Thursday, November 02, 2017

A Life Cut Short

I struggled with whether or not I wanted to write about this publicly, I'm not sure the internet needs to be filled with more pointless tragedy.  But I guess I decided I will because here I go.

Yesterday I knew something weird was going on in my family due to some weird posts on Facebook.  Then this morning I got a voicemail from my aunt saying she had some 'sad news' about my cousin Jenny.  Before I called her back I was pretty sure I knew what that news was.  Jenny struggled with drugs her whole adult life as far as I know and health problems and probably, almost certainly, depression and finally it was too much and she took her own life.  She was 5-6 years or so younger than me, in her mid to late 40's.  I babysat her a lot when I was 12-13 but as adults we rarely saw each other.  The last I remember seeing her was at my cousin's wedding maybe 6-7 years ago.  She was supposed to get married herself that fall but no family member I've talked to can confirm if that actually happened.  She was notably absent from any significant family functions that I came home for after that - my grandfather's memorial service, my other cousin's wedding, etc.  Oddly enough I was just thinking about her the other day and asked my aunt if she knew anything and eerily the thought crossed my mind that she could have OD'd or taken her life and I wouldn't know it.  So weird to not have any news about her at all even though I often asked various family members about her.

I can't find the bright side of this, really, other than that she's finally free of her pain and demons.  Rather than speculate about that, I'll remember how she was funny and witty and sarcastic.  And yes you could argue that she was hiding behind all that, obviously she was, but still, she was fun to be around, at least at family functions.

I don't have many photos of her.  We grew up in a time where adults didn't take a photo every time their kid farted so the ones I have are group photos from various holidays, grainy and cropped to respect the privacy of other family members.

I have fond memories of Jenny's mom, my aunt, doing stuff with us, or rather letting me tag along on their excursions.  I felt a bond with her mom, she filled a hole that needed filled, and I think she hoped that my conscientiousness would rub off on Jenny.  It didn't.  And I certainly didn't care if it did, Jenny was her own person and I felt uncomfortable being the one held up to her, 'why can't you be like your cousin' type thing.  But as kids you can't tell adults what to do or say and when we were adults Jenny cracked some joke about this and I assured her that I didn't enjoy or encourage that role at all.  And now I'm tempted to feel worse about it except I know that it was all nothing to do with me, I was who I was and Jenny was who she was and the adults could twist it around all they wanted.

One spring I came home from college for Passover which is one of those holidays where lots of wine is flowing freely, at least in my family.  It was the night of some big finale for the t.v. show Dallas and my family broke all traditions and decorum and went downstairs to the family room to watch it.  I didn't like the show and had no interest so I went up to my room to catch up on some letter writing.  Jenny came up to my room to join me.  She was drunk off her ass and didn't want the family to notice (she was 15 or so at the time and I was 19-20).  She laughed a lot and we had a chat about things so insignificant that I can't remember what they were.  At the end of the night her dad thanked me for 'bonding' with her because she'd been having problems.  I didn't tell him she was mostly up there to hide out from them and avoid looking drunk.

I can't imagine how devastated her parents must be.  They tried so hard for her.  I've reached out to my aunt, haven't had any contact with her in 25 years or so, at least maybe that one small thing can come of this.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Foundation Training Update

I finally shot some video of our foundation class.  We've mostly been working on front crosses for the past 2 weeks for the handling portion of class.  Last week we had some more A-frame familiarization and this week some running on the low dogwalk.  Tess was spayed a week ago Thursday so she sat out this past week's class and missed the dogwalk practice but did get some A-frame exposure last week.  It was her second time on the thing and this time she made it maybe 2/3-3/4 of the way up the up ramp.  Her first time on it she only got on it on the bottom, maybe took a step up so this was some improvement.  Ruby runs the whole thing no problem though if we put a food bowl down she'll run past the A-frame to the bowl when I release her.  This is a common issue with her for all equipment.  She still doesn't get that she has to do the thing before she gets the treat.  Or probably she does get it but she's going to chance it anyway and run straight to the treat.

Last week the heater was on for the first time and poor Tess freaked out the moment she walked through the door and turned right around trying to go back out.  I spent some time tossing treat balls around for her until she finally calmed down enough to do a tunnel and a jump.  For her second turn she was finally able to work the sequence.  Though the instructor turned the heat off right away and never turned it back on.  Not sure what she'll do this winter when it needs to stay on.  And if she's going to compete indoors in the winter she'll have to get used to the sound of a heater.  But maybe she doesn't have to compete.  The hurdles she has to go through before she'll be able to sit on a start line are considerable.  All I can do is see how she goes and keep working with her and if she never sees a competition ring then oh well.

Tess Video

Miss Ruby was awesome, she came out and ran her sequences no problem.  Well, other than my problems.  I'm thinking more about foot placement, especially for those front crosses, and how I place my feet when I turn and go.  The old way I've been doing things is clunky and inefficient and often sets the dog up on the wrong line.  So my self-imposed homework for this week is to work on the various types of front crosses without the dog, just me and some jumps. 

Ruby's Videos

Last Week

This Week

I also need to work on more obstacle commitment with Ruby, especially at the tunnels. 

Tess will be back at class next week, we'll see how she does with the heater.  Silly freaky dog.

This is the same snow from a few weeks ago, it's sunny out now and the snow is long gone but I haven't shot any new photos lately so these will do for now.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Mancos Yet Again

We took another trip to Mancos, mostly for vacation but as long as we were going down there we figured we'd look at a couple few houses.  Long story short, we put an offer on a place that had a hugely inflated asking price.  We offered a bit above the market value and the people countered with a still way too inflated price so we said, 'Nah, we'll keep looking'.  The house needed a lot of mandatory work like a new roof and a new hand railing (Ruby could easily have ended up falling to the floor below) and a new garage door opener and and . . . the list went on.  It was too much of a fixer upper for the price though the land and location and water were awesome.  It's possible the sellers will become more motivated as time goes on, I can't imagine anyone snatching that place up and if someone does, well, good for them.  Anyway, the search continues.

In the meantime it was a beautiful trip, leaves starting to change on the Eastern Slope, less so on the Western Slope.  We missed the peak by a  week or two.  Still pretty spectacular.

Outside of Durango

I heart Mancos.  We will get there.

We're having a very odd fall, some days are typical sunny bluebird skies and others not so much.  So much rain this year after a super dry August.  As a result it's been more difficult to find good fall colors.

Drive up Wolf Creek Pass on the way home.

The Eastern Slope on the way there.

The Collegiate Peaks

Ruby taking in the spectacular San Luis Valley

We stopped for a little hike on the eastern side of Wolf Creek Pass.

San Juanderful. Everybody enjoyed the opportunity to stretch their legs and Ruby was off her head looking for critters in the many boulder fields we hiked through.

And today we have snow.

Not a lot will accumulate, the ground is too warm, but a lot of snow is falling.  This likely spells the end of color season in the high country but we should still have some around town as long as too many trees don't lose too many leaves.  If only fall wasn't so fleeting.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Nostalgia for Nothing

I'm not big on nostalgia.  'I don't care about history 'cause that's not where I want to be.'  Also I'm generally absorbed by whatever is going on in the present and what could be going on in the future.  I'm not so interested in the 'been there, done that' part of my life because 'been there, done that, what's next?'

But I got a gizmo to transfer my old VHS tapes to digital so I could finally get rid of the giant t.v. with the tubes and the two VCR's that we kept so I could watch my old tapes.  Because those old tapes hold my agility career from almost start (2001) to Strummer's baby dog training and beyond (2008 ish?  Not sure yet).

I thought it would be sweet to see video of Cody's first trial and whatever else I had on those tapes.  I was so very wrong.  While his first trial wasn't so bad, the practice and fun matches that led up to it were so sad making.  There was one place in particular that I kept going to for fun matches and looking at it now it was obviously such a stressful environment and the other people there were loud and shouting.  He had such a hard time there and the only explanation I have for continuing to go back there is that I didn't know any better or maybe I thought if he could get used to that environment, a trial would be a piece of cake.

Plus my own handling.  Wow.  The bulk of my handling consisted of me yelling, 'Cody Cody, Here Here, COME' and flailing my arms in the air.  Now most of us who started in 2001 or thereabouts probably had atrocious handling.  I have video of one instructor showing me how to cue the tunnel by raising both arms parallel to the ground and stepping with a flourish sideways towards the tunnel.  I kid you not.  Was talking to someone else about it yesterday and she said her instructor (who eventually was also my instructor) had told her the same thing.  The 'Vanna White Move'.  Kinda hilarious.  Kinda not.  Oh well.  It took a couple of days for the 'ick' to wear off. 

Some interesting observations from then to now.  First off, way less barking in the background.  WAY less.  Not sure if this is because more folks are drifting towards more high drive, noisy dogs or maybe less emphasis being placed on teaching dogs to be quiet in a crate.  Or maybe individuals having more dogs and giving up on trying to keep them quiet (I can think of one instance of this though I can also think of one from back in the day).  Not judging or pointing fingers here, just an observation.  I do find the level of noise at trials, especially indoor ones, to be stressful and it's one of the reasons I started doing half days or only one day.

Also it's interesting to amount of people who either dropped out or moved away.  So many folks I had forgotten about.  Or maybe they only do AKC now so I don't see them.  Also none of the kids I had on tape from the very early days continued on as adults.  There are a couple since then who are still involved, one I believe is an instructor.  I think dog and horse sports are great for kids on many levels but I get how some don't embrace them into adulthood.  Early adulthood (college, family, career, housing, kids) is very time consuming and expensive and those precious resources aren't typically available for hobbies.  Also some parents get the kids involved because the parents like it but the kid maybe not so much.

It was interesting to see folks doing blind crosses.  At some point they fell out of fashion and you never saw them and now they seem like a new thing but back in the day folks used them occasionally.  Lots more rear crosses back then.  LOTS more poor timing.  Way more slow dogs back then and even the fast dogs seemed slower than the fast dogs now.  Probably because now most folks have a running A-frame and better timing.  But maybe it's my perception and if you timed them they'd be similar.

I feel even more committed now to do well by my current dogs.  Kinda weird to have 2 dogs in foundation class together but that's a post for another day.

In the meantime, video from Cody's first trial.  It was USDAA and Scott Chamberlain was the judge.  At the brieifing for the first run of the day he asked if it was anybody's first trial.  I was the only one to raise my hand and somebody yelled out, 'Sucker' in a friendly, funny way but he said, 'Now now' and was careful to explain things in detail for me.  At every briefing he reminded us to remove the dog's collar and yet there was still one run that I forgot to do it.  It was an NQ but he still came up to me afterward and told me why it was an E.  I think I only forgot a collar once or twice after that.  And I had no idea what I was doing in Snooker.  I had to learn Snooker on the day and predictably got whistled off.  I sure could run a lot better back then, wow I've lost a lot of mobility.  Something to work on.

Very First Run of Very First Trial - USDAA Gamblers

First Standard

Second Standard




Thursday, August 31, 2017

It's So Busy Nobody Goes There Anymore

I haven't been to Lake Isabelle in 2 years because the hordes of people, oh the hordes of people.  Last time I went I took Strummy and looking back on the pictures I can't believe how old he looked.  When we lost him it was such a shock because he didn't seem old at all and while he certainly didn't act old it appears that he had aged a lot physically and I was so close to it that I didn't even realize it.  Kind of shocking how that works.

Anyway, school is back in session so the crowds have died down a bit and apparently Wednesday is the new day of the week that you have to hit the trails if you want some peace so Jonny took the day off and we headed for the hills.  We even got a parking space in the lot at the trailhead, something that hasn't happened in maybe 10-15 years.  Usually we have a 12-15 minute hike from a lower parking lot.  Doesn't seem like a lot until you have to do it on the way back after an already long hike and it's thundering.  We ended up giving a ride back down to the parking lot to a fellow Boulderite who had 2 visitors from Boston with him.  They were struggling with the altitude and were thankful not to have to hike that extra bit.

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.

It was like the good old days out there, quiet and peaceful, some people but not too many.  I didn't realize this was even possible anymore.

The hike to the lake is fairly short and easy (took us 50 minutes).  We continued on a trail that goes above the lake because there are amazing wildflowers up there and I've seen a moose up there.

Still a lot of wildflowers.  Normally the aspens start to turn yellow by now but I barely saw any.  Fall is taking it's time this year.

There's an alpine bench and some nice tundra at just under 12,000' but we didn't go all the way up to it.  The trail is getting eroded and it's steep and rocky.  The view up there is o.k. and if you really want a workout you can go another 45 minutes or so on the moon rocks and go up to Pawnee Pass.  We got close to the bench and decided we'd had enough of the steep loose rock.  We've both been up there zillions of times.

It's hard to take a bad picture up there.  I accidentally left my camera behind so these were taken with Jonny's cell phone which is older and not super fancy.

It's perhaps my favorite trail on a quiet day.  It's weird to think that that could be my last time on that trail.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Last Boulder Birthday?

Not sure if I'll be in Boulder next year for my birthday so I did ALL the Boulder Things for this birthday.  My Boulder Things anyway.

Started off hauling my ass around the Boulder Reservoir for my Boulder Bare Bones Birthday Bash race.  I only did the mile so I could go fast.  Fast for me anyway.  I had a great race, a wee bit faster time-wise than last month but the exact same pace of 1:48/100 yards.  Distance was 1.05 miles per Garmin, can't get much closer than that. The lovely finish line ladies serenaded me with a birthday song when I exited the water but I was too dizzy and winded and embarrassed to fully appreciate it.  My friend Marcie braved the Pearl St. Whole Foods in Boulder to get me this nummy cupcake and she managed to do it without ending up on the 5:00 news.  It is that sort of a Whole Foods.  Or maybe all Whole Foods are that way.

I was tired enough after all that but Jonny insisted on hauling my ass up a mountain.  Sort of a mountain.  Goshawk Ridge again, third time this summer after never having been there since the trail was created I don't know how many years ago.  Turns out it's a super quiet trail close to town.  Shhhh, don't tell anyone.

It was hot.  Ms. Deer had it made in the shade.

Wait, there's more.  We had dinner at a super snooty Boulder restaurant called Arugula (says it all right there) because I had a gift certificate from my office landlord.  We went at 4:45 to avoid the worst of the Boulder Scene.  And also because we were tired and hungry.  I have to admit that the food was really good, like really good, though I'm hardly an expert in Fine Dining.  They were playing Bob Marley live on the loudspeaker, something I was not expecting at such a snooty place.  Only in Boulder.

All in all a great day doing all the Boulder things.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Adventures in Crazy Dog Lady House Hunting

At around 5:30 Wednesday night a week ago a perfect sounding house came on the market so I called the realtor and next thing I knew, Jonny and I were packing to leave first thing in the morning for a 7 1/2 hour drive to Mancos.  Coincidentally he already had the day off and I didn't have clients scheduled since we were going to go for a hike.  It seemed like a sign that we were meant to go and that this would finally be the place.  The land looked a bit too sloping from the pictures but the realtor was familiar with the house and thought there was some flat land somewhere.

It was 42 degrees and raining on Wolf Creek Pass.  Summer monsoon season is in full swing.

The house turned out to be near perfect - a remodeled farmhouse, 1800 s.f. which is a bit big but reasonable for us.  4 1/2 acres of land with great water rights and a big ass barn.

That came complete with a big ass barn owl.

And some big ass cliffs.

And a big ass view.

We were all set to make an offer on it when we found out that the land in the photo above would not be ours.  The owner was splitting the lot in half and building their new house on this part of the land which also happened to be the only piece of flat land big enough for an agility field.  Our piece of land would be mostly cliffs, a big ass orchard and a big ass barn with some slope-y bits of land between.  Plus a pond that the owners would retain rights to access even though it was on our piece of land so their dogs could swim across the pond and get on our land.  Plus we'd have to live next to construction noise for a year or two or who knows how long, who knows what they would build?  And they have kids and dogs and we already live next door to kids and dogs and we're so looking forward to getting away from other people's kids and dogs.

So disappointing.

We looked at a couple of other places that didn't seem promising but thought we should look as long as we were down there.  They weren't promising.  We did look at a perfect piece of land - great location and water rights and in great condition - but we'd have to build something on it and find somewhere to live while we were building.  Buy a used RV and travel the country until it's built?  And what to build?  Conventional, straw bale, rammed earth, something else?  There are many alternative building methods and materials out there.  It's all very overwhelming and not an attractive option.  Plus it's too late to buiy something and build before the snow start flying so a potential land purchase will have to wait until spring.  Ah well, the right place will come along.  I wish that drive wasn't 7 1/2 hours long.

We took the dogs and stayed with some friends outside of Durango.

Travel Buddies

Sunset over the La Platas

 Most places give you a mint on your pillow.  We got this.

Since we didn't have that many houses to look at, we had a lot of time on Friday to explore.  We decided to go up to Boggy Draw for a hike and when we drove through Dolores we came upon this.

I knew there was a trial over the weekend but didn't realize it was 3 days.  We stopped to take advantage of a socialization opportunity for Tess.  I saw a few people I knew, including a woman who just sold her place in the country outside of Durango and is moving to Moab in the city.  She helped a lot with Tess, fed her treats and brought her own friendly BC out to say hi.  Sadly Tess wasn't interested but at least she wasn't terrified.  Tess did freeze when a Cattle Dog started barking and lunging at someone else walking by from an x-pen that was pretty far away.  I turned her around and walked the other way, no point subjecting either one of them to each other.  And there was no way she was moving one more step closer anyway.  I was so sure we were past the freezing thing.  But otherwise she did o.k. walking through the hub bub of the shade canopies and people.  I may have shoved some kibble into a complete strangers hand and asked her to feed my dog when she showed the slightest bit of interest in us.  I wish I had had better treats but they were sitting back at the house, I wasn't planning on a socialization opportunity.  Must be better prepared.  And yeah, if you so much as make eye contact with me when I have Tess I'll probably shove kibble or chicken or hot dogs in your hand and ask you to feed my dog.  It's funny, guys want to make her sit or do something and I'm all, 'Just give it to her for being brave enough to go up to you'.  And they won't.  They end up handing me back my treats.  But the women get it, they give all the treats if Tess will go up and take them.  I've not been working a lot with 'Sit' or any other inhibitive behaviors because I want Tess being brave and offering behaviors, not inhibiting them which is her default.  Though at this point I think I need to start working with Sit, Down, and Stay in different locations with both dogs.  But not with strangers asking for them at a busy agility trial.  Sheesh.

We did go up to Boggy Draw for a short hike.  Tess still shouldn't go too far and she'd already been walking around the trial for a bit.  We were out around 45 minutes and the terrain was fairly flat and easy.

When we got back to our friends' house that night, Jonny realized we had a flat tire (slow leak so it was low, not all the way flat).  So we had a delayed departure in the morning since our friend had to take Jonny and the tire to Durango for a repair.  It's a new tire and under warranty so at least the repair was free and Discount Tire took care of it quickly.  We didn't get too late of a start and were home for dinner.

Ruby sez, 'Are we there yet?'

Kind of a fun trip but also emotionally draining.  We were so sure this house would be the one.  I'm a bit burnt out on Crazy Dog Lady House Hunting.  Something really perfect will have to come up to drag me down there again, I've had enough driving to last me until spring.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tess Update

Tess is now 7 months, 1 1/2 weeks old.  Ish.  Her birthdate of December 28 is a guess on the rescue's part.  She was pulled out from under the abandoned building at around 4 weeks old so I have a reasonably good guess at her age.  She hasn't had any accidents in the house since she was 4 1/2 months old so I'm declaring her housebroken.  Actually I declared her housebroken many months ago.  Can't remember what age Lola was housebroken at.  I'm guessing this is fairly typical though it seemed kinda early.  Not complaining.  It helps if you're home a lot.

Photo from today.

And when we first brought her home.

She's looking more and more like a real dog these days.  Still all ears and legs.

She's doing well with walking through the neighborhood and nearby trails, mostly excited and curious rather than fearful and learning not to pull when she does get overexcited.  I do believe there's a fear aspect mixed in with the excitement so it's encouraging that she can often focus on us in the face of that.  There are still times when she can't though.  She was unexpectedly unhinged by a walk on a bike path that went under a loud highway.  It was early Sunday morning so not too busy but I realized that we seldom walk near busy highways.  We also took her on a trail that goes through a prairie dog town and their high pitched 'eeps' made her a little crazy.  She seemed a bit interested in the critters themselves (not nearly as crazy about them as Ruby is) but was unhinged by their cheeping.  She's scared of woodpeckers pecking as well.  I finally worked out that that's why she didn't want to go in the yard in the early mornings.  Oddly enough she's not scared of thunder or fireworks though she will  bark a little if either get really really loud.  Weird to have dogs that are o.k. with thunder and fireworks, Ruby's not bothered either.  Poor Strummer was a wreck with both of them and got worse as he got older.  Both the other dogs were bad with them too but poor Strum, he suffered the worst.

More photos from today.

She's been to two agility classes, the first was a private lesson so the instructor could see where she was at and we could see what she'd be willing to do at the facility.  Apparently I'd painted a picture of doom and gloom because the instructor was expecting something way worst than what I'd described.  Tess was nervous and excited but she did o.k. and was willing to work with me and mostly focus on the tasks at hand.  We did started with some simple little games (throw the treat on the ground and tell her to 'Find It', shape her to put front feet into a dog bed) then progressed onto 2o/2o on a small, slightly elevated plank as well as the Offering a Jump exercise.  There were probably some other things that I don't remember.  The instructor felt she was fine to come to class so she went to her first group class last Wednesday.  Again she did fine.  Her biggest challenge was waiting in the car when I took Ruby out for her turn.  Oh the barking.  Next week I'll bring more Kongs and hopefully she'll get used to the routine.  It's important for her to learn to be calm in the car without Ruby.  Ruby is her rock.

In class Tess worked on a nose target, more 2o/2o on the plank, sending through a straight tunnel to a food bowl and introduction to the low dog walk (Just walking up and down the plank and along the top plank.  She bailed a few times and then got more comfortable.  She seemed funny about her back feet being on the planks, maybe something about the feeling of the granulated rubber since she seems fine on my wood planks at home).  She seemed fine working in the facility, took her a little bit to go through the tunnel which was longer than my little 10' practice tunnel (maybe was 15').  I think this will be good for her, pushing her limits but not pushing too far.  The instructor Nicole has been awesome with her.  I hate that 35-40 minute drive to and from Arvada but this has turned out to be a really good fit for both dogs and I'm learning a ton and enjoying the One Mind methodology. 

Interesting to see how much she grew in 11 days.

July 11

Today (July 22)

Hmmm, hard to notice much in those photos without something for scale but in real life she seems way bigger and more mature somehow. 

More from July 11.

Coming up next, some hiking adventures.  And of course more puppy.