Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Behind the scenes with Team Small Dog on vacation.


I hate coming home from vacation. Aren't you supposed to come home from vacation all refreshed like you just blasted out your brain with a mint and fennel scented colonic? Ready to start a new day? Re-joov-en-ated? I come home glowering and irritated and stomping around all stink eye that vacation is over. Re-juvenile. Delinquent. Want to stomp someone and go back to vacation.


I'm pretty sure they feel the same way. Sun baking them that day into crispy, golden fried crisps. Some days just sat and stared at the sky, waiting for it to burst or bust out with the important information that we've all been waiting for about Michael Jackson's ghost. The meaning of 9-11. Heavy metal in Baghdad. How to cut my hair into a stylish and sporty new do that goes with my slothlike, vacationeer lifestyle.


On vacation, we just go somewhat feral. If by feral you mean you can eat grapes for dinner and ice cream for brunch and who cares what you wear and thus, I wear a skirt over pants ever single day. Viva la skirtpants. Is that very feral? And there is running and photoshoots and drinking and no one around. If you want, you can scream REALLY LOUD and no one will ever hear you up there.

I know. It's a little pathetic. I just miss you, my friend vacation.


For Otterpop, life is good and right on vacation. No UPS trucks. No people that ain't her people. No dogs that ain't her dogs. No leashes ever. No emails. Otterpop is the master of her universe. Our universe. Who the hell cares. It's vacation and at least I remembered to pack the wine and Otterpop is in happyland. And happyland for Otterpop is happyland for all of us. Like it is raining xanax and butterscotch and Kiehls scented shower gel, all in a soft mist and we are all one with the universe.


Waiting for the master chef to appear. On vacation, Top Chef follows us around with a gps video locating truck and serves seared scallops in a bucket of fava beans and roasted this and that. Or not. Or grapes. There are certainly grapes on vacation. Sometimes it depends on who packed the cooler. Laura is a feral packer and at least you can count on grapes and some bagels.


Vacation is a universe of sticks. Everywhere you look, glorious sticks.


I think I get Otterpop's relationship to swimming now. It's all about getting the stick to safety. The middle of the pond, not safe for sticks. Danger dog Otterpop to the rescue. She tried to rescue me out of the overly large bath tub, too.


She started to freak me out, how far she was swimming, all to save that stick. The only other thing that freaked me out on vacation, the cottage phage in warm tones of butter and eggplant. And some of the upholstery uses squiggle Joan Miro meets the '80's patterns. But that's about it. Basically, vacation should not freak anyone out. I'm over the bad upholstery. Really. I really am. Really.


Here is how much health care debate there is on vacation. The debate is sparked by an Event which I will call Otterpop Starts Freaking Out with Severe Pain Regarding her Ear. This event happens on a Saturday night, on a dark mountain that is separated from things like the rest of the world by, well, a mountain that is navigated by a skinny car sick road and at least an hour of car sick dark night driving. Like it takes an hour in the daylight when the road is not populated by sharp fanged animals and drunk mountain dwellers with machine guns. It coule be one long, grim reaper eternity freak out drive on the car sick road to save Otterpop.

The health care debate of vacation goes something like this:

"Oh my god. Poor Otterpop. Do you think we should go to the emergency vet? Shit. That is a helluva drive. But she is freaking OUT of the ear pain." I go pour another large glass of the wine that came free with the cottage.

"Whatever you want to do, hun," Gary says, but he is watching the game because one thing there is on the mountain, besides a giant bathtub and eggplant fabric to accent the butter colored Ikea chairs, is satellite tv and the Dodgers are kicking the Giants asses.

"I think she got too much water down her ear maybe. I dunno. GodDAMN, Otterpop. What is wrong? Do you think something else went down her ear? Stickers? Foxtails? Red hot poker? Something creepy from nature that we don't even know what it is?"

Otterpop is shaking violently and whimpering. Otterpop NEVER whimpers. She is totally freaking out. Which is freaking me out. I may have mentioned this once or twice.

Gary replies, "If you want to go, we'll all go. I'm driving to town to get burritos right now."

His right now actually meant at the end of the game right now as in the taco shop closed because you can close your taco shop whenever you want in a town like where vacation is. And then Gary wanted to throw something through the door but he didn't. Because he thought about it, and hey. Vacation!

And so the health care debate ended with no one driving to the emergency vet and the ear emergency fixed by itself the morning and I think we had grapes and chips for dinner.

I know. You're all, THAT'S the health care debate? I love vacation.


Ruby only wades in the pond up to her chest. And finds acorns and carries them down to the mud and buries them there. Gustavo, he is just running somewhere the whole time of swim stick throwing. Running somewhere where there are miles and miles of sticker bushes.

After vacation, the first walk we take on leashes, walking down the street, a lady in a Jetta runs the stop sign and almost hits us all. Four lives almost splatto due to Jetta Rage of you, curly hair lady. She slams on the brakes and flings her arm across her teenage girl looking passenger to her right, and gives me a look like, FUCKER. All stink eye and road rage. And I'm just standing there, in the middle of the crosswalk and I stink eye back at her, FUCKER. And I try to tell her with my mental telepathy that godDAMN, lady. Don't you know I just got home from VACATION and I live in a vacation bubble and I am supposed to still be up on the mountain and you don't EVEN EXIST??


Because we have all gone feral, the dogs just are loose and running all day long and there are deer and pigs and turkeys up there in the wilds, but nothing is as dangerous and irritating as those sticker bushes. I sticker your ass, Jetta Curly Hair Lady. Pretty much for every hour of dog running there were 3 hours of convincing Gustavo that he was not going to DIE when I brushed out the burrs from his soft little dog hair. Because I am feral I don't brush my hair in solidarity of the sticker bush hair and also because I am just a big lazy slob on vacation.


There's a soft brushed Gustavo, lying on the down comforter. You have gathered that this is not a camp out, our vacation on the mountain. I don't camp. There are stereo speakers in the bathroom of the cottage. My own personal DJ brought a little shopping bag of cd's that sound like Bon Iver bearded guys in their own little studios like this, singing their sad man harmonies, but perhaps their rustic mountain studios use more rustic color schemes than eggplant and butter. And don't have dishwashers. One day when it rained and we just sat there watching the rain hit hard out the giant, floor to ceiling windows and listened to Bon Ivery guys with beards singing about prairies and I read a whole book about youth culture and pirate capitalism.


Vacation has a hammock.


Vacation has a porch. We'd just sit out there then meander around the property, following the sound of monkey screaming down to the stump. Gustavo spent a lot of time scaring off this one stump. Every single day. The same stump.


Now I'm super busted. Team Small Dog goes on vacation and you were ready to hear about dancing on the bar with the one eyed rodeo clown then getting a new tattoo from the shirtless guy that lives under the blue tarp canned ham trailer by the old airstrip. How the dogs single handedly took on the entire wild pig population of the Mendocino mountains and disappeared for days but luckily I found them due to the power of love and a really reliable recall. Not this boring, shuffling, walking to the pond crap. Even my dad is like, uh, sounds like you had a, um, quiet vacation? My own dad said that. His vacation had bears and the bears did things like pee in front of them and the dogs on his vacation had to keep the bears away.


I swear. I swear. If you just send me back there, send me today, I swear I will get my ass up off that sticker bush grass land hammock and set the dogs free near the razor wire compound and make a spectacle of myself at the big Apple Show that starts Saturday afternoon. I swear. Send money and pack the cooler with something other than wine and grapes and cream cheese and I am there. Hell, don't even pack the cooler I love grapes and have no issues with cream cheese, just send me back. Send me back. Please send me back.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Because it's always a barrel of laughs when the team takes a vacation.


Something about going away in the autumn is different than going away any other time. It's that light that's fading different, outlining everything golden and sharp during the cocktail hour, then dropping away over the mountain and fading much faster than it would other times. Something about it makes us seem more grown up and faded.


The way we get to the pond is like this. Gary bikes, I walk-trot. Or fartlek. Ruby walks and the other dogs run a relay between bike and me. There is swimming for the swim stick and the stick is part of the relay and the dogs aren't sure who to follow. Except Ruby. She knows how to get there. Just follow the path. The pond is always there.


We drove one day, up the other side of the valley, into the mountains that had previously just been a distant view. I picked out a road and Gary drove and we didn't know where it went. Past lots of houses where the houses were trailers and everything was made of blue tarp and and old boards and shiney, bright razor wire. We tried to walk in a forest but it didn't seem right, this time of year, to have the dogs out running loose in the woods, where people live in compounds amidst rusted up old cars, and one bright new truck sparkles in that sharp sun. The sign in the forest says, Please Don't Cut Wood or Chop Down Trees. It's nailed to a tree. We drove back down to town and stop at the berry farm for some tortillas.


It's a dark, old shack, roof covered in a black tarp. The hippies that work there move slow, and the milk is in an old icebox over in the corner by some cheese. The hippie girl behind the counter has gigantic boobs that are flapping out of her grateful dead smock and star tattoos all over her arm. She talks like a robot. Two gray people come in, old boots and faded check shirts buttoned up to the top. One is a man and one is a woman but both have old, wirey hair pulled back into soft ponytails. The man has on shorts. The don't look at us.


"You going to the fair?"

"Yep. My niece is coming in and I'll take her and I'm going to eat corndogs."

"Corndogs?!"

"Yep."

They buy some glass bottled juices and tomatoes and we leave and drive back up our dirt road.


Up on our ridge, every day is a new weather. One day it's baking like an oven, and I lay in the hammock, dogs laying underneath, and the hot breeze moves it only a little bit and I lay like that a long time. At night it rains after a thunder strike storm moves along on top of us and I wonder what happens if lightening strikes a fire on our property. Another day the first storm of the season takes it's time moving across the valley and no one else has just the whole view of it that we do, waiting for it to move south from the sea end.


There's a noise that sounds like muffled Harleys careening up from the highway below.

"Is that loud sound the wind?" I ask Gary.

He takes a minute to answer, because it had been so silent except for the tamped down roar that takes over the canyon, coming through the trees and the door blows open. I'm not sure, for a moment, if I even said that out loud.

"I guess. Maybe." He doesn't know.


Ruby's Restaurant of Dog Town.

Ruby's take out restaurant serves fish 'n' chips, corn dogs, milkshakes and grapes. Maybe tomorrow it will serve something else but for today, that's what you get. Go to the order and order from Ruby. Ruby speaks 8 languages and people from out of town aren't afraid of her.

Gustavo helps out by passing out forks. If you ask Gustavo what his job is, he says he serves love and joy to all passers by.

"So you're unemployed?" I ask.


"And I pass out forks," he answers. "I love you."

Otterpop takes out the trash and makes the change and runs the blender for the milkshakes. She doesn't sit in the takeout window, quiet smile on her muzzle like Ruby. Sometimes she mops the floor and maybe not with a smile. She growls while she mops the floor, and takes out the trash then has to run out back and scream some of the time.


That's how it goes with Team Small Dog. The last time they were here it was with Timmy, 3 months before he died. There's a book everyone who stays in the house writes something in. Usually about their dogs and wine tasting and watching the woodpeckers and the thing about the giant pigs. The last time I was here I wrote how it was his last visit and he dreams of being a dog again and feeling the wind and dreams of running. I drew a picture of him laying in his bed, although most of the time I remember him spinning in circles on the tile floor. He couldn't run last time he was here, and I wasn't sure he knew where he was.


I wasn't sure if I could ever come up to the house again after that time. But I did, and it was just different. I didn't walk the same paths as much as we did before. Mostly sat still or shuffled across the property, looking at the sky and the mountains and measuring time only by where the light hit in the valley.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hello from our vacation!

Team Small Dog is on vacation! That's right, we're all on a beautiful island in the Caribbean. The dogs are running amuck on the white sandy beach that goes on for a hundred miles and they bring us giant omlettes with swiss cheese and spinach and peppers right to the veranda and whatever cocktail you want. Mimosas for breakfast, and these fruity things with pineapple on sticks and rum in them. And sandwiches. Magnificent, towering sandwiches. All we have to do all day is walk on the beach and lay in the coconut field during the rain showers. No one else is here except us, and at night it's so quiet and starry and warm and all you can hear is the sea which never boils or rumbles or flings bloody seal carcasses to our doorstep. It's the quiet kind and it just makes nice sounds. Only nice sounds. And did I mention the sandwiches and the sky blue sky, stretching from left to right and all I have to do all day is to sit quietly and look at it and then take a nap.

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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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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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