28 July 2015

Loud and screaming birthday.

This year was a birthday that slams into you like a heavy icepick.

Lots of people have this birthday. I didn't know how to be one of them.

It's not that big of a deal. You have it. Then it's done.

And that's how old you are.

Watched carefully how the sun set the night before.

And watched carefully how it rose the next day. The day of.

Everything was pretty much the same after it happened.

So there you go. Life goes on.

This is in the Grove of the Titans.

Not everybody goes there. Not everybody can find it. Probably hardly any dogs ever have.

Tammy and Fred helped us find it. Tammy is basically a detective of trees.

A lot of roadtrip in not very many days.

A motel with a graveyard for a backyard.

Way up in the north country.

We like places where there's surf and turf.

The turf is pretty dry everywhere.

Sorry Big Diamond. Don't know how many birthdays you had.

Gary and the other dogs met us way up on top of a ridge later on.

Gustavo shouldn't really be around bears.

We all survived the birthday and we came home with a new age. I'm getting used to it.

Sort of.

21 July 2015

The grove.

Somewhere, far to the north of here in Del Norte County is the Grove of the Titans. It's exact location is vague. The trees in the grove are possibly the biggest coast redwoods ever measured. They have names. They are secret. That's all I can say now and I'm saying this in a whisper. Sshhh.

19 July 2015

Hot and lazy and looking for some shade.

It's true that our hot here might not be quite as hot as your hot there. We are whiny sissies of weather here in California, a little dip or rise in the temperature is cause for some serious alarm. Even the neighbor that hates you the most is ready to talk about weird weather. Global warming, a great way to make friends with the crazy guy across the street.

Pretty much all I want to do when it's hot is lie around under some shady trees. The dogs like to get wet in the pond. Since I got Gustavo his fireworks loud fans, laying around in the house in front a fan isn't so bad either.

When we went to the beach in the morning on Sunday, we could see a rainstorm across the bay. Exactly where we were supposed to go for some agility later in the day. Not just any rain storm. Lightning strikes, and thunder booms making it all the way across the water. This isn't normal here. Climate change keeps us hopping.

I wasn't sure if we really wanted to go down to Monterey. I entered Gustavo in 2 classes. And had thought to walk Banksy around and see if she could be calmish ringside. Calmish is all I ask.

I figured maybe the rain would dust the cobwebs and dirt off my car, so I drove down there. I'm supposed to love going to agility trials. Missed the rain but got some kind of crazy hot humid southern muggy sweat weather. Banksy took some walks around and laid down quietly and calmly to watch some agility from not too close. Worked pretty good. A work in progress. I would say calmish definitely accomplished. Just not too close yet. Gustavo ran his snookers, all three sevens meant running across the whole field for 3 in a row tunnels 3 times over again. We were winded. We made a boo boo at number 5 in the close and ran out.

Just before his next turn, when I went to go get him, he was panting hard and didn't seem exactly right. He just looked really hot and uncomfortable. He makes those little squinty eyes and hangs his mouth open when he doesn't feel good. He's never been good at doing anything in the heat, especially not agility. He's good at frolicking in water and sitting in my lap. That's about it.

We stepped to the line in Grand Prix. Off we went, 1-2-3-4-5 into a tunnel. He came out of the tunnel, he went back in, wheezing and reverse sneezing and standing there looking very sad. I pulled him out. The judge came over to see if he was ok. I shrugged and told her he was having some kind of little attack. And then carried him down to a little baby pool to cool off. He was still panting hard and I took him for a drink and poor little guy looked sad and miserable.

So we went home and all the dogs laid in front of a fan. Me too. Sometimes I don't know about this whole agility thing. Maybe we should have just stayed at the beach longer, then gone home to lay in front of the fan. Maybe next time.

16 July 2015

A creeper feeling.

There's a section of the forest that gives a creeper feeling. Turn left where there isn't supposed to be a trail and drop down a ways parallel to the creek. It's dusty here, the clovers and ferns that are still alive are shrouded with a layer of dust that makes them all hang low. If you were to keep going, all the way down, like ALL the way down, you'd eventually drop down to a couple houses that live high up a mountain road. But no one's hardly ever in here.

Although I know, that they are.

One evening it was the vampires from the Lost Boys on dirt bikes, flying down the logging roads at dusk. At least 15 of them looping around the rats' nest of crookedy arteries winding through the trees. Very fast, and very terrorific for all of us not used to fleets of blazing loud motorcycles buzzing through our forest. It's a chewed up and badly logged piece of land, doesn't belong to me though, so who am I to harsh on how they've culled their trees. Jagged, old toothy chunks, piled up around scrawny survivors. The trails are rutted deep, and things come out from the trees to sting your legs.

I never feel happy in there. Yet in there I still go. Everybody probably has this place somewhere, and there's a thing in you that can't keep you out.

The dogs are known for a fact to do weird things in that patch of land. Gustavo has chased invisibles, Banksy obsessively bites at sticks, and I don't know if they're creeped out because I am, or do they feel it too?

We walked in there yesterday early evening, and I was getting a creeper feeling. Sometimes I listen to it, sometimes I don't. I didn't last night and we still headed down the hill. I don't often plan which way we'll go when I walk and something pulled me to walk straight down the steep way. All the dogs were antsy, and I chalked it up to everybody's hyper and good thing they're having a run.

A motion flurry caught my eye, high up in a tree, and I could see through a veil of branches some kind of big hawk. I'm no bird person. A bird's a bird, it's either some little thing, a crow, or bird of prey. This one was big and somewhere between hawk and vulture size. I do take note of the big birds, because some are super sized enough to perhaps hook long talons into a Gustavo dashing across a trail. I did think it fortuitous to see one, because I'm reading a book right now about a depressed lady in England who trains her wild goshawk to sit on her hand in a glove and always fly back to her.

The author's name is Helen Macdonald. Her feral hawk, with long lethal fingers wears a tiny handstitched helmet and soft leather leg shackles called jesses. I had to look these up in google. Do you do that now? Every single mystery can be partially solved online. The hawk's name is Mabel. She's not so much a pet as a wild hunting companion, like from the history of falconry. The author teaches it to hunt along with her, and together they walk the countryside in England, looking for prey.

I like this book a lot. The author loses her bearings in regular life, and starts to turn wild with her bird. Her real life is out in the woods, she can't really function in her other life everywhere else. I think I know this person.

So I notice hawks a lot now. How would that one look sitting on my big leather glove, wearing a tiny ruffled cap covering her eyes so she'd never even see me? This one was high up in the tree, and in the book sometimes that happens to Mabel, she's stuck up there, deciding to be wild or not, before she chooses to fly back to her lady's cloaked arm. I think about this, the way she trained something so fierce, when suddenly, this one flaps out from behind the branches with a gray squirrel hanging from it's claws. It was a big bird, but a squirrel's pretty big too, and off the bird went, through the sky to a tree just a bit farther away from us.

This might have been a magnificent nature moment, watching her move her prey further from the interlopers in her woods. But all I could see were those long sharp feet, so easily skewering the squirrel and transporting it to a safer branch to shred him apart to eat. Because of drought, the animals all seem hungrier and in different places lately, I feel bad for them but I it makes me feel uneasy.

I used to know where they were and now I don't.

I think though, that the squirrel eating bird was actually flashing us a signal, because as the bird moves out of sight, we all hear the unmistakable sound of deer crashing away through the brush. Those of us who can hear anyways, Ruby doesn't hear a thing anymore. Deer can cling to vertical hillsides, somehow they can run where I can barely creep, and I could hear them running fast and down the hill below where me and the dogs were paused to watch the bird.

And then there was another sound. This one, something I've never heard. A big and ferocious sounding scuffle. Things were breaking, no animals sounds that I could exactly identify by species, but it sounded loud and violent and way too close. Bears attacking each other with axes, gangsters beating each other with copper pipes, the robot war to the death in the woods. This is a thing I've never heard in the forest. I've heard sounds that go bump in the night. I've seen carcass and even fresh kills, stumbled across a fresh rib cage or a leg, but I've never thought about the moment that the actual death occurred. I guess I imagine those moments to always happen late at night, when I'm at home in my jammies, safe in my house, warm in my bed, doors and windows locked around me. Asleep and not worrying about who's eating who outside.

In this exact moment, I realize what I might be hearing. All I can think of is, really bad place to be right now. Banksy and Otterpop use the very wise common sense they sometimes can have and glue themselves to where I am. I snap Otterpop on a leash. The last thing I need in this moment is another boss giving alternative and perhaps demented orders. Gustavo and Ruby, however, don't have the same reaction, and life does not go according to plan.

You know how dogs do weird things sometimes, in new situations? I'm teaching a new group in an agility class right now, and we go through it with all the She-Does-It-Perfectly-At-Homes when the dogs stress up and down from the novelty and excitement of being part of a new group in a new place. The class is definitely at the But-She-Does-It-Perfectly-At-Home stage right now. I'm totally guilty of this, too. Godamn, I always think. She NEVER does that? Why in front of the teacher? Why right now at the park with all these people standing there observing? I scratch my head and figure out the next step. Always learning better about how the dogs think from having to bail out from a WTF moment.

We're just past a tiny, shredded up grove of old redwood stumps and chewed up trees. Gustavo flips around and heads into the grove, surrounded by a triangular track of paths carved by bikes and trucks over the years. There's apparently something in a stump he must have at this very moment. I guess. Even though he can be a chaser, he gets scared by danger animals and can do unpredictable things. His patented coyote detection method is usually spinning donuts making hamster sounds until I can contain him. That's for close by coyotes. We all know something is down there doing something bad, and Gustavo's chosen this moment to dash away into a stump like a furry little hobbit. I can't even see him anymore, but I saw him go in.

I'm not sure if yelling or calling out is a good idea or a bad one. The thrashing and crashing noises start to wind down but there's a new one. It sounds like something being dragged through branches and brush. Very, very close. I want to be anywhere except for here.

As Gustavo ran off into the grove, Ruby has inexplicably raised her nose to sniff the air, and takes off running at a speed we don't much see from Ruby anymore. Ruby hasn't taken off on a walk in maybe, 5 years. 6 Years. 7 Years. 8 years, maybe. For real. This Ruby, the only one I know now, placidly trots behind us and stops only to munch on coyote poops that she finds along the way. This Ruby shifts into a high gear every so often to catch up to my leg, or run ahead to a dog out in front on a really good day, but other than that she mostly just trots along in the back and is almost an afterthought on our walks. This Ruby doesn't do anything not according to plan. She's just, Ruby.

New improved Ruby, the Ruby like Ruby used to be, is running now, along the road towards the brush, pausing to sniff the air then moving fast forward again. Moving only away from us and moving fast towards the bad sounds. Ruby is nearly completely deaf. The only thing she can hear is sometimes, in the right acoustics, very loud clapping sounds, maybe. She also can't see well, and only out of one eye. Ruby is who should never, ever, ever leave the group, and who still gets to go with us because she never, ever does.

And now she's galloping, her crazy, crooked, sideways run, down towards the brush, picking up a scent that has her very, very excited. Ruby's sniffers still work really, really good.

I'm thinking the scent she's just picked up may be blood.

I've got two dogs with me. One's inexplicably climbed into a stump and I don't know what he's doing. And the oldest, blindest, deafest, is running away. And there are sounds coming from the forest beneath me that sound like death.

My running away would bring Gustavo back. He's a scared little weenie at heart, and putting pressure on him by running towards him never works. When he does run off, after a squirrel or some turkeys, I usually move along and he's back on his own in a flash. He keeps track. Gustavo has enough survival instinct to know he'd never survive in the forest on his own. Ruby however, is another matter. Ruby exists in her own little foggy bubble. At least she hasn't run into the trees along the edge of the ravine, but now I suspect she's scared herself and doesn't know where she's going. She's whipped herself into a panic and is running ahead of me on the track and I'm chasing her with the other dogs.

I should be a lot calmer in this moment, but I'm not calm at all. Scary sounds of an animal's demise in the bushes do that to me. I think she knows it's me chasing her, but doesn't exactly know why we'd be doing this or even if it is us and so she's gaining speed. Banksy flies up to her to head her off, she's not allowed to do this any other time but bless her little border collie heart that this kicks in. And it works, sort of. Ruby splits off in a new direction, now into the grove where Gustavo disappeared.

Banksy comes back into me. Banksy for the win on this one. Nobody told me the benefits of border collies in the woods. They just don't care about the wild things. She might be a pain on the ass around the ranch when the horses are moving, but in the woods, wild things are off her radar.

I just want to leave. Because now we are making all kinds of crazy sounds up here, just on top of the hillside where something we don't know has killed something else and we are likely not welcome to be privy to this information of who's done what. We have thrashing sounds, we have running sounds, we have clapping sounds, and we have now a little bit of loud whisper yelling because I want the dogs all OUT without calling too much attention to us up here near the little grove.

But nothing's working and whatever's down there still must be down there if it has a kill. And by now probably hears all of our commotion.

Ruby's panic of blind running has now taken over her first idea to follow that scent. She's just tearing around on the track around the grove and I dive on her, knowing it's probably my one chance before she really freaks out and bolts somewhere new. I can feel her under me beyond terrified but I'm able to scoop her up into my arms and hang on for dear life. In this moment she knows it's me and thank god, I think we're all going to be fine. I snap her onto a leash, and drag her along with me and Otterpop.

I scramble into the grove, pulling those two poor dogs along over branches and bramble. Last thing I'm going to do now is lose anymore dogs. I figure out where Gustavo's gone to, inside a tangle of downed logs and pieces of once were one magnificent, ancient tall tree. Now just shredded and jagged bits. I don't know what he's doing but he needs to be out. I grab a long pole of a downed branch and poke it around, shake it around in there and he's spooked out like a shot. This is brilliant. And Banksy thinks so too because I've created toy now, from a stick. Gustavo looks confused, and Banksy now needs the toy. It's about 6' long and stuck in a log.

Gustavo gets snapped onto a leash, he's freaked out. I don't know if from the annihilation sounds, an animal he found in the stump, the fact that I've rutted him out with a pole, or by all of the above. Poor little Gooey. Otterpop and Ruby are freaked out from being drug around and by my general state of completely manic. We've got monsters in the brush and I've turned high strung and volatile and nobody's happy in this moment. So much for our walk. Off we go, minus Banksy, up a steep hill at at the fastest clip I can find to vacate the death zone. There's quiet coming from the hillside now, and I don't know if that's good or bad. I think I liked it better when I could hear it than when I couldn't.

Banksy finally appears, running up that hill dragging my stupid long ass dog removal branch with her. It's heavy and long and she's not making good time with it. She's found the toy of all toys and since I was using it first obviously it's a pretty valuable thing that we need for a game. This is all one big party time, right?

I holler down the hill, "TRADE!"

Banksy and I have our own free trade agreement and any contraband she will willingly drop is always rewarded with a cookie. No questions asked. This is an agreement that's taken us many months to reach peaceful negotiations on, and this would be a super place for the magic of dog training to actually work.

The stick is dropped and she runs up the hill to us and she gets a leash too.

Out we go. It's about a mile and half out to the road, and we keep going for a ways til I take a break. Nothing's following behind us, we're all going to be just fine. I am shaky though. The dogs think I've gone a bit cuckoo. My phone is in my pocket, I snap a phone photo to remember. That phone take crappy pictures. But I wanted just one, a lot.

This is maybe the last walk Ruby gets in the forest, at least the last one not tied to me. She's been slowing down, we don't take her when we go far, we can't take her to the beach. After all that, I see how easy it would be to lose her in the blink of an eye. She's usually pretty sharp, but sometimes lately I wonder. Ruby is far too beloved to ever let anything bad happen to her.

I don't know exactly what killed what down on the side of that slope. I do know that pumas are the only animal that easily take down a deer. I know they're in our woods, but also that they prefer to hunt at dusk and dark and dawn, and the sun was at 5:00 midsummer high when this happened. There's those new big coyotes now, maybe those can take down a fawn. This is what I would like to think happened. Usually the coyotes are scavengers of what the pumas leave, but who knows now, the animals are different in the drought.

Always you know what you should have done in hindsight. That creeper feeling is there for a reason, and that bird showing me her squirrel was the second warning I didn't heed. I do think we'll take a break from that section of the woods for a while, I don't know that I've got enough bravery to walk anywhere near there for quite some time. There is wild, and there's wild. I am very clear now on the difference.

14 July 2015

I found us some sheep.

They are singing a lengthy, drawn out blues song about being drafted as sheep.

I figured out, no reason why we can't practice sheep things. Do little dogs count as sheep? The beach is our roundpen. We have LieDown when things need to stop moving. This skill works great with beach sheep. I always use it when it's time to put on leashes and go home, now we use it for more sheepy type things. Gustavo is more like a sheep than Otterpop, Otterpop actually caught on that someone was a sheep and someone wasn't, so I believe now that we may have only 1 sheep and 2 herders. But using Steady Steady Steady and LieDown, me and my herding dogs can change the tempo of beach running.

Or I can set some of the sheep on a LieDown in the middle of the circle, and me and Banksy do circle work around them. Then we change partners. So like a ring around the rosy circle work square dance herding practice. Does that make sense? Banksy has to take a sheep turn in this game. This is good for her. Sheep sit still in the middle of the circle and use patience. In my beach sheep world at least.

Please don't tell the dogs I'm using them as sheep.

I'm afraid to use Ruby as a sheep. That doesn't seem fair. She can't go to the beach anymore, anyways.

I haven't figured out how to do those sending round go bye circles yet, waving a piece of kelp. And then some of the time they all just run their straight lines up and down and up and down the beach. Nobody should have to be a sheep too much of the time. They're actually best at being dogs.

12 July 2015

Banksy goes sheepherding.

Banksy is suture free and back to being Banksy! No more cones, no more quiet walking only. We all survived pretty good, and Banksy has a great big souvenir scar she gets to keep forever. So for her special treat in honor of good behavior during jail time, I took her sheep herding. I would personally prefer a brownie sundae or getting my car vacuumed for a special treat, but this was just for her.

I'm not sure what I think about sheepherding. I'm not sure what the sheep think about it. I'm not really sure what Banksy thinks about it either. Banksy is difficult to know sometimes.

I would say that it is extremely apparent that we are both beginners at sheep herding. Banksy worked with George, the dogsheep whisperer. Because we had no idea what she would do, as in potentially eating a sheep, she needed to be in with a pro. I did my herding turn with Cricket, an 11 year old border collie who could probably herd the sheep in the roundpen with her eyes shut and me sitting in the car. She tolerated me just fine. We all took our turns walking the sheep around the roundpen. Calmly. It took Banksy a couple times to get the idea of calmly.

There are many things about working with sheep and a dog in the roundpen that remind me of working with horses on the ground. The same things are hard for me, the same principles are at work. All about how everybody's feet move and how you apply and remove pressure. And all the same things that Banksy does outside of the roundpen happen in there too. So it's weird, but cool, to watch how she works them out with a whole other person and 3 big sheep.

Her first time in she was wild, and volatile, and a little bit scared. All at once. There was no sense of balance, which is how things can be with Banksy sometimes. She got pretty over the top and had to be captured from spinning wild circles around the edge of the roundpen, with the sheep just hanging out in the middle patiently. Brain explosion. George thought she was a very quirky dog. Maybe too high strung to be very good on sheep. As he talked, she lay outside the roundpen staring at the dust that was maybe going to move, with giant crazy eyes. Crazy eyes not good for Banksy. But he'd try again, and maybe be a little tougher with her, with how he used the flag. Just like horses! Maybe she'd settle in a little on her second try.

He right away found the right amount of pressure and I thought she looked awesome! But what do I know. She was sometimes tentative, and then when she got moving sometimes had to be slowed down. And did not want to lie down! All our millions of LieDowns, did not work. Yeah, yeah, she does it at home. But she needs to do it better because you really need this with the sheep. She finally had them moving around pretty good, in a way that he said was actually quite nice for such an inexperienced dog.

We will go again. I think this could be really good for her to work on how to control the slow down button in her brain, and it was more fun than I thought it would be. Sheep. Not so bad. Hope they don't hate having to walk around and around a dusty roundpen all morning. Sorry sheep, thanks for your patience. Never thought I'd spend a day out in the sun learning to walk around slowly with sheep, not in a million years. Life throws us surprises, and we roll with them. Calmly and quietly, around and around in a dusty circle.

06 July 2015

Here we are at the dog show.

Here we are at the dog show, that's Sunday's Grand Prix run.

Oops, missed it. And Banksy had to miss everything. But Gustavo and Otterpop got to have a best day of beach walk at low tide in no sun, a little nap during brunch, then back up to the trains for another walk around the woods.

We did not tell Banksy. This is what a lot of Banksy's life has been looking like, although she is spending less time in the xpen because she's getting the idea that running and jumping is totally not cool for one more week. The cone has been on more because she's also decided she's ready for those stitches to be OUT. NOW.

She's laying here by my feet in a cone right now. She is most of the time being a pretty good patient. At this exact moment in time, model patient. Some of the time though, she's not, there are times of complete patient of rottenness. Hopefully the rotten goes away with the stitches and this will all be a funny story for the future. Dog birth control, not as easy as you think.

Banksy's life of no run no jump no play worked well for July 4 Weekend, the National Holiday of Loud Bombs by the Beach. We just sat in the living room most of the day with the stereo on and 2 loud fans. Gustavo did the best he's ever done, which isn't saying much, but at least he didn't have a seizure. He stayed in my lap and while terrified, I think having all the other dogs totally not care about the bursting in air and so forth, and the additional loud fans helped.

He also got to run in a dog show Saturday morning pre explosions. He was VERY excited about this and ran really, really fast. Way faster than I, and my whole handling strategy with Gustavo is stay way ahead at all times, so in standard there was right away a wrong side of the tunnel. Because I was definitely not way ahead at all times. There was a great teeter and table, always a bonus. Our new handling strategy also allowed him to do several extra obstacles of his own choice in gamblers for a plethora of opening points. He also did his very own gamble for the close.

I'm running a little better, but I would say the knee still has a ways to go. We'll try again later. It was fun to get out there and run, even if it was somewhat out of control.

Gustavo's friend Kirk carried the drinks in her little orange backpack on our walk. She also brought Banksy a big box of exotic chewies to chew on while cone wearing. We like to walk with our border collie friends. Their people have many good advices for border collie challenges. Banksy would have had a good time. Kirk, Brave and Banksy are all about the same age, and all such different dogs who see the world in different ways. Brave will be spending a year abroad learning to be Welsh. Kirk is probably going to have her MACH and ADCh by the time Banksy's ready to step into the show ring. Banksy and I will keep working on working on things! All the things.

Right now I'm happy she's quietly laying by my feet. All stitches intact. Good girl, Banksy.

30 June 2015

Peace, love and understanding, trying to catch a break with Banksy.

She's been on a training break while I've been working out how to dial down the apeshits. Because they are really not a funny joke. There are apeshits, and there are apeshits, and hers are really apeshit. So do not laugh at hers.

I am trying here. Banksy is a challenge, and in many things with me and Banksy, we are not quite figuring out how best to keep moving forward. So we've been on break, doing some hiking and some swimming and some foundational skills of learning how to quiet one's brain at opportune times.

During this break, Banksy was scheduled to have a fancy surgery of the delicate female nature. Called laparoscopic ovariectomy, a tiny camera pokes through 2 tiny holes of your doggy's soft belly, and the ovaries are carefully decimated. The tiny camera and tiny decimator are carefully removed through the tiny holes, and your dog is good as new in a couple days.

Far more humane and invasive than the old skool spay, where a giant incision is incised through muscle and skin and tissue and the entire reproduction kitchen sink and it's caboodle are yanked out, then the whole thing stitched tight shut. A full hysterectomy, also no laughing matter, and who wants that?

We drove up to the highly recommended vet clinic, an hour from my house, in rush hour traffic full of Teslas and miraculously clean and washed BMW and Mercedes mini suv's, through Silicon Valley ground zero, to the fancy doctor office, where the fancy doctor would use his fancy camera to pull out Banksy's ovaries ever so gently, and return her to me by the end of the day, good as new.

Except here's where we finally caught our break. But not in a good way. The fancy tiny camera scope broke mid first ovary. No picture, no bueno. The doctor all of a sudden working without a net in a blindfold. The only way she could get herself out of that pickle was a giant incision, and pull everything out all old skool.

I was sick. Banksy is now sick. Drugged up and addled and with a huge ass stitch job running up her abdomen. Be-coned and be-shirted, she's sleeping away the day in a crate in a corner of my living room, which will be her job for the next 2 weeks. No run. No jump. No play. No nothing. Do not disturb that scar or the innards that lie inside her on top of it. A teensy San Andreas sealed with some crazy glue on top of the sutures.

So far, she's not happy about this arrangement. She would prefer not to have me or the other dogs very near her. Get AWAY, she has expressed. She is carried down the steps to have a potty.

Wish us luck. This is going to be quite an interesting couple of weeks.

19 June 2015

This little guy.

Gustavo goes along unnoticed a lot, now. Under appreciated, and that's just wrong. I've been having so many troubles with Banksy, and having three easy dogs is something I am hanging on to right now. Not sure what's going on with Banksy, her behavior has taken a terrible backslide down into a murky and scary abyss. We are trying to work some things out.

In the meantime, I am making sure Gustavo knows how important he is. I am very lucky to have a Gustavo.

Gustavo leads the way in the forest. He may sometimes chase a squirrel or a turkey, but not for long and not for far. The other dogs don't chase things, this is true. But it's something I allow him, because he always comes screaming back in when I whistle and walk on.

He's our coyote detector, he comes back and finds me when they're near. I always trust Gustavo. He's a dependable forest creature.

The other day, the asshat neighbor dogs came running towards us out on a walk. They hate Otterpop. I picked her up, and Gustavo and Banksy went and charmed the heck out of them. Little evil Shadow, with her hackles up can't resist Gustavo. And this is a skill he's taught Banksy. Kill 'em with the kindness. So now I have 2 of them who seem to work their magic on funny little mean dogs.

Gustavo's never met anyone that isn't his new best friend. No one. Nobody. He doesn't care who you are. He loves you.

Gustavo's always happy. All the time. Except for during fireworks. Explosions are still hell for him, but the other night when they went off, it being firework season now in my neighborhood for the next month, he was able to stay on my lap and not completely go to a catatonic meltdown state. I think because he has complete trust in me that I will not let anything hurt him.

He just can do no wrong.

He's had no agility for many months, between me always training Banksy and my knee. I decided to pull Banksy from agility class and let Gustavo go back to his old class instead. I run him with not the quickest of legs now, and he doesn't care. If anything his agility's gotten better. He's just happy to have a turn, and the luxury of having a dog sitting waiting his turn quietly, chilling in a plastic chair, makes me incredibly grateful for Gustavo.

During the day, he's decided he likes to sleep under the couch. He stays home with Banksy and is her very best friend.

At night, he sits on my lap. Always. He knows all the words to the Orange is the New Black song. And yes. Gustavo sleeps in the bed.

Gustavo used to have hallucinations. He would bolt out of the woods. I never thought I'd be able to train him. At agility, he'd scream in his crate, and could run away at any given time. He was so cute. But oh, so impossible.

I try to remember how much of a challenge he was, every time I think I'll never figure out Banksy. She seems to be a hundred million times the challenge he was. I try to remember how hard it was for me to train Otterpop to deal with other dogs. At the time it seemed impossible. But even Otterpop's an easy dog now. Pretty much. Same thing with Ruby. Who's beyond easy now, Ruby is actually Perfect Saint Sister Mary Ruby of the Perfect Perfection.

So this little guy, he's helping me remember. Somehow there's a way to figure all this out.

09 June 2015

Banksy is 16 months old.

Here's what Banksy likes to do, she could do this all day long. Every day. Maybe with breaks for a run in the forest. Then a nap on the saddle blanket under my desk. Then a swim in the pond. But not all the way to the middle. If I throw the ball to the middle, she thinks that's too far and Otterpop has to go in to save the ball. Otterpop would never, ever let the tennis ball be abandoned to the pond.

I hope we can do this in a trial one day. It may look like I'm running in the movie, but in real life I move pretty slow. Before we start trialing I'd like to run better. I'd like her poles to look better. I'd like her dogwalk more consistent. I'd like her to be about a million times more calm when other dogs are running. I'd like her call to hand to call to my hand even when the tunnel is right there. I'd like her teeter more confident. I'd like her backside of the jump more independent.

There's a lot of agility things to get better! That's a forever thing. Here's to a lot more forever for us, Banksy.

08 June 2015

There are the ups, then there are the downs.

There were a lot of ups and downs this week.

In one practice I broke Banksy's dogwalk contact, a-frame contact, and poles.

Then I fixed them in 3 other practices.

Banksy had a complete PTSD meltdown at the vet's office and it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

But she let me touch her foot yesterday. And I was able to dremel 2 nails today. And she's learned to lay on her rug when I sweep without attacking the broom or staring at the blowers.

Gustavo is perfect.

Except he has itchy fleas and he had to have a bath.

Otterpop is driving us all insane with her barking and non stop manic behavior.

But she swam twice out to where Banksy abandoned her tennis ball in the pond to save the tennis balls.

Also I stuck her in the bathtub with Gustavo and they both stood there perfectly still except for their little dog shivering and didn't try to jump out of the tub.

Ruby is perfect.

Except for when she wanders around and bugs the other dogs with her wandering and does an apeshit happy dance of barking at meal time which drives the other dogs crazy because they're all supposed to sit there quietly on the rug or the step and there's apeshit happy Ruby running around barking and how do you explain that to her?

Banksy did a loud and super slammy teeter the other night at an indoor agility place and got a little scared.

But she did awesome teeters today except for tried a 4 feet on instead of 2 feet on 2 feet off. So I got out a tuggy ball and the 2 on 2 off came back.

Otterpop and Banksy had a kerscuffle in the house the other night. It freaked me out and I thought our world was over and I yelled and stuck everybody in crates, and I thought what have I done? How can we have 4 dogs if 2 of them don't get along?

Everybody has been happy campers since.

The list goes on and on, the list goes up and down.

05 June 2015

01 June 2015

Banksy visits the dog show.

Banksy got to visit a trial this weekend. She's now old enough to run in AKC, although I still haven't registered her in AKC. I guess I should do this. She'll be able to run in USDAA by the end of the summer. Will she? This remains to be seen. Her best frenemy Kirk and most of her brothers and sisters have just started the AKC and are tearing it up in there.

We are on the someday plan right now.

However! She was able to completely hold her shit together and hang out somewhat near a ring. With dogs running. With dogs running that we know, even. That she could see.

Not a no brainer for Banksy. Holding her shit together at agility is not a thing yet. We started out far away, sitting under a shady tree. With a stick of string cheese. Where you could see the agility but it was far, far away. There was also a pond nearby! We did not try to add a pond into this equation. Maybe next time. Or maybe not. Maybe I want her never to know there's a pond near the agility is actually what I'm thinking for now.

We creeped closer. Once we got too close. If you don't know Banksy up close and personal, here's what too close gets you. Extremely embarrassing dog screaming, leash lunging, full blown apeshit going and really scary toy attacking. Is not nice. Is a thing we work on a lot, a lot, a lot.

We ended up just outside Masters Snooker with the little dogs running. Laying down quietly for cheese snacks. Banksy, not me. Bigger dogs started running, and this continued. Me and Banksy were actually at a trial, watching dogs run. People I don't know would walk by and tell her how pretty she was. There are a lot of people I don't know at dog agility now! Since I haven't been there all year. I guess 6 months in agility time is a long time. I'm now like the ghost of agility past.

People I do know walked by and noticed how calm she was. 3 sticks of string cheese calm. Or they didn't notice and just figured she's a nice, calm, pretty, fox dog all the time. This is the vibe we are going for here.

I don't think she was calm deep down inside. I think she was a bundle of nerves. However. She would eat the string cheese. And lay down quietly. So huge improvement. She's been able to do this at home for broom sweeping and vacuuming, which are almost the same as agility but not quite. Those things make blowers on the floor which are the things she stares at and the staring and the apeshits all seem to be connected. So as the staring gets better, so will all the apeshits. She's got to keep her impulses to herself, and this is the thing I'm helping her to understand.

And that's when her dog shows someday will start.

29 May 2015

Beautiful forest dogs, photos by Heather.

photo by the amazing Heather Christensen.

photo by the amazing Heather Christensen.

photo by the amazing Heather Christensen.

photo by the amazing Heather Christensen.

24 May 2015

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes. Take a tour of the field with Otterpop.

Otterpop is on a roll. Maybe being a tour guide could be her next thing. Would anyone give Otterpop money to give them tours? Show of hands.

Indeed. What I thought. Regardless, let's go visit our neighborhood field. To recap, The UC will build a chunk of campus to teach students about biology and conserving the sea here. To do so, they are bulldozing and road building and habitat destroying not just loads of animals who I see every day named bunnies, birds, coyotes, lizards but a walking field for regular old people and their dogs. Who have walked around in here for like 30 years, some of us.

Here's where the goddamn gate will go. Otterpop is rolling her eyes. Otterpop finds SO MUCH IRONY here that her eyeballs cannot stop rolling and might one day just keep going and fall out her ears and roll down the hill and into the sea.

Running fence, running Banksy.

Pink stick at site of a turn in the new road. Here's a quote that one of the big cheese asshats of the project told us, us being citizens at large who are all, You asshats, don't throw the dogs out with the UC water. Of course saying way nicer than that with nice letters and meeting and useless petitions and all that crap. He, who is a big cheese asshat, said we have to make adjustments to better align our actions with our goals for the tangible benefits. All the buildings, parking lots, roads, and people who will use them are tangible benefits. Us meaning, us who use the field now by walking around in it, their dogs, the bunnies, coyotes, birds, lizards, gophers, animals we don't even know personally, and probably even the snakes are who have to align our actions with our goals.

Even the big ass stork birds. He probably doesn't see them because they are only there really, really early in the morning when it's raining out. Got that storks? Start aligning. You will get your slice of coastal prairie, wedged between the parking lot and the mobile home park, and that little wedge will be free from dogs.

Caution tape fence thingies. Don't go in here because it's been graded. There is zero nothing here anymore except dirt before the paving begins, so just move on. The dozers got all the animals to move on already. Actually here's who I saw in there. Some ducks were wandering around all dazed and confused in there.

It's cool. I was all, "Hey ducks! Just make adjustments to better align our actions with our goals for the tangible benefits!"

The ducks just kept wandering around.

Righty-o! Otterpop hopes to continue to entertain you with tours of her field as construction continues. If it doesn't cost me. There are child soldier cops out there with permission to grant hefty fines upon d-o-g-s, and the really strong people proofed fences will be going up next week. Feel free to toss her a bone. She currently provides her services for free, but you know. Sometime you might have to make an adjustment to better align your action with my goals for some tangible benefits. Whatever those are.