November 30, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Well, some of the neighbors have their Christmas lights up, decorations in the yard and the wind is a blowing. Here's my contribution to the Christmas spirit.

November 13, 2006

Weekend Warriors...

Sometimes Sean and I like to pretend that we're actually going to work the dogs in know, with a cart or the sled we have in the garage. Last weekend was one of those times...we met up with the Southern California Snow Dogs group down at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa.

Oh, let me back up a minute...first, on Friday night, I went to pick up a new cart, a Black Ice Wheeled Training Cart. The advantage of this cart is that the passenger area is large enough that we can both ride along, with Sean doing the steering and braking and me just going along for the ride...or so I imagined.

So, Saturday morning we get down there (on time, by the way) and we were the first ones there. (Yes, Kelly, Sparkle time is almost officially dead, the AKC doesn't wait for anyone, even me when ring times are posted.) We unloaded a couple of crates to give everyone their own space and started unloading carts. There's the new Black Ice cart, very nice, with lines to hook up all seven dogs...yep, we took seven untrained dogs out on a new cart, on new trails. Genius, I tell you, simply genius. Then we unloaded the Trail Pup Plus for Maggie to try and the Dirt Dawg scooter for someone else to use. Got everyone harnessed up and proceeded to decide who was going to go where.

Ice and Ryder at wheel, that's an easy one. Mr. Let me RUN (Ice) and Mr. He's Not Going Anywhere without Me (Ryder) at wheel insures that we'll get moving. Humvee and Blaze went at team (in the middle) because, well, wheel and lead were taken and that's what's left. We didn't want Blaze working overly hard, since he's just a baby and really wanted to keep it easy and fun for him. Hummee, although he's only been out once, is just a year old and, again, I wanted him to have fun, but I knew he'd take most of the load off of Blaze. Up front we had "I know what you want, I just don't feel like paying attention right now, Leader Frosty" and "I know what you want me to do, I don't want to do it right now, Leader Max" and "They had to put me somewhere, Miss Satinka".

We got everyone lined out, Max does know line out so that helps. And then the plan was that Sean would start them off easy while I swung myself up on the cart to ride along. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and dog drivers. Sean got them slowed down and I was able to run up to catch them and hop on....then we realized that we were on a trail with a 90° turn to a bridge. Luckily "easy" and "whoa" seemed to work.

It was then that I realized Sean had planned for me to do more than ride along. Someone (read ME) had to go out to the front of the team, walk them around in a WIDE circle and get them facing back the direction we wanted them to go. Gee and Haw didn't seem to be on Frosty's or Max's agenda that day..and Satinka, well, she's never been trained to do anything but "stand, pretty" (which, by the way, she does very well). So, we got them and the cart turned around, Sean hollered "HIKE" and they took off a little slower this time. I was able to swing on and didn't fall ootherwise embarrasssss myself. A couple of runs back and forth in the grass (high rolling resistance = slower dogs) and we were ready for the trails. We took off behind everyone (because, of course 7 dogs are slower than 2? and we didn't know the trails) and followed along. At the first decent downhill we discovered that taking 7 untrained dogs down hill, on a new cart where you're unsure of the braking is, well, an adventure. I ended up walking the dogs down the hill with Sean riding the brake.

We made it, without incident, down the easier hill than everyone else took (stories of Bodie and Arrow dragging Maggie's scooter told us we didn't want to take the "big hill") and met up at the turn around/water spot. The dogs took their break, with most of them deciding to lay down on the cool grass while the people talked and chatted. Then it was time to turn them around again and head back to the car. We accomplished this with a minimum of mounting/dismounting on my part and all arrived back at the car, tired, happy and ready to rest.

Next weekend we're going again, but we're going to try it with a few less dogs...anything to shorten the distance from the back of the cart to the front of the line! I didn't realize being a passenger was going to be so much exercise!

Dear Lord, I hope someone has trained them by the time we have snow to sled in!!!

Things we learned:
  • one gallon of water for the dogs is not enough
  • 3 dogs in lead means much switching of necklines as they decide who's going to be next to whom
  • being a passenger doesn't mean just riding along
  • passengers should wear good running shoes
  • running dogs in harness is exhilarating, addicting and tiring (I napped until 8pm when we got home).

November 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dear Ryder

I can't believe my baby boy is four today. Where does the time go? Is this what it's like to be a parent and look over and realize the young life you've been nurturing is grown up and ready to spread their wings? Well, lucky for me dogs don't have wings, eh?

Many of you will remember that just a few short days ago (at least it seems to me like it was just yesterday) I brought home this fluffy little bundle of Ryderness, who was quickly dubbed the MonsterWonderPuppyFromHeck. When he discovered girls, his name was changed slightly, and he became the MonsterWonderPuppyFromHeckwithHormones.

Ryder got into everything - the dishwasher, the fridge, he even managed to open doors and turn on the stove. His first night in a hotel room at a show he opened the door to let himself out to go potty. Unfortunately for his plans to explore, I'd fastened the security bar, giving him a scant 3" of opening...enough to panic me, not enough to set him loose.

Ryder's a Momma's Boy, through and through and I love his fuzzy little self to pieces. As my first show puppy, I always thought Ryder was perfect. I still do. :-)
Tonight, it's carrot cake for everyone and Ryder gets the corner piece with all the frosting!!

P.S. for those who wonder...somewhere around four, they start growing a brain! I'm seeing signs of it in Ryder.

November 07, 2006

Carting in the Vinyard

Last weekend Sean and I loaded up the van with a few dogs (Max, Ice, Ryder, Hummee, Tinks, Frosty and Blaze) and their harnesses and went up to join the Northern California Siberian Husky Club for their annual fall event "Carting in the Vinyard." It's been a while since we had the dogs out to run...months probably. So, with hotel reservations, a plan to visit a girl friend in Concord and a full tank of gas, we headed out on Saturday morning.

A brief detour past the Santa Fe dam, where the Antelope Valley and San Gabriel Kennel clubs were holding their shows netted us a hitch hiker, an 11 week old Staffordshire named Ridley who needed a ride up north to his new home. (Yes, that now makes eight dogs in the van.)

So we headed north, without incident, and made it up to Barbara's. I finally got to meet Teddy, her Toy Fox Terrier. I tell you, I was afraid I was going to step on the little guy. He's cute, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't last long at Kaos. We ran and fed the dogs, talked and went out to dinner and then strolled over to Half Price Books, a store Sean had never been to, but found much to his liking. After dinner we loaded all the dogs back up, making sure we had all eight of them and hit the road to Santa Rosa, with a brief detour to hand Ridley over to his new folks. We got in at a reasonable hour, checked into the hotel, walked all the dogs and went to bed, counting on Blaze's "wake up call" feature to wake us up (he did, at 4 am and at 6am). Before going to bed, I even remembered to plug in the crockpot with the Lil Smokies and sauce for the next day's potluck (you'll see why this detail is important later).

Saturday morning dawned bright, clear and cool as we walked the dogs and got ready to find the closest Starbucks and hit the road. As we made the turn onto Hwy 12, I felt a warmth on my foot...oh CRAP...a crockpot full of Lil Smokies and sauce was now 1/3 full. The other 2/3d's ended up on my foot, the passenger side of the car and, happily, in the map pocket on the door. We pulled over and cleaned up as much as we could (guess who forgot to replace the empty roll of paper towels in her van?). As Sean reached into the map pocket to clean out the little wieners, I managed to blurt out "they're hot" just as he yanked his hand out of the sauce. Finding a convenient grocery store, we stopped and got paper towels, wet wipes and ingredients to refill the crock pot, did some more clean up and continued on our way. At this point, we're running about 40 minutes late. No big deal, it's a casual thing and we'll get there in about 20 minutes.

Waiting at an intersection, we saw a truck with a great dog box go by, pulling a training rig. I figured we'd probably follow them to the carting fun and we made the my brain processed the fact that no one who was attending had a rig like that. As I glanced down at my directions, to confirm we were going the right way it occured to me that we were supposed to be going to Calistoga...yet the directions to Glen Elen, where we were picking up our new sled later that weekend, were on top. Yep, sure enough, not only did I spill our potluck offering on the way to the potluck, but we weren't even going the right way to the potluck! Traveling with me is such an adventure :-)

So, we got ourselves turned around, called to let the carting group know not to worry, we were running way late and headed back out...this time to Calistoga. We had a great time once we got there.

We had a great time with our Nor Cal friends. In addition to running the dogs, there were great games like "bobbing for hot dogs" (the dogs bobbed, not the people), musical paws and doggie limbo. While we didn't win any prizes, the Kaos Krew sure had fun...especially on that bobbing for hot dog game.

Sean took out our foursome with Max and Frosty at lead and Ryder and Ice at wheel. Now, let me just say that Ryder's not the most motivated of working dogs...unless he's following Max or running with Ice. But with those two in the team with him, he's a pulling machine. Frosty's going to make a great lead dog with some training, she's actually responding to commands already even if she can't make everyone turn with her (she's our Littlest Sled Dog). But she's determined. Ice and Ryder, and later Ice and Hummee ran at wheel.

It was Hummee's first time out in harness. The previous trip down to go scootering he'd been a little too young for me to be entirely comfortable running him. I tell ya, this boy has leg and knows how to use it. He threw himself into his harness and pulled like he'd been doing it his entire life.

It was Satinka's first time out as well, other than a brief foray up in the snow a couple years ago. Unfortunately, we'd put her next to Ryder (see the aforementioned description of Ryder's work ethic) so she didn't really get what was going on...but she ran. I don't know how much pulling she did, but she had fun.

The best fun was taking Blaze out with his brother and sister on the puppy run. He put his shoulder into the harness and he pulled. I tell you, there's nothing cuter than a bunch of puppies in harness. Of course they didn't work hard and they didn't go far, but they sure had fun!

I managed not to run the cart into any of the buildings (but it was close) on my trip out; no one fell or otherwise hurt themselsves and we all made it home in one piece. I've never heard my dogs so quiet (is that possible?). They slept, ate and went right back to sleep.

We made it down to Glen Elen to pick up our sled (from the driver of the truck we saw that clued me into the fact that we were going the wrong way earlier in the weekend) and spent some time with Van and his wife, talking about dogs, racing, equipment and other things dear to Sean's heart :-) and drove home with a sled on the van.

Now, I guess, all we need is snow. And maybe a GPS for better navigational success?