yes! I usually bring all my dogs. If not my agility friend Kathryn at Great Fields Kennel takes the rest of the crew. Taco is master of the patio. Even when we're at the river he hauls his ass back up and guards the house. He can't be part of that lame-o dog swimming.

And then what do you do in the winter time? I get this feeling that Vermont is very, very cold and snowy all winter long. So do you just shut agility down during the snow? Your interviewer here, native Californian. Lived once in Arizona for a few months. Generally must live within 5 blocks of the beach. I know it's summer now, and we're supposed to live in the moment and all that, but what are you going to do all winter?

Winter sucks. We drive 45 mins to an hour to visit our 2 favorite indoor agility places. Both you have to rent for $20+ an hour. We'll be looking into our own this winter for sure. Or we'll go all Steve from New Mexico and install some field turf on the lawn to shovel off. The cold doesn't hurt as bad after a while....We just have to drive. We do loads of indoor skills like contact board brush ups and Susan Garret type games while it's cold out. We do loads of hiking in the snow. It's a really good workout!

Katie, you are younger than a lot of agility ladies I know. I'm not sure how old you are, but you know how to do the Blackberry and I think you were recently in college. How long have you been doing agility?

You get 2 points for that!
(*TSD thinks maybe this is not so good, if 2 points based on a 10 point system.*) About 15 years now. Yea, like when there were Crossovers in agility and dogs had to jump 30". (*Yikes. 15 years ago, I was mourning the death of Kurt Cobain and living in a dirty warehouse, trying to build robots*) Oh, and I remember being in the car. A lot. 5 or 6 sometimes 7 hours in the car every single weekend to get to a trial. (*TSD does some googling and realizes Katie's mom is in the agility universe and they were perhaps a famous agility family and these are things next time we do an interview with someone we will investigate first.*)

And how did you go from college student to AKC World Team member to owner of an agility park that is also going to be the new cutting edge live streaming video of all things agility and I don't even know what? This seems pretty ambitious. I just rode horses all day and holed up in my ratty old painting studio all night when I got out of college. I don't think I even talked to others. You are like a lady with a plan.

It sort of went AKC World Team member to college then to agility dream park, but those are just details.
(* Oops again.*) I went to school to become a Graphic Designer. So that's mainly what I do here, design and marketing. I'm not sure if it's ambition, when you have a job you love it doesn't feel like work. The goal behind this idea was to provide people with the opportunity to see some great seminars right from home. We have some really great events planned that I can't talk about yet, but I'm really excited!

This sounds very high tech and secret squirrel. I'm sure you'll keep us posted here. Uh, not to change the subject, but can you offer any fashion tips to us over here on the left coast? What are they sporting for nice dog agility fashion wear these days out there in the fashion forward east? That's very close to Stacey and Clinton out there. So I am thinking you guys are pretty much on the ball with your outfits?

Fashion on the East Coast. The trick is to wear as many layers as possible while trying not to look like the Michelin Man. We're all about water proof everything out here. Waterproof shoes, shirts, jackets, hats, socks you name it. Some people go all out and purchase the matching sets. I've sort of given up on that and get rain gear on clearance from LLBean or Orvis every few months.

Right! The LLBean! We get their catalogs and they make me think whistfully about canoeing and roaring. Thanks Katie. Someday we hope to get out there and visit you. So are you going to be there forever?

Vermont is really, really pretty. It would be my forever place if I had a spot to train in during the winter. Right now I don't and that's a problem. For right now it's home. Wherever my dogs and I can be that we're happy we'll call home.

So there you go. Go and visit AgilityVision-there are all kinds of new DVD's and seminars and live streaming video this and that. Wave of the future over there, coming from the agility park in Vermont. Thanks Katie!


Friday, April 11, 2008

I interview a cool person so we can all take notes.

Today we have a special treat. It is the First Interview of our New Interview Series.

Featuring interviews by cool people who do not do dog agility, and dog agility people who I think are cool. I hope to delve into important subjects like, why do the cool people not like dog agility, how did the dog agility people get so cool, and can we see the inside of their house.

Today's interview is with the fabulous Kelsey Nicholson, a Bay Area artist who has a bunch of dogs and who likes running but who does not do dog agility. And, Kelsey Has Been To Marfa, Texas. She is super cool. Although she wouldn't let me take any pictures inside her house this week. So let's see what we can learn, my dog agility friends.

Kelsey is also currently having an art show at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, CA through June 8.

Hello and welcome to your interview!

I'm so honored to be interviewed by Team Small Dog. As you know I am way behind on the dogs per square foot ratio and my goal in life is to catch up.

Here's a shot from her installation in Walnut Creek. Kelsey loves wallpaper murals and stuffed birds!

And another one. With pergo floors.

Your art show has the taxidermy factor which I believe there to be a correlation of dog agility people who enjoy taxidermy. Because if there is one of me out there, there are others.

The specimens are on loan from the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. They were very very nice to let me use them. They will go back after the show. However, AttaBoyStudios maybe has secret thoughts of a future in taxidermy.

Is the deer sleeping in a dog bed?

Yes, Boy Howdy is without his downstairs dog bed until June as the fawn is using it. I washed it first. Am wondering if Boy Howdy will smell stuffed fawn on his dog bed and wonder where it has been all this time.

Do you think that your art work will ever tackle the culture of dog agility using landscape photo murals and synthetic flooring materials?

Don't you think the re-constructed birch trees could really be weave polls??? I could see that.

OK. How cool would those weave poles look. Maybe we could commission you to build a stunning and non pvc and purple and yellow agility course someday when we have our own ranch.

How did you come to visit Marfa? And was it everything you had hoped for?

Well, like many people I know, Marfa had long been on my list. I once applied to a residency at Chinati (Donald Judd's DEA site there) which I of course did not get. It definitely has an art mecca calling.

Team Small Dog feels so behind the times. We did not love Marfa until this year.

So anyway, my long time pal Joni lives in Austin. I love to visit her. She is really funny. She also wanted to go to Marfa forever. So we planned a trip that was me flying to Austin to hang out for a couple of days and then we drove to Marfa (about 8 hours) in our rental Camry. Two nights and three days in Marfa (which was plenty in mid week in mid May since you can walk the entire town in an hour and since it was a "quiet time" people tend to not open anything even if they say they are going to so you are left looking at the outside of buildings in the hot sun.)

Oh, oh, but I should mention that one night we did go see the Marfa Lights, which you see from a viewing spot just out of town and the lights are far off but are REALLY there. They move around just over the horizon out in the desert. Supposedly no one knows what causes them. That was fun. The band Animal Collective was going to play on Friday night, but we weren't staying that long.

We are pretty sure Animal Collective is a band that cool people enjoy.

We then went to Chinati Hot Springs, which was also during a "quiet time" (two other people there.)

Donald Judd used to own that when he lived in Marfa as his get away place for weekends. That involved driving really slowly for two hours on an unpaved road in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert in our Camry, which was highly memorable. You will need a truck if you are going to live in Marfa with 4 wheel drive. The outskirts happen fast and the roads end.

Then we went to BIG BEND National Park, which I got to say is what you would REALLY love because it is so so beautiful. They have lots of Javelinas.

Those pig things with fangs?

I got to pretend I was one with a Park Ranger for the amusement of an audience.

Hmm...Would that outfit you were javelina-ing in make a good dog agility outfit?

I was wearing sweats. Just a skirt made of sweatshirt material over the sweat pants, and my favorite hat that I have had for ten years and is slowly fading away. Yes, probably good for dog agility, but surely not of the stylish level you aspire to.

Don't let Kelsey fool you. She is always VERY stylish. Perhaps another not doing dog agility clue.

Was Marfa everything you had hoped for?

YES. We stayed in the cool hotel and spent a lot of time in the pool.

Um, what about cattle ranches and running across the desert?

We had coffee at the Brown Recluse Coffee Shop once (because then they didn't open the other days even though the sign says open daily. The galleries are nice and I drank a beer with the owners at one, Gallerie Urbane, where I will have a show in spring of '09.

Guess who has already invited herself along as a "Helper of Artist" if she can figure out how to take off work?

Chinati Foundation and all the Judd stuff is great and everywhere.

Donald Judd is known for minimalism. We learned about him in art school. He likes boxes. I have to say he isn't exactly one of my favorite artists, but minimalism is important to life and look what it did for Marfa.

I bought a lot of books because they have a really fancy big book store in town with a great bathroom. Everyone talks to you I think because there is nothing else to do.

You figured it out by now that Kelsey gave me all these photos of Marfa. She took this one in the bathroom. See, this is why she is an artist and I gave all that up for the life of dog agility. I forget to take pictures of the bathroom.

We had a great meal at a hip restaurant out by the cemetery (nice place to walk on the edge of town) that was open!!! Called the Blue Javelina and I had a blood orange, fresh ginger screwdriver that I then attempted to copy for the rest of the summer.

We were also there when it was not so hot. Only 80's or 90's. I also imagine it is different when it is 112.

Was everyone in Marfa cool?

Of course everyone in Marfa is not cool. I think it's a lot more like, "why are you here??" We did get to listen to good old fashioned teen age gossip at the pizza place, which is called Pizza Foundation, and is in an old gas station, and is well, cool.

Would you ever move to Marfa?

No. Extended visit, yeah probably. It really is too far away from everything. You have to drive to the next town to go to the vet. It's some little college town that doesn't seem to have anything cool that college towns have, although I only drove thru it so am probably not giving it a fair chance. Maybe it would be good for a second home. Supposedly, there are many people who spend half time there which is perhaps not super popular with the people that spend full time there. I dunno, maybe. I would still love to have a residency there. It would be great to spend more time there to see what I really think. So far I think it is just a nice place to visit. A great place to visit.

Kelsey and most people including my husband think that I should find somewhere other than Marfa to move to.

Here's a picture of Sealy and Boy with cows on my Dad's property in Paicines, which is somewhere I do want to move to and I think you would too and is close enough to maybe convince Gary. Well, maybe when he retires.

Kelsey, why don't you do dog agility? You have all these dogs, you can run far distances including actual marathons!

Cause I would never be better then you!!! That, and the fact that I am far too lazy. That, and Walker's baseball and or soccer games already take up all of our weekends. I'm the kind of person who has the ability during the day to think things like waking up really early to drive four hours to a dog agility competition somewhere in the Central Valley would be a great idea, but come four a.m. I would turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. But, would I like to have a team of small (or medium or big) dogs of my own, even if they wreck the house because I don't walk them enough, YES!!!

But you still have a team.

Here's a pic of the three dogs I have so far for the team. Go National! Once I was walking them and some lady said, "Oh, you like those national colours." Then I wondered if the black, brown, tan combination is referred to as "national," and have never found out, but like to call them that now anyway. The dogs are (from back to front) Gabbi, a 10 year old berner, Sealy Bird Jones, a 14 year old Sacramento SPCA mutt, and Boy Howdy, a 3 year old rat terrier mix rescued from Hollister through the Milo Foundation.

Boy Howdy would be REALLY good at agility. This just drives me crazy that Kelsey does not want to do dog agility. And now she even has birch tree weave poles for her driveway.

A couple of years ago I attempted to become a dog walker, since I walk extra dogs anyway and people said they would pay me. But it turns out I am too lazy to invoice and then too embarrassed to bill for 4 months of walks, when the truth is I would be walking the dog anyway.

Kelsey includes this story about the first time we met. Or actually that she met Timmy. I don't know where I was. I guess now you can figure out that my interview subject is an actual friend and not some random person. Why would I want to interview some random person? I believe this is called nepotism and I believe I am a practioner of this.

Laura and I both went to graduate school at UC Davis. I did not really meet Laura until later in Santa Cruz. She graduated just as I was starting. However, I did meet Timmy the very first time I went there. I knocked on the studio building doors and a woman answered (not Laura) to let me in. Timmy ran up to investigate and promptly peed on the leg of the woman. She was pissed and stormed off. I was left to look around the studios and decide if I wanted to go to Davis. Here’s what I thought: Woman, grumpy. Timmy, smart and feisty and cute. Davis, great studio space and dog friendly!!!! Exactly what I was looking for. I started the next fall and promptly adopted Sealy at the Sacramento SPCA. Sealy, like Timmy is the best dog ever. Sealy like Timmy is now old.

This is the only time I ever have heard of Timmy peeing on someone. Kelsey told me who this woman was. I agree she is grumpy and humorless. But still probably did not deserve to be peed on.

If someone was to ask me what my favorite dog is, I would answer, “the one standing in front of me.” I’m a little slutty in that way. Even Sealy slips down the list if we are walking past Maggie’s house (a Norwich Terrier, I think they are like hedgehogs, and although I have never seen a hedgehog, I think I LOVE them,) or if I am obsessing over any number of dogs that need to be adopted. I once tried to be a foster dog parent. I thought it was a good way to get to help more dogs get adopted. That’s how we got Boy Howdy.

I have officially “rescued” numerous dogs from outside of their very own houses. That’s why I put my address and phone number on my dogs’ tags. I would not have taken all those dogs home for baths and meals and to lay on my couch, had they had tags that told me they lived right where I found them wandering in the street. Well, I probably would have just until the owners came home so I could make sure the dog was safely inside again. Once as I was helping a dog into the back of my car, the owner came out of their house and said, “excuse me, can I help you? That’s my dog.” Oops. Tags!!