Finally Spring is here!

A new year and a new look for my blog page. 🙂

What a long winter!! I have not posted in awhile. I have to say, it is so nice to see the warmer weather. As much as I enjoy winter, this year was a bit much for our area. Last weekend was in the 90’s and I nearly got heatstroke mowing the yard. Doing too much too soon in the heat made for a terrible agility class. Jethro helps me mow so he was awfully tired as well since we mowed AND trained both days. Note to self: it is my responsibility to remember that it does no good for either of us to overdo it in the heat.

Time to cool off!

Time to cool off!

Rolex this year was pretty awful for most of the workers at all jumps this year. It POURED rain all morning and everyone was so cold and miserable that we did not take our group photo this year, just packed up and went home. But we will be there next year! A group photo from a previous year:

Fence judge family reunion

Fence judge family reunion

 

Two people in our group were sick as a result. One horse was euthanized due to taking a bad step in the mud, which could have happened to him anywhere at a canter with an old injury. Otherwise, no serious injuries but the CCI4* courses are getting tougher and tougher. It reminds me of the Olympics where the athletes are risking life and limb in events like gymnastics and ice skating for the drama of that extra spin, etc. Many think the course designers are creating for the audience for the excitement factor. It may backfire as more and more horses and riders are injured. I would like to see eventing strike a happy medium.

Looking forward to agility trials this summer. This time we will be better prepared for the heat!

Overcoming Obstacles

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything and I’m not quite sure I really want to post this but here we go….

Jethro and I finally made our agility trial debut at the Henry/Stafford East Tennessee Agricultural Exposition Center in Harriman, Tennessee. The trial was hosted by the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club (TVKC) and they put on a pretty good trial. Plus, there are also vendors and I understand that the concessions makes a mean cheesecake. But, it was gone before I had a chance to try a slice.

Oh, well. That slice of heaven was going to be my reward for a qualifying run or at least finishing a course. Jethro and I did not have a qualifying run but we at least finished each one. Except for the first one. We were disqualified because MOM forgot that the handler is NOT to touch the dog after said dog is in place. I took him back to the start by his collar. NOT ALLOWED. Heard that whistle blow and just cringed. My bad. I couldn’t blame Jethro, he was just ready to go. The judge was so nice about it, said he hated to disqualify us and I agreed, rules are rules.blehsnoopy

Bleah.

The second run was better. At first. Not only was he really excited about running because it is fun, but he also he remembered a REALLY interesting scent after our practice runs the day before. So, about the third or fourth obstacle of our second attempt at qualifying, he once again had to go check it out.

snoopyovercomingobstacles

Overcoming Obstacles

Right before the third run, I took him downstairs to wait for his run. Unfortunately, I stopped to watch someone and took my eye off Jethro for a very short period of time. A man walked by with his dog in close quarters. Jethro has definite ideas of space with his ongoing fear aggression of dogs. This dog was his limit. He whirled around and launched at the dog. The other dog, understandably terrified, took defensive action and ran. However, his owner was still attached and so Jethro slammed into him instead, knocking him over. Chaos ensued, just like a Wiley and Roadrunner cartoon.

Best Laid Plans

Best Laid Plans

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Except for a few egos.

dazedconfusedsnoopy

Jethro had been WAY over threshhold for much of the trial due to all the noise and activity. I had obviously dropped him in over his head, but he was absolutely solid in the ring. He was so proud (if anxious) of his efforts and so was I. I was a bit shook up but he got down to business. I didn’t want to disappoint him so off we went and did a much more acceptable job, which is the video I am also posting.

sarcasmsnoopy

Sarcasm

Fortunately, the last run was also quite acceptable. This was our first agility trial EVER. The only black eye to the entire thing was due to my one lapse in vigilance for Jethro’s peace of mind around other dogs. It cost me time with the TVKC Bench Committee and a possible suspension plus a probable fine of $200.00. A tough lesson but yet another opportunity for growth.

Needless to say, everyone was exhausted by the time we got home Sunday evening. Even Ziva, who was a VERY good girl in her crate, only tried to escape twice and only chewed one bungee cord. But, that’s another blog post.

Emotionally bankrupt

Emotionally bankrupt

We even had a good time. At some point. Met some really nice people, a few not-so-nice people. That’s part of the game. Most dog people are NOT fond of human beings anyway, so we are all learning how to deal with it. Our dogs help keep us grounded. They have to work so hard to keep us grounded and somewhat sane. I feel sorry for anyone that does not have a dog.

***UPDATE***

$200.00 fine and no suspension. We will keep on keepin’ on. Jethro would not have it any other way.

K.I.S.S.

This past week we have stepped up the handling work. Rather, I have stepped things up. Feeling behind the mark is my constant companion and sometimes I let the thought of my age creep in. Which is nonsense since I recently watched a 91 year old woman doing agility with her dog on YouTube!

Seems simple, set up four jumps in a square and practice post turns, front crosses, etc. It still feels more like the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

The OK Corral

The OK Corral

Me versus the jumps with my trusted sidekick Jethro running with me. My body and my muscle memory are still trying to catch up to my brain. Sometimes anxiety interferes with concentration and focus. The old ‘walking and chewing gum at the same time’ sort of thing. Improvement has been slow, but my confidence is growing. Thank goodness for instructors and other dog-minded friends who offer suggestions and encouragement rather than criticism or smugly pointing out the obvious like ‘you should have’ or ‘why did/didn’t you’ or ‘you need to stop/start (fill in the blank).

Jethro has been consistent through all of this. He is a natural agility dog. Loves to jump, loves to climb, loves, loves, loves to RUN. Then there are TUNNELS!!! And, by the way, he is really starting to get the weaves! That has been a great relief, it just required my doing things a bit differently so that Jethro would want to engage.

I need to continue to step up for Jethro. Doing it for him helps me to improve. He is so patient and sometimes gets  so frustrated with me–and for me. So out to the backyard we go.

This week the rains have begun so the opportunities for training have diminished somewhat. Fortunately I have a contacts board so we can always work on that inside.

Five weeks until our first trial!

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work” ― Thomas A. Edison

Weekends are generally when I mow the yard at my house. This chore has actually become less frustrating once I was willing to change my thinking about a few things. Like opportunities. The most important being I get to mow my yard because I have a yard. Difficult to remember when the temperature is 90+ degrees and the humidity is not too far from that. Still better than last summer when we got no rain and my yard just burned up and the weeds tried to take over like zombies. They just kept pushing on in. Zombie Summer. But today the weather is perfect. The sort of weather one waits for all summer. Cooler, drier, sunny, with a Munnings sky overhead.

Where do the dogs fit in? Opportunities. Yes, opportunities.

My neighbors on both sides have yappy dogs. Great opportunity to teach ‘leave it!!’ Yes, I AM more fun than fence running “but MOOOOMMMM, this is fun too!!”
<sigh>

I admit that I am not always consistent with this since they are having fun and burning energy. Plus, Ziva becomes delirious with happiness while hopping along the fence line barking her head off. It took so long to get her to ‘happy’ that I forget that I am encouraging a bad habit.

And they are far from stupid. And far from deaf. They can hear a piece of kibble drop from the backyard during a UK basketball game but I can stand three feet from them and say “leave it!” with no response whatsoever. Until I realized that I DO need to tell them everything, that “down-stay” means “down-stay”. And that I DO mean it.
image

Persistence has finally paid off. For the most part.
imageimage

Once they also realized ‘leave it’ was not forever, now they are much better at listening AND obeying, like Beltone came to visit one day while I was at work. Pleasing me is now winning more often than not. Has it been a frustrating, infuriating process? Hard work? Absolutely. But definitely worth it.

Keeping a glass is half full mentality is difficult and sometimes I just want to smack someone into next week when I hear or read something like this:

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
― Winston Churchill

Each opportunity for change is about perception. Change is hard but my mind can twist it into facing a horde of Klingons while holding a dicey light saber. Yea, ponder that for a moment.

My favorite voice of reason, Lincoln, said it best.

image

Win or lose, success or failure, that’s really all I can do.

Walking Point

‘Walking point’ — for those not familiar with military jargon — means to be ‘the point man’ or the person who goes ahead to check out the terrain. Slogging through the steamy jungles of Vietnam or enduring the heat and dust of Iraq or Afghanistan, where taking the wrong step might save your platoon members walking behind you.

image

imageIn the same vein, people in previous generations picketed for labor rights and often died for us so we could have decent working conditions, a 40 hour work week and paid vacation.

No where close to the same experience, but I am sure starting to feel that apprehension and get that dry mouth. Fear. A thousand forms of fear, so they say. Because today I took Jethro and Ziva to do a bit of recon before we compete in our first agility trial in October. We will be at the same venue so figured it could not hurt to start crating them at a trial so they could start acclimating to the noise and excitement.

image

Jethro and Ziva did quite well considering. Treats and lots of praise for quiet behavior helped quite a bit. Then, an 8 year old boy decided bouncing a soccer ball in front of Jethro’s crate to provoke a reaction was a good idea. Meanwhile, a friend and I were standing by the ring, backs turned to our dogs, watching someone running on the course. The sound of the ball finally got my attention, which the little twerp was hoping for. He smirked at me when I noticed him. BAD move on his part. I was the oldest of five in an Irish Catholic family. The last thing he expected was an old woman to march up to him and say ‘teasing a dog is NEVER a good idea, one day you will get hurt and the dog will suffer for it. So, I STRONGLY suggest you go back to your parents. Right NOW”.

image

His smirk vanished to uncertainty since the ‘look’ I gave him is legendary and all my sisters have it too. Very gratifying to stand up for my dogs in an appropriate manner. No irate parent appeared. That was also very satisfying. Even better, Jethro did not react. A bonus. He did react to a few other things, but nothing like when he was younger. My baby boy is growing up.

Just another day of life on life’s terms without any consequences due to my threatening the kid with waterboarding. Or something worse.

imageWe had bird dogs when I was growing up. A neighbor boy’s idea of entertainment made Hans, our sweet boy, quite aggressive towards small boys, since this kid’s idea of fun was throwing things at the kennels — sticks, stones, kittens — which meant when we had company poor Hans had to be crated if company included any small male children.

I hope one day that people will start believing that bullying, including cyber bullying, when left unchecked, may escalate a child’s behavior into behavior requiring jail or prison time. It is not ‘cute’ or ‘boys will be boys’. Not teaching children respect for ALL living things is doing them a great disservice.

Overall, we had a good two days at the trial. Watched people and their dogs have a blast. Watched my dogs start to learn about self-discipline (meaning NO HOWLING or WHINING allowed) in a new and noisy environment. How to behave in public. I saw dozens of dogs with better manners than most of the children and some of the adults who were in attendance. I was really proud of my two. We walked around the facility with no meltdowns. Jethro was measured for his height requirement for the jumps and just tried to lick the judge to death.

I think we will be in good shape by the middle of October.

image

Modern Family

The Labor Day holiday weekend is about to begin. In my mind, I have a list as long as Hadrian’s Wall of stuff to do. And my mind can make this list just as insurmountable. At any rate, that’s how it feels. The fact is, I have learned to write things down, checking each task off the list as I go. Much more satisfying. The DCAA Agility Trial is also this weekend I Louisville and I plan to take the dogs at least one day for crate training.

Vallum Aelium -- "Red Rover, Red Rover, let Caesar come over!"

Vallum Aelium — “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Caesar come over!”

Great plans, you say? But not for long. Because, as ‘they’ say, make a plan and God laughs. Why? Because I have kids. They may be four-legged and have fur, but they are every bit my children, fiercely so.

My cats and dogs are quite intuitive at knowing when I really need to be left alone for just a few minutes. When they want outside, seconds later they want back inside. IN OR OUT!!!!! Bless their hearts, they don’t want me to miss anything. Then Chessie and Gabby (cats) will play hiss and spit. The game is to get Mom to squawk, because they sleep most of the day while I am at work. Outside, while trying to mow, Jethro will sometimes march along to make sure I am doing it right, but digging for moles and/or eating stuff I don’t want to think about is more the thing to do.

image

Right now, this blog post is being finished in the bathroom since head nudges and whining and ‘the stare’ don’t help. I can hear them outside the door, worrying that I may need help or they might miss something. I am sure other dogs do this, but not with such dogged (could not resist), determined, dedication. To be loved this much is such a gift.

image

 

 

So, to all the people out there who have rug rats, crumb snatchers, curtain climbers,  carpet sharks, etc. stop telling furbaby parents that “we don’t know anything about having kids”.

Seriously. Stop it.

Let the Games Begin

Last week I finally filled out the premium, wrote the check (and signed it), took the BIG leap and mailed in our first agility trial entry.

This important step on the rocky road to qualifications (Qs) is the culmination of frustration, procrastination, and finally, exhilaration. Often followed by lack of respiration and the need for medication, namely naproxen or ibuprofen. And a large raspberry-mango Cooler from Culver’s.

image

 

It is all worth it to see the joy on Jethro’s face as he runs the course. Naturally, he rarely makes mistakes, any of those being mostly handler error. He is so patient with me. He will gleefully refuse to let Terry or Leo show me something with him. “NO! Mom has to do it until SHE gets it right!” Smarty pants.

I have seen many variations on a theme expressed by people at the trials via their T-shirts. “great agility dog, too bad about the handler”.

image

 image

By watching and listening to others, I am learning that the challenges of this sport are never-ending. That the opportunities to bond with our dogs through each tunnel and chute are limitless if we just allow ourselves to be like our dogs, absolutely in the moment and filled with the exuberance and sheer joy of just BEING. My journey to this point has been filled with many mistakes and Jethro has survived all of them. The miracle is that he still loves me unconditionally, no matter what.

So, I am in Kroger tonight already making a mental, really mental, list of what to bring to our first adventure. Not a bad plan since the trial is not until the middle of October. One thing is for certain, my t-shirt will look some thing like this:

image Dogs will fill you with joy and gratitude. They will fill the spaces in your heart you did not know were empty. Dogs will also keep you humble.

The Asphalt Gods have been appeased yet again in Lexington

     Oh joy, oh rapture, construction continues to be ongoing with the Citation Boulevard extension project behind my house. Each morning this summer at ZERO DARK THIRTY, the equipment rumbles in from the distance like an approaching thunderstorm.

     Sunday has not always been sacrosanct due to the weather.

     My Ziva has the same reaction to both forces of nature. I will find her in the hallway after I get up or next to me with her head on the pillow when a huge clap of thunder finally wakes me up. Jethro usually snores though it all,having been raised on a farm as a pup. My rescue girl is learning that there are rainbows after a storm, just in different areas of life. Like treats and hugs and the feeling of being safe and loved.

 

     I mourn the loss of finding deer in my backyard, of finding out it is likely that the young buck, who jumped my new fence just so he could see what was on the other side, was shot only for his rack. Which was not that impressive. Done just because someone could, who was so ignorant they just left him behind the house. I was lucky; I did not see him; my neighbor said he reported it, but I am convinced one of his redneck buddies took him out. My other neighbor is sad because the den of foxes have disappeared, or at least moved further away. I have looked for the huge groundhog was the second neighbor to welcome me to the cul-de-sac. Cedar Mill Charlie has moved on. The moles have moved into my backyard with a vengeance and I just don’t have the heart to drive them out.

     They keep Ziva busy. Once morning I was blessed with the gift she left one morning on the back porch. Very dead. Perfectly intact, not a mark on him. I miss the hawk that landed on the fence—thunk!–one morning. He GLARED at me, his grumpy self wanting to know why I had put the fence in.

     My greatest joy is that the birds have remained. I still see and hear a great variety. Even the redwing blackbirds have stayed to snack and gossip in the early mornings. They are good company and the best entertainment in the winter. Feeding them has helped quite a bit with that and it is a wonderful hobby. Naturally, the lone squirrel has settled in since there is a handy food source. We have Masterson Station Park close by, where Jethro can imagine he is King of all he surveys.

Master of the Universe

     But fall is approaching and so is the daily loss of early morning light. The crew is now arriving later since the sunrise is too. They are missing more days due to the rain. I still can hear the coyotes at night, but the stars will be more difficult to see when the lights are turned on. Citation is like the building of the Death Star or the menace of the Borg. Resistance is futile.

Such is the nature of ‘progress’.

320x240.jpg (320×240)

Mornings, or no life decisions before caffeine

heymomyouawakeyet

This morning I slogged out of bed as usual after my subconscious heard a polite whine from Ziva. Which, by the way, was before the traditional alarm. Mainly because the new alarm is heavy construction equipment which arrives at ZERO DARK THIRTY where they are building a road behind my house.

A separate post I will leave for another day.

Any real or perceived movement from under the covers produces an onslaught not to be believed–except by other pet owners. Suddenly I have two German Shepherds and an 18 year old crabby cat pouncing on my head. “Wake up! Wake up! It’s a beautiful bright shiny day!!!!!”

Crap.

I have to admit, there are days when I am not sure I would bother except for them. They keep me out of trouble, have me well trained, and give me all the unconditional love I can stand. They have helped me to get a real life.

Who could ask for more?

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY DAD

absentfather'sday

MY DAD

Dad, seldom present,
rarely capable, yet he
did the best he could.

My aunt has a framed needlepoint on her wall that says “Anyone can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a Dad.” It’s a sad thing to admit, but I have no memory of celebrating Father’s Day when I was growing up.

zorrothermoslunchbox

I am part of the baby boomer generation, the oldest of five children, all girls. We were raised in a traditional Catholic family, went to Catholic school. Mom would fix us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on toast for breakfast, which were carried in our lunch boxes and eaten at our desks after Mass and before class. That Zorro lunch box, complete with thermos filled with Campbell’s tomato soup, still brings back happy memories. Wherever it may be. Probably on Ebay.

Dad went to work, or we thought he did. Mom stayed at home to raise the children, at least until it became painfully obvious that he was not employable. We ate dinner together each night. No television, books or cell phones, — thank God– were allowed at the table. We learned how to have conversations, and how to interact with family on a daily basis. With mixed results. Being of Irish and German extraction, generally one could expect lots of hard-headed arguing and certainly some shouting. In the long term, I think eating dinner together, having that simple routine in our lives, was one of the few things that kept us from becoming totally uncivilized. We were also blessed with the gift of receiving a good education and to have come from a family that valued it.

beaver_the_black_eye_1

My Dad was not home much, but he did join us at the table for dinner upon occasion, which usually left all of us stiff with apprehension. We tiptoed through the nightmares of holidays. Dad was an active alcoholic, in and out of AA, still doing things his way, and one of the brightest people I’ve ever met.

Rages were always anticipated, we were always hypervigilant, and knew nothing different. Loads of drama and chaos came with him, but my Mom gave as good as she got and all five of us were stuck either watching the show or becoming bit players on the stage. My point being, Dad was so smart, he was too smart to get the fact that he was dying a slow and painful death and his disease was affecting everyone else around him. That’s not really true. He just wasn’t ready to admit defeat, to say he couldn’t do something and he did what he wanted until the bitter, lonely end.

panchoandcisco

It was very painful to even think of him for a very long time. I was scared to death of him for years, but was also the only one of my siblings fortunate to have spent time with him as a child when he wasn’t drinking. Misty, mixed-up memories. Dad had nicknames for us, mine was ‘Peanut’ since I was a preemie. He had no son so I filled that role. Dad taught me how to shoot and to have respect for firearms. He took me to riding lessons just to aggravate my Mom. He had hunting dogs and I participated in that. Somewhat. At least in terms of caring for them which I now know was convenient for him. No instruction involved, yet lots of criticism when I didn’t do it right. Repeating an old pattern, because he simply didn’t know how to teach, how to be a Dad.

But there is one particular memory. A cold, grey, snowy Thanksgiving morning. Hearing Dad getting ready to leave and talking him into taking me along. Rarely do I experience a Thanksgiving anymore without the memory of that morning years ago, the air cold and crisp, our breath like quicksilver mare’s tails. Feet crunching in snow now sparkling like crystal when the sun finally appears. The dog running happily in front of us, ever hopeful, anxious to flush out that first pheasant. It is a positive memory, something to focus on, being outside with nature, the dogs. Being with my dad. The dogs are still my link with him today.

And the apples didn’t fall far from the tree. For alcoholism is a family disease. We certainly learned how to contribute our share of drama as children. I asked my Dad on more than one occasion when were ‘moving to the ranch.’ He must have thought I’d been hatched or that the milkman was responsible. Then again, probably not since he knew who my parents were. What he didn’t know was that Zorro, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, even Pancho and Cisco, had replaced him at some level as father figures. Doing good, catching the bad guys. So sad. Of course, there were the horses. I am still horse mad.

loneranger

Several of us in the family, including myself, are members of AA. We know today that life is tough, but drinking doesn’t help a thing and makes any problem worse. We know today that we have something bigger than us that sustains us, teaches us faith, friends that lend us their support. We have regained hope that was lost. Today we are blessed by the Grace of God that we don’t have to live the way we used to. In misery, in fear. My sister told me she asked Dad one time when he was in a period of not drinking, why he could’t stay sober. He apparently had a moment of clarity and told her the truth. “It was my thinking, honey.”

royrogers<

Just as simple as that. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know for myself that I have wasted countless energy and time trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, that I have worried about things that have never happened, that I have let to many people, places and things rent too much space in my head. And that rent is not worth the price of my serenity much less my sobriety anymore.

fathers_day_quoteWEB

Coming to terms with my Dad took a very long time. The anger and fear slowly dissapated as I got sober and realized why he struggled. Not a thing I could do. He was my point man, showed me I had a choice, to continue on with my life as is, or make the changes necessary to move forward. To learn how to live. I did get to tell him I loved him before he died and he told me the same. It helped both of us find peace. I was not there when he went into the hospital and I was told he asked for me. I had made the decision to go out of town that weekend. No one knew he wasn’t coming back out. I still sometimes feel bad about that, but know today that he understood.

Dad will always be my Dad.

happy trails