Friday, June 27, 2008

Here is where the sheep people all get mad at me.

When we practice now, our friends the sheep sometimes come and watch. They're kind of a motley crew, those sheep. Their fur, or wool, or hair, what is that, hangs off in chunks. I believe myself to not be a sheep person.

They are getting used to having sheep fans. Or maybe fans is really not it. Bystanders. Bored voyeurs. Hanger arounders. They are the ones that witness these fabulous contacts but still sometimes dropped bars. And just don't appreciate how hard we're working on fixing our agility flaws. And treated to the sight of me running around, arms a waving, yelling, "Go Go Go Go Go Go!" For every dog, every turn. I try to make everyone have a fair turn. And each dog gets their favorite reward when they do something particularly cool. A big frisbee game for Pop. Ruby tugs on her new rawhide bully stick and gets to go chew it in a corner all by herself. Gustavo plays for a while then eats some cheese out of tupperware then has loveys. It's what works. The sheep watch and do not comment.

And then just go back to doing what sheep do. Which as far as I can tell (I'm sheep sitting this week) is just eat dead grass all day and walk around. And look startled. And stare but with this blank stare. I am glad I don't have to do something like give them shots. I heard that was an exciting day of sheep wrangling. They are so not horses. I just stick with the horses. My life would be fine without sheep in it.

Otterpop dreams that I let her out there to go move them back to their pen. Or somewhere. Maybe out into the busy road. Who knows where she'd put them. She watches them, making plans. I think we won't test this out, to see if she has any herding ability. We'll just let her think she does and leave it at that. Good staring, Otterpop.

So where's Gustavo? He doesn't really register sheep on his interesting scale. And can I just tell you this fact. It's a little braggy but you'll like this. I stuck the channel weaves out there, in a little sequence that was fast and open with a hard hitting pole entrance. Playing Gustavo Runs Steeplechase. With his channels a little open at the entrance. Steeplechase for dummies. And he kept flying through, collecting and hitting that entrance no matter where I was. And doing a rocket speed mini border collie single foot through the poles. I am not shitting you. Would likely be a loser at rounding up the stock. But is totally getting the hang of this agility business.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Taking 4 dogs on vacation-a behind the scenes view.

All right. Yesterday, you got to hear about running and soaring eagles and ponds and million year old oak trees and so forth. Blah, blah, blah. Nice, nice, nice.

That part was all great. But, you ask, was it really that special and fun, and easy to take 4 dogs on a vacation? And one of them has dementia and can't really walk and is blind and you are going to a giant sheep ranch? And the answer to that would be no. It was not that easy. It used to be. It used to be super easy. But now with Timmy, who I can't bear to leave with someone because I worry about him, is not easy to travel with. And probably shouldn't travel. But travel with Timmy, we did.

For instance. Let's start from when we are leaving Santa Cruz in the car. In a car that looks something like this. Jam packed more than usual. Because traveling with Timmy means we need extra stuff like an xpen and a baby gate, and he needs to take a really big dog bed to sleep in, because it's the only way he can rest comfortably. And he needs it in the back so he can sleep comfortably in the car. The other dogs ride stuffed into crates.

Ruby and Otterpop, perfect travelers. Throw 'em in a box, they go to sleep. Gustavo is usually an ace traveler, however apparently now not with Timmy in the car. He whines. He seems to feel if Timmy is riding in a spacious dog bed, he should not have to ride locked a box. Sometimes he whines a little with Gary and Timmy in the car. For like 20 minutes, then he stops. This vacation, he does not stop. Is a horrible, grating, whine like someone pulling out the eyeballs of monkeys. And I am screaming stuff into the back like, "If you do not SHUT UP NOW I am going to pull this car over and you are going to be SORRY!" I am throwing items back there. I have now turned into my dad 20 minutes into our vacation.

And this is stressing Timmy out. Who starts trying to pace in his little 1 square foot of space. Which is going to lead to a panic attack. I am driving, Gary is on dog handling, not a good thing. Timmy panic attack results in insane flying around like atoms and molecules having fission or fusion or whatever makes them fling themselves around until they blast open and create, um, whatever they create. Gold? Uranium? Nuclear War? I am stressed out. Everyone is stressed out. So in San Francisco, we stop and move things around and little Diva Boy gets to sit with me so he shuts up and Timmy can ride without a stress induced panic attack. I am muttering stuff now like, "This vacation is going to kill me." Total and complete muttering and silent cursing. Gary is being remarkably calm and not commenting on any of our behavior. We turn the ipod up to LOUD and proceed on. I proceed to torture all car occupants with singing Dwight Yoakum and Buck Owens songs the rest of the way there. LOUD. With Bakersfield style yodeling.

So, we make it up to Boonville. It's about 3 1/2 hours up there. The road down into the Anderson Valley has the cute and whimsical nickname the Car Sick Road but because I am completely starving since certain members of my family may suck at time management and we left way later in the day than I wanted, I have an empty stomach and feel barf-free. But Timmy starts moving around in his little space again and Gustavo is whining again but lightly and thank god Ruby and Otterpop sleep through anything in the car. Over the 27 miles of Car Sick Road we go. But we made it. With no panic attacks or screaming or barfing. By any of us.

So Timmy's been up to this house before. I am counting on his radar kicking in so there is no wall bumping into. It is all very dog proof-it may have an Ikea-esque charm, but those Scandanavian Moderns sure get fleas and ticks and ez-clean surfaces. Tile floors. Lacquery finishes. Not much fabric. Open floor plan. Windows where you can be inside and watch to see if any dogs are shuffling off a mountainside. We are on top of a giant hill, and if Timmy picks up any speed it's going to be like one hairy black snowball of unbridled mayhem rolling down the side of the hill. Bad, bad, bad. I have visions of this.

Otterpop and Gustavo, I just let em go. They're fine. "Don't come back bleeding, lame or impaled," I tell the 2 of them as they tear off after some unknown wild animal. What happens on the sheep ranch can stay on the sheep ranch. Ruby, I try to keep more at whatever pace I'm at. But Timmy must be watched with eagle eyes. He seems to like shuffling laps in a little circuit around the perimeter of the house. Me and him are sort of like monks shuffling around a meditation maze. But I am no monk and I am cold and don't always feel like shuffling in circles. This is f***ing vacation. But I can't just stick him outside and not watch because one turn around from losing direction and that's it. And it's cold. And I'm tired. I did have this great idea of tying him up on a long rope. Which was a great idea until he hogtied himself and almost melted down into a panic attack in the dark. Not such a great idea. So instead, I watch him or go out and shuffle with him in the light, and when he has to go outside at night, I put him on a leash and go with him. Did I mention it was freezing and windy most of our vacation?

Most nights, he paced and paced and paced instead of sleeping. And I would get up with him, and put him back to bed, or take him out to shuffle and pee. All night long. Pretty much on 3 hour intervals. Even tranquilized. That's my Timmy. So I didn't really sleep much, and was up every morning at 6 to get him out on his usual schedule. So pretty much I am still exhausted from my vacation because I stayed up almost all night every night! It was sort of like being out at a wild disco in New York City except actually nothing like that. Did it suck? Kind of. Really though, mostly because he's in a state where I'm just waiting out the inevitable. He didn't love his vacation, maybe he had moments where he realized he was out somewhere he loves. But most of the time, he just lived in his fog, and was waiting out his inevitable too.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

A visit to the sheep ranch.

It is sort of funny place to go. Once, a long time ago, it was a remote 500 acre sheep ranch, way up in the hills of Boonville, a little pit stop between Mendocino and Cloverdale and wine country. Old timey farmers and eccentric ranchers with their own language. Then wine started creeping in and the landscape changed. Pot growing hippies, the kind of artists who might have giant kilns and weld found objects and perhaps weave dream catchers. Wine tasting. There's a fairground and a taco wagon. A lot of migrant grape guys from Mexico. The guy cackling in front of the grocery store had on ropers and a buck knife and an alligator hide vest and big fluffy mustache.

The current sheep ranch owners came from the big city and converted a couple old ranch sheds into country-urban weekend rentals with giant panoramic views. And people come up from the big city up the long dirt road with their dogs and marvel at the nature of it all. Thanking the new owners with cash for letting city folks have some open space. The marveling is done inside decor that would be easy to architecturally digest if you were a lesbian patent attorney decorating your South of Market condoloft in 1998 with Ikea product. Can I just mention the colors goldenrod and eggplant and use of glass bricks? Whimsical art which may include a pastel drawing of a dog with nipples juggling fruit. Indeed. That and $190/per night is the price we pay to have a few days of nature for us and the dogs.

I am not even sure I am a big huge nature fan at all times. I can bring my computer and books and sleep in a bed at this nature, even though there are ticks. What I want to do is to spend long days walking around where I can't see people with my dogs running fast. And this place is where I can do that, even at the price of eggplant tiles and a huge bill at the end. You know when you are looking out the windows from the car at rolling oak hills and you wonder, what's it like to be up in those hills and live in them and walk around? That's the whole thing.

A pond. Massive old oak trees. Large moss covered stones. No one else. It's pretty simple and boring. We cover as much ground as we can. 550 acres is a lot of space. Up and down steep ridges on pig trails and into muddy ravines. Down a cliff to a river with a swimming hole. To the pond to throw sticks. I walk, the dogs run, and my husband can sleep and putter and drink and bike. We are simple folk.

I can hike with my dogs for hours. Ruby stays right at my heel at my pace, most of the time, the other 2, of freakish metabolisms, never stop running at top speed. Usually, right about when I'm thinking, My Dogs are so Good, is when the 2 non stop dogs take off down a hillside after something. Maybe jackrabbit or deer or pigs. Gustavo and Otterpop learned they can take out 2 turkey vultures and steal their dead prey, a neat trick for city dogs. Or when Ruby, who normally sticks like glue to my side, ran down to a ravine for a moment with the 2 wild dogs. Within seconds, I hear Ruby screaming horrible sounds, see Otterpop and Gustavo flush out a deer, and then here comes Ruby, dragging herself out of the brush, looking nearly dead. She stayed in her crate all day, and came out pretty ok but with sore ribs on one side, and never leaving my side again after that. Something happened in nature and I don't know what. As long as the giant birds that fly their menacing selves over us while we're walking don't pick up a small dog up in their claws, no one is bleeding too badly or limping too horribly, I'm pretty ok with it. They sleep some back at the house, then it's off and running again.

Timmy must be monitored at all times. It would be too easy for him to get lost and roll down a hill of high grass in nature. Our little house has about 4 fenced, steep acres of grass and oak trees around it. If he got out in the dark, we would never find him again. He is ok just sleeping most of the time and meandering near the house, on careful watch. I tranquilize him at night so he doesn't have panic attacks. He is happy to be out in the wind and grass. He can stand at the top of a hill and look across the blowing foxtails and flowers and remember back when he was a dog and this was where he was supposed to be.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

It was USDAA and no dogs caused me to curse quietly under my breath.

So first things first. Here is the deal with little black skorts. The little black dress of dog agility.

Make sure it doesn't almost come off next to the a-frame. Hecklers may continue to point this out to you all day long. Otherwise, hello. Am sold on little skorts. A nice thing for the ladies that is not too ugly for dog agility! But not for the mens. The kilts are a little weird maybe. You just keep wearing your shorts my man friends.

So first of all. Congratulations to Otterpop for trying so hard and holding it together and not doing anything terrible or embarrassing to me. She had a couple bars on Saturday, I think because I was trying to hold her together and she was trying to hold herself together and we just sort of held it together to get around and had a bar in both her runs from too much hand holding out there. But on Sunday, she actually Q'ed in everything and didn't do anything wrong and I know she was actually trying really hard to have a good time and run and relax a little bit. She did drink a bunch of my coffee Sunday morning. So from now on, I give Otterpop her own cup.

And Ruby stayed sound almost the whole time. I guess her drugs wore off and she came up lame again part way through the day Sunday and I scratched her from Steeplechase finals. Her Steeplechase run on Saturday was the bomb and even though she hit a bar, had a smokin' time and was just fired up and the Ruby that I LOVE to run. Whole Reason for Dog Agility Ruby. Startline comedienne and all. She got some Q's, and some 5 faults from some bars. One 5 faulter from a very diva dive from the dogwalk into a tunnel next to it, with total and complete disregard for the yellow. Like so very Mariah Carey leaping onto the kraft services table to bathe herself in the cupcake platter without thinking about anyone else's love for an untouched cupcake. We practice that one. Running to the bottom. Not bathing in cupcake frosting. I'm sure I did some crackhead thing to broadcast to her early to just go ahead and jump ship and get in that tunnel. Such is life.

Perhaps not unlike Hobbes in the Steeplechase finals. I just had this feeling he might do that, seeing as how there is a big fat tunnel just staring you in the face as you're pummeling over the a-frame, and I have just let him blow by a contact like that before. Because I just need that extra whatever hundredth of a second instead of using brakes in Steeplechase finals. And blow by it he did. With a great run but ending up with 5 faults worth of time added. So maybe I won Rob enough money for a pizza for dinner. But maybe just a small cheese pizza. And a couple beers. But not very expensive beer. He had a fabulous standard Q with a happy love table with me and Q'ed in everything all weekend in his runs with Rob his actual dog owner because he is the most genius rockstar of all border collies. Like a non suicidal and still alive Kurt Cobain of border collies. I like sitting in the grass with him and making him bark. As stalkers go, I am easily amused.

Gustavo spent the weekend shoved into one small crate with Ruby and Otterpop. It is like all the clowns in the tiniest volkswagen, shoving in and out with their clown shoes flapping. The horror that the visions of the paranoid schizophrenic are made from. I didn't bring all my dog stuff. I had room to shove one crate under a friend's tent and that's where they stayed and they had a nice, snuggly weekend of Team Small Dog Togetherness. Sorry dogs. Sometimes I'm just mean and lazy like that. They will have plenty of time to get over it because we're taking them up to Booneville for a few days today. To sit around on a sheep ranch and do exciting events such as fetch the stick from the pond. Even Timmy gets to come.

This would be called our vacation and I will be wearing a skort. Because what is a vacation without 4 dogs? Is perhaps like going on a cruise around the Baltic Sea for a week or staying at Oprah's Hawaiian island villa except it is sitting in a little house on an old sheep ranch for 2 days and one of the dogs has alzheimers and one seems to be lame. And this means no internet my friends. I will be looking across the valley from a hammock. Writing pamphlets. I'll be back at the end of the week.

PS-Thanks Eric of Agility Video Service for the videos! They are flattering and don't make us look fat!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Gustavo would bark at the stump though.

We're back from Booneville.

If I told you everything we did up there, you would yawn. If I published anything I wrote up there, you would yawn.

It's a sheepranch, for godsake. Without sheep anymore. You sit around and the dogs run amuck and far.

I walked a lot. There's little paths that cover a lot of the steep 550 acres. The dogs chased a wild pig. We found a bloody hawk carcass piece this morning on our favorite path. I saw a coyote and a deer there the day before.

In general, the small dogs ran their asses off and got cuts and covered with stickers and would nearly pass out from exhaustion. Then we would sit in the hammock and I read a bunch of books about dogs. I think they made me write a bunch of freaky introspective crap that will never see the light of day.

Much of fetching of sticks from the pond. Otterpop and Gustavo can swim. Gustavo looks like a little water rat. Otterpop looks like a sausage buoy. Ruby doesn't even try, once she did a long time ago and she sunk.

Timmy had a hard time there. He can't see. I would carry him up to the pond and he liked it there. He paced around our cabin a lot and slept. He had good moments though and liked sitting around near the other dogs.

The other dogs impressed me with their ability to be dogs. They stayed in a pack and even if they chased a pig down, they always came back and in general stuck close. No one got sprayed by a skunk or eaten by anything larger than them.

At night we drank. My camera of course died on the 2nd day we were there.

It really was that boring and I loved every second of it.

We stopped in Healdsburg for some lunch. I took the dog parade out around the town square. I think you don't see that so much in downtown Healdsburg.

We're back and I have to go to work tomorow and I would rather sit on my ass at a sheepranch.

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