06 February 2010

Team Small Dog Interviews Caninitarians Susan and Kraig Paulsen today.

I bet a lot of dog agility people have dreams of living on a beautiful 5 acre agility spread in the country. Lush grass agility fields and a view of the foothills and the wide open spaces. Walk out your back door first thing in the morning, and work on those contacts over a cup of coffee. Perhaps have a few adorable farm animals trotting about. Life is good. Restful. Quiet.

Bayteam's 2009 Caninitarians of the Year, Susan and Kraig Paulsen had that vision, and their agility spread, Workin' Paws, has become an important resource to the agility community in the Bay Area. Susan, a high school science teacher, Kraig, your typical Bay Area software engineer, and their pack of Aussies and Border Collies moved from Fremont down to the outskirts of Hollister, an area known for stock dogs, tri-tip and beer. Over the years, they've learned a few things about life in the country.

Susan and Kraig are originally from the East Coast. Susan grew up in the rural dairy country of Upstate New York. Kraig, originally from Long Island, was a yacht boy that grew up on the water. If you ever asked him, would he live on 5 acres with farm animals, he'd of said you were nuts. But now, he's got a whole new way of looking at things.

I was wondering what a typical day off around Workin" Paws is like for the Paulsens. They toted their camera around with them one Saturday so we could see.

Laura: So, did country living make you guys acquire any fancy new skills?

Kraig: Day off?? Skills: Tractor repair...boy I hate tractors because the grass grows faster than I can fix it.  Sprinkler man: working with irrigation.  It's not a skill but I've learned what not to do.

Susan: Weekends are feeding, mowing, watering, weeding, fixing, killing varmints, all the stuff we don't get to during the work week. The skills I've mastered are not what I expected.  I thought I would be mastering agility skills, but alas, my new skills include getting rid of squirrels. I was so proud I caught 13 in a trap once I mailed photos to friends. Upon reflection, that's just weird! They still like to get into the agility fields so it's a constant battle. Weeds are another OCD topic for me due to the endless fight against fox tails. I'm getting better at both with trial and error. 

Laura: Sometimes, do things go not so according to plans? Like remember when Lucy and Ricky moved to the country on I Love Lucy and what happened when Lucy rode the riding mower into Betty Ramsey's prizewinning tulips? This ever happen around your house?

Kraig: We put in the large field sprinkler system,  and we glued all the pipes together. All excited to turn on the water to see how it worked and when we did it blew..all the pipes blew.  We have 100 PSI pressure in the pipes so it was like a Las Vegas water show.
Susan: Yep, that's was the worst! I bought the wrong glue!  It was a major disaster, not to mention let down!!!  Water shooting up in the air..everywhere.  That was our most memorable; and I can say it seems funny now but at the time..we were not laughing!

Laura: Can you give me a run down of all those dogs, and what they do?
Susan: I have Kolbe, an Aussie age 13, Surely an Aussie, age 8, and Kipper a BC, age 5.  Besides performance events, I really like to go hiking with my dogs. I look forward to going to the Trinity Alps each year so we can spend doggy time swimming and hiking. 
Kolbe was my first true performance dog and we did obedience, agility and conformation. Surely was my first working line dog.  I cried when I found out we got our WTCH I was so happy, which was the same week as our ATCH.  Kipper is my first BC, and of course Red Dogs Rule!
Kraig: Konner an Aussie age 15, he has Novice Open ASCA, CD and CH and he can open the freezer door and pull out all the TV dinners.  Kaz age 6. He's in Masters USDAA and a WTCH in ASCA, he loves to do herding.  He's won buckles in ASCA.
Susan:  Our male dogs all have "K" names because of Kraig's family.  ALL of his family names everyone with "K"'; so of course this goes with our doggie family as well. 
Laura: Any fancy titles or cool achievements? 

Susan: We've competed in ASCA, and some AKC.  My happiest achievement in recent memory was at a Turlock trial last year when Surely made her dog walk contact, which if you know "the princess", she likes to leap off super-gal style, anyway I was so excited she made it with a fast clean run!!.  I love that little black dog!
Kraig:  My achievement is that in my back yard I win "Worlds" everyday. I enjoy the journey.

How many sheep do you guys have?
Susan:  I'm not sure at the moment because we just got some new ones.  I have my favorites that we keep as breeding ewes such as Willamina, her daughter Mina, Arnold-ina, and Abby.  We have a bunch of new ones we just bought because we needed "fresh" working sheep.  If you work  the same sheep all the time they become knee knockers, new ones shake up the training.
Kraig: 20: four knee knockers, 1 mama ewe which is a pain in the ass, and two troublesome goats.

Susan:  Hey, my goats rule!

Laura: Do all your dogs do sheep herding (Not sure if using proper terminology here. My sheep experience is limited to making sure the gate is always closed and one fiasco of a morning involving 3 humans trying to move one sheepie away from it's pals into the back of a pickup truck. That was a mind opening experience to the way of sheep thinking for this interviewer)?
Kraig:  They all do it (laughing), but what you consider well is relative.  Konner roam and barks, Kolbe doesn't care at all about sheep.  If you need to get a job done, then Surely is my choice.  But if you want it done with style and grace then Kaz and Kipper are the ones.
Susan: Can't add anything to that.... pretty much sums it up. 

Laura: Did you two start agility at the same time, or was this one spouses idea and the other one just got pulled along into it?

Kraig: I intinally thought that my dog could be trained by another handler, and then and I would just run him on on the weekends, but I slowly learned that it's a dog handler team effort. Then when I got Kaz I got hooked.

Susan:  I got started into agility because of the ASCA club, and a member took us up to Power Paws Agility, and of course here we are!

Laura: What are some cool things about having your own dog agility pad? Since we should probably be encouraging people to say Goodbye, city life, and help further our sport like you guys have.

Susan:  Truly, the great people!  It's given me the opportunity to create new friendships, and train with amazing people.  I really enjoy fun matches, fun days, and seminars.  It's wonderful to watch people improve, not to mention it's fun to just hang out at the field with a bunch of friends on a sunny afternoon.
Kraig:  It gives me the opportunity to go out and play in my backyard and be able to share with others. 

Laura: Any good advice for people wanting to move to the country and build their own dog agility mecca? Or perhaps, warnings?

Kraig: Make the choice and don't look back. Just be prepared for a lot of work, and make sure you have help. We got a lot of help from ranch friends.  It's also a slow process.

Susan:  Use the right glue when putting pipe together! 


Elf said...

A good reminder that maybe I'm not so bad off for having an eighth of an acre that I can't keep up with. You go, Paulsens plus Laura!

Anonymous said...

workin paws rocks! high 5 to Susan & Kraig...