16 October 2017

Top dogs.

These two...

Who knew? Snooker Top Ten is pretty random, and I didn't hardly run Gooey last year, but these came in the mail today.

10 October 2017

We’ve been finding a lot of bones in the woods.

We’ve been finding a lot of bones in the woods. We, as in I find them in the dogs’ mouths, the dogs find them scattered in the brushy sides of paths. Banksy found a small section of a rib cage this morning, maybe ripped from a little deer. She extracted herself a section, and had no interest in yielding it to me, so on we walked.

I’ve been steering clear of the brook because of the gray hair man sitting on the downed tree where the path winds to the top of the hill. He doesn’t want us in there, and he’s large, although I doubt he could move all that fast. It’s just him in his tweed and his small valise, he’s spectacled and far older than I. He got up as if to chase us last time I saw him, but we ran as fast as we could. I could hear his yelling all the way down the hill to the brook.

Today I thought to try to walk down to the brook. We miss it. The fires have taken away most of Santa Rosa, they’re burning after the hurricanes, after the earthquakes, and people and animals are still missing. Thousands of houses burned in minutes, flames appearing from nowhere in the dead of night. That’s why we wanted to walk to the brook. I figured if the gray hair man was there we could run by again as fast as we could and at least run over the bridge and see the brook, run by the old charred tank where I drew a giant sparkling ruby.

But on the path that way, the smell of death started. It grew into a wall. I don’t know what corpse does that, not something small, a deer someone didn’t finish, my best guess. The dogs picked up the smell before I did, noses to the air with with thrill of something to come. It started small, like all the dead things do, but grew so big as we trotted on that Banksy stopped in her tracks, rib still hanging out her mouth. Like she could see it, eyes big, taking in the smell. Then she turned around and ran. That was enough for me, no adventuring in to see if it was killed by puma or coyote.

For some reason, we’re supposed to stay away from the brook.

We followed her backtracking and decided to run all that way back to the meadow. Somewhere on the way, Banksy gave me the rib cage and I traded her back a little apple cookie for dogs. Not a fair trade, but that’s how it goes. I hung the rib cage in a tree just off the path. If someone else wants it, they can get it there.

08 October 2017

Turlock Tom Petty USDAA October 2017

She was an American girl. Jumpers. Train wreck. She couldn’t stop thinkin’ that there was a little more to life, somewhere else. After all, it was a great big world, with lots of place to run to. Banksy does not do the drive to trial in the nick of time, sit in car while I walk, then get out run thing. Note to self. She needs a long walk. Even if it’s alongside a freeway. A first run of the day for her is a useless exercise in managing a deranged demon around the ring. Cray cray. Right now, it feels so real to you, but it's one of those things you gotta feel to be true.

Free falling, out into nothing. MC Jumpers was so so fresh, until I couldn’t get the blind in and she took the backside instead of the front side of that jump by the tunnel on the way out to the end. She’s a good girl, loves her mama, loves Jesus, and American too. Oh well.

Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out. One point snooker. We don’t back down. We left the ring proudly. Not everyone can do that.

And, if she had to die tryin' to, she had one little promise she was gonna keep. Except for then another jump where I showed her the backside instead of the front side, otherwise a picture perfect contact hitting, hard weave pole entrance getting Grand Prix. Some wideness on the start and it was over before it was over. So much for my plan of fast drive to Turlock, run a few runs and catch a Q. Something that’s so close, but so far out of reach.

Take it easy baby, let it last all night. So what. We drove home. And stopped at the creek on the way. We sang our goodbyes to Tom Petty through the car stereo. No Qs, not a one. But we all survivied. This doesn't have to be the big get even, this doesn't have to be anything at all. RIP Tom Petty.Grand Prix Q's, we'll have another chance sometime else.

02 October 2017


I left the house, at practice Banksy could not hit a rdw contact to save her soul. We did the weavies, tried again, she still couldn't hit. Whatever.

She didn't want to leave and ran over to an illegal xpen with a soft bed in it. Illegal because her plan is to throw a hissy fit and start shaking the bed. She still does that sometimes. I yelled at her and she jumped out, but  she caught her leg like an arctic fox in a trap in the gate, started screaming and thrashing and almost took her leg off before I could get over there. She somehow slipped it out, I thought it was broke. We sat there for a long time.

Fifty dead in the massacre.

We walked up to Eagle Rock, which is at the very top. Climbed through the fence, didn't hike down the mountain. Too tired. Leg maybe not right, although it looked fine.

Some disasters you can avert, some you can't.

We sat on the rock for a long time, looking out to the sea. You can see everywhere and everyone from up there. Then drove back down the mountain. Even more dead, and then Tom Petty cardiac arrest brain dead off life support.

Tom Petty. Some things don't die. But they do.

You belong among the wildflowers. You belong somewhere close to me. Far away from your trouble and worry. You belong somewhere you feel free. RIP, all the souls of October.

24 September 2017

Morgan Hill October USDAA trial book report.

photo by Heather Christensen

This photo isn't even from the trial. Or any trial! It's from Oregon. But I didn't get any videos.

This was the first trial of the qualifying season. First weekend of Autumn. First time competing on a dirt surface since Banksy wiped out last spring.


She got a giant start on her qualifications for Nationals! And had 4 of her best runs she has ever had. I almost couldn't believe it. She won Grand Prix, had an amazing 2nd place in Steeplechase and won the second round. She got a Biathalon Q, a Super Q, a regular Snooker Q, and one more Pairs Q on her ADCh countdown. Two more pairs to go.

I haven't known what Banksy's "thing" is. For Otterpop, it was Gamblers, Grand Prix and Standard. For Gooey, Jumpers and Steeplechase. For Banksy, she's ok at gamblers, I'm mediocre at snooker, jumpers is fine, I'm boycotting standard because of the stupid new giant table she has to climb up on, and I've just found the bravery to start running pairs.

Tournaments are where she shines. This is her thing. Maybe because they are expensive to enter! Nice taste Banksy!

I love running her in Masters Challenge class. I love trying to beat the other dogs in her division in Grand Prix and Steeplechase. Two of them are very hard to beat. So I have to push to win and this is Banksy's thing. Banksy wants me to drive hard and WIN! It's not exciting to do that in, Masters Gamblers. Blah. Get all the sevens in snooker. Blah. I don't hate it, but it's just not thrilling.

So that's her thing. We will try to win tournaments. We'll run enough titling classes for her Nationals q's, and for something else to do as the mood strikes, but otherwise, Biathalon, Grand Prix, Steeplechase. I've figured out Banksy's thing.

13 September 2017

Clever Confidence Camp at Oregon School for Clever Dogs.

Hello, Oregon. We all took the long drive up there so I could teach at Dog Camp! We did not get to take the mushroom car. Also, everyone in Oregon does not drive mushroom cars. This is a misnomer. This was by the dog park in Sutherlin. I do not recommend this dog park.

This is not Oregon. It's the trail head for the Pacific Crest Trail in Shasta Trinity National Forest near the Castle Crags. It's also a shooting gallery, and in the background you can see a shot up washing machine! Also there are a LOT of bugs there and I would remind you never hike the Pacific Crest Trail without carrying water. We are rookies. No one was shot.

This is the trailer at the Oregon airbnb! We slept in the boat house next to the trailer. The huge great dane slept in the main house. I told the lady, my dogs will be terrified of the giant great dane. She said she'd keep him in the house. But he's friendly! She almost did keep him in the house, until she didn't and I was right! He was huge and my dogs all thought they were going to die. Nobody did though.

The trailer has Grateful Dead decals. They love the Grateful Dead. Very nice soap and towels. Beer with tangerine and tea in it, I gave them a good review but look out for that dog. He's friendly but the size of a baby elephant, in case your dogs are scared of giant dogs, too.

I'm at the river! The Sacramento River. This was the beach at our cabin near Mt. Shasta. Not in Oregon. The landlord was VERY DRUNK! At all times!

He looked a little like this, except creepier. Imagine the most drunk guy you've ever seen. That's the landlord! He did bring us some beer. He was expressive. And retired, so he liked to walk by the kitchen window a lot and look in. But there was awesome fishing decor.

And a train! This is the front yard. We don't mind trains, so that was cool.

Wilderness hiking. Very HOT! Look out for snakes!

Wilderness hikers, proof!

River fetching. Banksy would live here forever, she didn't mind the drunk landlord all that much. Although she didn't LOVE him and Banksy usually LOVES everyone. This river was pretty strong so I was glad she was afraid to swim beyond where she could touch. She also used bravery to walk over the No Trespassing bridge. I carried Gooey. Otterpop of course had no fear.

Clean Run was one of the sponsors of the camp. Toys for everyone! Socksmith sponsored the socks! There were soap sponsors, treat sponsors, so many sponsors! It was actually great fun, teaching at dog camp.

Tammy invented the camp with Heather. I just showed up and gave a lecture on Yacht Rock and taught some classes. Tammy and Heather are A+, A-1 primo dog agility teachers! I am not so much but I tried hard and I think some students learned some things. I think Ollie learned he liked the squeaky mousie and Patch the aussie learned to do some tugging! The princess sheltie learned how to merry go round on the lunge whip of furry toys. Hopefully some of the other dogs learned some things, all were quite clever, probably far more clever than I. I can already think of some better things to teach if I get invited back.

Here is Gary breaking two of Heather's dogs. They were giving Banksy border collie lessons and ended up with cut pads.

Drunk landlord cabin. Very cute! Many fishing things inside! I am standing where the trains drive by!

Abandonded, derelict market! Which was once a speakeasy, I think. There is history, up there on the river.

Another view of the cabin. We do like sitting around a lot in chairs. Sitting by the river was quite nice though. When we could do so without the incredibly drunk landlord sitting with us.

These guys got tired. We will start calling them grandma and grandpa. They would like to sit in AC and chairs more of the time for their next vacation.

Not tired! More vacation! More hikes! Less car! AC is great! No dogs on furniture, that causes a death penalty for us! This is a genuine drunk landlord quote. Now I feel bad, as he may be deceased from alcohol poisoning quite soon. Does that cause your veins to turn black? Also this was a no dogs allowed hike but screw it. We went anyways.

Working vacation! It was great, and way too short. Thanks for having me up to Oregon!

27 August 2017

SMART USDAA Butterfly Attack.

Banksy is known to be a weirdo sometimes. A beautiful, fluffy, sweet weirdo. I think Channan took this photo. It is very Banksy.

She got attacked by a butterfly at the dog show. On the start line of snooker. I didn’t see this attack happen, I just saw pawing and dramatic upsetness by Banksy. Who can be very, very weird about bugs that TOUCH her.

I tried to run her, but something was off, she was all stressed out and acting weird.

Because, butterfly attack.

She showed that butterfly. Tried to gulp it down in one bite and ran a chunk of snooker with it in her mouth. When I abandoned ship because something seemed terribly not right, she spit it out in the grass on the way to her leash. Alive. A giant yellow butterfly looking all spitty and shell shocked from just taking a ride around a snooker course in a border collie mouth.

Dogs are weird.

Banksy had good runs. Some bars, some handler induced errors. A chip made in her countdown to all the pairs Qs she needs for her ADCh. Three more. Not that I’m obsessed.

Gooey had good runs. For Gooey. Speedy and messed up poles. He was happy.

Otterpop had a good run, in the senior citizen special event for old dogs. She forgot how to do the tunnel but had a great time zooming around the jumps which were just bars on the ground and then I threw her ball and her life was grander than it’s been in a long time. Well, since last time I threw her ball. Which was like 2 hours ago.

We were all happy to go to a trial again! And guess what, we’re going again next week! Hoping for less handler induced errors and no hitting bars.

21 August 2017

Dress for the success.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a dog agility competitor in possession of a good dog, must be in want of an excellent capsule wardrobe that mixes and matches based on weather conditions and dog personality disorders. A capsule collection limits you to thirty seven, give or take a halter top or two, most excellent mix and match articles of clothing that hang right, come in your favorite colors, facilitate extra fast running, and make your mid section look fine. Say it like this. F-i-i-i-i-n-e. There are no muffin top lumpy bits in the well constructed capsule wardrobe.

Kind of like the tiny houses, and Japanese de-cluttering, fewer clothes is clearing out space in life for more time to spend with dogs, or is just quantifying what some of us have known all along. The not wealthy have smaller houses and fewer things. Either way, it's called simplifying. Days are shorter than what they used to be. A capsule wardrobe requires no brain cells at dark o’clock of getting dressed, so brain cels have the golden opportunity to stay relegated to much more stimulating topics like fixing weird dispositional quirks of dogs. You just reach in the drawer, grab the first thing on top of the stack, and you’re guaranteed to look and feel fantastic. Just like how we want our dogs to feel. It’s what every busy dog trainer needs, not to worry about what to wear, but simultaneously not to look like a Crocs footed, mismatched psychopath strolling down the street in a little number both inside out and backwards, with visible mud prints and a tear in the sleeve the shape of dog teeth.

It’s also a truth universally acknowledged that everybody’s stressed out these days. Did you already mutter how you're “So stressed out” today? Truer words never spoken. Isn’t this one of the reasons we have dogs? Walking the dogs. Playing with the dogs. Petting the dogs. Supposedly lowering the cortisol levels as a healthier alternative to over eating massive amounts of sheet cake or having an opioid crisis.

Except that, now the dogs are stressed out, too. It's supposed to be exactly the opposite, dog agility causing prancing around proclaiming, “I feel great! I feel amazing! I feel like a true patriot!” while the dogs are earnestly slobbering and wagging their tails and flying off the startlines with ease. After calmly staying in place.

Instead, there are the dogs who come to the start line fade and go flat. Their bubbly effervescence fizzles like a sugary death drink left out to congeal in the sun. A lazy “S” of wrongness vapor visibly leaking out their ears whispers, “I've had enough. Get me off this start line. Get me out of this dog show. Get me to a beach or a couch or anywhere but here.”

Or the dog who comes roaring into the ring in a blaze of over the tippy top wackadoodle bug eyed frenzy. Who can’t hold it together enough to even sit down at the start line, who prefers up down and sideways all at the same time to sit, who’s wrongness vapor is jolting electrified hotwire zapping willy nilly also up down and sideways. Eyes bugging so far out of head that they are close to dangling in the turf, and their incomplete sentences just trail off at, “Get me...”

And how might one dress for this, you may ask? A good stylist always starts from the bottom.

Foundation is key in dog agility. It’s not all pivots and spinning round cones and contact positions on boxes. There’s no one size fits all way to train it. Maybe the dog who tends to flatline needs a lot more rewards for enthusiastic attempts. Maybe the dog who tends towards high volume explosive frazzling needs a lot more rewarding for a calmly thinking things through. Look deep in your heart to figure out what drives your dog’s pulse, then go deep inside your underwear drawer and find that one sports bra that fits just so, perfect. It’s a lady thing, gentlemen. Maybe you have a pair of boxer briefs that make you feel the same. You feel incomplete on wash day.

I don’t think there can ever be enough foundation in dog agility. More impulse control for the crazed. More playing for the undemonstrative. More sports bra for the jigglers. More fun, more tricks, more reinforcing the things that you’ll need forever that you don’t want to break. More noticing. Training things you didn’t even know you wanted. Things that you had a little feeling about, and then glossed over.

Do more of those things, because, oh snap, is that glossing going to come back and get you. Your future self is weeping, like they did when that one perfect pair of underpants was on sale, and past self didn't buy them in every single color (you do get a pass on underpants numbers when curating your capsule). The elastic will eventually fray and you’re left thinking, I knew this was going to happen, as the startline disintegrates before your eyes. More with the crazy puppy impulse control. So much more. More toys and games with the low key puppy. More playing! More love, more snuggles, more of everything. Mind the gaps and fill them up.

Maybe if you can help your dog feel like a million bucks, dress for success not the stress, there’s less fading. Less crazies. They know you got their back covered. You can cover yours with an upmarket athleisure hoodie with a pocket big enough to hide the toy and you're ready to go.

There’s a look at agility. Sporty and sensible, with the occasional tutu paraded out during team events. Not so many blouses and slacks. Tank tops and stretch bottoms stitched from fabrics bestowed with drag queen names containing the letter X. Lux Treme. Sup Plex. Moxie Flex. Cool Max. Junior cuts for the slim and wide cuts for the less so. All bodies are equally valuable. It took me a long time to become cool with dog agility-wear. While the ease of sloppiness was rad, the footwear thing and appropriate sporty pants was hard to get into. I ran in jeans and boots for a long time. Sometimes my beautiful dog Ruby, she of the crazy jumping, would crash through a jump and vanish to chase gophers outside the ring. It was embarrassing and I just wanted to blend. The subliminal art of camouflage was the ticket, if I could look the part of dog agility, maybe I could successfully play the part of dog agility. I bought neon colored running shoes with grippy soles and shorts that weren’t cut off jeans.

But my dogs still got stressed out.

Otterpop always wished all the other dogs would just go away. Agility trials would have been so much nicer for just her and her alone. Otterpop wanted to do all the things, and win all the things, but she wanted all the other dogs invisible. The more she had to deal with, the more stressed out she got. She sometimes fizzled flat until her very first tunnel. Once in a tunnel, the tube of invisibility, the other dogs disappeared and she was good to go. Never really fixed that problem. Just looked for the most convenient first tunnel and that was that.

Sometimes, too, we used the element of surprise. If I thought she was having a bad day, feeling a little overwhelmed, I’d leave her frisbee outside the ring somewhere random, and part way through a course, where she felt fast and confident, we’d just dive out under the ring tape without even blowing a kiss to the judge, and run off to frisbee. An investment in that confidence bucket, the potential of a course ending somewhere, anywhere, not just the very end, went a long way with Otterpop, who everywhere else in life, acted like she didn't give a f&*k. Almost always, I wore a pearl snap long tailed short sleeve cowgirl shirt when I ran Otterpop. Or a long sleeve t-shirt with her drawing on the chest. Looking like I didn't give a f&*k. That seemed like the right way to deal with her stress, and easy to procure without shopping at establishments governed by corporate robber baron management.

Gustavo, oh Gustavo. He of the on course alien communicados, he of the terrors of teeters and the tunnel vortexes. There isn’t just one outfit that goes with that. I tried expensive sweat pants from the snobby yoga lady store, I tried old work jeans and boots, I even entered the universe of gore tex waterproofing, not just water resistance, for Gustavo. I bought abundant red white and blue European dog team shirts from plethoras of fundraisers for the questionable cause of flying dogs on planes, and even started wearing shirts with cartoon dogs on them. I found the perfect shorts, during the peak of Gustavo’s agility career. Clam diggers, pedal pushers cargo style capris, call them what you will. Their breezy, bohemian chic thigh covering, plentiful in pockets channeled seaside afternoons sprawled, cocktail in hand, in hand painted Adirondack chairs at a Hamptons beach cottage and I had three pairs.

Eventually Gustavo learned how to negotiate the scarier things in life. The waistband got tight on those long shorts. The trade off wasn't too bad, years of carrying around cookies for random rewards had rendered the pockets stained and the organic cotton layers reached mid thigh. The agility became Gustavo's cookie and he was happy and confident to do all the things. Well, maybe not tables in public. But everything else.

Banksy has the over the top up-stress. I discovered stretchier nylon and spandex fibers for bottoms as my border collie grew along with my pants size from stress eating sheet cakes. Her craziness improved slowly, at about the same rate that I upgraded from size 8 to 10 to 12. I discovered, though, that those fibers with double XX names were more forgiving than Gustavo's cotton knee shorts. I have to run very, very fast with Banksy, so that nylon/spandex/vita mix blend served us both well. Now that I have stretchy shorts, I think I can handle a lot better. They also leave room for another beer.

It's time to make your capsule, if you dare. Empty your drawers, take all the things and throw them on the bed.What a mess! This is supposed to inspire you to start the editing and count down to the 37 items for success. So far, just in dog t-shirts alone I'm at 35. I also have 14 leashes and 26 totes and 3 really good sun hats. But only one pair of suitable sneakers. Not to be tacky, but what’s the worst thing thats gonna happen? Better dog training's gonna get you the best dressed award at the next trial? I finally will remember not to leave the house in Crocs? Dress for success, not for the stress. Avoid Ren Faire garb. God bless Crocs. And reward your dog accordingly.

13 July 2017

You Should Be More Scared.

Banksy's been declared clear by the fancy orthopedist from San Jose. She has his blessings to go out and jump again, and do so injury free. He laid his hands on her and said those words and we left the office feeling 11lbs lighter.

Dog agility, you’re the sunshine in my bag, sticking out of my shoe and dribbling yellow tracks behind me, sunny little cookie crumbles pointing the way for the men in black suits to find me at a more convenient time.

I don’t have much to complain about, dog agility. My startline, yeah, I guess that could use a little work. There are far grander train wrecks crashing around out there, hovering around on the periphery of dog training. The economy’s a gig where parched and tired masses are programmed to crouch down to hold up the bright and shiny optimism of a very few. We have disposable immigrants to do the dirty work. Everything is disposable! So many, many paper cups, with so many misspelled names scrawled across the tops! Inventors are currently programming drones to express deliver my next batch of dog food by flinging it out of the sky onto my roof. There’s even an app to pick you out an online puppy, a little bell will ding when it’s ready to go, just like an angel losing it’s wings.

It’s just so convenient to ignore things. Are you watching your startline very carefully while you lead out? Do you see your dog get a little hunchy, like she’s ducking under the shadow of a pointy witch finger? Did you ignore it? Then it turned into a foot shifting just one millimeter forward? And you ignored that? Then you didn’t notice the foot move a little more and the hunch go a little hunchier then the butt scooched up just a bit. But you kept walking. You were all, what’s a millimeter? What’s one more disposable plastic thingamajig going into the trash can? I’m no litterbug. I throw it in the trash! And then all of a sudden, the earth is too hot for human habitation and you’re all, Why’d she break that startline?

Fact: Your release word can be anything you want but probably not curse words.
Alternative Fact: My dog’s stay is perfect at home.

So actually, dog agility, you couldn’t be better. Technology has made you fat and happy, and your podium pictures sparkle across social media every single weekend, beaming radiance and shiny hair, carefully protected by sun hats with extra added SPF across the globe. Nobody running dog agility grumps and pouts and sits in the isolationist corner. In fact in dog agility, everybody is friends with everybody! On social media, I just click you. Super easy. Now I know what your backyard looks like and what you had for dinner at that cute restaurant after the big dog show when you were drinking with all your friends. Ha, ha, yeah, that was an awkward one! I probably hid you so I don’t have to see your emojis anymore.

I’m moving like a pioneer right now, exploring options, but with the caveat of occasionally dropping my head into the sand. You know what they say. Facts don’t vanish into thin air just because they get noses turned up at them, willing them away. Yet it happens all the time. I’m losing my edge, Mr. President. I’m early basking on the beach of late capitalism. I thought what I was doing was spreading love, compassion and kindness, watching my dog with a smile on my face. I spread this by clicking the little heart icon, located conveniently below every single podium photo. It’s just there, drag the mouse finger three millimeters at the most and you’ll find it in a jiffy. Just click, and your heart goes on.

Oh, I just let her go on that one. I saw her scooch, but it was only a little ways, but I REALLY wanted to run it.

Oh, so now your dog kind of creeps into their sit on the startline? And their butt comes up a little higher more often? And it happened at the trial last weekend? But you were really hoping to get that QQ so you just ignored it, just that once? Or twice? Because really, she knows she’s supposed to stay there. She’s just a little too excited, being at the trial and all. And you mostly enforce it at practice, unless you’re in a bit of a hurry, or sometimes you can’t exactly see it, she’s so fast and you’re so slow so you’re already off and running. But, she knows, she’s smart. We’ve trained it a lot.

You should be more scared.

Magician David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear in 1985. She didn’t really disappear, it was a magic trick. He wasn’t even wearing a cape. Let’s call it an illusion.

An iceberg the size of a festive tropical island just broke off of Antartica. Looks like when a dog takes a bite of dog bed, gives it a shake, and a chunk comes off, all the fluff scattering across the floor. It’s cool, was made in China, just sweep it up and go get another. No capes, no magic, did that really just happen?

You had me at sit. There was a different vibe before. It’s hard to explain how it felt. It felt like yes we can and I don’t feel spread too thin. Didn’t feel like I’m pulling my hair out and waiting for the other shoe to drop down. It didn’t used to feel so, hard. Is the vibe ever going to come back? I present, these, dig, as a gift of good vibes, an outpouring of love, like lei covered watermen paddling out during high tide to honor their dead, holding hands as they gently bob on their boards, hearts swelling in love of the dear departed. A passage of an icon now gone, a passing of a vibe that may now be obsolete. We hit it smack in the middle of a golden era.

14 June 2017

When I didn’t have a dog - Woodrow Ave.

The rent at Woodrow was $100/month. We didn’t really realize this was a good deal to live four houses away from the sea. The house leaked big time in the winter as the walls were made from paper thin boards, propped lightly on a cement slab. I acquired a fear of hot tubs there, not just because it meant there were always naked strangers lurking around in the back yard, but because it also functioned as a flame thrower when you turned it on. There was a hose and the neighbor’s fence survived every small fire started when it fired up.

Our house was known for being Notorious. I didn’t know this at the time. It was just my house. Or actually Missy’s house. She was pretty bossy. She didn’t like the kind of bread I bought. But later on, when I told people I used to live at Woodrow, they would nod and go, oh yeah, that house was Notorious. We had a lot of parties. That was when Woodrow was a double wide street, a popular spot for night time drag racing.

You have to really think back, to how it used to look. There’s a double tall, uber modern beach house there now with expensive looking finishes. Same thing with the house next door, and the next. I always see a shiny new Audi parked in the driveway, and they fixed the retaining wall so the yard no longer tumbles down to the street.

The Cheese Man lived out back in the garage. Maybe you remember him, he used to sell cheese twice a week in the afternoons. His business plan was this. Drive around San Jose and buy massive blocks of expired, moldy cheeses from major supermarket chains before they were thrown out. That’s where he said he got them, anyways. These were wheels of cheese as big as tires. He brought them home, and sliced them up in the yard, and sold cheese by the pound in somebody else’s yard to anyone who wanted cheap cheese. He sold pot, too, stored in white five gallon buckets in his garage lair.

Once I was a movie extra with him. Our job was to sit in his car by the boardwalk during a night shoot for the Lost Boys. The car smelled like cheese.

A lot of people lived at Woodrow. And a lot of people hung out there, always. I guess they didn’t have anywhere else they needed to be. You could walk in our living room at any time of day and people lounged on the couch, bongs parked by the wall, watching the tiny black and white tv that always played Bruce Lee movies. I know some of those people are dead now.

For a while the naked hippies lived there, in the room at the back. They didn’t believe in refrigerators, so they stored their food in boxes in the hall way. They worked at a farm and brought home crates of green things that would eventually go rotten, in the hall with the cheese. One overcast day I came home from work and the house was full of them, naked and sandy from the beach, having a dance party, blasting Talking Heads and filling the house with their wet, naked sand. This wasn’t a last straw to living there, it was just how it was, living at Woodrow. I would go in my room and hang out with my cat.

One of the naked hippies still lives around the corner from me. I see him in the mornings, riding his bike in his wetsuit with his surfboard under his arm, slowly peddling down to Cowells, early enough to beat the rush. He looks pretty old. He quit farming and works doing something in insurance.

That’s when I got my cat, at Woodrow. Acquired slightly underhandedly from a friend who lived in his car. I took care of her for a while, then said he couldn’t have her back, once he lived in the living room of someone else’s house in the neighborhood. She was a good cat, brought me lizards through the window and dropped them on my bed.

11 June 2017


I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s ok
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
Til things are brighter, I’m the man in black
-Johnny Cash

Arm waving, charismatic charlatans with radiant smiles avow to change lives for the better in a moment, in a breath, in just one second, all you have to do is pay your five thousand bucks upfront. Click the tiniest movement of the foot, of the head, you are looking for the smallest bit to reward. Change can be excruciatingly slow, or it can happen in a blink of an eye, one beat of a heart, one exhale out lungs to nose.

Antarctica is melting as we speak, the penguins are now walking across the dirt. In drive thru coffee window overnight shipping google time, climate change is slow. In penguin time, it’s horrifyingly fast. Ice melts, oceans rise, and the penguins now need flip flops for the sand. Life is weird.

In one blink of an eye a few months back, Banksy crashed through a jump and landed in a pile of head, neck, and scrambling legs. I’d like to say I was the epitome of calm and rational, but the spectacle was too gory, all I could see was ass over tea kettle over ass.

I would like to say I didn’t freak out and drop to my knees, crying out, “Banksybanksybanksyohmygod!” while the judge came scurrying over, clapping her hands to whip me out of my frenzy, with the classic dog trainer make-it-all-better response of, “Yay!” as Banksy scrambled up with a dazed look on her always crazy eyes.

It’s a running dog, jumping over a plastic stick 20” high. How can that be that bad?

It was that bad. Something went wrong, and she smashed right through it and flipped over and splat smacked hard into the dirt.

So this is a thing in agility. Our dogs run and jump and climb, they go really, really fast, and any dog who doesn’t spend it’s life wrapped in bubble wrap and soft blankies on the couch runs the risk of an ouch. We do our best to not make it happen. How to Throw the Ball is a thing. We tug Just Like This, but Not Like That. We try to handle in a timely fashion, we check the approaches on the contacts for danger zones, we crawl through the tunnel to see if there’s any pokies jamming their way through. We inspect the footing, we look for errant chunks of hardware rearing their heads, god forbid anything amiss that could damage delicate dog limbs as they come flying through.

But sometimes, shit happens.

She wasn’t limping, didn’t seem all that freaked out. We even ran one more course afterwards, just to test the waters once more. Onwards and upwards. All her systems were on go, mine were a bit shaky. But we persevered, and went home.

Then the fun started.

The next week, she got scared to jump during class. Popped out of the weaves once while practicing. Cried while tugging in the house. Mom always says, don’t play tug in the house. But not because she thinks it’s going to send a dog running to hide under the desk in tears.

I figured, she had a little ouch somewhere, that really was quite a tumble. Something pulled a bit, maybe something tweaked, maybe her back, maybe her neck. I’ve been there, done that. So we took a little training break, a couple weeks off of agility, no big. Things would be fine. Banksy is a dog who’s agility was unassailable, she was born to run.

Vets. Rest. Walks on leash. This part is boring. It’s a relief, though, that nothing shows up that needs a surgery or a pin. It’s a mystery though that nothing shows up. Medicine for dogs is hard. I didn’t call a psychic. She told her doctor that she wasn’t feeling all that bad.

Dog training is a slow and methodical journey of love. Fifty years ago the summer of love brought on the age of Aquarius. The plan was for moon to be in the 7th house and Jupiter would align with Mars. Peace would guide the planet, and love would steer the stars. So yeah. Not much changed in fifty years, except that tie dye became a wardrobe staple.

Dogs are fast, change is slow.

All those jumps that came before, all those moments that didn’t change. Until that one, one moment, where change was fast. The motivational speaker has spoken, and he’s right! All it takes is a moment.

She thinks that jumping over bars on the ground is fantastic. Her agility looks amazing, until we jump a normal sized jump. And some of the time, a normal size jump is fantastic. Until it isn’t.

Chasing the specter of elusive potential, I am helping Banksy channel her peak performance with my radiant smile. Everything is fine and dandy, then there’s a wrap that dreaded left wrap, and PTSD steps in and her eyes bug out, she stops, and considers the options. Keep going? Maybe! Stop for a moment, then play with a toy? Maybe! Have a break? Maybe!

If there’s a hole in the boat, don’t start rowing. I am chewing gum as fast as I can and plugging up the hole. I toss cookies when she offers to run through jump wings with bars on the ground. At five hundred cookies, I moved onward. More! I reward oodles of multi wraps on very low jumps. Especially those dreaded left wraps. I study every video judiciously, looking for if she does a splat on a left wrap. Why the splat? Why the sadness? Does it hurt her neck? Does it hurt her back? Her brain? Her feelings?

Life can change in a moment. Or not. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

How does an elephant eat you? In general, they’re herbivores, although I read about an instance where an elephant who had had it up to HERE (gesturing above my eyebrows) rampaged through a village and ate several people. Urban legend, or fed up elephant?

Cool points plummeting, we miss you agility.

22 May 2017

Doing it in a different way.

We walked back into the woods this morning, where we haven’t been in months. I hadn’t really thought about this in a context, but it’s been a rough few months and I've been a bit lost. Ruby’s health was in decline, then Banksy went and hurt herself. I’ve been sticking close to home for Ruby, and then when Banksy hurt herself, sticking even closer.

Also in this time, I had a difficult horse run into a difficult situation with a life threatening injury. I don’t often write here about horses, you should know they're a big part of my life. I struggle with why they separate in my mind, I constantly look for bridges to bring training dogs and horses closer together. A few years back, I started changing a lot of things about my horsemanship, venturing slowly in baby steps down a whole different rabbit hole of doing things that I’ve been doing for nearly a lifetime. This has slowly led me to the world of old school vaquero horsemanship, a parallell upside down world where everything is exactly the same an at the same time exactly different.

The deeper you get into something new, the more facets and flaws you find as you examine things closer and closer. Over the weekend I rode the difficult horse in a clinic with an astute young horseman, a protegee of Brannaman, who travels the country helping riders by passing along a legacy handed down from Ray Hunt. This is a thing, with riding, as it is with dogs, following a circuit of clinicians, hoping in a weekend to transform some old habits into something new. Gain a light bulb moment, fix a problem, come home transformed.

A fish out of water, I went in with an open mind, hoping to gain some new insights and get some help with a lot of questions I had. I'm humbled by looking at something I've done for so long with different eyes, placed way out in left field. It's hard for me to ask for help. It's how I felt when I first ventured into agility, like I've been handed a giant puzzle that I should know all the answers to, but that instead, I've got nothing and am stumbling along in the dark.

The first day, the cowboy advised me to trust my instincts, to be me, to work with my years of experience as I ventured into something new, not to try be like anyone else.

“Like, I gotta be me?” I asked. He didn’t like much talking from his people, and my big mouth smart ass comments seemed vexing to him. The way I was asking my questions hadn't been working for him. But he didn't seem to mind that one.


“It’s hard to be a student,” I said, to nobody in particular, as I went off to work on just being me. He laughed. On this, we did agree.

The next day, as I was just being me, I forgot to follow an instruction. It wasn't the first time. This is a thing I know about myself, I might try to do things by the rules, but I do consistently veer off beaten paths. He laid into me hard.

"What's it going to take? WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE? What if I started chopping off your fingers, I took you over to one of those fence posts, and one by one, every single time you started back into your old pattern, I took off a finger? Is that what it would take? How many fingers would I have to chop off? Right THERE. On that fence post. How many? HOW MANY? Would it take losing a child, losing a limb, breaking your neck and never walking again? What would I need to do to get you to understand?"

That went on for a while.

People stayed pretty quiet after that. Maybe he woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Or maybe he's just a misogynist dick. Biggest take home message, inconsistency is hard to learn from. We'd been talking about best emotionally supporting our horses. I could be generous and say he made an important point about being consistent, fair, and not over reacting and trying to teach from a place of fear. Or I could just say, he's got a lot to learn about tempering his ego to refine how he delivers his message. I like to see both sides of things, both sides are probably right.

So I learned some things, just not all of them what I thought I'd be learning.

It’s been a lot to think about, the last few months. A huge gust of luck blew my way after the clinic though, and I brought home something to go along with some newfound knowledge of how I do and don’t want to move forward out of this rough patch. I didn't lose a finger, instead I got my arm back, just not the way I thought I would. When we walked all the way down to the creek this morning, for the first time in many months, Ruby came along.

Things might be different now, but I think we know how to go on. Nobody's losing a limb. We're just doing things in a different way.

19 May 2017

Seventeen years.

Ruby was seventeen. Seventeen years is a long time for someone to be with you.

We hadn't owned our house very long, seventeen years ago. I'd just thrown in the towel at being a fancy dotcom graphic designer, was teaching at a couple junior colleges, making art projects in my garage, and had just gone back to riding part time to help a friend at a small training business she'd started. I went to the beach every single day.

Seventeen years ago, we had survived the y2k, nothing exploded. I bought my first dog crate after 9-11 happened the next year, figured if we had to evacuate somewhere from beach hating terrorists blowing up our neighborhood, I could put Timmy and Ruby in it. That eventually became Ruby's crate, and she learned to ride in the car in it. But she always liked to ride on the console, that's how Ruby preferred to roll. Otterpop has Ruby's blue plastic dog crate now, it's faded and coated with all those years of stickers, layers on layers, lots peeling off. I left her bed in there, so she feels like she's riding with Ruby.

First thing when I get up I always get Ruby up. Last thing before bed, I always take Ruby out. All the timing of my schedule, based on I gotta get home for Ruby. How's Ruby? So many phone messages, can you get home for Ruby? How's Ruby? When I sit on the couch, I can see Ruby in her blue chair, and I noticed last night how many times I always look over at Ruby, to see if she's ok. I know she's just sleeping, but I always got to check her. Over and over, how's Ruby? But she's not there.

I have thousands of pictures. Ruby smiles in maybe, six of them. She was serious most of the time. If she was a Game of Thrones cast member, she wouldn't have been a princess, or a warrior. She would have been an espionage agent for the Wildlings, blending secretly and silently into the forest, moving through shadows, but getting shit DONE. Fast and under the radar, brilliantly effective, but camouflaged perfectly into her surroundings. She would have some kind of weird, psychic skills, that nobody really understood. But she would have done anything for the cause. She loved pancakes and chicken more than anything. But not as much as she loved me.

Ruby was like a piece of my arm, a piece you don't always have to think about, because it's just part of you. A section, always there. A piece you need, you don't worry about, it's your arm. But when it goes, something like an arm, then yeah. You realized, how much you need it.