28 October 2016

Fixing the stays, a voter guide for dogs.

Proposition 001: CRAZY STAYS

The stays disappeared at the startline. Which was weird, because the stays are well used and well liked in other places, albeit perhaps places not as crazy as startlines when another dog ran just before, very fast. Around the agility stuff. Currently, the stays had been working at the beach, in the forest, at the dog park, at the agility practice except for when they don't, near the horses, and at home except for sometimes when the broom is too sweepy.

Notice those little excepts? Ruh roh.

What would this proposition do?
Crazy stays mean that Banksy has to stay no matter what crazy thing is going on. This could be me, Gustavo and Otterpop running down a hill that goes to the creek throwing sticks and screaming and barking, us running down the hill to the beach, staying in one place if I am throwing the GODDAMN INSANE MAKING DEFLATED BASKETBALL OF MIND BLOWINGNESS up and down or even touching it, sweeping the broom, doing a course with a dogwalk with Gustavo, or watching the dog in front of her do agility right exactly in front of her.

What would it cost?
Pretty much nothing. Just a lot of time. Time, it's on my side. Yes it is. Dum dum de dum.

What do supporters say?
This proposition is supported by:
Myself, Team Captain Miss Laura. I say, "Let's do this. Fast. Before Cynosport!"
The other dogs. They say, "Ha ha ha ha ha we are running down the hill barking and she is on a stay!"
Ruby. She says, in her quiet mind, Banksy should never bump into me because I topple. Crazy stays will help this problem, especially during broom sweeping time.
My dog agility pals. They say, "Shut up about the stays and train them better, Hartwick."

This proposition is opposed by:
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Get her out of that tire.
The NRA. How does this even threaten their guns? They think it threatens their guns.
PJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. Vape on. Get that dog her nicotine.
Big pharmaceutical companies. Banksy on a stay takes money out of their pockets. They need MORE MONEY. Get her off that stay. Or at least up the price, every stay should now cost 20% more to the consumer.

Show me the money:
I am fixing this for free. Taxpayers have no cost. They may have to hear me screaming. They may see Banksy releasing with very excited and wild abandonment. They won't see any mean and cross voiced Laura going, YOU! STAY! at a dog show. This proposition is a win/win.

27 October 2016

Gustavo has twice as much awesome as could ever on this line no matter how long or tall or fat the line could be.

Gustavo is amazing. He is one in a million. One in two million. One in all the millions.

I don't try to get him to Q in agility anymore. His training is a thing of the past. His requirement is that he run just how he wants and go his fastest and think that he wins.

Gustavo is supposed to be dead by now. Ha HA! Take that liver sickness. Gustavo is extremely alive.

Gustavo ran out the gate at 5am the other morning. It was dark and wet and he found a party! Of cats! The black and white stripey kind! Party like it's 1999! I retrieved him and locked him in a crate and went to the store to buy the skunk potion, Dawn dishsoap, baking soda, peroxide. He sat in there without a peep til I got home. I doused him and he felt fantastic.

There is nothing but fantastic in his life.

His love of squirrel chase has rubbed off on Banksy, now she chases squirrels, too. Gustavo thinks this is amazing and the best and he loves to have a friend! She does the same thing as him. I let them have a little chase, then I call her in first, she runs back, then I call him.

Here's how you call Gooey.


And he runs back as fast as he can. Every time.

Gooey has all the friends. Everywhere he goes, he collects a new one. He has the most friends. He'd never vote for revolution. He dusts everyone with his good vibes, they shed off him like pixie dust and he's coming over to meet you. He meets the mean pit bull. He meets the scowly guy that carries the scary stick where he goes. He meets the cop. Everyone gets some dust, and their day improves, even if by only a quarter of an inch.

His agility job is to run fast and do tunnels and teeters and poles while Banksy practices staying. Oh, that stay. Gustavo thinks this is fantastic. Do you know what else Gooey thinks is fantastic?


Every night he sits on my lap. He's the official lap dog.

Every night he sleeps in the bed. He's the official bed sleep dog.

Every day he is perfect. I can't believe my luck, that I ever got a dog such as Gustavo.

26 October 2016

Humble pumpkin pie.

I really had no intentions of taking Banksy, who is two, toddler age in people years, surly teenager or maybe twenty-something millennial on a pokeman quest in dog, to a National event. She qualified herself, just by having her good runs, for which there are always equal amounts of bad ones, but always with moments of shimmering brilliance. A quick moment into the wrong side of the tunnel or the backside of jump seven or wherever it happens wipes down the shine a little, but I always think, we'll do better the next time. Learn from the mistakes.

Then someone needed a team mate and it really is within driving distance, to go to Arizona. Banksy is not a dog I'd ever feel comfortable sticking in a crate in the underneath storage guts of an airplane, just to go to a dog show. So who knows when the chance would arise again to run her in such a Thing?

Then all of a sudden my friends and I've rented a house with a pool and wifi just down the road from the dog show and a Whole Foods and off we go in early November. Banksy will be running in the World Cynosport Games. Me and Banksy, with Otterpop coming along as an anti-support team and not a cheerleader. Otterpop can play the part of purse dog and will have to stay in a house full of many border collies who just want to swim in the pool.

So Banksy can be crazy. She can be hard to deal with around agility, although she's made tremendous improvements this year of learning dog showing. While I can put her almost anywhere else and get her to stay until I yell the freedom word, FREE means to her to run free with abandonment, as fast as you can, to where we're going next, at dog shows the stress and excitement of other dogs doing agility causes her to push the limits, push her rules, push on whatever she can push on. She likes to just GO and GO FAST.

Banksy's dream day would be to follow another dog around the course, doubles style. Not pairs. That's one dog at a time, please, there are manners and rules. Banksy has to work hard to follow rules, her brain frequently tells her to push them aside. So she can be first. And second. And next. And again. And the most.

We had our last dog show before heading to Arizona over the weekend. Local USDAA trial, a nice place to get some last minute practicing, have some awesome, confidence building runs. Except Banksy said no more of this staying and waiting for her turn. Almost every run she tried to call the FREE. Free to be, you and me. Use your freedom of choice. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

Nothing, ain't worth nothing if it ain't free. Humbling and disastrous was how it looked from my end. We only ran a bit, and on most of those runs I made big enough mistakes. On all of the others, when she decided to play by her new, personal, customized rules, I didn't let her run. So we had a lot of not fun not running at the dog show.

Eating humble pie. Humble pumpkin pie. Humble pumpkin spice latte pie. A lot of it. That's what we are doing and trying everything in the book right now to make stays way more exciting, way stronger when life is incredibly exciting, and remove the stressfulness of just laying there, waiting.

We have exactly two weeks for this project. That is quite a feat. But what we'll be working on, all the time. A lot! The most. First. Second. And next. Here we go.

17 October 2016

Blurring the lines.

When you wear a lot of hats, there's a good possibility that you're going to show up to the wrong party in the wrong hat. Chronic fish out of wateritis. It's taken me an unspeakable number of years to decide that it's not that big of a deal. I just wear the wrong hat and roll with it.

Is that just a few steps from wearing jammie bottoms and crocs to the market? Even if it's just the market across the street, where the Korean guy behind the counter never even looks up from the Korean soap opera on his tiny tv? If he doesn't look up, am I even wearing them?

This used to feel mortifying. I could never figure out what hat I was supposed to wear. So at the barn,  I felt dumb in an artist hat. But not so dumb in the dog hat. At the dog show, weird to wear a horse hat. But the art hat could look pretty ok. Wife hat? Friend hat? Would a carny wear that to a bar? Horse hat at the art, just so wrong.

And god forbid at an art thing, wear a dog hat. Even though, isn't that festival wear, to dress up like a spirit animal? Pelts and such. It's a hat though, not as simple as just toting around an underarm dog. And the designer hat, really a jaunty cap, does it make the art hat look bigger or does it just make my ass look fat?

Sometimes throwing hats on and off at a run, in the car, on a flight of stairs, reaching up and realizing, yeah, wrong hat. Needing to improvise. Knowing that probably, my hat's a little bit unraveled and has visible puckered seams. Nothing to do but roll on.

I had this phase for a while, before we slunk out into the woods, I went camo. I had camo pants, actually they were skinny jeans with moto detailing that I got at a red lined super discount sale at the gap. So weird zippers in an unflattering spot. Even trying to wear camo in the bush, I ended up with the wrong kind. But they did have stretch. I so much needed to blend, so that if found out, I could just fade back into the brush and vanish, just like that.

I was building a giant map, so I took a notebook and document almost every step I took. A project now on hold. I had a compass. Was that a cartographer hat? Woodsman? Artist? I think I have a camo beanie around here somewhere, that I tucked my hair up into, I guess I looked more like a tree that way. This look was useful though, for when I was painting out there, needing to move fast and be undercover, I really could just fade into the bush, and then run.

It was satisfying to know, I did belong there. Claimed the forest as my own. Like when I pull on my boots when I walk into the barn. I've always done this. Walk in and put on my boots, right then and there. I own those steps. I take them off just before I shut of the lights to go home.

I put on my waterproof, super nubby sneakers just as often now, to keep my socks dry and keep me standing when I'm sprinting to the next position. Showing Banksy the correct arm matched up with correct shoulders. And sometimes they let Gooey go in the tunnel.

Lately I'm getting better at blurring the lines. And not being so worried about the wrong hat. Maybe it's my glasses. I think I need another pair again. Everything looks soft, I want to hit it with an unsharp mask. Twice. My favorite food used to be Swanson TV dinner. Salisbury steak or turkey and gravy in the large foil compartment. Cobbler up top. Peas and carrots to the side, and mashed potatoes, covered with a papery film, to the left. Nothing could touch nothing else. So lovely and so orderly, entirely predictable. There was zero blur. Every compartment a unique color, texture, and chemical, packed lovingly by a robot into a shallow disposable tray.

Right now, the dog blurs into the horse blurs into the design blurs into the art blurs into the house blurs into the forest blurs into the blog. Nothing's really getting done. My house is a mess, and I can't find the pink slip to my car. The blur means the floor can be dirty though, dirt doesn't show up so good. Time's just moving too fast to take care of all the things. There's money to be made, dogs to play with, people to see.

So, oh, hi! I haven't forgotten you. I think about you all the time. My thinkers are stuck on being a little blurry. We're here and we're doing our best. If I don't always get a hat on, at least I wad a headband up there into the hair nest and pretend it's a good hat. The right one. Maybe the wrong one. Maybe a blurry one.

I hope it doesn't make my skull look like my hairline's receding. Goes along with the jammies and the crocs.

It will get wet, because it's raining and we'll at least walk one loop in the woods. Til then, good night.

04 October 2016

Walking just two dogs.

Otterpop went to the dentist yesterday. She survived it, although I could hear her howling when I walked in the door to pick her up. She's minus some teeth and was in a really bad mood.

I took these two on a hike up the other side of the mountain after we dropped her off. It's not a place to take a big pack of dogs or too many little ones, there's a long steep drop to the creek and it's dark and creepy on the way there. Maybe a big pack of dogs would be safer, but it seems wrong to make a lot of ruckus in there.

A big Ridgeback ran up to us on the way down the hill. She had a collar, so I figured she had a person, and hoped that person was all right. She was friendly, and about as tall as me. We kept going down the hill, and I could hear her, every so often, somewhere behind us. I picked up a heavy, sharp stick, just to have it.

We stopped at the creek for a while. Still water there, it's an important creek for water, hits a big pipe when it ends near the sea and I think it's water we drink, eventually, after it gets tanked in the water plant. It's a creek with a lot of history, it's a creek that's a project to get to.

The Ridgeback and her person caught up eventually. Another lady, just like me, leashes wrapped round her, another dog with her. Same clothes, same hair, same reasons for being there. Her Ridgeback was two, just like Banksy. I threw the stick for Banksy in the creek and all the dogs splashed around a while.

We were talking, she got the big dog because a mountain lion killed her corgi last year. The Ridgeback's treed two of them recently, a useful dog to have in this part of the mountain. There's a den, she told me, on the other side of the creek.

She told me how to find the path I can never find, on the other side of the creek, she wasn't taking that way right now. She gave directions just like me. Up the hill, look for a fir tree, just before a redwood, then one more redwood below it. There's a tiny deer path, take that, it's the path.

I've seen that deer path before, and followed it, but it went the wrong way and faded to nothing. She said try it again, stay on it, eventually you'll wrap back down the other side of the slope and come back to the creek, to the north. There is a den up there somewhere, though. Coyotes, not the problem down here, it's the cats.

I tied Gustavo to me, and we set off. Banksy stayed close and I found the path, does look like a deer track but I knew it was the one, the fir, the redwood, the other redwood. Was an ok time for pumas, they sleep at this time of the morning. But I still kept Gooey tied to me. We followed the deer track, using patience to trust it was the way, and it did go up and down on the slope but eventually turned back down to the north side of the creek and got me to where I wanted to be, where I knew where the other path was that would take me back up to the woods at the top.

We don't walk in here a lot, the cats feel too close. But when the water's low and we can cross the creek, it's hard to avoid walking down there, I can't help it. So just sometimes, we go in quiet and carefully and they might be watching us, or hopefully, they're sleeping. A chance to take.

29 September 2016

Most helpful agility advice there is.

It's the most helpful agility advice I know. Do the right thing. Also extremely useful advice for all things. Including who you vote for. Now available scrawled across your chest with Otterpop's preferred method of wireless earbudding. Not earbudding. Not Dre phoning.

Get yers now. Short sleeve, long sleeve, whichever color you want. I think Giants orange is pretty nice. Halloweeny. Maybe get a long sleeve too? Winter is coming.


26 September 2016

Radio Raheem died the other day.

Radio Raheem died the other day. A sad day.

His solilquy from Do the Right Thing, 1989:

Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It's a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that's right. Ooh, it's a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he's down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love.

You know what I'll be wearing to the debate tonight. You want one too? Get them while they're hot, different colors, right here: http://skreened.com/teamsmalldog

13 September 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 9 of 9

One of my best agility pals is a super wise professor. He always has the best advice. More than once he's told me, Don't freak out. As advice, it's a little more meta than, say, move the start jump back one meter if she keeps running past the yellow paint on the board or put the cookie on her nose when she starts to go in eye glazing stalky zombie behavior and won't give back the toy. Which are also useful advices, don't get me wrong. But when dealing with a border collie, I frequently have to talk my my mind off the OMG ledge, take a cleansing yoga breath, and re-assess the situation from a thoughtful zen garden mind. As opposed to the black spray paint, sticky floored mosh pit mind where freak outs begin.

Even with all our challenges, with Banksy I have an agility partner who throws one thousand percent of her effort into every single thing we do. That thousand percent goes pretty fast and I have a heck of a time keeping up. There are bountiful opportunities galore for a sloppy trainer to muck up important agility things like running contacts and weave poles and I can show you all of them. But there's something about the adrenalin rush in running with a dog who moves like lightening, and responds to the tiniest twitch of my arm that's hard to explain to anyone that hasn't tried agility. It's partly in the speed, but mostly in the team work. This can render me speechless and awestruck out there, that I have a dog like this of my very own, until Miss Manners comes slamming into me for her toy, all 25lbs of muddy feet and slobbery mouth and teeth.

We ran in a fun match recently. We didn't have the greatest team work, and she hit a lot of bars and missed a bunch of dogwalks. She had a dramatic episode due to the terror of the parking lot, and threw one really epic fit when I let her watch some dogs running in one of the rings. But it was a beautiful sunny day, and we were out there trying our best. One of my friends who was watching us looked so happy when we exited the ring, big wide grin on her face. I was more perplexed than anything, how come I couldn't keep her out of that blue tunnel way over in the corner and what the heck happened to her running dogwalk?

She said to me out of that big smile, "You finally got the dog you needed."

That's what she saw out there. She wasn't talking about that stupid tunnel, the messed up dogwalk contact, my having a hard time keeping up, or figuring out how to walk through the parking lot of horror. She was talking about us two out there, running together like a team. Both of us running as fast as we could go and figuring out the tough spots together. She saw a happy lady and a happy dog, and everybody panting at the end of it all.

Huh. Sound familiar? Maybe that's what You Get The Dog You Need is supposed to mean. Us two freakers got each other. We both have a tendency to go bug eyed when overwhelmed, act first and think later, and an instinctive desire to run when we see police helicopters. Her towards them, me away. Hers with extra added super incredibly fast strides. Because, border collies, grasshopper. They come already knowing how to snatch the pebble from your hand. Keeping it is the secret.

Maybe I'll see you at a dog show someday. We're easy to find. We're the ones hiding behind a trash can before we run, so Banksy doesn't watch the dog running before her. The gate steward's probably yelling out my name because he can't see me waving from back there. Don't freak out. I'll probably be emptying that same garbage later, that's usually my dog show job. People give me a lot of compliments on that, what a great job I do taking out the trash. Whatever. Being good at dumping a load of trash into the dumpster is a long ways from running fast and clean. That's my agility dream, though. The fast and clean, not the garbage. It's just going to take however much time it's going to take. I don't know if we're going to get championdom exactly right, hopefully it's not cancelled out by my usual percentage of exactly wrong, but, hells bells. Tomorrow is another day, we've got smiles so big they're peeling off our lips, and off we go.

12 September 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 8 of 9

Due to my obsessive and time consuming addiction to agility, pretty much the only friends I have left are dog trainers. Very excellent ones. Everybody else started to fade away when I traded in my vintage biker boots and platform shoes for head to toe goretex and missed all the parties from getting up at crazy early dark o'clock for dog shows. More exodus happened after one too many lengthy monologues regarding the complicated politics of operating a multiple dog household at dinner time. The amount of time needed to train a border collie puppy? Full vanishing of everybody else. Excellent dog training friends understand the importance of pockets in each and every layer of fleece. They know what dogs are saying all the time and know exactly how to train them the right way. They have the skills I try to channel, because their skills always come out right. Their dogs stay no matter what, lie down calmly, and their recalls never fail. Not only do they sail around hard courses at top speeds with roller derby queen precision, but their dogs can do really cute tricks and have impeccable manners in public. And wait in line with happy faces to get their toenails trimmed.

Some of my excellent dog training pals had border collie puppies, too. So we had a little support group. Not like a support group where you sit around in fold-up chairs passing around the kleenex, because actually, my friends didn't even know we were in a little support group. It was the secret kind and I was the only member. They were all doing perfectly fine with their puppies, totally no big deal to figure out how to keep an animal designed to chase herds of sheep fifty miles a day happy and content in a suburban living room. Lucky for me they were tolerant types who enjoyed texting about dog training topics early in the morning and late at night. Mostly their advice was the same thing as my husband's. She'll grow up. You'll figure it out.

So, if this was a Lifetime channel champion story, here's where I'd tell you every right move I made that overnight transformed us into a miraculous team and how we went on to win the Biggest Fanciest World Champion Agility Trial just a few months later. That would be the coolest champion story ever. I'd have the souvenir podium photo where I looked super hot in my size two skort with Carrie Brownstein and Johnny Depp handing me my crown and sash. Just for good measure I would have won the lottery, too, on a single ticket bought at the liquor store across the street, painted a victory mural outside MOCA in Downtown L.A. after my parade, and been enrolled in a Pie of the Week club for life.

Righty-o, not exactly. We're definitely operating on the It's the Journey premise at my house. Don't stop believing, and stay off that midnight train going anywhere. Due to you need to get up really early for a minimum three mile jaunt through the woods in every single morning. More along the lines of I have now read every dog training book ever written and month by month in puppy time has been a slow progression of 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. Being a border collie, Banksy had to have the most steps, so there have been plenty to spare when two thirds of them were in the wrong direction.

Baby step one was when my regular agility coach, who just so happens to be a legendary world champion agility expert, started a special puppy class. Possibly my twenty thousand requests of PleaseNancyPleaseNancyPleaseNancy had something to do with this. The main theme of class was eat, play, come, stay, anywhere and anytime. So far all of those were highly impossible. I think on the first day of class, Nancy took one look at us and decided that day's lesson was How to Teach Sit Correctly.

I've never been extremely detail oriented. Sloppy is a much more useful adjective for most things in my life. Never lacking in exuberance, but my attention span is more ferret stampede than color coded tupperwares to put the thoughts in. A nice way to put it is using air quotes when you say “creative.” Something I've noticed in my dog training friends is that they don't ignore picky little details. Their brains stay on track. There is structure. Clearly these were things that champions needed to have. And border collie puppies who could could learn how to do something exactly the wrong way in about one second from muddled training.

Every week, over the mountain we'd go to puppy class. I'd stand in the dark, on the other side of the hedge from everybody else, doing tricks with Banksy while the other puppies ran around on the lawn. My goal was to someday be able to actually join the class with a calm enough dog. It was a little bit like having nobody to sit with in the cafeteria at lunch time, over there behind the hedge. My other dogs have always been hyper, and love to run and play, but not to the point where they were constantly overstimulated by motion. Banksy's world was overstimulated to say the least. Anything moving, even if it was WAY OVER THERE, revved her up to the point of no return. Maybe for gathering wayward sheep from across a moor this would be a fantastic thing. But in normal life, somewhat of a challenge.

We also took online classes from my Slovenian dog training hero, and on Sundays, me and my friends would get together (note-not a support group) to practice our serps and threadles and wrappy turns with tiny little baby jumps. I loved online classes. Silvia put little smiley faces in all her emails and had messy hair like me. She'd trained all kinds of challenging dogs by running around in the forest with them and teaching them tricks, which was pretty much my whole mission in life. Yeah, my puppy had the completely embarrassing manners when I practiced with friends, but watching how they trained their puppies gave me something to aspire towards. Someday.

Agility was especially over revving for Banksy. Agility currently is, especially over revving. The good news about this is, um, yeah. She loves agility. When we'd practice just wrapping around a little cone was her BEST THING EVER! Yes she wanted to do it again. And again! And AGAIN! Except for her, instead of teaching motivation to love the game, it was all about teaching her to have an off switch, a little button that would program her brain to calm down enough to wait patiently for her next turn. Banksy wanted ALL THE TURNS 4 LIFE! Her switch was more like the giant lever in Dr. Frankenstein's castle. As soon as you pulled it, all the lightning in Transylvania fired up the castle with enough juice to power up a green headed monster in totally non-ironic Doc Martens. And it wouldn't turn off.

This was a whole different kind of training for me. All my little dogs were wild and hyper, but their off switches worked just fine. Ruby had always needed an anti squirrel chasing switch. Otterpop needed a switch that didn't blow a circuit when she got nervous. Gustavo's off and on switches kind of flickered. Banksy's switch was stuck ON all the time. Boy, was she burning bright. But her electric bill was off the charts.

So we did things that involved being boring and laying around on a towel. Did you know there was a protocol for relaxation? If you told me to just lay around and relax, rewarding that with an occasional snack tossed my way, I'd be all over that like a squirrel on a taco. I'm thinking, laying in a hammock in Costa Rica, with on-call sandwich and Mai Tai service. But I'm not a border collie. For Banksy, nothing could be more excruciating. But this is what we did. A lot.

Everything we learned in class, we practiced on our own, all over the place. At the park, at work, our friend's agility field, on lawns of nearby office complexes. No flat grassy surface with convenient parking was safe. My car was a mobile storage unit of crates, jumps, boards, poles, tunnels and the stash of slightly damp tennis balls that seemed to be breeding in there. Not exactly a classy ride. I was the scary Freedom Lady at the dog park, with Banksy practicing a lie down while I jumped up and down, throwing the ball around and not letting her go get it until I yelled FREE! Who's puppy didn't get to come and play with your puppy until I yelled FREE! Release words, not widely used at the dog park. It made me the pariah of the the chatty set that hung out by the picnic tables, but onwards. I was a freedom warrior.

I spent Sundays spent circling round and round a dusty roundpen with a bunch of lady sheep, trying to convince Banksy to not attack our new wooly friends who eyeballed us warily, wishing the both of us would leave them alone forever. It was a happy day when I gave away all the Costco rugs covering my smooth floors because her speck staring stopped, although then we had to work on her not attacking the broom. And while loads of people pay experts to teach them how to get their dogs off the furniture, I tried to convince the anti-snuggler to get in touch with her inner cuddly love bug. One step forward, recently I was sitting on the couch, just minding my own business and up she climbed. I could barely move I was so excited. I reached over and gave her a little scritch and she made that smooshy happy face. Baby steps.

to be continued...

11 September 2016

Indian summer dirt bees.

In the summer's end, start of fall, the yellow jacket hornets rise from the dirt, like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead. They come up en masse, en swarm, and if you step on them, good luck with that. They love the cool forest, under roots and stumps, even in the mist and fog they're there once the light starts to change. Don't step on the nest.

Halfway through our loop this morning, Banksy first, then minutes later Gustavo gets attacked. We were in the middle of a long loop, 5 1/2 or so miles. I cut off the last section I'd thought we'd walk, because Banksy, reasonably tough forest creature that she is, was miserable, slinking along and dragging her tail low through the pokies, wouldn't stand still long enough to let me touch her back where they got her.

Gustavo's sadness induced paralysis means I carry him for a couple of miles, putting him down every so often to see if he feels better yet, enough to walk. He also won't let me touch him where they got him, screams and bites me with his gums when I try to pull out stingers, but if I hold him close in my arms and walk, that seems to make him happy. He's never in his life tried to bite me, but that's how bad it felt, the worst thing he's felt, ever. So I hold him as tight as I can, and tell him I'll carry him as long as he needs.

By the time we make it to the last little bridge, he's miraculously cured. That's about right, 10 minutes per bee bite is what I figure when they get me. Hurts bad. We head down to the creek for one last splash. Usually it's Otterpop they want, we've chased her down to the creek before, her running like a bat out of hell with a whole swarm attached to her ass. She knows to find the creek and dive in, usually gets them off. I don't worry about her, she knows how to handle tough situations.

Gustavo and Banksy, they don't know things like this, but it's ok with me they don't run off. We just walk along quiet and miserable, trudging along to evacuate as fast as we can. Bee sting wears off, and turns into an itch later. They don't know that, I do. I don't bother to explain it to them, how would that help? I know they'll survive this attack. Just trudge along and when it feels better, we stay down at the creek for a little bit before hiking back up the hill.

Little fluffy clouds.

I lived in Arizona once, in 1991. My time there wedged between the release of Smells Like Team Spirit and the Rodney King riots in LA. I had decided to hang up my boots and quit riding, make a go of it as an artist. Maybe the way to get people to pay me to paint was via the MFA, the last stop for artists before they become full time bartenders. Arizona seemed like a good flat place where death via earthquake was unlikely.

Right away I made friends, as well as enemies. Very easy to do in art school. I rented a room from 2 law students who loved roasting meat in the oven and might as well have come from another planet. I took up with some neighbors who were the entourage for a local hippie punk rock band, we went to shows in burned out warehouses. They knew the mountains east of Phoenix better than I knew the lines on my face, having meandered aimlessly through them on hallucinogens their whole lives and always lived to tell the tale. I didn't have a dog then, just my beloved old cat Civ.

All weekend, we'd walk deep into the Superstitions, this became more important to me than suffering through endless shrieking crits. They took me because I was afraid to smoke the ooze they squeezed out of the back of a toad's head, so I was a good one to bring since I could drive if they were still tripping. Sometimes they had to boost me up the highest rock walls, this was a whole different kind of hiking. I still have scars on my legs from run ins with the jumping cholla. They still knew the way out of endless desert passes and platueas, we always found the car again by dark.

I had a full ride to school there, but I dropped out. I loved the vistas and the mountains, but hated too many other things. While the riots were still blazing across the tv, I made my escape back to California. Haven't been back since.

Had no plans to go until yesterday, someone I know needed a team mate for the Cynosport games in November. Hadn't really considered going before that. Banksy's so young, and taking a week off work for a dog show is crazy and expensive, no doubt about that. A lot of better things I could do with that money I wouldn't be making for a week. Like pay for my car. Which would be a pretty cushy car to drive down to Scottsdale, actually. And Banksy was qualified, that just happened without trying. And we did get that bye in Steeplechase, which would let her go straight to the semifinals.

So on a whim, I said we could could team up. And found a room to stay in on airbnb, in some guy's house not far from the show, in a nice neighborhood near a park. It has a kitchen, I can make sandwiches all week, and visit my family the days before.

Just like that, road trip coming up in November, we're going to USDAA Nationals!

09 September 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 7 of 9

Do you ever feel judgy when you see someone's puppy flailing around on its leash in an Exorcist moment, thrashing like it's been possessed by not one but two spunky, high-kicking demons? Its person may appear dazed and confused, not fixing the situation at all? Hmmmm might roll out from under your tongue, because your dog would never do that. If you're thinking right now that perky little dog training saying, You Get The Dog You Need, please try to keep this thought the unspoken kind that doesn't come spilling out your mouth. Just hold it there, silent, like a little mouth caterpillar that you get to keep for your very own. That's a good thing to do in this kind of situation, because that person just might be doing their best.

In starting from scratch to create the agility dog of my dreams with my very own baby border collie, it turns out I wasn't exactly Top Chef. More like, sure tries hard, thanks for playing. Wow, just wow. How could it be so tough? I had the cutest, fluffiest, and smartest puppy ever, overflowing with amazing potential. She had crazy blue eyes and was a joy to train. But she was wildly elusive in her cleverness. I have a masters degree and my puppy's junior rocket scientist brain waves were running circles around mine. Every time we made progress one direction, she'd head me off at the pass and something else would pop up to derail my train. Maybe as minor as, another dog bed, chewed up into knee deep puffiness in the blink of an eye. Maybe as major as the time when I was still hobbling on crutches after my knee surgery, (because who doesn't want to have knee surgery when you have a puppy), and Banksy took off across our entire ranch, through the neighbor's cow pasture and all the pointy horned cows, over a fence out to a fast moving road exactly at the blind curve to chase a truck that she spotted from a half mile away which was heading at 50mph for the freeway.

A fast thinking, quick moving teenager with excellent dog tackling skills saved that one.

Let's just say we had plenty of jaw dropping, eye bugging, stomach twisting times, always when I least expected them. Head hanging low, sometimes near tears, I'd come home a mopey, dismal puddle, mumbling something along the lines of, "How much do I suck at dog training?" During my whining about the most recent fiasco, Banksy would be jumping all over my husband with her overwhelming joy of Gary. He who had come from the No Border Collie In Our House school of thought was cuckoo for Banksy and how cute she was. And sweet. And creative. And quirky. Every time I'd come slinking in from a puppy class where she'd thrown a major fit, or a trip to the pond where she wouldn't get out, or a walk that didn't happen because of speck staring, Gary was the cheerleader for team Banksy. He already had a weirdo for a wife and three other weirdo dogs. What was one more? "Um, wasn't this what you wanted? A smart dog who likes agility? Banksy's a good girl," as she flopped over for him like a crazy eyed fluffy polar bear. "Maybe just a little loony. You'll figure it out."

Coming from someone whose official role in dog training at our house was waving his arms and yelling "SIT SIT SIT SIT SIT SIT," when he walked in the house with a burger, this wasn't a whole lot to go on. Dog training was as far off his radar as the finer points of basketball scorekeeping are off mine. I think we cheer for the Warriors at my house. But, you know. She was our pet dog. And she was everything I ever asked for in my new puppy. She just came with extra added complications that I wasn't prepared for. I'd flop myself onto the couch and heave a dramatic, swoony sigh. Very eye rolling, Pre-Raphaelite damsel. And then the woo woo woo dog love monkey noises would start coming in from the other room, and there she'd be, rolling around on the floor with Gustavo, vampire teeth biting away on each other's heads. True love. I just had to channel that energy into fancy napkin table manners instead of raccoon keg party behind the Taco Bell.

to be continued...

05 September 2016

USDAA Western Regional, Day Three :: An exciting Day!

Day Three at the Regionals is just the finals, Steeplechase and Grand Prix. The dog show shrinks down to just 3 rings, everyone gets there kind of late, and much less toilet paper is used in the bathrooms. Also, people start to throw away large, heavy items, leaving them in weird places instead of carting them off to the dumpster themselves. I expect this. Somebody has to be there to take out the garbage. I knew it was going to be a good day when I got there nice and early to clean the bathrooms and somebody had done it the night before!

This was amazing! I got to enjoy a hard boiled egg instead of cleaning the bathroom! That's about as good as it gets at a dog show!

Gooey had one of the first runs of the morning, his Performance Steeplechase Final. This is not a good thing for him! Don't ask Gooey to run too early or too late. He requires a medium time of day and a medium temperature and things just so to run. He needs a special warmup, this was one of those hurry up and go things. He had a little meltdown and I just ran him around using the tunnels and jumps. No problem! Then he was cool! Just do your own course! There was clapping, this he liked! There was a PA system, this he didn't like! The stars need to align just right for Gooey. He gets some cheese!

Here's what his first round looked like, Gooey is almost 10 years old now, this is how fast he can run. Not as fast as he used to, but he can still try very hard. For a little guy they didn't think would live past 8 or 9 years old, I think he's doing pretty darn good! Hooray for Gooey! Gooey is amazing!

Banksy was up next. She doesn't really care about the weather. She doesn't like the PA system, and the big tent was upsetting her, but she's no sissy. Also, I was so nervous I felt like I had to barf. I don't get nervous running Gooey. Because it's Gooey! I didn't get nervous running Banksy in anything else this weekend, but I sure did for the Steeplechase Final.

Seeing as how during the first round, I had an out of body experience and all.

She ran great! And then we won!

She didn't like the picture area! Scary! And the medal was so heavy she could barely lift up her head.

I was so surprised we won. We don't usually win things like this. When one of my friends told me I won I almost cried and then I tried to go empty the garbage cans but he convinced me to go get her so she could go on the podium and get her prize. So sorry about that full garbage can over there. We won a heavy glass thing and an envelope with a great deal of cash in it and a medal.

Later on we had Grand Prix Finals. It had a very hard dogwalk bit in it so then I got nervous again. Barfworthy nervous. Banksy doesn't get nervous. Her new calmness thing is before we run we sit in the shade together and I give her scritchies on her tummy. She rarely likes scritchies but new calm Banksy is so calm at dog shows she can have scritchies on her tummy. This makes me feel less like barfing, too.

Her run was amazing! Except for the part I mucked up getting on and off the dogwalk which also pulled her out of the last weave poles and was her only missed running contact of the weekend. Oh well. A thing to work harder on. No Grand Prix finals win. This would have been awesome, maybe it's something we can do another time.

I was very proud of Banksy. And of course I'm proud of Gooey. And Otterpop helped me take out the trash. And Ruby came along and had some walks. I'm very lucky to have such good dogs.

04 September 2016

USDAA Western Regional :: Day Two, Eees.

Here is a thing not to do, to E.

Here is where I E'd. Biathalon. Last weekend, we won it. But our runs this weekend were even more lovely, each with a problem. I weirdo dogwalk in the Standard, where I think she couldn't see me since I got behind. A wide tunnel with an off course jump in the Jumpers. But both runs made me so happy, how Banksy and I did everything else just right! So we're getting closer. These were hard courses, we just weren't quite perfect.

Where else did I E? In the Team Relay. The course had a running dogwalk with an off course jump straight ahead, and Banksy is hard to turn off the dogwalk. So E. I had a great and understanding team, very important to have the right team, team Exit Through the Magic Shop. I also learned that if I go first in a relay, Banksy isn't crazy. So easy! So first it is from now on, even if we have no good turns off the dogwalk.

She had awesome team jumpers and snookers runs, I did manage to get a turn off the dogwalk in her snookers to save the day. But an E in relay, that kind of does you in. I was the weak link of the team for sure.

Monday morning, both Gustavo and Banksy will run in the Steeplechase Finals, and Banksy will also run in the Grand Prix. I discovered that even with my abduction in the first round of Steeplechase, standing out there in the middle of the field spinning donuts with my brain slate wiped clean, we still came in 2nd place. Gustavo just squeaked into his final, running his very, very fastest. Gustavo's 10 years old now! He loves running in finals with cheering, so I'm glad he gets to do it another time.

Banksy's qualified for the Nationals, we're not going. Too far away, to the great state of Arizona. The whole thing of the Regional is to get your byes. We're just in it for the running. Another long day, coming up.

USDAA Western Regional Day One :: Alien Abduction

Team Gamblers. Where I was not abducted by aliens.

So there I was, in the middle of Banksy's amazing Steeplechase First round. Right about in the middle of the course, for approximately 84 minutes, I was transported via tractor beam to an alien ship. The abductors had large gray heads, skinny bodies, giant black eyes and suction cup finger tips. I was contained, questioned, probed and injected. According to space time, I was in the ship for 82 minutes so I guess the transporting bit took 1 minute each way.

When dropped back down into Steeplechase First round, I had no idea where I was. Ripple in the time space continuum. Blank slate. I stood there dazed for a few seconds, then picked an obstacle and went for it. We muddled through a bit and out. According to bystanders, my body never left the field although what happened was obvious. I lived to tell the tale.

Gooey ran the same Steeplechase round prior and neither of us suffered through the same fate. He had a great, fast clean run.

I E'ed in Team Standard, worst sin imaginable. Was a great run til I made an error. Oops.

But we won the Local Grand Prix. Yay!

Day 2 coming, more team, Biathalon, Relay. My big goal is to remember to eat some food, especially if we're running until 7pm again. Off we go!

02 September 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 6 of 9

I tried out a couple of puppy classes. In the first one, Banksy had mad skills compared to the other puppies. Except we had one little problem, being that it was held in a little play yard where fluttering shadows danced on the droughty dead grass, and then the other half of the class was out on the most dreaded surface of all, a smooth asphalt parking lot in the breeze. The other puppies practiced heeling, my puppy just wanted to stare at specks. She earned the funny nickname OCD Pup.

Yeah, real funny, I'd think through gritted teeth as I tried to convince my puppy to look at me instead of that crunchy little leaf about to blow.

In the next class I tried, by only the second class, I was already the punchline to the hilarious joke about what happens when ladies with slow little dogs go out and get a high drive border collie. Have you heard that one? You know that batshit crazy cuckoo pants puppy in your class with the apparently clueless person on the end of the leash? What we like to call in dog training land, over threshold? That was us. My idea for puppy class had been some stays, some recalls, some circle work. Not going well.

When I asked the teacher for help of what to do when my puppy was meltdown freaking out of insanity from the other puppies running around, she replied "Well, I think what happens is people with quiet little slow dogs go out and get themselves border collies. Then they think they're going to be so easy to train."

I had to think about this for a second. According to my passive aggressive decoder ring, I was obviously the They here.

"I didn't think it would be easy…geez, all my dogs have been hard to train." Which is super, incredibly true. Also, they are totally not slow.

"Doesn't everybody with a border collie have a first one?" I honestly don't remember how she answered this. But it definitely wasn't the answer I was looking for to fix the Tasmanian devil I had on my hands.

"Border collies aren't the right dogs for everyone," was pretty much all I was going to get.

So. Not. Helpful. I dragged Banksy back through the class of running puppies, and shoved her into the car. Only thing I could figure out to do. Then I dropped out of that class. I don't know who's brain was fried more. Banksy's from watching all the other running dogs, or mine. Both of us have brains that sometimes explode.

But I WAS a border collie person, I could feel it deep down. I loved her hiking with us in the woods and her wild, goofy spirit and the way she flung herself into the pond. I loved all her funny circus tricks and how she brought back the frisbee every single time, no questions asked. She just wanted to learn, she wanted to play, she always wanted to DO IT AGAIN! She was sweet and goofy, a fluffy weirdo who had some complicated personality traits that my simple skills couldn't quite figure out. Being a lifetime confirmed non-instruction follower, now I really needed some kind of manual to unlock the predictability of unpredictability. A little booklet and the Special Tool required for all fifty thousand weird shaped screws. I needed Tim Gunn sweeping in with a pocket square, belief in me and a hug. I just had to make it work.

to be continued...

01 September 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 5 of 9

Oh, she was cute. So unbelievably cute. In the interest of bringing out her inner sorority girl, I took her everywhere, and she loved everybody and they loved her. Kids, cops, mountain bikers, meth addicts on the corner, nobody was safe from, "My puppy hasn't met anyone in a rainbow poncho carrying a bag of aluminum cans yet today, can she say Hi?" She was a little quirky, but show her a kid, and give that kid a ball, and it was true love, every single time. Banksy thought her name was Ohmygodwhatacutepuppy. Maybe this is the saving grace of all puppies, the soft and squishy little faces and funny little legs.

After a little ice breaking warmup period, known as the Otterpop Be Nice Weeks, the other dogs stopped plotting her return to whence she came. Ruby loves everybody, so that wasn't a big deal as long we we kept Ruby from getting toppled over by manic acrobatics of love. Otterpop warmed up next, border collies are about the only dog on the official list of dogs Otterpop doesn't hate, mostly because most border collies don't care about Otterpop. There's an unspoken mutual work ethic involving tennis balls that allows Otterpop some peace and love in her life. Right away, Otterpop and Banksy formed an alliance regarding the equity of things that roll or fly. Gustavo came around eventually, because it turned out they were both teenage love vampires, falling deep in dog love by biting each other's necks for hours at a time. Apparently this is what true soulmates do, who both have tiny little fangs.

Banksy could learn things, all the time. Good or bad. Banksy's brain was like a fancy handheld device engineered in Cupertino and built in China. They totally had to have based iPhones on border collies. She could do a million things way faster than I could click any button and could do things I didn't even know I had the app for. Sit, lie down, potty training, adorable little tricks, all learned in an instant. My other dogs enjoyed being awarded a scrap of cheese, a little cookie, or a piece of lint for a job well done. Banksy just wanted that ball. Cookies were things to spit out while scanning for the toy with laser beam eyes. There was no teaching her to tug, this was pre-programmed into her operating system. No download necessary.

Any sparkly, fuzzy edged visions I had of my idyllic life with my perfect puppy flew out the door pretty quick. Here was my karmic payback for all the years of teenage rebellion that gave my mom and dad most of their gray hairs. There was no little puppy trailing behind me at work, following me around the pasture or trotting after me in the arena. No cute riding in the shopping cart at Home Depot, chewing a little bone. Happily snoozing in a crate after playing, jumping up on the couch with me and snuggling in my lap? As if. Even though she loved to play, I had this weird feeling she didn't really like me.

My puppy just wanted ACTION. She was ACTION. All ACTION, all the time. She wanted the TOY and she wanted it NOW. Her other hobby besides toys was staring at microscopic things that might move on smooth surfaces. All smooth surfaces, including every single floor in my house. Once she was near smoothness, she'd flop into a down and stare at the first teensy speck of dust she could find, watching it intently in case it might move. It could be a speck of light, a shred of shadow, a granule of sand, or a single hair. She wasn't picky as long as it was teensy. If it did move, tremendous joy of speck attacking! Many people saw cuteness here, great focus, strong herding eye, amazing puppy trick. Maybe this was how one learned Amazing Kreskin super powers. Whatever it was, it was totally creepy seeing her leaving our planet to go into a hypnotic state and definitely not something from my So You're Getting a Puppy itinerary.

The only way to unstare her at first was literally dragging her away to somewhere less smooth. Even a very best toy wouldn't always work to distract her. It looked like an entire Costco aisle threw up all over my house in my efforts to unsmooth our floors with bohemian patchwork chic via chintzy throw rugs. I figured out where the best bumpy, dirty, grassy places were, because that's where we spent most of our time. Thank god our walking forest was blissfully staring free. A very large amount of puppy training time became devoted to figuring out how to convince her staring wasn't as much fun as she thought it was. Taking a walk down our block in the sunshine, where shadows would flicker and actual tiny things were blowing around the street? Hysterical entertainment for anyone walking by and seeing the show. But not for me.

My puppy also thought that being touched and held was a huge waste of time at best, and panic attack inducing at worst. The friendly veterinarian's office, all those nice, dog loving ladies in paw print scrubs with cookies for her? Satan's torture hellpit. Me, her person, would like to pet her, or maybe brush her soft fur? Everybody was going to horribly die at the hand of the evil witch. Perhaps touching her toenails? Perhaps bite the evil witch. Also, she thought the sound of other dogs barking put evil spirits into otherwise banal objects around the house, Otterpop barks, must kill the vase on the table. Fear period? Ghostbuster? Genetic hatred of candlesticks?

Or just being a border collie? Clearly I hadn't gotten the beginner's model puppy. Obsessive Googling on "puppy staring" informed me these were signs of stress or not enough exercise. I was pretty sure I'd completely broken my puppy already, but how? Long forest and beach runs are my middle name. I abide Dude-like in a hippie slacker surf town. Aloha, Mr. Hand. How could it be that my puppy was super stressed out all the time? I got on the internet and watched my dog training hero videos. Their high drive puppies looked less feral. Somewhat organized. Enjoyed petting. Damn them. Whether this was selective video editing or dog training genius, I'll never know. But I never saw them dragging their puppies out of weird staring dazes or freakout panic attacks because of reaching down to give their puppy a little pat.

I'd run some of my questions by experienced border collie owners. When you're new to border collies, you don't have the secret handshake yet. There's an initiation period. A common reaction when other border collie owners saw me with my new puppy was a raised eyebrow, followed by, "Wow…YOU got a border collie?" in a tone that was confidence slamming all the way down to the sub level.

Was it all over my face? Can't train a puppy? Being generally gloriously happy about my new puppy, I would wag and nod and flap around and start yapping about the awesomeness of my puppy. She can do the Spiderman trick! Best hiking pal of the universe! But then I might bring it around to some of the quirkier aspects of her personality, maybe in hopes of getting a few tips.

Most other border collie people are more than happy to hand out all kinds of advice about border collies. But when I'd ask about the staring or the bizarre attacking of decorative household accessories, or the panic attacks about being touched, some of the time the eyebrow would come back up, the advice would stop and they'd say something like, "Oh. MY border collie never did that," and start backing away.

So, not that helpful.

Then there were the people without border collies. They'd see me with my puppy at an agility trial, and the resounding chorus, warbled over and over, was "Oh, you've gone to the dark side."

I always picture Elvira, Mistress of the Dark when I hear that. So much more cleavage than I and a vampire mullet shag. The towering goth gowned patron saint of all of us non-border collied agility people who step out into some dark and spooky night and get themselves one. I'd crossed over from running cute little rescue dogs at 12", and sold out to the glamor of the 22" division.

"No way! Team Small Dog only has little black dogs! Team Small Dog can't have a big dog! "

"Um, she's actually pretty small…."

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, usually at this point would start dragging away her large, fluffy, tannish and white puppy who was locking her eyeballs in on that little piece of dirt. Or that running dog way over there. I wouldn't bother to ask them if their puppies had ever tried to spend 3 hours staring at a piece of lint on their floor. Because, probably not.

to be continued...

30 August 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 4 of 9

Where we left off…I went and got myself a border collie puppy, in hopes of training her to one day become a champion.

I snuck into my house in the middle of the night with a border collie puppy shoved under my arm.

We were all a little shell shocked. Me, the puppy, my mostly asleep husband, and my three little dogs, a whole bunch of saucer-eyed deer in the headlights, looking at me for the brilliant answer to what the heck do we do now? I was the fancy agility trainer who supposedly had a plan, except now I was pretty sure I'd totally misrepresented myself as to being completely in control of the situation. In a court of law, Judge Judy would have sent me up the river.

We all watched the poofy little wolverine sending a full water bowl across the room like a hockey puck, driving it into the wall and gleefully flinging it around, spraying water across the kitchen. Anarchy had begun. What was I going to do with this puppy?

The puppy just wanted to play! Play as in Run! Bite! Run! Bite! The other dogs were all, GET RID OF THAT THING! Except for beloved deaf and half-blind Ruby, shuffling for cover, who was more like, THAT THING WANTS TO RUN ME OVER. My husband wasn't sure what to say. Mostly that he sure hoped I knew what I was doing while he shook his head, surveying the destruction. This would become his head shaking mantra as he walked away from each tiny swath of chaos. The puppy really liked to bite. And eat all the succulents in the yard. This is a thing that you can't imagine if you haven't had a puppy, the amount of biting and eating of contraband. Tiny little razor blades are always coming at you from all directions, and there goes the spikey little cactus in what used to be the shiniest blue pot.

Here are the things you're supposed to teach your puppy right away. Everything. All the things. A million things. Nothing. Every single foundation skill. Teach them all the time. Not too much. Every second. And don't train them. Let them just be puppies. I tried to have a list. There were many lists. But they were way too long and looked more like a a hundred deathly centipedes crawling off the page than the tidy how-to manual I envisioned. You want to get a serious case of banging your head on the wall until you weep sideways out your nose? Get yourself a puppy and go on the internet to figure out the best way to train it. Because good luck with that. There are forty seven million trillion ideas out there and from my vantage point, it looked like a distant sprawling salt flat of infinity, with a flame throwing, Mad Max fiesta roaring across the chasm. May the best naked chainsaw juggler win.

I thought I was prepared. I had her little crate and x-pen ready. I had puppy food and a million chewies. I had dog training super heroes with online puppy classes and dvds at my ready. They were kind of like my own personal Batmans except no capes or Batmobiles. Probably not even tights, maybe yoga pants. But where you watch the video and do it just like they do. Clicker activated and voila! The puppy knows how to stay in a crate and circle round a cone!

Yeah, right. My best advice for anybody getting a puppy is that there's all the advice and there's no advice. You've been dropped down a rabbit hole into a subculture of creative canine anachronism and there's a benevolent guerilla uprising happening right there in your living room and your living room may have all things with little tassels chewed up if you shut your eyes for even one second. Nothing will go according to plan so probably don't even plan. Just go have a cocktail or some pancakes instead. But good luck finding your liquor and the mixing bowl because there's a puppy screaming around the kitchen and she's going in for the kill on the cabinets next.

to be continued...

29 August 2016

How tired is tired?

How tired was I after the dog show this weekend? How about too tired to go see X at the Catalyst? With Mike Watt openng. That's pretty tired, and pretty pathetic. I'm sure John Doe didn't miss me, but I missed him. Because I was asleep on the couch by 8:30 or so. The lifestyle path of dog agility, it's a different one than I used to travel, that's for sure.

But see how fast I was running? And Gooey had some runs where I was running just as fast and so was he. And those thousand trips to the dumpster with all the garbage cans? Where I was definitely not running but carrying a bag of garbage across the parking lot counts as something.

Gooey had an off course in exactly every run. But he ran amazing. Just his jumpers and steeplechase. He touched his hairy little foot on a pole base on Steeplechase, so that was it for him and the poles. But I am always proud of Gooey, pretty much no matter what he does.

Banksy was amazing. All the startlines held, until almost not held on the last run of the weekend. Many Qs! She won Biathalon, both her standards, got a superQ, won some jumpers, had some other beautiful runs with one bar and one refusal in Grand Prix. No crazy ass pants behavior, we had calm sitting outside the ring before her runs, an amazing feat and one I'm glad she learned before next weekend's giant Regional with team and 5 rings.

Hopefully the startlines are as amazing then, too. I'm ready for a nap. I think the next one I can fit in my schedule's in about 2 weeks. Extra coffee and off we go.

26 August 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 3 of 9.

A puppy on the plane

It was a whirlwind trip. All I really remember of Indianapolis was green grass, coffee shops, and the uncrowded airport. Which was good. Because when I shoved my new puppy into her tote bag at the curbside drop-off, the sounds she made may never have been before heard in U.S. airspace. Wild dingo screams. We were both covered in mud, since I figured an airplane puppy was a tired puppy and we had played and played in the garden before boarding. It rains in Indiana.

Flying with my dog Otterpop is fun. She's usually a grouchy curmudgeon, but take her to an airport and she transforms to tireless road warrior, entertaining airport guests with tricks at the gate and never complaining about sitting in a tiny bag, even if we're delayed for hours on end. Flying with a 10 week old border collie puppy met just hours before, a whole different thing. The insane monkey screaming noises are the main difference. Also the fact that there's no tricks, there's no leash walking, there's no sitting quietly on a lap. There's no potty training. There is wild beast shoved into a tote bag and that tote bag is shoved under the seat and that tote bag is thrashing. And the seats are all full and the planes are all late and did I mention all the mud?

Since the only other big event that weekend in Indianapolis besides My Puppy Adventure was the NRA convention, our plane was full of NRA conventioneers flying home. Me and the screamy bag had to climb across two big ranch guys, all hats and boots and flannel and wranglers, great big knees and shoulders and elbows all shoved into their puppyfree seats. A huge bonus though, that besides enjoying his their right to bear arms, they also had working border collies at home on their cattle ranch. So puppy screaming from under the seat wasn't that big of a deal.

"You flew all the way to Indianapolis for, a Puppy?" one of them asked incredulously.

I just nodded a big, muddy, exhausted nod. I opened up the top of the bag just a crack, so he could see the big round laser beam eyes attached to the strangling, feral creature screaming mouth that was trying to claw it's way out.

I didn't know whether to be gloriously happy, or to just start weeping regarding my new reality of I had a 10 week old border collie stuffed into a bag on an airplane. The cowboy reached a great big hand in and petted her.

"That's pretty cool," he might have said. Or maybe I imagined that and really he only looked at me like I was a lunatic.

I'm going with pretty cool. Maybe also completely insane. But she had crazy eyes! This was my future champion! And we were on our way home.

This is how the trip went. Car wait wait wait plane. Walk walk wait wait wait wait plane. Walk walk walk wait wait wait bus. Car. Car far. Poor puppy. Part of the waits I locked ourselves in an airport bathroom and played with my puppy. This puppy would tug with anybody. I don't even think she knew I existed yet, I was just the muddy thing holding the toy. You don't want to know how long it took me to teach my other dogs to play tug. The ones that do play tug. Now I had a puppy who played tug in unsanitary airport bathrooms instead of peeing on the little pee pad I'd set down on the floor.

I texted one of my training pals from the bathroom, late at night in some other time zone. "I'm in an airport bathroom and my puppy just wants to play tug."

"Duh," she texted back. "That's because she's a border collie.

Because she's a border collie. The words that would soon come to rule my life. Like every single second of my life in the near future starting right now. Waiting for an extremely delayed red-eye flight in some gray carpeted stopover airport between Indiana and California, I decided to name my puppy Banksy, after the elusive street artist who's always two steps ahead of everybody else. Who isn't afraid to speak truth to power. And who's very clever. Far more clever than me. Nobody can catch Banksy.

This was my new champion.

To be continued...

25 August 2016

Bringing Up Banksy :: Part 2 of 9.

Picking Out a Puppy

All my friends who understood my obsession to Get Better at Dog Agility kept saying, Why don't you just get a border collie puppy? Border collies are de rigeur around these parts, dime a dozen at our local agility trials. I was all, ha ha ha ha HA. I knew a lot of border collies. They were weird and kept dropping their slobbery tuggy things in your lap and were as big as my whole living room. And needed back yards, not a tiny patch of cement with some dead potted succulents and a collection of thrift store taxidermy smattered around. With sheep. There was always this faint vibe of sheep around the border collie people.

Also my husband had this funny little saying he used to like to say, sometimes. All the time. It went like this.

"We are NOT getting a border collie."

So I didn't even know what kind of puppy I wanted. It couldn't be too big because of our tiny house filled with tiny dogs, and it couldn't be too small because I walk in giant forests where giant coyotes roam. Hypothetical future puppy would love my other dogs and be super fun to train and love agility. And be super cute. And smart. And fit into my VW station wagon. And bring the ball back to my husband instead of running away and hoarding it, Otterpop. I just wanted a cool herding type dog with friendly parents. I was pretty sure I wanted a puppy from rescue, because all my other dogs came from shelters or rescues or the sides of roads, but this seemed a little bit more challenging with my very long list of specific puppy criteria.

Loads of my agility pals had puppies. They were always getting puppies. They'd parade their cuteness around at agility trials, practicing their cute tugging on cute little braided colorful fleecy things. They'd been on puppy lists. They'd flown to international glamour spots like Canada and Denmark and Hungary to pick up puppies. They had puppies sent to them in the cargo hold of planes from Russia and Croatia. They had bred their own dogs with semen shipped on ice from Austria producing entire litters of puppies to choose from out of their living rooms. They knew about pedigrees and breeders and structures and lines.

Oh, I also wanted a black puppy. To match my other dogs.

I called up breeders. I emailed rescues. I visited litters. I texted with friends. So many possibilities, a whole global network of potential puppies. With their pedigrees and lines and structures and questionnaires and deposits. And gossip. My god, the opinions to be had of potential puppies. Dramatic soap operas with tangents involving ancient sheep herding lines, moral dilemmas of mixed breed intermarriages, and ominous whispered warnings of red puppy flags.

My personal puppy vision quest was all encompassing. Being that had important binge watching of Orange is the New Black to do every night, this much research was cramping my style. There were sneakers to buy on the internet. Tacos to consume. Things to draw with pens. So where did I actually go to procure the valued family member who would be with me for very single second of the next fifteen or so years of my life?


Facebook may be a creepy corporate time-sucking surveillance marketing machine poised to take over the world, but almost every single dog agility person on the planet goes on it. A lot. Maybe too much. And just like that, my puppy's breeder posted a little video of an available puppy frantically splashing around in a baby pool, feverishly attacking each and every little water droplet. She had crazy light blue eyes and she wasn't black.

There were texts and phone calls, and then the next thing I knew, I was flying with a toothbrush and my little dog tote bag on a plane to a far off land called the Midwest.

Coincidentally, my best friend Debbie had recently relocated to the Midwest. Indianapolis? Perhaps you've heard of it. I hadn't, outside of the big car race. I felt like I might as well have been going to the moon. On tv, jet setting Beyonce-esque types dashing across airports and hopping on a planes with cute tote bags all tra la la, always look super glamorous. The reality of flying to the middle of the country on the exact same weekend as the giant annual NRA convention with dirt cheap last minute plane tickets involved dark bus rides from long term parking fortresses, sweaty airplanes stopping in a lot of places in the middle of the night, smashed in the center row seating, and bags the size of bellpeppers under my eyes. Exactly zero tra la la.

But still, it was for My Future Puppy! Debbie bought me breakfast, we borrowed a friend's eleven-year old daughter and drove out to the country to meet the baby puppy. True Indiana Facts: David Letterman is from Indiana! Indiana has more miles of highways per square mile than any other state! All the highways ring around Indianapolis and shoot off to four other states and Great Lakes of the North! There are many things built from bricks! Eyebag bellpapers be damned, this actually was exciting and glamorous, visiting a whole new state just to meet a puppy.

One of those highways drove us straight to the breeder's house. The puppy seemed great. Although everything was all a sleep deprived, jet lagged blur. I couldn't tell if the puppy loved me, but I sure do love all puppies. She definitely loved eleven-year old girls.

All of the instructions I'd received from my experts in evaluating the potential puppy? Ha. Basically, here was a teensy, wild puppy, and all she wanted to do was run and play and wriggle out of my arms. I met her breeder and the breeder's fiance and the puppy's mom, dad and brother. All were nice, cute and friendly and looked like they could run fast. The puppy was a purebred border collie and she wasn't black or a rescue. Exactly what I wasn't especially looking for!

I wrote a check, we wrangled her into the car, and I had a puppy.

to be continued...

23 August 2016

Bringing up Banksy :: Part 1 of 9.

I'm pretty good at agility.

On a one-to-ten scale, one being spiders and ten being Led Zeppelin, pretty good's the squishy center somewhere in the middle. Pretty good means my dog can make it into the USDAA top ten for little dogs, but also may park herself on top of the a-frame, barking her head off as she plots a totally inappropriate sniper divebomb on the judge waiting to watch the down contact. If she even comes down. Pretty good means my dog might make it into Steeplechase finals at an exciting Regional event, but dash straight out of the ring mid-course when he sees someone feeding their dog delicious meaty bones out of a little cooler and then get scared of a butterfly. Or that I might be having a so far fast and clean run with my dog, until I slam straight into an innocent, unsuspecting judge because I'm watching my dog run far away into that tunnel over there. Way over there.

So that's the kind of pretty good at agility I am. I don't totally suck. But there's a lot of room for improvement.

All of my questionable agility history has been made with my three small dogs. All were rescues, none of them were puppies when I got them. Each came with their own set of dog baggage, and I love all of them even more than I love pie. Every single flavor of pie there is. Ruby was a feral terrier, better suited for jungle survival than living in a suburban home. Her joy in running through an innocuous, gateway baby tunnel in a questionable obedience class started our tumble down this lifestyle path in the first place. Otterpop came from the side of the road, and had a volatile personality that was unpleasant and rancid at best. But boy, did she play ball good, for a hoodlum. Most adorable and huggable yet quirky beyond belief little guy Gustavo hitchhiked up from Juarez, Mexico as an adult dog with a major congenital liver disorder. We all trained and practiced, and competed, and all of them achieved some level of success in competitive agility.

Definitely, we were all pretty good. If you say that using a pause, squinch up your eyes, tilt your head, and start with an Um.

"Um…pretty good." Emphasis on the Um. And Pretty. But not necessarily the Good.

However. I was now ready for the Next Step. Slouching towards championdom. Podium standing, medal winning, Dog Agility with capital letters. No, even better. All Cap DOG AGILITY. I was ready for a puppy, a future superstar that would be trained from scratch by me, pretty good trainer of dogs and quite averagely mediocre agility competitor. On a quest towards becoming Somewhat Better Than Pretty Good.

Champions. Hells yeah. That's how I was going to bring up my puppy. All excellent and bright and shiny.

Bring it on, sparkly rainbow unicorn puppy of my future.

to be continued...

18 August 2016

Just like the dogs on tv.

Oh hey, who is this in our tiny driveway? A new and fancy friend, imported from the great city of Oakland by way of Arizona and your name is 2014 Subaru Outback.

Jetta TDI Sportwagen lives quietly in the top of the driveway, awaiting it's sad death row fate in October. We loved you Jetta TDI Sportwagen, but you made us sad when your CEO got arrested for duping the entire world of your excellent dieselness. Your lovely 45 mpg gallons, in your sporty fast car body that held my dog crates oh so perfectly is changing the climate horribly every single time I start the engine.

Then your catalytic converter broke which started causing even more pollution, that I see wafting out of the tailpipe in the back window every time I drive you, causing you to get shitty gas mileage and be about to die at any time, but costing $3000 to fix you. So I drove you and killed trees and waited for you to die because I was not willing to pay that sum to save your life, because you were killing polar bears.

But you got a settlement, or you are about to get one, and I parked you in a nice resting place while I wait for the settlement, and went out interviewing your replacements at used car meat markets. Maybe it's a rebound car, I got it because every single person on my whole street has one, and on your bountiful and long tv commercials smiling farmers with border collies drive one and happy people going camping and kayaking on dirt roads with dogs bounding out the boot drive one, in their fleecey jackets and glowing skins. So many dogs and outdoorsy folk on your commercials, with modest hair cuts and goretex footwear. So I got one too.

You are only 2.5 years old, and you have many fancy buttons everywhere that do a lot of high pockety things. You beep at me when I drive bad. You are so big that I can put groceries inside you with 4 dog crates and probably other large objects except for costco toilet paper packs, I don't know where those will fit for the next dog show because my giant rooftop tupperware bin doesn't have a rack yet to ride on. You have leather seats, I am sitting on sad dead cows that died a horrible death to become car seats, but they are so very soft with many buttons to mold them to my ass. You don't go all that fast, but you are supposed to save me from death in the next wet storm I drive you in. Your stereo is amazing, and you have a little sky hatch. Most amazingly, when the money from Germany comes in, you will be payment free and I can spend all my money on gas for you, because you get 30mpg when you try your hardest.

Welcome to team small dog, 2014 Subaru Outback. You are a bit of a douchey car for old ladies, and will probably cause me great embarrassment off and on unless I just get over that fact. But you also won't scrape your stomach when I drive you on rutted roads. And you have faux wood trim inside you that I enjoy, even though it's just a plastic strip made in China. I lean back when I drive you, and speak on the phone, and I will revel in the fact that I have succumbed to marketeers far more clever than I, but who will keep me and all the dogs safe in my road warrior ways.

15 August 2016

Wormhole: How could this be from so long ago, everything different, everything the same?


Everything's changed, and nothing's changed. Actually, really. Nothing's changed.

Hobbies of late, here are some of my new friends.

William. William, you wanted to sell me the car with the big dented bumper for so far over the blue book price it wasn't even funny. You with your man bun, running your fingers through the man bun bangs and whining about being a small business having to match big business prices. William, I liked your $17,000 car but too bad the radio was sketchy and the air bags didn't work and you don't know when they will. And seat stains. I don't want seat stains. William, I trust you like I trust the guy that sits on the little wall outside the laundromat with a big tan bag weaving white rope around his fingers and looking from side to side who has disappears when I come back to collect my things.

William's friend the Hawaiian shirt guy. Oh, William's friend. When William got tired of me, I got the friend. The friend was tall and the friend has much white chest hair sticking out of his Hawaiian shirt. The friend was hovery and who wants to be followed around by white chest hair flowing out of a shirt collar? I banished William. I didn't feel bad.

Richard. Oh, Richard. You are a nice man, you love Hondas very, very much. Or so you want me to believe. Richard, you have a great deal of patience even though you don't really understand why I am playing dog crate tetris in your clean car with virgin carpeting. I get it, all your big dogs loose in the back of your Isuzu. Didn't they stop making Isuzu's many moons ago? Stop calling my house, Richard.

Jeff. I don't even remember who you are, Jeff. We seem to not be on the same page. Your emails and voice mails are directed to a robot who is not I. Stop calling my house, Jeff.

Sam, you're like a vapor, Sam. No matter how much somebody else says a car costs, I can count on you to tell me your car costs less. In my mind you are very large and sit in the dark like jabba the hut eating peanuts and marking down car prices. It's not a bad thing you sit in the dark, Sam. Do you really sell the cars that cheap? I will never know. Sam is the email ninja, Sam never leaves the internet. I could learn to love you Sam, but the cars are always the wrong color and have too many fancy bits.

Michael, you're a bit like Sam. But your cars aren't as cheap as Sam. But I suspect you know Sam, I think you might text each other when you send me quotes on cars that aren't what I asked you for. Oh, Michael, I wonder what you're wearing today? Is it vulgar, or am I just a bitch?

Robin, they went specifically inside to find you because they thought you would be a good friend for me. You are very tiny and your boobs, so big. You know many facts about cars. You assume I like cars, too. I feel like I know you from somewhere else, Robin, but I think it's best to let that one stay put.

Tom. Oh Tom, your shirt, it's so pink. You are Robin's boss and for this, I am so very sorry, Robin. You tower above me and Robin like a horrible ogre and when I tell you that I am not buying your car, you march off with an evil smile on your glistening teeth. I feel bad later that perhaps you ate Robin after I left. I send my prayers to Robin.

Lauren, I think we would have a good time, out on the town. I bet you're wearing those jeans with the sparkly pockets that have little latches on them and drink far more than I. I will never know since we only communicate via psychic voice mail mind meld. Lauren, I am sorry you sell used cars. Maybe you should send prayers to Robin, too.

Leticia, I barely got to know you. But your top, it was so cute.

Gabe, you are a good man. You are from a farm and your dogs are dead and you wear an unoffensive tie. We could make this work, Gabe. I follow you around, your step is brisk and this is not a negative thing. You do not mind that I take copious notes on each word out of your mouth. You speak slowly when asked to, and pause as I do the math by hand on my piece of paper. This is your test, Gabriel. Can you sit quietly while I add up the columns myself? By hand. On my own piece of paper. You do not speak. This just might work.

10 August 2016

Olympic sports at which we would excel.

Team wave ball surf rescue with extra points for flatness.

The rules are, when one team member runs out into the surf, lays down, drops the ball and lets herself get smashed with a wave and stares off into space, another member has to valiently dive into the surf and look for the ball. The coach is allowed to wave arms and point and yell stuff like "Over THERE! YOU GUYS! OVER THERE!"

The ball must not be lost at all costs. Unless there's a visible riptide and surf is at shoulder high.

There are extra points for flatness. More flat is more better.

Substitute team members not allowed. Especially ones that run in circles and bark and never, ever, EVER, get the ball. These team members are better suited for cheer squad and are allowed to wave banners and such but should try to avoid getting in the surf and barking at team members actually attempting to rescue the ball.

If this was an Olympic sport, we'd get the gold. Unless we lost the ball. Then that would suck.

09 August 2016

Team Small Dog visits the Olympic Swim Center, the one with the ultra chlorinated non contaminated water.

The rumors are flying in the synchronized diving world. Are Ruby and Gustavo sister and brother? Married? Just good friends? Is it true Gustavo's gay? Does that make him a better diver? Ruby's extension looks a bit early, unless it's Gustavo's toe curl that happened a bit late.

Otterpop wanted to dive into the big pool. She wanted the middle lane and that's what she got.

Well, this is really going to freak out Banksy when she hits the water. Currently, she's afraid of swimming from taking a swim in her BFFreneny's Kirk's pool where she couldn't touch. The horror. Even the creek's contaminated right now, it's been only shallow end for her, so I except this dive to be her last. Let's hope for gold.

07 August 2016

Hot and cold.

We like to sneak out when it's cool. Around here, no one much likes the cool. It's foggy, it's early, it's quiet, what's not to like?

In the cool, it looks like there are 19 other people out there. We give each other space. All 19 of us. Total. That's it. Maybe because the cool is in the early, too. This is our best time.

When we hear voices up on the trail, ones that aren't ours, that's our cue that early's done. Late is coming, and the rest of the everybody else. Numbers far greater than 19. That's when we pack it up and head back up the hill. To go hide.

In the afternoon comes the hot. Around here, that might be relative. But it feels hot to us.

Luckily, the agility field has a giant water bowl big enough for the red ball and cool damp grass. With zika free mosquitoes. We do some agilities, we sit around, we do some more, we sit around.

We hide out here, til maybe the late. When it gets cool. Gustavo loves his chair. Banksy loves her dogwalks. And her new thing, her completely independent pushes to backsides of jumps no matter what my flailing arms and snail legs are doing. And everybody else, except for that 19 and change, goes back in or somewhere else. Then we head back out. Into the cool.

01 August 2016

Ruby still goes to the park.

Ruby still goes to the park. I drive all the dogs there, now, we peel out of the car slowly, and I put everybody on a leash so we go the same speed. This means Banksy is PULLING, because she wants to go where I throw the ball and send her around the backstops. And Gustavo can't believe he's on a leash because how will he get through the hole in the fence? And Otterpop is all, whatever. But then everyone goes the same speed as Ruby. Which is very, very slow. It takes a long time to go from the car park to the field.

So that means there are other walks, where I leave Ruby home alone in her blue chair. Or we find her in the backroom in her favorite spot, the dog crate under my desk, when we come home. She sleeps along time, and she screams when we come home. Her only sound now is screaming, I don't think it's a bad sound, I think it might be the only sound she can make that she can hear. Does she know we were gone for over two hours, that we walked 8 miles including up a down hill? I don't like to leave her alone very long.

I miss her terribly when we leave her home, but her only walks right now are very slow and just around a few block. Or from the car to a shady spot at the park. Her legs wobble a lot and when she does run, it's usually not a good thing because she can't see or hear hardly at all. So if she gets mixed up where the rest of us are, she panics and runs. She doesn't do this at the park, we stand under a shady tree and throw the ball and she seems to like standing there, sniffing the air. She never sits or lies down, she either stands and wobbles, or is asleep in her chair or the crate. I'm not sure what this means, I worry it hurts her to get up and down. Ruby's always been a very tough cookie, even now she'll occasionally throw herself down the back porch stairs, and just pop up and off she goes, wobbling across the yard.

This month, she seemed to deteriorate faster than she has in a long time. Maybe she'll stay like this for years, or maybe her time comes long before that. No way to know. I just don't know how much she likes her life. I think if we could all sit together in the living room all the time, and she could see us there from her blue chair, she could stay like that for a very long time, then have me carry her up and down the stairs. So sometimes we do that, til I know she's asleep. Then I hustle the other dogs to wherever it is we need to go. She wakes up though, she knows when we sneak out. And most of all, she wants to come along, too.

29 July 2016

Democratic National Convention, Day Four, House of Thrones.

Why does everyone hate Hillary? Well, not everyone. It's like Otterpop. She doesn't come off as warm and fuzzy. She barks, she has a stink eye. She can be manic when you put her to work, in her fervor to do the job. She doesn't always do the right thing, she's a dog. I like Otterpop. A few other people do. The other dogs do. But that's about it.

Some nights we go to the dog park. It's shady under the trees, so Ruby can stand there and sniff the air. The trees are on a little knoll, so she's safe from marauding dogs up there and parks herself near a tree and wobbles in the breeze. Gustavo loves the dog park, he has friends! They're dogs! They're the dog people! They have laps! They run in circles! There are bushes to hide in! You can sneak through the hole in the fence to where the homeless guys sleep! It's amazing!

Banksy has camaraderie at the dog park. There are some serious fetchers there. They fetch their balls over and over. Her kind of dogs. There are some not so serious fetchers there. Banksy ignores them, although every so often her ball shell cracks and she finds a kindred spirit friend and will play a little bit. I just like seeing her in large groups of dogs having a lovely time, since a lot of dogs make her nervous. So I try to take her at least a few times every week.

Otterpop, though. It's a living hell for her. She hates the dog park, she can't get over the other dogs and they don't listen to her and they sniff her butt and at least half of them have no manners, the way that she thinks manners work. Young dogs today, no manners. It's true at the dog park. You have to suck it up there, and know that the labradoodle is inappropriate, the shepherd mix with basset hound legs never comes when called, the black cattle dog pounces on dogs backs and Mugsy, don't get me started on Mugsy. So when Otterpop comes she either has to stay completely under my power with an orange ball, or I put her on a leash.

Which sucks and is unfair and pretty hellish. But it's a compromise, her nice time compromised for the greater good of everybody else. My dogs, and any other dog that hits her radar as someone she might decide to bite if they penetrate her fourth wall.

Otterpo's smart, she's capable. If I need to take a dog most anywhere, I'll always pick Otterpop. She rides in a bag, walks perfectly on leash, doesn't leave the scene, speaks human english, and is by far the most qualified dog I have for most situations. She just doesn't come off as nice. She's an enforcer. She doesn't want you to hug her, or even pet her. Otterpop has personal space requests. But if I need to find a path through a mountain lion/pot grower forest, take a plane, ride a bus, move some horses around, walk in a city, drive a tractor, stay in a motel, she's a no brainer. She's brave and smart, competent and accomplished. She's not really very cute, she's stumpy and has weird legs. Her eyes bug out when she gets excited.

Banksy and Gustavo get a lot of attention. Gustavo's really cute and friendly. He runs like a majestic unicorn squirrel, makes hamster noises when he loves something, which is most things, and comes back when I call him really fast. Unless he's going for the hole in the fence to the where the homeless people sleep. Now that he's found that portal to his parallel dream universe, all bets are off. Luckily people! And dogs playing! are pretty good and exciting and I've told him that portal is bad. Just those drunk guys, snoring, their booze, so amazing!

Banksy's looks turn heads. Those eyes! The ears! Her fur! Her speed and grace! She does the things I tell her to do, sometimes I send her out around the porta potty or the soccer goal and have her do a turn or a lie down, people can't believe the things they see. She's like a dog genie. But Banksy isn't easy, and her range of skills nowhere as wide as Otterpop's. Banksy has a long ways to go to achieve capable and qualified, her quirks are large and vast.

People coo and cluck at Ruby, they love seeing her follow in my dogs and how we park her at the trees, old dogs make us happy and sad at the same time.

Not Otterpop. She's with me. I'm with her. Her brain is engaged.

In Westeros, there's no dog parks. I'd never want to live there. One thing there, forget dog parks, you can't have dogs. They'd be eaten or slain by dragons or guys with sword for sport. You can have a pet wolf there, but even a giant, magic wolf with dangerous flesh tearing teeth has a pretty bad time of it. The hounds live chained up in the kennel til they need them to tear apart an intruder. No good for pet dogs. I've always been wishing the Underwoods would deflect from Netflix and get shipped to HBO to see how they'd do in there. One way ticket to Iceland. Get them some cloaks, hook them up with Peter Dinklage, who might look taller next to Kevin Spacey, bring the worlds of expensive tv add on packages together for Thrones of Card Games in the House. Would shifty, underhanded politicans from the specialized world of USA politics be able to survive things like knights with heavy swords, white walkers, or that torture prince bastard son whose Dad took over the Stark's castle? I don't know.

There's a wall there, to keep the people from the North out, and their monsters. There's a lot of lying and corruption and and not two but seven distinct political parties with a bunch of independent sub groups waving banners. The party with the biggest dragon looks like the one that's going to win, and it's run by a woman. Would Frank and Claire hook into burning witches at the stake? Sacrificing kids? Off with their heads? Move through all 7 kingdoms? The moral majority monk patrol? Would Sansa Stark learn about video surveillance and get a big black SUV to ride around in? Is Little Finger the same person as Doug Stamper?

Once I combined those two shows in my head, they got so much better. Forever united. I can sing either theme song during either credits. I have words. They involve dogs. I won't share.

The only problem, they live in tv. Where Trump lives. He's an amazing character, he'd look awesome as a king of one of the houses of Westeros with a fancy crown and brocade leggings, and would be hysterical battling Frank Underwood. He could yell about firing everybody and show how good that wall was working until John Snow and Stannis Baratheon got involved. It would be awesome. Made for binge watching for sure.

But it's kind of like Otterpop. In the real world, she's the dog you need. You put up with the perceived unpleasant, and trust her because she's got the skills to do the job. So there you go. So many speeches and so many balloons. How many balloons was that, over 8 days? I won't even google it. Too many. My god, the stupid balloon waste. Obamas and Bills and Bernies, all amazing. Serious inspirational speakers, all of them. A-list celebrities. Diverse audiences, just a way different vibe than the Republican week. Hillary is strong and capable and gets very shafted because she's a woman. All her foibles, held up to a way bigger microscope than any man. Can you imagine if her main speakers were her five kids from her three different husbands? The grief the Clintons got during the Lewinsky fiasco? Trumps already been there and done that, he gets to slide along on the outspoken billionaire ticket.

Running the country? Trump wouldn't last a day on any Iron Throne. I don't know how Game of Cards ends, and I'm only on season 4 of Game of Thrones, we have to rent the dvd disks and I always fall asleep so it takes 2 weeks for me to watch each episode. We're creeping through at a snails pace. But I know I'd rather not live in either of those realities, especially not Westeros. Washington DC looks like a close second. I like it here by the beach. One day I'll get a new bike so I can ride down to the shore. People steal things, life isn't perfect. I'll still work on kindness. Anyone who is casting a vote for Trump, I don't get it, not one bit. TV land.

Be nice, don't bite. Qualified and capable, and keeping the Trump at bay.