Sunday, May 30, 2010

Living Room Agility

This week we started Living Room Agility! The book from the library said to use anything laying around the house to make a jump in a hallway that Star can't go around. (The book literally said Star - good book!) So I tipped over the bar stools and voila! - our first piece of Agility equipment. Laundry day was a lot more fun this week!

Our second piece of agility equipment is at the dog park that we love - a pipe tunnel. The first time I had her there, I did it all wrong - tossing the treat into the tunnel. Later I read that that's a good way to teach them to stop in the middle of the tunnel and hunt for treats. Oops!

The second time we went, I couldn't exactly follow the book's advice since I didn't want to ask a stranger to help, but by putting her on a stay on one end, I was able to get to the other end and then call her through. After a while, we were running together and she would go through while I went past - she really got the hang of it quickly!

Our third piece of agility equipment was even more creative than the first. Getting ready to head up to Idaho for the weekend, I looked around the garage for things I could use to make another jump - one that I could use outside in the woods.

Water ski and 2 packing boxes!

A word about distractions - we are getting them in spades. The dog park was pretty quiet when we stopped there on our way out of town Friday, but it was still distracting to have Sunny chasing his ball and one other lab running around out there. And then in Idaho - OMG the stuff that needed sniffing! Our first day practicing on the waterski, we would do one jump (on leash), she'd hastily collect her treat and try to head off immediately to check out something in the woods. Up here there are deer, elk, wild turkeys, chipmunks, birds, the dogs next door... All and more have left their marks, and it was just too tempting. But we went back out again later because these are such good distractions to train in the midst of. I do believe she was more focused this morning on our third workout with the birds and bees and water skis.

In other excitement today, Star got the correction of a lifetime, and man I hope she remembers it for a long, long time. After our morning walk, she jumped in the back of the Pilot and I hooked her leash to one of the tie-downs in the back. Then I got the chuck-it and proceeded to play ball with Sunny. When we do this at home, if I haven't gotten Star sufficiently distracted, she will chase him down, plow into him, and then ride him all the way back, hanging onto his ear or his neck with her teeth. No fun for him, but he does it to her in the house so I let them be to work it out.

This time she was attached to the car, so when she took off after him on the first throw, there was about 2 tons of metal holding her back. She hit 90 miles an hour within 6 feet of leash and during the split second when I realized what was going to happen, I just about had a heart attack expecting her neck to snap. But, alas, she wasn't visibly hurt, and on successive throws, she sat perty and watched him go. I saw her body tense up and react as instinct drew her to chase, but that lesson was very fresh in her mind, and she didn't move her pretty little butt off that spot. Just smiled and collected her treat and some pats on her top of her cute little head.

Also in Idaho this weekend, there was a pot of gold at the end of the road between my parents' house and my property ...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our Threesome

I have tried to describe this before, and I'm sure I will be unsatisfied again with the words. It really needs pictures - better yet, video.

We missed out on a lot of wake-up cuddling this week, since Mom had to pop out of bed at 6am to get ready for school. Seems like we made up for it on the weekend.

One key characteristic is that Star has to be closest to Mommy. At one point this morning, she gave up her spot and Sunny swooped in. Realizing her error, little Missy tried to come back. Where? She laid flat on top of me (I was flat on my back). Her sharp pointy elbow had to be redirected off some internal organs, but after that we were pretty comfy.

My favorite part is when Sunny sneaks around the top and lays his head on my left shoulder. What a sweet gesture. My right hand comes up to rub his head and scritch his ears, but then Miss Star tries to get my hand back, lifting up at my wrist with her snout.

And through it all, they are washing my face, especially with kisses on my chin, and the occasional shot to the ear (that's Sunny, getting me back for twice-a-week ear drops). When it tickles, I giggle.

I can't get too lost in the moment - I need to be on the lookout for claws flying in the vicinity of my eyeballs. I don't want to have to write that story - Woman Loses Eye in Threesome with Dogs.

After the head on the shoulder bit this morning, Sunny managed to move in to the next, and most intimate, stage - head on my chest, eyes gazing soulfully into mine. Ahhhhhh. Star does it a lot as well when she is in the right position. I'm not sure what we're saying, but I'm sure there is some communication going on.

Sometimes I discover that we are actually a foursome. Sunny often brings a tennis ball into the bed at night, where it magically shows up in the morning. And speaking of tennis balls, as we do daily ...

While organizing the new house, I re-purposed an old bin as a new toy box.

Star demonstrates how to use the new toy box:

She is only interested in one thing:

And Sunny is only interested in another:

There are at least a dozen of them in the box, at the beginning of the day.

My parents were here last weekend. Mom was sitting on the couch. Sunny was trying desperately to engage her in a game. He put the ball on the couch next to her and she ignored it. So he went and got another ball, put it on the couch next to her. And she ignored it. Within the space of an hour, 13 tennis balls had come out of the box and were littered on the couch or the floor around it. But still she wouldn't throw one for him. Poor Sunny.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Trip

I'd have to say that we had a pretty perfect trip this week - the worst thing that happened was the moving truck sprung a "light" leak - one of the top corner reflectors popped out of its socket and dangled for most of the trip.

The dogs slept a remarkable 1100 miles - maybe making up for some sleep lost while stressing during the final packing. This was in marked contrast to good ol' Network, who would sleep a while and then stand up and bark for a long while before settling down for another nap. That was my fault - I taught him how to bark at a field of horses driving across Oregon when he was 6 months old. Well, the field of horses wasn't driving across Oregon. You know what I mean.

Please forgive the quality of these cell phone pictures - they serve simply to capture the sleeping forms of the hounds, who at times were curled up quite comfortably. Not so much at others.

The biggest adventure for all of us would have to have been the elevators at the hotel, glass elevators no less. I have never had these 2 dogs on an elevator and I thought for sure that Miss Star was going to freak out. I asked if we could use the stairs but the very unhelpful youngster at the front desk said that they were fire stairs only and had to remain locked in case there was a fire, so therefore we couldn't use them. Huh??? Unclear on the concept?

Turns out the dogs were just fine. Maybe a little unsure when the ground started to move, but they hung in there like champs and rode up the first night and down the next morning and didn't complain at all. I remembered my elevator lessons from service dog training - keep your body blocking the door until they are all the way in or out. Bad things can happen if you are holding the leash and the door closes with you and your dog on opposite sides of the door when the box starts moving. Enough said.

Another exciting hotel moment - Miss Star decided (all on her own, I swear) to attempt to vault over a 4 foot wall separating the 2 beds. If I am in any way responsible, it is only that the night before at our last visit with friends, I had her routinely jumping up onto a 4+ foot retaining wall, which she did very smoothly. She surprised the heck out of me when she came flying over that wall in the hotel room. She wasn't quite as smooth as the night before, however, and got hung up on the top and had to scramble over. I imagine she didn't think ahead to what was on top or on the other side. However, it did cement my interest in finding an Agility class for her. And I was very fortunate to spend our 4th day in town at a local Agility trial, where a good friend was competing. I got to help out at the event as a leash runner (100+ squats over a 4 hour period - I'm feeling it today!) and met some locals who can help me when we get ready to try it out. But first we have to go through their 2 basic obedience classes - will look into starting that in June.

There were also a couple exciting highway moments for the drivers. First, we had to pass this "mobile home" that was roaring down the freeway at Montana highway speeds on windy mountain roads. (That's not windy, but windy. Are they the same word? In this case, there was no wind, so it was the other one - winding mountain roads, maybe that's what I meant to say.)

And then I made my truck driving big Sis, another experienced off-roader, take the truck up a slightly washboarded dirt road to visit my Montana friends and let the dogs have a romp on 20 acres before we started our last 200 miles. She was worried that her truck packing job wasn't up to the challenge, since I didn't have enough stuff for it to be jam-packed full, but alas, no damage occurred.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at our destination, and the dogs woke up in time to enjoy the beautiful sunset. I am happy to have my expansive western views back again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Dear Network, big yellow, enormous yellow dog, it was almost 9 months ago when we drove to a high point in Rocky Mountain National Park and I let your spirit go free.

Today as I drove away from Colorado, I looked across at those high peaks and my only sense of loss was of leaving you behind, as I take these 2 new little yellow doggies on to my next place and new adventures.

Just as you left your footprints in the sand of the California beach so many years ago, you also left them on my heart, and those footprints neither time nor tide will ever wash away.

Composed May 9, 2010
Highway 25, heading
north to WY, MT, WA

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Colorado in My Rearview Mirror

Our last week in CO might have been a little stressful for the dogs (this final morning photo of them guarding my bedding was NOT posed). I kept imagining that perhaps one of them was remembering the last time a family packed up and then the bad things that happened after that - being abandoned or who knows what. I just don't know how anybody could have given up these two amazing creatures.

I tried to leave them alone as little as possible this week, and not at all after large items started leaving the house. At one point, Sunny slipped into the back corner of a closet and curled up in a scared little ball. I invited him right back out and smothered him with hugs and promised I wasn't moving away without him. And then I dug up a tennis ball to get his mind off things. Star wouldn't let me out of her sight when we were out and about and a friend was holding the leash.

I tried to hit as many dog parks as possible - to give them the distraction, and also because they don't have amazing dog parks like these where we're moving. Star showed off some great new moves.

And Sunny finally got to play ball to his heart's content, and I saw no soreness in the new knee.

Now the U-haul truck and my Pilot are packed, thanks to the help of a few good friends. We'll have a farewell supper with some other friends tonight, and then pull out in the a.m.

See ya on the other side!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

T minus 7

No, even though it would make sense coming from me, that is not an algebra equation. That's what's left of the countdown. In 7 days, we will be hitting the road for our 1000 mile trip to our next temporary home. Life is such an interesting journey.

Funny story from this week:
Star was laying next to my chair, gnawing on a nylabone. Sunny was pacing around her, whining a bit, looking at me for help. Offering to play with him while she enjoyed the bone, I said "Go get your ball." Always eager to play ball, he quickly rounded one up, but instead of bringing it to me, he took it to Star.

Now I don't know what he was thinking but here are two ideas that came to mind.

1 - I'll trade her the ball for the bone. (What a nice boy he is!)

2 - I'll distract her by dropping the ball behind where she is laying, then when she moves to check it out, I'll swoop in and steal the unguarded nylabone. (What a devious boy he is!)

Whatever his intentions, it worked like a charm. She rolled over on her back to get to the other side (an amusing move in itself) and he swooped. Mission accomplished, he gave it a few good gnaws, and just that quickly got up and left it, and she resumed her work on it. Silly kids - very entertaining and they do share nice.

It was a big week for Sunny as he had his final x-rays, 12 weeks after his 2nd knee surgery, and was released by his beloved doctor to ease slowly back into being a dog. I calculated that this ball crazy youngster has spent 6 of the last 10 months on restricted activity due to his 2 operations, and during the 4 months between he was already in pain from the new tear, so he was self-restricting his activity.

So this week he has enjoyed a few short play sessions with the ball and the new chuck-it. Star is not interested in the ball, but occasionally joins in the running part of the exercise - she LOVES to run. And she is FAST man! We will soon be looking into Agility for her.

With company this weekend, we hit lots of dog parks and took some special pictures. The three in this post are from the Great Bark Dog Park in Lafayette. (Great name, great park!)

We also hit the elusive Louisville dog park (took us 4 separate trips to finally locate it) and tried out the great swimming hole. Will try to get back there again this final week with the real camera.

Maybe a little friendly competition between the 2 "L" towns to see who can have the better dog park?? We must say - Thank You Colorado for the great dog parks, as well as the wonderful open space hiking places that we started covering in this blog last year.

In a week, we'll be checking out the dog parks and hiking trails in our new town.

Stay tuned!

PS - Last post we accused Star of chewing on and removing the tabs on the backs of shoes. Later I recalled that she had been caught red-pawed chewing on the slippers while I was right nearby in the shower. And that's why I was sure it was her. I had just forgotten that little detail.

PPS - The Dog of the Week story and pictures on have moved to the Blog archives.