29 March 2020

Similar yet different.


Picture a modestly sized disco ball, suspended overhead. Not one so small it would fit into your palm, live it up a little! And it doesn’t have to be so large as to fill a ballroom, unless that’s how big you need to live your life. Light drops spin circles around the room in a flurry of shooting stars that bounce up, down, and sideways all at once. It’s disorienting but oh, so beautiful. Difficult to decipher where the circles start, and I guess it ends when you throw your toy. Please keep your more OCD dogs from observing the moving prisms. We keep chasing our own tails round and round the dance floor, the kind that lights up underneath well worn, waterproof boogie shoes. Every revolution of the glitter ball helps us to quietly ignore the inevitable act of somebody flicking off the switch at the end of the evening. Say goodnight, John Travolta.

There's a familiar movie plot that recycles itself over and over. Hunters shoot Bambi’s mom, and we weep over the tragedy until a singing warthog carries a baby lion out on top of it’s head while the sun rises. Rebirth! Elton John is soundtrack, and Disney makes a million bucks before the cock crows three times. The loop’s set permanently on repeat. Sad, happy, sad, happy. You don’t get one without the other.

Thank dog for agility, the panacea of distraction that staves off the downs in the cyclic nature of epic life events.

The thing is, when you love dogs, and you love doing everything with your dogs, especially doing agility with your dogs, you tend to have multiple dogs so that you don’t ever have to quit the cycle. If you find this to be true, you know well the harpoon of heartbreak jammed through your ribs til you can barely breathe, when your dog dies. We know it’s going to happen, but we can’t stop acquiring dogs, because we need them just as much as we need our lungs, we need them like the air we need to breathe to live.

You can get on with all the things, but if that loss means you also lost your agility, there goes your panacea, your lifeline to quiet the crazy talk in your head. Luckily, the biological puppy clock will eventually kick in to keep the disco ball switch ticking, so it glitters another rotation. It has to. Agility or not, you're going to need that dog.

By the time you’re ready for another puppy, you’ve long forgotten the exhaustion and frustration they bring. Baby animals are cute for a reason. They shut off any inkling of future heartbreak when their little wiggly legs start wobbling around on our laps. And tiny, furry faces magically erase the past memories of the last puppy’s furniture eating and running away into traffic phases of development. Cute, fluffy thoughts only! Running contacts, start lines, good jump skills and perfect lines are a bonus way to stick your head in the sand. This is the baby lion king moment. Time to start again.

I don’t know if it was luck or fate that my most recent puppy became the Banksy that’s laying in the chair across the living room from me right now. She’s a big fluffy weirdo and she’s perfect. Her puppyhood was awful. She didn’t like me, and her best hobby was staring at dust specks on the floor and chasing moving vehicles. I’m not sure how we both survived it. Go back through my old Clean Run articles, I think you’ll find all the sordid details that I can’t even remember any more, I guess because of the special puppy amnesia that set in when she grew up. It’s faded enough that once again, maybe I need a puppy.

How do you find a puppy? Maybe you’re lucky and it finds you. Otherwise, it becomes a new obsession that fits hand in hand with agility training. Breeder? Shelter? Rescue? Puppy list? Ranch dogs? You troll Facebook incessantly, talk to every single person you know, quiz owners of new puppies in such a way that verges on stalker, and worry. Would that one be a good puppy? Maybe it would. But maybe it wouldn’t. Structure, eyes, legs, spines, temperament, feelings, breed, you name it. Any one of those things could be ALL WRONG! It might have bad eyes! OCD! Seizures!

Before Banksy, every single one of my dogs was procured accidentally and spontaneously, ie, from a lady at the beach! From the side of the road! Shivering in a cage at a shelter! I had no criteria involving any of the above. And they turned out pretty much perfect. In my eyes, at least.

This time, I had great plan to avoid the random puppy search. One of my best friends bred her dog, who happens to be Banksy’s number one frenemie. A dog I know and love, a dog with a great personality, stable temperament, awesome flair and style. A baby daddy was selected from loads of eligible border collie bachelors. Both mom and dad were known nice dogs with lovely agility pedigrees, so we were stacking the deck this time in favor of what I most wanted, a cool friendly dog who had a propensity towards being good at agility. No guarantees, but why not give it a try? There were appointments with the very best dog ob/gyn in town, DNA and hormone testing, and dog semen flown from Canada on an airplane. I was most excited at the chance of having a puppy with amazing border collie parents who I would know from birth, and couldn’t wait to play with tiny puppies before their eyes even opened. I started stocking up on cute toys. Cleared my schedule for the anticipated due date. Planned where to put the puppy pen in the house. No time like now for getting ready for the future!

I planned to raise my puppy without plastics and free from patriarchal oppression. I would teach her not to be a nut job during agility and how to send to a wrap from across the field and always turn the correct direction on a rear. I promised never to point my feet the wrong way during a threadle and not to shout bad words if she missed a weave pole entrance because I was running on her line but I didn’t realize it. I was going to figure out how to use my treat robot effectively and keep the batteries charged! Work on clear markers and perfect stimulus control. Make toenail clipping a breeze! Have an actual start line! I was ready as anyone could ever be for my puppy! Everything I messed up with Banksy would be redeemed in future puppy! I had never been so prepared in my life for a new dog.

It seemed to take forever for the day of the ultrasound to find out how many puppies were inside the expectant mother. The wait was excruciating. Would there be enough, one for me in there? The perfectly adorable one of my dreams? Even though I’d been thinking about getting a boy, I only called her a Her. I had a list of gender neutral perfect names a mile long. I could already see her. My new tiny girl puppy. That looked like her mom but had giant ears and hind legs like her dad. I was a little worried about if she had yellow eyes. Could that happen? Would they look like goat eyes or be cute puppy eyes? Would her ears prick up or be floppy? What if one ear flopped and one stood up?

Life must be good, if that’s where stress comes from, thinking about future dog ears on a puppy not yet even born.

In my puppy’s very first photo in the ultrasound, she wasn’t there. There were zero puppies as it turned out. The mama dog was never pregnant. Even with all the science and testing and international airplane trip for a jar of fresh chilled border collie semen, nothing happened. Rotten luck of the draw. There were tears, even though it seems silly now, weeping for something that never even existed, that we only imagined to be there. The circle of life isn’t guaranteed to be smooth, sometimes those rough edges really bite.

Not that I ever go off on tangents, but can I tell you what else happened on during no puppy week? First, a visit with human leg doctor number five. The fancy John Hopkins surgeon, known for his expertise in fixing ballerina feet and ankles. My own personal, non ballerina foot and ankle has been getting sadder and sharper, and all the doctors have been telling me, nothing we can do. Degenerative osteophytes on all surfaces. Deteriorating navicular bone and talon joint. Cascading blah blah blah of foot doom.

Party poopers. “HA!” I’d laughed in their faces when they told me my options, all of which had the big all caps NO MORE RUNNING. Didn’t they know who they were dealing with? Laura Hartwick, Team Small Dog Leader and Captain, Dog Agility Afficiando Extraordinaire. I moved my way through a set of highly recommended doctors, slowly and limpily, all delivering the same stupid fake news that my leg was toast. Now way was it true. Finally, I found the fanciest doctor of them all, at the Stanford Clinic. He would give me the good news, he could fix that crummy foot, and have me back to running in no time.

Well, except, ratballs. No such luck. I may have yelled at a very qualified and well meaning surgeon with the cleanest hands I’ve ever seen. “What if I was a really famous ballerina, could you fix it then?!”

“No, I'd tell you the same thing,” he replied.

“But, like, if I was the MOST FAMOUS ballerina? IN THE WORLD! How about then?!?” My temper was rising. I was probably wearing muddy pants and was probably the most non ballerina looking ballerina he'd ever seen.

Same answer. I had another weepy party. First no puppy. Then no foot.

And not that I ever go on a double tangent, but also on that very same day, Gustavo received an urgent invitation to an emergency surgery to remove a chunk of his lung. It was where it had been stabbed by a coyote tooth two years before, and while we were busy living life, turned into a giant air bubble on the verge of exploding. AKA, a bulla. Do you know what a bulla is? It looks like a bubble you would blow out your lips with gum, except that it’s your lung. A giant bubble that attaches to a lung after it gets pierced, sitting there like a little time bomb, waiting to explode, and when it does, the air escapes out into the chest cavity, causing the air that keeps you alive to crush your lung back into itself, asphyxiating you with nothing to do but wait it out til the end. Not what a lung should be. Wouldn’t even need a harpoon to pierce it, a feather touching his fur would do the trick, and he’d instantly start drowning when it did, until he couldn’t breathe another breath. Maybe it would happen with him in my arms, maybe when he wasn’t with me, maybe trotting down our path in the woods.

His vets found this accidentally, and I was asked by them to choose, to gamble that that thing would not burst, or to put him through a risky surgery to take off a hunk of lung. Either choice was wagering maybe life or maybe death. I picked the surgery, a more humane way to go if it came to that than unexpected traumatic asphyxiation. He was whisked off to surgery, and, long story short, saved once again. How many miracles do most people get in life? As many as Gustavo’s had? Gustavo hasn't done agility in years. Doesn't matter. He's still my best dog.

And not that I ever go on a triple tangent, but just after Gustavo’s lung got saved, the global corona pandemic started. A sticky virus cell that especially goes for lungs. A thing I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, instead of a Disney movie plot with singing animals, the whole world switched over to a really scary sci-fi movie. One with a less predictable ending and gloomy noir lighting design. Not on the list of approved plots I’d been thinking about, but a much darker one that doesn’t do as well at the box office. Nobody wants to see this one. Bambi’s mom gets shot, then the shooter's on a rampage for all the other forest creatures, squirrels and bobcats and rabbits ducking for cover under stumps. Everybody’s lungs were in danger, as well as their hearts. Nobody was safe.

And here I’d been worried about my next puppy and if I had enough cute toys for her. And my foot not running anymore. And my beloved littlest dog. Perspective is everything, hindsight is twenty twenty.

This disco ball, it keeps spinning, round like a virus you see under the microscope, over and over while you wash your hands and sing. The dog gets old, you get a puppy. Your agility legs get slow, you move a little slower. You appreciate those dogs, you appreciate those legs. Because at some point, is there an end to Time To Get a Puppy? Shut the front door, could that happen? Maybe. When does that day come? It’s a day I don’t want to think about, I’d much rather stick my head back into the sand. I’m going to wash my hands again for luck and fate, and just bank on keeping that glittery ball of light moving round the circle, trying to not let it stop.

11 March 2020

Another trip around the moon, accompanied by an Eagles soundtrack.



Picture a modestly sized disco ball, suspended overhead. Not one so small it would fit into your palm, live it up a little! And it doesn’t have to be so large as to fill a ballroom, unless that’s how big you need to live your life. Light drops spin circles around the room in a flurry of shooting stars moving up, and down and sideways all at once. It’s confusing and disorienting but oh, so beautiful. Difficult to decipher where the circle starts, and impossible to know where it ends. Northern lights for the rest of us down south, please keep your OCD dogs from observing the dancing light. We keep chasing our own tails round and round the dance floor, the kind that lights up underneath your boogie shoes. Every revolution of the glitter ball helps us to quietly ignore the inevitable act of somebody flicking off the switch at the end of the evening. Say goodnight, John Travolta.

There’s only so many movie plots that are going to happen, recycling themselves over and over. Hunters shoot Bambi’s mom, and we weep over the tragedy until a singing warthog carries a baby lion out on top of it’s head while the sun rises. Rebirth! Elton John is the soundtrack, and Disney makes a million bucks before the cock crows three times. Variations include rags to riches, love prevails over all, and fish out of water on an epic quest. The circle’s a loop set permanently on repeat.

Plenty of room in the Hotel California! You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!*

Thank dog for agility, the panacea of distraction that staves off the epic life events. Climate change, political disasters, global disease pandemic, death of a loved one. Pick your poison, agility is designed to absorb a lot of the anxiety. If you love dogs, and you love doing agility with your dogs, and you have multiple dogs so that you don’t have to quit agility, you know well the harpoon of heartbreak jammed through your ribs til you can barely breathe, every time a dog dies. Do you know what a bulla is? It looks like a bubble you would blow out your lips with gum, except that it’s your lung. A giant bubble that attaches to a lung after the harpoon goes through, sitting there, waiting to explode, and when it does, the air escapes out into the chest cavity, causing the air that keeps you alive to crush your lung back into itself, asphyxiating you with nothing to do but wait it out til the end. We know it’s going to happen, but we can’t stop acquiring dogs, because we need them just as much as we need our lungs, we need them like the air we need to breathe to live.

There are all those stages of grief, I know you’ve been through them too, the don’t talk to me one, the weepy outbursts in the grocery store one, the wailing in the car one, the laying under the couch not moving while watching cupcake baking shows one, the crazy lady one that repels strangers because they can just feel the I need to tell you about how amazing my dead dog was ones, then the get up and dust the bunnies off your chest and get on with life one. You can get on with the things, but if that loss means you also lost your agility, there goes your panacea. Your lifeline to quiet the crazy making sounds. So many other things gone.

If dogs are your life circle, puppy fever will set in to keep the disco ball switch ticking, so it glitters another rotation. It has to.

Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice! We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.

For sure, the best way to ignore the apocalypse at your own doorstep is training another agility dog. By the time you’re ready for another puppy, you’ve long forgotten the exhaustion and frustration they bring. Baby animals are cute for a reason. They shut off the heartbreak of the future when their little wiggly legs start wobbling around on our laps. And furry, tiny faces erase the past memories of the last puppy’s eating the furniture, biting the arm, and running away into traffic phases of development. Cute, fluffy thoughts only! Running contacts, start lines, good jump skills and perfect lines are a super fun way to stick your head in the sand.

I don’t know if it was luck or fate or what that my most recent puppy became the Banksy that’s laying in the chair across the living room from me right now. She’s a big fluffy weirdo and she’s perfect. Her puppyhood was awful. She didn’t like me, her favorite hobby was staring at dust specks on the floor and running away to chase moving vehicles. I’m not really sure how we both survived it. Go back through my old blog posts, I think you’ll find all the sordid details that I can’t even remember any more, I guess because of that quiet ignoring amnesia that set in when she turned four or so. And as I’ve moved through mourning the death of Ruby, and Otterpop, it’s set in enough that once again I got puppy fever.

There she stood in the doorway, and I was thinking to myself this could be heaven or it could be hell.

How do you find a puppy? Maybe you’re lucky and it finds you. You troll Facebook incessantly, talk to every single person you know, quiz owners of new puppies, and worry. Would that one be a good puppy? Maybe it would. But maybe it wouldn’t. Structure, eyes, legs, spines, temperament, feelings, breed, you name it. Any one of those things could be ALL WRONG! It might have bad eyes! OCD! Seizures! Even though, until Banksy, every single one of my dogs was procured accidentally, spontaneously, and sometimes from the side of the road, and turned out pretty much ok. Actually, pretty much perfect. My future puppy has some pretty big, perfect footsteps to follow in.

This time, I was involved in a great plan to avoid all the random puppy searching. One of my best friends bred her dog, who happens to be Banksy’s favorite frenemies. A dog I know and love, a dog with a great personality, stable temperament, speed and style. A baby daddy was selected from loads of eligible border collie bachelors. There were appointments with the very best dog ob/gyn in town, DNA and hormone testing, and dog semen flown from Canada on an airplane. I was excited beyond belief at the chance of having a puppy with amazing border collie parents who I would know from birth, and couldn’t wait to play with tiny puppies before their eyes even opened. I started stocking up on toys. Cleared my schedule for the anticipated due date. Planned where to put the puppy pen in the house. No time like now for getting ready for the future!

I planned to raise my puppy without plastics and free from patriarchal oppression. I would teach her not to be a nut job during agility and how to send to a wrap from across the field and always turn the correct direction. I promised never to point my feet the wrong way during a threadle and not to shout bad words if she misses a weave pole entrance because I was running on her line but i didn’t realize it. I was going to give out so many cookies! Figure out how to use my treat robot effectively and keep the batteries charged! Work on clear markers and perfect stimulus control. Make toenail clipping a breeze! I was ready for my puppy!

The day of the ultrasound to find out how many puppies was excruciating. Would there be enough, one for me in there? The perfectly adorable one of my dreams? That looked like her mom but had giant ears and hind legs like her dad. Even though I’d been thinking about getting a boy, I only called her a Her. I could already see her. My new tiny girl puppy. In her very first photo in the ultrasound, though, it turned out to be zero puppies. The mama dog was never pregnant. There were tears. How could so much be invested in just a little puppy? The circle of life isn’t guaranteed to be smooth, sometimes those rough edges really bite.

How they dance in the courtyard, sweet, summer sweat.  Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

Not that I ever go off on tangents, but can I tell you about a couple weeks ago? Just after learning of the absence of my puppy, Gustavo had an urgent surgery to remove a chunk of his lung. It was where it had been stabbed by a coyote tooth two years before, and while we were busy living life, turned into a giant air bubble on the verge of exploding. A bulla. Not what a lung should be. Wouldn’t even need a harpoon to pierce it, a feather touching his fur would do the trick, and no breathing when that would happen, he’d feel like he was drowning, until he couldn’t breathe another breath. Maybe it would happen with him in my arms, maybe when he wasn’t with me, maybe trotting down our path in the woods. His vets found this accidentally, and I was asked by them to choose, to gamble that that thing would not burst, or to put him through a risky surgery to take off a hunk of lung. Either choice was wagering maybe life or maybe death. I picked the surgery, a more humane way to go if it came to that than unexpected traumatic asphyxiation. He was whisked off to surgery, and, long story short, saved once again. How many miracles do most people get in life? As many as Gustavo’s had? Made it easy to stop crying about the puppies that were ever even there.

Relax, said the night man, we are programmed to receive.You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

This disco ball, it keeps spinning, round like a virus you see under the microscope, over and over. You can wash your hands for the pandemic but you can’t wash off the past. The dog gets old, you get a puppy. The dog dies, you get a puppy. Your agility legs get slow and old, you get a puppy. At some point, is there ever an end to Get a Puppy? Shut the front door. Maybe. When does that day come? It’s a day I don’t want to think about, I’d much rather stick my head back into the sand. I’m going to cast my hand for luck and fate, and just bank on keeping that glittery ball of light moving, trying to not let it stop.

Joe Walsh guitar solo to finish. He is, miraculously, and as far as I know, not yet dead.

*I didn't write the Eagles lyrics. They did. In the 70's. You should know this. If not, I cannot help you.

31 January 2020

Dateline.

11:00pm
Agility trial tomorrow! Set alarm for 5:30am. Stay up really late watching riveting tv show where two tall realtor twins with stubbly beard faces cheerfully search for houses to renovate with expensive tile and open concept floorplans.
11:55pm
Drag self away from this fascinating drama on what happens when dry rot is discovered under the bathroom floor to go to bed.
4:05am
It’s Dog Show Day! Wake up in the dead of night-morning, because there are pressing questions to think about such as what if there are really hard dog walk exits at the dog show? Did that bathroom end up with a massive tiled shower? What creative food items can you forage for your lunch since you never made it to the grocery store?
4:35am
Try to go back to sleep. Except one of your dogs is sleeping on your foot and one is on top of your arm causing it to cramp. It would be terrible to disturb them.
4:40am
Continue to suffer due to dog cuteness. And harbor minor concerns about start line scenarios requring an actual lead out.
4:45am
Inquiries of the darkness continue. Is it worth it to buy a $35 water bottle because it’s olive green and has a cute handle? And when does late stage capitalism become post capitalism and are $35 jugs that exist solely to put water in part of this? Do the robots do the work for the knowledge workers and homelessness is solved or does the world just explode in a fiery ball because of behemoth online water bottle vendors?
4:55 am
Did you forget to pay the horse shoer? He’s going to be really mad.
5:05am
How much would new kitchen floors cost?
5:15am
Would new floors even be possible since the kitchen floor is slopey enough to roll balls for the dogs on?
5:20am
Should you get a puppy?
5:25am
Go to sleep. Success!
5:35am
Alarm goes off. Surprise!
5:40am
Make the coffee feed the dogs put on the clothes. Many years of practice has made this action possible in one run-on sentence. Doesn’t matter if clothes don’t match or are on backwards inside out, if you have two socks available, life will go on. It’s a dog show.
6:00am
Load dogs and stuff into the car. One dog is missing. Go look under the covers. Back in bed! Turn on car, turn on heater, then just drag him out and put him in a crate with an extra soft blanket.
6:05am
Drive drive drive drive drive. Listen to a book. Listen to a podcast. Listen to radio. Listen to anything but the news. Stick with old skool punk rock.
7:00am
Stop at the Starbucks, you’ve done this drive so many times you know for a fact exactly how many minutes it takes to get there which is good since you really have to pee and you can get a TREAT! Cappuccino for five bucks! Fancy! You know why it's fancy? Muthatrucking sugar! You should enjoy this since you left your not very delicious anyways lunch on the kitchen counter. However did remember some string cheese for dog treats.
7:45am
Arrive just in time to walk the course. Brr. Wish you had matching socks. Walk course. Randomly announce, “Apocalypse is the new normal!” Nobody notices. Course looks fine.
7:48am
Take the dogs out to pee. Walk some more. Lots of walking. Ceasement of walking could cause awful things. Stiff legs. An E. Apocalypse. Keep walking.
8:15am
Go check ring. Not turn yet. Keep walking.
8:20am
Go check ring again. Still not turn. Keep walking
8:25am
Go check ring another time. This ring is taking forever. Go sit on a bench for a while and just chill out. So much walking!
8:30am
Go check ring again. Pretty close. Hang out a little closer and time for dog tricks, the five minute Startline Routine begins! This involves keeping dog calm while watching the other dogs, doing cute tricks, tugging within reason but not going too bonkers, laying down and whispering to her how amazing she is but for her to keep laying down and use her calmness. Continue game while creeping closer to the in-gate before turn.
8:35am
First run of the day is finally here! Hooray! The moment you’ve been waiting for all week, Dog Agility Weekend, has arrived and you’re going to crush it! Enter the ring like you own it. Unfortunately, no startline available today, make a run for it and use that fabulous GO GO GO word heading for that first tunnel. Make a handling error at the wrap before the dogwalk, cause dog to crash a jump, smacking down the bar super hard and smashing the wing, try to finish gamblers but find yourself entirely too rattled to go on due to the crash and bail out, choking back tears.
8:36am
Check dog. She’s fine.
8:37am
Cry while walking dog, decide to quit agility forever because you are a satanic dog crasher smasher and just go home right now.
8:39am
Un-cry yourself because at this point in life, NOTHING that happens a a dog show should induce weeping. Decide to remove head from butt and maybe you could give it another go and try not to be such a crummy handler
8:40am
Walk some more. Dog will be fine if kept walking. Dog is pretty happy to be on such a nice walk, she didn’t seem to mind the crash at all. Notice that nobody wants to hear about the dramatic crash. Tuck that little note back into self.
9:20am
Put dog away for a nap and buck up and head back into the dog show.
9:30am
Build some courses. Wander around with the bars, march your counting steps from the tape measure, find the purple wings for the purple bar, look busy with the drill when it’s time to move the a-frame. Find more tunnel bags. Do not use unmatching colors on the tunnel bags! Hope that somebody else actually carries the tunnel bags. Look busy puting out the numbers for best tunnel bag avoidance.
9:43am
Walk walk walk. Plan plan plan. Still consider quitting while ahead. Get dog out and walk walk walk some more.
10:30am
Time for the 2nd run. Should there be a 2nd run? After much deliberation over quitting after that crash just try it.
10:31am
Dog doesn’t smash into a jump! She does runs to get her leash before the last jump but success due to nothing crashed into anywhere! Manic tugging out of the ring! Hooray! Life goes on! First E of the day!
10:32am
Repeat the walking scenario. So much walking.
11:10am:
Meander about dog show. Stop for random chit chats called How Was Your Run, where everyone tells you what horrendous thing just happened. Wave arms a lot when describing drama of earlier crash. Watch people back away during this sordid rehashing. Remember that you were trying to keep mouth more shut than open.
12:30pm
Build more courses. Tweak the teeter. Judge tweaks back. Tweak a little more. So many opinions.
12:40pm
Walk course. It’s snooker, and you never remembered to look at the map, so have no plan. Quickly find a plan! All the sevens are pretty hard, but what the heck? No guts no glory.
12:45pm
Set some bars. Miss resetting frequently when dogs hit the bars because you’re mentally ranking your top ten albums that you’d need if you were stranded on an deserted island allowed to take your top ten albums along with you. Even though you don’t have albums anymore or even cds so is this a futile exercise in the era of digital on demand delivery music?
12:48pm
Run some leashes. Forget to run some leashes when you are still pondering deep question such as would X's Los Angeles or Under the Big Black Sun be best for the island stranding? Where’s my LEASH is now a commonly asked question from the exit gate.
12:54pm
Change snooker plan. Knee hurts.
12:55pm
Walk back and forth to the car about 29 times. Forget reason for doing this after 3rd time. Walk dogs down the road again. Knee still hurts.
1pm
Run again. Mess up in Snooker. Leave ring with 25 points. But no dog crashing!
1:10pm
Repeat the dog walking, course building, marching back and forth to car, run rehashing scenarios, course walking, bar setting, dog warming up another time.
2:30pm
Run again. Amazing! Stunning! Must have been a win! Check results, wait, that’s 2nd place! Another dog a half second faster!
2:40pm
Go walk again. Do your best, but still get beat. That was that much coveted Grand Prix bye. Go sit on some rusty old farm equipment by the manure pile while the dogs meander around and munch grass. Grazing dogs makes one feel much better about the big loss. Second place might just be your thing. Not so bad. Life goes on. Winning’s not everything. You are a good person. Your dog is amazing. You’re not homeless or living in a burning rain forest or on a deserted island without wi-fi. You are probably just hungry so as not to appreciate these facts.
2:50pm
Go get lunch. It’s all gone. Supposed to eat lunch at lunch time, that was what you forgot during all those trips back and forth to the car. There’s some stale grocery store cookies left. With raisins in them, that’s sort of healthy. Kind of. Not really.
3:15pm
One more run. Build build build. Walk walk walk. Bar set for a while. Not feelng so peppy anymore. Forgot the special little cans of iced coffee when forgetting to bring lunch. Now feeling lack of caffeine and protein.
4:00pm
Dog shows take so, so, so LONG. Foot hurts. Not so much walking now.
4:15pm
Go hide in car. Drain cold dregs of fancy coffee residue from travel mug.
5:00pm
Finally, run. Run great! It’s getting dark, it’s getting chilly, but that run went amazing. Hang out to check results. Finally. The. Best. Time. With all the right lines. All the things you obsess on every single day. Hooray!
5:01pm
Walk some more. Stupid foot. Stupid knee.
5:40pm
Help move all the stuff out of the ring. Feeling draggy, jumper's run euphoria is over. Move things one at a time, very, very slowly.
6:00pm
Dogs walked once more and packed back in crates with their dinners, which you did NOT forget. You are welcome, dogs. Back on the road home. With a happy feeling that lasts all the way there, thanks to Nirvana, Prince, and David Bowie. All who would be included in desert island listening, just in case.
7:30pm
Arrive home. Dump out dogs. Trudge up driveway with sore foot Drop all the things. So many things. You forgot to stop at the grocery store, too. No time now, because it’s time to get ready to repeat the whole thing again tomorrow. Set alarm clock for 5:30, and see what's on tv. Oh hey, the plaid shirt realty guys show! And they're picking out tile again.
7:35pm
Out like a light on the couch, but hopefully will wake up in time to see if they get that dry rot under control. Life goes on.

11 November 2019

Comfy slippers.


Banksy's kind of sort of afraid of swimming, at least til she warms up to it. Down at the old log mill pond, now home to suburbia birds and creeping willows, and the guys who sprawl around the picnic table drinking beer any and all times of day, when I toss a stick, she splashes out so she knows how far she can touch, a careful measurement of where the bottom falls out. Then she reaches out her teeth to grab it with her tippy toes still attached to the bottom. She whines if it sinks, laser burn eyes back on me, and gives me her desperate stare, that signals to find her a new one that isn’t dropped down too deep like that one is now. We do that a few times til she’s not afraid to reach further, or stick her nose under, and then she’s brave enough to paddle a little. Once the little paddle happens she remembers she isn’t afraid to swim, so she paddles some more, then she’s swimming out to where I throw the stick. Every single time she goes swimming, this is how it goes.

We’ve figured this out about each other, how to negotiate things where we have different ideas how to do them. We’re reasonably patient with each other, with stuff like who’s supposed to supply the stick, who’s supposed to jump off the bank, how far it should be thrown, how long is the stay til the throw. It’s very important to Banksy not to have to swim out to where it’s too deep, so our deal's that the first time I throw the stick, it won’t be past the shallows. Every time, we work it out. It took some doing, because I'm impatient and she's a dog and I'm a person and I just want to throw the stick and she gets it, duh. But now there’s a way for swimming when there wasn't before.

The pond water’s always cold, so a bonus ice bath for a border collie, for cooling off muscles that are tired from competing earlier in the day. She ran her agility flawlessly, didn’t put a foot wrong. Hit her running dogwalk with split feet, just like in my dreams. I showed her the right side of all the jumps, the bars stayed up, she flew into her poles, and followed my every move. She came in 2nd place in the finals, and we stood on a box for a photo. That kind of day, the kind I always dreamed of having. Is that a weird dream to have?

Some punk rock kids climbed down to our swim spot that other afternoon. The same t-shirts and boots like I used to wear, the jeans cut real skinny, and messy hair. Maybe they’re just watching birds, or looking for a quiet place to smoke pot or listen to the sky, wandering around the neighborhood looking for something. Just regular kids who like the pond like we do.

Gooey sidles up to them for pets, he’s happy to have something to do, since we’re doing sticks and splashes and he mostly roots around in the willows and only goes in the water up to his toes. He’s never been a swimmer, and never will be. Which is fine. Everybody on their own trips. Anyone who comes down the bank is his instant friend, so there’s three instant friends to hang out with him now.

They were pointing at an egret out in the water and wondering amongst themselves, heron or stork or what? I am the wealth of bird facts at the pond, if you want to know the difference between a duck and an egret. One’s short, one’s tall. Also I can identify a turtle, who I believe somewhere descended from the birds. True genetic fact that I read somewhere. That’s about it.

“Egret,” I offer up, butting into their murmured questioning. Maybe they didn’t know I was there at first, just some lady with her dogs. My dogs are rarely invisible, but sometimes I am. You get to this age, if you’re a girl, where all of a sudden you’re like a mist, even though you’re standing right there. Which is pretty cool, if you think about it, the power of invisibility. Maybe why standing on those boxes is a nice thing to do sometimes, the photo proves you're still here.

They start to marvel out loud, just amongst themselves since I'm still invisible enough not to hear I guess, to how I tell Banksy where hop up on a rock, and to stay there til I throw out her stick, and then release her after I throw it. How every single time, I can send her up to the bank and she goes right there, and looks at me and waits. I ask for a down, that’s what she does. We have our little pond games, that place where dog training meets regular fun stuff we do, and we could probably do it all day, until Banksy gets shivery and cold.

“Howd you get her to do that?” one of the girls asks. “That’s amazing.”

It’s not a big thing, it's what we do to spend some time together on a hot day.

“I just use a stick.” The easy answer. That’s what I told her, leaving out the part about the agility and the podium and our medal and the big deal about staying and going where I want her to go and that we have to really be on the same page or else everything goes to shit.

It’s easier to leave out the whole past, and how long that took to stay and for her to not just run away down the hill to jump in the pond the second she gets out of the car way up top in the illegal parking lot. It would be easy to go on and on about clear reinforcement and rock solid criteria, but probably they don’t want to hear anything like that. So I just wave the stick like a magic wand, it's all in the stick.

They stay a while, to watch us play. A normal day for me and Banksy, a marvelous feat for her quiet audience. They still only spoke in whispers, maybe they were tripping on acid, a stay and a release would be extra cool in that case. Maybe that's their dream, to have a dog like Banksy.

In my future vision, back in the past, I conjured up a dog who ran like the wind, flew over jumps, and always brought back the ball. Maybe you've heard my stories, that described in detail what happens when That Lady with All the Little Black Dogs goes out and gets herself a border collie puppy in the hopes of being that champion. If you don't know those ones, long story short, I don’t think my border collie wanted me to train her at first, not at all. Forget train her, she didn't want me even to pet her. We had a long haul to work things out.

This thing has been happening lately, when I'm with my now 5 year old dog. Who I love as much as I love all my fingers and toes. I think she reads my mind. She looks for my smallest move. She goes exactly where I send her, for better or for worse. I was having a lesson a while back with an instructor who just comes to town once a year, she said, “She’s your comfy slippers now, isn’t she?” She gave us some courses, we ran them, simple as that. Always a rush.

If you ever in a million years told me I’d describe Banksy as comfy slippers, I would have laughed in your face. HA!

Banksy was wild. She was crazy. She ran away. She chased anything that moved. I couldn’t walk her on a leash. She didn’t like me to touch her soft fur. Or feet. She freaked out inconsolably at goats. And surfboards. And wheels. And the broom. I was never going to get her running dogwalk feet to hit the yellow. She was out of control.

Forget turning her into a champion, I just didn’t want her to bite me when I did a late front cross and be able to dry her off with a towel. Banksy was a lightning fast, feral beast who lived in a hidey hole under our living room desk and prefered staring at pieces of dust to doing anything with me.

Comfy slippers? That would be the day. Her boots were made for walking. You know the giant metal stud platform flame shooting boots the guys in KISS wear? Those kind of boots, the kind that one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you. Sprain the ankles burn your eyebrows off and slash your wrists comfy slippers.

I don’t know where it happened. Was it on the trails in the woods? The thousands of hours we logged ambling through the forest, where now she always walks just ahead, stopping and turning to stare at me with her perfectly round eyes and make sure I’m right there.

Maybe on the beach? Where we spent a year negotiating the terms of when it’s time to leave the beach, even if she’s still busy running out into the surf and dropping her ball, laying there and waiting for the wave to smash down on her. Or the worst, losing the ball out to sea, making it impossible to leave. Seemingly impossible, until the understanding was more clear. We can always come back again, and there’s always going to be another ball, even if that one’s drifted out to where the the whale spouts puff up close to the horizon.

Maybe in our living room? Where she’s either lying in her bed, watching for my next move, or following me like a fluffy shadow. My house is really small, a tight fit for border collies, so many toys played with in that tiny little space. Lefts and rights and beep beeps taught from that couch. So many dog beds eaten there, until we reached that negotiation, it’s stupid to eat your bed. Where she used to run away from pets, but now instead flops down to have her eyebrows and her belly rubbed, and I sing her songs about biscuits and gravy.

Or the driveway where I clicker trained most of her tricks? Flinging cookies around the asphalt, clicking for the feet to do this, up and down on the things, trying to help her figure out what I wanted her to do. Which included just eating the cookie. Or at the soccer field across the neighborhood, sending around the backstops, ciking and capping the trees, watching her fly across the field to Up Up on the stumps in the playground. Where she learned to be cool with the skaters, carrying her flippy across the grass, not a second thought about the skateboards carving up and down the bowl and popping off the sides, wheels clattering as they fly by.

On the agility field? That may be her favorite place ever. The car pulls in, and she leaps out and runs straight down to the field, toy in her mouth, and usually climbs up on the dogwalk to wait for me. We’ve logged a lot of hours on that dogwalk, me staring at a yellow rectangle with her flying through it. Now flying through it, a lot of gruesome hours of her not. Where her joy of flinging herself into a tunnel had to become a bit more finessed, and the watching me for all the cues of which side to go in and which way to turn coming out. Listening to my words, syncing them up my shoulders and arms and feet and eyes. That I had to learn how to do clearly. Really clearly. Waiting for her toy, that toy, that lifeline to heaven, whatever tuggy du jour I happen to dig out of the toy bag in the car. Lately it’s the blue looped bungie one, with a shredded blue ball attached. She swings it over her neck and carries it with her when I go to move the jumps around or drag the tunnel bags from here to there.

Maybe it happened out on the bluffs? At agility class? When we started competing? Maybe it happened down here at the pond. Maybe it was everywhere, all the time.

“She never takes her eyes off you,” marvels the tall boy in shorts and beat up leather army boots, as Banksy methodically hands off the stick and heads back up the the rocks to prepare for the next launch. Also known as Up Up Lie Down Wait for It, in our special language the two of us share.

“My dad’s dogs wouldn’t do that, they don’t listen to anything. You know him? Older guy with a black scruffy dog and a blonde one?”

Yeah, I do. I know that guy. Once Otterpop chased off that little yellow one down here, a long time ago, a different dog training era for me.

Banksy's up on the bank again, prepared for lift off, eyes like lasers burning holes in me til I throw. Earlier that day, she’d done her Up Up on a podium, so we could get our picture taken with a silver medal on the red strap. Wholesale medal cost, about $4.99. A huge achievement, not only the 2nd place run, which was amazing and cool and I still am surprised, that we can do that, run fast and clean enough to win. At least almost win. But more so, that in front of an audience, she hopped up on that podium box, and stood still for a photoshoot. You don’t know that, when I blast that photo over Facebook, bragging to the friend world we won a thing, Banksy’s scared to jump up there in public and it’s the first time she’s done it without trying to run away.

We don't tell you those things in the social media. We just want you to think, we are the champions, my friend.

Me and Banksy, both of us have stuff that’s easy for you, but hard for us. But that day, climbing on the little box is just another thing we do together, she looks at me and her eyes say, I’m not sure if I can do this, and I try and show her a way she can. She trusts me that I do right by her and I trust her that she does right by me. I look at that course as step up the line and try not to question, how are we gonna run this? I trust her enough to take my lead and use her skills and speed and smarts to get around. She only tries her best, ever single time, and just wants me to show her the right things. If we wipe out somewhere, it’s definitely on me, but she forgives me.

When I hear someone say that phrase, dog of a lifetime, now I get it. I might not be talented enough to ever be a champion, that letter “E” seemingly fixed into my handling vocabulary. But I clearly realize I have a dog who’s one. Comfy slippers, sure. Feet with wings for us both, definitely.

09 September 2019

Just two dogs.


It's almost creepy, how easy and quiet two dogs are. They fit neatly into the car, they sleep in their beds, the house is mostly silent. You put on their leashes, they go for a walk. I leave to go without them, they look at me and shrug, all right. I get home, they're all, cool. I make their food, they eat it.

Otterpop took up a lot of space, made a lot of noise, did all the things. Went all the places! Wanted to eat the food! Wanted to stay up all night! Wanted to get in the car! Wanted to get out of the car! Wanted to walk! Didn't want to walk! Everything was a Thing! If she needed a thing she had to crash through the other things to get to the thing! The thing! The thingthingthingthingthing!

Me and my two dogs now, we still do the things. Right now, maybe even more things. We can walk further, ride the bike more, run all the way to the beach. Move at a much faster clip, go back to the one hour loop in the woods. They can go to more places, or stay home if I want to go without a dog. I can day drink with my friend who's allergic to dog hair in her kitchen, knowing they're snoozing till I get home. All the things for them, just fine. They trust my opinion on what we're going to do and follow all the rules. They believe that I'm coming home. They're actually so very easy. And quiet. And well behaved. Who knew dogs could be like that, maybe I didn't even notice they were like that all along, because always so much Otterpop and her Things.

Gooey and Banksy are really, really good dogs.

03 September 2019

2019 USDAA Western Regionals, a few highlights.


Gooey got to watch from under the tent. I usually bring him ringside now and park him with a new friend so he feels included. We came in 2nd, these were the Finals!


oh a heart break one! She pops a pole when I blind. Dunno why, we were a little keyed up because my goal was just to WIN! Oh well.


Um, same thing. I ran to win, it was a hard dogwalk exit for Banksy, one she dislikes to hit on. I tried for some collection, in hindsight probably hurt more than it helped. So her only feet wrong on this whole gorgeous Paco course were the ones that didn't touch the yellow.


Triple whammy tunnel slammy. This was one she won! Not a foot out of place. Note the fancy start line stay. We have those occasionally, if I get to go first.

30 August 2019

Otterpop has left the building.


The picture I drew this from just said tree cave on the file name. That could have been in Nisene, or Jedidiah Smith park, or in Humboldt, or Henry Cowell, or in Booneville, we knew so many redwood trees, and so many tree caves. Who can keep track?

Otterpop was everywhere with me, all the time. It just wasn't possible for us not to be.

I can't count how many photos and drawings. Thousands. That's just the good ones. Too many to have favorites of. Enough to fill fifty books. A hundred books. All the books! Tens of thousands of throwaways, blurry, badly drawn, that now I wished I still had, filling my house to the ceiling, so I have to move like a hoarder, swimming through words and pictures, flapping my arms to make my way across the room.

Otterpop's vet helped us decide what to do, helped her go peacefully to sleep, and Otterpop left on the best note she'd played in a long time. Had a good day, had a good walk at work, had a walk in the park, played with Banksy, chased a ball twice, even though only for about 8" across the grass. She sniffed a lot of things, she still loved to sniff things, and loved to eat. She was skinny, even though I fed her constantly, she still had joy for eating, and would still find a way to throw herself into the water bowl and spill stuff and fling herself into the washing machine, to knock shit DOWN just to get to her food.

Otterpop was only hanging on for me. We were each other's worlds.

Life had gotten hard for her. All the manic shit that made her Otterpop became larger than her life could hold, and if your life gets large and your body's too small for it eventually you are like, living in a big pulsing explosion of crazy and that's an effed up way to live.

Her favorite thing, the last few months, was if we could hang out on the couch together, she would lay right by me, yeah, maybe she was sedated or just plain exhausted, but those were our good times. So I would watch stupid tv shows where cute kids bake ugly cupcakes to get voted off the island, or house hunting for open concept floor plans and dual vanities, and she would snore and have a little bit of peace.

Then we would stay up all night together a lot of the time, while I would try to put out her crazy fire. This happened a lot. For a long time. Her brain had some disease in it, maybe it always did.

I am lucky to have had an Otterpop. I sure do miss her something horrible. For sure, for better or for worse, I'll never have another one like her, Otterpops are an uncommon variety, one you have to stumble upon, the kind that finds you, and latches on like a viper or a tick, and holds on tight forever.

Otterpop was a huge fan of 80's punk rock. She thrived on Black Flag and the Minute Men. But somehow she's left me with a weird Jerry Garcia fixation, it started the day she died. I remember Santa Cruz feeling hollow when Jerry died, throngs of lost dead heads wandering the streets weeping.

So Otterpop may be sending me a message, actually, of course she is, and she may have already bit Jerry in heaven, so for Otterpop, I lit up from Reno, I was trailed by 20 hounds, didn't get to sleep last night till the morning came around. Set up running but I'll take my time, a friend of the devil is a friend of mine. If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep. Tonight.

A hole in my everythings.

29 August 2019

The frisbee, it hangs from my pocket.


That startline! I do remember that startline. Otterpop loved tables.


At Power Paws!


She ran like a little machine. She only put on her big speed competing during the gamble!

11 August 2019

UKI West Coast Cup with Banksy the amazing and happy birthday Gustavo!

So much fun! Great competition from all over, and Banksy back to jumping 20" again!

Banksy came in 2nd overall for the Masters Series, and won a bye to the US Open finals in Jacksonville Florida! That was with one bar in the Jumpers part, and a beautiful standard run.

That's a pretty long drive. And there are alligators there. We would go if not for things like work, if we had all the time the world we would drive there and find an alligator farm and see all the things on the way, I think New Orleans is near there, Georgia is near there, and Marfa is on the way. We could even visit Tallahassee and see a swamp.

Maybe someday, things like this, driving across the country for agility. In a camper!

For now, big fun events like this will do.

Banksy did not put a foot wrong all weekend, she just put her feet in front of another as fast as she could go and tried her hardest to do the things I pointed to, just like we practice, simple as that.









There were some amazing runs with amazing time, there were some bars, there were 2 handling errors on Sunday that cost me Es in 2 classes, and made me see how perfect Banksy is. She follows my every move and does exactly what I show her every single time! So I learned some things, such as use a decel at jump 5 instead of blasting her at top speed towards the wrong end of the tunnel screaming "INININININ!" in the 2nd round of Speedstakes.

I just wanted to win. Just use the decel! Maybe I would have won with it, maybe not. But the wrong side of the threadle tunnel was a popular E, so at least I was in good company.

The dabbling I did earlier this year with 1 arm threadle apparently took and caused a wrong bypass when I used that cue by mistake, costing us our Biathlon Jumpers run! Oops. I am very glad I have video to see the amazing dog that Banksy is, who does every single thing I've taught her.

She missed 1 rdw exit. But hit all the rest quite nicely!

I still make mistakes. But so many great, fast runs, Banksy is a dog of a lifetime. She's napping now. Otterpop, too. Gustavo hung out at the score table and ate treats and helped set bars. He thought that was great. I missed his birthday, I forgot it was the same day as mine and he's now 13 years old! Happy Birthday, have some pollo!

05 August 2019

Gifts from friends.


Sunday evening, 6:30pm

Me and some other toe dragging, shuffling zombies are slowly shoving three days of agility trial back into a cargo trailer. Masters Jumpers has just ended, we just want to go home. Nobody much is talking, everyone is thinking some version of the same thing. Traffic. Thai food. Work tomorrow. Beer mixed with grapefruit soda.

Donna and I look at each other for a moment, I’m trying to gather up an armload of jump standards, she’s lugging a tunnel. I know for that instant we had the same thought of, didn’t this used to seem easier? Like arms could carry more stuff and it didn’t pull so much on my back to bend over and move the tunnel bags?

“We’re not getting any younger.”

Jinx.

We’re not even that good of friends. We don’t hang out together, I forget her husband’s name. Maybe I never knew it. But I can rattle off all of her dog’s names, and remember when they died and remember exactly what they looked like running. I know most of one of her dog’s puppies and grand puppies, and their people. I don't know what she knows about me. I take the trash to the dumpsters and make the t-shirts and used to have all those little black dogs.

That kind of friends.

Saturday morning, 6:30am

“Any day we’re vertical is a good day,” says the lady who owns the bakery, where I’m stopping for another mug of coffee, because i was awake from 2am-5am, retrieving Otterpop when she bashes into a wall, trying to stop her from climbing up something she’ll just leap off of a moment later.

“Yeah. I’m gonna remember that. Vertical.” Self righteous bitch, I think, her and her overpriced muffins. She probably has signs that say Believe in the Journey and BREATHE painted in lavender script on barn wood in her den.

Except I'm working on having a positive attitude. “Vertical!” I answer back, a little more chipper this time, and salute her with my mug. Maybe I'll scrawl be vertical on my ceiling in black glitter and dryer lint when I get home.

I’ve known the bakery lady since before she was the mayor, when she used to live in her old house that was around the corner from my old house, then she moved to her new house right before I moved to a new house around the corner from hers. I moved in 1997. We don’t ever hang out, she doesn’t seem that friendly, and I’m not really either. She threw dogs at the beach under the bus when she was the mayor. She probably likes jazz and has a cat.

My last cat lived to 19, she faded slowly away into a bag of dusty, dry bones, and died one traumatic morning on my lap. My dogs haven't vaporized slowly over time like that. They get sick, we beat back serious illness until fatal, or they get dementia just like people. Some of them it’s fairly benign, some pacing and woofing, and for some of them, they’re escaping and leaping and screaming and bashing. Otterpop, not surprisingly, is the dramatic, manic head bashing one.

When I first started agility, I could run really fast without even trying. I had slippy skateboarding shoes and tiny little shorts shorts. I didn’t need a sports bra, there wasn’t enough going on to jiggle. I thought I had a fat roll around my stomach, except now I know, that wasn’t a fat roll, that was like a piece of gum. Don’t talk to me about rolls. The Y2k had happened, we didn’t turn into exploding robots, and I found extreme pleasure in sending my dog through a tunnel. Stranger things have happened. It really seemed like just running around and pointing worked out pretty well. Although, I was out there on the fringe. Everybody else was better. We taught weave poles by dangling a hot dog through the poles, threading the dog in and out in the hopes of grabbing a bite. Contacts were sort of this thing kind of stopping but mostly vaguely pointing at the yellow calling something out. Not sure what. It changed. It was vague.

My dogs went everywhere with me. Does that count as adulting? I couldn’t breathe without my dogs. I bought little fans for them, to blow cool air over them on those long, hot days. Never got around to having a baby. Spent a lot of time getting perfect weave poles instead.

Otterpop was such a jerk. She bit. She howled. She rolled in whatever stank the worst. She grabbed a stick and off she went. She was obsessed with me, and only me. Now she spends her evenings hobbling as fast as she can go around our living room, peeing by the back door and tracking it through the house til I can capture her. Most of the time she smells like pee.

Sunday morning, 10am

That’s my friend Rob, giving a nod across the field. He taught me how to serp, he's one of those friends that is happy to talk about dogs or happy to talk about politics or happy to talk about most anything else. We like a lot of the same songs, and he used to let me run one of his dogs. Lately the topic is, retirement. We’ve been friends for fifteen years? Sixteen years? Longer? I can’t even remember now. I haven’t seen him in months, we only see each other at trials. He misses some to do other things, I miss some for work, or for when my dog’s been injured. But there he is, I sure do hope he gets to retire.

Next time I see him, I have to remember to ask him, does all this time spent at agility count as pissing our lives away, or living life to it’s fullest? He’s one of the smartest people I know. Maybe he knows the answer to that one.

Sunday morning, 3:30am

Otterpop and I go way back. She wasn’t supposed to be a friend. She was a complete asshat of a stray, just one of those dogs you collect by mistake. I took her home from the lady that owned the ranch down the road from where I worked because she looked like Ruby and played ball with me on her lawn. I tried to pawn her off on a family with a red haired devil child but before I handed her off realized, my god this dog is going to bite someone and everyone if she doesn’t die first from bolting out the door trying to chase down a truck to bite it. I liked her, she climbed on my chest and bit my face, but in a nice way. She wanted to keep me. So I kept her. Not for agility, just because something told me I had to.

We’ve been everywhere together. Literally. We are joined at the hips. She has god awful separation anxiety and was always happier in a dog tote bag than being left at home. Howling would happen either place, but much easier to just shake her out of the bag and have her do some of her party tricks. Shooting a dog with your pointy finger in the middle of an airport elicits applause from the travelers as opposed to leaving a howling dog at home that the neighbors can hear clear as a bell through the windows. So that’s what we did, for all our years. Me and Otterpop, she would have done anything for me.

Except sleep at night. She's crazy and demented, and when the sun goes down, her brain explodes till it comes back up again. Hear that? That's the sound of flailing feet where she's stuck behind the chair, bashing herself into the wall.

Sunday afternoon, 1:36pm

One of my agility friends died without warning. She lived in Canada. I only ever saw her once or twice a year, does that count as a friend, still? We would say funny things to each other on facebook sometimes, and she was a good person. Maybe the funniest person I’ve ever met, not someone that had lived enough time. Unfathomable that she could be here one day, then gone the next. Unthinkable that there could be such short time to do things with dogs.

Monday morning, 9:30am

This new lady came the other day for a lesson. She came tearing down the drive in a forest green vintage Mercedes with peeling paint. As she flew past the parking spots, almost launching off the overhang at the bottom, which would plummet her down to a soft wood chip pile, the shady ringside tent and a huge old log, I ran out screaming, “STOP STOP STOP STOP what are you doing?!?”

She laughed maniacally. “HELLO!”

I told her she was about to get her car stuck in not one but three ways, could she just back up and park over here? I pointed to the marked parking spaces.

“Oh Sure!” she cackled. And threw the car into reverse, and flew all the way back up the drive. Somehow avoiding a water line, tree, fence, and shed.

I ran up the steep drive. “What are you DOING?” I yelled, waving my arms to get her attention. She was about to back into an electrical box in the owner’s front yard. If she hits that thing, KA is going to be beyond pissed off, I am going to be in huge effing trouble, and I am so kicked out of here, my only lifeline to agility in town.

“You said to park up here!” she called happily.

“Down here!” I call back, pointing to the parking spots. Where I’d pointed before.

She ground that Mercedes back into drive, and burned rubber back down the hill. Parked, and unleashed a doodle out of the passenger seat. Who ran over to the field and pee’ed on a tunnel bag.

I can’t say she was old, because now I’m old too. This lady’s older than me, probably the same age as my mom, who would definitely not be Evil Kneivling an old car down a hill on a mountain to run a dog around an obstacle course.

She just wants to run around on the field and point at stuff and is thrilled if her dog makes it over something. Anything. She totally made it up when she told me on the phone that she already knows how to do agility. She cackles like a 2nd grader. She’s crazy as a loon. She clearly loves this dog, a doodle who just wants to pee on stuff and chase his ball. She really just wanted him to watch me do some agility with my dog, and then for him to run around doing it all on his own.

I’m horrified, and instantly all crabby up on my high horse. It’s my mission to try and explain to you exactly how important this nose touch thing will be for getting your dog’s feet to touch the yellow, and for using the right arms to do the right things. It’s against dog code not to show you how to do it right. I stay up late after my other job to teach dog agility, I get up early on my days off to teach dog agility, I scream out of work early some days to teach dog agility. Dedication to my craft! My old agility dog doesn't sleep anymore at night and I had important agility business to attend to all weekend, running my young dog in a trial. So many ways for dog agility to make you tired. My patience is pretty much shot in this exact moment in time.

I tell her all the things she’ll have to learn before she can run the course. She’s not convinced. Foundations? Clickers? Wrapping cones and learning to put two dog feet on a box? Who has TIME for that? She only has so much time left.

That lady just wants to run feral with her dog.

Tuesday morning, 4:15am

Otterpop slams into a wall. This week I’m trying different drugs for her, a quarter tab in the evening, then get up at midnight for another one, when I carry her out the front door and down the stairs to potty. Then maybe I sleep on the couch for a while so I can hear her if she bashes into a wall if the drugs don’t kick in. Every night it’s a little different, some nights there's sleep, some nights there's not. If I could just find the right set of magic pills?

Her vet and I have a lot of talks. Quality of life, for her and me both. But every time I’m about to pick up the phone to call, to make the appointment, you know, THAT appointment, I start to cry and I can’t do it.

So I don’t sleep again, another night, just carry her back into the house, and think about all she ever did for me. Every single time she came running back with her frisbee. Every single gambler’s run she aced. How many of thousands of walks in the woods, how many walks around the pasture in the morning, putting out the horses, how many walks around the barn at night, putting on the blankets. How many bike rides, sitting in her basket up front, how many tennis balls tossed into the pond. How many times she was just right there, no matter where we were, how many time sitting on that grassy knoll in the park, where we sit in the shade on a hot day and do nothing.

Every single time she walked to the line, maybe even when she didn’t want to, and ran with me.

Because that’s what friends do.

14 May 2019

Adventure walks for Banksy.

We're tired of walks around the neighborhood. We've done every street, every direction, for so many years. So branching out somewhere different every day. Maybe not somewhere new, but somewhere else, in a different hood.


Blocked Entrance/HomeUnilvvr/AMT Walk
How about the alley behind the taqueria? Right by where they're building the very large new motel.



CRIDLE Walk
Or the path that used to be the big marine lab fields, now a boring leash path, but how super to have a new one! With it's own bus stop!



Props Walk
If you go back behind the winery, they even offer a chair. Now fenced for your convenience for no access to the tracks.