02 September 2009

Swimming with Team Small Dog for peak agility performance if by performance you mean like if the clowns declare fiasco day in tiny car land?

So we're a few days off from the Bayteam Regionals. Great big dog show fiesta extravaganza, and I want the team at their peak performance level. Stopped at the practice field on the way out to work, and just did a little bit of practicing, quick, due to the whole part about actually going to work. You know the drill. Train don't complain, practice makes perfect, and pancakes are delicious but don't eat like a man.

Then the dogs slept away the day while I worked. Was another hot one, so on the way home I decided to stop at Nisene Marks again, the redwood forest conveniently located halfway between my house and my barn. Deep dark forest, with carbon emission laden free parking down the hill by the yoga place. A state park, yet in our crappily governated, financially decrepit state, no rangers down there. Perfect spot for some dog running.

I like to go to The Swimming Hole by the Abandoned Car. Perhaps you've been there. More of a stroll than a mountain hike to get there. You walk up the park road, in the shade of the big trees, past the yurt and the hairpin turn where the guys that ride big clanky mountain bikes with motocycle helmets almost try to KILL YOU. Geez, motorcycle helmet on bikes guys. Downhillers, I think that's what they're called. Look out for those guys. They wear bullet proof vests and tin cans on their legs so they don't mangle themselves when they hit people or rocks or tree trunks, I guess.

Anyways, take the trail off to the left and let the dogs go and hope there's no joggers and the dogs know the way down to the swimming hole. We all run fast to get there. I like running through the forest, still in my work clothes which are also dog walking clothes which are also party clothes which are also exercise gear. You get those makeover Stacey and Clintons to figure that kind of shopping out.

Recently, my friend Kelsey told me my style of running has a name. Fartlicking. So there. Peak performance at the Regionals, here we come. Thanks to fartlicking. In skinny jeans.

Run down to where the trees get darker and taller and past the old abandoned car with everbody's names all scripty wrote on it, vines climbing through it's rusty black orifices. How a car got there, we'll never know, but it tells you you're on the way down to the high wall gulch swimming hole.

Swimming hole, maybe a stretch. It's down deep in a little gulch and I never see anyone down there. And actually, the word swimming may be a stretch. Not sure if the way Team Small Dog swims is what people mean when they take their dogs swimming. I hear people say, Oh, we took the border collies swimming. And I wonder, could they mean THIS? Is what me and Team Small Dog do when I take them swimming what most dog people do? Because, frankly. Team Small Dog swimming, just plain wierd.

I have no photos to show you because I just can't master the taking action photos with a point and shoot down in the deep, dark forest. Maybe you have some hints. You will just have to imagine the rest.

The swimming hole is maybe 3 or so feet deep at the deepest, darkest, slimiest part. Any water over about 10" high is swimming water for my short little pets. Ruby is a toe wader. She can't swim for shit, that one. Sinks. Only in emergencies or mistake entrances into bodies of water over 10" deep. Remember Water Hyacinth Goose? At the swimming hole, she busies herself digging holes in the mud and dropping her sticks in, and wading through the shallows, dragging things around on the slopey bank. Running around and with projects only Ruby understands.

Those other two though, sort of swim. Sort of like I sort of sing. You heard me sing? I do a mean Sean McGowan of the Pogues if I'm locked in a car for too long. Lots of spitting. Shouty. Carry a tune like I carry around those agility sandbags. By dropping them. Hard. On someone's foot. In flip flops.

So Otterpop, who usually swims in the forest swimming hole, obsesses on one stick. In a forest of millions and trillions and gazillions of sticks, she only has eyes for one, which is the one I throw in the deepest part of the swim hole. No other stick will do and she becomes this frantic, whiney, shaking, shivering chihuahua of a thing when that stick goes to where she thinks it's too deep until she LAUNCHES herself out to get it and swims back in with it and drops it for me to throw again. That stick. Only. Although she seems to not love the swimming, she will do it if it means she can GET THAT STICK. Many sound effects ensue. Special sounds that are totally reserved for this completely macked out, obsession over the stick in the water. Like sounds I think sound like a wheezing pitbull who can also hum but not hum in a happy way. In a shrill way. Shrill, wheezy, hummy sounding.

Gustavo's swim method involves running like some kind of freaked out meth head maniac up and down the banks until frantically LAUNCHING himself after Otterpop to get to the stick first. Although he usually misses the actual stick part and swims out and grabs any other floating object instead. A leaf. A slime moss. Brings it back to me and then takes off for a few mysterious minutes up the steep banks into the forest. Before flying back down like a machine gun bullet and relaunching as needed. Over and over and over again. Frankly, his behavior in the forest is completely insane and sometimes I wonder what goes on in his head. Like we are talking jacked up circus freak on a danger motorcycle just let out of prison during the hooker parade insane. I let him do his thing, as if there were any other options, and keep throwing Otterpop's stick out for her so I can hear her weird soundsand watch her go into obsessive compulsive repetitive motion hell until finally LAUNCHING herself out and swimming out to get it. I am thinking, this is the peak performance part?

Gustavo seems to hate swimming, yet can't stop himself from it. Otterpop seems afraid to swim, yet can't stop herself from it. They are more speed waders, but you get that stick in the mix and the swimming just happens. Inevitably, frighteningly, entertainingly. For some of us.

So this goes on until I throw a new stick into the other part of the swimming hole, down the river a bit, where the big log is. Off they go, another round of swim freak, until somehow Otterpop has wrenched her shivering, soaked chihuahua body up and onto that log. So Gustavo goes across too. The log is on the other side of the creek, I might hasten to add. Involved a short swim to it and then they are both up and running up and down that log. Otterpop because she can see the stick floating away before her very eyes and Gustavo because Otterpop is running around on the log and the whole circus freak just let out of prison thing.

An important fact to add emphasize at this point in the story is that they both swam over there. Swam little dog bodies across the river. A very small river, but still a river. You see where I might be getting here?

Because all of a sudden, they are both stuck on the other side. Me and Ruby are over here and they are over there and Ruby all of a sudden is like PARTY ON DUUUUDE and racing around on her own private dog beach while pitbull heaving hum whistling and monkey whinging meth running are full blast weirding out on the log on the far away side of the creek and they cannot figure out how the hell did we get stuck here?

I'm a nice dog lady, I'm calling and telling them what super swimmers they are, which is a total lie, but isn't that what you do to get your dogs out of a pickle? Lie through your teeth about their fantastic swimming skills because it's possibly going to get dark soon and maybe there are skunks in this forest?

Running up and down the log and then finally Otterpop LAUNCHES herself back into the water and swims across and like that was so hard Otterpop?

Gustavo however, is not using the same skills of reasoning that Otterpop did. Being that if you swim one way, you can swim back again. He is crying and whining and leaping around and flailing but not going to throw himself off that log into the water. And like hell am I wading across to go get him. Me and bodies of water that are not chlorinated and can feature sharks, snakes, frogs and slime, we don't mix. Never the two shall meet. He's on his own.

He's being creative. Can get out onto this other little branch that's lower in, standing like a 4 legged parrot there, screaming at us to come get him. I feel sort of bad, he looks REALLY upset. He's sensitive. Teeter totters make him cry and he's afraid of stumps. Now he's stuck on a mossy old log and everyone else is either having a private beach party or barking at a stick or shouting lies across the water. Life is pretty sucky right now if you are Gustavo.

I throw Otterpop's stick in so she'll swim over near him and he can see how easy it is. And I do that again. And again. And again. And again. Little buddy is just on an endless loop and is not rebooting. Frantic. I'm beginning to wonder. Has he just lost his mind now? Forest creature going to be stuck in the forest? Maybe where there's wilder animals than skunks that would eat him. And he'd get cold and hungry out there, on his creek log. Come ON Little Buddy!

Finally, with Otterpop out there, flailing around after her stick, he climbs as low as he can on that log, looks like a skinny little cat now, drenched and not the most athletic little dog out there. Fast, yes. Agile? Let's just say his talent at agility involves the fast running part. Not the most coordinated one in the bunch. Would possibly be the last one picked for any team that doesn't need super speedy running. But he does it, gets low, parrot stance on a branch and then FLINGS his skinny little self in and swims the very short distance back to Otterpop and runs away up the bank, back into the forest and the poison oak patch. Always poison oak patches in our forests. We just deal with it.

Back we fartlick, me and the whole team, along the trail, Otterpop stopping now and then to throw herself down into the dust and roll around and take off, and Gustavo happy to be on dry land again, and back out of the forest we go.

So this is what you guys mean by dog swimming? Just for clarification? Super exercise for peak fitness? I sort of have this feeling, Team Small Dog swimming, might be sort of, kind of, not.


Dawn said...

Laughing!! Team small dog swimming sounds very much like the corgi kids swimming fiasco. We usually just wind up with mud and sand and slime covered dogs. Well up to the 4 inches of leg they have that is.

Cedarfield said...

Actually, yes, that sounds very familiar. Except that I usually end up swimming in suspiciously snakey and/or snapping turtle looking bodies of water to retrieve my PRT, Devon who has a wish to die by drowning.