30 September 2009

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Dog Agility Dead People-Episode 2, Se llama el Lowrider Fairie

It was one of those mornings, an autumn morning, when you wake up and you feel something wrong with the air. If I'm going to have wrong air, I want it to be sad, moody Nick Drake air, with a bite to it, an ouchy little bit of pain, and a soundtrack that follows me around when I walk. Not just the wrong air, sort of muggy and instead of a Nick Drake soundtrack, just all these moms with fat, plastic bike helmets shepherding their packs of kids off to school. Micro management shepherding.

"Excuse me! EXCUSE ME! HI! EXCUSE ME! My daughter is behind you on her bike, please move to the side. EXCUSE ME!"

I look behind me and there's a hefty 10ish year old, all blingy princess backpack and matching helmet and stripey leggings, toddling along on her $400 mountain bike on the sidewalk and the mom is in the street with one of those bikes that has a little bike car behind it for groceries or toddlers or maybe even golden retrievers. And the mom is all traffic queen and announcing to the kid, on the sidewalk behind me, when it's safe to cross the street. My eyes are all, rolling, because, give me a break. The kid is 10 and she can ride her damn bike. The mommy has her arm up to stop the car that's barely pulling out into the intersection, one of the low riders guys that has the orange sparkle and white modified lowrider station wagon. Vato dude is cool, he stops for frantic mommy, he's not in a hurry.

There's a lot of these moms in my neighborhood. There's no soundtrack for them. Bike helmet shrieky mom, totally bummed my soundtrack session here. I wanted Nick Drake for the moody cloud air and I have shrieking moms in coordinates from the Sundance Catalog moving people off the sidewalks. I need to walk the dogs even earlier, hate this autumn back to school crap.

A frenetic little hellraiser from down my block who I'm going to call Bucky here because isn't that wrong to totally bust kids from your block on the internet, they can't help it if their parents named them colorful and unique hippie names, is flying up behind me on his scooter. He's the kid no other kids are allowed to play with on our street because, good god. The child is INSANE. Dangerous. Eats wood chips. Breaks windows. Inappropriate child. Shitty manners. Stole the bike pump.

He loves petting dogs, though, and can tell Otterpop from Ruby and always picks up Gustavo and gives him a squeeze and Ruby a good scratch on her nubbin.

I'm all, "Dude, aren't you late for school?"

"Yeah. Maybe. No. I go fast." He has a skateboard scooter thing and it's kind of far from our block to the school. All the other kids were on their way to school like 15 minutes ago. He's totally the tardy kid. Only 9 and it's Jeff Spicoli. Good luck with this one, hippie parents, when he turns 11 and discovers meth.

"Dude. You gotta go, man."

He drops Gustavo and he's off. I keep walking home, trying to find my soundtrack. The Eels?

Field Mice Head Lice
Don't Think Twice About Whatever Keeps You Itchin
Flyswatter Zombie Walker
Dead People Squattin Walking
Flyswatter Flyswatter
Gonna Get You Through the Day

That works. We all march home to that in time to get in the car and do a little crime solving on the way to work.

We stop at my friend's practice field, where the dogs have practiced for years. It's dusty and a little chilly and I don't have much time before a busy day out at the barn. But I want to work on my plan, trying to see how my theory from yesterday holds up. I leave all the dogs in the car and go set up a course. Drag out a table, decide this course will start with a crookedy leadout to the poles, end with the dogwalk facing right towards the table where I'm gonna set out some treats in a tupperware.

Bring the suspect out of the cell. Innocent til proven guilty. I give him one practice, just a simple leadout over a jump, and reward him.


I set him up to run the course. I hide a couple treats in my pocket. It's a long leadout to the poles, and off we go.

Uh oh, he's running super. This is a good problem to have, I guess. I do whip out one little treat by the time we get to the teeter totter, almost at the end, it's clattery and bangy and he stuck it like glue. That deserves an award, even if it tampers with the evidence and hampers the investigation. No one ever called Nancy Drew a cop that always plays by the rules.

We run to the end of the course, a fast straight line with the dogwalk. He sticks his contact for a second, then before I can do or say anything, he's off like a flash over a jump and off to the plastic patio table where the treats have been secured. Aha! We've had this behavior before, and rarely in practice does he blow off holding a dogwalk contact. Success! Not a freakout, but we've re-created a dog show moment.

I call him back. He stops and gives me that deer in the headlights look. He's stuck. Planet of the Recall-less. I am pretty sure the inside of his brain looks like a game of Pong. You played Pong? Now THAT was a video game. The ball goes back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth.

And back and forth.

And so on.

I just stand there. We stare at each other for a while and he comes running back and hops his hairy hind toes back up on the dogwalk. AHA!

Wait. Why did I say AHA? Is something solved? I'm not even sure what this means. I run a couple more courses. Next one with a couple rewards here and there, the next one without. They're all good. Tables are stellar. Contacts. Poles. Nothing missing, nothing messed up. He goes and finds his leash after every course. There is some muffled howling coming from inside my car because no one else is getting out and having a turn and that's not going over so well.

Official Detective note:
Wait. There's no pens in my purse to take notes with. There was a chapstick but it melted the other day when it was a zillion degrees out and I have no pens and no chapstick and not that I could take notes with a chapstick but I have wrinkly lips and could sure use a chapstick.

Um, not sure where we're at with this. He ran pretty good without rewarding much, and without a toy or treaty bag on the field. Does this field even count though because it's beloved, dusty practice field? And this mystery is supposed to be about the dog agility dead people and all we got today was a few whole courses, executed with tight turns and lovely, waggy, table laydowns. Although, there were no distractions. I keep seeing that word in shiny, blinking lights. Like old Vegas signage. CIRCUS CIRCUS. NUGGET. NO DISTRACTIONS.

I stick the suspect back into his cell, and head to work. I wonder what the ugly bike helmet mommy would do, if it was her kid that saw dead people. Like if she was riding her bike down the sidewalk and had to slam on her fancy mountain bike brakes, grinding to a halt in the bike to school procession, couldn't possibly go on because of spectres in the sidewalk. Maybe so bad she'd toss the bike aside and rip off the hellokitty backpack and just go running the other way, back towards home, maybe crawl under someone's motor home, wedging herself down into the oily, stinking gutter where it was safe.

Maybe it would be one of the lowrider guys, circling the block in the super long station wagon, sparkly orange paint across the top and sparkling, sharp, pointy rims puffing out the tires. Just a couple inches off the pavement. Maybe would circle around another time, then slowly pull up to the gutter, and throw out a dusting of glitter flake on to her forehead, whisper, "Vaya con dios," and silently swish off. El lowrider fairie. In to save the day. Fix whatever it was that bike helmet mommy screwed up so badly.


vici whisner said...

Nothing is as simple as it first seems, but it looks like your investigation has turned up alot of interesting facts.

Keep up the fact finding and I think you'll find that the little guy will be able to do a whole course in no time...no time at all.

Sometimes variable reinforcement works with a little variation, and sometime variable reinforcement takes a lot longer. No biggiee...just what works for the individual.

Good luck at dirt night.

team small dog said...

He was so super at Dirt Nite last night. Couldn't get him to make an error, ran through every course like a pro. Running courses at lightening speed, and zero errors, even on a couple I messed up with Hobbes. Until the very last one, late.

When I threw his leash across the ring, he tried to chase it (an old habit I thought was gone).

Had a hard time staying down on his start, but he did. But I could see something wasn't as right as it had been.

There was a hard pull off a weird line to the tunnel at the end of the course, after a couple of teeters (which he had been knocking out all night). He did a teeter flyoff, out of the blue, I looped around, put him back over it, then thru that hard line decided to just run around the tunnel at the very end.

Gustavo run around a tunnel? That's like a soggy, old drunk turning up his nose at a frosty mug of vodka on a roiling hot day.

That was all I could get him to do wrong, a teeter and a tunnel at the end of the night. And circling back around to redo the teeter seemed to start a little chain reaction. Not sure why then, and why the start line seemed to indicate something coming up on that course. I gotta go ask Nancy Drew.