05 December 2016

A lot of mistakes, big pictures take patience.

We made a lot of mistakes over the weekend in Santa Rosa. Here's what it looks like, warts, open sores, and all. The sun was out, I sequestered the dogs in my car near a little grassy park spot where they could jump out all the time and run around, and it wasn't an unpleasant weekend. We had a boring night at Motel 6, me and the dogs huddled in one bed, and I made some new friends by talking to strangers at the Amy's vegetarian diner for dinner.

Our friends went to a dog show in Pennsylvania over the weekend. They made mistakes too. It's less worse to send your dog in the wrong tunnel a couple hours from home than an airplane ride's away, that's for sure. We all just try to get better, no matter where we're at.

The Ghost Ship fire happened while we were there. I know those warehouses, I didn't have direct ties to this building and it's people, but I've known ones that came before. They are important places, not scoured and exfoliated, open festering spaces full of things, with room for ideas inside, not a vacuum seal for sucking the life out of interesting brains. This one went up in flames and killed everyone left inside.

The Ghost Ship is a personal tragedy to everyone involved, I am just one person removed from some of the lost lives. It's a black omen for what may start to happen come January. Progress and forward motion may come grinding to a painful collapse in the darkness. Something will rise out of the flames, but it will be ugly and a lot of grief first.

December is a month of waiting. It should be a month of action, I'd like it to be, but something told me to just wait it out. The smoke of the Ghost Ship confirmed it. Even the dogs get it, they're pretty good with laying around right now, spending the day draped over the furniture. Peering through the windows out of almost closed eyes for the scores of Amazon delivery guys driving up and down the street in giant golf carts filled with Prime deliveries of instant Christmas cheer. Ho ho! Beanie babies on the stoop as if by magic, shrink wrapped and hermetically sealed guaranteed germ free.

When we were running this weekend, I had some pointed goals. Win the Grand Prix. Get the last Q's to finish Banksy's ADCh before the end of the year, a Championship while she's two. Neither of these happened. I did however, think back to one year past. This trial last year she was afraid of motel rooms and tried to bite me at the end of the runs. She couldn't lay down quietly outside the ring while she waited her turn and I never knew if she'd hit her dogwalk contact. She did win her first Grand Prix one year ago and took two extra tunnels in her Grand Prix this weekend, but I can see tremendous difference in the confidence of our running looking at those videos. I am very sure we're not moving backwards, which is more than I can say of our country. I was wearing the exact same outfit this weekend, although I think it fits a little more tight and there are a couple teeth holes left in the sleeves.

Big pictures take patience. There's movement forward and back. We can't lose our minds on the backwards, we need to take a moment and think and plan, then get to work and fix it. December is our thinking month. Think about how to not go in the tunnel. How to not lose health insurance. How to have a startline. How to not watch progressive democratic society go down the shitter. Then go try to go forward, not backward.

24 November 2016

Perils of climate change could swamp coastal real estate happy thanksgiving.

Taking action, the time will be soon.

First by listening very carefully. Watching for any sign of movement, any sign of breath. Waiting carefully, but not too long.

Then ready to spring into the fray.

Today will be an unremarkable day. Take a shower, feed the horses, walk the dogs. Catch up on the drawings I've put off, try to finish up some things. I haven't felt like being funny or smart or drawing much since the election, although that's exactly the upside down response of what would be productive.

The bad orange man, his glow's starting to emanate from the east to the west. We're not blinded by it yet, it's just stinging eye flashes so far, but enough to warrant thoughts of brexiting, thoughts of bunkers, thoughts of hibernating in a damp goose pen tree down by the darkest part of the creek, where the hill's the steepest and not too many people venture down into where no wifi signal could ever reach to broadcast another ugly headline about Syria or Alt-rights or frozen pipeline protestors.

Problem being, he's surrounding himself with a growing army of soon to be oompa loompas with their own voices and beliefs, some definitely stronger and more vile than orange man's quest to just be the biggest dick in the pantaloons and keep his empire of towers growing at the fastest rate he can. He's got the mic now, to drive the bus in any direction that strikes his fancy, like a cattle prod taser taking out each and every animal in the endless procession into the slaughter hall.

Thankful on this day for all that's right, like in a leftish way, rainbows shooting out of mouths way, not an alt-way. Thankful for our sun here, that isn't orange, that's bright enough to dry up the mud and let us walk down to the creek for a while, where we can't get the cel signal, where no news can reach us, where we can have a moment to regroup before we climb back up.

16 November 2016

Teaching turns, do dogs need to know an alt-right?

For agility, we have a left and right.

It's pretty easy to teach, I used started by throwing a ball each direction, then I put a word on it. Left, toss the ball, right, toss the ball.

I didn't even know what an alt-right was, until I read about one being inside the White House. With it's own office. I think it's probably pretty easy to teach, probably even while tossing a ball.

From the New York Times:

It's a brand of far-right conservatism that generally embraces and promotes white nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. The alt-right supports the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and protectionist trade policies. It opposes feminism, diversity, gay rights, globalism, gun control and civil rights.

In case you were wondering exactly what it covers.

We have a cik and cap too. That's a tighter left and right, to wrap as tightly as possible, turning in the air. I taught that shaping a head turn around a post with a clicker and a cookie, then taught it faster and faster with a ball or a tuggy. Taught it til Banksy could spin around and around any tree or post or jump I'd point her to.

In agility, our alt-left and right. Wrap and run. In agility, we like to go both directions evenly, work on the turns til they both go on to perfect lines. More like a yin and yang. In real life, doesn't work like that, more like a pendulum that swings both ways.  Swinging hard, swinging fast, swinging way past that last jump.

While we were at the park with the tennis ball, or spinning around trees near the creek, a great divide opened up, where everything only turns one way. Being immersed in dog spinning, didn't even notice. And now we'll see what happens when something big only turns one way.

15 November 2016

Traveling with dogs, the desert version, where a lot of things could kill you.

Whirly things. We learned that if the whirly things are on, Banksy will think she is dying. And do whatever she can to kill the whirly things, she will attempt. In the future, wherever we go, we will check on whirly things and make sure that they're off.

Cactus. Cover all cactus. One of our dog pals got some cactus in him and it hurt. Pools. Fence off the pools. The mayhem of the pool is beyond exciting. Even though Banksy isn't in the swim club, she very much enjoyed asking to go outside late at night to watch the floaty thing in the pool. The pool was amazing, if you are a dog. But watch out for cut pads if they swim and swim, then run and run.

Just don't bring guns. Bring comfortable shoes, instead.

Otterpop gave us the biggest scare. There was a dog scuffle in our tent, right by Otterpop. My guess is that this spooked her enough to figure out how to escape from her beloved home away from home, Travel Crate. During the Team Relay finals, the announcer interrupted with a Small Black Dog has escaped and is running up the mountain message.

I didn't think it was Otterpop, but then put the two and two together of the info I had just heard about dog scuffle. I hitched a ride on a golf cart and lo and behold, the Small Black Dog running up the mountain, towards the freeway was Otterpop. Luckily about 50 people started chasing her around the 400 acre horse show grounds. She may have run a couple of miles in 90 degree heat until we captured her by corralling her into some garbage cans. My great thanks still go out to the brave dog chasers who kept her from running onto a freeway, and helped chase her down.

She was perfectly fine. Jeezus beejezus, Otterpop. I think we were lucky on this one. Dodged a bullet, so good thing for the no firearms, too.

Dog friends and people friends. We had a lot. Two best people friends and five good dog friends. Not all the dogs were best friends, but they figured out how to live together for a week. We fed them in their own bedrooms and made sure Jo didn't steal any socks. Banksy has a split personality of OMG YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND to any dog including ones that don't want to be her best friend, but then can turn on them over something like a spicy bean and do snapping teeth. When spicy beans and socks were kept out of the mix, she did great. All the people friends had a swell time, although in this photo look quite tired. We were all quite tired, most of the time.

We got to see the super moon set during the sunrise. We had fled the desert by this point, and had a rest near the sea. It's less dangerous, there. Although Banksy did explore a busy road through an unlatched gate and gave everyone a scare. Anything can happen, anywhere, I guess.

Of course we visited the dinos. No trip to the desert is complete without them. They have tiny little hands and great big teeth.

The desert is hot and spiny and not a great place for dogs. So many pokey things to step on and such great heat. It's beautiful, in that desert way, but the dogs like someplace cooler and with softer ground. Just be careful, if you go the desert, that's what my dogs would tell you.

14 November 2016

Cynosports 2016, the wrapup of two National events, speak truth to power.

Banksy always speaks truth to power.

It was gobsmacking to wake up in the middle of a night, in an unfamiliar bed in a house with cactus and a swimming pool for a backyard, in a neighborhood of fancy shopping malls in the middle of a desert, and find out that Donald Trump was our new president. Then have to go do agility right after finding this out.

I'm not clear on what my purpose was, attending a National event. To be a champion, I guess. And I would like to brag about all my friends who did end up Champions. Too many too list! My agility BFF and Banksy's BFF, if you count one of her F's as Frenemy, won both the Steeplechase and Grand Prix finals, winning both is tremendous and a REALLY BIG DEAL. We celebrated by eating cheese and drinking wine on our patio for the week late at night. Then got up at 5am for more of the same.

Was I trying to prove something to me, to others? To Banksy? It's a lot of late nights and early mornings, travel time and fuzzy brains, frying dog brains, a lot of driving around in a desert, to be out in the open, exposed to the sun and so many people. Many people, all of the time. For someone who spends a lot of time hiding, there was a lot of exposure out there in Scottsdale. I have the sunburned lips to prove it.

I wasn't there just to have fun. I bought black sporty pants, for just in case I made a final. I was actually pretty sure I would, in Steeplechase. I was serious about this part. But I made a mistake, and that cost me time and threw me just out of the running. Eight dogs made the finals, my mistake made me number nine.

Been there before. I did that with Otterpop once and it knocked me out of the Grand Prix final, my first time as number nine. I still don't know how to not do this, after all this time. I recovered a lot quicker this time, once you make an error there's no undoing it, and you move on. Don't make the same mistake again, and try not to make any.

So I'm still not sure how to reconcile the two National Events that happened last week. Both were big deals, in their own big deal way. It was hard to do agility for about a day, I spent the post election grief day walking around collecting Trump hugs and weeping when I spotted the same grief faces on my friends. A lot of tears, tears from grownups that probably don't cry over very many things.

The problem was, usually at agility we have a bit of a bubble from Other Things, and the Other Things here really hit the fourth wall and festered open in our faces.

We were walking around a red state, there was a lot of wahoo going on too, happy red white and blue people who apparently are pleased about deporting immigrants and curtailing women's rights and human rights, wall builders who are happy to hear the racist and sexist rhetoric garbage spewing from the pinched lip little mouth of our new president. We were walking around with them and sharing porta potties with them and trying to beat their asses in every single class.

After a day, I put my head back into the game and ran my best. Banksy never considered not running her best. The first day she was hitting bars, which is unlike her and I chalk it up to my sad feelings and the craziness of the venue. So many dogs, so many people, so many golf carts, so many of everything.

The next day, she ran her heart out for me, and continued to do so every run after that. She hit every contact, blazed through all her poles, turned on a dime, and did some very hard things. The courses were hard. She did not put a foot wrong. OK, maybe some of her pushy startlines she did. But that was it.

I couldn't keep error free though. Several times, caught behind because of her blazing speed, caused a refusal or a wrong turn. Once lost my way for just the tiniest fraction of a second, but enough to muck up what may have been a dramatic win in team standard. And the Steeplechase Semi Final error really did break my heart, just for a few hours.

Things ended as they should. It may have been much easier to put agility into context, when the election events were hovering over them. It may have been easier because I've been there and done that before. It may have been easier because I had my friends there, who all have been there and done that. And it may have been easier because so many of my friends ran to greatness in their runs.

We all work hard for this. We all sometimes spend more time with our agility than we do on other things. The election may have woke us up like a slap in the face, we have to regroup and rethink and spend some time figuring out, what is our responsibility to keep the world from going to so much hate and wrong?

I drove across that desert in the heat, thinking how to be civic minded while still going for the prize? Last time I drove across that desert was in the wake of Rodney King. Those were some bad days. The election has the same sting, makes that desert seem tainted, still. But we got through it, although I don't know that things have really changed all that much since then.

I named my dog after Banksy, who always speaks truth to power. Who always speaks up for what's right, maybe just in different ways than everybody else. Me and her, we're a team. It's the gathering together of our minds that gives us this incredible gift, silly and tiny as it is, to run together as one. This is going to be the key for all our people, to move forward in days to come, days that are going to be black and ugly, no way around that, as we see what's to unfold come 2017.

We'll keep doing agility, we'll keep sorting all this out. Maybe we'll even go to another big event some day. Time will tell. It is what it is. There is a lot of thinking to do now, a lot of heart and bravery we'll be needing, a lot of voices that will need to be heard. We've left the desert and are ready to move forward.

11 November 2016

Did Banksy make the Steeplechase finals?

This isn't the first time I've made a mistake running, and it probably won't be the last. Well, actually it would be great if it could be the last, but, you know...it won't be.

I can tell you though, that Banksy has been running every run like a super champ, I am very, very, VERY proud of her at her first Nationals. My one mistake at the very end of this run caused a refusal at the last jump that knocked her just below the 8 dog cut off for the finals, and I got a good dose of angsty sadness of Almost! She would have been running in the big night time final with a very nice placing in the Semi Final round otherwise. It was pretty exciting to be out there competing with such amazing fast dogs, and doing so well.

Well, ALMOST doing so well. Until that last jump!

You know what? I am very proud and excited though, for my friends that made the Steeplechase and Grand Prix finals. So many of them did, and I know how hard they all work to get there. Maybe we'll get there someday, maybe not. But I couldn't be any prouder of how well Banksy's running.

10 November 2016

Cynosport Day 3, moving onwards and upwards.

Trying to move forward.

The dog show is a big distraction. To prepare for the third day, the second day had smiles. There was less weepiness. It is also very easy to write off a mess up in Team Snooker by looking at the big picture. I think that I'm not alone in looking at agility in a larger context. Sometimes we can shove our heads up our asses looking at minutae. This week, it's a distraction. The full reality will hit later.

Team Standard was hard. We did our best. My brain melted down for a moment, causing a refusal, and a bit of a chain reaction, so not clean but not an E and I was still happy with our run. It was fast and I was able to show Banksy tight turns and good lines. And the dogwalk part was hard.

Maybe someday we can  be perfect. I'm grateful today to be here with my dogs, that is a true thing.

Scottsdale is a good place to be to prepare for the worst. It's tightly sealed in, walled off and sterilized. People spray for bugs here, and no one goes out during the day on foot. The freeways are bountiful, each shopping mecca and office park is named Centre, with hints of Frank Lloyd Wright abounding. When zombies attack, or the sea rises or chemical warfare hits, this is probably an ok place to be, here in what is actually a Pink State, not all the way red.

09 November 2016

Cynosport, day two. A day without bars,perhaps.

It didn't feel right to go to the dog show. It felt wrong, it felt like walking around in a horrific tragedy. Looking at someone could make you cry. It made dog agility feel about this big. I'm almost touching my thumb with my pointer finger.

So the first run we had, Banksy had bars. And a wrong tunnel. That run didn't matter. I felt like it didn't matter. I felt like I could care less about it, actually. Our second run was in the early evening. It felt like it mattered more. Banksy had a bar. Some of our run felt funny, some of it felt great. It did matter, to move up into the semi finals for Grand Prix, it just needed to be clean. Clean it was not.

It still didn't really feel like it mattered. In the context of how sad should you feel when you screw up in your Grand Prix run, this sadness fell away pretty fast. There's an upside.

Banksy never hits bars. She hit three on the first day. Something doesn't feel right to her. She's a dog that can get very sad. Maybe she knows how sad I am.

All the dogs ran around at the house we rented in the night. Six border collies and an Otterpop. To get to the house, you drive thru a cemented over desert surrounded by cemented over walls. Scottsdale's the color of despair, blending massive pieces of architecture into mountainsides. It's all in colors of sadness, a pinky terra cotta, that looks off balance, like people with heads way too big for their necks. It's endless, all the malls. There's a lot of green, this is a land that feels like money, and the water comes from somewhere and people have lush lawns. We're running on one. The dogs run around on the one in the yard of our house, in a cul de sac, which is deserted and looks like the thousand other cul de sacs we drive by to get there.

Maybe we'll do better tomorrow. Maybe not. I hope Banksy is having a good time.

Cynosport Day One. A darkest day.

We spent election day driving across the desert. It was good. The desert is bleak, there's an ascetic beauty in it's dry, rocky mountains. We stopped and took pictures. Visited the memorial for the dead camel. Made sure nobody stepped in the pokey things. The desert is a hard place to live.

We took one step into our rental house in Scottsdale and Banksy had a terror attack of horror and panic, as bad as she's ever had. There was an evil monster in the sky and she thought she was dying, it was really bad. I guess she's never seen a ceiling fan. The house is filled with them and they were on and she flipped out as bad as I've ever seen her do, like she hasn't done since she was younger.

I got her back out to the car, parked in the heat, got back in and got them off. By the end of the night she could be in the kitchen or my bedroom or the bathroom. But they are up there and she knows they're evil, there's evil above her head and she's terrified to set foot in what should be just a home.

Never take home for granted.

I used to live in Phoenix, in 1991. It was raw. This is another planet now, the Phoenix I drove into. Like I never was here before, what I remembered is no longer.

Today's the first day of the dog show. Do we even have the dog show, or do we just go home? Usually you wake up the morning of a dog show, ready to go, squinting in a new day and hoping it's a good one. This day is covered in a dark shroud. Heavy, and dark, with terror in the air above and what feels like evil and everything wrong hovering just above.

07 November 2016

Road to Cynosport.

We're on the road to Scottsdale. Started at dark o'clock.

We're taking the scenic route. Just me, Banksy, and our chaperone. Gustavo and Ruby are staying home to keep Gary company. A whole different kind of trip!

We stopped for a dog walk with a friend in Santa Barbara.

And another dog walk. There are a lot of dog walks on this trip. Surf's been up the whole way down the coast.

We're on lay over visiting my family. All the aussie toys had to be removed, but the dogs love coming to visit. There is a yard!

And this. Nobody ever wants to leave here. But tomorrow we hit the road again and cross the desert, landing in our final destination, Scottsdale!

04 November 2016

How to play ball, a useful guide by Banksy.

Get the mud ball!


How to play ball, a useful guide by yer pal, Otterpop.

Start with a border collie. They are very, very easy dogs to get to play ball. Pretty much, just think about a ball, and the border collie will start the whole BALL BALL BALL BALL BALL BALL thing. Easy peasy.

Go bother the border collie. Bark in it's face. Run around it. Bite it. Just really be a shit monkey asshat to the border collie. This is an important strategic move.

Someone should throw the ball. Basically the only thing humans are useful for. Also opening cans.

The border collie will get the ball. This is a fact of life, if it's a close one, just realize the border collie will get the ball and it may not weigh much but the border collie has scary inertia like a submarine missile so just let it get the ball.

Don't worry, you will still get the ball.

Go watch the ball carefully. Here is where you use the power of your mind. Border collie minds are weird. They are NOT POWERFUL. You know who has a powerful mind? Otterpop does. That's for sure.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Works every time. Repeat the process as needed, until you find some garbage or something.

03 November 2016

Your Official USDAA Dog Agility Guide to Cynosports, getting ready to go!

Got yer spreadsheet, yet?

Here's a thing about Cynosports, it is a big confusing maze of confusion. There are a lot of rings, a lot of things to do on time. On TIME! You don't be late, you don't forget, you be on time, you be prepared.

There are things you do, like be there to walk the course at VERY, VERY EARLY O'CLOCK!

There are things in emails, things posted places. If you are like me, you cannot see the things! They are too confusing. So you make a spreadsheet.

Easy Peasy Spreadsheet Directions:

First of all, I got this idea from my friend Channan's google spreadsheet. It lives in the internet. I am confused by things that live in the internet! It's weird when Siri is splaining to me and I can't see it on paper.

That's right. I am a tree killer for dog agility.

So here's how you can make a spreadsheet too, tree killers.

1. Fold your paper in half.

2. One half is WALK TIMES, one half is RUN TIMES.

The walk times side is going to be early! You will always walk in one ring then in one minute have to be in the ring way over there! Ha ha ha, and hopefully the Starbucks is open on your way there to REALLY EARLY!

I know where the Starbucks is on the way to the dog show already. From our house. With a pool. That's right. We are staying in a house with a pool!

3. Locate your Starbucks on the way to the dog show. This is BACK UP COFFEE. Make sure that you can make coffee where you're staying. Did I mention house, with pool? Probably various ways to make coffee there.

4. Know all the ways you can make your coffee. Have at least 2 backups. Do they promise coffee machine? Don't believe them. Bring a drip thing.

5. The other side of your paper, it's the run times.

You will probably be in a different group than your friends! So they will be walking and running at different times than you! Sorry about that! Buck up, agility pal.

6. Write the times on your spreadsheet. Find some colorful pens. Draw boxes around them.

7. DO NOT LOSE THIS PAPER. It will self destruct if you spill coffee on it or lose it in all the other places you lose stuff.

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...